February 27, 2009

Good things! Gettin' on the bus

Bags for kids, big and small.

Remember the sewing bee? (Like we've forgotten already...) Well, the Rainbow Comfort Packs are on their way up to Kinglake. In fact, they should be there by now.

I'd like to think there's some kids enjoying their new notebooks, coloured pencils, softies and stickers, one of the many fun hair ties, or their t-shirts!

Applique items, ready to go onto bags and t-shirts.

There's a report on the delivery over at Beyond Pink and Blue -- drop by and say hello.

Waiting for the Department of Human Services bus to Kinglake...

Handmade items and help are still needed. You know where to go! And check out this article from the local press.


February 23, 2009

Post by post

I can finally post these pictures of recent crafting completed-ness. The reason? They've reached their destination, and their new owner -- 'me Mum -- is delighted with them (at least I think she is: she sent a beautifully-written thank you card, but then she always is the well-brought-up one!)

Just kidding, Mom, I can tell you love them!

But there was no way I would post the pics before they had arrived, so here you are with a retrospective post of sewing goodness, now cheerfully residing in Canada.

The pillowcases were made using a tutorial from the wonderful Lily at Block a Day. Her pillowcases are always zipped up in record time (I'm not that fast!), and they look lovely. So I started with a test batch, which I adored, and then dived right in for a set for Mom and Dad for a very belated Christmas present. (The first person who says "But it's nearly March!" gets prodded with a knitting needle, you hear?)

These notebooks are just covered in simple slip-in cases, which will help Mom choose the right one for the right birding moment. If you know any birders, you'll know what I mean. Notebooks are important (and I think you need one for every outfit, right?)

Tonight I'm cussing a little, and relying heavily on the chocolate cavalry (you know, they always appear just when things look really dire) because I'm ... teaching myself to crochet from a book.

Am I mad?

(It's all Thornberry's fault for making gorgeous hats that I covet. And then she emailed encouragement and advice, so what was I to do? Get hooking!)

Good thing I had just the thing: a bag of semi-sweet chocolate buttons and an evening to myself to cuss away. Arrh ye maties.

February 22, 2009

Around the world on a Great Melbourne Day

I love the way that this city is sometimes a playground. - Or, at least that's the way it feels. Yesterday's activity took us from Italy to the Lebanon, through the Middle East and then to 1970s Australia. Into the city and it's the 50s, before Portugal, Italy (again), and a dash up to handbag heaven. Oh, and a short stop in Korea. Finally, music under the stars with an Italian in Algiers, two Spaniards and an Austrian. All in Melbourne.

Coriander, parsley, spring onions, fenugreek, turmeric and lamb. Mmmm...

How did it happen? With a morning start at the Mediterranean Wholesalers (coffee and canolis), we explored north to the A1 Lebanese Bakery, which was our landmark as we hunted for a shop that would stock fenugreek leaves and dried limes. We've been inspired to try some Persian cooking, and tonight's dinner of lamb with quormeh sabzi is quietly simmering away as I type this, sending interesting and delicious smells throughout the house. Sure enough: a very kind shopkeeper helped me to find both fenugreek and dried limes. This is why I love Sydney Road.

Dried limes. They smell amazing! Tantalizing. Fantastic.

A quick dash to Fitzroy to say hello at Meet me at Mikes, where a special stash-tastic suitcase of 1970s ladybird books was the pick-up for this secret agent. (Two old guys stopped later on and said it was a cool suitcase. "1950s!" said one guy, "And it's even been overseas...")

Off next to meet a lovely friend for lunch, I hopped the tram and - ding!ding! - down to Federation Square, where a flashmob of swing dancers were cutting up the concrete, swing jazz style, to the sounds of big band in a beatbox strapped to the back of a bike. Swing Patrol, kids! Do we love it? We love it!

Can't you hear those grooves? This is not Melbourne, but it's the same gorgeous style. The Swing Patrol site is down, so this is a photo from the Calgary swing dancers.
(Just lookit all that water. Can you believe that's where I grew up??)

