Sunday, 20 September 2015

A Weekend in the Dandenong Ranges

I dragged the Sonofaguns away from the comfort of their Playstations and Laptops last weekend for a minibreak to beautiful mountain villages east of Melbourne.

I had heard of the spectacular National Rhododendron Gardens in the village of Olinda.  And the Interwebs also told me it was Tulip Festival time in the nearby village of Silvan. So to make a weekend out of it we hopped in the car to see the sights of a small part of the Dandenong Ranges.

First stop was Olinda and the National Rhododendron Gardens.


So our weekend began trekking through this beautiful park and the Sonofaguns got lost when they wandered off in another direction after getting bored of the Amazona taking ALL of the photos of every single thing.


Unfortunately the Japanese Cherry blossoms were about 2 weeks late and the Azaleas were not yet flowering, but the Rhodies were beautiful and the views of the far off Blue Dandenongs were breathtaking.

I'm a real sucker for a gorgeous Mag that's bigger than my head...

Carpets of Helleborus everywhere

Sonofagun No.1 contemplates like, bushes and stuff.
After we walked our legs off, we piled into Luce the Xtrail and the GPS took us down rollercoaster country lanes and mountainous steep curves to the village of Healesville.

I love driving around these curvy mountainy roads. Just beautiful!

We were running a couple of hours behind a very casual schedule so we first checked into our cabin at Healesville Tourist Park, before driving a short kilometer to the Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary.
Healesville Tourist Park. The view from our cabin. How's the serenity...

Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary is one of the three Zoo Victoria zoos, this one featuring Australian native wildlife.

I've visited all three zoos now and whilst it's always lovely to visit Melbourne and Werribee zoos, I really loved this one.


The Sanctuary is set in lush bushland with all sorts of close encounters and zoo experiences.  There are also lots of beautiful places to sit and have a cuppa or picnic while the kiddies play.

One of the first animal enclosures we found was the Emu enclosure where these inquisitive huge birds were at the low fence and the keepers were handing containers of lettuces and greens to the kids to hold up for the birds to eat. Sonofagun No.2 thought this was the best!

The Koala enclosure was also amazing. 


Similar to the Koala Sanctuary on Phillip Island, you walk around on an elevated bridge with the Koalas dozing and gazing sleepily at us from their perches just out of arms reach. Just as well. We all know they are closely related to their vicious cousins the Drop Bears and turn on you any minute....

koalas healesville wildlife sanctuary
Will rip your head off. But easily deterred by a smear of vegemite behind the ears.

There were also sweet Fairy Wrens hopping and flitting everywhere throughout the Sanctuary.

healesville wildlife sanctuary
Cute as a button Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus)

The next morning after a scrummy breakfast at a café on the main street in Healesville (Sonofagun No.2 had all his breakfast dreams come at once when his choc chip pancakes came with icecream! Sonfoagun No.1 opted for the ridiculous and bewildering choice of chicken nuggets?!), we hit the road for the 35 minute drive to the Tesselaar Tulip Farm Tulip Festival.

In my misspent youth, I was a horticulturist so was very familiar with Tesselaar Bulbs being a major producer of bulbs in Australia and as such I was keen to see what kind of displays they could produce.

Where's Tiny Tim when you need him?

tesselaar bulbs tulips dandenong


tesselaar tulip festival

Does this blossom make my bum look big?

Sonofagun No.2 is hiding. 10 bucks says you won't find him.

It was beautiful but I had to stop myself from comparing it to Canberras annual Floriade Festival which is happening now as well. 

Floriade is truly amazing with garden beds and sculptures following a theme, this years being 'Reflection' with the garden displays created to represent the ideas of war and peace as a part of the 100th Anniversary of the battle of Gallipoli.  I am super sad I won't make it this year.

The Tesselaar Tulip Festival was beautiful but the key difference is the bulb beds are in long nursery fields.  On one hand it's a little boring. But on the positive side they are set up so you can walk right in and take lots of photos of yourself and the kids tiptoeing through the tulips.  And all the different varieties were clearly labeled which was fantastic.

Because clogs.

Sonofagun No.2 thinks mum is awesome for saying 'yes' to a ride on the Tulip Tractor. Mum just couldn't be arsed walking all the way down the the end of the field.
It's a Win-win!

Each weekend over the 4 weeks of the festival have a theme. This weekend was Turkish Weekend because apparently tulips originated in Turkey!

