Monday, May 13, 2013

Adventures in Machine Knitting

Once upon a time my Dad called me on the phone and told me he had met my future Step-Mother. I laughed, he laughed and a little while later they got engaged. At this point I thought maybe just maybe he was being serious.

A couple of weeks ago there was a big wedding and Emmy and Ava were adorable flower girls. I realised then that yes he was being serious.

I now have a new Step-Mother and two new gorgeous and incredibly nice sisters.

There is a point here...

Weddings mean unions and joining of assets and furniture. In Dad's and Cathy's case it meant packing up and moving to a new house together. There is always treasures to be found when vacating a house after many many years and one of these treasures has found it's way to me!

Cathy was so kind and has given me her old knitting machine. I have wanted one of these for a long time. Hand knitting takes far too much patience for me. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful Brother KH-892 which is a punch card machine. Even better it came with a stand, ribbing attachment, knit leader and a suitcase full of patterns and wool! I am fully equipped.

Image courtesy of

Now I don't knit. I try occasionally, I fail. It's not for me. But the knitting machine, it's the perfect blend of problem solving and speed.

Being from the 1980's it did need a little bit of work.

My first tangled attempt

First up the sponge bar needed replacing. Then everything needed cleaning and re-oiling. There was a lot of carriage jamming until everything finally started running smoothly. There are still some needles that need replacing but I'll need to order those from overseas. Spare anything for these machines do not run cheap.

My incredibly flat sponge bar

I think it took me about of month of tinkering and practice before I finally knitted my first thing, a dishcloth in tuck stitch. I then knitted a few more and gifted them to anyone that looked remotely interested (Cathy included).

Knitted cloth with a massage bar I also made

Dishcloths mastered I moved onto something more ambitious and knitted a fair isle scarf for Ava's doll.

Ava looking oh so stylish in her scarf

I have plans for a throw next. Just working out how.

The funny thing is this knitting machine caper takes a lot of patience. I've been using it for months and have very little to show. But it's a different kind of patience. The actual knitting is of course very fast but the learning and the fixing that takes time. While there are resources for machine knitters on the web it's not as prolific as hand knitting so you can't always find what you're looking for.

But I am greatly enjoying it despite the fact that it takes up a good portion of the already space starved living room :o)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Pinterest Challenge - Kissing Pegs

It's time for another Pinterest Challenge. These are always perfect for slack bloggers like me to get off their backside and actually do something. In fact that is the entire point, stop pinning, start creating!

Recently Ava's teacher got married. This was cause for great excitement among her classmates, particularly about the fact that *gasp* they would kiss! It was all she could talk about for the longest time.

Understandably she wanted to make her a card to celebrate and when I saw the following pin on Pinterest I knew it would be the perfect craft for a seven year old.

Our supplies were fairly minimal (and cheap) for this project. In fact the only thing we bought was a new packet of wooden pegs as the ones on the line were a bit weathered.

We decided to pull our pegs apart completely before we started to we could get paint coverage everywhere. The original inspiration is a much bigger peg so I'm not sure how that would go. 

I drew an outline of where we needed to paint with pencil and then Ava and I got to painting one each.

I was pleasantly surprised with Ava's fine motor skills and she was able to paint in the small area quite well. The hardest part was waiting for the paint to dry. The white needed a couple of coats.

We used a sharpie to do the eyes and the bowtie. We did the necklace and blush with the end of the paint brush dotted on. Finally we finished them off with a tiny slip of tulle for the veil.

Ava was so excited when she took this into school. Apparently it was a great source of amusement to the class that you can make them kiss by opening the pegs. I had to cross my fingers and really hope her teacher took it in the light hearted spirit it was intended, but thankfully she let me know that she did like it!

This was such an easy yet rewarding project for us to do. I can't wait to try some more peg craft!

Don't forget to head on over to Emily, Katie, Sherry and Renee to see what everyone else has done too. I love finding new blogs to follow!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Hat For Baby - Oliver + S Reversible Bucket Hat

Sometimes you need a quick and easy project in your arsenal for last-minute gifts. So when a gift collection was been done at work for an expectant Mum the Oliver + S bucket hat seemed like the perfect gift. It uses such a small amount of fabric that I had everything on hand to make one.

