Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Cross stitch- finding a centre

It may surprise some to know I didn't discover a love of needlecraft until the early 2000's. I was looking for something to take my mind off troubles I was having and painting then, at the time, wasn't doing it. I wandered into the news agency looking at the hobby magazines and discovered an English cross stitch magazine called Needlecraft. It was a new issue so I thought I'd give it a go because at the time the magazine was very cheap and had a free cover kit. I brought it. The cover kit was a card with ducks. The kit had everything in it to get started so I stitched away after reading the instructions briefly and ended up with a row of ducks. But the kit had linen fabric not aida. Linen is sort of open weave where as aida fabric has blocks. I missed the part in the instructions where it said to cross stitch over two linen threads. I stitched over one. Yes, I ended up with a row of ducks ...but they were tiny! Still I was hooked on cross stitch and have been going back and forth with cross stitching stitching over the years. My favourite designs are samplers.

Cross stitching is really quite simple once you grasp the idea you are making crosses and the crosses of colour match the symbols on your chart. It doesn't get any more difficult than that. However, some books and magazines in the early times didn't show the centre of your design on their charts. When you cross stitch you have to start in the centre of your fabric and you find the centre by folding the fabric in half length ways and then width ways. This will make a crease in the fabric and the middle of the crease matches the centre on your chart. When you find you haven't got arrows marking the centre of your paper chart this is what you do:

Finding the centre for cross stitching.

Unfortunately math is used but it's easily done with or without a calculator. 

Step one: Find where your chart begins and ends both across the top and down.  Mark only where symbols appear.

Step two: When you've marked where the chart starts and ends - at the top, the width, count the number of squares across. Divide this number by 2 (half for mathematically challenged folks) and count the half number. Mark an arrow where that half number is. If the number falls between a square and not on a line, it's in the middle of that square.

Step two: Count the number of squares down to where your chart design finishes. Divide this number by two and count  across until you reach the half number. This half number is the centre mark for length of the chart.

Step three: to find the centre find the top arrow and run your pencil down until it is in line with the length arrow; mark a cross where these two join. This is your centre of your chart. Begin stitching here. 

Tips for cross stitching: 

Read all instructions carefully.

Make sure all your crosses lean the same way. Unless the design instructions says other wise.

If the chart uses whole cross stitches only you can match each of the stitches to a bead to make beaded needlework. You can also use the same pattern to make a needlepoint work and cover in the background with stitches. 

Linen is very useful to use when you want to cross stitch on fabric that isn't even weave. Tack the linen in place. Stitch the design. Then pull away the linen thread. ( I've done this for the heart below on my crazy quilt).

 I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Corned Beef: White Sauce variations

I don't think corned beef really needs a recipe. You just put everything into a pot and let it boil. The meat is cooked first with carrot, onion, parsley. You can also add peppercorns, cloves, thyme, and bay leaves as well. Then towards the end add in the potatoes, then the pumpkin. The cabbage should be done seperate in a little of the water from the pot after every thing else is done. 

This is two variations for the white sauce.

Variation one: Plain white sauce

45 grams of butter
1/4 cup of plain flour
400 ML of milk

To make the rue: Melt butter and add flour. Give it a good stir and cook off the flour, stirring as you go. Add a little of the milk at first, stir. Then change over to a whisk, whisk in a little more milk when it thickens. Then when it becomes a littler thicker add in the remainder of the milk, whisking all the time. Turn up to a high heat and constantly whisk until it thickens more. When it is bubbling and thickens add a ladle full of the stock water from the pot you cooked the meat and vegetables in.

(you can add in chopped onions into this plain white sauce. Cook up the onions until they are just clear and add in butter and flour.)

Variation two: Parsley white sauce
Pinch of salt (not much!)
Pinch of nutmeg
1 tbs Seeded mustard 
lot of finely chopped parsley 

To make the sauce use the same method as above, then add in the extras.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are. 

