quilting the teacloths

finished

Some tea cloths are just too pretty to subject to the washing up and scrunched up to lift hot cast iron pans – which often leads me to thinking about what nice wall hangings they would make – and yet, I rarely get around to it.

closeup

Until recently, when I tidied up all the fabric that was shoved in around our little indoor craft table and found this sweet cloth.  I bought it with Mum when we made our epic 3 day drive to Brisbane at the beginning of the year.  We’d deliberately gone well out of our way to visit this little village in the Southern Highlands which had an amazing antique store.  Only when we finally got there – our pennies burning their way through our purses – the store had closed two years earlier after its owners had died.  So sad! We found this out at the Alpaca store – where we also found these lovely tea cloths by the very talented Australian artist – Red Tractor Designs.  I adore her work because it IS so very Australian.  Every piece I see brings a smile of recognition to my face – I can imagine the sun, the smells, the warmth …

I bought this one because it made me think of the future Julian and I are planning – see there’s me off to the left planting some seeds and Julian doing important digging on the right :-)


future lily

future jules

- and Mum bought another lovely one for dear old Nanny.  You can check out more of Rachael Flynn’s wonderful work here. Her Christmas cards are especially lovely – no snowmen or ice skaters in sight! – a girl after my own Australian heart.

cocoa lorax

The bright squares of colour against the black makes me think of licorice allsorts – another sentimental reminder of my childhood.  And the brown – why it’s that Lorax again (I bought metres and metres of him at Darn Cheap one day – I daresay he will keep popping up in things) – ’cause he’s the best gardener of all.

pocket for hangin

On the back there’s a wee pocket for hanging and lots of squiggles … I tried out a few new wobby quilting strategies on this.  Tried quilting round the loraxs – didn’t really work so well.  And made little loopy circles in the licorice allsorts squares.  They worked better and are definitely something I will keep practising. Oh and there’s a pocket at the bottom as well – I’m going to put another wooden rod in there and hopefully it will help it hanging straighter against the wall.

lots of squiggles

trees
first line

second line

And where’s it hanging now?  In the funniest little nook we have between the kitchen and the toilet.  That’s right – our only toilet is off the kitchen.  Let me tell you how much guests enjoy using our toilet when we’re all gathered in the kitchen ;-)  Funny story – sorry if I’ve already shared this – but Abby and I found our sweet little house during a hectic week in October the year before we moved.  It was quite the adventure, finding properties online whilst in the hotel room in the city, then catching trams and trains and walking for miles everywhere to see them.  Was particularly galling to spend 2 hours travelling to view a house that was hideously unsuitable and totally misrepresented online.

Anyways – we found our little house and snapped it up on the spot – without Julian.  He said he trusted us.  Only when he arrived weeks later with the furniture, he called – part bemused, part frantic – because according to him, Abby and I had rented a house with NO TOILET.

Now when he first said this, given all the appalling properties we had viewed, it didn’t seem completely implausible and I burst into tears.  ”Oh no!” I shrieked, “how could it have no toilet.  Surely they couldn’t rent a house with no toilet!”  Thankfully, Julian kept wandering through the house and finally exclaimed with relief “Found it!  It’s right out in the back corner – through a funny little door off the kitchen!” Phew!

tucked in its corner

And where the quilt is hanging – that was a locked screen door into the back garden with no other means of closing it.  Let me tell you how cold that was!  Made you think twice about going to the toilet on a cold night.  It didn’t take long before we whacked up a protective piece of MDF.

glowing

So now, on the way to our funny toilet, you’ll see this pretty quilt and hopefully think of nice things – instead of the fact that everyone in the kitchen will hear you pee.

