Friday 16 February 2018

Secret Valentine Exchange and sweet kids

Ah holidays... When I wasn't standing in the river being photographed in my swimwear (eye roll) or riding my road bike up the mountains, or chasing the boys on the mountain bike trails on a borrowed mountain bike... I was stitching.

 ... and eating and drinking obviously. :)

Every year I look forward to participating in the Secret Valentine Exchange, and since it coincides with our annual end of school holidays vacation, I always take my project away with me.

This year I was creating a gift for Simone in the Netherlands. She was very brief in her little survey about her craft tastes. For favourite colour(s) she listed simply: earth, and for favourite styles/textiles etc she said, even more simply: handmade.

So, you can imagine my heart leapt at the Earth bit. I am all over that as a colour scheme! And then I figured the Handmade made part gave me carte blanche to do whatever the heck I liked! Nice one Simone.

I did do a bit of stalking/research via her instagram and web pages to discover that she makes absolutely lovely jewellery. I also saw a very handsome dog pop up in the occasional photo and one of my original plans had been to make a nice dog collar and matching lead set. But then I realised that the elegant silver buckle, slide, D-ring and clip would all weigh so much that postage would be crazy. Another plan....

I'd been wanting to make another cross stitch cushion since the one I made for Sanae herself (one of the Secret Valentine Exchange organisers) and found a simpler looking one in one of my Stitch Idees magazines. - bonus points for getting to participate, ever so lightly, in #sewjapaneseinjanuary.

So my little bundle of Aida linen and DMC threads came away on holiday and during the evenings I stitched, and stitched, and stitched.

Of course it took longer than I had predicted and I was mindful of needing to sew it up quickly when I got home. And of course I failed to do that and made all the same mistakes over and over again that I had made when I sewed Sanae's cushion cover.

To make a fully lined, envelope cushion cover is actually not that hard but it can be a brain teaser to get everything in the right place so that when it's turned out all the different layers are in the right places. I've drawn myself a diagram and some step by step notes and I really should photograph it as well one day. My brief, late night, ill tempered online search failed to turn up any tutorials that showed what I was trying to do.

I had the 28 count linen and DMC threads in my stash, but nothing suitable for the back or lining. I needed some swimsuit lining from GJ's Fabrics anyway and knew they would have the perfect fabrics for this project so off I went.

The backing is a linen of a similar  mushroomy grey to the DMC thread, and then the lining and self made piping was a quilting cotton that co-ordinated nicely.

By the time I had finally figured out the cushion construction I was in no mood to sew buttonholes, but luckily my grey snaps were perfect and in 5 minutes it was all done.

I sent it off to Simone without an insert and I was delighted to see that not only did it arrive in time for Valentine's Day but she seemed sufficiently pleased with it that she went out and purchased a cushion insert for it that very same day. Phew. It's nerve wracking creating for other makers, but immensely satisfying as well.

Meanwhile, a Secret Valentine gift was winging it's way to me, all the way from Tuscon, Arizona. Arriving the day before Valentine's Day I only had to sit on my hands for 24 hours before I could open it.

Where I had been gifted a valentine partner with very similar tastes to mine, I can only imagine my poor gift maker's face when she read my survey. My gift creator was Kirsten, aka @bobbypinbandit.

Her Instagram feed is all colour, delicate stitching and really, pretty things. In making my gift she made something exceedingly beautiful and very pretty but also adhered to my beige/neutral and useful ethos.

She made me this beautiful little needle book. The front and back covers are padded with internal pockets and look at that gorgeous wool embroidery on the front. Those flowers are so fluffy and soft it's crazy!

The internal pages are cream felt, and she included a card of thread, a few needles, buttons and safety pins for me. I'm super-intrigued by the perfect scalloped edges on those felt pages. I'm thinking there's a tool I don't have yet... ;)

Just a few days before receiving this gift I had gone into the city on the train with a bag that needed some running repairs to the leather strap. I stitched it up on the train ride but then was left with my needle and thread hanging out in my coin purse just waiting to impale my fingers when I reached for my coffee money. I'm always joking that "safe" and "elegant" are two states of being that I find simultaneously unobtainable, but damn if this gift doesn't shoot me straight to swanky-safety-stratosphere levels! Thank you Kirsten , it is perfect and stunningly beautiful.

Another little holiday gift was getting to catch up with Maiike of Maaidesign when we were on holidays. We hit the mountain bike trials together then drank coffee and chatted all things swimwear and activewear sewing. A pretty perfect morning in my book!

To finish up, a gift for a kid, designed by a kid.

One of our kid friends was having a birthday, and since this cool little kid falls into the category of having a mum who I really enjoy spending time with, she qualifies for a handmade gift. That's how the equation works, seriously.

My kids get pocket money and purchase gifts for their friends out of their own pocket money, but then for those select kids with the awesome-parent asterisk next to their name, I supplement with a handmade something. My daughter chose the pattern and the stash fabrics and trims and thus this super sweet skirt was created.

The pattern is Pattern C from Sew Sweet Handmade Clothes for Girls. I had it already drafted off in size 110cm which A is still wearing 2 years after I made it here. This friend is a bit shorter than A, so I knew it would fit ok. The fabrics are a Japanese lawn and a Nursery cotton, both from Spotlight but long vintaged in the fabric stash.

I would never have put them together but I think she chose well and it's really sweet.

I hope everyone had a happy Valentine's Day. We've had a birthday at our house too recently, so there'll be more birthday gift sewing to share soon.


  1. The cushion cover you created is so pretty and your needle book gift is divine, I'd be frightened to use it:)

    What a great holiday you had and it is fun being able to catch up with another sewer.

    Very cute skirt for your friends daughter.

    1. THanks Sharon. This gift exchange is a real delight every year. And while I am nervous that I'll spill something awful on my needlebook in the bottom of my bag, I've managed to use and not ruin every other gift I've received thus far to date. Honestly, there have been non duds! What clever people crafting folk are.


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