Sunday, 30 August 2009

Dawn of a new quilt

I have been working on a page boy outfit for Austin to wear in a couple of weeks time at his uncle's wedding, where he knows his special job is to hold his cousin's hand and take her to her Dad for the wedding. The set consists of a pair of black dress pants with double pleat front, fly and hidden side pockets just like Daddy's, a black vest with satin covered buttons and satin pocket welts and back tie. a pink silk neck tie, and a white bamboo/cotton blend collared shirt. So far the pants and the vest are done (well, all but the hand sewing finishing bits). I'll wait until the whole outfit is complete to show photos.

In the meantime, partly a procrastination from starting the shirt (I hate doing collars and sleeve plackets!) and partly because the fabrics beckoned me, I started a new quilt for Madelyn's cot. Yes, her cot! I think I am laxing my SIDS police rules a little, figuring that a REAL quilt is little more than a wool blanket covered with cotton, not the smothering fluffy doona things that SIDS for kids tell you not to use. For those that don't know, my nephew Aden died of SIDS at 7 months old, so I have a huge fear of it now that I actuallly know a baby that was taken suddenly with no real explanation. I think with both my children my fears have peaked at around the seven month mark, and I remeber holding Aden, limp and cold in my arms and thinking "He's almost a little boy, he's so big, how on earth could this happen?" So as a result, Maddy sleeps with a breathing monitor (and I wish she had the camera that Austy had at the old house) and we only use 100% naturl fibres on the bed to avoid the risk of overheating. I think as a result, part of Madelyn's poor sleeping habit come from her being a cold sleeper like me, and I am a little scared to rug her up too warm, knowing that most of SIDS deaths happen in the winter when parents put too many layers on - and my biggest enemy is polar fleece and synthetic quilt fillings.

I have started using this quilt made by my EB quilter buddies, on the cot a couple of times when the weather has been super cool because I don't like leaving a heater on in her room unnattended unless I really have to, and because it's always draped over the rocking chair for our night feeds so it's easy to grab. It's not really the right size for a cot though and I can't tuck it in. I figured she'd be a wriggler like Austy and propper bedding would only last a few months before resorting to sleeping bags, but thankfully she's more like me, and keeps nice and snug under the covers. Therefore, a cot quilt is in order!

With this in mind, the last few fabric purchases have included a small piece of beige, cream, white, brown or cranberry fabric getting ready for this quilt. On their own, the colours don't look like much, but together Ithink they create a warm, calming feel. I had originally thought I'd do her cot quilt with some of this gorgeous stuff but my creativity juice isn't flowing and I'm not quite sure how to use it, so I just went for the simple but effective "Four Corners" pattern, gifted to me by Eden with the beautiful DQ6 quilt she sent me. I love the pattern - just the thing to showcase pretty fabrics, letting the fabrics speak rather than the design. And when I started preparing the pieces I loved it even more. It uses mostly charms and a little yardage for borders and backing, so it's the perfect thing for using up charm packs. Instead though, I am using yardage, cut into charms and hope to make it bigger than the pattern says by adding extra blocks and wider borders, so it tucks in just nicely around her mattress.

I am also happy to report that I FINALLY finished my border on Emma's Round Robin quilt!! Yah!!! It took me about 9 months (insert VERY embarrased smiley here!) so I was glad to hand it over in the end, so I could move on and work on something else. When I agreed todo the round robin, I was expecting that the whole thing would be finished before Madelyn came along, however this quilt took a little extra time to get to me, and I was panicking to try and get it done in my final weeks of my pregnancy. The first cut I did was the wrong way (blaming tiredness and pregnancy hormones) so my fabric was no longer long enough to stretch across the whole quilt for the solid border I had planned to start with. I was going to do a plain border with appliqued snowflakes all around but it didn't go to plan. So I rattled my brains and decided to paper piece the main border with "mountains" in the middle to make my mistakenly cut fabric stretch far enough for the border.

