Sunday, 30 August 2015

Winter gardening?

We have had a very wet winter, and our garden is so sloshy underfoot that the roses are still to be pruned! So my 'gardening' has taken a new turn:

I have been planting in miniature and indoors!

I found some inexpensive glass containers at Kmart which I thought would work as terrariums, and went about collecting all manner of plants and pebbles. 

I've had a lovely time playing with form, texture and colour.

I suspect I've broken every rule of terrarium planting by combining succulents, air plants, mosses and lichen, each of which require quite different conditions. I figured I'd just play with different combinations and see which ones survive.

Inspiration and helpful instructions for making my terrariums came from this post by lovely Amelia. 

The weather is a little warmer today, 
so hopefully I can get to the rose pruning soon! 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Library bag tutorial

While my days of making library bags for my children are well and truly over, I find myself still making them for nieces and nephews. This is my tried and true method for a lined, drawstring bag, with an optional personalised nameplate.


You will need:

  • Two 15" x 21" rectangles outer fabric (I would recommend a heavier weight fabric such as cotton drill, denim or furnishing fabric because these bags get a pounding from the kids)
  • Two 15" x 21" rectangles lining fabric
  • One 15" x 8½" rectangle for nameplate background
  • Scraps of fabric for appliquéd letters
  • 2 yards cord
  • Fusible web

Appliquéd name plate

I used Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 to prepare the nameplate text. If you are using a PC, the commands should be similar.

Open Microsoft Word. Go to File : Page Setup. Change Orientation from portrait to landscape. Click OK.


Go to Format : Document. Click on the 'Margins' tab. Set the margins to measure 0.5". 

Click on the 'Layout' tab. Set the Vertical alignment to Centre. Click OK.

Go to Table : Insert : Table. Set 'Number of columns' to 1 and 'Number of rows' to 1. Select 'AutoFit to window'. Click OK.

Go to Table : Table Properties. Click on the 'Row' tab. Select 'Specify height' and set to 4". Make sure 'Row height is' set to 'Exactly'.

Click on the 'Cell' tab. Set Vertical Alignment to Center. Click OK.

Type your desired text in the table. I typed 'Jessica'. Select your text and set the alignment to centre.

Go to Format : Font. Click on the 'Font' tab and set the font to 200pt Arial Rounded MT Bold.

Click on 'Text Effects'. Select Text Fill. Set Color to No Fill. 

Select 'Text Line'. Set Color to Black. Click OK. And OK.

Print the template. 

This template can now be used for tracing letters for your appliqué. Place the template face down on a light box or window pane, and trace the letter outlines onto fusible web. The letters will be reversed. Cut out the fusible web letters roughly, approximately ⅛" beyond the traced lines.

Fuse the letters to the back of your desired appliqué fabric. Cut letters out exactly on the traced line using a short, sharp pair of scissors.

Fold the 15" x 8½" nameplate rectangle in half lengthwise. Using a soluble fabric marker, mark a line 1" from the folded edge of the nameplate. Position the letters on this line, using the template as a guide. Fuse the letters in place. Appliqué each letter using a machine blanket stitch using a thread colour matching the letter fabric.

Constructing the bag

Using a soluble fabric marker, mark a line 8" from the lower edge of one of the outer fabric rectangles. Align the raw edge of the appliquéd nameplate to this line, right side down, as shown below. Attach the nameplate to the rectangle with a ¼" seam. 

Flip the nameplate downwards so that it is right side up and press. Topstitch the nameplate ⅛" from the top and bottom edge..

Stitch the outer and lining rectangles together, end to end, as shown below.

Fold in half, right sides together, matching outer to outer rectangle, and lining to lining rectangle. On each long edge of the outer rectangle, mark a 1¼" opening, 1¼" down from the seam line. On the short edge of the lining rectangle, mark a 2" opening.

Stitch the three sides together, stopping and securing with backstitching at each opening.  

Turn the bag right side out through the 2" opening in the lining and slip stitch the opening closed. Tuck the lining inside the bag and press.

Using a soluble fabric marker, mark lines 1¼" and 2½" from the upper edge of the bag, front and back. Stitch along these lines to form the casing. 

Cut the cord into two 1 yard lengths. 

Attach a large safety pin to the end of one length of cord. Starting on the right side of the bag, thread the cord through the front casing, past the casing opening on the opposite side, and through the back casing, to return to where you started. Knot the two ends of the cord together securely.

Repeat this threading process with the remaining length of cord, starting on the left side of the bag. These cords are pulled from either side of the bag to close.

Of course, this method can be adapted to make any sized drawstring bag for any purpose.

Thursday, 30 July 2015


I have finished my scrap quilt top! Now to find some time to quilt it.

I have a cunning plan to use this Lotta Jansdotter 'Echo' print for the backing (I picked it up for a song ($4/m) at Spotlight recently). I thought I would stitch this quilt from the back by roughly following the lines of the backing print. Good plan?

Notice that beautiful dark green in the background? That is our wheat crop. We have had great rain this season, and the crops in our part of the world are looking amazing. Here's hoping that the forecasts for a dry spring are wrong!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

By hand

Thank you for your suggestions on my hexie dilemma. The consensus seemes to be to push on with the project, and that lining the piece with white will stop the seams from showing through so much.

