Redesdale Sunset

We arrived at the Redesdale Community Hall for a bushdance fundraiser in time for the last of the sunset.

Redesdale sunset

The bushdancing didn’t begin until we were leaving – about 10pm – and after the auctioneer’s vocal cords had a good working out. One of the items auctioned was an amount of olive oil donated by a local producer whose estate had been completely burnt out by the fires that were the cause of the fundraiser.

It was a fairly quiet night. There was plenty of talking, some music in the background, and kids running around like mad things. But still quiet because the subejct matter was sombre, we’d driven between some blacked out paddocks, past one or two ruined properties, and noticed the defence lines around some houses and the unpredictable and few patches of green. The lad was shocked to see the destruction and the lass wept quietly for the sorrow of those who’d lost so much.

We genuinely meant it though when we agreed with the local who’d parked next to us, that it was a top night.


Fashion jamming

In an unexplained fit of excitement I put my hand up to host a stall at the kids’ school fair. The theme this year is ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ so I’m going to sell stuff that I’ve made from vintage fabric or repurposed clothes. I also mentioned fashion jamming. Apparently when the fair coordinator read this, she started squealing and had to be provided with mild sedation.

Fashion jamming is refashioning or repurposing clothes – the Craft Cartel in Melbourne staged one last weekend at Fed Square. I figure kids love doing stuff to their clothes, given half a chance, so I’m going to put on two demos during the day. One will be for Cycle 1 (3-6 yrs) and the other for Cycles 2 and 3 (7-12 yrs).  It needs to be simple and still fun for the little kids so fabric paints in the forms of textas or pastels will be the way to go. For the older kids, I’d like to show them photo transfers, sewing accessories, cutting, re-modeling, templates for patches and reverse applique, what to look for in the op shop, that kind of thing. Tip sheets to take away at the end of the demo seem like a good idea.

Once I had the photo transfer idea, I started playing around with some of my images and this is what I came up with. This is the original shot:


This image was a tree silhouette at sunrise. Using an online photo editor, I inverted the image so the black branches became white and then chose different colour rotations to get the background colours.


Then I played around with the fluoro options:



And you can do nightvision as well:


Some of the items I’ll be selling are my own photo transfers; neck pads for guitar and saxophone straps (old t-shirts, quilt batting and velcro); reading cushions from soft, old denim; wristlet bags; simple totes; and fashion jamming kits for the kids – little packets of choose your own template, fusible interfacing, and choose your own remnant fabric; and pick your own buttons and embroidery threads. If you have any ideas you’d like to share, do tell!

Organizing chaos

The whole family spent most of the weekend sorting and organizing our loft/mezzanine/bomb site in an attempt to wrestle order out of the chaos of toys, audio racks, unpacked bookses of box*, kids’ art and old schoolwork. It’s in these cozy situations that the personality traits of each parent and child shine forth for all to see, stumble over and get a little grumpy about.

  • The bloke and the lad cannot bear to throw anything out. I can hoard, but at least I’ve got over the worst of it. Now I hoard selectively, so it’s called collecting.
  • In theory, I like to be organized and know where everything is. The lass loves to be organized organize, in theory AND in practice. Between the two of us we’ve labeled nearly every tray, drawer and shelf. The bloke passed on to the lass a 2006 filofax type organizer with paper, ruler, calendars, and a calculator. Her happiness knew no bounds.
  • The lad can’t decide to throw anything away; the lass avoids the decision by generously giving it to me.
  • Putting a parent and child together who are alike can get very testy. It’s okay to call time out for strong liquor. For the parent, that is.
  • Encouraging creativity in children is all very well but there’s room to teach them about selectivity, overexposure and the art market.

The work will continue this week and I’m looking forward to the end result. Perhaps not as much as the lass, who wondered whether mum and dad would keep working on it and finish it after she went to bed. I love my children dearly but not THAT much.

*I packed over 40 boxes of books for our last house move. I challenge anyone to come out of that unscathed.


A flock of yellow-tailed black cockatoos visited us yesterday, in the late afternoon. We presume they’re refugees from the Kinglake fire.

Gothic or Modern

On the morning of the bushfires, when it was already white hot in the morning and 41C at 11.30am, I set out to pick up a pair of mid century modern chairs I won on ebay. Unusually, I was in the car by myself so I was able to listen to my CDs. As much as I enjoy the BareNakedLadies kids’ album (Snacktime), I do like to like to sing loudly to more grown up stuff. For the life of me I can’t remember what I listened to on the way but I do remember listening to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ live album on the way home.

It was an eerie drive. It was always going to be an intense day and the fire weather warnings were loud and insistent. I was skirting the north eastern fringe which is heavily wooded or lies next to scrub and the light through the scrub was white, bleaching everything. I’d been anxious for the last two days realising that the chances of the state escaping the weekend without a bushfire somewhere were remote. The threat felt closer than I ever remember and it put me in mind of the Ash Wednesday fires. We lived near the edge of the action then and it was a possibility now.

It struck me that we live in such a gothic landscape. And I was listening to the most gothic music written by an Australian artist. It was raw, death and sex. Cave’s lyrics are elegant and spare against a guttural sound wall (Papa won’t leave you, Henry) or a clear melodic line (The Ship Song). Death is ever present and it’s against that background that life is lived. It’s the danse macabre for a modern world.

It seemed rather ludicrous to be picking up something so transient as a pair of chairs.



