Friday, 19 December 2014

kaetoo 2014

2014 was a great year for kaetoo and I hope that it was for you too.

This year has been kaetoo's biggest yet and my products have shipped to more countries than ever before. kaetoo display boards, art kits and mini pegs can now be found all around Australia, as well as in New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ireland.

I have received some marvellous feedback this year, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.

Amazing communication, product and imagination as always. X 
- Ebony, November 2014 

Fabulous gift and friendly and helpful seller. Thanks! 
- Sally, September 2014 

Great pegs, thanks for the excellent customer service, gorgeous product, and quick delivery. 
- Natalie, June 2014

I've had a great time getting out and about in Internet land. This year, kaetoo reached 100 features in Etsy treasuries, as well as being seen in multiple Madeit Sellers Picks, in the shopping guide and front page of Madeit, and in the shopping guide at Craftumi. I was interviewed at EtsyKids and Handmade Cooperative, was a Madeit Sellers Picks Editor, wrote a guest post over at EtsyKids and took part in a collaborative design challenge between {KID} independent and Handmade Cooperative. Phew!

Wishing you all a safe and relaxing festive period. See you in 2015!

xx Kate

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Activities For Kids - 2014

The kaetoo blog is all about my inspirations and activities, so a lot of the posts that you read here are about keeping small children entertained and happy. This year, I have been playing with a new baby and a three-year-old.

Activities For Kids

Below are the most popular children's posts at kaetoo for 2014. Refresh your mind on what we got up to or try out some of the activities that you missed.

1. Keeping big sister occupied after welcoming a new baby.
2. Fitting a new baby into your family.
3. Ideas for play with a four month old.
5. Ideas for play with an eight month old.
6. Cooking coconut ice.
7. Experimenting on your child with the lying cake test.
8. More experiments with the delay of gratification test.
9. Preserving memories of small children.

Read all of the children's activities for 2014.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Materials and Techniques - 2014

Every fortnight I chat with a designer in the handmade world about how they do what they do. These interviews focus on the materials and techniques that each artist uses in their craft, with tips and advice.

Below are the most popular interviews in the series from 2014. Refresh your mind about what all of these talented crafters do, visit their online stores to see their full range, and catch up on those interviews that you missed.

1. Yummy play food at Felt Like Sweets.
2. Gorgeous photo props at Birthday Blocks by Get Crafty Creations.
3. Warm baby clothing at Babywear By Babs.
4. Everything for wrapping up your little one at Swaddle Me Snugly.
5. Bright and quirky homewares at Made By LT.
6. Adorable accessories for little people at Dainty & Divine.
7. Handmade toys at Wildflower Innocence.
8. Costume jewellery at Jewel Divas.
9. Personalised custom made homewares at it's My Room!.
10. Women's fashion at Redressd.

All images from the talented designers above.

Read the whole series of interviews here. I'm on the lookout for new people to interview for 2015, so if you'd like to share your story, do let me know.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Play At The Park

For her third birthday, Miss 3.5 received a run bike and so this year has been all about parks that she can ride to with the baby in the pusher. Hence, whilst our range of parks visited has been smaller this year, we have still been out and about every day (weather permitting) to ride and play. I have shared with you previously a selection of our park trips for 2012 and 2013. Here are some of our 2014 visits.

12 months of parks in Melbourne...

January - Diamond Valley Railway

February - Wattle Park

March - Box Hill Skate Park

April - Furness Park

May - Werribee Open Range Zoo

June - Heidi

July - Branksome Grove

August - Branksome Grove

September - Beckett Park

October - Branksome Grove

November - Branksome Grove

December - Branksome Grove

Looking for fun things to do with children? Read the previous posts.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Materials and Techniques - The Climbing Tree

Handmade comes in so many different shapes and sizes. Each fortnight I chat with another crafter about how they make their creations. Today, for the last materials and techniques interview of the year, I am talking to Margo from The Climbing Tree. Margo is based in Brisbane, Queensland and is a fellow member of Handmade Cooperative.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

For the first 20+ years of my working career I worked in the charitable and government sector mostly in the aged and disabled care arena. Two events happened though that changed this course of events.

The first event happened in Easter 2006, when I and my partner (now hubby) were out walking at 6 am on an Easter Sunday and a drunk driver decided that the footpath was the road – pedestrian V car is never a good scenario. The second even came 2 1/2 years later Paul and I had our first and only child. Sometime life events happen and you decide that there is more to life than an executive level income and the associated stress of that lifestyle.

