Monthly Archives: February 2014

Playsuit with a pleat from Elegance and Elephants

I’ve been making this awesome playsuit since Miss K. was about 9 months old. I think the one I finished today is about my 5th. It’s an easy to follow and adorable pattern. It might seem impractical for a baby without the snaps at the crotch, but I would like to try and convince you otherwise…

When Miss K. was born in November in Berlin, when outside it began to snow and I had my mother placing tea, chicory coffee and water by my feeding chair every few hours, I would dress baby almost exclusively in footed overalls. When a baby is so new, the bonus is that such clothing doesn’t squeeze on their delicate little tummy.

As she has gotten older, she has especially loved playing in sand and as you know, that stuff gets everywhere. With a properly legged playsuit, that particular problem is pretty much solved. Sure, it isn’t as easy as taking off some pants or leggings for those less than desirable parenting moments, in winter it takes some practise getting the straps undone under her jumper or jacket, but it has it’s perks and is called a playsuit for a very good reason. I would also generally rate clothing as easier to clean than sand sticking to a soft baby bum.

Pleated Playsuit from Elegance and Elephants

Pleated Playsuit from Elegance and Elephants

This design from Elegance and Elephants is an easy and enjoyable sewing project. It is actually the first PDF pattern I have ever made and has exceeded my expectations. It is so much easier to follow the instructions given with photos and I’ve traced multiple sizes of the pattern onto baking paper. Best of all, I reckon the finished playsuit is a great gift for other little people.

The first one I made in all peach fabric with just the straps, lining, pockets and cuffs in a contrasting fabric. It was the size 12 months version. Here are some photos:

The first Pleated Playsuit (Elephants and Elegance) I made for Miss K

The first Pleated Playsuit (Elephants and Elegance) I made for Miss K

Strap detail of Pleated Playsuit from Elegance & Elephants

Strap detail of Pleated Playsuit from Elegance & Elephants

It actually still fits on her, albeit rather tightly, 6 months later. Sadly, I don’t think I will be using it again, so I needed to make another. I decided to skip the size 18 months and go straight for size 2. It is definitely too big, so I guess I will need to make an 18 months one as well.

The Pleated Playsuit (Elephants and Elegance) I made for Miss K

The size 2 Pleated Playsuit (Elephants and Elegance) I made for Miss K

As you can see, I got a bit creative with the fabric combinations. That’s because I don’t see the point in hiding a brilliant Nani Iro print and I wanted it for all to see on the bodice. If you are wondering where to get Nani Iro fabric from, I highly recommend buying it from Frances at Miss Matatabi on Etsy. Although I’ve never met the lass, she is very helpful and stocks an excellent range.

Nani Iro print in Elegance & Elephant's Pleated Playsuit

Nani Iro print in Elegance & Elephant’s Pleated Playsuit

As the bodice is contrasting I made the straps and lining in the pant material and the pockets and cuffs in the beautiful double gauze Nani Iro print. The pants are made of a thicker, but still fairly soft, cotton for wear and tear.

I’m making another at the moment for a friend with Liberty print in the same way. In fact I really like how you can show off a nice and delicate fabric in a not so delicately used item of clothing.

Pleated Playsuit (E&E) in use. A reclining Miss K.

Pleated Playsuit (E&E) in use. A reclining Miss K.

Time to play!

What are your favourite PDF patterns. I’d love to try some new projects.


A toddler’s perfect first paint

I thought it was time for Miss K to have her first painting experience. I planned only to give her one colour and I had to be able to handle her antics while cooking our dinner and dyeing silk. That means that it had to be ‘edible’ (though rather unlikely she would take to it with her current fussiness), fairly easy to clean up and quick to make


Miss K's first painting - eco paint

Miss K’s first painting – eco paint

I actually tried at first to use the coloured water strained from the blueberries I was using for the silk dyeing, but the colour was much too weak, so I had to go for reinforcement. As a second idea, I was going to use turmeric. As you can see, she was wearing a yellow dress, so stains wouldn’t be too much of a problem… except for her hands (how would I explain that one to my fantastically clean husband?). Cut a long story short, I found yellow food dye hiding in my spices drawer.

