hoppity-hoppity

Well!  You’ll need to settle down with a lovely cup of something to read this one!  The lovely and creative Rebecca of Needle and Spindle asked me to participate in this little bloggity hop, where we get to ramble on about the whole creative process as it fits into our lives.  It’s taken me hours to collect all these thoughts and put them down in some kind of order, but I do hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did thinking about it, and perhaps it will add a little light to the creative chaos that is so often on display here at block-a-day :-) And once you’ve ploughed your way through this, you can follow the links back to read how other lovely, like minded folk approach their craft.  It makes for inspiring reading.

What am I working on?

I always have so many different projects on the go.  I adore planning a new project, and starting it provides a thrill that literally makes me smile and jig about and even squeal a little.  But finishing – well, I can honestly say, it just doesn’t give me the same zing. Bizarre but true.  I am definitely more seduced by the crafty doing than the crafty finish. Is this a good thing or not?  At the moment I think it’s a good thing.  Starting new projects is my way of recording all the ideas that swirl around my head.  And you know, giving these started projects lots of time to marinate – moving them in and out of the doing zone – gives me a chance to refine them, improve them, adapt them to new purposes.  All good things.

purple knitting

So – what am I working on?  On the knitting front, I am currently knitting my Mum a grey and red stripey jumper (that has to be finished in time for her to take to Canada at the beginning of December), my Abby a vivid purple Lopi jumper that it is now too hot to wear (ah, there’s always next year), my Julian an argyle vest (truth be told, those needles haven’t been touched for months!), and a cinnamon coloured cardigan for myself that has a fair isle band around the chest and upper sleeves.

Patchwork – definitely the black, mustard and turquoise triangles.  Started as a simple star that has just kept on growing and growing and growing.  It really is quite addictive.  And everytime I think, that’s it! no more rounds! I find another piece of lovely fabric and quickly start cutting.  And my Spring House version of the Winter House.  And my fox faces.

mustard and black winter house

fox faces

Embroidery – Working on my Norwegian Queen.  I got heaps and heaps done last week in Merimbula and am really pleased with her progress.  I’m keen to finish this one, because then I want to make a Norwegian King!  I’ve also dragged out my Hawk Run Hollow Village cross stitch – quite the epic project.

cross stitch cross stitch box

Applique – oh the fox chair!  I am completely in love with the fox chair.  It’s been slow going but very very satisfying.

fox face

Upholstery – Putting hessian, lace and cross stitch together to recover an old English Oak card chair I found by the side of the road.

appliqued chair

Crafty – I’ve recently bought Salley Mavor’s book “Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects” and oh, it is truly enchanting :-)  I’ve just made a wee doll of Lucifer – he’s part of a Michaelmas mobile – he’s been pushed out of heaven and is suspended amongst the starts and blackberry leaves and berries.  I foresee many many more of these little folk.  They are such fun to make.

felt doll

Sewing – tshirts and skirts for summer.  My first two tshirts- great successes – shrank when I washed them.  So they’ve been handed down to Mum’s lovely neighbour and I’m now a devoted preshrinker.

skirt and tshirt

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think the thing that really defines my work is my lack of concern for perfection or the “right” way of doing things.  Soon after I became really interested in making in my mid 20s, I became obsessed with things being perfect.  Lines had to be dead straight.  Corners had to be precise.  Errors were intolerable.  Evidence that it had been MADE rather than conjured up out of the air meant I had failed.  And I didn’t think anything I made could stand up to being touched or used by anyone. It was horrible.  Stressful for everyone – I remember a friend taking me for a walk through the university garden one lunch time to show me that there were no straight lines in nature.  And my husband declared that if something I made couldn’t be USED than it simply wasn’t of any use.  After a few years of this my making ground to a halt because I knew I could not make things perfectly.  I decided that the only craft I was any good at was cross stitch – making those little crosses neatly on strictly gridded fabric met my need for order and the perfect finish.  I literally gave all my wool and knitting needles to my Nanny and declared that I would have to save my few finished quilt tops up until I could afford to pay an expert to quilt them. It was all rather crushing.

