I am very partial to taking the side road. My family and friends will all testify to this – with varying degrees of exasperation :-) Why stay on the highway when we can go adventuring, I say! And in the beautiful Bega Valley, there is so much adventuring to do. This visit, we bumped along to the Mumbulla falls. Oh my, the road was dreadful and windy and steep and potholey. The forest was impenetrable. We climbed up one side of the mountain and down the other. The family rolled their eyes and shook their heads – another one of Lily’s dirt track detours!
But when we arrived – as is most often the case – they changed their tunes. The air was heavy with the rich scent of the forest. Frogs croaked, birds sang, and unseen water burbled. The girl and her stick – with her father not too far behind – declared that the river must be followed. Mum and I chose the sweetly built wooden walkway.
The falls themselves were part of a series of rock pools – one of them, so very deep, that the water was black and young local folk were leaping from the rocky cliff, several metres above, and plunging into its icy depths. There was even a naturally formed rocky waterslide that the slightly less adventurous catapulted along. Julian and Abby declared it was definitely worth a return to on a hot, summers day – Julian, desperate to leap off those rocks; Abby, content to soak in the smaller pools that are constantly refreshed with sparkling water from above.
Me – I am definitely not the rock leaping kind – I made friends with a local skink. He was a charming fellow, not at all shy, and let me take as many snaps as I wanted whilst he basked in the sun and caught insects. Mum – I don’t think she’ll be leaping off the rocks either. But she loved exploring another part of her new homeland.
And all because I said “Turn here! Let’s see where it goes!”
When the afternoon wind picks up across the bay, we retreat from the front porch to the courtyard. A warm and golden nook, rich in whimsy, colour and fragrance. A lovely spot for wiling away an afternoon. Mum climbed chairs and draped fabric. I searched through a tattered paper bag of yarn – filled with knitted projects from so long ago. I think it was the start of a blanket. There’s also plenty of leftover mustard coloured yarn from the cardigan my Nanny knitted me for my eighteenth birthday. That’s good – it was attacked during the great moth debacle of 2006 and needs some repairs to the cuff and neckline.
There was also a dear little knitting nancy. Isn’t Mlle Nancy just the sweetest thing in a knitter’s basket? Have you spent years lifting those wee loops over the nails, producing metres and metres of cord, with little idea of what to do with it, apart from dolls house rugs that is. We’ve made plenty of those.
I think, if I was to search through every box in Bootville, I would find enough knitting-nancy-cord to take to the Elsternwick shops and back. And ever the enthusiast, I am knitted more on the journey home …
… however, sitting in the courtyard, whilst Mum pondered the best way to suspend her shade canopy, I hit upon a brilliant use for this here red cord – inspired by the crocheted motifs I was stitching from that lovely book I shared yesterday.
See, I’ve learnt a couple of really neat new-to-me techniques that I so enjoy, I’ve been using them over and over and over … the slip ring (instead of chain 4 or 6 etc. and join ring ), making my stitches into the back loop only (provides a lovely “running stitch” effect) and creating loops on the underside so as to add extra layers. Add that to some balls of 5 ply baby yarn that was in yet another bag of wool that Mum dug out of somewhere, and I designed a wee flower that just begs to be added to some knitted cord for a Christmas garland.
I’ve not yet finished my Christmas garland but figured that since it will take at least a week or so – and you might like to make one too and will also need some time before you put up the Christmas decorations to get it done – I would provide a wee tutorial right now, with just six finished and as many more to go as I am happy to make. Would you like to crochet and knit a Christmas garland? Course you would :-) If you don’t have a knitting nancy doll, you can knit your cord instead – it’s just icord.
Okay … here’s the deal. And please remember that this Christmas garland is an original pattern made by me and is for personal use only. Cool!
:: A Christmas Garland Tutorial by Lily Boot ::
Gather your supplies – 5 ply yarn (Sport weight) for the flowers, 8 ply (DK/light worsted) for the leaves, 8 ply for the knitting nancy/icord, and 5 ply for the central stamen. I used a 3mm crochet hook for all the crochet (courtesy of my brilliant Mollie Makes magazine!) and a yarn needle for attaching the flower to the cord.
Make your cord! As long as you want. I’ve produced about 3 metres. I shall probably keep going - the longer, the merrier :-) – well, until I get bored.
:: For the flower ::
Make a slip ring (here’s a really great description with instructions and pictures)
:: Round 1
Chain 3 (to represent the first treble), make 13 more trebles (tr) into the slip ring. Pull the slip ring tight. Slip stitch (ss) the top of the last treble into the top of the 3rd chain. You now have 14 stitches to work from for the second round.
:: Round 2
Chain 2 (to represent the first double), *make 2 doubles (dc) in the back loop only of the next stitch*. Repeat from * to * 12 more times. Slip stitch the top of the last double into the top of the 2nd chain. You now have 27 stitches to work from for the third round.
