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Some recent making for the school fete.  Pompom garlands inspired by Jorth’s.  I’ve become rather addicted to making pompoms, so great for using up small bits of yarn and op shop buys, and is there anything more cheerful than a woolly pompom?  They found their way on to hair elastics too.

Some more crocheted star garlands.  I have even taken to making the stars while driving to work, that is while I am stuck in traffic.  Makes a tedious commute more satisfying.

And hama bead necklaces.  I’ve been wearing one that my boy made me and got lots of good comments.  I also made a few scarves like the ones here.

I’ve always thought that when selling hand-made goods you never get paid for the time involved, so it’s not something I have dreams of doing full-time, but it was nice to have an excuse to make a few things to sell in this context.  And fetes are the place to pick up bargain hand-made goods.


I’ve been finding it difficult over the last few months to find the time and head space for adding to this space, my scrapbook of little things that make life happy.  My adorable twinnies are proving very challenging of late, and I seem to be leaping from cleaning up one disaster to dealing with yet another tantrum.  I was somewhat comforted to learn that 3 1/2 is an especially difficult age where littlies are seeking to learn through pushing the boundaries.  Hard.  Oh yes, and I have two of them.  Add testosterone-boosted Mr Six into the picture, and it’s not pretty.  Not usually one to embrace self-help books, I’ve been finding this one by turns frightening, comforting, challenging and compelling.  At least I know that it is a stage, and this too shall pass.  I’m just hopeful that I can deal with it in the most positive way possible.

But now, in a brief moment of respite as said children are frolicking in the botanic gardens with the usually shift-working Mr Foxy, I can add some snippets to the scrapbook.

Recently I welcomed the year of the dragon under the assumption that this will be a great year for me, having been born in the year of the dragon.  I was keen to mark the occasion and forced everyone to visit the new year celebrations at Box Hill.  Amongst the music and bustling stalls, we found respite at the Fo Guang Yuan activity table.  While the kids coloured in dragon puppets, I learnt how to make paper lotus flowers.

It had been so long since I had made anything, yet alone learned a new trick.  I just had to make more.  I used three kinder squares cut in half, but the instructions found here used an A4 sheet cut up, so it would be great for recycling used paper too.

In other news I have caught the Pinterest bug.  So dangerously inspiring.  My excuse? Bookmarking ideas for our new home.  Yes, it is really happening and we have the plans to prove it.  I’m also enjoying this magazine with its cute ideas and lack of reliance on costly items.

As much as I would like to show off some tasteful easter crafting, I must admit that my new obsession is Hama beads (or their Swedish cousin, Pyssla).  You painstakingly put coloured beads on a pegboard in a design, iron it to fuse the beads together, and you end up with a flat plastic beady thing.  Although the end product may seem somewhat dubious, it is incredibly addictive, and even my rambunctious five-year old loves making these.  We have recently made a suite of easter decorations together, and he has loved coming up with ideas for what to make.  It’s so lovely to see him quietly concentrating as he chooses and places the beads.  It’s obviously good for developing fine motor skills, but I think there is also that calm purposefulness that you get with knitting or any other repetitive craft.

For me there’s something comforting about the regular grid structure, and creating simplified and geometric patterns and designs.  Maybe it appeals to me in the same way that knitting fairisle does.  Perhaps Rex, who often gets frustrated when drawing when his pictures don’t come out how he imagines them, finds this structure allows him to control the forms he wants to create.   And working alongside the usually rowdy boy, quietly and calmly, is such a delight, as is witnessing his satisfaction at creating something. 

In other Easter making, I hope to get around to some egg dyeing before Sunday.  The pashka is in the ‘fridge and the chocolate is at the ready.  With more planning, I would have liked to create a version of Soile’s Easter wreath, which I think is so wonderfully witty, if faintly disturbing.

