a fair isle tunic with yoke

supplies

Almost 2 years ago, I was sitting on the sofa each night, madly knitting up this beautiful Rowan yarn.  Bought from Wondoflex at a drastically reduced price it was exquisite to knit with.  Buttery soft and marvellously chunky, it knit up in no time.

The pattern – from the Drops website (if you’ve never been to the Drops website it is a treasure trove of free patterns – 71, 468 to be precise – for all kinds of yarn, in all different weights, for every season, with a healthy emphasis on Scandinavian styles – gorgeous stuff).  It was my first attempt at fair isle and a perfect choice.  The design was simple, there were never more than two colours working at once, and being chunky, that yoke absolutely raced off my needles.

ready for pressing

But at the time, I was chin deep in university work and heading off to my first nursing placement and apart from this strange glimpse on the ironing board, never took a single photo of my finished tunic.

front of

Well – this afternoon, Julian and I did a little swapsie.  I took photos of him in his handsome new waistcoat with one of his recent wedding anniversary ties (an especially lovely pure wool one, woven in Scotland which I bought at the oppie for pennies).  And in return, he took photos of me in my tunic.  And so – here it is – Lily’s version of the Drops Tunic 114-15 in Eskimo with short raglan sleeves!

almost detail side on detail looking up face full length

As for the crocheted headscarf – I have no memory of when I made it or what pattern I followed.  I found it yesterday stuffed into the back corner of my tights draw.  Must say, it’s inspired me somewhat.  If you peep into my window tonight, you’ll see me sitting there on the sofa, surrounded by colourful balls of DK working up some new headscarfs.  Seems to be the perfect season for them.  Oh, but that’s after I’ve finished oooohing and aaaaahing at all the lovely jumpers and cardigans in my Ravelry favourite’s file that I’d completely forgotten.  And scrolling through all the gorgeous tunics on the Drops site.

: Sigh : So much to knit … so little time.

my photographerOh – and this here – it’s my handsome photographer.  Nice huh :-)

 

a knitterly dash to the finish line

the time

The day dawned so grey, so wet, so cold.  I layered on the wool, cooked breakfast for Abby, drove her to school, came straight home, made a steamy hot cafe au lait in a bowl, plonked on the sofa to hold it in my cold hands and drink it all up whilst it was hot.

For some reason, Wednesday just didn’t seem to occur to us this week.  Monday was Monday with all its usual Mondayness.  Tuesday had some errands, some shopping and babysitting.  Thursday will be a half day at school so Abby and I have planned lovely things for Thursday afternoon.  Friday – end of the week joy!  and we’re going to see The Midwinter Soldier (I think that’s what it’s called – the Captain America film – Abby loves Captain America).

But Wednesday – I hadn’t really thought about Wednesday and once that cafe au lait was all gone, I was at a bit of a loss.  So much around me to do.  So many lovely things started and just waiting for their next moment in the sun.  So many ideas boinging round my mind.

Then I decided.  It was cold.  It was dreary.  I needed something FABULOUS.  And what is more fabulous on a cold, dreary day than finishing a beautifully striped jumper and wearing it?!  Well I couldn’t think of anything.  So I photographed the time, picked up the jumper and got to it.

Four and a half hours and there were 15 more stripes of 4 rows each + 20 rows of ribbing needed to finish that last sleeve.  Hopefully there’d be time for a good steamy iron.  Even better if there was time to sew in some ends.  Truly amazing if there was time to crochet the red trim around the cuffs.  Who knows!

the sleeve 13 rows in

An hour later and I was six more stripes down – 24 rows knitted, 36 left.  Decreasing every 7th row – on the third pink row.

One – two (pick up the jig) – three – four – change colours – one – two (pick up the jig) – three (knit two together – slip, slip knit) – four – change colours …

after an hour 6 stripes down

Another hour – another 16 rows down.  Pace has inexplicably dropped probably won’t be time for stitching in ends or crochet.  Pick up speed woman!

2 hours left

Ooooh!  Getting there now and then, bugger! the pink ran out.  Tie in another ball.

bugger ran out of pink

Am sitting in front of the soap that was delivered today.  What is usually a lovely medley of soft fragrances is now becoming a bit overwhelming.  No time to move it.  Just keep knitting, just keep knitting, just keep knitting.

One – two (pick up the jig) – three – four – change colours – one – two (pick up the jig) – three (knit two together – slip, slip knit) – four – change colours …

the soap

Finished with the pink.  Off you go dear.  On to the ribbing.  90 minutes left and 20 rows needed.  Ever so pleased I decided I love deep cuffs and so kept on ribbing and ribbing and ribbing on the first sleeve.

done with the pink

Blimey do I HATE ribbing a narrow cuff on a circular needle.  Do I have a set of 3.5mm double pointed?  Probably.  Can I put my hands on them instantly?  Almost certainly not.  Have a quick look.  Nope.  Only 2 out of the set are in my jar.  Useful.  Fumble on with the circular.  So slow.  So clumsy.  Splitting every third stitch and dropping at least one every round.  Think – less haste, more speed, less haste, more speed.

ribbingAnd then, I stop and count and I’ve staggered around 19 times.  Haaaaaaa!  And it’s only 25 minutes til 3pm.  Round one more time – knit, knit, purl, purl, knit, knit, purl, purl …

Then it’s casting off time – off they fly  - yes, yes, yes!  I fill the iron, whack up the steam, leave it to heat whilst I throw on a turtleneck, some tights and a skirt.  Yes – in my mind’s eye, this gorgeous stripey jumper is always worn with a turtleneck, opaque tights and a nice full skirt.  With buckle ups of course.

wearing it

I carefully press on the inside.  Oh how beautifully that Patons Totem steams up.  My stitches look like lovely plump grains of rice in orderly rows.  As for my ribbing – you’d never know how much grief it gave me.