Then, after finding the bloggy world of making and being so utterly inspired by so many incredibly talented people, I began making again.  I also began blogging  and strangely enough, that encouraged me to just keep going.  There was always a new blog post to be written ;-) I began playing with many different techniques and genres and it was so fun that I slowly let go of that perfection.  I wanted to be a maker – a sewer, a knitter, a crocheter, a doll maker, a patchworker, a quilter, an appliquer … I really worked at teaching myself that the beauty of making was in the making.  I didn’t want to be a passive observer, I wanted to actively create.

quilting

So my seams are not perfectly straight and my points are sometimes missing. I cheerfully re-chop things if they don’t fit, and if I realise I’ve missed something on the pattern I can usually rejig it so it works. My quilting is higgledy-piggledy and I never bother with batting and backing (vintage blankets all the way).  I don’t care what patchwork fabrics are the latest or what colour background the cool quilters are using.  I cheerfully make my clothes out of old tablecloths and curtains.  My quilts are made from fabrics gathered here, there and everywhere.  My knitting is almost always dictated by what my local yarn store has dug up for the bargain basement this week.  My furniture is gathered from the side of the road and brought back to life with elbow grease and Danish oil.

blanket quilting

I just keep swimming the Lily way and when I’m finished, what I’ve loved making is free to be used and worn and dragged and squashed and crumpled up and that’s all good.  If the candlewax drips onto the appliqued table cloth that’s fine.  If the armhole stitches are wonky – so what, the jumper is still eminently wearable and cosy.  If the little visitor dirties the felt doll, oh well, it looks loved.  I don’t even blink when Mum’s old dog pees on my quilt or our dog wipes her chicken wing juicy chin on my crochet floor rug.

cushion in the sand

That’s not to say my work is clumsy or I am careless.  But I think handmade needs to flow in a way that fits in with everything else that is going on.  It’s not a precious art form that I set aside a few hours for each day/week or a finished item that needs to be guarded.  My work is simply part of our lives, often created amongst the dishes we’ve just eaten from on the kitchen table, and as such, never needs to be perfect or cosseted.  Just lovely. And useful is good too.

Why do I write and create the way I do?

You might have noticed,  I have no problem with writing on and on and on (I have never been able to write to a word limit – such a constant problem with my academic work :-) and whilst my punctuation is sometimes erratic, my style is rather formal. But, this being my blog, I can write however I like.  And I think it probably reflects both the constant chatter in my head, and my love of richly detailed, more old fashioned literature (oh Charles Dickens – you can take as many pages as you like to describe a house!) Honestly, I do talk to myself most of the time.  I think it comes from spending a lot of time at home alone – first as a stay at home mum, and now living in Melbourne where I have no family or friends to visit.  Instead, I potter about, doing the chores, looking after Abby and Julian, writing essays, or making – a constant stream of quiet chatter keeping me company. Describing what I see around me, what I could do next, how I could proceed with a project, what tack I’ll take on a paper, what I’ll talk about with Abby when I collect her from school, what I’ll write about on the blog, what’s infuriating me in the news, what my worries are for the future …  And so my writing reflects this same tumbling chatter.  If you were sitting here beside me, I would sound exactly the same in person as I do in writing :-)

Why do I create the way I do – hmmm … I like to do things the old fashioned way.  I don’t like our society’s emphasis on new and modern, fashionable and sophisticated, fleeting and disposable.  My grandmothers and mum taught me the basics of all my making.  Nanny Cottam taught me to knit when I was 8, crochet in my teens, and her love of patchwork inspired me when I was in my early 20s.  We went to classes together and have spent countless days side by side at her place, running up clothes, curtains, sofa covers, patchwork etc. on the machine, looking through magazines and books together, plotting our next projects and purchases … my dear old Nanny Cottam is without doubt the most important creative force in my life.  Her admonition when the going gets tricky “Now, let’s just sit down and we’ll have a quiet look at it” will guide my creativity for the rest of my days.

