Friday, April 30, 2010

More Fabric!

Another item of mail from my favourite fabric/craft shop dropped into the postbox early last week, and while I am well aware these 'gift vouchers' are a marketing ploy, I fall for them ... most times. I have been known to not actually want, nor need, any particular item, and toss them into the bin.

This time I succumbed [again!].

On a recent trip to this shop I noticed a Dresden plate template, and having viewed a fascinating video
I decided to use the 25% off voucher to purchase a similar template. Another project for the future! They are piling up. I know that winter is imminent, so surely there will be more 'indoor times', and what else can one do on a cold, or wet, winter's day? Craft!!

I read about a 'caring hearts' project, and while I have not openly put my hand up to make some hearts, I have purchased suitable fabrics [photo]. This project is my next one ... I have some ideas with the lovely fabric I bought ... its simply [!?] a matter of replicating ideas on fabric.

In the meantime I am racing through the baby jacket ... it certainly pays to have another project screaming to be started; just as long as I don't find too many other 'must do' projects. My housework could suffer!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sewing Machine

While I am concentrating on completing the jacket and bootees for a new arrival I have, waiting in the wings, three pieces of fabric that are screaming out to be transposed into cushions and a table runner, using the tube quilting method which I find fascinating, and more importantly, I can do it. As I sit knitting my mind wanders [only on the return purl rows ... I need to keep tabs on where I am in the pattern!] to my waiting sewing.

I remember my first sewing effort. It happened at primary school when the class was instructed to bring a sugar bag and an assortment of wool, though any student who couldn't access wool was not to worry ... there was a box in the storeroom that held a mixture of colours. We pulled threads and X-stitched across the row, using several colours on the article, which when finished we proudly took home and insisted our Mother used it as an oven cloth. Some of the more eager stitchers made a second oven cloth ... I think I must have been eager.

A year later we made huckaback cloths; this time using a small selection of 'fancy work cottons'. I loved the stitching, but have to confess that I never hemmed that cloth until I was getting my 'box' ready for marriage. That cloth became a scone cloth, and was used regularly.

I remember sewing a dirndl skirt, red with elastic through the waist, and this was my first 'real sewing', as I used my Mother's sewing machine after tacking the seams at school.

This sewing machine was a vintage machine even then. It was a Singer treadle, folding up from a table that had wrought iron legs and treadle. Mum wasn't keen on sewing, but bought clothes were expensive, so home-made garments were the order of the day. Then I became the proud possessor of a doll ... several years after my favourite doll with a cloth body, arms and legs, but with a porcelain head, hands and feet, was fatally tipped from a pushchair. Daphne did not survive; my brother was unpopular for a long, long time! I was given the opportunity of receiving a 'walkie talkie' doll, but after closely looking at all the dolls on offer in the toy shop I chose a different doll; for one important reason. This doll, which was never named, had clothing patterns, and hair setting materials. She had long blonde hair, her eyes closed when laid down, and I spent endless hours altering her hair style, until, one day I decided to give her a hair cut. Dolls hair does not grow back!

The patterns were wonderful. I nagged my Mother to buy some fabric for an evening dress. I chose a blue taffeta for the full-length underskirt and bodice, and a pale blue net for the three layers of overskirt. That doll was one of the best dressed! I made dresses, panties which were a bug-bear with such tiny seams around the legs. Dolls clothes were easier to hand sew.

Once I began working I sewed my own clothes, suits, skirts, and summer dresses.

I left the parental home, and bought my first machine; another Singer, though this one was an either/or; either treadle or electric at the flick of a switch, and was housed in a cabinet that I painted to match the decor of the room I kept it in. Marriage and babies meant pyjamas with two pairs of pants to one top for littlies, dresses and fashion outfits for our daughter who started a trend for knickerbockers and matching jackets. Sadly that sewing machine developed a fault and by that time the local sewing machine salesman had opted out of repairs. An elderly aunt donated her electric sewing, a very ordinary Toyota [I think], that did not handle 'tough' sewing, nor delicate sewing. Slowly sewing lost its charm. I gave it away to a young friend when I moved to Australia.