3.15 off I go.  Not a single end is stitched in – I’ve strategically pushed them / ironed them up under the hems.  The cuffs aren’t trimmed.  Ah well – there’s always that hour of spelling, times tables and maths problems.  Yes?  Yes!

The little girlie and I sat at the kitchen bench, first sharing afternoon tea and stories of school, then her working away at her tasks, me watching, nodding, prompting, answering, describing, coaxing, stitching, trimming and crocheting (a bit cold in just my turtleneck). The two of us keeping up that lovely patter I know I’ve grown to love over the last three years.  Oh I shall miss her when she heads off to highschool next year.

crocheting the cuffs

 And then, just as the weather cooled right down and the sun promptly vanished, every last end was stitched in and the cuffs prettily edged in red.  I pulled it back on over my head.  She cheered!

I did it.  I finished a jumper.  It took 17 days.  And I loved it so much I can’t wait to knit another one!  Mum has put in her order – she wants a dark grey and red one.  Mum always wants grey and red.  I’ll see … there’s a nice dark olive down at the wool store – there’s bound to be something that would look wonderful with it.

Ahhh … such a good use of an unexpected Wednesday.  And if you want to knit a lovely jumper – try this one!  It’s such a simple yet perfect darling of a knit :-)

wee windowsill gardening in pyrex

As we draw ever closer to the time when we leave this little house and Melbourne – only another 18 months – we are beginning to look about us and plan what needs to be done and what needs to be finished up, tidied or dismantled before we leave.  The garden is one of these things.  Despite a renewed enthusiasm each growing season, it’s not been much of a success over our years here.  A combination of poor soil, lack of sun – the concrete drive is the best spot and even it only catches the sun for a few hours in the middle of the day – no alternative water supply to the very expensive town water, and an enthusiasm and commitment that waxes and wanes – has meant our harvests have been few and rather lacklustre.

I guess just knowing it’s not ours and that anything we do is very temporary is a bit of a dampener.  And so we’ve reduced our gardening efforts – and dreams – down to the herbs at the kitchen door.  We’ll dismantle our raised beds over the coming winter months and pack away our small collection of tools for the move.

Instead, I shall continue to read and read and read about what we WILL do when we have our own land.  I shall continue to keep cuttings and notes on what I would like in our garden and how I would like to shape it.  A stand of Norfolk Pines – yes!  A hedge of camellias – beautiful!  A driveway lined with deciduous trees – some ornamental plums, some silver birch, Japanese maple.  Then there’s the orchard and the berry patch.  Flower beds.  Vegies.  The reed bed for the grey water.  Little garden rooms – for sprawling out on quilts and in chairs, for playing croquet, even for hitting a tennis ball.  Oh yes, I dream big :-)

Then there’s always the vicarious kind of gardening / homesteading – I love that too!  Watching and learning from those much more experienced  - and better situated – folk than I.  Pearl & Elspeth are truly inspirational AND live in the Bega Valley.  I love reading about their permaculture adventures – AND they built their own strawbale home.  Gorgeous family!  Fiona over at Inner Pickle is another self sufficient whizz I love keeping up with.  Oh my – what she and her family have achieved since their move to the Southern NSW coast is just brilliant.

Another creative soul I love following is the incredibly talented artist from Mexico Gennine Zlatkis.  Her artwork is beautiful and her home … sigh!  But what has really caught my eye lately are her indoor plants – gatherings of succulents here and there.  And so, with my outdoor gardening life kaput for now, I’ve turned my attention to the much more attainable, much more successful growing of succulents and other unknown lovelies on my windowsills.  I like it very much :-)

looking out the window living room pink and green sacha's little sausage girl

mumma with children rose pyrex coral sponge turned to the sun spiky

I love the amazing shapes, colours, and textures of the succulents.  So dramatic and stylised.  I love that I only need to water them once a week.  Goodness, I haven’t even bothered repotting them since bringing them home (I do have the potting mix in a bag by the back door – that must give me some kind of brownie points)  and yet every time I look at them there are soft wee shoots, new curls and longer stretching fingers to count.  They’ve tilted their sweet little faces to the sun and are doing so very nicely.

As for their containers – well, I didn’t want to spend any more money than necessary and quickly realised I had the perfect “pots” stacked in my cupboards already – Pyrex!  My green sweeties in the front room are lucky – they have a matching set of Pyrex bowls – they’re positively stylish.  Their cousins in the living room are very happy in their mostly mismatched set of Pyrex mixing and serving bowls.  And not only do the Pyrex add a nice decorative touch  they make superb saucers – you never have to worry about overflowing water and that weekly drink – I leave the water that seeps out during watering in the Pyrex and over the week, the plants drink it back up.  I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before.

And I’m keeping my eyes out for more – just today I spotted some amazingly tall and spiky cacti at a nearby florist – that would add some nice height to the gathering in the front room.

at night

Best of all these dear little plants can come with us when we move.  I want to have a lovely big glass wall in the kitchen that gets plenty of light and shall build open shelves in front of it for lots of lots of plants – herbs and succulents and ferns – maybe even tomatoes and chillies. I can see it all as I type – and I’m sitting in front of my sunlit plants in a comfy armchair having a cup of tea before heading into the Bega hospital to work, some knitting on my knee, a pot of soup steaming away on the stove.  Oh yes, my thumb might not be too green, but my imagination?  It’s gold plated.

