A new tech toy

I have been wanting to buy a new Ipad for some time but keep putting it off because of the cost.  But after much research and deep thinking I took the plunge and bought a new Ipad Pro, the biggest size with the most memory.

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Along with a smart keyboard and

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an Apple pencil.

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It is such an expensive toy that I need it to do a special job.  That is to take the place of my lap top which is getting very old and weighs a ton.  That really is what tipped the balance for me.  I also need to upgrade my skills for vector drawing.  I use Easy Draw on my computer, which is a great technical program.  It is really used for doing mechanical and architectural drawing and when I used to teach those skills in the class room it was great.

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But I am not using it to it's full potential any more.  The other program I run is called Easy Grapher Professional, but it was written in 2004 and hasn't been updated since then.  It is a specialty needlework program and I run it on an old PC.

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I think the time is approaching, at a rapid rate, where I am going to have to learn Adobe Illustrator.  That seems to be the standard these days, I am just turned off by the price.  If I take a class at the local Technical College I might be able to purchase a student copy.  But courses range in price between $300 and $3,000.  I wonder if my son has a copy of this program?  I know he uses this package and he used it for his degree.  I know what he will say.  "Look it up on Google Mum".


I am trying to get ahead with my samples for classes I will teach in 2018, with the Children's Projects top of my list.  I completed the first sample and the older children would handle this with no problem but I'm not sure about the little ones.  I am going to look at how I can do this kind of theme in cross stitch, which might be easier.  (This will be made into a pocket to go onto a small pin cushion where you can keep a pair of scissors and maybe some other tools.)

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Because 2018 will be the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Embroiderers' Guild in Queensland I want all the projects to link into this in some way.

The next project will be a small purse and here I have drawn a tropical theme of pineapples, palm leaves and another tropical plant leaf.  I want to introduce the students to the use of other threads to achieve texture.  So far so good but I will have to stitch fast as I used a fading pen.

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In Memory of Rosemary

When I was a little girl my best friend was a girl called Rosemary Gray.  She was a little older than me by a year or two I think and we remained friends till I was in my early 20's when our lives went in different directions.  We both sang in the church choir.  I have no photos of her, not one.  Not even one of her 21st birthday when I saved and bought her a pearl broach.  I looked on line to see if I could find any record of her life and there was one in a 1970 record of the Sydney Morning Herald, but they wanted my credit card details to look at it.  In the article she had won an award and was quoted as being a "Girl Guide, church volunteer and disabled".  Rosemary was a little person.  I knew this but I never 'saw' it.   (You didn't take photos of disabled people, they looked different.)

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I remember at Primary school the inspectors said she had to go to the 'Spastic Centre' school not our school.  Every child that knew her was shocked.  We never saw her as disabled.  But they moved her and through moving her we got to meet deaf and blind kids and kids with other disabilities.  They were just other kids much the same as us.

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When I turned 21 she gave me a small Stuart Crystal vase.  It is small and perfect, just as she was.  That vase has stayed with me all my life.  I treasure it.


Every time I put some small flowers it it makes those flowers look beautiful.  They become more than just some small flowers, and I think of Rosemary.


She taught me so much and I never even realised it until years later. When I became a teacher and they moved disabled kids back into mainstream classes  I never saw disabled kids as their label, they were just kids, like Rosemary, and were welcome and cared for in my classroom. She taught me that.  When I organised excursions I went that bit extra to make sure they could be included.  One excursion was to the Ekka (State Fair) and I lost  a child for a while there.  This taught me that the other kids could be counted on to look after these kids, like we would have when we were young.  Then I approached the organisers and they allowed free entry for a carer for each disabled child.  The carers turned out to be their mother or father who had a day of fun, one on one with their child.  The look of joy on their faces still stays with me. Some of those kids died in their teens and it was Rosemary who gave these families this gift.


So every time I put a small bunch of flowers in this little vase, which is often, I say a prayer of thanks to God for this friend of my childhood.



Some singlet dresses

I had to replace the foot pedal for my over-locker and whilst in the Bernina Shop I saw some children's singlet dresses on the wall that they had been teaching as a project.  I immediately thought of my grand daughters and quickly bought a couple of ecco cotton tops to make them one each.   Now there are lots of  instructions for these dresses on the internet and they are quick and easy to make but I made a couple of changes to get a better look.

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I like this tutorial for a toddler but I wasn't happy with the look of how the bodice and skirt joined.

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The things I considered first were:

  • The choice of fabric,  I used some Liberty cotton because it gathers, drapes and washes well. (The fibre used has a long staple - expensive- which means it doesn't crease like cheaper cottons that have a short staple - cheap.)

