Sunday, 14 December 2008

applique attack

How to revitalise hand-me-downs?


Bye bye butterflies!

Later, love hearts.

I went a little crazy with this idea (I have only shown a few of those completed) but how could I resist such a quick-fix sewing project?

Friday, 12 December 2008

flying turtles

I spent a couple of evenings this week preparing a custom order for a new baby living in Hong Kong. The specs were for a dress that was fairly plain on the outside but with an animal theme.

Voila! Green cotton dress with turtle lining, trim and buttons.

[Yes! I do custom orders! If you like my style but don't see anything suiting your needs on etsy, please contact me! :-) ]

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

vegan gingerbread men recipe

These gingerbread men are a veganised, easier-fied version of the Presbyterian Women's Missionary Unit recipe. I made them for a playgroup Christmas party and they were very popular with the kids but unfortunately the dog liked them too, and the kids hadn't learned how to defend themselves yet. Ah well.

1/2 cup soy or non-dairy margarine
2 Tablespoons golden syrup
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon powdered egg replacer
100g soy or rice milk
315g SR flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
decorations (eg currants, glace cherries, candied peel, sprinkles, icing, whatever!)

1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C
2. Melt margarine and golden syrup in mixing bowl in microwave
3. Add sugar and soy milk.
4. Add sifted flour, salt, ginger and egg replacer. Mix well.
5. Knead lightly and roll out to 1cm thickness on a floured board.
6. Use cutter to shape and place on a greased tray.
7. Decorate with fruit.
8. Bake 15-20 minutes
9. When cool, add icing if desired.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?

After taking five weeks off in the middle of semester to go gallivanting around the globe, I was very behind on my Design homework for TAFE. So with the memory of first semester's mad rush to get everything done on time fresh in my mind, I packed up my sewing machine and vowed not to touch it until I was finished.

I also found myself going to bed super-duper early every day, thanks to pregnancy number three. I was keeping it quiet to begin with because after a loss, the easiest way to avoid the anxiety (otherwise known as constant panic attacks!) is to avoid thinking about it. But now here I am at 23 weeks and I still haven't become particularly attached to the new little miss. Olive, on the other hand, seems very excited and is giving my belly lots of kisses and hugs. Sweet.

So, with no crafting to blog about and no time to do it, I have been noticeably absent of late. But with the homework done, the sewing machine back in action, and a (partially) homemade Christmas on the way, I suspect that is about to change.

See you soon!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

this is ... something I'm surprised that I like


Or, more specifically, weeding the garden. The damn weeds and especially the buffalo grass grow so much more quickly than I have time to remove them. So I look at the garden and feel sad that it so out of control.

Yet, when I do get a chance, I realise that gardening is fun! Such a good way to unwind.

This week, I have started a new morning routine whereby Olive plays in her sandpit, the chickens come out of their coop for a bit of a scratch and I crawl around in the garden pulling out weeds. Bliss.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

this is ... my favourite film

I am finally going to make the effort to get back into the "this is" meme. I have extended my vacation for far too long!

I could not possibly choose just one film as my favourite. I'm afraid the best I can do is to narrow it down to a shortish list of favourite directors/creative teams:
* David Lynch (Eraserhead; Blue Velvet; Twin Peaks (the tv series); Wild at Heart; Lost Highway; Mullholland Drive)
* Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands; Ed Wood; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; Sweeney Todd)
* Jeunet and Carot (Delicatessen; City of the Lost Children; Amelie)
* the Coen brothers (Raising Arizona; Barton Fink; Fargo)
* Peter Greenaway (The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover; The Baby of Macon)
* Alfred Hitchcock (Rear Window; Vertigo; Psycho; Marnie)

Hmmm. Looking at that list, all of my favourite directors have a fairly dark and distinctive vision, and their films are aesthetically beautiful. The mise-en-scene is much more important to me than the plot! In the spirit of which, I shall choose one film that is especially beautiful:
Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love.

Love, love, love the wallpaper! And the frocks. And the food. The soundtrack's not bad, either!

Sunday, 19 October 2008

mini model

My sister is studying digital photography at TAFE and was asked to complete a "model shoot". Forgetting the (very wise) advice to avoid working with animals and children, she decided to photograph some of the dresses that I am selling in my etsy store, using Olive as the model.

After two separate sessions with lots of bribery and chasing, these are some of the cutest photos.

These first two photos were rejected on the basis that the background is too distracting. I guess it's true - when I look at them I see the vintage lino in Olive's room and the old Snow White book she's reading.

