Thursday, March 31, 2011

Invitation Preview

The Arabic-speaking Women's Community Quilt program is nearly complete. This week we basted the quilt sandwich. You can see the safety pins in the pic. That done we will be able to attach the beaded stars and flowers which we prepared some time ago. With six weeks or so until the launch it's time to get an invitation ready. I was experimenting with the Arabic greeting which is a focal point of the quilt. The words means "Peace to Everyone". To add the human element and indulge my fascination with hands, I asked a couple of the women to pose with their hands resting on the quilt to frame and emphasise the words. Quick as a flash, one of the women got to the heart of the issue and took the whole thing a step up. "If they can't understand the writing, they'll understand the hands", she smiled triumphantly. I was thrilled. My only regret is that I didn't have a camera better than the one in my phone to capture the moment. With the photo cropped and the necessary information added, I'll have the invitation ready.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


The last thing I expected when one of my fellow students came to catch up on homework was this:Lovely orchids! It was good to catch up with one of my collegues in a home setting--and good to remind myself of the details of the classes she needed to catch up on anyway. Now I have these beautiful flowers to encourge and inspire me for a long time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Morning Light

I've been tidying up the kitchen--again . . . still . . . it's one of those perpetual tasks. I came across this little straw flower. I was about to toss it in the bin--it was dry and dusty--but then I had another look and decided to see what my macro lens and a bit of morning light would do. Now it seems to be glowing with life and I'll hold on to it--at least until the next time I tidy up.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another view of the day

Would you believe this is the bottle of olive oil on my kitchen bench:It's amazing what you see from a slightly different point of view.

I've had olive oil on my mind for nearly a year now since a design workshop with Teresa at the Handweavers and Spinners Guild. I came across the design board again while I was getting the studio a bit more sorted last week. Now I can add the curve of the lines as the light falls on the bottle to the idea mix. Meanwhile I also got to mix up a bit of dressing for my lunch salad.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

DIY Blue Sky

It's early autumn in Melbourne. Yesterday the sky was grey and the air was a little cooler than comfortable. I spent a happy morning in my studio. I'm continuing the process of enhancing and enjoying my space. One enhancement was some blue window curtains. I experimented with dyeing this cotton voile last year. It turned out to be too gauzy for the summer scarves I was hoping to make, so it ended up in that inevitable pile of good intentions. When I found I needed some curtains for the studio there it was. These are obviously not heavy duty curtains. All I need is something to break up the glare in summer when the light is too powerful for comfort on that side of the room. As a bonus I have my own scrap of blue sky to cheer me up on days like yesterday when the skies are grey.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Real Thing

The form of an egg has been a theme in my Friday morning design class. Yesterday one of my fellow students brought me two eggs from her chickens. She lives on a farm a few hours from Melbourne.

This particular breed of chicken lays "duck egg blue" eggs--really they do! There's no need to verify the genuiness of these particular offerings. The colour is not quite even and the shape is just a bit imperfect. That's perfect really.

My plan is to blow out the eggs. Two benefits: fresh egg for me to enjoy in an easy meal and eggshells for me to keep.

Friday, March 25, 2011


I caught sight of these trees amongst the clutter of suburban roofs the other day.
I was feeding the dogs in my courtyard and wasn't about to go out chasing the golden light, so I did what I could with my zoom lens. Thankfully there's no soundtrack as the cockatoos who live in these trees were particularly raucous that night. The image is much more peaceful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


I spent a few hours sorting the studio yesterday. Now there's some inviting space to work in. There are still plenty of boxes and piles that need to be organised and culled, but I've made enough room that they can be tackled gradually. Sorting the studio is one of those perpetual tasks. I need to work in there to make decisions about where things should go and how I want to use the space. I need to make those decisions and free up some space to be able to work in there . . . and so it goes on. One of my rewards for yesterday's work was finding some carving tools. I then spent several hours on my lump of clay homework. As it turns out I had to sit on the step to do the carving. Clay dust and textiles are not a happy combination.

And yes, that is the corner of my laptop you can see in the pic. It's in place and connected--the wireless internet works. I would have blogged from the studio this morning if I'd been just a bit more organised. Yes, I'm getting sorted. Now back to the homework.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nearly Comfortable

The bean bag project took most of the day. I rang my friend V about five minutes after she'd finished reading yesterday's post. She laughed and said she'd been expecting a call. A cup of coffee together and then we tackled the delicate task of getting the styrofoam pellets into the casing. We did pretty well. The few run-away pellets were soon rounded up and popped back into place. V held the opening while I pinned and then stitched it shut. Getting the right quantity of beans was more difficult. The three and a half kilos I'd calculated weren't quite enough. I decided to solve the problem by making the outer cover a bit smaller than the lining. There was no way I was going to try taking those little critters out again to modify the inner casing.

