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Preview: Little Red Hen

little red hen

Updated: 2018-04-10T22:01:22.419+10:00


Oh Christmas tree


My Christmas trees are up, the house is decorated and the Christmas baking is done and in the freezer, away from prying eyes/fingers (but  not completely successfully - I have to admit to sneaking a couple of mince pies) .

And although we really don't need any more decorations, I just had to make this little one last night for FNFW. It was part of a kit and was so easy as every piece was pre-cut. It's joined all the other hand-made lovelies on my main tree  - some purchased, some made by me, others given to me by friends or  in previous swaps hosted by Chookyblue . So many lovely memories there. 

We also have a little tree, which features my collection of bird decorations. They're mainly in glass or wood and include some Huon pine beauties purchased at Salamanca Market in Hobart years ago. There are also two delicate little gold  Danish birds given to us by Majken, our exchange student from Greenland who lived with us for a year when she was 18. More special memories.



Popped in to FNSI tonight - first time for ages. Last week I knitted some little mittens for a Christmas decorations swap so tonight's task was making another set for home. They're so quick and easy that I had time to do some additional stitching on a pincushion project designed by Kathy Schmitz.

Thanks to  Wendy for getting us all together tonight and for my first blog post for far too long.

Where did July go?


I have no idea where July went. It's been a bit of a blur - a bit of stitching, happy times with my husband and friends, a surprise wedding (not mine!)  and lots of thinking.The  wedding was that of a dear friend and her partner. We were invited to a venue by the lake to celebrate her birthday and after a while the real reason for the gathering was revealed. It was such fun , just the loveliest surprise.The thinking - well, my husband and I have agreed that our 2-storey house is too big for just the two of us and we're ready to downsize. We'll have to get rid of a lot of stuff and I am REALLY not looking forward to sorting out my sewing room. We live in a suburb close to the lake and gardens and we really want to stay in the neighbourhood if possible. Stay tuned.The stitching - a strawberry pincushion for my friend's  birthday - note to self: make a wedding present! -  some hexies to put together for the clock in Sharon's lovely book and clamshells for the dilly bag in the same book. I've joined a stitchalong for this project - it's fun getting to know the Canadian and English ladies in the group and see what everyone's doing. I'm the slowest - too many distractions. I met the organiser, Cathy,  in London last year and my Tassie friend Leanne is another member. What fun!I'm taking part in fewer swaps these days but couldn't resist Cheryll's Christmas in July swap.  Anthea was my partner and these were my gifts - aren't they great. I sent to Illene but forgot to take a photo. Anyway, she likes the gifts I sent -  a Christmas stocking, a keepsakes pouch with an angel appliquéd on the front and an appliquéd holly decoration-   which is always a relief because with swaps there are so many unknowns.What with all this, plus a visit to the craft and quilt fair in Melbourne  with my dear friend Jeni and meeting lovely Ros from in my equally lovely friend Annie's beautiful garden, it's been quite a month.[...]



This weekend - or today at least - I'm being a couch potato, treating my suddenly sore back with my homemade heat pack and watching Scotland beating  the Wallabies in rugby.  24-19, in case you're interested. I was born in Scotland and raised in NZ so that's where my allegiances lie. Rugby is the only sport I follow - when you grow up in NZ you just can't get away from it. Must say I was impressed when my Aussie husband sang "Flower of Scotland" with me and the Scots in the crowd - and I have to say we were a whole lot more tuneful than the kilted singer.Last weekend I was less of a lazybones. We're fortunate to have a small and beautiful fabric shop, Cotton Factory here in Ballarat and owner Alison organises some fun activities such as the weekend retreat I attended along with 70-something other craft enthusiasts and presenters from near and far.  It was two days of  hugging, chatting, laughing, eating and - oh yes, doing some stitching too. Not that I finished anything. No matter.There was just so much talent in the room. One of the ladies at my table was working on the most magnificent fussy-cut EPP stars. The swap was a great hit on the first day. We'd all been sent some rather unpromising geography- themed fabrics and there was such a variety of amazing makes. I scored this bag, which I really really love (seen here with a few extras that were in our box of goodies plus a couple of things I won).And this is what I made with my world map fabric (which I ended up liking - my swap partner was pretty pleased too.)The presenters were all super-talented too. There was toymaker and fabric designer (and my favourite rude person) Jodie Carleton, quilters Kate Henderson from WA and Peta Peace from Queensland, EPP queen Sharon Burgess, longarm quilter Wendy Gleeson, Andi Herman, who produces patterns for pixellated quilts from photos and spent some time at my house finishing  her fabric mosaic mini featuring Anh Do - what a brilliant technique! - and international quilt judge Jenny Bacon.  Each was so lovely and so  generous with telling their personal stories and providing beautiful, inspirational displays. It was a weekend none of us will forget in a hurry.[...]



