Thursday, 17 August 2017

Blogging with Rhonda

I'm one of a small group of people enrolled with Rhonda Hetzel from Down to Earth to learn a bit more about the blogging world.  Rhonda is teaching us some of the 'behind the scenes' things we need to know to keep our blogs chugging along smoothly.  As anyone who knows me well (or knows me at all really) will agree, I'm certainly no technical whizz when it comes to computers or smart phones, so this is all very exciting.

Last Sunday morning was our first Skype session.  In fact I hadn't used Skype at all until then. There was a two hour time difference and I was worried I would sleep in and miss the 7am start, but as it turns out I was so excited I barely slept at all and was up at about 5am shuffling quietly about waiting for the action.   Skype really is pretty amazing.  I honestly could not believe I was having a face to face conversation with Rhonda. Each time I looked at my own little image in the corner of the screen, I had my mouth open like one of those ping pong ball clowns at a carnival.
(I could just imagine my mum saying "Close your mouth Frances!")

My husband has set up a little temporary 'learning centre' for me in the spare room.  It was so peaceful and quiet on Sunday with the beautiful morning sun shining in the window and somehow I managed to take seven pages of notes during our two hour Skype session.

When I first started blogging, I thought it would be primarily for my family who live mostly interstate, so I just chatted on - relentlessly probably!  Now that I have discovered such a vibrant and knowledgeable 'maker' community out there, I'd like to be part of that too.  So, I'm hoping that by learning a little more about the blogging environment I can not only share our lives with family but also become more of a contributing member of the maker's world.

Now, let's see if I can put some of those seven pages of notes into practice without tangling myself up too much! 

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Fibres West 2017

Fibres West is a week-long conference for textile and fibre enthusiasts held approximately every two years. This year there were ten national and international tutors, auditorium talks, classes, presentations, traders, displays, a 'bizarre bazaar' and so very much more.

I've actually been struggling to write a little something about Fibres West.   I know.....ridiculous for someone who loves a chat.  It was just such a wonderful experience that anything I write somehow seems a little bit lame or woody.  'Woody' is a word isn't it?

Comments like "Profound", "Life changing" and "Soul enriching" keep pouring out of my mouth any time someone asks about my week off - but actually putting my Fibres West experience into words has been quite hard.

I had a whole six days in Sandra Brownlee's 'Tactile Journals and the Written Word' class.  It wasn't so much a technique based class.  It was more about finding and bringing out our soul's desire.....see what I mean? Sandra's classes have a reputation for being life changing.

We spent the week working with our journals, ourselves, our thoughts and dreams, our goals for both our professional and personal lives, our love for textiles and our absolute thankfulness to be able to have so much unpressured time with other creative women.

We talked, laughed, cried, listened, walked, hugged, meditated, breathed, ate (lots), and appreciated

I met beautiful, courageous, creative and kind women -

and luxuriated in the peaceful, tranquil atmosphere of Muresk.

Sandra's journals are legendary -

as are her 'clothesline talks'.

We studied bookbinding and journaling methods of both Sandra's and other artists' work.

Absolutely exquisite binding on an old cut down phone book.

We worked in our own journals each day.  Shared readings, thoughts, written words, laughs, triumphs and discoveries.

We journaled after our walking meditations, being encouraged to write how we felt rather than what we saw.

Here's one of my pages.

Sandra always being ever present, 

patient, kind

and lots of fun!

Our class display on the last evening gave no real indication of the depth of transformation most of us had experienced during this week.

I know I'm richer, calmer, empowered and changed.

Thank you Sandra Brownlee.

Post script:

"It'll be cold" they said.

"Oh I'll just take a couple of singlets, it'll be ok" I replied.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Me Made May

This is the third year in a row I have taken part in 'Me-Made-May'.  

Me-Made-May runs for the whole of the month of May and is a challenge designed to encourage people who sew, knit, crochet or refashion garments for themselves, to wear and love them more.  It's also an opportunity to discuss fast fashion, handmade and slow stitch.....especially when someone comments "Where did you get that dress?"  (I'm sure it was well meant.....I think).

You can read more about the challenge over on So, Zo...What do you know?

This year I'm really happy to report that I managed to wear something handmade every single day of May. Some days I had to resort to handmade leggings though as I had run out of clothes and my brooches had been 'done to death'.  Thankfully I wasn't ever asked to show off my leggings.

Here's my latest 'make'.  Another Esme tunic from Lotta Jansdotter's Everyday Style.  I really love her style.  

I think my hair is even starting to look like hers.  

Sorry Lotta.  

This dress is a touch short but that was intentional so that I can wear it over jeans for the Winter.

The fabric is linen from Spotlight.  I just love linen but there wasn't a lot to choose from when I bought this. Only about three plains and this print in either cream or navy.  I thought this was so gorgeous on the roll and couldn't wait to make it up, but now I get the feeling that it's slightly reminiscent of a 1970's sofa.  

I'm really giving the von Trapp family a run for their money now, after one of my other dresses was inadvertently made from curtain fabric.

I honestly don't know how people stand in front of a self timer and look normal.  I've tried to take my lead from other blogs I follow where the girls look so natural, carefree and happy.  Here I am, finally happy (sort of) with my plastic smile......but check out the feet!

Plus I look like I'm hiding a couple of wads of $50 notes in my pockets.  Ha ha....I wish.  

That'd make me happy wouldn't it?!

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 thought 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.........