 

 

rolling beeswax :: a recipe

sheets of beeswax

:: take some sheets of heavenly scented, perfectly formed beeswax
- sigh with thanks & wonder over the hard work
& meticulous nature of the honey bee

wick

:: gather specially woven cotton wick, scissors for wick cutting,
& sacrificial scissors for beeswax cutting

bury the wick

:: lay your sheet of beeswax with the shorter edge towards you
- cut your wick to fit with an extra 1/2 inch dangling from the top – you need something to light
- lay it 1/4 inch in from your short edge – fold the short edge of the wax over it, taking care to squoosh it down good and tight
- then firmly, firmly, firmly, roll away from you, making a tight, smooth, even baclava log of beeswax
- voila! you’ve made a candle

like baclava

:: keep rolling and rolling and rolling until you have all the candles you want
- or you run out of sheets of beeswax – or wick – or time

all those little hexagons
:: understand that if you were  a medieval monk,
your candles would only be used in the stables,
every one of them being a slightly different width and length

from the top

:: but know, that when you light them, they will nevertheless
cast the most beautiful glow
& fill your room with a honeyed scent
you’ll want to soak yourself in

blanket

:: whilst the candles rest, gather a scrap of blanket

mermaids

:: a pretty piece of fabric

with pins

:: & some pins

binding

:: quilt & bind

handsew

:: sew down the binding by hand
- the bees would never machine sew the final edge
of a binding & neither should you

on the tin

:: pin & sew onto a tin

remains

:: gather up the scraps of beeswax stuck in the candlesticks
all round the house

scraps for melting

:: add them to the shards of beeswax sheets
you found under the laundry sink
& put in a bowl suitable for sitting over a pot
of simmering water for melting

ready for dipping

:: gather your rolled candles – in your quilted tin of course
& take then to the kitchen

melting the scraps

:: over a small pot of simmering water, melt your wax scraps

dipping

:: dunk the wick end of each of your candles in the hot amber liquid
- it’s better not to get it on your fingers, but remember
beeswax melts at a very low temperature so it will only smart for a second
then you can peel it off like a spare piece of skin with no harm done

cooling

:: stand the candles to dry, taking care that their soft warm tips
do not touch each other

ready

:: admire the sweetness you have made

on the shelf

:: pop your tin of beeswax candles on a prominent shelf
- easy to get to and pretty to look at

new kitchen nook

:: stand back & shake your head with delight
over how much more you love your house since
the weekend’s huge re-arrange


lit

:: then, when dusk finally falls,
gently push your candles into their candlesticks & light

close up windowsill

:: sigh …

magical mystery bay

looking out to montague island

It just goes to show what a difference a tide can make.  Last week we ventured up to magical Mystery Bay.  Abby’s first time – only our second.  And this afternoon the tide was waaaaaaay out.  Oh – it was an utterly different landscape.  Even more enchanting.  Montague Island was crisper – especially through Mum’s wonderful new binoculars – and almost enticing to me who is terrified of boats.  There was a funny gathering of birds on the far rocks – perched right on the jagged edge with their wings fluffed out like butterflies as if they were trying to catch treasures from the wind as it passed them by.  There were rock pools galore – worlds for miniature people, mermaids, pirates, their ships and treasure.  And the green.  Oh the green.  Sharp rocky fields of it.  It was thick, velvety and so beautiful, turning the broken rocky landscape into an aerial landscape of lush green hills and valleys.

fields of green

miniature mountain rounge

looking for shells

Mum searched for shells and driftwood … and made little movies with her iPhone to send to Grandad so many thousands of kilometres away.  He loved it – especially the roar of the waves.

watching the birds

inspecting needelpointing

Abby watched the birds, inspected the sea’s washed up relics … and eventually settled down on the park bench to needlepoint.  Oh my, she’s her mother’s daughter, isn’t she :-)

washing

I – being the only one with bare feet and legs – explored the rock pools and was made chief shell washer.  As I picked my way over the vivid green rocks and through the sun warmed pools, my mind was full of stories and plans to make the little felt people that could play them.

