Monday, December 10, 2012


Now that the Auckland Art and Craft Fair is over, I'm on holiday: time to seriously start thinking about Christmas. Look what I've made so far to decorate the mantelpiece: an advent calendar and a putz house. The advent calendar is a very simple project; it took me a couple of hours and I only used felt that I had in my stash.  I am a huge fan of Rachel Castle and took my inspiration from her work when I did the numbers.  I glued them to the felt bags and then sewed the lot to some ribbon. I like the fact that my colours aren't all 'Christmassy'.  I filled the bags with stickers, decorations for the tree and chocolate coins.  Elizabeth from ZippityDooDah gave the idea to also include notes like 'today we are sending Christmas cards' or 'today we are decorating the glitter house'.

The glitter house... How I love this little building! I've got a bit of an obsession with houses and have always thought that one day I might make a few glitter houses. Last week I couldn't wait any longer and made one from a Martha Stewart pattern.  It was so much easier than I had imagined; I have a few patterns I'd like to try next. It might be a new Christmas tradition in our house to add to the collection every year. Do you have any special traditions this time of the year?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Today I am super-excited to show you a book I've only seen online but am dying to get my hands on... It's called Embellish Me: How to Print, Dye, and Decorate Your Fabric in the US and How to Decorate and Embellish Your Fabrics in the UK edition. More importantly, it's by the talented Laurie Wistbrun from Scarlet Fig and you can read more about the book in this post

Why am I so excited? Well, a few of my photos made their way into this lovely book.  Two for sure, and one only made it to what I think must be a proof cover. Here's a photo from Laurie's blog showing a double page, and if you look closely, you'll see my embroidered brooches on the left-hand page, and my zip pouches on the right.  See?

And this is the phantom cover; I took a screen-shot off Amazon, because I don't think it will be there for much longer.  Still, for now it's there, on the cover! My photo top left, showing some more embroidered brooches.

I will have to add this book to my Christmas list, not only for the obvious reason but also to actually read it! Looks like it covers some very interesting and useful techniques like fabric printing, embellishing and embroidery. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Lovely shops

Every year since I've started Ruby in the Dust (which is four years ago now!) Christmas has come and gone by in such a blur, I always feel guilty about neglecting my own family.  Every spare minute spent behind the sewing machine, getting ready for the next market; never enough time to enjoy the moment until the last market was finished. Last year, after the rush was over, I made a decision to change things and I'm pleased to report it's working. The tree is up, we've made some new Christmas decorations and I'm even considering baking another gingerbread house.

I have my lovely stockists to thank for that.  These shops have been very enthusiastic about my new embroidery kits and have them on their shelves, whether they are real or virtual. I will keep this list updated and linked to my side-bar, so do come here if you would like to see my products before you buy them, or just support some local businesses.





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Sewing again

I reacquainted myself with my sewing machine over the weekend.  I had been too long, but I felt the need to make myself a new pouch about an hour before I was meeting some girlfriends for a Twilight dinner and movie-party... I killed two birds with one stone: trying a new pattern I got from Vanessa over at LBG Studio, plus using my own fabric.  My photo really doesn't do it justice; the pouch is tall and folds over in the middle, and it has lovely leather details on the corners.  It fits my phone and wallet, great for going out without lugging a handbag along.

Using my fabric also gave me the push to finally open my Spoonflower shop, where you will be able to purchase some of my designs on either fabric or wallpaper.   There are a few designs up already, including a new version of 'In the Neighbourhood', now available in colour. There are also some new designs from this year that I've just done and forgotten about while I had Embroidery Kit Fever. 

If you buy on Spoonflower, designers get a small percentage from each sale, and buyers get fabric directly without having to pay for shipping twice, both of which are good in my book. The other bonus of opening yet another shop is that I get to make another shop banner! Anybody want a blog banner before I open another shop?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A snowman ornament tutorial

I want to thank you so much for your enthusiastic response to my embroidery kits; they're doing quite well and I now have them in a few retail shops too.  That's a post for another day though.

