Saturday, February 28, 2009

A lovely surprise

I got this beautifully wrapped gift in the mail yesterday; a new year-Christmas present from my sister. I'm all for stretching the festive season out as long as possible!

And just look what's inside: some supercute fridge magents (these won't go anywhere near the fridge though, I'm saving them for my new studio!).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Trying to tread softly

I was so inspired this morning by Kimberlee's latest post about a friend's sustainable house. It had me thinking 'wish we could do that', but then I realised that we are doing our little bit here in Birkdale. Like most Kiwis with vege gardens, we compost, recycle, save water and re-use what we can, and our garden is testament to Craig's commitment to these principles. Thank goodness for a practical guy with green fingers!
Here's the paving he did recently, using salvaged pavers from the renovation at his work. That's a South African braai (barbeque) in the background, also his handiwork.
Here's the world's coolest play hut, built over an existing wooden gazebo using Kauri wallboards from the same renovation. The boys love their little gingerbread house.

Craig's brother Grant had the great idea to reuse an old shower cubicle as a mini-glasshouse, currently used to break down garden waste and occasionaly as cat shelter on cooler days.

I'm crossing my fingers that the birds will fall for these shiny CD Rom scarecrows on the laden fig tree!

These drums made from old wire netting should keep the white butterflies off our new broccoli plants.

That's just the outside of the house; wait til you see the recycling plant inside that deals with all the second-hand books, fabric, embroidery, household linen, buttons, you name it! But that's a story for another day...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Animals and little Indians

I seem to have started a little collection of children's board books by some very talented Japanese 'illustrators', Tadasu Izawa and Shigemi Hijikata. I now have three of their books, all found at op shops. These books were all printed in Japan in the mid-70's and released in Australia. They were amazing model makers; every photo is a little set with great pre-Photoshop techniques to make everything a bit more realistic. I love everything about these books, from the soft edging on the photos to the crazy background colours. Have a look for yourself:

From 'Little Indians' (Wattle Books)

Koala bears and Kangaroos (Puppet Wonder Book)

Wild Animals (Puppet Book)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New potatoes

We dug some potoatoes from the garden yesterday. Apart from picking and eating our figs, it's my favourite activity in the vege garden; it's so satisfying to see the treasure the dirt yields...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Travels to the Far East

I had a bit of an adventure today: I went to Howick... If you're not from Auckland, let me explain. It's not that far from the city centre, but it feels like a different country. Very historic with old money, the type of place where you find drawers full of leather gloves; rolled up rugs and whole dinner sets, complete with soup tureens, in the op shops (really!). I felt like saying "Golly" a lot, especially when I got horribly lost in the suburbs. I went all that way to pick up my new camera, a very clever and complicated piece of equipment that may take me months to get to know properly. (If you haven't figured it out yet, I'm overly ambitious when it comes to trying out new creative ventures...)

I also closed a little chapter today, that of the Trelise Dolls. I went to collect them from the shop this morning (all five), and the shop assistants were so lovely; they told me how much they liked having them in the shop and that they were really sad to see them go. I felt a bit sad too: all that work and no sales, but it's hard times, and expensive dolls are probably not a priority for most. Still, I feel quite proud to have been given the chance by the lady herself to sell them there. You'll probably find them on Etsy soon, sans retail mark-up :)
Now more about that beautiful cushion at the top: it's by a South African lady called Denise who reuses found objects in very creative ways. She has a great blog, and be sure to have a look at her shop. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Snails in the garden

There were two enormous snails in our garden this morning after the rain. I had to resist the urge to crush them...

I designed and made them yesterday; I'm very impressed with myself... This is the first softie design I've ever made that I'm completely happy with. Here's a close-up:

Why the frantic creativity? Well, I've been approached by a Chinese publishing company (they publish art/design magazines and books, looks ok on Babelfish) who want to include my softies and maybe my dolls too in an upcoming book called 'Hey my friend'. So I might become world famous in China, or at least have my 15 minutes of fame. Will keep you posted on that one...

Monday, February 9, 2009

Welcome Frankie!!

