3 April 2017

use it or lose it

turns out if you don't blog for over a year the part of your brain that stores your blog password (the same one you've had for the entire ten, no, ELEVEN years of this blog, mind you), atrophies, or maybe just fills up with shopping lists or menu plans.

anyway a week later I tried again et voila here I am.

what's been happening? um, the knitting has slowed down somewhat and the sewing has ramped up. I've totally revitalised my wardrobe with lots of simple sewing patterns in lovely fabrics. I've realised I don't enjoy executing complex patterns, but prefer to sew the same Esme dress/Scout tee/Owyn pants/Kate-Gabby tunic mashup over and over, in pretty fabrics. having said that, I've just purchased a Vogue reprint of a 1940s vintage dress pattern so watch this space. (in another year, probably).

the boychildren are no longer children but all grown up. two are at university and those same two did a lot of travelling around Europe last year, while the third is in his last year at high school. funny to look back on the first few posts of this blog eleven (!) years ago and see him as a wee six year old.

me? I've been travelling in between work work work. our retreat|recreate textile tours business is going great guns and we've now held textile retreats in Bali twice, Vietnam once, and are about to head off to Vietnam for the second time next month. a textile tour in Japan is booked for later this year (27 August to 6 September - bookings are open! sign up now!)

the kitties are well. the mister is well. the garden is a mess because our little semi-rural area got proper sewerage connections last month (five years of planning and works) and a noisy digger ploughed right through our paving, the fire pit, a garden bed and the lawn all in the name of decommissioning the septic tank and installing a new tank with pump and lots of pipes leading up to the big pipe under the road that connects us to the rest of Melbourne's stinky sewerage network.

Batik tjanting tools from our batik and indigo dyeing workshop in Bali last October.

20 November 2015

A 13 day adventure exploring the cultural and textile traditions of Vietnam :: 7 - 19 May 2016


Textiles, travel, craft, exploration!

Does this sound like your cup of tea?

If so, you're invited to join a small group of like-minded textile-enthused women for the experience of a lifetime, visiting specialist handicraft villages, undertaking hands-on weaving, dyeing and embroidery workshops, exploring some of South East Asia's most jaw-dropping scenery and meeting and staying with the colourful hilltribe people who live there. Plus much, much more.

This tour, accompanied by a local (English speaking) Vietnamese guide, starts and ends in the beautiful city of Hanoi where we will spend several days based in the vibrant Old Quarter, exploring the town and its foremost sightseeing attractions in addition to nearby silk weaving and basketry craft villages.

An overnight train journey takes us to Sapa where we will spend three nights, one of those in a rural village homestay while we participate in weaving, batik, dyeing and embroidery workshops. We will also have the opportunity to cook (and eat) Vietnamese/Hmong food with our homestay hosts!

From Sapa we travel to Ha Giang province, a magnificent highland region near the Chinese border, comprising lush forests and terraced rice paddies, with the dramatic mountains of Heaven's Gate soaring in the background. This remote and spectacular area only opened to tourists in very recent years and is known as Vietnam's final frontier. We will spend several days visiting local hilltribe villages, visiting a specialist textile village providing skills and livelihood to victims of human trafficking, shopping at the local textile and general markets and trekking through spectacular landscapes.

Our final couple of days before returning to Hanoi will be spent at a guesthouse on the shores of beautiful Ba Be Lake, exploring the area by boat, visiting waterfalls and relaxing.

Included in price

  • local English speaking guide throughout the tour 
  • all transport, sightseeing attractions (museums, galleries, etc), workshops and excursions as per the itinerary
  • accommodation as per the itinerary
  • meals as per the itinerary (11 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 3 dinners)
  • one group airport transfer each way

Not included in price

  • international airfares
  • travel insurance (compulsory)
  • visas
  • early check in or late check out
  • meals and drinks not included in the itinerary
  • expenditure of a personal nature
  • tips and gratuities
  • extra activities

Price: AUD $2,345.00 per person. 

A non-refundable deposit of AUD $300.00 is required to secure your place*.

The balance will be due by close of business on 26 February 2016.

