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!


watermelons for summer :: a twirly skirt

the beginning

The great wool tidy has revealed many treasures (as well as plenty for recycling) including this summery watermelon fabric and a pretty blue paisley that looks oh so French.  They’re cotton – and that bubbly sort of fabric – oh, what’s it called?  I can never remember, but have loved it ever since my Mum bought me a pair of pink and white stripe tailored shorts in it when I was 11.  Begins with an “s” … it will come to me.

Two metres of each fabric – perfect for a twirly skirt just like this long time favourite.  And perfect for the exceedingly hot summer we are having – lovely and soft and floaty and long – ‘t’will both keep the sun off and a breeze circulating :-)

I’ve made lots of these skirts – they are a little time consuming only in that it’s amazing how long it can take to gather up length after length after length of fabric – but they are so simple and can be dressed up or down to wear anywhere.  The only sizing is in the waist – and that’s elastic.  I’ve made Abby the most over the years – this little Aunt Grace number is still a favourite that she now wears with knee high black lace up boots and a little cropped jacket (I know – how they grow up).


I made a beautiful red, cream and black one for Mum one Christmas that she wears in winter with black opaque tights and a black turtleneck, and of course the original one I made with Ruth in class – that was such a lovely morning and such a delight to be able to simply wander upstairs to all the beautiful fabrics and trims when I needed something.  Oh if only all our sewing could be done with such treasures at hand :-)


You can use as many different fabrics as you like and completely go to town on the trim if you want.  I decided to keep this watermelony one pretty simple – given there was no more than 2 metres of any trim anywhere in Bootville, keeping it simple meant I didn’t have to go to the fabric store and spend money.  Of course, I may do this tomorrow, but for now, simple it is.

And, it occurred to me as I was slicing up the fabric, that you might like to make one too.  So here’s a really simple tutorial for how to make up your own.  Starting with … clear your sewing table.  This is so empowering :-)

ready to start

Then … cut the fabric!  I use a rotary cutter and quilting ruler.  Can you read that below?  Ignore that big 6.01 that’s staring out at you from the middle background.  I don’t know why it won’t go away.  Just choose your fabrics – order them from tiers one to six, fold them like you would your patchwork fabric (i.e. selvedges together, folded once, then twice, place your quilting ruler at the appropriate mark and with your rotary cutter, slice straight across the width of the fabric so you wind up with a piece that is – if we’re talking about tier 1 – 8 long x 42 inches wide.

Now – a word about this tier one piece.  It will be the yoke of the skirt.  When I was first shown how to make the skirt, I was told to cut just one width for the yoke ’cause you don’t want a lot of bulk around your waist.  However, these days (after a massive FAIL at losing weight last year – I have lost 4 kilos this year, but we still have a waaaaaay to go) one width only just makes it around my hips (well, lower stomach really, it’s a very strange thing my lower stomach).  I did cut this watermelony tier one piece just one width but it’s a bit snug.  I would recommend adding an extra bit of fabric just to keep it comfy – and eliminate the “fitted look” – if you find that one width is just a bit too close.  I reckon, measure your widest bit and add an extra 10 inches, don’t you think, in which case you’ll need two widths of 8 inches – one full one and one that you’ll use a bit of.

cutting instructions

Gathering – now that you’ve cut your pieces, the rest is just a repeat of side seams + gathering threads + gathering to size + stitching to previous tier.  Do your side seams first – you stitch each tier piece together so that they form a giant ring – and make sure you don’t twist the pieces or it will be like a piece of knitting joined in the round – an upside down twist that will be impossible to fix without unpicking.  Just be mindful.  And you probably have your gathering completely sorted.  But just in case you don’t, here’s a few strategies I’ve developed over the years …

::  I always do two rows of gathering thread at the longest stitch my machine will do, leaving nice long tails at both ends.  Now when I was a wilful teenager, I didn’t believe my Mum when she told me I needed two rows of gathering thread – I thought that was a waste of bobbin thread and my valuable time.  But she was right – one row makes mincy looking gathers that can’t be spread out as evenly and don’t sit as neatly.   Two rows it is.  Use a colour thread you don’t care about and wonder why you bought it – that way you won’t feel cheated as you race through it.

where to sew the gathering thread

:: It doesn’t matter how many widths of fabric I am gathering, I NEVER use two continuous rows of gathering thread.  You are almost guaranteed to snap the thread somewhere – and will have to start again – and it makes pulling it up a pain in the butt.  I ALWAYS stop and start at the beginning and end of each side seam.  So – in Tier 2 – which has 2 widths of 8 inches – I will start and stop twice.  That way I only have to pull up one width of fabric at a time.  In Tier 6 – which has 5 widths of fabric of 7 inches – I will start and stop 5 times.

