Sunday, December 30, 2012

Beware the Ides of Boxing Day

I am lying in my bed wearing my black satin bathrobe; not because I feel in any way sexy, but because it was impossible to get myself properly dressed after wrangling my way out of the bath towel. I had inched my way from the bedroom to the bathroom by clinging to the walls along the hallway and spent the ensuing time in the shower gripping onto the glass and hoping I wouldn't land in a wet crumpled heap on the floor.  I can't get comfortable in bed, yet I can't sit or stand either. So I am surrounded on all sides by bags of crochet and balls of yarn, and a half-finished sock project that was meant to be a Christmas present, and a few knitting magazines and the remnants of the chocolate wrappers of indiscretions past ...

Through my drug-induced haze (prescription only and entirely legal) I am displaying only a vague interest in adding to my pink flowered crochet garland whilst dreaming about long tall glasses of brandy lime and soda by the pool that we don't have and the expansive beach house that we probably won't be able to afford to rent next Christmas. Cest la vie ... 

Ah, Lunch has just arrived. See, miracles do happen.

Friday, December 21, 2012

'Twas sort of the night before Christmas

It is Christmas Eve at our house tonight. All the kids have come back home to roost in preparation for our own little family gathering tomorrow. It's been kind of handy having a whole weekend just before the real Christmas Day, allowing us time and space to have a relaxing catch-up, rather than trying to fit family visits into just one day.

All my lovely regal Christmas bags are now hanging in the living room ready for the morning. Santa has been visiting all day, putting little gifty things in, and so now we all just have to wait.

My pantry is well-stocked, and the Christmas cake, groaning with beautiful dried fruits and nuts is under wraps. The ham is ready for baking on the morrow, and there is more than enough bubbly to go around. But in the end, we are all just so happy to be together for 36 hours or so. There is a shared understanding that we are probably amongst the very blessed and we are grateful for the richness of life.

Merry (almost) Christmas.
Evie xxx

Thursday, December 20, 2012

One for the girls

I spent the weekend working on these gorgeous girly Christmas stockings for my darlings at work. I started with several pieces of paper and a pencil, and just kind of sketched out the shape. I found it just a little bit ironic that the paper I used was a blurb from the local council on their recycling and environmental initiatives. So with tongue in the corner of my mouth and a crooked grin I set about drafting up a pattern for the girly boot-style Christmas stocking that had been rattling around in my brain for days.

 The first one was a bit hit-and-miss, and I kind of worked out as I went. I had to resize the gusset piece to get it all to fit together nicely. But on the whole, the machining was fairly quick. The time consuming part was fiddling with all the finishing details and getting each one to look just so.
I was pretty chuffed to have made four Christmas presents without going out and buying a thing. Some of the fabrics were lovely old vintage pieces, others were remnants, and some just out of my Pandora's box of a sewing stash.
Each boot is lined from the top down to the ankle, and stuffed from the toe to meet the lining (does that make sense?).
So here they are, the light wasn't all that crash hot when I took the photo, but you get the idea.
I placed a beautiful Christmas ornament inside each stocking boot and wrapped them for giving a few days ago. I really do hope that they will be loved and enjoyed not only this Christmas, but for the many that may follow.
Feeling the love,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December in the shadowy garden

 The garden in December always reminds me that Christmas is just around the corner. The Agapanthas send up long spikes and the flower heads slowly emerge from their cocoons with an explosion of vivid blue stars.
 I love the richness of their glossy green foliage, the profusion of purple-blue spears, the lush feeling they bring to an otherwise dry bushland garden. The summer has well and truly begun here in the Blue Mountains, the cycle of warm to hot and humid days with little or no rain on the horizon has come into play.
But my front garden is quite lovely today, adorned not only by Agapanthas, but also the waxy white heady-scented gardenias. They flourish and bloom under a canopy of Australian white cedar trees and tall hedges of beautifully perfumed Jessamine.

