farewell my dear old Grandad

Well hello there!  You’d thought I’d forgotten about you, didn’t you?!? No of course not – in fact, I feel rather sad to have been away for such a long time and promise that I shall NEVER be away for so long again.  Never!

What’s been happening around Bootville?  Well – lots.

the cover

Dear old Grandad finally passed away on the 10th June.  It was early Wednesday morning – well before the winter’s dawn – and I awoke with a jolt, just knowing he’d left.  I sent Mum a text – she was there with him – and sure enough she replied a few minutes later to say he’d taken a last raggedy breath and then there was no more.

Despite knowing that this was inevitable, oh I lay there and sobbed.  Forty five years I’ve had my dear old Grandad by my side – so extraordinarily blessed …

walking-down-the-aisle

grandad-and-lily-wedding

… and then he was gone.  Just like that.

So there was a sad trek to Brisbane for the funeral – family came from all over the world and despite some horrendously stressful moments, there were many more moments of love and joy as those that I love gathered together to send off a truly beautiful man.

the quilt

At the viewing we snugly tucked him in with his favourite quilt – one of mine that he has used every night since the stroke 18 months ago – it has survived two hospitals and a nursing home, it was clearly meant to be grandad’s.  In his hands lay his old Akubra to keep that hot Australian sun off his old bald head, and the little black wallaby I stitched him earlier this year was tucked into the crook of his arm – to remind him to always take the adventurous path.

grandad at the postoffice

grandad and his milkshake

grandad by the water

We chose music for his service that brought us to tears – a service which was held in the very same church that he married Nanny in almost 70 years ago.  The Reverend gave a heart warming sermon on St. Paul’s theme of the triumph of love over all else – she was magnificent and her words and compassion gave us so much comfort.  We scattered beautiful flowers across his grave – a secluded spot that I was relieved to find rang with birdsong.  Grandad loved birds.  We all pitched our photos together and created a slide show of Grandad’s life that expressed the joy and love he found in his family – one that we have watched over and over and still cry every time.  We took every opportunity to toast our dear old Grandad and his wonderful life until we all went our separate ways a few days later.

rainbow bay

I think for me the moment I felt closest to his spirit was on the beach at Rainbow Bay the day after the funeral.  Abby, Sacha, my nephew Oscar, cousin Maddie and I built a life sized sand sculpture of Grandad – Sandy Grandad.  It was truly therapeutic and as the day went on, more and more of my family arrived to set up camp around him.  The seagulls strutted their stuff across his chest and legs, nearby children dug in the sand and splashed in the glittering shallows, surfers paddled out to meet the dolphins, and families strolled back and forth.  Life in all its gentleness and beauty went on around him – just as it should.

his head

the flag

abby building him

his walking stick

with grandad

By late afternoon, there he lay, quiet and content – walking stick in hand, Akubra stuck on his head - waiting for the evening tide to come for him.  The setting sun turned his beloved bay into a silvery sparkly blue heaven. I stretched out beside him with Maddie and we reminded him how very much he was loved, what a fine old fellow he’d been, and how much we would miss him.  They were an exquisite few minutes – ones I shall always hold dear in my heart – and I’m so glad I was there with other cousins and aunties who loved grandad just as dearly as me.

face in shadow

“… So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim … “
( from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians)

heart

My dear old Grandad lived these words and so it is with a sad but grateful heart that I farewell him.

Grandad, you lived your life with such good cheer and never missed an opportunity to extend love to all those around you.  I hereby promise to do my best to follow your very fine example.

Cheers Grandad!

the unexpected quilt with a square

so many threads

There’s been a bit of quilting this past weekend.  Perfect weather for it – grey, gusty and wet – we even had early morning thunder and hail!  And this here quilt needed to be finished.  It has been sitting on the sewing machine, needle in the down position, since I fell over at work 3? 4? weeks ago.  You see, I hurt my hand – a graze that took an age to heal and a strained wrist – all that 45 year old weight landing on one little joint and all.

Ahhhh … as my Nanny says, “You always were awkward Lily!” But back to the quilt …

square testing

T’was a completely unexpected quilt.  I went to Spotlight with a loyalty card that said 40% off if you finish the bolt.  I was pretty excited.  There were several delightful ranges that I’d been eyeing off and I figured this was too good a bargain to pass by.  Alas – I was one day late.  My card had expired.  I was a little peeved and there was definitely some seething as I stomped away from the counter.

But then, I spied my favourite Reprodepot red floral on the $8 table so I figured I’d grab all that was left.  Sadly it wasn’t that much.  That morning I’d also seen an instagram from the lovely Kristin Shields of a little dolls quilt she’d seen in an exhibition.  It had a small repeating square off centre in a sea of background.

Edited to add: Thank you Kristin for directing me to the marvellous original – here’s the link - it’s by the wonderful quilt maker Chawne Kimber!  You must visit her site – her work is very inspiring.  And you’ll see that whilst I’ve totally taken her idea of the little repeating square within a sea of background, mine lacks her energy and movement – she has a wonderful way with colour, complete mastery of modern patchwork and beautiful quilting – her concentric circles are to swoon over :-)

That would be a good use of the red Repro fabric – I just needed some contrasts for the square.  So feeling stingy but determined to walk away with a goodly stash of spoils/fabric, I picked out some blues, yellows and a white.

with bits

Once home, it was quickly obvious, my Repro would not stretch to the square as well.  Never mind – Kaffe is here!  Everything always looks marvellous with a bit of Kaffe :-) Yes? Of course yes!

tried it lengthways

Then it was one to fiddling around with my square.  It wound up MUCH bigger than in the sweet little quilt Kristin had shared.  Hmmm … so having it completely off centre just looked wanky.  It seemed my square would live at the bottom of a long quilt.

quilting the lines

love the lines

the binding

Until I brought it out into this morning’s glorious autumn sunshine and realised – it wants to be a sideways quilt!

finished

Oh yes!

