Handcrafts I Love
Yesterday, on my way to meet a girlfriend for coffee at a shopping center I passed a shop that had a granny square poncho in the window. I smiled remembering when I was a teenager in the seventies and proudly wore the one my grandmother made me. She filled her hours with craft projects. For my poncho, she had unpicked old jumpers and dyed some of the wool before beginning to crochet. She had a practical approach to life which came from being raised on a farm. She made everything, the dresses she wore, even her soap.
When I was little, Granny looked after me a lot. She taught me to crochet granny squares and to paper piece patchwork. I remember the cut and paste activity that kept me entertained for ages. I think Granny had a considerable role to play in my love of craft later on, but also she’d instilled her can-do attitude in her daughter, my mother.
Mum took my craft skills to a grown-up level. We went shopping for sewing patterns, and she taught me to sew my own dresses. She also taught me to knit. At school, I learned to paint with acrylic on canvas. When I went to work, I didn’t paint much, but I could afford to buy wool for myself, and I made jumpers and cardigans in my spare time.
After I was married and had small children of my own, I knitted for them and took up painting again. I found a local shop devoted to folk art and decorative art painting. I joined classes and practiced until I could reproduce the beautiful folk art roses adorning plates and jugs on display in the shop. I painted them on trays, flower pots and a box that I use for remote controls just to name a few. Anything I could find in the house that could be painted got roses painted on it.
Perhaps being a Pisces has something to do with my eclectic taste and desire to do many kinds of craft. The discovery of annual craft fairs opened my world. Talented designers/crafters displayed what was possible, and that led me into collecting a stash of gorgeous fabric and patchwork quilting kits. I also discovered scrapbooking. I’d found the luxury version of what I did as a little girl at my Granny’s kitchen table with a pot of homemade glue.
I found a company that creates paper templates for paper piecing and bought a kit. I’m still working on finishing this. I’ll be sad when it’s done because the fabric is so beautiful I love looking at it while hand stitching in front of the TV.
I also joined scrapbook classes for a little while. I created an album of my first overseas trip to England but have found I prefer to make collage pictures with the patterned papers. I also like to make cards for special occasions and have shared some of those on Facebook.
Busy fingers make me happy, and calm. I love my hot glue gun. What a brilliant idea this is. It’s so quick and instant and last Christmas I made a constellation of wooden clothes peg stars.
As a writer, I know that crafting helps to keep my creativity flowing so if I’m feeling a bit flat, doing craft is one of the methods I employ to light my creative spark again.
I’m not the only author who likes to do a craft. Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra crafted a patchwork quilt made of diamonds cut from scraps. It was the thing I most wanted to see when I visited her home in Chawton, England.
In to be released novel, the Australian Billionaire’s Secret Proposal, Ruby the heroine is a fashion designer, who has a hands-on, can-do attitude inspired by the women in my family.
The hero, Jarrod, is inspired by the part of me that knows about running a business and the many powerful men I’ve read in romance novels. He’s unique because he’s got an art critics eye and knows what great design is. He’s a supporter of creative people and makes their dreams come true. Who doesn’t love a supportive man?
Jarrod admires Ruby’s independent nature but is also challenged when she creates a plan of her own and acts on it without telling him. A secret in her family connects them and pushes them apart at the same time but working together in the fashion industry keeps reminding them of why they’re so good together.
Ruby can create beautiful clothes, this is the world where she feels strong and retreats to when her personal life isn’t happy. Jarrod and Ruby first met in high school where she was bullied because she was different and individual. She was hiding out in the library drawing dress designs at lunchtime when Jarrod, the son of a respected fashion manufacturer, spotted her talented drawings.
I think crafting has also been a solace for me at times. I blogged last year about how making wooden stars helped me cope with the first Christmas without Mum being there.
But I also do craft just for the joy of it. I don’t have to feel like I need a lift to pick up a needle and thread or spread out a drop sheet in preparation for painting. If I had to choose a favorite, I’d say it’s paper crafting. I love mixing and matching the pretty papers and adding embellishments.
Are you a crafter like me? Does craft help with your peace of mind? If you’d like to share with me which crafts you love, I’d enjoy reading your comments. I always love hearing about other peoples craft projects.
This week I have my blog post over on Romancing the Genres. I'm sharing my journey to becoming an Australian Romance Author. Follow this link to read my post and check out this terrific blog
I also post for them on first Thursday of the month. So yoy might find some you haven't read yet.
Next week I'll be posting here on my crafting life. There'll be photos of some of my projects and the types of craft I enjoy. Until then, have a lovely week.
Budget Backyard Makeover
When Sam and I bought our house, the garden was in need of a lot of work. What must have been a lovely garden ten years ago was now overgrown and full of weeds. Under half dead pine trees a lovely rose struggled for life and a fuchsia chocked with vines was valiantly producing a few blooms. A massive Viburnum Tinus shrub had suckered and filled the back corner masking a couple of struggling camellias. An apricot tree was nearly dead so that needed clearing along with all of those bully plants. Once the plants were removed, we replaced the too short and rotten fences.
While waiting for these necessary big projects to be done I began looking on Pinterest and saving the gardens I liked, I also YouTube garden makeovers. It became apparent that the kind of garden I liked had free flowing edges with English garden plants. So I decided to go with that style.
I drew up a plan that showed the property boundaries and the house and existing plantings that I wanted to keep. I then drew in my garden beds and a living area behind the house as you step outside. I had several goes at this step until I got it how I wanted.
