Saturday 17 August 2013

How To: Make a Sewing Kit for a Young Girl


I shared a photo on Instagram and Facebook yesterday of the above gift wrapped in fabric and secured with bobble-headed pins and ricrac. I mentioned that it is a sewing kit I put together for my niece, who also loves to create things. Some of you requested to see what is inside, so here goes: 

I used a tin that I had laying around (an old "moon cake" tin actually), which would have been better if it were pink, rather than purple, as my niece is an avid pink fan. However, part of the aim of this gift is to also impart a "mend and make do" mindset along with some inspiration for creation. 

I started with a range of pink-toned fabric pieces - some are fat quarters, others are smaller scraps from my stash. Did I mention that she loves pink?

Next, I rounded up some pink (and other coloured) ribbons, lace and elastic. I found a pink felt sheet, and cut a small piece to put a couple needles and a safety pin through. A small container of bobble-headed pins, with some tailor's chalk, and a ziplock bag with a small amount of polyfill in it.

Pink thread - well, all the fabrics are pink, so what else does she need at this stage? (My niece is only 5 years old, and will literally reject objects that are not pink). I also tucked a few different hairclips in for her to decorate her own clips. One of my favourite parts - a tin of buttons from my stash! I have fond memories of rifling through  my Mum's button tin, and figured my niece will enjoy having her own stash.

And last, but not least, a fabulous book by Jane Bull, aimed at young girls, with fantastic photos and instructions for a range of beginner crafts. This is a gorgeous book, with really wonderful ideas. I found it at our local library a year or two ago, and noted down the name, so I could buy a copy for my own daughter and my niece.

I contemplated doing a fancy needle book and pin cushion for her, but then decided she could make her own...that's all part of the fun, isn't it?

When you make your own sewing kit gift for a girl (or boy) in your life, you will probably have slightly different needs and purposes for the gift, but I hope this is a helpful guide to some of the basics you might like to include. I'd love to hear if you've made a sewing kit for someone!

Monday 24 June 2013

My Thirtieth Vintage High Tea Party


Last week I had a birthday. I do not normally celebrate my birthday except with my immediate family, but this year was a milestone birthday. The big 3-0. I decided earlier in the year to mark this one with a vintage high tea. Here are some highlights, all photos taken by my sister Kirsty, who also provided half of the amazing food and helped me create the menu.

Other friends helped make some of the food, and I did not need to do any food preparation whatsoever! I felt very blessed by that, as even though I love baking, the presentation aspect of food is not my strong point, and it stresses me out. 

 I borrowed vintage tea cups and platters from friends and family, and used vintage embroidered tablecloths made by grandmother and other tablecloths I found at the local trash and treasure! 


My sister made a wonderful birthday cake, healthy natural sweetness and delicious chocolate icing.

A friend donated a lolly bar left over from her recent wedding. Those little pink pigs were so delicious!!

Everyone got dressed up in tea party attire from their favourite era. I wore my wedding dress, which I had designed and had made by a brilliant seamstress 7 years ago.


I have an extensive collection of tea and did not need to buy any extra for the occasion. However, I did make the labels for the jars with chalkboard cloth, and decoupage jar lids. (Remember this tutorial?)

I felt so overwhelmingly blessed by the abundance of gifts showered on me. I totally did not expect this, and I just cannot get over how perfectly appropriate every gift was!

A dear friend happened to attend a cooking school on the morning of the party, and made an amazing croquembouche, and kindly brought it along! Doesn't it look superb? It tasted great too!  


I got to do the fun preparation - making vintage floral sheet bunting, fabric covered jars with fresh flowers and candles, tablecloths etc. I had such an amazingly fun day, and felt so very loved. Thanks to all those who are reading this who helped make my thirtieth birthday so very special. Now I need to knuckle down and get several custom orders finished this week!

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Home Again, Home Again...

