I thought all of my dreams had come true when Maaike from MaaiDesign contacted me and asked if I'd like to play with some of her beautiful, beautiful fabrics! I was completely spoiled for choice but eventually chose to make this amazingly soft, completely adorable, beach / swim cover up from the fish print of this See You at Six french terry.
I’ve been reading, and loving, Meg’s insights on parenthood and living a creative life since my daughter was a tiny baby, 7 years ago. Her blog remains my favourite place to find inspiration, ideas and reassurance. It was, in fact, blogs like Sew Liberated and Made by Rae that first nudged me down the path towards re-discovering a joy of sewing, first for my kids and then for myself. This seemingly small act of stumbling across these blogs so many years ago has caused such a massive shift in my focus and my passion that it is actually impossible to imagine where life would have taken me if hadn’t clicked on the link that first took me there. If I had stayed my finger, where would I be right now? I have no idea, but I’m fairly certain that life would be less joyful and less fulfilling. I feel like I owe so much to Meg, I love her philosophy of sewing, and of course, her designs, so when I got a chance to pattern test the Metamorphic dress I was thrilled.
This dress ticks so many boxes. The most amazing thing about it is that it’s reversible - it’s two dresses in one. I packed mine for a weekend away and it was almost the only thing I had to pack. My husband’s head nearly exploded the first time I turned it inside out and put it back on - hilarious! You don’t fully appreciate the genius of the reversibility though until your kids smear something grotty over you and you can just whip it off, turn it around and put it back on (although unless you’re layering it, I’d recommend finding a private spot before you do this - I almost got caught out here, I was so excited when I realised that I could switch it around that I nearly stripped off there and then…oops!)
I made this version in a blue and white stripe cotton / linen blend for the outer layer and a lightweight linen from The Fabric Store for the inner layer. The linen is 'Duck Egg' and it’s the most gorgeous colour. Next to grey it looks blue and next to blue it looks grey and it will go with pretty much everything in my wardrobe!
The dress is super comfortable, although I would expect nothing less from one of Meg’s designs. Clothes are no good at all to me if I can’t move in them, I need to be able to be spontaneous with my kids, be able to roll down a hill, to rescue them from unexpectedly big waves, to jump and run with them or to help them down from a tree. I can do all of this in my Metamorphic dress and I feel great doing it. The relaxed fit means that it's cool on the hottest summer days and also layers up beautifully for winter.
And… I’ve saved the best for last... Pockets! It has 4! Topstitched pockets for the outer layer and inseam pockets for the inner layer. I basically refuse to wear anything without pockets these days because where am I going to put the random bits and pieces that get handed to me on an hourly basis otherwise? Pockets also add an element of fun to laundry day - one garment might have hair ties, lego pieces and marbles in the pockets. In another I'll find wilted flowers, twigs and rocks, or else googly eyes, glitter and tiny paper airplanes - it's like discovering miniature time capsules of our days.
The pattern releases on Wednesday 1st November so make sure you’re subscribed to the Sew Liberated newsletter for 30% off!
Last year I decided to treat myself to a weekend away in Sydney to attend some workshops that April Rhodes was teaching. It was a wonderful weekend, so fun and inspiring. I have always loved April’s fabric (something about the colours and the designs just speaks to me and makes me want to, well… MAKE!) but since meeting her I couldn’t help but also love April herself - this lady has such a huge heart that it is practically impossible not to.
April has just released TWO (!) new fabric collections; Arizona After, (a beautiful extension of her first fabric line - Arizona), and Heritage - a collection of knits and rayons inspired by her family’s history and roots. You don’t need to hear her talk about the meaning behind these fabrics (although you should - there are some wonderful stories behind them) to see that she has poured her heart and soul into these designs.
I have to admit that for me one of the most exciting thing about these new collections is the number of garment fabrics. I also love how well the prints work for both adults and children's clothing. I’m going to be begging for more of her designs in rayons and knits in future!
