Saturday 31 January 2009


A bigger picture on CPSIA's stay of execution

Photo courtesy of Tiedyediva, you can buy this adorable hat here!

Last night the CPSC issued a stay of execution on the enforcement of the CPSIA. From 10 Feb 2009, the lead levels set by the CPSIA will still be in effect and legally binding, however, the onerous and expensive testing regime will not be enforced by the CPSC until 10 Feb 2010. Your items still have to comply with the law, but there has been a shift from 'guilty until proven innocent' to 'innocent until proven guilty'. Here is an excerpt from their press release:

Significant to makers of children’s products, the vote by the Commission provides limited relief from the testing and certification requirements which go into effect on February 10, 2009 for new total lead content limits (600 ppm), phthalates limits for certain products (1000 ppm), and mandatory toy standards, among other things. Manufacturers and importers – large and small – of children’s products will not need to test or certify to these new requirements, but will need to meet the lead and phthalates limits, mandatory toy standards and other requirements.

So how do you get the confidence that your items comply without a test to prove it? If your materials have been certified organic, you can reasonably assume it falls well within the same limits. Use suppliers that are willing to provide MSDS documentation with their own testing data, there is a massive thread on Etsy that lists suppliers who will (and won't) provide certification. The CPSC also gives the following advice:

Handmade garment makers are cautioned to know whether the zippers, buttons and other fasteners they are using contain lead. Likewise, handmade toy manufacturers need to know whether their products, if using plastic or soft flexible vinyl, contain phthalates.

This is backed up by the XRF testing programme being carried out by The Smart Mama, who warns that the components most likely to fall above the 600 ppm limit are rhinestones, crystals, zipper pulls, zipper bases, zipper stops, grommets, snaps, metal closures, pearl or opalescent plastic buttons, vinyl stabilised with lead, and eyelets. So use your common sense, use responsible suppliers willing to provide MSDS certification, and if you don't know, have it XRF tested.

All of this is positive news, but don't celebrate yet. Firstly, it is only a stay of execution, unless it is amended by Congress we'll be in the same position a year from now: facing expensive redundant testing. The government has written and passed this law, the CPSC is there to enforce it. Which brings us to the second reason to exercise caution. It is my understanding that even the proposed stay is not guaranteed, there is a 30 day consultation period first. Walter Olson (from and author of the very good Forbes articles on the CPSIA) twittered soon after the CPSC's announcement yesterday that the consumer groups that lobbied for the law are likely to challenge the one year stay as illegal, and the courts could side with them. A legal challenge to the stay seems likely, check out this letter to Obama from 'a coalition of public interest organizations' urging for a change of leadership at the CPSC and a renewed call to enforce. Also, the CPSC can't promise not to enforce this law, they can only urge each state's Attorney General to follow the judgement of the CPSC with regard to the stay. Their release says:

"The Commission trusts that State Attorneys General will respect the Commission's judgement that it is necessary to stay certain testing and certification requirements and will focus their own enforcement efforts on other provisions of the law, e.g. the sale of recalled products."

So it's not exactly cut and dry whether it will be enforced, that's for each state's attorney general to decide. And what are the penalties for non-compliance to the lead and phthalate limits? According to a post on Criminal Liability Under the CPSIA, $250,00 and / or 5 years in prison. Yikes. Is this offering of a stay by the CPSC any different than the line they took with second-hand / thrift stores? You can sell things without testing and certification, but if you are found to sell something that doesn't comply (through either ignorance or negligence), as the manufacturer you are liable. For me, I'm taking all my existing stock with zippers, snaps or button out of the US market. And I won't touch vintage supplies with a bargepole.

There are a couple of promising rumblings from Congress. Sen Jim DeMint has written a post on his blog entitled "Congress Must Keep Overreaching Consumer Products Safety Improvement Act From Harming Small Businesses, Families". He is introducing legislation next week that would be (if passed) the biggest victory against the CPSIA as it currently stands. He will recommend that component testing is suffice, prevent retro-active enforcement, instigate a good-faith exemption and require the CPSC to provide a clear compliance guide. He's a Republican in a Democratic Congress, so it's important for everyone to voice their support for him. And Orrin Hatch has just called for hearings on concerns raised about he CPSIA.

