28 July 2013

Creativity Journal - Day 15 (Dollar Bill)

What can you do with just a dollar? Use a dollar bill as your medium or inspiration today.
Using a dollar bill is a little difficult for an Australian. If I actually owned one, had had the forethought as a teenager to save one, it might be worth too much to be playing with it. Luckily, I didn't keep one, so no conflict of values.

As I am Australian, I decided to work with a dollar coin.
According to my new Celco circle template (why haven't I bought one of these before), it has a 25mm diameter. Drawing around a coin is an annoying task, so I used my lovely new template (quite fond of this bit of plastic).
My first attempt was to replicate a Sashiko pattern I like. Shashiko is a form of Japanese quilting. It's usually done with a thick white thread on navy or dark blue. The patterns are often repetitive or overlapping patterns.

The pattern I was aiming for is the circles in the bottom right-hand corner of the above sampler. Only, I thought I could draw it without looking it up. I can't even draw it when it's sitting right in front of me, so I don't know why I thought that.

Attempt one:
I overlapped too many circles (didn't realise that at the time). I did notice that each circle ended up with 12 'bits' as you went around the edge. I started to colour them rainbow-like, with 6 colours - red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple. At some point, in the above colouring I got a little confused.

I thought, if I did it in Paint, I could fix my mistakes. In Paint I also noticed that using the 6 colours around each circle led to a secondary pattern, which totally hides the first pattern.
And just for fun, I inverted the colours. I think this one looks a little like fish.

I wasn't particularly happy with my efforts, and as I was enjoying a day on the couch being a sloth (an ill sloth, but a sloth nonetheless), I started doodling. I started with some random overlapping circles; wasn't happy with those (bottom centre). Then tried a "Hungry Caterpillar"; wasn't happy with that (bottom right). Finally, I just started drawing circles and filling them in.
When I ran out of room on the page, I moved on.
It was difficult to come up with a different pattern for each and every circle. I'm pretty sure some are repeated, particularly those hidden in the background. My Teen is a keen zentangler, and much, much better at it than I am. She was a little concerned I was 'taking over her thing'; she need have no fear. Needs too much patience for me.

27 July 2013

Creativity Journal - Day 14 (Small)

Make something microscopic. How small can you work? Can you make something that requires a magnifying glass or microscope to see?

The hardest thing about this challenge was getting a decent photo. The words came to me overnight. I Googled, but I can't find any specific reference, just a quarter of a million links.

No life is small.

My first attempt was in Paint, created at 800% magnification.
Original size

'Small' size; most of my blog photos are set to medium size
Letters are 5 pixels high, all verticals only 1 pixel wide

My next attempt was fabric based. Thought I might use up some of my tea-staining throw outs. Not very much of them, as it turns out. My first effort was done with the naked eye, well, the bespectacled eye. I got a little lost trying to get the 's' right in 'is small'.
For my second effort I found a magnification app for my phone. Once I worked out how to balance it and sew neatly, my letters improved ... well, slightly.
First effort, fine needle showing beneath the text

Second effort

Both efforts, my fingers

First effort above, second effort inside the small gold safety pin

Second effort, same small gold safety pin

26 July 2013

Creative Journal - Day 13 (Tea)

Use tea leaves or tea bags (used or unused) or even just liquid tea (in a cup or not) to create something today.
I appear to have been missing in action for a few days. I was simply experimenting with various tea options. As a quilter 'tea dying' is a common term. Apparently, quilters use tea (and coffee) to dye fabrics to give them an 'ol' world charm'. Maybe I'm doing it wrong, but most things just looked stained to me.

My first attempt, I thought I'd write a word with a crayon on fabric and dye it.
If you look really, really, really closely you might be just able to make out the word "study". However, it wasn't heavy enough to resist the tea staining and can't be seen at all in the dry fabric.

Take 2, I decided to shave wax on to the fabric, cover it with baking paper and iron it in. My theory is that the wax would penetrate the fabric and could be washed out later. Home-made batik.

