A couple of years ago I attended a workshop on rug making. It was a somewhat random decision, inspired by fabulous display of rag rugs at the annual Perth craft fair, and by the people actively working on rugs to show how it’s done. The workshop was organized by the Rugmakers Guild (yes, it’s totally a thing) and was held in Mandurah. I opted to avoid a hour of driving each way by catching the train from Perth and then the free shuttle bus to the venue and felt just a little smug about that as the train whooshed past the peak hour traffic…

The Guild President, Judith Stephens, was over from South Australia to attend the craft fair, show off her beautiful hand made rugs and to run some workshops in conjunction with the local chapter of the Guild. She told us that it was common practice for Australian families to recycle old clothing, blankets and left over fabric back in the 1880s, turning them into rag rugs to warm their homes. Although the craft petered out over the years, there has now been a huge resurgence of interest in rag rugs worldwide – both as an art and craft.

rag rug workshop_27may13The workshop was fun, as was learning some of the very peculiar terminology used by rug makers, e.g. proddy, proggy, hooky and clippy. It’s a whole other language! We learned a few different techniques and most people managed to complete a sample – a sort of mini-rug. I came home super enthusiastic about taking up rug making as my new hobby. The idea of recycling old t-shirts and the like into something useful had enormous appeal.

It also sounded like a plausible pastime for someone planning on moving out to the back-of-beyond. It ticked the craft, recycling and creative boxes perfectly. So, when DaughterDearest’s birthday arrived not long afterwards, I purchased her all the gear for her to get started. Did I ask her if she’d like to do it? Of course not! Motherrrr knows best…

Yeah. Not so much. This was one of those times when I was actually buying something I wanted. What she really wanted bookshelves. So, since I hadn’t bought myself any of the gear, we swapped: I simply reclaimed the gear (so that I could start a rug) and purchased the shelving (so she had somewhere for her overload of books). Everyone was happy.

But somehow time passed. Lots of things happened. More things happened… and my roundtuit didn’t ever quite manage to fit unpacking the gear and using it.

Finally (yes, getting to the point at last), inspired by a desire/need to come up with a craft-related #blogjune post, I hunted all the paraphernalia down over the weekend… and started my first fledging bedside rag rug! It’s still fun, still easy and Himself had a couple of t-shirts he didn’t need anymore…

Rag rug started June 2016

I haven’t quite figured out how to use the rug hooking folding lap frame effectively, finding it easier to just hold the hessian in one hand as I hook the strips of t-shirt fabric through it. I may have to attend one of the Guild meetings to get some tips on that.

Lap frame for rug making

Mr Lincoln in bloomIt seems I’m a bit of a traditionalist in some ways. This must be the case because, although I love roses in general, red roses are – and have always been – my favourite.

When we moved into this house (many) years ago, there were three standard white roses out the front of the house. All very Homes-and-Garden, really, and altogether to orderly for me. In due course they were salvaged by a friend and replanted in her garden, where they fitted in perfectly.

I’ve always meant to replace them with some not-at-all standard red rose bushes, but have never found just the right variety. Then, when I was in Tasmania last November, I came across Mr Lincoln – the perfect red rose for me. It’s a hybrid tea rose, produces beautifully fragrant long stemmed blooms, and grows to 1.8 metres of untidy rose garden beauty. Bellissima!

So towards the end of summer I went hunting for Mr Lincoln and found a bush that was perfect for one of the few remaining spaces in our garden. I was a little concerned as to how well it would do there, given that the spot is only part-sun, but it’s thriving. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been gifted with a few late autumn blooms and have revelled in finally having my very own red roses to enjoy – both in the garden and indoors, where they fill the air with essence of rose-happiness 🙂

Apparently I should prune the bush back by 70% this winter to ensure good growth for next season… eek?

18 months ago I was given 800g of beautifully soft natural cotton Bendigo yarn. It’s a delicious colour called pomegranate and I was sure it’d be a pleasure to knit with… but what to knit? After my usual period of procrastination, pattern hunting and visits to Ravelry, I arrived at a decision. I’ve often wished I had some sort of small, easy to transport blanket, particularly when at outdoor cinema events or sitting at my computer, so I opted to turn the yarn into a simple lap/travel rug.
knitting book
None of the patterns I found appealed to me though, and nor did the idea of knitting individual patterned squares and sewing them up. So, in the end, I devised my own idea. The bulk of the rug is worked in an Irish moss diamond stitch that I found in a great book of knitting stitches a friend gave me many years ago. I’ve used the book innumerable times when at a loss to find just the right stitch for a project – and this was no exception.

