Christmas isn’t Christmas without plenty of books. They do make the most perfect gifts – delicious to browse the bookstore for, so much fun to buy, lovely to read, and I do so love having bookshelves crammed full of books in every room in our home. In fact, I can foresee Christmases when we declare that books and only books may be given!
This Christmas, we have some beauties …
Father Christmas gave Abby the first two books of Lemony Snicket’s new series. She adored the Series of Unfortunate Events – read them over and over, listened to them over and over, and oh my, what a fabulous vocabulary Mr. Snicket provided her with. She would pop out with some amazing words when only little, we would look at her with amazement, and she would announce “It means such and such. Lemony Snicket told me so.” She’s loving her first encounter with this series too – good stuff.
Abby gave Julian a lavish new edition of “The Hobbit.” Aren’t the illustrations beautiful? And a cloth bound cover. Lovely. We are reading it out loud together, a little bit most evenings. Well, I should say I read it to them. The two of them just refuse to read out loud. Tsk!
Mum bought this delight for herself. Both Mum and I have loved Joanne Trollope since her first book was published and this modern retelling of Sense and Sensibility is such fun. I’ve not read it yet, but Mum’s had us giggling over the bits she’s shared. And she’s read it in just three days. Excellent – means I can have it next.
Father Christmas gave me some of the Flavia de Luce books – numbers 3 – 5. I read the first two when I was working at the bookstore and so enjoyed them. I love me a good cosy murder. Flavia is such an appealing protagonist, the 1950s English setting is perfect, her family’s English country home is just my cup of tea, and the cast of villagers is a delight. Dogger’s my favourite character – I love finding out more and more about him as the stories progress. Mr. Bradley’s a great storyteller and I marvel at this middle aged American man’s ability to provide the voice of such a quirky and endearing 11 year old girl.
Cookbooks! We are such suckers for lovely cookbooks. Mum gave the New York Classics to Julian and I gave him the Jewelled Kitchen. We’ve put in our orders from the New York Classics – donuts, bagels, hamburgers, latkes – yum! And the Jewelled Kitchen – a Middle Eastern cookbook – has so many lovely vegetable dishes that I can’t wait to try – well, get Julian to try and I shall be his obliging taste tester ;-)
Hee! Hee! Hee! I gave this alarming title to Julian :-) He was a bit appalled until I made him read the back. I first came across it on the Good Reads website and it really does sound great! It’s about a group of Oxford academics who belong to a secret culinary society bound by specific rules. One is that the members should never refuse to eat a dish suggested by another member (or something like that) or their membership shall be eternally revoked – they all love food and have tried all manner of things. Then when one of the members dies, he demands, via his will, that his friends try eating him – which of course, horrifies them. Ugh! I took it with me to the beach today and it really is a good read – especially if you’re a bit of an Anglophile / Academia-lover like me.
Now the beach is not the beach without magazines. Oh how I used to love packing a basketful of magazines with CarolAnn and setting up camp at Rainbow Bay. We would be entertained for hours. At the moment, I’m reading The Owner Builder – a brilliant little Australian magazine which gets me so excited about our move to the Bega Valley. Just a couple more years! In the current issue there’s a story from an adventurous owner builder whose lovely blog Pearl & Elspeth I read. She lives with her family here in the Bega Valley and she built a strawbale home (our choice of building material) so it was SUCH a delight to find her in one of my favourite magazines, describing her family’s successes (with one small pitfall) and their enthusiasm for moving on to building the next strawbale part of their home. SO inspiring!
And there’s a craft book. Of course there’s a craft book! Crochet – a nice little booklet put out by Patons. It has such beautiful, fresh and colourful patterns. I adore the blanket on the cover – definitely on the to do list one day. And I swooned over the granny square cardigan above – but its construction looks decidedly tricky. Hmmm … So I’ve started with the little pram blanket - such pretty flowers.