I was on my own when I finally had the outer cover complete. I'll spare you the drama of my malfunctioning zip--I decided I could use velcro instead. My first attempt resulted in a twisted lump of bean bag lying unmoving inside my cover. When I went to pull the lining bag out to try again I found that there was a small hole in the lining bag--just enough to let a trickle of little white pellets escape. Auuugh! I found it and stitched it shut. The pellets went in the bin. Then I managed to drag the twisted lining bag out of its new cover. I made several unsuccesful attempts to get the cover in place. You can just imagine me wrestling with a highly mobile expanse of uncooperative fabric and its contents. In the end I decided I needed a larger opening in the outer cover. I unpicked the bottom seam and tried again. This time I managed to line up the inner and outer casing. Here's the result. You can't tell that there's an open seam tucked under the bean bag, can you? I'll address that issue once I'm convinced that everything else is working as it should. By the time I got to this stage I was dreaming of a relaxed half hour lounging in my new creation. I'd worked up quite a sweat. It was not to be. My adjustment to the size of the cover had overcompensated. The bean bag looks good, but it's just a little too full for comfortable relaxation. I'm aware that the bean bag pellets do tend to lose a little volume with use. I'm counting on that. Otherwise I either need to make a new cover or adjust the quantity of filling. Neither prospect is enticing. Unfortunately neither is the bean bag in its current state. To get the pellets to do their natural adjustments I'm going to have to use it though. Either that or spend a couple of hours kicking it around the room! Tempting as that solution may be I think I'll stick to the conservative approach.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


These bags of small white pellets represent comfort:I'm still trying to complete the bean bag couch I started to make on the weekend. The lining bag is done. It just needs to be filled. Then there's the outer bag. I have the fabric, the zip and my pattern. A good hour in the studio should see it done. Putting it all together is a challenge. It's day's like this I really need an assistant. Hopefully I can recruit a friend to help me get the foam pellets where they need to be and not all over my house! Now my mind is listing off readers of my blog who live within recruiting distance of my house. You have been warned:)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Textile Silliness

My friend L came over to borrow my whipper snipper yesterday afternoon. We each have such a tiny back yard that it makes sense to share resources. I noticed she was wearing polyester slacks and plastic shoes for her gardening efforts. L commented that the polyester tends to repel the inevitable flecks of grass, but she had noticed some damage to her shins from other bits and pieces kicked up by the rotating line. I figured I had just the thing to solve that problem. I bought a blouse in a local discount store a few months ago. The styling was great all the way through to the shoulders: nice waist and bust shaping, fitted sleeve cap, subtle but interesting decoration at the button placket. Then there were these ridiculous baggy sleeves gathered at the wrist with an elastic band. The solution was straightforward. A pair of scissors and a little hem just below the sleeve cap and I've been wearing the blouse happily through summer. The rest of the sleeves were so extraordinary that I kept them. Yesterday afternoon I grabbed them from their spot in the studio and gave them to L to try on. Here they are: Perfect gardening gaiters!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Simple Things

The clean up continues . . . I managed to clear out another boxful of various papers yesterday morning. Then I turned my attention to comfort. This spot is for the dogs. It's an old blanket and a discarded jumper of mine, folded into a thick piece of cloth. I'm stitching up the sides to hold it all together.
I've also spent some time on what is to be a big bean bag--that one's for humans. Today I hope to finish the lining bag and fill it with those incredibly mobile foam pellets. I have fabric for the outer casing, but I'm not sure how far I'll get with that. Maybe it will have to wait until next week to be finished.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Crafting a Life

I've started the morning well. A good burst of cleaning up is just what I needed. I've cleared off my big kitchen table. Here's what's going in the bin:That done, I can see my way clear to working on some more creative activities. The clean up took less than an hour. The pile on the table has been weighing me down for weeks. Now don't get me wrong, I still have paperwork and more clearing and prioritising to do, but every bit of space I get sorted breathes some life into the process of crafting--in my art work and in my life in general.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Cute as . . .