Today I thought it would be fun to do a tutorial and since it's almost Christmas (ok, a few weeks to go) I'm showing you my snowman decoration. They're so easy and fun to make; the boys and I made some earlier in the year and both of them did the majority of the work all by themselves. Apologies for the terrible photos (taken at night as usual :).

You will need: white polar fleece, off-cuts of orange and black felt, some batting/extra white fleece/white felt (optional), black seed beads, red seed beads, buttons and ribbon/felt (scarf), white embroidery thread and needle, glue, hang tag made from narrow ribbon or floss.

Draw a template on a piece of paper: one circle on top of a bigger one, and cut it out.  Mine is about 12cm or 5" tall. Cut out 2 pieces for every snowman you want to make.

On one side only: Stitch on a couple of eyes with the black beads, and a mouth with the red beads. Sew some buttons to the tummy.  If your fleece is thin, you might like to stuff it slightly. Use a piece of felt or batting and cut it a bit smaller than your snowman. 

Put the two pieces together with batting inside and stitch it all together.  You can use a sewing machine, but I prefer blanket stitch or whip stitch.

Cut a piece of ribbon for the hang tag, fold in half and make a knot in the end.  Cut out a hat from two pieces of black felt, insert the hang tag in the top and sew around the hat to attach it securely to the head.

Cut a small triangle from the orange felt and stick it to the face as a nose.  Arrange the ribbon or felt around the neck and stick down with glue.

And that's it.  I hope you feel inspired to start making some of these guys; send me a photo if you do! (Please link to this post if you're sharing or pinning.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

The launch and a giveaway

And now I am proud to announce that everything is ready to go with the embroidery kits. I've been doing late nights this week to get my new online shop ready and it went live (late) last night.  As you can see in the banner above and in the side bar, it's at

I'd love it if you can pop over there and tell me which is your favourite kit. I'll draw a name on Wednesday and then you might just win that one! Please pass it on; I'm too busy to do much more than this post this weekend :)

You can also see them at Craft 2.0 in Wellington this Saturday (upstairs in the St James, 10-4) and they will be available at The Embroiderer in Birkenhead from next week.

I'm off to do a million things before I fly tomorrow morning, so I hope you have a great weekend, friends!


Last, but not the least, is the garden.  Click on the photo to enlarge it and you will see many little stitches and beads that make this one a true sampler: there is a tiny bit each of chain stitch, running stitch, back stitch, fly stitch, fern stitch, lazy daisy and even a few French knots if you like to push the boat out. Of course you can choose to use more beads and do the lot in back stitch! 

I love drawing quirky little flowers and this was a natural design choice for me.  I wanted an understated garden to go with the lovely little house and used the flowers both here and in the 'Home' design.  

And that is the end of my story :) I'm so curious to see which design will be the most popular, as everybody I've shown them to has had a clear favourite and so far there's been no pattern! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A big adventure

On Sunday morning our young friend Nicholas Brockelbank (the cookbook author) will be on TV1 at 8.30.  Attitude pictures filmed him and his lovely family over the course of a year and judging by this clip, it's going to be an insightful look into life with muscular dystrophy.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I'm in the middle of a huge assembly line on my dining table, but had to take a break to give you a look at my packaging for the embroidery kits. It's a hectic week, but I hope to have them listed in my shops this Friday or Monday at the latest.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Sweet home

I hope you're enjoying the sunshine today (if you're in Auckland anyway)! It's a good day for a picnic in the park, and to look at the fourth design in my DIY series.  

It's a little house with a jewelled roof and a long story.  This house is based on a photo I found online and pinned here, but at the time I couldn't find the source.  I originally used a version of it in my 'In the Neighbourhood' print a few years ago now, and when I was looking for a house for the kit, I went back to the Pinterest image for inspiration. I recently discovered that that Pinterest house is a real-life copy of the adorable house in the movie Up. 

