the delight of working with the young one

counting out the tiles

also master tile cutter

julian looking so cute

All of my time at Merryl’s mosaic studio is squeezed into the mornings before I go to work, the evenings after I’ve finished work, and occasionally on my days off.  These hours and the fact that it’s a studio mean it’s time away from the family and home.

But on the recent school holidays, a couple of my days off coincided with Merryl’s opening hours and time when Abby and Sacha were at home.  Sacha was keen to try her hand at mosaics – and proved to be speedy and talented, making a lovely photo frame and cat teapot – and Abby was very happy to play mosaic assistant to me – my ultimate Kaffe Fassett dream :-)  I presented her with the tiles required, the cutter and the glue and she cut and filled in the already created spaces whilst I worked on the new design bits.

Utterly lovely way to spend several hours!
sacha working on photoframe

sachas teapot

And this child of mine, she has clearly inherited – and improved upon! – my attention to detail.  All those orange border tiles were meticulously spaced out and their red and turquoise mates carefully tested before being glued into place.  She cut the orange rays of sun with precision and created lovely streams of light.

Then, she sat there by my side for hours, cutting the little blue and white sky tiles into four, stacking them into neat piles of colour so I could just pluck as I created my swirly background, chatting away about school, her upcoming exams, her hopes for life after school, how she will paint and set up her bedroom at Wombat Hill, what she would like to do on the farm, what drawings she is currently working on, the anime she is watching, the books she is reading, the dolls she is stitching …

love the wheels

Now I’ve met truly lovely kindred spirits down at Merryl’s studio – let alone Merryl herself who is such a delightful, passionate and creative woman – and we have spent many hours, cutters and tiles in hand whilst we talk about our families, our work, what we love, what drives us nuts … They are good times indeed and I regularly wish I’d signed up for Merryl’s mosaic workshops years ago.  However, we have made plans to visit regularly and I have offers of places to stay when we do which I am so looking forward to.

But there is something extra special about having your child by your side and these holiday hours were some of the loveliest I’ve spent at mosaics.

Makes me think we need to set up a wee mosaic studio at Wombat Hill Farm – our own little space, shelves filled with tiles, huge work bench, some tile and glass cutters … Yes Abby and I could have good times together there indeed.  Mum would definitely be up for it.

Hmmmmm …. I think we will need to wrestle away a corner of Julian’s workshop :-)

tractoring :: a mosaic


pambula tractor

For as long as I’ve wanted a vintage caravan, Julian has wanted a vintage tractor.  This probably says something about the differences between us :-) To me, the vintage caravan is this gorgeous little cubby house that I can decorate and play in – or have visitors stay!  To Julian, the vintage tractor is a marvellous and sturdy piece of engineering that is eminently practical.

This dear little one above, was not eminently practical.  Definitely more of a collector’s piece than a working tractor.  But once we are settled on Wombat Hill Farm, finding just the right old tractor is at the top of Julian’s list of things to do.

So to celebrate his love of all things tractor, I decided to make him a tractor mosaic – as a table top on a sturdy old pedestal table I found in hard rubbish.  We can put it on our porch at Wombat Hill Farm, sit by it in the afternoons, with a beer and some cheese on it, and look out at our beautiful land and marvel at all the hard work that lays before us.
favourite tiles

sketched it out

Now the table top was separated from its base by a lovely builder who happened to be building a fence in the street in which we found it.  When it didn’t fit in the car, I was busy thinking how I’d have to go home and grab a screwdriver.  Not Mum – she trotted up the street to the builder and asked to borrow one.  He didn’t have a manual screwdriver but cheerfully came down with his electric drill thing and had that table apart in seconds.  He even carried it all across to the car and put it in the boot.  What a lovely fellow!

I gave it a coat of sealer – just to make a clean surface that I could draw on and see where I am going with the tiles.

I started off with the border – very practical of me – but before I got too far around, those delicious fat tractor tyres were calling!
get sticking

love the fills

And then the rolling green hills.  This is my favourite kind of mosaic – repeating, colourful geometric patterns.  In fact, Merryl and I are both so taken with the tyres, we think a whole mosaic of circles would be wonderful …. oh yes!

big wheel

the start

building the engine

Then it was onto the tractor body … nice and simple.


Then Farmer Boot himself.  He was a wee bit amazed at the colour tile I chose for his hair … grey!  With flecks of gold.  Yep, Farmer Boot, that’s where you’re at :-)  And it’s very becoming!

tractor light

A headlight … though I can’t imagine Julian will want to navigate the hills of our wee farm at night …

ready for tractoring

And a simple steering wheel and gear stick.
love the curves

It’s simply too much fun … Despite counting down the days until we finally leave Melbourne, I do so love visiting Merryl’s studio.  It’s one thing I will miss – shall have to tile faster!


lilly pilly jelly

with the basket

The previous owner of our wee farm was a big tree planter!  He and his dad (an arborist) planted a grove of walnut trees (which were burnt down shortly after by a neighbour’s out of control grass fire!), a grove of native hardwoods which cover the hillside in front of the cottage, and a superb windbreak that encircles the cottage and its garden.

too high up

They planted the windbreak with natives so as to encourage the local birdlife – immensely successful! – and in one of the top corners is a cluster of lilly pillies.  This tree belongs to the myrtle family, grows very tall, has vibrant, waxy green leaves, and produces thousands of little pinky red berries which the local wildlife love.

