Tips for becoming a better designer.

A long long time ago I found this list of tips for becoming a better writer. I would like to improve my design skills. With that in mind, I am adapting the idea and making a list for my own use. I will try to keep the list to no more than 50 items. Clearly, the other commitments in my life, will not allow me to do all the items on the list. However, I can use it as inspiration for how to best make use of my free time.

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12 TIPs: 2nd hand clothes for toddlers

The seasons are changing and my toddler Ila is growing. It is time for another wardrobe update.

Ila goes to the kindergarden full-time. The kids spend a lot of time outdoors playing in the garden and it is rough on her clothes. Not to mention she outgrows them so fast. I am not willing to spend a fortune on brand name clothes that can be destroyed in one day. At the same time, I like to get my girls nice stuff.

I’ve found that the 2nd hand clothes markets are great for getting lots of good quality items for a low price, then I go out and get some nice new stuff as well. Today we spent 45 minutes at one such clothes market, would have been quicker but I took Ila along.

This is what we got:

  • 3 long sleeve red tops (1 top not visible in pic)
  • 3 dresses for winter(1 dress not visible in pic)
  • 1 stripy top with gnome hood (very cute)
  • 2 short sleeve tops
  • 1 long sleeve shirt
  • 1 knitted jumper (with fringe, its a bit hippie)
  • 1 pair of lined jeans
  • 1 pink vest
  • 1 pair of shoes (leather inner and outer, natural rubber sole, very flexible)
  • 1 winter jacket
  • 1 wooden toy set with over 100 wooden motifs plus nails and hammers to make designs on 3 cork board plates.
  • a toy car seat that Ila selected for herself (the doll Lilly and the Panda were already ours… Ila put them in the chair when we got home)
  • a pair of soft baby cloth shoes for Lena

I spent a total of EUR68 (USD 94, AUD88.50) on all those items. The leather shoes, wooden toy and jacket were the luxuries at EUR10 each. All the rest combined was only EUR38. With the exception of the car seat, jeans and shirt, all items are good and well known brand names. Everything looks new or is actually new (with tag still on). The shoes alone are worth about EUR80 new. I estimate buying everything new we would be talking over EUR300 possibly even EUR400.

My tips for today is about how to make the most of a visit to such a market. I’ve been to a few now and have gained some experience.

This is not exactly stitching, but the savings you make can be put towards your crafts and doing more fun things with your little ones. Some of these tips would apply to any kind of shopping expedition:

  1. Know what you need before you go to such a market. For example today I wanted mostly tops, some dresses, a good pair of autumn/spring shoes and see if I could find some winter gear (shoes, jacket and a snowsuit). I wasn’t looking for any stuff for Lena, because she gets all of Ila’s stuff… plus I’ll get her a few new items for herself.
  2. Pick a set of colours and mostly stick to it (allow yourself 1 or 2 exceptions). This will ensure you end up with lots of items that can be combined into a nice looking wardrobe. For Ila I generally get mainly reds, pinks and light blue. Some purple, cream, brown, black and jeans. Today we had a big haul of reds.
  3. Decide what you are willing to get second hand. Where is your comfort level? For example, I never ever get any undergarments, toys that can’t be washed or shoes that don’t look new on the inside. For some reason that I can’t explain, I also never get any hats or beanies.
  4. Smell it! Nothing worse than coming home with something that smells fake, mouldy, etc.
  5. Feel it! Does it feel nice on your skin? What is it made from?
  6. Unless it looks new don’t buy it. No matter how cute it is!
  7. Unless you love it and can see your little one wearing it, don’t buy it. No matter how cute it is!
  8. Take a moment to review all your selections before you head for the check out. Try to take home only good quality stuff that will be loved and used. Get rid of anything you aren’t sure about.
  9. If you have your little one(s) with you: Keep an eye on them… don’t loose them. Such a market can be an overwhelming experience for them. All those people hunting down a good bargain… its scary at any age!
  10. If you have your little one(s) with you: Let them choose 1 item to take home without questioning it. Over time they’ll learn how to make good choices themselves
  11. When you get home: Wash your hands. Clean, wash and find a place to put away the new items in your home.
  12. When you get home: Find anything that is being replaced by new items and put it close to the door so you remember to take it out of your home next time you go out to recycle, sell, rubbish, give away…

We can afford to get all new stuff for our girls, but I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt. I also get a good feeling knowing the things I bring home will be loved and used instead of ending up in a landfill. When we are finished with them, they are donated to a charity to hopefully find new homes again.

