Monday, January 26, 2015

A Scavenger's Weekend

Earlier last week I had an annoying experience of spending a fair chunk of cash on taking kids to a rather disappointing waterslide on what was supposed to be a fun school holiday outing. Also, I think I managed to lose Charlie's good Akubra hat in my huffy state as I left, probably leaving it balanced on the front of the car as I drove off. Boo. Luckily, this weekend seemed intent on turning the tables.

I love a good roadside furniture freebie. I even scored a relatively aesthetically-pleasing doggie pooper-scooper (yes there is such a thing) from someone's hard rubbish recently. It has long, chromed handles that remove you from the 'business end' of the device, which is pleasantly rusted, blue-painted metal. Seriously. I barely even mind the chore when I'm using it.

What is it about the thrill of scavenging? I'll be the one running up the street with the wheelbarrow when there's a tree cut down, collecting firewood. I think fruit overhanging someone's fence is fair game. Andy's a bit dubious about it sometimes but hey, waste not, want not!

On Saturday, this desk presented itself with a 'FREE, PLEASE TAKE' sign just around the corner from our house. Don't mind if I do! My companion at the time was Clem, who has the treasure-hunter's instinct, and was very excited.

It's made of oak, entirely charming and just what Clem needed for his bedroom. Into the car boot it went - not easy with just Clem helping. I drove with the boot open, very carefully and slowly, around the corner back home while Clem ran along the footpath calling out to me that it was all going well and nothing was falling out.

We gave the whole desk a quick wipe-over and then a light polish with my trusty beeswax/linseed oil potion, I tightened up the screws on the drawer handles and it was good to go.

We had to do a fair bit of re-shuffling in his room to make it fit, and Clem (not for the first time) rejected my suggestion of getting rid of the doll's house you see upon it, which was my eventual solution. Fortunately, it's quite a deep desk.
 It even features this fabulous slide-out... slidey-outey-thing, to which I imagine Clem will add his own initials, compass-stabs and so forth as time passes.

On Sunday I took Clem and Jasper blackberry picking (Andy is overseas, actually on his way back right now, and Charlie was at a friend's house). The day was not too hot, and recent rains had plumped up the berries.

The boys and I have enjoyed blackberries and vanilla icecream for dessert two nights in a row and there are still more left. Mind you, I just extracted a lingering stray blackberry thorn from under my right big toe. But the scratches and prickles just kind of make it all the more satisfying. We fought for those berries! And won!

At any rate, I think the world has given at least as much as it has taken from me this week, and I am happy. And tomorrow, two of the boys are back to school and Andy comes home. And the next day, Charlie is off to high school. Yipes!

- Jane x

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A scrappy quilt for Clem, with quality control by Skylar

 Here's a quilt I made for Clem over the last couple of weeks: the fastest actual pieced quilt I've ever made. (Also only the fourth, so no world records here.)

A scrappy quilt, that's almost all garment scraps, and looking particularly 'scrappy' here because I forgot it was in the washing machine for a few hours before hanging it out to dry, very rumpled. Let's call it 'texture'.

 I started out by organising my fabric stash (whatever came over me?), and putting aside a bunch of cotton flannel pieces, mostly left over from making pyjama pants. But there wasn't enough variety there for a full flannel quilt. Sure, I could have sourced more flannel, but I was on a mission to use up scraps. And I thought my tactile, fabric-loving Clemmy would probably love a quilt with lots of soft bits as well as other interesting prints... and so I widened my scrap search.

As the mother of a 13-year-old now (and that's a whole other topic), I am acutely aware that what might appeal one year can be downright embarrassing the next. If 7y.o. Clem had his pick of fabrics now, it would be all cute, cute, cute. And I'm very ready to indulge that for things with a shorter lifespan, like clothes. But for a quilt, I wanted to choose prints that, I hope, will stay in favour as he grows.

By telling Clem the quilt was for him, I knew I'd have a little project manager on my back, pushing me to get this finished. He also wanted to help.

My other expert helper was Skylar, who has happily settled into being the absolute furry centre of our family. Oh, how we adore her! Do you know, greyhounds barely have any 'doggy' smell at all, so you can totally bury your face in that soft, soft spot just behind her ear and tell her what a gorgeous thing she is. Another thing about greyhounds is they are very good at testing out anything soft-looking that you lay out on the ground.

At strip-piecing stage.

At pin-basting stage.

And at post-quilting, pre-binding stage.

I was tempted as a kind of challenge to use nothing but scraps for the quilt backing, too, but didn't have enough of anything suitable. So I nabbed a bit of this Erin McMorris print from the sale trunk at the shop (it's little houses - I love it), chopped it in half and stuck big chunks of flannel down the centre. And then bound it with some snuggly-feely chocolate brown corduroy scrap from the stash.

My machine quilting is inexpert but better than I've managed previously. I'm thinking it was due to massively easing off the presser foot pressure.

