Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Yesterday was one of those difficult days. I spent hours on the phone trying to sort out some issues for a friend who is in hospital with a serious mental illness. I won't clutter this blog with the details. I was stressed and tired. I picked this little leaf from a friend's garden just to brighten my day.

It's a tiny delicate subtle thing and I don't promise to do anything with it. It served me as a kind of a talisman in my difficulties. That's enough.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Here's a close up of the ruffle at the front of yesterday's little neckpiece.

I took it with me on my various travels yesterday. I felt the need for a little encouraging feedback. Mostly we were met with a smile or even a giggle. That's just what I was hoping for.

Monday, August 29, 2011


After planning and measuring for textured scarves on Saturday, I probably should have continued in that vein yesterday. Instead I took one of the yarns and made this:
What to call it? It's a little woolly neckpiece--more necklace than collar really. There's a thread of magenta silk through the main yarn that doesn't show up well in the picture. Please add that visual spark in your imagination. One of the things I really like about crochet is that it builds one stitch at a time--that's great for free-form work because I can take it in any direction I like.
After that spontaneous outburst, I'll try to get back to the scarves in the next day or so. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Remember this?

Now it's this:

A long, narrow open-textured scarf using a variety of my novelty yarns. There are enough purples to make at least one more and then I have a great range of other colours to play with. I'm hoping to make enough to sell some at the next House Market. I'm wondering about offering kits for sale. The only trouble is that measuring and packaging the yarns takes so much time and trouble. So, I'll see how it goes. For now it's knitting.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

More Treasures

I picked out the mother of pearl buttons from the old button box. These are much more my taste.
I already had some button bracelets on my to do list. These buttons would make them extra special. The only trouble is that I don't wear bracelets myself and I do love these buttons. So I'm thinking maybe a lanyard. We'll see. Meanwhile they're fun to look at. There are so many varieties and some of them show great signs of wear over years of use. I'm not much of a historian, but I'd love to know some of their stories.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vintage Treasure

I had a fascinating hour at the Neighbourhood House this week. Somebody had donated her mother's old button box. I couldn't resist sifting through it. Amongst other things I found this:

Self-covered buttons in a white synthetic knit fabric--and an irresistably clear and polite little envelope to hold them. It's pure speculation, but wouldn't you like to imagine the garment they belonged to?

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Our run of incredibly warm late winter weather continues--as does my pursuit of sunset colours. I bought some extra white wool top the other day to do some more dyeing experiments. When my eye hit on this orange, it had to come home with me too.

So, I have this running through my fingers at the spinning wheel and a skein in the dye pot brewing a pink-orange combination. The forecast is for showers later today, but I don't think I care!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I went to my "Intro to Drawing and Painting" class yesterday. The topic was "monochrome". First we did some colour mixing exercises to develop a range from darkest to lightest. Then we were asked to paint "anything" using only that range. It was at that point that I realised I've never really done any painting before. When the teacher gently critiqued my work by saying it looked as though I was trying to draw with a paint brush, I was stumped. I didn't know there was an alternative. She demonstrated. Honestly it looked as though she was moulding something huge out of soft clay! She told me to push and smoosh the paint around on the paper. She used big globs of paint and a wadded up rag to apply it. I was amazed.

Instead of going back to my "pretty flower", I had a go at pushing and smooshing the paint. I was still quite tentative, but at least I could see there was something different I could do.

Actually I feel as though I'm doing remedial kindergarten painting. I don't know if that's a good thing. The whole process of working to develop my skills for textile art keeps getting broader with more and more possibilities and processes. Now there's paint and learning to smoosh!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Chasing Rainbows

I got back to some spinning on the weekend. And the logical follow-on was a bit of dyeing. Here's one of the skeins.

I was chasing sunset colours. That's a never-ending game. I came up with some happy products, which I'm planning to use for a few scarves. Meanwhile I'm learning a bit more about how different proportions of my dyes work out in the pot.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Out and About

There were plenty of tasks I could have done yesterday, but I decided to give myself a day off. I caught up with a couple of friends and went for a walk at Warrandyte, along the banks of the Yarra River.

I have no specific textile inspirations to report. I just took a chance to breathe a little. There were wattle blossoms everywhere in different stages of development.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Jelly Roll and Tea

My friend L came over yesterday afternoon. She brought a jelly roll. No, not the one you eat--it's a roll of fabric strips, like this.

