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.

finally – the stevenson sweater and a book about lighthouses

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long!  And a heart felt thankyou to all the lovely folk who visited here last week.  Thank you so much for your kind words – I look forward to catching up with more of your lovely knitting this week!

last of the kitchener stitch

I really think – hope – that 2014 is going to be the year I finish lots of knitting – as opposed to just starting :-)  Saturday morning saw me brave the techniques needed to finish off my Stevenson Sweater (raveled here) – a whole lot of sewing in of ends (not difficult, but ends that with hindsight and a little more experience, I did not need to create) and the grafting of the armholes with kitchener stitch.  Not only does Kate write lovely patterns, including lovely armholes, but her beautiful book “Colours of Shetland” provides excellent and simple to follow instructions for kitchener stitch.  Really, I don’t know what I was so afraid of.

Actually, I do.  I think a lot of my not-finishing-things in a timely manner can be put down to this silly thought – if I don’t finish them, then I don’t have to assess whether or not they are a success.   If the cardigan is never finished, then I never have to critically look at what I’ve made, identify where I can improve, and seek to improve my skills.  Unfinished items are just lovely to work on – they don’t have to be anything.  Do you know what I mean?  When it’s actually finished, then it has to stand on its own two feet.  Yes?  Do you ever experience this feeling?  Sometimes I can become completely bogged in it.  Has even been known to stop me from giving people presents I’ve handmade for them.

Well, mayhaps 2014 will not only be the year of finishing, but a year of growing.  An opportunity to look at what I finish, be grateful for the loveliness I have created, enjoy my projects for being an illustration of where I’m at skill wise, and look forward to using that skill again, only next time, with a little more finesse.  Or maybe, appreciate that not everything has to be perfect and that I can love my knits for being my knits and not fret over their shortcomings.  That would be even nicer :-)

yellow stockings the beach my lovely abby

on to the next sotp

her cute shoes

(my lovely photographer and her very natty new shoes she very sweetly agreed to come to the beach with me– icy wind and all – to indulge me in my photo wanting)

Anyways!  Back to the Stevenson Sweater.  When Kate first shared glimpses of the projects in her Colours of Shetland book, I fell instantly in love with this stranded knitting, short sleeved jumper.  I loved the colours, loved the stripes, loved that it was styled on lighthouses which I adore, and loved the story behind the Stevenson lighthouses!  I read the book Kate recommended – it was fascinating – if you have a thing for lighthouses, like me, I highly recommend it.  I devoured it in 2 nights and wished it could have gone on forever.

So, I put Kate’s book and the beautiful Shetland Island yarn required for this jumper (and the Puffin Jumper which is also waiting for a finish) on my list for Father Christmas that year.  And sure enough, there it was under the tree for me on Christmas morn.  Funny story – I was too busy on Christmas Day to pick up the needles but come Boxing Day, I couldn’t wait to cast on those golden stitches.  Mum and Abby went out early – shopping – Aunty Anne (who was staying with us) caught the train west to spend the day with old school friends, Julian was engrossed in a Christmas book and I – well, I was beside myself with anticipation.  I laid my yarn out on the round table in the living room.  I placed my needles beside it.  I made a cup of tea.  I went to fetch the book – and couldn’t find it.

I searched the house.  I tore the house apart.  I looked under every chair, table, bed and sideboard.  Piles of books and magazines were scattered, helter-skelter.  I even looked in all the tote bags and the car.  I pestered Julian.  I rang Abby and Mum – several times.  I looked for over 2 hours,  all the while growing more frantic (cranky).  How could I have lost the book in less than 24 hours!!!  It seemed manifestly unfair!  I had been waiting for this moment for almost 2 months.

Then, finally, I searched under the front passenger seat in the car.  And there it was.  I had given it to Mum to look at on Christmas Day as we drove to the airport to collect Aunty Anne – and she had put it under the front seat.  Don’t know why.  But she did.  Then we both forgot about it.  Sigh!

walking to the jetty
there was a fellow swimming

(This is me looking askance at a person swimming!
Port Philip Bay is freezing in summer let alone the last week in autumn)

the crazy folk the bag from the front close up of neck and shoulder

Most of the body was knitted on Mum’s front porch.  The perfect spot for a lighthouse sweater.  Sitting there drenched in sun, buffeted by the seabreeze, pretty parrots and kangaroos in attendance, the beautiful Pacific Ocean rolling and sparkling before me, little fishing boats darting across the Bar.  All the while, dreaming of lighthouses and when I would wear my Stevenson Sweater to our lighthouse – the Green Cape Lighthouse.  It’s not been there yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.

on the jetty watching the boat raglan sleeve

The Jamieson Jumper weight wool is truly gorgeous to work with.  I adore it.  It’s got a lovely lightness to it, a sweet fuzziness, and it just melds together so beautifully.  Their colour range is lovely too.  And it’s from Shetland sheep who’ve roamed Shetland Island, been sheared there, their wool spun there, dyed there, and then these beautiful little balls of yarn made their way all the way down here, from the top of the world to the bottom of the world.  Magic, yes?  I want to knit in Jamieson for the rest of my knitting days.

with the jetty behind photos for mym

Well now, I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from finishing the Puffin Sweater (wait til you hear what happened to part of that pattern – oy!).  Well except, that I’m knitting a stripey jumper for Mum.  And still have Julian’s Argyle to finish.

