Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Crafty Year in Review

Looking back 2012 has definitely been a very productive year. This above collage reflects about a quarter of the softies, clothing and accessories I have made over the year. However when I say 'year' it is really six months worth of work as I didn't really get my sewing mojo back until June-ish.

Some of my favourites include:

~The Baby-Chibi doll (top right) I made for Harper's first birthday.

~The pillowcase made for Pillowcase for a Cause. This pillowcase was donated to a Perth girl and was featured in an article in Woman's Day.

~I began playing around with embroidery hoop designs and hand stitched felt pieces.

~I mastered the invisible zip when making cushion covers.

~I really enjoy making the fawns (pattern by Melly and Me) and the reindeer adaptation was fun to do.

~I set out to create new softie pattern designs this year and I did, the Christmas Elf, Kokeshi Doll, Owl and Birdhouse were all new ideas this year that became popular additions to my collection.

All in all it was very fulfilling year creatively speaking. I made lots, learnt lots and had a lot of fun along the way. Little cloud factory was a hobby not long ago but I'm happy to say that it's now my small handmade business.


Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another Christmas Outfit

With just one day up my sleeve I finished Harper's Christmas Day outfit today. Seeing as my clothing making experience is still very limited I chose another simple pattern to follow, a peasant top. Initially I was going to make a dress but with a hot day forecast and the fabric I wanted to use being a quilting fabric, the dress idea was shortened to be a top paired with nappy pants.

I used this on line tutorial and pattern and found the instructions to be perfectly easy to follow. I love that this style of top/dress can be made within an hour or so, is easy to slip on and off a wiggly child and can be varied with pockets, trims or belts depending on how 'fancy' you feel. I picked up some gorgeous seersucker the other day so I'm off to make some summer dresses for the girls.



Friday, December 21, 2012

A Very Cute Hedgehog


A few weeks ago I bought the November issue of Homespun, purely for the cute hedgehog softie on the cover. The pattern inside was created by Sarah of Dolls and Daydreams and is really unique and relatively easy to make. The most difficult part of making this softie was sourcing the right fabric. Having never sewn with faux fur before I started looking online for fabric only to discover that a fat quarter was around the $50 mark! I swiftly went to Spotlight but their range was limited and not the greatest quality. My last trip was to Textile Traders, there was a remnant of this white tipped, soft brown faux fur material and at a reduced price. Admittedly I didn't need the entire 3 metre remnant but this fabric couldn't be more 'hedgehog'-like and I certainly won't run out of fabric!

This was my first attempt, it's not perfect, the fur will take a little getting used to and my pinking shears aren't the best cutters anymore but I will definitely be making more. And with an application already pending for a handmade market in March, I'll hopefully be able to get some public feedback in the near future. In the meantime Harper Hedgehog has a new owner.


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Snippets

My four year old informs me daily of how many sleeps until Santa arrives. She has written her letter, decorated the tree and given her friends little gifts, it's such a special time of year for her. I wish I could have captured that look of excitement when she received a reply letter from Santa, so beautiful.

Another important recent event was Michaela's 'graduation' from Pre-Kindy (3 year old Kindy) which was an exciting day for her. She has grown in confidence this year and now can't wait to start at the 'big kids' school.

One of the main reasons for buying an over locker recently was to make clothes for the girls. So yesterday I made a quick and simple skirt which is essentially a piece of fabric folded in half and stitched together. Then you create the 'tunnel' at the top for the elastic and hem the base, easy enough for a novice like me. Add a $3 tshirt with a fabric appliqué and here's a cute festive outfit created in a couple of hours. The most difficult part was trying to keep Michaela still while I took photos!

Another Christmas tradition is visiting houses decorated in lights. We found this gorgeous house the other night who are also collecting donations for the Perth children's hospital.

Final preparations for Christmas at our house involve making an outfit for Harper, wrapping presents and cleaning up for our traditional Christmas morning whole family brunch. The weather forecast for Christmas Day is HOT so hopefully Santa will bring some water toys!

PS I have just downloaded the Blogsy app so this is my first IPad post using it. Fingers crossed for when I hit the 'post' button.


Monday, December 3, 2012

The 'New' Sunday Roast

Something a little different from me today, a recipe. We tend to eat a roast meal once a week or so, I like that I can throw the meat and a few vegetables in the oven at 4pm and pull it out at 6pm without having to stand at the hot plate with children running around me legs.

