Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Beautiful creatures

I have listened to this CD at least twice a day the past two weeks (since I have been back at home). Baby C loves it, it's quite easy to sing along and it's educational too. You can listen to three tracks here.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Origami crane mobile

I have been fascinated with origami since I was a child, when I folded all sorts of things during school holidays with my mom. I once folded a telephone directory into a Christmas Tree, and a working Jack In the Box.

Now I don't do much origami anymore (have run out of uses, sad excuse I know), but when baby C came along I got cracking, and made her this origami mobile to hang above her cot. The great thing about it is that the cranes have an interesting shape when viewed from underneath (not all mobiles take into account who they are intended for).

The quilt in the photo on the right was made by Granny AfricanCotton

If you would like to buy an origami crane mobile from me, please send me a message. To make it yourself, you need
  • 6 pieces of origami paper (or any square paper). I used the size 20cm/8"
  • some wire (soft enough to bend, but strong enough to hold the paper)
  • some thread
  • 6 small beads
  • Needle

Step 1
Fold 6 cranes. Follow this YouTube video or these instructions with photos If it's your first time you may wish to practise before using your special paper.

Step 2
Cut 6 pieces of thread about 15cm/4" long.
Tie the beads to one side of the thread and trim off any extra thread.

Step 3
Thread the needle with the beaded thread and push from the bottom through the crane.

Step 4
Cut 3 pieces of wire. The first piece should be around 45cm/17" the second 35cm/14" and the third 25cm/9". Bend the wire into a curve with a loop in the middle and two loops on either side.

Step 5
Tie the cranes onto the loops on the edges of the wire curves. Take care to make the thread length equals on both ends of a piece of wire so they are balanced.

Step 6
Cut 2 pieces of thread and use them to tie the middle points of the wire curves together from the twisted circle points in the middle. The large curve should be on the top and the smallest curve on the bottom. Cut one more piece of thread and use this to hang the mobile.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Threads of change - it's about Time

This latest Time magazine, well it's the Style and Design supplement (April 2009), has an article titled 'Threads Of Change' which really struck a note with me. They say "Global fashion executives are forging ties with artisans in East Africa. The result is an upswing in employment and building of local businesses that has the potential to change many lives".

The article explained how Aid to Africa, being charitable donations, doesn't have a lasting effect. So true - all those second hand clothes (which arrived about 20 years ago) really decimated the local industry. (And also food doesn't do much for the farmers who can no longer sell their own produce locally - why when food is being given away?) It's tough because we all want to help people who are suffering.

But there is good news, through investment and development of business it is possible to make a lasting difference, and this article was about the companies doing just that.

  • Max & Co. (& Africa & You) who are working with the UN's International Trade Center (ITC) to harness the skills of local artisans and use them in collections of accessories of its youthful brand.
  • Made - ethical jewelry company (whose customers include Kate Moss)
  • Suno, whose founder wants to fuse African talents with those of designers in New York City.
  • Toto Knits, a company that employs disadvantaged African women to knit baby sweaters for export.
On a similar note, check out Kiva - a website that allows you to give small loans directly to collectives or small businesses in developing nations. Wow!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekend designer

I am just blown away by this blog, Weekend Designer - there are a lot of blogs with howtos and free patterns, but this one is for serious dressmaking. Don't worry though, his (I assume it is a he, not sure why) instructions make it easy for the averagely experienced sewer (that word always looks funny). According to him 'it ain't rocket science'. The patterns featured are super hip (from the world of fashion and design) - another thing that sets this blog aside from the rest - they weren't created by the average crafty woman who gets excited by tissue box covers.

Friday, March 27, 2009

History of shwe shwe

Shwe-shwe (or schwe schwe) fabric was introduced to South Africa with German settlers in the 19th century, but over time Xhosa women, who took a liking to the stiff indigo-dyed fabric, replaced their animal skin clothes with shweshwe. It is said to be named after the sound the skirts make when you walk.

