My favourite crafting tool – and top picks from other crafty peeps

My favourite crafting tool – and top picks from other crafty peeps

It's probably obvious by now that I'm a pretty crafty lass. I clearly love sewing, but it's not the only craft I dabble in. Over the years I've picked up the odd crochet hook, I love photography (both using my DSLR as well as my smartphone camera), I have a tonne of screenprinting gear that I have little time to use at the moment. And I'm also a bit of a hand lettering and papercraft fan.

So when a dear friend asked me what was my absolute favourite crafting tool, it took some serious consideration to answer.

I mean, obviously my sewing machine is one of my favourite tools – but is it my top pick? And after some extended pondering, I don't think it is.

My favourite craft tool would have to be my quick unpick.

Let me explain.

It's a tiny, tiny tool. It's pretty fast to use. I can use it to unpick both machine-stitched seams as well as hand-stitched ones. It can fit it my pocket and it's cheap as chips to replace. And when I sew I need to have it handy at all times — because even experienced sewists make mistakes.

My relationship with this handy tool has significantly changed over the years too.

I used to resent having to use it because that meant I'd made an error and would slow up my stitching time. Having to use it was a constant reminder of my lack of skills and reinforced what a beginner I was.

But as my skill level increased I found that I still needed to use that damned quick unpick at least once during every garment's construction. And then I realised I'm not the only one.

LOADS of highly experienced dressmakers have a close relationship with their quick unpick too. So I'm in good company.

I now have quite a few quick unpicks in my sewing kit, because there's nothing worse than needing one RIGHT NOW and not being able to place my hands on it quickly.

I have my favourites, too. The essential features of a quick unpick (also known as a seam ripper) need to include:

  1. A sharp edge. Old unpicks tend to lose sharpness over time. It's like a knife: it needs to be sharp to do its job properly or you might hurt yourself — or your fabric (which is much more likely).
  2. A ball on the point. This helps protect your fabric from the sharp edge or from poking that point through the fabric's weave. Neither are good things, so make sure yours has that plastic ball.
  3. A decent sized handle. I know the cheapie jobs from Woolies are handy, but if you're unpicking a long seam (or a hem on a massive full skirt) then you absolutely need to have a decent handle. Those tiny cheapies are great for a quick, short seam but anything longer and your hand will cramp up and you'll be cursing so bad that a sailor will blush. And no-one wants that for you!

 

My friend's question really did make me ponder, so I asked a few of my bloggy friends what their favourite crafting tool was too.

Some of their responses surprised me — and gave me some ideas for more crafts to try.

Here's what some of them had to say.

Dorothy from Oz And Other Places

Paint pens are the absolute best. They are the perfect intro tool for newbie crafters since they are easy to use and give you a polished looking final product. They are also great for more serious crafters because they allow for more precision than a paint brush. I love making personalised gifts for my friends and family, and my paint pens are un-matched when it comes to decorating things they can use again and again. I have used them for personalized wine glasses, plates and coasters. We even used them to decorate hot chocolate mugs at a winter-themed bridal shower I hosted!

Cindy-Jo Williams from Best Vinyl Cutter Reviews

I just love my Cricut Explore Air 2! It's such a versatile crafty tool and I've made so many different things with it that it's hard to pick just one example. I love that I can use it to cleanly cut vinyl transfers to make witty t-shirts for my kids, but then I can also use it to make birthday cards. I've even used it to cut out labels for all my storage containers in my pantry. In fact, with a little bit of thought, I can use it to make gifts as well as to wrap them in a pretty handmade box, then make the gift card to go with it!

Crystal Hodge from Ceramic Cookware Hub

My favorite crafting tool is my hot glue gun. It's such a nifty tool, not just for adhering things, but also for making useful hacks, like creating a knife sheath or pot and pan protectors in a pinch. Adhering fabric, embellishments, ceramics, wood, or other materials to items in home projects is a breeze with a glue gun. With a bit of imagination and the use of my gun and stapler, I transformed my old cutting board and a piece of fabric into a cutlery organiser.  It’s such a handy tool to have (even in the kitchen).

Kay Winters from Paws And Pines

My favourite crafting “tool” is washi tape. It comes in a seemingly infinite variety of colours and designs and is perfect for adding a pop of colour or a flair of personality to otherwise boring objects. I've been known to border my office cabinets and shelves with a teal chevron pattern washi tape – if I want to switch up the design, I can also peel it off and replace it somewhere else. It really is versatile and reusable! Additionally, I wrap my Apple pencil with two layers of washi tape to give it a cute design that can be changed every few months. And best of all, because it's made from biodegradable materials (paper and rubber adhesive), it's an environmentally-friendly option for those who care about the planet.

