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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ANOTHER present!!

I'M SO EXCITED!!! Today, Mum and Dad bought me an overlocker!! I haven't got it out of the box yet, I'm hoping to have some time tomorrow to set it up and have a play around. Then I go back to the shop next week for a free lesson on how to use it!



Mum and Dad are very good to me. I started sewing about 6 years ago after my first daughter was born. (I learnt the basics with Mum when I was young, then have done nothing since!).

The first thing I made was a parachute, to use with all the little kids in our mums group when we did music and songs together with them. I've always been of the mind of "why buy something when you can make it?". So I went to the charity shop and bought several old colourful pillowcases and fabric remnants (back then, having recently emigrated we didn't have anything old - I even bought a bag of rags for cleaning!!). Anyway, I then cut the pillow cases and fabric into large triangles, and HAND-STITCHED them all securely together to make the parachute, which is approx 3m in diameter. A friend found out I was doing this, when I was almost done, and lent me her sewing machine to finish off the edge! The parachute was very well used and loved by the kids, and has also doubled as a shade sail in the garden on many occasions, tied to trees and washing lines! I've always been very proud of that parachute and how well my hand-stitching has held up to the endless pulling and tugging over the years!


Anyway, shortly after making that parachute, I had one of our annual visits from my parents (who live in England), and they took pity on me and bought me my trusty Janome!!




Since then I've learnt lots and created so many things - mostly for my two beautiful girls.
Now it's time to learn all about overlocking and hopefully improve on the finishes to my sewing!
Like I said, I'm excited!!!
Jill


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flora the Fancy Dress Fairy

Here as promised are the dress up pictures of my daughters book day at school.

This is who she wanted to dress up as.....



So with a little help from my Mum, and some inspiration from Polka Dot Daze and her beautiful mermaid costumes
this is what we came up with...


I wanted it to be an easy costume for her to take on and off herself. So the skirt is just a basic rectangle with the ruffles along the bottom, and velcro along the waistband, so she can just wrap it around her like a sarong. And the top is just another rectangle of the sparkly material with a couple of handstitches in the top to attach it to one of her 'boob tube' tops.

She loved it and wore it lots at home before the big day at school!

Then today we got to add the green hair to it all!


Jill

Monday, March 29, 2010

Living in the tropics

Yesterday we went down to Innisfail for the annual Feast of the Senses market day. This is a great family day out where you can taste some amazing unusual exotic fruits, see local arts and crafts, there's a heap of entertainment, face painting and lots of activities for the kids.

Since the area around Innisfail is where most of Australia's bananas are produced, bananas feature largely in this market, and we came home with 2 large bags of free bananas! So today I thought I'd better do something with them. After serving bananas for breakfast, and filling everyone's lunch boxes with bananas as I packed them off to school, I then made some banana muffins (which you can see above) and have 2 banana cakes in the oven. And we STILL have more bananas to eat for dinner!!!

Anyway, I thought I would share the recipe for these banana muffins, which was given to me by another stall holder at the markets we go to each month. They are truly delicous and lovely and moist, as their name suggests!

EXTRA MOIST BANANA & RAISIN MUFFINS

3/4 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon bicarb soda
1 cup raisins
1 cup other dried fruit (dates, currants, sultanas, whatever you like!)
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup castor sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour

Combine the boiling water, bicarb of soda and dried fruit in a bowl. Leave to stand for 10mins.

Preheat oven to 180C.

In another bowl, combine banana, oil, sugar and eggs. Beat well.

Stir the other fruit and the liquid into the banana mixture.

Sift the flours into the mixture and stir to combine.

Spoon into muffin cases and bake for 20-25mins, or until golden brown.

DELICIOUS!!!


Aside from bananas, up here in the tropics we have, of course, the Great Barrier Reef! We recently bought an annual family pass to go out to the reef, and my daughters have taken to snorkelling as if they were born to it. Both of them have birthdays coming up in a few weeks, so we decided to get them reef - themed presents this year.

Last week we took them out to buy stinger suits (jellyfish are around for about 6 months of the year up here, so better safe than sorry.) The suits provide good sun protection too.

