Thursday, 26 February 2009

how to...sewing on a budget (1)

I have put together a little series of tips, tricks and cost cutting ideas for sewing and crafting on a budget. I am sure these are familiar to many of you. However, there are always people discovering the joys sewing for the first time - you may find this useful.

1. Sewing Machines - Borrow from a friend or Buy a second hand machine
If you are new to sewing I would suggest borrowing a machine from a friend or family member. Have it for a while and try to sew up some simple things. Some people find that they are really not into sewing once they have tried. It would be a shame to spend lots of money and find that you don't enjoy it. If you then decide that love it, the first place to go is to this blog for great reviews of older sewing machines. I reviewed my machine here and I am happy to answer any questions on this model. Check out eBay, local papers, garage sales, and op shops. Keep in mind that the machine will most likely need a service or at least a very good clean out. Sewing machine repairers often sell older machines.

2. Shop around for your fabric and supplies
I know that this is difficult for many of us as unfortunately there are only a couple of major fabric stores in most areas. Sadly these major fabric stores have perhaps caused the decline of the smaller store holder (I could go on about that here but perhaps another day). Lucky people in Melbourne and Sydney have access to some great fabric stores like this one and this one and I have shopped at here and here in Tasmania. The good news is that these stores have online shopping available.
Look at places you may not always equate with sewing supplies - Big W sell a small range of Gutermann thread at almost half the price compared to the major sewing/craft supply stores.

I have also found noticeable price variations in quality quilting fabric so shop around. There is a whole world of shopping on the internet - I could go on for days... Look on eBay, Etsy, Google search 'quilting fabric' or 'fabric suppliers' and you will be inundated with hits. You will find some very good prices online but, remember to add shipping into your calculations.

Samples and off-cuts are a great way of getting some wonderful prints inexpensively. I got these fantastic off cuts from here for 10.00AUS a bundle - each bundle would have enough for about 8 bib fronts.

Op shops (thrift stores) are a great place for general sewing supplies. They often have big bins of fabric at very cheap prices. And yarn and knitting needles and great old patterns and sewing and craft books. I have picked up loads of supplies at my local oppy's - fabric, embroidery thread, this sewing basket, books, patterns, leather scraps, wool...

3. Re-purpose
You all know of the endless possibilities that re-purposing can hold (just check out this Mama and a new book that is all about this topic). Don't just stop at bed sheets and tee-shirts - Amy does it beautifully with old sweaters. Have a look through your wardrobe looking at the fabric and the possibilities. Do the same at the op shop - don't give up on that hideous heavily gathered skirt - look at how much fabric is in there. Take it from me, some skirts can yield a good few meters of fabric.

Look for dresses at op shops or on sale that can be cut down into skirts - this a-line skirt is cut from an ankle length dress. The dress was only about 4.00AUS, a size 8 but had a long (and big) a-line bottom half and a little top part. I got the big bit for my big bottom half and my sister fitted happily into the little top that I re-purposed into a jacket.

This (half finished) little girls dress is made from a 'new' 1960's housecoat that I picked up on eBay for about 5.00AUS. Lots of fabric left has made its way onto many appliques.
These cushions are made from some old curtain fabric that I picked up from the op shop - from memory the 2 old curtains were only a couple of dollars. This fabric has also been used in appliques. When buying old curtains give them a little pull/stretch - if the fabric has been too damaged by the sun, they will rip (perhaps not rip them when you are in the oppy but you get the idea). Look at them closely for small holes. I often buy curtains and discard the damaged parts.

Men's wool or wool blend suit pants can make rather smart trousers for a young boy or girl (a leg from each leg) or a girls pinafore (it will have a leg seam up the middle but this can 'covered' with lovely vertical rows of braiding or ric-rac). Big peoples jeans can be cut down into small peoples jeans.
The possibilities are endless!
More tips and ideas next time...

Sunday, 22 February 2009

and the sun shines...

Finally after days and days of wet weather the sun has been shinning. We have been out and enjoying it. All of us, including Daisy. And the best bit of all - Steve is back. Hip hip hooray. Sunny days...

Monday, 16 February 2009

the secret ...

My husband has a very clever and very talented cousin, Robin-Mary Calvert. I envy her, I really do. She is one of those people who can really paint and she does it so well. Robin-Mary was a finalist in the Portia Geach in 2007- Margaret Olley snapped up the gorgeous painting. Robin-Mary is know for her very sensual paintings...

So a little conspiring behind closed doors has been going on over the last couple of months. We had no idea, until we heard (little) Big Nana whispering like a school girl on the phone to her sister, The Great Aunt Jackie. Those naughty octogenarians. After a bit of giggling, they spilled the beans. Robin-Mary had been busy working on a new paiting for inclusion in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize.

And some of you may recognise the little ballerina in this painting...

We were taken by complete surprise by this wonderful painting - it is brilliant. Now we are waiting for the finalists to be announced. The painting is aptly called 'Princess Stella Rose' (and the secret is also out that Minnie is only a nickname...)