squiggly wiggly

the square

more of those lines

sideways at square

I quilted the red floral with my standard squiggly wiggly.  But the square I quilted with closely spaced straight lines.  I didn’t measure them – just by sight – and some are a little off.  I unpicked the ones that truly offended, but the ones that are left, I’m happy with.  Someone once told me there were no perfectly straight lines in nature – so that’s my mantra :-)   

gently blowing

squiggly wiggly from the back

And of course, it’s quilted onto a beautiful butterscotch coloured, pure wool, vintage Laconia blanket. So toasty warm.

still a lot of threads

As you can see, I’ve not yet finished sewing in all the threads :-0  I counted them last night – with all those start and stop lines and the natural running out of the bobbin during the squiggly wiggly – there are at least 350 ends.  Hmmmm … they can be done whilst I’m snuggled under it – the cold weather will be around for several months – should be enough time!

better corner
on the bed

Ah yes.  An unexpected quilt with a square.  Totally unnecessary.  There are so many more tucked into every corner of Bootville that need finishing and quilting.  But hey.  Colour just makes me swoon.  And red?  Well that’s even better.

 

the building of a tensioning frame

the rug

For my recent birthday, Abigail gave me this beautiful McAdoo Rug design for needlepunching.  Melts my heart – she’s our Merimbula mermaid for sure, reminding me of the lovely mornings Julian and I snorkel down at Bar Beach, collecting mussels for our breakfast as the morning sun splashes like champagne across the water.

measuring her up

Now, surprisingly enough for someone who does as much patchwork as me, I’m not the best at measuring.  Trying to work out what dimensions my frame should be left me in a tizz – I just cannot visualise what’s needed!  So Julian took over – thank goodness – because he understood all that I did not and quickly worked up a simple design for the tensioning frame I would need to needle punch my mermaid rug.

making the cut

Of course, the fact that he got to use his newly purchased drop saw thingy was an added attraction :-)  Something nice and easy to make as he got to know the ins and outs of this fabulous new tool – purchased for our upcoming house building adventure.  Window sills!  Adirondacks! Kitchen work benches!  Courtyards! A deck by the dam! Oh yes, there will be much fun had with this little beauty!

the laser guide

He even had to admit to liking the laser guide which he earlier dismissed as a bit gimmicky.

the bits

drill press

lucy

Within an hour or so, we had the frame screwed securely together – Julian even countersunk the screws – such a lovely finish!

Now Julian doesn’t think there’s anything special to this – he called it a quick knockup – but given it will only be useful for rugs of this size – anything bigger or smaller will need it’s own frame – I think it’s bloody awesome!  I adore that my man can take $20 worth of materials and quickly knockup a frame just to indulge my whims.  Sigh!

countersunk

Then it was onto the bitey tacking which provides the tension.  Oy!  When we caught our fingers on those little points, we sure knew about it.  Now, Amy Oxford uses tacking with THREE rows which she declares to be the best – but at our local hardware store, two rows was all there was to be had.  We’ll see how it goes.

adding the tacky bits

Julian even knew to position the tacking with the tacks facing out – so as to provide maximum tensioning.  I’d have never thought of that – he’s so useful.

so bitey

Time for testing!  Just as Amy Oxford says, all those little tacks don’t tear at the fabric – they just hold it nicely in place.  And it’s even easy to reposition.  Excellent!

tensioning the rug

pulling it taut

The only thing I need to add now is some thick felt over the tacks so as not to shred my arms whilst needle punching.  I think I have some in the felt suitcase – hopefully!

a merimbula mermaid

Isn’t she gorgeous!  I’m so looking forward to starting.  I have most of the wool I will need – I’m using the lovely Dutch woollen felt from Winterwood Toys – sliced up into 1/4 inch strips with the rotary cutter.  Hopefully it will work a treat and look marvellous.  I tested some out already and it makes lovely nubbly loops.  If not, we’ll have lots of felt for applique and doll making :-)

ready for needlepunching

I’m just not sure I’ll ever want to stand on her.  Hmmmm …. after all the hours that will go into making her – not to mention the funds! – stomping our great big feet on her might be too stressful to bear! Maybe we could become a shoeless house …

Oh Julian, you are such a gem xxx

 

everyday eden :: a quilt

finished

So, as expected, this nursing gig is taking up vast amounts of my time and energy.  Even when I’m not at the hospital, I find myself thinking about it regularly – especially how I could be doing better and hoping I survive the year!

a start

I’ve definitely landed in an incredibly high acuity facility which can sometimes make for very demanding shifts – when I fret about these Julian says “Just remember, next year when a patient like that arrives you’ll be saying – you’re THAT unwell – off to Canberra or Sydney with you!”

on the ironing board

But there is certainly still a lot of creating going on here in Bootville – more than ever, it’s what keeps me sane – allows my mind to unravel and soon after I sit down to needles and thread, fabric and wool, I am once more in a state of cheerful, imaginative peace.

pinned and ready

This little quilt – a single bed size – which I finished a couple of weeks back – makes me especially happy.

soaking up some afternoon sun

Not only are the delicious warm colours my favourite – but the gorgeous centrepiece of each block is a fabric called “Everyday Eden”!  How apt is that!

tousled in the sun

Eden is the little fishing village perched at the southern end of the Bega Valley.  When we drive east from Melbourne, we trundle across hundreds of kilometres of Victoria and then, soon after finally crossing the NSW / Victoria border, we hit Eden – the southern most village on Australia’s East Coast – and we know we’re back to our beloved Pacific Ocean and almost home to Mum’s.

quilting

It was such fun hunting through the stash, looking for just the right fabrics for the strips of this almost log cabin.

on with the binding

Of course there’s Kaffe – I firmly believe EVERY quilt looks good with some Kaffe – and lots from a lovely bundle I so generously received over Christmas from the Aussie Christmas Quilt swap!

on the line

Then onto a lovely cosy thrifted wool blanket.  No squiggly wiggly for this one – instead, in the centre of each block I quilted one large concentric, wobbly flower.

backing blanket

The borders were so narrow – such a 70s fabric – organic cotton with yellow and orange guitars – they didn’t need any quilting.

sunny house

joyful girl

headless but in love

flower girl

cheerful friends

groovy guy

Mmmm … look at these groovy folk – don’t they look as though living in Eden is pure bliss!  It’s a sign!

border and binding

hanging up

At the moment, this sweet quilt is laying on the spare ‘oom bed.  But – if all goes to plan, and our fingers are STILL crossed – we will need many quilts to line the walls of our next abode – a temporary one whilst we build our strawbale home – so I reckon the more the merrier!

blanket magic

We will also need plenty on the beds – yes, there will definitely be a time in the next couple of years when all my quilts may even become Julian’s best friends :-)

speckled with shadeAh colourful quilts – you do make me so happy.

