I thought it would be fun to create a completely different kind of wreath this year from the kind I normally make. Previously, green, lush and piney, with pops of colour or a smattering of white, has been my thing, but while still in Oz, I decided gum was the way to go.

A few weeks ago during a mighty storm, some large branches (half a tree) of an elderly gum tree broke off at the Green next to our flat. We noticed them the next morning, hanging dramatically from up high, and before the whole lot was wrapped in red tape and carted off by the council, the boys and I snuck down and broke off some choice lengths, with a view to making our Australian wreath. It didn't take long for it to dry out and it's now a dusty, gnarly silver-green, mottled and quite beautiful.

I wound a dinnerplate-sized circle out of heavy wire, and bound it in place with fine wire, then gradually added the dried gum branches, tying them in with invisible fishing cable. Finally I wove in the dried gazania heads from the garden.

Et voila! It's a joy to have around.



This time last year, our retired-science-teacher-neighbour, showed my fascinated children empty cicada shells clinging to gum trees next to the house, explaining that as a child, she would collect them, spray them gold and put them on the Christmas tree. I smiled sweetly, telling the boys what a lovely idea that was, all the while delighting in the fact that we were bound for England in a matter of days, for the whole of December, and would therefore never have to contemplate bringing the discarded bodies into our home.

Flash forward to a month ago; "Mum! Mummmmm!! Look how many cicadas we've collected for the tree this year! We've got a whole box!". Yay.

I forgot (couldn't bare) to take a 'before' photo so have borrowed this one from Steve Creek. This is what they look like when you find their hollow, molted skins, eerily static.

After peering at a pile of these through the side of a tupperware for a number of weeks, I finally relented and they received their luxe makeover yesterday.

They now cling incongruously to the boys' 90cm plastic tree, with a selection of Oz (as in, Return To) baubles and ribbons to detract from the poised insects. While I might have dreamt of something rather more beautiful for our Australian tree, the boys have never been more enchanted. Qué será.

Haaaaappy Advent!



Here's a project I co-ordinated to be auctioned off at a fund-raising event in October. The artwork was created by my son's kindergarten class. 

They were given fox body parts (shape inspired by LenaLime, seemingly endless cutting-out by me), which they glued, accessorised, painted and signed. By far the most challenging element of the project was me cutting out the 22 precise windows in the mount board by hand. I couldn't tell you how many times I measured and re-measured. Tense times...tense times.



I never think to describe my dad as a passionate man; modest, dignified, supportive, quietly proud, determined, funny, but not passionate. Except for one area which consumes him entirely; flying. 

A cadet from the age of 13, he flew his whole life until retirement two years ago when debilitating, terminal illness took over. He could describe cloud types and their forecast, international flightpaths and schedules, and where to get a happy hour beer round-the-clock, in any major U.S. city.

Travelling to and from England recently to say good bye, I found myself transfixed by the skies, the clouds and the peaceful solitude they afford, a candy floss screen shutting off the world. He loved being up there, doing what he's always done best. 

(Photos taken on my turn-of-the-century iphone so a little bit rubbish.)



I had to share this; award-winning animator Ainslie Henderson's heart-breaking/warming depiction of life and death, for James' new single 'Moving On'.



A very happy Easter to all! Here is my Easter craft for this year; wool felt eggs in a delicious range of hand-dyed shades.

Each egg measures 7cm high, and is constructed from four identical leaf-shaped panels, stitched around a styrofoam base, so they are lightweight; perfect for hanging from your seasonal spring twig tree. Alternatively, pile them up in a simple dish to create an eye-catching centrepiece.



We would have loved to have shared a birthday cuppa with Grandma, but in our absence we made her a table mat for her tea pot, so that she'll know we are thinking about her when she has her next one. 

My 6-year-old was watching me make a felt wall hanging for another gift (post to follow), and set about cutting up my leftover scraps to spell out 'Grandma'. He was getting a bit frustrated with the curved letters so I helped him with those, but the rest he laid out himself. He thanked me politely for adding the embroidery as if he were my client. The pleasure's all mine sir. The finished mat measures 9" x 9".

The process is as follows:

1. Cut and lay out your letters onto your felt base (midnight blue in our case).

2. Glue them in place with craft glue/PVA. Flatten under books to dry.

3. Choose and cut your felt border to go above and below your message (see above - we used cornflower blue).

4. Once the dark-blue-with-letters felt is dry, glue along the reverse top and bottom edges, and attach them to your two pieces of edging felt (cornflower blue). Again, flatten under books until dry.

[ TIP: I lay greaseproof paper under and over my felt while it dries, so that if any glue seeps out it won't attach the project to my books. ]

5. Once the table mat is dry, you can add your embroidery. I did a very small running stitch along each letter, and seed stitching to cover the cornflower blue sections.

6. The back of the mat looks fairly messy at this point. To cover your knots and backs of stitches, cut a square of felt slightly smaller than the size of the finished mat (2mm narrower on each edge), and glue all over. Press this backing felt to the back of your table mat and once again, dry under books overnight.

If you're feeling ambitious you could make a whole set of placemats. Or a spectacle case. Or a small key fob. Or a bedroom door sign. Or a framed initial for a special friend. The possibilities are endless. Enjoy.



A special M winging its way in the post as I type. I had wanted to frame it, but insane postage costs resulted in me wafting tissue paper at it and slipping it into a flimsy envelope, with a hope that it will be framed at its destination (perhaps here at the most awesome framing shop in the whole of the UK).

It's a cutting of vintage cotton table cloth, bondawebbed to a felt backing and trimmed with blanket stitch.

Background fabric: vintage Laura Ashley upholstery cotton.