Nanny Dougall – who sadly died when I was just 11 – is another huge influence in my life.  She was the queen of making do, making from scratch, using what she had, and appreciating beauty.  She taught me to handsew when I was little – we made a wee doll’s quilt from little squares from her stash.  She started me on my embroidery career – first with making wonky white crosses on blue gingham, then moving on to a Holly Hobbie embroidery kit.  And whilst we cared for her during her last weeks, she taught me to make pompoms – I was so amazed with their cleverness.  My little sister and I were devastated to wake up one morning and find that she’d died overnight – she was going to teach us to crochet that day.  But whilst I never had the chance to spend the time with her that I have with Nanny Cottam, it is what she left me that helps shape my creativity.  I have her crochet books, her carefully embroidered doilies, the beautifully crocheted and knitted jumpers and cardigans she made us, the fabric scraps she gathered, the spools of crochet yarn she inherited from her mother, pieces of pretty china, her piano stool, her tin chest.  She appreciated what she had, she carefully gathered what was important to her, and she celebrated beauty.

And then there’s my Mum.  She’s an exceptional seamstress.  She sewed all our clothes when we were little and most of them when we were older.  She sewed my school uniforms, my ball gowns, my  pregnancy clothes, Abby’s bunny rugs … There has always been a sewing machine set up in the centre of the home, ready to go.  Everything we’ve ever seen and liked is matched to the refrain “We could make that”.  Mum gave me the invaluable belief that we could make whatever we needed or wanted, and we could make it beautifully.  She also let me make stupid things really badly.  When I insisted that WAS what the Vogue pattern said to do, she just shrugged her shoulders and said “alright” and I wore the jumpsuit with the lining sewed in with  the seams visible and fraying.  That was awesome parenting Mum!

So yep.  I’m wordy, old fashioned, hopelessly sentimental, determined to do it for myself, and yearn for the days of old when people DID things instead of simply shopped for things.

How does my creative process work?

Hmmm … I think my work is very much shaped by my confidence with that particular genre.  When knitting, I tend to stick very carefully to what the pattern says because at this stage in my knitting “career”, I don’t have a good understanding of how knitting patterns are created.  All those shapes and increases and decreases are all a bit of a mystery to me.  I mean, I know how to do them, but I don’t know how to put them together myself.  Thus I am very happy to bow down to the creativity and skill of those that know so much more.  However, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the magic of knitting – how did people come to think of winding yarn around sticks and pulling it in and out in different ways to create all kinds of wonderful stitches and build beautiful, warm, hardy fabric.  I love that.  It makes me feel incredibly connected to something that has intrigued, delighted and protected people for thousands of years.

sewing feet

In most of my other work, my increasing confidence with how things are put together has led me away from the patterns of others.  I like to draft my own patterns and most of my projects are inspired by what I see about me, what my family likes or is doing, and especially thinking up ways to add extra handmade decoration to our home and the festivals we celebrate.  I adore decoration – I remember seeing the film “Carrington” when I was at university in the late 1980s, watching Dora Carrington and her friends embellish everything around them, and thinking yes!  That’s exactly what I want my world/home to be like.  Colourful, rich, detailed, so very connected to the past, unique to me and my family (I have a loathing of the homeware catalogue look) and most importantly handmade.  I want my work to please me and be lovely and useful for my family but I also want it to show the world what it is we love and value.

craft table

The grill door on an Art Deco block of flats in Fitzroy becomes a simple quilt. The photo of a fox in a English rural magazine marries the lovely rounded shape of a hard rubbish chair and becomes a piece of embroidered and appliqued upholstery.  The lovely artwork of my Nanny’s Figgjo china collection inspires me to recreate it as embroidery.  I see a pretty piece of fabric in the shop and wonder what it could be, what it could go with – it can be as simple as wrapping hebel bricks to make a bookshelf or trim a skirt.  A book of antique samplers inspires the start of a huge and complex quilt with hundreds of tiny pieces and seams.  A collection of coloured china on the draining rack makes me want to sew a quilt or knit a stripey jumper capturing just that light and colour.  It comes from everywhere, my creativity

dresser

Most of all, it’s very spontaneous and cheerfully repurposes what was bought for another project because at that moment, it’s the perfectly right thing to do.