For now, I delight in looking in at my little windowsill gardens each time I come home.  They inspire me.  They nurture my love for green.  Fu likes it too.

in a sunday kitchen

cosySunday morning in the kitchen.  At first, the rest of the family sleeps on and it’s just me, a cup of tea, the radio and my dishcloth knitting (I’m working on filling a jar with colourful dishcloths – it’s a very nice way to start the day).  Slowly they join me.

reading

coffee

Julian brings his reading and wiles away an hour or so.  But then, after second coffees, he goes for a bike ride, needing to be outside on this crisp but sunny autumn day.

hill climb racing

cinnamon toast

I tempt Abby out of bed with toasted sourdough, lashings of butter and the left over cinnamon sugar from yesterday’s homemade doughnuts.  She’s always content to draw up a seat and keeps herself amused for hours.  Hill Climb Racing is a favourite this weekend (recently introduced to me by a little patient), but she also works on school assignments and progresses with her crochet.  Oh my, her crochet!  Wait til you see the pattern – it’s gorgeous stuff!

last chicken

Outside, our last chicken struts her stuff, so pleased to have the back garden all to herself …

fu

Fu assumes her favourite position – watching the world go by from the front room …

lucy

And Lucy curls herself up in a corner of sunlight …

barley ingredients spices

I start supper early.  Spicy Barley, Butternut and Apple Porridge and its simmering keeps the kitchen toasty.

tea and soup

The embroidery basket comes out, followed by the laptop …

embroidery wool

I have plans for some rather large jars with unusual and special contents :-)

pattern ready

The afternoon deepens – Julian, who has returned home and joined in the Hill Climb Racing fun, declares it cocktail hour.  And roasts a lovely leg of pork.  He’s good like that.

cocktail makers chaos

After hours of drawing and tweaking – and lots of added input from Abby and Julian who know just how that dolphin should look and what colour the lettering should be –  my pattern is ready and just before supper is about to served, needle comes to fabric.

cross stitching

savoury barley and butternut porridge

The kind of day – so restful and creative and productive and happy – that fills us with inspiration for how we want to build our kitchen in our strawbale home.  Plenty of room for cooking and making and storing, a lovely huge window for growing and sun soaking, perhaps even a pair of armchairs for reading and tea sipping, and a loooooong table with lots of chairs for days just like this, when we are so content to let everything else spin on without us, and stay right here in the kitchen.

weekending

donuts sock knitting cosy

Oh long weekend how I do love you!

Homemade doughnuts, fair isle sock knitting, teaching my girlie how to crochet, wool shop shopping, friends over for the afternoon, movie watching, clothes washing (that always makes me feel good at the start of the week!), and hours of lovely peaceful time around the kitchen table together.

Good stuff.

p.s. that cheeky little opportunistic doggle in the top photo STOLE a doughut.

 

the night max wore his wolf suit …

big hairy feet sneaky eyes

Whatever is hiding amongst the oleander?  Oh! It’s a Wild Thing!

wild thing

Julian’s Wild Thing!  I gave it to him for his 22nd birthday – the first birthday we celebrated together. He had a copy of Where the Wild Things Are when I met him – sitting there amongst the computer programming tomes and science fiction novels.  It was his favouritest book as a little boy.  I knew it from my childhood as well – but I must confess, I had been scared of it.  So when I spied this fabulously fierce little fellow at the University Bookstore, I just knew upon whose bookshelf it would feel right at home.

closeup of wild thing

A few years later, one of my wee cousins, Alastair, came for a sleepover.  He stomped up the stairs to our flat, pleased as punch to be so grown up as to have a sleepover all by himself, and whilst his mum and I had a cup of tea, he had a little explore.  After peering into our bedroom, he ran straight back over to his mum and whispered tremulously in her ear “Mum!  There’s a Wild Thing in there!”  It was so sweet/funny – and formal introductions had to be made before Alastair could be convinced it was indeed safe to stay.

cards scattered wild thing cheating

Wild Things have been a firm favourite in Bootville ever since.  Julian’s copy of the book became very battered as it was read over and over and over to Abby – by the time she was 3, both she and I could recite the whole book off by heart!  We made a copy of the audio book, borrowed from the library, and that was played on Abby’s little tape recorder until it literally wore out.  And there’s been many games of Wild Rumpus enjoyed at the kitchen table – always accompanied by lots of shrieks and the frantic slapping down of cards.

with abby reading

When the film version came out a few years back, just before we left for Melbourne, Abby took along 5 of her lovely friends from primary school to see it for her birthday.  Oh how we all loved it.  I do think Spike Jonze did a brilliant job – no, it wasn’t an immaculate translation of the book, frame by frame, but as an interpretation it was outstanding.  Exquisitely and imaginatively filmed with such a real and touching story.  As for the soundtrack – oh I went out and bought a copy the very next day.  We used to drive around Brisbane with all the windows down, the breeze rushing in at our faces, singing along to the second track at the top of our lungs.  Even now, I only need to slip it on and that beautifully haunting, childlike music transports me.

favourite on the chair

Needless to say, when I visited Spotlight a few days before Julian’s birthday this year, and there were bolts of Wild Things fabric lined up at the counter … well, all previous birthday present plans went out the window and I made him a Wild Things quilt instead.

binding red and orange arm

I bought the red, yellow, lilac, purple and black contrasting plains at the same time, went home, sliced them up into squares with thin black strips for borders, then spent a whole afternoon puzzling over just how it was supposed to go together.  I finally settled upon this layout a) because I felt it was the most striking whilst allowing Maurice Sendak’s beautiful illustrations to shine, and b) ’cause it reminded me of strips of film – a film of the Wild Thing playing through our lives in all its incarnations.  Then I had to take Abby back to the shop with me to choose the perfect green for the border – an adventure set deep in the forest.  I have a tendency to choose very olivey greens – none of which looked right – thankfully, she knew just the appley green it needed.

