Happy New Year Auckland Holiday View from Waiheke Island Ferry

What is 2017 going to bring? + Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Nina Makes!

We had a lovely family holiday in Auckland this year.  Nearly all the photos in this post are from our trip, all taken on my trusty Samsung Galaxy S5 (not an ad!).  It was great to experience a city environment it had sure been a while!  The kids had a blast checking out the Auckland Zoo, Kelly Tarlton’s and Butterfly Creek.  My highlight would have to be the day spent at Waiheke Island catching up with friends, and ferries are lots of fun too.

Continue reading “What is 2017 going to bring? + Happy New Year!”

Highland Dancing – Duplicate Stitching Argyle Socks (Kilt Hose) + Tutorial

Highland Dancing Kilt Hose Argyle Socks - Duplicate Stitch (3)_www

Who knew that duplicate stitching was even an option!  Hannah has taken up highland dancing, I’d say she has been going about 10 weeks now and she is loving it.  Time to get the outfit sorted!

Highland Dancing Kilt MacDonald Tartan (1)r

This is Hannah’s kilt which I made (first one!) it is made out of MacDonald Modern Dress tartan.  Hannah’s last name is Donaldson which goes back to MacDonald and makes this her family tartan.  So of course we needed socks to go with this one.  If you have ever looked at highland Dancing costumes you will have run into the price of the argyle socks (kilt hose) eeek!  I definitely don’t want to spend over a hundred dollars on a pair of socks when I am not sure how long Hannah is going to want to dance for.  In most cases it is almost better to find the socks and then make the kilt to match, or buy a second hand full set.

Highland Dancing Outfit Costume Kilt Dickie Blouse Hose Socks (2)r

I was going to attempt to knit the entire socks myself, so I found a free pattern online and had a test run using left over baby wool I had.  Well I’ve knitted a little before but having 9 balls of wool going at one time was a bit much for me!  I couldn’t get the stripe to stay straight on one angle but I could going the other way…after about three attempts I decided enough was enough.  So when I came across this pair on Trade Me (NZ version of eBay) for $25 I just couldn’t say no.  In the photos on the listing they looked black and red but turns out when they arrived they were dark green and red.  Luckily Hannah’s kilt has a matching green in it!

Highland Dancing Outfit Costume Kilt Dickie Blouse Hose Socks (1)r

But they really didn’t go together (pity I didn’t think to take a picture before I started!) the main problem was the gold/yellow stripe.  Hannah’s kilt didn’t have any gold or yellow in it and it seemed to change the tone of the red just by being there.  So I dugout the white baby wool I had left over from the last baby hat I knitted and duplicate stitched over the yellow stripe.  It looked so much better, that I decided to make the red stripe white too and for good measure the green stripe navy (haven’t quite finished those yet!).  I had wanted to make part of the red diamonds navy but the duplicate stitching made a larger area too thick and bulky.  Still not a perfect match, a little too much red for her kilt but they are way better than they were and look pretty good in my opinion!  If she takes it further and carries on with the highland dancing then we can look at getting another pair but right now this works perfectly!

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Highland Dancing Kilt MacDonald Tartan Inside (2)_www

Just in case you are in the same predicament I’ll show you how I did the duplicate stitching!

Continue reading “Highland Dancing – Duplicate Stitching Argyle Socks (Kilt Hose) + Tutorial”

My Top 5 Tips for New Bloggers + My 100th Post!!!

Yes, you read that right this is my 100th post on Nina Makes!  That seemed like such a dream a little over 9 months ago, but I’m still here and still blogging away.  My goals have changed as I have learned more and more along the way.  So I thought I would take this opportunity to share a few of the important things I have learned along the way!

Top 5 Tips for new bloggers

Just quickly, I want you to know that in setting up this (Blogger) blog the only thing I paid for was my domain name, the rest I have done all for free.  It takes a lot of work to get the blog looking and functioning how you want it, but it is possible.  So don’t believe the articles that say you need to pay!  If you have the money and desire sure pay someone to do it for you, it will be easier and much faster.  But it is possible to do it yourself for the price of the domain name…and lots of time!

These next five points are I feel the most important things I have learned along the way.  There are plenty more but too much information at once is not really helpful you can’t possibly deal with it all.  If you have any other questions feel free to email me or ask in the comments.