As far as the embroidery goes, I'd rate the difficulty level as intermediate.  It has French knots around the windows, but they can be replaced by beads if you like.  French knots are actually not difficult at all, but I think if you've never done them, they can be a bit intimidating. It just takes a bit of practice!  I've also used scallop stitch for the roof tiles, which is an adapted version of a stitch I saw in Sublime Stitching. The rest is all running stitch and back-stitch or chain stitch. 

Next week I'll show you the final design, and get ready for Craft 2.0 next Saturday in Wellington (read about me here), where I will launch these kits and some lovely new decals I've also been making.  That means just one more week of late nights doing the final assembly of the kits. I can't wait to show you the final product; it looks great if I say so myself!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A weekend away

Craig and I took the boys to Wellington for a few days over Labour weekend.  We've only ever gone there without the kids, but after this trip I really hope we can do it again soon.  I thought I'd share a few tips in case you'd like to go there with your little ones:

  • We took the scooters in our suitcase.  It was well worth it, as we could cover so much more ground than we would have otherwise and the boys stayed much more entertained while us oldies enjoyed the view (and the sun). 
  • Don't get stuck on Level 2 at Te Papa; the 4th floor also has an amazing kids area with pretend shop, scales, toy food, puzzles, etc. When we went it was completely empty. 
  • We walked to Oriental Bay (in the photo above) and were very impressed with the playground by the little beach.  There's so much to do around there.  Plus, the toilets were really good.  Huge (space for push chair/children), with natural light, a large mirror to make it look even lighter and bigger, a bench to put all your gear on.  It's little touches like these that make it easy for parents and show why Wellington is such a family-friendly place. 
  • There's another awesome playground and skate park at Waitangi Park (by the Chaffers Dock Building where the City Market is held on Sundays).
  • We had lunch at the Southern Cross, a huge pub with space for everyone.  Honestly, you could have a rugby team, coffee group, book club, whatever in there and they won't even know about each other.  The friendly people at the bar gave the boys little goody bags with stickers and colouring activities to keep them busy. Will definitely go there again. 
  • One afternoon we took the cable car up the hill to the Botanical Gardens.  It was great fun; the boys scooted around and spent ages playing on the WW2 Krupp gun while us oldies... yes, enjoyed the view and the sun. 
  • We stayed at these serviced apartments right behind the St James Theatre.  It's not very flash, but really central and one of the first bus stops in town when coming from the airport. We walked everywhere and only needed the bus to and from the airport.
  • And finally: take Metservice forecasts with a pinch of salt. We took hats and jackets for the predicted weather, but we only needed them when we landed back in Auckland on Sunday. Thanks for putting on the weather for us, Wellington!
What are your travel tips for Wellington? I'd love to find out about more day trips you can do with kids. 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Spring outfit

It's been absolute ages since this blog had a new look, so just because I feel like it, here's a fresh new look for spring.  I hope you like it; I designed the pattern a little while ago and thought I should use it somewhere nice. Hope you're having a great day, by the way :)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Assembly line

If you popped in for a coffee in the next couple of weeks, this is an example of what might see: 

A table full of beads, thread, needles, instruction booklets and so on.  In various states of being measured out, folded, assembled.  It's all going quite well, but I had a disappointment last week when my long-awaited thread arrived minus one cone.  The worst thing about it wasn't even the cost, but the time it was going to take to unwind the replacement skeins.  If you've never done it, know that a skein can go from a lovely little rolled up loop to a knotty tangle in the time it takes to pull the wrong end or do something similarly small but disastrous.  Craig knew about this; he's helped me with my kits before.

When he saw the look on my face this weekend, he said he had an idea.  Five minutes later he had made this contraption with the boys' Kid Knex.  It works perfectly! It's like two little revolving 'fans' that turn when you pull the thread. Our boys are very keen to become inventors one day and it's easy to see that they certainly have the right genes to get there!

