Bye Bye 2016 – the year of the most magnificent make

If you don’t fancy reading an epic and boring post please scroll to the truly amazing pictures at the end. They are worth it. Really.

As we have established in the last post, 2016 is officially a not so good year. And I guess since then there have been a few incidents that did not quite help.

Personally, I would also say, it has not been the best year of my life but certainly the one with the most challenges. And there is actually a good thing about challenges, too. They make you grow. And I am determined not to let the bad things win. Instead of moaning, being scared and living in split societies, lets pull ourselves together and think what we can do to reunite and work as a team. (I am talking to you, my friends in the land of brexit and in Trumpistan, well and in all European countries I guess) Look around you and do something to unite people instead of separating them. Founding a knitting group is definitely a good thing. I guess for the male readers of the blog I would recommend playing football or starting to talk to strangers in the pub. But I suppose you are doing that already.

I also want to use this post to show you the greatest thing I have ever made. In my whole life. I love it and I want to wrap myself into it. I am really proud of it. Since about three months I want to write an appropriate post about it. But as it deserves a hair cut, a professional fotographer and probably a studio with proper lighting (yes it does deserve all of that), I had to delay it. I still haven’t found a photographer (mainly because I wasn’t looking) but I really want to share it with you to show you that 2016 wasn’t actually just bad. So, those few pictures taken on an early September morning will do. I trust my skilled followers to imagine the thing in its whole glory.

But let me start from the beginning. Ever since I have children, I wanted one of these and moving back to Austria, into a bigger flat, I thought it would be finally time to get it: a play carpet with roads on it. A trip to a Swedish furniture shop made me realise that the ones you can purchase don’t feel nice materialwise and are certainly not as cool as the one we had as children. Which was basically a huge piece of blue fabric, possibly a thin denim, with simple stitched lines to mark the roads. In all those years I hadn’t realised that my mum had made it. So I decided to make one myself. I had seen street fabrics so I was initially thinking of buying one of these, finish the edges and voila.  Certainly I did not intend to invest hours of work to mark the roads by hand stitching them.

And that might be the moment when I got carried away a little bit. I thought I had finally found my perfect niche product where I could earn my living. Not too much material involved and certainly quick to sew. I had the vision of a take away play mat, maybe with a little holder with handles, similar to a picknick blanket. Or how about attaching the handles directly to the mat? In which case I would need a second layer of fabric to have a nice back. And as my husband pointed out, one or even two layers of fabric would not be a nice texture. So I would need to add some padding. So material costs were already on the rise, work load still under control. I guess you would still find some people who would buy it for a reasonable price (from my point of view)

Sure those fabrics with street prints on them are not the cheapest and to be honest, I liked the simplicity of our own blanket as it leaves so much room for your own imagination. I was torn. And did some research. And found some wonderful and crazy examples, like the one Schnabelina made. For very obvious reasons she calls it play mat “deluxe”. Or this one by ollewetter. I really liked the idea of adding a pocket on the outside. Obviously if you have a take away play mat then you’ll need to take a few cars with you. So fabric costs were going up again but still under control as left overs could be finished off. Time involved was on the rise as well. Still an affordable result though I thought. At this point I was already mentally designing a website for my play mat shop. Only mentally, I don’t know how to design a website.

Those two examples have impressed me a lot. Schnabelinas tunnel and also ollewetters petrol station are so cool. Again, I had to rewrite my business plan. Using up left overs would make it possibly less expensive fabricwise but time was exploding. Hmm. I guess this was the moment when my project left the “not exactly fortune generating but still reasonable business ” area and became a “slightly over the top birthday present for someone who will not actually play that much with it”.

Anyway, here it is.

From the very first draft to a full scale pattern (as a modern designer you will obviously need a computer and a cup of coffee. And a very long ruler. You guys won’t have any of these, it is just for professionals, you see)

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Checking if scale works for real life play

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I kept the original pattern and cut out shapes on transparent paper to be able to check fabric later.

Slowly things are taking shape:

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For the back I used a dotted cotton. I think it is a nice and colourful look and it also hides the cleverly placed poppers which keep the folded mat in bag size.

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The whole thing is padded with a thick layer of… well…. padding. It has a really nice and soft texture now.

For the front I used a grey cotton as background and then different fabrics, mainly greens cut out and appliqued. Depending on the used fabric, you could imagine a zoo in one corner and a, rather dangerous, seaside on the bottom edge with a little bit of sandy beach in the corner. The roundabout features a flower bed. Or a flower shop if you want. But definitely something with flowers.

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I made a variety of buildings, some have a more obvious use than others who are supposed to give the player more room for imagination.  Apparently the intended fire station at the top in the previous picture can also be used as church (by every annoying and not seeing the truth person I asked)

I just needed my own petrol station:

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img_5401-2The very attentive readers amongst you (not too many I know) may have noticed that the helicopter landing spot in the dark green has been replaced by the hospital in the second picture. How is this possible? Another, similar play mat? No. This is my favourite, incredibly clever feature: all those buildings are actually removeable. There are one type of popper sides all over the play mat and the builings have the other type. So you can clip them on wherever you want (obviously not really wherever you want, only on the poppers, silly)

And just a few more pictures, because I am so impressed and pleased with myself 🙂

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Here, you can also admire the zig zagging around all edges and for the street markings and zebra crossing. Well and some dinosaurs who invaded the mat.

