The Bothered Owl

Alex and Sarah's crafty corner of cyberspace

Make With Me June 21, 2011

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 5:50 pm
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This week is Learning Disability Week.

Mencap are encouraging people to get involved with their campaign to stop hate crimes against people with learning disabilities. And part of the campaign is about making something personal and uploading pictures to the website.

We didn’t have the time, concentration span or ingredients to make personalised gingerbread men but we did have large amounts of glitter glue, pens and half-face mask shapes to hand, so Orlaith, Esme and I got into the spirit of things and here’s what we made:

I’ll spare you a ridiculous photo of me in a mask, though I did make one and finish by saying:

1. Don’t let Esme near the glitter unsupervised or it will end in sparklepants. And carpet. And sofa. And…

Twinkle, twinkle...


2. Do have fun.

3. Go here and get involved.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some serious vaccuuming to do.



It’s a Mum Thing… February 25, 2011

Filed under: General Crafty Chat,Life — thebotheredowl @ 10:41 am
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I’m not quite sure where the burning need to make Amazing Costumes for our offspring comes from.

My mum had six kids and I don’t think she slept for at least 20 years, let alone took a quiet five minutes for a cup of tea and a chat on the internet (Internet? Pfff! I am OLDER THAN THE INTERNET!) But I remember always having the most incredible costumes for dress-up days when I was at school.

Whether it was a Holly Hobby style stripy skirt and mob cap for our special ‘Olden Days’ open day or a bright pink boob tube and gingham rah rah skirt for the school production of Joseph And The Technicolour Dreamcoat, she pulled it off, somehow. (Yes, somewhere there is photographic evidence of me as an Adoring Girl. No, you don’t get to see it. Ever. Some things are best kept hidden from the world.)

So when the lovely Julie of  Tilly Flop Designs reminded us all that next week is World Book Day (Thursday 3rd March, specifically) I was filled with dread.

Could I live up to my Mum’s amazing creations?

Would Orlaith agree to wear what I made? What the hell would my eccentric child want to wear for World Book Day anyway? She has somewhat… eclectic taste in books and I could see her asking for something completely undoable like a Captain Biceps outfit or Herb The Vegetarian Dragon or something. I have no idea how to pull off a dragon costume. None.

In the end it was fairly easy. One of her favourite books is Captain Flinn and The Pirate Dinosaurs which was a much treasured perfect birthday present from Alex and Scott (I seem to recall). We’ve subsequently acquired and devoured each new episode in Flinn’s fantastic adventures. They’re hilarious, full of swash and buckle and just the right amount of naughtiness. Dinosaurs and pirates are two of Orlaith’s all consuming passions in life, so the books are just perfect.

And of course, she wants to be Captain Flinn for Book Day. (So proud my daughter is continuing my own penchant for cross-dressing on Book Day. I remember going dressed as Prince Caspian at least once. Gender, schmender. Swords are cool.)

Flicking through the book I realised with dread I was going to have to make an actual *gasp* garment. A pirate coat, no less.

It sounds silly to be so daunted, but you have to remember that it’s been almost a year since I last made anything that wasn’t a knitting bag or a sun hat. I haven’t made myself any maternity skirts and I’ve never ever made a top, let alone a whole coat.

Still, armed with my trusty tools, I went to work with a will. I took Orlaith’s measurements and we sketched out what she wanted the coat to look like.

Look! I drew something. And it actually looks like the thing it's meant to represent.

I started out by looking at her existing coat and trying to figure out what I would need to do to adapt that shape to be more… piratey.  SarahAbroad suggested hitting up the thrift shops and finding a jacket to modify. And then I remembered my handy stash of Sew Hip contained in it, somewhere, a pattern for a duffle coat. I hunted like a pig for truffles and sure enough, there it was!

The kid in the photos is just so cute.

I used the pattern pieces for the lining as a starting point. One of the best tools you can get, if you’re going to be working with templates or patterns is a tracing wheel. Looks a bit like a tiny pizza cutter with little bumpy bits all over it and you can use it to copy pattern pieces without having to ruin them by cutting them out.

