My Soft Toy Making Journey

I have always enjoyed soft toy sculpture, whether it be toy animals or dolls, due to the infinite opportunities this medium affords for creativity, originality and self-expression, as well as the way that the further the project develops, the more it takes on a life of its own!

My soft toy journey started with Edward and Rosie, two bears I made for my young daughters at a workshop in Hobart.

A stint at the Steiner school introduced me to Steiner dolls, felt and wool fairies and animals and hobby horses.

When the children were older, I attended another weekend workshop in Armidale with Helen Gould, where I made a classic country rag doll, Country Sally. My 8 year old daughter had to join me on the Saturday afternoon, as her Dad was busy and the other participants and Caroline were so enamoured with each other that they made her a mini doll for her to dress and decorate on the Sunday (white-haired doll on the right).BlogSoftToys25%IMG_7206 It resulted in a further Mother-and-Daughter workshop for Mothers Day, where my two daughters and I made three delightful dolls based on Helen’s pattern Petal and Flower Bud. Jen made a green doll, Caro a blue doll and mine is in the middle!

After that experience, there was no stopping them. Ten year old Jenny went on to make me another doll for my birthday (the remaining doll in the Country Sally photo) and the two girls enjoyed crafting Christmas angels on the kitchen table.BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-04-22 08.59.48 - CopyBlogSoftToys2015-10-13 14.31.53In late August 2000, I treated myself with a good friend to Millenium Madness, the first Doll-O-Rama Cloth Doll Symposium at Griffith University, Mt Gravatt, in Brisbane, Queensland. It was wonderfully stimulating and creative! See if you can find me!BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6547 We were given a showbag of goodies, including a cute sun badge, each one unique. BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6549

We had to take along a small brooch for a pin doll swap on registration. I replaced my Wollomombi Wock Wallaby (a play on the rock wallabies, who lived in the nearby Wollomombi Gorge, NSW) with a beaded totem doll made by well-known dollmaker Lynne Butcher (http://members.tripod.com/lynne_butcher/index.html).

There were fabulous displays, competitions, shopping bazaars with all manner of wonderful doll making paraphernalia and a huge variety of workshops. I enjoyed three totally different courses. My first workshop was a Felting Madness with Ann Maullin (http://gumnutdolliesnewcastle.blogspot.com/2009/07/ann-maullin-oriental-dance.html and http://annmaullin.blogspot.com/), who had beautiful dolls in sea colours and a lovely manner. Here is a photo of my friend and I on the right with Ann Maullin (yellow tshirt) and two other students.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6548Geraldene Just was next with her highly creative Shellyback Bogles, mythical creatures who arrived from Scotland as stowaways in the convict ships’ ballast and went on to colonise the drains and sewers of Brisbane. Because they lived in dark places, their colours were dull and neutral, their character relying more on textures and feel.

It was a full-on fast workshop with no time for cutting threads or tidying up ends, as Geraldine was keen for us to go home with a finished sculpture, plus the requirements list had been a bit sparse, so a few of us found the whole process slightly stressful, but after being given some of the missing materials required and getting to the decorating stage, I relaxed and got lost in the wonderful world of imagination! I had taken in an old broken metal steamer, which came in very handy as a metal collar for my warrior of the drains, who cleaned old bird nests off the sewer walls with an old toothbrush.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_7218

Another concern Geraldine had was the fact that all the bogles might look the same, but she need not have worried. All took on different appearances and personas, depending on the materials used and their makers’ different personalities. I have noticed this trait time and time again when doing workshops with other participants. See how different they all are!

I enjoyed making this creature so much that I made him a bride when I returned home.

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My final workshop, Amazing Annie, was with the bubbly, energetic and enthusiastic Jane Coughlan (http://clothdollpatterns.com/patterns2/id32.htm and https://dollmakersjourney.com/coughlan.html) with her humorous dolls, which shared their designer’s happiness and joy. However, I was exhausted by this stage, so never finished this doll. It certainly was a memorable experience and a great way to celebrate the first year of the new millennium!BlogSoftToys25%IMG_7222Another very happy and joyful dollmaker, who shares my love of colour, is another American dollmaker, Patti Medaris Culea (http://www.pmcdesigns.com/). My daughters and I met her at a Craft Show in Sydney in February 2002 (photo above) and I own a number of her books.

Jodie Carleton (http://vintagericrac.blogspot.com/) of Ric Rac taught me to make her toy elephants Parsley and Beet at a workshop in Ballarat (see photo below) and I also attended a weekend workshop in 2011 with Melly and Me (https://www.mellyandme.com/) and other textile artists at Peppers, Hepburn Springs, Daylesford.BlogSoftToys2515-03-23 18.13.53

I also booked in for a workshop with the highly imaginative and creative American doll artist, Akira Blount, at the Geelong Fibre Forum 2011, but unfortunately had to cancel, much to my everlasting regret, as I have since found out she died in 2013. Here is her obituary: http://www.923wnpc.com/cgi-bin/newspost/viewnews.cgi?category=1&id=1375876604.

She really created some amazing  and original artworks, which you can see in her gallery: https://www.akirastudios.com. I particularly loved her work from 2001 to 2004. Below is a selection of toys I have made over the years…

I really enjoy toymaking and while I get many of my patterns online or commercially, I also own a number of books in my craft library.

So, the next three book posts will cover felt toys and animals; soft toy dolls; and finally, sewing with children.

Craft Books: A Miscellaneous Medley

While I would probably classify myself as a textile artist, with the majority of my books covering the textile crafts of embroidery; sewing and dressmaking; patchwork, appliqué and quilting; soft toy making; felting; knitting and crochet; textile dyeing; printing; and paper crafts, I also own a few books on other fibre crafts like basketry, making corn dollies, whittling, bread dough sculpture and making paper kites and lanterns, as well as those using totally different mediums, including wax (candle making); glass (jewellery making); and clay (mosaics, handmade tiles and sculpture). Many of these crafts are relatively cheap, as they use natural materials (plant fibres, bread, wood, paper, wax and sand or dirt) and forces (hands, wind, light) and can be enjoyed at both a beginner or advanced level. Here is a selection of books accrued during my journey through life!

Basketry and Weaving With Natural Materials by Pat Dale 1998

I have always loved baskets and have been fascinated for years by the whole basketmaking process, so when I discovered that we had an active basketmaking group, Basketeers Wyndham, here on the Far South Coast of NSW, I spent a day with them at their local meeting place, the Willy Wagtail Café, Wyndham. They are a lovely group and very generous with their time, knowledge and materials and I really enjoyed making the small basket below, however I did not pursue the craft further due to early arthritic changes in both my hands (feltmaking also went by the way for the same reason- I need to save my hands for embroidery!), not to mention the fact that you need heaps of room to dry, process and store natural fibres from the garden. However, if you are interested in basket making, joining a basketmaking group is a great way to learn basic hands-on techniques, as well as being a lot of fun!BlogMiscMedley2015-09-01 14.10.58I would also highly recommend this book as an excellent beginner’s guide to basketry and weaving with natural materials. It starts with a large section on natural materials: the leaves of agave, arum lily, bulrush, cane grass, canna lily, corn, cymbidium, Hemerocallis, dianella, ginger, gladioli, iris, cliveas, kangaroo paw, lomandra, phormium, kniphofia, and a variety of rushes and palms; and the stems of box thorn, native hibiscus, lavender, wattles, elms and oaks, kurrajong, paperbark and casuarinas, clematis, coral pea, dodder, ivy, jasmine, lawyer vine, lignum and wisteria, including a description, harvesting and preparation notes, and availability. It’s a wonderful sideline for gardeners, as you can use all your prunings and old leaves to great effect with zero waste! Below are photos of Monbretia (on the left) and Kniphofia (on the right), whose strappy leaves are perfect for basketry materials!

The book progresses to teaching basic techniques like under-and-over weaving; braiding and plaiting with three strands, basic melon basket construction and basket coiling with easy random stitching and using natural plant dyes, as well as providing instructions for a few easy projects, including harvest dolls, tassels, lavender wands or bottles, three palm sheath containers, a plaited and sewn Autumn mat, a stitched and coiled basket and a God’s Eye. Throughout the book are excellent diagrams and beautiful colour photographs of natural materials and projects.BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6304

I have attended many different craft classes during my life, some more obscure than others, like Painting Ukrainian Easter Eggs and Making Corn Dollies, and this next book resulted from the latter workshop.

Discovering Corn Dollies by M. Lambeth 1994

Corn dollies are decorative art forms made from straw since pagan times to celebrate successful harvests and bring good luck and fertility.BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6358 This little paperback describes the huge wealth of legends and traditions surrounding them; the basic plaiting technique; and all the different designs: the traditional dolly or Neck; a variety of Countryman’s Favours; the Glory; the Mare; the Staffordshire Knot; the Cambridgeshire Handbell and Umbrella; Horns; the Crook; the Crown; the Suffolk Horseshoe; the Pickering Chalice; the Yorkshire Candlestick; the Essex Terret; Mother Earth;  Heredfordshire and Welsh Fans and Scandinavian Christmas Ornaments. While there is a small amount of basic instruction, it is more a theoretical book, but does give a good idea of this craft’s long history and traditions.

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Bread Dough Creations by Susan Roach 1993

Another obscure phase, which didn’t last very long in my childhood, was modelling bread dough creations and they can be surprisingly effective and quite pretty, given their unlikely source of material. This small book showcases this art form very well, describing the materials and basic techniques and a number of projects embellished with bread dough flowers and shapes from jewellery, hair combs and headbands, and hand mirrors and photo frames to thimbles, jewellery boxes, candle holders, serviette rings, wall plaques, door hangers and door wedges. It certainly is a cheap hobby, a great use for old bread and a fun craft to try with your kids.BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6303

Whittling by Rosalie Brown 1977

Another cheap and fun craft for kids and adults alike is whittling wood. All it requires is a wood and a penknife and lots of practice and patience, though you do need tools to sharpen the knife, as well as sandpaper, varnishes and paints to finish the work. Chapters cover: sharpening a penknife; woods and how to identify them, basic carving techniques and safety considerations, and notes for carving a wide variety of projects, including paper knives; picnic cutlery; chopsticks; napkin rings; animals and birds; chess pieces; walking sticks; and totem poles and symbols. Soap and plaster carving are also discussed. It is a comprehensive little book, which should provide hours of fun and inspiration.BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6301

Kites by Didier Carpentier and Joël Bachelet 1981

Making and flying kites is another fun hobby! It too has a long history, originating in China 4000 years ago, and is popular all over the world, especially in China, Japan and Korea. The first few chapters discuss the history and stories behind kites; the necessary safety precautions; the parts of a kite; classification of designs and categories; physical aspects; winds; methods for measuring altitude; the take-off; and problem areas, causes and remedies, followed by a more detailed examination of the different parts of the kite (bridles and keels, knots,  tails, reels); tools and materials; basic instructions for making  and decorating paper and collapsible nylon kites and descriptions of a wide variety of different types of kites with some amazing appearances and structures and names like the Dragon, the Cobra and the Centipede to the Triple Conyne; Double-sailed Roller; Pomoserf, Saconney and Cody; and the Stunter and the Fourré  43.BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6300

In our early years of married life, we made a basic paper kite, based on the old nursery rhyme about the cow that jumped over the moon, for a family kite flying competition, in which we came a very creditable second place!BlogMiscMedley40%IMG_6309BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6308BlogMiscMedley50%IMG_6310Magic Lanterns by Mary Maguire 2002

Lanterns have also fascinated me over the years with some memorable nights on the banks of the Lismore (2004 Top photo) and Moruya Rivers (2016 Second photo) during their lantern festivals. While the Riverlights Lantern parade is no longer part of the Granite Town Festival (Moruya River), the next Lismore Lantern Parade is on 22 Jun 2019. See: https://www.lanternparade.com/.

BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6356BlogMiscMedley25%Photo 28-10-16, 8 57 32 pmThis lovely book has instructions for a wide range of lanterns from simple and colourful paper bag lanterns, Chinese lanterns, carved squash, punched tins and frosted jars to tin foil garden flowers, weird icicles, flower fairy bells, stars on sticks and crescent moons, willow fish, Christmas lights and whimsical goblin night lights. It discusses materials and equipment; safety and illumination; and the basic techniques for creating and covering structures. I could make any one of these delightful, magical and highly creative lanterns!

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In her book, the author refers to the deep emotional connection that we have to the lighting of yesteryear, which manifests itself in our yearning for simplicity, now that electric lighting has obviated the need for lanterns and candles. We still enjoy using both for special occasions like Christmas and Halloween or for romantic dinners, so it stands to reason that I would have two books on candles and candle making in my craft library!

The Book of Candles by Miranda Innes 1991

Both a theoretical and practical guide, this book begins with their history and a Catalogue of Candles and Candlesticks, discussing the different kinds of candles (dipped, church, beeswax, Christmas, decorated, scented, floating and garden) and candlesticks (metal, ceramic, glass, wood,chandeliers,  candelabras and sconces) and accessories (dripcatchers, shade holders, candle shades, snuffers, wick trimmers, candle boxes, candle stickers and foam snuggers).

The second half of the book describes the art of making candles: the ingredients (types of wax, wicks, dyes, paints and crayons) and basic equipment (double boiler, hotplate, scales, wax thermometer, newspaper, aprons, stirring spoon or stick, moulds, tweezers and scissors); general tips (melting wax, using beeswax, priming the wick and general precautions); making dipped, moulded, scented, rolled and pressed flower candles and methods of decoration (painting techniques and using mixed media including fresh foliage, foil, tissue paper and carving).

I will definitely be trying to make dipped candles, scented and pressed flower candles in the future! A good general guide for beginners like me!

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The New Candle Book by Gloria Nicol 1995

A similar type of book, it is larger and more comprehensive. Again, the first half of the book is devoted to chapters exploring their use in the home; different themes , seasons and special occasions like weddings, christenings, St Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween and birthdays; and different types of candles. It gives you a good idea of the wide variety of uses and presentations, from Victorian pressed glass and embossed tumblers and old-fashioned china teacups to floral arrangements, shells and floating bowls. But be warned, I once had a monumental and memorable disaster when the floating candles were caught under the rim of the bowl, the flames heating the glass until it shattered spectacularly, deluging the dinner table with water!

The second half of the book looks at practical considerations: Materials and equipment; detailed instructions for making dipped, moulded, scented;, candy-twist, floating , sand and rolled candles; decorating techniques (carved, stencilled, sponged or embossed; painted or marbled; using foil, gold leaf and sequins); and candle holders (types and projects). I love the idea of using old sardine cans and bottles and would love to try making the Byzantine jam jars, the Foil Leaf Chandelier and the colourful tin foil pie dish flowerheads of the Garden Candleholders. There are also patterns for storage boxes and candle shades.BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6297

The Complete Book of Glass Beadmaking by Kimberley Adams 2005

When I think of crafts involving light, I automatically think of glass and this next book is the glass beadmaker’s bible! My daughter studied glass bead making as part of her Design and Technology course in Year 12 and made some beautiful jewellery pieces, many of which she sold at the local craft gallery. Below are photos of her final year project for D & T: Rainforest, River and Sea 2006 and my favourite necklace!BlogMiscMedley30%DSCF0312BlogMiscMedley40%DSCF9207This book covers everything you need to know about glass bead making:

Tools, supplies and materials required;

Setting up the studio, ventilation and lighting, ergonomics and the all-important safety equipment, clothing and precautions;

Basic techniques: prepping the mandrels, lighting and using the torch, heating the glass to the molten state, winding the first bead, varying the bead shape, finishing the ends, flame annealing and cooling, and removing the beads from the mandrel; and

Shaping the beads: barrels, rounded or oblong, cones and bicones, pressed, disc, grooved and patterned, stacking colours and surface decoration (frit, dots, making and using stringers, twists, trailing and averturine).BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6320Intermediate techniques include: Applying enamels; reduction frit; encasing beads; altering bead surfaces with mixed media (baking soda, mica powders and etching cream); shaping and sculpting (furrows, cutting hot glass, sculpting with a graphite paddle, pinching glass with tweezers and making large-hole beads); adding metals to beads (leaf and foils; silver stringers, shavings and fine wire; and copper tubing); and gravity beads, millefiori and dichroic glass. The beads in the photo below were made from recycled window pane glass and were Caro’s first experience with glass-making.BlogMiscMedley40%DSCF2596The Advanced section includes notes on: Fuming; hollow beads; sculptural techniques for making winged hearts, spiral seashells and Aegean urns; and making decorative canes (millefiori or mosaic glass, latticino and murrini), including numbers and letters, eyes and portraits and flowers. More of Caro’s homemade glass bead jewellery…..BlogMiscMedley30%DSCF5112_1BlogMiscMedley30%DSCF5123_1BlogMiscMedley30%DSCF5124_1Each section is supported by wonderful full-colour gallery pages showcasing all these techniques and types of glass beads and there is a trouble-shooting guide at the end of the book, as well as a pattern and instructions for making a ventilation hood.

It is an excellent guide for anyone who loves glass beads and colour and essential for serious glass bead makers!

BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6296Backyard Mosaics by Connie Sheerin 2002

If colour is your thing, then you are sure to love mosaics! My first experience with this craft form was with a friend when my children were young. We made mosaic stepping stones from circular concrete pavers and they have followed us to every garden, their installation being one of the very first gardening chores of the new property !Blog NewBeginnings20%Reszd2015-01-21 10.34.49

I loved fitting all the colours and random shaped pieces to create personal artworks. My next experience was a Mother’s Day workshop with Helen Millar of a Flock of Birds (http://www.flockofbirdsmosaics.org/), in which I made a Mother Bird and Baby Bird Plate. It was such a fun day and the time just flew! I was in another world!BlogCreativity120%Reszd2014-05-03 20.36.56Helen holds one day classes at the Geelong West Community Centre, where I also attended a second workshop to make two Birds on a Stick.Blog SpringsprungFav20%ReszdIMG_0580Making mosaics is very addictive and limited only by availability of materials! Because we have moved a bit, carting broken tiles and china and heavy bags of grout and cement is not really an option, but now we are settled, I may start to amass my materials again! I certainly plan to make a mosaic one day with all the broken bits of china, glass and ironware, which we have unearthed in our ex-turn of the century-blacksmith- garden!

Mosaics can be used to decorate all manner of things from tables, trays and trolleys to votive holders, picture and mirror frames, signs, boxes and birdhouses, fountains, balls, pots and planters and garden statues. They can be made from ceramic tiles, glass, china and pottery, shells and buttons and are used to a wide variety of surfaces from wood to ceramics, cement, metal, glass, mirror and plastic. All are described in this lovely book, along with :

Other basic materials: Grout; colorants, adhesives and sealers; pattern drawing supplies (transfer paper, graph paper, templates, rulers, pencils and markers); and protective gear (goggles and latex gloves);

Equipment:  Tile cutters and nippers; mallets; spreaders; tweezers and brushes;

Basic techniques: Preparation of china, tiles and surfaces; adhering the tesserae to the surface; grouting the design; cleaning up the grout; and finishing the piece; as well as making glass sandwich tiles with pressed flowers.

The rest of the book is devoted to a wide variety of mosaic projects for the garden and outdoor living. I loved her White Daisy Table; Hearts and Flowers Gazing Ball; and her Mosaic Frog, Turtle and Mushroom Garden Statues.BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6295For more about the use of mosaic in gardens, see my post on Artists Gardens: https://candeloblooms.com/2016/10/11/favourite-private-specialty-gardens-part-1-artists-gardens/.

Handmade Tiles by Frank Giorgini 1994

This book is for those, who would prefer to make their own handmade tiles, rather than smash them up for mosaics!!! This lovely book teaches you how to design, make and decorate your own tiles for a very personal touch in your home!

The book starts with a detailed description of the handcrafted tradition in ceramic tiles from their use in Ancient Egyptian tombs and Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Spanish palaces to Italian maiolica; Dutch delftware; Medieval raised earthy tiles and inlaid tiles; Minton’s multi-colored encaustic inlaid floor tiles of the Industrial Revolution; the decorative art tiles of the Arts and Crafts movement in America (Mercer’s Moravian Pottery and Tileworks;  Grueby Faience Company; Rookwood Pottery; Pewabic Pottery; Batchelder tiles; Claycraft Potteries; and California China Products Company; Calco; Malibu Tiles; Solon and Schemmel; and California Faience); and the revival of the handcrafted tradition from the 1960s to the 1990s.

Material, tools and equipment are discussed next, as well as in Chapter 14, including clay, kilns, pottery tools for sculpting, incising and scraping, cutting wires, templates, tile dippers, hangers, plaster-block mold forms, tile-waxing stands, slab cutters and tile presses.

The following chapters describe :

Making a flat tile: Making a slab, transferring the slab, calculating shrinkage, cutting tile shapes and drying tiles;

Making tile models for open-face press molds: Relief tiles, layering techniques and direct carving;

Making and using open-face press molds: Preparing the model and form, mixing and pouring the plaster, cleaning up and finishing the mold, and making clay plugs and pressing them into the mould;

Carved plaster blocks, tile presses and extruders, including making a carved plasterblock, pressing tiles by hand and using a tile press;

Surface decoration on unfired tiles: Stages of tile dryness, transferring designs, impressing, painting or spraying with underglazes, slips and engobes, slip trailing, inlaid tiles, sgraffiato, shellac resist, and screen printing on tiles;

Firing to hardness: Bisque firing and stages of firing;

Surface decoration on bisque tiles: Painting, dipping and spraying with glazes, wax resist for glaze separation, glaze scraping, stains and underglazes on bisques;

Glaze firing, overglazes and decals;

Mosaics: Materials and composition and mosaic design, assembly and installation;

Tile design: Applications (tables, counters, backsplashes, fireplace facades, murals, dry and wet walls and floors) and computer tile design;

Installation: Tools and adhesives; and installation on a table top; and finally and most importantly,

Health and safety: Studios, cleanliness, kiln safety, studio ventilation, protective gear, ergonomics and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS).

The appendices include temperature equivalents for cone-firing ranges; a flow chart of tile techniques; slip and glaze formulas and a schedule for cone 10 glaze reduction firing.BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6294A very comprehensive and detailed book, similar to the glass bead making book in its depth and scope. While I love the concept of making my own tiles, it is probably another lifetime for me, but I did enjoy looking at all the beautiful artistic tiles featured in the book. The next book is much more my skill level and I can definitely see myself making some of the projects!

Handmade Clay Crafts by Susan Alexander and Taffnie Bogart 2000

This delightful book has always been a favourite for its lovely presentation, excellent explanations and descriptions and its quirky creative projects using kiln-fired, oven-bake and air-dry clay. I loved them all, but especially the floral pins and stamped buttons; door knobs, tiles and mirror frames; chicken planters and bird and flower finials; and miniature shoe, skimmer and chicken ornaments.BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6314BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6315The possibilities are endless and further inspiration is provided in a gallery in the back, as well as a metric equivalency chart. This really is such a lovely book and highly recommended.BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6293The Complete Potter: Animal Forms and Figurines by Rosemary Wren 1990

Another lovely book for those who like to play with clay, much of its content and photographs equally applicable and inspirational for soft toy making. Chapters cover:

Sources and development of ideas: Museums and historical precedents in clay and other mediums, zoos and aviaries; drawing in sketchbooks and experimenting with variations;

Materials: Types and properties of clay;

Equipment and its uses: Workshop; clay preparation; the wheel, turntable, working table, workboards and decorating table; lighting, claybins, small tools, glaze making equipment, drying and firing, choosing kilns and ergonomics;

Working to a theme;

Hollow handbuilding: Sculptural form; movement and expression; and decoration; and

Moulds; and

Earning your living.

There is also a gallery of inspiring artworks based on the human figure, animals and birds by twelve different artists, each describing their sources, techniques and artistic background. I particularly liked the work and style of Neil Ions and Anna Adams.BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6292Finally, four general books on traditional and ethnic crafts:

Traditional Country Crafts by Miranda Innes 1993

A lovely book featuring a variety of traditional country crafts, including:

Needlecraft: Homely Amish and Mennonite quilts; traditional samplers; rag rugs; and feltwork;

Kitchencraft: Baskets; floor cloths; chimney boards; and punched tin;

Woodcraft: Shaker and Amish woodwork; wooden toys; weathervanes; game boards; automata; and animal houses; and

Decorative Craft: Painted ceramics; lampshades; papier mâché; flotsam and jetsam; bookbinding; and painted furniture.BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6305Each of the 20 crafts featured includes a sample project as well. My son used this book to paint the wonderful chequered game board, which was designed by Sue Martin, in the photo below.

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I am also very drawn to: Clare Beaton’s Flowered Felt Hat; Moira Hankinson’s Somerset Trug; Nicola Henshaw’s Pull-Along Fish (as well as her seagull and pelican!); Marion Elliot’s Papier Mâché Money-Box and Cressida Bell’s Fruity Shelves.

Classic Crafts: A Practical Compendium of Traditional Skills Edited by Martina Margetts 1989

Another lovely coffee table book with a similar project-based approach and featuring 35 country and traditional handcrafts and their talented exponents, divided into four categories:

Textile Crafts: Hand block printing; quilting, smocking, patchwork and appliqué; dyeing and knitting; tassels and braids, Ikat weaving and rag rugs;

Paper Crafts: Paper making; marbling; calligraphy, wood engraving, letterpress printing, book binding and papier mâché;

Kitchen Crafts: Goat’s cheese, festival bread and biscuit making, smoking fish, chocolate making, preserves, cider making, basketry, dried flowers and candle making; and

Decorative Crafts: Stick dressing, gilding, carved birds, toymaking, leatherwork, spongeware, stencilled tiles, stained glass and jewellery.

My one criticism of this book was the lack of attribution of the works and projects featured to their designers on the same page. There is a thank you to the artists, listed in alphabetical order, at the front of the book, but I would have liked to have had more specificity. Luckily, I was familiar with and could recognise the work of Janet Bolton, Sarah Burnett and Ann Hechle, all favourites, but it took me ages to find the spongeware and ceramic artists, whose work I adored (John Hinchcliffe and Wendy Barber) and I would also love to know the names of the artists featured in the sections on the sections on marbling; stick dressing and carved birds.BlogMiscMedley30%IMG_6306Both books played an significant role in celebrating age-old traditions and the importance of handwork. It is great to see a revival in interest in these traditional skills, so they are perpetuated in future generations. The Lost Trades Fair in Kyneton, Victoria, showcases these traditional skills here in Australia. See http://losttrades.info/ and    https://www.rundellandrundell.com.au/lost-trades-australia.

Two local artisans on the Far South Coast are the Pambula Spoonsmith (http://www.spoonsmith.com.au/) and the Galba Forge Blacksmith (https://www.galbaforge.com.au/).

World Crafts by Jacqueline Herald 1992

My final book features pottery, basketry, carving, theatre and music crafts, painted and paper products, spinning and weaving, dyeing and printing, embroidery and appliqué, floor coverings and crafts using recycled materials from all over the world. It is a fascinating book with beautiful photographs, which tells us so much about traditional crafts, as well as the different cultures themselves. It is so important to document and preserve these skills, before traditional lifestyles and the old slow ways of doing things completely disappear. I particularly loved the chapters on theatre and music crafts, painted and paper products, dyeing and printing and embroidery and appliqué.BlogMiscMedley25%IMG_6307

I hope that you have enjoyed reading about this medley of miscellaneous craft books. Next month, I will be focusing on books about soft toy making and sewing for children.

Orange Blossom: Feature Plant For October

Orange blossom…..! The name alone conjures up its sweet fragrance, used in perfumery; the sweet orange blossom water, used in French and Middle Eastern cuisine and the long association of this beautiful bloom with weddings and brides.

Orange blossom is the fragrant distillation of the flowers of the Bitter or Seville Orange, C. aurantium (also called subsp mara or bigaradia in the literature), the most aromatic of all citrus varieties. All parts of the sour orange are used in the perfumery industry from the fruit peel (Orange essential oil) and leaves (Petitgrain Oil) to the flowers (Neroli and Orange Blossom Absolute).BlogOrangeblossom2015-10-10 14.25.25The latter differ in their olfactory characteristics and method of extraction. Neroli has a fresher, greener, spicier fragrance with sweet and flowery notes, more like Petitgrain Oil, while that of the Orange Blossom Absolute is sweeter, warmer, deeper and more intense, floral scent like that of Jasmine Oil.

Orange Oil Absolute is obtained by solvent extraction as a concrete and using alcohol washing and filtering in the form of an absolute, while Neroli is obtained by steam distillation of freshly picked flowers.

Orange Oil Absolute is used in perfumes, colognes, chypres, ambers, floral bouquets and heavy orientals. Examples include: Fleurs d’Oranger by Serge Lutens; Jo Malone’s Orange Blossom Cologne; Yardley’s Orange Blossom; and Fleur du Mâle by Jean Paul Gaultier.BlogOrangeblossom2015-10-13 14.42.27Neroli is also widely used in the perfumery industry and is the main ingredient in eau-de-cologne, as well as having numerous health benefits, especially with regard to the treatment of depression and infection, and they have been described well in: https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/neroli-essential-oil.html.

The blooms of the Bitter Orange are also used to make Orange Flower Water, used in baklava, meringues and madeleines. You can find a recipe for making Orange Blossom Water at: https://www.thespruceeats.com/make-orange-flower-water-infusion-method-2394974, while the next two sites have great suggestions for its use: https://boisdejasmin.com/2013/07/10-ways-to-use-orange-blossom-water-perfume-beauty-cooking-recipes.html and https://foratasteofpersia.co.uk/2012/04/ten-things-to-do-with-that-bottle-of-orange-blossom-water-at-the-back-of-your-pantry/.

Orange blossom blooms are also candied or used to decorate baked goods. In Morocco, the flowers are steeped in water with mint and green tea leaves to make a sweet-smelling refreshing drink.BlogOrangeblossom25%IMG_6281However, it is its long association with brides and weddings, which fills most of the literature about orange blossom.BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_0350Oranges originated in oriental Asia: China, India and South East Asia. In Ancient China, the snow white blooms represented purity, chastity, virginity and innocence, the flowers placed on the gowns of young brides. The fact that flowers and fruit are often borne simultaneously promoted the association of orange blossoms with fertility and the promise of motherhood, while the evergreen foliage represented everlasting love.BlogOrangeblossom2016-04-07 13.17.39This tradition moved west into India and Persia, now Iran, where the orange got its name from its Arabian name ‘Naranji’.BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_0778Oranges were also prominent in Ancient Greek mythology. Gaia, the earth goddess, crowned Hera’s head with a wreath of orange blossom on her marriage to Zeus, while they also play a part in the story of Atlanta. In Ancient Roman mythology, oranges were the golden apple, which Juno, the goddess of women and marriage gave to Jupiter on their celestial wedding day.BlogOrangeblossom2016-11-15 13.49.57The introduction of oranges to Europe is credited to both the Arabs (via Spain and Portugal) and the Crusaders on their return home, depending on which source you read.BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_1121However, it was Queen Victoria, who is responsible for really ramping up the use of orange blossoms in European weddings, when she wore them in her hair on her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840. For most of the 19th Century up until its demise in 1950s, orange blossom was in high demand for wedding bouquets, head wreaths, groom’s boutonnieres and on wedding cakes.

Orange blossom represented fertility and luck and increasingly, wealth and status. Being a plant of warmer climates, their blooms were quite expensive in the cooler parts of northern Europe, especially for the lower classes. Their high cost and the fact that they only bloom in Spring, so were often hard to get for weddings at other times of the year, led to the development of an artisanal trade of making wax replicas of the flowers. These were to be destroyed within 30 days of the wedding, the life cycle of the real flowers, to avoid bad luck, hence the extreme rarity of these vintage headpieces and bouquets today.

The growing trend in vintage weddings today has revived the market for both real and wax replica orange blossom flowers for contemporary brides. You can read more about this lovely custom at: http://chicvintagebrides.com/wax-flower-crowns/.

BlogOrangeblossom2016-04-07 13.17.43While orange blossoms usually refer to the flowers of Bitter Orange Citrus x aurantium, all the blooms of the Citrus family have a the characteristic form and scent of orange blossoms. The Citrus genus, which belongs to the Rue family, Rutaceae, includes the key species:

C. maxima Pomelo; C. medica Citron; C. micrantha Papeda; and C. reticulata Mandarin Orange and many hybrids including:

C. x sinensis Sweet Orange (probably a cross between C. maxima and C. reticulata);

C. x aurantium Bitter Orange/ Seville Orange/ Sour Orange (C. maxima X C. reticulata);

C. x tangelo Tangelo (C. reticulata X C. maxima);

C. x paradisi Grapefruit (C. maxima X C. x sinensis);

C. x limon Lemon (C. aurantium x C. medica);

C. x aurantifolia Key Lime (C. medica X C. micrantha);

C. x latifolia Tahitian Lime (C. aurantifolia X C. x limon);

C. x citrofortunella Cumquats and C. x tangerine Tangerine.

All the different members of the Citrus genus can be seen at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_citrus_fruits.

BlogOrangeblossom2016-10-08 18.13.24

There are a number of other plants, which are called Orange Blossom, whose blooms look and smell very similar to Citrus flowers. These include:

Murraya paniculata, commonly known as Orange Jasmine; Orange Jessamine, Mock Orange, Chalcas or Satinwood, is also a member of the Rutaceae family. It is a compact evergreen rounded shrub with shiny dark green oval leaves and clusters of small fragrant white flowers, followed by bright red- orange berries, loved by birds.BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_1246It loves full sun and warm climates, but unfortunately NOT heavy frosts, so we cannot grow it here in my garden, but an excellent alternative is another cousin in the Rutaceae family, Choisya ternata, also known as Mexican Orange Blossom, due to the similarity of its blooms in shape and form to orange blossom.BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_1783Choisya ternata is also a rounded evergreen shrub with deep green aromatic leaves and clusters of sweetly scented white flowers, mainly in Spring.BlogOrangeblossom25%IMG_6981BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_0116Finally, there is my favourite flowering shrub of late Spring and early Summer, Philadelphus, also known as Mock Orange, due to the similarity of its scent, but unlike all the previous plants, this genus belongs to the hydrangea family, Hydrangeaceae.BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_1765 Most of the sixty species are deciduous, but their flower form is variable, ranging from single to semi-double and double. The most common form is P. coronarius (photo above), but I am growing the single Belle Etoile (https://www.tesselaar.net.au/product/10422-philadelphus-belle-etoile) …BlogOrangeblossom2016-11-08 15.39.33and double P. x virginalis (https://www.gardenlady.com/i-love-philadelphus-x-virginalis-aka-mock-orange/).BlogOrangeblossom2016-11-21 11.21.08BlogOrangeblossom20%IMG_0088BlogOrangeblossom2016-04-05 17.36.28I hope you enjoyed this post and it has whet your appetite for more orange blossom in your garden. Next week, I am reviewing an ecletic medley of miscellaneous books from my craft library. In the meantime, Happy Gardening!

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Books on Dressmaking

In the past, I used to make all my own clothes, but these days, children’s clothing tends to take up more of my time. The ability to make your own clothing is such a valuable skill, both in terms of money, quality, creativity and style. Good clothing can be so expensive, and while there are many cheap clothes on the market, often the quality of craftsmanship, life expectancy or material used is poor.

Dressmaking is incredibly satisfying on so many levels! It is such a thrill, knowing that you have actually made your own clothing; it will be totally original and well constructed, and finally, it is ethically sound, as so much of today’s fashion is created by lowly paid Asian workers.

In this post are a selection of books about dressmaking, which I have found very useful in the past, starting with two general sewing guides to make your dressmaking journey easier!

Sewing and Knitting: A Reader’s Digest Step-by-Step Guide 1993

An excellent and comprehensive general guide to sewing and knitting techniques and very well-used during my sewing career with clear instructions, supported by colour photographs, illustrations, and inset boxes, tables and diagrams.

Part One: Sewing  covers everything from :

Sewing supplies: Measuring and marking tools; shears and scissors; threads, pins and needles; pressing equipment; zippers, studs and buttons; tapes and trimmings; elastics; sewing and overlocking machines; and sewing rooms;

Patterns, Fabrics and Cutting: Taking measurements and pattern selection, style and size; colour and texture; using commercial patterns; fabric fundamentals (characteristics, uses, types and care, structure and finish); fabrics A to Z; underlying fabrics (underlining, interfacing, interlining and lining); fabric preparation, pinning and cutting, including special considerations ( directional fabrics, plaids and stripes and designs with large motifs); and marking the cut pieces;

Pattern Alterations: Figure types; fitting; and basic and advanced pattern alterations;

Basic Construction Techniques: Hand sewing, tacking and hemming; seams and darts; tucks and pleats; gathering and ruffles; shirring and smocking; neckline finishes and collars; waistlines and belts; sleeves and cuffs; pockets; hems, bindings and finishing corners; zippers; and buttonholes and fabric closures (buttons, hooks and eyes, snap and tape fasteners;

Sewing for Men and Children; and

Sewing for the Home: Loose covers; cushions; bedspreads and bed covers; and curtains, drapery and blinds.BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5385The second section of the book, while smaller, is equally comprehensive, covering yarn selection and knitting needles and aids; casting on methods and basic stitch formation; casting off techniques and selvedges; knitting machines; knitting patterns and charts and following instructions; knitting terminology; tension and gauge; increasing and decreasing; circular knitting; correcting errors; knitting stitches; knitting garments; decorative finishes and embroidery; and a small section on crochet.

The Complete Sewing Machine Handbook by Karen Kunkel 1997

An even more detailed guide to the use of sewing machines, this book covers sewing machine types and selection; the main parts of the machine and accessories; sewing equipment and workspace; and needles, threads and threading before launching into the basic operations: stitch selection; straight and top stitching; twin needles; zigzag stitching; buttonholes; blind hemming; and decorative stitch options (appliqué; silk ribbon embroidery; scalloped edges; quilting and smocking; and lace insertion, pintucking and fagotting!)

There is a chapter on special presser feet and accessories, as well as computer technology, machine maintenance, and a trouble shooting guide and metric conversion chart. A very useful book for all sewers!BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5384Classic Clothes: A Practical Guide to Dressmaking by René Bergh 2000

A wonderful guide to wardrobe planning and dressmaking! In her first chapter, René discusses the classic ingredients of successful dressing: colour, cloth and cut, before a detailed examination of wardrobe planning, including modern and traditional classics, in the second chapter.

Fitting, figure analysis, measurement taking, flattering and unflattering choices and pattern adjustments for differing body types and proportions are the subject of the third large and crucial chapter, while Chapter Four describes basic construction techniques for different garments from T-shirts, golf shirts, sweatshirts and classic shirts to casual and tailored jackets; trousers; tracksuit pants; and lined skirts and dresses.

The last two chapters look at finishing touches and accessorizing with hosiery, shoes, belts, bags, jewellery and scarves, as well as clever combinations to make the best use of a basic wardrobe.

BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5381

Sewing the New Classics: Clothes With Easy Style by Carol Parks 1995

This book has some wonderful patterns for classic clothes, all still very wearable today. The brief introduction examines similar content to the first book in this post: tools and equipment; natural and synthetic fibres; linings and interfacings; and fabric preparation, before concentrating on the separate patterns, each with detailed notes on materials; cutting guides; construction and variations, with lovely colour photographs of all versions.

There are ten basic patterns, reduced to 25 per cent in the back of the book, with sizes from XXS to XL: a Shirt with a Convertible Collar; a Collarless Tunic; a T-shirt collection; a Straight Skirt; a Full Skirt; Leggings with an Elasticized Waist; Tailored Trousers; a Jacket; a Fitted Vest and a Large Vest.

Throughout the book are notes on sewing with knit fabrics; making pockets of different types; embellishments; creating a wardrobe; working with patterns; and sewing techniques.BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5383Once the basic skills have been mastered and a measure of confidence gained, most dressmakers are keen to try their hand at designing their own patterns, so a few books on drafting your own patterns from scratch can be very useful. Back in the day, I was always on the lookout for pattern drafting guides, so I own a few, though I am sure most of them have probably been superseded by the advent of CAD (computer-aided design). Still, the old guides are useful if you prefer designing with pen and paper, lack computer access or are overwhelmed by computer technology!

The next book is also an excellent introduction to basic drafting skills, though, like the previous book, it also contains basic pattern blocks in three sizes, based on standard body measurements and scaled to one-quarter scale in the back.

Make Your Own Patterns : An Easy Step-by-Step Guide To Making Over 60 Patterns by René Bergh 1995

This guide is so well-titled, as it does make the whole drafting process very easy to understand and execute, as well as delivering on the promise of a wealth of pattern variations. Tools and equipment, as well as the correct way to take body measurements, are discussed in the introductory chapters, including a chart of standardized sizes and body measurements.

The bulk of the book gives step-by-step instructions for drawing up patterns from scratch, using your own body measurements, including dress bodices, sleeves, jackets, blouses with or without darts and skirts and trousers. Variations and details for each body area (necklines, bodices; sleeves) and garment (blouses and tops; jackets; skirts; dresses; and trousers) are discussed in depth.BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5382Because everyone has a different style of learning and every teacher has a different approach and teaching style, I have included two other guides to manual drafting.

Creative Cutting: Easy Ways To Design and Make Stylish Clothes With Over 1000 Variations by Diana Hawkins 1986

Another excellent book, which promises even more variations to the basic patterns than the previous guide! It discusses making the basic pattern blocks (Bodice; Sleeve; Skirt; and Trouser), before giving plenty of ideas for variations.

Fabric selection; costing and pattern lays; pressing; interfacings; haberdashery; pattern cutting equipment and construction techniques, including the order of making, are discussed in detail, supported by plenty of photographs and illustrations.

It is a very comprehensive guide to the art of drafting!BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5379

Magic Drafting: An Easy Step-by-Step Guide To Making Any Pattern Fit You by Gabriella Kovac 1994

The main aim of this book is to make drafting fun, so the whole feel of this book is very conversational and personal and the instructions are simple and easy to understand. Step-by-step instructions are given for making pattern blocks for skirts, bodices, sleeves and collars; fitting and creating patterns from calico; pivoting darts; problem solving for longer backs and larger midriffs; and finally, the creation of a range of patterns, based on those blocks from gored or flared skirts to tops with a variety of sleeves or collars and shirt dresses. While the fashions are definitely outdated, it is still a good basic drafting course!

BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5380Fashions are constantly changing and every dressmaker’s library should have at least one book on the history of fashion!

Decades of Fashion by Harriet Worsley 2000

This book examines 20th century fashions from those of the Belle Epoque (1900-1914) and the years of the First World War (1914-1918), through successive decades to 2000. There are some wonderful old black-and-white photographs and is a fascinating historical record, not only of changes in fashions, but also daily life, work, pastimes and sporting activities and prevailing social attitudes!BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5375

I particularly love the fashions of the period between the late 1890s and 1920s, so adored the next book!

Pattern Designing For Dressmakers by Lyn Alexander 1989

In this book, Lyn explains that patterns can be created using three methods: Drafting using body measurements, as already discussed; Draping by moulding fabric to the body or dress form; and Flat Pattern, where basic patterns are manipulated to add design details.

This book employs the latter technique, in which the basic original master pattern is transferred to a interfaced muslin, which is then assembled into the required garment using basting and adjusted for fit and design details.

Pattern alterations; darts; gathers, tucks and pleats; closings, extensions and  facings; bodices, yolks, collars, sleeves and skirts are all discussed, particularly with reference to the fitting standards and fashions from 1860 to 1930, which are supported by illustrations from period fashion magazines of the time.

A particularly useful book for stage costume designers and antique doll dress makers!BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5376Another excellent source for vintage patterns is Folkwear (https://www.folkwear.com/),  which has an extensive collection with garments from the late 1700s/early 1800s, all the way up to the 1950s. There are some beautiful patterns for Gibson Girl blouses and Edwardian underthings; walking skirts and English smocks; vintage bathing costumes and beach pyjamas; Monte Carlo dresses; and Poiret Cocoon coats and Model T Dusters.

Folkwear is also a wonderful site for anyone interested in ethnic clothing. Collected over the past forty years, their collection includes patterns for historic and every-day folk garments from 32 countries in six continents, from Turkish coats and French cheesemaker’s smocks to Nepali blouses and Tibetan chupas; Austrian dirndls, Scottish kilts, Flamenco dresses and belly dancing outfits; and Hong Kong cheongsams and a range of Japanese clothing from kimonos, field clothing and hapi and haori to michiyuki, tabi, and hakama and kataginu. There are also patterns for men and children.

It was also the inspiration for the next book, which is based on the six most popular ethnic garments produced by Folkwear: the Seminole Skirt; the Polish Vest; the Moroccan Burnoose; the Syrian Dress; the Tibetan Coat; and the Japanese Kimono.

The Folkwear Book of Ethnic Clothing: Easy Ways to Sew and Embellish Fabulous Garments From Around the World by Mary S. Parker 2002

A beautiful and fascinating book with fabulous photos of traditional garments from around the world. In its overview of ethnic clothing in the first chapter, it examines the construction of typical ethnic garments: the unconstructed rectangle; the pullover cloak or tunic; the sleeved shift; the pull-on pant; the full skirt and apron; the front-opening coat; the short vest and the yoked shirt.

Chapter Two focuses on the embellishment of ethnic clothing: woven embellishment; braids and trims (plastrons and coat trims); surface design (mudcloth; stamping and stencilling; and appliqué (Seminole patchwork; molas; Hmong squares; and felt appliqué) and embroidery (hand and machine).

It is followed by a gallery of ethnic embellishment motifs from Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt and Poland. Throughout both these chapters are projects using each technique.

Finally, there are the key patterns themselves with their history, pattern layouts and detailed sewing instructions. I would love to try making the Seminole skirt one day and the Japanese kimono is also quite appealing!!BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5373

For dressmakers interested in more contemporary Japanese clothing, there are also some cute Japanese pattern books currently on the market, one of which is:

Stylish Dress Book: Simple Smocks, Dresses and Tops  by Yoshiko Tsukiori 2013

There are some sweet little tops and dresses in this book. In the back are four full scale pattern sheets in four sizes XS, S, M and L and they can be made up into 26 different garments. Each page has a pattern layouts, material requirements, and  instructions and illustrated notes, all in English.BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5374The same author has also written: Sweet Dress Book: 23 Dresses of Pattern Arrangement 2013; Happy Home Make: Sew Chic: 20 Simple Everyday Designs 2013; and Stylish Wraps 2017.

And finally, two wonderful books on sewing clothing for children.

Classic Clothes For Children Ages 0-12 by Lynne Sanders 1991

After a brief introduction to sewing and drafting requirements; fabric choice and preparation; pattern cutting; understanding and making pattern blocks (a fold-out master sheet is in the back); and sewing techniques, including sewing scallops and peaks; couching and embroidery, the author describes the construction of 33 patterns, including design notes; materials; pattern layouts and drafting and sewing instructions.

They range from Summer hats and embroidered vests to shirts and windcheaters; overalls, shorts and trousers; pyjamas, tracksuits and all-in-ones; dressing gowns and oil-skin coats; dresses; and even christening gowns. They are indeed beautiful classic clothes, which have stood the test of time.BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5377

Little Girls, Big Style: Sew a Boutique Wardrobe From 4 Easy Patterns by Mary Abreu 2010

My final book is a more recent purchase (and publication) with some very cute and colourful patterns, which I adore! Based on the huge selection of fabrics and notions available today, there are 23 patterns in sizes 2 to 6 (with full size patterns in the back), featuring lots of layers, frills and flounces in harmonious colour combinations.

There are four project chapters with lots of ideas for variations, which are interchangeable between patterns:

Basic Bodice: Basic Top/Dress; Knotty Apron; Sunshine Halter; Side-Tied Smock; Perfect Party Dress; Pocket Pinafore; and Ruffled Peek-a-Boo Jumper;

Peasant Top/Dress PTD: Classic PTD; Ruffled Empire PTD; Tiered Twirly PD;  Flutter-Sleeved PT; and Ruffled Neck PT;

Pants: Essential Pants/Capris; Ruffled Pants with two options; Racing Stripe Pants; Lace-Edged Gauchos; and Tiered Pants;  and

Skirts: No-Hem Skirt; Treasure Skirt; On-the-Border Skirt; Apron Skirt; Double-Layered Twirl Skirt; and Twirly-Girly Skirt, always a great favourite!

All these garments can be worn in different combinations, as shown by the very cute models in the photographs. I look forward to using this book more in the future!BlogBksDressmaking30%IMG_5378

In November, I am delving further into the world of childhood with some books on teaching kids to sew, as well as making toys, but before that, there will be a post on miscellaneous craft books, encompassing a wide range of crafts from basketry to kite making, homemade tiles and mosaics and much more! Happy dressmaking!

 

Spring 2018 : The Garden Awakens

I have not featured our own garden for quite a while. In fact, I think my last reference to it was Spring last year, so I though an update was long overdue! It has been a very long cold Winter again with heavy frosts and very little rain, so all the flowering times have been delayed, both in the garden and in the native flora.BlogSpring25%IMG_4930BlogSpring40%IMG_5057Our recent walk to Hegarty’s Bay was marred by the dearth of the highly anticipated Spring wildflowers. This month has also been quite cold. So we are only now just starting to experience early Spring.BlogSpring25%IMG_6050 The early jonquils (Erlicheers, Ziva Paperwhites and white jonquils) and camellias are now over,

but other narcissi (including the double Winter Sun in the first photo, and in the second photo in order:  Pheasants Eye (top two photos), Golden Dawn and scented white Geranium,  Ptolemy and King Alfred) are persisting…,BlogSpring25%IMG_5395

along with violets…,

japonicas (Chaenomeles)…,

and hellebores.

