Monday morning … Abby returned to school, Mum and Lucy headed back across the Gippsland to their beachside home, and I had the whole day ahead of me. It was so bleak and cold – with a heavy hand of dampness to the air – the lovely thing to do would be light the lamps, make tea and settle into an armchair with my knitting and a nice audio book. Yes!
No. As those of you who follow along on my Instagram might have noticed, there’s been quite the DMC wool caper going on here at Bootville over the last week. Spotlight – Australia’s large fabric/craft/homewares merchant – has decided – in all its wisdom – to stop selling DMC embroidery wool. Instead they are going to stock Semco. What? I hear you say. That’s right – Semco. A much cheaper range of wool – poorer quality, far smaller colour range and let’s face it – who designs wool embroidery and needlepoint for Semco – um, nobody. I sought out the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight store and had words – thoughtful, reasonable, polite, grown up words but words nonetheless. I didn’t want her to be under any illusion that replacing DMC wool with Semco was in any way a considerate thing to do for a business that purports to love and support creativity and those who create.
In fact – I related the story shared with me by the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight 15 years ago when they stopped selling needlepoint canvas – the manager that suggested Spotlight’s business model at the time was to stock what all the local independent stores were stocking, undercut them on price because they could, then once they’d put the little independents out of business – drop any lines that weren’t highly profitable for them with a quick turnover – like needlepoint canvas. She agreed that yes, that did seem a reasonable assumption to make and no, she could not understand the logic of the national buyer at all. Nice! During those years I watched 4 stores I regularly visited and attended classes at – all run by imaginative and passionate women who DID love and support creativity and those who create – who put their whole lives into building communities of creativity and passion – close because they simply couldn’t compete with the juggernaut that is Spotlight.
Does this make me spit my teeth out. Why yes it does. But we won’t go any further down this ranty path :-) Suffice to say – I have spent the grocery budget and more on DMC embroidery wool – it’s just hard to stop when it’s only 25c a skein, you truly adore needlepoint and wool embroidery, and you know it’s going to be that much harder to buy from now on.
And to make the bundles of wool piling up on my sideboards and bookshelves even sweeter – I’d recently hard rubbished a dear little chest of drawers that I thought would be perfect for storing my suddenly growing stash. I had visions of Julian cutting me little thin dividers of ply and all my wool neatly and numerically arranged. As it turns out – I’m hopeless at judging size and it’s a wee bit on the small side. There’ll be no little thin dividers of ply :-) Instead, there’s mildly organised squashing. Oh well.
So back to Monday morning – I put on my dirty clothes, dragged the chest out into the driveway and got to work. I was hopeful it was a job for my usual friends – steelwool and metho – alas it was a stripper number and I had to go buy a tin of toxic burning jelly – ugh.
I scraped and scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed until all the old varnish was off, my fingers were stiff and frozen, and my nose was dripping onto my shirt. There was certainly more I could have achieved if I’d wanted to put in another day of sanding – but I didn’t. Julian was home on Wednesday morning and I needed this baby oiled, inside and stuffed.
By Tuesday night it was!
There are four drawers – first is neutrals, greys and browns. Abby and I debated over many of these colours – it would seem I see purple everywhere whereas Abby swore black and blue it was grey. I capitulated. Next is yellows, oranges and greens – no problems here. Third down are the end of the greens, the beginning of the purples and the all the blues. I feel a bit light on with the blues but … the drawers are full so I’m not sure if I’ll go back for more. Finally – the rest of the purples (sans all those lovely purples Abby shoved into the grey and brown drawer), all of the pinks and reds. I DID go back for pinks – and oh my, I now have a lot – I probably have enough to needlepoint bed curtains!
Oh I am such a lover of colour. I keep opening the drawers and just staring dreamily into all that gorgeousness. And yet – as I begin to think of new projects I feel a shiver of fear – oh no! I can’t use my lovely colours! If I use that green there’ll be none left. They’ll run out! Yeeeeeees. Wee bit irrational.
And the chest of drawers – despite its quick turnaround, I’m very pleased with the end result and think the lovely flamey grain of the wood has come up a warm, syruppy treat. I do love me some old and pretty wood :-)
Here it is – tucked into the corner of the library. I hung a needlepoint over it to make it feel at home – one of the first needlepoints I did – stitched through the summer of Abby’s birth. It’s from Mary Norden’s book of Folk Needlepoint – the Swedish Horseman – he has a mate who’s just waiting on the background to be finished. One day they’ll hang side by side. And it’s a lovely match for the chess set – the top of the chest really didn’t come up that well – totally different wood to the rest – no warmth at all. So an all covering chess board is just the ticket. With a little art deco mirror (from my Nanny Dougall’s beach side cottage in Harrington) and a sheep’s skull (Grandad collected for Abby when he went way out west with Mum a few years back) to give it that old library feel!
Look at that – so much prettiness. I just want to sit down, finish the needlepoint pattern I’m working on – it will be a cushion cover based on Turkish rugs that will fit a 24 inch square duck feather cushion insert I have – and get stitching. Alas, I have a clinical portfolio to edit and deliver to university by this afternoon. I’d better hop to it.
And shut that tempting drawer.
Not last weekend but the one before – with one week left for me on placement in the ICU – Julian left for yet another overseas work trip. Ugh! It was a very dreary weekend. Cold. Grey. Abby had a Sunday full of friends and an outing. I was home alone. Too frazzled to settle down to nursing papers, grad applications, or lovely stitching projects. Too petulant to do housework. Too tired to read – I’d have just fallen asleep. So I did a little shopping – which was when I discovered the Great/Dreadful Spotlight Sell-out of DMC Embroidery Wool – then came home and rearranged the house!