Thursday, 12 April 2018



Botanical names: Anthemis nobilis. Matricaria Recutita.
(Roman/English Chamomile)

Plant/part: Herb/dried flower.

Country of origin: Indigenous to Britain and cultivated in Germany, France and Morocco.

Chamomile can be recognised by its feathery grey-green leaves and daisy-like white flowers with distinctive dome-shaped yellow centres. German chamomile is more erect than the related Roman Chamomile.


An upright annual shrub to 50cm tall, preferring well drained, fertile soil. Likes partial shade but can be grown in full sun. Propagated by seed.


Collect flowers as they open and the petals start to bend back.


Chamomile is used to soothe gastric irritation, flatulence and colic. It works in two ways: It helps to relax an overactive stomach while, at the same time, relaxing the nervous system, soothing anxiety and stress. A medical herbalist may also use Chamomile for painful periods, to calm an over-active child or in allergic asthmas.


Dried chamomile flowers can be added to potpourri and the flowers can also be placed in a muslin bag and used to scent the bath water. 

Some simple ways to use Chamomile:

To relax and aid sleep drink Chamomile tea before retiring to bed.

As a conditioner rinse fair hair in an infusion of chamomile.

To alleviate the symptoms of a cold add 2-3 drops of Chamomile essential oil to 1 litre (2 pints/5 cups) of boiling water and use as an inhalation - breathe in steam.

In the language of flowers Chamomile means: Joys to come.

Disclaimer: As always be cautious when using herbs.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Cottage Journal : Sweet life

Autumn in Australia begins on March 1st, I don't think we've had much of an Autumn for now, it feels a bit like late Spring. This time, in March, there's an annual church market I go to, just around the corner from us. I always bring a little treat home; this year I brought home date loaf and these chocolate chip biscuits (cookies).

I have a small collection of thrift store brought pillow cases which do not have mates to them. I'm embroidering some vintage embroidery patterns onto them and I'll use these mismatch pillow cases to sit in front of the main ones as a bit of decoration. This pillow case still has the label on the inside and it says it's's very soft. I'm using crayon tinting technique for this pillow case. I have a tutorial for crayon tinting technique Here .

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Monday, 5 March 2018

Cottage Journal - Simple pleasures

I don't know about anyone else but a box of $2 crayons always makes me happy.

The sachets were shop brought but homemade decorations were added. I used colouring pencils and brushed over the top with fabric medium to help set the coloured pencils.

I've always enjoyed creating cards, it's such a simple activity or it can be as complicated as you like with scraps of paper and such. I made some watercolour cards with inspiring quotes and a touch of ribbon. I think I'd like to make some more eventually.

We've had on and off rain. Good weather for curried apricot chicken. And working on my crazy quilt. I ended up re-patching this section, cutting out long strips of fabric and adding in smaller pieces.  I hand appliqu├ęd the smaller pieces in.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Winter Sachet

Sachet (Sa Sha - A small bag containing perfumed herbs used to scent clothes) Using a sachet is the most fragrant way to perfume clothes, linens and note papers. Victorian ladies sewed little sachets into every thing in the house from arm chairs to sewing baskets. Sachets can be placed in envelopes of personal mail, hang bags in clothes closets, lay little pouches with your lingerie, and pretty embroidered envelopes find a place in gifts of handkerchiefs.

Bags for sachet are sewn from bits of silk. More elaborate designs use a less tightly woven fabric over the silk but the silk or an equally tight weave cloth must hold the sachet as it tends to powder and contents escape from the looser weaved fabrics such as lace.

Depending on the use, sachets range in size and shape from tiny, plump pillows of two inches square to envelope size. If you like needlework, they are delightful stitched in all manner of elaborate flights of fancy.

To make a sachet you dry the ingredients as you would for dry potpourri. All petals and leaves must be quite crisp otherwise they may mildew.


This is the best recipe for wool and clothes which have to be stored.

