Monday, 28 December 2015

The Three Bears - A handmade dolls house

This little baby has been 'under construction' for some months. I have been doing small bits of embroidery every now and then, and was constantly fearful of how, and if, I would finish it.

Starting out, some months ago

I'm pretty proud of this one. I hope Sarah from Bear and Co. who made our Goldilocks and The Three Bears peg dolls, feels it does them justice.

The bears and Goldilocks move in!

I just managed to complete it in time, to wrap it, and place under the Christmas Tree... Since being opened, all three kids have played with it and the past few days it has mostly been found tucked under my 3-year-old's arm.

Christmas Morning, very exciting.

The tutorial I followed was for a simple farmhouse / dollhouse. My aim was to construct a house that looked similar to the one in our Goldilocks and the Three Bears storybook that we have. The storybook that was mine when I was a little girl. 

Surprise! It actually worked out
My mum gave me an embroidery book for my Birthday back in March, and I did have fun using some techniques from this book and building a little fairytale house.

I had planned to do more, flowers at the front, a family portrait hanging on the wall, but it was not to be.

The main thing that concerned me with this one, was putting the whole thing together. I did all the embroidery work flat and hoped like crazy I had left enough space, and not too much space to sew it all up.

I did cheat a little by not adding elastic to the sides and sewing on buttons for closure. Instead I attached velcro to the handle in order to keep it all together. Thus far, it's working.

It is a little off in some places, however for a first go and an amateur sewer, it's safe to say, I've impressed myself!

I would even consider making another as all in all, it wasn't too difficult and even, dare I say, enjoyable... Not for a while though.

3 Days remaining, 1 item to go...

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Bears House - Item 11

As it's Christmas Eve, I'm not going to sit down and write a coherent blog post, however item 11 is complete and here is a picture;

A house under the tree

Thank you everyone who has been following my adventures this year. I have one more item on my Handmade Challenge List, my bolero, which I hope to complete before the New Year. It's however in many pieces and I have no idea how long it's going to take me to finish it. Hopefully less than 7 days!

In the mean time, wishing you all a lovely and safe Christmas / Holiday.


Friday, 18 December 2015

To the Bat-Tent! Well... almost

Yay! The card table tent, and my arch nemesis in the 2015 Handmade Challenge is complete.

I honestly had every intention of adorning this 'tent' with comic book style cutouts and bat symbols to turn it into an awesome Bat Cave. However, I put it out this morning, a particularly warm day when we were all stuck inside, to distract the children and try and sort out what on earth I would add, and where. Without warning, the children were off!

Didn't even get to iron it! Who irons a pirate ship?!

First it was a lift, taking them to all sorts of places (reminiscent of Wonka's Great Glass Elevator). Then it was a pirate ship, a house then a train.

Toot Toot!

To make the 'cave' I started with a black double bed sheet (which my mum had found!) Then on the phone to the 'mum hotline'  I put the tent over the top of the table and pinned down each corner origami style. I then sewed a straight (ish) line, cut off the excess and hemmed and trimmed as needed.

Cave 'doors' aren't straight
I marked out the door using chalk and my husbands level, sewed along the lines, cut the shape out roughly and used black bias binding to stop the edges fraying. I figured as it was a cave it didn't need an opening that could be closed, nor did it require windows!

In the interests of open ended play, and sheer determination to complete my Handmade Challenge on time, I'm more than happy to allow the children to let their imaginations run wild and let the table tent go the way of the tree skirt; filed under 'it will do'

All three of them fit in there by the way.

13 days remaining, 2 items to go

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Handmade Challenge - December Update

Yes I'm still panicking, however I have stopped running about screaming and decided to focus my panicked energies on getting things done.

After crocheting approximately 5.5 metres around my Christmas Tree Skirt (original tutorial), my husband gently suggested that I had made the skirt, and the pretty little snowflake detail could be left for another year. Yes! Genius husband, tick.