I turned 65 a few weeks ago. My birthday was marked with phone calls and messages, some lovely gifts and the receipt of my pension card (yikes! - that really does make me feel old!)  And a deep sense of gratitude, because unlike some of my dear friends, I'm still here. Still on the right side of the grass, as some of my elderly library borrowers liked to say. Still feeling lucky. So here's to all of us - long may we continue to wake up every morning , to be happy and healthy and enjoying whatever each day brings.

Happy birthday, Chookshed


So it's the Chookshed's 5th birthday - hooray! It's been lovely to think of Chooky and friends stitching away in that gorgeous welcoming space I was so lucky to visit a few years ago.

Much of my weekend was spent in my sewing room - but not a stitch was stitched. Instead, I got stuck in to some desperately-needed sorting and tidying, spurred on by a desire to actually be able to see the floor  and to find my lucky door tickets for the local retreat I'm going to next weekend. I haven't found them yet - but I did manage to find lovely stuff I'd forgotten about, to display some of my charm square packs in the rope basket my friend Jeni made me for Christmas and to do some general prettifying (the photo in the header shows the top of the chest that holds all sorts of fabrics  and is displaying some of my favourite things, including my Happy Hens from NZ.) Oh, and my collection of Liberty prints - much bigger than I'd realised - is now sitting prettily in a set of colourful  display suitcases purchased from my local quilt shop, Cotton Factory I'm pretty happy about all of that. The tidying will be continuing during the week - and hopefully my sewing table will soon be organised enough for some creativity.

Making, baking


Nothing to show here on the stitching front (although I'm  working on a little project as a swap gift for a local weekend retreat next month) but I'm  keeping busy and creative, making things  like this ...  Hitchhiker Shawl ( an easy peasy knit provided your adjustable circular needles don't keep unscrewing themselves and then breaking , as mine did - sigh)and this ...and this...  yes, I made   butter - just because I could ...and these - can you tell I like messing about in the kitchen?and looking at lovely things like this - such a beautiful exhibition ...and these - gorgeous blooms at Lambley  Nursery, which has the most beautiful gardens and is always a joy to visit  ...and a fun time with a dear  friend from Hobart who lived on the five-acre block next door when our children were small - lots of outings and happy memories.I hope the merry month of May is being good to you too.[...]

Here be dragons


We headed off with friends on a little road trip yesterday. First stop was the monthly Talbot market - always a favourite destination. Talbot is a tiny town  - its population of under 300 swells dramatically on market day - and streets in the centre are closed off. For once, we were early, so strolling along and having a good look at all the wares for sale (wine, food, plants, chickens, you name it ...) Some after-breakfast dumplings and coffee really hit the spot ... I came home with a gorgeous little china dish, ornamental plants and garlic for planting or eating.

Then it was on to Bendigo, which, like Ballarat, was a prosperous gold town, full of history and the majestic buildings of the era. Bendigo also has a rich history of Chinese settlement and culture and its Easter parade featured dragons galore. Seeing Gum Loong, at 100m the longest dragon in the world , was really special, despite all the heads and bodies in the way (I still can't figure out why the very tall man sitting  in the front row thought it was okay to stand all through the  two-hour parade, preventing me and others from getting a half-decent view). There were smaller dragons galore, firecrackers, fabulous, colourful Chinese costumes  ... I've never seen anything like it. My photos aren't great but they'll give you some idea of how impressive it was.

And then there was the quilt show... rooms full of beautiful works by the local Strathdale Quilters group. These are a few of my favourites. 

