Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas!






We decided on a gingerbread church this year, complete with stained glass windows and it turned out pretty well :) It looks great to the kids anyway and that's the main thing!

I wish you all a beautiful, holy and peaceful Christmas. Happy Birthday to Jesus, King of the World!!

Friday, December 19, 2014

No stress this Christmas (re-post)

I thought it about the right time of year to re-post this one from last Christmas.
As we have been going about our regular errands and appointments I've noticed a change in my relatively busy outer city suburb. This change happens about this time every year. It starts with rushing, pained expressions, the inability to obtain a car park and by this time next week will have worked itself into a frenzy. Yes, it's Christmas.

The junk mail piles up almost daily in my letterbox, the traffic is terrible and people are stressed. People are pre-occupied with who is coming, how many to feed, what gifts to buy on credit to increase their debt just that little bit more.

That is how "the world" celebrates Christmas. But we do not need to be part of that, and that is not part of us. We celebrate Christmas because we love Jesus, and this is His birthday. It is also a time for relaxing, enjoying family and a few treats. What is so stressful about that?!

This year my husband is working right through the Christmas period so we have decided to keep things as simple as possible. Mass on Christmas Eve, a few presents for the children on Christmas morning before husband leaves for work, plenty of fresh fruit, a few special food treats, our traditional fruit punch and my husband's clootie pudding. When husband returns home we can have our usual Christmas concert (sharing of poems, songs, plays and talents) and just enjoy being together.

If you are feeling stressed or anxious about Christmas I ask you to dig deep and ask yourself why. Because the most important thing about this Christmas is that your words and actions bring glory to He who is the reason for the day itself - Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Angels of Abbey Creek book review

I suggested to my 9 year old daughter that she might like to review the book by answering some questions and she eagerly agreed.



How long did it take you to read? 
A couple of days. It was hard to put it down.

Describe your favourite part of the book?
I can't pick a favourite part because it was all really good.

What was different about the book?
It's hard to find a novel about a Catholic family.

What ages do you think would enjoy this book?
Probably 7 - 12 year olds

Would you recommend this book to others?
Yes, definitely! I'm reading the book again now.

I agree with everything my daughter said, it's a terrific book and a breath of fresh air to the young Catholic reader. The book is available from AmazonFishpond and the Book Depository. Sue has another book "Grief, Love and Hope" about the loss of her son Thomas, which you can read more about here.

You can find out more about Sue and her unschooling family on her blog

Friday, December 12, 2014

Woven lap blanket


A lot of the things I make by hand are a labour of love these days and this blanket definitely falls into that category!
This was my first double weave project on the rigid heddle loom. A brief explanation: The loom usually has one heddle to weave cloth a certain width and in a single layer. Add a double heddle kit (giving you now two heddles instead of one) and you can weave double the width of cloth. The idea of this really appealed to me, as my loom is 60cm wide which is not wide enough for a blanket.


Well, what a steep learning curve! There is not a lot of information about double weave available and it took me a long time (hours in fact) to get the loom warped (normally takes 20 - 30 minutes) and getting all the heddles threaded was a strain on my back. Did I mention my back injury has flared up again? Anyway, once I got to the actual weaving I encountered more issues and re-started twice before I felt comfortable with what I was doing.
The weaving took a long time too. When I finished and took it off the loom I found a lot of floats (threads that didn't catch in the weaving pattern and so just "float" on the surface of the work) on the underside which was disappointing - they don't look good and take a potentially professional looking piece to a somewhat amateur piece. 
The story ends well. The blanket isn't what I hoped it would be but it was an excellent learning exercise (not to mention one in patience!) and it's a terrifically warm and cosy lap blanket that has been used nearly every day. Success? Sort of!

The specs in case you're a weaver - 
10ply woollen yarn (didn't record the amount, silly me)
7.5 dpi
60cm Ashford rigid heddle loom

Will I make another blanket? Oh yes I will! Will it be double weave? Oh no it won't! It will be panels which I will join - I know the seams will show but it has to be easier than double weave!