See my etsy store for pictures that actually showcase the dresses!

Friday, 3 October 2008


My Grandmother died last week, at the very respectable age of 94. Even though I'm sad, I know that she lived a long life and one that she was generally satisfied with. I am also thankful that, as part of an obsession with genealogy, I took many opportunities to talk to Grandma about her life and really try to get to know her. I hope that you will indulge me by letting me share her story with you, too.

Florence Edith Davies was born on New Years Day, 1914. On the day she was born, her grandfather held her and said "What a dear little Tuppence. She could fit into my coat sleeve." Both the name and small size stuck with her for life. She claimed to have reached 5 foot 1 in her heyday but that may have been an exaggeration. Certainly she was to experience great trouble finding shoes for her tiny size 2 feet.

Tup was born in the Port Broughton Hotel, where her parents were licensees. Soon after they moved to Port Lincoln, where at one time they were running three hotels. Their family home was in the Port Lincoln Hotel.

Tup learnt to swim when one of the local fishermen threw her off the Port Lincoln Pier with a life buoy. While growing up in the Port Lincoln Hotel, the family would go for a swim in the ocean at 7am each morning. In winter when it was too cold they would go for a walk instead. Mind you, Tup's version of swimming mainly consisted of floating on her back.

Mr Broadbent, a lawyer in Adelaide, would come to Port Lincoln each summer to visit his brother and live in the hotel. Tup would take his lunch down then go out fishing in his dinghy. Once when Tup was around 8 years old, she had her hand in the water when they saw a shark nearby.

In the Hotel, the parents' bedroom was downstairs and the girls' upstairs. They had a chain on the door to protect them from unsavoury types but when building began on a nearby dam when Tup was aged five, it was decided that there were too many rough workmen so Connie and Tup were sent off to boarding school at St Peter's in Kermode street, Adelaide. The girls travelled to school each term on the Minnipa, a coastal ship owned by the Adelaide Steamship Company that was regularly engaged in Eyre Peninsula sea trade for many years.

The school was just past St Peter's Cathedral where they wen to church every Sunday, walking crocodile fashion. The summer uniform was a white tabalco dress with a fine blue stripe and in winter they wore a navy blue blazer with a navy blue pinafore. Hats and gloves were always part of the uniform. Tup was pleased that the girls started school just after the summer hats had been changed from ugly straw boaters.

After leaving school, Tup first worked for the family in the Port Lincoln Hotel. She had three main tasks: ironing napkins and table cloths for the dining room (a very time-consuming task as she had to use a flat iron); housemaid (only when they were particularly busy); and waitressing in the dining room. After Tup's sister Connie married in 1934, Tup took over her job as a dental nurse but she had to return home and work in the Hotel when her mother became ill.

In around 1935, Tup went to Horsham for four weeks to visit her sister, Connie. Connie's husband, Merv, suggested that they invite his friend Ray Huf around for a game of four-handed Solo because "he's a nice boy". Ray went home that night and told his mother "I've met a girl with the most beautiful hair" (Tup's hair was strawberry blonde). After Tup returned to Port Lincoln, the two continued to keep in contact by mail and Ray visited her a couple of times, driving there in an Essex 6. The roads were not good, traversing sand hills, and the journey would have taken him at least 18 hours. Ray proposed in the car during one of these visits. After a year of courting, the couple married in Adelaide on the 28th of January, 1939. Tup wore an ice-blue chiffon dress with smudgy flowers. Tup's sisters Connie and Grace were bridesmaids and David Nightingale was a groomsman. Their honeymoon was the two-day drive back to Horsham, stopping at Port Fairie. It was Black Friday and they had to take an alternative road because a tree on the side of the road was on fire and threatening to fall.

In Horsham, they lived in a newly-built house on Ray's mother's farm in Lubeck road. They intended to buy furniture with the money owed to them by a man who ran off. They were left only with thirteen cows which they milked, selling the cream to get money for furniture. Tup churned their own butter and had to wash the separator, which was quite a chore.

Tup's first pregnancy ended in miscarriage. To make matters worse, both Ray and their usual doctor were away at the time. The young replacement doctor insisted that Tup was still pregnant and prescribed strict bed rest. This went on for months! Happily, she went on to have four daughters: Christine in 1941, Elizabeth in 1944, Rosemary 1947 and Margaret in 1948.

Tup's first priority was always her family.

In spite of her fear of snakes, upon discovering one under the washing line that she had been about to use, Tup duly armed herself and threw a stick at it. She missed but the snake took fright and was never seen again.

