posted by on crafty, crochet, knitting, sewing


We have a special guest coming on Wednesday – an exchange student from Japan!  Abby is SOOOOOOOO excited.  The spare ‘oom is almost ready – just need to make up the bed and give the dressing table a dust.  As for the rest of Bootville – the front porch needs a little tidy and perhaps an extra scrub of the shower is in order.  Ummm … I think that’s about it.

However there are always fresh little bits that can be added too!  Don’t you think?  A little bit of sweetness and colour here and there when someone special is coming to stay.  There were two tins in the bathroom that certainly needed something.  I do love me a repurposed tin.  Once that food is out, the possibilities always seem so enticing … and so we have tins all around the house – holding cutlery, hair ties, knitting needles, rubbers, pencils, candles, reels of perle thread, bits of lego, random playmobile folk …  More than half are prettily attired but some sit there on the shelves looking like this …

… useful yes.  But more than a little bit ugly :-)  So, in honour of our Japanese exchange student’s visit, I’ve dressed up these bathroom tins.  That and Julian said he would throw them out if they continued to look so blah. Fine!  I’ll dress them!

So after classes yesterday, I searched out some fabric from the stash.  Crocheted up a wee border from a mangled ball of jute twine that was in the bottom of the bottom kitchen drawer and little bit of Lamb’s Pride Orange.  And set to covering.

Ha!  Much prettier.  And whilst crocheting the jute twine was a bit tedious in the initial stages – twist, twist, twist! – I really love the finished effect.  Looks very Marie Claire Idees … or maybe it’s just my 70s childhood showing.

The red riding hood fabric was almost allowed to speak for itself – almost.  This is lily boot sewing – I’m rather incapable of keeping things simple :-)

Yes, much, much, much better.  And they coordinate so cheerfully with the bathroom’s quilted lampshade and appliqued curtain.

Now I’m sure the exchange student will be quite oblivious to these repurposed tins.  I, however, am a firm believer in the notion that it’s the little bits that make our home.  And if those little bits are covered in lovely fabrics and stitches – even better.

posted by on family, woodwork


Oh my!  This is Abby’s new toy – a scroll saw.  She saved her pocket money for weeks and weeks, and on Saturday morning headed off to Hare and Forbes Machinery with Julian to make the grand purchase.  Even Fu was enamoured with this marvellous toy!  And the best way to spend my birthday Sunday – why it was watching, helping, encouraging and celebrating Abby’s amazing persistence and skill as she set about carving her own wooden toys.

There I sat, in the shade, her Owl sweater on my needles, watching with sheer delight as she and Julian worked it out.  First they drew straight lines … then curved lines … then angles … Abby doggedly cut and adjusted and improved her technique for over three hours.  Yes, my wee perfectionist was determined to get it right, but also, there was a lovely and gracious acceptance – possibly for the first time in her life! – that when we try new things, skills will come slowly and only after much practice and patience.  It was the perfect birthday present for this mama.

Eventually she felt confident enough to explore the possibilities of the cookie cutter collection (see Jules!  I told you that collecting in excess of 100 cookie cutters was not a waste! ).  First a simple duck, then a pig, then a rabbit …

By mid afternoon, she was ready to try her own designs … along with much thicker wood and different styles of blades!  She wants to make characters that emulate the design of Ostheimer – profile shapes with bevelled edges (my use of the word bevelled is completely amateur so just insert the right one should you know what I mean ;-) – so Julian also showed her how to use the Dremel for adding extra dimension.

She drew her doll, traced it onto the wood, and slowly, slowly cut – Julian by her side, offering encouragement.  It was AMAZING!  Look at the detail of the hair!  In and out, in and out she went.

There was only a brief halt to activities for dinner, and then it was back to the painting. Unlike me, who whacked the paint on my simplistic little farm girl as quickly as I could – making a few messes along the way – Abby waited patiently for each coat to dry before adding the next colour or detail.

And now she has this gorgeous doll!  As well as a long list of other characters, animals, objects and dreams she would like to draw out of wood.  I’m in awe of my fifteen year old girlchild-woodworker.  Awe!  Who knows where this new skill and passion will take her!? It will be such a delight to see.

As I said, best birthday present ever.

posted by on birthdays, cooking, family, knitting, woodwork


~ my mummy coming to visit – with an icebox full of pouring cream! ~

~ the soda stream – Julian’s Christmas present – adored by the whole family
- soda water on tap is just the best ~

~ following Alicia’s advice to try this technique – and loving it so much
we’re on to our third loaf for the week ~

~ a new to us, gorgeous vintage chess set … enticing us to plonk down
at the kitchen table and share yet another game ~

~ knitting, knitting and more knitting – yum! yum! yum!
hoping to reach the owls by the end of the week ~

~ the sweetest daughter – sharing her time and talents ~

~ family … learning / fun / exploring / teaching
… the perfect back garden Sunday ~

~ my wonky – but fabulously fun! – first attempt ~

~ her extraordinary, first time marvel – oh my! ~

~ another birthday – 43! – and the candles are no longer lit because of
the huge chunk of long, streaked-with-grey hair that caught fire
whilst the birthday girl (moron) leaned across the birthday wreath
to blow out her candles – ahem! – age would appear to be dulling her brain ~

p.s. there are no photos of the fiery spectacle – Abby and Mum were too busy gasping with horror whilst Julian was grabbing the dog quilt with which to smother me.  I, however, upon seeing the flames out of the corner of my eye, simply clapped my hands over and over the flames, putting most of them out, whilst turning to the sink where I doused the remaining singed bits in water … the stinky burnt mess fell into the sink and Abby trimmed up the remaining hair with the dressmaking scissors.
An almost fitting end to the week.




posted by on chickens, family, knitting


phew … it’s been a big week here in Bootville.  Classes started afresh for the academic year.  All 7am starts – very tiring for this out of practice would-be-nurse.  And in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a fox broke into the chooks’ house and killed Benny and Souffie – ripped out their throats.  It was my fault.  I’d been leaving the door to their house open over summer as the nights have been so hot and still.  I didn’t want them to feel hot and yucky.  Now two are dead instead.  So stupid!

