the sort of gardening we’re good at

new leaves by my side basket of yarn under dog

Since there’s nary a green finger between us – I’m hoping they’ll grow when we turn our hands to gardening our own land – our best “gardening” is enjoyed in other ways.  With wool, and cotton, and needles, and hooks, and books, and bikes, and tools, and paper, and pencils, and good food, and lovely company.

So, when a magnificent spring day burst forth, that’s just what we did :-)

julian raleigh buds

Out we went, soaking up that sun and warmth.

rabbits lunch

hat crochet sticking out from my chair basket with flowers

And when, at last, the air cooled and the sun dropped, we celebrated the day and the lovely “gardening” we’d enjoyed …

and of day treat

Have I mentioned how much I love spring!

 

granny busy

out the window

new balls yesterday's four smiley little mouth snip new faourite

The morning may have dawned extra cold and foggy – but after a trip to my favourite Wondoflex for some extra balls of crochet cotton – the rest of the day was gloriously spring, spring, spring!

I spent it on the front porch, baking so warm in the sun that after shedding two jumpers, I simply had to get changed into a skirt and tshirt – which of course, proved a little chilly once the sun began to set and the night chill set in.  Ah, the change in seasons – keeps me on my toes.

And what filled my hands – why Granny Christmas Baubles of course!  All the photos for the pattern are taken, just setting it out now.

There was also a little extra something put together this afternoon – in a medium completely new to me – bamboo and wire – it was a bit fiddly.  But I think tomorrow – with some extra tweaking – it will be just right.  Especially when there’s more Granny Baubles finished for hanging.

supplies and tools almost

much trebling :: a Granny Christmas Bauble

one

It all started here.  Wondering what I’d get if I didn’t add any increases to a granny circle.  A-ha!  A granny bowl.  A very wee granny bowl.  It sat so prettily upon the table.  It was a jewel like jelly fish washed up on the sand.  A very pretty jelly wobbling on a fine china plate.  A limpet covering the low tide rocks with a floral carpet – oh I can’t wait til the summer holidays – Abby and Julian, I’ll need your help!

Or it could be half a Christmas bauble.  Oh yes.  I could definitely see Christmas bauble potential.  So, instead of rising from my desk and doing some of the sewing that awaits me on the kitchen table, I gathered my balls of cotton and began more trebling.

blues bowl how it begins

I do declare, choosing the colours to put together is such fun.  And they rarely turn out exactly as I think they will.  Well actually, I can’t really picture the finished combination when I start so as I finish I find myself thinking “oh that’s what you are – you’re so pretty” or “really?  hmmmm …. “.  Funny enough, when I show my family and ask which ones they like best, they almost always like the ones I’m not so fussed on.  Goes to show.  One person’s perfect cup of tea is another person’s dishwater.  Or something like that.

like a bo-peep biscuit elephant orange fingers

Now it was obvious that there needed to be two of each little granny limpet.  But true to Lily form, after hooking up the first two, I dedicated the rest of the day to making the first half of each bauble.  Because it was fun.

two

Until I had a wee pile of granny limpets.  By this stage, they made me think of patchworked echinacea.  So because my lawn has no spring bulbs shooting and summer flowers are a long way off,  I planted my limpets, just to see if they could indeed have a floral future – and they so could!  Wouldn’t they be so sweet lining a garden path for a birthday party!  You’d have to finish them off properly with a felted wool ball for the echinacea head, and have them firmly attached to the stick.  With a couple of felt leaves embroidered with the names of the party guests – then they could pick theirs and take it home as a party favour.  Much better than lollies.  Oh my goodness Abby – have another birthday party dear!  A flower fairy party.  What?  You’re 17 this year and flower fairies just aren’t your thing any more?  That doesn’t matter nearly as much as indulging your mother’s fancies!

wee bundle in my gatden beige red and yellow amongst the weeds

Sigh.  Well, despite it being a FABULOUS idea and I SHALL do it one day – for myself if needs be – these limpets are destined for more jolly things.  And so I stitched their shells together – turned them into ocarinas it did – and stuffed them with fleece.  Now there was a brief interlude when the first one – the yellow centred one below – had a crocheted yellow border finishing it off.  And it was as irritating as the chicken pox.  It just didn’t sit right and I confess, I was disappointed with the effect and cursing as I fetched Abby from school.  I’ve spent all day making these bloody things and there’s six of them and now I don’t really love them.

