Category Archives: Tips

Welcome To My Boudoir

Over the last 3 months, my bedroom has had a total transformation. Not an expensive, interior designer priced transformation, but rather a series of furniture rearrangements, lucky thrift store finds, items that I already owned being repurposed, and objects I “manifested”. 

First, the Queen-sized bed was turned 90 degrees and pushed into a corner. Originally, there were 2 bedside cabinets, one on either side of the bed. I gave one to my son Jack, and put the other one by the bedroom door. 

I had a Queen Anne dressing table in the junk room. It had been given to me by a neighbour in our previous estate, and although I’d given it a new coat of white paint, it had simply languished in the junk room of our present house. But this time, after several coats of gesso and varnish (I couldn’t find the white paint), it’s not taken up residence at the end of my newly positioned bed. And it houses my collection of Affirmation, Positive Thinking and Law of Attraction cards, as well as some books that I keep meaning to read, and some crystals.

I bought a rug to fill up the now empty space between the bed and the door. The dogs like to lie on it. It also makes a great work surface for my sewing projects.

I bought some cushions from thrift stores to place on my bed against the wall. They’re the colours of jewels – purple, teal, orange, and at the foot of my bed is a dog-themed cushion and my dog Shelagh’s 3 favourite toys – Gorilla, Tiger Tiger and Lion Lion. 

Where my bed had been before, I’d had a large romantic canvas print on the wall, flanked by 2 bird-themed canvasses. I’d found a modern abstract canvas for $20 at a thrift store. It now has pride of place on the wall.

On the smaller wall above my bedhead now (in the photo above) I have put up 2 canvasses which are actually cheats. 

The abstract on the left, with the line drawing of a woman’s face, is actually a T2 wrapping paper, from when I bought my “She Loves” limited edition teacup and saucer 2 years ago. It’s simply been Blu-Tacked and duct-taped (shock, horror! πŸ˜†) to a homemade wooden box frame. 

The canvas on the right, featuring peacocks, is actually a wallpaper sample stapled to an IKEA wooden frame. I’d bought it as such from a thrift store, for $3.25. 

For some reason I dislike hammering nails into walls, so to attach these 2 canvasses to the wall I used Command Hanging Strips (by 3M). Basically, Command Hanging Strips are a simple combination of flexible sticky tape and velcro. You can remove them from walls without leaving a trace. No need to fill in nail holes and then have to repaint the whole wall afterwards.

Here’s the rest of my “boudoir”:

The chair is a dining room chair in mock leather, picked up from a thrift store for $10. I’ve covered it simply with one of my Kantha-Boro quilted pieces. The 2 Totoro plush characters are actually sitting on top of a radiator heater, that I use in winter. The bookcase hidden under the blue cloth houses my collection of Tarot and Oracle cards. The blue canvas with the deer silhouette came from KMart, $15. And the “N O W” letters on the wall were made by me using Gelli-printed paper glued to wooden letters, then varnished.

The large romantic canvas atop this Queen Anne hall table is the one that used to grace the space above my bed. It was moved to make way for the modern abstract you now see on the main wall of my bedroom, flanked by the bird canvasses.

The Queen Anne hall table was a lucky find at a secondhand furniture store. I just love its sexy, curvy shape. Below it is my old piano stool, simply draped with another of my Kantha-Boro pieces. 

The striking turquoise artwork on the wall in the photo above, is one of my own creations. I created it on my Samsung Galaxy S4 mobile phone, then uploaded it to my computer, ran it through a Print-on-Demand service, chose the format (print on wooden/MDF panel) et voila! 

The black cloth with white circles and broken lines is a remnant I picked up from IKEA, over an IKEA tall chest of drawers. I like to call this spot my “Altar”. 

Kantha + Patchwork Quilt Project

Here’s the result of my latest sewing efforts. I’d found someone’s unfinished patchwork project in one of my local thrift stores. It was basically just some square patches sewn together, without a backing. I liked the uneven, slightly wonky, amateurish feel to the piece and knew I could do something with it. At just $5, it was a real steal. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, right?

Inspired by my fascination with Indian Kantha quilts, which are fashioned out of layers of vintage sari cloths sewn together using simple running stitches, I decided to try my hand at making my own Kantha + Patchwork quilt. 

