Thursday, December 09, 2010

Nimble fingers

I have to say I've been finding it easiest lately to knit. It's easy to pick up something and knit for a few minutes, then put it down when the inevitable interruption comes up... "Muuuuum! She's taking my cars!".... "Waaaaaaaaaa!" "Darling - what did you do to your sister?" "NOTHING!!".  You get the picture.

So as I mentioned in my hot water bottle post, I joined Ravelry, and it has been nothing short of a revelation! Loads and loads of ladies (and men) around the world, knitting away, and sharing their work, patterns, their experiences interpreting the patterns, their experiences with certain yarns. There are patterns you can get for free, and there are single patterns that you can buy instead of buying a whole pattern book! An amazing model of IP (intellectual property) sharing, with just about every possibility available! It's a giant stitch and bitch group, available straight from your computer. Given I don't get to see many of the people I know who knit very often, this has accelerated my learning about knitting quite a lot, and I'm trying all sorts of new things.

Is my enthusiasm showing through enough?

One thing I'm short of though is "friends" on Ravelry. So if you're a member (it's free to join), look me up (under the user name "Meririsa") and befriend me!! I'm keen to have more people to share with.

So what have I been knitting? my first garments, for little baby girls! First this one for my little girl in cotton yarn:

...only it's HUGE on her. A lot of lessons learned about different yarn types (cotton vs wool, and different thicknesses) and needles, and getting your test patch right. But anyway, it'll fit in a year or two. I've knitted another one in wool for a dear little girl I know who is about to turn one - I just need to sew in the threads, block, and sew on daisy buttons.

Next up is a little sundress with a knitted cotton bodice and gathered fabric dress.  I hope to take it to my mother in law's and finish it with her while on summer holidays! Then there's a few other projects lined up - vests and tunics for the kids for winter, fingerless mittens for presents for folk in colder climates.... I'll never be idle again!

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Oh you - you're such a card!

So Friday night I ran a card making workshop in the office, at the kitchen table. Around 8 of us (give or take a few visitors) settled in with beer and snacks to craft ourselves some Christmas (or Summer or end of year or other) cards. We used 220 and 250gsm card, in either brown recycled, red, white or buff recycled, along with DL sized enveloped in a lovely soft recycled brown colour.

People got cracking with reusing their year's calendars, drawing, and collaging images. We all did a 'words' focused card to break the ice and get started, and then collaged trees, then using stripes. N got busy with the fabulous stamps that A brought in, stamping up a sustainable storm with images of row houses, bikes and trees - a profusion of cards, a veritable cottage industry of cards. Others used a mix of techniques, and everyone's were wonderfully, distinctly different. It's interesting to see how given the same materials everyone was drawn to different colours, shapes and techniques, and we created such a diverse range of images.

We eventually worked up an appetite, so stopped for takeaway Indian, and then wound up over cups of tea. It was heartening to see people so attached to their creative process, so in the groove that they took bits home to keep making. T even planned to make some more while watching the cricket the next day.

well done craftsters!

and more card pictures...

and lucky last card pictures...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

happy holiday houses

I stayed a night in a lovely quirky holiday house in Brisbane a few weeks ago while up visiting family. Hayley is a friend of my mothers has a series of them that she has done up each in a different theme - she calls them Quirky Cottages and unlike a lot of places they are very kid and pet friendly - as in there are actually ducks and chooks wandering around the gardens, and there are lots of fun details that kids would love. They are not your stock standard high gloss character-less bed and breakfast with mismatched floral bed spreads. Her aesthetic which is very whimsical, a little DIY and lots of fun. She mosaics and ecah one seems to have at least some mosaic - at Lochiel where we stayed there is a whole wall underwater scene with in blues and mirror. She uses a lot of found objects and creative reuse to furnish them.
For example, the photos here are from a multicoloured boat themed house, where even the deck has been made to be pointy like the bow of a ship. These are the kids beds she has, in old row boats. I love also the colourful toys stuck to the wall as decoration. Some ideas there for kids room decorations for the parents out there, inspired me to think outside the box a bit more with decorating living spaces.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How do you wash your woollens?

