Simple, simple Christmas decorations


Because it’s Twelfth Night tonight (at least the way I count it). Time to take down the tree. And you (or I) might want to make these decorations next year.

Christmas trees and kids

You see, if you have young children, say aged 2 & 4, Christmas decorations are always a dilemma. Do you:

  1. use the decorations from before-you-had-kids, but insist you are  THE ONLY ONE ALLOWED TO TOUCH THEM, rather dampening the Christmas spirit; or
  2. use those gorgeous decorations from before-you-had-kids, screaming silently each time your helpers shatter them; or
  3. decide that all decorations have to be kid-friendly, preferably cheaply homemade?

This year, my kids were both old enough to ask. As you might guess, they voted number 3. They put the decorations on the tree themselves, the tree didn’t need a barrier and I didn’t even freak when they went to play jumping on the bed with various new “bracelets” … although I did insist all decorations be returned later.

How to make

They’re so simple, I’m sure you know how to make them just by looking. But, well, Christmas can be a little stressful, making even the easiest tasks seem hard …

  1. buy some foiled card from, like, Kmart (scrap-booking section), or find any stiff paper really;
  2. use a clean mug to trace circles, a ruler to trace sets of 6 strips, and cut;
  3. fold circles in half and staple each one to the next in groups of 3 (husband’s preference), 4 (kids’ preference, I think?) or 5 (mine);
  4. arrange 3 strips in a star-like shape, turn over, and wrong sides facing wrong sides, arrange 3 more strips in the same star shape. Staple in the centre;
  5. staple folded curling ribbon to hang.

Actually, I love how they turned out: they feel so Christmassy to me. I’ve since realised that my absolute favourite decorations as a child were foiled paper, in the exact same colours: gold, silver, red, blue, purple and green … ah, so nostalgic.

Why I don’t sew my own clothing

DressYes, that’s a photo of me in a dress I sewed for myself (burda 07-2009-132).  I wore it at my sister-in-law’s wedding. And only 2 weeks before, I’d sewn a dress and worn it for her hen’s night.

Sudden productivity. It’s been a long time coming.

The backstory

You see, in 2007, I decided I wanted to sew my own clothes. Started collecting burda magazine. Didn’t sew anything, spent the year reading about sewing. That’s OK: I’m a read-everything-before-I-start type person.

In 2008, I made my first skirt and a couple of tops. A little too big, interfacing a little too stiff. And, admittedly, rather too complex patterns for a first-timer. An eight-piece pattern, top-stitching, self-drafted cowls. Asking a bit much of myself.

Then we moved to Tokyo. I thought I’d sew there, but really, I was too busy going out, exploring, trying to interact (and cope)…

And 2009? We came home. And? Nothing. I’m not generally lazy, so what’s stopping me sewing?

Shopping vs. sewing

OK, suppose you go into a shop, looking for clothes. You’re thinking whether the clothes will fit, look good on you, and be appropriate for the occasion. I mean, you usually know you want something for work, or something for a party, something for the beach…

Fit? Well, you know whether something fits or not once you get into the changeroom. And flatter? By now, I know what I think looks good on me. I mean, if it makes me feel ugh, there’s no point, is there?

So in a shop, you spend most of your time thinking about the occasion. Who else will be there? What will they wear? If I wear this, what will they think of me? Do I want them to think of me like that? It’s complicated. It takes a lot of thought, but in the end you can decide. Sure, budget’s always a factor. The rest of your wardrobe might be a factor too, if your wardrobe’s bigger than mine!

Why is sewing so hard?

I don’t mean sewing is difficult: it takes practice, but I’ll improve. What I mean is, mentally.

There’s no fitting room. Sure, I can measure, “tissue-fit” (hold the pattern up to me) but, well, I’ve still made plenty of mistakes. I’m never sure what I sew will fit. And flatter me? Even reliable looks for me: V-neck, fitted top with an A-line skirt… well, it turned out horrible. I’ve never shown you. Sure, I can analyse why: I’d simply never tried on a dress like that before. So two issues that are easy to eliminate when you’re shopping, they’re unknowns, right until I’ve completely finished my sewing.

Then the occasion. Yes, that’s still a worry. Particularly weddings, you know?

Plus, there’s the guilt. It’s nice fabric, will I ruin it? Is this the best use for it? Should I save it for something else?

And the decision paralysis. I mean, theoretically, I could make anything I want. I’ve collected burdas since 2007, that’s roughly, umm, 1440 patterns? In various sizes: no, don’t even get me started on sizes and the possibilities of grading! Or I could try to draft my own…

And that’s why I wasn’t sewing. Too much thinking. Too many worries.

