pinning it on

whilst the cake baked

original label

batter

fabric choices

cutting

hemming

ironing the pockets

pinning it on

skirt

from corner

closeup

pansy

1 slice left

chickens pottering

moon rising

on the way home

sun setting

 

I love skirts.  Long, full, gathered, brightly coloured and richly patterned skirts have been my favourite thing to wear for many years.  I love the traditional skirts of many parts of Europe with their richly embroidered details and cheerful sprigged florals.  I love the full skirts of 19th century dresses.  I love the batik wrap around skirts of the 1970s. I love tiered skirts with their crazy mixing of colour and pattern.

Since I realised all I had to do was buy twice the length I wanted, chop it in half, whip up two side seams (if you leave the selvedge attached you don’t even need to zigzag anything) add an elasticised waist and hem and voila!  I was ready to step out, I have filled my wardrobe with skirts in whatever fabric took my fancy.

Then, of course, there’s the amazing potential for extra detail – contrasting hems, rickrack edges, chicken scratch embroidery, rows and rows of ribbon, mix and match panels – so good!  The more time on my hands, the more loveliness I can add (remember, I’ve never embraced the less is more philosophy!)

For the last 18 years I have teamed my skirts with reasonably fitted tshirts that neatly covered my quick to sew elasticised waist – I confess, I have been victim to the notion that I couldn’t add a full blouse that needed tucking in to an elasticised waistband because I would look like a trussed up bag of potatoes.  But now, with the wonderful liberation that comes with age and ever growing confidence, as well as lovely inspiration from around the webby world (the styles of the gorgeous and creative Phoebe Wahl and Ms. Partshade-Fullsun have been very encouraging!) I now know I can add whatever I like to my gathered skirts!  And this winter I have been doing so with gusto.

I’ve added big colourful patch pockets – absolutely awesome for gathering eggs and seashells and carrying whatever tools around the place I might need – and wide fabric belts to my repertoire and many mornings lately, my routine includes, let out and feed the poultry, gather the eggs, feed and chat with the sheep, then plunder my fabric boxes in the shed and come back with armfuls of potential.  Then, I sit here in my jammies and whip up a new skirt and possibly belt, and by 10am I’m newly dressed – shirts tucked in! – and ready for another good day.

Of course, I do like to squish in as many things as possible, so I often put on supper, or mix up a cake to bake, or put on the washing whilst I’m sewing and this here skirt and cake are the products of just that.  There were Plymouth Rock chickens to collect from Wyndham and quilting for mum on the agenda so I was up early, my fabrics already picked out, sewing and baking – a Jamie Oliver recipe – Sweet Potato and Apricot loaf – and on the road by 10:30.  And it was indeed a good day.  There was great company along each step of the way, quilting was finished, cake enjoyed, four beautiful chickens brought home, a gorgeous sunset to stop and admire … and a beautiful skirt stitched up from vintage opshop fabric teamed with an opshop shirt and velvet belt that fulfils the Kate Bush in me!    Pretty much everything one could hope for in a day :-)

And this practice of skirt making connects with so many of the ideas I hold as not only important but essential to a life well lived. I refuse to be told by merciless, environment and community exploitative, greedy big businesses what the current “must-haves” are.  I refuse to conform to what our mainstream society declares is attractive or beautiful at this one point in time.  I refuse to treat my clothes as disposable items that are only good for a year or two before being discarded.  I refuse to play that game where an item of clothing that was adored one year is expected to be laughed at and scorned a couple of years later.  And I utterly refuse to walk around looking clone-like.

Every day when I wake up I want to be a creative participant in life – not a passive consumer. I want to make what I can, using what I have or what I find.  I want my clothes – let alone my home and activities – to be symbols of who I am and what I love.  I want to tread gently on this earth but also embrace and celebrate the joy and satisfaction humans have gained for thousands of years from adorning themselves with loveliness.

I read in a recent memoir, by a woman who survived the Holocaust, that being able to dress herself in proper clothes and put on lipstick made her and her fellow survivors feel like real people again. Being stripped of her clothes, having her head shaved and being forced to dress in filthy rags by the Nazis stripped her of any sense of being a human and part of this world.  Being able to choose how to dress herself again helped her feel like a valuable human being with inherent dignity once more.

Now I’m not comparing my incredibly privileged skirt making to this woman’s experience.  But reading her words strengthened my belief that to dress up – to gather what we love, hold is pretty, and adorn ourselves with it is such a natural and positive thing to do.  And as such, I know it’s time to reclaim our clothes and the pleasure we receive from dressing ourselves from the ugly, exploitative, disposable industry that has become the world of fashion.