I pieced it frantically over the weekend before his birthday and had it a-l-m-o-s-t quilted in time for the birthday breakfast.  Backed with a beautiful vintage blanket and quilted with my scribbly-wibbly lines.  And the binding – Julian’s idea – he wanted something with all the colours in it.

blanket looking down

The birthday boy loved it!  For the first few weeks, it graced our bed.  There is something very endearing about coming to bed late, after knitting into the wee hours, or working on an essay, to find my husband, snuggled up under his Wild Things quilt.  Especially since Julian doesn’t have any mementos from his childhood.

on the fence post touseldBut now that the cooler weather is here, he’s brought it out into the living room where he sits with it warmly tucked around his lap each eve (we’re having our second winter without heating – saved a fortune last year!).  

I adore that our quilts are shared and loved and dragged around the house, out into the car, on picnics, taken on school camps, piled up on sleepovers, squished up into balls, spread out onto the grass, cuddled into by doggles, and quietly retreated under when an afternoon nap is needed.

As for a Wild Things quilt – well it’s sure to stand the test of time.

where peruvian wool, german woodruff and the norfolk pines of rainbow bay meet

Well in my mind’s eye of course!

It’s a busy and overflowing mind.  One which races with images, memories and voices, sounds, tastes and smells.  One that holds hundreds of lists.  One that plots out countless plans, dreams and conversations.  One that sometimes gets lost with longing for what I miss, rather than make the most of what I have.

Let me tell you, quietening this mind at night can be a challenge.

But every now and then, it makes wonderful connections.  Connections that draw the here and now towards the dearly held images and memories.  In a piece of floral fabric I see the curtains that once hung in Nanny and Grandad’s spare bedroom, or the covers of cushions on the their porch chairs.  Holding a vintage jug in an opshop reminds me of the jug Nanny served gravy in and I’m taken straight back to a giggly Christmas dinner where Aunty Jackie hoarded the custard, in its saucepan, on her lap.  In a dear little baby’s cardigan, I think of my old Nanny Dougall and her incredible attention to detail.  A jaunty children’s print takes me back to the family room of my childhood and I picture my Mum at the sewing machine, stitching up matching dresses for my sister and I.  Just the other day – a grey, drizzly, cold and lonely day – I found a vintage children’s beach towel that I swear Aunty Anne kept in her linen cupboard in the 1970s for when all the cousins came for the summer.  When I bring these things home to Bootville – when I add that fabric to a quilt, or stitch another piece into a skirt, when I serve Julian’s gravy in that jug, and fold that beach towel into a cushion cover, it feels so good.  My stitches and the time I devote to them, pull the web of my life closer and firmer, making it into a beautiful pattern that I can pull out and enjoy.

These poignant words, from the talented writer, knitter and sewist at Needle and Spindle (found via the lovely Kate Davies), sum it up perfectly …

“Hand made items preserve time in the same way that fruit is preserved as jam, not as the unchanged strawberry or plum fresh plucked, but as something cooked and processed to preserve the taste of summer.  Hand made items embody both the hours of making (time) and memories and feelings of people (the times) within the construction of the object…a true cultural artefact.”

Isn’t that so lovely!  And as batty as it might sound, it’s exactly what I felt when I found this gorgeous sock pattern, last Friday night, after coming back to Melbourne from my week’s trip to Brisbane to help care for family.  Those rich shades of green and blue, with their lovely straight lines and ordered branches/leaves, reminded me so much of the Norfolk Pines of Rainbow Bay, standing tall, elegant and timeless against the magnificent blue of the ocean, the brilliance of the sunlit sky, and the smudgy mist of the hinterland.   Sitting on the sofa in cold Melbourne, so far away, these socks made me feel closer to that which I love, and I knew I had to find me some wool and get knitting!

pattern

norfolk pines

I had spent Thursday afternoon at Rainbow Bay, with Mum, Aunty Anne and Aunty Cate.  In the very small and southern corner of Queensland, where it meets New South Wales.  Where I spent hundreds of weekends and summers as a child, a teenager, then as a mum with her own little girl. Oh it was so lovely.

We visited the Dbar cafe for lunch …

dbar

walked the cliff top path remembering the ships sunk off the coast of Australia during WW2 …

log

stopped at the rail and peered down into the rollings waves, hoping for surfing dolphins …

scanning for dolphins

followed the trail down the steep cliff to the tiny cove with its “frog”…

the frog

passed the old porpoise pools where the crazy folk stand out on the Point Danger rocks – Uncle Keith always declared every 7th wave would wash any fool who was standing there straight off – put us off for life …

surfer with wave

channel

Round to the surf life saving club – where my favourite beer billboard “From where you’d rather be” now adorns the clubhouse!

mum and cate

lifequard

from where you'd rather be

… and down to the water’s edge …

looking through the pandanus

down to the sea

leaves

Mum sat under the Norfolk Pines (just saying now, when we have our land in the Bega valley, I am planting a line of Norfolk Pines) – not the Pandanus ’cause they were heavy with their drupe (that’s the word for their huge heavy fruit – you learn something new everyday, huh)

pandanus

pandanus not

and I reckon had one of them fallen on her head she’d have known about it – and watched as Aunty Anne, Aunty Cate and I had a lovely long swim.

silvery

Oh, it was heaven.

grandads school

view from the classroom

greenmount

is grandad here

(I wonder if one of these little people standing “at ease” is Grandad!)

Then we hopped back in the car and drove up the hill to the little old school Grandad attended as a wee lad – he tells us all the time about sitting in the hot classroom with the boring school teachers looking north down to Kirra and longing to run away and go for a swim, then south up to Greenmount where he knew the Boicke brothers would be – one sitting on top of the hill watching for the shoals of fish, the rest in the pub down below.

