Books on Sewing With and For Children

Now that the school holidays and Christmas are almost here, I thought a post on sewing and creating with children would be very timely! Sewing is such a useful life skill, whether it be the basic ability to sew on a button and repair your clothes or more advanced garment making, and learning at a young age gives individuals so much confidence in their abilities, as well as developing their creativity and just being fun!BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-04-22 08.59.48 - Copy

I have already reviewed Learning To Sew by Barbara Snook and Simple Embroidery by Marilyn Green in my first post on embroidery books (See: https://candeloblooms.com/2018/08/07/books-on-embroidery-part-one-general-guides/).

Another excellent sewing primer for children is :

Busy Little Hands: Sewing: A First Craft Book For Parent and Child  Illustrated by Douglas Hall 1988

Written specifically for children, this book has a very child-centred approach with simple instructions and fun pictures of mice and rabbits engaged in the task. Basic sewing skills are taught from enlarging patterns and using a needle threader to patchwork, tacking, oversewing, hemming and pleating, as well as a range of simple stitches, including back stitch, blanket stitch, herringbone stitch, stem stitch, satin stitch and cross stitch. There are some lovely easy projects from leaf needle cases and prickly hedgehog pincushions to butterfly mobiles; costumes, masks, hats and crowns; and drawstring bags and patchwork night cases. It’s a delightful little book and very appealing to young children.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6572

Once the basic skills are mastered, the next two books by quiltmaker Yolanda Gifford are wonderful for inspiring creativity and imagination and a love of fabric and colour.

Fabric Fun For Kids by Yolanda Gifford 1995

After introducing basic stitches (running stitch, back stitch, overstitch) and materials (vliesofix; embroidery thread; and fabric textas, markers, dyes and paints), Yolanda launches straight into the 24 projects themselves, including hanging pillows, cushions, bags, pictures, runners, Christmas decorations, quilts, toys and glove puppets and rag baskets.

Each project has a materials sidetab; clear instructions and finishing notes, patterns and diagrams and full-colour plates of the finished article.

When my eldest daughter was younger, she was inspired by the pattern Ellie’s Bird (seen on the book cover below) to make her dad a felt panel of a king parrot.

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My girls also made the Christmas tree pillow and picture; the heart pin cushion; and Jake’s Four Patches, as seen in the photo below.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_7214 I could easily make the chook runner; the flower cushion; the Nick-Nack Sew a Patch bag and the Home Sweet Home panel myself! The projects are an excellent indicator of the popularity of Yolanda’s home sewing classes for children.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6573

Simply Applique by Yolanda Gifford 1997

Yolanda’s second book is similar in presentation to her first book, but focuses on applique, using non-traditional methods and lots of freedom in colour, design and structure to portray children’s artwork on quilts, table cloths, curtains, cushions, bags, banners and family portraits and postcards.

While written for children, it is an equally wonderful book for beginners to the wonderful world of applique!

I love Yolanda’s use of bold simple shapes and bright colours and would love to make her family portrait and postcards; her appliqued curtains; her animal cushions and banner; her red and white embroidered cot quilt; and her love quilt, seen on the front cover of the book.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6574

Steiner education also have some wonderful books for encouraging imaginative play and creativity in children. Here are three of my favourites:

Toymaking With Children by Freya Jaffke 1987

Imaginative play is so important for the development of creativity, as well as developing basic life skills and this little book is packed with wonderful ideas from building sets, shops, dioramas and landscapes to making dressing up costumes, crowns, puppets, gnomes, toy animals and dolls, including doll clothing, houses and furniture and using natural materials to make toys like pine cone birds, bark boats, wooden animals and log trains.

Below is a photo of my youngest daughter’s make-believe fairy, which kept her occupied for hours in the local park, while our car was repaired during a family holiday.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_7246There is also a large introductory section on the meaning and importance of play; the three stages of play; appropriate toys for each stage; and outdoor play.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6575

Feltcraft: Making Dolls, Gifts and Toys by Petra Berger 1994

Felt is a wonderful medium for children to sew, as it is strong, firm and colourful; does not fray at the edges; and is easy to cut out into different shapes. Starting with simple embroidery stitches and instructions on making hair, the book describes a wealth of toy materials, construction methods and projects including:

Wooden standing dolls: Gnomes; a royal family; Saint Nicholas; an angel; a mother and baby ; hazelnut children; a wooden doll with moveable arms and legs and matchbox dolls;

Felt Dolls: Basic model; gnomes; woollen dolls; flower children and blossom fairies; finger puppets; and walking dolls;

Dolls with pipe-cleaner frames: Basic model; Christmas gnome; jester; man; and the man in the moon;

Animals and birds: Duck and swan; a bird; a seal; a butterfly mobile; a snail; cats, dogs and mice; a horse; a rooster; simple felt pictures and books;

French knitting and crochet: a picture and bag;

Felt gifts: Balls; jewellery; a gnome and a clown brooch; bookmarks; comb cases; scissor cases; egg cosies; purses and little gift boxes.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6577

The Nature Corner: Celebrating the Year’s Cycle With a Seasonal Tableau by M van Leeuwen and J Moeskops 1990

After a brief discussion on arranging seasonal tableaux and basic techniques for making dolls and marionettes with sheep’s wool, cotton, felt, cardboard cones, wire and wood, as well as creating faces and embroidering hair, this lovely book follows the seasons and special celebratory periods with instructions for all the elements of seasonal tableaux from:

Early Spring: Mother Earth and root children;

Spring: Spring fairies; flower children; felt dandelions;

Easter, Ascension and Whitsun: Hen with chicks; hares; sheep with lambs; paper flowers; Whitsun doves and a Whitsun wedding couple;

Summer: Beehive with bees; Summer fairies; grass wreaths; and sandcastles;

Autumn: Pumpkin child; toadstools; teasel hedgehog and spider; a boy with a kite; and a spider web;

Hallowe’en and Martinmas: Lanterns; gnomes; and mice;

Advent and Christmas: Saint Nicholas and assistant; an angel; sheep, oxen and ass; crib figures- Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus; the shepherds and the three kings;

Winter: King Winter and Mrs Thaw.

It is a wonderful way to develop and promote an appreciation of nature and the seasons in young children.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6576

My final book, Baby Crafts by Juliet Moxley 1995,  looks at sewing for children and contains 25 wonderful creative projects to make for babies, exposing the latter to the wonderful world of colour.

They are divided into four categories:

First Needs: Moses basket; cot quilt; laundry bag; nappy stacker; travel seat; sleeping bag; night dresses and caps; and rag doll pyjamas case;

Bathing and Playtime: Fish bath mat and mitts; bath robe; cardigan and beret; play mat; painting smocks; and a very cute crazy patchwork teddy;

The Nursery: Torn paper frieze; painted toy box and chair; a delightful wall hanging with pockets based on the tale of the Princess and the Pea; a cot and quilt cover and an animal mobile using reverse applique

Photo of animal patches for mobile

Special Occasions: A beautiful christening robe and pin cushion; some very appealing Christmas stockings; painted plates; and a cross stitch sampler.

While directed primarily at adults, some can be achieved by children like the torn paper frieze and the painting projects. It’s a lovely book and is a great way to generate a love of bright colours and start young children off on their own creative journeys.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6578

 

Books on Doll Making

Last week, I shared my favourite toy and softie books with you. This week, I am focusing on doll making books.