:: Round 3
Chain 6. * Slip stitch into the next three stitches. On the third of these stitches, chain 6*. Repeat from * to * 7 more times. Slip stitch into last two stitches. You now have 9 loops to work in for the fourth round.
:: Round 4
*In the next loop, make 12 tr. Make 1 dc in the second slip stitch*. Repeat from * to * 8 more times. You now have 9 petals. Fasten off.
:: Round 5
Turn flower over. Working on the back, fasten green yarn for leaves to the stitch underneath the centre of the first petal as per the photograph. Work 3 chain. Slip stitch into the stitch underneath the centre of the next petal. Repeat until you are back to the beginning, making a slip stitch into the first green stitch. You now have 9 green leaf loops on the back of your flower to work for the sixth round.
:: Round 6
In each green, work 1 dc, 1 half treble (htr), 2 tr, 1 double treble (dtr), 2 tr, 1 ht, 1 dc. Repeat in each loop. Finish with a slip stitch into the original green stitch. Fasten off.
:: Attaching the flower to the icord ::
Cut a piece of the stamen yarn, at least 50cm long. Using this, make 2 firm stitches through your icord as per the photograph leaving a tail of at least 5 cm in your position of choice.
Place your flower on top, bringing the needle with the stamen yarn up through the centre of the original ring. Switch from yarn needle to crochet hook.
Pick up a loop of stamen yarn through one of the original centre trebles. Make 5 chain. Take directly across (from 12 o’clock to 6 o’clock) and slip through the opposite original centre treble. Repeat two more times (second time, going from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock).
Switch back to yarn needle. Take the end of the stamen yarn back through the flower to the back of the icord where the 5 cm tail awaits.
Tie the two tails together in a reef knot. Stitch the ends into the icord – one in one direction, the other in the opposite, as per the photograph.
Your first flower is finished! Now, repeat as many times as desired :-)
I hope these instructions are clear. I think this is the first crochet pattern I have ever written. So if you find a mistake, I do apologise. I have used these instructions 4 more times myself and they make sense to me, but if they fail to make sense to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me – lily(at)blockaday(dot)com – and I will do my best to help!
I hope you love making these flowers and the Christmas Garland as much as I do. Send me photos of your work! I would love to see what you make :-)
We’ve been away! And now we’re home again. Four glorious days in the Bega Valley with Mum. Lots of sea, salt, sand, whales, cheese, roly-poly green hills, dairy cows, old farm houses, bushwalking … and crochet and reading and cooking and eating. All so lovely.
First morning, Mum and I made the essential run to Tilba for cheese – along the way we simply had to stop – the Bega oppies and newsagent were calling – and came home, not only with kilos of magnificent cheese, but a bag of thrifted wool (Paton’s Totem, 8 ply) and a new crochet book. Mmmmm ….
This led to many moments spent here …
Doing this …
And it was absolutely blissful, until the morning sun became just too hot and the exquisite sapphire water just too irresistible and we had to head to the beach. Where the water was frigid but the sand and rocks were perfect and the crochet very fine indeed.
Oh my, I tell you, with every visit, our feet itch more and more to move on up. We will! One day, in the not too distant future. Just not yet. Until then, we will run away from our huge city to this lush green valley by the sea as often as we can.
“today we must do something very special, for it will be a glorious day!’
Doesn’t Snufkin have the loveliest approach to living :-)
Oh we do so love the Moomins here at Bootville. We’ve been hanging out in Moominvalley since Abby was a little girl with first the novels, then the story cd (read by the lovely Hugh Laurie), then the very kind and generous Anne of Finland sent us our own Moomin mugs and towel and fabric and music! The day that box arrived was like Christmas! Then the hardcovered Moomin comics – they are true beauties.
Surprisingly enough, Abby has never got into the animation – either the stop motion one (I think it’s Polish) or the drawn one. We’ve watched a few minutes here and there but I don’t know – maybe it loses a bit of its mysterious magic when human voices are added to Moomin folk. Mind you – I’ve just looked at photos of the wee puppets they used for the stop motion and oh they are so gorgeous. Maybe we need to give it another go. You can check it out here and see what you think :-)
Over the last couple of weeks there has been a huge revival of Moomin here. I don’t know what brought it back to the fore of Abby’s imagination, but first the novels went off to school to be read from aloud at lunchtime and shared out to the friends – only one of whom had previously encountered Moominvalley. Drawing ensued – lots and lots of drawing. I’m told even Emma – who is not a drawer – has decided to hone her skill – practicing on Moomin and the Snork Maiden. Even the teachers are getting into it – the English extension teacher is ordering them for her children.
