Sock monster rattles

I have to admit, the anti-conformist in me can be defeated by cute baby gear. I can still roll my eyes and scoff at some really random crap that some how seems to sell, but I do fall victim to a few trends until I realise they’re horribly, horribly wrong.

Like cot bumpers and liners. Here, have a google image search so you can see the joy of cot liners.

For the uninitiated into these death traps, they’re a cute little cloth wrapping you put around the lower half of the cot and they can have the most adorable little designs on them, make the nursery look more bright and colourful, and also kill babies in their sleep.

Yet they’re still being sold, you can’t find a shop cot display in the whole of Canberra that doesn’t incorporate them. But damn, they look cute, and don’t they brighten up the nursery? I was planning on making my own liner until my Ma pointed out I was an idiot and directed me to all the information on SIDS and we shelved that idea.

The next silly thing I fell in love with was a soft rabbit rattle which cost about $20 and was no bigger than my hand. I really wanted that rabbit, but the crafter in me knew there couldn’t be more than $5 of material on that whole rabbit. I also didn’t want to be fooled again, and was starting to become increasingly distrustful of baby stores and whether this seemingly simple rabbit rattle was actually going to come to life and set my house on fire when I was least suspecting it.

Apparently, rattles are a good starting toy for a midget who is only just becoming aware they have actual hands. Great for improving grip, motor control, and generally just distracting small minds.

The $20 thing was still disturbing me, so I started scrolling through the various image boards and image searches, mummy blogs and things that cannot be unseen, and came up with the idea I was going to try and convert an old sock (washed) into a rattle. I ended up making two of them. They did not turn out to be gorgeous fluffy bunnies because, well, monsters are a little more fun.

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I haven’t got names for them yet, but I am open to suggestions.

In order to make your own sock monster, you’re going to need;

  • a sock. You can make 4 from one sock, so find those odd socks you know you have lying around and go to town.
  • sewing machine – you could get away with hand stitching the external, but if you’re hoping to give this to a bub, I would recommend doing anything you can to make sure the seam doesn’t bust open.
  • embroidery thread – I used wool because that’s what I had on hand, but embroidery thread would give you a little more flexibility with design.
  • embroidery needle.
  • stuffing. I have a beloved cushion that my dog tore a hole in (by tore, I mean thought it was a great new toy), so it’s new life is stuffing random projects.

Extras for fun

  • Felt if you want to make wings or other attachments.
  • Crinkly foil, such as scraps from museli bar wrappers. I’ll explain this one later.
  • Rattles or bells. If you want to make your own rattle cause you’re a cheapskate like me, you’ll need to identical bottle caps, left over beads, tiny buttons or chopped up bits of lollypop sticks or ear buds (I promise, I’ll explain.) and sticky tape.

The basic pattern is very, very simple. Take a sock. Find a section of the sock which is usable. So, cut of the heel and toe, giving you two tubes which you can halve and make 4 sock monsters from. (exciting, yes?) The below picture shows the left over pieces from the sock I used to make the blue monster.

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I used the top section, as it would give me a nice section for the base which is already protected against fraying.

One thing to keep in mind when making things from socks is they are elastic, and working with stretchy fabric is an utter bitch. If you have a fancy sewing machine you can serge the outer area. If you have my machine, you do a wide zig-zag pattern and then add an extra straight stitch. Leave one side open, I recommend the section of the sock which has already been seamed up by an industrial machine. In this case, the top of the sock.

The other thing with using such stretchy fabric, is it will extend. I found this out with the brown monster, who just kept getting longer the more stuffing I put in him (the Boy found this so amusing I kept having to get up from my chair to collect the items I threw at him.) You really don’t need much. It is a rattle for tiny hands, after all.

The rattle I decided should be in the head for both monsters. You can just use a bell, but I didn’t find this made as good a noise as a handmade rattle. Mostly because the bell will be encased in stuffing and that can interrupt its capacity to make a good noise.

