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Crystal gnome, crystal gnome {handmade}

18/11/2016

Crystal Gnome, Crystal Gnome,
Living in your crystal home.
Up the stairs and down the stairs,
Up the stairs and down the stairs,
Wherever can he be? Wherever can he be?

I’ve always said that making things is my multivitamin for my soul; a need not a want in everyday life to keep me happy and healthy and sane and these past few weeks I’ve been putting it to the test as the real life job kicked up a notch from crazy busy to bonkers and my time for everything non-work, up to and including sleeping, revealed itself to be nothing more than a will-o’-the-whisp and a figment of my imagination.

It’s part and parcel of what I do in real life, and I get a huge degree of satisfaction from my job, just so long as I can keep my eyes open long enough to enjoy it.  But oh do I miss creating.  I miss blogging, the writing, the photography, the having the brain space to think of things to write, I miss knitting and sewing and I’m starting to get ever so slightly twitchy about Christmas and I know I need to carve out time in the day, even if it’s only five minutes.

The proof of the pudding turned out to be gnomes. Ten of them to be precise.

Space for the Butterflies - Felt gnomes

The girls’ school advent fair is tomorrow, run by the PTA with all of the parents chipping in to do something to help get ready and my contribution, along side a bit of decorating help, was 23 decorated star shaped gingerbread biscuits for the cookie house, and those gnomes.  What’s the collective noun for gnomes do you think? a garden?

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These gnomes are bound for gardens; one of the activities at the fair is to make a garden.  The children start with a slice of tree trunk, roll out air drying clay across it and then add leaves and conkers and foliage and paper snowflakes to make the scene, finished off with a little gnome to live there.

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It means needing a couple of hundred gnomes and John came home from school one day with a little packet of pre-cut felt and a picture on his phone of the finished article and as they came with a very definite deadline I had no excuses; for a little while the laptop had to go away while I sewed them all up; it was bliss.  And I felt it the next day too; I was less tired and my brain felt as if it had a little more thinking space again; despite having as little sleep as ever.  As good a reason as ever there was to make sure I spent a little time each day knitting or sewing or something that just isn’t words for once!

Space for the Butterflies - Felt gnomes

It’s comfort sewing at its best; both red and green gnomes came from the same shape felt; the red ones are blanket stitched all the way up their fronts and the green ones just have the top corners overlapped, and then stuffed with a little bit of merino top that I had in a bag in the bottom of my rather neglected spinning stash.

I think they’re rather cute and the kids wanted to adopt the lot of them.  Pip picked up my first finished gnome, instantly recognised it (which was very reassuring) and started singing Crystal Gnome.  It’s his absolute favourite playgroup song and he loved having an actual real gnome to sing it with – to the point that when I said we had to put them all in the bag and take them to school he was most unimpressed with that idea.  He gave his gnome a cuddle and a kiss and put it in the bag and if he doesn’t come home from the advent fair with one of my gnomes I will be very surprised.

Space for the Butterflies - Felt gnomes

In the meantime, I have felt, I have some more merino – and I’ve traced the pattern!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday and Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On 

 

Finished Handmade Handmade for Pip Pip Sewing

My little monkey {handmade for Pip}

21/10/2016

If it seems that all I’m making at the moment is leggings, you might just have a point.  I am doing a little bit of secret knitting on the side, mostly because you can’t take a sewing machine and overlocker on the train without getting some seriously funny looks; although now that I think about it I’d love to take a sewing machine on one of the big trains that has charge points by the table and sit there sewing – I think the looks would be on a whole new level to the sideways glances you get for knitting!

Anyway, back to the sewing. I actually have a huge pile of sewing sat next to the machine but it takes me so long to thread all the needles and get my desk organised to be able to overlock and use the twin needle on my sewing machine that I’ not moving them, or fitting another needle until I’m fully up to date on the leggings front.  And, if I make the leggings before I get to the point of needing to do a big proper grown up declutter and tidy up of the studio then I don’t have to find somewhere for the fabric to be stashed.  It’s slow tidying at its very best.

And with the girls’ pairs all finished, and worn, and sat in muddy puddles, and washed and worn again, it was time for some for Pip.

I love leggings for little people, they’re so cosy and they’ve got room to wriggle and move and stretch and do all the things that babies and toddlers should do, while also looking incredibly cute.  We’ve had some gorgeous pairs over the years (and if you’re not planning on getting to grips with an overlocker I can happily enable a legging addiction by pointing you in the direction of Lottie and Lysh and Maybelle & Bo!), but that little boy of mine possesses spectacular abilities to grow both out of and through his trousers.  Perhaps three children is what it takes to wear holes in the knees or perhaps he just does it in style!

