the secret hattifattener society discovers licquorice allsorts

 

See, I found this beautiful range of dotty fabric at Gail Bs.  It comes in about 30 different colours.  Of course, I would have loved some of every colour, but the purse was light so I bought just a few of my favourites – reds, oranges, yellows and pinks.  I adore these colours – they are so full of rich and cheerful life.  They sing of happiness and warmth – two things I know I thoroughly enjoy and you probably do too.  So the more I stitch with them, the more I have around me, the merrier I feel :-)

I chopped them up into little squares with the black for the teacloth quilt and oh they looked so pretty – like licquorice allsorts – and there were a few leftover – so I kept chopping until I had enough for a nice square of 11 by 11.  I stitched them up then tucked them away into the “currently-working-on” basket, unsure of what to do with them next.

A little mat would be quick and easy but there’s a limit to how many spots they can be used – specially since Julian’s not a big fan.  A centrepiece, on point, for a larger quilt would be lovely but would require so more fabric.

And then, this week, I decided to just throw on some lovely spring green borders and turn my luscious little squares into yet another cushion.  I love cushions – don’t you ?!

quilted hattis

Then there was the quilting.  I am trying to break out of the squiggly-wiggly.  I love how it looks and all, but it is nice to be a bit adventurous and try to expand the skills.

So I did … big squiggly wigglies!  Which – when I looked at them from the back, look just like Hattifatteners!  Without the arms.  And thus the Secret Hattifattener Society Discovers Licquorice Allsorts cushion was born.

close up of hattis

It needed a crocheted edging – of course it did – that’s my latest fetish :-)  So, once the binding was sewn down, I added a row of blanket stitch …
start with blanket stitch

… picked my crochet colours …
so bright

… and picked up those pink loops through the blanket stitch.

crocheting through the blanket stitch

The crochet took longer than the rest of the cushion.  Round and round and round.  But totally worth it … and finished just in time to catch the last of today’s sun – which, I might add, didn’t make an appearance until after 4pm this afternoon.  Fickle thing.

with the last beams of sun

finished

top corner

all those hattis

Oh I know I’m blowing my own trumpet – but aren’t these colours just beautiful!  Last week’s Spring Meadow cushion has that lovely soft spring look – like a delicate English garden just peeping out from the frosty cold.  This cushion is hollering a tropical gardening tune at the top of its lungs!

bottom corner

across the top

plain back

And here it is, in its new home, on my rocking chair, in the newly arranged front room – which I mightily adore  …

insitu

Of course, I wouldn’t fit onto the rocking chair with it :-)  That’s the funny thing about me and cushions.  I don’t actually like sitting with them.  Abby loves them – squishing them up under her elbows or hips, or behind her head, or resting her drawing pad on them.  Mum wodges them behind her back for extra support.

Lucy would carry them around with her, if she could.  Fu – she likes to prop herself up against them – as if she’s posing for a French classical portrait.  Julian – he’s the king of squashing them up.

But me – I like looking at them … they are my little feathery seat warmers and then, when I sit down, I push them to one side or prop them on the floor.  Silly huh!

on my rocking chairBut very pretty :-)

 

a squishy spring meadow cushion

spindles

Well it’s only taken most of the week. But, after more stops and starts than I think I’ve ever before encountered in a simple patchwork cushion, I have FINALLY finished my Spring Meadow Cushion.

misleading

It all started last weekend when I said to Abby, “I’ll just whip up a couple of blocks with that pretty tablecloth fabric”.  In my head, the squares I needed to cut from the Mozi linen tablecloth were 10 1/2 inches.  In reality, I cut the first strip 10 inches.  Bugger.  Never mind.  I can work with that.  But then, I cut the first one off my strip at 9 1/2 inches.  That’s not a square dear.

