some little blanket love …

there’s a sizeable blanket project going on here …

lots-of-whip-stitch

I couldn’t have possibly stopped at just a banner – they’re big blankets!  And I’ve been whip-whip-whipstitching most of the day.  However, there was a quick moment to “whip” up another kind of blanket love – scented pillows.

syrup-blanket

I have the blankets hanging on the line under the house – after being washed – and I must confess, since there is nowhere up here to keep them, I simply pop downstairs, cut off the bit I need, then skip back up and sew with it!  I wish I could store all my fabric like this – no creases or piles.  But I do know that in order to keep my thrifted blankets lovely, they must go into some dry, clean and bug free storage.  Tomorrow.  I promise.

Today – I slipped downstairs to hang out some washing, and snipped off another two squares of the pink and green blanket to make a little sweet dreams pillow for Abby.

ready-for-filling

With the tiniest crocheted doily I’ve ever encountered – what was it ever intended for! – and some pretty orange french knots.

perfect-colours

Then onto one for me – quite a bit bigger.  Why?  To accomodate this pretty, pretty doily with it’s cross stitched loveliness.  The crocheted lace edges are very delicate and beautiful.  And the blanket is all sorts of syruppy, golden gorgeous.  Perfect for our future white and yellow room.  In such a short, short time, the woolly pillows were ready for filling.

lavender-and-buckwheat

So, whilst we were shopping for fruit and vegetables this afternoon, I picked up some organic lavender and buckwheat kernels. After a brief stir, they were ready for siphoning into my wee pillows.  And …

filled-and-ready

Done.  Abby’s enchanted with the wonderful perfume.

lovely

And my pillows are nicely scented.  Now back to the whip stitching.

sos-mine

close-up-of-finish

comfort

Yes, last week I became the pleased owner of a copy of Soulemama’s new book, Handmade Home.  And yes, it is lovely – sweet photography, reassuring writing and marvellous ideas for infusing our home with handmade comfort.  Which was just what we needed on Monday evening.

close-up-of-finish

Abby is a HUGE reader.  She loves to read, reads for hours every day, and especially loves to re-read her favourite books over and over and over.  This year, she’s been quite a fan of the Skullduggery Pleasant books – which are considered good books and highly entertaining.  But it seems they contain quite a host of alarming characters – faceless people, hollow men.  Abby has been describing these folk in juicy detail for the last couple of weeks and it hadn’t occurred to me for a second that they were appearing in her dreams.  In a less than entertaining manner.

The poor wee thing – she confessed all on the way home from school the other day – and was especially bothered by the fact that she was having spooky dreams about things that couldn’t possibly happen.  We chatted about this – I confessed that in my 11 year old dreams, I was being chased by the Gestapo across Europe and falling through the ice on the frozen Mississippi.  It was nothing abnormal – we are both just very imaginative and become completely absorbed into the worlds that appear in our books.  I didn’t describe the picture that plagued my inner eye for months when I read The Killing Fields at 15!

thrifted-blanket

Thus, comfort was called for and I showed her the beautiful banner Amanda created for Adelaide.  Oh yes, Abigail agreed, that would be good.  I asked her to muse upon what word she felt would be protective whilst she slept – and she chose comfort.  The next morning, on my way home from dropping Abigail at school, I called into the local Lifeline Store and there was a beautiful green and pink lambswool blanket  (missing a small square) for just $4.  Perfect.  This is probably my favourite part of Handmade Home – its emphasis on creating with the old and used, not playing into the whole “must have” culture.  And aren’t the checks just so sweet!

clear-table

The other serendipitous thing was that we were struck by a dramatic thunder storm on Monday eve – this meant the back porch table had to be cleared of all the clutter/fabric that had accumulated over the last couple of weeks.  Which in turn meant that Tuesday morning saw a beautiully long, clear table just waiting for me to spread out a sweet, new hand sewing project.

first-part

I didn’t follow Amanda’s instructions at all closely.  Rather than drawing on the fabric, I charted up my vliesifix to equal the dimensions of my blanket squares.  Then I drew my letters onto the paper back of the vliesifix (taking care to reverse the ones that needed to be reversed), cut them out roughly, ironed them to the back of my scraps, then cut the letters out carefully with small, pointed scissors.

