Saturday, November 27, 2010

She can't read

but she can felt.

mollie vest backmollie vest1
mollie vest stitching
Moo made this vest at school.  She felted the wool and sewed it together.  She's super pleased with her efforts.

And the reading comment is because children in Steiner schools aren't taught to read until a later age.  Mollie is actually coming along quite well with her literacy skills in addition to her crafting ones!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Blatant Self Promotion

I am not the type of person who is incline to blow my own horn. I am the kind of person who gets on with the job and just assumes that everyone knows that what I do is great quality. But if you haven't seen my work in person, it can be hard to tell from pictures. So I thought I would give a more in depth behind the scenes look at what I do and how I do it. My disclaimer is that this is how I do things. I am in no way criticizing or passing judgment on anyone else. This is totally about me!

For my t-shirts and knit items I mostly use Australian made cotton/spandex knit. It's manufactured here in Sydney. I've been using this fabric for a few years now. Me, Moo and Will all have clothes made out it, so I know it holds up with lots of wearing and washing. I really like the quality of the fabric and the colours available. The organic cotton/spandex knit that I dye also comes from this manufacturer. Most of the printed knits that I use are Hilco or Stenzo.  I do sometime use some knit prints from American sources like the dress I made for Moo the other day.

Wovens are more of a mixed bag. My white poplin comes from a wholesaler, and it is made in China. I sometimes buy wovens from Spotlight and of course, I buy European wovens. I also have some designer quilting cottons that I use. I personally find a decent printed poplin from Spotlight washes and wears better than some quilting cottons. Poplins wrinkle less than quilting fabrics. I love corduroy, and buy and use a variety. If Spotlight has a cute cord, I will buy it. I also really like  Robert Kaufman Cool Cords and the corduroy from Stenzo and Hilco is fantastic.

I prewash and tumble dry my fabrics to ensure that you get minimal shrinkage.
I stabilise the shoulder seams with stay tape. This is probably over engineering for a child's top, but it's the scientist in me coming out.

stay tape in seam

I topstitch seams where appropriate. I do this for stability and sometimes as a design feature.


Because I construct most t-shirts in the flat, it is necessary to tack down the seams

seam tack down

I use quality supplies. Most of the threads are Gutermann or Mettler. I do have a few spools of Rasant around. For machine embroidery I use Isacord threads.


I buy good quality elastic from the wholesaler. Most of my embroidery stabilisers are OESD or Gutermann. My mother always told me to use good quality items because it wasn't worth it to use cheap stuff.  She said,  "why would you invest your time in sewing a garment to then have it not hold up or look nice because of inferior materials?"
When I sew items to sell, they are the same as I would make for me and my family.

I'm sure many home sewists like to ignore the labour. I have always under calculated it. I probably still do.
Many of the items that I make are multi-coloured. This has several implications.
  • I have to pull out and cut the appropriate pieces from each colour of fabric.  For a rainbow long sleeve Antonia I have to cut 15 pieces.  
  • If I cut a bunch of pieces, I have to sew them together. 
  • Each time that I topstitch, I change thread colours to match.  A rainbow Redondo skirt uses 6 different colours of thread.
Many of the machine embroidery designs that I use have a lot of thread changes.  This means that I have to hang about to switch threads.   And if there are appliques, I have to carefully trim the applique fabrics.  Hooray for duckbill scissors!

Peace Imke Love Bus
The large size of the much loved Love Bus embroidery has 21000 stitches and 21 colours.   It also has 4 different fabrics appliqued.  It takes me an hour just to stitch out this design.

Sewing on ribbons, patches and other bits takes time to get the right placement.  

And now as I analyse what I do, I realise that I rarely take into account the design process:  the picking of fabrics, embroideries and trims and the thread colour selection for the embroideries.

Why have I written this essay?  Perhaps it's a bit of a justification of the price and also to give some insight into my process.