I almost blew the weekend budget to buy one of these beauties. But I was a good girl and opted for a much cheaper little bowl instead.
There was Turkish food stalls, Turkish music, Turkish pottery.  It was a lively fun atmosphere and there were thousands of people there.

tulip festival floriade
See that yellow flower bowl up in the back left corner? That's now in my loungeroom!
There was loads of easy access parking and most importantly loads of dunnies.  And we all know that's super important, am I right ladies??

Sonofagun No.2 and I went on a Tulip Train (a truck with a couple of carriages) whilst Sonofagun No.1 slunk off in his teenage angsty way to discreetly find a pressie for his girlfriend. 

In the 'Top Garden' there are beautiful perennial garden beds and a gorgeous fairy/ gnome garden filled with lots of different varieties of violets.

My favourite opportunistic pic of the day...

Hope you all are enjoying your Spring and Autumn wherever you are in the world!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Amigurumi Birds

Facie followers will have seen all my little progress photos of my little attempts at Amigurumi birds.

I had never really attempted Amigurumi before when I decided I was going to design a bird.

I heart birdies so much I have a Pinterest board just about birds.

One of my best friends is a bird.

Actually it's possibly a stretch to call Axel a 'friend'.  He doesn't really like us. He never wants to leave his cage unless I kind of trick him into it, which he then rewards me by leaving me adorable little gifts around the house. Birdie 'gifts'.

Ok, poo 'gifts'.

Yes, alright poo. He craps all over the place.

He flaps around the house diving bombing bird crap everywhere screeching, "Take me out of my nice sweet cage, will ya?" (he is an Aussie bogan budgie)

"This'll teach ya to yank me outta my safe haven ya great orange haired behemoth!"

He then flies over to the top of the coffee machine, licks the chocolate powder off the sides of the shaker, then petulantly flies back into his cage where he stays for the rest of the day despite his door staying open.

Axel feeds his cocoa addiction

Sooo really he's not so much of a friend as a grumpy little bastard who craps in my house and bites me.
I love him anyway.

Back to the Amigurumi...

I had spent hours on The Pinterest and The Google but couldn't find any birds that really caught my interest. They were usually too cutesy.

And Cutesy is definitely cute, but I wanted to make a Cute bird that had a kind of realistic body shape. 
Most of the birds I found were kind of round shaped like all the variations of Angry Birds etc.

Sonofagun No.2 convinced me to make him this little penguin he found on the Pinterest.

Here's the original which I found via Pinterest here:

And here's my attempt.  Not that great, but the Sonofagun LOVES him, named him 'Fluff the Fluff' and he joined the ranks of all Sonofaguns other penguins (most of whom are called Baby Penguin and one called Dit).

I wanted to try something original so came up with this:

How NOT to make a crocheted flamingo...
I didn't intend on it looking like a duck.

In a classic example of setting the cart before the horse, I decided I wanted to design them before I'd even tried making one.

So it was back to the drawing board. I did a tutorial or two on amigurumi basics and started again.  Here's my second attempt:

amigurumi crochet bird

Now I was happy with the basic shape, I started playing around with stitches and rows as well as searching the Pinterest for my favourite real life birdies to try and get a more realistic bird shape until I created birdie number 3 & 4:

crochet hummingbird

crochet hummingbird

Then birdie number 4, 5, 6 & 7 enjoying some spring sunshine:

And now my latest favourite is my little Hummingbird!

amigurumi bird pattern

I just adore him. 

I'm not sure if these are classified as real amigurumi or just crocheted birds.  I'm happy to be knowledgified by a real life Knower of All Amigurumi Things.

I'm currently writing and testing the patterns for 2 types of birds, the Hummingbird and for my other little bird style which I hope to publish for purchase as a PDF in my Etsy store and on Ravelry within a month.

I've also stitched the little darlings onto alligator clips so they can happily perch on branches and hair and Juicy Moosey (who's really a deer). Can you imagine these on a Christmas tree? Or one with some flowers on one of those sweet little cloche hats?

What do you think?

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Hey There, Shirley Bird! Crochet Purse Tutorial

Cross stitch crochet

The 1st day of Spring is my one of my favourite days.

I feel like I can shake off the drudgery of winter.

There are wafts of floral perfumes in the air and a warmth.

It's also my Nanas birthday!

She has one of those lilting voices you hear out of the old movies from the 40s and 50s and is always ready to smile, laugh and hug.

My lovely Nana. Isn't she beautiful? I pinched this photo of my Auntie Horse Whisperers Facie page. Hope she doesn't mind!

We share a love of birds. So for her birthday I gave a bit of cross stitch crochet another go and made this little purse I have called 'Shirley Bird'!