To make a rattle, I got two bottle caps, two ear buds (clean, let’s not go there.) I chopped the plastic part of the ear buds into tiny little pieces and then taped them together with epic amounts of tape. Simple and way more effective than the bell in terms of noise.

Sorry the second picture is blurry, but I hope you get the idea.

As to the rest of the monster, it’s really up to you how you want to go about it. For the brown monster, I gave him tiny ears because the head when the sock was stuffed had a boxy look I couldn’t shift. So I turned the corners into ears. I did that by tying black wool around the corners and knotting it very tightly before threading the wool back into the sock. I did the same for tying off the head. Just several times around where I wanted the head to be, and then thread the excess wool into the sock monster to secure any ends.

(If you want to get technical, I used predominately reef knots for tying. Very effective, very simple little knot to learn.)

I then went nuts embroidering his little face.

 

A couple of things I needed to do to this one. His body turned out to be way too long, and a bit funny looking. I decided to make his body a round one, by bringing his tail up behind him and securing it to his neck with a few stitches. I just did this with some wool I had to hand, you can be a little more delicate if  you want. One thing I love about sock monsters is how chaotic and random they look, so I don’t mind stitches being visible, but it’s up to you how you want to proceed. The other problem was a little nick on the sock suddenly became visible on his chest, and I needed to darn it up. I took the opportunity of making the darn section look like a heart, cause that was a little better than a scar.

The other thing you might notice is there’s a lot of fluff poking out around him. I embroidered him after I had stuffed him, and because of the thickness of the needle I was using, it brought the fluff out with it. A bit of a clean up, and he’ll be fine. You can embroider the faces on the monster before you stuff, but I find it’s harder to work out what’s going to work for them until the stuffing is in.

I followed the same pattern with the blue monster, but I wanted to do something a little different. I had some left over bright yellow felt and thought I could make him a butterfly monster.

For the wings I tried a little experiment. I added bits of muesli wrappers between two pieces of felt before I used a blanket stitch to hold them all together.

When you move the wings, it gives them a crumpled noise. It’s a little lighter than I would have liked, next time I try this I would probably pack the wings a bit more with a few more bits of wrapper to amplify the noise.

For the antenna, I did a single layer of felt and blanket stitched around that. Then secured it onto the butterfly with single stitches.

So they’re my rattles. I think they’re a great project if you’re not the most confident in embroidering, but are horrified at the idea of spending $20 on a rattle. The whole point of a sock monster is they look handmade, ridiculous, and like they came from socks. And let’s be honest, if they’re soft, they can be gripped by hands, and they make a noise, you’ve hit all the markers for a good rattle, and all you’ve lost out on is another random sock in your sock drawer.

As always, I’m the worst for taking photos at critical points. If you have any questions, or want some further detail on how I made these, let me know and I’ll see if I can fill the gaps.

I have just finished one of two major projects, so next time I’m back I’ll hopefully have a post about them.

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What have I been doing…

So, turns out it’s been two years since my last blog post, and that pretty much sums up my skills at keeping up to date with blogs.

It’s been a pretty busy two years. The Boy and I got married, sold a house, moved into a temporary rental, and are building a house. I got a new job, Boy got a new job, dog went on some drugs to make him less anxious (and they worked!). There were some road trips, some holidays to Japan (need more of these.) The marketting business with my Ma is still going, and going very strong for a hobby. You may see us popping up other markets around NSW and ACT soon, as Ma is retired now, and itching to try different spaces. Though, knowing us, it’ll probably take us until next year before we get our act into gear.

Oh, right, and I’m pregnant with a bub due in a couple of weeks. And maternity leave does not suit me so well, especially as I’ll be unemployed by the end of my maternity leave, and the career minded girl in me struggles with this idea. I’ve been trying to distract that part by keeping it busy trying out new projects and generally making a lot of mess for the Boy to then “help” me clean up. (Help is a flexible term, I think a more appropriate phrase might be, he cleans up and wonders how I managed to produce the amount of mess that I do…)

I’m still thinking about what to do with this blog, and I think I might just start showing you what I’m up to, until I get distracted. Likely by bub, possibly by other shiny things.

