Friday, December 31, 2010

Keeping it Simple

I'm working on a large project today--king size to be exact. I'd bought material for it some time ago, but when I went to put it together earlier this week, I just couldn't settle with design I had mapped out for it. I took it back to the drawing board. Then of course I had to take myself back to the fabric store. For the design--take 2--I decided to keep it simple. I can't show the whole project, since it's going to be a gift, but here's a sample of fabric with some fun 3D stickers that I happened to pick up on the same shopping trip:
I might just have to put that up somewhere in my studio as a reminder. Keep it simple, sweetheart! Sometime less is more.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Zip Zing

I removed this zipper from a t-shirt yesterday. What was a zipper doing in a t-shirt? Well may you ask. Apparently it was there as an embellishment. I liked everything else about the garment when I tried it on. The shaping suits me. The colour is one of my favourites. There's a bold black print, nicely placed across the front. Add to that some interesting hem details in a tunic-length top and I thought I had a winner. All except for this zipper. It was securely stitched to the left shoulder. Please note the use of the past tense. Now I have a spare zipper in a colour I like: I've noticed a trend to zips as embelishments over the past few years. At first I thought of it as an anti-establishment statement: something tough and functional, unusually placed to make an impact. But when I saw zipper rosettes on sale at a craft show last year I figured the trend had come full-circle.

Anyway, the unpicking went smoothly. I was afraid of damaging the underlying fabric. That would have been another statement which I didn't want to make. And if I get the time, I might make myself a little bag to go with this outfit. Then the zip will have a purpose in life.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Pretty Good

I had friends over last night to help me consume my Christmas leftovers. W had been at work all day and was ready to unwind. A slow meal of bread and cheese was just the thing. She suggested the view of the table was blog-worthy. It looked nowhere near as pretty when we'd finished with it, but our tastebuds and tummies were happy. I'm used to thinking of my friend W's daughter as a "young teenager", but as she reminded me last night, in a few weeks it will be her birthday and she'll be old enough to get her Learner's permit. I feel like an old hand with beginning drivers after helping a friend get his licence a year or two ago, but I couldn't help a moment of nostalgia. It seems only yesterday that "young" R's big challenge was learning her times tables. Ah, the joys of witnessing the next generation and their rites of passage!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Picot Edge

I decided on a crochet edge for this woollen placemat. It's 4-ply cotton which I dyed myself. And the simplest of picot patterns: just two double crochet stitches followed by a single chain to give the hint of a bubble. I've been enjoying the blue-green combo--all the more since it was frowned on in my growing up. Do you remember the saying, "blue and green must never be seen unless there's something in between"? Well here they are, and I do like how they look, so there!

. . . and the inevitable dog hair highlighted by my macro lens, oh well . . .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Testing, testing . . .

This morning I will say goodbye to my little old cedar shed. Cleaning it up should have been my priority yesterday, but it was hard to get motivated for a task like that with my new studio just crying out to be put in order. I decided on a compromise. For every trip to the studio I took a side trip to the shed to carry something back to the house. Well, not for every trip to the studio, but enough to make a difference.

Getting the studio in order has gone past the quick and easy stage. I'm down to the vaguely labelled or just plain messy things from what has been my sewing room. I tried to do some sorting along the way, otherwise I'd just be transferring mess from one place to another. My quilting fabrics and silks are in reasonably good order, but there were various pieces of unidentified dress materials there too. I tried burn-testing them, with some success and some remaining uncertainty. Burn testing depends on recognising things like the type of flame, the resulting ash and the smell of the burnt fibre. My trouble is that after testing a couple of fabrics, everything just starts to smell the same. I need the nasal equivalent of a lemon sorbet to cleanse my palette between samples. Now it's time to focus on the final clean up for the little shed. The buyer should be here in an hour or so to pick it up. It will be interesting to see how the back garden looks with the extra space.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Assembly Required

I picked up some Christmas baubles from the market section of my favourite Swedish flat-pack-furniture store the other day. I'm a fan of their DIY style of doing things and pride myself on my capacity to interpret various complicated diagrams, but I hadn't really expected this: When I opened the pack yesterday, there was the instruction page, complete with safety warning, and yes, some assembly was required! No allen key though.

As it turned out, putting together the Christmas baubles was one of the easier aspects of my day. A friend who was here for lunch and has only recently come out of hospital, found the pressure of the day all too much . . . even my quiet, no frills Christmas with his favourite goodies. He asked to be taken back to his unit just as I'd finished setting out the meal. Unfortunately when we got there, the staff had taken the few remaining clients out to lunch, and the gate was locked. So we walked around for more than an hour until someone arrived. What can I say? . . . humans are so much more complicated in the way they're put together and don't come with instruction sheets.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Peace on Earth

The texture of this bauble made me think of those satellite pictures of earth. I'm posting this pic with my Christmas greetings and a prayer that the message of peace will be more than just one of the trimmings of Christmas . . . please!

Friday, December 24, 2010

That Hat!

Remember the crazy eyeball yarn I got for my friend E's birthday? After being suitably admired by family and friends it made its way back to Melbourne in a parcel with various other bits and pieces. My mission: to turn it into a hat. The skein has been hanging over one my lounge chairs since then. You can imagine how a random eyeball might look peeking out from whatever else was sharing the back of the chair . . . I picked it up the other day to see what I could do with it. Normally this wouldn't be a summer activity, but I've sipped my first cup of coffee with temperatures in the low teens every morning this week.

