Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 - a year of a little bit of everything

I'm not one for usually making resolutions or restrospectives at year's end, but I have been thinking a lot this week about what an amazingly diverse year 2010 was for my little family, and how blessed we were. I tend to keep about 95% of my personal life off the blog, but here's what I can share with you.

I did some truly extravagant things, like fly to Melbourne. To shop for fabric and other delights. For a day.

Tessuti Fabrics - Melbourne

I made 13 skirts, 4 blouses, 2 dresses, 7 beanies and 12 shawls. Not all of them made the blog. One (a dress) only got made yesterday.

I thought about stopping blogging about 84 times.

I did some things that I never thought I would do, like an Old Bus Depot Market day (two of them!) with Carrie.

Buttontree Lane and Fibrewebs stall

Like conducting a choir of 80 voices from union choirs around Australia.

Bread and Roses - Combines Unions Choir

And like travelling to Central Australia to sing with the loveliest people I know.

Singing in Trephina Gorge

I bought a fancy schmancy camera, and started learning how to use it.

Cactus in rain

I started off the year still contracting, applied for 11 permanent jobs during the year, and finally, after tears and frustration (and not just mine) and a long time of waiting for some action, my own job was made permanent, with the announcement made exactly one days before I thought my contract was to be terminated, and half an hour after I'd picked up every bit of non-fileable paper on my desk and shredded it. Oops.

My life changed forever when I started weekly injections for cat and grass/pollen allergies. Seriously - it did. I now have another 5 years of monthly injections to look forward to.

My second nephew on my side of the family was born. I am the proudest aunty ever.

I decided to stop making bags, and then took about 5 months to make the announcement.

But I'm still making bags anyway, for Carrie, and it's so much more fun working together.


And that's pretty much where 2010 finishes up. What's next I wonder?

Have a wonderful new year, everyone. Thanks for the year of reading, company, support and comments. See you in 2011!

Michelle xo

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

You say potato ...

Potato and rhubarb

Coming back from our few days away, I was disappointed to see that my tomatoes still hadn't ripened, the parsley has not returned from the dead, and the capsicums were a very miserable size. It's enough to make you wonder whether all this hard work is really worth it, especially when I have to buy tomatoes from the supermarket. And then I just read that Dixiebelle, a local gardener, is of the same opinion.

So I had to put some perspective on it in order to keep my sanity. Just because some vegetables aren't ready yet doesn't mean they won't be. It's all about practicing patience. And when I think more about it, I did manage to harvest rhubarb, my second cucumber, nectarines and potatoes yesterday. I've never managed a successful crop of potatoes before! I was so excited.

My other herbs are doing just fine, and I can toss sage through my potatoes tonight (I just called a friend and invited her around for smoked trout, home-grown potatoes and lettuce, and store-bought tomatoes. And stewed rhubarb. Yum.)

Baked and smashed potatoes

This is what we had for dinner last night - baked and smashed potatoes with sour cream, chives, bacon and cheese. I can't recommend this type of meal enough for summer. Except if it's a 34 degree day and you don't fancy having your oven on for an hour and a bit at 200 degrees celcius. Things could get a bit hot and nasty then.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Christmas Skirt

When I was a girl my mum used to make me a new dress for the school breakup, which was then worn again on Christmas Day when we headed to Brisbane each year. It always made me feel special, and very pretty in my new dress. My mum continued the tradition until I was 17 and had finished grade 12 (it was a white collared dress in a textured cotton, sleeveless, with hi cut shoulders, patch pockets and a pink sash. I'd worn it to my senior dinner at Bulls Britches first)*

This year, for the first time in a little while, we decided to spend Christmas in Bendigo with the Mister's family. Past Bendigo Christmasses haven't been overly happy, nor Christmassy, affairs, but I was determined to make an effort.

The Christmas Dress Skirt was reborn!

Christmas Skirt

I used a NEW! pattern - McCalls 2873. It's a great pattern - no waistband, fully faced, and 8 darts in total with a back zipper. Ah - if only I'd followed the instructions correctly for easing the side seams into the facing - I took it in instead, and the skirt doesn't sit quite right. Plus my posture in these photos is thoroughly shite. The Mister took them as I left for church on Christmas morning and I was getting cranky with the locusts flying into my legs. Please do note the awful blouse I'm wearing, and the fact that I have broken my own rule of fussiness around the hips of hippy girls. Please also note that having seen these photos I will arm myself with the unpicker Tout de suite.

Christmas skirt

It's a really happy skirt. Coupled with my sunny yellow Saltwater Sandals (which arrived in the mail as we were leaving for Bendigo) I was the brightest person at church that morning. I was also the brightest person at Christmas lunch.