Thank you Robin-Mary, you clever, clever cousin.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

to cheer you up...

if you need it on this day of hearts and roses.
I couldn't resist posting this photo of one of the Molly's. You see we are not sure which little girl puppy we are getting - the breeder will keep the one that ticks all the boxes and we will get the other. I am sure they will both be perfect. So this is Molly 1 or Molly 2...

As Steve is working overseas for 2 weeks (1 down, 1 to go) we are feeling a little drained, a little lonely (and me, a little tired). We received some photos today of the puppies - what a lovely thing to cheer us up.

And we had a little skype time with our darling one... thank goodness for VOIP cleverness!

handmade help - little update

As you can see, I have a very willing assistant here, helping me out. She found the doll, my stuffing stick and the 'wool' and decided to help me out. I will be selling a doll for the handmade help fund - I will let you know when she is dressed and ready to go!

My sweet friend and I have been talking about the fires with our children, as I am sure everyone has been doing. They now talk about sending books to the children and making toys and randomly saying 'lets send this to the children.' I think instilling a sense of charity and generosity and of giving is one of the most important things we can teach our children.

Wonderful people have started sending in their creations. As I wrote before I will hold/collect things here for a while and send it all down to Melbourne. If its easier, please send things directly to;

Handmade Help
C/-Meet Me at Mikes
63 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065

I am happy to collect handmade help items for the Central Coast (NSW), Northern Sydney area and possibly inner Sydney. Just flick me an email if you have any questions.

Keep up that sewing!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

some cuteness to share...

We have some very exciting news to share. One of these gorgeous girls will be ours in 4 weeks. Its a long, long awaited arrival from a very special mummy dog, Katie. We are over the moon and can not wait until 'Molly' comes to live with us. Minnie named her Molly and has knocked back all other suggestions so Molly it is. Molly is a Golden Retriever.

Something to make us smile a bit after a such a sad year for us.

Be prepared for many, many more photos of this little delight.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

handmade help - NSW central coast/north sydney crafters

Just wondering if anyone would be interested in getting together to sew/knit/chat/stuff (softies) for the Handmade Help appeal? No details as yet - just seeing if anyone would be interested?

Please send me an email if you are and I will get busy and sort something out. Happy to hold it here at the blue house on the (not so) sunny central coast (an hour or so from Sydney up the F3).

I had added a couple of my applique designs that I am more than happy for people to use for tee-shirts (or on any clothes) for the appeal. Sorry about the images - they are scans as I have no idea how to add them as groovy PDFs (fabrics samples shown as drawings were for a wholesale order).

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

handmade help - for the victims of the bushfires

Please feel free to use this applique pattern for Handmade Help

I am just keeping you up to date on what is going on around this wonderful community as we sew and sell and collect for the victims of the bushfires.

Handmade Help site has been set up by the lovely Cindy. She will keep tabs on all the auctions and sales for the fund.

So many of you have contacted me offering to help - you are stars. I am going to collate all the items here and then ship them down to Melbourne once we have sorted out that end. I know there are a number of bloggers collecting items - send them to your closest one!

If you are in Melbourne you can drop them off at Pip's - please deliver or post your items to 'Handmade Help' to 63 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, Victoria.

Also Amitie Textiles will also be a collection point for Handmade Help - they are at 281 Centre Road, Bentleigh.

Keep on eye out on Etsy for people selling items, with donations going to the fund.

People have been asking for suggestions on what they can sew. This is just a guide (see Pip's blog for more ideas);
Skirts - simple elastic waisted skirts in cotton fabrics and thicker fabrics for winter
Dresses - a-line 'jumper' dresses, for example or whatever pattern you may have
Shorts - pull on shorts for boys and girls
Trousers - winter is coming
Tee-shirts - appliqued or printed or just handmade
Jumpers - knitted or sewn
Onesies - sizes 000 - o with applique or printing or just lovingly handmade
Blankets/Quilts - small pram size or cot size
Hats - sun hats and hats for winter
Softies - cuddly creatures safe for babies and children

Please let me know if you would like any ideas or assistance. I am going to further add a couple of simple applique patterns later tonight (when Minnie is sound asleep).

Thank you.

Monday, 9 February 2009

collection for the bushfire victims...

Thank you for the fantastic support from this wonderful blogging crafting community. It really is a community in the true sense of the word.

Still working out the details regarding the eventual distribution of the handmade clothes for the babies and children affected by the tragic bushfires over the last few days. I will chat with some Melbourne crafters and sort something out...

At this stage I say sew, sew with all your heart! I will post information as it comes to hand on where we can send all our creations - maybe here to collate and then forward on? If you want my address to send your items too, please flick me an email and I will get back to you ASAP.

I have sewn some onesies in sizes 000 and 00 and some tee-shirts ranging from size 1 to 6 (both for girls and boys). I will make some simple skirts for girls and hope that some one can sew up some simple boys shorts.