Any well trained textile artist will tell you that the secret to success is sampling. In this case that was impossible. 100 grams of core-spun merino-bunny-silk yarn with needle felted eyeballs is not available for sampling. Fortunately I'm not too well trained to just go for it sometimes. After winding off the yarn from the skein, I looked at a few of my huge crochet hooks. I decided to go with the 12 mm one. Winding off the yarn gave me some idea of how the features were distributed. There was a length at one end free of eyeballs. I started there to form the top of the hat. I worked down the side of the hat, shaping just a little and making sure that all the eyeballs ended up on the outside of the work. I soon realised that finishing the crown of the hat would be a close thing. As I decreased stitches and made the last couple of rows I was running through options in my mind. The colours and textures of the yarn are so varied and individual that I couldn't even imagine trying to match the yarn in any way. Instead I decided to go with a bit of black. I just happened to have a small ball of fine black handspun merino plied with black lurex hanging around--as you do. I doubled it, joined it into the work and started to form the brim. That's as far as I've got and I think it will do. There's really no use attempting any subtleties here. It's a case of letting the features shine out in all their gory glory.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bead Candy

I dropped in at the bead shop yesterday afternoon. I was on my way to pick up the makings of a new kitchen cabinet. I needed silver crimps. I actually kept my note to self after my recent beading effort in the new studio. As I parked the car I was carefully rehearsing to myself, "silver crimps, silver crimps, silver crimps . . . " It's so easy to lose my head when I get into the shop amongst all the lovely sparkly things! When I walked in the door I was surprised to find I was the only customer. I'd expected the usual pre-Christmas rush, but luckily I landed in a lull. Since I had the full attention of the manager, my wish list came out--that's a mental wish list, so it has a tendency to be rather elastic. The main thing was different shaped (plastic) crystal drops to make beaded angels. The supply is variable, and I usually forget to stock up until it's Christmas time. Looking at those led to exploring other drop-shaped beads. I should have some crafting time next week, so I bought a few bits to play with. The photo records the fact that I did eventually make my way to the furniture shop. That made up in it's busyness for the quietness of the bead shop, but I did manage to get through my list of things. The makings of the kitchen cabinet are on the floor as I type--waiting for assembly. And yes, I did also remember to buy my silver crimps.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Yarn Candy

What do I do when faced with a new challenge--even a happy one like decorating a tree? One approach is to start with what I know. I tried that last night. After unpacking the tree and rigging up the chain of itty bitty lights so they could reach a power point and stay out of the way of my active dogs, I needed to add some bling. I took my silver sparkly yarn and a crochet hook and made a nice long chain. This morning I took a bit more of the yarn--there's heaps of it--added some red handspun and made a twisted cord. This in one situation when nobody can complain about a candy-cane look! A phone call after breakfast reminded me that we're supposed to be decorating the tree together, so I'm going to have to restrain myself, but I don't want to live with a bare tree for the days before Christmas and there's still plenty of room to play.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

All that Glitters

I'm home for Christmas this year. That hardly ever happens. What's more I will have at least one guest young enough to enjoy the idea of decorating a Christmas tree. Last weekend I bought a tree: admittedly a small artificial one at a reduced price. Not really my first preference, but it got me going. The next question, where to start with decorations? I'm not really the tinsel type. What about a smooshy yarn with silver spangles? There just happened to be a bag of it in the clearance rack at the craft store: I've got lights. I've got silver baubles. I've been making beaded angels for years, so there are a few of those hanging around the house. They can go on the tree. I've got some glass DIY baubles too and glue and paint and glitter to pretty them up with. I think I have the makings of sparkly Christmas that's conventional enough to be easily recognised, and individual enough to make me happy too. Now to put it all together over the next few days.

Monday, December 20, 2010

In Use

Sure, there's still sawdust all over the floor. The cutting table holds a pile of power tools and the saw bench is leaning against the wall where the design wall will be, but I actually used the studio for the first time yesterday.

I spent the morning ferrying boxes to their new homes on the shelves I built on Saturday. In the afternoon my friend L came over. She had a few pieces of jewellery that needed attention. The beading stuff was already in the studio, so out we went.

Thankfully all the projects were small and relatively straightforward. Here are our results: The fruity necklace was too long. A pair of snippers and a couple of crimps put it right. Note to self, I need new silver crimps. The crystal wreath and the silver cross wanted ribbons and a lace to hang them on. That meant fasteners of various types. A couple of trips to pick up scissors, glasses and other bits and bobs which I normally take for granted, and we were in business.

I deliberately didn't clear away the tools before I walked out the door. It's a celebration of the freedom the new space will give me. Of course I'll put them away this morning and organise a few more bits and pieces before I head out to do some shopping.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


I have shelves--a whole wall of shelves! It took most of the day, but that part of the job is done: Working in the Studio not only protected me from the occasional showers, but meant I had easy access for measuring and adjusting as I went along. The biggest challenge was the corner shelf. You can see it in the far right of the pic. I'm glad to see how accurate it looks from this perspective, since it cost me a fair bit of effort. The reality is less precise, but I won't care about that once I load it up with boxes and bits. That's today's task, but first there's some cleaning up to do.

My friend L is dropping in this afternoon with some jewellery that needs repairs and adjustments. I'll see whether I'm up to doing that in the studio or back on the kitchen table. And I need to buy a Christmas tree and some trimmings. That sounds like quite enough for one day.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Today's Materials

Today's going to be another hardware day. Here are my materials: I hope to transform these pine planks into some more shelving for the Studio. Then I can move some more boxes from what has been the sewing room. I've moved a lot of neatly labelled boxes in the past week. Now I'm getting to random piles of fabric and boxes with labels like, "to be sorted". Apparently that's as far as I got on my last tidying blitz. Oh well!

