block-a-day http://blockaday.com stitch-cook-grow-love Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:29:12 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.1 hoppity-hoppity http://blockaday.com/hoppity-hoppity/ http://blockaday.com/hoppity-hoppity/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 15:29:12 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=13099 Well!  You’ll need to settle down with a lovely cup of something to read this one!  The lovely and creative Rebecca of Needle and Spindle asked me to participate in this little bloggity hop, where we get to ramble on about the whole creative process as it fits into our lives.  It’s taken me hours to collect all these thoughts and put them down in some kind of order, but I do hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did thinking about it, and perhaps it will add a little light to the creative chaos that is so often on display here at block-a-day :-) And once you’ve ploughed your way through this, you can follow the links back to read how other lovely, like minded folk approach their craft.  It makes for inspiring reading.

What am I working on?

I always have so many different projects on the go.  I adore planning a new project, and starting it provides a thrill that literally makes me smile and jig about and even squeal a little.  But finishing – well, I can honestly say, it just doesn’t give me the same zing. Bizarre but true.  I am definitely more seduced by the crafty doing than the crafty finish. Is this a good thing or not?  At the moment I think it’s a good thing.  Starting new projects is my way of recording all the ideas that swirl around my head.  And you know, giving these started projects lots of time to marinate – moving them in and out of the doing zone – gives me a chance to refine them, improve them, adapt them to new purposes.  All good things.

purple knitting

So – what am I working on?  On the knitting front, I am currently knitting my Mum a grey and red stripey jumper (that has to be finished in time for her to take to Canada at the beginning of December), my Abby a vivid purple Lopi jumper that it is now too hot to wear (ah, there’s always next year), my Julian an argyle vest (truth be told, those needles haven’t been touched for months!), and a cinnamon coloured cardigan for myself that has a fair isle band around the chest and upper sleeves.

Patchwork – definitely the black, mustard and turquoise triangles.  Started as a simple star that has just kept on growing and growing and growing.  It really is quite addictive.  And everytime I think, that’s it! no more rounds! I find another piece of lovely fabric and quickly start cutting.  And my Spring House version of the Winter House.  And my fox faces.

mustard and black winter house

fox faces

Embroidery – Working on my Norwegian Queen.  I got heaps and heaps done last week in Merimbula and am really pleased with her progress.  I’m keen to finish this one, because then I want to make a Norwegian King!  I’ve also dragged out my Hawk Run Hollow Village cross stitch – quite the epic project.

cross stitch cross stitch box

Applique – oh the fox chair!  I am completely in love with the fox chair.  It’s been slow going but very very satisfying.

fox face

Upholstery – Putting hessian, lace and cross stitch together to recover an old English Oak card chair I found by the side of the road.

appliqued chair

Crafty – I’ve recently bought Salley Mavor’s book “Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects” and oh, it is truly enchanting :-)  I’ve just made a wee doll of Lucifer – he’s part of a Michaelmas mobile – he’s been pushed out of heaven and is suspended amongst the starts and blackberry leaves and berries.  I foresee many many more of these little folk.  They are such fun to make.

felt doll

Sewing – tshirts and skirts for summer.  My first two tshirts- great successes – shrank when I washed them.  So they’ve been handed down to Mum’s lovely neighbour and I’m now a devoted preshrinker.

skirt and tshirt

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think the thing that really defines my work is my lack of concern for perfection or the “right” way of doing things.  Soon after I became really interested in making in my mid 20s, I became obsessed with things being perfect.  Lines had to be dead straight.  Corners had to be precise.  Errors were intolerable.  Evidence that it had been MADE rather than conjured up out of the air meant I had failed.  And I didn’t think anything I made could stand up to being touched or used by anyone. It was horrible.  Stressful for everyone – I remember a friend taking me for a walk through the university garden one lunch time to show me that there were no straight lines in nature.  And my husband declared that if something I made couldn’t be USED than it simply wasn’t of any use.  After a few years of this my making ground to a halt because I knew I could not make things perfectly.  I decided that the only craft I was any good at was cross stitch – making those little crosses neatly on strictly gridded fabric met my need for order and the perfect finish.  I literally gave all my wool and knitting needles to my Nanny and declared that I would have to save my few finished quilt tops up until I could afford to pay an expert to quilt them. It was all rather crushing.

Then, after finding the bloggy world of making and being so utterly inspired by so many incredibly talented people, I began making again.  I also began blogging  and strangely enough, that encouraged me to just keep going.  There was always a new blog post to be written ;-) I began playing with many different techniques and genres and it was so fun that I slowly let go of that perfection.  I wanted to be a maker – a sewer, a knitter, a crocheter, a doll maker, a patchworker, a quilter, an appliquer … I really worked at teaching myself that the beauty of making was in the making.  I didn’t want to be a passive observer, I wanted to actively create.

quilting

So my seams are not perfectly straight and my points are sometimes missing. I cheerfully re-chop things if they don’t fit, and if I realise I’ve missed something on the pattern I can usually rejig it so it works. My quilting is higgledy-piggledy and I never bother with batting and backing (vintage blankets all the way).  I don’t care what patchwork fabrics are the latest or what colour background the cool quilters are using.  I cheerfully make my clothes out of old tablecloths and curtains.  My quilts are made from fabrics gathered here, there and everywhere.  My knitting is almost always dictated by what my local yarn store has dug up for the bargain basement this week.  My furniture is gathered from the side of the road and brought back to life with elbow grease and Danish oil.

blanket quilting

I just keep swimming the Lily way and when I’m finished, what I’ve loved making is free to be used and worn and dragged and squashed and crumpled up and that’s all good.  If the candlewax drips onto the appliqued table cloth that’s fine.  If the armhole stitches are wonky – so what, the jumper is still eminently wearable and cosy.  If the little visitor dirties the felt doll, oh well, it looks loved.  I don’t even blink when Mum’s old dog pees on my quilt or our dog wipes her chicken wing juicy chin on my crochet floor rug.

cushion in the sand

That’s not to say my work is clumsy or I am careless.  But I think handmade needs to flow in a way that fits in with everything else that is going on.  It’s not a precious art form that I set aside a few hours for each day/week or a finished item that needs to be guarded.  My work is simply part of our lives, often created amongst the dishes we’ve just eaten from on the kitchen table, and as such, never needs to be perfect or cosseted.  Just lovely. And useful is good too.

