This Getting Old Thing

Since moving house the RSI in my hands has been creeping back in, and the latest deadline did that whooshing thing thanks to them getting so bad I was in quite a bit of pain, and sometimes could barely bend my fingers.

With my old physio busy, I tried a new one. He brought up the possibility of rheumatoid arthritis.

I distinctly remember my mother, and her mother, having to give up crafts thanks to arthritis. I have no idea what kind. But for a few years now I’ve noticed the top of my forefinger and middle finger of my right hand twisting more and more to the right. So I’m going to the doctor to get the blood test once the Christmas rush is over.

In the meantime… I’d already written up a list rating the crafts I do by how good/bad they are for RSI. Weaving is easier on the hands than machine knitting. The Bond is easier than the Passap (not so heavy to operate). In fact, I was already thinking of selling the Passap, since I haven’t touched it in over a year and it takes up so much room.

If I do I’ll probably sell and/or give away a pile of yarn, too. I’ve not looked at my stash in months.

It can be good to clear out the old. It frees space and energy for something new. I’d like to do more weaving, embroidery, printing and photo albums, and start working on my paintings at home as well as at class.

Hmm, that almost sounds like a resolution.

Landscaping Stage 1

The last few weeks we’ve had landscapers here doing some major work. While the front garden will pretty much take care of itself, with a regular mow, the back had drainage issues, a rotting retaining wall, and an abundance of weeds.

I’ve never bought a house that didn’t have a neglected garden and/or need some landscaping. At my first house the cut made into the back yard for a verandah became a sloped herb garden and paving. At my second house I had 14 tree stumps removed and planted a small vege and herb garden, but couldn’t afford more. The last house flooded twice, so required a lot of expensive drainage, and the extension made such a mess that most of the garden was wrecked. It was almost completely redone. (Including the much-more-expensive-than-planned replacement retaining wall between us and the neighbour that I paid for entirely – but let’s not go there.)

We knew the new house needed work and budgeted for it. We braced ourselves, too, because landscaping always throws up unexpected and costly surprises. I’ve split it into three stages based on what was urgent and what could be done later.

Stage One was mostly about drainage and retaining walls.

Stage Two will be mostly about restoring the eroded embankment at the far back corner, plants and fences.

Stage Three will be mostly about paving and raised garden beds for the kitchen garden.

Stage One started a few weeks ago. Day one of the work the landscapers hit shale – clay that’s been compressed to the hardness of rock:

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(It’s the pale yellow under the orangey clay.)

All our plans of moving the retaining walls a little back into the slope to get more space had to be abandoned. We couldn’t have sleeper walls, either. The posts for the old wall barely penetrated the shale, and digging post holes deep enough to properly support a wall would require expensive equipment.

So we had to upgrade to a recycled brick wall in the middle, where space is tight. After seeing the time and care that goes into a simple brick wall, I am never going to regard them and brick laying in the same way again. So much skill and time. I love the colour and variation in the recycled bricks, too.

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We used big colac rocks in the kitchen garden. It’s much less formal than I’d intended, but I can work with that. The upper area will be planted with roses, herbs and flowering plants, taller at the back and ground covers spilling down the rocks. Well, that’s the plan. The big challenge is the soil, which is very poor. It’ll all be mulched, but for every plant I put in I’ll need to dig a big hole and fill it with new, good soil.

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The three citrus trees are the only survivors in this area, and the lime took a nasty scrape down its trunk from the excavator. I’m going to plant two more citrus trees on either side of the row. Maybe two limes, maybe a lime and orange – or mandarin.

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The flat lower area was going to remain as grass for a year until I had the raised vege beds put in, but the excavators turned it all to mud. I’m now going to cover it in mulch. Trying to reestablish grass at the beginning of summer in Melbourne is a waste of seed, water and time.

I’d only put five plants in since moving in and they all had to be removed. Three were pumpkins, so I’ve planted them outside the laundry door into some compost. I’ve never grown pumpkin before, and I’ve been impressed at how resilient they’ve been, continuing to grow in the pots and even flowering.

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There was a pond next to the deck that had to go, but we weren’t all that keen on it. We kept the rocks, though. The plants that had to be removed were divided and replanted around them. I want to keep this as a greener area but without creating a high water demand – you can get a rainforest look without plants that require lots of water if you choose carefully.

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The drainage issues were bad and for a while it looked like we might have to replace the whole storm water pipe system. Fortunately the cause was found and wasn’t as bad as it first appeared – one thing that didn’t cost us more than expected!

