Saturday, 30 November 2013

Button Christmas Trees

This morning I went shopping and as I was out and about, I wandered into my local craft shop.  While I wasn't specifically looking for Christmas decorations, I did walk down the aisles dedicated to all things tinsel and marvelled at how expensive everything was.   I've got all sorts of baubles, beads and buttons at home and it pains me to purchase anything if I can make it myself using what I already have on hand.

While I didn't necessarily set out to make any new decorations today, after my shopping trip I did decide to set myself a challenge and see if I could make some new decorations using only what I had in my craft cupboard.  

I quickly discovered my bottle of green buttons and together with some craft wire, a few stolen borrowed brown buttons from my daughter's collection and a couple of sparkly beads, I had a plan and the materials to make decorations that were quick, easy and very cute.

This is a lovely decoration to make with children, but just make sure they are over the age of putting things in their mouths, so perhaps not suitable for the under threes..

I started with a piece of "Artistic Wire", cut it the about the length of a standard ruler and then used four brown-ish buttons as the base of our decorations.  I folded the wire in half and then threaded the brown buttons onto the wire as shown.  I then stack my green buttons in height order and starting at the largest button, threaded these onto the wire, ending with the smallest.

To finish, thread a sparkly bead onto the wire and then twist the ends to form a loop for hanging.

Now I just have to find a use for my bottle of red buttons!

Happy Crafting 


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Monday, 25 November 2013

Luggage Scents

In a few weeks, we will be travelling 3000-odd kilometres across the length of Australia for a long awaited 5 week trip to Victoria.  

I pulled out my suitcase the other day to start to get ready and decided that I needed something fragrant to keep my clothes smelling lovely and fresh.  I usually pack a bar of wonderfully scented soap but this year I decided on cedar balls.  We have had an invasion of pantry moths this year and I am a bit paranoid about moths getting into the clothes.  Plus I love the smell and I needed something to keep them in, so I decided to quickly crochet a little bag.


10 x cedar balls
Scrap yarn in a neutral colour
30cm length of brown ribbon
1 x brown button.
crochet hook 


Using the magic loop method (instructions available here), create the loop with 6 single crochets in the centre. Place a stitch marker to indicate the start of the row.  Pull the loop closed.

Row 2: *2 Single crochets between each stitch* repeat to end of row
Row 3: *2 single crochets between each stitch* repeat to end of row
Row 4: Double crochet between each stitch and continue for 8 rows or until the pouch comfortably holds the 10 cedar balls.

Next row: * Skip 1, Triple crochet, chain 1* repeat to the end of the row
Next row: *slip stitch, 2 x double crochet, slip stitch* in each of the gaps created by the previous Triple crochet row to create a little frill along the top of the pouch once it has been tied.  

Secure the yarn and finish.

Thread the ribbon through the triple crochet row and tie in a bow and pop into your luggage or drawers.

The addition of a crochet rose would also make this fragrant pouch a lovely little, inexpensive christmas present.

Happy crochet,

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Saturday, 23 November 2013

Wool Winder Christmas Decorations

One of my favourite birthday presents from last year was my wool winder.  In the weeks that followed the big day, I happily set to work winding practically every bit of wool I owned, happy in the knowledge that the randomness of my wool stash had come together with a uniformity that I never imagined possible.  Almost a year on, I'm afraid to say the stash is needing a bit of a tidy and some reorganising, and I promise I'll get around to that soon one day, but in the meantime I've decided to put my wool winder to good use making Christmas decorations.

Louise made some lovely decorations last year using the wool from the wool winder (you can find them in our blog post 15 days of Christmas) and that inspired me to use my red and green wool to make some yarny Christmas baubles.  I simply took some red and green wool from my stash, used the wool winder to make smallish baubles, wrapped ribbon around, tied a bow and added a little metal hook for ease of hanging.