I've never much thought about the expression, "cute as a button". I picked up this little set on sale the other day. And that's just what they are. They are cute--nothing more, nothing less. I'm calling them my "dalmatian" buttons. I don't quite have 101 of them, but definitely enough to spice up a black t-shirt. I'm not sure when that will happen. Probably not this weekend. I'm about to head off for my Friday classes and I'm sure to collect a lovely swag of homework to occupy the next few days. The buttons will have to sit on the table and encourage me.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Colour of a Different Kind

Cooking for one, day after day, isn't my favourite task. I tend to either keep it simple--you can fit several different food groups into a toasted sandwich quickly and easily--or cook up a family sized batch of something or other and freeze portions for another time. One thing I don't do often enough is fresh salads. A few lettuce leaves on the plate doesn't count. The topic came up in conversation yesterday when I was talking about the frustrations of grocery shopping. Just recently I walked in to the fresh food section of a local supermarket, basket in hand, looking for something to turn into dinner. After several minutes of wandering around, I put down the basket and walked out again. I just couldn't get enough thoughts together in my mind to pick out the right combination of ingredients to turn into something both attractive and realistic. On the other hand--perhaps as a reaction to my previous failure to choose--I came home the next day with several fresh beetroot bulbs . . . and no plan for them. My friend L is a trained foodie. She too has the challenge of cooking for one. I asked her what I could do with fresh beetroot. She suggested something like this: Grated beetroot and carrot; chopped celery and spring onion; a bit of grated ginger root and some orange slices--wow! It was chewy and satisfying. It was interesting enough to justify a side-trip to the greengrocer on my way home. And in case you're thinging I'm all too virtuous, I added some crispy bacon for a salty protein boost. I was so excited that I took a photo!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

New Media

I mentioned yesterday that this week's homework for Design class consisted of a lump of clay. Here's last week's lump:The last time I had clay to work with was in my first year of high school. I was twelve years old. Working with such a different medium now is certainly stretching me. Apart from the novelty of the tasks we've been assigned, there are all sorts of practical challenges. We're supposed to roughly shape the lump and then allow it to dry to just the right stage where it can be carved without making dust. Last week I let the clay get too dry. Now all I can do is sand it lightly--outdoors so I don't fill my lungs with fine powder. Yesterday I got carried away with shaping the wet clay. I ended up with an exciting form which was too fragile to handle. I left it for the rest of the afternoon to harden. By bedtime some areas were firming up nicely while others were still wet. What to do? I gently manouvered it into a plastic bag and taped it up. I'm resisting the urge to check on it this morning. I have to take my car to be serviced today. It will have to wait until I get home. Meanwhile my meals have been relegated to a bowl held in my hand. My kitchen table was already half-covered with stitching stuff. Now there's all sorts of clay stuff filling the rest of the space.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Stitching Again

I ran out of week before I ran out of stitching homework last week, so I've had to do a bit of catching up. This is my feather stitch sample. We're still working on colour blending using the six-stranded embroidery cottons. Plus there are a couple of new stitches to use each week. I've found it challenging to use a set stitch and a set combination of colours while designing something with an overall sense of purpose. This time I've kept it reasonably simple, and that's helped.
My car is booked in for a service tomorrow. I'm planning to sit at a nearby cafe and stitch away until it's ready. It seems like a more pleasant and efficient use of my time than getting home and back again on public transport. So today I'm going to switch my attention to my other homework--it's currently a lump of clay sitting on the kitchen table. But first I need to take care of another form of stitching. My dog Macc in now two-weeks post-surgery and it's time to go back to the vet for a check up. The wound seems to have healed really well. That should mean his stitches can come out and his Elizabethan collar can go to. I won't be at all sorry to see the end of that phase in his recovery.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Egg Essentials

I continue to be intrigued by eggs--those little packets of incipient life! And yet they're a simple household commodity. There's been a fair bit of controversy lately about the genuineness or otherwise of the "Free Range" labelling in supermarkets. I have to confess to feeling just a bit cynical when I came across this:
In a carton of a dozen free range eggs, each a uniform warm brown colour, beautifully clean except for one little feather clinging to the top of the first one--just where it would most likely be seen when checking for cracks before popping into a shopping trolley. It's a lovely thing in its own way and at the same time as I felt a warm fuzzy pang for the mother hen, I wondered whether there's just a worker at the processing plant with a pile of perfect little feathers, dabbing one onto a representative egg in every dozen. Oh well!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Colour Choices

I always look forward to that stage in a course when the teacher says, "now choose something you like"! It came on Friday afternoon in our Colour Theory class. The invitation to choose was even more welcome by the time I'd slogged through a couple of hours of homework yesterday. I've done a fair bit of colour theory and colour mixing in the past, so I decided to base several of the colour mixing exercises on a colour I don't like. I chose an orange as my key colour and developed complementary, split complementary and analagous colour schemes around it.

Then it was time for the Happy Homework: choose a photo you like because of it's colour combinations. I decided to sift through photos from a few years ago rather than choose something recent. I also decided to choose something I haven't already got on display in my home. I wanted to come to it fresh.