Like most Australians, I have grown up with lilly pillies and yet have been woefully ignorant about the edibility of their berries!  It wasn’t until this year, whilst watching Tilba River Cottage, that I realised how delightfully useful they could be!  Cordials!  Champagne! Ice cream!  Jams!  And such a pretty pink :-)


So my first harvest at Wombat Hill Farm – lilly pilly berries.  Collected with dear little friends that came over to help celebrate our first weekend at the farm.  In a rope basket of course!  Unfortunately most of the berries were so high up we had no hope of gathering them.  But enough were picked for one little jar of home grown goodness …


I followed the recipe and instructions from the Forster State School in New South Wales – which just so happens to be around the corner from where my grandparents lived by the sea in the Manning Valley – meant to be I say :-)


Added the juice from one of Mum’s lemons …

jam pot

Honestly, I’ve never had jam set like it!  I don’t know whether Mum’s lemons are especially high in pectin – or perhaps lilly pillies are?


But it was obvious this lilly pilly jam – jelly! – was not going to be dolloped.  By the time it had cooled in the jar, it could be sliced like quince paste and possessed such an intense flavour that it was best served in small amounts.

on bread

In fact, our lilly pilly jelly tastes brilliant with Erica’s divine 3 year vintage cheddar cheese from South Coast Cheese at Tilba – they were made for each other.  Perfect!

the solitary jar

So now, I reckon we need to plant more lilly pillies – luckily, they are very fast growing – and work out how to gather all those up high berries so as not to waste them.  Unlike Paul from Tilba River Cottage, I will NOT be climbing our lilly pillies with ropes and safety gear and shaking the berries down into waiting sheets.

But I do want many many more jars of this lovely stuff, that’s for sure!


plates on the dresser

black corner

Now this is a bit backwards.  I made Julian yet another quilt for his birthday this year – I never intend doing this, ’cause frankly, Julian is not an especially quilty person, but I always seem to find just the perfect fabric for him in the weeks before his birthday, so find myself enthusiastically buying up a few metres of it and then presenting him with yet another quilt.

Last year it was the Wild Things quilt, this year it was the Periodic Table quilt, previous years … well I know I’ve made them but I can’t quite put my finger on them at the moment – they were clearly terribly perfect for Julian ;-)

If you have a magnifying glass handy you’ll notice I even chose the background fabrics carefully – there’s cameras for his love of photography, and wooden rulers for his love of precision and old tools, and seaweed for his love of snorkelling …

periodic table

I based the design on a striking quilt I found via Pinterest (you need to scroll down a bit to see the quilt I’m talking about).  Oh the hours I can spend (waste) on Pinterest! There are so many exquisitely beautiful quilts out there!

with leaves and shadows

I adored making the Periodic Table quilt, and was so thrilled with the finished quilt top that I straight away started another based on the same design – this here Plates on the Dresser.

A bundle of Anna Maria Horner fat quarters had landed in my lap from the wonderful Cotton Factory in Ballarat, and I’d noticed the perfect “wooden” fabrics up at Darn Cheap, so the minute I’d sewed the last row onto Julian’s Periodic Table quilt, I set to putting together this pretty thing.  Only I didn’t quilt and finish off the Periodic Table – which is why you are seeing the Plates on the Dresser first.

Backwards, huh.

along the back

So here’s the Plates on the Dresser.  I pieced my wooden shelves, then added the plates using first vliesofix to adhere them, then whizzed around the edges with a close zigzag stitch.

red and yellow edge

For the quilting, I used …. a vintage woollen blanket :-) I quilted a sort of peony shaped flower onto each plate and then did squiggly wiggly over the rest of it – blending the thread colours to the different plate and wood colours.  I never like my squiggly wiggly standing out – all I can see is faults – I like it to sink gently into the fabric.

blue corner

And then a nice piece of stripey reproduction for the binding – like a piece of ornate wooden trim.

pink in sun

Oh I do love it!  And well foresee myself making many more!  I know there will be a lovely gathering of fabric that will jump out at me and bam! – off I’ll go again. Very satisfying.

marmalade in the sun

This one has such a rich, old fashioned look to it.  I can just picture a huge old wooden dresser – the kind you’d see in the kitchen of Downtown Abbey – but instead of holding immaculate collections of perfectly matched and expensive china, it is stacked with the higgledy piggledy leftovers of generations worth of dinner settings that are now only used by the servants.  Just the kind of colourful, thrifty chaos I’m fond of.

with lucy

I think the pinks and reds in this one below are my favourite …

favourite piece

Anna Maria and I are definitely kindred spirits – I adore the busyness and rich saturations of her designs.  Nothing is ever subtle or understated.

like this plate


blankety back


Sigh … just looking at it now, hanging there in all of it’s full wintery glory, makes me want to head up to Darn Cheap, stock up on a heap of Rosalie Quinlan’s, and make a red, white and blue version for summer.

full quilt

But right now, this Plates on the Dresser quilt is the perfect addition to our cold, dreak, wintery days.

so cosy

All that quilting has made it so heavy and warm.  Just right for snuggling under whilst knitting or reading or embroidering … or WiiU playing …

how it lives

… but I suppose I should really go quilt Julian’s birthday quilt … five months later.

farewell my dear old Grandad

Well hello there!  You’d thought I’d forgotten about you, didn’t you?!? No of course not – in fact, I feel rather sad to have been away for such a long time and promise that I shall NEVER be away for so long again.  Never!

