I’ve been incredibly busy at work these past few weeks, and even have had to work over the weekend. Therefore I haven’t been free to do any crafts for myself, but I have had a bit of spare time for Google. Here are some great ideas I’d like to share:
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We bought a fish tank, for our large goldfish who previously lived in our leaky, cold pond. I used to think goldfish were dull and stupid, but now I know this is not true. There is a difference between a fish you keep alive, and one you keep happy. They are fun and full of personality, and need stimulation.
Plants are pretty cheap and are effective if you experiment with depth and height. We chose ones with spots or pink leaves for interest. You do have to be accepting that goldfish might eat your plants.
The boy got an old terracotta pot from the back yard and smashed to make a cave for them to swim up through. Be sure to soften the jagged edges and give it a good clean first.
I put one of my coca-cola glasses into the tank. I haven’t been permitted to display my collection in the living room (in exchange for him not displaying items I find unpalatable), so was happy to sneak this in. The glass has turned out to be the goldfishes’ favourite item, as they take turns sitting inside.
I have made some bright sculpi decorations but we haven’t been brave enough to put them in the tank yet for fear it will give the fish cancer. We’re goingt o test it out on some pest fish first and see how we go.
What are strange or pretty things you have seen in fish tanks or aquarium?
As you may know, I recently bought a house of my very own (well the bank’s, but that neither here nor there). Part of the privilege of home ownership is the right to paint the walls. Among the original colours on our humble abode were apple green, blizzard blue, burgundy, asparagus, dandelion and, my favourite, an orange which resembles the filling of an Arnott’s Orange Slice biscuit.
We thought we’d go with something neutral but modern. After contemplating a myriad of nearly identical swatches, a situation I have been told which can be described as Buridan’s ass*, we settled on a blue-grey, named by Taubman’s as “Oyster Grey”. It looks very chic with white trims. Painting can be a surprisingly cerebrate activity. I had done a lot of reading and research on how to paint, what paint to use, and various preparations before embarking, but disregarded all of the advice because I had the flu at the time and couldn’t be bothered. The only thing that worked was using a sponge and paint scraper to remove the wallpaper.
A few lessons:
You really should put down a drop sheet
You really should tape everything up first
You really should get all the furniture out to give you room to work
You really should wash the brushes quickly, or wrap them in glad wrap immediately.
Given the mess I had made, I braced myself for some philippic comments from the boy, however, much to my delight, his man-look (the kind where they can’t find the vegemite next to the toaster) found no faults.
* Imagine a hungry donkey standing equidistant from two identical piles of hay. The donkey tries to decide which pile he should eat first and finding no reason to choose one over another, starves to death. Explanation courtesy wordsmith.org.
Moving house has given me the opportunity to do an inventory of all the craft stuff I have accumulated over the past few years. An uncrafty onlooker (ahem, my mum and the boy) would say I have far too much craft stuff, and have a serious case of affluenza, but really, most was purchased over 2 years ago and I still use occasionally.
1 box scrapbooking supplies: purchased two or more years ago when I was doing a lot of travel. I am gradually using this up with each trip, but could probably afford to do a cull of all the bits and bobs I’ve saved.
1 large box fabric: purchased within the last two years, this is quite shameful. I have over-purchased for projects which I am getting better at not doing. I must try to use up all the fabric I have before buying more. I have given away many smaller pieces to the quilter I know.
1 box paints and brushes: bought well over 4 years ago, being acrylic, most are still usable. I only paint about once a year, but no use buying more each time. After a quick test, I throw out a few dried up or separated ones, but keep the rest.
1 box misc items: I throw away magazine cutouts, unimpressive sketches, old half-used note books (recycled) and the like. I keep rulers, stencils, Derwent coloured pencils and other such things I can use occasionally. I donated items such as coloured hair spray, scoobies and safety pins to the Girl Guide district I volunteer with.
1 box sewing items: this includes my sewing box so not too bad really. There are also a lot of random ribbons, buttons and threads, which again, I vow to use up before buying more.
1 box wrapping paper: This is a steady amount and I use and keep wrapping from presents received and given.
As I unpack and find a new home for everything I will endeavour to think of ‘Hoarders’ and ask myself, “Will you honestly use this?”
My most recent excursion to Archives bookstore on Charlotte Street, Brisbane, was delightful. It was pouring today, and as I jumped onto the front stoop, I could feel the warmth emanating from the store. They are the only retailer in Brisbane that realises that we are having an unseasonably cold Summer and do not need the air-conditioning cranked up. I first visited this store 10 years ago, and still love visiting, as they have the right balance between mustiness and organisation. Located in what used to be a publishing house, it has lovely high shelves, a huge variety, and clunky wooden floors. Picked up and am now reading A Passage to India.
I have also attempted the book covering that was featured here. It was such a brilliant, simple idea, but one which I have only ever used on notebooks. I do have an issue with larger books as the scrap-booking paper won’t cover it, but I suppose I could find a nice wrapping paper or some old wallpaper.This has added to the consistent aesthetics of my bookshelf immensely, as I like to organise my books by colour and size, rather than alphabetically. I also arrange my wardrobe by colour. Is that bizarre? Fear not, my kitchen is by logical category.
I have a giant echidna in my living room. That is to say, my couch tends to function as a giant pin cushion. Now, I don’t stick pins in it while I’m sewing, but I do stick them in it as I find them in the weeks following.
I did warn the boy, before we agreed to cohabit, that this was an assumed risk of living with me. Though, I blame the magnetism of my room-mates and family, afterall, I have never stepped on a pin.