Why do I write and create the way I do?

You might have noticed,  I have no problem with writing on and on and on (I have never been able to write to a word limit – such a constant problem with my academic work :-) and whilst my punctuation is sometimes erratic, my style is rather formal. But, this being my blog, I can write however I like.  And I think it probably reflects both the constant chatter in my head, and my love of richly detailed, more old fashioned literature (oh Charles Dickens – you can take as many pages as you like to describe a house!) Honestly, I do talk to myself most of the time.  I think it comes from spending a lot of time at home alone – first as a stay at home mum, and now living in Melbourne where I have no family or friends to visit.  Instead, I potter about, doing the chores, looking after Abby and Julian, writing essays, or making – a constant stream of quiet chatter keeping me company. Describing what I see around me, what I could do next, how I could proceed with a project, what tack I’ll take on a paper, what I’ll talk about with Abby when I collect her from school, what I’ll write about on the blog, what’s infuriating me in the news, what my worries are for the future …  And so my writing reflects this same tumbling chatter.  If you were sitting here beside me, I would sound exactly the same in person as I do in writing :-)

Why do I create the way I do – hmmm … I like to do things the old fashioned way.  I don’t like our society’s emphasis on new and modern, fashionable and sophisticated, fleeting and disposable.  My grandmothers and mum taught me the basics of all my making.  Nanny Cottam taught me to knit when I was 8, crochet in my teens, and her love of patchwork inspired me when I was in my early 20s.  We went to classes together and have spent countless days side by side at her place, running up clothes, curtains, sofa covers, patchwork etc. on the machine, looking through magazines and books together, plotting our next projects and purchases … my dear old Nanny Cottam is without doubt the most important creative force in my life.  Her admonition when the going gets tricky “Now, let’s just sit down and we’ll have a quiet look at it” will guide my creativity for the rest of my days.

Nanny Dougall – who sadly died when I was just 11 – is another huge influence in my life.  She was the queen of making do, making from scratch, using what she had, and appreciating beauty.  She taught me to handsew when I was little – we made a wee doll’s quilt from little squares from her stash.  She started me on my embroidery career – first with making wonky white crosses on blue gingham, then moving on to a Holly Hobbie embroidery kit.  And whilst we cared for her during her last weeks, she taught me to make pompoms – I was so amazed with their cleverness.  My little sister and I were devastated to wake up one morning and find that she’d died overnight – she was going to teach us to crochet that day.  But whilst I never had the chance to spend the time with her that I have with Nanny Cottam, it is what she left me that helps shape my creativity.  I have her crochet books, her carefully embroidered doilies, the beautifully crocheted and knitted jumpers and cardigans she made us, the fabric scraps she gathered, the spools of crochet yarn she inherited from her mother, pieces of pretty china, her piano stool, her tin chest.  She appreciated what she had, she carefully gathered what was important to her, and she celebrated beauty.

And then there’s my Mum.  She’s an exceptional seamstress.  She sewed all our clothes when we were little and most of them when we were older.  She sewed my school uniforms, my ball gowns, my  pregnancy clothes, Abby’s bunny rugs … There has always been a sewing machine set up in the centre of the home, ready to go.  Everything we’ve ever seen and liked is matched to the refrain “We could make that”.  Mum gave me the invaluable belief that we could make whatever we needed or wanted, and we could make it beautifully.  She also let me make stupid things really badly.  When I insisted that WAS what the Vogue pattern said to do, she just shrugged her shoulders and said “alright” and I wore the jumpsuit with the lining sewed in with  the seams visible and fraying.  That was awesome parenting Mum!

So yep.  I’m wordy, old fashioned, hopelessly sentimental, determined to do it for myself, and yearn for the days of old when people DID things instead of simply shopped for things.

How does my creative process work?

Hmmm … I think my work is very much shaped by my confidence with that particular genre.  When knitting, I tend to stick very carefully to what the pattern says because at this stage in my knitting “career”, I don’t have a good understanding of how knitting patterns are created.  All those shapes and increases and decreases are all a bit of a mystery to me.  I mean, I know how to do them, but I don’t know how to put them together myself.  Thus I am very happy to bow down to the creativity and skill of those that know so much more.  However, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the magic of knitting – how did people come to think of winding yarn around sticks and pulling it in and out in different ways to create all kinds of wonderful stitches and build beautiful, warm, hardy fabric.  I love that.  It makes me feel incredibly connected to something that has intrigued, delighted and protected people for thousands of years.

sewing feet

In most of my other work, my increasing confidence with how things are put together has led me away from the patterns of others.  I like to draft my own patterns and most of my projects are inspired by what I see about me, what my family likes or is doing, and especially thinking up ways to add extra handmade decoration to our home and the festivals we celebrate.  I adore decoration – I remember seeing the film “Carrington” when I was at university in the late 1980s, watching Dora Carrington and her friends embellish everything around them, and thinking yes!  That’s exactly what I want my world/home to be like.  Colourful, rich, detailed, so very connected to the past, unique to me and my family (I have a loathing of the homeware catalogue look) and most importantly handmade.  I want my work to please me and be lovely and useful for my family but I also want it to show the world what it is we love and value.

