Thursday, December 1, 2011

An advent calendar of mini Christmas stockings

Yippee, it's December. Pa rum pum pum pum! I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum. That's right, no gifts yet and not even a finished advent calendar. Here is what I have so far - five mini stockings sewn from Spotlight fabric (details in previous post), each filled with a little handwritten note and 3-4 little treats (a selection of Lindt balls, fun size Milky Ways, chocolate coins, ladybug chocolates, Cadbury Magical Elves and Ferrero Raffaella balls).

It was so festive and relaxing preparing them last night. As I cut out stocking shape after stocking shape, I thought of a beloved book I was read as a child called The Elves and the Shoemaker. I wished I could leave all the unstitched pieces on the table for some little Elves to come and sew overnight, but alas, there are still many unsewn fabric shapes waiting where I left them. I'm a little sad that I didn't finish all 24 of them (or 25, not sure what is correct?) in time for the first of December, but just the sight of the first five on the mantle warmed my heart a little on this cold Melbourne morning. The ever-patient and understanding Mister doesn't give a hoot that the others aren't ready. He thought it was Christmas tonight getting a surprise selection of treats! Hope you enjoyed the first day of December and have some fun, creative festivities planned.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sneak peak: Christmas stocking and advent calendar

This week I'm trying madly to find time to sew Christmas stockings, including mini ones that I hope to use as an advent calendar. That means sewing 25 by December 1! Pictured here are my first attempts with fabric from Spotlight. I grabbed a few Christmas prints from the 'Scandi' range that they have in stock this year and have been excited to get started for weeks now.

I have made a couple more tonight in the other patterns and they are sooo cute. I'll take photos and reveal them, perhaps on December 1 when I have set them out with little treats inside. 

Last year, I made my advent calendar from red and white noodle boxes. Each day there was a different note (mainly things to do to get into the festive spirit, IOU vouchers and notes on the meaning of Christmas including Bible verses!) and 1-2 little treats (mostly Christmas chocolates and lollies or silly things like new socks). The lucky Mister and I had great fun opening them each day.

I was really keen to make a rusty bucket advent calendar last year (like this one below from Ornamenta) but I didn't have any luck finding tiny tin buckets in a short period of time. 

I didn't have a sewing machine either last Christmas so I couldn't make the stocking advent calendar I really liked (see it in an old post here) but this year I have no such obstactle. Yippee.

I love Christmas for all the traditions and the effort we put in to show our family and friends that we love them. We do this in many ways - spending time visiting or inviting loved ones to our homes, making and sharing food, and giving gifts. I love all of these things but in the lead up to Christmas it is the decorating that I love most. Traditions are so important to Christmas decorating as what we do at this time of year is often very much related to what we've done in years gone by, and the special ornaments and rituals are intrinsically attached to our memories. Christmas stockings hung on the mantle for Santa to fill were an important part of my childhood Christmas and each year we used the same ones. Even now, my mum gets out our Christmas stockings and fills them with tiny gifts and chocolates or lollies for us. Seeing them takes me back to the magic of Christmas when I was little and I just loving seeing them each year. For my own stockings, I had my mum trace the shapes of our childhood stockings (we had multiple stockings in two styles) and mail them to me so mine will have a hint of nostalgia in the familar shape.

Now that we have finished re-doing our fireplace and mantle, I am even more excited to make stockings to hang along here and decorate for Christmas (I am such a nerd now and have stashed a few decorations away from the January sales and more recent early season finds). Plus advent calendars are so fun to put together. Collecting little surprises and then having someone else excitedly open them each day makes for a very festive December. Is anyone else doing a DIY advent calendar? I would love to hear about it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Book Banter: My Heart Wanders

My Heart Wanders - Pia Jane Bijkerk
A celebration of taking risks, letting go and making a home wherever you are

Last month, when visiting my cousin Amy, the talented designer and letterpress printer of Saint Gertrude fame, she excitedly recommended Pia Jane Bijkerk's illustrated travel memoir, My Heart Wanders. The imagery is immediately beautiful - somehow moody, peaceful, reflective and inspiring all at once - and the words on the cover are captivating (A celebration of taking risks, letting go and making a home wherever you are). Sounded like perfect holiday reading to me so a few days later I ordered it from the Book Depository in readiness for our trip to Broome, Western Australia.

