Seamstress in the making..

Gem (my 8 year old) made her first skirt! I call it the awesome skirt, can you see why? :)
This girls is a big maker (gosh, where did she get that from?) and constantly has something on the go, usually a little wool felt stitchery project of her own design. But she hasn't made herself any clothing before.

We drafted a pattern together based on the Crafty Mamas hoody skirt. She chose to have a stretchy knit skirt rather than a woven (like Mum wears). So, we started with a white Stella base.

She did most of the sewing on the machine herself, with my guidance. Except the waistband, that's the tricky part, so I did that for her. The waistband is also made of Stella, so it's one of those gorgeously comfortable skirts - no elastic.

Next, she had her first experience with dyes. After some discussion and planning, I showed her how to mark and tie the skirt, then apply the colours to get the effect she wanted. She was amazed to see the colours run into each other and mix, creating new colours. I don't think she understood much of the dye process before, you need to actually do it and see it in action.

After curing overnight (what a painful wait for a young lady!) we cut the ties and rinsed. Then the awesomeness of the colours and patterns was revealed. The look on her face when she realised what she had created was priceless.

Here is another recent project she came up with as a surprise for me. It's the best little pincushion I've ever used! She embroidered "Ma" at the top and used a polymer clay button I made ages ago.

There is only one downside to all this. I think I'm going to have to hide my fabric stash :)

Completed projects this week

Not one but two projects completed for me this week, this is almost unheard of!

First up, the Primrose dress for my 4 year old princess. I knit this in 8ply superwash and hand dyed it just for this project. 

A little lace detail on the hem. 

And some ladybird buttons to finish off with. There is lace detail on the shoulders and sleeve trim too.  
I was really thrilled with this pattern - it was simple and easy to knit, the sizing is accurate and it was all explained so well that I didn't feel like tearing my hair out like I normally would with a knitting project! The pattern in by New Zealander, Julia Stanfield.

Next up, some tea towels off the loom. I wove these with 4ply Bendigo Woollen Mills cotton.

I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, despite the wonky edges! I learned that weaving with 4ply is more challenging than 8ply.

It seems that as I grow more confident as a weaver and knitter I also increase in speed, which is a wonderful thing, it means I can turn out more beautiful things for my family!

Linking up with Ginny's Yarn Along :)

Customer's beautiful work.

I do so love to see what you all do with my hand dyed yarn!

Zofia, who is a very talented and prolific knitter used some of my rainbow cotton to knit up this gorgeous little piece for her daughter. I think she chose the perfect pattern to showcase the yarn, doesn't it look stunning?!
If you're interested in the pattern, it is Shannon Passmore's Poolside.

In case you hadn't noticed, I have a new blog address! 

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The joy of learning!

Learning is fun! And if learning isn't fun for you or your children, then it should be! Think back to your school days (I know, it hurts!) Think of what you most enjoyed learning. Then think of what you least enjoyed learning. When I do this I come up with: favourite - Art. Least favourite- Mathematics.

When I think of Maths at school I think of monotone men in dorky shirts and ties. I think of a class I could easily sleep through if allowed. I think of how little attention I payed. It was mind numbingly boring and I understood very little of it.

Move over to Art. I think of a teacher who was a bit of an outsider and a little unstable. Who sometimes did "art theory" with us when the inspiration overtook or when he felt guilty - about once a year. And the rest of the time? He was, well, not there for most of the class. This was the great part! I could grab a camera and go take photos for 2 hours. Or I could spend that time in the dark room, which I frequently did. Sometime I stayed at the long table and worked on drawing murals with other students. Sometimes I painted.

Can you see the difference? One was formal instruction in a completely non passionate format. The other was free reign, and ultimately, bliss for a creative person.

So what is it I'm saying? Children, young adults, and adults alike need time to figure stuff out for themselves. They need time to follow passions and interests, even if they don't seem to lead anywhere. And if someone is not learning effectively, then the format may need to change.

