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.
The resurgence of my creativity has continued! Over the last couple of weeks I have made more tea cosies, have poured tea-scented teacup candles, have potted succulents in tea cups and have crocheted succulents in tea cups! I have also made more reusable tea bags. The idea of using a theme and creating around it is working well! And being creative continues to be the best therapy for my busy, overwhelmed brain. The last few weeks have been hard, with both my boy and my middle child experiencing difficulties that have impacted on the whole family. Having something creative to sit and do while the world is crumbling really helps my sanity! The fact that people also give me lovely feedback on the output doesn’t hurt either!
This was highlighted this morning when I ducked out to deliver a tiny teacup crocheted cactus to someone who I have communicated with online but haven’t met in person before. On the drive into town I was feeling awful – tired, overwhelmed, and close to tears. But after meeting with this delightful young woman who was genuinely interested in meeting me and in what I do, I walked away with a smile and a much lighter heart. In discussing what I have been doing I also had some ideas on a new product (still in the tea cosy line) that I am going to work on over the weekend. Replacing my feeling of stress with the feeling of being creatively inspired was the best medicine!! That and a cup of tea when I got home and the rest of the day has been much better!
I had a similar experience a few days ago when I received a message from a friend who lives interstate, telling me that she and her husband love what I am doing and want to invest in me, and could they order a pineapple tea cosy like the one I had just made. Now this message on it’s own would have been a highlight, but the author of the message is a very talented artist, whose work I have admired for about 20 years, so to receive that sort of compliment just made me glow inside!!! I am happily working on a new pineapple, tweaking the pattern as I go, because I think I might publish this one too! The lovely thing is that the first pineapple came about as a a result of a comment that one of the women who follows my Facebook page made about another cosy, which has a succulent on top (the green one above). So the collaborative process has been lovely!
Growing this ‘tea obsession’ has meant visits to various op shops, and more frequent visits to Spotlight to buy wool. The funny thing is that I have enjoyed tea and the rituals around making tea for a very long time. But it is only now that my children are noticing how much I enjoy tea – or in the words of my boy, how much I am ‘obsessed’ with tea! I have been taking them op shopping with me, which they enjoy as they get to find things for themselves, and my boy likes to tell the shop assistants that his mum is obsessed with tea and tea cups and tea pots. Then he tells them about all the things I make that he thinks are awesome, and everyone comes away with a smile. I complimented him on his social interaction with some counter staff yesterday, after he told them about the delivery I was making, and he said ‘you are really good at talking to people too Mum.’ To receive such lovely compliments from this boy who has worked so hard to overcome some significant battles has really been lovely. He tells me that my obsession with tea is quite nice really!
These days it is hard to know how to write about the difficulties that my children are facing. They have a right to privacy, and I have to weigh up the greater good of sharing their/my struggles with mental health to reduce stigma, versus their right to privacy. I think that this in part is why I haven’t blogged as much over the last year or so. What I can share is that I have learnt a new appreciation for the public school system, where they have no choice but to embrace diversity and be flexible in their approach to educating students who don’t fit into the ‘normal’ box. While one of my children has thrived in the Catholic education system, the other two have not, and it has been detrimental to their long term mental health. Luckily I know more now, so have felt comfortable making the latest round of changes for my middle child, and she is already happier and more positive. But it means I have to re-establish relationships with yet another school, getting to know the staff, keeping track of how she is being supported, and generally starting from scratch again. That in itself is exhausting, but on the bright side, the new school is the one that my boy will probably attend for High School so at least they will know me by that time!
My collection of tea pots to use as models and for trials is growing!
The other exciting news to share with you from the farm is that it snowed last weekend! With no snow all winter it was nice to have an afternoon of it just before winter ended! The kids and dogs had a great time out in it – even if they refused to dress warmly for it!
While I am still uncertain how all of this tea obsession will go in the longer term, in the short term it is providing joy, and that is what I will focus on! I hope that you are taking care and finding joy in small things around you too.
Well, I have done it – completed my order for a set of tea cosies for the beautiful cafe Le Bon Melange. In the process I think I have perfected my pattern for making the tea cosies, so decided it was time to share it here. This is the first time that I have published a crochet pattern, so please be gentle with me – and let me know if you find any errors!! If you do make a cosy from this pattern I would love to see the end result!
The two sizes of tea cosy plus a coffee press cosy too!
This pattern is for a flat topped one cup tea pot, but I have fitted it to a more rounded one cup pot and it worked just as well. To adjust it to a larger two cup pot the instructions for the top remain the same, it is just the number of rows for the body that change. Once you have the basic body you can then decorate it with whatever you like! Flowers, hearts, frogs – the sky is the limit!
