Bye Bye 2016 – the year of the most magnificent make

If you don’t fancy reading an epic and boring post please scroll to the truly amazing pictures at the end. They are worth it. Really.

As we have established in the last post, 2016 is officially a not so good year. And I guess since then there have been a few incidents that did not quite help.

Personally, I would also say, it has not been the best year of my life but certainly the one with the most challenges. And there is actually a good thing about challenges, too. They make you grow. And I am determined not to let the bad things win. Instead of moaning, being scared and living in split societies, lets pull ourselves together and think what we can do to reunite and work as a team. (I am talking to you, my friends in the land of brexit and in Trumpistan, well and in all European countries I guess) Look around you and do something to unite people instead of separating them. Founding a knitting group is definitely a good thing. I guess for the male readers of the blog I would recommend playing football or starting to talk to strangers in the pub. But I suppose you are doing that already.

I also want to use this post to show you the greatest thing I have ever made. In my whole life. I love it and I want to wrap myself into it. I am really proud of it. Since about three months I want to write an appropriate post about it. But as it deserves a hair cut, a professional fotographer and probably a studio with proper lighting (yes it does deserve all of that), I had to delay it. I still haven’t found a photographer (mainly because I wasn’t looking) but I really want to share it with you to show you that 2016 wasn’t actually just bad. So, those few pictures taken on an early September morning will do. I trust my skilled followers to imagine the thing in its whole glory.

But let me start from the beginning. Ever since I have children, I wanted one of these and moving back to Austria, into a bigger flat, I thought it would be finally time to get it: a play carpet with roads on it. A trip to a Swedish furniture shop made me realise that the ones you can purchase don’t feel nice materialwise and are certainly not as cool as the one we had as children. Which was basically a huge piece of blue fabric, possibly a thin denim, with simple stitched lines to mark the roads. In all those years I hadn’t realised that my mum had made it. So I decided to make one myself. I had seen street fabrics so I was initially thinking of buying one of these, finish the edges and voila.  Certainly I did not intend to invest hours of work to mark the roads by hand stitching them.

And that might be the moment when I got carried away a little bit. I thought I had finally found my perfect niche product where I could earn my living. Not too much material involved and certainly quick to sew. I had the vision of a take away play mat, maybe with a little holder with handles, similar to a picknick blanket. Or how about attaching the handles directly to the mat? In which case I would need a second layer of fabric to have a nice back. And as my husband pointed out, one or even two layers of fabric would not be a nice texture. So I would need to add some padding. So material costs were already on the rise, work load still under control. I guess you would still find some people who would buy it for a reasonable price (from my point of view)

Sure those fabrics with street prints on them are not the cheapest and to be honest, I liked the simplicity of our own blanket as it leaves so much room for your own imagination. I was torn. And did some research. And found some wonderful and crazy examples, like the one Schnabelina made. For very obvious reasons she calls it play mat “deluxe”. Or this one by ollewetter. I really liked the idea of adding a pocket on the outside. Obviously if you have a take away play mat then you’ll need to take a few cars with you. So fabric costs were going up again but still under control as left overs could be finished off. Time involved was on the rise as well. Still an affordable result though I thought. At this point I was already mentally designing a website for my play mat shop. Only mentally, I don’t know how to design a website.

Those two examples have impressed me a lot. Schnabelinas tunnel and also ollewetters petrol station are so cool. Again, I had to rewrite my business plan. Using up left overs would make it possibly less expensive fabricwise but time was exploding. Hmm. I guess this was the moment when my project left the “not exactly fortune generating but still reasonable business ” area and became a “slightly over the top birthday present for someone who will not actually play that much with it”.

Anyway, here it is.

From the very first draft to a full scale pattern (as a modern designer you will obviously need a computer and a cup of coffee. And a very long ruler. You guys won’t have any of these, it is just for professionals, you see)

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Checking if scale works for real life play

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I kept the original pattern and cut out shapes on transparent paper to be able to check fabric later.