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

So, back to Innsbruck and the wonderful wall of jersey: we chose two prints for Pip on the basis that if I was only having half a metre of each then we could stretch to two.  There’s still a nautical pair in my future, but I couldn’t resist starting with these monkeys.

I seem to have developed a bit of a habit of underestimating my son’s height on all available opportunities.  I know I held up a tape measure vaguely in Pip’s direction and half a metre seemed loads, even allowing for shrinkage, but somehow when I got that half metre home it just didn’t look that big any more.  I’d tried Elma’s elephants on him and while baggy, they weren’t ridiculously huge, and that’s an age 5. Only when I laid the age 5 pattern piece over the fabric did I remember that they’d fitted nicely into 3/4 of a metre.

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

This patten started out life as the age 5 size of that Oliver + S pattern but with some fairly heavy macgyvering to end up with something that fits him more closely but without being too stretched, so he can pull fleecy waterproof trousers over the top without them bunching up.

Although I knit while the children are up and about and awake, sewing tends to be a nighttime pursuit for me, and if I’m making something for one of them I always start second guessing how big they’ve got and wondering whether it’s too big or too small or just too too. With Pip’s monkeys I was worried that the ankles would be too tight; I was so tempted, not to wake him up exactly, but maybe to sneak a little foot out of his sleeping bag and just try it on.  I’m sure he wouldn’t have woken up; well maybe not.

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

The sewing fates were on my side though; the ankles fit, and the chosen length of ‘this is the longest I can make it’, turns out to be just about long enough, at least for the next five minutes.  The hem on them is absolutely tiny though; literally the ends finished on the overlocker, flipped under and sewn down so for the next pair I’m going to cut them slightly wider and put cuffs in.

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

And the verdict from their small wearer:

“Mine monkey trousies!”

Space for the Butterflies - Monkey Leggings for Pip

He wouldn’t let me take them off him when it was bedtime; and so after we’d washed off the mud, and his sisters’ efforts at decorating, back on they went – I think that makes them a hit!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday

 

Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Kitty Photography Sewing

Birds, Lollipops and Elephants {handmade for Kitty and Elma}

07/10/2016

As it turns out, the answer to the question “what do you do if you finish your daughter’s birthday present in plenty of time?” is “MAKE MORE!!” So we did.

On our travels this summer we found a wonderful fabric shop in Innsbruck (spoilers I know and I promise to catch up with the Europe adventure soon) that had an entire wall of cotton jersey in every imaginable print and pattern and at a price that I was more than happy to pay for it.  I’ve never actually sewed anything with jersey before, or made any trousers beyond baby rompers but in the spirit of nothing ventured, nothing gained, I set the girls to pick a favourite each and John and I chose a couple for Pip.

Back home I obediently washed and dried and ironed the fabric and then waited to gather some courage.  I’d thought I’d try copying some existing pairs like I did in the summer to make Pip’s shorts but then I was reading through some favourite blogs and someone, and they’ll have to forgive me for forgetting who, mentioned the Oliver + S tunic and leggings pattern and it started to look awfully familiar.  Sure enough, one quick ransack of the studio later and there it was, and even better, there it was in the larger sizes.

And so rather than starting at Pip-sized and working up, I started with Kitty’s choice, just in time for her birthday.  I used the age 10 pattern with no extra length added; it’s a perfect fit in the legs and if it comes up a little high on the waist well that will just keep her all the warmer in the winter.

You know your children have grown when you find yourself sitting on the hall floor to trace the pattern and cut out the pieces; no more dainty little frocks that can be cut out at my desk for me.  The pattern is just two pieces, perfect for a first ever effort, and I cut them individually to try to get some pattern matching.  I tried tracing the white circles on the first piece onto the pattern and then lining them up when I flipped it over to cut the other side but somehow while the back lined up perfectly, the front is a smidge out.  It’s not enough to be jarring to the eye, especially is Miss Kitty wears them twizzled around her legs like a candy cane, but I’ve still not quite figured out why.  I think I need to practice with some little pieces to see if I can figure it out.

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I have owned an overlocker for a little under four years.  It was my Mum’s and as Dad decided that he was unlikely to take up overlocking as a hobby, he gave it to me, and it’s sat on the shelf for all those years waiting for its time.  All I remember of the overlocker is that Mum said it was horribly difficult to thread and I was never allowed to play with it.  I was in my late teens by the time she bought it so she probably thought I should just get my own.