Wow!  We made it to the end!  Now.  I am supposed to be linking you to another maker however, with the end of the school term, a quick holiday in Merimbula, and Julian’s departure on a month long work trip to addle my brain, I’ve not lined anyone up.  I’m so sorry.  However, I am sending out some emails right now so I will let you know where to visit next as soon as I can :-)

While you wait – go make something – it’s just so good.

skirt trim.

 

 

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!

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.

christmas

Such a merry Christmas round here with moments of …

the boot

:: packing ::

last minute sewing

:: last minute stitching ::

under the tree

:: receiving ::

gifting

:: giving ::

tieing the pudding

:: tying ::

steaming

:: steaming ::

dancing

:: dancing ::

cooking

:: cooking ::

brining

:: brining ::

snacking

:: feasting :

reading

:: reading and re-reading old and new Christmas favourites ::

relaxing

:: relaxing  ::

picture making:: reflecting on and sharing what
Christmas means to us and why we love it so ::

Thank you for all of your encouragement and friendship throughout 2013.
It means so much to me and so often provides the extra oomph I need to push me through the busy and demanding times we often find ourselves in.

I do hope you and those you hold dear are enjoying a wonderful festive season,
whatever your special celebration, and that there is much love, kindness and joy.

stitching for martinmas

don't want it to end

Ah the best laid plans and all, huh!  I am in the throes of writing a tutorial on pinwheels and squares within squares.  It was to be all done and dusted by the end of the weekend and posted here for my mum, for any of you dear readers who are interested, and for me to check back on when the need arises.

But those best laid plans are sometimes so easily lost .  There I was on Saturday, beautiful weather, all my sewing things set up on the table outside – even my machine and iron, under the umbrella, sun, gentle breeze – such good spring jolliness – stitching and writing and photo-taking – having a blast!  And then I got stung by a bee.  I’m a little bit allergic to bees (my father is SUPER allergic to bees) and so we do take bee stings a little bit seriously – 25 mg of Phenergan and constant supervision from a reliable adult seriously.  So my outdoor sewing fun came to an abrupt stop.  I took my tablet, and spent the rest of the afternoon traipsing around after Julian (he had things to do and I needed to stay close just in case I began to puff up) and dozing on the banana lounge.  Hmm.  So much for the patchwork tutorial.

Sunday – dreadful weather so no more outside sewing.  Besides, I had the worst Phenergan hangover and spent the day in a bit of a fog.  The patchwork tutorial – nope.  Monday – lovely stay at home day for everyone (funny old Melbourne with its extra long weekend for a HORSE RACE).  Abby visited friends, we did some shoppings.  The plan was to finish the tutorial …. but …. see, I bought a lovely red velvet cushion cover at Ikea and I had this idea …

A special felt appliqued cushion for Martinmas!  It had been fluttering around my imagination for a while, and you know, with those best laid plans scattered from one end of the house to another, it just seemed this was the perfect time to settle down to a good bit of stitching.  I know I’ve said this before … I love making pictures with felt and embroidery.  Love, love, love.  I’ve discovered I’m especially fond of saints – maybe I was an iconographer in a former life?

So, I settled down at the kitchen table with my tracing paper, suitcase of felt, and google for some pointers on just what St. Martin looked like and off I went.  Such.  Bliss.  Did I say I WANT to be an iconographer?  One who works with felt and embroidery.  Yes please.  Sign me up now.

Today … why more of the same loveliness.  And thankfully, the beautiful weather was back, we all headed outside and there were no more bee stings.  Phew!  Instead there was sooo much stitching, game playing, breakfast, lunch and cocktails, reading, drawing, angle grinding … the rabbits cut the grass, the chickens dug dirt holes and sunbathed in them, the dog danced on her back legs trying to catch flies … perfection.

