yet still more from those blessed sheep

As corny as it sounds, I found myself exclaiming to Julian – upon his arrival home from work to find a Romney/Corriedale fleece spread out across the kitchen table and no sign of supper – how lucky we are as humans that the planet provided us with these extraordinarily wonderful animals and that we were cunning enough to put them to such good use!  Wool and milk – two of my essentials :-)

:: pre-wash ::

Yes, today Abby went back to school for Year 10 – YEAR 10 – double digits!  She’s halfway through high school.  Only three years left.  I’m in shock.  Don’t really know why – after helping usher/drag hundreds of girls through school in my former life, I know it all comes to an end ridiculously quickly.  They arrive as wee little girls and leave, a blink of the eyelid later, as young women.  Oy!

:: enjoying a therapeutic soak ::

So, for hors douvres – and to distract my mind from an empty home – I enjoyed a coffee at the Forth Brother (no that’s not misspelled) – an understatedly funky cafe up the street with lovely coffee and a wee table in the window that’s perfect for one and her knitting needles.

:: through the kitchen window & before the manic afternoon storm hit ::

Then home for the entree – finish off the bluey-green stuff.   I finished spinning the fleece, plied the second hank, washed both hanks – they looked so marvellously seaweedy in the bathtub – and then hung them for drying – still drying.

:: oh my – so beautiful – & oh the scent – I can just bury my face in it ::

For mains … out came the Romney/Corriedale fleece the kind women at the guild picked out for me – plenty of kink and lots of lanolin to make for easy spinning.  Oooooh – they were right!  It smells gorgeous – really sheepy – and my fingers glisten whilst I spin.  You can almost see the drops of lanolin on the yarn as it twists.

:: flicking a basketful – not on the tablecloth ::

It . was . so . nice .  Made that other stuff pale into insignificance.  I spun for hours. Hours! Bliss!  The only thing that made me stop (well, apart from picking the girlie up from school) was a very tired leg and slightly stiff shoulders.  I’ll have to practice with my left leg, so as to share the pain.  At the moment, it’s a very stupid left leg that simply cannot get the message.  All it does is shove the spinning wheel across the floor.  Useless.

:: filled & waiting for its twin ::

And for dessert, a lovely squish onto the sofa with my Stevenson Sweater from the wonderful Kate Davies and her beautiful new book (Colours of Shetland).  I finished the golden ribbed band whilst on holidays – but didn’t have my 2.75mm circular needle to continue – so tonight, I finally began the lovely, simple fair isle pattern of the body.  Looking at Kate’s lovely photos with a real Stevenson lighthouse (and may I recommend this book – fantastic read if you too were bewitched by those childhood stories of lighthouses and smugglers and terrible storms), I easily imagined myself back at the Green Cape Lighthouse.  I’ll have to finish this Stevenson Sweater before visiting next, just so Abby can take photos of me in my Stevenson Sweater at our local Scottish lighthouse :-).

:: fine rows – slow progress – absolutely delightful ::

Now, I shall go to bed, completely sated.  God bless wool.


wonky but a bit good too

The kitchen just seems to be where we are this week.  On these last few mornings of the summer holidays, I’ve loved sitting in this happy room, with yarn, fleece, the teapot and Radio National by my side whilst waiting for the girlie to wake up.

And this being the New Year and all, there have been a few … not really resolutions, but determinations to shake things up a bit around here.  This is my fourth year in Melbourne – oy! – and whilst I have made marvellous headway with my degree and future career, I’ve not made any progress on finding my niche in a community sense.  I’ve joined nothing.  Taken part in nothing.  Met no one.  And frankly, it’s quite lonely.  I’ve always thought of myself as a real homebody, happy with the company of my close family.  The last three years has taught me, I clearly did a lot more than just hang out with Abby and Julian in Brisbane.  Dearly as I love them, I need something extra on the side.

