Tales From the Box

A story of a beach house in the Blue Mountains

Moose Art

Just a quick one today to share some Etsy love.

I bought these goodies recently from Moose Art, an awesome little Etsy store. 4 different rolls of fabric tape, sweet little designs. This stuff is really good value, as you really only use a little bit at a time, so it goes a long way.

I loved the packaging that my goodies arrived in – not too fancy, but a sweet, personal touch. It’s the little things that make certain sellers stand out, that little extra bit of effort that makes you remember them.

FYI: we weren’t paid to promote this Etsy seller, I just randomly found them and decided to purchase their products.

 

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A woman’s legacy

Daniel’s aunt passed away early last year. Margaret was a lovely, kind, gentle, generous woman, who was beloved by all who knew her. She had the single most positive, sunny disposition I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

After Margaret’s passing, her family graciously and generously gave me her sewing machine. It is a beautiful old machine: solid, sturdy, dependable. I believe she bought it when she was first married 50 years ago.

 

 

Margaret was of that generation of women who were the daughters of WW2: practical, down to earth, creative, and with so generous a spirit that no one in their circle of acquaintance went without in times of need.

These women were taught home-keeping skills by their own mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters; skills which usually included some form of craft – sewing, needlework, knitting, crochet. Except that, to these women, it wasn’t a “craft” as we think of it today. It was a necessity. You learned to sew because sometimes you had to make or mend your own clothes or home furnishings. You learned to knit or crochet a blanket because you needed to keep your children warm. Their first thought wasn’t always to run down to the store to buy the new thing you needed; their first thought was often to try to make it themselves.

 

 

In my generation of women, it’s less common that we were taught these skills by our elders. Over time, it has become less of a necessity to be able to make or mend our own things, and more of a fad or a hobby – for enjoyment rather than for need. We have the luxury of sewing, knitting or stitching for fun, and even (thanks to Etsy and a growing trend in community markets) for profit.

I did learn some basic sewing skills as a younger girl from my own mother. And she did try to teach me how to knit (the fault was with the student, not the teacher). But as an adult, I taught myself to knit by watching youtube clips. I’ve taught myself to sew by reading various blogs and following their online tutorials.

 

 

It might seem a little distant, a little sad, that it wasn’t my mother or grandmother who taught me. But it doesn’t mean that we’ve missed out on that heritage. It was the women of Margaret’s generation that taught those next in line how to craft. And it was those women who passed it on to the next. And so on. Until someone filmed themselves teaching a hypothetical someone else, and posted it on youtube. There are countless women bloggers out there who put tutorials online, for free, for the sole purpose of teaching others. We have an almost infinite ability to learn new skills and techniques from complete strangers, from all over the world.

It’s this spirit of sharing and generosity that we continue to inherit – offering our skills and expertise to other women, openly, and with a genuine passion to see others learn new ways to be creative and to love it.

Margaret’s generation, and the generations before them, have given us a legacy. They have passed down to us a wealth of knowledge, a passion for crafting, and a wonderful way to express ourselves creatively.

 

 

So when I sit at my sewing table, and I pass fabric through the feed dogs of Margaret’s old sewing machine, and I hear the gentle whir of the needle, I think of her. And I hope she sees the love I stitch into every seam. I hope she likes that I try to sew more often for others than for myself. And I hope she smiles at the increasing confidence and joy I feel as I teach myself these womanly skills, and become a part of the legacy of her generation.

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Washi tape pegs

I frequently see fancy wooden pegs at local markets and online Etsy stores, and they’re quite lovely.

From Pinterest

From Pinterest

Something so simple that can be used in so many ways. Great for decorating, hanging art, wrapping gifts, anything.

From Pinterest

They’re usually made by glueing fabric or paper to the side of the peg. But being the lazy crafter that I am, I decided to use washi tape. No glueing, just stick it right on there. Oh, and the pegs are just from the supermarket.

Once it is stuck on nice and smooth, I just use a sharp blade on my cutting mat to take off any excess from the sides.