So, now it's over to you. What's your favourite crafty tool – tell us in the comments below!

Yeppoon’s Fig Tree Markets are perfect for finding handmade treasures

Yeppoon’s Fig Tree Markets are perfect for finding handmade treasures

The Capricorn Coast has a thriving community of makers, bakers, artists, gardeners, designers and all manner of talented crafty people, and this is never more evident than at Yeppoon’s monthly Fig Tree Markets. Held from 8am until 12pm on the first Sunday of every month, the market is exclusively a handmade or homegrown market. You won’t find much cheap, imported plastic junk here!

Because of this, the Fig Tree Markets are on my must-do list every month. It’s such a joy spending an easy Sunday morning browsing all the local stalls, chatting to the stallholders and picking up a bargain. There’s always live music and a sausage sizzle, and a jumping castle for the kiddos. Sometimes there are even camel rides, or mini train rides too.

 

Above: Handmade pendants and hair accessories, from Little Rainbow Creations By Beck

Above from left: Silk scarf hand painted by local Yeppoon artist Debbie Wilkinson of Beaches Silk; Kate from StoneWoven uses macrame to turn crystals and beads into eye-catching jewellery and accessories; Julie Bickley shows off one of her ‘goddess eyes', Rusty Buckle's blackboard specials highlight their latest bargains.

My husband loves to indulge in the fresh churros and warm chocolate dipping sauce, and usually pairs it with a coffee from Ruby Caravan, who is also a fixture of these markets.

Personally, I love checking out the original artwork from local artists such as Samuel J, picking up a home-baked treat, or having a lovely chat about gardening with Di from Brushwood Nursery. I’ve been coming to this market for years, and so I’m slowly getting to know the regular stallholders. The sense of community that makes Yeppoon and the broader Capricorn Coast special to me is particularly obvious at these markets.

The Fig Tree Markets are always a laid back affair, with many stalls sitting under the shade of giant fig trees that are a feature of Merv Anderson Park, where the markets are held. So if you’re a local, or visiting the area, be sure to make a special effort to attend my favourite markets. I’ll be there, wearing a purple hat and most probably with a coffee in hand!

Above: Rosey Angel, from Rosey's Interiors & Fashion, with one of her handmade headpieces. 

Above from left: Di from Brushwood Nursery grows all her seedlings locally, and there's nothing she doesn't know about growing plants on the Capricorn Coast; Stunning pendants featuring macrame and crystals by Kate from StoneWoven; Beck from Little Rainbow Creations By Beck has a range of affordable handmade pendants for both adults and children alike.

The details…

 

The Fig Tree Creek Markets are held on the first Sunday of every month from 8am until 12pm.

They are located at Merv Anderson Park, on the Scenic Highway, Yeppoon and next to the Capricorn Coast Visitor Information Centre. 

http://www.interserver-coupons.com

Great podcasts to listen to while crafting

Great podcasts to listen to while crafting

I must confess, it all started with the first season of Serial, a podcast produced by This American Life and one which took the world by storm. Serial was my gateway drug. It took just the first episode to reel me in. And now listening to podcasts while I sew is an addiction that has continued to grow ever since.

So in the interest of sharing the addiction love, here’s some other great podcasts that are perfect for listening to while you get crafty.

Seamwork Radio

Sewing your own clothes is the theme that ties all Seamwork Radio‘s episodes together, but it’s so much more than that. Sarai Mitnick explores topics as broad as self-expression, homosexuality, identity, fat shaming, chronic illness, creating a fashion label, sustainability and so much more. It’s honest, raw and wonderful storytelling in the vein of This American Life. If you’re into any form of crafting, particularly sewing, you will really enjoy this podcast, produced by Colette Media and released in conjunction with each issue of Seamwork Magazine.

Welcome to Night Vale

My cool, crafty friend Emily introduced me to Welcome to Night Vale a few weeks ago. It’s a warped, funny and disturbing podcast set in the fictional US desert town of Night Vale. Told as a series of Community Radio news announcements by the silver tones of Cecil Baldwin, there’s something eerie, and not-quite-right about the fictional characters. Episodes are released fortnightly. As it’s been broadcasting since 2012, there’s a massive archive of episodes to listen to, which is perfect for binge-listening while addressing your UFO pile (that’s UnFinished Objects, in case you were wondering).