And when we’re not reading them – they have other uses. Stopping the crochet squares from blowing away. Resting the tea and toast on them when in bed. Providing a drawing tablet …
A stack of good books is so very good, especially at Christmas.
supper has been cooked and shared :: the beautiful summer light still softly dusts the sky :: a salty mist slowly slips in across the bay, laying its folds lightly over mountains, forests and beach ::
Come for a walk …
a narrow sandy track takes us through a small forest of gums, she-oaks, tea trees, coastal grasses and softly twittering birds that are readying themselves for bed :: suddenly the forest parts, the stillness is broken, and there before us is the roaring swell of the bay, curving round to the small village of Pambula :: the sun behind me glows fiercely, turning the forest we’ve just left into an inky black silhouette :: a funny little gull trots after the departing waves, searching the wet sand for his supper, then, as the waves return, he turns smartly and bustles back towards the dry sand, keeping his toesies dry, back and forth and back and forth he goes until, as we draw closer, he elegantly, slowly, lifts his wings and hovers just out of our reach :: following his footsteps :: but stopping all along to observe and enjoy – such as the little air holes in the buoyant, wet sand that seem to breath in and out – who is living down there? :: then, lost in thought, the waves rush back in and my feet and skirt are wet :: not many leftovers on this beach – a pelican’s feather, a small shell nestling countable grains of sand, the marvellous little tumble weeds (I’ve no idea what they’re really called) that flitter wildly along the sand, spinning up and down and round and round until the wind dies, a small hillock in the sand snags them, or a wave mires them in sogginess :: the sun slides ever lower :: we turn back for home, a little trail of claw prints leading us on :: they belong to this beauty – a sooty oyster catcher – he’s joined the funny gull for supper :: our cliffs, still touched with a hint of the sun’s pinky warmth, the blunt head of which always reminds me of the whales that sail these waters, their babes tucked in beside them :: finally, our beachy version of Narnia’s lamp post – the dog off leash sign marking the path that will take us back through the forest, back home ::
As usual, once I started thinking about Christmas giving for this year, my head was full of all sorts of wonderful and creative ideas of homemade. I was going to sew up and print tshirts, make a wooden cutout of a traditional Swedish clock, start and finish quilts, piece and quilt table runners, applique cushions, fill jars dressed in crocheted covers with homemade lollies … it was a lovely list :-) I even thought I’d try my hand at creating a mini world in a broken terracotta pot with succulents … check it out here, it’s entrancing. I just hadn’t factored in how tricky that four week placement would be – especially once I added in the bad back, endless hayfever, hours of driving, and insomnia. It certainly wasn’t the sort of Advent I’ve enjoyed and loved for many, many years. 2014 – I definitely need to start early!
However, on that last Friday of working, I rushed home, out to the sewing shed, gathered an armful of fabric (the pieces I wanted to use had been percolating in my mind for the last few days) and set to work. Christmas pillowcases. I pieced and ironed and measured and cut and it was bliss. Such bliss. And by suppertime, 2 pairs of pretty pillowcases were ready for giving. Just a shame I’d missed the last post before Christmas. Never mind – they’ll arrive in the New Year and be just as fresh and useful.
This set is for my dear old Nanny and Grandad. They love the pretty old fashioned look and Nanny will especially like the reproduction pieces in this. That gorgeous blue paisley is one of the Julie Rothermel reproduction fabrics from Sturbridge Village. More of it to come! The two reds are civil war reproductions from Karen at the Quilter’s Store – she has the most extraordinary and beautiful collection of reproductions – I have never seen its like anywhere else. Oh how I loved just standing in amongst it all. Let alone loading up my arms with bolt after bolt, then staggering off to the cutting table to ask for just 30cm! And the the wee houses – well they’re not reproductions obviously but add to the whole charm of it, yes? They’re from my wee houses quilt that is a.l.m.o.s.t finished. The beautiful blue stripe is a fabric I found at The Fabric Store a few years back – it has a wonderfully crisp and sturdy hand. And the broderie trim is from The Button Shop in Glenferrie Road – the old gentleman who owns this store has an awesome collection, some of which I think has been sitting there for at least 30 years. My kind of place.
And for one of my sweet aunties – a riot of colour and florals. So many of the pieces have been used here and there. I love this – it’s like my quilts and cushions and trims are all cousins. There’s pieces from Caleb’s quilt (Cousin Elena’s babe), Gumnut Fairies from Francesca’s quilt (Cousin Clara’s babe) and my blue crosses quilt, some Anna Maria Horner from Mum’s picnic quilt … I picked up the floral background from Karen years and years ago. I had long forgotten plans for it … never mind. That’s the fun of having a stash. And the trim – why from that Button Shop again :-) If ever you’re in Melbourne and you feel like stepping back in time, you really must visit it!
So here they are, my quartet of Christmas pillowcases, beautifully pressed and folded (thank you Mum) and waiting for the reopening of the post office on Monday morn.
Perhaps I should start next year’s Christmas pillowcases this summer!