I traced the lining pieces, then I modified them.

Always, always, always write down what your pattern piece is.

Mark which bit is the neckline, armscye, hem etc. Really important to transfer any markings as well.

Not sure if you can see the markings too well in the photos, but I took Orlaith’s collarbone to ‘waist’ measurement, marked a line at that point on each of the pattern pieces, then basically extended the line of the bottom of the coat, to make it into an A line shape. Effectively, I added an A line skirt onto the bottom of her coat. Sort of.

DIdn’t need to alter any of the sleeve pieces so after that it was time to cut it all out and get sewing.

Sleevish! The funny looking bit at the top is where your shoulder goes.

All pinned together. Pinning is super important when making a garment.

Make the recipient try it on before you sew, scratchy pins and all. It will save you much heartache.

You can kind of see the new shape, no? Slightly swingier from the waist down.

I didn’t take any photos while I was sewing. I was too busy swearing at the thread for breaking and sweating over things like pocket placement and so forth. I roughly followed the instructions from the pattern in the magazine which were really nice and clear. I’d definitely make the duffel coat based on the pattern instructions. One of these days…

Anyway, skipping over the hours it took me to actually sew the things together – interspersed with breaks for taking people to the potty, making lunch, reading stories etcetera – here’s the finished product, like magic.

Ta dah! Pirate jacket, with dinosaurs. See what I did there?

(Um, Alex? I may have been forced, forced I tell you, to raid the stash on the table a little. Sorry about that. But the dinosaurs say they like living on Orlaith’s coat and they really wanted to be pirates rather than knitting supplies anyway.)

Best of all, are the buttons. I am so happy about the buttons.

Anchors away!

Jake bought himself a lovely coat earlier in the Winter – I think it might be a pea coat? – but the buttons were sewn on very badly. I repaired them three or four times in the first week or so he had it, until he finally got sick of not being able to wear his shiny new coat and we cut all the buttons off and replaced them with plain navy ones.

Not being one to throw anything away (Random birthday cards from when I was 6? Still at my Mum’s house somewhere.) I held onto them, just in case I should one day have a need for nautical themed buttons. And lo, I looked upon them and realised they were good. Oh yes!

I bound the cuffs with some offcuts of satin ribbon leftover from making drawstrings for our yarn pouches:

Mmm, smooth.

It took me all blinking day and most of my evening to put it together. But when she saw it this morning, it was all suddenly worth it.

Menacing, no?

She has yet to remove it for more than 5 seconds at a time and she and Esme have constructed a pirate ship on the armchair.

Arrrrr. Etcetera.

I’d like to think my Mum would be proud.

Captain Flinn and Pirate BicBic

Of course, the only problem is that now I have to make one for Esme. She’s already picked out the fabric. A mum’s work is never done…


PS Stay tuned later, we should hopefully have an Unravel Preview Post for you…


New beads! January 12, 2011

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 9:43 pm
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These are our new, amazing beads. I’ll be making them into stitch markers, and we’ll be launching these babies at Unravel on 26th and 27th February, at Farnham, Surrey. I can’t wait to see people’s reactions to these.

What do you think?

Alex 🙂


Pirate islands, custom orders and Christmas December 14, 2010

As a sop until I have time to sit down with Alex and write up what happened at the Yarn Party, have a link to a lovely blog post all about it from the lovely Anna of One Hand Knits. If you’re interested, you should totally check out her patterns and handknitted items in her shop. She is always wearing one of her amazing garments and very chic they are too!

Before the gratuitous shots of small children making stuff, a quick word about custom orders. I’ve got about 8 or 9 on the go at the moment for various people. If you want something making up, with the hope of having it in time for Christmas, you need to get your order in a.s.a.p. Mainly due to post issues! If I have to order fabric in and so on, it’ll take a couple of extra days to get stuff done for you. So, UK folks, any further custom orders by Friday at the latest, please, otherwise it’ll be after Christmas, I’m afraid:-D  (It’s really nice to be so busy! I’m totally loving sourcing fabric for people and coming up with design ideas for a couple of very special messenger bags, including one made of Transformers fabric. AWESOME!)