Christmas Day in Bendigo

As for Christmas Day, well it was wonderful. The table looked festive, for once, probably because I set it. There were no plastic plates, other than some used for serving meats. There were still bowls of vegetables in aspic, but I made a lovely garden salad with local fetta and parsley olives which my fellow aspic-haters scoffed down. The company was good, some superb Christmas treats were enjoyed for dessert, and sporting battles were fought and lost in the formal dining room.

We got a Fußball table for my father-in-law for Christmas. How much fun is that? Heaps of fun, I say.

Christmas Day in Bendigo

Christmas Day in Bendigo

Then I spent the afternoon wandering around my mother-in-law's garden with my camera. She's such an amazing gardener - she manages to get flowers despite the climate, and at the moment she is even having to contend with a locust plague. Garden = still looks great.

Beryl's garden

Beryl's garden

Beryl's garden

Beryl's garden

And then on Boxing Day I took the train to Melbourne, wandered around town for a few hours and hit the Boxing Day sales a little before returning to Bendigo that night. Twelve hours later we were on the road again heading back to Canberra. But that's a whole other story.

* Do you see that? I can't even remember what I had for lunch yesterday, and yet I remember what I wore and where I was for my Senior Dinner in 1986. And I think I had the roast buffet that night.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hello yellow

We've been having very cold weather in Canberra the last couple of days, and I'm ready for summer to start. I'm so tempted to push the summer feeling along a little by getting* a pair of these.

Saltwater sandals

I don't know what's going on. I don't even think I like yellow very much. But these sandals just holler happiness, don't you think?

* Gotten. Late night shopping never felt so good, especially right before Christmas...

P.S. I've made a special skirt for Christmas Day, and I'll be showing you all very soon, OK? Just to prove it's not all about Glee and yellow sandals around here (even though it really is).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Skirt 'n' blouse

Very often I see a fabric I love, but I have no idea what I'd do with it. I spotted this shibori-style 100% cotton at Tessuti Fabrics in Sydney last December, and hummed and hawed over the red version of it, but left the shop without it. A couple of weeks later I tried to track it down, having made up my mind, and the only colour I could get was this "Night" colour in the end of year sales. It's the perfect mix of blue and charcoal.

Simplicity 2372 blouse

I spent the next 12 months procrastinating finding the perfect pattern for this fabric. And I found this one - Simplicity 2372. I cut it out a couple of weeks ago and finally had a chance to make it this morning. So easy. No adjustments required, except for letting out some of the side seams for my hips. All the markers matched, and the facings were perfect. The fabric made things easy for me - it being a seersucker I wasn't expecting this at all.

Could this be the perfect blouse pattern? I think it could be.

And then there's that age old dilemma that all sewers have - if this fabric is to be a blouse, then what will I wear it with? I had in my mind that camel would be a good colour, and a skirt (of course) because since I started making skirts a year ago I have become a Skirt Person.

Simplicity 5208 skirt

I thought I might try a new skirt pattern, given I've been making the same two patterns all year. And then I realised that was crazy talk - so I pulled out the pieces for Simplicity 5208 and starting cutting.

The one fault with this skirt pattern is the lack of pockets. I added some patch pockets to the front of the skirt (I was going to add them to the side seams, but that hip-flounce theory for blouses in my last post applies to side pockets on skirts too). I had some top stitching thread left over from the last time I hemmed jeans, and I used that to topstitch the yoke, front seam, hem and pockets.

Simplicity 5208 skirt

I'm really happy with my new outfit, and I think I'll get a lot of wear out of the linen skirt, especially. But I really do think it's time to move on to a new skirt pattern.

I know! Crazy talk!

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Sometimes I do silly things, like today. I bought a blouse at a shop, paid too much for it, and had already decided to take it apart before I'd left the store.


Here it is in it's 'before' state. I'm not too sure whether that bottom frill is channelling Elly May Clampett or an 80s nightie from Sussans, but it doesn't looks good, and it doesn't sit right. Women with hips, like myself, do not need extra flounce at the bottom of our blouses. But the blouse is 100% cotton, will be cool in summer, and has a neck ruffle which I love (and it's red gingham!) so a little extra effort will be worth it, I think.


I took to the bottom ruffle with my trusty unpicker. It only took 20 minutes to detach the offending piece.

In between

I now had a short blouse, and a very wide piece of fabric from the ruffle. So to make the blouse longer I trimmed the ruffle piece to fit the bottom of the blouse, folded it in half lengthways, and then attached it to the bottom hem with my overlocker. A little pressing, and a little more top stitching and I have a blouse I love, and can wear much more comfortably.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Baby, it's rather warm and rainy outside

It hasn't been all about project sacks around here, you know. Or even Glee.