Ah, all very well in theory.

The final, dry fabric has just got a slightly pink, slightly brown patch in the centre.

Take 3 (I didn't even take photos) - I piled tea leaves in the pattern I wanted on the fabric and left it sit. However, the stain spread and I ended up with just a slightly brown patch in the centre.

Take 4 (oh, yeah, that's why I've been missing in action for so long) - I taped off the areas I didn't want stained. It worked somewhat better than the first three options. Unfortunately, my perception of negative space isn't too crash hot and I was missing an outside bor
der to my image. Again, a slightly brown patch in the centre.

So, today, I finally called the tea dying quits. Instead I opted for the easy path. A "tea T".
All I can say is, good thing I drink tea every day!

24 July 2013


If, like millions of others, you use Facebook; and if, like sane people everywhere, you avoid using Internet Explorer, then you really should be using SocialFixer. SocialFixer helps to eliminate some of the more annoying aspects of FB. I don't use all the options on offer, I doubt anyone does. The main strength of SocialFixer is it allows you to use FB how you want.

One of the main features I like is the tabbed newsfeed. My newsfeed is so full of shared photos and junk that I miss the actual going ons in my friends' lives. With the use of filters, I can push page updates, group posts, shared photos, and 'stuff' to separate tabs. I can even hide posts I just don't want to see.

The filtering use a code system I haven't used before. I'm familiar with the code needed for Microsoft macros and database programming and I'm familiar with standard Boolean code. I have never used "regular expressions" before. It's taken a bit of trial and error to work out how to filter my FB newsfeed just how I want, so I thought I'd share.

The basics (that I use and as I understand, and I'm open to helpful comments) are:

  • use a / to open and close an argument /this is my argument/
  • use a | to denote a "or" option /search for this|that/
  • use i after the argument to make case irrelevant /search Upper or lower case/i
  • .* searches for wildcards i.e. a string of characters of varying lengths and types (I can never remember how to search for an actual fullstop/period, so I don't use them in my filter strings)

My current filters are below. The filter string that I use in shown in blue. I've given some examples of the types of posts it picks up. I've used grey to show text that isn't included the filter, and orange to show text that is picked up by the wildcard (.*)
/added .* photo|was tagged in .*'s photo/i  - moves to Photos tab
Jane added 6 photos
Bill added a new photo
Bill added 6 new photos
Bill was tagged in Jane's photos

/shared .*'s photo|shared .*'s status update|likes a photo|.* (shared|likes) a link/i - moves to Shares tab
Jane shared Bill's photo
Jane shared Bill's status update
Bill likes a photo
Bill shared a link
Bill likes a link

One could argue why not simply use /shared .*'s/ or even /shared .*/ rather than including two strings with 'photo' and 'status update'? I have found that sometimes the more definitive string is safer. A friend may post a status update along the lines of "I shared Bill's coffee" or "We shared a coffee", which is not the same as sharing Bill's viral photo.

/added .*|changed .* profile picture|updated .* cover photo/i - moves to "Timeline" tab
Jane added Bill as a friend
Jane changed her profile picture
Jane updated his cover photo

/Group Name|Group Name/i - moves to Groups tab
Simply copy the group name from your list and use in the filter. Be aware of punctuation that requires code to be read as actual punctuation. As I mentioned, I can never remember it, so I just use 'bits' of my group names, to avoid the full stops and the like.

Pages - in the far left column of the filtering tab of SocialFixer, is a list of your friends. At the bottom of this list is a list of your pages. Simply highlight all of them, and move them to a "Pages" tab.

These five filters save me a lot of "argh" moments. My home tab is mainly status updates directly from my friends and not repeated rubbish. I'm sure there are other "standard" posts pushed through by FB; as I find them I add them to my filter strings.

21 July 2013

Creativity Journal - Day 12 (Camouflage)

Camouflage. Create or alter something so that it disappears into its background.

I pinned this video quite some time ago for making a woven bangle or bracelet.