My parallel challenges are to make the living room livable and to leave some functional workspace somewhere so that I can be ready for Christmas. I must say it all feels a bit much at the moment. And it's raining, so I'm back to slippery clay between the house and the Studio. OK, maybe I'd better shift the sawbench and tools into the studio and let it be a woodwork room as well for the time being.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Time

There's some sort of strange time phenomenon that occurs at this time of year. Life seems to slow down and speed up in rather disconcerting ways. All of a sudden it's a week before Christmas and I'm nowhere near ready for it.

I can't quite remember the circumstances in which I made this little crochet heart. I do remember it was Christmas time and I must have been in some sort of time bubble, because there are an awful lot of little stitches there. It's come to light this week while I'm packing and moving. What started as the Studio project has resulted in practically my entire house being rearranged. I guess that just underlines how much difference it's going to make to have space set aside for all my creative stuff. Of course when this phase is done, I'll have a spare bedroom to set up, but that will be next year. For now I need to move enough stuff to make a welcoming space for some Christmas festivities. And arrange the studio space well enough that I can complete some of the gifts I have planned.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Simple Things

Sometimes it's good to enjoy the simple things. What could be better than a solid timber kitchen chair? A free solid timber kitchen chair? What about four free solid timber kitchen chairs, like this one: Now there's generally a catch, right? In this case the chairs are less than new. And though the timber pieces are each individually solid enough, the chairs as a whole are rather rickety. I picked them up from a fellow Freecycler a few days ago. I decided to tackle them one by one and see how far I get. So far I have achieved two functional chairs. I've managed to assemble the pieces for two more, but I don't know yet whether they will hold together enough to take a person's weight. I'll do some glueing, clamping, drilling and screwing before I come to a final conclusion.

The chairs are just the right height for spinning. And the straight back gives just a little support without getting in the way. The colour match is good too.

It's just as well some things in life are simple. This morning I've had to negotiate a court adjournment for a friend who is recovering from a recent admission to an acute mental health unit--somehow the staff thought it would be ok to send him to court alone in a taxi! And my email program is malfunctioning. So, it's good to focus on life's simple pleasures and on problems that can be solved with common sense and just a little application of force.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Out with the Old

I've focussed a lot of attention on my new cedar shed, aka Studio, in recent weeks. I'm still working on that. Meanwhile I have what is now known as the little old shed to dispose of. My friend A was here for a late and slow lunch yesterday. When we'd finished eating she helped me to give it a quick spruce up so we could take some photos. Not bad for something that's been out in the heat wind and rain for ten years or so. It will be listed on eBay today. One remaining challenge, despite it's neat and tidy appearance on the outside, it still hasn't been cleared out on the inside. And most of the bits and pieces in there are true garden shed items, not things I'd welcome in my studio. So I'm going to have to do some serious culling and creative relocating this weekend.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sewer Plan

Some time ago in another blog I pondered the terminology used to describe one who sews. The logical, "sewer", is my natural choice when speaking, but I found myself hesitating to use the term in print. Readers suggested various elegant variations to avoid the plumbing connotations.

Today my concern is with plumbing. Having succesfully negotiated the process of getting the shed/studio up, I'm ready to tackle the next stage. That involves moving my laundry from a corner of the bathroom to its own home in what is now my light-court. When I invited a plumber to give me a quote, he asked for the "sewer plan". This turns out to be a map showing the location of the drains of my property. For some unfathomable reason it seems to be missing in action. I've been conducting a bizarre treasure hunt through various government departments. If all else fails, it will come down to this: An inspection of my drains using fibre-optic technology to track their location is the last resort. I have no idea how much it would cost, but I'm not ready to give up on following the paper trail quite yet. So today, in between getting some more shelving sorted in the Studio, I'll be making a few more phone calls to see what I can find.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quick Post

I'm off to the Community Centre for our last session of the year. It's been a long crazy day already, and it hasn't officially started yet! Here's a quick pic of some of the flowers we've been making for the quilt. Today we're having a celebration lunch. I'm hoping to lay out the quilt with our work so far. We'll have a couple of sessions to tidy things up in the new year.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Sporty Style

I spent a couple of hours yesterday at the State Netball Centre. Not my usual style, but my friend R was playing in a Grand Final and since her Mum couldn't get away from work, I got to go along to drive and cheer. The game was friendly and exciting. I could remember enough from my clumsy 12-year old days to follow the game. With "our" team going down by only one point against another team from the same club, it wasn't hard to understand the thrill. The aesthetic was an interesting contrast to my usual environment. The common factor being polished wood. Apart from that it was all about space and function, with lots of glass and steel. Add bright smooth textiles; bold colours and lots of movement and you have a sense of it. Mostly I had my camera in sports mode, trying to anticipate enough of the game to get some good shots of the girls in action. I had mixed results, but it was fun trying.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


One of the aspects of spinning and weaving that fascinates me is the juxtaposition of simple machinery, luxurious fibres and sophisticated designs. Occasionally the machinery breaks down. Then I remember that even simple machinery can be difficult to maintain. Fortunately I have a network of friends who share my passion. When the drive band on my drum carder gave way, I searched out a scrap of paper where I'd printed out an email from J a few years ago. There was the address of a transmission supply workshop in Brunswick. I also needed a new drive band for one of my spinning wheels, so I loaded both into the car and off I went. The workshop was a classic mechanical environment: castors, tools and fittings of various kinds. The teaser near the front cash register--where the chocolates are temptingly placed at the supermarket--was a mini grease gun!

