Wednesday, 28 June 2006


After nearly a whole day's work, with no warning whatsoever, my external hardrive just died.

Not only does this device, which is just 6 months old, provide the backup for my computer, it is also the only storage device I have that's big enough for my digital video work. There are three separate film projects on it, comprising hundreds of video and audio clips that take hours and hours to upload onto the computer from individual tapes.

I am so unbelievably frustrated you have no idea.

And before anyone bothers to comment, I know.

I know I should have back ups of my back ups.

I know I should never trust a microchip driven machine to do it's job.

I know I shouldn't be surprised when there is a catastrophic failure.

I know there isn't anything I can do about it now.

I know these days are the curse of us techno gadget freaks who no longer get around to using analog cameras and who'd rather make telly than watch it.

I know no one cares about my particular technical meltdown, and neither should they.

Breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out. Tomorrow will be a better day.

Tuesday, 27 June 2006

WIP and eck

It is so freaking cold here that I instantly fell in love with this pattern. It brings together my desire to tackle socks, keep warm and felt. How perfect!

So when I spotted these yarns at the sunday market I was off at the trot. I'm knitting double strand, breaking a number of rules from the pattern, so here's hoping it all works out in the end. I have blind faith that felting makes everything OK.

The pattern says the unfelted sock will be enormous, but check this out to get an idea of just how big these suckers are. My hand and one of my regular socks.

Since I'm only using the pattern loosely I'm estimating on the wool and got all nervous about not having enough , so I made a shorter cuff. Again, felting will be the answer.

Stay tuned for an post felt update to this WIP, and thanks Fiona for the inspiration to post on what's in play.

And now a little rant.

Many times here I have sung the praises of delicious, my most favourite foodie mag. I've gone so far as to say even if you don't live in Oz you should subscribe because it's a really good value source of food inspiration and recipes for everything from last minute pantry meals to dinner parties to cooking with kids.

So I was really horrified when looking through the latest issue to see this advertisment.
(In case you can't read it, it says "Just add milk, mix and bake. Gives you more time for what's really important.")

I'm not sure why but it really made me recoil. Here they are targeting people who have actually already bought a magazine about cooking and telling them that what is important in providing for your kids is making sure you have lots of pre-prepared sugary snacks for them.

Not teaching them about where food comes from, what it looks like when it's still a bunch of unmeasured ingredients on the bench. Not teaching them about the joy of cooking, about the benefits of fresh ingredients, about cookies as part of a balanced diet.

Don't even let them add the milk! Keep their eyes looking the other way while you pull out the packet and magically turn it into something that's bound to get them bouncing off the walls.

And I don't mean to come across as a total food nazi - we eat our fair share of junk and preservative laden packaged foods - but I do not buy a magazine full of recipes to have this crap promoted to me. And as a mother I take very very seriously my job to teach Amy about food, real food. Betty Crocker, if I was ever to become one of your customers, you just lost me.

So I instantly went over and signed up for this
kid's cooking swap. If you've got kids, why don't you too?

Saturday, 24 June 2006

places to go, people to see

Yippee we're off to Sydney on Friday for some fun. David goes off to a work meeting first thing so I'll be landing at 8.30 am with an excited 3 year old, no where to stash our stuff till check in time and some time to kill. So all you Sydneysiders, what should we do? We're staying in town in Pitt St. We've got a long list of great stuff to do while we're there, but advice is always welcome. And can anyone tell me about Paddy's market? Is it worth going to, or is it just a sea of mass produced junk? When is it on? And are there any particularly juicy shops and destinations for crafters I simply can't miss? Tell me more!

And speaking of places to go is anyone heading off to the Bendigo Wool and Sheep show? I hear great things about it, but I'm struggling to see how I'm going to make it this year...maybe next year. And on Friday I got a thing in the mail for the Melbourne craft and quilt fair at the end of July, an event I've never even heard of. Can anyone enlighten me? There are some workshops, including a crochet and felt a hat one which could be good.