In an attempt to make the lead-up to Christmas more fun (and quell constant questions of “How many days until Christmas?”), I made an advent calendar in an unusual fit of creative sewing, inspired by one in the recent Inside Out magazine.  I love it when an idea forms and is acted on at once, thanks to an undisciplined hoard accomodating fabric stash.  This was really made on the fly in spare moments, making it up as I went.  The backing fabric is a heavy Indian cotton herringbone twill left over from some Roman blinds made many years ago.  The borders are some remnants bought at a Nicola Cerini studio sale years ago, as are some of the pockets.  Other pockets are from scraps of Japanese kimono silk, screen printed cotton from Dunnilli Arts in the NT and Balinese ikat weave cotton.

As the Cerini fabric had a canvas backing, I ironed woven fusible interfacing to the other fabric pieces to give them some body.  I couldn’t be bothered embroidering or appliqueing the numbers, so I printed them out on to iron-on transfer paper, cut them into to ovals and ironed them on.  The pieces are not exactly the same size, so the whole has a slightly wonky irregular appearance that I don’t mind given the otherwise regular grid of pockets.

It was met with much excitement, though now there is the problem of having to constantly explain why we can’t empty all the pockets at once …

There’s not normally much opportunity for creativity here, but some time off work has initiated renewed opportunity and enthusiam for making things.  Some preparations for Christmas ….

Creative Spaces abound here at Kootoyoo

Fancy dress that is.  There has been much dressing up here of late, in hand-me-down super hero costumes and improvised pirate outfits.  Then there was much interest in and requests for a knight’s costume.  Firstly a helmet and shield were hastily constructed from a cardboard box that once held a baby car seat.  (I offered to stick red paper over the “safe-n-sound” logo, but Sir Rex liked the graphic quality of the letters.  And I kind of like the idea of a safe-n-sound brand battle shield.) 

Then there was much rallying for a tunic and cape.  We did a bit of research on knights tunics and decided on colours and crests.  Red and shiny gold, with a three-headed dragon of course.

(Forgive the photos, there was a small person’s finger mark on the lens I suspect).  I used a metre of some red birdseye cotton bought years ago to make a shift dress, and less than this of some inexpensive cotton-backed satin brocade also purchased years ago.  I didn’t use a pattern, but cut into the fabric as in the diagram below, measuring a 1/4 circle from one corner to make a half-circle cape.  I used one of Rex’s t-shirts to get an idea of the width of the tunic, adding a couple of inches each side. (Yes, I do still think in inches when sewing as it was the first unit of measurement I learnt in school).  I cut the tunic in both fabrics, as it is reversible.

I’m really pleased with the cape as it hangs really well, and is very versatile – suitable for knight, super hero, vampire, matador or general day wear.  (The latter has often been the case.)

Tedious technical details below for those who may be interested…

I ironed under two small turnings on the straight sides then sewed them down, then finished the large curved hem with some satin bias binding I happened to have.  (I sewed on the fold on the wrong side then turned it over to the right side and sewed it down so that the satin edging is on the right side.  I ironed more binding in half and sewed to make the ties and neck edging. 

As I made the tunic reversible, so first cut out and appliqued (just with zig-zag stitch on the machine) an emblem on each piece.  I placed right sides together and sewed the neck, clipped the seam and turned it through.  I then just ironed in turnings on the straight sides and hems, then pinned and sewed around the perimeter.  You could add ties at the sides, but I just left it like a poncho.

Most of my Easter list was checked off (though I didn’t have time to look for Easter daisies  in my last-minute dash to the supermarket on Good Friday, but I did find fruitless hot cross buns of dubious quality).  I was pleasantly surprised how enthusiastic Rex was about embracing all things easter-y.  He loved participating in decorating the table with flowers from the garden and arranging and re-arranging the family of bunnies.  He loved the idea of decorating the eggs, but wasn’t too keen on getting his hands messy with the paper mache paste.  He even showed interest in and slight comprehension of the Easter story.  And he was of course so excited to take part in an easter egg hunt on Sunday morning, and generous in sharing the experience with his sisters.  (I did find snap-shut plastic egg-shaped containers at the supermarket that did allow me to do the nocturnal egg hiding after all.  Sleep is a luxury around here at the best of times.)

