Friday, December 31, 2010

Repair work

A few years ago I salvaged some deck chairs from various roadside pickup piles.  Some were perfectly OK and some needed a bit of repair.  I fixed and stained them, then made new matching covers, using the cover of one that was OK as a pattern (some had the more traditional two-piece seat and back, but I prefer this design, which came from a Freedom deck chair).  It's really simple if you have some chairs and want to revamp them rather than replace them, and I think it looks better than slip covers over the whole lot.

Well, all was fine until one of my larger nieces visited last summer and decided that using one of the chairs as a trampoline for her bottom would be fun.  Mysteriously she went through!  Luckily I have spare fabric, so today's repair day before the big NYE party tonight!

The fabric:

Each deck chair takes 90cm of fabric (you'll need a piece around 70cm across, so you should get two from a 90cm long section of canvas).

I use the following seam/hem allowances:

  • 3cm at the top
  • 1cm at the side of the backrest
  • 1.5cm to the side cutouts and the bottom
The steps:

  1. Using your existing fabric as a pattern, cut out a new seat & back, remembering to allow for hem allowances and pockets for the dowel at the side on the seat and uprights on the back.
  2. Zig-zag or overlock the side edges of the seat section.
  3. Hem the sides of the backrest and the top and bottom of the cover.
  4. Fold the top in and to make the pockets for the uprights, and stitch across the top plus a double row of vertical stitching.
  5. Fold the seat to create pockets for the dowel to go through, and stitch.

For best results:

  • Wash your fabric beforehand (just in case it shrinks)
  • Check the tension on your machine - I've found that I need to adjust mine otherwise the top is too loose / bottom too tight when hemming the canvas.
  • Use stronger cotton (eg. upholstery thread).
  • Stretch the fabric when you're hemming the curved sections, rather than clipping the corners, as this will help to prevent creating weak points in the seat.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Christmas!

I'm signing off now to spend time with my family celebrating the birth of Christ.  I hope that you have a wonderful Christmas, and that all your gifts (particularly the hand-made ones) thrill their recipients.

A bit of woodwork to round out the year

I don't often get a chance to make something out of wood, but I love to.  I've observed towards that latter part of this year that my younger son really enjoys playing with dolls houses.  He often carries around a Buzz or Spiderman figurine, and when we're at playgroup he loves the wooden dolls house.  We had an old Barbie one but it fell to pieces, and I think that it was just too complicated to capture his imagination.  The idea of getting or making him a wooden dolls house was cemented by seeing some lovely wooden peg dolls on Blue Caravan.  So, this last week I've been making him a dolls house out of old shelving that I'd saved in the garage for a rainy day, some scrapbooking "wallpaper" to cover the state of the internal wall, and "architrave" to cover my carpentry sins.  I hope he loves it - I have those pirates, some wooden furniture and plan a quilt and pillow case for the bed to match his own.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Super sock softies (or a quick last-minute present)

The sock monkeys started it!  Nanna gave my boys a sock monkey each for Easter a couple of years ago, and along with them gave our household a new appreciation of the potential of socks.  Not long afterwards I discovered some great step-by-step instructions at web goddess, and made a couple of monkeys as first birthday gifts.  My monkeys were significantly chunkier than Bruce (right) and Monty (left), due to the stretchiness of the socks.  Then came Charlie the spider (a male version of the famous Charlotte?) by special request of the then-kinderboy.  Yesterday we added Violet and Fleur to the mix, but only temporarily.  The schoolboy decided that he'd like to make presents for his cousins for Christmas, and these were inspired by an old Family Circle toy book I've had since I was a girl. The boys helped choose the design, the socks, stuffed them and chose the facial features and clothing.  Bigger kids (or grownups with limited sewing) could do the whole lot without too much of a drama.  We finished them off easily in an afternoon, and only needed a trip to the supermarket for the socks.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Duo of dotty dresses