Toddler's first paint - non-toxic and easy to make

Toddler’s first paint – non-toxic and easy to make

I am willing to admit that I totally compromised on my usual crunchiness. This mystery food-colouring yellow was easy, quick and seemed like the safest option. I failed as organic-eco-super-mum, right? Pfft. Anyways. Jolly Jumper all the way, I say.

3 ingredient toddler paint

3 ingredient toddler paint

So the paint is easy. But you have to do it in the right order otherwise you’ll get something lumpy and interesting that is decidedly not paint.


Something to colour your paint


What to do:

1. boil your kettle while you…
2. Mix together 4 tablespoons of cornflour and enough water to cover it. You should be able to stir this mixture easily. Add a little more water if necessary.
3. Add your colour and stir through
4. Stir in boiled, steaming hot water and constantly stir until it is thick. Add more hot water if you want the consistency to be thinner.
5. Let it cool down so it is safe for little hands and then use.

Toddler's first paint - DIY

Toddler’s first paint – DIY

In the end Miss K found new paint colours in the earth around her.

Miss K's first painting - eco paint

Miss K’s first painting – eco paint DIY

It was a very quick activity. I think it will be a longer one as she gets older, but she had loads of fun all the same. I still have in the back of my mind that I will make this paint with plant colours. I’ll post our exploits of that if it works out.


Tutorial – rust, lavender and blueberry ecoprint

Dyeing silk with plant material. yum. That sums up how I feel about it.

Lebenskünstler recently lent the book Eco Colour by India Flint and it reignited a passion of mine. When I was studying fine arts at university I worked a lot with plant and mineral colour, particularly with rust and pomegranate juice. It is a kind of mysterious alchemy, the way in which materials might be coaxed into giving forth unforeseen (or even expected) shades of colour. I always feel nourished doing a little bit of dyeing.

I had a few silk scarves on my materials shelf and I decided to try out some foraged materials. This tutorial is for a rust, blueberry and lavender silk scarf. The colours that came out in my scarf are a light grey-blue background, with rust, purple, plum and blue for most of the pattern. There are darker accents of prussian blue also.

plant dye tutorial - rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

plant dye tutorial – rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

Here is what you will need:

Silk to dye
A handful of frozen blueberries cut in half
A collection of small rusty objects. I cut triangles from a rusty metal band.
A bunch of lavender flowers (mine were dried)
A copper pot or a piece of oxidised copper
A tea strainer (like those you get in glass teapots) or something you can wrap the silk around and boil (a stone or thick stick for example)
String (like jute or thick cotton string)

None of this is particular toxic (with the copper and iron, you don’t want to go drinking the water afterwards and it needs to be disposed of safely), but it is best to use a pot that isn’t for food. I used an old beat-up teapot that had copper rust inside.

old rusty teapot used for dying

old rusty teapot used for dying

Here’s how to get started:

1. Dampen your silk and lay it flat on a large surface. At the bottom edge, arrange your lavender in a line horizontally  and fold silk so that it is covered over, then fold once more so that it can not so easily move. Arrange the blueberries with cut half down horizontally in the same way on the next free part of silk (not on the folded part) and fold it neatly in as well. Fold once again to secure and repeat the process with the bits of rusty stuff.

Rust triangles are in a row ready to be folded into the scarf

Rust triangles are in a row ready to be folded into the scarf. Note the blueberries already folded in on the bottom edge of photograph.

2. Wrap the rest of the silk around itself so that you end up with a flat-ish strip. Wrap this around your tea-strainer, stone or stick. Wrap it tightly, around and around.

plant dye tutorial - rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

plant dye tutorial – rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

3. Tie up tightly with the cotton string to secure everything in place. (I probably should have tied it a few more times around. Surprisingly it stayed in place.)

plant dye tutorial - rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

plant dye tutorial – rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

4. Place this into your pot  and add water. Boil and then simmer for 2 hours. Your kitchen will smell lovely, like lavender.

Into the pot. Plant dye tutorial - rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

Into the pot. Plant dye tutorial – rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

5. Once it has boiled let it stand in the pot for at least 24 hours (this is by far the HARDEST part). Then carefully remove the silk without moving the parts (or you can just leave it on the stone or stick) and put it in enough water to keep it damp but that the air can oxidise the rusty metal. Leave it in this as many days as you can bear. I was totally impatient and only left it one day. It is TOTALLY worth leaving it longer, I just caved.

Allowing the rust to set. Plant dye tutorial - rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

Allowing the rust to set. Plant dye tutorial – rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

6. Once you take it out, get rid of the rusty metal and blueberry bits and lavender flowers, rinsing the whole scarf in cold water. Iron the scarf dry and flat. Now it is ready to wear!

plant dye tutorial - rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

plant dye tutorial – rust, lavender and blueberry scarf

Just a note to say that these colours might not be as lightfast as conventional, synthetic dyes, but in my experience they are much more subtle, harmonious and even change with the seasons sometimes. You can always dye over the top if they fade too.


Cracking the 1953 girl’s pattern

I love collecting vintage and antique children’s clothing patterns. I say collect, because thus far that is all I had done, but now I have made one. Rather, I should say, I have drastically altered one as it has been a bit confusing every step of the way. The pattern is for a toddler’s smocked coat and bonnet. I wanted to make a dress and I wasn’t going to do any smocking.

I will preface this blog entry by stating that the use of patterns is a rather new thing for me. Before last year I just made my own; which often times worked and sometimes not. As the sharp instinct of not wanting to be told what to do has become a little more blunt in me, I feel more willing to try things such as patterns and choirs and other such activities where I might need to conform or listen. Gasp.

This is why I was not too phased when a pattern for a 6 month old from McCall’s (2217, c1953) appeared to be more suited in size to a 3 year old; and a wide one at that.

I had an old, favourite, muslin dress and some Nani Iro fabric I wanted to use. I took the buttons and button holes straight from the dress to decrease workload and increase the quality of button holes, which I’m not that great at.

My worn-to-death summer dress

My worn-to-death summer dress

The pieces cut out looked like this:

Pieces cut out from 1953 vintage pattern

Pieces cut out from 1953 vintage pattern

I began sewing, made and sewed in my own piping (first time ever, go me), put in pleats instead of smocking, joined the back and front and then realised how huge this thing was going to be. That is when I stalled. I had to think on it a few days and nights.

I changed it in a few ways.

1953 girl's pattern with major alterations

1953 girl’s pattern with major alterations

1. I put the dress back to front. This means it is now buttoned down the back. I thought the buttons down the front were resembling a nightgown and that didn’t work for me. Also the collar was interfering with their aesthetic.

2. I made the front and back less wide. Sewed the button (green) colour-block piece shallower, reshaped the (now) front yoke and added a pleat to the front yoke skirt.

3. I shortened the sleeves and finished them off with contrasting piping.

Hacked 1953 girl's pattern side view

Hacked 1953 girl’s pattern side view

There was a lot of unpicking involved. Even with the alterations it is still too big for Miss K, but that isn’t too much of a problem as she will grow into this one in the foreseeable future. I am very happy with the end result, but I don’t think I will use this pattern again anytime soon.

Hacked 1953 girl's pattern by Mrs Winter Creates

Hacked 1953 girl’s pattern by Mrs Winter Creates

Any one else have sizing problems with vintage patterns? How did you deal with it?

I’m on Etsy!

I’ve taken the leap. It is a relatively small leap, but I pressed the button and opened shop at Etsy.

I’ve started with block and chain necklaces (tutorial here), many of which I have made just because I think they look great and someone out there might fall in love with them. Have a look to see if you might be that special someone, I’d mighty appreciate it (and any feedback on the store).