Thursday, October 4, 2012


The third design in my range of embroidery kits is a tree.  This is the easiest of the 5 and would be an ideal project for a complete beginner. I only used running stitch and straight stitches with beads as embellishment, but it's up to the stitcher as to which stitches they want to do, of course. 

I'd like to share the origins of this design, even though it has evolved so much and looks very different to the first one I made 3 years ago.  It started as a very personal project but I would like to talk about it here because I am always interested in other artists' process and inspiration.  Besides, the person who inspired it was very special and I would like to remember him here. In 2009 my cousin Hugo passed away in a microlite accident on his farm in South Africa and I found it very hard to deal with it because I was so far away.  One night I felt compelled to draw this little tree to symbolise his death (the fallen leaves), but also new beginnings in the form of blossoms on the tree. You see, his fiancee was pregnant with their first (and of course only) child. I made it into a little embroidery you can see over here and found the process very cathartic. While the design had a sad origin, I look at that hoop with fondness and know that it helped me to work through something really difficult.

Trees have always been symbolic of life.  I hope that everyone who stitches up one of these has a story to relate it to: a new baby, a change of direction, a new skill learnt.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Last year I wrote about a young friend of ours who had written a cookbook to raise money for the people of Christchurch after the earthquake.  Since then Nic has (hand)written two more cookbooks, sold some of his art to fundraise for both Christchurch and the Muscular Dystrophy Association, won the Good Morning show's Kids' Cook-off competition, appeared on billboards and TV with Judy Bailey as the ambassador for the MDA Bowtie Appeal and will soon appear on TV in a story Attitude Pictures have been filming about him.

Nic is 10 years old and has muscular dystrophy, which is affecting his life in many ways now, like having photosensitive epilepsy, migraines, sleep apnoea and osteoporosis. He also has a wheelchair which he uses around school because he gets very tired. What I find inspiring about Nic is that his condition doesn't define him. He has incredible parents who are supporting him to lead a full and meaningful life, just like other children. Like other kids his age, he plays Lego and draws cool pictures, plays the guitar and likes soccer.  The difference is he has raised over $1700 in a tireless campaign to help others.

Next week Nic's fundraising efforts are going up a notch with the release of his new cookbook through Scholastic. It will be for sale in bookshops and half of all money raised will go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He'll have some cooking demonstrations around Auckland; have a look at the poster below to see when and where.

Follow his journey on his blog, where you can find out more about Nic and his interesting life.

Bird and a giveaway

Today I want to show you the second design I've done for my latest range of embroidery kits. Meet the bird, one of my personal favourites. It's probably not very easy to see in this photo, but I've beaded the body and it's nice and sparkly.  The beads and thread will be included in the kits, by the way.

Here she is as a decal too.  I'll have a limited range for sale soon for those people who really don't have the time or inclination to embroider but who like the designs. But because you're so nice and you've popped over for a visit, I'd like to give one of these bird decals away.  Just tell me where you'll stick your little bird and I'll get my super-duper helpers to draw a name on Monday morning.  Please make sure I can contact you through Blogger or leave your email address if you don't have an account.  Pass it on and enjoy the last week of the school term xx

Thursday, September 20, 2012


I've decided to give a little bit more away about my big, secretive project.  It will be another month before it's ready for sale, but everything seems to be falling into place now so I don't think I'll jinx myself if I show you.  Today I'll just share one image and the inspiration behind it.

Over a year ago I wanted to do an embroidery sampler, but with a picture of our house and a more modern take on the 'Home sweet home' text.  I tried doing cross-stitch but found it so frustrating working with waste canvas and trying to get it to look right that I gave up. I started thinking about printing it so I could cross-stitch over the printed lines, and the idea just grew from there.  What I now have is a range of designs that work together as an embroidery sampler, a sort of deconstructed sampler if you like.