I will keep you up to date on this collection. Please feel free to email me regarding this.

And thank you again.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

the devastation...

I am sitting here alone thinking about how devastating the last 24 hours have been for people in Victoria. For those of you outside of Australia, extreme temperatures and high winds have fueled major bush (forest) fires across the State that have, as of Sunday evening, claimed the lives of 76 people.

I cannot imagine the horror of this, for those poor families that have literally lost everything. I have read some reports of babies without clothes, or food or nappies and families wearing the only possessions they have left in the world. And of course the tragic stories of the 76 people who couldn't get out in time...

So I am compelled to do something. I am not sure what form this may take but, I am thinking of doing what I know how to do - to make something. Like I did when Alice died. I am thinking of sewing some clothes and handmade softies for the babies and children that have suffered this unthinkable loss. And I am thinking of asking for other people to perhaps do the same.

Tomorrow I will try and get in contact with the Red Cross or CWA in Victoria and see what I can do. I will let you know. And please let me know if you know would like to help.

Such a sad, sad time.

(Monday AM) Ed: I have decided to start the collection now and find a distribution point/agency as I go. If you are keen to help, please let me know. I am going to applique some onesies and tee-shirts for babies and children. Just some simple, cheery designs. And I will do some girls skirts. And of course, some little creatures to cuddle. I know the Toy Society is also doing a toy collection.

I will let you know if anyone is taking 'second hand clothes' - I know some charities are asking for money donations, not clothing but, I will keep you posted on this.

Thursday, 5 February 2009


This is what I did yesterday when Minnie was at pre-school. I made it for her and gave it to her when I picked her up. She loves her. That's always the best bit...

more evidence...

A while back I posted about sewing, professing that I really do it! Here are some photos of the quilt/blanket thing and the little long sleeved top that I made for the lovely new baby, Belle. Given the recent heat wave in SE Australia, I imagine the long sleeved top has been sitting neatly in the drawer...

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

all growed up...

Last week Minnie had her first day at pre-school. We have only had 2 days apart in our 3 years together - the 2 horrible days that Alice was born and died. I missed her terribly during those 2 days.
And last Wednesday, I missed her too. I cried when I left her and she was fine. In fact she was OK for most of the day (a few moments of tears before lunch). Then at 1.30pm so told them she had enough for today and that she would like to go home. Of course I broke some records to get there and get her as fast as I could. I needed to have a long hug and breath her in.

So today is the second day. I didn't cry until I got to the car. I hope she is having fun. Its so quiet in the house. I am going to start some sewing for a big order. But I keep thinking about my little one, all growed up and off without me.

I know she will tell them when she's had enough. And I know I can tell them when I have had enough of being on my own...

Tuesday, 3 February 2009


in the shop today. Montgomery Moose and a plane, 'XMC Airlines,' named after a little boy who likes planes (and trains, and cars, and trucks and diggers and motorbikes...)

And that is not food on Minnie's face - its marker pen (washable). We were playing a game that involved lots of orange spots, the Dr's bag and of course, Dr Minnie. I love her conversation when I am the patient - 'Now, your blood pressure. Would you like it high or low'? And 'does the 'jection hurt? Let me do it more times then. Lots of times is good.' And 'mmm, let me see about this pain...'

I am feeling much better now. The orange spots washed off my face, mostly...

Monday, 2 February 2009

tales from the trip...2

So with (little) Big Nana home safely and some shopping under my belt, we set out to do a little exploring. We headed to the Barossa and saw some of the many grape vines that I am oh so familiar with. I am particularly familiar with the grape's from the vines once they have been, as if by magic, turned into such a delicious liquid. We didn't stop at any cellar doors this trip (better fun without a toddler) but made our way to Maggie Beer's; good old Maggie - Queen of Verjuice!

Maggie's farm is just north of Tanunda, nestled amongst the vineyards of the area. Its dry country and reminds me of where I grew up in Tasmania. The farm shop is down on the edge of the damn. It was a warm day and even the murky muddy coloured water looked inviting.
The farm shop is literally that - a shop and cafe that sells her products. Much like stopping at the many cellar doors in the area, people stop at 'Pheasant Farm' to sample the produce. We happily sampled the jams and sauces and chutney. Enough to get the mouth watering. We had lunch from the 'picnic menu'. For me, its the pate every time! Love it. I know its decadent but I love pate on toast for breakfast as a special treat. My husband had the delicious 'Pheasant and Porcini Terrine, Cabernet sauce, rocket and preserved lemon.' Minnie had a jam sandwich that I smuggled in.

In this book Maggie writes a lot about setting up pheasant farm, introducing the farm shop, the transition to the restaurant and then back to the farm shop. I do enjoy Maggie Beer products and her cook books - they are well worth a look if you are not familiar with her.

And yes, Maggie does love her verjuice. I am sure she sneaks it into everything.