"The ordinary acts we practice every day at home are of more importance to the soul than their simplicity might suggest."

Thomas Moore

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bits of this and that...

With the 9 week summer holiday break now officially begun I plan to take time out to try some new recipes for family lunches - all those sandwiches and salad rolls are great for easy and quick lunches through the school term, but now that we are no longer living to a daily timetable I have the freedom to play around with the lunch fare.
Today I made "Chinese chicken & vegetable rice paper rolls" with a simply scrummy lime & chilli dipping sauce! These are low fat and totally addictive, but best of all they require no cooking just soaking of the vermicelli noodles and the rice papers. I bought a bbq chicken at the supermarket and shredded the chicken breasts (also to save cooking) and the rest of the ingredients were raw vegetables and snow pea sprouts.
The dipping sauce was made from Sweet Chilli Sauce, Soy Sauce, grated lime rind, and lime juice.
Have you made these before? If you haven't, you should try them.

Blossom has finished this Bronwyn Hayes Christmas stitchery, and is now working on some colourful stitched ornaments for the tree. She took a break to read a book, though, and her head has not reappeared from behind it's cover yet!
Thank you for all your lovely thoughts about her lip and the new hairdo - she's nearly all better now, and wanted me to say, "thank you so much for your care!".

I've been sketching and fine-tuning one of my BOM designs for 2010...

...finishing a gorgeous new Shabby Roses design (I'll show you the whole thing on the 1st December)...

...and making some gifts!

With the never ending carousel of 'must-do/plan-now' projects during November I haven't had time to finish block 1 of the Robyn-Allen Waters BOM I started in September. I have blocks 2 & 3 waiting as well, but now that the school year is over I am taking advantage of little pockets of time to get block 1 finished. Today I watched the movie 'Valkyrie' with hubby and stitched the curtains to the left of the block - 100 minutes to stitch the red curtains. Small stitches are definitely time intensive!

Tonight I have some pattern writing to do, then I'll be all up to date with the must-do's and I can slow down and enjoy the want-to's.
I hope you too are finding time to catch up on things you make for sheer enjoyment, and are not wearing yourself out with all the 'have-to-make' projects for Christmas?

This year we have decided to do things very simply, with our eldest daughter (a mother of two boys) suggesting we forgo presents and give each other's family an experience instead. We are giving them a family pass to an African Safari Park for the day, complete with a supermarket gift voucher to purchase all they'll need to fill their picnic basket. They in turn are giving us the money to buy a family ticket to tour the Atherton Caves, just north of us. Both her family, and us here, will take photos of our family days out, and post them in an album to each other as a remembrance of each family's Christmas 'experience' gift. She's so clever to think of this!

Tonight I'm making Chicken Burgers with a spicy mustard dressing, so I'd best get about my business and marinate the meat...

Have a lovely evening (or morning!) wherever you are,

Friday, November 27, 2009

A big week...

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American followers!!
I'm sure you've all been enjoying good food and family reunions over the last couple of days, and will no doubt already be preparing for the celebration of Christ's birth, along with the rest of the world, in just four weeks time. I hope we all remember to savour every moment of these celebrations with loved ones as the years seem to pass by too quickly now, the children grow and change before our eyes, and so many of our loved ones move away and are no longer there to share a coffee or a meal with us.
Whether you have a large family, just a few, or perhaps you're spending the day with friends, may you remember to be a blessing as well as be blessed at Christmas, and tell each one how much you love them.
I've been quiet this week because I'm making plans to be more organised in 2010 - to balance my roles of wife, mother, housekeeper, designer, teacher's aide, and 'just Jenny'. However, something else happened to slow down the week - Blossom had a small accident.

This was the last week of the school year and the students had spent all Tuesday in the school pool playing water sports. A large water slide was constructed and during the very last slide of the day dear Blossom took a tumble and slammed her head into the ground - this resulted in her putting her top tooth right through the bottom lip and out the other side...

The staff at the local hospital informed us that they no longer stitch inside the mouth as it is vascular and heals quickly. The opening in her chin however needed to be glued together - something they do to avoid scarring from stitches. An anaesthetic gel on the inner lip, painkillers and a tetanus shot later, we came back home armed with the largest chocolate thickshake we could find. Straws and thickshakes were her best friend for the next 24 hours.
The swelling subsided a lot overnight and to brighten her up again I took her to the hairdresser's for a new summer hairstyle. Isn't she gorgeous?


