Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Achy breaky heart

Our little drama queen can really tie herself in knots and tonight was no exception.

When She-Who-Worships-Pink is over-tired she sometimes gets into this spectacularly argumentative mood where she could pick a fight with her own fingernails.

This is one of those nights and in hindsight, not the best time to get all culinarily experimental.

For dinner I made her lamb cutlets in Hoi-Sin sauce with steamed veggies. I was trying to be creative in riffing on a theme of, mine and Mr Frenchie's favorite; Hoi-Sin Rack of lamb (An excellent and easy recipe from my big sister - way to go sis!).

Well Pinkster was unimpressed and uncharacteristically, she decided not to even taste the chops.
Because they have sauce.
And chops don't wear sauce.
So mummy and daddy start reading from the script:

"Just taste it, it's sweet and yummy," we enthuse.
"I don't want the yucky sauce!" - bottom lip coming out.
"You haven't even tried it."
"How do you know, if you haven't tasted it?"
"I DID!"
"No you didn't, we've both been watching"
"Try it please, then if you really don't like it that's OK."

She pokes a finger on a sauce-free part of one cutlet and touches her tongue. Immediately she  pulls a face. "YUCK!"
"Sweetie, there wasn't any sauce on your finger."
She looks at us and the tears start rolling down her cheeks.
"My chops are all ruined and you're being snappy at me."
"No one's been snappy. We're talking and you're shouting," I say in my most not-shouty-voice.
"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!!!!!" is her response.
Cutlery lands on the floor as Pinkster pushes past us sobbing, "You don't love me anymore.."
We both try a deft catch-and-cuddle, but she's having none of it and she elbows her way upstairs.
A door slams.
Mr Frenchie and I look at each other and the plate of cutlets.
Buddy' raises his head and looks hopeful.
We're about to get up and clear the table and something comes fluttering down from between the bannisters.
It's a sheet of A4; floating down, lazily wafting back and forth like a falling autumn leaf.

I pick it up and this is what's drawn on it:

Apparently we have broken our little girl's heart.

And here we are, trying not to laugh.

More tears and tantrums...

It's not you.. it's HIM!

The Mother of all tantrums

Friday, October 25, 2013

Holy Sheet!

Holy Sheet, what a crazy week it's been.

School holidays are O.V.E.R. but I use the term 'holiday' oh so very loosely (but that is a post for another day).
It's business as usual except that I must out of practice or something because I am forever sprinting against the clock and still managing to be running late for every damned thing.

Seeing as I find myself  project managing a bathroom renovation in between school runs, with 'Tradies'* endlessly marching through the house being crotched* by The Orange Dog, I thought this week's craftiness better be quick, painless and useful.
We started out on this parenting journey sparing no expense and did the whole Stokke® Sleepi™-bassinet-cot-junior bed thing.  But that got a bit tired five years on and a big oval bed, getting bigger again, was no longer practical (or cute) in the space. Besides the making of many oval fitted sheets was also getting a tad tedious.
My long love affair with IKEA is no secret and I really do like their beds, but IKEA have their own special sizes for pretty much everything which causes problems - for me at least.

We ended up with IKEA's Gulliver Bed  part of the attraction being the wonderful range of good quality budget priced bed linen.

So why do I find myself again, making custom sheets? Because I hate-hate-vomit-loathe the only fitted sheet they stock for kid's beds? They're made of stretchy, sweaty, lumpy flannel with elastic that's too loose to hold it in place, that's why.

And IKEA have this terrible tease set up in the children's department with displays of cute-as, (100% cotton  - washer and dryer proof) by-the-meter fabrics you can sew up yourself if you're inclined to.  After trying one of their horrid fitted flannel sheets, my inclination was thoroughly confirmed.

So down to business - grounded as I've been with a house full of stinks, dust sheets and work boots wearing out the carpet, I locked myself away for a couple of hours and finally cut up some of this cute-as IKEA cotton.

The HOW TO bit: 
(and time for sew-phobics to tune out..or not if you're just curious as to how hard this stuff is - so not, actually)

I laid the mattress on the floor and draped the fabric over it.

You need to wriggle it around a bit to make sure you have the same amount of excess on all sides.

You'll need the excess to be three times that of the mattress thickness, so that including your elastic casing you'll have enough to tuck under the mattress and then some.

If you have it even all round you can then pin it into kind of hospital corners and then cut the corners out.

Then sew the raw edges of these corners together. (all edges A to edges B).

At this point you should have something roughly the shape of an enormous shoe-box.