  Thick clumps of Dietes flower along the perimeter of the picket fence, their blooms delicate and iris-like in formation. The garden, largely protected from the heat of the day by the boughs overhead and the leaf litter of seasons past, is abuzz with insects and crawly beetles. Cicadas are singing in the huge gum trees across the street, and native birds fly in and out, finding refuge in the shadowy bower.
There is a fledgling crab-apple tree by the front gate, and my little crochet birdy has taken up residence. It's quite close to the letterbox, so I am hoping that it makes the post-man smile every time he slips some mail into the slot.
I have been upstairs sewing Christmas presents for days, and so it was lovely to take time out to wander through the garden in the late afternoon light, taking in the scent and the sounds of my bushland home.
The boys have planted out the veggie boxes with great hope, and it seems to be struggling along, subject to marauding possums and possibly some caterpillars. But at last the tomatoes have set fruit and I am hopeful that the wildlife might be considerate enough to leave enough for a small harvest. The passionfruit vine has gone crazy in the last few months, happy in it's warm spot on the side fence, and it is now dripping with fruit. I love to slice up big fat strawberries and Pink Lady apples and Queensland bananas with plump green grapes and spill tangy sweet passionfruit pulp over the whole.
 And last of all, I went to have my daily debrief with the chickens, dropping the outer leaves of a fresh butter lettuce into the cage as a pre-dinner treat. They are so tame and friendly, and really quite bold. When they are out free-ranging they come up to my back door and peck on the glass. Doris and Doreen are a pair and Augusta is the boss-lady. She lays a double-yolker for me most days (and she is secretly my favourite) ...
 Tomorrow will be another warm day, and there is much to be done before the heat sets in. I still have a mountain of Christmas sewing to get through. Soon I will share my brilliant girly Christmas stocking project. I am sure you will love it :)


Thursday, December 13, 2012

A swag of Christmas stockings ... or bagettes?

This coming Christmas the family has decided to try and aim for an economically, environmentally and socially responsible festive season . Not everybody is flush with ready money, and I am grateful that my lot seem happy to appreciate what they already have than be overly worried about the giving and receiving of gifts . Our target is a meagre budget of $5.00 (Australian) for each person, and my job now is to whip up some lovely Christmas stockings for the stocking of little offerings.

 So I was thinking about what size would be needed, and considered that some gifts might not actually be that small (it is possible that a second-hand book or two could have been procured) . The traditional ye olde Christmas stocking could be just a bit squishy when it comes to housing six or seven gifty things . And thinking about what fabric I had stashed away I hit upon this medieval shield-shaped bag idea. The red linen is what remains from a thrifty meterage purchase a couple of years ago, likewise with the spotty cotton lining. I also ferreted out some course white linen for the fleur-de-lis applique.

 The most thrifty part of this project though has to be an upcycled Marcella bedspread that was falling into tatters . I have been tenderly coddling this lovely old textile for several years, but it really had become quite useless as a coverlet . So I studied it carefully to see how best to use the various design elements . Several sections were embossed with fleur-de-lis motifs, which I thought would nicely mirror the linen applique . I finished stocking/bagette number one today and have another six all lined up on my cutting table ready for my next session at the sewing machine .

On top of all this sewing it might be timely to start thinking about what I will be putting inside these lovely bags. My aim is to shop local, to re-purpose, perhaps to cook up some sweeties or to see what I can whip up on the sewing machine. But each gift will be an offering of love. 
I love how at Christmas I fall in love with Christmas all over again .
Happy gift hunting :)

Evie xxx

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Merry Yarn Bombed Christmas

Can you believe I was up at 6am this morning (NOT a morning girl) . I quickly ruffled a brush through my hair, cleaned my teeth, grabbed the yarn bag and my car keys and was on site by 6.15am . Thankfully not too many people around so early on a Sunday morning, just the lady arranging loaves of bread at the bakery across the road and a few random people jogging or walking dogs . So I hung my bag on the wire fence and pulled out the lumpy red Christmas stocking and a large wool needle . I had balls of plain red, green and white yarn on hand and a little pair of scissors for the cutting and snipping of threads. Starting at the top I began stitching my stocking in place, no need to be fussy, just enough to keep it secure .  Then positioning the "H" and then the "O", stitching them on with white yarn and tying them off at the back . I really love these  gorgeous little holly leaves, they shout out "Christmas" straight away . (I used the recipe from Lucy at Attic 24 - - Thank you Lucy) .

