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I always try to post positive things whenever I can, but I never want to present an overly polished, shiny version of our lives. Honesty and authenticity have always been important, but they’re particularly essential as we all struggle to deal with a relentless pandemic and its devastating consequences.

So let me share this: whilst our lives are always filled with love and community and a great deal of wonder, there are also times when my anxiety runs riot. I’ve written about this before and it’s taken me fifty years to accept that it’s just the way I’m wired. It’s not a weakness or a flaw, but it can sometimes feel overwhelming. I’m grateful for the amazing support I have from my family and friends, but occasionally I’ll just hide in my cave until it passes, hence the dearth of posts in the past couple of weeks.

Having said that, I’ve found that one of the best ways to deal with the emotional roller coaster is to keep my hands busy.

So…I’ve been sewing masks for the Addison Road Food Pantry. When I heard that this wonderful organisation needed masks for their volunteers, I stitched 50 for them from rescued Sewing Basket scrap fabric, interfacing and elastic. It was a win all around – the $30 I paid for materials went directly to Achieve Australia to support their charity work, the materials had been diverted from landfill, and I had a soothing couple of days immersed in craft…

Our friends Kevin and Carol came around for Friday night takeaway, then they, Small Man, Pete and I finished up and packaged the masks. I wouldn’t normally package in plastic, but I made an exception for these, as I felt it was important that whomever received a mask knew that it was hygienic and hadn’t been overly handled. I used cellophane bags that I’d originally bought for Christmas chocolate over a decade ago…

More upcycling…we figured out that 2cm strips of our stripey socks (the story starts here if you haven’t heard about them before) made a perfect substitute elastic for masks…

I used them on my new favourite mask…

I also read this article by Nancy Zieman and after some experimenting, figured out that I could divvy up drawstring elastic from The Sewing Basket Newington (donated to them by Bonds, apparently) into mask elastic and cord for mesh bags. The elastic isn’t quite as robust as hat elastic, but there’s a shortage in Sydney at the moment, so we’ve had to improvise. This particular one doesn’t fray at the cut edges, although it won’t work for every type of elastic…

The leftover middle section is gorgeously soft and stretchy. It will make perfect garden ties and kitchen bands…

In non-sewing news, we’ve been teaching Small Man to cook! He whipped up a brilliant cottage pie from leftover roast beef and 50% more potato than the recipe specified…

…and a delicious chicken curry! As he was putting it together, he said “this is ridiculously easy, Mum”.

“Shhh…” I replied. “It’s a family secret. No one knows except everyone who reads my blog.” (The “recipe” is here.)

Finally, Pete and I escaped the house for a couple of hours yesterday to visit the Biennale of Sydney at the newly reopened Carriageworks. It was uncrowded and spacious, but we wore masks anyway because it’s the right thing to do. There are half a dozen or so installations to view, including this wonderful stain glass window by Indigenous artist Tony Albert. I think it might be my favourite piece of the entire Biennale…

The work by Teresa Margolles is also worth seeing – beautiful and serene, although both of us felt it could have been improved with more content (perhaps video or photographs) about how the materials were actually collected…

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What’s been happening in your world? I hope you’re all traveling well and keeping safe. ♥

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Mask Making

Apologies for the radio silence, friends.

I haven’t been away on holidays (remember those days?), or pottering in the kitchen, delightful as that would be. Instead, I’ve been frantically sewing masks.

As COVID19 continues to spread in parts of Australia, NSW Health has urged us all to wear masks whenever we’re unable to socially distance, and I’ve been trying to make enough for our family and friends. I’ve got the process quite streamlined now, having churned out nearly a hundred in the past few weeks. Here are some thoughts…

#1: In my personal opinion, ties work better than elastic ear loops. It does, of course, depend on head shape, but we’ve found that ties give a snugger fit with less gaping.

Stretchy cotton lycra makes extremely comfortable ties which tend to stay in place. We’ve been cutting 3cm (1¼”) strips across the width of the fabric (selvedge to selvedge), then giving them a good tug until they curl. I thread a 90cm (36″) continuous strip through both sides of the mask and then tie behind my neck. I’m actually using bamboo lycra which I found as a remnant at The Sewing Basket, and it’s gloriously soft…

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#2: Fabric masks can be a sustainable alternative to paper ones. We’ve made masks from old jeans, rescued scraps, and materials sourced from The Sewing Basket (which I’ll henceforth refer to as TSB as I’ll probably mention them another ten times in this post).