As for St. Martin – so close to being finished.  I just have to add the other cross to his lapel thingy.  And finish his book.  And then stitch him onto the red velvet and bob’s your uncle.  And it’s not even Martinmas until next Tuesday!

drawing smile felt suitcase putting the pieces together setting up outside favourite inspiration a tangle of thread part of the story dappled light game

If I had to choose one thing I love best about my St. Martin, it would have to be his wrinkles.  I was a bit unsure about stitching them in, but he just looked too smooth and young as he was so I took a deep breath and began stitching.  I think they really worked out well!  Will certainly be using wrinkles in future works.

And all the colour.  I love colour.  I love reading about how churches and statues in medieval and renaissance times were chock full of colour – every little thing brilliantly illuminated in glorious colour.  Why not, I say.  Wouldn’t it an absolute wonder to restore all that colour to the ancient churches of England and Europe.  Woot!  That’s why my St. Martin is a richly coloured dear.

ageing him the back

I’m always a bit partial to the back of my work.  It’s like a puzzle – sometimes you can almost see it, other times you can’t.

finally the book inside

Now – thinking ahead – I’ve already done St. Lucia.  Definitely need to do St. Nicholas.  Perhaps the Three Wise Kings?  Mary?  Absolutely!  And Wencelas?  Definitely need to do Wencelas!  Thank goodness I had a Catholic schooling – it’s given me so many to choose from!

B3

tucked in

Oh I love vintage blankets.  Look at that colour and texture … just sings of warmth and comfort and homeliness, doesn’t it.  In that warp and weft are held the stories of Australian farmers and shearers, of local woollen mills and their talented weavers, of a time when small country towns produced their own woollen goods that were both beautiful and useful.  Of families whose working lives and security were woven into these blankets.  Of families who were warmly tucked in, year after year after year.

This beautiful specimen – a Physicians Standard Chillproof had a few holes by the time it found its way to Bootville.  And a few marks that no amount of gentle washing could remove.  So pieces have been carefully cut from it to make this and that.

This weekend … the first of my Scrabble cushions … inspired by a gathering of similar cushions at a cafe in nearby Hartwell.   And as we Boots just love our Scrabble, it seemed very fitting that I should make us some, designing my letters to be as similar to the lettering on our Scrabble tiles as I could manage.

at the tram stop binding and bark three standard chill proof

It didn’t dawn on me, until I had cut my letter and its score from the felt (pure wool, bought from one of our favourite stores, Winterwood) just how apt the B’s score is – three!  B for our wee Boot family and there are three of us – it was meant to be.  Since that moment I can’t stop humming this sweet song …

Three is a magic number.
Yes it is, it’s a magic number.
Somewhere in the ancient, mystic trinity
You get three as a magic number.
The past and the present and the future,
Faith and hope and charity,
The heart and the brain and the body
Give you three.
That’s a magic number.

It takes three legs to make a tri-pod or to make a table stand.
It takes three wheels to make a ve-hicle called a tricycle.
Every triangle has three corners,
Every triangle has three sides,
No more, no less.
You don’t have to guess.
When it’s three you can see it’s a magic number.

A man and a woman had a little baby.
Yes, they did.
They had three in the family.
That’s a magic number.

(written by Bob Dorough in 1973 for School House Rock!)

… our favourite rendition of which is sung by Elizabeth Mitchell on her lovely album “Your are my sunshine”.  I used to sing it over and over to Abby when she was little – I felt like it was written just for us :-)

looking down on the bricks

Without doubt, there have been many times over the last 20 years when I have longed to add another child to our family.  But you know, three is so very magical.  A special closeness comes with three, a connection that is present every single day … a small and constant cosiness just as warm and comforting as this here blanket.  I cherish it so very much.

a pretty kitchen curtain

I know I shall be making home – with glee and pleasure –  for the rest of my life.  Every time I pass an unusual gate, pore over the photos in a thoughtfully edited magazine, notice the way a group of colours dance together, realise how the light illuminates a particular corner of my home, or find a quaint piece of furniture on the footpath, I am inspired to move things round, pick up thread and scissors, and gather fabric.