The red pot is the one cup pot and the aqua is the two cup pot. How well do those colours match the wool?!
I used a 4mm crochet hook and 8 ply wool to make this pattern.If you use thicker wool the pattern will still work – it will just end up slightly bigger.
dc double crochet
To start chain 4 and joined with ss
Row 1 Ch 3 then 11 dc into the ring, ss to join to top of the first chain 3 (creating 12 stiches in round)
Row 2 Ch 3, 2 dc in each stitch of round 1, with last single dc in base of initial chain 3 stitch, ss to join
Row 3 Ch 3, *1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch* repeat 11 more times, with last dc in base of first ch 3, ss to join
Row 4 Ch 1, ss in next stitch, ss in next stitch, 3 ch and skip stitch, then 1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch, *1 dc in next stitch, 1 dc in next stitch, 2 dc in next stitch* repeated 10 times and finish with single dc in last two stitches of round. (This is the top of the cosy)
Row 5 Ch 3, turn and 1 dc in each of next 21 stitches (22 in total)
Row 6 – 8 repeat round 5 then finish.
Return to round 5 and attach wool three stitches from the first half of round five and then repeat round 5 – 8 in order to create the second half of the cosy. Do not finish off at the end of row 8 but continue on.
Row 9 ch 3 dc in each stitch until reaching the end of the row then ch 3 and dc in each stitch of other half of cosy. This creates the join under the spout.
Row 10 – 11, ch 3 dc in each stitch of row, including the joining 3 ch from row 9.
Row 12 3 ch, ss to other side of cosy, then 3 ch, turn and dc in second chain from ss, dc in each stitch until reach the beginning of the row. This joins the cosy under the handle.
Row 13 – optional – ch 1, skip first stitch then ss in each stitch of row 12 and finish with ss into fist ch.
To make this pattern fit a larger 2 cup pot the pattern is the same until row 8 when you should stitch another row before creating the join under the spout in row 10 rather than row 9. Then add in rows so that the final row with the join under the handle is row 15. You can adapt the basic pattern to fit larger pots by adjusting the size of the top and then the length of the body.
I did add a crown to one of the small cosies – I just couldn’t help myself! Here the pattern is shown on a different shaped one cup pot – it is fairly versatile.
Since I last wrote all sorts of things have happened here in the nest, both with my business but also on the farm. Let’s get the colourful exciting pictures out of the way first! I have been busy playing with both fabric and wool, and trying out new things. I made my first large batch of tea bags and listed them on my Etsy shop (the link is at the top of the page).
I also played with bright colours and bobble stitches to make a tea cosy for a custom order and then, because I like it so much, made another for the Etsy shop!
On Monday I received a commission to make a series of tea cosies for a cafe! I will reveal all when they are complete, but I have had fun developing a repeatable pattern which I will publish once I have ironed out all the bugs! This is a picture during an early stage of development!
I have spent quite a bit of time at appointments and in waiting rooms this week so having my portable crochet habit with me has been useful. At the hairdressers on Wednesday I finished this water lily that I had been making using a pattern from Make my day creative.
On Thursday and again today I made lots of little hearts,
and kept perfecting that pattern!
On the home front much more has been happening. Last Saturday we met and decided to trial (before formally adopting) a new dog. It is exactly one year since our beautiful boy Milo contracted pancreatitis, and then died three months later. My boy has been patiently waiting for another dog of his own but I was keen to make sure it was the right dog, and that we were ready. Shadow seems to fit the bill. He is a Belgian Shepherd who was rescued after living rough in the bush on the outskirts of Canberra. Searches have not been able to locate his owners, so a rescue group set out to find him a new home. He has the most beautiful nature and is completely dedicated to my son. The downside is that he is not fully toilet trained at the moment, but that is possibly due to stress, as he is improving daily. With a week to go in the trial I think it will be hard to say goodbye to him and expect that he will become a permanent part of the family!
Saturday brought us other excitement with the discovery by the artist in residence of an injured kangaroo down near our chook run. We cared for him during the day until the Wildcare rescuers could come and take him for treatment. A photo sent through last night shows him doing well, so we are all very happy that Roger (as the kids named him) is doing well! His friends seem a bit suspicious of us though and seem to be keeping an eye on us all!
The other thing I can show you in photos is my new haircut. It has been a while since I had it done – a combination of finances, time and more time seemed to keep delaying me, which meant that by the time I got to the hairdresser she had a lot of hair to work with! I love the end result! I had to take a selfie to share the new look with you!