Katrin has finished her Shabby Roses quilt, and it's beautiful!!! I love the scalloped edge!

How are you going with your Shabby Roses quilt blocks?
Don't forget on December 1st I will share the quilt label with you, as well as the final assembly instructions if you'd like to finish it like mine.

I'll share some photos tomorrow of what's being stitched by Blossom and myself - yes, she's got her stitching mojo back now that school is over. It's lovely!


Monday, November 23, 2009

A day in a life...

What did Jenny do today?

She oohed and aahed over Fiona's Christmas Cheer apron.

She oohed and aahed over the packages her husband brought home from the school office for her.
From Stephanie she got lots and lots of dots and spots,

and from Sandi she was wrapped in Christmas Cheer!

She took time out to read about New Zealand's finest quilters, and various women who inspire.
These magazines were included in a care package flown over from her sweet friend Deb, 'across the ditch' in New Zealand, last Friday. I'm sure there was chocolate in this package...NO IDEA where that got to? Jenny must have gobbled it!

She finally got to organise her fabric shelf in colours...

....and don't they look so pretty?

She finished sorting through all her tubs of odds and bods, and now has only three instead of six!

She set aside small pieces of fabrics she found in her clean-up and put them aside to cut into charm squares and strips over the holidays for that 'one day' scrappy quilt she'll make.

She read through all the lovely cards she has been sent this year. She keeps them all in a pink cane bowl by the window. There's about 40 so far.

And she put the latest one in the little antique stand she found at a market many years ago. She changes the cards every few days, and prays for the sender each day the card is displayed.

She tried to have a conversation with Blossom but Blossom's mind was nowhere to be found. It seems she lost it somewhere in a Tilda book.

Now she's updating her blog before she makes a late supper for her husband and trips off to bed to read her *newest* country home-decorating book.

We'll just tiptoe out softly shall we?
Would you mind turning off the bedside light before you close the door?


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Prayers, and a declutter for the summer holidays...

Where I live, hot weather is a day to day thing. You accept it and you learn to live with it. You also learn to respect the conditions, and the danger such temperatures have the capacity to bring about to the surrounding countryside. But we are in the very top end of Australia.
Right now, down in the southern states where a cooler and moderate climate is the 'norm', Australians are sweltering under the highest recorded temperatures for November, and that makes a lot of us concerned that a repeat of the horrific bushfires from early this year could be repeated. Already there are out of control fires burning, and some of them deliberately lit! How does a person become so unconscious to the horror of what they are about to unleash?
Pray that our country is spared such tragedy, please, and that all potential arsonists are caught before they strike that match.
The school year here at All Souls has wound down with all lessons and exams over. With only four more school days left the students are free to enjoy a variety of morning and afternoon activities until they leave the boarding dormitories and return home to their families for the long summer break.
Blossom spent all yesterday (with Slicer's help) sorting through her room - tossing out, rearranging, refreshing - giving it a holiday feel. Once the boarding students have left there will only be a handful of teaching staff, like us, who live on campus and can take full advantage of the swimming pool, tennis courts and large green grounds for dawn and sunset walks.
So like Blossom I decided to clean out my sewing space, but this time rather than tidying or rearranging, I have boxed up all the fabrics and 'things' that have sat in plastic tubs or on shelves for a year or more and put them aside to drop at the local charity store in the morning. It's time I used what I have or give it to someone else to play with.
It was hard, but very freeing at the same time! I still have my large bookshelf of fat quarters to sort through, but once that is done I know I will only have fabric I want to use.
Do you have lots of fabric you bought because you loved it at the time and now it sits unhappily in your craft space with no chance of a better life? Perhaps you can be brave and sort through it - I'm sure there is somewhere your fabric would be welcomed with open arms.
While my husband and I watched the V8 car racing today on telly, I stitched up the blocks for the Natalie Lymer bag pattern in this month's Homespun magazine. I used different thread colours than she did because I'm using my Snippets honey-bun, so brighter colours were in order.
Hopefully I'll have the bag finished by the end of the week, ready to be used through summer.

And what's this? Another sneak peek of something new in the Shabby Roses range...I promise, you'll love it!