Having learned from her mother in the hotel, Tup was a great cook and collector of recipes. She was particularly noted for her light scones, the secret of which she said was "all in the fingertips". Having lived through the Depression, Tup was also a great offal cook and a master at making something out of nothing. In addition to feeding her family, Tup would also prepare lunch for the workers on the farm.

Tup retained her childhood love of the ocean and many family holidays would be spent at the seaside. Ray would drive them down then return to the farm in Horsham, leaving Tup to look after the four girls with the assistance of her sister Connie or their housekeeper, Mrs Hallam (Hallie).

Tup was President of the Horsham Golf Club. Known for a unique flourish at the top of her golf swing, Tup was an accomplished golfer, winning both the B-grade championship and the grandmother's trophy.

When bowls first started at the Horsham Golf Club, Tup teamed up with Mrs Smith to win the pairs competition. She continued to play and at age 70 won the championship and was President of the Horsham City Bowls Club. She also qualified to represent the Central Wimmera Bowling Club in Melbourne.

Tup was a keen card player, her favourite game being Bridge. On one occasion she was playing with Ray and two friends when they saw a fox running past outside. The three men immediately threw down their cards in hot pursuit of the fox but Tup stayed at the table and patiently awaited their return, as she was holding a winning hand.

Tup's husband Ray died at their home in Gleed street, Horsham, in 1996. Tup stayed on there until 2005 when she broke her hip and moved in with daughter in Great Western. With four generations in the house, there was lots of opportunity for misadventures. On one occasion, great-grand daughter Isabelle was playing air guitar (using a real guitar for extra effect) when she got a bit too enthusiastic and hit Tup in the leg, causing significant injury. After that, Tup was set up with a fire guard in front of her for protection whenever the great grand children visited. On another occasion, great grandson James' pet ferret had been missing for a couple of weeks. Tup had established a respectful relationship with the ferret so when it reappeared in the living room where she was sitting by herself, she greeted it, saying "Oh there you are. Welcome home." The ferret immediately ran up the inside of Tup's trouser leg, scratching and clawing as it went. Tup calmly waited for a family member to come and rescue her. They were met with some amusement at the hospital when they tried to explain how the 90+ year old had come to suffer her latest injuries.

Tup died in hospital on the first of October 2008 after a brief illness, aged 94 years. She had retained her sharp intellect until her final days and her wisdom and wit was proven again at her funeral, a cold a rainy day, when it was revealed that she had been asked to be buried in "something warm. Because I'm going up, not down".

On a more personal note, these are a few things that I associate fondly with my Grandma:
* stewed plums for breakfast
* five o'clock is sherry time
* guests are always invited to make themselves "com-fort-ab-le"
* my excitement as a little girl when I was able to fit into my Grandma's "grown-up" shoes
* her unending patience and selflessness

Rest well, Grandma. I love you.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

code brown

Today has been a difficult one, filled with death, illness, and housework that remains undone. But rather than deal with any of that right now, I'd like to tell a silly story from a couple of weeks ago.

My partner takes our daughter, Olive, to group swimming lessons at the local pool each week. It's great daddy-daughter bonding time and gives me an hour or so of rare me-time. This particular Sunday, however, they came home rather early and noticeably red-faced.

Apparently, the lesson had just started when the instructor pointed Olive, leaped out of the pool and started yelling:


Olive's swim nappy had leaked. Once everyone realised what had happened, they were quick to react and all scrambled for the edge of the pool. My partner rushed off in embarrassment to change the offending nappy but slunk back later to apologise. The pool was still empty and there was no one to be seen.

The next day, I bought Olive some ugly ankle-to-neck one-piece bathers. And we now have a great story to tell at her 21st birthday party.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

slow going

I have realised that I can never become a painter. Colour mixing is too frustrating!

Will it ever get any easier? Or is it just one of those things where I need to learn to enjoy the (very slow) process?

Sunday, 28 September 2008

travelogue ... Belgian doorsteps

Traditional doorsteps in the St-Gilles area, Brussels.

We stayed in St-Gilles with an Aussie friend. It was great to be able to take a break from being tourist and live more like the locals. We managed to sample a large number of cafes during a relatively short visit!


Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. It has been two months since my last post.

The good news is that I am back from my holiday with lots to catch up on. And to start things off, I have just restocked my etsy store with some brand new softies.

More items coming soon.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

travelogue - Suzhou Silk Museum

Internet access has so far been quite limited on this trip but I still wanted to post while things are fresh in my mind.

Crafty highlight of our three days in Shanghai, China, was our visit to the Suzhou Silk Museum.

