Sunday, 26 October 2014

Name this plant

Calling all gardeners! Can anyone tell me what this plant is:

I went for a walk in a friend's beautiful garden on Friday, 
and she has this lime green lovely planted in some shade. 
She says it is a perhaps a type of may bush?

Thursday, 9 October 2014

New journal cover tutorial

One of my most popular free tutorials over the years has been my journal cover tutorial. I have returned to it over and over to whiz up a quick gift. 

I've updated my tutorial to provide instructions to custom fit the dimensions of any journal. I've also come up with a couple of nifty options for elastic closures. Enjoy!

Step 1: Preliminary measuring

Measure and record the length (A) of your journal in inches.


Measure and record the total width of the back cover + spine + front cover of your journal(B) in inches. Do this by wrapping your measuring tape around your closed journal. 


A = length of journal
B = total width of back cover + spine + front cover of journal

Step 2: Gather your supplies
  • Main fabric - yardage required = (A + 2)" For example, a journal with length 9" requires 11" x width of fabric
  • Lightweight fusible batting, e.g. Vilene H630 - (A + 2)"
  • Lining fabric - (A + 2)"
  • ½" wide elastic - (A + 2)" length
  • General sewing supplies
  • Purchased white crocheted flower, approximately 2" diameter (optional)
  • White stranded embroidery cotton (optional)

Step 3: Cutting

From each of the main fabric and the fusible batting, cut: 
One rectangle that has a length of (A + 1)" and a width of (1.5 x B)".

From the lining fabric, cut: 
One rectangle that has a length of (A + 1)" and a width of B".

Step 4:

A ¼" seam allowance is used unless otherwise stated. 

Fuse the batting rectangle to the wrong side of the main fabric rectangle. 

Overlock or zigzag the short edges of both the main fabric and lining rectangles. Note: Overlocking or zigzagging the edges is optional - it just gives a neater and more robust finish.

Turn the short ends of the main fabric rectangle to the wrong side by ¼" to form a hem. Top stitch the hem in place.

Step 5: Optional embellishment

If you would like to embellish your journal cover with a crocheted flower, mark the centre of your cover with pins as shown below. Using a pencil, lightly mark a line 6½" long, at a point 4½" to the right of centre.

Please note, my journal is approximately A5 size. If your chosen journal is significantly different in size, you may need to 'eyeball' the position of your stem and flower.

Using 6 strands of embroidery floss, work a running stitch along this pencil line. Hand stitch the crocheted flower in place.

Step 6: Elastic closure #1

Cut the ½" wide elastic to the length of your cover. Position the elastic 1" in from the right hand edge. Baste the ends of the elastic in place at the top and bottom edges using ⅛" seam.

Step 7:

Place the main fabric rectangle wrong side down on a flat surface. Fold each of the short ends of the rectangle in equally, right sides together, so that the total width of the cover measures B". Pin the ends in place. 


Step 8: Lining the cover

Lay the lining rectangle on the cover, right sides together. Pin all layers together.

Using ¼" seam, sew along the top and bottom edges of the cover through all layers. Overlock or zigzag to neaten the seams if desired.

Step 9: Turning the cover

Turn the cover right side out and press well. This is the only step that can be a little confusing. I've addressed this in the following (rather dodgy!) clip:

That's it! Nothing remains but to slip your journal inside your cover and stand back to admire your work!

The elastic closure should extend from the front cover and wrap around the back of the journal.

The journal that I used had a transparent cover, which by chance was perfect because it allows you to see the lining fabric you've chosen when the journal is open.

A variation: Elastic closure #2

I made a second journal cover to show you an alternative elastic closure.

Follow the previous instructions up to and including Step 4. 
Place your main fabric rectangle wrong side down on a flat surface. Using a pencil, lightly mark vertical lines at equal distances from the left and right edges of the rectangle, so that the width between the lines measures (B + ½)", as shown below. 

Mark each of these lines at the midpoint. Place marks 2" either side of the midpoint on the left hand line.

Cut three 1¾" lengths of ½" wide elastic. Fold them in half to form loops and pin them at the three points that you just marked. The raw ends of the elastic should meet the marked line. Baste each of them in place using ⅛" seam, as shown below. 

Fold each of the short ends of the rectangle along the vertical pencil lines, right sides together. Sew a ¼" seam at each short end of the cover. This seam encloses the raw ends of the elastic loops.

