layered around the neck

knitting a scrappy scarf

bands of colour

sewing the ends

layered around the neck

watching for the bus

from the side
theres the moon
with Julian

hugs

and off he goes

Way back when the weather was hot and I somehow forgot about all the other projects on my knitting needles, I decided I really really really needed to knit up the multitude of dk balls of wool left over from last year’s crochet shawl making.  All those stripes only used a fraction of each ball so there was plenty to dive into.  I also wanted rather mindless knitting – the sort that feels more like meditation than knitting.

I started with red – because red is always marvellous.  I cast on 5 stitches then began knitting … I just knit up each ball of wool until only a wee tail remained – regardless of where that was – tied on the next ball and set off again.  It was indeed meditative and after inspecting it, Noah declared this growing triangle to be an awesome scarf that could be tied round his neck like a huge knitted bandana.  Cool!  Now there was purpose to the knitting.

However, the weather continued to be warm and you know me … other projects jumped up, grabbed me by the neck and pulled me away.  It wasn’t until Monday, when I made Julian measure my tiniest double pointed needles (I’ve misplaced my fabulous knitting ruler) so I could start knitting a pair of socks – because by crikey, there was nothing else to knit :-0 – that Noah rolled his eyes and exclaimed “You could always finish that awesome scarf – then I could wear it to Melbourne on Wednesday!  Apparently the weather will be cold and dreak – perfect for a colourful scarf!”

Oh yeah.

So I did.  I knitted like a demon.  Of course – by this stage, there were hundreds of stitches in each row and with every second row,it grew yet wider!  Monday night I finished the dark dusky pink, added the flecky purple (this was from a jumper Old Nanny knitted Noah when he was little!) and began the flecky rust.  Man, I didn’t think that flecky rust would ever run out.  Then yesterday, after painting the duck house, I nailed that flecky rust and moved on to the royal blue … knit knit knit knit knit knit knit … then a wee bit more of lime green, then finally the navy edge.

Now with hindsight, I could have added another row of navy blue – I was terrified it would run out halfway through the castoff.  Frankly, if I had, Noah would not be wearing the scarf today.  I began the cast off last night whilst half way through a crappy movie with Julian – I made him stay up and watch movies of his choice so I could keep knitting.  In the end I was literally falling asleep mid stitch so it was time to put the needles down.

But I was not to be defeated, so this morning it was back up in bed at 5am, a steaming coffee by my side, and casting off.  All. Those. Stitches.  Oy!

The many ends were stitched in en route – I had to start with the light colours because it was still dark when we left at 6:30am to make the Melbourne bus.  By the time we arrived at Bega, there was just enough time and light to stitch in the dark ones, trim them all off and voila!  Noah had a beautiful mama-made scarf (talisman) to wear to Melbourne.  Now he will be toasty warm and protected by his mama’s knitted love.

It’s a funny thing, waving goodbye to your young one.  Yes, he went out by himself all the time when we lived in Melbourne – but he always came home at the end of each day.  Now, he ventures off to Melbourne every couple of months to catch up with friends, visit his favourite places … and we have to just trust that he – our very trustworthy, responsible and cautious child – will be alright.  Well of course he probably will.   In the past he has stayed with the family of one of Julian’s work colleagues – a lovely mum and 3 little kids who Noah plays with, and cooks with, and draws with, and the mum picks him from the train station and drops him off.  And is a caring, thoughtful and supportive listener each evening when Noah comes home from his adventures and appointments.

This time, he’s staying with an old school friend who’s recently moved into their own apartment in Prahran.  Oh my goodness.  That all sounds a bit too huge and alarming to me – but that lovely mum is there in the background if needed, and I guess the next week will probably be very exciting, empowering and a good taste for Noah of what it’s really like to stand on your own two feet.  All good stuff.

At least his neck will be warm.

Here’s the recipe in case you too have balls and balls of colourful yarn that could warm the necks of those you love.

