I’m not sure what to make of this winter. Normally I like winter. Yet while it was the warmest June on record, but it didn’t seem like it – perhaps because there were some very cold nights and frosty mornings either side of the unseasonably warm days, perhaps also because we’re discovering how hard it is to keep warm a house with no insulation. Thankfully, we have insulation installers booked to fix that this week, so the house may get more comfortable soon.

July has felt unbearably wintery. The head cold didn’t help. I was well enough to go on an interstate trip the weekend before last, but came home exhausted. It was followed by a week with two social outings I couldn’t really cancel, so I skipped art class in order to be rested enough for the first, and cancelled all plans for last weekend so I had time to get over the second.

I’m feeling a lot better for the rest, too. I read a while back that we’ve lost the art of convalescense. That we dive back into the demands of everyday life before we’ve truly got over an illness, instead of easing back into our full routine.

Though I feel like I need to hibernate for the rest of the year, I’m setting my sights on spending the weekends of August convalescing. I’ll be curling up in sunbeams like a cat, reading books, and doing a little weaving or stitching or sewing when I have the energy.

Until I can’t stand the sight of the weeds any more, that is.

Hung Up

The housewarming we had a few weeks back gave us the push we needed to tackle more artwork hanging. We’ve now used most of the methods I covered in this post about avoiding putting nail holes in walls: this post.



The wall shelf is from IKEA. I’m not 100% happy with it. For a start, our level was not level so the shelf is slightly off straight. And it’s too shallow to safely overlap artwork of this size, which I was hoping to do here. But I’m planning to repaint this room in a few years, so this is only temporary anyway.

Top of a bookcase:


You can just see that I have wooden picture supports, that Paul made, to ensure these don’t slip off.

Picture rails:

We decided against installing any, as combined with the dado rail it would be a bit too busy.

Picture hanging system:


This was the main pre-housewarming project. It’s not cheap, but the versatility of the system makes it worthwhile. We can put artwork anywhere along the walls, and put two or three pieces on each set of wires. It’s not so good for clusters of small artwork, however, but…

Removable plastic hooks:

I’ve used these all over the house:


The cat art wall is a work in progress. As we get more I’m adding them to the wall. And the map and paintings below are in the toilet, ’cause why not?


And the hooks are great for more than artwork:



The clear ones are practically invisible from a distance, so much nicer for items where the hook shows, like with the old traveller’s coat hangers above. And you can get removable velcro strips, which I used to hang the map in the toilet. However, the paint in the kitchen did not like the removable hooks, and even very light pictures like the small fruit ones below kept falling off so I had to use hooks.


Display easel:


I was hoping to get all of this related artwork on the wall, but there just wan’t room, and the odd sizes weren’t coming together in a balanced arrangement. I had a few pieces leaning against the wall while I was working this out, and realised they looked good like that. So I dug out a display and table easel. It’s another way to overlap artwork.


This is where I’m displaying finished portraits until their owners claim them.

So I’ve utilised nearly every hanging option I thought of last year. We’ve still used nails for mirrors, clocks and heavier artwork where there’s no hanging system, and I’ve reused existing holes as much as possible, like in the passageway:


There are still more pieces to go up – we have a dodgy shelf to remove in another room which will free up some more wall space – but most of it is hanging now. Funny thing is, after filling the living room and hallway walls, along with having the housewarming, I feel like we have finally settled in to this house.

Poking Around the To-Do List

After returning from a long trip away I usually find myself in a creative funk, and this time is no exception. But it’s always a temporary thing. A week after getting home my interest is starting to revive. Through the week, rather than waiting for my mojo to return, I’ve been tidying up my craft room looking at WIPs, checking my to-do list, reading back through old blog posts and noting which projects make me go “ugh” or “I still want to make that”.

Photo albums
“Ugh” was my first thought, despite having found quicker and easier ways to make them. It’s the choosing of images that takes a long time. That, and captioning them. Still, Paul is working on the ones from this trip (I left it to him and didn’t even take a camera) so maybe that’s one album I won’t have to worry about.

My first thought on entering the craft room was that I could happily jump on the table loom and finish the collar. And that once I got over jet lag I would be ready to tackle the place mats. Sure enough, I had warped up the rigid heddle for another four before the week was up.

Yeah, well, most of the dyeing I want to do is to improve existing objects and that doesn’t make me leap to the pots. However, the idea of dyeing yarn for weaving a colour gamut blanket is attracting me.

Papercraft & Printing
Oddly enough, I’ve had a bit of an itch to do some printing for a while now. Even while I was on holidays. However, I think I’m officially over bookbinding now. I’ll happily do it in order to make something, but not for the sake of doing it.

Sewing & Refashioning
Cold weather usually dampens my enthusiasm for garment sewing. (All that getting changed to test the fit.) I’m a bit sad I didn’t get as much done last summer as I’d hoped, and there are a few winter weight and non-garment projects on the to-do list, so maybe I’ll whip out the machine soon.

Machine Knitting
I found a reference to thinking about selling the Passap knitting machine on my blog from last August. Hmm. I bought it in Feb 2012. I don’t think I used it after August 2012. Perhaps next August, if I still haven’t used it, or have used it and thought ‘meh’, I will sell it. The Bond doesn’t take up as much room, so I’ll hang onto that.

I’ve been enthusiastic about embroidery for pretty close to two years now, though I seem to have reached that point I get with a hobby where I start questioning what I’m doing and why. I’m still figuring out what works for me and what doesn’t. And the cat. It has to be something I can stitch while the cat is on my lap.

