Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Sunday Sort of Sunday

I remember when shops were closed on Sundays and the whole world just seemed to take a few deep breaths, put its feet up and have a nice cup of tea. My Sunday has had the same sort of feel. As far as I could see, the world was still tucked up under a quiet foggy stillness when I woke up. Even as the sun eventually shone through with a crispy tap on the shoulder and a reminder to make use of the last day of autumn, everyone in my house seemed content to potter about, heads in their own clouds.

My day started with a quiet read of Mixtape – the only anything I manage to read from cover to cover lately. There’s an article by Sooz in reference to Handmade Help that particularly resonates. I have wondered and worried often if handmade donations are deemed more an insult than a comfort and stitches of support are misconstrued as pity.

The Mr was sculpting froggies in wax – eventually destined to be cast in bronze:

There was finger knitting in the sun:

And ‘pinger knitting’ in the sun (only with ‘noodles’):

And a scarf was produced:

When we finally ventured out late in the day, there were beach gymnastics. Don't you just wish you could still snap your legs in the air, giggle and balance as straight as an upside down soldier?

Saturday, May 30, 2009


And you know what? I fought ALL three kids away from every one of the treasures in my Snailblazer Swap parcel. Nup. None of this ‘helping’ me unwrap my pressie milarkey this time around. Think along the lines of a slightly more attractive (one can only hope) version of Golom guarding his 10 packages of preciousness. Although unlike Golom, I am more than happy to excitedly show and tell:

• Firstly, Cam is so on to something with her experimental stitchery: the brooch and keyring are even more delicious in real life.
Fran manages to achieve two completely different looks with her reversible glasses case – lovely contrasting fabrics and closures, one a fab vintage button.

• Thirty eight isn’t too old for Anna’s funky hair accessories it it? Regardless, I intend to wear them all. At once.
• They will match perfectly with Michelle’s lovely felty, button brooch as it sees me through a grey old day.

• I am feeling very Boy Scout, only with way more attractive accessories,* as I can now flash out my own non-borrowed pen and pen holder by Vickie and scrawl urgent reminders on my hand.
Sandra is vegan, so her recent flu-like illness was not of the piggy variety but has obviously had some influence. Her sweet tissue holder will be reserved for delicate use, not the kids out in the playground stuff.

• Here is my new handbag, courtesy of crafting genius Xena who must have known about the typography obsession.
• And my all-zipped-up purse from Aimee (I’m impressed, zips still scare the bejesus out of me).

Amanda’s polymer pendant is another of those best viewed up close; there is some truly exquisite pattern in there.
Nikki’s cheeky frog magnet has already been put to work. Over the last FOUR months I have shuffled steadily yellowing insurance papers from one workspace to the other. They require a thousand signatures (easily achievable, disregarding possible repetitive strain injury) and the when and why of my last visit to the doctors (a request rating way down the triage list). Nikki’s frog could be what gets those insurance papers out the door. They are now magnetised to our fridge and a constant froggy reminder. Assuming the papers don’t slip surreptitiously underneath anything, our long-suffering insurance adviser may well see them this side of Santa’s next delivery. Robert, if you happen to be reading this blog, get ready to fall off your chair.

IMPORTANT: None of this long-winded post or festive style enjoyment would have been possible without the supreme organisational skills of Cass at Snailblazer, who is obviously extremely good at making stuff happen. Thank you Cass. Thank you swap girls!

* I’m thinking the woggle could do with a makeover.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Another Dead Stick

It’s only just dawning on me how much I'm getting into bits of dead stick. Just refer to the previous doodling-with-ink post or the indoor tree thing. Now, I’m not entirely sure how the Mr was convinced to drill a whopping great HOLE IN THE WALL at the end of the hall, but he was. So we have permanent accommodation for a flock of birdies – at least until they fall off their perches.

The birds were crafted in a flurry of inspiration, after spotting the beautiful bird mobile by Spool Sewing. The pattern has been blogged about endlessly – probably because it is a fab easy-peasy freebie. However, to achieve the mobile hanging/balancing act/physics milarkey, you require either some impressive Mission Impossible style manoeuvres or an additional ten pairs of extremely patient hands. Which is probably why I got to like my stick so much.