My first effort was this little swatch which I completed a couple of months ago.

I then made a little jar holder with a simple love heart.

It isn't extremely professional I assure you!

Me and sewing don't love each other.  If you've read some of my other posts, you would have heard all about how we only do it maybe once or twice and year. Like an unhappy 40 year marriage, we tolerate each other for the sake of the kids.  Generally Sewing and I avoid each other but there are rare circumstances where we have no choice but to get on and do the business because our options are limited and necessity prevails.

I did have to do the Sewing a little bit in this. I'll try to avoid showing you too much of my manky thready close ups because it's a bit of a dogs breakfast. 

The crochet bit was the fun part!

I'm calling this a tutorial instead of a pattern, as it's more of a description of how I did something, rather than a precise set of instructions about how to do something.  

Shirley Bird Tutorial

3mm Crochet Hook
Darning needle

Some DK acrylic for the main body of the purse (soft salmon)
An assortment of cotton blend 8 ply for the cross stitch:
Dark Blue
Mid Green
Light Green

A swatch of fabric to fit inside your purse
A 5 inch zipper

*American crochet terms are used*

The body of the purse is super easy.

With the 3mm crochet hook and the DK acrylic chain 30.

Now in terms of gauge, this needs to be wide enough to accommodate a 5 inch zipper.

Row 1: Single crochet into the 2nd chain on the hook and into every ch across. Ch 1, turn.

Row 2: SC into the first stitch, then in every sc across. Ch 1, turn.

Repeat Row 2 until you have a total of 52 rows or until you achieve the size you require. Then finish off.

This rectangle will be folded in half widthways to make the purse body.
You will cross stitch on the top half of your rectangle as the bottom half will become the back of your purse.

Now it's time to cross stitch!

If you've never cross stitched before, it's quite easy but make sure all the little criss cross lines are all pointing the same ways for all your stitches.  
There is a great tutorial for cross stitching on crochet by Purlbee .  I encourage you to pop over and have a look at her adorable cross stitched cushion (where I Iearnt and drew inspiration!)

Follow the graph below to create your cross stitch pattern.  Or jump on Pinterest and find a cross stitch pattern that you love!

Cross Stitch bird graph

Trying to make sure all my little criss crosses go the same way...

Shirley Bird Purse
Now I just have the light green part of the leaves left to go!
Once your cross stitching is finished, it's time to move on to the fabric insert.

I cut out a pocket from a scrap of spare fabric that was just a few millimetres narrower than the crocheted rectangle.

Then I used yarn to sew a chain stitch onto each side of the zipper, so it would be easy to stitch to the crochet rectangle later. It might not be strictly necessary but if you'd like to try it out there's a tutorial on the Frog Knitting website.

I then did some extremely dodgy zipper sewing....
Zipper crochet
First it looks all nice and professional....
how not to sew on a zipper
Then things start getting a little freaky....
 Now the pouch is complete.

The zipper is sewn so it is the 'right way' up, and sewn with each side on the 'wrong side' of the fabric.

I then sewed up each side of the pouch making it 'pouchy'.

Handmade purse

And here are the two separate pieces before assembly.

embroidered crochet

Then I hand sewed the crochet rectangle to the zipper.

And once that was complete, I was able to hand stitch up both sides of the purse, tucking in all yucky sewing threads AND ensuring the zipper ends were firmly tucked and sewn in.

cross stitch bird

To finish, I grabbed that 3mm crochet hook and did one row of single crochet around the entire top edge.

crochet purse

 Then for Row 2:
From starting at first stitch, *skip 2 SCs, 5DCs in 3rd SC, sk 2 scs, slip stitch in 3rd sc.

Repeat from * all the way around to join with a slip stitch at beginning sc.

Finish off and Tah-dah!

Embroidered crochet

The Shirley Bird Purse!

I sent it in the Post to Nana and she received it the day before her birthday, but waited to open it on the big day and told me she loved it!

Embroidered crochet

Before I posted it I took a few photos and tried to get Axel the Gender Confused Budgie to pose for a photo. I even tried giving him some grass seed, but sadly (and unsurprisingly) he was non-compliant.

He just chomped his way through the seed, mashed and chucked it all over them place, then flew off. Little bugger.

If you've got any questions please email me at, or pop over to my Facebook page and say hello!

If you did enjoy my tutorial or any others you've found on my little blog.  Many of my tutorials are free for everyone, however if you'd like to make a little donation, it would be gratefully received and contribute towards future free tutorials!