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.

 

 

little travelling cups

cups simple tool ball of thread scissors

Such a grey and icy day.  The light was thin and scanty.  So, I did as Lucy does, and followed it – to a little sofa under the window, piled high with quilts and cushions.  Cosy indeed.  Supplies were gathered.  Plans were hatched for a set of little travelling cups that my Aunty Anne found for me.  She knew how much I loved the set Nanny and Grandad kept in their car’s dashboard when I was little.  Anodised.  In a brown leather (probably vinyl) zippered pouch.  I thought they were ever so cute and loved it when Grandad would pull them out and Nanny would fill them up with usually forbidden sweet and fizzy drink and pass them round.

Now I have my own – sans the zippered pouch.  Ah well – that can be sweetly remedied.

stitching top almost done adding the bottom

I’m not a huge fan of sewing with zippers or vinyl so chose the felt route instead.  With a wee bit of needlefelting, blanket stitch and my secret ingredient – elastic!

secret ingredient elastic at work

Natty huh!  Keeps the bottom from falling off my travelling cups and stops it from crumpling down when I put the top on!


trying it on

done

the snail the raspberries in my hand

The quiet snail, taking his time, enjoying the journey, seeking out treasures, stopping to make the most of the loveliest bits.  Just like us Boots when we go travelling.

It’s the only way to go, don’t you think :-)

 

 

all that has happened

Oh my goodness … 2014, what a year you are shaping up to be!  Almost four months past and I’ve barely caught my breath.  Now tonight, here I sit in my layers of wool and sheepskin slippers.  The bed is laden with blankets and quilts.  The rain patters outside.  Summer has well and truly finished.  Autumn never really arrived … or if you caught glimpses, I must have been deep inside the emergency room of the children’s hospital and missed them completely … and now it’s almost gone.  And I’ve not popped my head in here for ages!

In fact, this is the third night I’ve sat down to write, but then I’ve thought … well, what on earth have I got to say?  I’ve been lurching from one chaotic period to another.  Nothing much has progressed on the crafty front.  No show and tells ready and prettily photographed  :sigh:

Then I decided to empty the camera card and what did I find?  Empty camera card? Evidence of chaos?  A visual reminder of what happens when you are frantically writing up one university assignment after another, whilst working full time in a completely new and unusual environment with a massive team of nurses and doctors that seem to completely change with each shift, accompanied by a husband who’s overseas working for a month, a wonderful Mummy who steps into the breach and keeps Bootville running, followed by a dear old grandad who suffers a terrible stroke and needs us by his side quickly and a darling old grandmother who doesn’t know what their life holds for them next?  Is that what’s on the camera card?

No, not really.  Instead, there are glimpses – here and there – some more weeks than others – of a life that is still being lived with good cheer.  There’s been lots of keeping close to the ones I love, birthdays celebrated, an endless appreciation for the old, battered and quirky, a never before experienced explosion of autumnal knitting, a coming together of quilts – old and new, a treasured opportunity to hold my Grandad’s hand whilst he rests in hospital, beautiful hours sitting with my Nanny whilst we knit together and ponder what may come next, a very special opportunity to rekindle a close relationship with a dear aunty, a much appreciated trip to a favourite beach, tablecloths turned into skirts, an adored friend visiting for Easter, wee dolls being needlefelted, moments of sunshine in the garden …

Yes … it would seem that whilst I have been away from here for a very long time – the longest ever I think! – and spent many, many hours at the early and late ends of the day caring for little people and their families; the spirit of Bootville lives on, and the goodness that makes up our crazy, busy, love-filled, creative lives gets squeezed into the corners no matter how fast the time flies.

table cloth borders sewn borders attached birthday quilts sewn quilting cocktails sipped newly thrifted shelves fabrics were played with dirty lamp fizzy clean lamp pea soup cardie dishcloths were knitted cardigans multiplied dirty sideboard clean sideboard mum visited ready for home nanny's knitting bag family rainbow dollls made friends came husbands relished autumn welcomed even more knitting

And that’s so good.  See you tomorrow – yes?

a wee christmas tree

 

I’m sorry I’ve been so silent this December.  It’s this placement thingy – it’s been really hard.  The first two weeks – agonising back.  Now into the last of the second two weeks – streaming hay fever.  All four weeks – relentless insomnia.  I’m so buggered.  And so over it.  