So I decided to trim the wonky square into an octagon (which I kept calling a hexagon – good thing patients don’t come as either hexagons or octagons) and use it as the centrepiece for a new cushion cover.  I “found” one of the lovely huge feather cushions Ikea used to make – they now make this size in a nasty polyfill which would lose its shape on the way home in the car – in the sewing shed and thought it would be useful for Abby who likes to sit on the floor when she’s creating.

blanket octagon

In my head (a faulty place to be last weekend) I would sew scrappy strips round and round my “hexagon” until it was big enough.  Only when I was playing with my scrappy strips, I laid them on the cushion in a completely misleading way and then spent the next 6 hours trying to make my strips look like those above – with those nice little triangular bits.  Did this work? Of course it didn’t!!!!!!!  It was a “hexagon”.  It didn’t matter how many times I unpicked my strips, those triangles never appeared and I became very disillusioned by my obviously poor grasp of geometry.

I sat there, all Sunday evening, trying to draw it on the computer – to no avail.  Abby thought the only option was defeat – especially since my “hexagon” didn’t look anything like a hexagon.  ”Why does it have 8 sides?” she queried.  ”Because it’s a hexagon silly,” I said.  She rolled around the floor laughing.  ”No it’s not!!!!!  It’s an octagon!!!!!  Octagons have 8 equal sides.  You are NEVER going to make triangles appear on every second side.”

It was blindingly obvious the minute she pointed this out. And even if it was a bloody hexagon, its sides are even too! Folks, I am truly not usually this stupid.  It must have been all the stress of waiting for the grad positions.

oh no

There may have been many deep sighs.  And frustrated stitch ripping.  And flinging of scrappy strips.  There may have been cursing.  But the next morning, when I sat down and looked at it …. I could SEE what I needed to do.  And so, got stuck into it.  Round and round and round.  The only rule I needed to observe was to make the current strip overlap the previous one and the next strip – as you can see below.  It was peachy after that :-)

oberlap finally sorted it

I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself and before I knew it, I had reached the desired size, quilted my centre, added my envelope back, and bound it.  Then I started the crochet edge.  Ahem.  There were several errors.  Which required metres of unravelling and redoing.  But the best bit was late last night, when I’d sat up well past bedtime to finish the bloody thing.  And I ran out of lilac cotton.  With only two scallops to go.  Strangely enough, it didn’t even matter that I saw that shortage coming so crocheted FASTER.

Never mind.  Never mind.  I could just stop by Wondoflex first thing in the morning to buy another ball.  Except that Patons have discontinued most of their lovely 4 ply cotton colours and replaced them with incredibly harsh, bright ones instead – the sort that are usually found in an 8 piece box of children’s crayons – from a $2 shop.

ran out of lilac

So … there was more unravelling …

off it came wee ball

… which turned out to be very serendipitous because the green is much lovelier and so very very springlike :-)

outside for photos

So it is with great relief, I can finally give you … a quilted and crocheted squishy spring meadow cushion!

whole cushion with curry plant corner poking through landscape

With so many of my favourite fabrics … that vivid purple on the left – that’s leftover from Abby’s Christmas dress when she was 10.  That purple check with the little daisies – that’s from Old Nanny Cottam’s stash.  The Kaffe pansies – they’ve been in almost everything for the last 6 years.  The Christmas balls and boughs – that’s in Abby’s Moomin quilt.

lovely colours centrepiece more lovely colours

And I know Mum and Julian will think the crocheted edging is a bit over the top – but hey!  More is always more in lily-land.

with sage flower dimpled sides crochet edging squashy with rosemary

Lastly, here it is being put to very good squishy use on the floor.  Just as it was meant to be.

DSC_0400 under am

Unless you are a bit whiffy, a bit grotty around your furry edges, and your name is Lucy.  In that case – paws off!

 

all over the place

 

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

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

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

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

little boy teatowles

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

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

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

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

crocheted flowers fabric on piano

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

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

owls crochet

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

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

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

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

Man, I am all over the place.

crumpled quilt

a cushion to catch the sun

the full

Not last weekend but the one before – with one week left for me on placement in the ICU – Julian left for yet another overseas work trip.  Ugh!  It was a very dreary weekend.  Cold.  Grey.  Abby had a Sunday full of friends and an outing.  I was home alone.  Too frazzled to settle down to nursing papers, grad applications, or lovely stitching projects.  Too petulant to do housework.  Too tired to read – I’d have just fallen asleep.  So I did a little shopping – which was when I discovered the Great/Dreadful Spotlight Sell-out of DMC Embroidery Wool – then came home and rearranged the house!

