~ a tool used to wind yarn (painting by Simm Stickerin)


~ it’s many arms, simple yet beautiful


~ may I wind?


~ so whispery fleet


~ so marvellously graceful


~ so very satisfying


~ all the way from Sweden, such delight it filled my eyes with tears of delight

from the book friday :: mindful movements


An almost hot cup of milky tea – with honey for Abby – draws us out of our sleepy heads and into the wakening day.  We potter, make breakfast together, and eat it at the table with candles lit as a reminder of the light and joy that is waiting for us as we travel through our day.  Often we share a poem over our breakfast – some weeks we set to memorising one.  This morning, with the sun rising earlier, and earlier, we made our tea, rugged up in our tracksuits and with the morning air cold and crisp on our cheeks, headed into the back garden to start our day with something different.


“Mindful Movements :: Ten exercises for Well-being “ by the wonderful Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh.  Just the introduction offers much inspiration.  There’s a brief biography of Thich Nhat Hanh and he describes mindfulness, the pleasure it can bring us as individuals, and the power and importance of it for our communities.  There are seven miracles of mindfulness ::

1.  Being present and mindful of the miracle that is our world - looking up to see the beauty of the sun as it slips through the branches of our glorious trees, noticing that the avocado tree is already clustered with buds, awaiting the flowers of spring and the fruits of summer, watching our frosty breaths leave our warm bodies, listening to the ever-cheerful doggles as they snuffle through the leaves and flowers of the garden.

2.  To make these miracles of our world present – only then can we truly feel appreciation and respect.

3.  To provide the object of our attention – whether it is our chatting child, our daily chores, a young mother at the park who shares the stories of her day with her babes, or cooking our family meal – with our full awareness and appropriate attention (I think the sense of appropriate here relates to the Buddhist teachings regarding disturbing emotions – granting people and objects inappropriate attention, i.e. I must have this dress so that  I will be happy when I attend my school reunion, or if my husband does not do this task to my specifications, I will be deeply let down).  Being mindful of the object of our attention allows us to both appreciate the people and activities of our day, and be aware of that which will disturb us and does not need our attention, thus making us more peaceful and happy people which is good for us and for those with whom we share our lives.

4.  To relieve the suffering of others.  What a gift this miracle – to have the capacity for compassion, kindness, generosity, and love.  Every sentient being is deserving of us treating them with these gifts.

5.  Looking deeply into the nature of self and others.  I think the second half of this miracle must be something that only comes after many years of mindful practice and awareness of self.  :-)

6. Understanding.  When we are mindful of the present moment, we receive clarity which in turn helps us to relieve suffering and share our love and happiness.  I find this to be so true when parenting.  Sometimes, Abby will share something that she has found difficult or upsetting and it is important to listen carefully to her feelings and thoughts because when I can understand where she is coming from, I am able to be a much better listener and then provide the parenting and support which SHE needs.

7.  The miracle of transformation.  When we practice mindfulness, we are changing ourselves and thus contributing to positive change in our community.  I believe this to be true.  Every time we extend kindness and love to others we are enriching their day in a simple and small way – and this leads to them creating more moments of kindness and love.  It’s part of the circle.


So how does all of this translate into ten mindful movements.  Thich Nhat Hanh devised these simple exercises as a means of stretching between long periods of meditation.  For us – they are means of mindful meditation.  They are simple – yet there is an element of challenge in some – balancing on your toes whilst squatting, and circling your legs whilst slowly breathing in and out, my balance is a bit wonky but I am looking forward to using my mind to focus more and more on achieving these :-).  And when you finish you have spent almost half an hour, concentrating on your breath, feeling and appreciating your body and its movements, and noticing the world that is around you.  It is a very refreshing, energising and joyful way to start the day with your child.

The book includes a dvd of Thich Nhat Hanh and students performing the ten mindful movements (we are yet to watch this) and is cheerfully and thoughtfully illustrated by the Dutch artist Wietske Vriesen.  There are people from all corners of the world happily performing these exercises – black women, asian mothers with their children, muslim girls in their headscarves, silver-haired women with their cats, funkily-dressed teenagers, middle-aged men in their ties – it reinforces that teaching that we are all part of the same community, we have the same desires and needs, and thus, we are all deserving of the same love and kindness.

