RSS Feed

Many hats, one head

Posted on

I have had a long fascination with fascinators.

(see what I did there?)

There is something just so lovely about hats and decorating yourself with an item that serves no other purpose than being shiny and pretty.

My first foray into making fascinators was more about fabric and the process of design, rather than going to the trouble of constructing a head pieces based on traditional millinery techniques. To be honest, they weren’t the best, but I really enjoyed doing it.

This year, I have felt like my life needed a new creative endeavor, and I decided that making fascinators (and who knows, maybe even hats!) would be it. So, for the last couple of months I have been busy researching and practising millinery techniques and have been really enjoying the process. My inspiration has been the lovely shapes and textures of the 30s, 40s and 50s and I love using vintage trims (like the beaded rosette in the photo below)

But, what do i do with them? I only have one head, and I am not really interested in making a career out of it. Etsy maybe?

Anyway, for now I think I will just enjoy myself, and see where it goes!


One of my new creations.


Tracing is not cheating!

Posted on

I really enjoy the design process when starting out a new embroidery. The delicious hours of research on the internet or looking through art books, sketching, then getting out the pencils and textas to flesh out the design in colour. Finally comes the moment when the design gets transferred to fabric and you thread the the needle….

I have never been entirely happy with the methods I used to transfer patterns. Using normal drawing pens worked, but there was always the risk that the black ink would run when the final product was washed. Using the embroidery transfers alleviated that problem, but I found that the quality of the line was always too thick, an issue if the design required delicacy.

Luckily, I stumbled across this blog post by Down the Grapevine Lane. Long story short, she uses a Frixion pen and a window to trace the pattern on to the fabric. Genius! The pen in question is erasable, either by the dinky rubber at the end, or by heat (iron or hairdryer).

(I found the Frixion pens at Officeworks for about $3 (AU).

I liked this solution because it was cheap, easy and I could achieve a clean, fine line. I have been working on an embroidery for about 3 months, and the ink is still visible and hasn’t smudged. The only thing I did find, was that I needed a light box, as tracing large or intricate designs was torture on the arm muscles. Luckily I have a husband who doesn’t mind a bit of time in the shed with some wood and together we came up with a cheap solution

However! I have read some articles that are not so keen on the Frixion solution. Mary Corbet’s ‘Needle and Thread‘ had some good points about ink remaining in the fabric and warns that the ink can re-appear. She makes some alternative suggestions about archival quality methods, which she suggests might be worth considering if your project is going to be an heirloom, or uses expensive materials.

For my purposes, I think the Frixion is perfect. My style of embroidery is fluid, and I don’t mind a reminder of the process. Isn’t that half the fun anyway?

What do you think?



Dust in my boots; gardening and sock protectors

Posted on

My garden has had a lot of attention lately.

We have a dream to turn our 3 acre semi-rural block into a green, productive paradise. But that means lots of hard work and not much time to write blog posts! So far we have planted fruit trees, put in two wicking beds, a raised garden bed, a herb bed and a seedling raising area, complete with automatic sprinkler.

While I do find gardening relaxing, therapeutic and an excellent work out, gardening in a South East Queensland summer can be tough. Obviously it gets hot (very hot!) and humid. Historically, it has enjoyed good rainfall, but the changing climate can mean that we can suffer long periods with no rain when the garden has to be manually watered to keep it alive. It can also be sweaty, dusty, muddy, insect ridden and full of sticks, hard rocks, prickles and the occasional snake.

So good boots are essential!


I love my work boots- they are surprisingly comfortable, if a bit heavy. They protect my feet from heavy rocks, insects and reptiles.

One small problem: dust in my socks. After a day of traipsing around, I would find my boots full of dust and pebbles, but men’s sock protectors (little sleeve things that go over the top of your boots and stop stuff from falling in them) are very boring, so I made my own! They are very easy, essentially a fabric tube with elastic at the top. I used a drill cotton, which was ok, but I found that it frayed a little.

I have included the pattern and instruction (well… I call it a pattern, but its really just a rectangle!) so that you can make your own. Just click on the link below.

DIY sock protectors

I love that two separate parts of my life (gardening and mucking around in my studio) have finally come together. I wonder what other sewing/gardening projects I can come up with?


Cataloguing: not really scary….

Posted on

As first year student librarian, the thing that caused me the greatest anxiety was cataloguing.

I understood the reasons and theories behind it; to help people retrieve information about resources in a library from a list, and from various points of access, and that a person called a cataloguer usually did this job. (This ABC-CLIO-ODLIS article provides a great definition). While I had a tenuous grasp on the basics, could navigate my way around a MARC record, and on a good day, I could remember what AACR2 stood for, the idea of applying my fresh knowledge in a workplace was a bit nerve wracking.

