Monday, August 29, 2016

Of Birds and Stitching.

The wee bird feeder we bought has worked so well that we are getting loads of tiny birds settle on feed. These are tiny little wax eyes and yellow hammers . At times there  are up to 5 on the little purple rod. The rod comes from

 I decided it was time to make more seed cakes. I made some following some online advice using fat and wild bird seeds.  I melted the fat and then added seeds to the mix to harden. I find adding the little seed cakes into mesh bags - like onions and oranges come in - help prevent wastage. It does not seem to bother the birds who eat though the mesh. I think setting them in little silicon baking cups would make it easier to pop put making the cling film not necessary.

My stitching lessons on Jude Hill's site continue and yesterday I basted the two thin fabrics together using the invisable basting technique she shows on her site. This joins the two background fabrics together using little puckered stitches.

I then followed one of her 3 examples of how to do a background - using weaving of fabric strips together and stitching down. This was new to me and I found it created an interesting very tactile background. I especially love the frayed edges. I tried to pick old recycled fabrics in softer tones so as to not dominate any applique I added to the top.

 I am hand quilting the woven fabric down after pinning it. I am using lots of tiny quilting stitches down with DMC floss. With each layer the fabric thickens and feel different under my hands and yet is soft and beautiful. The strips have come from old pillow cases , some faded floral fabric and Greg's old flannel shirt. I love the softness of the old flannel under my fingers. It is comforting somehow.

I like how it is evolving and how much I am learning. I have to reign in my desire to rush ahead and do more without savouring the process. It is in the process that my spirit finds the calm and healing it seeks.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Starting my Spirit Cloth 101 workshop

I have been reading and watching the videos / audios  ( ) and have been gathering my supplies so that I am ready to start my sewing. It is important to me to use what I have and to use things that have meaning. I want the process to be thoughtful and intentional.

So I have used a small basket given to me by my mother from Malaysia . It was from a trip she did many years ago and bought from a street market. It is a simple heart shape with some  Raffia flowers.  It is hand made and I have always loved the baskets piled with needlework that I remember everyone used to have. No posh , compartments or styles. Just simple and handmade.  I have used this to place my sewing tools and supplies as suggested by Jude Hill on her blog ( Spirit Cloth ) . It is old and comforting and reminds me of happy times.

My threads are very much in a nest . A Collection of DMC embroidery threads saved from other projects. I find it interesting to note that Jude Hill also describes her thread nest. It is somewhat exciting to pull colours from this nest and see if it is long enough to be used. I would have loved to keep my thread nest in a lovely wooden bowl hand turned by our friend Joy Cowley . However a nest of threads may be too much temptation for my cats. So instead I have opted for a red woven basket box that once held candy from my partner's mother. A welcomed gift on a visit. The candy lasted only briefly - the box endures to remember the gift. I wonder if I am like other women. I can't resist old tiny tins , baskets and boxes. Maybe its a Squirrel like instinct. Maybe is simply hoarding!

I have a wee container of pins stashed in a little Mary Englebright  box . It was a gift from a online friend. I really love it. A little hand turned needle case made from New Zealand Kauri. and a scissors which must be now over 20 years old. The black handle now scratched  to silver.  I had to add my two pin cushions. One a little owl made and stitched by me  while  the other a lovely patchwork one made by my friend Georgina. A lovely lady who makes the most wonderful cloth dolls. We used to do a little sewing day once  a week and a wonderful charity shop excursion from time to time. It was friendship forged from living so remotely in the country.  The pin cushion was a parting gift when we moved.

I also have a tiny notebook - one I remember so well from childhood for its 555  logo on the front. I don't even know if they are made anymore. I will use this for ideas and thoughts as it fits nicely into my basket. Last of all is - a flat hard board to use as a hard surface for stitching . This was a treasure found dumpster diving after a friend moved. Crafters and Artists we are a shameless lot.

The fabric I am using to stitch on is one of Greg's old shirts - its thin and soft and well used. the backing fabric is from an old pillow case my mother embroidered on as a Christmas gift. I saved the embroidery and torn apart the soft cotton fabric. It has a discolouring that comes with age and I love it.

In one of her videos /audios Jude Hill talks about the idea of coming up with a theme or meaning to the work. A purpose . An idea. I have given this some thought and scribbled some ideas. It does control my tendency to just jump into a project thoughtlessly and then lose interest. . I want to make something useful for my stitching- maybe a pouch or needle case . Not too big but something easily carried in a basket or my handbag. I thought of the theme of flowers or cats could do nicely - but was unable to decide between the two. So the idea of flower cats came up. Cats with flower faces or petals and stems . It amused me and opened a whole lot of ideas to think about. Maybe this is the point of making a deliberate plan.

My first task is to  to baste the two fabrics together using an invisable basting stitch. Jude demonstrates this in her video. It is interesting to note she describes the way the fabric then feels different after stitching the two parts together. I like this deliberate tactile observation.

So I am off to baste the fabrics and plan for the next section.I am eager to start sewing.

If you want to follow the class . it can be found on

Saturday, August 27, 2016

 Starting a Stitching Course

I have always been in awe of the work of Jude Hill and her work in her Spirit cloth blog. Today I decided I would challenge myself in doing her Spirit Cloth 101 course . She has very kindly offered this self paced course for free to teach and share her techniques.

The Spirit Cloth 101 course can be found on

I am going to gather up my supplies in a wee basket and get ready to learn with her.

This is the rough outline Jude Hill sets out for her stitching course ( taken from her website )

1.Intro- An overview of my approach.   What to expect from this class.  Some project ideas. 
2.Creating a base- covering   three approaches... whole cloth, piecing and cloth weaving.
3. Stabilizing  and  basting and preparing a base for embellishment.
4. Composition and Story.  How to build on an idea.
5. Applique- several approaches including turned, ragged edge and  alternative variations on both of these.
6. Stitch as it applies to embellishment.
7. Quilting.  Putting layers together.
8. Edges. finishing touches

I want my stitching to not only be a learning creative process but also a meditative one that will help me cope with the stress and anxiety I am prone to.  I will take my time with the process and enjoy learning .

                              picture of a cloth doll I simply love

Friday, August 26, 2016

Little Pleasures

Some times it seems that one has to find the smallest of joys to keep oneself going . That is how I feel today with the heaviness of heart weighing me down. Perhaps its it just a seasonal thing - my continued battle with the black dog as Winston Churchill would say. Today as I sit by my computer I watch the tiny birds that settle on my newest bird feeder.

I got this wonderful thing from Diacks Nursery - a coloured  rod  ( Windsticks )  that bends and sways in the wind like a tree branch. It has a wee pebble that rests in the middle and allows one to insert seed cakes and fruit for the birds. The lady at the nursery told me it was a wonderful device - simple but really appealing to the birds. The rod costs me about $15 and the seed cakes $2.90 . Not bad if you consider the pleasure that comes from watching tiny birds settle and nibble on the seed cakes. My cats love it too. Sitting and watching to see what comes and feeds next.

Wind Sticks can be seen at

In a world where I am unable to cope with my heaviness it is nice to lift the spirits of others -even wee feathered ones.

It makes me happy and helps me forget for a time my sadness.

So far I have seen tiny wax eyes. These are tiny birds that flit excitedly At times that are 4 to 5 on the rod eating with glee . At times bell birds and little yellow headed finches.

The smallest ones are my favourites. - they are my smallest pleasures.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Flower Friends

Today a treat arrived in my mail box. Catalogues from Wild Flower World 
 ( ) and Garden Post  (

My life is so quiet now - ordinary and still - that these catalogues seem to be a bright spark in my day. I rush indoors -brew some coffee on the coal range and get out the catalogues. Promises . Hope. The Future.  These help when my heart feels low and heavy.Hours spent alone in a small world.

This seasons catalogues are in readiness for a coming Spring - it is full of Dahlias, Begonias , Lilies and Gladioli. I am excited. I start to pick my favourites even if my bank account tells me my dreams are not a possibility. One can dream.

In my dreams I pick masses of Dahlias which I have recently become smitten with. The Dahlia Snowflake looks like sweet round pom poms of petals. 

                                                            Dahlia Snowflake

The Glory of Heemstede a lovely waterlily type with almost translucent clear yellow flowers. They sound divine. I remember reading  about them in a book by Christopher Llloyd as he writes about his garden in Dixter in Sussex. It is my new bedtime reading . I lie in bed and imagine not some handsome hero - but a white haired old man take me through his garden and teach me how to plant and grow the most divine flowers. He is a friend .

The Dahlia Fire pot looks stunning in the catalogue  salmon orange with yellow  centers that they say glow like a summer's fire. I imagine them growing  in a mass  in my little secret garden. The secret garden is my newest project. I am finding it harder lately to cope with the lack of privacy here - the peering of faces over fences and screaming children. My soul seems to crave the stillness and peace of being hidden and unseen. This is something the man is unable to understand and yet for me it is an almost frantic desperate need .

