Monday, 1 May 2017

The ibis story.

We had such a fabulous time in Coral Bay, but I must admit it was lovely to feel the cool fresh air as we drove back into town.  Arriving home is always a bit of a relief really, after all the adventures on the sand dunes, the scorching sunny days, bugs biting anything that's exposed, grasshopper plagues and just too much food and alcohol, it's good to get home safely in one piece.

As we pulled into our driveway it really was lovely to experience the beautiful half light of dusk and see such a generous sprinkling of rose petals strewn across the driveway.  Awwww.....Autumn is here.

Waking up in my own bed is a bit of a novelty.   A big yawn and stretch.......followed by a leisurely wander out to the garden in the early morning sun.


What's that?!

We have a scarecrow in our front yard?  With a lampshade for a head?

Oh.  I get it.  This is a dream.  Scarecrows, birds, rose petals, alcohol, sunshine, fun.

Erm.......maybe not.

They're not rose petals on the driveway either.

It's poop.  Ibis poop.  Set like concrete.

And the roof of the house looks like it's been snowing.


Our yard has been taken over by a flock of seven renegade ibis.  Our neighbours have been doing whatever they can to deter them but apparently ibis can be very obstinate indeed.

They like it at our house.

They even like the backyard scarecrow.  They just sit on the pool fence and stare at him with glee in their little black twinkling eyes.

I have no frogs left in my pond either.  Ibis beaks are long and deadly.

I do however have friendly, creative neighbours and a willing and enthusiastic husband.

So this is the latest in hand crafted ibis deterrent technology.

Mick races out the door at a moments notice (quite often only in his 'shorts') and runs around the yard yelling like a madman, banging and crashing his 'ibis deterring hardware'.  

It sounds like a corroboree.

Looks like one too.

Isn't retirement supposed to be calm, peaceful, serene, full of meaning and fulfilment?  A simple life?


Sunday, 16 April 2017

Beginning a Nature Journal.

Just before we left for Coral Bay, I enrolled in Jan Blencowe's online Nature Journaling course.

Jan says that Nature Journaling is -
".....designed for those who love the natural world and want to form a connection with nature through art."
That sounds just perfect doesn't it?

She also asks you to -
"Imagine learning ways to fine tune your listening and observational skills so that you can deeply engage with the natural world. Then imagine that you have a repertoire of creative skills that allows you to quickly and easily sketch the beauty in nature, beauty that takes your breath away and fills you with a sense of calm and well being."
Hmmmm.....filled with a sense of calm and well being?  Sounds like bliss to me.

The course actually started a couple of days after we left home (Murphy's Law) so I just took my journal, started by myself and made it up as I went along.

Here are some of my pages -

Mostly I was just learning about my new Daniel Smith colours and trying to observe the sea and sky.

There's only one blue and two greens in the recommended colour palette, so I have a bit of colour experimenting to do.

I always thought there was just 'grass' on the sand dunes.  Nope.  I just didn't look properly.  There are even flowers up there on the dunes.

Don't ask me where this 'insightful insight' came from.  Mother nature probably.

We seemed to cram so much into each day and I tried to sketch a little snapshot of all the activities for one of them.  I didn't end up liking this page much - it's a bit too colourful and 'busy'.

The image on the bottom right is of the dog cemetery situated high on a hill.  This is the view I get at sunrise from our camper.  It's absolutely beautiful with the rising sun behind the little crosses.

This is my favourite sketch.  Such an amazing creature.  We put this jellyfish into a lunchbox of sea water so that I could do a sketch and the poor thing just kept pulsing and blobbing along while it was waiting to be returned to the ocean.  It was soooo creepy, (said with an Alfred Hitchcock voice).

This little frangipani tree was growing in sandy soil right outside the ladies ablution block.  It only had the run off from the drinking water tap to survive on.  The flowers were just as perfect as a well nourished tree in a tropical garden.  Amazing really.

The paper in this journal is just ok.  I wasn't able to get the recommended 'Stillman and Birn' journal so bought what was available locally.  It's mixed media paper which is quite strong but not much chop for water colours as it soaks the paint up straight away.  I tried a little sample of paper from a cheap watercolour pad I found....but that was worse!   