Wee fisher folk who catch the tiny, darting sparkling fish with the finest of fishing lines and nets.  Rock fairies who dwell in the deep holes of the steep, black rocks – like the cave homes of ancient China – decorated with the soft pinks and greens of the rock pool gardens.  Their little children who gather the sea snails and race them along the slippery rocks as the tide first slips away.  Tiny but fierce pirates who know all the routes in and out of the miniature bays, hiding their treasure in the sharp crevices of dagger like cliffs. And plenty of merfolk who dart about the rock pool gardens, tending to the sea weeds and coral, and collecting the soft green moss for their beds.

rock pools

sea gardens

like a model for pirates

washed up seedy thing crab underwater ponytail

blue bottle

I haven’t yet thought of a role for the blue bottles.  There were plenty – such an amazing array of sizes and shapes but all with that exquisite colour.  Always makes me think of the laundry “blue” that my Nanny Dougall kept to brighten the whites.

Doesn’t this just make you think of a face!? A sea troll who was caught out by the sun, doomed to squat there by the water’s edge for long centuries, the fierce, battering waves slowly wearing him away.  First his limbs, then his body until all that is left is his surprised face until it too is no more, his story forever washed away.

is that not a fac

Of course, this just has to be the bony spine of a long ago sea monster who was washed up one stormy night, too scared to crawl any further up the sand, to weak to return to his home in the sea.

spine

Mum and I are both especially fond of the fragments of sponge and coral that are washed up, drained of their colour and life, but still so very very pretty …

hunting for garden treasure texture funny critter sea witch hand chimeys
treasures lovely greys and sands me

And then, with the sun beginning to set, it was time to bump across this spindly, old beauty and head for home.  Isn’t it such a delightful bridge.  It’s wooden and rattly with the lake on either side filled with the most glorious of reflections, black swans, herons and egrets.  Picture perfect every time.

bridge home

Another magical day on the Sapphire Coast.  Oh I am so looking forward to when it is my home.

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.

 

 

all over the place

 

I’m very unsettled at the moment.  You may have noticed.

Each day, I bounce from room to room, from project to project.  I hit upon something that takes my fancy for several hours – throw myself into it – it’s delightful – I’m delighted – I’m going to do marvellous things with it.  Then, the next morning, I’m back to bouncing.

Feverishly filling in a giant crossword book I found.  Spending waaaaaaay to long playing mahjong on the computer.

The one upside to this state, is that slowly, bit by bit, each room is getting a good shaking out and organising.  This only seems to happen by creating an unholy mess first.  And sometimes, the crosswords overtake me and the mess lurks about for a few days.

little boy teatowles

The reason for this chaos.  I am at a completely loose end.  You see, it’s a funny thing this nursing business.  You know how there’s this perception that there are never enough nurses.  Well that’s only sort of true.  The degree we undertake these days, to gain our registration, is so very very university based – with so little clinical practice – that no one wants to employ a newly graduated nurse.  She needs way to much training to be safe and useful.  No one except nursing homes.

They’re usually desperate and will cheerfully snatch up a new graduate and put her in charge of 40 – 80 residents.  She will be the only registered nurse on duty and will be expected to provide medication to frail and vulnerable people she’s never laid eyes on before and accept complete responsibility for their wellbeing.  It’s a recipe for disaster – the examples of which hit the coroner’s court.  Mention working in a nursing home and newly graduated nurses shudder with fear.

And so we have the graduate year.  I think almost all of the hospitals have them.  The big public hospitals have big intakes, the little private hospitals have little intakes.  And they all have hundreds and hundreds of new graduates applying.  And guess what – there are nowhere near enough graduate places for those who are graduating – at least a third of graduates will miss out.  Makes you wonder where they wind up.

Do they just grit their teeth and head to the nursing homes, fingers crossed that they don’t kill a poor old soul?  Do they go rural (another whole can of worms)?  Do they do agency work – as terrifying as nursing home work – imagine a ward in a hospital where you know nobody, don’t know how they do things, have never walked those corridors, navigated that drug room, met those patients, and you have almost no clinical experience – nice! Do they go bank (casual work for a particular hospital – not quite as bad as agency – at least you stick with the one hospital)?  Or do they wind up in all sorts of random places where they will never develop the skills they’ve studied for – like doctors’ surgeries and schools and occupational health and safety things.  All of these alternatives to the real thing send chills down my spine.

crocheted flowers fabric on piano

Where does this all leave me?  Well – I achieved a good GPA.  I have great clinical reports and glowing references from really good placements.  I put in my four applications for a grad year – you are only allowed four – and you can only apply one year (theoretically you can apply every year, but you will always be considered last after your first go – so given there’s a shortage of places … )  I received three interviews at 3 big public hospitals – all of which I had been to as a student and had great references from.