I had amongst my fabric stash a Queen-sized duvet cover in a lovely blue stripe, which would work perfectly with the patchwork piece.

First, I lay the duvet cover right side down on my bedroom rug. (This unassuming rug, a recent purchase, is around 6 x 8 feet and has become my workfloor for my bigger sewing projects, as well as providing a handy template for sizing quilts). 

Next, I lay the patchwork piece right side up, on top of the duvet cover. The duvet cover is larger than the patchwork piece. After making sure all the sides were equally balanced, I trimmed, folded and pinned the excess duvet cover fabric over the patchwork piece.

The laying out and pinning took a long time to get right. 

Next, I took the pinned piece to my sewing machine and sewed along all the edges, to secure both pieces together. Then I pinned the patchwork piece to the duvet cover at regular intervals, to prevent it slipping out of place when Kantha stitching.

The reason I chose the striped duvet cover as the backing for this project was so I’d have a handy guide to sew the running stitches along. 

I decided on a 4+3 pattern, i.e I’d sew along 4 rows of stripes and skip the next 3, then sew the next 4, skip 3 and so on. I used white crochet thread, which is strong and smooth at the same time. 

3 weeks of nights spent “watching” TV while sewing, rolling and unrolling this humongous swath of fabric on and off the sofa, et voila! I give you my first Kantha + Patchwork Quilt!

(Showing the front)

(Showing the back)

Now to show this off outside, in natural sunlight! The previous photos were taken at night, indoors, and don’t do justice to the vibrance of the colours in this quilt.

I draped it over Meep, my little Kia Cerato here, so you can see just how big a project this turned out to be!

This photo shows the rows of stitching and how they simply go over the patchworked squares on the other side. I just love the crinkly effect Kantha stitching produces!

Now for some close-ups:

Here’s what it looks like folded up. I love it! ❀❀❀

I intend this year to sew up a whole batch of Kantha-inspired items, ranging from little to large. These will be my inventory and stock for when I start selling my crafts later this year.

So, watch this space for more Kantha-inspired projects!

Musical Chairs

…Well, Musical Furniture, actually.

As in, having a good old clear out of my son Jack’s bedroom. All in one fell swoop.

I’d been meaning to get the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying” by Marie Kondo, hoping it would grant me an insight as to how to tidy up my house once and for all. The book was $20 at Big W, but before purchasing it, I checked ISSUU on my mobile phone, to make sure it wasn’t already available there for free.

Well, surprise, surprise, it WAS available to download on ISSUU. Not just preview pages either, but the book in its entirety. Completely FREE. Hurrah! I just saved $20. Yay, happy dance!

One of the main principles taught by the KonMari technique (a play on words invented by Mari herself, based on her name), is to NOT and I repeat, NOT, tidy things up a little at a time. No, one should rather go whole hog and tackle everything at once. Be brutal as well as swift. 

So today I tested out that theory with Jack’s room. His is a double sized bedroom, but over the years he’s somehow accumulated so much stuff aka junk, that it resembles a cave. A very messy, cluttered and dare I say it, smelly cave.

So this afternoon after school, we basically moved most of Jack’s things out of his room, and then played the furniture version of Musical Chairs.

The results are most encouraging. But man, am I knackered! πŸ˜„

The state of Jack’s room…and this is its “natural” state! 

So much junk on every surface! 

Jack’s bed used to be a single, then when he outgrew it (he’s 6′ 4″ now at just 14 years old and still growing at a phenomenal rate!) I swapped his single for the sofabed that was languishing unused in the spare room (aka the “Junk Room” where everything gets chucked). When my finances allow for it, I’ll get him a proper Queen sized bed.

Mid-way through Musical Furniture. The metal shelves have been moved from one side of the room to the other. The white chest of drawers needs to move across to the opposite side of the room.

Nearly there. There’s still a lot of junk to throw out or donate to charity, and Jack knows he only has til Saturday morning before I get the removals people to come pick up what we no longer want to keep. The posters have to come off the wall, and all the Blu-Tack removed. So much more cleaning up to do!!

