The little birds...

If you watch little birds you will see they are busy and happy! Using whatever they can find they create the most gorgeous little nest.
I would be the little bird with some glittery thread in her nest!
We can be like this. Happily working away with the things that are available to us to create a beautiful and happy home.
All the while with a little song in our heart.

Banner by Free Pretty Things for You.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Gathering inspiration.

Last week I posted a picture of a big old jar filled with a few baby succulent cuttings and tied up with string that our local florist had for $49. I went back there today and they had sold out! When I visited  last there were at least 12 of these on a big table. Anyway, I had lots of comments about how easy this would be to do and how inexpensive! I thought if you added a tag that said "thank you for helping me grow" this would also be a nice school teacher gift. But an easy and nice gift anyway.

There are so many good ideas out there! I need inspiration to come up with ideas as mostly they don't just pop into my head. But sometimes we avoid the expensive and divine shops as they are so tempting! But these are the places to frequent and gather ideas, look at prices etc. I learn a lot of food presentation and packaging ideas this way. So the gourmet store with the crazy prices is a good place to study! Who knew an apricot pie is $40? or a lasagne for four is $28? Six gluten free biscuits beautifully wrapped was $16?  After seeing this you value what you make more. You are more confident to give your cooking as a gift. Well, that's how it has helped me. And in the way Mimi does we realise how much some of the things we make would be costing to buy if we weren't doing the things we do!

Yesterday Chloe and I went down the street for some creative inspiration! It was a sunny gorgeous day! The first day of autumn. My favourite month! We went into a fancy boutique and the knitwear was out. There were some lovely knitted scarves. Ohhh.... we picked up two in particular. We were like little moths around a flame! They were very soft wool and the yarn had a sparkly thread through it. $279 each. Yep. Now we both can knit and both could knit either of these scarves with similar yarn. And after this we are inspired! We exchanged glances and rolled eyes over the prices....

I covered a whole heap about this in my e book. If you go looking you will be amazed at the prices charged for simple things.... a few biscuits, a cake, a pie, a knitted scarf.... and you will see some lovely ways to present them and package them up. I didn't get a photo of the scarves as an unfriendly sales lady slightly intimidated me out of it! But in general I take my phone and snap pictures of anything I want to remember! I always look at the prices, what things are made of and so on.

Another thing could happen. You might see that your talent for knitting or sewing or whatever could make you an income if you would like a sideline. Seeing what is selling and at what prices is a real eye opener. Knitting and crocheting seem in particular demand right now.

As we strolled and saw things we both knew we could do we were already planning what to make first! Bursts of enthusiasm like this are priceless and so much fun!

Back in the florist there were simple presentation ideas. Plain plastic pots wrapped generously in brown paper and tied with string instantly look beautiful and french/country. If you bring a plant indoors and do this it looks lovely. Or to give as a gift. You could do this with a bunch of flowers and a jar. How simple but beautiful.

They had other succulents in little wooden boxes.... another simple idea as a little gift for all of us with succulents we can pick!

They used ordinary wooden crates and boxes as decor. And a very old beaten up painters ladder as their shelves. This was lovely... what an idea....

I will be showing these pictures to Dad and Andy so they understand what to watch out for. Dad being a farmer has sheds full of old stuff.... they are usually sceptical about my requests but come through none the less!

In another store ladders were used in every bedroom setting as blanket hangers next to the bed...  and they have so many uses but this one is easy and handy. You just need an old ladder! In another setting they had towels hanging over an old ladder next to a bath.

I noticed a whole list of things that were themes to warm up the home as we go into autumn... there were a lot of baskets of kindling, small branches cut up and stacked, blankets over old wooden towel rails and clothes airers, towels rolled up in baskets... just little touches but all so easy to do. Also flowers in jars and milk bottles.

Every idea I "pinched" is free or inexpensive to do. We had a lovely afternoon and came home with so many ideas and fired up to start new projects. I never spent a cent in any of these stores today. Sarah Ban Breathnatch who wrote Simple Abundance called these "creative excursions" and that is just what they are! Every time I do this I come home bursting to get on with things! Whatever style you just love just do this when you need a little lift. 

I am thinking I will do a post on gorgeous ways to pack and present foodie gifts. Home cooking seems to sell for a premium price and be presented as a luxury gift. Having the confidence to give your cooking as a gift and present it nicely is just wonderful. All our homemade things are worth such a lot.

Last winter I crocheted my queen size grey and white blanket after one of these trips. I saw a small cream crochet rug for $300 draped over an arm chair in a french provincial shop. It was BEAUTIFUL. So I came home and got crocheting and made this... (it took me most of winter, but still...)

Every time I visited Mum she would help me sew in the ends, which was a never ending job!

Truly, a little bit of inspiration goes a long way! Get out there when the weather is nice and look. Choose things that you could do (even if you need some you tube help) and are not expensive to make. 
Use the ideas you can in your home and garden. Many times it is using something for a new purpose, like the ladders or jars. These ideas often cost nothing (and don't even require craft or cooking skills just copying skills!).

Nanna Chel has me planning to make rag rugs for the floor. And I want to make some scarves for the winter...  I have so many things I want to do. There are never enough hours in the day. But it is so lovely to have things to work on. Mum often has been heard saying she is just dying to get a chance to get back to her knitting! I know how she feels!  It is beautiful to have things to work on, learn new skills, decorate your home, make gifts and items to wear. It is amazing what you can do and the joy of  creating something and finding inspiration is so much fun.

This was a lovely first day of autumn and well timed. In autumn and winter I get more handiwork done as I am inside more and the evenings are dark. This also keeps me much happier when the weather is bad and I am stuck inside.

I hope you can have some creative excursions for inspiration and feel excited about what you can do. The ultimate is find things to do with materials you already have or have access to. They are great moments! And you never know as this has happened to me many times. They are the best discoveries! 

There are so many clever people. A lovely day of gathering


  1. Lovely post Annabel...I love spending time visiting beautiful stores and then making notes of what I can reproduce...the florist looks very inviting and I love what they have done with the ladder..I have a ladder resting against the wall in my bedroom with quilts displayed over it..yes, there is so much inspiration at there available now..sometimes I never seem to have enough hours in the day x

    1. Jacqui I know you have the most divine store near you! I looked online and it was beautiful but not the same as browsing in real life. Even if it is just arranging things these places are very educational!
      You are a similar person to me. Yes we need to sleep and do other things but there is just not enough time for lovely projects! The things you make with be heirlooms one day! xxx

  2. Annabel I am amazed that people actually purchased those jars rather than make their own - I am stumped because I would have been like you - seen it and thought yep I can do that.

    I found something on pinterest that I am going to do with the girls - rather than jars they used sea shells and had their little plants in them - I have the shells and the plants and I know there is some sand over in the shed so I am thinking that might be something for tonight.

    I use to sell my knitting, concentrated on baby/toddler stuff and before that I did baby items and baby born clothes - and before that knitted toys and felt dinosaurs I use to sell quite a bit and may get back into it.

    I am itching for the school holidays so that I can spend a day at the shops seeing what is coming in and gathering ideas - might pop into some children's clothes shops for inspiration as well.


    1. Lynette you knit beautifully (and prolifically in the past) I know. Probably you have had less time lately but hopefully soon you will have more time again! You could certainly sell it or take orders. It is so popular and if you saw the scarves I mentioned you would faint! (they were very basic bar the sparkly thread...) So I hope you get much more time for knitting soon! xxx

  3. Gorgeous post Annabel.

    I like to browse shops at every opportunity, but I never thought to take photos...DOH! This post reminded me of things I saw in our florist recently, but guess what? I have forgotten what it was! I know I was thinking "I could make that".