 

jeeping

photo

We’re one step closer to our wee farm in the beautiful Bega Valley – we have the means to drive down our driveway and up to our front door! Our own little Jeep!

filled with boats

I must confess, I have always been critical of people who drive huge four wheel drives in the city – the kind of people that have a massive Land Cruiser with street tyres that are only driven to school drop off and the supermarket because it makes the owner feel safer.  I just don’t see the point.

sunlit greens

But all the land we looked at over Christmas needed four wheel drive access once you left the road – in fact, some of the roads were even beyond our station wagon.  And so we had to reconsider our transport options.

chip buttie

Julian would definitely need a farm truck – the Toyota Hilux seems to be the truck of choice in the Bega Valley and from all reports they are very reliable and sturdy.  I would need something to drive to work – a little Jeep would not only be good for this but without the roof would be awesome fun to drive around the lovely beaches of the Sapphire Coast in summer.

But not on the beaches!  I’m absolutely opposed to driving on beaches – we’ve sucked up enough of our land for compressed highways and roads on which thousands of animals die every year – I think it’s environmental vandalism to drive along our beautiful sandy beaches. Get out and walk for goodness sake!

knitting

So, after much looking, we found a nice little second hand number that will hopefully give us many years service.  It also has a tow bar so we are buying a trailer and will be able to cart things up to Bega each time we visit throughout this year – hopefully making the end of year move a little less of a mammoth undertaking.

bare feet

We picked her up yesterday – I’ve named her Sylvia – and as soon as we brought her home, packed the picnic hamper and headed for the beach.  At first the day was very grey and cool – so roof on for our trip down the bay – but whilst we sat by the shore, munching our fish and chips, the clouds finally broke up and it turned into a glorious afternoon of sun, sparkle and warmth.  Off with the shoes and roof!

little boats coming home

by the waters edge

such coarse sand

paddling

treasures

green

However, Abby quickly found that the back seat is rather exposed without the roof – so she hopped into the front with me and Julian luxuriated in the windswept wildness of the back all the way home.

He adored it! Reminded him of his teenage years by the beach in Darwin.

in the back

So much fun!  And so exciting to be moving closer and closer to the next part of our journey :-)

in our garden

(And little Sylvia will mostly be a homebody this year – spending most of her time sitting on the driveway with the camellias and cotoneasters – I still think four wheel drives in the city are an indulgence!)

 

the thoughts of a very new nurse

I’m counting it as a blessing that I’m able to see the good in almost every shift combination I work at the hospital.

An early? Oh it’s so lovely to be home by 4.30pm and have a slow, peaceful late afternoon and evening extend before me.  A late?  I love a morning at home – get up with the family, make breakfast, take Abby to school, potter about with my patchwork and chores then meander on into to work for a 1pm start.

A late followed by an early?  Yes, I come home utterly exhausted after that morning shift that followed a late shift with just a few hours in between for sleeping, but it’s almost like getting 2 shifts over in 1 – bargain!

And even when there’s a long stretch of days before me – next week I will work 8 out of 9 days – 4 days on then 1 day off then 4 days on again – I remind myself, with such gratitude, of the lovely days off that will follow.  That’s right … I am such a Pollyanna :-)

jumper

Mind you, my Pollyanna skills have been put to the test this week with the rather dismal breaking down of our car.  Our car will be with the mechanic for the next week and when we pick it up, we will be almost $3,000 poorer.  Ugh!  That means rides to and from the hospital on the back of Julian’s motorbike, and when he isn’t around, looooong,stuffy, motion sick inducing tram rides.

But then, this afternoon, home from an early and sitting in our back garden with my knitting, a cup of tea, a brisk autumn wind and the late afternoon sun, then later inside preparing supper, I was thinking about the patients I cared for today and realised with a jolt that I needed to practice a bit of what I had preached only a few hours earlier.

In turn, this gave me the opportunity to reflect on my last 10 weeks or nursing, of all that I am adjusting to, the practical experience I am gaining as a nurse, and importantly, how I look at and listen to my patients each day, and how this shapes my relationship with them.

cup and wool

Throughout my degree, we were constantly reminded that each patient we care for is unique.  That our nursing and communication with them has to be guided by their individuality and their needs.  Whilst I always believed this as a student, it was not until I was standing in a room with four utterly different people before me that I appreciated this.

And I have to add, that in the first few weeks, the whole experience of nursing as a new grad was so indescribably overwhelming that I was probably more focussed on getting all the obs done, all the medications delivered, and actually making it to the end of the shift without having a nervous breakdown than to really notice who my patients were and how best to support them.

needles

This last couple of weeks – things are getting a bit smoother.  There are still moments of panic and things that I simply don’t get done and have to hand over at the end of my shift to the nurse taking over from me.  But today I was able to tick off each of the tasks on my planner AND find the time to appreciate who each of my patients were and try to meet more than just their physiological needs.

It’s a humbling experience, let me tell you.  So I thought I would share just a few of the things I try to practice each day.

Most of my patients are quite old and have several things going wrong for them.  Each person deals with this in a different way.

Some are cheerful and make funny little jokes which remind me of my grandad.  These patients have an inspiring outlook on life – philosophical about where they are, full of gratitude for what they’ve had, and cooperate with everything you ask them to do.  Without fail, each of these patients I’ve met, come from families that share so much love.  They speak of their partners and children with such love, appreciation and joy.  They want to be at home with them.  They look forward to what time they have left, no matter how short or compromised it may be.  I so look forward to seeing these patients each day.  And with every laugh and little story we share, I am reminded of the incredible power of love.  Of how rich love makes our lives and how much it nourishes us.  And so, when the shift ends and I am at home, I remember to focus on love ’cause that’s what will make everything else happen.

splash of gold

Other patients – especially when they’ve lost a lot of their independence – look up at me with angry, confused or distant eyes.  I totally get this.  Being very ill and coming towards the end of life can be horribly undignified.  And I’ve noticed that this is even more so when English is not that patient’s first language.  I can only imagine how isolating that must feel.

