Tuesday, July 21, 2015


Since I post most of my sewing adventures over on The Drapery blog these days, I've not been here much. But I think I miss the documentation of regular life, and sometimes I have some lovely photos of the kids or the dog or something we did and I think I should do something with them, so I'm going to try to be back here more often. I think.

Just in case I'm giving the impression that it's all sunshine here in winter, the beach trip was a rare break in the grey, wet and cold that has permeated pretty much the entire last two weeks, which were school holidays. Brr. I'm afraid new-to-us Netflix has had a hammering. The tonne of firewood we ordered about a month ago is not going to last.

When I cleaned out Clem's schoolbag just before he left this morning (better last minute than never), I found the drawings above. It was quite the tiresome, repetitive battle to get him ready in time for school so it was nice to be reminded of his sweeter and more interesting side.

Here's something else he did. While we asked him about fifty times to get out of his pyjamas and get dressed because we needed to go out.

No, the dog has not had rainbow facepaint. In winter the sun angles into our back room and right through some refracting crystal balls we have hanging in the window. It's a little bit Bowie though, isn't it? Andy calls her the Thin White Dog.

Jasper turned 13. We gave him his longed-for Wacom tablet for drawing on the computer. He's extremely keen on computer animation, visual effects and so forth and it turns out Adelaide actually has fantastic education resources and employment opportunites for these areas. But he's not even in high school until next year. I have a feeling this passion is going to stick, though.

That's all for now folks, but I will try to be back sooner rather than later. Thanks for reading if you've dropped by and made it this far!

- Jane xx

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Sunday evening sights

 Grubby little feet
 dog in motion
 Sunday evening TV
hard to believe these legs and feet belong to my child... nearly fourteen

 the 'sports slab' where our shed once was; Andy's latest big yard project, taking shape
the other big boy-child (they are both wearing shorts I made, which makes me happy, even if they have to be plain denim these days)

most excellent Sunday arvo drink invented by Andy: half a can of Mercury Hard Cider over ice with a dash of Campari and a sprig of mint. Seriously good.

(Not pictured: two loads of washing, two haircuts, two batches of baking, numerous battles/debates with the 7y.o., watering the parched garden, multiple kitchen cleanings, some book reading.)

Happy Sunday. How's yours?

- Jane x

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
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