But I couldn't find my friend.... Hmm, she said she'd be at Fed Square. Up the steps, down the steps - hmm, one of the dancers is waving at me between twirls - it's her! Turning a neat toe in keds and gingham, having a blast. We settled in until the beats moved on up to Town Hall. I'm not a dancer, despite some two-left-footed attempts, but I enjoyed watching the action and spying the tourists whose open-mouthed delight made my day. There's nothing better than a mob of people spontaneously breaking into dance! (and me without my camera)

Journal Cafe at the City Library refreshed us with Portuguese Custard Tarts (Go there. Have one. I never liked custard tarts before meeting these beauties.) "Let's go handbag shopping!" said my friend - so it was up to Catherine Manuell to try on all of the bags. She didn't tell me she'd been haunting the place and that I was to provide final colour call between two favourites (see pages 4-5). We left with her new bag proudly on-shoulder.

Could it get better? A stop at an Asian stationery shop was pretty divine and only cost a dollar ten (that stuff is addictive) -- and then it was time to race home, pack a picnic, and head out for a free concert under the stars at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl.

Two cups of coffee, free music, and thou...

Nan went to the opening night, 50 years ago. We snuggled under the stars as my lovely Melbourne day ended to the sound of Rossini's overture for "The Italian Girl in Algiers", Spanish guitar from Rodrigo (Concerto di Aranjuez), Albeniz, and Schubert.

We're a little tired today. But happy, oh so happy.

February 21, 2009

That cool feeling of detachmnet

Ah yes, Saturday morning.

Doesn't the end of the week leave you feeling all to pieces sometimes? Things just don't seem quite to match up. There's that - floaty - feeling around the head area.

Or maybe it's just me...

Stunningly scary artwork from the Dover Sampler . These two truncated tootsie-wagglers are from Famous Movie Dance Stars. Oh yes. Just what I always wanted.

Here's a link to the rest of the strange world of this week's sampler, in case you missed it. Its a doozy.

February 18, 2009

Felt fun

One of the lovely ladies at work brought me a bag of fabric to drop off this weekend for the re-stash a crafter project. An enormous, see-through, plastic shoulder bag FULL of gorgeous fabrics. Beautiful colours, fabrics from Amy Butler to sock monkeys. As I took the train home today with this bag of gorgeousness on my shoulder -- it was like a game of 'spot the crafter'.

I saw you. You were the ones who ogled.

Recently, a crafter who lost her home said in an email that she missed not even owning a needle!

Along with the fabric, wouldn't it be nice to donate scissors and pins, needles and glue? -And even nicer if they were packaged in something really pretty?

So here's some fun with felt -- feel free to felt along -- it's very quick and loads of fun!

1. Cut some rectangles of felt. I did 3" by about 5" (approx)

2. Fold them in half.

3. Decorate one side with felt and embroidery.

And you're almost done!

4. Next, I will cut some cotton fabric squares, slightly smaller than my rectangle (loose-weave cotton is best as it won't blunt the needles). Pinking shears or a zig-zag around the outside to stop them from fraying.

5. Line up your rectangles like pages of a book: one felt cover and a couple of cotton 'pages'. Sew a line down the back on the machine (your sewing is like a line down the spine).

6. Fill 'er up with needles and some pins, and send it off to a new home! If you want, mark the pages with the type or size of needle - I've bought some multi-packs, and so there's everything from crewel to betweens - big to little!

Let's make it easy for sewing to start again.


February 17, 2009

Simple applique t-shirts

Several people have asked me this week how to applique original designs onto t-shirts.

I know lots of us make these, but now might be a good time to do a very quick tutorial, given that many of us are crafting handmade gifts and donations at the moment -- or have been inspired to try some t-shirts or teatowels after seeing them at the sewing bee!

Here's what you need:

A t-shirt, sleeveless top or teatowel
- I often use old t-shirts with the neckband chopped off to make a wider scoop (zig-zag or bind the edge) - or if I'm buying for this purpose, I look for plain knit tees that are not very thin or ribbed.
Double-sided fusible interfacing
- Vliesofix is a popular brand name. Just ask for it at the counter of any fabric shop.
Fabric scraps
- Quilters' cottons and similar cotton works best.