How I solved my problem

I bought the fabric specially. Silk, usually an expensive fabric, but cheap if you sew your own.

I gave myself 3 days to worry, to re-decide a thousand times.

And then I said to myself: I’ll stop. The deadline for worrying has passed. It’s time to focus on making the tracing accurate, the cutting neat and the sewing right.

And so that’s what I did. Focused. And finished.
(Even though I’d picked the wrong size and had to design extra side panels, hah!)

Knitwear at the shops for a Sydney Autumn

King St knitwear

I went to the city (Sydney CBD) today, meaning to find some knitted inspiration. It’s Autumn here, and getting colder. Surely there should be something in the shops to inspire a handknitter who also likes fashion? Meh, not so much.

This season’s colours are clearly grey and beige (and black, of course, I can’t imagine black ever going out of fashion here). I mean: purples, coral red, a little navy and misc. jewel tones are used in other clothing, just not much for knits. Knits get the boring colours. Great.

By ‘knit’, I mean ones I could be inspired by. Sure, sure, I know fine jerseys, T-shirt fabrics and so on are knits, but they couldn’t reasonably be made by a hand. So I’m really talking knits made of laceweight or thicker yarn. Yes, I know that’s an odd classification, but I’m sticking to it, leastways until I get a knitting machine …

Fair isle is out. Cables and textures, particularly chunky knit, are in. Garter, or at least reverse-stocking stitch, make an appearance (oh, and Country Road lined their knits for stability this year, much less sad and saggy!)

Shapes, as bland as the colours. Plenty of fine gauge turtle-necks and V-necks that say: “Don’t look at me, I’m only for layering purposes!” Long loose cradigans, Starsky-style. Ponchos, kimono-sleeves, wraps galore. Curve-front boleroes, similar to Kate Gilbert’s famous Sunrise Circle Jacket. Or like the cover of the current Vogue Knitting. I guess I wanted something more … innovative? … novel? Not in a recession.

But what about the photo, I hear you say. Interesting diagonal lacy panels. Texture (and, sure, beige). Well, I saw it a few weeks ago in Just Feathers boutique, King Street, Newtown. End of Summer stock, I assume. The label is SunnyGirl, it was the last one, I hadn’t the heart to ask the shop assistant to unpin it, take it off the dummy just so I could exmaine the knitting … pity …

Fresh! New! Sydney street art …

Definitely new this week, wasn’t there when I walked past Sunday: there Monday. Really, really big, hard to miss. No, I’ve know idea what it means, what do you reckon?

Jeepers Creepers Jumbo: detail

And round the corner, more! Different style, so maybe a different artist … or maybe not?

Giant Ant & Corporation

And yes, I did enjoy the social commentary.

Giant Ant: detail

Finally, my favourite: minimal, but cool.

Space Invaders-esque painted bricks

Haymarket, behind the ABC building, enjoy them before some punctilious person tears them down.

Intarsia, 80s, WIP knit and my favourite type of knitting books

Easter Scarf


A first for me, although I’ve glanced through the intarsia instructions in how-to-knit books many times. Feels … kinda 80s? Not that I actually knit intarsia in the 80s, acrylic fluro orange/mint green dolls’ clothes were enough for me. Overalls, interestingly. They say the 80s is definitely undergoing a revival, and I know I’ve seen a few breathless fashion spreads for overalls (jumpsuits?). The 80s is the one decade that’s going to have to be heavily “reinterpreted” for me to like it … 70s or 90s or any other decade I never saw, fine.

Anyway, intarsia’s just a technique: if it’s useful, doesn’t matter whether it’s fashionable or not!

The pattern is “Striped Illusion” from Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr: Ravlink. I very much like this book, I can see myself returning to it again and again.

I’ve been surfing for birthday present books (I love people who say ‘just let me know what you want, I’ll buy it for you later’ … they give the best presents!!!). I’ve decided the knitting books I like have rather fashion forward / avant-garde / interesting but still wearable garments, bonus points if they include novel techniques or unusual construction methods. Lynne Barr’s book scores pretty well on all criteria for me (not that the scarf I’m knitting is hard, it only looks that way!)

Now, who can recommend a book of knit jumpers (US = sweaters) and jackets I might like? Please?

* Oh, and because someone’s sure to ask, I like to theme my knitting photos. Paired with this scarf is a McDonald’s toy from Japan (Sanrio Cinnamoroll). Yes, I don’t hold with character merchandising or McDonald’s as a rule, but I knew we were almost home, so as a one-off (or a few-off) treat umm …