I placed some plants I already had in pots out and once happy with their position, planted them to help them get settled in sooner than later and started watering them regularly. I sprayed the grass and weeds that would be inside the future garden beds.
I then and started sourcing materials. Replacing the fence and the tree removal was quite expensive but had to be done which left little in the budget for completing the backyard. For this section of the work I had a thousand dollars.
I spent a lot of time pricing pavers for outside the back door but came to the conclusion that it would be too expensive to buy and have them professionally laid. So I decided to work with the existing pergola and wide concrete path than ran along the back of the house but extend it out using gravel. I chose Sunset toppings which over time set to form a firm concrete like surface.
I then chose firm straight timber edging to create a border for the toppings. My daughter’s partner works as a landscaper and he came on weekends to help with the makeover. He leveled the area for the toppings, installed the timber edging and spread the toppings to be flush with the concrete path. The concrete is painted an ocher color and the sunset toppings blend nicely.
To create the curvy garden beds I purchased flexible timber edging and steel stakes that hook over it when hammered into place. This is more expensive than the ridged kind at approximately three times the cost per length but it allowed me to create the waving and curved garden beds I wanted. I proceeded to hammer in the metal stakes at one end of the timber edging then bent the wood into the desired curve and then hammered in another stake to keep it in place. I repeated this process around the back yard until all the garden borders were completed.
I purchased pine-bark mulch in a large chip and back filled behind all the borders with help from my daughter’s partner. He wheel-barrowed it into place and I spread it around the plants. I put an iron bench seat, that I brought with me from my last house, at the far end of the garden in front of an ancient rosemary bush. This created a destination that not only drew my eye into the garden but also created an invitation to be in the garden.
All up I came in just under budget. I still have more to do in the garden so it’s good to have a little left over for next spring when I’d like to add perennials to the flower border and some annuals where I’m waiting for some cutting I’ve planted to grow to full size. A garden is never really completed but I have the structure in place and now I get to play with plants.
Until yesterday we’ve had warm weather and I’ve been enjoying my morning cup of tea in the garden. The vista in my back yard draws me outside into the fresh air. The Rosella's are feasting on figs and I can hear the rustle of the liquid amber leaves in the wind.
It took three weekends to complete but it was worth the effort and I look forward to many happy hours working in this garden.
Next summer I plan to bring a portable table into the garden and write sitting on the bench under the Liquid Amber tree. I can imagine the ice tinkling in my glass, as I sip my lemon and ice-water.
Dad and I are old hands at travelling in Tasmania but Sam has never been so we were kind of showing him around and just enjoying being in the land of our ancestors. They came out on sailing ships, one of them in chains but that’s a blog all of its own. We took the quick way and went by jet plane. Read on to find out where we went and what we did.
Dad, Sam and I caught a plane to Hobart and picked up our hire care. I thought we were going to get a Camry but it was a Mitsubishi SUV with more body roll than I’m used to. Sam said he wanted to look around and would prefer if I drove. So, I nervously ferried us to Wrest Point Casino. I opted for Valet parking so I didn’t have to try and work out where to park. It only cost $10. So hey, why not?
I took quite a few shots of the view of Hobart from our room in the tower. After that, we were pooped from our day of travel and rested before going upstairs to dinner in The Point revolving restaurant. They asked us several times if we were celebrating a special occasion. I started to wonder if we looked overdressed but I only had a top and pants on. Either that or we looked a bit country bumpkin and unused to dining out. Made us laugh anyway. Had quite a few drinks so had to watch I didn’t laugh too loud. I know how I can get, (she grins mischievously).
The next morning we drove around looking at Battery Point then stopped for a stroll along Salamanca Place. I found a cute fairy shop and posted pictures to my Instagram and Facebook accounts. Sam was excited to find an old style telephone booth and an antique book shop.
We headed off on a four and a half hour drive to Strahan. We stayed at the Village Inn on top of the hill and had amazing views from our rooms and the dining room. Being a coeliac I was very pleased with how many of the delicious dishes on the buffet were okay for me to eat. Sam was over the moon with fresh oysters and cooked prawns. Dad was happy he didn’t have to try and eat too much food. He hates wasting food and restaurant main meals are too big.
A wet day and we didn’t fancy spending six hours inside a boat so we skipped the river cruise this trip and toured all the local craft and gift shops and the wood mill. I bought a round of Huon Pine. The smell is amazing.
In the afternoon we went for a drive to Zeehan and back.
Another long drive through beautiful west coast bush and farmland to Somerset. My Dad was born there and he showed Sam and I the house he lived in until they moved onto a mixed farm at Lileah. We took the scenic Bass Hwy up to Smithton and checked in at Tall Timbers resort.
We toured the local area, including Lileah and Redpa and Marrawah. Dad pointed out areas of bush that he used to work, logging when only sixteen years old.
We visited historic Stanley. We looked in the tourist shops and galleries before having lunch in a cute cafe with a sailing ship in the window. The pictured hotel was across the road.
We drove back along the scenic Bass Hwy to Devonport and stayed at the Gateway Inn. It suited us perfectly.
Flew home to Melbourne from Devonport Airport but we were already talking about our next trip to Tasmania.
Romance author and lifestyle blogger
My whole life is inspired by romance. I write romance novels of course but also love creating DIY's and decorating in a romantic style. I'm rejuvenating an old garden, including rescuing a couple of old rose bushes and planting new ones.