Invisibilia

I’ve only listened to this single episode of Invisibilia, entitled The Secret Emotional Life of Clothes, which is all about how the clothes we wear both shape and reflect our identity. The episode included interviews with a man whose addiction to wearing sunglasses all. the. time. contributed to his marriage failures and inability to form close relationships. It also delves into the private life of standup comic Will Franken, who identified publicly as transgender, for a time, and then no longer felt that identity suited who he was. It’s interesting stuff.

Science Vs

Previously produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and now part of the Gimlet Media stable, Science Vs is hosted by Australian science journalist Wendy Zukerman. According to my friend Carmel, this podcast cuts through the populist crap and tells it like it is. In my other life, I’m a science and environment writer, so I’m rather looking forward to checking this one out!

This American Life

My friend Clare really enjoys This American Life, and as I’m a HUGE fan of Serial, which is produced by the good folk at This American Life, I’ll have to check out their other shows. Thanks for reminding me, Clare!

A Great Recipe For Life

As a multi-tasking multipassionate person, I'm always interested in how other people manage to cope with the various demands on their time. Writer, producer and blogger Mel Kettle launched A Great Recipe For Life a few months ago, and I really enjoy her conversations with some very interesting, and often high-profile, guests. I'm particularly interested in how they find balance in the chaos of modern-day life. 

That’s six new podcasts I think you should listen to while you work or make things. It’s a pretty varied list, don't you think? I hope you find something you’ll like. And if you’ve got a recommendation for any other podcasts that you think are worth listening to, please let me know!

What are your favourite podcasts? Let us know in the comments below, and feel free to include links to them!

How to spend a perfect family-friendly Sunday in Yeppoon

How to spend a perfect family-friendly Sunday in Yeppoon

I never intended to live in Central Queensland. It was an area I drove through on my way between Cairns and Brisbane – an epic, almost-2000 km journey that took this solo traveller three days to complete. I only ever explored Rockhampton through a rear-view mirror, and never stayed long enough to discover the nearby Capricorn Coast. But a  3-month Rockhampton job turned into a 10-year love affair with Yeppoon – the place I now call home.

I'm not that solo traveller any more. I'm not that bright-eyed, naive lass who spotted her first green turtle from a local lookout well-known for spotting those ancient travellers that resemble brown dinner plates. No. I'm no longer single and carefree. I'm a late-thirtysomething writer, wife, mortgage payer and mum to a three-year-old girl. And I can not think of a time or place in my life that I'd rather be.

Our weekends no longer have many hangovers now. They involve exploring our hometown, impromptu play dates with friends and sand permanently hiding in all my pockets. Through our daughter's eyes, my husband and I can experience our home with a renewed optimism and our hearts firmly planted in this soil.

Please. Take a seat. Let me show you why Yeppoon is so special to me. To us. To all of us who call this regional town — with its miners and hippies and greenies and retirees and families — home.

Have morning tea at Tanby Garden Centre

Oh, how our girl loves Tanby Garden Centre! She sings happily to herself in the car on the way there, then grabs the hands of her little friends to show them the tadpoles hiding in various water features scattered throughout. She cheerfully points out the strawberry and blueberry plants, and takes enormous pride in selecting the perfect flowers for her fairy garden.

I'm a caffeine addict, so although the iced chocolates and juices look appealing, a long black espresso helps me sustain enough ‘oomph' to keep up with our spirited lass. A quick run to the chook pen is too inviting, and if they're lucky, kids can give the beautifully fat chickens some additional feed (although I'm sure they don't need it!).

Everything here is spread out and level, or has gently sloping ramps, so it's suitable for people with strollers, as well as those with mobility issues.

Tip: If you head towards the back, you will see the centre's fantastic vegie patch, resplendent with heavy tomatoes, cheery nasturtiums and a squat compost bin sitting proudly.

The lowdown...

Tanby Garden Centre is open 7 days a week, but their hours vary each day.

They have a massive selection of trees, flowers and shrubs, as well as turf and landscaping supplies.

Visit their website for more information.

All the deets...

The Fig Tree Creek Markets are held on the first Sunday of every month, from 9.00am until 1.00pm.

Get in touch with Keppel Coast Arts for more information.

Explore Fig Tree Creek Markets

It's a great Sunday indeed when the monthly Fig Tree Creek Markets are on. Held under the deep shade of native fig trees and organised by Keppel Coast Arts, these local markets are perfect for a feast of locally grown, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. Free art and craft workshops are a particularly lovely feature of these beloved markets.