J's directions where perfect. When I brought my wheel and carder into the shop, no-one even blinked. The transmission specialist happily observed the special features of my Majacraft wheel, assessed the old drive-band and the challenges of the tiny fast whorls and took off into his workshop. I observed him through a side window of the shop. In that environment my little wheel looked like a toy. After several trials and consultations, he came up with something that worked well. The drum-carder was an easy fix. Off I went with two of my essential pieces of equipment restored to usefulness and a smile on my face. Total cost $10.

Friday, December 10, 2010


I first heard the term, "frog stitch" in a beginner quilting class. It made me smile and still does. It's nice to have a light-hearted expression for what is often a frustrating task. This morning I started a big frogging job. It's a cardigan I knitted for a dear friend quite some years ago. In the sad tradition of inexperienced hand-knitters, I put hours of loving work into a garment that was never quite right. My friend persisted with it for years, attempting to wear it at least once each cold season, before setting it aside. This year we finally came to the conclusion that it just wasn't ever going to work. After some discussion, we decided to re-use the yarn. It's a lovely alpaca-wool blend. I'm not planning to have another go at the cardigan. My friend now lives in the north of the country, where I'm unable to check and adjust the fit of a garment and where heavy garments are rarely needed anyway. It's going to be part of a blanket. That way she'll get the fibre "hug" I intended for her.

We're coming into the warm season, even in Melbourne, but the forecast today is for a cool 20. Most of my fibre tools and supplies are in a state of transition as I get my studio set up. The cardigan was sitting in a post-pack near my armchair. It felt good to be able to tackle it this morning.
My memory of the knitting is sufficiently distant, that unravelling the stitches isn't bothering me any. I already have two balls of wool ready to skein up, wash and rewind. As for the Studio, I spent yesterday moving shelves from the spare bedroom. They were all mounted on the wall, so each one had to carefully removed, carried to it's new home and then reinstalled. I was surprised at how far I got, but things are still looking reasonably messy. Maybe that contributes to the satisfaction of this much lighter deconstruction task.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


One of my achievements yesterday was to move my computer from the spare bedroom to the living room. You won't believe how pleased I was when I'd finished plugging everything in and found that it works! I still have to figure out how to manage the tangle of cords, though. Perhaps some kind of fancy braiding . . . ?I'm hoping I can find some sort of tube or cover to hide it all in.

I also managed to disassemble, move and reassemble my big desk. It caused me a fair bit of frustration when I first put it together. So It was a pleasant surprise to find it all went together smoothly.

Today I need to clean up the mess in the Studio left by the Installer-from-Hell. Then I'm hoping to tackle some of the shelving. At the moment I'm in that awkward space where I've packed and moved too many things to be able to do any creative work in the house, while the Studio is not set up enough to be useful yet. I'm not complaining, though. It still feels very exciting and I'm looking forward to my first projects in my new space.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


I had great hopes for setting up my new Studio yesterday, but a set of unexpected and unwanted circumstances conspired to limit my progress. A friend was admitted to hospital right on the other side of town. It took nearly an hour each way to visit him and take him some of the basics he'll need to make his stay more comfortable. I don't enjoy freeway driving at the best of times, let alone when I'm feeling hurried and worried about someone I care about. Before that trip I had to fit in a visit to the smash repair shop for a quote. Nothing major, but after a bingle on the weekend where the car behind me failed to stop when I was waiting for oncoming traffic to clear, I was keen to get things moving to fix the damage. Add to that a couple of routine tasks to ensure next year's teaching program runs as smoothly as possible, and the day was gone.

As the day took shape and the likelihood of making an impact on the Studio move faded, I decided to do at least one small thing in that direction: I collected all my printer cartridges into the one spot and labelled the box. Not much, but it's something.

Today hasn't started brilliantly. My new airconditioning unit arrived in a flurry of bad temper. The heating and cooling unit for the studio is very welcome. The installer less so. He came earlier than expected--before my first cup of coffee!--complained about my car in the driveway and the dogs who could have been locked up if he'd come at the agreed time, and then offered to "get rid of this", as he contemptuously referred to my favourite silver princess gum tree. He's now working to install the unit in a spot that is less than ideal, but it will have to do. I guess he didn't get his plumbing licence on the strength of his communication skills! He'll be gone in an hour or so and my "climate control" will remain, so I'll get over it. Meanwhile I'll get myself another coffee and take a few deep breaths. Then I hope to get things sorted a bit more for the move.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Funky Felt

I've posted couple of stages in this "variety" project. The base for these pieces is felt/fulled woollen fabric made from this little jumper. It was originally an average adult size, but after several hot machine washes in the company of a towel or two it's an itty bitty thing. I love the handle of the fabric. It's felted enough to be quite stable, but still has a bit of drape. And because it was a good quality wool to start with, it's nice and soft. I occasionally buy wool-felt for projects, but I much prefer this kind.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Table Tale

I guess you could call them coffee table books, though I don't have a coffee table. These books are for browsing and inspiration and I love them.When I was packing and moving stuff yesterday I had to decide whether to leave them in the living room or take them out to the studio. I decided on the living room, since it's usually the unexpected moments of time when I get to enjoy them, rather than in a focussed or intentional way.

As for tables, I managed to clear and move my Big Table with the help of some friends yesterday. Then I assembled the new table for the kitchen-living space. That's it in the pic. As I worked my way through twenty pages of enigmatic diagramatic instructions, I gave myself credit for keeping my brain supple and active. I'm hoping to live to a good old age and apparently mental tasks involving movement and three-dimensional orientation tend to protect brain function against various forms of dementia. I hope that's true.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Nearly There

I didn't get as far as moving in furniture to the Studio yesterday, but I'm nearly there. Getting the vinyl flooring cut to size and sitting flat was harder than I'd expected. I discovered that almost 20 square metres of the stuff is heavy! And cutting something that size square on all four sides while avoiding both ripples and gaps is quite a challenge. In the end I let it be less than perfect, but it's done.