I love the thought of these simply hung on the tree, or strung on a garland and perhaps made with brown wool with a little white crochet  top to resemble a Christmas pudding.  I might actually do that - when I get around to sorting through my yarn to find some brown wool. 
Merry Christmas


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Monday, 18 November 2013

Clean Fleece and Rolags

The 'missing' fleece.
A little while ago, I tried my hand at 'Spinning in the Grease'.  I am a little ashamed to say that it was too dirty for me.  I know I should be a 'get-my-hands-grubby-and-stop-complaining' type of girl - and usually I am, but the smell and the dirt was more than my little craft room could handle.

I packed up the fleece with every intention of cleaning it first and then spinning it.  I placed it outside in the garage waiting for the day to clean it.  Today was that day.  But no fleece.  I hunted high and low.  Surely, you can't just lose a whole sheep fleece - but it was nowhere to be found.  As luck would have it, the reason I was going to clean it was because I had just been given a fleece from my boss at work.  It's not the usual work bonus I know, but I was very happy with it.  I thought I would clean the two of them at the same time - in the end, I only ended up cleaning the new one.  I was mystified as to what happened to the old one.

Fleece washed and ready to card.

Being a complete novice about washing fleece, I watched a you-tube video on how to do it and learned quaint phrases like VM - vegetable matter.  This fleece had a lot of VM (thankfully it appeared only to be VM, a lot of the unimaginable horrors that can accumulate on a sheep had been removed - I'm still a bit skittish with a very dirty fleece)

Basically, drop the fleece into a sink of hot water (not boiling) with wool-wash mixed through.  DON'T AGITATE IT or it will felt.  Just gently press down on it for a few seconds and then leave for 15 mins.  Remove the fleece and empty the sink of the mud, dirty water.  Fill the sink with hot water again and add the fleece for a further 15 mins.  I would call this method a 'preliminary clean'.  It smells much, much better but still has a few bits and pieces in it.  I think that the next time I clean a fleece, I will try and separate the locks to keep the structure sound. 

Once I had finished, (it took ages - I ended up with over 24 sinks full) I went along to my local spinning shop for some spinning combs.  The very nice and knowledgeable gentleman in the shop gave me a quizzical, sideways look when I asked for the combs.  'Have you been watching overseas videos?' he asked me.  'How did you know?' I replied.  He then proceeded to let me know that most Australian wool does not need the combing stage, it can go straight to the carding stage - which was going to be my next purchase so I saved a bit of money there. He gave me a quick demonstration on how to card the fleece into rolags and I was on my way.  They really are the most helpful people in this tiny little shop. 
The stages of making rolags

I felt quite confident about carding but my first attempt was rather pitiful so, once again, You-Tube to the rescue.  I found an excellent clip here (although I did wonder if I should have googled 'How to card Australian wool' but thought better of it.  Besides, the music in this clip is just lovely).

1.  The 'teased' fleece ready to be loaded
2.  Loading the fleece onto the brushes
3.  Combing the fleece
4.  Starting to roll up the fleece to make the rolag
5.  The finished rolag
6.  A whole laundry basket of fleece left to do.

I am pleased to say that my rolags are coming along quite nicely and by my estimation, I should have a few thousand by the time I have carded all the fleece.   It's a big job.
Finished rolags looking for all the world like giant lint-balls.

Later in the evening when Peter came home from work and I showed him my handiwork, I asked if he had seen the fleece that I had left in the garage.  He looked a bit awkward and I sensed what was coming. He didn't think I wanted it and so he threw it out.  Usually, I would have been upset at this but I gave him (and everyone else who cared to listen) the impression that I never wanted to handle such filth again.  I'm making a conscious effort to praise this new fleece - lest I have to start all over again.

Happy Spinning,

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Friday, 15 November 2013

A Birthday is Looming

One restored loom waiting for delivery.
Every now and again I have bought someone a present that I have been so excited about that I can hardly wait to give it to them.  Such is the case with Deb’s present this year.