Mmh.  It’s a good book.  Especially for sharing with our children – a gentle introduction to the meditative and breathing practices of Buddhism, and an inspiring account of a very brave and dedicated man.


a riddle for you

What do you get when you cross a half finished poncho with a muma who cannot knit fast enough?

That’s what I was wondering as I cast off the front of Abby’s striped poncho – at a stage where it was taking 20 minutes per row there were SOOOOO many stitches.

Hmmm … I bundled the poncho into my take-along, added all three colours so I could continue working on the fringe, Old Maid, a handful of GemNuts (my own cookie invention from this morning – peanut butter and cranberry), a homemade chocolate milk, the sit-upons and the cello.  It’s always a challenge to walk down the front stairs on a Tuesday afternoon, as opposed to falling down them, when I heft all this along.


‘Cause Tuesday afternoon is Cello Picnic.  Abby’s lesson is at school at 4pm so there’s no reason to go home.  Especially when down the bottom of the hill upon which the school is built is the Brisbane River and a beautiful park of huge trees and green green grass.


We dance down the steep path each week – and stagger back up! – and have a little picnic, read a book together, play a game, or just sit and watch.  There’s often a dog – of the Inspector Rex variety – that comes with his owner to play catch in this little grove.  And lots of students traipsing across the green bridge to the University.


Today we had Old Maid – a gorgeously old fashioned edition, complete with story book and the funniest, pompous introduction to the game.  We put on our best Admiral Bluster voices, stiff upper lip and all,  and read it out loud.


“Do not be hoodwinked!  Do not be deceived!  It would appear that this devilish, dastardly spy is heavily disguised.  This card sharp, this vagabond, this slippery fellow, may well appear as an Old Maid, a sweet old lady with an innocent smile.”

As we read on, I was alarmed to discover – I was the Old Maid.  Truly!


“She may well try and sew a sack to encircle you like a web, or pin you to the wall with one of her poisonous needles!”

Mmmmhmmm.  There I was, in my requisite shawl, needles poking out of my bag, and no husband to be seen. Oy!  Of course, you cannot really play Old Maid with just two players – if you try, it’s all over rover in one turn – so we had a jolly game of snap.  Which is quite tricky with these cards because they are so very finely detailed.  Good fun!


Then I remembered I had the half finished poncho – I pulled it out and asked Abby what she thought a half finished poncho was – waiting for her to smile politely and respond, “A shawl like you and Nanny wear.”  But she didn’t – she held it up with delight, draped it across her shoulders and pronounced it …

“A cape!”


Good show! Now hop to it Old Maid with those needles.  Sharp’s the word and quick’s the action!


p.s.  by the by, I finished the Nimbus cardigan on the weekend – I’m in the process of stitching it together – painstakingly.

patched jeans at flickr

Hey!  If you make some patched jeans, take some yummy photos and post them on my new Flickr group – Patched Jeans.  I would love to see them.  It’s so much fun to peer at someone else’s patchwork and marvel at their wonderful colour combinations and the fabrics that you recognise and love.  You know “Oh-er!  I’ve used that one in my Alice quilt!”  Makes it seem so real and cosy.


So here’s the group – Patched Jeans. Join up!

i just had to show you …

’cause she’s real pretty, and the photos are real pretty and I’m too pleased with her to leave her till tomorrow …


You see, it was Monday.  Weekend over.  Chores done.  Child at school.  Husband in Dubai.  So quiet.  Flannel skirt and knee high spotted socks day.


And, I confess, too pre-occupied to even tidy the table.  If I had, I wouldn’t have spent 40 minutes looking inside for my ever-shrinking ball of crochet cotton.  It was under the take along bag.  Which didn’t need to be on the table.  But I was too pre-occupied to move it.


‘Cause I had this gorgeous applique on my lap, and I wasn’t moving.


