that can be a verb, yes? Sounds like a strange form of mining. I’m wracking my brain to see if there’s any analogy between knitting argyle and mining …. no, I’m coming up blank.
Nevertheless, that’s what’s going on here in Bootville. Because there are only 5 days left to argyle before the birthday arrives on which I said I would have the argyle ready for wearing. Gasp!
Silliness aside – and disregarding the insane number of little balls of wool that perform square dancing on every row – knitting argyle – my first attempt – is very pleasant. The yarn is Jamieson and Smith’s 2 ply jumper weight which is so very lovely to knit with. It’s so very woolly! You only have to lay two strands next to each other and they snuggle up. And the soft halo that floats above the surface of the knitted fabric is so beautiful. Yum! When I knit with this yarn, I don’t ever want to knit with anything else.
And I’m knitting on 3.25mm needles which is also strangely addictive. When I was a young, flighty knitter I was very much of the notion that the bigger the needle, the fatter the yarn, the better. Now I say, nonsense to that! There’s something very very good about knitting up a fabric that is fine and light, yet so warm and durable.
Oh, the pattern. It’s Keith’s Vest by Veronik Avery. I like her stuff – very classy. The back, of course, was easy-peasy-easy-peasy – back and forth, back and forth, straight up. The front – well, trying to read “the pattern” took a few quiet looks, a few frogged rows, finally an a-ha moment and then the decision, once I knew I was in the right spot, to not confuse myself any further by looking at “the pattern” and just keep an eye on the photo. And follow the lines. It’s a bit common sense really. It’s working – currently. I’ll have to pay attention when the armholes start decreasing but that’s okay. They’re only armholes and I don’t think the argyle really touches them much. Nope, just checked, there’s no argyling going on near armholing. I am looking forward to the bands. Oh yes!
And it has to be knitted on the bed – with all the little balls rolling around in front of me. And that’s okay too because I am so tired this week – that time of the month, and early morning classes – that sneaking in a couple of hours each day, to sit on the bed, pillows scrunched behind my back, the fan blowing on my face, a cold drink by my side, is really nice.
Actually, that’s why I’m knitting right now, and not reading (rereading a favourite children’s series, because really, don’t you think, the really good children’s books are better than any grown ups’ book I’ve ever read). Because I know if I read, I will fall asleep and then I will not wake up in time to fetch the little girl from school for an afternoon of homework. So I shall knit.
Besides, there’s only five days to go before we reach the birthday. And I promised.
Pop over to Ginny’s to check out her yarn along friends – there are some beautiful places to visit and lots of pretty yarn :-)
Do you remember, I mentioned the other day that I was so inspired by Nanny’s 110 Crocheted Edgings book that I wanted to make a crocheted edges sampler?
Well, I’ve started! Yes, 2014 is the year of just doing it. And I thought I would make the whole project into a little weekly thing and share it here with you. Each week, I will add another sample to my background and then publish the instructions and photos here, if you would like to join me. That means, in a year’s time – I – and you! – will have roughly 50 edges. We may have had enough by then. Or maybe we’ll make more! As Nanny would say, we’ll play it by ear, shall we?
A word on copyright – I don’t know if this book is still within copyright. I certainly don’t want to steal from it, which aside from anything else would diminish the wonderful effort put in by its original authors and publishers, The Misses Bamford & Walker of St. Ives, Sydney.
Instead, I see myself – and this little series – as celebrating their skill and expertise, as well as the wonderful heritage left to me by my grandmothers. All designs belong to Misses Bamford and Walker. I will not be reproducing their instructions here, because I actually find them really hard to follow – this is no slight of Misses Bamford & Walker, but more a reflection of my skill level and the differences in how we write crochet instructions today as opposed to then.
So, I will be muddling my way through their instructions – it will be trial and error with lots of ripping back – and I will then write my own instructions which will be my interpretation of how I achieved their design. From my experiences so far, I use the accompanying photographs to guide me as much, if not more, than their written instructions.
Also – this will be a rather long post because it’s starting us off – describing how I prepared the fabric and establish my crocheted edge. In all future posts we’ll just jump straight in to the week’s design.
Shall we start!
A little trip up the road on Saturday, in the most frightful heat, presented me with a lovely piece of dove grey fabric as the background. It’s a heavy cotton, 150cm wide, with an almost aida-cloth like texture. I straightened the top and bottom edges by pulling a thread from the edge through from one side to the other, to find the straight line, cut along the line that appeared, then overlocked the edges. I prewashed it – figured I wouldn’t want to be washing it much once it was laden up with crocheted edgings – and amazingly enough, when it’s 40 celsius, things dry to a crisp on the line within an hour.
I measured down 9 inches from the top edge – it just seemed to be the right amount – folded it over and gave it a light water spray and a good bash with the iron so that my edge had military precision. Then I stitched 3cm away from it – straight across from one side to the other. My first pleated edge for crocheting! Now I bought 2 metres of fabric but I’m not sure how much of that length will be used. Will have to wait and see. However, I have divided my width into 3 columns. I have left 10 centimetres on either side for a border and binding, and then 5 centimetres in between each of the columns. That means each sample of crocheted edging will be 40cm long – just enough to get a good feel for it!
(Should add here that I apologise in advance for chopping and changing from metric to imperial measurements – being here in Australia where metric is the order of the day, metric is my usual guide, but I still use imperial often because of the quilting rulers – so it was 9 inches because of the quilting ruler I had at hand, 3cm because of the gradients marked on my sewing machine and so on!)
Now I’ve only done the first pleat, because I wanted to see how much gap I would like between each row of crocheted edgings. When I’ve finished the first three, I shall play around with the gap between the first and second rows and update you. It may well change for each gap, according to the depth of the edging. Some of them are beautifully deep – wait til you see the Crowns!!!!
Sunday morning – after a terrible night’s sleep, thanks to the heatwave – I sat up in bed, with two fans blowing on me, a huge glass of water by my side, a constant supply of coffee (thank you sweet Julian!), a snoring Lucy at the foot (she was forbidden from snuggling into the background fabric), and started my stitching. I chose Edging No. 3 – strong enough to be worthy of the top line of my sampler, but not too deep or difficult.
Preparing the Fabric and Establishing a Crocheted Foundation Edge
Using DMC No. 12 Perle Cotton, measure in 10cm from the edge of your background fabric, then blanket stitch the edge of your pleat until you are 10cm away from the opposite edge (don’t worry about your 3 columns at this point). It doesn’t really matter how long each stitch is. Obviously, it’s nicer if they are uniform, but it won’t affect the crochet. However, the width of the stitch will – too narrow, and the crochet foundation you will make in Step 2 will bunch up; too wide and your crochet foundation will gather your fabric in. Mine are roughly 1/2 centimetre wide. We won’t count them :-)
Using DMC Traditions Crochet Cotton (we’ll call it our thread), Size 10, and a 2.5mm crochet hook, create a double crocheted running stitch through your blanket stitching. This will form the foundation on which you will stitch your lace edging.
I achieve this by fastening my thread on the far right, leaving a long enough tail to pull through to the back. Make 1 chain. Then insert the crochet hook through the next blanket stitch loop that runs along the edge of the pleat and draw the thread through so that you have two loops on your hook. Wrap your thread around the hook and pull it through both loops on your hook. Repeat on each blanket stitch loop until you reach the end of your first column – 40cm (that’s what the pin is marking in the previous photo). Fasten off, leaving a tail long enough to pull through the back.