Nothing like a good rearrange to soothe the spirits, busy the body and give me that immense feeling of satisfaction of a job well done :-) It was all for a good cause. With Abby now in the midst of her last two years of high school, she really needed a dedicated and low stimulus (i.e. not her bedroom which is full of posters and books and comics and dolls and laptops and all other manner of distraction) environment to settle quietly into each evening for a solid stretch of homework and study. And so was born The Library.
I moved the big desk with its big computer out of my room (I only have two papers left to write for my degree so no longer need a dedicated study spot) and into the front room (which we didn’t use much anyway), filled the corners with bookcases, three armchairs with a back-up in the hall for comfy quiet times, and moved the three seater sofa into our bedroom. This also required a complete bedroom rearrange – shuffling the bed, dressing tables, and Julian’s wee gentleman’s wardrobe. Blimey – by the time I finished around 8pm that night, I was buggered.
Now – not only does Abby have a great spot for her work, but I have a lovely, sun filled window seat for reading, knitting, stitching, or stretching out for a quick nap! And soaking up this morning’s delicious (but oh so chilly) sunshine – a cheerful, wooly, quilted cushion – I give you The Suncatcher!
It was a completely spur of the moment creation just before placement started. On a cold, late afternoon, Mum was at the kitchen table stitching Abby’s Debutante’s dress – her idea of bliss. Julian was at the stove cooking – his idea of bliss. Abby was on the floor of the living room, drawing and skyping with Sacha- her idea of bliss. And I was flipping through an email from Pinterest – with no bliss – when I spied a picture of all these little coloured circles paired up and stitched into rows. They looked like beautiful macaroons and their pretty colours instantly brought a smile to my face. I cannot remember how they were presented – as a cushion? wall hanging? tote bag? I don’t know what sort of fabric they used for their circles or for the backing. And even worse – I can’t remember who the original artist was and nor can I find the photo again. It would seem I was so excited, I didn’t even pin it to one of my boards. Hmph!
I did, however, get snipping, and by the time supper was on the table, I had 50 little circles of felt cut and paired (all from the exquisite selection at Winterwood Toys). Now, I’m sure they could have been cut more evenly – specially with one of those nifty circle cutter press thingies. But you know me – I’m not a stickler for perfection. I love colour and texture and the whole doing thing. Having it put together in a pretty and sturdy way and then put to good use is all I need for my dose of bliss.
After pairing my circles up, I pinned them out – combination of eyeballing with the occasional use of a tape measure – onto a lovely lovely lovely piece of wool fabric that looks like hessian – oh it is so beautiful with the prettiest halo – which I found at Darn Cheap Fabrics up the road. Of course, it was bought for another purpose, but I never let that stop me ;-) I then pinned this – using safety pins – onto a piece of vintage blanketing for extra sturdiness – those little macaroons of felt carry a bit of heft which the woollen hessian just doesn’t have.
Then – using my walking foot, I stitched straight down the middle of each column of macaroons. Quilted it into checks. Add a border of tumblers in pretty Konas. Whacked on an envelope backing of cocoa and white checks and bound the edges with a nice neutral. Abby picked it out for me – I tend to get carried away – you know, more is always more. Abby has a lot more discipline then I when it comes to fabric choices!
Oh I do love this cushion so much! It doesn’t matter where we put it – its beautiful, rich, cheery, furry colours catch every last drop of sun and bring a wonderful light to this often dark and wintery home.
For now – it’s sitting on my window seat with me and I’m about to sit here in the sun with my cup of tea and have just a little fiddle with this new needlepoint pattern before I write my pharmacology log that’s due in tomorrow! Truly – just a little fiddle ;-) You believe me – yes?
My it’s so cold at the moment. Our breath is frosted even in the kitchen (no! don’t give in! don’t give in! leave the heating off!).
But oh it’s so lovely to be home, home, home! This being day three of my return to a time of quiet and domesticity – and I’m loving it.
Today – it’s been all about the kitchen ….
:: cooking supper early so that it will be rich, warming and ready for the family when I return home late from babysitting.
:: trying not to eat all of Julian’s pumpkin pie (sans pastry) one slice at a time.
:: shuffling chairs – and plotting their repainting for the umpteenth time – so as to tackle some …
:: kitchen table quilting – the recently thrifted kitchen stools are perfect for quilting – they wind up and down so can be made just the right height – no more stiff neck!
:: I shall serve dinner in this little sweetie tonight – also recently thrifted – Mesterkokken “Flamingo” from Norway – from the fabulous Jewish thrift store up the road – they have the best European crockery
:: fiddling with a new needlepoint pattern – something to soak up the thousands (yes, literally) of skeins of DMC embroidery wool I’ve recently “accumulated” – and baffled as to why it’s skewif – huh!
:: gloating over the repurposing of a hard rubbish bookcase – has been sitting on the front porch with sneakers on it for the last 2 years – perfect fit for the end of the kitchen table – and perfect for all the pretty and useful things (clutter, says Julian) I like to keep handy :-)
:: smiling each time I catch a glimpse of these dear little napkin rings – can’t decide whether to use them straightaway – save them for special occasions – or just wait until we have 3 so we can ALL delight in their sweetness (will Julian really care if he has a plain silver one? probably not)
:: so pleased to have found these placemats I made – oh, 16 years ago – from an old Alison Lester calendar. I think they need a couple more coats of sealer before we use them. Add to the to do list.
