Nature Connection

IP - Nature Connection 1

I’m spending more and more time in nature.  Connecting to the natural materials I use in my projects in the most beautiful way - lying under a tree, gazing up at the sun streaming through the leaves.

My passion for spending time in nature all started a few years ago when I was making wooden pendants and buttons from fallen, foraged branches.  I was curious about the wood I was working with.  When you go to Bunnings it's easy enough to know what timber you're working with (Tassie oak, pine) but out in the bush how do you know if it's a red gum or red bloodwood (both native Australian trees)?  You get yourself a nature guide and start learning to identify trees, that's how.

Of course it goes further back than that to the time I read Tolkein's Gown by Rick Gekoski and learnt about provenance for the first time.  In the world of collectibles and antiques, provenance is Queen.  When you know the history of an item and who made it, it becomes more valuable.  This knowing satisfies our deep human urge for story.  It's our need to connect on a deeper level to the world around us.  Knowing where my materials come from connects me to them.  It makes me think about how and where they were made.  I want to use materials that have integrity.  Materials that have been humanely and responsibly made or harvested.

It goes back even further to my days as a medieval re-enactor, sewing my own costumes and making my own leather armour out of natural materials.  You can't go to a shop and buy a 12th century style cotton dress to wear to a feast.  You have to make it yourself.  You definitely can't buy a suit of armour at the local two dollar shop.  Well, not one that can withstand being hit repeatedly and very hard with a big stick.  Of course in the middle ages polyester and viscose hadn't been invented so the clothes I made were all made out of natural fibres - cotton, wool, linen and very rarely on my uni student budget, silk.  

If I dig through my memories for long enough it probably all goes back to when I was a child bright eyed with the wonder at the beautiful, mysterious, unfathomable world around me.  Spending hours digging in the dirt and watching snails make their silvery trails as the wind slowly along the garden paths.  Connecting with the secrets of nature in the best way possible - open minded, curious and barefoot.

Provenance, natural materials, my own curiosity and insatiable hunger to learn have led me to spend more and more time in nature learning about the plants and creatures around me.  I'm devouring books on the natural world (The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben and The Genius of Birds by Jennifer Ackerman are two current favourites) and buying field guides like they're going out of fashion.  As well as learning the names of things, I'm also learning to deepen a connection to place, to be with it through the seasons and to learn that everything has a cycle.

IP - Nature Connection 2

The more time I spend in nature, the more at peace with myself I feel.  Being barefoot on the grass satisfies my deep need for connection.  Only instead of connection to people through community, I'm connecting to nature through place.  

The most wonderful thing about spending so much time in nature is the incredible beauty that surrounds me all the time.  All I have to do is open up my eyes and ears to hear the caw-caw-cawarah of a currawong.  Or the sound of water running over rocks.  To see the flight of a honey brown beetle.  To feel sharp twigs and bare earth under my feet.  To taste the rain in the air.  To feel fully alive.

Candle Dipping


IP - Candle Dipping 1

If you're looking for a quick craft fix, don't pick candle dipping!  It is most definitely a long and slow process that needs lots of time and patience.

Last week I was feeling a bit out of sorts, the girls were cranky and I needed something to bring us all out of our funk.  I'd been flicking through past issues of the wonderful magazine, Taproot and had come across a tutorial on dipping candles with kids.  The girls and I have hand rolled candles from sheets of beeswax every autumn for the last few years but they don't always burn well.  I'm not sure if it’s the wick we're using or the hand rolling not being tight enough.

It was a lovely day and I thought that I would quickly make some candles and then head out to the park for a play before their grandparents visited and I had to cook dinner.  Ha!  I had completely forgotten how long it takes to melt beeswax over a double boiler on the stove.  If you're wondering how long - the answer is forever.  Especially if you have a big, wide jar.

The girls really got into the process of dipping the candles in turn, topping up the jar with more beeswax and wiping down the walls of the kitchen.  Six hours of boiling water meant that the walls and ceiling were dripping even with the window wide open and the fan going.  This is definitely a craft for warmer weather.

IP - Candle Dipping 2]

If you want to have a go I'd recommend waiting for warm weather (but not too hot or the house will become an oven) or going outside over an open fire.  Set a timer so that you remember to top up the water in the saucepan and don't burn the bottom (we almost did but luckily the smoke alarm went off and warned us in time).  Use a tall thin jar so you don't have to wait so long for the wax to melt.  Pick a home day and allow lots of time.  It's a good idea to have other things to do while waiting for the beeswax to melt.

