mostly doug

the madeline cardie

cast off

After two weeks of knitting with this glorious dark blue wool – I think of it as black watch tartan wool – I finally found a decent background for it last night as I sat casting off my Madeline Cardigan (original name “Practically” by the very talented Kelly Herdrich) – named after Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmanns of course – can’t you just see all those little girls in two straight lines wearing this very cardigan as they march the streets of Paris! –  wrapped in this lovely vintage Laconia blanket.  Oooooh but our little cottage is sooooo cold at night – being metal and all – and when Julian’s not here to light the fire, I must confess, we are very lazy and pile on the woollens instead.  As for this cardie – I adore it!  And so pleased with the additions I made :-)

starting early

Alas, I am easily distracted, and so this morning, instead of sewing on Madeline’s buttons – or doing the dishes or hanging out the washing – truth be told, I even made the animals wait a bit longer – I grabbed my lovely new fabrics, my gorgeous Dottie Angel patterns, and began chopping instead!

prep

And how did I get these here buttons sewn on?  Why I paid Noah of course ;-)

my button sewist

He is a very talented and accomplished sewist – with amazingly fine motor skills and a superb eye for detail.  So off he set, carefully measuring and stitching …

embroidered sheep

whilst I worked on my sheep applique and regularly queried “Are you almost done? Have you put that one in the right spot? How much longer will you be?”  Yes it would often seem that Noah is more like the parent, and I the impatient, impulsive teenager.  Sigh!
selfie lesson

Then, when all was finished – in an effort NOT to have to take photographs as well as sew on buttons for his mad mother – Noah attempted to teach me how to take selfies in the mirror.  Hopeless waste of time.  I can never work our where to hold the camera or where to look or how to compose the background.  So he had to take them anyway :-)

wearing it

And did a sterling job at that too!
mostly doug

Doug made an excellent and obliging prop – adding his black dachshund hair to the thousands of strands of cream puggle hair that have been knitted into this dear cardie.  As well as my long treacle and grey coloured hairs – I always have to spend the first couple of weeks of a new knit carefully pulling out the long hairs that have been tightly knitted in!

pretty buttons

fu and noah

Fu decided she wanted in on the action as well.  She really is the most delightful dog – best farm dog here at Wombat Hill to be sure!  She can round up chickens, cheerfully hang out with ponies, lay snoozing in the sun with sheep.  All our animals are completely relaxed around Fu – they can tell she’s a good one.  Not like the other two horrors.  All flee from their frantic, yapping paths!

flowers and fabric

Because I misread the pattern and didn’t buy enough fabric yesterday, then it was off to our local fabric legend – Freddie’s Fabrics in Cobargo – where not only did I find the perfect fabrics for more Dottie Angel goodness, but had a lovely leisurely tour of Freddie’s beautiful garden (her shop is in her garden studio) and she packed up several cuttings and a lovely bunch of heavenly scented Daphne for me.  Now that’s my kind of fabric shopping.
afternoon tea

Home again, home again, jiggety jig – toasted cheese and coffee on the porch with a splendid new catalogue.  I shall have to forego buying any more fabric for the next few months so I can dedicate that money to spring flowers from Tesselaar!  Oh you should see the Clematis!  The Aquilegia!  The Dahlias!  The BEGONIAs!  I didn’t know Begonias could look like that.  Methinks Julian will have to plough up half the front house yard to fit in everything I love! (He’ll love that suggestion ;-)

newly cast on

Then there was some casting on.  Well of course there was.  I cast off last night!  I know I could have finished other knitty projects instead – four instantly spring to mind – but since I’m in my Dottie Angel mood, and it’s been on my Ravelry list since I joined Ravelry – and the wool arrived last week – I just HAD to.  So here’s the beginning of my February Lady’s Sweater.  Mmmmmmm ….

in threes

And a couple more photos of the Madeline cardie.  I do find it is easier to photograph in the shade – that way the incredibly intense darkness of the black watch doesn’t make the light blow out. So here you can see the lovely “in threes” of Kelly’s pattern.  As well as the scalloped crocheted collar I added.  I added four stitches to each side when I cast on so that my cardie would not only meet but button up.

side panel detail

 

I also added a simple side panel of ever increasing garter stitch – it’s made a pretty stepped pyramid going from the underarm to the deep garter band around the hem – I added a few extra inches to the hem so that it would sit a little longer.  My round tummy is not a fan of the cropped look!

