in honour of our urban compost bees … a brooch

Oh, the perils of playing.  I had such a to-do-list this morning.  Wash the clothes, vacuum the carpet, bake a cake, stew the apples, pin out the next quilt top, work on the fox …  I was even looking forward to it!

But then, I caught sight of the little card chair from yesterday and thought about the cross stitched upholstery I want to make for it, and the beautiful cross stitch books that arrived a couple of weeks ago that I haven’t stitched anything from … and I decided to just sit down for a quick moment and have a play.  I would cross stitch something small and sweet and then get stuck into the list.  ’Twas only 9am – plenty of time.

So I gathered my supplies and began stitching a bee – despite my immune system’s tendency to overreact, I do love bees.  And for the last several months, we appear to have our own colony – in the old compost bin under the old hibiscus tree in the back garden.  There are hundreds of the sweet little critters, darting in and out of the hand gaps for lifting the domed lid off, swooping about our garden, making the most of each flowering specimen as it comes into season.  When we had the terrible heat back in January and February, we could regularly hear our bees cooling their “hive” down – impressive stuff.  I would so love to get some protective clothing and a smoker for Julian and Abby so they could check in the compost bin and see what our bees are up to.  I bet it’s dripping with honey.  We’d have to call it “Urban Compost”.  No sweet countryside names for our honey :-)

book and scissors

And then, when the cross stitch was done, what to do with it?  It would look pretty with some felt – perhaps some of Mr. Fox’s petals …

the cross stitch with petals

And a backing, blanket stitched on to hide the working …

blanket stitched the back on

And maybe some crochet around the edge – I agonised over this for a bit – started with ecru, pulled it out, started it again, pulled it out, tried a red, pulled it out, tried a pale pale blue, pulled it out, settled on the green, pulled it out, persevered, fretted that it looked too twee, decided to live with it a while and check with my girlie – she usually knows …

crochet the edge

finished

Added a safety pin to the back … all the better for wearing.

added a pinOn a cardie

on cardie closeup

Or a bag

on the bag closeup on bag

But I do like it on the cardie.  Having a bee brooch does make me question the whole notion of adornment.  A bee brooch, really?  Why?  Sometimes I think to decorate myself is such a peculiar artifice – what real and measurable purpose does hanging baubles from myself serve?  And so then I go for weeks without earrings or necklaces or scarves or makeup, my hair just caught up in a plain bar clip – the same simple clothes each day.  Then I remember how much I love prettiness and colour, so drag out all the trinkets and brightly patterned clothes and enjoy them all once more.  I am a bit odd, aren’t I.  Perhaps my hesitation stems from the less is more approach that is so often lauded in our design culture.  So not me.  Perhaps I would have felt more at home in the Georgian or Elizabethan era :-) I LOVE pretty details.

love it on cardie

So, in celebration of more is marvellous, I pinned on my brooch to wear the rest of the day and realised it was 2.20 and I had only hung out the first load of washing and done NOTHING else on the list.  And poor old Abby was having a crappy day (thanks to a streaming cold and high school dilemmas) and I wanted to make her a chocolate cake for when she came home from school and I wasn’t here.  So, on with the apron, out with the mixer and I whipped up the chocolate cake from the Easter Feast recipes in April’s British Country Living.  Time enough, whilst it cooked, to wash the dishes, pick the obvious fluff up off the carpet, tidy the embroidery things, and make the bed.  Phew!

washing

But I didn’t show you Mr. Fox – this is him on Sunday – he’s come a long way since then.  He’s looking very charming and I am very excited about this chair.  It will sit at our craft table.

the fox

Tomorrow – I WILL pay attention to the list.  Truly, I will.

not lucy’s patchwork cushion

into the wash

Dear little Lucy (Mum’s dog, who’s staying with us whilst Mum’s in Brisbane looking after Nanny and Grandad) is very fond of her comforts.  Why sit on just the sofa when you can scrunch up all the quilts and knitting that are on the sofa into a cosy nest that you can burrow yourself into?  Nicely upholstered furniture isn’t good enough, no you should drag all the cushions into a pile and knead them into just the right density before you settle down.  As for the bed – why would you want to sleep at someone’s feet when you can sleep next to their head – and turn into a growly leaden lump when someone tries to shuffle you along.  Best of all, being a cavoodle with thick, slightly oily, woolly fur, Lucy gets pretty grotty, pretty quickly and rubs all of this onto the afore mentioned quilts, cushions, beds and knitting.  Isn’t she thoughtful!

