Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The final curtain

12 months ago, I entered the world of blogging. Before that, I never really understood the purpose of blogs; it sounded odd to me that strangers would want to read about another complete stranger's life or their creative pursuits and interests.  Two of my friends have blogs that I enjoy reading because I have a personal connection to them, but I still wasn't convinced blogging was for me. What could I possibly find to blog about that hadn't already been done a thousand times before?

Since I had often wondered what certain crafts would be like to do, it stood to reason that other novices would have an interest in my own endeavours. Following other craft blogs has helped me to nurture this latent seed of creativity within me. The more that I attempt things, rather than run out of ideas, quite the opposite happens and it feels like there will never be enough time to realise them all.

Are you wondering what a year's worth of crafting looks like? I'll show you.

12 months, 13 cushions, six crochet blankets, five reinvigorated pieces of furniture, five baby change mats, four sunhats, two pieces of art, one quilt, one embroidery amongst other bits and pieces.

All that's missing from these images are a few cats.

There were more items than the ones pictured. I gave a few things away and I hope those owners do like them, it gave me great pleasure to find new homes for them.

Of course, it would remiss of me to show you all the successes without showing you the projects that did not quite make the cut:
Who can ever forget the Halloween eyeballs that started out with so much promise, the masterful crochet and, my personal favourite, the Bauble Wreath of Amateurness.

I gave myself a timeframe of 12 months to see if I could commit to blogging and if I didn't enjoy it at least I had an excuse to quietly exit at the end of the year.  Now that I am at this final point, I feel like I have so much more that I want to document. There are a few projects that I started and have not yet completed and others that I have finished and want to share with you.

It has been wonderful to connect with you here, and forge new friendships with like-minded bloggers, which has been the most unexpected aspect of this past year. If you would like to see what is happening beyond the year of crafting dangerously, you will find me tinkering around in my new space, Paper Moon.

Last one out, please turn off the lights x.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

On turning 4

Over the weekend, my youngest daughter celebrated her 4th birthday with her kindy friends. She wanted a Rainbow Princess Bubble Guppies theme, which basically regressed to a rainbow theme with some token bubbles being blown on the deck as my plan to set some fish-shaped jube lollies in jelly went awry when they dissolved while setting overnight *facepalm*. Chemistry was not a strength of mine at school. Aimee didn't seem to notice the distinct lack of Bubble Guppies on the day, although one did feature on her invitation. Bubble Guppies theme - check.

I didn't spend too much time decorating or baking (or weed-eating) for this party - I have learnt that children don't actually notice these things as much as the parents. The sun shone for the day so we were able to line our footpath with plastic windmills.

It took me an hour to cut and hang up the plastic tablecloths on the ceiling. That was effort enough. Rainbow theme - check.

The idea for the tablecloth streamers came from Pinterest. It's quite a cost-effective idea that gives maximum effect.

Now, don't laugh at my cake. It tasted better than it looked. The turrets were very easy to make, they are waffle cones rolled in melted chocolate and then dunked in sprinkles.  Princess theme - check.

But enough of the cake, what do you think of my pom pom flowers?

In the corner of the room, we set up a little nail salon with an assortment of nail polish. Sienna took control of this space and enjoyed being a nail technician for the duration of the party.

The party guests played pass the parcel, pin the pot of gold on the rainbow and musical statues. I attempted a craft activity for the first time and made some rainbow wands. Here is another example of pin-tastic images versus the reality:
Even inanimate objects look better with photoshop and a gentle breeze.
My hot glue gun ran out of glue, and then when I went to replace the staples in the stapler for Plan B, the staples were the wrong size.  I was contemplating resorting to hand sewing the clouds closed when one of the mothers at the party saved the day and ran back to her house to fetch her own hot glue gun. Hurray for crafty mums who live close by.

I just had to include this photo that her grandfather edited and sent me - I know, right? It's Aimee. In a bottle. Thanks Grandpa.

"Nobody puts Aimee in a bottle" - Patrick Swayze.*
Happy Birthday to my vivacious Aimee. A rainbow party theme was perfect for you, it suits your personality. After storms have passed, you shine and brighten the world.

* Possible misquote.

