Friday, July 18, 2014

Perspective

It's Friday! How was your week?

I want to say in some ways, my week is getting better. For a while now, I've been feeling like I'm standing in the middle of a desert and just standing there and waiting to get smacked by whatever comes my way. Sort of feeling helpless, having a loss of control. 

Maybe it's my tendency to look at the worst side of things. Can I blame it on my previous work experience working in software development? You always need to cater to a "worst case scenario". In the event the entire system crashes, here are the steps to take.... Not the best way to deal with real life.

Both my kids are at an age where both have to buckle down on their academics if they want to reach their goals of a university degree. It is an extremely difficult task to manage teenagers. The issue is often I do not know if they are doing what they are supposed to do to stay on track. Most times, I will only find out when they are not. I want to help but I don't know how. I want to nag but they won't let me. I want to advise but it sounds like a nag so they won't listen. So I just watch over them, occasionally dispensing words of "wisdom". This is the part of parenting that often feels like guesswork. How do you help your kids do what they have to do in order to achieve their goals? I still can't figure it out.

I'm really dreading the year end exams. Actually I'm dreading next Friday more. I have to face my son's teachers. It's meet the teachers day. I hope the teachers will strictly adhere to a "no more than 10 minutes" per parent. I don't think I can stomach more than 10 minutes of complaints.

With all my energy concentrated on my kids' schooling, waking them up, getting them to school, getting them to sleep and dealing with daily shenanigans, I felt like I had reached my capacity. Then both my kids had health issues needing investigation. My girl had a mysterious lump on her foot. My son needed his heart checked out at the heart centre. Oh boy, I started to feel like it's one thing after another... What else can go wrong in my life?

Yesterday I felt my perspective changing. Options.

My girl's mysterious lump is still a mystery. But it's not life threatening. We have options. She could live with it or get it removed for 3 grand. I can hear hubs' wallet getting a heart attack. My son's heart issue is still awaiting investigation. He looks strong as a horse. Until we know more, life goes on. I will face my son's teachers bravely. We will hire an army of tutors for him if that's what it takes to wrench better results out of him. I can hear hubs' wallet getting another heart attack.


Watching the Dawn of the planet of the apes yesterday was strangely comforting. Whatever life hands you, some things don't change. Bad boring movies with bad ending. I feel like I've watched this same plot before, maybe not with apes. Seriously, this movie is not worth watching. You'll want to strangle the ending. Or should I say, the non-ending.

If you've read my previous blog post about the controversial removal and decision to destroy three books from the children's library, there's some good news.


The Minister for Communications and Information, Yaacob Ibrahim has instructed the library to place two of the books in question, The White Swan Express and Tango Makes Three in the adult section instead of pulping them. Now, that's a not-bad compromise, an option. 

A third book, Who's In My Family: All About Our Families had already been executed pulped. Yaacob's "stay of execution" came months too late.

I've also started sewing again. Woo hoo! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

And Tango Was His Name-O

Folks,

Until this week, I have never heard of this children's non-fiction "And Tango Makes Three". It is supposedly a heart-warming story about two male chinstrap penguins, Roy and Silo who successfully hatched and raised a baby penguin, Tango. Tango's biological parents, Betty and Porkey (who named these penguins?) are unable to multi-task and after laying two fertile eggs, one was given to Roy and Silo.


Now I'll never know because this book is now unattainable. You know why? The National Library Board pulled this book from its shelves after a complaint by ONE reader. ONE reader. Within two days too! First of all, I'm indignant and shocked that the library board actually reads complaint letters from readers. Once years ago, (I forget when) I sent in a complaint that the shelving does not adequately cater to the taller craft books causing the books to be stacked with the book spine facing down instead of standing up and resulting in dog ears and whatnots as people can't read the book titles and need to wrench the books out - I was met with silence. It seems tall craft books getting dog-earred did not touch on a nerve.

This ONE reader complained about 2 books - the Tango one and The White Swan Express. Both books apparently are not pro-family enough.

