Orphan Bookshelf

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Two antique cupboards being moved into the house meant quite a lot of movement, including a small cupboard which came with our son’s first home purchase as a bit of a wreck in the shed. It’s position in the lounge room was taken over by one of two family heirlooms and while it was mobile I decided I should strip the orphan shelf sitting on top of it so it would match the rest of the cupboard.

The shelf is only about a quarter of a century old at most, but it was cobbled together by a friend from bits and pieces in his shed, and some of the pieces are obviously much older. I removed the plywood back and added some scraps of stuff left over from repairs to the house we live in after the paint came off, then added a couple of coats of Danish Oil. I have left enough evidence for a conviction of the teen or teens who added some of the coats of paint, ranging from black to white with several others in between. Makes my dark green addition to cover them up look quite presentable by comparison, but like the near naked look much better!

The shelf is now installed back on its support base, and quickly filled with books! I almost didn’t get a photo to show the new back on the old shelf the books were moving so fast.


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Antique Meat Safe

May 2015


I claimed this as a pile of paint when my Dad sold his house. It was in Mum’s shed to hold empty preserving jars and any other leftovers from the house which could be stored in a garden shed.

Before being moved into that shed, this cupboard spent most of its life down stairs … at the bottom on the two steps which lead from the new part of the house down to the old. This cupboard held both empty and full preserving jars, along with jam jars, and other bits and pieces which didn’t fit in the old kitchen.

The house on the side of the hill on a farm in the mid north of South Australia, and from the original two rooms it has grown like Topsy to seven main rooms … most of them large. This photo was taken in the 1970s, in winter judging by the colour of the grass, and the cupboard above was just about in the middle of the house. The garden has changed, the house looks much the same still, but then it is hard to change something as solid as this! I guess it is appropriate that the cupboards built for this house were also solid pieces.


It is called a meat safe because the doors and the sides of the cupboard were filled with metal with small holes in it, allowing airflow through the cupboard, but the holes were small enough to keep out flies, in particular blow flies, which had a habit of choosing meat of any sort as a home for maggots, which would grow up to be the next generation of blowflies. Some pieces of the original metal screen had been replaced with a small wire mesh similar to the fly screen we use on doors and windows, and some of that had been painted over so often it was solid … except where there were holes in it, which had been covered with fabric and painted over.

Most cupboards built for this purpose were about half the size of this one, sometimes even much smaller … this one would have held a couple of sheep, a pig and still have room for a small yearling steer … probably a bit of overkill on a farm with a population of two adults and one growing boy at the time the cupboard would have been built.

During the shift we noticed the legs were a bit dicey … one split during the shift, two had nails through them to hold them together, the others looked as though somebody had tried to shape them, but I am pretty sure beavers would have done a neater job. (No, I don’t think beavers would have been the carpenters … not many running creeks for them to dam in our part of the world. Besides, the koalas like their trees upright.) The cupboard is now 6 inches shorter than it was, but it is still 64 inches tall, and 68 inches wide … lots of space for fabric, books, wadding … and more!

The position of the cupboard probably only moved a few inches in the first century of its time on the farm … then moved five miles into my parents retirement house … well, the shed at the back of the car shed alongside the house. In contrast, it was on the road for about six hours to get here where we currently live. It has been in our shed for some time waiting for me to build up the fortitude to tackle the paint stripping.

It took a week to find the cupboard under the paint, with the frame made of similar timber to the bottom of the kitchen dresser I found under similar paint a month ago. (My carpenter nephew thinks it is probably cypress) The shelves are a little darker, with much darker stains where it appears some of the jars of preserves were not sealed as well as they should have been.

The back of the cupboard deserves to be seen … if I had a big enough room I would use it as a room divider. Six inch wide boards which came up beautifully with just one coat of Danish Oil. Perfect place to hang a small wallhanging if only we could see the back!

Installing the cupboard in my sewing room meant two dark shelving units had to go out to the shed, which meant everything on them had to be cleared off … then I realized that the doors on the new addition needed more room to open, so the sewing table and the cutting table had to swap positions, which also meant the desk in the corner had to come out temporarily so I could get to the power point behind it so the sewing machine could be attached to the electricity grid. Thankfully, the kitchen dresser which wouldn’t fit in the kitchen dining area when we moved in didn’t have to be moved even an inch!

The room is now partly operational again, but I don’t remember where I put anything … but best of all, I am putting empty boxes in some cupboards. I am thinking it is better to fill vacant spaces with empty boxes than to just pile stuff in as I acquire it!

Maudie’s Kitchen Dresser

April 2015


When we were clearing out my Mum’s shed, I claimed two old cupboards, including this one.

Well, what I claimed were two piles of paint in the shape of cupboards. Sorry, no photos of what I claimed, but the vision will be engraved on my memory bank for a long time.

This one kept me away from both real and virtual quilts for about 5 weeks as I tried every way I could think of to remove the paint.

Paint stripper, which is supposed to remove multiple coats of paint does … but it only removes them one at a time. It stopped altogether when it reached the shellac layers.

Sand paper also peeled off the layers one at a time, and again, stopped at the shellac.

Electric sanders helped considerably, but belting the layers with a hammer and breaking them up to be lifted off with a scraper relieved the frustration better, but wounded the underlying timber.

The man of the house produced a heat gun, but I couldn’t hold the thing off the ground, so that was placed back in the shed quickly!

Eventually I settled on an angle grinder with sandpaper discs, which has left a few marks when I didn’t have the angle quite right, which happened when I got tired … but it got the 15, 35, 73 layers of assorted paints and other finishes which had been applied to the outer surfaces over the last century. OK, the number of layers is probably exaggerated a little, but it felt like more layers were being added  as I got some off!

Along the way I dug through high gloss white, cream, dark green, light green, brown, pale green, dark brown, more brown, and even bits of fire engine red, with some brilliant, bright green splashed over the top, and what I presume was a pale pink undercoat under the lot …along with lots and lots of shellac between the browns.

Eventually I found TIMBER!

Several assorted timbers, in fact.

Underneath was a very sturdy frame of a very light timber, identified as cypress by the family carpenter last weekend, with similar timber on the sides, but pieced together from what ever scraps were available ,,, four on one side, five on the other. Pieced patchwork!

The front door panels are matching timber, but only to each other, and even then, one is about one-third thicker than the other! I noticed the difference in weight of the two doors when I was carrying one in each hand before I noticed the different thicknesses. (The doors were also still weighted down with multiple layers of paint at that time.) The back is similar timber to the front, and very roughly pieced together, with evidence that it was from packing cases, with a warning to keep it dry on one patch. The timber was very dry, but a crack between two pieces was wider than the large one through one piece!

In the bottom rear corners I found what kept the mice out … two corks! Looks like they had been nibbled by the mice trying to get in to the food which was kept in the bottom shelves of the cupboard.

The history behind the cupboard is based on a lot of guess-work with just a few facts to fill in the details!

The farm I grew up on five miles north-west of Spalding, South Australia, was taken up in 1992, make that 1892, when Adam, son of the settlers, was a boy of four. They built two rooms initially, one of them a kitchen, and I am guessing that the cupboard above was built soon after the kitchen. It was definitely built to fit the kitchen as the bottom of the cupboard was shaped to fit the floor, which sloped away from the wall. Eventually two more rooms were added to the front of the house, with a stable or barn attached to the north side, which was also up the hill!

Adam took over the farm from his parents, and eventually he and his wife, Maude, became unofficial foster parents to my father. They had no children of their own, and eventually the farm hand inherited the farm from the Boss. We grew up calling him Boss and his wife, Missus.

When my parents married they moved into the ‘barn’, which was modified to become a large farm kitchen, and two rooms were added to the front, with the additions and modifications completed in 1952. A door in the passage of the new part opened into the passage between the front and back rooms of the original house … and rather than the farm hand living below stairs, in this case the farm hand lived up two steps from the Boss.

