Sunday, 18 October 2015

Getting Crafty in the School Holidays - Modigliani Portraits

We enjoyed making Picasso Dogs so much, that we decided to have a go at making Modigliani Portraits using another Kids Art Week tutorial by Carla Sonheim.

Carla Sonheim has created six online art classes.  You can read about them and sign up here.

The Modigliani portraits were really easy to do, and looked fabulous.  Supplies needed are:

  • washable felt tip pens (I recommend the Crayola Supertips Washable Markers) - you want something that will bleed well when you brush over it with water
  • water colour paper
  • brushes
  • water
  • papertowel (for blotting your wet brushes)

We started by watching the tutorial, then we got straight into creating our portraits.  Here's a selection of our portraits that I managed to photograph before they were given to lucky recipients:

Samantha's grade 2 teacher - Miss Victoria

Olivia's grade 5 teacher - Mr Jonathan

Olivia's Mandarin tutor - Tien Laoshi

Olivia's self-portrait

Olivia's grade 4 teacher - Mrs MacDonald

My own self-portrait

We enjoyed this activity so much we did it a couple of times, including when a friend came over for a playdate.

It's not too late to sign up for Carla's online classes.  We had great fun, and would totally recommend giving them a go.
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Friday, 16 October 2015

Totally Awesome Lego Storage Solution

Our Lego collection has been steadily growing in the past couple of years.  I wanted to come up with a Lego storage solution that would be easy to access and, most importantly, neat and tidy.  When I talked with the girls they were adamant they wanted their Lego sorted into the original sets.  I spent a good week sorting the lego into sets, putting them into containers and adding a label to the lids showing which set the pieces belonged to.

It was great … until the girls made up several sets, pulled them apart and jumbled the pieces together.  There was no way I was going to sort all that Lego out again.

Eventually I convinced the girls that it would be a great idea to store the Lego by colour.  This was our inspiration:

© iheartorganizing

While I love the IKEA Trofast storage shelves, there just isn't enough space to add extra shelves in the playroom.  We already have two IKEA Expedit bookshelves (no longer available, replaced by IKEA Kallax), and there's plenty of space in them to accommodate the Lego.  Those six compartments in the circle are where the new Lego storage is going to go.

It's not a great view, but you might be able to see that all those small containers of Lego sets are in the two bottom right compartments I've circled.  I've also got some Trofast tubs in the two bottom left compartments.  I had to put lids on the tubs so that I can stack them.

What I wanted to do was add rails of beading on each side of the compartments so that I could slide the Trofast tubs into the compartments.  Unfortunately, each compartment is approximately 2cm too wide for the tubs.

Eventually, I decided to add a piece of 10mm MDF on each side of the compartments to fill in the gap.  I bought my supplies from Ban Heng Long Trading (near Little India), and I would totally recommend them if you need any DIY supplies.  You can email them and arrange to have wood pre-cut, and then you just have to pick it up.  It was a zoo when I visited, so having the wood already cut was very helpful.  They cut the MDF to the exact measurements of the sides of each compartment.  I cut and attached wooden beading on each panel using PVA glue and small nails.

The next step was to paint the panels with white gloss enamel paint.

It took MANY coats of paint to get really good coverage, especially on the ends.  After several days of slowly adding coats of paint, the panels were ready.  My husband drilled two pilot holes into the panels, then attached them to each side of the Expedit compartments using screws.

The stark white of the new panels is a bit of a contrast to the slightly yellowed shelves, but I can live with that.  I used PowerPoint to make up some colour labels, then I attached them to the Trofast tubs using clear book covering adhesive.  The girls then helped me sort all the Lego into colours, and we slid our tubs back into the shelves.

What's the verdict?  Since I installed the new colour sorted Lego tubs, the girls have been on a Lego building frenzy.  I don't even want to show you a picture of the playroom!  They've both told me that it's so much easier to make a Lego set now.  They have no problem finding the pieces they need, they can pull out tubs and keep them handy while they're building.  This has been a great success.
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Saturday, 10 October 2015

My Self-Drafted Bridesmaid Dress

My lovely sister-in-law got married in July, and asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. She decided not to choose a single dress for us all, but instead just asked us to find something in lavender. It was a outdoors, daytime wedding so I wanted something cocktail in style.

I looked through loads of shops here in Singapore and couldn't find anything. Lavender just isn't a popular colour in RTW.  In the end I decided to sew it myself. 

I started by doing a Google search on bridesmaids dresses. There were some really awful dresses out there (think 1980s formal), but I did find a selection of dresses I really liked.

This one was my favourite:

I started to draft my pattern. I needed to transform my basic bodice block into a princess seam bodice with a boat neck at the front and a V at the back.

I found this excellent tutorial by LiEr on ikatbag, which gives very clear instructions on converting darts into a princess seam.

Ikatbag - Converting To Princess Seams

I also turned my skirt block into an A-line skirt, and added some invisible pockets into the seam using this tutorial.  By the way, adding invisible pockets is incredibly simple, and I plan to add them to more things I sew.

Make It & Love It - Adding Pockets

Once I had a first draft on my pattern, I made up a toile plain grey cotton that I picked up cheaply at Mustafa.  The bodice was too long, and the skirt wasn't the right shape. It should have been a slightly flared skirt. My husband helped pin the toile and I transferred the adjustments onto my pattern. I then made a second toile (please excuse the appalling photographs).

It was much closer to what I wanted. I then visited my lovely fit-buddy Emily , who was able to help with the final minor adjustments. I now had my perfect pattern.