Living where I am now meant I had time on my hands. The bundle of craft magazines grew monthly ... until I had to purchase plastic containers just for them. I decided to buy a new machine, and after reading up of several makes, decided; purchased a Janome, and have never looked back. How wonderful it is to have a decent machine that does more than what I want! Just contemplating sewing these days has me hurrying through housework and chores ... but at the moment I am knitting.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Promotional Material

I am knitting. Now that sounds like a statement of intent, but I AM knitting a baby jacket in readiness for the expected arrival of another grandchild for My Man.

Knitting is one of the arts that many folks no longer participate in, which is I consider, as real shame. Not that I blame Australians for letting the craft slowly die out; the weather is too hot for the wearing of wool for nine months of the year, but those other three months a warm woollen garment is bliss.

Not knowing if the expected arrival will wear blue or pink I opted for safe lemon; a little jacket and matching bootees. Several months ago, whilst nosing around my favourite shop on the lookout for some white baby wool in 3-ply, I was astounded to not see any 3-ply at all. Last week there were several colours in 3-ply. I suspect wool is stocked in quantity during the cooler months.

Today, in the post, I received a large envelope from the above favourite shop ... I am a VIP customer, which means I get a discount on all purchases, but they can send as much promotional mail as they wish; though I hasten to add nearly always the promotional mail includes discount vouchers ... spend $100 and get 40% off! Or in today's dispatch, three vouchers, one for 25% off any item not on sale, or otherwise reduced, another for 20% off with the same qualifications, and yet a third with 15% off, and the above qualifications.

These offers are of course little more than advertising ploys. Who desires to miss out on such an offer?! If we were not told, we probably would make less frequent, but needed visits to the store. We most likely would not buy as much; their stock would stand on the shop floor longer; but who cares! Most VIP's for this store, which is Australia and New Zealand wide, maybe further afield, love just browsing. Fabrics can be touched, ideas form in the mind after a fondling visit, only to be followed by a return to purchase. Lovely little items, often in a 'sale basket' straddle the aisles. What woman worth her name as a shopper can resist?

There are decided advantages to receiving promotional mail ... incentives are forever presented to us; new stock is highlighted, and our creative juices may just flow faster than a stream as the imagination surges forth.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Plants and Planting

After weeks of inactivity, due to the heat, I have finally made a start on tidying the garden, or what hopefully will be a brilliant display of colour in a few weeks. Sadly few of my plants survived the summer heat; a decision has been made; no summer garden from now on.

Our trip to the city [second time in less than a week!] meant that we had time to visit the plant outlet, and as well as buying several punnets of survival type plants, we also purchased some compost and other soil enrichners, and, because I liked them, a couple of small cream coloured pots. Those planters now are resplendent in the front of other pots, and are filled with that most wonderful of herbs, basil. It would be true to say that basil is my favourite herb: it has a wonderful flavour especially when eaten with tomatoes, it cleanses the palate, and the aroma is out of this world. One of my little tricks to increase my enjoyment of basil is to wander past brushing against the plants. Absolutely pure heaven!

I have planted petunias for the first time ever, but have been assured they can't fail. However I must confess that I can fail the unfailable! Petunias with an edging of white lobelia should make a splash of colour. In two tall green pots, that last year housed lavenders, something else that simply won't fail, but did, this year is planted with blue lobelia. I envisage the drooping stems covered in tiny brilliant blue flowers bending to the ground, thus giving the impression the pots are not there.

As well I have planted Dianthus, the same plant that my gardening aunt called Pinks. Tomorrow I have more Pinks to plant out, some deep red Pansies, if we can believe the colour on the label, and Alyssum in white and a deep purple. The soil and fertilisers are mixed and in the wheelbarrow in readiness for an early start in the morning. The watering will be carried out diligently; these plants will be cared for like a baby, and with a little luck not only will there be a colourful display outdoors, but there may be enough to bring inside to brighten the house in the dull days of winter.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bonnets for the Past

Just today my attention was once again drawn back to the distant past, to the time when Australia was settled by convicts shipped across the oceans all those many years ago.