Accidents happen.  Bodies need washing.  And sometimes all these patients can do is lay there staring up at us, at our mercy, as we roll them from side to side so that we may change their pyjamas and sheets for the 3rd time in as many hours, push pillows under different parts of them in an effort to relieve the pressure their poor old bodies are under, and pull them up the bed so that they may breathe easier.   At these moments, I look into their faces and try to imagine who they were before their illness took over.  Who they were when they were younger and fitter.  What these eyes before me have seen and loved.

Illness does not define a person.  Nor do tired and broken bodies.  Inside what we see on the bed before us, is a person who has lived – had passions and ambitions, created a family, worked to support them, enjoyed holidays with their partners and children, laughed over family dinners, been enchanted by the arrival of grandchildren.  Keeping this at the front of my mind as I care for these patients, really helps me find every bit of compassion and love I have, no matter how awkward or unpleasant the task at hand may be.  I hope they feel this.

leaves

Other patients are much younger and yet are confronted by very serious illnesses and a future that is full of medical intervention and uncertainty.  These are the patients I truly have to listen to closely because it is their experience, not mine, and I need to make sure I am very sensitive to this.

Some of these patients have experienced a life so completely different to my own and can be a bit difficult to care for on a psychosocial level.  They might not take responsibility for their own wellbeing and no matter how hard we try, make very little progress.  I can’t imagine what it would be like to walk in their shoes.  So I listen.  And listen.  And then listen some more.  I imagine them as they were when they were little and wonder what forces shaped them, what they struggled with.  Some might think this is naive – or even patronising – as adults make their own choices in life.  Yes, that’s true.  But as Abby would describe it, there’s always a back story somewhere.  Working to catch a glimpse of that backstory gives me patience and empathy.  That goes a long way towards creating a rapport and caring relationship with someone I have so little in common with.

potatoes

 

Other patients are terribly anxious and afraid of what might come next.  Again, it’s really important to gauge their approach to life and what’s important to them.   For some, they’ve rationalised all of what’s before them according to their belief system and simply need to be listened to with compassion and respect.  No point sharing Pema Chodron with someone for whom control and structure is essential.

But yesterday I cared for a patient who was so very anxious and it became obvious a bit of Pema could be comforting.  So we talked about understanding that some things are just beyond our control and thus, letting go of them can actually help us feel a little less uptight.  We talked about how we can choose how we respond to situations – we can be overwhelmed by them or look at them as another step on the journey.  We laughed at how this choice might feel a bit contrived at first but how with practice, it can become easier and feel more genuine.

And I shared a strategy that I find really does work for me … that the experience at hand – be it life changing surgery or a broken down car – might feel horrible and overwhelming.  It might make us feel anxious, our stomach tied up in knots, our breathing faster, and make it difficult to think of anything else.  But we don’t need to turn these feelings off.  They are what they are and are a perfectly reasonable response to the situation at hand.  Instead, I try to acknowledge these feelings – just sit with them – and then remind myself that they won’t hurt me and sooner or later, the experience at hand will be resolved and the feelings will go.

My patient really liked this idea and shared later that it had helped make their day a bit more bearable.  Given all that is standing before this patient, and all that they’ve been through, it was very humbling that something I shared had made a difference.

chicken

So you know, a broken down car is just what is happening at this moment.  It too will pass and life in Bootville will return to normal.  Shifts will be late and early, stressful and rewarding.  Weeks will be long.  But there will be lots of love.  There will lots of time with my family.  Dreams and plans will continue to grow.  Suppers will get cooked.  Jumpers will be knitted.

And just think of all the moments I have before me to grow in experience and knowledge.  All the fascinating and lovely people I will meet and care for.  All the opportunities I will have to give.  All the times I will stumble, fail and learn.

This nursing life is a rich one indeed.

afternoons in the summer backgarden

 

Living in Melbourne for the last 5 years has granted me an entirely new appreciation for the sun and its warmth, for brightness and colourful cheer.  One could almost call it an obsession.  See, in Brisbane, it is almost always hot and usually sunny.  There is so much colour and brightness it almost verges on the garish, and our upper legs were usually stuck together with sweat!  Gosh – we thought it was terrifically exciting to have a cool grey day and couldn’t wait to break out the woolies – even if it meant we had to sit under the swirling ceiling fans to really enjoy wearing them :-)

But here in Melbourne there are soooooooooo many bleak grey days that when the sun does shine I cannot bear to sit inside.  I’m not overly fond of sitting by myself either so, if there’s family around I drag them out into the garden too.  We set up the banana lounges (hard rubbished from an incredibly posh house on Beach road in Sandringham!), lay out a quilt and cushions, bring out our reading, drawing, knitting, crocheting, sewing … whatever takes our fancy, make up trays of drinks, tea, snacks, and soak up every last moment.

The dogs, of course, come voluntarily … they think its fabulous when we “play” in their territory.  They rush around and make sure the cheeky rabbits are behaving, those dastardly birds are staying away, and that there’s no alarming or new smells to be found,  then they flop down next to us, their eyes squinty shut in the sunlight and snooze. Oh we do love them so!