But guess what happened on Tuesday eve! Abby had come home from school and after doing her homework, cooked dinner. Julian came home from work and helped. I came home from babysitting and we all sat down to a lovely roast chicken and salad. Then we cleaned up. Then Julian and I plonked ourselves on the sofa - and just as we were pondering what to do for the evening – or if indeed we had the energy for anything – Abby flew into the room, most distressed. She’d left Volumes 1 and 4 of the hardbacked Moomin comics on top of the Myki (wretched ticketing system) machine at the school train station – oh dear. Naturally, she and I headed off straight away to see if they were still there – and on the way we had that conversation that mothers and children who have lost things have. ”It’s not the end of the world. It was a simple mistake – everybody leaves things somewhere at some stage in their lives. We can replace them. You never know they might still be there (4 hours later). Maybe someone from school noticed them and thought ha! I’ve seen Abby Boot with these books and will hand them in to lost property tomorrow.” I stopped at the bottom of the station and Abby pelted up the ramp – moments later – she was back – with the books. They were still there, neatly pushed to the back corner of the Myki machine.
Truly – I thought they would be. If I saw that, I would think, oh dear, some poor soul has left their lovely books here – I’ll push them to the back and hopefully they’ll come and get them. And I think that’s how most folk around here think – we’ve seen stuffed toys tied to lamp posts and wee shoes and mittens and beanies placed neatly on fences with big pebbles weighting them down. Abby was over the moon. (I was relieved – oh the tears and guilt that I could foresee!)
Last weekend – it was stitchy Moomin. On Friday (a pupil free day) Abby and I set off to Winterwoods nice and early for supplies – lots of felt and fleece and fresh felting needles. Then to the oppies for a lampshade. Then home to set our fingers to stitching.
Abby made a beautiful Snufkin – he has dear little trousers and a smock, a marvel of a hat with a leather hat band and a wee feather, a back pack with straps for carrying his bedroll, needlefelted boots and a knitted scarf. Oh, I have adored watching Abby’s creations grow over the last few years. They are becoming ever more detailed and complex as her skills become both finer and deeper. She also whipped up a Moomin but declared him a little dull because he has no clothes – poor Moomin :-)
She’s drawn the patterns for the Snork Maiden, the Snork brother, the Hemulen and Little My. As for me – I’m working on an applique for a cushion I started many suns ago on Mum’s back verandah. But upon pulling it out of the heap on Friday, I discovered there were elements I no longer liked. So the top two thirds of the tree were pulled off as were the yo-yo flowers.
On went a deep and long hedge of berries at the foot of the mountains – lingonberries or cloud berries? The tree grew once more, this time in felt not fabric and I’m adding long wavy streamers of fern stitch and the trunk has been covered in cable stitch. And given Moomin was glancing up into the tree, a bird has been added – a rather cheeky looking fellow who’s probably teasing Moomin. New flowers have grown – felt of course, with embroidery – laisy daisy stitch for the stamen and a simple cross for the petals – still to decide what to do with their stems. And there’s now the Hobgoblin’s hat waiting for Moomin under the tree. I might have mentioned this before – I ADORE making pictures with felt and embroidery and I tell you, the moment this post is finished and published, I’ll be back on the sofa – washing up be danged – plying that needle some more.
The lampshade – we found a marvellous oblong one – like a tallish round one that had been flattened. It’s for Abby’s desk lamp in her bedroom – with a Moomin scene stitched onto of course.
And we have supplies for a Moomin house – in felt. We have wonderfully thick, thick blue felt for the walls – with a bottle of stiffy to be painted on for extra oomph – brown felt for the roof – which Abby is embroidering to look like shingles – and a wee bag of uniformly shaped pebbles for its stonework foundation. Hopefully this weekend will see it begin – three stories with windows cut out, and little porches for the front and back doors. Abby wants to set it all up on the seasons table – we will have a dear little Moominvalley for Christmas!
I do so love creating with my girl – and I especially love that we’re such good friends with the Moomins again. Bliss! As for you, dear reader, if you’ve not visited Moominvalley you simply must! They are wonderful tales – with that marvellously strange, slightly dark Scandinavian edge. Good for little ones and their grown ups.
Oh! My! God! I had the most intensely frustrating class this morning. Mental health – final class for the semester. Group presentations on issues in mental health. (deep breath, lily, deep breath).
As is probably obvious to you, dear reader, I am between 15 and 20 years older than most of my classmates. Now, given I worked in a girls’ school for 20 years and have a teenage daughter of my own, I get along well with younger people. I’m actually considered pretty laid back and nice. And I’ve gotten along well with my young classmates … until today.
I won’t bore you with all the details – just some (okay, most) – I can’t help myself, there’s still a little bit of me that’s seething. Two of the topics presented were postnatal depression and anorexia nervosa. Did you know that postnatal depression was really unknown until women like Brooke and Gwyneth let us know what it was like? And as for anorexia – there was no interest or attention given to that until that French model died.
