Tag Archives: fabric

New ideas and old habits

This year has started with a bang but I still feel like I am back in the twilight zone between Christmas and New Year, where I am never really sure what the date or day is.  I find myself constantly wondering if March is a long way away, and being unsure of which weekend it is that various events are happening. I swear it is because my brain is too full, and not because of my advancing years.

Despite this sense of time escaping me, or perhaps because of it, I have been rather productive.   I have been analysing what works for me in my product lines,and what was a great idea but hasn’t really translated well.  As a result I am working on producing my tea cosies in ‘collections’.   I am still to fully tease out the names of these collections, but in theory there will be a classic collection, a colourful collection and an artisan collection.  I am not rushing into the final details for this plan because it seems to be benefiting from some reflection and refinement!    As part of the classic collection I have been working on some repeatable patterns, with the intention of being able to keep them easily stocked in my shops, and with the longer term intention of releasing the patterns for them. So far the classic collection consists of spots and stripes!

I also finally had a chance to play with an idea I have had for a while of combining patchwork and sashiko stitching to make some insulated dome tea cosies, and I am very happy with the results.

And of course some flowers were created and applied with gay abandon to a number of cosies.

One of the lovely discoveries that I have made over the last month or so, with thanks to a helpful friend, is the wool from Bendigo Woollen Mills.   It is wool that is grown near my home, and processed and died in Bendigo, so is 100% Australian.  It is also beautiful quality wool, so I am switching over to only use that wool in all future creations, which means that I will be supporting other Australian small business people in the process.

And I finally have my products in place at The Collective Store in Brisbane, and in Trove in Canberra.   (On reflection perhaps my sense of displacement in time has more to do with the sheer amount I have achieved so far this year!)

My initial display at Trove, Canberra

On the home front we have a slightly different landscape after my eldest chick was accepted to attend a boarding school located about 4 hours from home. She has settled in well and is discovering the differences between her all-girl Catholic school and this co-ed agricultural fully residential high school.  She will be home at the end of this week for a few days and I am looking forward to seeing her.  I must admit that I am very happy that the advent of smart phones means that I can stay in touch with her much more easily than when I was at boarding school myself.  Back then (in the dark ages) my sister and I had a phone call from my parents once a fortnight, or we had to dial the international operator to make a reverse charges call to them, and letters written and mailed that took a couple of weeks to arrive.  Now I can be texting with her before breakfast, send her a photo of something happening at home, and she has it instantly.  I am trying not to smother her with contact, but it is nice knowing that it is there when she needs it.

The two chicks who are still home in the nest are having their ups and downs.  I, and they, have fallen back into some old habits, which means that old patterns of behaviour aren’t changing in the way that I need them to. My current task is to form new habits myself, and then with them, in the hope of improving behaviour and school attendance respectively.  This parenting gig is hard and I have been tested a lot over the last few weeks.   I am definitely at the point of needing a break, so am working on putting steps in place to see if I can manage some time away. Fingers crossed!

For now though, it is time to sit and contemplate whether to crochet or sew this evening. Tough choices!    I hope that your weeks aren’t getting lost in the fog of being too busy, and that you are finding time to do little things for yourself.


Making stuff – again

Thank you to all who reached out to share and support when I was having a tough time last week.  The great news is that things have continued to improve since then, so much so that I had one morning this week when all three children were at school!   Of course I had left my crochet bag at home, so wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself for a while!

I have managed to get into the sewing room, and my other favourite making place, my armchair, and produce a few new things this week.   After a special request I made another pineapple tea cosy – tweaking the pattern as I went, and am very happy with the results.

Then I decided to play with the idea of a cactus tea cosy and love this result!

Some time in the sewing room meant some dome style tea cosies and a wrap around cosy!  My fabric stash is being re-discovered and I am loving it!!

A few more tiny cacti have grown in tiny teacups and I made some trivets with recycled t-shirt yarn.   You might say that it has been a productive week!!

In the midst of all of this Spring has sprung (finally) so that might explain the additional energy I have had – all that vitamin D soaking in!    My ‘to-do’ list is long at the moment – cleaning the house, finally painting a couple of rooms, getting some more sewing done, listing things in my shop……  so let’s hope that the sun stays out for a few more days!

I hope that you have had a creative and inspiring week.

Precious cargo

Tonight I opened a box, sent from Tasmania by a dear friend.  It is full of fabric from three generations of her family, and she is entrusting it to me as someone who will make good use of it and appreciate where it has come from.  Talk about precious cargo!  I will be taking my time to examine each piece and really think about what to do with it.

Opening the box and thinking about precious cargo got me thinking about my last few days and other sorts of precious cargo I have encountered.