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As I was not the only extremely pleased person, my daughter requested a car play mat as well. I thought it is silly to have two of them in the house and convinced her that a enchanted forest, fairytale scenery would be much better. Now I have to make one of these. Except that I don’t know how. But hey, another challenge which will make me grow (see how I cleverly came back to the start of this post?)

Have a good end of the year and I wish you all a happy and healthy 2017 with lots of new friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Time to look back

I haven’t been posting for a while. So I’ll start small. (I suppose before going on a break again 😉 )

I have watched quite a few “looking back at 2016” episodes of various shows and they all have in common that 2016 wasn’t a great year. I guess it wasn’t.

But I guess we are not getting out of this misery if we keep focusing on the negative, being worried it will all get worse. And voting for politicians and ideas that focus on fear and worries.  So lets all work together to make sure that 2017 will be a better year. I actually have Monty Python’s “Always look on the bright side of life” in my head, so lets all join in.

Since this is a crafting blog, I would like to start by sharing one little project that reunites a few good ( and bright) things knittingwise. I can’t save the world just in one blog post, sorry.

I just finished (and I do mean “just”, about 20min ago) another example of one of my favourite children jumper patterns: The little Rascals by Julia Stanfield.

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It is a great ebook, offering you a huge choice of sizes, options like cardigan, jumper, sleeveless, collar, hood,…. I must have used it already 20 times at least:

Goodness, I just realised how far “looking back” in this case meant.5 years I guess.

As you can see, the latest member of the Little Rascal family features my new favourite “colour to combine with” grey. It might be a little bit lighter than in the picture.

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I have used Lana Grossa Cool Wool Big. 100% merino wool and really super soft. It feels great and does not itch at all.

So, it is a rather unspectacular project but a combination of things to be happy about. So lets just all sing it again: “always look at the briiiight si-ide of life, da-dum, da-da-da-da-da-dum”

 

Scrap Sunday: Scrap gifting

This week we were really busy, almost stressed. We had to prepare a birthday gift for a little girl who likes crafting. And what better present could there possibly be than a personalised choice of material from crafter to crafter? Plus mummy gets to write an interesting blog post. So we have spent hours of choosing fabrics from my scraps, cutting them nicely with pinking shears, rolling up tiny balls of yarn, and finally sewing small bags for beads and glass gems. What a particularly nice and peaceful activity! To be enjoyed most with three children, ideally with two of them negotiating carefully an accurate schedule for the sewing machine use and a baby quietly making the most of that time of divided attention to measure the exact length of each thread and arranging a complicated maze with said thread.

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Last but not least I contributed something as well and made another personalised gift bag, just like for the birthday party a couple of weeks ago. I am actually quite fond of this one.

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I think dark blue for the zigzag is rather ideal, not as hard as black would have been yet still a proper border. As you can see there are a few minor issues, it is quite difficult to go around all these curves and corners correctly with a standard foot because you don’t see where you are going to insert the needle next. So I am considering to invest in a quilting foot to be able to freestyle easily.

Other than that, I have actually used up quite a bit of my scraps this week by making a few pieces of clothing for babies, I might or might not show them to you next week. Plus I made my new favourite piece of clothing for myself. I am just telling you to keep up the tension 🙂

 

Fox hunting coat

As you are still here, I can only assume that you are either really confident and all my attempts of chasing you away have failed or you are just really really nosy and want to know all about the secret I am about to reveal. In either case: Welcome back! I am glad you are still with me. Because the secret is a big one. I am actually quite nervous right now. But give me a moment to relax.

As I have mentioned before, the baby got a new coat (reversible jacket pattern from the klimperklein book) instead of a hoody. The old one was getting small.

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and stupidly I thought he can still wear a normal double sided cotton coat in October. Well, maybe with a woolen jumper underneath. I ordered very autumny fox hunting (sorry, I clearly was too long in England if I find that funny ) sweat. Much to my disappointment it was rather thin and I wasn’t even sure if I should be using it for a jacket. But I still did. Because… well I don’t know why.

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As you can see, I made ellbow pads – very British I think.

Ellbow pads are a great way of using up scraps (mental note to myself: Write lengthy blog post about ellbow pads on Sunday)

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I love the pointy hood with the tassels. And see, the current hat matches as well.

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In action (And no, he would not stand up for a moment just because he is kindly asked by the woman who feeds him at any time of day or night, who entertains him at any time of day or night, who looks after him, changes his nappies, dresses him and makes him the coolest clothes):

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Now, for the inside, it is less colourful than usual. I suddenly remembered that grey thick brushed cotton that I had bought ages ago as a lining for dungarees before realising that this would be far too hot for trousers.

For sleeves and hood I used stripy left overs. I only had enough orange for the hood so I went for green sleeves. As the outer sleeves are a thicker sweat than the fox fabric, I didn’t want to have the brushed cotton for the sleeves as well as it would have become too bulky for those tiny arms.

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And guess what? I think this looks amazing. Grey with orange and green. Amazing. I almost prefer this side. Almost perfect (maybe with a tiny applique to jazz it up :)).

Grey! What a great colour! Yes colour. I do consider grey as a colour from now on. Phew, it is finally out. I do feel much better now. But pleeeease don’t tell anybody. I would loose my reputation as multicolour fanatic and I do not think I am ready for that just yet.

I really hope I can trust you and that you value the importance of this moment. I certainly do.