I've been procrastinating writing this post because it brings up uncomfortable emotions. In fact, it makes me want to stop what I'm typing and run and grab the Tim Tams or corn chips and salsa ( can you tell I'm still struggling with cravings on this healthy living journey?) *sigh* 

But I do want to follow through and process this. Now, I know that taking calculated risks is important in business. I have been working on this, stepping out of my comfort zone in order to grow my little business. Sometimes it pays off financially, sometimes it crashes and burns. Ouch. I'm still feeling the sting of the most recent "crash and burn" scenario. 

As with many things in life, the higher the expectations, the harder the fall. I signed up to do the new high end BrisStyle City Hall market (even though it cost me much more than I could really afford for the stall fee), thinking it could be a really good fit for my products. I was so excited leading up to this market, and threw myself into preparations, including a revamped display. Our whole family came down with a truly horrendous gastro virus the week before the market, and that hindered my preparation more than a little. However, I was feeling well enough to face the market and follow through on my commitment.

The revamped set-up in situ
The vibe on the day was lovely - so many people coming through, and I thoroughly enjoyed stitching and chatting to many lovely people. There was significant enthusiasm about my products expressed rather consistently across the day. I saw many familiar faces and plenty of new ones too. But as I packed up my stall, my heart was dragging along the floor. NOT. A. SINGLE. SALE. Not one.

A bright note to the end of my day, however, was this adorable miniature resin vase from Bravo Juliet Designs, who was my stall neighbour on the day. I'm going to put it on my birthday cake next weekend, and it goes beautifully with my birthday party colour scheme. Plus, I'm always on the look-out for a tiny, unbreakable vase for my darling flower-picking girl.

So now I am left pondering the next step for my business, and have been feeling quite at odds about it all. I've even taken a four-day hiatus from making anything as I reflect and mull over this.

But something up-beat to finish on - if you have not heard yet, I am sponsoring a giveaway over on Hej Juni blog, you could win your choice of blue or rainbow raindrops contented raincloud - which can be worn as either a brooch or a pendant! Head over to Hej Juni to find out how.

Monday 3 June 2013

To Market, To Market...

So here's just a smidgen of what's been keeping me busy for the last week. My set-up for the BrisStyle indie markets at City Hall. I had bought the fabric and started preparing for a black floor length tablecloth I have been meaning to make for many months...then I realised that there were certain requirements for this particular market. One requirement is that every table have a floor-length white tablecloth which must be visible beneath your own signature overlay. Hence the white under the black.

Mock market set-up

I am aiming to have a more streamlined aesthetic for this market than I've had previously - with all my boxes and cases being covered or draped in black fabric, and the new bunting for labelling purposes on each board. (There will also be one for hoop art and one for the rings, they are all still works in progress).

Notice my new bunting as labels for each board (to be completed!)

My custom orders example folder on display below the hoop art board

My new earrings display board and handmade fabric roll ring display

New necklace display board

A close-up of the necklace display
I am hoping that the work I am putting into preparing for this market will hold me in good stead for future markets. Perhaps I won't even need to completely redesign my set-up every single time - here's hoping!!

P.S. - You can find me at the BrisStyle indie Markets at Brisbane City Hall this Saturday, 8th June from 9am - 2pm.

Saturday 1 June 2013

You can do more than you think you can.

It's only Saturday night here, but I've had a rather enlightening weekend so far. Or rather, an enlightening Friday and Saturday, which has been quite wonderful in spite of my expectations of difficulties galore.

I'm relearning a lesson I've “known” at some time in the past. Or heard again and again, and occasionally put into practice, but not consistently enough to actually change my long-term habits. I'm talking about the power of a positive attitude.

Something I have really noticed about myself in recent years (probably since having kids), is that I am actually quite a pessimistic person. I did not used to think of myself as such, but I am realising more and more that what I used to call realism is often negative expectations. Example – my darling needed to go away for two days for work. I know, only two days, really not that big of a deal. But in my little world, it felt like a big deal. By Friday, I am usually just holding out for Saturday, for a brief reprieve from the usual routine and sole responsibility of caring for the kids. Just to have a little breather and share those tasks with my dear one. Somehow, through repeating this weekly pattern over and again, I have come to believe that I cannot manage without my hubby, especially on a weekend. Or that I can manage but it will be fraught with frustration, exhaustion and downcast spirits.