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Photo:  Hannah & Harry Watching the Rubber Duck Race

1. Re-asses your goals regularly!

I set myself some pretty tough goals at the start, one that springs to mind is my 11 posts a month.  Now don’t get me wrong that might be perfectly reasonable for a review blog or opinion piece blog but for sewing and craft tutorials blog that is a big ask.  I kept that up for 8 months…before I realised while content is very important I needed to make time to promote what I had created too.  So for now I am trying a new more flexible approach, aiming to post twice a week.

Until you get started you really won’t know what works for you, so give it a go but prepared to move the goal posts!

2. Get Involved

There are great blogging and sewing communities online.  I have found it really helps to get involved and meet other bloggers and people in your niche.  And I mean meet in the online sense, I would love to go to a blogger meet up but in little old NZ (especially the isolated corner I live in) that isn’t going to be happening for a while yet.

So at the moment my favourite way to do this is by getting involved on social media.  Instagram in particular for me has a more community feel and there is usually some sort of photo hop, or group (The Gram Gang is great!) to join in with.  This will help with the motivation on those days you are struggling to get the creative juices flowing.

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Photo: Kowhai Tree in my back yard

3. Prioritise Social Media Accounts

I have an account on Instagram, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Stumbleupon.  They are linked in case you would like to follow me, hint hint!  I joined most of these and a few forums (which I haven’t got around to interacting on) very early on in my blogging life.  I tried to keep up with them all while trying to learn what they were all about…needless to say that was way too much to do at once!

Right now I am having the most fun on Instagram, meeting the most people and really getting involved.  I love the simplicity and how easy it all is once you get the hang of it.  So I have decided to make this my number one social media priority.

Second inline is Pinterest.  I enjoy Pinterest too but find there is less interaction than on Instagram.  The reason Pinterest is second is that it sends the most traffic to my blog of all the social media I’m involved with.  If it is sending good traffic then it will need some attention to maintain and improve that.

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Photo: Octopus we found on Harry’s School Rocky Shore Trip

Twitter and Facebook I do use but mainly to share new posts with followers.  I have decided to put them on the back burner for now as they are not a top priority.  Once I get Instagram and Pinterest ticking over as second nature and feel I need to do more I will start!

Stumbleupon is a great place to pass the waste time!  I shouldn’t complain with a single tutorial of mine (Upcycled washandjes…way cooler than face cloths) I received over 3500 page views but these views were not a high percentage of engaged readers just people flicking through.  So as great as the numbers looked it didn’t make a lot of sense to sink too much time into this one.  There is no point of having higher traffic numbers if they are not interested in your content.  I still have a Stumbleupon share button at the end of my posts in case readers want to share but it is not a place I’m going to be putting in too much effort for now.

Last but not least is Google+ which I have sadly neglected.  I do share my new posts but I have very little understanding of how it all works.  This one is on my learn more about list.  If you have any great Google+ tips they would be much appreciated!

4. Stay Motivated

Much easier said than done!  I read somewhere when I just started blogging that most blogs take 18 months to 2 years before they really start to take off.  But that most bloggers quit after only 9 months.  Being at the 9 month mark right now I can see where they are coming from!  But I have no intention of stopping; I think my number one lesson of reassessing your goals is what’s keeping it real.  You need your goals to be achievable, and as your knowledge grows so does your understanding of what is just dreaming or may be possible.

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Photo: Hannah & Harry palying dress up at the Tairawhiti Museum

Don’t forget to remember the little advances!  At first I was so excited to get 5 page views in a day.  It meant that 5 people (probably bots) had read my post!  That slowly but surely crept up, and I am still very small fry in the blogging world but am happy with the roughly 100 page views a day I am getting 9 months in.  For these stats I use Statcounter, I also have Google Analytics and Blogger stats.  As much I want to believe the Blogger stats (200 – 400 page views a day) I realise that they include bots and crawlers not only real people.  It pays to be honest with yourself!

To go all cliché ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ so expect it to take time!

5. Keep Learning

This really has to be something you enjoy, I love learning new things and that makes this so much easier.  When I want to change the look of my blog I research how to do that myself and do it.  When I want to change a piece of coding or where ads display on mobile, I research and do it myself.  If you have a bigger budget and can pay people to do this for you by all means go for it.  For me I find it hugely rewarding working out the answer for myself.

