Monday, 6 April 2015

.Lane Raglan.

I'm still in a sewing slump. I'm finding it hard to settle into my new sewing area and have been working on a few new patterns, but not feeling like I am making great progress with any of them. In past experience, the best thing to do when I'm not feeling enthused by any of my sewing projects is to let them go for a little while and get stuck into something "just for fun" - so I did just that! 

Our weather has really started to turn, we are still getting some warm days but there is a chill in the air that is hinting towards Winter and for some reason, cold weather sewing is my favourite. I like making snuggly clothes that will keep me (or the kids) warm and cosy and prefer buying winter-weight fabric over lightweight.

So I flicked through my pile of unsewn sewing patterns (yes, I have a big collection of patterns I have never used too!) and decided to give the Lane Raglan by Hey Juen a turn. I remember seeing a few Raglans sewn by Kelly of Cut Cut Sew (here, here, here) in the past and they are exactly what I feel like wearing at the moment. Comfortable, casual and perfect to wear day after day.
I would usually sew a size small in a top like this, but I didn't want my raglan to be a fitted tee, more like a slouchy sweater, so I cut out a medium instead. Perfect fit for the look I was after. This is such a versatile pattern and really well written. With just a few little changes you can achieve a different look every time you sew it. By sizing up or down you can get a more snug or loose fit. And the type of knit fabric you use changes the look completely too.
I wanted my raglan to be like a jumper - soft, loose and baggy and used a hoarded french terry knit I bought awhile ago from Ixat. It is the best fabric - a light marle grey with red/blue/purple specks all over it. It isn't too thick and is really soft and squishy and just lovely to wear. I purchased 2 yards so still have plenty left over but wish I had bought more now because I will use it for everything! I also bought the same fabric but with a black background and multi-coloured specks that I'm hanging out to use too now.
I know this jumper is really going to get a workout this Winter - I have already worn it more days than not since I made it and finally managed to wash it over the weekend ready to wear again and again and again! And yes, I've since made another raglan and have been wearing that one on the other days!

Thursday, 2 April 2015

.Favourite Children's Books:: Herve Tullet.

Over the last few years we have unintentionally started an Easter tradition of giving the kids a special new book with their Easter eggs. I don't think I set out to make it a tradition, but I love new books and adding to our collection so Easter seemed like the perfect excuse to give the kids a new book each.
I pretty much always buy online so sometimes it can be a bit tricky to know exactly what a book is going to be like without actually flicking through it first. This year, when I was researching new books to buy for the kids I realised how much I rely on the recommendations of others when it comes to buying online and thought that it might be helpful to other researchers out there if I shared some of my favourite picture books too. Now, I'm a bit of a a sporadic blogger at the moment so I'm not promising too much, but here's the first installment in my Favourite Children's Books series...and it may very well be my last too if I don't ever get around to writing another one!
The books I want to share with you today are by a French author, Herve Tullet and they are awesome. The first book I bought by Herve Tullet was actually at a bookshop (rare for me!) when we were holidaying in New Zealand last year. Herve Tullet takes interactive picture books to a whole new level - much more than a lift-the-flap, touch-and-feel or pop-up variety, Press Here is a super clever interactive picture book where the children are specific directions to follow, and the book responds with the turn of a page.
My kids haven't tired of this book and it has been read over and over again for the last year. From the first page the children are given specific directions like "Press the yellow dot and turn the page" and "clap your hands twice" - every time a page is turned, the dots change position, colour and size. Sometimes the lights are turned out and other times dots grow and grow and grow. It really is an amazing book where the kids feel in control and a little bit magical.

I also love that this book helps young children with fine motor skills, counting, learning directions (left, right, up, down) and they also learn how to follow instructions in anticipation of what will happen when the page is turned. It's such a great concept and the story never gets old.

After the success of "Press Here" I went on a hunt for other books by Herve Tullet. The next book we bought was "The Book With A Hole."

This book is huge and not so much a story to follow, but a platform for imaginative story telling, art adventures and play.