I've made this pattern up before for the girls and their hats are still going strong. This time though I did follow these fantastic instructions for the assembly. They eliminate the need for any hand sewing!

The pattern is available as a free download from the Oliver + S website and also in their book Little Things To Sew.

The anchor denim was leftover from a pair of shorts I made my nephew Max a couple of years ago and the lining cotton was just one from my stash. It's always amusing going shopping with my sister for fabric. She buys the exact amount she needs for a project. If I need one meter, I buy three. Subsequently my entire linen closet is filled with fabric :o)

I'm alway a little nervous giving hand made gifts, especially to people I don't know exceptionally well. I love my hat but you can tell it's not from a store. All I can do though is hope that it is well received and loved. I included a little tag with sizing and care instructions and sent it on it's merry way. But not before I snapped a pic of my adorable nephew Linc wearing it :o)

This week I'm linking up to the Knock our Socks Off Party hosted by Mom4Real and JoJo & Eloise. Also girl. Inspired's You Inspired Party.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Easter Recap

Easter has been and gone in a whirlwind blur of craftiness and chocolate. I'm a bit late in getting my recap up but better late than never!

Every year my sister and I get together with our family for Easter and make the little people Easter baskets and bunnies

2011 Baskets

This year Tam was in charge of baskets and I did the bunnies. You can read about how the baskets were made here.

There were a few false starts on the bunnies this year (and honestly this is why there were no bunnies last year). I originally started making Funny Tummy Bunnies but ended up with something looking like an alien. I didn't have time to figure out what went wrong and instead opted for something really simple and went with Mooshy Belly Bunnies instead. It's a free pattern with incredibly easy to understand instructions.

I made a few changes to the pattern. I stitched the ears into the main head seam and omitted the stitching along the arm and leg lines.

The girl bunnies got little pom rosettes and the boy bunnies got little felt bow ties. They all got white pom tails. I love the poms that Tam makes and was delighted our bunnies got to wear some.

We had a great Easter and got to spend time with all our family. A week off work has been the icing on the cake. I feel relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on the world!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Winter Pinterest Challenge: Ombre Drawers

It's time again for the Pinterest Challenge. This time it is being hosted by Katie, Sherry, Megan & Michelle

The idea of the challenge is to stop pinning and start doing, the perfect challenge for me! This is my second one. For the first we did some very simple cress heads, so this time I was a little more ambitious.

Between their bedroom and their play room the girls have a decent amount of space to hang up their clothes. But some things just can't be hung and so a set of drawers was in order.

My inspiration pin was this adorable set of ombre drawers originally posted here. I envisioned finding the perfect set of second hand drawers and sprucing it up. Unfortunately it was not to be.

Luckily for me, when scouring the Aldi catalogue for bargains one day I came across this set of drawers for $80. Being from Aldi they came in a flatpack and with zero assistance from staff (and some chuckling from an elderly woman standing nearby) I managed to lift these into a trolley and get them home. 

I'm so proud that I managed to put these together all by myself! I then did what pinterest suggested and got myself a sample pot of each colour on a paint swatch. The pots were only $5 each and this project barely touched the sides. 

The trip to Masters was rather enlightening and I learnt many things like: You can't just paint directly onto laminate! Who knew? Well apparently everyone other than me :o)

The girl there was lovely and explained each product that I needed. This is me examining the primer that I used. You spray it on, leave it, then wipe off with a cloth. The result, perfectly primed laminate! No sanding required.

I lay the drawers outside and primed them. I then frog taped around the edges and set to painting. It was an extremely hot day and my paint keep drying too quickly. This meant lots of brush marks. I ended up sanding them back and doing a final coat with a mini roller which seemed to give a nicer finish.

The final product, Ombre Drawers. I'm really happy with how they turned out and they tie in perfectly with the rest f the room. I'll be showing off more of their room soon so stay tuned.

You can see my inspiration board for the girls' bedroom here

I'm off now to check out some of the other amazing projects that have been tackled. Hopefully I'll also find some awesome new blogs to follow!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Liebster Award

Imagine my delight when I opened my emails and found out that Liz from My Life in Projects had nominated my little blog for a Liebester Award!

Liebster, in German, means endearing, valued, lovely, etc.  This award is presented as a way to acknowledge up and coming bloggers and to help them be recognized for their outstanding accomplishments within design that is presented on their blog. 