Monday, 9 September 2013

a green life

Blogs are the most wonderful sources of inspiration, and the people behind them are so generous sharing their ideas and creations. There is such joy in the simple act of doing something we love for others or for ourselves. I visit certain blogs for baking, craft, design and sewing ideas.  I love to read these blogs for their beautifully-staged photographs; the children's crafts that never seem to generate actual mess and that turn out picture-perfect every time, the happy, smiling children dressed in perfectly tailored handmade clothes, the neat-as-a-pin homes.  I know it is all smoke and mirrors, but for me, following these blogs is a form of escapism.  However, the blogs I return to are those that have a unique voice and it's their authenticity and honesty that draw me to them.  This is the reason why I love to read a green (and sometimes blue) life. Susan writes from the heart. Sometimes her message is confronting, but amongst all her turmoils is a woman who is trying to lead the best life she can with her family and carve out a small business too.

a green life's ethos is very simple; clothing and toys for children made using vintage and upcycled items.  Here are some of my favourites:

Sus has pretend play covered with these cool capes, cuffs and masks:

All photos from a green life

Or be regal with some doily crowns:

This marble set is a nod to the simpler past, which is exactly why I love it so much:

It's no secret that I love the vintage aesthetic, so I was always going to be a fan of hers, but I am proud to say she is a friend in real life too.

When she listed some old biscuit tins stuffed with new and vintage trims and notions, I leapt at the chance to buy one for my daughter.  It is hidden away at the moment waiting for the right time to gift it, but here is a sneak peek at its contents:

Would you like some awesome sauce to go with that? You can purchase one of these for yourself in Sus's Felt store and she is currently hosting a giveaway on her blog, so you can discover her handmade and thrifted goodness for yourselves.

Monday, 2 September 2013

BlogCamp 2013

BlogCamp has given me so much to think about, I am actually feeling really overwhelmed and excited about the possibilities of a directional change to my blog, but I'm still unsure of where to start. When I tried to sleep that night, my eyelids would flutter open as my brain tried to process what it had learnt. I'm scared that if I don't write it all down or start making some adjustments to my blog Right Now, I will forget all the advice I was given.

Having attended this seminar to help clarify what I want to do beyond my year of crafting, the day raised a few more questions in my mind than it gave answers. Is Wordpress better than Blogger? Can I even say the W-word on the Blogger platform or will my blog mysteriously disappear?

I learnt about scrapers and leaky juices, which all sounds very unhealthy.

We received some legal expertise in relation to the basics of privacy and copyright. In short, it means that I might have to bid a reluctant goodbye to Gerry and my plan to introduce you to my other closet crafting thespian friends in any future posts. Although if he - or Channing Tatum (not fussy) - ever knocked on my front door to issue me with a Take Down notice, I'd be quite up for that.

Meeting the group of bloggers and people who are considering starting a blog was a real highlight. These are some of the attendees, taken by me in a privacy-abiding manner, and their pretty green goodie bags.

I briefly met Leanne from Manda Burms Farmstay, who now blogs at Cottage Tails, her friend Robyn, and Sheena, who we may see starting up blogs of their own one day. I hope they do. I also got to chat a little more at length with Madeleine from NZ Ecochick and Meghan from Adventures of MNM's, who between them both have 8 years' blogging experience behind them. It was really great to spend some time with these women, they are very inspirational people.

This is Vicki, the coordinator, or, as I like to call her, The Font of Blogging Knowledge in all her privacy-waiving, consent-giving glory. She is bright, bubbly and I suspect if there is anything she doesn't know about how to become a successful blogger, it probably isn't worth knowing.

Interesting term that; successful blogger. There was some discussion about how to encourage traffic to your blog and page ranks, which really could give someone a complex if things like that are important to people. If you think about it in high school terms, my blog's current page rank means I would be the girl who walks unnoticed past a group of popular kids. I am invisible. It doesn't actually matter though to me, because you are here reading this and you can sit down at my cafeteria table any time :).

My blog may be small, but this year has never been about readership numbers for me or how visible my presence is on the internet. Maybe in future it might become more important. This year has been about the promise I made to myself 12 months ago to throw caution to the wind, try new things and document my creative journey. I have enjoyed following and connecting with many talented people who share their knowledge so freely with others.