    Plenty of old stuff lying around here that I could use. Hubby just rolls his eyes when I come up with new ideas lol!. My browsing on the net last night has found me something very vintage that I want to try. My parents have oodles of goodies too! My dad is a real hoarder, you ought to have seen the stuff he collected when we had the farm on the West Coast...Recently he gave me the old red trolley my brother used to tow me around in (and tip me out lol). It needs repairing, but it means so much to me...I also have our old bath on a stand...priceless!

    I have some crochet ideas floating around in my head. I found a pretty pattern for a daisy chain, and a bunting. Both are really easy and should brighten some dull areas of my home.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

    Love Tania xx

    1. Tania I would forget too, I need to write it down straight away and draw a picture or take a photo or something or it slips my mind!
      Ohh Id love to see what your Dad has stored away. Truly so many old things are just gorgeous... jars and ladders old boxes but all kinds of things!
      Your knitting is beautiful. The pattern you used in the boot toppers for instance... this alone would put the scarves we saw to shame and they were almost $300! It really fires me up to craft doing this!
      You better go back to your florist to get a reminder of what you have forgotten... I am dying to hear.
      As the weather cools I feel it is a good time to get the needles out.
      Have a lovely week! xxx

  4. Beautiful post Annabel! I would very much like for you to do a post on packaging food as gifts.

    1. Thank you Patsi! Ok I will get working on it. Packaging makes all the difference I think. And cooking as gifts is a big money saver for me. I am just making two fruit cakes for gifts now. I see they are very expensive in stores. I will let you know when I have this ready. Thank you! I am looking forward to A Working Pantry new week and challenges! xxx

  5. I can't wait to see what your rag rug looks like when you get round to making one, Annabel. I hope to do a tutorial soon. Those roses are just so beautiful!

  6. Annabel that rug your Mum is working on is just delightful and something I would love on my bed. I did learn to crochet but am unable to start a project (note to self LEARN) and would love to make something for my bed.

    The thought of a scarf at $279 blew mind could a scarf possibly be worth that and it is not even made of gold. I draw the line a buying any type of shirt over $30 so would not pay that for a scarf.

    I love the flowers on the ladders and also the blankets now that is what you can call up cycle......just perfectly rustic.

    I have to say I just love the way your mind goes into overdrive when you visit shops and get thinking of ways to recreate what you have seen

    Wishing you a lovely week


    1. Aly on you tube Yolanda Soto Lopez is a teacher I really like. In the US they call the first row the foundation row.... if you find a pattern you like follow the foundation row. Otherwise would your Mum start you off as she could post it to you and failing that I would be happy to do your foundation rows and post them to you if that would help you get going. When knitting I used to ask Mum to "turn the corners" for me which is very funny if you think about it! lol
      Who knows how a scarf was so much I wish I had just taken a photo! The one I liked was deep smoky blue with a fleck of metallic... yum.
      If you would like to do the exact pattern in the picture let me know and I will find you the right you tube tutorial as that is where I got it. It is a very easy and fast pattern and you only have to learn two rows, it is those rows over and over.
      Thanks so much Aly. I hope the weather will be cooling down a bit for you

    2. Annabel thank you so much for your information on where to get started. Also what a lovely offer and one that I will keep in mind for future reference. Still have no relief on the heat here........air is still on
      Go back an take a picture of the beautiful scarf and make yourself one, but I guess you are busy making for the little bundle of joy who will make a wonderful arrival into your life in just a short while.


  7. Pretty please Annabel, if you could post the link to the you tube tutorial for the pattern of your blanket I would be grateful. It is very beautiful. Thank you for the lovely post. I do sometimes find inspiration in shops but I mostly find inspiration right here on your blog. I did see a tall boy in a gift shop recently that had the sides and top painted black and each of the drawers painted in a different metallic colour bronze, gold, silver etc, it was very striking. I am now on the lookout for a second hand chest of drawers/tall boy to try something similar. However I want to paint the piece in a soft grey and paint each of the drawers in soft iridescent/pearl colours of blue and green and perhaps lavender too.

    1. Thank you for such kind words Sherri! Hopefully I can pass on ideas and inspiration, it is really fun for me to gather them!
      I really enjoy painting. I love the colours you are talking about. Also I LOVE pearlescent colours and effects! (just love!)
      The pattern I used in the rug is here (below).... the lady is making a scarf. I just made it the width of the bed plus enough to fall down either side. When I am following a you tube tutorial I will stop it, re watch it, and repeat it until I "get it" so when you are watching it just do that and once you learn the two rows it is a gorgeous stitch and very fast. It is my favourite by far. Good luck, let me know how you go! xxx

    2. oops Sherri I forgot to say my blanket looks thicker than the pattern/scarf. I used 8 ply yarn and size 5 needle so it is thick and chunky. xxx

  8. Hello Annabel

    A lovely and encouraging post as always. I am making a few smaller gifts for my Mother's 80th and my friend's birthday this month. I am doing scissor fobs using free cross stitch patterns from Pinterest. I don't think you can have too many pairs of scissors in the house and scissor fobs are a pet love of mine. I haven't actually seen any in stores but the cost of the kits to make them is dreadful when the materials are only a dollar or so.

    In regards to packaging foodie gifts and other gifts if you are in Australia there is as eBay shop called Pack it in. They have great packaging ideas everything from plastic love heart decorations that fit three chocolates in them to boxes for baked goodies with a window lid. The prices vary and in bulk are much cheaper so if you are thinking of ordering see if a friend will share with you. They also have a good variety of cellophane bags and tubes etc.

    I will be purchasing some of the window lidded boxes to make shortbread and other treats for friends and teachers for Xmas. I did in the past buy op-shop plates and package using these but now I am trying the small window lidded boxes this year. They can also be used for packaging knitted baby goods and other treats and home made craft.

    I am also starting to plan some potted growing plants that I can prepare for Xmas gifts. First up though I have a male friends birthday this week and I am looking for a peanut based gift...maybe peanut cookies or a slice I am thinking on it.

    God Bless and have a wonderful productive week

    1. Thank you Mel for this information about Pack It In. (good name) You are a wealth of information thank you!
      It is a really good time to get plants started, autumn, it will soon be a bot cooler and a god amount of time to get things established in time for Christmas. Thinking ahead is the thing isnt it.
      Mel re peanuts what about peanut brittle? But there are a lot of good peanut recipes. Yum.
      I love what your are making your Mum. If you would show me the end result I would be thrilled as I have seen a few things you have made now and your work is just beautiful! Many thanks Mel. Have a great week which I hope is ok and not too

  9. Annabel, lovely post again. i must admit im not a big shopper but love your ideas of collecting inspiration. can i ask how you get photos, do they let you do it or do you do it surreptitiously?

    ive beenbusy with health issues/meetings etc but i feathered my nest on Saturday. we were out in the garden. he was working hard, i was driving the tractor back and forth to the woodshed which is very very impressively full story but with two coonara wood heaters and an open fireplace as well, we need lots of wood. anyway he said lets lash out and get lunch from the bakery. soon, was my response. grabbed a bucket and went blackberrying. then raced inside and made 12 huge juicy muffins filled with plump juicy blackberries. called him in for lunch. he was so happy. i said ive usedabout 2 dollars of ingredients. we thought that those big cafe muffins are about 3 to 4 dollars each. so a massive saving and they were moist and so fruity.

    love reading your news.

    1. I just love the sound of fresh muffins with home grown blackberries Fiona! DIvine! Well done.
      I used to cautiously ask if I could take a photo in various ways ie to show my daughter etc but no one really ever cared and people walk around with their phones so much no one notices. I am somewhat discreet though even though it is not breaking a law or anything. And the shop with the scarves is a snobby shop so I didnt or I might have got the death stare... lol
      But in creating things, making presents etc it is so handy knowing whats "in" and the prices people think are "normal"... its all very revealing. Anyway I get so many ideas and come home fired up ready to go as you can see!
      I love hearing of your wood stash and open fireplace and these things... I think you have a bit of paradise

  10. What a lovely post Annabel! Such good ideas and such inspiration, it has started me thinking of what I have in the craft cupboard and what I want to make first. It is never to early to start projects for Christmas! (I have been known to Christmas shop in July.) And Easter is right around the corner. Maybe sew up a Easter Bunny for the little ones in the family. Have a good week. Hugs, Nana

    1. Nana it is great starting on Christmas now. I have. Otherwise Christmas would come and I wouldn't have made so much.
      A really helpful thing is pinterest. But you can use google images too, to work out what to do with what you have. ie if you have little bits of material search "remnants projects" or "gifts from fat quarters" or something like that and all these suggestions come up! Whatever you have this gets you lots of fresh ideas and then really the gift is free as you have the materials. I love that. Plus it cleans out the cupboards!
      You have a lovely week too. We are having gorgeous weather I am loving it. And hope it lasts! xxx

  11. I started receiving some high end decorator magazines in the mail that I did not subscribe to. At first they irked me because who in their right mind would pay the prices for the items featured there? But, I am realizing that they are great for inspiration and they are right here in my house!

    1. Exactly Lana! AND the images are also great for cards and the pages can be beautiful luxury gift wrap! (if you would ever cut them up)
      To me they are a real bonus!
      I look at the prices and go !!! but yes many times the ideas are simple! When we go away I find magazines in country op shops are often really inexpensive. I have a stock up then for images for card making etc. Plus a reading session!xxx

  12. Having never been crafty' or a decorator, I just love yours and Mimi's blogs!
    Indeed a fan of Simple Abundance too.
    Thanks for all the ideas and beauty!

    1. Lori what Sarah Ban Breathnatch says about creating things is true. But creating can be cooking or crafts or all kinds of things. But if you are drawn to something try it. You might get a shock at your own abilities and it is somehow very soothing to the soul. I find this especially in knitting and crochet... it ups my contentment factor.
      Thank you very much! Mimi and I have a lot in common (and are good friends!)

  13. Dear Annabel,

    Such an inspiring post! I really need this today.

    Look at your Mum's bone structure she's beautiful!

    I would have just snapped the picture, sister! However, I know those "snarky" looks from certain salespeople so I do not blame you for being hesitant! Once upon a time, I created lots and lots and lots. Then for various reasons I didn't. Now I get cranky if I don't take time to have creative outlets. I think we all have seasons where we don't feel very courageous or creative, and for a long time I just longed to buy things because I felt low and had a very negative environment and extremely limited resources. When my situation changed, my thinking slowly changed and I realized that I COULD do SOMETHING if I tried. Now I am constantly looking for ideas and inspiration. My excursions are referred to as "going out to look at pretties" :) I love study and learn. However, if something really calls my name and the price is right, I treat myself.

    Confession: I'm guilty of having waaaaaaay too many projects collecting dust before finishing. (If Bill ever reads this he will 1. Laugh his head off 2. Write a comment telling you all of my "project ADD" :) **In my humble defense...(do I need a defense?)...I like to go back and forth on some projects that take more time! I love finishing some right away (time permitting) but often I have to do things in bits. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)

    By the way last time I checked, one of the highest selling/best selling Etsy shops was knitwear! All kinds of gorgeous scarves and headwear and those awesome boot toppers like Tania makes. The fact that you can do it yourself is so special! Eventually I hope to be able to as well.

    So glad you had a fun time with Chloe. Happy Autumn!!! xxx

    1. Snap again Colette... I usually have a fair few things on the go. Partly it depends on what I feel like. Partly it is practical... ie I can sew in the day in good light but not at night so well and at night if the tv is on I crochet as I can do it without looking at it much... also crochet in the car on trips when Andy is driving as I can get heaps done then. And to me the time of year too... wool seems winterish! But this way we get a lot done!
      And snap another way... I have had times (unbelievably) of making nothing. For me this is a BAD sign. That has been when Ive been through a really bad time or am depressed. It is like being sick... a warning sign. But then to get better and start creating again is wonderful like coming alive again! Now I know that it is a huge part of my happiness. Crochet or knitting especially help me relax in the evenings but crafts overall keep me thinking happy thoughts as you get absorbed in them. So this is a big tool especially if inclined to worry.
      People underestimate this. I know people who stress badly and I think if only they would get busy with their hands and create they would be more content and happy. Busy hands really do make happy hearts!
      A burst of fresh ideas is so good and having a heap of things you are just dying to get to is really fun!
      Also one we are Mothers we do things in the gaps, if there are gaps... and thats ok we have lots of things to do! xxx

