Thursday, May 31, 2012

Something fishy in My Creative Space

A while ago I was given a huge fabric stash from a friend who is moving away.  Part of this amazing haul was this bag full of scraps of Great Barrier Reef Fabric!

Since we live on the doorstep of the Great Barrier Reef itself - I really wanted to make something with this fabric. 
It's all sorts of funny shaped scraps:

So I've started cutting and sorting!!

I do have a plan!!

Now my plans often morph and change as they go on, so I'm going to work on this one for a few days and reveal how it's going next week! 

For more fabulously creative spaces, grab a cuppa and head on over here!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Creating Success around the World - Mary from Alice Blue Softies

Welcome to Creating Success around the World
The worldwide blog hop tour, that introduces you to creative people from all corners of the globe.

Creating my way to Sucess

Every Wednesday our hosts on each continent will introduce some inspiring creativity from their corner of the world.
Here's the hosts:
Jill in Australasia
Jill in Australasia
Divya in Asia
DIvya in Asia
Larissa in Australasia
Larissa in Australasia
Charlene in the Americas
Charlene in the Americas
Today's guest is Mary from Alice Blue Softies
    in  Victoria, Australia

Hello there! 
 Thank you to Jill for having me as a guest today. 

I'm Mary from Alice Blue Softies. 
I live on the Mornington Peninsula not far from Melbourne and I love to make things. Some of my creations are available in my online stores.

You can find me at madeit - a site for Australian crafters and at etsy - an international site for all things handmade.

Why do you create?

My sewing life really began out of necessity way back in the day when I was a young teenager and wanted some trendy clothes.  The culture in our house was that if you needed something then you sourced it in the most frugal way possible. It was in the late 60’s and I was very aware that my clothes were daggy and I longed to groove up my look. Mum had always made most of our clothes on her trusty Husqvarna so that was the logical thing to do.  We used to stalk the fabric rows at Dimmeys in Richmond. We would find off cuts from the local ragtrade, remnants from warehouses and bolts of fabric with singed edges in the famous “fire sales”. So I perused the pages of the pattern books and was allowed to buy a Vogue Pattern of a maxi dress with a halter neck and a slim silhouette. I made the dress out of dusky denim blue cotton twill with a watermark print. It was amazing fabric and I was a hit at the Moorabbin Town Hall weekly dance. I made that pattern a dozen times in tops and short dresses. When you’re on a good thing…
Sewing remained part of my life through all the stages one goes through. When bikinis were the rage I didn’t have any money to buy a pair so I made them. They were fully lined and looked rather fabulous and better still they did not self destruct when wet. I made some for my sister as well and now when I look back I love the fearlessness I had to just make a skimpy bikini and wear them to the beach when all my friends had commercially made lycra ones. The era of babies saw me making infants nighties and selling them at the local market. My sister was in the full swing of her dating years so we would dream up ball gowns and party dresses, all of which had nicknames and she would go out looking the goods. Costume parties were popular in the 80’s so the fur was flying when the Flinstones and Rubbles were recreated.
The list goes on and on and as I write this I am staggered at how many projects I have produced. And until I started writing this article I would not have called myself a creative person. No really. People would say to me “you are so creative” and I would feel uncomfortable because they had it wrong. I only sewed because I had to, so that I could have what I needed, without overspending. But I now realize they were right. Creativity is just the process of making something out of something else. And not everyone can or wants to do that. I create things and I love doing it.
I am a secondary school teacher who used to teach Biology and Geography but over the last 10 years I successfully switched to Textiles and sewing. I work part time in a school that offers an Activities program. I love teaching young people the skills and the values that I learned at my mother’s sewing machine. Making something yourself flies in the face of the consumer driven world that these young people live in and I think I offer a different way of getting something you need (want) that has a whole lot more value than just buying it off the shelf. These values came from my childhood and I think they should be included in today’s generation to ground them a bit.

What do you create?

My softies era started in the 90’s when calico bears and Amish dolls were popular. I learned the basics of toy construction and made dozens of toys that are still valued items in many recipients’ houses. I got over it after a while but around 2007 I entered the quirky world of soft toys for adult collectors and children as well. My son is an artist and often inspires a new creation with a drawing of an owl-like creature or a long legged beastie. I have finally realized that making things is what I do and no matter whether I have followed a pattern or design it myself it is the process of making something out of something else that is the joy for me.

I often use recycled knitwear from the opp shop to make my softies. Sustainability is a topic I embrace and I like to do my bit. My favourite materials are cashmere, lambswool and angora teemed with vintage fabrics from my stash. It was from this collection that Alice Blue softies was born.

I make cute mainstream softies for babies and really get my groove on with the wilder creations that have interesting faces and odd shapes. 

I write a blog about the things that inspire me and other things that make me smile. It is not about world peace but I have readers from all over the world so it must resonate with a few.

