Friday, July 30, 2010


Lately I seem to see handmade objects everywhere I go. I knew handmade was getting incredibly popular but it's amazing me just how extensive it's getting. It's fantastic and very encouraging to see.

I visited a fantastic new local gallery shop yesterday called Sweets Workshop. They stock fantastic affordable art and decorative objects. I fell in love with pretty much everything there and vowed to look there next time I need a present for someone (hmm, wonder if I could include myself in that ;-) instead of shopping at a big chain store. On their website they say "As designers, our dream is quite simple: to have a space that allows us the freedom to be creative and support fellow independent artists and designers".Link

I bought a copy of Mixtape whilst there. I'd heard of this craft zine but had never had a copy (Chiara, I'm sure you must have this!). It hasn't disappointed me - it is beautifully designed (this is very important in my opinion), it's packed with interesting stuff including tutorials and interviews and is very inspiring. I'll be looking out for it in future, and apparently they have a kids issue (aimed at parents and carers) in the pipeline.

It also seems like lately everywhere I look there are articles about the backlash to consumerism and waste (she says, having just drooled over a shop full of things).

I've felt uncomfortable about all the waste we generate for a while now, so I'm going to try to make a big effort to ask myself if I really need something that I'm considering buying or acquiring. Today I had planned to go and buy some fabric and supplies for a couple of projects I have in mind, but instead I thought I'd make an effort to look in my stash first to see if I could make do... and I found things that will be perfect with a little compromise. Of course we still have to buy stuff (I feel like a permanent resident of the local supermarket), and it's not always going to be possible to compromise or say no, but I guess every bit helps and it works towards changing habits. And stores like Sweets Workshop and The Trading Circle are obviously great options.

I read an interesting blog post recently where the writer said that when she wants to buy something new she asks herself to imagine that landfill doesn't exist and she must get rid of everything she wants to throw out in her own backyard. This helps her to make the decision. Hmm, an interesting thought!

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ikea fabric love - no 3.

Just when I think I have an all-time favourite Ikea fabric another one comes along... I've made only bags out of this so far, but I'm thinking it would also make a great a great A-line skirt, a cuff (of course!) and maybe a cushion cover.

(below & above) A sort of overnight sized bag. Made to take my stuff to hospital when I went into labour with bub. Simple shoulder strap design with zip closure, lined in green cotton.

(below) The first baby bag I made. Lined with dark grey heavy cotton, and using recycled clips, buckle & zips. The fabric started to fade quite quickly with all that strong Australian sunlight from many hours spent in the park, so it's now on restricted use! (it's my favourite)

And a little zip purse lined with red light weight cotton and adorned with a ringed zip and little grosgrain tag.

The fabric
Heavy weight 100% cotton. It's another one from the "Gunilla" collection. The black background with bright flowers is so attractive to me... then add a bird or two and it's just perfect :-)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cooking obsession - bread

Last winter I stumbled upon the famous no-knead bread recipe printed in the New York Times that caused a sensation amongst bakers a few years ago. I loved the bread. It has an open chewy texture and a crunchy crust. And when I found this parmesan olive variation I thought they were all the bread recipes I needed.

Then a friend gave me a sourdough starter and I incorporated that into the no-knead recipe, added all sorts of seeds and enjoyed that for a while, the flavour was lovely.

But while the no-knead recipe was great, next came the super easy, versatile Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day recipe and this has become my staple recipe. The book's on my list to buy, I'm sure the variations would be interesting. If you haven't heard of it, it's basically a dough that you mix in a large container (no kneading again) and keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. When you want some bread you pull out a piece of dough and bake it. That's it! It's so versatile and useful. It takes very little pre-planning, uses very simple ingredients, is quick and tasty.

So I thought I'd show you how I make the basic bread and over time post pics of all the different things I make with it, and possibly inspire you to try it. Maybe I'll do a regular 'bread of the week' post, or something like that - yes, you can call me a bread nerd, I'll happily accept that ;-)

Here's the basic recipe:

Simple ingredients and utensils

This is the quantity I do that fits my container (a 4 litre Decor plastic rectangular tub with lid) and modify the ingredients ratio slightly to the original recipe so that it's a bit wetter.

Mix in a plastic container (one that has a lid) til combined:
4 cups plain flour
1 tablespoon yeast (I like Lowan brand)
1 tablespoon salt

Then stir in 2 cups of warm water til thoroughly mixed so that there are no more dry patches of flour. The mix will look like the pic above and be quite sticky, wetter than a usual kneaded dough mix.

Place the lid on loosely (so air can still escape) and let it sit on the bench top for around 2-3 hours for the yeast to start to activate. The time here is variable depending on how cold or warm your house is and how warm the water was you stirred in. You don't have to be too accurate though, you'll know it's ready when it flattens out in the container as in the pic above. Now put it in the fridge and use it whenever you like. You can actually use it before refrigerating it, the dough's just a lot easier to handle when it's cold.

When you want to bake some, sprinkle some flour on the surface and also your hands (it will be sticky), pull up some of the dough and break it off. You don't want to handle it too much as it's so sticky, so try to be quick.

DON'T knead it, but form it into a ball by pulling it and tucking the edges underneath (there's a video here if you want to have a look). Then shape it into whatever you like (in this case a small ciabatta disk shape). Place onto a piece of baking paper (or a floured tray) and let it come to room temperature (or at least a little while if you can't wait).

Then slide it onto a pizza stone* paper and all (see pic below), into a hot oven of about 220c on the top shelf and cook til it looks nice and brown on top (the original recipe says put it into a cold oven, either way seems to work, it's just quicker with oven already heated). Times vary for what you're cooking - this one was about 15 minutes in my oven. Let it cool at least to warm, so that the cooking process continues, then you're ready to cut it! (finished pic at top of post)

Phew, if you're still with me after this marathon post, that's it. I'll start posting my nerdy obsessive variations from next week, happy baking!

* I was skeptical of stones at first (thought them maybe another unnecessary gadget to clutter my kitchen) til my mum gave me one and then my friend Crafty Deb told me how much she liked using hers. They're available in lots of shops these days and are pretty inexpensive, and as Crafty Deb says, you can just keep it in the cupboard with your baking trays so it doesn't take up too much space (or just leave it in the oven if you're lazy like me). They give a nice even dry heat and can be used for all sorts of breads and baking.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Late night musical inspiration

Up late last night working on a small graphic design project for a friend, I was listening to The Waif's 'London still' on youtube and I stumbled upon another of their songs 'Bridal Train'. I love Australian story-telling songs, Paul Kelly is a favourite of mine, and this song interested me (there's an interview about it with the lead singer here if you're interested).

So I watched the video (work, what work?) and I noticed the great bracelets the singer had on in the opening scenes. They looked just like beads with a bit of red string wound around her wrist, which isn't particularly practical to recreate, but it reminded me of a project I've had in mind for a while... I had a flash of inspiration and had to make this cuff before I went to bed for the night.

I saw a few fabric cuffs recently in a designy shop in Newtown and had a vision of using a great scrap of fabric I've had for ages now to make one. It's from a pack I bought from my favourite Australian textile designer Julie Patterson's company Cloth. It's a pinky-red heavy cotton screen printed with red and white galloping horses (though all that's left of this scrap is the legs... never mind, good for a bit of visual texture).

So I cut the scrap into about a 10cm wide band, cut some wool felt for the backing, sewed around the edges with a few rows of machine stitching, left the pinked edges raw to get a 'deconstructed' look (and not get to bed any later!!). Then, taking inspiration from a post I'd recently seen on Treefall (of some very lovely, not deconstructed, finished, considered cuffs probably not made in the early hours of the morning) I finished it with an elastic and button closure. I went to bed feeling satisfied with my bleary-eyed crafting, but did wonder if I'd still like it in the cold light of day next morning!

Luckily I do still like it (imperfect as it is), and now of course I'm looking at my scraps of printed linen etc and thinking cuffs... but sleep is probably the more sensible option tonight...

my friend the coffee machine

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Street art

Don't you just love street art? These cute skipping girls were enjoyed by us all on our way out of Winterland yesterday.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Weekend excursion - Winterland

Our big girl had been saying that she'd like to go to 'the snow' and also go ice skating one day, and while we can't get to the snow this year, when I saw an ad for Winterland "Sydney's coolest festival" at The Carriageworks we thought we'd take the kids for a look.

I love The Carriageworks as a venue, with it's huge warehouse spaces and industrial feel - plenty of photography opportunities!

And I've been to the design & craft market Finders Keepers, but, while it had a nice feel to it, the Winterland was strangely quiet. We had some afternoon tea, listened to the band a bit and had a look around.

The ice skating sessions were all booked out (maybe people came just for that?) and I couldn't see any sign of the crafting that was meant to be happening on this particular afternoon (did I somehow miss it?). There were some interesting decorative pieces:

And there were a small handful of market stalls, including one with beautifully designed brooches and baubles. I bought a pack of hand screen printed linen scaps (thinking they'd make a nice little feature panel in a zip purse) and happily took them home, but left feeling a little flat for all of the stallholders and wondering what had gone wrong with Winterland - wrong marketing and PR? not enough marketing and PR? just not enough there to hold people's interest? So it was a nice outing but there just wasn't that much to look at or do.

Anyway, we still enjoyed our outing, not least walking back to our car past the lovely iconic skipping girls (pics to come).

Hope you're enjoying your weekend.

Friday, July 23, 2010

12 for $12

Near my house is a charity warehouse that sells pre-loved clothing by the kilogram - $6 per kilo to be exact. Here I've had many happy, slightly frenzied quick Saturday morning shopping sprees.

Armed with a big bag, a few tissues (for the sneezes from the dust) and an open mind, I approach the piled high mounds of unsorted, unfolded garments and start to sort through it. My method for approaching the chaos is to position myself at a vacant section of a bin and look for fabric and colours that appeal to me, then check the style, condition, size etc. Of course you must be mindful of your fellow shoppers. I had a tense conversation with someone over territory recently, it's emotional! And it's particularly busy early in the mornings when the dealers come in to skim off the particularly good stuff.

Since having kids I haven't enjoyed conventional shopping at all, and can very rarely bring myself to pay the price for decent clothes when there are so many other financial pressures on our young family, as most people face. So this place has pretty much been my clothing shop for the past few years. Some of my past treasures include my favourite pink cord fitted jacket, 2 pair of Sass & Bide jeans (1 sold on ebay, one kept), Metalicus tops, grey woolen Witchery cardigan (currently being re-purposed - more on that later), fabric for re-purposing, woolen blanket and linen tablecloth featuring Australian native flowers print.

I visited last weekend for the first time in a while and for $12 (2kg) took home 12 things:

for me:
- petrol blue jersey ruffle top
- black Saba wool cardigan (you can never have too many black or grey cardigans, right?)

for the Mr:
- Ben Sherman shirt

for the big girl:
- school tracksuit pants
- gingham voile shirred summer shirt

for the little girl:
- cheeky monkey pyjama pants

for the baby:
- Minihaha brand shorts

to sell on ebay (when/if I get my act together):
- Kookai geometric pattern wrap dress
- sparkly silver summer top
- jersey butterfly sleeve top

to cut up and make into other things:
- sky blue linen shirt - inspired by a linen patchwork quilt in my new book
- oatmeal coloured linen trousers (maybe to be turned into cushion covers)

It's a curiously satisfying thing to search through a pile of old stuff and find some treasures. Maybe it goes back to the hunter-gatherer thing - I'm gathering, as women do. Well, that's my excuse... do you enjoy gathering?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kids stuff

I saw a set of these childrens size Panton chairs in an ABC shop recently and instantly fell in love with them again. The shop had them around a white circular table, for children to sit and look at the books. As soon as my little girl saw them she squirmed her way out of the stroller and went over to sit in one. Maybe she will share her mother's love of beautiful chairs! I've loved the 1960's design classic Panton chairs since a company I worked for had a set of them. And they are even more adorable in the Junior size. So when we eventually move to a bigger house I will be lobbying hard to get a set of these, and I think I will have a little supporter!

At the ABC shop I bought a copy of Justine Clarke's second CD "Songs to make you smile". We've got her first one and never tire of it. Then recently we heard a couple of songs on the ABC Kids iphone app and loved them (the marketing got us!). They're really happy, lovely songs, and they do make me (and the kids :-) smile. I understand she's about to tour with her latest... might have to check it out.

And this week I posted off a custom order to a lovely customer (thank you Liz!). I really enjoy making things that I know are going to babies and children all over the country and sometime the world. This blanket and toy set is soft and cuddly and I love to think of the newborn baby receiving it. Also, Etsy and Madeit customers are always so friendly and nice to deal with. There seems to be something about handmade items that brings out the best in people. Maybe it's knowing that the craftsperson has enjoyed making it, rather than a machine or a person being exploited. More human I guess.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Finally in favour

A rare moment in my house... BOTH the littlies having a midday nap at the same time!! And with the big girl back at school today, that means a little sacred time to myself. Anyone with kids finds, I'm sure, that when you're faced with some of this precious commodity your mind races "what will I do first? What has been really hard to do with the kids around lately? I'll call my mum, I should probably get onto the washing... again".

But actually, it's a treat just to be able to sit and have a coffee and a piece of the latest nougat (more on that later) and write a blog post without children nagging me for food/craft projects/anything or at 12.30am (have I mentioned there's not so much sleep happening in this house these days?). I might even have a flick through my new Frankie magazine, excitedly bought after my 18 year old niece very kindly assured me that no, I was not way too old for this groovy magazine, and being a 39 year old mother of 3 does not make me too daggy to be in the demographic. Good on her for being such a diplomat!

Anyway, what I thought I'd show you today is a jumper I made for the big girl about a year ago. It's made from the pattern that I based her recent jacket on, as I wrote about in this post, and is true to the pattern with cute little side inserts that make it look kind of pixie-like.

As always with handmade items, when I presented it to her after I'd stayed up the night before finishing it, I lowered my expectations and told myself it didn't matter if she didn't like it - kids are brutally honest and they know what they like and don't like. When she said it wasn't 'pretty enough' I was not too wounded, it was orange and purple afterall, with no frills, tulle or ribbons. She wore it once then I put it away. But, a year on the pink fog seems to be clearing and we are heading out of the exclusively pink/princess stage. Yes, she rediscovered it and wore it all day on her last day of holidays yesterday. It's perfect for scootering and mucking around. I would definitely recommend this pattern. And fleece is so forgiving to sew with - no need to finish seams off if you don't want to, easy to sew and washes well.

Before we went on our recent long weekend away I also made my skirt-mad little girl this skirt to go with tights, so she wouldn't feel left out. Just an elastic waist and a bit of the fantastic Amy Butler fabric as a decorative pocket. My model was a little reluctant to follow any photographic art direction from mamma, but you get the idea.

I hope you've had a little time to yourself today too.
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