:: my little furry companion. She longs for toast and crepes and pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie and onions and carrots and mushrooms and speck and sausages and left over roast potatoes and … and … and … pretty much any food that touches my hands.
The perfect kitchen – in the gorgeous Bega Valley of course – is something I regularly dream of – and collect pictures of and plot and plan with Julian and Abby and Mum. It will have huge windows, and a wooden burning stove, and a set of window shelves facing the sun for herbs, and comfy chairs for cosying and cook book browsing and radio listening, and a walk in pantry, and a pretty white sink with a fabulous tap, and glass fronted cabinets for our glassware and china, and a cork floor (I LOVE cork), and loads of bench space, and the perfect spot for each appliance …
But right now, when there’s a lovely long stretch of days (weeks! months!) before me with not much to do but care for my family, this little kitchen here in Melbourne will do me just fine :-)
It’s been a bit of a crazy time here in Bootville lately. My poor old Grandad has had quite the year, suffering a heart attack in January then a stroke in April. There have been many trips to Brisbane, quite a bit of extended family angst, and many big changes. Through it all, my lovely Mum has dedicated more than 20 weeks out of the last 26 to caring for Nanny and Grandad – something she does with inspiring patience and love. She has lived with them – first Nanny and Grandad, whilst Grandad recovered from his heart attack; then with Nanny, whilst Grandad spent many long weeks in rehab following his stroke.
Every day she helped Nanny up, prepared her breakfast, helped her dress, did the chores, arrived at the hospital just before lunch so she could chat with Grandad’s therapists and physicians, help Grandad with his lunch, back home to Nanny, make Nanny’s lunch, do the laundry (always lots when someone’s in hospital), do any shoppings, sometimes take Nanny on little outings, start supper preparations, back up to the hospital, help Grandad with supper, settle him cosy in bed for the night, back home to Nanny, share supper, support Nanny and listen into the wee hours of the morning, as Nanny navigated this strange and unsettling new time in her life, send off the daily family update to our aunts and uncles and cousins who are scattered across the world, then to bed, always with an ear cocked to make sure Nanny was okay and didn’t need help.
In amongst this, new living arrangements had to be sorted for Nanny and Grandad, and the awkward and sad process of packing up Nanny and Grandad’s home began. I’m in awe of my Mum and the grace and the strength with which she navigated these tricky waters. Nanny and Grandad are now safe and comfortable in their new home. But wow, there has been a significant toll on the extended family and I doubt things will ever return to the way they were. At many times, I found myself grinding my teeth as I contemplated the strange and fraught family relationships that have emerged.
But this period has also seen a strengthening of the closeness between Mum and her lovely sisters Mary, Cate and Jackie. Their love and the passion with which they advocated for their mum and dad was often the one light of many difficult weeks. As I write, Mum, Mary and Cate are there in Brisbane – they’ve packed the last boxes of Nanny and Grandad’s precious treasures and pieces of Nanny and Grandad’s furniture are being shared amongst the siblings – visiting with Nanny and Grandad, taking them on wee adventures, making peace with this new phase of their old and frail parents’ lives.
I know I’m so very very priviliged to be a 44 year old who still has her Nanny and Grandad and I’m incredibly grateful for the wonderful times we have shared with them – many, many happy, funny, silly, creative, adventurous and beautiful memories. But there’s still a little bit of me that feels a sense of loss. The family home – that has been recreated wherever Nanny and Grandad have lived (they were irrepressible adventurers) – is now no more. The familiar and comfy velvet armchairs and sofa with the old standard lamp softly glowing – lighting the stitches of countless knitted jumpers and crocheted rugs. The long heavy dining table with all the chairs – so as to squash in as many children and grandchildren for Nanny’s feasts of pumpkin soup, roasts and sponge cake, as possible. The elegant dresser, its glass doors illuminating Nanny’s treasured Lottie collection. The twin beds with their electric blankets – oh my, how Janie and I loved these as little girls, arriving on cold dark nights after the long drive south. Nanny’s fabulous sewing table and her trusty Bernina. Grandad’s hall stand with his Akubra hat and walking stick. His outdoor cupboards stuffed full of all the handy little things he MIGHT one day need. The old fashioned kerosene lamps he used to light each night on the back porch so he and Nanny could sip their evening drink whilst looking out at their garden. All of these will colour my stories and memories for many more years to come – but we will never gather there again as a family, with that wonderfully comfortable sense of familiarity and belonging.
In amongst all of this, Mum came down to Melbourne to help Abby and I prepare for Abby’s debut. Yes! The Debutantes’ Ball is alive and well here in our corner of Melbourne :-) Abby needed a long white ball gown with elbow length gloves. It was such a blast! And part of these preparations involved MAKING the dress for which we needed Mum’s overlocker – which was at home in Merimbula. So, two weekends before the ball, Mum and I hopped in the car and set off for home. The first time she’d been home in over two months. We took our time – soaked up as much sun as we could, marvelled at the ocean’s beauty, visited with sweet neighbours and of course, headed up to Tilba for cheese … and a little, late afternoon adventure to a new for us spot - Mystery Bay!