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn along :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Progress



I submitted my fifth assignment during the week for the photography course I'm doing and am happy to say that I'm powering along, soon I'll be to the half way mark. 


This was a challenging "low key" image. I'm loving trying new things with the camera.


We have had so much rain over the past week that the garden is like a different space now. It's so great to be going into Summer with a green garden and full rain tank.


The vegetable garden is an assortment of things mostly grown from seed. Tomatoes are coming and we just ate some of the first dwarf beans today, good stuff!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The first week of Advent

I love Advent, it's a time of much hope, promise and renewal of faith. It's also an opportunity to change the home environment in preparation for Christmas and I find our home becomes joyfully active!

We invited some friends for an Advent craft morning during the week and it was a great success. I thought I would share with you some of the activities we did.


These little nativity silhouette jars worked a treat and are easy and cost effective to make.


All you need is a jar with a lid and a battery operated candle to fit inside. I got my supplies at an Asian discount store. You can choose what to put on the outside of the jar to create the silhouette. One of my girls cut out the letters for Jesus, another one cut a nativity scene out of card stock and another printed the nativity scene from here, coloured it in and glued it on. You can add ribbon, stars or whatever you like just by glueing or tying on the extras.




Another activity we did was saint ornaments for the tree. We don't have a tree yet, so they're just hanging for now. I neglected to take a photo of our friend's ornaments, but here are some of ours. I bought the PDF for this activity from Catholic Icing and it's well worth the few dollars spent.

During the week my 9 year old daughter (who loves to draw but mostly within her comfort zone) did a video tutorial by Shoo Rayner for drawing a gingerbread house. Shoo has heaps of great tutorials for drawing and has a relaxed, humorous style. My daughter was reluctant to try the tutorial, so I said I was going to do it myself - pretty soon she had her drawing pad out and was immersed in the activity. Her drawing turned out better than mine! (Mine is on the left). 

I wonder what Advent fun we will get up to next week?


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Some favourite photos from this week


Black and white.


Colour. 






I often lament that I live in part of a conglomeration of suburbs that sometimes stretch on endlessly with little to differentiate between them. I think "if I lived on the coast, as I dream I will one day, I could take the most magnificent photos!" But in the meantime, if you look around a lot, there are still many things to inspire. 
One of my aims in starting a photography course was to improve the photos I take of my family. Well, the kids are always with me and they are willing subjects, so I shouldn't complain! And, my portraits have improved a lot in just a couple of months. 
Yesterday we went to our local sensory gardens for the older kids to work on their movie. While they were shooting with the video camera, I got busy with my camera and my littlest model (who loves having her photo taken thankfully!) In a relatively short amount of time I brought home a lot of shots that I really like. 
The module I'm working on now is going to be a challenging one - low key and high key shots. I'll let you know how I progress :)

Friday, November 28, 2014

Yarnification tonight!


The "Favourite Things" showcase is on at Yarnification on Facebook tonight at 8pm. There are lots and lots of beautiful fibre related goodies up for grabs.





I have 2 items available, some wonderful Cashgora and wool fibre and some gorgeous Silk and wool fibre, both dyed in my favourite colours. I've dyed some extra Cashgora to spin with and it's so lovely!  What on earth is Cashgora, I hear you say? It is fibre from a goat that is a cross between a cashmere and angora goat!

If you already have your eye on something, be ready at 8pm as this is a very popular showcase :)


Monday, November 24, 2014

I'll never be good enough

Comparisons, they're a killer. You think you're doing pretty good at something, then you see what others are doing. Or you don't get the reactions you hoped for when you pluck up the courage to share. There are so many times that I decided to give up, such was my disappointment. 


Recently I was very excited to start an online photography course. It's been great to see my photographs slowly progressing towards more professional looking images. There is a support group on Facebook for students to share their work and offer and receive support. There is just one problem.
Every day I have these magnificent images popping up in my newsfeed. They make me go "wow!" But they also make me go "I'll never be good enough". "I can't do that". "I don't have enough talent". "No-one notices what I do". "Why can't I be that good?"

Sound familiar? 