Cast on 5 …

  • knit2, wrap, knit1, wrap, knit 2  (right side)
  • knit2, purl3, knit2 (wrong side)
  • knit2, wrap, knit3, wrap, knit2
  • knit2, purl5, knit2
  • knit2, wrap, knit5, wrap, knit2

… and so on.  Each right sided row starts with knit2, wrap, and ends with wrap, knit2.  The stitches in between – which grow by 2 each time – are knitted.  Each wrong sided row starts and ends with knit2 and the stitches in between (including the wraps from the previous row) are purled.  Colours are just added when the wool runs out.  The last two rows are knitted so as to provide the same edging the rest of the scarf has.

Perfect for knitting whilst watching movies, listening to audio books, and de-stressing.  Good for knitting in the car if you don’t get car sick. :-)

close up of yoyos

knitting for babies

milo best

close up of yoke

close up of hearts

bonnet

close up of icord

close up of yoyos

with bonnet

feathers and leaves

book

meet

all wrapped up

Ah knitting for babies!  I’ve just discovered – when my own babe is an all grown up 18 year old – how utterly delightful knitting for babies is.

See, my Nanny taught me to knit when I was 8.  Mum and Dad had gone to Singapore for a week’s holiday and Nanny and Grandad came up to stay with us – such a treat.  Learning to knit, Nanny playing us the old dance hall tunes she used to play as a pianist at a pub on the Brisbane wharves, and being accidentally left at school until almost 6pm are the stand out memories of that week :-)  Nanny started me off an a scarf – of course, she did – using a ball of variegated wool in mustards, greys and browns.  Rather ugly wool but it was the 1970s.  I knitted and knitted and knitted.  It grew and grew and grew – both in length … and width.  I wasn’t the kind of new knitter who dropped stitches all the time.  Oh no, I was awesome at finding new ones!  Nanny was despairing and that scarf was knitted on and off for many years, but never quite finished.

I tried knitting again as a young adult – I knitted an enormous jumper to take with me to England when I was 21.  Now – it took me months and months and months so I knew every strange bump, weird line of stitches that stood out and in hindsight, I definitely went backwards a few times.  But I was ever so proud of the finished pieces – 2 huge sleeves, a front and a back.  And I gave it to Nanny to seam for me.  It came back looking impeccable.  Beautifully seamed.  Beautifully blocked.  And not a blemish in sight or strange line of stitches in sight.  She’d frogged it and knit it again!!!!!

So by the time Noah came round, not only were we living in Brisbane where knitting anything bigger than a scarf or pair of socks is frankly a bit redundant, but I was a jaded knitter :-)  And I think Nanny was scared I might try again, so she churned out beautiful little baby knits – booties, jumpers, cardigans, hats in all patterns and sizes – Nanny is an immaculate knitter – which left nothing for me to knit.  In fact, I didn’t pick up the needles again until Noah was a preschooler.  I knitted a dear little vest in a stripy wool – which the moths ate.  Then a dear little beret for his Jack and the Beanstalk costume in Year 1 – which the moths ate.  Inspiring.

However, I was really seduced with the idea of being a knitter again when I first discovered blogs back in 2008 – Soulemama inspired me to try and Kate Davies – well, her patterns are so divine I simply had to master the needles.  Soon after we moved to Melbourne and knitting became an awfully useful past time.

Now, I’m the same kind of knitter as I am quilter.  I have far more started projects on the needles then is seemly.  And sometimes the finishing gets very slow.  Don’t mention Julian’s argyle vest or Sacha’s Owl Jumper.  And if you mention Noah’s Lopi that needs the whole colour patterned yoke ripped out and redone – because I followed the sizing for XXL for the yoke whereas the rest of the jumper is knitted in size M – I will begin to twitch.

But, when I look at my Ravelry page, it reminds me that yes I have finished several lovely things and they are all eminently wearable.  Phew!  They just take so darn long.