This small corner has barely changed in 30 years.  There’s always combi vans parked alongside the park, their backs stuffed with mattresses and cheerful towels draped here and there to dry.  There’s always families with tired sandy children, and mums and dads with their arms full of towels and boards and umbrellas.  There’s always older folk walking slowly along the paths, looking out at the magnificent view, stopping now and then to sit on the park benches that are shaped like old wooden surboards.  There’s always teenage girls strutting along in their bikinis, and teenage boys with their board shorts and rashies, their surfboards tucked under their arms, their faces smeared with zinc.  The air is filled with the lovely roar of the ocean, and the occasional shriek of the seagulls.  And there’s that smell of salt and coconut oil.  Yes, coconut oil!

Isn’t that wonderful?  That time-stands-still quality.  Oh it melts my heart.  The joy is almost overwhelming and I am so very grateful for every moment I am there, filling my soul, replenishing my mind’s eye.

So when I gathered my supplies today – my pattern written by a Londoner, based on a plant that grows in Germany, knit in wool that came from Peru – and headed out into my sunlit, autumn Melbourne garden – that was a full 13 degrees celsius cooler than I had been last Thursday at Rainbow Bay – in a strange but lovely way, all those sights and sounds and stories and happiness  met me there in the little green and blue stitches I made on the thinnest needles I’ve ever knit with.

swift

wool winder

(Nanny’s old wool winder)

the start coraline lucy sunbaking

on the kneeprogress

And I dream that when I pull these socks on – hopefully before winter’s through! – I will know they belong to me because I’ll be wearing a little bit of Rainbow.

a table cloth skirt

table cloth

Did you notice the Australian wildflowers table cloth in last night’s post?  On a lovely heavy cotton/linen blend, with colours so rich and pretty?  I found it at the oppie recently.  Now, truth be told, if you’d dressed your table in this cloth back in the 80s or 90s, I’d have given a little eye roll and thought “ew”.  Wasn’t I horrible!  No appreciation for Australian wildflowers in any way, shape or form back then.  I’d have thought it the height of dagginess.  Throughout the 00s – I left plenty such cloths behind in the oppies, only having eyes for the sweetness of the Scandinavian and German cloths or the wacky designs of the 50s and 60s.

But now … well, I’d have to say I’m converted.  With age has come a much greater appreciation for the beauty and delight that lives right on my doorstep and so, the other day when I spied this cloth hanging amongst its boring plain relatives in the table cloth section, I snatched it up with delight.  I love looking out for these flowers as they glow at their special time of the year.  I love watching the bees smoosh themselves into the red flowering gum.  I love how the brightly coloured birds in Mum’s garden screech indignantly at each other as they squabble over the sweet nectar.  The flowering kangaroo paws remind me of the magnificent kangaroos that lollop down Mum’s street and gather in the grass at the Pambula beach each afternoon.  I even love the heady scent of the wattle, despite it making my eyes itch – it takes me back to my school years where wattle was planted alongside the Year 9 classrooms and science labs and once it flowered, you knew the school year was on the downhill run.  Yes, I’m truly converted.

However, Julian is not much of a table cloth fellow, and the linen cupboard is literally popping with table cloths so this sweet cloth needed to take on a different role.  Besides – I wanted to enjoy it regularly!  And so a table cloth skirt was born.

stork leg close up

I cut the cloth in half so that the longest side gave me the most length and the little wattle baubles formed pretty borders.  Sewed it up, turn over a hem, and added elastic.  But it still needed something else – a pretty red and white spot!  With a deep ribbon of blue rickrack. (p.s. the lovely red vintage cardigan is also recently thrifted from the oppie – Mum found it!)

fulllength holding it out

It is so cherry and pretty and I don’t mind saying that each time I wear it, someone comments with delight :-)  I even had a lady at the patchwork store follow me down the aisles to ask if that was indeed a tablecloth because it was the prettiest use for such a tablecloth she’d ever seen!

heavy dew new tree children bee unopened buds against autumn leaves lookingup sun and blue sky

It is the perfect skirt to wear today.  A day filled with a rich blue sky and lovely golden sunlight.  Such a treat after four days of dark gloom and rain.  Mind you, the dew is so heavy it took only a few footsteps before my shoes were wet through.  I’ll have to get the leather wax onto them.

wet feet the back

Guess what I have in the sewing pile now … one of those fabulous floral German cloths with the border of little men and women in their sweet costumes.  It’s a square one, identical to one that I use regularly and those I grew up with.  Mum and Nanny had them in yellow and green and blue – as a child it just seemed natural to me that you should have blue and white china on your table with floral cloths bordered in little men and women.  I was always so surprised to find other folk DIDN’T have these on their table.

And you know what’s going to happen to it, don’t you!

 

all that has happened

Oh my goodness … 2014, what a year you are shaping up to be!  Almost four months past and I’ve barely caught my breath.  Now tonight, here I sit in my layers of wool and sheepskin slippers.  The bed is laden with blankets and quilts.  The rain patters outside.  Summer has well and truly finished.  Autumn never really arrived … or if you caught glimpses, I must have been deep inside the emergency room of the children’s hospital and missed them completely … and now it’s almost gone.  And I’ve not popped my head in here for ages!

In fact, this is the third night I’ve sat down to write, but then I’ve thought … well, what on earth have I got to say?  I’ve been lurching from one chaotic period to another.  Nothing much has progressed on the crafty front.  No show and tells ready and prettily photographed  :sigh:

Then I decided to empty the camera card and what did I find?  Empty camera card? Evidence of chaos?  A visual reminder of what happens when you are frantically writing up one university assignment after another, whilst working full time in a completely new and unusual environment with a massive team of nurses and doctors that seem to completely change with each shift, accompanied by a husband who’s overseas working for a month, a wonderful Mummy who steps into the breach and keeps Bootville running, followed by a dear old grandad who suffers a terrible stroke and needs us by his side quickly and a darling old grandmother who doesn’t know what their life holds for them next?  Is that what’s on the camera card?