Despite two online petitions calling on the Library Board to reinstate the three books, (there is one other book pulled for the same non pro-family reason - Who's In My Family: All About Our Families), the board is not backing down and will destroy the books. (here)

I'm very disturbed by the plan to destroy the books. Geez, doesn't this go against everything we've been taught? Destroy? Isn't that a bit harsh? It's not the SARS virus. Why not put them in a dusty archive? Why not give them away? Why not create a shelf labelled "Not pro-family enough"?

You know what the library should pull instead? People who remove their smelly shoes and socks in the library. It's a library, not your home.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Great Singapore Sale Haul

I did not go nuts over the Great Singapore Sale (30 May to 27 July) this year. My home is extremely cluttered with 3 collectors living together. (it's mostly me and hubs) We do not have space for more clutter. This year alone, I have given to recycling a ginormous amount of stuff that were still usable yet it hasn't made much difference in my home.

I made an executive decision to junk some of my old Tees. I think after wearing them for at least 5 to 10 years, I've got my money's worth. Besides, they have this lingering smell that the washing machine is unable to remove.

These are my new t-shirts. Mostly black/white/grey as I believe (rightly) I look best in these colours. This time, I added two t-shirts outside my normal hue - purple and "bright" blue. The Zara tees weren't really cheap in my opinion. 19 bucks. I got a better deal at Uniqlo. I think the tees were $9.90 and $10.90.  And the one from Pull and Bear was $11.90. If I were to wear these tees for 10 years, it's a pretty good deal, don't you think?

I didn't get any bottoms because I fell off the wagon and gained some weight, conveniently around the tummy. Why can't I gain weight, say around the boobs area instead? Since I believe I will definitely lose more weight and regain my previous hot body, I thought it wise not to buy any bottoms.

There was an Ikea sale and we went with the intention of buying some storage unit which will double as a house for my dolls. I know this sounds like crazy talk but we're not very normal people. We saw a lot of possibilities but somehow ended up buying this very cheap bookshelf which is not really what I had in mind but at least now I have a place to put my dolls. The box which my dolls come in are very tall and that's what makes housing them difficult. Hubs took away one of the shelf and because of that we couldn't put the backing up.

This is what the whole shelf looks like and we put it against the last remaining wall space in our home. These shelves are on a very narrow passageway separating the bedrooms. The dirty thingy on the wall? That's the growth chart for my girl. I'm still waiting for someone to clean the dirty smudges off the wall. The brown bookcase next to the dolls keep books and hubs' blue rays.

Ikea had these boxes at an incredible price but I forgot how much. I remember it was very cheap. Of course I had to buy them. I use the big one to keep my fabric scraps and the smaller ones are for my dolls clothing. There are 2 things I don't like about these boxes. I think the paper will look horrid when it gets dusty and I don't know how easy it is to get the dust out without leaving a smudge. The ribbons are unnecessary.  I dislike tying the ribbons. Seriously dislike. Imagine having to do that every time you use the box. I just want to cut them off!


These round boxes were the same price as the floral ones. Hubs grabbed them too. After opening them, I see 2 flaws - the covers don't fit so well and the paper quality is... coarse.

Yesterday I got these slippers at Robinson's "exclusive" closed door event. We happened to walk past when we saw the sign. These Native slippers are $10 each and shockingly comfy. Do you know how much the Havaianas or Ipanemas cost here? I wear slippers a lot and although I don't need an extra pair, I just cannot resist the bright pink and seriously, who can walk past a pair of white slippers? The pink ones are a little bit longer than my feet (they are men's size) but I didn't care. I think they'll come in handy these days as the weather is likely to be wet mostly. Yesterday's thunderstorm was horrific. I got completely drenched and it was really terrifying walking in the open with the lightning going on and on. And while I was walking, I keep thinking about the chances of being struck by lightning which my son had informed me previously is fairly high.


My family has really bad luck when it comes to floor mats. Well, the original ones we bought when we first moved into our flat around 15 years ago was quite good but they wore out. Subsequent ones we bought always failed somehow. Either they shed fluff or the bottom disintegrate into annoying bits and pieces.

These are two of the four floor mats I bought recently. The one on the right is only $3.90. Both are able to absorb water and don't shed but are far too flimsy for our feet. I am considering making my own mats! Maybe even crocheting some old tees? But it sounds like a lot of work!


