Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Manly iPhone holders

I'd mentioned the wonderful Arcadia range in my last post...and here's some of it all stitched up. I'd had a couple of requests for some manly iPhone holders and this range, with its miniature prints, is perfect for this type of small item. As so many of you will already have discovered, the wonderful thing about the iPhone is that it's mp3 player, radio, email, phone and internet all in one, dispensing with the need to carry several electronic gadgets around in one's pocket...which is what I am guessing men are forced to do in the absence of any Man Bag.

But luckily for them, in the same way that a man's make-up free face never seems to look pasty and washed-out, a man with his pockets full of keys, money, phones and all the other gubbins that gets taken along never seems to suffer from a bulky or misshapen silhouette. I have no idea how this can be so, but despite this natural propensity to looking good, still one of the commissioning males was not content with mere gadgetry downsizing, and requested that his iPhone holder should double as a wallet also. So on the back I have created a little card and notes holder.

The other man requested that his should have a Velcro flap to keep the iPhone securely in place. I like to believe that this is because he is planning on doing cartwheels and handstands and other things that might potentially cause his iPhone to go leaping wildly from his pocket.

While I was making these I noted down the need to research whether some sort of hand-held miniature sewing machine exists...there are some things that are just too small to fit onto the arm of the sewing machine and it took a frustratingly long time to find a way around this problem.

Anyway, this post is forced into being uncharacteristically brief (addendum: this is no longer the case...as I end up wittering on for so long), for while I am so excited that the little Teacakes will soon be off school for the summer holidays, there is so very much to do before that can happen (I say 'that can happen' as if I have some control over when the school term ends...I don't, just a feeling that all loose ends must be tied before our days become a lazy stream of swing parks and ice-creams). But the next two weeks look set to be overtaken by the anticipation of the children's separate sports days as text messages are sent at lunch time to let parents know whether the weather is just right for such an event: not too hot, not too cold...I'm feeling doubtful over whether the perfect temperature is going to present itself before the end of term, but am keeping my fingers crossed as Zebra-girl tells me that she will be sack racing and few things are more delightful than watching children bobbing frantically along in their sacks grinning wildly, especially when one of them is your own...I am just so poor at shoehorning tasks into potentially fragmented bits of time that I find this kind of uncertainty most unrelaxing.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Sunday Stash

Somehow nearly two weeks have passed since my last post and I'm having a where-to-start sort of moment because I have so many things to blog about. But it's Sunday, the sunshine is unbelievably zingy, and I am feeling a little weary after a family game of pyjamaed dodge ball...so I shall save ordering my thoughts until the week...which promises to be no less hot, but at least I will be dressed and perhaps have a modicum of sprightliness about me. So instead, I will fall back on a Sunday Stash post and share with you the lovelies that came through the letterbox from Sew Mama Sew a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't believe it when I opened the packet...I'd never seen fabric cut and then lined up with such precision that it actually looked more like a sheaf of brightly coloured papers, than fabrics. The temptation was to leave them that way...

But they were too delicious not to unfold and gaze upon properly and then put into colour order. Which could be done with wild abandon when I realised that no amount of folding and refolding could recapture how perfectly aligned they'd been.

And then for some local loveliness: there are not often things that make me gasp with delight in my nearest sewing shops...so imagine my excitement to walk in and find myself faced with these stacks of Arcadia fat quarters filling the cubby holes. I have fallen quite in love with the colours and clean lines of these prints. Although I'm finding it hard to source solid cottons that co-ordinate exactly with the minky browns and limey yellows that are used in this collection.

But I've still found ways to cut into them and am loving how versatile they are - I have had a couple of requests for Man Products and some of these prints lend themselves perfectly for being made up into just such a thing...but more on that in the week, for a sundress is calling me.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Unsuitable for dogs

With a custom order for a couple of pencil rolls to make up, I finally found myself prompted into action on redesigning them before I made a new batch last week. My mother, who is the font of both wonderful frippery and downright practicality, had long ago told me that, despite the opportunities for pleasing ribbon-fabric coordination, she didn't think that a pencil roll that required fastening with a bow was at all suitable for small hands or their busy mothers. I think that she is wrong in some ways because one happy customer told me that her child's pencil roll doubled as a coat for their small dog and that her children had spent many happy hours being delighted by seeing the dog trot around in a spotted pencil roll jacket, the bow tied at her tummy. It is my firmly held belief that any other fastening would not have so welcomingly accommodated even the smallest of canine girths.