This is quite literally the fastest crafting project I have ever attempted. Awesome.

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Crafting station

As I mentioned previously (at the end of this post), our little Widg has been frequently asking to join me lately when I am crafting. I’m really happy that he’s interested in this type of thing, and I want to encourage him to be creative, to use his hands, to figure out how things work. I also like the idea that he has learned that it is just as much fun being relatively still at a table and making/drawing/painting as it is to run around in the garden or zoom his cars up and down his parking garage.

I decided that I wanted the ability to be more spontaneous with my creative stuff, instead of “it’s too much effort to get it all out and set it up so I won’t bother”. We rarely use our dining table to actually dine at (lazy weekend breakfasts only – the rest of our meals we eat sitting on the couch at the coffee table. Shocking, I know.). So I thought I would keep a small set of crafting goodies at the dining table – this means that the Widg and I can get our craft on whenever the whim takes us.

 

It also means that it’s all there, ready to go – as a quick distraction for the Widg when I am trying to get dinner cooked (our dining table is literally right next to the kitchen bench), or when the husband is trying to get some work done on the laptop.

Our dining table has, as a result, become a more communal gathering area for our small family. Sometimes we are all playing play-doh together, sometimes we’re each doing our own thing. It’s quite sweet (you can gag now if you like).

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Spring break

Back in January, we knew this year would be a pretty busy one for us. So we made a promise to ourselves to get away for a holiday as often as we could this year. For spring, we headed up the coast with my parents to a lovely little spot called Shoal Bay. We went there last Christmas with Dann’s parents and had an awesome time, so we couldn’t wait to go back again.

We had a great apartment with a view overlooking the water.

It was very relaxing, waking up to this every morning.

The Widg had a great time playing in the sand with his Pop…

Climbing into giant holes…

Splashing in the shallows with his daddy…

We also visited this great kids zoo, Oakvale Farm. Lots of freely-wandering baby goats, ducks, chickens, as well as the usual kangaroos, koala’s, emu’s, etc. Oh, and of course, a playground with a slide.

We went for lots of walks, took in the scenery, and did everything slowly.

Definitely a spot to return to.

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Decorating for Christmas

I decided to try to sew or make as many of my Christmas decorations as possible this year. I’ve had lots of fun doing it.

I tried to keep the ideas simple and quick. I find that if a project is too complicated or takes too long, I lose interest and it’s no longer fun. Boo hoo. So quick and easy it is then.

My first idea was to make my simple circle felt garlands. It was a good way to get the creative juices flowing, and get me in a festive mood. I actually cut up all the circles while we were away on a little break at Shoal Bay in September.

Then I decided to have a go at making some bunting. I see bunting all over the internet (thank you Pinterest) and have been itching for an excuse to make some.

I had recently bought my first cutting mat and rotary cutter (seriously, has changed my sewing life!) and had a ridiculously fun time cutting out far too many triangles.

I just used a selection of different Christmas fabrics from Spotlight in different shades of reds, whites and creams.

For a fast and easy option, I just sewed two triangles together, wrong sides facing, with no intention of turning them inside out – I wanted the seams to be seen. I didn’t zig-zag stitch or overlock the edges, I don’t mind at all if they fray over time. I then just used store-bought bias binding to string it all together.

 

I had lots of fun making them, and they looked awesome hanging around the house at Christmas time this year.

 

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Calendar box

I found this great project by Ashley Ann over on Design*Sponge a while ago, and decided to give it a go myself.

I used a small file box purchased from Kikki-K, 2 packs of index cards (which I had to cut down to size), and a date stamp and black ink pad. For the monthly dividers, I used some beautiful Amy Tangerine scrapbooking paper:

The idea is simple: there is one index card for every day of the year, and each day’s card is stamped with the date (eg 4 September). On each day, you write the year (2012) and then one simple sentence to describe your day. It might be somewhere we went (the park, Grandma’s house), or something out of the ordinary that happened (freakishly cold weather in October).