beautiful colour

And of course, I added full length knitted sleeves with deep garter stitch cuffs – I started with the stitches on waste wool for Kelly’s capped sleeves, picked the stitches cast on for the side, and added two extra stitches on either side of them.  Then I decreased by 2 every seventh round until the sleeve measured 40 cm, then knitted eleven ridges (as Elizabeth Zimmerman calls them – so very sensible and instantly identifiable) for the garter cuffs.  Our winters are moderately cold – mornings are often frosty and hovering around the zero mark, and the afternoons are cool – I’ve discovered that 3/4 length sleeves may be great for not getting your cuffs wet when you’re filling up the pigs’ water trough but they are freezing cold when you are standing outside the bakery at Nimmitabel in the snow!  In fact, I think I may soon be undoing the cuffs on my green cardigan and knitting them all the way down too!  Knitting is so generous and flexible like that, isn’t it.

wooden buttons

Oh see the button – so pretty!  I bought them on Noah’s and my recent little holiday in Melbourne at the truly gorgeous shop Epoche in Callista – incredibly well worth a visit – we were there for almost two hours, so delightful was every nook and shelf.

And finally – the selfie.  In the kitchen garden, with my purple podded peas.  Looking very proper and all – after taking umpteen photos, it became obvious that the absurd was far more entertaining than the normal ;-)
my selfie effort

So now, here I sit, cosy cosy in my lovely Madeline Cardigan.  I could finish cutting out my Dottie Angel tabard.  I could start piecing my sheep cushion cover.  I could even sneak into the television room and curl up with that lovely Laconia blanket, my snoozing dachshund, and my new knitting and watch Restoration Man (OMG – we got tellie finally!  Only two years after settlement!  Our friend Pete sent the television man over on Monday and he just whipped up onto the roof, shoved up an antenna, ran a cord, drilled a hole, popped it into the television, tuned the television and within an hour of Nick’s arrival, we had tellie!  Who’d have thunk!!!)

Instead, I should be the grown up and put on supper – roast chook and veg – and wash some of those bloody dishes.  After I’ve boiled the water of course because we are revelling in week 6 of no hotwater system.  But it’s okay, the plumber is coming tomorrow … then we will be super sophisticated.  Hot water and tellie all in the one week.  And my Madeline Cardigan.  I am one blessed woman.

 

tiles

finding our place in the valley


sign

windy road

barn

dairy and piggery

doors

windows

chimney1

metal topped

mower and cooker

cot

who knows
barn

meeting luna

noah and luna walking

patting luna

typewriters

raggedy ann


bathtub

shoe lasts

tiles

 

new skirt new clogs

lily and cattle race

all packed up

Well it’s been just over a year since we made Wombat Hill Farm, in the gorgeous Bega Valley, our permanent home.  And much to my daily delight and appreciation, it seems we are fitting right on in.

Surely, this is well helped by me taking up a new nursing position at a small hospice literally over the hill from us, where I help care for young people with profound disabilities who require round the clock nursing care.  It’s an amazing centre (and community resource!) staffed with lovely, caring, funny people who are passionate about providing the best environment for our community’s most vulnerable people.  I love every shift – after a few short months I am already filled with love for the people I care for, and many of my colleagues have quickly proved to be kindred spirits and become good friends.

Just last night, we had an absolute hoot of an evening.  As the afternoon mist closed in, and soft rain peppered the roof, we gathered all of our clients into the kitchen, popped The Sound of Music into the DVD player – followed by excerpts from The King and I, and My Fair Lady on youtube – and sang and waltzed away the night.  Our clients were beside themselves with laughter and excitement as we swung them round to the music, sang to them, acted out all our favourite bits …   It’s amazing how much more fun giving endless medication becomes when you pretend to be a puppet singing High on the Hill was a Lonely Goatherd!  Or how much more tolerable a hated nebuliser is when there’s a crazy waltzing nurse to keep your eyes glued to :-)  Without doubt, even though as the only RN I usually spend the entire shift on my feet, moving from one client to the next and back again, and sometimes it can be very emotionally draining, it’s the most delightful nursing role I’ve ever held.

But back to the fitting in bit :-) … Yesterday, Noah and I were driving home from Tilba – third village along where we’d gone to buy a pair of Naot clogs I’ve been coveting for weeks – when we noticed a “garage sale” sign stuck to a tree.  Mmmmmm!  Garage Sales in the country can be really really exciting – think generations worth of old farm and home goods dragged out of multiple sheds!  And Noah, being such a good sport, agreed it was definitely worth checking out.  So we turned off the beaten track and headed out across the hills and through the forest …

After a few kilometres, we realised we were almost certainly heading to a farm we’d already met last year when we were buying old windows to build a green house – yep, same place.  But this time, the neighbours had joined in and they were hosting a community garage sale.  Oh be still my racing heart!