One 1 cup of dried rosemary, add the same of mint leaves, 1/2 cup thyme, and two tablespoons of crushed cloves. Mix this well and age it, then make lager sachets to scent your summer storage. No moth will go near it.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Cottage Journal - Home Appreciation

I've been sorting through things I have. I don't have a lot of expensive things and a lot of my items are still packed away in boxes for me when I go into my 'one day home of my own'. For now I'm learning to appreciate the home I'm in and making my rooms ( a bed room and small office) a cozy temporary nest.

I'm wise about what I'm keeping. I've always been a book lover and I love the older books that are DIY with content.

I've had this crochet scarf - a long skinny scarf I found at the thrift store and never new what to do with it after the novelty of wearing it wore off. I've found the best place for it is to use it as a shelf trim. 

I'm also playing with paper scraps at the moment, the frilly little looking card on top of the boxes is a 'Zine ( a mini magaZINE), using up my scraps.

I have a collection of vintage women's home magazines which I intend to start sharing here on my blog. I'm going to re-create the patterns and recipes that are in the pages and show some of the advertising. The magazines I have are from the late 40's right up to the late 90's and beyond. Although, I no longer really buy new magazines as they seem too expensive with very little content. I'm staying with the ones deemed 'vintage', Etsy declares anything that is 20 years old is now vintage. I suddenly feel ancient!

I may not have a lot items and a lot of them are hand me downs, thrifted, and rarely new. I make do with what I do have. The best thing to do when you're given a life of seconds is to make sure everything is organised nicely and it actually has a purpose. Even if it is to look pretty.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Frugal crafts - Crystal art - Diamond painting

I recently purchased a couple of kits from eBay called Diamond painting. The idea is a bit like paint by numbers but instead of painting you are using little crystal gems. I thought I would discuss these kits as they tick my boxes for frugal. They cost about three dollars with free postage. Some do cost up to eleven dollars (au) those ones are the ones they call FULL DRILL. Which means the entire picture is covered with crystals. There are more expensive ones with a better looking crystal but for now I'm happy with these ones. 

The kit comes complete with your art work. The 'diamonds' a 'pen' and you have a little pink square of 'glue'.  You also have a green tray to place your beads in. 

The picture has a protective plastic covering over the top as where the diamonds are placed it is very sticky. Try not to touch the sticky part too much as you will wear it off and the gems won't stick. Obviously you should keep pets and small children away from this project too.

The next step is to take your pen and poke it into the little pink square of glue. The pen is hollow at the tip and the glue will fill up the hollow.

The picture will have a chart. Each number corresponds to the number on the packet of diamonds.  Some people start in one section, they lift up a corner of the plastic covering and fill the entire area then move onto the next area. For this diamond painting I brought I found it easy to do one colour at a time.

When you are finished some people recommend using a brayer to roll over the diamonds to press them into the sticky surface more so that they don't fall off over time. I would place a towel over the top or something else to project the diamonds so the brayer doesn't crush them. I think too you could use a varnish over the top.

Overall these are really relaxing to do. On a vintage note my mother (in her 70's) told me how she used to do similar craft kits but with what they called crystal sands. This was in the early 70's. I remember those and I'm sure a few of you all out there might too.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening wherever you are.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018


Catnip ( Nepeta cataria)

Parts used: Flowering tops, leaves.

Catnip is often used for wind or colic. It soothes upset stomachs, indigestion and stress-related problems. Because it contains tannins, it is also good for diarrhoea and inflammatory bowel problems. In the respiratory system it is helpful for coughs, bronchitis and asthma.  Another use is it helps reducing fevers and bringing out rashes in irruptive infections such as measles and chicken pox.

It is an antiseptic and staunches bleeding and speeds healing of cuts, bites, burns, scalds and bruises.

How to grow:

Catnip is a perennial shrub, traditionally thought to excite cats. It has attractive, aromatic, grey-green foliage and grows to a round 60 cm (2ft) tall. 

Propagate by sowing seeds in spring, taking softwood cuttings in spring or dividing the plant in late summer. It prefers well drained soil in full sun. 

Protect from cats if necessary.