I remembered something I had written in September 2008 ... ...

Once in a while Miss Serendipity crosses our horizon and if we notice, and catch, her, a new adventure along Life's pathway begins. Whether it is luck, or chance, or good fortune, or what is meant to be, the word matters not ... the outcome can enhance our day.

I have one vice. Not anything injurious to health, or especially expensive on the pocket ... I buy craft magazines; more than I can ever hope in a lifetime to complete even one project from each. As I wander around newsagents I pick up the daily paper, maybe the local weekly rag, and even the thrice-weekly paper for the region, my feet invariably lead me towards the magazine racks. Brightly coloured magazines that cover all aspects of daily living ... craft [my downfall], boating, cars, caravanning, woodturning, Sudoku, Crossword puzzle books, you name it, they are there ... I choose a magazine that has within its pages instructions on how to make [sew, embroider, knit, bake] small and sometimes larger items, mainly for the home. They also have interviews with interesting people who have fascinating jobs or hobbies.

Recently one of the craft magazines featured a story about a woman who has studied the life and times of Australia's convict women. Let me hasten to add that many of the convicts who were transported from mainly England to Sydney or Tasmania, had severe sentences imposed upon them. Seven years transportation for stealing little more than a loaf of bread, or a couple of handkerchiefs, from their lord and master ... the rich. Nearly all were poor, nearly all stole because of necessity. However Australia was a new colony and needed settlers ... convicts were considered a good bet. Packed into ships holding 100, give or take a few, sailing across the world to an unknown land, far from family with the knowledge they would probably never see their parents or siblings, and in some cases husbands or wives or children, the convict of the early to mid 1800's had little choice but to buckle down or perish. Most who made it to Australia buckled down!

It has only been in recent years that any consideration or thought has been given to them as people.

The magazine article focused on how modern woman could honour these early settlers who had no say in their destiny. She hit upon the idea of a way of recognition ... make a bonnet for each one. There were 25,226 female convicts transported. To date over 6,000 bonnets have been made; a selection of which were photographed and shown in the magazine. She set up a web site that included a printable pattern. Upon reading the article I was completely fascinated. You see, one of those convict women was my g.g.g.grandmother. Her son left Australia as a young man sailing to New Zealand where he became one of the earliest sealers and whalers on the southern coast. I grew up knowing about him through family stories, and had the satisfaction of being able to raise my hand in class and claim him as my g.g.grandfather when early local history was the subject.

When my g.g.grandfather died, aged 93 years which goes to show that a life of making do and hard work does no harm, his death certificate, of which I have a copy, stated his father was a soldier ... his mother unknown. Neither parent's name was entered. Because, until very recently it was not something to be admitted to ... one did not confess to having a convict for an ancestor. I did not know until 10 - 15 years ago when a distant relative researched our mutual g.g.grandfather.

Upon reading the article I immediately decided to make a bonnet ... to honour the memory of an unknown g.g.g.grandmother, a woman for whom life would have been a thousand times more difficult than mine. Making a home, raising a family ... all in a land that was an unsettled wilderness. Having a length of suitable homespun fabric I cut the pieces out, stitched, and added a lace trim. All the while my mind travelled back to how this Elizabeth may have felt, what she looked like, and whether she had ever owned a bonnet with a lace trim. There was a feeling of attachment to her, and while I will never know any more about her than I do now, deep down I know I have done something just for her ... and in that knowledge hope that in some small way I have helped to cross the generational gap and in some way we may be, just may be, bound a little closer in family ties.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A New Book on the Market

A new recipe book is advertised for sale in the weekend newspaper. Nothing new about that! Daily, it seems, recipe books appear on the market bombarding us with new and exotic ways of cooking food that we have neither heard of, nor have in the pantry. Occasionally these dishes capture the imagination; we faithfully copy them into a book we started when a teenager as the beginnings of a glory box, and which is now splattered with butter, sugar, and other unidentifiable marks. Pages holding favourite recipes are clearly marked; not by a bookmark, but by greasy stains. The recipes, copied with such intentions, seldom have marks or stains; we have never used them, though the day might come when we will.

