Monthly Archives: November 2013

Doctor’s advice

I have been stopped in my tracks this week. The details of how and why aren’t important (because they involve someone else’s story) but the impact has been a bit devastating. (Not complete and total devastation obviously because I am still here writing, so you can all breathe out!)

The impact has surprised me. I have had what can only be described as a rough couple of years with work and home, but have managed to remain strong and resilient and to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I have looked after my chicks, focussed on things to provide time for myself (well – that is my excuse for my fabric addiction and I am sticking to it!) and kept it together mentally, more or less! (Some may argue less, but that is the story of my life, not these last couple of years!). I have been conscious that it has been getting harder and harder to bounce back, but I was still bouncing back. Finding new strategies, putting yet another plan into place. Not this time. Something unpredictable happened (that normally I would have taken in my stride) and my bounce went on holiday. Boy – talk about your body telling you that it is time to stop. A sign of how bad things have been? No sewing! And I watched a DVD yesterday. Oh my goodness – things must be bad! (I normally don’t sit still long enough to watch anything on TV, let alone a whole movie!)

Of course, things aren’t really that bad. I have spoken to the experts and know that all will return to normal quite soon, blah, blah, blah. I am just quite amazed at how my mind and body decided to tell me that I had to stop. I didn’t get a choice – I just slept for the best part of 24 hours. Now I am on a strict diet of exercise, rest, healthy food, and – praise be – instructions to cruise craft forums and sites. (I love a bit of sensible advice!) Because – focussing on things that I love and that make me happy, is the best medicine! (And the chicks have gone away to attend the celebration of their great-grandmother’s 100th birthday so those things that I love and that make me happy are out of town!).

Now I already follow a lovely range of crafting, sewing, creative blogs and sites – but who am I to argue with doctor’s orders? I am off to find some more – after a walk with the dog and my mum of course! So if you have any suggestions of sites that you want to share – please do!!

In the meantime I share with you my one piece of crafting for the week. Three granny squares made as my contribution to the charity blanket I posted about last week. (Well – even with the wind knocked out of my sails I couldn’t just sit and watch a movie – I had to do something!) I might even manage a few more before popping them in the mail to Sweden!

So – share your ideas for great craft sites – purely for medicinal purposes of course!!


When I was young I lived close to my very large extended family. I was the first born grandchild for both sets of grandparents, and with 14 aunts and uncles (not including the spouses of those who were married at the time) I was well and truly loved. I have a cousin 2 months younger than me, and then every year or so another cousin or sibling appeared, in a slow trickle for the first few years. Our aunts and uncles were young, knew us and were part of our life. They attended birthday celebrations, Christmas gatherings, and family camping trips. My mother’s siblings were friends with my father’s siblings. Then more cousins came along, we moved overseas and on our visits home many of the aunts and uncles would comment that there were so many cousins that they lost track of them and who was who. Of course that wasn’t true, but we were certainly a large family.

I haven’t lived ‘at home’ in my country of birth, for 35 years. But family is family. Always there, a given. The names all run together so you always include the aunt and the uncle as if they are one entity. During the course of organising a trip home last year for a large family gathering a family Facebook group was set up. We started ‘following’ each other. We have had a small window into each other’s lives – that very superficial glimpse that social media brings, but more than we have had for years.

Last week we had word that one of my aunts, one half of one of those uncle and aunt entities, was very sick. We knew that she had been diagnosed with cancer weeks earlier and had updates passed by email to the ‘brothers and sisters’ who then passed the news on to us, the next generation. Over the course of a day or two it became clear that she was in fact very sick and within hours she was gone.

I have been reflecting on family ever since. I am so lucky that I have had this large blanket of family there in the background for all my life, that I have reconnected with so many through social media at least. And I am at a loss to imagine my uncle without his other half – the other piece of his puzzle, the other part of his name. Today would have been their 41st wedding anniversary. Tomorrow, in the church that they were married in, our family will gather to say goodbye and celebrate her life. She is part of my childhood memories – a teenager on the beach when I was a toddler (yes that is me on the beach and she is the gorgeous young woman in the background with her then boyfriend), the glamorous aunt who always worked in an office when so many of our aunts and mothers didn’t work at all, the one who always had time to listen at family gatherings, who always remembered and understood what we were doing with our careers. Maybe it is time to stop taking the background blanket of family for granted and understand their place in my life a bit more, appreciating how they have contributed to the person I am today while I can still discuss it with them now, and not wait until they are gone to scramble for those precious memories, and understand how they fit together.

However, for today, I will hold my little people close, love them fiercely and tell them stories about their great-aunt Dianne, and how she fits into the jigsaw that is their family.