All preceded by wholesome frolicking in grandpa’s garden, where it was nice to see that lemon-picking was almost as exciting as chocolate.

I used to be quite good at Christmas.  Amusing myself by styling my wrapping and decorations, planning a traditional yet seasonally appropriate menu, baking and decorating and making well in advance.  Then when I had children, there was less time to think, plan and enjoy fussing with such things.  Priorities changed, and I was more interested in creating memories for my son of the magic of Christmas.  I would love to do more and actually feel disappointed that I haven’t as I realise with shock that there is less than a week until Christmas.  Just because I had organised the tree, cards, wrapping and bought most of the gifts ahead of time, I smugly rested on my laurels.  Until now, realising that I have no free days before Christmas (that is, I’m either working or looking after the children) I realise what I haven’t done. 

Despite the advice of the carefully laid-out action plans of the lifestyle magazines, I have failed to do ANY Christmas baking or think about what we might need to buy for the day’s meals.  I have not obtained gifts for my father or brother.  There’s still bits and pieces to be wrapped that I always end up doing sneakily once their intended recipients are already in the house.  I haven’t organised a much-needed haircut for goodness sake!  And as for the shawl I’m knitting my mother, I just can’t seem to get time to work on it.  Since returning to work, I feel that my life is a complete shambles.

But, ’tis not the season to dwell on the negatives.  Good things I have done:

  • took Rex to see Santa.  Yes, it was in a local shopping centre, but there was a spark of magic even there as he shyly sat next to the red and white-clad man and shared a whispered conversation.
  • enjoyed using hand-printed paper and recycled* ribbon to wrap gifts for dear friends.  And allowing Rex to dispense and place the stickytape, even though this was bound to be slower and less neat than I would normally tolerate. (*note use of ribbon and bells salvaged from a certain Easter confectionery item).
  • made time before bedtime to sit on the couch with Rex with the Christmas tree lights on and talk about, at his repeated request, Christmas when I was little. Strangely he seems to fixate on the fact that I did not save any of the lollies I received as a child to share with him.
  • remembered to buy glace cherries.  Not sure what for, but Christmas isn’t Christmas without them.
  • caught up with a few lovely friends.  Morning tea at our place, and a lovely lunch here.
  • ordered new candles (the proper type) for my German candle pyramid, a Christmas favourite for the last few years since a friend who lived in Berlin at the time sent it to us.  (My attempts in the past to substitute candles did not work, evidenced by the charred edges of the wooden windmill.)
  • actually sent out the Christmas cards
  • bought a new outfit for me from here.  And earrings from this lovely lady.  (…well, not sure if this counts as a good thing …)

And still to do:

  • convince myself that it is OK to purchase gifts for my father and brother at the supermarket
  • wrap up a stand-by gift for my mum
  • just get to and wrap up everything else I have got lying in wait
  • try and finish my granny twinkle garland
  • plan an antipasto Christmas day lunch to consume with prosecco, and leave the turkey for Boxing Day at my parents’ place.
  • contribute to our annual Oxfam gift at work, where instead of buying gifts for workmates, we all put in for a goat or such-like.
  • listen to Christmas music on the radio
  • enjoy the sunshine

It’s really only about four weeks to go until Christmas!  I love Christmas, love the idea of it, love the traditions, love the thought of sharing it with a child old enough to appreciate the magic of it.  But like many people, I find it can be a daunting and stressful time, and alot of build-up to a bit of an anti-climax.  I find it’s really necessary to work hard enough at Christmas to keep the dream alive, but not so hard that it’s no fun.

So a pre-emptive strike is in order. 

First, the cards:  ideally quirkily handmade incorporating children’s artwork, yet still stylish, and enclosing a photo of the children ….. well, not this year.  I designed them online with the only decent cute photo featuring all three children and had them delivered.  They’re not too bad, and probably more economical than making a card and having photos printed to enclose.  And the relatives will love them.