And you can see I relented and posted pics of the stuff for all the pic surfers. It's all off to other places, some to Plush You, others for some swaps. And all the stuff is sitting on our new kitchen table, which although you can't see well here, is very cool.

The Steiner style wood and wire doll has a baby in a papoose on her back, a design idea I totally stole from my sister out law Cath. Thanks Cath!! And see the gorgeous dress on the Mibala? It's some fabric my mother out law bought for me in Central Australia, printed from a design by indigenous artist Audrey Napanangka. I not only love the design, but just can't believe how perfectly the colours match.

And although it's totally out of sequence here's my WIP. I know I should have done it all differently, but heck, I'm human. You can see this was before the arrival of the new table! This is now our outdoor table, we'll see how well it stands up to an outdoor life.

Friday, 23 June 2006

so, I've been thinking

I'd prepared a whole post on all the things I've just finished, and there's been a bit this week since the gastro moved on to other greener gills. But I always feel a bit wrong about those ooh looky here at what I've done posts. Especially when there's really quite a bit to look at.

Whenever I do one I tend to get comments like, where do I find the time, aren't I amazing, look at all the stuff. It's a bit like I'm saying aren't I clever? Go on, tell me how clever you think I am. Like the stuff is what I actually care about.

And you know, that really isn't what I like about blogging. I mean, sure I like compliments. I actually really get a kick if I make something that anyone loves as much as me, but that should just be a little garnish on the side, not the main course.

The whole point really needs more substance than that. Those posts where you stumble on something if not profound, then at least an interesting observation about the lives we share, the basis on which we connect. The nature of creativity, the human condition, the complex meaning of blogging, the challenge of parenthood...the list is so long it seems astonishing I don't have more to say on a regular basis.

But the truth is I often stumble off to blog land for some respite from all that.
Sometimes I don't even read the words (shame sooz, shame!) and just look at the pictures of other people's work. Sometimes I do it for the inspiration, for ideas and impetus to try something new, to learn new techniques, to contemplate new crafts. To marvel at the quilts, the softies, the knitting, the collage...

And sometimes I do it for the mesmerising, soothing alpha rays of random craft
, to lose myself in the colours and forms of other people's creativity. Like going to the gallery, sometimes the most profound lessons of art are the things that occur to you later, when you are thinking through what you've seen, putting the pieces of culture together that make a connection to your own life. Make meaning.

Other times I like nothing more than reading a story, an analysis, an angsty exploration of the insolvable riddles that confront us day after day. I vicariously celebrate the victories, empathise with the sadnesses, ponder the dilemmas. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh out loud, often I tell David about something I read.

So perhaps my flip flop on posts reflect my ambivalence about whether blogging is showing you the stuff, a few more images in your internal slide show, or whether I'm here to tell you what I think about the stuff that's out there. Either way it's a statement about where I am on any given day. Pushing myself up the staircase and looking for support, encouragement, acknowledgement that others share the journey. Other times I'm on top of the world and all I want to do is show you the view.

Wednesday, 21 June 2006


Wow and wow!

Nicole and Alison have shortlisted my bunny for back tack. How incredibly exciting, and against such stiff competition!!

I must say I would love love love to have one of Hilary's go and vote now!

Or I may be forced to use yet more exclamation marks!!

pass the bucket

Evil vile nasty pasty virus. Yep, there's a pox on our house. I'll spare you the details but I feel truly awful and totally overwhelmed and can't imagine ever being well again. And if I see another bucket of sick I'll explode.

But a bright spot amongst it all was this lovely package from Leesa. We picked it up from the post office on Monday, before I was totally struck down and when we thought Amy was getting better - although it turned out she was in a temporary remission.

She's carried Doodle around for days, and I've been dreaming about a time I might be well enough to make use of the gorgeous hand dyed blanket, those fantastic buttons and especially that white trim with the red spot/sqaures on it - isn't it too happy? Thanks Leesa for such a wonderful surprise!