So, to start things off, I made a nappy clutch.

I don’t know why.

Part of me must have thought this was something smart to do at the time. Considering it was about 9pm when I started it, after fossicking through copious amounts of wool and patterns and despairing about not having anything to knit, I clearly was not in the right mind… I found this fabric in my search, something I bought on a whim. It’s a canvas-like cotton, so not very good at all for baby clothes, which is my primary reason for having fabric in the first place. So I clearly needed to think up other ideas, and a nappy clutch seemed like a perfect fit. At 9pm.

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I took the pattern idea from While she was sleeping and adapted it a little. Mostly, I put some iron on paper interfacing, as I wanted it to have a bit of stiffness and durability. I also opted for a loop button hole instead of a sewn in one. I would like to say this is so I can easily extend the loop so I can stuff more things in the clutch… That’s a total lie, it’s because my little Janome doesn’t have a buttonhole function. It’s pretty much a simple sewer which does me well enough. I do mostly prefer knitting and crocheting over sewing anyway.

As you can probably see, the machine really struggled to go through the thickness of the fabric in its multiple layers. So a few squiggly lines here and there. I also only had black thread on hand (most of my stuff is in boxes in the garage somewhere…) I would strongly recommend matching your threads, getting a stronger and sharper sewing needle, and maybe not making things late at night when you have work the next day.

Aside from that, I think it turned out pretty cool.

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The last difference is I also went a little bit bigger, so I can actually fit a wipes container, several nappies, and nappy disposal bags all wedged inside those pockets. Hopefully it’ll make things easier to find in my nappy backpack of doom. Likely, I’ll forget I have it after the first use, and just toss things in there. But it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?

If you want more detail on the modifications I made, or a little instruction on how I did them, let me know and I’ll write something up for you.

I’ll hopefully be back with a few more projects I’m playing with, maybe a couple of tutorials eventually. If I remember to take enough photos! I have this horrible habit of zoning out and finishing projects before I think there might be others. If there is anything on this blog you see that you would like to make yourself, please let me know and I’ll see if I can help, or at least point you towards the right pattern!

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How to Run a December/Christmas Market Stall

Ma and I are old hat with these December markets. We’re totally onto our third one. Which is actually a big thing and loudly tells all who understand a market stall that we are suckered in now. There is no turning back.

You can tell the dedication of a marketter, or maybe their experience, at two key times of the year.

Are they there in the middle of July in minus degrees, and are their views in the December market the same as the previous November one. Essentially, wouldn’t it be sweet if we sold something today?

December markets attract a lot of new stalls. I know, November was when we started. And we started with the same attitude of the new stall owners. Oh yay! We’re going to sell everything because people have totally told us we make cool things.

Erm. No. Yes, you probably do make good things. I see a lot of good and sometimes some really awesome stuff. But I also see a lot of the same mistakes for first timers.

I’m not saying this from a ranty view point. I’m saying it because they were the same mistakes we made two and a bit years ago, and it has taken many, many stalls to start working out how to break even.

So, how to make it work?

Easy.

1. Understand that you are not going to make a lot of money. If you are making handmade items, you will never be able to charge for the time it took you to make an item. Unless you charge yourself in cents per hour. Decimal cents in some cases. This will likely never be your day job. The market stalls that make money are resellers (those who buy up big on Ebay and sell the products), or food sellers (though, not really) and plants, I think, they seem to sell a lot. Some handmade market stalls can make a lot of money, it does happen, but it’s unlikely to happen on your first stall. A lot of people who make money with “handmade” stuff, started out that way and then ship their designs off overseas and get them to make their product on mass (which then starts the debate of what is a resell and what is handmade). So try to lower your expectations, otherwise you might have a really bad first time, which leads into;

2. Building a market takes time. If you are charging more than $10 for an item, people like to think. They like to think lots. They like to go away and ponder. This usually means going right away, back to their homes, and pondering until the next market. Or the market after that. Or the one after that, or a whole damn year of pondering, which I have seen. What Ma and I found was having cheap little items under $10, such as our hats, got people in. They bought something small, and then months afterwards they plod back into our stall and they’re the ones that buy the $35 items. And then you develop regulars, and then people who have been referred. It’s taken us two years, but we now have two regulars. They don’t come every market, but when they do, they buy something – or they order something. Our marketting neighbours have more than that, because they’ve been there way longer than us.

