W.I.P. Wednesday : The finished, the planned and the in-progress…

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This is an extra-large serving of W.I.P.ness, so grab a little cup of tea and here we go!

The finished : Staring here is good, helps me to feel like I’ve accomplished something!

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Here are the carp I told you about here. Love them. I hope my nephew does, too.

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He’s quite a sketcher (I sent him the watercolour-pencil roll for Christmas) so I thought a blank notebook would suit him. I also made him a black denim pouch to slip the notebook and some pencils in, in case he wants to do a little field work (ok, this is a bad inside joke because he lives on a farm. Sorry.)

It’s also my niece’s birthday soon, so here are her goodies :

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The little dude’s antenna/hat isn’t sewn on yet in this photo, but I assure you, it has since been sewn on and they are on their way to the U.S. along with this :

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…a little felty pouch (decorated with ribbon on the other side) and a heart pin because they are so cute I’m making them for everyone! I used this felt, and for the butterflies I used this adorable pattern from Hillary Lang of Wee Wonderfuls fame. I just noticed she’s having a doll giveaway today – go throw your name in the virtual hat!.

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This was one of the first patterns I ever ordered (about 9 months ago), but this is the first time I’ve used it. I have a feeling I’ll be making more of these in the future they are so sweet. And springy.

Oh, and a new pincushion, because I just love making these little cuties!

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and the other side, so you can see my wonky stitching.

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Now, the in-progress :

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Another one of these dolls. This is for a “new” baby (she’s already 3 weeks old – aak!). She’s mostly done – just need to sew her hair ribbon on and get her limbs attached. Have you ever noticed the less you have to do to finish a project, the more difficult it is psychologically to get it done? Or is it just me?

I started this last night for the talented Tacha :

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Lucky me gets to test another pattern for her! This is going to be adorable – I’ll hopefully have it ready for show & tell by Friday! She has the best stuff in her shop – go check it out!

The planned :

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve surely heard of the terrible fires in Australia, killing so many – humans and animals – and destroying everything in sight. I wanted to so something, so I donated what I could, but still felt like I wasn’t doing anything. Then, the aforementioned Tacha told me about The Bushfire Quilt Project. Tia Curtis, an American quilter living in Australia, is rounding-up quilt blocks from all over the globe and with the help of local quilters, they are creating quilts for families who lost everything in this tragedy. If your life has ever been touched by fire, you know the devastation of completely starting over. These quilts may not be much, but they are a start, and a great way to show some global solidarity to our Australian friends.

That’s great, Shellyfish, but I don’t know how to quilt. Well, guess what? Neither do I! But I’m committing to making at least a few of these Wonky Stars thanks to the tutorial. My biggest obstacle is an anemic fabric stash, but I’m hoping to get some scraps organized Friday. Here’s The Bushfire Quilt Project Flickr Group if you want to be inspired. Doing what you can makes such a big difference, be it 2 or 50 squares. Others are sending quilting supplies to help out. Just wanted to spread the word, and thanks to Tacha for sharing the links with me!

And to finish, behold! Guppy’s new dress, er, dress fabric :

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Ok, this fabric is just dreamy. It has such a great feel and weight to it. Yum. We don’t have a fabric store in town, but there is a vendor who comes to the marché twice a week. The up-side is he often has designer remnants at great prices. The down-side is that you can’t buy the amount you’d like – you’re stuck with whatever size the remnant is – be it a half meter or 3 meters. It’s a good thing in this case because I got nearly 3 meters for 10E which is just super exciting!

I wish I were only 4 and could have a dress, too. Ok, no, when I was 4 I wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress. But Guppy is rather excited about it, probably because she doesn’t have any cold-weather dresses so it seems special. I’m excited because I’ve never made a dress before. So much excitement.

Speaking of excitement, next week’s W.I.P. will have our Wipster of the Month interview and we’ll also have our March Stitch-Along – I bet you just can’t wait! Try to satisfy your curiosity by visitng the other Wipsters to see what they are up to this week, and don’t forget the W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Group, too!

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Eco-Crafters Unite! I L-O-V-E The Kunin Group & their “Ecospun” cruelty-free felt!

WOW! I have been overwhelmed by emails asking me for details on the cruelty-free, super “Green” (with a capital G) felt I mentioned in this week’s W.I.P. Wednesday post. I feel so popular!