That's how it looks when it's unrolled. When it's rolled up it does look a lot like the edible version. A jelly roll can be a fun and convenient way to buy a variety of fabrics. Several of my students have been working with jelly rolls in class lately. They're a cute little bundle of fabric sweetness. But like most things, there's an inherent challenge. It's easy to be attracted to the fabrics on the outside of the roll and the nifty arrangement. Fabrics on the inside of the roll are hidden, except for the very edge. You need to work out what's really in that fabric bundle before you can use it well.

We brewed ourselves a cuppa each and had a look at the collection of fabric. About a third of the strips were cut from a fabric which L didn't particularly like. It's the one you can see right at the bottom of my pic--pinky-apricot is the predominant colour. Let's be honest, as we discussed the fabric and possibilities it became clear that L really didn't like that fabric. So, out it went. Then we played a bit more, rearranging the colours and supplementing the collection here and there. For me it was fun to look at the potential without having to commit to any sewing of my own. Meanwhile I had yarns in the dye-pot and good company on a sunny afternoon.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


I finished knitting this little piece yesterday.
It's a fine little capelet and weighs in at only 56 grams, but it's been a long term project. I spun the wool-silk blend a couple of years ago and cast on at the collar. After shaping the shoulders and the neck opening I worked a pattern of regular increases until I ran out of wool. If you're wondering why it took so long, there's something like 800 stitches around the bottom edge. That's a lot of knitting. Now the big question will be how it sits on the person for whom it's intended and whether the shaping actually works in an attractive way. I hope to find that out tomorrow. Meanwhile the ends have been sewn in and I'm on to a new project.

Friday, August 19, 2011


I picked a little twig of blossom from the street tree across the road from my house. They never last long. Already the fresh brown leaves are coming through. The appearance of the tree changes day by day.

I also have in mind some more flower brooches, so the construction of the flower interests me. How would it look upsized?

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I'm forever looking for ideas. At the moment there are several concepts on my mind. One is freemotion quilting--I need flowing continuous lines. Another is brooches--I need clear simple motifs. This little bird shape comes from, would you believe a cake decorating resource. It's part of a much larger design with flowers and scrolls and several other birds, but this is the one that caught my eye.

All I've done here is trace it out and colour it in with black biro, simplifying the outline just a little and bulking out some of the curves. It's been sitting on the table for a while and I guess I need to make some decisions about using it. Well, that hasn't happened yet, but meanwhile here it is in my blog for you to look at too.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

More Equipment

There must be something seriously wrong in my world, because when I had the opportunity of 30% off everthing at my local fabric and craft superstore yesterday I could only think of a single item I wanted to buy. And they didn't have it.

My friend V dropped in at lunch time to share a cuppa and entice me on a shopping expedition. "All I want is quilting gloves", was my reply. V was kind enough to do a detour to the local Quilting Store on the way home, so I came home with these.  
 The 20 cent coin is there for a size comparison. These are the smallest gloves I could find. They seem to be a perfect fit. I've been told that the cheap rubber-tipped cotton gloves you can find in the supermarket work just as well as the ones designed for quilting. That's all very well for those with longer fingers than mine. They're no good for me. Even the small size leaves me with excess fabric at the end of my fingers--that's no good for precision control. Are you wondering what these gloves are for? They're to help me keep an easy grip on the fabric when I do free-motion quilting. Now I have everthing I need to get practicing. Time and concentration I need to supply myself. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I'm planning to go to my drawing and painting class again tonight. Apparently we're going to use paint for the first time today. We've been asked to bring some simple equipment.
A plastic plate for mixing paint; a jam jar for water and a rag for cleaning up and perhaps also for applying paint--that's what we were told. And the paint will be only black and white. The complexities of colour are a topic for another day. I'll be interested to see how it goes. 

Monday, August 15, 2011


I've been working a bit on the unfinished bag which I posted last week. Here it is with the flap constructed and the beginnings of a shoulder strap.
You can see, it's just the right size for a nice little outing, with enough room for a bit of money, keys and a mobile phone. I'm planning to line it and add a little bit of weight to the point of the flap--probably a bead or something. Getting the right length for a shoulder strap is always a challenge for me. I guess a buckle to make it adjustable is always an option.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Free Motion 101

Yesterday I went to my first free motion machine quilting class. Here's how it started.

Stitching front to back and side to side to get the idea of controlling the direction and length of stitch. My next challenge was to write my name. Then lots of stippling practice. Stippling is a continuous meandering curved stitch path and I can't say I'm thrilled by it, but at least it's a way of training the right hand-eye coordination.