Edit: Craft Schmaft so knows how to do birds on a wire and obviously gets the physics thing. Check out her sweet owl mobile. She also likes sticks.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Giving it a Whirl

I’m not the illustrator in this family. In fact, my scribbles are more than occasionally the object of ridicule and usually the kids just discreetly trot off to Dad. And quite rightly so. You don’t have to know how to draw to be a graphic designer and the last time I took hold of a piece of charcoal in any regular fashion was way back in my Uni youth during life drawing class. This evening, as we were eating dinner, I glanced up at our ‘inspire wires’ and boy, they did their job! I always see Alan Fletcher’s Cats, but this evening, there was the quickening of a pulse and an: OH MY GOODNESS, I NEED TO DO THAT!

Like Alan, I used a stick and unearthed a pot of crusty ink and started scratching away. Like the days in my life drawing class the first marks were stunted and judged and uncomfortable. I was thinking too much – planning my next move and trying to make my stick behave like a marker pen. See:

But then, gloriously, my hand started doing its own instinctive thing. Letting the stick be a stick. Now I can remember how my hand used to feel its way across the page in those life drawing sessions. It really did used to be all instinct, after throwing off a heavy cloak of self criticism.

It was just a half hour of ‘breathing space’ but for me, some tiny gems emerged. I like the unpredictable thick and thin that comes with drawing with a stick and I liked working out how to tame it a little (ever the control freak). I like some of the little doodles that came out of that half hour. And most of all, I like that anyone could do it. Food colouring would work just as well as ink, knick a stick from the garden, find some paper (bigger is better, but don’t let that stop you) and you’re set.

Go on, give it a whirl!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Slightly Weirdy Tutorial

Remember these? A while back I posted about a silly spontaneous casting of innie and outie belly buttons. Given the slight weirdness of the entire exercise, I was somewhat bemused by the number of emailed requests for a ‘How To’. Apologies it has taken several eternities to pull it together, but here it is, courtesy of the sculptor guy, Mr Myrtleandeunice.

Belly Button Casting (giggle fits guaranteed)

• Newspaper
• Mixing container (i.e. 2lt ice cream container)
• Spatula
• Kid-sized snack yoghurt pot with the bottom cut out
• Light moisturising cream (i.e. sorbolene or aqueous)
• Approx half a cup of alginate. This is the stuff dentists use to make a cast of your teeth, it’s completely non toxic and sets rapidly. It is available from specialist modelmaking and some craft shops, or try your dentist!
• Plasticine or clay (about the size of a golf ball)
• Approx half cup of Plaster of Paris
• Water

1. Lay newspaper down to protect surfaces. Ask model to lie on their back.

2. Thoroughly apply a small amount of moisturising cream in and around belly button (this helps the alginate to move over the skin and release from the skin once set).

3. Place the yoghurt pot with the cut-out base facing up, centrally over the belly button. Gently hold the pot in place at the rim.

4. Measure out the water and the alginate powder, following the instructions on the pack. Depending on the alginate, you will have 30 to 120 seconds after the powder comes into contact with the water and before it sets, so be ready to do this next bit speedily. (nb. Often, it's a good idea to do a practice walk-through so that everyone understands the process).

5. DO NOT allow the alginate to come into contact with any fabric, clothing, carpet curtains or hairy pets etc. it will NOT come out (the Mr has rock solid proof with many ex-favourite t-shirts in his wardrobe. Not that he generally spends his time moulding belly buttons).

6. Add the water to the alginate powder and mix thoroughly and vigorously. Bubbles are fine but lumps are not.

7. With your finger, quickly smear a little of the mix over the belly button then pour in a couple of inches of the alginate, don't be tempted to wash out the mixing bowl or your hands – just let the alginate set, then peel off.

8. Once the alginate has set, ask your model to push out their belly as much as they can. This should release the alginate from the skin. Gently lift off the pot and there you have a perfect belly button ‘negative’ (i.e. an ‘innie’ should look like an ‘outie’ and vice versa).

9. Roll a sausage shape out of the clay/plasticine and flatten it slightly, pinch this onto the rim of the yoghurt pot to form a ‘wall’ 1-2cm high.

10. Mix your Plaster of Paris as per directions on the pack and pour into the walled yoghurt pot mould. Pour it out again. Tap the side of the pot to pop any air bubbles then fill with plaster again.