First, I draw my pattern on paper until I get it right. Remember that you will curse the skinny bits later, so hold off on cows with skinny knobbly knees if you are a beginner!

The pattern for the red t-shirt shown below.

Don't forget: your image will come out reversed. That's why I always do motifs that can face either direction - less thinking for me!

For ideas, I look for simple, chunky images in books of decorative patters, online, in kids' books and in the Dover sampler email I receive each week - which has images like these, below, that you are free to use for personal craft:

Aren't they great? (Sign up here.) Trace around the edges, simplify the idea, and you're all set.

Once you're happy with the pattern, draw it onto the papery smooth side of the vliesofix. Cut around it roughly, and iron to the BACK of your cotton scrap.

Now cut very carefully along the outside lines you have just drawn.

Iron your t-shirt to make sure it's flat. Peel the paper off the pieces of your vliesofixed scraps, place them (carefully) and iron them down. A temperature setting at about 'wool' on the iron seems to work best.

Now, to the sewing machine! Sometimes you might need to add embroidery stabilizer at the back, but I generally don't as long as I am using an open-mouthed zig-zag, not a smoothe run of satin stitch.

I select zig-zag, set the width to 2 and the length to 2, and try on a scrap first to see if I'm happy. Sew slowly around all of the edges, ending with a back stitch. You can use contrasting colours or matching colours. I often also do a wild freehand swirl of zig-zagginess across the middle of the patch, just to hold it flat and add some fun.

Clip the threads, add any embroidery or other touches, and wear (or give) with pride!

February 16, 2009

Two and Two are Four. Four and Four are ....

... well if you didn't know by now, your sewing would be even more free-form than mine!

Six and six are:

Can you see it? Two feet and a hot dry Domain, reflected in a hub cap, lovingly shined for the Australia Day RACV Picnic.

If you haven't been before, it's rows and rows (and rows) of classic design details masquerading as shiny cars. Linger long enough looking with a silly grin at deco details and the old blokes who own the cars are likely to saunter over and say hello. I met some lovely people, heard some great stories and fell in love with a car I'd love to drive away in. A few times over.

Oh, and if you love massive purple American fins-n-tail jobbies, this is the place to be, too!

Top picture is the sixth image from the sixth folder of photos. Nice choice! More here.

February 14, 2009

The steady hum of activity - sewing-bee style

What a day.

Nikki, I sweep off my hat and make a deep bow to you (scrap that curtsey nonsense) - you donated your week to organising today's sewing bee, and you made it possible for so many good people to find a way to bring colour and cheer to families affected by the bushfires.

What was the best bit of the day?

Serious discussions about yo-yos was fun.

And super sewing stars ready and willing to learn new skills...

... and producing gorgeous results!

That was ace.

The hive of activity and the contented hum of concentration as bags were constructed. (Spot TinnieGirl thinking hard).

The lovely cutting shop, with slices and dices turning out the bags lickety-split, and the sorting area, with the goodies laid out by age group and gender....

...carefully observed by a sofa full of dolls, waiting to go to new owners.

Meanwhile, over in the embellishment room, zig-zags and fusing made merry!

While the first bags were being built, we got to work on yo-yo hairbands, yo-yo embellishments, fused applique animals, cowboy hats, pirate ships, flowers, ice cream cones, butterflies, matruyshkas...

...and more onto t-shirts, bag fronts, pockets, flaps and ... oops, a bag lining. Ah well. Beccasaurus kindly stitched a yo-yo over my most serious oops. It's a design feature! (But of course).

But the best two bits?

One was the way that everyone who walked into the sewing/bag construction room stopped and said "Wow!" spontaneously.

Wow for the lovely hum of many machines running together. The quiet, determined activity. And the results, oh boy.

The results! The piles of bags were stacking up as we took our weary souls home. Fresh sewing souls were still flooding in the door, so I'm sure the pile of presents grew. Notepads, pens, t-shirts and a toy in every bag - at the very least.

I'm thinking of the donors and the recipients, the families and children whose little bags of fun have so much potential for healing handiwork (drawing, making and colour), hugs -- and a reminder that we were all thinking of them with today's sewing bee.