Holidays are the perfect time to reflect and dream, so reading this while far from home enhanced the book for me. It stirred anxieties I have about not having the time or space to do everything I want to do in life and it highlighted recent feelings of uncertainty in areas I am usually content and sure of where I'm headed. This may not sound like a good thing but I truely think it is good to delve deep into your inner thoughts from time to time just to check you are happy on your current path.

The author is a stylist, photographer and writer - a true creative who even plays the piano. As you do with good authors, I felt an affinity with her and with some of her restlessness, contradictions, attempts to appreciate the present moment (and not always succeeding), tendency to be 'too' honest and even the way she found meaning from connecting random dots, particularly in the world of nature.

Towards the end of the book, I was delighted to read that Pia is a fellow blogger. In that moment, I realised at least one of the reasons why Amy had recommended it and why it resonated so well with me. Perhaps this is more a reflection of that fact I was reading it on an adventure far from home, but the book enhanced my inner gypsy - the repressed desire to cut off from the safe path that I've planned (and worked towards so diligently and responsibly) get in a van and circle our country or uproot to a foreign land. But there is something inherent in me that keeps me here - perhaps it is the ingrained responsibility of being one of the "big kids" in my family, or it could be that my life and career plans are not as flexible as I tell myself, but more likely it is my love of home and being surrounded by the people and things I love. Whatever the reason, I feel I am where I'm supposed to be.

Of course, I adored reading about the nuances of creating home comforts far from home (or close to it) but the big things I took from this book were about accepting yourself, embracing your creativity and learning to follow your heart. A wonderful read and a visual treat.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Lucky me

Life works in mysterious ways, does it not? Just when I'm feeling very unlucky with the amount of work I have on at the moment, things turn around and I am reminded of all the lovely things that I can be grateful for.  There are times when I don't make enough time for the things that make me happy and winning the gorgeous watercolour above on Samantha's Black Velvet Chair blog served as a timely reminder that I need to get back to devoting more time to blogging (among other things). There are so many creative, like-minded and supportive people in the blog community and Samantha's generous giveaway made me realise I have missed being active in this space - my indulgent creative outlet. 

Not to mention that pretty things are just good for the soul! This pink floral watercolour is called 'Bouquet in Flow Blue' and is from Driftwood Interiors. I've admired this piece and others by Brisbane artist Kerri Shipp for some time - I can't wait to find a place for her work in my home. Thank you so much Samantha for this lovely prize and for the many memorable reads on your blog. Even looking at it online makes my heart break into song and you can't ask for more than that.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Sartorial Sunday: colourful holiday blocks

Its been awhile. Longer than my self-imposed twice weekly blog schedule. I've been on week's holiday to delightful Broome in the far north of beautiful Western Australia. On my journey I took a suitcase full of clothes, jewellery, cosmetics, books and our laptop computer, and despite this weighty load, I tried to leave behind expectations and plans for the time away. Of course, this is not easy and I unintentionally took with me an expectation that I would write up numerous projects and reviews for the blog. Fate intervened.

This was a break I needed and was craving after a hectic, stressful month and a busy year (hasn't it just flown?). At the airport before our departure, I was still cramming in last-minute work emails and was hoping to work on a few unfinished tasks while away. Frustratingly but fortuitously, the service on my Optus iPhone was non-existent in our accommodation at Cable Beach. So no emails on my phone nor the ability to use my phone as a personal hotspot for my laptop.

A week of virtual web-free bliss ensued! I did use the Mister's iPhone to connect briefly several times (he has remained with Telstra despite their premium pricing, purely because their service has always been superior in our experience meandering off the roads most travelled) but there is something about not having your own set-up that makes it less attractive and I easily slipped into life with limited internet. The longer I lived without it, the more I wanted to navigate life without the constant ability to look up everything and anything instantaneously. It makes life simpler and forced me to live in the moment - just what holidays are all about.