As I write this, it is only an hour or two until my darling is due to return. The kids are in bed, so in essence, I have survived the trial. And the funny thing is, we've had the best couple days that we have had in a while! The kids were more fun, played more happily together, whinged less and actually ate their dinner both nights (without any tantrums). This is quite extraordinary. Enough to make me stop and reflect, certainly. As I reflect, I can't help but recognise that the difference is not so much in my children's behaviour as it is in my own.

Because I knew I was the only one available, I didn't put off unpleasant tasks – I just did them to get them out of the way. Because I knew I would have less energy in the afternoon, I prepared dinner earlier in the day. Because I knew that the kids would be needing more input from me, I prepared in advance a “What Can I Do Box” (thanks Becca for that wonderful suggestion!!), so each time my sweet but oh-so-needing-stimulation daughter asked “Mummy, what can I do, what can I dooooooooooooo?” we could go and get something from the special box. The stuff in there is not special per se, it contains a variety of activities that she already does on a fairly regular basis, but it just helps her see the options before her and make the decision for herself rather than the usual:

Her: Mummy what can I do what can I dooooooo?
Me: How about play-dough?
Her: No, I don't want to.
Me: Ummm...drawing?
Her: No, I already did that.
Me: Puzzles?
Her: No.
Me: Collage?
Her: No. I can't decide, you decide for me.
Me: Ok, I decide colouring.
Her: Noooo, I don't want to do that!

Does anyone else get stuck in these frustrating conversations? Usually I am focused on something else at the time, a household task or trying to write an email or whatever. Going together to the “What can I do box” helps us to break the cycle of frustration.

But back to the reflection on how I was different these last couple days. I was focused, yes; I was organised, yes; but more than that – I was positive. So often in the last few years, I have found myself getting caught up in the “I can't” thought trap. I've talked about some of that before – you know, “I'm so tired, I can't get by without a chocolate fix!” Or my favourite, “I just can't deal with this right now!” Ummm...toddler boy has just pooped in the bath AGAIN and I am saying I can't deal with this right now? How is that helpful? I know that I am actually going to HAVE to deal with it, as I can't fob it off onto anyone else. Why not bypass that unhelpful negativity and just go straight into action mode? Perhaps even with a smile and a game. Playing hard-done-by does not do anybody any favours.

Of course, I know all of this in theory, but this negative thinking habit just sneaks up on me. I really want to kick the habit and replace it with a more positive and helpful way of thinking...I try to teach my kids that any chore can be made into a game by how you choose to face it, now I just need to practise that more myself.

If childbirth taught me anything, it's that I can persist in a difficult task through much more pain and exhaustion than I ever thought possible. And what helped me most when the “I can't...” thoughts threatened to derail my focus was my darling chanting in my ear “You CAN do this, you can DO this!”

Oh, and then there's this old song from my childhood that just popped into my head. “I can do all things, all things, all things! I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13!” Thanks DonutMan! It is true - with Christ as my strength, I can face the challenges of each day - and perhaps even smile through it all. :-)

Tuesday 7 May 2013

Pity Parties and True Celebrations

The kidlets harassing Dickens, their grandparents' cat

My heart skips a little beat as I head to the car. I have just left my kids at their grandparents' place for about four and a half hours. I have an appointment this afternoon, but this morning is FREE. Wow! I will have uninterrupted work time at home for a couple hours at least, I tell myself. But first, I need to stop by supermarket and pick up the weekly groceries. *sigh*

What's wrong with me? I ask myself. I normally enjoy grocery shopping. Maybe it's because I miss the kidlets and their amusing chatter and antics. That must be it.