A simple corded cable (also from the book) runs along each long edge and I’m adding a plain moss stitch border all the way round to complete the design. Because sewing things up doesn’t appeal to me much, I’ve chosen to knit the rug all in one piece. It’s growing (slowly) and has been keeping me from going completely troppo whilst dog-sitting. I’m about halfway there now, so it’s also finally big enough to keep my lap toasty warm – definitely a plus.

pomegranate blanket

I started this chicken piñata on a whim a couple of weeks ago, mostly to fill time whilst puppy-sitting. But, as it progressed,  the process started to become quite compulsive. The simple balloon body soon grew a neck, another (smaller) balloon for a head, a tail (constructed in two stages), a beak, plumage and, finally, a pair of very handsome feet.  Wet weather is not ideal for this sort of project, but it can be done. Each stage involved many strips of very sticky papier mâché, followed by some time in front of my hair dryer and/or the heater to dry and harden the layers.

It took us 16 days to shape the body, apply 6-7 layers of papier mâché (some areas needed extra, for strengthening), cover it with two layers of paint, add some fine details, insert strings to hang it up, cut a hatch in the top and then finally fill it with lollies. All in all it took about 40 hours from start to finish.  A long haul, but we both had lots of fun and found it both creative and surprisingly relaxing.

 

pinata early stages

pinata final stages

pinata completed_7may2016

 

 

 

With a pair of toddlers (otherwise known as puppies, 18 months and 3 months old respectively) at home, I’ve been thrown back into the deep-end of stay-at-home-mum life. The gaps between feeding them, playing with them, walking them, cleaning up behind them, making sure they don’t chew anything important or squish each other (one weighs 25kg, the other 5kg!) are few and far between.

Puppies are fun, no doubt about it, but this stage does remind me of when my human children were small. When they finally conk out for a nap it comes as a welcome break, but it’s also quite regularly when my brain starts reminding me about the restless nights monitoring said children/pups. Sleeeep, it says, sleeeeep nowwwwww

With the children, well meaning friends and relatives – even strangers – would tell me, ‘Nap when the babies nap. Make the most of your time.’ After a while I started to wonder whether they all had home help. Or perhaps they had a secret supply of magical wee folk lurking in the background, ready to do all the nasty accumulated chores in exchange for small gifts of food…

In the absence of magical or other help, and with catch-up-sleep the stuff of daydreams, I nevertheless learned that it was possible to chunk away at various tasks while the babies napped – sometimes even while they entertained themselves for brief periods.

Similarly, the first few weeks with the two dogs together have been pretty full on. House-training a new pup takes determination and vigilance, also a goodly supply of paper towel and a bottle of clean-up spray. We’re getting there and, in some ways, it’s no worse than potty training. If anything, it’s easier as it’s taking far less time. Nunzio/Cassie’s conquered the doggy door and now usually makes it to the lawn in time (and there was great rejoicing!).

As with any toddlers, playtime can be a tad fraught – although Molly has been surprisingly patient and it’s suddenly clear just how much she’s matured over the past few months. However, the puppy has an endless supply of nippy little teeth and a good deal of persistence, and patience definitely has its limits. The trick is to leave them to it and to intervene/distract just before drama happens. That way some learning happens, but she doesn’t get chased and stomped on too badly. This too shall pass – Molly’s coping and her Nunzio’s getting bigger and less squishable each week.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMER

Meantime, I fit writing in where I can, conquer the household chores where possible and – today, after a certain amount of procrastination, have finally started my chicken-piñata. This has already entailed a certain amount excitement. The first balloon I inflated exploded – making both dogs duck for cover and me dive for the remains before either of them could decide they were edible! Later, the second balloon – now part-covered with strips of soggy papier mâché – got knocked off it’s stand and fell on Molly’s head, pretty much confirming her notion that balloons are très dangereux 🙂

Piñatas take about 50 hours to create, from start to finish, depending on how large and how complicated you decide to make them. The process is done in stages to allow the layers of papier mâché to dry, which is just as well since nap times are fairly brief. I’m 3 hours in, having made the glue, torn up some newspaper and started to apply the first layer. With luck, by the time I have this piñata completed we should be through the worst of the toddler stage…