Sorry, time to lie down again...

Saturday, 17 June 2006

how to make a Steiner doll

Before we start, these dolls are easy peasy lemon squeezy and should take a couple of hours at absolute most. If anyone can't make one I'll eat my hat (well, certainly provide you with more support because it will be my tutorial that's to blame). Please tell me if anything isn't clear or you have any questions.

In my last post I emphasised the importance of the right materials and I'll repeat myself here. This is a really simple doll and it's beauty relies on good quality felt, stuffing and interlock. They are small and don't use much in the way of materials so for the differential cost it's a no brainer. If you are stuck for suppliers please let me know.

Materials you will need:
Good quality wool felt, preferably hand dyed
Flesh toned pure cotton interlock (T-shirt material)

Wool stuffing (probably about 10gm for each of these dolls)

Regular sewing thread (matching or contrast
as you like)
Paper for marking out a pattern
A stuffing stick (I use a chopstick or whatever else is handy)
and needles
Optional decorative elements such as teeny tiny buttons, embroidery floss, teeny tiny bells, wool for hair

1. Cut a pattern for the bodyI have given you a pattern as a guide, but please - it's only a guide! When you've made a few you will be cutting them out freehand I promise. And these are for little dolls (10cm/4 inch), but you can make them in any size at all. The top pattern is for a standing doll with a flat base. You'll need to cut a circle of felt and a slightly smaller one of cardboard or something stiff to put on the inside to stop the stuffing bulging. Because it will all be blanket stitched on the outside you don't need to worry about seam allowances.

2. Cut out two body pieces from your felt for each dollI won't lie to you, cutting can be tiresome. The thick felt doesn't like sitting flat with pins so I tend to cut one with the pinned pattern piece and a second using the first as a guide since the felt sticks together without pins. But don't stress, these dolls are all about handmade so precision is not the name of the game.

3. Make a head sleeve from the interlockUsing the flesh coloured cotton interlock make a small sleeve for your head. You want it to be about 5cm/2inch long for this size doll, and when sewn, about 2.5cm/1 inch wide (wider than the body neck hole, but not as much as one and a half as wide). If you have a machine handy that's fine, if not a hand sewn back stitch seam is fine too (you won't see this seam later).

4. Embellish your bodies if you wantRemember these guys are meant to be simple - a few stitches to imply buttons (or if toddler safety isn't an issue some actual tiny buttons), a simple flower or a star is enough

5. Blanket stitch around the body leaving the neck openIf you don't know how to blanket stitch, which is not a hard stitch at all, try here for some instructions. They call it button hole here, but it's the same stitch.

6. Stuff your bodyGet into the limbs first and then the body proper.

7. Keep on stuffingStuff hard to the brim and then stuff some more. These guys need to be plump and firm and they will compact a bit. Leave just enough of a hollow in the neck to get the head in.

8. Close off the top of the head sleevePut a running stitch a few mm in from the top edge of your sleeve,gather in tight and tie off securely.

9. Turn the head inside out and then stuffUse another running stitch to hold the stuffing in place, making sure the head is really firm and well stuffed. Soft is not good.Add another running stitch above the first - this will form a neck for the head and make the head stuffing even firmer. This neck stops the head to neck join being weak and floppy. Sorry about the crap photo!

10. Push the head into the neck hole and sew in placeIf both the head and body are well stuffed this will require some force. I often use the stuffing stick to really push it in amongst the body stuffing. The deeper into the body you can get the head the better the neck join will be.Stitch head and body together. You can use any stitch you like to do this, so long as it is strong and relatively even.Your basic doll is now complete!

11. Cut a hatThere are no limits to the different styles of hats you can make. This is a basic one I use a lot. Measure the circumference of the head from front forehead to the nape of the neck, with enough height to cover the head. You'll end up with a shape something like this.
12. Sew up and attach hatUse blanket stitch from bottom edge to top point of hatthen back stitch down the seam, pulling in to gather as you go. Back stitch around the hat rim, securing to the head.

