Giving for the sake of giving

My sister invited me to be part of a gift exchange, through Facebook. You are assigned a person, are given a comprehensive survey about your person, and then you purchase/source/make gifts for that person, up to a pre-determined amount.  The premise is, that as mothers, we spend so much time caring and thinking about others, that we don’t have time to spoil ourselves, and certainly don’t get spoiled by others.

Here is the gift package I put together for my gift recipient.

peg apron and hilarious bling-ey pegs – made by me

cross body satchel bag – made by me

sleep mask – made by me
a glass tube of miniature paper cranes – made by my daughter (its one of her things, one day I must post about it)
tardis earrings, silly pen and free trade chocolate.

There was also a apron and oven glove set I found when shopping, but I neglected to photo that.

I am not sure what I enjoyed more. Making/sourcing the gifts, or thinking up creative ways to wrap them.
Mama Gift Exchange

I am uncertain about how I feel about being part of this exchange. On one hand, I think its great, to think about, and give to, a person you know little about, for no other reason than to make that person happy. But on the other hand, its all stuff, much of which we don’t need. I have signed up for the Autumn Exchange, so we shall see how that goes.

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A restrained Easter

I have written before, about my habit of going overboard for major events.  My childhood was one of poverty and that meant that xmas, birthdays and easter saw all of us as kids, only receiving the bare minimum, and occasionally … nothing at all.  This translates to me as an adult, often going overboard for my own children.

When the kids were little, I instituted the idea of an easter present as part of our celebration rituals.  These presents were always necessities (pjs and slippers usually) or books.  My idea was, that it would cut back the amount of chocolate my children would eat.  But, it never really worked out that way, because I still fell for all the pretty wrapping and advertising …. my kids end up with a massive amount of chocolate, and presents.

This year, I am being more frugal.  Hubby has a lot of electric vehicle events this year, that will cost in travelling and accommodation.  The dollar is low, so I have to pull back my online fabric purchases.  I am appreciating that the stress of keeping up shopping and managing the household, wasn’t doing me any favours.  And really, the children are older, and just don’t need a huge amount of chocolate.

I have pulled back this year ….. properly.  The children have a few basic, non-fancy easter eggs and a bunny.  They will be placed in some saved paper bags rather than baskets or gift bags.  I have not bought presents at all, and I haven’t bought anything for me or hubby.  We need chocolate even less than the kids.

I am hoping to continue being more sensible with spending this year, hopefully this is a good start.

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And this weeks “astonishing” prize goes to…….

My nephew’s primary school.

Now, working in a school myself, I am well aware of the frustration of losing stuff.  Some parents seem to feel that the loss of an un-named sweater or hat, is somehow the fault of the staff, and that we should down tools, and immediately find the said item.  However, the concept of naming an item seems totally foreign to them.

But, what is even more frustrating, is the school thief.  Children will accidentally take home the occasional hat, lunchbox or special toy.  What is frustrating, is the parent that allows or even encourages the child to keep the item, despite being quite aware that it doesn’t belong to them.

My sister made the most adorable library bag for her son, out of fabric he adored.  And one week into the term, and its been stolen!

It can’t ever be brought back into the school, my nephew would recognise it immediately.  So why allow your child to keep it?  What possible benefit could there be?  Its nasty and horrible, and I wish a thousand times the karma on the parent that allows it.

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My obsession …..

I have written before, about how I love and adore vintage sewing machines.  Totally impractical love of course.  I don’t use them to sew, preferring the speed of my modern machine.  But they have stories, love and memories …. all stored up in them. I have so little of my childhood, that is either love or memory …. its nice to borrow sometimes.

Last weekend, I scored another treadle. After the experience of the “Great Pretender” I had been shy of buying another treadle, but this one seemed so dull and grimy, and in need of a new home. I was all set to be strong about this, to look at the machine from a practical standpoint, assess the work needed to get it back to its best, and not be sentimental. I insisted on seeing the serial number, checking the online reference to make sure it was as old as claimed, before considering buying it.

Its a 15K, not rare, but built in 1919, so still quite old. She has come to me, through only a few hands. She was bought new post-war in England, probably by a young housewife looking to make money to support her household during the depression. At the end of the lady’s life, it was donated to the Womens Institute (1980’s) as part of her estate. From there, it came into Ruth’s life. Ruth used the machine, to make curtains, when she lived in England. When she came to Australia, she brought the sewing machine with her. It has sat idle, loved but not used, since then.