However, not everyone has a dog and it will only be a fraction of pencil roll purchasers who have hopes that their roll might be dual-purposed in this way....which is why I have heeded my mother's wise advice and redesigned my rolls to have velcro tabs. I had felt a little sad that this didn't allow me to have the happiness of choosing ribbons, but actually, I made my own fun in trying to find little pictures or nice fabric swatches to go on each tab.

And how could one not go foraging for little details like this when one has been set up so nicely to think that way by the thoughtful manufacturer who chose to produce inspiring selvages like the one below - it's so lovely I can barely believe that it actually exists and resides in my house.

And one of those sweet little houses and trees found their way onto the front of one of the pencil roll holders - I would have loved this when I was small. It reminds me of some yellow and red hair bobbles that I had that were made from a plasticised fabric and featured a hot air balloon...how I would love to still have those (to look at, not to wear...no weirdy pigtail regression here!)....there's something so lovely about very miniature things.

Some of these will find their way into my shop within the next week...which I feel I can now say with much relief, having lost my shop (and email - horrors!) for 24 hours due to strange server problems. But it's over now, and I can breathe again. How oddly attached one becomes to one's website - it feels like an extension of myself and for it not to be there felt tantamount to suddenly being told that my ear lobe had gone missing. Mr Teacake tells me that despite the fact that I pay nothing for his web services, I am somehow more demanding than any of his real clients. Mmm. This is probably true...but I have deemed this to be the prerogative of the person who maintains a constant supply of pistachio nuts solely for his nut-eating happiness.

Happy tulips...

Anyway, there is so much more to tell, but not quite enough time to tell it in, so I shall leave you with this photograph of the wonderful matryoshka tape measure that my sister surprised me with last week.

I am off to do some measuring with it...and tomorrow, we are off to the hospital for Mr Teacakes' operation on his hand. Thank you so much for your well wishes for him. x

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Stitchery from the small ones

A couple of weekends ago I was photographing the roses when Mr Teacakes came and stood beside me. Before I could turn to look at him properly I caught a glimpse of our shadows on the lawn and let out a delighted squeal, for in my somewhat wild imagination, we temporarily looked like a Rob Ryan picture (to Mr Teacakes we looked like two silhouettes of ourselves...and I can see how that might seem to be so to one less prone to flights of fancy!) I had a split second to take this photo before he began to un-rob-ryan us and I was left staring at him using the deep shadow pool to make animal silhouettes.

Anyway, with making your own fun in mind, I have meant to blog about these monster kits since my sister bought them for the little Teacakes at Christmas time. I am not often fond of kits, as they often feel too prescriptive, a 'craft' that lacks the opportunity for creativity and can lead to the small one feeling frustrated when it inevitably doesn't resemble quite what it says that it might on the box. However, these monster kits are something quite different and the antithesis of all that is bad about craft kits.

Inside the bag are a random and rather jaunty collection of fabric shapes and you are invited to use them to fashion your own monster. This is right in so many ways - for by its very definition, a monster is a creature of the imagination that can look any way you might conjure it to be, and so they were able to set about positioning their fabrics with gusto, actively eschewing two symmetrically placed eyes or a properly placed jumper. Fabric shapes were traded, possible combinations giggled over and finally, fantastical one-eyed, underpant wearing monsters were created. Dinosaur-boy's monster reminds me of an elephant, while Zebra-girl's has just enough of a feel of 'human' about it to make it even more ghoulish.

Best of all, I found no need to sit on my own hands or superglue my own lips together to prevent myself from making 'helpful suggestions' - I could relax into the realisation that these monsters did not have to resemble anything on the packet for me to feel that our sewing session had been successful. Dinosaur-boy was four when we made these and stayed immersed in their creation for nearly two hours, his mouth pursed in concentration as he formed each lovely stitch.

I suppose these kits could be stuck together with glue...but that would feel all wrong when there's the opportunity for some hand-sewing. And I can see that there could be an argument for making them from my own stash of left-over fabrics...but somehow this was nicer...I know that if I made the kits myself then I would cut pieces with a purpose for them in mind and feel anxious when I saw the carefully shaped underpants that I had cut out being used a hat. It's hard being a control freak.

