Monday, January 31, 2011

The launch of "I {heart} re-designing"

As well as creating new projects from scratch, or buying glorious fabric to hide away and then deciding what to do with it later, a lot of my creative time is spent “re-designing”.

This realisation only hit me on holiday this year, when I started making a ‘to do’ list of my upcoming creative projects for the year. Most of them revolved re-creating something to give it a new lease on life. Generally it’s something old, that could be useful when used a different way; or could be prettier if it was recovered or repainted; or it could be a project partly made from something I saw and bought just the other day, and had to ‘improve’.

Sometimes my re-designing is because our little family is run on a tight budget. Sometimes it’s because we are forever renovating and fixing our old house. And sometimes it’s simply a time-passing away/busy fingers moment or a way to de-stress after my day job. But mostly, it’s because I love something, can’t possibly throw it away, and need to re-use it to justify keeping it. (That's when it counts as not hoarding, right?)

So I started talking to my wonderful partner in this blog, Greta, and we decided that between us, we have a million projects already finished and sitting around, under construction or on the 'to do list' this year that fit this bill. Some of them include:

• Reusing cool old boxes and Formula tins as kids toy tidies, covered in fabric;
• Rescuing abandoned rattan furniture in the inorganic collections, rethreading the twine in the broken seats, and repainting them (I’ve done this twice!)
• Reusing the old kitchen bench as a new computer desk in the study
• Recovering the old dining table chairs with a funky black vinyl, totally changing their look
• Rescuing old wooden furniture off family and friends, sanding and repainting it to give it a new life
• Reusing favourite clothing pieces or tea towels to make new cushion covers
• Cutting up an old Trelise Cooper top I can't throw away (but will never fit again) to make a sun hat for my baby
• Changing an old 80s pattern into a modern ‘sloppy joe’ sexy t-shirt
* Fabric painting designs on clothing or shoes
• Repurposing a little girls Butterick pinafore dress pattern into a strappy sundress and piecing together some favourite fabric offcuts to create a modern look.

So one sunny afternoon on holiday I decided that while they don’t always involve fabric, my projects always involve craft, colour, family and love, and they should count as writing fodder for this blog. And Greta agrees. Some of the above list (which we will come back to and hyperlink as we go) could even be ‘tutorials’.

We’ve designed a little button that will identify these “re-design” projects so they’re easy to spot (see left). We’d love it if you could use it too on your blog posts about your re-design projects, and link back to ours, leave a comment below, and share the ideas around. We'd love to create a master list of great re-design ideas (we've even made a special tab at the top of our blog to keep them handy). Some of our favourites by others we'd love to be there include:

Cotton Kiwi's Sock Monkeys and Vintage Tea Cup pincushions (I have made two monkeys, with two more half finished for presents)
• A Little Vintage’s custom made dolls that use heirloom fabrics and baby clothes (I have four so far made in my special fabrics)
Songbird Designs' fabric covered hair bobbles (I own TONNES of these)
Amy’s Button Necklaces.
Moon Mum’s vintage wallpaper and buttons birdie art (I used these in my baby's room)
* Turning your husband's shirt into a little girl's dress on Made by Dana (I promise to do this in Feb, this month coming! I have chosen the shirt)
• Turning a kid's t shirt into a dress on Make It or Love It
Made by Rae’s ‘altering’ of patterns from McCalls.

My first offical “I love re-designing” post will be “The One Hour Sloppy Sexy Joe” t shirt. Watch this space!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Grateful on Saturdays...

One of our very first followers of this blog, who leaves lovely comments, is Maxabella. Her blog is divine with lovely posts about family, sewing, crafting and baking, and blog design is definitely her forte too. Check out today's gingerbread men 'friends' image.

Anyway, Maxabella is spreading some 'sunshine' around the bloggy mum community by asking people to once a week write a post on something they are grateful for. Today's my first time I've really, really had a lot to be grateful for, after a hard last year personally. But that all pales in comparison.

Today I'm grateful that three incredibly special, treasured people in my life are still here, and battling on, and I just wanted to let them all know how grateful I am for them. To have them in my life. And how much I will do anything for you, and your families, anyplace, whenever. You are all my thoughts this week.

Sending so much positive thoughts and power your way I can see the air sparkling! xoxo

Friday, January 28, 2011

Berry Obsessed

If you were a little girl (or a mum!) in the 80s you may recognise this little lady - an original Strawberry Shortcake doll, complete with enormous hat and berrylicious smell.