So last week – after holding the living room cushions up to my face and sniffing them – I decided they all needed a de-Lucying – a wash and an air.  And, given there was an essay due in that same day that still needed a lot of work, what more perfect time was there for me to plan and stitch up some new patchwork cushion covers.

I tried a snail’s trail block – something I haven’t played with for many years – and after some trial and error, hit upon a technique I liked very much – make each triangle way to big and trim it down once all four sides are on.  Then, today, with another essay due in at midnight (a discussion of something dodgy I saw or did on placement that I have since “reflected on” and learnt from) I quilted it up and added those bits and pieces necessary to turn it into a cushion cover.

ready for quilting

I was going to do the squiggly wiggly, but then thought I should be a bit more adventurous and practice drawing with my free motion foot.  So I tried some mandela style flowers.  I had to pull the first one out, it was so ghastly, but the following four turned out mostly acceptable.  Of course, practice will improve things and I won’t ever get any better if I don’t try.  I’m also not the kind of person that can practise for hours on a piece of calico with no purpose, so a cushion cover seems a good compromise.

border flower

They look really pretty on the back – woollen blanketing is so very forgiving to slightly wonky stitches.  They embed nicely into the soft pile.  Not so flattering on the smooth cotton front, but … have to start somewhere :-)

needed to unpick

gerald

Oh – and Fu thought you might want to meet Gerald.  He was Toph’s bedtime companion when she was a puppy.  Now he’s Fu’s – she’s not always very kind to Gerald but I do think she’s very fond of him.  She ran around the back garden “killing” Gerald whilst I took these photos, then dashed up to me and chucked him onto the quilting.  So there you go – that’s Gerald.

amongst the leaves

And here’s the finished cushion!  The colours seem just right for autumn.  So many shades of yellow, red, orange and brown surrounding us at the moment – and the perpetually grey skies.  These trees – I don’t know what they are – line one section of a very big road that I drove along most days.  They are very lush and green throughout spring and summer, but at this time of the year, they truly take your breath away – the very air hovering around them feels as golden as their softly falling leaves.

cushion on chair side on yellow and green looking up avenue

And the little card chair – I found it this morning on the footpath on the way home from school drop off.  English oak arms!  And whilst I was inspecting it, the owner came out and we agreed it was a sweet piece that just needed a little bit of tlc – that’s what he was hoping for.  Melbourne’s footpath furniture sharing at it’s best.

I have plans for the chair – involving a very even weave, camel coloured, woollen fabric from up the road, a Japanese embroidery book translated into Chinese (because that’s so much more useful to me!) and a bit of metho and steel wool.  It will be transformed!  But I can’t start it til I finish my fox chair (if you want you can check the instagram photos on the sidebar here) – I’ll show you the start of that little project tomorrow – it’s very addictive – I have to keep dashing out to the craft table and adding a bit more embroidery here and another leaf there!

with arms closeup of stitching

my prop assistant

I tried a little viney flowery kind of thing with my quilting along the borders – almost pleased with it.  And that’s my prop assistant – she very kindly offered to carry the cushion, camera and car keys because there was no way she was lugging that chair up North Road.  Ah what she puts up with from her silly mama :-)

on the sofa

Here’s the new cushion, insitu.  Just right against the syrupy yellows of the white blossom tree quilt.  And I know Lucy’s keen to try it out – with all its lovely new, bouyant feathery insert and crisply clean cotton cover.  I’m sure she’ll get right into later tonight.

It’s a good thing we love you Lucy!

the napping quilt

empty chair neatly folded neatly folded closeup neatly folded corner tossed on chair blown off the chair spread out short side pinning it down length bunched up folded over chair along the fence line last shot yellow corner smooth little face

Forgive me all the photos – the golden afternoon light, the glowing warm red of the brick wall, the lush grass, the cheery blue of the chair … it was all so pretty.

This is the napping quilt.  I started this six years ago – I think it was a fat quarter bundle of a Moda range – Mother Goose.  I found it last year – some of the pieces sewn up, many not.  I laid the pieces out on my bed and for some reason, the soft squishy colours and occasional glimpses of sweet nostalgic children made me think of it as a napping quilt.  So napping quilt it is.