Because I finished little Felix's onesies for Christmas. He's only 2 months old and doesn't read this blog, so I think I'm safe showing them off here. I'm rather proud of them, actually. Every wee child in my life from this point on gets at least one embroidered onesie.

Onesies for Felix

Onesies for Felix

I finished the last of the project sacks on Sunday, and then baked two Christmas cakes, 24 mini quiches, and made two batches of rum balls and one of apricot balls for a Christmas Treats swap I was doing on Monday. No photos of the baking and making - I could barely stand by the end of my marathon in the kitchen.

This week I've been enjoying some sewing time for myself. I cut out a shirt and skirt - the shirt is a shibori type of cotton print from Tessuti's, and the skirt is caramel linen blend from Spottie's. I think they'll go well together. It's a shame I won't have them sewn by the time I go to Alex on Friday, as Queensland is the perfect place for cotton and linen but they'll be waiting for me to finish them when I get back, I'm sure.

Sewing clothes for me, for once

Unless the sewing fairies take over, of course.

My photography course continues, and I'm still learning so much. I'll be sad when my course ends next week, but we are already considering more courses next year. Last night we learned to twist the lens at the same time as taking a photo, to get effects like this:



And we also learned about photo composition and then were given assignments to do photos on themes such as leaves, fun, lines, simple... this was my offering for the theme "black and white".

Black and White

When I return from Alex next week, this blog may well be filled with photos of surfers, as I'm taking my new tripod (an early Christmas present - thanks Mum and Dad) with me, and intend to set up on the headland early in the morning.

Ha ha! Sneaky Glee video!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The final countdown

Before the final construction

Every night I've been doing a little bit more, and tonight I got to a happy stage. I just have to give the linings boxed bottoms, and then I can start constructing sack bags. Straps, tabs, outers and inners, all sewn together. I love it when it gets to this stage.

I've been listening to the various Glee soundtracks while sewing these. Actually, Glee is on constant shuffle on my iPod - all 99 songs. I write ministerial briefs, ride the bus, proofread consultation documents, walk into work, and sew to Glee. The novelty would normally wear off, but they keep putting out more CDs and uploading more songs to iTunes, and I keep sticking them on my iPod.

Soon enough I will have the need to listen to my new Wailin' Jennys album, but in the meantime it's all Glee.

Glee Glee Glee. Makes me happy.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Raining, pouring, old man, snoring

It's been raining almost non-stop since Sunday, with no end expected for at least another week.

I do love the rain, but I think there should be more singing in it. And perhaps more Gwyneth in the puddles in the vegie patch.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


A couple of months ago my DSLR friend suggested we do a photography course together. We started a couple of weeks ago, and I'm learning so much!

Part of our homework this week was to take three photos of the same subject, but with different apertures. In terms that are easy (for me to understand especially), it kind of means how blurry your background is when you change the f-stop on your camera. Well, not really, but that's the effect you get. For instance, check out the differences in these three photos:



f/18.0 (with the ISO (light sensitivity) bumped up to 1600 as the photos were too dark otherwise.)

My DSLR buddy and I were having lunch at a Japanese joint when I took these photos. When our meal was served, it look so beautiful (and delicious) I had to take a photo!

Pork Loin in Ramen Soup

(that's pork schnitzel (also known as deep fried pork lion (sic)) in ramen soup, thank you very much) (also - a good demonstration of the aperture being f/4.0)

So this week in class we learnt all about shutter speed. My slow shutter speed photos were crapalicious, but my fast shutter speed photos turned out OK considering the low light.


It's exciting finally knowing something about the camera I have, and all the wonderful things that it can do. If only it would make cups of coffee for me in the morning it might almost be the perfect husband.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Shhhhhhhhh ...

Praying Mantis for Felix

This gallivant-y lifestyle I seem to have taken on lately has to stop. The nights out, the gallery openings, the rushed coffees after swimming, the "we must catch up before Armageddon" gatherings. I'm such a homebody at heart that if I don't spend some quiet time at home, barefoot and wedged between a potato patch and the nectarine tree, I feel very off-centre.

Secretly, I don't mind so much being a social type. It's just that I wish I could be both social and a homebody at the same time. Last night I managed just that, having friends over for takeaway noodles after our swim, finishing up with some of my stewed homegrown rhubarb. Yum.

Luckily this week the social calendar is looking a little quieter, which is just as well as I have some 00 onesies I'm frantically embroidering for my 7 week old nephew who I suspect won't be in 00 onesies for very long, given the tendency for tallness in our family.

Summer fabric

And today I bought the last of the outer fabric and lining for the Four Seasons Yarn and Sack Club and it is just so lovely. If I get my act together, I'll be able to cut out a heap of bags before Glee comes on the telly tonight. From here on the One Hour of Sewing a Day regime kicks in.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Four Seasons yarn and sack club - Summer

Summer yarn

The good news is that the Four Seasons Yarn and Sack club is up for summer! The bad news is that there aren't many spots left.