On each page, the children are given a simple black and white picture or image created around the hole in the book and are often asked a question - did the lady in the picture below eat too much? 
What is the cat watching on TV? In response, children can use their imagination and carry the book around place images in the hole or draw pictures to create a scene which they can then insert in the hole. My kids seem most content popping their own heads in the hole! This is a really long book, heaps of pages, prompts and images to keep you going for ages and no two answers will ever be the same.
"Mix It Up" is another book similar to "Press Here" which focuses on colours - what do different colours make when they are mixed together?
 Sometimes the children are asked to take an imaginary dab of paint from one colour and rub it on another...
Other times they shut the pages of the book together and squish colours together, when the page is turned the mixed colour appears - magic again! Like "Press Here", "Mix It Up" is read over and over again and is great for learning colours and learning what colours are made when mixed together.
 "The Game Of Finger Worms" is another book with a hole, this book is a board book so suited to babies and toddlers and you are instructed to draw a little face on the tip of your finger before playing.
The text is very simple, the highlight is the surprise of popping your finger through the hole and wriggling it around. It always creates laughter with the little ones and they like to poke their fingers through the holes too.

 And the final Herve Tullet book in our collection is "The Game Of Let's Go!" Similar to "The Game Of Finger Worms," this is another board book aimed at small children. To be honest, we haven't really got into this book like we have the others but if you have a very imaginative child (or adult) who is into telling stories in your family, then I can see how it would be a lot of fun.

The first page of this book gives instructions but the rest of the book is without words. Instead, on each page there are raised green pathways to follow (they are kind of velvety-feeling) and you are supposed to trace the lines with your finger whilst closing your eyes and coming up with a story to match along the way. It definitley has potential, but you have to be in the right kind of mood and we haven't really latched onto this book yet.

I think you can tell we are huge Herve Tullet fans around here, and if you are looking for a new, special picture book for some littlies in your life, then I highly recommend his collections!

(I wrote this post because I wanted to - nothing sponsored and no one gave me anything, I just think this guy is pretty awesome!)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

.The House Tour. {Part 2. Kitchen, Dining, Lounge}.

Let the house tour continue! If you missed the previous house tour post, you can see and read all about the exterior here. Now to move into the kitchen, dining and lounge areas.
I think a lot of people were surprised when they heard about our natural, neutral palette at the new house. The first house we built was very "out there" as far as colours go. Lime green accent walls, lime green mosaic tiles in the kitchen and bathroom, splashes of scarlet red and brown tones throughout. It was a fun house with a lot of character but we felt ready to tone things down this time around and reflect the beautiful countryside and nature surrounding us.
We decided to stick with light timber, lots of stark white and concrete/grey throughout the house. Our house has a lot of North-facing windows and is really bright and fresh, which is only enhanced by the clean, neutral design and colours inside.
 So, here is our kitchen. Definitely the hub of the home and where I seem to spend a great deal of my time. It is right in the middle of the lounge room and rumpus room and looks out to our front yard.
We spent quite a bit of time deciding what colours and finishes we wanted to use on the kitchen cupboards, benchtop and splashback. In the end we went safe and fresh and choose white high gloss cupboards and drawers. Underneath the benchtops we have lots of drawers, which I love and above the splashback and appliances are soft-close cupboards. I'm happy that we decided to omit the handles on the cupboards as it keeps things looking nice and clean. I'm hopeless at visualising a finished space before it is actually finished and I was a little worried that the kitchen would look too boring, but I really love how it all turned out. It feels sleek and simple and stylish.

The splashback is white glass, this is the only part of the kitchen that we are not 100% happy with. It has a slight green tinge to it in some light, especially when compared to the bright white cupboards and drawers. We did think of putting timber behind glass at one stage but weren't sure how it would stand up so didn't go for it but if we could change one thing about the kitchen now we would have a timber splashback. 

To bring a concrete element to the inside of the house, we choose a concrete-look benchtop. It is a new Caesarstone colour called Sleek Concrete. It would have been nice to have a polished concrete slab as the benchtop but also super expensive so this was a nice compromise.

