Monday, February 28, 2011

Handmade hands for Christchurch

As you may have noticed, we haven't had the heart to post since Tuesday's horrific earthquake in New Zealand. It's been the most distressing time in New Zealand's recent history and it didn't feel right to blog about craftiness while others were trapped or waiting to hear from loved ones.

Many people we know have family they were worried for, or have found, or have lost, or are still waiting to hear.

Many crafters we know who live in Christchurch such as Nin @ The Wardrobe ( ) or Gil @ MudbirdNZ ( ) have lost their studios, their years of gathered up craft supplies, but escaped with their families.

And everyone who I (Aimee) work with (in my day job, in the healthcare sector) have either volunteered to fly down to help with the medical response, or have helped to man the healthcare phone lines to talk to distressed or injured Cantabrians.

For those of us without medical skills, or those of us with small kiddies meaning we can't fly down to volunteer in the clean up, there are plenty of other ways we can help from afar. Trademe is running a great round-up of registers where you can offer a place for Cantabrians to stay; assist the initiatives underway; or donate to appeals.

And as they did in September, after the first Christchurch earthquake, the handmade community is again rallying around to help by offering our goods in return for fundraising.

Both Greta and I have donated several prize packages from Lily Pad Designs and Topography up for auction in L'il Magoolie's "L'il Quake Appeal" - which is bound to be anything but small. All the cool and caring children's designer product businesses in New Zealand have donated prizes to be auctioned off, with all the proceeds going to the Red Cross Appeal.

Maddie from L'il Magoolie is herself based in Christchurch and has gut wrenching, personal accounts of how the quake affected her here. Read them and you will be moved, I swear. She's very brave to be putting together an auction to help her community, despite being one of the very people who need our help and care.

Secondly, many of our good friends and crafty colleagues on Felt are passing on the proceeds of their sales this week to charities such as the Red Cross. Felt is based in Christchurch and while its owner Lucy and her family are safe, Felt's headquarters have been affected and they are really emotionally shaken up. If you go to and have a shop around, you will find lots of listings and stores on there noting that their proceeds go to charity.

My top picks of Felt sellers donating goods are:

Black filigree earrings - lilac mini flower
Scrabble Tile Necklace - Antique Rose
I LOVE NZ Fine Art Print
rainbow decal - reuseable wall sticker
Red Dotty oilcloth purse
Pink Vintage Dress - size 2
Short Red Glass Dome Earrings
Songbird Designs - gorgeous vintage jewellery, unique and made with love.

Cat Taylor Design - bunting and oilcloth zipper purses, perfect gifts for friends - you can stock up on presents for the girls.

Tinch Design Studio - restickable wall stickers and fabric magnetic images.
Cloud Nine Creations - beautiful hand-drawn etchings - check out the awesome wall art saying "I love NZ" or her tiny earrings and charms.

Laulipop Vintage dresses - beautiful upcycled cotton summer dresses. I've already bought the purple and blue one for my miss one.

There is also a couple of facebook-based handmade auctions - just type in 'handmade for Christchurch' or 'charity auctions for Christchurch'.
Please have a hunt, and lend a hand. xx

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I {heart} re-designing - Felt Tip Couture Shoes

We love customising and re-designing, but it never occurred to me that shoes could be customised too! You can draw straight on to canvas shoes with the right pens and it is SO much fun.

This tutorial on The Craft Revival used kids shoes, but I thought I would try some adult ones... inspired by this Wonder Woman* patch, I drew some bold shapes (first in pencil, then black) and then just coloured in like a colouring book - fun! I love how the blue has come out looking like denim.

Of course the pens are going to go further on small shoes... I left the sides plain white so I wasn't just using up ink (I think I will do some stars on the back panel).

The pens are Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens and I found them in an art shop - the colours are in packs and work out to be about $5 each, but you could buy a single black one and try monochrome too (the key is that they are waterproof once dry). I'm not sure how far they will go - I am going to try some for Miss 4 next.
*Like Strawberry Shortcake dolls, the Wonder Woman TV series is one of my most vivid childhood memories - and it is about to be re-made...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Things I'm loving...

It has been a busy week but these things have made me smile...

This new Lego game is like Pictionary but you build instead of draw - we got it for my brother-in-law's birthday and it looks awesome! Available in NZ at the Warehouse or fishpond (cute review here).

Did you know that the Auckland supercity means all 55 libraries are now amalgamated? I had forgotten to check out the revamped Birkenhead Library until a couple of weeks ago, but it is lovely... airy and modern with lots of natural light, and a playground right outside.