Both my thumbs were out of action for the first part of our holiday.  One got jammed in the shade sail that comes off the side of the car and the other was bitten by a crab while I was investigating an 'uninhabited' (!) clam shell.  Nothing compares however to being bitten by a 100 year old renegade turtle!

Now that we're back home, I'm looking forward to getting stuck into the Nature Journaling course properly.  So that means lots more time outside in the garden.  Sitting down too.  Goody.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Coral Bay 2017

Each year we head off to Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef for our annual camping holiday.  We've been going there since our girls were small, so maybe a bit more than 20 years I guess?  Over the years our trips have become less jam packed with tours, boat trips, late nights, hangovers and noise and have slowly been filled with early mornings, peaceful days and a gentler more observant approach to nature.  It seems that we are becoming more in tune with our environment and our time there has deepened our appreciation of the beautiful, peaceful and pristine coastline. 

Here's a snapshot of a typical day......

Kayaking and paddle boarding as the dawn breaks on a new day.


Kayaking over to the reef shark nursery for a look.  Now I know what a 'shag on a rock' looks like!

Setting up for the day at Five Fingers Reef.

.........and the front view.  This is all precisely measured and takes some practice.  It involves lots of pacing out, experts in reversing and a carefully measured and well looked after piece of string.

"Don't look at me and I won't look at you."
Legs like lamp posts (I know how that feels).

Fading light is an indication that 'happy hour' is well underway.

........and the breathtaking sunset closes another amazing day.

I also kept a bit of a sketch journal while away so will upload some of those pages when I get a chance.....I'm still knee deep in sand and washing here.    

Friday, 17 March 2017

We're off again in the camper.

We're heading off tomorrow morning for three weeks on the Ningaloo Reef in Coral Bay.  There's a whole tribe of us going this year - it's going to be so much fun.

My latest camping acquisition is an op-shopped 'Veterinary Conference' satchel which I've crammed full of all things wonderful.  Pens, pencils, a watercolour travel palette, brand new journal, lollies, sunscreen, waterproof camera, more lollies and a good old plastic wine glass in case someone offers me a nice cold aperitif.

Don't I just look the part? 

I just hope nobody actually thinks I'm a Vet while I'm out there in the wilderness..........

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Sew Along New Look 6871 - Week 4. Finishing.

Welcome to week four, our final week together for this Sew Along.

This week we'll be finishing our garment.

Rightio then.  Off we go again.

Lower Band.

We're up to step 23, the lower band.  
Firstly, measure the width of the lower band accurately to see if it will fit the bottom of your garment.  If you have lengthened the top into a dress or tunic, the band width from the original pattern is not going to be wide enough, so just double check that.

Once you have worked out the width, sew the side seams of the band and machine stitch on to your garment, right sides together.


Step 24.  This is the last step.  Read any further and you'll be sewing in Spanish. 😊

Try on your garment and pin where you'd like the hem to be.

As the finish of our Sew Along was looming so close, I thought I'd just quickly sew the hem up by machine. The following morning I decided that I didn't like it and I had to go outside so I could see to unpick it all!  I've done that more than once so you'd think I would have learned by now, not to rush.

In the following photo you can see the line left from the unpicked stitching (which will disappear with the first wash I hope) and my hand stitched hem in progress. Did I mention I like hand stitching?
Hand stitching the hem also gave me some quiet time to think and plan while enjoying the slow repetitive movement of the needle. 

........and seen from the right side.

If you'd like to have a bit of fun with the lower band, perhaps make a pieced, embroidered or patched one?  This image shows the bottom of my pinny made out of two men's denim shirts from the op shop.  I pieced the bottom band as I didn't have enough fabric to cut it in one length.  I'd like to do a bit of hand stitching 'boro' style on it as well when I get a chance.

At this point your garment is finished......unless you'd like to add.........


The pockets on my blue linen dress have a little inverted pleat and a finished measurement of  6 1/2". Here's how they have been made.