Now we are ready for this week’s edging!
Week 1 :~ Apple Trees (edging no. 3)
A word on the rows. I do think that you can differentiate sometimes between a crochet’s front and back, which is why I fastened off my double crochet foundation row. I wanted to start Row 1 on the front of my work. When you are going round something – like a doily or a face flannel or a skirt – it’s not a problem because you are always working on the front. When you are making one straight line, you are going to be coming back on the wrong side. However, I think, in this design, the second row works fine to come back on the wrong side.
Return to the beginning of your double crochet foundation (the far right). Make 2 trebles in the first 3 double crochet foundation stitches. * Make 1 treble in the next double crochet. Chain 4. Make 1 treble into the same double crochet. Make 2 trebles into the next 5 double crochets. Repeat from * until you reach the end of your double crochet foundation. I finished on the second pair of the 5 trebles. Doesn’t really matter where you finish – just don’t finish on the sequence – 1 treble, four chain, 1 treble. It’s a sampler, not a finished product. Fasten off, leaving a tail long enough to pull through the back.
Make your way back to the third pair of the first group of 5 treble pairs (remember, you’re working on the wrong side for this row). I finished on the second pair of my 5 trebles so I just started there. If you finished on the fourth or fifth treble pair, slip stitch back to the third pair. # Make 1 double crochet into the first of the two trebles that make your third pair. Make one chain. * Make 1 treble into the loop (formed by row 1′s 1 treble, 4 chain, 1 treble sequence). Chain 4. Make 1 double crochet into the chain stitch you made before the last treble. At first I found this bit tricky – so I’ve included a photograph of where to make this double crochet below (with the mustard coloured arrow). Make 1 chain. Repeat four more times from * . Repeat from # until you are back at the beginning. Fasten off.
It looks so much more complicated than that, doesn’t it – but it’s only two rows. And I do think the lace created looks like well laden apple trees.
Let me know if you’re going to make a sampler too! And if you need help deciphering my instructions, or think I could do it better (because I have NO experience at crochet pattern writing), please feel free to email me – lily(at)blockaday(dot)com.
As you may have read here before, my beloved old Grandad was a Postmaster with Australia Post. He began his career as a teenage telegram boy who, whilst wearing a blue woollen suit, buttoned to the neck with brass buttons in hot, steamy Brisbane, would ride his bicycle up and down Brisbane’s narrow, hilly streets delivering telegrams. The post office, in those days, encouraged its workers to “improve themselves”, so Grandad completed every course they offered and began climbing the corporate ladder, moving from one small country town post office to the next, each time a little higher up, until he was the Postmaster.
My earliest memories of his role are from when he was the Postmaster in Holland Park and Nanny and I would drive down to the Post Office each day to fetch him home for lunch. We used to sing a silly ditty along the way, based on his nickname – “the old baldy-bee, the old baldy-bee, hi-ho the dairy-oh, the old baldy-bee”. I thought it was hysterically funny – and loved my old baldy grandad. From there they moved to Leeton – where they lived in a lovely old Postmaster’s residence – my only memories of which revolve around peach orchards and flies, and hot buttered rock cakes under the cutting out table in Nanny’s curtain and haberdashery shop. Then onto Kempsey – it was the best!
(this is the Goulburn Post Office Grandad – it was so big, I couldn’t fit it all in the photo – so I chose the clock tower because it was the prettiest bit! )
As a child, I thought the Kempsey post office was a castle! We would go in to visit Grandad and he would sit us up at the huge old wooden counter with a booklet he would make out of sheets of brown paper stapled together. We would fiercely whack the rubber stamps (just like the real post office clerks), that were stored on the big, spinning metal mushrooms which sat on the counter, all over our brown paper booklets. Sometimes we would sneak other things – like airmail stickers and parcel labels which all had to be moistened on damp sponges that sat snugly in little glass bowls, before sticking them in too. If we were really lucky, Australia Post would have colouring sheets – in they went too, along with brochures on how to pack parcels and instructions on what you must never send through the mail. Then we would use every marker in the drawer to decorate the page edges. Good stuff!
Then Grandad bought a retired red Postie motorbike. Oh my goodness – we couldn’t believe our good fortune. We would take turns sitting on the back, clutching Grandad’s waist, as he zoomed (pottered and bumped really), along the fence line of their back paddock, down past the chooks and ducks across the bottom of their property, then back up the other side, past the wood pile. Round and round we’d go. One grandchild on the back holding on tight, the other grandchildren impatiently awaiting their turn, the rest of the family cheering from the porch! It was one cute motorbike. And Grandad was the coolest postie!
All these lovely memories have given me such a soft spot for Post Offices and a love of stamps. So when I saw this glorious stamp fabric at Spotlight last year, I was utterly smitten. All those wee stamps! The radiant colours! It was just meant to be mine. However, goodness knows why, I didn’t buy any straight away. Which was a big mistake, because within less than a fortnight they had sold out. Bummer.
Then, when I was in Brisbane last month, helping to look after old Grandad and Nanny, we called into their local Spotlight during a dreadful rain storm – we almost didn’t stop but were both desperate for a circular knitting needle – and there was the stamp fabric – wrapped around the end of the fabric cutting table. I asked the lovely girl serving us whether they had any left. No, she said, it was an incredibly popular fabric and that was their last piece – display only.
Oh! I proceeded to tell her about Grandad the Postmaster and how we were here looking after him, how much I loved stamps and post offices, and how much I loved that fabric – I had wanted some because it would always remind me of our lovely times with Grandad when we were little. She was such a sweetie – and without another word, unfastened the safety pins that were holding the fabric taut, unwrapped it from the end of the table, measured it, folded it neatly and sold it to me – at a discount. I was soooooo thrilled :-) Honestly, I regularly have the loveliest experiences with the staff at Spotlight – no matter which store I visit, they are always so helpful and friendly.
Grandad thought it was very cool …
… and what have I done with it? Why made my very own Postmaster’s Granddaughter’s Dress :-)
My favourite dropped waist style. The bodice is made from a Butterick Blouse pattern – I especially wanted the lovely peter pan collar – my first attempt at such a thing – and I’m happy to report that whilst it was a bit fiddly and took almost two hours of careful stitching and pressing, it was such fun to make and I shall certainly make more. I bought the orange fabric – called Full Moon Lagoon – from Darn Cheap Fabric up the road. The skirt – in my glorious stamp fabric – is simply gathered on. And I found a fabulously fat turquoise ric-rac at Darn Cheap to trim the hem.
The original blouse pattern called for a zipper in the back. That seemed both too much effort and too fussy. So I made the back opening much shorter, added a lovely vintage button from the button jar and crocheted a little chain stitch loop to fasten it. Works a treat.
I just love it! I know – being the funny old thing I am – that I will wear it and wear it and wear it for many years. In summer with my sandals. In winter with tights and buckle ups and a cardie. It will always be a favourite.
And every time I pull it over my head, smooth it down, wash it, peg it out on the line, carefully iron it …
I will think of my dearly loved old Grandad (pictured above with Mum on the right and Auntie Anne on the left), the intrepid Postmaster, the beautiful childhood he helped create for me, and all that love he has shared with me for 44 years.
Oh how I love you, you old baldy-bee!