:: To evenly distribute my gathers I do a little maths.  How wide is the previous tier – let’s say tier 4 – each width is 122cm wide and I have three pieces  = 366cm.  How many pieces are there in tier 5 which will need to stitch on to tier 4 – 4 pieces.  So I divide the bottom of tier 4 into 4 – 366 divided by 4 = roughly 91.5cm.  So starting at my central side seam (I always line up one side seam on each tier and call this the central side seam) I measure 91.5 and place a pin, then measure 91.5cm again and place a pin, and measure again and place a pin – and of course the last one will be back at your central side seam.  Then I pin tier 5 into place – the side seams of each tier 5 piece will match up to a pin on the tier 4 piece.  You with me ?!  So now you know your gathered pieces need to fit within these spaces.  Which leads me to …

:: Gathering it up!  First – will your fabric fray?  If it is of that persuasion, then please zigzag the edges first – I know, more thread, more time.  But if you’re fussing with the gathers for a while, some fabrics will nastily fray all the way down to your gathering stitches and that isn’t fun.

Second – I always pull from the left side so on the right side I tie a knot with the two ends from my two rows on top.  This way, when I’m cheerfully spreading my gathers out nice and even, they don’t slip off the far end without me noticing.  That may send very silly – but I have done it!  Once that knot is tied, you can spread your gathers evenly right up to the end and they are going nowhere.

Now don’t just yank on the gathering thread at the left- there’s always a bit of resistance at first – start with a gentle pull to loosen the bobbin stitches underneath and then your gathering threads will slide through the fabric nicely.  I don’t worry about doing it all evenly in the beginning – waste of time.  I just pull up as much as I need to to make this width fit my designated space (remember our pins) and then when I have it the right size I tie a knot in the left hand two top threads and then my gathers will not fall out and I can spread the gathers evenly right up to both ends.  Pin, pin, pin and sew …

:: Final word on gathering – I always sew the new tier on with the gathered side up.  The flat side of the previous tier will sit nice and flat on the bottom with minimum supervision – the gathers themselves need a bit more of your attention.  I like to keep the tops of the gathers neatly aligned with the straight edge of the previous tier and make sure there are no strange skewif bits going on – you know, you want your gathers to lay in nice straight lines not go awkwardly sideways.  If they’re on the bottom it’s much harder to see what’s going on and I wind up needing to unpick and straighten.  Keep your gathers on top.

sew with the gathered side up pin both ends then gather in between swathes of fabric

So off you go – sew, sew, sew, gather, gather, gather, sew, sew, sew … I added a tier of green – one always needs a good grove of greenery to survive a hot day, don’t you think.

getting there ric rac

Okay.  All your tiers are on.  Now before you get excited about trim, overlock or zigzag your tier edges.  This uses even more cotton.  You will think the end will never come.  It does, but not til after school pickup.  Then, when your edges are beautifully neat, give the whole skirt a good press so that all those tiers are sitting FLAT.  There’s nothing like a good bash with the iron to make a piece of handmade clothing go from looking slightly clumsy with bumpy bits to being polished and professional :-)  Now you can put on your trim.


For the waist, overlock or zig zag the top edge then turn over enough to hold your elastic. Stitch close to the lower edge of your turnover, leaving a gap to thread your elastic through.  Thread your elastic – sew the ends together, making sure you don’t twist your elastic (I can’t count how many times I have twisted the jolly elastic – eternally frustrating).  Sew shut your gap.  Overlock or zig zag the bottom edge of the last tier and hem it, just on the machine – I did about 1cm.  I seriously considered not hemming after overlocking it, but Abby reckoned it looked dorky so I hemmed it.  I’m an obedient mama.  Again – endless stitching – you think you will never get back to the beginning – and you probably won’t before the bobbin runs out!  Argh!

wearing it

It’s ready to wear!  Yay!  It’s taken about 4 hours.  That’s not too bad huh!  I’m rather fond of that red ric rac – will definitely be getting more tomorrow – a nice round of red for each tier, yes?  Yes!  I’ll need about 15 metres just to be safe.

pulled out ballerina poseNow I’m ready to hit the beach on another weekend of temperatures over 40 celsius – in my floaty, twirly watermelon skirt.  And when I’ve lost a few more inches around the waist, I may even tuck in my t-shirt and add a belt :-0

Hope this is all clear – if there’s something I haven’t made easy to follow, send me an email at lily(at)blockaday(dot)com and I’ll do my best to set you straight.  And if you do make a twirly skirt, send me a photo – I’d love to see how YOU put your fabrics together and what kind of trims you find.  Enjoy!


postcards from the beach – crochet a christmas garland!