This receipe came from an issue of Real Living and is a variation of the roast chicken. It is still relatively quick and easy and doesn't require the oven being on for 2 hours (nice for summer) For 4 people you will need:

Chicken thighs- skin on is recommended but I use skin off pieces too which works fine.
2 zucchini
2 cloves garlic
punnet cherry tomatoes
rosemary stalks
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/3 cup maple syrup
salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 200C
Quarter zucchinis and separate garlic cloves
Add some oil and a knob of butter to the pan (I use a roasting pan on the hot plate which I then transfer to the oven)
Add zucchini, garlic and rosemary stalks to pan. Cook for approx 4 minutes on each side until lightly browned.

Remove zucchini, garlic and rosemary from pan.
Season chick thigh pieces and place in pan, skin side down. Cook for approx 5 minutes or until browned.
Mix maple syrup and dijon mustard in a small bowl.
Turn chicken over and drizzle maple syrup/mustard mixture over chicken pieces.

Return zucchini, garlic and rosemary to the pan.
Add the cherry tomatoes to the pan as well.
Place in the oven for 40 minutes.
Serve with some crusty bread or salad.
(The addition of red capsicum or mushrooms would also work nicely with this meal.)

Buon appetito!

Friday, November 30, 2012

My Reading List

No sewing machine or market preparation means I have time this week to sit down with some of my recently purchased magazines and books.

Young House Love is one of the first blogs I read every morning, I love their interior design style, DIY ideas and funny and informative posts. This is their first book which hubby ordered for me pre-release. It arrived in no time from Amazon and is already on the New York best sellers list.

Decorate Workshop by Holly Becker from the blog Decor8. I have her first book, Decorate, and love the gorgeous photos and decorating ideas so this book was also quickly placed on pre-order.

Homespun Magazine; I don't usually pick up many craft magazines because I browse such a wide selection of blogs but the inclusion of a super cute fluffy hedgehog pattern courtesy of Dolls and Daydreams cemented my need to buy this one.

The first print issue of Tickle the Imagination (not pictured) also arrived last week. The best articles from their online mag are now in print and it features some beautiful handmade businesses and craft ideas. It is especially nice too that it's a local Perth magazine.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Reindeer Softie

This is one of my latest creations, a Christmas Reindeer. I mentioned making her in my previous post but I wanted to share a close up and a few more details. I adapted the Melly & Me Fawn pattern which I love making. I hand stitched on a red nose and reindeer antlers made from felt which were lightly stuffed and triple stitched in place. I also chose to make a felt bow for the neck with two little bells. The fabric for the main body was from the Alexander Henry Christmas Time Collection and she stood at approx 35cms. I love that someone else loved her as much as me and took her into their home. 

Eeek; sorry for the iPad quality pic.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Final Market for the Year

Last Sunday little cloud factory participated in it's last market for the year, phew!! I had tunnel vision for the last two weeks in preparing for the Perth Upmarket, every spare minute I was cutting, stitching and stuffing. And of course with every market lead up comes a certain amount of stress. Was I making enough? Too much of one design? I tried to tell myself to 'just do what you can' but there were quite a few late nights and needless to say I passed out on the couch Sunday evening at 7.30.

I set out to participate in a market or  two this year and I have ended up doing four in four months! I would definitely stagger them better in the future to eliminate the last minute rush and not feel like my children had a part time mother. This last market certainly surpassed my expectations in terms of sales and all the hours I spent making were totally worth it. I received lots of lovely compliments about my fabrics, stitching details and stall presentation which was really heart warming. I also loved meeting fellow crafty people, seeing their wares, creative stalls and hearing about their market experiences.

I did suffer a major glitch in my preparations for the market with my sewing machine refusing to work last Wednesday. I had given the machine a clean and 'service' myself after it was running rough for a couple of days before it decided to jam completely. I love my Bernina matic, it's almost as old as me and it can sew through layers of fabric without missing a beat. So she is with the repairman at the moment and I am hoping to have her back in a few days. I was very fortunate to be lent another machine which allowed me to complete my softies and not dissolve into a complete stressed out mess.

I made a few new items for this last market, the pear pin cushions (pattern courtesy of Retro Mama), the Christmas Elves (original design by myself), Reindeer (adapted from a pattern by Melly & Me) and a small version of my babushka doll design. The reindeer was certainly a very popular addition and I (reluctantly!) sold her a couple of hours into the market, and have received orders for two more.
So with my final market over I'm starting to think about 2013:
* Definitely continue participating in markets. It's great to meet other crafty people as well as interact with the public and allow them to hold my creations in their hands.
* Design and release some new design softies. I always have a few ideas rattling around my brain so dedicating some time to put them on paper and then into reality will be a focus.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Excited Much!