So signing up for a RDA webinar, run by the Schools Catalogue Information Service was a great opportunity to learn more about how cataloguing was changing in school libraries.

A bit of background: the Schools Catalogue Information Service (SCIS) is a subscription based cataloguing service for schools, where school libraries can copy catalogue records into their library management system, rather than doing it from scratch. This service is critical for schools as it limits the time spent on original cataloguing, leaving more time for librarians to focus on developing programs and educating students.

RDA or Resource Description and Access replaces AACR2 (or Anglo-American Cataloguing Rules, the second version). Basically AACR is a set of rules used for describing an item in a library catalogue. AACR was written before technology, so can run into issues when a cataloguer needs to describes something digital like an e-book. RDA has been written to replace the old system and bring it up to date with new technology.

The Webinar I attended was run by the Australian School Library Association(ASLA)  and involved representatives from SCIS discussing how their organisation was addressing the change to RDA and what this would mean for librarians responsible for cataloguing in schools. They described RDA as ‘resource description for the digital age’ and explained how RDA would use carrier, media and content to describe resources, rather than the physical description currently used. Practically, librarians could expect not to find a GMD (General Material Designation) when the new standards were implemented and that certain phrases such as ‘second edition’ and the Bible would no longer be abbreviated.

As a student, I found it reassuring that there was this kind of support available to librarians when changes in standards are made. It not longer feels like I will be turned out into the big bad world as a fresh librarian and expect to know every single standards and cataloguing method there is off by heart. There is a network of people and organisations out there working to educate and support librarians.

The other thing that I found reassuring is that the librarians attending the webinar were happy and comfortable to ask questions and to share the knowledge and information that they had. Maybe this reflects the core function of a librarian: to provide people with access to information. It is clear that this flows into professional development as well. There is an eagerness to share information willingly, and to support other members of the profession. This is not the first time I have encountered this. During both of my professional placements (as a part of my university degree, I am expected to complete a certain amount of professional placements in different libraries), the librarians I worked with were happy to share knowledge and answer endless questions, even the really stupid ones (‘what’s a call number?’ after I had spend an hour sticking them on books! *facepalm*)

So the moral of this story is that if you are a newly enrolled LIS student, its ok not to know what the number of the publisher field in a MARC catalogue is, because there is always someone out there who can help you. My advice as someone who is very close to graduation is to find a mentor who you can mine for information, and not to be worried that you don’t know everything after your first term. Also, after a while, cataloguing actually becomes really satisfying and just a bit fun.


Public libraries, e-Books and UX design

Posted on

Have you ever tried to download an e-book from your public library website? What was your experience? Did you find what you were looking for easily and could download it efficiently ? Or did you struggle to decipher file formats and instructions?

This post will focus on how libraries can provide simple and efficient access to e-books on their website, given the multitude of formats, platforms and e-readers available. It will look at the design, content, formats and platforms offered on public library websites, and the aspects of these sites that lead to a positive or negative user experience. It will then look at user experience design as a possible tool for libraries and librarians to assist creating website that are easy to use for patrons.

While this post will obviously be aimed at librarians, I hope it will also help IT staff tasked with designing or maintaining a public library website, as well as other information professionals, such as teacher librarians who might be struggling with e-resource access. Hopefully, it will also help e-book readers to understand how libraries structure their e-lending websites and the reasons behind some of the seemingly arbitrary rules and methods of delivery.

There is no getting around the enormity of this issue! There are a multitude of factors which influence how public libraries design and run their websites and how e-books are lent to library patrons. User experience design is also a broad set of principles and practices and applies to both websites and manufactured products. To help simplify these issues (and to stop you nodding off!), I have created a series of videos to outline the issues and their possible solutions. I have also restricted my discussions to borrowing fiction e-books, rather than access to electronic databases and journals.

Chapter 1: E-books and public libraries

Chapter one will look at how an Australian library is offering e-books through its website.

You will also get to meet Bob.

Picture of an old man with an e-reader

This is Bob



 Chapter 2: User experience design

What user experience design? This video will outline the basics of user experience design. As the video will mention, it is a very broad topic. if you would like to do some further reading, I have listed some resources at the end of this post.


Chapter 3: Public libraries and e-Books: how does UX design fit in?

The second chapter looked the basics of user experience design and how it focuses on the emotions the user experiences when they are interacting with a product, and how designers might approach a project with this in mind. This chapter will consider how these elements may be incorporated into a library website to help patrons access e-books in a simple and efficient way.

So there you have it! I warned you it is a broad and complicated issues, and not something that can be solved easily or quickly.

If you didn’t have the fortitude to sit through my fifteen minutes of video, here are some takeaway points;

  • Delivering e- books to patrons is complicated and often dictated by the e-book vendor or publisher, who may apply restrictions on the books available and how they are accessed.
  • UX design is about the emotional interaction a user has with a product, not aesthetic design or functionality.
  • Consultation with the user is critical at all stages of the design process
  • Libraries and librarians may not have control over how their websites are designed and managed, therefore making it difficult to design to their users needs.
  • A UX designed library website might be flexible, small, not for librarians and be able to communicate efficiently in a limited time frame.

If you would like to read more about Digital Rights Management, you can read about it here. The  IFLA E-lending Background Paper gives a good overview of the current e-lending landscape and how it affects libraries.

These are the books and articles mentioned in the videos. Unfortunately some of them maybe behind a paywall, but your local library or university library may be able to provide access for you.

Chapter 1

No shelf required : e-books in libraries.  Edited by Sue Polanka. Sue also has a blog that is worth reading.

E-books as a collection and a service: Developing a public library instruction program to support eBook use. By Brendan O’Connell and Dana Haven

Library e-books: Some can’t find them, others find them and don’t know what they are. By James A. Buczynski

The e-book revolution : a primer for librarians on the front lines. By Kate Sheehan.

I found this book extremely helpful, easy to read and current (published 2013).  Highly recommended  if you are thinking about implementing e-books in your library, or studying.

chapter 2

What Is User Experience Design? Overview, Tools And Resources. By Jacob Gube. This is a great article. Smashing magazine has a multitude of amazing articles and books on a variety of UX topics.

The elements of user experience : user-centered design for the Web . By Jesse James Garrett.

A project guide to UX design : for user experience designers in the field or in the making. By Russ Unger and Carolyn Chandler

Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences. By Allen Jesmond and James Chudley

User Experience (UX) Design for Libraries. By Aaron Schmidt and Amanda Etches

Chapter 3

Some of the resources in chapter 3 are the same as those used in chapter 2, so I haven’t listed them here- you can find them in the chapter 2 list.

Lessons from Steve Jobs: a digital framework for tapping into patrons’ emotions. By Helene Blowers

UX Gardens. By Robert Fox.

Public libraries and E-books: after a tumultuous honeymoon, seeking a stable marriage. By Devin Crawley

Reference BackTalk: Testing, Testing: Virtual Reference UX. By Stephen Francoeur






Genre wars.

Posted on

In August last year (yes, it has taken me a while to write this post!) I was invited to attended an event presented by the English Teachers’ Association of Queensland. The aim of the event was to give english teachers an overview of shortlisted book in the Children’s book council of Australia’s Book of the Year award and was presented by the Young People’s Librarian at the Toowoomba Regional Library, Liz Derouet.

Liz outlined each book and gave some personal comments about what she thought of the writing, plot and her experiences reading the book. She was well informed about each novel and it was clear that she had read most of the books, although she did admit to listening to the audio versions during her morning and afternoon commute to save time. The list of books was extensive, and as I flipped through the numerous pages of notes, I ashamedly realised that I had not read one of these books. Not a single one.

Time for a confession. My reading habits are very… escapist. I pretty much live on a diet of fantasy and science fiction, with the occasional Billie Letts book (My favorite is The Honk and Holler opening soon. There is something about her feel-good depiction of American poverty and heartache that just gets me everytime). I have preferred this genre since I was a kid, and while I did diversify my reading at times (I spent one summer reading every Kinky Friedman book I could get my hands on), I always strayed back to the dragons and space ships. Who knows what influences or experiences lead to a particular reading preference? It never really bothered me. Until now. Working in a secondary school library meant that I was frequently asked to recommend books, or for books that are similar to other books. This was fine if  the kid was into Raymond E. Fiest, but anything else? Forget it! I had no idea.

So then began the genre wars. I made a concerted effort to read books that were not fantasy/sci-fi. I started with Margo Lanagan’s Sea Heartsnot a complete departure, but a start at least. This book is amazing. Please go and find a copy and read it immediately! Lanagan has created a whimsical, but dark tale about greed, love and loss, in language so beautiful it will make you weep. Seriously. It is that good.  Not a bad start, I thought, to my foray into other genre

Cover of Sea hearts by Margo Lanagan

Cover of Sea hearts by Margo Lanagan

Lets just say, since then, my reading habit strayed back to the escapism, just the young adult escapism I can borrow from the library.

I think the idea that has made me struggle with diversifying my reading, is the contrast between reading as a form of enjoyment, and reading as professional development. I definitely see the need to read widely as a librarian, so that we can make informed recommendations and to better understand what our users are interested in. We also need to read to ascertain whether certain titles are suitable for young audiences especially in a secondary school library (I am not talking censorship here, there are just some books that seem suitable, but are  not appropriate for teenagers. Sometimes the only way to make that decision is to read the book).