Let me give an example. My 8 year old finds lessons from a writing or English textbook decidedly dull. But, left to her own devices, she is an avid story writer. One of her favourite past times currently is writing to pen friends. In essence, she can write for hours each day without opening a single textbook.

This is where the wonder of learning at home comes in. A child is not restricted by grades or timetables. If one of the children is immersed in an activity they love and they're learning from it, why on earth would I stop them right in the middle of it and tell them they need to do something more important, more academic. 

It is so important to me to not fall into the trap of holding "school at home". Yes, I think it's important that the children learn certain things but in the quest for knowledge we must never crush the joy of learning.

Fun names for new yarns

I decided to have a bit of fun naming my latest yarns. This one was inspired by a sunset while I was out walking. I wrote "sunrise" by mistake when editing, so sunrise it stays!

Some members of my family thought I was a bit silly for this name, but what they hey, I said I wanted them to be fun!

I LOVE this yarn and if it hadn't sold already it may just have quietly disappeared only to reappear much later in another form (a shawl perhaps?)

I hope you like them as much as I do :)

God bless you all.

Sing a rainbow yarn giveaway!

I'm having a giveaway on the RetroMummy Facebook page!

I have 8 x 50gram skeins of 100% Australian merino superwash hand dyed in all the colours of the rainbow to giveaway to one lucky Australian resident.

Wouldn't these look good in your stash? To enter, simply head over to the RetroMummy Facebook page and get your entry in before January 24th :)

"Secret Garden" book review

I bought this book recently after seeing it on Mary Corbet's blog Needle n Thread. I wasn't disappointed when it arrived.

So, what is this book? A colouring book! But it's more than that. It is a beautiful book of intricate and original designs. The author/ illustrator Johanna Basford has filled the pages with pictures inspired by the flora and fauna of her homeland, Scotland.

There are a few ways you could use the book. Firstly, as a special colouring book, secondly as a base for ideas for pictures of your own and thirdly, you could use it from a design perspective for things like embroidery, as Mary has done. If you take a moment to look at what Mary is doing you can see the potential for such wonderful designs!

To be honest, it is the sort of book that I am attracted to but would write off as a "too frivolous" buy.  At around $16.40 it isn't too extravagant, but unless you photocopy pages to use rather than colouring directly in the book, it is consumable.

My plan for the book is still a secret (at least from my children). It is sitting on top of a shelf as yet unseen by them. I will wait for the right moment - a day well spent, extra chores done or some other achievement and then allow a picture to be chosen to colour in with our best quality pencils. The picture can be dated and named. Gradually, the children will have these beautiful pictures to look back on and enjoy. (I think the little one will have to wait a while to have her turn ;) )

* If you purchase this book via this link you will be blessing me and my family with a small commission - a very valuable thing for a family of book lovers!

How do you make your children behave in Mass?

I get asked this question constantly! I'm not saying my kids are perfect, but generally speaking, they are pretty well behaved in Mass. I thought I would share my observations and things we've put into practice over the years- the things that DO work and the things that DON'T.

Lets start with DON'T:

*Don't give your kids sweets or drinks in Mass. Ever. No food, no drink. Most Masses go for 45 minutes - 1 hour. They won't starve or die of thirst in this time! They also won't leave sticky finger marks, spills or distract other children. The church is not the place for food and drink.

*Don't let them play with your phone or other gadgets. This is training them that they need to be entertained.

*Don't allow other (often well meaning) church-goers to hold conversations with your children in the church. Politely explain to these people that you are happy to speak to them outside after Mass, but you are trying to teach your children to be silent in the church.

*Don't let your children leave their seat. Children being allowed to run up and down the aisle or near the altar during Mass is something I find totally unacceptable. If they don't comply they need to be taken out of the church into a quiet area where the Mass can still be heard. Don't take them outside and let them play, that is counterproductive.