This morning I finished a pair of dresses for my nieces - their mum informed me that they like to dress the same, so here's hoping!  Anyway girls, I hope that you like them.  My boys chose the spotty material for you and the schoolboy loves the feel of the ribbon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Going dotty (part 1)

You might have noticed that my 'grand plan' includes a few dresses with spots, and that two of them absolutely must be finished this week or there'll be embarrassment around the Christmas tree come Saturday.  Well, I'm pleased to say that the first dress now totally finished.  I wanted a design that was a bit dressy, but not so much so that my nieces wouldn't get much wear out of them, so I've only lined the bodice, and rather than have a tulle frill peaking out from under the hem I've put a pink band on the bottom of the skirt.  So that's Miss 2 done, now I need to get onto Miss 5's matching dress.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A present a 3 year old can make (with a little help)

The young one and I were home alone this morning, so we took the opportunity to make his big brother a Christmas present (I had the stuff last week but was missing the insight required to realise that it needed to be made before school finished).  Our big boy can't survive for more than an hour or two without doing a drawing or some writing of some kind, but his pencil case has gone AWOL, and as a consequence I'm constantly picking up his dwindling supply of pencils.  I thought that this project would give his little brother the opportunity to give and not just receive this Christmas, and save me from constant requests to help our schoolboy find his pencils.

Here's what we did:
  1. I got Dan to choose some material from my quilting stash, then I cut it about an inch taller and wider than we needed for it to go all the way around this mdf container (cheap to buy from Bunnings and elsewhere).  The selvedge of the fabric was presentable, so I made it one of the short ends of my rectangle.
  2. We then painted the sides one at a time with a mix of half water half pva (I would have used straight pva, but discovered at the last minute that I didn't have much left!)
  3. After each side had been painted I laid the fabric over it, starting with the cut end on the edge of the first side.  I smoothed the fabric over, got him to paint the next side, etc. until all the sides were done.  I think he was impressed that he got to paint the material on the first side so that I could stick down the overlapping piece.
  4. I then trimmed the fabric overlapping the top and bottom at the corners to help me fold them flat, then got him to help me paint the flaps of material with pva (again, one at a time to minimise mess), then folded them over the top and into the container.  
  5. Finally, we sat the box upside down on a bottle, folded and glued the overlapping bits onto the bottom of the container, and gave the whole lot a coat of glue mix all over.
When the glue dries (it's hiding in the study wardrobe for now) I'm going to paint it with several coats of clear sealer to protect it. 

Inspired by...

I've just been doing some blog surfing, and come across betweenthelines.  There are some great step-by-step instructions for stuff to make from home, including how to make fabric covered notebooks really simply using Vliesofix.  It got me inspired to make a folder of sorts for the schoolboy.  It's big enough to fit A4 paper (I'm going to give it to him with some new paper in it, but after that it'll be a great way of using the reverse side of stuff from the study).

Here's what I did:

I cut some cardboard to a bit bigger than A3 - the blue sheet is A4 size, and I wanted it a bit bigger all round.  My card was reasonably thick, but you could use a manilla folder if you didn't have anything suitable.

I then cut some Vliesofix roughly to size, and ironed it onto the back of the fabric left over from the pencil box.

I peeled off the paper and then ironed the fabric onto the cardboard (I put the backing paper and some baking paper between the cardboard and the ironing board to stop the overhang sticking to the ironing board).

Next I trimmed the material to the same size as the cardboard (not as easy as I expected to get a straight cut - next time I think I'd use a rotary cutter and ruler, or the idea below).

I hole-punched some A4 paper, and then connected them together with a Tubeclip - this will allow the schoolboy to add/subtract paper from his folder easily, and as its adhesive on the back I could then stick the pages in with no problems.