        But there are lots of fabric to choose from.  Most Mum's these days do not iron and hand washing is a thing of the past.  So if you don't want to spend a lot of money on fabric choose one that has a small amount of polyester in it.  Pure cotton is going to crease.  It will look good to start with but after the first wash it will be creased if not ironed.  After a couple of minutes in the dryer that fabric with some polyester in it will look great.  (The heat slightly melts the polyester in the fabric taking out the creases as it is thermoplastic.)

  • The amount of fabric.  Most instructions tell you to use the width of the fabric but this varies between fabrics and the weight of the fabric will effect just how it gathers.   I think pleating would be better for a heavier weight fabric and extra width is needed if you are using a light weight fabric.
  • The distance between the underarm and where you cut the t shirt.

This changes with the age of the child.  For a toddler I would cut the T shirt at about 9cm (3.5").  A toddler has a bit of a tummy and this will hang better over it.  For my girls, who are 5 & 6 years of age I made the cut longer 12cm (nearly 5") .


Then there was the construction.

After I cut the T shirt I ironed a 4cm (1.5") strip of light paper iron on interfacing above the cut to stabilise the knit fabric.  This also allows you to use a straight stitch when you attach the skirt.  After sewing you can easily peel the stabiliser back to the sewing line and trim it off.

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The gathering.

Most instructions will tell you to lengthen your machine stitch.  I only slightly lengthen the stitch but I also loosen the tension.  This makes that bobbin thread easy to pull up.  (I sew on the right side and gather on the wrong side of the fabric.)

I also sew 2 lines of gathering.  At the end of the first line I sew down 3 stitches and come back the other way.  (This is about the width of your presser foot. 

This allows you to pull up an even gathering and you can then sew the bodice and skirt together in between the 2 gathering lines.  To pull out the gathering threads you just have to snip the thread on the bobbin stitched side back at that 3 stitch turn. The loose bobbin thread pulls out with no fuss and the top thread just falls away.  This also means you do not disturb that line of stitching where you joined the bodice and skirt.

Make sure you mark the quarter and half ways points on the top of the skirt before you pull up that gathering thread.  This will then make it easy to line them up with the seams and centre front and back of the T shirt.  I then neaten this edge by over-locking it.

I thought about top stitching the join but decided it wasn't necessary.

The hem

If you want to allow for growth, and all kids grow ,  set a wider hem you can let down.  You could machine it but I like the hang of a hand stitched hem.

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The girls put the dresses on and refused to take them off.  They love the feel of that Liberty fabric.  They couldn't stop touching it.  Now there will be nothing to compare to this fabric.  I bet they are hooked for life, just like me.

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Robyn's House

Robyn asked me not to put her photo up on my blog so you won't find her here.  (TIP:  Look on Facebook)

But I have put together some images that I took when visiting her home.  It was just the most generous gesture to open her door to the public.  Some of the highlights for me were the embroidered books that were scattered around.  A beautiful way to keep memories.

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The little kick-nacks.

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Her order of Australia displayed on a beautiful old embroidered cloth.

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The antique baby bonnets crocheted using silk thread and bullion stitch.

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The dresser with Xylonite pieces.

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The original Gumnut Baby quilt and that collection of post cards that went right around the room.

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Those jelly beans that were in dishes throughout the house.

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Glancing out the window there was a small fish pond complete with gold fish.

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Old quilts and new quilts.  All her quilts are hand pieces and hand quilted.  (The ones on the dinning room table were piled high.) And her huge collection of Xylonite pieces.

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The garden was full of quilts.

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I should have noticed these things as I came in but I did see them as I left.  The big clam shell full of floating camillias.  So old Queensland. (She has over 100 camillia trees in her garden.)

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The bush seed pod wreath on the wall.

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Her Mother's flowers.

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And that bird bath.

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Thank you Robyn.




The joys of pattern making

You know I threw out all my old paper patterns and swore never to dress-make again.  Then my grand daughters twisted my arm to make them dresses.  So here I am again making patterns.  I found an old pattern I had bought online and printed it out, some thing like 50 A4 pages of the thing.  The dress is cute though.  I know the girls will like the swing of the skirt.

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People had warned me about having to stick all these pages together but it doesn't really mean anything until you have to do it yourself.

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Because the pattern is multi sized I like to trace the size I want onto paper and then keep the original aside, just in case.  Of course with all that paper I didn't line it up properly.  Not enough on one side and

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Too much on the other.