But when I got home, ripped that yellow off, and SEWED the two shells together with the same thread as the final border …. oh.  The chicken pox feeling cleared up immediately and I was much pleased.  I also changed the pattern slightly from the first yellow centred one.  It had chained spaces between the granny clusters – which made for a slightly floppsy integrity.  So they’re gone – making my limpets much tighter and more bauble like.

ready

facing swinging in the breeze swinging blue bauble front and side
red in the tree blue in the tree on the bench

I am very excited about this pattern – I hope to make many more – for our tree, for Nanny and Grandad, for Abby’s school teachers, for Mum to take to family in Vancouver at Christmas … I think they’ll make marvellous little presents.  Quick to crochet.  Frugal with the yarn.  Just right.

And I did announce, via Instagram, that the pattern would be here tonight.  But it isn’t.  Sorry.  I have written out all the instructions but I would like to take several more photographs to illustrate some of the more difficult-to-describe-in-writing steps.  And put it together really nicely as a proper pattern you could print off with my “pint of cream” details.  So that will happen tomorrow when there’s plenty of light to take nice, clear photos and I can coerce Abby into helping me with the layout.  Hope that’s okay and you didn’t have your yarn and hook ready and waiting.  Yeah right :-)

I also had a rather good idea involving some little secret bits to put inside … you’ll see.

icelandic jumpers and a bedside table full of books

basket in sun

joining Ginny and her yarn-a-long!  I highly recommend checking out the other lovely people who link to this – you’ll see so much prettiness :-)

You know me – always longing for the sun and warmth.  And yet I do sooooooo love knitting and the wearing of all this knitty goodness.  The current knit that I am just desperate to finish is the Lopi sweater I am knitting for Abby.

It’s in a beautiful wool – an old old yarn – Cleckheaton’s Angora Supreme – that we found in the bargain basement at Wondoflex a few Saturday’s back.  Initially, I passed over the bundle of 8 balls for just pennies (can’t quite remember but it was less than $30 and there’s 140m on each ball so a wonderful buy) but then I figured it was lovely quality wool and a great price so I picked it up after all.

When Abby saw it, she was delighted!  Hawkeye purple she tells me – she being a dedicated Marvel fan.  And she thought it would be super with some white and lilac and dark lilac for a Lopi sweater.  And she was right.  She always is – has an eye for colour this one.

As per all the Lopi patterns I’ve tried, the body knitted up lickety-split.  They are such wonderfully simple patterns.  And oh how I love that simple, repetitive, meditative knitting.  Round and round and round and round.  Then the sleeves – up they went.  And then onto the yoke.

Now the yoke has certainly been time consuming – intensely patterned with sometimes three yarns in play at once.  But I do love stranded knitting  - my challenge is keeping it loose enough at the back.  Once all those strands are layered, it does make for an exceptionally warm jumper.  Like wearing a jumper WITH a shawl.  Perfect.

the arch bicycles bicycle seats

It did feel a bit funny the other day – sitting on the porch, my cardigan discarded, lapping up that sun like a cat – with a big hefty pile of Icelandic knitting on my lap :-)

knitting with ipad

When I looked down into my basket, I was also struck by the contrast between my vintage basket, my Lopi pattern (same as has been knitted in Scandinavia for generations), my vintage Cleckheaton wool … and the iPad.  I almost always knit from the iPad these days.  Whenever I pack my knitting basket, the iPad gets slipped in too.  Isn’t it brilliant!  I just love being able to browse Ravelry – I start by looking at everything and then wheedle it down, adding my search criteria one by one.  Then buy my pattern, download it and bam!  I’m off.  Can’t imagine knitting any other way. So totally different from when I first began knitting and we had to rely upon those cardboard folders of patterns – purchased from the shop, one or two at a time.  And rarely exactly what I had in mind anyway.  Now – the whole world sits there at my fingertips.  The truly wonderful upside of being connected to this new world.