Some months back when I first ventured into the world of spinning, I came across a second hand weaving loom at the spinning shop.  During my first visit, I saw it sitting under a table, all dusty and looking deliciously vintage.  I thought at the time that is was something that Deb would probably like to have but I didn’t inspect it any further as I was on a mission to learn how to spin and I thought it was just a display piece.

On my second visit with Mum and Dad a month or two later, it was still there.  While waiting to be served, I noticed that there was a price on it.  I had a quick look  to see how many hundreds of dollars it was and was blind sided when I saw $50 on the ticket.  This is a large loom – the size of a small dining room table and I quickly got a case of ‘shoppers panic’.  This is the panic you feel when you see something so unbelievably wonderfully priced that you feel it must be a mistake and therefore, it must be hidden from other shoppers in case they realise what a bargain it is as well.

I stepped outside and made a quick phone call to Deb to see if this was something she would like for her birthday.  Her response indicated that my shoppers panic instinct was correct and I quickly snapped up the loom for her.  I was extremely happy to be giving Deb something vintage, something crafty and, most of all, well within budget.

I then got a case of the ‘Wish I had bought it for myself’ blues when I got home.  It really was a magnificent piece of equipment.  Dad had already agreed at the shop that his contribution to the present was to restore it to its past beauty.  Some of the wood was warped, the heddles were rusty - the more we looked at it, the more work had to be done.  One more phone call to Deb the next day confirmed that she was still just as excited about having a loom, despite my saying that I was more than happy to have it should she change her mind.  She didn’t. 

A few weeks ago, Dad bought the loom up to me all finished and restored and we have a fantastic morning getting it up and running.  The process was long, intricate and complicated for a couple of first timers but once it was up and running I was surprised at just how quick and efficient the loom was.  I spent an hour or two happily weaving but then remembered that it wasn’t my present so, reluctantly, finished the sample and put all the pieces away.  

Unfortunately, the only way to get the loom across to Melbourne is to pack it up in our camper van and transport it across when we start out on our holiday.  This is over a month after Debs birthday.  I can well imagine her frustration at knowing such a marvellous item is sitting at my house whilst she is sitting at hers - some 3454 k’s apart.

Deb and I have a budget of $50.00 for birthdays and it is usually something crafty and always something thoughtful.  This year I was the very lucky recipient of some Louisa Harding wool and knitting book.  The pastel sea greens and blues have pride of place in my knitting stash but I think I can safely say that when is comes to 'How MUCH craft can $50 buy', the loom is going to be very hard to top.

Happy Birthday Deb.   

Monday, 11 November 2013

5 wonderful ways with Bi-Carb

Bicarb Soda is the one product in my pantry that I can't live without and  I often think I should have a few boxes in the house, located in different rooms, because it seems to get used for everything other than baking.

My top 5 tips for using bicarb are:

Insect Bites

Mix to a paste with warm water and place directly on the site of the bite - it's wonderful at taking away the itch


Add to a tepid bath to take away the pain of sunburn


Mix bicarb and water into a smooth paste and brush away.  Perfect for if you forget to pick up toothpaste at the supermarket.


Sprinkle a handful of bicarb in the bottom of the dishwasher between loads.  It will keep it smelling fresh as well as helping to clean the dishwasher when you do the next load.

and lastly (and this is my personal favourite)


Bicarb is a fantastic way of getting rid of smells in fabric, so if you're wanting to freshen up the car, couch or even kids toys, give them a generous sprinkling of bicarb, leave for about 15-20 min and then vacuum.  It's also fantastic for keeping shoes fresh and this was never more apparent then when my daughter brought her pointe shoes home from ballet class for the first time in a couple of months.  On a positive note, it was quite obvious she'd been working very hard in them, on the down side the sweaty foot smell emanating from these, the most delicate of shoes, was almost unbearable.

It was obvious something had to be done to at least try and keep the shoes fresh for the six or so weeks left of the ballet year, so scissors and fabric in hand I came up with a pair of pretty shoe deodorises to keep the smell at bay.

