how to survive night shift :: the tale of a colourful shawl

from front of chair

There are many knitting projects stuffed into many baskets around Bootville.  All started with much enthusiasm.  All still loved.  And oh I am looking forward to finishing and wearing them.  But there are weeks when carefully knitting a sleeve on double pointeds with regular decreases is just too much like work.  Let alone unravelling an Icelandic yoke to reknit with less rounds.  Oy!  That one fills me with dread.

arm

So when I had my first block of night duty, I needed something warm, colourful and comforting with which to busy my hands and provide some sort of normal during the late afternoon hours that are all you have between a day of sleeping and another 11 hour overnight shift.  across top

I sure found just the project … The Sunday Shawl by Alia Bland. a.k.a. The Little Bee NZ.  A crocheted shawl in DK weight that literally leaps off the hook!  The pattern is perfectly written – so easy to follow even with the most night duty addled mind.  For many peaceful hours you just crochet back and forth and back and forth, creating a simple, ever growing triangle.

close up of edge

By the time you get to the colourful border, you are ready for a bit of adventure and there’s just the right amount – a variety of stitches, none of them too complicated.  And …. here’s the really good bit … because it’s crochet, if you make a little mistake somewhere and don’t wind up with quite the right number of stitches … you can bodge it a little and no one will ever notice ;-)  Ahhhh the easy going nature of crochet … knitting is never that kind to clumsy fingers/mind!

beautiful back

I had the dark purple Cleckheaton DK in my stash – bought it from Wondoflex’s bargain basement.  And the colours were all found stuffed into baskets around the house from different projects.  So good – I didn’t even need to leave the house. It made for lovely afternoons – just what I needed in order to confront looooooooong nights with double the patient load.

corner

Night duty is weird.  The whole hospital seems to be asleep – except the patients – they rarely sleep.  All activities apart from nursing are pared back to the barest of essentials.  The throngs of people – doctors, allied health, orderlies, visitors – they have all vanished.  The lights are mostly out.  The whole ground floor with its shops and cafes is closed.  Only a skeleton staff of ward nurses bob about in the lamplight.  Doing obs, giving meds, helping patients in pain or providing bathroom relief.

And then there’s the Hospital in the Night nurses – they are true Florence Nightingales – created as a support to the halved number of ward nurses, they are highly experienced professionals who roam the hospital with pagers – need an urgent IV site, they come; need a complicated dressing changed, they come; have more meds than you can possibly deliver in a short space of time, they come; have a four bed room turned into gastro isolation at 2 o’clock in the morning, they come and STAY until everything is under control.  Oh, by the end of my first night, I LOVED the Hospital in the Night nurses and the moment they appeared I knew everything would be good.

including side

Then there were my ward sisters – I was very fortunate to work with my preceptor for the whole block – she’s a gem – an excellent nurse and incredibly supportive.  And our team leader each night was wonderful – supportive, highly skilled, buckets of experience and friendly.  Yep – it definitely makes the night flow well when you are in it together.   In the back of my mind, no matter how out of my comfort zone I was, I knew I would get through it because those around me would never let me fall.

putting it on

from front
wearing it

So the ingredients for a successful block of night shift – awesome ward sisters who have taught me so much, super hero Hospital in the Night nurses who can always be counted on to ride in and pull off the otherwise impossible, and a colourful Sunday Shawl to fill in those spaces that are neither days or nights and bear little resemblance to normal life.

I have loved wearing the Sunday Shawl to work on early mornings and late nights, tucked around my shoulders, its vibrant colours literally making the sterile corridors of the hospital glow.  I am definitely the only nurse who arrives looking this colourful :-) I’ve even had people comment in the lifts.

But this week, I gave it a lovely wash, gently stretched it out to reveal all those lacy crochet bits, and dried it in the back garden during a rare day of sunshine.  Then I folded it up and posted it off to a wee farm.

I hope the love and all the super hero nursiness that is stitched into it brings the marvellous farmer a bit of extra cosiness and comfort during these chilly months.

When it warms your shoulders, know that this shawl came to life alongside the encouragement, vast experience and potent skills of a powerful group of women who dedicate themselves to the care of others *

And now … well I’m about to start another block of night duty tonight (oh my!) but first I may well need a trip to the wool store :-)

* I do work with wonderful male nurses too – but there were none on duty during my first block of night duty :-)

 

mosaicing at Merryl’s

mum

Oh the frabjous day!  I’ve been pausing at the glittering windows of Merryl’s Mosaics – filled with awe at the beauty she and her students create – for as long as her studio has graced Glenhuntly Road.  Several times a year I pronounce to Julian and Abby “That’s it!  I want to go to Merryl’s and learn how to make mosaics!”  And yet it’s never happened.