coming along

As for reading … I’ve been re-reading “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.  This book is so densely packed with fascinating information that I am forever discovering something new and tweaking how I cook for my family yet a little bit more.  These days, I’m especially keen on cooking suppers that can be served in these dear little pots.  We found 12 at the opshop the other day.  They are Denby Gypsy – apparently very rare in Australia – haven’t been able to find any others on the old ebay.  So we’re eating lots of soups and stews – we even had our porridge in them the other morning and I must say, they keep the food very hot.

soup potOn the fiction front – I’m adoring Karen Joy Fowler’s “We are All Completely Beside Ourselves”.  Oh my goodness – the narrator is so utterly relatable.  I find myself nodding and laughing and wincing along with her.  And I’m also reading William McInnes’ “The Birdwatcher” – totally different, set here in Australia starting in Melbourne then moving up to North Queensland.  Both are landscapes so very familiar that it is a very poignant read – I love reading about environments I have lived in – such a connection.  And the characters are very appealing – it’s not literature, but it’s a lovely read and I really enjoy McInnes’ voice.  I have Inga Simpson’s “Nest” to pick up from the bookshop tomorrow – also set in North Queensland and I think I shall need Ian McEwan’s new novel “The Children Act” too.  Very pertinent but more about that next week!

Now – I’m off to bed on this cold cold night – The Birdwatcher awaits me.

 

crochet :: spring flowers :: a september project

the beach

I started my spring flowers – from the Paton’s Modern Crochet booklet – when this was my view – last summer at Merimbula.  I sat out on Mum’s front porch and crocheted a few, here and there, in between swimming at the beach, adventuring, reading and generally just lazing about with my family.

But the day we drove home from this lovely holiday, Grandad had a heart attack and so began a rather chaotic year, with urgent trips to Brisbane, more illness and family upheavals, my final semester of studies, long clinical placements, many essays and the nerve wracking process of applying and interviewing for grad year placements.

Those poor little spring flowers – such a lovely and potent symbol of a holiday filled with light and warmth – were shoved into a basket and forgotten, whilst the balls of cotton were – ridiculously – left falling out of this sweet sewing basket …

beautiful blue bulging

… which of course, couldn’t be closed and looked perpetually messy and irritating in the corner of the living room.

Yesterday found me trying to push this basket under the craft table with my foot, whilst balancing a pile of patchwork fabric on my arm and carrying cups of tea for poor Abby who has now had an allergic reaction to the antibiotics we finally got last week for her persistent sinus infection.  Nice! Needless to say, I couldn’t push said basket between the desk leg and chair leg, so handed out the tea, dumped the fabric on the piano (where all fabric lives) and took a closer look.  Wondered where the little squares were.  Found them shoved behind the rocking chair.  So pulled them out too and ooohed and ahhhed over their pretty colours.

There were 39 finished – I thought about how many I still needed to do – 105.  That would make 144 which would make a nice 12 by 12 blanket.  Add a few lovely border rows and I’d have a sweet spring blanket that’s almost 1.4 metres square.  Can’t you just see it folded over the end of a lovely vintage cane cot!? Good thing I have one :-) And so was born the notion that I could crochet a few each day in this, the first month of Spring, and have my lovely flowers ready for our return trip to the beach this summer.

I stacked the balls almost neatly in a rectangular basket – now named “working basket” – stored the finished squares in the lovely navy basket and sat down to time just how long it takes me to make one square, and thus see how feasible it would be to crochet 4 a day for the first 15 days, then 3 a day for the last 15.  My first effort was a bit fumbly and I found I needed to follow the pattern carefully.  But by the time I was up to the fourth little square, I had rediscovered my rhythm with these flowers, the pattern flowed easily and I was able to crochet one square in 30 minutes.  Perfect.

contents two little stacks the collection close up

Today, with the sun out, there was a wee bit of lining up and admiring … oh, it really is going to be such a pretty blanket, isn’t it!

needing to be planted added on the end all lined up

Some fiddling with the wee flowers awaiting their ecru borders …

favourite1 favourite 2

And a little naming of my favourites – I do love that pea green with the reddy-pink and pale blue – and that dark blue looks just lovely with the pink and soft red.

finished working basket

Now – baskets are sorted.  I have two more balls of ecru (will obviously need many more, but this was all spotty had) and 8 little squares have been finished.