t

I ironed these letters and birds onto my blanket squares and whipstitched their edges by hand.  Then I cut two 1 1/2 inch wide strips of fabric, joined them, folded my long strip in half, right sides together, and stitched down the long raw edges.  I turned this tape out the right way with the help of a safety pin, and pressed it, keeping the seam down the middle of the back.

r

I stitched this tape to the inside of my blanket squares, about 35mm down from the fold.  Finally, I folded the appliqued front back over, and top stitched along the blanket pieces, securing them to the tape.  I left a long tail on  each end.  This allowed me to make a small loop from which to hang the banner.  And there are yo-yos.  Of course there are yo-yos!

Just lovely!  I’m smitten with this blanket, and the idea of wordy banners and am already planning more!  And some of the blanket is waiting to become a bolster cover for Abigail’s bed – with more applique!  That’s fine with me :-)

banner-finished

And Abby – well she reports she’s feeling very comforted.  Good.  Thank you Soulemama for sharing this little piece of your heart with us.

pairs

the twittering of sparrows

[ mum tells me this is what the clacking of the tiles is called in Mahjong – and it is so true, the wooden blocks make such a sweet click-clacking as they are handled.  I think I can hear sparrows …]

finished

The Memory Game is a huge hit!  It is much loved by Julian, who wants to make more blocks to add to the fun, and we’ve played it several times already.  I so strongly suggest you make your own version :-)  Just as I had hoped, the different photos prompt laughter and reminiscing.  Already the blocks have their own names – bad bike, fireside quilt, cello picnic …

full-of-wee-blocks

We also made cards – I produced a rather wonky stitched one, which was greeted with amusement.

stitched-car

Abby drew a beautiful picture of Toph in the garden.

drawn-card

And we played …

playing

and played …

playing-mum

and played …

turning-them-over

… and Mr. Strategy kept winning and winning and winning.  Happy Father’s Day my dearest xxx

winning

pairs

making memories

It’s the eve of Father’s Day here in Australia and I am busy putting the last stitches into Julian’s Father’s Day gift from Abby and I.  This time last week, there was not even an inkling of this present.  I really did not have a clue what to give Julian – he’s not really into the quilty side of life, very appreciative and complimentary about all that appears around the house, but receiving some handcrafted textile is not really his cup of tea.  Hmmm … what does he like – old push bikes, cameras, challenging non-fiction – but he seems to be able to garner plenty of that for himself.  I want a present that sings of him as a dad, reminds him of the happiness and contentment that we find in our daily life, and will be something he can share with us.  A game perhaps?  We have quite a few.

julian

And then I visited Reverse Garbage (a fabulous recycling centre down at West End) and found some lovely short lengths of wood, the edges nice and bevelled, and only $20 a kilo!  I figured $2 worth could give me something to play with.  At first, I was seeing little houses, lined up for Christmas or Halloween.  Then I wondered about picture blocks for my nephew.  Finally i realised – a memory game for Julian for Father’s Day, using some of our photos from this year.

printed-out-the-photos

I printed …

my-power-tool

chopped-the-wood

And sawed …

sanded

And sanded …

mod-podge

And mod podged …

the-label

And made a label for the back of each block.

Now, I’m finishing the ends on a wee bit of quilty-applique that adorns the front of the drawstring bag I’ve made to keep the blocks in – 27 pairs, that’s how old Julian was during his first year of fathering :-)

Hope he likes them! I do – I love them – and as I’ve been applying the coats of mod podge, I’ve been having little daydreams about playing Julian’s memory game with our grandchildren – and explaining the stories of each block.  Ah, I’m such a romantic. :-)

dress-ups

beads-up-close

When Abby was little, we used to have wonderful birthday parties.  There would be a theme, Abby would draw the invitations, we would work on party games, favours and decorations for weeks in advance, make elaborate costumes and themed food.  The last two parties, we cut large themed shapes out of MDF with a jigsaw and the children painted and decorated them to take home – for the Spooky Mansion Party we had bristling cats, bats, and something else but I can’t remember what it was; and for the Under the Sea party, we had seahorses and tropical fish and star fish.

