Monday, 30 November 2015

Miss Dixie's picks for a hand-made Christmas - Decorations

Hello Lovelies! As promised here is Part 2 of my Hand-made Christmas Series, today, we are looking at decorations for your Home and Tree

Photo from Pinterest
Crochet Christmas tree Garland
This is a project on my to do list this year (but we'll see if I find the time...) The crochet pattern for the trees is from The Royal Sisters and it has been strung together on what looks like a chain stitch of white yarn, but you could easily use plain ribbon, or twine or anything that suits your decor.

Found here on Etsy
Also from Etsy

Red & White felt ornaments
I love the look of red and white felt ornaments. Last year I made my own version of the above cat shaped ornaments by cutting out of 2 layers of felt, putting a bid of wadding in the middle and blanket stitching around the outside in the contrasting colour. But really, any simple shape, out of either red or white, with the opposite colour used for some embroidery or just the blanket stitch around the outside, look stunning, and have a lovely vintage appeal to them.

Half eaten Gingerbread man
This has to be one of the cutest tree ornaments ever. I made mine some years ago using the free pattern from Elsie Marley, and had a lot of fun customising them for friends. Some had hats and bow ties, other's dresses, and one even had fangs and wings. I only have my plain little one left to show you, but don't be afraid to personalise your's to suit.

After a felt ornament that is a little less traditional, but still very, very cute? How about these Adorable Deer and Fox Ornaments? The pattern is FREE and can be found here on the Cutesy Crafts blog (and there's more to be found on the blog, so look around)

Photo and Free Pattern from Sew like my Mom

I know Christmas stockings aren't as much of a big thing here in Australia as they are in other countries. I myself had a santa sack as a child, as it fits way more presents. But for those more Traditional people, there is a certain appeal to a well made stocking hanging from a Mantle (or in my case. a hanging rack I made to sit on a windowsill) They are very easy to make, even beginner seamstresses could manage it, and you can make them as plain or as ornate as you like. I currently have cheapo sequin stockings from the reject shop with all our names (with one each for all 3 kitties) added to the cuff with felt, but if I find the time, I may upgrade to some nice hand-made ones.

Tutorial here

A Decorating staple in many homes at Christmas time is the humble wreath. I recently saw an adorable one posted on facebook by Va-Voom Vintage and it reminded me of a tutorial for a similar one I saw some years ago, that I wanted to make, but never got around to. So a bit of internet research (read: googling) later and I found it! The full tutorial can be found here. I'm pretty sure I saw some foam wreath forms last week at one of my local op-shops for about 10c but didn't buy them, but now I'm thinking I need to go back and buy them all (if they are still there) Seeing as I recently nabbed a bunch of vintage-y type ornaments that were for sale at my church, that I can use to decorate my own vintage bauble wreath.

Beccie from Sew Retro Rose's Dining table
The Santa hats were made for her by her mum!

If you truly want to go all out with your Christmas decorating how about Santa hats for your chairs? The ones in the above photo were handmade by a friend's mum, but I found this tutorial online if you want to try your hand at making your own. To see the rest of Beccie's Christmas Decorating, check out this post from 2013

Photo from Craftiness is not optional

Of course if the chair hats are too fabric heavy for your budget you could always try some of these adorable stocking cutlery holders, with a free pattern and tutorial which you can find here, along with heaps of other tutorials and patterns for Christmas and for other times of the year too. I'm sorely tempted to make some, but my family Christmas gathering is more of an informal BBQ, rather than a formal sit down meal, so they probably wouldn't get used. I've also seen some very cute knitted versions as well, but I'm a pretty slow knitter......

From Sew Craft Jess

If you are up for a little bit of math, you could make your own festive Christmas Tree Skirt using this great tutorial. I made my own very simple gold tree skirt last year, but I've seen so many beautiful intricately detailed ones since then, I wouldn't mind making another one that isn't so plain.

Only time will tell if I will be able to get any of this stuff made for myself this year, with all the gifts I have to make, I really should have gotten started earlier. Do any of you guys have plans to make any hand made decorations?

Happy Holiday Crafting!


Thursday, 26 November 2015

How to: Pack light for Travel

As many of you may be aware, I lead the glamorous life of a Travel Agent. So I frequently jet off on heavily discounted agent familiarisation trips, to learn about destinations so I can sell them with more knowledge and first hand experience. The dress code for these trips is nearly always business casual (with a few exceptions) so that is an added challenge to packing a light weight, wrinkle free, travel capsule wardrobe.

I think most people are aware of the principle of capsule wardrobes. The basic idea is to have a limited number of garments that all coordinate with each other to make a large range of outfits.

While I am endeavouring to sew my own vintage inspired travel capsule wardrobe, for the purposes of this post I will be focussing on simple store bought pieces already in my wardrobe that I already have. This size capsule wardrobe works for a small checked in bag, and is probably not small enough for just a carry on, which I will post about later on.