Unless you’re knitting baby clothes …

And the cuteness!  Oh my goodness, if you want to become besotted with baby knits, just check out the gorgeous designs of Froginnette – I mean really, why hasn’t anybody designed a knitted pinafore for grown ups!?!?!?  But I do acknowledge that in order to truly embrace the baby knits, you need a baby to knit for.  Luckily, a long time blog friend recently had a wee babe – yipee!  I got to knit my first Milo (again, where’s the grown up version!?!?) and a Lutin bonnet – swoon worthy.  That was all finished off last week, wrapped up pretty, and sent off with the dearest little book anybody could write for a new baby, and some wee tokens from Wombat Hill here – a stem of our Japanese Maple, and one of Guiseppe’s feathers.  Just this week, one of my cousins birthed her first babe – I’ve already got another Milo half knitted, the wool sitting nearby for a bonnet, and Froginnette here I come!  And I’m almost done knitting up a pair of Lutin bonnets for a lovely family I’ve met through Instagram.

I know I’ve said in the past I’d like to be a bespoke pillowcase maker when I grow up.  But I think I’ve changed my mind.  I want to knit baby clothes!  Put your request in if you’ve got a little one who needs some lovely handknits.  Seriously!  I don’t even add stitches these days.

on the chair

the little farmer’s quilt

thread and scissors

joined by the gulls

trio

on the table

little boa

noah and the moon

walking along the grass

on the chair

catching the sun

over the rock

dusty with sun

bronzed

the blanket

squiggly crosses

quilted rock

blanket warming in the sun

the whole quilt

corner on the sand

around the sun

close up of centre

sitting on the quilt

corner folded back

shaking it out

quilt and waves

heading back

maddie the dog

blowing off the chair

Really, every post I write about quilts could start like this “Oh my goodness, it’s finally finished!”  I’m so predictable ;-)

This Little Farmer’s Quilt was one of those spur of the moment quilts I pieced last year.  On a rare Saturday morning off work, I drove out to Gail B’s Patchwork with Noah because I really wanted some of their old Heather Ross fabrics – hopefully the little farmer with her horses.  And yes, they had it!  So I then spent a lovely hour or so gathering soft sunset colours to put with it.  I pictured a sort of round the world quilt but in rectangles not squares, with the Heather Ross fabric as the centrepiece.

It was the last quilt in progress that I shared with my dear old Grandad before he died.  Mum was by his side almost every day during his last few months, and every day family from all over the world would send him photos, little videos, and skype messages that Mum would help him look at at.  Oh he so loved it, and would look at his favourites over and over again.  Especially videos of his greatgrandchildren saying “Love you grandad!  Love you grandad!” He would wave back to them, kiss them on the iPad and say “Love you too sweetie!”

Truly, I cannot agree with anyone who says the internet and all its accompanying technology is destroying our families and societies.  Despite so many of us being so far away, we were all able to be there with Grandad during his last days, sharing funny stories of old, describing what we’d been up to, reminding him of how much he was loved.  It was an incredible blessing.

And he and Nanny always wanted to know what I was making so I would send Mum photos and she would share them.  One of Grandad’s gifts was that he never offered shallow praise.  If I played the piano for him, gave him an essay to read, showed him my patchwork or embroidery, I knew I could rely on him to tell me what he loved but also what needed improving.  “Well, you need to work on that passage, don’t you!” he would say when I finished playing a wonky piece “But I loved listening to the opening – you played that well.” And “Well, that’s a nice looking lighthouse, but let’s face it sweetheart, that’s not what our lighthouses look like.  I think you should make it authentic to us.” And “The colours look lovely Doogie, but I think you’ve rushed those points a bit.  I know you could do better.”

I always valued Grandad’s opinion and his encouragement always made me want to go further, stretch myself, work harder.