Nothing like a good rearrange to soothe the spirits, busy the body and give me that immense feeling of satisfaction of a job well done :-)  It was all for a good cause.  With Abby now in the midst of her last two years of high school, she really needed a dedicated and low stimulus (i.e. not her bedroom which is full of posters and books and comics and dolls and laptops and all other manner of distraction) environment to settle quietly into each evening for a solid stretch of homework and study.  And so was born The Library.

I moved the big desk with its big computer out of my room (I only have two papers left to write for my degree so no longer need a dedicated study spot) and into the front room (which we didn’t use much anyway), filled the corners with bookcases, three armchairs with a back-up in the hall for comfy quiet times, and moved the three seater sofa into our bedroom.  This also required a complete bedroom rearrange – shuffling the bed, dressing tables, and Julian’s wee gentleman’s wardrobe.  Blimey – by the time I finished around 8pm that night, I was buggered.

the right the photos the curtains

Now – not only does Abby have a great spot for her work, but I have a lovely, sun filled window seat for reading, knitting, stitching, or stretching out for a quick nap! And soaking up this morning’s delicious (but oh so chilly) sunshine – a cheerful, wooly, quilted cushion – I give you The Suncatcher!

the cushion

It was a completely spur of the moment creation just before placement started.  On a cold, late afternoon, Mum was at the kitchen table stitching Abby’s Debutante’s dress – her idea of bliss.  Julian was at the stove cooking – his idea of bliss.  Abby was on the floor of the living room, drawing and skyping with Sacha- her idea of bliss.  And I was flipping through an email from Pinterest – with no bliss – when I spied a picture of all these little coloured circles paired up and stitched into rows.  They looked like beautiful macaroons and their pretty colours instantly brought a smile to my face.  I cannot remember how they were presented – as a cushion? wall hanging? tote bag?  I don’t know what sort of fabric they used for their circles or for the backing.  And even worse – I can’t remember who the original artist was and nor can I find the photo again.  It would seem I was so excited, I didn’t even pin it to one of my boards.  Hmph!

I did, however, get snipping, and by the time supper was on the table, I had 50 little circles of felt cut and paired (all from the exquisite selection at Winterwood Toys).  Now, I’m sure they could have been cut more evenly – specially with one of those nifty circle cutter press thingies.  But you know me – I’m not a stickler for perfection.  I love colour and texture and the whole doing thing.  Having it put together in a pretty and sturdy way and then put to good use is all I need for my dose of bliss.

cutting circles bottom rows rosy pinks green glowing quilted in checks

After pairing my circles up, I pinned them out – combination of eyeballing with the occasional use of a tape measure – onto a lovely lovely lovely piece of wool fabric that looks like hessian – oh it is so beautiful with the prettiest halo – which I found at Darn Cheap Fabrics up the road.  Of course, it was bought for another purpose, but I never let that stop me ;-)  I then pinned this – using safety pins – onto a piece of vintage blanketing for extra sturdiness – those little macaroons of felt carry a bit of heft which the woollen hessian just doesn’t have.

little beaks purples and yellows

Then – using my walking foot, I stitched straight down the middle of each column of macaroons.  Quilted it into checks.  Add a border of tumblers in pretty Konas. Whacked on an envelope backing of cocoa and white checks and bound the edges with a nice neutral.  Abby picked it out for me – I tend to get carried away – you know, more is always more.  Abby has a lot more discipline then I when it comes to fabric choices!

on its back

Oh I do love this cushion so much!  It doesn’t matter where we put it – its beautiful, rich, cheery, furry colours catch every last drop of sun and bring a wonderful light to this often dark and wintery home.

with tea and pattern

For now – it’s sitting on my window seat with me and I’m about to sit here in the sun with my cup of tea and have just a little fiddle with this new needlepoint pattern before I write my pharmacology log that’s due in tomorrow!  Truly – just a little fiddle ;-)  You believe me – yes?