11. Leave to cure overnight. The following morning, carefully remove the plaster from the pot and peel away the alginate.

Any queries, feel free to email me and I'll handball them over to the expert...

Mail Swappery

I have a theory that posties around the world are getting a bit of a workout what with all the swaps going on at the mo. The second Kid’s Mail Swap is ready to head out our door and you can bet your bottom dollar there will be renewed and vigorous anklebiter interest in all incoming postings for the next while.

The mail my two are sending out is autumny, stamp-tastic and stinky. To any pregnant Mums prone to morning sickness at the receiving end, my heartfelt apologies. Smencils (smelly pencils) were used in the making. Great if you’re a non-pregnant Mum (eco-friendly, non-toxic and manufactured from recycled newspaper), or a kid (they are so, so smelly and include flavours such as ‘Tropical Blast’, ‘Very Berry’ and the truly disgusting chocolate) and even better if you live in the US (where the shipping costs won’t take your breath away).

PS. Thanks once again to Christie at Pigeon Pair for hosting...

Edit/PPS: And another thanks to Christie, because sure enough you can buy Smencils in Australia. Probably also in every department store (there’s an allergy to shopping in this household).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Flying Storks*

A small, sweet, girl-flavoured bundle arrived in the wee hours yesterday. This means I have just watched another deadline whizz by, because the week before, another two small, sweet, girl-flavoured bundles together made their first appearance into the big wide world. In fact, bundles are due to keep arriving thick and fast. Consider yourself forewarned over stork-like flying objects.

I’m yet to settle on a crafted welcome for Isabella and Beatrix but I started Heidi’s not long after I walked into Amitié after a few scraps of loveliness and lo! departed with the ingredients for my first ever (beginner) quilt. The quilty top is finished and the sewing in straight lines, well, straightforward. Apparently, the next step is basting. I’ll be on to that just as soon as I can confirm it has nothing to do with roasting turkey.

* The two Mums concerned should be credited for their somewhat involved part in all this baby delivery milarkey.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Two Armed Bandit

This photo provides a fairly accurate update on the (no-longer) One Armed Bandit/Devil. Except neither words or pictures can quite communicate the whiff of a six week-encased-in-plaster arm. Oh, lucky, lucky you!

PS. Thank you to all for your emailed and ‘commented’ best wishes and to Grandma Myrtleandeunice who is just the best Mum (and grandkid cuddler) ever.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Who’s The Lucky Girl Then?

This one! I am the pleased-as-punch recipient of Curly Pops’ shirt apron giveaway and seriously considering a one-off lottery ticket purchase. I figure my luck is in, in, in, which is a refreshing change from having to buy all the school raffle tickets with nary a thing to show for the lost fortunes. The shirt chest pocket converts brilliantly to a handy apron hip pocket and if I ever want to do cartwheels in it, I’ll undo the front buttons. I was so inspired by my new Kitchen Goddess appearance that I baked Beer Bread. I’m afraid I’m not at liberty to part with the recipe as I was a bit cheeky asking a friend for it in the first place. If it’s not a closely guarded family recipe then it should be.

Thank you Curly Pops for my apron and thank you lovely L for the oft used and way too more-ish, recipe!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Miss Bizzy Britches

Things are Out. Of. Control. at my house. Both the Mr and I are up to the eyeballs in work commitments with silly deadlines. I am itching to get to some crafty stuff, but for the next few weeks I reckon I'll be lucky to achieve one granny square a fortnight (sorry Pip). Having said that, the youngest Myrtleandeunice (relatively speaking), is the busiest by far. I really should attach a pedometer to the kid.

For the last few months there has been the undies-on-the-head obsession. No pile of folded laundry is safe as she rifles through searching for the favourite: her brother’s ‘anty pants’. We have been supermarket shopping with anty pants.

Then there are the potions made from all manner of vile and disgustingness, (she’s only just getting started here but the bugs have already headed for the hills).

Then the fact that she now spends an inordinate amount of time sneaking into the doghouse. With books. Esme is disgusted beyond dog words. Apparently, as far as Esme is concerned, her house has been infected with toddler germs and she’d rather have a bath (oh no she wouldn’t) than go back in her kennel. While I’m trying to figure out a fumigation protocol that our dog will sign off on, she is wearing this little number night and day.