The knitted bunting was finished off at midnight last night . As planned as this bombing has been, I always have the most fun when there is some last-minuteness and a dead-line to be met . And now, it looks and feels like Christmas, that stocking hung before a wire mantlepiece, just waiting to be filled . The anticipation and celebration of the festive season is upon us at last .

 While I was in the town I checked out the parking pole that I bombed last August . It's looking a bit limp and faded now, and somewhat the worse for wear . Someone has unpicked the I-cord and tied it around to keep it secured to it's home. How wonderful that it has been loved and cared for by another . There are wispy little webs amongst the poppy flowers where spiders have taken up residence - the opportunism of the natural world at work . Perhaps I will take it down after Christmas and give it some much-needed maintenance. But I am secretly pleased that it is still there, clinging on to it's pole . It kind of looks how I feel; a bit faded, a bit worn and tired, but still clinging on through the ups and downs of everyday life . And seeing it again gives me courage, reminds me that it this urge to create that gives me breath and strength and somehow sets me free . Clickety Clack .
Evie xxx

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Random acts of Christmas

I have done this stuff before, and now I find I'm at it again. But it's something special for Christmas. It's been muddling around in my head for weeks; will I do it this way, or will I do it that. And then I rummaged through my stash of wool, pulling out balls of yarn that might just suit my purpose.

In my corner chair at night, in the quiet by lamplight, the workings began. I started by knitting with the woolly-soft red yarn, the one that is thicker in some parts and thinner in others, some of it almost the texture of roving. It knits up quickly and my needles go clickety-clack as I churn out row upon row of wobbly-looking fabric.

But it looks like a strange unshapely thing, and so I start to crochet all around the edges in a chunky yarn, cheap and cheerful and just right for giving this big amorphous thing a little definition.

Phase two of my dreamed up workings; a Christmas message, short and sweet ... well, truncated really. Each piece is knitted in the chunky white yarn, the one I bought at K-Mart. But it needs some colour and so a crochet edging is added in green, yummy limey-green. And now it all looks like some sort of sweet and delicate icing confection. Now leaves, one. two, three, and berries red to finish it off. It's a simple thing, though I have thought about it often enough that in the finishing it feels like a masterpiece. 

Today I have washed and blocked everything and made it presentable. I have chosen early Sunday morning to do the deed. I will lash it to a bleak chain wire fence in a shopping village not too distant from home. My hope is that in a world of hurry, rush and bustle, it will be a happy thing, a smile-maker, a little bit of out of the basket homespun Christmas cheer. And I wonder what other random acts of Christmas might be happening beyond the borders of my realm ...

Evie :)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Calm in the birdhouse

I know it is late, and I must hit the pillow soon if I am to function in the morning, but the birdies in my crochet basket are calling me cheekily, and I think I had best go fatten one or two up while I wait for sleepiness to descend ...

It has been impossible to get back to my creative space during the past two days. Sometimes I have to go to my other job and I know that at those times it is not worth trying to juggle all the balls. Dinner was the result of throwing green things into a bowl, tearing up a BBQ chook and leaving the family to help themselves as they came in the door.

Watson in his basket
Crazy quality time with my puppy, Watson, is an absolute must when I have been away all the day. He is growing so fast and just loves the game of life. Today he got to spend the afternoon with Rosie-the-Wonderdog, our gorgeous Border Collie cross. They have dug up a good section of the garden and spread much of it over the path. Goodness knows what has been chewed up, and buried to be played with another day ...

And then the drinking of tea by the softly softly lights in the little white birdhouse has reminded me that really and truly, so often it is the simple things in life that restore calm and peace. And now, I am off to crochet ... (just a bit) ...

Monday, December 3, 2012

Finally, a Sewing Kit!

Mondays always seem to get so cluttered with jobs that need doing and errands that have to be run. After a stinking hot couple of days at the end of last week, yesterday we experienced a day of cloudy weather coupled with a thousand little showers of rain. It feels so crazy to have such hot, hot weather one day, and to be drying a family-sized quota of washing in front of the gas fire on the following one. By this morning all that washing had been sadly transfigured into baskets of folding and ironing *sigh*. I really couldn't abandon myself to stitching until it was all done and dusted, out of the way, back onto hangers and into cupboards. I take inspiration from one of my very dear friends, who declares that she doesn't have ironing baskets. And so I occasionally assist myself on the road to virtue by doing the same.