While I tend to make toys rather than cloth dolls these days, cloth doll making is still a wonderful form of self-expression and creativity and these books are classics in the doll making world!

One name that is synonymous with contemporary doll making is that of Susanna Oroyan  (https://www.niada.org/portfolio/susanna-oroyan/). Sadly, she died in 2007, but she left behind her a wealth of doll making knowledge with her books, most of which I own except for her first (Contemporary Artist Dolls: A Collector’s Guide by Susanna Oroyan and Carol-Lynn Rössel-Waugh 1986).

In order of publication, they are:

Fantastic Figures: Ideas and Techniques Using the New Clays 1994

Anatomy of a Doll: The Fabric Sculptor’s Handbook 1997

Designing the Doll: From Concept to Construction 1999

Finishing the Figure: Doll Costuming, Embellishments and Accessories 2001

Dolls of the Art Deco Era 1910-1940: Collect, Restore, Create and Play 2004

They are all fabulous books with beautiful dolls, packed with information and very inspiring photographs!

The first book, Fantastic Figures concentrates on working with the new polymer and paper clays, from working armatures to sculpting and curing heads, bodies and limbs, then finishing with painting and wax, as well as wigging, clothing and accessories.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6538

The dolls are so life-like and amazing, but I think cloth dolls and soft sculpture is much more my forté, so her next book Anatomy of a Doll has been very well-perused!

The first section discusses the creative process and the design process in depth, including the origin of ideas and concepts, as well as variations, then looks at the evolution of dolls from elemental, primitive, simple and basic forms (outline dolls and rag dolls) to some very sophisticated figures.

She examines heads and faces, the body and joints (bead, stitched bead and button), working with wire armatures, and finishing the figure with hair, footwear, clothing and bases, as well as a myriad of embellishments, all supported with photograph galleries of other talented dollmaker’s artworks.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6537

Designing the Doll is another essential book for the dollmaker’s library with more fabulous and inspiring art works and a more detailed and comprehensive analysis of doll design and construction.

Part One: Designing the Figure looks at problem solving and making choices, addressing the issues of construction (materials, costumes, embellishments and treatments); sculpture (materials, armatures, moulds); design variations and breaking rules. Considerations of form (animal, realistic human, toy, exaggerated or caricature and abstractions) and design elements (subject and motif, focal point, line, scale, colour, texture, pattern, balance, harmony, and style) are discussed in detail, including basic body proportions, developing patterns and making templates.

Part Two: Construction Materials looks at the nitty-gritty of constructing the head, body and body parts with notes on making moulds (wax, plaster, elasticon, latex and RTV); wire armatures; sculpture mechanics and movement; joint physics, considerations, design and construction; and cloth figure construction.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6534

Finishing the Figure is the final book in the trilogy, looking at costume and elements of design (line, scale, texture and especially colour), as well as a large section on pattern drafting and historical costumery.

The elements of costume include underwear, underpinnings, petticoats and panniers, kirtles and corsets to bodices, skirts, dresses, folk costumes, pockets, headwear and shoes.

The section on embellishments is equally large and ranges from painting, stencils, stamping, embossing, printing, dyeing and burning to machine work, pleating, weaving, felting, beadwork, hand embroidery, lacework and appliqué.

Specialized costume like wings, glasses, jewellery and animals have their own chapter, as do the elements of display, including furniture; doll photography; and transport considerations (packing and shipping).BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6536

I bought Dolls of the Art Deco Era to try and discover more about the vintage doll parts in my collection.

Boudoir dolls, which were dolls for adults, were displayed in the bedrooms of the era, especially the porcelain and wax-over-chalk half dolls and heads, which could be attached to pin cushions, purses, powder boxes on the dressing table and even lamps.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6517 I particularly love the flapper wax doll heads, the cloth mask faces made in Belgium and the antique French boudoir half dolls.

While I did not find my dolls in this book, I did learn so much about the Art Deco period, the dolls and dollmakers of the era,  the art of collecting vintage dolls, repairing and storing vintage dolls, and making and costuming boudoir dolls. I suspect most of my collection hails from the 1920s, when Marie Antoinette, Flapper and Harlequin and Pierrot dolls were very popular. See: http://www.jazzageclub.com/fads/the-boudoir-doll-craze/#more-916 for more on boudoir dolls.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6533

Patti Medaris Culea is another well-known name in the doll making book world. See: http://www.pmcdesigns.com/ and https://dollmakersjourney.com/culea.html, as well as her videos on cloth doll making (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpoxSzpx0zQ) and cloth doll faces (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=klNPrt0EUao) .

I own three of her books:

Creative Cloth Doll Making: New Approaches For Using Fibers, Beads, Dyes, and Other Exciting Techniques 2003;

Creative Cloth Doll Couture: New Approaches to Making Beautiful Clothing and Accessories 2006;   and

Creative Cloth Explorations: Adventures in Fairy-Inspired Fiber Art 2009.

Patti’s dolls are always very bright, fun and colourful and she makes the most of all the wonderful materials and embellishments available today!

In Creative Cloth Doll Making, she generously shares all her knowledge about the basics: the basic kit; laying out patterns; turning fingers; stuffing body parts; and creating the face, before progressing to all the fun and magical bits: surface coloration with dyes (silk dyes), paints (Dye-NA-Flow; Lumiere paints; pearl-ex pigments; textile paints; Prismacolor pencils; gel pens and Zig Millenium pens) and stamps (Impress Me); working with Tyvek, liners and machine embroidery; beading using Peyote and bead embroidery techniques; and collage with fabric, beading and photo transfer.

She explores all these techniques with backup projects like the Beginning Doll, seen on the front cover, and a gallery of other artists’ work. The patterns for the projects are in the back, as well as details about the contributing artists.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6541After an introductory chapter on making the basic cloth doll, Creative Cloth Doll Couture focuses on costumes and accessories.

There are four wardrobes: a 1940s Haute Couture stylish suit; a 1960s Flower Power outfit; a Formal Affair and a whimsical Fairy Gathering, each section a platform for teaching specific techniques like collage and layering appliqués, fibres and transfers (1960s);  working with beads, lace, satin and silk (Formal affair); and dyeing, painting and stamping (Fairy outfit) and again, reinforcing and inspiring with a gallery of other artist’s work.

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Her last book, Creative Cloth Explorations has a similar presentation to the previous two books, but dives headlong into the fairy world, a perfect venue for indulging in extreme creativity!

The first chapter on basic techniques and supplies for fibre arts is a bit longer and more comprehensive than its counterpart in the other books and covers: the basic sewing kit; the basic beading kit; the basic embellishing kit; making stencils; using silk rods, waste and cocoons; stabilizers; photo transfer; threads, needles and presser feet; colour; embellishments and embroidery and beading stitches.

There are some wonderful projects: an Art Nouveau Fairy themed journal with fairy pages and a book mark and a fairy fan, as well as gallery pages showcasing the inspiring work of other artists.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6540

Making Creative Cloth Dolls by Marthe Le Van 2002

My final book with some wonderful totemic and abstract spirit dolls!

Basic materials and techniques are covered in the first chapter by Barbara Carleton Evans with some useful notes on design, journaling, conceptualizing and proportion and movement.