No, not really.  Instead, there are glimpses – here and there – some more weeks than others – of a life that is still being lived with good cheer.  There’s been lots of keeping close to the ones I love, birthdays celebrated, an endless appreciation for the old, battered and quirky, a never before experienced explosion of autumnal knitting, a coming together of quilts – old and new, a treasured opportunity to hold my Grandad’s hand whilst he rests in hospital, beautiful hours sitting with my Nanny whilst we knit together and ponder what may come next, a very special opportunity to rekindle a close relationship with a dear aunty, a much appreciated trip to a favourite beach, tablecloths turned into skirts, an adored friend visiting for Easter, wee dolls being needlefelted, moments of sunshine in the garden …

Yes … it would seem that whilst I have been away from here for a very long time – the longest ever I think! – and spent many, many hours at the early and late ends of the day caring for little people and their families; the spirit of Bootville lives on, and the goodness that makes up our crazy, busy, love-filled, creative lives gets squeezed into the corners no matter how fast the time flies.

table cloth borders sewn borders attached birthday quilts sewn quilting cocktails sipped newly thrifted shelves fabrics were played with dirty lamp fizzy clean lamp pea soup cardie dishcloths were knitted cardigans multiplied dirty sideboard clean sideboard mum visited ready for home nanny's knitting bag family rainbow dollls made friends came husbands relished autumn welcomed even more knitting

And that’s so good.  See you tomorrow – yes?

argyling and the marvellous Joan Aiken

that can be a verb, yes?  Sounds like a strange form of mining.  I’m wracking my brain to see if there’s any analogy between knitting argyle and mining …. no, I’m coming up blank.

suitcase

Nevertheless, that’s what’s going on here in Bootville.  Because there are only 5 days left to argyle before the birthday arrives on which I said I would have the argyle ready for wearing.  Gasp!

peek inside

Silliness aside – and disregarding the insane number of little balls of wool that perform square dancing on every row – knitting argyle – my first attempt – is very pleasant.  The yarn is Jamieson and Smith’s 2 ply jumper weight which is so very lovely to knit with.  It’s so very woolly!  You only have to lay two strands next to each other and they snuggle up.  And the soft halo that floats above the surface of the knitted fabric is so beautiful.  Yum!  When I knit with this yarn, I don’t ever want to knit with anything else.

holding it open

And I’m knitting on 3.25mm needles which is also strangely addictive.  When I was a young, flighty knitter I was very much of the notion that the bigger the needle, the fatter the yarn, the better.  Now I say, nonsense to that!  There’s something very very good about knitting up a fabric that is fine and light, yet so warm and durable.

hard to fathom

Oh, the pattern.  It’s Keith’s Vest by Veronik Avery.  I like her stuff – very classy.  The back, of course, was easy-peasy-easy-peasy – back and forth, back and forth, straight up.  The front – well, trying to read “the pattern” took a few quiet looks, a few frogged rows, finally an a-ha moment and then the decision, once I knew I was in the right spot, to not confuse myself any further by looking at “the pattern” and just keep an eye on the photo. And follow the lines.  It’s a bit common sense really.  It’s working – currently.  I’ll have to pay attention when the armholes start decreasing but that’s okay.  They’re only armholes and I don’t think the argyle really touches them much.  Nope, just checked, there’s no argyling going on near armholing.  I am looking forward to the bands.  Oh yes!

bunched up

And it has to be knitted on the bed – with all the little balls rolling around in front of me.  And that’s okay too because I am so tired this week – that time of the month, and early morning classes – that sneaking in a couple of hours each day,  to sit on the bed, pillows scrunched behind my back, the fan blowing on my face, a cold drink by my side, is really nice.

coming my way

Actually, that’s why I’m knitting right now, and not reading (rereading a favourite children’s series, because really, don’t you think, the really good children’s books are better than any grown ups’ book I’ve ever read).  Because I know if I read, I will fall asleep and then I will not wake up in time to fetch the little girl from school for an afternoon of homework.  So I shall knit.

stolen lake

Besides, there’s only five days to go before we reach the birthday.  And I promised.

growing

Pop over to Ginny’s to check out her yarn along friends – there are some beautiful places to visit and lots of pretty yarn :-)

 

a crochet sampler :: week 1 ~ apple trees

ingredients

Do you remember, I mentioned the other day that I was so inspired by Nanny’s 110 Crocheted Edgings book that I wanted to make a crocheted edges sampler?

Well, I’ve started!  Yes, 2014 is the year of just doing it.  And I thought I would make the whole project into a little weekly thing and share it here with you.  Each week, I will add another sample to my background and then publish the instructions and photos here, if you would like to join me.  That means, in a year’s time – I – and you! – will have roughly 50 edges.  We may have had enough by then.  Or maybe we’ll make more!  As Nanny would say, we’ll play it by ear, shall we?

A word on copyright – I don’t know if this book is still within copyright.  I certainly don’t want to steal from it, which aside from anything else would diminish the wonderful effort put in by its original authors and publishers, The Misses Bamford & Walker of St. Ives, Sydney.

Instead, I see myself – and this little series – as celebrating their skill and expertise, as well as the wonderful heritage left to me by my grandmothers.  All designs belong to Misses Bamford and Walker.  I will not be reproducing their instructions here, because I actually find them really hard to follow – this is no slight of Misses Bamford & Walker, but more a reflection of my skill level and the differences in how we write crochet instructions today as opposed to then.

So, I will be muddling my way through their instructions – it will be trial and error with lots of ripping back – and I will then write my own instructions which will be my interpretation of how I achieved their design.  From my experiences so far, I use the accompanying photographs to guide me as much, if not more, than their written instructions.