Such a merry Christmas round here with moments of …
:: packing ::
:: last minute stitching ::
:: receiving ::
:: giving ::
:: tying ::
:: steaming ::
:: dancing ::
:: cooking ::
:: brining ::
:: feasting :
:: reading and re-reading old and new Christmas favourites ::
:: relaxing ::
Thank you for all of your encouragement and friendship throughout 2013.
It means so much to me and so often provides the extra oomph I need to push me through the busy and demanding times we often find ourselves in.
I do hope you and those you hold dear are enjoying a wonderful festive season,
whatever your special celebration, and that there is much love, kindness and joy.
I’m sorry I’ve been so silent this December. It’s this placement thingy – it’s been really hard. The first two weeks – agonising back. Now into the last of the second two weeks – streaming hay fever. All four weeks – relentless insomnia. I’m so buggered. And so over it.
Only four days to go … then I am anticipating a terrific summer of loveliness and lots and lots of creativity. Until then …
I do declare that you folk in the Northern Hemisphere have it so much easier. Down here, Christmas coincides with the end of the year – end of school, end of university, end of placements, winding up of work – and the start of the long summer holidays. So there’s always so much else to finish before we can truly prepare for and enjoy the beauty of Christmas.
Perhaps I’m just feeling it more this year. But here we are, 16th December and there’s still a week’s worth of nursing placement and assessments to finish before I can truly hang up my busy year and revel in the Christmassy-ness of it all.
On the creative side, there are so many gifts started – and none finished. But one thing I have managed to stay atop of is our Advent Tree. This year, we are using the funny little tree I collected from hard rubbish on a grey rainy day a few months back. At the time I christened it the Oehlenschlager tree – I declared it was to be covered in cross stitched Danish Christmas decorations as per the lovely book a sweet friend from Instagram gave me in return for Mr. Pollack’s vintage glass juicer.
However, I need another couple of years stitching before the tree can be suitably decked out in these wee stitchings alone. So – the Advent Tree. And given we simply cannot find the Tomtems we have used for many a year, I picked up the crochet hook and got stitching. I give you Advent Roses. Each with its own wee numbered tag.
Each morning, long before Abby arises and according to a long held Bootville tradition, I hang the day’s Advent Rose somewhere in the house and it’s Abby’s job to find it and hang it on the Advent Tree. I must confess, she doesn’t do this with the same gleeful anticipation she possessed ten years ago – ahhhhh the teenage years. But we all enjoy the sweetness of it nevertheless :-)
I’ve even managed to keep up with the stitching of the Advent Roses – there were the perfect project to pack for morning tea and lunch when I was nursing in the Oncology Ward – and extras made lovely gifts to sweet patients. However, a small hitch has only just emerged. I still have 7 to make … and I cannot find the wee basket that is stuffed with the pretty Brown Sheep rosy yarn for the centre, some left over cream, red and mustard Beaverslide from Abby’s Blaithin, a ball of green Paton’s leftover from Abby’s Owl Sweater, and a ball of buttery Rowan leftover from my fairisle tunic (that I don’t think I have ever shared!). That’s right – the whole basket has vanished. I’ve just spent the last half hour first walking briskly through the house confidently looking here and there, then slowly – slightly worried – poking into each corner, and finall,y grumpily crawling around under furniture and behind doors … I even checked the car. I cannot find it.
It must be here somewhere. It’s almost certainly in the living room. But as Julian has observed many a time before – crafty things are sneakily camouflaged here in Bootville. And I have a terrible track record of tucking things into forgotten corners.
A-ha! Found it! Behind the sofa cushion – no wonder I couldn’t shove the cushion back into place each time I sat on the sofa over the weekend. Never mind. Now the kitchen is glowing, the washing hung out, the chooks in bed, a glass of milk is on the bedside table and I am ready to hop into bed and stitch a bouquet of Advent Roses.
Yes, little by little, this Christmas is coming together.
Goodness, life has been exceedingly full over the last ten days. It all began with a washing basket that only had 2 towels and a half load of washing in it.
That was two Sundays ago – the day before I began my two week placement in an Oncology ward at a large public hospital. As I picked up that wretched basket, I felt a sharp and painful twinge in my lower back. No, no, no, no … this could not possibly happen at the start of placement. But despite spending the rest of the day resting my back, taking pain relief, and performing the gentle stretches my physio gave me the last time I hurt my back – over ten years ago – I arrived at the hospital, bright and early on the Monday morning, with an excruciatingly sore back.