There’s nothing better than burning beeswax candles to light a room.  The candle brightens the room with it’s soft, cosy glow and the incredible scent lifts the spirits and warms the heart.  I just adore the smell of beeswax drifting through the house on gloomy winter days.  The good news is we now have sixteen lovely hand dipped beeswax candles to use this winter.   The only problem is, they're too precious to burn!


IP - Needle Felted Cat 5

My oldest daughter turned eleven on the weekend.  Her birthday was filled with all the people and things she loves best - friends and grandparents, a pile of new books and good food.  It's so lovely watching her grow and change.  Such an honour and a privilege to be part of her life and sharing these milestones with her.  I really am so blessed that she is in my life.  She teaches me so much about myself and about what is really important.  Often it's not what I think!

Ever since she was three I've hand sewn her a little toy with wool felt for her birthday.  It's been our tradition.  Except this year she said she didn't want me to make her one any more.  She's too old for them now.  I was devastated.  I've always made these little toys for her.  How could I not do it this year?  

I really grieved this ending of an era and of a tradition.  I felt like the way I expressed my love for her was being rejected.  That our family traditions that had developed over time was being thrown away.  It threw me completely.  How could I not make her something for her birthday?  A good friend suggested I make her something else.  She suggested a quilt.  With less than a week till her birthday I knew that wasn't going to happen.

On a trip to the city she fell in love with a cute cat on the cover of a needle felting kit from the Japanese super store, Daiso.  She was really keen for me to make it for her instead.  I was reluctant.  I've only done a little bit of needle felting before.  Nothing 3D or this hard.  I took a deep breath and bought the kit anyway.

It took me a while to start making the cat.  I was still grieving the things I wanted to make for her.  Still not quite ready to let go of my dreams and fully embrace her desires.  It's a tricky business this, growing children.  

Making the cat had a slow start.  The kit she chose had no instructions - just some wool felt and a picture of the finished product!  I watched countless YouTube videos, hoping for a tutorial for this particular kit but alas, there was none.

IP - Needle Felted Cat 4

Once I started and the head began to take shape something strange happened.  I started to enjoy myself.  I found myself immersed in the process, intent on getting the cat's expression just right.  I was in that wonderful flow state where time doesn't matter and you're completely absorbed in what you're doing.  It was wonderful!

I'm so grateful that I listened to what she really wanted.  I'm so relieved that she still wants me to make things for her.  I'm so pleased that I pushed my boundaries of what I'm capable of making.  And I'm so happy to discover a new crafting passion.

Cotton Scarves

  IP - Eco Dyeing 9

You may remember that a while ago I posted about eco-dyeing some organic cotton scarves.  They were meant to be Christmas gifts but time got away from me and then it started to seem too hard.  The good news is that I finally got around to dyeing them.  It was the cooler weather that did it.  My brain started to work again and fingers got itchy with the need to create.   I was back once more at the kitchen stove, boiling an enormous pot filled with onion skins and bundles of cotton scarves wrapped around copper rods.  Woo-hoo!  

I was hesitant about soaking the scarves in soy milk - I'd never done it before and didn't know how much to use or how long to leave it.  So instead I made up a vinegar solution and soaked the scarves overnight (I think?!  I was flying by the seat of my pants and didn't really take notes!).  I've used vinegar in the past when working with commercial dyes.  But now that I think about it, only to set the dye afterwards.  Oops!  On those occasions I used washing soda as the pre mordant.  Oh well, carry on :o)

IP - eco dyeing 10

Eco dyeing combines two of my passions.  Nature and craft.  Foraging for leaves and then bundling them in cloth to create patterns and dye?  It's alchemy.  Pure and simple.

Being barefoot outdoors, breathing in fresh air and surrounded by space is medicine for my soul.  I feel calm and grounded.  I get so much pleasure wandering through the bush, searching for the right trees for my craft creations.  Eco dyeing is teaching me to pay close attention to the natural world.  To look at the individual trees and see different varieties instead of a sea of green.  Now I am starting to recognise different trees.  Olive, mulberry, kangaroo apple and cineria.  

   IP - Eco Dyeing 7

In spite of my pre mordanting mishap, I'm pretty happy with the result.  I think the scarves look like beautiful autumn leaves.  Perfect for this time of year!