Recently I started obsessing after I saw these ridiculously cute hats by susyq19 on Etsy. My daughter has a couple of the recent little dolls but they do not have such over-sized heads and cheeks, or fabric clothes.

I had two Strawberry Shortcake (SSC) dolls when I was young, Strawberry Shortcake herself and Lemon Meringue, who with her big yellow curls and pretty little face was my idea of perfection. So I searched Etsy (did you know they sell vintage as well as handmade?), eBay and TradeMe looking for these relics of my childhood (I have no idea what happened to my ones...)

Now that they are 'vintage' of course, they can be pricey, but I think the fact that they have lasted so long means you can compare them to what is new in the shops now. My new SSC friend (pictured on my strawberry fabric stash, another obsession of mine!) was $18 on TradeMe, including postage, and she is in great condition, with all her clothes and only a little fading on her cheeks.

After a little research I found out she is actually a first edition, which means she was issued in 1979! You can tell by her flat hands, and she didn't have her pet cat Custard until the second edition, so she isn't missing anything. I am quite chuffed   :)

My second purchase will need a bit more TLC, the seller thought it might be Angel Cake but I think it is a Lemon Meringue... hopefully she will arrive in the post today...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Start ‘em young - sewing for preschoolers!

Some of my earliest memories are of my Mum sewing clothes for my sisters and myself. So when I spotted this little plastic sewing machine that really sews in my kindergarten’s school book and gift guide, I had to have it for my nearly five year old. I knew it wouldn’t last long, but it was a start, and it was going for a song. Little Miss loves to sit next to me when we’re crafting, helping to glue, paint, staple, or pin or play with a needle and thread. So you can imagine my anticipation on Christmas Day of what she’d say. She loved it!

The only glitch so far is that the bobbin eventually jumps right out of its casing, and causes the stitches to catch and wind around and stall the machine. I’ve solved it so far by laying a cut down piece of wire or ice block stick over the top of the casing, inside the hatch door, to keep it more snug in its place. But we’ll have to wait and see how long that lasts!

What's a good first project for her, do you think?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Anzac-ifying my house...typography style

For around six months I’ve had an idea in my head for a new painting in my house and finally, I’ve done it. This time I tried something completely new in terms of technique, and inspired by my partner in OTLP, Greta @ Topography.

An art history student way back when, I particularly love modern art and some of my favourite pieces are ones by Toulouse-Lautrec and New Zealander Colin McCahon which use hand drawn or stencilled words. I don’t necesarily like political messages, but more the forms of words and the use of them as creative expressions of the brush themselves. As a journalist by trade, I have a thing for words.

So therefore it's pretty logical that I adore the new fashion trend of using Typography in interior design fabrics, nursery fabrics, and on canvas art works, particularly in black and white.
I wanted to do something totally unqiue to our family though, so armed with a piece of graph paper, I came up with a combination of words and numerals important to my New Zealand childhood and my husband’s Australian childhood. Using the graph paper squares, I spaced them according to the different widths needed for different sized fonts and then hit the craft shops looking for stencils to fit. I also bought some scrapbooking letters, to use as a stamp when wiped generously with oil paint.

Miss Four and I painted the canvas black, and then used white oil paint through the stencils and on the back of the scrapbooking letters, as stamps. I actually love how it came out partly looking hand-drawn and partly like place name signs. Alongside my extra large size canvas I did a few years ago featuring flax and toi toi, and my new fantail cushion, and my treasured Aboriginal bird painting, I feel like I’ve ‘Anzac-ified’ my house appropriately.

What do you think? Might pop it into the Creative Collective's January challenge to try a new craft and share it...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Designer love: the Rising Star of Melody Miller

OK, so if you've been reading this blog for a while you'll know I adore watching the new fabric collections come out. I wait with excitement twice a year for the new collections from my fav designers.

But tonight I stumbled across a new US-based designer who is just starting out, releasing her first line with Kokka literally at Christmas. And first her range, and then her blog, stopped me in my tracks. Like Helen Dardik, or Heather Ross, who I adore and who also prints her designs with Kokka, Melody Miller's fabrics are more illustrative than 'high seasonal fashion', and would be amazing for crafting or children's wear or home decor. Like Miss Ross her first range is printed on that awesome heavier linen mix that Kokka do so well. They're exactly the kind of fabric I'd use in my crafting, rather than my lily pads.