This one has the text, 'Home is wherever I'm with you'.  That's the title of a lovely song by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes; listen to it here or to a very sweet cover here. In fact, just put it on right now, ok.

This song makes me feel so happy... Have a great Friday and weekend folks!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Coming soon

I think it's probably time to give a little reveal of what I've been busy with these last few months. I'd like to show more, but if you can wait another week or two I'll have the big picture ready to share.  Have a great week!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Make a stamp Tutorial

The last few weeks I've had so much fun stamping and printing fabric, I thought it might be good to show you how easy it is to make your own stamps.  The boys went to a birthday party yesterday and as usual I got them to decorate the wrapping paper and card, using some new stamps I had made for another project.  

Here's what you need: 
  • some craft foam (also called 'high density' foam)
  • a backing like a wooden block or perspex.  To cut perspex, score on both sides using a craft knife and ruler.  Hold the score line over the edge of a table and give it a good whack to give a clean break.  
  • A handle (optional).  I used wine corks.

Cut your desired shape out of the foam and paint the back with a waterproof glue.  It is important to cover the whole shape with glue, otherwise the motif will lift off the board after a few uses.  Glue to the board.  The skull stamp on this photo was made using some stamp-making rubber:

Glue the cork to the back of the stamp using the waterproof glue.  Let it set and then either use an ink pad or paint directly onto the stamps with acrylic or fabric paint. 

For more ideas about hand-printing, have a look at my Pinterest board on the topic; Printed by Hand.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


If you're anything like me, you'll be very excited about Fabric-a-brac this Saturday: a hall full of fabric! I have a whole table booked and have been folding and pricing fabric for the last couple of days.  I was quite surprised about how much barkcloth I have sitting around.  Please come and help me get rid of it all; I need more work space in my craft room! 

The details: this coming Saturday, 9 to 12.30 at the Freemans Bay Community Hall.  There will be Eftpos and a cake and drinks table.  And did I mention the fabric?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


This morning I spent a few enjoyable hours with my friends Lesley and Jacqui doing a bit of print-making.  We tried all sorts of things: bubble wrap (very easy, no work involved),

potato prints (as you can see I need more practice with the knives!),

even a bit of rubber stamp-making. I've been thinking about doing this all week and was very excited when Jacqui had some carving blocks in her stash.  I just glued a bottle cork onto the back for a handle.  The boys loved it of course; stick a skull on it and they're in heaven.

Jacqui printed some apples onto linen, with great success. It turns out you need a really sharp knife as the apple needs to be cut perfectly straight to get a good print.

Lesley thought about projects she can do with young children and carved some fun geometric shapes  from potato.  She used brightly coloured acrylic paints and printed onto paper. This is her set-up (I just love those colors together!).

If you'd like some more inspiration for projects you can do at home, have a look at my Printed by Hand Pinterest board.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A chair

I have a thing for chairs.  Some people like shoes; I like chairs and bags.  I found this lovely one a few years ago in the op shop and it's been sitting in our lounge ever since, looking sad and unloved.  The problem with somebody like me is that I can see the potential in something so well that I stop seeing the ugly and just imagine the finished product. And so she sat there for a while, until finally I cut off the ugly covers and recovered her.  It only took me a few hours and now she looks very smart and mid-century-like.  Here's the ugly:

Then I covered the foam squabs with some left-over batting from the stool project

And here she is, much nicer and very comfortable to sit in.

Monday, July 30, 2012


I just had to share it here because I don't think Craig will understand quite how lucky I was this morning: A large Cathrineholm bowl for $4 in the op shop!  Score or what?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

New Directions

A few weeks back some of my friends from Lucky Penny and I got together for an 'emergency crafting session' one Friday morning. The cause: a photo shoot for an article about clubs. Now the magazine (AA Directions) is out and you can also read it online. This photo I borrowed from the online article shows something I've been keeping under my hat for a while. It's not ready yet, so this is only a little sneak peek :)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


I wish I can explain, but one moment I was tidying up my workroom, and the next, I was creweling...