NZ artist Sarah McNeil is known for her beautiful animal sketches, and is having a sale to clear her Etsy shop - how cute is this "Trying to be happy a lot of the time" print? I bought the set of quilt notecards.

And finally, if you have the Living Channel on Sky (or want to watch online), take a look at Kirstie's Homemade Home (Monday nights). It fits perfectly with our re-design theme, and just in last week's episode Kirstie made a cool teenager's bean-bag (with pockets for remotes!), stencilled on some window blinds and made a glass bowl. This week she tried the machine embroidery that is like drawing, I can't wait to try it myself.

See what everyone else is loving this week on Paisley Jade's blog (and check out her amazing rainbow cake!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My Creative Space - Pooh Messenger Bag

I love messenger bags and have found another awesome tutorial - my first bag project was this easy tote. This time it was a surprise for Miss 4, who has been using shopping bags to imitate my shoulder-bag ever since I went back to my part-time job a few months ago ("Bye mum, I'm off to work").

She is obsessed with Winnie the Pooh (unavoidable really as I am too and have been brainwashing her since birth), so I have combined denim offcuts with some Pooh accents. If you do not recognise the applique on the flap, it is from the TV series 'My Friends Tigger and Pooh', which has little in common with the original stories but involves 'super-sleuthing' mysteries. It was a very easy applique, just a question-mark shape I already had from my t-shirts, plus a triangle with rounded corners.

The lining fabric was leftover from a pinboard Aimee made my daughter as a baby shower present (see - since birth!) and Spotlight had the Pooh and Tigger twill tape in a clearance a few weeks ago. I followed the tutorial pretty closely and just made the strap approximately 2/3 the original length so it was child-sized.

It was so much fun that I am trying to figure out what I would like on one for myself - applique? some patchwork? The beauty of the messenger bag is you can embellish the flap however you want. Thanks mmmcrafts for a great tutorial.

Around 200 creative spaces are on show every week at

p.s. If you are not a sewer but would like to get a messenger-style bag for a little person you know, these gorgeous ones are currently on sale...

p.p.s. I love these bags by the very clever Cat Taylor

Friday, February 11, 2011

Baby Bites Column: Handmade Love Notes in a Bottle for Valentines Day

Handmade love notes and yummy treats for Valentine’s are the best way to say I love you to your partner. They’re even better when they’ve been made by your kids! Check out these two fabulous ideas you can make with your children at home this week, without having to spend a fortune.

I simply adore Mini Eco’s “love note in a bottle” made with invisible ink and paper cut out hearts. The invisible ink is made with lemon juice – how clever is that! You could pick up the love hearts or some little craft gems from the craft stand in your local stationary store. You could also substitute the paper hearts with confetti, beach shells, or flowers from your garden, or how about making one of those garlands of paper dolls to put inside, to symbolise your family holding hands?

I also love these little cupcake wrappers, called, ‘treat and trinket trays’ made out of fabric scraps and ribbons. A downloadable free pattern from US fabric designer Heather Bailey, the pattern also comes with a chocolate cupcake recipe. Easy!
Read my original column on Baby Bites online magazine here, and while you are there, enter Baby Bites' 2nd Birthday Prize Draw! It's amazing, loaded with goodies and includes a giveaway prize of a lily pad.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

My Creative Space: bum-shuffler pants

My Creative Space this week is filled with scraps of fabric and wadding, which piece by piece I am trying to put together to make a pattern for special bum-shuffler pants.

My 15-month old is a dedicated bum-shuffler who has no inclination to want to walk yet. I am getting sick of ruined leggings, shorts and MCNs (modern cloth nappies) - with ingrained dirt, food and floor messes on them, so I'm trying to come up with a solution.

She also gets grazes on her little bottom and legs a lot too, as a result of the friction. (She is SO fast!)

I figure a gusset padded inside with slim-line wadding, like what I use in my lily pads, will cushion and protect her bottom. If the gusset is made in plain black or brown or grey, to hide the stains and wear and tear, I could then use my lovely patterned lily pad fabrics to decorate the legs and make them look stylish. Maybe even with turn ups or ruffles? Maybe even turn it into a skort pattern?

If I use my 100% cotton fabrics, then she won 't get too hot in this heat. In the winter, maybe I could instead make them from merino (if she's still not walking by then!)

The great and wonderful Made by Rae blog has given me the idea for this project - she makes "Big Butt Pants" especially for babies with MCNs (modern cloth nappies) - the pocket style of cloth nappies of which I am a dedicated convert. I'm going to buy her pattern, then work on re-designing it with the wadding in the bottom, for my bum shuffler.