craft table

The grill door on an Art Deco block of flats in Fitzroy becomes a simple quilt. The photo of a fox in a English rural magazine marries the lovely rounded shape of a hard rubbish chair and becomes a piece of embroidered and appliqued upholstery.  The lovely artwork of my Nanny’s Figgjo china collection inspires me to recreate it as embroidery.  I see a pretty piece of fabric in the shop and wonder what it could be, what it could go with – it can be as simple as wrapping hebel bricks to make a bookshelf or trim a skirt.  A book of antique samplers inspires the start of a huge and complex quilt with hundreds of tiny pieces and seams.  A collection of coloured china on the draining rack makes me want to sew a quilt or knit a stripey jumper capturing just that light and colour.  It comes from everywhere, my creativity

dresser

Most of all, it’s very spontaneous and cheerfully repurposes what was bought for another project because at that moment, it’s the perfectly right thing to do.

Wow!  We made it to the end!  Now.  I am supposed to be linking you to another maker however, with the end of the school term, a quick holiday in Merimbula, and Julian’s departure on a month long work trip to addle my brain, I’ve not lined anyone up.  I’m so sorry.  However, I am sending out some emails right now so I will let you know where to visit next as soon as I can :-)

While you wait – go make something – it’s just so good.

skirt trim.

 

 

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all over the place http://blockaday.com/all-over-the-place/ http://blockaday.com/all-over-the-place/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 12:08:48 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=13088  

I’m very unsettled at the moment.  You may have noticed.

Each day, I bounce from room to room, from project to project.  I hit upon something that takes my fancy for several hours – throw myself into it – it’s delightful – I’m delighted – I’m going to do marvellous things with it.  Then, the next morning, I’m back to bouncing.

Feverishly filling in a giant crossword book I found.  Spending waaaaaaay to long playing mahjong on the computer.

The one upside to this state, is that slowly, bit by bit, each room is getting a good shaking out and organising.  This only seems to happen by creating an unholy mess first.  And sometimes, the crosswords overtake me and the mess lurks about for a few days.

little boy teatowles

The reason for this chaos.  I am at a completely loose end.  You see, it’s a funny thing this nursing business.  You know how there’s this perception that there are never enough nurses.  Well that’s only sort of true.  The degree we undertake these days, to gain our registration, is so very very university based – with so little clinical practice – that no one wants to employ a newly graduated nurse.  She needs way to much training to be safe and useful.  No one except nursing homes.

They’re usually desperate and will cheerfully snatch up a new graduate and put her in charge of 40 – 80 residents.  She will be the only registered nurse on duty and will be expected to provide medication to frail and vulnerable people she’s never laid eyes on before and accept complete responsibility for their wellbeing.  It’s a recipe for disaster – the examples of which hit the coroner’s court.  Mention working in a nursing home and newly graduated nurses shudder with fear.

And so we have the graduate year.  I think almost all of the hospitals have them.  The big public hospitals have big intakes, the little private hospitals have little intakes.  And they all have hundreds and hundreds of new graduates applying.  And guess what – there are nowhere near enough graduate places for those who are graduating – at least a third of graduates will miss out.  Makes you wonder where they wind up.

Do they just grit their teeth and head to the nursing homes, fingers crossed that they don’t kill a poor old soul?  Do they go rural (another whole can of worms)?  Do they do agency work – as terrifying as nursing home work – imagine a ward in a hospital where you know nobody, don’t know how they do things, have never walked those corridors, navigated that drug room, met those patients, and you have almost no clinical experience – nice! Do they go bank (casual work for a particular hospital – not quite as bad as agency – at least you stick with the one hospital)?  Or do they wind up in all sorts of random places where they will never develop the skills they’ve studied for – like doctors’ surgeries and schools and occupational health and safety things.  All of these alternatives to the real thing send chills down my spine.

crocheted flowers fabric on piano

Where does this all leave me?  Well – I achieved a good GPA.  I have great clinical reports and glowing references from really good placements.  I put in my four applications for a grad year – you are only allowed four – and you can only apply one year (theoretically you can apply every year, but you will always be considered last after your first go – so given there’s a shortage of places … )  I received three interviews at 3 big public hospitals – all of which I had been to as a student and had great references from.

The fourth application – a private hospital where I’d also had a great placement and really clicked with the senior nursing staff – I missed out on an interview – they emailed me one hour after applications closed to advise me.  I was HORRIFIED to have been dismissed so quickly so queried their decision.  Turns out they didn’t like my clinical reports – I used my last two reports which were from the Royal Children’s Hospital and The Alfred ICU – two of the most sought after placements – this private hospital wanted general medical or surgical.  Really?  Bugger them.

owls crochet

I had my interviews.  The first two were up quick.  The third was a few weeks back.  I think they went well.  Hard to know.  And now – I have no clue as to what 2015 will hold for me because we don’t find out until October 14th!!!!!!!  Can you believe we have to wait that long.  My first interview – at The Alfred – was on August 5th.  That’s 2 1/2 months wait.  Aaaaaaaaargh!!!!!  And get this – the final joyful bit of the whole torturous process – we only get one offer.  That’s right.  Even if all the hospitals who interviewed you want to offer you a grad year, you will only hear from the one you listed first, so you better make sure you ordered that list just right.  AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGHHHH!