Tree Skirt in time for Christmas (Just)

It's by no means perfect, I of course got the hang of the crocheting by the time I got to the end. It's a darn improvement on the previous skirt I had made. Turns out it was a mini skirt! (afraid I couldn't even rustle up a picture from previous years, as it was so small, it was always covered in presents!)

Definitely not perfect!

Then there were 3.

I have been madly knitting of an evening to get the bolero finished. Thus far I have the back and two sides. I'm not thrilled with this pattern. It's terribly hard to follow and if the bolero turns out not to be hideously lopsided, I will be thrilled.

I have a half 'furnished' the Three Bear's House (this will all become clear, when I've finished the darn thing). However the most exciting thing is, that I finally made a start on the card table tent on the weekend that has just past. The one item on my list that has been scaring the pants off me. It has no windows or a door yet...

22 days remaining, 3 items to go

I'd really love to see what you have been making this year. Shoot me an email or share on Facebook.

Monday, 30 November 2015

A Bookish Advent Calendar

It's almost the first of December! Time to dust off your advent calendars, if you're like me that is. 

I never really liked chocolate advent calendars as a kid. The chocolate never tasted that nice, in the Australian summer it always got a bit melty, and we usually shared 1 calendar between 3 (me and my 2 sisters.)

I always loved opening little windows on my paper calendar and finding a new christmas picture underneath. I'm pretty sure I can remember making my own out of an old cereal box once upon a time too.

Part of my Advent Calendar Collection!

I still have my calendars from when I was younger, and have started collecting paper calendars over the years. My kids don't know about the chocolate ones yet, and have their own paper ones too.

Last year I was excited by the concept of the book advent calendar. I had dismissed it though, as I thought; 'how on earth can I buy 24 new books, all christmas themed each year?' It turns out this isn't what most people do anyway!

Our first book advent calendar
I came up with another slightly different spin as well. I've ended up wrapping some Christmas themed books, two new books, and some old favourites that have been missing from story time. I also made up the following letter to be given to the kids on the 1st of December to make it that little bit more magical;

Dear Children;

Santa told us we needed to practice our gift wrapping before Christmas. He sent us to your house and we wrapped up 24 of your books! One for you to open each day until Christmas.

You might even find we’ve wrapped up a surprise or two for you.

We hope that you have been good enough to get on Santa’s nice list this year. If you have, that means we will get to wrap gifts for you, and Santa will deliver them on Christmas Eve.

Merry Christmas!
Love The Elves xxx

I made the numbered tags using number stamps and Christmas tree shaped tags from The Make Good Co. Alternatively, you can download these fantastic tags from the Simple As That Blog;

Tags from Simple As That

There are many other ideas for book advent calendars. Below are a two that I might try in the years to come;

No wrap - read Christmas books all the time

The 'no wrap' book advent calendar. Placing 24 Christmas books in a basket and having the title of the book written down in a numbered box or pouch. From Reading Confetti.

Clever wrapping and stacking from Here come the Girls

At Here Come the Girls Blog, they do Christmas books and films for their countdown.

What is your favourite way to countdown to Christmas?

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Who Sews? Ally Sews

Earlier in the year, when I was looking for dolls to make under for my own Tree Change Dolls project, I had an amazing op shop find. A trio of sweet little Madeline dolls. Little did I know at the time, that the lovely little dollies staring back at me were made by a company called Eden, and were never actually released in Australia. 

Madeline Eden Dolls

They are the sweetest dolls, unfortunately the wardrobe I came home with was very limited (they have one pair of shoes between them).

I had seen some lovely handmade Barbie Doll and other dolls clothes on Instagram and Esty by Ally Sews. I contacted Ally, a 17 (nearly 18!) year old who is Ally Sews and asked her if she would be able to create outfits for them.

She even has accessories!

Ally was lovely and extremely obliging. I sent off a volunteer Madeline, and she came back with a beautiful handmade and very extensive wardrobe. I was so so delighted and Sophie is going to LOVE them!