Three o-clock, however, brought me my daily lesson in letting go.  Goodbye Hedda, I’m off to collect Abby, share afternoon tea, provide encouraging comments whilst SHE cleans the guinea pig house, and then go for a wonderful bike ride and swing at the park with my girl.  I love my girl, I love her 11th year, and I love the conversation and laughs we have when we’re together.

This afternoon – I was perched on the steps of the slippery dip tower, knitting her poncho, whilst she was swinging up to the sky in front of me.

“I love sitting here watching you swing whilst I knit,”  I said to her as she sailed towards me.

“I love swinging whilst watching you knit,”  she sang, as she flew by yet again, a huge smile on her face.

Makes your heart swell.

patched jeans tutorial

Okay – here it is!  I told you I would :-)  And I have!  Yay! The following tutorial is from when I stitched Abby’s jeans on Sunday morning – they take about 3 hours.  You think they will be quicker ’cause it’s only a few pieces of patchwork fabric, but there’s a bit of fiddling and pinning so set aside a few hours.


1 :: Choose your jeans and trim them to the desired length – I made these sit 1 inch above Abby’s ankle.  Before you trim, make sure you leave 1/2 inch on the jeans for the seam allowance.


2 :: Measure the width of the bottom edge of the jeans, then measure 8 inches up the leg of the jeans, and measure the width here.  Note  both these measurements.  At this point, I cannot stress how important it is to note all your measurements and stitck to them – otherwise, your bands won’t end up the same size and then they’ll look funny.  They will.  Trust me – and the 45 minutes of unpicking I had to do to make the bands the same size!

(btw – in the picture it says the band is 6 inches deep – I changed this to 8 as indicated later in the tutorial – and I dropped the second top border from Abby’s – what am I saying here – ignore the numbers in the picture – it’s just to make you grab a pen and notebook!)


3 :: Choose some key fabrics – or have your little person choose their favourite bits.  These were some of the half yards I bought on Friday when we visited Funky Fabrix.  Abby loves all of them – I thought the green with the kokeshi dolls would be her favourite – or the pink pigs – but she loved the nursery one best – reminds me of the new baby cards my mum and dad received when I was born – same style of illustration.  The rest of the fabric for the bands will just be scraps.  Make them as varied as possible and try not to use the same one more than once.


4 :: From the fabrics you have gathered, choose four pieces for the border – I like strong fabrics for the border – they add a good frame.


5 :: Now cut your borders.  Cut the bottom border 2 1/4 inches wide (this includes a 1/2 inch seam allowance).  Cut the upper border 2 inches wide (this includes a 1/4 inch seam allowance) .  Cut them both 1 inch longer than the width of the bottom edge of your jeans.  The bottom edge of Abby’s jeans measured 18 inches, so I cut the bottom border 2 1/4 inches by 19 inches, and the upper border 2 inches by 19 inches.


6 :: Next is the fun bit.  From the scrap fabrics you have gathered, chop them into random sizes and place them in a pleasing pattern.  I made them into units.  So in this picture you can see I started on the left with the purple floral and aqua polka dot – each unit has to be at least 5 1/2 inches long (to fit in between the two borders) and whatever width you like.  Don’t worry if your units are longer than 5 1/2 inches because we can trim them to size later (this eliminates the need for tricksy arithmetic – well, you know, I can be challenged by this – maybe you’re not :-).

Then I made a unit from the white floral, red floral, and yellow pattern.  Next I added a nice big square of the special piggies.  Then a narrow strip of blue.  Then I made a unit of of the yellow bird and orange geometric with the red floral and aqua ladybugs.  Then a strip of pink cowgirls and finally the red and pink apples.  Make it as scrappy as you can.  I don’t measure the exact width of the patchwork but just make it between 1 1/2 and 2 inches wider than the borders.  Again, this is so you don’t have to add up as you go along ;-)


7 :: Piece together your units, and then stitch the units together to form a long band, making sure you keep either the top or the bottom straight (if some of your units are longer than 5 1/2 inches).  Press your units as you go.


8 :: Trim your pieced band so that it is precisely 5 1/2 inches wide.