Just wondering, how do others wash their woollens?

I handwash using a little shampoo and tepid water, rinse a couple of times, let it drip in the laundry for a little while to get most of the water out, then air horizontally on my clothes airer.

I have a woollens setting on my front loader washing machine, but have been too scared to try it... does anyone else use their washing machine to wash woollens, and have there been any accidental feltings?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

and another one...

And then I thought while I'm on a roll, I should do a hot water bottle for my daughter, so they'll both have a spunky hot water bottle cover for next winter! Went with red, so thought I might try making up a pattern. I know. So did a 6 stitch x 8 row checker with 2k, 6k, 6p, 6k, 6p, 2k on the knit side, and 28p on the purl side, then switched around the knits and purls in the middle 24 stitches. I think this pattern is even OK when you start to shape the shoulder bits. Here's what I've done so far:

Knitted hot water bottle cover

Not being a very experienced knitter, I've stuck to babies hats knitted on the round, the odd toy and scarves for teddies. I'd rather stick to practical, small knitting projects, and then one day, who knows, I may be able to knit myself the ultimate snuggly cardigan?

One thing that we have needed for a while is a cover for my son's hot water bottle. Because here in Sydney-town, it's not really cold enough for central heating or electric blankets, and a hot water bottle and a blanket usually suffices. But we don't love the feeling of rubber bottles in our bed. We used to use a pillow case, but that wasn't really satisfactory. Then I used the cut off leg of an old pair of my leggings that were about to die, with knots tied at either end of the tube to stop the bottle moving around inside. That always felt a little desperate to me, although my son was fine with it. I thought maybe I could just knit myself one, but I don't really have the skills to make up even such a simple pattern.

Finally, I got a Ravelry account and hunted around for a pattern. I thought Plain and Simple Hot Water Bottle Cover by Amy Pickard sounded achievable. I had to improvise, as I didn't think I had a hope in hell of finding the same yarn. I also searched around my needle stash, most of which are hand-me-downs from my friend Min, and I only had a 6.5 mm set of needles, not 6.0. But anyway, I ended up using Fuel 20 ply wool from Morris, and thought I'd suck it and see. Turns out it was perfect for the pattern.

I was a really quick knit. I would have finished it in 2 days if I didn't run out of wool and have to go back for more. This was also a good pattern to learn a new skill - yo to do button holes!

Here's the finished product, with hot water bottle inside, all finished except I need to raid my button stash and sew on 3 buttons:

Friday, September 24, 2010

spring fling with crafty fun

Thought this might appeal to some:

Crafternoon with Object Gallery

When: 25 & 26 September
Time: 11am – 3pm

Where: Hyde Park North

Bring your craft project out of the closet and come along to a Crafternoon hosted by Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design, in Hyde Park. Be inspired by some of our most exciting artists, including Denise Litchfield, members of Knitty, Gritty & Loopy, Craft Cartel and Reef Knot, as you work with your own materials. Limited materials will also be available to experiment with.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Dress-ups and birthday cakes

Well in this household, June-September is party season, as a lot of kids we know have birthdays during this period.
There were 2 parties recently that required costumes - firstly, a space party, where my son dressed up as an astronaut, and my daughter an alien! Astronaut costume is a grey tracksuit, plus packaging painted white with detail and attached to a back pack to make an oxygen tank thingy, with a helmet made from paper mache moulded from a balloon. Full credit to my husband for making this costume with my son helping. Alien costume was a green dotty tutu plus shrek ears (both purchased).

Birthday cakes - again, made by my husband. One year I will muscle in and do the birthday cakes, but he has done all of my son's birthday cakes so far!! This year, he experimented with roll-out (fondant) icing, which looked really neat. I like how smoothe you can get this icing to look. The 4-year-old got a rocket, and the 1-year-old the moon:

Finally, last week, there was an Arty Party, and our son went as an art critic! Everything was sourced from our own wardrobes - black cap, skivvy, & black pants - the only thing we did was "colour in" black a pair of unused orange kid's sunglasses, and remove the lenses.