So why get into the handmade / sewing business? Well, when I went to high school (many years ago) I’d done what was then know in NSW as Textiles and Design for my HSC so I decided it was time to pick up the sewing machine and fabrics again and it all grew from there. There was no grand business plan or strategy – just a slow and gradual (with the odd hiccup) process of iterative development.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I have two main products and my first material choice is stretchy fabrics to make children’s underwear – yes undies, knickers, smalls – call them what you will – those things you put your bottom! For some reason a lot of people are afraid to sew stretch fabric but like anything it a skill that can be learnt and mastered. There are some fabulous Craftsy classes on sewing with knits so have a go – and if you want quality fabrics you can head over to my sister store Zebra Fabrics to buy the fabrics I use in my handmade business.

The second product I made is wrap conversion bags. Woven wraps are they extraordinarily long pieces of often handwoven fabric that mama’s around the world use to secure baby to their body – often to their back. It's an awesome way to hold your baby close while remaining hands free. Often once mums have stopped wearing they want to keep their wrap so I convert them into a nice big bag for them. The wraps are somewhat challenging to work with as they are often a looser weave fabric and are a narrow width – so have a tendency to fray and distort out of shape. I have drafted all the patterns for my bags over time and like any new fabric or technique it takes time and practice to learn how to manage the wrap.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

I think the biggest challenge for any business is finding your niche. For the first 2+ years of my business I felt as though I was lost within the crowd. It was hard to get seen and get consistency in sales of products I was then making. The hand crafted market place has almost never been busier with online collaborative marketplaces (such as Madeit and Etsy), physical markets (such as BrisStyle), and more recently retails spaces with items from multiple makers such as The Collaborative Store at Wynnum. So within this space you often see lots of the same or similar items and you need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd – whether it through your product, style, branding – or a combination of all of these.

What drives you to create?

"Necessity is the mother of invention" My business name represents the philosophy behind my business – things that are suitable for climbing trees! Or other adventurous activities. So when I look at making a garment or designing a bag it needs to be practical, functional, easy to move with, wear and use as well as easy to care for. So in many ways my core products found me rather than me having some grand business plan and strategy with hours of research. I started making knickers for my daughter who would constantly complain about her undies going up her bottom – especially when in the car seat. So I made her some, posted on my FB page and it grew from there. Wrap conversion bags was similar, when a colleague asked if I was able to sew with a challenging wrap fabric and sew it grew. So listen to your customers – find out what their needs are and find a way to meet them!

What is coming up next?

Neat year I hope to expand my range - can’t tell you quite yet but stay tuned!

The Climbing Tree Facebook

Been loving the series. Read more in the archive.
Do you have a story that you'd like to share? Please do get in contact. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Our House

I'm not stupid. I've dealt with tradies a lot over the years. So when our builder said that the house re-cladding would take two weeks, I mentally doubled that estimate.



Two months later and the builder is getting close to finished. The actual re-cladding and insulating is all done, as is the new guttering and new roof. There are probably two or three days left of finishing up the frames on the new windows and the trims, I'd say. Of course, the builder would have to show up to do that... working two jobs at the same time isn't necessarily the most efficient.

Meanwhile, Darren and I have been spending our weekends and evenings up ladders painting, painting, painting. Any guesses on the colour we've chosen?

Keep up with the history of our house renovations.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Paint Your Own

Paint your own kits are ideal stocking stuffers. They come with watercolour paint and one mini canvas designed with super cute outlines. More canvases for artistic kids or siblings are available for purchase alone.

Why not grab some for your little ones this year?

Paint Your Own

Visit my Madeit or Etsy stores to see the full range.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Christmas Is Coming

Christmas is coming! It's only a month away and Miss 3.5 is getting excited. This week her grandparents took her to the city to see Santa and the Myer windows. At home, we have started making Christmas crafts...

...and getting the Christmas tree decorated.

Next up, making Christmas cards and gingerbread.

What are you doing with your children this Christmas?

Friday, 21 November 2014

Materials and Techniques - Ted and Toot

There is are so many people doing so many wonderful things in the creative world. Each fortnight, I chat to another designer about how they make their products. Today my guest is the amazing Larnie from Ted and Toot. Larnie makes absolutely beautiful clothing for children. She is based in Perth and is a fellow member of Handmade Cooperative.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Larnie and I am Australian, born and bred. I have three adorable, active and high spirited children who love to challenge and delight me and my husband every day. I began designing and sewing evening dresses when I was 15, this began my journey in the fashion/sewing world until University chewed up all my time, prevented me from creating. My beloved sewing machine was packed away until I had my second child in 2010. As a stay home mum, I saw an opportunity to get out my long lost sewing machine and re-acquaint myself with the hobby I once loved so much. I began sewing for my children and before I knew it, family and friends were asking to buy my clothing. In 2013, I decided to open my online children’s clothing store, called Ted and Toot.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

