Sunday, 6 November 2016

Operation Christmas Child

Each year we participate in the Operation Christmas Child shoebox appeal.  For the past four years, our local Lions Club has also participated.  This year we and the Club donated 52 shoeboxes, which is a fantastic effort.  Along with shoeboxes, knitted beanies were also asked for, these can be added to boxes that have arrived at the processing warehouse without items to wear and also sent over as extras along with shoeboxes to villages.

This is all 52 shoeboxes - some were the pre-printed ones from Operation Christmas Child and some were from our local shoestore that we then wrapped in Christmas paper.  We found the wrapping paper at the local Best For Less store, extra wide and $2 a roll (3m rolls).  We chose cartoon penguins, cartoon Santa "Ho Ho Ho", holly and berries, and white with red designs.  Then we wrapped each lid in a different paper to the shoebox.

Each age group 2-4 years, 5-9 years and 10-14 years Boys and Girls were covered.  We try to make more of the 10-14 year group because I read somewhere that that was the least received category.  Small tool kits, sewing kits, jandals (flip flops), tshirts, hats, socks and undies, skipping ropes, craft kits, 2 exercise books, pencil case (coloured pencils, pens, regular pencils, eraser, sharpener, scissors), washcloth, soap, toothbrush with cover, comb, small soft toy, bouncy ball/tennis ball/small ball.

I find the 5-9 year old girls the easiest to fill.  Below left:  A doll, a soft toy, pencil case, accessories for the doll (guitar, hair brush, purse, flower mirror), yoyo, soap, facecloth, toothbrush with cover, tennis ball, pad of paper, pencils, colour pencils, eraser, sharpener, t-shirt, purse with hair ties, bracelet and stickers inside.

Another 5-9 Girls box:  This one contained a blue t-shirt, two pairs of socks, a doll and bottle, ball, saxophone whistle, soap, facecloth, bracelet, exercise book, balloons, hairties, spinning top, pencilcase (with pencils, eraser, sharpener, coloured pencils, pens), comb, toothbrush (inside the exercise book).

2-4 year old boxes, boys and girls, are quite easy to fill too.  This one below has a soft toy (such a cute leopard too!), doll, jandals (flip flops), t-shirt, crayons, colouring book, stickers, hair ties and clips, balloons, facecloth, soap, toothbrush and cover, photo of us with a note on the back, toy guitar.

I read somewhere that the 10-14 year old boys shoeboxes were the ones least received so we try, each year, to fill more of those than other boxes.  In more recent years we've been putting two exercise books into all our 10-14 year boxes, rolled up and secured with rubber bands.  That's because I read that kids often erase their previous years' work so they can reuse their exercise books!!  Not on our watch!!

Here's two of our boxes for 10-14 year old boys.  On the left we have: a shoe shaped pencil case, frisbee, balloon helicopter (with spare balloons), skipping rope, notebook, yoyo, socks, undies, t-shirt, small bear, hand drum, facecloth, soap, toothbrush with cover, finger skateboard, lego set, dinosaur badge, flute.

On the right:  model airplane kit, temporary tattoos, soap, undies, socks, balloons, silicon bracelet, pencil case, pencils, eraser, sharpener, coloured pencils, matchbox cars, tennis ball, ball bearing maze, baseball cap with flames, notepad, notebook, lego set, soft toy dog (he was so soft and so cute!).

Finally, a 5-9 year Boy shoebox.  A teddy bear, model airplane, frisbee, toothbrush and cover, jandals (flip flops), notebook, colouring book, craft kit, crayons in the shapes of cars, balloons, soap, facecloth, pencil case (with pencils, sharpener, erasers), t-shirt, and a photo of us!

Sometimes we get unwanted shoeboxes from the local shoe store, other times we use the pre-printed boxes from Operation Christmas Child.  I personally love using the boxes we wrap because I think it makes it even more exciting for a child, to receive a box that's a little bit unique from others' boxes.  Plus, this year we wrapped the lids in a different paper than the box so they're even more unique!!

It's such a fun thing to do.  You can find out more information about shoeboxes, what to include, what not to include, where to take them, etc. from the link above.  Most churches participate and it doesn't have to be expensive either!!  If you make stuff or shop around during the sales, shoeboxes can be cheap to fill.

T-Shirt Dress!

Well, I'm not really a seamstress, however I found this pattern for making a t-shirt dress on Pinterest and just had to try it.  We fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child in October (well, we buy stuff throughout the year and at October deliver them to the local church for transport).