Despite the stereotype; Librarians do not spend all day reading. It is not our job to read every book on the shelf, rather,  it is our job to know our collections and to be able to link users with resources that are meaningful to them. Reading every book that we think our users would be interested in is impossible and illogical, and would take us away from the fundamental elements of being a librarian.

So maybe I shouldn’t beat myself up about my reading choices, which are in essence a form of relaxation, along the same lines as yoga or gardening. However, I think it is vital to be in touch with what is popular or seminal in the reading lives of our users. During my time as a fledgling librarian, I have learnt that it is vital to establish and maintain a network of people and resources who can help you stay informed. Suppliers, colleagues and events, such as the one I attended, and the the students/users themselves all assist in developing an understanding of what is needed in a that particular library.

Are you a librarian/Library sciences student? I would love to hear about your reading habits? Did your habit change after you become a librarian?


One stitch at a time: embroidery

Posted on

On the weekend, a dear friend asked me about the embroidery technique I had used in some recent pictures I posted to Facebook.

Luckily, I had run a tutorial on embroidery some years ago for a Brown Owl’s session, so had already done a tutorial sheet, which I will happily share with you.

Image of an embroidery of a ship

The image I posted to facebook













Let me just point out here that I pretty much taught myself to embroider, and I am sure that if an embroidery elder saw my work, she (or he, I guess) would probably have a fit!  I like my embroidery to be fairly fluid, freehand and I am not too worried if the fabric puckers, or the patterns shows through the stitching. I enjoy the process.

Usually my designs are in block colours and fairly simple, with very few details or small areas (although I am getting better at that). I usually free hand my design using a normal fineline, black art pen or a non-fading fabric pen (keep in mind you might want to wash the final product, so you have to use something that won’t run….much). I find the non-fading types are the best as you might take months to complete your embroidery, and you don’t want your design to fade halfway through. The other method I use is to sketch the design on paper, then use some transfer paper from Sublime Stitching (they have white transfer paper too, so you can use dark fabric). By the way, these guys are fantastic! they have the radest patterns (their tag is ‘this ain’t your Gramma’s embroidery’!) and the most beautiful threads and accessories. Definitely worth checking out, especially if you are not so confident at drawing/designing and you don’t want to contemplate the complete yawn-fest of designs at spotlight and lincraft.


I know there are special embroidery fabrics out there, but they seem to cost a fortune. I usually go for something light, cotton or linen, with a reasonably large weave. Seems to work just fine.


I use a size 6 embroidery needle. But experiement. That might not work for you.

Fabric onto hoop

You will need a hoop. I go for the good old fashioned cane ones, as they are cheap and you can usually find them at the op shop.

–       Separate the two sections of hoop

–       Position fabric over smaller section of hoop and place larger hoop over top

–       Tighten screw half way

–       Pull fabric so that fabric has no creases

–       Tighten screw all the way so that fabric won’t move as you are sewing.

If tightening that ridiculous metal screw on the embroidery hoop is too much for your fingers, get one of those rubber page turner things that secretaries use, turn it inside out, place it over the screw and the little rubber bumps will turn it for you.


Embroidery thread (sometimes called ‘floss’) is made up of lots of individual strands. Depending on what kind of stitch, or thickness you need, one or more can be threaded. I use one strand doubled over for most of my work. Check out markets and op shops too. Sometimes people get rid of their old thread.

– To help separate the threads, pat the top of your length, the threads will part making it easier to separate.

– To get one thread out, simply grab the thread you want in your fingers with one hand and use the other hand to pull the other threads down. Do it slowly and it helps not to have a super long length.

– Don’t forget to knot the thread.

Time to stitch!

There are heaps of complicated stitches out there. If your are only wanting to fill in a design, with no fancy raised bits, these stitches will get you there.

Split Stitch

Is pretty much all I use! its fast. And sexy.

BAck Stitch

Satin Stitch

Check out YouTube- there are so many instructional videos on there it isn’t funny! Sublime Stitching also has a delicious range of books.

Some Tips:

  • Don’t drink red wine and embroider. Drink white, it doesn’t stain.
  • Be super OCD about your threads. If you get serious, you will end up with ton and keeping them in containers or bags will mean they won’t get tangled
  • Be kind to your eyes, especially if you embroider at night. A good lamp is the best.
  • Be prepared to stuff up. knotted threads, lame designs, paw prints on your fabric are all apart of the journey- go with it!
  • Find a good framer. If you create something amazing, you’ll want to preserve it. (I use these guys)


Photo of embroider

Example of an Embroidery Elder’s work- my great Grandmother did this… by candle light


Please share! If you are an Embroidery Elder, I would LOVE to hear from you!