Cotton, Cotton, Cotton!! I love sewing with cotton…it breathes, it is sturdy enough to give a nice shape, while maintaining a lovely drape. Best of all, the range of designs and colours available is mind-blowing. I can see why people, like myself, get addicted to buying fabric. It is hard not to be inspired by the huge range available. I have a little weakness for interfacing too. It adds so much more definition and structure to a garment, which really allows the design, colours and details to shine. I can’t say I have a favourite sewing technique. I like to learn every technique I can. That is part of the fun, learning and exploring new tricks of the trade.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

For me the biggest challenge was sizing. I began my business using store bought or online PDF patterns and I found the sizes varied so widely. It became very clear to me that most of the patterns did not conform to Australian Standard Sizes. I soon realised how important it was to understand pattern drafting so I could modify and create patterns myself. I took some time away from my business to learn pattern drafting and it was the best thing I could have done. I was able to design and make anything I desired and I knew I could confidently say my garments were made to Australian sizes. I would encourage any talented creative person out there to find that technique or skill they are weakest in and set some time aside to learn a new skill…brush up on something which makes you doubt yourself or your product.

What drives you to create?

Hmmm, this one is hard for me to answer. I am one of those crazy people that goes from the minute I wake to the minute I sleep. If anything, I need my family to say STOP….Take a day off!! I don’t struggle with drive but I do have too many ideas at once and find I want to make everything ha ha. Fabric definitely inspires me. Fabric patterns jump out at me and I know almost instantly what I want to make with it. If I don’t have a pattern to bring my vision to life, I make one, which is time consuming but very rewarding. I love creating something different and I hope my clothing and bag range reflects that. I love that my range can evolve and change continually over time and I enjoy the fact that my clothing range can be as fun, unique and as different as my own creativity will allow.

What is coming up next?

Shhhh don’t tell anyone, but I am planning on launching my new sewing pattern business next year – Patterns in Australian Standard Sizes of course ;) I also have some new special occasion dresses which will be one of our new products at Ted and Toot next year….I promise they will be amazing!!!

Ted and Toot Facebook
Ted and Toot Pinterest
Ted and Toot Twitter
Ted and Toot Google+
Ted and Toot Instagram

Want to read more lovely creative stories? Catch up on the archive.
Do you want to share your creative story? Do get in contact.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Baby Play - Baby's First Finger Paint

My son has been finger painting and apparently it is the funnest thing ever!

But he's only 10 months old, I hear you say. Surely he'll put the paint in his mouth? He will, but it doesn't matter. This paint is plain yoghurt mixed with food colouring.

Lots of mess and lots of fun!

What does your little one make a mess with?

Friday, 14 November 2014

Mini Washi Tape Pegs

Mini clothes peg photo hanger is perfect for a nursery. Or use them for your own projects, including for baby showers, in gift wrapping, to decorate favour bags, as place holders, and more. Available at my Madeit and Etsy stores.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Friday, 7 November 2014

Materials and Techniques: Skaapie

The creative world is full of talented people doing amazing crafts. Every fortnight I talk with another designer about how they make their creations. Today's guest is Cathryn, a South African living in Jersey in the Channel Islands. Cathryn has the handmade store Skaapie and she makes felted, beautiful toys, blankets and accessories. Cathryn is a fellow member of EtsyKids.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

I'm Cathryn, a South African living in Jersey in the Channel Islands with my husband and 2 beautiful daughters. I started up Skaapie (which means little sheep in Afrikaans) 7 years ago in Cape Town after my first daughter was born. I taught women from underprivileged backgrounds to felt and sew, and designed a range of children's toys, blankets and accessories which I sold at markets and in boutique shops. This wholesale business is still running in Cape Town, while I now concentrate on coming up with new ideas and designs and selling online in the UK.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I use 100% wool tops, mainly merino to make felt using wet felting and nuno techniques. I experiment a little with needle felting too. I think it's safe to say, my favourite material has to be wool felt, it's versatility is endless! I also dye my own felt.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

My biggest challenge apart from trying to balance family life and house work with being creative and productive is probably the pricing and marketing. It's not easy trying to sell your own product, especially online, with millions of choices and about 800,000 sellers on Etsy alone. My products aren't cheap to make and many people don't realise the process involved in making one toy from raw wool to the finished product. Trying to compete with a higher than average retail price and no marketing budget can feel very daunting. Not sure what advice I can offer, but what's worked for me is having faith in my product and going ahead in trust and following where the creative process leads. Everyone's journey is different, so believe in yours rather than try follow someone else's.

What drives you to create?

It's hard to say where inspiration comes from, but when it's there, you know it and have to run with it. I am a very outdoor person and don't think anyone could not get inspired by nature! I'm inspired by my children, by my amazing creative friends and family, by island life, by children's books and pinterest and dreams. And of course Africa and my inspiring childhood.

What is coming up next?