From vintage costume jewellery, hand-woven alpaca scarves, home-cooked treats and the obligatory sausage sizzle, it's worthwhile spending an hour or two to soak up the village atmosphere. And if you keep an eye out, you most likely will see me (or my husband) keeping a watchful eye on our girl bouncing gleefully on the jumping castle.

Tip: Like many village markets, most stall holders do not have Eftpos machines, so it's best to take some cash with you. Coins and small notes are particularly appreciated.

 

Play with friends on Farnborough Beach

As the sun sinks low in the sky, and shadows grow long fingers desperately trying to touch the ocean, the squeals of laughter peel out in the afternoon air. Low tides reveal acres and acres of gentle flat sand, perfect for that spot of beach cricket. Or footy. Whatevs.

It doesn't matter if it's Summer or Winter here. When you're three, a quick dip in the sea is mandatory. Chasing a ball, building empires with bucket and spade, or simply admiring the way the sand flecks my rolled-up jeans, there is no better place to enjoy the remnants of the weekend. A quick stroll from the rocks, towards the Surf Club always reveals unexpected delights.

Tip: Low tide is the best time for exploring the rock pools along all Yeppoon's Beaches. There's plenty of room to play and run and explore. But if it's winter, don't forget to pack a jumper for when the fun is over! 

Enjoy the beach -- safely

Please supervise your kids around water, and don't let them touch any marine creatures. Marine stingers and blue-ringed octopus make their home here too.

Visit the Surf Ed website for more information on staying BeachSafe.

So you know where to go…

Fig Tree Creek market

Yeppoon's Fig Tree Creek Markets are held on the first Sunday of every month, from 9am until 1pm.

You can contact the organisers via the Keppel Coast Arts website.

Tanby Garden Centre

Tanby Garden Centre is open from 8.30m to 5.00pm Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 4.00pm on Saturdays and 9.00am to 4.00m on Sundays.

You can contact them at www.tanbygardencentre.com.au.

Farnborough Beach Rocks

The rock pools are just north of Yeppoon Surf Lifesavers Club House on Main Beach.

Low tides are the best time for exploring. You can get tidal information from the Bureau of Meteorology website.

Yeppoon is approximately 45 kilometres north-east of Rockhampton. It overlooks the Keppel Islands and Great Barrier Reef. Both QANTAS and Virgin Australia offer daily flights to Rockhampton. To make the most of your visit, hire a car at the airport as you'll need it to get to Yeppoon and explore it.

This post was produced as my entry into the Kidspot Voices of 2015 #ShareAustralia competition. Please visit Kidspot to see the very best Australia has to offer.

 

And then, come visit us here — the water's great!

Photography basics: terms worth knowing

Photography basics: terms worth knowing

Hi there! This week I’m taking some time out to discuss Photography Basics. It’s no secret that I adore my digital SLR (and my smartphone’s camera) and I’m working hard to be a better photographer. Before we begin, I’d like to mention that I’m not a professional photographer, and I’m not an expert – I’m just a photo addict and want to share some of what I know in the hope you might be interested too!

To be honest, I’ve started this post a few times today and kept delving into the technical aspects, even though I wanted to avoid them. And there was WAY too much jargon and terms to explain what I was trying to say. So today I’m just going to introduce a few new terms and jargon and tomorrow I’ll start putting it together into some useful tips. I hope you’re ok with that – I REALLY don’t want to scare you off photography.

So, some photography terms you need to know.

Sensor chip

Do you remember the olden days of actual 35 mm film? I do – yes I am that old! In digital cameras the film has been replaced by a sensor chip, which is the part of your camera that captures the light. Back when we used 35 mm film, we could buy film that was super-sensitive to light (a high ISO) or was not-so-sensitive (low ISO). With a digital camera, instead of changing the roll of film to capture light better we adjust the sensor chip’s sensitivity to light.

ISO

This is the sensitivity of your sensor chip to light and is the first way to control the amount of light your sensor picks up. A low ISO means the sensor isn’t that sensitive and it’s great for using in full sun situations. A high ISO means the sensor chip is more sensitive to light so it’s perfect when shooting in low light, such as at night-time.

ISO is represented by a number in the hundreds, from 100 (low sensitivity to light) up to about 25,600 (crazy-high sensitivity to light).

 

The trade-off between light sensitivity and grain

The image on the left was taken with ISO 800, and a small amount of grain is apparent. The image on the right was taken with ISO 6400 and grain is much more obvious.