 

 

not lucy’s patchwork cushion

into the wash

Dear little Lucy (Mum’s dog, who’s staying with us whilst Mum’s in Brisbane looking after Nanny and Grandad) is very fond of her comforts.  Why sit on just the sofa when you can scrunch up all the quilts and knitting that are on the sofa into a cosy nest that you can burrow yourself into?  Nicely upholstered furniture isn’t good enough, no you should drag all the cushions into a pile and knead them into just the right density before you settle down.  As for the bed – why would you want to sleep at someone’s feet when you can sleep next to their head – and turn into a growly leaden lump when someone tries to shuffle you along.  Best of all, being a cavoodle with thick, slightly oily, woolly fur, Lucy gets pretty grotty, pretty quickly and rubs all of this onto the afore mentioned quilts, cushions, beds and knitting.  Isn’t she thoughtful!

So last week – after holding the living room cushions up to my face and sniffing them – I decided they all needed a de-Lucying – a wash and an air.  And, given there was an essay due in that same day that still needed a lot of work, what more perfect time was there for me to plan and stitch up some new patchwork cushion covers.

I tried a snail’s trail block – something I haven’t played with for many years – and after some trial and error, hit upon a technique I liked very much – make each triangle way to big and trim it down once all four sides are on.  Then, today, with another essay due in at midnight (a discussion of something dodgy I saw or did on placement that I have since “reflected on” and learnt from) I quilted it up and added those bits and pieces necessary to turn it into a cushion cover.

ready for quilting

I was going to do the squiggly wiggly, but then thought I should be a bit more adventurous and practice drawing with my free motion foot.  So I tried some mandela style flowers.  I had to pull the first one out, it was so ghastly, but the following four turned out mostly acceptable.  Of course, practice will improve things and I won’t ever get any better if I don’t try.  I’m also not the kind of person that can practise for hours on a piece of calico with no purpose, so a cushion cover seems a good compromise.

border flower

They look really pretty on the back – woollen blanketing is so very forgiving to slightly wonky stitches.  They embed nicely into the soft pile.  Not so flattering on the smooth cotton front, but … have to start somewhere :-)

needed to unpick

gerald

Oh – and Fu thought you might want to meet Gerald.  He was Toph’s bedtime companion when she was a puppy.  Now he’s Fu’s – she’s not always very kind to Gerald but I do think she’s very fond of him.  She ran around the back garden “killing” Gerald whilst I took these photos, then dashed up to me and chucked him onto the quilting.  So there you go – that’s Gerald.

amongst the leaves

And here’s the finished cushion!  The colours seem just right for autumn.  So many shades of yellow, red, orange and brown surrounding us at the moment – and the perpetually grey skies.  These trees – I don’t know what they are – line one section of a very big road that I drove along most days.  They are very lush and green throughout spring and summer, but at this time of the year, they truly take your breath away – the very air hovering around them feels as golden as their softly falling leaves.

cushion on chair side on yellow and green looking up avenue

And the little card chair – I found it this morning on the footpath on the way home from school drop off.  English oak arms!  And whilst I was inspecting it, the owner came out and we agreed it was a sweet piece that just needed a little bit of tlc – that’s what he was hoping for.  Melbourne’s footpath furniture sharing at it’s best.

I have plans for the chair – involving a very even weave, camel coloured, woollen fabric from up the road, a Japanese embroidery book translated into Chinese (because that’s so much more useful to me!) and a bit of metho and steel wool.  It will be transformed!  But I can’t start it til I finish my fox chair (if you want you can check the instagram photos on the sidebar here) – I’ll show you the start of that little project tomorrow – it’s very addictive – I have to keep dashing out to the craft table and adding a bit more embroidery here and another leaf there!

with arms closeup of stitching

my prop assistant

I tried a little viney flowery kind of thing with my quilting along the borders – almost pleased with it.  And that’s my prop assistant – she very kindly offered to carry the cushion, camera and car keys because there was no way she was lugging that chair up North Road.  Ah what she puts up with from her silly mama :-)

on the sofa

Here’s the new cushion, insitu.  Just right against the syrupy yellows of the white blossom tree quilt.  And I know Lucy’s keen to try it out – with all its lovely new, bouyant feathery insert and crisply clean cotton cover.  I’m sure she’ll get right into later tonight.