Catnip (or catmint) is a herb suited to relaxing the nervous system, it has calming qualities  and a handful of dried catnip steeped in boiling water makes a good tea to calm down after a stressful day, drink before bed. A teaspoon of honey will take away the woodsy flavour.

In other uses catnip is useful as a repellent. Mice dislike the scent, catnip in sachets or planted around doors outside will keep mice away. The plant is also useful as a insect repellent.  A spray can be made using catnip & basil:

1/2 cup fresh catnip and basil leaves chopped
1 cup witch hazel

Any of the following essential oils: Citronella, lemongrass, basil, lemon, or eucalyptus.

Water for diluting.

Place catnip and bail in jar and pour the witch hazel over the herbs. Close the jar and leave in a dark place for 1 week. Strain and the infused witch hazel should stay fresh for up to a 1 year.

The spray:

Fill a small spray bottle half way with infused witch hazel add 3 to 4 drops of essential oils and fill the rest of the bottle with plain water, cap and shake.

Shake frequently before and during use. Spray lightly on skin to keeps bugs at bay.

CAUTION: As always be careful about using herbs. Never use while pregnant. Be careful when using on young children. And always test a small patch on the skin first to see if a reaction will occur. See your doctor first to check if it will react to any other medications.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Sunday, 4 February 2018

cottage journal - rambles

Cooler days means I'm sorting through my embroidery stash and thinking about what to embroider and crochet. I'm having a bit of a blank with art at the moment, so I painted a still life without mixed media.

I've also been out and about. Cleaning homes, petting pets, and losing a bit of weight with the 10,000 steps program. I can't see progress there yet, but I'm walking faster with less resting along the way.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Bouquet Garni

Bouquet Garni

Spices and aromatic herbs lend flavour to most savoury dishes, including soups, broths, stews, and sauces. Bouquet garni are small bound muslin sachets filled with herbs to savour food during cooking especially slow cooked food, but should be removed before or during serving.

Aromatic Dishes
To make a bouquet garni cut out a piece of muslin 6 inch 915cm) across and place some herbs and spices in the centre. Gather the bundle together and tie with thread or raffia.

Bay, parsley, and thyme are the most usual ingredients for a bouquet garni but you can combine any herbs and spice you choose to suit the dish you are making.

A blend of lemon peel, parsley, celery leaf, cardamon and saffron goes well with rice. 

Fish stews are best with star anise, lime, parsley and dill.

Far Eastern dishes are enhanced by a bouquet garni of basil, chives, oregano, and bay. 

For lamb, bay leaves, rosemary, crushed garlic and orange peel will give any lamb dish a special hint of herb flavour.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Cottage journal inspirations

Just some pictures from around the home, nothing fancy.

Simple hand embroidered from vintage embroidery designs to make up into sachets for some potpourri.

Indulging the sweet tooth...not too many. I'm working on dieting.

Flower Salads

Several common flowers are edible - and add an element of colour and surprise to an ordinary green salad. Not all flowers are edible, though, so make sure the ones you choose are, and wash and dry thoroughly before using. Common flower edibles include Nasturtiums, roses, borage, marigolds, squash flowers, and violets.  

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Rose and Spice Potpourri

This mixture has a dusty appearance because of the spices. A few perfectly dried rose buds, whole dried miniature roses or  dried petals can be used on the sides and tops of glass jars to brighten this beautiful but simple potpourri.


4 cups dried rose petals
1 cup mixture of freshly ground cinnamon, cloves and a little nutmeg
1/2 cup orrisroot powder ( Note: I used a couple of ground chips of rose resin as a fixative instead of orrisroot powder)
10 drops rose oil
Rosebuds, whole roses, or petals for decoration


Mix rose petals and spices thoroughly with your hands. Blend oil and orrisroot powder together with your fingers and add to the petals. Put mixture into an airtight container and allow to mellow for 3 weeks before transferring to jars or bowls.

I hope everyone is having a good day or evening where ever you are.