9 :: Time to add your borders.  Pin and stitch them.  It is important to pin – if you don’t, you run the risk of pulling the border as you go – or letting it get held on to tight by the feed dogs and they’ll wind up wonky.  If you are using directional fabric, make sure you keep it the right way up!  I needed to keep my piggies and ring-a-ring-a-rosy children standing up.


10 :: When you are ironing your borders over, here’s how I do it.  I lay the band right side up; leave the right side border folded over and then carefully press the left border open, making sure I keep it straight and the seamed edge sharp.


11 :: Then I turn the band around and carefully press the left border open, making sure I keep it straight and the seamed edge sharp.  By doing it this way, I don’t bump one side clumsily while trying to iron the other side.


12 :: Now, fold your finished band in half length-wise.  Then measure along the bottom edge of the band till it’s half the finished width of the bottom band.  The bottom edge width of Abby’s jeans was 18 inches, so I measured along the folded-in-half-band 9 inches and placed a mark.  The upper edge width of Abby’s jeans was 16 inches, so I measured along the folded-in-half-band 8 inches and placed a mark.


13 :: Draw a line between the two marks – this will be your stitching line.  Stitch along it and then press the the seam open.


14 :: Give the upper edge of the band a squirt with some water and then fold it over quarter of an inch and press.  Squirting it first ensures it will stay in place while you’re wiggling the band onto the jeans and stitching the bottom edge.


15 :: Turn your jeans inside out.  Leave the patchwork band inside out.  Then slide the patchwork band up the leg of the jeans, with the upper edge at the top, and the bottom edge of the band at the bottom edge of the jeans.  The right side of the patchwork band will be against the wrong side of the jeans.  Strange but true.


16 :: Pin (this is important, because most likely your jeans will have some stretch in them and it is important that the band and the jeans line up) and stitch with the jeans at the bottom so they are held firmly by the feed dogs (again, to avoid stretching).  Oops – you need to stitch a 1/2 inch seam – remember – you added that much to your jeans at the beginning and to your bottom band.


17 :: Turn the jeans right side and pull down the patched border.  Doesn’t it look funny!  But not for long … now you are going to fold the patchwork border back so that it covers the lower 8 inches of the jeans!  And you’ve already pressed over your 1/4 inch seam allowance on the upper border.


18 :: Iron the band up, making that bottom edge nice and sharp.  You want all the (in this instance) pink on the outside, and all the denim on the inside.  Give it a really good bash with the iron.  Give the top a good bash too.  This is one of those stages in sewing when a good bash with the iron will give you a lovely polished finish.


19 :: Top stitch the bottom edge of the bottom border – I like a shy 1/4 inch.  Then top stitch the upper edge of the bottom border – again, a shy 1/4 inch.  Then pin the upper edge in place – keeping the patchwork band smooth, smooth, smooth. Top stitch the bottom edge of the upper border.  Then top stitch the upper edge of the upper border.

A-ha!  You have one leg finished.  Now do it all again for the second leg.  Cool huh!  They will look gorgeous – each place Abby has worn them in the last two days, people have asked where I bought her jeans!


Even the doggles like them … :-)

p.s. if something is unclear, please do email me and I will do my best to help out!

places in the sun

We were blessed with another gorgeous winter’s day here in Brisbane today.  The sun shone.  The picnic was packed.  One of Brisbane’s most beautiful, seaside adventure playgrounds beckoned.  And it was the day before the curbside hard rubbish collection in Boondall (a suburb very close to the park!).  What more could two thrifty mums with a taste for “another man’s trash” want!


We bribed the children (Abby with a pair of patched jeans to wear!) and hit the streets.  Permanently on the list are bicycles – anything in decent condition as long as it is pre-1980s – especially women’s bikes and old, sturdy children’s.  Julian restores and sells them, or gives them away.  He has endless patience and will spend hours thoroughly cleaning and polishing a hub, and threading and trewing new spokes on a wheel – he uses as much of the original bicycle as possible so as to keep it cost effective and environmentally sound.  That’s Julian covered.  Carolann and I aren’t as fussy – anything that is sturdy and takes our fancy.