  14. Annabel, what you say is so true. I'm constantly sneaking photos of this or that in David Jones, or Loot, or the high end florists and gift stores. You see the most stunning floral arrangements in the foyers of nice hotels and the real luxury stores like Tiffany and Chanel too, and whilst photographing there might be a no-no, some quick notes can't hurt. One of my goals this year is to have a single spectacular floral arrangement in my entry hall, modelled on one I saw in a plush hotel foyer. I want it to feature pink roses and peonies, green/yellow orchids, monstera leaves and tortured willow in a huge brass or blue and white container. I've yet to find the container, but already have the most exquisite artificial orchids. The artificial roses, monster leaves and tortured willow will come to me in their own good time. These things can be a work in progress with the accoutrements acquired over time. Instant things are no fun at all! I love the succulents, and my daughter has an obsession with Terrariums at the moment, so I feel a project coming on there! Also, I saw the prettiest sunset bottles online yesterday on a luxury gift site, and I suspect they're super easy to replicate. Just a clear bottle, painted in an ombre sunset effect, changing from lemon, to apricot to deep pink. So pretty! Lots of inspiration today....thankyou. Mimi xxxx

    1. Ohhh sunset bottles... this sounds interesting. I am thinking some kind of dip dying/painting effect might do the trick? These are lovely projects for DD if she has any free time that is. Maybe holidays...
      Mimi Nan was a florist. She really taught me to collect and collect materials. She would never pass a tree with interesting sticks... etc. Also she watched for interesting containers. If she didnt like the colour she painted them. That opens up a lot of possibilities, only the shape matters...
      The flowers in hotels and huge arrangements are hundreds and hundreds of dollars. Making one of those for pennies is a real achievement! I have one in my hallway that is epic... I keep adding to it as I find materials. I cant imagine what it would cost to buy! Also you have reminded me to go for a collecting session before the weather gets rainy. Lots of things have dried off now and it would be a good time for some collecting! Thank you thank you! xxx

  15. I give my homemade biscuits as presents all the time. They are so well received and cost so little. I keep lots of biscuit dough in the freezer for such an occasion.

    I really love the blanket on your bed. It looks great in your bedroom and I'm sure you appreciate it because of all the work you put into it.

    1. Wendy home cooking is a bit hit, more and more I am finding that.
      The blanket took me all last winter. It is heavy and really warm. This year I am making one for Chloe. It is nice to work on during the cold nights as it ends up keeping me warm! Hope you are having a good

  16. Annabel, I do the SAME thing!! I think that the packaging is half the price! I love to go on websites (right now we have one car so "excursions" don't happen much) of my favorite stores and browse to see what I can recreate at home. It is so much fun and challenging to see what you can do with things you already have at home :)

    1. Jess if you have time Mimis blog just had a post on this and you should see the flower arrangements and the prices she saw! Any of us could do them for a few dollars and they would make gorgeous gifts... My next project! Her blog is on my side bar, a tray of Bliss. It is a beautiful sunny Sunday here and this afternoon I am going on a gathering inspiration outing! Xxx


I really appreciate your comments thank you! The aim of my blog is the be a place of encouragement and happiness. Very rarely is anyone rude. Actually only twice so far! If you post a rude or aggressive comment I will read it but not publish it, thanks for

Spam is never published... if you are advertising a product or selling website your comment wont be published. I am inundated with stuff about drugs, horses and weird things! I am not going to publish this stuff! Thank you.