1970s

Fingers crossed I can maintain the momentum – only 28 more days and 97 squares to go!

the loveliness of almost

on the chair tools

Silly old Melbourne’s been playing tricks on us lately :-)  Delivering up late winter days of beautiful blue skies, heaps and heaps of sun, and warmth!  Only then, just when we’re shoving the jumpers into the backs of the wardrobes, it throws us cold, wet, grey days – several in a row – just to remind us it is still only late winter and to put our slippers back on.

blue sky stitching pinned leaves

Oh all right.  Fair enough.  I’ll keep the slippers beside my bed and rejoice that I have lovely handknits to pull on when the cold fronts storm in.  But!  When that sun comes out …

thread prince

… I shall sit on the front porch and soak it up.

clouds rolling in camellias weeds

I shall embroider my very summery Fox.  Crochet my spring flowers.  Fill in the background of my Kaffe flowers.  I may even get stuck into some Christmas decorations and presents.

flower with sun nose tablecloth eye the back the front me beetroot and chickpeas

Because I have finished my nursing degree.  I have been to all my grad year interviews. I have several months of nothing more important – and perfect –  to do than look after my family, potter about our home, and throw myself into the myriad of unfinished crafty loveliness that fills up all the corners of Bootville .  And summer is almost here.

lemon

Yes!

dates and needlepoint and interviews

wool

This morning was another cold, dreary, grey, flattening sort of morning.  Melbourne specialises in these.  I have to exert a lot of energy to rise above it.  But the last few weeks, as I’ve been waiting for application acceptances and grad year interviews, I’ve been a little bit wobbly on the rise.  Checking emails every 5 minutes.  Fretting over imagined, terrible outcomes.  Wondering how I’ll ever make it to October 14th without having wasted 2 months ripping off all my cuticles.

Oy!  So, instead of working on the Spring House which continues to cover the kitchen table, I tipped my needlepoint wool onto the library table and curled up under the lamp to work on my Norwegian Queen.  Did you know the Norwegian word for Queen is “Dronning”.  I must say, to my English speaking mind, this doesn’t conjure up the most regal notions – instead, it makes me think of a right bore of a queen, “dronning” on and on and on in a pompous and repetitive manner to her ladies in waiting about all the things the King (Konge) does that annoy her.

Yesterday, when I was thinking of all the things I could do with this wee needlepoint, I looked up lots and lots of ways to say Queen.  The similarities were mostly expected – except for the enchanting Hindi word.   You want to know some?  Course you do – in French they say “Reine”, in Spanish it’s “Reina” and in Italian it’s “Regina”.  Yup – just as expected.  But in Hindu it’s “Rani”!  How cool is that!!  That Sanskrit and European languages share the same root is so fabulous!  Just tonight I heard that lovely Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, say that the thing he really began to feel when he was floating above our improbable jewel like world was the collectiveness of it all.  Such a beautiful thought – and precisely why they say Rani in India and Reine in France.

You want to know some more – all right!  In Russian they say “Koroleva”, in Czech they say “Kralovna”, and in Turkish they say “Kralice.  Must be a connection there.  In Malaysian they say “Ratu” and in Arabic they say “Malikah”.  In Japanese I think they say “Joo” and in Vietnamese they say “Nu Hoang”.  The one that made me laugh was the Maori – “Kuini”!  Isn’t that gorgeous!  I wish my Norwegian queen was a “Kuini” but I suppose I’d best make peace with the fact she’s a “Dronning”.