Stage Two will happen next autumn, but there are a couple of projects Paul is in charge of that may happen before then, like the new driveway. A few plants will have to be removed or transplanted. And friends have been taking these…

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… and using them as Christmas trees. They look fabulous, too!

Shade Card Pom Poms

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Thanks to moving house, preparing the old for sale, lots of unpacking and DIY at the new one, and work, I’ve now got a big flare up of RSI in my hands. And week before the work deadline. Sigh.

I’d been so looking forward to getting past the deadline and finally having time for some craft. Now I’m resting my hands (I shouldn’t be typing this), dying of boredom and my main form of creativity right now seems to be trying cocktail recipes (only one a night, mind you, unless Paul wants one).

Yesterday I tidied up the craft room a little. Looking at some of the stuff in my refashion/repurpose piles, I came upon the leftover shade cards from my Yarn Shade Card Blanket. I got to wondering if I could turn them into pom poms. It seemed like it would be very quick and not too fiddly, so I gave it a go. Lo and behold, it worked.

Two things I found worth noting: cable yarns don’t form fluffy pom poms, and wool yarn doesn’t seem to be as good as cotton at staying in a tight knot.

Not only did I have leftovers, but new cards that had become obsolete (or contain mohair, so I won’t be buying the yarn) since I made the blanket. Plenty to choose from:

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I cut away all the paper except a narrow strip where the yarn was attached:

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Then I rolled it up:

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Into a nice little coil:

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I tied it twice, flipping it over for the second knot, as tight as I could manage:

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Then I pushed the string to the centre and trimmed off the paper strip:

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A gave it a haircut to even up the strands:

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Success!

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But the mix of colours on a Bendigo Woollen Mills sample card tend to divide into pastels and darker colours, which don’t always go together well. I decided to try cutting up the cards and combining similar sets of colours:

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And that worked, too!

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Which is great, because some of the sample cards are of novelty yarns that aren’t going to make good pom poms. I can combine them with other yarns…

… when my hands recover. Even this small, fast project left me sore. I can see a long, boring, craftless summer ahead.

Something Borrowed, Something New

Jewellery-making continued…

Key Necklace:
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A remake of a necklace I made a while back with an old fob watch on it, but never wore it because it was too long and heavy. This is lighter and tidier.

Netted Stone:
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I’d seen something similar, with rough crystals and leather, on Pinterest. I used linen thread. It looked fiddly, but it turned out to be very easy. You don’t have to hold the stone while tying the knots. You just knot a round and test the net for size now, then repeat until it’s big enough. The closer together the rows of knots are, the less flexible the net is width-wise.

Amethyst and Linen:
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Adapted from a necklace in Micro Macrame Jewellery. I used the same linen from the Netted Stone, and amethyst chunks. There’s a lovely weight to this necklace – light but substantial.

After that I was drawn toward back to paper beads. But I found I didn’t have enough of those I’d made previously to do what I wanted to do, so I’ve wound up making and decorating beads instead of jewellery this last week. And resting my hands, as work is stirring up the rsi.

Typical Craft Twitch

I guess it was inevitable…

Friday night: untangled, culled and sorted jewellery
Saturday morning: bought lamp, mirror and materials to make jewellery display board
Saturday afternoon: made board, set up dressing table
Saturday evening: pulled apart some culled pieces and added to jewellery-making supplies
Sunday morning: culled and reorganised jewellery-making supplies
Sunday afternoon: read jewellery-making books and pinterest during work breaks, sketched ideas
Sunday evening: started fixing and making new jewellery, sketched ideas
Monday morning: culled more costume jewellery
Monday evening: made more jewellery
Tuesday morning: blogged about it

… but I’m not complaining. I’m relieved that I finally found my craft mojo again. Jewellery-making has always been an interest that comes in sudden bouts of inspiration, lasts a month or so then ebbs away. It’s good for a quick crafty fix, but it also reaches that ‘I don’t need another x or y” stage pretty quickly. That’s why a cull tends to lead to creating – it ‘makes room’. And the bonus is that I can pull apart and reuse the bits of pieces I’ve culled. This time I’ve taken that a step further, and culled things so that I can reuse components.

What have I made so far…

Map bead bracelet

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Pen nib pendant

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Geometric necklace

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Charm bracelet

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I also had fun taking the photos. Ah, bokeh, you’re almost retro already.

A Bit of Dressing Up

I’ve just finished a little weekend project, which had the added bonus of motivating me to unpack yet another box: a new costume jewellery board.

