yup … that’s what I’m doing at the moment. Here’s a wee confession – this last couple of weeks has seen some serious homesickness for Brisbane and my family and friends, lots of motherly worrry, and floods of tears – thank god for cold water, a washcloth and a bit of pretty lippy.
My time at the bookstore is an utter pleasure. Walking through those doors three mornings a week fills me with a greatly needed sense of purpose and happiness. In the evenings and those “other” four days – well, there’s a lot of plodding. Being homesick, crying (when no one else is around), fretting and generally feeling sorry for oneself is really tiring. Who’d have thought. I do have moments when I smile and laugh, chatter with Abby and Julian, put my best foot forward, so to speak. But I’m having trouble focusing on those good bits.
As for stitching – blah. I have resurrected this small quilt from last year – I truly love it – the treacly yellows fill me with sweet warmth, and the crisp white yo-yos inspire me to dedicate myself to yo-yo making. After finally finishing the handquilting, I decided that simply anchoring each yo-yo with a couple of stitches in the middle was completely inadequate. Each yo-yo needs to be hand stitched around it’s perimeter (is that the right word – or should it be diameter?) Let me tell you dear reader how ploddy this is. Glory be – it takes stitchy plodding to new heights – or should that be depths. But I do like how they sit nice and firm and flat after their surgery – otherwise they were literally twisting about and losing their centre.
I’m a bit like a yo-yo with only a couple of stitches in the middle – how’s that for twee, homespun philosophising huh! Yup, I’m here – newly attached to Melbourne. I’m washing clothes, making beds, cooking dinners, shopping for food, cleaning bathrooms, vacuuming, hanging and folding washing, doing dishes, making lunches, ironing school uniforms, accepting invoices, serving customers, ordering books, alphabetising shelves (I seriously love this :-) putting away new stock, reading, dreaming, thinking … but I’m really a bit loose. A bit out of shape. Listen to this for alarming … on my days off, I’m too fretful and sad to put needle to fabric. I sit and watch Miss Marple and Inspector Poirot. And wait for Abby and Julian to come home.
There you go … just like so many other people, I like to make my wee corner of the bloggy neighbourhood a spirited place of energy, good humour and prettiness. I’m sorry it’s not today. That’s just not what I have at hand. Unlike the poor poor children I saw on television tonight in Haiti, I’m not missing a leg, I am surrounded by those I love, I have a home, food, clothing, employment and a future … nevertheless, in spite of my amazing privilege, security and good fortune, I’m really glum and lonesome at the moment.
So silly. I need to rediscover my joy at simply being here everyday, to find delight in what is in front of me, to give thanks for all that I have, to use all that lays about me. Hmmm …. I’m not sure how to go about doing this. Maybe it’s just one baby step at a time. Here’s hoping …
We drove to Daylesford this weekend. It is very beautiful – idyllic – and we are so looking forward to going back. Especially to check out the lovely village centre which is so very old and picturesque. Hopefully there is an overnight stay coming up at the old manse – I shall feel like Jane Austen :-)
I was particularly smitten with the berries.
There were trees to climb – with and without shoes – and my girl was delighted with the magic of the lake, its prettiness and the ducks and geese to feed.
The light was exquisite and the prettiness, around every corner.
We found our dream home – plenty of room for quilts, wool and embroidery, grunt pigs and buttercup cows, a lake in our back garden on which to kayak and rooms for guests that want to play with our quilts, wool, and embroidery, grunt pigs, buttercup cows and kayaks. It’s a lovely dream :-)
And some quirky … I love quirky!
ahhhhhh … lovely day.
I love orange. So often, when I’m choosing fabric, or wool, or clothes, I find myself thinking oh look, there’s orange, I love orange and never choose it. This happens so often, that when I fossick through the stash, look through my wardrobe, there’s a lot of orange.
Julian and I have fallen into the habit of going to bed very late – frequently after midnight – setting the alarm for 6am and then being utterly incapable of waking up properly. We bump that “10 more minutes button” over and over and finally stagger out to the kitchen at 7 to participate in a frantic rush to school and work. Yes, it’s a cheerful, frantic rush with plenty of love and laughter, but it’s so contrary to how we should be starting our day – refreshed!
