The World Is My Oyster!

Today is the last day of January and a time for me to reflect back and look forwards after a long summer holiday with my girls.

They went back to school last week, and I spent those 3 days getting things organised, sorted and tidied up ready to begin my working year.

In the Middle

A couple of weeks ago, I had a funny thought and checked a statistic out - average life expectancy here in Australia.  
I'm now 42 years old , and that average life expectancy for women is 84. Which means that I'm about half-way right now!

So is this my mid-life crisis? Maybe! 

What I really feel, is excited at this statistic.  When I think of quite how much I've learned, done and experienced in my first 42 years, the possibilities for the next 42 are incredible.  The first few years of my life were spent learning to do things like walk, talk, feed myself etc.  In this second half I'm already pretty proficient at that kind of thing, so I'm starting at a much more advanced point.  Think of all the things I can learn, do, see, places I can go, things I can try... 

I think as we get older, we maybe tend to make fewer, or perhaps less lofty long term goals and plans.  When we are kids, we have the whole, 'what will I be when I grow up' to think about, the world is our oyster! Learning, choosing, studying and working towards what we want to do with our lives.  But there's no reason why we can't do that at a more advanced age too!

Some inspiration 

Henry Ford, created the Model T car when he was 45.

Charles Darwin published 'On the Origin of Species' when he was 50.

Ray Kroc bought McDonalds when he was 52 and turned it into the world's biggest food franchise.

Colonel Sanders was 62 when he franchised KFC.

Martha Stewart hit it really big with the publication of her first book aged 41.

Samuel Jackson was 46 before he got his first major film role.

Peter Roget invented the Thesaurus at age 72.

What about me?

So having had this thought, I'm now standing at the beginning of a world of infinite possibilities!  I'm starting to look at plans and goals I've made and set, and think that I need to think much much bigger, to start laying a foundation now for the next 42 years.

Whereas before I have thought that my blog has been going for nearly 6 years now, and I sometimes feel frustrated that I haven't managed to grow it bigger in that time. If I haven't made it big blogging yet, is it just a hopeless task? Should I just give up now?
NO! Absolutely not!
 I'm now looking at it as 6 years of learning and foundation. 

My motto is very much, 

'Use what you've got' 

as I mention often, so now my task is to use what I've built up over the past 6 years to take it to the next level.  I've spent the past couple of years churning out LOTS of new sewing tutorials and a couple of e-books, but during that time I haven't really grown my blog. I share my tutorials in the same circles and on the same sites all the time. Maybe it's time to start stretching further afield. The internet is a massive place and I've only explored a tiny corner of it.

So I've decided that maybe it's time to pull back on the whole producing endless new tutorials and focus more on promoting and getting what I've already made, out there for more people to see.
I still have new tutorials planned for this year - but more like one a month rather than the one a week I was doing at several points over the past couple of years!

A New Look

This past week I've made a start on reworking my blog a little.  I've thought lots and often about the whole change to Wordpress, and getting my own domain name. And I'd like to say a big thank you to all those who took the time to answer my questions about your experiences doing just that. 
However, once again with my 'use what you've got' mentality, I've decided to stick with my Blogger blog with its mismatched domain name of  'jembellish.blogspot'!  
'What's in a name' anyway? as Shakespeare famously said 
(Romeo and Juliet).

A start

A few days ago I decided it was time to add something to my blog that I've wanted for a while -
  a drop down menu
I know this is just a simple option on Wordpress, but not so easy on Blogger. However, as one of my favourite quotes says:

"If you really want to do something you'll find a way.
 If you don't you'll find an excuse" 
- Jim Rohn

Adding a drop down menu to Blogger wasn't simple and straightforward, but neither was it too difficult.  I found this tutorial from a couple of years ago which helped me create the menu and insert it into my Blogger template.  I had to fiddle around with the sizes and colours to get it just right for my blog. And then I had it working on my 'test blog' (one I created for trying out new things) but once I transferred it to this blog it didn't work!  So more Google searches of my problem later I'd learnt even more about moving things about on Blogger.
In the end I got it to work and it was so satisfying to test it all out and see it working just as I'd imagined it!

Revamping the whole blog is going to be done gradually as I want to do it myself and that's going to take some time and learning on my part. No rush though - I want to get it right and I have plenty of time to do that!

Learning something new

The satisfaction I felt in creating the drop down menu on my blog was how I'd felt over the summer holidays when working with my youngest daughter on building cars powered by balloons, propellers and rubber bands

We learned together how to build these cars and with lots of trial and error, made a few cars that worked. What a rewarding project that was.  Spending the summer with my girls, learning and doing things with them, reminded me of how much fun learning and trying new things is and I want more of it!

What else?

This blog is just one aspect of my new thoughts about plans and goals. There's my family, my other education blog, my fitness, things to learn and places to go.  I've made a small beginning with my blog - and have also decided I want to learn to crochet properly and have made a start on that! There are so many possibilities it's hard to know where to start - so I'm starting small and adding plans and goals as I go. This isn't like making New Year's Resolutions and plans. I'm not writing everything down and trying to do it all at once.

I do hope you'll continue to come back and read my continuing and growing adventures on this blog. 
And do tell me - do you have goals and plans as an adult, as big as those you had as a kid?  What are they?  I'd love to hear your stories too!

Learning to crochet in 2016

This year I've decided that I'm going to learn to crochet. 
I tried learning a couple of years ago and this was my granny square attempt then:
Quite round for a Granny square don't you think?

I also tried a few amigurumi with my basic skills:

But never progressed beyond that and kind of lost interest.

But I don't like to be defeated or to give up on anything, so I've decided this year I'll give it more attention and learn to crochet well!

So yesterday I followed this video tutorial for a basic single colour granny square. I paused the video lots as I worked through it and gradually got more confident in the terminology of what I was doing and saw the pattern emerging.
I was proud of my finished granny square!