Anyways – etymological diversions aside – the needlepoint.  I was at a bit of an impasse.  I had – improbably – chosen gingernut brown for the background and spent last eve furiously filling and filling and filling.  Then realised this morning that I couldn’t possibly fill in around all those little red flowers – they would VANISH into the gingernut.  As I sat there, calculating how many hours it would take to pull out all that gingernut, I looked up and realised what was clearly inspiring me when I first settled on warm brown – this here print on the library wall!

background

I’m afraid I cannot remember the name or artist, but it is from the early American colonial period – one of my favourite periods of art.  I just love the wonky perspective and proportions – grapes hanging from huge trees ready to torpedo the small farm houses and the garden that looks ripe for sliding down the steep hill – of gingernut brown!  I’ve always looked at this painting and thought how the artist must have painted and painted the brown hill and then got to that beautiful weeping willow and thought “bugger, I can’t possibly paint in between all those delicate leaves, I know, I’ll paint around it.” And at the moment I was GLAD I’d chosen gingernut brown and knew just how to deal with those red flowers :-)

Then, I practised that ancient sport of “well, before I start a new piece of brown, I’ll just check the emails again.”  Do you know that game?  It goes like this – “before I wash the dishes, I’ll just check the emails again”, “I’ll hang out the washing and then I can check the emails again”,  ”I won’t check the emails again until I’ve added three more rows of bricks”,  ”goodness, I’ve been out of the house for 45 minutes, it’s time to quickly check the emails again.” Course you do.  But this time – oh thank my lucky stars – there was the email I’ve been waiting for.  A grad interview at the Royal Children’s Hospital for next Friday.  Yes! Phew!  Now I can get on with life.

favourite cookbook

Folks, I waltzed into the kitchen.  I cleaned up with a spring in my step.  I laughed with delight at the thought of baking for lunch :-)  And so I pulled out a real favourite – Hugh’s soda bread from his lovely “Family Cookbook”.  It’s such a good, solid recipe that allows for all manner of interpretations – today it was dates and oats. I just followed the basic recipe – eliminated the sugar (I always do that) and substituted 50g of oats for 50g of flour.  Yum!

dates prebake

Popped it into the oven and did some more washing up.  I must admit – I do like washing up in winter.  I love filling the sink with straight hot water – no cold – and then plunging my hands in.  This year I’ve either developed asbestos hands or the plumber turned the water heater temperature down when he last visited.  Either way, it’s bliss.  Fogs up my spectacles.  The steam rises around me and floats away from the dishes as I stack them on the drainer.  Oh yes, washing up, one of winter’s pleasures.

washing up

Then, whilst the soda bread baked, I got to playing with the beet tops from last night’s supper.  Chopped off the leaves for the rabbits.  And then, was so entranced by the ruby red liquid that dripped from the stems, that I chopped them up too and boiled them up in a bit of water.  I have plans.  Next time you pop into blockaday I shall either be showing you something marvellous.  Or you’ll be laughing until you cry over what happened to those beet stems.  We’ll just have to wait and see which it will be.

beetroot stems

In 25 minutes, out came the soda bread – all bursting with scrumptious, piping hot dates.  I hacked off some thick slabs, carefully layered them with thin slices of cold salty butter and gobbled them up at the kitchen bench. Yum!

post bake wrapped

Washed the butter from my hands, wrapped the leftovers for tomorrow morning’s breakfast – Hugh’s soda bread is marvellous toasted – and returned to my Kuini-Dronning.  Spirits lifted.  Belly full.  New ideas for birds and borders and purposes in my mind.

on the table little grains of rice

Take that you dreary, winter Melbourne morning!

 

if you should happen …

… to swing by Bootville, in the mid-afternoon, when school’s out early, the late winter sun is setting the back garden aglow, and the sweet scent of jasmine is wafting across the grass, don’t knock at the front door.  Come down the side, and through the gate – we’re in the garden!

take off the shoes

kick off your shoes … it’s okay, the dog hasn’t chewed a pair in years.  She’s so grown up now :-)

saved one for you

we’ve saved you a chocolate and raspberry sponge from Aviv’s!

picture book trying to count seeds

pull up a corner on the picnic blanket – we’re reading a lovely new picture book (yes, we still love and buy picture books!).  It’s all about what happens when you decide to throw caution to the wind and dare to do something a bit different.  With fabulous pictures.  And it’s Japanese.  And it’s by Mitsumasa Anno – what a gift to the world he is!