Really? Is that so? We didn’t know? We weren’t able to express compassion, show care or develop an understanding about a serious illness until a celebrity – a person who is famous and rich because they’re pretty and have been in a few films – validated it for us. Ah! Now that someone famous has had it, we can see it, talk about it, understand it. Oh puhleeze! That kind of focus on celebrity leaves me nauseas.
Now, I’m not denying that by talking about, celebrities can broaden awareness and that’s a good thing. But part of me doesn’t think this is good enough. So, when asked for audience comments, I queried whether we – as a society – really need to consider an illness’s “selling point” as dependent upon the amount of celebrity attention it receives.
Are we honestly not able to think for ourselves? Notice when our friends or family members are suffering – remembering that 1 in 4 people will experience mental ill health at some stage in their lives? Learn something that doesn’t come out of a celebrity magazine? Emphathise with someone we KNOW, rather than someone who lives in a Hollywood mansion. How would it make an ill person feel, being isolated and judged for years until the – “wow! Gwyneth’s got it, so now we can be nice to crazy Aunty Elizabeth whose struggle we’ve ignored for years” moment!
The lecturers liked my point and expanded upon it – there was the potential for an interesting discussion on society’s values. However, several members of the class rolled their eyes. How else were people supposed to learn about things if celebrities didn’t tell us? Serious, that’s what they said.
I suggested there were a lot of really good resources out there for the lay person (i.e. not health professional) – if you watch the national broadcaster (ABC) or SBS or listen to public radio or read the good newspapers, or (god forbid) look it up on the internet you can read about this stuff regularly. There’s some really informed, sensitive, thought provoking conversation about these topics regularly. Conversations you can learn from.
At this point I was hooted down. And that’s when they drew the age card. ”Who listens to public radio? (add in raucous laughing) No one watches the national broadcaster. Newspapers are dead. You don’t get it because you’re from the older generation – that’s not how we do things now days. We don’t care about those things now!” (Don’t you love the collective “we” that I didn’t realise I wasn’t part of?!)
“I beg your pardon! Are you suggesting that to be informed and interested is out of date?”
“Yes!” shrieked a girl, “We’re shallow! Get over it!”
Serious. That’s what she said.
“Well, don’t you think that’s unacceptable – for our society to be so shallow? Don’t you think we should work to change that? Don’t you think people should care, even if there’s not someone famous suffering? People should be informed about the things that affect their neighbours, not just the people who appear on their televisions!”
“Honestly! If you think you can change this, then you are going to be a cranky and disappointed old woman for the rest of your life.”
Yep. Serious. That’s what she said.
I didn’t even mention the fact that people had been suffering from, caring for, and talking about postnatal depression and anorexia nervosa long before Ms. Paltrow and that french model came along. I was prepared to overlook my classmates’ blatant disregard of what came before them.
Anyway, suffice to say, I almost spat my teeth across the room I was so incensed.
By 2.30 – three and a half hours of unproductive muttering and stomping later – it was clear I needed something to calm my mind. So I printed off a pattern (the Tardis Shawl from Ravelry for Abby’s birthday), headed off to the knitting shop with plenty of time before school pickup, bought the yarn and needles I needed and found me a good tree. Close enough to school to hear the bell. Close enough to the fountain to hear the water tinkling. Where the cool breeze dragged in by the promised afternoon change could waft across my arms and hair. Bring me back to the moment at hand. Like a soft massage.
And I knitted. Only a few short rows. But oh, it was so effective. As soon as I made that slip knot, with the hank draped around my knees, I felt the hot, flustered breath leave my body and mind. I made stitches, I wrapped wool around the prettily painted wooden needles. I counted knits and purls.
I heard Celeste Waters (the writer) this morning (on that public radio that no one else listens to) say that when she feels vulnerable she puts on the Brandenburg Concertos and they’re better than any pill she could possibly take. Or Beethoven. Or Dickens. Or the Wind in the Willows. She thinks more people should try it.
I’m with Celeste. And I’d add knitting to her list of gentle therapies.
Just don’t tell the classmates – they wouldn’t get it :-)
I’m a girl who works best to a deadline. Provide me with long, endless days of no commitments – nothing to do except exactly as I please – and I am all a dither. On the rare instances that this happens, I mooch about, lost and lonely, waiting for the rest of my family to come home. Yep, give me hours on end of “me time” and I usually end up with not much to show for it.
But give me a cut off – must leave the house by 3.25 at the screamingly latest – and I am a flurry of activity. Such is a Tuesday. We start early – orchestra rehearsal for the cellist in the family starts at 7.30pm – and by 7.45, I have every minute until school pickup for the little girlies packed full.