Probably the most useful part of the teaching came before all this. It was about setting myself up at the machine to make the task as comfortable and stress-free as possible. To that end I have a pair of rubber-tipped cotton gloves on my shopping list for today--they made a huge difference in helping me move the fabric without straining. And I'm going to have to have another look at how I have my machine set up in the studio to make sure I can sit easily while I sew.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

This and That

It's been a difficult week and I haven't been feeling very creative. At the same time it's good to keep up routines and to have something to occupy my mind. I had some books to return to the library yesterday. I took a bit of time to look for something new to read. I came home with some journals and contemporary accounts of early European explorers of the East Coast of Australia.

In case you're interested, my train of thought went something like this . . .
  • Last week I was looking at flowers for the Creative Kids. I took out some books about Australian wildflowers as a resource.
  • I have a long time fascination with botanical art.
  • I'm working to improve my drawing skills.
  • Collecting and recording strange plants and animals was a major task of the early explorers.
  • I'm keen to learn more about history. Personal accounts and biographies are one way of doing that--and I'm especially interested in the way individual characters come through.
So I came home with several journals to read. There are are a few original drawings in Joseph Banks' published journals. The letter above is one written by James Cook prior to his departure from England in 1768. Coincidentally, I'm going to a free-motion machine quilting class this morning. The flourishes and curls on the capital letters remind me of the sort of work I hope to eventually be able to do with my sewing machine.

Friday, August 12, 2011


While I was looking for suitable materials for collage last week my shelves received a bit of a shake up. This came to the surface:

It's a nearly completed little bag in a Jo Sharp viscose-cotton-polyester blend with gold sequins. And what's more there was a spare ball of the same yarn in the same bag. That means there's some chance of getting it finished. Let's see how I go. I even know where I can put my hands on the right sized crochet hook.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Looking Again

Despite the craziness of this week I did get to my new drawing class on Tuesday evening. I figure that maintaining a routine of good things is a helpful way to cope when life is rocky. We had been asked to bring in something to draw. On my way out the front door I picked a grevillea flower. It proved to be a worthy subject for our scaling exercises: draw it normally; draw a tiny bit in detail; draw it really big!

Here's one leaf that I saved for later.

In the class I concentrated on the flower. Now I'd like to really think about the shapes of the leaf. I continue to be amazed at how different things appear when I start to really look at them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Looking Forward

I've been wanting to have a go at basket-making for a while. Not that I expect it will become my primary passion, but the structural possibilities intrigue me. And I have some exciting ideas about ways in which my fibres and established interest in weaving may be incorporated. At last year's Sheep and Wool Show I promised myself a basket-making workshop. I even went as far as enrolling, but had to cancel because of a teaching commitment. I came across the Basket-makers of Victoria again at the Quilt and Craft show a few weeks ago. There was the workshop I had promised myself.

The flyer arrived yesterday. I've already made a call today to see if I can book my place. It will be interesting to see what comes out of it.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


It's been a crazy few days for me with lots of things to worry about and lots of waiting for phone calls and processes that I can do little about. Sometimes having a bit of crochet in my hands helps to keep me sane. I'm back to the little flowers.

These are three versions of the same thing. The difference is simply in the pattern of increases I make before I crochet the little petal shapes. The fibre is a leftover bit of variegated corn-silk yarn.

Monday, August 8, 2011


Wise words from my new drawing teacher last week, "expect to make a lot of rubbish before you make something you're happy with . . . and then expect to make more rubbish as you go on". No, I don't think she was being negative. It  really helps me to know that it's ok to make rubbish. Here's some of my rubbish from the weekend:

And at a personal level, yesterday was rubbish too. I spent several painful and stressful hours at a police station because a young man I care for was involved in a violent incident. Unfortunately that's harder to scrunch up and toss in the bin before having another go at it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Glue Story

Creative Kids class yesterday was a satisfying challenge for me. I usually teach adults, so ten children between the ages of six and twelve was a different experience. And doing collage with a new group in a limited time frame was always going to be interesting. Of course I over-prepared . . .
The grevillea and gum flowers I had picked for inspiration were of more interest as craft materials than as something to look at, and most of the books stayed on the table. But the fabric and wool scraps were very exciting to use--so much so that the pile of magazines was pretty much untouched. With all those fascinating possibilities for 3-D creations the glue got a very good work out. I'm glad I'd thought to bring supplies of extra-tacky glue. It was in huge demand. The pegs for holding things down while waiting for the glue to dry were also handy, though some of them tried to become part of the art work!  By the end of the session each child had made something beautiful to take home. And I'd gained a heap more insight into the way different personalities tackle a creative challenge. To add to the fun and satisfaction, several children had made themselves necklaces or other ornaments out of wool, ribbon and buttons; or asked to take home an extra bit of something coloured and fluffy for later use.