When the afternoon wind picks up across the bay, we retreat from the front porch to the courtyard.  A warm and golden nook, rich in whimsy, colour and fragrance.  A lovely spot for wiling away an afternoon.  Mum climbed chairs and draped fabric.  I searched through a tattered paper bag of yarn – filled with knitted projects from so long ago.  I think it was the start of a blanket.  There’s also plenty of leftover mustard coloured yarn from the cardigan my Nanny knitted me for my eighteenth birthday.  That’s good – it was attacked during the great moth debacle of 2006 and needs some repairs to the cuff and neckline.

There was also a dear little knitting nancy.  Isn’t Mlle Nancy just the sweetest thing in a knitter’s basket?  Have you spent years lifting those wee loops over the nails, producing metres and metres of cord, with little idea of what to do with it, apart from dolls house rugs that is.  We’ve made plenty of those.

I think, if I was to search through every box in Bootville, I would find enough knitting-nancy-cord to take to the Elsternwick shops and back.  And ever the enthusiast, I am knitted more on the journey home …

… however, sitting in the courtyard, whilst Mum pondered the best way to suspend her shade canopy, I hit upon a brilliant use for this here red cord – inspired by the crocheted motifs I was stitching from that lovely book I shared yesterday.

See, I’ve learnt a couple of really neat new-to-me techniques that I so enjoy, I’ve been using them over and over and over … the slip ring (instead of chain 4 or 6 etc. and join ring ), making my stitches into the back loop only (provides a lovely “running stitch” effect) and creating loops on the underside so as to add extra layers.  Add that to some balls of 5 ply baby yarn that was in yet another bag of wool that Mum dug out of somewhere, and I designed a wee flower that just begs to be added to some knitted cord for a Christmas garland.

I’ve not yet finished my Christmas garland but figured that since it will take at least a week or so – and you might like to make one too and will also need some time before you put up the Christmas decorations to get it done – I would provide a wee tutorial right now, with just six finished and as many more to go as I am happy to make.  Would you like to crochet and knit a Christmas garland?  Course you would :-)  If you don’t have a knitting nancy doll, you can knit your cord instead – it’s just icord.

Okay … here’s the deal.  And please remember that this Christmas garland is an original pattern made by me and is for personal use only.  Cool!

:: A Christmas Garland Tutorial by Lily Boot ::

Gather your supplies – 5 ply yarn (Sport weight) for the flowers, 8 ply (DK/light worsted) for the leaves, 8 ply for the knitting nancy/icord, and 5 ply for the central stamen.  I used a 3mm crochet hook for all the crochet (courtesy of my brilliant Mollie Makes magazine!) and a yarn needle for attaching the flower to the cord.

Make your cord!  As long as you want.  I’ve produced about 3 metres.  I shall probably keep going  – the longer, the merrier :-) – well, until I get bored.

:: For the flower ::

Make a slip ring (here’s a really great description with instructions and pictures)

:: Round 1

Chain 3 (to represent the first treble), make 13 more trebles (tr) into the slip ring.  Pull the slip ring tight.  Slip stitch (ss) the top of the last treble into the top of the 3rd chain.  You now have 14 stitches to work from for the second round.

:: Round 2

Chain 2 (to represent the first double), *make 2 doubles (dc) in the back loop only of the next stitch*.  Repeat from * to * 12 more times.  Slip stitch the top of the last double into the top of the 2nd chain.  You now have 27 stitches to work from for the third round.

:: Round 3

Chain 6.  * Slip stitch into the next three stitches.  On the third of these stitches, chain 6*.  Repeat from * to * 7 more times.  Slip stitch into last two stitches.  You now have 9 loops to work in for the fourth round.

:: Round 4

*In the next loop, make 12 tr.  Make 1 dc in the second slip stitch*.  Repeat from * to * 8 more times.  You now have 9 petals.  Fasten off.

:: Round 5

Turn flower over.  Working on the back, fasten green yarn for leaves to the stitch underneath the centre of the first petal as per the photograph.  Work 3 chain.  Slip stitch into the stitch underneath the centre of the next petal.  Repeat until you are back to the beginning, making a slip stitch into the first green stitch.  You now have 9 green leaf loops on the back of your flower to work for the sixth round.