For today though, I sewed up a Hoppe Jumpsuit by Straightgrain in the Ojos Smoke knit for Ella and it was a massive hit, both with the girl and with me. The fabric is lovely to work with and is so soft to wear. The Hoppe Jumpsuit is also a really satisfying pattern to sew. It comes together so quickly. I actually can’t stop making them (I’ve made 3 already and have more on the cards.)
I made a toile of View B (no pleat) to test the fit (a size 8 skinny for my rather-tall-just-turned-7 year old) and while the toile fits well I think that View A (with the diagonal front pleat) makes it seem just a little too long in the body. If I were to sew another for her I might go down a size and lengthen the legs for her instead.
The Hoppe Jumpsuit is just so easy to move in, and perfect for active little people. It seemed only right to thoroughly put it through its paces while taking photographs so we headed to our new favourite place to play – a treehouse that someone has built by the creek near our house. It can be a besieged fort or a pirate ship, a secret hideout or a nest, a palace or a treehouse - and is such a great place to let little bodies and imaginations run wild.
P.S. Don’t forget to tag all of your makes with #heritagefabrics and #arizonaafterfabrics. Happy Sewing!
Fabric was provided to me by April Rhodes but all opinions are my own.
Wow, I haven’t been here for such a long time - things keep getting in the way - ordinary, everyday things: cooking dinner, trying to stay on top of the mountains of laundry, house guests, and head colds.
I’m making excuses of course, the truth is that I simply haven’t really felt like sewing or blogging or designing or posting on Instagram so much recently. I’ve been focused on different things (cooking, baking, gardening, decluttering, reading, watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls…) So, instead of trying to force it I decided to give myself permission to take a break for as long as I needed.
It worked - sort of. It was good to accept that this just wasn’t where my interest was for the time being, good to take a step back and not to give myself a hard time about it. I don’t want sewing or writing to become a chore. I want to do it because I want to do it - otherwise what’s the point?
There’s a catch though (there’s always a catch!) - now that I finally feel inspired to make and write again, I’m freaking out, because breaking a silence is scary. I mean, surely after taking such a long break I’d better have a good reason to come back to it, I ought to have something exceptional to say, right? Something profound. Or interesting at the very least. I don’t though. I’m sorry. Nothing remarkable here, just my ramblings and a realisation that I am happier when I am writing and making and designing. So without any particular agenda I’m going to try to get back to that. Here’s a pretty new dress that I made:
I sewed myself an Acton dress by In The Folds for my lovely husband’s 40th Birthday party the other weekend. I wanted to make it in a soft black linen, with the hope that it wouldn’t look too formal and I would therefore be able to wear it fairly often. I couldn’t find any nice linen though so I settled on this cotton silk blend instead. It’s actually really lovely, very floaty and drapey and soft.
Black fabric is so hard to photograph - sorry for the not very detailed pictures! Although you can't see it, the dress is beautifully finished inside - lined bodice, french seams etc. I can certainly see more Acton Dresses in my future, although I have might wait until summer now (it seems a shame to hide that beautiful bodice under layers of winter woolies!)
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If you saw this previous blog post you’ll know that I recently undertook my first venture into wholesale. There were a lot of things I learned during the processes and a few surprises too. The most significant of which was the realisation that I have effectively been selling masks in my Etsy store at wholesale prices for the last year.
I was surprised to find that Seed were going to sell my masks for $29.95 each. While I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to do this, it was a bit of a wake up call for me. I couldn’t help wondering why they were happy to charge that much when I felt like I couldn’t. If customers were happy to pay this price in Seed, surely they would be just as happy to pay the same amount, knowing that they were supporting a small handmade business rather than a large corporation?
Raising prices is actually something I have been considering for a while now, mainly because I would love to take the next step and begin to approach local toy shops to see whether they would like to stock my masks. I haven't done this yet because I can’t afford to lower my wholesale price, and I can’t ask retailers to sell my masks at a higher price while undercutting them in my own Etsy store.
All of this has left me feeling very conflicted. I need to raise my prices but I feel really bad about it, I feel like I’m cheating people by doing so. I’m worried that I’ll be out-priced by cheap versions of the same thing on Etsy, I’m wondering how I convince people that what I’m making is of better quality and that it’s worth what I’m asking for it. I feel rather like I’m saying that my time is worth more - that I’m worth more - than what I’m currently asking - and for me that’s an uncomfortable place to be. But at the same time I also want to make a success of my business and I can’t do that if I’m cheating myself.