I’ll always remember the Christmas I was accepted into the University of Queensland to study for my Bachelor of Arts when I was 17.  Father Christmas had given me the University Handbook – a huge telephone directory sized volume that included every discipline within the university and a description of every subject they taught.  The depth of offerings was amazing – I could even study Icelandic Language and Myth!  After our big family Christmas dinner was eaten and washed up, Grandad and I sat at the dining table with the handbook, paper and pencil and pored over almost every chapter.  We discussed what would be interesting, what would be useful, what would be difficult, the value of education and how fabulous it was that Gough Whitlam had introduced free tertiary for everyone – Grandad and I loved talking politics!  He looked through disciplines that he would love to have studied as a young man and we talked about them too – he was especially interested in Australian history and politics.  It was the beginning of my university life shared with one of the people I love more dearly than anything else. The perfect Christmas.

This here quilt … Grandad loved the colours – he thought they were the best choice I’d ever made – I’d created a beautiful sunset.  And he liked how they radiated out from the centre.  Me too Grandad.  That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

So, the other afternoon, when Noah had an appointment at the hairdresser at Bermagui, it was the perfect opportunity to take along the almost finished quilt, sit on the cliff by the glittering sea and sew down the last of the binding, then take it down to one of our magic beaches with Noah and photograph it.

The late autumn afternoon sun was low in the sky, setting all the honeycomb rocks and quilt ablaze with rich light, and casting a magical dusty glow across the wetlands behind us.  The wind whipped about us, sprinkling us and the quilt with a fine dusting of cool sand.  The sea was choppy with white galloping horses out in the bay and thickly tumbling waves close to shore.  There were a couple of fishermen further up the beach, a young woman running through the water and diving under the waves her long dreadlocked hair trailing behind her like a mermaid’s tail, and a sweet friendly dog called Maddie.  That was definitely a sign – one of Grandad’s dearest grandchildren is named Maddie – oh how they adored each other :-)

Whenever we do something like this, I feel so close to Grandad because I know it’s exactly the kind of thing he would want to do too.  He would have played with Maddie the dog, chatted with the fishermen about their catches, and asked the young woman about her exercise regime.  He would have insisted on carrying the deck chair, and taken part in just how to best lay the quilt out and where to stand to catch the best light – Grandad loved his camera.

He would have loved every moment.

And then, as we were driving back along the beautiful winding road home – up the little hills and back down into the little valleys, all filled with picturesque dairy farms – there on the side of a small glade of trees was a little black wallaby.

It was dear old Grandad!  Letting us know he’d had a lovely afternoon too and that he would always be here.

down to the edge

on the way home we stopped

off with the sneakers

crystal water

down to the edge

surveying his kingdom

pearls

grass

ancient shipwreck

lichen

lily

more grass

through the gap

so blue

shattered plates

rich gold

and orange

balmy

lunch

Our to do list is so long.  There’s decades worth of work on it.  Sometimes Julian feels a bit frustrated by not having the time (he still works full time from home) or a bottomless pit of money to simply throw at all the essential bits.  Need thousands of metres of fencing? Poof!  Here it is!  Need a lovely big dam?  Poof!  Here it is!  Need the perfect timber framed barn with hay loft and milking stands? Poof!  Here it is.  And how ’bout we just click our fingers to make that beautiful boundary of deciduous trees appear.  Then we’ll click our heels and there’ll be both an orchard of fruit trees, and one of oaks and hazelnuts.  Ah … it’s the stuff fairy tales are made of, huh :-)

So Friday evenings are usually spent pondering the list of what we should tackle over the weekend.  And come sunup on Saturday it’s game on.  Everything has to be done on a strict budget so we are always scouring the dump shops for supplies and coming up with new ways of building things.  We’ve almost finished our Duck and Geese Mansion – built at the bottom of the garden out of hardwood pallets a lovely local nursery gave us.  Now all it needs is the door – which Julian is building out of old hardwood fence palings we found at the dumpshop.  It’s definitely our cheapest build yet – and looks fab!  Julian’s been tempting the ducks and geese into it this week – Hansel and Gretel style – trails of scratchmix down the garden to the pallet built ramp, onto the pallet built landing and into the pallet built house.  They are totally up with it :-)