What I'd do differently next time:
  • I was using leftovers, and had only just enough fabric and an odd-shape (and again, only just large enough) piece of Vliesofix, and didn't do a brilliant job of lining up the pattern with the edge of the cardboard.  I think ideally you'd have a fresh bit if Vliesofix so that you could line up the straight edge with the pattern on your fabric.  
  • I had trouble working out where the edge of my cardboard was when I put the fabric on top of it, which made lining up the pattern even more difficult.  Next time I'd put the fabric face-down and then the cardboard/book on top of it.  I think you'd be able to see through the fabric to line up the pattern more successfully that way.
  • The overhanging Vliesofix was a bit tacky after I'd peeled it off the baking paper after stage 3.  I'd be tempted to leave an overhang all round like you do when you're putting Contact on a book, and fold the edges in the same way.  That way the edges are protected and you don't have to worry about making sure that the edges are cut perfectly straight.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Palm oil & life without shampoo

I've signed several of those postcards at the zoo which call for products using palm oil to be labelled so that we can make informed choices about whether or not we buy them, and thereby hopefully save the habitat of the orang-utan (and no doubt many other creatures that aren't necessarily so cute & endearing).  I've wondered about my consumption though, and what I could do about it.  I say wondered, and that's about it.  It did cause me to look at the back of my shampoo and conditioner bottles and wonder what all those chemical names really meant, but until now I haven't done much else (except stop buying a product which clearly labelled that it had palm oil and was an inferior product to my regular anyway).

Well, I've decided that its probably time to do something about it, and I've found a couple of websites which might be of interest if you want to take things a bit further as well.  The first one is the  Rainforest Action Network, and buried in their site is a list of products containing palm oil.  The site's American though, and I wonder about the list's completeness particularly in the Australian context and in terms of cosmetics.  The next one is Australian (the Palm Oil Action Group) and its shopping guide gives the names given for palm oil, which I found helpful.  What I found was that my shampoo lists Glycol Distearate as being the 4th largest component of the product, behind good old water and two ammonium-sulfate based chemicals, and this is one of the names given to palm oil.

So, where to, and what are the options?  Well I've bought a couple of sauce bottles, and I'm going to try life without shampoo following Melinda's instructions on One Green Generation.  I'm no hippy, and I usually have to wash my hair every day otherwise I start to look like Neil from the Young Ones, so we'll see how it goes, but I figure nothing-ventured nothing-gained for the Orang-utans.

I'll report back in a couple of weeks and let you know how things are going!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Crafty Women

This year I started a monthly craft evening which my husband nicknamed "The Crafty Women" or "Craftier than Crafty Women".  The idea was that every 2nd Thursday of a month my friends were free to come over to my place to craft after dinner/kids were in bed.  It didn't really take off unfortunately, so I've jumped at the chance to be part of the my creative space crew.  Well, that's not on today either, but I've finished off some fairy skirts and I'm off downstairs shortly to:

  • Prepare the pattern so that I can cut out the fabric for my nieces' christmas dresses
  • Make some 'x marks the spot' bookmarks from a cute butterfly scrapbooking paper that I bought today
  • Wrap a Christmas present that might be discovered if I don't do it quickly!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fred & Cissy

Fred and Cissy (actually Alfred & Gertrude) were my dad's maternal grandparents.  To the best of my knowledge they died before I was born, but I have the letters that Fred wrote to his sweetheart on the boat across from England in 1912-13.  He came to Australia ahead of her to find work and get settled before she made the trip and then they were married.  Dad also has a poem that his grandfather wrote (or appropriated) for their golden wedding anniversary so many years later and he was evidently as smitten then as he was on the boat across.  Since I inherited the letters from my Grandma I've been fascinated with them, charmed by their love for one another and aware of the sense of humour they must have had (one of the few photos dad has of them has Sissie and another lady on either side of Fred.  They're holding silverbeet and he's holding a teddy bear with a grin on his face!

Anyway, I decided that I'd label some of my craft stuff, so I've made labels tonight honouring them.  I hope that if you receive anything with a Fred & Cissy label it'll give you a smile to match Fred's in that photo!