Only four days to go … then I am anticipating a terrific summer of loveliness and lots and lots of creativity.  Until then …

higher up number 1 the fiddler blue goose girl rosy 10 looking down the wax one a cluster 14blew over insituOh my goodness, aren’t we hurtling towards Christmas!

I do declare that you folk in the Northern Hemisphere have it so much easier.  Down here, Christmas coincides with the end of the year – end of school, end of university, end of placements, winding up of work – and the start of the long summer holidays.  So there’s always so much else to finish before we can truly prepare for and enjoy the beauty of Christmas.

Perhaps I’m just feeling it more this year.  But here we are, 16th December and there’s still a week’s worth of nursing placement and assessments to finish before I can truly hang up my busy year and revel in the Christmassy-ness of it all.

On the creative side, there are so many gifts started – and none finished.  But one thing I have managed to stay atop of is our Advent Tree.  This year, we are using the funny little tree I collected from hard rubbish on a grey rainy day a few months back.  At the time I christened it the Oehlenschlager tree – I  declared it was to be covered in cross stitched Danish Christmas decorations as per the lovely book a sweet friend from Instagram gave me in return for Mr. Pollack’s vintage glass juicer.

However, I need another couple of years stitching before the tree can be suitably decked out in these wee stitchings alone.  So – the Advent Tree.  And given we simply cannot find the Tomtems we have used for many a year, I picked up the crochet hook and got stitching.  I give you Advent Roses.  Each with its own wee numbered tag.

Each morning, long before Abby arises and according to a long held Bootville tradition, I hang the day’s Advent Rose somewhere in the house and it’s Abby’s job to find it and hang it on the Advent Tree.  I must confess, she doesn’t do this with the same gleeful anticipation she possessed ten years ago – ahhhhh the teenage years.  But we all enjoy the sweetness of it nevertheless :-)

I’ve even managed to keep up with the stitching of the Advent Roses – there were the perfect project to pack for morning tea and lunch when I was nursing in the Oncology Ward – and extras made lovely gifts to sweet patients.  However, a small hitch has only just emerged.  I still have 7 to make … and I cannot find the wee basket that is stuffed with the pretty Brown Sheep rosy yarn for the centre, some left over cream, red and mustard Beaverslide from Abby’s Blaithin, a ball of green Paton’s leftover from Abby’s Owl Sweater, and a ball of buttery Rowan leftover from my fairisle tunic (that I don’t think I have ever shared!).  That’s right – the whole basket has vanished.  I’ve just spent the last half hour first walking briskly through the house confidently looking here and there, then slowly – slightly worried – poking into each corner, and finall,y grumpily crawling around under furniture and behind doors … I even checked the car.  I cannot find it.

It must be here somewhere.  It’s almost certainly in the living room.  But as Julian has observed many a time before – crafty things are sneakily camouflaged here in Bootville.  And I have a terrible track record of tucking things into forgotten corners.

A-ha!  Found it!  Behind the sofa cushion – no wonder I couldn’t shove the cushion back into place each time I sat on the sofa over the weekend.  Never mind.  Now the kitchen is glowing, the washing hung out, the chooks in bed, a glass of milk is on the bedside table and I am ready to hop into bed and stitch a bouquet of Advent Roses.

Yes, little by little, this Christmas is coming together.

catching up

 

Oh my goodness!  Has it really been two weeks since I stopped by!  Are you still here?!  I was chatting with Mum this morning and she told me to get on over here and write a post, share some photos, and say hi to all the lovely folk who visit block-a-day.  She thinks I’m very rude.

So, being a dutiful daughter .. and missing you all (truly, the minute I sit down and start uploading photos I think, my goodness why did I let this go so long!) … here I am :-)

All is good here – the presentation went very, very well.  The last essay was squeezed out of me last Friday – the very last words not hitting the screen until 1 hour before the deadline but hey, I got there in the end.  Classes are over for the year and now I’m looking forward (ha!) to exams and placement.