Fu chewing her stick

Fu will come bounding up every few moments to tell you all about a yummy stick she’s just found or an evil pigeon with dastardly plans she was brave enough to chase off.  To protect us, of course.  She’s not afraid of evil and dastardly pigeons.  It’s her job.

pencil case filling a new notebook

Abby’s writing a new story – currently planning out all the characters and locations – so she’ll probably ask you to contribute a name or an occupation – the crazier the better.

playset paper dolls and book

Perhaps you’d like to pull out whatever it is you love to do – bit of knitting, a good book, some stitching. If you’ve come empty handed you’re welcome to play with my new Pride and Prejudice paper dolls.  But I reserve the right to pop them all out.  You can put the stands on – they’re a bit tricksy.

proposals lizie darcy tableau

Aren’t they gorgeous!  And Fu didn’t steal a single one.  I told you she’s getting grown up at last.

writing novel reading

Then, whilst Abby gets down to the nitty-gritty of her tale, I might sneak a peak into my new novel.  You don’t mind do you.  I had to buy it.  As you can see, it’s called “We are all completely beside ourselves”.  This is one of my favourite phrases!  I use it ALL the time.  I am regularly completely beside myself – usually with delight, anticipation, or anxiety.  My response to Abby’s tales of school is usually “Goodness, the teacher must have been beside herself”.  When Mum tells me what the extended family are up to, I reckon they’re completely beside themselves as well.  Even my patients’ families are beside themselves – well of course they are.  As for the patients – they’re usually too sick to be beside themselves.

See – I had to have it.  And it’s by Karen Joy Fowler – I was completely beside myself with delight when I read her “Jane Austen Bookclub” especially when the only guy in the club suggested they read the Master and Commander books.  Practically leapt out of bed I was so beside myself at that point :-)  ”Yes, yes, yes!” I shrieked to Julian, “Of course the Master and Commander books are utterly perfect for the Jane Austen fan.  Karen Joy Fowler and I are kindred spirits!”

“Uh-uh,” he replied.  He very rarely gets beside himself, completely or not.

And when the sun tips just that bit far to the west, and the air becomes colder and damp, we’ll traipse back inside and have a nice cup of tea.  You can choose which Moomin cup you’d like.  If you really want to endear yourself, I’ll let you unpick the remaining 12 windows in my patchwork house that need their curtains hung, whilst I “hang” said curtains.  It will be a lovely afternoon, I promise.

You just have to remember, if it’s mid afternoon and the late winter sun is out and the jasmine’s flowering – we’ll be out the back.

slowly … slowly

There was a sleepless night – we call it “hover sleep” here in Bootville, that kind of sleep where you’re not really asleep, not quite awake, but oh so aware that dawn is creeping closer and closer.  Followed by another early morning, grad year interview – intense occasions after which I can always think of much better ways I could have answered their questions.

The rest of the day needed to move slowly, gently .. with a good dose of uplifting.  And, as is so often the case, such balm was found in the warmth of my kitchen, a little green machine that hums like an old Hornby train set, and a table scattered with fabric.

brewing marmalade marmalade recipe

:: late winter always means pyramids of lovely, juicy oranges – the perfect time for some marmalade brewing.  I’m following a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe which calls for a good overnight soaking.  Slowly, slowly …

marmalade cupcakes

:: not so slowly enjoying yesterday’s Nigel Slater’s marmalade loaf baked into cupcakes – with sultanas because everything tastes extra yummy with sultanas

cabbage mushing the cabbage

:: my first pickling efforts – using Andrea Chesman’s “Pickled Pantry” - my cabbage has been soaking for a few hours after mashing the salt in with my fingers – it’s almost time to add the next ingredients …

new pot

:: a new cast iron pot – bigger than the last!  perfect for slowing cooking a lovely joint – pork, beef, turkey – as long as it’s hot and flavoursome I don’t mind.  But first – this new pot needs a nice slow curing.