What this means is that you need to be there at the markets before the key December ones. If they’re monthly markets, October and November are a must. If they are weekly, I’d start at a minimum halfway through November. I saw a new December marketter selling beautiful product for $200 plus, beautiful re-purposed furniture. They sold nothing. You can sell items at my market that are worth that much, but rarely on the first go. If they don’t lose their nerve and keep coming, they might attract a few sales, but it will take time. Especially as this is a monthly market.

3. Diversify your product. My market, you can make the big sales. The metal worker near to us, (I have bought the most awesome robot from him, “8-C-O”) sells items well over $200, sometimes $300. Ma and I started off with $30-$40 quilts the first time, and that was all we had. We sold enough to make the money back from the cost of the market, but not much else. I think we only sold two quilts. We spent our time watching the stall next to us, and watching the nature of shoppers. Shoppers like a lot of things to browse, they like to think about big tickets items, but if they like your work, they’ll happily purchase the cheaper items while they think. The metal workers and artists who walk out with cash on hand, are the ones that have staggered pricing. The big pieces which stay for stall after stall (and eventually sell) and the small works from under $20 and $10, which they have on mass. Ma and I have cheap headbands, hats, and baby slippers. We sell more hats, (sometimes only hats) than we do our cardigans and clothing sets.

4. Know your market. I wanted to make fascinators and clutches. Baby clothes and cardigans were what we settled on, and that came about because Ma and I had a frank discussion about where our strengths lay, and how much time it takes to make an outfit versus a clutch. That, and our market attracts a lot of parents and babies and grandparents. That being said, we could have done anything, people will buy anything if the price is right. We sit between a stall that paints decorative masks and a stall that sells wood turned pens and clocks, and they both do very well. The point is more that whatever you decide to do, theme your whole store around it. If you want to do dog clothes, do everything to do with dogs. Collars, treats, beds, you can even stray into the other pet territory. When you try to do something outside that area, say, headbands for small children, shoppers won’t look, won’t know they’re there, or think they have something to do with dogs, which leads to slightly odd conversations.

So that’s it. My four steps to maybe having a good market. Sounds a bit daunting, but I find if you have these things in your head when you start, it gives you a better idea about how to approach what you’re doing, and maybe making some sales to help fuel your habit. Mine is the buying of wool. I run market stalls so I can buy pretty wool and knit cute things for kids I don’t know. And that is awesome.

As to other things. Our December stall is done. Made some good sales this time around, made up for a poor November. (No one buys in November, they just look and then come back for the Chrissie gifts in December.) So I’ll leave you with some photos. The panda and frog fabric I bought from Japan, and a shot of what I bought with my share of the profits this time. Yes, I am a cruel owner.

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And so I return

Unlike a prodigal anything, mind. More like a guilty dog slowly slinking in and hoping you don’t notice the the fact I just ate your long cared for rose bush.

So I’ve been away a while. A long while.

In that time I’ve run many a market – Mama and I are now permanent stall holders at our local market, which means we’re in some kind of weird club. A club that mostly consists of grey nomads and the mocking of resellers. Especially the lady behind us who sells clothes soaked in the cigarette smoke of the many she puffs away on throughout the day. (Despite this, she probably makes more than us, most resellers do.)

And I still love it.

Life has changed, kinda a lot. I’ve moved in with the Boy, went overseas on a trip where I bought far too much fabric (or not nearly enough, Japan’s fabric shops were AWESOME, and I didn’t take a single photo mostly because I was too busy squeeing and dragging Boy from one shop to another…) We also acquired a rose-eating-dog.

