Wednesday, September 23, 2009


We´ve been in Quito for 3 days now and leaving for Otavalo today. Unfortunately I don´t have any pictures to show yet as I somehow managed to leave my camera behind and I won´t see it for another week and a half when Sandy meets us in Peru. Dammit!

So the first day in Quito was mostly a write-off we made it till about 2pm and thought we´d have a little siesta and ended up sleeping for 5 hours in the afternoon. I think we were all a bit knackered from the 30hr trip and slight lack of oxygen due to altitude.

The second day was much better - we wandered round the old town which was lovely (much much nicer than the rest of Quito). We got some ok coffees (not quite Melbourne standard, but better than the nasty instant stuff we´ve been drinking).

changing of the guard

In the afternoon we took a bus trip to Mitad del Mundo (the equator monument). The monument is supposed to be standing right on the equator, but turns out the French got it wrong by a couple of hundred meters, but decided to leave it there. We got all the obligatory photos: jumping over the equator etc. I did a handstand over the line which turned out pretty well (after a few failed attempts using the timer on the camera).

Mitad del Mundo (Equator monument)

Yesterday was a pretty epic day. We thought we´d see how we were going with altitude by climbing Rucu Pichincha (which is almost 5000m above sea level - Quito is around 2000m, I think). It was a pretty hard slog. You can only manage about 20 steps uphill before you feel like you´ve run in the 800m final and have to stop to catch your breath. So it was very stop-start. We almost made it to the summit, but we got surrounded by thick clouds which made visibility pretty difficult, plus up the top there were hardly any footholds and we were trying to scramble up sand which was extremely tiring. It also got really cold and my fingers felt like they were about to freeze off, not to mention it was starting to rain. So we did the sensible thing and turned back. I was pretty glad, I can tell you.

The summit, obscured by clouds

some pretty scenery along the way

close to the top, almost a 45 degree slope, covered in sand

Sam got altitude sickness on the way down and looked like death warmed up. I didn´t feel great either - I got the characteristic pounding headache, but wasn´t vomiting like Sam was. I think it probably hasn´t helped that I´ve managed to pick up a cold and am not feeling 100%. Hopefully I´ll get over that soon.

Anyway, we´re off to Otavalo today (home of the famous textile market - YAY!!)

Until next time....


PS for more photos, go here

Friday, September 18, 2009

Five minutes of relaxing..

Sitting down on the couch with a Friday beer for 5 minutes of relaxing, before:

Packing for 8 weeks overseas.

Cleaning entire house in anticipation of house-inspection next week.

6.30am flight tomorrow.
28hrs of flying.

I feel tired already.

........but extremely excited!!!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Visual goodies

Today I thought I'd introduce you to one of my favourite artists, Yellena James.

I stumbled across her art about a year ago and absolutely loved it straight away. It's such a cool combination of whimsical, modern, edgy... I don't really know what to call it, but I love it.

I bought this print (above) at the start of the year, as well as a couple of others, but wouldn't you know it - I haven't had them framed yet! I really have to get them done before Christmas.

I think I might hang them in my sewing room, since there's not a lot of arty inspiration in there yet.

It should be pretty obvious by now that I like my art fairly abstract...

Some of her stuff makes me think of an underwater scene and reminds me of the scuba diving we did in Thailand. Mmmm diving.....

I think I want to buy some more of her prints.....

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Father's day

It's funny how today can start out like every other Sunday, and then give you an experience so surreal you're unlikely to forget it for a very long time.

Tonight Ryan and I were going to dinner at a friends' place in Brunswick. We thought the invitation was for 6.30pm, so were still getting ready when Ryan double-checked the invitation and realised it was for 6ish. By this stage we realised we were running a bit late, so Ryan volunteered to duck to the bottleshop around the corner from our house to grab a couple of bottles of wine while I dried my hair.

About 10 minutes later I'd finished drying my hair and Ryan still wasn't back. I thought maybe he hadn't left as soon as I'd started drying my hair, or maybe he'd spent a while deliberating over which wines to get... or maybe he'd gotten into a conversation with the guy at the bottleshop. I was mildly annoyed because we were already late and I was ready to go.

Another 10 minutes passed and I started trying to work out how long he'd been gone for. I thought I worked out that he must have been gone for at least 20-25 minutes... that can't be right...check the watch again. I started to get a bit anxious and then realised he didn't have his phone on him. I paced up and down a few times then went downstairs - surely he must be walking up the driveway by now?

I looked out the door. No Ryan. Then the sound of a siren close by. That sounds quite close. But again, it didn't really register because we hear sirens all the time around here. Nothing could have happened to Ryan - he just went around the corner to get some wine. He didn't even have to cross the road or anything, and I didn't hear car crash noises or anything that would make me think anything had happened.

I went downstairs again, because I was getting really anxious by now, and looked down the driveway. This time a figure comes sprinting up from the dark, and it's Ryan. He ran up to me, covered in sweat and blurts out that he's just been giving CPR to someone on the footpath for the last 10 minutes, he thinks he broke about 4 of the guy's ribs, that the ambulance is here now, and can I call our friends to let them know what's happened and that we'll be late. He said he's going to go back and to come out after I've called our friends.

So I went out onto the street, and a few doors up is an ambulance and a fire truck with its floodlight directed down to this middle-aged guy on the footpath, with about 3 ambulance officers and at least a couple of emergency firefighters. Ryan's got his arms around some poor girl (Claire) about my age, and I find out it's her father. They'd been driving home after what I can only assume was a father's day outing and he'd started having a fit in the car. She pulled over in our street and the first Ryan knew of it was hearing a gurgling noise and the girl calling for help.

The ambulance officers have the guy hooked up to a heart-rate monitor and are giving him CPR and shots of adrenaline. He's got the manual ventilator tube down his throat so you can clearly see his face, which is deathly grey and his eyes are open and glazed. We're all watching on, and watching the heart-rate monitor, hoping for some kind of heart-rate on there each time they use the defibrillator. It seems like a really long time that this is going on. I think they tried the defibrillator at least 3 or 4 times while I was watching. At this stage I'm pretty sure the guy is unlikely to make it, and then a really weak and erratic heart-beat shows up on the monitor. We all stand around, intensely watching the monitor, willing the beats per minute up. It makes it up to about 39bpm and slowly climbs to about 45.

Eventually he seems to stabilise at around 49bpm and they decide it's time to move him into the ambulance and take him to emergency.

At this point, we're still late for dinner, still don't have the wine.... what do we do? It seems trivial to walk off now and buy wine for a nice dinner, but what else can you do? Ryan, still shaken goes home for a shower and I grab his wallet and continue on to the bottleshop around the corner. I walk in, dazed and realise I only have $30 in cash and since it's not my wallet, don't have any access to eftpos or visa. It takes me forever to calculate which 2 bottles I can get for under $30 and I think the woman behind the counter must have thought there was something wrong with me that I couldn't do basic maths.

So I end up driving to our friend's place and Ryan and I had a bit of a talk about what happened. I asked him how he went with remembering CPR. Turns out he'd never done a first aid course and didn't know CPR at all apart from what he'd seen on tv.

I think it's fairly safe to say that he'll be getting his first aid certification pretty soon after we get back from our trip.

You really never know when you might need it.

So I think this is a timely reminder to brush up on your first aid knowledge. Do a course, or a refresher course if you've done one before.

I'm really proud that Ryan handled things as well as he did, and even though he was completely shaken by the whole experience I'm fairly sure that if something like that happened again he'd be a lot more confident in dealing with the situation.

I really hope the guy is ok and lives to see many more fathers days....

St John's Ambulance

Saturday, September 5, 2009


Argh! I hate running out of thread! I can't believe I only bought one reel of the navy blue. I'm beginning to realise that 100m of thread doesn't go as far as I thought.

I'm really going to have to make a list next time I go to Spotlight. I tend to go in with a fair idea of what I need to get, but as soon as I get there I'm like a deer in headlights.

I end up standing in front of all the thread for about 10 minutes with my mind blank, and I can't actually remember what I needed to get. I get distracted by all the other colours....'what if this isn't the right shade of green... is it this one?, I'm sure it's this one....better get both....ooh, that's a pretty colour!.....etc'. Usually I end up walking out with a bunch of colours that don't match any of the materials I have, and then don't get enough of the colours I actually need.

Oh well, looks like I'm making a trip to Spotlight tomorrow.

Running out of thread (or any supplies) mid-creative frenzy is up there with my least favourite things about sewing. I've come to realise I'm developing a list of favourite and least favourite parts of bag making, which I thought I'd share.

Least favourites:

Cutting out pattern pieces. I'm not really sure why I don't like this part. I think it probably has something to do with being so far from holding the finished product in my hand.

Pressing seams flat. Usually because the bag is already an awkward shape that doesn't fit on the ironing board or Elna press, and I don't have a sleeve board. I think I'm about to overcome this though, by buying an oven-mitt and just shoving my hand inside the bag with the oven-mitt on. I'll let you know how it goes. Either it will work really nicely or I'll end up with some sort of third-degree burns. I'm hoping for the former.

Peeling back/trimming excess interfacing. This always seems to take about 3 times as long as I think it will, and due to the extreme shortness of my fingernails I tend to have a lot more difficulty than most.

Turning straps in the right way after sewing the seam. This is always just tedious.

The bobbin running out halfway through something and not noticing until you go to cut the thread that it ran out 20 stitches into whatever you were doing. This usually happens when you think you've done a particularly neat job with topstitching.

Attaching snaps. I had a bruise on my thumb for a couple of weeks from a unfortunate mishap with a hammer and snap-setter.

Zippers. I don't know why I dislike them so much. I know they're not that hard to do, in fact, I've done a few pretty sucessfully and they weren't all that painful to do. For some reason they always seem like a bit too much effort so I find myself avoiding them. I have to stop being lazy.

Sewing the gap closed in the lining. Sometimes it can take me weeks to do this part. Usually it's because I just can't be bothered because the bag looks so close to being finished that I can't wait to start using it and showing people so I just use it with a hole in the lining. Sometimes I tell myself that it's in case I notice a mistake and have to change something, but usually it's just laziness.

Most favourites:

Topstitching straps. I get some good speed going on the sewing machine and it makes me feel like some kind of sewing pro, plus there are no curves so it's easy.

Pressing on interfacing. I like that feeling of when your material goes from feeling kinda flimsy and floppy to something with a bit more substance.

Attaching magnetic snaps. I like this because I'm confident doing it (not that it's difficult), and I like opening and closing it about 20 times, like someone with OCD , after I've attached it because it gives a satisfying 'snap' sound.

Backstitching the lining to the facing. I don't really know why I like this bit, but I do.

Pulling the whole bag through the hole in the lining. I like to call this bit the 'birthing' for fairly obvious reasons. You think it's not going to fit, but then a bit of pushing and squeezing and it somehow makes it through and you end up marvelling at how it fitted through a hole that small. I also particularly like this part because it means that I'm almost finished and can run downstairs to get my 'oohs and aahs' from Ryan.

Showing people what I've made. Well that pretty much goes without saying, doesn't it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The collaboration

Right, so I promised some pictures of my friend Chrissy's art that made me think her style would suit being printed onto fabric. I found these pics online and didn't think she'd mind a bit of cross-promoting.

I think that her use of clean lines and bold colours lends itself really nicely to translation into surface design. I really love the little alien figures too - they're quirky but cute.

Man I can't wait to do this - it's so exciting!

Rumour has it that she may be illustrating a children's book in the near future. Pretty talented huh?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Love Hate and Amy Butler

I have a love/hate relationship with Amy Butler.

I love her because she makes awesome fabric designs that I could only dream of coming up with. There's barely been anything she's done that I haven't instantly liked. Kudos, Amy.

The problem is, well - I really like her...... but so do about a zillion other people. The market is absolutely and completely saturated with people using Amy Butler fabrics. To the point that despite loving her work, I absolutely refuse to use any of her designs in any work I do. Point blank refuse.

This problem is not solely with Amy Butler either. I remember loving Joel Dewberry's 'Sparrows' fabric instantly when I first saw it...... and then I saw it everywhere, and now I'm completely turned off it. Maybe I'm a bit pig-headed about being a tiny bit original, but as soon as I see other people using a fabric I really like I instantly find myself all ho-hum about it.

And so I scour the internet for stuff I haven't seen before. God, I spend hours trawling for stuff that I both like and haven't seen anyone else use. Of course I haven't found too many of these fabrics because I'm quite stringent with what I'll let into my fabric stash. Even the ones I previously liked can fall out of favour with me. Not so good when I've got a couple of metres of the stuff sitting in my box.

So, in order to get some original fabric that I like - what better way than to get some of my own made?

I've suggested a collaboration with my artist friend Chrissy. She does some really funky modern stuff that I love and would really lend itself well to textiles or wrapping paper. I'll have to see if she'll let me put a picture of one of her works up on here so you can see what I mean. Anyway I mentioned a collaboration the other day and she seemed really keen! So, with our powers combined - her artistic talent and my sketchy knowledge of creating repeating patterns in Illustrator, I'm hoping we can come up with something cool and get it printed on Spoonflower. How awesome would that be?

...and the steam train rolls on

Well I've been a busy girl this weekend, but I now have something pretty to show for it. This one is a (late) birthday present for my friend Sandy.

It's basically the same as the last one I did (with obvious differences in colours). The only difference is that I've improved the internal pockets. On the last bag, the pockets were a bit shallow and flimsy, which made it a bit of a struggle trying to put things in the main compartment because the pockets were gaping all over the place and catching whenever I went to put my wallet in (I gave it a test-drive on the weekend).

I gave the lining a layer of heavy woven iron-on interfacing to give it a bit more structure. I also made the pockets a bit deeper and gave them some interfacing also, and I also ran another line of stitching to secure the pockets a bit more at the sides. It seems to have done the trick, although I'll have to get some feedback from Sandy when she's used it a bit more. I'm still thinking of pulling the lining out of the first bag and re-doing it. Depends on how annoying I keep finding it.

I'm also going to have to get much faster at making these things. I managed to take almost a full 12 hours to make the bag (there were a few net-surfing breaks though..). I've found that all the extra interfacing means it takes a lot longer to make, particularly trimming all the interfacing from the seam allowance. I've realised that I really really have to grow my nails (at least on both my thumbs) as being a habitual nail-biter, my nails are always short and stubby which makes it really difficult trying to peel the interfacing off the material. If anyone has any great tips on how to speed this process up I'd love to hear from you as it's really slowing me down. I'm thinking of shaving a few millimetres off the interfacing before I attach it to the fabric so it at least makes it easy to start peeling it back.

I'm also loving these antique brass oblong rings and accompanying slide-adjusters from Nicole Mallalieu Design. I think they're a bit more understated (in a good way) than the shiny-shiny silver ones.

I also need to come up with a name for the bag... I was thinking the 'Excursion' bag since I designed it as a travel handbag, but I'm not sure. My pattern has 'shoulder bag' written on it, but that's a bit bland. What kind of bag does it look like to you?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mission complete

.....Presenting Baggie Bagaloo!

....Ok that's just its pet name (and a very silly one at that). I'm thinking I might call it something a bit more sensible like the 'Excursion bag' or something seeing as I designed it specifically as a travel handbag.