In an effort to improve, Julian and I went to bed last night at a nice and early 9.15pm. Yeah, I might miss out on a couple of hours of possible needlework but usually, after the clock has struck 9.30pm, I am slumped prone and tired on the sofa, watching something on the television or browsing the internet. They are not fruitful hours. So to bed – we chatted, we read and then drifted off to sleep. And when that alarm went off at 6am, I sat up in bed, awake, energised and ready for the day. Oh it felt good! I made Abby and I our morning cup of tea and we didn’t have to gulp it. We ate our breakfast slowly and with pleasure. I ironed everybody’s clothes for the day and made the lunches. Julian and Abby left for school and work and I still had two hours before I had to catch the tram to work. Two glorious hours.
It was a cold morning so I put the kettle back on, savoured a cup of Ecco (peculiar Italian cereal beverage that I have loved for many years) and finally finished my scarf.
I knitted it last year in Brisbane, but frankly, it was never cold enough to wear it, and thus I had never woven the ends in. Well this morning I did.
And wore it to work ’cause it was darn chilly. I swear the wind gusting in from the south west was express from the Antarctic!
Ah it was such a good morning. Slow, peaceful, happy and productive and full of my favourite orange. It’s amazing what a few extra hours of needed sleep can provide.
It is well documented that sitting in a cosy armchair, in your flannel jammies doing some handstitching with your muma and dada sitting across from you with their books, and your puppies snoozing lazily on the sofa is the best medicine for the angst that can accompany a day at high school.
Oh my sweet Abby – she does struggle sometimes with the social minefield that is a school of girls – I would once have said teenage girls, but now know that it starts WAY earlier than that. And my Abby, she’s a quiet, shy soul. When she settles into her niche, she is cheerful, witty and well-loved. Until she finds that spot, she is a wee bit fragile, easily buffeted, nervous in new social situations. And today was one of those days.
As per our new routine, Abby hops off the train from school, walks up the street to say hello to us in the bookstore, has a browse to see what new titles have arrived, drops into Aviv’s (the most awesome bakery) next door for afternoon tea, then heads home. Today, there were a few tears so I suggested as a soothing balm for a morning’s awkwardness, she design and stitch a new outfit for Dollie. I arrived home shortly after to find a very cheerful, very relaxed, very satisfied girl.
My girl creates such prettiness with her needle and felt – I am in awe of the wonderful designs she comes up with. I’m especially pleased that when our world needs some righting, we have learnt to turn to soul nourishing things – a family game, stitching, reading, cooking together, re-building bikes, snuggling up on the sofa, cuddling the doggles.
And this dear little creature is what I found nestled into my pillow on the morning of my birthday last week – my heart sang.
The nice thing about needlepoint is that once you’ve got it underway, it pretty much looks after itself. All it needs is a few hours of film or audio book each night and merrily it rolls along, no matter how sleepy or slow I feel. Which is usually how I feel after dinner and dishes and child to bed.
So whilst the sun is out, the light is good, energy and brain levels high, and the kitchen table is not needed for anything else, there’s a little portrait I want to capture …
I love the portraits of old – especially those of children. They so rarely look at ease or cheerful. Mostly, they look a bit stricken and stiff! I love the symbolism – the careful placement of the artefacts that will reveal to the sitter’s importance, history, wealth, and passions. As for the costumes, I’m always so amazed at the clothes these poor people are shoved into! The layers upon layers of detail and decoration. Again, especially the children. My goodness, this poor little soul looks like he couldn’t move his arms if he tried!
Yep – it’s a he. The offspring of King Charles I and his wife Henrietta Maria – Prince Charles. What a handsome princeling! Flipping through the exquisite pages of my latest “The World of Interiors” I came across this wonderful portrait – you can’t see Big Charles – he’s way off at the other end of the table. Hmmmm … what is that saying about his tolerance for family life? I could just see a Little Charles in felt – pink and white felt with this dear little piece of ladybug fabric.