Marthe then presents a series of Blank Canvas projects, based on basic forms: Clarity; Energy and Strength for the reader to make, then decorate and embellish creatively.

She also asked four other doll artists to decorate them as well as a platform for showing different techniques and the huge potential and versatility of the craft. She also invited ten talented designers to create unique patterns to showcase more inspirational ideas.

Along the way, she also discusses the use of doll making for personal growth; art therapy and healing; and past historical and cultural associations, including health insurance, good luck, fertility, magic, the supernatural world and sacrifice.

There are a number of contemporary photo galleries for further inspiration: a Gallery of Mystics;  a Gallery of Storytellers;  a Gallery of Angels and Demons; a Gallery of Legends; and a Gallery of Body Language.

This is a particularly good book for beginners and people with limited experience, as it promotes creativity and imagination without overwhelming the reader!BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6543

Other sources of inspiration include doll making groups, like Western Dollmakers, in Western Australia ( http://westerndollmakers.com/), magazines like Art Doll Quarterly http://www.artdollquarterly.com/ and https://stampington.com/blog/ and commercial patterns.

There are so many talented artists in the cloth doll world. Some of my favourites include:

Julie McCullough of Magic Threads: https://www.magicthreads.com/ and https://dollmakersjourney.com/mccullough.html, as well as designers like: Elise Peeples; Jo Maxwell; Bev Bradford; Ann Clemens; Priscilla McDonald; Maxine Gallagher and  Sally Lampi eg The Weather Vane in the photo below.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_7211Many of their patterns can be sourced on websites like: https://dollmakersjourney.com and http://dollmakersjourney.net/ and Pinterest is also a wonderful source of inspiration and ideas.

Next week, I will be looking at books about sewing with and for children. Until then, Happy Creating!

Books about Toymaking

Last week, I shared my toymaking journey with you. Here are some of the books in my craft library for the aspiring toymakers amongst you!

Sewing Sculpture by Charleen Kinser 1977

One of my very first books on soft sculpture and still a favourite for its originality, its notes on design and its patterns.

The first two chapters discuss the inherent qualities of the craft; developing visual awareness and clarifying your perception; and recognizing symbols and form.

The next chapter takes a comprehensive look at the nature of different materials:

Fibres: Cotton, linen, wool, silk, acrylic, nylon and polyester;

Fabrics: Woven, knitted and felted fabrics;

Other materials: Leathers, fur, fleece and vinyls;

Threads and Yarns, both utilitarian and decorative: Mercerized cotton, linen, silk, nylon and polyester; and

Fillers: Cotton or polyester batting; down; foam rubber and polyurethane foam; styrofoam pellets, dried straw and grasses; excelsior; wood shavings and sawdust; sand and pebbles; sewing and knitting scraps; and aromatic dried herbs and flowers.

It also discusses the workplace and the tools of the trade: Sewing machine; shears; needles; pressing aids and stuffing aids.

Design is a major part of sewn sculpture and is covered in two chapters with notes on:

Idea and concept;

Elements of surface design elements: Colour; pattern and texture; theme; contrast and comparisons; transitions; variation and repetition;

Elements of drama: Proportion; composition; and staging;

Seams and darts: Placement and type;

Borrowing shapes from objects and patterns; and

Materials as a point of departure.

The thoosing fabrics; pattern and fabric preparation; stitching and types of seams; stuffing; special considerations for working with leather, fake fur and knits; surface ornamentation and batik; and making geometric forms (box, cone, tube, opposing triangles and squares, softball, closed doughnut, spiral and globe) are all discussed in the next two chapters before presenting a variety of wonderful patterns:

Floor cushions and nest chairs; scallop and marble cone pillows; pillow dolls; tiny witches and life-size grannies; floral toads and huge grizzly bears and seal sliders; some wonderful ogres and an orphan Annie doll; an Art Nouveau plant form and a beautiful leather gentle beast; and finally, a set of soft sculpture heads.

This book is full of wonderfully creative ideas and possibilities and is a terrific book for toymakers wanting to design their own original patterns!

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Toys For Your Delight by Winsome Douglass 1962

Another excellent old book, written by embroidery expert Winsome Douglass, which has a similarly broad scope, allowing for plenty of creativity and personal self-expression. The introduction covers the basics:

Tools and equipment;

Materials and the use of paper mounts with fraying materials;

Surface decoration: embroidery, appliqué, beads and sequins;

Embroidery stitches; and

Stuffing.

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The majority of the book is devoted to patterns, but the instructions are general and allow for lots of variations. The simplest form of toy is a ball, with patterns given for four-sectioned, six-sectioned and eight-sectioned balls.BlogSoftToys2015-04-22 08.58.14The chapter on animals starts with notes on wiring, manes and tails, ears and eyes, horns, decorated heads and moveable legs before describing a variety of separate animals: a dachshund, reindeer, cow, horses and deer, a sitting cat and a tiger, a lizard and toad, and a magical griffin.

The chapter on birds starts with notes on beaks, heads and crests, tails, wings, and feet, legs and stands with patterns for sitting ducks and hens, small birds on conical stands and cockerels on cotton reels,  and two standing birds, all magnificently embroidered.

Insects and fish are also covered with notes on insect wings, legs and feelers and hints on design and patterns for wasps, flies, ladybirds, butterflies, fish and sea-serpents. More complex creatures include a rocking bird, a tortoise, a pig, a camel, a donkey and cart, a French poodle, an elephant, an alligator and dragonflies.

Papier-maché toys, Christmas decorations and dolls and their toys are also covered in depth. Below are a few photos of Christmas decorations I have made using this book: BlogSoftToys2015-10-13 14.34.34BlogSoftToys25%IMG_7226While many of the toys shown in the colour plates look a little dated now, the use of modern materials and bright colours would totally revolutionize their appearance and I love the bold black-and-white designs in this book. It allows for plenty of individuality and creativity in the execution of its patterns.

However, if you would prefer more detailed precise patterns, so you can reproduce exactly the same toy described, then the next suite of books are perfect for you!

Titmouse Cottage Designs by Christine Brooke 1992 is an Australian book, based on an original range of woodland characters for her shop Titmouse Cottage: Mr and Mrs Nibble, Amelia, Miss Poppet, Rosebud and Missy Mouse. Patterns and step-by-step instructions for making and dressing these delightful little felt mice make it easy to reproduce them.

The author also gives introductory notes on equipment, materials, working with felt, stuffing, attaching beads and lace and general instructions for making ears, paws, heads, noses and eyes, whiskers, tails, glasses, mob caps and sleeves with patterns and pattern layouts in the back of the book. Each specific pattern details the mouse’s size and personality, materials used and method, including black-and white sketches and colour plates. They are very sweet little characters, which I would love to try making one day, especially Rosebud and seamstress, Miss Poppet!BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6556

Little Grey Rabbit’s Pattern Book by Pamela Peake 1988 is based on the world of Little Grey Rabbit, created by much-loved British children’s author Alison Uttley with patterns and clothes for five characters: Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel, Old Hedgehog, Weasel and Hare.