Complete the journal cover by following the previous instructions from Step 8. Note that the width of lining fabric should lay between the two seam lines that you have just sewn. 

On turning your cover, it should look like this, with elastic loops at either end:

Insert your journal, and slide a pen through the loops to secure the journal closed. Nifty huh?

I hope you have as much fun with this tutorial as my previous one.

I would love to see your creations, so please send me photos! Best wishes, Bloom x

Monday, 6 October 2014

The songstress

Our youngest daughter Olivia loves to sing. She always has, from the time she was first conscious that she had a voice! Here she is at age four:

The girl with the cheeky grin has grown into a strongly creative and pensive soul. Her voice and her love for music and song has grown with her. At the age of 13, singing makes her happy, and she expresses herself through writing songs. As it happens, she is still hanging about in deciduous trees! 

Our local music store is running a competition called 'The Next Big Thing' and Olivia has entered. One of the songs she performed is her own composition. The winners are determined by popular vote, so please consider voting for our sweet girl (Olivia Mirrington). The truly dedicated (i.e. her mother!) can vote every twelve hours up until 26th October. There are some very talented young performers to vote for, so make yourself a drink, pull up a chair and check them out. 

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Charm square backpack PDF pattern

Whoever dreamed up the idea of fabric charm packs was a marketing genius ... and the nemesis of every fabric addict! The addict enters a fabric shop, and no matter her level of determination to resist, those little sample packs just draw her in. And she says to herself, "If I just buy one of these, it's cheaper than yardage, and I'll have a little bit of every fabric in the range. Win, win!" And so I have an untold number of random charm packs in my stash. 

I set myself a challenge to come up with a pattern to whittle down this collection. Something practical, something quick to make, and that can make use of a single random charm pack. I'm happy to say that I have written up a pattern for my Charm Square Backpack.

I have designed a drawstring backpack, made from a single charm pack, combined with a half metre of lining fabric.

At approximately 18" square, it is a perfect size for that quick trip to the shops, or a swim at the beach. It would also be great as a kid's library bag, or for their next sleepover with friends.

The backpack is fully lined, has an external zippered pocket for safe keeping of valuables and a loop for hanging.

I've made four of these backpacks now, and I confess they are quite addictive! But then it seems I'm prone to addiction :) The backpack on the left is made from Bonnie and Camille's 'Happy-Go-Lucky' range, while the one on the right is Zen Chic's 'Sphere', both by Moda of course, the leading culprit in charm pack world domination.

I also made two backpacks for some entomological friends of mine, using 'Bee My Honey' by Mary Jane.

I was lucky enough to find some fabulous braided cord at one of my local quilt shops. It is apparently an 'end of line' item, so is not readily available. If you find some, I suggest you buy it all (like I did). It just seems to blend with any fabric combination you can think of.

The Charm Square Backpack pattern is available as a PDF download in my shop.

If you happen to subscribe to my Newsletter, you will find a discount code for this pattern in your inbox. If you don't subscribe, but would like to, there is a newsletter subscription link at the top right of this page.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Daybook entry #15

Outside my window ... it is cold and dreary, but inside I have a beautiful pot of hyacinths to brighten my day. Their delicious fragrance fills the room and makes me very happy!

At the farm ... our lupin crop is looking really good. But we have learned not to count our chickens before they're hatched! The last lupin crop was as good a crop as our agronomist had ever seen, and heavy late season rain and wind blew them all over. 

At my machine ... I am playing with charm packs. I am working on a new pattern, designed to bust your charm pack stash! I can't bring myself to count how many charm packs I have ;)

I am inspired by ... Nicole Mallalieu's book, The Better Bag Maker. I have always loved Nicole's patterns. She has a wonderful sense of style, but also has pattern making and design credentials that make her projects stand out from the rest. I have grand plans of working my way through her book, and making each of the bags in succession, from easiest to most difficult. 

I am thinking about ... books. Beautiful, old books ...

... with letter pressed bindings and covered in dust. 


I have a book-themed commission for Australian Homespun that is proving to be quite a challenge, and has me a bit stumped at this point. I would ask for your help if I was allowed to! Perhaps this will spark some inspiration:

Have a good week. Bloom x

Thursday, 14 August 2014

The story of a quilt

I guess every quilt has a story, reflecting what is happening in the quilt maker's life at the time.

I turned 40 in July ... eight years ago! My Mum said she'd make me a birthday quilt.