 I'm hoping to start working on a children's book soon, something I've wanted to do for a long time, mixing my felt creations with illustration. Can't say too much about it yet, but am very excited. Am hoping this will take me in a new direction.

Skaapie Instagram
Skaapie Pinterest

If you enjoyed finding out all about how Cathryn makes her products, you can read more interviews in the archive. Do get in contact if you would like to share your handmade story.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

DIY Peg Princesses

Princesses are so cool at the moment. Even the kindergarten that Misses 3.5 and 4 go to has a giant ice princess castle.

Inspired by Lil Boy Boo, I made Miss 3.5 a collection of 14 princesses. All you need are some wooden pegs and paint.

Use photos of the princesses that you want to make, or DVD covers, as a reference. Paint the princesses with as much or as little detail as you like, but remember to let each colour dry before adding the next colour. The top knots on the blue and green princesses are made by gluing little wooden balls on with PVA glue.

Let your little one paint their own version at the same time.

At the end, seal the paint with a waterbased, non-toxic matte sealer. This will protect the princesses from losing colour as they are banged around.

And there you go, a box of DIY peg princesses. Of course, being all about equal opportunity, Miss 3.5 has now requested peg princes to go with this set... better get some more pegs.

More activities for children.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Preschooler Play - In The Garden

Getting your children outside in the garden is fantastic. They can soak up the vitamin D, play in the dirt, and make a mess that doesn't need to be cleaned up. At our house, the children are out in the garden every day. I wrote about some of the activities that my daughter was doing in the garden this time last year. This year, being nearly four years old, she is really getting into "being a farmer".

So how to go about getting them started?

Don't be afraid of children damaging your plants. Give them their own garden bed instead, where they are free to dig and plant and play as much as they like. Miss 3.5 has just finished eating her way through her first crop of peas and carrots, and has planted a new crop of carrots and leeks. She also has plant pots full of petunias. She spends her days digging in the garden with her little spade and watering her plants with "muck gooey", which is a broth that she makes up herself full of dirt, water and a little liquid fertiliser.

Don't be afraid of them getting dirty either. Put them in special gardening clothes and remember that mud washes off in the washing machine.

Have fun!

How do your children play in the garden? What do they like to plant?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Materials and Techniques: Wildflower Innocence

I am a big fan of handmade, so each fortnight I have a chat to another artist about how they go about making their products. Today I am talking to Suzanne, who makes dolls for her store Wildflower Innocence. Suzanne is a fellow EtsyKids team member and is based in Northern California in the US.

Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Suzanne, and I am the owner, designer, and creator behind Wildflower Innocence. We are located in the beautiful foothills of the Sierra Mountains in Northern California, USA.

For as long as I can remember, I have been surrounded by creativity. My father is a toy maker, and the owner of Elves and Angels and my mother was always creating some beautiful doll for myself or one of my many siblings. My parents both have an amazing gift for creativity, and toys were something that we always had a great abundance of... and not the Made in China garbage that you find at Walmart and Toys R Us... most of our toys were lovingly handmade by my parents or an older sibling.

I have always loved working with my hands and making toys and clothing for my own 3 daughters. Last year however, I decided to launch Wildflower Innocence. I was driven by my love of beautiful, simple toys. There is something different about a toy made by hand and a toy that is mass produced in some far away factory... it is like meeting the farmer who grows your food... or better yet, growing your own. Being able to have something of meaning to share with future children and grandchildren links the past and their future. In today's world of tech products and over the top toys, it is my hope to bring a little simplicity and innocence back to childhood.

What materials and techniques do you like to use?

I work with felt and cotton designer fabric the most. Cotton and wool yarn are also used a lot. There is something to be said for a toy that can truly be felt... the softness of the wool felt, or the different textures and colors make creating each doll a joy. Every little wing and cap, hand cut and hand stitched... and with each step you watch someones new little playmate come to life.

What challenges have you faced in the creative process?

I would say that for me, the biggest challenge would be marketing. I was never the most tech savvy person, so in the beginning it was all a bit overwhelming. This last year I have spent a lot of time researching and learning and I can honestly say it has paid off. I now have active Etsy, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Blog pages as well as my website. Things really seem to be coming together.

What drives you to create?

My daughters, my childhood... so many things... I rarely have a hard time coming up with ideas. Most often I have to get myself to stop coming up with new dolls so that I can continue producing inventory of the dolls I already have! I also do a lot of custom orders and have received some wonderful ideas from customers.

What is coming up next?

More dolls! I am hoping to continue growing my business and adding to my line of Storybook Dolls. I'm also planing on adding dolls of different ethnic background to my dollhouse family sets, and I am hoping to add fairy houses within the next year. To me, the possibilities are endless!

Do you love reading about materials and techniques? Read more in the archive. If you'd like to share your story, just drop me a line.