Make and wear what you love!  Make and wear what makes you feel good and comfortable!  Make and wear what says “This is me!!!!!”  Step away from the dreary blacks and greys that the clone producing businesses tell us we should wear – let me tell you how many birds flaunt their stuff with black and grey – NONE! – and embrace the energising and cheerful beauty of colour and pattern! And look after it and wear it for as many years or decades as you like and when you no longer want to wear it, add it back into your fabric pile and smile when it pops up in a quilt, or a curtain trimming, or a sweet pair of shorts or dress for little ones.  Or wash it, neatly fold it, and send it off to the oppie where someone like me – or the fabulously stylish and creative folk of Freetown – will pounce upon it with delight and give it another whole new life.

You’ll love it … and our earth will thank you!

 

at the chook house

as i wait

plain doily

sewing the basket

high tech sewing tool

starting the stitches

finished and filled

knotted and looped handles

D72_5598

wolfgangs feather

aamzing sky

moon

watching her reflection

still stitching

the wrap

constant companions

full length

walking with basket

with basket

at the chook house

1 egg

January tumbled about with chaos and excitement as we moved and set up our new home.  The days began early, ended late, and every night when we fell into bed, our little esky-cottage looked more and more like “our place”.

February sizzled with unrelenting heat, and new routines and responsibilities that were both fabulous and baffling – you will truly laugh at this, but I honestly thought “drenching” must have involved showering goats from head to hoof :-0 Frankly, that would be easier than trying to squirt worming medication down their frantically jerking throats!

March dipped up and down with moments of such pleasure and more of overwhelming angst. Ah March you seemed such hard work at the time.  And yet, just last night, I watched the film “Defiance” and thought about the atrociously awful things people not only endure but survive then go on to create new lives of meaning and love (this is not to diminish the terrible long term effects such trauma can imprint on people).  It was a very humbling reminder of the privilege we live with in this time and place.  And how perhaps, when life is physically so very easy, I spend far too much time wandering about in my mind.  I don’t have any answers or conclusions.  I’m just very thankful to be here right now and the recipient of much love and good care.

April brought  much needed calm.  Our home was comfortable.  Our animals were settled.  Our routines were both simple and delightful.

Throughout all of this, the mere thought of working outside of our home as a nurse was way too much!  At first, I scanned the job advertisements every week, hopeful I would find the perfect fit.  By March I no longer looked because I didn’t want to find a job I’d feel obliged to apply for.

When I was finally ready to call the person responsible for bank nursing – a casual position where I can pick up the shifts which suit me seems like the ideal compromise at the moment – in April, it just so happened they were interviewing that week!  Noah and I headed straight for town.  Noah printed out my resume and application at the local copy store whilst I tried on interview outfits, with Noah arriving just in time to give the final thumbs up.  The interview went well.

One question asked how I would care for an elderly patient with end stage lung cancer, who had been transferred from a nursing home to hospital with a chest infection and decreasing mobility.  It was incredibly satisfying to think about how best to meet this character’s needs.  I thought of all the very similar patients I met and assessed in the cubicles of the Emergency Department, and the big and little questions I had to find answers too, all the while making the patients feel as safe and comfortable as possible.  Then of all the patients I nursed upstairs in the wards, their failing bodies, their spirits almost always endearing (sometimes bitter), and their hourly needs.  If the interview panel had demanded, I would have cheerfully written them a paper on the topic.  It felt so good thinking like a nurse again.

Since then, there has been an enormous amount of slow moving paperwork to complete and submit.  Along with blood tests for immunisation levels, immunisations themselves (I think my immune system is incapable of generating antibodies to HepB), police checks, working with children checks … Hopefully it is all done now and I’ll hear next week what the next step is.

And now it is May.  Almost half way through the year.  In just over a month, we will be celebrating the Winter Solstice and feeling all excited as the days begin once more to lengthen.  Oh my.

While the time speeds by and the job application plods along, I’m finding plenty of opportunity for all sorts of little crafty projects.  I’m painting, and knitting, and crocheting, and embroidering, and sewing .. frankly it’s beginning to feel a bit frivolous at times! But I’m making the most of the opportunity to trawl through all the fabric boxes that are sitting in the shed, finding just started projects along with those that only need an hours or so work before they are done and ready!

This week, I pulled out a lovely linen/cotton blend wrap around skirt I started almost 2 years back.  I remember really loving working on it – especially the pockets – they were so satisfying.  But then, just before adding the waistband, I tried it on and it was too big.  Sigh.  So it was shoved to the back of the pile.  Now – being a bit larger then I was then – it only needed the seams widened before it fitted just fine ;-) Then – on with the waistband – which was a bit tricky because I couldn’t find the directions – only the pieces – so had to bumble along best as I could.  After a couple of false starts it worked.