The fourth application – a private hospital where I’d also had a great placement and really clicked with the senior nursing staff – I missed out on an interview – they emailed me one hour after applications closed to advise me.  I was HORRIFIED to have been dismissed so quickly so queried their decision.  Turns out they didn’t like my clinical reports – I used my last two reports which were from the Royal Children’s Hospital and The Alfred ICU – two of the most sought after placements – this private hospital wanted general medical or surgical.  Really?  Bugger them.

owls crochet

I had my interviews.  The first two were up quick.  The third was a few weeks back.  I think they went well.  Hard to know.  And now – I have no clue as to what 2015 will hold for me because we don’t find out until October 14th!!!!!!!  Can you believe we have to wait that long.  My first interview – at The Alfred – was on August 5th.  That’s 2 1/2 months wait.  Aaaaaaaaargh!!!!!  And get this – the final joyful bit of the whole torturous process – we only get one offer.  That’s right.  Even if all the hospitals who interviewed you want to offer you a grad year, you will only hear from the one you listed first, so you better make sure you ordered that list just right.  AAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRGHHHH!

For this marvellous process, we say thank you to the State Government of Victoria and their canny little program ComputerMatch.

So, until October 14th, I am bouncing around, fretting hourly about whether I will get an offer.  Rehashing those interviews and thinking up 20 ways I could have answered each question better.  Filling out yet another crossword.  Wasting more time on mahjong.  Not finishing my quilts.  Not writing up my crochet pattern.  Not working on my needlepoints and cross stitches.  Not finishing off that yoke on Abby’s sweater or Mum’s stripey sweater or Julian’s Argyle.  Not upholstering the footstool.  Not painting the front porch chairs.  Jeeez I’m slack.

Instead, I’m hating that here I am – with months of blissful home time – and I am not using it wisely.  I am flitting about chaotically – perpetually lonely and seemingly unable to finish even one thing.  Wanting the day to pass quickly so that Abby and Julian are home.  Incredulous that another week has disappeared.  Sad that the weekend vanished in the blink of an eye.  Longing for the year to just jolly well slow down.  Wishing I could hack into ComputerMatch and get an offer now so that I can stop THINKING about it all of the time and just settle down to being lucky Lily at home.

Man, I am all over the place.

crumpled quilt

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!

 

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 :-)

 

the great DMC wool caper

cold and dark

Monday morning … Abby returned to school, Mum and Lucy headed back across the Gippsland to their beachside home, and I had the whole day ahead of me.  It was so bleak and cold – with a heavy hand of dampness to the air – the lovely thing to do would be light the lamps, make tea and settle into an armchair with my knitting and a nice audio book.  Yes!

No.  As those of you who follow along on my Instagram might have noticed, there’s been quite the DMC wool caper going on here at Bootville over the last week.  Spotlight – Australia’s large fabric/craft/homewares merchant – has decided – in all its wisdom – to stop selling DMC embroidery wool.  Instead they are going to stock Semco.  What?  I hear you say.  That’s right – Semco.  A much cheaper range of wool – poorer quality, far smaller colour range and let’s face it – who designs wool embroidery and needlepoint for Semco – um, nobody.  I sought out the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight store and had words – thoughtful, reasonable, polite, grown up words but words nonetheless.  I didn’t want her to be under any illusion that replacing DMC wool with Semco was in any way a considerate thing to do for a business that purports to love and support creativity and those who create.

In fact – I related the story shared with me by the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight 15 years ago when they stopped selling needlepoint canvas – the manager that suggested Spotlight’s business model at the time was to stock what all the local independent stores were stocking, undercut them on price because they could, then once they’d put the little independents out of business – drop any lines that weren’t highly profitable for them with a quick turnover – like needlepoint canvas.  She agreed that yes, that did seem a reasonable assumption to make and no, she could not understand the logic of the national buyer at all.  Nice!  During those years I watched 4 stores I regularly visited and attended classes at – all run by imaginative and passionate women who DID love and support creativity and those who create – who put their whole lives into building communities of creativity and passion – close because they simply couldn’t compete with the juggernaut that is Spotlight.