Slowly things are taking shape:

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For the back I used a dotted cotton. I think it is a nice and colourful look and it also hides the cleverly placed poppers which keep the folded mat in bag size.

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The whole thing is padded with a thick layer of… well…. padding. It has a really nice and soft texture now.

For the front I used a grey cotton as background and then different fabrics, mainly greens cut out and appliqued. Depending on the used fabric, you could imagine a zoo in one corner and a, rather dangerous, seaside on the bottom edge with a little bit of sandy beach in the corner. The roundabout features a flower bed. Or a flower shop if you want. But definitely something with flowers.

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I made a variety of buildings, some have a more obvious use than others who are supposed to give the player more room for imagination.  Apparently the intended fire station at the top in the previous picture can also be used as church (by every annoying and not seeing the truth person I asked)

I just needed my own petrol station:

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img_5401-2The very attentive readers amongst you (not too many I know) may have noticed that the helicopter landing spot in the dark green has been replaced by the hospital in the second picture. How is this possible? Another, similar play mat? No. This is my favourite, incredibly clever feature: all those buildings are actually removeable. There are one type of popper sides all over the play mat and the builings have the other type. So you can clip them on wherever you want (obviously not really wherever you want, only on the poppers, silly)

And just a few more pictures, because I am so impressed and pleased with myself 🙂

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Here, you can also admire the zig zagging around all edges and for the street markings and zebra crossing. Well and some dinosaurs who invaded the mat.

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As I was not the only extremely pleased person, my daughter requested a car play mat as well. I thought it is silly to have two of them in the house and convinced her that a enchanted forest, fairytale scenery would be much better. Now I have to make one of these. Except that I don’t know how. But hey, another challenge which will make me grow (see how I cleverly came back to the start of this post?)

Have a good end of the year and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2017 with lots of new friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Scrap Sunday: Sleeping Bag

Just a quick one for this Sunday, but a cute one.

Mr. No Thank You agreed on my suggestion on a mummy made sleeping bag for his dolly as I thought a plastic bag is not the appropriate choice. So he chose the fabric, I took the measurements and my little assistant (the girl, Mr. No Thank you was totally exhausted from the decision making) helped me draw the design and then the pattern.

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I decided to line the sleeping bag as facings on such a tiny scale would be a nightmare and even if it is only a sleeping bag for a doll, I still want it to look nice. Even as a child I always found the doll dresses cheaply made. I guess I already had an eye for top quality.

After the slight inside out problem last week, I decided to make a tiny sample first, just to see that I leave the right seams open this time. And I managed. Hard to believe, I know, but I did.

IMG_4624The sleeping bag went down well with the new owner – not only had the doll to sleep for three days non stop but he also requested a few new clothes 🙂

And I am rather happy too. It is actually cuter than the one for the life sized baby.

And I am seriously considering to create an e-book – except that I do not know how to do this or where to even start. But never mind. I am the proud owner of a brand new computer, surely there is a button for E-book creation. I’ll just put it on my to do list 🙂

 

 

Scrap Sunday: the homemade tag blanket – a tutorial

I am really busy these days businesswise and I actually have to follow a rather strict time table in order to fulfill all pending orders. That sounds spectacular, I know. And I like it. Even if it is slightly, just slightly exaggerated. But I do have to make a few yoga bags (manly ones. I hope I will achieve this goal this time round) and knit a cardigan plus a birthday dress for my niece (ok, that is a private matter but it definitely has a deadline). Plus I have to write a scheme of work for my class “numeracy through knitting”. So while I was busy doing the latter, thinking a lot about numbers, shapes, patterns and spacial sense, I needed a break and thought finally making that little tag blanket might be a welcome change.

As super-ambitious teacher and generally smug person I thought I’ll spoil my readers with a little tutorial as I am clearly an expert of turning things inside out as I had recently experienced with the coat.

