Tuesday 25 December 2012

Christmas greetings

From my family to yours, I hope you have a very happy Christmas. For us, Christmas morning first sees us busily getting the almost thirty members of the extended family to nine o'clock church! 
We welcomed the newest family member to her first Christmas. I think she was impressed and shows early signs of being a party girl :)
Like everyone, much of our day is centred on specially prepared food, always a cold feast for our family in Australia. I don't ever recall having a hot Christmas lunch. Salads and seafood abound!
The feasting is interrupted only to spend time pool side, cooling off. Or perhaps for the adults to have a snooze in a quiet corner!

Having had a sick daughter in 2012, we are particularly thankful this Christmas that she is well. It is a time for our family to reflect on a God who continues to give us every good thing. He continues to give graciously and willingly, two thousand years after sending His most precious gift of His Son for us all.

I hope your Christmas is a special time of reflection and time with family, and that 2013 brings good health and happiness to you and yours. 

Bloom x

Thursday 20 December 2012

Busy hands

Our kids always hit the ground running when holidays roll around, all eager to 'make stuff' and do things that the demands of the school term haven't allowed for. They have all been enthusiastically creating.
Miss 17 has most helpfully taken on the task of gift wrapping, priding herself on making each a little different.
She has also declared her intention to learn how to crochet and as her first project has chosen to make a double bed blanket - she doesn't do things in halves! It is currently 240 chain long and 1" wide. Photographic evidence of progress to follow at a later date :) 
The boy has been madly folding origami Christmas ornaments from old French texts to sell at a local pop-up market.
He has been selling his kusudama too. He first began making these a couple of years ago, and has refined his skills to a point that I can't match and others are willing to pay for!
This is his (and my) first market experience, and he is quickly learning the intricacies of maintaining adequate stock, filling custom orders and balancing his till at the end of the morning! His customers have been very kind and encouraging. I suspect he is quietly busting to have an 'origami'free' day to indulge in Minecraft!
Our littlest bloss has been keeping our strength up with morning tea chocolate creations.
She has also been beavering away in her room making gifts for family. It is such a pleasure for us all to see her returned to her happy, creative self after such a tough year with sickness.
And me? Well I'm mostly racing about like a lunatic as is apparently normal at this time of year. But just occasionally I find a quiet spot and a few minutes to stitch the bind on my latest little quilt.

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Peace on earth

We have been to the farm for a few days with our kids and have returned to civilisation to the horrific news of the Newtown school tragedy. To be frank, I have avoided reading the details as I'm not sure my heart can take it. As a parent of three children, freshly on school holidays and pulling me this way and that with requests and busyness, this news stops me in my tracks; makes me re-appreciate the blessing they are to me this Christmas.

As I was reading through my emails this morning, one from Sarah Jane Studios struck a chord. Sarah has designed a downloadable card with 100% of the funds to go to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund which is set up with Newtown Savings Bank to support families of the victims and community needs. In some small way, purchase of this card may just help with the practical needs of those mourning the loss of precious children.

In Australia, gun ownership has been stringently controlled since the Port Arthur massacre of 1996. I am genuinely interested to know how the Newtown tragedy leaves our US friends feeling about the complex matter of gun laws and the right to bear arms.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Ducks on the pond

I was home at the farm on the weekend to see our canola crop come in. 
Harvest is always a frenetic time, with machinery and trucks thundering every which way, keen to get the grain in before any rain can gather.
I spend the time anxiously pacing, trying to distract myself in the garden, my heart in my mouth as I wait in anticipation for the first indication of yield to come in ...
... waiting for an indication of whether we've done our money, broken even or perhaps even cracked a profit!
I climbed up into the header cab and did a few runs with the contractor. This is always an education! The header driver divided his time between talking to me, with very careful politeness, about the subtleties and nuances of controlling a GPS driven harvester, and raucously yarning to his mates over the 2-way as they fly past in their trucks, laden with grain on the way to the silos in town.
At one point, he uttered nervously to his mate on the 2-way, "Ducks on the pond, mate, I gotta a duck on the pond"! Now most Aussie farm girls will know exactly what that means. This is code among country men that there is a woman present and that all foul language should be moderated immediately! It is a particularly common warning when women walk onto the board of a shearing shed. Funny! I'd love to know if this is a habit peculiar to Australia, or whether there are similar expressions in other rural communities around the world. I suspect it is unique to foul-mouthed Aussies!
The verdict on the crop? It yielded better than expected, but we won't be retiring to Noosa on it!
In other news, being at the farm allowed me to spread a new quilt out and take some photos.
I had serious fun making this up, and have a second one to put together using girly flannels from Marally Craft.
More details to come when it returns from 'she-who-works-quilting-miracles', Belinda :)