General directions include notes on patterns, fur fabric choice, layouts, cutting, seams, ladder stitching, stuffing, safety eyes, whiskers and tape hinges for limbs. They are lovely patterns, though those in the next book are even more attractive.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6557

Sue Dolman’s Book of Animal Toys by Sue Dolman 1994 also features mainly British animals, the exception being Kenny the Koala! General notes are provided on fabrics and furs, equipment, patterns, cutting out, trimming fur, stitching, trimming seams, turning, filling and the assembly of body parts.

Characters include: Freddie and Freda Fox, Brewster and Bertha Bear, Kenny Koala, Reggie and Rosie Rabbit, Bertie Badger and the entire mouse family: Mrs Maisie Mouse, Baby Mouse, Miss Molly Mouse and Master Monty Mouse.

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Each project includes actual-size patterns, notes on materials, step-by-step instructions and drawings and clothing. I used the pattern for baby mouse to create these cute felt mice in the photo below and could easily make up some of the other patterns, especially Bertha Bear and Baby Mouse’s mother, Mrs Maisie Mouse.BlogSoftToys30%IMG_7236Countryside Softies by Amy Adams 2011 is another favourite toymaking book with 28 very cute and whimsical woollen creatures made out of recycled felted old jumpers or blankets, though I prefer to use ordinary felt, having had to do a major clean-out of my severely-clogged front-loading washing machine after trying to felt an old jumper. I think having an old top-loader expressly for felting would be ideal!BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6559

Tools and equipment, materials and notions, embroidery stitches and detailed notes on felting wool and making weighted bodies; tummy and chest patches; snouts and beaks; eyes, mouths and ears; wings, feet, claws and arms; tails; whiskers; and insect legs and antennae are all discussed in the introduction, before presenting groupings of patterns according to their home environment:

In the Hedgerow: Fox; rabbit; hedgehog; robin; bumblebee; and butterfly;

Amongst the Woodlands: Squirrel; badger; owl; mouse; and toadstool; and

Along the Riverbank: Otter; swan; duck; kingfisher; and dragonfly.

There are patterns for baby versions, as well as related plant materials and props like bulrushes, carrots, chestnuts, fish and eggs, and notes on making mobiles and finger puppets. Each project details requirements and assembly instructions, while the patterns are in the back of the book, along with a list of resources. You can see more of her work at: http://www.lucykatecrafts.co.uk/ and http://lucykatecrafts.blogspot.com/.

I just adore her style, the mixture of felt/ wool with floral patches; her recycling ethics; and her patterns. They are seriously cute! I have made her Baby Rabbit for my daughter for Easter one year, but am keen to try my hand at her Fox; Robin; Badger; Owl; Mouse; Toadstool; Duck and Kingfisher.

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I have mentioned the next book briefly in my post on Fabulous Felting Books: https://candeloblooms.com/2018/07/17/fabulous-felting-books/, which also describes a few other books on toymaking, as does my post on Knitting Books: https://candeloblooms.com/2018/06/26/books-for-winter-knitting-part-two/.

Sew Soft Toys: Using Natural Fibres by Karin Neuschütz 2007

A lovely book from our Steiner years using cotton, drill, flannel, towelling, wool gabardine, wool felt, fur and dupion silk to make dogs and cats; mice and bunnies; horses, donkeys and zebras; cows, sheep and pigs; seals and penguins; red and polar foxes; brown bears and polar bears; weasels; and elephants, camels and giraffes, all with baby equivalents and notes on variations (eg transforming the bunny into a squirrel)!  I used this book to make Jen a camel and Caro an embroidered piglet.BlogCreativity120%ReszdEarly march 2013 014BlogSoftToys25%IMG_7232 There are introductory notes on fabrics and stuffing materials; washing instructions and storage; and sewing and stuffing with detailed notes on materials; patterns and step-by-step instructions for assembling and stuffing each project.BlogSoftToys2017-08-28 18.04.20 They are lovely patterns and I am keen to make more, especially the mice (little grey mouse in photo above); the donkey; and the African elephant.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6560

It will be a very useful book for pcreating my Noah’s Ark Christmas ornaments!BlogFeltBooks2515-10-13 15.06.45Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Soft Friends From Cast-Off Socks and Gloves by Miyako Kanamori  2005

This book also appealed to my recycling and thrifty instincts, as well as being exceedingly cute!

Written from the point of view of the characters created, it is a charming book, which introduces all the sock creatures first and tells their stories, before getting down to the details of their assembly in the back of the book with detailed notes and sketches. Gloves were used to make Billy the Dog and the rabbit, bear, pig and panda, while mittens were used to make the mouse and bonus fish. Marcus the Monkey and the dog, cat, sheep, bird, fish, elephant, zebra and girl were all made from old socks.

I just loved Billy the Dog, who features on the front cover and whose face can be portrayed in so many different ways, changing his character totally. I also loved the sheep, the mouse, the sock fish, the bear, the elephant and the zebra. Clothing patterns are also provided to dress the characters.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6561

Steampunk Softies: Scientifically Minded Dolls From a Past That Never Was by Sarah Skeate and Nicola Tedman 2011

And now, for something completely different…! I just love the originality and creativity of steam punk and the fact that anything goes!! Materials and accessories; cutting out; gluing; and ageing fabrics with wax, toothpaste, chalk, scratching and bleaching to give that essential timeworn appearance and ‘authenticity’ are all discussed in the introduction, followed by detailed notes on each project’s personality; materials and equipment; and assembly and construction.

Characters include: the mysterious illusionist and teleporter, Tompion Zeitgeist; the deep sea diver, Fathomless Tilt *; the Steam Punk Lady, Marveletta O’Houlihan; the mining prospector, Geronimo Bore; the intrepid explorer, Floyd Fastknight *; the aviatrix, Charity Storm; the lady detective, Minerva Dupine* and the steam punk doctor, Ferris Scapula.  They are all delightful characters, with my favourites highlighted with an asterix *.

It’s a wonderful way to use up all those obscure bits and pieces in your hoard and letting your creativity run wild!BlogSoftToys30%IMG_6562

Finally, a book on top dollmakers and the secrets of their trade:

We Make Dolls: Top Doll Makers Share Their Secrets and Patterns by Jenny Doh 2012

After a brief section by Jenny Doh, in which she discusses templates, seam allowances, doll making tools, embroidery and hand stitches and tips and techniques, including clipping and notching curves, turning and stuffing, raw-edge applique and rotating joints, the doll makers themselves are introduced, complete with websites; notes on their dollmaking journeys; tips and secrets; and patterns with finished sizes, materials, preparation and step-by-step construction notes.

I particularly liked the style and work of Mimi Kirchner (http://mimikirchner.com/blog/) and Denise Ferragamo (http://deniseferragamo.blogspot.com/). I particularly liked Denises’s Matryoshka dolls, which can be seen on: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/374784000213602208/?lp=true and https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/864409722201944266/. It is also well worth exploring Mimi’s blog with links to other useful and inspiring craft and art blogs.BlogSoftToys25%IMG_6563

Next week, I will be sharing some of my favourite dollmaking books.

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.

Books For Winter: Knitting Part Two

Continuing on from last week’s post, I am now featuring books written by knitting designers and containing some fabulous patterns.

