27 August 2012


I'm excited. August is nearly over and spring is officially starting at the end of this week. We've had a taste of warmer weather in Sydney and the plants in my garden are starting to wake from their winter slumber.

The National Year of Reading theme for September is GROW, so in honour of that and the approaching season, I'm sharing my fave gardening books with you.They are all written by Australians.

Shirley Stackhouse's My Gardening Year is a classic. I have the old edition, but this is the cover of the updated edition, with two of my favourite flowers on the cover. Love aqueligias and nigellas! The book is arranged month-by-month, with lists of what to plant and what is in flower or fruit, as well as suggestions for tasks to be carried out in each month. Invaluable.

The Ross family is my fave gardening family. Such a wealth of information that has been passed on! I used to love watching husband and wife Sandra and Graham Ross when they had a TV gardening show. Their daughter Linda has joined them in the garden writing field. From the Ground Up is a wonderful local guide - the subtitle says it all.

Meredith Kirton is another wonderful garden writer. Her Harvest: a complete guide to the edible garden is a thorough guide to starting and maintaining a vegetable gardening. Meredith's other books, Dig, An Hour in the Garden and Plot are equally useful and enjoyable.

Totally drool-worthy is Kitchen Gardens of Australia by Kate Herd. This is a book that shows how gorgeous vegetable, fruit and herb gardens can be. I lost myself in this one for days! Photography has captured these gardens at their very best.

Now, this book is for dreaming. Graham, Sandra and Linda Ross are back again to show us some of the most inspirational gardens they have seen. If you love the way a beautifully-designed and maintained garden can soothe, this is the book for you.

I've read many other great gardening books and probably don't know about many more. Tell me about the ones you love so we can all GROW together!

22 August 2012

Greater Western Sydney Modern Quilt Guild

Modern Quilt Guilds are springing up all over the place. Last Monday I went to the first meeting of the GWSMQG, to check out whether this might be a group for me.

I'm not a natural joiner of groups. I prefer to do most of my sewing alone because it allows me to focus on what I am doing. I just make stuff and enjoy the process. I don't need external validation of what I do.

However, getting out and chatting with other quilters can often be fun so, after confirming that a couple of friends would be there, I set off to the meeting.

It was a great night! It was fun to be in a room with so much positive energy. There were 22 quilters there - some with lots of quilt making experience and some with little, but it didn't matter. A good time was had by all.

If you live in Sydney, you should come, too! GWSMQG has a blog here, a Twitter page here and a Facebook page here. The first Sunday Sew Along will be on 9 September so, after you RSVP, grab your sewing and come along.

18 August 2012

Hyacinth emerging

A glimpse of the secret that will emerge from my hyacinth bulb.
 A peek into the future.

13 August 2012

How to make silk paper

Making silk paper is simple and fun. This technique is sometimes called silk fusion. It allows you to play with soft silk fibres to create a versatile piece of fabric that can form the base for many projects.

It's a great activity for a group of like-minded friends. If each person brings a different coloured silk top bundle, you can swap and mix colours. It's quick to make silk paper, so there's plenty of time for chatting and drinking cups of tea while waiting for the silk paper to dry!

You will need:
Plastic table covering
Two small plastic containers
Dishwashing liquid
Textile medium
Two pieces of A4-size white tulle (or larger if you want to make large sheets)
Silk top fibres
Pegs or bulldog clips
Small brush or roller
Sponge or paper towel

Hand-dyed silk tops

Step 1
Cover the table with a layer of newspapers. Place the plastic table covering on top. This will protect the table from moisture. Alternatively, you could work on a large plastic tray.

Step 2
Half fill one plastic container with warm water and add a few drops of dishwashing liquid. This combination will break down the surface oils on the silk and allow the textile medium to penetrate. In the other container, mix three parts of warm water with one part of textile medium. This is the mixture that will adhere the silk fibres together.