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Hither and thither

hither and thither, adv. in various directions, esp. in a disorganized way. e.g. Bloom is running hither and thither, from one project to another, as her brain races ahead of her fingers.
I have been working with felt, lots of fiddly cutting with small scissors, but it will surely be worth it. 
The design is a table centre by Mandy Shaw of Dandelion Designs and is from Australian Homespun #109. It reminds me of scherenschnitte, a form of German paper cutting which I love.
Progress on the hexagons is slow but steady.
My 'local', Marally Craft, generously sent me home last week with fabric panels and coordinates to play with: 'Animal Party Too' by Amy Schimler for Robert Kaufman ...
... And 'Pretty Paisley' flannels by Lesley Grainger for Robert Kaufman. I am planning a new pattern that might make use of all those cute panels that I have stashed in the cupboard over the years! So I have plenty to keep me off the streets :) Hope you too can find some time for creative pursuits this week.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Adventures of a paper-piecing novice

My heartfelt thanks to everyone for your thoughtful and supportive messages on my last post. Olivia continues in pure, unbroken, glorious good health and happiness. I am touched that so many of you sensed and shared my palpable relief and wonder that she is again well. I am still breathing in the peace and relief ... in enormous, deep gulps!

And so, this week I picked up needle and thread again, to revisit my Little Hexagon Purse. This is my first serious attempt at paper piecing, and I thought I'd pass on some things I've learned.

The finished hexies have 1/2" sides - I know, what was I thinking?! For the majority of fabrics, I trace around an acrylic template with a pencil and cut out the hexagon with scissors.

For fabrics pleading to be fussy cut, I made a 'window' template from light cardboard, and use this for tracing the shape onto the fabric.

I am using Sue Daley's method to temporarily glue the fabric hexagons to purchased hexagon papers. When I'm feeling diligent, I use a Sewline glue pen specifically developed for fabric. When I can't find the Sewline, I just use an ordinary old glue stick. Both achieve the same end.

After experimenting with various threads, silk and cotton of different weights and colours, I have settled with using this Aurifil 50 weight in a neutral beige (#2314). The colour blends sufficiently across the fabrics I'm using, and the thread is fine enough to sink nicely into the seams.

After stitching the hexies together, the papers are supposed to 'pop' out quickly and easily from the back of the work. I have obviously been too heavy-handed with the glue as there's no way my papers are 'popping' anywhere! I solved this dilemma by moistening the seams (on the back of the panel) using a small, soft paintbrush dipped in water. This diluted/softened the glue enough that I could quickly remove the papers. 

This purse is for my eldest daughter. It was supposed to be finished for a School Ball a week ago. Knowing full well that I was not going to get all those teeny tiny hexies pieced in time, I offered to make up a quick, 'one fabric only' substitute. 

This offer was duly accepted by said 17-year-old on the proviso that the 'real' hexie purse be completed by Christmas :) Deal!

Wednesday 19 September 2012

Reap What You Sew seed wallet

I am back home after 11 days at Westmead Children's Hospital with my daughter. We have returned with new medications to try, and a diagnosis of Chronic Daily Headache. The bottom line is that we have long term chronic pain to contend with, and that there are no quick fixes. We are worn out with it all, but determined for recovery, however long it takes.