I met so many lovely people, and it was a wonderful day.
Thanks everyone.

February 12, 2009

Just like momma (didn't) make it

I made a cake tonight. Or at least, I made something that resembles a cake and smells pretty nice, but it might actually be a distant cousin of a lemon pudding. -Or an offspring of an illicit affair between a sponge cake and a lemon tart (hem hem).
And I intend to feed it to you.

Only if you're coming to the sewing bee set up by the wonderful Nikki on Saturday, Feb 14. She's got the space and the equipment to set a sewing bee buzzing, so I decided that a little sugar and comfort food would be in order. Lemon cake, that's happy food for the depressed soul. Mom's recipe.
If you haven't already heard, we're making bags for the individuals left homeless by the fires. Kids of all ages will need activity packs to keep them busy - games and books, pencils and paper. And probably something to hug will be top of the list. If you can come or you want to donate, check out these links:

The sharp-eyed amongst us will notice the two new buttons on the left-hand side of my blog. They take you to just two of the efforts the fantabulous crafty community are organising. Short-term help is needed, but this practical bunch know that this is rebuilding for the long haul. Community, counselling, closure -- those don't come in a week.

Come on down and help. If you can't sew, make tea -- it might be needed to accompany the lemon spongetart delicious mess I intend on pressing into your hand (hm. maybe I'll bring some plates....)


February 10, 2009


Like so many of us, I'm sick to the heart by the news of the fires and the escalating death toll.

I was going to post this picture of the crafty bonanza checking out the weather conditions, halfway through Saturday afternoon. Meercats and all that. But it's hard to laugh. It's such a beautiful country here, and harsh, and home to many.

Several crafty ladies have posted about what you can do to help. Rather than repeating what they say, if you don't already know where your donation will go and what it will be, here are some links and information.

Now, they need money and blood donations - later, they'll want all the things that people will need, who've lost everything. I'll be stitching some donations for later, and popping down to the bank to donate for now.

Donate to the Red Cross: http://www.redcross.org.au

Donate to The Salvation Army Disaster Relief fund by calling 13 Salvos (137258) or at http://www.salvos.org.au. Monetary donations are preferred.

Just a few links:

Bits of a broken something: Bushfires
List of non-profit organisations in Victoria
Handmade Help
Silly Gilly: Ebay auction fundraiser
Meet me at Mikes - collecting donations

February 7, 2009

I almost felt guilty...

For cutting them all off the bush. But with the forecast for today sitting at a scary 46 degrees (which turned out to be true) - I knew they would never survive. So I cut them, every one - and we have them indoors to enjoy and admire.

The very natty mat is a lovely gift from Potty Mouth Mama. I won her de-cluttering blog giveaway, and last week a parcel of delights arrived: trim and ricrac, vintage tea napkins (love 'em) and this little tablecloth - just the right size for our outdoor tables. The lime green piping is from her stash, too - just-washed and bundled before this photo. Thank you, Ms. PMM!

It's funny how the weather predictions last night made me tense. All this talk about the 'Horror Day' of untold temperatures, and dire warnings not to go out unless it was absolutely necessary. It made me somewhat edgy, so I was out in the garden last night, fussing over the tomatoes and the basil, topping up the pots with water from the bathtub (now that summer's here, our last soap-free rinses sit in the bathtub, getting cool and awaiting re-use as footbaths, dog splashes, and garden water). The vine Mr Tacc gave me a few years ago for my birthday is scorched and the beautiful red flowers have all dropped off. Our lemon tree soldiers on, with one hard green little lemon on the way. Many other plants have turned up their toes. This season is harsh.

Where I grew up, it was winter that you hid from. Staying indoors until we were crotchety and got chucked out the back door, snowsuit to the eyeballs, big mittens on penguin-flipper hands. Crunching through the crust on the snow - will it hold me or will I fall in up to my.... oof. waist? Blizzard days of all white: no school, home to draw and listen to the radio, read good books and bake. Snow days.

Me, circa 1994 - New Brunswick, Canada.