Grain

When you make your camera’s sensor more sensitive to light then you’re also introducing an element of visual noise. This visual noise is called grain. It’s not necessarily an issue, just something you should be aware of.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed is how fast your shutter opens and closes and is the second way to control the amount of light hitting your sensor chip. Choosing your shutter speed will allow you to either freeze the action (fast shutter speed) or blur it (slow shutter speed).

Shutter speed is measured in fractions of seconds (or whole seconds for loooooong exposure). You will typically see a shutter speed such as 1/60 (or one sixtieth of a second) or 1/4000 which is – you guessed it — one 4000th of a second).

Comparing shutter speeds with water from a hose

The image on the left was taken using a slow shutter speed of 1/40th of a second, blurring the water's movement. The image on the right was taken using a fast shutter speed of 1/4000th of a second, freezing the movement of the water drops.

Aperture

Aperture is the third way to control the amount of light hitting your sensor and is the width of your lens opening. A wide aperture lets more light in and a small aperture lets less light in. But, there’s a trade-off again. The wider your aperture, the shallower your depth-of-field. Again, not necessarily a problem, just something to be aware of.

Aperture is measured by an f-number (for example f/1.4 or f/16). I’m not going to explain how f-numbers are calculated because it’s waaaaaay too complex and you don’t need to know. All you really need to know is that a low f-number means a wide aperture and a high f-number means a narrow aperture.

 

The trade-off between aperture and depth of field

The image on the left was taken with an aperture of f4.5, giving a deeper depth of field. The image on the right was taken with an aperture of f1.4, giving a shallow depth of field.

Depth of field

Yup, I knew you’d ask what this was! It’s the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in your photo that are in focus. Technical, huh? It’s actually pretty simple. If you’re shooting with an aperture that’s wide open, you will have a very shallow depth of field of about 10 centimetres. That means that a slice of about 10 centimetres will be sharply in focus and the rest will be blurry. A deep depth of field means that the background will also be in focus. A shallow depth of field is great for portraits while a deep depth of field is terrific for landscapes.

And that’s my VERY basic introduction to digital photography terminology. Next post I’ll be discussing basic composition guidelines. Until then, pull out your digital camera and its manual and work out how to adjust your ISO, shutter speed and aperture. If you’re REALLY game pop it into manual mode and have a play! Don’t worry about taking dodgy photos – just delete them and keep on playing!

 

Why I love Craftsy

Why I love Craftsy

When I became a mum, like all new mums before me, I had no idea what lay in store.

The endless nappy changes, the random newborn sleep patterns, the constant waking for feeds, the realisation that I had no idea what the fuck I was doing – you know – the stuff that breaks all new mums at some point.

The inability to leave the house was the worst part. I felt enslaved to the whims of a newborn’s nap and had no time for creativity. My sewing machine mocked me daily. I had pushed it aside in the crazy fog of new parenthood, and as time marched on it called almost as loudly as my baby’s cry at 3am. To put it bluntly, it sucked balls.

I’m a firm believer that a stitch a day keeps the crazy away, so it’s fairly honest to say that after a few months of almost minimal sewing (and even less sleep) I was starting to go a little crazy.

Then I found Craftsy.

Oh Craftsy – how you make my heart sing!

I could explore the amazing crafty world outside my door while cradling a sleeping baby, or washing the dishes, or just because I had a brief spare moment and a cold, half-finished cuppa waiting. Committing to in-person workshops, classes or anything that required me to be washed and dressed by dinner-time really wasn’t achievable for me in those early days. So Craftsy filled my need in a way I never imagined. It challenged me, I learnt cool techniques, I could ask questions directly of the teacher, and watch it at 2 am if I so wished (not that I recommend this – sleep is important, after all!).

I’ve learnt how to design and sew an A-line skirt, I’ve learnt how to get the best out of my DSLR, I’ve learnt how to sew with knits and I have even started learning how to crochet. For a stuck-at-home mum, all of this was a dream come true. Sure, I couldn’t craft all the time, but most days I could spare a few minutes to watch a bit of my latest class – easy!

Our girl’s newborn days are well and truly behind us now. It’s easier to get out of the house now but I still find Craftsy just as fun now as I did when I first discovered it. So, in the spirit of sharing, I’m telling you about it and maybe you’ll like Craftsy too. Or maybe not – that’s ok!

Because I’m a total Craftsy addict and will be sharing the cool things I’ve made or techniques I’m learning, I’ve decided to sign up to their affiliate marketing program. That means if you click on a link to a class I’ve written about and you decide to join the class too, then I will earn a small commission.

I hope you enjoy Craftsy too.

*This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase a class. Thank you for supporting Make + Do!

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