But that's not it. In the very ordinary task of doing the grocery shopping, I have had an epiphany. I am grieving the loss of the anticipation of pleasure I used to experience when grocery shopping. Woah, back up lady! Aren't you being a little over-dramatic??

Okay, let me explain how the epiphany came about. I was walking up and down the aisles, grabbing the items on my list. Pretty ordinary thing to do at the supermarket. But the difference today was that I didn't have my kids with me to distract me from my internal commentary. So I heard it loud and clear, and it went something like this:

Chips. You wish, sister. Walk on by, just walk on by. Oh, the kids are out of bread, you'd better get some bread. Mmmmm, doesn't it just look delicious? Remember that taste of fresh baked bread? Stop it, that's not helpful. You don't eat bread anymore, remember? Now what treat will help motivate Eliza this week with her toileting. Hmmm, the tiny teddies variety pack I suppose. Oh my goodness,why do I just want to guzzle these myself? Must make internal pact to not eat a single one, because if I have one I won't be able to stop. Oh dear, fair trade chocolate is on special. WANT WANT WANT!! No, stop it. You are on a chocolate fast...

By the time I hit the fruit and veggie area (which I leave til last), I was feeling rather sad. I wanted to cry, and felt very silly for wanting to cry. My internal monologue was sounding rather sarcastic by now:

Oh goody – green beans! Can't wait to snack on those. And look at these nice fresh carrots, won't they be satisfying. Oh, and for an extra exciting treat, here are some APPLES. Yum yum, right? Who would want chocolate when there are delicious royal gala apples up for grabs?

It kept going, but I think you get the picture. MAJOR PITY PARTY. Minus the PARTY bit (sugar and fat filled food)! As I waited at the register to pay, I unhappily noticed a big display a few metres from me, declaring that if you haven't yet, you MUST try the new Lindt carmel lindor balls.

Internal tantrum ensued. What?? My favourite chocolate – Lindt – have FINALLY put out a range of lindor balls (my favourite kind of Lindt chocolate) in my favourite flavour – caramel?? NOW, of all times, while I'm on a chocolate fast!! That is just SO not fair!

That's when it hit me - I am grieving the loss of the anticipation of pleasure I used to experience when grocery shopping. It wasn't a conscious anticipation, but I guess it was very much a part of my shopping experience. And now it's gone.

As I drove home, I gave in to the tears. I remembered a book I had purchased online out of the blue on Friday, as I just felt prompted to from an old scrap of a memory. It's called “Thrilled to Death: how the endless pursuit of pleasure is leaving us numb”. I don't particularly WANT to read it, but I felt prompted to buy it anyway. And what do you think was waiting for me as I drove into the driveway? Yep, the package with that book in it. I had a wry chuckle at God's sense of humour and lugged the groceries inside.

Don't get me wrong – I do enjoy a healthy salad lunch, and the taste of fruit. I just don't LOOK FORWARD to it. I don't experience a sense of anticipation about the pleasure it will bring me. Because it doesn't deliver a sensation of pleasure with each bite, and a sugar high that carries me through the next couple hours. Instead, it delivers a much more staid sense of wholesome “I know I made a good choice” satisfaction. Which seems much more boring, but carries with it a much more lasting positive consequence.

What started initially as a quest to lose 20kg in a year (or preferably 6 months!) has turned into quite a journey of self-discovery and, more importantly, a quest for a deeper experience of God's presence. I keep learning rather embarrassing things about myself as I currently am, but also gaining insight into who God wants to help me become.

I know this may seem rather trivial to some. You know, #firstworldproblems and all that. But, while the particular manifestion may be a first world problem (having access and means to purchase and consume too much unhealthy food), I believe the root issue is one common to humankind. The quest to experience pleasure is the drive for much of human behaviour. And what my head knows but my heart is still in the process of discovering is this: that I already have full access to the truest and only lasting source of pleasure that there is – intimacy with God. 