Wish me luck!

For other creative projects coming to life this week, visit the other bloggers over at My Creative Space on Kirsty's blog.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blog love: check out Kitty as a Picture!!!!

I've found a new blogger in New Zealand who loves fabric, pattern and colour just as much as me. Well, officially, she loves it more - as illustration, pattern and design are the core skills of Brenda's impressive career.

Her new blog just launched is Kitty as a Picture - and I'm serioudly addicted to what she writes about the art of print and pattern. Brenda has gorgeous taste. We share some of the same 'inspirational' blogs coming out of the US and UK in our reading lists, but Brenda is able to explain the mechanics of the patterns expertly, because she's a trained graphics designer who started her career working for one of New Zealand's most famous animation companies.

Overseas she's worked for Walt Disney Animation, and now that she's back in New Zealand and a new Mum, she has turned to working part-time in the children's fashion and gift industries as a designer and now blogger.

She's also launching a gorgeous range of children's artworks based on 'Go Benny Go!' (see the cat image above!).

My favourite blog post so far was about a UK designer using vintage fabrics for little girl's clothes - check out the 'Madeleine' skirt in the blue and grey, I'm pining....- and I loved this one about quirky animal illustrations for nursery walls.

I seriously encourage you to take a few minutes to hop over and check out her blog if you're into design and pattern. To celebrate being already two months old in the blog world, Brenda is also running a giveaway of some gorgeous baby products - why not enter while you're there?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

I {heart} re-designing: The 1 hour Sloppy Joe t-shirt

Since I had my second daughter just over a year ago, I’ve been loving the current fashion of baggy, sloppy tops with either bat-wing arms or drop shoulders that slide sideways off your shoulder sexily. Some look like casual, 80s inspired ‘sloppy joe’ types; some look like nautical ‘Bretton’ shirts; and some are lovely, breezy 'going out' tops made in chiffon. They are super kind to post-baby tummies, sit nicely on your hips, and show off one of a women’s best assets: the d├ęcolletage.

I was determined to find a way to make these shirts, to beef up my summer wardrobe. I knew I wanted some 80s-inspired ‘sloppy joe’ types, in particular in nautical stripes; and a grey one, like a Fame-inspired look; and a long tunic/dress version in a nice black silky fabric that I could wear with a belt to work.

After much retail research, trooping around Max, Cotton On and Witchery, looking at how they are constructed, I figured it out. The secret to the style is ensuring that the front and sleeves are only made from one piece, so there's no sleeve seams, resulting in the draped, drop shoulder look.

With this in mind, I hit my Mum’s stash of patterns. What I wanted to do was re-design a simple pattern. I was after was a straight-line, square-ish type of top that I knew I could alter.

Using one of her 1980s 'easy' Butterick pattern and an even older Kwik Sew pattern to compare, I placed the pattern on the fabric, then added a couple of inches width at the fold, to make it really baggy (I measured my favourite baggy gym shirt, to give me the right width I needed). I also knew that I had to extend the neckline from a round neck to a sexier, wider ‘slit’ style. To make it look even funkier, I added 'turn ups' on the sleeves too.

Easy! I’ve made two stripy tees so far, and I absolutely love how they came out. I also lengthened them to the same length as my long tunic style tops, and they sit perfectly on my hips. The best part: they only take an hour start to finish!

Want to do something similar? Here’s my advice:

• Buy a really lightweight cotton knit from Spotlight, the cheaper and lighter the better.

• Find an old pattern in your Mum’s stash or download one of the free ones online (here's a goodie from Fitz Patterns, and it's free) that has a drop shoulder or an all-in-one body and sleeve. It doesn’t matter if it has a different back (mine had a v-dip in the back) or has a zip or is too short – we’ll be ignoring those features, and potentially widening it at the sides, too.
The free KATE batwing pattern from Fitz Patterns.

• Alternatively, find one of your own baggy gym shirts or one of your dressy ones in the same style as we’re trying to recreate; or your favourite t-shirt of your partners that you always steal!
Use this to decide the shape and width of your pattern.

• Fold your fabric in half, wrong sides together. If you are using a pattern, lay the front piece on the fold (see picture, so in effect you are cutting two 'halves' at the same time, only opposites). If you are using an old t-shirt, fold it in half, lay it on the material on the fold, and fold back the sleeve so it's only a short extension on the side, like 2-3cms, or a cap sleeve length. Trace the whole way around, or pin the shape around.

* If you need to, widen the width of the pattern so it will be baggy enough. So for example, working with half my Butterick pattern on the fold, I personally need to lay the pattern 5cm further away from the fold (giving me an extra 10cms in total in width of the shirt).