Oh my.

It was so horrible.  We were woken by the terrible noise made by the first of our girls to be killed – she cried out in such terror and agony whilst her sisters went bonkers with fright, banging and flapping about the house.

By the time Julian had exploded out the back door and raced through the garden to their enclosure, the next girl to be killed cried out in the same horrible way.  Meanwhile, poor Nog and Lettie had managed to get out of the fox’s way and were frantically trying to get out the gate – in fact, they ran out as Julian ran in.  We found Nog pretty easily – she was hiding in the Vietnamese basil, but Lettie secreted herself so well, we didn’t spy her again until well and truly after the sun had risen.

Poor, poor Benny and Souffie.  I know death is part of keeping animals, and anyone who’s ever kept chickens has experienced Mr. Fox at least once.  But boy oh boy … when Julian carried their still warm bodies out of the enclosure to put them somewhere safe until morning when we could bury them, I cried.  When I cracked my next egg, the following day, I cried.  Abby cried.  It was awful.  But the way of the natural world I guess.  My Uncle Keith used to lose his chooks to carpet snakes – ugh!  He’d go down in the morning and there’d be a carpet snake – too fat with all the chooks he’d eaten to get back out.  Family consensus is, if we were chooks and the occasion arose when we were about to become another animal’s dinner, we’d rather a fox than a carpet snake.  Though scant comfort at the moment, I must say.

As for Mr. Fox – we didn’t even see him leave he was so quick and sly.  We have carefully searched along the perimeter’s edge – we think he got in where the chickens had themselves dug a small hole under the wall of their house, where it butts up against the sewing shed.  The fox could have gotten under the sewing shed – as does Fu, but the thought a fox would do it simply hadn’t crossed our minds because he would have to have gotten into our garden first, which has quite sturdy 6 foot fences – and then, with a bit of wiggling, through the hole and pop! into the house.

I’ve since read that foxes can spring over a six foot fence from a standing position on the ground.  Good grief.  I’ve also read that the end of summer is a prime time for an increase in attacks as the spring born cubs learn to hunt for themselves.  And here in our neighbourhood, an abandoned house which was home to a huge number of foxes, was pulled down last week – maybe those foxes have found new homes closer?

Extra mesh has been dug in, heavy rocks have been laid on top.  Regardless of the heat, that chook house door will be securely shut every night for ever more.  And – just in case it works – we’ve taken a leaf out of Hugh F-W’s book and are peeing on the fence.  Well – you know, peeing into a container and throwing it on the fence.  Folk wisdom suggests the scent of urine – especially male – deters foxes.  Others say it does nothing at all. Might as well give it a go.

Meanwhile, Nog and Lettie are stumbling on.  Nog lost a lot of feathers – you can imagine that the fox grabbed her by a clump of feathers and when she jumped, they just came out – she has bald patches between her shoulder blades and around her tail and butt.  She looks a wreck – but seems pretty confident still.  Nog’s always been a bit dim.

Lettie, on the other hand, has no visible signs of attack at all, but is a nervous wreck.  She’s always been very sweet – always talks to me when I go near, drops herself at my feet ’cause she loves to be carried and stroked, a very friendly and relaxed chook.  Now, if she was human, she’d be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.  The first day, she stood by the water bowl with her head drooping and eyes closed.  It was so sad.  The next morning when I opened the door she stood in it silently, and every few moments, would put her head and look one way, then the other.  She did this for a good five minutes before deciding it was safe to come out.

But today, Lettie’s made herself a dust bath and is dozing in the sun.  And Nog’s being Nog – bumping about, chattering away to herself and munching grain.  No eggs since the attack – I’ve read this is very normal.  And they may never lay again.  We’ll see.

So – big week.  Tiring week.  Sad week.  Oy.  By Friday, I needed something to soothe my spirits – some new wool from Wondoflex’s bargain basement (only open Fridays and Saturdays and literally in the basement) – 12 ply for $25 for a bag of 10 balls.  Perfect for knitting Abby her 2013 jumper – Kate Davies’ Owls.  Round, and round and round – and on those 6.5mm needles it’s rising like well yeasted bread.

Hopefully next week will be a bit more gentle.  Autumn has certainly arrived with a jolt.


the crib


posted by on thrifted


Well … this might just be the daftest thing I’ve ever brought home .. but gee, it’s so sweet I just couldn’t resist it.  Besides – it had been sitting forlornly on the side of the road for a few days – no one else was taking it, so without me, its next trip would have been to the tip.  So we (well, me at least) are now the pleased as punch owners of this very old, very sweet cane crib of course!  In really lovely condition – apart from the layer upon layer upon of paint.