What have you bought lately?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

New 50 is the old 20

In my real life I am very short sighted. I forget what my degree is but it's between 450 to 550. Ever since I became a middle-aged woman, I have also developed presbyopia which is a age-related condition where my eyes can't focus on near objects. You know what this means? I can't see near and I can't see far. I'm close to blind without my glasses!

I function with my distance glasses fairly well. I use it when I go out and at home when I watch TV. This pair of glasses is not good for seeing anything near. So when I am sewing, I have a pair of sewing glasses. I tailor the degree to see the needle on the sewing machine clearly. When I am working on the computer, I use another pair of glasses tailored for comfortable reading. I don't use bifocals or progressive glasses as I get dizzy easily. Does this sound complicated? I was quite comfortable with this arrangement but since last year, I've encountered a problem.

See, in 2013, new coins were issued. In Singapore currency, we have 5cents, 10cents, 20cents, 50cents and 1dollar coin. The old Singapore coins would eventually be phased out. 


Do you see the problems with the new coins? Whoever designed the coins must be someone young who hasn't hit 40 yet.

Maybe this photo above will give you a better picture of the problem. The new 50cents coin is very close to the size of the old 20cents coin. The size between the new 50 and new 20 cents coin is too insignificant. You know how I know? I keep overpaying for my purchase. Due to my near blindness, when I pay in cash, I have been using the "feel method". I could of course remove my glasses to peer at the coins but it's a hassle!

The old 50 cents coin is pretty significant. The weight and size alone will tell you it's a 50. I did not realise I had been using the weight and feel of the coins to tell them apart until the new damn coins were introduced. Suddenly I keep getting money returned. I had been using my new 50cent coins as 20cent coins. Fortunately, Singapore cashiers are pretty honest.

Speaking of presbyopia, don't you just hate it not being able to focus near once we hit 40?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

One day in June

I turned a year older in June. I wasn't looking forward to it. A few days before my birthday I woke up daily with achey shins. It was almost as if my body couldn't wait to let me know how old it feels. This year I decided the kids need not buy presents for me and hubs anymore. It was very stressful for them and for me as well. So I decreed that only hubs and I would get presents for each other. Almost immediately everyone felt better.

I had also gone so far as to say I wanted to do away with the cake, candle and birthday song. All I wanted was my present. But hubs said: nonsense. I woke up at 6am as son had school even though it was the school holidays. I saw a present on the table and the minute I saw hubs stirring, I asked him if I could open the present. But he said no. He said to wait till my girl was awake.

Geez. I waited till noon. Then I made a lot of noise so my girl would wake up. Finally I got to open my present.
 

I was really shocked to see this doll because I had asked hubs to get me a J-doll and this doll is not a J-doll. It's a Dal doll. Still I was happy with it.


We went out for a birthday lunch with my girl. My son had to miss it. Yes, this is how we are dressed when we go to a restaurant.

We ate at Thai Express as there's usually seafood at the restaurant. You may recall hubs and I stopped eating meat but we still eat seafood. Hubs is on the verge of breaking down pretty soon. Anyway, I had originally planned to colour my hair so I would have the illusion of looking young on my birthday. But the thought of sitting down for hours and paying a huge ransom for all that just didn't appeal to me. I decided I shall wait till I look like Gandalf.

This is what I ate - softshell crab with glass noodles. Honestly, it was just passable. I definitely won't order it again. Hubs and I eat out a lot but I've yet to eat anything that tastes fantastic. Is it me or is it the cooks?

My girl had soft shell crab in curry with rice. It looked better than mine.

Hubs had fish with tom yum soup followed by a strange coconut/nuts dessert.

 
Would you believe after all that food we went to Marble slab creamery for ice-cream? My girl chose a birthday cake flavour. Remember I said food just doesn't taste fantastic? Well, ice-cream ALWAYS tastes fantastic.

Crap. Now you can see my crazy tooth.

In the evening we did the birthday cake/song thingy. (double peace sign on account of my birthday) p.s. please pretend you can't see the mess in my home.