Most times we put t-shirts into the boxes that we purchase from the Warehouse (they're about $4, but sometimes we get them on sale and they're less).  Recently I discovered a few Facebook pages where people put up suggestions of items to include in each box or things they have made to put into their shoeboxes.  Crafting for Shoeboxes is one page and the other is Simply Shoeboxes.

I used the pattern and tutorial from The Best T-shirt Dress and found it really easy to follow, simple and also quick!  I whipped up this little dress, size 3, in about 2 hours.  I would have been faster had I paid attention and not sewn the skirt closed at the top the first time I sewed my gathering stitch.  The best part?  I learnt to use some new stitches on my machine!!  First time sewing a gathering stitch and it was easy.  I love easy things.

So, the t-shirt cost $4 (NZ) and the material was from Spotlight and was on sale at the time...if memory serves, I think I bought it for about $5 a metre?  I used about half a metre by the width of the fabric.  The butterflies were so cute and colourful and turned what is a boys t-shirt into a little girls dress.  Now I've got all sorts of ideas how to churn out some more dresses and in different sizes too.  There's a handy size guide on the tutorial for how much fabric you'll need and how long to make the dresses.  This one is about 21" long from the shoulder to the hemline.  Once I'm more practised, I can add some little embellishments too - perhaps a fabric flower to the t-shirt part in the same fabric as the skirt?  Or some ricrac around the skirt hemline?  Or even some buttons just to give it a little 'extra' something....the ideas are endless!!

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Well Travelled Monkeys

After a month away in the UK, I'm back.  I took four monkeys with me, three for gifts and one that was purchased.

First, Dash came all the way from NZ to Birmingham for my lovely friend Sion's early birthday present.  

Dash has pale blue and navy stripes on his body with a navy nose as well.  His arms, tail and ears are pale blue with white polka dots.  He also has a lovely red smile.

Pickle and Barkley were off to Broughshane, Northern Ireland to meet their new friends, Jude and Henry!  Both were a hit and will get up to much mischief, I'm sure with the two boys.

Finally, Posey.  She travelled very well in the suitcase from New Zealand to England and then had to make the final part of her journey on her own all the way to Oxfordshire.  She arrived safely and is all settled into her new home with her new friend, Sandra. 

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Additional June Monkeys

In addition to making monkeys for chairty and making some for ladies who purchased them, I also made a few as gifts.  

This is Apple, she was a gift for a brand new little girl.  I got to go have a cuddle and a chat with her Mum - we went to school together.  Apple was a hit, especially with big brother who took her to bed the first night!  This was one of my last few ladybird socks, mixed with a red/white dot sock.  Her name came about because she's a candy apple red....and my friend's nickname is Apple.  It just seemed perfect.

Then I made Zach, later re-named Zeta, for a young lady who was in hospital for an operation.  We're friends with her aunt.  He has aqua/darker blue stripes with orange tips and plain aqua tail, arms, ears and nose.

Finally Primrose (I didn't know they only came in yellow....I just thought she looked like a Primrose when I'd finished her eyelashes!).  She made a very long trip to Massachussetts, USA for another brand new little person.  Hopefully they will grow up together, the best of friends.  Primrose is a lovely bright pink, her arms, tail and ears have mostly pink hearts on white, with a few purple hearts mixed in. 

Sock Monkey Marathon

Well, it seems that lately all I've been doing lately is making sock monkeys!!  In the past month-ish, I've made 13 sock monkeys and a sock puppy, plus finished off a couple for Mum. 

Clover - green stripe with yellow stripe arms, tail, ears and yellow nose.  He will be going to Sth Africa in September to his new home.
Dash - navy/blue stripes with blue/dot arms, tail, ears and navy nose.

Olivia - grey/multi-coloured owls with yellow striped arms, tail, ears and yellow nose.  Owl-ivia didn't spell very well, so Olivia became her name.

Snowy - blue/snowflakes with navy/blue striped arms, tail, ears and navy nose.  With snowflakes all over his body, how could he have any other name than Snowy?

Tango - orange with monkeys on each leg and orange/black striped arms, tail, ears and blue nose.  Named after his vibrant orange colour which reminded me of tangerines.

Martin - red/blue dots with blue/red striped arms, tail, ears and blue nose, plus he is wearing a navy bow tie.  He will be travelling to England to his new home with a little boy in August.

Violet - purple/white stripes with pale pinky/purple and owls arms, tail, ears and nose.  Travelling with Clover to Sth Africa to her new home.

Hope - pinky/purple with owls and purple/hearts arms, tail and ears, she also has a dark purple bow in her hair.  Hope was a gift for a lady starting treatment for cancer.