(photo pinched from Emma's blog as I had no time to photograph before the playschool concert where we did the hand over)

But even that wasn't without issues - every time I tried to create one of the 8 paper pieced blocks (which I later realised could have been done in 4!) I'd cut my pieces slightly too small so that once sewn they didn't quite cover the space! I put it away with a week to go, and concentrated on getting Madelyn's play quilt finished (which I was still binding in the hospital waiting for my induction to start). Then when Maddy came, there was the first weeks of colic when she cried ost of the night and left me little time for sleep. Then there was Austy's bad behaviour for a bit that took some energy to curb, then our trip, then Maddy's string of illness... It seemed I was never going to finish just one little border! After several mistakes with Emma's quilt early on, I didn't want to touch it while my head was foggy. It just took this long for me to get back into the swing of things. But I did. And she has it. My border is the final one from the thin light blue strip outwards. I recommended Emma do a plain wide border using the same dark navy leaves that are used throughout the quilt as I think it would finish it nicely. I's up to her though - she may have some other spectacular idea - she always does!

The snowflakes are machine appliqued with metallic silver gutterman thread. I finally worked out that the buttonhole stitch on my machine can be adjusted to my liking and I am really enjoying machine applique now. I wish I could show you a close up of one of the snowflakes, but unfortunately I didn't get one photo before hand-over. The thread was easy to work with it didn't snap once, and all I had to do was adjust the tension slightly so that there was no chance the white bottom thread would show at the top.

And I can't wait to show you hat's in this little parcel - just waiting for the recipient to get home from her holiday and pick it up from the post office.

As an added blogging question: Does anyone know how I can stop blogger from adding in a thousand empty lines between my paragraphs every time a picture is inserted? If I knew how to stop this, blogging with pictures would be so much easier and I'd be inclined to put more in, but at the moment i takes almost as long to move pictures and delete empty lines as it does to write the blog entry.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Swimming time

Again, with the squirming baby on my lap (she has bronchiolitis nd just won't be detached from me for a moment without tears but with some prednisilone last night slept better than she has in AAAAAGES - Yipee), please excuse the typos as my hair gets ripped out and keyboard lashed at.

Austy needed a new bag for swimming. He's needed one for a while since hisThomas shopping bag style one tore at the handles, but since he was no longer going to childcare, we just used his childcare bag for swimming. However I also use that one for his library bag when we head down to story and craft time every Wednesday and since it really is more approrate for storybooks (it has Linley Dodd's Slinki Malinki all over it - from his favourite ever book) it was time to make a swimming bag rather than get into trouble every time his goggles went missing in the switch to use the bag as a library bag.

So I took Austy to spotlight, picked up a few bolts of fabric and asked him which one he wanted for his swimming bag. He looked across to the shelf and picked one that I wasn't really that keen on, ignoring what I had in my hands. Then as I started looking for something to match it with, he picked up some blue dots and was determined that I buy both the road signs and dots for his swimming bag. I didn't think they went together all that well, but hey, it was going to be HIS bag after all, so I just went along with his selections. I got home and was uninspired, especially when Austy's Dad exclaimed "Those two fabrics aren't for the same bag are they?!" with a look that told me he disapproved. So I rummaged through my stash and we decided that the rainbow dots went better (I would have loved an orange or red with it but had nothing big enough) and I just snuck the blue dots on the internal pockets to keep the boy happy.

The internal zip pocket was something I'd never tried before, but it was very easy, especially with this excellent tutorial. So any budding bag makers out there - I definitely recommend you give it a try! It keeps his swimming pass and change to buy marshmallows (his bribary for swimming without floats) nice and safe and easy to find. I also added a patch pocket to hold his jocks, goggles and brush rather than having to dig around at the bottom of the bag.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

What's snuggly, warm and purple?

Just a quick post this time - Madelyn is sick again , overtired, not sleeping and squirming on my lap with a dr appointment in a few minutes, but I had to drop in and post some pictures of her in her new hand-dyed and hand-knit cardigan. Here she is in all her squishiness modeling "Helena", knitted in super soft Treliske, an organic merino from New Zealand (one of my favourite yarns to knit with) hand dyed by me with some of my growing stash of gaywool dyes.