All willow & moo items are handmade by me with love and care with the intention of bringing some colour and fun into your home.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

An insight into the inner workings

My mind works in strange ways. The other day my friend, Tas, posted a photo of a handbag that she made. Her adorable daughter was wearing a dress that she had made. I had the same fabric sitting in my stash and when I saw Miss M's dress, I knew I was going to make Moo an Amelie.

I had this red/white floral print Stenzo knit in my stash which was just perfect for the pocket.
amelie pocket

Mollie says the pocket is perfect for crystals.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Super Sweet Stamps

Have you seen Chantal Vincent Art? Chantal does beautiful prints and also makes hand carved stamps. I'm not sure how I found Chantal or if she found me.

I'd been contemplating these two stamps for a few weeks, and a couple of weeks ago I stopped looking and bought them.

Today I packed something up in an envelope, so thought I'd use a stamp to decorate it. I chose the peacock stamp since the only usable ink pad of Moo's that I could find was turquoise. Must go buy some ink for me because relying on the 7 year old's craft supplies isn't the best idea. The orange ink pad wasn't looking very orange.
peacock stamps

Very nice!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Rainbow Wares

As I was working on orders, I managed to make a few extra rainbow pieces here and there.

The perennial favourite the hand dyed Rainbow Redondo skirt.
Pattern by Studio Tantrum/fledge
Fabric: cotton poplin
Skirts are hand dyed with fibre reactive dyes. They are colourfast and will not fade or bleed.
The skirts are stitched, overlocked and topstitched. Waistband is dyed purple poplin and the skirt is rolled hemmed with orange thread.
Price is AU$40 + Postage.
Size 7/8 which suits heights 122-128 (and a little below and above)
redondo 7-8

Size 3/4 which suits heights 98-104cm
redondo sz3-4

Pieced rainbow Antonia tops
Price $40 + postage
pattern: Farbnemix Antonia
fabric: hand dyed organic cotton/spandex knit.
I hand-dye pieces of this great organic cotton /spandex knit and then cut pieces from each colour of the rainbow to create these tops.

Size 5/6 (suits height 110-116cm)
rainbow antonia 5-6

Size 7/8 (suits height122-128cm)
rainbow antonia 7-8

Rainbow leggings
Price $30 + postage
Hand dyed organic cotton/spandex
Sizes available 3/4 (suits height 98-104cm) and 7/8 (suits height 122/128)
I will admit that I didn't take a photo of each pair. I think by that point I was tired of climbing up and down the step ladder to take photos. Sorry, I digress. Back to the rainbow-ness
rainbow leggings

Rainbow Star Mandala Silk & Flannel Blanket
Price $60 + postage
Tie dyed rainbow mandala on 12mm silk habutai which is backed with hand-dyed orange mottled flannel. Blanket is approximately 85cm x 105cm
orange star blanket silk

orange star blanket flannel

There's still a few more things to come, but that's it for rainbow gear.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Embroidered Antonia tops

Pattern is Farbenmix Antonia.
Fabrics are cotton/spandex.
All embroideries available at Huups

Monkey - size 3/4 (98/104)
monkey antonia front
monkey antonia back

Matruschka - size 5/6 (110/116)
nesting doll antonia front
nesting doll antonia back

Gnomes in Love - size 7/8 (122/128)
gnome antonia front
gnome antonia back

Toadstool - size 9/10 (134/140)
mushroom antonia front
mushroom antonia bck

Love Bus - size 9/10 (134/140)
love bus antonia

Tops are AU$38 + postage (same deal as the Imkes...once I list them on Etsy, the price will go up slightly)

More tomorrow. It's time to get ready for bed.

And now it's time for some eye candy

I had a plan.  I was going to make some stock to join my friends at the Lorien Markets, but I just didn't make it in time.   So I thought I would share my efforts.   I am going to break it up over a few posts.

I made some embroidered tops.  They are based on similar tops that I've made for Will.  I like to test my ideas on the willow & moo test team aka Mollie and Will.  Embroideries are Will approved.  Shirt pattern for all of the tops is Imke from the SCKL book.