13. Other possible adornmentsYou might want to add a little bell to the top of his hat. Steiner dolls are traditionally faceless, though you can add a little stitch on either side of the face to imply eyes.

14. HairYou may want to add hair to your doll. Like hats, hair has endless variations, Carded or uncarded fleece, silk fibre, knitting yarns all make excellent hair and can be left as loose flowing locks, trimmed short or tied in bunches or plaits.Attach wool to head from crown to nape with secure stitches. Plait hair and tie off using a needle to pull thread through the fibres to ensure ties don't slip off. Attach hat, in this case a kerchief style using the same basic method as the hat above but instead of a curve above the head, taper sides to a point. And both your dolls are complete.

15. Get carried awayA sleeping bag or wrap gives your doll another dimension, and children love them! You can make a sleeping bag from felt, knit or any other fabric at hand.

And yes, I'd love to create a Flickr gallery for Steiner dolls if someone will tell me how!

Postscript: Yes, there's now a Flickr Group for Steiner dolls so head on over, take a look and make sure you post pics of what you've done. Suse also left a great suggestion about the flesh coloured interlock. If you have an old white T-shirt or singlet that's cotton, you can dye it in tea until you reach your prefered flesh colour. This is a really good idea as the flesh interlock can be hard to get and a bit pricey.

Friday, 16 June 2006

where it all started

These are the first toys I ever made. It seems like an age ago, but it was less than three years since my most inspirational sister out law Cath pulled out a basket of felt on summer afternoon and started the ball rolling.

I still absolutely adore these two. My love for them is so deep and inexplicable it's almost weird. I love the way they feel in your hand, just the right size for little hands to hold, and so utterly simple and yet so full of character.

They represent everything I love about toy making too. They were really easy and fast to make. They are robust and age really well. They are made of natural fibres. They can be made by the most novice of sewers because they do not aspire to look like they came from a factory. Every non-symmetrical limb and wonky stitch merely adds to their individuality.

So I have decided that although I should be doing other things I am going to write tutorial on how to make them. Basically I think everyone should have a go and discover the wonderful magic of the Steiner doll. It's addictive.

But I really really strongly recommend that if you want to have a go you source the proper materials. Synthetic felt is absoilutely no substitute for wool - it does not behave or feel the same and looks like crap.

Even poor quality wool felts have a habit of breaking up at stuffing time, which can break your heart after you have invested time in making something sweet. You can tell a good felt if you poke it with your finger it should have a little bulge/indent, but if you pull the sides of the felt it should flatten back out. That's because it's made with long fibres not just left over shortie bits.

I personally can't stand polyfill either, but if you find the place that sells good felt, I am sure they will have wool stuffing too.

If you don't know anywhere near you that has the goods, investigate Steiner and Waldorf craft suppliers. They are all over the world and share the philosophy that makes these dolls so good - the right materials and a love of things done by hand.

Next week I hope to post it - so stay tuned!

Wednesday, 14 June 2006

no time to waste

Wouldn't you know it? As soon as Heather posts her much anticipated bitty booty pattern I get another order. I now have commitments for orders, swaps and exhibitions for 14 toys! Am I crazy or what?!

So I'm too busy to make the shoes for at least a couple of weeks. How unbelievably frustrating! Her sample shots are so fabulously enticing I might have to get up the middle of the night to whip a few up when no one's looking. And I don't even have a baby!

Heather we LOVE you and your gorgeous patterns and think you are an absolute star for making them available for FREE. Yay Heather!

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

but wait there's more

More mail!
Aud will be very pleased to hear that her gorgeous pointy kitty Punk arrived - fully gorgeous, though a bit roughed up by our customs officers! I don't know what they thought she might be hiding, or perhaps they just wanted to admire the totally spunky crochet bag Aud made for Amy and matching yarn she sent for me? Or the wonderful tea towel it all came bundled in? Aud - you'll be pleased to know I have actually been to Cologne! It was, however, nearly 30 years ago... Worth the wait, I love it!! Back Tack is the best.