That's right! My softies and I are going to be at the next Perth Upmarket, Sunday 25th November at the University of Western Australia. This, of course, means another busy couple of weeks sewing wise but I'm beyond excited about being there again as a stall holder and getting some serious Christmas shopping done. And it's exciting to think that some of my softies might be under someone else's Christmas tree this year.
See you there!

Monday, November 5, 2012

A Recap

I have a bunch of half written posts just sitting there waiting to be edited and have photos added but time (once again!) has not been on my side this last month. Why? Well, planning for yesterday's Made on the Left Market, some paid work at the university, my daughter's fourth birthday and a case of hand, foot and mouth amongst three of us has impacted on my commitment to my blog, sorry :(

Yesterday was the second Made on the Left Market I took part in this year. The July market was a great success, around four thousand visitors and a good re-entry into the handmade scene in Perth for me. Unfortunately the weather was against us yesterday and reduced marketing than the July market resulted in poor attendance and consequently, sales. The creative talent at the market was second to none, lots of unique products and hugely talented people so it was a shame that more people didn't get to see what is on offer in Perth at the moment. I have made a promise to support as many small, handmade businesses I can this year for Christmas so I collected some cards and have started a list of gift ideas. I will share some of my favourite small (Perth based) businesses with you too in an upcoming post.

Here are a few photos from the day and the items that I made.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Softies, A Market Date & Overlockers!!

It's school holidays in Perth which means Daddy is home for two weeks. For our eldest this also means a visit to the beach, park or movies most days. Miss Harper has only the one nap now but it's a decent 3 hours minimum which limits me taking her out in the middle of the day so my husband and I tend to take turns going out with Michaela. As much as I don't want Harper to grow up quickly, it will be nice when she is a little older so that we can do more activities as a foursome.

I have done a little sewing this week, an elephant softie (a Retro Mama design) for a friend and a little doll (a Two Little Banshees Maisie doll pattern from the book The Big Book Of Softies) which I have been wanting to make for ages. I have two friends due to deliver babies this week too so I hope to try out a couple of other patterns from the same book to make as gifts.

Market news- little cloud factory has been accepted to be part of the Christmas Made on the Left Market in November. The previous July market was great fun, well organised and well attended. I have begun preparing for the market already with some pattern pieces cut out and fabric on order so the preparation shouldn't be too stressful (I say now!) After spending quite a bit of time on my stall design prior to the last two markets, it will be nice to just focus on stock creation for this market.

This week I have been researching over lockers after deciding that it is time I make some clothing, mainly just for me and my family. I have fabric in my stash which I bought intending to turn into a dresses for the girls and I'm hoping that my softie sewing and following patterns etc experience over the last few years will put me in good stead for making some simple items. I prefer the more simple styles and with summer coming up its the perfect time to get started. I have a Bernina sewing machine and my loyalty lies with this brand so hopefully I'll buy one in the coming weeks after visiting some stores for demos.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

What I've Learned about Softie Making

Baby Chibi Doll
I made my first softie about three years ago. It was after the birth of my first daughter and when I started to discover blogs. I have always been a little crafty, sewing some of my own clothes while in high school, dabbling in mosaics and jewellery making and did quite a few DIY projects to keep costs down for our wedding. From memory it was the blogs of One Red Robin and Melly & Me that made me think I'd like to give softies a go. I made a Ruby Doll first, then purchased the patterns for the Baby Chibi and Babushka Dolls and I was hooked. Since then I have continued to purchase patterns, design and make my own and have learned a lot along the way.
My Kokeshi inspired original design

So if you're keen to make softies too, here's a few things that I hope will help you to get started.
  •  Use 100% cotton quilting fabric, it is strong and durable. I widely source my fabrics, mainly online through etsy, Facebook pages and then at my local Spotlight and Textile Traders. Building up a stash of spots/stripes/chevron etc is good to do when there are sales too. I am drawn to many designer fabrics and I don't feel so bad about my fabric addiction when they are on sale! I prefer to purchase fat quarters or half yards to ensure that no two of my softies look the same.
  • Always wash your fabrics before use. These fabrics have been in factories, boxes and on shelves so you want to make sure they are clean before you use them. I find that the fabric is also easier to work with once clean, it is easier to turn limbs and create neat corners. Make sure the fabric is ironed before pattern pieces are cut out. (Funnily this is the only ironing I enjoy!) 