Finally, there’s the attitude. Mostly a joy, but sometimes this child is truly the One Armed Devil. And neither the OAD or her Mum are much looking forward to Thursday’s visit to the hospital to remove a cast and a sticky-out wire on a, hopefully, beautifully mended finger. Gulp.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Autumn: Inside and Out

Right on the eleventh hour, I have come over all autumnal blog overhaul.* And with fifteen sleeps ’til winter, (we don’t do solstice dates downunder), we have had a chilly and breezy leaves-flying-everywhere weekend. Given our house needs a good renovate and is almost as breezy inside, the kids and I decided to bring in the autumn.

Last summer, I pulled out the fried-to-a-crisp, Weeping (sobbing) Cherry from the scorched earth in the garden. I couldn’t bring myself to let it go quite yet. A dead and bewildered looking tree is another sort of inspire wire and perfect for hanging treasures and small person arty bits.

My older kids attend a Steiner school and there is great emphasis on the changing of the seasons, the cycles of nature and the presence of the seasonal table (display with found bits of nature and crafted goodies). Figuring a seasonal tree is a reasonable vertical interpretation, the two big kids set out for leaves in all shapes and colours. Stringing them together kept them busy, while the Whingy One had my attention. An observation: carrying an almost two year old with a whopping great plaster arm cast all day, is bad for the back. Bad for the head, are the concussion-type injuries incurred with all her ‘pointing’ at the Falling Leaves Installation. (Art, that is).

In further autumnal developments, I finally tackled the slightly terrifying envelope containing the latest Amitié Blog VIP Club mail out. I hereby confess, I hadn't a clue what to do with strips of beautiful ribbon and even Googled ‘embellishment’, (you’re really not here for the crafty know how, are you?). The God of Embellishment might be miffed, because I cut the beautiful ribbon into bits. The whole number was a thrown together, caution to the wind, great fun to do, affair.

All said and done, there are many bits I don't like and telling myself the fraying tree/leaves would suit a blustery autumn dress was a blatant lie. What I do like, is the WRONG side of the fabric with the stitchy tree approach. It all needs a bit of an experiment, but without getting too precious and then using felt for leaves, I reckon I could have an autumn dress idea there. Except it’s nearly winter.

* I reserve the right to revert to warm weather blog headers at any time

PS. An ‘OH MY GOODNESS!’ alert: If you haven't already swung by to see some great imagination, photography, craft action and the sweetest red gumboots at work, go visit Jodie at Ric Rac NOW!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Nice Piles (mostly)

1. Granny Squarelets
When is a granny square a squarelet? For some reason, now entirely unfathomable, I decided I was crafting small scale grannies when I started crocheting along with Pip. The thinking was rooted somewhere in the decision to kit out the wooden doll cradle with small funky blankets and the like. A decision beyond logic, what with all that joining pain to come.

2. Top Secret Pile
(My lips are sealed).

3. Autumny Goodness Pile:
That’s not to say that every pile of crispy leaves is filled with goodness. I took great issue when the Mr told the kids not to kick around in the leaves in case of dog, well, poo. Leaf kicking is what autumn is all about, right? I reminded him that, generally, Aussies are pretty good at picking up after their pooches, (he was born in a land far away, where sometimes it’s just too cold to stop to do anything), then promptly jumped in a leaf pile and kicked up a whole big lot of freshly-made badness.

4. Autumny Goodness Non-Pile:
Absolutely no badness in here (thankfully).

Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Giveaway FRENZY!

OK folks, there is some serious comment-leaving and de-lurking to be doing. To celebrate the launch of the new and what promises to be, ‘bees knees’ website SEWN, I and many other crafty types are joining in the Blog Launch Party. All you need do to win loads of crafty giveaways is comment all over the place. Well, the more blogs you visit and comment on, the more chances you have. Here's a step by step guide:

1. Comment here for your chance to win my giveaway Chickummyjig above. The egg is optional.

2. Pop on over here where you can find out more about SEWN, and enter their giveaway.

3. Join in the Blog Launch Party here, or check out those already with a glass of champagne in hand here. Enjoy some blog visiting and leave a comment to enter each giveaway.