For this marvellous process, we say thank you to the State Government of Victoria and their canny little program ComputerMatch.

So, until October 14th, I am bouncing around, fretting hourly about whether I will get an offer.  Rehashing those interviews and thinking up 20 ways I could have answered each question better.  Filling out yet another crossword.  Wasting more time on mahjong.  Not finishing my quilts.  Not writing up my crochet pattern.  Not working on my needlepoints and cross stitches.  Not finishing off that yoke on Abby’s sweater or Mum’s stripey sweater or Julian’s Argyle.  Not upholstering the footstool.  Not painting the front porch chairs.  Jeeez I’m slack.

Instead, I’m hating that here I am – with months of blissful home time – and I am not using it wisely.  I am flitting about chaotically – perpetually lonely and seemingly unable to finish even one thing.  Wanting the day to pass quickly so that Abby and Julian are home.  Incredulous that another week has disappeared.  Sad that the weekend vanished in the blink of an eye.  Longing for the year to just jolly well slow down.  Wishing I could hack into ComputerMatch and get an offer now so that I can stop THINKING about it all of the time and just settle down to being lucky Lily at home.

Man, I am all over the place.

crumpled quilt

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the ultimate transformation from horror to sweet :: a sewing desk http://blockaday.com/the-ultimate-transformation-from-horror-to-sweet-a-sewing-desk/ http://blockaday.com/the-ultimate-transformation-from-horror-to-sweet-a-sewing-desk/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:55:25 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=13068 sad desk

If you happen to follow my instagram, you may have noticed that I picked up a truly dreadful piece of hard rubbish a couple of weeks back.  I was on my way into university to have documents certified for the final grad interview the next day, when I spied an old 60s (?) desk outside a block of dodgy flats.  It was perched amongst a heap of awful rubbish – the kind where you wonder what on earth the people who threw it all there were thinking and why on earth didn’t they put it in their wheelie bins – but I could spy potential.

I checked the time – still had an hour to get to uni and get my documents sorted.  I pulled over, flipped the back seats down and approached the desk.  Ugh.  It was filthy.  But I had a vision :-)  I picked the desk up – the drawers were full.  Gingerly, I opened them – the top drawer had mostly old sewing stuff – but all damp and full of rubbish as well.  The next three drawers were worse.  There were old cards and family photos – some in frames – and just so many bits and pieces.  And it was all icky.  I have a very high ick tolerance – but this was  …  shudder-worthy.  I spied a couple of barely filled shopping bags – stinking of cigarette ash – and carefully tipped the contents of the drawers into them.  Shudder.

By the time I was done, my hands felt revolting and I only had 20 minutes before the clinical office closed at the university.  Hopeless.  So it was back home with the desk.  Unload.  A thorough hand washing with the hottest water I could bear.  And a couple of hours later, when the clinical office was reopened (they keep the most unhelpful hours), I set off once again.

even grafittied very scratched

off with the top

I sent Mum several photos of my fabulous find – oh yes, she exclaimed, I can really see why you just had to stop for it.  NOT.  It was grim.  The top was a complete write-off.  The drawer handles were buggered.  The legs were scratched.  It had even been grafittied.  Oh it was grim.

But I just knew it’s old timber would come up lovely and just where it would fit perfectly into our home and lives.  So last week, on a warm sunny day, I pulled on my summer work clothes and a hat, gathered supplies and set to work, removing all that grime and spray paint and old varnish.  Sadly, it was not a metho scrub moment.  It needed the full strength paint stripper.  And even that was tough work.  But as soon as I began washing the stripper off, I could see that old timber beginning to gleam.

I am the worst at anthropomorphising – I always imagine the timber of my furniture sighing with relief as I scrub it free of decades of dirt and varnish.  Then, it must wriggle with delight as I rub in the Danish oil.  It’s the very odd occasion I can bring myself to paint bare timber – I imagine the poor grain suffocating under the heavy wetness of paint.  Awful!  So Danish oil it is.

scrape and scrub

I spent many many hours pondering what to replace the top with and finally settled on a thick piece of ply from the hardware store that I would cover with some lovely Orla Kiely oilcloth from The Fabric Store in Fitzroy.  I even drove in and bought the jolly fabric – and it was even lovelier in real life than it was on the screen.

But then, I called into Ikea on the way home for new knobs for the desk drawers – the old ones were crap – I love their little black brushed metal knobs – and checked the bargain corner (of course).  There was a kitchen bench top that I had admired online but dismissed from consideration because it was way to expensive.  Only this one wasn’t.  It was a display piece with scuff marks (which rubbed off in seconds with a bit of steel wool) and dramatically reduced.  Eeeeeee!

finished

In a perfect world, the top would be a bit smaller – but hey!  All the more space to craft and it sits as sturdy as.  Can you believe the transformation?!?  I’m in awe.  Look at how that timber gleams.  The knobs are so cute.  It’s a miracle!

only a hint

It wasn’t until I looked at this photo later that I realised you can still see the outlines of the tagging.  I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed that panel.  It’s ply – and that spray paint just got deep into the grain and – well, that’s the best I could do.  But you know – in real life you just don’t notice it.  And besides – it’s quite funny really.  It’s like this conservative, simple, modest little desk is having a wink and saying “Oh yeah, I’ve seen it all!”

drawers rounded end closeup

And the scratches – most of them are gone – there’s still a few of the deeper ones left, but the wood came up so beautifully rich and syruppy that now they’re just character.  Signs of a life busily led.

original top beautiful top

Now, just in case you didn’t get a good look at the desk top, we have before … hideous old fake wood melamine WITH GRAFITTI !  And after – beautiful, solid, smooth, crisp, clean wood.  I’ve oiled it too.

with machine

And look who looks right at home there!  By the way – have I ever told you the story of this little green machine – my Husqvarna Viking 21 (circa 1950s)?  She too is hard rubbish.  Yep.  I found her having her cords chopped off by a very grumpy man behind an op shop.  ”Oh no!  I exclaimed, “that’s a beautiful old Husqvarna!”  ”It’s rubbish.” he snarled, shoved her back into her original tartan travelling case and HURLED HER INTO A SKIP!!!!  ”Oh that’s terrible!”  I protested.  ”You don’t know what you’re throwing away!”  And I promptly climbed into the skip and pulled her back out.  He ignored me.