Overall, an incredibly busy day with all the developments in the CPSIA saga (I had a hard time writing this post as new things kept popping up!). Some promising, some definitely still cause for concern. My favourite comment so far on the announcement of the stay is courtesy of Hugh on overlawyered:

"While I am very happy to hear of a “stay” or some “modifications” to CPSIA, I feel that we may just be cutting off the crusts of a very large CRAP sandwich."
The stay is not a victory, it has just bought some time to get meaningful reforms discussed by Congress.

Thursday 29 January 2009


Folksy finds fresh blood

Nope, not a post on a the macabre, but a feature on some new sellers on Folksy! They haven't had any sales yet, but based on these offerings, it won't be long!

I adore this Bird Picture by Lucy Rebecca Sheridan, the colours go beautifully together and it would brighten up any room!

This sweet Country rose birdhouse by Oops a Daisy has been decoupaged and would look lovely in a country garden.

This Amber glass 'ghost' cala drop by Steampunk Glass has a tiny cala flower encased in glass. Using the same technique as you would to make glass paperweights, this delicate pendant has sparkly 'ghost' leaves and bubbles... so pretty!

This gorgeous Giddy Up Horsey pillow by Zedhead Ltd has beautiful splashes of colour on carousel-style horses.

It was hard to choose just one dress from the talented Rachel Albert Designs, but this Syringe Rockabilly dress is something special!

This Stackable ring by Chris Parry is engraved with personal words of your choice, I love that the engraving is along the top edge rather than underneath. Simply beautiful.

What a vibrant mix of colours in this Quilted clutch purse by Lilidrawspictures. The wooden button ties it all in perfectly.

The greens and yellows in this Racing green print by Ian Scott Massie are so striking and lush.

I love the old-fashioned look of this Belle- soft floppie bunny by SewRecycled, the chocolate, purple and turquoise colours are perfect together.

This felt-appliqued Organic Shark t-shirt by WEE is a perfect choice in the massively overlooked handmade boys market, that face and those teeth are cute without being cutesy!

The respectable coat, hiding a dark secret...

Last night, I made Version Two of my boy's coat. The marching band coat was single breasted, this one is double breasted and has a pointy collar instead of a hood. How's that collar look, is it too big?

I did made a school-girl error when adapting the pattern from my girl's version (when I widened it through the shoulders I forgot to widen it at the placket), but now I know the error of my ways and hopefully Version Three will be the final pattern. Now I just need my super-special fabric to arrive from the States, I've been waiting for almost two weeks now!

Anyway... this side of the coat is blue twill and I've closed it with with green buttons. I had black buttons all laid out, but decided that was a little bit too conservative for me so I used forest green. What do you think? It was about 1AM when I made this decision so maybe it wasn't an entirely lucid conclusion! I was going to do six buttons but I was one short,which is either impressive or a sad indictment of my current life that I've gone through 100 buttons in the last two months.

This picture shows how the cut differs from the girl's version, it's more boxy and wider through the shoulders. It's still slightly a-line but much less so than the girl's. Here's the two of them working their coats together. But why does Jamie look so nervous? Does this coat have something ominous lurking underneath... (sorry, we've been chain-viewing Dexter this week). See a bit of something poking out from the bottom of that sleeve?
Yep, it's reversible! I'm so predictable... This side is Tattoo fabric from Alexander Henry. Might look innocent enough from a distance (albeit busy), but take a closer look...
Okay, still not a tremendously good close up, but the fabric depicts tattoos, knives, gambling and pneumatic women in bikinis. Perfect for an impressionable toddler. But maybe not for Grandma.