I was so excited when I saw all the email love, some from people who were interested in the cruelty-free crafting possibilities, and others who wanted more info on the “recycled” aspect of this medium. To quote an emailer “this sounds a little too good to be true.”

Yet it is true.

To create those delicious-looking donuts, and these heart pins, and many other gifts & crafts, I used “Rainbow Classicfelt” from The Kunin Group. Go check out their website because I think it’s just amazing the different kinds of felt they offer, and all of it created from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles!

I first discovered this amazing felt last year when my mum brought me a bag of crafting supplies from America when she came for a visit. I’d found some polyester crafting felt here in France, but I didn’t like the feel of it. She’d stumbled upon some various felt squares and saw they were wool free so grabbed a few colours for me.

Love at first stitch! Or cut, I could say. While it isn’t as dense as traditional wool felt, it has a lovely feel and is wonderful for bags like these :

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or other projects like this :

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When I was in the U.S. on vacation this past summer I bought nearly an entire suitcase full of Kunin Group felt (yes, nearly an entire bag full. You should have seen the look on Monsieur Fish’s face when he saw that). I bought mine at Jo-Ann’s Fabrics in Rochester Hills, Michigan. I know many of you are in Canada and Europe, so don’t fret. Visit their Where To Buy page – there are lots of locations around the world…though none in France. Snif.

I would just love to get my hands on some of their Plush Felt which I couldn’t find at last summer. It is all plushy and soft and would be perfect for making softies and little stuffed animals, which are going to be de rigueur with Spring Solstice and other such holidays approaching.

So there you go! Vegan crafting at it’s best!

Happy Mail post coming next, promise!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Sugar Free, Fat Free, Calorie Free Donuts! A tutorial…

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I know what you’re thinking : With a title like that, there’s got to be a catch. You’re right.

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I’d been wracking my little brain (ouch!), trying to think of something to make for my Pay It Forward (PIF) winners. It’s not easy knowing what to send someone you know without really knowing them outside of their blog lives. I considered making handbags, but not knowing their individual tastes, didn’t want to send something in their least favourite colour, or something that would sit in a closet forever. The only real criteria for the PIF gifts were that they be vegan and handmade.

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Enter the donuts! As I was thinking of goodies to add to their parcels, I thought of making a treat to send, but was concerned that even though they weren’t leaving the European Union, cookies could be crushed or frosting smudged, etc. by they time they arrived at destination. I’d made some felt food for Guppy to play with, and while she was setting up a little tea party for us one day, I thought felt donuts would be the ticket!

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Please do note that this felt is indeed vegan : made with post-consumer recycled plastic bottles, we’re cruelty-free and lessening the environmental impact by using a recycled medium. Woot!

Would you like to make some donuts? It’s really very easy, though it is a little more time consuming if you stitch your “sprinkles” on. I set this up assembly-line style and it was a fun little project. I can hardly take credit for these – felt food has been around since I was little (Regan child. No, ketchup is not a vegetable. Shudder), and I’ve seen felt donuts in felt food packs for kids, on the net, etc. If you do decide to use this tutorial to make donuts that you’ll be selling, please remember me when you’re rich and famous!

Let’s begin! First you’ll need some felt. I chose two colours of brown for the “cake” part – so we have regular and chocolate flavours, and some assorted colours for your glazes :

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You’ll also need the following :

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Thread, pins, beads for your “sprinkles”, something to trace your donut shape (I used a CD, a canning lid or something similar would obviously work, too, but would indeed be less musical), a needle, an exacto-knife or rolling cutter, scissors and maybe even a self-healing mat if you have one (a clean cutting board works ok, too).

First : Trace your basic donut shape in the darker felt. Don’t forget, you’ll need two pieces per pastry. I made a dozen, so that meant 24 pieces (my math skillz are amazing, n’est-ce pas?).

Next :

use-a-spool-to-trace-your-centreYou can use a spool to trace the outline of the centre. Don’t worry too much about this if your circle isn’t perfect -it’s going to look beautiful once it’s sewn up. Do try to cut two at a time, though, makes matching them up later a wee bit easier.

Now : (night was falling, so sorry for the flashy-blek.)

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Whip out that CD again and trace your glaze colours. You can be traditional or get crazy – these are your donuts and they are your art!

