Saturday 25 August 2012

A bit of caking for something different

Well, he's finally hit the big 60 ... my Dad that is ... it's weird how as I get older, ages that used to seem really ancient ... just don't any more.  Like I remember when I thought 40 was soooo old, and I remember thinking how old my Dad was when he turned 40.  Yeah, well 40's not really that old huh!  My hubby will be there in a few years ... though he keeps telling me he's still in his mid-30's.  Ha ha!

Anyway, back to the topic ... so my Dad just turned 60, and decided to have a bit of a party last weekend.  With all the organising and about 65 friends and family coming along, my Mum asked me if she could leave the cake part of the day up to me.  Well, I'm always up for a creative challenge like that and instantly my mind started playing with colour schemes, and an overall theme for his cake.  I immediately thought of a beautiful photo of my Dad, with Bethany and my niece (who's the same age as Bethany) sitting on his lap.  At that stage, the girls were only little bubs and both looked so cute sitting there on Grandad's lap.  Well, there's now another 2 granddaughters, with Hannah and another little niece (yep , apparently we can't make boys), so I was thinking of a way I could recreate this little scene, and incorporate the girls at their current ages.

And, here's what I came up with.  It took me about 3-4 evenings of work all up.  A couple of extra Dad-heads, and some VERY blue hands later, it was all done.  I was so happy with how it turned out.
Bethany decided that she really needed to be wearing a "light pink" dress, so that's what she got, and she was adamant that I make sure her hair was very long ... she's a little obsessed with Rapunzel at the moment.  Oh, and the little dog is my youngest brother's dog, Newton (my youngest brother doesn't have kids ... YET ... so this is his family representation on Dad's cake.  Newton's a French Bulldog, and so cute, though my Dad does have a love-hate relationship with him.  Thought it was funny putting him front and centre on Dad's cake!!

Mum and I also decided that instead of a big cake and cutting it up for everyone on the day, we'd have just a small cake for him to blow out the candle, then everyone would get a cute boxed cup-cake to take home.  So keeping the same colour scheme, I made some simple little cupcake decorations.

Now I can't do a post on my caking efforts without giving you a link to my beautiful friend Jo of the Cupcake Gallery, who is responsible for my interest in fondant cake decorating over the last few years, and whose gorgeous books I often use for inspiration when trying to work on shapes ... especially little people figurines ... they're tough.  Anyway, Jo and her family have recently moved overseas as missionaries, so she's not doing cake orders at the moment, but if you're interested in her books you can find a link to them on her website.  She's amazing!!

Now as a bit of history of my cake decorating efforts to date, here's a little photo list of some of my most favourite attempts ... it really is so therapeutic ... I call it my Mummy Play-dough!

This was one of my earliest attempts ... Food Blogger cupcakes for my hubby's birthday.  He loves his food blogging.  This is the blog that he and some family do together.  These cakes took me forever, but I was really happy with the overall look, and the details on those tiny plates of food.

Blossom teapot cake made for my Hubby's Grandma for her birthday a couple of years ago, and the yellow rose cupcakes for her birthday last year.  With these cupcakes was my first attempt at embossing.
Birthday cakes from the last 2 years for our niece (a different niece to the one on my Dad's cake).  She loves gymnastics and Karate.

Fondant-decorated gingerbread cookies for Christmas one year.  Thought it was a cute idea to put them in CD envelopes.  We used these for Bethany's pre-school teachers last year, and they went down a treat!
Vegie Garden cake (this was my first try with Chocolate Fondant ... Yum).  This was a shared birthday cake for my Mum and I, as out birthdays are only 3 days apart, and we both love our vegie gardens.

Dibo figurine I made for a friend's little boy.  I had actually never heard of Dibo at the time I made this, so with google and some internet images, I did the best I could.  Was super happy with this one...and so was the birthday boy I'm told.
 Princess Birthday cakes for Bethany.  I designed the crown one for her third birthday, and the gorgeous Rapunzel and Snow White cupcakes (yes, they're cupcakes) come from Jo's Book Cupcake Charm.

The Octonauts birthday cake Bethany had this year ... this one was by far the most elaborate cake I've ever done, and took a long time, and lots of trials.  My favourite bit is the octopus holding onto Peso.

So, my fondant and cake decorating stuff has now all been packed away again until the next cake, and the sewing machine is back out ... and boy has it been used this week while this Mummy has attempted to stay sane in the midst of two munchkins with a vomiting bug ... yuck.  A post to come soon on my latest sewing exploits!

