Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Christmas Swaps Number 2 - Santa Sack Swap

I've been dying to post about this awesome swap for months now ... and it's finally time to share what Mummy's been Up To for the last 6 months or so.  It's a swap that I signed up for back in June, and I received my partner's details soon thereafter so that I could begin creating.  This swap is hosted annually by the lovely Cheryll, with the idea being that each participant creates a Christmas sack or tote with 5 gifts inside, the majority of which are to be home-made.  It's a great swap for anyone really, because there is so much time allowed to make the gifts.  It was really super-fun!  I was partnered with the amazing Tracy, and was encouraged to get to know her a little over the following months in order to come up with ideas about things she might like, ideas about her style / colour preferences and just generally to make a new friend.  I have to admit that I didn't make any of my gifts for about the first 3 months or so.  I pondered what to make, then changed my mind, had new ideas, and promptly forgot what I had thought of.  But Tracy made things easier with her candid blog about her life on a little farm in country NSW.  I love hearing about her veggie garden, animals and crafting, and I really feel like I've gotten to know her this year.  I'm a little jealous of her rural lifestyle I have to admit.  In fact, Tracy reminds me a lot of another friend of mine and many of the things I made came to mind after thinking about things my other friend may like.

Anyway, here's what I made and sent off for Tracy:

1.  An embroidered "Love, Dream, Laugh" necklace.  Back in September, I went along for my first ever Urban Stitches, run by the amazing Rosalie Quinlan, Melly McNeice (Melly & Me) and Jodie Carleton (Ric Rac).  I was extremely daunted as I've never done embroidery before, but was encouraged by a lovely group of ladies from my church together with my Mum to give it a go.  This necklace was designed by Melly, and came in a kit with a few other designs (two of which I made for my girls on the day), and a gorgeous metal necklace piece which fits the design perfectly.  As soon as I saw this I decided I would do this one for Tracy.  Such a unique jewellery piece, and so much fun!  You might spot this same embroidery design in a few upcoming projects too ... I'm a little addicted to it!

2.  Heart Coasters - This was my first ever attempt at reverse appliqué, and they were so much fun.  I followed a tutorial for these coasters here after it popped up on my Facebook feed one day, and I thought they looked interesting. This was a 1-afternoon project, and a really cute little gift idea.  I know it's too late for this year, but I think they'd make a fun teacher-gift at Christmas time.

3. An Organiser Wallet made using this design from LBG Studio.  I've made these quite a few times now, and they're always a hit.  Great to use up small bits of left over fabrics, and I love it in these cute blue, red and purple tones from this line of fabrics I found a year or so ago at Spotlight.  I think they're an organic cotton, and they're great to sew with.

4. A Gathered Clutch and matching tissue holder.  I used the Gathered Clutch tutorial from Noodlehead, which I've also made a few times before and really like how it turns out each time.  I used the tutorial here for the tissue cover.  I thought this fabric was just lovely, and I bought it from a remnant bin when I was shopping one day.  Perfect amount for these little projects.  I'm feeling a waste-not-want-not post coming on for projects using remnants or small left-over fabric pieces ... hmmm!!

Anyway ...
5. And a pair of these cute little hand-sized oven-mits, which I made using this tutorial. In fact, these were so much fun to make that I ended up making about a dozen of these, and gave them out this Christmas with some homemade biscotti to our families.  I love the size of these and once again these are a great way to use up those pieces of designer fabric like this Michael Miller that I just can't bear to part with until it's absolutely all gone ... waste not want not and all that! 
And for the Sack (I asked Tracy at the beginning of the swap whether she'd like a sack or a tote, and she opted for a sack), I used a cute little Christmassy panel from a piece of fabric my mum had in her stash, quilted them very simply onto some thin wadding and attached to the front of a basic drawstring sack made using navy-blue homespun. (Sorry I didn't get a good pic of the sack ... check out Tracy's post for a better look!)  It was similar to how I made these Christmas sacks for my girls, and I was happy with how it turned out.  Tracy said that her daughter used it this year for her Christmas sack, so I'm thinking that means it was liked!!  Yay for that!

And now for the other part of the swap ... Here are the beauties that Tracy sent to me:
Aren't they pretty!!