Yesterday was rather dramatic. I was sitting at the bench having a cup of tea and chatting to two friends when I heard our dog Dottie barking ferociously.  I stuck my head out the door to have a look and found her flinging a dark coloured snake with her mouth. The snake wasn’t running (slithering) away though – it was attacking her.  After calling her away I went to look for the shovel and told my friends what was happening. As we looked for the snake and watched the dog we realised that she wasn’t well, so a phone call to the local vet, a pile of towels wrapped around her and under her and with one of my friends holding her carefully, off we sped to the vet.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

Dottie on a drip and receiving oxygen, still managed to be charming.

The good news is that we arrived safely, despite my rally driving over the mountain range that sits between us and the vet.  The vet rushed to meet us in the car park, and was able to treat her quickly, and she should make a full recovery.  The bad news is that the treatment is extremely expensive ($1500 just for the anti-venom medication alone).   The moment that our precious cargo stopped panting loudly and my friend thought she had stopped breathing will stay with me for a very long time.  Dottie is very precious to all of us, and to lose her would have been devastating, particularly while the children are away visiting their grandparents and having adventures with their father during our school holidays.

It has really shot home the need for us to be prepared for snake bites for humans as well.  Time for some first aid revision and reminders for the children and adults!!  (The snake was later located and dealt with by my parents who were digging out the garden bed it had disappeared into.  It was a juvenile tiger snake, so we are very lucky.  A grown tiger snake would have killed her.)

We are really experiencing the full extent of country life this week.  The day before Dad and I had to make the hard decision that it was time for two of our old hens to go.  We didn’t want to do it but knew that it had to be done.  I described it as ‘farmering up’ – taking responsibility for the hard bits of being an animal owner as well as the good bits.  They had been precious cargo – they had introduced us to being chicken owners, had provided wonderful eggs, and had taught us a lot about caring for our animals.  The responsibility to end their lives with respect was a heavy one.

On the flip side, our green hued eggs continue to be produced as precious cargo to be carried from the coop.

Green eggs|a little bird made me

In amongst all this drama and country life I have been cutting out patterns, matching fabrics, and dreaming big. Might be time to put the fabric with the machine and actually make something!  How novel!

I am also enjoying the beautiful roses from our garden in these lovely vases that a friend gave me as a house warming gift.  The sight and smell of them warms my heart.

Bud vases |a little bird made me

I hope that your precious cargo, whatever it may be, is safe and well tonight.  Give them an extra squeezy hug, just because you can.


Finding time

I have been reflecting over the last week on what it is that I am doing with my time!  When I worked full time I seemed to have more time to sew, to blog, etc. Now that I am self-employed I seem to be running in circles all the time.  I am not sitting idle, and am not spending hours surfing the internet, yet I seem to not get to the things that I want to do.  This was frustrating me for quite a while, until I realised that the things that I have added in to my days are the very reasons that I am no longer working full time.

Over the last few years I have had to shift my priorities.  I have had to change my parenting style. I have re-invented our day to day life.  (Not just once!).  The reason that I have less time available to sew, or blog, or return phone calls, or pay bills (oops!) is because I am more present in my children’s lives.  I am still not engaged at the level that I could be, and am certainly not a saint (heaven forbid) but I have come to realise that by spending more time putting the children first our life is better.  Now when my boy is starting to get angry and lash out I can normally pin point the cause within a few minutes.  I can usually remember the strategies that will help him to calm down without escalation.  (Usually.  Definitely not always.)   When my artist-in-residence is collapsing in a ball of spiky frustration I can see where it has come from and help her to unravel and calm down.  (Sometimes).  And when my eldest chick is having completely out of character episodes of appalling behaviour I have no idea.  Until I empty her rubbish bin and realise that she has been sneaking her little brother’s snacks – full of gluten – and her body is attacking itself.

Much easier to be kind to myself when I think about what we have dealt with each day and how we have resolved it!

I have had a couple of great moments this week that I wanted to share.  I was fortunate enough to be invited to see Mary Poppins, the musical, being produced by the Free Rain Theatre Company at the Canberra Theatre.  (One of the amazing up-sides of the Human Brochure experience has been invitations to so many wonderful events!)  I took the artist-in-residence and we absolutely loved it!  It was, to quote Mary herself, ‘practically perfect, in every way’. We even had a chance to have our photos taken with some of the cast afterwards!




The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

The artist-in-residence having a night at the theatre.

This weekend just past was also very special.  The Handmade Markets were on, in a new location here in Canberra.  I am still not at the point where I am ready to return to having my own stall, but I love my role in the background of the markets, which allows me to interact with all the market designers on an individual level.  The exposure to so many talented people is a true delight.  Even better, I was able to take the children with me and when we stopped to talk to different stallholders the children had the chance to interact with them too.  They got to taste beautifully handcrafted chocolate (thanks Cicada chocolate!), to receive hugs and rainbow roses from GG’s flowers (special hug thanks to Gayana), and the artist-in-residence was able to talk to different artists about their work and her own art.  Mick from Leafy Sea Dragon presented her with one of his cards depicting one of his own artworks as an encouragement to another artist.  She was thrilled!

