Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Keeping it clean

Clean, neat and tidy for art at school of course - what did you think I meant??

The smallest needed an art smock for school so I let her loose in the stash and didn't even baulk when her love of all things green lead her to some of my Sandi Henderson stash.

Long enough to cover her dress so there should be no accidental spillages.
I used the ever-reliable Oliver+s smock pattern - from Leisl's book, Little Things to Sew, a brilliant book full of well considered projects that are beautifully executed.

I made the large - I have made the mistake before of making a smaller smock only to have to make another the following year.

Two size 16 snaps keep it secure.
Because it's still a little large I added two snaps at the back so it keeps it a little more secure on her shoulders, when she's bigger she can just do up one snap.

Painting the toadstools in the garden...
She is absolutely loving school - I've never seen her so happy and full of joy.
She bounces around the house singing at every opportunity - it makes my heart feel warm.

Oh, and the poses and props in these photos were entirely of her own doing!

I've also made a couple more back to school items - a new library bag for both her and her little friend.  Both were very happy to have their names on them, it's still a novelty.
We teamed it up with classic Roald Dahl for a nice little birthday gift that both the birthday girl and her lovely mum appreciated.

Excuse the late night dodgy iPhone pic!!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

See how they grow...

It's that time of the year again, school's back!!

This year our littlest has donned a uniform and headed off to join her big sisters and she couldn't have been more delighted about it all.

Having all three children in one place - one drop-off and pick-up point will make life much easier for me, also the fact that there is now one fair, one concert, one art show, less committee involvement and also longer hours.

That said, I will greatly miss my chatty little buddy who has happily trailed along with me over the past few years to all the events.
I'm looking forward to her having things to call her own, and I know she is too.

I'll leave you with comparative pics taken over the last three years;

Prep, three year old kinder kid, Prep

Grade 1, four year old kinder kid, Grade 1

Grade 2, Prep, Grade 2
It's an exciting year for all of us, and we can't wait to sink our teeth into it!

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The 52 Project

There's a little bit of mischief in this one...

I started this project last year with great intentions - but I found that I didn't want to 'force' the portraits of the girls and that at times that is what I would have had to do to get a portrait of them every week.

Waiting for the waves to come into the sandcastle...
That said I could have done better than I did!

Hard at work on something for yourself, honing your skills

"Go on puss, jump - it's safe. I'll catch you"

So I am having another go at it - I've started off slow as much of our summer has been spent with either water or sand - or both. Not the ideal environment for a camera.

A Scrabble champ in the making
This means a lot of our summer fun has been enjoyed but not captured in a photograph.

No more training wheels

These two are demons in the surf, taking on bigger and bigger waves each day

I've decided to share a few pics from the last four weeks - encapsulating 1 - 4/52.
I promise I will try harder from here on...

Slippin' and slidin'

Water baby all her life

Make a kite from a paper bag then fly it on the beach; instant fun.
In another few days the girls go back to school and the routine returns.
In some ways we all need that, but boy it's nice just to disappear into the waves and sand for a few days.

How was your summer holiday?

Friday, 24 January 2014

Developing skills

This year is a year of big change for me.
The smallest kid will be heading off to school soon and there is much I want to achieve this year; some goals family-related, some personal and some business/career related.

One of the personal things I want to do is develop my photography skills, learning to use my camera in a more manual way to achieve better results.

Very nicely, and without prompting I might add, the guy who lives here got me a walk-around Melbourne Photography tour as part of my Christmas gift.

It was on last Sunday which, thankfully, was a day post the big heatwave we have been experiencing here.

One of hundred of locks on the Southbank bridge
We had a lovely morning walking to various locations around Melbourne and taking photos under direction/with the guidance of our tour leader.

He had lots of useful tips on composition and how to use various functions of the camera such as exposure compensation, shutter speed and aperture as well as discussing means of storing photos.

 I learned that, like anything, you need time to practice what you are doing and that it is only in doing so that you will improve.
That trial and error is a good thing and you should take lots of shots in different locations.
Also to look at things from a different angle.

It was a very enjoyable and informative three hours spent walking around and snapping a variety of images and I would highly recommend the tour if you are keen to expand your photography skill set.

The tour I did was run by Happier Snappers and booked through Ted's Camera Stores.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

First book of the year

Every year I get at least one book for Christmas and as I no longer buy as many books as I used to, this always feels like a bit of a treat for me.

This year much to my delight, I was given,  Tim Winton's latest - Eyrie.

Tim Winton tends to polarise readers across the country,
There are those who can't fathom why he is revered as one of the country's greatest writers and there are others who hang on his every written word.
I am somewhere in the middle.

It's been five years since his last novel, Breath, which I didn't enjoy at all and which made me a little wary about Eyrie at first.
However, with memories of The Turning and also Cloudstreet, my two favourite of his novels large in my mind,  I delved on in.

Surprisingly, for me at least, it turned into quite the page-turner and rather than savouring his prose-like style, I ploughed through quickly, felt quite sad when I quickly reached the end.
Winton is known for his incredibly descriptive way of writing and using similes far more than most novelists. As I was reading it I did think that it would be near impossible for a reader from any country other than Australia to understand his writing - it is so very colloquial.

I also felt that there were a few references that dated the story - as someone in their 40's I got them but there would be many readers younger than me that might have been left a little baffled by some of the content.

The story centres around down-on-his-luck environmental campaigner, Tom Keely, and the reintroduction into his life of someone he knew as a child and who now has run into difficult times.
Barely able to control his own life which is spiralling out of control, Tom takes the woman, Gemma and her young grandson, Kai under his wing.