Also – this will be a rather long post because it’s starting us off – describing how I prepared the fabric and establish my crocheted edge.  In all future posts we’ll just jump straight in to the week’s design.

Shall we start!

A little trip up the road on Saturday, in the most frightful heat, presented me with a lovely piece of dove grey fabric as the background.  It’s a heavy cotton, 150cm wide, with an almost aida-cloth like texture.  I straightened the top and bottom edges by pulling a thread from the edge through from one side to the other, to find the straight line, cut along the line that appeared, then overlocked the edges.  I prewashed it – figured I wouldn’t want to be washing it much once it was laden up with crocheted edgings – and amazingly enough, when it’s 40 celsius, things dry to a crisp on the line within an hour.

I measured down 9 inches from the top edge – it just seemed to be the right amount – folded it over and gave it a light water spray and a good bash with the iron so that my edge had military precision.  Then I stitched 3cm away from it – straight across from one side to the other.  My first pleated edge for crocheting!  Now I bought 2 metres of fabric but I’m not sure how much of that length will be used.  Will have to wait and see.  However, I have divided my width into 3 columns.  I have left 10 centimetres on either side for a border and binding, and then 5 centimetres in between each of the columns.  That means each sample of crocheted edging will be 40cm long – just enough to get a good feel for it!

(Should add here that I apologise in advance for chopping and changing from metric to imperial measurements – being here in Australia where metric is the order of the day, metric is my usual guide, but I still use imperial often because of the quilting rulers – so it was 9 inches because of the quilting ruler I had at hand, 3cm because of the gradients marked on my sewing machine and so on!)

Now I’ve only done the first pleat, because I wanted to see how much gap I would like between each row of crocheted edgings.  When I’ve finished the first three, I shall play around with the gap between the first and second rows and update you.  It may well change for each gap, according to the depth of the edging. Some of them are beautifully deep – wait til you see the Crowns!!!!

starting with number 3

Sunday morning – after a terrible night’s sleep, thanks to the heatwave – I sat up in bed, with two fans blowing on me, a huge glass of water by my side, a constant supply of coffee (thank you sweet Julian!), a snoring Lucy at the foot (she was forbidden from snuggling into the background fabric), and started my stitching.  I chose Edging No. 3 – strong enough to be worthy of the top line of my sampler, but not too deep or difficult.

Preparing the Fabric and Establishing a Crocheted Foundation Edge

Step 1

Using DMC No. 12 Perle Cotton, measure in 10cm from the edge of your background fabric, then blanket stitch the edge of your pleat until you are 10cm away from the opposite edge (don’t worry about your 3 columns at this point).  It doesn’t really matter how long each stitch is.  Obviously, it’s nicer if they are uniform, but it won’t affect the crochet.  However, the width of the stitch will – too narrow, and the crochet foundation you will make in Step 2 will bunch up; too wide and your crochet foundation will gather your fabric in.  Mine are roughly 1/2 centimetre wide.  We won’t count them :-)

mark your destination

Step 2

Using DMC Traditions Crochet Cotton (we’ll call it our thread), Size 10, and a 2.5mm crochet hook, create a double crocheted running stitch through your blanket stitching. This will form the foundation on which you will stitch your lace edging.

I achieve this by fastening my thread on the far right, leaving a long enough tail to pull through to the back.  Make 1 chain.  Then insert the crochet hook through the next blanket stitch loop that runs along the edge of the pleat and draw the thread through so that you have two loops on your hook.  Wrap your thread around the hook and pull it through both loops on your hook.  Repeat on each blanket stitch loop until you reach the end of your first column – 40cm (that’s what the pin is marking in the previous photo).  Fasten off, leaving a tail long enough to pull through the back.

making chains across your blanket stitch

Now we are ready for this week’s edging!

Week 1 :~ Apple Trees (edging no. 3)

A word on the rows.  I do think that you can differentiate sometimes between a crochet’s front and back, which is why I  fastened off my double crochet foundation row.  I wanted to start Row 1 on the front of my work.  When you are going round something – like a doily or a face flannel or a skirt – it’s not a problem because you are always working on the front.  When you are making one straight line, you are going to be coming back on the wrong side.  However, I think, in this design, the second row works fine to come back on the wrong side.  

trebles

Row 1

Return to the beginning of your double crochet foundation (the far right).  Make 2 trebles in the first 3 double crochet foundation stitches.  * Make 1 treble in the next double crochet.  Chain 4.  Make 1 treble into the same double crochet.  Make 2 trebles into the next 5 double crochets.  Repeat from * until you reach the end of your double crochet foundation.  I finished on the second pair of the 5 trebles.  Doesn’t really matter where you finish – just don’t finish on the sequence – 1 treble, four chain, 1 treble.  It’s a sampler, not a finished product.  Fasten off, leaving a tail long enough to pull through the back.

my crochet companion

Row 2

Make your way back to the third pair of the first group of 5 treble pairs (remember, you’re working on the wrong side for this row).  I finished on the second pair of my 5 trebles so I just started there.  If you finished on the fourth or fifth treble pair, slip stitch back to the third pair.  # Make 1 double crochet into the first of the two trebles that make your third pair.  Make one chain.  * Make 1 treble into the loop (formed by row 1′s 1 treble, 4 chain, 1 treble sequence).  Chain 4.  Make 1 double crochet into the chain stitch you made before the last treble.  At first I found this bit tricky – so I’ve included a photograph of where to make this double crochet below (with the mustard coloured arrow).  Make 1 chain.  Repeat four more times from * .  Repeat from # until you are back at the beginning.  Fasten off.

four chain where to put the double with arrow in goes the hook

It looks so much more complicated than that, doesn’t it – but it’s only two rows.  And I do think the lace created looks like well laden apple trees.

done

Let me know if you’re going to make a sampler too!  And if you need help deciphering my instructions, or think I could do it better (because I have NO experience at crochet pattern writing), please feel free to email me – lily(at)blockaday(dot)com.

