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Bess Top

7 May

IMG_7462A few months ago I wrote all about the 241 Tote purse pattern that I bought online, printed off at home and sewed up.  I loved how easy and convenient it was and have decided that it’s the perfect solution for someone like me who lives in rural Italy where it’s almost impossible to find any decent sewing patterns.

And from what I’ve seen online lately PDF sewing patterns are really gaining popularity amongst the online sewing crowd all over the world.  Just this week I saw that Jenny from The Southern Institute launched the Sew Fab Pattern Sale which is a bundle of 19 (+1 bonus) PDF patterns for $29.95.  For a girl who in the past paid upwards of $15-$20 for one pattern I find that a pretty amazing price.  IMG_7464

So after my success with the 241 Tote I decided to try my hand at another online pattern.  And seeing as I’ve been a Sew-Fan of Imagine Gnats for a long time I ordered her beautiful Bess Top pattern (which is all over Pinterest!).

I love the style of the top and the versatility of the pattern (3 different lengths and sizes 2-20 included).  It’s flattering on just about any body type as well.  Believe me I know, I’ve made all my friends try it on.  

As you can see above I made one blouse/shirt length and the other a tunic length.  I also really love the subtle high-low hem.IMG_7448I used 2 Max Mara linens for the shorter version.  The linen has a lovely drape and will be perfect for our hot Italian summers.  I find that little pleat at the shoulder just the perfect touch as well.

IMG_7431 For the longer tunic version I used a really lovely patterned cotton (again Max Mara) with a solid black for the shoulder/back.  Turned out very elegant and will be perfect with black leggings in the winter.

The pattern calls for jersey knit strips to finish all the edgings.  Unfortunately I don’t have any jersey in the house so I used a thin bias instead and it seems to have worked out just fine.  

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Can’t wait to make up some more Bess Tops in all sorts of fabric and colour combinations this summer.  Now to convince Rachel to draft up a few kid’s sizes… 

**Get 10% off everything in the Imagine Gnats Shop (including the Bess Top and many other lovely patterns for women and kids) with the discount code Jillian10 until Monday May 12th.

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Blago 2014

2 May

IMG_5870-001One of the things that I love most about blogging is the community of like-minded fellow bloggers that I have met over the years.  I have blogger friends all over the world who write about everything from design to food to fashion to sewing.  These creative souls have become an important part of my life and a support network that inspires and encourages me to no end.

So you can imagine how ecstatic I was when a few of them arrived in Italy a few weeks ago to attend a little face-to-face event called Blago that I organised.

I came up with the Blago concept after attending The Hive Blogging Conference last year and realising that I really loved spending time with all these creative and amazing women that I have been friends with online for years. It’s great having these online friendships but even greater when you can take it into “real life”.

So a few days after arriving home from The Hive I sent out the first Blago pitch to some of my favourite blogger pals. Luckily I received really positive and enthusiastic responses from all of them immediately.  My idea was for us all to meet up here in Italy to spend a few days visiting Milan Design as well as the lovely lake region that I live it.

And because I’m a big nerd I named the event Blago which is a mix of the words lago (lake in Italian) and blog.  I figured if you’re going to organise an event with fellow bloggers you’ve got to come up with a catchy title (and hashtag too – check out #blago2014 on Instagram!).

IMG_5869-001And of course being a blogger also meant I needed to come up with a cool official invite to the event.  Luckily, I LOVE that kind of stuff.  Like seriously love it.

After a lot of contemplating and looking through my stash of craft and sewing supplies I decided to make a linen envelope (the leather version failed miserably).   I used a really pretty Max Mara linen with map print for the outside and a gold linen for the inside.  I even added a little tag which I always find makes a hand sewn item look a tad more professional.

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Inside the fabric envelope I included an invite with the official Blago logo (designed by the talented Judith who was an attendee) and a little bag of my favourite Italian candies.

I’m a lover of anything to do with snail mail so I was so excited to get these into the mail and to their destinations (which actually took longer than expected due to the fact the local post office accidentally sent half of them back to me).