The last few months have seen very little stitching from me. However, the companion project to my garden apron has just been published in Australian Homespun magazine.
I made a fold-up wallet for storing seed packets. It can be hung in the garden shed for easy access, or stored folded.
There are four sets of pockets, one set for each season. My idea is to store seeds according to the season they should be sown. When that season rolls around, I can quickly find the appropriate seeds and get them into the garden. That's the theory anyway :)
Below the pockets, there are 5 small elasticised keepers for storing pens and pencils, and a larger keeper for a garden notebook.
The weather is slowly warming here in Australia, and with it, the incentive to get out in the garden is building.  
The stress of caring for my daughter has taken its toll on my enthusiasm for stitching, gardening and even blogging over the past few months. But the concern and warm support expressed to us through this blog have sustained me, and I'm sure my mojo will return soon! Love to you, Bloom x
P.S. 'The Pink Issue' of Australian Homespun (No. 112) is available in Australian newsagents now, and a digital version can be purchased from Zinio.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

A locomotive challenge

Grandchildren in our family are usually welcomed with what has become known as 'a farm quilt from Grandma'. 
She chooses a fabric panel, usually bedecked with tractors, cows and chooks, and surrounds the panel with a simple checkerboard of coordinating squares.
Her latest quilt was sufficiently delayed that the recipient was able to tell her exactly what his preference was for his quilt - "I want trains Grandma"!
And so the traditional tractors were set aside and the search was on for train fabric. She decided on a print from Just Train Crazy by Dan Morris for RJR fabrics.
We raided the stash for some 'not-too-girly' coordinates, and she got to work.
After an appearance in the local show this weekend, the quilt will finally be excitedly received by my locomotively obsessed nephew.
I coerced my sick blossie out to the adventure playground to take these photos. Usually there would be no coercing involved. She really is unwell!
We are off to Sydney to Westmead Children's Hospital next week to try to get to the bottom of her unrelenting headaches. An MRI has assured us that there is nothing especially sinister to worry about, but after 3 months of persistent pain, we are hoping for some answers and some relief for her. 
Thank you to everyone who has shown such kindness and concern for my daughter. Your many encouraging messages and personal stories have been very much appreciated.

Saturday 18 August 2012

Reap What You Sew garden apron

Six months later, I can show you the finished product. Published in this month's Garden issue of Australian Homespun, I have put together what I hope is a very practical tool for the gardening Miss: an apron!
When I was asked to submit a project with a gardening theme, my mind flew straight to the recently purchased Loulouthi range by Anna Maria Horner. It is perhaps my favourite of Anna's lines, and since Loulouthi translates to 'flower' from Greek, it seemed perfect for my purpose. 

I chose two of the darkest prints from the range, 'Clippings' in the Passion colourway, resplendent with vibrant blooms and butterflies ... 
... and 'Hugs & Kisses' in wine to coordinate. 
While the reward of a garden is beauty and peace, the underlying process is a lot of hard work. I opted to make my apron from dark fabrics as testament to the toil that a garden entails. If a gardening apron is to be used, it should be practical, not too precious and able to wear some dirt!
I tried to think about all the things I would use in a gardening apron, and so there are pockets for secateurs, marking pens, a mobile phone and a clear vinyl zippered pocket for various other gardening paraphernalia.
I was really pleased with how this project turned out, and quite frankly, I can't wait for it to return to me so that I can give it a workout!
When I design a project, I tend to gather inspiration from a myriad of sources. I was inspired for this project by two favourite quotes which are very realistic and uncompromising descriptions of the gardening process:

If you wish to make anything grow, you must understand it, and understand it in a very real sense. 'Green fingers' are a fact, and a mystery only to the unpracticed. But green fingers are the extensions of a verdant heart. 
― Russell Page, The Education of a Gardener

Then seek your job with thankfulness and work till further orders,
If it's only netting strawberries or killing slugs on borders;
And when your back stops aching and your hands begin to harden,
You will find yourself a partner In the Glory of the Garden.
― Rudyard Kipling, ‘The Glory of the Garden’

There is an accompanying seed storing wallet in next month's issue. But, apart from this peek, I will keep you in suspense!
Australian Homespun Issue No. 111 is available in Australian newsagents right now, and digital versions can be purchased from Zinio.

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