For me, this is how our homes are built.  Piece by piece, with what captures the imagination at that moment.  Sometimes I try to plan what projects I will tackle – and sometimes I wish I could stick to a more precise schedule – but such lists usually fall by the wayside, as I am swept up in the moment of what I’ve noticed today.

Last week … this little pile of hand-embroidered, hand-crocheted doilies caught my eye.  They were stuffed into a bookshelf at a local op shop – STAPLED together.  Home they came.  Mum could see an eclectically decorated skirt.  I thought straight away of my work-in-constant-progress home and knew I wanted to look at these doilies every day.  Admire the tiny neat and skilful stitches and persistence of an embroiderer who made eight matching doilies.

They needed to become a curtain.  (“Ah!” said my family, “Another Lily curtain!”) A kitchen curtain!

pile of doilies

I made up the background of my curtain first – a piece of diaphanous bone coloured cotton that has an ever so slight print of neat metallic circles on it.  With a top and bottom border of wine red stripes.  Then I tackled the doilies – roughly tracing the back of each one onto vlisefix – I wanted them to sit completely flush against the background fabric and vlisefix is just the way to achieve this.

trace the doilies

There was much back and forth until they were in a pattern that felt right … as soon as I laid them on the background fabric, these linen doilies with their red and blackwork became gorgeous handpainted plates from an old Eastern European farmhouse taken carefully down from a kitchen dresser.

position them

Then, artfully ignoring both last night’s and this morning’s washing up, I carefully sewed as close to edge of each doily as I could, making sure they would never move.

ignore the mess

I even hung the new curtain without doing said dishes – having to take special care not to drag the richly striped border across sticky crumbs and soaking pans – ahh the efforts I’ll go to when a project simply must be finished before anything else can happen :-)  Do you get like that?  ’Course you do!

hang the curtain from the other side little plates little plates length ways little reflecting circles pushed open

As soon as I hung this curtain, oh my heart sang!  It’s just lovely for our kitchen – the red matches our red kettle and mixing bowls and clock and baking dishes and kitchenaid.  We quite like red ;-) The white is just the right weight to close out the night but, when pushed back, let in the sun (not that there was any today).  And that image of plates – it was meant to be.  There was ample time to tweak and fluff and admire before frantically chucking everything into the sink and racing around the kitchen to restore some order …

all ready for julian… before Julian arrived home.  Not that he’d ever notice or mind if chores weren’t done but it’s part of making home isn’t it.   A nourishing daily practice – a way of expressing my love for my family and the little world we have created together – that I will never tire of.

 

winter warmth

:: A simple recipe for a warm winter’s eve ::

stained glass lamp

light the lamps

slippers and flannel skirt

pull on your fleecy slippers and a cosy flannel skirt

shawl

snuggle a soft knitted shawl round your shoulders

tea

share steaming cups of tea

hot water bottles

& whilst brewing tea, make hot water bottles

muscat

add a wee glass of muscat – warms the throat so sweetly

lucy

then make like the doggles … 

quilt

… & burrow into a quilt

doggles

if hot water bottles aren’t your thing, make the most of smoochy doggles

knitting& settle down for a very warming, very peaceful start to the weekend
with a basket of knitting

This family recipe has been well tested & guarantees success everytime!

a felt pocket book

I love baskets … especially old ones.  Each time I find one by the side of the road, or at the oppie, home it comes.  After a good scrubbing they are usually filled with one of my many “current” projects.  This means there seems to be a perpetual need for extra baskets in Bootville :-)

last supplies the finishing touch

in my basket

It also means that the baskets regularly venture out with me.  To university, to babysitting, to the shops, on adventures.  Anywhere where there might be a need for notebooks and laptop, or a moment for knitting a few rows, or adding a few more stitches to an embroidery.  There are *always* such moments.  Having a basket slung over my arm also means that I don’t always need my handbag.  But I do like to be able to put my hand to purse, phone and keys quickly – something that can’t easily happen when they have been buried by wool or fabric.  And so … the felt pocket book.  Started last year, finished last week.  Hand stitched out of exceptionally rigid thick felt. I had to use the rubbery grippy fabric we use in the kitchen to open tight jam jar lids just to pull the needle through!  Measured to snugly fit each of those three essentials.