This is my "nice" dress for travelling. It cost me $2 from a
garage sale, and is knee length and made completely of knit fabric
This photo was from our lunch in the Eiffel tower
For most trips I find 1 black skirt, 1 pair of lightweight black pants and one pair of black leggings sufficient for bottoms, then I usually have 1 dress for going out in the evening, and anywhere from 5 to eight different tops. 3 pairs of shoes is enough, 1 pair of cute flats (dressy enough to go with my evening dress) a pair of comfy converse style sneakers and a pair of sandals. If you are trying to pack light, it's not worth bringing heels, as you will most likely only wear them once, and they take up quite a bit of room and weight in your bag.. Then of course all the extras (depending on destination) such as swimmers, cardigan, jacket/raincoat, hat and pajamas

When arriving at the airport, you should always attempt to dress in business appropriate attire, just in case you get a free business class upgrade (hey, it does happen, alright?) So I like to wear a dressy top with my black skirt and flats. I then have a change of clothes in my carry on to change into on the plane if I want to. Even if you don't plan to change into something comfier on the plane, packing a change of clothes in there (and a cardigan and clean undies) can be a life saver in case your luggage gets lost. I like to pack my leggings and a long knit top/tunic

I even created this on Polyvore, based on items in my
own wardrobe. This many items will see you through any
length trip.
Looking at the polyvore example above, you can see I stick mostly with neutrals with splashes of red, and little bits of leopard print/navy blue/florals. I also utilise mostly stretchy knit/jersey type fabrics that do not wrinkle when worn or squished into a tightly packed suitcase. A few exceptions are my lightweight pants, which are almost like cargo pants, but with not as many pockets, as they are made of a very lightweight fabric that dries very quickly if I need to wash them while away (which I did many times while away on my honeymoon) I also have 2 shirts (white button down with little anchors printed on it and a long sleeve leopard print top) made of non-stretch fabrics as well, but they are polyester blends, so don't crease too badly. Light fabrics that dry quickly are also an asset, meaning you can wash things in the shower with you at night, hang them up overnight and have them dry by morning. This is particularly helpful if you are away for a extended period of time and need to re-wear your clothes a lot.

Example Outfit with the braces. This shirt could also be worn
unbuttoned over another top for a layered look

Most of these items can be mixed and matched, I also like to throw in a pair of braces that I can wear with either the skirt or the pants, with nearly any shirt. This was a saviour on the honeymoon when I lost a bit of weight and my pants wouldn't stay up, and being a larger girl, it meant I didn't have a belt digging into me when I was sitting either. Most of the tops I would wear tucked into the skirt (with some, this actually gives the illusion of wearing a dress.

Available here

Another key thing to consider when trying to pack light is the bag you use. A Suitcase with wheels might be easiest to get around the airport, but can add quite a bit of weight to your packing, and can be very awkward to carry if you are going anywhere without perfectly smooth sidewalks (many older cites have very wonky paths) While a small soft cloth duffel bag is a great choice for a carry on bag as it is lightweight and you can squish it into your bigger bag later, A larger one as your main bag can get quite awrkard to carry for long distances. My husband and I chose to go with the good ol' classic backpacker's backpacks for our trip, and they certainly saved our backs when walking from the train station to the hotel. My one in particular is super lightweight with an aluminium frame and tent nylon type fabric, which I picked up some years ago for a few dollars from a garage sale. I really love how lightweight it it, and that it is the right size for my short height and petite shoulders. If you go the backpack route, make sure you get one that fits your frame well, otherwise it could do more harm then good. Although usually for my work trips I just stick with a small suitcase on wheels, as we generally have transfers or hire cars at every leg of our journey.

Available here

If you intend on staying in any hostel or camping, you will probably also want to pack a towel and sleeping bag. I spent I think around $4 each on ebay and got those super lightweight microfibre towels for my husband and I, and they worked a treat, and fold up to take hardly any space. I did make sure I bought the largest size I could find though, so if needed, they were big enough to wrap around ourselves. I'm sure there are plenty of super lightweight sleeping bags available these days, but I just took mine that I've had since high school, it has one of those awesome compression bags, so I can squish it down real small. Obviously, if you are staying in hotels, you wont need either of these.

Only pack your essential toiletries and minimise your make up and skin care routine. One Agent trip I went on, I shared a room with a girl who brought so many full sizes bottles of stuff, they probably would've filled my whole suitcase. This not only means you have to carry more weight around, it also increases the chance that the pressure changes in the aircraft's hold might make one or more of your bottles to burst or leak, ruining your clothes. To keep things super simple, I only take travel size shampoo, conditioner, liquid soap, toothpaste and hairspray which all fit into a sandwich size ziplock bag that I can pack into my carry on. I also really simplify my make up when travelling and don't bother with foundation or even powder, just mascara, eyeliner, 2 lipliners and 2 lipsticks. If you simply cannot live without extra items that won't fit in the carry-on liquid allowance, by all means pack them in your checked in luggage, but try to either buy travel size bottles or decant some of the product into travel size bottles (I bought my set from the reject shop) and please do remember to wrap them up in a plastic bag, just in case they leak.