Slipping on something fun and simple without getting out an iron, hairdryer or make-up also enhances a holiday if you ask me. In her column The Rules today (in The Age and Sydney Morning Herald newspaper supplements), Maggie Alderson wrote about the joy of frocking up and 'how good it feels to cast off the comfies and dress up every day'. I agree wholeheartedly, but the opposite is also true. It feels so good to cast off co-ordinated outfits and/or workwear and dress down every day on holidays, even if you only iron haphazardly, slap on a little make-up and quickly dry your hair most mornings like I do. Holidays are for taking breaks from your everyday - from your work to your grooming.
Tomorrow it's back to work for me and that entails make-up, office wear, time on the computer and with my pal, the internet. With all the colour blocking in vogue today, it might be easier to bring a sense of holiday fun into my outfits even when I am office-bound. My love for red, blue, yellow and coral items continues, with recent cheap and cheerful additions (pictured below) promising a good start to the coming summer and festive season. Bring it on!

Country Road Ikat T-shirt
Cotton On Tegan Oversize Tee in Milk/Cobalt stripe
Just Jeans Stretch Chino in red
Country Road Crop Jean in ultramarine
Yellow belt similar to mine from Sussan (couldn't find on website)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Easy instructions for sewing cushions with zips

As a child I loved playing "make believe" games, pretending I was a teacher, a librarian, a shopkeeper, a housekeeper, a secretary, a radio announcer, a baker, an author, a magazine editor etc etc. Nothing unusual there. As an adult, I still like to pretend I'm something I'm not every now and then. I don't see why kids should have all the fun.

Recently, I've been pretending to be my friend SM's interior decorator and sewing lady in my spare time. My "client" needed some new cushions for her navy couch and the brief was pretty clear - European pillow covers made from a cotton with a soft feel so they would be comfortable to cuddle up with when watching movies and smaller cushions for show in a more durable fabric. The Euro pillows were to have an envelope opening and no zip to ensure comfort when laying on them. The others were to have zips so that they looked great on both sides. The fabric needed to tie in with the navy couch and a green lamp shade. We settled on a fine navy and white stripe for the Euros and a reversible green and off white geometric chain pattern for the others.

I started by sewing the Euro pillows as I could easily adapt the pattern I had from a pair of yellow ones I made for our guest bed (see here). Then it was onto the more challenging task of the zippered cushions. My experience with zips is limited to the skirt I sewed in a class earlier this year and a striped cushion I created for our living room by studying another cushion cover and freestyling. I decided to follow some illustrated instructions from The Laura Ashley Book of Decorating this time to do it "properly". The 1987 edition of this book was given to me a few months ago and I have been worried what on earth I am going to do with it. It's very uninspiring (the photos and decor are quite hideous) but it has step by step instructions for all sorts of soft furnishings and crafts.

I found that the instructions for a cushion cover really simplified the process of inserting a zip for a novice like me. Apparently that Laura Ashley knows a trick or two about these things! So I thought I'd share the instructions and illustrations on how to sew a square or rectangular cushion cover with a zip opening. If I can do this, so can you!

1. Measure the width and length of your cushion insert. Add 12mm (1/2 inch) all round and cut two pieces of fabric to these dimensions.
2. With right sides facing, pin the seamline on one side and machine stitch (12mm from edge), leaving a centrally positioned space for the zip opening (see image below marked Fig 4). On a 30cm square cushion, for example, a 20cm zip would be about right. I used 46cm zips for 55cm cushions.

3. Lay the two pieces of fabric flat, wrong sides up, and press (iron) the seam open.  Sew the seam allowances in place (see image below marked Fig 5).

4. Pin the zip in place centrally over the seam and between the machine stitching. Undo the zip a little. Using a zipper foot, machine stitch all round the zip teeth as shown in Fig 6 (pictured below).