So here is how it is done properly 🙂

You’ll need two nice pieces of fabric, I went for woven cotton, I guess, jersey might be softer but I wanted to use the cute animal fabric from the advent calendar. I also cut a really broken and scratchy face cloth into shape to add some texture. For the tags you can use all bits of left overs, ribbons, labels, bits of fabric,…. Just make sure you’ll have all the edges sealed. The easiest will be to fold them and have the open edges inside the seam.

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You could also add some crackling material, either in the main part or, as someone had commented last time, just in some of the tags, which I did for this one.

As one of the fabrics features unsuitably dangerous sharks, I cut (twice) a few blue waves and stitched them together with some of that crackling foil.

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I left the piece open at the bottom to be able to turn it inside out and that open side will later be inside the seam of the blanket anyway.

Next, you carefully arrange the layers. It works best if you smugly explain your baby or any other person present how brilliant you are that you whip this up during a “numeracy through knitting scheme of work” break, just before you’ll have to go shopping. And that you are going to take some pictures for your blog readers to explain them how things are done.

Basically, all you have to do is to put the layers in a random order on top of each other not caring about right and wrong side as long as you are taking pictures of the process. And pin everything in place. Make sure that all tags are looking inside, in line with the seam. There is no need to take pictures of the five tags that you pinned sticking out in the first attempt as you will realise early enough which way to place them. You are a clever and well rested person after all.

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Take an other picture to show your readers that the right side of the top layer is facing down as you are going to turn the whole thing. You are not stupid after all.

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Stitch around the four sides. For added safety, you should secure each tag by going back and forwards again. Actually, don’t go around the whole thing. Leave a gap of a couple of cm for the turning. Be proud of remembering that. I’d take a few pictures of that really.

IMG_4593Even if by now you might be realising that you actually hadn’t payed attention when you put the first layer of fabric on the table. And that the sharks will be facing inwards after turning. They are inappropriately dangerous for a small baby anyway and it might be better that way. No need to get the seam ripper out. You only have about 5 min until the baby sitter comes anyway.

IMG_4594Just make sure your readers will see that gap properly. That is the only important thing here.

And then turn the inside out. IMG_4595This might now be the moment where you are slowly realising that not only the wrong side of the sharks but also the old and scratchy face towel will be on the outside and the cute animals will be completely hidden. But possibly give the whole thing some added stability. And that scratchy face towel will really have a very different feel and the baby will enjoy that. At this stage it is all about different textures. After all this is why you created all these different tags.

So you could just keep turning the whole thing. Or you do take that seam ripper and take the whole thing apart.

No it is probably time for shopping. A bit of fresh air might not be the worst at this stage anyway. So do that and continue with this quick project later.

When reassembling the layers, just remember one thing: The two sides that are supposed to be on the outside later, need to be on the inside, with the tags in between them. The middle layer can either be underneath everything or on top of everything. Doesn’t matter. As long as the two pretty sides are facing each other and have the tags in between them. Easy. And actually follows the same principle as the crackling material in the waves. Remember when you stitched them together correctly in only one attempt?

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The benefit of this slightly longer process with the few extra steps before this one is that you will actually have a line of dots from the previous stitches showing you where to sew. Which is really helpful. So just be proud of it again.

Shorten the seam allowance, especially the corners.

And turn the whole thing inside out. You can either close the gap by hand or top stitch around all sides and close the gap during that process.

Now, it is optional to iron the whole thing. I decided not to take pictures of the ironing process as I would like to leave a bit of room for imagination to keep my readers active.

Time for more pictures. And to be proud. Before you finally go back to your numeracy scheme of work and all this thinking about spacial recognition and logic.

IMG_4597IMG_4598Needless to say that the baby was most impressed by the cleverness of his mum. And the crackling waves are so much fun. I really enjoy playing with them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tutorial: Cute little girl’s handbag

A while ago, I was asked to make one of my accidental reversible bags, so it would be suitable both for mother and daughter. In the end, I made one reversible bag in grown up fabrics and a small, slightly simpler version for the little girl.