This week I seem to have sewed at a snail's pace and am staggered at my own lack of productivity - how did it take two whole days to make six pencil rolls? I think it may be the distractingly lovely presence of Mr Teacakes working in the same room in between hospital appointments. SQUEAMISH READERS: PLEASE STOP HERE. One of Mr Teacake's games of football ended in disaster last week when he collided with the goal keeper as he went to shoot and broke his finger. His appointment with the hand specialist this week confirmed that he has broken his knuckle and finger very badly and will need an operation to have metal pins put in it, in the hope that he will recover the use of it. This is no small thing for him when his job designing websites relies on him being able to click a mouse all day and his guitar requires that he is in possession of all his fingers.

He is also distraught that this will mean he can't play football for the time being. I have implored him to wear a padded foam bodysuit and crash helmet once he returns to the pitch, but oddly, he does not seem keen on this idea. Instead he just speaks of me fashioning him some kind of attractive fabric finger support. I have no wish to branch out into the realm of personal injury sewing though, so will continue with my pencil holders and buy him a consolation ice cream instead.


Friday, 5 June 2009

Sewing Machine Meme

Following my article on sewing machine feet for Sew,Mama,Sew! I've had so many emails asking what machine I have that it seemed a good time to complete their meme. Beth & Kristin are compiling a database of links so that potential buyers can read the memes written about different makes and models of machine - I so wish this had existed when I was making my choice. There comes a point in one's buying research where one has read all the technical information available and simply craves to hear subjective, personal opinion...so here is my very biased offering coming from one who is wholly in love with her machine!

What brand and model do you have?
A Pfaff Classicstyle Home 1529.

How long have you had it?
Over a year.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
Around £400 (about $650). Although I part-exchanged my old Babylock and the numerous feet that I had to go with it and so only paid £250 for it.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
I use all different weights of material and make everything from handbags, to quilts, to kimonos, to oven gloves and even curtains if I'm forced to...I can't think of anything I couldn't sew using this machine.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?

On average I sew for about six hours a day or night, five or six times a week (although some of this time will obviously be spent pattern-drawing, cutting, pinning...and eating an occasional biscuit to sustain myself), so fairly heavy-duty usage.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
Oh, what's not to love? I actually find my machine perfect in every way, although I've yet to personify it by giving it a name. My love for it comes primarily because it stitches perfectly every time, so that I can get on with making things rather than losing hours fiddling around with the settings - this sounds like a small thing to be grateful for, but so many machines don't seem capable of this.

I chose to buy a Pfaff because of the built-in walking foot (IDT) which can be used in conjunction with most of the feet that I own for it. The walking foot makes sure that the top and bottom pieces of material are fed through the machine at exactly the same rate (on a standard machine the material nearest the feed dogs is fed through a fraction faster which can result in less precise results). The other thing that I love is that the feet are able to flex up and down a little, meaning that it can effortlessly sew through varying thicknesses of materials without my ever having to lift my foot from the pedal. The only thing that I sometimes wish for is an automatic needle up/down feature (this is where your machine always comes to a stop with the needle down in your material so that it's ready to pivot, rather than you having to adjust this with your flywheel), which it would need to be computerised to possess and the Luddite in me feels quite passionate about keeping my sewing machine the old-fashioned way. It would completely change the relaxation that I find in sewing if I was having to deal with a computer's inherent quirks and naughtinesses.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
I love the different needle positions (something that my old machine didn't have)...and again, all of the above.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
Nothing. At first I wished that it looked a little prettier and longed for shinier feet to attach to it...but I've come to love it the way it is and fight the bit of myself that craves for all utilitarian things to be aesthetically pleasing. I now look to the vintage Singer (above) that my father bought for me when I'm needing a fix of sewing machine shininess!

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)? We want to hear it!
Oh, how I wish to make something amusing up for this and tell you that my cat dragged it home after the metal foot plate accidentally found itself attached to her magnetic collar...but that would be untrue, not least because she doesn't have a magnetic collar. I bought it at my local shop. I am delighted with it. We have had no mishaps together. And now I'm feeling like a crashing bore. Did I mention that I can fold myself in half?

