Spotted in the loft 

Happy world Giraffe Day to you all! That's how it felt when these beautiful cushions graced our loft today. They were woven by Zoleka, Sentiwe, Nomalizo and Nomelikhaya. Sheila (bottom left) holds up my original (and still my favourite) giraffe bag.

These gracious creatures quietly wound their way from the African bushveld to Khayelitsha and on to the Mielie loft. They are now waiting to fly to Finland, where their mission is to spread cheer, smiles and love.
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Serving suggestion 

I just love how this table runner came out. It measures 35cm x 70cm and the idea is that you place it in the centre of the table and put all your hot pots and dishes on it. Our Mielie weaving is thick and makes a perfect table protector, non? It might even work well at a picnic - perhaps a romantic Valentine's picnic...?

It was woven by Nomthunzi, a very special Mielie peep. Nomthunzi's name means "shadow", which is the complete opposite of her warm, loving personality. And she gives the greatest hugs in the world. Her daughter, Nolundi (below right) runs the Mielie shop for us, and if you've ever popped in to our shop, you'll agree that she is the friendliest, brightest thing ever.

'Thunzi and Nolundi are in the Transkei attending a funeral and we miss them terribly. Come home safely, sisis!

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Punchin' out my love 

This year you can prove your love to your Valentine by wearing your heart on your t-shirt. Paper cut screens are great fun and once you've bought the screen, squeegee and inks, they are really cheap to make. Some would consider the fact that you can't reuse them a disadvantage. Me? I think it adds to the limited-edition appeal!

You will need:

Plain printer paper (A3 sheets are actually better, but I used A4)
Punches - like the ones you would use with a hammer to punch holes in leather.
Cutting tool
Cutting mat
Unexposed silk screen
Screen Printing inks & base

Of these materials, the silk screen and squeegee are the expensive items, so I would suggest that you first make sure that screen-printing is something you really want to do.

How to:
Draw a picture on your paper and start cutting out bits with the cutting tool & punching holes with the punch. Of course you can draw some more and then cut & punch more (I decided to add the A hearts D at this stage.) In my experience, lettering works the best if you rule a line above and below the letters, use only capitals and cut away the background around the letters.

Happy with your work of art? OK, now stick some scrap paper around your sheet of paper so that you don't accidentally print off the page.

Place your t-shirt on the working surface and smooth it out. (It might not be a bad idea to start off with a scrap of waste fabric - or how about a dish towel?)

Position your papercut image carefully on the t-shirt, right side up. I often manage to get it a bit skew - so concentrate!

Now mix some ink concentrate with clear base (if it's a dark print on a light t-shirt). Use white base if you're printing on a dark t-shirt.

Place the screen on top of the t-shirt, screen-side down and ask someone to hold it down firmly for you. Spoon the ink above the paper-cut design directly on the screen and pressing down firmly, drag the ink over the image with the squeegee. Stamp the squeegee down firmly beyond the image to shake of any ink, and drag the squeegee over the design in the opposite direction. Repeat two or three more times. Lift the screen carefully, hopefully the paper will stick to the screen and also lift off. You can print more t-shirts or other items. Once you're done, wash the screen very well, ensuring that no bits of paint clog the screen mesh. A pressure hose or even the hand tap in the bath work well.

Et voila! Now all you have to do is iron your t-shirt well, and surprise your honey on V-day!
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Some things get better with time 

The dude above was one of the very first characters to come out of the Mielie machine. He featured in our early business cards and letterheads, and I think he's still one the coolest Mielie peeps ever.

Another thing I like about him is that when you give him a speech bubble, he says it with meaning. I mean, if you happen to be in New York right now, you'd march right on down to the Jawitz centre where the Gift Fair is on, right?
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Oh happy day! 

Today was ribbon cutting day at Dora Tamana Preschool. We had a wonderful inauguration party for the jungle gym and sandpit that had been made possible by some very generous Mielie friends from Germany and the Netherlands. Here special mention must go to Guenter Berner, who turned this dream into reality.

The equipment was constructed and installed by Cerfs, who were an absolute pleasure to deal with. They gave as brilliant advice and delivered on time.

A perfect end to the week, I say!
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Three cheers for volunteers! 

These beautiful photos by Kimsooja remind me of the bags of Mielie strips that make a long weekly trek to our Mielie loft. They were also just the prod I needed to say thank you so much to Mzo and especially Peter for driving far and wide to collect Mielie strips for us - a dusty and sweaty job.

Peter and his family packed up their lives in Munich, Germany to spend a year in Cape Town. He has volunteered his services as a weekly driver for Mielie, and his wife Annemarie is helping me establish a veggie garden in Khayelitsha. And Mzo, thank you too for always being willing to go the extra mile for Mielie!

I found the image on Madame Hervé.

On the home front note, my eldest, Daniel will be heading for Munich (currently experiencing their coldest winter in 20 years!) on 2 Feb, so there is loads of packing and planning for this great adventure.
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Speaking of inspiration 

I have always unconditionally loved old stenciled enamelware and nowhere do you see so much of it and as many beautiful specimens as in the quaint and simple homes of Churchhaven.

Changing topic (and tone) please now permit me to become a little mushy. Anyone who regularly reads Mielie Peeps will know that I tend to file 90% of my blog entries under the category "inspiration" because, well, loads of seemingly unrelated things inspire me. Sometimes people also leave our Mielie loft saying they feel inspired by our crazy world. But to me the ultimate compliment is to inspire someone into action.

So imagine my delight when I received an email from Jenny to say that this little blog has helped her find her creative direction. Jenny says that reading Mielie Peeps and clicking through to the links I write about makes her feel as if she's part of a greater creative community. She has started making beautiful cushions out of old woolen blankets that she felts. And she can't keep up with orders! I feel so excited to have played a small part in this story. Jenny, let me know when you have your Etsy store running and I'll do a proper story, ok?

Hooray for blogs!
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The face that launched a thousand beads... 

... 1200 beads to be precise. Happy first day on the job, President Obama! You've already inspired billions. Our thoughts and best wishes are with you for the tough job ahead.

My good friend and co-tenant at Montebello, Fietje Pieters runs a beautiful fine beading project called Umthi Wobom (Tree of Life). Pictured above is designer, Anna Richerby, who designed the beautiful Obama pin above.

Umthi Wovom uses only Czech and Japanese beads in exquisite colour combinations to produce their beautiful creations. Just like at Mielie, the beaders work from home and bring their work in once a week. I love taking a break from manic Mielie world and taking walk down to Fietje, Anna and her talented beaders at the bottom of the Montebello forest.
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When Zanele is not busy -
- weaving Mielie bags
- training others to weave
- checking quality of work handed in
- helping to set up food gardens or other community projects,
she also runs a little sewing business. Last year she received a big order from the Dora Tamana Preschool (one of our favourite Khayelitsha projects) to make graduation cloaks and caps for all the little graduates who were about to go on to primary school. She also made Nobuntu, the principal, a school-girl's outfit, and at the last minute whipped up a beautiful denim ensemble for herself.

Picutred top left is Zanele and her son, Lusa, who graduated from Dora Tamana a couple of years ago. Top right: Zanele receives a gift from "head girl" Nobuntu.

With the help of some very kind German and Dutch Mielie friends, we have managed to install some wonderful playground equipment at Dora Tamana. The official opening party is on Friday, so I should have pics to show you early next week.

A quick thanks also to Hannah Morris for the cool article on Mielie featured in the online mag, Taxi Design, which you can check out here
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Deep breath 

I'm taking tomorrow off and spending the weekend in Churchhaven - my favourite place on earth. No electricity. Limited water. A lagoon. Loads of inspiration.

I took these photos in the past week. They don't have anything to do with, well, anything, but I thought I'd share them with you all the same.
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