But right now, I’m about to hop into bed with my copy of “The Lighthouse Stevensons” and another old favourite – Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife” – I heard her on the radio the other day and she was so marvellous I want to read all her books over again.

my hippie cardigan and the books I’m longing to read

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long.

That’s the name of the pattern – the hippie cardigan – such a sweet creation from the lovely and talented Meiju from Finland.  I so recommend you check her out here and here – her knitting and designs are beautiful.

in the garden

I so enjoyed knitting this cardigan.  I love the pattern – easy to follow, gorgeous construction.  I love the wool I chose – Cleckheaton Naturals for the stripes and a lovely discontinued Cleckheaton merino and silk blend for the rest of body and arms.  The cardigan in the pattern is intended as a summer cardigan and so is in beautiful summery colours – I wanted rich warm colours for winter so went for a much darker palette.   I would knit the hippie cardigan again without hesitation.

side on

And that’s exactly what I may have to do …

squinty

When I began knitting this cardie – way back in January? – I was 12 kilos heavier than I am now.  So what was a fitted bodice is now a baggy bodice – and a couple of stripes too long – and the raglans don’t provide that lovely – wanted – crisp definition for my shoulders.  Bugger.

kind of hairy

There’s just so much fabric around my upper body and armholes.  Such looseness in the upper sleeves.  And yet I think, as a cardigan, it is really pretty.  I love the garter stitch bands.  I love the crocheted edging.  I love the one piece construction.  I love raglan shaping.  I love how the “skirt” flares out slightly.  I adore the leather buttons Julian made me.  I love how I’ve shrunk.  I just don’t like how the cardigan didn’t shrink along with me ;-)

the bottom

It’s just a wee bit too big.  And given I’m still hoping to lose another 6 kilos – it will only get bigger.  It would be awesome if I COULD shrink it.  But that is such a finger shredding, imperfect science.  Knowing my luck, the cardigan would end up fitting Fu.

from the back

I know I shall want to wear it.  I put so many hours of knitty pleasure into this – and I even finished it –  of course I want to wear it!  And it will be lovely and cosy.  It’s just too baggy.

Hmmmm …. maybe I will just need to knit another, smaller hippie cardigan and I can have one for around the home when cosy comfort is the name of the game.  And one for when I want a little more pizzazz.  Oh dear, that will mean more wool.  And more knitting.  Such a shame.

As for my reading …. well, it’s the Sydney Writer’s Festival this week and every day I’ve heard fabulous authors being interviewed about their books on Radio National.  My favourites include Andrew Solomon and his book “Far From the Tree”  and Karima Bennoune and her book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here”.

I’ve heard/seen Andrew twice now and am so very impressed with the love and compassion he radiates for fellow human beings.  The stories he related on Margaret Throsby’s program on Monday were incredibly moving and brought me to tears on several occasions.  As a mama whose daughter is not as close to the tree as I thought she’d be, and as an almost nurse who will be caring and relating to “different” people everyday, I know that there will be a lot of helpful wisdom in this book.  And even the pain, sadness and sometimes complete shunning Andrew relates from families who simply do not cope with their different child will give me so much to think about and allow me to walk just a wee bit in the shoes of others – such an invaluable practice.  Sometimes, I think it’s easy to expect that the people we love and those we meet will, of course, do the things we expect them to do.  When they don’t, I think it’s part of being human to find this a bit surprising or even shocking.  And yet, there are so very many ways of being, that to expect any such compliance is to set yourself up for disappointment.  Don’t you think?

As for “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” – such a fascinating topic and if it’s as good as her interview on the Religion Report tonight – and as the Booklist review says – wow!  I can’t wait.  The kind of book that presents such a different and often unknown and unnoticed world to me – I LOVE that.  I felt like that about “The Sewing Circles of Herat” and “Sharon and My Mother-in-law”  – glimpses from fascinating and thoughtful people in such far away places, usually only seen in the news headlines – they so eloquently share their lived experience that it can completely transform my understanding of a place or situation.