In this moment, I know without a doubt that God is using this health quest I am on to strip away the distractions, to uncover the addictions and to use it all to point me back to Himself. And for that, I am grateful. Did you hear me? I said I am GRATEFUL! I can happily declare my pity party over (for now!), and my focus back on what really matters. Now that, my friends, is a reason to celebrate! BRING ON THE CARROT STICKS!!

Tuesday 30 April 2013

New Embroidered Jewellery Range

 Hi there :)

It's been a busy month and I've been neglecting the blog again. Oops! Here's a sneak peek at something I've been working on - a new range of embroidered jewellery. Teeny, tiny, miniature hand stitched button earrings, rings, pendants...what do you think?

This final one is a pendant I made for myself from a drawing my almost four year old daughter did. I just loved this little happy tree with shoes, and couldn't resist making a tiny embroidered version of it to hang around my neck. I'm putting it out there to ask: Should I stock this in my online shops?

The original drawing

Friday 12 April 2013

Commissioned with Confidence, Payment in Cuddles

Or: “Miniature Things I Have Made At My Daughter's Request”

My three and a half year old daughter is my biggest fan. Anytime she sees me stitching anything, or comes across something I've finished, she exclaims with adorable enthusiasm, “Mummy, that's AWESOME! I love it!” or some similar exclamation, inevitably followed by, “Can I have it?” Bless her. If she had her way, her tiny bedroom would be overflowing with Mummy's creations. Obviously, I say “No” a whole lot. So every now and then when she requests something specific, I like to oblige her.

A while back, she saw another baby at Mothers' Group with a robot toy, and she declared that her Quackybaby (duck wheat heat that is her closest companion) LOVES robots and really wants a tiny Quacky-sized toy robot, but it needs to be soft so he can take it to bed at nap time. Then came the, “Mummy, can you sew one for Quackybaby?” Her delight in seeing the finished product was more than a little gratifying. She promptly named the robot “Tick-Tock”, and loves to make Quackybaby's arms cuddle it. She also frequently loses Tick-Tock down the side of the bed.

More recently, while she was playing with her Quiet Book during a car trip, she announced that she needed a tiny teddy to go in the bed on the bed-making page. "You can make me one, Mummy!" she states with certainty that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. That night, while she slept, I pulled out my travel stitching supplies and just happened to have enough felt scraps to make her a tiny teddy in pajamas. Win. 

Earlier this week, I woke up to this same sweet, quirky girl clambering into my bed, whimpering that she wanted to go to her grandparents' place. Once I calmed her down, I was able to ascertain that it was not actually her grandparents she was pining for, but rather a little penguin softie she played with while there on a recent visit. "Penguins are my FAVOURITE! Please sew me one, Mummy." I told her I couldn't that day, as we had a busy day planned. So next day, as she was heading to bed for her nap, she reminded me of the penguin I had supposedly "promised" to make. "How about you sew it while I am having a rest, then when I get up, you can give it to me. Is that a good idea?" "Ummmm...not sure I'll finish it by the time you finish your rest, Sweetie," I replied. "But you can try, hey." 

Ahhh, the sweet confidence. The delightful joy upon receiving her "order". I have asked myself more than once, "Am I spoiling her?" But my answer to myself is this: "She has a Mummy who spends many hours making stuff for other random people she doesn't know. It is good for her to benefit from these sewing skills for herself, and it's good for her to catch a love of creating and a confidence that it can be done. In a few years, she will have seen this process of design, sketch, cut out, stitch enough times that when she wants a new softie, she may actually sit down and make it herself." 

Of course, she may not. But I suspect she will.
The happy miss with her new penguin (note the penguin pajamas too!)


Tuesday 2 April 2013

I Survived A Choc-Free Easter

Is this year flying by, or what?! Easter has been and gone already! Wow. 

Me at Christmas
I have something to share with you today, in a different vein than my usual posts. I survived a chocolate-free Easter. My first ever. Yes, it is possible!! "But why would you want to?" I hear you ask. Good question! One I shall endeavour to give my personal answer to below...