The eldest chick and her two friends ran their own business throughout the markets, providing stall holder support.  They were exhausted but very happy and very proud at the end of the weekend.  This band of 12-year-old young women are learning about money management, customer service, hard work, planning, and innovation at a young age and I could not be prouder of them!!

I also managed to sneak myself a treat on Friday night.  I had an hour to fill between finishing helping with the market set up, and when I was to collect the children from their father’s house.  I thought about ringing friends etc but decided to take myself into town for a meal on my own.  We have an area here called ‘The Hamlet’ which is where the gourmet food vans park, and various funky shops are tucked away.  I went to the Mr Papa van – Peruvian Street Food.  Oh my goodness.


The burger made with slow cooked pork belly, sweet potato, and a very tasty sauce and salsa combo is heavenly!   I then followed it up with a little trip to the Frugii Dessert Laboratory where the ice-cream alchemist creates beautiful ice-creams, and desserts!  (The owners are also delightful people!)

017b44bb4b29c63f9f742e0e02f00cabd99df22e73I had the choux pastry with hazelnut cream, and blood orange syrup.  And even better – I had time to sit and enjoy and just have time to myself.  Talk about bliss!

Baby set |a little bird made me

A custom order set for a baby overseas

After all this inspiration my plan was to sew, design, and create all week.  Hmmmm…… the best laid plans!  Between routine medical appointments, school meetings, housework, and general family commitments, I have managed only a very small amount of sewing.

Ipad case and accessories |a little bird made me

An ipad case, coin purse and key fob for a birthday girl in Melbourne.

The good news though is that I have created some new pattern templates, which is speeding up my process a lot.  (Instead of measuring and cutting each piece I am now using a template to cut each piece – such a simple thing but one I just hadn’t done!!)  I also finally made a key ring fob – something on my ‘to do’ list for a long time.  I like it!  Maybe I should make some more…..    where is that ‘to-do’ list again?

Our farm |a little bird made me

Wandering on the farm is a delightful pastime

Dam | a little bird made me

The dam is the source of much entertainment – and home to some venomous snakes!

Farm life |a little bird made me

I love the skies out here!

I did spend time with my boy down at our dam finding rocks, sticks and long grasses to try and create ‘survival tools’ like spears and knives.  We haven’t been particularly successful yet but we have had a lot of fun trying!

And I indulged in some fabric shopping – with no particular project in mind!  It is just so lush!  The new range from Skinny la Minx, via Hawthorne Threads.  Drool.

01336619eb5f8a927b88032198547f2c2f9f3620e1Now to decide what to do with it!  Choices, choices, choices!

I hope that you have been able to find time for yourself in your week too.



Two steps forward, one step back

My small start back into sewing went quite well last week.  I made a few more iPad covers, remembered (well – was reminded) that I still ‘owed’ my kids a few promised sewn projects, and started developing some new designs.

One of the products that I want to develop is a man’s wallet.  (I also want to make a woman’s wallet/purse but with Father’s Day around the corner thought that the men’s products had to take priority!)  I played around with some ideas and then made this prototype.

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I put it up on my Facebook page and asked for feedback.  Quite a few of my lovely female followers responded, with many of them commenting that it needed a closure of some description.  There were also comments on fabric, leather, colour etc, but I am not too concerned about those as simply making items with different combinations addresses that issue.  However I was concerned about the fastening issue, so I put a post on my personal Facebook profile, asking for input from males on the question of fasteners on wallets.  The first response was ‘No fastener for me. If you need one of those you’re not a man.’  And the following 40+ responses followed that pattern, except for one friend who responded that he had a fastener, then read the other comments and made various ‘manly’ statements to reclaim his manhood.  The respondents were of varied ages, educations, locations, backgrounds etc, so I think this is a fairly definitive indication that men do not like fasteners on their wallets!   I will tinker a bit with the design and hope to make some more this week, and will be sure to label the wallets as ‘man approved’ so that the women buying them don’t think they should have a fastener!

I also put out some feelers on whether people preferred baby bibs to fasten on the back or the side.  The responses were mixed, so I have decided for my next range of bibs to do a bit of both!  This was a custom order, but I plan to make a few more, and make some square ones with teether chews.


I then had a great Saturday afternoon and produced a Kindle cover, shoulder bag, and library bag for my chicks (finally!!)


The shoulder bag as a work in progress


Kindle cover


Library bag for the boy using the fabric he chose some weeks ago.