It is now available in three colours (blue, red and brown), two toned, and double sided prints. Its distinguishing characteristics are a repeated geometric pattern, the use of local fora and fauna (and even political figures!) and the trademark logos on the back of the fabric. The characteristic designs are made by patterned copper rollers brushed with a weak acid solution.

Here are some other websites with information about shweshwe
TheWren - The shweshwe story
FreshlyFound - Shwe shwe
Shweshwe lovers - about shweshwe
SouthAfrica Info - Shweshwe
South of the Sahara
Durbana - isishweshwe
And this is definitely not shwe shwe, but I loved all the African prints, used for cushions!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Tips from Etsy buyers

I stumbled upon a post 'What turns you away from Sellers' in the Etsy forum which gives a lot of insight into why people would buy from one shop and not from another. It's a 72 page (at my viewing) post, so I'm made a summary of the interesting and frequently repeated points. I found quite a few issues raised made me think twice about my shop so hopefully it also gives you some ideas on how to increase those sales.

Sellers they won't buy from:
  1. have an empty profile
  2. don't specify their location
  3. are people who are nasty on the forums
  4. do not reply timeously to requests for information
  5. have poor or no communication - especially after sale email which some people said put them off repeat purchases (whoops I was guilty of this one)
  6. don't buy from other Etsy sellers

Shops they won't support have:
  1. no shop policies
  2. policies containing negative language
  3. policies that make it sound like the customer is the enemy
  4. long shop announcements (so that you have to scroll to see images of what is for sale)
  5. no sections (which makes it difficult to browse)
  6. no international shipping listed (people don't want to send you an email to find out)
  7. no recent sales or listings (they think they are inactive)
  8. not enough items listed (doesn't look professional)

Products they won't buy have:
  1. inflated shipping (with emphasis on prices they knew were too high vs stuff that cost a lot to ship - they wanted information why shipping is so expensive - e.g. includes insurance)
  2. blurry photos
  3. not enough photos
  4. pictures of the product on someone else when you wouldn't want it pre-worn (like earrings or underwear)
  5. pictures of the item on a dirty floor or next to a full ashtray
  6. inaccurate tags
  7. descriptions that are too short or too long (and contain useless information)
  8. have bad spelling or grammar or use subjective adjectives (like gorgeous and beautiful) in the item descriptions
  9. don't specify measurements (must be in cm and inches)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Oooooo a Crafters Forum, something new to get addicted too. I love the voyeuristic opportunities - checking out what other people have been doing, and also getting recycle/reuse ideas!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

T-shirt pillow

I'm into finding re-uses for t-shirts at the moment, and this one was quite novel - the patchwork t-shirt pillow.

*New* shwe shwe skirt panels

AfricanCotton has a new shwe shwe skirt panel listed. It's actually one I chose but never got to list. To me it looks like ben day dot inspired flowers with a psychedelic print on the rest of the skirt. If you bought it you could make the standard skirt or the strapless dress I designed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My old jean pant ... wift a belt

So I had an even older pair of jeans (the painting pants) which I decided to cut up and transform into baby shoes. I used this pattern from Michelle Q which was slightly bigger than the first pattern I found from Stardust shoes. Both are pretty similar.

I used the old denim for the outer and sole and an old t-shirt for the inner. The first pair I made were too narrow - the instructions to enlarge the shoe (baby has a big foot) say to make it longer but I found that I needed to make it bigger all the way around and the heel longer and wider at the bottom (not the fold side).

It was a fairly straight forward pattern. The only tough bit was remembering how to do a button hole on my own machine (Elna 2004). Sewing the heel on the sole I only got 100% right the third time - it's hard to pin right and I made the fabric pleat instead of just unpinning the rest of the seam and moving the end along.