It was a very funny hard rubbish moment.  There we were, the day before New Years Eve, driving back from the shops, when I spied it yet again.  Now, I’d made sure *I* was driving so that I could stop with impunity – first rule of hard rubbishing with family – NEVER let the husband drive because he will NEVER stop when you spy something marvellous, no matter how passionate your request!

I pulled over with glee.  Abby hopped out, flipped down the back seats and cleared the space – god, she’s good.  Then the two of us carried it over and slid it in.   There was only one problem.  This lovely big crib left no room for the car’s third occupant.  I suggested leaving Julian behind and coming back to get him after we’d dropped the crib home.  He was’t keen.  It was 32 degrees, middle of the day, no shade.  Abby said she’d stay behind – she had her drawing pad and pens.  Yes, I confess, for a split second I thought “Cool!  That will work!” and then I remembered I was her mother and she was my innocent child, so politely declined her generous offer.

It was at that moment Julian thought it only right toremind me that it was MY desire to cart the crib home, therefore, I should be the one who stayed behind.  I was baffled “How?” I quizzed, “When I’m the driver?”  Abby smacked her forehead.  Julian rolled his eyes.  Ahem.

So they tootled on home with the crib and I … well I decided that it was too hot to stand in the glaring sun, so sunnily said – “Never mind me!  I’ll walk – it will be good exercise!”  Truly I did :-)

I made it about a third of the way – making sure to choose the shady sides of the streets – dreaming of ducking into one of the little neighbourhood stores on the way for a bottle of cold water.  And then – not even knowing quite where I’d be,  Jules came back.  I’m smiling now as I type.  Oh the silly things I get up to.  Our whole home is a treasure trove of rolled eyes and funny tales :-)

Now, we Boots have no real purpose for even the loveliest of cribs at this time in our lives.  Nor any real room for it in our home.  But one day … when we have our lovely home in the country, I will have it all stripped back (boy, won’t that require a mammoth effort – I’ll save it up for a winter’s day when I’m so cold I’ll do anything to warm up!) and rubbed with beeswax.  It will sit in a softly lit, breeze scented, sweetly decorated bedroom waiting for lovely long visits from tiny folk.  Perhaps (hopefully!) Abby’s. There’ll be a firmly fitted mattress (ah, all those child safety precautions studied in paediatrics will be put to good use), a fitted quilted top (no ties!) a hand knitted sleeping sack just waiting to be snuggled into.  Mayhaps a friendly crocheted doll in the corner.

Until then, I’ve pulled the saggy mesh bottom out – held in place with a million nails hammered half way in and then bashed over – that was fun!  Given it a good clean.  And put it in the Tardis – I mean, sewing shed.  Ingeniously, I was able to put it where two tall stacks of clear plastic crates filled with fabric stood.  They are now neatly standing inside it.  No weight on the actual crib because it has no bottom.  Cool huh!

And if I’m desperate for fun (i.e. haul all the boxes out again) I can bring it out into the garden and drape it with quilts and fabric for photos.  Works very well as a prop :-) and aren’t these fabrics utterly gorgeous?!  I bought a metre of each – $5 a metre.  It would have been positively foolhardy NOT to buy them.

Oh it is sooooo pretty, isn’t it!  : sigh :

loveliness found


posted by on birthdays, books, chatter, crochet, dolls, family, growing our food, patchwork


~ the little girls discovered the thrill of making their own music ~

~ Jules celebrated his birthday … with cherry cocktails and a kitchen supper ~

~ a quilt design was tinkered with, fabrics were foraged from the stash (there’s a newly thrifted lampshade needing dressing), and an ever-so-sweet layer cake arrived ~

~ the ancient hills hoist clothesline fell down – completely rusted – one of us cheered, the other (being she who hangs out the bedding) pursed her lips ~

~ the big girlie devoted her afternoon to helping the little girlies with their maths’ project – the kitchen was buzzing with excitement and creativity ~

~ in return, the big girlie and her grateful mama spent the following hot and steamy afternoon savouring gelati and soaking up the air conditioning of our local Readings ~

~ Heidi grew and grew and grew  …  a wee felted heart was stitched for her and slipped inside for extra love ~

~ summer’s last Sunday barbeque was relished …

~ as was the return of tablecloth week! (one week off, as per Julian’s preference;
one week on, as per Lily’s preference ;-) ~

~ a favourite magazine was enjoyed after dinner
- two pages per watering can refill ~

~ & I felt so lucky to be watering the herbs and spinach by moonlight,
or I’d have completely missed this beautiful sight ~

What loveliness did you find this week?  Share your delights in the comments or leave us a link so that we may follow the path to your place :-)

comforts for Frida


posted by on clothes, crochet, dolls, Frida, sewing, thrifted


Confession:  today is the first time, in more than 30 years of machine sewing, that I worked out how to use the seam guide.  Cool!  This is without doubt, the most liberating gadget I have ever fastened to a sewing machine.  I think my life is about to get even better.

First up – Frida’s mattress (btw, every time I type Frida, I type Friday and have to go back and fix it – ugh!).  A lovely piece of heavy duck from Spotty (one of my favourite fabrics they’ve ever sold), filled with two thick layers of wool from a futon factory, and then tied to give it the appearance of a vintage mattress.  That red and white design could SO be Mexican and not Swedish couldn’t it?!  Yes, of course it could :-)

Then her pillow.  Same wool from the futon factory – 6 layers instead of 2.  A favourite piece of reproduction shirting – oh dear, I do declare it’s almost run out – trimmed with some sweet vintage lace from the Button Shop in Malvern.    Oh yes, they sell vintage – but as new.  You should see the Jaeger knitting patterns!  It’s an absolute treasure trove.