That's about as much as I will tell you as I don't want to give anything away - least of all the ending!

Suffice to say I really enjoyed this book.
I love the descriptive means by which Winton writes - he has a way of making me feel like I am actually there with him on a beach or watching a bird soar through the sky.
As a character I found the flawed Tom Keely likeable and I wanted him to 'have a win'.

There are a number of thinly-veiled, or in some cases not at all veiled, barbs at the mining industry in WA, Winton's home state, and the impact of this on the environment.

If you get the chance grab this book and settle in for an interesting read.

I'm now about to dive into Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap.

How about you - what are you reading??
All recommendations greatly appreciated.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Feathered friends

School holidays provide the opportunity to slow down and do things that you might not otherwise get to do.
For me that means having time to do some sewing with the girls.

We started these sweet toys earlier in the week - on the first of five days where the temperature peaked at around 44 degrees celcius (around 110 farenheit!).

It seemed like a good activity for indoors, in the air-conditioning.
Introducing Polly penguin...
and Danielle Duck.

Penny penguin...
The pattern is from the Queen of softies - Jodie of Ric Rac, and there is also a cute little owl as well as the duck and penguin.
Jodie is known for spending literally hours and hours, perfecting the shapes and features of her toys. Apart from always looking amazing they also come together in a logical and easy manner.
You can see them all here on Etsy or in her pattern shop. (this is not a paid endorsement - I just love Jodie's work!).

The pics below are just to show you what I am sometimes up against when trying to get good photos!

The two seven-year-olds managed really well with the sewing for this toy - only needing assistance once or twice.
I relinquished control and didn't re-cut squarish edged circles or re-stitch areas of beak that may have been slightly missed - and I am glad I didn't because these toys each have their own character (design features) and are really a reflection of the girls' work.
As a result, they are incredibly proud of them.

Each time they asked me what to do next, I referred them back to the pattern and so they also learned a lot as they made the toys.
Jodie's instructions are very straight-forward and explain why you are doing certain things too so the child learns as they sew - they had no trouble reading the entire pattern and I just explained any terms they didn't understand.
The small kid tracing penguin's feet
The smallest kid did remarkably well too - on a number of occasions I was told that I needed to leave her alone, she was fine!

She is a bright little button and so follows instruction really well.  I could put in two pins and ask her to sew only between them and she did this with ease, so was able to do the bulk of the sewing herself.
I helped with things like the feet and wings but she sewed on the beak, eyes and tummy all by herself.

Using my 'good' machine was a treat for all.
Watch out for your fingers!!

This is a beginners pattern and it was a wonderful thing to make with the girls. They learned new skills and expanded their sewing vocabulary while having fun.
I asked them at one point would they like to go to the pool and they said no they wanted to sew - good girls!!

They are now all tucked up in bed with their new toys, but not after taking to the trampoline with them and teaching them to fly!

Saturday, 11 January 2014

A Christmas Negroni

My Father-in-law is perhaps the easiest person in the world to buy for.
He has a very quirky sense of humour, enjoys a good joke gift and is also quite widely read and interested in many different topics.
Being an artist he is also very attuned to hand-crafted items and loves to receive something made just for him.

See the water over his left shoulder, nice view for breakfast each morning!
In the past I have made him a hat and some shorts and they have both been very well received and worn a lot, so after trying my hand at a simple men's shirt pattern and finding it relatively stress-free to make, I decided to give the slightly more technical, Negroni by Walden (Colette) patterns a go for his Christmas present.

I'd like to have made this a size smaller but he is very happy with the 'relaxed' fit of this shirt.
The Negroni has had great reviews from many people on Pattern Review and on blogs throughout the world.

Lara has made a couple for Mr Thornberry including the wonderful fish (as opposed to fishing!) shirt, Leith has also made two, including this lovely Liberty one and has plans for a few more and there are lots of great versions over here at Very Purple Person.

The pattern is slim-fit, and although it is not something I have ever been aware of, my husband said my father-in-law is a little conscious if his middle. For this reason, when cutting the shirt I straightened out the sides, not coming in at the waist to the extent of the pattern.
Pleats on either side of the back yoke for ease of movement
This is the XL and I feel it's a little too big for him, see how it's dropping off at the shoulders, particularly in the first photo. But he was delighted with it and, despite having also been given a shirt by my Mother-in-law, he immediately put mine on and wore it all Christmas day.

I didn't get a picture of it, but because of the method of construction, the inside of the shirt has a lovely neat finished look.

You can see in the picture above I offset the pattern of the fabric for the pocket by 45 degrees so it could be seen, as without this little detail the shirt is very simple.

Other features of this pattern are the two pleats in the back, providing great ease around the shoulders for movement and flat-felled seams throughout.
It was my first attempt at flat-felled seams and although mine are nowhere near perfect I was pretty happy with the result.

After he had worn it Christmas Day I did take it back and shorten the sleeves by 6cm (the shortened sleeves are shown in these photos) as they were quite long and he preferred this length.

If you are thinking of sewing one - the sewalong that was run by Peter of Male Pattern Boldness, when the pattern was first released, is worth having a look at.

PATTERN:        Negroni
                           Purchased online from The Drapery, SA.

DESIGNER:      Walden by Colette Patterns

FABRIC:            Linen blend that is remarkably crease-free purchased at a one day sale at an Italian
                            fabric wholesaler.