  • Ensure your supplies are in good working order- good sharp fabric scissors, small embroidery scissors for making small cuts, rotary cutter, fabric markers, pinking shears for internal seams. Unfortunately the quick un-pick gets a work out some days in my craft room, and I've learnt to simply scrap a softie if I can't fix a sewing mistake. Have a good selection of needles for your hand sewing appropriate for embroidery and other hand stitching.
  • Don't use other designer's patterns as your own. Make sure that they allow commercial production of their patterns, or a licence that once paid allows you to sell your wares. If you do use a pattern, always credit the designer on tags. Despite there being a multitude of free patterns online, not all allow for commercial production so make sure you research this before making for sale.
  • I admit to being a felt snob and will only use a good quality wool blend or 100% wool felt. I find that they don't pill or show signs of wear like the acrylic stuff does, which can also stretch and tear.
  • Double (or even triple) stitch the internal seams, especially if your softie is destined for some little hands. That extra reinforcement should prolong the life of the softie and ensure that the seams are nice and strong for when you do the stuffing. Use polyester thread as it is stronger than cotton thread too.
  • Stuff carefully and firmly. The stuffing process is actually quite time consuming. Small limbs and those funny little corners are best stuffed with many small pieces of stuffing than big chunks so that edges and seams can be filled properly and neatly. I tend to stuff my softies, leave them for a day or two to allow the stuffing to 'settle' before stuffing it some more and sewing it shut. I use a good quality polyfill although there are eco friendly and wool options which are more expensive. 
  • When playing around with a design of your own, use some calico or other cheap fabrics (and acrylic felt) until you get the design just right. Happy softie making!

Monday, September 24, 2012

LCF does the Perth Upmarket

Awesome! That was my day in one simple word. Being at the Perth Upmarket yesterday was certainly my best market experience to date.
I had been so good in my preparation leading up to the day, using every spare moment of my evenings and free time, completing items (not leaving the stuffing, or closing til later) and ticking things regularly off my 'to do' list. I had a few little jobs to finish on Saturday, printing and attaching tags, sewing on some fawn ears, finalising my table layout and then before I knew it, it was after midnight before I finally fell into bed. I suppose one late night before a market is a given.  
My day started at 5.30am, enough time to shower, dress, stitch shut one last softie and sort the girls out for a couple of hours with Grandma while Jon and I went to UWA. My stall was on the verandah which despite being a chilly spot (6 degrees!) initially, turned out to be perfect for enjoying the sunshine and a relaxed atmosphere to chat with shoppers. I received a lot of positive feedback from people on both my stall and creations. Everyone was friendly and a genuine lover of handmade so it was easy to be relaxed and chatty too.
Here are some pics from the day


The 'fall out' of the market is, of course, a ridiculously messy craft room and an equally messy and neglected house which now need attention. I also have some orders to complete, some new design ideas floating around to make a reality and some more market experience under my belt. With another two applications pending for markets in November I'm hoping for a couple of sewing filled months.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Brushing up my sewing skills

I bought some gorgeous Japanese linen/cotton recently without any definite idea for it's use. I originally thought it would look great attached to a canvas and hung on a wall but yesterday I dusted off my Year 9 sewing skills and revisited the dreaded zip. I found this tutorial  on inserting invisible zippers which I had never done before. The finish is neat and professional and I am in love with the finished cover. I now have another 3 panels cut out and ready for their zips and while I was planning to take them to market with me, I think I'll be keeping one for myself.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Still Getting Ready

Over the last few days I've continued to prepare for my stall at this Sunday's Perth Upmarket. Some of the prep has been cutting, stitching and stuffing while the other prep is stall design and business related items. I have made a few more items than previous markets which means a re-jig of my previous layout. My talented grand father kindly made a post structure which allows me to hang a banner and some small items. It looks great and helps to define my stall space, I can't wait to see it all in action!

I ordered and received some gorgeous new swing tags (from oh so cute) and am waiting on some new business cards (from Smarties) This is probably the first time I've not felt anxious or rushed about an upcoming market. Unfortunately I've often left things to the last minute previously but doing something every day for this market has certainly taken the pressure off and I won't be doing any late nights this week. Thankfully these last few days will be spent closing softies, making a few hair clips and deciding on the stall design.