It’s a good thing we love you Lucy!

william’s fox

pulled out to finish

first needlepoint book

There’s nothing like a few good finishes to get one all riled up and digging even deeper into that bag of almost dones.  And with the monkey looking so luscious on the sofa, I was inspired to trek out to the sewing shed this morning, rain and all, and find my very first needlepoint.  William Morris’ Fox in the Acanthus leaves, as adapted by Beth Russell.

I started this project in 1993.  Oh my goodness.  That’s 20 years ago.  Eeeek!  I don’t remember where I bought the book, but I do remember where I bought my supplies … a little embroidery store that lived on the second floor of the Toowong Shopping Centre in Brisbane.  They had quite a lovely range and for many years, I was a regular customer.  Sadly, it went the way of most little embroidery stores and I think the same spot is now occupied by a fingernail salon.  What does that say about our society – that there are fingernail salons around every corner? I’m not sure.

However, whilst they were lovely ladies at this embroidery shop and I shared many lovely afternoons with them, they certainly did not set me up well for my first needlepoint adventure and I knew no better.  Look at that canvas – white single thread with absolutely NO margins.  Awful stuff.  And shows up through the stitches like a bad case of dandruff.

I don’t know why I didn’t notice this – the dandruff bit – at first.  I just didn’t and stitched away happily until it was almost finished … then I noticed and in puzzled disappointment, William’s fox was rolled up and put away.  In fact, it was even suggested by one rather unpleasant person whose company I no longer keep, that it wasn’t worth finishing, the white speckles of the canvas so spoiled it.

However, now, with those couple of decades behind me, a whole lot more confidence, and a much more cheery and laid back approach to life, I look at this sweet embroidery and am charmed.  There are surely hundreds of hours of my life stitched into these tiny white squares.  I have such vivid memories of where I used to sit (I used to rise by 5am so that I could sit under the lamp, by the piano in our little flat in Hill End and stitch away before catching the ferry across the river to work at the University of Queensland), what I would listen to on the radio (Christopher Lawrence on the ABC Classic’s breakfast program – there was a particular piece he played regularly – a Catalan dance played on the recorder – that I would long for every morning – made my heart sing), and how I would watch the ferry trundling back and forth across the river and think, just one more length of wool and then I’ll run down to the terminal.  Just one more.  Just one more – I was so often late for work!   And hundreds of dollars worth of Appleton crewel wool along with it.  And it is an enchanting design – exactly why it was the very first needlepoint I chose to do.

It certainly IS worth finishing and today was the day.

yarn

I pulled out the wools – they were all still there, twenty years on, in a tin that I have carried from home to home since then.  There was a wee leaf tip to stitch and a little bit more background to fill.  Would be easily finished in an hour, then I could sew it up and get on with the rest of my day.  Until I noticed there seemed to be the odd stitch missed here and there.  Really peculiar.  Puzzled me how I could have missed just one stitch here and there.  Until I started to poke at the stitches around these little holes … and realised the wool had been eaten.  Baaaaaaaaah!

This is incredibly expensive moth proofed Appleton crewel wool!  How could it be moth eaten?!?!?  And NONE of my other needlepoints (of which there are so many) have a single mark on them – NONE!  How could this one!  I am meticulous about washing my hands before embroidering and NEVER eat whilst I am working with fabric or yarn.  A careful scientific assessment on Instagram :-) leads me to think it was probably silverfish – horrible little beasts.  Every house we lived in in Queensland was riddled with them  - as soon as something became untouched for more than a few weeks, they’d move in.  Ugh!  UNESCO even identify them as a major pest of tapestries and apparently they are very fond of sizing – of which the white canvas had plenty and protein – wool.

Each single missing stitch turned into several as I carefully unpicked the damaged stitches and then continued unpicking until I had enough intact yarn to finish off properly.  In the end, not only did I repair all the spots illuminated by those missing stitches, but was able to pick out where the stitches had been chewed but hadn’t quite fallen out.  It took all day.

eaten bigger eaten

I confess, I began to think … that’s it, this bloody needlepoint was absolutely never meant to be finished.  And yet, I continued to work steadily at the damaged stitches.  Each time I poked an area and it fell apart, I practically cried in frustration, but kept pulling out old stitches and putting in new ones.  Let’s face it – it took all day but it certainly was still only little bits here and there that needed repairing.  The favoured colour was definitely the fox’s gingerbread coat.

bit of funny needlepoint

A good deal of self talk also helped my perspective.  There I was sitting in front of a wall that I have covered in the quirky little needlepoints I have bought from op shops.  Weird little designs, like the one above, higgledy-piggledy things with with missing or wonky stitches, and some with damaged frames.  But all so charming and pretty in their own way.