There was nothing I could do about it. If I couldn’t meet my placement obligations, I would have to repeat the semester. So, I staggered on – literally. My doctor prescribed pain relief for the days and a muscle relaxant for the nights. Julian massaged my back every evening when I collapsed onto the bed. And he and Abby kept the house running. Every ounce of energy and concentration I had was poured into my patients. I confess, there were several moments when I simply lay there and cried.
And yet, what an incredibly humbling experience. Because, as I have walked – as straight and briskly as possible – around the ward each day, I have been caring for people who are terribly unwell. Most people receiving treatment for cancer are seen as day patients. Only those who suffer severe side effects from their treatments that cannot be managed at home, or those for whom the treatments are no longer working and their poor bodies are simply breaking down, make their way onto the ward.
I have held the hand of a patient who received very sad news on her birthday. I have cared for a patient (and his family) who died too soon. I have prepared the body of another patient for the morgue. I have cleaned up all manner of bodily fluids whilst reassuring the patient beside me that it is no bother at all. I have managed to find 10 minutes here and there to sit with patients and listen to their stories who have no family to visit them. I have given countless antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-fungals, platelet infusions, potassium, magnesium, and ever so gently washed and patted dry frail, frail bodies …. my goodness, chemotherapy is so very harsh on the body.
And that back pain of mine – well, it’s as if it has been given to me to keep my feet firmly planted in reality. To remind me that what seems awful to me can always be put into a much bigger picture. One in which life is so very treasured and fragile.
Today – thank goodness – I think that spasm in my back is finally breaking up. Now, it’s just tired, not screeching in pain. And this morning for the first time since “the washing basket moment” the fog of discomfort has lifted and I am able to look around me with clear and refreshed eyes.
The rain is pouring down. The sunflowers smothering my bedroom window are delighted. I stitched Abby’s Christmas pillowcase and crocheted a wee Christmas rose for a dear, dear patient. We turned the fairy lights on early. My uniform is ironed. My supper is packed.
It’s time to head off.
Oh folks, I had my last exam today. Fingers crossed, it was the last exam of my degree! I can’t tell you what a marvellous thought that is. I really enjoy research and essay writing – I loathe exams and really struggle to revise. Don’t know why – just a real psychological block.
So, this afternoon, there was a lovely bit of celebration in order. The guilt free kind. See – even if I’m not conscientiously studying, I’m fretting with my mind tumbling over all the things I should be doing and all the terrible things that will happen because I am NOT doing them.
I collected Abby from school – 45 minutes late, thank you traffic, and a proper, heartfelt thankyou to Bob our beautiful lollipop man who stayed with Abby until I arrived – we bought iced fruit bun from the bakers, poured big glasses of creamy milk and sat out in the sun under the oak … with the added treat of my freshly arrived copy of Rhonda Hetzel’s “Down to Earth: A Guide to Simple Living”. Now, I have to confess, I am a very late arrival to the wise and comforting thoughts Rhonda shares on her blog. In fact, it has only been since I set up a Feedly account last month that I have started reading her blog regularly. But the minute her little essays became part of my daily routine, I knew I would love – and get a lot out of – her book.
And here it is in my glad hands on the very afternoon that I had no other commitments other than to enjoy my family’s company, my spring filled garden, and a new book!
As I started reading, one particular part of the introduction struck me straight away – the part sewing and knitting our own clothes plays in simple living. Folks – as much as you know I adore both sewing and knitting, I do really struggle with it being part of a “simple” approach.
Not because patterns can sometimes be complex and take a lot of time – I completely get what Rhonda says about that “… simple describes the nature of the activities in this kind of life, not the amount of effort involved.” It’s about becoming “a doer not a buyer” – a concept I adore and subscribe to fully. I’ve been telling Abby since she was tiny, that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth taking our time over. And teaching her and reminding myself of the beauty and benefits of practice, practice, practice, practice. But Rhonda goes on to describe how once she relearned these skills – along with cooking from scratch, preserving, vegetable gardening etc. – she felt that she had the skills to survive a crisis.
Here’s my dilemma. In order to knit and sew our clothes, we still need to buy supplies. Once you visit the fabric store and purchase your pattern and cloth and thread you have easily spent A LOT of money – receipts from fabric shops always add up at an alarming rate and leave me rather breathless. I could easily BUY the clothing for the cost of making it. As for wool – well, it is effortless to spend almost $100 on the yarn to knit a lovely cosy cardigan. This just doesn’t feel simple. Now I know we could argue – ah! but you’re putting in your own hours, think of the exploitative labour you are avoiding, and you’re probably creating something that will last a lot longer and be so much more meaningful. Yes, yes I totally agree. But the fabric is still being produced in a factory somewhere – almost always overseas – then shipped to Australia, transported to the shop, etc. etc. It’s not like the old days when Australia had its own mills and produced its own good quality, simple cloth.