Ironing was followed by foraging for food at the local grocery shop and feeling smug about having something in store for an evening meal for a change. So now, as I sit here writing, I am anticipating a succulent roast lamb and glazed root vegetable dinner teamed with a glass or two of a smooth red wine. The reality might be more like crusted shoe leather with vegetable charr, but I'm sure the wine will make up for any deficiencies in the meal.

By afternoon I felt at my leisure to make my way to the top of the stairs to sit in my quiet space, to sew, and to drink tea, and to sew some more.

Hexagon pincushions are so cute and easy to make!

After finishing my sewing project bag yesterday I really wanted to add a couple of accessories to make it into a more usable kit. These little hexagon pin cushions are very sweet and don't take too long to put together. I had fun fussy-cutting flower motifs from this soft grey print and playing with different ways of arranging them. This one is made from 1 1/4 inch hexagon papers, and the finished pincushion is about two inches in diameter finished. This size is great for holding tiny little applique pins.

Mini Thread Roll - this one holds up to seven reels

The thread roll is based on a larger one that my DS made me for Christmas last year. I find it so handy, and I never have rolls of thread flying off the table and rolling across the floor anymore. I thought a mini-version would be fantastic for a project bag, as you rarely need your whole thread collection at once.

So here is the finished kit - ta da! I made a simple needle pocket as well. The flip side has a couple of wool felt flaps for holding your needle as you work, or for those extra large flower pins. I reckon this bag would be great for those paper-piecing projects, or for stitchery or cross-stitch bits and pieces. I get to give this gift away at the end of the week, so I really hope my friend will love it as much as I do. I think I might need to make another one for me ...


Sunday, December 2, 2012

Some Kind of Wonderful

Sometimes it's hard trying to find just the right Christmas gift in the shops, especially if you are looking for something out of the ordinary. We all seem to have so much stuff these days and unless I come across something that is just perfect I am loath to buy just for the sake of it. I suppose that's what I love most about giving hand-made gifts. It certainly takes more effort, but you can't go past the pleasure and enjoyment of planning and making, and hoping your offering will be enjoyed.

But with all this gift-making to do it really does pay to have a few good resources up your sleeve (that's my excuse). I picked up Anni Downs' Some Kind of Wonderful project book at the Sydney Quilt and Craft Fair last year. This one really is kind of wonderful, and it has lots of useful gifty-type things that I seem to come back to time and time again. 

 It is now Day Two of the Christmas month and for my next trick I have turned my hand to making this handy little sewing bag for one of my quilty friends.

I decided to forgo the pieced and embroidered version, but used the pattern dimensions and rummaged out these classic burgundy and grey fabrics that I collected on a trip to the NSW Hunter Valley earlier in the year.

Construction in progress - adding the linings   

So after my first coffee of the day and a leisurely Sunday breakfast of bacon and eggs, I spent the rest of the morning stitching at the machine. This was followed by a relaxing afternoon catching the cool breeze and the welcome smell of rain from my sewing room window while hand sewing all the lining pieces into place.

Finished Case - Front

Working out the finishing touches took a bit of playing around. There were buttons and hexagon papers on hand, but trying to decide what sort of embellishment would work best was exhausting. [Insert short nap time here.] In the end I found a FQ of fabric printed with vintage French sewing notions and pretty labels. This was teamed with a piece wool felt, and and hand-stitched to the front of the bag.

Finished Case - Back

The little hexagon flower was saved for the back. Tres chic methinks! Now to whip up a pincushion and needlecase to match. But that will have to wait until tomorrow ...


Saturday, December 1, 2012

Welcome to Summer (and how many sleeps till Christmas?)

It's the 1st of December, and the day when we traditionally pull the Christmas tree out of its dusty old box and hang the baubles. Despite the fact that I just LOVE all the sparkly-tinsely stuff I can't help but continue to struggle with the whole Northern hemisphere fir tree/snow/red-suited Santa and reindeer thing when it's a sweltering 40°C outside. But I have overcome this by closing all the blinds and cranking up the air-con a bit. The other difficulty I now face is that our family has recently acquired a 10 week old hyperactive poodle puppy, and I don't think there's any way a fully loaded 6 foot Christmas tree is going to survive more than 10 minutes. So, my little IKEA $10 Chrissy tree may just come into its own this year, up on a cabinet, away from little black jumpy-chewy things.