A weekend with a little driving adventure is the best weekend of all – well, I think so :-) But often, during these busy months of school and work and study and placement, it’s all we can do to keep everything running smoothly at home, let alone pack a yummy picnic and set off for a whole day. Fortunately, the summer holidays provided plenty of opportunities for little – and big – driving adventures, so I’ve plenty to look back on over the next few months. I thought I’d share some of them here – this weekend, I bring you the little known, quiet hamlet of Crowdy Head.
Most of the beautiful bay, of which Crowdy Head is but the southern tip, is a National Park so the only access to the long beach is from this spot, or the northern tip – Diamond Head. Originally, Captain Cook named this point “Indian Head”. The Australian writer, poet, and social justice campaigner Kylie Tennant, suggested he may have named it so after catching sight of, through his spyglass, a group of the local Aborogines – the Birripi people (I think this is their name, but if I’m wrong, I do apologise and please let me know!). Later it was renamed Diamond Head because of its abundance of sparkling quartz in the cliff faces.
Kylie Tennant, whilst living in nearby Laurieton, with her husband (the local schoolmaster) and children, was so delighted with this beautiful spot, she built a wee shack for writing, watching the animals, escaping from it all … not much is known about her time here. But her book “The Man on the Headland” provides an enchanting description of this place and its local “hermit” Ernie Metcalfe.
Despite my many, many trips to the southern tip as a child, we never ventured north, so the delights of Kylie’s Beach, the Diamond Head Walk, the Mermaid Walk, and the many picturesque cliffs, coves and inlets of this part of the park are unknown to me. I intend to remedy this at the next opportunity!
But Crowdy Head – it is part of my childhood dreams and memories. The hot and sticky drive, always accompanied by the incessant and fierce drone of cicadas, from Nanny and Poppy’s to the beach – that always seemed suuuuuuch a long way (only 7km actually!). The beautiful little waves that were always perfect for my sister and I with our boogie boards The wee fishing harbour where Poppy’s friends kept their trawlers. The co-op where we’d buy freshly caught prawns for lunch. The squat white lighthouse, that I imagined holidaying in and keeping an eye out for smugglers, just like Famous Five.
(the site of the lighthouse keeper’s cottage – the Crowdy Head lighthouse was demanned in 1928, very early, so unlike most of its lighthouse cousins, there is no keeper’s cottage for holiday makers to stay – such a shame – the views are magnificent!)
When we last visited here (four years ago) it was looking very neglected and dingy – I stood here with Julian, dismayed and almost disbelieving, declaring that the REAL lighthouse must have been pulled down, such a sorry sight stood before me. But this visit, the little lighthouse is looking splendid! Thank goodness the Taree Shire Council saw fit to restore her to her former glory. I especially loved this little insignia – painted by someone with a steady and quirky hand.
It’s charming naivete reminded me of a wonderful picture book Abby and I enjoyed when she was little.
Don’t you think! Oh I do have such a romantic and sentimental spot in my heart for the ocean and all the good bits that go along with it.
Hope you enjoyed your weekend adventure to Crowdy Bay! I did.
This was to be a post about one of the quilt tops I’ve stitched this week. Alas, the last two days have been so terribly hot, that stitching on both quilts slowed down to a crawl … pressing seams became truly horrible … and neither are quite finished! Ah well.
Thankfully, by 4pm, a cool change came through. We threw open the windows – (Our poor little double brick house, being well insulated it does well at staying cool for ages but then, after several days of heat wave temperatures, those double bricks just hold that heat and radiate warmth – shame we can’t get the bricks to store it up and then dole it out over winter) – declared it too hot for cooking, visited a local Japanese cafe for supper, and then, with the sun finally slipping down behind the neighbours roof, the back garden became deliciously cool and I headed outdoors. With a big glass of creamy cold milk and my favourite project basket – little cross stitches.
I am working on adaptations of some of my cross stitch patterns – breaking them apart and making little cross stitched figures for small hands to hold and play stories with. This one is the Wee Shepherd. I’ve added a few accessories – a small cart with the sheeps’ hay, there’s a bucket of water in progress, a red lean-to for the sheep to shelter in, and plans for a mama, her spinning wheel, and the guard alpaca.
They’re stitched on a lovely, slightly coarse brown aida, with the halo of the Appleton’s crewel wool providing a sweet nubbliness to the texture. I want them to stand up – so they can be moved into position like little puppets – so I added a gusset as well as a backing, stuffed them with pure wool roving and added rice to the bottom for a bit of standing oomph. Works well!
This caravan – my dream caravan! – is part of a new set – a family camping at the beach – with surboard, fishing gear, kangaroo, wallaby, wombat, and the family of course. Whilst I’m stitching, all sorts of stories tumble about my head … and then I become truly carried away and think up new scenes and characters. I just can’t stitch fast enough to keep up with it all! Ah well … like the unfinished quilt tops, there’ll be time eventually.
I noticed this evening – with great pleasure – that our poor old oak – who so hated the hot weather last month that she shed half her leaves! – is recovering in style. She’s put out a whole new batch of soft, tender green leaves. So beautiful. Looking up into her full branches, I simply cannot imagine that in a several short weeks, she will be losing them completely and will then stand bare til September.
Perhaps you noticed the “”110 Crocheted Edgings” book on my tray the other day? It belonged to my other Nanny (that is, not the one who is married to dear old Grandad, but my father’s mother). Mum passed it on to me a few years back now. It was in this bundle of goodies …
… that appeared during the great wool tidy up. Oh yes! The number of treasures that were unearthed during those days of wool untangling and winding made the tedium of it all well worth while!
This is only a small bundle of books, pamphlets and loose notes – collected and written by both my Nanny – Clara, and her mum – Nellie. Nanny adored her mother and I remember her home being stuffed to the brim with all sorts of books, linen, clothes, fabric, furniture (including the piano her mother taught on), and bric-a-brac that had been her mum’s. Her mum died when Nanny was only a young mother herself – I have a letter that Nanny wrote her Mum just after the birth of my dad and just before Nanny Nellie died – I have tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat just thinking about it – it was so touching and vulnerable. She must have missed her mum terrible. Very soon after her dad remarried a woman with two daughters who, whilst happy to move into the family home, did not want most of Nellie’s belongings – so Nanny promptly removed them, carefully stored them, and spent the next 40 years carting them about. I clearly inherited her genes – I’m dreadfully sentimental and cannot bear to throw anything out – as our jam-packed garage, shed, sewing shed, and Julian will testify.
The crocheted edgings book is particularly lovely. Even Julian thinks that page above with its illustrated stitches is quite a prize. And I’m finding the little book especially useful for my crocheted face flannels. I stumbled upon these via the talented Kristin at her lovely blog Cozy Made Things and just knew, as soon as I saw them, that they were my cup of tea.
So, whilst in Brisbane, I slipped off one afternoon to visit my old favourite fabric shopping haunt – The Quilters’ and Embroiderers’ Store with Karen and Leah – and bought several fat quarters. That was a mistake. Clearly a fat quarter is much too big to be a useful face flannel. But a quarter of a fat quarter is a little miserly. So I ended up cutting a square – 13 x 13 inches – from each of the fat quarters which left quite a bit of waste. Ugh. If I’d just bought 35 cm I’d have had two face flannels for a little more than the price of one fat quarter – and still a bit of leftover that could go in the scrap bag for a future scrappy flannel quilt. And that would have worked very nicely because Mum, Auntie Anne and Nanny have all claimed the first round of face flannels I’ve made! I may need to indulge in a little mail ordering – ohh look at that, they have 616 to choose from – and I won’t be making the same mistake next time.
