Friday, April 18, 2014

Crafted Hand Towel Revival?

Remember those hand towels you used to see at every fete and local market stall? The ones with the embroidery in pastel shades and crochet edges? Well, they have NEVER been my cup of tea.

But the other day I finally hung up some art in the laundry, an old pair of small watercolour paintings of Russian peasants in their folk costumes, reframed into the original moulding. My laundry is ugly (ugly tiles, paint colour & bench top), but it has lots of room and storage and one of these days we'll get around to renovating it but for now cheap quick fixes are the order of the day.

It made the room feel so much nicer! I couldn't believe I'd chosen to go so long without art in the laundry. Then my eye was caught by the grotty stained hand towel hanging on the rail next to it......blughr. "Something must be done about this" I thought.

So I bought a charcoal coloured hand towel (great for hiding stains!) and sewed a scrap of my Mexican Blanket fabric in Tamale from my Frida Collection onto the bottom. Then I added some pom pom trim in teal - is it just me or are you a little smitten with pom pom trim?
I think some gorgeous ribbon would also work great or a strip of vintage embroidery perhaps?

At last! Something nice to look at in the laundry
close up of my up-crafted hand towel and a vintage linen one I thrifted
Festive clothes Kaluga province Late 19th Century - watercolour, artist unknown
Festive costume Oryol province Late 19th Century - watercolour, artist unknown
Much Better! Now my ugly laundry is a little cuter and definitely a nicer place to be.
So hows about starting a little crafted hand towel revival?


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Make - $10 DIY Woven Planter

Last week I finally got my hands on a lovely fiddle leaf fig for the lounge room. I tracked down a nice sized one (around waist height) for a really good price online at Hargraves Nursery and it arrived just a few days later by post! Who knew you could post a tree?!

I've been drooling over some woven planters on Pinterest lately but I'm not quite prepared to pay $60+ for one just yet, so I rummaged around in my brain and came up with a cheap alternative:

And it only took 2 minutes to make it!

I'm sure you can get these stripes lined up better than i did! 

All you need is a small rug/bathmat that is nice and thick or stiff so that it holds its shape quite well.
I found mine at the Reject Shop for $10. Make sure the width of the rug is more than half the size of the circumference of the widest part of the pot. If you have a sewing machine it will take you 2 minutes to make the planter, if you need to sew it by hand it might take a little longer.
Simply fold the rug in half, good sides together and sew up both sides leaving the top open.
Turn your planter bag inside out and shape as required. I pushed the corners in a little so they don't stick out so much, you can get a really nice crumpled bag effect if that's your style.
That's all there is to it! Just make sure you have a bucket/tray/bowl under your plant pot, inside your planter to catch any water overflow.

Turn that cheap scatter rug (who the heck scatters rugs?) into an on trend woven planter. (You can see my before and after curtains in this shot too, hopefully it's obvious which is which).

Some other ideas for sprucing up a plant pot:

  • Use an old hessian/jute sack, potato sack or coffee sack, roll the top over.
  • Have an old kilim rug with stains you can't remove? Use it to make a planter bag and position the stains under the pot so they don't show, or cut it up and use just the good parts.
  • Use a flat woven bath mat and add to it by doing gigantic cross stitch patterns into it!
  • Try using a plain/"logo free" Kraft paper yard waste bag rolled down at the top.
  • Want a shabby chic look on a budget?  Sew a cuff of floral fabric to the top of a plain sack.
  • Don't like the print on a feed sack? turn the sack inside out and add your own artwork with stencils, stamps, Sharpie pens or dip it into paint.

There are so many things you could do, the possibilities really are endless.
Get inspired then find your materials and try it! You might be really surprised at what you come up with.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Fly Agaric - The Classic Fairytale Mushroom

I had an awesome find at the local charity shop the other day. A matching set of ceramic kitchen canisters with little mushrooms sprouting from the lids as handles!

Ceramic canister mushroom set I scored for $6

There is just something about about the Fly Agaric (Amanita Muscaria) fungi that has captivated human fondness despite its toxic reality.
The fungus is deadly if taken in sufficient quantities, but used to be used by many different cultures to induce hallucinations.

The first memory I have of this iconic mushroom was in Transition (the year before Kindergarten for kids too young to start Kindy), in those days we used to have a nap in the middle of the day and students were to bring in a pillow to snuggle on/with at nap time.
My mother sewed a small pillow for me using fabric that had a screen-printed forest scene with tiny Fly Agaric mushrooms popping up here and there. That fabric has stayed in my mind for 30+ years! I have even dreamed of being back in the classroom trying to find the treasured pillow - no doubt a subconscious longing for simplicity and comfort! If only I could find a piece of that fabric today!!

Next, the Fly Agaric appeared in the beautiful illustrations of Ivan Bilibin in vintage Russian fairy tale books such as Vassilisa the Beautiful published in Moscow in the 1970's.

