Thursday, 30 April 2009

8

Go Girl Power! (Maybe)

Today I thought I would give you a well-earned respite from my applique endevours and talk a bit about my little girl. Maia is under-utilised blog fodder. She doesn't have the food, sleep or authority problems that Jamie has (at least not yet), and only pops up here when she undergoes catastrophes or is an adorable model for my wares. But I could blog about her all day, every day, because she's hilarious.

I don't know about the rest of you mums with girls, but I want to teach Maia that she can do anything. I want her to grow up happy and fulfilled, and to do stuff that she loves doing. I study her and note the things that she likes to do and wonder, 'Hmmm, what will you be?'.... And then I crap myself. Because based on her current interests, she's likely to be one of these:

  • A hellion: Numerous people have noted that Maia is going to be hard work when she is a teenager. She is very strong willed, she does what she wants to do and doesn't do what she doesn't want to do. End of. Given a pen and a minute without eagle-eye supervision, she attacks any available surface (read: graffiti artist). She covers her skin with elaborate ink drawings (read: tattoos). She covers her face in stickers (read: facial piercings). At this point, I would like to preempt a comment from my parents: I also was hard work as a teenager, I got a tattoo in my teens and at one point I had 11 piercings.
  • A member of GLOW: For the uninitiated, this acronym stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling. She loves a tussle, and is rougher and stronger than her big brother. She already has a costume (and doesn't she look formidable?): I think her name will be Maia 'The Trebuchet' Jones because she already has a signature move. She lies on her back, lifts her legs towards her face and then suddenly drives them back towards the floor with alarming pace and strength. I've been a recipient of one of these hammer blows and it's no laughing matter.

  • A mammographer: Despite the fact that I stopped breast feeding her a year ago, the girl is obsessed with my breasts. Anytime we are within close proximity, she has at least one hand down my top, usually with the other hand holding my shirt out of the way so she can admire her handiwork. She is nothing if not thorough.


  • Pole dancer: She likes being naked, she likes to dance. In fact, I doubt there is anyone in the world who likes being naked as much as she does. All day long she implores 'Nek, nek' in the hope that I will strip her off and let her run amok. When she was about 5 months old and first pulling herself to stand, her chosen apparatus was the metal pole support of her swing. Being unsteady, she would wobble and gyrate around said pole. I said to Steven, 'Look at her, it looks like she's pole-dancing!' For the record, it is inadvisable to say this to a Dad. If you were worrying that I might produce a naked dancing picture or *gasp* photoshop Maia's face onto a poledancer's, have no fear! Because I found this one instead:

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

6

Super retro, super rare, super greedy, super heroes

Next couple of days are all about appliques. Quick, easy, good time to profit ratio. So I'm churning them out.

I came across this superhero fabric last summer and snapped it right up. Then I got nervous and snapped up the rest, in the whole world. It's about ten or fifteen years out of print, and I'm pretty sure I have the last of it. See, Nic? Sometimes I don't play nice when it comes to fabric.

I'll get you yet!

Arggh!

Stand Back, he's mine!

How can I save her?

Pow!

I don't know if I can make it! Time is running out!

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

9

Japanese fabric porn

I love Japanese fabric. My normal attitude is purely obsess and lust though, as they are expensive per yard. And while I would love to make entire garments out of the delicious fabric, the cost is prohibitive. But as my typical fair fodder is appliqued t-shirts and rompers, I've been buying half yard cuts for appliques and it works outs pretty reasonably per garment. So my haul arrived this week and these are my goodies!

Echino scooters in red

Echino scooters in black

Echino cars half yard set (didn't get pink though!)

Echino cars in turquoise (I got a couple of yards of this for hoodies and shirts)

Kokka Dala horses

Kokka Scandinavian girls

Kokka Matroyshka
2

The winner unveiled.....

Thanks for all your comments, I loved hearing everyone's summer smells! And without further ado, the winner is... Emilyflippinmaruna!


Once I have your details your pattern will be on it's way!

Monday, 27 April 2009

10

The Shir-minator

With less than two weeks to go til my big fair, I've switched over to assembly line making. As the term would imply, this means that I'm giving myself a couple of days to work exclusively on one design before moving on to the design. Anything that's not completed by the time allocated is relegated to my (ever growing) Work In Progress pile. Because I have lots I still want to do, this prevents me from becoming obsessed with any one thing and ensures my range will be more well-rounded. It is effective from an efficiency point of view, but oh-so-boring and more than a little soul destroying.