I’ll be back soon with more details about the actual event (which turned out to be a big success).  And yes, I am already mentally preparing the next Blago get-together (and it’s going to be a good one!).

 

Days For Girls

6 Mar

IMG_5806A few months ago I was poking around online and came across a site for the grassroots non-profit project called Days For Girls. From the second I read their action plan, and subsequently their entire site in that first sitting, I knew it was something that I wanted to be a part of.

Days For Girls was founded in 2008 by Celeste Mergens after working in a Kenyan orphanage and noticing that the girls weren’t educated about their menstrual cycles nor equipped to deal with it (no feminine hygiene products available to them).

This feminine hygiene program’s motto is: Every Girl. Everywhere. Period.  Their vision is for every girl and woman in the world to have feasible access to quality sustainable hygiene and health education by the year 2022.  Like I said before, I’m on board 100%.

Days for Girls volunteers produce reusable menstrual cycle kits.  The program has already sent kits to over 60,000 girls in over 60 countries worldwide.  These kits last approximately three years and have literally changed the lives of many girls and young women who before had to skip school and/or work due to their menstrual cycles.  This in turn has resulted in lower school drop-out rates in many areas as well as a lot less lost income for days missed at work.IMG_5817

Days for Girls is also very active in helping set up local sewing cooperatives and teaching the local women how to make the kit components themselves.

After writing back and forth with their International Chapter Liaison Cindy Murdock I started up one of Europe’s first Days For Girls teams.  So, I’m now official and couldn’t be prouder!  I’ve been busy cutting, sewing and gathering supplies for kits and luckily I have a fantastic group of friends who are happily getting involved and helping me out.

A project that helps girls and women in need and that involves sewing?  A match made in heaven for me.

If you are interested in becoming involved or donating supplies contact Days for Girls here (or look here for a team or chapter near you).  If you’re living in Italy or even Europe and would like to help out my team by sewing kit components or donating supplies (cotton, flannel, ribbon, miniature soaps, new cotton underpants or facecloths) contact me at VareseItaly@daysforgirls.org.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

San Valentino

12 Feb

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and the internets are abuzz with everything from heart shaped foods, to quirky Valentine’s cards to the ULTIMATE gifts to make your loved ones swoon.  Personally I like to keep the whole holiday pretty low-key and relaxed (easy here in Italy where it’s not so celebrated).  I usually bake something sweet (and yes, heart shaped) and maybe make a little card or handmade gift to leave on the breakfast table for when the family wakes up.  Here are a few of my favourite V-day recipes, diy projects, Valentine’s inspiration and cards that will make you giggle.

For over a month my lovely friend Giova has been posting a handmade heart a day on her blog One Bunting Away.  She is a talented embroiderer and paper artist and I’ve really loved reading each and every heart post.  Read her passionate Valentine’s Day manifesto here.

These seemingly rude Valentine’s cards from Etsy Shop Sunny and Susan really make me laugh. 

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I’m going to try and make these Red Velvet Cupcakes in a Jar (because we all know that desserts in jars taste so much better!).  And as I do every year I’ll also whip up a batch of my grandmother’s rich and buttery Brown Sugar Shortbreads.  And I’m thinking this heart shaped bacon and heart shaped egg in the hole would be perfect for a Valentine’s breakfast or brunch (although I think I’ll pass on these Weiner and Cheese hearts).

This round-up of Nerds in Love Valentine’s cards by Mighty Girl had me in stitches.

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Last year my daughters and I sewed up some of these little puffy heart necklaces for their friends.  Easy to make and really cute to see a little gaggle of girls wearing them.  These necklaces were featured on some really great Valentine’s round-ups herehere and here.