What’s been happening around Bootville?  Well – lots.

the cover

Dear old Grandad finally passed away on the 10th June.  It was early Wednesday morning – well before the winter’s dawn – and I awoke with a jolt, just knowing he’d left.  I sent Mum a text – she was there with him – and sure enough she replied a few minutes later to say he’d taken a last raggedy breath and then there was no more.

Despite knowing that this was inevitable, oh I lay there and sobbed.  Forty five years I’ve had my dear old Grandad by my side – so extraordinarily blessed …



… and then he was gone.  Just like that.

So there was a sad trek to Brisbane for the funeral – family came from all over the world and despite some horrendously stressful moments, there were many more moments of love and joy as those that I love gathered together to send off a truly beautiful man.

the quilt

At the viewing we snugly tucked him in with his favourite quilt – one of mine that he has used every night since the stroke 18 months ago – it has survived two hospitals and a nursing home, it was clearly meant to be grandad’s.  In his hands lay his old Akubra to keep that hot Australian sun off his old bald head, and the little black wallaby I stitched him earlier this year was tucked into the crook of his arm – to remind him to always take the adventurous path.

grandad at the postoffice

grandad and his milkshake

grandad by the water

We chose music for his service that brought us to tears – a service which was held in the very same church that he married Nanny in almost 70 years ago.  The Reverend gave a heart warming sermon on St. Paul’s theme of the triumph of love over all else – she was magnificent and her words and compassion gave us so much comfort.  We scattered beautiful flowers across his grave – a secluded spot that I was relieved to find rang with birdsong.  Grandad loved birds.  We all pitched our photos together and created a slide show of Grandad’s life that expressed the joy and love he found in his family – one that we have watched over and over and still cry every time.  We took every opportunity to toast our dear old Grandad and his wonderful life until we all went our separate ways a few days later.

rainbow bay

I think for me the moment I felt closest to his spirit was on the beach at Rainbow Bay the day after the funeral.  Abby, Sacha, my nephew Oscar, cousin Maddie and I built a life sized sand sculpture of Grandad – Sandy Grandad.  It was truly therapeutic and as the day went on, more and more of my family arrived to set up camp around him.  The seagulls strutted their stuff across his chest and legs, nearby children dug in the sand and splashed in the glittering shallows, surfers paddled out to meet the dolphins, and families strolled back and forth.  Life in all its gentleness and beauty went on around him – just as it should.

his head

the flag

abby building him

his walking stick

with grandad

By late afternoon, there he lay, quiet and content – walking stick in hand, Akubra stuck on his head – waiting for the evening tide to come for him.  The setting sun turned his beloved bay into a silvery sparkly blue heaven. I stretched out beside him with Maddie and we reminded him how very much he was loved, what a fine old fellow he’d been, and how much we would miss him.  They were an exquisite few minutes – ones I shall always hold dear in my heart – and I’m so glad I was there with other cousins and aunties who loved grandad just as dearly as me.

face in shadow

“… So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim … “
( from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians)


My dear old Grandad lived these words and so it is with a sad but grateful heart that I farewell him.

Grandad, you lived your life with such good cheer and never missed an opportunity to extend love to all those around you.  I hereby promise to do my best to follow your very fine example.

Cheers Grandad!

everyday eden :: a quilt


So, as expected, this nursing gig is taking up vast amounts of my time and energy.  Even when I’m not at the hospital, I find myself thinking about it regularly – especially how I could be doing better and hoping I survive the year!

a start

I’ve definitely landed in an incredibly high acuity facility which can sometimes make for very demanding shifts – when I fret about these Julian says “Just remember, next year when a patient like that arrives you’ll be saying – you’re THAT unwell – off to Canberra or Sydney with you!”

on the ironing board

But there is certainly still a lot of creating going on here in Bootville – more than ever, it’s what keeps me sane – allows my mind to unravel and soon after I sit down to needles and thread, fabric and wool, I am once more in a state of cheerful, imaginative peace.

pinned and ready

This little quilt – a single bed size – which I finished a couple of weeks back – makes me especially happy.

soaking up some afternoon sun

Not only are the delicious warm colours my favourite – but the gorgeous centrepiece of each block is a fabric called “Everyday Eden”!  How apt is that!

tousled in the sun

Eden is the little fishing village perched at the southern end of the Bega Valley.  When we drive east from Melbourne, we trundle across hundreds of kilometres of Victoria and then, soon after finally crossing the NSW / Victoria border, we hit Eden – the southern most village on Australia’s East Coast – and we know we’re back to our beloved Pacific Ocean and almost home to Mum’s.