Now, those young ‘uns I study with are mostly a lovely group and I’ve spent many pleasant hours in their company.  But they are at a completely different time in their lives – just out of school, footloose and fancy free. When we finish a gruelling shift at the Mental Health Unit, my idea of unwinding is a steaming pot of tea, some knitting, and another episode of Upstairs Downstairs – they cheerfully walk 7 blocks in the rain to spend the rest of the evening in a funky bar.  I think they’re lovely but mad.  They think I’m pleasantly eccentric.

So this week I’ve started putting myself out there a bit – first stop – the Spinners and Weavers Guild.  I now have a new ankle joint for my wheel, a lovely new Romney fleece specially picked out for me, a new carding technique – we’re flicking now folks, not rolagging – a new place to visit each week, and three classes lined up – beginners’ spinning (a 5 week burst starting in April), beginners’ dyeing (held once a month) and a special one off class in Tapestry (the last weekend in March) – the kind you do with beautiful wooden bobbins.  And after a few hours spent at the Guild on Tuesday, I am quietly confident that good fun shall be had.

I’ve also applied to do some volunteer work with groups I greatly admire – a Palliative Care for Children organisation (a branch of nursing I’m very interested in pursuing on a professional and academic level) and a community garden.  Hopefully it will all fit in nicely.

Today – I finally finished spinning two bobbins of yarn and this afternoon – squashed in before Abby’s back to school dinner – I PLIED them.  It is the wonkiest yarn :-)  The first bobbin was filled last April/May when long lumpy bits were the go.  The second bobbin was filled over the last two days, when I’m finally getting the hang of creating reasonably even yarn.  Plied together, it is quaint … but yarn nonetheless!

I rescued my old Niddy Noddy from Mum’s garage whilst we were holidaying.  Yes, I’ve been down this spinning path before – years ago, before we even had Abby – but never got to the Niddy Noddy stage.  With the Niddy Noddy was a Lazy Kate replete with bobbins, each encrusted with moth eaten blobs of lanolin-hardened yarn – that’s been disposed of and the bobbins have been washed and are awaiting that Romney.

But first, I have a date with the bathtub and some lovely wool wash because there’s some yarn that needs its ply set.


the scrumptious joy of vintage knitting

Whilst on holidays, I finished my crocheted cotton cardie (note to self – have Abby take some photos so as I can share a FINISHED piece of handmade).  Strangely enough, Julian was rather taken with it.  Sadly enough, it fitted Julian just as well as it fitted me (note to self – stop eating Milo from the tin).

He was also very fond of its cottoness.  I find this hard to believe, but Julian declares that he is too hot in wool.  What?!?  Yes, that’s right.  Even recently, when he was in Ireland in temperatures below 5 celsius, he claims that he was more than warm enough in a cotton tshirt, a cotton sweater and his leather jacket.  Huh.

Always keen to find something he’d like me to make him, I offered to crochet him his own cardigan – in cotton.  Now – have you ever perused the patterns for a crocheted cardigan for a MAN?  That doesn’t make him look like an extra out of a Sacha Baron Cohen film?  You know – a cardigan to wear with your matching mankini?  That’s right.   There’s nothing simple and tasteful in existence.

So, we ordered the yarn – Brown Fleece’s Cotton Fleece in a suitably dark and boring colour (honestly, men!) and kept our fingers crossed we’d find a suitable pattern.

Cue the Bairnsdale St. Vincent’s Op Shop (home of those creepy/fabulous Dutch dolls). Up the back, in the land of the unwanted,  there was a lovely big stack of old Paton’s pattern books.  They once belonged to Leonie and included umpteen designs for woman, several for children and even a few for the guys.  So, with hopes of finding the perfect cardie for Jules, I bought them.

Julian, however, proved most dubious about the guys’ patterns.  I had to repeatedly implore him to LOOK PAST the 1970s styling and just concentrate on the shape of the jumpers. “But look!”  he hooted, “That guy has an hourglass figure!”  As Abby would say – forehead smack.

I don’t know … I think this fellow’s rather cute – and check out those cables – yum! yum!