Fiona at Mother's Cupboard has finished her version of my Shabby Roses quilt, in fact she finished it a couple of months ago because she graciously agreed to be my pattern tester.
She loved the design so much that she has made available a number of KITS to make the Shabby Roses quilt! The kit includes the complete paper pattern, and ALL fabrics for the quilt top! The photo below shows the fabrics she has chosen, and you can see her completed quilt top HERE on her blog.

If you aren't sure what fabrics to use, or you prefer to purchase kits to make quilts, then Fiona's shop is the place to shop. Don't forget to check the Gum Tree Designers blog in the morning for your 8th Monday Christmas Freebie! This week the surprise design is from Fiona!
It's Sunday night and the sun is just beginning to set, so I'm off to make some poached eggs on Vegemite toast for the family...lovely and simple, like us. :-)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Two new designs released AND A FREE OFFER!!

Thanks to all of you for your lovely comments about my design, "Hearts For Peg", published this month is Australia's "Creating Country Threads"!

For those who are not in Australia and are unable to purchase the magazine I have made up a PDF pattern pack for you to purchase. Included are a list of the materials needed, cutting instructions, photographic tutorial throughout, design template and comprehensive step-by-step written instructions.

PEG'S HEARTS - a PDF download pattern
$7.95 USD

Last month my design, "Peg Me!", an apron with detachable peg pocket, was published in Patchwork & Stitching magazine.

As this is also an Australian magazine, I am offering this pattern, too, for my non-Australian friends to purchase from today.

PEG ME! Apron ~ a PDF download pattern

Both patterns are also available to purchase through my Etsy Shop.


Just until 10.30pm Sunday night, eastern Australian time, if you purchase PEG'S HEARTS, I will give you the pattern for the Peg Me! apron FREE!!

Just click on the PEG'S HEARTS 'Buy Now' button near the top of this blog post, and when your payment is made I will email BOTH patterns to you within 24 hours!
After 10.30pm Sunday this offer will no longer be available.

Now I need to get back to my stitching...something pretty and new for you in December!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Questions and Answers

Many questions arrive in my email box, or in comments, each morning. I thought it would be better to answer a number of them in one blog post, a sort of question & answer segment for the day, so no photos today, just words. ;-)

How many stitches per inch in your backstitch?

I had never thought to look until this question was posed, so I counted and measured a number of embroideries I've done and depending on whether I use 1, 2 or 3 strands of thread the number varies from 14 - 16 backstitches per inch.

What thread do you use for embroidery? Yours seem to have a lovely sheen.

I always use DMC Stranded Embroidery Threads, though recently I used Cosmo threads for the Milk Jug cover. The sheen comes from stitching slowly, not pulling the threads tight, and no gaps between stitches or lines of satin stitch.

What pencil or marker do you use to trace designs onto the fabric?

I have experimented with a number of pencils and pigma pens. The only one I use now is the Micron 01 in brown. Pencils will always slightly alter the colour of the thread as you stitch on the line because fine dust from the graphite (lead) is loosened into the thread as you pull it through the fabric, and I don't like that.
The Micron 01 is permanent, does not run, and is very fine, so no marks can be seen afterward if you stitch on the line.

What backing do you use on your stitcheries?
It all depends on how I intend to display the stitchery.
If it is for a quilt, like the Shabby Roses blocks, I use Whisperweft - it drapes beautifully, is soft and thin, and doesn't fluff when you bring the needle through. When the batting is added for quilting the Whisperweft won't add to the bulk making it excellent for pieced quilts.
If it is for a small wall-hanging, a cushion front or something small I may use cotton quilt batting - it's a dream to stitch through, and adds that 3D effect to the design, or I'll choose a medium weight iron-on Pellon if the item will be laundered regularly such as with a table runner.
Recently I trialled Parlan, which is incredibly lovely to stitch through but I haven't washed with it yet so am not sure how I will use it. I'll let you know when I've played a bit more.

How do you use variegated threads?
I do not use it as it comes off the skein. Variegated threads are gorgeous to work with, but there can be long lengths of thread that are almost one colour and may be too pale or too dark for the purpose I am using them, so I lay out the thread and cut my lengths about 14 inches long making sure I have a good progression of light to dark in each length. With the long lengths that are too light (or dark) I put them away and use them for other projects where a true variegation is not required.