Passion for Colour: Designer Knitting With Natural Dyes by Sarah Burnett 1990

While I could have included this book in my post on Natural Dyeing Books, I decided to reserve it for this post, as it has some great patterns, one of which is a Fair Isle pattern for a child’s cardigan, which I started for my toddler daughter, but unfortunately never completed! However, I had so much fun with colour combinations during its pursuit! It is a delightful book, even though a little dated now, and was one of the first to really showcase designs against their sources of inspiration.BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.06.17The first section titled: Cooking With Colour describes the natural dyeing process: Equipment, mordanting, natural dyestuffs, dyeing methods and how to produce a range of colours from reds, pinks and wines to navy, greys, ochres and walnuts, yellows, greens and indigo blues of varying shades and hues.

I didn’t actually dye my wool for the cardigan, but bought some very fine four-ply Rowan yarns in a range of colours from Mostly Mohair in Richmond, Tasmania. I couldn’t decide between the brights and the pastels (a perennial problem for me, as well as probably being a major frustration for the patient, long-suffering saleswoman!), so I bought both colour ranges, including a wide variety of blues: navy, deep turquoise, royal blue, jacaranda blue, soft blue and aqua blue, as well as olive and full green; rust red and deep red; gold and bright yellow; and cream. Here is a photo of the back of the cardigan.BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.06.32 I loved experimenting with colour combinations in practice swatches like this one in the photo below, before making a final decision on the next row of the cardigan. I probably should undo it all and reuse the wool for another project, unless a grandchild comes along first!!!BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-18 07.42.40In this book, there are also some very feminine patterns with blowsy full sleeves, frilled edgings and peplums, and bold patterns and brilliant colour. I particularly loved the Paisley Jacket and the Fritillary Jacket, both of which I could still easily wear and knit (though perhaps not so easily!). I also loved the pattern of the Rambling Rose Cardigan, though would probably try to combine its rose pattern with the longer style of the Paisley or Fritillary Jackets. The Sunflower Jacket is also very attractive with its bright happy colours and bold design.

The glossary at the back includes notes on needle size, knitting in the round, tension, using charts, Fair Isle technique, blocking, different grafting methods, ribbing, pleats and making those beautiful Dorset Crosswheel Buttons used in the patterns.BlogKnittingBooks3018-02-07 15.25.30

Sarah continues to knit and design ad her more current work can be seen at: http://www.naturaldyecompany.com.

Kristin Nicholas: Kristin Knits: 27 Inspired Designs For Playing With Colour 2007

A good book for all those knitters, who are seduced by all those lovely colourful yarns in the wool shop, but don’t necessarily feel super-confident about improvising with colour! It’s a lovely bright colourful book with some terrific projects from easy garter stitch scarves with pompoms and tasselled mitre-cornered stockinette scarves, embroidered with flowers, to bold bright Navajo-inspired afghans, a variety of colourful striped hats, socks and boot toppers, gloves and mittens, and jumpers and cardigans.BlogKnittingBooks3018-04-18 09.00.22She has a great sense of colour and makes your fingers start itching to begin one of her projects! Also included are notes on colour and design; experimenting with swatches; Fair Isle techniques; steeking; mitred corners; tension and gauge; duplicate stitches; decorating with embroidery; making bobbles, tassels and pompoms; stitching seams; sewing in zippers; and blocking and finishing garments. I am so tempted to stop writing and go and make her Autumn Leaves Socks instead!!! You can learn more about her on: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bwghwh9_4dM and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TI9SRIVJNg.

.Kaffe Fassett (1937-):

Glorious Knitting: Over 30 Exclusive Patterns 1985

Family Album: Knitting For Children and Adults 1989

Kaffe’s Classics: 25 Glorious Knitting Designs 1993

If you love colour and pattern, you will definitely have come across Kaffe Fassett’s name in your knitting journey! He shot to fame with his first book Glorious Knitting in 1985 and proceeded to write further books on knitting like Family Album and Kaffe’s Classics, all of which I own, as well as delving into the equally colourful worlds of needlepoint, patchwork and quilting, painting and ceramics, and even mosaics.

This man is so enthusiastic , energetic and inspiring and a wonderful ambassador for colour and craft! He has designed knitwear, tapestries, quilts and fabrics, costumes and stage sets, and was the first living textile artist to have a one-man show at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London in 1988, the exhibition so popular that it went on to tour nine countries: Finland, Holland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Australia, Canada, the United States of America and Iceland.

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He has written more than 40 books and has hosted a number of craft-related television and radio programs for the BBC and Channel Four, including his own show Glorious Colour. He has also featured in a a large number of videos, which can be seen on his website at: http://www.kaffefassett.com/publications/videos/.

It is also well worth reading his biography Dreaming in Colour: An Autobiography 2012. See: http://www.kaffefassett.com/2831-2/, a brief précis of which can also be found at: http://www.kaffefassett.com/about/.

But back to his books, though I must admit that I have not actually knitted any of his patterns, which are probably a bit too complex for me- in fact, I am probably more likely to stitch one of his needlepoint designs, as embroidery is more my forté!BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.00.21

Glorious Colour features patterns for garments based on Stripes, Steps and Zigzags, Diamonds, Stars, Squares and Patches, Circles and Flowers, while Family Album features: Squares and Plaids; Circles and Dots; Stripes and Boxes; Brushes and Combs; Stars and Mosaics; Flowers and Bows; Cables and Flags; Turks and Harlequins; and Diamonds and Patches.

Kaffe’s Classics revisits 25 of his classic originals, inspired by Japanese art, Chinese landscape paintings, Islamic tile work, Turkish kilims and Spanish architecture and originally published in Rowan Collections, rather than his own books. They are beautiful garments, though very much a product of the 1980s and 1990s.BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.00.29

Kaffe has designed knitwear (see: http://www.kaffefassett.com/gallery/knitwear/) for Rowan Yarns (https://knitrowan.com/en/) for more than 30 years to showcase their beautiful yarns (https://knitrowan.com/en/yarns). They produce seasonal pattern collections, as well as a large number of publications and patterns.

Jo Sharp :

Knitting Emporium 2000

Knitting Heartland: Children’s Handknitting Collection 2001.

Australian Jo Sharp also produces beautiful luxury yarns in wool, silk, cashmere and cotton in an extensive range of natural shades. See: https://www.knit.net.au/.