A thorough washing of the carriage in the shower – the only time I felt cool all day.

And then the clothes …. making my own patterns – a puffed sleeve blouse – getting the shape of the sleeve top just right seems to keep coming at the expense of the sleeve hem.  Tweaking, tweaking.

Then it’s done!  Well – almost.  No buttons or hems yet :-)  but enough for a quick show and tell before supper.  And look how pleased Frida is – that’s definitely a smile of delight today – rather than yesterday’s pursed lips.  Come on dear, outside for some photos, your carriage awaits.

Tomorrow will be a big day.  All the little details to finish off – wee button holes, hems and collars.  Julian’s offered his services in hood repair.  And Abby and I are performing complex surgery – there’ll be hair removal, a cranioectomy, a complete re-stuff, finished off with a hair replant.  We just can’t bear the pinto bean stuffing – so sluggish – and they keep popping out.  And this Frida’s just too lovely to live with such indignity!

Right now – I’m knitting a wee shawl for her.  Just in case it ever again gets cold here in Melbourne.  At the moment, I can’t even imagine it.

posted by on books, crochet, dolls, Frida, patchwork, quilts, thrifted


I had triangles laying about.  You do to, don’t you.  It’s one of those patchworky things.  We buy lovely long lengths of fabric.  Chop them up into wee little pieces.  Sew these little pieces together at all manner of odd angles.  End up with more wee little pieces.  Before you know it, there are triangles lying around.

So I sewed them up.  There’s a whirlygig in the centre.  See it?  And then the triangles move away into each corner.  Just simple.  And the cream fabric is so sweet.  A recently found retro print – reminds me of all the picture books and birthday cards I had as a small child.  Look at these dear little smiley faces … a writer, an astronaut, a vet, a sewist …

Let’s pretend we didn’t notice the blatant stereotyping and declare them all girls ;-)  How could we not, with those rosy cheeks and cherry bow lips.  I do love the colours.  My favourites.

I began adding borders – but I think I was getting carried away.  Off with the brown and dark blue!  With just the pink and orange, it was the perfect size for a dolly quilt …

… and I knew just the dolly.  She was sitting in the hall, atop the Lotte dresser, still very immodestly attired in her underclothes (good thing it’s been so hot!).  But I think she was getting peeved with her position in life.  So, I popped her into this gorgeous little dolly pram I found in hard rubbish, snuggled her in with an orange towel just right for reclining and a piece of folded linen to sit on.  And a quilt to keep her cosy.  Oh my, she looks such a picture!

And Fu just loves her!  As I pushed the pram around the back garden – to find just the right spot for a photo, NOT because I was PLAYING with her – Fu followed.  Each time we stopped, she’d give Frida a little sniff and plop down at her side.  Funny little dog!

A quick bit of handquilting and binding is all the quilt needs.  And I WILL make Frida her first outfit tomorrow – I’m definitely in the mood now.  We bonded so well over her new pram and quilt :-)

As for the pram – it needs a little work – I will scrub down the chrome with steel wool to remove the tiny bit of surface rust that is there.  Make a mattress and pillow for it.  There’s a few missing screws.  And the vinyl hood needs replacing – easy-peasy – I’ve seen the fabric at Spotty.  Yes, it shall be transformed into the loveliest little carriage for Frida.

Reminds me a bit of Clara’s wheelchair from “Heidi” – do you remember that?  The moment I thought of that, I remembered one of my all time favouritest booky scenes – when Heidi was climbing the mountain to stay with Grandpa and she had all her clothes on – remember!  Aunt Ditte made her put everything on she was taking, in layers.  And poor old Heidi was so clumsy and hot – she just ripped the things off as she bounded through the meadows, leaving a trail of clothes behind her.   This is the version I had with illustrations by Erika Weihs (an Jewish/Austrian artist who fled Vienna upon the outbreak of war, first moving to London, then New York) …

Goodness!  it was published in 1946 – I bet my Great Auntie Jean gave it to me – she only ever gifted us with beautiful second hand books that were precious to her.  And here’s Heidi all layered up, leaving with Aunt Ditte …

The pages of this book were really thick and porous and a special kind of smooth – that kind that is so full of acid, it disintegrates with time – and the shading in the illustrations was exquisite.  That’s what I remember the most – the soft, pretty colours that looked as if they had been smooshed into the paper with the artist’s fingers.  Oh how I loved it …

Look!  Here’s funny little Heidi – she’s arrived at Grandpa’s in her underwear!  Ahem – how did I get here from Frida in her carriage with a new quilt – oh that’s right!  Clara.  Oh and that’s what I was thinking!  A Heidi doll!!!!!!  With layers of clothing!  Such fun!  That is definitely on the “lovely-things-to-do-list” for the coming weekend.  Then Heidi and Frida can pop into the carriage together – head to toe – and both enjoy wee outings.

And when she’s not socialising with Frida, I can dress Heidi all up, one layer after the next – and then rip them all off again!  Good grief!  Wasn’t Aunt Ditte a dope.