What fun!!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Activism and Rock n' Roll Craft

Today I had a craft afternoon with my Dad. It's the Walk Against Warming tomorrow, so I did low-cost home-made stencils on some old pillow cases that were torn on one side and in the rag bag. the Stencils are drawn by hand and the spray paint was called "fiddly bits" from Bunnings ($3.50). They didn't even challenge me for my ID - here in South Australia you can only buy spray paints if you are over 18.

Dad did some work on a Boss SD-1 Distortion pedal for his electric guitar. He was replacing transistors, subsituting a switch and re-wiring part ofthe cicuit. This modified the sound to "give it more depth and stop the bleed through of sounds when the pedal is in the off position".

Here's some pics. Stencil cutting:
Ready to spray

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sew what?

Well bags and skirts for one thing. Fiona Warmbath has workshops coming up in the second half of the year and I can vouch that she is a patient and skilled teacher. Check her website and click through to 'workshops'.

Inner Westie Winter Warming Workshops

I think I've mentioned this women and the groovy classes/ 'playshop' sessions she runs, in my neighbourhood. Thought some of you might be interested.

Creative Flame
What do you love doing? What ignites your spirit?
How might you be light-arted?!
Spend a couple of mornings in a cosy, safe space
playing with art materials and journalling.
Create pictures to help sustain you
through the heart of winter and beyond.
Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th July
10am to 1pm in Glebe
$160 inc materials
earlybird $145
for full payment by close of business tomorrow - Wednesday 23rd June


a one-off session to help kindle or rekindle your writing -
supporting your creativity to flow and flower
For beginners or experienced Art and Soulies
Wednesday 21st July
10am to 1pm in Glebe

and.....bookings are open for Art and Soul Term 3:
Vitamin P
P is for Play, Pleasure, Peace, Presence, Paint, Pastels, Paper and more!
Can you allow yourself to simply Be?
and then express your Being using art materials?
Discover and rediscover the joy of creative flow.
Saturday 14th August
10am to 1pm in Glebe

a couple of places available
in this wonderful women's ongoing writing and other creativity group.
You need to have experience and familiarity with your own creative process
and strong capacity to both give and receive positive feedback.
Wednesday mornings 18th August to 22nd September
10am to 12.30pm in Glebe
$335 or earlybird $315 (full payment by 21st July)

Art and Soul of Writing
at NSW Writers' Centre
Friday mornings 20th August to 17th September
a terrific way to begin exploring writing
or to revitalise and nourish your creative soul

Sally Swain
9552.6164 bus hrs weekdays

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Faster than a speeding bullet!

My mother-in-law kindly made this Superman suit for a superhero party my son was invited to!  Really quite easy - and the same pattern was used for my partner when he was a little boy!

1) Cape and Gauntlets (wrist thingys) - made from red felt, which I assume was washed first, as it was a bit thicker than normal. Red ribbon sewn around the neck of the cape, covering over the edge (if that makes sense) then sewn into a long ribbon to tie around the neck. Gauntlets = two bits of felt sandwiching a bit of interfacing, sewn around the edge (about 5mm) in straight stitch. Secured with velcro.

2) Blue skivvy purchased. Superman logo = red felt stuck on yellow felt, stuck on the skivvy with interfacing, and hand sewn around the edges in straight stitch.

3) red trackie pants - cut off to trunks and hem sewn...

4) ...worn over blue trackie pants (already had) and blue gum boots (red would have been better, but we had blue). He could have worn red socks had the party been inside.

So was this cheaper than buying a ready-made superman costume - around $35-$45? Probably just. But this is way cuter! And I think I can easily modify this to a Supergirl costume for my daughter in a few years, just by converting the trunks to a skirt! (Even though as a character, supergirl tanked, so I am told...)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Make Your Own Gift Bags

On a recent trip to Melbourne I learnt how to make these cute paper gift bags. You can use old books, wrapping paper or magazines. Here are some that I made using a Richard Scarrey children's book I bought cheap from the opp shop.