06 vintage-vietnam_0

Things to note

  • the tour comprises 12 nights/13 days and operates from Saturday 7th – Thursday 19th May 2016. The opportunity exists to extend your trip by an extra night or two at our hotel in Hanoi before or after the tour, at the special group discount price of AUD $60.00 per room per night;
  • accommodation is in single rooms in 3 star hotels, except for the homestay and overnight train trip where accommodation is shared and more basic;
  • we are striving to offer a culturally, environmentally and economically sustainable tour. To this end: we have engaged local guides and hosts; we visit several workshops and business enterprises that are either village co-ops (ie. all profits returned directly to the villagers), fair trade organisations and/or projects aimed at providing vocational training and experience to local youth or disadvantaged communities; the tour price also includes a carbon offset;
  • this trip includes several two to four hour treks so a moderate level of fitness and mobility are required;
  • this trip is offered in partnership with a licensed travel agent and tour operator for your (and our) peace of mind;
  • the itinerary is a full one, however several free periods (some afternoons and several evenings) are built into the schedule;
  • a detailed daily itinerary is available;
  • one group airport transfer each way is included so where possible we will encourage guests to coordinate arrival/departure times as close as possible. Guests who choose to fly at different times should note that a taxi to/from Hanoi and the airport costs approximately AUD $50.00. Pre-arranged airport transfers can also be arranged at an additional cost of AUD $50.00 per transfer.

To secure your place on this exciting textile adventure or for more information, please email susankee6@gmail.com to request a booking form and detailed itinerary.


We hope you will join us!

Susan Keeble and Susan Rees-Osborne


* Should the minimum number of guests not be achieved and the tour does not go ahead, your $300.00 deposit will be returned.

+ All photos used by permission of Peregrine Adventures Pty Ltd.

01 Bac_Ha_Market-Lao_Cai-San_Khoo

13 November 2015

Vietnam textiles adventure :: expressions of interest invited now!

Vietnam textiles adventure redux! (I got...

 Prices and the finalised itinerary will be available in the next day or so, but if you want to join a group of like-minded textile-enthused women on a wonderful adventure exploring the textile traditions of Northern Vietnam (think Hanoi, silk weaving villages, basket weaving villages, embroidery workshops, textile markets, remote mountain villages and some of the most spectacular scenery you've seen in your life), hold those dates and stand by.

 Expressions of interest are being taken now. Places are limited and we already have several people confirmed so don't miss out!

 So exciting!

9 October 2015

Live from Ubud

I can't find any time to blog in a meaningful way while we're here in Ubud, but many of us (me included) are posting to Instagram frequently. Search the hashtag #retreatrecreate over there (and to - lesser extent on Facebook) and you'll see lots of stories and Lara over at Thornberry is blogging every single morning. We're awake at rooster o'clock most days - some of us go to yoga and some of us blog!

Okay, blogger is not letting me link or insert photos right now. It was fine yesterday but the wifi is sketchy and the iPad is elderly. The retreat|recreate page has links though and do follow us all on instagram via the hashtag. I'll edit this post when i return home (small sob).

Edited: I'm home, struggling with re-entry, but already planning next year's retreat!

Check out retreat|recreate for the first round up of this year's event. I'll be adding more round up entries as time allows.

Next year's dates are confirmed, prices and final details to come!

29 September 2015

indigo and shibori

Have I shown you all the blues yet I wonder? I used to use this blog as a record of all my makings but more and more I seem to use Instagram. I've done a lot of indigo and shibori dyeing this year - kickstarted by a workshop earlier in the year at the Handmakers Factory, run by bekind textiles. I had previously dyed with indigo when I was a member of the Natural Dye Group at the Botanic Gardens, but needed a push to get me going again (and this was my year of making time to do stuff again). Since then I've dyed lots of serviettes,

Fun with the indigo vat #dyeing #indigo #shibori


Indigo on handspun, mohair and merino singles. #dyeing #botanicaldyeing #indigo #spinnersofinstagram #handspun


Indigo and Shibori on silk and muslin scarves #indigo #shibori #dyeing #botanicaldyeing

and so on.

shibori bundles

Then a friend asked me to host an indigo play date at her house so a group of us dyed scarves and tea towels,

Shibori and indigo on silk scarves and linen tea towels

Practice pieces before the real thing

and finally at craft camp earlier this month I ran another indigo dyeing session.

I set up an indigo vat at craft camp. These are @janljos' gorgeous panels.

