Monday, March 24, 2014

How to make a kids' travel journal

We're going on a much-anticipated family holiday tomorrow. The four of us are off to South Africa to spend time with my amazing family, most of whom we haven't seen for well over 7 years. Because we'll be away for a few weeks, I wanted the boys to be able to keep a journal so they can remember everything we'll do.

I looked around the shops, but found most travel journals for kids were too expensive/simple/decorated, etc. I'm hard to please, as you can see :) I wanted something that had space for both writing and drawing (most are either lined or blank), had photo pockets, and could easily be adapted and added to. Of course I ended up making my own.

Before I started, I looked for photo pockets and bought some Project Life sheets online. They're 8x7" and that dictated the size of my journal.  I had to punch more holes, since the pockets are designed for their own journals, but a normal hole punch did the trick.  I also ordered a pack of beautiful paper and 8x7"dividers. I'll post links at the bottom of the post.  We're holding the books together with a small belt and a book elastic, since they're quite loose.

I then visited my friendly local bookbinders and got 4 chipboard covers cut and punched. I used some ring clips to keep the books together, and once the paper is in, it's easy to open up and add more sheets or rearrange things.

The fun part was designing the pages. I asked the boys for ideas about what they might see and do, so we could have some pages with headings. They can choose whether to draw or write, or stick tickets, photos and mementoes on these pages.

I created the pages in Illustrator, using the Langdon font and some free downloads (links at bottom). The boys are very proud of their journals and can't wait to start decorating the covers and writing in it tomorrow. They'll take these and some stickers, pens and pencils as carry-on luggage, which should keep them busy for a few hours. Fingers crossed...

Photo pockets: Becky Higgins Project Life Photo Pockets (design 2)
Paper and dividers: Studio Calico 'Here and There'
Langdon font: on Fontsquirrel
Seamless paper download: Fuzzimo Hi-Res notepad and notebook textures
World map vector: free download from

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The perfect jeans: a show and tell

I've been lusting after a pair of cuffed jeans for ages; more than a year now. I've looked everywhere, but after long searches (both real and virtual), I've had to give up finding them in a shop. The other day I was in Savemart (a huge second-hand clothing shop here in NZ) and thought I'll have a look for something I could adjust.  I found a very unflattering pair of wide-leg Max jeans in great condition, plus they were a size too big; perfect for what I wanted to do. Here they are in all their glory:

Just a disclaimer: this is not a tutorial, more like a guide for experienced sewers or just so you can see how obsessed I am about getting the perfect pair of jeans :)

These were the things I wanted: elasticated cuffs, knee darts, fitted legs (skinny-ish), a good fit around the waist.  I was a long way off, but here's what I had at home to help me get there: an unpicker, jeans sewing machine needle, topstitching thread (very close colour match, score!), some other dark upholstery sewing thread, elastic and a lot of patience.  Here's my plan for what I wanted to do:

For the knee darts, I unpicked the outer leg from the knee down so that I could access the knee area on the sewing machine.  I also unpicked about 20cm around the knee on the inner leg. I created 4 small darts on each knee (using a pair of jeans I already own as a guide).  The best place for darts is a little below where your knee is when you're standing up in your jeans. I first just sewed the pleats down on the outer edges and later top-stitched the darts down with triangles. I wasn't sure it was going to look so good in orange top-stitch thread, so I used a grey thread. A good move, I think.

As you will see in the 1st photo above, when I created the darts, the back of the legs were longer than the front. I cut the back of the leg in two right behind the darts, then created a seam to shorten that part and top-stitched it.

When the darts and back seams were done, I sewed up the inner leg, then overlocked and top-stitched it.  I did the outer leg last (no top-stitching).  

The first part of my project was done! 

Next, I took in the legs and created a casing for the elastic.  I ended up taking the legs in (on the outer leg) quite a bit, all the way down from the bottom of the side pockets. I created a fitted leg, but kept it quite straight from the calf down.  After overlocking the raw edges, I created a casing using the same dark thread I used on the darts.  I used a 1.5cm elastic. 

Now I was two-thirds there and I could have stopped, but thought while I was having such a great time sewing, I'd try a technique I've seen on Pinterest.  Because these jeans were a size bigger than normal, I wanted to get a more flattering fit, so I took in the sides and waistband a bit.  It was really easy, although it took quite a while to unpick all the stitches. Here is the link on Freshly Picked.

And there you have it, my pimped-up jeans. The most comfortable jeans in my wardrobe! But looking a bit like I'm off to the army with my new leather hi-tops in this photo :)

And here they are before I took in the waist: