A trip on the craft side 

It’s late (again) and I shall need to scoot real soon to catch some much needed snooze. But I thought I’d just drop by to share this fantastic Pinterest song parody that I pretty much identify with because I have always been a crafter at heart. 

I think I haven’t said it enough on this blog actually, but these things have their roots all the way back to my childhood. I remember crocheting and knitting in primary school while sitting it out during P.E. period (hehe a long story as to why, and which I shall address in a separate post). 

I still think of DIY and craft projects as a brilliant way to unwind and to serve as my creativity outlet. I may not be that capable in the things I produce, but somehow just working on something is hugely satisfying for me. I shall attempt to blog more about this undying passion of mine (which seems to be surviving even better than my love for writing, ironically). 

Okay, gotta dash. See ya! Meanwhile, enjoy the video! 

Rain and cupcakes 

Rainy week it has been. Today is no exception to the ongoing streak. I don’t mind, really, since I love rain. 

Jamie does too, except once the thunder and lightning get too much. I decided to keep the curtains drawn and had some music playing on Spotify to keep him distracted today when it was pouring. But I think it wasn’t as dashyat as yesterday so he didn’t seem to be affected. 

Yesterday, he would have this slight look of terror every time he saw a lightning flash. He can now anticipate that after that comes the thunder. (We had an episode last weekend where our neighbours in the landed homes beneath us had a fireworks party and it absolutely terrified Jamie because it seemed as if it were just outside our balcony. He has been extra nervous about thunder ever since). 

Well, he’s asleep… for now. I am having an early coffee break. Not a common occurrence in this job of mine as Work-At-Home-Mum. I’m eating cupcakes that I baked yesterday. Also while it was raining. There are 2 left. I *should* be leaving one each for Deric and Jamie… but it’s tempting to just have another… No one would know… *rubs hands gleefully* 

On a more serious note, I’m actually feeling a little melancholic today. Perhaps it’s the recent challenges of breastfeeding Jamie at night (he has been having more midnight awakenings, teething perhaps?) and also the mundaneness of chores and work. I don’t even feel I’m perky enough around Jamie (and I have always tried to be since I want to raise him to be a cheerful boy and not melancholic like me). 

I had sketched out a plan to write a book. It’s currently on hold as I manage my workload. My work is sort of on pause mode because I feel I’ve hit a wall for one of my ongoing jobs and am dawdling while waiting for the client to reply me on the issues (I generally do not like to talk about work issues on this blog so that’s all I will say about it). 

Quick lament to say that for some reason lately I seem to have lost the spark for writing. I can still do it, but I find little delight in it. It’s like I’m on autopilot. Muscle memory. Responding on reflex. This is worrying. What should I do about this? 

I still daydream about selling handmade stuff of mine. I tested out a modest little motif for some hairpin design I thought would be good to start off with. I need to work out costing. I can’t because I need to go out to check out the materials. 

I want to do craft projects but there never seems to be the right time. Or I put other things as more of a priority over it and never get round to actually doing anything. I have so many planned and pending projects! I’ve told my husband countless times that I might die buried beneath all the tools and raw materials I’ve purchased for crafting. 

Meanwhile, my ukelele’s only function at the moment is to entertain Jamie. He will frequently exclaim, “Guitar!” and gesture towards our study where the uke and Deric’s guitar and other miscellaneous music instruments we own are stored. Once in awhile, I will relent and take the uke out for him. I still haven’t progressed from learning chords from the C key (in fact, I think I’ve forgotten what F chord is like). 

Sigh. My music interests seem to have dwindled too. Even choosing songs on Spotify to play for myself is such a difficult task. What tunes do I like nowadays? Why can’t I figure it out? 

More rain now and a very loud burst of thunder. My heart nearly stopped worrying Jamie might awaken in fear in his bed. He didn’t. Back to my coffee. Forgive my long post. It’s been awhile since I shared my thoughts. 

Shorter stories next round. I promise. 

 

Corny matters

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Easy to make and safe to use around a toddler. Yay! 🙂

I have been putting off mending the books that Jamie has ruined for a very long time. My concern was that he might end up eating whatever form of glue I used for my repair work. 
I actually took time to scour the Internet for some homemade alternative that would be safe for toddlers. And to my relief, there were actually tons of options out there. 

I finally settled for cornstarch glue as it seemed the least problematic (no warnings about mould as what I had seen mentioned for glue made from regular flour) and was fairly easy to make. Plus I had everything I needed already stocked in my kitchen. 

So, after much procrastination, I have at last repaired those poor, neglected books and they are back on the shelf for Jamie to wreck havoc on once more. Hehe. 

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What freshly made cornstarch glue looks like.

There is now also a jar of leftover cornstarch glue ready and waiting for a reason to be used. I wonder how long it will keep actually… I fret about mould appearing, but so far, so good lah. 

The books I’ve mended are holding up pretty well thus far. And I haven’t got a thing to worry about if Jamie is decidedly peckish one of these evenings and chews on some of those spots I glued back on. 

In case you had similar concerns about using regular commercial glue products on toys or books that your toddler uses, you can check out the cornstarch glue recipe I used here.

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Cornstarch glue resurrected from the fridge turned out to be a little hard and lumpy. Boohoo.

Just a little note: Since the first time I made that batch of cornstarch glue, I have pulled out the leftovers to use at a different time and it turned out to be pretty hard and lumpy. I tried adding hot water to it to get it to be more liquidish, but it didn’t work out very well. In the end, I resorted to popping in the quantity I needed straight into the microwave for a quick heating session. That worked out better. 

I have jotted down the date that I made the cornstarch glue on the jar and I will update this post when I notice it going bad in any way so you’ll know how long it can keep if stored in the fridge like I did. 

For a future batch, I would like to try a slightly different glue recipe/tutorial which incorporates some form of preserving agent like salt or vinegar like this. Or I may even go out on a limb and start experimenting with other types of homemade glue too. 

Well, whatever the case may be, rest assured that I’ll be right back here to report on how that works out when the time comes 🙂 

“Mugged”

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So the story goes that last Christmas, my family was given home decorated mugs as gifts. As a result, my Mum’s interest was piqued and she asked the giver what she had used to design the mugs. 

This eventually led to my Mum being lent the very marker pens that were used to draw on the mugs. And she was even given several of the extra plain undecorated mugs that the giver had on hand (leftovers from the ones she had bought to distribute as Christmas gifts). 

And so, my Mum ended up deciding to give Deric and I each a plain mug and to allow us to decorate it for ourselves so we could use it as our dedicated mugs whenever we had dinner at my parents’ place. 

A cool idea, no doubt, which especially appealed to a person like me who loves craft activities in general.   

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But Deric and I put off decorating those mugs for a very long time and it was only recently that we actually got down to it. Part of the main challenge was deciding what to draw, but thankfully there was Pinterest to help us in making that choice.

There was another limitation that we soon discovered the moment we started drawing on the mugs: The marker pens that we were to use had thick tips and the ink in them wasn’t flowing too well either. 

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These limitations made me decide to stick to mug designs that were mostly text based rather than image based, because it would be difficult to draw precisely with markers in the condition that I had described. 

Hence, this is how I arrived at the decision of putting “Coffee – A hug in a mug” and the words “CAFFEINE”, along with the diagram of its atomic structure on my mug.

As for Deric, he decided to go with a superhero theme and picked a design focussed on Green Lantern. 

All in all, it was a pretty fun activity (decorating our mugs) and I think both of us would be open to doing it again. Only with brand spanking markers that had thinner tips and flowing ink supply.  Hehe. 

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Castles in the sky

There’s a fine line between optimism and irrationalism, and I think most of us are a little unclear on where one ends or where the other starts. One memorable incident that I experienced some time back illustrates this perfectly, 

Story goes that I was talking to a friend who would be soon kickstarting a freelance career of her own, having already worked several years in the field of her expertise. Hers is a different industry from mine, of course, but having tried to do a bit of a freelance stint in the past, I had this inherent belief that it wouldn’t be easy for her to start things off. Nevertheless, throughout this particular conversation that I had with her, I remained positive and encouraging about her choice of a career move. 

After all, I had always dreamed of someday moving on into a freelance career of my own.

In the course of our chat, I mentioned to this friend that should I ever get my way to earn money in the field of my choice, I would have loved to craft custom made bags in the same manner that a tailor would custom make clothes for his/her customers. 

I had expected that she would have been encouraging at the very least, since this was in essence not that far a cry from what she herself was opting to do in the near future. But surprisingly, she was more pessimistic about my dream career direction than she was about her own. 

She even went as far as to say she didn’t think there was a very promising market for such handcrafted bags. It was awfully disheartening to hear her bash my dreams down to a pulp. Even more so since I had just seconds ago been so supportive of hers. 

I doubt she was being spiteful in what she had said in response to my sharing. But nevertheless, the effect was a negative one and that’s probably why I remember that incident to this day. 

Honestly, this doesn’t feel that much different from how I used to feel whenever I considered the possibilities of becoming a writer for a living. Back in the earlier seasons of my life, I deemed it almost an impossible feat. I had had very limited exposure to publishing in general, and hadn’t ever won a single essay competition in school nor had I even joined a student editorial body to learn some of the ropes. 

In other words, I had no track record or glowing portfolio with which to convince others that I could do a decent job writing, And yet, to cut the long story short, I have actually become a writer by profession today.

Well, I have yet to earn a single Ringgit from anything I have handcrafted, but who knows what the future may hold? I think what’s important here is not to entirely rule out the possibility. 

For now, I just glean inspiration from posts about other crafters who have made it in monetising their passion just like this one: Top 10 Malaysian handicraft makers.

Sigh. 

Tried & tested: Upcycled t-shirt bag

There was a time in the past where I was looking for ideas on how to make bags out of old t-shirts.

In the process, I stumbled upon this video tutorial from the Chic On The Cheap YouTube channel.

Here’s the video for your reference: http://youtu.be/nPrm_zVrCHE.

What struck me most about this video was that first of all, it was one of the more original tutorials out there (I came across SO MANY of the SAME t-shirt bag tutorials by different people that I began to wonder who was actually copying who).

Not only that, the bag was reinforced by the use of another fabric as part of the bag. Most other tutorials used only t-shirt material for the entire bag. While it has a nice feel to it when it’s 100% made out of t-shirt material alone, the reality is that such material stretches way too much. So what you’ll have is a bag that gets wider/longer the more you use it and it also ends up (in my opinion) not retaining its original shape very well. Not to mention having less durability.

So that is why I was especially happy to see a big difference in how Chic On The Cheap had designed this particular upcycled t-shirt bag.

Anyway, I finally had a chance to try my hand at making the said bag when I offered to make it for my sis as a belated birthday gift.

As with all online tutorials, there are of course challenges I faced in understanding the steps. There were also some minor ambiguities which required me to make judgment calls of my own.

So I thought, for the benefit of anyone who wants to work on this bag as well, I’d post my own experience making it in the hopes that perhaps it will make the process smoother for them.

Hence, here is my review/commentary of sorts on Chic On The Cheap’s t-shirt bag tutorial. 🙂

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Getting started: I found it challenging to cut consistent sizes and get my edges measured and cut up straight.

Here’s how things looked like when I first started off working on the bag. I did my best to draw and cut out the fabric in straight lines through the aid of my fairly new right angle sewing ruler (not sure if there’s a proper name for it so I guess that’s the best way I can describe it).

I’m still not very good at cutting fabric out straight despite my efforts though. But that’s probably just because I’m pretty much an amateur.

The one thing I forgot to factor in when measuring my fabric is to cater for seam allowances. I also neglected to consider what would be the most practical width for the base of the bag. In retrospect, I think I should have made it wider.