I was super excited to get this award. I didn't actually think anyone outside my family read my blog. And if my FeedBurner stats are anything to go by I may not be far off :o)

Here are the rules for receiving this award:
1. Each blogger should post 11 random facts about
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you, and then
create 11 new questions for the bloggers you pass the award to.
3. Choose 11 new bloggers (with less than 200 followers) to pass the
award to and link them in your post.
4. Go back to their page and tell them about the award.
5. No tag backs.

11 Random Facts About Me
  1. I dream of one day having my own little self sufficient hobby farm
  2. My sister is my best friend in the entire world
  3. Chocolate is my favourite food
  4. I have a zombie apocalypse survival plan
  5. I was a vegetarian for 7 years
  6. For most of my childhood I wanted to be a psychiatrist when I grew up
  7. Current dream careers include; author, crafter and underwriter
  8. I lost 25kgs by switching to Primal eating
  9. Exercise and I are not on speaking terms
  10. 90% of things I start, I never finish

11 Questions For Me
1.  What magazines, if any, do you subscribe to?
Other than the weekly grocery fliers that come to my email, none. I’m not much of a magazine person.      
2.  What made you decide to start a blog?
I had a sewing blog years ago but let it fall by the wayside. I started again because my sister was  bugging me incessantly. 
3.  When you aren't blogging, what's your favorite thing to do?
Probably pottering around outside
4.  What's your favorite room in your home?
My bedroom,  I get to sleep there!
5.  Where is the one place you'd love to travel?
It's a cliche but I'd love to go to Paris
6.  What blog inspires you the most?
Three Ring Circus. I'm always in awe of how Tiff keeps on going through the most difficult times.
7.  When you go shopping for yourself, what's the first thing you buy?
8.  What's your favorite t.v. show?
The Walking Dead or maybe Game of Thrones
9.  If/when you go to Target, what area of the store do you spend the most time?
Toy section, I love looking at toys
10.  What is the best book you have read?
Gone With the Wind
11.  What is one food you could eat every day?

11 Blogs to Nominate
Gosh I'm not sure I know 11 new blogs with less than 200 followers? I'm going to pick some of my favourites that have less than 200 followers according to Google Reader. Not very scientific I know :o)

And that is unfortunately all I've got. I have a huge blog roll but most of those have been on there for years. It may be time to expand my horizons.

My Questions
1. If you could have any job, what would it be?
2. Favourite song?
3. What is your favourite way to wind down?
4. Do you prefer sweet or savoury food?
5. Do you prefer to dress up or dress down?
6. Favourite place to go shopping?
7. Coffee, Tea or neither?
8. What is the best movie ever made?
9. Do you believe in Aliens?
10. If we had one united world, who would our leader be?
11. Have you ever caught a fish?

Gosh that took a long time, especially with Emily's "help". Thanks so much to Liz for nominating me!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Basil Pesto

My mother has always told me not to let my basil flower. She says it will lose all it's flavour. I tend to believe her when she gives me gardening advice because a) she's my mum and b) things actually grow in her garden.

My little basil plant is somewhat of a miracle plant. It's been in my garden about 6 months now. It didn't have the best start to life. I bought it from the supermarket, left it inside for about a week and then when it was just about dead I thought I had better plant it. So I dug a shallow hole (in my 10cm of top soil) and stuck it in. It didn't really do anything for the longest time, but all of a sudden it took off and actually grew into a healthy plant.

For about a month now it has been trying to flower and I have been dutifully picking off the tips. But since I've planted new basil in my vege garden I decided to strip this one back and then let it go to flower so I could harvest the seed. I read that seed from a plant used to your garden is good seed.

Post harvesting it's looking a little bare. You can see my pile of leaves that weren't considered nice enough to keep.

I got about 1.5 cups of leaves which is the perfect amount to make this delicious basil pesto.

Basil Pesto
  • 1.5 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 3/4 cup parmesan
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
Traditionally you use olive oil for pesto but today I decided to use cold pressed extra virgin macadamia oil instead. It gave a lovely nutty flavour and is definitely something to consider if you find olive oil too bitey!

Quickly toast off your pine nuts in a pan. If the pan is really hot it will only take about 30 seconds. They burn really easily so be careful!