And if the crisis – that is written about so often these days comes – if we do end up with a crashed economy (hello Australia’s fast-disappearing manufacturing industry!) or an environment that is soooooooo much harder to survive in, are we a) going to have the money to buy that nice fabric and yarn so we can use our very worthy skills, or b) will there even be readily accessible shops selling fabric? Will we instead, be limited to lots and lots of repurposing? How will crappy cheap clothes stand up to that!? I don’t know.
What I do know, is that I often feel that gathering all those supplies (and folks, whilst I am very good at gathering supplies, I am also very good at finding the bargains) and making my and my family’s clothes is actually quite indulgent.
I guess the real answer to this dilemma is LESS. I know this is the honourable answer and one that is oh so much more easily reconciled with simple living. But it doesn’t quite feed my love of making. I do look in opshops for supplies where patterns are a dime a dozen, but very rarely do I find any fabric, especially natural fibres.
Then, earlier this year, during the two month period in which a skip was parked outside Mr. Pollack’s house each weekend, I made a lovely discovery – two cotton curtains – in good condition, with a nice weighty hand, and a pretty pattern. Truly it was a Sound of Music moment.
I fished them out of the skip – from amongst the broken china, smashed furniture, moldy books and moth ridden overcoats – gave them a good wash, dried them in the sun and married them off to my 50 cent pattern from the opshop.
Together, they produced the most guilt free, thrifty, down-to-earth, simple dress I have ever produced. I wear it at least twice a week – with tshirts, button down shirts and turtlenecks under it; cardies over it; and stockings, socks or bare legs, as the weather dictates.
I love it – it is so utterly me. A bit eccentric I suppose. A bit flowery. But very very me. I feel that it is my Amish dress. Of course an Amish would have a plain dress, not a flowery one. But I really do like the reasoning behind their manner of dressing – if they only have a few dresses and they are all the same then they don’t have to worry about what to wear each day – their time and thoughts can be taken up with much more important matters. Yep, this pinafore could definitely become my go-to, Amish dress. The ultimate in anti-consumerism.
So I guess what I’m trying to say in this long ramble is I do LOVE Rhonda’s message. I DO want to live a simple life. I AM a huge believer in the value, both mental and physiological, of being a doer not a buyer. I DO believe that the skills of sewing, knitting, embroidery, cooking, gardening etc. are ESSENTIAl to good living.
But I still need to think outside that box a little more. Hopefully, one day, we will keep a sheep or alpaca or two for their fleece. But weaving our own cloth?!?! I don’t think so. So my version of clothing my family and supplying my home in a simple manner will include the scavenging of fabric.
As the great Paul Keating said about his French clock collection …
“Most people catch antiques when they are tame, in fashionable shops. I catch my clocks while they are still wild, in out-of-the-way places.’
I’m with Paul. So much more exciting. So much more satisfying.
This year’s beloved teachers’ gifts – aprons. First off the rank – Mrs. Chambers. Had to be done, she’s leaving early. I bought the fabric weeks ago, but true to form, only started pulling it together this morning. Sigh. I never learn.
Mrs. Chamber’s is Abby’s Japanese teacher – and such a lovely, lovely woman. Very caring, interested, generous, compassionate, and always excited to do more for our Abby who loves her Japanese classes. She even gave Abby a beautiful Japanese book she’d seen in a university bookstore earlier this year. She knew Abby would love it and put it to good use, so she bought it for her and gave it to her. Yes, Mrs. Chambers is one of several women we have found at Abby’s school to be such gifts. And we love her.
Now, my Year 10 music teacher once told me that she truly hated being given presents that were music-themed. She was a funny woman – sarcastic but very entertaining and her scorn for themed gifts left a deep impression. Thus, each year I try to think of something that reflects each teachers’ interests, but that isn’t corny. With Mrs. Chambers’ apron, I wanted fabrics that were rich and beautiful and wouldn’t look out of place in a pretty kimono – but weren’t japanese fabrics and were not put together in a traditional Japanese way.