We also want to buy them their own snorkel and mask sets - and then there's the problem of how to carry it all when we go out for the day! So I've purpose made a bag. (which I will have to make a second one of so they have one each!)

Having Mum here is great, as we sat down together last Friday, and worked out how to make it - trialling various parts with scrap fabric. Two heads are definitely better than one, and today I used our plan, and made up the first bag!!

This is what needed to be able to go into the bag:
Stinger suit, snorkel and mask, towel, and drawing book and pens for the boat trip out and back!


I made just a basic drawstring fabric backpack, but with a few adaptations. On the outside base and front under the pocket is waterproof yellow material (repurposed from a punctured pool toy!) and a net pocket for the wet stinger suit and snorkel and mask set (also from said retired pool toy). Hopefully this will keep any moisture away from the bag contents.







Inside the bag is a large waterproof A4 pocket (made from an old waterproof matress protector I had kept, knowing it would come in useful one day!) into which can be put drawing books / paper and pens.
And also a small drawstring pouch which clips on the inside to put any money, sweeties or small toys which may be deemed necessary for a trip.





And here it is filled with everything and ready to go! I'm pretty happy with the result. The next one will have minor changes like tighter elastic around the top of the front mesh pocket.
Incidentally the fishy fabric remnants that I used for this bag came from Mary at the markets who also gave me the muffin recipe! Thanks Mary!!
Now as I said, I have my Mum out from England for a few weeks, and am making the most of having sewing skills and knowledge here to learn and make lots!!
Do come back and visit tomorrow to see what she helped me create for my eldest daughter to wear to school tomorrow! They have to go dressed as their favourite book character! I'm really looking forward to it!
Until then....
Jill

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Presents!

A lovely present arrived all the way from England today...my parents!! It's so lovely to have them back visiting again - over a year since they were last here! As usual they brought suitcases full of goodies for us all! The usual Shreddies breakfast cereal for my husband! and also, every time they come, they bring a few more things that were mine when I was little, and are now being passed onto my two daughters! It's lovely to see my girls playing with toys that have happy memories for me, and made all the more special by the long journey they have made to get here!

Here's just a few of the goodies that they brought this time - lots of books for the girls, a game of "Spy Ring" that I used to love, and am looking forward to playing again! And some sewing goodies from Mum - some of the gorgeous purple velvet that she used to make the jewellery bag (shown in an earlier post), and also was used to make my ball dress way back when.....

I'm looking forward to some sewing with Mum - and to showing her all the things I've been making since she was last here!.


Aside from all that excitement, I also noticed that my experimental hanging tomatoes have small flowers on them!! They seem to be happy enough to have been turned upside down, and are growing well in all the rain we've been having lately! Fingers crossed that these small yellow blooms soon turn into big, fat, juicy tomatoes!!! I'll keep you posted!
Jill

Monday, March 22, 2010

Figuring it out for myself!


My parents arrive from England this week for a few weeks stay. Having not seen them in over a year, I have less than two days till they get here, and I'm still frantically tidying and cleaning up the house and garden so it looks its best when they arrive.
I also finally got round to trying out this little jewellery bag which my Mum sent me several weeks ago. She'd seen one like it in a shop, so made one herself and posted it to me, with a lovely red sparkly braclet inside as an extra present (thanks Mum!)
I've been looking at it for a while now trying to figure out how she's made it (no instructions were included in this package!! )

It has small pockets all the way around the inside, just perfect for pairs of earrings. A really useful and pretty little bag.


So, here is my first attempt: a little smaller than the one Mum made, but I think I've got the general idea right.
Not quite as professional looking as Mum's, but at least it works!
I'll have to get her expert help once she arrives and gets over the jet lag from their 3 day trip (made extra long thanks to a BA strike in the UK and their first flight cancelled and now replaced with a 5 hour coach trip and overnight stay in a hotel)
I plan to make up some sticky date muffins to revive them when their flight gets in on Wednesday!
Can't wait!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You never can tell

Market day for us was last Saturday. We had decided to change locations in the centre, to try and stir up a bit of renewed interest from the regular visitors to the centre who after stopping to check us out when we first started going there, now often walk straight past!