And isn’t the quilt cute – and the pram.  Oh I do so love dollies.

recently read


posted by on books


I’ve read some real humdingers lately … books that have kept me reading into the wee hours of the morning, have made me roll around the bed laughing until tears roll down my face, have seen my eyes pop out in amazement, left me sitting at the breakfast table until well past when we SHOULD have made a move describing a particularly poignant scene to Abby, and begging Julian to listen because “you’ll never read it, will you, so just let me tell you – it was extraordinary!”

And so I thought it must be time to share a few …

Well … there’s not much I can say about Gone Girl without completely destroying the premise for you.  In fact, don’t read the reviews on Amazon – despite declaring that they contain no plot spoilers, they do.  So I shall simply say, very carefully, it’s about a woman called Amy who disappears from her house on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary.  Her husband Nick is frantic.  I shall say no more.  Did I enjoy reading it – oh yes!  Would I read it again – oh yes!  Do I recommend it – oh yes!  Would I call it a thriller – absolutely not.  More like a very very black comedy – a book of despair and bleakness that pokes the reader with a sharp needle, making me sit up and acknowledge my own flaws and failings.

The character development is fabulous – there are characters who you never feel comfortable with – in fact, I didn’t really become overly fond of any of them.  But they were engaging that’s for sure.  As for her descriptions of life in and the social and economic landscapes of Manhattan vs. Missouri – incredible.  At times, Flynn enmeshes her reader in environments that are so cringingly uncomfortable – positively Dickensian –  that you wonder what kind of future any of these people have.  Read it.  I would call it a light read – certainly not good literature – and it won’t take you long but you’ll never forget it!

Hee! hee! hee! hee!  I love Colin Cotterill.  I must confess, when I learned that he had ditched Dr. Siri, the septogenarian pathologist from Laos, for Jimm Juree, the unemployed journalist from Thailand who is just desperate to crack a big story after moving south to a derelict holiday resort with her family, I was very petulant.  I didn’t think this young upstart could hold a candle to the marvellous Siri, and I wasn’t sure I would find descriptions of modern Thailand anywhere near as entrancing as post war Laos. Wrong!  Totally different in one way – i.e. environment and people – but classic Cotterill in the other.  These are the first two in what I’m sure will be a new series.

Wacky cast of characters – some real gems – some are a little stereotyped but others – like Ed the fisherman and the local Buddhist nun are really sympathetically drawn.  The family is delightfully loopy – Mair, the mother who is beginning to unravel a little, Granddad Jah a bitter, almost silent ex-traffic policeman, Sissi the transexual computer hacker, Arny the body builder, and a menagerie of grotty dogs.  Lieutenant Chompu is divine.  If you’ve been to South East Asia, you can just imagine the village – hot, hot, hot, and exceptionally muggy where the most sensible thing to do is sprawl (you can’t sit, too many parts of you stick together with sweat if you sit, you must sprawl) in the shade with the fan pointed directly at you, and do not move until it is absolutely necessary .  Cotterill sets the scenes so beautifully – he has a magical way with descriptions – they not only leave you laughing out loud, but you can feel the steamy, damp settling into your hair, your eyes squint in the glare, and the smells of Thailand fill your nose and clothes.  The crimes are eccentric – a little creepy, sometimes sinister.  The twists and turns are intriguing and occasionally eye popping.  The political satire is very pointed and witty.   A very fun read – with the first being a bit better than the second.  I raced through the first – mad keen to find out what on earth had happened.  The second was more meandering.

Odd, odd, odd.  Continuing on with my fascination with the Orthodox Jewish culture (yeah, just in case you never heard me mention it, we live in a very Jewish neighbourhood which I find entrancing), this is my first read about life as a *dissatisfied* Hasidic wife.  And boy, Deborah was dissatisfied.  The book has been quite controversial with Deborah’s family and former friends, who vehemently denounce her recollections and storytelling.  I’ve no idea or opinion on whether her writings are fact or fiction.  Did I enjoy reading it – not really.  Would I read it again – no.  It’s a bit clumsy.  I don’t like Deborah’s voice – frankly, she’s a bit of whinger – not that I want to demean her story – it’s her written voice – it’s just not appealing.  She doesn’t have a way with words at all.

But I did read it to the end and it was very informative and at times fascinating – describing aspects of a rigidly traditional and patriarchal society that is usually so utterly closed to the eyes of the outsider.  At the risk of sounding a bit odd, learning about customs such as the ritual baths and the “logic” behind the many rules that control the everyday lives of Hasidic Jewish women makes me look at my neighbours with even more curious eyes. Some of the books I’ve previously read describing life according to the Halacha have left me feeling almost wistful that such a strong and vibrant community is completely out of my reach – such as Seven Blessings, by Ruchama King – I really love this book and have read it a few times now.  But Unorthodox has reminded me that any extreme culture requires conformity and the loss of individual at some level – bit of a pin popping the balloon moment really. So do I recommend it?  Y.e.e.e.e.s. – maybe.  But only if you’re really interested and can borrow it from someone else.

Markovits‘ first novel in English is in total contrast to the previous book.  Not overly sympathetic to the Hasidic lifestyle – especially the treatment of women and the expectation that they will expect NOTHING but a life of servitude to their family, community and faith.  Beautifully written, heartbreakingly sad, compelling character development, fascinating backdrop – starting with the war in Eastern Europe, moving onto Paris and England, and finally Brooklyn.