So... 256. That was me this weekend. But what does 256 signify?
  • a) Daily calories allowed in the sweatshop
  • b) Minutes sleep allowed in the sweatshop
  • c) Number of times Jamie got out of bed
  • d) Milligrams of lithium I am taking to get me through the assembly line making
  • e) Number of feet of double fold binding I cut, ironed and sewed for straps

And the answer? On Thursday I cut out 35 sundresses for shirring. 35 sundresses have 140 straps. Each strap is 22 inches long. So 256 feet of double fold straps cut, ironed under one side, ironed under other side, folded in half and ironed, sewn closed. About halfway through I found my bias tape maker contraption and that helped me along a bit quicker. For any other masochists out there making vast quantities of straps, get yourself one of these thingeys.

Gosh, what would all those straps look like?! Like this:

Unfortunately, despite making all of the straps for all 35 dresses, I only managed to get 29 dresses done before losing the will to live moving on to the next project. Maybe I'll get a chance to finish them off before the fair but it's handy to have nearly-completed things to wizz through in the evenings during the fair should I need to replenish stock.

Here's my stack of dresses:

Sunday, 26 April 2009

10

Who needs bowls when you've got boots?

While Maia was sat down with her breakfast, I thought I would take the opportunity to use the computer. She can feed herself, so why not? Umm... here's why:


That shadow that you can see within the boot is Weetabix. I might add that she also gave herself a Weetabix scalp massage.

Saturday, 25 April 2009

28

It's giveaway time...


The tutorials for my boy's coat pattern arrived from the printer today so I'm ready to get listing! And with every new pattern comes a giveaway so here goes...


The coat is single breasted with a slightly a-line shape for ease of movement. As per usual, it is reversible and there are three buttons on each side. It comes with the option of a hood or pointed collar. Sizes are 18m/2T and 3T/4T, and the sleeves can be rolled up to show the contrasting fabric when child is smaller and down as they grow.


The warmer weather is making me cheerful, so for a chance to win this pattern leave a comment on this post with your favourite summer smell. I'll choose randomly on Monday.

Friday, 24 April 2009

7

A whole new world?

Yesterday I found out I won the giveaway over on GonetoEarth's blog, and the prize was my choice of her lovely Anna Maria Horner patterns. I swithered for a bit but I took a leap of faith and decided on the Socialite dress:


Notice anything strange about this dress? It's for a woman! It will be my first attempt at making something for myself and I'm more than a little bit scared.
And Julia is so awesome that it arrived today (in beautiful packaging I might add), so I've been studying the instructions intently. I'm not sure which fabric I should use, maybe my favourite frog print? What do you think, would that look silly on an adult? I'll post the results when I'm done, unless I look ridiculous, in which case I'll never mention it again...

Thursday, 23 April 2009

13

Is it wrong to say I rock?

With my huge craft fair looming I haven't done any sewing for pleasure for a long time. It's all assembly line sweat shop here. But other than general fair angst, I've had something else on my mind: when you design and sell clothing, people expect you to have a modicum of fashion sense yourself. This is a bit of a problem for me as I'm a jeans and t-shirt kind of girl. It's as if I have a finite amount of style, but dedicate it all to my children.

So I've been looking for a compromise. For last year's fairs I whipped up an incredibly quick money belt out of black fleece (again, utility over style) but I've been thinking that I could do with a fancier one. After a bit of research, a couple of sketches and more hours than I'd hoped, I had this:


I'm ridiculously pleased with it- now I can be semi-stylish without feeling too uncomfortable! It's Yui Kokeshi and black twill with a polka dot sash. It has two big sections for money on one side and leaflets, notebook and cards on the other. There's a little pen pocket on the inside too:


"C'mon Amanda,' I hear you say, 'none of this means you rock...' But, wait! Look at this:


It's my first zippered pouch! I've only ever done separating zippers before (which is pretty much intuitive) so I was very apprehensive. But it wasn't as hard as I thought and I'm more than pleased with myself. The pouch is in the money side and ideally, it will be stuffed with huge wads of moolah I don't want to fall out.