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Whilst doing this I came across a book of patterns that I bought some time ago, still in pristine condition because I had forgotten it.  I am going through the same process of tracing off the sizes and styles I want.  Just working out what pattern pieces are what is taking time.  I was going to trace all the patterns but have given that away.

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But, the quality of the drafting of the Japanese patterns is beautiful.  As a dressmaker of old I know how a pattern should be drafted and these are correct to the mm.  It is those small details that make the difference in the finished garment.  I am just a bit worried about the size.  Japanese children are quite a bit smaller than western children.  I think I might make a toile first to check.  This WAS going to be a quick job.





The children's class is progressing well with still another day to go.  We will see just what they will come up with for the backs of their bags.  But one really nice thing is that one of our past students has joined us to train as a tutor for the classes.  She is now at University and it is great to see another generation coming through.  (This is a warm fuzzy.)

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I am working on designing my Children's Classes for 2018.  At the moment this first design is giving me grief.  I want to use the bundle of Aida fabric that I have in stock but my drawing program only draws between the lines not on them.  I have a horrible feeling that I am going to have to draw this all by hand. 

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Grandma has been busy

Firstly she managed to catch the flu and lose her voice.  Some would say this was a blessing.  But I have "Children's Classes" starting tomorrow so it is lots of tablets to get my temperature down.  I will see how I go tomorrow.

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Then last Saturday we took to girls to see Cinderella at the theatre.  My eldest grand daughter is on the Autistic spectrum, in old terminology that is Aspurgers.  She falls into the gifted and talented range and although only 6 years old is more like a 15 or 16 years old.  One of the effects of this is that she suffers from terrible anxiety.  For weeks she has been stressing out about the colouring competition that she entered for the show.  Would she win, wouldn't she win, how terrible her work was.  She made a mistake here or there.  By the time we got to the theatre she was a mess.  She and her sister both won prizes and the day improved.

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She also has had to get braces.  Another thing that shouldn't have happened until her teens but it is better to have 6 months now than trouble later on. My daughter suffered for years with twisted teeth and got to the point she wouldn't smile at all until they were fixed.

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Then the girls put the heavies on Grandma.  Miss Bunny needed a proper quilt, she was getting cold!  (in all this heat). 

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And those 20 something Barbie Dolls needed quilts and new pillows on their beds.  Luckily there are only 2 beds and a cot.

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Then, in an aside, they told me a tail of woe.  They had no pretty dresses and Mummy can't sew.  So I am really under the pump to make some new dresses.  I have one under construction.

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And I managed to buy some Liberty prints in a sale at $18 per metre. 

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With the prices of fabric today I think it would have been cheaper just to buy them dresses.


Studio Visit

It is Carnival of Flowers time up at Toowoomba and this year Robyn Ginn opened her home for people to view not only her wonderful collection of quilts but her beautiful embroidery, things she has collected, her garden and her home.  Robyn has had she fair share of troubles in her life.  Ranging from breaking her back through to the recent loss of her husband and a grand child.  (She has a Pinterest page of the quilts that were lost in a fire at her daughters home and her grand son was also lost in this fire.)  She works her life into her quilts.

This quilt talks of how they were knocked off their perch but are still standing.  You can see more on her Crazy patch pinterest page.

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There was so much to see and to absorb that I am sure I missed tons of important details.  But one thing that caught my attention was that she also designs and stitches canvas work.  Each piece is totally original and the stitches chosen just blew me away.

The use of gimp ribbon for the flower stems and the variety of stitches in each bird. (click on the image for more detail.)

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So much to think about.  I will revisit some of my impressions of this viewing in a later post.  I just think I need to reflect on it for a few days.  My mind has been so taken up with what I saw here that I didn't really pay attention to everything else I viewed.   I found this visit very moving on a number of levels.   As a result my husband and I will drive up again this week and spend the day there together and this time I will focus more on the flowers.







The big work in progress has been finding and purchasing a town house in St. Lucia which is close to the city and the University.  My expectations regarding price were not realistic and after weeks of viewing town houses and apartments I came to the conclusion that I would have to spend more money.  Even then I kept getting beaten by other contenders to the property that I would have liked to have purchase.  But now, with a bit more money on the table, I have finally bought a town house, which my daughter will live in whilst she is completing her Phd. and I will be able to use when I need to stay in town.   Now perhaps I can get back to siitching.

To keep my mind relaxed I have been working on Kogin designs for my Xmas cards.  This design is stitched on a Lugano 28 count fabric.  The Xmas tree is DMC white stranded cotton and the rest of the design is stitched in 2 strands of silk thread.

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I have taken quite a few liberties with this design but I think it works.