Unfortunately, I loose the argument. Echidnas do not belong in Brisbane, and pins do not belong in couches. Get a pin cushion, you say? I am too clumsy to have the type that attached to the wrist, and to unsteady to have one sitting beside me, where I would have to stop guiding the fabric for a second. Ingeniously, I attached my pin cushion (hand-made) to my sewing machine. It seemed like a good solution, but I have to say, I still only manage to get 50% of the pins into it.
I am considering attaching some sort of magnet to the machine, but I fear this would interfere with the digital components. What do all the other sewers do about this problem, I wonder?
When all you own is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail. Abraham Maslow
After the floods I had some pine furniture which had become discoloured. I headed off to the local hardware, only to remember they were completely under, so I travelled another two suburbs over, same luck. How anyone was supposed to repair their houses without hardware, I’ll never know. After finally driving for 45 minutes, I found one which was operational. I stocked up on furniture oil, and sand paper.
My first experiment was with an old chest my mother had tried to throw out many times, for whatever reason. I open the lid, half of which promptly fell off. After precariously balancing it back on the nails, I sanded it down and applied the first coat. I resisted the urge to apply the second coat too soon, and followed the instructions on the tin by waiting 8 hours, giving it a light sand and then applying another thin coat. I was very pleased with the results and thought, ‘I have ¾ of a tin left, what else can I slap some oil on?’
I thought, ‘I’ll strip the paint off my pine chair and stain that’. Of course, it turned out this chair had been repainted numerous times and I’m still trying to get all the layers off.
I decided to restore a wardrobe that was left by previous owners in out house. The surface of this wardrobe was covered in asbestos-flavoured veneer, which came off in such as fine mist that I regretted not having a face mask. I covered a broken front panel with some pretty fabric and lined the draws with vintage 1960s and 1970s wall paper. I felt it looked quite spiffy, and was a fraction of the cost and weight of an Ikea flat-pack.
Hint: The idea of dousing paint thinner on yourself to clean off the oil sound too dangerous? Try some anti-dandruff shampoo.
Channelling my inner CWA, I decided to make marmalade. What most suprised me about this project what just how much sugar marmalade contains, even when home made. At least I know it contains no preservatives or colours.
Three Fruits Marmalade
Ingredients: 1 grapefruit, 2 oranges, 1 lemon, 2.5L (10 cups) cold water, 2.5kg caster sugar
1. Slice off ends or fruits, cut in half lengthways, then thinly slice crossways. . Place with water in a large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a cool place for 8 hours or overnight to infuse.
The recipe advises to keep the seeds, but unfortunately, even though I had purchased my fruit from a small locally owed grocer, they were still genetically modified enough not to have seeds to preserve.
2. Transfer mixture to a heavy saucepan. Boil, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes until rind is tender.
3. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 120°C. Place sugar in shallow dish in the oven, stirring once, for 10-15 minutes until warmed.
4. Reduce stove heat. Add warm sugar and cook, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Gently boil, stirring occasionally and remove any scum on the surface, for 50 minutes until mixture thickens to setting point. (Spoon a little marmalade onto saucer in the freezer for 2 minutes so see if it turns gel-like)
5. Ladle into jars, seal and turn upside down for 2 minutes. Turn upright and set aside until cooled.
Unfortunately most of my reusable jars were occupied by various nuts and fruits, so I did have to purchase some to use for this recipe.
While marmalade can be a bit zesty for my tastes, I know my mum will enjoy a jar. The colours of this project alone made it worth it, and reminded me of my 60s vase collection:
Growing up, we didn’t use pot holders to take things out of the oven, we used tea towels. This, of course, resulted in many burns and the throwing of trays onto the bench.
I decided to make pot holders a few years back as a practical way to preserve handsome fabrics (I’m not a quilter). I have now realised that they are far more protective than tea towels against heat, are charming gifts, distinctive kitchen decor, and can be used as large coasters to absorb condensation from beer-steins or cold containers.
I use fabrics from deconstructed ‘failed’ sewing projects, and scraps I have lying around.
I cut two squares of the fabric and lay them right side facing each other. I place several layers of wadding on top and sew around 3 ½ edges. I have yet to experiment with binding tape. I then choose a pattern to sew into the middle to flatten it out.
Handle for hanging: Pin long fabric or ribbon between right-side facing fabric pieces before sewing edges. Sew both edges if hanging on a hook. To be slipped through an oven handle, sew one end, make a button-hole on the other end and sew a button in place.
When I moved into my current rental, they have lace curtain in the kitchen. I love lace, but these were stained, moth-eaten and tattered. We have one of those post-war houses which are so common in Brisbane. It could be kitsch if it weren’t entirely cream with lino and chipboard throughout. In an effort to put some personality into the place, I whipped up some simple curtains which I think look pretty spiffy.
Curtains really can be so simple to make. Unfortunately, I think the cost of decent fabrics, the trend towards ceiling to floor windows and the effort to wash them, means fashions have moved towards blinds. However, I find curtains less sterile and can add more unique style to a room.
I cut a thick, stiff, cotton fabric 1.5 times the length of the windows across and about 6 inches longer. If I did them again, I probably would have cut them twice the length to allow for more gather when they hung. I hemmed all four sides of the squares using a rolling hem, then pressed over the top edge enough so that the rods would be able to fit through and sewed it down. I simply used some regular ribbons as ties.
Here’s a picture:
Trim the loose threads before taking photos
Consider how much gathering you want before cutting. Curtains need a significant about of overhang to be effective.