I took the sweet little green machine straight to the sewing machine shop in Camberwell where I have my machines serviced and they fixed her up.  They had to find new cords for her power and foot, but they did.  And the service man said she was that kind of beauty they just don’t make any more.  He loved her – and loved the story too.  She sews like a dream – lovely straight, strong stitches, and makes the prettiest hum.  If I’ve told you all this before, I am sorry :-)  I’m getting a bit like dear old Grandad – can’t remember which stories I’ve shared with which folk!  But it’s such a good story anyway – yes? :-)

drawers with placemats tool drawer

And here’s a glimpse of the sweet little desk all set up and ready for action!  Wait til you see where she is!

p.s. I was right to stop wasn’t I :-)

 

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the sort of gardening we’re good at http://blockaday.com/the-sort-of-gardening-were-good-at/ http://blockaday.com/the-sort-of-gardening-were-good-at/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 23:32:59 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=13046 new leaves by my side basket of yarn under dog

Since there’s nary a green finger between us – I’m hoping they’ll grow when we turn our hands to gardening our own land – our best “gardening” is enjoyed in other ways.  With wool, and cotton, and needles, and hooks, and books, and bikes, and tools, and paper, and pencils, and good food, and lovely company.

So, when a magnificent spring day burst forth, that’s just what we did :-)

julian raleigh buds

Out we went, soaking up that sun and warmth.

rabbits lunch

hat crochet sticking out from my chair basket with flowers

And when, at last, the air cooled and the sun dropped, we celebrated the day and the lovely “gardening” we’d enjoyed …

and of day treat

Have I mentioned how much I love spring!

 

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granny busy http://blockaday.com/granny-busy/ http://blockaday.com/granny-busy/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 12:39:15 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=13033 out the window

new balls yesterday's four smiley little mouth snip new faourite

The morning may have dawned extra cold and foggy – but after a trip to my favourite Wondoflex for some extra balls of crochet cotton – the rest of the day was gloriously spring, spring, spring!

I spent it on the front porch, baking so warm in the sun that after shedding two jumpers, I simply had to get changed into a skirt and tshirt – which of course, proved a little chilly once the sun began to set and the night chill set in.  Ah, the change in seasons – keeps me on my toes.

And what filled my hands – why Granny Christmas Baubles of course!  All the photos for the pattern are taken, just setting it out now.

There was also a little extra something put together this afternoon – in a medium completely new to me – bamboo and wire – it was a bit fiddly.  But I think tomorrow – with some extra tweaking – it will be just right.  Especially when there’s more Granny Baubles finished for hanging.

supplies and tools almost

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much trebling :: a Granny Christmas Bauble http://blockaday.com/much-trebling-a-granny-christmas-bauble/ http://blockaday.com/much-trebling-a-granny-christmas-bauble/#comments Thu, 04 Sep 2014 11:24:24 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=13004 one

It all started here.  Wondering what I’d get if I didn’t add any increases to a granny circle.  A-ha!  A granny bowl.  A very wee granny bowl.  It sat so prettily upon the table.  It was a jewel like jelly fish washed up on the sand.  A very pretty jelly wobbling on a fine china plate.  A limpet covering the low tide rocks with a floral carpet – oh I can’t wait til the summer holidays – Abby and Julian, I’ll need your help!

Or it could be half a Christmas bauble.  Oh yes.  I could definitely see Christmas bauble potential.  So, instead of rising from my desk and doing some of the sewing that awaits me on the kitchen table, I gathered my balls of cotton and began more trebling.

blues bowl how it begins

I do declare, choosing the colours to put together is such fun.  And they rarely turn out exactly as I think they will.  Well actually, I can’t really picture the finished combination when I start so as I finish I find myself thinking “oh that’s what you are – you’re so pretty” or “really?  hmmmm …. “.  Funny enough, when I show my family and ask which ones they like best, they almost always like the ones I’m not so fussed on.  Goes to show.  One person’s perfect cup of tea is another person’s dishwater.  Or something like that.

like a bo-peep biscuit elephant orange fingers

Now it was obvious that there needed to be two of each little granny limpet.  But true to Lily form, after hooking up the first two, I dedicated the rest of the day to making the first half of each bauble.  Because it was fun.

two

Until I had a wee pile of granny limpets.  By this stage, they made me think of patchworked echinacea.  So because my lawn has no spring bulbs shooting and summer flowers are a long way off,  I planted my limpets, just to see if they could indeed have a floral future – and they so could!  Wouldn’t they be so sweet lining a garden path for a birthday party!  You’d have to finish them off properly with a felted wool ball for the echinacea head, and have them firmly attached to the stick.  With a couple of felt leaves embroidered with the names of the party guests – then they could pick theirs and take it home as a party favour.  Much better than lollies.  Oh my goodness Abby – have another birthday party dear!  A flower fairy party.  What?  You’re 17 this year and flower fairies just aren’t your thing any more?  That doesn’t matter nearly as much as indulging your mother’s fancies!

wee bundle in my gatden beige red and yellow amongst the weeds

Sigh.  Well, despite it being a FABULOUS idea and I SHALL do it one day – for myself if needs be – these limpets are destined for more jolly things.  And so I stitched their shells together – turned them into ocarinas it did – and stuffed them with fleece.  Now there was a brief interlude when the first one – the yellow centred one below – had a crocheted yellow border finishing it off.  And it was as irritating as the chicken pox.  It just didn’t sit right and I confess, I was disappointed with the effect and cursing as I fetched Abby from school.  I’ve spent all day making these bloody things and there’s six of them and now I don’t really love them.