I finished the blocks.  Put them back on the shelf.  Pulled them back out a few weeks back. Stitched them together.  Added some borders – mostly reproductions – they seemed to fit just right. Pinned it out.  Quilted it – squiggly, wiggly onto a beautifully soft, pretty checked vintage blanket.  Bit repetitive, aren’t I :-)

Then last weekend, after Julian flew away to Ireland, tucked myself into the corner of the sofa, the napping quilt squished cosily around me, and stitched down the binding.

As for this fabulous red brick wall – I have driven past it several times a week for the last four years.  Always admired it but neither thought of stopping.  And then, this week, noticed a special magic as the autumn afternoon sun soaked into it. So today, I left early for school pickup, and stopped a while.  My quilt, my chair, my camera – and the magnificent wall.

Such fun – as I pootled about with the napping quilt and my blue chair, cars slowed down to watch.  One fellow actually stopped and when I had finished a moment’s fussing called out to me.  Wanted to know if it was my quilt.  Told me his wife sewed quilts and had him take photos of her quilts for her.  He thought my quilt looked lovely against the wall.  Another young woman – with a huge dog in her passenger – stopped, called out hey, watched a while, smiling, then drove off with a wave.  I do love that when you do something a bit unexpected, strangely enough, it draws you closer to people.

Now, the napping quilt is back on me bed.  I’m off to join it.  We’ve had a very dramatic start to our weekend – poor wee Lucy got a shard of her nightly chicken wing wedged in between her gum and her molar – we weren’t sure there wasn’t an obstruction further back, so rushed off to the after hours vet.  Poor Lucy was crying and trembling and doing a very funny thing with her mouth.  The vet was wonderful – found the shard straight away – you wouldn’t believe the effort that was required to pull it out – with pliers.  I honestly thought the vet was going to tumble backwards.  No wonder it hurt.  But the minute it was out – if only we spoke doggle, we’d have heard Lucy say “Well thank goodness for that!”  She gave herself a thorough waggle all over and was ready for home.  She’s fine now and snuggled up on Abby’s bed, snoring.  Phew!

Hopefully the rest of the weekend will deliver a good dose of loveliness – lots of making planned, a trip to the shops, Abby’s cooking me curried prawns for supper tomorrow night.  We may go to the movies.  Perhaps a bookstore.  Some last minute knitting to two more jumpers.  Good stuff.  But first – there’ll be a sleep in under my napping quilt.

Wishing you a lovely weekend too, dear folk!

losing the light

looking up green in front y shaped through the leaves sun lower moon

It’s that time of year.  We are dragging ourselves out of bed, lost without the morning sun’s guidance.  The washing needs to be brought in earlier and earlier.  I know the precise times because, like last year and the year before and the year before that, at this time of year, my most visited website becomes sunrise and sunset dot com.

It’s probably even exactly the same day in May when, after unpegging the washing and folding it into the basket, I stand in the still and cold back garden, watch the last of the fiery sun vanish into the west, then trudge gloomily to my desk to trawl through those sunrise and sunset times yet again.  I see – spirits sinking – that yet again, the mornings will grow darker and the afternoons shorter.

However, come the winter solstice, whilst those mornings stay drearily dark well into July, the afternoon grows magically, quietly one minute longer with each passing day.  Then, when I’ve scrolled to the end of August, I see that the sun will be with us until almost 6pm and my breath catches with a little sob of relief.  From that moment, I know we will be dancing back into the light.

It’s not the cold I mind.  Not at all.  I love the cold and all its pretty accoutrements – jumpers and quilts and shawls and gloves and hats, frosty windows and temperatures that bite at our cheeks, sparkling grass and bare trees, steaming stoves with their stews and soups and puddings.  It’s bliss, all of it.

But I hate losing the light.  I don’t think I ever really noticed it in Brisbane.  But here in Melbourne – oh I struggle to keep my chin up when the days are short and dark.  I know, you’ve heard it before, but I’m so looking forward to when we move back to the East Coast – we’ll gain an extra half hour every morning – yes!  I know this, because I read the sunrises and sunsets in Merimbula as well.

So, what shall I do?  I’ll drink another cup of tea.  Light more lamps and candles.  Listen to music that makes me dream of driving along the coast with the windows down, the sun bobbing cheerily in front of us, and the volume turned up nice and loud (I find fun.’s Carry On is always good for lifting the spirits :-) Make sure there’s plenty of loveliness to keep me occupied each day – the felt below is making my heart sing a little stronger.