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To make sure that they are a kind of matching pair, I have used the same fabric for both the lining of the small bag and the small pocket of the big bag.

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But now, lets go back to the beginning: I have put together a little tutorial to show you how easy it is to make a cute little bag for a little lady. It is definitely also a great way of using up scrap fabrics. As I have already misplaced the  measurements of the pictured bag, I will explain how to calculate your measurements plus give you those of the second bag I made, which was a bit more square than this one. In the end these numbers are only a rough guide anyway, I actually cut out how I felt before measuring the pieces)

You will need:

+ two pieces of cotton for the outer bag (width of bag + 2cm  x height of bag + 6cm = 24 x 24cm)

+ two pieces of cotton for the lining (2-3cm shorter than outer fabric, alternatively you can cut them all out in one go and shorten the lining later = 24 x 22cm)

+ 2 pieces of fabric for a small pocket, one or both of them in the lining fabric (width of pocket + 2cm x height of pocket + 3cm = 12 x 12cm)

+ 2 pieces of fabric for straps (4 x width of finished straps  x desired length + 8cm = 8 x 30cm for a 2cm wide strap)

+ the usual things like sewing machine, thread, scissors,…

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Preparation of the straps:

Fold the fabric lengthwise and iron, fold both edges to this middle line and iron again, fold together and iron. Top stitch close to the edge.

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Preparation of the pocket:

Sew the two pieces of fabric at the top together, Iron seam flat and turn so the right sides are outside, iron again to get a neat edge and top-stitch about 1 cm from the edge. Zigzag the three open sides of the pocket together.

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Fold and iron the edges to the backside  (1 cm)

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Cut off corners to avoid bulky pocket corners later.

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Place and pin the pocket to one of the lining fabrics where you want it to be (at least 4 or 5 cm away from the bottom) and top stitch close to the edges…. ideally leaving the top open….

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… alternatively you can go creative 🙂

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Put the two lining fabrics right side together and stitch around sides and bottom with 1cm seam allowance and zigzag around it.

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To create a fuller shape for the bag, pull the two sides apart at one corner, making sure that the side and bottom seam lie on top of each other. Draw a straight line (in a right angle to the seam), I find 2-3cm away from the corner creating a 5-6cm long line quite good for this size). Stitch on that line.

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Cut the excess fabric off, zigzag and do the same on the other side of your bag.

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Repeat all steps (apart from the pocket) with your outer fabric. Restetasche12

If you haven’t done it yet, it is now time to shorten the lining bag. Just cut of 2-3cm from the top (depending how wide you want your edge)

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Take the outer bag and fold the open top about 1.5 – 2cm to the wrong side. Iron.

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Fold it a second time 2cm to the wrong side. Iron.

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Turn the whole lining bag inside out (so the outside is now showing) and put the outer bag wrong side to wrong side into the lining bag. The edge of the lining bag should reach the once folded down edge of your outer bag.

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Fold now the outer bag down the second time (like you have ironed it before), the lining should now be fully covered.

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Now it is time to place the straps. Slide the open ends in between the two bag fabrics, making sure the ends reach the very top of the bag. For my bag I placed them about 4.5cm from the side seams. For now the straps look downwards.

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Now you can carefully fold them up again (without pulling them out of the slot) and pin them in place. Do the same with the second handle on the other side, making sure that they are in the matching position.

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Top stitch close to the edge all around your bag, securing all 4 ends of the strap at the same time.

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Then secure all 4 ends with a little X. I seam to have forgotten to take a picture of this step. But here is a picture of an other bag and at the bottom of my tutorial for a very similar cotton bag you will actually find a more accurate description the sewing directions.

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And we are done 🙂

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And another version, where I used a lovely corduroy for the outside:

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