I received this beautiful red chevron and polka dot tote, with a gorgeous stripe of red ric rac around it ... it's like Tracy was inside my head ... chevron, spots and ric rac ... LOVE!  I also love the big pocket on the front of this tote, and I can see it being used and used for so many purposes.  Thanks Tracy!
My favourite gift inside this tote was this beautiful fabric-covered notebook.  How absolutely adorable is the Red-Riding-Hood fabric.  This is a perfect example of what's great about swaps ... The colours in this fabric are not normally ones I would be drawn to if I saw this fabric at a fabric store.  But when it's been loving stitched into a book cover like this, I can't think of a better fabric to have used.  I love it, and it's so pretty.  I will need to hide this one from Bethany who also loves it!
Tracy also sent a lovely patchwork mug-rug, with Babushkas on one side and beautiful embroidered words on the other.  She also included this fat quarter of babushka fabric (another of my favourite things ... great job Tracy!) and a cute little babushka hanging ornament, which my girls love.  Hannah kindly offered to hand this on her door ... such a good helper, that one!!
And last but not least, Tracy gifted me a beautiful hand-knitted dishcloth, which I love ... I have a couple of hand-knitted dishcloths, and I think they are so much better than anything else.  This will be well-used.  She also made a sweet little pin cushion, with lovely embroidery in the corner.  Just perfect as I have been meaning to make an extra pin cushion so I can have one at my machine, and one at my cutting table (aka the dining room table!).  This will save me from forever running between the rooms to get my pins!

So, all in all I feel extremely spoilt, and would like to say a huge thank you to Tracy for being THE best swap partner.  Oh, and a big thanks to Cheryll for hosting this.  I've already convinced my Mum that she should also join this swap for 2015, and am so looking forward to being part of it again.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Pattern Testing the Olivia Dress - and 50% off for Boxing day!

I've been at it again ... pattern testing that is ... and this time right before Christmas.  I just love to sew, and will even make time between Christmas sewing, organising Hannah's birthday party and getting organised for Christmas if I need to.  Who needs sleep anyway!?! ... it's definitely a sickness!

And this time I got to pattern test the gorgeous Olivia Dress pattern from Gracie May Designs. The pattern also comes with options for an equally gorgeous top, which I will be making for Hannah very soon.

The lovely Joanne of Gracie May Designs asked me to test the dress in a size 7 for Bethany.  I went to Craft Depot, raided their $5 fabrics, and found this gorgeous mint and cream polka dot.  The thought of matching it with the white peter-pan-style collar and some cute apricot glitter buttons and *squeal*  that combo absolutely did it for me this time round.  I got by with 1 metre of the main fabric (yep, this one's a $5 dress!!!), and just used a small piece of white homespun from my stash for the collar and lining. 

I found this to be a pretty straight-forward sew, and I would suggest it is good for the beginner sewer (who has maybe a few projects under their belt) and a fun and quick sew for an intermediate level sewer.  There are also 2 sleeve options, a flutter sleeve and a cap sleeve, but I decided for the no-sleeve option for my sew this time round.

Once it was finished, I actually wasn't sure that Bethany would like this as a dress, and had plans to modify it a bit into a top, but it turns out she loves it.  She chose to wear it to Hannah's birthday party last weekend, and has begged me to leave it as a dress which she describes as her "sensible dress", because apparently the collar makes it look very "sensible!".  Funny girl!
Anyway, sensible or not, a dress it will stay, and I can see plenty more of both the dress and top options of this pattern in my future.  If I had known it would stay a dress, I may have added a few more buttons to the back, just to keep it a bit more securely closed.  Just a little tip from me if you go for the dress option!!

Oh, and do you like these shots in front of the green wall in Bethany's room ... my new favourite indoor photo-shoot location.  We had lots of fun photographing this one.
So, for today (boxing day), Joanne of Gracie May Designs is generously having a 50% off sale on her website and Etsy shop for Boxing Day, and you can pick up this pattern, along with all her other designs for 50% off.  Sounds like a great time to stock up on some lovely patterns.

And as usual, Joanne kindly gifted this pattern to me in exchange for my testing and providing feedback and photos (thanks so much for having me Joanne).  All opinions are absolutely my own though, as I would never recommend anything I didn't like.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Recipe: Chocolate Truffle Balls

I love the idea of giving baked goods for Christmas and since before we were even married, Daddy and I have made a tradition of giving baked goods to family and friends each year (in addition to other gifts of course).  We've done lots of different things from individual gingerbread houses to "Hazelnut Brittle" with a mini cleaver to chop it ... remember this post!  And I think this tradition may be rubbing off on our girls.  Bethany and Hannah love to bake, and they love to give baking to family and friends.  Fun, Fun, Fun!!