It would be nice to add some embellishment (like a bow, a felt or embroidered heart) but I have enough to keep me busy and she needs some easy to slip on shoes.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My eco credentials go down the toilet

The baby didn't grow as much as I expected in South Africa and I only brought the large sized cloth nappies back with me., so we are sadly back on disposable nappies. In the Netherlands you can buy these eco/green nappies called Nature Babycare and it's not that much more expensive than regular disposables nappies. So I went out of my way to the shop where I can buy them and was pretty stoked ... until I opened the packet. Have pampers (soft and thin) spoilt me! These are hard and papery and worst of all the little 'un got a rash. I just can't do that to my precious, even if it's 100% maize, no plastic, yadda yadda fishpaste. I like the design on the nappies tho...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Green crafts

Ladies, this is the ultimate test of your eco-friendliness... washable menstruation pads. I first came across them when shopping for fabric breast pads last year (on Etsy of course - from MellyGirl2007). I got them for free because I bought a fair few pads and at first I didn't have a clue to what it was. Perhaps a handy container - except it wasn't too handy as they didn't fit. Then I read the note from the seller and all was revealed. At first I was unsure (I am putting this very politely) but then after reasoning that I expect my child to wear cloth nappies the least I can do is give it a go. I haven't had a chance yet, but I am sure will soon enough. The blog post with instructions how to make your own is Crafting Green World - a new an novel idea for a craft blog, which I am adding to my rss reader now. Enjoy.

Friday, March 20, 2009

March is mending month

On the Craftzine site March is mending month. I found this out at quite an appropriate time - when the knees in my favourite Lee jeans gave out. But I didn't find any patching solution that wasn't, well, uncool. Like the tourniquet patch gets marks for being original but no way would I wear that. The buttons idea is also a little funny, and I'm not in the market for ripped jeans. Hmmm. To celebrate March I'll have to come up with something.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Etsy pounce

Etsy Pounce is an under appreciated Etsy tool - and one that is built in. I used it a lot when I was researching opening a shop to see what people were actually buying. What I noted is that most of the sales were sewing/crafting supplies (hence me starting to sell fabrics).

If you are interested in starting your own shop, use this tool to determine trends but be careful not to just copy someone who is successful. You need to find your own niche. Good luck.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sindisiwe bag I bought

So just blew some (I can't bare to calculate exactly how much) of my shop's profits on one of Dari's gorgeous bags. Finally (I've been threatening for a while). I can't wait until it arrives! What I really want to know is where she gets the names from - they are always so interesting.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I love highspeed internet with no data cap

For those of you not familiar with the internet in South Africa, we are restricted by the amount of information you can download (when you have 'run out of internet' people say they are capped). It's a whole new set of lingo. I just converted my dad from dial-up and I'm sure his view on the internet is going to explode (well it did for me at least. Goodbye cookbooks; Hello all recipes) We set ourselves up with some prepaid 3G (mobile) internet with Vodacom, and were burning 500 Mb in one to two weeks (just with mild gmail, etsy, blogger and facebook usage). I don't want to know how much we burn here in the Netherlands.

Anyway, the short of this blog post is that I have found a 100 and 1 interesting and inspiring craft blogs (sice I can now search away to my hearts content, at least while baby C allows me). Like this one: http://dana-made-it.blogspot.com/. I love her birthday gift handmade pledge.

Also I heard this afternoon that Helen got her first sale on her Etsy shop, AfricanCotton - some Nelson Mandela shwe shwe. Hopefully she can source some more because we keep hearing stories that it has been discontinued.

One last thing, happy St Patricks day to you all (sorry I couldn't resist the Hoff).

Monday, March 16, 2009

A useful thing to sew, giant floor cushion

Another one from my useful things to sew book. It's a giant cushion and the thing I really like about it is the button detail on top. Enjoy

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In my home, with all my stuff it's quite a weird thing.

The baby c is all sorted (somewhat of an adventure to Ikea without a car to get her a new crib because she definitely outgrew that moses basket) and we are trying to get into a new routine. Let's see how that goes.