Ruth is downsizing, moving on to the next stage in her life, and wanted to pass the machine on. She was a bit optimistic with the asking price, but I wonder if that was her tactic; as a way of seeing only buyers who valued the machine. I even said no at first, considering how much work would need to go into her. Ruth kept discounting, until I said yes ….. LOL, I am such a soft touch.

Singer 15 treadle - clean

This is after my first step in cleaning ….. just a simple rub down with machine oil. I am a bit daunted by this machine, by the work it will probably take to restore, and I am worried about my ability to do it well. When I feel like getting down on the floor, I will get a bucket of soapy water, and clean her legs.

Singer 15 treadle - clean

She is still grimy, but much better than when I first got her.

Singer 15 treadle - clean

I need to get some polish …. for the silver bits. Not sure about all the dials and knobs though. And she needs a new belt.

That is her for the moment ….. I am sure we will have her back to her best eventually.

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A family tradition …. Potholders

My sister and I used to receive a set of potholders and tea towels for xmas, every year …. from our grandmother. They were never very expensive ones, usually bought from the cheapy shop, but still our grandmother has lots of grandchildren, and we are adults so she doesn’t have to buy us anything at all ….. So we appreciated them. Even going so far as asking for them, if she asked us what we wanted. Those potholders got used to death, and thrown out, confident in the knowledge that we will get another set at xmas time.

Last year, we had a major family issue, that saw my grandparents throw my mother out of the home with nothing (my mother was their carer for nearly 20 years) and move back to their home town.  Other members of the mum’s family allowed or encouraged this to happen, secure in the knowledge that it was only my mother who was being hurt, so who cares.  Its so sad and frustrating when this sort of thing happens in a family.  I am determined that there will never be a time where I dislike my siblings so much, that I would engineer a way to hurt them.  This cycle of cruelty stops with my generation.

So, what has this to do with potholders.  My grandmother is so intent on punishing my mother, that of course that extended to not giving xmas gifts to us grandchildren (I still sent mine to her, because I refuse to perpetuate the cruelty).  My sister and I decided that since we weren’t getting potholders from Nan, we would instead give them to each other.  So for her birthday I got her an apron, oven mitt and pot holder.

And so xmas came …. I was looking forward to what sort of potholder I would get from Sis …. I got some great presents, including a beautiful bracelet.  But no potholder.  :(

So …. here is my present to myself ….. 2 handmade potholders, made with scraps from quilts I am in the process of making my in-laws.

Potholders for my kitchen

Maybe next year, my sister can get with the program!

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns, Family | 3 Comments

A line in the sand

Today marks the next step in my life.  Today I returned the last of materials I had in my home, that were part of my involvement in a charity group.  I have resigned.

Now, lets say now, the cause was a good one, a noble one, and certainly it is needed.   I hope it continues to succeed, that it grows, that it goes on helping families.

But, like all organisations, all it takes is one uncomfortable relationship, and it becomes impossible to continue.

A person intruded into my personal life making me feel monitored and watched.  Every move, every Facebook post, every little piece of gossip, was used to further tar me.  No amount of silence and hard work seemed to appease them.  I am hurt and angry ….. I assume they are too, and I am sure they feel justified in their minds.

There is no winner here.  I am sure there is a lesson here for me.  Can’t see it right now though.

Posted in Family, Isabeau | 3 Comments

Breaking the rules

Rule breaking, especially when you sew, is usually a recipe for disaster.  But sometimes the universe works in your favour, and you find yourself having a win for a change.

I picked this skirt up in a second hand store. A lovely, well worn denim, with a really nice coffee coloured raw dye appliqué. It was a long skirt, and a couple of sizes too small, but I could immediately see what I could do with it.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

And here is my first rule breaking. I probably should have measured properly, to ensure I got the length right. Instead I folded the skirt straight across, til I got to a point where it would go comfortably across my middle. I figured that given how I carry my weight in front more than back, this would give me the ease I would need. Then, just cut it off. This gave me a skirt that was sort of midway between an A-line and straight skirt.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

A quick try on showed that it was a little firm across the hips to get away with just an elastic waist. I unpicked the side seam and inserted a zip.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

I roughly cut two pieces of quilting cotton the same shape as the waist. These were stitched together at one side seam, and the I bound the bottom hem with satin bias binding.