These ones were made from Big Boy’s old jeans, lime green binding, interfacing and lingerie elastic that I found at TSB, and straps cut from Small Man’s old tshirts (see this post)…

The denim ones were so popular that I made a second batch. I was able to cut ten masks from a pair of $2 Salvos’ (thrifted) jeans, and lined them with fabric from a Japanese cushion cover that I also picked up for $2 from the Salvos Store in Croydon. All the components – including the interfacing and straps – were sustainably sourced from rescued and donated materials…

. . . . .

#3: Very little fabric is actually needed to make a mask, so they’re the perfect project for leftover scrap. My darling friend Dan recently made me this patchwork quilt from a $30 donated kit that I picked up at TSB…

She then gave me all the excess fabric back, and I was able to turn the scraps into nearly thirty masks…

Including a pair for these little monkeys…

I’ve had these  pieces of Schoeller Dryskin Extreme  in my sewing room for nearly two decades. When it was first released, the fabric retailed for an astronomical amount – over $100/m from memory – so I’ve hoarded these rescued manufacturing scraps like gold. The high tech material was originally targeted at adventurers hiking in the Swiss alps, so naturally I made pieced jackets for Pete and the kids from them. It turns out they’re perfect for masks, because water runs off the external surface but they’re still reasonably breathable and comfortable to wear.

I’ve said it a dozen times, if the universe doesn’t want me to be a quarter hoarder, then it really needs to stop positively reinforcing me for it…

. . . . .

Finally, something to make you laugh. I sneezed inside my fabric mask the other day (it was seriously gross) and basically proved the truth of this graphic which Jess sent me. Stay safe, folks! ♥

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Being in lockdown has been a difficult time for everybody, but it’s also given us an opportunity to reconnect at a deeper level with our wonderful neighbours.

Over the past few months, I’ve been doing a weekend neighbourhood bake and I’m keen to keep it up, even though we’re all starting to get busy again. Each family only gets a small portion, as there are so many people to share with, but it’s a lovely excuse to check in with my neighbours on a Saturday morning to see how everyone is travelling.

Last weekend I baked chocolate chip cookies in a slab. These are the lazy version of Pete’s favourite and boast a wicked 3:2 chocolate to flour ratio. I wrap each cookie square individually, as the oozy chocolate makes quite a mess. It helps to have a mountain of rescued-from-landfill food safe paper from Reverse Garbage

Each packet contained just four cookies, but I’ve learnt that a token of affection doesn’t need to be huge. On the contrary, I’m always happier to give something small – that way no-one feels like they need to reciprocate. There was enough to share with eight households, plus extra for Pete and Small Man. Happy days! ❤️

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World Peace Cookies

It’s been a crazy, tumultuous couple of weeks, so last weekend, I baked a batch of World Peace Cookies.

Actually, I baked a quadruple batch, wrapped them in bundles of six, and shared them with all my neighbours.

For the most part, they brought peace and harmony, but my three year old neighbour Eli tore the house down when told he was only allowed to have two cookies. His mother didn’t back down though – World Peace doesn’t come from giving in to temper tantrums. If you haven’t tried this recipe, do give it a go! It doesn’t need eggs, but you do need to use the best chocolate and cocoa you can find. ♥

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Quaft

My friend Grace is now 8 years old. I’ve known her since she was born.

When her family would come over for dinner (back when folks still did that), we’d often talk about “craft”. Only we’d pronounce it “cwaft”.

“Why do we say cwaft?” Grace asked the last time she was here.

“Well…” I said, slightly hesitantly..”when you were very little, you couldn’t pronounce ‘craft’ and also you never let anyone throw anything out. You insisted on saving everything for ‘cwaft’”. (The pink wig I bought for her when she was three is a good example. As strands of pink fibre fell off, Grace would carefully save each one and set it aside. For cwaft.)

My young friend looked me straight in the eye and said nothing. Then she went home and made this box.

Her mother Bethany sent me a photo and informed me that we’d been spelling it incorrectly all this time.

We can’t decide if Grace genuinely believes that’s how it’s spelt, or if she’s displaying incredibly sophisticated and subtle sarcasm well beyond her years. Knowing her, the latter is a definite possibility.

I adore her and am terrified of her in equal measures. What’s she going to be like at 16? ♥

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