You can use a food processor, handheld blender, magic bullet or whatever other whizzy, choppy thingy you have on hand to mix it all together. I used my Magic Bullet knock off from Aldi today. Put all the ingredients in and turn it on. It looks like a lot...

But it really processes down!

Put it in a sterile jar (my definition of sterile is I ran it through the dishwasher) and keep it in the fridge. I'm not sure how long it keeps for because ours is always gone long before it goes off!

Ava doesn't like pesto but Em and I love it. We use it on our meat, eggs and as a salad dressing. We also eat it off the spoon when no one is looking :o) This amount would last us about a week.

Since I stripped my basil plant this morning I've read mixed things about whether flowers effect the flavour of basil leaves. I guess we'll see soon enough!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Square Foot Gardening - Here we go!

I really do enjoy getting out in my garden. I don't mind the physical labour and I love to eat what we grow. I've never really has much success with it before though. I think in part it's because I never put the effort/money into prepping for planting.

When I first moved here I went in whole hog and planted a bunch of herbs, tomatoes and some gardenias. I didn't do anything other than dig a hole and stick the plants in. Now that might work if you have nice soil but I have a layer of mulch, 5 cm of top soil and then rock hard clay!

The cherry tomatoes gave us about three fruit (they'd already flowered before we bought them) before promptly dying. The gardenia's flowered but have never really grown. The herbs have mixed success. Some things like the basil are huge and flourishing, while my oregano and thyme are about a week away from death.

Ever one to learn from my mistakes I asked around and found out I needed to break up the clay for any chance of success. So this time I dug deep holes, spread around a bunch of gypsum and then filled them with compost mix. Better but still not great. If it rains the plants still get water logged because the excess can't drain off through the clay. Plus my capsicums look like this:

I couldn't for the life of me figure out what was going on! New shoots are constantly forming and there are no leaves on the ground. What was eating my capsicum? There are no bugs around and besides bugs tend to eat parts of leaves not chew off whole stems. I ended up blaming the birds. That is until I saw a random cat chasing a random bunny through the yard this morning. Mystery solved. It's time to rabbit proof the fence!

Still I thought there must be a better solution. I remembered reading Square Foot Gardening a couple of years ago. It made sense at the time but I couldn't afford the outlay to set it up.

I did my maths and worked out what I needed. I couldn't find any affordable 1.2 x 1.2m raised beds, but I did find these .97 x. 97 ones instead. At two for $19 they were the most cost effective solution I could find.

When it came to making Mel's mix it wasn't just as easy as popping down to my local Masters/Bunnings and picking up some giant bags of vermiculite and peat moss. They only had tiny bags and it would have cost a fortune. I found a 100l bag of vermiculite on eBay. I couldn't find an economical way to buy peat moss and it's a non-renewable product. Subsequently I decided to substitute with coir instead which people say gives just as good results (finger's crossed).

It ended up being about 300l that I was trying to mix together on my tarp. Thank goodness the girls' father came over and saved the day by hauling my tarp all around to mix it up. By my calculations I had enough mix to fill up my two raised beds. I built them, lay fresh mulch all around (we lost a lot in the recent deluge). And then I waited. The photo above was taken at 9.30am and my two beds had just hit full sun. It was officially too hot to be outside.

About midday I had a sudden thought that I should check the depth of my beds. The depth of soil was only 10cm. So I spent about 5 minutes shovelling mix from one bed to the other. It was hot, I managed to get sunburnt from 5 minutes sun exposure.

At 3.30pm the last of the sun was leaving the garden and I had one full garden bed and one half full bed. So much for my maths! It was ok really though as I didn't really have anything to put in the second one yet anyway. I filled up a few pots with left over mix and transplanted some seedlings that had been growing in jiffy pellets.

Three cherry tomato bushes and a coriander plant. I really hope they keep growing. I've been lovingly raising them for a couple of weeks now.

I made the most of my forced inside time by planning out my little garden. The spacings in the picture aren't quite right but it's a handy guide for me to know what I planted where.

About 4.30pm it was cool enough to head out again. As you can see from the picture it's light out but no direct sun on the garden. With some help from Em planted all my seeds and watered them in. I think I might just cry if nothing grows!