 So I have found a small area of my garden where I am making a quiet spot. - a tiny strip of land wedged between our house and my neighbours high fence and line of trees. They are seldom there and when the are - it is only the hum of quiet voices through the trees . I have collected mounds of chunky driftwood logs  and made raised beds . Filled with soil and compost from a nearby farm - ( a trailer load of well rotted compost in exchange for a box of beer - barter country style ) - it will become beds with masses of flowers and plants. I go through what I have in the garden - find plants to add to it - divide and split. They will fill up quickly.

I hope to add some Dahlia bulbs that I bought recently with some birthday money from my brother. I picked Dahlia Burlesca , Dahlia Rococo , Dahlia Rembrandt  and Dahlia Fuzzy Wuzzy. These came from Bulbs Direct in New Zealand . I am excited and cant wait for them to be ready to go into some warm soil.  For us it will likely be later in October.

                                                                 Dahlia Rococo

                                                               Dahlia Burlesca                                                                        

                                                             Dahlia Fuzzy Wuzzy

                                                          Dahlia Rembrandt

 I smile as I notice all the bulbs I have picked are shades of pink. I have grown Pinky in my years...a delayed childhood perhaps or maybe the colour of a survivor  like those pink ribbons women wear to say they beat cancer / will beat cancer . For me maybe the Pink is a colour to say I am still me and still here .

I have always wanted a garden - Planted many over the years only to have to uproot and leave them - never seeing the seeds planted grow or bulbs bloom. This garden now seems like my own. For keeps. Or so I hope. It has become a friend - someone to spend the day with and to talk to when I am low and the world does not understand. It is a party to which I am always invited. It is my solace.

Back to my catalogues and the prospect of choosing more friends from the flowers. I get an email to say another catalogue is on its way to me. Happy days.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Some days are just comfort food days. With the end looming for our freezer vegetables from last Summer I decided to get out the trusty old crockpot and make a stew of sorts. In went potatoes from our neighbours garden , carrots, pumpkin , swedes , cabbage and home grown leeks. It had somehow escaped me that one does not put on the crockpot later in the day. So and hour before Greg gets home - nothing is cooking yet. Out the crockpot and onto the coal range. I decided that some nice floury dumplings might be nice and I tried this recipe. they were easy and really yummy. Its a keeper for sure!!  Judging from the response from Greg - he thought so too
here it is



  1. Put the flour, seasonings, & suet in a large mixing bowl, mix thoroughly.
  2. (If you are adding herbs or extra seasonings, add them now & mix well.).
  3. Add sufficient cold water - bit by bit - to make a pliable dough; it should not be too sticky, but just bound together.
  4. Divide the dumpling mixture into 8 portions, and roll into small balls with floured hands.
  5. Drop them into your soup, casserole or stew 20 minutes before the end of the cooking time, making sure that the soup, stew or casserole is very hot.
  6. Put the lid on IMMEDIATELY and do NOT take the lid off until just before the end of the cooking time, about 15-18 minutes to check that they are nearly ready.
  7. They should have doubled in size at least, and be very light & fluffy looking!
  8. Ladle the soup, stew or casserole into warmed soup bowls & serve 2 dumplings per person.
  9. Oven baked: place the dumplings on top of your stew or casserole and cook for about 30 minutes at 200C or 400F, or until well risen, golden brown & crusty.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

What makes a friend.

I sometimes wonder at life and all that comes our way. Often friendships that once seemed so dear and so important to us - fade to nothing - at times not even memories. Sadly I have known friendships that have ended with cruelty and betrayal  and any thought of them are now only tinged with the grief and anger . So what makes a good friend . I have to say some of the most wonderful friendships I have had are not with people but with animals. The love they give is unconditional and there is so little judgement. How is it my dog seems so delighted to see me when I come home after being away for only hours and yet some people make no acknowledgement of you after you have been gone for years...Why is it when you cry and are at a loss for words- a cold nose says more than any human voice has ever attempted. My dog stays with me when I am too unwell to scramble over the rocks at the beach  even though she wants so much to explore. This past week we lost another friend - a dear old dog we both adored . Pip was a lovely soul - tough in her own way and yet full of love and fun. She was clever and used her cuteness to worm her way into hearts - who could not bear to scold her when she was waving a furry paw at you. Grief is so hard alone. The trees are in blossom now as Spring comes with her promises. Winter took away my friend. And with her a piece of my heart.