Ensuite : (which means next, but I already said that above)

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You’ll want to cut along the outer edge of your glazes to give them a drippy look. I just weaved in and out with my scissors. Again, if it looks funky don’t worry – it’ll be sweet as can be once it’s all stitched together.

Let’s Sew!

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You can proceed a number of different ways – I tried doing things in different orders because I’m curious like that – but this is the order that I found worked best pour moi. Begin by sewing the outer edge of your glaze to the top layer of your donut. Try to centre the glaze on the donut, and if the holes don’t perfectly match up it’s ok, you can trim them to match in the next step. It’s more important that your glaze is centered over the donut right now.

You might want to pin the glaze on before doing this to keep it in place, or maybe you’re a renegade and you scoff at my idées bourgeoises – best translated as playing square or safe. Anyway, you can whip stitch (I did) or straight stitch this part. Youtube has great videos to show you what that means if you don’t know. I didn’t know a year ago, so don’t worry, it’s cool. You’re cool. I said so.

Sammich time!

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It’s time to stitch all three layers together via the centre. If the three holes don’t match up well (ahem, at all), fear not. You can trim them to fit, just don’t cut too far into your donut or you’ll end up with an onion ring, which is tasty, but not what we’re going for here (but what a great idea! And fries, too! Yes!). Be sure and sew through all three layers using a nice, tight whip stitch.

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If you’re stitching looks like your 3-year-old did it (see above) don’t worry a bit! It’s going to look just lovely when it’s stuffed. Promise!

Sprinkles!

What’s a donut without sprinkles? A naked donut, and I’ll have no nudity on this blog! I used beads, however, if you’re planning on making these for small children, animals, or batty adults, you may want to consider just using embroidery to embellish. Do that now, because the layers are open and it’ll be easier. Let me know when you’re done.

Closing Time!

I had a picture of this, but it was terrible, so it didn’t make the cut. You don’t really need one, though. Just try to match up the outer edges of your donut, and whip stitch them together, leaving a small hole so you can stuff it with polyfill. I used a chopstick (see Katie, I can use chopsticks, too!) to push the polyfill around. If your edges don’t perfectly match up, it’s really ok, just slide them forward or back so that they do – once you’ve added the stuffing you won’t be able to tell.

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See how easy that was? And fun, too! Now go make a guilt-free dozen!

Don’t forget to see what the other Wipsters are up to, and to check out our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Pool, too.

I’ve received some most excellent Happy Mail in the past two weeks and I will be posting about it soon! I’m totally behind, but please super-cool sender-people, don’t think your mail didn’t rock my socks – my next post is all about you!

W.I.P. Wednesday : Felty Heart Pins, Pin Cushions & Stitch-Along Progress

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Hello Crafties! It’s already Wednesday, can you believe it? I am losing the battle to stay on top of things, so I’ve decided to stop fighting and just be like water and flow! Woosh!

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Have you seen this Valentine Pins tutorial? I’ve been making tons of these cuties. Most everyone I would usually make sweet heart-shaped sugar cookies for is watching their weight, so rather than taunt them with pink royal icing and cookie love I think I’ll give them some sweet (and calorie-free) crafty love instead. These are really easy and fun, and gratifying for those moments when you feel like you want to complete a project. Of course I don’t know what that’s all about…

One thing that’s been occupying my time has been these :

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These pin cushions are really fun to make, and a wonderful way to use those favourite fabric scraps that are too cute to end up into the “scrap bag”. I’m also really loving the unique vibe they each have, which is why I love giving them as little gifts. No two look alike, though they may share similar DNA. Or weave. Whatever.

I’ve been so busy playing making the cushions o’ pins, that my Love Bear progress, well, isn’t. Progressing I mean. I’m down to the wire with my last one (ie: it’s hardly started) so if you’re not quite done, you’re in good company. But hey, Valentine’s Day is Saturday, and it’s only Wednesday, so there’s still tons of time left to get stitching, right? If you’ve been stitching along with us and would like to have your little Love Bear included in the W.I.P. Stitch-Along round-up on the 14th, just drop me a line with a link to your blog, your blog name and a photo! Voila!