We spent weeks collecting little cardboard boxes from the giant hardware store’s recycle centre which we painted into treasure chests.  We even turned our favourite story books into puppet shows and put on a little performance as the final activity of the party.  Ahhh, those were the days.  Abby and I would be busy and excited for weeks – it was such a lot of fun, so very creative and so rewarding.  And I foresaw years of such parties – my imagination buzzed with possiblities.

Now – we cannot even persuade Abby to HAVE a party.  Instead, we take small groups of friends to a film and dessert, or last year, we went to to a Japanese restaurant.  Boy, the fanciful ways of childhood are gone before we realise.  However, today granted me a wee opportunity to indulge a la the old days :-)

It was Book Week this week and the children of Abby’s class have been writing their own children’s picture books for the last six weeks.  Today, the children were offered the chance to dress in the national dress of one of their characters (the picture book was based on the theme of a teddy bear adventuring around the world) – Abby’s countries were Morocco, Uruguay, New Zealand, UK and USA – she chose the USA for her national costume.  And as the “muma” to Kaya (American Girl) she chose to dress as a Nez Perce girl – or at least, as close as we Brisbanites could get :-)

kayas-dresses

So with Kaya’s dresses laid out as inspiration, and a few wooden bead necklaces from Tree of Life cut up and ready for repurposing, I set to with a HUGE piece of cotton suede like fabric I bought for a song at a city fabric store.  I did only need about 1.5 metres, but the deal with this fabric was 70% off if you bought 4 metres – at 150cm wide.  That’s a lot of suede like fabric.  Perhaps there are bag opportunities?

beautiful-beads

Hee! hee! hee! hee! What fun I had.  We measured and snipped and fringed.  Awesome fabric – absolutely no fraying.  Then I substituted ecru crochet thread for porcupine quills, and added the beads – at which moment, I felt like Laura, collecting the pretty coloured beads from the Indian camp and stringing them into a necklace for Carrie.  We plaited strips of fabric into her hair but I ran out of time for the shoes.  They were, perhaps, a little ambitious.

abby

Oh she looked gorgeous.  It was one of those moments as a parent, when you are so thrilled and overflowing with excitement and love for your child, that you are practically jumping up and down and clapping hands and you don’t know whether to laugh out loud or cry those overwhelming, sentimental tears of emotion!

And, of course, she’s being way cool and asking you to please calm down, you’re being a bit embarrassing.  But you know she’s just as excited as you because you stay a while and watch when she gets to school and you see her in action! :-)

in-the-car

Oh Abby sweetpie, when do we get to dress up again … soon?  Maybe I could dress up, do you think any one would think me odd?  I’ve always wanted one of those amazing tutus … you know, the kind that have the really “fluffy” bum … I think I should stop now, shouldn’t I.

the colour of spring

Spring is certainly taking on lovely peachy, lemony hues here in Bootville.  From the new spring sandals …

new-sandals

[my old ones literally fell apart last week as I was walking through West End – right outside my favourite shoe store “Shays” as it happens – true story! Now “I’m swimming with sharks”

sunny-skirt

to the spring skirt I found whilst searching for batting …

cookies-morphed

to the patchwork flower that appeared when I thought I was baking lemon and cardamon cookies  …  I think it was a 30g lack of flour.

springplacemats

Spring was beckoning.  “Come find my colours!’  she sang sweetly as she tickled her soft blueness about my ankles and teased my hair across my cheeks.  I don’t need to be asked twice.  All other plans for the day were shelved, and I wallowed in peach and lemon and warm pinks and a little lilac to cool it down.

spring-lunch

Spring placemats – with a thrifted linen skirt for the background, scraps of patchwork fabric for the details and for the backing …

backing-fabric

a rather odd piece of fabric I bought on ebay for 99c.  This heavy linen/hessianc/cotton – not really sure what it is – is covered in large chess pieces of orange and red and yellow.  Spring approaved.