But when I got home, ripped that yellow off, and SEWED the two shells together with the same thread as the final border …. oh.  The chicken pox feeling cleared up immediately and I was much pleased.  I also changed the pattern slightly from the first yellow centred one.  It had chained spaces between the granny clusters – which made for a slightly floppsy integrity.  So they’re gone – making my limpets much tighter and more bauble like.

ready

facing swinging in the breeze swinging blue bauble front and side
red in the tree blue in the tree on the bench

I am very excited about this pattern – I hope to make many more – for our tree, for Nanny and Grandad, for Abby’s school teachers, for Mum to take to family in Vancouver at Christmas … I think they’ll make marvellous little presents.  Quick to crochet.  Frugal with the yarn.  Just right.

And I did announce, via Instagram, that the pattern would be here tonight.  But it isn’t.  Sorry.  I have written out all the instructions but I would like to take several more photographs to illustrate some of the more difficult-to-describe-in-writing steps.  And put it together really nicely as a proper pattern you could print off with my “pint of cream” details.  So that will happen tomorrow when there’s plenty of light to take nice, clear photos and I can coerce Abby into helping me with the layout.  Hope that’s okay and you didn’t have your yarn and hook ready and waiting.  Yeah right :-)

I also had a rather good idea involving some little secret bits to put inside … you’ll see.

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icelandic jumpers and a bedside table full of books http://blockaday.com/icelandic-jumpers-and-a-bedside-table-full-of-books/ http://blockaday.com/icelandic-jumpers-and-a-bedside-table-full-of-books/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 12:10:16 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=12992 basket in sun

joining Ginny and her yarn-a-long!  I highly recommend checking out the other lovely people who link to this – you’ll see so much prettiness :-)

You know me – always longing for the sun and warmth.  And yet I do sooooooo love knitting and the wearing of all this knitty goodness.  The current knit that I am just desperate to finish is the Lopi sweater I am knitting for Abby.

It’s in a beautiful wool – an old old yarn – Cleckheaton’s Angora Supreme – that we found in the bargain basement at Wondoflex a few Saturday’s back.  Initially, I passed over the bundle of 8 balls for just pennies (can’t quite remember but it was less than $30 and there’s 140m on each ball so a wonderful buy) but then I figured it was lovely quality wool and a great price so I picked it up after all.

When Abby saw it, she was delighted!  Hawkeye purple she tells me – she being a dedicated Marvel fan.  And she thought it would be super with some white and lilac and dark lilac for a Lopi sweater.  And she was right.  She always is – has an eye for colour this one.

As per all the Lopi patterns I’ve tried, the body knitted up lickety-split.  They are such wonderfully simple patterns.  And oh how I love that simple, repetitive, meditative knitting.  Round and round and round and round.  Then the sleeves – up they went.  And then onto the yoke.

Now the yoke has certainly been time consuming – intensely patterned with sometimes three yarns in play at once.  But I do love stranded knitting  - my challenge is keeping it loose enough at the back.  Once all those strands are layered, it does make for an exceptionally warm jumper.  Like wearing a jumper WITH a shawl.  Perfect.

the arch bicycles bicycle seats

It did feel a bit funny the other day – sitting on the porch, my cardigan discarded, lapping up that sun like a cat – with a big hefty pile of Icelandic knitting on my lap :-)

knitting with ipad

When I looked down into my basket, I was also struck by the contrast between my vintage basket, my Lopi pattern (same as has been knitted in Scandinavia for generations), my vintage Cleckheaton wool … and the iPad.  I almost always knit from the iPad these days.  Whenever I pack my knitting basket, the iPad gets slipped in too.  Isn’t it brilliant!  I just love being able to browse Ravelry – I start by looking at everything and then wheedle it down, adding my search criteria one by one.  Then buy my pattern, download it and bam!  I’m off.  Can’t imagine knitting any other way. So totally different from when I first began knitting and we had to rely upon those cardboard folders of patterns – purchased from the shop, one or two at a time.  And rarely exactly what I had in mind anyway.  Now – the whole world sits there at my fingertips.  The truly wonderful upside of being connected to this new world.

coming along

As for reading … I’ve been re-reading “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.  This book is so densely packed with fascinating information that I am forever discovering something new and tweaking how I cook for my family yet a little bit more.  These days, I’m especially keen on cooking suppers that can be served in these dear little pots.  We found 12 at the opshop the other day.  They are Denby Gypsy – apparently very rare in Australia – haven’t been able to find any others on the old ebay.  So we’re eating lots of soups and stews – we even had our porridge in them the other morning and I must say, they keep the food very hot.

soup potOn the fiction front – I’m adoring Karen Joy Fowler’s “We are All Completely Beside Ourselves”.  Oh my goodness – the narrator is so utterly relatable.  I find myself nodding and laughing and wincing along with her.  And I’m also reading William McInnes’ “The Birdwatcher” – totally different, set here in Australia starting in Melbourne then moving up to North Queensland.  Both are landscapes so very familiar that it is a very poignant read – I love reading about environments I have lived in – such a connection.  And the characters are very appealing – it’s not literature, but it’s a lovely read and I really enjoy McInnes’ voice.  I have Inga Simpson’s “Nest” to pick up from the bookshop tomorrow – also set in North Queensland and I think I shall need Ian McEwan’s new novel “The Children Act” too.  Very pertinent but more about that next week!