I think this combination of colours is just right. And the sumptuous flower created by the Dresden plate, is a nod towards the Japanese love of gardens and flowers. I always have a chuckle over the flower beds in Hayao Miyazaki’s films – in his world, everything flowers at once no matter what time of year it is – either a reflection of his yearning for constant beauty or Japan is indeed peculiarly blessed :-)
It’s my own design – and I am mostly happy. I wanted it to be very covering so its wearer could get really stuck into the Christmas cooking without any of their special clothes being splashed. So I’m pleased with the skirt part of it – but the neck band – oy! That took 4 lots of unpicking before it was the right length. As for bodice – I did chop off an inch before attaching the skirt, but I reckon it could almost come up another inch. Perhaps it also needs to be a little more triangular? Hmmmmm ….. And the waistband – too wide. I don’t know what I was thinking when I cut it. I don’t like mean little narrow waistbands but I think this one could lose at least an inch. Never mind – there’s three more chances to perfect the pattern.
Besides, I like THIS one so very much, I think I may make a dress version – make the skirt meet at the back and button down the middle. There’s tonnes of the florals left and I only have to walk up the road to Darn Cheap Fabrics for the stripe.
Yes, I think it will make a very fine Christmas Day dress. And fingers crossed, Mrs. Chambers will be tickled pink by her apron and put it to very fine use.
I truly do have so much to share at the moment – there’s been wonderful progress made on some thrifted treasures, several quilts on the go, aprons for Christmas … good stuff. But tonight, I just want to introduce you to another one of the long losts. Another William Morris needlepoint via the talented Beth Russell.
I give you … The Flower Pot
:: taken Saturday evening – I will snap a photo each night
so as to see how far I’m stitching ::
I began this one afternoon at Mum’s when Abby was just 8 months old. The two of us were staying with Mum whilst our landlord ripped up the carpets and polished the floorboards of our home – there had been a crashingly huge storm – power lines across our drive, massive leaks through the roof, trees scattered like pick up sticks – and when he showed me samples of the new carpet he was about to order to replace the drenched and ruined one, I managed to talk him into polished floorboards instead. He was an obliging fellow :-) However it was dusty business so we camped at Mum’s whilst Julian was all manly and stayed at home to guard the fort.
A little holiday – with dedicated baby sitter supplied – seemed like the perfect time to start a new needlepoint so Abby and I shopped for supplies one morning, and that afternoon – when she was supposed to be napping – I laid my wools out, found the centre of my canvas and began stitching.
Alas, Abby was not impressed – she wriggled over on her tummy (she was a mean commando crawler), grabbed the pattern page in the book and RIPPED it out. I remember it so vividly. Sitting there on the floor with her – aghast! ”Oh Abby!” I wailed. And she too, clearly responding to my distress, was equally horrified and promptly began to cry. It wasn’t a good beginning for this needlepoint.
In fact, it’s been a bumpy road. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled anything out as often. Oy! I made so many mistakes in the vase, I think parts of it have been worked at least 4 times. There have been periods over the last 15 years when I have rediscovered The Flowerpot – spent hours sorting out which green is which and which apricot is which, and feverishly stitched more twining stems and loves. Only to be distracted and have it slip back away into the cupboard.
But I do love it. And with William’s Fox finished and looking scrumptious, it seemed just the right time to pull this sweet girl out and FINISH.
There was the usual colour matching – only the brightest sunlight will do. And then a wee hiccup when I discovered I only had 2 skeins of the background left – DMC 7300 – one of their grounding wools. I headed down to the local Spotlight only to find that colour has been discontinued and the substitute DMC recommends – entirely too crisp. 7300 has a delightfully smudged colour to it. As though it’s been sitting around in the dust a bit. The sweet girl checked Spotlight’s stock Australia wide – we came up with 2. Very disappointing.
The minute I came home I entered the number into Google and who should come up with it – why my old friend Karen at The Quilters’ and Embroiderers’ Store – a treasure trove of cavernous proportions in Brisbane where I have spent many an hour shopping and even working :-) They sent me all they had – 9 regular skeins and 1 hank. My fingers are very tightly crossed that this resupply will see me through. Otherwise there will be a patch of crispness that I will simply have to sigh over and remind myself that that is what you get when you let an embroidery drag on for 15 years.
Here’s tonight’s snap. Have I made much progress since Saturday? Oh yes … a few more stems and a nice bit of fill. Goodo.