second night starting point

But with the end of our time in Melbourne rushing towards us, and the recent death of Grandad, there was no more waiting for the right moment.  It had to be done!  Mum was coming from the sadness of Brisbane to spend a week with us before returning to her home.  Abby was on school holidays.  I had a week of days off before starting another fortnight of night duty (ugh!).  Perfect opportunity for finally calling Merryl and finding out just how her workshops ran and what we needed to do to start laying tiles.

tiles

It was ridiculously easy.  Isn’t that the way?  I always um and ah and um and ah and fret and hesitate … and yet, when I rang, she invited us to attend that very evening – no tools or supplies needed, she supplies everything, the workshops run for 2 1/2 hours, there’s a flat workshop fee that reduces when you bring family members and when you visit more than once in a week.  And there are sessions offered 3 nights a week and 5 mornings.  So delightfully flexible.

abby

And you just have to visit Merryl’s website and read how she came to start her mosaic workshop – very inspiring :-)  A passion for colour and design!  A desire to create a community of supportive creativity for women!  Merryl’s a woman after my own heart indeed. tiles with pencils

Within moments of arriving, we were settled at her huge work benches, our chosen wooden boards in front of us, tools by our side, and a breathtaking array of tiles and pebbles and glass laying before us.  The ultimate child in a candy store experience.

trees

I’m making a Hamsa (found in Jewish and Middle Eastern cultures) which represents the Hand of God and is said to protect your home from the evil eye.  Traditionally, they are highly decorated with an eye nestled into the palm.  Mine has a much simpler design – inspired by the beautiful art of Tomie de Paola, I’m creating a Hamsa that represents our little farm and when we settle in just 26 days, I hope to take my finished Hamsa and hang it on the walls of our little farm cottage.

Mum’s making a striking platter based on a Moroccan design.  She has cut and laid her tiles with painstaking precision – it is beautiful!  And I can’t wait to see how those rich blue stars leap when she’s filled in and grouted her background.

And Abby – she’s making a wallhanging based on a design from one of her favourite web based graphic novels.  You should see her in action – within moments of starting she mastered the tile cutter and grinder, carefully shaping her sparkling purple tiles to fit her meticulously measured curves.

end of second night

Oh we are so looking forward to returning next week!  And my pinterest boards are filling up with favourite pieces and designers … and birds.  I’d like to start a series of round pieces inspired by the work of the English mosaic artist Martin Cheek and representing the birds of the Sapphire coast.  And pieces for the garden.  And for the bathroom and kitchen of our strawbale home.  And for our paths.  And our exterior walls.  And …. And …. And … :-)

Thank you Merryl!

 

plates on the dresser

black corner

Now this is a bit backwards.  I made Julian yet another quilt for his birthday this year – I never intend doing this, ’cause frankly, Julian is not an especially quilty person, but I always seem to find just the perfect fabric for him in the weeks before his birthday, so find myself enthusiastically buying up a few metres of it and then presenting him with yet another quilt.

Last year it was the Wild Things quilt, this year it was the Periodic Table quilt, previous years … well I know I’ve made them but I can’t quite put my finger on them at the moment – they were clearly terribly perfect for Julian ;-)

If you have a magnifying glass handy you’ll notice I even chose the background fabrics carefully – there’s cameras for his love of photography, and wooden rulers for his love of precision and old tools, and seaweed for his love of snorkelling …

periodic table

I based the design on a striking quilt I found via Pinterest (you need to scroll down a bit to see the quilt I’m talking about).  Oh the hours I can spend (waste) on Pinterest! There are so many exquisitely beautiful quilts out there!

with leaves and shadows

I adored making the Periodic Table quilt, and was so thrilled with the finished quilt top that I straight away started another based on the same design – this here Plates on the Dresser.

A bundle of Anna Maria Horner fat quarters had landed in my lap from the wonderful Cotton Factory in Ballarat, and I’d noticed the perfect “wooden” fabrics up at Darn Cheap, so the minute I’d sewed the last row onto Julian’s Periodic Table quilt, I set to putting together this pretty thing.  Only I didn’t quilt and finish off the Periodic Table – which is why you are seeing the Plates on the Dresser first.

Backwards, huh.

along the back

So here’s the Plates on the Dresser.  I pieced my wooden shelves, then added the plates using first vliesofix to adhere them, then whizzed around the edges with a close zigzag stitch.

red and yellow edge

For the quilting, I used …. a vintage woollen blanket :-) I quilted a sort of peony shaped flower onto each plate and then did squiggly wiggly over the rest of it – blending the thread colours to the different plate and wood colours.  I never like my squiggly wiggly standing out – all I can see is faults – I like it to sink gently into the fabric.

blue corner

And then a nice piece of stripey reproduction for the binding – like a piece of ornate wooden trim.

pink in sun

Oh I do love it!  And well foresee myself making many more!  I know there will be a lovely gathering of fabric that will jump out at me and bam! – off I’ll go again. Very satisfying.