Moving onto the ceiling...we wanted the kitchen nice and light so put two big square recessed skylights in the ceiling. There are a few other skylights in the house and they are one of the best decisions we made when planning the build. They let in so much light and I love the direct sunlight that moves across the kitchen throughout the day. It is awesome standing underneath them and looking up during a heavy rain too!
The timber running up the wall and across the ceiling is the one thing in the house that I can take full credit for...and I'm pretty proud of myself because Jaron usually comes up with all of the cool design stuff before I do! We were trying to look around for pendants to put above the island bench and couldn't find anything that we were really happy with, then I had a thought that maybe we shouldn't bother with pendants at all and keep the kitchen clean and streamline without too many distractions. I'm not sure where this inspiration came from but we played around with different ways of including timber in the ceiling of the kitchen and settled on this design and it really helps to increase the interest and ties in well with other timber elements in the house. All of the timber in the house (including the floors) is Tas Oak. I was really set on having a light coloured timber and wanted to stay away from high gloss so we did some research and used a Scandanavian product called Bona Traffic HD as a coating on the timber and it is awesome! It is a satin finish and makes a huge difference in keeping the floor looking clean. When the sunlight hits the floor you don't notice any of the dust that is really noticeable on a high gloss timber floor. It also has a soft, almost waxy feel under your feet and is lovely and warm to walk on. I especially love the light blonde colour and how it is more of a sandy colour rather than dark brown, yellow or orange. The floor is so easy to clean and hardly ever looks dirty - I've managed to go 2-3 weeks in between washing it and you can't even tell it is overdue for a wash! After the white gloss tiles in our old house that always seemed to look dirty and smeary this floor is a dream!
The pantry is to the right of Harvey in the back of the picture above. It feels a little hidden as it is enclosed by two big, gloss, push-to-open doors with no handles and feels like a blank wall. It has heaps of space, actually the whole kitchen has heaps of storage. Half of the cupboards above the bench don't even have anything in them yet!

I think we are one of the few, newer houses that doesn't have a sink on the island bench. It is just something that I have never wanted in my kitchen. I would rather have my bench clutter-free, ready for kids to sit at or people to eat at or a place to serve food and not have to worry about water and taps and dirty dishes getting in the way. 

You can see in the photo above the timber posts screening off our computer nook. This area works really well. It means that the computer is still in the busy part of the home, I can always see what is going on or be close to everyone when I am using it, but also has it's own space. 

And here it is looking from the rumpus room. That door to the left of the computer desk is for storage. The computer desk is a grey laminate - it looks almost identical to the Caesarstone benchtops in the kitchen but a fraction of the price.
The dining area sits directly in front of the kitchen. I love the pendant light that we choose to put here (there is another identical one in the entrance) the white gloss and timber suits the house perfectly.

Our dining set is a work in progress...the table was the same colour as the chairs a few months ago. Jaron painted the legs white and used left over timber from the floors to make a new tabletop. So much nicer than what we had before and it only cost $60 and a couple of nights work! Now we need to paint the chairs white and cover the seats with something. Not sure what we will use yet...I have been looking for a grey oilcloth but haven't been able to find anything that I really like yet (any ideas?) but am also wondering if I could cover them with some leather. Not sure how the leather will go with milk spills and wiping up food though so will have to do a bit more research.

And the last area to talk about for today is the loungeroom...

The loungeroom is still a work in progress - we eventually want to get a new couch that suits the space a little better and the display shelves are ever changing and I really need to make some new cushion covers but I'm taking my time with the decorating of this room because we also spend so much time here I want to get a feel for the house first and see where it leads me!

I had some Ikea shelves next to the TV in our old house and I loved how I could display photos/prints/knick knacks and easily change them around without committing to holes in walls. Because we knew it worked well for our style we had the joiner build us in some white gloss shelves either side of the TV for this purpose. It was nice to have somewhere easy to start decorating when we moved into the house too.