It was such fun hunting through the stash, looking for just the right fabrics for the strips of this almost log cabin.

on with the binding

Of course there’s Kaffe – I firmly believe EVERY quilt looks good with some Kaffe – and lots from a lovely bundle I so generously received over Christmas from the Aussie Christmas Quilt swap!

on the line

Then onto a lovely cosy thrifted wool blanket.  No squiggly wiggly for this one – instead, in the centre of each block I quilted one large concentric, wobbly flower.

backing blanket

The borders were so narrow – such a 70s fabric – organic cotton with yellow and orange guitars – they didn’t need any quilting.

sunny house

joyful girl

headless but in love

flower girl

cheerful friends

groovy guy

Mmmm … look at these groovy folk – don’t they look as though living in Eden is pure bliss!  It’s a sign!

border and binding

hanging up

At the moment, this sweet quilt is laying on the spare ‘oom bed.  But – if all goes to plan, and our fingers are STILL crossed – we will need many quilts to line the walls of our next abode – a temporary one whilst we build our strawbale home – so I reckon the more the merrier!

blanket magic

We will also need plenty on the beds – yes, there will definitely be a time in the next couple of years when all my quilts may even become Julian’s best friends :-)

speckled with shadeAh colourful quilts – you do make me so happy.


afternoons in the summer backgarden


Living in Melbourne for the last 5 years has granted me an entirely new appreciation for the sun and its warmth, for brightness and colourful cheer.  One could almost call it an obsession.  See, in Brisbane, it is almost always hot and usually sunny.  There is so much colour and brightness it almost verges on the garish, and our upper legs were usually stuck together with sweat!  Gosh – we thought it was terrifically exciting to have a cool grey day and couldn’t wait to break out the woolies – even if it meant we had to sit under the swirling ceiling fans to really enjoy wearing them :-)

But here in Melbourne there are soooooooooo many bleak grey days that when the sun does shine I cannot bear to sit inside.  I’m not overly fond of sitting by myself either so, if there’s family around I drag them out into the garden too.  We set up the banana lounges (hard rubbished from an incredibly posh house on Beach road in Sandringham!), lay out a quilt and cushions, bring out our reading, drawing, knitting, crocheting, sewing … whatever takes our fancy, make up trays of drinks, tea, snacks, and soak up every last moment.

The dogs, of course, come voluntarily … they think its fabulous when we “play” in their territory.  They rush around and make sure the cheeky rabbits are behaving, those dastardly birds are staying away, and that there’s no alarming or new smells to be found,  then they flop down next to us, their eyes squinty shut in the sunlight and snooze. Oh we do love them so!

Now, we are heading into the last weeks of summer … soon the leaves will fall from the oak, the days will become so much shorter, the sitting room, with its cosy lamps, will become our favoured spot.  But for now – we will take every summery moment that’s offered, with even the humblest parts of the backgarden aglow and colourful

It’s so good for my soul.

curry plant

sun dappled quilt

mum knitting

a basket of wool

turquoise feet

even the washing basket glows

surely the last potato





mum and tea

pointy little Christmas hats

Well hello there!  Goodness – the last two weeks have just zipped by.  In a flurry of making.  Mostly Christmas making.  A little bit of birthday making.  Busy fingers indeed, with many hot creamy coffees to kickstart early morning stitching (one morning I made a bag between 5 am and school drop off!), and steamy cups of tea to keep the fingers moving into the wee hours.  So much to show!

looking down

But first … the dreaded GRAD YEAR!  I realised the other day – well, actually I was reminded by a lovely reader’s concerned email- that whilst I had blabbed all over instagram about the grad year applications, I hadn’t written about it here.  So, here it is! On the 14th October – an hour later than I thought was the designated time – I received an offer.  My first preference – The Alfred.  And last week I finally received my contract – I will be working a 4 day week (phew!) in the Renal, Endocrinology and Rheumatology Ward.  Also a first preference.  All that fretting ….

I really like more complex nursing where the patients have conditions that affect them systemically – where you’re constantly assessing and caring for the whole person not just one thing (I’m not at all cut out for the likes of orthopaedics – too production line).

I also like patients that hang around for a bit (not so good for them of course) because I really like building relationships with people and their families.  And Renal and Endocrinology – well that’s a growth industry in our western societies at the moment so the skills and experience I gain will stand me in good stead.

I hummed and haahed over these preferences.  I really really really would have loved to work at the Children’s and initially made them number 1.  But then … they are on the other side of town – so dreadful travelling – horrible public transport – no train, only tram with a change in town that requires running helter skelter down two blocks and up 1.  Car is no better – shocking traffic coming home from earlies (can take up to 2 hours to travel less than 10km) and often bad starting lates as well – and difficult, expensive parking.

Secondly – when I spoke with people in the know in Bega they said that if I applied to the new Bega hospital having done my grad year at the Children’s they’d be all “oh how nice.”  But if I applied having done my grad year at The Alfred, they’d be all “Woo-hoo!  Sign her up quick!”  Even my pharmacist yesterday was excited by the Alfred – it’s such a big hospital – and the state centre for so much, that I will see HEAPS.  And I loved working there in the ICU.  It’s a great place – especially for a learner like me.