marmalade in the sun

This one has such a rich, old fashioned look to it.  I can just picture a huge old wooden dresser – the kind you’d see in the kitchen of Downtown Abbey – but instead of holding immaculate collections of perfectly matched and expensive china, it is stacked with the higgledy piggledy leftovers of generations worth of dinner settings that are now only used by the servants.  Just the kind of colourful, thrifty chaos I’m fond of.

with lucy

I think the pinks and reds in this one below are my favourite …

favourite piece

Anna Maria and I are definitely kindred spirits – I adore the busyness and rich saturations of her designs.  Nothing is ever subtle or understated.

like this plate

pegs

blankety back

sky

Sigh … just looking at it now, hanging there in all of it’s full wintery glory, makes me want to head up to Darn Cheap, stock up on a heap of Rosalie Quinlan’s, and make a red, white and blue version for summer.

full quilt

But right now, this Plates on the Dresser quilt is the perfect addition to our cold, dreak, wintery days.

so cosy

All that quilting has made it so heavy and warm.  Just right for snuggling under whilst knitting or reading or embroidering … or WiiU playing …

how it lives

… but I suppose I should really go quilt Julian’s birthday quilt … five months later.

farewell my dear old Grandad

Well hello there!  You’d thought I’d forgotten about you, didn’t you?!? No of course not – in fact, I feel rather sad to have been away for such a long time and promise that I shall NEVER be away for so long again.  Never!

What’s been happening around Bootville?  Well – lots.

the cover

Dear old Grandad finally passed away on the 10th June.  It was early Wednesday morning – well before the winter’s dawn – and I awoke with a jolt, just knowing he’d left.  I sent Mum a text – she was there with him – and sure enough she replied a few minutes later to say he’d taken a last raggedy breath and then there was no more.

Despite knowing that this was inevitable, oh I lay there and sobbed.  Forty five years I’ve had my dear old Grandad by my side – so extraordinarily blessed …

walking-down-the-aisle

grandad-and-lily-wedding

… and then he was gone.  Just like that.

So there was a sad trek to Brisbane for the funeral – family came from all over the world and despite some horrendously stressful moments, there were many more moments of love and joy as those that I love gathered together to send off a truly beautiful man.

the quilt

At the viewing we snugly tucked him in with his favourite quilt – one of mine that he has used every night since the stroke 18 months ago – it has survived two hospitals and a nursing home, it was clearly meant to be grandad’s.  In his hands lay his old Akubra to keep that hot Australian sun off his old bald head, and the little black wallaby I stitched him earlier this year was tucked into the crook of his arm – to remind him to always take the adventurous path.

grandad at the postoffice

grandad and his milkshake

grandad by the water

We chose music for his service that brought us to tears – a service which was held in the very same church that he married Nanny in almost 70 years ago.  The Reverend gave a heart warming sermon on St. Paul’s theme of the triumph of love over all else – she was magnificent and her words and compassion gave us so much comfort.  We scattered beautiful flowers across his grave – a secluded spot that I was relieved to find rang with birdsong.  Grandad loved birds.  We all pitched our photos together and created a slide show of Grandad’s life that expressed the joy and love he found in his family – one that we have watched over and over and still cry every time.  We took every opportunity to toast our dear old Grandad and his wonderful life until we all went our separate ways a few days later.

rainbow bay

I think for me the moment I felt closest to his spirit was on the beach at Rainbow Bay the day after the funeral.  Abby, Sacha, my nephew Oscar, cousin Maddie and I built a life sized sand sculpture of Grandad – Sandy Grandad.  It was truly therapeutic and as the day went on, more and more of my family arrived to set up camp around him.  The seagulls strutted their stuff across his chest and legs, nearby children dug in the sand and splashed in the glittering shallows, surfers paddled out to meet the dolphins, and families strolled back and forth.  Life in all its gentleness and beauty went on around him – just as it should.

his head

the flag

abby building him

his walking stick

with grandad

By late afternoon, there he lay, quiet and content – walking stick in hand, Akubra stuck on his head – waiting for the evening tide to come for him.  The setting sun turned his beloved bay into a silvery sparkly blue heaven. I stretched out beside him with Maddie and we reminded him how very much he was loved, what a fine old fellow he’d been, and how much we would miss him.  They were an exquisite few minutes – ones I shall always hold dear in my heart – and I’m so glad I was there with other cousins and aunties who loved grandad just as dearly as me.

face in shadow

“… So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. Make love your aim … “
( from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians)

heart

My dear old Grandad lived these words and so it is with a sad but grateful heart that I farewell him.

Grandad, you lived your life with such good cheer and never missed an opportunity to extend love to all those around you.  I hereby promise to do my best to follow your very fine example.

Cheers Grandad!