Then – well you know me – more is always more.  So I whacked on a lovely big hand crocheted doily that I recently bought from the oppie for just $1 and sat down for a day’s embroidery.  It was one of those projects that was a delight to start and then hours and hours of increasingly tedious repetition.  However, I was determined this skirt was NOT going back into the never never pile, so on I plodded.  Oh I’m so glad I did!  It’s exactly me :-)

And I whipped up another basket – one for egg collecting.  Tried the coloured stitching again – I definitely like it with just one colour but this one has a few too many stops and starts for my finicky eyes.  I added some rickrack – which I will never do again – it is soooooooo difficult – a looped handle which I adore – and a little appliqued and cross stitched egg.  Because why not?!  I have plenty of time at the moment!

Julian had asked for the egg basket – and he requested some kind of lining that the eggs would nestle into and reduce the chance of breaking.  I thought about it for a while before realising that STRAW was the perfect solution.  That’s what the chickens and ducks use – and when it gets a bit manky, I can tip it into the compost and add a fresh layer.

I have to confess, when I looked at these photos, it did remind me somewhat of Marie Antoinette dressing up to play shepherdess in the beautiful little “farm” her servants built for her to play in.  Hmmmm …. then I remembered all the time I have up my sleeve and reasoned why shouldn’t the egg basket be lovely!  As long as it is functional, it can be as sweet as I like – and Julian thinks it’s highly useful so there!

Now – well the day is cool and grey, the chores are done, the last of the paperwork has been emailed … there’s plenty of knitting to finish and what’s that? I think I hear some patchwork calling!

 

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.

a table cloth skirt

table cloth

Did you notice the Australian wildflowers table cloth in last night’s post?  On a lovely heavy cotton/linen blend, with colours so rich and pretty?  I found it at the oppie recently.  Now, truth be told, if you’d dressed your table in this cloth back in the 80s or 90s, I’d have given a little eye roll and thought “ew”.  Wasn’t I horrible!  No appreciation for Australian wildflowers in any way, shape or form back then.  I’d have thought it the height of dagginess.  Throughout the 00s – I left plenty such cloths behind in the oppies, only having eyes for the sweetness of the Scandinavian and German cloths or the wacky designs of the 50s and 60s.

But now … well, I’d have to say I’m converted.  With age has come a much greater appreciation for the beauty and delight that lives right on my doorstep and so, the other day when I spied this cloth hanging amongst its boring plain relatives in the table cloth section, I snatched it up with delight.  I love looking out for these flowers as they glow at their special time of the year.  I love watching the bees smoosh themselves into the red flowering gum.  I love how the brightly coloured birds in Mum’s garden screech indignantly at each other as they squabble over the sweet nectar.  The flowering kangaroo paws remind me of the magnificent kangaroos that lollop down Mum’s street and gather in the grass at the Pambula beach each afternoon.  I even love the heady scent of the wattle, despite it making my eyes itch – it takes me back to my school years where wattle was planted alongside the Year 9 classrooms and science labs and once it flowered, you knew the school year was on the downhill run.  Yes, I’m truly converted.

However, Julian is not much of a table cloth fellow, and the linen cupboard is literally popping with table cloths so this sweet cloth needed to take on a different role.  Besides – I wanted to enjoy it regularly!  And so a table cloth skirt was born.

stork leg close up

I cut the cloth in half so that the longest side gave me the most length and the little wattle baubles formed pretty borders.  Sewed it up, turn over a hem, and added elastic.  But it still needed something else – a pretty red and white spot!  With a deep ribbon of blue rickrack. (p.s. the lovely red vintage cardigan is also recently thrifted from the oppie – Mum found it!)

fulllength holding it out

It is so cherry and pretty and I don’t mind saying that each time I wear it, someone comments with delight :-)  I even had a lady at the patchwork store follow me down the aisles to ask if that was indeed a tablecloth because it was the prettiest use for such a tablecloth she’d ever seen!

heavy dew new tree children bee unopened buds against autumn leaves lookingup sun and blue sky

It is the perfect skirt to wear today.  A day filled with a rich blue sky and lovely golden sunlight.  Such a treat after four days of dark gloom and rain.  Mind you, the dew is so heavy it took only a few footsteps before my shoes were wet through.  I’ll have to get the leather wax onto them.

wet feet the back

Guess what I have in the sewing pile now … one of those fabulous floral German cloths with the border of little men and women in their sweet costumes.  It’s a square one, identical to one that I use regularly and those I grew up with.  Mum and Nanny had them in yellow and green and blue – as a child it just seemed natural to me that you should have blue and white china on your table with floral cloths bordered in little men and women.  I was always so surprised to find other folk DIDN’T have these on their table.

And you know what’s going to happen to it, don’t you!