But here's the deal: The journey is as much about the journey as the destination. We may look back and shudder at our first attempts, but didn't the professionals start out the same way? Even talents have to be developed through practice and learning. 

What is "good enough" anyway? Where are the "good enough" police? In my head? Hmmm.

How about we change that "I'm never be good enough" to "I'll do my best and see what happens". Or perhaps "I'll do this because I genuinely enjoy the experience and I don't need the appraisal of anyone to validate that". Yeh, that sounds better.

I'll leave you with a final thought. 

If you never start something, you will never finish anything.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gossamer Dreams tonight!!


The final Gossamer Dreams showcase for the year is happening tonight at 8pm (9pm if you're in Victoria like me). The theme is "Celebration" and the goodies up for grabs certainly reflect that wonderfully!


I have a few colourful rainbow skeins of 8ply cotton for sale so please pop over early, they will go fast!


Happy shopping :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Sourdough

I've tried sourdough starters from scratch many times. Some of the starters went really well but baked really poorly. Others just went off. I became despondent. But something about the warmer weather gets me to thinking about sourdough and I always feel like having another go. This time around I decided to increase my chances of success by buying a starter. I got a partially dehydrated starter from Sourdough Companion, followed the instructions to "wake it up" and away I went!


After the starter was activated (about 24 hours after adding water) I divided it in two to start the feeding stage. The one on the left was fed with organic white flour and filtered water. The one on the right was fed with wholemeal flour and filtered water. I wanted to divide them in case of disaster - my hope was that at least one would survive.
24 hours later they looked like they do in the picture above. Increased in size, lovely bubbly holes and a pleasant, slightly sour aroma.


After this first feeding the starter was ready to bake with. Wanting to remain on the cautious side, I decided to bake plain white loaves. Very simple ingredients - white flour, starter, salt and water.
I baked on a very warm day, so total rising time was around 6 hours, which was perfect. They turned out great!

Two days later I did my second bake. I kept the starters in the fridge in between and got them out for 2 hours before using. This time I tried overnight proving - one batch of dough in the fridge and one out on the bench top on a relatively cool night. I didn't get as much rise (even overnight which ended up being about 14 hours total proving time!) However, the resulting bread still had a great taste and dense, springy texture.

I'm very happy to be able to add sourdough to my bread making repertoire and now plan to bake sourdough twice a week and yeasted bread once or twice a week (my 5 year old does not have the acquired taste for sourdough yet!) My starters are happily living in the fridge in between bakes and do very well after an outing and a feed.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Little Bear.


Recently I made a little 7 inch bear for the beautiful Sue. Well, it wasn't exactly for Sue, but rather for her son Thomas' birthday. If Thomas was still with us he would have turned 14, the same age as my son. Unfortunately, he passed away not long after his birth.


Sue's tradition has been to buy a bear for Thomas each year on his birthday, isn't that beautiful? However, as you can imagine there is now quite an accumulation of bears in her house and she thought a miniature might be appropriate this year.


I loved making this little bear (Sue has named him Paul) for such a special purpose. He was stitched entirely by hand from lovely mohair and I knitted a mini scarf for him from soft alpaca yarn too. I know he will be a treasured part of Sue's collection.

I purchased a kit from Gerry's (if you ever want to make a bear a kit is a very good way to go - it comes with everything you need).

Did I mention that Sue is an author? She has published two books, the first being "Grief, Love and Hope", a touching book about Thomas and also "The Angels of Abbey Creek" which is a fictional 
children's novel (soon to be reviewed here!) Reading her writings and experiences of unschooling has been a major influence on the way we home educate and I'm very grateful to her.

You can find Sue at her blogs Stories of an Unschooling Family and Sue Elvis Writes, as well as her Facebook page

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Photography

I've started an online photography course and I must say, it's taken over my life just a little! That's not to say that I'm not dyeing, weaving, spinning, knitting (and the rest of my little obsessions) but you could say that photography is currently centre stage and I really want to do well at this course.

So, I thought you may be interested in seeing some of my latest shots. I picked a few recent favourites.