Of course, in between those important tasks, there’s been lots more super fun stuff going on round Bootville.  But nothing much seems to be getting to the final finished and ready for showing stage.  I blame the crappy weather – totally dreary, grey, cold and wet.  So uninspiring.  So impossible to finish off painted projects.  So easy to sit in the armchair by the window and lose hours with never ending yarn projects on my lap.  So easy to think that nothing much is happening until I look on my camera and think “Oh yes – there’s been all that.”

So instead, let’s share some “doing”, huh?  Good!  And hopefully in the next few days, there’ll be some sunlight and warmth and this will lead to that lovely finishing we all enjoy so much :-)

orange

Glorious marigold coloured paint …

blackboard creating

… helping to transform an old hard rubbished bedhead into a blackboard.

green

Whilst celery green paint brightens an old thrifted and embroidered fire screen.

dollmaking

Lots of happy doll making

sideboard restoration

And lots of sideboard sanding and restoration … oh look at that – there was some sun.

christmas decoration making

Getting into the cross stitch – some new Christmas tree decorations from a beautiful book of Danish cross stitch patterns given to me by a sweet friend I met on Instagram – which led me onto the bay of evil to see if there were more such books, which of course there were, and now they’re here!

needlepoint straightening

The finishing off and stretching out of a pair of needlepoints – the girlie being a mere 6 years old, the monkey a grander 10 years old – and do you know, it took less then half an hour to finish them :sigh:  Now I just need to sew them up into rather sumptuous cushions.  That’s coming … truly it is :-)

quilting

The quilting and binding of a recently pieced quilt top – very pretty this one – and oh so very cosy on these silly cold days and nights.

rearranging

The rearranging of the living room and rehoming of this wee blue bookshelf, now in the bedroom.  It holds most of the children’s book series we have – more recent titles like the fabulously ghastly Unfortunate Events, the marvellously detailed Roman Mysteries, Spiderwick, the Adventures of Tashi, several of the American Girl collections, and of course Harry Potter.  As well as some awesome oldies like the Moomin Adventures, the Adventures of Green Knowe, the Wolves of Willoughby Chase series, Little House, Edward Eager’s Tales of Magic, the Borrowers … such good stuff.  Truly some of the essential ingredients of childhood and I do so love looking over the titles each day.  Remembering when I read them, when Abby read them, what we loved most, words and stories and habits that became part of our lives.

doll pondering

More doll making - my turn this time – inspired, at one of those moments when there were at least 20 more important things to do, to try recreating this dear little wooden doll in yarn.  Mostly quite pleased so far – but of course she’s missing her arms, hair, scarf and her apron’s not yet finished … As for the strange arrangement with the kewpie doll – well – I don’t know!

shawl finishing

The finishing of my Icelandic shawl which took for absolutely ever, being in lace weight yarn and all, and then I decided to add a crocheted edging in some Noro sock weight – which is now taking for absolutely ever to finish.  

needlepointing

Now when Abby needlepoints, she starts and finishes as quickly as she can.  I just don’t know where that comes from … odd.

knitting

The realisation that if I don’t put some serious hours into knitting this Stevenson jumper, it will not be ready to wear when we make our summer visit to Green Cape Lighthouse and I won’t be able to have Julian take some photos of me doing my best Kate impersonation.

costume making and wearingAnd more visits from dear Sacha, accompanied by incredibly late night costume sewing and a weekend of playful hilarity and adventure.  

Hmph!  Looking back at all this is quite inspiring – I’d quite forgotten we’d done so much – I might even go sew up those cushions.  Yes, I think I will.

the times that are

Oy!  There’s so much busyness around here lately.  Papers written.  Case studies endlessly researched and submitted.  Posters laid out and printed.  Presentations given.  This third year of nursing is full on.  I’m now in Week 8 of 10 intensive weeks of classes.  I’m so looking forward to a break.  There’s a short one coming up – and then a month long placement in an intensive care setting.  Have I already told you this?  I lose track of such conversations these days :-)

In amongst all the attention given to hyperthyroids and damaged lungs, failing kidneys and newly diagnosed epilepsy, asthmatics that don’t want to take their medications and wounds that will never heal, there’s been a few moments found here and there for the things that I know still define me … who I am, what I treasure, how I express myself.