Here is the how to:
* collect up these materials:

* Grab a solid box that you can use to make the shape - i.e. an old metal biscuit tin or wooden box. This will designate the shape of the bag. I'm using a wooden box big enough to hold a wine bottle.

* Cut the paper so it wraps around the box and glue (pva applied with a paint brush works well) the edges together.

* Then fold the ends together like your wrapping a present and glue.
* Pull the box out and insert a base from cardboard. I used cardboard from a cereal box.

* Fold down the top and use a hole punch to place two holes on either side of the bag.
*Thread through the braid or ribbon as handles and add a tag if you like.

Here's my finished version of a wine gift bag made from a brochure out of the mail.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010


Mum gave me a set of stone beads (turquoise maybe?) along with cute fish clasp, ready to thread/ be made to the right length etc. So, as a very satisfying long weekend project I strung them on nylon thread with small greenish glass spacer beads, and seven spacer beads each side before the clasp to make it a little longer. Finished product is rather zippy new necklace. Yah.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Arabian Nights

I got this fabric when I was finding fabric for the bag (see below). It reminds me of Moroccan tiles (not that I've been to Morocco, but I imagine it features lots of tiles like this). I decided to make a little summer nightie out of it, maybe something I could lounge around in on Saturday mornings feeling cool and cottony and leisurely languid. Sipping coffee, writing my novel, padding around in bare feet, that kind of thing.

Used satin ribbon for the straps (I almost just wrote 'handles' - that bag workshop made an impact!). Didn't have a pattern, just cut around my favourite nightie, straight into the fabric, with the fabric on the bias. Used Amberguity's overlocker for extra safe seams, and the rolled hem foot to do the hem. It ended up a little shorter than I might have liked, but other than that very happy with it. Accidentally twisted one strap in the sewing, which would be easily rectified, but for now I am just going with it (lazy aren't I?). Oh, also added a very twee little matching bow on the front to finish it off.

New Bag

Went to a fun sewing workshop last weekend, in the mountains. My friend Mountainspice organised it (that is, invited me, booked us in) because we both love fabric and have grand plans for sewing but neither of us really learnt to sew or actually sew anything. She saw this advertised in the local free 'workshops a plenty' newspaper that they get up in the mountains.

We were a tad late because she picked me up from the train station and we made our way together. The workshop was held in a community centre, and the other (8 or so) women were already there and busy with their cutting and pinning when we got there. The teacher Fiona Warmbath is a dressmaker who runs regular workshops through the week, in fact most of the people there were regular attendees of her week day dressmaking classes.

We got to choose which bag to make, from 3 different designs. I went for a more 'handbag' style bag for myself, Mountainspice went for a shoulder tote style as a bookbag for her library-loving 3 year old.

I bought fabric the day before from the Fabric Store in Surry Hills, Sydney, with Miss Snapdragon's help choosing something extra groovy. I also raided my fabric suitcase (excavated from under the bed) to find cheery light coloured lining for MS's tote. Also waded through my button jar to find something large, decorative and lolly looking to finish it off.

Bag is lined with contrasting patterned fabric that you can only really see when diving in deep to find keys or other hiding things in the bag. Inside pocket got scrapped in an effort to get the bag finished in the confines of the workshop. I did end up staying after the official end time to get it done (a few people did) and I was truly exhausted after sewing for 6 hours after not having even said hello to my machine for well over a year but was super chuffed to have finished it at all, and the bag is now officially my very favourite handbag in the world. Like a kid with a macaroni necklace that's more loved than pearls, I love it extra much despite the wonky stitching and missing pocket or maybe even because of that.

Monday, January 25, 2010


New year's project - scanning drawings and learning to play with them digitally. Have a new scanner set up and am enjoying learning to use photoshop to soften edges, delete dots and dust and eventually plan to do a short course in illustrator so I can manipulate 'vector graphics' better. I figure having them scanned in is a good start. Exciting the idea of taking the drawing (collage, whatever) as a seed and them having a whole range of new tools for making colour and texture and light. I am getting with the 21st century! (slowly)