Monkey - size 3/4 (98/104)

monkey imke
Embroidery by paulapĆ¼ available at Huups.

Supahero - size 5/6  (110/116)

supahero imke
Embroidery by Hamburger Liebe available at Kunterbunt Design

Little Devil - size 7/8 (122/128)

devil imke
Embroidery by Jolijou available at Huups

Fabric is cotton/elastane knit.   Price is AU$38 + postage (when I list these on Etsy the price will be higher)

ETA: The Supahero and Little Devil tops have been sold. Many thanks!


When the path isn't straight, it is sometimes hard to be clear about what you do.  Well, at least it has been for me.  Over 3 years ago I opened my Etsy shop.  The Etsy shop was always a place to display wares that I had on hand.  Those items were usually left over from markets at school.   The shop doesn't reflect at all what I've sold over these three years.  My Crafty Mamas have given me lots of support as have parents at school and my "real life" friends.  I've just been going along making what I like to make with the occasional request.

Lately I've had a couple of requests where I've said yes and then been left with the feeling that what I've been asked to do doesn't resonate with me.  You see, I am not a seamstress.  I am a craftsperson.  I wouldn't go so far to claim that I am an artist.  I am a chemist who loves colour.   I have always loved to create and have been doing it since I was a child.  I don't want to create and sew unless I will get that "Wow!" feeling at the end.  Yes, at times I get tired of making the same things over and over like rainbow redondo skirts, but at the end of that process when I see that skirt, it makes my heart sing.  If I don't get that feeling inside then I can almost guarantee that particular item will not sell quickly. 

So why am I rambling on about this?  Well, because I'm becoming very clear about what I do and what I don't do.  I don't sew curtains, and I don't sew things that don't make me smile.  I think if my items don't have that passion and excitement imbued in them then they just aren't special.

I'm still happy to custom make or recreate for people.  It just must fit within my "artisitic vision", and I'd hope if you've come to me then we share that.  I also hope you can understand if I say, "No."

I promise my next post will have pretty pictures.  I've just taken a bunch of photos, but my other half has absconded with my card reader.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I've joined the club

fiori di sicilia
of Fiori di Sicilia fanatics.  I read the King Arthur Flour blog, and a few months ago they posted a recipe for a blueberry bread which uses Fiori di Sicilia.   I was intrigued about this flavouring that was a orange/vanilla and likened to an orange creamsicle.   My mom had a pile of things sitting at her house waiting to be sent to me, so I thought I'd add to it by ordering some things from KAF.

To try it out today I made the lemon-glazed pound cake.  I have to admit I wanted to just eat the batter.  Well, that is normal for me, but I really, really loved it.  Next up I am going to try some Fiori in sugar cookies.  I made the cake because I bake cakes and slice them up to freeze, so Col and Moo can take it to work and school.

And you must see my African violet.  I showed you a few weeks back that it had a blossom because it was a miracle.   Look at it now!

violet in bloom
Mollie tells me that she's been watering it.  So perhaps she takes after her great-grandma Mollie who had a green thumb.  I always remember the numerous African violets that my grandmother had in her condo.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Creating Chaos

I'm around.  I was taking a little break after posting every day for a month.  I've been sewing madly to finish up some orders for Christmas plus a few extras.  I didn't take any photos as I've just made some things that I've made before like rainbow redondo skirts, pieced rainbow tops and dress and some rainbow Paula pants.

Last week in my infinite wisdom I decided to make some embroidered tops.  Why?  Because I thought I might mooch onto the playgroup stall at the Lorien Markets.  I'm still not sure that I am going to do it.  If I don't, I am going to show my Etsy shop some love as it's been severely neglected.

When I do machine embroidery,

embroidery aftermath
everything just explodes.  I pull out my boxes of thread, rolls of stabiliser, felt, fabrics for applique (which I have to put away now!) and then there were the shirt pieces on the table.  I normally don't have both sides of the cutting table up, but somehow I managed to cover the whole surface.

So two days of machine embroidery, and now I have to sew the shirts.