To learn more about Creative Kids, please head over to Amanda's blog. She is their regular teacher and developer of this whole program.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Craft Fair Reprise

Remember last Saturday and my plans to go to the Quilt Show without emtying my wallet? Well, I didn't do too badly. All I bought was this:
Bright boldly coloured felt balls! I'm planning to use them in some of my freeform jewellry. They're quite light for their size--that's a challenge with big bright beads normally, so felt is a great solution. Unfortunately there's no information on the packaging about who makes them. And from the price I can be sure that they're not made locally.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Shiny Things

I picked up this bracelet for a couple of dollars at an Opp Shop a few weeks ago.

I don't usually wear bracelets. I don't like the feeling of something around my wrist. Maybe that's because I use my hands so much with various crafts. And this bracelet is heavy. Those are big cut glass beads and semi-precious stones. Well, maybe semi-precious is a bit of an overstatement, but anyway, they are heavy. So why did I bother buying this, even for just a couple of dollars? I'm hoping to make it into a necklace. I'm thinking of something a bit freeform incorporating different twisted cords and fibres. Hopefully on the weekend I'll have a go at it. Meanwhile I've promised to help with the Newsletter at the Neighbourhood House today. The volunteer who normally does it is out of action and it needs to be out this week.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


I'm still thinking about Saturday's Creative Kids class. One of the exciting things about taking a new group is that it shakes up my thinking and makes me look at things differently. I love doing research, so yesterday afternoon I took myself off to the local library to look for resources. I came home with several lovely garden books and this:
It's not about flowers, but it's full of lovely collage. Collage is an art form in itself, so I want to show the Creative Kids some lovely examples in a real published book to inspire them. I've got a collection of coloured magazines for them to use too, so they can make something like this if they choose to.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I went to my first class at the Incinerator Arts Complex yesterday evening. It's an introduction to drawing and painting. I enrolled as a way of making up to myself for not doing the Textile Art course at Box Hill this semester. I'm hoping to be able to develop some skills in a more relaxed environment. So far I'm happy. Here is an exercise I did last night. The good news is "if it doesn't look like a page full of spaghetti, you're not doing the exercise right"

The process involves looking intently at an object and not looking at the page. We were told to carefully follow our eyes with our hand marking on the page. Our eyes were supposed to wander slowly over the object. That's about it really--or as much as I could understand on a first try--I'm sure there's a lot more to the process. What amazed me was how differently I saw my object during the exercise. Previously I've been told that drawing is about "looking". This exercise somehow reset my looking process, so that I actually saw details and subtleties that I was previously unaware of. And thankfully the drawing wasn't supposed to look like anything at all, so no worries about showing it here. By the way, if you're wanting to learn more about this exercise, I think it's called "contour drawing".

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flower Fantasies

I've been invited to fill in for a class with the Creative Kids group at Sussex Neighbourhood House. It's a creative art group for children of primary school age. Amanda started the group and I've been following with interest as the concept develops. She's tied up with other teaching this week, so I get to participate. I'm following along the theme of the flowers that have been intriguing me lately, but now thinking about it in a child-centred way. All of a sudden bits and pieces around the house take on a new significance . . .
No, this is not an egg carton. It's a dozen flower bases and a planter box! I'll get to raid my fabric and wool stash and see what these creative kids get up to. Look out for some photos on the weekend.

edited to add
Change of plan--one of the children has an egg allergy--we'll use something else!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Thank You Project

Sussex Neighbourhood House celebrates a big birthday next week. It's been 20 years of community building--that's worth making a fuss about. I was approached to help with a project to celebrate some of the people who have built the community over the years.

Initially we hoped to do some new portrait photos and gather stories, but the realities of available time and people-power made that impossible. Instead we've been working with the photos we already have. During the week of the birthday we'll be asking participants to add to the photos we have. There will be craft supplies available for people to make Thank You cards, write notes and share their stories. I'm hoping it will be an encouraging time for all those involved.