jasmine

:: this season’s first posy of jasmine – slowly, slowly spring is tiptoeing in

snape

:: savouring a thick and frothy hot cocoa after school – and still, after all these years, spending our afternoon tea debating Snape’s virtue.  He is hands down my favourite Harry Potter character – alas, Abby will never see it my way :-)

untidy kitchen table

:: things are moving slowly on the kitchen table – it’s looked like this since Friday – but the work has been nonstop!

little pieces

:: there’s only one way all these little seams come together and that’s slowly …

house

… but oh so pleasing.

an iced bun sort of day

lamp

:: lamps were lit very very early

threads delia teddy

:: corners were tidied and reorganised

blanket

:: the perfect vintage blanket was unearthed from the sewing shed

books flowers red and blue

:: mail from Japan was rescued from the leaky mail box, delighted over, and ideas were hatched

machine cotton reel seam spots

:: borders were chopped and stitched and pressed – the material so very pretty it made me wonder what else I could do with it

supper

:: the girlie was collected and supper was shopped for

iced bun:: slices of iced bun were munched and tea sipped as outside yet more and more rain melted into the ground

It was that sort of day :-)

 

now i shall have to sew

needlepoint cross stitch scarf ostheimer mandarines jasmine chickenThere’s a sort of stillness to the house at the moment.  A sense of waiting.  The much longed for change of seasons is almost here.  Yes, there’s still plenty of shivery cold, but every morning the sun rises that bit earlier and I throw open the windows, declaring it fresh.  Just this morning, I noticed the jasmine dressed in her spiky pink buds, mere days away from bursting forth with her beautiful perfume.  The old hibiscus is popping out bright green leaves (the first in years) and the gnarly magnolia’s furry buds are slowly opening.  I want to ride my bike to the shops.  Bake fruitcake.  I always want to bake fruitcake in spring.  Set up camp in the back garden.  Plan for Christmas. Ditch the stockings! Wear sandals!

But not yet.  It is only the first week in August.  There’s weeks and weeks to go of winter yet. So, I shall keep savouring the days just as they are presented to us.  Wrap my hands ’round another cup of steamy tea.  Tuck a quilt ’round my lap, heavy and warm.  Admire the bare elegance of the tall planes and elms that line our streets.  Enjoy the sharp slap of the air on my cheeks when I step outside.  Layer up with wool and shawls and sheepskin slippers when I’m at home.  Make the most of that lovely, safe feeling of cosiness that comes when the sky is dark, the rain is constant, the air is frigid, and the family is all at home, curtains drawn, candles lit, warm and busy.

mandarin holly hobby tea boxes inside

And today, with all the DMC7928 stitched up, I turned back to a quilt top I started way back in summer when the days were long and hot.  One filled with bees swirling their way round and round the garden, little puffy golden chicks and an unexpected red cross in the centre.  I had all the chicks and bees stitched up and I don’t know, it just looked a little too simple.  So I chopped out the middle – literally – and added a little red (no matter how hard I try, I always end up adding a little red).  Then I loved it.  Now, just a few weeks away from graduation it’s kind of funny – I’ve made the perfect nurses’ quilt :-)

ribbon pieces sewing machine stitching rumpled

After snapping it on the line, I laid it on our bed and do you know what – I think it may need one more border – a nice wide one – maybe 5 inches deep.  In red?  Then it will be extra cosy for our bed.   And even more suited to being tossed over a teepee of sticks and opened as a first aid centre :-)

finished corner pegs chickens with the chickenTomorrow – with the forecast filled with grey and rain – I shall find this quilt a blanket, turn the kitchen radio to Classic FM, eat more mandarines, and get squiggling.  It will be a lovely winter’s day.

rocking chair dreams in a cold house


basket of wool
lopi lamplight christmas pudding

I truly do find that my imagination runs the richest when I’m sitting quietly, hands busy with simple repetitive work.  Slipping the needle up and down, filling in large swathes of background on a needlepoint for hours on end may sound dull to some, but to me – goodness, I can build and decorate a whole farmhouse in this time, let alone plan the garden and name all the animals.