I of course, had to find out all about Ally's Handmade Adventure;

How & when did Ally Sews come about? 

I've always known since I was little that I wanted to be a designer and make things. At the end of last year, I had only a small amount of fabric and not alot of money and decided to open an etsy shop and make do with what I had, my shop gained momentum really quickly so it all worked out...and I get to do what I love everyday :)

What's been the most exciting place one of your items has travelled? 
Barbie never looked so good!
They've travelled to lots of cool places!! Chile, Sweden and London are a few I'd like to visit someday. I'm from Texas and the only place I've traveled to is Australia so it would be awesome to go back or travel somewhere else. I mean...It'd be very hard to not buy ALL the fabrics wherever I go though ;)

Are you studying? 

I don't study, I left highschool a few years ago and got a job doing sewing alterations. I take sewing classes sometimes too.

What is your favourite thing to sew? 

Doll clothes of course

Where do you work from? 

My bedroom. 95% of my belongings is sewing stuff and fabric so it's basically a craft room with a bed lol!

What do you love most about what you do? 

I love sewing for children, it's so much more fun and fulfilling than when I was sewing normal stuff.

Do you have any other crafty outlets?

 I *attempt* crochet and knitting. Still learning.

What's next for Ally Sews?

This year's been pretty huge for my business and I can't believe it hasn't been a year yet. Soon my doll clothes will be sold by a few online retailers which is exciting. Next year I just want to continue doing what I do and make new styles of clothes.

I cannot recommend Ally's dolls clothes highly enough. If you're looking for a lovely, well made and special gift for a child who loves dolls, look no further then Ally Sews.

Did you like dressing up dolls as a child?

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Handmade Challenge - November Update - Panic

Ahhhaaahhhhhhhhahhhhh PANIC!

I still have 4 things left on my Handmade Challenge List, two items part done (not even half done) and another two not even yet attempted... Oh no, oh no...

I'm making the Three Bear's House for my little fabric dolls house. I had these gorgeous Goldilocks and the Three Bears peg dolls made by the very talented Sarah from Bear & Co. So now I am attempting to create a house worthy of them.

They are so sweet!

Based on a storybook from when I was young

Part of a bolero
The bolero is possibly 1/3 complete, probably even less than that.

I have been trying to find a piece of felt large enough to make the Christmas tree skirt with no luck.

I do have a large sheet to cut up to make the card table tent. Does it count if I just put the sheet over the table and call it a tent? Perhaps I can sew something to it that looks like a window...

If I can pull this off, it'll be some kind of Christmas miracle.

Is anyone doing any better on their challenge list?

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Down 2 Earth

You may remember, back in April this year, I rescued and 'made under' some Bratz / fashion dolls. I didn't do the most amazing job! However it was fun and I loved doing it. I managed to trade some knitted jumpers, for shoes, with another person making under dolls which was great.

One of my make-under efforts

Still on my 'to do' list however, was to make outfits other than knitted jumpers for my dolls... I was never going to get around to it! So I ended up approaching the lovely Sam from Down2Earth Dolls who agreed to a trade, and made me some sweet outfits for my little ladies.

Sam's dolls are amazing. The time and personalities she gives to each doll are breathtaking. Especially their eyes. Of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to share Sam's Handmade Adventure;

How and when did Down2Earth Dolls come about?

I saw a segment on The Feed (SBS) in April featuring Sonia Singh and her Tree Change Dolls and I just loved them! I really wanted to have a go giving dolls make-unders. It wasn't as easy as it first appeared, but I found a lovely facebook group (Rescued Dolls) where women around the world share their tips and tricks for every aspect of doll rescue and my own style grew from there!

A not so beautiful Before and much better After shot!

Have you always been crafty?

I have always loved being crafty! I remember my sister and I making our whole family Christmas presents from when we were 5 or 6.

Down2Earth Dolls your day job? 