The 'Ladies in Natural' is what caught my eye first, and then the 'Viewfinder' range, and then the rest...the whole range is so kitch and vintage and 50s and cute, all in one. I NEED them. In my lounge, my kitchen, my girls' rooms...

I was also totally captivated by her blog, which details her journey to release her first fabric line - something I'd LOVE to do. To top it off she's an active indie crafter (check out her cute elephant softies) and an artisan - I adore the style of her photography on her blog.

Take a Kit Kat break and immerse yourself in rising cleverness!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

DIY: beach-side baby pool

My Dad is always coming up with projects to build or create something using something stored in his garage. This time he’s hit upon an idea that I reckon is tops!
With a crawling baby and a four year old, trips to the surf beaches usually mean stopping them from going in the water too deep, and ending up standing in the white wash, holding on to them for dear life. After a while you just want to sit down on your towel and relax, but the babies have other ideas.
So why not create a safe little pool within arms reach next to your towels where the babies can sit, keep cool, and build sand castles around themselves at the same time? My two could happily spend half an hour in there, and you can sit and watch and relax.

To make your DIY Beach Pool:

Step One: Go through your garage and find a small tarp (or head to the Warehouse and buy a small tarp).
Step Two: Hit the beach, appropriately sun-blocked. Using a spade, dig a shallow small hole next to your beach towel.
Step Three: Lay the tarp in it, use sand to hold down the edges, and use a bucket to add about 4 bucket fulls of sea water, enough for a splash and a play.
Step Four: Sit back and watch your kids play safely! Relax!
Step Five: Shake out your tarp and take it home for next time!

You know you're on holiday when....

This summer we’v e been blessed to have two wonderful beach holidays – the first just up North of Auckland with a group of our closest friends and their children, based in Matakana on a farm; the second was just the four of us, at my parent’s beach house in Kuaotunu – one of the most glorious parts of The Coromandel.

So many things struck me as being truly, specially ‘Kiwi’ on our holidays that I thought I’d make a list to share with you – the funniest thing is that it neatly sums up the highlights of our trips. Here goes:

You know you’re on Summer holiday in New Zealand when:

1. Your first priority in the morning after breakfast is making up the Maggi Onion Soup dip for ‘Four OClock-Wine & Beer OClock’, which happens to be the same time as “Chip N Dip’ time.
2. You don’t care that the babies and preschoolers are up until 8PM because it’s already four hours past Wine OClock.
3. Every morning you wake up and your biggest decision of the day is which beach to go to – up at Matakana it's Omaha, Snells, Martin Bay, Goat Island and Tawhenui Regional Park within 20 mins drive and at Kuaotunu it's Kuaotunu beach, Greys Beach, Rings Beach, Otama, Opito, Matarangi, Whangapoa, New Chums, Whitianga, Wharekaho only 5-15 mins away.
4. Midnight at New Years in Matakana sees you heading outside wrapped up in rugs to listen to the fireworks being set off at Omaha – a million miles away, but it’s so clear and quiet it’s like it’s next door. You swear there’s more stars up there.
5. A break from traditional steak and sausages in a BBQ dinner in Matakana on the farm turns glamourous: we russle up a roast chicken on a spit on the BBQ, stir fry veges on the BBQ, eat outdoors overlooking the vines and the lake, and drink a lovely red wine bottled at the vineyard next door.
6. You have a long D&M conversation about how the Coast Road stretch from Thames up towards Coromandel town and over the mountains to Kuaotunu is one of the most amazing drives in the country, rivalling the Great Ocean Road in Melbourne (home of hubby).
7. You simply grin along with everyone else when the NZ Herald reports on the swimmers next door at Matarangi not caring about the bronze sharks in the water, and hop right in too. On the days when the blue bottle jellyfish wash up, you don’t leave the beach, but simply build pools for the kids in the sand.
8. The baby and the four year old happily stick their arms out for sunblock time, and even enjoy rubbing it in. You're proud that no one got sunburnt the whole Summer.
9. You sadly note the dozens and dozens of flower bunches laid by the trees where that poor teenager died in Matarangi – knowing it’s a big tragedy in this incredibly safe, tight knit community. Young people’s deaths are not a known part of summer here.
10. You don’t have to pine for coffee because this year there’s suddenly food caravans everywhere, and the campgrounds, caf├ęs (or dairy-cum shop) in the array of beach towns in our part of the Coromandel all seem to have CafeLaLa coffee (roasted in the Coromandel). It’s ‘insanely’ good coffee, just as the branding suggests and far from seeming poncy, you think: good on them for supporting local.
11. Even the dog sleeps in.
12. On the mornings when the dog and kids don’t sleep in, it doesn’t matter – it gives you an excuse to take the dog and the pram and walk the beach as the sun rises at seven, exploring rock pools and riverlets and not overheating.
13. Extended day naps by the baby, exhausted from the sun, swims and sea air, give you a chance to catch up on a pile of (personal) crafting, painting and sewing projects: my tally in the Coromandel was 1x painting; 1x t-shirt; 2x skirts; 1x work top, 2x cushion applique covers and a pile of pictures or flower pressings with Miss Four.
14. Every Saturday or Sunday has a local craft market to attend (Matakana Farmers Market; Matakana Twilight markets; Kuaotunu Craft Market; Whitianga Craft Market) and everywhere you go you can see signs for the home studios of local artists in residence. The Black Jack Gallery is my favourite.
15. You swear, once again, to do more day trips to Northern beaches and long weekends in the Coromandel this year: and are adamant that you really mean it.
16. The best photo memory of the Summer is simply all four of your family’s pairs of feet in the sand.