Thanks for looking, I'm sure I'll be back with more shots soon :)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Rainbow wrap/shawl


I started with these 8ply merino colours from my hand dyed stash.


I warped the loom and wove using a very deep purple.


And this is how it turned out!


There are many styles to wear a wide, long shawl in.


It's lovely and warm too.


Weaving this has given me some fresh ideas on using the warp as a feature. 
I've ordered a second heddle kit for my loom, which means that I will be able to weave double the width of cloth without buying a larger loom! Exciting! I've always wanted to weave baby blankets and the new kit will allow me to do that. 
There is always something new to learn or a way to expand your skills.
Happy creating!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I could never do that.

Then you probably never will!

So often I am asked about the various art and crafts I do. People want to know - "how do you find the time", "Is it hard?" "Does it take a long time" or "You must be really talented!"

I don't find the time, I make the time. This stuff is really important to me. So I make the time.

Is it hard? Most things are at the least quite challenging to begin with and become easy or easier over time. I have found most things are worth the effort.

Time? Yes, it takes time, just like watching the television for hours each night does. I know how I prefer to spend my time.

No, I'm not particularly talented. I just love what I do and make the time to do it. I research, I read, I watch tutorials, I talk to others who can help me to learn. This part of the process is so enjoyable!

If there is something you find interesting and would like to learn, instead of letting those defeating words of "I could never do that" slip out, how about changing it to "I'd love to learn that!"

Trust me, you can do it!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Curtains and spinning


I loved this colourway from the moment I unwrapped it after steaming. I started by spinning a single, then also did a single of black that I had dyed.


I plyed the coloured single with the black and it just popped straight away!


The end result is this gorgeously soft and squishy and dynamic skein, I can't tell you how much I love it. My goal in learning to spin was to be able to spin something like this, so I'm very happy! I only wish I had 3 times the amount of yarn to weave into a shawl.


Another creative project I've been busy with is the makeover of my 14 year old son's curtains. The little kiddy curtains that were old and faded have needed to be replaced for years but I was more than a little bit apprehensive about tackling curtains for the first time. 

The best way to get my brain around the fabric amount I would need was to measure the existing curtains and add the allowances. This worked out really well, except they are a little shorter than I would have liked. I learned a lot making these. The new fabric was a lot heavier and stiffer than the former curtains, so next time I would sew weights into the hem. I also found this fabric a little bulky at the top, and have purchased some extra curtain rings to try and even that out. 
I bought the fabric at 40% off - these would have cost a fortune to make otherwise, so it's really worth waiting for a sale for a project like this.
Overall, I'm really happy with how the curtains look. The only trouble now is his bedspread looks faded, so it might be time for a new one of those too :)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Absent.

Yes, I have been absent. Recent life events have meant that blogging has not been on my list of priorities.

I have a link for a donations page to share with you. My lovely sister has been going through a difficult time, you can read a little about it on the Ozcrowd page that a friend set up.

Many of my friends have donated already and for that I am so grateful. Many of you have prayed for her and I'm sure that it's because of this that she is now out of ICU and back at home.

If you haven't donated I hope you may consider doing so - even if it's a very small amount, it all adds up and will contribute to their funeral costs for their darling baby girl as well as my sister's possible ongoing medical costs as she works towards recovery.

Thank you all so much and God bless you :)



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dye, spin, weave!


My first 100% hand dyed, hand spun and hand woven item! I've been working up to this for a while, practicing my spinning to get a more consistent yarn.


I decided on a "long and skinny" style. It is a plain weave but the interplay of colours makes it appear more complicated than it is. 


I used First Edition fibre to dye and then spin, it's lovely and soft.


One of my dreams is to do many more of these types of items and be able to sell them. I love the authenticity of making the item from start to finish (OK, I didn't shear the sheep!) But from my experience as a handmade artisan I seriously doubt that customers would be willing to pay the amount I would need to charge to cover the time invested - many,  many hours. Still, I may just do the occasional piece and make it available for sale. I'd love to do some pieces for exhibition or competition as well.


This was the original yarn.

What's next? Perhaps a shawl? Phew, that's going to take a while, I'd better start spinning!