And I know this will always be so.  Yes, there will be lots of nursing and probably more research and study too – ’cause that’s a big part of where my family’s future lies.  But there’ll always be time set aside for stitching and pottering, sharing the slow days with my girlie and dragging home treasures from the footpath, cooking and thrifting with my love and quilting until my shoulders ache.

Hopefully, this week, there’ll be more time to sneak in a few posts here at blockaday.  Share a few of the sweet stitchy things I’ve been working on.  Tonight, here’s a snippet of the times that are …

sitting room bee:: bees, bees, bees … it’s spring … they’re everywhere I look …
their buzzing fills my ears & my imagination ::

chair cover chair back

:: all this time at the  desk demanded that I do something
about last year’s thrifted desk chair … so I did …
& now it fulfills Mr. Morris’ command -
to be beautiful and useful ::

strangest ever hard rubbish

:: possibly the weirdest hard rubbish find ever … but oh, the fun
Abby & I have coming up with ideas for them
… leads to lots of giggles from us and eye rolling from Julian ::

an open spring window:: spring, spring, spring … open windows, soft air, soaring spirits ::

quilt binding

::  a quilt is bound … well the machine stitching part of it at least ::

blouse

:: a blouse is cut out ::

white chair

:: hmmm … not sure what this chair wants to be yet … still listening ::

custard

:: a kerfuffle of shopping and enthusiastic chickens
lead to there being 4 dozen eggs in the pantry  … lots of baked egg custard
… perfect writing food I say ::

abby

:: an election was held … Julian & I had the great delight (and pride) of sharing
with Abby her first election day volunteering … it was marvellous! ::

machine

:: so much to do … just the way I like it ::

And you?  What are these times demanding of you?

delia duck

before

head

This is Delia.  We found her at the op shop.  A bit battered.  Tatty tail feathers that suggest she may have had an unfortunate encounter with a wily ginger critter.  She needed a wee bit of tender love and care.

A good sanding.  A rich oiling.  Some sweet clothes for outings.  Ah yes.  Delia loves to visit.  And this being Melbourne, she needed a warming shawl, a pretty skirt and a wee felt hat.

DSC_9878 shawl embroidery

Oh how I love making these simple little pieces.  I knitted the shawl whilst glued to the television the night of our battle for prime minister.  Crocheted a lacy trim.  Added some embroidery.  Delia’s a french duck.  She has a thing for fine detail.

bow

The skirt/apron was whipped up from scraps lying on the table.  For my aprons, I fold the  fabric in half lengthways so the  bottom hem is the fold.  I sew the side seams right sides together.  Turn out and vigorously press.  Put two rows of gathering thread in the top of the apron.   Gather them up to fit.  Then finish with a quilt binding style waist band/tie.  Very easy with a lovely sharp and neat finish.  Of course, it too needed crocheted trim.

felt box

putting together the hat

Finally the hat.  So fiddly!  I cut two small circles of felt – the size of a twenty cent piece – and stitched each of them to a band of matching felt – kind of like a little felt drum.  Stuffed with fleece.  Then I added the felt flowers and stitched a narrow pink ribbon to the underside of the hat to hold it in place.  Delia is smitten and refuses to take it off – she even wears it to bed!

DSC_9930

beak up

ready for outings

Abby felt so cold, she wondered whether Delia needed wee leg warmers as well.  Delia just shook her head and pooh poohed such a suggestion.  Apparently French ducks do not wear leg warmers.

However, she did request a pretty button with which to fasten her shawl.  I acquiesced.  A felt one was made in the style of Delia’s favourite peppermint lollies.

DSC_9926

 

 

full length

ready

So there you are!  All ready for your outings.  Now you just make sure, Mme Delia, that you are home well before dark falls.  You wouldn’t want to run into another wily ginger fellow.