Shibori and indigo at craft camp

And then I went and sewed a whole lot of blue clothes.

Crinkle linen long skirt with enormous pockets.

Wiksten tank in William Morris lawn

Procrastinatory project - another Wiksten tank in left over navy crinkle linen

And one colourful dress.


Next blog post - the textile arts retreat in Ubud! I get on a plane the day after tomorrow and I cannot tell you excited I am.

21 August 2015

little hints of spring

Sparkly river with bonus sun flare

Icy at my place this morning

Pale pink cousins to the red ones from earlier in the week

I never tire of waking up to this

Hints of spring

winter is here

Gumnut babies

Betsy likes a freshly lit wood stove. Well for the first ten toasty minutes anyway until it gets too hot.

After a cold cold winter, I'm ready for some warmth.

19 August 2015

handmade update

Poor neglected (ten year old!) blog. I really should feed and water it occasionally.

Ok. Here are some pics of my handmade achievements over the past couple of months.

Reclaiming my fondness for pink with two Hemlock Woven Tees
A couple of woven Hemlock tees. Quick, easy, PINK.

Stylish Dress Book 2, dress G #handmadewardrobe #craftcampjune2015
An apron dress from Stylish Dress Book 2 (dress G), in black stretch linen. This has been a huge success - I'd wear it every single day if I could get away with it. I already have another cut out in indigo dyed lightweight linen, and tentative plans for one in oatmeal-coloured linen for summer.

Fun with the indigo vat #dyeing #indigo #shibori
Lots of shibori indigo dyed napkins, tea towels and scarves. Slightly addicted.

Never ending cardigan is ended. Blue bits done in the indigo vat!
A 'caramel' cardigan (free pattern on Ravelry) made entirely from charity shop 8ply. I had some grey and a separate amount of lemon yellow, neither big enough to knit an entire jumper or cardi, so I skeined up the yellow balls and dyed them in the indigo vat. Half of them went in twice. See addicted comment above.

sock progress
Socks with yarn from Ixchel Bunny, purchased on my annual weekend away to the Bendigo Wool Show.

Kindle cosy!
A quick diversionary project away from the bigger knitting projects, this little two-evening's-worth-of-crocheting Kindle cosy pleases me enormously. Crocheted with scraps of odd sock yarns, held doubled.

Lila - still needs blocking but as you can tell by the arm creases has already been worn.
A 'Lila' jumper. It is ridiculously cropped and blocking hasn't assisted much with length, but it's warm, cosy and the perfect green. You might remember I knitted the mister a jumper from the same Cascade 220 yarn some years ago (he kindly modelled it while steering a horse). I'll definitely knit this pattern again but I'll make it longer and probably skip the front hem shaping.

I made a #dottieangelfrock
And a dottie angel dress. I am hanging out for some warmer weather so I can actually wear this. I have another cut out in Nani Iro fabric and I'd like to make a couple in less folksy fabric so I can wear them to work. The neckline is crazy wide on me and the back neck needs raising so I need to make a few tweaks, but it's a good all rounder type pattern - easy, comfortable and fast.

It's good to put all my recent handmades in one place like this. I feel like so much of my time is spent at work or at the clothesline or in the supermarket that I don't get "enough time" to make, but seeing them lined up like this is evidence that grabbing those little pockets of time here and there is worthwhile as they do add up.

All the woolly projects are on my Ravelry page if you need pattern or yarn specs.

30 April 2015

retreat | recreate

So, the exciting news? I am hosting a women's creative [textile] arts retreat in beautiful Ubud, Bali.

Bali Wellness Retreat (8)

Details are at retreat|recreate if you would like to take a look!

Yoga Resort in Ubud (13)

20 April 2015


I told you I am doing a pottery course, right? It's a ten week beginner course, and then you can just pay for another ten sessions and keep turning up to the studio. It's kind of addictive and oh so satisfying EATING OFF YOUR OWN HANDMADE PLATE.

Breakfast on a handmade plate

Let the long Easter weekend commence! Shop-bought hot cross bun on a homemade plate.

Here's another slab plate, ready to glaze. I ended up glazing this in a simple white with a sparkle effect. I have no idea what it will look like (classy? naff?) as it takes a few weeks for the teacher to fill the [enormous] kiln and fire all our pieces.