Surprise Message Bunting Cards

4 Feb

The other day I was chatting with one of my twin daughters about Valentine’s Day and all the fun we’ve had in the past making up special treats and cards for their classmates over the years. Over here in Italy (and I think generally in Europe) Valentine’s Day is a day reserved for couples and adults and not something kids celebrate like in North America.  So even though my kids have always been one of the few that celebrate it in school it has still become a lovely yearly tradition to make something together for their friends.
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This year we decided to make simple cards with sewn paper buntings that have little hidden messages.  Easy, quick and fun for kids of just about any age.IMG_4048-001

This is all you need to make these sweet little cards.  I used glassine for the actual bunting paper so that you can see the pretty patterned paper through it.  If you don’t have glassine paper any type of paper would be fine.
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I cut the glassine paper in long strips and folded it in half to have a square piece of paper.  I then sewed the pieces of glassine squares together with the sewing machine (making sure the folded edge is on the bottom).  This way the glassine paper is sewn on the top, closed by the fold on the bottom and open on the two sides (to make it easier to slip in the small pieces of paper with message on the back).IMG_4068After sewing the bunting together we slipped in little square pieces of paper with our special messages on the back.  Seeing as the glassine is open on both sides the messages are easy to slip in and out.  We then simply attached the sewn paper bunting to our cards with tiny heart stickers (pieces of washi would also be nice).

Now to come up with all the short little messages to go inside.  Some of my favourites that my kids have suggested for their classmates are: ‘you have nice handwriting’, ‘you are pretty smart’, ‘you have the best snacks’ and ‘you don’t smell’.  Let’s hope their romantic sides develop a little more in the years to come.

Handmade Winter

30 Jan

It’s a cold and rainy day here in Northern Italy.  We had a very much anticipated snowstorm last night that had lots of local school kids crossing their fingers in their sleep for a day off school.  Unfortunately the snow turned to rain and the school buses left at their usual time.  There were quite a few disappointed kids heading to school this morning.

After months of mild and sunny days I have to get used to these lower temperatures and the need to wear scarves and winter coats.   In general I’m not a huge fan of the cold but I do love these chilly days where I get to hole up in my house with the fireplace on and putter around keeping myself busy sewing, baking and crafting.  I know the novelty will wear off pretty quickly so indulge me while I wax on about my love for these wintery days.

Today I wanted to tell you all about a great way that you can keep positive, creative, warm and busy through whatever kind of winter you’re experiencing.HANDMADE WINTER SMALL COVER

A few months ago some very talented artists, designers, bloggers, mothers and overall amazing ladies put together an incredible e-book called Handmade Winter with over 50 winter-inspired crafts, activities, recipes, entertaining ideas and more.  They’ve included everything from how to brew the perfect cup of tea to a maxi-skirt sewing tutorial to instructions on how to make yourself a leather and chain chevron necklace.  One of my favourite things about this book is the variation it offers.  There is something for everyone (husbands and kids included).

creative-mamas-winter-ebookThis book will help us all get through these long cold wintery months (especially thanks to the Warm Masala Chai recipe found on page 25/26!).

Handmade Winter costs $15 (US) and is easily purchased and downloaded on-line.

241 Tote

21 Jan

A few months ago I posted about how much I loved Buzzmills version of the 241 Tote. Immediately after seeing her version of the purse I clicked over to Noodlehead and purchased the pattern.

I love the fact you can buy pdf versions of so many great sewing patterns on-line nowadays. Living in the Italian countryside has made it very difficult to get my hands on certain patterns for years so the fact that I can easily buy them online and print them out directly at home is just perfect.  Plus, the prices on most pdf patterns are much lower than buying one in a sewing or pattern shop.  The 241 Tote pattern costs $8 (approx. 6euro).
IMG_3925 The 241 Tote is a simple and straightforward pattern to follow. The pattern comes with several different features to choose from (pockets or zippers on the outside).  As the pattern is quite adaptable I opted to only include the pockets on the outside although it would be possible to have them on the inside as well.

IMG_3926I bought this lovely linen in Japan a few years ago (I think it’s Echino but am not certain) and have been patiently saving it for the perfect sewing project. Since it’s quite a bold pattern I paired it with a few solids and I love the result.  Come to think of it I really need to get back to Japan to find some new fabrics.
IMG_3932I even made a very bright version for my daughters.  This time I used a heavy (almost canvas) cotton from IKEA and some light cotton Petit Pan fabric (which I enforced with interfacing).  IMG_3931Definitely not a look for everyone but my daughters are in love with it!

 I’ll definitely be making a few more of these purses in the near future.

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