Now I’m not sure whether Kristen doubled hers. I didn’t – Mum wondered whether I should, but it would have made it very bulky and they would take ages to dry. So, I simply overlocked the edges, then ironed 1 inch hems on each side with mitred corners. Then, using my 4 ply Paton’s cotton crochet yarn, I blanket stitched around the edge. This makes for a super easy first round of crochet. For this flannel, I used edging number 26!
I will add here – Nanny Clara would be alarmed at the use of such thick cotton. She used crochet hooks that were so fine, I cannot even SEE the hook. As for her crochet thread – it’s almost the weight of regular sewing thread! Extraordinary. Also – her local haberdashery had a very fine service to offer their crochet customers – a machine that you ran your fabric through and it evenly perforated a quarter inch in from the edge – which allowed for very elegant work indeed. When I was in Taree recently – their home town – Mum and I did look for this shop – but it had gone. Funny that.
Just writing “edging number 26″ makes me think of a rather crazy but awfully fun idea. Another book I inherited from Nanny Clara included delicate pieces of lawn that she had practiced different sewing techniques on – different seams, hems, collars, inserts etc. One of the pieces had several horizontal folds in it which she had finished in a variety of ways. Can you imagine a lovely big piece of cotton/linen (don’t want plain linen, it’s too stretchy) that I iron neat horizontal folds into – and stitch them, like big pinch pleats. The I could “divide” the piece of fabric into five even columns, and crochet each of the 110 edgings, so that it becomes a sampler! Then I could back it, bind the edges and hang it on the wall. Oh my goodness! I’m so excited at the thought, I’m twitching. It would be so beautiful. I would do them in a selection of soft, gentle, antiquey colours. Nothing bright. It would have “old world charm” :-) Oh my goodness! I’ll have to run up the road to Darn Cheap again tomorrow! ’Cause you know, I was thinking, that’s a lot of face flannels to use all 110 edgings.
Mind you, I am planning to crochet around the edge of my latest quilt. In red. I think it will look fetching – we’ll have to see ;-)
Now the rest of the post is taken up with photos of my favourite pages from the bundle … there are so many wonderful projects in here that I will be occupied for the rest of my life. Take a peek …
:: this is treasure of a book – so much goodness inside
:: the advertisements are just brilliant. And I love the advice “to just write to us” should you need anything. Can’t you imagine ladies sitting down at their writing desks after breakfast and elegantly penning a quick note to the wool store in time for the morning mail. Goodness, the wool would probably be delivered the very next day.
:: I love that these are “useful” (others were handsome – not that Julian thought so) and that they’re spelt D’Oyleys. Intriguing – I shall have to look that up.
:: I love this picture – their hair, the chairs, the properness of it all.
:: oh my goodness – this little girl – isn’t she a darling and so cosy! She most likely couldn’t hear anything either.
:: I don’t know about you, but I definitely want a Wendy the WAAAF!!! Truly, I shall make her – and she shall sit on my dresser.
:: I’ve not heard of stiletto work, let alone tried it – have you?
:: a memento from the coronation of our current Elizabeth. Shows all the places the processioned passed. So sweet.
:: I was a bit puzzled by a whole bundle of “beauty tips” – both Nanny Clara and Nanny Nellie were so against this kind of frippery – they were good Presbyterian women who did not have time for fancies – they would have thought it positively outrageous that a good moral woman had TIME to fret about wrinkles.
:: then I realised that on the back of each carefully saved beauty page, was a crochet pattern. Aha.
:: Nanny Nellie’s cook book – her writing is so curly and ornate I can barely read some of it …
… but Jam Drops and Bible Cake sound good.
:: Nanny Clara’s recipes. I love that people wrote down recipes and saved them. Yet another thing we’ve lost – what with our plethora of lavishly produced cookbooks and internet recipe sites. I keep meaning to start keeping hand written copies of our favourite recipes – but never seem to find them time.
So there you go – a wee glimpse of a face flannel – I’d better take some photos of the rest before they’re all parcelled up and sent away. And a little wander through the past.
You see, I HAVE to carefully keep all of my things so that women, three or four generations from now, will sort through my boxes of funny old things with a laugh of delight and awe. :-)
This soft, ropey wool was sheared off a sheep from Gunning, NSW who was just this colour. Her owners sent the wool down to Bendigo – 600km away and in a different state – to be washed, carded and spun. Then it back it came to Gunning – a tiny little town on the Old Hume Highway in the Southern tablelands – where just 487 people live. I bought it – in one huge hank – from a small craft store that has opened in what was once Gunning’s Courthouse.
Like many of the small towns nestled amongst these hot, crackly-dry hills, Gunning was one of many thriving communities that provided services to the prosperous Merino wool farmers. But it’s been a long time since Australia “rode on the sheeps’ back”, so profitable for the country was Australia’s wool production. Since then there’s been too many heartbreaking droughts – locals I spoke to in these parts assured me that they’d just COME OUT of drought – much to their relief. Goodness, I’d hate to have seen it any drier – what was left of the grass crunched under my feet. In the second half of the 20th century the wool price fell through the floor and has never recovered, from a high of $37 per kilo in the early 1950s, to $3.20 per kilo in 2002. And in the 1990s the vast majority of Australia’s wool processing centres went from being the lifeblood of their towns’ economic and social wellbeing to empty ruins, often perched by dry riverbeds and disused, crumbling railway lines. It’s a sad, sad tale.
:: a view to the dry hills from the highest spot in Gundagai – even in its parched state, it has such beauty
:: the old Gundagai Railtrack – would have transported untold kilos of wool from here to nearby processing centres
:: the Gundagai WoolShed, on a beautiful bend of Morley’s Creek, tucked under the railway line – empty and derelict
:: tin and slab settler’s cottage, Gunning
:: for Grandad – the Gunning Post Office
:: the ruins of St. Mary’s, destroyed by fire in the 1980s
:: many of the grand old buildings in Australia’s country towns are decorated with sheep – a tribute to their significance in days past – the colourful tiled art deco sheep is from Goulburn, the sandstone sheep above is from Taree
However, one small farm in Gunning, is holding on – thriving I hope! – and offering their wool for sale at local markets – colours straight from the sheep’s backs. (You won’t believe this, but I have LOST the card that came with my wool – I shall ring somewhere in Gunning tomorrow, find out the details and post them here!). They have 5 ply, 8 ply, 10 ply and 12 ply, in colours from very cool creams through to dark ashy browns. They also sell roving for felting, and beautiful hand knit jumpers from those sized for babes all the way to adults. It was all so lovely it took me ages to choose. Eventually I chose this dusty, earthy tone because it looks so like the landscape from which it came. The bumpy little sheep who wear this colour are so utterly camouflaged in the fields, you can barely make them out! Mum and I drove by many a field where we weren’t sure whether they were sheep or rocks until they moved!
As is the magic of Ravelry, I entered my wool’s dimensions and came up with a lovely cowl pattern that would use most of my wool – Louise Zass-Bangham’s Ice Storm Cowl. That seems to be a terribly inappropriate title for a knit made from wool that came from a land so dry, don’t you think? But the sharp, bumpy chevrons of Louise’s design, reminded me of the hills of sharply jagged grass that the sheep of the Southern Tablelands are hidden amongst. It’s knitting up beautifully – and it is easy to fall into the rhythm of the pattern – I was even able to manage it whilst following the subtitles of a German film!