Of course I don't know what we're going to be asked to do with the picture we bring, but for now I'm satisfied with just enjoying the colours.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Princess Promise

I was thrilled to find a few buds on the Silver Princess gum outside my studio last weekend. This morning I had a good look at the Princess tree in my front garden. It's covered in big fat juicy flower buds like these. I'm just chafing with anticipation. The huge gum blossoms are a large part of the attraction in these slender Western Australian natives and I've been waiting to have some of my very own. I'm guessing that the unusually wet summer has helped, since the tree at the front has been there at least twice as long as the little one at the back and this is the first time either has shown any sign of flowering. More pics coming soon!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Colour Schemes

This afternoon's colour topic is Colour Schemes. I see "natural" on the list. I love to observe the colour combinations that nature comes up with. Often there's a surprise there and always the subtelties of variations. These little tomatoes are from my friend A's vegie patch.
The red-green complementary combination is a classic, but there's so much more to see in real life.

Thursday, March 10, 2011


I've declared this particular bit of stitching homework "finished", even though there's always more I could do. I've got another couple of samples to do today and I've already worn a little hole in my finger tip where I push the needle through the cloth . . . I never could get used to using a thimble. Maybe I need to revisit that one. In other news, I assembled a TV cabinet and unpacked my TV yesterday morning. Both have been waiting for my attention for some months. Hopefully on the weekend I can get the electrical stuff connected and have it working. Then I need to work out what I'd like to watch. Any suggestions? Would you believe, I've never owned a TV before!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Warm and Cool

It's officially Autumn in Melbourne now. In reality that means that temperatures range from 30 degrees Celcius to less than half that in the space of a day or two. I'm continuing my Colour Theory homework. This week we're playing with warm and cool colours--apt really. Here's a close up of one of my homework pieces: We were told to make a background of warm coloured fabrics and arrange five cool-coloured shapes on it. The pieces are to be held down with running stitch. It all sounded rather constrained when I read the task sheet, but it turned out to be fun. I've got two more pieces of stitching homework to do today, so I'd better get away from the keyboard and pick up a needle and thread!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Access Angst

Where have I been the past 5 days? Well you may ask. My friend V called on the weekend to make sure I hadn't been struck down by some terrible catastrophe--it's so unusual for me to miss a day on my blog, let alone several days in a row. I've had internet issues. I've had service and communication issues. I've had conversations with three different companies in I don't know how many locations. Today I've had workmen coming and going from my house. Just when the last technician was starting up his van, having given up on the problem, I clicked on the computer and just like magic, there was my web page. I was so excited that I ran to the door and shouted to call him back. He came in--again--and observed the transformation for himself. The best he could manage was, "whadayano!" (for those of you who speak a different strain of English, that's , "what do you know?") I know I have internet access again and that's a good thing. I'll keep you posted!

Thursday, March 3, 2011


When I dropped in to the Neighbourhood House the other day, my friend L had this waiting for me on her desk:
How cute is that! I found myself reaching for it with an embracing gesture before I even knew where it came from. Then she told me it's from one of the miniature apple trees which were moved to her place last year. I last featured it in a post when it was at blossom stage. When I queried its size--I expected full-sized apples from those trees--she reminded me that it's in a very restricted environment. I guess so. Nevertheless it's a real red apple. I brought it home as a treasure. I really should eat it, though it seems a pity, really. It's just so cute.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

By Design

Yesterday I tried to get caught up on some of the chores and maintenance issues that are cluttering my life--figuratively and practically speaking. One of these tasks was to set up a wireless router. I got myself a laptop computer recently. I plan to use it in the studio and internet access was high on my list of priorities. I'm OK with technology, but the intricacies of the process don't give me any joy. I just want things to work straight up. I did not get my wish on this one. It took several hours and an almost incomprehensible call to the Technical Support people before everything was connected and working happily. Thankfully I also had the phone support of a technologically savvy friend. That spared me the added complication of feeling like an idiot--always a risk in these situations.

On the other hand the packaging did bring me joy:
Some-one, somewhere gets to design these natty little containers to keep all the bits and pieces neatly and safely organised in their box. Oh, what fun! If only the whole experience could be so orderly, simple and functional.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Egg again

Our Colour Theory subject has two strands--no pun intended:)--one is mixing colours with paint, the other with embroidery threads. It seems that the sub-text is to make sure that we all have some basic skills in hand-stitching. We're tackling a couple of different stitches each week: seed and running stitch the first week, chain and blanket stitch this week. I'm not finding colour blending with six-stranded embroidery cotton very satisfying--especially not on such small samples. It difficult to get a real blend given the limitations of the medium. I keep thinking about how I could blend the colours using my spinning techniques or my dye pots, but that's not on the agenda just yet. Meanwhile, making a small, quick design using variations of only one embroidery stitch is an interesting challenge in itself.