This week I finally got around to buying to plain, wooden bangle to work with. At the time I didn't think to buy appropriately coloured floss to work with, so I'm working with some stuff I had on hand.

Today, I decided to make a start. And how is this camouflage? Simple the wooden bangle will completely disappear when I'm finished.

The video shows the weaving sequence, but it doesn't actually tell you how to do the entire thing. This is what I've worked out so far.

1. Cut your 'warp' strands about one and half times the circumference of your bangle. Warp is the longitudinal strands - the coloured ones running around the bangle. The 'weft' is the cross-ways strands - in the original bangle, the black; in mine, the white.

2. If your floss is kinked from being wrapped on a bobbin, iron it before starting. The easiest way to do this is to take about five strands (too many and it's not as effective). Hold one end, place the iron near the end you're holding, and pull so the threads are pulled under the iron from one side to the other. Hold the other end and repeat.

Notice the difference between the ironed yellow and the unironed purple and pink.
3. Use a double sided tape (I used ordinary scrap booking tape), stick a single layer of warp floss onto the bangle. My bangle is about 1.5 inches across, which worked out to be about eight or nine strands each of four different colours. Put another layer of double sided tape over the top of the strands, and add a second layer of floss. The two layers ensures you don't get any gaps.

4. Number your warp colours 1 to 4 from left to right, weave the following pattern:
  • under 1, over 2, over 3, under 4, wrap waft three times
  • over 1, under 2, over, 3, over 4, wrap waft three times
  • over 1, over 2, under 3, over 4, wrap waft three times
  • Repeat
You could make any pattern you wanted. This is the pattern shown in the video. Watch the video to understand how to weave and wrap the waft threads.

I'm not quite sure how to finish it just yet. I ran out of warp thread (white). I used two, or part of two, skeins. I will need one more. When I'm finished, I'll post how I did it.

I don't wear bangles a lot, which is okay, because my Teen has her eye on this one. I am thinking that this would look good with ribbons instead of floss. I'm tempted to find a few more bangles. Of course, you needn't buy a new wooden one. I'm sure old ones that would work could be picked up in thrift shops for next to nothing.

20 July 2013

Creativity Journal - Day 11 (Leftie)

Work on the other hand. Pick a medium you're comfortable with, then work with your nondominant hand - if you usually favour your right hand then only use your left and vice-versa.

I've said it before tonight and I'll say it again, with apologies to Father Mulcahy, "I'm incensed! I am outraged! Where is your decency, man? Your humanity? I am acrimonious!"

The boat people debate in Australia makes me so mad. The government, the opposition and the media all tossing about lies and fear mongering to rival the bad ol' days of the 'yellow peril'. Here's some figures, all of which come from the Parliament of Australia or Department of Immigration websites:
  • Boat arrivals account for less than 5% of all permanent migrants (asylum seekers, migrants and all others) to Australia. 
  • Arrivals by boat account for only about half of all asylum claims in Australia. 
  • Until very recently plane arrivals vastly outnumbered boat arrivals. 
  • Those arriving by boat ultimately have a higher rate of being recognised as legitimate refugees. 
  • It's estimated that there are close to 54,000 illegal immigrants in the country at any one time - tourists, students and temporary visa holders who just decide to stay, NOT refugee or asylum seekers. Compare this to just over 18,000 boat arrivals in the past TEN years, and nearly 47,000 asylum seekers arriving by means other than boat (I presume plane, motor vehicles being a little problematic). 

 So, in the grand scheme of things, boat people are pretty much a non-issue. They're not our biggest immigration issue (a small proportion) and they're not our biggest security issue (mostly genuine). These are people who have been through a hell that very few of us, sitting in our safe (if somewhat stupid) democracies can even begin to imagine.

As Les Murray pointed out on a recent episode of Adam Hills Tonight, when the refugees were escaping from the Communists, we welcomed them with open arms; we celebrated the people smugglers as heroes. Somewhere in the last 50 years we've lost a bit (a lot) of our humanity. We've become selfish and insecure. We no longer see people; we see threats and boogie men. And the sad irony is that statistics show that boat arrivals are the least likely to be the threat or the boogie man.

