2015

New Year is my favourite holiday. It’s the time of year for reflection and anticipation, and while I always acknowledge the bad I tend to focus more on the good. I don’t make resolutions, but I do like to come up with a list of things I’d like to achieve, without being overly determined that they must happen.

So, in 2015 I’d like to:

Do no major interior house improvements, just lots of smaller DIY ones
Support Paul in getting the new driveway and garage in
Have a pool fence installed (already booked)
Have the landscaping finished and continue sorting out the garden
Finish hanging our art around the new house
Get another photo album made
Read
Paint four portraits
Do more embroidery
Weave
Either use the Passap more or sell it
Recover from this latest bout of RSI
Keep my hands, feet and back healthy
Work at whatever pace doesn’t counteract the above two

We have one overseas trip planned, and I’m planning to enjoy both the work parts as well as make sure we have plenty of holiday time.

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:

January:
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
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Bound the Squirrel Scorpion Book
Turned a broken colour-changing umbrella into a shower cap
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Tackled some Knitwear Refashions

February:
Stitched a diamond necklace
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Wove a Big Blue Blanket and a scarf
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March:
Painted while camping
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Finished the Autumn Fairy for the Mystery Box Challenge
Wove a thick and thin scarf from frogged yarn

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

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

June:
We bought a house!
More knitwear refashions

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

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

September:
Embroidered a vest (though I’m not sure if it’s finished)
Finished weaving the leno scarf
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October:
Repurposed two old frames into ensuite mirrors
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November:
Converted an old kitchen cart into a bar cart
Made a jewellery display pin board
Made jewellery!
Made more jewellery!
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Made shade card pom poms
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Started extensive and expensive landscaping

December:
Finished two more portraits
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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.

All Zippered Up

The Kogin Embroidery Bag is done:

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I found a great tutorial for making a zippered bag without a seam at the bottom.

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The lining is just a bit of navy cotton. The zip was in my stash of rescued zips unpicked from various things over the years.

I bought the kit a year ago, almost to the day. Took me a while to get around to starting it, so it hasn’t been a year-long project. I liked the style of embroidery, but since it’s effectively the same result as overshot weaving I couldn’t help thinking it would be a lot faster to weave it. A LOT faster to weave it AND you’d get a great deal more fabric.

But who cares about speed and quantity? The method – the journey – was a wonderfully relaxing one and I’d happily take on another kogin kit or project.

The Short and the Long of It

A few days ago, after looking through the refashioning pile, I bought a shorts pattern from Interweave and hauled out the sewing machine. First up I did a test pair using fabric scraps. It confirmed that a US large is bigger than an Aussie large, and the shorts were a tad, well, short for my liking. After a tweak here and there later I was ready to try a refashioning project.

I had this shirt, which I’d bought in the 90s and loved the colour and soft fabric, but it was pretty shapeless:

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I only just managed to get the pieces cut out, and only by patching one corner of a front.

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Instead of the drawstring the pattern calls for, I went for an elastic waist. I reused the pocket, too:

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They’re cool and comfortable and perfect for relaxing at home. I want to make the next pair from an old sarong, this time with longer legs.

I have a little test for the ‘right’ length of shorts. They should never be wider than they are long. If they’re longer than they are wide there’s a slightly slimming illusion. Even more so if the fabric has a vertical stripe or pattern, or they are darker than the top they’re worn with.

Rachel, Alan & Jason

I had hopes of finishing four portraits this year, but the last six months were so hectic I only got one done, making it a total of three for the year. That was especially frustrating as by mid-year I felt I was starting to get a hang of painting with a spatula.

Rachel
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Jason
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Alan
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Maybe next year I’ll bump it up to four. I’ve just started the next one, and I have a few people lined up who are keen to pose for me.

Time for a Rest

After missing four deadlines and winding up with RSI and perhaps arthritis, I am finally finished with work for the year.

The news came on the heels of a new book arriving in the post. Artfully Embroidered was a book I had to have in print, and is every bit as beautiful as it promised to be.

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That’s most of the craft books I’ve bought this year in print. I get most as ebooks these days. Aside from the fact they take up no physical space in my now-smaller craft room, I find buying craft books online can be a bit hit and miss and the lower price of ebooks offsets that. Nothing beats being able to leaf through a book before you buy, and know you want to try more than just the project on the cover – and that the project aren’t way beyond your skills or ability (especially important when you have RSI).

As far as actual crafting… I need to rest my hands for the next month, but so long as I don’t overdo it I can do a bit of this and a bit of that. I finished the stitching on the Kogin embroidery tissue holder project the other night.

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But since I don’t know where you can buy tissues in packs that would go in one, I really enjoyed the process and I have plenty of thread, I’m repeating the pattern across the middle and will make it a zippered pouch.

I’ve also started a new project, but more on that later.

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.