The theme that I was most drawn to was that of righteousness.  What is it?  Who decides? Is it ever okay to deviate?  If so, when and why?  Are men held to a different standard of righteousness then women?  The terrifying power one moment’s desperate indiscretion has to destroy many lives.  Can individual responsibility really exist when every single aspect of your life is so curtailed/shaped by religious law?  It’s a really good book.  Terribly sad. But really good.  If you’re interested in Hasidic life, then yes, read it.  You’ll be engrossed.

Ahhhh …. deep cleansing breath.  Complete change of pace here.  An utterly wonderful, funny, poignant, fascinating, inspiring account of a pair of young farmers, determined to create a better way of living and share it with their community.  I loved it.  Oh there were parts that were so sad – had to describe them to the family in great detail – such as the fate of the poor wee Jersey cow.  Kristin is delightful – and her style of writing, really appealing.  As for her husband Mark – I just adored him!  Like a cowboy, even more eccentric, version of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall.

It’s not rose coloured and romantic – for instance, their farm house sounds truly revolting.  I would go BATTY putting up with it.  And the work is hard, hard, hard, hard, hard, sometimes heartbreakingly unrewarding, painful and very very dirty.  Fabulous read.  Highly, highly recommended.  Especially if you enjoy the countryside and have any farming dreams.

Okay.  I don’t think Bella Bathurst is a great writer.  And in the hands of someone whose words flow and bloom, the Lighthouse Stevensons could have read like Treasure Island itself.  However, Ms. Bathurst provides a very sensible, well written and meticulous (at least it seems to me!) account of Robert Louis Stevenson’s incredible family and their passion for lighthouses.  Can you believe that for more than one hundred years, one family was responsible for building every lighthouse along the Scottish coast.  And even if the style is pedestrian at times … there’s a bit of “dum-dee-dum-dee-dum-dee-dum” if you get my drift … the content is so utterly fascinating and the feats achieved by these men against the most mercurial seas and dangerous conditions, that the Lighthouse Stevensons is a compulsive read.  I adored it.  It will provide you with endless trivia to share :-)

Yes, if you share my lifelong love of lighthouses and have a shivery fascination for wild seas and terrible storms and bleak, lonely razor sharp rocky outposts … then this is the book for you!  Unbelievable stuff.  Just awesome.  And what a cast of characters – especially the old granddad.  I especially loved how it showed Edinburgh – unlike the cities of England – to be a place where education and hard work was enough to transform your life.  No need for family wealth or a title.  And it really reveals the marvellous disposition the Scots had for learning, experimentation and engineering.  What a bunch of clever clogs.  Would I read it again – yes!  Do I recommend it – yes!

Okay – can’t say too much about this final read, because I’ve only just started it.  However, it is FANTASTIC and I LOVE it!!!!!  :-) :-) :-)  Utterly divine!  Told in the first person by Professor Don Tillman who spends his days in his genetics laboratory here in Melbourne, getting mice drunk.  What a gorgeous fellow – a strong streak of Aspergers, unwittingly leaves you rolling around in bed laughing.  Oh so appealing – you just want Don to win and have a marvellous time whilst he’s doing it.

You see, he wants to get married … oh, even if you just read it for the description of his friendship with his elderly neighbour and her love of daphne, it brings tears to my eyes just writing this … but he’s had no luck thus far.  So – he decides to approach finding a wife in a more scientifically rigorous manner.  Really – just ignore the rest of the books on this post and just read The Rosie Project.  I guarantee you’ll be emailing me, with a smile from ear to ear, exclaiming “Oh my god, lily, thank you so much for introducing me to this book!”

Now … I’m going to bed to read.

posted by on patchwork, quilts, textile history, woollen blankets


My extra simple, sweetwater quilt was indeed finished off with the contrasting binding slip stitched into place last Friday eve.  Bliss!

I’m so pleased with the tying.  You can sort of see here how I made simple crosses before tying the thread off – double cross stitches and three layered knots.

I’m especially pleased with how soft the quilt is.  It drapes beautifully – a heavily quilted quilt is so much heavier and more rigid.  This is pure softness – just right for snuggling.

The fabrics are so lovely – they look so much like boardshorts that this quilt will always be a “summer” quilt to me.  And I love the plain fabrics too – I’m really getting into plain fabrics.  Isn’t that ballet pink so pretty?  I’m contemplating buying a few of those plain jelly rolls from Moda and then paying Abby to cut a heap of my scraps up into 2 1/2 inch squares and making a ginormous sort of Irish chain quilt.  Mmmm ….  or I could be truly lazy and extravagant, leave Abby out of the equation, and just indulge in some of the mini-charm packs to go with the jelly rolls.  There are so many lovely ranges to choose from … Chateau Rouge, Everlastings, Flirt,  La Belle Fleur, The Morris Apprentice … we are utterly spoiled for fabric choices aren’t we.

I love how the cross stitches “dimple” the blanket backing – so pretty.  And this one has a lovely check.  Mmmmmm ….

And I carefully made sure to incorporate the label (I usually have to trim the blankets to fit the quilt tops – but I try to use as much of the blanket as I can, and then save all the scraps for smaller projects and bunting etc.) – it’s a Roslyn Health Blanket from New Zealand.  I bet it’s from the South Isle – that’s where most of the sheep are – I googled it and it seems there’s even a suburb named Roslyn in Dunedin (the southern most city of the South Isle) .  A-ha!  Now the power of the internet comes to fore.  There was indeed a woollen mill in Roslyn – it stood in the centre of 14 acres on Kaikorai Road.  The owners were Mr. Ross and Mr. Glendenning (oh that makes me think of The Paradise!)