This morning our old house is cold and shadowy.  Abby is buried deeply under her quilts, sick with a sinusy cold.  Julian is working from home in the library.  I’m sitting in the spot most likely to catch a speck of sun, filling in the background of a Kaffe Fasset needlepoint I started when Mum had her eye surgery.  That’s a few years back, but certainly doesn’t make this the oldest needlepoint in my stash – eek!  I was working on it this Christmas past – sitting out on the front porch of Mum’s lovely beachside home – when I decided it would be really rather lovely if I turned it into a circular cushion.  A lot of extra background would need filling, but we’ve already established I enjoy that :-)  So here I sit, the needle slipping up and down and up and down, metres upon metres of 7928 being woven into the canvas.

shadows quilts

And of course,  this got me to dreaming.  Unconnected thoughts and ideas.  Until I hit upon the rocking chair sitting across from me.  Now, Mum and I each bought one of these rocking chairs from the opshop a few months back.  They were a good price and we could imagine all kinds of pretty dressing up. We even bought fabric!  Mum took hers home in pieces and I don’t know that said pieces have yet moved from the garage.  Of course, that could well be because dear Mum spent 5 out of the first 6 months of the year in Brisbane caring for Nanny and Grandad.  After a quick clean, mine was moved into the corner of the living room where I had dreams of gently rocking in lovely comfort whilst doing all those things I like to do.

However – it proved to be a very hard uncomfortable rocking chair and literally hurt my bottom after sitting on it for only a handful of minutes.  Weird I know.  Totally put me off.  All thoughts of reupholstering and painting vanished and the only future I could foresee for this rocking chair was being shoved back into the car and returned to the opshop.

scissors and wool other closeup closeup

And yet today, as I sat needlepointing, I began to think of other needlepoints I wanted to make. Of the loveliness of the soft brown canvas I was working on.  How I needed to order some more from Karen at the Quilters’ Store.  How it was just the right width for the rocking chair across from me.  How it was really quite a pretty rocking chair.  How I could needlepoint it a new cover.  Then I could work some miracles on the seat with a bit of webbing and a good piece of foam.  And then paint the frame that Parisian black with the ever so slightest edges of rubbed gold.

But what to put on the needlepoint … a rural/coastal scene – like those naive scenes of 18th century American artists where segments of the landscape, its buildings, animals and people are tumbled together with no regard for proportion.  A Norfolk pine in the top left hand corner with a kangaroo feeding on the grass below. Green Cape lighthouse in the top right hand corner – with a couple of black swans strutting about.  Merimbula Bay with a lovely whale across the middle.  And a sunrise of course.  A combination of my appliqued hotwater bottle cover and my Whale and her Girl cross stitch pattern.   Then, on the seat – that extra comfortable seat with its webbing and foam –  a farm house with a row of flowering plums – a wombat, some sheep, a bunny or two, an echidna.  Oh yes.

My needle flew faster and faster.  I should order the canvas right now!  I should get to work on the design RIGHT NOW!  I should drag that rocking chair outside THIS MINUTE!

scraps needle on the footstool

Then I sat the current Kaffe needlepoint canvas atop a thrifted foot stool.  Huh!  Perfect fit.  Now that’s a project that could easily be finished in the next week or so.  Then there’s the fox chair just begging for more attention.

Hmmm … perhaps this very very exciting rocking chair revival should be a reward for first finishing off this lovely rich floral piece and the fox chair.  That would be sensible.

So in the name of Elinor’s good sense, as opposed to my usual choice of Marianne’s sensibility,  I’ve jotted down my notes here so I won’t forget.  Maybe I’ll allow myself some fiddling on the computer with the layout.  And meanwhile, I shall keep filling in all that 7928.

Oh yes!  Such good imagining!  I’m so excited!

rocking chair