Monday, February 28, 2011

Showgirl framed

Some of you may remember I bought Showgirl at the end of last year. Original plan was to buy a few more similar prints and then have them all framed and hung together. Plans change. Particularly when fabulous frame was spied and purchased for just $8 at Rozelle Markets a few weeks back.

After a couple of coats of Porter's Industrial Lustre and painting the the backing wood grey (a mix of black and white acrylics picked up cheaply at the newsagent), Showgirl is ready for her solo performance on the wall.

Friday, February 25, 2011

To knit or not to knit

The Child would have been horrified. I took my knitting to dull the wait of the train to the city yesterday. It's hardly a long wait, thanks to the TripView app, or a long trip, as Town Hall station is only a few stops away, but the journey provides the perfect opportunity to get a few rows in.

The WIP in the photo will be a hot-water bottle cover made with the beautifully tactile Debbie Bliss Cashmerino wool. I'm a novice knitter and this pattern was my first (and so far only) attempt at knitting in the round. I was so proud of the original one I made a couple of years ago that this is my third variation.

Here's the free pattern. If also a beginner, don't be put off by the eyelets or anything else in the pattern as I was able to follow directions from another book I have and there is always loads of help online. Honestly, it was easy.

I'm being adventurous and inserting stripes (so far, so good) this time around. The covers knitted up beautifully when I used a 14-ply wool such as the pattern specifices. This time I'm using 10 ply. But that's just my interpretation of living life on the edge.

Tip: A ribbon can be used where the pattern calls for the making of a crochet cord.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

On a lighter note

Jennifer at Whiteport has offered STSP readers a 20 per cent storewide discount.

A small Australian enterprise run from Sydney's Northern Beaches, Whiteport is a little treasure trove of homeware covetables, such as bed, bath and table linen in neutral colours and natural fabrics, which Jennifer correctly guessed, would be right up my alley. Or my bedroom. Or my bathroom.

The offer is open for a week and the discount is activated by entering the coupon code 'BLOG' at the checkout.

Pictured above are the Crest small ruffle linen cushion (50cm x 30cm) and Crest linen square scatter cushion (50cm x 50cm), in natural, both $89.95 before discount.

Image by Whiteport

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Yesterday, the brother-in-law, the Husband's younger brother, a school principal, left his house to go to work. His lovely wife dropped our two young nephews, aged 7 and 5, off at school and even younger niece at daycare and headed to work in the city. The city of Christchurch.

At lunchtime, as we all know, everything changed. Our five eventually made contact with each other and established everyone was fine. The lovely wife managed to get to the kids while the brother-in-law stayed at his school until the last scared, frightened and often bloodied parent collected their child from his care.

He then set off for home on foot as broken bridges and twisted roads made driving impossible. When he got there, he found that their beautiful home was no more. Gone are children's first drawings, favourite toys, sweet words on cards.

Finally together, the three terrified children and two adults in shock sought shelter at a friend's house, which shook an unbelievable 23 more times throughout the night - once even hitting 5 on the Richter scale.

The family is now on its way to relative safety five hours away at the Husband's and brother-in-law's parents. Many are worse off. Many are still trapped. Many are missing. Many are dead. Our five are alive but hurting.

We can only now hope that the earth stands still and the worst is over. And we do. So very, very much.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Spice girl

I did away with storing spices in jars a couple of years ago because, if you use a lot of them like we do, they just take up too much room. It was also hard to find what you were looking for without picking up each jar or, in the Husband's case, waving his huge paw through them all like a bear trying to snare a fish.

So I bought two CD boxes from Smiggle, several packs of dividers from Kikki K and created my own alphabetical system. Now everything's easy to find. Even when the Husband uses the quickest of man looks.

Initially thought one box would be enough but no, thanks to many spices that begin with 'c'. The first box contains a-c spices only, I kid you not. The volume is bumped up thanks to cumin seeds, curry leaves, chilli powder, dried chilli, ground cumin, cinnamon quills, cardamom pods, whole cloves, ground coriander, brown Indian cardamom pods, celery seed, ground cloves, ground cardamom, whole coriander seeds, ground cinnamon. I could go on. But I won't.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cool change

A change blew through Sydney last night and cooled the city down, which is, of course, a good thing. But I also think our legendary sticky Februaries are a good thing. Not because I like to be uncomfortable and toss and turn throughout the night but because I think it's Sydney's way of preparing us for winter. Otherwise it would be just too hard to say goodbye to summer.

If the weather was perfect I couldn't bear the thought of the end of barbecues in the park on balmy Saturday evenings, the end of dives into the cool of the Pacific on a Sunday morning and the end of doors and windows left open all day and night filling the house with the sounds of summer: magpies warbling and carolling and the sometimes deafening din of cicadas. To wish that away would be just too depressing. Enter humidity to make that wish much easier.