The recipe book featured in the newspaper did not belong to the genre of 'modern', nor Asian, nor 'healthy'. It sat in a category that we once all knew so well. This book had [so we are informed] few recipes for fish, or meat, or salads. The dieticians of today will no doubt express their horror at the contents ... cakes, biscuits, and puddings ... the type of food I grew up on. I hasten to add I did also partake of meat and fish, and vegetables ... salads in my youth consisted of lettuce, tomato, spring onions, and egg slices, fresh from the garden, or the hens, and dressed in a homemade dressing that my Mum cooked, and kept in a bottle for several days as it did have a lasting capacity.

While shop mayonnaise is handy, it falls short of this salad dressing recipe [or perhaps there is just a hint of nostalgia entering this blog].

Salad Dressing

1 egg
½ cup milk
salt and pepper to taste
4 tblsp sugar
4 tblsp vinegar
2 tsp mustard
2 tsp cornflour
Beat all together until smooth.
In pot, bring to the boil, cool.
Store in screw top jar in fridge.
To use ... add milk to reduce to desired consistency.

The recipe book reviewed contained recipes that the writer's Grandmother had collected, and in a fitting recognition of this lady, an edition was compiled, minus the splotches of butter and sugar, and if it was anything like my own recipe book, other indistinguishable marks.

I let my imagination roll back to my Mother's baking days, and indeed my own when the family was young and growing, and always hungry from running about outdoors, or swimming, or doing what children used to do a few decades away. Afghans, Belgian biscuits, Cockles that spread several feet when blown from the mouth ... not a good look I know, but fun to a child, Date square, Banana cake, Loch Katrine cake [for when there was a little more time to go to the bother, Chocolate cake, Armenian nutmeg cake for when we spent a day on the farm either planting or digging potatoes, Fruit loaf just in case visitors arrived, chocolate chip biscuits, Shrewsbury biscuits filled with raspberry jam, fudge square, or fudge balls that were favourites with the children and I suspect not so good for their teeth, melting moments and yo-yo's, chocolate jumble, and of course the ever favourite scones and muffins which were usually whipped up after a phone call informing me guests were half an hour away.

It wasn't until the children all left home that I stopped baking. I am thankful we do not have an oven here, as some cold mornings I get the urge to bake, but am stopped in my tracks with the realisation one needs an oven to bake.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

A Fabulous Buy

While I can recall my Mum ironing with the flat iron, heated on a coal range, I have nearly always not minded the chore of ironing. Even with small children it was commonplace for me to iron sheets, teatowels, and other items that I know many folded and put away. There was a feeling of satisfaction seeing neatly ironed garments folded tidily in the drawer.

As a young schoolgirl, with long hair that demanded ribbons [I guess that dates me a lot as ribbons are seldom seen today], I owned a miniature iron, heated on the coal range, that I kept expressly for ironing my collection of hair ribbons, and there were a few: almost every colour of the rainbow plus some tartan ribbons for the winter. Nearly every girl of my age wore ribbons in her hair ~ it was the fashion. In an effort to show our individuality some had plaits with two ribbons swinging at the ends; some wore a ribbon as an Alice band, others had their tresses gathered to one side held in place with a ribbon, while still others had a ribbon on either side of their head. Often which hair-do one subscribed to on a particular day depended on how much time the mother had to 'fix' the hair before the school bus.

Today we went to a garage sale, and I will admit here and now, that we are regular attenders of garage sales. The bargains are sometimes wonderful, other times we come away empty handed. Today I bought a few bits and pieces, and ... a mini ironing board. I have seen these used by crafters; admired them, but never bothered to buy one, as I guessed they were a tad expensive for their limited use. But this mini ironing board at $4 must have been a bargain.