Originally, Jack had 1 Dreamcatcher each on opposite walls. I simply used a stick I’d picked up from a park, balanced both Dreamcatchers on it, and used a purple chain Jack had to hang it on the wall above the bed. Hey, it works! 

Ahhh! So much roomier now! πŸ˜„ Jack’ll sleep well tonight, I reckon!

Floral Block Print on Saffron: a Kantha-Boro story

This item can be purchased from my Etsy store through this link.


Description: This item is entirely handsewn, using fabric remnants and other recycled/reused/repurposed elements. My Kantha-Boro pieces can be used as scarves, table runners or wall hangings. Owing to the nature of handsewing and the Japanese Mottainai principle of β€œWaste not, want not”, each piece is unique and one-of-a-kind, with any imperfections in the fabrics or stitches forming part of the Wabi-Sabi ethos of being perfectly imperfect.


Colours: I found the backing fabric as a fat quarter, which I cut in half and sewed together to form a long and narrow piece. The other side is a beautiful vintage piece of saffron fabric, the colour of which attracted me from the start, and which is echoed in the floral fabric. Owing to the vintage nature of the saffron fabric, there are a couple of tiny tears in it, which I find adds to the beautiful Wabi-Sabi nature of this style of slow stitching. I have used an off-white crochet thread for the Kantha running stitches, to unify the whole.


Dimensions: 60 x 19.5 inches (152 x 50 cm)


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30 Days of Gratitude: #12

#12 What texture are you grateful for?

Hmmm…this is an interesting one. I’ve never given it much thought. I’m grateful I still have my sense of touch.

I guess if I really thought about it, it would have to be the smoothness of a piano keyboard that’s the texture I’m grateful for.

I had my first piano lesson at age 4. By the time I was 14, I’d completed Grade 8 of the ABRSM system. We’re talking about me tickling those ivories up to 4 hours a day, every day, for 10 years. Practice makes perfect, right? πŸ˜‰

Well, they do say that in order for anyone to be good at anything, you need at least 10,000 hours of practice. Practise, practise, practise!

My father then decided I should pursue Music as a career, and pushed me to doing Music at Diploma level. Which I dutifully did, and then later at University level. 

And then I spread my wings and flew away. I did my own thing, tried things my own way. I decided that I should at least make my own mistakes, tread outside the carefully laid out path before me, test the waters, find out what else the world had to offer.

And yes, I fell off the bandwagon, got lost in the wilderness, went off track. Well, by Society’s norms anyway. 

And yet I’m grateful to The Universe for everything that has happened to me thus far, everything that I’ve experienced and will experience. For I now know that The Universe truly always has my back and my best interest at heart. Every experience, whether good or bad, is a lesson to be learnt, and if I failed to learn the lesson the first time, why then surely I’ll find myself facing it again sometime soon. 

And so on and so forth, until I’ve mastered the lesson. 

Quite a bit like practising the piano, actually. Practise, practise, practise!

So yeah, you could say that the texture I’m most grateful for is the feel of a piano keyboard underneath my fingers. For that’s how I started out, and that’s how I learnt about the benefits of “Practice makes perfect”. It’s been years since I last played the piano, but I reckon it’s like riding a bicycle. Muscles have great memories.

Of course, in some aspects of my life I’m still practising. And perhaps I’ll always be practising something or the other. Such is Life, right πŸ˜‰.


 

Mottainai!

The Japanese have a saying, “Mottainai!”, which translates to “Waste not, want not”. In the Western world, we like to bandy about the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”, and in Japan they go one better by adding “Respect” to the 3 Rs. 

Objects which have fulfilled their function and are now worn, torn or just old, are utilised in other ways. Old kimonos, for example, are cut up as rags (“Boro”) to make rugs, mats, dishcloths, etc and are thus given a new lease of life. In Western society, however, we tend to just throw old clothes away, or donate them to thrift stores, where, if they can’t be sold, they’re shipped to India or Indonesia to be converted into rags and used to fill sofa cushions, dog beds and the like. Some, however, don’t even get there but simply end up in landfills. Modern Society seems to have forgotten how to cherish what they have. Instead, the thrill of the chase lies in finding and owning the next new thing, which only then gets discarded when the Next next new thing comes along a week later. Such a sad state of affairs 😒.