While all of this has been difficult to work through, I am glad in a way to have had my hand forced. I am happy to have finally made a decision that I have been putting off for months and months. It feels like a gamble, and I’m afraid that it won’t work, I’m afraid that customers will say ‘No, I’m not paying that - it’s not worth that much’, not only because I don’t want to fail, but because it would leave me feeling foolish for having had the audacity to believe that I - and my products - were worth more.
So having babbled on and on for quite long enough now, here’s what I’ve decided to do:
I am going to review the prices of all of my felt dress up masks. They will be priced between AUD$19 and $24 depending on how detailed they are and how much work goes into them. The new prices will come into effect as of January 2nd. So, consider this fair warning - if you were thinking of buying, get in quick before the price rise!
As an added bonus, I will be running a sale between Boxing day and New Year where you can get an extra 20% off with the code SWEET - this discount code will work for patterns too! Please note that all orders placed during the sale will ship on January 2nd as we're going to spend New Year canoeing down a river, camping, reconnecting with nature and generally getting very grubby!
Finally I’d like to thank each and every one of you for all your support this year - whether it’s as a customer, a reader or a friend. I couldn’t do it without you and want to wish you a very happy, healthy and joyful New Year.
Rooooaaar! I'm so excited! It's Sew Mama Sew's annual Giveaway day! I love Giveaway day and This time I have 2 prizes up for grabs. Winners can take their pick from any of my PDF felt mask sewing patterns. They are perfect stocking fillers and make a wonderfully quick and easy last minute handmade birthday prezzie (I should know - pretty much all of the kids in my daughter's class got these for their birthdays this year...!)
Enter using the Rafflecopter below. Entries close at midnight Sunday American Eastern time. Winners will be notified via email.
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Can you believe we’re halfway through November, moreover, that it’s only 5 weeks until the Silly Season starts?! I can’t, but that’s mostly because I live in topsy turvy land these days. I’ve been in Australia for 12 years now but I still can’t get used to Christmas and Spring occurring at the same time. I really need those environmental clues of the Northern Hemisphere, the autumn leaves falling, the nights drawing in, the chill in the air, to get me into the christmas spirit. I pine for snow and log fires, sledding and hot chocolate, mittens and hot water bottles.
That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy a hot christmas. It’s a lovely holiday here, full of light and the joys of early summer. Little girls in white dresses, cherries and stone fruit, seafood and cocktails, bright sunshine and cool breezes. We throw open all the doors and lounge around in the garden, enjoying balmy evenings under twinkling fairy lights.
Nonetheless, I do find that it requires more of a conscious effort on my part to make December feel festive, and because I am determined that my children should find it as magical as I remember the holidays from my childhood being I tend to overcompensate by going all out with the decorations, music, christmas craft activities, and, of course, handmade gifts.
One of my favourite Christmassy things to make are these little Reindeer masks. I’m heading to Swagger Child Design Market this Sunday so I have been busy stocking up on them, and today I’m offering you a free pattern piece so that you can make them too. The cute little fawn in my Woodland Creatures Sewing Pattern can be transformed into a festive Reindeer with the addition of these antlers. Download the pattern extension piece here and scroll down for the tutorial. If you don’t have a copy of the Woodland Creatures PDF and would like one then you can purchase it here.
1. Download the bonus pattern pieces and print out. Make sure that you set your print settings to 100% or select ‘no scaling’. Measure the 1” square on the page to check that it has printed correctly.
2. Cut out the pattern pieces and pin them to a double layer of felt. Cut around each piece and then sew the two layers together, sewing 5mm (¼”) from the edge.
TIP: For a neater finish and an easier time sewing, draw around your pattern pieces while they are pinned to the felt. You will need a white marker or chalk pen to do this on the dark brown felt. DO NOT cut the felt out.
Instead sew 5mm (1/4”) inside your drawn line and then cut along the white line once you have sewn the two layers together.