It was not obvious from the video at first, but actually the piece of the t-shirt that you cut out to form the shape to cut out the base of the bag isn’t actually used in sewing the bag together. Its sole purpose is just to give you a means of having a guide piece from which to cut out the base from the other fabric (in my case, the blue colour one).

Had I known this, I would have straight away skipped the step where you measure the base and cut it out from the t-shirt and just proceeded to make the base as deep as I liked (so long as lengthwise it matched the length of the t-shirt).

Another thing that would have made the overall proportion of my bag better would be to use a t-shirt that isn’t so squarish in shape and more elongated. Say, a slightly oversized t-shirt or something XL sized or bigger. The reason for that being that it gives you more t-shirt fabric to play with so you can ensure your bag is longer and thus, more rectangular in shape rather than squarish.

The bag that I sewed for my sister was more boxy due to the face that it was a small t-shirt (one that she wore growing up).

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Added detail: Although not in original pattern, I added a small pocket inside the bag.

This bit was a little customisation on my part. The tutorial did not include any instructions for sewing pockets either outside or inside the bag. But I figured it’s useful to have at least one pocket around.

The part of the t-shirt which I used to make this pocket was actually the sleeves. It works out quite nicely if you turn the sleeve so that its edging becomes the top part of the pocket. It seems quite fitting this way,

The fact that you’re using the sleeves to make pockets would mean that you can fashion at least 2 pockets from the available fabric.

I only did one and placed it on the inside of the bag. But even then, I felt reassured by the fact that I had a spare sleeve to make use of should I mess up the construction of that one pocket.

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Inside job: Neatening edges and sewing up till the right points along the fabric was tough for me.

It’s more or less my first time making a bag by using a sewing machine, so naturally, I faced problems in getting the sewing parts done right. I have always had a slight fear of using sewing machines, because I feared making huge mistakes and having to unpick and resew seams multiple times.

Well, that did happen, but it was not as horrendously hard to undo my mistakes as I imagined.

What was especially challenging though was the difficulty of estimating how far down the fabric I should continue to sew before ending off the stitch and cutting threads.

Turning the fabric so I could sew around the corners was also not easy for me and I usually ended up bungling things somewhere along the way. Halfway through, I decided I would sew the bag one line at a time and not run one continuous line of sewing throughout multiple edges of the bag.

But then there was the tidying up work I had to go back and do because ultimately, I still hadn’t sewn far enough down to each of the edges of the fabric. Sigh.

Also, the video said to tidy up the raw edges at the bottom inside of the bag with a zigzag stitch. I realise a lot of people tend to use the zigzag stitch as a alternative stitch for preventing loose ends from fraying (in the absence of a serger machine), although I still wonder how effective this is.

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Tip top: There was no directions given how to finish off sewing the tips of the bag straps.

One thing which the tutorial left out was what to do with the straps of the bag after you had left a tiny part unsewn so you could turn the fabric inside out.

To solve this problem, I used overstitching to finish sewing up those loose parts of the fabric. Not the best option though because you can see the threads from the stitching. I think there is an alternative and more invisible form of a stitch that could be used, but I couldn’t think of what that should be.

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Happy "customer": Jo posing with her new bag. She likes it. Phew!

Despite my many challenges in putting this t-shirt bag together, it all seemed worth it when my sister took an instant liking to end result. I guess with any craft project that you give away, it’s always encouraging to see that it is well received as it makes you feel that all that effort was truly worth it.

Well, getting this bag done has increased my enthusiasm and boldness to try making other kinds of bags. Perhaps it all isn’t as tough as it seems when you actually get down to doing it step by step.

A final verdict on the Chic On the Cheap t-shirt bag tutorial: On the whole, the tutorial was reliable and quite clear in its instructions. But as mentioned earlier, there were certain ambiguities that were not addressed (like the finishing off of the stitching for the straps), but overall, it’s still a really useful and easy to follow tutorial.

And my next bag making attempt shall be to create a reversible tote. Hehe. I really look forward to that.