After this successful dyeing I'm keen to try pre mordanting the cotton in soy milk and see if there are any differences.  If I was being a good scientific crafter, I'd mordant some scarves in soy, some in vinegar, use the same leaf matter and set two different pots going at the same time.  However, I'm not that scientific and I'm also really keen to try and get some purples and pinks in my next attempt.  So science will just have to wait.  The creative muse is a-calling!

Coming Inside

IP - Reflection Selfie

Over the past few weeks I've been feeling a growing urge to sit in one spot and make something with my hands. My heart is telling me that I need to slow down and reconnect with the mindful practice of making. It's that space where your hands are busy, your heart is happy and your mind is free to wander and ponder. My hands are telling me that it's time to once again hold raw materials and transform them into beautiful, useful items.

As it starts to get cooler and the nights get longer I find myself coming inside in more ways than one. I'm content to spend more time indoors, seeking sanctuary in my space. I also spend more time thinking, planning and daydreaming. I get excited by new books to read and plan new adventures in making. Eco dyeing merino arm warmers, carving osage orange sticks, making rainbow lattes, arm knitting a basket or sewing a leather pouch. I won't do them all but at this moment in time (and any other moment for that matter) it doesn't matter. It's the seemingly endless possibilities that are important. 

Right now I'm savouring the sweet feeling of anticipation. Of dreaming and scheming the things I will make and the places in the hidden wilderness of my heart that I will explore. I want to hold on to the precious moments before a project starts for as long as possible. Those moments when anything is possible and the world is filled with promise.  What are you savouring this autumn?

Making Connections

TVC Shoes 2

At the heart of everything I do is connection.  Connection to myself through my making, to others through my writing and to nature by using natural materials.   I have met so many lovely people and made so many wonderful connections along the way and feel really blessed by all the wonderful craft teachers I have had over the years.  All of them have shared their passions and passed on so much more than craft skills.  Wisdom, learnings and insight as well as lots of laughter and mindful making.

And now it's my turn to pass on some of my skills to others.  For two days in April, I am running a barefoot shoe making workshop on a 5 acre permaculture farm just outside Geelong.  I can't wait to meet my new students and share with them my love of handmade shoes.  There's something so special about making it yourself, especially when it comes to shoes.

IP - Shoe Last

I love making moccasins.  The pattern is elegant simplicity in itself and uses such a small amount of leather.  The beauty of this style of shoe is that you need very few tools and don't need a shoe last.  Every modern pair of shoes that you wear is made on a custom last.  You sometimes see old fashioned wooden ones in op shops.  I can't resist them and have a few in my collection.

 I only hope that I can do as good a job as all those teachers who have inspired me over the years. 

Come and join me and learn to make shoes!

SPECIAL EARLY BIRD OFFER:  Get 10% off! Book and pay in full by the 14th March 2017 and only pay $265!

BOOKINGS ESSENTIAL:  Strictly limited places available!

Book now via email to secure your spot in this terrific workshop.


Cacao Chia Pudding

IP - Choc Chia Pudding

This has got to be the easiest dessert recipe ever.  And it's super tasty. Just throw all the ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate over night. Serve next day topped with mango and/or berries. Yum! 

I swear it tastes like chocolate mousse. Of course it has been a very long time since I've had that particular dessert so I could be wrong but I think it's actually better. Super yum and no sugar at all. Yay!

Cacao Chia Pudding

1/4 cup chia seeds
I can coconut milk or cream
2 tbsp cacao
1/2 vanilla pod
2 tbsp cinnamon

To serve: 
Mango or fresh berries
Few slivered almonds

Add chia seeds, coconut milk, cacao, cinnamon and seeds from the vanilla pod to a large bowl.

Refrigerate overnight.

Spoon into small bowls.

Top with fresh fruit (mango or fresh berries) and slivered almonds.

You Are Amazing


IP - flower

You are amazing. 

Yes you.

Whoever you are. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing. You are amazing.

There is only one of you. You are unique and we all need your gifts, wisdom and struggle to be the best you possible. 

Keep going and keep doing it. 

You are amazing.

Four Things to Do When You're Feeling Paralysed by Uncertainty

IP - scraf blanks

Before Christmas I posted about some craft I was doing as presents for friends. At the time I hadn't actually started it but I was hopeful that in the middle of all the other end of year and Christmas craft happenings it would get done. 