And this is my absolute favourite  - is it cute or what! It was driven in the parade.

Such a great day out.



There's a little bit of Easter decorating at my place - chooks and bunnies and chocolate  (thank you again, Susan, for the fabulous little mat) ...

... and a whole lot of chocolate (far too much of it - I won first prize in a raffle yesterday. Sharing with my husband and friends, you'll be glad to know.)



I've signed up for OPAM again this year - am having a slower than usual start to my sewing year  (and blogging - shame on me!) so need something to spur me into action. I always like to look back through my OPAM lists and see what's been made and when.
 Not much so far this year - just two pairs of knitted baby shoes for two new little girls and a Fan Bag (designed by the wonderful Nikki) for my daughter Rosy.  Oh, and this mug rug /mini quilt designed  by lovely Amanda to mark the Year of the Rooster in the Chinese calendar. It was such a perfect gift and she loved it  - my girl lives in China and came home for a holiday during her Chinese new year break.

Late last year I signed up for an international polaroid block swap. Have you made this type of block? I hadn't and really enjoyed making them - they're perfect for using little quirky  scraps. Still not sure what I'll do with my 20 little blocks - a mini quilt? a cushion cover? but I'll enjoy working it out. 

SSCS 2016


Christmas and the  delights of the annual SSCS, hosted by the awesome Chooky, are over for another year, leaving behind happy memories, special gifts and the thrill of connecting with a friendly stranger in another country.

This is what I sent to Carole in the US - a woolly warmer for around her neck, a little brooch, a mini-quilt/table topper and a hexie Christmas decoration. I received a lovely "thank you" email from Carole, who has been unwell, which shouldn't be allowed at Christmas!

And I received these - and more besides -  from Martine in Arras, France

I love everything - especially the clever wall pocket (which included a little glass tube for a few fresh or dried flowers)  and those cute little bears.. and that quirky Christmas angel. As for the mug  - it's a souvenir mug  from Martine's town, which she had specially decorated with "No kangaroos in Arras" on the front and our names on the back. It makes me smile. Martine also included a tea cosy, pretty fabric and buttons and a book about the Battle of Arras, which I'm looking forward to reading once my brain is out of holiday mode. We've been in touch, so Martine already knows how pleased and thankful  I am to have had her as my partner this year.

Here's to you, Chooky, and to all my wonderful SSCS partners over the years and to all of you lovely people out there in blogland. Here's to a healthy, happy, crafty year for us all.

It's nearly Christmas...


... and the tree is up and the house is decorated at last. It's usually  all sorted earlier in December but some major housework was needed. Bah! Humbug!

So anyway, we're looking good (and trying to keep things tidy and not drop anything on the tiled floors my husband spent so long cleaning). A few cards have arrived and there are presents under the tree already, thanks to Martine in France, my partner in this year's Secret Santa Christmas Swap.  Thanks  so much for your generosity, Martine - and thanks too to Chooky for organising the swap for the umpteenth year in a row.  It's such a lovely way to end the year and we all appreciate  and look forward to it.

FNFW again


Had a quiet night at home stitching away at one of Gail Pan's gorgeous designs. It's probably a bit hard to see but I'm using a variegated thread in muted blue tones. When finished off with a fabric border and a bit of quilting, it will hang on my sewing room wall.I'm taking my time with this one and really enjoying the slow, relaxing pace.

The spring has sprung (finally!)


Spring has come late to Ballarat. We've had so many cold days, with lots of rain and some hail at times, and I'm sure all of us who live here have wondered if the season that follows our long, cold winters would ever come.But we've had a run of fine days at last, hooray.  While the over-supply of rain means our local lake is full to overflowing, and the walkways to the boatsheds are mostly underwater so the boatsheds look as though they're floating, the birdlife is very happy, thanks. Especially the swans - they've been breeding like mad and it's such a delight to see the stately black adult birds and their little grey puffball babies grazing on the banks or forming a happy little flotilla in the water. It's also delightful when they cross the road, which can be quite busy at times. Drivers stop at once, and never seem to mind the delay. It's a magical moment.A stroll around our back garden was just the thing after a busy day. The birds are chirping (we are visited by magpies, wattlebirds, doves, occasional spinebills and blue wrens, which are all beautiful, but would happily do without the starlings nesting just under the roof and all those pesty sparrows making a dust bowl in one of our garden beds). Everything including the weeds is growing like Topsy and our first potato crop, planted in a grow bag, is promising - judging by the leaves, at least.  The quince blossoms are looking a bit raggedy as they prepare to turn into fruit and one of our two olive trees has teeny tiny buds. The roses also have buds galore - for once I had them professionally pruned instead of my usual hack job and they seem pretty happy about that.I'll leave you with a few images from my little world. I hope everyone's having a lovely weekend.[...]