Now Tilba is a wee village nestled into the side of Mount Gulaga – a very spiritual place for the local Aboriginal people. And I’ve been told a really beautiful story about this Mother Mountain and her children. Mother Gulaga had two sons – Baranguba and Najanuga. One day, they asked if they could go play – Mother Gulaga said yes, but reminded them not to go too far because the sea would come in soon. Najanuga – the smaller son, obeyed and played just a little in front of Mother Gulaga’s feet – he is now the small rocky hill that sits between Tilba and the ocean. Baranguba – the older son – ran out to the ocean where he laid down amongst the fish and the dolphins and the whales – and there he stayed, a rocky island visited by local Aborigines in their canoes for thousands of years – we now call him Montague Island and it is a seabird refuge with a lighthouse. Legend has it that the bond between Mother Gulaga and Baranguba was never broken, and if you stand quietly on her summit and press your ear to her rocks, you can hear the dolphins as they play around Baranguba, her adventurous child. A Tilba local also told me that ANU scientists, studying the hundreds of underground springs and streams in the area, put dye into the springs on Mount Gulaga and sure enough, the same dye came out in streams and ponds on Montague Island. Local Aborigines refer to these sources of fresh water on a rocky ocean crop as Mother Gulaga’s tears. Amazing! I love stories such as these, and the rich and meaningful connections Aboriginal culture makes with its landscape.
You can just make out Montague Island in that photo above. It does indeed look like a person stretched out sleeping. But you can get a much better view of it from Mystery Bay. So – despite the cold and encroaching sunset, down we went. There were a few brave souls on the beach – some fishermen, two women riding horses, and a few children digging in the sand. It is an incredibly beautiful spot. The bay is littered with large sharp rocks and to the north side, a collection of caves, hollowed out from the cliffs. Very Famous Fivish.
It was a beautiful, if fleeting, visit and I’m so looking forward to taking Julian and Abby back there on a glorious summer’s day. The Far South Coast – it just keeps jumping up with more beautiful presents for us every time we visit. According to the neighbours, there’s also a little beach there – Billy’s Beach – that has the best shells ever. Mum and I didn’t find it – sunsetting and all that. But we will …
And you know – Mum, Mary, Cate and Jackie – as I’ve sat here and written these words, the story of Mother Gulaga and her children seems so very very pertinent. Even though Najanuba is the one sitting at Mother Gulaga’s feet – the obvious child who didn’t leave. And even though the ocean has washed in and seemingly cut Mother Gulaga off from her other much loved, adventurous child – Mother Gulaga and Baranguba are inextricably bound. He can still see her from where he lays in the ocean, admire her strength and beauty, and revel in the courage and love she shared with him as a child. She too can see him – she knows that he is part of her, that he shares her history, that he reflects her beauty, courage and love. That long cord that still holds them together will never, can never be truly broken. Forests and farms may grow up between them. Waves may crash around them. Sometimes those dolphin songs may be a bit harder to hear. But that long and ancient cord is incredibly strong and eternal – they will always be Mother and Child.
:: the sofas are crumpled with quilts … speaking of the cold but cosy nights we are having as we move past the winter solstice and once more towards the sun
:: so many corners filled with so many projects … a little dabbling in last summer’s crocheted cotton throw, and turning a doily pattern, written for fine mercerised cotton, into something so much chunkier and more colourful – plans for something silly and wonderful!
:: the back door opens to the first blue sky in days … look at our funny winter trees – the oak still dressed in its autumn leaves, the flower buds already colouring and tentatively venturing out on the magnolia
:: first morning in ages that I haven’t had to take the umbrella with me on my morning visit to the chicken and rabbits
:: more signs of our strangely bothered climate (look around you Prime Minister Abbott and Environment Minister Hunt – you woefully ignorant, head-in-the-coal, intellectual and moral pygmies!) – the birds never touch these berries so nor shall we. As for the magnolia – best flowers it’s ever produced – even if they are several months early
:: wintery mornings call for tea and honeyed crumpets, then more tea, and more tea and more tea and more tea … as for those artichokes – they’re just so pretty but I’ve never cooked with them – hmmmm ….
:: smiling at our newly thrifted kitchen stools. They absolutely don’t fit in our kitchen, but we’re tolerating them there at the moment. Red re-upholstering would be just the ticket – yes?
:: making the most of the few hours I have at home before heading into the hospital for a late – making time for my home’s ordinary everyday needs as well as sneaking in a bit of creativity every day is essential for maintaining a cheerful perspective during these long and intense weeks of placement! When I don’t do this – and focus manically on the here and now – the long hours, the constant learning, the stress of new and tricksy things, the relentless insomnia – I forget that what I am living right now, is not what the forever more is going to be! Pinning out a quilt, chatting to the chicken, tidying the corners of Bootville is a good reminder that nursing will be an extra string to my fiddle, not the entire orchestra.
:: how DO these pins get so entwined! More baffling then coat hangers.
:: two left over strips of festive vintage blanket – perfect for a Christmas banner – and perfect time to start thinking about this as we turn the corner of the year! Oh how I love Christmas :-)
:: and finally, as I pull my hair back and clean my teeth, I am reminded that viciously rubbing one’s eye when it’s itchy is NOT a good idea. Oy! I look as if I’ve been in a pub brawl! My poor eye!
So – any moment now, one of my fellow nursing students will be pulling up outside my home and we shall choof on in to the hospital together for another afternoon in the ICU. It’s full on my friends, full on. I’m seeing things I never knew existed – and lots of things that are not usually visible. I’m caring for needs I had never before imagined. But when, for the first moment, it feels a bit overwhelming and a sense of horror begins to creep into my thoughts, I look into my patient’s face and all I feel is love and empathy. It goes a long way.
Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long! And a heart felt thankyou to all the lovely folk who visited here last week. Thank you so much for your kind words – I look forward to catching up with more of your lovely knitting this week!
I really think – hope – that 2014 is going to be the year I finish lots of knitting – as opposed to just starting :-) Saturday morning saw me brave the techniques needed to finish off my Stevenson Sweater (raveled here) – a whole lot of sewing in of ends (not difficult, but ends that with hindsight and a little more experience, I did not need to create) and the grafting of the armholes with kitchener stitch. Not only does Kate write lovely patterns, including lovely armholes, but her beautiful book “Colours of Shetland” provides excellent and simple to follow instructions for kitchener stitch. Really, I don’t know what I was so afraid of.
Actually, I do. I think a lot of my not-finishing-things in a timely manner can be put down to this silly thought – if I don’t finish them, then I don’t have to assess whether or not they are a success. If the cardigan is never finished, then I never have to critically look at what I’ve made, identify where I can improve, and seek to improve my skills. Unfinished items are just lovely to work on – they don’t have to be anything. Do you know what I mean? When it’s actually finished, then it has to stand on its own two feet. Yes? Do you ever experience this feeling? Sometimes I can become completely bogged in it. Has even been known to stop me from giving people presents I’ve handmade for them.
Well, mayhaps 2014 will not only be the year of finishing, but a year of growing. An opportunity to look at what I finish, be grateful for the loveliness I have created, enjoy my projects for being an illustration of where I’m at skill wise, and look forward to using that skill again, only next time, with a little more finesse. Or maybe, appreciate that not everything has to be perfect and that I can love my knits for being my knits and not fret over their shortcomings. That would be even nicer :-)
(my lovely photographer and her very natty new shoes she very sweetly agreed to come to the beach with me- icy wind and all – to indulge me in my photo wanting)
Anyways! Back to the Stevenson Sweater. When Kate first shared glimpses of the projects in her Colours of Shetland book, I fell instantly in love with this stranded knitting, short sleeved jumper. I loved the colours, loved the stripes, loved that it was styled on lighthouses which I adore, and loved the story behind the Stevenson lighthouses! I read the book Kate recommended – it was fascinating – if you have a thing for lighthouses, like me, I highly recommend it. I devoured it in 2 nights and wished it could have gone on forever.
So, I put Kate’s book and the beautiful Shetland Island yarn required for this jumper (and the Puffin Jumper which is also waiting for a finish) on my list for Father Christmas that year. And sure enough, there it was under the tree for me on Christmas morn. Funny story – I was too busy on Christmas Day to pick up the needles but come Boxing Day, I couldn’t wait to cast on those golden stitches. Mum and Abby went out early – shopping – Aunty Anne (who was staying with us) caught the train west to spend the day with old school friends, Julian was engrossed in a Christmas book and I – well, I was beside myself with anticipation. I laid my yarn out on the round table in the living room. I placed my needles beside it. I made a cup of tea. I went to fetch the book – and couldn’t find it.
I searched the house. I tore the house apart. I looked under every chair, table, bed and sideboard. Piles of books and magazines were scattered, helter-skelter. I even looked in all the tote bags and the car. I pestered Julian. I rang Abby and Mum – several times. I looked for over 2 hours, all the while growing more frantic (cranky). How could I have lost the book in less than 24 hours!!! It seemed manifestly unfair! I had been waiting for this moment for almost 2 months.
Then, finally, I searched under the front passenger seat in the car. And there it was. I had given it to Mum to look at on Christmas Day as we drove to the airport to collect Aunty Anne – and she had put it under the front seat. Don’t know why. But she did. Then we both forgot about it. Sigh!
(This is me looking askance at a person swimming!
Port Philip Bay is freezing in summer let alone the last week in autumn)
Most of the body was knitted on Mum’s front porch. The perfect spot for a lighthouse sweater. Sitting there drenched in sun, buffeted by the seabreeze, pretty parrots and kangaroos in attendance, the beautiful Pacific Ocean rolling and sparkling before me, little fishing boats darting across the Bar. All the while, dreaming of lighthouses and when I would wear my Stevenson Sweater to our lighthouse – the Green Cape Lighthouse. It’s not been there yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.
The Jamieson Jumper weight wool is truly gorgeous to work with. I adore it. It’s got a lovely lightness to it, a sweet fuzziness, and it just melds together so beautifully. Their colour range is lovely too. And it’s from Shetland sheep who’ve roamed Shetland Island, been sheared there, their wool spun there, dyed there, and then these beautiful little balls of yarn made their way all the way down here, from the top of the world to the bottom of the world. Magic, yes? I want to knit in Jamieson for the rest of my knitting days.
Well now, I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from finishing the Puffin Sweater (wait til you hear what happened to part of that pattern – oy!). Well except, that I’m knitting a stripey jumper for Mum. And still have Julian’s Argyle to finish.
But right now, I’m about to hop into bed with my copy of “The Lighthouse Stevensons” and another old favourite – Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife” – I heard her on the radio the other day and she was so marvellous I want to read all her books over again.
Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long.
That’s the name of the pattern – the hippie cardigan – such a sweet creation from the lovely and talented Meiju from Finland. I so recommend you check her out here and here – her knitting and designs are beautiful.
I so enjoyed knitting this cardigan. I love the pattern – easy to follow, gorgeous construction. I love the wool I chose – Cleckheaton Naturals for the stripes and a lovely discontinued Cleckheaton merino and silk blend for the rest of body and arms. The cardigan in the pattern is intended as a summer cardigan and so is in beautiful summery colours – I wanted rich warm colours for winter so went for a much darker palette. I would knit the hippie cardigan again without hesitation.
And that’s exactly what I may have to do …
When I began knitting this cardie – way back in January? – I was 12 kilos heavier than I am now. So what was a fitted bodice is now a baggy bodice – and a couple of stripes too long – and the raglans don’t provide that lovely – wanted – crisp definition for my shoulders. Bugger.
There’s just so much fabric around my upper body and armholes. Such looseness in the upper sleeves. And yet I think, as a cardigan, it is really pretty. I love the garter stitch bands. I love the crocheted edging. I love the one piece construction. I love raglan shaping. I love how the “skirt” flares out slightly. I adore the leather buttons Julian made me. I love how I’ve shrunk. I just don’t like how the cardigan didn’t shrink along with me ;-)
It’s just a wee bit too big. And given I’m still hoping to lose another 6 kilos – it will only get bigger. It would be awesome if I COULD shrink it. But that is such a finger shredding, imperfect science. Knowing my luck, the cardigan would end up fitting Fu.
I know I shall want to wear it. I put so many hours of knitty pleasure into this – and I even finished it – of course I want to wear it! And it will be lovely and cosy. It’s just too baggy.
Hmmmm …. maybe I will just need to knit another, smaller hippie cardigan and I can have one for around the home when cosy comfort is the name of the game. And one for when I want a little more pizzazz. Oh dear, that will mean more wool. And more knitting. Such a shame.
As for my reading …. well, it’s the Sydney Writer’s Festival this week and every day I’ve heard fabulous authors being interviewed about their books on Radio National. My favourites include Andrew Solomon and his book “Far From the Tree” and Karima Bennoune and her book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here”.
I’ve heard/seen Andrew twice now and am so very impressed with the love and compassion he radiates for fellow human beings. The stories he related on Margaret Throsby’s program on Monday were incredibly moving and brought me to tears on several occasions. As a mama whose daughter is not as close to the tree as I thought she’d be, and as an almost nurse who will be caring and relating to “different” people everyday, I know that there will be a lot of helpful wisdom in this book. And even the pain, sadness and sometimes complete shunning Andrew relates from families who simply do not cope with their different child will give me so much to think about and allow me to walk just a wee bit in the shoes of others – such an invaluable practice. Sometimes, I think it’s easy to expect that the people we love and those we meet will, of course, do the things we expect them to do. When they don’t, I think it’s part of being human to find this a bit surprising or even shocking. And yet, there are so very many ways of being, that to expect any such compliance is to set yourself up for disappointment. Don’t you think?
As for “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” – such a fascinating topic and if it’s as good as her interview on the Religion Report tonight – and as the Booklist review says – wow! I can’t wait. The kind of book that presents such a different and often unknown and unnoticed world to me – I LOVE that. I felt like that about “The Sewing Circles of Herat” and “Sharon and My Mother-in-law” – glimpses from fascinating and thoughtful people in such far away places, usually only seen in the news headlines – they so eloquently share their lived experience that it can completely transform my understanding of a place or situation.
However, I do not yet have either of these books – they feel like the books I will want to hold in my hand, flip back and forth between different stories and pages, underline with my pencil, look at on my bookshelf, take down over and over again, and waggle in front of my family and friends. I know you can theoretically do the same things with a kindle – but really, it’s not quite the same is it. So I’ve ordered beautiful, real, heavy, papery copies of them and am now checking the letterbox with anticipation every day.
Until then – I might just pick up Sharon and My Mother-in-law again. It’s been a few years since I’ve read this – just the right amount of passed time to find fresh delight in her stories again.
Oh, the perils of playing. I had such a to-do-list this morning. Wash the clothes, vacuum the carpet, bake a cake, stew the apples, pin out the next quilt top, work on the fox … I was even looking forward to it!
But then, I caught sight of the little card chair from yesterday and thought about the cross stitched upholstery I want to make for it, and the beautiful cross stitch books that arrived a couple of weeks ago that I haven’t stitched anything from … and I decided to just sit down for a quick moment and have a play. I would cross stitch something small and sweet and then get stuck into the list. ’Twas only 9am – plenty of time.
So I gathered my supplies and began stitching a bee – despite my immune system’s tendency to overreact, I do love bees. And for the last several months, we appear to have our own colony – in the old compost bin under the old hibiscus tree in the back garden. There are hundreds of the sweet little critters, darting in and out of the hand gaps for lifting the domed lid off, swooping about our garden, making the most of each flowering specimen as it comes into season. When we had the terrible heat back in January and February, we could regularly hear our bees cooling their “hive” down – impressive stuff. I would so love to get some protective clothing and a smoker for Julian and Abby so they could check in the compost bin and see what our bees are up to. I bet it’s dripping with honey. We’d have to call it “Urban Compost”. No sweet countryside names for our honey :-)
And then, when the cross stitch was done, what to do with it? It would look pretty with some felt – perhaps some of Mr. Fox’s petals …
And a backing, blanket stitched on to hide the working …
And maybe some crochet around the edge – I agonised over this for a bit – started with ecru, pulled it out, started it again, pulled it out, tried a red, pulled it out, tried a pale pale blue, pulled it out, settled on the green, pulled it out, persevered, fretted that it looked too twee, decided to live with it a while and check with my girlie – she usually knows …
Added a safety pin to the back … all the better for wearing.
Or a bag
But I do like it on the cardie. Having a bee brooch does make me question the whole notion of adornment. A bee brooch, really? Why? Sometimes I think to decorate myself is such a peculiar artifice – what real and measurable purpose does hanging baubles from myself serve? And so then I go for weeks without earrings or necklaces or scarves or makeup, my hair just caught up in a plain bar clip – the same simple clothes each day. Then I remember how much I love prettiness and colour, so drag out all the trinkets and brightly patterned clothes and enjoy them all once more. I am a bit odd, aren’t I. Perhaps my hesitation stems from the less is more approach that is so often lauded in our design culture. So not me. Perhaps I would have felt more at home in the Georgian or Elizabethan era :-) I LOVE pretty details.
So, in celebration of more is marvellous, I pinned on my brooch to wear the rest of the day and realised it was 2.20 and I had only hung out the first load of washing and done NOTHING else on the list. And poor old Abby was having a crappy day (thanks to a streaming cold and high school dilemmas) and I wanted to make her a chocolate cake for when she came home from school and I wasn’t here. So, on with the apron, out with the mixer and I whipped up the chocolate cake from the Easter Feast recipes in April’s British Country Living. Time enough, whilst it cooked, to wash the dishes, pick the obvious fluff up off the carpet, tidy the embroidery things, and make the bed. Phew!
But I didn’t show you Mr. Fox – this is him on Sunday – he’s come a long way since then. He’s looking very charming and I am very excited about this chair. It will sit at our craft table.
Tomorrow – I WILL pay attention to the list. Truly, I will.
Dear little Lucy (Mum’s dog, who’s staying with us whilst Mum’s in Brisbane looking after Nanny and Grandad) is very fond of her comforts. Why sit on just the sofa when you can scrunch up all the quilts and knitting that are on the sofa into a cosy nest that you can burrow yourself into? Nicely upholstered furniture isn’t good enough, no you should drag all the cushions into a pile and knead them into just the right density before you settle down. As for the bed – why would you want to sleep at someone’s feet when you can sleep next to their head – and turn into a growly leaden lump when someone tries to shuffle you along. Best of all, being a cavoodle with thick, slightly oily, woolly fur, Lucy gets pretty grotty, pretty quickly and rubs all of this onto the afore mentioned quilts, cushions, beds and knitting. Isn’t she thoughtful!
So last week – after holding the living room cushions up to my face and sniffing them – I decided they all needed a de-Lucying – a wash and an air. And, given there was an essay due in that same day that still needed a lot of work, what more perfect time was there for me to plan and stitch up some new patchwork cushion covers.
I tried a snail’s trail block – something I haven’t played with for many years – and after some trial and error, hit upon a technique I liked very much – make each triangle way to big and trim it down once all four sides are on. Then, today, with another essay due in at midnight (a discussion of something dodgy I saw or did on placement that I have since “reflected on” and learnt from) I quilted it up and added those bits and pieces necessary to turn it into a cushion cover.
I was going to do the squiggly wiggly, but then thought I should be a bit more adventurous and practice drawing with my free motion foot. So I tried some mandela style flowers. I had to pull the first one out, it was so ghastly, but the following four turned out mostly acceptable. Of course, practice will improve things and I won’t ever get any better if I don’t try. I’m also not the kind of person that can practise for hours on a piece of calico with no purpose, so a cushion cover seems a good compromise.
They look really pretty on the back – woollen blanketing is so very forgiving to slightly wonky stitches. They embed nicely into the soft pile. Not so flattering on the smooth cotton front, but … have to start somewhere :-)
Oh – and Fu thought you might want to meet Gerald. He was Toph’s bedtime companion when she was a puppy. Now he’s Fu’s – she’s not always very kind to Gerald but I do think she’s very fond of him. She ran around the back garden “killing” Gerald whilst I took these photos, then dashed up to me and chucked him onto the quilting. So there you go – that’s Gerald.
And here’s the finished cushion! The colours seem just right for autumn. So many shades of yellow, red, orange and brown surrounding us at the moment – and the perpetually grey skies. These trees – I don’t know what they are – line one section of a very big road that I drove along most days. They are very lush and green throughout spring and summer, but at this time of the year, they truly take your breath away – the very air hovering around them feels as golden as their softly falling leaves.
And the little card chair – I found it this morning on the footpath on the way home from school drop off. English oak arms! And whilst I was inspecting it, the owner came out and we agreed it was a sweet piece that just needed a little bit of tlc – that’s what he was hoping for. Melbourne’s footpath furniture sharing at it’s best.
I have plans for the chair – involving a very even weave, camel coloured, woollen fabric from up the road, a Japanese embroidery book translated into Chinese (because that’s so much more useful to me!) and a bit of metho and steel wool. It will be transformed! But I can’t start it til I finish my fox chair (if you want you can check the instagram photos on the sidebar here) – I’ll show you the start of that little project tomorrow – it’s very addictive – I have to keep dashing out to the craft table and adding a bit more embroidery here and another leaf there!
I tried a little viney flowery kind of thing with my quilting along the borders – almost pleased with it. And that’s my prop assistant – she very kindly offered to carry the cushion, camera and car keys because there was no way she was lugging that chair up North Road. Ah what she puts up with from her silly mama :-)
Here’s the new cushion, insitu. Just right against the syrupy yellows of the white blossom tree quilt. And I know Lucy’s keen to try it out – with all its lovely new, bouyant feathery insert and crisply clean cotton cover. I’m sure she’ll get right into later tonight.
It’s a good thing we love you Lucy!
Forgive me all the photos – the golden afternoon light, the glowing warm red of the brick wall, the lush grass, the cheery blue of the chair … it was all so pretty.
This is the napping quilt. I started this six years ago – I think it was a fat quarter bundle of a Moda range – Mother Goose. I found it last year – some of the pieces sewn up, many not. I laid the pieces out on my bed and for some reason, the soft squishy colours and occasional glimpses of sweet nostalgic children made me think of it as a napping quilt. So napping quilt it is.
