Tuesday, March 31, 2009


We are (fingers crossed) finally on the mend so I get 
a bit of time off the daily nose-wiping/chicken-noodle-
soup-stirring/thermometer-wielding cycle to take a 
shower blog! There have been little ad-hoc, emergency
 projects going on at home for little ones feeling lousy, 
including a cardboard four-poster bed with curtains 
(all pink, so I'm refusing to take pictures) and fixing 
various broken toys and torn garments. An interesting 
learning experience last week involved plastic surgery on 
a beheaded dolly, the kind with a soft body and plastic 
head, hands and feet. Because she needed an entirely new 
body, I can now count among my list of dubious parenting 
skills, the enviable ability to graft plastic doll parts 
to anything made of fabric. Whee.

The nursing covers, all cut out, are still sitting in 
the WIP pile, as are the last of the winter dresses 
(nowhere near being cut out). I mean, why work on 
one or two projects when a person can be doing 
four hundred and thirty-seven?

Here is a little introduction to what 
I've been working on these past weeks:

Gorgeous, isn't it?

OK, maybe not so exciting in its raw state. But this 
high density foam is a mighty versatile material. And lots 
of fun to work with. It is sold by the inch/yard and can 
cost a fair bit. Fortunately, you rarely need a whole yard 
for a single project (unless you are making a mattress!) and 
if you wait for a sale, you can usually buy just what you 
need without sacrificing the week's groceries to afford it. 
I buy the 3" foam from JoAnn and only when it's half-price. 

Over the next week(s) I'll be posting some ideas for five foam 
projects, as well as alternatives which might be faster, cheaper, 
or both. Some of these projects are conventional, some are 
frivolous over-the-top and some are just plain silly. I'll include 
free patterns wherever I can and printable tutorials for those 
who prefer some step-by-step motivation. Hopefully we'll get 
some decent weather soon so I can take pictures - check back soon!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Curing Myself

This has been a quiet week of routine colds, coughs, snow, 
and general slowness. Sewing has been going on, but not a 
lot of actual completing, largely because my current projects 
are complicated and, well, a bit silly. To distract myself, 
I thought I'd make more nursing covers, for more friends 
expecting spring babies. Which really was an excuse 
for another visit to the cloth, oops, I mean fabric, store. 
Considering how hard it is for me to buy all-purpose cotton 
in general, not to mention non-plain cotton (aka solids), 
I am proud to say I think I might have cured myself of my 
floral/print aversion. At the cutting table, the patron behind 
me asked, "so, what are you making?" I often cringe when 
asked this, because my answer is never politically-correct. 
So too, this instance, when I thoughtlessly blurted out, 
"nursing covers" and watched the smiles fade from the faces 
of the staff worker and the lovely patron who had so 
unsuspectingly engaged me in conversation.

Spent the next five minutes explaining, with growing 
discomfort, what nursing covers were. Polite nods, while 
they were no doubt thinking, "Another of them non-quilters 
got lost in our fabric section". The last time someone asked 
this question, I answered, "crowns!" and was met with 
the same blank, pitying response. Next time I am going 
to lie and say I am making a quilt or a tote.

Still, putting these together will be a nice distraction 
from the usual nonsense I am working on.

One last update - Bandit was found a few days ago, lurking 
in the shadows behind the bedroom mirror, none the worse 
for his long absence from general society. We found suitable 
accommodations for him until a trip can be made to the 
post office to return him to his new owner.

P.S. I know I am somewhat cheating by posting about 
non-events like this when I am supposed to be actually 
completing projects. Especially since the sun finally 
came out today after a whole week and I have nothing 
to take a picture of! Bah! Maybe next week, provided 
no one else gets sick (like me, I mean). 
Have a great weekend, all!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Triangle Toys and a Treat

Back to some sewing finally - 
made these triangle toys this week:

Clockwise from top left:
Cottontail, Flypaper, Sting and Bandit.

Yes- that is a fly on the frog's tongue.

I first saw them here on Karin's blog (check out Bob the 
Beaver here too!) and made Eunice's triangle cow because 
I was so tickled by the concept of pyramid creatures. 
These originated here and spawned quite a few creative 
variations. I like these because, in addition to being fast to 
put together, they have that open-endedness that allows 
for dozens of interpretations. If I ever realize my dream of 
teaching people to sew (someday!), this might be one of 
their projects - design your own triangle toy, execute, 
name, and hand it in for a "grade".  

Speaking of triangle toys, guess who came to visit today? 
A real visit, I mean - not the virtual-blog-kind.

And her wonderful girls!

Kate, having gotten crabby, was taking a nap when 
this picture was taken. I am simultaneously bemused and 
grateful that we met in Blogland and found our way into 
the Real World. Our girls are similar enough in age that 
today's playdate turned out rather fabulous. What a treat 
for Emily, Jenna and Kate to have new friends and playmates 
over. And what a treat for me to make a friend-and-
kindred-spirit out of a blog-commentee! 
Life never ceases to surprise me.