The timber paneling in between the shelves is the same Tas Oak as used in the kitchen. We wanted something to give a bit of warmth to the room so that it just didn't look like a TV on a white wall and it carries on with the light timber theme we have going throughout the house.

Either side of the shelves are two big white gloss cupboards to use for storage - the one on the left is for books and the one on the right has board games, kids drawing stuff and is predominantly used for media - the DVD player, top box, amplifier and receiver are hidden away in this cupboard. Jaron's big dream was to have surround sound in the loungeroom and he won (I wasn't keen!) so this is where all of his stuff is kept out of view! The grey bench underneath the TV and shelves is also made up of a heap of cupboards too for extra storage (and at the moment they are all empty except for a few puzzles and kids books in one of them!)
We used the same paint colour throughout the whole house - on all of the walls, trims and ceiling. It is Vivid White half strength Dulux Wash & Wear 101. This was another risk we took that paid off - we really wanted stark white walls to contrast nicely with the timber and grey elements of the house. So many people tried to talk us out of it and said that it would look too cold but we love it and I've discovered a great way to wipe dirty finger marks off without leaving any smears - I'll share it next time because this post is getting too long!

Not sure if you can really tell in these photos but all of the windows in the loungeroom, dining and rumpus room have Tas Oak timber reveals with a shadow line around them. To tell you the truth, I didn't have a clue what Jaron was talking about when he said he wanted to do it but I love it and once again, it brings in a subtle timber element to all of the rooms.

The carpet we used throughout the house was something that we splurged on. It is Providence Sublime in Fog and is super soft and thick and luxurious. I figure that we sit and lounge and walk barefoot on the floor constantly so it was worth forking out a bit of extra money for. Plus it was one of the only carpet ranges that we could find that made a real stone grey colour, most other greys were too blue or too brown but this one works just right with the rest of our colours.

And this is what you see when you look back at the house from the loungeroom. That big opaque sliding door at the end is the rumpus room and my sewing area but it was a big mess on the day we took photos so I'll save those for another day!
 And if you're a bit clueless with visualising things like I am, here is another look at the floor plan so that you can make sense of how these rooms fit together with each other and the rest of the house!
High 5 to you if you stuck with me for this loooong post! I better save the rest of the house for another time!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

.Grainline Archer.

I'm getting to the end of my "unblogged" sewing projects pile. Now I'll have to start sewing again so that I have something to blog about! There hasn't been a whole lot of sewing going on since moving house, but I'm really missing it so will definitley start making some more time for the sewing room now that we are feeling more settled.
I'm sure this pattern doesn't really need much of an introduction, the Grainline Archer Shirt is everywhere! And when I see a pattern sewn and blogged about in such abundance I can't help but give it a try myself.
This is definitley a "slow and steady" project, it was completed in a few sessions over a week or two. Although it is a little more complicated than most patterns I sew, it wasn't difficult, just a little tedious and detailed.
I used a piece of chambray (Robert Kaufman Slub Chambray in Indigo) that I have had in my stash for awhile. You can't beat a good chambray and Robert Kaufman knows how to make them. 

This shirt is definitley a wardrobe staple. It coordinates with everything and is easy and comfortable to wear. I'm not a fan of wearing the sleeves down so always roll them up or wear a jacket over the top when I wear the shirt. Because of the loose, boxy fit of the shirt I feel a bit frumpy when the sleeves are down, but I like the rolled up look so that works for me!
 I'm debating on whether I should curve in the side seams a little when I make another, just to add a more feminine shape. I made a size 6 and am really happy with the fit.
The only thing that kind of bugs me about the shirt is the blue tone of the chambray is similar to most of my jeans so I feel like I'm a bit "double denim" when I wear it with jeans! Overall though, I give this pattern two big thumbs up - the sew-along is a great reference too for unfamiliar parts of the shirt and it comes together beautifully.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

.The House Tour. {Part 1: Exterior}.