She has also published some wonderful patterns and pattern collections and books, two of which I own: Knitting Emporium 2000 and Knitting Heartland: Children’s Handknitting Collection 2001.BlogKnittingBooks3018-04-17 12.25.50

I love her sense of colour! Knitting Emporium has some lovely patterns, especially Solstice, Tashkent and Millefiori. I made my husband his one and only jumper (knitted by me! He does own more jumpers!!!) using her pattern Antipodean, though the shoulders probably should have been adjusted slightly for him.  I also used her hat pattern for Balthazar as a basis for the hats below, though using a mixture of yarns I owned.BlogKnittingBooks30%DSCN1488BlogKnittingBooks20%DSCN1508BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.39.30 Even though they are not Jo Sharp yarns and I incorporated stripes as well, I think the hat still reflects the exotic essence and colour of this pattern.BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.02.39

Knitting Heartland  is equally inspiring with some beautifully coloured designs for children, which I will definitely try when I become a grandma!!!BlogKnittingBooks20%DSCN1499 I did use the pattern Phoebe’s Bag when making crochet flowers for my hat and scarf ends (photos above and below).BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.38.38Zoë Mellor

Another well-known and successful knitwear designer, who has written a number of books, including:

Head To Toe Knits: 25 Colourful Accessories For Your Home and Children 1998

Animal Knits: 26 Fun Handknits For Children and Toddlers 2001.BlogKnittingBooks3018-04-17 12.26.06

Again, wonderful bright colours and a great sense of fun! I loved making her Wee Willy Winky Hat  in Head to Toe Knits and could easily knit some of her other patterns, especially the Cat Hats with their striped ears, the colourful bags and cushions and the Reindeer Scarf and Hat.32271755_10156215149454933_8570604297115402240_nI adapted her pattern for the Harlequin Hat, enlarging her basic pattern and knitting stripes instead of harlequins.BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.24.46Animal Knits is also great fun with some very appealing patterns like the Animal Bootees, based on rabbits and bears; the cute Farmyard Cushion; the sweet Ladybird Hat and all the delightful jumpers, jackets and toys. I could easily knit all the patterns in this book!!!BlogKnittingBooks3018-04-17 11.01.30Louisa Harding : Knitting Little Luxuries: Beautiful Accessories To Knit 2007

Another favourite book, to which the last statement also applies. This is a delightful book, especially for gifts and smaller items.BlogKnittingBooks3018-04-17 11.01.22 I have knitted quite a few of the patterns, including: the Embellished Mittens; Victoria Fingerless Mittens (three times!); and Cecily Beanie (below in order) !

Very soft and feminine, her designs often use cashmere wool and more of her patterns can be found on her website at: https://www.yarntelier.com. Below is a photo of my daughter in her Alice Beret and Victoria Fingerless Mittens, both from the book.BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-23 13.13.01

Cat Bordhi: A Second Treasury of Magical Knitting 2005/ 2007

I love trying knitting patterns, which look like they are difficult and couldn’t possibly work, and yet if you trust the process, do work out and end up being really quite easy, once you get the hang of them! Cat Bordhi’s Infinity Moebius Cowls are a case in point!BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.37.57 It’s all in the cast-on technique, but once that is mastered, it is just a matter of circular kitting to the end. Fortunately, there are some excellent YouTube clips to support this book at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVnTda7F2V4.

BlogKnittingBooks3018-04-17 12.25.40Having made this cowl three times, my most successful was with a soft mohair wool with a fair amount of give, so it stretches easily as I twist it twice around my neck and it feels so comfortable and soft!BlogKnittingBooks20%DSCN1493 The cowl can also be worn with one twist round the neck and one over the head if it is particularly cold!BlogKnittingBooks20%DSCN1494The basic technique can also be used to make needle cosies; magical baskets; sling bags, including a Jester Tentacle Bag and Hat, Moebius Bowls and Cluster Bowls, and Feline Bliss Beds and Kitty Nests, all patterns given in the book!

Curly scarves are also a pattern, which looks like it couldn’t possibly work, but does and is really very simple. See: https://knitting-crochet.wonderhowto.com/how-to/knit-spiral-ruffle-scarf-0133365/.

BlogKnittingBooks2518-04-17 11.37.04 My next challenge is this teapot cosy, knitted by my friend Heather. I love the colour combination of hot pink and orange, but I have chosen more natural greens. It involved learning and mastering a new casting-on method for me, working out how tight to pull the carried thread to achieve the correct density of folds and then making absolutely sure that the thread was always carried to the back side of the work! I’m currently on my fourth attempt!!! While I cannot find the original source of my pattern, it can also be found at: https://www.the-knitting-wool-store.com/grannies-tea-cosy-pattern.html.BlogKnittingBooks2518-03-21 12.31.25

Another challenge I would like to try one day is body knitting with arms rather than needles! See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FapvTEjbR9M and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sF6vj_JnWy8.

Finally, some knitted toy books…!!!

Kath Dalmeny’s World of Knitted Toys 1998 features animals from all over the world: the Jungle; the Australian Outback; Down on the Farm; The Deep Blue Sea; Forest Friends; On Safari; and the Snowy Regions. Patterns can be knitted in two sizes- ‘clutch’ for a child’s hand and ‘cuddle’, big enough to be hugged.

Patterns can also be adapted to produce other animals. For example, the polar bear pattern can be adapted to create a panda, while a sea lion can be made using the walrus pattern. There are even patterns for humans, complete with an entire wardrobe and accessories. I made a pig for my daughter and would like to try some of her other patterns. The koalas and kangaroos and joeys are so cute and I would love to make the turtle and penguins!!!BlogKnittingBooks3018-04-17 11.03.16

Amigurumi Knits: Patterns for 20 Cute Mini Knits by Hansi Singh 2009  is another very inspiring book. The term was originally coined from the Japanese words ‘ami’, meaning ‘knitted or crocheted’ and ‘nuigurumi’ meaning ‘stuffed doll’, and while big in the crochet world, it was adopted more slowly by the knitting community, with very few patterns on knitted amigurumi. This book goes a long way in addressing this shortfall with lots of fun small creations like vegetables and fruit; hermit crabs , octopus,sea stars, jellyfish and black-devil anglerfish; snails, praying mantis, ants and spiders; and weird and wonderful cryptids-krakens, jackalopes and the famous Loch Ness monster, Nessie! They are certainly very cute and appealing, even though some of them look fairly challenging!!!BlogKnittingBooks4018-04-17 11.03.09Hopefully, some of these books might have inspired you to start knitting for the season or maybe you are a crochet fiend, in which case my next post will feature my favourite crochet books! In the meantime, Happy Knitting!!!32501206_10156215149564933_5986553767691026432_n

Happy Christmas!

Christmas has always been a very special time in our house, especially the lead up in the month beforehand, with all the food preparation, gift making and present wrapping!

I have already written posts about :

  • Desserts for Pre-Christmas work parties : The Sweet Spot (October)
  • Christmas Cake and Pudding (November)
  • Christmas Drinks and Nibbles (December)

I much prefer to think about Christmas gifts well in advance, so there is no panic closer to the day, when the shops get so busy and crowded and choosing gifts becomes very stressful!!! If time allows, it is a wonderful opportunity to use all those craft skills and, at the same time, make so many people very happy! Home-made presents are THE BEST and are appreciated long after their store-bought equivalents. The recipient not only appreciates the originality and sometimes quirkiness of your gift, but also the talent and skill involved and the sheer amount of time devoted to their production, while thinking about their recipient during the whole process! My family adore my embroidered cushion covers and I get much joy out of planning and executing their design, as well as admiring the finished product, and then seeing the joy and love they bring to their recipient!

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I made this cute Christmas bag for my daughter from a pattern in ‘Scandinavian Stitches‘ by Kajsa Wikman. See her blog on : http://syko.typepad.com/.

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I embroidered this cushion cover with rainforest birds for my husband’s birthday this year.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-29 16.34.36A Christmas tablemat for 2000!