I’m super excited about next week’s W.I.P. post because it’s a fun tutorial that I can’t wait to share with you! I just need to be patient and hold tight until these three P.I.F. winners receive their goody bags. Don’t want to spill the beans or anything. (Katie and Trina, once you’ve chosen your P.I.F. winners I’ll send you some goodies, too!). And I’ll be having yet another P.I.F. drawing soon because I am a lucky ducky and won yet another P.I.F. drawing! Betcha can’t wait?!?

The Wipster List is growing! If you’d like to play along, just leave me a comment here and snag yourself a beautiful logo à la VeganLovlie. Also, don’t forget about our W.I.P. Wednesday Flickr Group - show us your gorgeous masterpieces! You know you want to! Don’t be shy, this is fun for everyone!

Crafty Valentine’s Day Ideas!

Ok kids, you’ve got less than a week to make a few bobbles of love to share (along with smooches and dark chocolate of course). These are a few rather fun ideas I’ve come across in blogland. I hope they’ll help inspire you, too
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Learn to make a cute (and easy) heart-shaped pom-poms at Zakka Life. I think these are an adorable way to decorate a little gift using some scrappy yarn, or would make a great little valentine in their own right!

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Check out Molly’s Sketchbook over at the Pearl Bee to make these adorable fabric window valentine’s. I still have a few I need to make…

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Also found at Purl Bee, these Sewn Paper Valentines. This tute will have you making you own beautiful valentines in no time at all! I think there is something so cool about sewing paper with the sewing machine…I feel like someone is going to come and scold me or something. I also totally admit to having a nerd crush on Molly and I want to be as clever as she is some day!

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I know not everyone has the inclination or the supplies to sew. No problemo, amigos! How about a no-sew garland? This is a great idea and it looks like fun – and it’s an opportunity to use a hot glue gun which is always fun, really. Visit Fiona at Scraps in Progress to see how!

Stay tuned for a “Sunday Dinners” post tomorrow featuring a recipe for “Divine Lemon Scones” (no those weren’t dinner, but they could have been) and more “food court”esque Chinese food.

Also, I know I’m behind on emails, comments, etc. Fear not, I still love you, just need a little catching up time! :)

W.I.P. Wednesday : It’s Time For Holiday Decorations (à la pâte à sel) & Gifts

After our fun with modeling the pâte à sel we decided to make holiday decorations for our tree. We have a tiny little “Charlie Brown Christmas Tree” that I picked up near the garbage bin just before Christmas when I was pregnant for Guppy. The little tree was in its cardboard box, and it looked as if it had been opened maybe once. I figured it was too good to be true, but the tree was inside, and in perfect condition (albeit tiny). I don’t think it’s a good idea to buy a plastic/synthetic tree, but a freebie on the side of the road, destined for a landfill, well, I call it a “rescue”!

Every holiday we’ve spent together married we’ve acquired a decoration here or there. Then, last year I decided that we should be making new decorations each year, a bit like making a memory of each holiday. This was my “crafty awakening”, and the first time I had the desire to make something with meaning for myself or my family. Hannah had some cute cupcake ornaments she’d made and I decided to make some, too. Six polyester felt cupcakes later, I started feeling like I was maybe enjoying this crafty thing.

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This year we opted to make salt dough ornaments, and we were sure to make enough to give as gifts as well. Perhaps a bit vieux jeu or old fashioned for some of you hip kids out there, but we had a wonderful afternoon painting together. I know I’ll enjoy comparing Guppy’s painting skills – and interest in different shapes and mediums – from year to year. (Note the dino, made with the cutter from Libby – thanks again Libby!).

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You could do so much to decorate these – gluing glitter or sequence would be great fun I think. We used some old (and a bit skanky) finger paints (though we used brushes) and once they were dry I have them a coat of mod podge. The paint got all crinkly and antique looking which I really liked.

Homemade Holiday Decorations

2 1/2 cups AP flour (you may need to add a little more, mix & see)
1/2 cup salt
3/4 cup hot tap water (you may need to add a little more, mix & see)
2 tsp vegetable oil

Cut your decorations using cookie cutters or whatever you like, then lay them on baking sheets and in the oven they go for around 40 minutes or until they’re hard, at about 100°c.

In more crafty W.I.P. endeavours, I made a few more stockings as gifts for my brother-in-law and his wife. We’re spending Christmas and New Year’s with them at their home near Toulouse. They are muy groovy, and I wanted to make them something special.