a pocket book what it holds back pocket

Decorated with a wee bit of applique, embroidery and needle felting.  Finished off with a pair of pretty buttons and a long tail of red ribbon to weave back and forth around the buttons in a figure 8 … the kind of ribbon that makes me think of old manilla folders, bound up with ribbon before being stored in cavernous cellars.

clasp close up of girl and dress in hand

I’m so pleased I finally finished this very useful little pocketbook (oh my, I can surely procrastinate!) and it’s so sturdy I’m sure it will put in many years of practical service.  The best kind of crafting – the hand making at home of objects which I know to be useful and believe to be beautiful.  Thank you Mr. Morris – your marvellous words inspire me everyday :-)

embroidery basket

a lighthouse to warm my way

finished

Done!  After a “bit brisk” start to the morning … bit brisk is how my Grandad describes cold weather – you know, frost on the grass, the temperature gauge has almost hit zero and he goes out to feed the chickens and ducks in his shorts, a short sleeved shirt, work boots and the vest my mother knitted him when she was 15 (acutally it was a jumper but Nanny pulled out the sleeves), and when we said “Shut the door!  It’s freezing!”  he would reply, “Oh it isn’t!  It’s just a bit brisk” … there was an opportunity to toast myself on the front porch, coffee beside me, hand sewing on my lap.  Lovely way to settle into the day ahead.

This is my new hot water bottle cosy.  A lovely project to sneak into the long line of things that need finishing – instead of eating a whole packet of Bloomers (the kosher version of oreos and very good too!) to celebrate finishing my essays – I painted the lovely Green Cape Lighthouse that lives in my mind’s eye with felt and thread.  Virtuous huh!

the beginning

Started by drawing my pattern …

just a lighthouse

… and pinning it on to a piece of thrifted, vintage blanket.  I adore this blue check blanket – the only blue one I’ve ever found.  Despite being blue and white – colours not usually associated with the warm spectrum – it’s just so cosy looking.  And so very appropriate for a lighthouse.  I can just imagine the lighthouse keeper’s family snuggled under blue checked blankets in the keeper’s cottage as outside, the sea roars beneath the jagged cliff, the wind flattens those trees behind them just a little more, and the rain washes everything bare.  Green Cape is a dramatic part of the coastline – I’m sure the generations of lighthouse families that lived there saw a thing or two.

out come the threads

I loooooooooove getting out the thread box.  Such prettiness.

startingAnd over the weekend, in lazy hours here and there, I added more and more colour.

on the front porch

I’m very pleased with the lighthouse – it looks just like Green Cape.  Including the little domed building attached to the side.  I wonder what they did in there?  I’ve not had the pleasure of a lighthouse tour – only explored the outside.  But one day I hope to venture in.  In fact, you can stay in the lighthouse keeper’s cottage – oh my goodness, that would be my version of the ULTIMATE holiday.  Then I would truly feel as if I was part of the Famous Five :-)

radiant

But my favourite part of the cosy, hands down, is the sun rising up from the jewelled waves.  I love the image of a rising sun … I think there shall be more on this later in the week.

stitching

As per usual, I finished the edges with a quilt binding – some leftover floral for the top edges and left over blue from a quilt top I’ve been piecing over the last few days (yeah, like we needed another quilt top … it’s Abby’s fault … she insisted … don’t listen to her … she did!).

with the binding

Let’s look at the sun again, yes?  I adore felt appliques.  Ahhhhh … building up the picture with layers of wool and stitches until it is quite thick and so very textured.  It’s my favourite medium.

little rounded part

There it is again – the little domed part of the building … and the step like sides.  It does have those – they’re cut into the sides of the lighthouse.  Can’t imagine they serve any other purpose than being beautiful.  A very fine consideration for a building … something I think is sorely lacking in the ugly, utilitarian, here-one-moment-gone-the next rubbish we build today.

light and birds

The light and a few seagulls.  I don’t know what kind of light they had at Green Cape – I shall have to look it up.  But when you’re working with felt – a simple representation will do.