This space is successful to me because I actually held true to my promise that I would blog and craft for an entire year. It is proof that I can teach myself to do anything if I apply myself. A year ago, I did not know how to crochet, how to embroider, how to use an overlocker and I would never have thought I could reupholster a chair. But I did all that, and more.

I have received comments from people who told me that I have inspired them to have a go after they have read about my experiences here. That is success.

The regular readers who consistently leave comments here strike me as being loyal, funny, encouraging and genuine and this year has shown me that real friendships can be formed through the internet. These genuine connections are what has made blogging so rewarding and constitute success (in my opinion). Thank you, you are the reason why I have lurched forward on so many projects when I doubted myself.

Our little community of crafting bloggers were able to band together for a really worthwhile cause. This demonstrates, albeit on a small scale, the impact that bloggers can have to make a positive difference in other peoples' lives. This is success.

Having had some time now to reflect on the day, I think I just need to go back to what is important to me and why I blog. First and foremost, I write and I create and I share with you because I enjoy it. However, my family remains my top priority and I blog when it fits around their needs. The minute I think about needing to blog more frequently than I do at present, I start to sweat and worry my stories will sound forced. If I cannot write from a place of honesty and with a willingness to write, I don't want to write at all.

So, I still need to mull things over, but think I am leaning towards reinventing my space. Whatever it may look like, it will still have a creative aspect to it. It's an undeniable part of who I am and makes me happy, but there are also other areas that I would like to explore and share with you too. Will you join me? Spring, new beginnings. I like that.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


My children have the flu, flu, flu, with some strep throat too, too, too, what about you, you, you?  I can feel bright and sunny about it all now with the worst of it behind us, but to be honest, the last 12 days 4 hours and 37 minutes have been quite draining.  It is probably just my perception of things, but it does feel that in this household, there is always at least one person who is not feeling a hundy.

Something I have often wondered at times like this is what would happen if I was working full-time? No-one I know would come and look after contagious children (at least, not willingly) and you'd always be cast as that family that passed on the bugs. So, how do parents who work full-time manage total mask-wearing quarantine-requiring illness? Do you have understanding employers who will allow you to take a week's leave at a moments' notice or do you pump your children full of paracetamol and send them off to school or daycare and hope no-one notices your child collapsed in a festering heap at the back of the classroom? You do do that, don't you?!

If we absolutely had to succumb to sickness, it probably came at the right time, as my youngest daughter turns 4 soon. Fortunately, neither her nor I have caught the bug - yet - *shines my perfect parenting halo with extra-heavy duty sanitizer that kills 99.9% of germs whilst wearing latex gloves* so we have been planning a few things for her party. Her sick sisters crawled off the couch for a minute or two whenever they felt able to contribute to the cause.

Aimee has asked for a rainbow/princess/Bubble Guppy theme. Nothing like a 4 year old's imagination to get you thinking outside the square. I am very grateful for the internet as I have never actually sat down with her to watch the show *gasp!* and would not have a clue who the characters are but I will find a way to incorporate it amongst the sparkly garishness that is the world of 4 year old girls.

Thusly, a preview of our preparations:

Even if it doesn't sound like it, I love planning my daughters' parties. I know there is such a small window before they get older and will no longer need or want my input. This year will see my older girls having more involvement in decorating, organising and helping to run the party games.

They are just as excited about Aimee's party as the birthday girl is and I hope that their anticipation lasts for a few more years yet.

There just had better not be any sick party guests.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

One for the Eric Clapton fans

If you wanna hang out you've gotta take her out. Crochet.

If you got bad news, you wanna kick them blues. Crochet.

When your day is done and you wanna run. Crochet.

She don't lie

she don't lie

she don't like.


Showing and telling at Leonie's.

Degree of difficulty: Easy. The pattern is available on this blog if you would like to try it for yourself
Time taken: 4 hours
Result: Definitely use a 5.0 crochet hook. I used a 4 as that was the only hook I have that was close in size. The beanie is made from 8 ply wool so there is plenty of stretch in it, but the size is more suited for a newborn. Or a doll. Or just something that doesn't express any opinion whatsoever.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

For the love of blogs

Just when I was starting to feel a little neglected with first Christchurch and then Auckland hosting intensive blogging conferences, an email arrived in my mailbox. Vicki of Vegemitevix fame is organising a Wellington BlogCamp on 31 August. I'm in.