I simply cut two fabric squares with sides of approx 10cm, put a few generous tablespoons of bicarb in the centre and then tied with some pretty trim.

Smelly shoe problem sorted!

Do you have any tips for using bi-carb?


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Saturday, 9 November 2013

Broken Seed Stitch (or Moss Stitch) Socks

I love these socks.  Very simple to make but, oh so effective.

The pattern is available as a free Ravelry download by handepande and the striping effect is really eye catching.

I am making a pair for a friend of mine.  We met at Kindergarten a long time, years and years, quite some time ago and we are meeting up for her birthday.  Yes, I know, it's my standard birthday gift but what's a knitter to do? I love knitting socks, people love receiving them .. it's a win/win situation.

The pattern is more of a recipe so some previous sock knitting will be required.  I use my 'standard' pattern when it comes to the number of stitches, when to do the heel etc but I'm thrilled with how these turned out.  

My friend and I are thinking of having high tea for her birthday - I'm not sure these are high socks but they are pretty close.

Happy sock knitting,

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Monday, 4 November 2013

Hexagon Table Mat

I little while ago, I was experimenting with crochet hexagons (you can read about it in our 5 favourite free hexagons blog post) and thought the time had come to make myself a crochet bag. I loved the Simple Hexagon pattern in colours I'd chosen from the Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic range, and thought a bag would be the perfect casual accessory for jeans.

I started to crochet hexagons and chose to make less rounds per hexagon than stated in the pattern, while varying the inner colour, all the while leaving the outer round  ivory.  I didn't want the bag to be large and thought the smaller hexagons would give it a dainty, but still casual feel.

It was when I started joining all of my little hexagons together that I decided I wasn't going to be that thrilled with it as a bag.  I still loved the colours and the hexagon design, it just didn't scream either "bag" or "something I'd use" at me as I was piecing it all together.  

I'm really not one to let things go to waste though and quickly decided it would make a wonderful table mat with matching coasters.

and so I kept joining  and then I blocked the whole thing...

....until it looked like this

It's not a bag, but I'm still pretty pleased with it (and it's still a great matching accessory when I'm wearing jeans for dinner!)

Happy crocheting


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Friday, 1 November 2013

Knitting Ribbon Coffee Cover

I think we can all agree that tea is the most romantic of the hot beverages, followed by coffee and hot chocolate in equal second then with Bonox dragging its heals at the rear of the pack.    I can't imagine Miss Elizabeth Bennett sitting down to a cup of Bonox with Mr Darcy, can you? Why it would be nothing short of scandalous!

With this in mind, I took it upon myself to romanticise my coffee plunger to bring it from the realms of functional to fancy, my tools being nothing more than knitting ribbon (often called Knitlon or Craftlon, depending on which part of the world you live in), a crochet hook, needle and thread plus a couple of buttons.  I decided I probably didn't want to go quite as far as a Barbara Cartland novel and so chose blue knitting ribbon over pink for this little project.

My pattern for both the coffee and mug cover were the same.

Crochet enough Chain  to wrap once around the base of the item that you are wanting to cover.

Chain 2.  Double crochet (DC) into next chain.  DC along entire row and turn.

Continue this pattern until the work measures to the height of the plunger/cup handle.  At the end of this row, chain 5 and slip stitch into last DC to form a loop.  Cast off.

Sew button on opposite side of work to the chain 5 and sew edges together of the first row of crochet.

To make both the mug and coffee cover took less than one ball of knitting ribbon

...and there you have it.  Another use for knitting ribbon that doesn't include toilet rolls or coat hangers, and it's something to keep your coffee warm while you're waiting for Mr Darcy.  It's a win-win!

Happy crocheting


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Drop Stitch Cowl

We were at a yarn market a couple of weeks ago and after speaking to some pretty fabulous yarn people all day long, I was struck with the...