So there you have it – a week in review! Now to get the fire going because it is cold today, and then to keep working on that pattern! A cup of tea might be in order first though!
I hope that you have had a great week wherever you are!
Hey – we survived Christmas, New Year and most of the school holidays! Cause for celebration! Of course there is one more week of the holidays before the children return to school, so anything can happen (and probably will). How was your Christmas celebration? Ours had an interesting and slightly traumatic start when the new dog (Buddy) discovered and ate most of the contents of the Christmas stockings. Luckily there was only white chocolate in them, but he also found a wrapped gift with chocolate and tried to eat that, along with adding teeth marks to a few other boxes. Between that and Dottie (the small and crazy dog) depositing a poo on the floor just inside the back door that my parents stepped in as they came in to say Merry Christmas it was not an auspicious start! Buddy was then put outside to reflect on his misdeeds, and took himself for a wander, was found by a passing car and deposited at the local vet clinic, 15 minutes away. We located him through the powers of Facebook and eventually had our Christmas meal at about 3pm. In between all the dog drama we shared some lovely family time, and enjoyed watching as each one of us opened our presents. My efforts in making presents was worth it – the children all loved their new pyjamas, my eldest chick is extremely excited by her new quilt, and my mother liked the table runner that I embroidered for her. I was also sent a photo of my very excited niece wearing the pjs that I had made her, so they were also a success!
I stitched this traditional sashiko pattern onto a table runner as a gift for my mother. I will share my tips on how to do this soon.
The big focus for us throughout the holiday period was actually an event after New Year. On 10 January my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. We couldn’t let such an occasion pass unmarked, so we held a party and invited family and friends. The best thing about having family who live so far away from us (or is it that we live so far away from them?) is that when they come to visit they don’t just come for a couple of hours – they come for a few days so we get to spend time with them doing ‘normal’ things! This was definitely the case on this occasion. My father has 9 siblings and 6 of them were able to attend. My mother’s siblings all sent their best wishes as did those of my father’s siblings who couldn’t join us. Two sets of aunt and uncles stayed with us for a few days, along with my sister and niece and my brother. My brother’s attendance was a surprise for my parents – and it was a true surprise with lots of joy! Time spent talking to family over breakfast or while working in the kitchen was a real treat and made the whole week very special.
Photos of their wedding day, a delicious croquembouche cake and a blessing tree. (And just quietly – how good does the dresser that I renovated last year look?)
For the party itself my aunts helped with cooking, my brother and uncle tackled the grass cutting, everyone chipped in to tidy the garden, and one of my uncles braved Costco with me for shopping! My sister helped with all the decorations, which were lovely, and my sister and brother stepped in to keep the kitchen running and food appearing throughout the evening. It really was a lovely party – kids running around in the garden, adults catching up with old friends and new, and some great family traditions played out, including the family tradition of singing a song written about the couple (in this case to the tune of ‘A bicycle built for two’), signs being held up during the speeches to encourage the audience to clap, cheer or hiss, and lovely memories shared of a wonderful life together.
I am so very fortunate to have parents who have been married for this long. They are the first to admit that it hasn’t always been easy, and that they have had to work to maintain their relationship, but their commitment to each other is tangible and their love for each other continues to keep them strong, and it really does serve to show that great relationships exist.
6 Tips for celebrating a Golden Wedding Anniversary
After it was all over I realised that we had learnt some great tips to share with our friends who might also be hosting a party for their parents in a similar way, so I put together a few of them to share with you all. They are a bit Australian centric, but the ideas can be used in other countries even if the names change!
My parents renewed their marriage vows, 50 years after the original vows, in a mass said at home. It was emotional, happy and a true celebration.
1. The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet has a protocol section that will arrange for the Prime Minister to send a letter to the couple to commemorate the occasion. (I found this out after the fact!)
2. If you are Catholic you can arrange to have a papal blessing certificate sent to them to commemorate the occasion by speaking to the admin staff at your local church office. (The certificate is, as you can imagine, quite ornate!)
3. To create poster sized reprints of the original wedding photos I scanned them onto a USB stick then went to Officeworks and had them print the black and white photos on plain paper at A2 size. Cost per print? $4. A colour photo on thicker paper but still at A2 size was $10. I used Ikea frames that I already owned to hang them and they looked great!