And Kevin Rudd's grand plan of sending boat arrivals off to Papua New Guinea and leaving them there. I cannot find words to describe my reaction. Except to say WHAT A STUPID LOAD ... well, anyway. I really do think Father Mulcahy said it best.

I am so outraged that I have emailed the Commonwealth minister for immigration to tell him what a load rubbish I think this policy is. And you can too. Either go to his website: http://www.tonyburke.com.au/get-in-touch/ or send a direct email: Tony.Burke@aph.gov.au.

What's all this got to do with working with my left hand? I'd like to use my left to smack a few heads together (such a humanitarian response). It's actually got nothing to do with working with my left hand. It's just a topic that has incensed me, so I thought I'd just go "blurgh" and spew my frustration onto the screen.

I've sat on Day 11 for a while now. Mediums I'm comfortable with include sewing - my machine doesn't convert to left handed mode; paper craft - rotary cutter in the wrong hand? I don't think so. Embroidery - working on heirloom pieces at the moment. Again, I don't think so. I didn't want to skip another day, but I was running out of ideas that would fit my theme (even a little).

 Tonight as I flicked the Pinterest sites, I saw this:

http://heartofthematteronline.com/3d-hand-drawings/ To someone who's studied art, it's probably old hat, but I've never studied art, so I was fascinated. If you've never studied art either, it's really quite simple. Draw a light pencil outline of your hand (or other object). Starting outside the object, draw a straight line until you hit a pencil line, draw a curved line across to the next pencil line, continue with a straight line. The deeper the curve, the 'higher' the 3D.

Because I'm mad, I thought that's what I'd do. I did a section of my drawing with my left hand. My goodness, that is hard. Straight lines? Consistent curves? Not chance! Part way through I swapped back to my right hand. Mainly so I could finish before midnight. The red line shows the change over.


Close up view of the jerky left-hand effort (above the line) and smooth right hand effort (below the line)

16 July 2013

Creativity Journal - Day 10 (Water)

Use only water as your medium/inspiration today.
Water has long fascinated me, particularly the impact of water on poverty. For many of us in the developed world (and I presume most readers of blogs live reasonably affluent lives) water, on demand, on tap, is a thing we take entirely for granted. If you think you don't, try this - find your main supply tap, usually with the water metre, and turn it off for 24 hours. You'll soon realise how many times you turn on the tap and simply expect water to come out of it.

This site, which I haven't explored in detail, explains some of the connections between water and poverty - http://thewaterproject.org/poverty.asp. The simple cycle is - if water has to be collected it's usually the children, and most likely the girls, that do so. Education is disrupted or worse non-existent. Children are given the task because parents are busy trying to earn a living. If the water is dirty, the ability to work by the parents or attend school by children (assuming they have time) is compromised. Simply by supplying clean water the cycle of poverty becomes so much easier to break. Illness is less common; time and energy are more available - when was the last time you piggybacked a five year old 10 kilometres and then worked a full, productive day?

As I was thinking about water, I was considering all the uses I put it to. How it is a base ingredient. Generally it has little flavour of its own, no colour, no odour, but when you add it to other things it releases flavours and odours, and magnifies colours. Here is how water has inspired me today.

I am a coffee addict in recovery. Coffee and I have an unhealthy relationship and generally I try to keep my distance. Every now and then, as a treat, I will have coffee. I don't have just any coffee. In fact, I dislike hot coffee and am rarely tempted to touch it. But iced coffee, ah. Drug of my choice. And here's how I make it.

Make a nice, strong, rich espresso.
Pour over ice.
I know it looks huge, but that is an espresso cup.
It's quite difficult to pour and take photos at the same time.

Add another espresso cup of water. Add about the same amount milk.
No vanilla, no flavourings, no sugar, no icecream, no cream. Just what it says it is - iced - coffee -.

The second inspiration with water today was completely different. Yesterday I bought four plain, white, long-sleeved t-shirts. Today I bought 8 metres of plain white fabric, 8 white-on-white FQs and four packets of dye.The super-duper bright yellow is in the wash. I've also got a purple, grey and green. It's a bit of a suck it and see with the colours. The colour on the packet is next to useless for actually knowing what you'll get. Not sure what I'm going to do with the fabric, but I figured there was no point 'wasting' the dye. One packet does 1 - 1.3kg of fabric. All up, my four loads, is still under 3kg. The FQs I'm thinking of turning into scarves, maybe necklaces, some sort of accessory, anyway. The white-on-white is doing just what I thought it would do - everything but the pattern has changed colour, so they will be white-on-colour. The first load is done and I'm loving the colour. The second load is in the machine.

Dye? Water? Where's the connection? It's really quite simple, isn't it? The packet of dye by itself is useless. Wouldn't matter what I did, without water, the dye is not going to make a bean's worth of difference to my fabric. Oh, I might end up with a couple of splotches, looking like I spilt something at dinner time, but it's only with water that I can colour three metres of fabric.
Lovely white on yellow for scarves or accessory. Super bright yellow t-shirt. Just the thing for a gloomy winter day.

2 metres of matching fabric to make ... something

Tell me - how do you like your coffee? What have you successfully dyed?

 5:00 pm update - second batch is on the line. Supposedly "olive", it's very brown. The white-on-white is wonderful though. I 'accidentally' used FQs with quite dense patterns. The pieces have dyed very white. I think they will be used to 'soften' the brownness of the shirt. Pictures in a later post.

15 July 2013

Creativity Journal - Day 9 (Breakfast)

Make something with your breakfast before you eat it.
A challenge that would be easier for me to take up in summer, or on a winter day when someone else hadn't filled the kitchen (and lounge and dining rooms) with smoke and had all the windows open. I like my breakfast hot, particularly in winter. A difficult call this morning, even without playing with it. Not to mention, I don't think too clearly first thing in the morning. The whole purpose of breakfast is to aid the wake up process.

Thankfully, I was on the end of the loaf. I'm not fond of peanut butter. I eat it if dinner seems too hard - easy protein. And, for some strange reason, I like it on toasted crusts. The main reason I don't like it is because my dad was allergic to peanuts. We weren't allowed to have any peanut products in our house ever. Of course, these days that's not uncommon, but when I was a kid, dad was the only person I knew that was allergic to peanuts. In fact, people often didn't believe me when I told them. What's changed in the past thirty years?

Some basic quilting techniques at play. I give you Vegemite and peanut butter quarter square triangle blocks. No concerns about bias here, but my beginning blocks weren't exactly square.

And for some sort of variety, a ... umm ... fish tangram (use your imagination, folks).
When was the last time you played with your food?

Day 8 update. After resoaking for a couple of hours, the pages seem to be sticking together. Unfortunately, it's not a very nice day, so no sun to help the drying out process.

14 July 2013

Creativity Journal - Day 8 (Book)

Transform an old book into something new by cutting, folding, gluing, and so on.
Oh, dear. Day 8.

This morning I read a post by one my favourite decoration/renovation bloggers, "This Sorta Old Life". It's about the power of failure. It's a good reminder because, I'm pretty sure Day 8 is going to end up failing. BUT in the process maybe I'll gain something of value anyway. Something that could not be gained by not failing.


First problem - I tend to look on books as something sacred. The thought of mutilating one is almost incomprehensible. However, I overcame my issues and found an idea I thought I could work with.

The plan was to raid the local op shops and find some books that I could turn into bookends. Our bookcases are open shelves. Smaller books tend to fall through the ends that aren't against the wall

Second problem - I experimented with some books at home to see if my idea would work in principle. Well, yes it would. However - I can see this will be post full of 'howevers' - I was envisaging matching books (i.e. encyclopaedias). The issue is that our bookshelves are full. Not just 'full' but FULL.Even after our recent decluttering, where we donated about a third of our collection to charity, our shelves are still full. Taking up a couple of inches on each shelf for a book end just wasn't going to work.