The way I put these felt and embroidery pictures together is very ad-hoc. I start with the wooden hoop and a piece of paper. I outline the hoop on the paper and then draw my picture inside the outline. Once I’m happy with the composition, I trace the elements onto vlisefix, cut out each element, iron it onto the wrong side of my fabric, cut it out, and then starting at the bottom layer, carefully add each piece, ironing as I go, until the picture is completed.
Then I begin the embroidery. Each element is whip stitched around its edge and then I embellish it. I don’t plan on what I”m going to do – I just see what looks nice and how much something needs. I cheerfully rip out what doesn’t work and will often go back and add more detail later. I often become terribly excited about the details of a particular element and then, whilst working on them, think of what to do to another part of the picture. I know from experience to stop what I’m doing and just get stuck into the next bit – then I don’t forget my ideas. After the initial drawing, I don’t put anything down on paper. It just happens on the fabric.
As I worked away at Little Charles today – Abby thinks ’cause we’ve dressed him in pink, we really need to accept he’s a girl and rename him – it dawned on me that he was kind of suspended in mid air. This was a wee bit distressing, but I reminded myself that things usually work out – if I just relax and enjoy the stitching something will come to me. And it did – there’s a simple repeat pattern wallpaper in the offing, followed by a richly decorated rug for the royal bottom.
I’m pleased with the curtain – that took a few hours – the first tie back was revolting and had to be ripped out – made tricky by all the stitching that was done post tie back, thus wodging the dodgy stitches in place. And Little Charles looks nicely stiff and worried – he must have had a premonition about his father’s execution.
Oooh and Abby – I’ve just read about Oak Apple Day – it was once celebrated on the 29th May – Little Charle’s birthday – as a commemoration of the oak tree he hid in during the civil war. Now here’s a day we could celebrate in Melbourne and strangely enough, we could tweak it to be seasonally appropriate – the oaks will be shedding the last of their leaves, with which to decorate the table, and the apple season will be drawing to a close with all the apples picked and ready for pies and crumbles. Too silly!
It’s been an AGE since I have done any needlepoint – actually cannot remember what I last picked up – and whilst there are many, many projects – all pretty and worthy and waiting in my needlepoint bag – to be finished, I had such an itch to start something new. Just something little, a repeating geometric design, no pattern, just make it up as I go along with colours left over from older projects. I need two little rectangles to sit atop some new-to-us speakers.
[ there's a mirror under the bit where the needle goes 'cause I had to take a photo of it and send it to the needle shop so they knew which kind of needle to send me ... hee! hee! hee! ... I'm so excited about it arriving - I've waited so long for this!]
What more perfect time to start a wee project than a long weekend.
Especially when it’s rainy outside …
Cosy and dry inside inside …
[ glory be! this is the first home I've ever lived in - seriously - that I don't have to worry about our belongings getting wet when it rains! This is truly liberating and makes that rain sound oh so sweet! ]
There are new season apples by my side …
[ two words - Vic Market ]
Bundles of lovely colour scattered throughout the house …
And a well lit corner in the kitchen, in which to sit and stitch, and stitch and stitch and stitch …
I’m having trouble stopping. My bottom is sore from so much sitting and stitching. But after fretting over the colours last night, I’m so loving how my little carpet is growing.
I don’t think I’m coming to bed tonight Julian. There’s too much to do. Hoping you’re having a lovely weekend at home with a quiet corner and some satisfying handwork :-)
Ahhh – so pretty. But it flew off to warm the shoulders of a dear friend in the US. So onto shawl number 2. Different wool, different pattern, so pretty. But on a cold and breezy day, it found its way onto old Nanny’s shoulders.
Now here I am in Melbourne and I know there is shawl weather just around the corner – time to finish the shawl I started late last year whilst still living in hot steamy Brisbane. Yes I looked a bit of a goat sitting on the back porch with my lap piled with mountains of thick wool. But knitting shawls is sooooooo good.