I've just finished my latest doll, and am very happy with the result. Her name's Frankie, after my favourite magazine. She started out as a Christmas angel, but got left behind by my frantic pre-Christmas gift making frenzy, and I've been meaning to do something with her ever since. So here she is, just in time for Valentine's Day. Her look was inspired by the gorgeous embroidered fabric that became her skirt, and her hair is made from a very organic-looking skein of wool I found in an op shop (it could be hand-spun, it still has bits of grass in!). You can see more photos of her on my Flickr page; be sure to have a look at her lovely undies...

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Watch out for the cloud men...

They're parachuting around here! We recently finished reading James and the giant peach to Daniel, who was most impressed by the cloud men. Now we have endless conversations about whether they make rain, snow, thunder, hail, you name it... This drawing is by the two of us, by the way. Having a very creative month; I'm even working on a new doll who should be finished sometime soon. I'll post her on Monday at the latest.

Monday, February 2, 2009

How to make a t-shirt applique

I've had a lot of fun making little applique t-shirts recently, even though I had no real idea how to do it at first. All I knew was that I wanted to avoid puckering, because I used woven cotton on a stretchy t-shirt. At first I used normal iron-on interfacing on the back of my design and to stabilise the t-shirt, but after a conversation with a very friendly quilter, I discovered something amazing: double-sided interfacing! Woohoo, this stuff is great! Your design stays exactly where you want it, so no pins get in the way. Hope you find these instructions useful :)

Things you'll need:
a t-shirt/onesie (not too stretchy)
paper-backed iron-on interfacing (I found Wonder Under at Spotlight, just ask at the quilting section)
single-sided iron-on interfacing or water-soluble stabiliser (both also available at sewing supplies stores)

Before you start:
Decide on a design and make a template. If you're new to this, keep it simple. Look at this nice tutorial about sewing a little square onto a onesie; very effective.
Wash your t-shirt (if it's going to shrink, now is a better time than after all your hard work!).
Read the instructions for the paper-backed interfacing (you can look at the link above).

Now you can start:
Iron the paper-backed interfacing onto the back of your fabric, then draw your design onto the paper.

Cut out your design, then peel off the paper (the paper side will be 'sticky' looking, like normal interfacing).

Now you can iron the design onto the t-shirt (put the 'sticky' side down onto the right side of the t-shirt).If you want to decorate your design with buttons, beads, embroidery, etc, you can do that now.

At this point you may be tempted to stop, but I'm not sure whether it would withstand a lot of washing. Better stitch it to the t-shirt... You can choose between hand-stitching (a small blanket-stitch would look nice), and machine sewing (a small zig zag stitch works well; do a test on a separate piece of fabric for the right stitch length and width).

If you decide to use your sewing machine, I recommend ironing the single-sided interfacing onto the wrong side of the t-shirt (directly behind your design). This is to stabilise the fabric, so it doesn't pucker. You can iron it on quite lightly, as you'll need to cut around the stitching later. I haven't used water-based stabiliser yet, but I'm sure it would do the same job.

Now stitch around the design, making sure that you stay as close to the edge as possible. If you go in too much, the fabric may fray; if you go over the edge too much you may end up with little holes where the stitches go into the t-shirt (it won't look good after a few washes).

Turn the t-shirt inside out and trim the iron-on interfacing as close as possible to the zig zag stitching (you can pull it off carefully). Don't cut through the t-shirt!!

If you've come this far, congratulations! If you've been able to make sense of my instructions, you should be finished. Please leave a comment if you've tried this, had problems or successes, or any other tips. Happy sewing!

Bunnies for new babies

It's been a very fertile couple of weeks, with three gorgeous newborns arriving: a new nephew and two little friends. Welcome to Bernardie, Theo and Indiana!

So...I've been sewing my favourite gifts for little ones: bunny rattles from the Softies book, plus my latest thing, applique. Here's all the bunnies in a row:

I think I've got just enough experience with t-shirt appliques now to share my (still limited) knowledge in a tutorial which I'll post straight after this one.