Getting crafty for Christmas

As I write this, there are only 8 more sleeps till Christmas, and only two more weekend days but as usual, I have only just begun the annual tradition of making a Christmas gift each for Miss Missy and the Young Lad.

Of course I left deciding what to make till the last minute. For the Young Lad, I finally settled on a Batman cape and cowl. And some gauntlets. And a utility belt too. But when I asked Uncle Google for patterns, I just wasn’t happy with any of the suggestions. They seemed to be either waaaaay too complex (how to’s for making a latex full-face Batman mask) or didn’t really look like Batman (why do so many people think that a Zorro-style mask will do the trick?) or waaaay too simple (I’m talking something that looked like a pillowcase with a couple of eyeholes).

This simply wouldn’t do.

What is a librarian to do? Why, look for a book, of course!

And this is what I found:

9781589239449Super Hero Sewing by Lane Huerta.  Although there isn’t an actual Batman costume, I felt like these ones could easily be adapted to what I had in mind. There are lots of really cool costumes and accessories, including pirates, butterfly wings, and cute animals.  And what do you know? the other day I came home to see the Young Lad wearing a Batman-T-shirt-Superman-cape combo, and Miss Missy told me he had said “I wish Mum could make me a Batman cape!”  That’s the way to melt your mother’s heart, Young Lad!

I also found How to Make a Onesie by Janelle Fischer.  I briefly considered switching from cape and cowl to a superhero onesie, but I think the Young Lad would rather look like real Batman, than like Batman-in-his-PJs.

9781440244476Now, if it wasn’t enough to make all those costume items, I then decided that of course Batman would also need his sidekick, and that a Robin soft toy was going to be essential. Last year, right in time for handmade gift madness, I discovered Happy Quilts! by Antonie Alexander, and used the robot quilt applique blocks to make a cushion for the Young Lad. At the time, I was torn between that, and one of the co-ordinating toys.

So, naturally, this year a bedtime superhero toy is a must. Giving the pattern a Robin look has actually been quite easy, and it’s coming along amazingly quickly! Just the cape and mask to go now! The book is really easy to follow, and all the patterns are included on a disc, so you can just print them out instead of having to trace them off a pattern sheet.

Robin toy at Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre
Nearly finished Robin toy with Happy quilts book

9781617454332Of course, I also have a gift for Miss Missy to make… maybe she’d like a little bag…?

… How many days did I say there are till Christmas?

Sewilicious birthday wishes

Cover of The Buys Girls Guide to SewingD’you know what I wanted to do for my birthday most of all? I wanted a day to sew – for myself! My family totally didn’t get it! They were all “You want to what?!”

I know it doesn’t sound like much of a celebration, but how often do I get to make something for me? Not often, I can tell you. It’s hard enough to keep up with the things I’ve promised to make for other people* let alone making anything for myself. So I took the day off, and  sewed all day, apart from when Mr K took me out for lunch. I actually finished a top that I had bought the fabric for about seven years ago. It was the best birthday ever.

Of course, I’ve still got fabric for Africa waiting to be made — bits I bought that were just too gorgeous not to, bits Mum gave me that I love but haven’t figured out what to do with, not to mention the bits I bought with actual projects in mind. All waiting, waiting…

Cover of Shape Shape 2: Sewing for minimalist styleWhat is a would-be-sewing-if-I-just-had-the-time-girl to do? Flicking through Shape Shape 2: Sewing for Minimalist Style by Natsuno Hiraiwa it occured to me that clothes that can be worn multiple ways would give me more bang for my buck. And OK, it won’t make much of a dent in my fabric stash, but I’ll have more wardrobe options for my efforts. (And a fabric stash is a good thing in its own right, isn’t it? Isn’t it?) And besides the designs are gorgeously simple and simply gorgeous!

So if I ever getting another day to just sew and sew, I know where I’ll be heading for inspiration. My favourites are the Double Circular Scarf, the Upside-Down Bolero Jacket, and the Long Vest/Stole. Do I have the right fabric in my stash to make them, though? I might have to go fabric shopping first…

*BTW, I managed to finish one sock for Grandpa…what’s the bet winter will be over before I get the other one done?

Okay, it’s school holidays. Now what? Get crafty!

Cover of Paper Scissors GlueIt’s school holidays and the weather is doubtful. What should you do after you have done your homework and tidied your room? One possibility is to borrow a stack of DVDs from the library and spend the day curled up in front of the TV.

A better solution to the “what can I do?” question is to borrow some craft books from the library and get creative. Check out our arts and crafts for kids page.

Paper scissors glue has fun craft ideas for younger children aged 3-10. Great ideas for busy fingers and the best part is, most of the materials needed to complete a project can be found at home. I really enjoy papier mâché. Old newspapers could be recycled here. The Chinese dragon would be fun to take outside on a windy day. The origami whales could live on my blue tablecloth.

Cover of The Lonely Sock ClubMaybe you found odd socks in you sock drawer – why not make a sock monkey? Or if you have found my lost glove, you could make a glove monster. There are lots of cool things you can do with your odd socks and it is likely that everything you need will be at home somewhere.

For those of you who like sewing, we have an excellent selection of books that will help you make toys, gifts and fashion accessories. Simple softies for the whole family has toys that older children (and adults) can make. Most of the toys are made from felt and all of them are hand sewn. I quite like the anti-spy Christmas tree and the cat-face cushion. If I were to make a dinosaur toy from floral material, would I end up with a flowersaur?