So – as of the 12 January, 2015, I will be Lily Boot, Registered Nurse (Grade 2) at The Alfred.  Extraordinary really.  Really.  I arrived in Melbourne 5 years ago, with a basic BA, years of tutoring and boarding school work behind me, a smattering of retail experience and my horizons extending only as far as the dear little bookshop I worked at up in Elsternwick.  And I loved it.

But once that began to wind up – and Abby was settled into high school – and Julian busy with his work – and dreams of moving to the country/beach and building our own straw bale home began to take shape – I needed something else.  Something to fill up those long empty hours.  Something to challenge my mind.  Something to give me skills that would allow me to both contribute meaningfully to my community and give me a decent living so that our country/beach/strawbale dream could become a reality.  And nursing just ticked all the boxes.  I still can’t believe I did it!

I think back to that first year – travelling into town 4 days a week, sitting in classes, grasping exactly how they wanted me to write an essay (scientists are so different to humanists!), picking my way through the throngs of noisy teenagers I shared my classes with.  It was so weird.  I was really scared about losing my sense of being – of stopping being me – stay at home mum to Abby, wife to Julian, stitcher, knitter, home potterer.  Still am a bit.  And the end goal of BEING a nurse seemed ridiculously far away.  Oy!

But the take home message dear reader – do it!  Doesn’t matter how old you are (I was by far the eldest in every class and on almost every ward).  Doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past.  Just do it!  Pick that thing you’ve always thought might be good and jump in feet first.  It will be scary and overwhelming and make you think you’ve utterly lost the plot sometimes, but if you just keep plodding away, it can happen.  I failed Biology in high school – which was 25 years ago – and yet I topped my University Physiology and Anatomy class.

Honestly, I think as adults – especially creative adults like us, who enjoy a challenge, learning something new, keeping busy – we are so well suited to starting something new.  We’ve sorted almost everything else.  We’re know we can’t afford to stuff around – time, money, family, responsibilities and all.  And we know how time flies.

We’re so much more efficient and capable than those lovely, ditzy teenagers (said with complete affection – I made many lovely friends amongst my young classmates! – and they’re only just like I was when I was their age) and we’ve just had so much more experience at LIFE, that so many things make so much more sense to us than them.

So – if you want to make a change, come over here so I can wholeheartedly throw my arms around you, give you a big hug, and say “Of course you can!!!!!!!”

Okay …  onto pointy little Christmas hats …

pink one

So Mum’s gone to Canada for the holidays – we have family in Vancouver – and at the last minute – of course it was last minute – I thought it would be nice to knit each of the little cousins – there’s 5 of them now – a pointy elfy hat for Christmas.

I could just picture them all at Aunty Mary’s, the snow falling outside, the lights twinkling inside, and all five of them lined up – in height order – with their pointy knitted hats.  What a cute photo, huh!  So a couple of days before Mum arrived (her flight left from Melbourne), I began knitting and at first I was able to use wool from the stash.  Awesome way to finish up leftover bulky yarn and I didn’t even have to leave the house.  That’s my kind of crafting.

Biggest first – for my dear little 8 year old nephew Oscar.  Thank goodness I did the biggest first.  I would have hated knitting the biggest at 1:30am the morning Mum left.

one hat

Then I knitted the littlest – for my cute little 3 month old cousin James.  That was a blitz.  One episode of Zen, on iView, at my desk, and it was done.

2 hats

Then there were three middles starting with my busy little 3 year old cousin Caleb.

3 hats

But then there were no new colours for the next two – only rehashes of the previous three – bit ho-hum.  I just had to go down to Wondoflex and for some reason, there never seemed to be a good time – until 2 days before Mum left.

Which meant I knitted one for my sweet little 18 month old cousin Frankie before I cooked Abby’s birthday supper the day before Mum left.

funny little points

And finally knitted the last one for my funny little nephew Sam on the Thursday night AFTER Abby’s birthday supper. I think I cheered when I reached the decreasing rounds.  And danced about as I cast off.  Well staggered’s probably more accurate.  It was very late.

However, I can now tell you, dear reader, that if you need to knit a heap of presents in a very short space of time – the Fuzzy Little Shapka Hat is the real deal.  Awesomely easy, quick, lovely, doesn’t even use a whole ball of bulky … ticks all the boxes it does. Ravelled here.

5 hats

And when the fam send me that photo – of all 5 little heads lined up in their stripey pointy elfy Christmas hats – I’ll be sure to show you :-)


a wooden spoon :: sugar plum fairy

a hand for holding

Oh my!  Have I been having fun!

Now, I’ve had a Pinterest account for a while – if you’re interested, there’s an icon for my account in the left hand toolbar – but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really practiced the fine art of spending hours and hours trawling through the amazing creativity of others and pinning all my favourites onto an ever increasing number of boards.

Oh the things I dream of doing!  I need an indoor staircase so I can wallpaper the risers. I’ll need a couple of kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms so as to use up all the loveliness I find.  Hundreds of quilts – of course.  Exotic things in the garden that will require far greener thumbs than I possess.  Then there’s the new skills I need to acquire – lino cutting, print making, papier mache sculpting … I almost begin to hyperventilate and I can’t decide between sitting and looking, or rushing away and doing.