And linger in those sunsets we are blessed with.  Only 40 days to go before we begin to turn back folks, 40 days.

felt

little travelling cups

cups simple tool ball of thread scissors

Such a grey and icy day.  The light was thin and scanty.  So, I did as Lucy does, and followed it – to a little sofa under the window, piled high with quilts and cushions.  Cosy indeed.  Supplies were gathered.  Plans were hatched for a set of little travelling cups that my Aunty Anne found for me.  She knew how much I loved the set Nanny and Grandad kept in their car’s dashboard when I was little.  Anodised.  In a brown leather (probably vinyl) zippered pouch.  I thought they were ever so cute and loved it when Grandad would pull them out and Nanny would fill them up with usually forbidden sweet and fizzy drink and pass them round.

Now I have my own – sans the zippered pouch.  Ah well – that can be sweetly remedied.

stitching top almost done adding the bottom

I’m not a huge fan of sewing with zippers or vinyl so chose the felt route instead.  With a wee bit of needlefelting, blanket stitch and my secret ingredient – elastic!

secret ingredient elastic at work

Natty huh!  Keeps the bottom from falling off my travelling cups and stops it from crumpling down when I put the top on!


trying it on

done

the snail the raspberries in my hand

The quiet snail, taking his time, enjoying the journey, seeking out treasures, stopping to make the most of the loveliest bits.  Just like us Boots when we go travelling.

It’s the only way to go, don’t you think :-)

 

 

little and ordinary

We all know that very few days come with a lovely “Ta-da!” moment, don’t we. Sometimes I feel a distinct sense of disappointment if my day has not delivered the pleasure of a satisfying finish – be it cloth, wood or wool – a sparkle to the bathroom, a line full of washing flapping in the sun, or a gleaming kitchen where everything is in its place and there’s a lovely meal cooking.

On a rational level I know that happiness cannot come from such external things, that I must seek that sense of contentment from within. And accept that some days will be very ordinary and that’s okay too.  Goodness, the notion of constant happiness is so ridiculous, so greedy, so selfish anyway.

Instead most of my days – like yours I’m sure –  are just full of little things.  And that sun – well it comes and goes.  So today, all I have is the ordinary – the unfinished – some little tasks finally done – some not …

frame

:: such a pretty thrifted frame that I’ve been planning a Mother’s Day applique for – and done absolutely nothing about it and now it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday – sigh – we’ll just have to admire it’s prettiness and know that someday it will hold something lovely.

gluing hands

:: finally, finally, finally gluing some little Erzgebirge men back together – a wee visor for the postman’s cap and getting that drummer’s bloody arm to stick in the right spot.

pencil sharpener

:: instead of reading for next week’s essay – putting together a little still life on my desk – sweet bookmarks, an old pencil sharpener, anodised travelling cups, a vase of pine needles – all with their own little stories that make me smile

rearranging the shelves

:: rearranging the shelves on my desk – well I had to put the shelves from the bathroom somewhere – the little folk and their animals are beginning to create their own tales on each of the shelves – the king with his pet elephant, the racoon seeking help from the wise woman, animals by the shoreline, Heidi’s grandfather …

it fit

:: fitting the old, vigorously washed and scrubbed meat safe (that had been not quite squished under the eaves in the back garden) into the bathroom corner – the tape measure said it would, even if at first it seemed completely impossible and I needed 4 squares of chocolate to soothe my peevishness  give me a moment to reassess – all it required was some aerial manoeuvring  - I KNEW it would fit – the tape measure doesn’t lie!  As for a fresh coat of paint – well, that will come.  Julian’s going to Dublin next week …

knitting

:: realising I had just the right colour blue to go with my mustard scarf – but not the right shade of soft grey-cocoa – oh well, that just means a trip to the wool store.

My kitchen’s a mess.  The quilt I started quilting on Saturday still isn’t finished.  I haven’t cleaned my teeth.  Or dropped the shoes off to the boot repair shop.  Or taken the rubbish out.  Or folded the washing.  Or found the tax return.  And it’s almost time for school pickup.