Success on that count! We had lots of interest, and people saying they'd never seen us there before!!?? (we've been going for a year now!). We like our new location which puts us straight ahead in people's line of vision as they walk through the centre, rather than at the side where we were before.


We never can tell what will create interest each month. For example, when I made these Rainbow JeMs, I thought they would be a big hit. I've drooled over this shaggy fur for months now, but at something ridiculous like $60 a metre, I held off buying any for a long time. To me, they're gorgeous and very special, but they haven't really created any more interest than the plain single coloured fur JeMs!










Then there's Michelle's beautiful new Baby Carriage gift set.
Now this created ENORMOUS interest when she posted it online, I mean hundreds of webhits! It did create a lot of interest on the market stall, but not nearly on the same scale as the online reaction!





One thing that did surprise me by causing so much interest at the market stall, was my furoshiki wrapping cloths. I just had them folded into their little tag pouches and in a basket on the table with a little sign saying 'furoshiki'. An amazing number of people came and picked them up, sniffed them, peered inside them and asked what they were.

Just goes to show, things don't have to be big and showy, or even displayed prominently, to create interest.

Was it the mystery that brought people to them? Perhaps we should disguise more of our products, or give them unusual names!

One thing we have noticed is how well Michelle's products and my products complement each other at JeMbellish. They seem to bring different sets of people to us, as generally people are drawn to either Michelle's paper products, or my fabric ones. Then once at our stall, will look at both.

Of course the other great thing about combining our products together onto one market stall, is that it's a great chance for us to catch up with each other and have a coffee and a chat together!
Market stall is our day to enjoy, as much socially as in a business sense!

Jill

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just for the girls

This week I had a little time to make some things just for my two beautiful girls.


First of all, I decided to try a new tutorial. I've never been very good at being told what to do, and although taught to sew by my mum when I was young, I've since just kind of figured out how to do stuff by myself. Anyway, I'm slowly trying to learn what it is that I'm doing, and the names for processes and fabrics etc, by trying out various tutorials I'm finding as I read many other blogs.


This week I tried the fabric basket tutorial from Pink Penguin.
She has great, clear instructions, and I learnt that batting is in fact wadding (English / American /Aussie translation??), and I learnt how to box corners properly! I'm really pleased with the result, and I've hidden the basket away. I think I'll make another one then give them to my girls for their Easter Egg hunt in a few weeks time.



The other thing I'm almost always thinking about and working on, is storage for my girls' bedroom. This week I added some side pockets to their beds for some of their books, of which they have tons (but I believe that you can never have too many books!).


Pink, of course, and using a very large roll of fabric Michelle spotted for me in a charity shop a while ago for just $10. There's still metres of it left, and that's after it has already covered a couple of crates (which you can see in the photo there between their beds). The girls use these alternately as seats in front of their little mirrors when brushing their hair, or applying endless fruity lip gloss; or sometimes they get turned over and used as toy boxes.


The purple and navy guy in the middle is the octopus bin I made for them about a year ago! My mum made my brother a similar thing when we were kids - Billy the Bin, and 25 years later, Billy is still in use!! I hope the octopus does so well!
I'm not sure how much sewing I'm going to get done this week, as my parents arrive out from the UK in just over a weeks time, so I'm busy tidying and sorting out the house for their visit!
It'll be great to have mum here though, to help me out with all the tricky sewing projects I want to try out! Hopefully I'll have lots of interesting creations to post pictures of over the next few weeks!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One step at a time


It's taken me a week, but I've finally done something with my tomato seedlings. I've decided that since I can't seem to grow tomatoes the conventional way, I'm going to try them upside-down! I found out I could do this with an old coke bottle, and not have to buy the special expensive upside-down pot, when I discovered an amazing website: www.instructables.com . You can find out how to reuse and recycle absolutely anything here! Awesome site!!
Back to the tomatoes though..I don't think the poor little thing enjoyed being stuffed through the neck of the bottle, but it seems to have survived, and has turned all it's little leaves (those that pulled through - ha ha - the trauma) upside down too! AND, just my luck it started raining today! so I don't even have to remember to water it! (not something I'm good at!)
So I now have 2 upside-down plants, and two in regular big pots - one right beside the outside tap, in the hope I'll rememnber to water it! the other is next to our outdoor pool shower - so that at least it'll get watered whenever we swim! I'm keeping everything crossed that something works this time!!
But hey, it's our market stall day this Saturday, and I'm super organised for that. Everything is made, the stocktake is done, and we're ready to set up in our new location. Trying something new! (since upside-down wouldn't really work for our stall, we'll just have to settle for a new location!)
They say change creates interest, and success comes from doing things differently! Let's see if it works!
Jill

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lots happening!