All in all, if you want to pack light, really think about each and every item before you pack it. take less than you think you'll need. You can always buy things at your destination.

And now just because there is a bit of a Dirndl-mania happening because of Gertie's recent posts, here is a photo of me wearing my dirndl that I bought in Munich, drinking a beer at Oktoberfest.


P.S. I'm about half way through sewing my 6 piece travel capsule wardrobe, so I will hopefully be posting about it soon!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Miss Dixie's picks for a hand-made Christmas - Gifts

I thought I would try to get a little more organised this year and put together a list of tutorial patterns and ideas for easy home-made Christmas Presents, recipes and decorations to share with you all (there's still time!!) This post is Part 1 and covers Gifts. Over the next few weeks I will post the other 2 parts to this series, one on yummy festive Recipes and the other covering cheery home Decor

For starters, here's one I already mentioned last Christmas, but I think I will be making more of them this year. Lingerie wash bags. I have used the one I made myself constantly this year, and to be honest, I would mind one or 2 more. I will probably be making more of these as presents as well. The original tutorial I based mine on can be found here.

Super Easy Tutorial HERE
Tutorial HERE

Bags. Any sort really. I have found myself turning into my grandmother recently, and sewing fabric bags to store pretty much anything in. Mostly drawstring bags, which would probably make a really cute alternative to wrapping paper, but are also a convenient way to store things like foam hair curlers or small toys. I have written up a quick tutorial about how I made mine, which you can find HERE. Also, with the addition of my fabulous Embroidery machine to my arsenal, I am seeing some awesome personalised tote bags being made for gifts this year. Another easy to sew gift would be any sized zippered pouch, small ones for money or make up, or larger ones for a pencil case or laptop/tablet case.

These aren't mine but you can buy them here

Speaking of my new embroidery machine, if you have one, a super simple gift for a couple would be to buy 2 nice towels (or a whole set with face washers and hand towels) and embroider the name or initials of each person on them, with a little motif that represents them. Even with just the basic designs included on my machine, I would put strawberries on mine and a fish on my husband's.

Gifts for men are always more difficult for me to think of. This year I found this great tutorial for sewing a flat cap, so I think I will be making some for a few of the older men in my family (and maybe one of the little ones as well, if I can make the pattern smaller)

I know socks can be a bit of a boring gift, but if you sew them yourself you can make them out of all sorts of awesome fabric prints. Which is why I have the Going Rogue Adult Socks PDF pattern from the Wolf and the Tree. It contains heaps of different sizes and styles, for men and women. So far all I have made are some sheer polka dot knee highs for myself, but I think my Husband (who can never find his socks) will be getting a couple of pairs of crew socks in some crazy colours.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

A few Sew-Along updates

In an attempt to keep you all updated on the progress of a few of the Sew-Along dresses currently being sewn up, before I can give you the round up post, hopefully on December 1 (If I'm that organised) I've put together a few of the blog posts that some of the participants have posted so far!

There have been so many different colour and print choices, it has been quite inspirational to see them all taking shape!

First of all is the lovely Vicki of Rayon Dreams in a Cheesecake world, who completed her first version before anyone else in a delightful arrow printed cotton

Another person who has already finished is Bianca from Vintage on Tap, and she was so dedicated, she even did bound button-holes! To see the completed dress head to her blog post.

I would love to show you all more, but you will just have to wait for the round up post. I have given the girls until November 30 to finish up and have some photos taken. As an added incentive, I have decided to grade, scan and PDF another vintage pattern from my stash and email it to everyone who finishes in time. Now I just have to decide what pattern that will be, and find the time to do it!

For anyone still interested in this pattern, you can now buy it from my etsy shop for just US$2!


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Pink and Blue Christmas Dress

I know, I know, not the usual colours you think of when you think Christmas dress, but when I spotted this adorable Gingerbread house print cotton at spotlight, I just knew I had to have it for my Christmas dress this year.

I bought it well over a month ago, on sale for 50% off (making it around $7.50 p/m) but didn't yet know what pattern I was going to make. About a week or so ago, as I flicked through my patterns, I decided on Butterick B5882. As luck would have it, I had the perfect coordinating pink cotton poplin, so I could get to work on it as soon as I wanted.

I didn't take many progress photos, as Gertie herself has posted a few times about this dress's construction, Including a great one on how to do an FBA on it (which I did not do) and this one when she made the dress for herself.