Now, do pull up a tea cup, sit on the front porch with me and let’s wallow in Spring’s colours – this awfully pretty time of year is my favourite.

quilting trees

with-a-glorious-tree-on-the-corner

As I mentioned the other day, the maternity hospital at which I volunteer, has a beautiful collection of art.  Every room and hallway has lovely works hanging, especially created for the hospital which opened last year.  There are many created with impressed paper, stitching and fabric.  They are so beautiful – very whimsical and gentle scenes of mothering and childhood.  As such, I was inspired to introduce my free motion quilting foot to some nicely textured paper!

I thought to try something fairly simple with plenty of room for “mistakes” – a tree, similar to that which I pass each morning on our way to school.  We live very close to the cbd (less than 2 km) in a very urban area – with many rather unattractive and busy streets.

a-rather-ugly-urban-street

Nevertheless, there are many beautiful trees and gardens – and this tree has been reducing me to Anne Shirley moments of infatuation for the last 2 months with its glorious pink blossoms.

tree

Of course, I have continually forgotten to take the camera, and when I finally did this week, more than half the blossoms have GONE!  Oh well.  You get the picture :-)

flowers-gone-leaves-coming

So it was up and down and back and forth with the stitching – which pierces the paper so prettily!

before-framing

Using vliesifix, I added a sprinkling of pinky-white blossoms and jewel-like green leaves.  Then added some simple running stitch to the leaves, french knots to the blossoms, and then a scattering of french knots across the branches.

framed-2

I think it does look like my pretty urban tree!  Julian was so impressed, he did indeed take me to Ikea to buy a frame (Ribba).

framed

Now I have some more paper, more ideas … Christmas presents beckon!  And no matter where we go, we will have this pretty tree to remind us of early spring in Brisbane.

new-grass

there once was a muma who was a COMPLETE twinky …

… oh she was!

She was usually cheerful, always up for a laugh, terribly sincere and wielded her needles, paints, wooden spoons and mixing bowls with a reasonable degree of dexterity.  But she was a twinky.  Oh she was.

stencil

One day, she was dancing about the back porch, thrilled to pieces with a finished project for her lovely girlie.  A laundry hamper that said girlie could keep in her bedroom.  The twinky muma had thrifted it from a hard rubbish collection weeks earlier.  She had sanded and primed and glued and painted the frame.  She had soaked and washed and dried and stencilled and appliqued and embroidered the canvas bag.  Hours had been lavished on this thrifted hamper for her girlie and now it was done.

There was just one puzzling note.  In the bottom of the canvas bag, lay a long buttoned strap.  “Hmph!”  wondered the twinky muma.  “I wonder what that could be?  How is it used?”  She shrugged, and went on with her finishing touches.

Then the dada came out.  Now he was not a twinky.  Instead he was quite clever and able to see things in a flash that the twinky muma could fail to notice for many moons.

rhubarb-crumble

“Why is the bag inside out?”  he said, as he finished off the first day of Spring’s breakfast rhubarb crumble.  The twinky muma watched with mild annoyance.  She had been planning on having that for morning tea with a nice cup of coffee once the pretty hamper was finished and resting in the girlie’s bedroom.

“It isn’t.” she said, “Didn’t you see the rabbit and her bird?  They’re on the front.”

she-thought-it-was-finished

“They may well be “there”, ” said the clever dada, pointing to the sweet stencil.  “But the bag is inside out.”

“No it isn’t.” repeated the twinky muma, now feeling a wee bit irritated.  What was he on about?

“Then why is the buttoned strap that’s supposed to tuck under the bottom of the frame and provide more stability, on the inside where it is useless?”

offending-strap

” Oh!  OH! OHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! It is too! Oh no!  But I’ve finished!  I’ve stencilled and appliqued and embroidered!” wailed the twinky muma.

“I suppose the rabbit could live on the inside as a surprise?”  offered the clever dada, thinking he was being helpful and supportive.

“WHAT!  Why would I want that on the inside?  Don’t be stupid.”

“I’m not the one who did ALL that work on the bag – whilst it was inside out.”

“STOP LAUGHING!” shrieked the twinky muma.

“I’m allowed to laugh,” said the convulsing dada.  “This is the funniest thing you’ve ever done!”

The twinky muma yanked the laundry bag off its frame and showed just how dexterous she was  – with the seam ripper.  That wretched buttoned strap was off in moments and 5 minutes later, was sewn on the NEW OUTSIDE of the bag.

rejigged

“There!”  harrumphed the twinky muma and she banged the laundry hamper back into the sun for it’s photo shoot. “It’s done!”