A pattern was chosen: a simple design called 'Coventry' by Brenda Riddle, from her book 'Comfort and Joy'. I am a sucker for star blocks, and that double border of tiny red squares was calling me.


The fabric was chosen: the same fabrics used in Brenda's quilt, 'Roman Holiday' by 3 Sisters for Moda.

But in May 2006, my Dad was diagnosed with bowel cancer. The quilt was shelved, and the next nine months of Mum's life were focussed on caring for him. He passed away in February 2007.

So now, eight years later, my 40th birthday quilt has been dusted off. In that time, a background fabric was chosen, a dusty blue sprig on cream, from the 'Rural Jardin' range by French General for Moda.

In the last school holidays, Mum and I worked together on my quilt. Mum sewed, while I cut and pressed. 

When Mum and I sew together, we get places! We had 36 star blocks whipped up in no time. Admittedly, we had some help. Inspired by Rita in this post, I invested in a set of Bloc Loc rulers to help with our flying geese blocks. 

While these rulers are expensive, I would highly recommend them. They made an enormous difference to the speed and accuracy with which our blocks came together. 

So my birthday quilt is well underway. The blocks are all done, and pinned to our design wall (aka red fleece blanket). Mum has rolled it up and taken it home to finish piecing the top. I'll keep you posted on its progress. Mum? ... Mum? How are you going with it?!

This is a favourite photo of my Mum and me, taken about 1985 when Mum was 40! Yes, we were milking sheep ... but that's a story for another day.

Monday, 4 August 2014

In my winter garden

I don't know if every gardener would agree, but for me, winter is the busiest season. I have been lost in the garden; busy with pruning, mulching and generally tidying up. 

A winter garden is often dull and uninteresting because so many plants are in dormancy. Over the years, I've intentionally searched for winter-flowering plants to brighten up the dull spots and challenge the gloom. I found this sweet little gem, unlabelled, in a toss-out bin and it has become a winter favourite. I think it is a cuphea.

Cuphea hyssopifolia 'Rob's Mauve' (below) is as common as muck, but it earns its place in the garden for its prolific winter flowers. It is a great filler for arrangements too.

While I'm not a huge fan of pelargonium/geraniums, Perlargonium hortorum 'Rose Mega Splash' is very pretty right now.

Euryops pectinatus 'Little Sunray' is true to its name, radiating cheerfulness with its simple yellow flowers ...

... As does this little yellow buttercup that pops up out of nowhere at this time of year. I don't know what this plant is. It came from my Mum's garden, and dies back for most of the year until its fleshy foliage emerges in the winter. Please tell me if you know its name.

Even some of my verbenas are holding up to the cold weather, and sending out defiant blooms. This is Verbena 'Twinkle Crimson'.

Of course, some of the winter bulbs are starting to flower, with the appropriately named Jonquil 'Erlicheer' leading the charge.

I've recently discovered that what I've always called snowdrops, are actually snowflakes! I know, earth-shattering and all! I have Leucojum aestivum (Summer Snowflake or Loddon Lily), while a true snowdrop is Galanthus, quite a different plant all together. It's OK, I've been called a botanical nerd before :)

I am very excited about seeing the blooms of this little plant for the first time. It is Leucospermum glabrum x tottum 'Carnival Red', planted last September.

While I continue to search for winter blooms, it is this time of year when foliage can take more of centre stage.

I love this variegated euphorbia and how it contrasts with the dark green of the oyster plant.

Sedum spurium ‘Voodoo’ gets to strut its stuff, with its tiny burgundy leaves.

I've tried over the years to create contrast in plant colour and form in my garden. (Yep, more garden nerdiness right there!) I feel like I'm slowly getting somewhere.

Even after the winter pruning, I am starting to see different shapes emerging;  spheres, cones, spikes, etc.

Any gardener will tell you that a garden is never finished. It is constantly evolving, as plants grow too big, or die, or clash badly with others around them. This isn't a failure on the gardener's part; merely an opportunity to plant something else! The garden below is 12 months old. We had to pull down three enormous Leighton Green conifers because they were diseased. They left a gaping hole in the garden, but with it, a whole lot of new sunshine and a chance to plant new things.

My garden is a source of constant pleasure to me, and I am forever looking at it and analysing how next to make it better. I know you gardeners out there will get that! Best wishes, Bloom x
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