If you want your own sack bag from Buttontree Lane, and some gorgeous summer super twist sock yarn from Fibrewebs, go on over and sign up! You can request your favourite shade of yarn and Carrie will work hard to accommodate you, too.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sneak Peek

Summer, originally uploaded by Buttontree Lane.

Carrie and I have created a yarn/sack kinda club called "Four Seasons Yarn and Sack Club".

Each season, inspired by the colours and feelings of that season, we will be selecting the perfect range of fabrics and yarn colours to coordinate. If you sign up for one of the (very limited - like about 20!) places, you will receive a Buttontree Lane Project sack, a skein of handpainted sock yarn, and a little treat, all inspired by the season! *

Sign ups commence on Sunday night at Carrie's Etsy store. At 6 pm Canberra time! I'm not too sure exactly what time at this stage, but come back here later on tonight or tomorrow morning and I'll tell you. Or if you're on Ravelryy, sign up for the Fibrewebs group.

The beauty is you don't have to sign up for all four seasons - just each season as it comes around. Perfect, for example, if you're not an autumn person!

*And don't worry - no Christmas fabrics or colours were selected!

** Also, the photo is just an example of the colours and fabrics you might receive.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Never say never again

Like a phoenix rising

A friend asked me to collaborate on a project with her.

Not having heaps of spare time in my life at the moment (absolutely none, actually) I said "yes".

Why? Because I can't resist the idea of two creative minds coming together and having lots of fun with hand dyed yarns and summer-inspired fabrics. And because I really, really wanted to.

(And also, if John Farnham can keep saying "goodbye", then dammit so can I.)

Intrigued? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Veg about - November

October ended with warm days, warm nights, laps at the pool and adventures in mowing the grass in shorts and a t-shirt (a note to the mowers out there - don't wear shorts when mowing the grass without a catcher. IT HURTS AND THERE WILL BE BLOOD.)

November started with cold icy winds, rain and the hayfever that I thought I'd kicked with all the injections I'd been having. Salads from the garden just don't seem right when it's 9 degrees outside.

Vegetable garden

Back in July, I photographed my fallow garden. We don't tend to grow things in winter unless it's parsley, and it grows itself - we don't enjoy a lot of the winter vegetables, and the resident gardener, to be honest, needs a break for a few months of a year.

Vegetable patch - Spring 2010

In late October it has transformed somewhat. (That brown fluffy stuff is from our giant elm tree, and the reason my hayfever has returned, I expect). We have rejuvenated the soil in all the beds and barrows, and the resident gardener has lowered the soil against the fence, transplanted all the fruit trees and mulched the access areas.

We are currently eating lettuce, strawberries, snowpeas and spinach. I really need to do something with the rhubarb, but I've been a bit busy doing other things so haven't had the chance. We planted one tomato plant a month ago (frowned on in Canberra - most people wait until the frosts have finished in early November), and we have fruit and expect to definitely have tomatoes by Christmas this year. The other tomato plants went in on the weekend, as did the capsicums. My cucumbers will go in when I can squeeze some space next to the potato bed.

Potato bed

In about a month I'm going to start bandicooting for new potatoes in my temporary potato bed. This bed will eventually be permanent when we get around to putting the hardwood planks together.

Lettuce tub

Our lettuce consumption is getting a little bit ridiculous, but soon it will bolt and we'll have to replant. We're already planning for this and will be planting out some seedlings in the vegetable beds soon.

Baby nectarine

We sprayed the nectarine for curly leaf this year, and we still got it. Not as bad as usual, but still not good. It doesn't affect the flavour of the fruit though. I go over the tree every couple of days and remove the curly leaves to prevent the virus spreading. (The leaves go in the bin - not the compost).


I'm really enjoying eating the snow peas straight off the plant. They never make it to the kitchen.

I can't wait to see what the rest of November holds for us in the garden, especially with all this lovely rain we've been getting.

To see more gardeners who veg about, head over to Bellgirl's place.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

My creative space - this old kitchen

This old kitchen.


Built in 1969, renovated in 1976 and repainted sometime in the late 80s, or whenever Mediterranean colour schemes were all the rage.

I've taken two days off work to sand the kitchen cupboards.

After sanding

Undercoat the kitchen cupboards.

After undercoat

And apply one coat of red paint.

First coat of red

Now I have to wait 16 hours for it to dry. The second coat gets painted on Friday night after work. We know how to kick our heels up in this house! But I can't wait to see it all finished. Other than the front of my house being painted last September, this is the first bit of renovation I have done in over 4 years of living here.

Then it will be time to paint the walls... and the ceiling ... and the rest of the house...

Want more creative spaces?