Wednesday 28 January 2009


Bloggers unite: CPSIA Blog-in

Less than two weeks to go now to the crucial date of Feb 10, when the CPSIA comes into effect. This far-reaching act is starting to be noticed by more than just the sellers it affects directly, with coverage in some news programmes and the US national press. I agreed to do a CPSIA post today as part of a group of Etsy sellers that are affected by this law (thread is here). As it currently stands, the following extract of text will be posted on 165 blogs today, but the number is growing rapidly.

"As parents and concerned citizens I’m sure most of us at one time or another have been confronted with the question of lead poisoning. But have you asked yourself what your government is doing to protect your children from lead contained in toys? The answer? They're banning toys, taking books from schools and libraries, hurting low income families, killing entrepreneurial spirit and risking putting the economy in an even greater depression than we've seen in decades. I'd like to introduce you to their solution: the CPSIA.

Do you know about the CPSIA? No? Then I ask you to take a few minutes to find out about it.The CPSIA stands for Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act, a new set of laws that will come into effect on 10 February, 2009 and will impact many, many people in a negative way. Make no mistake, this is very real. View it for yourself. If Forbes, the American Library Association and numerous other media are paying attention, perhaps you should too.

How will these new laws affect you? Well, here are a few examples:

To the Parents of Young Students:

Due to the new law, expect to see the cost of school supplies sky rocket. While those paper clips weren't originally intended for your student to use, they will need to be tested now that your 11-year-old needs them for his school project. This law applies to any and all school supplies (textbooks, pencils, crayons, paper, etc.) being used by children under 12.

To the Avid Reader:

Due to the new law, all children's books will be pulled from library and school shelves, as there is no exemption for them. That’s okay though, there's always television. Our children don’t need to learn the love of reading after all.Article from the American Library Association

To the Lover of All Things Handmade:

Due to the new law, you will now be given a cotton ball and an instruction manual so you can make it yourself since that blanket you originally had your eye on for $50 will now cost you around $1,000 after it's passed testing. It won't even be the one-of-a-kind blanket you were hoping for. Items are destroyed in the testing process making one-of-a-kind items virtually impossible. So that gorgeous hand-knit hat you bought your child this past winter won’t be available next winter.

To the Environmentalist:

Due to the new law, all items in non-compliance will now be dumped into our already overflowing landfills. Imagine not just products from the small business owners, but the Big Box Stores as well. You can't sell it so you must toss it. Or be potentially sued for selling it. You can't even give them away. If you are caught, it is still a violation.

To the Second-Hand Shopper:

Due to the new law, you will now need to spend $20 for that brand new pair of jeans for your 2-year old, rather than shop at the Goodwill for second hand. Many resale shops are eliminating children's items all together to avoid future lawsuits.

To the Entrepreneur:

Due to this new law, you will be forced to adhere to strict testing of your unique products or discontinue to make and/or sell them. Small businesses will be likely to be unable to afford the cost of testing and be forced to close up shop. Due to the current economic state, you'll have to hope for the best when it comes to finding a new job in Corporate America.

To the Antique Toy Collector:

Due to the new law, you'd better start buying now because it's all going to private collection and will no longer be available to purchase. “Because the new rules apply retroactively, toys and clothes already on the shelf will have to be thrown out if they aren't certified as safe.”

To the American Economy:

Already struggling under an economy that hasn’t been this weak in decades, the American economy will be hit harder with the inevitable loss of jobs and revenues from suppliers, small businesses and consumers. The required testing is far too costly and restrictive for small businesses or individuals to undertake.

To the Worldwide Economy:

Due to this new law, many foreign manufacturers have already pulled out of the US market. You can imagine the impact of this on their businesses.

If you think this is exaggerating, here is a recent article from Forbes:

And for those of you prepared to be stupefied and boggled, The New Law:

Did you know? If this upsets or alarms you, please react.

I'm in the UK, so why do I care enough to blog about it? Firstly, it will affect me as an international seller, although it's still unclear how... Some people say it's okay to sell to the States as we're not duty bound to comply to US law, others say that Customs will destroy items as without the requisite testing and certificates they will be deemed 'hazardous'. Unlike American sellers on Etsy, I will at least still be able to advertise my apparel as available to ship to other countries outside the States; strictly speaking I don't believe American sellers are able to export non-tested / non-certified items. I have made a lot of friends through Etsy and Craftster who will likely lose their precious and hard-earned livelihoods.