• Don’t shape the sides or the hem. Make it a straight line side.

• Keep the 'sleeve' extension of the pattern short, like a cap sleeve - 2-3cms wider than the side seam is all you need.

• Lengthen the pattern so it's more like a tunic length.

• If you can, alter tbe neck so it's wider and more like a 'slit'.

• Cut out. Now flip the fabric and pattern over - trace and cut again - so you have two pieces: an identical front and back (only opposites).

Then sew it all together and whoila! The easiest fashionable shirt in the world!

PS: I didn't learn any fancy tricks to sew with knits. I just used my normal settings, and went at a steady, if slow pace, so it didn't stretch. You don't really need an overlocker either, as t-shirt material won't fray. (Sorry mum! Yes, this is cheating).
PPS: Want to do one for your kids? On Make it and Love it this week (co-incidently) they posted on how to re-purpose two old men's t-shirts into a new baseball style shirt for kids. Check it out, it's an awesome idea!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My Creative Space - Easy Ribbon Necklace

A 2 year-old's birthday gave me the excuse to try this awesome tutorial from Prudent Baby, and it is just the kind of small, fiddly project I like.

She doesn't usually wear pink so I went with purple and blue, a pale blush and some craft ribbon with flowers. All you have to do is sew each loop on your machine, then tidy up the join by melting the ends back on to the back of the loop (don't worry, it is explained much better in the tutorial!)

Instead of a ribbon tie at each end, I used one main ribbon and sewed it on to both of the end loops, so the 2 year old could just pull the necklace on and off without worrying about it coming untied.

Let us know if you try this one yourself - it took me about half an hour - and check out this grown-up looking version from Prudent Baby (one of our favourite blogs by the way, they also had the dress tutorial Aimee used here).

The creative space game is back for 2011 at, check it out!

p.s. you could also use this idea for ribbon (or fabric) scraps left over from other projects, so I will call it a re-design too!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Free 'back to school' printables by Creative Mamma

If you love free downloadable printables as much as me, you will be very excited about my latest find. All you need is some children to gift them to and you are totally justified in the ink costs!

Why? Well, it's back to school and kindergarten this week and time to shake off your littlies' holiday mode.

There's never a better time than now to set up your expectations for the year in terms of encouraging good manners, setting up a before and after school or kindy routine, instilling tidy up times or introducing new chore lists. Why not make it fun by giving them a gift of a matching 2011 Kawaii kids Organisation kit?

Free to download at Creative Mamma, this kit gives your child a monthly calendar for the year they can write on; a weekly chores chart; 'reward coupons' to cash in; shopping lists and to do lists they can fill out; and stickers to decorate. All decorated with cute Japanese cartoon "Kawaii" characters.

Now your child can be proud of their responsibility filling out the calendars and charts themselves, and keeping them on display.

And while you're on Creative Mamma's website, you could download some free downloadable Kawaii school book stickers, mini note cards, or free Valentine's cards for your kids to give you to say thanks for all their cool new stationary!
To read my original column on Creative Mamma on Baby Bites, click here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Lil Magoolie roadtests the lilypad - and giveaway!

Today was a super highlight for me professionally - Maddie at L'il Magoolie reviewed my lily pads and it was a super brillant review with lots. Of. Exclamations! I was thrilled as we think L'il Magoolie is THE coolest design blog for parents in New Zealand.

Here's a snippet of what Maddie said:

Oh. My. God. I have fallen in
love with this thing. Instead of having to regularly wrestle the carseat out and
shake out food/toys/miscellaneous items that seem to always find their way down
the side of her seat, I just remove the liner and shake it out and/or wash it.
So easy! It’s great that the fabric is a breathable cotton instead of the
polyester on Aspen’s seat so she’s not Little Miss Sweaty-Neck at the end of
every trip. Plus it looks great (we’re sporting a lovely grey and yellow fabric)
and is very robust.

Also? It’s sometimes hard to see how well an item is
made when you view it online and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that
the attention to detail in its construction was top notch.

To celebrate, Maddie asked if I would consider doing a which of course the answer was yes! So, if you don't have a lily pad yet, or would like another please enter (I use one for the shopping trolley, two in my car seats, and another one in my baby's pram - that's the bonus of being the inventor I suppose!).

To enter the giveaway, hop over to Maddie's blog, and leave a comment on the blog post on my lily pads. You get extra points for facebooking it or tweeting it. Don't forget to follow her blog - it's a fantastic discovery point for new designs, new Kiwi products, and international trends!

Good luck!!!
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