Book wise – with the start of the new school year, there’s been much reading here in Bootville. Abby is studying literature for her final two years of highschool – I’m so thrilled and she has such a lovely booklist – many of which I have both studied and taught – and is also encouraged to explore complementary titles. Her first unit for this semester is dominated by the World War I poet Wilfrid Owen – so I’ve suggested All is Quiet on the Western Front – similar themes to Owen but from a German perspective. She’s reading a few chapters every night – we have a dedicated 1/2 hour to reading together each evening – and is finding it a lot more interesting than she originally thought.
After Wilfred Owen, her class will be studying Great Gatsby so for reading aloud, we’re sharing some of Fitzgerald’s short stories – my favourite is Berenice Bobs Her Hair – oh such a good ending! I was struck afresh the other night at how pertinent his writing is regarding the bizarre social rituals we both twist ourselves into and frantically try to extricate ourselves from – more so when we are young – no matter the decade. This sentence especially struck me … “At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.” Being much closer to 45 than 18, this made me chuckle, so vivid was my memory of being a righteous 18 year old standing on that hill wondering why my parents were so blind.
And, whilst Abby sits engrossed in the horror of an unjust war, I’ve been reading a dear little book I picked up at the annual Bega Book Fair – Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore. She lived with her family in Shanghai, before World War I, where her father taught English at a Chinese University. They are such sweet stories (with simple but lovely illustrations), and remind me of Shirley Hughes’s stories of Alfie (which are hands down my favourite children’s picture books) – a very real and natural little boy with an enthusiasm and curiosity for everything that is going on around him, coupled with a desire to be a valuable and trusted part of the family he loves – with a cultural twist that is respectful and enchanting. You can tell Ms. Lattimore writes with such fondness. I’m so glad I found it.
Saturday was not the day I expected. Abby unexpectedly visited the city with her friend. Julian unexpectedly spent all day asleep. Frankly, I was at a bit of a loss. There was so much that could be done – a kitchen table to clear of wool, the last of the Christmas decorations to put away (I hate leaving the Christmas decorations up so long but they longer they stay up, the harder they seem to be to take down – add to that the disadvantage of being away for 4 weeks of January). Then there’s always chores.
However, taking a cool drink and my crochet out to the back garden to wile away a hot day whilst the doggies contentedly snuffled around seemed a much better idea. I gathered all the things I would need – and realised using a tray would make it much easier to carry everything outside. Fetched the tray – then decided what it needed was a nice cloth – thought about a tea towel folded in half and then thought – no! I’ll make it a wee quilt using these pretties that surfaced last week. Fabrics I’ve had forever. Favourites that have danced through many of my quilts over the years. It wouldn’t take long … and having a quilted tea tray cloth would make my solo afternoon in the garden ever so much nicer.
So I did …
:: the perfect summery colours for my blue tray
:: starting in the middle of a wee piece of thrifted blanket
:: scribbly wibbly quilting, how I love you
:: looks so pretty I almost wanted to leave it untrimmed
:: the fit’s just right
:: jolly binding
:: don’t you love quilting from the back? – I do
:: with a spare chair should a family member appear
:: happy doggles
It was such bliss, that when eventually the family appeared, we all stayed out there under the tree until after 8pm. Just how a summer’s Saturday should be spent.
Some things never change. When the sky is radiant blue, the sun is beating down, and the mercury climbing, I immediately think of the beach. Surely the result of a childhood spent in damp, soggy bathers, my hair crusty with salt, sand between my toes, and my freckled skin sticky with sunscreen.
And so this morning, with today’s top expected to be 42 celsius AGAIN, I convinced the family that the only sensible thing to do was head to the beach. With towels and bathers packed, the beach umbrella tucked under my arm, Abby carting the bag full of snorkels and masks, and books and hats squished into the corners of the beach basket, we skittled out of the house whilst it was still a cool 25.
Today’s destination – Birdrock Beach, with its 169 steps steeply marching this way and that down a very steep cliff ensuring there won’t be a crowd :-) It didn’t disappoint – we were greeted with a cool breeze, sparkling water, the pick of the spots under a broad, almost toppling tree, and colours so lush and perfect it was as if they had been painted on especially.
Immediately I swam out – it is only waist deep for such a long way – and floated; the cool, salty, sparkly water holding my body in the way that only the ocean can. Pretty scraps of seaweed floated by, a school of chubby, stripey fish swam round and round below me, brilliant white gulls swooped back and forth across the sky, and the sounds of excited children and chatter of relieved-to-be-out-of-the-heat parents bounced off the small waves.
As I floated I thought about the beach – about the notion of my beach, my magic beach – and what makes that beach so. And decided that Birdrock Beach would probably never be my beach, my magic beach. Not because it isn’t lovely – it is. No, it’s not the location, nor the curve of the bay that makes it my magic beach. Nor the quality of the sand, nor the nature of the waves. It’s not what treasures you find there, or what sits back beyond the beach.
It’s that part of a beach that stays with me when I leave, that makes it my beach, my magic beach. That beach becomes part of my story, part of my heart, part of how I fit into the years I have spent circling this sun and the family I have around me. It’s that part of a beach that when I return years and years later, I recognise myself as still there – I can feel my joy, my laughter, my experiences in the air around me, in the water as it holds me.
When I reached the sand at The Pass, at the far end of Byron Bay, two weeks ago with Mum, the tide was way out and the paisley patterned sky was heavy with a brewing storm. But there were still plenty of people about – families making the most of the last sun-kissed evenings of the school holidays, surfers bobbing out amongst the waves, people walking gently, slowly along the glistening sands. It was magic. All those years of swimming and playing here as a child filled my heart and my senses. All those years of bringing my Abby here when she was small. All the sandcastles we built, the waves we raced in to shore, the mermaids we sculpted and decorated, the shells we collected, the daydreams we had about what adventures waited for us at Julian’s Rocks if only we could get there. I felt a love-filled and familiar ache in my heart and I knew it was my beach, my magic beach.
Earlier that day, I had experienced a similar rush of sweetness at Crowdy Head – a beach further south, down the road from the small fishing village my grandparents lived in when I was little. It is such a modest spot compared to Byron. A small, quiet surf lifesaving clubhouse, an almost defunct fishermen’s co-op, maybe fifty ordinary homes nestled into the gentle hills behind me. But once I picked my way gingerly across the heavily pebbled foreshore and stood at the water’s edge, Crowdy’s gentle, glittering waves rushing in to wet my skirt’s hem, tears filled my eyes and I felt an incredible sense of coming home, of belonging here, of it too being part of my heart – something I never would have expected. It too was my beach, my magic beach.
As for Merimbula, each time we visit, our plans for moving there become ever more concrete and detailed and I know that her beaches are my magic beaches too. When Julian and I stroll along that majestic main beach in the cool, soft purple light of the late afternoon, the dogs bouncing at our heels, sharing our plans and hopes for the future, I know that I am where I want to be and I feel such a sense of contentment. When we hit quirky little Bar Beach- be it to slip down for an early morning snorkel, a visit in the middle of the day with the family (and all the other families!), or to sit with our supper looking out across the ocean and mountains, whilst the sun turns everything in its path to a glittery gold – I feel an incredible sense of warmth, knowing that this will be my beach, my magic beach, one that I will visit and love for the rest of my life.