Come and have some fun with me. There's food. And maybe one or two people who actually know what they're talking about when it comes to blogging. I have been debating whether to continue with this blog and just rename it, or start afresh, or simply stop blogging. With my self-imposed timeframe of 12 months almost up under this blog name, the timing of the camp couldn't have been more perfect for me. Hopefully after listening to other more experienced bloggers, I will have a clearer picture in my head over which direction to take head beyond my year of crafting.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Going to the chapel

Crafting has been a bit quiet around here, but I have not been idle. Happy days! My sister has become engaged and she has asked for my help to put her wedding day together.

She asked me if I would make her dress, and once I stopped laughing, I declined - although it is nice that she thinks I have greater sewing capabilities than I actually possess.  Dress trends have moved on so much since I got married less than a decade ago and it has been so much fun looking on the internet and in magazines for inspiration with a more appraising eye.

This is me on my wedding day. So young. So skinny. So satin-y. If I was getting married tomorrow, I would choose a completely different style of dress. But, looking back on the day itself, I wouldn't change too much about it at all. I would have made my final dress-fitting as close to the wedding day as possible because I did the classic lose-weight-unintentionally-before-the-big-day. Consequently, my dress did not fit as well as it could have and it looked like a sleeping bag. A big, off-white satin and lace sleeping bag. But, I was marrying my gorgeous guy, so nothing else mattered.

Today, my sister went down the tried and tested route of off-the-rack gown-hunting. It helps that she has a slender figure as most of the gowns were sample sizes. She tried on several dresses to get a sense of the style that suited her best but the first gown she tried on ended up being The One. Even better, the bridal gowns at Wilkins Formal Wear in Wellington are all half price at the moment as the store is relocating, so she got an amazing brand new dress at an even more amazing price.

Although a theme hasn't really been settled upon, she is leaning towards a vintage look and wants to do as much of the decorating herself so I thought I would share what we do come up with on a modest budget.  This will mean that I am likely to continue blogging beyond this year, and I may decide to start a completely new blog. If I do, I will post a link here so you can find me and follow along, if you like.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

A golden run

It might appear that I am a bit of a serial giveaway enterer, but let me assure you, I only enter the ones that really float my boat. Looks like my luck's in because I won a Penny Scallan bag recently in a giveaway hosted by Elaina from A Little Bit Country.  I realise I am treading a fine line here between showcasing and show-offing, but I hope you will forgive me as this recent run of good luck never happens to me.

I really loved the woodland/bird design, but since I'm not the one in need of a decent kindy bag, I left the decision up to Aimee and she chose the Russian doll one.

I did contemplate ferreting it away until her birthday next month, but she was so taken with it, I have let her use it.  Over the holidays, it has been a rocket booster pack and general tote bag for all her little treasures.
Forget walking on water, this bag makes children walk on air.
It has been used for her first day back at kindy for the new term and if I weigh it up next to what she had been using, there really is no comparison. It is larger, has more useful compartments and is so sturdy. I no longer feel like I have to zip up the bag very slowly in case I'm left holding the zip in my hand.  The bag lining appears to be waterproof, or at the very least wipeable, which is such a handy feature especially when the contents of my daughter's lunchbox inevitably seem to end up in the bottom of her bag.

This has turned out to be quite the product endorsement, I'm sorry about that, but I am really impressed by its construction and truly happy that we were the lucky recipients of A Little Bit Country's giveaway.

Thank you to Elaina and Penny Scallan for making my three year old very happy.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Special delivery

Almost two weeks ago, I entered a giveaway on Fancy's blog for a set of Acme flat white cups and saucers. Given the number of entries, I didn't fancy my chances (see what I did there?), and so I forgot all about it.  I didn't even check my messages until the day after a winner had been announced, so I got a really nice surprise to find out I had won.

I really wanted a green set, but I put it to a family vote and everyone else wanted either grey or blue, so we went for an even split, which messes with my OCD to have matching sets. Maybe one day, I might just nab a couple more grey ones from Let Liv, who were the generous suppliers of the coffee cups, and then my world will feel as it should again.

The courier arrived with a very large box yesterday afternoon. Ever since, the girls had been waiting so incredibly patiently for me to give the all-clear to open it (had to wait for the right lighting to capture it all yanno), and once I said it was Time, it became a very family affair.