And a sneak peak on something else (get the sunnies out!) I finished today that will soon be in the mail:

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

A delicious giveaway

How cool is this little basket of felt food? I love the cakes too, just as I know the kidlets would. I have always been in awe of all the felt food makers, so fingers crossed that I win this one ;)

Sweetie Pie Bakery Felt Cake GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Maddy's favourite toy

With all the illnesses in the family lately (mostly Maddy) and lack of sleep, I have been feeling like I can't keep up. I was almost ready to toss in the blog as it sometimes seems to be just another pressure, nagging me to get things under control so that I can get crafty again. It often seems that noone reads it anyway so I sometimes wonder if it's worth the effort.

I have so many plans to make this and that, but never actually get to do it, and it often seems too hard. I don't know how so many other Mum's do it, but I will openly admit here and now, that I am certainly no supermum! Keeping up with a busy (but adorable) 3.5yr old, who is very much a "play with me" kind of boy and a beautiful baby girl who'sbeen under the weather and needing a lot more cuddle time lately has kept me fairly occupied. That and the multitude of activities - playgroup, swimming lessons, story time at the library for Austy, baby chat at the library for Maddy, mothers group and the usual park trecks, game playing, train track building, crafting time and teaching Austy his letters and how to read (his latst request and it's gorgeous watching him try to read books by himself). However they are only little once so I plan to enjoy this time, even if it feels like I get nothing done.

But the blog stays. Instead of aiming big, I am tackling small projects, like this taggy block I made for Madelyn yesterday. Things I can achieve. And the blog will remain as a reminder of what I DO get done. I must stop comparing myself with other bloggers who seem to get a million things finished in the space of a week or a few rather large projects done as if they were nothing too time consuming at all (and I know they are). I don't know at all how they do it.

And a big thanks goes out to Ashley - you really made my day yesterday when you bumped into me at the craft market I was perusing to tell me that you knew me from my blog. It made me smile to think that hey, people do read this thing and I am not just jabbering on to myself.

So I give you the taggy block, this week's small project. Made from 5" charm squares and a scrap of minky and suede cloth left over from her dalmation nappy for some tactile stimulation, and randomly placed ribbons and rickrack scraps for her amusement. I planned to make this ages ago which is why it's just black, red and white - perfect for a first baby toy, but she loves it anyway, even if it is months overdue, and the ribbons make it great to fling around and poke your fingers through. I was going to make some smaller ones to stach on top but since it's filled with pollyfil and not a foam block it's not really flat sided so I thougt it might be difficult for stacking. There is a bell inside for a little bit of a rattle, but boo to Spotlight where I bought the pack of 5 large "jingle bells" to find that only 2 of them acually jingled.

And not crafty at all, but since I am focussing on what I do get done, rather than what I don't, I do do a lot of baking. Cupcakes, biscuits, scones and the like with Austin as he loves to bake and it teaches him things like following instructions and measuring (and he loves to sift and stir), and lots of different new tastes for Madelyn who is really taking well to solids when she's not been unwell. Today's baking was these rice cereal and pear baby biscuits after Maddy got very excited watching me eat my pumpkin scones the other day but they were perhaps a little unsafe, crumbling in her mouth and potentially making her choke. So these will be a bit safer for her (perhaps not the stars and people shapes with bits that could break off, but hey, they make it interesting). I made them up as I went along so will document the recie here for future use, and to share with my readers who also have babies.

Pear and rice cereal baby biscuits (egg & sugar free)

2/3 cup rice cereal (plain rather than flavoured)
2/3 cup SR flour
30g butter (could substitute for vegetable oil if your baby is intolerant of dairy)
1 pear, peeled, cooked and mashed

Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in the rice cereal. Rub in the butter. Make a well in the centre and add the mashed pear and mix well into a soft dough. Knead on a floured surface and roll out thin - be sure the dough is only a couple of mm thick as it will rise with cooking and could become cakelike and crumbly if the dough is too thick. Cut into shapes (round shapes are best so that bits don't break off, or cut into fingers with a blunt knife. Cook at 200 deg C (or 180 if you have a decent fan-forced oven unlike me) for 10-15 mins until golden but not brown.