Which brings me back here to Birdrock. As you probably know, I’m not a fan of Melbourne. I don’t like living here in Victoria. I feel so very far away from everything I know, everything I’m related to, so many things that I love, and four years has not made it any easier. In fact, sometimes it feels overwhelmingly awful and I cry. For four years I have griped about the beaches (they’re mostly yuk with appalling water quality), the weather, the football, the government, the public transport, the roads, the neighbours, the police, the rules, the utility companies, the education system, the health system … give me a chance and I can find fault with almost every part of this state. But this is not a good way to live – for me or my family.
So in this year of 2014, with just two more years to go before Abby finishes school (I must add here that Abby’s school is FANTASTIC – I am constantly impressed by what they share with my girl and how they care for her) and we move to Merimbula and the beautiful Bega Valley, I am going to put a lot more effort into embracing.
That’s my word for the year – next year’s too probably. Embrace. Not everything will be perfect. Not everything will go according to plan. I won’t feel that nourishing sense of belonging. Birdrock Beach will never be my magic beach. And I will never understand Victoria’s obsession with football. But I will work harder to embrace what is put before me.
I will embrace the eight weeks of placement that are looming – not just an amazing opportunity to learn, but the final step I need to take before becoming a Registered Nurse. I will embrace the dark mornings that have already arrived – they are a chance to catch my breath before the day steamrolls ahead with a lovely cup of tea in hand and my husband by my side. I will embrace Abby’s very own version of blossoming – it is such a wonderful thing to watch and share. I will embrace Julian’s tireless efforts at work – hopefully it will all pay off. I will embrace the prospect of working (almost) full time come August – all those extra pennies will go towards building our home. I will embrace the cold and grey when it arrives – it’s simply a marvellous opportunity to cosy up with Abby and stitch more quilts and knit more woollies. I will embrace the responsibilities and talents I have and put them to good use.
Today, I embraced the glorious day we were given. I embraced the hot weather with its beating sun, reminding myself of how much I will miss it in just a few short months. I embraced Birdrock Beach with it refreshing, beautiful water and richly glowing rocks. I embraced the chance to escape, with my family, from the everyday and make it something special.
Magic is wonderful and I know that I need it to thrive, but sometimes – and this is that sometime – I need to accept that I can’t always have my magic, and instead, embrace that which is offered.
The great wool tidy has revealed many treasures (as well as plenty for recycling) including this summery watermelon fabric and a pretty blue paisley that looks oh so French. They’re cotton – and that bubbly sort of fabric – oh, what’s it called? I can never remember, but have loved it ever since my Mum bought me a pair of pink and white stripe tailored shorts in it when I was 11. Begins with an “s” … it will come to me.
Two metres of each fabric – perfect for a twirly skirt just like this long time favourite. And perfect for the exceedingly hot summer we are having – lovely and soft and floaty and long – ‘t’will both keep the sun off and a breeze circulating :-)
I’ve made lots of these skirts – they are a little time consuming only in that it’s amazing how long it can take to gather up length after length after length of fabric – but they are so simple and can be dressed up or down to wear anywhere. The only sizing is in the waist – and that’s elastic. I’ve made Abby the most over the years – this little Aunt Grace number is still a favourite that she now wears with knee high black lace up boots and a little cropped jacket (I know – how they grow up).
I made a beautiful red, cream and black one for Mum one Christmas that she wears in winter with black opaque tights and a black turtleneck, and of course the original one I made with Ruth in class – that was such a lovely morning and such a delight to be able to simply wander upstairs to all the beautiful fabrics and trims when I needed something. Oh if only all our sewing could be done with such treasures at hand :-)
You can use as many different fabrics as you like and completely go to town on the trim if you want. I decided to keep this watermelony one pretty simple – given there was no more than 2 metres of any trim anywhere in Bootville, keeping it simple meant I didn’t have to go to the fabric store and spend money. Of course, I may do this tomorrow, but for now, simple it is.
And, it occurred to me as I was slicing up the fabric, that you might like to make one too. So here’s a really simple tutorial for how to make up your own. Starting with … clear your sewing table. This is so empowering :-)
Then … cut the fabric! I use a rotary cutter and quilting ruler. Can you read that below? Ignore that big 6.01 that’s staring out at you from the middle background. I don’t know why it won’t go away. Just choose your fabrics – order them from tiers one to six, fold them like you would your patchwork fabric (i.e. selvedges together, folded once, then twice, place your quilting ruler at the appropriate mark and with your rotary cutter, slice straight across the width of the fabric so you wind up with a piece that is – if we’re talking about tier 1 – 8 long x 42 inches wide.
Now – a word about this tier one piece. It will be the yoke of the skirt. When I was first shown how to make the skirt, I was told to cut just one width for the yoke ’cause you don’t want a lot of bulk around your waist. However, these days (after a massive FAIL at losing weight last year – I have lost 4 kilos this year, but we still have a waaaaaay to go) one width only just makes it around my hips (well, lower stomach really, it’s a very strange thing my lower stomach). I did cut this watermelony tier one piece just one width but it’s a bit snug. I would recommend adding an extra bit of fabric just to keep it comfy – and eliminate the “fitted look” – if you find that one width is just a bit too close. I reckon, measure your widest bit and add an extra 10 inches, don’t you think, in which case you’ll need two widths of 8 inches – one full one and one that you’ll use a bit of.
Gathering – now that you’ve cut your pieces, the rest is just a repeat of side seams + gathering threads + gathering to size + stitching to previous tier. Do your side seams first – you stitch each tier piece together so that they form a giant ring – and make sure you don’t twist the pieces or it will be like a piece of knitting joined in the round – an upside down twist that will be impossible to fix without unpicking. Just be mindful. And you probably have your gathering completely sorted. But just in case you don’t, here’s a few strategies I’ve developed over the years …
:: I always do two rows of gathering thread at the longest stitch my machine will do, leaving nice long tails at both ends. Now when I was a wilful teenager, I didn’t believe my Mum when she told me I needed two rows of gathering thread – I thought that was a waste of bobbin thread and my valuable time. But she was right – one row makes mincy looking gathers that can’t be spread out as evenly and don’t sit as neatly. Two rows it is. Use a colour thread you don’t care about and wonder why you bought it – that way you won’t feel cheated as you race through it.
:: It doesn’t matter how many widths of fabric I am gathering, I NEVER use two continuous rows of gathering thread. You are almost guaranteed to snap the thread somewhere – and will have to start again – and it makes pulling it up a pain in the butt. I ALWAYS stop and start at the beginning and end of each side seam. So – in Tier 2 – which has 2 widths of 8 inches – I will start and stop twice. That way I only have to pull up one width of fabric at a time. In Tier 6 – which has 5 widths of fabric of 7 inches – I will start and stop 5 times.