After blowing out the candle in the cake, crazy hubs brought out 4 more Dal dolls. You know what this means? I got 5 Dal dolls in one day.

Hubs finally came clean. Remember when hubs gave me 3 Pullip dolls on our wedding anniversary? (here) What happened was he had already bought these 5 Dal dolls for our wedding anniversary. But for some reason, he also bought the 3 Pullip dolls. So he decided he had to give me the Pullip dolls first and save the Dal dolls for my birthday. So for a few months these 5 Dal dolls have been hiding in his office.

Want to meet them?

Are they scary looking or just awesome?


Dal dolls are slightly shorter than Pullip dolls and they have a constant pouty look on account of being jealous of the older and taller Pullips. I find the pouty look adorable.

After the squeals over my presents had died down, son played the happy birthday song to me on his Chinese flute. I was delighted.

A short while later, my mother telephoned me. She said she had been trying to reach me all afternoon. Then she sang Happy Birthday to me in English!!! It was so cute and so sweet.

I hadn't expected much on my birthday but it turned out to be such an awesome day. I didn't even mind turning older.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

June 2014 Giveaway winners

Last night I stayed up till past midnight to draw the winners for my June 2014 giveaway. Yes, I sat in front of the computer and waited till June became July. Well, I kinda had to stay up anyway as I fell asleep around 6 in the evening for an hour and that kind of sleep is really refreshing except it means you can't sleep at night. It was a tiring day as I had gone out with hubs to look for pom poms. It was a long walk.



Without further babbling, the winners are:

First winner drawn by random number generator is...




Congrats Stacy. And Meow to you too. You get the bicycle print bundle.

Second winner drawn by random number generator is...

Congrats Fiona! You get the guitar bundle. I know you wanted the bicycle print but you got picked second. Hope you like the guitar prints anyway.

A big thanks to everyone for taking part. I will be emailing the winners soon to get shipping details, etc.
p.s. some of you took the trouble to write a little bit about yourself in your entries. thank you and it was nice to be able to be able to "picture" who you are.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Free flower applique templates


Guys,

After I had written the "Hand applique using blanket stitch" tutorial, I thought you might like a flower applique to practise the stitches on. The simple 5 and 6 petals flower applique templates are one of my favourites and I used a software to draw up the shapes. I have uploaded them to my google drive and you may save the templates to your computer. To save paper, just print the pages with templates. The template comes in only one size. This size I'm giving you is just perfect for applique - roughly 4" across. If you wish to print the template in a different size, remember to open it via Adobe Reader which allows you to print at a custom % size. This tute shows you how to resize the templates using Adobe Reader version XI.

To retrieve the templates click below:
Five petals flower applique template
Six petals flower applique template

I went through my archives and dug up a few zip pouches I had made using blanket stitches on the flower applique. These were made years ago!

I left the center empty.

These two are similar - the center motifs are fused to the background fabric. Then the flower applique with a hole in the center is placed above it and fused to the background fabric.

I used seed stitches to fill in the center. If you're wondering what are seed stitches, they are really straight stitches which are randomly placed to fill up a space. The main thing to remember for seed stitches is to use varying sizes of stitch length sewn in different directions.

I sewed a circle on top of the center of the flower. Yes, of course I happened to have a circle with a small flower on it.

My flower applique templates can also be used as a pattern for brooches. If you print the templates at 70%, it should give you a good size for a brooch. (just slightly larger than 2.5" across) Below are some felt brooches I had made in the past. When I made these brooches, I rough cut the shape by folding the felt into half and used a pen to draw out the shape on the felt. They turned out a little uneven. Well, you don't need to rough cut anything since you have the templates. I hope these brooches give you some inspiration.




Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A word from Bear

Ladies,

In case you haven't already entered Jane's June Fabric+pattern Giveaway, you still have time. It ends 30th June 2014 Singapore time. Go here to enter.

http://projectsbyjane.blogspot.sg/2014/06/june-2014-giveaway-its-fabric-this-time.html

Meanwhile I'm keeping the fabric nice and warm for the two winners.

Later.