This Saturday we needed a fresh trailer load of supplies so headed north to Narooma.  On the way we stopped in our local village – Cobargo – for travelling supplies. They have little street stalls on a Saturday morning – our favourite’s the Cobargo Baking Buddies!  Their stall is stacked high with wonderful cakes and slices and biscuits and buns and chutneys and jams – reminds me so much of the stall my Nanny used to run for the local church at the saleyards in her small town.  We picked up a date and walnut roll, cinnamon scrolls and a jar of mustard pickles.  Yum!  This weekend there was even a banjo and piano player busking – I could have cheerfully plonked down on the footpath and listened for the rest of the morning!

Then it was onto the hardware store – an absolute rabbit warren of a place that’s tucked away down near the beach and cemetery.  It has everything we can think of – sleepers, besser blocks, marine ply, garden hose fittings, bathroom fittings, paint, nails … all our favourite stuff – and really helpful nice staff.  We filled the trailer – even bought a new set of basin taps and mixer for our bathroom – ours is precariously held together with globs of silicon (the previous owner’s answer to everything) and if we turn on the tap too hard, the mixer flies off and we get a torrent of water to the face – yay!  We headed back to the highway and Julian asked me what the next stop was.

And I said …. “The beach.”  Yup.  It was a glorious day – ridiculously warm for the 3rd week in May, with a rich blue sky and lashings of sun – the perfect day for the beach.  That to do list will always be there.  In fact, it will only grow.  And we will always be able to think up a myriad of ways to toil away the hours on our little farm.  But we live in such a gorgeous corner of the world  – gosh, we moved here just because it is so beautiful and we wanted to call this coastline, these valleys home.  Thus, it is practically our duty to soak it up as often as we can ;-)

So, heading home, we turned off at Mystery Bay.  Oh it was exquisite.  We strolled from one end to the other.  Sloshing through the almost balmy, crystal clear water, our trousers rolled up to our knees, quiet and dreamy.  We watched the sea birds, mused about just which rocky nook would be the loveliest for swimming, and looked carefully along the tidemark to see what treasures the ocean was washing up today.  I ooohed and ahhhed over the rich lichens – Julian admired the dramatic rock formations – some look like ancient rusted shipwrecks, others like shards of roof slate a tip truck let slide out onto the sand – and declared he had to read up on his geology.

It was bliss.  Utter bliss.  And so absolutely essential to making the most of Wombat Hill Farm – yes?!?

Finally we were back to where we started.  So, trousers wet, legs bare and sticky with salt, and feet caked with sand, we turned back to the highway.  Shortly after, we turned off again to Tilba Tilba – we needed a serious stock up on Erica’s fabulous South Coast cheese and milk – our favourites are the 3 Year Vintage and the Vintage Blue.  But we still had that laden trailer so we had to park up the top of Tilba in the caravan section and then trot on down to the cheese factory – our trousers still wet, our legs still bare, our feet still sandy – we felt like such locals :-)

By the time we were home, you know, there weren’t too many hours left to work.  Julian cut some grass.  I planted some veggie seedlings (to replace the ones the rats ate – and now the rabbits are eating these ones – ARGH!) and a row of echinacea in a bed that’s turning into a bit of a medieval herbal selection – so far I have elder, echinacea, calendula and verbena – the chickens are very fond of this lot so I’ve had to fence it off – using little panels of mesh we found … at the dump shop of course!

So not much was ticked off the to do list at all.  But that’s okay.  Because when we are old and grey and wobbly of memory, I don’t want to only be able to list all the chores we completed, year in year out. I want to be able to laugh with happiness and tell stories about all the lovely adventures we took, all the times we stopped on the way home, and all the hours we spent just soaking it up.

That’s what will make living here at Wombat Hill truly special.