Everything was really, really well packaged.

But so, so worth the wait.

They're even nicer with something in them.

And on them.

Race ya to the bottom.

Thank you Alana and Natalie, our new hot chocolate cups and saucers have our seal of approval.

Monday, 22 July 2013

The next time

I was debating whether to blog about this seeing as this is a craft blog and all, but I think it rates a mention. Yesterday, Wellington, the place where I have lived longer than anywhere else, the birthplace of my children, the city that I love, was shaken twice by quite decent earthquakes.

Photo source: Fairfax Media

Living in a city that spans a fault-line capable of generating an 8M+ quake, and seeing how events have played out in Christchurch, Wellingtonians, I think, are pretty cognisant of the damage a major earthquake can unleash and if there were any complacent people left in this city, I think this has been the wake-up call that was needed.

The first quake, a 5.8M at 7.17am, was merely a nuisance, since I had been dozing quite happily in bed. The girls had been entertaining themselves quietly and hardly noticed a thing. There was no chance of my heart returning to normal resting rate after the 6.5M that rumbled through at 5.09pm.

5.09pm - the time that is scorched in my brain, as I huddled in the doorway of our lounge with my husband and our two youngest girls, feeling the join in the floor moving in two separate directions and watched as my eldest daughter ran panic-stricken from the lounge right to an area of the house that is the last place to run to in an earthquake.  You try to protect your children from ever experiencing the kind of terror that was reflected in Sienna's eyes and yet, there was nothing I could do about this except talk to her, talk, soothe her, hold her. We waited for the ground to stop shuddering beneath our bare feet, which was only 20 seconds or so, and then tried to carry on as normally as possible for the rest of the evening.

Wobbly-voiced, our children searched our faces for an assurance that there would be no more shaking. We didn't lie. We promised we would do everything in our power to protect them always. What we didn't say was that sometimes even that will not be enough.
This image chilled me.  My girls and husband were in this building just the day before
If there is anything that I learnt about yesterday, it is this - this quake has shown me that people can, and do, react differently in emergencies and not always in the ways that you'd expect. No matter how many times we drum into our children where the safest places are to take cover in a quake, there is no guarantee that they will react calmly and follow The Plan. The next time, we will be a little more prepared.

I am grateful that the quake did not cause any fatalities or serious damage to infrastructure. I am also well aware that next time - and we all know this can happen again at any time - we may not fare so well.  It is comforting to know that some of our family and friends experienced this with us.  I know that the people of Canterbury walk with us too, because when all is said and done, it is the kindness and compassion shown by others that will help get us through this the next time.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Round cushion

Remember the deep blue velvet remnant I bought at Fabric-a-brac?  It's now a cushion. I'm full of original ideas. I did think about making a cape for Aimee since she's quite into role-playing at the moment, and I think there might be just enough left to make her one. That's for another time.

There are plenty of round velvet cushions on the internet. They're so preeetty (if you're into that kind of thing), but I often wonder about them being dust-catchers, and housework and I are mortal enemies. Guess I can just flip it over to the un-dusty side until I am forced to do something about it.

Psst, did you hear about the corduroy cushions? They're making headlines.

The cushion adds a bit of "Hello" to the couch, but I'm thinking it has found its spiritual home on the chair I painted a few months ago. That's if I can prise it out of Sienna's paws, since she has lain claim to it. I'm always happy to know that the girls like what I'm making. It's validation of an afternoon spent trying to sew the surprisingly difficult buttons onto it.

I would normally use the self-covering button kits that you can get in craft stores, but I really didn't want to have to go and buy some so I made use of what I had here. I figure you know already how to cover your own buttons, but here is a pictorial* of what I did to cover them:

* Brought to you in conjunction with one sad-looking cutting mat.

Degree of difficulty: The hardest part was attaching the buttons using a standard sewing needle rather than a longer upholstery one. As the saying goes, craft waters never run smooth (or something like that) and my achilles heel this time was that the back loop on the second button snapped from the strain. Of course, there were no other buttons in that size in my button jar so I have just tacked the button to the cover to keep it in place until I can get to the craft store to buy a replacement
Time taken: 4 hours
Result: At just under 40cm, it's a great size as a cushion for a couch or bed. If I were to make another one for the seat of my chair, I think I would make the gusset half as deep.