I found the pleated bust pieces very hard to get to sit right, but tried my best to. When I sewed them into the bodice I didn't fold down the top corners like the pattern calls for, as I didn't like how it looked.

Bodice - without lining or boning

The whole pattern went together quite easily, and I only made very minimal changes along the way. I didn't twist the bias straps, but instead had them flat the whole way around. I also just put in a regular dress zip in back instead of a lapped zipper. As the fabric print had horizontal lines of gingerbread houses, I felt it lent itself to a gathered skirt instead of the 3/4 circle skirt included with the pattern. So I simply cut 2 29" long pieces of my 44" wide fabric, cutting one in half for the back zip, sewed together with added in seam pockets and gathered in to fit the bodice

Selfie when trying on (before hand sewing)

I was originally going to leave out the boning, but because of the bust minimising design, it really needed it to sit right, so I just used some very light boning along the seam lines on the lining.


I hand sewed the bias strap in place along the bust line so it wouldn't keep flipping up.

Pink Pockets!!!

The lining and pockets are in the same Pink Poplin as the straps and bust details. I love the colour peeking out!

I have already worn this out, and had a few nice comments, as well as a girl working at K-Mart, who asked where I bought it! I love how it looks and how it fits, so this will be getting lots of wear this Christmas season (and maybe other times of year as well)

Anyone else making/made a new Christmas Dress/Skirt/Outfit this year?


Friday, 6 November 2015

Prayers and Good Vibes for my sick Kitty

Sorry for the sad post today guys, but I really need all prayers/good thoughts/good vibes you can send my boy Prince today. He is at the vets and needs surgery to remove a blockage and will be there for a few days recovering. He is getting on in years at about 14 yrs old (I don't know exactly, we adopted him 3 years ago) so things may get a little touch and go, and unfortunately the problem may recur at a later date. Hence my request for your prayers that he will recover quickly and not have this problem again.

Just to remind you all, here are some of the photos of Prince the times he has starred on my blog before. As you can see, he loves to help me sew.


Wednesday, 4 November 2015

A Little bit Fancy fat quarter drawstring bag tutorial

Here's a quick tutorial on a quick little drawstring bag, that is a little fancier than your usual pouch with a folded over edge. All it requires is a fat quarter of fabric (approx ) some ribbon and a sewing machine.

So you start with your Fat Quarter of fabric. If you are cutting from a larger piece of fabric, mine measures approximately 21 (once the selvedge is cut off) by 18 inches, but you could adapt this to nearly any size fabric. The finished bag will be about 10 inches wide at the top, and 14 inches from the top edge to bottom seam, which is about 11 1/2 inches from the bottom of the drawstring channel to the bottom seam.

Overlock or pink around the edges, cutting off the selvedge edge as you do. Then mark with a pencil/chalk/marker where the buttonholes will go. I make mine 1 inch long, starting 5 inches from the top edge of the fabric. the first is 1 inch from the edge, the next 2 are in the middle, 1 inch apart (so both are 1/2 inch away from the centre of the fabric) and the last is 1 inch from the opposite edge.

Sew your Buttonholes as you normally would. I zig zag down each side with my machine set on a width of 3 and a length of 0.2, and use a straight stitch on the short ends, going back and forth a couple of times.

Cut open your buttonholes

Then fold your fabric in half vertically. Sew up the open side and bottom with a 1/2 inch seam allowance.

Then fold down the top edge 3 1/2 inches

The fold under and pin the bottom 1/2 inch. Give these folds a good press, removing the pins as you go and turn right side out.

Re-insert the pins, but from the outside of the bag. You could just leave them on the inside and sew from there, but I think its gives a neater result to do the topstitching from the outside.

Stitch roughly in the middle of that 1/2 inch that you folded up, which should be just below your buttonholes. 

Then sew another line of stitching just above the buttonholes, creating your drawstring channel.

Cut 2 pieces of ribbon that are a few inches longer than the width of your bag doubled. Then, using a large safety pin (I like the big old fashioned diaper pins) insert the first piece of ribbon into the drawstring channel.

Go all the way around until you come out at the buttonhole next to the one you inserted the ribbon into.

Tie a knot securely in your ribbon, using either an overhand or reef knot.

Then repeat those steps with the other piece of ribbon and the opposite set of buttonholes.

Now you could just finish here if you like, but depending on what you plan on storing in you bag, you may want to box the bottom corners. 

Line up the bottom seam with the side seam and pin across. I pinned approximately 4cm down from the corner.

Then pin the other corner, trying your best to line up the side fold with the bottom seam and pinning in the same location to make the corners even

Sew neatly across, making sure the ends are securely back stitched

Trim the corners off (I use my overlocker for this)

Turn right side out and you have a very cute little drawstring bag.

Made up in some Christmas Fabrics, these would make perfect  Eco-Friendly, Re-usable gift wrapping! I'm thinking of making some Christmas ones up myself!