I have loved all my children’s home-made gifts over the years and our house and lives have been enriched by all their wonderful creations! It is also a great way for children to develop their creative skills. Here are some great books with gift ideas :

‘The Good Gift Guide : Creative Gift Giving For All Occasions’ by Alison Pearl

‘The Good Gift Book : Ideal Presents For Every Occasion’ by Judy Hubbard

‘A Touch of Christmas : Easy To Make Stockings and Gifts’ by Pamela Allardice

‘Christmas Treats To Make and Give’ by Linda Collister

‘Homemade’ by Kay Fairfax

‘Creating Gourmet Gifts’ by Barbara Beckett

‘Aromatic Gifts : Scented Ideas From Kitchen and Garden’ by Stephanie Donaldson        and

‘Beautiful Homemade Presents’ by Juliet Bawden.

Gifts can be more intangible too : a massage, a song, a performance, an IOU promise. My daughters made this hand-painted Monopoly board and these delightful wooden coasters for past Christmas gifts. A friend made this delicious Christmas cookie decoration one year.BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-10-13 15.25.37BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-10-13 15.12.40BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.32.04I really enjoy making Christmas cards and Advent Calendars in late November, the latter to be opened from the 1st December on. The last few years, I have used folded blank card, stamps and ink pads to create much more personal (and far cheaper) cards! Alas, this year, because I worked right up until the last week, I had to resort to using commercial Christmas cards!

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There are so many different patterns for advent calendars from felt pockets with little treasures and sweets to this wonderful paper pocket Christmas Tree, which I made for our 2013 Christmas. Each pocket held a small gift or a rhyming clue to a treasure hunt for larger items, which could not fit in the pocket. The pattern came from ‘Folded Secrets : Paper Folding Projects: Book 4’ by Ruth Smith and is based on the old Chinese Needle Thread Pockets. You can order all 4 books from the author by emailing her at : eruthsmith@btinternet.com. For a quick view of them, see : http://purplemissus.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/happy-families.html

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It is also fun making Christmas decorations throughout December, then finally decorating the Christmas tree in the last 2 weeks! Some people do it in early December, especially if they own an artificial tree, but I much prefer fresh trees, which do not last the whole month well.

I love the scent and colour of traditional fir trees, which are often sold on the side of the road in the weeks up until Christmas. After the 1967 Tasmanian bush fires, which devastated the native forests, my parents planted a large number of these quick-growing evergreens along the fence line of our property, only to spend every future Christmas chasing off would-be Christmas Tree thieves as the trees grew to maturity!!!

For the last few years in the city, we bought our trees from the same supplier, who harvested them from their country property then sold them in their suburban driveway. We’d select a small, well-balanced tree, then place it in a tub of water within an old rusty family cream can (from dairying days), decorated with Christmas wrapping paper and a large red bow. I love this old photo from the early 1900s of my husband’s grandparents’ Christmas tree with all the toy animals underneath.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-29 16.33.46Back in the country, we would cut our own tree – maybe a feral cypress or a native she-oak (Casuarina) or even a gum tree (Eucalyptus). This year, we had hoped to purchase a Wollemi Pine in a pot, which we would keep outside during the year, then bring inside for Christmas until it grew too large. Wollemi pines are incredibly ancient and very special, as they were thought to be extinct until a small stand was discovered in 1994. See : http://www.wollemipine.com.

Alas, they were too exorbitant for us this year at $ 169 for a 150mm pot ( plus $14 for shipping and handling). I know we would probably recuperate the price after 3 to 5 years of buying ordinary cut Christmas trees, but you would have to be certain that the plant survived!!! Maybe when we’re rich and famous…!!! For those with disposable income, see : http://www.wollemipine.com/order.php

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It is always such fun decorating the Christmas tree with friends and family with all the old Christmas favourites, as well as a new purchase/ creation each year. After the baubles and ornaments, we drape the tree with tinsel, then last of all, the Christmas lights – so magical!!! Here are some photos of hand-made Christmas decorations: a simple, bright felt star for my eldest daughter’s first Christmas tree of her own; Christmas angels being made by my daughters : I made the middle angel, Caro the blonde angel and Jen, the angel with the dreadlocks!; I also made a beaded/ sequined and embroidered Christmas angel and pear one year.BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 004BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-04-22 08.59.48 - CopyBloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 14.31.53BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 14.34.34We were a bit late putting up our ‘tree’ this year, but it was just as well as the weekend before Christmas we experienced 40 degree days! We now live on a corner block fringed with very old Cypress trees, so we cut 5 branches, which were extending into the lane way, then bound them together and put them in the old family cream can. I think it looks great and it’s hard to detect that it is not a complete tree! My daughter made a beautiful wreath with the trimmed branches as well (bottom photo).BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 20.26.16BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 21.38.59BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 19.28.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 18.26.23And finally, Christmas Eve has arrived! When we lived in the ‘Big Smoke’, we always use to enjoy making a special visit into the city to see the Christmas decorations.

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I loved the illumination of the Geelong Town Hall last year.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2014-12-18 22.19.05And on the night of Christmas Eve, it was always worth doing the rounds of the neighbourhood to view all those outrageous Christmas decorations and lights. Some streets specialize in it!!!BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.51.01BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.22.36There were even still a few here in country Candelo! While the 3rd photo took the prize for effect, I must admit that I much prefer the simpler more discrete ones like the hammock shot (4th photo). Someone had even draped a large fir tee in their front yard with lights, which changed from green-and-blue to red-and-gold (5th and 6th photo)! A local farmer tied a big red bow round each of his fence posts, which looked really effective, though perhaps not so good at night-time! (1st and 2nd photo)BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-24 11.46.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-24 11.46.10BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.52.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.42.27BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.44.14BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.44.05It is always fun seeing everyone get into the Christmas spirit, including our old postman last year! We had a hilarious Christmas Eve a few years ago, when we came across a long line of ‘Father Christmases’,  university students on their way to the pub, who then very good-naturedly, carjacked us for a lift to said hotel!!! I think my daughter thought all her Christmases had come at once! We caught up to their companions and dropped them off, little realizing that one of them had lost his mobile phone in our car! Two suburbs later, we received a very sheepish phone call, asking us very politely if we would mind dropping their phone round to the hotel! So funny, though it did highlight how quickly a car can be hijacked!!!

BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 10.20.48BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.18.59This year here in Candelo, we were hijacked in a different fashion! I saw 3 Santas walking up the hill, only to have a large group of them materialize on our doorstep to sing us Christmas Carols, then we were bundled up and absorbed into the group, as we wended our way back up the hill to accost other suitable benefactors! My daughter grabbed her Santa hat and reindeer antlers, which she had bought for my neighbour’s handsome black labradors, whom she was to babysit over Christmas, but unfortunately not her camera, otherwise you would have had some classic shots of me in her  antlers with multicoloured flashing lights. It took me a while to realize that the faint Christmas jingle I kept hearing was also actually coming from  those same antlers!!! It probably would have been a bit dark for a decent photo anyway. We found it increasingly difficult to read the words by candlelight, so ‘Deck the Halls’ was very dodgy and thin in the verse singing, but voices swelled considerably in the ‘Fa-La-La, Fa-La-La, Fa-La-La’ chorus! We finished at the local bakery, where we were kindly given a fresh, warm sourdough loaf straight out of the oven and a lovely moist Christmas Cake, which we quickly wolfed down with French Champagne and tea back at my neighbour’s house. It was such a fun night and a great way to meet all the locals!