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Best lunch ever

Today's lunch was exceptional, if I say so myself.  Fresh bread and just-made persimmon chutney with cheese and fresh coriander. The bread was made from my second batch of the no-knead dough, made with about 1/2 plain flour, and 1/4 each of high-grade and wholemeal flour, with puffed Amaranth on top. I'm very happy with this ratio and the amaranth adds a nice nutty flavour. 

We were given a huge bag of persimmons the other day and I thought a chutney would be good way to enjoy it into summer.  I found a couple of recipes and combined them (from Epicurious and Nourish), and the result is really delicious: sweet, tangy with great colour. Here is my recipe:

Persimmon chutney (makes 3 large jars)

2kg peeled and chopped ripe persimmons
2 chopped onions
2 cloves crushed garlic
small piece of crushed ginger
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 cup vinegar
2 cups white sugar
1 Tbsp each: curry powder, ground coriander, sweet chilli sauce, salt

Boil until liquid is reduced and chutney has the consistency of jam.

Sunday, July 1, 2012


I've been enjoying life in the slow lane the last few weeks. Joshua started school this term and suddenly I have more time for both work and myself (although strangely enough I always run out of time for house work!). I've made some progress on my quilt, aided by my new quilting frame and Kathy's technique of quilting with multiple needles. I'm enjoying it, but can see that even with a few needles at the same time it's going to take me quite some time to finish.

In other slow news, meet my bread baby. She's a week old and such a bubbly thing. It's the No-knead artisan bread (find the recipe here at the Italian Dish) and keeps for 2 weeks in the fridge; like a sourdough but without all the feeding. I've made a couple of small loaves so far and we all love it so much there's usually just enough for one meal. Delicious.

I've actually been taking things slowly for a bit longer than this term though; I've done only one market so far this year, haven't applied for the Auckland Art and Craft Fair later this month and will probably only start doing more markets around October. I've been meaning to explain my absence from the markets but it's complicated. Let's just say it's a combination of Crafting For Profit Fatigue, slow sales and boredom with having made the same products for the last 4-odd years; probably all feeding off each other.

I'm very excited about the new direction Ruby in the Dust is taking though. I can't show you what I've been doing yet, but just know that I haven't been twiddling my thumbs for the last few months. There are some fresh new designs in the pipeline and hopefully I can show you some soon.  I've also really enjoyed teaching at Handmade last month and today at Lopdell House. Today's class was great fun; maybe I can share some photos of my projects tomorrow. If not, we're off on holiday for a week on Tuesday, yippee! Time for reading, knitting, playing Scrabble and catching up with friends and family...

Monday, June 18, 2012


Hi there, how was your weekend? I have a few photos to show of mine; it's been a full but relaxing weekend and I even managed to sneak in a bit of crafting. I'm taking part in the Handprinted Fabric swap (run by Leslie from Maze and Vale) and decided to do some block-printing.  I used a block I made ages ago using some of Joshua's randomly-cut shapes.  As you'll see below in my set-up shot, I use Permaset inks, with a piece of felt used as stamp pad and then roll the ink over the foam shapes instead of pressing it into the felt.  This keeps the shapes more defined and prevents the block from getting too saturated with ink.

In other news, I made the cutest little mouse from a child's glove.  Meet Eddie, who has been claimed by my helper, Joshua.  This means I have to make at least two more now, one for Daniel and one for the Sock Monkey Challenge, but that's ok because Eddie was so much fun to make! He's tiny, maybe only 10cm tall, but that's because of the size of the glove I used.  I made him from this little tutorial, but used the cuff for his ears and head.  A tip if you're keen to use safety eyes with sock monkeys and the like: don't cut even a tiny hole for the eye shaft.  Just push it through the fabric, otherwise you'll end up with an ever-growing hole around the eye, as I found out with Eddie's first head!

Have a great week :)