Besides – we’re so fond of you, we like you sitting atop the sideboard in the family room.  Just the right spot for quick quack-chats and strokes as we walk by.

whereupon we combine knitting, vintage embroidery boxes & the prime minister’s needles

edited at midnight to add:  and just like that (clicks the fingers) we lost our first woman prime minister. Abby and I feel quite sad.  Deposed by the greatest spoilt brat of all time.

See, yesterday Julian printed out the argyle charts for me from his vest pattern which meant I could start knitting the front of his vest today with all those little balls of wool which insisted on rolling round and round the floor in an infuriating way which meant I was hunting about for something to put them in when I remembered the vintage embroidery box that I restored a few weeks back that just needed the hinges re-attaching and whilst I was thinking and gathering all of this I was reminded of last night’s very spiteful attack on our prime minister Julia Gilliard for KNITTING.

box with wool

Now without doubt, the PM has had some dodgy moments over the last four years.  But she’s also achieved some very fine things and has at the same time been subjected to the most revolting personal attacks – many very sexist.  Attacking her for KNITTING – with claims that it made her look like an old crone, a man in drag, and completely out of touch with real women – is just the dizzy limit.  For god’s sake – the poor PM has to have some down time and why is knitting in any way an unacceptable choice.

The whole attack was not just petty – and yet another example of how poor Julia will be crucified no matter what she does – but demeaning to an art that is both useful and beautiful, too everybody who has ever picked up a pair of knitting needles and a ball of yarn, and trivialises the hours put into every jumper that has warmed a child, every pair of socks, beanie and scarf that has kept the chill at bay from one point of this planet to another, and every cardigan that has been worn with pride then carefully handed down to the next generation.

close up of the inside lid

Anyway, I felt inspired to drop Julia a line so I thought I’d share it here along with the pictures of the pretty embroidery box, now employed as an argyle ball holder  (scroll to the botton for the before shots :-) …

Dear Prime Minister Gillard,

sitting on the fence

As a woman, feminist, student nurse, passionate advocate for the rights of children, women, people with disabilities, and refugees, campaigner for environmental sustainability and animal welfare, and KNITTER, I would like to congratulate you on the lovely photos and story that appeared in this month’s Women’s Weekly.  I think your knitted kangaroo was very sweet and a lovely, thoughtful and personal gesture.

open

 I don’t actually read the Women’s Weekly, but saw the corresponding article on the ABC news last night and was outraged on your behalf by the snide, spiteful and immature comments made by Christopher Pyne, Julie Bishop and Trish Macrossin.  They clearly pay no attention to what their constituents get up to in their spare time.  We are not all passive consumers, chained to commercial media, believing every word of drivel served up to us by those who regularly seek to incite, demean and divide.  In contrast, like you, many of us seek pleasure and peace in creating something with our own hands.  And this does not make us less of a person or worthy of contempt!

the lid

I am so disappointed by the sexist culture currently flourishing here in Australia – especially with regard to you – where it is now even considered acceptable to ridicule, in a completely sexist manner, a woman who chooses to spend her precious personal time knitting!  No one challenged the rights of Joe Hockey, Christopher Pyne, Nigel Scullion, Barnaby Joyce,  or Peter Garratt, all who appeared in front of a stove on Annabel Crabb’s Kitchen Cabinet program, to stand up in parliament because they knew how to cook!

the lining

How dare people suggest that because you know how to wield a pair of knitting needles, that somehow makes you less worthy of your role.  The depth to which our public commentary will stoop knows no bounds and is sadly indicative of a dangerous tendency for so many in our society to be shallow observers rather than valuable participants.  

the unicron

If more people spent time exploring the real issues that beset this country, as well as turning their own hands to a bit of sustainable creativity, instead of constantly looking for opportunities to tear down, we would be a much richer, more compassionate, and productive society.

at the foot of the tree

 I knit in public all the time – on trains, in parks, cafes, at the beach – and regularly have such lovely chats with people of all ages and backgrounds – from rambunctious little Jewish boys at the local playground, to the heavily tattooed young man on the train, to the hardworking owner of our local Chinese takeaway, to the frail elderly ladies I have nursed in hospital, to the busy young students I share many of my days with –  who want to know what I’m doing, how to do it, what part knitting has played in their families’ lives, and how much they would love to try it. 