:: Round 6

In each green, work 1 dc, 1 half treble (htr), 2 tr, 1 double treble (dtr), 2 tr, 1 ht, 1 dc.  Repeat in each loop.  Finish with a slip stitch into the original green stitch.  Fasten off.

:: Attaching the flower to the icord ::

Cut a piece of the stamen yarn, at least 50cm long.  Using this, make 2 firm stitches through your icord as per the photograph leaving a tail of at least 5 cm in your position of choice.

Place your flower on top, bringing the needle with the stamen yarn up through the centre of the original ring.   Switch from yarn needle to crochet hook.

Pick up a loop of stamen yarn through one of the original centre trebles.  Make 5 chain.  Take directly across (from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock) and slip through the opposite original centre treble.  Repeat two more times (second time, going from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock).

Switch back to yarn needle.  Take the end of the stamen yarn back through the flower to the back of the icord where the 5 cm tail awaits.

Tie the two tails together in a reef knot.  Stitch the ends into the icord – one in one direction, the other in the opposite, as per the photograph.

Your first flower is finished!  Now, repeat as many times as desired :-)

I hope these instructions are clear.  I think this is the first crochet pattern I have ever written.  So if you find a mistake, I do apologise.  I have used these instructions 4 more times myself and they make sense to me, but if they fail to make sense to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me – lily(at)blockaday(dot)com – and I will do my best to help!

I hope you love making these flowers and the Christmas Garland as much as I do.  Send me photos of your work!  I would love to see what you make :-)


a spring bangle – it’s almost a how to

oh hello!  fell off the blogosphere for a week or so – must have been the school holidays – we were having too much fun :-) – there’s some lovely adventures to share and it’s sure nice to be back!

It’s a funny-peculiar time of year.  The deciduous trees are looking glorious – honestly, today when parking in my customary side street to pick up the wee girlies from school, my heart lifted up into the air and floated amongst the velvety green spring leaves of the plane trees.  They are transforming an elegant but bleak streetscape into a verdant cathedral of pale green light.   And the blossoms – everywhere is voluptuous with blossom.  But the weather – ghastly.  C–o–l–d.  Knife-like breeze.  Grey drizzle.  How on earth does the flora know it’s time to start the exhibition.

So I’m looking at spring, thinking of spring, choosing the colours of spring, but tugging my spring shawl tighter …. and putting on the heating at night.

During a shivery afternoon in the sewing shed, whilst helping Abby with her Gakupo costume (oy!  that’s another whole story) I made a bangle – from the inner cardboard ring of an almost empty ball of crochet cotton.  It’s lovely and thick and stiff.  I measured a piece of scrap batting against it (literally trimmed off the edges of a quilt – the only scraps I don’t keep are the pieces of trimmed thread – I am eternally optimistic!) …

quilted this onto a piece of lovely soft green polka dot (just like those leaves) …

cut larger circles out of the red of our roses (the first of whose petals we bottled in a batch of strawberry sauce on the weekend) … onto scraps of vlisefix first (left over from the Michaelmas banner), then ironed onto the scraps of red fabric …

and the smaller circles out of colourful wee scraps from the scrap basket – the yellow of the ranunculas, the blue and purple of the bluebells and stock, and the pink of the cherry blossoms …

work out where I like them …

then pop in pins at 12 o’clock to remind me, peel off the vlisefix and iron them on …

then embroidery … didn’t know when to stop, per usual

I work with this theory – a little bit is great and I can appreciate it’s elegance.  But I always push past this – only to then clap my hand to my forehead and think – oops, now it’s looking a bit manky – which I remedy by going completely to town – I always think this solves the crisis.  There’s no middle ground – a little bit – completely smothered.  Anything in between doesn’t work :-)  That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it :-)

I wrapped this wee quilty thing around the cardboard ring, nice and taut.  Folded over a hem and ladder stitched it hut.   Then cut into the edge, turned the edge in and glued it down with white glue.  I thought I would need to peg it, but I didn’t.

Instead, I wore it out to dinner at cousin Hannah’s – smelling slightly of eau – de – white glue.  Very spring like scent.

A fun and quick bit of stitchiness that drew me back to the sewing shed.  And who knows – it might serve as a totem and send these October showers on their way and bring back those magical days of warmth we had last month!

p.s. egads!  check out that wrinkly old hand.  It’s Julian’s fault.  I’m actually shedding skin like a snake.  And the dirty thumb nail – Julian’s fault again (if I was living in Queensland, I’d be able to blame Anna Bligh – alas, I’m now a Victorian so I’ll have to settle for Julian.)