*Don't allow your children to attend "Sunday School". A child will never learn to sit still and be quiet if they are allowed to go out of the church 10 minutes into the Mass to do colouring in and often "soft" teachings. Keep them with you, where they belong.

Now for the DO's:

*Do give your children a solid grounding of their faith at home so that they have some sort of understanding of what they are doing at Mass and why. Set a good example in the church - genuflect, whisper or be silent, move in a posture of respect. Children need to see faith in action.

*Do remind them of the rules before entering the church if necessary. Children need to know what is expected of them.

* Do reward them for good behaviour in the church. Suitable rewards for us are praise, a trip to the shop, a special outing etc.

*Do remove your child/ren from the church if they are misbehaving and refuse to stop. Don't make this an easy way out, they are to stand or sit quietly somewhere as a punishment. If the child is crying or noisy I would take them out of earshot of the rest of the congregation but would never let them run and play. The idea is that you make the idea of being in the church more desirable than being stuck outside in punishment mode.

*Do allow them to take religious books into the church. If they start to get restless, this can be a welcome relief.

*Do sit right up the front! What? I hear you say- my kids are so naughty, we always sit down the back for a quick exit! Sitting near the front means they can see what is happening, feel more involved and are less likely to misbehave.

*Do sit between children who are misbehaving, however you can separate them. I often do this still as I see little developments and lack of concentration.

*Do, if at all possible (and I know for some it isn't possible) have a helper. Whether it is your husband, a friend or relative it is so helpful to have someone else, especially if you need to take one child out and leave the others.

As you can probably tell, I have fairly strong feelings about how children should behave in Mass and I see parents constantly getting it wrong. For me, this is all a very necessary part of giving due respect, reverence and worship to our God who deserves the best from all His children.

"There is a proverb; a boy will keep the course he has begun; even when he grows old, he will not leave it".
Proverbs 22:6

Questions? Ask away!

Charity auction

As I mentioned in this post, one of my aims for this year is to have a monthly charity handmade auction. I'm pleased to announce that my first auction will be at 8pm tomorrow night on Facebook.

I'll be auctioning 3x 100g skeins of this gorgeously subtle blue BFL (blue face leicester) 8ply superwash. I really love the soft and squishy factor of BFL!

I hope you will be able to make it to my first ever charity auction! My Facebook page is here. or you can click on the link in the sidebar to get there.

4ply, 8ply, chunky!

A few new yarns have been uploaded to my store, there is a good mix of 4ply, 8ply and chunky there with some lovely colours! Pop over for a look :)

Always making

It's true, I'm always making something and more often than not I'm making many things! Here are a few of my recent and current projects:

I'm quite in love with this Primrose already, lots of knitting to go but I'm enjoying every stitch. I dyed the yarn especially for this dress and it looks better than I envisioned. It's going to be for my littlest woolly lover, she is a most grateful recipient of anything knitted.

Always dyeing yarn....sales have dropped off a little but it's only natural considering it's Summer here. Anyway, my Etsy shop is stocked with plenty of yarn at the moment.

I have tea towels on the loom and things are going pretty slowly. I'm hemstitching them on the loom which always adds a bit of time and I'm also using 4ply cotton, so the weaving is not quick. These are my first tea towels so I hope they are a success after this time investment!

I dyed and made a top for me - it didn't suit me at all so I cut the main part down to make a top for my eldest girl along with some Euro fabrics from my stash and one of my favourite top patterns for my girls - CZM Mareen. This girl just won't stop growing!

As usual I have about 1000 ideas for things I "must do" but don't have the time or money for, but they keep me ticking and I'm grateful to the time that I currently have to be creative. I have a couple of exciting happenings cooking up in my mind for this month, so stay tuned for those!

God bless you all :)

Fig balls paleo style

I really don't subscribe to any particular style of eating or diet, but these balls I made today seemed best described as "Paleo style".