We had a brief trip to Sydney in the school holidays, and I finally got to visit Quiltsmith in Annandale. Another one to tick off my 'quilt shop bucket list'! I snapped these impressive hand pieced quilts while I was there:

I also popped in to Post Office Patchwork in Glenbrook where I picked up a lovely set of 1930s fabrics. 

So armed with your advice, some visual inspiration and some new fabrics, I'm all set to get back to my hexies!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Rare snow in Australia

The mid year school holidays have come to a snowy end in our part of the world.

Australia has a small alpine region where it snows frequently, but outside this area, snowfalls are rare. 

The town where I live is renowned as being very cold, and will usually get a smattering of snow each winter. But yesterday was special, with a good couple of inches of snow which settled for the day!

While this display may seem paltry to many of you, it is big news for us!

Yesterday's snow was the best fall I've seen in the eight years I've lived here.

These photos show my snow-blanketed garden yesterday.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Some hexie action

The weather is cold and drizzly here. Perfect for farmers ... and sewing. I love a rainy day. Having grown up on a farm, rain always meant rest from helping Mum and Dad and time to play. Rain still evokes that feeling for me. And so I have been playing:

I'm channelling my inner 1930s with some half inch hexies in pretty little prints. I am loving paper piecing - it is precise and methodical, which suits me just fine right now.

I have one small quibble: They look lovely right up until the time that I remove the papers. I don't like that the seam is showing through on the white hexies. Picky, I know! You can't see it so much in these photos, but trust me, it's annoying.

What are my options?
1. Push on and ignore it? 
2. Start again with a thicker white fabric so that the seams don't show?
3. Line the back of the piece with white fabric and hope it minimises the seams showing?
4. Shelve it in frustration?
All suggestions are welcome. Just don't call me anal ;) I'm thinking I'll go with #1 and #3. Ain't nobody got time for #2 and my shelves are already too full with abandoned projects for #4. 

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Plant of the month

One of my favourite plants in the garden right now is this beauty:

She is Salvia involucrata 'Bethellii', which I purchased from a plant stall at Ballarat Botanic Gardens a few years ago.

I thought I'd bought a dud at first because she just produced vast quantities of leaves for months after planting. Just as I'd about given up on her, late into autumn, she decided to put up these fabulous flowers.

She is also know as Roseleaf sage, and is a native of Mexico. Sure enough, she is renowned as a late but glorious bloomer, producing hot pink blossoms across the winter.

She is quite a large plant growing well over a metre tall and wide, and has a reckless, sprawling habit. She needs plenty of room to spread her arching branches. 

I guess some would call her messy, but she redeems her untidiness with prolific and spectacular blooms. She is a treasure in the winter garden, and testament to the adage of not judging by first appearances!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

'The Novel Approach' fabric bookends

Thank you for your kind comments about my daughter. She is improving slowly, and we hope to be home soon. In the meantime, the latest issue of Australian Homespun (Vol. 143) has been published and so has my 10th project for this great magazine.

Susan Hurley, the editor of Homespun, contacted me many months ago with a request for fabric bookends. Can you pick them?

I am always up for a challenge, but this one really stretched me! It took me a long time to come up with a construction method and even longer to execute it. I decided the bookends needed to be self-supporting, so they are quite heavy. I made them from recycled magazines - not Homespun of course ;)

I covered the magazine foundation with striped fabric to imitate book pages, and then made a fabric cover with embroidered titles and spine art.

The trickiest part was attaching the cover to the magazine foundation - yes, there may have been blood spilled and a considerable amount of cursing! 

But I was very pleased with the end result! Whenever I design a project, I'm not satisfied until I've created something that I would be happy to use in my own home. If you'd told me a few months ago that I could make fabric bookends that I would have on display, I'd have fallen about laughing. But you know, I will actually be using these!

Paper subscriptions and back issues of Homespun can be ordered through Universal Magazines. You can purchase digital issues and subscriptions of Homespun from Zinio, the Apple Newsstand or Google Play.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

A change of plan

There has been a bit of progress on my scrap quilt. It is the perfect project when you only have 15 minutes here or there to sew.

However, progress on the scrap quilt has stalled due to my youngest daughter being admitted to hospital. She is OK, but we have some eating issues that it would seem only hospitalisation will sort out. The upside of this is that the view from her bed is fantastic!

 And I have plenty of time to hand sew.

I have pulled out the clamshell quilt I started in a Brigitte Giblin workshop ages ago. 

So life isn't all bad. I get to sit by a big, light-filled window with a great view, and stitch for hours and chat with my daughter. There are worse things!

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Why Good Friday?

It has always been a mystery to me as to why 'Good Friday' is good. For such a sombre day in the Christian calendar, there doesn't seem to be too much good about it. Thankfully, we know that Easter Sunday is coming, and with the news of Jesus' astonishing resurrection, that there is wonderful hope.

Happy Easter to you and yours. We have everyone home for Easter which is very special. The weather is cool and drizzly, perfect for devouring homemade hot cross buns and snuggling under quilts to read or watch movies. Lovely!
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