waves and sun

And there’s that sun and waves again.  Love!

with hot water bottle

Oh it will be so cosy when it’s nestled against me with a nice hot water bottle inside.  BTW – with regards to safety and hot water bottles, last night on the news, they reported the death of an elderly lady who heated her wheat bag up so much that when she took it to bed with her, it set fire to her bed and killed her!  How awful!  Tests done in England by the Fire Brigade have suggested you have to heat your wheat bag for 20 minutes to get it to the combustible stage.  Unbelievable.  We don’t have a microwave so have always used hot water bottles and I know they can scald if they’re not done up properly or if the rubber has perished and it leaks.  But I do think commonsense and a little bit of care keeps one safe and we’ve never had a problem.

all ready for tonight

I’m especially glad to have finished my hot water bottle cosy because I’ve hurt my back and oh that heat does feel lovely when it’s squished in behind me.  And no, I didn’t hurt it by manouvering hard rubbish into my car.  Or spending hours scrapping and scrubbing the dear little English Oak, drop leafed, gate-legged table that came home with us from the oppie on Sunday.  Or even sitting for too long at the sewing machine.  No.  I hurt it whilst at the loo.  Sitting on the loo to be precise – and twisting and leaning down to retrieve the loo roll holder that had fallen and rolled behind the cistern.  I blame my family.  If only I wasn’t the ONLY member of Bootville to actually change the loo roll, I would never have been in that position!  At least that’s what I’m telling myself ;-)

But all is well, because I have a dear little woollen, appliqued lighthouse to warm my winter.  Bliss!

 

what we did with two sleeps to go


: choosing : measuring : slicing : pinning : stitching : folding : delighting :

: needle-felting : blanket-stitching : embroidering :  pleasing :

: ruffling : appliqueing : not-overlocking : fuming :

: cursing : threading : cursing : threading : cursing : crumbling :

: zigzagging : ironing : delivering : giving :

: sweating : wilting : melting :

: sliding into bed :

what we did with three sleeps to go

… to the sewing shed …

:: stitching & hanging ::

With the last stitches made, it’s time to hang our sweet gingerbread from some pretty piping.  And then … onto the piano.  Oh I do so love the blue of this blanket – it shall always remind me of the beautiful blue sky summer days we enjoyed in the this week before Christmas, 2012.


:: gathering & hemming ::

My favourite nightdress pattern – switched around with the buttons at the back.  And a lovely vintage doily for the bodice.  Needs some extra steam where I inadvertently pleated the front of the bodice onto the skirt whilst sewing the waist seam.  And some overlocking and the buttons – pah!  trivialities all of them :-)  Then, this year’s nightdress will be all ready to lay upon my girlie’s pillow for her to pop on after midnight mass.



:: quarters of inches & half square triangles ::

Oh dear, I’m either very silly, ridiculously optimistic … both?  Or maybe, simply carried away with Christmas spirit?  Yes, let’s say that – makes it all sound so jolly! When I found this small piece of Moomi fabric yesterday, I quickly decided to ditch the skirt I had planned to make Abby for Christmas, and whip up a Moomi quilt instead, seeing as all things Moomi had been requested.

It is a make it up as I go along quilt – with a make do mentality – all the fabric is from the stash – and if that long piece of sashing needs to be pieced from four odd lengths, then so be it.

The nine patches are now done, and in the morning, I shall sneak back out to the sewing shed with the sun, tea in my hand, the fluffy one no doubt trotting alongside me, and finish the border – there’ll be houses hiding in amongst a Marimekko forest.

Oh this will be such a lovely, fresh and sparkling quilt – and there’s that beautiful blue blanket for its back.  I know Abby will put it to good use, snuggling under it in her bed, draping it round her whilst reading in her armchair under the window, taking it with her on long drives, curling up on it in the backgarden …  she’s so very satisfying to sew for, this girl of mine :-)  (Either that or she’s an awfully good tricker!)

How are your Christmas preparations coming along dear folk?  Almost there?  Feet up and done already?

So looking forward to the morning!