Bear



Monday, June 23, 2014

Hand applique using blanket stitch

Some of you probably know this already. The very first hand stitch I learned when I was seven years old was the blanket stitch. I wasn't a quick learner back then but somehow I managed to sew blanket stitches on a dog applique. It's no surprise that this is one of my favourite hand stitch.

Some people call the blanket stitch by another name. I think that's confusing so for simplicity, this stitch is always blanket stitch to me.

You can use the hand blanket stitch on turned applique as well as raw edge applique. It works really well on felt, fleece and fused fabric.

The hand blanket stitch is very easy to make.
 Notice that the "bite" taken by the needle goes outwards from the applique to the raw edge. The working thread should be behind the needle.

To get the stitch to look right, just tug the working thread upwards and the stitch will form nicely.

You repeat the "bite" over and over again.

How long your stitches are (the bite) and how wide the spacing between the "bites" is a matter of preference. I like them big-assed large. You might like them dainty. What kind of thread can you use? Embroidery floss or perle cotton are the common choices. I use sashiko thread. They aren't easily available though. Plus it's really thick and tangles easily. You need to use the appropriate needles as well. Embroidery needles are the best choices for embroidery floss and perle cotton. I use sashiko needle for sashiko thread.

If you're familiar with blanket stitch, you're probably familiar with stitches coming loose like below.
You didn't do anything wrong. It's the nature of the stitch. The blanket stitch was created to reinforce the edging of a piece of material or sew two pieces of materials together. When we use the stitch on applique, there isn't enough thickness (from the applique) for the stitch to grip onto. That's why the stitches slip off. This usually happens around tight corners, outside corners and points. On straight lines and gentle curves, there's usually no problem.

The solution to keeping your stitches from slipping off? Use a locking stitch.

Outside corners & locking stitch
 To handle outside corners, just ensure your needle exits exactly at the corner point.

To do a locking stitch, enter the needle close to where the working thread came from. This stitch locks the stitch and you'll never have to worry about slipping stitches.

p.s. please ignore my yellow looking fingernails. in case you're concerned, my nails look an unhealthy pale but they aren't yellow at all. it's probably the lighting. (swear)

 To continue, sneak the needle back inside the blanket stitch. (like pretend there's no locking stitch)

Now you can carry on like normal.
 
Inside point
 For the inside point of the heart, you want to do 3 stitches all originating from the same point.



For sharp points like a leaf or pointy part of a heart
 Exit the needle exactly on the sharpest part of the point. Use a locking stitch for security.

 Carry on.

To get a seamless look when you end...
 Enter needle under first stitch made without needle piecing anything.

Enter needle through applique. Knot off below.

Now you can't see where you started/ended.

To avoid stitches slipping off here are the things you can do:
- keep stitches closer together around tight corners
- use a locking stitch esp for outside corners

Sometimes I don't want to do a locking stitch especially when I have many tight corners. For outside corners, I only need to do one locking stitch so that's okay but imagine if I have many small circles or little tight curves. Here's what I do sometimes...

I use another stitch called the Tailor's buttonhole stitch. If you google you'll probably find different ways of doing a buttonhole stitch and different names as well and maybe some debate about it. I don't care about all that. For simplicity, I'm going to refer to this stitch as the Tailor's buttonhole stitch.

Here's how you make a Tailor's buttonhole stitch.
 You insert the needle from the edge of the applique inwards.

 Pull the needle and thread through until you get a small loop. Insert needle through loop from BEHIND.

 This part is a little tricky. You need to pull the thread upwards and not to the side.

 Carry on.

p.s. I used a timer to take this shot and I really wanted to show my finger tugging the thread upwards and not to the side.

The Tailor's buttonhole stitch is slightly more secure than a blanket stitch. Just slightly. I find that for tight corners, switching to this stitch allows me to skip a locking stitch. However, for outside corners, I still need a locking stitch unless you make the stitches very, very close together in which case no locking stitches are needed.

Btw, the Tailor's buttonhole stitch was designed to reinforce the raw edges of a button hole and the stitches are sewn very close together.

If you're wondering why don't I use the Tailor's buttonhole stitch in place of the blanket stitch, it's because the blanket stitch looks better!

I hope this post is useful to those of you who have never tried blanket stitch by hand.
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