Wednesday, 5 August 2009

One little bunny pillow for my little bunny

Things have been rather slow on the crafting front due to so much illness in the house (you can read about where the last month has gone here if you are really that interested, so I won't go on about it again). But with all the recent rocking through the night I decided it was time to drop everything and finally get onto that lumbar support cushion I needed for my rocking chair. I found that if I sat in it cross legged I could sit right back and it was fine, but then I'd get up to put Madelyn in her cot and my legs would be asleep (like te rest of me wanted to be!). And if I sat like a normal person, the small gap at my lower back meant my back would hurt after an hour of rocking. I had this same chair with Austy but bought a cute little animal pillow to use with it, which he now sleeps with so I couldn't be so mean as to nab it for me! Instead I made the perfect little lumbar cushion to match her room.

A quick little project to help get my sewjo happening again and back into quilting. Just the perfect size project to tackle between the multiple wake-ups after Maddy was down for the night, without having to stay up till midnight to do it (not a good thing when you're only getting an hour or two sleep at a time...).

For those who haven't seen Madelyn's room, her bedding and decor is mostly natural tones with white and chocolate and she has a cranberry/burgandy coloured feature wall as I thought it brightened up the classic naturals look a bit. Her cot is adorned with a cream wool blanket in the winter and white and cream sheets, and in the summer we used the "babychino" coloured cellular blankets All around the white walls (not the feature wall) are the "Guess How Much I Love You" wall stickers as I loved the book when Austy was a bub and thought they "baby-ed up" the older looking colour scheme. I had been looking for some traditional looking teddy bears to border the room with but only saw very modern and bright bears that weren't really my style and I really wanted to stick to the neutral colours without pink or blue. Then I came across the perfect cot set that had both a bunny and a bear embroidered on it and thought, why don't I do both?! So I still have this teddybear mobile in my WIP pile:

I am blogging it again now as I need to motivate myself to get it finished! Madelyn is at the age now where dangly things are all the rage - you should have seen her giggling her little head off at playgroup as we walked under some paper snakes that the kindy kids had made and hung from a net at the ceiling. So as soon as her "Helena" knitted jacket is finished (only a half a sleeve to go and a button band and ties) to keep her warm in this cool weather those bears take next priority in the knitting department! I only have to knit one more bear and it's been like that for ages, but I just hate doing the stitching up so was trying to force myself to stitch a bear before making the next so I didn't have too much stitching to do all at once so it wouldn't end up on the WIP pile forever. Well that didn't work did it? I just dropped the project! So getting them all out to photograph is meant to spur me back into action. I hand dyed the wool especially to match her room as it was so hard to find anything but pastel baby wool. I still haven't photographed her room as it is waiting on this mobile and perhaps some bunting - the poor kid will be a teenager before her nursery is finished at this rate!

On a sad note, the lovely Jennifer who I knitted for as my part in the ravelry baby swap, gave birth to her beautiful twins too early. Annie Blythe and James Edward were born at just 22 and a half weeks gestation. Darling little people they were, so tiny and with so much love, each lived for just a half an hour before leaving this world. I have sent on the knitted garments anyway, as Jennifer has said that she'd still love to receive them and put them aside with the other keepsakes they have for their twins. I made them each a kimono and hat from "Natural Knits for Babies and Mums" (borrowed from the library) using some soft 8ply 100% wool that I hand dyed (except for the solid lavender - that's how it came and I only thought to hand dye some when it came to the embellishment of that jacket). The package was mostly for the babies, including some preemie gowns as there was always a risk of them being early, but will be followed up shortly with something else I have planned to make for Jennifer and her husband in their memory.