Today's challenge is to take it slow and steady. My friend W has offered another couple of early Sunday morning hours to help me get things in place. I'm expecting her to call me any minute with her bright "ready to go" expression. It's too good an offer to refuse. L is coming after lunch to give me a hand. At the moment my brain is feeling rather slow after an unsettled night and a string of busy days. It's not coming up with an overall plan for the day, so I'm just going to pick a task and see how I go. I'm going to keep telling myself that I'm nearly there. Note to self: slow and steady is OK.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


I started this variety project a week or two ago. Now I've completed the final item in the set. It's good to have something finished, especially today, because I'm planning to start moving into my new Studio. I finished the painting yesterday and bought some vinyl flooring. In the end I couldn't face the thought of installing a laminate floor and looked around until I found a 4 metre width of vinyl. I need to get that trimmed to size and all in place this morning. Then it's time to get moving. Thankfully most of my supplies are already in boxes, since I find that the most convenient way to store and access everything. Even so, there are lots of bits and pieces for which I'll need to find suitable homes.

Friday, December 3, 2010

After a Long Day

Yesterday was one of those long days: the sort of day when I look at my diary and see that the ratio of commitments to available time and energy just doesn't compute. I don't allow that to happen often these days. One of my big realisations in the past few years has been that I cannot be in more than one place at the one time. I've been a bit of a slow learner in that regard. Yesterday's timetable didn't require that particular impossibility. There was enough time between each appointment to get from point A to point B and even stop for a cup of coffee along the way. And there really wasn't anything I could reschedule, so I decided to do my best and tackle one thing at a time.

I left home at about 9.00am. I made my way step by step through the things I needed to do. I stopped for a snack and a coffee every few hours. Travelling around the city was hampered a little by rain showers and storms, but it was OK. I finally got home at about 10.00 pm. I was surprised that my dogs didn't greet me with their usual enthusiastic woofing. I walked down to my bedroom to let them in and put down my things only to find this:


Somehow I'd failed to close the pet-door properly in the morning. My dogs know how much I love them--I guess they assumed I'd considerately given them the option of sheltering from the storms in the comfort of my bed. There was no hiding the fact that they'd accepted my generous invitation. I'm struggling about whether to confess the next point, but what the heck! I didn't have it in me to deal with the mess before going to sleep, but I did grab my camera and snap a shot while I was thinking about it. I brushed down what I could, got into my PJ's, wrapped myself a clean sheet, and tried to go to sleep. Now the washing machine is chugging away and I'm posting the evidence of a long, long day. Today my calender is quite free, and it's just as well.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Remember When

I appliqued and embroidered this silk top a dozen or so years ago. When I could no longer wear it--we won't talk about weight gain issues here--I passed it on to a friend. She recently mailed it back to me--again no mention of weight gain. It was years since I'd looked at it and I wondered what I would think. I like it enough to keep it even if I never wear it again. It was one of my early experiences of thinking "outside the box" with my design--literally, as the gum leaf and blossom design spills out over the edges of the background floral cotton square. I'm still fascinated by gum blossoms and leaves, though I think I'd be a bit more adventurous in my colour choices these days.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


My friend V dropped in for a coffee yesterday. I looked at my big table. It was totally covered in stuff. I will justify myself by saying that maybe a third of that is current projects. The remainder is accumulated paperwork and various fibre things that have been displaced while looking for other stuff. I did manage to find room for a coffee cup--in the middle of a frame I'm painting up for a Christmas gift. I didn't intend to juxtapose the local paper's article on homelessness with my household organisation issues. But it's a sobering thought: while I'm celebrating a special room for my creative endeavors, others are struggling to find a place to live at all.

I spent most of the day painting my new studio. My friend C emailed me recently and referred to it as "the craft villa". I laughed. In the afternoon I went out to choose flooring. It seems that timber laminate will be cheaper and hardier than the vinyl I'd planned to use. Now I'm thinking of it as my "Studio Sofitel". The reality is that this is turning into a really lovely space for me to work and it's making me very happy.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I've just had a call from my friend W. She's coming up after work to give me a hand with the painting. Thanks!!! With the promise of a helping hand and a strong cup of coffee I feel ready to get on with it. The painting is still white on white, so I've posted a shot of my one-cup coffee pot--all loaded with ground coffee and ready to give me a boost.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Yesterday I finished undercoating the Studio. Patchy white on white isn't a great look, so here are some lovely flowers instead:My friend A brought these hydrangeas from her garden when she came to visit me and admire my progress yesterday. I love the delicate pink and green combo--a beautifully subtle take on the complementary colour scheme. The flowers were intended for my Studio, but it's not quite up to that stage yet. They're sitting on my big table in my living room giving me quiet encouragement.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

No Words

I spent most of the day yesterday in Foster Carer training. The topic was child abuse and neglect. I don't know what to say, really.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Variety Show

I'm making Christmas gifts, so you can expect a few slightly cryptic posts--just in case the intended recipients are reading. This week I've been challenging myself to make one of these items each day: You can see there's a theme happening, but each one is different. I found the thought of coming up with half a dozen variations on a theme all at once a bit daunting. One at a time works much better for me. As I'm working on one item, thoughts are brewing for the next one. I'm really enjoying the blue-green colour combination too.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Today's Task