Not having any particular craft project at a stage needing an iron, of course I had to start something new. I so enjoyed the tube quilting, and with a cousin having a birthday towards the end of this month, I decided to make her a table runner ~ at the moment it will be a table runner, though I am toying with the idea of joining four together, two side by side, and another two joined below. I will see how I go as at this stage most is simply an idea ... I have cut and sewn one square ... and used the iron!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Shopping Expedition

I don't know if others find themselves involved in a conversation they never started, nor indeed, to the best of their knowledge, invited. I have come to the conclusion it must have something to do with one's looks. By looks I do not mean beauty nor ugly; countenance might be the appropriate word.

Take this morning for instance.

We went to the city to indulge in a little shopping, more of a mid-week outing to be exact, as the cupboards were hardly bare. It is usual to shop at one of the two large supermarkets ... for a simple reason ... I know, more or less, where groceries such as I need are situated. [I dislike supermarkets who move their stock around in the hope the shopper will buy an item they had never considered before, and have been known to ask an assistant where the required item has been moved to, and while not whining about it, will make it known that I don't buy what I don't need ... isn't that what one can call shoppers' right?]

As the list was short today we opted for the 'other' supermarket; which does have rather tasty smoked fish that we buy periodically. Fish, bread buns, fruit and vegetables, yoghurt and milk, and because a large tin of coffee was on the special, that too was thrown in the trolley. Can I whisper in your ears that we already have four full tins of coffee in the pantry? One of which is a 750g tin, the others all 500g's ... you can surmise that coffee is one of the essentials in our house. Two apple crumble muffins somehow found their way into the trolley as well!

Up to the checkout we wander. Mid-week is relatively quiet in the supermarket; there were no queues of more than three people, but we chose one where only one shopper stood, and she was packing her purchases ready to exit the store.

The lady who was behind the checkout is usually on the 'Under 12 items checkout'. Even there, which is supposed to be the fast lane, she is quite chatty; today she was definitely chatty.

First let me describe her: short, dumpy is a word I should use, but will change that to cuddly which I trust you will realise might be how a man would see her; rings on all fingers [one notices such things at a checkout], extremely thin dark hair that has [in my opinion] seen too many tints and permanent waves and which is close to being like the eagle of America, but she is always cheerful and that surpasses any visual shortfalls. She has worked in this supermarket for forty years ... I was told this fact on at least two other occasions, so it must be a source of pride as it should be ... forty years in the same supermarket! She deserves a gold medal. Today she was in high form. She had not long returned from an eleven day holiday in Bali where many Australians go for a touch of the exotic [and Bali belly], close to home, with the added advantage of cheap air fares.

I asked [one must make conversation in these places otherwise it could be misconstrued as arrogance, or ignorance] how she enjoyed her holiday. The invitation was taken up. We were regaled with the highlights of her holiday, undertaken with three other ladies, of a similar vintage I surmised; two of whom were divorcees, and two, including our shop assistant, were widows. Seeing the glint in her eye, I enquired if she behaved herself. In smiling righteous indignation she laughed, and said they had! Now I must confess to be slightly surprised. However I smiled, inviting her to continue. They had changed hotels [she didn't mention why], drank wine with their meals but after two evenings of being offered such a tiny glass [and at this stage she demonstrated with her hand ... I imagined the old sherry glasses that we had a toast with at Christmas ... when we were only 12 or 13], and declared that they soon stopped buying that ... it was the same price as a proper wine glass. They indulged in a little sightseeing, a little drinking [oh she did mention that several times], and some shopping. She was obviously still coming down to earth from her holiday. I wondered whether it was my face that made her confide in me, or whether she told all her customers about her trip.

I like to think it was my countenance. But ... doesn't it make your day when you are given a glimpse through the window of another's life, especially holiday expeditions. From her remarks I gathered there was another holiday in Bali planned for the future.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tube quilting cushion

I really must stop sewing and do some housework. Tiny pieces of thread, and not so tiny pieces of thread litter the floor under my work table. While I prefer to vacuum I know that with these tiny pieces of cotton I will have to pick each one up, drop it lightly down again, then vacuum. We must give tiny pieces of thread the opportunity of being picked up by the vacuum cleaner.