Finally, I promised about a week ago that I would share photos of the owlettes hard at work on their pirate treasure island. It has subsequently been thoroughly trashed but they had fun making it.

So here you go:

They were occupied making this for a good couple of hours and they’ve played with it with their Lego pirates a lot since they finished it. Who needs horrible plastic toys, eh? Save your packaging and give that to them for Christmas instead! Seriously, I reckon most kids are more interested in the boxes the toys come in than they are in the toy itself. If I could get hold of one or two of those gigantic electrical appliance boxes, I’d be in heaven!

Oh, one more thing, forgot to say that both Brockley and Ladywell Christmas markets were absolutely delightful! I had a blast at Brockley, chatting with lots of lovely people and selling many pairs of Lego cufflinks. I was so busy I didn’t get a chance to take a single photo. Oops. There’s a pattern emerging here, folks. Not sure if Alex and Scott had a chance to take any pics at Ladywell but I know they had a lovely day and they were stood next to the lovely Anna, who I believe also had fun. So hurrah for that!

Right, I am off to scoff some veggie soup with the owlettes and thence to get them to bed and make up a few more custom orders. Yay!



Fabric Adventures in the Southern Continent August 26, 2010

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 1:31 pm
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One Half of The Bothered Owl has been Down Under since the beginning of August. That would be the Alex half. 😉

While here in Brisbane, I have checked out fabric shops to see what is available. Who knew that Brisbane has so many quilting shops? And today I visited 3, plus the mainstream fabric/haberdashery/stuff shop Spotlight. And here is the haul:

Funky Fabrix at Mitchelton, north Brisbane.

Funky Fabrix, Mitchelton

And my purchases:

Goat Postmen & Sock Monkeys at the Beach

Then it was on to Spotlight.


And then to Patches in Indooroopilly. Amazing range of fabric including lots of novelty fabrics.

Sewing cats, penguins, and more cats

And the final stop for the day was The Quilters Store in Salisbury. An amazing barn with hundreds and hundreds of different fabrics.

Quirky cats, mermaids, and bathing/gardening/bizarre chickens

Road Rage Robots and Comical Cats

So there you have it. Brisbane has a lovely selection of quilting shops to choose from. I had a great day finding them all and handing over my cash to them!

These fabrics will be turned into items for our upcoming fibre events (The I Knit Weekender, Fibre Flurry) and other crafty markets. If you happen to fall in love with any of these fabrics, and would like us to make you something, let us know! 🙂



Juggling July 8, 2010

Filed under: General Crafty Chat — thebotheredowl @ 11:17 am
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This has been written about before (and in a more cherent fashion) by others, but I want to address it because sometimes it feels like the elephant in the room. Or, you know, the owl in the room. Whatever.

I have two of these:

You’ve probably noticed, by now. They are fairly obtrusive around here, often sporting jaunty hats or bibs and being very patient with my many foibles.

I also have massive piles of these:

and these:and of course a massive basket like this:

All of it fighting for my attention, all of it needing me Right Now.

The parenting thing is a hard gig. I love it. I gave up teaching to be a Mum and I hope I’m getting to be okay at it. I try really hard to be involved with my kids, to listen to them and give them what they need – not always what they want, which is a different thing.  They’re turning out to be interesting little human beings and they are lots of fun to be around. Challenging, because they love to push my buttons and they are both at ‘difficult’ ages – although I think that all ages have their challenges.

The sewing thing is new for me. Not the actual sewing part, that I’ve been doing since I was a little kid and my Mum made me a patchwork quilt. I’ve been hooked on sewing ever since.