The triangle toys went home with Karin today. Well, three 
of the four did, anyway. Bandit was a bit too successful in 
his game of hide-and-seek with the girls and is still at 
large in our house. He'll make his way to Karin's 
by post when it at last occurs to him the game is over.

Freezer Paper Stenciling

So here's my first freezer paper stenciling project and
I really enjoyed it. It was more successful and harder
to mess up (i.e. smudges, uneven lines etc.) than I'd thought
it would be. It is exactly like single-use silkscreen printing
and I found the following to be helpful:
  • When applying the paint, dab rather than brush it on. I used a 1"painting sponge-on-a-stick.
  • Iron a second sheet of freezer paper on the underside of the area to be stenciled. Iron this on first, and then the actual stencil on the top of the fabric. When I did this in reverse, the stencil on top puckered slightly.
  • Wait till the paint is dry before removing the freezer paper.
  • If you are printing text from the computer, print the font in "outline" mode - this saves printer ink and the text outline is a perfect guide for where to cut with your knife.

Here's the front of the Tshirt for the girls' Uncle James:

and the back, with the names of his nephews and nieces:

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Reason to Cheer

See - this year's first outdoor photograph!
No more pictures with computer cables, bottoms of floral 
curtains and random chair legs in the background. No more 
crouching amidst toys in the only corner of the house 
with any decent winter sunlight. No more photo-editing 
to balance the hideous indoor lighting color tint. Today 
I stepped out on our deck, in bare feet, with the camera. 
Spring! Spring! Spring! Natural light! Sunshine! 
Can you feel the exuberance? Can you sense the liberation? 

Ah, but you want to know what that photo is all about.

This is my latest experiment - freezer paper stenciling. 
Very fast, very easy, very instant-gratification, very addictive
We have a birthday coming up in our family and I was looking 
for a different medium for a gift (no, he probably won't 
enjoy a set of cardboard traffic signal lights).

More in a later post. Probably a much later post, 
since the outdoors is calling to me. 

A note to faithful readers who came aboard because you 
liked the sewing stuff: fear not - my sewing machine and 
I are still friends. Some very colorful projects coming up soon. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009


While writing the last few posts, it occurred to me that
the stuff I make and do has roots that go way back to
my childhood. Mum and Dad were Makers and Doers but,
more than that, they were Limit-Pushers. And they had an
extremely high tolerance for mess. For all that I am grateful.
In addition to them, I was also fortunate to have very
creative friends - and to grow up in an unusually artistic
youth setting in school and church. One of my most-loved
and very longest-known friends now runs her own online
specialty tailoring business, and I mean specialty : she
custom -makes (among other spectacular things) corsets
to fit people who live halfway across the world. Visit her
at My Measuring Tape here. She has always been my
inspiration and my reality check. And she's the one I
think of whenever I feel a bit swell-headed about stuff
I've done: her accomplishments plant my feet
squarely back on the ground again.

So I have to say that, given such circumstances growing up,
it is very difficult not to want to make stuff now as an adult.

Nurturing environment aside, I also had my book collection.
The kind with lots of pictures, I mean.

I thought I'd share some of them with you.
I have some of the current recommended texts - like
this, this, and this. But most of them are
old and ratty relics from my past.

This is a book series that was around when I was about
8 or 9 and which I repeatedly checked out from the
school library. Till this day I haven't found any (and I've
looked) series that comes anywhere close to them
in any aspect. In fact, the Usborne (publisher) books in
general are excellent - and many widely available even now
- including charming children's books (that have nothing
to do with craft!). Fabulous, these UK book folks.

I had to buy these on ebay a couple of years ago.
There are so many titles, and I forced myself
not to buy them all.

The Paper Fun issue is really worth getting
if you can somehow procure it, particularly if
you are a Cardboard Junkie like I am.

As a child, I attempted to construct the entire Paperville
village and its paper residents (made of cardboard tubes).

And I made a few medieval weapons from this chapter,
including a very workable catupult.
Emily's castle was inspired by this one.

Here's a particularly well-thumbed and graffiti-ed paperback.
Every Christmas I would try to make something from it for
unsuspecting relatives and friends (or hapless younger brother).

Now there is a story behind this next one.
When I was about 9, my grandmother bought me a
similar book full of little dolls like these. It disappeared from
our house some time later and I don't remember the title or
what the cover looked like. I bought this on ebay because it
looked vaguely familiar (must have been around in the stores
at the same time as the other one). I was disappointed to
find it was not the right book. I remember that other book
being even better than this one but I am willing to admit that I
might have inflated its superiority in my mind over the years.
Still, this book is all over ebay and online bookstores -
it costs a fair bit now, but it is quite delightful.

Grandma bought this for me when I was little. Embroidery
was something we all learnt as children then, no exceptions.
These Japanese Ondori books are out of this world.

I love this one - my old Home Economics textbook!

Before you point and scoff, I will say that this is how I
started learning to draft from scratch. Who would've thought
a school textbook was any good, eh? Mum and a very crafty
aunt helped refine my dressmaking bumblings, which continue
to plague me as an adult, but after more than a decade of
dressmaking-lessness, this is what I returned to, to get
the rusty old brain working. I mean, if it could teach
a teenager then, it can teach anyone now.

Speaking of drafting, this is a book I might own someday
if I find the time and inclination to progress beyond sewing
for small children. If anyone owns this already,
I'd love to hear what you think of it!

And now back to earth (and the present).
I got these next two books as gifts and they are so good,
particularly More Fabric Savvy. It has taught me that I need
about 10 different sewing feet to work with all the kinds of
fabric I want to work with. Since I only have one regular foot
and one zipper foot, I am obviously doing
disastrous things to my garments!

Then there are the beautiful store catalogs that come
to my mailbox - I cut pages out to keep for ideas. And all
your amazing blogs, of course. If I let myself read every
one that I want to, I'd never get to sleep for wanting to make
the happy things in them. Thank you for the inspiration!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


First, my apologies to readers who thought this was a
sewing blog. Er, you might be a bit disappointed today;
nay, horrified at what follows.

Next, a crafty-looking picture to soften the blow:
See granny reading her book and relaxing in her armchair?
See the table lamp lending light to her literary pursuits?
Today I thought we'd ... er.... make a small lamp.
With um... batteries and bulbs... and wires and.... stuff.

To defend myself a bit, I'm going to say I love my
sewing machine and my tubes of glue-with-intoxicating-
fumes. But I also love my multimeter and the tiny little
electronic components that are the innards of wonderful
things like flashlights and speakers. Combined with
cardboard, they make really silly and fun toys!

Still with me? OK, here goes.........

Now the circuit components can be bought in the form
of ready-assembled Science kits or individual pieces.
For retail stores, try places that sell homeschooling
resources, like ABCToy Zone (if you live in Singapore,
head to Sim Lim Tower and trawl the upper floors).
For online stores, try sites like this. Or you could
dismantle old gadgets that run on batteries
(stay away from TVs!) and save their innards like
my brother and I used to do as kids.

Here are some useful things to start with:

(Top row L-R: Insulated copper bell wire, alligator
(crocodile) clips, bulb holders
Bottom row L-R: bulb, switches, battery holders).

Or you could just get the barest and improvise with a
roll of masking tape, the way my brother and I did
all our experiments. The barest would be
  • A bulb - steal from flashlight
  • Wires - buy from hardware store and strip the ends with scissors
  • Batteries
and connect the parts of the circuit by just winding

and sticking down with tape:

If you can't find switches (which are nice for turning bulbs
on and off), make your own with cardboard and office
supplies. See here for the Switch Tutorial.

And if you can't find a bulb holder, use a wooden clothespeg
(the spring-loaded kind) or make a cardboard one.
Go here for the Bulb Holder tutorial.

But back to the lamp. These little bulbs are very safe
but tiny. To get some decent brightness, a reflector
is helpful. That's the silvery bowl that a flashlight bulb is
in the middle of. Make your own out of cardboard and
aluminum foil, if you like.
It's a bit like a cardboard collar for a dog.

Cut out a circle. Cut a quadrant out.
Also cut a small hole in the middle for the bulb.

Glue onto the dull surface of the foil
(we need the shiny surface exposed)

Cut around the cardboard,
leaving about a quarter inch allowance

to fold over the back.

Tape the straight ends together on the non-foil side

and stick a bulb through the middle hole.

To make the lampshade, I covered the outer
(non-foil) surface of the reflector with fancy paper.

The base of the lamp is a thread spool wrapped with
more fancy paper. The hole in the middle of the spool
is good for hiding wiring. Attach the shade to the base
with anything that props it up - a roll of stiff
transparent plastic (poke holes for ventilation)
or toothpicks glued down.

For the circuit you'll need
  • 1 or 2 batteries (any size except the square 9V). 2 batteries give a brighter light.
  • 3 insulated wires with stripped ends
  • A switch
I taped two AA batteries end-to-end with the
"-" of one touching the "+" of the other.

Following the circuit diagram,
  • Wire 1 joined one end of the battery pack to one paper fastener of the switch.
  • Wire 2 joined other paper fastener of the switch to the bottom of the bulb.
  • Wire 3 joined the metal casing of the bulb to the other end of the battery pack.
All the "joints" were secured with masking tape -
just to reassure everyone that the official fancy
components aren't really needed to make this.

Install lamp in resident dollhouse and enjoy!

Bet you all didn't see that coming.
Loopy blog author!

How To Make A Cardboard Switch

You will need
  • One Paper clip
  • Two paper fasteners
  • Piece of corrugated cardboard bigger than the paper clip

Position the paper clip centrally on the cardboard.
Poke one paper fastener through one end of the
paper clip and through the cardboard.

Push the fastener all the way down through the cardboard

and open the prongs underneath.

Position the second paper fastener so that the other end
of the paper clip touches it. Swing the paper clip away
and push the paper fastener into the cardboard,

opening out the prongs underneath. Ensure the prongs
of both fasteners are not touching each other.

The switch is finished!

Here it is open (off)

and closed (on)

Note: to use the switch, turn the cardboard upside 
downand wind the ends of the wire around the prongs.
Tape down to secure.