Cover of Simple SoftiesSo the weather is awful and you really don’t wan’t to visit the library. Go online with your library card and Password/PIN and check out World Book Online Craft Corner. Lots of crafts for all ages and abilities. Crafts that can be completed in a few minutes and crafts that take all day. Crafts that are free (or almost free) to make. Crafts that cost several dollars. Crafts for boys and crafts for girls.

So, are you game?
Are you game to turn your kitchen table into a craft space?
For a day?


Recessive jeans

Cover of JeansMy parents shaped me way beyond my DNA. Hard as it is to believe, those two humble Scots forged my fashion destiny. To this day, my clothing choices hark back to them. Thanks Mom and Dad.

My father (normally a mild-mannered man) got in first when he forbade the wearing of denim jeans from under his roof. This was the Sixties for heaven’s sake. I did what any self respecting teen would do – developed an obsession with the faded blue fabric, hid my jeans at friends’ homes and married young.

My mother was not to be outdone. She loathed pink, thought sparkle in daywear was Common and honestly believed a nice frock was a fitting substitute for denim jeans. Bless her.

Even though fashion was such a fraught topic at home, I sewed a lot of my own stuff. Cover of 1960s Fashion PrintAnd, in what I now see as an early start in how to make life difficult for myself, I disdained Simplicity patterns and headed straight to Burda. Navigating their maze was the closest that I would ever come to Air Traffic Control. To this day I can smell the tailor’s chalk, feel the tracer’s wheel in my palm, hear Woodstock playing in the background, and see myself cutting my way round my absolute favourite fabric – Paisley.

I meet people who say they haven’t a creative bone in their bodies. They lie. Every single day, when we get up and get dressed, we make creative choices.  And you can reminisce on this in beautiful fashion books, you can even dream of featuring in The Sartorialist (the street fashion of real people). Truth is, what was everyday clothing to you all those years ago has probably attained iconic status by now.

Fast forward a few years. See that old lady in the boots, the jeans and the wildly patterned Paisley shirt?  That’s me. What will you be wearing when we meet?

What do you say Christchurch – the money or the bag?

Cover image of "Fifty bags that changed the world"Since February 22, I have become a bag lady. I’d rather be a money bags, but oh well … what is it they say about beggars not being able to be choosers? It is handy that everything I own can fit into one tote bag, though. My life has become extremely portable. I am never without my essentials.

If I was crafty, I’d spend the winter making bags, so my belongings can have a change of scene every once in a while. I’ve always just been a practical one handbag and one travel bag kind of girl – unlike some of my friends who’ve got enough to stock a shop – but maybe it’s time to change. Maybe it’s time to be bag fabulous.

I could add a laptop bag, a bum bag, a lunch bag and several shopping bags to my collection . I could co-ordinate them with my outfits, and decorate them with beads and buttons and badges. The possibilities are endless.

Cover image of "Fashion accessories"Are you a bag lady (or bloke) too? Or do you favour satchels? What things do you carry with you wherever you go? Has the contents of your handbag changed post-quake?

And if you’re keen to watch the original It’s in the Bag, check out this series of clips from NZ on Screen.

Ripping yarn yarns

Fiction, like everything else in life, is subject to fads and commissioning editors are rarely slow in picking up on and exploiting trends. Book clubs, cooking, conspiracy theory thrillers and paranormal romance have all recently been done to death but, ta-da, as luck should have it knitting has been experiencing a bit of a renaissance.

Ditching its nana-ish image and becoming the super, trendy craft de jour, “stitch ‘n’ bitch” clubs have sprung up across the globe and famous knitters such as Uma Thurman, Lily Cole, Tracey Ullman and Sarah Jessica Parker have added their celebrity cachet to knitting’s hot, new profile.

Authors have reached for their knitting pins and knitted up some fiction with a crafty twist: often with a diverse range of characters these titles bring focus to the value of female friendship and the many and varied pleasures to be found in the creative process. Yes indeedy, nothing beats the satisfation of a well executed gusset stitch, and even if you are too busy/cack handed/lazy to indulge in any real craft activity you can live vicariously and get all those good homeskill vibes from your fiction.

This month we’re celebrating all things practical at the library and we’ve selected some fiction titles on a knitting or quilting theme. But don’t worry if you aren’t a big fiction reader, the library is also chock-a-block with knitting memoirs, knitting magazines, patterns and inspirations as well as many, many other practical craft titles.

Work that skirt!

Search our library catalogue for books on fashion sewing

Skirts are great things to wear. Want to have some fun? Try a skirt binge!

When you’re feeling low, ungraceful or bored, just put on a wacky skirt with crazy colours (or an elegant skirt you would wear out) and feel the transformation! In summer, when you’re seriously considering moving to Antarctica, try wearing that light muslin skirt you bought years ago.

If you’re tired of wearing track pants (again!) find a skirt that’ll brighten your day.

Where do you buy interesting and amazing skirts for all seasons? In second hand clothing stores. It’s amazing what other people have cast off. Go have a look – rummage through some skirts. Many won’t suit you, but don’t be discouraged! It’s surprising what can look good with your vibrant green striped top. Find a skirt that’s burnt-orange and try it on. Alternatively, take a navy blue mini-skirt with red polka dots and just savour the effect!

If you’re feeling super motivated and enthusiastic, take your pick of the library’s books on sewing. Find some old material and take time-out to make a funky skirt. Need ideas? Check our recommended Fashion sites.

Skirts are there to be enjoyed – go crazy!

Have a favourite skirt you love to wear? Ever found a winner in a dusty op-shop? Tell us your skirt stories.