I tried having a play with it as it was, but one of the spools was nearly out of thread and I didn’t know that you needed to telescope up the thread guides and my first practice sews were the garbled mess you can imagine.  So I did what you should probably only ever do once; I pulled out all the thread, grabbed some other spools, opened the book and decided to work out how to thread it myself.  It’s painstaking yes, but not impossible, though if I ever run out of thread or want to change colour I’m going to do what the book says and pull it through on the end of the old colour, and it’s given me a much better idea of what’s doing what.

It also sewed much more nicely after I’d read the book – who’d have thought!

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In the end the leggings were a piece of cake; three seams and some edging.  I also finally got my twin needles out of its wrapper after 15 years of owning my sewing machine for the finishing touches so it’s been a project full of new adventures.

And as Kit has been asking for her leggings, pretty much since we got back from travelling, she was very excited to unwrap them and have them finally made.

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But they were finished with a whole clear day before her birthday, and that would never do would it?  John phoned me at work the afternoon before the big day, he’d been looking for a big cushion for her to sit on when she curls up in the corner with a book but hadn’t found anything big enough or nice enough to part with the kind of money on the price tag so I was dispatched to John Lewis on the way home.  Well none of their cushions were big enough or nice enough either so at 6pm I found myself in the haberdashery department accompanied by a large square pillow from the bedding section, eyeing up the fabric selection.  The winner was a Rowan print called Chloe Lollipop, and it, the pillow, my work bags and I squished ourselves onto the train home.

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It’s just a simple pillowcase cushion cover, whizzed up in an hour or so but she absolutely loves it; its the cushion she carries around the house with her and takes out into the garden.  It’s those kind of times that I am so glad that I can make things.  It’s a very simple project, probably one of the first things you’d make if you were learning to sew and yet it meant that I could turn John’s vision into reality, and if that’s not a reason to sew then what could be?

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And finally, back to leggings.  Because once I’d made one pair and realised just how easy it was, there was really no excuse to hold back on the rest.

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I haven’t got to Pip’s yet, but this week I cut out the size five and in an evening made up Elma’s elephants.  Truth be told, the age 5 is a smidge on the big side for her, but the joy of ‘too big’ in children’s clothes is that you only have to wait a month or so before it becomes ‘just right’.

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Which only leaves Pip; but his boats and monkeys will have to wait for another day!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday

Birthdays Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Kitty Kitty Sewing

Petit Susanne {handmade for Kitty}

29/09/2016

In years to come there will be a milestone in the relationship with my two lovely girls when first Kitty and then Elma get to an age or a height where they can borrow my clothes.  I don’t own many clothes so I’m afraid I will be a severe disappointment to them on that front, but if their tastes continue to run to “some assembly required” clothes, then I think they might rather enjoy pillaging my stash.

I’m writing as if this is something that will happen in the future, but truth be told, we’ve already hit that point; only I’m the one doing the making.

Years ago I bought a lovely metre of Liberty Tana lawn in the Liberty sale with the firm intention that it would be a floaty sleeveless top for me. Well the baby sundress I made for Elma from the same haul has been long grown out of and now hangs on the bedroom wall as a piece of art, but the furthest I’d got was printing out the pattern and trying to decide how many extra inches of length I could squeeze out of what I had.  Realistically, if I hadn’t made it in all that time, it seemed unlikely to happen in the time it would take me to acquire another metre of fabric, and I’m sure in my heart of hearts I’d begun to let go of the idea – and then Kitty saw it.

It was love at first sight; a very determined love.  She wanted it for her, she wanted it for her birthday, and she wanted “a top with the sleeves”.  Very specific, but I knew what she meant.

Her Hello Kitty dress has been one of her standout favourites of the summer, especially when we went travelling and the thermometer soared.  She loves that it’s comfy and cool, and the big sleeves are pretty and fluttery when you twirl in them, and so another Susanne it was always going to be, but this time the top rather than the dress.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Well sort of the top.  I trace out the patterns onto greaseproof paper so that I can use them in different sizes for Elma and as I traced, and watched my pencil outline a nice boxy little square shape, I thought about my incredibly tall eldest daughter and kept on drawing the main section of the tunic until it wasn’t just several inches past the length for her size 8, but all the way down many many inches to the age 2 dress length.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

The gamble paid off; the finished tunic reaches just below her hips; not too long to be silly, and not too short to have a life expectancy of all of five minutes.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Kitty put it straight on as her birthday outfit, which is how I acquired so many photos of the top in action, and even wore it to school this week for picture day, a mark of approval if ever there was one.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Construction wise it is literally just a shorter version of the dress, so I didn’t change much from the previous versions I’ve made, although I did include the elastic casing on the shoulders on this one as I think it makes all the difference in helping it to hang nicely.  the yoke seam is encasing in straight binding to keep it soft against the skin, I used french seams on the side seams, and folded back and stitched down the sleeve seams.  I’m still not wholly convinced that I’ve found the perfect finish as I keep finding there’s a bit of a pull at the underarm which needs a bit of wriggling to sort out – one of these days I shall make a mock up and play with it until I get it exactly how I want it.  I suspect it will be well worth my while as the girls both love this pattern, and there are certain to be ever lengthening versions in my future.