(source:  Encyclopaedia of New Zealand – Agricultural Processing Industries)

Eeeeeee!  Look at this – I even found a picture of the mill – goodness me, it was quite a concern.  The mill itself was famous for its immensity and strength – needed to counter the vibrations of the heavy machinery.  Behind was the wool store where the bales arrived and were sorted.  There’s a fabulous article here that describes in great detail the mill’s operations.  They had knitting machines for pants, shirts and stockings, and were famous for their weaving of cloth, yarn, flannels, blankets, plaids, tweeds, and rugs.  And mands.  I don’t know what mands are – do you?  I’ve tried looking it up to no avail.  By 1938, they were even making saucy pink swimming suits!  Check this out! (unfortunately I can’t download a copy as it’s available for sale)

( source: Hocken Collections, Library, University of Otago)
I’m assuming these folk are staff from the Mill – there are no further details,
but the university’s website is interactive and there are sections
where members of the public can add detail – so if you know anything!

The mill was such a modern wonder that, when this article was written in 1882, it even had a telephone and Joel’s electric lamps.  The writer predicted that the mill would provide jobs for many of the colony’s hands.  And that it did until the 1960s when the newfangled, man-made (read revolting) textiles began to challenge wool’s supremacy.  In 1960 there were 18 mills in New Zealand producing 10,000 tonnes of yarn, 3 million square metres of woven fabric, 223,000 pairs of blankets, and 67,000 rugs.  By 2000, all of the major mills had closed.  Heartbreaking.  Whilst it doesn’t mention the Rosyln Mill’s demise specifically, the Mosgiel Mill – which merged with the Roslyn Mill in the 1960s – closed in 1980 after 110 years of operation.

(source: Hocken Collections, Library, University of Otago)
Mounting Room

(source: Hocken Collections, Library, University of Otago)
Work room, 1938

(source: Hocken Collections, Library, University of Otago)
Worsted Room, 1938 … oh my, how hard they must have worked.  I find myself peering closely into the face of that young girl in the middle of the front row and whispering … “I have one of your blankets here!  It’s still so beautiful!” and wondering what became of her.  Did she have a family?  Did they stay in Dunedin?
What are her memories of the mill?

Oh my!  You’ve got to look at this – a job advertisement for a new manager for the Roslyn Mill, upon the death of the former manager.  They employed 800 hands and offered a liberal salary …

(source:  The Age, Dec 14, 1941) – that’s our local Melbourne paper :-)

As I think about the plethora of woollen mills that were once scattered across Australia and New Zealand – such a vibrant, vital and creative contribution to our communities – that are now closed, and the number of beautiful woollen blankets that were firmly tucked into people’s beds before the advent of doonas, I feel quite a sense of loss.  All that cleverness, all that work, all that beauty.  Just vanished – poof!  It makes me feel quite anxious that these blankets – probably the only tangible reminders of the glory days – will one day just disappear.  When my future grandchildren visit op-shops I daresay there will be no blankets to find then.  Eeeeee!  Makes me determined to visit every op-shop I pass and greedily hoard these gorgeous things.  I’ve met people who have told me how they’ve taken old family blankets to the DUMP.  Sacre bleu!!

I love the effort and time that was put into the warps and wefts, the colours, the labels, the blanket stitched edgings …  I actually met someone last year whose family OWNED one of the woollen mills (I even have some of their blankets which delighted him no end) – he described being all a bit impatient of his family’s blankets as a teenager – but secretly really loving being part of it all – hanging out at the mill, being there when the bales of wool were delivered.  He confessed that he actually thought one of their rivals did a better blanket stitch … that just made me giggle, the thought of this then young man – adventurous yet sweet – making a quiet study of blanket stitching.

I shall never have enough.  I know that sounds greedy.  But it’s true.  I love them so. Especially their labels.  And their stories – real or imagined.   Truly, tonight I feel so very fortunate that I was able to discover so much about this one wee blanket’s heritage.   Just tickled pink … ballet pink that is ;-)

posted by on patchwork, quilts


It is freaking hot.  Has been for days.  Dry intense hot.  Yuck.  (see, told you I could whinge, I’ve been practicing all week.)

And – so bizarrely – there’s no cool change!  Melbourne is FAMOUS for its cool changes. CarolAnn will tell you – you walk into the cinema and it’s 42 degrees – you walk out two hours later and it’s 19 degrees.  But this – it’s been getting hotter each day since last Wednesday! Even the weatherman was amazed – he looked at us through that tv screen – straight at us, I swear – and said, “And strangely enough, there’s no cool change coming our way.  That’s right – this heat is just going to keep going.” Oh my god!  That sounds like we are going to miss out on autumn!

The heat drains me.  By the time darkness falls, I just want to lay on the bed in front of the fan.   At least – practicing some gratitude here – my family and home are safe, unlike the poor folk on the northern edges of our city who are facing a night of huge grass fires and dreadful smoke.  That would be terrifying.

So what have I done since it’s been hot … why quilt of course!  Nothing like layers of wool and cloth to make one forget about the heat beating at the back door.  Another reason to be grateful – our house is double brick – very well insulated.  Just before the morning sun hits, we close all the curtains (double layered with insulated backings) and inside the house still hasn’t reached 30 – phew.  Then, long after the sun has gone down, we open everything back up and let the incredibly small amount of night time relief, cool us down a bit.  You know, just to give you the picture, last night the outside temperature did not drop below 28 degrees until 5.30am.  That’s right – 5.30am.  I told you it was hot.