Dinner at Matakana, overlooking the vineyard and lake;
The 'best sunset ever' - yes this was an 'in-joke' for the whole holiday;

Two beach babies;
The view from our deck in the Coromandel;
Do you see the heart-shaped pool?

My special family, 2011.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Crafters Donate Again - Pike River & Queensland

The generosity of crafters shouldn't come as a surprise, but sometimes it still takes my breath away - last week I heard about some amazing quilters who collected heart squares for Pike River families and have been swamped with 7500 squares!

They were hoping to make a quilt for each family but can now make one for each family member and send any spares to Australian quilters for the flood families. You can read all about it on Shirley Goodwin's blog. I heard her speaking on the radio to Marcus Lush and it was so moving to hear about quilts being sent  as a physically comforting donation, and a show of support and love, in addition to all the money that has been raised.

While I was getting this post together I also found this article on with video of the lovely ladies sewing all these squares together, have a look, the quilts are really beautiful.

If you are wondering how to help with Queensland flood relief efforts, one of our favourite Australian blogs Meet me at Mike's  has a round-up of some amazing projects, including quilts, auctions and donations.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Baby Bites: flash up your old pram

When I was away on holidays this year, Baby Bites online magazine wrote a really neat story on my new lily pad collection. I was absolutely rapt when I came back! Ok, ok, so I DO write for Baby Bites...but the review was by the editor Jodi and I didn't write it so it totally counts :)

I really like the angle that Jodi took on the lily pads. Which is that - the lily pad is perfect for flashing up an old pram that's seen better days. Just because we all need to reuse our prams for babies no 2, 3 or 4....we don't need to sit our precious siblings in the mess or mold or broken bits left behind by no 1. They are just as important, and deserve a comfy spot too...and we deserve an easy way to still look fresh, clean and fashionable!

Where to find... Personalised Jewellery

Custom jewellery might be more affordable than you think, check out these gorgeous handmade options (and maybe start dropping hints for Valentine's or Mother's Day...)

I first saw Smallprint in Aimee's babybites column, so cute, I love the idea of preserving those tiny fingerprints.

Blackbird Singing sells these vintage-look charms on Felt, using leaves to make a 'Family tree' is so clever!

These rings are so divine, I would love to get a couple and stack them together. AForfebre is an Argentinian label on Etsy (and found via Evie Kemp on Dear Colleen).


You might have guessed by now that I have been researching this topic for a while - and this was my decision, a Brag About It circle pendant with my children's names, to wear with a silver heart pendant I rarely take off, but just as I was about to order it...

I found these 'posey' rings from Kathryn Riechert, traditionally a bridesmaid gift, that can be stamped on the inside or outside. I love rings and figured I could also wear it as a pendant, which I think makes it great value at approx NZ$40 including shipping from the US. I love it and my daughter is fascinated by it, now I'm tempted to get her something too!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

New Year, New Babies, New Names....