Now – I’m off to bed on this cold cold night – The Birdwatcher awaits me.

 

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crochet :: spring flowers :: a september project http://blockaday.com/crochet-spring-flowers-a-september-project/ http://blockaday.com/crochet-spring-flowers-a-september-project/#comments Tue, 02 Sep 2014 13:52:02 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=11989 the beach

I started my spring flowers – from the Paton’s Modern Crochet booklet – when this was my view – last summer at Merimbula.  I sat out on Mum’s front porch and crocheted a few, here and there, in between swimming at the beach, adventuring, reading and generally just lazing about with my family.

But the day we drove home from this lovely holiday, Grandad had a heart attack and so began a rather chaotic year, with urgent trips to Brisbane, more illness and family upheavals, my final semester of studies, long clinical placements, many essays and the nerve wracking process of applying and interviewing for grad year placements.

Those poor little spring flowers – such a lovely and potent symbol of a holiday filled with light and warmth – were shoved into a basket and forgotten, whilst the balls of cotton were – ridiculously – left falling out of this sweet sewing basket …

beautiful blue bulging

… which of course, couldn’t be closed and looked perpetually messy and irritating in the corner of the living room.

Yesterday found me trying to push this basket under the craft table with my foot, whilst balancing a pile of patchwork fabric on my arm and carrying cups of tea for poor Abby who has now had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics we finally got last week for her persistent sinus infection.  Nice! Needless to say, I couldn’t push said basket between the desk leg and chair leg, so handed out the tea, dumped the fabric on the piano (where all fabric lives) and took a closer look.  Wondered where the little squares were.  Found them shoved behind the rocking chair.  So pulled them out too and ooohed and ahhhed over their pretty colours.

There were 39 finished – I thought about how many I still needed to do – 105.  That would make 144 which would make a nice 12 by 12 blanket.  Add a few lovely border rows and I’d have a sweet spring blanket that’s almost 1.4 metres square.  Can’t you just see it folded over the end of a lovely vintage cane cot!? Good thing I have one :-) And so was born the notion that I could crochet a few each day in this, the first month of Spring, and have my lovely flowers ready for our return trip to the beach this summer.

I stacked the balls almost neatly in a rectangular basket – now named “working basket” – stored the finished squares in the lovely navy basket and sat down to time just how long it takes me to make one square, and thus see how feasible it would be to crochet 4 a day for the first 15 days, then 3 a day for the last 15.  My first effort was a bit fumbly and I found I needed to follow the pattern carefully.  But by the time I was up to the fourth little square, I had rediscovered my rhythm with these flowers, the pattern flowed easily and I was able to crochet one square in 30 minutes.  Perfect.

contents two little stacks the collection close up

Today, with the sun out, there was a wee bit of lining up and admiring … oh, it really is going to be such a pretty blanket, isn’t it!

needing to be planted added on the end all lined up

Some fiddling with the wee flowers awaiting their ecru borders …

favourite1 favourite 2

And a little naming of my favourites – I do love that pea green with the reddy-pink and pale blue – and that dark blue looks just lovely with the pink and soft red.

finished working basket

Now – baskets are sorted.  I have two more balls of ecru (will obviously need many more, but this was all spotty had) and 8 little squares have been finished.

1970s

Fingers crossed I can maintain the momentum – only 28 more days and 97 squares to go!

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the loveliness of almost http://blockaday.com/the-loveliness-of-almost/ http://blockaday.com/the-loveliness-of-almost/#comments Mon, 01 Sep 2014 23:29:27 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=12942 on the chair tools

Silly old Melbourne’s been playing tricks on us lately :-)  Delivering up late winter days of beautiful blue skies, heaps and heaps of sun, and warmth!  Only then, just when we’re shoving the jumpers into the backs of the wardrobes, it throws us cold, wet, grey days – several in a row – just to remind us it is still only late winter and to put our slippers back on.

blue sky stitching pinned leaves

Oh all right.  Fair enough.  I’ll keep the slippers beside my bed and rejoice that I have lovely handknits to pull on when the cold fronts storm in.  But!  When that sun comes out …

thread prince

… I shall sit on the front porch and soak it up.

clouds rolling in camellias weeds

I shall embroider my very summery Fox.  Crochet my spring flowers.  Fill in the background of my Kaffe flowers.  I may even get stuck into some Christmas decorations and presents.

flower with sun nose tablecloth eye the back the front me beetroot and chickpeas

Because I have finished my nursing degree.  I have been to all my grad year interviews. I have several months of nothing more important – and perfect –  to do than look after my family, potter about our home, and throw myself into the myriad of unfinished crafty loveliness that fills up all the corners of Bootville .  And summer is almost here.

lemon

Yes!

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dates and needlepoint and interviews http://blockaday.com/dates-and-needlepoint-and-interviews/ http://blockaday.com/dates-and-needlepoint-and-interviews/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:55:22 +0000 Lily http://blockaday.com/?p=12923 wool

This morning was another cold, dreary, grey, flattening sort of morning.  Melbourne specialises in these.  I have to exert a lot of energy to rise above it.  But the last few weeks, as I’ve been waiting for application acceptances and grad year interviews, I’ve been a little bit wobbly on the rise.  Checking emails every 5 minutes.  Fretting over imagined, terrible outcomes.  Wondering how I’ll ever make it to October 14th without having wasted 2 months ripping off all my cuticles.