Displacement activity

Last week I blocked and sewed my linen top as a bit of a distraction. There’s been a lot said about blocking your knitting pieces before sewing up. Some knitters can get very…obsessive…about their system, drying times and even re-blocking after every wash. I’m a recent convert to the full wet blocking extravaganza. For years, I simply steam pressed the pieces so they’d lie flat sufficiently long enough to sew together painlessly. So while I think wet blocking is now a rather nifty thing to do, I still don’t have much of a system.


A ruler, pins and a beach towel. And space on some carpet (which is why we’ll never have a house without carpet).

This top was knit with linen so I needed to be quite firm with it during blocking. The design – an asymmetric neckline, and stepped sleeve edges – meant a bit of time up close and personal with the pins.


All in all, it looked ready for dissection at the end of the process.


Blocking doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is generally a good idea to check that you’ve given the garment enough room and you haven’t squished a sleeve edge up against the wardrobe door.

And at some point, I may remember to photograph the finished garment.

How the light changes

It’s been a slow and careful week. It rose from numbed shock to hectic doing, or trying, or thinking, or shielding and swept to stillness. Sunday was so quiet, light and sound muffled.

I’m not quite ready to be still; I was busy all day Saturday, on my feet, walking through the house, up and down to the studio, doing things, planning, thinking, turning over. There’s a hall cupboard that’s still recovering from my thorough attack (and the thought creeps through, I have a cupboard). A broom rests against a bookcase in the studio, possum crap swept and tossed, boxes lifted and shifted, a laptop blinking on the shelf (and the thought tosses itself through the open door, I have stock to count).

Sunday seemed normal. Cupcakes to plan and bake and ice and decorate; a keen footballer to sign up. We arrive at the club, a little before lunch, knowing that it’s unconstitutional for a footy club not to have a sausage sizzle on sign up day. Proceeds, the sign simply stated, to the family of an under 18s player whose house was lost at St Andrews. We queue in casual lines, and I wonder how many keen footballers aren’t signing up today, here and there.

The decorating of the cupcakes is negotiated, prepared and finally, done. The lass concentrates carefully but she is confident of her skill and knowledge and instructs me on what I ought not to do. It’s a comfort of the everyday, the mixing and talking and smiles and little frustrations. It almost stills me but the thoughts return, others have lost the comfort of everyday.

The light changes so much in a week.

Black Saturday morning. 41C at 11.30am.

Black Saturday morning. 41C at 11.30am.

Smoke haze sunset as the wind stills

Smoke haze sunset as the wind stills

"A terrible beauty is born..."

"A terrible beauty is born..."

Bushfire relief – update

Volunteering and local councils

I’ve been told that the Shire of Nillumbik is no longer taking volunteer registrations. If you still wish to help out, please register at Go Volunteer. I backed up my shire registration with this and received a callback confirming my details within 24 hours. It may take a few days or a week or more to hear from a relief agency but at least I know that I can be contacted.

‘Peer to peer’ donations and kids

Our two kids are keen to help out and Rainbow Comfort Packs (previously mentioned) may be a good way to get them involved. Going about it as a peer to peer effort may help children feel they are contributing without being overwhelmed. I’m putting out feelers in the lass’ classroom to see whether they might want to adopt this as their particular contribution. I had a conversation with a counsellor from a girls’ secondary school who told me that they were working on ‘pamper packs’ for teenage girls (cleanser, moisturisers, a little makeup, etc).

Specific items for donations and the longer term

As local readers may be aware, the relief agencies have indicated that they have enough in the way of clothes and general items. Some agencies in specific areas will continue to put out calls for items of particular need (such as deodorants, batteries etc) so keep an ear out for those.

Keep in mind that we need to provide support in the medium to long term. Handmade Help has a number of ideas and contacts about making items such as quilts, afghans and household linen that can be distributed in a few months’ time.

The community’s response has been amazing. It all helps.

Other ways to help – craft and kids

Monica over at Beyond Pink and Blue online store has started up a drive for comfort bags for kids. The idea is for crafters all over to make a library bag (an A4 size tote) which she can fill with donated new and near-new goods. These will be light, easy to carry bags filled with little books, pencils and paper, a little stuffed toy, puzzles etc. Nicole from You SEW Girl is having a sew along this coming Saturday in Brunswick. There are more details at each blog. These will be distributed after the first wave, intensive relief effort.

The lad came home yesterday with some evacuation stories from class mates. In one family, they left early enough that each child was able to choose something very special to take with them. This classmate chose his PlayStation 3. He later opined to his mother that they left so early they would’ve had time to call in the movers.

We suspect his mother would not have appreciated that comment.

Another way to help: contact innercitygardener if you have stockfeed that can be donated. Her dad has trucks that can transport feed to where it’s needed.

Local readers can also check out the ABC Melbourne site for ways to help.

Handmade Help

Handmade Help has started as a long term support for Victorian families who will be rebuilding their lives, their communities and their houses as a consequence of the bushfires. Pip from Meet Me At Mike’s explains it as well.

In addition to monetary donations in the first instance, please consider auctioning a handmade item, with proceeds to the Red Cross. You may wish to bid on an item yourself – there’s some good stuff already up for auction. Over the longer term, several business are drop off points for handmade goods (scarves, hats, blankets, household items etc) that will be distributed at appropriate times. As Pip has stressed, Handmade Help will be liaising with the Red Cross and the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal to ensure that items go to those in need.

Volunteers in Nillumbik:

If you wish to volunteer at the Diamond Creek emergency relief centre, please call the Shire Offices on 94333111 and provide your details and availability. A volunteer roster is being drawn up and you will be contacted and offered shifts.

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