My notes/tips:
  • While doing this hold the material in place (or pin it together) over the zipper teeth (if it's not covering the zip while you sew, the little flap you are creating will not conceal the zip in your finished cushion). 
  • I sew back and forth at either end to make the ends strong.
  • It may be hard to sew around the slider and pull tab of the zipper. When your machine's foot gets close to it, wind the needle down, raise the machine's foot, slide the zipper up (in the opposite direction from where you are about to sew), lower the machine foot and continue sewing.
5. Once you've sewn all around, open the zip and, with right sides together, join the back and the front of the cover by stitching the remaining three sides. Trim corners (as in the picture below), turn right side out and press (iron).

Et voila!

I couldn't quite believe how proper they looked! Like real, legitimate zippered cushions!

I loved delivering these to my "client" and completing the "installation" so to speak, but I've now lived out my fantasy of being a seamstress. I couldn't see it being a lucrative career and, once I became faster, I could see it becoming a boring process. So, it's back to being a sewing hobbyest for now. I do want to sew some Christmas stockings to hang on my new mantle but at any given moment I can go back to the drawing board, ask myself "who do I want to be today?" (Trinny and Susannah style) and embrace my next career-for-a-moment. Variety is the spice of life, after all.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Guest post: Turquoise and red bedrooms

Today I'm welcoming a guest blogger to Charles Whyte to inspire my own red and turquoise bedroom. Take it away Jenn! xEllise
Hi everyone! I'm Jenn and I write for Arcadian Home Decor, an e-commerce website that specializes in top home decor ideas around the world. I helped my mom redecorate my bedroom when I was a teenager and I've been addicted to interior design ever since. Now I get to write about home decor for a living and I get to guest post for amazing blogs like Charles Whyte, where owner Ellise's ideas keep me coming back daily. Thanks for letting me write here today Ellise! Sometimes the most unusual of colours look incredible when paired up in a great home decor plan, and an example of this are turquoise and red bedrooms. These two flashy hues come together in stylish harmony to help streamline and add visual impact to both modern and traditional spaces. Check out these eight one-of-a-kind turquoise and red bedrooms.

A blast of colour
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
There's no shortage of colour in this eclectic bedroom - the turquoise headboard and red leopard-print cushion, as well as the orange accents, make a surprising match.

Patterns show the way
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
In this beautiful bedroom, turquoise and red patterns in the bedding and window treatments meld in a unique yet pretty way.

Subtle style
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
More muted tones of turquoise and red in this bedroom still creates a serene environment - the flowery accoutrements used throughout the space help to tie everything together.

Darling daybed
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
This cozy daybed is flanked by a red fabric headboard and a turquoise accent wall, which takes centre stage and is truly the star of the show.

Gorgeous great room
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
This modest apartment is decked out in complementary shades of turquoise and red, seen in the soft red accent wall behind the bed and the funky turquoise glass light fixtures with table decorations.

Boutique hotel chic
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
This guest bedroom looks well-dressed in red damask along with turquoise and white stripes. The hues are mimicked in the wall hanging as well as the wall colour.

Perfect for baby
Turquoise And Red Bedrooms
Turquoise and red (along with a dash of yellow) are calming but still trendy colours for a modern nursery. Image credits: { 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 } What do you think of the turquoise and red color bedroom ideas? Don't forget to check out Arcadian Home Decor for more home decor ideas!

Thank you Jenn and Arcadian Home Decor! My favourites are the 'darling daybed' and the 'blast of colour'. These images are so bright and have inspired me to swing my attention back to my own bedroom. It incorporates these colours but needs a few finishing touches (see here for the painting my mum did to start it all).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A whipped frenzy of sconces

 JK Place Hotel via Decor Pad

This is not a post about scones fresh from the oven smothered in jam and whipped cream. No, it's not, although I do like eating the evidence of those posts. This is a post about something just as old school that has become palatable again in recent times - sconces. According to my friend the internet a sconce is a holder of a candle or other light source, attached to a wall with an ornamental bracket. Through my incessant trawling of blogs, I sometimes stumble across little trends (or revivals of old trends as is usually the case) in interiors, sconces beeing one of them.
Double French sconce from Neenas Lighting