Now, we are heading into the last weeks of summer … soon the leaves will fall from the oak, the days will become so much shorter, the sitting room, with its cosy lamps, will become our favoured spot.  But for now – we will take every summery moment that’s offered, with even the humblest parts of the backgarden aglow and colourful

It’s so good for my soul.

curry plant

sun dappled quilt

mum knitting

a basket of wool

turquoise feet

even the washing basket glows

surely the last potato

lucy

Fu

child

tea

mum and tea

such a rainbow of a cardie

the bag

So I had this bag of Zara I bought at Wondoflex’s Annual Spring Sale.  I was certain there would be something I could do with it and the colours were oh so pretty.  Within minutes of arriving home, I found the perfect pattern – Alpinia by Claire Slade.  So pretty.  Simple.  And could probably be made using just these three hundred grams. But in the months leading up to Christmas, I had so many other projects in the knitting basket (oh alright! baskets!), that I simply couldn’t justify casting on yet another cardigan.

the wool

But once we were home from our summer holidays – during which I so adored knitting Mum’s Pitch – and work/school was in full swing – oh I so longed for a quick and pretty knit.  Absolutely nothing else was rocking my boat, so I hunted down the bag of Zara, printed off Alpinia, bought some new needles (that’s one of the more irritating dilemmas of having too many things on the needles – you run out of needles), and got stuck into the loveliness that is creating a knitted yoke.

the yoke

Folks this is truly the perfect knitting project.  A beautiful yoke.  Pretty eyelets.  Easy peasy super squeezy construction.  Sheer pleasure to knit.  And boy did it knit up fast!  I can’t wait to knit another!  Maybe a wonderful green one.  Yes, definitely green.  Maybe I’ll even call into Wondoflex tomorrow on my way to work and find just the right green ;-)

finished

So here’s my Rainbow Alpinia in all its crazy, stripey loveliness (ravelled here).  Now the 300g would probably have done it – I have quite a bit of pink left over but I by the time I reached the body, I didn’t want it to be overwhelmingly pinky so I headed back to Wondoflex and bought two more balls – mustard and more of the purple.  With hindsight, I should have bought some more of that dark aqua I started with, just to tie it altogether a bit better – oh well.

close up right

See, I’m reminding myself that part of knitting from just scraps – $10 scraps at that – is definitely the discipline of making do with what you have.  I probably would never have chosen some of these colours by themselves but thrown all together, I love every stripe.

back

edge of seleeve

pinks and yellows

yellows and purple

lovely eyelets

Alas, I have only had one opportunity to wear it and that was certainly stretching it – truly it wasn’t really cool enough, but hey!  When you’ve knitted your little fingers off in less than 2 weeks, of course you want to pop on the new cardie and give it an outing :-)

back of yoke

buttons
close up of front of yoke

And what pray tell am I doing here … why casting on the next knit!  Mum and I are having a wee bit of a competition.  We’re both knitting up Heidi Kirrmaier’s Climb Every Mountain.  Me in a mauvey gray, Mum in a bluey grey.  Both Cleckheaton, both from Wondoflex.  I’m definitely in a Cleckheaton mood at the moment.  Now, Mum should really win this little event as let’s face it, she’s retired and I’ve just joined the working world.

knitting the next one

However, it would seem that despite a truly dreadful knitting technique, I’m quite a fast knitter.  Makes no sense.  My dear old Nanny is perpetually puzzled that anything wearable makes its way off my needles. But there you go :-) Dreadful, but fast, accurate, with pretty decent tension …. and at the moment, very productive.

It’s all about squeezing in a row here, and another row there and then, as Nanny would say, “Boom done!”  - it’s finished and on my back!  Very satisfying indeed.

 

a little koala

regathering

After working my first weekend – which really, from a nursing perspective, is no different to working a week day, it’s just that sense of knowing that my family and most of the community are enjoying their rest from the working week whilst I’m still working on – today was a much appreciated home day.  It was a little cooler than it has been.  The dining room was full of pretty light.  The house was quiet and tidy.  And there on the piano, was my little koala, started way back in October I think, and still in a scattering of pieces.

pieces

I haven’t used a commercial pattern.  I’ve drafted it myself – from scratch, over and over and over and over.  There have been several versions – some of them truly funny in their dreadfulness.  I finally settled on this design – and set about preparing the body for the arms, legs and head.

patches on the inside

My idea was to machine sew stabilising patches – like joints – on the inside of the body, then machine sew the back of each of the limbs onto the front of the body – through the joints.  Thus protecting the limbs from being prone to tearing off.

looks like a pie

And it worked really well!

turning out

Until my final head turned out way too small. Argh!  Abby tells me – she of the immense doll making experience – that even if the drawn head looks more than fine on the drawn body – and even if the unstuffed head still looks fine on the stuffed body – it will look like a bad case of microcephaly once stuffed.  Apparently you need to make the head BIGGER because when it is stuffed it sort of shrinks.  So the first head had to be discarded.  Bum!  And the body unstuffed.  Double bum!  It was soon after that, that the koala found herself abandoned on the piano.

head and stuffing

But today, I was determined to finish her off.  So much time and effort had gone into the creative process, and the fabric was so pretty.  It just had to happen.  Thus, the knitting was laid aside.  A cup of tea was made.  A story tape put on.  And off I set with my stab stitch and blanket stitching.

pinned patches

at last

And as often happens, when projects have been left idle for a loooooooong time, the finishing off was nowhere near as arduous and lengthy as I expected.  However, it did require an unexpected trip to Winterwood for stuffing.  Oh well – I’ve never been one to say no to a trip to the lovely Winterwood :-)

in amongst the curry plant

close up of face

with log

close up of leg

Finally, with the late summer sun just tilting over the trees, my sweet little koala was finished and ready for photos.  Isn’t light funny stuff – she looked positively spot lit in the setting sun – I was waiting for her to burst into operatic song.

little paws

like shes spotlit

Here’s the back – I ladder stitched her head onto the front of the body.  I like this construction – will definitely do it again.

from the back

And here she is in a tree!  Looking right at home, I might say.  Even if it isn’t a gum!  We don’t actually have any gum trees near us – all very European – oaks, elms, birches, and ornamental fruit trees.  There are some gums down at the Caulfield Park but they are sooooo tall there are no branches even remotely low enough for me or my little koala to reach.

in a tree

Never mind.  It’s only another 11 months and we’ll be in the beautiful Bega Valley and there will be PLENTY of gums for her to spend her days in.  And next – I have the fabric for a little wombat, a black wallaby, and a whale.  They’ll be the Bega Valley Collection.  And maybe I may even write up the patterns – with stories.  Now that would be truly lovely!

looking up

7 edwardian chairs :: a mother daughter tradition

beautiful detail

Late last year, just after I’d had one of my huge and infamous rearranges – where the front room was dismantled, its furniture redistributed about the house, the living room shoved into the front room, the dining room recreated in the middle room, and the kitchen transformed into a working kitchen divided by a sideboard with a lovely cosy study / armchair area set up in the nook – I decided what I “really needed” was a lovely armchair to sit in the corner of the dining room, in front of the bookcases.

