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9 October 2014

Alice turns two

Two years ago this cheeky girl was just a few days old, and had already won our hearts. Look at her now, baby no more! (Every now and again that fact hits me when I'm looking at her photos or when she does something really really grown up).

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If you were to ask her what her favourite food in the world is, she would reply 'those'. 'Those' is her word for mini marshmallows, the little ones from the baking aisle you put in muffins and rocky road.

"Mummy! Mummy!" (pointing at the pantry door)
"What do you want Alice?"
"Those." (cheeky grin)

So I simply had to make her a cake covered with 'those' for her birthday this year. Who knows what she will be into next year, but this year, it's marshmallows. Now, I am no Nigella in the baking department, and it's been a while since I made a cake. Luckily for me decorating a cake with marshmallows is HIGHLY forgiving. I am quite pleased with the overall effect (don't look too closely!).

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And then a couple of weeks ago I was browsing in my local Target and I spotted this chiffon dress. At the risk of being disowned by all my dress-maker friends in the hand-made world, I put it in my basket. It was too good a match with her (at that stage, planned) cake not to.

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We had a little family celebration just amongst ourselves. As predicted, she LOVED the cake, and was picking marshmallows off it before it even hit the table.

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As presents she got a doll, a little pram, and a straw hat. All of which were huge hits. She was also going to get a little wooden bed for her doll and a patchwork mini-quilt and pillow, but I couldn't finish them in time (sorry, my love!). She will get them for Christmas.
 
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My gorgeous little girl, my sweet Alice - happy second birthday darling. Thank you for choosing us as your family, and for all the laughter and joy you have brought into our life.

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1 October 2014

Spring | Scrappy bookmark

I blinked and spring is here in South Australia! One day we had the heating on and were still sleeping in flannel PJs, the next the kids were running around in summer clothes and sandals! The change in seasons has come upon us very quickly this year. The kids are absolutely loving it though. They are inspecting the leaves on our local vines daily (did I mention we live in wine country?) - we are all looking forward to this year's grape crop.

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I have made some lifestyle changes recently, and one of these was to get back into book reading. I have been a book worm ever since I learnt to read. My husband is the same, we have a big library in our house, floor to ceiling bookcases, brimming. We are quite old-fashioned I suppose, no e-books or Kindles here, we both like the solid feel of a book and the pleasure of turning real pages.  Before I had kids I would read at least one novel a week, often two (thanks somewhat to the loooong commutes to work in London, where I used to live before moving to Australia). But since having kids and setting up Down Grapevine Lane I get so little spare time, and when I get into bed at night I am so tired I just collapse in a heap. Without books something big was missing in my life. And then I discovered Good Reads a few weeks ago - I must have been living under a rock not to have come across this website before! It's a social networking site for book reviews and discussions, where readers can upload their libraries by scanning them and give them star ratings and so much more. It re-ignited my love of books, so I picked up a book I have been looking forward to reading for a long time - Tracy Chevalier's latest novel: The Last Runaway.

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The Last Runaway is set in Ohio in 1850 and is about the story of an English Quaker girl who emigrates to America and her experiences of adjusting to life in her new country, and how she gets involved with the Underground Railroad, a network helping runaway slaves from the south escape to freedom. The best part of the book is - it has quilts in it! The heroine is a quilter, and there are wonderful comparisons of English patchwork style of quilting versus Ohio applique quilting - quite fascinating. I get the impression that Tracy Chevalier must be into sewing as one of her previous books, The Lady and the Unicorn, featured tapestries.

When I had a spare hour last week I sat down and quickly sewed up a zakka-style scrappy bookmark, to make my book-reading experience doubly enjoyable. I took some pictures during the making of it so a tutorial will follow soon.

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In other news, the cover of Homespun magazine's September 2013 issue featuring my umbrella and gumboots embroidery has been nominated for best magazine cover of 2014 in The Maggies awards! I couldn't believe it, what an honour for me! Voting closes in 10 days, I would be eternally grateful if you could click on the link and cast your vote for Homespun, it's a quick check box voting system.

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And last but not least, I am finally on Instagram. I don't know why it took me so long to sign up, I love it already. Follow me there on @downgrapevinelane for more of an inside scoop and behind the scenes pictures of what goes on at Down Grapevine Lane headquarters.

INSTAGRAM

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19 September 2014

Talking like a pirate...

Ahoy, me hearties!!! Arrr, it be 'International Talk Like a Pirate Day' today! Hoist the colours!