If you want to make similar labels here's what I did:

  • I made the labels in Word.  I experimented with Word Art, and obviously you could use pictures if you like, but in the end I just used text in a table (no gridlines) - it was a lot less fiddly than trying to align multiple pictures/frames into neat rows.  I got 5 columns and 10 rows onto the page in landscape format using this method:  
  • The tricky bit is that you need to 'mirror image' / horizontally 'flip' the text and any image.  On the Mac I saved the Word document as a PDF, opened that in 'Preview', saved it as a JPEG, and then flipped that horizontally (for some reason it'll flip a photo but not a PDF).  I've had a look at our PC, and the most straight-forward way that I can find so far to flip the text is to make sure that it's inserted in Word as Word Art.  You can then click on the 'draw' tab and then 'flip horizontal' on the drawing toolbar.  I tried inserting it in an auto shape, but the shape mirrors and the text stays the same.  The other option would be to create your label in Paint, flip it there, then insert it multiple times as a picture in Word.  Both options are not particularly user friendly in my opinion, so if you come up with a better way let me know!
  • I printed a sample and checked it in the mirror just to be sure, then printed it onto some iron-on transfer paper from Lincraft (it comes in a pack of 5x A4 sheets).
  • Cut the labels, leaving as little blank paper around them as possible (I used a guillotine to cut them into strips, and then cut them into separate labels from there, so that I could put space between them on the tape - if you were less stingy with your use of the paper (eg. had 3 or 4 columns instead of 5, then you wouldn't need separate them out).
  • Iron them onto cotton tape following the instructions on the paper packet.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Inspired by (2)...

I feel like I'm hyperactively crafty this week (and yet somehow I've missed doing what I said I was going to, and haven't started the dresses for my nieces) - my latest offering was inspired by Samelia's Mum's mug-rug.  Our prep class have watched caterpillars hatch, grow, form a chrysalis and finally transform into Orchard Butterflies.  I think that the teacher's been at least as excited by the process as the kids, particularly with the first butterfly coming out of its chrysalis on Friday.  Don't tell, but I've made Mrs K a 'Very Hungry Caterpillar' mug-rug to be paired with some related goodies.  Refreshingly quick to make (I started it after dinner last night, and finished it about 24 hours later), and I really enjoyed the pictorial style - I can see myself following it up with a quilt-as-you-go project down the track.

Inspired by...

Ever since I saw some cute 'x mark the spot' bookmarks on the kootoyoo website, I've been wanting to make a truckload of them as gifts and to replace the envelopes and old receipts that always seem to end up as my bookmarks.  Well, I've sorted my magnetic issues, and yesterday I made one.  I was a bit dismayed by how clumsy the end product looked (brought about, I suspect, by my impatience and use of a sewing machine rather than hand stitching - I'll try again another time), but I really like my paper variants.  I've made a couple, and coated the scrapbooking paper with contact for durability.  They're great - you can hold the book upside down (or put it in your handbag) and the bookmark doesn't fall out, and I think they're easier to find in the book than the traditional version.  Thanks for the inspiration Kirsty!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Kid-friendly Christmas garlands

Thought I'd share with you our family Christmas version of the paper garlands at art as life: what is to be is up to me.  My ideal was all white stars, but the boys were insistent about using their new Christmas stamp (I got both the stars and the stamp from Riot).  Result was so effective that the neighbour across the road came to see if we had new fairy lights!  Maybe one day I'll get my simple version, but in the meantime this's a very kid-friendly craft idea for Christmas. If you'd like another Christmas alternative / a 'how to', check out the snowflake version at maya-made.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Free fabric from my stash!

 This week in my creative space I've been cleaning up.  I have found three pieces of fabric to kick off my monthly 'stash swap', where I'm offering to give you part of my stash for the cost of postage, and inviting you to swap something from your stash that's been sitting around a long time (see below and separate tab).  In the interests of reducing my fabric store I've also cut all the tulle I have left, and have found that I have enough for five more fairy skirts.  Not sure what I'll do with all of them yet, but for the moment it's a good side project that's helping me avoid thinking about the Christmas list.


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