My steps forward were going well.  But I feel like I am going backwards this week.  The boy only managed to last 40 minutes at school today.  Last week he was there most days for between one and two hours, so I had some time to get things done.  This week, although we have only just started, I am feeling much more dejected about my ability to sew, to earn a living on my own terms, and to keep everything afloat.  I have finally decided to apply for some government benefits to help out.  While part of me feels grateful that the services are there, the other part of me is falling into a deep well of self pity wondering how I went from high-flying lawyer to government benefits.  Of course I know the logical answers – parenting a child with special needs means a change of course – but it is still sucking the energy out of me.    My mission this week, then, is that, in between filling out many, many, many forms, and organising my financial records for my tax return, I will find time to make things that are fun, and will re-energise me.

One of my ideas is to make a few more stencilled bags.  I made these two over the weekend as gifts, and enjoyed it, so a few more will be fun!

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I have also been playing with ideas for handwarmers and road tested a couple  with my boy and his friend yesterday – and received positive feedback from them, so will try to make a few more – sure to get me up and going!


Right.  Here I go, off to get re-energized and move forward again!


Friday Finds – a list of tutorials for making a crocheted floor rug

In the process of making the crocheted floor rug for my daughters’ room from recycled t-shirt yarn (also known as ‘tarn’ and by the brand name ‘zpagetti’) I found a pile of patterns to draw inspiration from.  I am now slightly stalled in the process of making a rug for my son’s room, so hope that by revisiting those tutorials to share with you I might kick start myself back into action!

Making T-shirt yarn

Tutorial on Mollie Makes – how to make t-shirt yarn

Clear diagram on the interestingly named Fuck Yeah Craft site – making t-shirt yarn

Video and instructions on ReleveDesign – how to cut continuous t-shirt yarn

Polka Dot Pineapple – Tutorial on making t-shirt yarn

Making rugs

Upcycle magazine – How to make an Upcycled Crochet Rug

NobleKnits Knitting Blog – How to crochet a Rag Rug tutorial

Eclectic Me – Who said Grannys don’t look good in denim?  (tutorial for a denim crocheted floor rug)

Impatiently Crafty – Round Crochet Rag Rug tutorial

Flight of the Pook has created a vlog series on Great Big Fat Crochet.

King Soliet – detailed post and lots of ideas on making Upcycled Crochet Rug

Sugar Bee Crafts – Rag Rug Tutorial

Bauta Witch has a tutorial for creating a crocheted rug, that includes lighting!  There is an English translation at the bottom of the post.

This Ripple rug pattern on the Sweet and Knit blog is written in Spanish, but is easily translated and results in a gorgeous floor rug.

It has worked!  I am off to pick up the hook again – and hopefully have some photos of the finished product before too long!

Following through

After posting my list of gadget tutorials on Friday I was a bit inspired, and finally made a cover for my iPad!  I have owned it for about 6 months, without any cover on it, so this was very overdue.

And then because the pattern that I designed worked well, I made a few more!

These ones have all been delivered to the Shop Handmade where I stock my products, but I plan to make more this week that will then be stocked in my Etsy shop.  I made some to fit the iPad Air, and some to fit the iPad mini, so my next task is making some to fit the other iPads.  I love technology but why do they have to change the size slightly every time they release a new model?  Then again – it does give designers a chance to make new products each time, so perhaps I shouldn’t complain!

It felt good to be back sewing again.  Before I could get back to work I had to clean up the room.  It had become a dumping ground for anything extra in the lead up to our trip, so required some cleaning out, and tidying up.  I should have taken some before shots so that you can appreciate how amazing the after shots are!

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In the process I decided that it was time to be a little ruthless with my scrap boxes.  I suspect it was the result of my childhood training but I find it hard to throw away scraps of fabric – they can always be used in some sort of project, and so many of my scraps are from just delicious prints.  However 4 boxes of scraps was getting a bit ridiculous, particularly when I have so many larger pieces of fabric these days.  I was feeing resolute but guilty, and posted on Facebook about my decision.  And voilà – problem solved.  A friend who makes beads will take my scraps and make fabric beads from them!  Much better than throwing them away!

Cleaning up my room also meant that I had room to put away all the new fabric I bought in Hawaii, plus some more that arrived from Spoonflower too.  And that meant I could finally sit and catch up on custom orders.  The first was a library bag for a young woman in Grade 4.  She enjoyed picking her own fabrics and I am thrilled with the way her combination turned out.


Over the weekend I also made up a custom order for a nappy (diaper) bag.  I am very happy with the way it turned out.  The fabric was chosen by the customer from Spoonflower, so is different from what I might have chosen myself, but it came together really well and completely suited her style.  I have a couple more custom orders to complete, and then can get back to designing.



It is definitely time for some new bags – all that gorgeous fabric is sitting there tempting me!  I also need to update my Etsy shop – I have a couple of boxes of bags at home that are not listed there yet!  Time to get organised!

I hope that your week has started well, and that you have found time to do things that you enjoy!