As I type this my toddler Ila is happily sorting the wooden motifs, putting them in the carseat and a bucket. The new clothes are in the washing machine, there is a box of outgrown toddler clothes to be put in storage until they fit baby Lena. On Monday a load of clothes that no longer fit baby Lena will be placed in the charity box down the road.

Happy hunting!

Another one bytes the dust! and TIP

Last night my main computer got slower and slower. By this morning it was very sick indeed. Constantly crashing… and sometimes it hangs at start up. The main volume isn’t always available. It looks like we need to get a new disk for it. Hopefully our data backup system will come to the rescue and I have not lost anything important.

Until we get a new disk and I have everything running again there will be no designing, at least not on the computer.

Karma was not my friend and I guess I am paying for yesterdays procrastination trip to Zweigart. The score is now:

Taxes 1 : Stitching 1

No computer did mean I spent sometime going through my paperwork. I only need to locate another 2 documents.

Given that my computer time is restricted, I’ll put the extra time towards:

  1. Finding the last 2 documents needed to file our taxes… then a lot of scanning will be needed before we sent it all in.
  2. Finishing the models for my current 2 designs under the needle.
  3. Working on some of my neglected WIPs… not quite UFOs yet but getting close.
  4. Organising my desk and shelves.

On a more positive note: a package arrived today containing some more finishing items and new skeins of DMC310. I never thought I’d ever run out of black thread!

Today’s TIP: Back up your computers!

Tip: Stitching with toddlers

As all mothers know, stitching with a toddler in the house is a challenge. They manage to get their sticky little hands on everything. Have you noticed that toddlers hands are almost always sticky?

Even if a mother finds the time to stitch, there are those needles and scissors to worry about…

With a toddler in the house I thought my stitching days were over. I was wrong! I actually manage to put in some quality stitching time.

Here are my tried and tested tips for stitching in a home with a toddler in residence:

  1. Use only fabric and threads which you can wash when you are finished. No more worrying about sticky fingers or spilled food and drink!
  2. To ensure there are no scissor accidents: Use an empty dental floss box to cut the threads instead of scissors. Or get a thread cutter, like the famous Clover Thread Cutter. I am not on their payroll, I just happen to own one and love it.
  3. Needles are easily lost. Make sure you only have 1 out at a time.
  4. If possible, use only cross-stitch needles – they have a blunt tip.
  5. Make sure you know where your needle is at all times. Have a storage place for your needle when not attached to thread. Check regularly that the needle is not lost. Tips 3 to 5 will save you and your little one from being stabbed by a sharp needle. They also work if you have a special other who is paranoid that you will loose your needles on the couch.
  6. Work from a copy of the chart. Toddlers like to draw!
  7. Only have the threads and supplies you need to work with out. Toddlers love to tangle up thread.
  8. Have a rule that the project is yours and not a toy. Be consistent about this.
  9. Let the toddler look at and touch your project when they show curiosity – only under supervision, remember it is yours! More often than not they’ll quickly loose interest.
  10. Have a safe and out of the way storage place for your stash.
  11. Have a place to store your project that is safe from the toddler and easily accessible to you. Always put your project away when you are not working on it. I keep a couple of decoy items in the same drawer with my project, just in case the toddler does manage to stage a raid. I use some of my own things that my daughter likes to play with as decoys. At the moment one of my plastic frames is the favourite.
  12. Stitch only for a few minutes at a time and make use of the times when your toddler is sleeping. The household tasks can wait. I like to alternate stitching with those tasks. Stitch for 5 to 20min then go do something else… repeat!

If you have time to be reading stitchy blogs, then you have time to stitch… Turn off the computer and pick up that needle!

TIP: Avoiding Frogs

No, I am not talking about the croaking kind… I am talking about those times when you’ve been happily stitching and then you realise you made a mistake and need to rip out the last minutes or even hours worth of stitches. So what can you do to avoid frogging?

  1. Count, count, count and then count again before you start a new section or motif. Once you’ve placed the first stitch… you guessed it… count again.
  2. Are you sitting there stitching and thinking you should be doing something else? Drop that needle and go do it. Once you’ve done it… reward yourself with some stitching time! Its not something I like to admit but the vast majority of my frogging could be avoided by following this simple and unpopular tip.

Got any tips of your own for how to avoid the dreaded frog?