Oy!  So, instead of working on the Spring House which continues to cover the kitchen table, I tipped my needlepoint wool onto the library table and curled up under the lamp to work on my Norwegian Queen.  Did you know the Norwegian word for Queen is “Dronning”.  I must say, to my English speaking mind, this doesn’t conjure up the most regal notions – instead, it makes me think of a right bore of a queen, “dronning” on and on and on in a pompous and repetitive manner to her ladies in waiting about all the things the King (Konge) does that annoy her.

Yesterday, when I was thinking of all the things I could do with this wee needlepoint, I looked up lots and lots of ways to say Queen.  The similarities were mostly expected – except for the enchanting Hindi word.   You want to know some?  Course you do – in French they say “Reine”, in Spanish it’s “Reina” and in Italian it’s “Regina”.  Yup – just as expected.  But in Hindu it’s “Rani”!  How cool is that!!  That Sanskrit and European languages share the same root is so fabulous!  Just tonight I heard that lovely Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, say that the thing he really began to feel when he was floating above our improbable jewel like world was the collectiveness of it all.  Such a beautiful thought – and precisely why they say Rani in India and Reine in France.

You want to know some more – all right!  In Russian they say “Koroleva”, in Czech they say “Kralovna”, and in Turkish they say “Kralice.  Must be a connection there.  In Malaysian they say “Ratu” and in Arabic they say “Malikah”.  In Japanese I think they say “Joo” and in Vietnamese they say “Nu Hoang”.  The one that made me laugh was the Maori – “Kuini”!  Isn’t that gorgeous!  I wish my Norwegian queen was a “Kuini” but I suppose I’d best make peace with the fact she’s a “Dronning”.

Anyways – etymological diversions aside – the needlepoint.  I was at a bit of an impasse.  I had – improbably – chosen gingernut brown for the background and spent last eve furiously filling and filling and filling.  Then realised this morning that I couldn’t possibly fill in around all those little red flowers – they would VANISH into the gingernut.  As I sat there, calculating how many hours it would take to pull out all that gingernut, I looked up and realised what was clearly inspiring me when I first settled on warm brown – this here print on the library wall!

background

I’m afraid I cannot remember the name or artist, but it is from the early American colonial period – one of my favourite periods of art.  I just love the wonky perspective and proportions – grapes hanging from huge trees ready to torpedo the small farm houses and the garden that looks ripe for sliding down the steep hill – of gingernut brown!  I’ve always looked at this painting and thought how the artist must have painted and painted the brown hill and then got to that beautiful weeping willow and thought “bugger, I can’t possibly paint in between all those delicate leaves, I know, I’ll paint around it.” And at the moment I was GLAD I’d chosen gingernut brown and knew just how to deal with those red flowers :-)

Then, I practised that ancient sport of “well, before I start a new piece of brown, I’ll just check the emails again.”  Do you know that game?  It goes like this – “before I wash the dishes, I’ll just check the emails again”, “I’ll hang out the washing and then I can check the emails again”,  ”I won’t check the emails again until I’ve added three more rows of bricks”,  ”goodness, I’ve been out of the house for 45 minutes, it’s time to quickly check the emails again.” Course you do.  But this time – oh thank my lucky stars – there was the email I’ve been waiting for.  A grad interview at the Royal Children’s Hospital for next Friday.  Yes! Phew!  Now I can get on with life.

favourite cookbook

Folks, I waltzed into the kitchen.  I cleaned up with a spring in my step.  I laughed with delight at the thought of baking for lunch :-)  And so I pulled out a real favourite – Hugh’s soda bread from his lovely “Family Cookbook”.  It’s such a good, solid recipe that allows for all manner of interpretations – today it was dates and oats. I just followed the basic recipe – eliminated the sugar (I always do that) and substituted 50g of oats for 50g of flour.  Yum!

dates prebake

Popped it into the oven and did some more washing up.  I must admit – I do like washing up in winter.  I love filling the sink with straight hot water – no cold – and then plunging my hands in.  This year I’ve either developed asbestos hands or the plumber turned the water heater temperature down when he last visited.  Either way, it’s bliss.  Fogs up my spectacles.  The steam rises around me and floats away from the dishes as I stack them on the drainer.  Oh yes, washing up, one of winter’s pleasures.

washing up

Then, whilst the soda bread baked, I got to playing with the beet tops from last night’s supper.  Chopped off the leaves for the rabbits.  And then, was so entranced by the ruby red liquid that dripped from the stems, that I chopped them up too and boiled them up in a bit of water.  I have plans.  Next time you pop into blockaday I shall either be showing you something marvellous.  Or you’ll be laughing until you cry over what happened to those beet stems.  We’ll just have to wait and see which it will be.

beetroot stems

In 25 minutes, out came the soda bread – all bursting with scrumptious, piping hot dates.  I hacked off some thick slabs, carefully layered them with thin slices of cold salty butter and gobbled them up at the kitchen bench. Yum!

post bake wrapped

Washed the butter from my hands, wrapped the leftovers for tomorrow morning’s breakfast – Hugh’s soda bread is marvellous toasted – and returned to my Kuini-Dronning.  Spirits lifted.  Belly full.  New ideas for birds and borders and purposes in my mind.

on the table little grains of rice

Take that you dreary, winter Melbourne morning!

 

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