I hope that helped with your queries.

Thank you for your concerns about Blossom. She ended up with a nasty migraine all day but woke this morning back to her old self again and able to attend the award assembly! It's lovely to see young ones bounce back so quickly.

Now, I must finish some redwork...and work on something new...and organise dinner...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

'Shabby' sneak peek, published again, and mail...

Look what arrived in the mail!
It's my box of Advent presents from Jeanette!
Now I have to sit and look at this bright and bubbly box in my sewing room, unopened, for the next two weeks! I knew there would be a down side to this Swap.
Jeanette's parcel from me has arrived at her door too, so we're both bursting with anticipation at the daily treats from each other through December. Thanks to Jo and Fiona for hosting the Advent Swap - wonderful idea!

Speaking of Swaps ~ earlier this year I signed up for Maree's Paper Bag Swap. The idea was to post off some fabric, threads and trimmings in a paper bag (with some chocolate!) to your swap partner and they were to make you something from them, then post the finished item back to you.
My partner was Peg, and she is a real sweetheart (look at her blog, she does gorgeous work)...I designed this for her, stitched it up and posted it off just as we were leaving Esperance to move across country.

Creating Country Threads magazine showed an interest in it, so I decided to remake it for them to publish but I altered it slightly so that Peg's was her very own 'original'. :-)
The latest issue of Creating Country Threads arrived in the mail this week and now you too can make 'Hearts for Peg"...

If those outside of Australia, or unable to purchase this issue of Creating Country Threads, would like to purchase this design please let me know in the comments and I'll do up a pattern pack this week for my Etsy Store. :-)
What are you going to make for yourself in the coming months? Are you like me and send most of what you make off to friends and family as gifts?
In the current issue of Homespun there is a gorgeous bag design from Natalie Lymer of Cinderberry Stitches, and when I saw it I knew I wanted my own version. At the end of the pattern instructions there is the supplier details for the lovely leather handles Natalie used - so guess what else arrived in the mail for me this week?
Yep, those leather handles!

I bought them from Studio Mio, and in the package they had added a little pack of fabrics - so cute!
I'll be using Snippets from Moda for my bag, because I love the fabrics, and also because the bag is made using a honey bun and I have one sitting on my shelf waiting for a purpose. It must have been destined for this. ;-)

Hmmm...can you guess which DMC thread is my favourite colour???

More mail goodies! Dawn, a fellow Gum Tree Designer, knows how much I *love* DMC 99.
News has been buzzing around that this is one of the colours DMC will be discontinuing so within hours of learning how frantic I was at being denied my precious #99 she planned her strike on the local Spotlight Store and armed with purse and babies she gathered 10 skeins off the rack, packed them with military precision and sent them off through the post to the opposite side of the country and into my waiting hands. Now, is that a friend or what?!

And of course, when one receives a gift like that one decides a new stitchery must be had to display the lovely and soon to be rare thread. So to my sketch pad I turned, then to tracing and fusing applique pieces...

...all ready to stitch now. Thank you darling Dawn!

And look at this sweet teaspoon another of my Gum Tree Designer sisters sent me! Vikki is a tea lover too, and when she saw this she knew it would bless me. It's too pretty to use of course so I have it in a gorgeous china bowl of lavender petals. Thank you darling Vikki!
(Vikki has a giveaway on her blog right now to celebrate her new designs!! You should hurry on over and enter because there are 3 double pattern packs to win!)


How are you going with your Shabby Roses quilt blocks? Have you caught up? All the blocks, 1 - 12, have been released, and if you haven't begun this quilt I really hope you do soon. It was a true labour of love to design and make, and an experience that I will always cherish.
On December 1st I will release the free quilt label design for you to download, as well as the quilt assembly instructions. Today, however, I'll give you a sneak peek of the label....

Blocks 10, 11, and 12 are available for free download until December 31st.

Blocks 1 - 9 are available to purchase in sets of three as PDF downloads I will email to you, through my Etsy Store.
Perhaps you prefer a paper pattern set? You can choose to purchase the complete printed pattern set with all instructions and photograph for free postage worldwide through my Etsy Store as well.