Ta-da moments – big fat zero.  But there’s been lots of little and ordinary bits and bobs.  That’ll do.

edited to add:  I got my teeth cleaned, scrubbed the kitchen, took the rubbish out and found the tax return.  And then, just as I was about to go out, for the briefest of moments, the sun made a dazzling appearance – always such a lift to my spirits – so I stuck some weeds into a vase and took another photo.  ’Cause that’s how best to celebrate the little and ordinary:-)

weeds in jar

sun came in

 

and then the cold and grey arrived

chimneys

Ah this weekend heralded the true beginning of Melbourne’s cold season.  Grey, drizzly days where the damp seeps into your bones and no matter how many layers you accumulate, you can still feel the cold.

Saturday we went to the movies – a very unusual event for us  in Melbourne given the price of cinema tickets here.  And it was Abby’s choice of film – Captain America, the Winter Soldier.  But it was fun nevertheless.  There’s something about disappearing deeper and deeper into a cinema – up the stairs, down the corridor, through the sound-proofed door, fumble along a pitch-dark passage, then into the dazzling light of screen-lit, steeply climbing rows.  That was followed by an afternoon of quilting whilst the rain pattered down outside and Julian cooked supper – a slow roasted beef that filled the house with its aroma and made the kitchen so warm the windows fogged up.

Sunday was the day I was waiting excitedly for.  I had supplies and family all ready for an adventure to Warburton and Mt. Donna Buang where I was hopeful we might see a sprinkling of snow, given the cold snap that had arrived with its snow to 1200 metres.

Alas, I woke at 6am with a dreadful migraine.  I staggered out to the cold kitchen, took my medicine, crawled back to bed, out again (the pounding right eye was accompanied by nausea), back into bed, out again, in again.  It was awful.  Finally, 2 hours later, I fell back asleep.  By 1pm the headache had reduced to a dull thumping in the back of my skull that turned into a swooshing rush of blood everytime I moved my head.  The rest of the afternoon was spent on the sofa, sometimes knitting, sometimes sleeping, sometimes watching “Jonathon Creek”.  Julian went in to work for a few hours.  Abby did homework. Great day – sigh.

gutter golden leaves

These things happen, don’t they.  But it wasn’t all a write off.  After finding that crocheted headkerchief in my stocking drawer the other day, I got to thinking up some more ways to make wintery headkerchiefs.

I don’t know why, but I am very fond of scarfy things tied round my head :-)  Cotton squares folded into triangles for summer, soft silky vintage ones from the op shop that slide off so quickly I spend more time tying them on then wearing them.  I’ve made bundles of Heather Ross’s summer bandanas from her Weekend Sewing book and worn them all year round.  And I love looking at the things other women tie round their heads – be it for religious, cultural or just plain practical-for-the-weather reasons, oh there are so many pretty ways to cover the head.  Those delicate muslin caps the Amish women wear, the folk head scarves of Eastern and Northern Europe, the gauzy wraps the women of India and Pakistan drape round their heads, those exquisite beaded and embroidered concoctions they wear in Mongolia – all so beautiful. I even love how the Queen ties those silky scarves under her chin when it’s cold.

I don’t know why we’ve moved away from headscarves and hats – such a shame.  Such potential for adding lovely hand work and colour to our days.  And oh, how I do love colour.  So first up on Friday night – a multicoloured crocheted headkerchief.  Using up scraps of Patons and Cleckheaton’s DK in the colours that just happened to be in the bag.  I made the triangle first, then added a band across the front that buttons underneath my hair, then a picot edge.

crocheted from back

crocheted from side

Then yesterday, in between the sleeping and the head throbbing and Jonathon Creek – another triangle – this time knitted – from Debbie Bliss Tweeds – simple increases on each side and down the centre – another crocheted band across the front with a button – another picot edging.

holding tree

from the back

shoes through the grass

close up at back

behind trunk leaves

photogrpaher

(thank you dear Abby for taking photos of your silly mama!)

Must say, today its warmth was very welcome – my it was cold and grey.  But working at my desk, with my headkerchief pulled over my ears (oh yes, might have looked a bit quirky bit it sure was warm :-), my shawl wrapped over a thrifted cashmere cardigan and my lambswool slippers – well, I was almost toasty.

one red leaf

Now – I have some nice olivey-green Malabrigo, a crochet hook and a cup of tea at hand.  My head is still aching a bit – hoping tomorrow I’ll wake up bright and sparky – and there’s a cosy evening of stitching ahead of me.  The best way to enjoy a Melbourne winter.

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.