Down2Earth Dolls is a hobby business. Before having my son nearly 3 years ago I was an Electron Microscopist and Cell Biologist at Monash University. I got my PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology when I was 26 and I absolutely loved my job but trying to juggle kids and a science career wasn't for me. I left Monash just before Louis was born to become a stay-at-home Mum and it is brilliant! It can be a challenge to fit in doll make-unders around the kids but it is a lot of fun and nice to have a creative outlet that provides a small income (mostly squandered on more fabric!).

Where do you find your inspiration?

I love faces so I'm always on the look-out for beautiful eyes in instagram images and unusual kid's faces in the shopping center. I'm also slightly addicted to vintage fabrics (well, all fabrics, really) and draw a lot of inspiration for the overall look of my dolls from fabrics I've collected.

Who is your favourite doll?
I have had a few special dolls but Callie is my favourite so far! She just has a lovely face and beautiful brown-blonde hair.

I love this doll too, she looks so friendly

Where do you work from?

I share our home office with my husband! I have my own desk and gorgeous vintage wingback chair (highly impractical but I insist) and swap around my drawing supplies for doing faces with my polymer clay for doing shoes and my 1952 Singer sewing machine for sewing outfits. It's nothing fancy but at least I don't have to pack everything away all the time. My husband is getting used to being stared at by shelves of dolls!

What do you love most about what you do?

I love creating new unique personalities from mass produced toys- it's such a joyous thing to be able to create something with your hands that makes other people happy. I also love the fact that I am doing a tiny bit to keep usable items out of landfill.

These beautiful dolls are making me want to try again!

Do you have any other crafty outlets?

I'm always trying something new! I did jewelary making for a while, applique had a bit of a run a year or two ago and now my sister and I are playing around with making some felt ball and flower garlands! Oh, and I'm just dying to try my hand at weaving but I know my husband won't be amused if more yarn makes it's way into our house!

What's next for Down 2 Earth Dolls?

Well, I'm super duper excited because Down2Earth Dolls has been accepted for a stall at this years Etsy Made Local Markets on Nov 28th at Brisbane City Hall! It's going to be amazing with all the local Etsy talent selling their awesome wares under one roof, just in time for Christmas! I'm going to be crazily sewing dresses, sculpting shoes and painting little faces for the next few weeks!

Have you been putting your skills towards making under dolls? They'd make a terrific eco-friendly Christmas gift!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A 'DIY' Ice Cream Party

My children are growing up. Exciting, sad, scary, but mainly exciting. Also a little exhausting! Now that they are getting older, their vocabularies are expanding, and requests for parties and party paraphernalia are becoming terribly grandiose! I guess I should be thankful that they have such vivid imaginations.

No Melt Ice Creams! (or chocolate crackles in cones)

Handmade Ice Cream Piñata
I think I got off pretty easy with Arthur's request for an Ice Cream Party. Previous party ideas had included a cake with pretty much the entire cast of Thomas the Tank Engine.

I had planned to make it easier on myself and just buy most of the food, decorations, games etc. However it was terribly difficult to find a simple ice cream piñata or ice-cream themed decorations and other such items (at a price that was appropriate to a 3rd birthday celebration!)

And so, paper mache, painting, cutting, baking, glueing and sticking ensued. The Handmade Challenge List, and mummy getting sleep went out the window. Reinforcements were called in, in the form of Nannie and Papa (and don't forget Pinterest!)

The morning of the party was overcast and threatening rain. The inside? or outside? questions began. With about 30 minutes to go before party time, we decided to take a chance on outside. Good decision! The afternoon was just perfect and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely (I believe).

Perfect Spring afternoon

Thanks to Handy Hubby, we had some pretty awesome party games. Pin the ice cream in the donkey's mouth. We also set up a little ice cream stand where the kids were able to serve 'ice creams' using scoops, ping pong balls and recycled industrial cotton reels! (which we procured from a local jean manufacturer). The ice cream stand was a huge hit with all the kids.

Fluorescent ice cream anyone?

