15 September 2013

Backyard Biodiversity

I've been sick for almost a month but carrying on as best as I can. Blah. Had a cold on and off for two weeks, felt a bit better, then came down with a respiratory infection a few days ago that floored me. Today the sun was shining and I dragged myself out of bed, grabbed a blanket and had a snooze on a lounge chair in the front yard. Listening to a TED talks podcast after I woke up, I was amazed at the action happenin' in my little patch.

Suburban gardens support a huge amount of biodiversity. In a rare afternoon where I physically couldn't do any more than watch the world, I saw a myriad of bird and bug species at close range...what a joy! The wattle birds and mockingbirds were warbling, the bees were buzzing and the ants were crawling. I saw four different types of butterflies including the Australian Painted Lady (in pic above), Yellow Admiral and Common Brown. There were native and European honey bees collecting nectar, ants of various sizes, at least 3 different types of spiders, and a few flies.

Last week I had the pleasure of hearing the dynamic ecologist, author and professor James Hitchmough speak several times while visiting from Sheffield England. He mentioned a book called Wildlife of a Garden by Jennifer Owen. This amazing 30 year study by one woman of her own garden documented over 2,000 species of insects and other invertebrates. There's a lot happening close to home when we can slow down and have a look.

17 July 2013

Winter in Melbourne

My feelings exactly...this says it all really. A friend gave me this pin that came with bulbs from Diggers. Very funny! xo

14 June 2013

Cal Patch Sew Along

I just finished my skirt from Cal Patch's A-line skirt sew-along. I know what you're thinking...another A-line! I really like the simple style and it suits vintage fabrics really well. I'm so pleased to have a pattern that fits me perfectly that I'll use again and again.  Even with a drafting background from landscape design I find pattern making challenging.  I can picture what a tree or plant will look like in the landscape when I see it on paper, but body contours are completely different to draw up.  Cal was so patient in class and explained every step and why lines and shapes that looked counter-intuitive would work when the fabric was cut and sewn.  I liked her explantion of darts 'They're cones for boobs and butts'!  

Here I am above drafting the pattern in Cal Patch's Design Your Own Clothes workshop at the Makerie. Photo credit above Linda Winski.

A-line skirt pattern from Makerie Sewing by MelbourneMel
The completed pattern... ready to cut out the muslin. The muslin fit perfectly, no adjustments needed.

Cutting out the fabric at my Sew Melbourne group at Can Do Books. My tassel necklace sure gets around!  I discovered when I tried on the skirt that heavy fabrics really need to be mushed down on the fold after you lay the pattern on top. The fold was a bit bulky and ended up adding a few centimetres to the front waistline. I took in the darts a bit and a little from the sides to fix it. I ran up the street and got a dress zipper at  Langknitt,  a lovely neighborhood shop that still sells haberdashery.  The fabric is a vintage bark-cloth from Urban Burp.

02 June 2013

Getty Center Garden in LA

More pics from my trip to the US last month. This is the always inspiring Central Garden at the Getty Center, designed by Robert Irwin with horticultural consulting by Jim Duggan.

20 May 2013

Makerie Sewing 2013

Last month I spent 3 and a half blissful days at the Makerie Sewing Retreat in Boulder, Colorado during a trip back to the US and Mexico to visit family and friends. The teachers were amazing, generous, and funny. These ladies are the rock stars of the sewing and craft world: Amy Butler from Amy Butler Design, Jenny Hart from Sublime Stitching, Kaari Meng  from French General, Liesl Gibson from Oliver + S, Cal Patch from Hodge Podge Farm, Heather Jones from Olive and Ollie and Tamar Mogendorff.  We also had insightful lunchtime sessions with Amy Flurry from Recipe for Press on generating your own PR.

Amy Butler's class in one of the beautiful workshop spaces at Chautauqua.

Creating Your Unique Colour Story with Amy Butler

A very happy group of makers with Amy Butler (bottom row centre). I'm standing fourth from the left.

 Jenny Hart's Illuminated Embroidery workshop. Sitting with the lovely afternoon sun streaming through the window with a woman from Scotland.

The snow in Boulder 2 days before the Makerie started. I had planned on hiking but went on a tour of the Celestial Seasonings Tea factory instead!
My fantastic cabin mates, Rhonda,  me with my eyest closed, Mary and Michele. We all happened to wear purple on the last day! Great minds think alike. (Rhonda's photo)

Our creative output laid out on the table in our cozy cabin. (Rhonda's photo)
The Dining Hall at Chautauqua with the Flatirons in the background. You can see how much the snow melted after three days of sunshine. (Rhonda's photo)
More pics can be found on my Pinterest board and the Makerie blog, and Flickr sites.


10 April 2013


It's a fiesta of chiles from my garden and a few from the Burnley Rooftop Garden.  The varieties include Thai, Habañero, Birds Eye, Jalapeño and yes, Fiesta!

Making Escabeche from the chiles, garlic from my garden and purchased carrots and cauliflower.  I posted the recipe here two years ago.

Bottled up and ready to go!

Next on the Mexican veggie harvest train were the Tomatillos...
Tomatilloes are the main ingredient in Salsa Verde and can also be made into soup or a number of other recipes including pasta sauce. I grew two types this year, purple and the regular green. They turn pale yellow if left longer on the plant but I prefer the tangier flavour when they are still green. They can be picked any time after the papery husk starts to break like the ones above on the right.