Today, it was gloriously sunny and silly hot – a day of energy and promise – and oh I had plans! Of a line full of washing sparkling in the sun, a quick whip around the shops, fresh summery starts in the kitchen garden, the preparing of food for tonight’s supper (to be put on by Abby before I return home from babysitting) and some more for those suppers when none of us want to cook, podge for the feathered folk, bread that rose like a tall tale, second coffees on the front porch with my very first issue of the delicious Molly Makes (oh my! this magazine is so me, me, me!), and some super quick skirt making in a quirky dachshund fabric that makes me smile and think of my dear little Toph.
Oh I made the most of every second. There is some sweet chicken scratch that could be stitched whilst collapsed on the sofa, but you know, now, all I can think of is a nice bubbly soak in the tub and an early bed. A fit ending to a full day.
what was the loveliest time of your day?
We share something similar each night over dinner – the “highlight of the day” for Julians and Abbys – they’re not quite the “loveliest time” folk.
Tonight, I described mine as coming home from four hours of early classes, and after finishing the chores and before collecting Abby from school, sinking into an armchair on the sun drenched front porch. There was a steamy espresso with a dash of cream by my side, I was completely hidden from the passersby by the richly flowering, richly scented red rose bush, reading my novel for an hour, whilst a soft breeze wafted gently past.
Oh it was a lovely time. But now, this evening, with a yummy dinner cooked, shared and cleaned up from, and husband and daughter chattering away at the kitchen table whilst they revise fractions, I think I shall have to reconsider.
Yes, reclining in the back garden, under a thick canopy of oak, a peaceful blue sky, lazily setting sun, singing noisy miners, with my crochet on my lap. Yes, THIS is the loveliest time of my day.
The crochet thing is thriving. At the moment, I cannot imagine wanting to finish. But you know one silly thing I keep doing? I move onto a new stitch, get stuck into it, decide in my head what colours I want to use, and how many repeats I want to do. Then, before finishing that section, I hunt through my divine little book to find what stitch I want to do next, and fold the pages back with this next-to-come stitch facing up. This is all very well if I have the luxury of crocheting for a couple of hours .
But in normal time, that simply doesn’t happen. I do a row here, a repeat there. So days and days after my last flurry of crochet, I look down at my stitches and across to the book and think oh! That’s not the same stitch. What was I doing again? Sometimes I am able to work out what I was doing by “reading” my previous rows. Other times, I have to trawl back through the book, looking for the right instructions and hope I can match their photos to my stitches! Ahem!
Will I learn!? Probably not. ’Cause I think that’s what propels me ever forwards – the excitement of what’s to come.
p.s. do you like the new garden/beach chair? I thrifted a pair of them from hard rubbish recently on beach road! Julian’s going to scrub back the aluminium for me and I shall scrub and oil the wooden arms. So retro!
There once was an aran. Oh, she was a beautiful aran. Ever so much effort and time and love had been poured into her cables. And she was deliciously cosy. So cosy that her owner wore her and wore her and wore her and wore her. This lovely aran had gardened, walked the dog on the beach, chopped the firewood, cooked and spent many hours leaning on her right elbow. That’s right, her right elbow. It was her owner’s favourite way to sit, leaning on his right elbow.
But after many many years of love and wearing, the aran began to look a wee bit battered. Her cuffs were unravelling. There were strange splotches staining bits of her here and there. As for that right elbow – it was looking mighty thin. In fact, her knitter decided the aran was looking too tatty and it was time to say goodbye. The owner was most piqued! What was he to do without his beloved aran! I’ll knit you a new one, said his knitter. And that was that.
Without further adieu, the aran found herself being shoved into a plastic bag and dropped off at the Brotherhood of St. Lawrence. Oooo-eeer! She was so terribly nervous. Would she be unravelled!? Would she be taken home and given to a cat to lay on!? Would she never be worn again!?
Then, along came Lily. She spotted the aran and her beautiful time and love filled cables straight away. Hmmm …. Lily dearly loves all hand knitted, woollen treasures and so finds herself adopting cardigans of every shade and style. But another aran sweater? Everyone in Bootville already had a thrifted aran sweater. In fact, Lily had two! Nor was she overly fond of ribbed bands on the waist or neck. They just didn’t suit her – they made her look a bit like a puffer fish. Not a good look. But oh, she couldn’t leave thisaran behind.
And besides, Lily had been dreaming of an aran cardigan. Mmhm! Preferably a rosy coloured one. With liberty covered buttons. Could she? Could she really turn this tired but wonderful old aran into a rosy coloured aran cardigan with liberty coloured buttons?
Well maybe! With her new found steeking skills, courtesy of the ever-so-clever Ms. Kate Davies, she might just be able to. Home came the old, nervous aran. First step – off with the ribbed waist, neck and cuffs. Each live stitch was carefully picked up and cast off again. The aran shivered, this was really quite scary – she expected to unravel at any moment.