As for the Neil Diamond plunge-neck vest?  Julian had Abby rolling around the floor in tears of laughter as he contemplated how many buttons he’d be able to undo on his business shirts once he was wearing this handknit and the effect it would have on the fairer sex.

Personally, my favourite forehead smack moment are the titles.  Knitting for the men in your life in a yarn called “Katie”?  Or producing “suave” sweaters?  I’m assuming that most women hid these patterns from their men and simply produced the finished jumper with a sweet smile, not wanting to ruin the chances of their fellow ever wearing it by showing him where it came from!

However, once Julian saw the little publication celebrating Paton’s new yarn “Ninepin” his mind was made up … he would like a twinset please.  hee! hee! hee! hee!

No he doesn’t.  Not really.  He just wants the cardie.  And when you separate it from it’s matching jumper and the really bad helmet hair, it’s a very nice cardie.

As for the rest of the patterns in this book – I’m rather keen on the mother / daughter sweater suit … don’t you think Abby and I would look so cute, stepping out to the market together in our matchy, matchy?  No?  Oh alright, I promise not to wear it at the same time Abby wears hers.  I’m perfectly serious – and thinking dark marle grey – one of those luscious Cascade 220 Heathers?  Imagine it with ribbed black stockings and red patent buckle ups!

And in a very strange way, I kind of like this green crocheted coat – apparently belts are back.  But rest assured, you shall never see me stepping out in this …

Oh. my.  Actually … maybe it’s just the hair?  Hmmmm …..

For now, I’ve cast on – Julian’s cardie is the first flat knit I’ve had on my needles in ages. And – I only had 3mm in plastic – oy!  It’s like knitting with partially cooked spaghetti. Never mind.  Once the ribbed band is done, I get to move up to a much more comfortable wooden 4mm.

edited several hours later to add:  actually, the plastic needles are fine – it’s amazing how few rows are needed before you are comfortable with what was initially ungainly!  And my plastic needles have wonderfully shaped points – nice.

Now – I wonder if I can have it knitted in time for his birthday – oh my god no!  That’s only three weeks away.  Perhaps our anniversary in April?  Yes that sounds good.

p.s. I thought the pattern for Julian’s cardie called for ninepin – which sounded delightfully sensible and middle class.  It doesn’t.  It demands “Fiona” – we won’t tell him.




the daring grandad

The day was grey, drizzly and cool.  Sensible folk were staying indoors.  But my dear old Grandad is not so sensible – especially according to some of the women in his life.  So, when I suggested a quick drive to Haycocks Point – the furtherest rocky outcrop to the south that we can see from Mum’s front porch – this gorgeous old thing was more than happy to ditch the laptop (after protesting for years that computers were not for him, he became besotted with the online newsletters of the Australian Lighthouse Association) and his funky headband, and hit the road for one last adventure before returning to his much more sedate everyday life back in Brisbane.

At this time some of the women in his life (perfectly lovely and best intentioned) were debating who bossed Grandad around the most.  I, naturally :-), declared that I did not need to be considered because I did not boss him around.  “Ha!” one of the aunties pooh-poohed, “Just because he’s always happy to do what you want, don’t think you aren’t included in the bossy list.”

Not so!  The only reason Grandad is always happy to do what I want, is that I always want to do what HE wants :-)  He’s taught me well.  So, shunning offers of jumpers and jackets and lunch, we hit the road.  With a stop-off at the fabulous Wild Rye Bakery in Pambula for supplies – freshly baked organic cinnamon doughnuts.  Yum!

:: yes!  it’s a wallaby!  we knew they must have been around
given all the scat we had to carefully step over

Now,  my only knowledge of Haycocks Point came from Mum who declared, following our epic 27 km bump along the rocky trail to Green Cape Lighthouse, that the road to Haycocks Point was trivial – short and paved – and that once you pulled up in the carpark, you did not even have to get out of the car to see the view.  Hmmmmmmmmm ….