If you are Scandinavian, you can purchase the complete printed pattern set with all instructions and photograph, in your own language, from Maggi's Handmade in Sweden. Just click on the photo below to visit her store!
Maggi's Handmade

Today Blossom has been sent home from school with a very sick stomach so she's back in bed with the fan on to keep her cool. I pray she recovers quickly as she is going to receive an Academic Excellence award at the end of year Speech Day on Friday, so if you could offer a pray for her that would be most welcome. :-)

It's very hot here every day, but Bob-the-dog sits by the door at dawn when it's cool enough to have it open, and watches me as I sew through the sunrise...

...and the sun is rising high in the sky now, so I'll go make my Blossom a cool drink and sit close by and stitch while she rests. Bob-the-dog will be by our side, of course. My little shadow.

I'll do another post later today as there have been some questions asked that need answering.


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Angel Swap received, Advent Swap posted, and some help with stitches...

Thank you sweet friends for all your lovely emails and comments over my recent bout of illness. I'm much better today, almost back to my old self again, but I am taking your advice and will be slowing down a bit from now on - I went through a bit of a silly season for a few months, and it was all for a good reason, but it's not the way to live all the time.
On Friday I received the parcel from my Stitchers Angel partner! It came all the way from Portugal and contained some extra surprises - a box of cappuccino mixes (all gone now!), Belgian chocolates (all gone too!), and lovely pyramid tea bags that Blossom and I are saving for our special afternoon teas.
Guarding my parcel of presents was this beautiful angel ornament!

My lovely Angel was Noemia, and you can see more of her work on her blog!
Inside the parcels were lovely handmade gifts ....

Thank you so much Noemia!! She has been reading my blog and knew how much I loved tea parties, cappuccinos, and Belgian chocolates so she spoiled me with a sweet tea cosy, and a tea pot mat, as well as the other goodies.
I love them all! :-)
I have been busy with some secret things things this week - more swap presents, and a special gift for a dear friend, but I've also begun a new set of designs. I did a lot of sketching early in November and now that I am almost caught up with the 'have-to' projects I can make time for my 'want-to' projects! This means all my lovely sketches can come to life in needle and thread at last.
As I was stitching this morning it occured to me that this is an opportunity to answer a question I receive regularly in emails and comments. We have chatted before about backstitch and the importance to take your time and not be afraid to unpick and re-do - the most recent blog post on this topic is HERE if you would like to read it - but today I thought it would be good to discuss satin stitch.
I love satin stitch, and for exactly the reason the stitch is so named - the satiny sheen it displays when done well.

Like a simple backstitch, satin stitch should be undertaken slowly and gracefully, too.
Rushing through your stitcheries will always give the project a less than pleasing appearance - and many of you have told me that is how you feel when you look at your finished work.
I talked about the gentle rhythm of stitching a good backstitch, taking time, not pulling the threads tightly but allowing the thread to always feel relaxed in your hands in the fabric - the same applies with satin stitch. Never 'pull' the thread, but guide it through the fabric and allow it to stop of it's own accord rather than tugging it at the end (which will cause puckering).

Make sure that every stitch is sitting right next to the one before - remember, don't do spaced stitches just to finish faster. If the stitches are all nestled together they take on that lovely satin sheen. It is better to take your time and do a lovely piece of work than to finish twice as many projects poorly. Stop after each stitch and look at it. If it does not look even or smooth, pull it out and do it again.

Just as there are no gaps between a good set of backstitches, there should be no gaps between your set of satin stitches. I hope I have encouraged you to slow down as you stitch. It is so worth it at the end.
I am not the best hand-stitcher in the world, but my goal with every project is to improve my skills. It's a good goal to have. :-)
My Advent Swap parcels are now winging their way to my partner, Jeanette, and hers are on their way to me. We chose to post our parcels a week later as we both live in the same state and looking at a parcel of surprises for almost a month before we could open them would have been torturous!
I didn't number her parcels, but wanted her to choose them as a daily lucky dip - and there is an extra one in there in case she has a rough day in December and needs an extra special surprise.
The main present is wrapped in Christmas fabric...you can never have enough Christmas fabric, can you!?

I'd better get back to my stitching. Blossom is sitting nearby studying for her end of year science exam tomorrow, so perhaps I'll make her a bowl of freshly sliced nectarines and some cheese squares before I sew...
Have a beautiful Sunday, and may God bless the work of your hands!