Does this make me spit my teeth out.  Why yes it does.  But we won’t go any further down this ranty path :-)  Suffice to say – I have spent the grocery budget and more on DMC embroidery wool – it’s just hard to stop when it’s only 25c a skein, you truly adore needlepoint and wool embroidery, and you know it’s going to be that much harder to buy from now on.

And to make the bundles of wool piling up on my sideboards and bookshelves even sweeter – I’d recently hard rubbished a dear little chest of drawers that I thought would be perfect for storing my suddenly growing stash.  I had visions of Julian cutting me little thin dividers of ply and all my wool neatly and numerically arranged.  As it turns out – I’m hopeless at judging size and it’s a wee bit on the small side.  There’ll be no little thin dividers of ply :-)  Instead, there’s mildly organised squashing.  Oh well.

bit grotty

So back to Monday morning – I put on my dirty clothes, dragged the chest out into the driveway and got to work.  I was hopeful it was a job for my usual friends – steelwool and metho – alas it was a stripper number and I had to go buy a tin of toxic burning jelly – ugh.

usual companions lovely flame damaged top

I scraped and scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed until all the old varnish was off, my fingers were stiff and frozen, and my nose was dripping onto my shirt.  There was certainly more I could have achieved if I’d wanted to put in another day of sanding – but I didn’t.  Julian was home on Wednesday morning and I needed this baby oiled, inside and stuffed.

all open

By Tuesday night it was!

neutrals and browns yellows and greens mostly blues pinks purples and reds

There are four drawers – first is neutrals, greys and browns.  Abby and I debated over many of these colours – it would seem I see purple everywhere whereas Abby swore black and blue it was grey.  I capitulated.  Next is yellows, oranges and greens – no problems here.  Third down are the end of the greens, the beginning of the purples and the all the blues.  I feel a bit light on with the blues but … the drawers are full so I’m not sure if I’ll go back for more.  Finally – the rest of the purples (sans all those lovely purples Abby shoved into the grey and brown drawer), all of the pinks and reds.  I DID go back for pinks – and oh my, I now have a lot – I probably have enough to needlepoint bed curtains!

close up blues close up orange close up pinks

Oh I am such a lover of colour.  I keep opening the drawers and just staring dreamily into all that gorgeousness.  And yet – as I begin to think of new projects I feel a shiver of fear – oh no!  I can’t use my lovely colours!  If I use that green there’ll be none left.  They’ll run out!  Yeeeeeees.  Wee bit irrational.

lower left corner lovely wood

And the chest of drawers – despite its quick turnaround, I’m very pleased with the end result and think the lovely flamey grain of the wood has come up a warm, syruppy treat.  I do love me some old and pretty wood :-)

with it's own needlepoint for company with skull top

Here it is – tucked into the corner of the library.  I hung a needlepoint over it to make it feel at home – one of the first needlepoints I did – stitched through the summer of Abby’s birth.  It’s from Mary Norden’s book of Folk Needlepoint – the Swedish Horseman – he has a mate who’s just waiting on the background to be finished.  One day they’ll hang side by side.  And it’s a lovely match for the chess set – the top of the chest really didn’t come up that well – totally different wood to the rest – no warmth at all.  So an all covering chess board is just the ticket.  With a little art deco mirror (from my Nanny Dougall’s beach side cottage in Harrington) and a sheep’s skull (Grandad collected for Abby when he went way out west with Mum a few years back) to give it that old library feel!

jump in

Look at that – so much prettiness.  I just want to sit down, finish the needlepoint pattern I’m working on – it will be a cushion cover based on Turkish rugs that will fit a 24 inch square duck feather cushion insert I have – and get stitching.  Alas, I have a clinical portfolio to edit and deliver to university by this afternoon.  I’d better hop to it.

And shut that tempting drawer.