My battered old copy of Vassilisa the Beautiful with Illustrations by Ivan Bilibin

The hideous Baba Yaga was the witch of the story, fierce and at the same time wise, she would fly through the forest in a wooden butter churn.

The terrifying Baba Yaga in her butter churn

In the image in the book I used to ogle as a child, the Fly Agaric mushrooms seem to sprout up around her and her wooden house with chicken legs that could move through the forest. They were used by the artist as a symbol of danger and perhaps evil. I guess they are coloured the way they are to be a warning, so it does make sense that they are used as a sign of danger but not so much sense that they are used as homes for Smurfs to live in.

Another example of the Fly Agaric being used to symbolise danger is in Little Red Riding Hood retold and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. This book has the most beautiful illustrations and has been a favourite of mine for many years.

Trina Schart Hyman's illustration of Red Riding Hood meeting the Wolf

Then of course when I was in my early teens I was pretty keen on playing Super Mario Kart on the old Super Nintendo with my twinno. And even though he was one of the slowest characters, I couldn't
resist choosing to be Toad (Kinopio in Japan) which is an animated red/white mushroom.

Toad from Mario Kart, slow but Super cute!

Around 10 years ago I happened to be driving with my parents and husband when we noticed Fly Agaric mushrooms growing by the side of the road under some silver birch trees. They were actually in the front garden of an office building on the main street of Canberra! My wonderful family actually went out of their way to pull over and collect some specimens for me to paint in watercolour.
Passers by must have thought we were insane, mushrooming for toxic fungi in the front garden of the NRMA insurance company!!

I hope with all of the rain this part of the country has seen in the past few weeks I will be able to see more Fly Agaric soon.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Paint it Black

I don't know if it's from watching the Block too much or if I just really need to see some change in the house but I've started seeing in Black & White. It may also have something to do with the fantastic interior decoration book by Celerie Kemble (yes, her real name!) - Black & White (and a Bit in Between) that I keep going back to.

I don't mean that literally of course but I keep visualising my living areas being predominantly in shades of black, white and grey with some colour and wood tones thrown in here and there.
I think it appeals so much because it is really easy to make it work and so much simpler than trying to work out if certain colours will work together. Of course being a crafty artsy kinda gal I still need my pops of colour to brighten things up!

I scored some great thrift store/op shop gems that I have been busily painting black, all the while humming that great Stones song to myself.

First to noir was an old ornate picture frame that had an incredibly daggy airbrushed gold finish that made me think of awful orange/yellow/brown combo 1970's office decor - scored at Salvo's for $10)
I hand sanded it back lightly and used a student quality acrylic paint to get a nice matt charcoal black finish. When it had dried I used fine sandpaper to take the paint off just on surface edges at the ornate corners and in places along the lengths between (best done by wrapping sandpaper around a pencil and dragging it down edge).



Now I just need to order a bevelled edge mirror and hang it!

Next item for refurb treatment: a fantastic old telescope tripod (minus the scope)
I have loved those tripod style lamps for years and even those these days they seem to be everywhere, they are still pretty pricey. I came across this wooden painted tripod at my local recycle centre for $2!
This time I need to remove some black paint to show up the woodgrain.
I initially tried using an orbital sander on it (lazy choice) and almost ripped chunks out of the wood so ended up hand sanding.

Half way through sanding black paint from an old telescope tripod

ahhhh, pretty woodgrain! 

I'll use a furniture wax over the wood to seal it and bring out the warmth of the wood and strangely enough I actually already have a light (scavenged for free!) that can fit in the top of the tripod.
All I need is a piece of dowel to attach it and Bingo Bango... $2 tripod lamp :)

Damn I love a bargain.

Now I'm off to see what else I can paint black. Will post update photos asap.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Home Sweet Home!

We are all back home after a campervan holiday in New Zealand, and surprisingly we managed not to drive each other mad in a confined space for 10 days!
This is our approximate route through the north and south islands:

First Impressions of New Zealand: vegetation everywhere, kind people, amazingly clean water!

My first impressions held up throughout our journey, the people in New Zealand are so genuine and kind. Any time we needed assistance with something people were more than happy to help out and the courteous behaviour of drivers was refreshing.
Perhaps it's because I'm accustomed to this wide brown land of ours but everything in NZ seems to be so green and fertile!

So here is a breakdown of my favourite things in the places we visited.

Auckland city
A huge amount of heritage buildings throughout the city providing architectural interest, including a great number of old theatres.

Hamilton area
Waitomo glow worm caves was magical! We all walked through a very accessible pathway through the caverns and were given some great info by our guide. The end of the tour saw us step down into a boat where we were silently punted around a water filled cavern below constellations of glowing larvae!!

Deep in this picturesque rural landscape lies the Hobbiton film set as used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Hobbit films. The sheep farming family who own the land the set was built on have negotiated with the film company to run guided tours through the property. Anyone who has seen the films or read the books must visit this location. There has been an incredible amount of work put into the village to make it look inhabited by Hobbits, and you can just about imagine that you've stumbled upon the hobbit homes just after the owner has gone for a bite to eat at the Green Dragon Inn. The tour includes a free on tap beer or ginger beer at the Inn which is an enchanting place to be.

Geology in action! One of the first things you notice is of course the smell, the sulphury stink gets easier to bear as you become accustomed but my sinuses were suffering by the end of a day here.
It was almost like living in a Flintstones cartoon, minus the stone cars and dinosaurs of course. Steam poured out from cracks in the earth, bubbling mud pools dotted the landscape and combined with the tropical vegetation it felt as though we had stepped back in time to the prehistoric era.

Bathed in outdoor Thermal pools that looked like giant Midori cocktails.

home to some seriously cool cafes and shops, loads of antique shops too.
Best shop in town was Gathered, a shop on Tennyson Street owned and operated by Nikki Gabriel a talented textile artist and designer. I purchased a pair of wonderful chunky reclaimed Rimu knitting needles and knitting pattern here. Find Nikki online here.

The botanic gardens were beautiful and the cable car to/from the city a great way to get an overview of this fantastic little city. I like to think of it as a mini Melbourne.

Moromangi Bay
A quiet little place of great beauty on the edge of Queen Charlotte sound recommended to us by new friends we met on the ferry over. I can't think of a better place to wake up in :)

Best camp site for travellers with kids EVER! We parked under a 100+ year old chestnut tree and had dinner made for us in a mobile wood fired pizza oven.

Westprt Seal colony
We watched a colony of fur seals (New Z(S)ealand's namesake) with mamas feeding their babies on the rocks.

A trip to the Monteith's brewery included free tastings of their wonderful brews.
The food here was outstanding and quite inexpensive to boot.

Arthur's Pass
EPIC. was like driving into a scene from Lord of the Rings.

So utterly devasted. The city that is not me. I had no idea of the extent of the damage caused by the earthquake in 2011. The biggest shock for me was that so little appears to have been rebuilt.
Seeing all the empty businesses and apartments I wonder where all of those people went. Very sad.

So that's my quick roundup. We didn't get anywhere near the glaciers this trip but are determined to come back and see more. I LOVE New Zealand and will never make silly sheep jokes again, as far as I'm concerned they are some lucky sheep.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

From Russia with Love (& Tractors) Quilt!

I mentioned this quilt in a previous blog post and spoke about the inspiration behind it here.
The quilt is now quilted (Thanks to Jeannette at The Quilting Platypus) in a simple modern wavy line pattern, binding hand finished and label sewn on!

I was able to use it on my bed for night and then it was begged off me by a persistent 5 year old, and has stayed on his bed ever since. It rather swamps his single bed...oh well, at least he likes it!
Perhaps I'll get it back when I make the next one and someone takes a fancy to it.

Turkish Crush quilt with fabrics by Bee & Lotus 
As I mentioned in the last post about it, the quilt design is Turkish Crush by Kathy Doughty which can be found in her wonderful book Making Quilts. I made some minor alterations and of course used different fabric, in fact my own fabric design collection "From Russia with Love (and Tractors)" that is available exclusively at my spoonflower shop.

I also hand-dyed some fabric an indigo colour and used Anna Maria Horner's Postage Due fabric in Toast for the back of the quilt.
As the front has quite a lot going on, I left the back of the quilt quite plain but added a corner of indigo and flying geese blocks to create a pretty turnover. I used the indigo fabric for the binding too, except on that turnover corner (top right) where I used the AMH postage due fabric for contrast.

My favourite aspects of Kathy Doughty's quilt design are the use of varied whites, off-whites and greys for the white areas of the quilt and the creation of purposely wonky flying geese and diamond blocks.
This adds a beautiful feel to the quilt that gives it the look of something you would find in a antique stall at a Turkish bazaar.

This quilt is definitely a keeper and I look forward to my grandchildren snuggling into it with me when I'm old and grey.


PS. I now have a mild obsession with mustard yellow paired with purple!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Quilt for baby Abigail

This week I finished making a quilt for a little treasure of a baby girl: Abigail.
I used a fat quarter bundle of one of my favourite fabric collections at the moment, Fort Firefly by Teagan White for Birch Fabrics.
The collection is full of adventure and beauty, fireflies, moths and the sweetest little forest nymph of a girl with rosy cheeks and scraped knees. I couldn't resist it! So when I heard of the birth of baby Abigail I came up with a design and have been sewing away until now, yes it has taken me that long!

As well as using Teagan's lovely collection, I have used some other fabrics new and vintage. I must say that I'm in love with the backing fabric which was a vintage but unused sheet, it has the most wonderful soft texture. I hand quilted this one which was lovely as I was able to sit on the couch in front of the telly!

I hope Ms Abigail loves it and comes to treasure it and I wish her all the beauty and adventure possible in her travels through life.
big smoochy kisses from "aunty" Clair