I finished the blocks. Put them back on the shelf. Pulled them back out a few weeks back. Stitched them together. Added some borders – mostly reproductions – they seemed to fit just right. Pinned it out. Quilted it – squiggly, wiggly onto a beautifully soft, pretty checked vintage blanket. Bit repetitive, aren’t I :-)
Then last weekend, after Julian flew away to Ireland, tucked myself into the corner of the sofa, the napping quilt squished cosily around me, and stitched down the binding.
As for this fabulous red brick wall – I have driven past it several times a week for the last four years. Always admired it but neither thought of stopping. And then, this week, noticed a special magic as the autumn afternoon sun soaked into it. So today, I left early for school pickup, and stopped a while. My quilt, my chair, my camera – and the magnificent wall.
Such fun – as I pootled about with the napping quilt and my blue chair, cars slowed down to watch. One fellow actually stopped and when I had finished a moment’s fussing called out to me. Wanted to know if it was my quilt. Told me his wife sewed quilts and had him take photos of her quilts for her. He thought my quilt looked lovely against the wall. Another young woman – with a huge dog in her passenger – stopped, called out hey, watched a while, smiling, then drove off with a wave. I do love that when you do something a bit unexpected, strangely enough, it draws you closer to people.
Now, the napping quilt is back on me bed. I’m off to join it. We’ve had a very dramatic start to our weekend – poor wee Lucy got a shard of her nightly chicken wing wedged in between her gum and her molar – we weren’t sure there wasn’t an obstruction further back, so rushed off to the after hours vet. Poor Lucy was crying and trembling and doing a very funny thing with her mouth. The vet was wonderful – found the shard straight away – you wouldn’t believe the effort that was required to pull it out – with pliers. I honestly thought the vet was going to tumble backwards. No wonder it hurt. But the minute it was out – if only we spoke doggle, we’d have heard Lucy say “Well thank goodness for that!” She gave herself a thorough waggle all over and was ready for home. She’s fine now and snuggled up on Abby’s bed, snoring. Phew!
Hopefully the rest of the weekend will deliver a good dose of loveliness – lots of making planned, a trip to the shops, Abby’s cooking me curried prawns for supper tomorrow night. We may go to the movies. Perhaps a bookstore. Some last minute knitting to two more jumpers. Good stuff. But first – there’ll be a sleep in under my napping quilt.
Wishing you a lovely weekend too, dear folk!
It’s that time of year. We are dragging ourselves out of bed, lost without the morning sun’s guidance. The washing needs to be brought in earlier and earlier. I know the precise times because, like last year and the year before and the year before that, at this time of year, my most visited website becomes sunrise and sunset dot com.
It’s probably even exactly the same day in May when, after unpegging the washing and folding it into the basket, I stand in the still and cold back garden, watch the last of the fiery sun vanish into the west, then trudge gloomily to my desk to trawl through those sunrise and sunset times yet again. I see – spirits sinking – that yet again, the mornings will grow darker and the afternoons shorter.
However, come the winter solstice, whilst those mornings stay drearily dark well into July, the afternoon grows magically, quietly one minute longer with each passing day. Then, when I’ve scrolled to the end of August, I see that the sun will be with us until almost 6pm and my breath catches with a little sob of relief. From that moment, I know we will be dancing back into the light.
It’s not the cold I mind. Not at all. I love the cold and all its pretty accoutrements – jumpers and quilts and shawls and gloves and hats, frosty windows and temperatures that bite at our cheeks, sparkling grass and bare trees, steaming stoves with their stews and soups and puddings. It’s bliss, all of it.
But I hate losing the light. I don’t think I ever really noticed it in Brisbane. But here in Melbourne – oh I struggle to keep my chin up when the days are short and dark. I know, you’ve heard it before, but I’m so looking forward to when we move back to the East Coast – we’ll gain an extra half hour every morning – yes! I know this, because I read the sunrises and sunsets in Merimbula as well.
So, what shall I do? I’ll drink another cup of tea. Light more lamps and candles. Listen to music that makes me dream of driving along the coast with the windows down, the sun bobbing cheerily in front of us, and the volume turned up nice and loud (I find fun.’s Carry On is always good for lifting the spirits :-) Make sure there’s plenty of loveliness to keep me occupied each day – the felt below is making my heart sing a little stronger.
And linger in those sunsets we are blessed with. Only 40 days to go before we begin to turn back folks, 40 days.
Such a grey and icy day. The light was thin and scanty. So, I did as Lucy does, and followed it – to a little sofa under the window, piled high with quilts and cushions. Cosy indeed. Supplies were gathered. Plans were hatched for a set of little travelling cups that my Aunty Anne found for me. She knew how much I loved the set Nanny and Grandad kept in their car’s dashboard when I was little. Anodised. In a brown leather (probably vinyl) zippered pouch. I thought they were ever so cute and loved it when Grandad would pull them out and Nanny would fill them up with usually forbidden sweet and fizzy drink and pass them round.
Now I have my own – sans the zippered pouch. Ah well – that can be sweetly remedied.
I’m not a huge fan of sewing with zippers or vinyl so chose the felt route instead. With a wee bit of needlefelting, blanket stitch and my secret ingredient – elastic!
Natty huh! Keeps the bottom from falling off my travelling cups and stops it from crumpling down when I put the top on!
The quiet snail, taking his time, enjoying the journey, seeking out treasures, stopping to make the most of the loveliest bits. Just like us Boots when we go travelling.
It’s the only way to go, don’t you think :-)