Saturday, December 19, 2009


I went to the local Saturday market this morning to buy some fruit and vegies, and catch up with some old friends. I used to be a stallholder myself a few years ago, and my daughter Katie and her husband Hugh sell fruit there every summer.
I got a big bag of cherries from Hugh, the last of the season sadly (though Katie will keep some for our family Christmas dinner, I'm sure.)

Had a good wander around, stocked up on local honey and home-made tomato sauce, perused the bookstalls, (but resisted the urge to buy) then spotted Jackie's stall - so tempting, she always has things I just can't do without!
Today it was a stack of crafty magazines, always good for inspiration; and lots of gorgeous novelty yarns. Just couldn't resist these-
Now since I rarely knit, and they really aren't suited to crochet, you might wonder what I'll do with them. Especially since I already have a goodly assortment.

You'd be surprised...

They can decorate cards like this -
I used to sell cards like this at the market a while back.

They can be used to finish the edges of a fabric piece -
This is a page from a fabric book I made a couple years ago.

They can be needlefelted onto fabric - remember these Baubles?

There's always doll hair, of course...
And doubtless I'll think of other ways to use them, too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Kris Kringle

Today was the Goldfields Quilters Christmas party. This year we gathered at the home of one of our members, who has a beautiful old stone house, set in a peaceful valley a few km out of town. We had a tour of the garden, a delicious buffet lunch, and plenty of time to relax and chat. We all brought presents for a Kris Kringle, and I had fun yesterday creating something special.
I made this little purse organiser, holding a selection of supplies for any contingency. I have a similar purse myself, and I've made them for my daughters too. So handy to pop into whichever bag you're using, and know that you have all the essentials.
This one holds a tiny notebook, a pen, a couple of bandaids and headache pills, a tape measure, and a sewing kit.
The sewing kit is pretty basic, and I couldn't find a small scissors to add, but it turns out that the recipient (who loved it) already has the ideal pair.
Then I made a card out of some pretty scraps, and wrapped it all in shiny paper.
The card was the best fun - I haven't made any cards for ages, but now I'm inspired, and I plan to create some handmade Christmas cards tomorrow.
And my present? A cake of delicious-smelling French soap, which will scent one of the dressing table drawers, or possibly the linen cupboard, for a while before I actually use it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Hexagon progress & a new toy

I'm going to join the hexagons as I go, in blocks of twenty. Here's the first block, don't they look bright and happy? (The dark green section at the bottom was an experiment in filling in the shapes for the top and bottom edges of the rug.)
Another 18 motifs made, still unblocked. Today I took them to the quilters meeting, got all the ends darned in. No further progress though, as I had to work on my Kris Kringle pressie for our Christmas part on Saturday. Pictures when it's finished.
Casting my eye around a local thrift shop the other day, I found this.
It's a tiny calculator/ruler/magnifiying glass - just five inches long, in it's own vinyl case. The calculator works; it seems to be powered by exposure to light - any light. And how much for this wee treasure? One dollar!
How could I resist?

Sunday, December 6, 2009


This is what happens when you spend some time with your hands in a dyepot...
I'm more accustomed to dyeing cotton fabric with fibre reactive dye, and I always wear gloves for that, but this was just food colouring and vinegar, and it didn't occur to me that it might stain. (It wore off pretty soon)
I needed a few more colours for the hexagons, and I had some white and cream wool,
so I decided to try my hand at acid dyeing.
I used little dropper bottles of food dye from the supermarket, and found my instructions here.
I used an old stainless steel saucepan, and heated the wool in its dyebath on the stove. It was fun to watch the water turn clear as it heated up.
It worked fairly well, the first two balls were a bit light, but useable,
the next three were better. It's an amazing process, much faster than fibre reactive dyeing - and not so messy.
But there seems to be a limit to the depth of colour I can get this way, so I may yet have to buy some wool.
The pile of hexagons is growing steadily, I have 30 now. Tomorrow I'll start sewing them together.

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's loquat time!

Do you remember this old-fashioned fruit? Best eaten standing under the tree, because the large stones and tough skins lead to a certain amount of spitting?
My tree is next to the letterbox, and I've been picking a handful every day.
The loquat, eriobotrya japonica, is a distant relation of the apple, and native to China. Evergreen, and apparently immune to frost and drought, the loquat makes a good shade tree, and flowers in early winter, perfuming the garden for a couple of weeks.
The fruits are delicious, sweet and juicy, but with an underlying tang. I've never found a practical use for them; I know you can make loquat jam or chutney, but it would be so tedious to prepare them...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


A lovely parcel arrived today, some of Dijanne Cevaal's wonderful hand-dyed fabric.

Dijanne is relocating to Europe, and offered some parcels of surplus fabric which she couldn't take with her. It's years since I bought fabric from her, but I am always amazed at the intensity of colour she achieves with her hand dyeing. These didn't disappoint.
These three are my favourites - a rich burnt orange, a deep textured blue/green, and the wonderful murky shibori-style patterns on the top one. I have no idea what I'll do with them, but I'm sure they'll be used and treasured to the last scrap.