The thing that’s new for me is that it’s time when I re-direct some of my focus away from the kids and onto something else. Going off to markets with them, going over to Alex’s house without them. Small things but for me, really challenging because I.Am.Always.With.My.Kids. When Orlaith started preschool it took me months to adjust to that separation. It felt like part of my body was missing. I still feel weird about it and don’t get me started on the fact that she’s starting at primary school in January. (No, really, don’t. We’ll be here all day discussing the merits of formal education vs homeschooling. You don’t want to go there.)

Sewing for me is kind of about reclaiming an identity for myself that is separate from that of the children. What my Mum calls ‘individuation’.  Something I do that is not just about them.

But at the same time, I have two tiny people who want my attention. All The Time. They need stimulation, supervision, conversation and basic bits and pieces like feeding and taking to the loo. I don’t have the freedom of just walking into a studio, shutting the door behind me and getting to it, because sometimes if I so much as get off the sofa at the wrong time, this is what happens:

Less so these days as Esme gets older but even poor old Orlaith has those rough days when all she wants is to snuggle up on the sofa or in her bed with me and read books and snuggle.

All of which ends up in a hideous spiral of guilt.

Do I take the time to sit at the machine or do I play another game of trains or read another story? At the moment I don’t have a lot of  choice, as we crank up the preparations for Knit Nation to Full Scale Panic Mode. It’s the machine most of the time.

(The blog has been all but abandoned Do I take an hour to write a post about sewing or do I use that hour to make a bunch of stuff?)

And up until this week, I am ashamed to admit that quite often Mr Television has been getting a bit of a work out. Not that it actually guarrantees a quite moment but it gives the illusion of one.

But as of this week I am roud to say I’ve found a new solution: the craft aisle at the Local Giant Supermarket Chain of Doom. It yielded treasure beyond measure, in the form of paper plates, plasticine and trays of water colour paints.

What a revelation! Normally when we do painting it’s a major operation involving a hose and a bathtub and full supervision so that the paint doesn’t end up on the carpet or the walls. But with the tiny paint boxs, they are quite happy to sit each day, dipping their paint brushes in the water, dabbing gently at the little disks of paint and making lovely swirly shapes on the paper or the paper plates. And sometimes on themselves:The plasticine has been a massive success too. Hours of contemplative squishing and smushing.Not making anything in particular, you understand. Just enjoying trailing it about, smashing it a bit, festooning things with it. Then at the end, happily rolling every piece into one ginormous ball.

So, thank you, Giant Supermarket of Doom, you have relieved a little of my crafty parent guilt and made it slightly easier for me to carry on with my insane sewing death-march.

With all that said, the entire time I was writing this post, this is what’s been happening:

And you know what? I love it!

And now, back to the juggling…



I hate technology November 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thebotheredowl @ 4:20 am
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More importantly, whilst I love my Mum’s sewing machine, I think I am growing to cordially (or not so cordially) detest my Dad’s computer. Would Freud have something to say about this? Who cares, I still can’t upload my sodding photos.

So far, this bag tutorial has taken me about three weeks to put together and has involved me making several different bags so I could photograph the process. And none of them will upload from my parents’ computer to the internet.

I’ve tried uploading to WordPress. No deal. Then I wondered if it was just those particular photographs that were the problem and uploaded a photo of one of my nephews. Lo, it uploaded. So then I tried uploading to Flickr, hotmail, Livejournal, just about anywhere and everywhere I own an account that will accept photo storage.

Once again, the photos I actually need to upload, not a chance.

So I decided the files might be corrupted in some way and proceeded to make yet another bag, snapping away as I went.

“Hurrah” I said, innocently, sitting down at the computer. And then proceeded to gouge my eyes out and grind my teeth in frustration and misery as yet again every website I try refused to accede to my request.

Thus it is that at present I have no tutorial to offer you. We’re going to try to take our laptop into town tomorrow (or possibly later today) and see if we can get it online via wi-fi.

We shall see.

To add insult to injury, I got halfway through typing up this apology for the lack of content, and Esme crept into the room and switched the computer off at the powerpoint.

There are some days it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed.