dear 2013

Dear 2013, I just want to say … you were awesome.

Sock Monkee Therapist

In January, I made many monkees.

I had a sweet overnight visitor

L. spent several weeks with me, and we had many sweet moments.

Me and my pirate boy. Love you, son @jestus

February brought my boy Jesse to my door.

This magical sprite holds the #key to my heart

Together we traveled to Australia to welcome Miss Cali Hashi to the family.

@tuisted and #jaicook on the Brisbane river ferry

I was still there in March, spending time with more special people.

Desert globemallow

April took The Guy & I (+ dog) to Death Valley, for our first camping trip together.


May was all about tree research. We spoke to many nursery staff as we narrowed our list.

Lion Creek

In June the trees were delivered! Many holes were dug, gopher and deer cages built, and those babies were planted. Then we went camping, on the hottest weekend in history. Whew!


July brought sewing, hiking, gardening, and celebrations.

Brown pelicans

Summer fun continued in August. We bought a couch and threw a party. We went to outdoor concerts and kept buying plants.

Watched a historic defeat of the home team tonight. Most runs scored by any team ever at Dodger Stadium. And it was their arch rivals, the Giants, who shamed them.

Baseball. Lake Arrowhead. LACMA. Friends. September did not disappoint.


Little Corey James surprised us by coming early, so in October I flew back to Australia for some extended cuddle time.


In November the Christmas-gift-making began in earnest.


And December continued to blow me away with the beauty of the world around me.

So, yeah, 2013 … you done good. Thanks so much. I’m looking forward to hanging out with your buddy 2014.


the peace of wild things

Fence lizard

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

(this is why i hike)

the (tiny) cost of using your own produce bags


I had a crazy argument with the cashier at my supermarket yesterday. As well as taking my own carry bags, I take my own bags for produce. Some of them I’ve sewn from netting, others are recycled onion bags.

Yesterday, the cashier started removing all my vegetables to weigh them out of their bags. When I expressed alarm, she claimed that it was illegal for her to charge me for the weight of my bag.

Me: “The bag’s weight is insignificant. Please just leave the food in the bags.”
She: “I cannot! It’s a Weights and Measures violation!”
Me: “But you don’t take the food out of your plastic bags to weigh it!”
She: “Our bags don’t weigh anything.”
Me: “And neither, in the scheme of things, do mine. I’ve been bringing my own bags for years. This has never been an issue.”
She (as she was about to tip all my Brussels sprouts out onto the scale): “It’s illegal! It’s a Weights and Measures violation.”
Me: “This makes no sense. Please call a manager.”

I ended up leaving with my produce intact. When I got home, I decided to weigh my bags, to see how much I was actually paying for them.


Brussels sprouts, no bag: 24 ounces exactly.


Brussels sprouts, in supermarket plastic bag: 24.05 ounces.


Brussels sprouts, in my bag: 24.1 ounces.

So, my bags weigh 0.05 ounces more than the supplied plastic produce bags. One-twentieth of an ounce. 1.4 grams. For the Brussels sprouts, I paid $0.007 extra because I used my own bag. All up, I paid an extra 3c on my grocery bill.

Yeah, I think it was worth it.

embroidered flour sack kitchen towels: tutorial

Teatowel tag

Lots of my loved ones received this Christmas gift: a set of two embroidered flour sack tea towels. I thought you might like a tutorial for this easy project.

Note: If you wish to share this tutorial, please repost one photo and link back to this original post. Do not repost the entire text and pictures. Thank you!

embroidered flour sack tea towels

Start with purchased, unadorned, flour sack kitchen towels. (I got sets of four at Target.) Wash and dry them on high settings, to gain maximum shrinkage. Unstitch the hem over the labels, and discard the labels. Iron the towel, stretching it out as you go.

embroidered flour sack tea towels

Draw a line parallel to the selvedge with a disappearing marker. I did mine 1.75″ from the edge, because it seemed a pleasing distance and that was where the previous label had been. Unstitch a little of the hem on the both sides of the towel, for an inch or so on each side of your drawn line.

Thread your needle with all six strands of embroidery thread. The length of the thread should be about 125% of the width of your towel. Tie a knot in one end. Slip your needle inside the hem, and come up through to the right side of the towel within the hem allowance.

embroidered flour sack tea towels

Taking smallish running stitches, sew evenly along your line till you get to the other side.

embroidered flour sack tea towels

Do your finishing knot within the other hem allowance. Stitch a second row just above your first, starting and finishing as above. You can use the same or a different colour thread. I didn’t draw a second guide line; I just eyeballed the distance.

embroidered flour sack tea towels

With white thread, restitch the hems over your embroidery. This will hold your knots tightly and prevent unraveling. Press your towels, fold them nicely, and tie a ribbon around the set.

Embroidered tea towels

I made two versions of the label: this one is for those with littlies in their lives. Spot the difference?

car caddies and (too) tiny pants

More handmade Christmas roundup.


Above photo by Nettie.

For toddler nephews, a pair of car caddies. Apparently they were a big hit, which of course gladdens this crafter aunty’s heart. I should have included a matchbox car with each, but thankfully they can supply their own :-)


For Corey-pie, stretchy pants. But I was delusional about babies’ growth in the first four months of life, so these are gonna be no use to him. Cute, but tiny! Ahem, time to make some bigger ones! Sorry, Corey!

blank story books: free download


The blank story books I made for Miss Six back in July were so well-received, I thought I’d whip up some more for the other smallish people in my life. This time, I created a PDF that you guys can download and use. Just print whichever you pages you fancy, double sided. I reckon eight pages (two sheets, double sided, folded) is about right for a little kid’s story, but you can bundle them up however you like. Mix and match.


My covers are cut from manila file folders, and hand stitched with dental floss. Easy peasy. I’m sure you can do something prettier or fancier. Give a handful of ’em with a pack of pencils, crayons or markers, then sit back and enjoy the stories they create.

These PDFs are for your personal use, or for giving as gifts. You do not have permission to sell any materials created from these files.

Download for 8.5″ x 11″ paper here.
Download for A4 paper here.


christmas without you


I miss my family at Christmas. The excitement of littlies, the chaos, the food, the crackers, the tree. Yesterday we opened gifts via FaceTime, and later videos were posted (so I could see how much glee the bubble wrap brought), and that was all lovely. Thank goodness for the technology that allows these connections.

Today good food and wine were shared with dear people, and pleasantness abounded, but …. I miss my family. Especially at Christmas. Love you guys so so much. Big hard hugs to you all.

toddler fedoras


Felix has loved this hat since Tui first gave it to him. He’s been wearing it daily for about a year — even to bed, sometimes — and its looking the worse for wear.

Baby fedora

So I decided to make him a new one for Christmas.

Baby fedora

And, while I was at it, I made one for Cali too.

For both, I used this pattern. The fabric came from thrifted suit pants (finest Italian wool, $1 each!) The lining is cotton voile from my stash.

The project was a bit challenging, and my top stitching is far from perfect. But the babies won’t notice that, I’m sure.

I hope Rhea will send me photos later, but for now I have some Christmas morning FaceTime screen grabs.

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 1.31.14 PM

Felix thought the hat was fine, but that the bubble wrap was AWESOME!

Screen Shot 2013-12-24 at 1.31.59 PM

Cali kept hers on for approximately 2 seconds before pulling it off.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

cute little covered notebooks

Something weird happens to me in December. After the big push to get gifts made, wrapped, and in the mail to Australia early in the month, you’d think I’d breathe a big sigh of relief and step away from the sewing machine and paints. Maybe read a big book, or spend my weekends outdoors.

But no, I always feel like I’m all fired up for makin’ and just getting started. I look at the birthday list for next year, stalk Pinterest, and start plotting. I’ve got ten days off work, and I suspect most will be spent right here in my treehouse.

Soon I’ll show the gifts I sent to loved ones, but today I want to share yesterday’s project: covered mini composition books.

Mini composition book covers

I used the template found here. Before you start, be warned: not all mini composition books are exactly the same size. I bought some from both CVS (square corners) and Staples (round corners).


The Staples versions, while claiming to be 4-1/2″ x 3-1/4″, vary in size. Some are clearly a full sixteenth of an inch wider, and do not fit the template. To make these work, you’d need to draw a revised template adding 1/16th inch to both the front and back panels. (Me, I’m just going to give my 10 Staples books to one of the many friendly printers I know, and get them trimmed down to size on an industrial guillotine before proceeding.)

Mini composition book covers

For the light blue covers, I wasn’t fond of the color of my card stock, so I gave them a wash with dark blue watercolor before assembly. These are now my favourites.


For the string, I made a twisted cord with doubled Coats Button and Carpet thread. For the off-white nameplates, I printed a pale beige tint over a sheet of address labels, and hand cut them to size before drawing on the border. Imperfect? Yep, and that’s how I like it.


I’m not one to get all squealy over little cute things, but I do think these are freaking adorable while being useful. The perfect little gift for workmates, methinks.



This year’s elving is proceeding apace, and the Australian gifts are wrapped, boxed, and customs-declared. Tomorrow I get to annoy the post office lady with parcels to seven different addresses, while seventy-five people wait impatiently behind me. Ah, the joys of Christmas.