Thursday, August 30, 2012

Octonaut tees

Explore! Rescue! Protect!
We are big Octonaut fans in our house. Underwater adventure, exotic sea creatures, submarines, James Bond type gizmos, great animation, cool music - what’s not to love?
I see a whale shark in distress!
To the Octopod!
To celebrate our love of the aquatic explorers I decided to appliqué some t-shirts with the kids’ favourite Octonauts. Little M went for Peso, the penguin medic, and I chose Tweak Bunny for Little P.  I forget why I didn’t consult her first but she was pretty miffed as apparently Kwazii the pirate cat is her favourite. So I ditched the mint green felt and got some bright orange instead.
Here’s what I did - I rounded up two plain t-shirts, some bondaweb, coloured felt, matching embroidery threads and printed off colouring pages of Peso and Kwazii to use as templates.
I’ve used bondaweb once before for a last minute skull and cross bones t-shirt for a pirate and princesss party. It was super quick and easy. If you’ve never used it before it’s basically a thin layer of glue backed with paper. You iron it on, no sewing required.
I started off cutting out templates but quickly realised it was easier to trace the shapes directly onto the bondaweb.
I roughly snipped out my traced pieces of bondaweb, then ironed them onto the felt - smooth papery side up and rough gluey side down. It took about 10 seconds on a medium heat for the glue to fuse. Don’t get your iron too hot. I think mine got switched to max and I managed to singe the orange felt. It went from lovely and fluffy and soft to bald and crispy!
Oh and another tip - don’t do what I did and use your best sewing scissors to cut with bondaweb. You may blunt them! I switched to cutting with the kids’ art scissors and they were plenty sharp enough. Sewing round the edges later neatens up any rough edges anyway.

Next step was to cut out all my bondwebbed bits of felt, peel off the backing paper and iron the pieces glue side down onto the t-shirt starting with the largest pieces first and layering up. So Peso’s bubble helmet went on first, then his black head followed by his white face then details like eyes, beak and hat.
I quickly realised I was never going to cut with enough precision to make the pieces tessellate perfectly so I factored in about a half cm overlap on some pieces for example the inside of the bubble helmet where it meets the head. I thought it may end up a little bumpy but actually it was fine.
Et voila - Peso!

Kwazii was a bit more complicated so I laid all his features out and ironed them onto his face in one go to make sure they looked balanced. At this point I realised my Octonauts were mirror images of the originals. Oops! Not an issue but if I’d thought it through I could have traced from the back of my colouring pages maybe up against a window.
The no sew version looked a bit unfinished, so I threaded up and stem stitched my way around the edges. I wish I’d thought to embroider the hats first because sewing through layers of hardened glue and thick felt was not easy.
In fact I did start to wonder why I’d bothered with the bondweb. I could just have sewn everything direct onto the t-shirts. I think it was a confidence thing. Next time…
But for now there's that lost baby sea horse to rescue... and a big brother to tickle.

Monday, August 27, 2012

It's a jungle out there

We got back from a week’s holiday with my folks and my brother’s family to discover the garden had finally exploded into life. The damp and gloom of this summer had sent it into a kind of horticultural sulk and not even the weeds were up to very much.  A different story when we stepped out of the car expecting to return to our fairly ordinary suburban garden and instead stumbled upon the Day of the Triffids.
The vegetable patch has gone crazy. After months of nothing but extremely bitter rocket, which even the slugs give a wide berth, we suddenly have a tree laden with apples, runner beans, strawberries and best of all stripy courgettes topped with yellow flowers. 
The courgette plant is a monster. It is taller than the kids and looks like something out of the Jurrassic period.
This is how the vegetable patch looked back in June. Not up to much.
The children were pretty keen to help make the vegetable markers, particularly when they realised eating ice lollies was involved.
Are we planting ice creams?
I’m not sure what became of the carrots. Probably the slugs got in there first. The sweet peas never put in an appearance either.
 Here it is in July.
And here it is in its current glory. Who knew rocket flowers were so pretty!
Of course the ivy and brambles have also gone completely nuts. I spent a pretty therapeutic afternoon tearing great handfuls of spaghetti-like roots out of the earth and hacking down brambles. Then I collected some apples and went in to make apple pie with apples from the garden. 
Hurray for summer - it's finally here and September's only a week away!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Making Munky

I was on a roll after my skirt success and decided to tackle a toy monkey for little M from this very cool book Cute Dolls by Japanese authors Aronzo Aronzi.
It looked simple enough. Chop up an old t-shirt, stuff it, sew on tail, sew on face, job done. 
But I discovered sewing straight lines with cotton fabric is one thing, sewing curves and around corners in jersey is a whole other world of difficulty. The stuff is like those fortune fish that roll up in the palm of your hand to tell your future. No amount of ironing could get that bloomin’ monkey to lie flat.
It must be somewhere in the manual but I could not figure how to loosen the presser foot, so my fabric kept bunching up whenever I tried to turn a corner. Because of my completely inaccurate sewing, poor Munky ended up much smaller and wonkier than planned.
His arm and leg sockets were so minute I had a job trying to stuff the plastic pellets into his extremities. I should have made a paper cone with a little hole at the end to pour the pellets through, but I didn’t think of it at the time. Instead I used the small end of a plastic medicine spoon, which worked out okay.
There was a lot of disagreement about which side Munky’s face should go on - patterned or plain, and what colour his face should be - tan or pink, so he spent a several weeks completely facefree. Surprisingly despite looking very handmade and having no face he was a huge hit with the children.
Finally Munky has his face. In the end little M called the shots and a pink face went on the plain side.
I swore I was not going to touch jersey again in a long long time but little P has been studying the Cute Dolls book and picked out a cat for me to sew. I may hand stitch it.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The torch comes to town

A little interlude from making…

The Olympic torch came our way the other day. We’d been following its progress since it arrived in the UK and the kids and I were pretty excited about seeing it. Big M less so, but he got into the spirit once we were there.
It rained but hey it’s rained everyday since April so that was neither here nor there. Summer 2012 is turning into the summer of the torch and the rain.
I absolutely loved that people turned out on horseback.
The runners stopped for a twenty minute handover and we got to see the torch - or torches up close. The torch bearers were literally mobbed albeit in a very polite English country village way. We had to elbow and jostle with the best of them to get this picture. It was a proper Warholesque 15 minutes of fame.
It was a great start to the Olympics. I am looking forwards to two weeks of wall-to-wall gymnastics, diving, rowing and athletics. Come on Team GB!