And of course, Skylar has tested out the finished object. Clem's pretty happy with it, too!
As I was making this quilt, I was pondering that there's actually not very much I enjoy about making a quilt. Except that I'm, well, making a quilt. I love what it becomes and seeing it take shape. But the cutting? Blah. The pressing? Blah. The sewing? Dull! The basting? Yawn. The wrangling of masses of fabric under a machine? Sweary. Thank heavens at the end you actually get a quilt.

How do you feel about quilts and quilting, if that's not too massive a question in sewing-land?

- Jane x

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Time to make a knife.

Our Christmas present to Charlie and Jasper was a two-day knife-making workshop at Gardner Knives, based at beautiful Seppeltsfield in the Barossa Valley.

On our New Zealand holiday last year, Jasper had been entranced by the blacksmithing facilities at Weta, where swords were made for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. Then later in the year we happened across the artist-in-residence knife maker at Seppeltsfield. Sword... knife...more or less the same thing, only rather more useful in real life!

Andy was keen to make himself a chef's knife. And two January workshop days became available due to a cancellation. No time like the present! Even if the forecast was 38 degrees C both days (and rising).

Whilst the big chaps got to work, Clem and I popped in and out of the workshop to observe, and explored the area. The blacksmith's room is ridiculously picturesque, with rustic tools, stone walls, blasting furnace and light flooding through old windows, and I went a bit mad on taking photos.

Seppeltsfield is a very large, old winemaking property established by the Seppelt family. Whilst the Seppelts are no longer owners, it has recently returned to private ownership and management that is determined to preserve its heritage and restore its place in the Barossa community. Which is so nice to know in these times when so many grand old family businesses are bought by faceless corporations, properties are sold off and brands become meaningless logos slapped on whatever sells.
 This is the Seppelt family mausoleum, built around 90 years ago at the top of a hill that overlooks Seppeltsfield. Huge old date palms line the roads throughout and leading into the property. Clem didn't seem to be creeped out by the fact there are dead people inside this building, and we walked all around it and through a pine forest on the hill beside it.
 When we looked in on the boys, they were well underway.
 Charlie and Jasper made 'hidden tang' knives, starting with a rod of knife-making steel that had to be flattened and ground down.

 Andy's 'full tang' knife was crafted from an old car leaf-spring. Baz at Gardner Knives loves to recycle old metal tools and scrap, which was one of the things about his workshop that appealed so much to us.
 Even Clem was invited in on the act, to help sand a wooden knife handle with increasingly fine-grit sandpaper.

 Can I just get a 'phwoar' for my husband using an impressively large and dangerous power tool? (Pity he wasn't wearing the leather apron in this shot, too.)
 Here you can see Jasper's knife-in-progress. The part he's holding is the 'hidden tang' which is the metal extension of the blade that is then glued inside the knife handle.

 Andy's 'full tang' knife has the steel sandwiched in between two slices of wood, held by metal pins, and the steel is visible all the way along the handle.

 Jasper's knife handle is made from the base of a Fallow Deer antler (they shed their antlers). The rest of the antler isn't suitable for knife-making but is apparently very much suited to boy-souvenir-hunting so we now have four of these floating about the house. Lucky us.

The process of polishing an antler knife handle with a belt sander produces an odd, not entirely pleasant smell that Charlie likened to burnt cornchips and Andy to having your teeth drilled. Just in case you were wondering.
 The proud knife-makers at the end of two ridiculously hot but extremely exciting, instructive and rewarding days of hard work.

At the end of the second day, clouds were gathering and when we dropped into a winery on the way home, we were treated to spectacular lightning, thunder and downpour that we watched from the broad verandah overlooking paddocks and vines. (Photos taken out that way were a uselessly rainy blur.) It was a welcome relief after the heat and also much-needed to help contain a scary large bushfire that was out of control in the Mount Lofty Ranges.
And now, back to slothing about at home and the work/school holiday juggle, which doesn't make for nearly as exciting photos! But we have three fabulous new knives to remember our time by (I can vouch for the fact that they cut cake very, very well), and a few Barossa wines that seemed to sneak into the car during our trip, too.

- Jane xx

Friday, November 21, 2014

this moment

{this moment} ~ A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. (joining with SouleMama)
- Jane x

Friday, November 7, 2014

I mended Andy's jeans

Inspired by these beautiful denim repairs, found via this blog post, I repaired Andy's jeans. I cut a patch from a pair in our rag pile, held it in place on the inside and pinned it well from the front, then hand stitched with perle cotton.

He'll either love it or hate it... these will either be embraced back into the fold of regular wear or quietly disappear. Admittedly, visible crotch repair would probably be more palatable when teamed with visible repairs to other areas of the garment, which these jeans did not need yet. Time will tell.