Mind you, pickings are usually slim.  The most popular items to be found on the curbside are EXERCISE bikes, computer monitors, big clumsy old televisions, plastic garden chairs, and dead mattresses (very reminiscent of that scene in Sunshine Cleaning!).  Last week, I rescued a vintage wooden laundry trolley (it’s been popping up in my photos this week) and a very retro lampshade – think orangey-yellow net with brown and orange braid – there’s definitely potential.


Today – we rescued two fabulous bikes – a 1980s women’s, and a 1970s child’s (complete with luggage rack and rearview mirrors!).  But we don’t usually have to put these on the roof racks ourselves – that’s Julian’s job.  However, he is in Dubai so it was left to Carolann and I – neither of whom had EVER done it.  Oh my goodness.  I clearly need to practice some pelvic floor exercises … I was laughing so hard …


We had no idea how to work the clippy bit in the middle – but we don’t call Carolann clever clogs for nothing.  We put both bikes on back to front, jammed the stand into the pedal of the woman’s bike, forgot to raise the right bits and got the clip stuck on the pedal of the child’s bike, and they were so DIRTY!  Our hands were black!


Not as dirty as the 6 foot wooden ladder.  The children had to squish over to one side so as we could put a third of the back seat down (they were still perfectly safe and had proper seat belts) and slide the ladder in.  We were hoping for 2 ladders but the second one was even longer.  And that was it.  Everything else was veneer or mdf – yuck!  Except for a wonderful 1950s divan – I could just imagine Gidget laying on it, out on the porch, looking out to sea.  But we had no hope of fitting it in so sadly, unless someone else comes by with a truck, it will be munched by the council rubbish truck tomorrow morning.


It was time to pay up to the kiddles.  Off to the park. Hot chip sandwiches, home-made cookies, ginger beer and watermelon.  Perfect.  Then down to the playground where the kids played for three hours whilst we sat, looking out to sea, knitting, reading and chatting … and freezing.


It truly is a beautiful park – it has a series of little wooden houses that are all linked by bridges, and ropes and planks and chains, with slippery slides, musical instruments and rock climbing walls.  And each hut has a tree trunk in the middle which forms a little chimney on top, and the trunk is magnificently carved with the native animals of the area.  Some of them are unbelievably realistic.  I adore it.



Blimey was it cold – the wind was whistling in off the water and our bench was under a huge tree.  ooooooh!  After I could no longer knit due to stiff fingers, we headed back up to the cafe and warmed up over the biggest cups of hot chocolate you’ve ever seen – with marshmallows of course.  Then, time for home.


We are so truly fortunate to have so loveliness.

loving this week


:: the reminder that no matter where you go, there are always kindred spirits to be found  (this quilt belongs to a sweet family I met at the park – stitched by their great grandmother in the 1950s in Sasketchewan and now gracing the beachside park at Shorncliff, Australia – amazing and so beautiful)


:: being here to warm Nanny’s old, tired bones (yep, shawl number 3 is on the needles – how can I say no to her!)


:: turning my back on the chores and sewing machine and enjoying a slow afternoon in the sun with my mum


:: savouring strawberry gelato with Abby – even when the late afternoon wind is whistingly in across the water.


:: watching Abby swing, swing again, and then swing some more – most heart-warming, the look of sheer delight on her face, every time she whooshes towards me.


:: taking the time to move out of doors, into the green of the park, the crisp freshness of the breeze off the ocean, the comforting warmth of the sun … with my knitting, my love and my girl of course.


:: being able to recognise the moment, let go of the blue spotted bias binding, and turn my attention to hot cups of tea and Friday night unwinding and snuggles on the sofa with Abby … being able to realise that not everything will done when I want it to be and that’s not only okay, but there is pleasure to be had in looking forward to taking it up again tomorrow.

I am grateful for this very fine week.

the quilty cowgirls

I’ve had this fabric for AGES.  Been promising it to Abigail for AGES.  Done nothing with it for AGES.  Oy, I’m slack.

This is something I really am working on at the moment.  My head runneth over with ideas for all things stitchy and, as one who struggles keeping anything to herself, I’m always talking about doing this and doing that.  Then what was a great idea is swamped by the next round and things don’t eventuate.