:: To evenly distribute my gathers I do a little maths. How wide is the previous tier – let’s say tier 4 – each width is 122cm wide and I have three pieces = 366cm. How many pieces are there in tier 5 which will need to stitch on to tier 4 – 4 pieces. So I divide the bottom of tier 4 into 4 – 366 divided by 4 = roughly 91.5cm. So starting at my central side seam (I always line up one side seam on each tier and call this the central side seam) I measure 91.5 and place a pin, then measure 91.5cm again and place a pin, and measure again and place a pin – and of course the last one will be back at your central side seam. Then I pin tier 5 into place – the side seams of each tier 5 piece will match up to a pin on the tier 4 piece. You with me ?! So now you know your gathered pieces need to fit within these spaces. Which leads me to …
:: Gathering it up! First – will your fabric fray? If it is of that persuasion, then please zigzag the edges first – I know, more thread, more time. But if you’re fussing with the gathers for a while, some fabrics will nastily fray all the way down to your gathering stitches and that isn’t fun.
Second - I always pull from the left side so on the right side I tie a knot with the two ends from my two rows on top. This way, when I’m cheerfully spreading my gathers out nice and even, they don’t slip off the far end without me noticing. That may send very silly – but I have done it! Once that knot is tied, you can spread your gathers evenly right up to the end and they are going nowhere.
Now don’t just yank on the gathering thread at the left- there’s always a bit of resistance at first – start with a gentle pull to loosen the bobbin stitches underneath and then your gathering threads will slide through the fabric nicely. I don’t worry about doing it all evenly in the beginning – waste of time. I just pull up as much as I need to to make this width fit my designated space (remember our pins) and then when I have it the right size I tie a knot in the left hand two top threads and then my gathers will not fall out and I can spread the gathers evenly right up to both ends. Pin, pin, pin and sew …
:: Final word on gathering – I always sew the new tier on with the gathered side up. The flat side of the previous tier will sit nice and flat on the bottom with minimum supervision – the gathers themselves need a bit more of your attention. I like to keep the tops of the gathers neatly aligned with the straight edge of the previous tier and make sure there are no strange skewif bits going on – you know, you want your gathers to lay in nice straight lines not go awkwardly sideways. If they’re on the bottom it’s much harder to see what’s going on and I wind up needing to unpick and straighten. Keep your gathers on top.
So off you go – sew, sew, sew, gather, gather, gather, sew, sew, sew … I added a tier of green – one always needs a good grove of greenery to survive a hot day, don’t you think.
Okay. All your tiers are on. Now before you get excited about trim, overlock or zigzag your tier edges. This uses even more cotton. You will think the end will never come. It does, but not til after school pickup. Then, when your edges are beautifully neat, give the whole skirt a good press so that all those tiers are sitting FLAT. There’s nothing like a good bash with the iron to make a piece of handmade clothing go from looking slightly clumsy with bumpy bits to being polished and professional :-) Now you can put on your trim.
For the waist, overlock or zig zag the top edge then turn over enough to hold your elastic. Stitch close to the lower edge of your turnover, leaving a gap to thread your elastic through. Thread your elastic – sew the ends together, making sure you don’t twist your elastic (I can’t count how many times I have twisted the jolly elastic – eternally frustrating). Sew shut your gap. Overlock or zig zag the bottom edge of the last tier and hem it, just on the machine – I did about 1cm. I seriously considered not hemming after overlocking it, but Abby reckoned it looked dorky so I hemmed it. I’m an obedient mama. Again – endless stitching – you think you will never get back to the beginning – and you probably won’t before the bobbin runs out! Argh!
It’s ready to wear! Yay! It’s taken about 4 hours. That’s not too bad huh! I’m rather fond of that red ric rac – will definitely be getting more tomorrow – a nice round of red for each tier, yes? Yes! I’ll need about 15 metres just to be safe.
Now I’m ready to hit the beach on another weekend of temperatures over 40 celsius – in my floaty, twirly watermelon skirt. And when I’ve lost a few more inches around the waist, I may even tuck in my t-shirt and add a belt :-0
Hope this is all clear – if there’s something I haven’t made easy to follow, send me an email at lily(at)blockaday(dot)com and I’ll do my best to set you straight. And if you do make a twirly skirt, send me a photo – I’d love to see how YOU put your fabrics together and what kind of trims you find. Enjoy!
Our summer holiday by the beach came to its natural close and one morning we had to stuff the car full – including an extra child and her luggage – and trek back across the scorching hot Gippsland to a melting Melbourne. Within hours of us leaving, Mum received word that dear old Grandad had had a heart attack and was in hospital. She didn’t mention it whilst we were on route (isn’t she strong! I’d have blabbed it as soon as I heard) but the minute we called to say we were safely home, she told us – and added that if I could, she would love me to drive to Brisbane with her, the day after the next, so that we could be there when he came home from hospital and help care for him and Nanny. Of course I said yes.
So Mum trundled across the scorching hot Gippsland to a melting Melbourne to collect me – I’ve never been so hot in my life – it was 46 celsius 4 days running with barely a breath of respite over night. And on the Saturday morning, we packed the car, yet again, and headed up the long, dry Hume highway towards Brisbane. Now it is a long drive – over 1,700km. Three days of driving. But she wanted to drive so that she would have her car in Brisbane and be able to choof the oldies around when she needed to. And I don’t mind a drive. Especially when we can turn left. Or right. Whatever looks interesting.
So with several of the quilts I made last year piled on the back seat for Nanny and Auntie Anne, the crochet tucked into the corner, and an esky full of chilled tuna, we set off on our adventure. First stop – Benalla, Victoria – one of the many small rural towns Nanny and Grandad moved to with their tribe of children – Grandad was a Postmaster with Australia Post. I’d never been so it was especially lovely to visit with Mum and see where all their stories were set.
This was their first home in Benalla – a short walk to school for Mum and her siblings – and around the corner from a family who were to become lifetime friends.
And here’s school. Faithful Companions of Jesus. Where the nuns taught Mum exquisite embroidery. Where Mum rode her bike each day.
And the beautiful church – St. Joseph’s – she attended every week. It was so lovely, standing in this beautiful building – quiet, cool and full of light – imaging my Mum here as a young woman. Making sure the nuns saw her, so she wouldn’t be in strife at school at Monday. Singing along with the choir in the loft. Meeting the Pope’s representative – she says they felt ever so holy after that! Bringing the youngest babe of the family here to be christened.
This here corner is the infamous spot where Mum crashed her bike. She remembers being dazed and staggering home with a whopping headache. Then, years later when she was pregnant with me and experiencing some neurological disturbances, they x-rayed her head then asked how long ago she had fractured her skull!! Yes it was a mighty bike crash.
Here’s the other family home in Benalla – Grandad remembers it being the old Ambulance station. No sign of that now but very sweet.
Mum graduated from high school in Benalla – and this here municipal chambers is where the town dances were held on the weekends – an outing she looked forward to all week. Apparently they were especially good if the local football team won that afternoon. Mum remembers going along to hear all the coolest acts of the 1960s, dancing the night away in shoes that were one size too small but she had to have them because they were so pointy … and then Grandad waiting in the street for her to make it safely home no more than 10 minutes after the dance finished.
Now Grandad – this photo’s for you. Sadly, the Benalla post office was torn down just a few years after you left – the new one is a horrible modern shop front – total non-event. But here’s the post office in nearby Wangaratta – somewhere I’m sure you spent many a day listening to the bigwigs from Melbourne drone on and on about what you should and shouldn’t be doing :-) Unfortunately, it’s now a tacky coffee shop. At least it’s still standing. Australia Post, if you’re listening – what you’ve done to the heritage of your organisation is disgraceful! I’m constantly annoyed by the cavalier manner with which you have disposed of the incredible history of your beautiful post offices – gracious buildings that were built when people sought to inpsire and celebrate – and the people and families who gave their all.