“Okay.” agreed the still grinning dada.  “But the bag is still inside out.”

mixing it up

lily-at-home

However – I wasn’t at home today.  After two weeks of training, it was my first day as a “solo” ward nanny and it was lovely.  There were babies to be settled, mums to support, wee footprints to stamp in gold … a day when I knew that I was in the right place at the right time.

So opportunities for crafting at home were limited … all that Monday morning creativity had to be channelled into an incredibly brief 40 minutes as the sun was beginning it’s descent.  Inspired by the beautiful artwork at the hospital, I bought some watercolour paper on the way home, and tried stitching on it with the free motion quilting foot.  And boy is it a satisfying combination!  Very satisfying!

I did progress a bit beyond the above – there was a long narrow piece of paper, lots of stitching back and forth and up and down, vliesifix, kaffe fabric, wee little circles of japanese floral, french knots …  Julian was so taken with it, he’s offered to take me to Ikea tomorrow to buy it a frame.

But you’ll have to wait ’til tomorrow for pictures – remember that setting sun.  The photos I took were ridiculously awful – don’t you think it is unreasonable that cameras haven’t advanced far enough that we can take lovely photos regardless of where that wretched light is or isn’t!  Never mind – waiting until tomorrow will give me the opportunity to take a photo of my “muse” and then you can see them both.

Hmmm … not much on offer today huh!  Perhaps I’ll leave you with a few thoughts a lovely mum shared with me today.  After having two lovely children (with assistance) followed by many miscarriages, this mum spent last year meditating, reflecting and working on embracing the contenment and happiness she believed her life already held.  Then, last Christmas, when she was feeling very grateful and at peace with her life, when she had finally decided two children were a blessing and she could move on, she discovered she was pregnant.  Now, looking down at her beautiful babe, she believes that we receive what we need and long for when we are ready, when it is right for us, when our minds and bodies are at peace and connected with what we are capable of doing.

It’s hard to put a finger on it, isn’t it?  Different cultures have different ways of espressing this notion and it is one I certainly subscribe to.  We plan and micro-manage our future and daily routines, dedicate ourselves to achieving what we think we deserve, try to make real our dreams.  Sometimes we turn our backs on “opportunities” that present themselves, hold back when others expect us to seize the day.  And yet, I truly do believe that, like this mum, we are tied to the earth and each other and no matter how hard we try (be it consciously or subconsciously) these are unbreakable ties.  When it is right, when it is good for us and those we love, we will receive what we need, we will have the courage and skills needed to move forward.  It won’t always be what we wrote down in our diary when we were 16, it might not even be what we thought we wanted yesterday, but it will be what we need now.

Sometimes this can present itself as difficult or unpleasant situations and it’s hard to imagine, let alone believe, that this is what we “need” right now. But I am learning to face these situations with wakefulness, fearlessness and gentleness, knowing that this too will pass, and that accepting and then understanding this difficult situation, will push me further towards finding that which I need.

I am grateful I had the opportunity to muse upon this today with a thoughtful new mum :-)

patching for summer

With most of the weekend’s planting finished, and my boy home from Chicago, our backyard preparations for summer took a turn for the stitchy and screwy.  The woodland nymph had plans for her bowry under the avocado tree – they included a swing, a hammock, some “grass”, a wooden scooter, and a rope ladder.  Definitely Julian’s domain – mind you, the poor thing only hopped off the plane at 6 am this morning.  What an obliging dad!

My contribution to the bowry is a summer quilt – perhaps to keep the summer eve’s chill at bay, you might think.  Nope – more likely to shelter under from the mosquitoes and add a bit of flowery colour to a shaded part of the garden that not much grows in!

laying-it-out

Lucky for me, a prettily printed tea towel followed me home on Saturday- a free gift with this month’s Australian Country Living.  There it was – inspiration for a quilt that moments before, had not even entered my head.  And it has such a summery feel – the sweet pink birds fluttering amongst the flowers.