Secondly, I have family in the States that appreciate hand-crafted, independant alternatives to mass-produced goods. It makes me sad to think that my niece won't be able to flaunt her own individual style with the small batch productions offered by Etsy designers. Or add to her collection of quirky and educational toys, books and dolls.
If you would like to show your support for cause, feel free to copy any or all of the text of this post into your own blog and spread the word!

Tuesday 27 January 2009


How to make things reversible: adapting patterns

According to the 'What brings you here?' poll, a large percentage of you lot are hoping I'll give you something or tell you something useful. I've been doing a fair amount of giving recently with pattern giveaways, but as yet, I haven't told you anything useful.

But what do I have to offer?! I haven't been sewing long enough to be an authority and I'm not formally trained so I'm hardly going to tell you how to do technical things... There are, however, quite a few posts on the board on Craftster asking how to make different things reversible. And reversible I do know a bit about. You'd cry if I told you how many hours I've lay in bed trying to figure it out...

Here are the stages I go through:

Will it work?

The first thing you should think about is whether it's an appropriate style. Some styles would just be too bulky to reverse, for example, if there are ruffles, pleats or a lot of gathered seams. These styles might not sit well in duplicate.

Do I have to change the original pattern?

If your using an exisiting, non-reversible pattern as a basis (as opposed to something intended to be reversible), you might need to change some things first. Think about your seam allowances, particularly at the arm seam, armhole and the side seams. If the garment is close fitting like a fitted shirt, or you are reversing with bulky fabrics like fleece in a coat, make sure that the bulk of a second fabric (and a second set of seams) doesn't stop it fitting properly. You might want to add a bit extra width through the bodice, open up the armhole a bit and widen the sleeves.

Another consideration is hem allowances, as the allowances for hemming garments is likely to be more than you need to make it reversible. For example, if you are going to make a simple elasticated a-line skirt reversible, and your original pattern accommodated more than an inch for your hem, when you attach your two skirts together at the hem to make it reversible, you won't need that whole inch. At the dotted fold line (the actual length of your skirt), add your seam allowance for attaching the two fabrics together, and that is your new cut line. The same goes for your waistband foldover / elastic channel. Start from your fold lines and add seam allowances to figure out your new cutting edges.
The other alteration you might need to make is if your original pattern has fold overs for plackets. This predominantly effects tops that open down the front, like button up shirts, zippy hoodies and coats. This is what your original pattern might look like:

If you're making this type of clothing reversible, the excess at the foldover is redundant. Your dotted line is your actual finished edge, so start from there and add a seam allowance to accommodate stitching the two fabrics together. When you flip it right sides out, the dotted line will still be your finished edge.

I don't want to make this too much of a tome, so I'll do separate posts on the practicalities / technicalities of making things reversible soon. Apologies to the people who come for my scintillating chat and wit :)

Monday 26 January 2009


Me Tarzan, You Jamie

Last week I got a call from one of my old baby group cohorts, asking if I could make a birthday dress for her younger daughter's second birthday. Back in the day, when I first starting sewing, the very first things I made were fleece dresses and I gave some as gifts to the mums in our baby group. I look back on these dresses with a mixture of nostalgia and horror. I'm proud that they were my starting block into this sewing life of mine, but also a bit embarrassed that I didn't really know what I was doing (and it shows). This is the one that I gave this particular friend:

She wanted another dress like this one, and although I told her that I don't really make them anymore, she really had her heart set on one. Apparently there's some international embargo on animal print fleece (or so you'd think, I couldn't find any), so I got some leopard print faux fur and made a reversible dress.

One side is just leopard and the other side is black twill with a leopard print heart applique. Not my cup o' tea, but if you're going to do commissions, sometimes you'll make things you wouldn't choose to.