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
Yes, I feel quite evangelical about it...and would only just stop short (due to worries of being labelled a fascist) at expressing a wish for ownership of this make and model to be compulsory and for all others to be taken off the market.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
When I was buying I spent an awful lot of time craving a machine that could do fancy stitches...but I've since realised that I can't imagine very many times when I'd use these and so I'm pleased that I didn't make my choice on that basis...so I suppose it's most important to think about what kind of sewing you currently do. What's really important to me is that my machine behaves impeccably so that I'm able to produce things that look exactly the way that I'd hoped that they might. I'm lucky that my local sewing machine shop really think about how each customer will use their machine and what will be best for them. When I discussed the things that I make and how many hours a day that I sew for, the lovely man there was able to convince me that what I really needed was a reliable, sturdily-built workhorse, despite the fact that even a top of the range workhorse will nearly always be less expensive than a computerised model. It's so rare to find a salesperson imploring you to spend less, but because of this I trust their advice implicitly and would now never risk buying a machine from elsewhere and have attempted to go some way to rewarding their kindness by buying a small army of feet to attach to it. My machine's simplicity means that I can fix most things myself and that on the rare occasion where I can't, it can be fixed on the same day in their workshop without waiting for expensive parts to arrive. My machine is German (and I think assembled in the Czech Republic, but Pfaff have now switched production over to China, so I'd be unlikely to buy from the newer range) and having tried out comparative Pfaff models side by side manufactured in the two different places I can say that even to the untechnically-minded, the Czech models sound and feel far superior to the Chinese versions.

Do you have a dream machine?
Yes, exactly what I have now...but I'd really like two of them so that I can stop worrying about what I will do when it eventually gives up through overuse.

And no, the materials have no relevance at all to this post and aren't even recent purchases...it simply felt too gloomy to write this without a little bit of fabricy loveliness to pad out my words!

Wishing you a lovely weekend. x

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

All things footish...

Firstly, welcome to anyone who is visiting from Sew Mama Sew! - it's so lovely to have you here. Beth and Kristen recently asked if I'd like to contribute to their month-long June Sewing Machine extravaganza and I was utterly delighted - if you haven't already, do go and visit...they're even giving a way a whole sewing machine (yes, in its wonderful entirety!). I chose to write about sewing machine feet as they're something I feel weirdly passionate about...and also because the minute Beth gave me my options I imagined the potential for creating this ridiculous picture with my ballet slippers housing my sewing machine feet instead of my own feet...and well, small things amuse, no?

I have been finishing off some custom orders for t-shirts today, as well as making some more bibs up for my shop...which is good, because yesterday I achieved virtually nothing as it was so lovely and sunshiny that it felt all wrong to be inside when I could be outside having lunch in the garden with a good friend...this could bode badly for summer productivity levels, but I shall ask my sweet Mother not to send me emails letting me know that the forecast for the rest of the week is poor so to enjoy it while it's there...it leads to panic sunshine consumption.

Dinosaur-boy had asked if I would make him a t-shirt with a chocolate ice-cream on it - I felt a little sad seeing him trying it on, because I realised as soon as he put it on that by next summer, when he'll be 6 (or gosh, maybe even just by next week), he will almost certainly want his t-shirts with something cooler, scarier and just more raaaaa! on them and will be unlikely to continue to enjoy something just because it gives him the opportunity to pretend to eat himself. I love how chubby and little his arms look in this photo though.

Anyway, as this post started on feet and shoes, I thought that I may just end it on them too...here are some feet of the non-stitching variety at home in their new shoes. I am completely in love with these shoes for they are mustard and go perfectly with the bag that I made for myself last summer, have chunky high wedge heels and are just all round perfect. I love them to the point of considering buying a back-up pair just in case these ones are involved in any kind of unfortunate footish mishap.

I took this photo during a four-hour long swing park marathon with the little Teacakes over half-term...sandcastles were built, ropes climbed, the delicious smell of suntan lotion on warm skin was breathed in and I felt ridiculously happy every time I looked at my shoes. And just in case you were worrying, no, I haven't been ironing strange creases into my jeans...these are just denimy-coloured wide-legged trousers...a point that I feel an overwhelming need to clarify.
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