We have been living in our new house for 3 months now and I'm ready to start sharing some pictures of where we live! You can click on these links to see some "before" and "during" shots if you are interested. And here it is - all finished and lived in! Today I will share some pictures of the finished exterior of the house and will move inside next time. Jaron (Starbox Architecture) designed the house (the designs went on foooorever...and he has already started getting ideas togther for our next one!) and it was built by LAW Constructions.
Our block is just over one acre. Towards the end of the build, we had a digger and bobcat come in to level off the yard and create a circular bank around the perimeter of the land. It looks a bit scrubby at the moment with LOTS of weeds to get rid of and years worth of landscaping to do but has great potential. 
Another benefit of the bank surrounding the yard means that we have a head start on screening and privacy as the bank sits about 1m above ground level so anything that we plant now will already be sitting higher than the yard. Plus, it looks pretty cool - once the grass has grown and thickened up we are going to enjoy some fun footy, soccer and cricket matches out there!

The grass has been a big job for us. Before we moved in we got a heap of topsoil delivered, but unfortunately we lost a lot of it in crazy high winds that we experienced a few months ago. Before sowing the grass, we installed some underground irrigation. The system is automatic so Jaron sets the timer for when we would like the grass watered and the little sprinklers pop out of the ground and turn themselves on. I wasn't too keen on the system when we were getting started, but can now see that it was well worth the investment with the time and effort we are saving by not having to move portable sprinklers around the yard all day just to keep the grass wet! Our soil is pretty rubbish out here - we are basically living on a big sandpit! It is actually awesome because no matter how much the kids dig and roll around in it they don't get dirty but not so good for gardens and lawns. Our grass is slowly getting there, but it is going to take a lot of work to get it to where we want it. I'm obsessed with weeding and head out for a little while every day pulling weeds but it's amazing how much faster and stronger they grow than the grass! Because of the sandy ground, any time we want to plant anything we have to fill the area with potting mix first.
This is what you see when you come up our driveway. The main entrance to the house is actually at the back - although we still call it the front door! A few years down the track we hope to finish the driveway with hotmix, but compressed gravel is doing the job for now. We waited awhile to get the block fully fenced (it was included with the land) and I thought it was going to be such a relief when everything was finished so that I could send Harvey outside to play on his own...only to discover that he could squish is way underneath the fences and escape! We are very lucky to be only one of two houses in the subdivision so it is a very quiet street and can let the kids ride bikes and play anywhere they like without worrying about cars or people that we don't know hanging around.
Here is a close-up of the entry. Jaron's office is behind that timber wall. This works great because when he has clients come and see him they walk straight into his office and the rest of the house goes unseen. There is even a separate toilet right next door for them to use. One of our priorities after moving in was to eliminate the amount of dust, sand and dirt being blown and walked through the house. The garden at the entrance was one of the first things we did after the grass and we planted it out with daphne bushes, kangraoo paw, jelly bean succulents and some hearty grasses then finished it off with a medium sized stone covering. It's amazing how much cleaner the house stays when there is grass and garden keeping the dirt at bay. 

Let me try and list all of the exterior materials here in case any of them interest you. The big feature of the house is the timber wrapping around the front and a little at the back of the house. Originally we wanted to go for a grey colour, but ended up choosing a more natural brown colour, Spotted Gum from Woodform Architectural. The original colour of the timber was exactly what we wanted and then when it was stained it turned darker than we had hoped. We still like it, but are happy that the colour will fade with time and then we will coat it with a clear stain to retain the lighter colour. The ends of the house are clad with South Australian limestone from Limestone Australia. The roof and slanted wall at the back of the house are Colorbond Custom Orb in Shale Grey colour. And the window frames are all Shale Grey colour too. At the entrance of the house, you can see slanted timber posts which are laminated Tas Oak.

The building to the right of the house is a shed with Tas Oak timber posts and slats to screen air conditioning external units and wheelie bins. The shed roof is also clad in solar panels.
I think I've covered everything and will try and write a post in the next few days about some of the interior of the house!
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