I scoured the opshops, the footpaths … and a long time favourite, good old eBay.

At first, my imagination was filled with those extravagant French styled armchairs with their ornately carved backs, rolled arms, Queen Anne legs, and outrageous floral velvet upholstery.  I found a lovely pair in Sydney – green and cream velvet floral – awesome price – but they were in Sydney.  I even considered driving up and fetching them – what an adventure that would be!

Hmmmm … I would have had to have a towbar installed on the car and bought a trailer.  More then possibly a wee bit extravagant.  But Julian was away for the month and anything seems possible when Julian’s away :-)  However, when I ran my grand plan past Abby, she merely raised her eyebrows and went back to her books.  I took that as a no.

In fact, there were heaps of lovely armchairs in Sydney and all at good prices.  Here in Melbourne – no, no, no.  I rarely saw any, and when I did, they were way out of my price range.  So I loosened up my expectations and quickly found a gathering of seven Edwardian chairs – two armchairs and five dining chairs – in various stageses of reupholstering – that were an incredibly reasonable price, right here in Melbourne.  No one else bid on them and a few days later, I was the gleeful “winner”!

the chair

Now, there were six more chairs than I had originally anticipated buying but I figured a pair of armchairs was always better than just one lonely one.  And five gorgeous dining chairs would always come in handy.  Most extraordinarily, I bought the whole lot for just $120.  Can you believe that?!?!?  Seven beautiful Edwardian chairs for less than $20 each.  Oh my goodness.  I felt like I was robbing the previous owner, but that’s the spin of the eBay wheel, isn’t it.

However, it did mean two trips to bring them home which turned into an all day adventure whereupon I also got to meet a sweet family and hear a lovely, lovely story about my new chairs.  And as I’ve mentioned before, I always love furniture that comes with a good story, and this one is especially touching because it describes just the kind of relationship and adventures I have with my lovely mum.

tricky bits

In the late 1960s, a young woman – recently married and hoping to start a family – hunted through the antique stores with her mum for Edwardian dining and arm chairs they could restore.  Her mum had been taught upholstery by an elderly aunt – the young woman vividly remembered going to visit her great aunt in the countryside where she would play whilst her mother and great aunt would work away at their antiques and upholstery.

Eventually she too learnt the skills and when she was setting up her own home, she and her mum knew just the chairs they wanted.  They found these seven, brought them home, and set to work.

Their work was slow, meticulous and employed traditional techniques.  The chairs were carefully webbed.  Their springs were handstitched with jute twine.  The backs of the armchairs were buttoned through hessian that covered carefully layered and stitched coconut fibre and upholstery wadding.  Calico lining and upholstery fabrics were perfectly stretched and tacked into place with blued tacks.
beautifully webbed

But then the young woman fell pregnant with twins and it was hard to find the hours needed to keep working on the chairs.  Nevertheless, they kept at it, bit by bit, and her little girl (one of the twins) was now making her own memories of playing in the garden on weekends whilst her mum and grandmother upholstered chairs.  She thought it was just what mums and grandmothers did!

This bit made me laugh – that’s exactly what Abby thought when she was little.  When asked what she got up to on the weekend, she would answer “Oh stripping with Mum and Nan as usual!”  People were always a little bemused by just what “stripping” was.

However, life became busier and busier.  Eventually the great aunt – bestower of all upholstery knowledge – passed away and then so did the young woman’s mother.  The chairs moved further and further into the dark corners of the garage and were almost forgotten.

Then, decades later, the time came when the young woman was now becoming older and more frail herself and needed to sort through a lifetime’s belongings and move into a smaller, more easily managed home.  And there – in the garage – were the seven chairs.

gathering of tools

The chairs brought back so many lovely memories and she was in a quandary about what to do with them.  She felt sad that she and her mum had not managed to finish them.  But she no longer possessed the skills required to finish them off, and even if they were finished, had nowhere to put them in her new home.  Nor did her children need or want them.

No antique dealers were interested.  She couldn’t imagine giving them to an opshop – even less putting them out for hard rubbish.  So her son-in-law offered to put them on eBay where hopefully someone would see that same beauty and promise spied by her and her mother all those years ago.

tapemeasure

Well, I think the perfect person did ;-) Together, the older lady and I examined the chairs – ooohed and ahhed over the lovely woodwork, and delighted in the still excellent upholstery.  I described my experience with upholstery – I spent two years attending weekend classes at the Holmesglen TAFE here in Melbourne – and we discussed fabric and braid options.

We talked embroidery, knitting, patchwork and antiques.  And I shared funny stories about the furniture adventures Mum and I have had, our methods for restoring furniture, and the lovely treasures we have found over the years, and filled our homes with.

It was a lovely day, and the woman, her daughter and son-in-law were all delighted that the chairs had not just found a very suitable home, but a much valued tradition of mother and daughter, working together, would be continued.

positioning the roses

measuring

So this weekend, with my Mum newly returned from her Christmas adventures in Canada, we tackled the loveliest of the chairs.  Look at that carving on the back – it is so beautiful!  I wonder whether it was intended as a dining chair or whether it sat on an altar in a lovely old church.  You know how in Catholic and Anglican churches you often see beautiful chairs lined up for the different attendants to sit on during mass, yes?  Now, this one sits at my desk in the kitchen.  It’s just perfect.

fiddling with corners

tacked corner

And I found the perfect toile in the sewing shed – bought for something else of course, that never eventuated, but that’s the way things go sometimes.  It’s a linen/cotton blend with a lovely firm hand.  Just right for upholstery and such an appropriate pattern for chairs that have elegant, swirly flowers and leaves carved into their wood.

tucking in the edges

flattening the tacks

I daresay, Mum and I too will take our time with these chairs :-)  Let’s face it – we’re no professionals and every step taken is checked against my notes and books, then ummmmed and ahhhhhed over and carefully tested before we settle on the best way to move along.