When it's cooler I'll be pottering around in the garden, which is why I dug these Kabwares spoons out of overgrown pots yesterday so they'll be ready to mark where I've thrown seeds when the time comes.

These garden markers, $25 for the set, are made by husband and wife team Alister and Jane Fitchett, who sell their very cute Australian-made stuff on Made It. Whatever the weather, I think these would be great presents. For non-gardeners there are spoons printed with words such as 'live, love, laugh', which could be turned into an original artwork if mounted into a box frame.

A post-February project, perhaps?

Friday, February 18, 2011


I used to have a nice, neat benchtop with wooden spoons, etc, tucked away in drawers. Problem was the rattling around in drawers looking for stuff was irritating.

So I pulled the spoons out and popped them in a big white jug, which soaked up everything. For a while. The currants container was picked up at Milton during the summer holidays and was perfect for the overspill.

Just one last glass jar, I whispered to myself like an addict, to contain all the old cutlery...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Feeling twitchy

Every day this week I've woken at dawn thanks to a group of rainbow lorikeets who like to breakfast in the bottlebrush tree that grows outside our bedroom window. By 6.30-7.00, they've moved on but not before we've had time to make cups of tea and watch them from our bed.

These paintings come from the 1984 book What Bird is That?, which the Child insisted the Husband buy me for Christmas when she spotted it at Mitchell Road Antiques. It's a massive book with 430 paintings by Neville Cayley whose dream was to create a book containing images and text on every single bird in Australia.

Cayley died in 1950 having completed the paintings but not the words. His project may have taken another 30-odd years to come to fruition but some clever twitchers made it happen - and the book is a joy.

I don't know a lot about birds but can recognise those that visit our garden, thanks to the easy-to-use Birds in Backyards site. Our garden may be small in human terms but big enough for at least 10 different species of native birds to pop in regularly, not including a family of doves who've made a nest in the jasmine that snakes along the back fence, and that's worth every dawn squawk and squeak.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Filed away

As my home office is in an open-plan area of the house I need my files, folders, etc to look good, which is why I like these Ecoboard ring binders from Officeworks. Nice price, too, as the big lever-arch folders are just $4.99.

What I don't like are the labels on the spine, which can't be removed. However, they can, of course, be painted over. Much nicer.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pot luck

Made sure to keep watering this geranium during Sydney's heatwave and now I'm being rewarded with deep red flowers popping up all over it.

The pot is an original 50s/60s one that I inherited when my mother downsized from her home. It lived on the verandah of that house my whole life and was home itself to several azaleas over those years. As I don't share her love of azaleas, the plant that was in it was put into the ground before the house was sold.

If my daughter wants the pot one day, then it's hers. If not, I'm sure it'll find a good home elsewhere having already served two generations of this family well.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Tray elegant (better, at least)

Have had this tray for ages as it fits perfectly on the backrest of the couch where it's pretty much out of view. But I could see it and the view was becoming less appealing over the years.

Had just about reconciled myself to tossing it when I decided to paint the inside instead. Dipped into my stash of test pots and two coats of Catherine Martin's Salt Marsh for Porter's Paints later, it's happily back on the couch where it belongs.

To do something similar, have a damp cloth handy to wipe paint off rim and inside handles.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Crowning glory

I'm not a big fan of Le Forge as I think it's seriously overpriced for what it is. However, they do good sales and I've picked up a few bargains over the years.

Yesterday I came home with this set of three zinc planters for $20 (tallest one is 32cm tall). Not sure what I'll use them for yet. Possibly in the garden (after punching some holes in the bottom) as I like the idea of thyme sprouting from the top of the crown like unruly hair. Maybe I'll fill them with sand, pop in candles and put them on the deck or by the front door. Even thinking I can store balls of wool in them and put them on the mantelpiece.

For now I'm just happy looking at them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Iron maiden

I like ironing - in the right atmosphere and with the right accoutrements. Atmosphere is created by making sure I'm alone and there's a good feel-good movie on hand. Accoutrements are attractive ironing board cover, smooth iron and softly scented water. I'm then in the zone. I may even possibly go cross-eyed like when a cat kneads its bed with its paws.

I don't go in for expensive ironing water. Instead, I add a splash of orange-blossom or rose water to a spray bottle and I'm away. When my last plastic bottle broke down, I just screwed the squirty part onto an empty bottle and it fitted perfectly. Feels good, looks good.

Tip: A splash of orange-blossom or rose water in a tub lifts an ordinary bath into a steamy Turkish delight.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bright spark

I've mentioned before that I'm uncomfortable using paraffin candles. Wasn't expecting to find a viable natural alternative in the toilet spray aisle of Woolworths.

I picked up two candles yesterday and found that the ugly labelling on the glass vanilla soy candle would take about half a second to remove and that the pillar candle was made with palm wax sourced from sustainable regenerated forests. Which is good as not keen on killing orangutans for the sake of some evening sparkle. So in the trolley they went.

The pillar candle is slightly too orange for me to buy again but the soy one is working out nicely sitting among my perfumes. It may not be Diptyque or Jo Malone but, at $7 for 23 hours of burning time, I'm more than okay with that.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Coffee break

I love pudding bowls. I have them in all different sizes and use them for everything from mixing cake batters, eating breakfast cereal, yoghurt and berries, as well as for dips and crackers when friends are over. My favourite use, though, is for my mid-morning coffee.

The smallest size is around $5 from cookware shops and the perfect size for coffee and, because they really are pudding bowls, contain the heat so are not hot to the touch.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Where's Wally?

The Child and I couldn't find The Cat. We called, we checked all the favourite places, we just about gave up. The Child sat down at her desk to do some homework while I continued to look.

The Cat had gone to sleep in the basket the Child uses for paper recycling and had been either completely ignoring us or in a deep sleep. Possibly both, knowing cats.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fringe benefits

I bought this tablecloth a year ago, but it had never been quite right. Nice grey linen but it looked strangely formal every time I put it on the table. So I took to the edges with scissors and created fringed edges. Much better.

I don't usually do this with proper tablecloths but have used the technique on large pieces of linen I've picked up in the past at No Chintz and Mokum sales. By cutting off the selvedges, it's easy then to just pull threads out from all four sides one by one until you get a deep fringe. No sewing required.

Tip: Pulling threads out individually is easier than trying to do several at once as they tend to become tangled.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feeling the felt

Stumbled across a great shop after dropping the Child off at school this morning. Calico & Ivy in Balmain has been open for only four weeks and I can see it's going to become a favourite haunt of mine.

Thanks to the beautiful modern vintage styling and full of fabrics from the likes of Liberty, Amy Butler and Anna Maria Horner, the best selection of craft books I've seen in one place at the one time and a large array of Rowan yarn in the most delicious, colourful shades, Calico and Ivy is a crafter's dream stop. Feels a bit like My Place in Bowral.

As I really did just find it by driving past, today was just a quick pit stop to check the place out. I did leave with a square of dark grey Heather Bailey felt for $4 (again, comes in lots of colours from jewels to naturals) to solve a little problem I'd been having with my credit cards.

Before Christmas, I'd picked up a raffia zip purse from Country Road. Exactly the right size for notes, I could also throw my phone and keys in. Only trouble was the four cards I need to have on me (have a whole other pouch for all the store cards) as they would rattle around in the purse. Not any more.

Came home, cut two lengths of felt and then sewed them together using a big, red stitch. Problem solved. Shop found. New problem created as I suspect I'll be pulling out the new credit card pouch quite often in Calico & Ivy.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ikea fabric find

I've become slightly addicted to Ikea's Ragna fabric. It's a 56% linen/44% cotton mix that's 45cm wide and hemmed at the sides. And it's just $4.99 per metre.

I first bought two 1 metre lengths in the white and natural colourways and then hemmed them to use as hand towels in the bathroom. Loved them so much went back and bought a few longer lengths to use as table runners. Today I dipped into a one metre length of the light blue for a third towel.

Would also make great placemats and napkins. If ever there was a beginner's sewing project, this is it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Hanging around

I used to throw away the wire coathangers that came back with the drycleaning. Then I started covering them with strips of fabric, which serves three purposes:

1. Thin-strapped clothing no longer slips off coathanger;
2. Reusing stuff = less landfill;
3. They look good.

These are so easy to make and takes about 10 minutes max. Good front of the TV job. Here's how:

Cut fabric into strips of about 1cm.

Apply a spot of craft glue to coathanger and wrap fabric strip round the glue quite tightly a couple of times. Just hold in place for about 10 seconds or stab with a pin or attach a peg. (I've used a pin so my hands weren't in the way but I usually just hold it in place.)
Keep wrapping strips tightly around the coathanger, being sure it overlaps each time. When you come to the end of a strip, attach it to coathanger with another spot of glue and start a new strip right over the top of that.

(I hadn't come to the end of a strip in the pic above but had to use pin as the strip would have unravelled as I was taking the shot and you would have thought I was just silly...)
Keep going all the way around and finish with a spot of glue and hold, or peg or pin, in place till dry.