I’ve never been very good at keeping a journal or diary, I can never seem to be consistent about writing lengthy paragraphs for every day of my life.

But I can handle writing one sentence for every day. I really look forward to the next few years when I can see what I was doing exactly one year ago and compare what my life is/was like.

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Our new raised vege garden beds

Hello folks, Dann here. We’ve wanted to grow our own vegetables here at the Box for ages now. The thing holding us back has been the wildlife that likes to eat the free food that would provide.

The many times we have tried to grow herbs, strawberries and tomatoes in pots on the deck, the possums, wallabies and who-knows-what-else have had a marvellous time eating the fruit and leaves literally the day before they were ready to be picked.

So we knew that if we were going to do this properly, it would require some sort of wildlife protection/deterrence system.

We chose the position in our yard that soaked up the most of the suns rays and decided to start with a couple of small, raised planter boxes. These were constructed with some friendly treated pine boards and lined with some black landscaping plastic. We took our inspiration from the fabulous gents at The Little Veggie Patch Co.

We filled the boxes with a combination of on-site soil, manures, mushroom compost, straw, and piles of bamboo leaves. We aimed for the no-dig method where the laying of these elements would result in a natural composting system.

Meet our wildlife protection/deterrence system. Given the prevalence of wallabies (or “wobblies” as the Widg calls them), possums, bush rats and birds, most of our previous attempts at food growing have been failures. Hence the lovely white netting protecting our bountiful harvest. The poles coiled over are electrical conduit with bamboo providing some horizontal bracing.

The wood has been secured together with galvanised nails and screws, which we have also used to secure the netting.

The above picture is the first bed: the Tomato Patch. We have planted four types of tomatoes, some basil, thyme, spring onion and parsley.


The next bed has cucumbers, capsicum, squash, eggplant and pumpkin with a strawberry pot in the middle. I am pretty sure I have way more in this patch than I should, but “aim high and fail big” is my motto.

The patch survived a couple of very warm, dry windy Spring days. We then had a burst of wet, cold weather with some snow. Hopefully Mother Nature can help deliver some produce for Christmas Day.

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Mini felt bunting

My lovely and generous friend Linda hosted an intimate little ladies’crafting afternoon recently (BYO craft) and I needed something quick, easy and portable (ie, no sewing machine required). I was on a bunting roll, so I pre-cut some mini felt triangles in a range of colours, and took along some thread, needles and scissors.

I have no idea what type of thread this is, I just have a huge ball of it and use it for lots of random projects. It’s about half as thick as knitting yarn, but not as fluffy.

I used sewing needles with a large eye (it’s possible they’re meant for knitting projects) and just hand stitched the triangles together.

I think I made about 5 of them during Linda’s craft afternoon. They’re so easy to make, so I think I’ll keep a stash of little triangles (or other shapes?) handy for some travel-friendly crafting.

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Little drawing kits

For the Widg’s birthday party, I wanted to make a little something to give each of his little friends as a “thanks for coming to our party” gift. Instead of the traditional party favour bag filled with lollies, I wanted to make something that the kids could use more than once.

I always have a little notebook and some crayons in my handbag for keeping the Widg occupied when I am trying to have a coffee or a quick meal with a friend – drawing or colouring is a good way for him to entertain himself quietly at the table next to us.

I decided to make little pouches that would contain a small notebook and a few crayons.

For the notebooks, I bought a couple of A3-size multi-coloured drawing pads, cut them down to size and sewed them together to make booklets.

For the pouches themselves, I just sort of winged it.

There are a bajillion (yes, that’s a real number) tutorials and examples online of different sized pouches or envelope clutches (like here and here), so I just used the same sort of theory and made it to the size I wanted.

The pouches are flat and small enough to easily fit into a mama’s handbag (or a dad’s jacket pocket), and there’s still enough room in them to fit a few sheets of stickers or something too (the Widg LOVES stickers).

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