I still wanted to try it on Maia for size and to take some pics for my portfolio. When we normally have a Maia photoshoot, Jamie gets jealous and before you can say 'Gender stereotypes!' some cross dressing occurs. I'm cultivating a pretty impressive Teenage Blackmail Folder. Today, he came running with the scrap of leopard fabric that was lying on the couch, saying, 'I would like dress too! Like Maia's!' I can sew fast, but not that fast, so with a bit of a drape and a tuck, we got this:
Look at Maia's face, you can see her little brain thinking 'What a weirdo'.

She couldn't take her eyes off him. Even as they hung out in our random pointless vestibule.
Those of you without children might not know this, but the best thing about being a parent is you can laugh at your kids. And they laugh too. And the more you laugh, the harder they laugh. It's brilliant, and guilt free-- everybody's laughing and having a good time. Until Dad comes home and makes you feel bad. Game's up, Tarzan.

All hail the winner: round two!

Thank you for all your entries and great ideas! I did randomizer this morning and the winner is comment #6, Teresa!

What a bunch of good ideas from everyone on what to make Jamie with the tooth fabric, you're an inspired bunch! I think I'll definitely try a newsboy hat, I saw a tutorial on Craftster for one that didn't look too hard. And maybe a smart button up shirt, I like the idea of using an unexpected fabric for something dressy. And when my nephew arrives, some overalls for him!

Thanks again for entering the competition, my tunic pattern will be coming up soon!

Sunday 25 January 2009


Jamie: the angel of retribution

First of all, let me say that I hope no one feels threatened by my photo doctoring skills. It's taken me a long time to get this good at Paint.

Okay, now that's out of the way, let me tell you a bit about our housing situation. We live in the ground floor flat in a eleven flat building, where 75% of the other residents are elderly. Most are nice and bestow my kids with grandparent-esque affection. Some are bored and pick on us for wont of better things to do, by posting anonymous notes in the communal areas like the one below.

It's annoying, I take more care with the buggy than they do with their zimmer frames, and if I want to cry when they're watching Antiques Roadshow, it's my prerogative . There is one particular man who is actually openly unpleasant, he never says 'Hi' when Jamie says hello to him, he lets the door close in our face rather than hold it open for us. Everyone needs a nemesis and he is ours.

Jamie's current mantra is 'I do it myself', which is mostly good but has some interesting consequences. Like the fact he spends most of his time naked from the waist down. He must 'do it himself' when he goes to the toilet, and putting trousers back on is also a 'do it myself' scenario, but way down at the bottom of his to-do list. So the other day, he was sitting in the windowsill sans trousers (as you do) when our nemesis shuffled through the garden on his way to do evil deeds elsewhere. Jamie spied him as he neared the window (and as his enthusiasm is inversely proportional to others' enthusiasm for him), excitedly stood up and started banging on the window shouting 'Hello man!' Jamie's wee man was pressed up against the glass, at exactly head height, no more than two feet away as the man turned to see what the clamour was. He visibly blanched as I snatched Jamie out of the window. I'm still awaiting a visit from the police and Social Services, or an exclusive in The Sun with, "Young man breaks stereotype and flashes at old man!"

Friday 23 January 2009


Folksy finds rainbows

We all need some brightening up in the grey winter months, so this week's Folksy finds features some bright rainbow cheer!

Looking at this gorgeous Rainbow fabric fish by The Apple Cottage Company brings a smile to my face, and I love the stunning photo on the rocks too!

The colours in this beautiful Rainbow flower by hmsdesign are so striking and cheerful!

If you ever wanted to work the hippy pirate look, these Funky Pirate Pixie Rainbow Felted Dreads by Pirate Pixie Crew are an essential purchase!

This lino print Birds of the Air by I Love Red uses a printing technique called rainbow printing where the roller picks up several colors to create a rainbow effect. It's so pretty and elegant!

I'm almost unable to cope with how cute these cavebears by Treaclezoo are. Just look at their little faces, they're irrestible...

This is such a cheerful Rainbow charm laden bracelet by Kitschtique, and I bet the jangling it makes would put a smile on your face to!