Space for the Butterflies - sixth birthday portraits

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday

 

Elma Family Finished Handmade Handmade for Elma Handmade for Kitty Handmade for Pip Kitty Pip Sewing

Campervans, Campervans and more Campervans {handmade for Kitty, Elma and Pip}

02/09/2016

The sensible part of my brain told me that I needed sleep, that we were too busy packing and organising, that the children have more than enough clothes, that I really didn’t need to, and the creativity replied “but I want to”

I wanted my girls to have their matching camper van skirts for going on our adventures, just like I’d planned way back when, especially since their auntie had given them retro t-shirts that said “happy camper”, in pink and everything.

And so it was that in the last few days before we set off on holiday, when knitting and crochet and anything too finicky was still out of bounds to let my arm and elbow recover, I measured and cut and sewed.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

This is the fourth and fifth time that I’ve made The Purl Bee’s Skirt for all Ages; I’ve not quite got to the point where I can made them just from the measurements but we’re getting close! It’s a really clever pattern that’s so easy to make and makes such a pretty and practical skirt. The girls love them for the pockets and because the have a good twirl and you can’t ask for more than that.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Last summer’s skirts have been handed down so Kitty’s is in Elma’s wardrobe and Elma’s is waiting for the day someone in the family has a little girl to dress, but the winter skirt I made for Kitty is still going strong thanks to a bit of extra length (I wrote some instructions on how to add length here). For this time round I made the age 4 for Elma and the 10 for Kitty, with another inch of added length so that it might last more than five minutes. Elma’s fits to the knee and Kitty’s goes just past it.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Experience always makes you faster, as does working in a production line rather than making one and then the other like I did the first time, so it took me a couple of evenings before I was measuring the waist elastic on them and sewing in the final seam. They looked adorable.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

And then I looked back at my sewing table, and the pile of fabric there. H and I had guestimated how much fabric we’d need for both skirts when we bought it on our wedding anniversary trip to Harrogate and it seemed we’d rather over-estimated. By about half a metre or so. Just enough to maybe, just maybe…

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

…to make a matching pair of shorts?!

Space for the Butterflies - Purl Bee A Skirt for all Ages

I didn’t use a pattern per se for these, I just found a pair of shorts that fit Pip at the moment, folded them in half and drew around them, then added seam allowances for a rough pattern.  I kept them as simple as possible, cutting around my pattern on the fold to create two legs, with one seam each down the inseam.

Space for the Butterflies - VW Campervan Shorts

And speaking of that inseam, I thought of using a french seam to give a nice neat soft finish that wouldn’t rub on little legs but I wasn’t 100% sure of the construction at that point so I used a seam finish I remember reading about somewhere but can’t remember what it’s called ; I cut one seam allowance down by half, folded the other one over the top, and sewed the whole thing down.  It goes you a little line of stitching next to the seam on the right hand side of the fabric but I still think it looks pretty smart, it’s a nice smooth finish so it won’t rub on baby skin, and frankly who is going to be staring at the inside leg of a fast moving toddler?

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Once I had the legs finished I put one inside the other, right sides facing, and sewed around.  I couldn’t decide on a fancy seam finish here given that it was going to be going around a curve so I just zig-zagged this one (it being quite late at night at this point possibly came into it as well!) but even after been worn all over Europe it’s holding up just fine.

In an ideal world I would have cut the shorts deep enough to use the top of them folded over to form a waistband casing, but when I tried them on Pip they were only just passable, and a bit too low rise to be truly comfy, so I undid all the stitching and made a separate piece for the waistband in basically the same fashion as the ones on the girls’ skirts.

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And there we have them, a finished pair of shorts that I could have made in a couple of hours (including drafting the pattern) had I not mucked up the waistband and had to do it again the next day.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Pip loved them, and still loves them, he calls them his “dorts” and they were his favourite thing to wear all through our holiday and what he asked for almost every morning.  And if he’s prepared to offer that level of adoration to mama-made clothes I am certain that there can be more pairs in his future.  Although I may have to ask his opinion on the style next time because when they all got dressed up the first time and we took these photos and the girls were jumping around with their hands in their pockets the first thing he said was: “Mama! Where mine pockets!?”.

Space for the Butterflies - A Campervan Skirt for all Ages and shorts too

Pockets next time, it’s a deal.

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday