then the Cup, the Cave and then

Looking for an opportunity to dress up and have fun? Can't do better than the Races!

Looking for an opportunity to dress up and have fun? Can’t do better than the Races!

I probably need to decode that, don’t I? The photo was taken at Derby Day.

If you’re in Australia, or possibly if you’re an avid horse-racing fan, you’ll know what’s coming up this week: The Melbourne Cup. In metropolitan Melbourne, it’s a public holiday. Elsewhere, we down tools for an hour or so. We have sweeps at the office, enjoy a chicken-and-champagne lunch while we watch the race and might also have silly-hat competitions and things of that ilk. Of course, it’s not without its problems and detractors and there are undoubtedly good reasons for that.

And if you’re in South Australia, you’ll know that after the Cup, it’s time for the Pageant and the Man in Red taking up residence at the Magic Cave. This year, his plaster equivalent, the one that once upon a time was on the portico of the relevant department store, will be greeting shoppers from a new locale at the Central Market. And the next C after that? Yep, it’s that one associated with tinsel. Cripes, is roughly my reaction to that idea. I’ve been watching people’s posts about how few shopping days there are left. This morning, though? Someone posted, “Next month” and I thought, well, hasn’t that come along quickly?

As I say every year, no, it hasn’t. Christmas is a fixed feast. Unlike Easter, it doesn’t change from year to year. But, yeah, heck, doesn’t last Christmas feel like it was only yesterday? And I’m sure it’s not a year since I had to fossick around and pull out the Advent calendar but, you know, it obviously is.

Sewing plans? Knitting plans? Crafting plans of any sort? Uuuh, no. Mostly, I plan to get to Christmas without killing myself or anyone else. That will rank as enough of an achievement this year, I think! What about you?


Posted by on November 1, 2015 in Musing


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a photo and some footnotes

It's a slightly fuzzy image but it illustrates the finished product

It’s a slightly fuzzy image but it illustrates the finished product

It was probably merciful that I was busy with bunting, because we’ve had more internet problems. Unfortunately, we’re still having them so my ability to share photos of the bunting is limited but I hope the above gives you a fair idea of what it looked like.

I said that finding an adequate space for cutting was my biggest challenge and in purely practical terms that’s probably true. My truly biggest challenge, however, was being a full-time worker with a lengthy, twice-daily commute. It was, simply, difficult to fit a lot of sewing into my available spare time because there wasn’t much of it.

All the same, I was very pleased with the finished product (actually, extremely chuffed; and even YoungB commented how nice it looked). There were several comments from other guests about how good it looked, which was also very nice. But, most important of all, the bride and groom loved it. You couldn’t put a price on that :)


Posted by on October 12, 2015 in Sewing


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almost absolutely random

A tiny part of what I've been doing, but I love the colour combination in these lavender bags :)

A tiny part of what I’ve been doing, but I love the colour combination in these lavender bags :)

Hellooo, here I am again. Did you miss me?! I’ve been to the cinema a couple of times and one night I made those lavender bags to be a raffle prize (nine bags, a bit over 2 hours of work; nobody would be prepared to pay what that would cost). I used stash fabric and some truly venerable ribbon, which came from Great Aunt’s stash and is possibly older than I am. I squashed all nine into a fancy, little presentation box with a handwritten label that read, “Lavender bags: stick ’em in your drawers :)”. I hope whoever picked that particular prize thoroughly enjoys it.

Mostly, however, I’ve been sewing a lot of metres of wedding-decoration bunting: approximately 270, to be precise :) Without further ado, let me deconstruct the process somewhat.

Because we weren’t sure about what would work in the space, we rough-calculated we’d need 15-metre strips and I made 18 of them, to ensure adequate coverage. Mission accomplished. There were enough leftovers to decorate one of the outdoor areas as well, plus hang a little strip across the front of the bar.

Another guest asked if there’d been a pattern to the way I sewed the bunting? I responded that it had been almost absolutely random; and before the purists beat me up and insist it’s either random or it’s not, let me explain.

There were plain and striped triangles cut from the large amount of hessian that Eldest Niece provided; two different sorts of lace triangles, cut from some leftover curtaining that was lurking in my stash; and a lot of lace strips cut from the continuous rolls provided by Eldest Niece. I cut and counted every bit of bunting, and divided each total by 18. That gave me a count per item, per tape. Unsurprisingly, there were leftovers, so they were totted up and that total divided by 18, then all of those put into an “add a couple of these to each tape” container, meaning from the outset that no two tapes were likely to be the same.

Dr B helped me square up my sheeting so I could cut it into tapes and purchased an A0-sized self-healing cutting mat for me (at my request; also some new pinking shears). YoungB helped with picking piles prior to sewing and accompanied Dr B to pick up the cutting mat whose delivery they’d missed. They put up with my eating and running – that is, I’d get home from work, have tea with them and vanish into the sewing room till bedtime – and didn’t complain too much about my moving their cycles from the hallway so I could set up my cutting station on the only large, solid bit of floor in the house. Finding an adequate space for cutting was probably the biggest challenge, although I’ve since had some brainwaves around old doors and sawhorses; but with a template made from a plastic chopping sheet, my new metre ruler and the large cutting mat, I managed to get the job done.

Once all the tapes were sewn – five three-metre x 2.5 cm strips joined to form a tape just under 15 metres in length – and all the shapes were cut out, counted and sorted into piles, I’d pick the required number and prepare a stack for sewing. This is where the random element truly came to the fore. As I stacked the pile, I’d sometimes turn it pile over before adding the next piece and every now and then that meant a long run of – usually, because there was much more of it – hessian and one lonely piece of lace before an alternating pattern, or a run of two hessians and one lace, but it wasn’t predictable except that I only had a certain amount of pieces to work with for each tape.

I’d then put the pile by the sewing machine and, using the needle plate as a rough measure of distance between pieces, away I’d sew on the sheeting tape. Ideally, the tape would have been folded in half along its length and the pieces of bunting slipped into the resulting crease, but I quickly realised that, while that provided the neatest finish, it would require far more time than I had available to me. I ended up using a wide zigzag stitch and machining the pieces directly onto the tape, leaving about 40 cm either end for tying purposes. Because I used both my Singer and my Janome, the distance between pieces wasn’t precise but it would be fair to say, I think, that the gap was rarely more than 7 cm. I threw in a handful of lavender bags, packed it all into one of those large, striped shopping totes that would probably hold a couple of small children, and Middle Niece collected it the day before the hall was to be decorated. I’m told that unpacking it was akin to a magician’s trick: the bunting just kept coming out of the bag :)

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. And now? YoungB wants me to magic up some pockets inside his motorcycling jeans, so that he can add in extra protective armour for a forthcoming long trip. I’m scratching my head about that, because I don’t see how I can do it without unpicking a serious amount of heavy-duty seaming. Should I run now?

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Posted by on October 11, 2015 in Sewing


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making the cooling neck collars

Still holding the water after a lot of hours on the job

Still holding the water after a lot of hours on the job

You remember how I said I was going to use Great Aunt’s nurse’s uniform fabric to make the collars?Yeah, I changed my mind. It’s a very small check and would, I think, turn out an overall quite dark finished product. Dark fabric absorbs more heat. Not what you want on a long, hot walk. Right? I went stash-diving. You should have seen the length of my periscope when I got to the fabric I ended up using! Its something I bought many years ago (predating YoungB) to make a nightshirt for Dr B, who promptly changed his mind about wanting one. It’s been folded and awaiting its time ever since. There is one small, faded patch. And, unlike the checked fabric, there’s a definite right and wrong side.

It’s 115 cm wide rather than 36 ins, which immediately gave me better options with regard to cutting triangles to make bandana-style collars. I cut out four, then realised that the stripes wouldn’t be running the same way on all of them. See if you can find a toss to give, as YoungB might say, because I couldn’t. Two would have selvages, two would not. More tosses not given. The first one – which, logically and obviously, would be the test version and mine – was sewn with pink thread. Mostly, that was because there was pink already in the machine but the contrast helped me to see what I was doing in order to work out what changes I needed to make for the rest. Although the fabric is pale blue with a dark-blue stripe, as you can see in the photo, the pink wasn’t so startling as to be obvious. Besides, once wet and tied around a neck, you’d have to be mighty close to notice. However, when I decided that the prototype was OK, I changed to grey thread.

There are many instructions on the internet for making cooling collars of various sorts. I couldn’t find one that used the bandana-style I was after (which is not to say there isn’t one, merely that my search terms didn’t uncover it), so I drew on bits of several of the others for inspiration and made up the rest. In Australia, summers are generally hot and sunny, so as well as keeping your neck cool, you often want to keep it covered. (Many school hats are legionnaire-style for that reason.) I reckoned a triangular neck cooler with the tail kept long would be just the shot, so that’s what I made.

The finished product is a triangle about 43 cm/17 ins base to apex with a base about of around a metre/39 ins. It varied slightly from one to the next because it wasn’t so much about precision as getting the job done and not every original triangle was precisely the same (or one might have needed more trimming than another to straighten the edge). I included a divided pocket at the base – about 8 cm/3 ins folded over, then sewn along the line from base to apex – into which I put a small amount of water storage crystals. I used a shade over a teaspoon for each collar. That doesn’t sound like enough, but those things swell to about 300 times their size when they’re loaded.

I pre-charged them the night before the walk. YoungB ticked me off for that because it meant they were wet and heavy. Most people, he groused, bring them dry and wet them at the event. I knew that but, as I explained, they hadn’t been used before, so I wasn’t certain how long they’d take to plump up. I’m sure the next time we use them, they won’t take anything like as long. I was refreshing mine at one comfort stop when another walker congratulated me on the great idea and asked where I’d bought it. I admitted I’d made it, assured her it was easy, and pointed out that there are lots of tutorials on the internet. All of which is perfectly true. But the time to do some of those things? Ah, yes, that’s another matter entirely.

Still, as I said, I made four for our little team – the other Nieces weren’t able to join us, as they’d originally planned – and now that I’ve done those, I wouldn’t hesitate to make more. I might do some things differently. For example, I might subdivide the pocket into more compartments so that the collar sits closer because the bulk is spread differently, but tying the ends provided sufficient adjustment. The simple design works.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?


Posted by on September 15, 2015 in Health, Sewing


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Bloody Long Walk: bloody long and bloody hard!

We're smiling, but next year Eldest Niece and I will be busy, we've decided :)

We’re smiling, but next year Eldest Niece and I will be busy, we’ve decided :)

I managed to make four cooling collars. That’s the most important thing :) I found mine very useful and Middle Aunt wore hers. Mine kept me cool and, as a bonus, protected me from sunburn. Of course I was sewing till the last minute because MY plan for my day was derailed. But no matter, I was able to soak the collars and get them fully plumped up prior to the walk; and there’s mine in action (I’d only just reached the finish, the others had been there for ages). I’m always easy to spot because I’m the shortest. Eldest Niece, Middle and Youngest Aunts also did the BLW, making it a family affair. It was a good feeling to get to the end of the walk, so the sense of achievement probably made our grins wider than usual.

Despite our having done the whole walk prior to the event, albeit in bits and not always in the correct direction, we walked through some new territory because of last-minute route changes that the local councils had requested. I am not generally a fast walker. I know what pace I can sustain to get to the end of the distance I’m doing. Yesterday, I walked at someone else’s pace for far too long and burnt out early. I could DO the pace but I could not maintain it for another 20-or-so kilometres. By the time I reached the Tennyson Dunes and some lumpy, scrambly stuff that we’d always known was going to be tough especially if we were tired, I was almost ready to call it quits. But I didn’t. I sat down and had some dried fruit, nuts and a piece of chocolate, slurped down an energy gel with a swig of water, slapped on another layer of sunblock, gave myself a stern talking to, and picked up my feet again.

And all the while, the thoughts running through my head were along the lines of, “I can do this. I have the energy to do this. It’s bloody long, bloody hard and bloody tiring but it’s not bloody impossible.” If I had mito, I wouldn’t be doing anything of the sort.

Although my recording device had me down to a speed of about 25 minutes per kilometer at one stage, it’s not accurate. I stuck the thing in my pocket when I set out and left it there for the rest of the day. That means simply that there’s no account taken of breaks anywhere, whether that was at checkpoints or comfort stops. Having said that, I WAS walking slowly through the Dunes but I kept going, eventually picked up my pace and managed not to be too downhearted when I reached Semaphore and realised it was still another 5 Km to the finish line at Largs Bay :) I was the last of our little group to finish, by quite a long way, but by no means the last of our larger group to reach the finish line.

Today I was back at work, mildly stiff all over and with a couple of sore spots on one foot – no blisters, however! – but I went for a brisk walk at lunchtime and practically galloped to the tram stop this afternoon. Someone suggested I could participate in next weekend’s event, but I said I’d rather do another Bloody Long Walk tomorrow than a mere 12 Km. It’s not so much that 12 Km is no longer a challenge (it could be), but that I hate the idea of jostling 29,000 other walkers!

And now, now that all that extreme outdoorsy stuff is over, I’m about to knuckle down and do some extreme sewing: metres of bunting. Wish we luck :)

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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Health, Sewing


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no knitting but lots of walking

Just a few of the stairs in store for us

Just a few of the stairs in store for us

Beyond all that greenery, you can see some steps, I think. Youngest Aunt and I managed to scamper up and down – well, that was more Youngest Aunt, the scampering part; but I went up and down them, however badly – quite a lot of stairs last Saturday, clocking up 19.95 Km, according to my tracking device. We’d been aiming to do 20 Km, so that wasn’t bad. Had Youngest Uncle met us just a few metres farther along the road, we’d have romped it in. Well, we’d have made it. By that time of the day, very late afternoon, there wasn’t a lot of romping.

However, I have managed to do something a bit craft related: last night, I bought some wetting beads to use when I make the cooling neck collars. Also, the fabrics for the wedding decorations are exercising my calculating abilities. I cannot reconcile the differences in area in any meaningful way! My suspicion is that I might have to get some more of one to balance the other. Headache-inducing, but in the nicest way.

May all your crafty problems be equally enjoyable :)

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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


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in a strange twist of language

Isn’t English wonderfully weird? Isn’t it bizarre that ravelled can mean unravelled? I say that because at the moment I feel as if I’m unravelling or coming unglued, popping bit of seam by weakening spot of adhesive. Work is so busy that nobody knows quite which way is up, though at least we’ve come out the other side of having everyone away with respiratory ailments. Tomorrow, three of us will be absent at funerals. The one I’ll be attending is for a friend’s mother and the logistics of getting there are almost defeating me. I’m tired and, because I’m tired, I’m so grumpy that even Dr B commented on it :)

So, you know, ravelling of the knitting variety? Nah, that’s not happening at the moment. I hope you’re faring better :)

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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Knitting, Musing




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