Vale Dianne Rose van Gessel. You are loved and will be missed.

All sorts of developments

This week seems to be flying past quite quickly, yet at the same time a lot is happening. I am still off work so have been trying to focus on resting and recharging so that I can return to work on Monday. Of course this would not be possible without the support of my delightful mother. Part of recharging involves remembering to focus on just one thing at a time, especially while the chicks are at school. Would you like to hazard a guess what I chose as my one thing????

As a result a few new bags have been produced, and the cross body bag featured in my recent tutorial has been produced in all sorts of different styles and fabrics.
0150c23b70197a1f5837f2a99bcbc3982a0396e0a00109c6203a4792777fbdb2274bb3dbf7b6d1d1ee1a 016c5375a936287b243158b7dce566853743937da6 01b8cf31b7138971e0e49b8fd0f07c966045eb4715 01a8ad35bc516b2ab5bc3c9677edecdcab45f10379

I also discovered a lovely piece of burnt orange linen in a pile of fabrics I had been given, which inspired a new style of bag that I am enjoying playing with. Canvas and linen makes such a lovely combination!


I had a mild panic on Monday, wondering if I am completely mad to think that I can have a stall at the Christmas markets, whether I will have enough stock, etc, etc, etc. Instead of making a rash decision to quit, I decided to lay out all my stock to see what I had. And guess what? I have quite a bit! It also helped to see that the things I am passionate about, and that hang together best as a collection, are my bags. All the other ideas – pencil rolls, pillowcases, t-shirt, etc, are fun, but I don’t have the same passion for them. Which was the first of several lightbulb moments I have had this week. I also addressed my dilemma of stockpiling rather than selling – I will stockpile until the markets then list the remaining stock online for sale. And I will take custom orders in the meantime too. Phew!

This also prompted me to get organised and accept that if I want to take this whole making and selling thing seriously, I need to act seriously. So I now have registered business, and a registered business name!! Oh my! I have also had the next light bulb moment in where I want to take this all next year, so stand by for announcements, developments, etc after Christmas when I will be completing my business plan.

Then, to celebrate all of this in style, I received my copy of the latest issue of *bespoke* magazine which includes a feature on handmade holiday escapes – and features overnight bag, in the lovely fabric by Sally Roydhouse, aka Peppermint Patty from Spoonflower!


I have also realised that I need to draw a distinction between sewing for sale, and sewing for family and friends.  That way I don’t miss out on the fun stuff like making quilts or clothes, that doesn’t have anything to do with making money!  On that note I am off to make the boy a sun hat with Star Wars fabric as it is his birthday on Saturday.

I hope that your week is going well, and that you are having your own light bulb moments!


I have been sitting on this gorgeous fabric designed by Sara Berrensen that I bought from Spoonflower for too long. It is called ‘Vintage Book Nerd’ and is just delightful. I wanted to wait until I had the right project in mind before I cut into it. (Which is ridiculous given that I have three pieces of it – one large pattern on cotton, one small pattern on cotton and one small pattern on linen-cotton canvas!)

I have been making cross-body bags from my tutorial for the last few days, and decided this was the perfect pattern to start using this fabric on. I used a slate grey cotton duck for the body, a vibrant mottled teal for the lining and the canvas for the flap, strap and back pocket. Now I need to make other bags with this fabric as I love the finished product!

I haven’t listed any of my bags in my shop this week, while I build up stock for my stall next month but I might need to list this one to gauge interest!

It is a dilemma! List now and make sales versus hold stock so I don’t have an empty stall. I think I just need to keep sewing so that I can cover both bases!! I am interested to hear how others tackle this, and would appreciate some input from experienced craft sellers!

Christmas shopping and making ideas

With all of the seasonal promotion happening on and off the web it occurred to me that I really do need to get my own act together. Last year I made all the gifts for my family and friends. This year I am being realistic that I won’t be able to achieve that, given that I have committed to having a stall at the Christmas markets so am sewing for that, along with working, caring for my children, etc! I will still be able to make a few things, but need to think about other ideas. I have already started on a few things – and have been sharing them with any unwitting soul who I come across, so thought that I would share with you too!

The ideas below include some suggested Etsy shops, some online craft kits and ideas, and some ideas for unique gifts made for very reasonable prices. If you have any other suggestions to add – please feel free to add them in the comments below!

My first approach has been to take advantage of my vastly increased knowledge of other Etsy sellers. Over the year, through being part of teams on Etsy who promote other artists work, I have been able to see some beautiful pieces. Now I have decided that it is time to buy some of them. I can’t show you all I have bought so far, as some of the recipients are readers of the blog, but I can share some of my suggestions and some great stores!