I need to focus on what’s in front of me – enjoy the process of creation, let it come together at it’s own pace and stay in that moment.  Maybe I need a journal – Sue Spargo recommended that – somewhere to draw and note and explore.  Somewhere to order my thoughts and slow them down.  Hmmm … well, back to today’s sweet project.


This is the beginning of Abby’s quilty cowgirls … a quilted pillowcase.


with linen band … the colours in this project are really pretty – all soft and gentle and … pretty. I especially like the cocoa-y brown with the pink.


embroidered name … I love “writing” with my needle – and I love embroidering using the crochet cotton I found in Mum’s sewing cupboard.  My ball is getting smaller and smaller … I’ll have to find some more.


and dandelions …. I’m very inspired by Beth Krommes’ beautiful snowflakes in Grandmother Winter.  Wonderful opportunities for Christmas decorations.


and gorgeous cowgirls.


Aren’t they something!  Makes me want to watch Cat Ballou – I haven’t seen that in years.  I remember loving it as an older child – around Abby’s age.  Oh I laughed so hard it made me wheezy.  And I thought it was so romantic.  When we’re finished stitching cowgirls, perhaps Abby and I will curl up on the sofa with them, and we’ll watch Cat Ballou together.  Of course, she mightn’t laugh – she seems more sophisticated than I was as a child :-)

sitting in the sun jeans

Brisbane doesn’t really do winter.  We have cool mornings (14 – 16 degrees), cool nights (usually below 10) but by the middle of the day, it’s not uncommon for the thermometer to hit 23 – 24, but usually it’s around 20!  Nor does Brisbane do autumn and it doesn’t do much spring either.  Our autumn and spring kind of happen during each winter day. (Of course, at this moment you may be asking, well what’s with all the knitting!  Just call me permanently romantic/hopeful)


Since being sick, I’ve been doing a lot of sitting around in the winter sun – and it’s been very pleasant indeed.  So pleasant, it got me thinking about comfy clothes for sitting in the sun.  Enough coverage to cope with cool mornings and cool evenings (throw on a shawl or cardie) but a wee bit of “bare” so as to not steam in the midday sun.


And so we have “sitting in the sun jeans”.  Also perfect for wearing for beach picnics – easy to fold up and paddle.  Ideal for muddy strolls out to little King Island – easy to fold up and trudge.  And cheerful for school deliveries, shopping, stitching with friends, chores – I guess they could even add an element of delight to vacuuming.  Nah!  That’s too optimstic.


Like so many of our quilts, these sitting in the sun jeans will speak to me of all the things I’ve made – I just have to look down and I can see quilts, receiving blankets, pillowcases, pyjamas, bunting, birthday bags, curtain trims … this makes me happy.

Let me know if you would like to make some sitting in the sun jeans and I will do a little tutorial (I promise – remember, I’m recovering from my procrastination habit).  They are super easy and not too time consuming.  I made mine this morning before I visited Carolann for lunch.  Yes, I know, I was late.  But that was because it was a learning project.  I’m all learnt now and so can pass this onto any sitting in the sun hopefuls :-)

cast on – bind off

I’ve been eyeing this off for a while – I mean truly, how could anyone resist such a wonderfully huge hank of wool!  So I brought some home.  And put it to good use – Berroco’s Nimbus .


So, this morning, after Mum and Abby left for school, and the dishes were done, the beds made, … but I have to confess, I didn’t make it to the shower – I decided to just knit up the garter stitch band …


and that was such fun, I decided to do some of the stockinette body … and that was so fun, I decided to knit up to the armhole …


and then, I love decreasing, so I thought I would do just the decreasing rows … and once that was done, well – there were only 40 stitches left so it only took an hour to knit 8 inches up to the shoulder shaping …


… time to bind off!  And admire the pretty canisters that arrived in the mail today – aren’t they sweet!  They’re aluminium and the little knobs on top are bakelite.


I was going to use them to store stitching notions, but they’re too lovely to hide in the sewing cupboard, so into the kitchen they go.