And now the action pics, courtesy of Jamie's dab hand at the camera:

The only thing I might change is the length of the sash. I had thought that my wiast measurement plus 20" would be enough but as you can see, my bow is a bit meager :(

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

7

Final version of boys coat (finally...)

Phew... it's been on my to-do list forever but I've at last managed to finalise my boys coat. I was originally going to have it double breasted like the girls coat but feedback from my tester and other people interested in the pattern suggested that a single breasted design is better for boys. And I agree!

Although the pattern also has the option of a pointed collar, I think most people will go for the hood. This one is made out of mossy green canvas on one side and a rich chestnut brown quilter's cotton on the other side. It has three buttons, the ones on the green side are made out of leather and I love them. I could only get four from the shop but I'm definitely on the look out for more now!
The difference in cut from the girls coat is more boxy, it is slightly a-line for movement's sake but definitely more boy-ish than the kick-flare on the girl's coat. It is also wider through the shoulders. The brown side has fabric covered buttons made from the green side.
I was planning on selling this at my upcoming monster fair, but against all expectation Jamie loves it (he normally treats anything I make like kryponite). He gushed 'Thank you, thank you' about a hundred times with lots of hugs and was proud enough that he wouldn't go to play with the other kids at nursery until he had shown the manageress 'his new coat'. So I guess I'll need to make another one!
Maia was insanely jealous of all the photo attention Jamie was getting, so here she is in her mummy-made coat. She was very unhappy it doesn't have a hood like Jamie's though, that's why she's pawing at her head....

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

4

A pleasant surprise from Down Under

I was checking out my web stats today and there were a huge amount of visitors from Australia and New Zealand. Hmmm, I thought, better check that out! Imagine my shock when I saw that I've been featured by Babyology!

If you can't read that small, here's what it says:

"I'm a sucker for sweet girly clothing featuring fabulously combined fabric prints and Kitschy Coo sure delivers the goods. The undeniable highlights of the collection are the double-breasted coats. My favourite is the orange one with birds. You can still go for the peasant dress and tunics, even though we're heading into cooler weather. Regular readers would have heard me carry on about layering before, so put on some leggings and a long-sleeved comfy top and the peasant dress will snazz up the base perfectly.

For boys I love the Frog print hoodie in black and white and the faboosh Superhero rompers. I fondly remember flying both my babies around in the air like chubby-cheeked cherubic heroes and these rompers in sizes 0-6m or 6-12m would perfectly compliment those moments.

Buy Kitschy Coo at
Folksy, and if you don't see the right size coat for your kidlets, email Amanda and chances are she'll be able to meet your requirements."

What a lovely surprise! They used these pictures too (guess they love the frogs as much as me!):

Monday, 20 April 2009

8

Postiegate takes an unexpected and alarming turn

Here is dramatic interpretation of the latest chapter of Postiegate. It is rated R for adult content and nudity.

Setting: Saturday morning 9AM. In the house of Amanda.

Doorbell: Ding dong!
Amanda runs towards door, trying to overtake the two naked children. Opens door to find postman.
Postie: Good morning, here's your post.
Amanda: (says) Wow, what a great service you provide! (thinks) I hate you.
Jamie: Who's that?
Amanda: (says) The postman. (thinks) Satan.
Postie: Can I ask you a favour?
Amanda: (says) Sure. What can I do for you? (thinks) He better not ask to watch our DVDs before he delivers them to us.
Postie: Can I use your bathroom?
Amanda: Sure, it's just over here.
Postie: (says with a smile) I drank too much coffee this morning. (thinks) I'm going to do a number two.
Amanda: No problem.
Amanda attempts to get the children dressed to hide her shameful parenting.
Jamie: What's the man doing?
Amanda: Having a wee.
Several minutes pass.
Jamie: What's the man doing?
Amanda: (says) Having a wee. (thinks) Looking through our dirty laundry.
Several minutes pass.
Jamie: What's the man doing?
Amanda: (says) Having a wee. (thinks) Looking for drugs to steal.
Several minutes pass.
Maia (running down hall): Man! Man! Man!
Amanda apprehends Maia just as she's about to start banging on the door.
Steven (emerging from bedroom): What's going on?
Amanda: The postman is using the bathroom.
Steven: What, for ten minutes?!
Amanda: Yep.
Postman emerges from bathroom, smiling sweetly.
Postman: (says) Thank you! (thinks) Mwah ha ha ha.
Amanda: (says) You're welcome! (thinks) Dirty bugger.