The Studio is finished--all bar the stormwater connection, which is promised for tomorrow. I'll believe that when I see it done. Coordination hasn't been the strong point of this project. That won't slow me down with moving in, though. First task: paint. Then I need to find some lino and get that in. After that comes shelving and all my stuff.
Since the room's going to be full of colour and interest, I decided to keep it simple. Here we have a tin of flat white ceiling paint and two of wall paint: low sheen acrylic. The colour is called peaceful white. I chose it as the most neutral of the off-white selections, but the name certainly has appeal. I have brushes and rollers at the ready. The power is connected already, so I'll pick up my phone and music machine and off I go.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Party Time

I have blogged before about my dilemmas with intimate apparel. I tend to think of many aspects of textile arts as a challenge to make three-dimensional shapes out of two-dimensional materials, but never more so than with foundation garments. Normally I solve the problem with a sports-bra, but with a wedding coming up and a fancy outfit on the cutting table, I was inclined to accept a friend's invitation to a "Bra Party". It turned out to be last night when I had a prior commitment, so I sent along a party proxy: Those who know me best will appreciate how unlikely this next statement is, but I'm desperate enough to host the next party myself! The convenience of having a consultant in my home to help me with a fitting in the privacy of my own room, while a few friends enjoy drinks and nibbles in the living room is too good to refuse. And it will be a chance to show off my new Studio. So, let me know if you'd like an invitation. Absolutely no obligation, I promise.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Beaded Flower

Funny how when I start working with a particular medium, it tends to find its way into all sorts of other projects! I had my seed bead collection out last week when I was working on the multicultural butterfly. Somehow the seed bead box didn't get put away. Then when I was looking for ways to embelish some felt, there were the seed beads calling out to me. I listened. I'm experimenting with different ways of attaching the beads to the felt. This is a hybrid of threading and couching. I have the beads threaded onto a double length of sewing cotton. I then use another length of cotton with a fine sharp needle. That thread is firmly attached to the felt. Each bead is secured by threading the needle through the bead and then couching down the double sewing thread on which it is strung. That way each bead has three thicknesses of cotton holding it in place and there's an attachment point between each bead: nice and secure. Another thing I like about this technique is that I can place each bead quite precisely to form an outline. As you can see, it's detailed work and I need to take a break pretty often to stretch and relax my shoulders.

Now for a shed update: the plaster is in; stormwater and electrical work will be finalised today. Then it's just a case of waiting for the finishing touches on the plaster. I should be painting on the weekend, though I have Foster Carer training all day Saturday, so I'll see how I go. Next week will see me putting up shelving and moving furniture. Then it will be time to actually move in with all my materials and equipment. I can hardly believe it. And I can hardly wait!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Colour Run Fun

I went shopping for inspiration on Sunday. I have a project in mind, but at this stage the parameters are open. It's a chance to experiment and play. After looking through my own fabric collection, I decided to go out and see what I could see. One fabric in particular caught my eye. It was unlabelled and unpriced. Turns out it was going out on clearance because the colour tends to run in the first few washes. I liked the pattern and the price enough to buy it and see what happens.

Here it is after three long hot washes in my machine without soap: It was originally red and white--not any more, but I like it. The next test is to see if the colour stops running--otherwise it could be too much of a menace in real life. I'll run it through the machine again--with laundry powder this time--and then test it with some white fabric.

Monday, November 22, 2010

PC Desk

One of my tasks for yesterday was to accommodate my desktop computer in another room. First step: somewhere to put it. Of course with the Studio not yet finished, there's no more space in the living room than there used to be. By rights I should be waiting until I've moved some things out of there before moving anything else in. But waiting never was my favourite activity. And at least if the computer's all set up in its new home it will remain functional when moving chaos happens, hopefully next weekend. Besides, I was so proud of myself, having cleared four boxes of stuff out of the shed with hardly a blink of regret, that I felt I deserved a more constructive task.

Off I went to the Office Superstore. I've had my eye on this little desk for a while. It seems sturdy enough and inexpensive. I don't really want a lot of visual clutter in the living space--those of you who are familiar with the current state of my house: here's your cue to laugh out loud! Of course the desk came flat-packed. Here it is now in 3-D. And don't ask me why the pic is sideways . . . it's one of those blogger days. At the moment the only personal thing about it is my greasy fingerprints all over the glass. I pride myself on being better than average at assembling bits and pieces from cryptic diagrams. This one nearly had my stumped. Most of the assembly was reasonably straightforward, but there's a clever little keyboard drawer below the main desk surface. That drawer is on tracks with ball bearings--all fine and dandy. According to the diagrams, that mechanism needs to be pulled apart: one part is attached to the drawer surface and the other to the main desk piece. Later on the assembled drawer is slipped into place. It's a while since I studied probability and statistics in maths, but I can tell you from personal experience that two slide-mechanisms, each with two components can be put together in a squillion different combinations and permutations, only one of which is correct! I tried all but one of those combinations yesterday afternoon. I couldn't get it right. I decided to use the walk away technique. This is an approach you won't find in any technical manual. It involves taking a deep breath, calmly laying down your tools and leaving the job to another day. This morning I came back to it fresh after breakfast and a nice cup of coffee. I didn't bother looking at the instructions again. I pulled the drawer mechanism apart and tried fitting the components together without the extra hassle of the drawer and desk getting in my way. Snap! they clicked together easily. I heaved a sigh of relief and just hung on to what I'd done. Then I re-attached them in the right place without letting go of those pieces. Mission accomplished. I have a neat little PC desk. Now my next task is to pull my computer apart and put it back together in its new location. Maybe I'll leave that task until tomorrow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Make Way

The move into my new Studio is tantalisingly close, but realistically it's not going to happen this week. It may not even happen next weekend. I've just realised that somehow in the flurry to get on with lining the shed on Friday, the workmen forget to instal the insulation between the outer cedar wall and the inner plaster. I guess that means the plaster will have to come off again so they can fix the problem. I'm certainly not planning to do without insulation. I'm calculating that it will put the work back by at least half a day.