Zach - blue with zebra on each leg and blue/dark blue striped arms, tail, ears and orange nose, he also sports a navy bowtie.  The third monkey who will travel to Sth Africa in September along with Clover and Violet.

Posey - grey/daisy with yellow striped arms, tail, ears and a yellow nose.  Posey has a pink bow in her hair and will be travelling to England in August to her new home.

These two didn't get names here, they will be named by their new owners.  They travelled to Auckland and were the first of the recent bunch to leave for their new homes - they're currently hiding, waiting to come out at Christmas!  On the left we have a matching aqua/dark grey stripe, looking very spiffy with his orange bowtie.  On the right she is a delicate pale pink with very pale blue stripes and the same pale pink with white hearts on her arms and ears, her tail is a slightly off-white that matches her nose.  She has a pale bow in her hair too.

I still have a few more monkeys to make and have recently sewn up two more sock puppies that I want to make up soon.  In fact, there's an almost-complete monkey beside me waiting to be finished. 

First Free Motion Applique

My first attempt at free motion applique was a thank you gift for the lady who taught us at quilt retreat how to do this technique.  I knew she liked green, so that was my starting point - green with white dots for the 'wallpaper' background.  I then decided to add a window with curtains, a little cobweb peeking out on the righthand side.  I cut out each petal and played around with where I wanted them, plus two leaves, a stem and the flower pot.  As a little 'in joke' I added a yellow/blue plaid 'tablecloth' because we have a running joke between us - I like yellow and blue together, she doesn't!

Then, because it needed something else, I added a little bee and the word "Thanks" since that's why I was gifting it to her.  I have really enjoyed learning and now continuing to finesse it. 

Teacup Table Runner

This was a surprise gift for a lady in our little facebook quilting group.  It was also my first foray into a few new techniques.  The background of the table runner is the first time I've used "low-volume fabrics" - these tend to be paler, have less pattern within them and when seen from a distance appear to sort of blend in with each other so it is just a total background rather than made up of individual pieces.  After ironing each piece of fabric on to the heat-n-bond, I then went over each seam with a fancy stitch from my machine.

It was also my first time with a larger free motion applique which I'd designed myself - with help from Pinterest ideas.  I made all the templates for each cup, saucer and the bird, came up with the phrase and also did all the binding with no assistance! 

It took me several attempts to get the layout right for the teacups, in fact I still have a few teacups waiting for another project that I cut out for this one and then decided they weren't quite right. 

I was really pleased with how this one turned out and also that the recipient loved it too.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

More Sock Puppies

After a bit of perusing on Pinterest, I found the cutest sock puppies.  I followed the link and realised the pattern was available to purchase, which I promptly did.  I made a practice sock puppy and...then I took a bit of a break from making anything from socks....I'd made so many monkeys I was kind of 'over it'.  Six months later I was asked to make those monkeys for the two little boys who were losing their mother to cancer.  That kick started me to want to make monkeys again and I finally pulled out my puppy pattern too!

I've now made three sock puppies, they've all come out so differently and I've adapted the pattern to suit how I want them to look.  Each one is slightly different as I've adapted them each time I've made them!

The second puppy I made has a plain navy body with green and navy striped arms and tail.  The tail of the puppy is slightly shorter than the monkeys - I've actually made two different tails; one a little stubby tail and the other about 1/3 to 1/2 the length of the monkey tails.  Please meet Rufus (as in the ruff ruff sound a dog makes....)

I then decided dogs don't have to be plain coloured, so what if they're red or blue or yellow?  Monkeys don't come in pink or orange or green but I make the sock monkeys in those colours!  So the next puppy I made, Barkley, has red, grey and dark grey stripes on his body with dark grey and little red patterns on his arms, tails and ears.  The ears of the puppies are also different to the monkeys because they have a little bit of fabric sewn to the underneath and they're much larger. 

Barkley also has those little dimples that you see on cartoon dogs to represent their whiskers.  They're my own form of an adapted French knot from embroidery - I never did learn to do them properly!!  Their noses are made with the heels of the sock instead of the toe like the monkeys are.  Then a little piece of black felt in a rounded triangle is added for the actual nose, embroidery thread for the mouth.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Table Runner - Christmas Tree

I received a lovely Christmas tree runner from my's beautiful!!  The photos really don't do it justice, there's gold threads and sparkles throughout.
It really was wonderful to hang it on my wall, instead of on a table, where everyone who came into the house could see it.  I hung it in the living area, beside the fireplace, so there was a Christmas tree in that room too!  The stockings hung on the fireplace (small decorative ones) with a green tablecloth over the fire so it was more like a stand than a fireplace.
Close ups of the big stars and the Christmas tree with presents below.  The Christmas tree has little gold flecks through the fabric.  The star has gold flecks in the red fabric.  There's gold threads throughout the quilting.  The triangles in the centre top, bottom and sides is a poinsettia, very Christmas-y.  So proud to have received this beautiful work of art!