A while back, I shared a photo of the dress I wore on my first date with my hubby, and told you of my journey to a healthier lifestyle, and how I hope by the end of this year to fit into this dress that I have not worn for almost 8 years. What I didn't tell you was that this journey is so much more than a "get fit, eat healthy" journey. This is a journey to freedom. Freedom from what? Freedom from compulsive, emotionally-driven eating. 

There. I said it. It is hard to admit it even to myself, but I have developed an unhealthy relationship to food. Especially chocolate. I have shared in the past about my difficulty in coming to terms with certain details about my son's birth, and adjusting to being a Mum to two kids. Well, one way that I dealt with some of the day-to-day stress of those adjustments was to eat.  "I just need an energy boost to get me through the day," I would tell myself, while breaking off a row of chocolate and shoving it into my mouth, out of sight of the kids. Ahhh...what sweet comfort chocolate gives. For about five minutes. Then I would want more. I would try to make the block last a week, but too often, would consume it in a day. Not once, not twice, but over and over. Week after week. 

At first I didn't seem to see any weight gain, but as soon as I stopped breastfeeding my son, I piled on the weight. But I couldn't stop eating chocolate. If I kept myself from buying chocolate, I would scrounge around in my pantry until I could find something to substitute. Condensed milk and cocoa, or with peanut butter - not the same but it would do. Or I'd go for a carb fix of a different type - corn chips. Lots and lots of yummy, crunchy corn chips. 

I feel so ashamed admitting this, but allowing food to have power over me was something that I never thought would happen to ME. Realising I couldn't stop was not enough to make me do something about it. It took photos from a family do just before Christmas to make me see just how much my body had changed, and just how unhappy I was to go on living enslaved to food. One last hurrah at Christmas, then I determined to make some changes. Twenty kilograms (roughly 44 pounds) in one year, that was my goal. Preferably in six months, if I could. Well, three months have passed and I am only 500g away from being half-way to that goal! Yes, that truly is something to celebrate, but how shall I celebrate it? I used to eat chocolate to celebrate!

Losing weight was not my only goal. A bigger goal was to reclaim the freedom to eat chocolate with restraint. From the start, I knew that the only way I could get to this point was to forgo chocolate altogether - abstain from chocolate entirely, for a period of time. Until my 30th birthday in June. 

Which of course, meant a chocolate-free Easter. 

Do you know, I honestly thought I would feel hard-done-by. That I would find it difficult not to have a little pity party about being surrounded by chocolate but not able to eat any. But I can joyfully tell you this is not the case. 

Me today
I FEEL FREE!! I have had the best Easter ever, in some ways, as I have not had any guilt, self-hatred, sugar lows, and to top it all off, I felt like my heart was so much more free to focus on the sacrifice Jesus made for me that first Easter. And, here I am today, with my son asleep, my daughter at her grandparents' place, the house to myself, with a couple bowls of Easter eggs the kids were given, along with two of my favourite Lindt chocolate bunnies...and I know with absolute certainty that I am not going to touch any of it. That thought makes me smile. 

Now, don't get me wrong - I have had many moments of feeling weak. On those "bad" days when everything seemed to be going wrong, and all I wanted to do was dive off the wagon into a bowl full of chocolate (yes, I actually fantasized about that on more than one occasion!). But that just showed me all the more how chocolate had been a substitute for what my soul was truly craving. It wasn't a quick-fix I needed, it was Eternal Strength. It wasn't a sugar high that I needed, which would send me crashing down to a lower low afterwards, it was a moment to rest in the Everlasting Arms. And I am learning that, in less time than it takes to unwrap a block of chocolate, break off a row and consume all traces of that row before children burst into the room, I can actually turn my heart to God and ask Him to provide the strength, perspective, refreshing that I need. The effects last longer than chocolate, it doesn't cost anything (except my pride), and there is no self-hatred or guilt afterwards!!! EPIC WIN!!! 

Now, to get to the point where I can allow myself just one piece of chocolate, savour and enjoy it, but stop at that.


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