And who knows, maybe one day soon, Abby and I will be finishing off a couple for her future home.

pondering the back

adding some blanket

And of course, there are funny mistakes that need to be ripped out and redone.  After doing such a careful and satisfying job on the seat and front of back, we completely lost the plot on the back of the back.

We were so engrossed with getting the rose perfectly centred and balanced along the edge, we failed to notice we had moved the fabric 3 inches up and after tacking it down, it had no HOPE of reaching the bottom!  What silly billies!

Another moment that had us in fits of laughter was when we finally realised – after a whole afternoon of wondering why the staple gun was not working properly – all the staples were loose, no matter how hard we pushed, and had to be banged in the last few millimetres with the hammer – that the setting had been bumped from 6 (nice and tight) to 2 (hopeless).

loose staples tight staples

However, that’s just the way mother-daughter restoration rolls.  Don’t you think?  Full of experiments and victories, flops and giggles, hours of pleasure, the creating of wonderful memories, and a life-long, shared appreciation of the old and lovely.

Yes, these seven Edwardian chairs have settled into our home beautifully.  It was meant to be.

pitch :: a cardigan

front on

It was just meant to be.  If you follow along on Instagram, you might have seen a cardigan I knitted up whilst on Christmas holidays.  It was one of those serendipitous knits.  There I was, with almost four weeks of lovely peace and pleasure stretching out before me, and I’d forgotten my knitting basket.  Which, I might add, meant I forgot dear Sacha’s Christmas present – a rich plum coloured version of Kate Davies’ iconic “Owls”.  And it was almost finished – oy!

right corner detail

However, Mum now has a sizeable stash of wool, courtesy of dear old Nanny.  No need to visit the local yarn store.  There were kilos and kilos of wool, in all imaginable colours, neatly stacked in Mum’s/Nanny’s downstairs dresser. And there amongst them, was a bundle of navy Cleckheaton Country Naturals that I had foisted upon Nanny, a couple of decades back, when I was completely bamboozled by a herringbone vest pattern.  All frogged and meticulously wound back up into balls.

back detail

I could just picture Grandad winding the little Toyota wool winder whilst Nanny unravelled my knitted pieces.  Nanny would probably have been sitting on one of the gold velvet armchairs.  Grandad would have been at the nearby dining table.  Nanny would have a fresh cup of tea in front of her.  Grandad would have the paper opened beside the wool winder, weighted down with his glasses case.  They were probably watching an obscure old movie that Nanny recorded in the wee hours of the morning.  That wool would have wound up so quickly – winding wool was a dance the two of them had long ago memorised the steps to and they never missed a beat. It made me smile, and I took the balls upstairs to find just the right pattern for 10 balls of 8ply wool.

front corner detail

That wasn’t hard – I’ve had Pitch at the top of my list for a few months now!  A truly lovely pattern – such a pleasure to knit and so simple to follow – by Susan Mills, for Classic Elite.  It knitted up nice and quick.  A few rows in bed as I watched the sun rise over the sea.  Another few on the front porch with my coffee.  Several in the car each day as we drove round and round the Bega Valley looking for land.  More at the beach.  Back to the porch.  In bed at night as I listened to the thundering waves of Tura Beach.  I do so love knitting.  And this had the extra special sweetness of being wool with family history.

front yoke close up

I cast it off just in time to wear home – a cold and drizzly journey that turned into!

cobargo button

Then today, I popped it on and asked Abby to take some photos so I could share it with you here.  Now, I must confess, I can be a tad difficult when I get Abby to take photos of me in my handcrafts – I remind myself of Dawn in our all time favourite film “Hope and Glory” when she smacks her little brother Billy on the head when he draws the stocking seam up the back of her leg crooked.

No! No! No! I grizzle.  The light’s all wrong, take it again.  Oh no – the composition’s all wrong – you’re supposed to be taking a photo of the cardigan not the rabbit hutch with a scrap of cardigan.  And on it went – with a few giggles but a fair dose of exasperation on both of our parts.

Until finally, Mum appeared and demanded “Give me the bloody cardigan to wear and YOU take the photos just how YOU want them and let poor Abby get back to what she was doing!”

shoulder detail

Awesome solution.  Abby was delighted and quickly disappeared.  Mum buttoned up the cardigan.  I fiddled with the camera.  And what do you know?  The cardigan looked so lovely on Mum that by the end of our little backyard photo shoot, I said “You simply have to keep it – it can be another Christmas present – it looks so good on you!”  Mum was very pleased.

It will be perfect for her in Merimbula, especially through the often chilly Autumn and Spring months when she’s out and about – gardening, walking on the beach, reading on the porch, sewing downstairs – and doesn’t need long, heavy sleeves getting in the way.  Something that snuggles her back and shoulders will be just right.

reading from side

So there you have it – the wool that travelled from me to Nanny, from Nanny to Mum, from Mum back to me, then from me back to Mum.  From an unfinishable vest to a lovely cardigan.  And a sweet side effect of all this wool swapping – I can now buy some more wool, guilt free, to knit another Pitch for me!  I’m thinking a nice grey.

Actually, I can just picture one of my gardening Aunties wearing one too – what do you think Auntie Jacqui?  Do you too need a Pitch for those cool Dunedin summer days?  What colour would you like?  We could all be matching!reading

We will be the family of Pitches :-)

p.s. the lovely buttons are repurposed cedar from a Cobargo artisan who sells at their local co-op.  The perfect buttons for a Bega Valley Cardie!

 

looking for land

bega in the distance

As a regular reader here at block-a-day, you would know by now that almost from the time we arrived in Melbourne five years ago, we’ve been making plans to leave.  Whilst the past five years have granted us some blessings – a wonderful school for Abby, a chance to gain my nursing degree and train in one of the country’s most highly esteemed hospitals, and the opportunity for Julian to really push his career a long way – Melbourne just isn’t our cup of tea – and so we’ve been …

Looking for land … getting ready for the big move … turning dreams for our future into reality …. oh yes!