Not so with the ethos of Mottainai. This article describes what Mottainai is, and how its influence is now being spread across the modern world. There’s almost a resurgence or Renaissance in the whole Think Green movement, more and more people are taking up the practice of not wasting anything that still has some life left in it. 

This website, from Wow! Japan describes in even more depth what the true meaning of Mottainai is. It goes deeper than just material goods, it also encompasses human thoughts and actions. We could all learn some valuable lessons from Mottainai. 

I’ve “borrowed” these 2 images from the Wow! Japan website, for illustrative purposes: 

 

Upcycling:”Origami Bento Bag”

So this just happened…I’d recently accumulated several orphaned pillowcases (orphaned as in single, having been separated from its original pillowcase, bedsheet and duvet cover set) from my local thrift shop, and had already used a couple as the basis of some “Kantha” scarves. (I’ve since realised that those creations could just as equally be used as table runners or wall hangings, and have as much visual impact as a scarf…but more about that later).

My latest find at the thrift store was an orphaned quilted pillowcase that reminded me of Japanese/Indian textiles. Right up my street. 

I’d been wanting to make one of those roomy, triangular Origami-style carry-alls I’d seen on the internet. They’re called “Origami Bento Bags”. This seemed the perfect opportunity to use up some pillowcases.

This is the site I went to for the instructions: http://lolanovablog.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/origami-market-bag-tutorial.html?m=1

Now for the math…

The instructions call for a piece of fabric measuring 17 x 51 inches, the length being 3 times the width. I found that a standard pillowcase measures around 19 x 29 inches. 2 pillowcases, joined together lengthwise, would be 19 x 58 inches. 3 x 19 = 57 inches. Sweet! The extra inch in the fabrics would be used up anyway as the seam allowance when sewing the 2 pillowcases together.

The other beauty of using old pillowcases to make this Origami Bento Bag is that I get to choose whether I want the 2 pillowcases to be complementary, or contrasting in their designs and colours. Another big plus is that the backs of the pillowcases make natural linings for the inside of the bags. So, there’s no need to create a separate lining for the bag. These bags were originally used in Japan to carry everyday items like groceries and also food, so there’s no need to be precious about whether the seams show on the inside or not. If you really must have perfectly smooth seams on the inside, then just sew a French seam. I’ve left mine raw.

If you use pillowcases that have different backs and fronts, then the resulting bag will be even more colourful and attractive. And, if you Do sew a French seam for the inside seams, then technically you’d have a reversible bag.

The first photo below shows how the 2 pieces are arranged and pinned together. The other photos show the finished product.

I used a separate piece of fabric to create a tube, through which the sewn ends of the bag are passed through to create a simple handle.

Very happy with this one. I think I’ll test it out on my next grocery run. Might even use it as a library book. Or for general shopping use. It certainly is a BIG bag, you could use it easily as a baby’s nappy changing bag, and carry all of baby’s things in it – bottles, wipes, change of clothes, toys, books etc.

I love upcycling and recycling, and this project fits the bill perfectly. 

Going to make more bags like this and also more “Kantha” scarves/table runners/wall hangings, and put them up on my Etsy and eBay stores, to help my “Escape From Australia” fund πŸ˜„.

An Encounter With Today’s “Yoofs”

The youth of today (or “yoofs” as they’re sometimes called) overwhelmingly seem to be very lacking in the manners department. Not only that, when travelling in packs, as they are wont to do, they are often emboldened by each other, and often egg one another to perform audacious acts or even crimes. The more audacious, the better, it seems. It’s like some rite of passage, whereby the person in question collects street cred points.

Now, while the above statement may sound like the concerns of an old-fashioned person, it is very much the case in truth. Teenagers travelling in packs, with their herd mentality and penchant for mischief, are not people you’d want to meet while out on your own. Avoidance is better than a trip to the hospital or police station, or worse…

I feel compelled to write about this, because I had one such encounter with a group of “yoofs” just today. It’s not an experience I want to go through again in a hurry.

I was driving home and had stopped at the traffic lights at a busy intersection. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw 5 teenagers crossing the road and coming my way. There were 3 boys and 2 girls. 