Each time I find one and bring it home, Julian or Mum will look in horror and ask what on earth I want it for.  I have the same reply each time.  I’m drawn to the hours put in by a dedicated stitcher who receives so much pleasure from her work.  That’s what I love.  I look at these sweet pictures stitched in wool and I know the thrill of choosing a new pattern.  Of buying the wools and neatly laying them on the table in front of me.  Of finding the middle of the canvas and starting.  Of stitching for the first several hours, holding it up and seeing nothing but a strange arrangement of stitches.  Of delight when the picture begins to appear.

Perfection is highly over rated.  Yes it’s nice and sure, I don’t aim to do a project badly.  But two decades of stitching has taught me that the pleasure is in the doing and the using.  I don’t need my points to be pin sharp.  I don’t need my lines of quilting to have the perfect curve or the straightest line.  I don’t need my knitting to be spot on.  I try my best and then I keep going.  Yes I still “enjoy” a good unpicking and will unravel a cardigan if it is required :-)  But if the joy of making with my own hands becomes reduced to  a mechanical exercise in getting it precisely right, I’m not interested.  My time is too limited for that.  I want the thrills described above.

And this needlepoint with its thousands of stitches, flecks of white, and silverfish chomped bits has delivered those thrills in abundance.  As well as a marvellous learning opportunity and a passion for needlepoint that I will always have.  In this light, one could call my William’s Fox a gift!

all patched up

And so it was FINISHED!  And I am delighted.  I collected Abby from school, called into the lovely Darn Cheap Fabrics up the road for a rich red (they have the most glorious pure wool fabric – it is heavenly and well worth buying – just $20 a metre and 145cm wide), had a lovely chat with Lynne (we are kindred spirits for sure), came home and sewed William’s fox into a gorgeous cushion that I just love.

sewn up DSC_2528 tassels blue flower

I mean, just look at him sitting there!  He embodies 20 years of my journey … I am so lucky to have him.

with mary margaret

p.s. I told you the sofa was becoming a needlepoint easel.

 

a cushiony update

Last Friday was largely spent unpicking.  It never ceases to amaze me how unpicking an item can literally take 3 times longer than the time it took to put together.  Oy!

mary margaret done looking down love the grey and red

First up, there was the unpicking of Mary Margaret.  I first sewed her up 6 years ago (oh my goodness, just read this old post – and had completely forgotten about the girl who wanted her photo taken pretending to do my needlepoint – hee! hee! hee! – this is why I love keeping a blog!).  Complained at the time that I wasn’t pleased with the effect … and then left her like it.  How unjust.  She paid me back in spades, taking 3 hours to unpick.  I’m not joking.  Three hours.  I had sewed the seams twice.  Then zigzagged the edges – on the closest possible stitch.   Then sewed the piping in.  Add in the very fragile canvas that pulled so easily and it was a looooooooooooong unpicking.  But so worth it.  I absolutely love the side borders of wool cloth I added to turn these Carriage House Sampling girlies into squares.  And the red braid sewn onto the tassels makes me smile.  Yum!

monkey done dear little face two rows of tassles

The monkey?  He too got a wool cloth border and then two rows of tassels for added sumptuousness.  They were on special at Spotlight – $2 a metre.  Definitely worth it.

elizabeth fixed love that red

Finally, unpicking the blue braid off the Elizabeth cushion – that wasn’t too bad.  Just needed good light to ensure I was only flipping stitches and not the braid itself.  As an aside, how much do you regret choosing that cotton sooooooo well so that you can barely see the stitches when you have to then unpick them.  At these times, I always curse myself for not embracing the notion of “contrast”.

sofa

As for the sofa … well, it would seem to be turning into a bit of an easel for needlepointed cushions :-)  Shhhh!  Don’t tell Julian – he’s not really a cushion man.  Hopefully he won’t notice.  And if he does, he’ll just drop them onto the floor and we know, following the epic unpick, that I make them up “so well” that a little bit of chucking won’t hurt them one bit.

elizabeth – a needlepoint cushion


close done

This is Elizabeth – one of the utterly beautiful patterns from the talented folk at Carriage House Samplings, my favourite cross stitch designers (you’ll have to scroll down quite a way to see her).  She is part of a series called The Girls – and I have all four in various stages of completion.