Important! Entries close June 8 with winners announced June 9. For all those Anonymous commenters please leave an email address or contact me, so I can avoid magnifying glass-type dissection of writing styles in an attempt to determine who you are.

Phew. Good luck!


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Untangling Copyright

I attended the AGIdeas conference last week and while it took some time to get into the groove, the third and final day was an absolute doozy. With almost entirely, unequivocally brilliant speakers, I walked away on an inspired high, as well as somewhat more in the know, about the thudding down-to-earthness surrounding the protection of ‘intellectual property’.

Trevor Choy, principal of Choy Lawyers, deals in the business of brand protection. Given the sudden intake of breath as he confessed his hourly fee in front of thousands of students, his presentation was based more along the lines of the pre-emptive strike.

Trevor has contributed to the recently published, A Guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’s Graphic Design Industry. Produced by Design Victoria, together with IP Australia and AGDA and designed by Studio Round, the free booklet is an easy to digest, informative heads up, on the logistics of copyright, trademarks and intellectual property protection. While the guide is aimed at graphic designers, the principles are the same in the craft world. While the laws described are limited to Australia, it also points the reader in the right direction concerning international copyright law.

Most will have heard, or have firsthand experience of copycat borrowings and outright plagiarism, (if not, let me tell you it’s like being zapped back to two year old tantrum mode: it’s the blatant unfairness of it all). Many will be aware of the recent debacle involving indie designer, Rosa Pomar and Dutch clothing company Oilily. Excellently, it seems Rosa Pomar ‘won’ that one.

It can also be galling for those in the crafty know, who generously blog their top tips and offer free tutorials. It is only a few who ignore the request for personal use only and rush to sell replicas at the local market or nearest online store. But it is these few who make people like Nicole, at You SEW Girl have a really bad week and need a really “good whinge”. And understandably so.

Interestingly, Trevor Choy noted the psychology involved in dealing with those who ‘borrow’ designs. Apparently, it’s best as an owner of intellectual property to be on your toes and react speedily. Copyright abusers often start out knowing what they are doing is wrong and have a certain degree of discomfort surrounding this. However, as time goes by, there is a tendency to justify and rationalise actions. It is generally easier to put a stop to copyright abuse when people are in the initial throes of guilt, rather than down the track, when they are feeling more comfortable and convinced of their ownership!

PS. A Guide to Intellectual Property for Australia’s Graphic Design Industry is available as a free download here

PPS. As you can imagine, I haven’t dared publish the above images of the ‘guide’ or this blog post without the permission of Design Victoria. I am also in need of an extremely strong cup of tea after all that linking to everyone.

PPPS. Still need to vent? This might help:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Sweet Day AND Eye Spy...What I Am Reading Now

It’s Mother’s Day in Australia today and amazingly, for the eighth year running, I escaped the cup of tea from the hot tap and burnt toast breakfast. That’s one inevitability that will be catching up with me. Instead I was presented with a bundle of cards and craft, including handmade “real and stinky” lavender soap and the obligatory purchases from the school’s Mothers Day stall (I was hit with that $4 bill on Friday afternoon). The sweet treats, above, turned out to be the intended smorgasbord-style, communal breakfast in bed.

I haven’t a clue how we crammed the rest of the day in: walks and play in autumn leaves, Grandma’s for the gathering of the clan. Some impressive bubbles blown...

...and seriously tummy-toning giggle fits:

And that was today.

In the meanwhile, Monique has chosen this week’s Eye Spy – and now I need to confess that since infection by the craft bug, I am not reading a heck of a lot. I have two goodies waiting in the wings and once I finally get going, they will be devoured in the only way I know how. It strikes me, for about the twenty-seventh millionth time, that the ability to simultaneously knit and read is one handy life skill.

I did recently spend an afternoon with the extraordinary Maira Kalman, American illustrator and writer. The Principles of Uncertainty, is most definitely a Sunday afternoon read: team with a cosy lap blanket, tea, baked and buttered somethings and a nippy cold to the outside air.

Maira Kalman: “This is a year in my life profusely illustrated. Abounding with anguish, confusion, bits of wisdom. Musings, meanderings, buckets of joie de vivre and restful sojourns.”

The only bit Maira left out, is the promise of a smile on your face and a skip in your step.

Head on over to Cindy’s to see who else is Eye Spying while reading and knitting...