Something, instinct or precognition, perhaps, made me reach over to my door and flick the auto-lock for all the doors of my car. 

4 of the 5 “yoofs” passed by behind my car without incident. But the 5th, dressed in a grey hoodie, came over to my passenger’s door, and very cheekily tried the handle of the door. 

It happened so swiftly that all I could do was raise an eyebrow at him, as he realised the door was locked. I believe he had the intention to take advantage of the traffic lights I was stuck behind, and perhaps grab my handbag, which was on the seat next to me. What other motive could he have had? 

When he realised my door was locked, he wasn’t fazed at all, but simply shrugged and walked off nonchalantly. I was tempted to yell at him then, but it would have entailed me winding down my window and providing him with another opportunity to rob me. That, or perhaps he might’ve returned with a sharp object with which to scratch my car’s paintwork. It wasn’t worth the risk.

As my bold would-be thief walked off to join his friends, I glanced in my rear-view mirror and caught the eye of the guy in the car behind me, who’d witnessed the whole thing. He was shaking his head incredulously.

Now I consider that incident a lucky escape from something that could’ve turned ugly. If that had been some frail elderly person in my place, and the car doors had not been locked, who knows what damage that “yoof” might have done to both driver and vehicle?

And so I’ve decided that I will start driving with the car doors on auto-lock from now on. Forgive me for my jaded view of today’s humanity. Manners starts at home, and sadly many kids these days come from families that were never taught manners or morality themselves. 

Obsessions : Boro & Sashiko – The Art Of Mending, Part 2

In yesterday’s post, I described 3 different traditional crafts that share one common thread, the running stitch : Kantha, Boro and Sashiko. Kantha and Boro are traditional patchwork from India/Bangladesh and Japan respectively, and Sashiko is an embroidery technique that incorporates the running stitch and makes Kantha and Boro sisters from different countries.  

I have a Pinterest board dedicated to Kantha, Boro & Sashiko, do have a look there if you should feel so inclined. 

Here are some of my favourite Boro photos, curated from Pinterest. Enjoy!

This photo below shows a modern recreation of how Boro is pieced together. Note in the 1st frame how the fabric remnants are arranged over a backing cloth and simply pinned in place. In the 2nd frame the pinned pieces have been sewn over with running stitches, and the pins removed. In the 3rd frame, the piece has been cut in half up the middle, and some of the running stitches have been embellished/modified into cross-shaped Sashiko stitches.

My “Kantha” Scarves – Part 1

Following on from my previous posts about Indian Kantha, I bit the bullet and tried my hand at creating my own type of Kantha. 

I bought a packet of embroidery floss, 36 skeins in all in various colours, from my local Spotlight haberdashery store. I also found a large, long needle…it may be a needle for darning carpets or rugs…perfect for getting those thousands of stitches sewn faster than a tiny needle.

The 1st Kantha scarf I made turned out to be more of a shawl, made using some black velvet fabric I’d gotten at a thrift store. This scarf measures 16 wide x 72 inches long. That’s a lotta sewing!

I layered some fabric remnant pieces over the cut velvet, played around with various configurations, and when I was happy with the arrangement, just pinned the whole thing in place and then started handsewing. I tied the ends of the embroidery threads to the black velvet side for this project. It meant the velvet side showed a riot of coloured running stitches and also the tied and snipped off ends of thread. 

Here’s that 1st scarf/shawl, hanging from my orange tree.

The front part 1.

The front part 2. 

The back panel in velvet.

Close-up of the running stitches at the back.

Yes, of course I could’ve pre-marked the lines on the velvet with tailor’s chalk, to get perfectly evenly spaced and straight lines. But the whole point of the exercise is to try and sew in a straight line, and if you find yourself going off-piste, to simply correct yourself by stopping the line, tying it off and starting a brand new one. I had to do this a number of times with this scarf, but you’d never guess at first glance, right. 

A bit like real life, really. Fall off the bandwagon, get back on again. Or, alternatively, make your own tracks and head off into the sunset on your own.

For my 2nd attempt at making a Kantha scarf I’m going to make the knots appear on the side with the fabric arrangement…see tomorrow’s post!