These I then attached to the waist edge, turned to the inside, and topstitched along the top edge.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

On the back, I measured a width, and then topstitched again 2.5cm down, to create a channel for the elastic. I anchored the elastic at the zip side, and then threaded it through until I came to the other side seam. Pulled up the elastic, did a couple of try ons. Once it was tight enough. I anchored that side down, stitching all the way to the edge of the facing.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

After ages trying to perfect fit, I have come to the conclusion that the shape of my hips just works better with an elastic back. And since I normally don’t wear shirts tucked in, I am not bothered by it.

Denim Skirt Upcycle

I am genuinely surprised how well this worked out. Its a wearable skirt, at a good (not frumpy) length.


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Are you beautiful?

I’m not ….. I know that.

Now before I get howled down, about how I need to accept my inner beauty, be a beautiful light, and many other such trite’isms …. please be aware, acknowledging my lack of beauty doesn’t automatically mean I hate myself.  I appreciate that my features are arranged into a generally acceptable face, not inclined to instil fear in small children, but also not likely to inspire sonnets either.  My face is round, prone to being ruddy, and not particularly photogenic.  I certainly have never mastered my “camera smile”, which means I don’t particularly like smiling in photos.

Mostly, this lack hasn’t bothered me much.  I don’t come from pretty stock.  My mother’s family tend towards the mannish in looks, well leathered skin, and tend to age not very well.  My father’s family tend towards the pointy chin, wicked witch look, especially as they age.  I would say, that in the scheme of things, my siblings and I have done the best we could, genetically, with the chromosomes we were given.

I don’t hold much truck with models, and actors.  Like fashion designers think of plus sized women …. I tend to feel those in the public eye, are verging on not real people.  So I don’t compare myself ….. or should I say I try not to.

But, I am an active part of the sewing community.   And so I receive newsletters from various pattern companies.  Todays was from StyleArc, who make wonderful fashion forward designs.  They value their customer base, and regularly send out their newsletters with photos of outfits customers have made from their designs.

So todays photo was a beautiful woman, in a stunning lace dress.  She’s not a model, or actress.  She’s not super thin, or plus sized.  She is a normal person, in a lovely dress.  But also, well at least in my eyes, she was beautiful.  A stunning prettiness,  along with a glow that spelled health and happiness.

I work hard to be comfortable in my own skin, but I must admit ….. just a tiny bit of jealousy.  Not terribly proud of it.

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Lounge Room quilts

The first of two quilts, that I made for my lounge chairs.

I completed both quilts last year, and unfortunately, my friend, who was long arm quilting them for me, had a massive rush of jobs, along with a couple of family issues, so they have been waiting at her place to be finished, all year.

This is the first quilt, a set of charm squares in a range whose name I can’t remember now. Quilting is a pantograph of some particular name, I also can’t remember. I do know that I chose it, as the swirls are a great counter point to the linear nature of the quilt.

Lounge room quilt #1

A close up, because we always like to look up close.

Lounge room quilt #1

The second quilt just needs to be bound, and then it will be done also.

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Who would you thank in your life?

I would like to thank ……. Naked Margaret.

Yep … naked. As a 12 year old girl, with a depressed and uninterested mother who had left her husband (my father) for the last time, Naked Margaret was a surprising, brief but powerful influence in my life.

You see, Naked Margaret was the final mistress/girlfriend that finally convinced my mother that Dad was no good. I only met her once, on an access visit with Dad. She taught me about personal hygiene, brushing my teeth every day, wiping front to back, let me shave my armpits and legs, and yelled at dad when he tried to stop me wearing a bikini.

But what she taught me most, was that you must love your body for what it is, not what you want it to be. She wasn’t a model, she was curvy and lush, with a mummy belly from her own 3 children. But, while making the bed with her one day, I looked up to see her dressing gown open, and the fact that she was naked underneath (where she gets her name from me). There was no hint of shame, or enforced modesty. She was who she was. She wore a bikini, she wandered the house in her underwear, and she took no rot from anyone.  It didn’t take her long to see through Dad and his rubbish, so she wasn’t in his life long enough for me to get to know better.

As sad as it was to watch my parents’ marriage implode, I value Naked Margaret’s brief appearance in my life more than anything.

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