Do you sell your creations?

My aims in creating a public profile for my softies is to provide a showcase for what I make and to extend the range of people who can own and enjoy one of my softies. I like to think that there could be one of my little critters sitting on a shelf in a far-flung country peeking out from behind a book making its owner smile. Bearing in mind also that these creations take time and skill to make so they have a value and sometimes that value has to be expressed in monetary terms so they are for sale. When I know a softie is going to be appreciated and will bring joy to someone that needs a little comfort and love I gladly send a softie off to that person because I know it will be valued and that is my reward. I have sent softies to my favourite recipients at Softies for Mirabel, The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne and loads of friends and family who follow my sewing adventures on my blog and on Facebook. 

What to you is success and have you achieved it yet?

I have only recently listed some of my creations on Etsy and madeit and am yet to make a sale. You could say I am working towards success in that area. I am promoting my shops where I can. The technical side of computers is a challenge for me but I love a challenge. So far I have successfully installed link buttons to my shops and facebook onto my blog. I have also put an etsy button onto my facebook page. My Pinterest account is more for cataloging my inspirations but I have pinned a few of my etsy items onto my board “things I make”

What's next?

As my creations are one of a kind and no two are quite the same I do not intend to make multiples of exactly the same item so the plan for success is to sell my listed items and keep the shops stocked with quirky little softies. My teaching has the scope to branch into a little out of school hours business and that could be the next step.
I hope you enjoyed my little reverie and please take a look at some of my links!

Thanks  for your lovely answers Mary - and for sharing your beautiful work with us!
Do go and visit Mary's blog and check out more of her wonderful creations!
If you would like to be featured in an interview - then please contact your continent's host! 
Each featured guest here on Creating my way to Success, will also receive one week's free advertising in my sidebar as a thank you for your post!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tissue Box Cover Tutorial

I've been wanting to make one of these for a while - so simple but it's nice to pretty up those tissue boxes. My daughters always want me to splash out and buy the boxes with fancy designs on, but why pay more for a box, when you can jazz a cheap one up with some pretty fabric?

Here's how you can make your own tissue box cover in just

 5 steps and 15 minutes! 

Anyone can sew this!

You will need:
 Some pretty fabric - a fat quarter is perfect - or you could always piece together some scraps!
A standard tissue box

(Note - you can make this to fit any tissue box you like. For the side pieces, measure your box and add 1cm (approx 0.5") to each measurement. For the top pieces, half the measurement across the top of the box - then add your 1cm (0.5"))

note: All seams are 2/8"

Step 1
Cut your fabric pieces.
You need
Top: 2 pieces 23 x 6.75cm (9 x 2.5")
Long sides:  2 pieces 23 x 12cm (9 x 4.75")
Short Sides: 2 pieces 12 x 12.5cm ( 4.75 x 5")

Step 2
Make the top part.
Take one top piece and turn over one long end a very small amount and stitch. Repeat with other top piece.

Now pin these two edges right side together. Place two pins where you want the opening for the tissues to be.

Then stitch together - leaving the opening between the pins.

Then open out and top stitch along either side of the seam:

Step 3

Now pin your two long sides to the long sides of your top piece. Right sides together. Stitch.

Step 4

Pin the remaining small side pieces to the top and edge pieces - right sides together. Stitch:

Step 5
Double turn the bottom edge of the box cover and stitch to neaten.

And you're done!

You can dress a plain one up with ruffles...

Or just use funky fabric!

A wonderfully simple project to brighten up any room!

For the downloadable PDF version of this tutorial, click here.

For more simple sewing tutorials of useful things you can make in just 5 steps and 15 minutes - go here.

And there are plenty more tutorials for all levels on

I shall be linking this project to many of the fabulous linky parties whose pretty buttons can be found at the bottom of this page - and direct links on my linky party page.

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Round Tuit 103

Tuits are very hard to come by, especially the round ones. For years people have been saying, "I'll do it as soon as I get a round tuit". Well now you can have one of your very own, and all those jobs that have needed doing will finally get done!

Here's my favourites from last week's party:
First of all, these gorgeous
 DIY Dragonflies and butterflies from Blue Velvet Chair:

Michael always has heaps of amazing upcycling and recycling ideas on her blog - well worth a look:

Next, this beautiful t-shirt quilt from SnugasaBugBaby:
I do love these kinds of quilts!
Alisha always has plenty of amazing stuff to see on her blog, so do go and say hi:

Finally, these cute little 
Love Language baby blocks from Sew Can Do:
Cheryl always has heaps going on at her blog - please do go and take a look!

For those featured, feel free to grab a 'featured on' button from my buttons page.
Now it's your turn:
Link up your own projects - old or new - no rules - just share your creativity and inspiration!
I'd love if you grabbed the button - then you can have your very own Round Tuit!
And of course we all love visitors and comments so do visit some of the other links!
By linking up here you're giving me permission to use photos from your post in features here on my blog.
I will feature my favourites on facebook during the week, and also on this post next week.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Reality Check!