The End.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

9

Note to self: don't quit your day job


I gave Maia's hair an Amish-esque makeover today :(

Saturday, 18 April 2009

2

Why are my children so camp?!

Sorry... no answers, just proof. Click here and here for more.
4

Beautiful, happy and sad all rolled in one

Does anyone else love a song so much that it's painful?



I know it's shocking, but my blog is officially pathos-free for two days now!

Friday, 17 April 2009

12

Why I need to need to join a polygamous sapphic cult

I realise that this blog has been a place of negativity recently, what with Overallgate, Angst-o-rama and Let's Get Stigmatised so today my blog is going to be a lovely happy place. When you live in crafty cyber world, it's common to develop crushes on other crafty cyber people that inspire you, make you laugh, that understand you and your crafty cyber life. I love partaking in forums, I love reading blogs by like-minded people. Who knew that there were so many women just like me trying to claw their way out of domestic and maternal servitude and forge a place for themselves in this mass-produced world?! So today I'd like to devote my blog to one such woman and declare April 17th to be International Vonnie Appreciation Day.



For those of you who don't know about Vonnie (and therefore must live in a cave), she is the woman behind Blottedcopybook. I've mentioned her before because she organised the Time for Tea Swap that I participated in. She lives in Scotland like me. She is soon to be a mother of four and still finds the time to blog, sew, bake and knit. I believe that she's been on Richard Bacon's radio show, and although I'm unsure what she was there talking about, it was probably advice on being heroic. Everytime there is a surge in my viewer figures, it's because of Vonnie. She blogs about me, she Twitters about me, she Stumbles me. I don't just love her because she's bigging me up though, I think we're compatible. She likes creme eggs and Magner's too. When she wrote that children should be locked in cages until after puberty, my heart soared. So today I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve, I'm taking a gamble, I'm throwing my hat in the ring. I'm a little bit nervous but I think it's reciprocated.


Vonnie, would you like to join a polygamous sapphic cult with me? It's okay, we can bring Steven and Bob, they can look after our kids while we sew and knit. Bob can teach Steven how to cook. You can do all the baking and I will make the tea. It will be perfect.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

14

Let's get stigmatised! Or not.

A couple of weeks ago, Steven and I were looking at the Sustained feature and he noticed the price of the jacket at the bottom of the page.

Steven: '£110?! That's a lot of money!'
Me: 'Isn't that what you paid for your Luke 1977 jacket?'
Steven: 'Yeah, but that's a brand.'

Has anyone had a conversation like this, even with someone who can see the amount of time and effort that goes into making things? After completing my diatribe as to why a handmade jacket should cost more than a mass-produced one I've been giving this question a lot of thought: When you buy something, what is it that you are paying for?

Is it the craftsmanship? By and large, my experience of handmade goods is that they are of high quality. Properly priced handmade goods tend to be made by people who take themselves seriously and have confidence in their craftsmanship. We are not paid on the basis of how many items we can churn out in a shift as people in factories are (quantity over quality), we make and sell in low volumes so customer satisfaction is paramount (quality over quantity). If you are a small business with a quality issue, your sales base will shrink as you lose repeat customers and word-of-mouth sales.

Is it innovation and design? The handmade sector has a definite advantage over factory made in this respect. We offer small batch runs (or even One Of A Kind and custom orders) and we are more likely to change our designs often depending on available materials and 'creative vision'. I like the fact there are only five orange bird print coats in the world (in three different countries no less), my customers like that too.

Most simplistically, when you buy from big business you are paying for the 'brand' and this means the name, the image, the marketing strategy, the warehouses, the design team, the overseas production, etc. But on a more fundamental level, what you are actually buying is credibility. To a lot of people, a 'brand' equals validation; the fact it even exists lends itself credibility. It makes you think, 'For this to be a brand, people must buy their things. People buy their things because it has value. I will pay money for this (I might even pay a lot of money), because it is a brand and other people must do the same for it to exist.'