In fact, the road was dirt and windy and when we finally reached the carpark, the signposts advised that the shortest track to ANY view (apart from the environmentally friendly toilet block) was 2 km round.  Keeping in mind I did not want to spoil Grandad’s last day – either by telling him what he should or shouldn’t do, or putting him at risk – I asked what he thought our best option was.  “Walk!”  he declared emphatically.  “That’s what we’re here for!”

So walk we did.  And it was magic.  Sitting here now, in my inner city, sun filled kitchen, remembering the stillness, the quiet, the misty coolness, the incredible beauty of both the landscape and being there with my Grandad, makes me pause, close my eyes and sigh.  It was such a fabulous afternoon.

Soon after setting off, we encountered a rather alarming set of stairs, dug into the side of the hill.  All I could think of was Grandad tripping and how I was ever going to explain the ensuing chaos to the aunties.  Grandad, however, assured me that as long as he took it carefully, slowly, with me on his left elbow, and him leading with his left foot, he’d be FINE.  Okay!

Two hours passed blissfully.  We slowly, slowly made our way up the stairs and along the track.  There was so much to see and learn … Haycocks Point was, until recently, privately owned grazing land.  Now it is part of the National Park and a revegetation programme is in place, hand in hand with a weed eradication programme.  Once you climb the small hill and head out along the narrow finger of land to the sea, there are few trees.  Instead, the landscape is thick with waist high shrubs – the perfect cover for the local furry folk – black rock wallabies and kangaroos.

Oh my, there we were meandering slowly through the grey drizzle, chattering all the way, when all of a sudden I looked left and there she was.  Standing still and silent less than a few metres away from us.  Grandad was utterly enchanted.  We watched her until she tired of us and hopped away.  Honestly, I have tears in my eyes now just thinking about it.  It was so beautiful – we were the only people there and it felt like we’d entered another world.  One that neither of us had ever had the privilege of visiting before.

We kept walking until we reached the sea.  It was one of those days where the gloomy, still, wetness of the sky seems to hold the ocean beneath just as still.  There were barely any waves and the water simply sat there below us, as pretty as ever, but almost motionless.  There at the edge, we found what looked just like the berries described back on the carpark information board as bush tucker that the local Aborigines enjoyed.  So we picked some – for Julian to try later :-) – and tucked into our doughnuts instead :-)

Once we’d filled out hearts and eyes with the view, we headed back, meeting another wallaby and a pair of feisty kangaroos on the way.  It was almost like a Where’s Wally – if we just peered closely enough, we realised that the bush on either side of us was actually wriggling with animals.  And so our steps and voices were gentle and low, as we relished every moment of sharing this almost eerie place with such beautiful creatures.

Upon our return to the carpark, there were five young men trekking back from the beach with their rods and buckets.  Grandad instantly puttered over to them – he so loves meeting new folk – wanting to know how their fishing had gone, what they’d caught, where they were from etc.  After several hours, they’d caught just one whiting, but assured Grandad that the fun was in being there together.  He chuckled heartily, agreeing with everything they said. We hopped into our car and as we pulled away, the five young men stood there, rods at their sides, waving goodbye to Grandad.  It was divine and such a perfect affirmation that our world is full of lovely people.

Once home, Grandad and I peeled fresh, sweet prawns which we ate with buttered sourdough, and gave the bush berries to Julian.  Our lunch was delicious.  Julian’s was disgusting.  He couldn’t even manage one berry – had to spit it into the sink and rinse his mouth out copiously.  Maybe we picked the wrong berries.

To quote my Auntie Wig, it was the beautifullest day (that was her favourite adjective – beautifullest) and I’m so incredibly glad we ignored the drizzle, the grey, the cool, and the worriers.  See, I concur with Grandad.  Life is there to be lived – especially when you’ve made it to 87 – and if the inevitable arrives a wee bit sooner, just because we took an adventurous walk in the rain, then at least we had a marvellous time doing it.