Sunday 12 August 2012

Change-mat for little bots

Seriously, how much stuff do Mums carry around with us for our bubs?  And if you're anything like me, it's almost impossible to find things easily in the baby bag, especially when there's a little bit of a rear-end emergency, and a quick change is required ...the baby's rear end that is...not mine!!  

So when I fell pregnant with Hannah, I decided to design a change mat / nappy (diaper) roll to keep everything together so that at change time you just grab this roll, and everything is there.  There's also a nice warm, clean, germ-free place for baby's little bottom to lay on, and the whole thing is machine-washable, so if there are any accidents with those inevitable "explosions", it's super easy to clean.

I first designed and made this when my brother had his second baby, which was just 6 months before Hannah was born.  I was toying with this idea in preparation for Hannah, and thought I'd try it out as a hand-made baby gift.  I then tweaked it a bit and made one (in pink floral) for me after Hannah was born.  But this third attempt is by far my favourite.  This is for a friend who's having twins, (!!! I am absolutely in awe of anyone who stays sane with 2 or more babies at once!!) so I made the pockets a little larger (to carry 2 of everything), and used fleece to line it instead of batting so that the whole thing is a little thinner, and will therefore take up less room in that baby bag or the basket under the pram.
Also, my friend doesn't know if her bubs are boys or girls or one of each, so I had so much fun choosing a fabric suitable for both, and in a cute owl print, 'cause she loves owls!
This is a great project, and can be done in just a couple of hours (perfect for Hannah's nap time while Bethany was at pre-school), so I thought I'd share it!  If you make it, please let me know and post a pic so I can see!!  Also ... I'd love for you to share around this pattern and even sell what you make, but please give credit back to me for the pattern / tutorial ... thanks!! 
Now, here's what you need to make this baby change-mat roll:
  • 1 metre main fabric (any non-stretch fabric will do)
  • 1 metre lining fabric
  • 1 metre plain fleece
  • 1 metre matching ribbon
  • sewing machine
  • iron
With these lengths of fabric, there will be leftovers, but for mine I needed the full metre length as the fabric is directional, so I didn't want any upside-down owls anywhere.  If you're using a plain fabric, you could manage with less.  Hmm, now what to do with my fabric leftovers ... maybe a cute owl tote?? ... Anyway, back to the topic..... 

  • 1 rectangle of the main fabric (in mine, this is the owl fabric) 24 x 21 inches 
  • 1 rectangle of lining fabric (in mine, the white stripe) 24 x 21 inches
  • 1 rectangle of fleece 24 x 21 inches
  • 3 rectangles of the main fabric 11.5 x 20.5 inches (remember if you're using a directional fabric like mine that they all need to be cut in the same direction)
Now to sew it:
1.  Lay the main fabric rectangle (24x21 inch) right side down, then lay the fleece directly on top.  Pin around the edges and sew about 3mm from the edge all the way round to join these two together.  I find that the fleece stretches a little as you sew it, and I had to trim some frilly bits of fleece off around the edges after I had finished sewing.
2.  Grab 2 of the smaller main fabric rectangles (11.5 x 20.5 inch) and sew right sides together across the top short edge, down one side, and across the bottom short edge.  Leave the other long side open.  Turn through so the right sides are out, and iron flat.  (Try to get the corners really sharp, because it really does look and sit much nicer that way.  I use my scissors to push into the corners from the inside.)  Then topstitch around the same 3 sides, approximately 1/4 inch from the edge.  This is the flap that opens out to make a larger change area for bub's little tooshie.
3. Grab the 3rd smaller rectangle (11.5 x 20.5 inches), and lay flat on the table right side up.  On the right hand long side, turn a double hem about 1/2 inch wide, and sew.  This is the pocket piece.
4.  Lay your lining fabric (24 x 21 inch rectangle) flat on the table right side up.  Take the flap we made in no 2 above, and pin the open edge to the right 21 inch edge.  As this has been hemmed, and to leave space for hems around the edge at the end, the flap is now shorter than the 21 inch side, so just centre it to the side as best you can.  Sew down using a 1/4 inch seam.  Don't worry about all the raw edges.  I promise they'll magically disappear later!!
5. Lay your lining (with the flap now attached) flat on the table right side up, and pin the non-hemmed side of the pocket piece to the lining opposite the flap side.  Sew this in place using a 1/4 inch seam.  Then lay the lining fabric down again, and mark using a ruler and pencil/pins where you would like the pockets to be.  In this one I did 3 pockets, with the bottom two being smaller (for things like wipes) and the top one being much larger so that it could even hold a change of clothes (or 2), but you could make them as big or small as you like.  Then sew from the edge of the lining piece across the pocket to divide this big pocket piece into your smaller segments.  It's a good idea to use your backstitch at the hemmed side of your pocket piece to give the pockets a little extra strength.