So what can you do if you want to be taken seriously? In short, do everything that a brand would do (at least superficially):

  • Give your business a name, this is now your brand. Think about the connotations of your name-- would "Amanda's Handmade Baby Clothes" make potential customers think I was professional? If you're stuck, treat it like you're naming your rock band. Do they make any sense?! No, and you don't have to either.
  • Get a web presence, or at least a dedicated email address with your company name in it. Buyers would like to be able to contact you at businesslikeperson@properbusiness.co.uk much more than they would like to contact you at amandalikestoparty@hotmail.com. If you don't want to set up on your own, join a selling platform that will give you your own shop. I've found that sites specifically for handmade goods like Etsy or Folksy are better suited for me than Ebay. You are in a crafting community and your buyers expect (and appreciate) that they are handmade goods.
  • Get labels on your products, you will immediately gain credibility. This is less expensive than you think (I buy sew-in name tapes), or you can even make your own with iron-on printer paper or a stamp and twill tape.
  • Get a logo. Again, you don't need to do anything fancy. I just have my business name in a special font and bright colours. There are plenty of free font websites to have a play about with. Or, pay a very reasonable amount to a graphic designer. There are hundreds on Etsy alone who will make you logos, banners, avatars etc. and grant you instant professionalism.
  • Don't underestimate the power of swing tags. Everything in a shop has one, your goods will look much more credible with them. It's subliminal. All you need is a hole punch and a bit of creativity. Hand tied ribbon or twine looks very pretty but a tagging gun is cheap, easy to use and very quick.
  • If you're selling at a fair, get a sign. Or bunting. Anything that draws people in and announces your brand.
  • Most importantly, get thick skin. I'm sure I'm not the only one who has heard someone say at a craft fair, 'I'm not paying that much for something handmade!' (Italics used to denote disdain). They are not your target buyers and never will be.

I'd love to know what other people's thoughts are about being taken seriously as a maker! Or any tips you might have as well :)

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

8

15 minute double knot hat for a newborn baby

I'm still plugging away at making some things for my new nephew and thought he should have a bunch of simple beanie hats in bright colours. I couldn't find any tutes online, so I've just winged it. They're so fast and easy to make, so I thought I'd share!


You'll need knit fabric with a reasonable amount of stretch, I like interlock or cotton with a lycra element. I've used a serger, but you can use a normal sewing machine with a stretch ball point needle. When you attach the band to the hat I'd use a stretch or zigzag stitch or it won't have any give.
  1. Draft your pattern like so:

  2. Cut two hat pieces, and one band piece on the fold. The stretch of the fabric should be across the hat (horizontally). It makes sense to cut them with right sides facing so you can pin them straight away. Or you can be cavalier like me and not pin at all!

  3. Stitch the two hat pieces together (right sides facing) around one side edge, along the top edge and down the other side edge. Still folded in half, stitch the raw edges of the band together (right sides facing).

  4. Turn hat right side out. Use the non-sharp end of a pencil or a knitting needle to push the skinny bits out. Fold the band in half lengthways, hiding the stitching in the inside. Press the band if necessary so the raw edges align.

  5. Place the band inside the hat with the side seam of the band matching up with one of the side seams of the hat. Match up all three raw edges and pin. The dotted line below shows where the band is sitting.

  6. Stitch all the way around, attaching the band to the hat. Pull the band down and press.

  7. Use your thumb to roll the band up to cover the stitching. You can see from the picture below that the crease from pressing before is now in the middle of your new folds.

  8. Continue around the whole band, rolling up and covering the stitch line. Press again. At the side seam, use your sewing machine to stitch back and forth a couple of times to tack your band in place.

  9. Tie your knots and give Noddy a makeover:

Note: The dimensions provided are for snug fitting hat for a very new baby with a 14 inch head circumference. If you'd like to make it a bit roomier or for an older child increase the measurements accordingly (the knot bits can stay the same or you can make them fatter and longer- your choice!):

  • 3 month old: Width of hat to 7.5 inches, height to 5.5 inch. Width of band to 7.25 inches, height to 3.75 inches
  • 6 month old: Width of hat to 8 inches, height to 6 inch. Width of band to 7.75 inches, height to 3.75 inches
  • 12 month old: Width of hat to 9 inches, height to 6.5 inch. Width of band to 8.75 inches, height to 4 inches
  • 2 year old: Width of hat to 9.5 inches, height to 7 inch. Width of band to 9.25 inches, height to 4.25 inches
  • 3 year old: Width of hat to 10 inches, height to 7.5 inch. Width of band to 9.75 inches, height to 4.5 inches