Tomatilloes are not eaten raw, the papery husk must be removed and the fruit is cooked before eating. Browning them on each side gives them a lovely smoky flavour. I chop them in half, grill them in a pan or under the broiler for a few minutes on each side and then freeze them in individual portion sizes in zip-lock bags.  They can be defrosted as needed and chopped up with some Escabeche to make a delicious salsa!

27 March 2013

Embroidery Floss Tassel Necklace

Inspired by this Jenny Hart blog post on Sublime Stitching. Can't wait for the Makerie Sewing!

18 March 2013

My First Patchwork Throw

Big achievement - I finally completed my first patchwork quilt! Well, it's a throw really but let's be bold and call it a quilt.  I started this about 2 years ago and then put it aside at some stage with the intention of getting back to it (hahaha). I decided around Christmas that it was time to get the binding on the edges, the last step. The binding was machine-sewn on the front and hand-stitched on the back and I just finished last week! 
The embroidered square in the photo above and in a few others were Jenny Hart transfers from her book Embroidered Effects and from the Sublime Stitching Craft Pad. I'm so excited to be doing a workshop next month in Boulder, Colorado with her at the Makerie Sewing Retreat (and other amazing imsirping women like Amy Butler, Keri Meng from French General, Cal Patch and Heather Jones).
The quilt was inspired by one of my great-grandmother, Nana's, depression-era patchwork quilts, below. I wanted to make a quilt with all scraps from my stash, nothing purchased.  A few of the squares were fabric donated by a friend but the only things purchased were a $1 batting piece from an op-shop (this actually determined the size of the quilt) and some thick hand-dyed cotton embroidery floss that I used to knot the middle of the squares.
One of two quilts made by my great-grandmother. I remember sleeping under this in Chicago at my grandparents' when I was very little and my mother getting it out in Los Angeles if we were home sick lying on the couch watching TV. It was incredibly warm and heavy.
Great-grandpa Kessler worked in the shipping department of  Hart Schaffner and Marx men's clothing company in Chicago and the quality of the wool fabric and the vibrancy of the colours is amazing. These would have been men's suit sample squares that he brought home for Nana. The squares were all hand-knotted in the centre with green wool knitting yarn. A few of the squares need repair but these quilts have held up well, especially considering they were always machine washed and my mother would have also tumble-dried them.
The back of the the quilt is mattress ticking and there's no border. This is a real no-nonsense quilt!
My quilt again! A closeup of some of the fabric squares with embroidery detail around the squirrel pattern.
The back of my quilt with a vintage fabric I purchased online. You may recognise it from the sides of my Vintage Apron!

13 March 2013

A-line Skirt Copy

A-line skirt copy

I originally had made this fabric into a elastic-waist skirt and didn't really like the fullness of the pleats with the stiff vintage cotton.  I always thought this fabric would be better suited to a straight skirt. Then, last June I bought a skirt when I was working full time thinking 'this is one that I could make' but didn't have any time to sew that winter.  It was my favourite (2nd fave now!) skirt and I finally had time to copy it last month. I made it a little narrower than the original red skirt (below).

The fabric has hand-painted looking purple, turquoise and yellow flowers with grey and green brushy stems and leaves. I bordered it in purple store-bought bias binding after testing to make sure it didn't run in the wash or with the steam iron. I had another trim I was thinking of using that was colour-fast in the wash but ran onto my ironing board (see photo below). Didn't use that one! The fabric was from A Piece of Cloth at their North Melbourne Market stall.

 The purchased skirt. I love this fabric and live in this skirt with t-shirts!

 I didn't make a pattern, just placed the fabric under the skirt and cut with a seam allowance.

 I recommend testing for water and steam-iron fastness if you are using a coloured trim. This one didn't pass the steam test and I didn't realise it until it was too late for my ironing board cover!

02 March 2013

Vintage PJs

Vintage PJs, pattern circa 1930's. The fabric is $9/m Japanese lawn from Spotlight and vintage lace trim from my stash.  This is the first pattern I have ever used that fit me perfectly without any alterations! It was one of those real oldies with no markings on the pattern and no instructions but good pics on the envelope. Very comfy for lounging around the house and a lot more stylish than track pants!
Australian Home Journal 10498
Pattern Envelope Back
Back view
Bow tie detail

22 February 2013

3 Meals from the Garden

Beans (Purple King, they turn green when you cook them!), basil, rocket, Italian parsley and French tarragon to go in pasta. A fig for dessert.

Baby lettuce (Butterhead), chicory, purple basil with added roasted red capsicum, escabeche (pickled carrots and chiles) and dijon mustard for a vinaigrette dressing. Topped with salmon.

Rhubarb, plums, ginger shoots and added cinnamon sticks for a compote. Mixed with yogurt and BarleyMax cereal.

18 February 2013

Vintage Apron

The strange case of Iphone head.
Here's a vintage-style apron I made using McCall's 3979 view E. I didn't want to cover up the cute pattern so I left out the pockets. I also made up my own slip-over neck piece to fit the pattern graphics instead of ties. Originally I had a vintage Sajou red guipure trim on the 'V's' looked like little dots, but discovered that it ran when I ironed it. Luckily soaking in SOS colour run removed the red, but it faded the fabric a little bit. I had done a colour-fast test in the wash that was okay but the steam from the iron was too much. Darn that red!

The Kitchen kitsch fabric was from A Piece of Cloth at the North Melbourne Market. They have a shop now at an amazing old historic paper mill outside of Geelong - definately check it out and support their new venture if you're down that way. The turquose trim was ordered online from the US from Urban Burp and I have also used it to back a quilt that I will finish someday.

McCall's 3979