First of all, I used a gift voucher that the very generous Michelle from Factotum of Arts gave me earlier this year, to buy myself a necklace that I have been admiring for a long time. It is beautiful, so I can recommend the craftsmanship of Yulia from Petals Design.

Pearls, Leather and Wood Necklace. Sterling Silver Wood and Pearls Pendant Necklace on a Leather Cord, Unique Gift Idea

I also worked on a custom order with Deepa from Tunic Botik to have a glass-carrying brooch made for my Mum as a thank you for helping us out. The detail in it is exquisite and working with her to pick colours etc was so easy. Mum is using it daily and loves it.  Deepa has beautiful pieces in her shop – so do consider her as a source of Christmas gifts!


I have also bought some brooches from Lovely Sparrow and Co that are just delightful, and am having some Christmas ornaments made by Candy of Candykins Crafts, in this style, but with the words of my choice!

Joy Christmas Tree Ornament Hand Embroidered - 3" hoop

A purchase from Gillian at Eclectic Moi has also arrived and is beautifully made and packaged!

There are so many other beautiful Australian Etsy artists – I will be buying more and will share my finds as I go!

In addition to buying handmade I have decided that gifts that enable handmade are also good!  No sponsorship here – but I did some buying in the moving sale at Craft Schmaft – beautiful kits for making sock softies and hot air balloon mobiles.  Another Australian artist, so more support of local, and for the art of handmade! (I think her sale ends this weekend, so get in quick!)

My other big tip for this year (and again this is not sponsored!) is to use the services of ARTSCOW – a service that prints your photos or images onto a huge range of items.  They have a great range of discount codes on their ‘special offers’ page which means that you get free international postage and good prices.  I have received memo pads from them, with my ‘little bird’ logo on them and they are beautiful quality – the paper is a nice weight.  I also had a photo of our camping sunset printed up on a memo pad for Miss N as a souvenir before she departed.  For Christmas I have ordered more memo pads printed, using drawings by the artist-in-residence, and some other images and photos, and personalised them for each recipient with their name.  A great stocking filler!  The chicks also designed images to be printed onto a present for their Dad (who I am pretty sure doesn’t read this blog, but just in case, I will just give you the clues that he is addicted to hitting little white balls around with sticks and walking a long way, and this gift will keep him dry if it rains while he is doing that!).    They do small fold up umbrellas – I have visions of having some made up as presents for grandmothers, with kids drawings on them, or playing cards with the kids artwork on them.  So many different options!  Let me know if you do order anything – I am keen to hear about the quality of other products so I can keep them in mind for future gifts!

My other tip for this season?  Make gifts using your own fabric designs, printed at Spoonflower!  And if you don’t think you are up to designing your own – you can always buy fabric designed by an independent designer – such as my own artist-in-residence!  Her samples arrived yesterday and we are very happy with them, so they are now available for sale at Spoonflower!


The Fruitastic Collection


The Menagerie (in white)

For now I am back to the sewing machine.  I have produced a few new things this week, in between the usual round of appointments, children, etc.  Some of them are even Christmas presents!   Photos will follow later on the weekend!

Don’t forget – if you have great tips for presents to share, leave a comment so that we can share the love!

Directions for The Christmas Charity Blanket Project – Join in!

A lovely way to contribute some crafting to a blanket that will go to a charity in Sweden for someone’s Christmas (because that is where the crafter who is coordinating it is living!). So if you want to make a few squares and pop them in the mail – join in!

It appears that this fine project had gone global with pledges from a host of countries so thanks for spreading the word and don’t stop, the more squares, the more blankets.

Best of Crochet » Join us! The Christmas Charity Blanket Project – directions!

Please find below a snippet of the details for the Christmas Charity blanket Project. For even more details and ideas go to Best of Crochet where you will find more links and images to help create the perfect blanket.

On November 11, 2013 by

1. What squares?

If you prefer to go with the basic granny square, that is great! You can find a nice

  • video tutorial on how to crochet a granny square here
  • here is a graph of granny square and instructions how to read it.

If you would like a challenge or some variety, I’ve found some beautiful granny square variations with great tutorials hereherehere and here.

If there are some…

View original post 234 more words


My beautiful mother got me started on basting the quilt today. Apart from a quick trip into town to buy more safety pins half way through, discovering a patch that bubbles up no matter what we do, and my completely imprecise piecing resulting in seams not matching, it went well!! Tomorrow, in between more appointments we will try to start sewing. (At this point you need to imagine me holding my breath and crossing fingers, toes, etc!!)

Thank goodness she is completely non-judgemental and supportive, and the quilt is for the boy who will love it whether it is perfect or not, simply because I have made it for him!