And as a little extra, my partner put in a little mug rug too with cute little bunnies frolicking through pine trees and deer, fox and birds as well.  Perfect for adding a little more Christmas to my side table!

Table Runners - Snowyflakes & Stars

Before Christmas 2015, the Facebook group I'm part of decided to do a table runner swap - you make one and send it to someone, then someone else sends you one.  I'd never made a table runner before, but figured it'd be like a quilt, only longer and narrower?!  On to Pinterest again for ideas....then it struck me, as it was Christmas themed, I'd do stars!

Around the same time we made a lovely Swoon quilt for the leader of our FB group, who had had a few setbacks.  As I'd never made a Swoon block before, I wanted to practice and, with a table runner swap coming up, what better practice block colour scheme than the one I was using for my table runner!?

So, I practiced with the reds, dark green, snowflakes/stars and a paler came out okay, a bit bigger than it was supposed to be for the Swoon block, but that was okay as it was a practice.  Our signature block for the Swoon quilt was called a Wonky Star - perfect again for my table runner.  I set about making four sets of wonky stars for the front and another as my signature block for the back of the table runner.
Signature Wonky Star block

Centre Swoon with dark navy/white stars sashing

The two sets of Wonky Stars for the front

In the end, it all came together quite well, although I was quite nervous and had to make a trip to the local fabric shop to get a bit of advice.  The white sashing between all the blocks was purchased from there and has silver snowflakes all over it, which have a bit of a sparkle to them - after all, what's Christmas without a sparkle??

 The finished product!

Monday, 23 May 2016

Mini Quilts

I'm part of a Facebook group that is all about quilting, sewing and creating.  It's a great group of supportive women, all at different stages in their quilting journies and who are able to offer advice, support and also teach each other about different techniques, etc.  If you'd said to me ten years ago I'd be involved in this sort of group, I'd have laughed at you!  But now, I check that page several times a day, share stuff on it, comment on others posts, it's fabulous!!

Within the group, we had an organised swap of mini quilts - 18" square-ish.  It was the first time I'd ever made something like that, never even considered making anything like that to be honest. 

Thank goodness for Pinterest!!  I was able to search on there for ideas as to what to do.  I settled on a tree with applique leaves that I ironed on using fusible webbing and then sewed very close to the edge with a small straight stitch and my zipper foot.
 I was also able to make the label for the back with my machine's script feature - it has three different styles of writing letters and both capital and lower-case as well as matching numbers.  Very handy as it makes really neat labels! 
I went with the zigzag type binding because it had all the colours I'd used in the leaves and didn't seem too bright that it would detract from the quilt itself.

In return I received a lovely floral mini quilt from my partner with lots of colourful flowers appliqued on the front.  It's really vibrant and bright, using purple batik fabric around the outside.
And, of course the signature label on the back to remind me who I received it from and when.  You can see the batik a bit closer in the second photo too, showing how vibrant it really is and with all the other colours throughout, as is custom of batik fabrics.

Monkeys for Hospice

Also, after quite a long break, I'm getting back into monkey-making, slowly!  I've completed three in the past few weeks - see, slowly.....

I was asked to make two monkeys for two little boys who are going to lose their mother soon.  She's in hospice care with cancer and doesn't have very long to go.  They are going to need something to hug and hold when she's no longer able to and I hope they will like their monkeys.  I tried to make them bright colours, cheerful colours for them.  I don't know the two boys at all, but hopefully they will feel the love in the monkeys when they hold them.

I was donated both sets of socks for each of the monkeys - the red with stars and grey/navy stripes with stars socks are two separate pairs and I have made the reverse monkey before too (with the red body and the striped arms, ears, tail).  The navy/aqua striped socks had a zebra face on the toe, you can just see the ears peeking out below the monkeys chin!
The lovely Lynn donated these socks so I wanted to name the monkey after her.  After a bit of discussion, we decided Lync would be the perfect name for him.  He now has a name tag and also a red ribbon around his neck.

These socks were donated to me by a lady called Jo, as this was for a little boy I chose to add the 'e' to his name, so please meet Joe the monkey.  I still have the other socks from each of the pairs so I will make up another monkey, although with the zebra face it will have to be the striped body again so I might mix it up and change the sock I use for the arms, tail, ears.  I like to make monkeys that are different rather than all the same, makes them more unique for each child!