We’ve just returned from a wonderful summer holiday, full of trips to the beach, snorkelling for our breakfast, visiting our favourite lakes, national parks, and local features, gathering of bountiful local food and cooking up a storm, and hours of wonderful chilling out on the front porch just revelling in the beauty and freshness of the Bega Valley and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.  I can truly say that in 22 years of being with Julian, the last 4 weeks is the closest and loveliest we have ever shared.

And much of this time was spent driving up and down, and back and forth across the Valley.    Each adventure would start with a gathering of addresses, plotting them in Julian’s map app, collecting hats, water bottles, camera, occasionally children (they were much keener on lounging about at home!) and off we’d go.

At first, there was great enthusiasm and excitement.  We were quite sure there would be lots of land out there and we’d find that piece with our name on it in the first week of looking.  Ha! HA! As all you experienced land/house lookers out there know, it was bloody hard work!  And we quickly became the Goldilocks of land lookers.

Some were too small.  Some were too big.  Some had no trees.  Some had too many.  Some had no water.  Some had so much we would have spent our lives in gumboots.  Some were too close to the main road.  Some were so far off it, we gave up and did 30 point turns on narrow, windy, rocky dirt roads and quickly scampered back to something a bit easier to traverse.

walking down to the lake

gentle slopes

cows

We quickly befriended a real estate agent, learnt about subdivision law, water rights, tree protection, the beauty of a well built dam, the obvious signs of a dodgily built one, the magic of spring fed gullies – Bega is blessed with an abundance of these – and easements.  By the end of the second week, we could recite for you the list of available land in the Bega Valley – and point out all the positives and negatives.  We visited land where the only positive was catching a glimpse of the local wildlife.

echidna

We visited land where you stood looking back and forth from the photos on the iPad which really looked inspiring – to the heavy tangle of bush in front of you – that was perched on a sheer cliff with absolutely no sign of the supposed dam, shed, fencing, and gentle cleared slopes.

But the funniest expedition of all – one that I know we will be retelling for many years to come and laughing until tears run down our face – was the “too good to be true land”.  The agent gave us the address and off we went.  Dirt road – but pretty good condition – with a lovely looking collection of neighbours along the way.  Exquisite northerly aspect.  A big dam.  A grove of trees.  Heaps of cleared pasture.  A wee cottage.  Two sheds.  Established fruit trees and a grape vine.  Solar.  Water tank.  Holy moly – we were beside ourselves with excitement – and it was all within our price range.

We raced back to Bega – debating all the way what to offer – should we just give them the asking price – let’s face it, there were no negatives on which to quibble.  We were planning our first morning there … and the next 30 years worth.  We plonked down with the agent and expressed our delight.  He looked a bit cautious.  I added – “There was even an Atomic coffee maker on the stove!”  ”What stove?” he asked.  ”In the little cottage!”  I answered, amazed he hadn’t noticed it.  ”What cottage?”  he asked, looking more perplexed.  ”Where were you?”

Turns out there are two properties on this road with the same lot number and both for sale.  The dream property – at double the upper end of our budget.  And another – a rather inhospitable, south facing, steep, heavily forested one. Yeeeeeees.

 

west view

old school

small dam

view north


under the ree

looking out from the grove

grapes

letterbox huddle

magnificent gum

After that debacle, we re-grouped.  Revisited our lists.  Reprioritised the list of essentials.  By week 4 we were planning on making do.  But still we ventured.

We visited more duds – and mused over the tendency of some land holders to subdivide the useless corner of their property that they were never able to do anything with, clearly in the hope that some city folk who only needed a house with a view would snap it up.

And cursed and praised the NSW state government for changing the legislation a few years back that blocked the further subdivision of valuable rural land, post a report that declared the regular chopping up of food producing land into hobby farm/house blocks would eventually put the state’s ability to sustain itself at risk.  Totally support this.  But it does make finding a smallish property just that bit trickier.

We walked across fields in hot sun and pouring rain.  Our car was befriended by 4 young steers who licked all our windows and used our side mirrors to scratch their heads.  We counted wedgetail eagles on the prowl and redesigned the chicken run.  We fed a horse that then traipsed along behind us for the rest of our exploration, nudging us with her head every now and then.  Shared supper with a farmer as we watched the clouds catch amongst the tree tops and rain settle in for the evening.  Ate blackberries and collected weather worn animal skulls.  Watched kangaroos casually lope across the garden.  Sat quietly by a creek as a wombat trundled out of his den and down to the water’s edge.

Our budget grew as did our plans.  We visited beautiful blocks of land and met some truly lovely people.  I have to say – it certainly left us with the knowledge that we will moving to a strong, friendly and forward thinking community when we finally close the door on Melbourne life in January 2016, and head north to the Bega Valley.  All three of us are so excited.

I don’t usually like saying “I can’t wait!”  I always feel as if it sounds impatient – totally failing to live in the moment and make the most of what we have now.  But folks we can’t wait.


more valleys

fence with lichen

trees and clouds

purple flowers

through the shed

walking with the farmer

bunnies and blackberries

apple gum

a glade on a hill

wombat den

hoppy visitors

So, without wanting to jinx ourselves – because this land buying is tricky stuff – we hope to have very exciting news soon.

For now – we have so many lists – opshop trips, dump trips, shopping lists (well, for the imediate future, this really only has two things on it – a Hilux and a trailer), to-do lists, and planting lists.  Julian is filling notebooks with plans and ideas for our strawbale home.  We are both reading and re-reading our books on planting and growing and raising.  We’re regular visitors to the NSW Department of Primary Industries online Fact Sheets.

And of course, I’m working hard at my nursing – hoping to learn heaps and develop my skills so that the Bega Hospital will snap me up!

This weekend just past – we started!  One trip to the opshop.  We’ve dismantled our raised garden beds.  And investigated stove options.  Such good stuff!

Only 50 weeks to go :-)