Now – before you go, you simply must pop over to Beth’s place and check out one of her new pieces – it’s extraordinary – I would sooooooooo love to stitch it. I’d almost love to do it as a rug to place on the floor. But then people would stand on it and that would be very difficult! Perhaps the wall would be better.
There you go – last week I thought it was the 44th week of this fine year – alas, I was a week behind myself. So here we are, seven days later and yet an extra week ahead.
Never mind, it’s almost the end of the year. And I have only one exam left. Ooooh yes! Summer is a-comin’
~ very old beginnings are being resurrected
into this season’s Christmas presents ~
~ whilst the leftovers from one present
find their way into something very special ~
~ Julian’s found his collecting groove …
vintage cocktail glasses ~
~ which we put to very fine use,
just a few times a week ~
~ whilst we sip our drinks,
the silly dog hops into the rabbits’ grass cutting hut
to nibble on their “leftovers” ~
~ magic happens over night
(we love this recipe – and find that it needs
an extra half teaspoon of salt)
~ and I remember that the piggy breadboard
is only a lovely piggy breadboard when he is being used wisely,
not collecting simply dust ~
~ there is much awesome weekend team work … ~
~ … that results in the most elegant of shadows ~
~ … & great usefulness too ~
~ the garden’s shrubs are all a-bloom,
just like that it happened, just like that ~
~ the girlie comes home full of stories and adventures
- in her fabulous homemade t-shirt -
whilst the dog tries to convince her that all buttered bread
really belongs to the canine members of the family ~
~ a vintage blanket cubby is curiously still and warm
against the stiff, late afternoon breeze
that is still visiting us straight from the Antarctic ~
~ our tree soaks in the long, slow spring sunset ~
One day, folks, one day. You shall come by here to find a ~loveliness found~ post and it shall include … ” we lit our very first fire and warmed our toesies in front of it”. Meanwhile, we shall find loveliness wherever we go.
Wishing all you dear folk a marvellous week ahead!
~ soaking the Christmas fruit ~
~ hanging out the washing
when the sun is rich and warm ~
~ oh the yumminess of spring rhubarb ~
~ a stack of newly bought cushion inserts,
waiting for their pretties ~
~ after school smoothies with my girl ~
~ putting these funny hard rubbish cushions to comfy use ~
~ a Sunday morning spent tidying the corners,
claimed it was in honour of Abby’s friend visiting,
maybe it was really a form of study procrastination ~
~ when that egg bowl overflows, lunchtime zucchini souffle ~
~ whilst the girlie and her friend ate chocolate cake ~
~ cocktail hour with my fellow,
and a bit of knitting – onto the sleeves we are ~
~ a pretty – and tidy – table ~
~ such a sweet fluff, who loves to be wherever we are ~
There’s nothing like a few good finishes to get one all riled up and digging even deeper into that bag of almost dones. And with the monkey looking so luscious on the sofa, I was inspired to trek out to the sewing shed this morning, rain and all, and find my very first needlepoint. William Morris’ Fox in the Acanthus leaves, as adapted by Beth Russell.
I started this project in 1993. Oh my goodness. That’s 20 years ago. Eeeek! I don’t remember where I bought the book, but I do remember where I bought my supplies … a little embroidery store that lived on the second floor of the Toowong Shopping Centre in Brisbane. They had quite a lovely range and for many years, I was a regular customer. Sadly, it went the way of most little embroidery stores and I think the same spot is now occupied by a fingernail salon. What does that say about our society – that there are fingernail salons around every corner? I’m not sure.
However, whilst they were lovely ladies at this embroidery shop and I shared many lovely afternoons with them, they certainly did not set me up well for my first needlepoint adventure and I knew no better. Look at that canvas – white single thread with absolutely NO margins. Awful stuff. And shows up through the stitches like a bad case of dandruff.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice this – the dandruff bit – at first. I just didn’t and stitched away happily until it was almost finished … then I noticed and in puzzled disappointment, William’s fox was rolled up and put away. In fact, it was even suggested by one rather unpleasant person whose company I no longer keep, that it wasn’t worth finishing, the white speckles of the canvas so spoiled it.