This is also the time of year when I find myself madly slaving away at my sewing machine, stitching up hand-made gifts for all the people I love, often distracted by playing with the makings of something new and decorative for our humble abode. And it's the season when the quilts of Christmas-past are taken out of cupboards and become hangings to adorn the walls, and the Edwardian bunting is pulled from its baggage and strung up the stairs and around the woodwork. All the labours of years gone by are proof of small things achieved during the season of weariness and stress. Unlike all the hours of dusting and polishing, and the endless production of roasted pork and puddings, these textile workings are something tangible, some proof positive of the labour of my hands. My hope is that they will pass into the folk-lore of family, the rememberings of children and the grandchildren to come.

The funny little Santa-folk, collected here and there, are lovingly unwrapped, their tissue paper bedding unfurled in piles around my feet. They are placed atop cupboards, on side tables; always in small groups or in pairs. Because Christmas is a time of togetherness, even for the Santa men!

 While I have been rummaging around in boxes, ooh-ing and aah-ing at the trinkets I'd forgotten since I packed them away last year, I have been serenaded by my trusty old Bing Crosby Christmas CD, turned up loud so that I can hear it all around the house. Then, and only then, is it beginning to feel like Christmas! So now that it has begun I will enjoy these days, all the way to the 25th of the month, I will make some special moments. I will start to gather in food and plan what I am going to cook. I will soak the fruit for my wicked fruit cake and think about games to play with the family on Christmas evening. And I will keep on stitching, starting and finishing each gift, infusing them with loving thoughts, and enjoying the satisfaction that comes with sowing into your sewing! If there are children in your life, take time or make time, to create some Christmas magic that will become the stuff of treasured memories. Happy Yuletide-making!



Friday, November 30, 2012

Old jeans New Bag

Take a cruddy old pair of jeans, slice them down the seams, iron all the bits, and cut out a bag! I loved crafting this sweet little bits and bobs bag using upcycled denim, furnishing fabric sample pieces and some luscious blue silk lining found at an op-shop. The pattern is from Kath Kidston, super easy to construct (but I always put lining in mine). It holds an amazing amount of stuff for such a little bitty bag :)


Time to revisit ... Piecemakers Train Quilt

Old quilts. Well, not really an 'old' quilt, but one finished several years ago. This is the Piecemakers Times and Seasons Calendar Quilt design that was released in the year 2000. In 2006 my two sisters and I put our heads together and began the collaborative journey of crafting this applique masterpiece as a gift for our model-train-mad father. It took about four years to complete, taking the ups and downs of life into consideration.

I reckon the learning curve was fairly steep, despite the fact that all three of us are competent stitchers. Each block must connect accurately with the one beside it, the one above, the one below and so on. We decided to tackle it by dividing the quilt into four rows, and we worked each section through so that there was a consistency of background type fabrics (sky, mountains, hills, rocks, water etc). It was important to forward plan each stage so that there would be enough of a given fabric allocated to flow into the surrounding blocks. Once these main fabrics had been sorted, we each took our respective block away and had creative licence to choose the remaining fabric elements for that block (houses/trees/shrubs etc). It was surprising how well the finished pieces blended with each other, and in some ways I think the finished quilt has more interest as a result of our individual influences.

Once all of the blocks were completed they were stitched into rows and then joined together to make the completed top. This was no mean feat! Despite the fact that we are all pretty reasonable sewers, it was definitely a 'fudge' job to make it all fit. My sister J is the measurement genius, and it was pretty tricky to square up each block within tolerances. In the end we found it easiest to applique each block to the next to ensure that the connecting pieces came together accurately. A final border was then added, the quilt top was basted and then quilted by hand.

At this point I really have to acknowledge J as the driving force behind this project. I know it would never have happened without her encouragement and enthusiasm.Taking on a project like this definitely taught all of us a whole lot more about colour and tone, and how sometimes it is the ugliest of fabrics that works best of all. I think we would all say that we look at fabric in a different way than before.
Oh, and our Dad does love it ...