4. We had a croquembouche cake as the ‘wedding cake’. These delightful piles of choux pasty filled with custard and drizzled with caramel toffee and spun sugar with gold leaf were made by a fantastic pastry chef here in Canberra. Natalie van den Bosch of the soon-to-open patisserie Le Bon Melange created this beautiful dessert that had everyone lining up for seconds! (The fact that she had been part of a youth group that my parents ran many years ago in another part of the country was a nice personal twist!)
5. My sister created a blessing tree. This was a ‘tree’ of gold twigs with tiny lights that she arranged in a vase, with tags for the guests to write their blessings for the couple. It was lovely to read the messages after the party.
6. I designed the invitations to the party, and to the house mass that was held on the day of their anniversary, using www.canva.com. This awesome site allows you to design for free, or a for a small charge, using elements that graphic designers use. The invitations looked professional (if I do say so myself!)
I hope that the holiday season has been kind to you. I have been using the time to do some painting – walls, furniture etc, so stand by for some further updates. (Although the photo from the anniversary party does show a newly painted wall, so that can count as a sneak preview!)
I was listening to the iconic John Lennon song ‘Happy Xmas – War is Over’ while celebrating Christmas Eve with my chicks and my parents here in our rural nest, and realised that, in answer to the question ‘And what have you done?’ I have a long list on some topics and a very short and bare one on others. Maintaining this blog would fall on the latter list and yet I am still loathe to let it go. (In fact I just paid all the invoices to renew my web-hosting for another year just this evening!)
So what have I done? This year has been a year of consolidation with life in the country. Our little flock of 5 sheep grew to 17, and we have enjoyed some lovely lamb meals as a result. Our flock of chickens shrank from 14 to 6 and our egg production increased as a result! Go figure! We started the year with two dogs and ended with two dogs, but sadly not the same two. Dottie the crazy terrier has survived to deafen us with her barks but after a couple of unusual and serious illnesses we lost Milo the Labrador in November. In December we welcomed Buddy the kelpie and he is settling in well, but has not replaced Milo in my boy’s affections.
We adopted a resuce dog, Buddy the Kelpie, in December 2016.
On a business level the year started well with me doing lots of sewing for the Shop Handmade, and lots of consulting for a new business venture. By the end of the year the sewing was non-existent and I had to pull back from all the consulting as I was facing burn out again and didn’t want to head back down that path. I live in hope that I will return to consulting and sewing in 2017, but we will see.
Our flock of sheep includes two sets of twin lambs born in late October.
The family front is where the hardest work has been focused. My boy has continued to struggle with mainstream schooling, and with his frustrations turning into aggression and violence. As we end the year I still don’t have answers on the school question but am comfortable that, after 4 separate hospital admissions I am on top of managing his behaviour, and that he is on the right combination of medications. He is 10 now (I know – where did that baby boy go?) and is incredibly articulate, intelligent and compassionate, but also demanding and exhausting. My girls have also had a rough year with the constant stress of living with this stress taking it’s toll on them. I have found an excellent team of professionals to help support them and am sure we will get through this but the combination of all their needs saw me stepping away from the small amount of work I was doing and trying to be as present as possible for all three of them. My artist-in-residence finished primary school with her art chosen for the cover of the yearbook, and my eldest chick has found her groove and her tribe at school and brought home some great feedback on her school report.
2016 has been tough. In our home and in many other homes across the world. I don’t think that there is any particular magic in a new year changing social attitudes, or the way an autistic child’s brain works, but I am hopeful that the 6 week school holiday break will give us all a chance to recharge, refocus and rebuild some of our battered resilience. In the meantime I have gone back to the basics. I have been sewing for the love of creating, not for work. There are handmade pyjamas appearing under several family Christmas trees this year, there is a queen sized patchwork quilt that is almost, but not quite, finished for my eldest chick to receive in the morning under the tree, and there is hand embroidery on another gift after my discovery of the joys of sashiko (Japanese embroidery) earlier in the year. My plan is to work on small personal projects for a while, then to get back to designing and making on a business level when I am ready.
My gorgeous mother helping me to pin the quilt sandwich together before tackled machine quilting it – perhaps choosing a queen size quilt for my first self-quilted quilt was a tad ambitious!
I hope that your Christmas and New Year is spent with people you love, who cherish you for who you are, and that you have a chance to recharge and rebuild before the next year sweeps us away into everyday life again. From my nest to yours, Merry Christmas. xx
I have been back at the machine making stuff this week. And it feels good! I am itching to get back to making bags – it has been too long – but for now I have been working on more baby accessories to meet demands in the Shop Handmade.
A couple of weeks ago I starting playing with sewing plastic to make waterproof bibs. Many hours, and frustration later I realised that I needed a different approach.