These Swarovski Vitrial Green Rainbow Crystal earrings by Mia Belle Jewellery are dazzling in the sparkliness and cast a lovely green and rainbow light.

Another stunning photo of a beautiful item. This Rainbow Doodle fused glass wall hanging by Blue Fairy Designs has gorgeous abstract designs highlighted with vibrant colours.

This Bottled cupcake sprinkles resin pendant by Queenbone looks good enough to eat!

This simple but stunning Stained glass suncatcher by Row sew creative casts a gorgeous rainbow light.

Happy teeth, happy me, maybe happy you (another giveway pattern!)

This little swing top is made from one of my absolute favourite fabrics. I bought a yard of it in a different colourway about six months ago (still unused), then decided I need more. Imperatively. Guess what? It was made a decade ago, it's out of print and it's like golddust. I managed to track down a couple more yards in red and finally took the plunge to use it this week. I made a cute little swing top and today I'm releasing the tutorial as the second of my patterns! You can find it in my etsy shop here. If you'd like it listed on Folksy, just let me know! The swing top is cut in a generous a-line with a slight kick flare at the hem. Two curved overlapping panels are closed with your choice of buttons, this one has a single huge button but I've made them with two identical buttons and also a big button and a small one!

What makes this swing top really special (and practical) is that it looks great worn FOUR different ways, it has prints on both sides and you can wear it with the buttons to the back or to the front. It looks great layered over tops for the colder months or on its own for the warmer months.

The tutorial is seven full-colour pages, with detailed photos at all the crucial stages. The pattern includes sizes 6-12m, 1-2yr, 2-3yr and 3-4yr.

One of the reasons why I've been hoarding this fabric is because I wanted to make something for Jamie too, and despite countless hours staring blankly at the fabric and looking thoughtfully into the distance, I still don't know. Whenever I don't know, I make him a hoodie. But I want to do something different.

So... (you know the drill by now), to celebrate the release of another new pattern, it's giveaway time! I'll use Randomizer to select a winner on Monday. And for a chance to win, leave a comment, and tell me what I should make the boy. Other than a straight jacket.

Wednesday 21 January 2009


My Word(le)!

I saw a post about a site called Wordle in the Folksy forum today and was intrigued. It zips through your blog and creates a word picture based on the number of times a word is used, highlighting what you talk about the most. The first (ten) times I tried today it appeared to only be picking up my last couple of posts, so it looked like my blog was predominantly about 'Toast'. What an indictment that would be.

Anyway, for the sake of 'being thorough' (otherwise known as being bored) I cut and paste all of my blog into it. And I think this Wordle is the real deal:

Pretty interesting, right? Probably more interesting to me, but nevermind, I'll proceed! The word I use the most is 'One'. I thought this was a bit strange, so I did a search and sure enough, my blog is littered with passages like 'one with a (non-pointy!) hood and one with a traditional collar. I have the fabric ready for the traditional collar one, but am waiting for super extra special fabric to arrive for the hooded one.' Who knew I was so repetitive?! Answer: probably you.

Second most popular word: 'Like'. Again, bit of a head-scratcher for me. You might have noticed that I'm maybe not the most *ahem* positive person in the world, so I had to check to see if my posts were littered with 'I like this' and 'I like that'. They're not. It's mostly used as simile, such as 'Jamie acting like a looter', 'Maia sleeps like a dervish', and 'our house looks like the set of Texas Chainsaw Massacre'. No big shock then, I'm wordy (although those who know me personally will agree, I'm actually pretty quiet).

Least surprising thing? Jamie features heavily. More surprisingly, so does Maia. I assumed that he would dominate as I write more posts about the casual horrors of parenthood (sleeping, eating, tantrums) featuring him. But then again, Maia pops up in the dramatic horrors of parenthood, like hospitalisation for chest infections and nearly-severed fingers. Steven will be pleased that he's a pretty small word, the same size as 'toast'. That's about right.

And finally, some crafty words: Fabric, Make, Coat, Made, Pattern. Phew, at least I stay on topic occasionally!