Sunday morning saw us gathered in the cosy corner of the kitchen; Julian home (for just 30 hours – can you believe it! – home at 3.30am Sunday and gone again Monday at 9.30am) – sliding fresh expressos and creams across the desk every 1/2 hour or so, Abby by my side – saying “Oh! There! There! Pin that! That one!”; and me having a blissful time looking at so many beautiful handmade dolls …

Until I could bear it no longer and simply had to make a doll of my own.  A lovely amalgamation of so many dolls I saw and loved.  A wooden spoon doll with pipe cleaner arms and a little bit of corriedale roving for the body and hair, a wee crocheted bodice, a gathered skirt …

And because Melinda is so lovely and asked how … here is a little demonstration of how I made my sugar plum fairy.  Hope it makes sense … and inspires you to make one of your own!

one spoon

So I started with a small wooden spoon – bigger than a teaspoon but not a dessert spoon – the sort you buy in a packet at party supply stores.

wrapped pipe cleaner

And one long pipecleaner – also in a packet from Winterwood – it’s about 12 inches long.  I used the technique of wrapping the last  2 inches of each end of the pipecleaner (as perfected by the incredibly gifted artist Salley Mavor) with embroidery floss – I used DMC perle cotton no. 8 – in your skin colour of choice.  Start 2 inches in, winding the thread firmly and neatly – make sure you check both sides so that you don’t leave any gaps – to the end of the pipe cleaner.  Then fold the wrapped end in half so that a little hand is made from the the bend and wrap the raw end to the pipecleaner so that it is covered.  Fasten and trim.  I leave an inch of floss which I’ll later cover with the arm wrapping.

wrap it around spoon

Now – position your pipecleaner evenly on the spoon with its 2 wrapped hands out to each side.  Twist the pipe cleaner around the spoon handle, making sure your arms are at an even height – you don’t want wonky shoulders.

2 arms

Next – because I am in a crochet mood – and because I saw an amazing bird cage made from a large whisk which had had its wire loops crocheted over, crochet a single row along each arm – from the wrist to the back – making sure to keep the stitches firm (not tight) and neatly lined up.  There are your sleeves!  This was a bit fiddly and really, the end result was pretty much like blanket stitch – which will be precisely what I do next time.

wee bit of crochet

Crochet a little bodice.  I used 4 ply cotton thread and a size 2 mm crochet hook and followed the same stitch layout I am using in Attic24’s Stripey Blanket CAL.  You should check out Lucy’s tutorials – they are so incredibly clear and helpful and Lucy is the Queen of Colour.  I made my bodice 18 chains long after deciding on how rounded I wanted my doll’s bodice.

four planes

wrap some wool around the body

Pull the Corriedale roving into long thin strips and wrap the upper half of the spoon handle, making it the most rounded around her bust and tapering it off past her waist.  I then pushed the doll’s arms through the crocheted bodice – there’s always a gap somewhere – overlapped the back and sewed it shut.


I used a scrap of quilt binding – cut at 2 3/4 inch – for her skirt.  I machine sewed my skirt’s ends together (1/4 inch seam) then pressed up a quarter inch hem and machine stitched it.  I handstitched a gathering thread around the waist and pulled it in to fit my spoon doll with her roving bodice – tie the gathering thread ends together, push them through a needle, and then pull this through the roving and trim.  Use a few hand stitches to fasten the waist of the skirt to the roving and pull the bodice down over the top of the skirt waistband.

Night fell, and dim light precluded any more photos so now we jump to the finished doll!

Next, I added a bow to the waist – I just cut the ribbon to the desired length, tied a bow and stitched it onto her bodice/waistband/roving body with a button.

The hair.  I used more roving to create a beehive.  I started by covering the top 1/3 of the spoon’s bowl with white glue which I wrapped the roving round.  I tried needlefelting but really, I just kept hitting the wood with the needle, so I just lightly poked it until it was all attached.

Then I added this lovely single ply yarn that has a lightweight wire centre.  It’s kinda smooshed on.  Nothing flash – poked the end into the roving best I could.  Then I added the sequins – each one attached with a little crystal bead.  I mostly used these to attach the yarn to the roving.  I added a button with a sequin and bead – piece de resistance! – to cover the still visible end of the yarn/wire.

Finally, I painted the face.  Very simply.  Terrified I would completely stuff it up.  The mouth’s a bit wonky – but then again, I think it looks like my lipstick these days!  Bit of a problem with straightness these days ;-)

sun on hair

close up of bow

wee hand

And here she is!  Miss Plum! My little wooden spoon – sugar plum fairy.  I’m certainly making more of these little sweeties for the Christmas tree.  I was also thinking they’d make a nice mobile.  Oh!  You could stick them in a cupcake – how pretty would that be!  Tsk!  Can’t believe we’re not having a birthday party this year – these wooden spoon dolls would make lovely party favours for the guests – don’t you think?!  Course they would.

in the shadow

in the light
I love how the afternoon light would sometimes glint off her so prettily – clouds scudding by and trees bending in the wind and all – but Abby thought the darker photos were nicer.  So I put in both – Abby’s photo, my photo – Abby’s photo, my photo.

abbys choice

with lavender

One of our last flowering stems of lavender. Miss Plum has the perfect hand for holding a wee bloom.  And said she’ll mind it til next spring.  What a sweetie.

side on close up

I’ve already started the next wooden spoon doll … a bigger version … a Wattle Fairy for the top of our Christmas tree … with a mantle of gum leaves … here’s a glimpse …

wattle fairyAhhh … such delight!


the crabapples of finch street

One of the things that always brings me a lovely sense of “ahhhh …” is driving down Finch Street.  It lies between our place and the little girl’s school I nanny/tutor – well, it does on my carefully planned route :-)

And no matter the time of year, Finch Street – with its grand old houses and magnificent trees is breathtakingly lovely.  The other little girl I used to nanny (who moved to Sydney last year) used to ask me to drive down it specially, and we’d drive slowly, ooohing and aaaahing over our favourite houses, discussing who’d have which room, where we’d put the furniture, and the garden parties we’d hold.