I used two different yarns for the shawl – some Patons Jet that I bought for $4 at a thrift store in a small country town in South East Queensland – Boonah. Half of it had been knitted into a cardigan but there was no pattern in the bag and the sleeves were very small and tight so some frogging was in order. Old Nanny – a prolific knitter and seller of yarn in the 1970s – says she hasn’t seen this particular Paton’s yarn label since the 1960s, so it could be at least 40 years old, perhaps a bit older. The other yarn is a Noro Silk Garden.
It’s so magical to think of someone – most likely a lady – sitting somewhere comfy all those years ago, knitting a cardigan. And now, her wool has stitched its way into my shawl, sitting side by side with the Japanese Noro, and fringed with a mix of Noro, dark brown Eco Wool leftover from my Nimbus (still not sewn up), and a glorious purple alpaca I bought from a dear little village on the Southern New South Wales coast during our summer drive to Melbourne. She would never have imagined it! I wouldn’t!
One wee downside is that the frogged wool knitted up a bit wonky. I haven’t had this happen before and I thought the yarn would eventually relax, especially after blocking, but it didn’t. Never mind – it will always serve as a reminder of the shawl’s provenance. :-)
The fringe makes me laugh. Often, when reading about the use of Noro’s Silk Garden, a knitter is advised to take wool from several parts of the ball in order to get an even spread of colour. I consistently fail to do this – too lazy, too impatient – so the fringe on my shawl starts with a dark grey/brown, moves into a VIVID pink and then finishes with a soft grey/lilac. Silly lily!
Oh well, it’s now resting, in all its thick, huge, snug glory on the sofa awaiting a chilly night when I shall wrap it round my shoulders and settle with some handwork. It covers all the way down to the small of my back and layers so nicely around my arms. I like my shawls big.
Is there another shawl on the needles? Of course! I’m knitting one for my mum, so that when she visits in winter, she’ll be as snug as me! Presently, she scorns a shawl as the ultimate old lady accessory (must be her age!) but I know, when the wind is whining, and the night frosty, she will gladly don the red, grey and French navy wool, laying in my basket. :-)
This being our first real “autumn” in a long while, we are madly looking forward to watching the leaves turn orange and yellow and red and brown, the weather cooling and the nights growing longer; the coming of slippers and flannel. And on this, the second day of March, it is indeed happening.
Every street I walk along, the glorious trees that line the paths for which Melbourne is well known, have lost their summer vibrancy, storing their green energy deep within their trunks, and sending forth the autumn colours.
And yet, here in Bootville, our flowering shrubs are going mad with verve and colour! Just this weekend past, I woke to find a rather plain but thick bush, nestled beside my sewing house, smothered in pretty white flowers.
As for the hibiscus – well, they clearly think they grace a tropical island, not suburban Melbourne. The pale pink shrub at my window is MADLY covered in flowers with many more buds bursting to open.
Thus, as I sit with a needle in hand and hoop on lap, I am drawn to capturing the contrast.
The stark branches beginnning to appear.
The contrast of greens and flame.
And amongst it all, the beautiful spring-like colours of my garden.
The wool I have couched the butterflies with is beautiful worsted Lambs Pride from Brown Sheep. This is surely my all-time favourite wool and I plan on ordering lots more for this winter. The colours and texture are so very cosy and warm.
One of the techniques I learnt with Sue Spargo last year, was to thread wool, rick-rack, braid, ribbon etc. onto a large needle and bring it through from the wrong side of your work when you are using it in appliques. That way, you don’t have to worry about finishing off straggly ends – which I was never capable of doing to my satisfaction! Each time I do this, I am ever so chuffed at such a simple, yet marvellous piece of cleverness :-)
Still a bit more of work to do on the border – above is my last glance of it through the living room window as I dashed for the tram! – but that will wait for this evening. Now I am at work, on lunch, and about to sneak a look at a gorgeous new Australian cookbook – The Real Food Companion by Matthew Evans, a former Sydney-based food critic who now lives and works with his family on the organic Puggle Farm in the Huon Valley of Tasmania. This is SOOOOOOO good, I may have to dedicate a whole post to it later this week.
Now, back to work!