Over the past few months I've watched my blog grow.  I've worked hard on producing good content, tutorials and useful and interesting posts.
Checking my blog stats on blogger has given me lots of encouragement as I see more and more visitors coming through.
Here's what my overall pageviews look like on my blogger stats:

I've been excited to see that it looks like in May, I could go over the 50,000 pageviews in a month mark!

I think over the last couple of months, I've also settled into a bit of a routine with my blog - with my posts and sewing and how I'm organising my work and my time.

Now as a mum, over the years, I've found myself now and again settling into a kind of routine like this with my kids - finding what is working with them for our lives to run smoothly.
Then just when I think I've got it all figured out..

I suddenly realise things aren't running quite as smoothly as I thought - and it's time to reassess and look again at what I'm doing and how I'm doing it!

So the same goes for my blog!
I've just had a ...


Since the new blogger came into play a couple of months ago, I haven't looked at google analytics, I've just been relying on my blogger stats.
When I decided to look at my analytics stats this week - I got a rude shock!

From what I understand and have read on various other sites, Google analytics is a more accurate representation of your site's statistics.

So for the past month according to Blogger stats, I've had:

52,337 page views

but according to Google analytics, 
for the same period I've had:

34,692 page views

Now that's a big difference!
and my reality check! 

Time get out of my rut routine and try something different and work a bit harder.

I've noticed small things over the past few months have changed. Each time I post a new tutorial, I link it up to lots of linky parties through the week, and I also submit it to some of the large craft and sewing sites, which often feature my tutorials bringing me more traffic and new readers.

Some of those sites used to feature my work regularly, but now don't even respond at all to my (almost) weekly new tutorials.
Are they just fed up with me?
Or don't they like my tutorials anymore?

Whatever the reason, once again - my little routine, and list of places to submit my tutorials to, has become stale and needs revamping!

Blogs are very much fluid things - they need to be constantly growing and coming up with new material to keep people interested.

So my thinking cap is going on.

In some ways I also find blogging like teaching .
I am a teacher of English as a foreign language and always loved the challenge of making my lessons interesting, fun, pitched at just the right level for the students - not too easy, not too difficult - and most of all rewarding, so the students felt they acheived something during the lessons.

Once again, with teaching - you can find a formula that works with a class - and run with that for a while - but soon the magic wears off and you have to find new ways to present things to keep the students interested and happy.

So now my challenge is to find new inspiration for my blog - to brighten it up and find more ways to keep my current readers interested and happy - and to entice new readers in!

I'm going to be setting aside more time for reading other blogs - both sewing/crafting ones and also ones about blogging itself - like Problogger , Entrepreneur's Journey and The Traffic Generation Cafe..

I'm also going to try to learn to make more use of facebook, twitter and google+, to build up a better network.

AND, I'm going to make a concerted effort with my photos to learn to take better ones! After all - a picture tells a thousand words - and can draw in a lot of new readers if it's really good!!

So how about you and your blog?  Do you check your stats?  Is there a big discrepancy between your Blogger stats and Google analytics?  Or if you use a different platform like Wordpress - are your stats encouraging you to blog more?

Are you now in a comfortable routine or rut that you need to get out of to make progress?

Leave me a comment here if you are - maybe we can encourage, motivate and help each other!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Goodbye dolls!

My daughters are growing up, and growing out of things.
They've decided that they no longer want their Barbie and Bratz dolls and so they've been packed into a bag together with all their clothes and accessories and are waiting by the door to be taken to a new home.

I have to say it is a little sad to see them go.
Last year, we did have some fun together when they helped me out with some sewing and DIY!

They helped to make themselves a whole camping set - complete with tent, car and sleeping bags!

Go here if you'd like to see them in action!

They also had a sew-off between the Barbies and Bratz - to see who could make the best cushions!

So, farewell ladies! We had some fun times - and I'm sure you'll have lots more with your new owners!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

My Creative Space - another birthday gift

This weekend my youngest daughter has another birthday party to go to, so I've been making up a gift for the birthday boy.

Apparently he likes animals, so I thought this fabric would suit!

And I made him one of my pencil and notebook folders:

Plain black on the inside with a notebook and some coloured pencils:

And more big cats on the back:

I've given several of these as gifts to my daughter's friends, and they've been a big hit!

It's such a bonus to have my tutorial to go back to each time I make one too!
It's one of my most popular tutorials here on my blog.
I've also got 
showing all the different ones I've made. It's also open to anyone to add their own versions too!! It's so nice to see what other people have created from my tutorials!

To see what lots of other people have been up to in their creative spaces this week - grab a cuppa and head on over here.