I remember the old kitchen from the fifties, when the Boss and Missus still lived independently below the steps, with this cupboard as the base for a display shelf with the extra piece of timber on each shelf so the plates could stand at the back on display. The top shelf inside the cupboard also had this plate support, which was still there when I cleaned the inside, and as it was barely attached I removed it and it had been nicely shaped into a half round, but the length followed the growth of the not real straight tree! The upper part of the cupboard was used in the farm shed which Dad used as a workshop, and got eaten by white ants.

I learned some basic cooking in this old kitchen, though the Missus was far from a good cook. Her sewing skills matched her cooking skills, but she had time to watch over me as I learned to use her treadle sewing machine. Luckily, though Mum didn’t have time to teach me to sew, I got to watch her cutting out and putting clothes together, and so by the time I was allowed to use her machine I was allowed to do the lot pretty much unsupervised.

The Boss died when I was still at school, by which time the Missus needed to share our meals, and as there were now a tribe of kids and a permanent boarder above the steps, we started moving down the steps. Eventually the original kitchen became a bedroom, along with the original and front bedroom, and the front room, which was a crowded dining room and sitting room, but was always called the front room!

When I left home to join the navy, all my worldly possessions that I wasn’t allowed to take with me went into this cupboard, now minus the top shelves, which by then was in the old wash-house, for clothes and people, built under the back veranda.

Eventually Mum and Dad retired, or what passes for retirement when farmers move only a few miles off the farm. This cupboard moved with them to be used in Mum’s shed, which was part garden shed, and part pantry for all the stuff which she didn’t want, and didn’t fit, in her kitchen. It was still there when Dad put the house on the market, which is when I put my hand up to claim the pile of paint!

Just recently I returned to the farm and took this photo of the view from the first hill above the house, looking down on the valley. The town is pretty much hidden by the first big patch of trees. The house is about the equivalent of four or five stories below this point, and to the right … that little bus is heading down the farm track to the ‘bottom gate’.

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Forgot to mention that this cupboard was destined for my sewing room, but no matter how I twisted and turned the furniture I had to put it in the lounge room. However, I am using it to store the dressmaking patterns and fabric, beading stuff etc, exactly as I would have if it was in the sewing room.

271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book | Colossal

271 Years Before Pantone, an Artist Mixed and Described Every Color Imaginable in an 800-Page Book | Colossal.

Love this … hand painted swatches are so much more alive than the modern colour chips!

(And that is just seeing them on a computer screen!)


Here is the link to the book itself.

Ms.1389 _1228__0001.jpg – Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau – Ms.1389 (1228) – E-Corpus.

Would love to have a copy of this book … in English.

Bear Back Christmas

Bear Back Christmas 1

While sorting out the Christmas cards for recycling I found one with a back view of a teddy bear gazing at a star.

Bear Back Christmas 2


Thirty six variations later I noticed I had left off their tails!



Bear Back Christmas 3


Back to the Electric Quilt drawing board!


I have added tails, and also removed the Santa cap and replaced it with a beanie too! The block collection is gaining weight along with me because I am sitting for so long at the computer designing blocks.

Down Under Quilts Tree Trims

January 2015

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Some front covers of the first 20 issues of Down Under Quilts, Australia’s first patchwork magazine, plus two Women’s journal covers, from ads for back issues.

They have been glued to hand made paper back to back, and ready to hang next Christmas. May be turned into a banner to hand across the doorway, and if so, could remain there all year.

I had articles published in these early issues.

Christmas Card Tree Trims


18th, 19th January 2015

2015 1 Tree Decorations from Cards 1

Cards from Christmases past recycled as tree trims to go to market later this year.

In total there are 30 packs with five or more tree trims per pack … all I have to do is get more bags to put them in.

150 individual trims, and way more to come.

Must have rocks in my head!