I’m weather obsessed.  I shall stop.  Here – take a look at my kitchen table instead.

A long lost, really pretty quilt top has been laying atop of it since Saturday – discovered in a box on a mad dash to the sewing shed to find something to play with before I melted.  It’s a bit like having a big, complicated jigsaw on the table.  Every time we walk past, we stop and add a few stitches.  Well – Abby and I do.  We haven’t converted Julian yet.  We’ve also had Saturday night cocktails on it, shared breakfast on it, read the papers on it …  good thing I believe in all those quilty mantras about being made to use etc.

And today I completely succumbed.  You see, I have a real problem with watching television during the day – makes me feel atrociously lazy and slothful so I never do it. However, when one is sitting almost motionless and alone for several hours, performing a rather repetitive and simple action, the rambling in one’s head can get a little rowdy.  I need to channel my inner Marcus Aurelius – wipe that imagination and confine myself to the present!

So I’ve decided a good way to do this is to embrace the glowing screen – silence the critical/anxious self talk and lose myself in the joys of ABC’s iVIEW instead.  Today I watched Midsomer Murders (marvellous), The Paradise (fabulous), Great Ormond Street (really cranks up my nursing brain), Midwives (made me cry four times), and Saving Face (made me cry and spit my teeth out and rage about the kitchen – you really should check it out – Julian wants to know why I need to watch things like this – I don’t know, but I do – topic for another discussion I think).  Fab stuff.

Now - I’m almost done.  That’s good because I have a hole in my finger where the needle hits.  But when it stings a little, I think “hee! hee! hee!  that’s because I’ve almost finished quilting/tying a quilt that I started over four years ago. awesome!”

Hope you are cool and comfy where you are.  We hope to be soon.

a quilty revelation


posted by on patchwork, quilts


Like so many other patchworky types out there, I have many, many unfinished quilt tops. We’re talking filled packing crates.  And that doesn’t include all those quilt tops that don’t even have the patchwork quite finished.  Every now and then, I plough through one such packing crate and find myself moved to utter many an “oooooh!” and “ahhhhh!”  as I discover long hidden wonders.

Why is this so?  Hm … I’m actually not that fond of quilting.  I adore patchwork.  I love coming up with a new design and finding just the right fabric.  My idea of the most blissful day is to spend it from first light to dusk, piecing away at my machine.

But quilting … not so much.  I’m not a good quilter.  I struggle.  I never seem to have enough space.  It never looks quite like I’d hoped.  I persevere.  Sometimes I even declare that I like it – but that’s probably more affirmative self talk than reality.

Then – the day after we came home from our beach holiday … I BROKE MY QUILTING MACHINE.  Yup.  It didn’t mysteriously stop working, or work half-heartedly.  I BROKE IT.  As I sewed strips of fabric onto a bathmat (making a kitchen mat – I loathe getting wet feet whilst washing up and for some reason I always slosh the water) – my beautiful Husqvarna Mega Quilter made a hideous metallic crunch and the thick, rigid, stem that the needle screws into twisted and gnashed and that was that.

You’d have been proud of me.  I didn’t even cry.  I just sat there with my hands in my lap and said “Well.  That would be that for now.  It will be off to the machine shop with you when we have some money to spare.”  In fact, I think having my sewing machine repaired for my birthday would be the perfect present – did you hear that Jules and Abby?

So any thoughts I had of quilting – working on my and Abby’s quilted desk chairs (yes, they were on the summer holiday to do list),  quilting Abby’s Christmas Moomin quilt, finishing the blue and white little houses quilt, quilting any of those many quilt tops – vanished.

Until today.  See I was hunting through my everyday basket – the one I cart off to university – and at the bottom was this quilt top.  I had taken it to the shops to buy some pretty fabric for a border.  I did buy the fabric, but I used it for something else, and forgot all about this quilt.  Well who needs a border anyway.

And I thought, as I unfolded it and smiled at its summery softness, oooh this would be a lovely thing to do today – quilt it!  I’ll use a wool blanket for the back.  Uh-oh.  The machine’s broken.  And then I thought of hand quilting – slow and torturous – and then I thought of Alicia Paulson’s lovely TIED quilts.  Yes!  Aha!

Needs no machine.  No long, never ending hours.  Just knots.  Surely I could manage that. Oh yes!  I did.  I checked here for a quick tutorial on how to do it – I want those knots to last – and then settled down at the kitchen table to get it done.  I did it a little bit differently – I sort of did a double cross stitch over the join and then tied my triple reef knot.  Extra attached.

And it was fantastic!  Truly!  I’m converted.  Now, obviously I don’t want every quilt I’ve ever made to wind up with knots.  But what an awesome way to get the quilt tops onto batting or blankets, securely and neatly and usably attached, and bound.  Then – later, if so desired – I can add more quilting.  Heck!  I can remove those knots altogether if I feel like it!

This is liberating, folks!  Truly liberating.  This little sweetie is almost done – only needs the binding hand sewn down.  And for the rest of the weekend – why I’m thinking that Moomin quilt will look just dandy with knots.

I don’t know how it’s taken me this many years to recognise the wonder of this traditional and simple technique.  Eeeeeeee!

p.s.  mummy – this is our last block of cheese :-0