I've had a bit of a re-think on the crochet hexagons. The first ones I showed you were done with acrylic yarn. Now, given that I'm going to have to make several hundred of the little critters, and it's going to take months, not weeks, and if I finish the rug it will likely be a family heirloom; well then, who ever heard of an ACRYLIC heirloom??
So I'll have to use wool. Expensive. But wait, I have wool - a big box full stashed away at the top of the linen press. A rummage through the box yielded quite a few balls of suitable colour, enough to make a start, anyway.
I made a sample hexagon using the pattern I showed in the last post, just to check for tension and size. Now it's a funny thing, but wool yarn works up quite differently from acrylic. I didn't like my pretty pattern nearly as much in wool.
I tried several hexagon patterns I found on the Web, but they all had too many spaces for my liking. I think a crochet rug/blanket/afghan is meant to keep you warm, and large gaps kinda defeat that purpose. After some experimenting, I came up with this pattern.
I found I had to work the fourth round in half treble(hdc) instead of treble(dc) to get them to lie flat, but I think these will work. Join-as-you-go doesn't work very well in half-treble, so I'm going to stitch them together in the good old-fashioned way, which I really don't mind; it's the darning in of ends I hate. So I'm taking care of the loose ends as I finish each motif, and will probably stitch them together as I go too. I'll keep you updated on progress (12 made so far)

Friday, November 27, 2009

A decent puddle

After last week's heatwave, we have had lovely rain - 50ml (2 inches) here in the last few days. On my way down the street yesterday, I saw this huge puddle, no doubt there's a blocked drain in there somewhere.
And the rain had turned this patch of oil into a small piece of art.
Thanks to the cooler weather I have nearly finished the top of the charity quilt, and I've been experimenting with some crochet. (I get these crochet attacks from time to time, but I've learned to live with them.)
There are lots of online photos of wonderful hexagon blankets, like this one, but nearly everyone seems to use the same pattern.

I wanted something a bit different, so I came up with these. Not sure about the final colours yet, and they are rather small - I calculate I'd need 248 for a reasonably sized blanket. Is that doable, I wonder; would I ever finish them? I don't have a very good track record for finishing crochet rugs. (But I will finish that ripple rug, trulyI will, - eventually)
Baubles, you ask? There are actually two 'on the go', but not enough hours in the day...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More round things

You might have noticed that I am an admirer of round things, I thought I'd share some beauties that I stumbled across the other night.
These pictures are from an old website called Morphographic created by Michael Spall, which doesn't seem to have been updated for about five years.
None of these are real objects, they are computer graphics, but some of them are beautiful -

or unusual!
Most of the links are broken, so I can't tell you more about them, or their creators.

In the real world, it's honeysuckle time, and the honeysuckle vines which have gone feral down the side of the house are covered in blossom.
Apart from our sparse rainfall, these get no water at all, but they don't seem to care. I've been picking great bunches of the stuff, and the house smells divinely lemony.

I've been working on the charity quilt I started last week, so nothing much is happening in the Bauble department just now - although there have been mysterious experiments with acrylic paint on fabric, which may eventually lead to interesting Bauble developments - or not.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

It's not supposed to be this hot!

Not in early November, with summer still three weeks away. But we are having a heat wave nevertheless. It was 41C (103F) on the back verandah yesterday.

Today, Goldfields Quilters had scheduled a working bee to replenish our stock of charity quilts. This year we have donated around twenty quilts to bushfire victims and others in need of the comfort that a quilt can bring.

The day began well, as people decided how to use a collection of donated blocks and fabrics.
Brenda and Chris debated how to put together a heap of half-square triangles.
(some people don't want their faces shown in photos, but Chris didn't mind at all)
Christine sewed the blocks together.
Now we can see where this is going....
Someone was well organised with pre cut strips
While Julie pondered a collection of half-finished blocks...

The day warmed up. Pressing seams was sticky work, and needles grew slippery. Our meeting room is pleasant, but we don't have an airconditioner.

By 2.30 the temperature outside had hit 40C, and commonsense prevailed. We packed up and went home.

Monday, November 9, 2009

A nod to Jane Austen

It seemed to me that a lady who owns a fitted sewing box might also have need of a dainty workbag, so I created my own version in pale eau-de-nil crepe.
The base is 5" across, just the right size for a Bauble-in-progress.
The lining of pretty Liberty lawn seems in keeping.
I took the coward's way and sewed the base on by hand, covering the join with some glitzy braid.
Note the hand worked buttonholes for the drawstring.
An embroidered posy on each side finishes it off. This was so much fun to make, I think I might make another one...
And just because she seems to fit here, rosa Reine des Violettes, with ruching far more beautiful than anything I could sew.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A basket, a box, and some memories

A long post today - one thing kind of led to another, as you'll see.
My mother didn't really enjoy sewing, though she dutifully made little dresses when my sister and I were small. But she loved to embroider.
Convent educated, she learnt the skills of fine needlework from an early age, and became adept at embroidery, crochet and knitting. She taught me to embroider too, although I don't think my work ever came up to the high standards of the nuns.
This was her workbasket (though from the style of it, possibly my grandmother's originally). I inherited it when Mum died, and brought it out today to compare with the project I've just finished.
The dear old basket is crumbling now, and the lining is perishing. But wasn't it grand?
These scraps were tucked into one of the corner pockets. I don't know where the lace originated, or the lovely button, but the embroidery came from summer pyjamas that Mum had in her trousseau. Her work is finer than anything I could do - perfect satin stitch berries in shaded cotton, and the tiniest of chain stitches for the leaves and stems. And it's worked on art silk, which was really a kind of rayon (would have been done in the 1930's, as Mum married in 1939).
The cloth under the basket is coarser, embroidered in thick, unplied silk thread. The back, of course, is almost as neat as the front. This was intended for a cushion cover, but never made up.
I've never had a workbasket, but recently I bought this sewing box. A cheap, possibly Chinese, import, it was finished in that peculiar red stain that tends to come off on your hands.
A scrub and polish fixed that, and I turned my attention to the interior, which was roughly lined with cheap, nasty cotton.
But look at it now! I lined it in an olive-y green furnishing fabric, and added pockets on the lids.
A little embroidery added a touch of class, and I even made a matching needle book.
This will be my Bauble-box, holding all the threads and equipment for decorating a Bauble.
Just to let Mum have the last word, here's a close-up of that white cloth. She was good, my Mum, wasn't she?