No blindfolds! The concept wasn't quite grasped by 1-4 year olds!

Can't forget the party bags
The ice cream sprinkle party bags were made using goodies from The Make Good Co and contained handmade play dough and another cotton reel cone for more ice cream fun.

The cake, oh the cake! This was actually easy and fun! A simple chocolate cake layered together with buttercream icing. An upturned cone (filled with a couple of chocolate crackles) then chocolate ganache poured over the top. Add sprinkles and you have yourself an 'ice cream cake'! Which was served with actual ice cream and your choice of topping!

Arthur attempting to extinguish the candles via head-butt

Felix has been putting in requests for his 5th Birthday (February) for the past three months...

What has been your favourite party to make for?

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Handmade Challenge - October Update

Okay, nobody freak out, but I have actually sewn something, and it is actually on the challenge list! Hooray! 

Apron Sewn by Me!

I finally made the child's apron for Sophie from The Haby Goddess Kit. It's not the best sewing job I will confess, however I'm pretty certain it's not going to fall apart, so gold star to me!

I was nearly able to say that I managed to sew the entire thing and not swear at the sewing machine once. However, with less than 10cm to sew on one of the straps, the bobbin ran out. Then the troubles began...

Anxious to get sewing again, I then spent 10 minutes swearing at the sewing machine for stuffing everything up. It was in fact I, in my haste, who had failed to re-thread the machine properly. Sorry sewing machine, I hope you will forgive me.

Now that I have the sewing machine out and going, I am pretty keen to sew things, the only issue being time...

A little Birthday Make
Time to blog, time to make for birthdays and Christmas, time to run my little business, I should also probably cook, clean and look after the children in there somewhere too!

I still have 4 things remaining on my Handmade Challenge List, which feels as though it may as well be 400. As I write, there are apparently only 71 sleeps until Christmas... I have a feeling I'll be sleeping less!

What have you been making? Share so we can all see!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Ice Cream Party, Easy as Thank You Tags!

As I am writing this post, it's hardly ice-cream weather. We've had some small glimpses of spring, but it's not sunshine and swimwear just yet (thank heavens says my winter body!)

It is less than a month until my little little man turns three, and he has decided he wants an Ice-Cream Party. Fingers crossed the weather comes to the party!

I am pretty excited at his request actually. He had previously asked for a Thomas cake, which was to include pretty much the entire cast of Thomas and Friends. An ice cream party provides the opportunity for a lot more creativity, possibility and I think fun!

When he made this request, I just happened to have my little bundle of goodies from The Make Good Co. in front of me and was hit by a brain wave. So I have decided to share with you my first little DIY in a while. 

Easy Ice Cream Thank You Tags

Oooh I love stationery

What You Need;

Felt Tip Pens - One Black, One Red
Large Kraft Gift Tags
Alphabet Stamps + a black ink pad (or your message can be handwritten)
Pastel Heart Stickers - your choice of colour for the ice-cream
Mini Bunting Stickers
Mini Polka Dot Stickers - bright pink for the cherry or a red felt tip pen

It's seriously very simple! 

1. Get your gift tags.

2. Put down a heart sticker close to the top in the centre as shown (leave room for a cherry). Then place a mini bunting sticker over the top where the sides of the heart just meet with the corners of the triangle.

See, not rocket science...

3. If you have some bright pink dot stickers, put one down above the heart in the centre for a cherry. Draw around the circle and make a stalk with the black pen. If you don't have a dot sticker, simply colour the circle in red as I have.

4. Lastly go to town with your little stamps and stamp out your message or handwrite it. Such fun!

You can get all of the things you need to make these from The Make Good Co. They ship worldwide and have an amazing range of stickers, tags, bags and even yarns for all your crafty needs. 

This is not a paid post, however I am currently a brand ambassador for The Make Good Company who have kindly provided the products I've used for this DIY.

Has preparing for a party, ever led you to come up with a crafty handmade solution?