Father Christmas certainly gets around, as can be seen by these eye witness accounts on our drives to visit family interstate over the Christmas period!BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 013BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 043BloghappyXmas40%Reszddec 2010 073BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 072BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 071BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2014-12-14 08.13.18He is such a busy fellow and must get so exhausted with all his travels! We have a family tradition of writing Father Christmas notes to attach to our stockings. He would then have to reply in the wee wee hours of the morning in an increasingly illegible scrawl! Funny how he always knew what had transpired during the year! When the kids were little, we always used to visit him in the shopping mall, resulting in a wonderful family photographic record of the childhood years.

Every Christmas Eve, we would leave him a slice of Christmas, a beer and a carrot for his reindeer and in the morning, we would discover cake crumbs, the bottle drained and little bite-sized bits of carrot all over the garden.

The kids would be up so early on Christmas morning, excitedly opening their Christmas stockings or, in later years, sacks! After the stocking opening and a much-needed cup of tea, we took it in turns to open the gifts, which had accumulated under the tree in the previous 2 weeks and had suddenly swelled in number dramatically overnight. The youngest often had the job of finding each person’s gift, while Mum (usually) kept a note of ‘who gave what’ for later thank you correspondence.

After the last gift had been opened, the kids all gathered around the open window to yell at the top of their voices ‘Thank You Very Much, Father Christmas!’, a tradition carried through from my childhood!

Because everyone tends to nibble stocking fruit and sweets and are a bit exhausted by this stage, we often have a rest till mid-afternoon, then prepare for Christmas Dinner : a roast turkey with stuffing, a clove-studded ham, roast vegetables and the finale, the flaming Christmas Pudding! One year, when we had just moved over into a cottage built to lockup with no electricity, water or stove, the thought of preparing the traditional Christmas dinner overwhelmed me and it was so wonderful when my ‘kids’ (late teens by this stage) took over and bought 2 barbecued chickens and boiled up vegies over the camping gas stove – the most relaxing Christmas dinner we have ever had!BloghappyXmas40%ReszdIMG_9113BloghappyXmas40%Reszddecember2011 200

I love setting the Christmas table and organizing the flowers ! For a few years, we even made our own Christmas Crackers, complete with corny jokes!!! We will miss our dear Scampie this year!BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-25 11.00.35BloghappyXmas20%ReszdJens Xmas 2013 055

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Our old dog Scamp used to love Christmas!

I will leave you with a few photos of our iconic native flora and fauna. Happy Christmas and All our Best Wishes for a Wonderful 2016!!!

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A koala sitting in an old gum tree!
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Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
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Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo
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A pair of Pink Galahs
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A Pretty-faced Wallaby browsing a friend’s Bauhinias
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Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius)
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Native Frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum)
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Rainbow Lorikeets at home for Christmas!
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Oliver, our resident King Parrot, also at home for Christmas!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid Autumn

April and the leaves are turning beautiful Autumn colours , including our neighbour’s Virginia creeper. The purple violets are starting to bloom and we discovered white nerines in amongst the mondo grass in the border of the back path.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-12 17.02.51Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-22 10.53.07After treating all the garden beds and new plantings with manure and mulch from a friend’s farm, we planted our first vegetables : lettuce, broccoli and silver beet.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-06-07 12.12.35

We covered them with a wire guard to protect them from the bower birds, of which we have a huge population next door ! Lovely birds, but very destructive in vegie gardens!

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We planted our Spring bulbs in the new cutting garden, except for the tulips, which needed refridgeration, and marked their planting rows with stakes of small bamboo. In between each pair of bulb rows, we sewed annual and perennial seeds to gradually grow and replace the spent bulbs as their leaves dry off. In effect, within the one cutting bed, we had 4 long  skinny  beds, separated by paths:

  • Dutch Iris and daffodils with cornflowers in the middle at the back;
  • Freesias and ranunculas separated by Iceland poppies;
  • a bed totally devoted to blue, red and white de Caen anemones with calendula in the middle and finally
  • a late bed of erlicheer jonquils and tulips, which will be planted in May and then joined by stock seedlings after the Winter frosts. We raised the  stock  in seed trays on the sunny verandah, along with Sweet Pea seedlings, again to be planted out after the frosts.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-08-28 15.20.04 (2)

We marked out 4 paths in the Soho Bed and finally transplanted the Soho roses into their permanent positions:
2 pastel quarters :
1st quarter
• Icegirl (white)
• the Children’s Rose (pink)
• Eglantyne (pink); and
2nd quarter
• Fair Bianca/
• Fragrant Plum(soft purple) and
• Just Joey (salmon) and
2 brighter quarters :
3rd quarter
• Copper Queen (gold)
• Mr Lincoln (dark red) and
• Alnwyk ( mid pink);
4th quarter :
• Heaven Scent (blue pink)
• LD Braithwaite (deep red) and
• Lolita (orange, gold and pink).

Here are some vases of the Soho roses.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-03-26 16.26.00Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-03-17 08.45.09Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-02-19 16.43.38

We edged the bed with lavenders ( English, French and Italian ), which we’d raised from cuttings and catmint from the local nursery, as well as planting blue and red flowering salvias, a pink verbena, a white gaura (which was damaged by later frost) and 4 gold bearded iris corms in each corner of the sundial .Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-18 10.00.02

A scarlet robin flew down to sit on the sundial and inspect our progress that same afternoon!Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-18 11.56.23We placed our 2015 rose order from both Misty Downs (http://mistydowns.com.au ) and Treloars (http://www.treloarroses.com.au ) in Victoria- the start of our new rose empire !!! We also planted an evergreen Bull Bay Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) in the centre of the rain forest area. I adore their luscious huge creamy- white flowers and glossy foliage.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2014-11-22 10.17.01We also had lots of visitors in April- my daughters for Easter, as well as my sister and her husband and several close friends, so the kitchen saw lots of activity ! I made an Easter cake decorated with salvia flowers and my eldest daughter, who had just returned from a 3 month holiday in South East Asia, taught me how to make Vietnamese rice paper rolls.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-10 18.27.54Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-04 15.27.39

I attended a local sour dough bread workshop and added it to our repertoire, although over time I reverted to our No Knead bread recipe, which does have yeast, as my husband preferred it.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-18 11.30.11Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-18 11.29.00Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-19 15.44.10And we made cumquat marmalade from our generous trees- 37 jars of it ! I tried 2 recipes- Caroline Velik’s with lemon juice ( https://carolinevelik.wordpress.com/2010/07/ ) and Stephanie Alexander’s recipe from Merci Mama’s site (http://merci-mama.com/cumquat-mmmmmarmalade/ ). Both set well and I really couldn’t decide which recipe I preferred. It was so easy, as the fruit is only quartered and the numerous pips removed at the very end just before bottling. It has become our favourite breakfast spread.

Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-11 17.06.41Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-04 09.49.18

I continued making aprons for the store with Mother’s Day coming up and made a cute little alien designed by Melly and Me ( http://mellyandme.com/) for another new baby, as well as a little appliquéd felt bird purse (designed by Salley Mavor from her book Felt Wee Folk. See : http://weefolkstudio.com/) for my youngest daughter.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-09-03 09.49.16I also made a star cushion to thank my friend Beryl for the beautiful bunting she made and gave to me.Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-28 15.35.29Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-28 15.33.18Blog MidAutumn20%Reszd2015-04-28 15.32.55