We chatted with our “old friends” and caught up on all their news since last seeing them.  We made new friends – including Noah’s favourite four legged variety.  We found treasures that we were sure new friends would love, so quickly passed on the info of what and where so they could come out to the sale too. We listened to wonderful histories of the old buildings around us and the intrepid adventures of those that farmed these lands through the Great Depression.  And we heard tell of local happenings that we already knew of through my new job – I’d already shared cups of tea with the people involved, listened to their heart rending stories, and have made a start at contributing to the community that flourishes when people, that moment in time and unrelenting determination combine to create wonderful things out of hardship and sorrow.

And we came home with a few gems for Wombat Hill Farm too.  And I made a new skirt – really loving the incredible simplicity of stitching up a metre of cotton jersey into a tube, hemming it, adding an elasticised waist and popping the whole thing on and getting out the door in under half an hour.  True story!

Yep, we are definitely where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and all the while surrounded by wonderful, interesting and quirky people and such beautiful, nourishing country.  For all of this, I’m so very very grateful.

patchwork

let’s start again!

swimming

on the rocks

in the shade

tea

noah

yellow door

lamb

house skirt

rabbit skirt

bridget

patchwork

juno

checked shirt

plums

pantry rearrange

at the beach

making baskets

little door

baby doll

rocky beach

rochet

luna lapin

crepe myrtle

quail eggs

fennel

Heeeelllloooo!

I am sitting here this morning, flicking about the internet – reading the news on several different sites, checking the rain forecast, looking at my favourite few blogs to see what they’re up to, checking to see what animals are for sale this morning (I’m addicted) – and it occured to me that I really really loved the old blogging days when I could spend a good hour reading wonderful stories from women around the world.  Reading about the projects that were occupying their hands, their dreams, sometimes their sadness, what their families were up to, the lifestyles they were patiently, passionately, creating … it was so incredibly inspiring, meaningful and just plain lovely.

These days, now here I am truly wasting time, flicking between news that is depressing and infuriating at the same time.  Fretting for rain – and investing an awful lot of emotional energy and time – instead of just accepting what will happen today, will happy.  Truly frittering away hours looking at animals that are lovely but that are hundreds of kilometres away and thus completely inaccessible.  And then feeling a little bit deflated when I check in on those old favourite blogs and there’s nothing new posted.

Hmmmm.  And what exactly am I doing here at  :: a Handmade Life :: ?  No chatting about the projects that are filling me with pleasure.  No sharing of my dreams and occasional calamities.  No stories of what we’ve been up to as a family – no recording of those lovely, simple, funny days that make me smile years later.  No excited retelling of the crazy, wonderful adventures we are having as we stumble along, building up our little farm and shape this new life of ours.

Yes.  That’s right.  I’m contributing to that deflating sense of “Oh I wish there was something else lovely to read.  I wish these people I have loved for so many years, were continuing to share the sparkles in their days.

So you know what?  I shall put my best foot forward today and once again, regularly share the things that make me smile (or grit my teeth) here at Wombat Hill farm.  Crafty stories where projects are not regularly finished, but hey there’s plenty of loveliness along the way.  Ponderings from the kitchen where sometimes I’m able to produce something yummy and healthy!  Tales from the fields around us as we work so hard fencing, building animal houses, planting trees, proving I am indeed useless in the garden, and spending wonderful hours with the amazing critters that share our land.  And sometimes, little laments as things don’t work out, things overwhelm, or things are plain annoying.  All of life in it’s glorious ordinary mess.

And just in case you’re rolling your eyes … I don’t think my life is anything spectacular.  My home is often messy, regularly dusty and not much matches anything else.  But to us, it’s cosy, comforting, and colourful, with every corner filled with that which illuminates what’s important to us and how we love to spend our time.  That to me, is what a home should be.  I’m rounder than ever so there won’t be any floaty, dreamy clothing on display.  Just lots of colour and pattern, things that are easy to make and comfy to wear, things that say “yep, that’s lily!”  My quilts won’t be any show stoppers.  They will be pieced with an eye to pleasure – rather than perfection, what’s rocking my boat this week – rather than what technique everybody is obsessed with at the moment, and they will all be quilted onto those gorgeous vintage pure wool blankets I can’t stop buying ’cause I know one day they will run out.  My knitting will be cheerful but probably a bit wonky.  My embroidery probably never finished but delightedly started.  My animals are adored and cared for to the best of our ability but sometimes we will make mistakes and things will resemble more Mr. Bean’s adventures than River Cottage.  And my garden – I wonder whether it will ever get going or I’ll ever know what I’m doing, and I shall probably buy my veg from the shops for the rest of my days!

But.  If that kind of ordinariness appeals to you and you would like to read something chatty and silly but from the heart that makes you hopefully smile during your day, or be inspired to run over to the sewing machine and get stuck into some wonderful creativity, or just something to flick over to because that news is so bloody awful … well then, let’s try again!

Welcome back to  :: a Handmade Life ::

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!