Slab plate ready for glazing

This little pear was made on day one when we learnt to make pinch pots. Or in our case, pinch pears. That crackle glaze is a lot of fun. The bottom part of the pear is matte black, but the proportions aren't quite right - I wish I'd made the black just a skerrick higher.

Pinch pear with crackle glaze from pottery class no 1. Looks more accomplished with a b&w filter.

And finally, my first wheel-thrown pots. (Embrace the wonk is my mantra). These are little tumblers which have since been underglazed with mismatching pale blue bands. Again, they are yet to be fired so I'm not sure how they'll turn out, but that's half the fun.

First wheel thrown pots!

Continuing my year of doing stuff that's fun, on the weekend I went to a fantastic indigo and shibori workshop. Photos to come when I am home in daylight hours to take some decent shots, but in the meantime here's a little instagram photo of some of our sample pieces laid out on the table.

Shibori on indigo with @bekindtextiles at @handmakersfactory

I have some exciting news to share. Some of you may have already seen it on Instagram or facebook, but it needs its own post rather than being plonked here. Sorry to be such a tease! I'll be back with a big announcement soon.

2 April 2015

dyeing experiments

Natural dye workshop with strawberries #naturaldyeing

Some years ago I was a member of the Natural Dye Group at the Plant Craft Cottage (at Melbourne's Botanic Gardens). I think I talked about it here on the blog although I can't find it. Since then I've done a smattering of natural dyeing at home, plus a whole shipload of acid dyeing, Kool Aid dyeing (thank you American dealers friends) and food colouring dyeing. My most popular post still is this one - it continues to get hundreds of hits from people keen to learn how to dye yarn safely with small people milling around.

Anyway then I went back to work full time and blah blah blah everything fell to pot. Except my bank balance, so you know, swings and roundabouts.

Well this year I kind of made the resolution that this will be my year of doing more stuff I love. Including dyeing and dancing and learning new things (more of that next post. I have POTTERY to show you, people. POTTERY).

So, I took a natural dye class a couple of months ago to refresh myself and give me a kickstart back into it.

Strawberry natural dyeing. Clockwise from top: copper iron aluminium solar #naturaldyeing
Natural dye class with I Am Alchemy.

Since then I've been going crazy. Mostly solar dyeing with the occasional foray into the kitchen for stovetop dyeing. Solar dyeing is the perfect methodology for dyeing if you work full time. (I sound like an advertisement. Dyeing for busy mothers and career women!) You whack a few things into a jar on the weekend and leave it in the garden for a few weeks. Easy.

Solar dyeing coming along nicely one week later. Tumeric, ivy, raspberry, tea. Not shown (in steel pot) - strawberry.
Tumeric, ivy, raspberry, tea. Mordanted with vinegar.

Solar dyeing results: tumeric, raspberry, ivy, red cabbage, strawberry.
Tumeric, raspberry, ivy, red cabbage, strawberry.

Blueberry, raspberry, red cabbage #solardyeing #naturaldyes #naturaldyeing #dyeing #yarn
Blueberry, raspberry, red cabbage.

Solar dyeing: red cabbage, tea, raspberry.
Red cabbage, tea, raspberry.

Solar dyeing: blueberry, logwood, madder.
Blueberry, logwood, madder. Mordanted with vinegar.

Red cabbage dyed wool yarn: left = solar dyed, right = stovetop dyed. Both mordanted with vinegar.
Red cabbage. Left solar dyed, right stove top. Both mordanted with vinegar.

Madder, logwood, blueberry.
Madder, logwood, blueberry.

Tending three new dyepots this morning before work
This week's experiments: Black bean, logwood exhaust, carrot tops. All pre-mordanted with alum

Three skeins of hand dyed sock yarn. Nailed the variegated soft pink I was after.
Kool Aid dyeing! Fingering weight yarn which is on its way to becoming a cardigan for me after the woman who expressed interest in me dyeing it for her decided $25 per skein is waaay too expensive. Ahem, take a look at etsy, ma'am, you'll see many hand dyed skeins for $32 per a skein

My collection of naturally dyed yarns grows
The beginnings of a beautiful naturally dyed collection, hooray!.

What to do with lots of little 50g balls of dyed yarn? Dig out your loom and get weaving of course.