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Happily for me, the annual pirate day this year coincided with the release of my long planned, long promised, and way way way overdue crochet pirate! Ever since I started making crochet dolls, I have been inundated with requests for boy dolls. A combination of too many shop orders, too many toddlers to look after, too much procrastination and general laziness on my part has meant it took me over a year to get him finished. So... finally.... the first doll in my 'boys' collection is this cute pirate mate, with a removable eye patch, bandana, and his little parrot friend. Arrr, matey!

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He is based on this boy doll pattern by Lilleliis, which is excellent and easy to follow. I have added the bandana, eye patch, and parrot.

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I was going to use the same pattern as my girl dolls, but I wanted him to have thicker legs (being a boy) and a more substantial body structure, and I am very pleased with how he turned out. Yo-ho-ho!

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Weigh anchor! Hoist the mizzen!!! Till next time, me hearties!

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12 September 2014

The Great Embroidery Swap | 'Brambleberry Ridge' fabrics

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It had been quite some time since I'd done hand-embroidery, so when my friend Sarah from Piccolo Studio set a challenge for all craftesses to join her in an embroidery swap, I jumped at the chance. Now, I have DOZENS of embroidery projects in various stages of planning - from the 'pinned-to-my-Pinterest-embroidery-board-may-do-it-one-day-perhaps' to the 'pattern-traced-fabric-stretched-floss-picked-just-need-to-find-some-spare-time'. So it would make sense for me to just select one of those, right? Wrong. Now that I had the perfect excuse to spend hours browsing Pinterest embroidery boards I did just that (am I the only one who simply can't stop when on Pinterest, jumping from board to board to board? It's like eating nuts!). And I found this gorgeous pattern by Cutesy Crafts which I thought would be just the thing for my swap partner Claire from Rosie Red.

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The original pattern is for a larger hoop and there is also a rainbow along the top, but as I didn't have a hoop big enough I left the rainbow out and just focused on the girls and the dandelion puffs.

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The girls' dresses are appliqued with fusible web and then blanket stitched around the rim. The puffs are made with back-stitch and french knots, the butterflies are lazy daisies, the girls' legs and arms are back stitch, the red-haired girl's hair is french knots (adorned with lazy daisy bows), and the brunette's hair is satin stitch (done not too perfectly so it looks more realistic) and her braids are cross stitch. I finished the back of the hoop using the method I showed previously in this tutorial, and then hand-stitched some pompoms around the back to finish off. Tie a satin bow on top, and voila!

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My embroidery was a little late so it was sent along with a sweet strawberry pincushion matching one of the girls' dresses, to thank my partner for her patience. Get my pattern & tutorial for the pincushion here.

And this here is the amazing embroidered cushion I got from my swap partner Kirsty from Gracie Lou. I may have squealed when I opened up the parcel! It fits the rocking chair in Alice's room perfectly. Thank you Kirsty, we love it!

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Just before I go, you may have noticed the beautiful bundle of fabrics in one of the pictures above. It's a range called Brambleberry Ridge by Violet Craft and I just got my hands on some of the peach, mint, and lilac prints for my shop (though I am sorely tempted to keep them for my personal stash!!). See the full range here. So pretty!

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25 August 2014

Winter warmth ~ part 2

It's been a long and cold winter here in South Australia. But finally the cherry trees are in blossom, there are lots of new buds on my roses, and my camellia is a glorious sight to behold, heavily in bloom. Spring is definitely in the air!

Whilst we get prepared to bid farewell to winter, those of you following me from the Northern Hemisphere may have started to feel the autumn chill already. So hopefully some of the hats in this post (and my previous one) may inspire you to pull out your yarn and hooks!

I named this hat the 'Rose Beret' both because of the colour of the yarn I used and the crochet rose on it.
 
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The pattern is by Tvorlvka on Etsy and can be purchased here. There is also a matching capelet pattern which I loved so I bought the complete set - it's on my to-do list, it will be perfect for the cooler spring days.

The yarn is a super-soft acrylic yarn by Moda Vera Marvel (exclusive to Spotlight in Australia) which has the loveliest sheen. Unfortunately my local store has run out of this particular shade and they aren't getting any more in as they are ramping down their yarn stock for spring.

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The second hat that I wanted to share with you today is a slouchy beret - all the rage these days. The pattern is by The Velvet Acorn on Etsy and can be purchased here.

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I made this hat in a few different colours, using wool yarn from my local craft store. (I just adore the  chipmunk smile on Alice's face in the photo below. She makes one gorgeous little model - though I confess I may be just a tiny bit biased)

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If you want to make one of these for a boy, just leave the flowers out and decorate with a button instead. So versatile!

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