Later last night, I tried a second square from memory and with my first to refer back to beside me.

For some reason it looks much better on the left side than the right side, but at least it's square and looks reasonably even!

My next step is to make another granny square but this time follow a written tutorial. I plan to try this one from Happy in Red and hopefully that will reinforce the terminology and help me learn how to 'read' a crochet pattern!

Can you crochet? Do you remember learning? How did you learn? Did someone teach you or did you use a book, videos or maybe just figure it out for yourself? I'd love to know!

Lunch bag Tutorial

My eldest daughter was in need of a new lunch bag for school this year as her old one was falling apart. So I dissected the old bag and made a new pattern and tutorial to make her a new one.

I made 3 bags in total. For the materials I used waterproof fabric for the outer fabric in two of the bags and rip-stop nylon for the inner fabric. The long zips were reclaimed from the above old lunch bag and old school bags. For the insulating layer between the inner and outer fabric I used foam sheets reclaimed from old lunch bags and some pieces of old silver car windscreen shades. Finally for the handle, I used parts of straps reclaimed from old backpacks.

For the bag I made to produce this tutorial, I used an old pair of jeans and an old favourite nightie of my daughter's for the outer fabric 
and for the inner, I used sections cut from an old pool toy - an inflatable ring that somehow got a puncture!

I used the Hello Kitty Pictures from the nightie as applique to add to the plain denim from the jeans for the outer fabric.
The pictures were a little sticky and glittery, so I used a thin piece of tissue paper on the top when I stitched around the edges. this helped the machine foot slide across the fabric better, and when I was finished the stitching the excess tissue just pulls off.

So - here's how to make your own lunch bag.

First cut your materials.
You will need

 Outer and Inner fabric
2 main panels each - outer and inner fabric template - click here for free download
1 side panel piece each fabric 62 x 10 cm (24.25 x 4")
1 back piece each fabric 22 x 11.5 cm (8.75 x 4.5")
Extra inner fabric (rip-stop nylon is ideal) for binding the seams.

Foam Insulation (an old car windscreen shade is ideal)
2 main panels - foam template - click here for free download
1 side panel strip 59 x 6 cm (23.25 x 2.5")
1 back panel 18 x 8 cm (7 x 3.25")

1 zip 62 cm (24.25") 

Piece of webbing (or cutting from old bag strap) 28 cm (11") long and approximately 4 cm (1.5") wide

First of all take your long side outer fabric panel and your handle.
To seal the ends of your handle - heat gently using a lighter to melt, seal and prevent fraying.

Now pin one end of your handle in the centre of the end of your long side panel and pin the other end 20 cm (8") from that edge.

Stitch both ends of the strap into place securely in the shape of a box with cross in the middle, like this:

Now you need to put the 4 panels of your bag together, each piece will have outer fabric, inner fabric and a foam piece sandwiched in between. Make sure the outer and inner fabric pieces are 
Pin around all 4 edges of each panel and stitch together. Use a 2/8" seam around all these pieces. The foam part should sit in the middle and the stitching should run around the outside of it.

Repeat this pinning and stitching the other 4 pieces together.

You should now have 4 bag panels ready to assemble into your lunch bag.

To assemble you first need to attach the zip to the long side panel. Place the zip face down along one long edge of the panel. Then lay a strip of your extra inner fabric (around 4 cm (1.5") wide) on top of the zip (this is to bind the seam and hide the raw edges) and pin through all layers.

Using the zipper foot on your machine stitch along the long edge where you have pinned.
Trim the edges in line with your panel.

Now to use that extra strip of fabric you just attached to the zip to bind the seam and hide those nasty raw edges.
Basically you double fold the fabric over the seam and pin it to hide the raw edges. The finished seam will stick out from the other parts but will be fully enclosed.

Now to join the small back panel to this long side panel. Place one edge of the long panel right sides together with one edge of the back panel. Once again as you pin these together, add a strip of fabric to bind the seam afterwards. Now you need to start making your seams 3/8" to make sure you hide all your previous stitching.

After stitching the pieces together, fold the binding fabric double over the seam, pin and stitch to hide the raw edges.

Now join the other ends of both the side and back panels together - make sure they are right sides of the outer fabric together, and once again add a strip of binding fabric and enclose the raw edges of the seam.

You should now have the outer edge of your lunch bag ready to attach to the two main panels. First the base.

Pin one of your main panels right sides together to the bottom of your bag side panel (the edge without the zip!)

Stitch all the way around.

Now is where you add your fabric to bind the seam. Pin, then stitch, a strip all the way around the seam you just stitched. Fold and overlap the edges of this binding strip so there is no raw edge showing where they join!

Then double turn it over and stitch to enclose all the raw edges. Your bag should now look like this.

Finally you can attach the top panel to your bag. Open the zipper and pin the zip edge and top of the back panel to the top panel of the bag,. Right sides together.

Once you have stitched all the way around, it's time to add one final strip of binding to enclose your last seam and raw edges.

Once you have finished this binding, your lunch bag is finished!

Here are the three bags I made together.

Which is your favourite? Mine is the Kitty one in the middle - mostly because it's made from so many different parts and so has the best 'story' - old clothes for the main fabric, the zip from an old school bag, the lining from an old pool toy, the foam insulation from old lunch bags and car windscreen shades and the handle from an old backpack! Awesome!!

My girls both like the the green and brown one with the turtles and leaves in the design of the fabric!

For the free downloadable PDF version of this tutorial, click here.

If you liked this tutorial, then take a look at the other free sewing tutorials I have available here. There are over 100 for all kinds of things to make and all levels of sewing ability!

For example you could make a coordinating water bottle carrier to go with a lunch bag for back to school!