Crooked bias binding, uneven stitches, lots of swearing, and slipping layers……
And of course the answer was simple – use the laminated cotton that I already have! Doh!
Would have been better if I had looked at the direction of the pattern when I was cutting it out!
So a series of waterproof bibs, with soft bamboo lining so that they are still comfortable for a baby to wear, are now stocked in Shop Handmade. And I have made a few with pockets on the bottom.
I remember thinking that pockets on bibs were weird, until I had my own children and realised how handy they can be for little ones to scoop out the dropped biscuit, grape, spaghetti, etc that they have dropped! (Good thing these are washable!)
I suspect that I didn’t share with you the other product I made for the Shop a few weeks ago – hot water bottle covers and heat packs. (Well, it is almost winter you know!)
This week a customer asked for a set of hand-warmers as a gift for a traveller, so I had fun playing with a design for these. You know me – they couldn’t just be plain!
I have also been working on some more nappy change mats to restock in the Shop. Loving all the bright colours!
I am also a little bit chuffed to be the featured designer on the Handmade Canberra website this week.
Now to get back to the machine!! I hope that you are having a productive week.
This week has been a whirlwind of activity. Meetings, errands, nights out, housekeeping, and one glorious day at home. And this is what I designed and made in that day!
Teething toys with a wooden ring and one of my silicone tips! I do love a new product!
I also completed a custom ordered cushion cover for a 9 year old’s birthday. I challenged myself and made and installed piping for the first time. (I need to perfect corners!). I was to deliver it yesterday, but when I got to town I realised that I had left it at home. I rang mum and she met me half way to hand it over, and I dropped it into the Shop on time so that the customer could collect it. Phew. Then I get a message last night saying the customer loves it but I have missed a piece of applique stitching.
And she is right!!! I am mortified- and having to laugh at the irony that after being so proud of my efficiency in getting it delivered despite having forgotten it, I then had to drive in to town and collect it, repair and return. I was getting too smart for my own good there!
Every day a little thing happens to confirm that moving out here and sharing the property and our lives with my parents was the right thing to do. (And not just Mum driving to meet me half way when I forget something!). They babysat for me twice this week and there was no stress, no drama, just normal routine for the kids. Of course the down side is that two late nights in a row mean two late nights in a row for them.
It is not without it’s challenges though. Life with children brings new and interesting surprises every day. Today was the announcement by my boy that he had been testing how strong the pipe from the dam to the pump was, and now there was water coming out of it……. Some investigation and breathing out later it was revealed that the strength of the pipe had been tested with an axe…….. More breathing out and mantras of calmness later a solution for repair was identified, and the pipe is fixed. For me it identified that this was nothing to do with my boy’s special needs, and everything to do with him being an 8 year old. He is testing boundaries, exploring our new environment and having fun. And 8 year olds, no matter how intelligent, don’t always think of the consequences of their actions. I had to think back to things I did when I was 8. And remind my Dad (who was struggling to understand why someone would do something like this) of how we behaved when he was 8. It helped us both to breathe out, and keep our cool. Just. Needless to say, the axe, the pocketknife, and all other tools are now out of bounds for some time.
One day full of production, and one day full of unexpected activity that felt like nothing was achieved. The ups and downs and unpredictability of life!
For now I am back to my plans. New products to make, an online shop to open (or re-open), baking to do, and events to attend. And to keep our spirits up, this tree in the front yard is ablaze with colour. Fingers crossed that I get a day of production rather than a day of unexpected activities.
Today I began the process of changing my brand. New swing tags on the products that I sell at Shop Handmade was the first step. Each product has its own story printed on the back of the tag. I was asked why I was putting myself through so much effort. The answer is simple- it is who I am! I love the story behind a piece.
I also dropped off some new products. I say ‘new’ but in truth I have been making the separate components for years. I have planned for 2 years to make a travel set – a zipped pouch, a drawstring bag and a toothbrush roll in matching fabric. And I have finally done it! Ta da! A new product that is suitable for all age groups!
In other ‘new looks’ we had our first really cold and foggy morning this morning. It was thick fog so everything appeared as shadows.
I hope that the beginning of your week has gone well.
Hello! Today my Handmade Project – How to make an appliqued cushion cover is being used to launch the new series of Handmade Projects on the Handmade Canberra website! I designed this project thinking that it would be a great Mother’s Day present. But as my Mum is a reader of this blog, I might need to go back to the drawing board!
If you make any cushions using the pattern I would love it if you tagged me if you post them on Instagram – #alittlebirdmademe, so that I can enjoy your efforts!