Other than that and sewing, I’ve been getting very excited by two books from the dye and fabric artist India Flint. Today I collected some leaves, nuts and flowers at a native park near here to play with. Some exciting news is that my friend at Lebenskünstler and I are ordering an Indigo dye bath to experiment with! I just can’t wait.


Better bircher breakfast

On the days that we can, the three of us here go to the beach in the morning.

Yup, it’s good. But we don’t want to be out there after 9am when it gets super hot, so we go before breakfast. Going swimming without breakfast makes us hungry of course and a few times we have given in to eating at the cafe overlooking the beach – I know, decadent, right?

We usually get their bircher muesli and it tastes fantastic, which it should for the price tag. This prompted my husband to ask – do you reckon we could make this ourselves? I had a little forage in it’s deliciously gooey contents and realised it wasn’t that complicated. There was probably an ingredient or two I couldn’t decode, but I tried to make it that night and well, it was great! The best of all is that it costs the same to make this for ourselves for a week, that it does to buy two serves from the cafe! On top of this, mine is mostly organic. I feel mighty pleased with that for sure.

better bircher muesli

better bircher muesli – the dry mixture

I get the dry ingredients from Kakulas / Angry Almond. They do some really great fruit mixes and have everything in bulk so that you can get as much as you need.

I prepare it the night before so it soaks right through.

Dry ingredients (quantity for two people, for one week):

1.5kg of rolled oats
half a cup of pumpkin seeds
half a cup of cashews
a cup of dried fruit
half a cup of shredded coconut

Give it all a good shake in a sealable container. Rub in any fruit that wants to stick together. Take out the desired amount for each breakfast. We usually use one cup each.

I put our two cups of the dry ingredients into a container and add the wet ingredients:

2 tablespoons of  lemon juice
half a cup of yoghurt
enough rice milk to just cover over the whole lot

I also add half a teaspoon on cinnamon to this and mix it all together. Then I put the lid on and into the fridge it goes for the night.

better bircher muesli - adding the wet mix

better bircher muesli – adding the wet mix

The next morning, my husband serves it up in two bowls and adds grated apple or pear and frozen raspberries and blueberries on top. I’m not a sweet tooth, but I think many of you might also like to add agave or honey to this.

Bircher muesli serving

Bircher muesli serving

Just to add that Miss K. really enjoyed this breakfast, for two days. Then, she just went off it. You could try it on your kids to see if they like it. My guess is that without the honey or agave it just wasn’t sweet enough, so my little miss prefers her fruit, yoghurt and bread instead.

Bircher muesli serving

Bircher muesli serving

Fairytale envelopes

It seems that with the tidal wave of birthdays and of course Yule in the last few months, I had run out of home made envelopes. Actually, this happened some time ago, which has sent me scrambling to find and/or make something at the last minute a few times – not good with needy baby.

So tonight I sat myself down and got to task. I had a whole heap of pages from some german fairytale books that had fallen apart. The bonus of being a teacher is that you get this kind of stuff if you are a bit nosey. I hate to throw out anything useful and it helps if it is beautiful. I am, I’ll admit, a hoarder of paper…

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

I use a template that I bought at MUJI, though there are so many available on the net that you needn’t go out and buy one.

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

The fantastic thing about fairytale books is that there are often words or pictures on both sides, so that there is a little beauty on the inside of the envelope too. Maps can also be really good for this reason.

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

I also use a bone tool to get the edges nice and crisp. I use to use the handles on scissors and that also works just fine as long as they don’t draw colour onto your paper. Whatever you use it has to be blunt and hard.

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

Handmade envelopes out of vintage fairytale book pages

So now I am ready to send some snail-mail or give a few birthday cards to my friends and family. For people who I know appreciate this kind of thing, I also like to give these as gifts with some great quality paper and perhaps a few stickers or some lovely twine. Goes down a treat.

Now back to a very perplexing, antique children’s dress pattern I’m trying to crack…