I'm constantly endeavouring to come up with healthy treats for the kids (and for their sweet tooth Mum too!) The more lollies that make their way into our home, the more determined I become to steer away from them in favour of REAL food! 

For this recipe I have used nearly 100% organic ingredients and with a family of 6 this sort of food is a real treat, as it's not cheap. However, if eating more treats like these sees you eliminating unhealthy treats, perhaps it will work out economically anyway?

12 organic dried figs
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons organic, raw, cold pressed coconut oil
2 teaspoons organic cacao powder
4 tablespoons organic desiccated coconut, with extra for rolling.

Chop figs into slices and place into food processor with all the other ingredients. Process until smooth, roll into balls and roll in coconut. Hide them in the fridge, as once discovered they won't last long!

*As many people ask where these ingredients can be obtained I am happy to share my supplier. I am not affiliated with this company and receive no payment or benefits for recommendation. I buy from Bulk Whole Foods and find their products and service very good.

Caring for knitted garments

Today I am very happy to welcome Natalie of Aunty Nat's Knits to talk about how to care for knitted wool pieces. I asked Natalie to write for my readers knowing that she has plenty of experience! Thank you for sharing your knowledge with us Natalie.

Mention knitted clothing to some people and the first thing they say is 'They're so hard to care for!'

They're not really you know. Wool being a natural anti bacterial means that your woollies only need to be washed when they get dirty, as dirty woollies attract pests, or they start to smell a bit.

And washing is easy.  This is how I take care of mine. Depending on how many you've got to wash you can either use the laundry tub or a bucket.  Try to wash 'like' colours together just in case of any excess dye run - you wouldn't want your favourite baby cardigan to end up a different colour.  
I usually use a bucket for mine so here's what I do. Simply fill your bucket with warm water, not so hot that you can't put your hand in it - and the wool wash of your choice; my favourite is Soak, available in a number of different scents and also scentless.  Check the instructions on your wool wash as to whether you need to rinse your garment once it has been washed - with Soak, you don't need to rinse.  Make sure you have enough water in your bucket so that your woollies will be fully submersed. Place them in the water and hold under the water until air bubbles stop coming to the top - this way your woollies will stay under the water.

How long you leave them in there is up to you but I like to leave mine in for at least half an hour, but its usually longer as I forget about them!  
Once they've soaked for long enough, prepare your drying station. You'll need at leat one, if not 2, towels. Lift your woollie garment out of your bucket, supporting as much of it as you can in your hands so that it's not hanging down, reducing the risk of stretching. SQUEEZE as much water out of your garment as possible - DO NOT WRING as this can cause felting and runs the risk of ruining your garment.. Once you've squeezed as much water as you can out, lay it down on a towel - I use a towel folded in half.  Smooth your garment so that it is fairly flat and then roll your towel, with your woollie garment inside, squeezing as you go to get as much excess moisture out as possible.  Again, do not WRING the towel.  You may need to use a 2nd towel if the first one becomes too wet. Once you've squeezed as much water out as you can, it's time to lay your garment out to dry. A clothes airer is perfect if you have one as it lets the air circulate all around.  You may like to lay a towel under the garment to stop it from slipping through the gaps in the airer.  Most of the time I use cake racks - living in an apartment I don't have room for a clothes airer inside and these are the same concept. I have 3 that I bought from KMart that are specifically  for drying woollies. I also have a couple of rubber camping floor mats for items that need to be blocked, such as items with lace. 

Gently push your woollie garment into shape to dry. Be sure that you garment is not in direct sunlight as this can cause the wool fibres to deteriorate over time.  Leave to dry, which depending on where you live and what season it is, could be overnight (as it is sometimes here in Brisbane) or a day or 2.   Once dry, either fold and put away until the cool weather comes or put on straight away and enjoy! 

All the beautiful garments you see above are currently for sale in Natalie's Handmade shop.
You can also find her on her busy Facebook page.

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