Doing it this way stops the felt from shifting as you sew which can be a particular problem when sewing around curves.
3. Sew your fawn mask following instructions on the PDF pattern. When you come to sew the 2 layers of the face together, sandwich each antler between the 2 face layers, positioning each approximately 1cm (½”) from the ear, and letting the base of the antler extend at least 1.5cm / ¾” into the mask. Pin in place before sewing around the face.
As you can see I use the same technique for sewing all of my masks i.e. I sew before cutting wherever possible - It's quicker and gives a much nicer finish!
Well, that's it. You're done!
Yet again I find myself wanting to start a blog post by saying ‘It’s been rather quiet around here recently’ and while that might be true of my little blog - it most certainly isn’t true of my life in general; It has been BONKERS around here recently!
September seems to have passed in a blur of felty activity. It all started innocently enough - with an enquiry from stylist Tamara Maynes asking whether I could design and make a few masks, tails and ears for a photo shoot she was doing for Seed Kids in a few days time. I love a challenge, particularly when it involves creating some new designs so I was happy to do it. I was expecting that the campaign might help my business by advertising my masks on a large scale and being associated with a big brand - what I wasn’t expecting was to get a call from Seed a week later, asking whether I could make 500 masks for them to stock in stores to complement the campaign!
I make these dress up masks in my ‘spare’ (ha!) time so I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible to make so many in such a short time frame (I had 3-4 weeks) or even whether I wanted to commit to such a large project, but my husband persuaded me that I ought to do it; ‘I’ll help’ he said (and don’t you worry, I most certainly held him to it!) I was expecting him to regret his offer (he generally dislikes doing anything that might be classified as ‘arts and crafts’ - weird really as he’s actually very artistic) but he seemed to rather enjoy it, and he certainly has a better appreciation for the work I do now!
This really was a huge amount of work and while I have to say that I don’t really enjoy this type mass production there were definitely some interesting lessons that I learned while doing it:
Firstly, I need to accept offers of help more. I don't know why but I usually turn down offers of help; I suppose that I don’t want to impose on anyone or take advantage of their kindness so I try to do it all myself (and there may also be a tiny bit of stubbornness in there too!). This time I was fully aware that I simply may not be able to do it all myself so I began to accept the offers.
It made me feel enormously grateful to be surrounded by so many supportive and generous people. An activity that might, alone, have been tedious and stressful was turned into a pleasant way to spend an afternoon, particularly when you added in a cup of tea, a little cake and some happy chatting. (honestly - anything is bearable if you have tea and cake - don't you think?!) There was also something surprisingly rewarding and soul nourishing about accepting the help; being able to admit that I needed it and finding that there were friends and family there ready and eager to offer it. I suppose it's all related to our very human need for community and connection, but whatever the reason I was very touched so thank you so much to everyone who helped!
I also discovered lots of ways in which I can fine tune my making processes to find the most efficient way of doing things, for example I realised that sewing around the outline of the mask BEFORE I cut them out makes the whole process much quicker because I don’t have to deal with the double layers of felt shifting as I sew or cut.
I found here are a lot of hoops to jump through when you are selling to a large company, different people to talk to about different things, forms to fill in, barcodes to order and attach, accounts to set up, even using a courier service for the first time was a challenge!
Lastly, but probably most significantly, I realised that I have massively underpriced my products. This is a bit of an uncomfortable thing to talk about, mostly because I feel a little like I'm standing here yelling 'I'm worth more than this!' but I did find it very interesting. When I was contacted by the store they asked me what my wholesale price would be for a large quantity. I had no idea! I have obviously done some calculations to work out the cost of materials and my time for each mask and then added a bit of profit on top of that, although if I’m honest when I was setting the price originally I based it mostly on what I thought people would be willing to pay. As it turns out when I looked into it in more depth I realised I have been effectively selling masks at the wholesale price for the last year - oops!
Exactly what, if anything, I'm going to do about this is going to require a little more thought but I'll come back and talk more about the whole thing once I've got it all straight in my head!
In the meantime here's a picture of a cute little monkey...