Cut the fabric 7" high, 7" wide across the bottom and 9" wide across the top.  Cut a band for the top of the pocket 1" wide and 7" long.

Iron a small crease in the centre of the pocket and pin a little pleat into the centre crease, ensuring there is a finished measurement of 7" across to match the band.

Iron the band in half lengthwise and fold one half into the centre and iron again giving a 1/4" turn-over that will be top-stitched down on the right side of the pocket.

The blue thing you see is called a Clover Ironing Finger and it's just fantastic.  It's a heatproof rubbery stick that is used to hold things in place while you are ironing, preventing steam burns to fingers (trust me).

Place the right side of the pocket band against the wrong side of the pocket and stitch with a scant 1/4" seam.

Fold over to the right side and top-stitch right along the edge of the band.

Press under 1/4" all the way around the other three sides.

Pin in place on your garment.  I put a cutting board inside the garment to give something to pin against.  I use an LP record cover for smaller garments (showing my age here!)

Stitch pocket in place using a little reinforcing triangle of stitching in the corners.

and voila!

A dress for Summer,

or Winter,

or bloopers!

......such is the life of a model!

I'm still learning to use the self timer on my camera and I couldn't get it to focus properly unless I had something for it to focus on.  Thankfully my trusty mannequin 'Ivy Florence' (Flo for short) kindly agreed to be my very capable assistant.  Unfortunately she's a tad slow on her feet and needed a hurry along so I could get her out of the picture.  My camera is just too quick for Flo.  🙂

Your tasks for this week.

Attach the bottom band of your garment.
Hand or machine stitch the hem.
Attach pockets if you're having them.

Further Reading.

Boro hand stitching how to.
Pleated pocket tutorial by Made by Rae.
A one year sustainable fashion challenge at
Ten tips for transitioning to a (mostly) hand made wardrobe at

Where to from here?

That's such an exciting though isn't it?  You can take the craft of stitch as far as you like, as far as you can imagine.  

If you're still not feeling that confident, you might like to stay working with New Look patterns for a little while until you feel ready to try something different.  Now that you've made one New Look pattern, the next one will be so much easier.

For those wanting to investigate a handmade wardrobe of clothing or you feel ready to jump into something more, here are some ideas -

How about trying one of the Japanese sewing books, a Merchant and Mills wardrobe, the newly published Tunic Bible, the simple Scandinavian style of Lotta Jansdotter, the gentle hand stitching of Alabama Chanin  or for more of a challenge - recreating some of the fashions from a vintage sewing book.  The best part?  These books all include the patterns!
These projects (and more believe it or not) are all just waiting for me in my 'stitch queue' (!) because I truly do believe we are only limited by our imagination.

Thank you.

To the girls on the Down to Earth forum, thank you so much for your enthusiasm, conversation, photos, questions, positivity and for supporting each other (and me) through our first Sew Along together.  It's been lots of fun and an absolute honour to be your host.  I've learnt so much along the way and can't wait to see what the future will bring should our paths cross again.

...........and remember.  Mistakes are part of the journey and how we learn, so.........

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sew Along New Look 6871 - Week 3. Body & Sleeves.

Welcome to week three.  We've reached the half way mark!

This week we'll be discussing sleeves, bias binding and sewing up the side seams.

It's been so hot here this past week that I've hardly been able to get any sewing done at all.  Even the air conditioner has just about given up the ghost, out in this little tin roofed back room of ours.

Okie dokie.  We're up to Step that I've finally found the pattern instruction sheet which was being used as a bookmark in a cookbook.  If it was too hot to sew, one would have thought it would be too hot to cook.  Surely?


Step 12 asks you to gather the top of the sleeves then stitch under arm seam.  I actually find it easier to attach the sleeve to the body of the garment before sewing the under arm seam. Then I sew the under arm seam and side seam in one continual line of stitching.  This is no doubt not the correct way to 'set in' a sleeve, but I find it's easier for me.