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Back at the last house I kept my costume jewellery on two pinboards I bought and covered with calico:

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There’s no convenient alcove to use as a dressing table here. Initially I wanted to put a shelf in the walk-in-robe, but there wasn’t room for it. The next choice was having an actual dressing table in the bedroom. Using the old Singer sewing machine table seemed like a good option as it’s small and cute and it means we don’t have to buy another piece of furniture, so I put it in position… and covered it in unpacked boxes of bags, shoes and jewellery.

I had a table, but what about a place to display jewellery? For a while I flirted with the idea of turning my old printer drawer into one, but most of my costume jewellery is necklaces and the compartments are the wrong size.

So I eyed those old pinboards. They were the wrong colour for the bedroom, so I’d have to sand and repaint, replace the fabric, and make two new holes in the wall to hang them. Or I could take that old metal poster frame with no board or glass that’s been hanging around in the garage, buy a new board and come cork squares that happened to be exactly the right size to fit 2 x 3 in the frame…

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… then glue the tiles, assemble the frame and hang it up by a chain to a new nail in the existing nail hole, stick some pins in it, unpack, cull and hang the jewellery…

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The end result looks great and was pretty quick to knock together. The cork and black frame match the sewing table wood colour and cast iron base. I also bought a lamp and mirror on the same trip to get the tiles and board. And I’ve moved my make-up and perfume into some decorative boxes.

The old pinboards are going into the craft room, where I’m sure I’ll get plenty of of use out of them as inspiration boards.

And speaking of inspiration, I now feel the urge to make some jewellery…

My DIY Bar Cart

Ah, Pinterest. I save it for the evenings, to read during ad breaks or if the show we’re watching starts to bore me.

In the old house I used a kitchen cart in the bathroom as the cabinet. It was much cheaper to put a pedestal sink in and buy a piece of cheap furniture to use as a cabinet than to buy a vanity have it installed. The cart was an ex-display piece from Freedom, if I recall correctly. Bargain!

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I wasn’t sure what to do with it in the new house. It didn’t match the style of any furniture, though the kitchen was white so I figured it wouldn’t stand out like a sore toe in there. Then I saw lots of bar carts, DIY and new, appearing on Pinterest and that looked like a good way to serve alcohol out on the deck without carting bottles and glasses out from the kitchen.

Only problem was, the middle shelf was in the wrong place. You couldn’t fit most bottles of spirits in either gap. But that was easy enough to fix. Being flat-pack furniture, it had been put together with screws and an alan key, I just had to unscrew the shelf, drill new holes where I wanted it, and reattach.

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It was then that I discovered it fits perfectly under the kitchen bench.

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I tried it out at the weeding and tennis party, and immediately wanted improvements. I’d used a plastic tub as a drawer for the bottles, but the whole cart moved when I tried to get inside it. My solution:

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That’s a cord wrapped around each leg twice, which is strong enough to prevent the bottles falling out but flexible enough that I can get to them when I need to.

Serving drinks was messier than anticipated, and when I found I needed to wash glasses to reuse them I fetched a bucket of soapy water and a tea towel. There was nowhere for the towel, so we installed two rails. I could hang two towels, or used one rail to hang tools on, if I ever get that fancy.

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Needing to consult and search for recipes meant getting my phone or cocktail book all sticky, so I needed somewhere to safely stow the latter, too. One document holder adaption later…

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The pool in our new house has a liner, so the possibility of broken glass getting into it and causing a leak is a bit scary. I’ve bought a collection of plastic glasses to use instead. They fit in the basket – which I can use to carry inside all the dirty glasses later.

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And, of course, I’ve got all inspired and bought some more cocktail ingredients…

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So I’m all set for bar cart test number 2: our Melbourne Cup Day BBQ.

Though I might have to do a little private check first. I think I have the ingredients for a chocolate martini in there…

As Done as it Gets

The carpet went in last week, freeing us up to do a whole lot of things. We’ve moved the bed from the old house and the mattress from the guest room floor and started sleeping in the master bedroom. Two visits to IKEA furnished the wardrobe – done as cheaply as possible to counter the inevitable overspend on other projects and damage from the storm that hit a few weeks after we moved in.

The ensuite is nearly done. After cleaning off all the renovation dust and muck, I found a few unfinished bits of caulking. I left the shower drain for the professionals and tackled the two bits along the tiling around the bath. The caulking gun kept jamming, but I did an good job of it (according to the caulking guy). Then, as I was struggling to get the canister out of the gun I slipped and dropped everything in the bath.

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And I hadn’t even had a chance to use it yet.

The guy from the bathroom company came and had a look, and said he could arrange someone to fix it. As he said, it would never happen with a five year old bath. Only a brand new one.