Then, Lily crocheted the steeking reinforcement down the front – missing the middle the first time and having to do it again. The old aran was a bit perturbed. Did this strange knitter really know what she was doing? Adding crochet? Didn’t this strange knitter know an aran was KNITTED! Couldn’t she tell when something was off centre? Clearly not!
Snip, snip, snip! Within moments of feeling those stork scissors tickling her stitches, the old aran found herself falling open. Oh dear! Oh dear! This would surely be the end! But no, those red crocheted stitches held all the cables lovely and firm, just as the ever-so-clever Ms. Davies had promised. Lily was quite excited – all this steeking fun again so soon, and she had barely had to knit a stitch to get there.
Over the next few nights, Lily carefully knitted round the raw edges of the steek with a freshly bought skein of 12 ply. Then, painstakingly, she picked up all those stitches, starting from the underarm point of the waist and working her way along to the front, up the front, around the neck, down the front, and back around to the underarm point, knitting a lovely firm icord all the way. It took hours!
But those wee cuffs – they didn’t take long at all. One morning’s spring sunshine on the garden swing and they were done. The aran began to feel so much more comfy – perhaps she really would be a much loved rosy aran cardigan after all! She was gently washed, laid to soak in the bathtub, and finally squashed into a bath of rosy, rosy Ashford red on top of the stove. There she simmered for an hour, feeling that warm pretty colour soak into her tired old fibres.
After a rather startling rinse off on the shower floor – which she still declares was rather undignified – the aran was plopped into the washer, rinsed one last time and slowly spun. She was a bit nervous when she was pulled back out – would Lily like her? Oh yes! Very much! Lily carefully laid the rosy aran cardigan onto a bed of towels to dry in the warm kitchen over night. And the next morning, the lovely fresh cardigan even had a sunny spell on a towelling bed on the clothesline outside. Life certainly had been transformed.
Buttons were made – courtesy of a packet of vintage covered button pieces and a grandmother-in-law’s liberty blouse that no longer fitted anyone. Finally, as the clock struck midnight, 6 days after she’d first come home with Lily, the aran was ready for her new life.
Ah! she was rosy and cosy and soft and clean with the prettiest of flowers planted down her steeked front. Perhaps one day, the rosy aran cardigan would need a patch on the right elbow, put for now, that thin spot is holding just fine.
And Lily – well, dyeing is certainly an art form that requires an awful lot of practice, but she loves her new rosy cardigan. Good thing she lives in Melbourne where she gets to wear it regularly, even in the last weeks of spring! In fact, I’ve no doubt, she’ll wear it all year round and the two of them – the rosy aran cardigan and her Lily will live happily ever after :-)
I dusted my dressing table this morning. It was very dusty, but more importantly, I have an essay due in this week, so dusting the dressing table was an imperative and most valuable form of procrastination.
As I began lifting off each item, gently dusting it and placing it on the bed, it occured to me that I’ve been playing this same game for as long as I can remember. When I was a little girl, I had a white Queen Anne style dressing table – it even had touches of gold – it was the seventies :-) Neatly arranged on top were wee jewellery boxes, important trinkets, little statues sent to me by my grandmother, a Catholic relic or two, all with their own doilies – I had pink and white crocheted ones.
My dressing table, however, lacked a mirror – quite a profound oversight. My mum had a beautiful dressing table – silky oak, with a lovely, tilting mirror with little drawers on either side for her jewellery. I aspired to a dressing table such as this.
When I left home, I also left the white and gold number. I was grown up now and in need of a proper dressing table. Indeed it was one of the first pieces of furniture I bought for the really ordinary little flat Julian and I made home for the first years of our life together. Julian wasn’t overly interested in my dressing table fetish so enlisted the help of my Dad. He and I often did our shopping together on a Saturday morning, so, one week, we first trawled the antique stores of Brisbane looking for the perfect dressing table.
It had to have a big mirror, some form of little drawers or cupboards on either side of the mirror, Edwardian or older, in nice timber, with deep drawers for my clothes. After a whole day’s searching we found it at The Collector’s Corner in Stones Corner – newly arrived from England. I laybyed it – it cost 6 weeks salary – oh my, it was such a lot of money.
Now as I dust it, so many stories from different stages of my life wander through my mind, each piece triggering a new picture. There’s the shopping for the dressing table itself – my Dad is no longer in our lives. He behaved badly, pissed off, behaved badly for a few more years and then disappeared completely. He didn’t even return my sister’s phonecall when she left a message to let him know her second babe was born. This makes me sad. I don’t necessarily want MY Dad back in my life – there’s so much unpleasantness – but I feel sad that my Dad gave up on us and that Abby doesn’t have a grandfather. I look at the relationships my uncles have with their children, and that my grandad has with his seven children, and I envy those children, I envy the love, the interest, the concern, the joy in their very existence their dads show them.