I hope I’ll have some more interesting projects up soon. We have our big December market going, and, as always, I’m behind in hat making. I’ve turned I to a children’s milliner, from beanies to sun hats, I have it down. Or, I have orders piling up and the capacity to procrastinate. (Or ask the Mama to sew them up because I fail hard.)

In the meantime, a glorious scarf I’m knitting. The wool is from Bendigo Woollen Mill, soon to be our primary source of wool for our stall. The pattern comes from VO Knits. Can’t wait to see it finished. I may have to crochet a rose clasp for it, too.

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To Market We A-Go

Ma and I are getting good at this marketting business. Or, at least, we were until we decided to do one in July, in Canberra, in minus conditions. I’ll tell you what, though, it was a good incentive for buying children’s beanies. The amount of parents who brought their kids out without a beanie on their head when the temperature is reading -0.8C at midday, was a little scary. Good thing they found our stall, because we sold nothing else, really, except for those beanies.

So, instead of blathering about the annoying bits and bobs, and the crazy lady who accused us of overcharging (we epically undercharge, so that was confusing) I’ll share one market story with you today, because this was adorable.

It was coming to the closing time of the market, and the already small crowds were dwindling even more. One mother wanders over to our stall, leaving her children at the stall across which is covered in dolls. “Sweetie, come over here!” she calls.

She beckons the eldest of the two over, who cannot be more than 5. This blonde haired little girl has this giant basket bag over her shoulder, sitting inside is a small pink wallet and two my little ponies. Everything a girl needs. Her mother points out a little coin purse I made a while ago.

“How much is that?” Ma asks me.

“Five dollars,” I respond. I stand up from my comfy camp chair of awesome, and make my way to the front of the stall. The little one is looking at the coin purse with concentrated effort. She reaches over to pat the little girl’s bags lovingly. “Hello sweetie,” I say.

“Hello,” she responds, but she’s not looking at me at all. She has a purchase to make.

“She has some money to spend,” her mother adds, a highly bemused expression on her face. I can tell this has been a long day of the little one trying to work out what she would spend that money on.

“How much is that?” the little one asks, pointing to the pink and green bag.

“Ten dollars,” I say. She sighs. It’s a big sigh. There’s serious shoulder drop and hanging head.

I crouch down to her level. “How much do you have, sweetie?” I ask. She has moved on to the hair clips and head bands.

“Five dollars. Can you sell that bag for five dollars?”

“I can’t,” I say with exaggerated care. “Do you like the coin purse?”

“Oh yes, I just don’t think it’s good value to just have one thing,” she asserts.

“Well, that’s certainly a good point. Maybe I can do something about that for you.” I reach across the table and grab my display frame of hair clips. “How about this, if you want that coin purse, I’ll throw in a hair clip for you for free.”

“Oh,” she says, like the clever connoisseur she is. She investigates the hair clips with a cunning eye, and selects the set of white bows. “Yes, I think that will be quite good.”

“I think so, too,” I say, marvelling at a child who articulates brilliantly and uses ‘quite’ with ease.

She carefully hands over the coins; via her mother as she ponders the silver pieces, not sure how to make them a full dollar. She gracefully places the coin purse and hair clips in her giant basket bag, and then dashes off to her father and little sister, purchase complete.

Mere moment later, I am joined by the little sister and her mother again. The three year old insists on her desire to have a flower by pointing at the hair clips. “You want a clip like your sister?” her mother asks.

“Flower,” the little sister says.

Her mother takes the flower hair clips, rather than the bows, and places it in front of the little sister, indicating for her to choose.

She points beyond the clips to the headbands. “Pink!” she announces. It’s the pink flower headbands she wants more.

The last I saw of that family was a little sister, whipping off her beanie to put on the headband, running off down the lane. Her older sister was walking more precisely behind, hugging her basket bag close and peering at the items in the other stalls with a careful eye.

And that is why I do my market stalls. Because those kids are awesome.

Lastly, though, I catching up on all my friends and family requests for knitted items now. Here’s a sneak peak of the wool I’m going to use for Bec’s fingerless mittens. 😀 They are going to be well awesome, I’ve decided.