- Jane x

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Best picnic ever

Today was such a beautiful example of spring in this corner of the world, and we took a picnic to Brownhill Creek with some extended family. So long as we choose to ignore the fact that pretty much all the vegetation in these photos is introduced and spread as weeds along the creekline (buttercups! blackberries! Salvation Jane! figs! willowy things!), well, this was simply the most perfect spot on the most perfect day for a picnic.

It's all still so green and there was even a decent amount of water in the creek.

 There was space for cricket, and Jasper declared that he would like to have a go at cricket this summer, which simultaneously makes me thrilled and also a bit weary thinking about adding something else into our schedule. Is that bad of me?

 Can you spot the boys? (Clem, his cousin and cousin's friend, as seen from the other side of the creek.)

  This small man had an absolute ball and got bumped, scratched and filthy, which is all a bit outside his usual comfort zone, and I was so proud of how he bounced back and kept up with his older cousin and even older friend.
 This is a water skink that the boys discovered in the creek (and let go again). I didn't even know there was such a thing. Even Andy's sister who identified this for us, and has a creek at the bottom of her hills garden, hadn't seen one in real life before. What a beauty.

  We brought Skylar, who could barely believe her eyes, ears and nose with all the wonders of this place. Since she was raised in a kennel, many things are very exciting new experiences for her. She explored and explored and explored but finally gave in to the pleasure of a Sunday afternoon nap on the grass. Ahem yes, she's wearing a Liberty kerchief.

 Being dragged down a slope by your feet is apparently all kinds of awesome. And back for more.

  Sliding down the dirt slope by himself: "Watch this one, it's going to be really really really really really really really really hardcore!" (Clem also told me the other day when we were throwing and catching his soft toy Miffy that it was 'hardcore' so I'm not entirely sure of his definition.)
 Big dead tree across the creek. Charlie thrilled at being in photo for scale.
"I didn't realise it was going to be this much fun," Clem said.
Those clothes and shoes will never be the same again.
One hundred percent worth it.

I hope you've had a happy weekend too!

- Jane x

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pom tiddly om pom, pom pom

Ah, so much has gone unblogged or almost blogged. 
And in case that sounds dramatic, let me assure you, it's not at all. In fact it's been entirely humdrum, everyday unblogged. I have indeed been sewing, but I've shared things for me over at The Drapery blog so don't want to double up. Ah, might throw in a photo or two at the end here.

But down to business - oh and sorry, it's more dog business. Ew, not that kind.

I made a pompom for Skylar today. It was such a success I wanted to share, and it seemed like a quick and likely way to get back into the blogging habit.

Skylar loves fuzzy things, and had taken a particular liking to a woollen pompom that I made with the boys some years ago, that's been hanging about the house ever since. We throw it for her out the back, she races at it, snaps it up, flips it in the air and basically goes crazy for the thing. It's looking the worse for wear.
 I do rather like the traditional method of pompom making, with two cardboard rings, poking the wool through and around, through and around. However, it's time-consuming. And I came across an adapted method that doesn't really feel like cheating, but is a whole load quicker. Yep, found it on Pinterest.

 I think it made a very satisfactory pompom! I tied it as tightly as I could, knowing now the kind of treatment it was in for. (Those are shreds of the earlier pompom around on the lawn.)
 I didn't manage to capture Skylar doing her full flip-out, which she generally reserves for 7am or earlier. Later in the day she prefers a quick trot and lie down. It's easy to see why racing never suited her. Most of the races are at night. Silly races.
 Your move, pompom.
Below are the cardboard pieces I used for pompom construction, after removal. I think these may be bigger than the templates provided in the Pinterest link. When I printed out the largest one, it looked pretty small so I made up my own. I may have buggered up the printing, or I may just prefer a giant pompom.

And the pompom pieces are sitting on the laptop on which I type my blog posts - grubby old thing! Complete with 'bread tag elves' courtesy of Jasper.

Now, on with random recent photo grabs!

Here's a t-shirt I made for Clem with some awesome cotton/spandex knit with NINJAS!! from Crafty Mamas. I have come to the conclusion that as the sizes get bigger in this, my favourite Ottobre 'Best t-shirts' pattern, the neck bands get a bit tighter, especially if you use spandex knit, and I've ended up with a bit of scrunching up around the neckline. So I should make them a bit longer in future.


 I blogged about my Grainline Alder dress at The Drapery, but suffice to say I love, love love it and am wearing it again right now, which is at least the 3rd day in the last week (less than?) since I finished it. Yes, it has been washed :)

Lastly, lest this end up in unfinished-draft-land, here are some photos from a weekend that Andy and I had in Melbourne, without children. Yes. I tagged along on a work thing he was there for. We ate a lot, walked a lot, saw some children's theatre (work) and saw this utterly gorgeous 'Golden Mirror Carousel' at the National Gallery of Victoria. It turns super-slowly and silently and the seats gently sway and the whole thing was quite magical.

So there. That's a bit of stuff from lately! If you have read this far, may your week be filled with golden mirror-ness :)

- Jane x
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