I am currently working on my tutorial page, I am not happy with the look as the writing in the photos is not the same size due to the word lengths being different.  I am sure I will work out a way to change it, so it looks how I want it to, and once I have managed that I’m sure I will find something else to tweak.  I don’t think I’ll ever get to ‘it’s finished’ I will always have something I want to change.

Tutorial Page Nina Makes

Just be careful that you are not changing things just for the sake of changing things.  Trying to ‘fix’ problems that don’t exist takes up a lot of time that would be better spent elsewhere.  I have fallen victim to this a few times in the last 9 months, and I now make sure I do my research on new add ons/widgets/gadgets before adding them.  This saves having to remove them later when they don’t work out like I thought they would!

Well that is my five top things learned about blogging.  I hope they are of some help to you!  If I haven’t answered your question or you just have another one for me, please ask in the comments below!  Or send me an email via the Contact Page!

Happy Blogging x

Blogger Comment Notifications or Lack there of!

It has been brought to my attention (Thank you!) that you don’t receive a notification when I reply to your comments on this blog.  This worries me a lot as I really do appreciate your comments and make an effort to reply to them all. 

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I have looked into this and it seems to be the case with all blogger blogs if you don’t select the ‘Notify me’ box in the bottom right corner (screen shot with red arrow above).  Which to be honest I had never paid any attention to when commenting on other blogs.  If you do tick this box it means you get notified about all comments on that particular post rather than just the blog owner’s reply to yours.
IMG_20160107_201602(Stones: My Garden…yes I actually gardened!)
I have had other bloggers reply to my comments on their blogs in direct email rather than the comment box.  As the commentor I liked this and it gave the reply an extra personal feel.  However as the blogger I would prefer to have the comments on the actual blog for others to see and be able to join in the conversation.  Maybe I could manually send a note via email to say there is a reply to your comment.  Sounds time consuming but not impossible since I already monitor comments to prevent spam comments from making it through.  I think I will do this for now while I research the topic more.  I wouldn’t want my commentors to feel neglected!
IMG_20150803_142754 (2)(Bias Binding – #sewphotohop 2015)
There are also third party comment options.  Disqus and livefyre are two that I have read about, both have their upsides and downsides namely spam and needing to sign up and register.  The fact you need to register for an account puts me off as I think it will stop people from commenting.
Do you have a blogger blog?  Do you use a system for comments?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

My New Year’s Resolutions

I have never really been a New Year’s resolution kind of person.  I have goals and things I would like to achieve but never really got into making a proper resolution.  I guess by proper I mean write it down, or make it official.
So here goes…

1. Be Healthier

 Easiest Banana Cake Ever
I guess this will be on most peoples resolutions list!  I don’t want to go on a health crazed rampage or eliminate whole food groups…CAKE!  My parents are vegetarians and I was raised one from age 2.  So I have enough hang ups about eating meat as it is, I do eat meat now just not the kind that is good for you!  The less like meat it is the more I like it, think burgers, hot dogs, pepperoni pizza…I do like chicken breast I guess that is a healthy one.  As long as there is no skin or bones involved.
Anyway back to the resolution part, I just want to make the best choice in that instance.  Say a family visit to a restaurant was on the cards I will order a small meal rather than a large one, or take the healthier option on the menu.  I will try to eat more like the lunch boxes I pack the kids LOL!

 

2. Spend more quality time with my family and friends

I would like to spend more quality time as a family.  Where we actually put down the laptop, phone, ereader, tablet…you get my drift!  My kids have taken quite an interest in board games and card games so I think a games night might be an excellent idea.
A few more beach trips and BBQ dinners with a few friends over sounds like fun too.

 

3. Take more short breaks

I would like to take a few more short breaks throughout the year.  Robert has a few set ones he goes on every year but the kids and I don’t go along on those, they are mainly hunting/fishing trips…we are not invited!  On the upside in about 10 years time Harry will be allowed to go too, Hannah and I will have to start a Girl’s weeks at the same time.
I think a long weekend away every now and then would be great to get away from the mundane and see some new sights.  Well the blog/social media will be the teller on this one…you’ll all see if I kept my resolution!
Day trips around our region would also be great.  It’s funny how it feels like you have to go far away to see new things but often you haven’t explored your own surroundings very well.  I’ll look into it! 