I vaguely remembered seeing a fabric I liked in Chinatown, so I headed there one day. I visited every shop and found some good choices in plain lavender. I quite liked a few that had a texture a bit like Thai raw silk. I finally hit the jackpot in a little shop that specializes in Chinese silk
brocades. I found this amazing fabric:

It's a very muted lavender. I picked up a satin fabric to use as lining. I bought the last bit on the roll and had just enough.

I began by pinning my pattern to the silk brocade. To ensure I matched seams accurately I used a couture technique called thread tracing. I used silk thread in a contrasting colour to sew a line of running stitch around the edge of every pattern piece. Each seam has to be sewed with a separate thread, so this is time consuming work.

The silk brocade has to be handled very carefully. The weave is very mobile and is easily stretched out of shape. It also frays like crazy. I debated overlocking each piece, but decided not to as I didn't want to add any bulk.  Instead, I cut the pieces out using my pinking shears, to try and minimize fraying. I didn't bother with thread tracing on the lining. For the lining I cut the exact same pattern. To ensure the lining did not show at the neckline and armcyes, I used the advice from this tutorial by The Slapdash Sewist and trimmed the lining neckline and armscye seams down by 1/4". This will naturally encourage the silk brocade to roll to the inside of the bodice along those seams.

To piece the pattern together I followed these steps:

  1. Sew the princess seams on the front bodice (outer fabric and lining)
  2. Sew the princess seams on the back bodice (outer fabric and lining)
  3. Sew the shoulder seams (outer fabric and lining)
  4. Pin the outer fabric and lining pieces together at neckline (right sides together) and sew neckline
  5. Understitch the lining to the seam allowance along the neckline
  6. Pin the outer fabric and lining pieces together at armholes (right sides together) and sew armholes.  It's not possible to under stitch this seam (except by hand), so I just pressed it carefully. 
  7. This step is tricky to explain, and I stupidly didn't take a photograph.  Open up the side seams and separate the outer fabric from the lining.  Pin the side seam all the way from the waist of the outer fabric, to the bottom of the armscye, then continue along the lining to the waist of the lining.  Sew the side seam.  This picture from The Slapdash Sewist might be helpful.  In this picture the green fabric is the outer, and the white is the lining.  
The Slapdash Sewist

I then sewed up the skirt (adding the pockets using the Make It & Love It tutorial).  I joined the silk brocade skirt to the waist of the silk brocade bodice, and the lining skirt to the lining bodice.  I inserted an invisible zip into the centre back.  I've only done one invisible zip before, and it was very dodgy.  I looked at several tutorials to work out how it's done, and did a practice on a scrap of fabric.  It certainly helped to have an invisible zip foot.  Once I felt reasonably confident, I had a go on the actual dress and it worked perfectly.

I then sewed up the rest of the centre back seam, and hemmed the skirt.  Lastly I sewed a simple belt.  I cut a strip of fabric 2.5" wide, sewed along the length of the strip with a 1/4" seam allowance, and turned it right side out.  I turned the ends in and carefully hand stitched it to the waistband.  I used the belt fabric and created a bow, which I sewed on the front.  Finally I had finished my dress.

We packed our bags, and flew to the South of France for the big day.  I'm so glad I made the effort to create my own dress.  It looked fabulous on the day.

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Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Getting Crafty in the School Holidays - Sun Prints

A couple of years ago I ordered a pack of Sun Print paper from an online UK craft supplier.  It got lost in the house (yes I have too many craft supplies!), but finally turned up this summer.

Incase you are not familiar with Sun Print paper, it is paper that has a surface which is sensitive to ultra-violet light.  To create an image, you place the paper on a flat surface, place an object on top that you want to create a silhouette of, expose the paper to sunlight, then you process the paper by submerging it in water.  The colours will continue to develop after you remove the paper from the water.

You can buy Sun Print paper from a number of companies, one of which is Sun Print.  There are a number of other suppliers listed on Amazon.

We waited for a bright sunny day.  Firstly we gathered a whole range of items to use for silhouettes.  The girls raided their rooms and craft supplies, and I picked a few things from the kitchen and around the house.  This is what we found.

Once we had everything ready, we set up a tray covered with a tea towel.  The girls took turns arranging items on a piece of Sun Print paper, then we took it outside to expose it to the sun.  Here's a picture being created:

Once you leave the page to dry overnight, the blue colours deepen and produce a lovely dark image:

As you can see, we made lots of pictures which are all in various states of colour development:

This was an incredibly easy activity, and both girls had lots of fun.  I think you could do this with almost any age child.  The Sun Prints website has lots of inspiration for older kids (or even adults), and want to make something a bit more artistic.
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Monday, 5 October 2015

Getting Crafty in the School Holidays - Picasso Dogs

We are coming to the end of two months of summer holidays, and have been keeping busy.  The holidays started with a family wedding (I drafted and sewed my own bridesmaid dress - I'll be doing a post on it soon) in France, and a visit to our family and friends in London.  It was so nice to see everyone.

Since returning to Singapore, we have been filling our weeks with playdates (lots of playdates), swimming, library visits, craft activities, and plenty of relaxing down-time.  Today Samantha had a friend over for a playdate and I decided that we would take advantage of a free online art class that a friend recommended.

Carla Sonheim has created six online art classes.  You can read about them and sign up here.

We registered for the online classes and began with Picasso Dogs.  Both my girls love art, and it's great when they have a plan to get them started.  I laid out the supplies required (paper, pencils, acrylic paint, paint brushes, water, palette and kitchen towel).  We began by watching the video, then the girls got started.

These were Olivia's paintings:

And these were Samantha's:

I even got in on the fun and made this one:

It's not too late to sign up for Carla's online classes.  We had great fun, and would totally recommend giving them a go.
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