I'm not that fond of gathers in the top of my sleeves either, especially if the fabric doesn't have a soft drape. For some stiffer or more structured fabrics like linen blends or patchwork cottons, the following is how I alter my sleeves so that there is no 'puff''.

Rule a horizontal line just under the arm hole curve from seam allowance to seam allowance.  Rule a vertical from the centre top of the sleeve down to the horizontal line.  Cut along these lines being careful not to cut past the seam allowance on either side.

Measure the sleeve opening.  You'll have to be a little more accurate with your tape measure than I look like I'm being in the following photos, but I couldn't hold my heavy old SLR camera and the tape measure at the same time.  Yes I know, I need a smart phone.  

Fold the cut pattern over on top of itself until the measurement is the same as the armhole opening measurement.  This really does sound like 'double dutch' doesn't it?  Thank goodness I took some photos.

You can see in the following photo how much excess fabric was cut away after drafting out the new sleeve. Using this method, The front and back armhole curves remain the same so the sleeve will still fit into the dress nicely.  It's just the extra fabric for the puffed sleeves that is cut away.

Pin sleeves to dress using a lot of pins so that there are no puckers.  (I went to all this trouble to reduce the way am I putting up with puckers).    

The finished sleeve with no 'puff'.

Sewing the side seams.

Overlock or zig zag the raw edge of the fabric on the side of the garment and also on the under arm edges of the sleeves if you are having sleeves.

Sew the side seams using a regular length stitch.  Press seams open.

If you are making a sleeveless dress, pinny or popover style, you might like to cut away a little of the shoulder fabric.  An easy way to ensure both the shoulder shapes end up the same, is to draw the cutting line first. When you are happy, cut off the excess fabric, then use that piece to mark the cutting line on the opposite side.

Bias Binding

For either the flutter sleeve or the sleeveless style, you will need some bias binding to finish the armhole edge. It's quite easy to make your own using a Bias Tape Maker (such an original name) or alternatively, just buy a packet of 1/2" bias tape.  For two of my earlier dresses/tops from this pattern, I made the bias tape as I had plenty of fabric to play with.  Because the fabric for the tape must be cut on the bias, you will need to have enough left over fabric to do this.  For my cloud dress I've bought a packet of navy bias tape as I didn't purchase extra fabric, plus sometimes it's just easier to buy it in a packet!

Right.  Here we go.

Mark the seam allowance along the armhole edge as a stitching guideline.

Starting at the under arm seam, place the bias tape right sides together with the garment, with the right hand side of the tape unfolded.  Align the right hand fold of the tape directly over the stitching line you have marked. Be sure to fold the beginning of the tape over a little to conceal the raw edge as this will be seen on the wrong side of the garment and can become frayed with repeated washing.

Machine along the right hand fold all the way around until there is a slight overlap of the bias tape.
Trim the excess garment fabric within the seam allowance back to the raw edge of the bias tape.

Clip the curves of the seam allowance being careful not to nick the stitching.  This will help the curved under arm area to sit nicely flat.  Fold the bias tape over so that it is not showing on the right side of the garment. Gently ease into into shape which is quite easy to do as the bias tape will have plenty of 'give'. 

Hand or machine stitch into place.  I prefer hand stitching as there's less chance of puckering.....and we all know how I feel about puckers.

Next week we'll be finishing off our garment!  

Your tasks for this week.
  • Insert sleeves if required.
  • Finish off armhole edge as desired.
  • Sew up side seams.

 ......and finally some gentle words from Jules of  Sew Me Something.  
Handmade objects are given qualities that come from where we are right now with our skills, time and creativity. It is the time and love we invest in each of our projects that really counts not the perfectly finished piece. So we really should not berate ourselves for the slip-ups we make. Or forgo the pleasure of acquiring a new skill or learning a new technique because we have a fear of it not being “quite right”.
Trying isn’t failing – failing to try is.

Further Reading.   

Rhonda, from the Down to Earth blog has included a link in her weekend reading list on how to attach bias binding. For those who haven't been over to her blog yet, the directions are at theseasonedhomemaker.

There is also a fabulous 'bias tape finish' tutorial over on ProfessorPincushion.