Nearly there ... 
6. Now lay your lining piece right side up, flat on the table with the flap folded in.  Place the main fabric backing (which is joined to the fleece) on top of the lining, right side down.  Pin securely all around the edge, leaving a gap of about 6 inches at the top corner, above the pockets.  Sew around this (making sure you remember to leave the gap ... yep I had some unpicking to do!), using a 1/4 inch seam.

7.  Trim off the corners (which makes it sit flatter), then turn the whole thing through so it's right-side-out.  Use your scissor to push into each of the corners to get a beautiful square corner.  Now flatten it all down as best you can, then iron the heck out of it.  Take your time with this, and try to really give it a good press, as this will help it look so much neater and more professional when it's finished.
8. Fold the change mat in half, and mark the mid point, then open again with the lining side up, and sew a straight line right down this mid-point.  I find this helps it to fold easier and flatter, especially when you're in a hurry, or trying to do it with one hand while holding the baby with the other! What do they say about Mums and multi-tasking!!
9.  Now measure (in the gap that you left at the top), halfway between the edge of the change-mat and the mid point (that you just sewed).  This is where your ribbon tie needs to go.  Fold the ribbon in half, and insert the folded end into the gap you left for turning in No 6 above.  Pin it in place, and pin the gap closed, trying to get it to match the 1/4 inch seam you used before.

10. Topstitch around the entire change-mat, 1/4 inch from the edge including the gap (this automatically attaches the ribbon and sews the gap closed without needing any tricky hand-stitching).  

It's done!  

Now, being me, I had to try and make this one a little trickier, and given my new-found obsession with applique (see here), I thought it might fun to extend the owl theme by appliqueing an owl motif inside the change mat, as a bit of a surprise when the flap's open.  I used the front pattern from this gorgeous Owl Tag Blanket (which I will also be making at some stage...Hannah loves tags).  I think it looks OK, and made the whole thing a bit more fun.

Anyway, I just love the convenience of this change mat / nappy roll.  Hope you are inspired to give it a try too...

Now, gotta put the sewing machine away this week, 'cause it's my Dad's 60th next weekend, and I'm in charge of the cake ... hmmm ... I feel a cake post coming on some time soon!

Friday 3 August 2012

I made something (drum-roll) ... FOR A BOY!!

So, with all the hat craziness this year (see this post), I decided to make one for a little girl-friend of Bethany's.  It's purple, with a cute purple and white layered flower from this pattern.  (Should have taken a photo, huh!) As I was making this little-girls' hat, I was thinking about her big brother who is the same age as Bethany, wondering if he would get a kick out of a hand-made hat or whether, being a boy, he would think the whole idea was a bit boring.

Now, having no little pre-school boys in my family or extended family, I really had no idea what he would be into.  I really struggle with ideas for little boys generally.  We recently went to a little boy's birthday party, and was told he liked "Ben 10".  I didn't even really know what that was, but went hunting with Bethany to find something "Ben 10".  We found a figurine, which I can only imagine is some kind of Alien.  Showed it to Bethany and she said "But Mummy....what is it?"  I told her as best I could, then she said "Oh, OK then" very unconvincingly, and quickly exited the boys toy aisle in search of "the pink aisles".

Anyway, so we meet up with our little friends, and Bethany excitedly hands over the gorgeous purple hat ... our little friend absolutely loved it, jammed it straight on her head and paraded around.  Well, the look of expectancy, then dismay on her big brother's face when he realised there was none for him. Cringe!!!  I instantly felt terrible that I hadn't just made him one in case he wanted it.  I fessed up to him that I wasn't sure if he'd want one, and he assured me he really would, so I asked him what colour he would like, and what he would like on it (instead of a flower).  Without hesitation he responded with: "A green hat ... with a Dinosaur".

"Oh golly, what did I get myself into?" was my first reaction, followed by "Well, here's a challenge I guess".

Off I went in search of some 4-year-old-boy-suitable green yarn.  Found it at Kmart (love the camo look), and got the hat done using this pattern that very evening.  Then I spent the next 4-5 days pondering about how I might crochet a dinosaur. Hmmmm!  I got out the crochet hooks, and had a go at designing a dinosaur, but just couldn't make it look right.  Next stop, google!  Searched for "Dinosaur silhouette's", and found a plethora for free online.  Printed it off, found some black felt, cut it out and sewed it on to the hat.  Boys hat No 1 for me....mastered!

And the reaction ... a huge smile (enough to melt any heart), and reports of a gorgeous boy wearing it everywhere!