Roll under the raw edge all round the sheet and sew or zig-zag to neaten it up and stop it fraying in the wash.

After that's done take some mid-stretch elastic and measure approximately twice the length of your mattress.

Place the elastic on the edge of your sheet and sew a rolled hem/ casing over it -  being careful not to catch the elastic in the stitches. Keep pulling the elastic through as you sew the casing and work your way to the end.

Tip - since all elastics vary in their stretch, I leave a tiny opening at the end so I can pull the elastic trough and tighten it if necessary.

And here you have my finished product - I even whipped up a quick envelope pillow case...

I wish I could tell you which fabric this one is, but I bought it a while back and it seems to be discontinued now. Such a pity because it's so colourful and still looks great with our Block-Out Circus Tent.

Well that's it for this week's crafty stuff - stay tuned for the next imperfect parenting post. Meanwhile if you're looking for a crafty project you can share with a small person try these:

Can't see the orchard  for the toilet rolls..

The party hats of death..


Again for my offshore readers:

*Tradies - Australian slang for those men in steel capped boots, with dusty tool belts, often flashing butt-crack, while making themselves useful but traipsing dirt through the house ( plumbers carpenters and the like).

*Crotched - my term for when the dog jabs people in their nether regions with his golf-ball sized wet nose. This can be done with excellent timing on a deserving victim  High Noon style but mostly it's something I feel a need to apologise for.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

"Use the Force"

I used the Force.
I used my favourite beach dress pattern.
I used a LOT of painkillers
I used the sewing machine, (long gone to the dark side).
I used VERY bad language (because my sewing machine has gone to the dark side).

That was my day, how was yours?

It was a six hour grind using some very expensive velvet with a sewing machine which can only be described as a thorough arsehole. But, despite my reservations, (and a sneaky side-trip to a costume store) I made the whole; home-made-Princess Leia costume thing pay off.. Eventually, considering I was still sewing the hair buns on in the wee small hours the night before the party. 

But be warned, this is not a tutorial.  I wouldn't know where to begin anyway, I didn't have time to take in-progress photos since I was making it up as I went along the night before I needed it. Anyway my non-sewing audience would be bored  (cardinal sin on this page) by any how-to-ing and crafty types will get the drift.

The hardest part of this project  by far was selling She-Who-Worships-Pink on the idea of dressing as a princess who wears white, or camo, and no tiaras just big black guns. 
I spent a week building up to it, selling her on the whole Leia concept.  
I mean it's not like I could show her the films, not if I didn't want to give her nightmares for the rest of her life.
So I showed her pictures; "She's not very pretty", I was told. 
So I showed her more pictures (including the one above) without 'the buns' just to prove she was pretty.  What did I get for my trouble? "Well I'll just wear my hair long or in a long plait then, mummy".

It wasn't until I bought her Jeffrey Brown's cartoon book Vader's Little Princess  that she conceded.  For a five-year-old; cartoon = gospel.

So now she could identify and her excitement mounted as the velvet and hairpieces took shape.  She was getting quite bossy toward the end; critiquing the authenticity of my belt design. How authentic can it be with craft glue staples and a chopped up silver Barbie box?

The party was a blast with what I like to call an 'in-character-child-herder'; Jedi training included.
Each child was given an inflatable light sabre too which was such a hit.   Several (fortunately painless) hits all round in fact.

I had that sinking feeling when we arrived though, and none of the girls were dressed up; "Please God, no, not after all this build up.." No-one want's their kid to be the odd-man-out. 
But there was the birthday boy cleverly disguised as Anakin Skywalker. More mini-Jedi knights arrived a few more Princess Leias and one pretty little mermaid. Why not?

So this get-up will get another airing for Halloween, however I might redesign the buns a bit, since they kept tumbling off her head during Jedi training. Nothing worse than your buns tumbling off when you're in the middle of something important.

So for the crafties and wannabe-crafties here's a bit more (but not much) explanation of how I got to the finished product.
Basically this Leia outfit is a longer version of the hooded beach dress above with long sleeves and a deeper hood.

I wish I could tell you where to buy this 
little gem of a pattern, but it's been discontinued. I took the short sleeve pattern and extended it into long bell sleeves. If you are interested in cutting or modifying your own patterns and you haven't a clue MADE is an excellent website with tutorials.

I'll explain a bit about the 'Hair-Do' since it doesn't involve sewing, and you never know when you want to do this with yours or someone else's hair.