Enjoy!

 

 

the postmaster’s granddaughter

As you may have read here before, my beloved old Grandad was a Postmaster with Australia Post.  He began his career as a teenage telegram boy who, whilst wearing a blue woollen suit, buttoned to the neck with brass buttons in hot, steamy Brisbane, would ride his bicycle up and down Brisbane’s narrow, hilly streets delivering telegrams.   The post office, in those days, encouraged its workers to “improve themselves”, so Grandad completed every course they offered and began climbing the corporate ladder, moving from one small country town post office to the next, each time a little higher up, until he was the Postmaster.

gundagai

My earliest memories of his role are from when he was the Postmaster in Holland Park and Nanny and I would drive down to the Post Office each day to fetch him home for lunch.  We used to sing a silly ditty along the way, based on his nickname – “the old baldy-bee, the old baldy-bee, hi-ho the dairy-oh, the old baldy-bee”.  I thought it was hysterically funny – and loved my old baldy grandad.  From there they moved to Leeton – where they lived in a lovely old Postmaster’s residence – my only memories of which revolve around peach orchards and flies, and hot buttered rock cakes under the cutting out table in Nanny’s curtain and haberdashery shop.  Then onto Kempsey – it was the best!

goulburn post office

 (this is the Goulburn Post Office Grandad – it was so big, I couldn’t fit it all in the photo – so I chose the clock tower because it was the prettiest bit! )

As a child, I thought the Kempsey post office was a castle!  We would go in to visit Grandad and he would sit us up at the huge old wooden counter with a booklet he would make out of sheets of brown paper stapled together.  We would fiercely whack the rubber stamps (just like the real post office clerks), that were stored on the big, spinning  metal mushrooms which sat on the counter, all over our brown paper booklets. Sometimes we would sneak other things – like airmail stickers and parcel labels which all had to be moistened on  damp sponges that sat snugly in little glass bowls, before sticking them in too. If we were really lucky, Australia Post would have colouring sheets – in they went too, along with brochures on how to pack parcels and instructions on what you must never send through the mail. Then we would use every marker in the drawer to decorate the page edges.  Good stuff!

cundletown post office

Then Grandad bought a retired red Postie motorbike.  Oh my goodness – we couldn’t believe our good fortune.  We would take turns sitting on the back, clutching Grandad’s waist, as he zoomed (pottered and bumped really), along the fence line of their back paddock, down past the chooks and ducks across the bottom of their property, then back up the other side, past the wood pile.  Round and round we’d go.  One grandchild on the back holding on tight, the other grandchildren impatiently awaiting their turn, the rest of the family cheering from the porch!  It was one cute motorbike.  And Grandad was the coolest postie!

kempsey post office

All these lovely memories have given me such a soft spot for Post Offices and a love of stamps.  So when I saw this glorious stamp fabric at Spotlight last year, I was utterly smitten.  All those wee stamps!  The radiant colours!  It was just meant to be mine. However, goodness knows why, I didn’t buy any straight away.  Which was a big mistake, because within less than a fortnight they had sold out.  Bummer.

grafton post office

Then, when I was in Brisbane last month, helping to look after old Grandad and Nanny, we called into their local Spotlight during a dreadful rain storm – we almost didn’t stop but were both desperate for a circular knitting needle – and there was the stamp fabric – wrapped around the end of the fabric cutting table.  I asked the lovely girl serving us whether they had any left.  No, she said, it was an incredibly popular fabric and that was their last piece – display only.

Oh!  I proceeded to tell her about Grandad the Postmaster and how we were here looking after him, how much I loved stamps and post offices, and how much I loved that fabric – I had wanted some because it would always remind me of our lovely times with Grandad when we were little.  She was such a sweetie –  and without another word, unfastened the safety pins that were holding the fabric taut, unwrapped it from the end of the table, measured it, folded it neatly and sold it to me – at a discount.  I was soooooo thrilled :-)  Honestly, I regularly have the loveliest experiences with the staff at Spotlight – no matter which store I visit, they are always so helpful and friendly.

Grandad thought it was very cool …

all those stamps

… and what have I done with it?  Why made my very own Postmaster’s Granddaughter’s Dress :-)

spinning around

My favourite dropped waist style.  The bodice is made from a Butterick Blouse pattern – I especially wanted the lovely peter pan collar – my first attempt at such a thing – and I’m happy to report that whilst it was a bit fiddly and took almost two hours of careful stitching and pressing, it was such fun to make and I shall certainly make more.  I bought the orange fabric – called Full Moon Lagoon – from Darn Cheap Fabric up the road.  The skirt – in my glorious stamp fabric – is simply gathered on.  And I found a fabulously fat turquoise ric-rac at Darn Cheap to trim the hem.

gathered on collar button at back

The original blouse pattern called for a zipper in the back.  That seemed both too much effort and too fussy.  So I made the back opening much shorter, added a lovely vintage button from the button jar and crocheted a little chain stitch loop to fasten it.  Works a treat.

pretty hem full length

I just love it!  I know – being the funny old thing I am – that I will wear it and wear it and wear it for many years.  In summer with my sandals.  In winter with tights and buckle ups and a cardie.  It will always be a favourite.

all those greys

And every time I pull it over my head, smooth it down, wash it, peg it out on the line, carefully iron it …

the old postmaster himself

I will think of my dearly loved old Grandad (pictured above with Mum on the right and Auntie Anne on the left), the intrepid Postmaster, the beautiful childhood he helped create for me, and all that love he has shared with me for 44 years.

portrai

Oh how I love you, you old baldy-bee!