I'm joining in Friday Night With Friends tonight, stitching along with everyone from everywhere.

Tonight's project is the Jingle Softie by my friend Jodie at Ric Rac. It's one of my favourite patterns for a little person - a softie and a rattle all in one. This one is for my husband's great-niece, born two days ago in Canberra. He'll take it to her, along with the teeny tiny Mary Janes I knitted this afternoon, when he's there for work next week.

Must hippity hop  back to my stitching. Hope everyone's having an enjoyably crafty night.

All ready to travel


I'm  all ready for a trip - but I'm  not going anywhere yet. Sigh. But the next time I travel, there'll be a smart new tag on my suitcase and my dirties will go in my nice new laundry bag instead of an old plastic bag.

These new goodies,  plus a fat quarter and a pretty handmade card, were from Sandi  in Queensland and sent as part of the No Fuss Swappers travel swap. The laundry bag fabric features the Eiffel Tower and other wonderful buildings in Paris, including the type of apartments I admired so much when visiting my favourite  city earlier this year.

Thanks so much, Sandi. Everything  will be very handy, although I can't promise to save the sweets for the next time I travel!



The urge to create   has been getting a workout in the last little while.  These are a few of the things I've  been making.This year I'm taking part in a trans-Tasman birthday swap and have received lots of lovely gifts, including these.I've done some Christmas  shopping- these are from my dear clever Pommy friend Mrs Moog's recent destash - and I need to get cracking  on some Christmas  crafting .And as usual there's  been a lot of cooking and baking (and eating  too, of course). My favourites have been Ottolenghi's roast chicken  - absolutely delicious  and it got rid of some of the preserved lemons I'd made previously then had no idea what to do with - and Belinda Jeffery's divine buttery almond cake.It's  been a great month so far. Hope yours has been the same.[...]

Christmas in July


It was Christmas in July in the No Fuss Swappers group's  latest  bit of fun and here's what Helen sent me.  Thanks, Helen  - the Christmas decoration and buttons are so cute and I really like the fabric too. And yes, that big chocolate bar is still intact  - saving it for 'ron - must hide it from the husband though!)
The group organises little swaps every few months - they're quirky,  fun and easy. Thanks, girls! Check out the blog - sign-ups are now being accepted for the travel swap. Who doesn't need sweets, a luggage tag and a drawstring bag or similar for socks, undies or shoes while tripping about?



I joined in with others taking part in Friday Night With Friends - nice to think of us all beavering away at our various projects.

Although I have  a few deadlines coming up and I really should be in my very messy room machining away, the past few days have been all about knitting. My scarf  is coming along nicely and will soon be long enough to wrap twice around my neck. The pattern, found on Ravelry,  is easy - just one row repeated as many times as you like. It doesn't  take much concentration  so it's  a perfect telly-watching project (although I have to admit I've had to backtrack on a few rows from time to time).

When it's  finished, the scarf will be a good reminder of  a very happy  day in London with expatriate  Aussie Trash and my  new friends Lesley and Cathy.  We met at the Liberty café  and spent all afternoon in this most beautiful  of buildings. My purchases included some lovely  Liberty fabric (because it would have been rude not to buy some!) and the Rowan Tetra cotton yarn I'm  knitting with.

