Sunday, 22 November 2015

In times of stress ...

I get my best gardening done when I'm stressed! Our wheat crop is due to be harvested any day, and it is my job to deal with contractors, organise trucks and generally make it happen. To say I find it stressful is an understatement! There is significant (for us) income at stake and every decision can be the difference between making a profit and not. And so, one of the things I do to calm myself is to pop outside into the garden and pull a few weeds. The upside of this is that the farm garden is looking a picture!

There are new plants to enjoy. Leucospermum glabrum x tottum 'Carnival Red' is a particular show-off.

Some plants are flowering for the first time, like Iris sibirica 'Sapphire'. 

Parts of the garden that seem to have been struggling for years are finally coming into their own. I planted this bank of roses years ago now, and underplanted them with ox eye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). Many times, I've almost pulled these daisies out, but I'm glad I didn't. They are giving this part of the garden a pleasingly ethereal and dainty look this year. They can stay.

The daisies are mixing quite prettily in with Rosa 'Granny's Bonnet'.

Just behind these roses is a brand new garden and I'm looking forward to watching it evolve.

The roses, as usual, don't disappoint.  This is the lovely David Austin, Rosa 'Jubilee Celebration'.

 I took some garden photos just recently, and managed to catch some of the roses in the early morning dew.

Rosa 'La Reine de Victoria'
I've read somewhere recently that the prime time for taking photos is in the early morning and late afternoon. I had sort of worked this out over the years, but in photographic terms, these times are called the 'golden hours', and are defined as the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer compared to when the sun is higher in the sky. 

Rosa 'Reine des Violettes'
There is even an app called GoldenLight which can help you to determine the perfect time for taking photographs in your location in the world. It really can make a difference to the quality of your photos.

Rosa 'Double Delight'

Rosa 'Pat Austin'
We've had barely any aphids this year, presumably because it has been so dry, at least until recently.

Rosa 'France Libre'
Having said that, we have had 5 inches of rain in the last few weeks which has not been good for anyone trying to get crops harvested. Rain late in the season can mean that crops fall over, or grain can shoot while it's still on the stalk, causing harvest to be slow and expensive, grain to be downgraded in quality and prices to be lower.  This is our wheat before the rain. It remains to be seen how badly the rain has affected it.

And so for now, I'm waiting patiently for the harvesting contractor to arrive.

Rosa 'New Dawn'
And enjoying to solace of the garden in the meantime!

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. 
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