On the left hand side of the mirror, there’s a small gouge in the wood. This happened when Julian , Rob and Scott (lovely friends from university) were carrying the dressing table from the front flat to the back flat (much grander!) and snagged it on the Hills Hoist. It took a few deep breaths to get over that one.
Then there are the trinkets – some of them even began their lives with me on the white and gold dressing table. There’s the little blue wedgewood jewellery box – this was a present to my mum and she passed it on to me when I was very small. It still holds my silver bluebird bracelet and the little gold bangle I wore as a child. Do you see the crack with the stained brown glue job? I threw it, in a temper, against the wall as a little girl. What a dreadful little girl I must have been! Mum was furious – I was devastated – she glued it back together for me. The other box was given to me by my Mum’s friend Sherida for my 21st – they met when they first started work together as telephonists at the Post Office in the mid 1960s.
There’s a photo of my much, much, much adored Nanny and Grandad at their 50th wedding anniversary (fabulous night!) in a beautiful papier mache frame given to me by Aunty Anne, flanked by the Lotte salt and pepper shakers Nanny gave me from her collection. Nanny has a marvellous collection of Lotte, and so I have collected my own because in my mind, special family meals should always be served on Lotte.
There’s the statue of St. Francis of Assisi my Mum gave me when I made my Confirmation, and a tiny little wooden lady from Bavaria. We bought her whilst on a camping trip when I was 11 – I stood in an Aladdin’s cave of a store – filled to the roof with wooden people and houses and puppets – we were allowed to choose two small treats as a reminder of our time in Bavaria. I would have cheerfully dragged the entire collection home. She used to hold a letter in one hand (a tribute to my Grandad the postmaster) and a bunch of flowers in the other – I still think she’s exquisite despite her chipped paint and empty hands and have carefully carried her with me for 31 years. The second treat – a small, painted chest of drawers that now holds the silliest pieces of paper and IDs and badges from my teenage years – all completely unthrowawayable.
There are the crystal jewellery bowls (filled with odd little pieces and treasures) and tray from my Nanny – Mum has a set too. I grew up thinking that all dressing tables came with crystal trays and bowls. A more recent addition – a little mirrored box from Aunty Anne for my earrings, and a vintage, bakelite mirror – my very first purchase on Ebay – what a portent!
There are, of course, photos of Abby – little Abby, big Abby reminding me how quickly she has grown from a tiny thing in her Christmas Paddington Bear pyjamas to a long and lanky high school girl!
And a little turquoise plate from CarolAnne holds the amber pendant Julian and Abby gave me for Christmas ten years ago, and my wedding ring that has a tendency to get stuck so is waiting for a trip to the jewellers to be stretched. Tsk! Tsk!
I finish dusting the dressing table and each piece is carefully put back. Not always in the same spot. I can never quite remember where it was before, so each time the arrangement is a little bit different.
I travel along this road, carrying with me the things that are precious – the things that tell my story. Some get lost along the way, others break and are discarded, others chip and are mended. Every time I settle down, the arrangement is a little bit different – the picture has altered slightly, the story may have taken a twist, always there are new elements, new characters, new experiences.
And yet there’s a wonderfully reassuring sameness – a timeline of family and friends, of love, sharing, and good cheer. Despite that one element of sadness – all life comes with sadness – I like dusting my dressing table – it’s a good story.
There was an almost plain lampshade calling my name on Saturday. Abby, mum and I were thrifting – Abby was hunting down the components of a new costume – we had a simply wonderful day and came home with lovely treats. Including this here shade which was lurking by the counter at the Family Op Shop in Cheltenham. Mum and Abby didn’t think it was worth the $6 price tag.
I knew different. It has bobbles. Really good quality, thick, velvety, lush bobbles. I used to sell them at the patchwork store. I know how much they cost. They cost more than $6. And I LOVE bobbles AND lampshades – perfect combination as far as I could see.
You know what it was lacking though, don’t you? Mmhm! Fabric. Lovely, warm, florally, mixed-up fabric. Of the patchwork variety. With a bit of thrifted vintage blanket and some quilting.
I did measure it, truly I did. But my version of measuring is clearly an imprecise science. One more row needed.
Finish the quilty lines – I’m especially looking forward to how the piercing of the needle creates wee holes that the lamplight will shine through. Makes me think of a beautiful Shirley Hughes story I used to read with Abby when she was a little boot. Makes me wonder how pretty it would look if I could do magical swirly quilty patterns. Hmm?
And making sure I don’t stand on the dog, who has wodged herself in between my feet and the christmas decorations. To stand on even a millimetre of fluff is to offend her immensely and she will flounce out of the sewing shed – and tell on me when the rest of the family get home. She will! True!
A side binding to slip stitch into place and hold the wee quilt firmly onto the lampshade.