the cane

Knitting brings people together, creates goods that are both beautiful and useful, and expresses how much we think of someone, when we are prepared to dedicate the time it takes to knit them something special, warming and comforting.  

carrying it

I appreciate your knitting was probably seized upon by a publicity person as a means to help create a more human-you.  Be assured – it caught my eye!  There are many things you have done during your tenure that I applaud, and sadly, many things that have left me very disappointed.  However, to attack you over your practice of an ancient, incredibly intricate craft that has been perfected by both sexes and in cultures around the world for thousands of years – is infuriating.  

bursting with wool

It is also a petty, ignorant and sexist attack on all those hundreds and thousands of people in our community who seek to create something unique and beautiful with their own hands, suggesting no man in his right mind would do so and any woman who does is not to be taken seriously.

yours sincerely,

 Lily Boot

I do wonder how she gets up each morning.  It must be so dispiriting to be constantly attacked – even when you try to do something nice (she has knitted a kangaroo doll for Prince William and Princess Kate’s babe).

Whilst I am very aware the PM has many more important things on her plate a silly little part of me hopes that some aide reads my email and as the PM is striding off to another ghastly meeting, the aide is able to say “Hey!  We got a funny email from a voter who thought your knitting was cool and that the naysayers were totally out of line.”

It’s a forehead smacking time we live in.

Here are the before photos … found at a local op shop.  Have been searching for more ever since, but alas, no luck.

the ghastly before shot more awfulness the stuffing

How funny are these little lumps of stuffing!  You should look out for a little vintage embroidery box, dear reader, and if you need some help to recover it, email me and I’ll walk you through it!

Three huge huzzahs for all those who make things with their hands! 

a little bit of beeswax

bee shop

For 12 years now, I’ve been dropping into the Parkdale Apiarists’ supplies for beeswax.  It’s a lovely place, full of mysterious pieces and shiny equipment I would just love to own and use.  There’s something especially captivating about a store that specialises in just one fascinating thing.  That has shelves laden with bespoke tools and tokens that only a person with the right wisdom and skill is able to identify and use.  Mmmm …. I can wile away hours in such stores.  Inpsecting, wondering, impressed to the enth degree.  Maybe one day I will be in the market for some lovely wooden hives, smokers and honey spinners.

Right now – it’s just the beautiful, creamy yellow, richly scented wax I come for.  Blocks and sheets for candle making.  Oh how we do love making beeswax candles.  Abby’s been rolling them from the exquisitely formed sheets below since she was a toddler.  We fill old electric jugs with them and pop them on shelves and in corners, waiting to be used in the glasses and candlesticks around our home.  And whilst they burn quite quickly, there’s something especially lovely about the glow and scent of melting beeswax.

sheets of beeswax bubble

[ for the curious, we use an electric deep fryer to melt our wax, you're able to control the temperature really well, it's very safe, there's no chance of the beeswax scorching,
& it's a very easy cleanup ]

In the last few years, we’ve been filling all manner of interesting glasses and bottles, cups and bowls with wax.  My favourite are a set of chubby silver plated mugs I found at the  oppie.  I give them a rub up with silver polish first, then fill them wax and wicks and set them along the windowsill.  They gleam with such warmth and magic.

Last week, the making of candles was declared the perfect treat for little girlies who had finished all their homework earlier in the week.  We rolled long straight candles, filled glasses which, as they cooled, looked more like delicious creme caramels than candles …

fixing the wick pouring it in creme caramels

… dipped our favourite autumn leaves in to the wax, so as to preserve their lovely colours …

serrated edged leaf oiling it up

… and made some very special candles in a terrific cake mould Julian brought me home from America several years back.  I had to think a bit about how to attach the wick given the wick needed to come out of the top of the candle (where there was no such opening) rather than the bottom.  We decided to use blue tack.  We cut the wicks to size, then coiled up the bottom inch or so and wrapped it tightly in a thick ball of blue tack.  We then rolled this ball in a bit of macadamia oil (which we also used for oiling the cake pan), then set it in the middle of the “top” of the shape, attaching the rest of the wick to a wooden skewer in the usual way.