However, I do not yet have either of these books – they feel like the books I will want to hold in my hand, flip back and forth between different stories and pages, underline with my pencil, look at on my bookshelf, take down over and over again, and waggle in front of  my family and friends.  I know you can theoretically do the same things with a kindle – but really, it’s not quite the same is it.  So I’ve ordered beautiful, real, heavy, papery copies of them and am now checking the letterbox with anticipation every day.

Until then – I might just pick up Sharon and My Mother-in-law again.  It’s been a few years since I’ve read this – just the right amount of passed time to find fresh delight in her stories again.

the night max wore his wolf suit …

big hairy feet sneaky eyes

Whatever is hiding amongst the oleander?  Oh! It’s a Wild Thing!

wild thing

Julian’s Wild Thing!  I gave it to him for his 22nd birthday – the first birthday we celebrated together. He had a copy of Where the Wild Things Are when I met him – sitting there amongst the computer programming tomes and science fiction novels.  It was his favouritest book as a little boy.  I knew it from my childhood as well – but I must confess, I had been scared of it.  So when I spied this fabulously fierce little fellow at the University Bookstore, I just knew upon whose bookshelf it would feel right at home.

closeup of wild thing

A few years later, one of my wee cousins, Alastair, came for a sleepover.  He stomped up the stairs to our flat, pleased as punch to be so grown up as to have a sleepover all by himself, and whilst his mum and I had a cup of tea, he had a little explore.  After peering into our bedroom, he ran straight back over to his mum and whispered tremulously in her ear “Mum!  There’s a Wild Thing in there!”  It was so sweet/funny – and formal introductions had to be made before Alastair could be convinced it was indeed safe to stay.

cards scattered wild thing cheating

Wild Things have been a firm favourite in Bootville ever since.  Julian’s copy of the book became very battered as it was read over and over and over to Abby – by the time she was 3, both she and I could recite the whole book off by heart!  We made a copy of the audio book, borrowed from the library, and that was played on Abby’s little tape recorder until it literally wore out.  And there’s been many games of Wild Rumpus enjoyed at the kitchen table – always accompanied by lots of shrieks and the frantic slapping down of cards.

with abby reading

When the film version came out a few years back, just before we left for Melbourne, Abby took along 5 of her lovely friends from primary school to see it for her birthday.  Oh how we all loved it.  I do think Spike Jonze did a brilliant job – no, it wasn’t an immaculate translation of the book, frame by frame, but as an interpretation it was outstanding.  Exquisitely and imaginatively filmed with such a real and touching story.  As for the soundtrack – oh I went out and bought a copy the very next day.  We used to drive around Brisbane with all the windows down, the breeze rushing in at our faces, singing along to the second track at the top of our lungs.  Even now, I only need to slip it on and that beautifully haunting, childlike music transports me.

favourite on the chair

Needless to say, when I visited Spotlight a few days before Julian’s birthday this year, and there were bolts of Wild Things fabric lined up at the counter … well, all previous birthday present plans went out the window and I made him a Wild Things quilt instead.

binding red and orange arm

I bought the red, yellow, lilac, purple and black contrasting plains at the same time, went home, sliced them up into squares with thin black strips for borders, then spent a whole afternoon puzzling over just how it was supposed to go together.  I finally settled upon this layout a) because I felt it was the most striking whilst allowing Maurice Sendak’s beautiful illustrations to shine, and b) ’cause it reminded me of strips of film – a film of the Wild Thing playing through our lives in all its incarnations.  Then I had to take Abby back to the shop with me to choose the perfect green for the border – an adventure set deep in the forest.  I have a tendency to choose very olivey greens – none of which looked right – thankfully, she knew just the appley green it needed.

I pieced it frantically over the weekend before his birthday and had it a-l-m-o-s-t quilted in time for the birthday breakfast.  Backed with a beautiful vintage blanket and quilted with my scribbly-wibbly lines.  And the binding – Julian’s idea – he wanted something with all the colours in it.

blanket looking down

The birthday boy loved it!  For the first few weeks, it graced our bed.  There is something very endearing about coming to bed late, after knitting into the wee hours, or working on an essay, to find my husband, snuggled up under his Wild Things quilt.  Especially since Julian doesn’t have any mementos from his childhood.

on the fence post touseldBut now that the cooler weather is here, he’s brought it out into the living room where he sits with it warmly tucked around his lap each eve (we’re having our second winter without heating – saved a fortune last year!).  

I adore that our quilts are shared and loved and dragged around the house, out into the car, on picnics, taken on school camps, piled up on sleepovers, squished up into balls, spread out onto the grass, cuddled into by doggles, and quietly retreated under when an afternoon nap is needed.

As for a Wild Things quilt – well it’s sure to stand the test of time.