I’ll always be interesting in making jewellery, but the kind of jewellery is what changes. I’m over beading and macrame. I’d like to try that metal clay kit Paul gave me for Christmas a few years back.

There are some whacky ideas on this list. I have an mini fan I bought some years back that barely makes a draft, for all that it buzzes around noisily. I’ve wanted to try making a paint spinner disc since seeing an artist playing with one on a doco. Entirely for the fun of it. I have no idea what I’d do with the resulting artwork! I also have an itch to make sand candles out of some leftover candle-making supplies I’ve got hanging about. That’s where you press an object into sand to make the mould, and the grains decorate the outer surface.

Yeah, the crafty brain cells are definitely waking up.

Turn at last to home afar

A long time away usually has me seeing my home life in a different way, on returning. I notice bad habits I’ve fallen into, or let go of things I don’t really want, or see a different way of doing things. Perhaps it was jet-lag, but I mostly wanted to get back to my old routine this time. (Not the routine I had before I left, where I didn’t get weekends.)

I did see all the small messes around the house that I’d got used to ignoring. The ones made up of possessions that haven’t yet found a home since the move. All the boxes are unpacked (if we ignore those waiting for the new garage to be built) but some of their contents are still sitting in piles, waiting for shelving and cabinetry to be built or picture hanging systems to be created.

The trouble is, at the end of last year I decided that this year I’d concentrate on finishing what we’d started and not begin new house projects. New shelving and picture hanging systems are new projects. Still, there are messes we simply haven’t got around to tackling.

Of the projects to finish, there a lot more outside than inside. No surprise, then, that these are the ones I’ve focussed on first. I’ve missed the ideal planting time, at least for natives, but I can see now that I would have been getting ahead of myself anyway. There’s a great deal of preparation to be done first before planting: weed removal, soil improvement and stabilisation, drainage and mulch.

A great deal of that has to wait until the planning permit comes through for the garage which, while a bit frustrating, at least shrinks the to-do list to something more manageable. The two main tasks left are weeding and drainage. The not-fun parts. But necessary.

So we’ve been spending an hour or so a day getting dirt under our fingernails. Nothing like a bit of sun to help reset the body clock, too.

It’s a bedside table. No, it’s a bookshelf!

It’s inevitable that when you move house there’ll be a couple of pieces of furniture that take a while to find their spot, and new pieces of furniture to buy. We’ve spent so much on fixing up the house and garden that I’m trying to reign in the spending elsewhere, and that includes furniture.

We sold our old bedside tables and matching chests of drawers to the buyer of our old house, and needed to replace the tables. Some of the book shelving at the old place was built in, so we had a couple of boxes of books with no place to go. I hit on the idea of fixing both problems at the same time: bookshelf bedside tables.

Looking at furniture websites, I couldn’t find anything that was both attractive and reasonably priced. I suggested to Paul that we make them ourselves out of the wine boxes sold at the local liquor merchant, as we did with my craft side table and magazine rack.

So Paul did the carpentry and I sanded, painted and varnished. With the addition of a few planks of wood and some feet from Bunnings we had these for less than $200 each:


They look great filled with books, which will hopefully encourage me to read more:


Hmm. Books. I haven’t done my “Books Read in 2014″ post yet.

Projects of 2014

What a year! It’s been one of big contrasts and challenges. At the beginning I had enough spare energy and time to take on the HW&S Guild Mystery Box Challenge. I kinda regretted that. What I made was way more effort than the end result was worth.

By the middle of the year my energy and time was all tangled up in buying, moving, fixing up and selling houses. At the end of the year Paul was rushing to get his final year exhibition and folio together and I had a major writing deadline move three times. You can see the impact everything had on my craft output in this summary:

Finished Cat’s Portrait
Updated my New Zealand photo album
Tried Sumi-e
Did a Miniature Tapestry Weaving Workshop
Made a stud bracelet
Took on the HW&S Guild of Victoria Mystery Box Challenge
Refashioned some clothes
Gave a friend a weaving lesson
Wove the Huckleby Hemp Scarf
Bound the Squirrel Scorpion Book
Turned a broken colour-changing umbrella into a shower cap
Tackled some Knitwear Refashions

Stitched a diamond necklace
Wove a Big Blue Blanket and a scarf

Painted while camping
Finished the Autumn Fairy for the Mystery Box Challenge
Wove a thick and thin scarf from frogged yarn

More refashioning! With my new sewing machine:
Including glamming up a 20s costume into an evening dress
Made an photo album of our trip to Japan
Stitched a gift brooch

Finished stitching a skull
Made a cross-stitch clutch
Worked out how to weave leno with two heddles on a rigid heddle loom

We bought a house!
More knitwear refashions

Finished a portrait
Sewed lavender bags for the move
Sewed folio bags for the move

Settled. Moved. Prepared old house for sale. Sold it.

Embroidered a vest (though I’m not sure if it’s finished)
Finished weaving the leno scarf

Repurposed two old frames into ensuite mirrors

Converted an old kitchen cart into a bar cart
Made a jewellery display pin board
Made jewellery!
Made more jewellery!
Made shade card pom poms
Started extensive and expensive landscaping

Finished two more portraits
Made shorts.
Tried a Kogin embroidery kit and made a bag from it.
Sewed blanket binding around the Double Trouble Baby Blankets.
More refashioning!

By December we were exhausted, my RSI had made a comeback and my physio had raised the possibility of rheumatoid arthritis. But I’ve finished my work and have settled in for a month of rest, recovery and enjoying the new house with friends.

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.


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


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…


… 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…


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!


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.


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


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:


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.


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…


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.


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


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.


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.


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:


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:


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


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.