Thursday, July 22, 2010

My creative space... random acts of patchwork

After my little whine last week about my lack of space for quilting, I did actually get around to basting my ugly hexagon quilt. And then I stopped. It seems that I only like to think about one step ahead, and I have not yet decided on the pattern, or the method, of quilting (let alone whether I will straighten the edges, give it a border, bin it in disgust or what have you). 

Meanwhile, having finished last week's little filler project, I had to find a new filler project to help me procrastinate. I opted for a bit of patchwork and quilting practice. I raided the scrap piles and decided to make a tea cosy, inspired by a design in this darling Japanese patchwork book, the design of which I approximated. Very approximately.

Perhaps it was my approximating... perhaps it was the design... but it's one HUGE cosy.  I'm afraid it won't keep my poor little tea pot very toasty at all:

It certainly holds far more potential as a husband-cosy....

After fitting it on various objects, both animate and inanimate, I've opted for the toaster-cosy. It fits perfectly. I'm not sure that my toaster really needs a thickly padded, quilted cover... I guess I'll think of it as an elaborate dust-cover instead.

In terms of quilting practice, it was excellent, because it reminded me of the importance of accurate cutting, accurate seam allowances, accurate basting, using the walking foot, accurate quilt design drawing and slow, careful stitching. None of which I did. That's why I've cheekily blurred those photographs!

I think I might be hand-quilting those hexagons....

 But first, I'm off to visit some creative spaces via the lovely kootoyoo.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

7 things that will fascinate your socks off.

In the last week, Sonia from a Light Shade of Green and LJ from With My Own Two Hands have told me seven interesting things about themselves, and in the process passed on the Sunshine Award to me. 

I'm such a sticky beak. I love reading about the details of other bloggers' everyday lives, whether they are fascinating, embarrassing, thought-provoking or down-right mundane. Blog awards drive me a bit barmy, but I do like the ones that afford the writer an opportunity to reveal something new about themselves to blog readers. So I'm graciously (if a bit cynically) accepting my award this time and divulging seven (fascinating!) details of my life to youse all:

1. The night that I met my Beloved, Justin, I went home to my flat-mates and declared that I'd met the guy I was going to marry (even though we hadn't so much as exchanged phone numbers). 4 years of long-distance relationship later, I did. I'm definitely a victim of 'love at first sight'.

2. If I still ate M&Ms (which I don't, sadly, given that they are not Fairtrade, although I may occasionally indulge when they are offered as I hate to see wasteage!), I would eat them in strict colour order. Brown-Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue. I really, REALLY wish they'd brought out purple M&Ms. It would complete me.

3. I'm a Jesus nerd. After some soul-searching in my early 20s, I decided that I  believed in the historical person of Jesus, and found the evidence for his resurrection compelling, so I chucked my lot in with the Bible Bashers. It's a crazy life... but I'm still 100% sold.

4. My middle name is Clare. No 'i'. One 'e'. Get it RIGHT, electoral roll!

5. In past employed lives, I have been an orchestral musician (cello), an administrative assistant, a pastoral worker, a librarian assistant and an editor. I think the last one is the best fit. Meanwhile, I find mothering a hard-enough occupation and will probably leave thinking about other stuff until I'm at least 40, thank you very much!

6. I'm still not sure, given my history of PND, and my desire to live a sustainable life, that I should have any more kids. But I feel like our family isn't yet complete. It's complicated. 

7. Until 2.5 years ago, I thought craft was for repressed losers. 

OK, so now I'm passing the baton to 7 more blogs, some of my regular reads. Don't feel like you have to join in, but at least I would love to know even more about you guys... 

Saturday, July 17, 2010


A little finished project goes a long way in terms of helping creative and domestic frustration subside.

This lovely little bolster cushion was made from an Anette Eriksson kit. It is destined for chez Dillpicklebecause as I made it I could visualize it living on Anna's couch. Plus, she just made my boys some lovely beanies. Hope you like it, Dilly.

 I met Anette at the recent Daylesford Craft Experience and fell in love with her stylish designs.  This one is a  half cross stitch design, very easy to execute. I've never done any cross-stitching but it's pleasantly simple, especially on the lovely open weave of hessian fabric. It's also easy to backtrack if you make mistakes.

Having said that, I did manage to overlook a major error early on, resulting in a need to drop an entire letter from the text in order to keep the symmetry. Can you spot it?

Do I care? Non. It's well-hidden by the cursive text, still aesthetically pleasing, and hopefully not too many Francophiles will be visiting Anna to hurl croissants at her in disgust.

I can highly recommend such a project for anyone else experiencing the work-in-progress blues.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

My creative space...

Thank goodness for small, hand-held projects.

This one* is helping me to stem the tide of creative frustration as I am denied the space to get on with the 'real' projects - the quilts. The ones that require head space for design-tweaking, floor space for basting, table space for cutting, space in the day for machine-sewing, space away from practical demands, household routines, small children, outings, social gatherings. None of these spaces are available to me right now.

But this little blue hoop with lovely tactile hessian and wool thread are. So they are my creative space this week.

More spaces via kootoyoo.

*A lovely cushion kit from Annette Ericksson, the doyenne of stitching on hessian.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Decluttering the groceries, 2010: Slow Food

Back in March, I boldly declared my meal planning intentions as a way of helping my family to nurture sustainable, responsible eating habits. With two small children, one extremely fussy and limited in his food choices, I was seeking a way to streamline our meals, our shopping, and our time. My hope was to avoid food waste, minimize time in the kitchen, and eat seasonally. I subsequently trialled the Table Tucker method of meal planning, which advocates bulk shopping, fortnightly menus, and only cooking three nights a week.

Errr... it didn't last.

There were a few practical reasons why. Shopping and storing in bulk makes sense, but for a family living in a small flat without a car, it was a challenge. Cooking in advance and freezing or refrigerating meals sounded great for freeing up time, but space again is an issue and I found it hard to get into a rhythm with it. I appreciated having the decisions made about what to cook, but found myself feeling a bit creatively stifled. I'm not sure we really wasted less food either. I've learnt that food waste is as much about figuring out what to do with left-over bits and pieces as it is about controlling what I buy in the first place.

The big nail in the coffin, however, was this. Trying to streamline and minimize the place of food and food preparation actually goes against my ideals about how food fits into family life. Just as I've embraced slow fashion, slow transport and slow cloth, I am at heart a Slow Foodie. Slow food is about embracing time-honoured processes, cooking from scratch and avoiding commercially-produced foods, respecting seasonal produce, taking an interest in how things are grown and harvested.

Although I find cooking around my boys frustrating, and I find the constant rejection of my meals wearying, minimizing time in the kitchen is not the answer. If I want my children to one day appreciate fresh, local, seasonal, fair produce, have some skills and intuition in the kitchen, and enjoy the nurturing and celebratory aspects of sharing meals, I need to persist in enjoying the process, instead of trying to relegate cooking to yet another annoying chore.

And so, I'm embracing my inner Slow Foodie, and with it, going back to my fly-by-the-seat-of-the-pants style of not-really-planning. We're back to making trips every few days to the local shops for a few items at a time - pasta, flour, a bit of bio-dynamic meat. To help take some of the decision making away, we're back to getting seasonal 'mystery box' of fruit and vegetables delivered weekly, and using this as the basis for what goes on the table. Sometimes I figure the week's menus out in advance, sometimes I go day by day, and either is OK. I'm trying to use up every last bit of the box before the next delivery, which has meant caramelizing onions, stewing fruits and making random 'stock' with whatever is lying around. We're getting better at using stuff up and being creative with the odds and ends. Most of the time, my kids hate it... sigh. But   they always have, so what's the difference?!

organic chicken carcass and withered vegetable stock...a house specialty! 

We're also getting into the baking... lots of biscuits and cakes, and going strong so far with the artisan bread.

Letting the boys help does, of course, have its downsides...


I have many grand plans for making lots of stuff from scratch. I'm inspired by so many of the wonderful, resourceful, home-cooks I see in blog land... particular favourites include Apron StringsBountifullyDillpickleecoMILFFrog Goose and Bear, With My Own Two Hands, and new-to-me CityHippyFarmGirl and Slow Living Essentials.

Meanwhile, I gotta run. I have rhubarb to stew, pesto to pound, parsnip to stare at uncomprehendingly, cauliflower curry to simmer and a meal to figure out for our plain-eating visitor tonight. Ahhh, inconvenient food... how I've missed you!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

My creative space...where to from here?

It's been a little while since I've managed to join in with kootoyoo's creative spaces round-up. But I really, really wanted to get amongst it today, because I need your thoughts on my hexagon charm quilt.

I've pieced all the hexagons I'm going to piece, leaving me with a small cot-sized patchwork top. I either love it or hate it, but I'm not sure which it is yet!

Now I was thinking about backing the top without a border and leaving the edges tessellated. But as I've been looking at it (kind of in horror) I've realised that there is nowhere for the eye to rest. Because there is no dominant colour, no repeated pattern, no focal point to draw the eye, I've found my eyes bouncing around the quilt top. I like the effect, but I wonder if it might be better to add a plain border to tone it down a bit.

What do you think?

Can you see this with a border?
Do you think a border would tone down the quilt? Should it be toned down?
What about the edges, straight or as they are?
Do you find this quilt horrendous or fabulous? (I can't decide...)

Opinions much appreciated (although of course I will disregard them and do my own thing :))

More creative spaces at Kirsty's house.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Weekend re:cap.

I just spent a weekend away from all three of my boys - a first since I became a mother.

It was a great thing to do for my health, physical and mental. Far from being a weird experience, it felt very normal to be 'unencumbered'. Clearly I have retained some sense of self in this whole parenting caper. I didn't feel lost, fraudulent or naked without a toddler attached to my leg or someone calling me 'mummy'. I didn't go giddy with freedom either. But I did take a while to adjust to making decisions without consultation, and performing routine tasks without explanation; apologies to Sonia, my travelling companion, for my running commentary on my every thought and movement!

Of course, I didn't take photos. It was nice to be in the moment rather than observing the moment from behind a camera lens, searching for the blog-worthy. Therefore I have nothing to show you:

...of breathtakingly beautiful Daylesford
...of meeting two of its most fabulous inhabitants, Beck and Kate
...of trudging about town in my gumboots
...of breathing in fresh air at the lake
...of running into numerous Northside Makers
...of good coffees and conversations with my travelling companion
...of saving Tania's bladder from self-combustion at the Maker's Market
...of stitching, reading and reflecting in front of an open fire
...of delicious shared plates and laughter
...of a Sunday full of stitching and fun at the Daylesford Craft Experience.

I do however have three mementos of my weekend escape:
 a finished hexie quilt top
a nice warm handmade cap
and a smile.