This week I have been a bit distracted......


Earlier in the week I won a mini-critique for my work in an online writing competition! I was so excited when I got the email telling me I'd won, that all I did that day was write! For those of you who don't know, I am an aspiring author. I recently gave away my first short romance story, and got a great response. If you haven't yet read it and would like to, send me an email at info@jembellish.com with the subject line "Fijian Sunset" and I'll email you a copy.



The other distraction was that yesterday we took advantage of the fabulous weather we're having in the tropics at the moment and headed out on a day cruise on the Great Barrier Reef. What an amazing place to have on our doorstep, and we never seem to make the most of it (as is often the case with the place you live in). But yesterday we did make the most of it and had a wonderful time snorkelling and just soaking up the sun and stunning views!


But back to my sewing! Sigh!

I did actually get a lot done this week!


I made up a few sets of my new children's chef's hats and aprons. If you want to see all the pictures, head over to our website.





I also made up a few more eco-friendly wrapping sets: Japanese wrapping cloths (furoshiki) with matching gift tag holders. Very cute!








I used one to wrap the gift I made for my daughter's friend's birthday this weekend. It was the first of the kids birthday parties for the year, and I made her a hat and backpack set. My daughter was very impressed by the furoshiki wrapping, and wrote in her friend's birthday card "Do you like the new way of wrapping presents?" ............she did!!





The gift..................all wrapped up and ready to go!








So now since I'm all organised with things made for our market stall this weekend. I think this week I may look out for a tutorial to make and learn something new!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Growing


This is one of the small tomato plants I bought at the weekend. Now over the past 2 years I have tried to grow tomatoes (since my family eats enormout amounts of them), but have had little success.
Growing plants has never been one of my strong points. I have discovered what grows well by itself, with no intervention from me, and as a consequence we have pineapple plants dotted all around our garden, which do produce the most amazingly large and juicy fruit. However, one pineapple plant only produces one fruit every two years, so I would like to improve my skills in growing other edible things and be able to eat home grown things a little more often than we are currently!
So, back to tomatoes. I've decided that this time, the plants are going to grow and produce masses of fruit. I'm going to put all my efforts into caring for them (but not smothering them). I will plant them in various different locations and pots around my garden to find where and how they will grow best. And before too long we WILL be eating home grown tomatoes.
Learning to grow things is also what Michelle and I are trying to do with JeMbellish. We've come a long way over the past year since we started out with just a couple of products and a single table stall. But we still have a long way to go; just like my little tomato plants.
So with consistent effort, determination, hard work and a lot of positive thinking, both JeMbellish and my tomato plants are set to flourish!
Please do come back again and watch us grow!
Jill

Monday, March 1, 2010

The fur is back!



I love the results of sewing with fur, and also adore going to buy it and seeing all the different types available, BUT.... I also always manage to block out the reality of sewing with the stuff! The bits of fur flying around my house for days, tickling my face, and being collected and hidden away by my two daugthers for use as bedding for their tiny animal toys, or other craft creations!!


Oh well, once again, I'm pleased with the results. Two more cute backpacks - a tiger one and a zebra one. Of course when I asked my girls to model them for a quick photo to show everyone, they wanted to keep them, "Oh can you make me one of these Mummy?" which is what they always ask, and given the chance they would have one of everything I make!

You can see all my other bags on our JeMbellish website. Click here to check them out!
Two more weeks to go till our next market stall now, so this week I'm going to get a move on with some more chef's aprons and hats. I also need to sort through my boxes of fabric to find more suitable bits to make some more furoshiki (Japanese wrapping cloths). AND, I've got the start of the year's kids birthday parties this weekend, so I'll need to make something for the lucky birthday girl on Saturday. A busy week ahead! I'll show you the fruits of my hard work next week!
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