I used a hairband, two take-out box lids (cut into doughnut shapes - using a coffee mug and Berocca tube for stencils).  Two cheap long hair pieces secured at each end with elastic bands, which I twisted around and through the centre of the doughnut shape. 
When they looked about right (and it took a couple of tries) I stapled them in place to the plastic, before sewing/ gluing them onto the hairband. Hairbands with teeth are essential so the buns don't just slide off the ends. 
As I mentioned above this does need tweaking because the buns are so heavy it's not very secure. I'll likely buy another light weight hair band and sew it on so it sits at an angle (30 degrees ?) to the other, further on the back of the head.

 Jeffrey Brown's book Vader's Little Princess, the irresistibly funny follow-up to his breakout bestseller Darth Vader and Son.

I'm sure you'll appreciate the multitude of reasons I didn't attempt this version of Princess Leia.

 Here's some more spaced out reading you might enjoy:

2001 a head-space odyssey

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Help me Obi Wan kenobi..

"Ambition should be made of Sterner stuff"
William Shakespeare

"Ambition is the last refuge of the failure."
Oscar Wilde

What is wrong with me? Why do I need to torture myself in this way? OK, so there's another costume party.. BUY something, woman!
But no, my ambitious little brain starts churning ideas. I think along these lines, it's nearly Halloween, she can wear it then too... I know stores that are full to bursting with Star Wars costumes, but I still can't get past, "wouldn't it be nice to 'make' one".

I seem to be forgetting I'm surrounded by suitcases from school holidays still in various stages of unpacking, piles of washing to do and one school dress that badly needs the hem letting down.

But here I am the day before the party, and with nothing more than pieces of (very expensive) fabric cut out; two cheap hair pieces and a splitting headache (which is what I frequently get from being hunched over cutting stuff out for too long) and... I've lost the will to sew

I'm also felling decidedly upchuckish* from the cocktail I painkillers I've been feeding myself since 5am this morning .
Maybe I should just pop out and buy something? But what to do with the pieces of $28-per-meter two way stretch velvet hanging over the back of my sewing chair?

"To sew, or not to sew: that is the question:

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous headaches,

Or to take arms against a sea of time constraints,

And by opposing end them?

To succeed or not succeed; in sending one's offspring forth,

into the world as Princess Leia?"

(William Shakespeare & Me)
(I don't limit myself to vandalism of great artworks, sorry Will..)

So for encouragement I'll take a minute to look at my previous efforts and maybe I'll get some energy, inspiration, divine intervention?  Maybe I could "Use The Force..."

 This was a cutie and quick.  My specialty; 'Cut-Up-Couture' as in its previous life this Cheetah costume was a rather garish maxi-dress!

This is Super Julie from theSamSam cartoon. Talk about loosing the will to sew - this costume was H.A.R.D!  The visor was made, pulled undone, tried on , pulled undone, tried again.... This process continued on waaay too long.  

My tip is if you have to do hoods, helmets or visors buy one of these Styrofoam wig-heads (you can find in craft/ fabric stores). They're more expensive than they aught to be, but what they can save you in time is worth every penny.

This fairy costume was more elaborate than I had anticipated because I took She-Who-Worship's-Pink to the fabric store to choose her own fabric. Brave move that one.
I'd had in mind, something pastel pink, but of course I was outvoted, again, and we came out with a bag full of what I call 'toxic waste' pink. I had to rein her in after she'd chosen no less than five different fabrics and was still zooming around the rolls squealing "THIS one too Mummy!"  
Because the weather was iffy, I made a bolero to go with it that tied up under the bust with a ribbon. This was cut away at the front so as not to hide the detailing on front of the dress.
Unfortunately I never took a good picture of her princess costume, but the lace-up bodice was my favorite part of this. The Georgette undershirt was actually an over-shirt I made to cover her swimsuit the previous year and I used scraps of that with some velvet and netting to make a pull-on skirt. Stretchy velvet arm bands puffed up the sleeves up a bit more and tied it all together.
This was one of my first costumes, in the days before everything had to be pink. Sadly I don't have the time  these days to make anything this elaborate. Now she's in school my days are shorter. In fact I've lost 12 hours out of every week and that's a lot of time at the sewing machine.

So there you have it, having perused  my previous work, I am a bit more inspired - if I could just get rid of this wretched headache!

Stay tuned for next week, lets see if Princess Leia emerges from mummy's persistence or from a shop.....

To sew or not to sew....

*Lost in Translation;
For my offshore readers: Upchuckish is an Australian slang term for nausea. It means simply you feel you're going to 'chuck' (vomit) at any moment.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Going to the Dark Side...

Has anyone actually tried to block-out ALL the light in a kids room – without actually painting the windows black?
I have. 
Talk about 'going to the dark side" I have one of those children who needs almost total black to get a wink of sleep.