I pause, still my hands and my mind, and notice that Bliss has settled alongside me. She is many things. Warm and cosy, cool and fresh, spicy and fragrant. Sometimes she is busy and focussed. Other times dreamy and relaxed. She may have a needle in hand, a book on her lap, or a dear child curled up and loving. Right now, despite tired bones and sore feet, she has a hot cup of raspberry tea by her side, a freshly baked oat and chocolate biscuit in her tummy and warm felty slippers on her feet. And it is a lovely version of bliss :-)
Thank you so much, dear folk, for your well wishes last week. My first week of work was wonderful! The bookshop is a lovely place to work – the owners delightful, colleagues very nice company, customers friendly and funny, and the books. Ah all those lovely books! My first morning saw the arrival and unpacking of the latest Skulduggery Pleasant novel – Abby was beside herself with glee when she called in after school. She’d been waiting for this treat for over six months and declared the bookshop the PERFECT place for her muma to work.
Now, here we are, a week later and we have settled so well into this new routine that it is as if it has always been. And there’s been time for stitching too! Abby attended her first birthday sleepover on the weekend, so, naturally, a handmade present was in order. The birthday girl especially wanted a bag and look what came with this month’s Country Style …
A plain grey felt tote. “But muma! It says Country Style!” Not for long dear. Rip, rip with the unpicker. Then six hours of another version of Bliss. Abby drew the picture. Julian scanned it into his computer, smoothed its edges and turned it into the perfect sized pattern. Abby chose the fabrics and I stitched. And stitched. And stitched. And then I stitched some more. I couldn’t stop!
I love every element of this applique – there’s nothing I would change :-) There’s beautiful Brown Sheep worsted wool couched around her face.
A sweet little embroidered pocket.
A tree that only stopped growing when I ran out of bag!
Some whimsical grass.
So many wee stitches. Hours of bliss. Many, many more pictures in my head, slowly making their way into felt and wool and onto hoops and bags and pillows and scarfs …
The bag is loved. Abby had a marvellous time. And all that I love – my child, my husband, my cooking, my stitching, my reading … it’s all fitting in around my new job just right. Yet another version of Bliss.
Surely is! Tomorrow, I too will have to bound out of the home, bright and early, clothes ironed, face washed, hair brushed, ready for a day of WORK! Outside the house! On a busy street! In a busy bookstore! Oh my goodness!
So, making the most of this last Monday at home for a while – Easter? – I filled the day with happy busyness.
Washing all the linen and towels …
Taking time for a wonderful two hour bike ride
… do you know, this is the first time I have done this since moving to Melbourne. Oy! Oy! I am so silly. It was beautiful – we live in a very flat part of Melbourne so it was glorious, riding along with a cool wind dancing about me, under magnificent trees whose leaves are j.u.s.t beginning to turn in time for autumn, past many beautiful old homes.
Destination – Little Sparrow …
… fast becoming our favourite store where I covet the left side (books and knitting and stitching supplies) and Abby the right side (beautiful wooden and felt toys and art supplies). They have a magical range of colours in their wool felts and I need to stock up on some more pretties for the week – I have two felt projects in the my mind that both need to be stitched, one into a hoop for the next week’s coming of autumn and one for Abby’s friend Georgia who is celebrating her 12th birthday this weekend; and last week’s birthday quilt to finish.
Which I gave a good shot with lots and lots of stitching in the back garden.
This is a funny old quilt – the buttony aspect is really quite unsuccessful but I so love the fabrics I’ve used, the swirly flowers I quilted and the felt pennies and embroidery, I’m unable to give up on it.
I cannot unpick all the buttons – it would leave the fabric too damaged. And they do add lots of prettiness. I think we will just have to love it, imperfections and all.
And there’s always another quilt to now try out my new quilting and more felt pennies. I so love felt pennies – perhaps I should finish my penny rug runner for the bed – now that would be a novelty!
And some baking – museli muffins for Abby and I to take to school and work.
I used Sally Fallon’s Basic Muffin Recipe from Nourishing Traditions. Adding yoghurt provides such wonderful density and texture to baked goods – yum.