I added some scraps from the stash, found a lovely piece of beach-towel stripe for setting squares and triangles and my afternoon melted sweetly away.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the stairs, swings were swung upon, “grass” was picnicked upon, wooden scooters were abandoned until better plans could be drawn (yes, we have loved all we’ve made and explored from “The Daring Book for Girls” but clearly, the authors did not actually make their scooter.  Currently the scooter’s only use could be as a swivelly platform for an exceptionally heavy potplant that you wanted to turn with the clock to catch the sun!), and hammocks were strung …

stringing-the-hammock

hung …

hanging-the-hammock

and lazed in.  Impressively, all the garden action was finished and packed away before the quilt top was ready.  So here it is …

almost-too-dark

in all it’s sun-has-set-gloom.

teatowel-bird

The colours really are very pretty – and since the light has disappeared, I’ve added a scrappy border.  Hopefully, tomorrow I will pin it out and begin quilting – wibbly quilting of course.  And I’m sure, by next weekend, it will be ready for its Woodland Nymph and her summery adventures.

time-to-stop

we’re down the back …

… soaking up our early summer, planting vegies, laying turf, picnicking, reading, imagining, creating …

strawberries

:: strawberries – hanging at the bottom of the stairs, perfect for picking ::

wood-nymph

:: the wood nymph – she followed the sun, her mum and her nan to the garden and stayed all day ::

hiding-in-the-plants

:: foraging amongst the mint, geraniums and tomatoes ::

lemonade

:: morning tea lemonade ::

thrifted-colander-pot

:: nestled in a thrifted colander – pete’s hand raised thyme ::

fan

:: hiding from the midday sun ::

lunch

:: lunch – and we’ve all got a cane garden chair thanks to hard rubbish! ::

abby-lunch

:: the grass thief – we’re not allowed to lay the last three strips, they’re part of the wood nymph’s kingdom, complete with built in pillow (logs laid under the turf) ::

abby-reading

:: finding inspiration in Weslandia ::

jug

:: the sun begins to slide ::

dirty-feet-plaited-bracelet

:: dirty feet,  plaited bracelets ::

making-whistle

:: making a wood whistle ::

Summer is shaping up nicely.

bringing home summer

Yup, I think it’s here to stay!

quilt

The cooler hours of the early morning were good stitching down binding on the front porch.  But after that, I must say, it was a very dull day in crafting terms – we do, however, now have gleaming, sweet-smelling, polished furniture.  And that’s good.  I had almost begun to believe the dressing table had a furry finish.

lovely-swirls

But summer truly arrived late this afternoon in the form of crisp white cotton sheets for the beds, and a car load of green treasures from the garden centre.

opening-the-gate

Poor mum, she was rather wedged in the backseat, what with the vintage suitcases we collected first at a nearby thrift store.  They had only been sitting there for five minutes when I walked in.  What good fortune!  I love to use these old cases for storing toys and fabrics and christmas decorations – the mustard and red stripe one is particularly lovely.  And the lady in the store made the find so much the nicer when she exclaimed as I picked up the cases to leave “Oh my goodness!  Look at you!”  I was wearing my Edelweiss braids, a gathered floral skirt, fitted blouse and flat soled rubber shoes.  “You look as if you’ve just stepped onto a railway platform in Europe in the 1930s!  I can practically see the train and the billowing steam!”  “Bon Voyage!” she called, waving to me as I left the store all smiles, “Have a wonderful trip!”  What a kindred spirit huh!

a-bit-of-vintage

I had an unusual driving companion – she doesn’t look that big in the photo – but trust me, my car is only small, and Miss Fern tickled my cheeks all the way home.

my-new-driving-companion

Then there was the flower that sings to me of summer evenings … jasmine.  Mmmmmmmm ….. take a deep breath …. close your eyes … then another deep breath ….

jasmine-strawberries-and-gnome

A gnome for Abby – she’s growing strawberries and broad beans this summer – Gnomey will stand guard.  Bags of coconut coir for the strawberries to grow in.

lots-of-grass

And for mum – a boot load of turf – Sir Walter – drought resistant (that’s good, I don’t know if it will ever rain again!).

Now, you know what we’ll be doing tomorrow morning … loosening the dirt that has taken over the back lawn and laying the grass.  Sounds a bit strenuous.