Late to the party


I dropped in briefly to Chooky's  party at the weekend but it was soon obvious that for this little red hen sewing just wasn't  going to happen. I've been out of action with the worst cold I've ever had - the unwanted souvenir of my recent and very wonderful trip overseas - and even the small effort required to put a few hexies together was beyond me.Yesterday was a different story though - the hacking cough has disappeared and the energy levels were up and I found myself at the sewing machine thinking "I wonder if I can do this?" Among the (untouched) projects prepared for stitching during the trip was this little piece to be appliquéd in hand blanket stitch. With some trepidation - because I haven't  tried it before - I began raw-edge appliqueing  by machine and yes! It worked!  So sometime soon my little cuppa will become a mini quilt. Next up will be putting together  the hexies as a rosette to decorate a covered hanger, one of the project in Lisa Cox  new book A Spoonful of Sugar. I follow Lisa's blog of the same name; she  has such pretty projects to share and her book is just delightful.The book is among the recent happy mail received lately - birthday gifts from my three brothers, a pretty Liberty purchase and another good book - Krista Fleckenstein's Beyond Cotton, with lots of detail on printing and stamping your own fabrics.  A few years ago  a couple of friends and I had a hugely enjoyable fabric stamping day with lovely Leslie of Maze & Vale and while I haven't  done any more since that day I'm  keen to get going again.For the past few months  I've been taking part in a series of No Fuss Swaps organised by stitchy friends in Queensland. They're  the simplest, easiest  fun swaps - the photo shows what I happily  received from Christine  in the Kitchen Kapers swap (minus the giant homemade Anzac biscuit, which was delicious - thank you very much, Christine). I'm running a bit late with mine so will have to rug up tomorrow   and go shopping for the tea towel, biscuit cutter and special biscuit and choose a favourite  recipe to send to my partner.Apologies for the dismal quality of the photos by the way - the camera on my tablet isn't playing nicely right now.[...]

Happy Easter


Whatever  Easter means to you, I hope your  long weekend is enjoyable.



I hope you all had a good time last night, stitching or knitting  or whatever else you got up to.

I signed up for last night's FNWF before realising that I 'd be out. Ballarat's city council had the first in this year's series of Backyard Taster events  promoting multi-culturalism and community. It was a lovely evening to be outside enjoying music, dancing (we saw a performance by young Aboriginal girls and a Maori haka), a display of rare trades and chatting  with  friends. Earlier in the day I'd responded to a last-minute appeal for cakes for a fund-raising stall at the event so spent a hot afternoon in the kitchen. There was a long queue for food at the event so we ate dumplings at a nearby restaurant  instead,  (yum!) then came home to watch the first episode in the new series of the Dr Blake Mysteries. Have you seen this show? Are you a fan? We love it - good plots plus it's set in beautiful Ballarat, so how could we not?

So - my FNWF was really a solo knitting session  during the day, finishing a teeny weeny beanie and beginning another. Isn't  it ridiculously  small! Of course it is - it's  for a premmie baby. Earlier this week I came across an appeal from  Li'l Aussie Prems Foundation for little green beanies for its  6th annual Wear Green for Premmies event and these are the results so far. I'm  looking forward to more craftiness today.

Hello again


Here I am again - just sneaking in for a January post - better late than never. I hope everyone had an enjoyable festive season and that 2016 will be kind to us all.This first month has been to my liking, apart from the hot weather, which always makes me tired and cranky. Still, it's the perfect excuse for staying  indoors and reading or stitching (or having a nanna nap - you don't have to be a nanna to enjoy a nanna nap!)Little projects make me happy and there have been a few of those so far - a wool pincushion, a linen and Liberty pouch, a mini featuring a little red hen (no surprises there) and a few other bits and pieces. The pouch was a gift for Anorina of sameliasmum, who designs and makes lovely things and is very generous in sharing her tutorials.  I'm in a year-long trans-Tasman birthday swap this year and she was our first birthday girl. I must admit to having been a little daunted to be making for her but it turned out well and there was such a lovely response from her and others. You can't beat the combination of linen and lovely Liberty.Gail Pan is one of my favourite designers and when she announced late last year that she was having a summer school in January there was no way I was going to miss out. Apart from plentiful food and drink, it was a BYO sort of day for whatever project you wanted to work on. I took the wool applique pear design that became the pincushion, as well as some simple embroidery. There were stitchy treats in a bag and the potential for  lots of shopping to be done - Gail's latest Stitch It For Christmas came home with me, as well as other goodies. It was such a pleasant, friendly, chatty,stitchy day and I enjoyed it so much.Each year ace blogger and all-round good person chookyblue hosts her Secret Santa Christmas Swap which is looked forward to by crafters all over the world. My partner to make for this year was Josie at dillydimple, whose blog is always fun to read. I was really chuffed to have Josie as my partner because she's in Scotland, where I was born. Nice one, Chooky! If you want to see what I made for Josie, visit her in blogland.And making for me was Marion in Germany ( I received a cute cardboard Christmas tree ornament with gold lacework in the middle - so unusual and lovely - and these fabulous oven gloves. I've never had handmade oven gloves before, and certainly not two of a kind of shop-bought ones.  They're so practical and I use them a lot - and they look good hanging up in my kitchen too.So - the year has started well and there's lots more fun, crafty and otherwise, to be had. Bring it on![...]