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The fun part of this project is that my sis-in-law gave me the beautiful Christmas plaid tissue last February when we came for a little visit. I didn’t yet have a sewing machine, but I told her that I was doing some hand sewing and I was hoping to score a machine in the near future. She gave me a few odds and ends from her stash, and I love that I was able to make her a gift using what she gave me. How “full circle” and all that. And they’re not at all wrinkly from our 6-hour car ride…

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I’m wishing you all a most fabulous 2009! I hope you’re able to spend some wonderful moments with the people you love and make some beautiful memories of your own. I’ll see you next year!

Little Gifts

Not long ago when Monsieur Fish was dropping Guppy off at school, he bumped into a friend from Lycée that he hadn’t seen in almost 10 years. Not only does her little girl go to the same school as Guppy, it turns out that her little girl Sofia is Guppy’s best school friend. Small world indeed. After some brief catching up, his friend invited us over for an apéro or cocktails the following Friday.

I wanted to bring something to share, but our hostess refused. So, I opted to make a little gift for 3 1/2 year-old Sofia instead :

Guppy helped me chose some felty friends to make for Sofia, and I made her a little heart-shaped pouch to keep them in. These Aranzi-Aranzo-inspired critters were really quick to whip up, which is a good thing since I started them shortly before we had to leave. This would explain the not-even-a-little-straight stitching on the heart pouch. But oh well. I don’t think the future recipiant’s attention was really drawn to the seams..

Our cocktail was lovely, and our hosts went all-out to make it a real Vegan-friendly affair : organic wines (which were super-yum!), crudités with soy cream dips, a lovely leek and potato tourte which was delicious, and cucumber and hummus mini-sandwiches. It’s so refreshing when people go the extra bit to prepare something that makes you feel special, rather than just tossing some raw veggies on a plate for you at the last minute (yes, I’ve had that happen).

In other news, I have a new niece! Baby Payten was born last Tuesday and she is doing splendidly. Guppy is rather frustrated because she “wants to go hold that baby”. It’s rather difficult to explain that we can’t just hop on the plane and fly to the U.S. to see her Auntie & Uncle and their new daughter. She felt better when I told her she could help me work on some gifts for her new cousin, though.

I’m making bibs like nobody’s business. I probably should have started them, geeze, I don’t know, before she was born? Yup. I have some other things I’m hoping to make for her…need to get on that.

Growing up, one of my very favourite things was corn bread. My father would often be the first one up and would make some yummy corn bread for us to slather with jam for breakfast. It was also one of the cursory dishes at Thanksgiving. I had never, ever made it myself, though. Mostly because I am a big cooking and baking novice and thought that I couldn’t get corn meal here in France.

Ahem. I’m a big banana pants. In my defense until a year and a half ago I’d never made a cupcake, and up until a year ago I’d never attempted bread or biscuits. I’m a newbie. As I was making polenta the other day it sort of hit me that duh, I do have the technology, even though we call corn flour polenta flour, it’s the same darn thing.

Silly Shellyfish!

Here is some yummy Autumn goodness to keep you the chill at bay : Yummy Corn bread adapted from VCON and homemade chili. Perfect for nibbling while watching the wind whip the leaves off the trees.

Délicieux!

Mini-Cupcakes, Crafty Love & More!

Hola Everyone! First off, a change… Raw Tuesdays will now be…Raw Thursdays! So stay tuned tomorrow for that! My new schedule make a Thursday raw day a little easier, so there you go!

I picked up a mini-cupcake pan when I was in the U.S. and we’ve been enjoying the mini-cupcake love, let me tell you! They are the perfect size, because you feel much less guilty about eating two (or three) when they are tiny! Above are some Lemon Cupcakes with lemon royal icing and below, the Basic Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Ganache icing from VCTOTW.

Friday we had a bunch of friends over for the apéro or cocktails…but it was a well-fed apéro :

Homemade salsa & fresh-baked pita triangles

(I didn’t make the tortilla chips, hélas, but I’ll get that figured out eventually…)

Homemade roasted-garlic hummus

Diann posted about these Samosa Potatoes from VCON recently & I thought they would be a great finger-food – and they were! I doubled the batch, and good thing I did because they disappeared almost right away! I admit to not following the recipe and making my own curry paste… not pictured is the soy yogurt & fresh coriander sauce I made to dunk them in.