There’s even a truly exquisite old mansion that does high teas – we always said we would go but never did.  That’s a lesson in life, isn’t it – do it now or you’ll miss out.

Now part way along Finch Street is this pretty little roundabout which looks nice enough most of the year, but in spring it is glorious.  ‘Cause in the middle is a beautifully shaped crabapple and it puts out the prettiest spring blossoms ever.

Oh they are the perfect shade of pink with those vivid but soft green spring leaves making the rosy blossoms leap out even more.  And when you stop and peer closely, the blossoms are filled with funny little black flying insecty things.  I’ve no idea what they are – but I have checked other crabapples in my neighbourhood and they have them too.

Clearly funny little black flying insecty things are especially fond of crabapples.  We’re kindred spirits, me and those insects.


So when I was playing with this Storybook charm pack the other day, it was crabapples that sprang to mind.  I had two charm packs so I laid them out on my bed – in that carefully random way we all strive for – and because that wasn’t going to make a very big quilt, added a very pretty pink 1930s repro I had – as crosses.  Maybe it’s a nursey thing, but I do like crosses lately.


Might add, it wasn’t until I was pinning the finished quilt top out that I realised the Storybook range is baby fabric!  There’s onesies and bibs on the wee clotheslines!  Never mind – it’s still very pretty – and the castles and birds and pirate ships are just lovely.


close up of pins

Found the loveliest blanket for backing – it is so thick and fresh – methinks it’s hardly been used.  And such perfect colours for my crabapple quilt.


My original intention was to quilt alternating crabapples and blossoms in the simple squares.  However – this here apple was the only one of 13 that turned out – boy that was some serious unpicking.  Didn’t matter how much I practiced I just could NOT get any other apples nice and rounded.  Hmph.

the only good apple

So blossoms it was.  Lovely crinkly edged, smooshed layers just like those on the crabapple tree.  With leaves of course.  I do so love that about the crabapple – how it bursts forth with its leaves and blossoms at the same time.

quilting the flowers


with bug


close up pink circles

They came up especially pretty on the back of the blanket.  I reckon I would cheerfully use this quilt face up or down.

sewing in the last threads

Like Orlando’s Blue Oaks from last week, all this quilting was an excellent adventure in free motion quilting!  There are 110 crabapple blossoms, 4 slightly wonky but okay apples in each corner, inner borders of squiggly-wiggly – representing the bluestone walls of the Finch Street roundabout, and outer borders of funny little black flying insecty things – joined together on a meandering flight path with leaves along the way.  It was a make it up as I went along kind of thing.

And I did unpick quite a bit – anything I wasn’t pleased with got the pick – sometimes it felt like I was spending more time on the sofa flicking those errant stitches out than I was at the sewing machine!  Some of the flying insects are a bit wonky but they’ll get better with practice.  I’m especially fond of the “wings” in each of the blue and white triangles – I can imagine doing something that incorporates lots and lots of them very soon

apple and wings

closer the back

pink buds

lots of bugs

Isn’t that sky amazing!  When a lovely spring day comes along here in Melbourne, it is seriously lovely.

reaching for the sky

the whole quilt

top left corner

bottom right corner

on the garden bench



on grass

blew onto ground

As I mentioned the other day, crabapples are on my list to plant when we move to our land in the beautiful Bega Valley.  But no matter where we venture, this sweet little quilt will always remind me of Finch Street.  When we tuck it round us on a cold evening, or lay it out under a summer’s tree for a little one to play on, I’ll remember the beauty of Finch Street and its exquisite roundabout crabapple – the very first time I met this dear little spring sweetie.



quilting the teacloths


Some tea cloths are just too pretty to subject to the washing up and scrunched up to lift hot cast iron pans – which often leads me to thinking about what nice wall hangings they would make – and yet, I rarely get around to it.