We've put up our Christmas  tree and my SSCS gift from Marion in Germany  is the first gift to go under it. Hooray! I love this time of year and the gifts  like these that are such a lovely expression of kindness and friendship around the world.
Of course I haven't  opened the parcel yet because I'm  a  good  girl but the lovely little ornament  is hanging  on the tree now. Thank you so much, Marion. And thanks too, as always, Chooky for again hosting  this swap that's a highlight of the year for so many of us.

Cheryll hosted FNFW  last night and my little contribution to the stitchy crafty get-together  was this cute stocking. It's  from a tutorial  on Amy Sinibaldi's blog and is a quick little make that can be embellished however you like. This one will house a gift card to be sent to my SIL. Thanks for your company, everyone! 



No post last month = another fail on the blogging front.  I shall try very hard to do better next year.That's  not to say I haven't  been busy-ish, at least some of the time. First up was Quiltessentially  Clunes,  a delightful stitching weekend in the equally delightful little town of Clunes, about 20 minutes away from my place. So nice to sit around stitching and chatting and eating. Organised by three talented women - local textile artist Christine  Lethlean,  Rae Telfer and Judy Newman - and attended by lots of lovely people, including my good friend Loz.Loz had to dash back home to the Barossa - a small matter of being involved  in arrangements for a Royal visit - then drove to my house in Ballarat for a couple of days of fun and frolics. Gail Pan came for a visit with  her visiting American friend Debbie and we went out for tea  in town with Jodie and  Annie and some other friends. Good company, good food, lots of laughs - an unbeatable combination that was repeated next day when we all descended on Gail's Patchwork  Emporium,  Cotton Factory and The Crafty Squirrel. We are so lucky in Ballarat to have such gorgeous places to visit.I travelled back to the Barossa with  Loz early the following day and enjoyed a couple of days of eating (oh Maggie Beer and Barossa farmers' market, how I love your products) sightseeing and admiring Loz's company and beautiful  handiwork. The Barossa is such a beautiful  region and I look forward to another  longer visit. Next up was a drive down to Port Elliot on the coast, where I stayed with a mutual friend, Leanne and her husband Tony and their cute little dog Bella. Port Elliot is a delightful little town on the coast, with the most beautiful  sea view. I fell in love with it and so did my husband Peter when he came to pick  me up a few days later.  There were chats and laughs and seaside walks,  drives to the mouth of the Murray and a cheese factory and down to Victor Harbor,  where I had the unexpected delight of a ride in a horse-drawn  tram to Granite Island.  I'm so grateful to my friends  ( who, by the way, I got to know through blogging) for my lovely little holiday.Pete and I had a night in Robe, another place we love for its picturesque seaside ambience, then it was back home to  our gorgeous  dogs, home and garden - and stitching; I had work to do for two swaps and got everything  finished and away on time. Despite the busyness and challenges of the  season, I do love Christmas  swaps, especially  Chooky's Secret Santa  Christmas  Swap.Here are a few travel snaps and a photo  of a bundle of lovely Liberty scraps that floated into my letterbox a few days ago. Who doesn't  love good times and happy mail, especially  at this time of  year.[...]