One of the first things I noticed while visiting my cousin at her new place last week was a cute pair of old sconces flanking her fireplace complete with little black shades (not unlike the ones pictured above). At first Amy and her partner didn't like them but now that they've added their own touches to the space, they're growing rather fond on them. She is one talented and creative being, my cousin, and since our childhood days I have loved visiting any room she inhabits and subsequently stamps with her personality, books, art, trinkets and piles of invitations she's designed. A little aside: Amy was kind enough to use her design talents to makeover Charles Whyte and I am absolutely loving the new look for the blog. So much fresher and stylish, don't you think? All her designs and invitations get me excited. If you too love letterpress printing and boutique design that conjures the elegance of a bygone era, visit her blog or business website, Saint Gertrude Design and Letterpress. 

Libby Langdon via

So sconces, in all their vintage glory are really the kind of thing Amy should love and these pictures will be sure to win her over if she is still a little unsure. Around a fireplace or mantle, especially in a living room, is one of the obvious places for them. In the picture above they are extended all round the room.

The top picture in this blog post is heaven to me. The mantle, the bust, the trim, the huge mirror, the chairs (oh the chairs!), the pop of pink from the orchid and of course, the sconces that just complete the serene, elegant space. Bathrooms are also home to many scounces, though in the following pictures the fancy spaces might be better described as powder rooms.

 Image via Decor Pad

Patrick J Baglino Interior Design let a sconce add something extra to toile wallpaper (love the roman blind with the black trim too). 
Image source: Decor Pad

Monique Lhuillier knows that a sconce with Imperial Trellis wallpaper by Kelly Wearstler makes a real impact. 

The sconces here add to the bold, almost medieval bathroom. In fact, sconces pop up anywhere, not just in living rooms and bathrooms. In the picture below, they add to the sophistication of the menswear department in the Bergdorf Goodman department store.

So now you know, if you didn't already, that a sconce is not a scone but a lovely little morsel in its own right. 

On Thursday I'll be welcoming Jenn, a guest blogger from Arcadian Home Decor, to Charles Whyte. She's got some inspiration images for me on red and turquoise bedrooms. I have been adding this colour combination to my own boudoir so I'm very excited! See you then.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Living room makeover: the big reveal

I've been writing about it since February and pottering away on related projects all year, but now I can say with great pleasure that the living room makeover is now complete. Of course, there are always little things to be done and new ideas to see through, but it's good enough now to give you a tour. Most projects have been posted about previously so I will link to them rather than drone on. As my inspiration file post detailed, I wanted a black and white base with some modern, vintage glamour!

I got the symmetry I wanted in the form of lamps, lamp tables, and bold prints taken from designers like Kelly Wearstler, Florence Broadhurst and Jonathan Adler. 

Revamping the chandelier and adding curtains with Greek key trim helped add some vintage glamour. So too did the TV cabinet from eBay (it matches the side tables but the drawers still need to be converted to shelves for the DVD player etc. The front of the drawers will get fitted with hinges so that they become doors).

A second hand table made better use of this small space. I also learned to sew this year and got busy making cushions. 

 Making over the fireplace and mantle was the most time consuming project in the room but it was worth it.

I love looking in to the "new" room from the kitchen. The Dulux Domino walls of the kitchen look great next to the Whisper White and the Taubman's Mink Scorpio (quarter strength) in the living room.

We removed the door between these rooms and have enjoyed the openess it creates.

We also bode farewell to this cute, but rather odd, corner shelf.

Instead, we welcomed new friends like this chesterfield ottoman that had a little makeover of its own.

And of course, we have farewelled the worn grey carpet and welcomed a lighter, plusher variety. So, that's pretty much it. A little breather is in order and then we'll be launching into the next project. Hope you've enjoyed "the big reveal".




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