I found a new sewing site by accident this evening. http://www.sewing.org/

my highlights
- Fat cats quilts - i should make that and freak out B :)
- rice bags - a classic+easy pattern & I use mine all the time.
- teenager furniture - very cool but when I was a teen the stuffing cost wouldn't have let me.
- mittens - a very appropriate pattern (the shops here only have summer gear)

There are so many patterns here and I feel I have got enough good idea projects for 2009. Yay. Have fun, just don't go into the fashion department or prepared to be horrified with lots of 80s, the stuff you want to forget about (except for that cute strapless dress).

I would love to checkout this software but unfortunately I am running the unsupported Apple.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

great bags made from awesome south african fabric

Dari has listed a bag made from some shwe shwe fabric she bought from my Etsy shop. I'm very tempted to buy it back, lol

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ruggles the friendly sheepdog mat

I was digging through my pattern book this morning (I used to cut out and keep from various craft magazine) and I was intruiged to see I collected some stuff to make for kids (this was when I was around 18-21 and kids were not really in the picture). I found one page that really caught my fancy... Ruggles - 'the friendly sheepdog mat is just the right sort of companion for a kid. He keeps guard and night and toes cosy on cold winter days.'. Lol, if I ever make this one I'll put up some howto instructions.

Monday, March 9, 2009

more bags - this time a clutch purse

I have some fabric perfect for a delicate clutch, bought from Irma's Sampler store in Haarlem. When i would use it is not exactly clear, but it's nice to dream of a day when i don't have to carry nappies around ;) I also like this amy butler stash and dash pattern which could double as a toiletry bag.

Here is a free clutch purse pattern (pictured) I'll be trying it out when I next get a moment to breathe. It's very sad but I'm going to be leaving a lot of half started and inspired projects behind in South Africa.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

me on the beach this morning

A picture of me on Umhlanga bronze beach this morning. It was a such a beautiful day that even I, a well known late sleeper, had to get up early for a quiet stroll before breakfast. The shwe shwe skirt is an old one (made over five years ago) and features a kingfisher - I haven't seen that pattern lately.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Clearance sale of sewing patterns, anyone??

I have some vintage sewing for sale. They must go by Thursday - so please take a look.

uncut patterns
1960s simplicity patterns
mixed bag of patterns
patterns for boys and girls

All offers considered!

The bags I sewed yesterday

Friday, March 6, 2009

Useful things to sew

I was cleaning out my bookshelf and I found this little gem - the Reader's Digest 'Useful things to sew'. Here is the barrelbag (cos I am in the mindframe of making bags for the market). Enjoy.

ps: I will put some photos up of my bags soon. It's a brilliant and simple pattern designed by Helen.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Umhlanga rocks :)

We've just moved into my dad's house in Umhlanga, and every time I'm here I wonder why on earth I want to leave South Africa. This picture doesn't really do it justice. I will try catch a sunrise and take a photo.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sold out

I've sold out of my shwe shwe skirt panels. wow! And there I was at the store thinking I shouldn't buy anymore. It's probably better that I didn't because our leaving date is now just around the corner :(

I'll let you know when there are some panels on AfricanCotton...

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Congratulations African Cotton!

African Cotton (aka Helen) is up and running on Etsy. Congratulations... may you have many sales, especially that gorgeous (and vibrant) hand sewn quilt.

Monday, March 2, 2009


Limpet shellImage via Wikipedia

We have 10 days left in South Africa and a frightening todo list. I am still finishing off the larger sized nappies (nearly done) and am itching to get started on sewing bags for the market from pieces that didn't sell on Etsy. I also need to get Helen's (AfricanCotton) shop up and running because she is going to be taking over my online fabric store. I'll let you know more as soon as I have a chance.

By the way, this morning we went to the beaches on the Bluff side (Ansteys). Not only are the beaches there mostly empty (well definitely on a Monday morning) but the rock pools are alive with fish schools, crabs, limpets and other sea creatures. I have fond memories of being there as a child.

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