The drain was caulked in last night, so I had the first go of the new shower today. Other than the shower head being a bit too high, it all works fine. Phew! We just need to install towel rails, pick up a cabinet we ordered when it comes in, and for me to finish the trompe l’oeil bath alcove. Pics later, when it is done. Well, as the title of the post suggests, as ‘done’ as anything ever is when you’re a perpetual tinkerer.

Lots and lots of shuffling of furniture and boxes has started. I’d anticipating it for the second, but we went and decided to have a small party in a couple of weeks and to have the family room ready in time, didn’t we? Ah well, it does get us extra motivated as well as being something fun to look forward to.

This time I had better remember to put some loo paper in the outdoor loo!

The Art of Hanging Around

After removing all the artwork in our old house I was left with a LOT of nail holes to fill. For most it was just a matter of filling the hole then painting with undercoat and then dabbing paint on with the end of a brush. However, where the paint was older it had discoloured, and while in a few rooms I was able to thin down the paint with water and blend the edges of the fresher paint into the old, in some rooms the colour change was still visible.

It was worst in the workroom, where I’d had lots of little paintings hanging and the abundance of light had really changed the paint colour. The room wound up with lots of very obvious patches of new colour. It had to be repainted, but by then my right wrist was sore and swollen so I had to get a painter in.

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Dealing with all those nail holes was a lot of work and an unexpected expense. I’m now very reluctant to whack a whole lot of holes in the walls of the new house. Yet we have a lot of art: paintings, photographs, signs, clocks, mirrors and various objects that look good hung on walls. What to do?

I’ve started gathering clever ideas for hanging art without making nail holes. The first three are ones I’ve already used:

A shelf or the top of a bookcase.
The best part of this method is you can overlap the artwork and fit more in:

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There are a couple of places in our house with a dado rail we could install a shelf on top of, and we have a mantlepiece begging for overlapping art – though I’ll have to work out a way to stop them sliding off as it’s painted with slippery gloss paint.

Picture rail.
And old idea but a good one. The advantage is that art can go anywhere along the rail. Might not suit some houses, though, and where we have dado rails already it might be overkill. There’s a wall in the family room one would be fine for.

Picture hanging system.
This involves a purpose-made rail installed up under the architrave from which you hang a wire with a hook. The wire and hooks can be moved so you can position art wherever you like both vertically and horizontally. You can also put two or three paintings on each wire, depending on their size and weight. It’s expensive, but we’ve found the rail can be swapped for a curtain rail and the wire hung from the hooks used on picture rails:

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Or a picture rail, with a length of chain and an s-hook:

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One solution I haven’t tried yet for art is the removable plastic hook. I’ve used them to hang other things, like oven gloves. They don’t always come off cleanly, but if even half of them do that’s cut the time spent repairing walls considerably. I’m going to try these for our lighter pieces of art. For the gallery wall effect I’ll use nails for heavier pieces then then surround them with smaller, lighter ones on removable hooks.

Another solution I’m considering is to place art on something that either stands in front of or leans against the wall. Like this ladder. Or display easels. I saw several nice wooden easels going cheaply at an antique market a few weeks back, and I have one I don’t use for painting any more because the screws are too stiff for my hands.

Full size easels do take up floor space, but there are table easels that can sit on top of cabinets and shelves. And cookbook and plate holders will work for smaller artwork.

At the moment we have all our art leaning against cupboards and boxes in the family room. I don’t want to decide where anything is going until we’ve moved the rest of our furniture from the old house. But once I do, I have plenty of ideas for non-nail hanging and display methods to try, and no doubt another blog post to show how it all works out.

The ‘Anyone for Tennis?’ Weeding Party

The amount of work needed to get control of the garden along the embankment of our new property has had me feeling overwhelmed. At the same time, friends have hinted that they’d like to use the tennis court before we dismantle it. So a few weeks back I put a ‘I don’t suppose anyone wants to rip out some ivy in exchange for food, cocktails and tennis?’ question, and got lots of positive replies.

So I set a date, bought food, spirits and bubbly, and tried to make a half-furnished, mid-renovation house look presentable.

I blown away by how many friends came along and how much work they did.

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Some of the guys even attacked a tree stump. Took them an hour and a half to get it out. Manly determination overcame stubborn roots, and the stump now lies defeated on the battleground.

This is what it looked like before. Well, these are the house ad pics from a few months ago, as I forgot to take ‘before’ pics. Imagine the ivy has grown several inches and onion weed and other pests have pushed through the bare patches of mulch.

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Now it’s a manageable bed almost ready for new plants.

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I’ll have to wait until new shoots of ivy and weeds come through and poison them. Only when they’ve withered away will native, slope-stablising grasses and one or two shrubs or small trees go in.