And some pvc glue around the top – I left the top band of fabric half an inch longer than the blanket, then ironed and stitched the raw edge of the fabric over by 1/4 inch, then folded this hem over the top edge of the lampshade with a generous strip of glue, held in place by lots of pegs to dry.
Have to give it a trial run before I head off to babysitting. Hm!
Ooooh! Like it very much. The blue bobbles are just lovely and the stitchy lines are sparkling gently, just as I’d hoped. Very cheery and cosy. Might need to indulge in a bath now just so’s I can indulge in the ambience. I know the little one will like it on Thursday night when it’s time for stories in the bath.
Home again – and I’ve removed the peggy headdress. Goody! Yet further evidence to support Julian’s theory that if a sniper was to come to our home, they’d have to dress as a quilt :-)
Remember this!? I’d completely forgotten … I was trawling through boxes in the sewing shed looking for the quilt top of spring hats I made a few years back – I thought it especially apt for this time of year, what with all the spring flowers around and the racing carnival upon us (not that we’re into horse racing at all, but you know, the hats are quite lovely!). Instead, I stumbled upon this one. Ahhhh! The little houses!
Oh yes, I do so love these houses – this my ideal village, the place I live in, in my dreams. Perhaps the hills are greener than blue, but oh what I wouldn’t do to wake up in one of these houses! All that space! All those windows! And I bet they have attics! sigh …
It really appeals to Julian. He likes the simplicity of it – the limited palette. It is quite unlike most things I make – I suppose you could say I’m rather chaotic with my colour :-) And it’s nice and big too. Fits nicely on our bed. Lovely!
So with my favourite companion squashed onto the very end of the kitchen table, I pinned out the quilt and set to quilting. Round and round the squares. Then chevrons along the sashing. For the borders I’m thinking stippling for the blue numbers and navy flowers, and more chevrons for the red stripe.
My dearie deserted me after a while – she said I was making the table vibrate. But I ploughed on. It was deliciously cosy, quilting in the lamplit kitchen, freshly washed up dishes, chicken roasting in the oven, doggles at my feet.
Hopefully tomorrow, I will finish this quilt of dreams. I even found the perfect piece of red, white and black stripe for the binding. Then we’ll be able to add it to the small but growing list of *finished* And then, it’s back to the sewing shed to hunt down that spring hat quilt – it MUST be there somewhere and I’m on a roll.
(that would be spring swing cushion :-)
Okay. So I reckon that when I look at the photos I take of my back garden it looks quite lovely. There’s lots of green, and trees, and sometimes when we’re lucky vegies and herbs growing, and busybody chickens, and crazy dogs, and possum poo, and funny little old sheds. It looks like the kind of back garden I’d like to be in.
And I do! As soon as the weather is sunny and nice, we set up camp in the back garden. All of our garden furniture is hard rubbish thrifted, but it’s quaint and useful and we like it. We add quilts and cushions, bring out cups of tea and glasses of juice. We barbaque, stitch, play, fix bikes, scrape furniture, read manga, garden …
What you can’t tell from the photos and my words is what we HEAR. Yes, there’s the obvious urban noises – cars, trams, people walking past, the regular siren (the ambulance station is up the road), the irregular tinkle of a car crash, the whoosh of the trains not too far away.
Then there’s the local fauna – lots of birds – mostly those funny little black things with the yellow beaks. Terribly plain with aggressive, protruding eyes, but my, they do sing sweet. And the yap, yap of neighbourhood dogs.
But you probably guessed all those noises were in our backgarden. The noise I’m alluding to is the neighbours. Mmhm. That variety of noise. No, they don’t have any light industry in their garage. They don’t spent hours whipper snippering. They don’t play loud music. We never hear their television. They scream.
Man, do they scream. They take screaming to new heights. I didn’t know two people could live together for over 25 years and scream at each other like this, every – single – day. About every – single – issue. The violent disrespect for each other and their (grown) children that explodes out of their mouths beggars belief.
Even though it is never unexpected, the ferocity literally makes me jump. Some days, it is so extraordinary that I shudder and think, that’s it, they’re going to kill each today. But they don’t. I have never heard a smash or a bang. Just screaming.
They’re such a funny couple. Always very friendly and pleasant to us. Cried when our dogs died. Share their lemons. Chat over the hedge. Will literally chat and chuckle over the hedge and then turn on their heels and scream at each other so that our ears vibrate. How do you get to such a state of communication and still walk and talk? I sure don’t know.
So – when you look at these pictures of our recently thrifted and oh so sweet garden swing with its new spring cushion – all cosy and sunny and waiting for Abby and I to wander outside and enjoy the spring afternoon – think of the soundtrack. We just roll our eyes now, shake our heads, and sometimes, when the words are so truly absurd, giggle.
But there you go, you can never tell just from looking at some pretty enough pictures what’s REALLY going on, huh :-)