I have to admit I am fascinated by tube quilting. So much so I made a cushion, and this time sorted out fabric from what I already had; thus making it a double plus ++ or killing two birds with one stone. Also I am giving serious consideration to beginning a 'present box'. We have two empty plastic containers, and there is nothing crying out for attention more than an empty plastic container: one would make an excellent storage place for 'things I have made' but have no immediate use for myself, or they are in the wrong colour. This cushion just may suit MM's teenage grand-daughter, with the added bonus it wont be expensive to post.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tube quilting table runner

After viewing a fascinating video clip [link below] I purchased some fabric, not that I needed to as I truly do have more than enough now, and on Thursday began making a table runner ... video clip link:

Blithely I assumed a couple of days would be enough to make a table runner, but as is so often the way, I assumed incorrectly. Mind you [one must have a reasonable excuse!] I did have other tasks to attend to. By Saturday evening the final stitch was placed, this morning I took a photo, and although I say it myself, I am satisfied with the final result. 'Tis a pity the photo doesn't show the richness of the yellow and blue.

So much so that I have intentions of making a cushion [I think at this moment ... the final decision relies on just how much fabric I do have that tones in], maybe with a flange, as that word flange holds a ring of uniqueness. And also now that the brain is in overdrive with the chocolate consumed just an hour ago [I am all chocolated out!] a flan looks delectable. Oh yes, I am well aware flan and flange are worlds apart, but still, they do have the same beginnings.

Anyone who watches the video and thinks, that is too hard, believe you me, it is not. I viewed the video three or four times before cutting fabric. It does take a little repetition to sink in for me ... others may be luckier!
Happy sewing!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Button Tin

Recently my mind slipped back to that most useful and versatile of all cupboard treasures ... the button tin. As a child I remember buttons that were housed in a large oblong battered blue tin, whereas my own button tin is smaller and round, but blue and battered. They both started off in pristine condition. Continual use brought about the battered state.

Not only were these tins a storage container for buttons, they were a means of keeping children entertained on a wet day. My button tin has wonderful pearl buttons, some with shanks, some with two holes, and some with four. Hidden in the corners there are also pearl beads that have been strung together in many variations for many purposes. Tiny bracelets for a doll, a necklace for a child who wishes to be a princess for a day, and once, sewn onto a dolls' blue tulle and satin evening gown for a glamorous Ball.

There were brass buttons off soldier's uniforms, brought out and polished at regular intervals, admired, and at the same time a sense of gloom permeated the room as we contemplated exactly what had happened to the soldier.

There were large buttons, red, green, brown and white that had come from overcoats. I do not recall what happened to the coats. There were clear glass buttons that one used if a matching button could not be found and it was urgently required. No one will notice, we were told. There were boring white pyjama buttons, that were strictly utilitarian and functional. These survived endless washings and after the material had worn to a threadbare state the buttons were cut off and placed in the tin ... their life was not over.

On a cold day children were allowed to play with the button tin. Spreading newspaper onto the table and carefully tipping the buttons out began a fascinating hour. Stories could be woven around a lone purple button that shone like a rainbow in the light. We learned to add and subtract with buttons.

"How many red buttons?"

"If there are three red buttons and two yellow buttons, what is the total number of buttons?"

"And if we take a red and a yellow button away, how many left?"

Memories could be shared as one child recalled the green buttons with the curly edges came from a jersey knitted specially for them by Aunty. A minor skirmish could arise, as another child asked why they hadn't a jersey knitted by Aunty. The fact that Aunty had made that child a teddy bear, which became a favourite bedtime toy, was overlooked. Diplomacy ruled the day.

Today as I look around buttons in the haberdashery corner of the local craft shop my eyes are caught by the myriad of buttons of different shapes ... smiling faces in all colours, teddy bears in pastels for a small child's clothing, animal shapes that are dreadfully difficult for a child to fasten as a trunk or a leg or tail can be caught on the wrong side.
The button tin has its place in today's home ... remembering to cut buttons from old clothing is a chore that we tend to overlook, until we need 'just the right button' to replace on the jacket or shirt or blouse that suddenly popped. Buttons can be a bridge from the past and be one way of retelling family tales.