In playing with what I had, I realised that I didn't need a traditional L shaped bookend. If I had a flat, sturdy 'something' the depth of the shelf, and even just a couple of inches high, it could prevent the books falling out. This seemed to be moving away from the day's challenge, which is to transform a book, not just work with my book collection.

Idea - I have some old scrap books. Why not use one of them? It gets me around the issue of sacrilegious destruction of an actual book, they're thin, they're wide enough.

Now, how old is this scrap book? This all-but-blank-and-unused scrap book? Could I afford to sacrifice it? This scrap book was obviously intended as a interior decorating ideas book. The top of every second page or so has a room name. That's all. No actual ideas or information, just room names. And how old was it? One page was titled "Fred's Room". "Fred" was the bump's name when I was trying to avoid saying "it", but not knowing whether "it" was a he or she. She (as it turns out) is now 15. The book was probably disposable.

My idea - cut the book into four strips, glue all the pages together, paint each wedge, write words such as "book", "words", "read" and one more I still have to think up, on each one. Hey presto, end of shelf stops.


Firstly - glue the pages before you cut. Secondly - if you want to unintentionally wreck a book, soak it in a tub of water. If you intentionally want the pages to stick together, this will not work. I'm not sure what law of the universe is at work there, but I soaked the sections, laid them between layers of an old towel, put a weight on them and left them for a couple of days. Not a single page has stuck to another.

As I type the sections are sitting in a bucket of water SOAKING. I'm not holding out much hope for the success of this challenge. And I'm okay with that.

Firstly, I haven't lost anything. An hour or so of my time and an old scrap book that I was never going to use anyway. Secondly, I have worked out how to stop up the end of my bookcases. IF my current soaking doesn't work, the plan is simply cut out a couple of pieces of ply the right size, paint them up, write on them and produce the same functionality.

Which ever way it goes, when I finally have end stops on my shelves I will post an update.

What creative failures have you encountered?

13 July 2013

Garden update

In June 2008 we removed some rather large and very prickly/spiky palm trees. This first video is our front garden just before the removal. You may notice the large rocks creating some sort of garden border and the blue metal gravel under foot through most of the garden. In the early section there's a lilly-pilly near the fence; watch for it in the second video. It's finally growing!

This second video was taken today. As much as possible I've kept to the same path.

It'll look good when it's all cleared, levelled and mulched. Looking forward to getting plants in so they can grow, grow, grow.

12 July 2013

Family heirloom linens

Some time ago my dad's sister gave me some embroidery 'blanks' (I'm sure they have a 'proper' name, but I don't know what that might be). They belonged to her mum or her aunt Hillary. It's difficult to date them, but there are some brand notations on the edges of a couple, and I've tracked down some similar pieces from the 1940s.

What is an 'embroidery blank' exactly? Cloth with a outline drawing, which you embroider over. Most are linen, edged ready for tatting or crochet finishes to make up doilies or tray clothes. I've got flowers, birds, butterflies, some girls playing tennis, and some lovely ladies in crinoline.

Some of them have been started and my goal is to eventually finish them all. I don't know how to do the edge stitching. Might have to get someone to teach me that skill. Once they're finished, I'll pass them back to the rest of dad's family. I'm not sure what use any of us have for embroidered doilies and tray clothes, but they're the sort of thing you hand on down through the generations.

I've been working on a particularly lovely basket of flowers for a couple of weeks now. I finished the last leaf tonight. I find stitching while watching TV stops me from wanting to nibble. I'm not hungry, just need to keep my hands busy.

Tray cloth. The basket and a few flowers were already stitched.

Close up of the flower basket
Two doilies. These were already stitched.

Not a lot to go on, but enough for Google to give a tentative date.