Naming your baby is one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever have to make as an expectant mum. And if you’re like me, even after you’ve named yours, you take a big interest in what everyone else is naming theirs. So every January I hang out to see the official list of the top 100 baby names compiled for the year just been. I’m a curious cat and I love pouring over the list, seeing the trends, being surprised at which of my friends’ children are in the top 10 this time, or top 30, or whose name has fallen down the list.

This year, both of my girls’ names don’t even make it into the top 100; I’m thinking on one hand, how sad, and on the other hand, how cool that they are so unique! My top ‘boys’ name that I’m saving in case I have a boy one day, Isaac, is suddenly in the top 20 this year too, out of nowhere.

My close friends' children all feature including Sophie, Olivia and Lily, and my sister is Emma; while on the boys side, Finn, Benjamin, Cooper, Jack, Tyler, Liam and Joshua are all in the top 20.

Top 10 Girls Names, 2010
Name/ How many births

Sophie 377
Olivia 335
Ruby 322
Charlotte 305
Isabella 286

Lily 281
Ella 277
Chloe 262
Emily 232
Emma 228

Top 10 Boys Names, 2010
Name/ No of births.

Liam 374
James 333
Oliver 327
Jack 325
William 320
Joshua 298
Benjamin 286
Jacob 285
Lucas 271

I think it’s important to celebrate your naming decisions and in both my daughters’ rooms I’ve always had letter wall art spelling out their names or first initials. Mine are homemade with MDF and fabric, but if you want to buy something special, try buying New Zealand-made and custom-made just for you. I absolutely love the Nursery Art Prints by Miss Print on As well as their name, it records their date of birth and weight. I also adore the hand drawn ‘initial’ prints by Cloud Nine, also available on Or for something that will still be useful after your child has grown into a teenager, check out the mirrored acrylic ‘name’ plates that double as looking glass mirrors – there are several sellers on Felt and, including graphic artist Terry Barnett of Flaming Tiki.

To read my original column, check out the online baby magazine

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Holiday Sewing Fun

Over the holidays I've stayed up late with a glass of wine, notepad and pair of scissors with Misses Amy Butler, Patricia Bravo, Tina Givens, and Anna Maria Horner. Late night decisions were made on their future.

The end result was my first ever attempts at 'designer' children's clothes: a few skirts and sun frocks for my two girls and my neice in my favourite colours of these designers' prints.

What do you think? I repurposed a basic drop-waist Butterick girls dress pattern, and came up with a strappy empire-line frock, and a drop-waist skirt. Then I also finally got to use a free blog pattern I've been saving for ages, spotted on Lil Magoolie, but originally from Prudent Baby. I love how they came out!

Calico & Co.
I"m entering these in the "January Creative Collective Challenge" over with the gals in Melbourne, Australia.

Did you try your hand with something new over the holidays?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We're back, happy New Year!

The Coolest Present - holiday reading.....

Happy New Year! We hope you had a FANTASTIC break and made wonderful memories on your holiday break. Roll on 2011.

What was your coolest present?

My biggest surprise present this year from hubby was the book ‘The Crafty Minx’ – and I love it. Kelly Doust is a young Australian mum and former journalist who started turning her hand to contemporary design and craft projects for her home and baby once her daughter was born. A long time craftaholic, she also used her OE years to scour flea and fabric markets around the world and posted back to Australia a range of gorgeous fabrics and vintage clothes that she has upcycled or reused to form the basics of her designs in her new book.

I don't know how I missed seeing this book when it launched 2009/early last year. I only started seeing the reviews towards the end of the year. But if you haven't already, check it out if you want inspiration for 2011. Separated into projects that match our seasons down under, Kelly has ideas for babies and mums alike from crib mobiles and baby-safe soft toys to beach totes, dress renovations, wall art, lino printing and gift wrapping. Kelly has also recently released a second book, ‘The Crafty Kid’, with projects for kids to tackle. Might need to be my Whitcoulls January sale present to myself!

Following that I'll be trying to pick up a copy of "Meet Me at Mike's" and "Sew La Tea Do" on trademe. Did you know Meet Me at Mike's is actually a craft shop in Melbourne, as well as an awesome blog? I'm off to Melbourne in March and I am SO going there....Brunswick St here I come.

Related Posts with Thumbnails