So this year for her school classmates, Bethany really wanted to bake something and I remembered this super-simple Chocolate Truffle Ball recipe from when I was a kid.  In fact, my younger brother had a book about tractors, rollers and other machinery doing roadwork, which was a story-book that gave the recipe for these balls in the story of the machinery crushing the rocks and mixing the earth and so forth.  It was a fantastic book, but sadly we can't find it.  Has anyone else seen this book?  If so, can you email me with the title/author.  I'd love to see if I can find it to buy!

Anyway, I thought I'd share my recipe in case anyone's stuck for last minute gift ideas.  The great thing about this recipe is there's only 4 ingredients, it takes about 30 minutes tops to prepare (plus some time in the fridge), the kids can be involved in every step of the process, and there's no baking involved.  They look great as a gift just with 8-10 balls in a cellophane bag and tied with ribbon, which we have done for our swimming and gymnastics teachers and a few friends and extended family in the lead up to Christmas.

For Bethany's class, we also added these cute Rudolf, Santa and Elf sticks which Nanna found in a local craft store.  They are foam, and just glued together and stuck to a wooden stick.  I thought the kids could use them as bookmarks!

So my recipe is a simplified and tweaked version of several other recipes I've read.  Here's how we made these balls:

Ingredients: (Makes about 40 balls)
- 1 pack of Milk Arrowroot Biscuits (or any other sweet plain biscuit/cookie)
- 3 tablespoons of Cocoa powder
- 1 can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup of desiccated coconut

1. Roughly break up the biscuits / cookies and place in a food processor.  Then blitz them until they are like bread-crumb consistency.
If you don't have a food processor, no worries.  Bethany and Hannah had a ball making the first batch of these by putting the biscuits/cookies into a clip-lock bag, closing the bag (getting as much air out as possible), then whacking and smacking the bag with a rolling-pin until all the biscuits were crushed up.

2.  Put the crumbs into a large mixing bowl, then add 3 (heaped) Tablespoons of Cocoa, and the can of sweetened condensed milk. ... Yum ... who doesn't love condensed milk!

3.  Mix it together thoroughly.  It will become a thick paste-like consistency.

4.  Pour the coconut onto a dinner-plate ...
... then roll the mixture into small balls.  For Bethany's class we did them about 1/2-1 inch in diameter.

5.  Roll the balls in the coconut until they are covered, and place them onto a tray (or another plate in our case), cover with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge to set.

6.  Once they've set (after about an hour in the fridge) they will stay pretty firm even when taken out of the fridge, so they're perfect as a gift even if you don't have fridge access for them.  They will also last fairly well in the fridge, so if you're looking to make them ahead of time, they will be fine.  I would make them now for Christmas next week, and get this project ticked off the to-do list before the last minute rush of things.

Then just package them up and give them away.  Everyone loves these, and they never need to know just how easy they were to make.

And to all of you, my lovely readers, I wish you the happiest of Christmases and pray for a blessed year ahead for you and your loved ones.  I'm hoping for lots more crafty fun in the new year as we enjoy our summer holidays (and 6 weeks off the school-drop-off-pick-up routine!), and looking forward to sharing more of What this Mummy's Been Up to!

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas Swaps No 1: Pin Cushion Swap

For the first time this Christmas, I've decided to participate in a few swaps ... well 3 to be exact ... and I think I might be a little addicted.  I love to sew or craft for gifts, but to be able to create things and send them to a strangers and then to receive something lovingly handmade by another stranger is just something so lovely.  I love the generosity of the gift-giving associated with swaps, as well as the chance to get to know new people from all over the world ... and seriously, who doesn't like to receive a package of handmade goodies in the mail.

So, my first completed swap (even though it was the last one I signed up to only a few weeks ago) was the Pin Cushion swap hosted by Caroline of Sew Can She .  This was a great last minute swap for me.  Basically I signed up, and a few days later I received details of my secret swap partner.  My partner is in the US, and I couldn't really find anything about her on the Sew Can She Sewcialites Facebook Group, so I decided I'd just make a pin cushion that I would like, and hope that she will like it too.  I haven't heard that she's received it yet, but postage from Australia to the US at this time of year can take many weeks, so I'm sure she'll get it eventually!

I decided on a Patchwork Pin Cushion, and used this Tutorial at Regina Lord of Creative Kismet

Then I decided that I was going to make the pincushion solely out of fabric in my stash ... my scrap bin is getting mighty full and in serious need of de-stashing!  These are the fabrics I decided on ...