I have to say that I'm really quite pleased with myself. I designed the bag, drafted the pattern and made it (with only minimal unpicking) all by myself, and it all fitted together beautifully! I'm really quite chuffed with my first Ambette bag. I think I might just go admire it again for a while......

Ok, I'm back.

The rest of these photos aren't really necessary, but sometimes I just like to play with the macro function on my camera and see all the little close-up details. I like how the macro function gives nice crisp clear photos. Perhaps it appeals to the scientist in me - kind of looking at something under the microscope...

...*runs off to admire bag again*

There really is something quite satisfying about creating something of your own, isn't there?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Work in progress

When it comes to me and creativity, I'm a bit like a steam train: slow to get started, but once I pick up speed I'm hard to stop. This definitely rings true for starting new projects. I spend ages in the planning phase and it seems to take forever to actually sit down and start doing things. This has been particularly true of late - between working full-time, playing hockey, planning the big South America trip, and still trying to have some sort of social life, it's easy to just sit on the couch and veg with a glass of wine.

So I have my friend Adelia to thank for giving me the kick up the bum I needed. She's just gotten into sewing/bag making, and she was telling me on the weekend about all the sewing she's been doing and I realised I was getting behind the 8-ball a bit. Not to be outdone, I decided to get started on a bag that I might use for the impending trip.

I spent a bit of time tonight drafting the pattern. Basically the criteria was that it had to be an across-the-shoulder adjustable strap bag, which had a flap (good pickpocket deterrent), and wasn't too big and cumbersome, but also big enough to carry a few things like camera, wallet etc.

I cut all the pieces out and interfaced them with heavy fusible woven interfacing and wadding, and got as far as making the body and the flap. I also decided on two magnetic catches on the flap rather than one so it would sit a bit more nicely. I think I'll also use the antique brass oblong rings (pictured on top of the bag) for the straps and slide-adjusters.

I also need to have a bit more of a think about what kind of pockets will be handy on the inside - any suggestions are welcome as you may think of something I've overlooked.

Anyway, now that I've started the project I can't wait to get it finished. I'm also hoping to give the design a good road-test while I'm overseas so I can tweak the pattern when I get back and hopefully make a few more, either for Christmas presents or to finally put up for sale in my very empty Etsy store.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Time for some photos

Well, thanks to some prompting from Sandra of Pepperberry & Co, I finally decided to take some photos of some recent purchases and things I've made lately.

These earrings are the ones I got a couple of weeks ago from the Rose St Artists Market. Aren't they awesome! This is also my first attempt at photographing products a bit more professionally. The 'lightbox' is pretty amateur though as you'll see a bit further down.

This one is me, wearing the scarf from the Rose St market. Apparently some of the proceeds go to helping educate women in Cambodia, so not only do you get a nice scarf, you're helping people out as well. Nice! I also have a soft spot for Cambodia, having been there back in 2006. Believe me, they need all the money they can get when it comes to education.

...And just in case you were wondering what that artwork was behind my head, here it is in full. This one's my pride and joy. It's a signed limited edition print by Josh Agle (otherwise known as Shag). It's called 'welcome to your beautiful new lifestyle' and was given to me for my birthday by my awesome boyfriend.

Here's another one (also given to my by my boyfriend) called 'Alligator'. I got this for my birthday a couple of years ago and I love it!

These are some pics of a couple of bags I've made recent(ish)ly. The one on the left is a Nicole Mallalieu 'Baguette', and the one on the right is just a laptop sleeve I made for my laptop, which ended up being the wrong dimensions and is now just a 'whatever sleeve'.

This is my extremely amateurish and makeshift 'lightbox'. I'm going to make a proper on one day, but this was all I had on hand today.

Basting the edges together on the baguette, prior to sewing in the gusset.

This is the Elna press I bought on ebay

....and finally, my creative space!