Meanwhile, what am I going to do with myself? I think I might pack up and move this computer, since that will give me a bit more room to move while I pack up all my fabrics from this spare room. It's a finite task--always an attractive feature.

First, though I set my attention to a less attractive task. The garden shed I've had these past ten years or so is going to go as part of the current reorganisation. It needs to be emtied out. What's in there? I'm not sure. I went to have a look. First up, four boxes of old study notes and assignments. These are all at least ten years out of date. When I stored them in the shed the memory of the effort they had cost me was too fresh and I couldn't bear to get rid of them. Now things are different:
One very full recycling bin, four empty cardboard boxes. Any useful information from those courses has been well and truly assimilated into my thinking by now. Either that or I'm going to have to learn it another way.

As soon as my nose recovers from the large dose of dust it just received, I'll go back and see what's next. I'm pretty sure there are several cans of paint and some garden chemicals I'm not going to use. I'll offer them on Freecycle or toss them out, depending on their condition. Then it will be time to slow down and shift my attention to indoor tasks.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Shed Ahead

"And what of the shed?", you ask.

It's almost done! I have a floor, four walls and a roof. Some of the lining is in and the basic electrical work is ready. It was a long, frustrating wait. The inspector was supposed to come on Monday to check the subfloor. He didn't make it. The first of knew of that was on Tuesday when there were no workmen on the site by halfway through the morning. He didn't make it on Tuesday either and finally arrived on Wednesday afternoon. By the time he gave the all clear it was too late to organise any work for that day. On Thursday Ben and Duncan put in a marathon effort, but didn't quite manage to complete the roof. I came home to find all but two panels installed. I wasn't too happy when I heard they couldn't come in the next day. Another couple of installers took over and got it to "lock up" stage. They'll be back early next week to finish things off. The guttering and plastering are the main items left to complete. Then it's a case of painting the inside and moving in. Some time soon the official title will change from "shed" to "Studio". It really is too lovely to be just a shed!

"And how do I feel?"
How many ways are there to say "excited"? I need to ask some friends to come and help me with the painting, but what I feel like doing is hiring a band for a little barn dance instead! It would have to be a very little barn dance, so maybe just one fiddler. Oh well, maybe I'll just make sure I hook up the radio to play nice and loud while we wield our paintbrushes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Huck Luck

Back to the Craft Superstore yesterday morning to buy supplies for Christmas crafting. I like to make some fancy little towels and of course I'm fussy about the quality of the fabric. I asked for waffle or huck in 100% cotton. Thankfully the assistant was one of the experienced fabric sales people and she knew exactly what I was after. "We haven't had waffle weave since you bought it last Christmas". But she offered me this: I liked it. She then checked the price: the computer came up with a figure just over half of what was written on the label. "Oh, and you can have another 30% off if you buy the whole roll" Done! It's just over 7 metres. I'm guessing I won't use all of that this year, but you never know. And there's always next year. Now to overlock the edges and throw the lot into the washing machine.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Try Again

I like to make Christmas gifts. It seems more personal and it's definitely more fun than the dreaded "Christmas Shopping". On the other hand, there's the need to design something new each year and often last minute crafting sessions to get things finished on time. So when I came up with the idea of a Christmas Star flower recently I decided to go with it. I made a first attempt yesterday:It didn't really turn out the way I envisaged. I haven't shown the whole flower because I'm still hoping to get it right and use it for gifts. The main trouble spots are the ways the various petals interact--the proportions and the angles aren't working the way I want. I'm going to try again. Meanwhile, as often happens, the process of starting something has kicked my imagination into action and I'm thinking of other possibilites and starting some different gift projects. Just as well and in a month or so it will be time for that last minute burst of activity.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Yesterday I was fishing around for something easy to work on. We've had some warm days, so I wasn't in the mood for the usual woolly scarf or hat, even though I've been tempted to put the heater on the past few mornings with the temperatures coming in at the low-teens. Anyway, a hank of hand-dyed 4-ply cotton caught my eye and I decided to have a go at a Solomon's Knot scarf. I've made these before in wool and they're rather insubstantial. I figured the same thing in cotton would be ok to dress up an outfit on a warm day. I first came across Solomon's Knot stitch in an old crochet book from an Op shop. It was used to make a string bag, but I really liked the stitch pattern and wanted to feature it in something a bit more decorative, so I started using it for scarves. I'm not too sure about the outcome in cotton. I like the colour and the shape of the stitches, but I'm afraid that when it's bunched up it will look a bit too stringy. Anyway, for a quick and easy experiment it was ok and it gave me something to work on yesterday in between what turned out to be a serious of unlooked for complications. I'll try adding a beaded fringe and see if that helps to give it a bit more impact. Meanwhile, I'm back to needing a quick and easy project to carry around with me.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Multicultural Beaded Butterfly

I came home from the Community Quilt Project at Newlands yesterday with a request for a butterfly. The project is sponsored by Multicultural Victoria. The women in the group speak a limited amount of English and I can count my words of Arabic on the fingers of one hand--with a couple of fingers left over! So communication is always interesting.