And then my use what you have materials swap for June from Luminous Honey.
I almost wet myself when I saw those fabrics - aren't they gorgeous!! They are so well picked for my taste I just love love love them. The yarn, buttons, trims and beads are also very nice and I am looking forward to using them, now that I have them :-) And aren't those patterns a hoot! Thanks Alison, I am thrilled.

Yep, it's still my birthday.

happy birthday to me!

I'm so happy! What a great birthday - and it's not even over yet!

Breakfast with Amy and Dave, lunch with my mum and sister and dinner tonight at the Japanese restaurant with Maria, Am, Sasha and Alessia. Aren't I lucky?

Oh the loot - check out these gorgeous cards (can you guess which one Amy made? Isn't it just too cute? Do I only think that because she's my kid?)

And these fantastic books - can you believe it? Two Japanese crafties I've wanted forever. My heart is a flutter. There's a whole one on making things from socks and gloves - how cool is that?!

And a knitting book (my first!) and this crochet book which forever puts to bed the image of old fashioned lacey acrylic crochet. There's slippers and a floor cushion crochetted out of leather - how cool!

And two cook books - one for fun cupcake making and the other for some serious culinary expansion. Just right.

This Russian caravan tea (my favourite) and a new tea caddy.

And this amazing felted hat - I would love to see them made. It's really thick and stiff to hold it's shape and looks totally stylin' on me. I love the way the coloured fleece peeps out from the brim.

And even though it wasn't intended as a birthday gift, this fantastic shrink plastic swap pack from Julie K arrived today so I'm counting it as part of the haul. Thanks so much Julie! I see hours and hours of shrinky fun on the horizon.

And lots of lovely birthday wishes and phone calls and emails and my work conference call was postponed till tomorrow, so really I'm just blessed :-) Thanks everyone for making it such a great day!

Monday, 12 June 2006

my weekend in pictures

While David had Amy for the day on Saturday I turned this
into this.Charcoal grey wool flannel with variegated brown chainstitch floral design in a slightly A-line skirt. Will be on me for the great Government House expedition on Friday. I think. Unless I have a wardrobe seizure, which is entriely likely. My first foray into real life pattern drafting for ages and it felt, well, good!

Next I took these
and did thisand ended up with these
The photo isn't great on colour reproduction I must say. The bottom two are done using a colour called wattle bark (makes me feel all aussie inside), the next three using red and top five using purple - all from Sandra my fabulous dealer. Thanks Sandra! And the skinny little strip of green is a kool aid dye curtesey of the gorgeous Leslie over at Oobee who, being an Aussie who came from somewhere else, knows about kool aid and the fact that something you are supposed to drink can do that to wool. Thanks Leslie!

And on Saturday night David and I watched this (again) - what an ace film!while I finished up this nice big shop order for my lovely friend Bernard who I haven't seen for years and years and then I saw him in the street the other day and it was like I saw him yesterday. Don't you love people like that?

On Sunday I took Amy outand we went for a long walk. We saw a couple of my most favourite of nature's freakishly beaustiful flowers, Amy practiced counting on letterboxes and picked up lots of bits of stuff from the footpath.

We went to visit our friends Maria, Sasha and Alessia. Because Maria is a hostess with the mostess and was recovering from a bit dinner party and a late night, we got to feast on left overs. Maria loves Amy because she eats everything!Then Amy and Sasha playedwhile Maria and I yakked and I knitted this,two strands of 8 ply wool, one black one grey, knitted on 7.5mm needles. 35 stitches for about 38cm then halved and sewn up the sides with a slight taper. Love it.

Whacked. Cold and rainy. Nothing on TV so we played Canasta and David whipped my butt reeeal good. Sleep.

Now I can face my birthday tomorrow and advance on old-bag-dom with peace and serenity.