Soon after leaving these sweet towns, further along the highway, we were confronted with this! It seems obvious now, but we initially thought we were driving into a dreadful storm – the sky became so dark. Then the red glow became obvious and we realised those “clouds” were floating up to the sky, not down. Eeeek! It was a huge bush fire, sparked by a lightning strike that hit a pine plantation – which of course went up like a bomb. For almost a hundred kilometres, this image filled the sky to our right. It burnt for several days – taking several farms and homes with it, not to mention the horrible cost to the environment and the animals who live there. A very potent reminder of how terribly hot and dry Australia has become – just in case we hadn’t noticed from the 46 celsius days and toasted to a crisp grass.
I’m home! I’m back! Goodness, I have been away a long time. And there’s so much to share here. I don’t know … this summer has just escaped from me. We’ve had many lovely times … and many dreadfully hot days when it is all I can do NOT to indulge in a nice little tantrum over how much I dislike days that are over 40 celsius. There was also an unexpected journey to Brisbane with my Mum to help care for my dear old Grandad who suffered a heart attack. He is doing well and Mum is staying for a month to keep him and Nanny on the straight and narrow.
But now … school goes back tomorrow (I don’t know how this could possibly be so, but new uniforms hanging on the line tell me it is), baby sitting will start up again next week, and there’s just a month left before my final semester of nursing gets rolling. Eeek!
However, there is going to be such busyness and creativity round these parts. Oh yes! I intended making the most of every moment. So without further ado, I have for you this eve, a wee tale of woolliness …
It started here. Yesterday morning – another day of dreadful heat – I wanted to work on Julian’s Argyle Vest. But it really needed to shift out of the little embroidery box and into something that held it properly – those little balls of colour, oh they do like to roll away. So I decided to sort through the baskets behind Julian’s armchair (yes, that’s where I try to hide my woolly messiness) and clear one entirely so that it could become the current project, a.k.a The Argyle.
Well. Those baskets were stuffed full of all sorts of little-bit-started, half-way-done, oh-my-goodness-what-was-I-thinking projects. So I emptied them all out with a view to frogging and winding the wool and putting it in the huge cane laundry hamper in which I keep my stash. Except it wouldn’t fit. So I emptied it out too. Except that not much really came out, because most of it looked like this …
Ahem. Yes. Well. So then I got out the two back up storage baskets and tipped them out too. Sadly, they were in a similar state of tangledness. However! There wasn’t a single moth to be found and all the wool was beautifully intact. That’s good, right?! So here we are, on the eve of the second day and I’ve been untangling and winding and untangling and winding … and untangling and winding. All on the kitchen table. And floor. And chairs. Any other action that has gone on in the kitchen has had to do so, squished in amongst the wool.
Which in itself was making me a wee bit fretful. There’s a lot of wool. A lot. It’s the woolly equivalent of that moment a couple of years back when I realised I could supply new tents for every circus currently performing in Australia made from the patchwork fabric I’d acquired.
There’s lots of little balls of Patons, Cleckheaton and Heritage DK (remnants of many crochet projects), a lovely pile of Debbie Bliss Tweeds, balls and balls of Brown Sheep’s lovely Cotton Fleece, left over bundles of Malabrigo, Rowan, Beaverslide and Twilley’s, hopeful hanks of Cascade 220, a bagful of someone else’s handspun that I bought at a craft fair donkey years ago, masses of Lanaloft that was going to become a jumper for Julian but he no longer likes it, several skeins of honey coloured mohair that I’d started knitting lace edging with (?????) … So much wool.
But then, just when I was feeling a bit sick about the dollar value of all this wool (and yes, it is a lot), as I was remembering projects that different yarns had been bought for, I realised that what lay before me was the wool I have been squirrelling away for 25 years. That’s a fair chunk of time. And even more cheering was the realisation that whilst lots had been used, and used well and with love, there were many many projects that will grow out of this stash … even if most of them will be of the stripey persuasion (apart from that Lanaloft there’s not enough of anything that by itself would make more than a small shawl, and there’s a limit to how many shawls I need).
But oh the potential! There will surely be many more crochety things. More dolls. Arm warmers? Perhaps I could buy some lovely tweedy grey and make up all those Debbie Bliss balls into a stripey short sleeved jumper like my Stevenson Jumper. I long to marry that buttery honey off to the mermaid blue homespun but will have to swatch it first to see if they are a perfect match. There are three whole skeins of Misti Alpaca in Doctor Who Blue and I’m not sure someone still wants that Tardis shawl, in which case, I could knit up one of those ever so whispy thin cardies – like Hannah Fettig’s. There’s almost a whole jumper’s worth of a marly blue that Nanny passed along to me. And enough of that Cotton Fleece for … something. Then there’s always baby knits – I’m thinking I might start a baby knits drawer – for presents and such. That would be fun. Quick to knit, and good for using up small bundles. As for that Lanaloft, someone will wear it :-)
However, right at this moment, instead of finishing the untangling and tidying away all that wool (and I do have plans – they involve many of the sweet pillowcases I made Abby when she was little, with cardboard tags and shelves put in the gentleman’s wardrobe that is currently woefully underutilised in the living room) … I have my eye on this lovely tweedy brown (a Jo Sharp DK that had been started THREE different times – none of which I’d frogged and none of which I remembered what I was doing), Nanny’s marly blue, and an orange (remember that DREADFUL razor lace cardigan that I had to frog after completely finishing it!!!!). I think …. no, I KNOW they want to become the North Shore yoked, fairisle sweater from Tin Can Knits. Who I think may well be my new favouritist knitting designers – oh my goodness, they create such beauty.
Do you think Abby and Julian would notice if I slipped away into the bedroom and quickly cast on? I could always pretend I’m reading …
… which I am! Whilst on holidays, we visited the annual Bega Book Fair and I snapped up several more Patrick O’Brian’s books from the Master and Commander series. Honestly, I know I’ve mentioned this before, but you know that scene in the book/film The Jane Austen Book Club when the gorgeous young man tells the rest of the group that they really should try O’Brian because if you love Austen, you will love O’Brian – IT’S TRUE!!!!! My goodness, Mr. O’Brian weaves a magnificent tale, full of historical detail, fabulous characters – I mean Jack and Stephen – so totally different to each other but both so charismatic – Jack, the enchanting, passionate, over grown schoolboy with buckets of integrity and good humour; and Stephen, the wily, clever, compassionate doctor/spy, as for Killick – makes me laugh every time. And Tom Pullings – oh, be still my racing heart! Plenty of nail biting action (of the fighting and wild weather variety), intricate descriptions of the social conditions, and the sailing and construction of ships. With fascinating intrigue and adventures. This one – The Wine Dark Sea – is not disappointing. Jack, Stephen and the crew are crossing the Pacific to South America – but have been mightily waylaid by an undersea volcano (which O’Brian described so well – he didn’t mention it was a volcano so I the reader was just as bamboozled as Jack) followed by an interminable lull – no wind, no rain – day after day of still and balmy weather – the suspense is building!
Hope you are all doing well, dear folk. That this New Year is taking care of you and yours – despite frigid cold or melting heat. May we have a year of much love, a goodly supply of happiness, challenges that reward us, and plenty of time for our stitchy delights.
See you tomorrow!