Here, I'm beginning to get used to the fact that summer is the killing season: the sun scorches and kills the garden, and we stay in to avoid it. Keeping inside, in the dark and cool, reading books, watching movies. It's all the same things, just the layers of clothing are different.

I avoided today's dire predictions - did go out - went to sit in the cool and craft with lovely new bloggy friends (hello!) and to stay in, out of the harsh weather, crafting in the cool.

Some things don't change much, but at least I didn't have to shovel my car out before I could drive back home. (And there wasn't a mountain lion under someone's car, which there was one memorable Canadian winter crafting day .... but that's another story).

February 6, 2009

My dog doesn't like it when...

Originally uploaded by AMagill
I drop peppercorns on the floor.

He thinks they're food and he crunches them up, and then his ears go -- whoosh - flat back as the bite hits.

Sorry, dog.

PS: Flickr up to its old tricks: Photo originally uploaded by AMagill

February 4, 2009

All the girls like Senor Foxito....

Gosh, he's a popular fox. I've been told he likes jazz, and plays the saxophone.

Apparently he wears stovepipe trousers and cordouroy, and he mixes a mean mojito. And of course (but we knew this), he can shake it on the dance floor.

He's quite the lad.

Thanks for your emails and comments, it absolutely tickles me pink that you like him.

Sorry Franco Cozzo, we recovered it

This weekend was a pretty busy and exciting affair. (No, not that kind of affair, although if there was any falling in love to be had, it was with the fabric on N's new chair!)

Saturday morning I answered a plea for help. As in, 'Help, help, I don't know how to re-cover this chair!' - This from my friend N (recipient of the slouchy scooters bag), whose chair in question was scooped up off the nature strip some time before Christmas.

Makeover required: old walnutty wood, nice carving, upright dining-room chair. Eek! What is this shiny slippery Franco Cozzo covering on the cushion? And this one underneath! And this one, too. Cough-cough -- the dust smells very -- well, dusty.

Rip, shred, measure, bash etc. and theres a lovely chair all long-legged and bold. N - send me those photos! Or I won't go for coffee with you again.... (likely.)

Saturday afternoon's delight was the Mixtogether! Thank you to those lovely girls, Justine and Nichola, we had a lovely time. I met many gorgeous bloggers whose names I've seen 'round the traps online, but it was such fun to sit and sew and chat and munch on strawberries. (Reports of me snarfing TimTams are exaggerated). And a few little things lept into my bag, courtesy of the addictive nature of the Amitie fabric hoard. Ahhh.

I was also stoked to win a prize - thanks to Blog Portion for the world's most amazing bag of goodies, fabric and ribbon - even incense to keep me nice and calm as I rip out my seams. I was a bit overwhelmed by the generosity, and then I won a doorprize, too - $10 at Amitie. I promise you, that will be gone before I'm 6 feet inside the door next weekend for the Thornbury Craft Bonanza (which meets in Bentleigh, on the other side of the city, but nevermind).

So is it any surprise that not much happened for the rest of the weekend? A little snoozing, a lot of reading, some photos and more.... Maybe I knocked myself out with all that craft goodness. Time for a little slow time in the garden, stitching in pretty colours and looking up into the tree.


February 2, 2009


We interrupt today's scheduled blogpost to bring you news from the garden. Salad is in. And the tomatoes are popping off the vines - ripening at a rate of ten or so per day.

Lucky, they're little sweet bombs of juice, coddled through the heat with shade of their own and every saved scrap of soap-free water I had.

No, I didn't go out with such a huge bucket, expecting to fill it with tomatoes! It's the laundry basket, emptied onto the line - returning with mint and basil, fresh oregano. I made a yogourty garlicy tsatziki, with salt and cucumbers and a dash of lemon juice, and we had big plates of salad with cold poached chicken, tiny slivers of chorizo, tsatziki and basil on top. Yummy? You bet.

I have load of things to blog about, and pictures to show you. Sadly, they are all on the laptop, and the scheduled crafty photo post is interrupted by the imminence of a paid-for article deadline. There's no way I'll ask for the laptop now.

So, with the main computer downloading images one..... at........a...........time.........zzz.......... my pickings from the garden are greater than my harvest from the camera. Maybe tomorrow.