Yesterday, Elizabeth was finally finished!  The original designs are completed in cross stitch on linen and framed.  I really fancied them as needlepoint cushions.  So simple to convert – you just use canvas instead of linen, and fill the background in with your choice of colour.  My favourite is a DMC wool – 7543 – a buff colour that looks nice and old.

Oh – and my girls have mouths.  I have no insight as to why the original designs have no mouths, but being of the protesting, advocating for the rights of the more vulnerable members of our community, outraged by injustice type,  I simply could not create images of women without wonderful mouths through which to express their thoughts, passion, wit, and outrage.  I remember discussing this with Abby when I first bought the patterns – “Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed, “Look!  They have no mouths.  They’ve been silenced – that’s so terrible!”  Her ten year old self chastised me, “You don’t know that their lack of mouths has anything to do with politics.  It almost certainly hasn’t.  The artist probably just liked them without mouths.”  ”But they can’t express themselves! ”  I railed.  It made me shudder.  So my girls have Lily-added mouths.

stitching it up

next step

I find the cushion sewing part rather demanding – very outside my comfort zone with all the thickness and corners and braid etc.  So much so, it can take me years to work up the courage.  This time it only took ten days.  I’ll count that as a victory.  As for the added bits and bobs – I like the purple wool used to make my finished girl into a square – tall rectangular cushions are very odd.  And I like the orange tassles – but no so sure about the blue braid.  It’s turned out much brighter than expected – rather draws the eye to the braid instead of the girl.  I may have to revisit that.  Another trip to the Glenferrie Road Button Shop may be in order.  I think red might be better.  Hmmm ….

done close up of face and hair close up of eggs

Now, I took these photos over at the home of the little girl I look after in the afternoons.  It’s been such dreary weather here lately, and this afternoon, just at pickup time, the sun burst through.  Too rare and wonderful to lose the opportunity.  So I packed the cushion and camera.  I thought the little girl’s back deck would be just right – drenched in afternoon sun.  But she had different ideas.  She wanted to “style” the cushion in the front garden with her little cane chair and blanket.

She put it here, there and everywhere, tweaked the cushion corners, inspected the photos, changed things round … so sweet!

tweaking the corner my little stylist's work from the side at work with blaket

It was a truly collaborative effort – she the stylist, me the photographer – and she was well pleased with her efforts.  I think she’d have been happy to stay out there all afternoon, had I a box full of goodies to arrange.

But, alas, a report on the habitat of salmon beckoned :-)  So she’s looking forward to the next finished cushion from the series …

all done

… Mary Margaret (not from Once Upon a Time!) which is a-l-m-o-s-t finished.  Such a wee bit left.  I best get stitching.

mary margaret waits her turn

And now I see, Carriage House Samplings have a series of lovely boys getting up to all things very Mark Twainish – with no mouths!  No mind – I’ll stitch them too – and give them mouths as well.

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.

st. lucia visits her homeland

Do you remember my Waldorf inspired St. Lucia from a few years back?  Thanks to the lovely Carrie over at Parenting Passageway and Pinterest it seems a lot of folk do :-)

However – I didn’t ever get around to making a portrait of St. Lucia for myself.  The original was part of a seasonal giveaway and I hope the family she lives with still love her and think of her on her feast day.  So this year – with party preparations and celebrations finally over – I settled down on Friday and Saturday and at long last created a St. Lucia portrait for Bootville.

She’s a cushion!  I used one of those lovely feather filled cushions from Ikea and the prettiest blue velvet cushion cover from Ikea as her background – along with a bit of grey check from Ikea.  The applique is in pure wool felt from Winterwoods and the pleated border is a sweet floral seersucker print from Spotlight.  It was such sheer delight stitching her and I am very pleased with the finished goods.