 

4. Blog!!!

I have now been blogging for 6 months and  I am loving it!  I have finally found what my thing is.  I have never been able to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up (I’m 34!) but blogging is just the thing for me.  I love researching and learning new things, learning to use coding to alter my own site has been very rewarding.  Sewing is my favourite way to relax and wind down, doing absolutely nothing has never been my strong point.
Writing Nina Makes has given me the opportunity to combine my interests into a hobby (and hopefully business one day).  I love that sewing is useful, not that craft isn’t but I can really see the value in a pair of shorts that I would otherwise have had to go and buy.  Luckily for me my kids love homemade clothes, I dread the day that they aren’t ‘cool’ anymore!
My resolution is to stay focussed and keep working at it.  I have so many ideas that I have to keep a spreadsheet to keep track of them all.  It’s only early days but think writers block will be a wee way of yet!  I have read in many places that most bloggers only last 9 months…but that it takes 18 months for a blog to properly take off.  Nina Makes will be exactly 18 months old this time next year, so I’ll let you know if there is any truth to that!

 

Conclusion

Is there a set number of resolutions you are meant to make?  Well four quite broad ones it is for me this year!  Going by my photos there has been a lot of beaches involved in 2015, I would like to see some snow in 2016.  Short break to the mountains in winter anyone…

Have you made resolutions before?  Did you manage to keep them?

Best Wishes for the New Year!

Summer Kids Sewing Goal

This summer I have decided to try and sew all the clothes my kids need.  I haven’t bought either of the kids any clothing for quite a while already but I wasn’t keeping track of the date!  Just for the record I’m not including shoes, I live in jandals (flip flops) all summer and the kids are no different.  Somehow for  a few dollars a pair I can’t justify making them, and I wouldn’t even know where to start!
Betty Bodice Dress T2 a
All the samples for the Betty Bodice Dress Tutorials (more coming soon!) have got summer dresses well covered!
 

Hannah has a mountain of hand-me-downs to keep her going till i she’s roughly about 12.  Considering she’s only 7, it is quite a lot!
Upcycled Girls Tank Top k
Like this Upcycled Tank Top she wears almost permanently, came out of the pile but was an adults size Small.  Not a chance it would fit me and way too big for her.  I could have saved it but she likes the print now and it may not be fashionable when she’s big enough to wear it.
Upcycled Print Tee g
Same with this Upcycled Print T-Shirt she liked it now but I bet not anymore by the time she was 12.  So upcycling or resizing is a great way to use items that would otherwise go to waste and boost the current wardrobe too!
Harry on the other hand does not get as many hand-me-downs, as there is only one older boy cousin.  And he tends to wear his clothes out rather than grow out of them!
Summer Shorts Harry
These Kid Shorts (Pattern by Dana from Made) are my go to when sewing for Harry.  I have just finished another plain pair to go with patterned/striped/check tops, and am working on a racer pair too (photos to come!).  He seams to need so many pairs of shorts!!!  Mind you in one day he wore three pairs after water fights with his sister!
Harry Swim Trunks a
Even this years togs (swimwear) are handmade!  Lasted their school holiday swimming lessons very well.  They also make a great fit for boys underwear!  Boys Swim Trunks/Underwear tutorial and pdf pattern free in a size 6.

And of course my latest make was the Upcycled Twirly T-shirt Dress.  Not that Hannah really needed another dress, but I couldn’t part with the striped green T-shirt!
Upcycled Twirly T-Shirt Dress a
So far so good!  I’ll let you know if I make it to the end of summer!

New Dress Tutorial Coming Soon!

I have been busy working away at a new dress tutorial.  It will be another series like the All About Skirts Series I did in July.  The skirts are all on my Tutorial Page!

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I have been drawing, and cutting and planning my way through this.  With the help of one of my favourite accessories…clothing pegs!  I use those little gems everywhere, paper clips, fabric clips, every open packet in the freezer/pantry and sometimes I even use them to hang the washing!

I will be making this dress in a Size 8 for Hannah this summer, but hope to create a multi sized pattern for other sizes in the near future!

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This one is the first trial and still needs a little tweaking.  I love the little gathered and bias bound capped sleeves.  Great for protecting that fair delicate skin this summer.  And importantly one less place to smear sunblock before school, always a plus in my book!