Well it didn't get done. And it's still not done. And the longer I leave it, the more paralyzed by uncertainty I get. I'm planning to eco-dye some cotton fabric but before I can I need to pre mordant it with soy milk. I haven't done it before and I've heard from those who have that dyeing cotton in this way can be hit or miss. I'm reluctant to pour my heart and soul into something that may not work. I want certainty dammit!

IP - Toes at Beach
I know I need to dive right in and do it. Usually a deadline or event helps me along but Christmas has been and gone so it no longer feels urgent. Now it feels more like a weight on my shoulders. 

Slowly though that weight is lifting. Spending time at the beach, lying in the sun on the sand and listening to the girls play while my thoughts wander is helping. Time to sift through feelings, thoughts, ideas and memories. Time to appreciate all the good around me. Time to connect to my self and to nature. It's all helping. 

IP - Soul Story Jan 17
The beautiful calendar that arrived unexpectedly in the mail from a dear friend helped immensely. Soul Stories is the creation of Tams.  And she makes the most exquisite art - beautiful drawings with heart filling aphorisms.  

As did an email from this powerhouse and inspiring woman. If you want to receive amazing insights from someone who's been there and isn't afraid to tell it how it is or share her vulnerabilities and learnings, you've gotta sign up for Ishita's list. I always feel better after I get one of her emails. 

A long rambling phone call with a new and very dear friend, the incredible Mel Turnbull of Firekeepers was food for the soul of the most nourishing and nurturing kind. With Mel I am deepening my connection to nature and remembering my place in the animal kingdom. I'm always telling my kids that we're animals but they can't see it yet. 

My antidotes to the paralyzingly fear of uncertainty?  To ground myself with connection to nature, to friends, to community and to art. 

Four things to do if you're feeling paralysed by uncertainty:

1.  Go outside and lie on the ground

On the grass under a tree, on a warm rock on a hill, on the sand at the beach - it's your choice.  Just make sure you've got you whole body connected with the ground.  Gaze at the sky, the leaves in the trees or have a snooze.  Let you mind wander.  Go wherever it takes you.  This isn't a meditation so it doesn't matter if your thoughts wander or if you fall asleep.

2. Talk to someone.

A good friend, someone you admire or an interesting stranger. Take your time and dive deep into the depths of the conversation with your full attention and all your heart (most definitely do not take your phone).

3. Find a mentor.

They don't have to be someone you know, you don't even have to talk to them. You can read their books, go to their seminars, do their courses and devour their web sites. There are so many open, generous and kind-hearted souls out here who are willing to share what they know. Go find them!

4. Connect to the thing that makes your heart sing.

For me it's beautiful and uplifting art. For you it may be a song or a dance or a spider spinning a web. Just take a moment to connect to something beautiful that fills your heart and takes you out of yourself and at the same time connects you to what is most important in your life. 

I promise you'll feel much more grounded and connected and able to tackle whatever is on your plate with certainty once you've connected to nature, beauty, your self and your community. 

Pea and Zucchini Fritters

IP -Fritters

Summer's here with a vengeance and I'm back in the kitchen and experimenting with recipes that don't need a stove.  When I do have to use the stove I try and do it early in the morning before the sun comes beaming in my western facing window.

I love messing about in the kitchen, playing with new ingredients and concocting yummy dishes.  This one has peas in it!  Yes I know, not very interesting but I haven't eaten them for years.  Turns out they're pretty yummy.  Even the kids liked them!

Pea and Zucchini Fritters

3 cups frozen peas

3 small zucchini grated

1/4 cup coarsely chopped mint leaves

2 tbsp dill

3 eggs

2/3 cup buckwheat flour

Coconut oil for frying

Cook frozen peas for 2 minutes in boiling water or until tender.  In a heat-proof bowl, coarsely mash the peas.

Grate zucchini and pat dry between paper towel.  Add to the peas.

Chuck in the dill and mint.

Whisk the eggs and add to the veggies.

Add the flour and stir well.

Heat a fry pan over medium high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the frying pan with coconut oil.

Spoon tablespoons of batter into the pan.  Fry for two minutes each side or until mixture bubbles on the surface.  Smaller, fat patties worked best for me.

Serve hot or cold with cherry tomatoes and smoked trout.  Yummo!