working it out filling the mouldIt worked a treat!  Once the candle had hardened (we left them over night), we turned them out of the mould, trimmed the excess wick off flat with the bottom, then carefully dug the little ball of blue tack with its wick out of the top of the candle.  The blue tack was a little sticky, but it eventually came off with tweezers.  I thought about adding more melted wax to the top, to fill the resultant hole, but was a bit nervous that it might melt the shape, or run down the sides.  So instead, with the candle lit, I carefully scooped around the hole to neaten it.

ladybug ladybug lit

Just lovely!  Our lady bugs, dragonflies, bees and butterflies have made such cosy candles on these dark and cold winter nights.

And oh how clever the little girlies feel!  They’re already working on their Christmas present giving lists … and could I suggest that all the recipients stock up on matches!

 

a very finished chess board

Yeah, yeah.  You’re sick of hearing about the chessboard.  And I didn’t live up to my promises last week.  I know.  The week kind of wobbled off course.  These things happen.

But today!  New week.  New to do list.  Board FINISHED.  Family playing. Good stuff!

raw edges

It only took an hour to move the board on from here …

looking at blue

to here …

corner with pieces orange

and then as soon as the girlie was home and tea was brewed …

abbys lineup abby little blue pawn knight king my hostages

Personally, I think chess is made so much more fun by having such darling little pieces :-) I bought them from a lovely local woman on ebay.  What a find!

Playing, I always imagine I’m Empress Matilda – wife to the German Emperor, heir to the English throne, and dogged combatant of her usurper cousin King Stephen.  Not that this brings me any luck or skill – bit useless at chess I am.

I first met Matilda in Ellis Peter’s marvellous Brother Cadfael books – have you read them? They are so enjoyable.  Fortunately, I was studying history at the time and was able to enrol in subjects that allowed me to dip further into this awesome woman’s life and struggles.  I wanted to name Abigail after her.  My family pooh-poohed the idea – a girl born in Australia and named Matilda will always be asked if she’s named after that blasted song with the thieving swagman!

her next move

After whipping me soundly, Abby prepared the board and waited for a more serious opponent …

julian and abby cosy evening… and from the sounds drifting down the hallway, I’m guessing the moves that swiftly defeated her mother just don’t stack up against her father :-)

fu

lucy

Meanwhile, the rain pours, the temperature drops further still, soup bubbles gently on the stove, lazy doggles snore …

Such is the perfect winter’s eve.

a felt pocket book

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

last supplies the finishing touch

in my basket

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

a pocket book what it holds back pocket

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

clasp close up of girl and dress in hand

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

embroidery basket

~ loveliness found ~ 16/52

 if you would like to share your ~loveliness found~ moments from this week
please leave them in the comments or share a link to your place!

basket of knitting

~ a basket filled with beautiful but under-appreciated yarn, bought many years ago,
now being knitted into something warming & special
for someone very loved ~

extra warmth

~ dragged in from the sofa to my cold & lonely, late autumn bed,
so scrumptiously cosy ~

easter decorations

~ a little girl oohs and ahhs over the easter goodies still waiting to be put away
& then sighs that she feels sad for her mum,
she has to work so hard and never has time to make nice things
- a good reminder of how grateful I am for the blessings I have ~

butterfly pillowcase
new pillowcases

~ oh how I do love making pillowcases …
one for the little girlie & a pair for me,
such simple pleasure ~

new colour~ the end of the bleached look, thank goodness!
& with no papa to help, it’s up to mama to make it work -
I had performance anxiety ~

oast pancakes

~ Heather’s fabulous oaty pancakes, we love them so!
find the recipe here ~

freshly washed

~ the dust became more than I could bear …
time to wash the back door china ~

moomin quilt

~ tying the Moomin quilt – we’re working on the jigsaw principle …
leave it on the table with scissors, thread and needle at hand,
& it will get done in little bits of time ~

sheets~ finding the sun … & something to hang them on
I do declare I MISS the hills hoist ~