The peaceful mulberry garden demonstrates the various types of mulberry bushs that serve as the silk worms' diet.

In the sericultural room, two old ladies sat crouched on the floor watching over the silkworms busy at their job of eating mulberry leaves.

Cocoons in the sericultural room.

Each variety of silorm produces a noticeably different cocoon.

Part of an old loom on the weaving room, where their use is demonstrated by highly skilled technicians.

One of the amazing double-sided silk embroideries produced and sold locally.

Catch a train from Shanghai Railway Station to Suzhou. The trip should take anywhere from 40 minutes to 2hours,depending on whether you get the express. I recommend that you book your return ticket in Shanghai too to avoid a potentially long wait.
Upon arriving in Suzhou, catch a bus, taxi or trishaw or walk (it's not far) going left from the station then right over the bridge. Cross the first set of lights and the museum is halfway down the first main block on the right side (across the street from the start of the temple complex).

There are lots of other interesting things to fill your day in Suzhou, including the silk embroidery research institute.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

beautiful buildings - cathedral arcade

I had a spare few minutes in the city this morning. I had my camera with me and the crowds hadn't arrived yet. How could I resist?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

there's an elephant in my suitcase

Our trip to Europe is less tan two weeks away (yippee!) and I have been trying to think of ways to keep Olive entertained on the very long flights. So of course, I turned to my trusty sewing machine for help.

And made a drawstring bag using an old pillowcase. The idea is that she can put her toys in and out and in, etc.

It will hold some tiny board books, a squeaky bath toy, a ball, her favourite teddy (cookie monster) and a pencil. Got any other suggestions about how to keep a one-year-old occupied for many, many hours?

Sunday, 20 July 2008

this is ... what makes me happy

Warming up in front of the heater.

Collecting freshly laid eggs in the morning. I especially enjoy it when all of the chickens come out of their yard and follow me in a line.

Cooking with ingredients grown in our own back yard. And making a healthy meal for the people I love.

Being there when Olive does something for the first time.

Lining up books in height order.

A warm shower - my best thinking time.

A little bit of time to create.

I look for my happiness in the simple pleasures of everday life. As much as I can, I want to live in the moment and appreciate what I have. There is no point in always looking forward in anticipation of some imagined future happiness, or defining hapiness as something that only happens on special occassions. There is so much to appreciate every day.

Special thanks to Jacinta from One Little Acorn for her great topic this week.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

this is ... what scrambles my brain

Crochet patterns. For the life of me, I simply cannot read them.

Which is funny (strange, not ha ha) because I have no trouble with freehanding crochet and frequently turn to it when I can't find a pattern to follow. Like these:

A toilet doll roll made as a housewaming gift for my sister. I was aiming for super-tacky but I still think I've seen worse.

Owl rattle.

The inaccesibility of crochet patterns has become doubly frustrating since I joined Ravelry because there are so many cute amigurumi creatures I'd love to be making. Like these little guys:
striped turtle

So, if you know of a good online crochet tutrial or can recommend a book, please let me know. Cheers!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

my first tapestry

It's taken me a little while to work up the courage for the show-and-tell but here it is at last, my first woven tapestry.

It was based on this photograph that I took of Olive and her dad at the Osaka Aquarium. Can you see the whale shark in the background?

The beads are intended to serve as braille dots and give a description of the image so that it can be accessed by the sighted and vision impaired alike.

While there are lots of really obvious errors, I learnt a lot too and am keen to do better next time!

Friday, 11 July 2008

this is ... my treasured childhood possession

I'm only five days late with my meme post this week. Still not great but getting better ...

I'd like to introduce you to Seranja. I'm not quite sure of the spelling of her name because I invented it before I learnt my ABCs.

Admittedly, Seranja is quite a scary looking girl. I think it's the teeth that does it. In fact, my partner insists that I ensure she is hidden in a fully closed drawer each night for fear that she will come to life and strangle us in our sleep.

I wouldn't exactly say that Seranja was well-loved but I did treasure her as a child because she was handmade by an aunt, and again as a teenager because I realised that she had provided me with much of my sense of style. (Thank goodness that Barbie was banned in our house!) Note in particular Seranja's black boots (I was a doc Martens devotee), stripey tights, petticoat and dress.

As a child, I as always fascinated by Seranja's knickerbockers too. Luckily, I never took my mimicry of her that far.

And now that I have a child of my own, I find myself wearing ric-rac-embellished aprons.

Thanks to Angela of Three Buttons for the "this is" meme and Danielle of teacups on treetops for this week's topic.