Step 3
Place one piece of tulle on the plastic. Tease out the silk fibres and start placing a fine layer of them on top of the tulle. Lay them in the same direction and cover as much of the tulle as possible.

Step 3

Step 4
Once the first layer of fibres is complete, lay out the second layer in a different direction. The silk paper will be stronger if the fibres cross over.

Step 4
Step 5
Usually two layers is sufficient to make a sheet of silk paper suitable for stitching onto another fabric. If thicker silk paper is required, add a third (and even fourth) layer of fibres, alternating their directions.

Step 6
Place the second piece of tulle on top. Pat it down carefully, ensuring that the silk fibres stay in place. Use pegs or bulldog clips to secure the tulle pieces.

Step 7
Use the brush or roller to thoroughly wet the layers with soapy water. Turn the piece over and thoroughly wet the other side as well. Gently work the water through the layers. The more layers of silk fibres there are, the longer this will take. Gently adjust any fibres that have slipped out of place.

Step 7

Step 8
Use a clean sponge or paper towel to dab through the tulle on both sides. It is important to remove any excess water. The silk should remain damp.

Step 9
Use a clean brush or roller to thoroughly wet the layers on both sides with the water/textile medium mixture. Gently work it through the layers.

Step 10
Use a paper towel to blot the excess mixture. Hang the sheet outside to dry. Once dry, remove the pegs or bulldog clips and carefully peel away the tulle from both sides. Be gentle – some fibres may adhere to the tulle, so ease the layers apart slowly.

Step 10

Step 11
Press the silk paper with an iron on the silk setting.

Ideas for using silk paper
  • When making silk paper, metallic threads, Angelina fibres, embellishments or any yarn scraps can be scattered on the top layer of silk fibres before the second piece of tulle is added. These will adhere to the top layer of the silk paper and provide interesting patterns.
  • Sheets of silk paper can be machine or hand stitched. They make beautiful notebook covers, small bags or can be added to quilts. I made two A4-sized journal quilts that feature silk paper as the top layer – Peaks of Flame and Goddess Roseus. The first was machine stitched with a variety of threads including gold metallic ones, while the second was intensively hand stitched all over with cotton thread.

Detail of Goddess Roseus
  • Sheets of silk paper may be pleated or beaded. It may also be cut into strips for simple strip weaving. This allows a further level of embellishment to adorn projects.
  • Pieces of silk paper may be made to any size. While it is wet, silk paper can be moulded around items such as bowls. It can also be shaped into vases or small containers.

    I'd love to hear from you if you've used this tutorial to make silk paper. Email me!

11 August 2012

Spring is coming

On this cold, bleak day in Sydney there are still signs - both negative and positive - that spring is not too far away. The negative - our annual August winds have arrived on cue. August is often the coldest month of the year here and the westerly winds bring chill straight off snow in the Blue Mountains.

I spent an hour picking up debris from the trees that had dropped branches in the garden. I'm sure my snowpeas weren't happy at being horizontal instead of upright! I'll leave them on the ground until the winds ease tomorrow.

The positive - my hyacinth bulb has sprouted roots that are reaching into the water of this bulb vase. Look at that healthy growth coming out of the top!

I love growing hyacinths this way. At every step of the way, the magic of growth is visible. I am nurturing two bulbs this year and am anticipating the glorious flowers and perfume that they will discharge.

Thankful to savour each day and the changes that I observe. 

06 August 2012

Mad Quilters Gathering

Yesterday morning I drove to the Mad Quilters Gathering at Penrith. Easy access, free parking close to the venue and quality patchwork and quilting vendors made this a great excursion. I may have bought some fabric.

01 August 2012


I made these yesterday for an ATC swap later this month. Slightly distorted angles make them look as if they're not square, but they really are.

My hand-dyed fabric, screen printed by me with a drawing of a Medieval plant (from a copyright-free Dover book of images). 


I have a couple of hundred ATCs from swaps in previous years. I'm looking forward to seeing what comes my way this time.