However, now, with those couple of decades behind me, a whole lot more confidence, and a much more cheery and laid back approach to life, I look at this sweet embroidery and am charmed. There are surely hundreds of hours of my life stitched into these tiny white squares. I have such vivid memories of where I used to sit (I used to rise by 5am so that I could sit under the lamp, by the piano in our little flat in Hill End and stitch away before catching the ferry across the river to work at the University of Queensland), what I would listen to on the radio (Christopher Lawrence on the ABC Classic’s breakfast program – there was a particular piece he played regularly – a Catalan dance played on the recorder – that I would long for every morning – made my heart sing), and how I would watch the ferry trundling back and forth across the river and think, just one more length of wool and then I’ll run down to the terminal. Just one more. Just one more – I was so often late for work! And hundreds of dollars worth of Appleton crewel wool along with it. And it is an enchanting design – exactly why it was the very first needlepoint I chose to do.
It certainly IS worth finishing and today was the day.
I pulled out the wools – they were all still there, twenty years on, in a tin that I have carried from home to home since then. There was a wee leaf tip to stitch and a little bit more background to fill. Would be easily finished in an hour, then I could sew it up and get on with the rest of my day. Until I noticed there seemed to be the odd stitch missed here and there. Really peculiar. Puzzled me how I could have missed just one stitch here and there. Until I started to poke at the stitches around these little holes … and realised the wool had been eaten. Baaaaaaaaah!
This is incredibly expensive moth proofed Appleton crewel wool! How could it be moth eaten?!?!? And NONE of my other needlepoints (of which there are so many) have a single mark on them – NONE! How could this one! I am meticulous about washing my hands before embroidering and NEVER eat whilst I am working with fabric or yarn. A careful scientific assessment on Instagram :-) leads me to think it was probably silverfish – horrible little beasts. Every house we lived in in Queensland was riddled with them - as soon as something became untouched for more than a few weeks, they’d move in. Ugh! UNESCO even identify them as a major pest of tapestries and apparently they are very fond of sizing – of which the white canvas had plenty and protein – wool.
Each single missing stitch turned into several as I carefully unpicked the damaged stitches and then continued unpicking until I had enough intact yarn to finish off properly. In the end, not only did I repair all the spots illuminated by those missing stitches, but was able to pick out where the stitches had been chewed but hadn’t quite fallen out. It took all day.
I confess, I began to think … that’s it, this bloody needlepoint was absolutely never meant to be finished. And yet, I continued to work steadily at the damaged stitches. Each time I poked an area and it fell apart, I practically cried in frustration, but kept pulling out old stitches and putting in new ones. Let’s face it – it took all day but it certainly was still only little bits here and there that needed repairing. The favoured colour was definitely the fox’s gingerbread coat.
A good deal of self talk also helped my perspective. There I was sitting in front of a wall that I have covered in the quirky little needlepoints I have bought from op shops. Weird little designs, like the one above, higgledy-piggledy things with with missing or wonky stitches, and some with damaged frames. But all so charming and pretty in their own way.
Each time I find one and bring it home, Julian or Mum will look in horror and ask what on earth I want it for. I have the same reply each time. I’m drawn to the hours put in by a dedicated stitcher who receives so much pleasure from her work. That’s what I love. I look at these sweet pictures stitched in wool and I know the thrill of choosing a new pattern. Of buying the wools and neatly laying them on the table in front of me. Of finding the middle of the canvas and starting. Of stitching for the first several hours, holding it up and seeing nothing but a strange arrangement of stitches. Of delight when the picture begins to appear.
Perfection is highly over rated. Yes it’s nice and sure, I don’t aim to do a project badly. But two decades of stitching has taught me that the pleasure is in the doing and the using. I don’t need my points to be pin sharp. I don’t need my lines of quilting to have the perfect curve or the straightest line. I don’t need my knitting to be spot on. I try my best and then I keep going. Yes I still “enjoy” a good unpicking and will unravel a cardigan if it is required :-) But if the joy of making with my own hands becomes reduced to a mechanical exercise in getting it precisely right, I’m not interested. My time is too limited for that. I want the thrills described above.
And this needlepoint with its thousands of stitches, flecks of white, and silverfish chomped bits has delivered those thrills in abundance. As well as a marvellous learning opportunity and a passion for needlepoint that I will always have. In this light, one could call my William’s Fox a gift!
And so it was FINISHED! And I am delighted. I collected Abby from school, called into the lovely Darn Cheap Fabrics up the road for a rich red (they have the most glorious pure wool fabric – it is heavenly and well worth buying – just $20 a metre and 145cm wide), had a lovely chat with Lynne (we are kindred spirits for sure), came home and sewed William’s fox into a gorgeous cushion that I just love.
I mean, just look at him sitting there! He embodies 20 years of my journey … I am so lucky to have him.
p.s. I told you the sofa was becoming a needlepoint easel.