We've being making flowers for the quilt. Each one is different: some embroidered, some crocheted, some beaded. One of the group suggested adding some butterflies. Why not? Flowers, butterflies . . . I had a go at sketching some outlines before someone else suggested I use the computer. They're getting to know me well--I'm definitely better at using the computer than I am at sketching under pressure. I found a butterfly, printed it out and then tried to think of a way to make it which wouldn't involve too much explanation. Meanwhile I asked about the meaning of "butterfly". I collected one more Arabic word, which I'm not going to attempt to transliterate here. "But what does it mean for you?" I wanted to know. It turns out the butterfly is a symbol of good news, like the arrival of some-one you love. It's "like the pigeon", they said. In case you're wondering about the "pigeon", we've designed a couple of white doves--symbols of peace--as a major feature of the quilt. Up went my motivation for butterfly-making.

We were nearly at the end of our time together. Today is Eid--a major religious celebration, and the subject of more interesting attempts at communication yesterday. I used my few Arabic words to convey my best wishes and respect for the Festival. When I got home I googled, "how to make a butterfly" Here's one of my attempts:
The French-beading technique is a natural extension of how we've been making some of the flowers. And the wired butterfly can be made to hover over the surface of the quilt. Later on I'll see if I can figure out a stitched version. Next week I'll see what they think, and we'll continue to explore possibilites and meaning. I'm learning so much from this project!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mission Accomplished

The ditch is dug! I have all sorts of interesting new muscles and bruises, but that's ok. I'm counting on this being a once in a lifetime experience. If I ever start talking about digging another ditch in this clay-rocky soil, will some-one who loves me please give me a shot of something strong and take me away to a secure, quiet place until I come to my senses. Having said that, I'm feeling quite proud of myself and it was kind of fun to be spectacularly dirty from honest work. Enough of the ditch!

My other mission yesterday was much prettier. I had a $10 voucher to spend at the local craft superstore. They had a clearance on beads. I managed to spend all my voucher money and nothing more. I'm thinking of framing the docket that lists the items, with a total of $ 0.00. Here's what I came home with:
My plan is to make some demonstration pieces for a potential future beading class. I've deliberately chosen colours that I don't normally wear, since I can always raid my personal collection to supplement.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ditch Bi*#ch!

I don't want to mention my ditch digging endeavors on this blog ever again--except perhaps a short message to say the deed is finally done. I'd hoped today might be the day for that message of triumph, but it was not to be. Yesterday was not a good day for ditch digging. We had lots of rain. It poured down pretty much all night. I woke and anxiously checked the weather forecast: heavy rain! I'm not some-one who gives up easily. As soon as there was a break in the weather, out I went with my big boots, shovel, mattock and crow-bar. The boots tell the story: I worked hard at it for an hour or so. I wasn't really sure whether the clay and rocks I was heaving out of the trench were enough to balance the chunks of mud slithering back in down the sides. At least it was easier to loosen the large rocks in the base of the hole amongst the wet clay. I only stopped when it started to rain, again.

I can't recommend my approach to the rest of the day. I kept checking the weather forecast. The news didn't get any better, though the wording changed occasionally: flood warning; severe weather warning; heavy rain; storm watch . . . none of it was encouraging. I should have just given up the idea of digging and moved on to something else. I tried. Eventually I pulled out some beads and started to make a chain necklace, but my heart wasn't in it.

Today it's cloudy, the forecast is for scattered showers, clearing in the afternoon. It's still pretty mucky out there, but I am determined. I'm hoping to take all my pent up frustrations from yesterday and channel them into digging power. That should see the job done amazingly fast--if the weather holds off.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Box Hill TAFE Textile Art

I made an expedition to Manningham Gallery yesterday afternoon for the Box Hill TAFE Textile Art students' graduation exhibition. I'm glad I did. Apart from enjoying the students' work, I was keen to check out what the exhibition could tell me about the course from which they are graduating. I was lucky enough to be there at the same time as some of the students and one of the teachers for the course. I later discovered they were there for a final appraisal and interview process.
I gather from both the exhibition pieces and the conversations I had that the course is broad and accommodating of a variety of styles and techniques--good! Also it has a strong Art base, with drawing offered in each year--also good. I'm hoping this is the next stage in my development as a textile artist. Next step is an information evening in a few weeks time.
Meanwhile my shed-studio is growing slowly. It now has a subfloor and all of a sudden I can see how big it really is. Photos will have to wait--it's raining again. When the rain stops I'll go back to--you guessed it--ditch digging. Yesterday was hot and humid, today it's cool and wet. Hopefully the weather will clear enough that I can make some progress soon.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Shed Story Continues

The story of the shed so far is a tale of holes. On the first day I had been warned not to expect much apparent progress. That was an accurate prediction. The result of a day's work by three men turned out to be twelve holes, like this one. Yesterday's progress consisted of a five minute visit from building inspector. I'd been told to expect a man with a tape-measure. That's exactly what appeared. He measured one hole, peered into the other eleven, declared everything ok and left again.

Meanwhile I've been digging a ditch. I am not the world's greatest ditch digger. Progress has been slow and somewhat painful. The ground is heavy clay and there are some decent sized rocks. I'm learning to be a bit more accurate with a mattock and shovel and finding the crow-bar helpful in spots. I am very glad of my leather gloves. They are no longer white. I'm not confident enough of myself or my digging expertise to carry on in the presence of three unknown workmen. They've just arrived for today's work, so I guess I'll do some more this evening. Their task today is to build the subfloor--that's what will hold the shed up, I guess. Then Monday is another inspection day, so they will work elsewhere. That gives me the weekend to finish digging my ditch before the electrician comes to lay the power line. So, today I plan to do some sorting inside and visit the exhibition of the students graduating from Box Hill TAFE's Textile Art course. I'm seriously considering this course for next year, so I'll be particularly interested in the show.