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All in all not too bad for a first trial!  I do think the bodice needs to be a little longer and more fitting, but I need to work out the getting it on and off logistics for that…the skirt also needs a little less length!  But I do love the tie at the back rather than my usual domes or buttons.

Betty Bodice Dress T1 a

My brain is ticking away with a multitude of variations for this one!  Short sleeves, A-Line skirt, Collar, Pleats…More coming soon!

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Why is it that the cutest photo is always out of focus???  It’s getting more and more difficult to get a decent photo out of Hannah, all her posing is hilarious but a little frustrating at the same time!  Think I will have to start catching her off-guard!

Any great photo tips with little posers?

What drives you to Upcycle/Refashion?

I have been asked why upcycle with all the great fabrics available?  To be completely honest I prefer to upcycle than to use newly purchased fabric.  Of course I make an exception for fabric finds at the charity shop!  I find I feel more satisfied with an item knowing I created it out of something that would have otherwise gone to waste.  Looking at an item for upcycling and thinking about what I might do with it is a nice little challenge.  It’s also great for seeing how things are put together, by pulling them apart!

Why I Upcycle a

I like to keep things simple and fun!  I do enjoy intricate works but for me the bulk of the pleasure is in finishing and enjoying wearing the item.  I am also budget conscious and realise that for a lot of people (me included) it just isn’t feasible to purchase designer fabric and a new pattern every time we want to sew something.  Don’t get me wrong I do occasionally purchase new fabric if I need something specific, the designs available are just gorgeous. But the fair majority of my fabric stash has been given to me or found at my local charity shop.  Not to mention the pile of unwanted clothing stacked on the filing cabinet to be turned into something new.

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This skirt came from a dress on said filing cabinet!  And as for patterns I have very little.  I was amazed by some of the collections I saw on the #sewphotohop I took part in on Instagram (see my post here).  I mostly don’t use a pattern, I make it up as I go along.  Then adjust or alter it till it’s right, then share it with you on the blog!  Another great way to get started is to use an item you already have as a pattern.  My friends and family are more than happy to lend me items to take a pattern off…and in return I do sewing for them. 

Why I Upcycle b

As you can see the three above were all made this way.  From Left to Right, Upcycled Girl’s Tank, Upcycled Girl’s Print T-Shirt and Contrast Baby Pants.  There are tutorials for all of them too!

I have always been a just give it a go and see what happens type when it comes to sewing, if I get stuck there is a wealth of information available online to help me sort it out.  But you learn so much from making those mistakes, and sorting them out, much more I feel then taking a class and being told how to do it.  I have never been overly fond of being told how to do things…what if there is a better way?  You will never find out if you do things the same way just because that’s how they’ve always been done!  That’s the great thing about upcycling you don’t have that feeling of having to justify what you paid for the fabric by making something great.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You ruined a T-shirt that didn’t fit right and you weren’t wearing anyway?

Brindille & Twig Hoodie a

I love telling people when they comment on something I’ve made, that it used to be a Men’s Polo (Brindille & Twig Hoodie).  Quite a few give you the raised eyebrow the first time!

Why I Upcycle c

The shorts above are made from charity shop farbic at NZ$2 a piece, and there’s enough for at least two more pairs of the black and white.  Bargains are great, I mean who doesn’t love a bargain???  As long as it’s a bargain you will actually use/wear than it’s great by me.  The need to buy everything on sale is a whole other can of worms, you  still need to need it! 

I have received a bag of unwanted clothing with some absolutely massive Men’s items (my favourite!!), the amount of fabric in a 5XL dress shirt is unbelievable.  This same bag also had some seriously out of style dress pants, which are going to make great dress pants for the kids.  Not to mention there will be plenty left over for a few pairs of my favourite kid shorts!

Why I Upcycle d

So I guess I am also a bit of a closet greenie, I have a problem with reusable containers (Especially kids lunch boxes. They keep making better and cuter ones ♥).  I buy eco dishwasher tablets and dishwash liquid, I dislike using plastic wrap where ever possible (hence the reusable container addiction).  The upcycling slots in with this view nicely.  But I always have that nagging feeling I should be doing more…

In what ways do you upcycle?