Until recently, when I tidied up all the fabric that was shoved in around our little indoor craft table and found this sweet cloth.  I bought it with Mum when we made our epic 3 day drive to Brisbane at the beginning of the year.  We’d deliberately gone well out of our way to visit this little village in the Southern Highlands which had an amazing antique store.  Only when we finally got there – our pennies burning their way through our purses – the store had closed two years earlier after its owners had died.  So sad! We found this out at the Alpaca store – where we also found these lovely tea cloths by the very talented Australian artist – Red Tractor Designs.  I adore her work because it IS so very Australian.  Every piece I see brings a smile of recognition to my face – I can imagine the sun, the smells, the warmth …

I bought this one because it made me think of the future Julian and I are planning – see there’s me off to the left planting some seeds and Julian doing important digging on the right :-)

future lily

future jules

– and Mum bought another lovely one for dear old Nanny.  You can check out more of Rachael Flynn’s wonderful work here. Her Christmas cards are especially lovely – no snowmen or ice skaters in sight! – a girl after my own Australian heart.

cocoa lorax

The bright squares of colour against the black makes me think of licorice allsorts – another sentimental reminder of my childhood.  And the brown – why it’s that Lorax again (I bought metres and metres of him at Darn Cheap one day – I daresay he will keep popping up in things) – ’cause he’s the best gardener of all.

pocket for hangin

On the back there’s a wee pocket for hanging and lots of squiggles … I tried out a few new wobby quilting strategies on this.  Tried quilting round the loraxs – didn’t really work so well.  And made little loopy circles in the licorice allsorts squares.  They worked better and are definitely something I will keep practising. Oh and there’s a pocket at the bottom as well – I’m going to put another wooden rod in there and hopefully it will help it hanging straighter against the wall.

lots of squiggles

first line

second line

And where’s it hanging now?  In the funniest little nook we have between the kitchen and the toilet.  That’s right – our only toilet is off the kitchen.  Let me tell you how much guests enjoy using our toilet when we’re all gathered in the kitchen ;-)  Funny story – sorry if I’ve already shared this – but Abby and I found our sweet little house during a hectic week in October the year before we moved.  It was quite the adventure, finding properties online whilst in the hotel room in the city, then catching trams and trains and walking for miles everywhere to see them.  Was particularly galling to spend 2 hours travelling to view a house that was hideously unsuitable and totally misrepresented online.

Anyways – we found our little house and snapped it up on the spot – without Julian.  He said he trusted us.  Only when he arrived weeks later with the furniture, he called – part bemused, part frantic – because according to him, Abby and I had rented a house with NO TOILET.

Now when he first said this, given all the appalling properties we had viewed, it didn’t seem completely implausible and I burst into tears.  “Oh no!” I shrieked, “how could it have no toilet.  Surely they couldn’t rent a house with no toilet!”  Thankfully, Julian kept wandering through the house and finally exclaimed with relief “Found it!  It’s right out in the back corner – through a funny little door off the kitchen!” Phew!

tucked in its corner

And where the quilt is hanging – that was a locked screen door into the back garden with no other means of closing it.  Let me tell you how cold that was!  Made you think twice about going to the toilet on a cold night.  It didn’t take long before we whacked up a protective piece of MDF.


So now, on the way to our funny toilet, you’ll see this pretty quilt and hopefully think of nice things – instead of the fact that everyone in the kitchen will hear you pee.



rolling beeswax :: a recipe

sheets of beeswax

:: take some sheets of heavenly scented, perfectly formed beeswax
– sigh with thanks & wonder over the hard work
& meticulous nature of the honey bee


:: gather specially woven cotton wick, scissors for wick cutting,
& sacrificial scissors for beeswax cutting

bury the wick

:: lay your sheet of beeswax with the shorter edge towards you
– cut your wick to fit with an extra 1/2 inch dangling from the top – you need something to light
– lay it 1/4 inch in from your short edge – fold the short edge of the wax over it, taking care to squoosh it down good and tight
– then firmly, firmly, firmly, roll away from you, making a tight, smooth, even baclava log of beeswax
– voila! you’ve made a candle

like baclava

:: keep rolling and rolling and rolling until you have all the candles you want
– or you run out of sheets of beeswax – or wick – or time

all those little hexagons
:: understand that if you were  a medieval monk,
your candles would only be used in the stables,
every one of them being a slightly different width and length

from the top

:: but know, that when you light them, they will nevertheless
cast the most beautiful glow
& fill your room with a honeyed scent
you’ll want to soak yourself in


:: whilst the candles rest, gather a scrap of blanket


:: a pretty piece of fabric

with pins

:: & some pins


:: quilt & bind


:: sew down the binding by hand
– the bees would never machine sew the final edge
of a binding & neither should you

on the tin

:: pin & sew onto a tin


:: gather up the scraps of beeswax stuck in the candlesticks
all round the house

scraps for melting

:: add them to the shards of beeswax sheets
you found under the laundry sink
& put in a bowl suitable for sitting over a pot
of simmering water for melting

ready for dipping

:: gather your rolled candles – in your quilted tin of course
& take then to the kitchen

melting the scraps

:: over a small pot of simmering water, melt your wax scraps


:: dunk the wick end of each of your candles in the hot amber liquid
– it’s better not to get it on your fingers, but remember
beeswax melts at a very low temperature so it will only smart for a second
then you can peel it off like a spare piece of skin with no harm done


:: stand the candles to dry, taking care that their soft warm tips
do not touch each other


:: admire the sweetness you have made

on the shelf

:: pop your tin of beeswax candles on a prominent shelf
– easy to get to and pretty to look at

new kitchen nook

:: stand back & shake your head with delight
over how much more you love your house since
the weekend’s huge re-arrange


:: then, when dusk finally falls,
gently push your candles into their candlesticks & light

close up windowsill

:: sigh …