The other thing not pictured are the 45 spring rolls I made! Don’t ask me how I forgot to take a picture of them…they took me so long to prepare!

And isn’t this cute?

You already know I’m an Aranzi Aranzo fan, so no surprises here! I aquired their Cute Stuff book this summer, and this felt bag really caught me eye. I added a liner, because it just looks way better with one. I’m really playing with the basic design of this bag and am coming up with some really cute ideas, but need some time to get them together! I really love their style, and find their ideas so inspiring – a great jumping off point for me to make my own things!

Sew Proud Of Myself & My Bad Pun!

I’m one of those people who gets bored rather easily. Let me clarify : I have a tendency to become rather bored if I’m not constantly re-inventing myself, trying new things, moving outside of the little comfort zone I am forever building and tearing down, like the tides on the sands of humanity, the reflection of the impermanence of all that is around us…

Woah…sorry kids…

Anyway, around the holidays I got all crafty-sewish-curious, and began to try to do things with needle and thread, very new waters for the Shellyfish. I even found myself ogling sewing machines on-line. Yeah, because that’s something cool people do, you just didn’t know it (neither did I, I must confess…).

My monster Mother-In-Law gave me her old machine in March. She told me straight up it wasn’t capable of much anymore, but would be a great way to see what that sewing thing was all about. I loved it, like a 16 year-old loves their first car, despite the lack of power-steering or breaks, or radio, or working heat, and the rusted-out holes which give it a cute Flintsones-esque feel…

My super-cute mom watched me try to parallel-park without a rear-view mirror so to speak with the old machine whilst visiting last month, and in a moment of pure benevolence and motherly-love, bought me the most amazing gift EVER (except for that Fender Avalon Acoustic when I was 14 which was frankly just freaking cool as hell).

With this here little “beginner” machine (it’s the most basic machine Singer has, and I’ll probably never need anything else), I have been (in my copious free time) having a blast! While I may not be able to completely escape the Capitalist Machine (shiver), if I can do it myself, I will.

I have managed to hem some pants (rather than paying 15E at the tailor’s down the street), and some other not very sexy things, but look at all this:

No, I didn’t sew the couch, but I did make some new throw-pillow covers all by myself! I rule! Okay, most seasoned stitchers could tell you it’s probably pretty easy, even without a pattern, but for me, damn, it was like cutting my first tooth! I just set the fabrics next to one another and did what I thought looked good.

And this little pencil-or-whatever-you-want case is for my good friend’s birthday. The Guppy calls her Tata Frog, and it is so decorated! If you recall, the Easter Bunny brought lots of these little cute felt critters, which came from one of the best little books ever, aptly named The Cute Book by Aranzi Aronzo. Holy freaking cute, Batman. I love this book which has got that whole tiny-Japanese-cute thing going on, and has really easy patterns to make little felt critters. I got the idea of adding the little froggie here from that book. Tata Frog is, like me, a teacher of languages, so she of course needs 1) little bags for pencils & red pens; 2) comic relief on the job. I’ve made some other things, but I don’t want to blow you all away with my amazing skills (note irony) , so I’ll reserve further show-and-telling for another day…

The Bunny!

I woke up and wanted to hurry to get out for my run, when I heard squeals of joy emanating from the living room…

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The Guppy knew that today was “Bunny Day”, and she was up and in the living room standing before her basket, repeating excitedly, “Mumma, Mumma, look!”

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How exciting! Baby felt bunnies hatching from vegan chocolate eggs!

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Madame & Monsieur Lapin (Monsieur is easily recognizable by his little French moustache and pink attire…because male-folk do wear pink!) were my first attempts at sewing with a machine (more on that another day…). I followed the free Wee Bunny pattern from Wee Wonderfuls. Monsieur Rabbit was my first attempt (er, pas terrible or not-so-great as we say in French), but Madame Rabbit is much cooler (and looks darn good for just having a brood of felt bunnies!). The little felt bunnies are from the cutest book in the world which I want to blog about when I get the time so I won’t steal the thunder from a future post.

The Bdefilles.jpgunny of Spring didn’t forget me, as I found this beautiful book in my basket and cannot wait to start a billion projects…