One of the things I love about using left over fabrics for a project like this is that you can squeeze in some gorgeous little pieces of designer fabric.  I can never bring myself to throw out any decent sized pieces of fabric, especially any designer fabrics I'm lucky enough to own ... and this is the perfect way to use those little bits of loveliness!

And, here's how my patchwork cushion came out (a huge apology for the dodgy lighting and iPhone pics ... I'm obviously a terrible blogger because I absolutely forgot to take decent pics on our good camera before I mailed this cushion off to it's new owner).

I loved that I could use a few of my new-found embroidery skills on this cushion ... the seam around the edge is covered with a delicate chain stitch, and the patchwork seams are pulled with embroidery thread into the middle of the cushion to make it kind of look like a flower.  Such a cute idea.  I decided my cushion needed a little bling, so I used a sparkly button from my stash (left over from this project), on top of a plain pink button.  I really liked how this pin cushion turned out, and it was so fun to participate in a swap that wasn't a huge commitment, but was still a fun little pre-Christmas project.  

It's also been really great to be part of the Sew Can She Socialites Facebook page, which I was invited to join when I signed up for the swap.  What a fantastic group of encouraging and incredibly talented ladies.  The pin cushions made around the globe for this swap have been absolutely amazing, and in a day and age when we hear of so much negativity on social networks, it's so refreshing to be part of a group that is so genuinely encouraging of each other. This has most definitely been a highlight of participating in this swap, and has really added to the warm-fuzziness associated with giving gifts to strangers.  Thanks ladies!

And then, just this week I received an amazing package in the mail from a lovely new friend.  Karen from South Dakota (how cool is that!) sent me this amazing pin cushion with a difference.  It's designed to hang over the arm of your chair/couch so that you can have pins at the ready while doing hand stitching or other projects in front of the telly or just wherever.  My favourite part is the little pockets at each end, just perfect for holding a crochet hook, or a little pair of embroidery scissors.   I'm hoping to get stuck into a little bit of embroidery over our upcoming summer break, and this pin cushion has just arrived in absolute perfect timing!  A huge thanks to Karen! 

And aren't the colours pretty!
And the sewing is just perfectly flawless.  Karen is one talented lady, and apparently she just copied the design for this from a pin cushion she has had at home for years.  So clever!

Anyway, I think I might be a little addicted to swaps, and will post about the other 2 I've participated in when they're all done.  In the meantime, I'd love to hear of any swaps you've participated in that you'd recommend for me in future, or if you have hosted or are planning to host one that I might like.  Feel free to email me or comment below to give me the details.  I can see a good many more swaps in my future!  So much swappy goodness to be had!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Flower Tops and Matching Skirts

I love the varied and unpredictable thought process behind a sewing idea.  This one went like this ... I stumbled across this gorgeous spotty light-weight purple corduroy during winter.  I loved it the moment I saw it, and although I had no idea what I was going to make with it, it was meant to be ... I mean, it was on sale and basically jumped right off the shelf and into my arms.  And I loved the unusual colour combination that really worked.  So I grabbed a metre and started pondering.  I was thinking about a little pinafore, or maybe even some skinny-jeans for one of my girls. Then one day I found this long-sleeve T-shirt for $3 in Target, and it was the PERFECT colour to match my spotty cord. I decided then and there that this fabric would become a skirt with a matching appliqued top.

So I pulled out my tape-measure and decided to go with my go-to skirt design.  I sewed up the Elephant Skirt and this fabric came together like a dream for this design.  I left out the binding just to change it up a little, and seeing as I was feeling particularly lazy, I also left out the pockets.  Also, as it was winter I made sure the skirt was a little longer, just for some extra warmth.  Hannah has worn this outfit mostly with some cream-coloured tights and her beloved black boots.

For the matching top, I traced around a small espresso cup onto a piece of cardboard to make a template, then cut out 5 matching circles.  I used some iron-on adhesive to hold these babies in place on the shirt (and to help with avoiding too much fraying of the edges) and sewed around the edges of each circle using a small zig-zag stitch.  I then used a tiny scrap of fabric to make a self-covered button, and sewed this into the middle.  Done!  I love how the button bobbles around as Hannah walks and gives the shirt a 3D look.

Now in true What's Mummy Up To style, I can never stop at one when I try a new project and it goes to plan, so I decided to make another for my 3-year-old niece's birthday.

This time I used a lovely heavier-weight cotton fabric from my stash which I loved for it's red, pink and mint-green colour-scheme.  I coupled it with a pale pink T-shirt, and I think this one came out great too.  What do you think?  The birthday girl seemed pretty happy and the combo got lots of lovely comments from people, so that's good enough for me!