So I tried block-out curtains and light came in over the top of the rod.
I bought numerous block-out blinds and light came in down the sides.
I tried both together – better but I still needed bits of Velcro/ blue tack/ whatever to stop random little sunspots from ferreting under over and around.

So following my next venture into custom manufacturing - the perfect block-out roman blind – a truly complex and horrible job I might add, which failed due to an uneven window frame, I had a brain wave.
Put the block-out fabric around the kids head - it's the ONLY way.

Ok so before you report me to the Department of Children’s Services for suffocating my child take a look at this bed tent:

This looks harder than it is to make and besides that, I have instructions here for two versions, the one pictured above and another no-sewing-required cheats way: (scroll way down to the end for that one)

So are you ready?


A large strong ceiling hook attached to the bearers in the roof – best to get a handyman to do this for you.

I used a set of tab-top IKEA children’s curtains; VITAMINER VIMPEL to be exact. ($34.99) A couple of meters of block-out curtain lining which I sewed to only one panel (the one facing the window).

One small sized Hula-hoop ideally 181cm circumference (57cm diameter). Try to find one that is held together with a plug as shown (rather than as staple). 

This will save you having to remove the staple and carve your own plug from a wine cork.  This hula hoop is from Toys R Us, and with it’s pull apart plug it’s like a circular curtain rod which is just what we need.

 Last but not least you’ll need some extra IKEA fabric to make the top. I used a piece from IKEA’s Vitaminer Rand  range:


So for keen Sewers, your first job is to line one panel with block-out fabric – lay your block-out fabric  panel on the floor and lay your outer fabric panel over the top. Leave around 4cms allowance for hems all round, and cut it to size.  I sewed the side hems first then sewed the hemmed block-out panel to the inside top of the curtain just under the tabs. !!! Be sure that the wrong side of the block-out faces the wrong side of the curtain panel. 

To get best results, hang this curtain up on one of your window curtain rods and tack by hand at 35cm intervals down the curtain length. 

This avoids a common problem of curtain linings, pulling and/or twisting the curtains out of shape.



Making the Big-Top is like making a drawstring bag with no bottom. Whatever size hula-hoop you use cut the fabric 2cms wider than the circumference of the hoop this allows a 1cm seam. My big top is 40cms long finished so you need to add 5cms at the top for the drawstring casing and about 4cms at the bottom to attach the  bunting/flags and turn up to hem.  Fig a.

Before sewing the side seam, top and bottom, finish your raw edges by running a fine zigzag or over-lock stich along all raw edges.

When sewing the side seam, leave the inside top of your side seam open.  Snip or buttonhole another opening directly opposite to leave two places to bring the ends of the drawstring through for hanging -so that your tent wont hand lopsided.



To fit my 181cm hoop I used 13 flags - 15cm wide by 17cms long. Fig b

 You will also need 13 loops of cotton tape 3cms wide and 10cms long. (You can buy this at any fabric or haberdashery store.) These will be folded in half and sewn under the centre of each flag on the very inside bottom hem of you tent top, ready to thread through the hoop. When you’ve attached your bunting and tabs to the raw bottom edge fold up press and topstitch (see Fig’s a & c).



Open your hoop and thread the curtain tabs and top tabs alternately until they’re all in place. fig c.

Thread some thick ribbon for your drawstring through the casing at the top, pulling out a loop at both openings and loop your large rubber band  through both loops, you’re ready to get up that ladder and hang!

You man need to adjust the length of your drawstring to suit the tent length/ ceiling hight.


Now the Easy way out:

Ok  if you’re not up for sewing there’s a cheats way out  - Lincraft & Spotlight sell block-out tab & ring top kids curtains in a variety of fun prints on both pink and blue backgrounds, and you can make a festive tent top from just a bunch of multi coloured wide ribbons looped over the Hula hoop and tied together at the top.  With a lot of colourful ribbon, you don’t need to go to the trouble of making bunting (little triangles) around the top it can look quite festive without.

I got our handyman in to install a strong hook and took his advice to tie the tent top to a thick elastic band. That way if ‘someone’ tries to swing on it the tent will come down rather than the ceiling.

Other nice touches I used here where IKEA's VITAMINER VIMPEL Matching quilt cover and pillow case for $17.99

And just look at this gorgeous hexagon cushion courtesy of SewPaintIt. And yes, the reverse-side fabric is from IKEA as well.


Good luck and sweet dreams. :0) 


or try a little more bedtime reading...

sweet dreams