Next, the wrapping paper.  I had bought up a few rolls of brown paper in the past when I’d seen it reduced, and decided that printing shapes on it would be a good activity for Rex and I.  I just used children’s acrylic paint and kitchen sponges cut into star and triangle shapes to stamp with.  It worked well, as you could get several impressions with one paint-covered sponge, and Rex really enjoyed it. (He was singing “I like yellow” as he stamped!).  We printed a whole roll in red, yellow,orange and browny colours.  I thought some dyed raffia would be good to trim the parcels, but I think I may try and use up all the red and yellow ribbon I have saved up to recycle in my overflowing ribbon box.  Though I really love Ali’s wrapping and link to these!

Of course, gifts are required.  Lists were made and there has been a bit of online shopping, mainly books and kid’s things, and of course the odd gift for me too….   It’s now necessary to not only provide gifts for three children, but also gifts from them to each other.  And Santa gifts, and creche Santa gifts …    I think that there will not be much in the way of hand-made gifts, too hard this year.  Except for another Shetland Triangle for my Mum.

Decorations.  Well, a case of make-do with what we have, with the addition of replacing non-functional fairy lights.  Last year, as illustrated rather poorly below, we made these, and may do so again (yellows again being the suggested colourway).  Though I am sorely tempted to make these, and these.  Crochet or knitted decorations really appeal to me.

And then there will be food, but as I’m not hosting any major meals, this can be kept simple, and thought about at a later date. 

Hope you get the chance to enjoy your festive preparations…

wrapping collage

There has been an unprecedented frenzy of crafting of late that I can reveal now that my swapee has received her parcel.  As mentioned before, the theme of this most recent Bendigo Woollen Mills User Group swap was Op Shop Karma, everything in the package was to be sourced from an op shop with the exception of 100g of Bendigo yarn.

stormcloud2 collage

For the Bendigo yarn portion, I made the Stormcloud Shawlette in 5ply Classic in Raspberry.  I followed the directions for the larger version with a frilled edge, cast off with the EZ sewn bind-off, and discovered that the whole thing only took 80g of yarn.  Good in terms of yarn economy, but I couldn’t really send my swapee a scanty 20g yarn to make up the 100g …

knit 107a

… so I also made a Flourish bookmark.  What fun making some fine and fairly complex lace on a small scale!  It turned out a little on the large size, but could still be functional with larger hard cover books.

On the Op Shop front I had so many ideas that I may have gone a little overboard, but restrained myself to the following crafty diversions …

op shop collage

The top item on the left was a strange multi-stranded not-quite-scarf / not-quite-lap rug that I unravelled into a satisfyingly large ball.  As the yarn was a bit irregular and not soft, I figured a bag was the best option.  I improvised a rectangular base in double crochet, then did rows of filet crochet round and round until it was basket-sized.  I’m pretty happy with the size and (unplanned) placement of the colour change.

bag collage

The pile of wool jumpers were gleefully thrown into the washing machine and subjected to heavy duty hot washes, then tossed in the also hot tumble dryer!  (I don’t know why I enjoyed maltreating wool so much – I also loved viciously steam-pressing the bookmark too).  The angora blend jumpers felted a treat, but the pale grey lambswool and ice blue wool and cashmere hardly changed at all despite this treatment!!  They just looked slightly pilled!  (Perhaps this is what the cockroaches will be wearing when every other species on earth dies out.)  Disappointing, as I was rather keen on these colours, but proceeded with what I had to make …

scarf collage

Now this long scarf is not at all original.  I was inspired by one a friend had bought (possibly by this maker) and noted later that Kirsty makes similar (and better-crafted than mine) ones.  I was relieved that this worked out and was quick and easy to make, as I loved the idea if it.

The reluctant sewing machine got more of a workout.  Something I have been wanting to make for ages …

bunting collage

Some remnants, cut-up clothing and a Ken Done doona cover became two sets of cheerful bunting for the room of two little girls.  And there’s enough fabric left over for more for another two little girls!

knit 116a

I loved that this swap gave me the excuse to make some different kinds of things that I’ve been wanting to try out, and probably wouldn’t have made the time for otherwise.  And the fact that the materials were recycled makes it even more satisfying.

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