There wasn’t much idleness really … and there is a lot of excitement about tomorrow! I know there’ll be lots of good things to share :-) Fingers crossed.
Meet Dolly …
She’s been Abby’s constant companion over the last few months … as well as a regular source of quiet, imaginative designing, stitching and dressing. Dolly now has a better wardrobe than either Abby or I.
This weekend the theme has been lime green and a dear little piece of Japanese piggy and patches fabric from Patchwork on Central Park. Hours were spent, last night, perfecting the pattern for the dress and shoes. There was focus unlike that Abby is ever able to conjure up for math homework! She’s really improving with her pattern making – there’s nary a time she forgets to add seam allowances, and she now carefully takes all of Dolly’s measurements and meticulously transfers them to the pattern, ensuring that she won’t make any wasteful cuts
She is esecially proud of the shoes and socks. Dolly’s not fond of keeping her shoes on so some innovative design was required – thus, the shoe and sock in one. Nevertheless, one shoe managed to disappear last night on the quilt in front of the sofa. We searched the quilt, the room, the house from top to bottom and do you think we could find that wretched shoe!
Abby was convinced Toph had eaten it. I was sure it had to be somewhere close. In the end, much to the outrage of Abby and amusement of Julian, after taking off my own skirt to shake it out, I demanded Abby whip off her shorts and shake them out. “As if!” she squealed. “I think I’d know if the shoe was in my shorts.” She lowered her shorts to her knees and was then about to pull them back up. “No, all the way off and shake them out.” Well, what do you think fell out of the leg of the Abby’s shorts – Dolly’s shoe. Extraordinary! Goodness knows how it got in there, but if you ever lose a small piece of fabric, it is clearly worth checking your clothes :-)
The dear little buttoned flower hairclip, mounted on a safety pin, was stitched this morning along with the wrist bands, and the ensemble declared finished. Now I’m under orders to go back to P on CP and the felt store (an absolutely gorgeous Steiner store close by called Little Sparrow, where Abby and I have enrolled in a series of classes – Waldorf doll making, felt critter making, and felt picture making), buy a few metres of the piggy fabric and a good half metre of the green felt and when Abby visits Nan/Mum for two weeks at Easter, Dolly’s outfit will be added to a list of goodies Mum and Abby plan on making for themselves – my mum is an exceptionally talented dressmaker – pretty much anything Abby is able to draw, Mum can make. :-) What fun they will have on the back porch.
Now, the sun has finally set. Julian’s birthday present – a badminton set for our back garden – has provided hours of good fun this afternoon, and we’ve eaten a beautiful dinner out under the trees – cooked by Julian from his other birthday present, the unequalled Claudia Roden’s classic Middle Eastern Cookbook. A very fine Sunday indeed.
If you’re yet to have your Sunday – may it be filled with good games, good stitching, good food and plenty of recharging for the new week ahead. If your weekend, as is mine, is done, I hope it was lovely and you’re ready for what comes tomorrow. Good night dear friends :-)
The weather is hot, dry and windy. The drive is long, dull and slow (the freeway has at least five roundabouts in a 10 km stretch – funny freeway). The beach is not very beachy for us Queenslanders, but the food is yummy and there were some pretty bits and bobs to look at through the lense.
Perhaps if the weather was fresher and less, I don’t know, it felt as if despite the wind, there wasn’t much air and that the sky was pushing down on us in a hot and fusty way. There was a lot of gritty and dull. I do think on these hot hot days in Melbourne, the best place to be is at the cinema, family by your side, chocolate in your lap, soaking up the cold air conditioning, losing yourself in a wonderful story and cinematography and just waiting for that cool change to come.
this is such a funny photo – there are so many layers! Me at the back, taking the photo, behind me the beautiful Norfolk Pines, Abby and Julian in the middle on a park bench, and then diners in a cafe at the front.
oh the exquisite prettiness – it is an unfurled pine needle – so perfect.
I have a thing for post offices – especially old ones and their post boxes, always makes me feel close to Grandad.
Wishing you a lovely weekend whatever the weather :-)