However, it is the advent of the Spring blossoms, which really spells Spring for me: the plums and crab apples, BlogSpring30%IMG_6085BlogSpring30%IMG_5844BlogSpring30%IMG_5732and flowering shrubs: Exochorda macrantha ‘The Bride’  and superbly scented Viburnum x burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’.BlogSpring25%IMG_6054BlogSpring25%IMG_6069BlogSpring50%IMG_5912We had a wonderful display of our new Dutch Crocus (white Jeanne d’Arc, striped Pickwick and mauve Grand Maître) in the cutting garden,BlogCrocus20%DSCN3483BlogSpring30%IMG_5664BlogCrocus25%IMG_5605 which has had a makeover in its arrangement with the paths now dividing it into four large squares rather than the original four skinny strips, allowing much more room for the plants to grow and multiply.BlogSpring30%IMG_6150BlogSpring30%IMG_6149We have two shady beds nearest the boundary trees (left side of photo above) and two flower beds in full sun (right side of photo above). The back shady bed is full of feverfew and blue Love-In-The-Mist, Nigella hispanica, both wonderful fillers for bouquets, while the front shady bed contains foxgloves, Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’, Aquilegia, Dutch Crocus, Hacquetia epipactis, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), pansies and heartease, the latter two sustaining us through the Winter with their wonderful colour!BlogSpring25%IMG_6221BlogSpring25%IMG_6220BlogSpring2518-05-20 11.58.11BlogSpring20%DSCN3493BlogSpring20%DSCN3486BlogSpring30%IMG_5663The back sunny bed is chock-a-block with Dutch Iris and poppies, edged with ranunculas,BlogSpring25%IMG_5656 BlogSpring25%IMG_6387.jpgand the front sunny bed is now coming into its own with the steadfast purple Hoary Stock, Matthiola incana, which provided much needed colour over the Winter, as seen in this vase with Winter Jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum;BlogSpring25%IMG_5241 anemones, Anemone de Caen….;

and now, Lily Tulips (Synaeda Orange) and Parrot Tulips…BlogSpring30%IMG_5909BlogSpring25%IMG_5908 BlogSpring25%IMG_6282and species tulips: Lady Tulips, Tulipa clusiana: the red and white Lady Jane, and yellow chrysantha and ‘Cynthia’ varieties,BlogSpring30%IMG_6074BlogSpring25%IMG_6057BlogSpring40%IMG_6099 as well as the stunning Bokhara Tulip, T. linifolia.BlogSpring25%IMG_6060BlogSpring25%IMG_6007The cutting garden certainly is a mass of colour at the moment and I find it very hard to pick anything!!!!BlogSpring25%IMG_6252BlogSpring25%IMG_6049BlogSpring25%IMG_6385The Soho and Moon Beds have been weeded, pruned and mulched over the Winter.BlogSpring25%IMG_6193BlogSpring25%IMG_6184BlogSpring25%IMG_6209

A few ailing roses have been replaced and the Bog Salvia removed, as it is far too rampant and swamps everything! We have moved some of the plants around to allow for better aeration around the roses and peonies. The wallflowers and nemesias are blooming at the moment.BlogSpring25%IMG_6182BlogSpring25%IMG_6183 It looks like I might have my first Tree Peony this year!BlogSpring25%IMG_6190We also transplanted the hybrid musk and rugosa rose hedges, as they were not thriving, due to the heavy root competition and shade provided by our neighbour’s huge old Cottonwood Poplar tree. Fortunately, the latter had a severe haircut by some very talented tree surgeons over the Winter, with the removal of the bough over our Mulberry Tree, so we hope the extra sun will sweeten the fruit considerably this year, provided of course that we get more serious rain as well! We plan to build a glasshouse on the old rugosa site one day in the future.BlogSpring20%DSCN3191BlogSpring20%DSCN3205BlogSpring20%DSCN3221The rugosas all moved up to line our driveway, while the other roses now grace the sweeping path from the Main Pergola up past the entrance steps (on left of photo), along with new plantings of quince, apricot (second photo) and Prunus subhirtella autumnalis.BlogSpring25%IMG_6192 BlogSpring25%IMG_6278We have also planted a golden peach to replace the dead Native Frangipani in the Tea Garden and a fig and a blood orange in the citrus patch behind the Moon Bed.BlogSpring25%IMG_5753

Sweetly scented old-fashioned freesias are just starting to bloom on the steep bank of the Tea Garden (second photo below), while their colourful relatives brighten up the feet of Mrs Herbert Stevens next to the house (first photo below).BlogSpring25%IMG_6262BlogSpring30%IMG_6073And we have the first of our new Bearded Iris starting to bloom at the top of the agapanthus bank.BlogSpring25%IMG_6259BlogSpring25%IMG_6265We also planted clematis on both iron rose arches: a blue Clematis macropetala ‘Pauline’ to complement the golden roses Rêve d’Or and Alister Stella Gray at the entrance to the garden; and the fast-growing pink Clematis texensis ‘Princess Diana’ to accompany the creamy Sombreuil and pink Cornelia on the chook fence arch (photo below).BlogSpring25%IMG_6374 While we still have to develop our chook yard, we have moved the compost bays and planned a garden shed behind the Perennial Bed, where the raspberries have been pruned and tied up and the comfrey, sorrel, angelica (currently in full flower), rhubarb and asparagus are thriving.BlogSpring25%IMG_6136 BlogSpring25%IMG_6203BlogSpring25%IMG_6205The strawberries and blueberries have their own bed, also sown with hollyhock seeds, and there are two more vegetable beds underway.BlogSpring25%IMG_6131BlogSpring25%IMG_6180Up on the terrace, the Treasure Bed has been awash with blue Hyacinth (Delft Blue) and grape hyacinth, interspersed with Tête à Tête daffodils, pale yellow primroses and now, the mauve Pasque Flower, Pulsatilla vulgaris.BlogSpring30%IMG_5645BlogSpring20%DSCN3469BlogSpring30%IMG_5345BlogSpring30%IMG_6003BlogSpring30%IMG_5977 BlogSpring25%IMG_6368We have created a new herb garden close to the house in the old Acanthus Bed, though the latter keep popping up- they are resilient survivors indeed! We have planted Italian and Curly Parsley, lemon thyme and common thyme, Savory of Crete Satureja thymbra, common sage, French tarragon, oregano and calendulas, now in full glorious bloom!.BlogSpring25%IMG_6165BlogSpring25%IMG_6235BlogSpring25%IMG_5788 We have also started to clean up the agapanthus terrace, though it is a huge job, as the steep slope was never terraced properly, so new beds have to be created and supported, as well as eliminating all the old couch grass, before we can plant lavender. Ross also had major waterworks with new pipes being laid and a new tap in the vegie garden, which will make watering so much easier now. The bowerbirds were pretty impressed with the new tap!BlogSpring20%DSCN3418 Ross can certainly dig a straight trench!!!BlogSpring20%DSCN3246 And we have been working on the shed, lining the interior ceiling with ply, so now it is clean and dry and usable… not to mention, possum-proof!!!BlogSpring50%2018-04-26 08.24.59.jpg The shed garden has also been the recipient of much-needed attention and is sporting lavender, primula and euphorbia blooms!BlogSpring20%DSCN3724BlogSpring25%IMG_5752BlogSpring25%IMG_6187 It is so wonderful to be heading into Spring finally here in the Southern Hemisphere! I know I was sustained over the long Winter by blog posts and Instagram photos from the Northern Hemisphere Spring and Summer, so I hope this post has returned the favour! I will probably write another Spring garden post later in the season, when the garden is in full party mode! In the meantime….Happy Gardening wherever you are!BlogSpring30%IMG_5819

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