For her introductory photo shoot – well, Abby says I need to shake things up at block-a-day – add a bit of quirkiness – reflect where WE are and what WE’RE at right now – and folks, despite my day dreams and wee vegetable plot, it is urban all the way to the back teeth.  So, needing to hit Ikea today we decided to take St. Lucia along – we knew she’d feel right at home.


And do you know – it was the most delightful and giggly way to spend an hour or so with my girly.  It’s so true that you don’t need to do something complicated, time consuming or expensive to have a good time.   I mean, check out the smile on St. Lucia’s face!

the true purpose

Yes, it’s that time of the year – the giving of Christmas and thankyou gifts to Abby’s teachers.  She compiles a list – teachers she LOVEs and wants to give a handmade gift.  Teachers she likes and wants to give a small gift and card.  And – the teachers she doesn’t like and gives nothing.

In 11 years of teacher gift giving there’s only been 4 that have made that final list – the Year 3 teacher from hell, the Year 7 PE teacher, the Year 8 Cooking teacher, and this year’s winner – the Literature elective teacher – bizarre but true.  Abby’s strongest subject has always been English, she’s been in the English extension group for the last 3 years, she excels at English – not with this woman.  I found her condescending and arrogant – she was one of those uninspiring teachers that demand you think her way or fail.

As for having such a list – I’m fine with it.  We follow the Mr. Incredible School of Thought – when everybody is special, no one is special.  Abby is a well behaved, witty, keen to learn student who generally likes her teachers.  If she presents a thoughtful gift and card to Ms. Condescending as well as fabulous Mr Wilson, she is either lowering Mr. Wilson to Ms. C’s status, or elevating Ms. C to Mr. Wilson’s well deserved status as a kind, generous, and enthusiastic teacher who makes a positive contribution to Abby’s life. So there you go Ms. C – a lump of coal for you!

But I digress, we’re here today to discuss “the true purpose”.  You see, to those outside my way of looking at the world, it might seem that I have a bit of an obsession with fabric, with patchwork, with colour, with pattern, with creating … you know what I mean. And this leads to sudden urges to put this together with that and come up with something that makes my heart sing and needs to find its place in Bootville.  This can happen with cushions.  I love making cushions.  We have many cushions.  We have more cushions than we have armchairs and sofas to put them on.  This is a shame.  One I regularly try to remedy by bringing home the lost armchairs and sofas I find on the side of the road.  Y-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-s.  Last year, Zach declared that I should open a “sitting” cafe – rent a simple shop up at Elsternwick, put all my sofas and chairs (reupholstered of course) in there and invite people in to sit – ha! ha! ha!

However!  This morning I discovered the true purpose behind random (and excessive) cushion making.  To meet the demand of unexpected and ran-out-of-time teachers’ christmas presents.  I made the cushion shown here for the wonderful Ms. Borley – what a gem – sensible, creative, quirky, funny and totally gets Abby.  But I didn’t get a chance to make one for Ms. Mara – gorgeous woman who knows so much about teenagers and is completely unflappable.  Ta-da!  We’ll give her the freshly made Spring Swing Cushion – perfect!

Then, as she finished writing her card, Abby looked up and asked where Ms. Lewis’ – her passion and delight in Abby makes my heart squeeze with joy –  cushion was.  Ahem. Thinking, thinking, thinking …. ta-da!  We’ll give her the delicate white linen and yellow floral with the indian styled running stitch cushion – just right!

See Julian!  See!  That’s the TRUE purpose behind making lots of cushions.  So’s that when the time comes that there’s a beautiful gift needs giving to a beautiful person, we HAVE one ready and waiting!  See!  See!  It’s called being prepared.  In fact, I think I’ve heard some folks refer to having things prepared in advance as … ORGANISED.  Ha!

Oh, and there was Christmas peppermint bark for the rest of those marvellous teachers (and Bob, the crossing man – an exceptional fellow who chats with Abby every afternoon, wanting to know what she’s been making, what she’s been up to, admiring her art – his friendly sincerity brings tears of thanks to my eyes more weeks than not) who contribute so positively to my dear girl’s days  - in wee cellophane bags, tied up with gilt edged ribbon.  And Abby shovelled the leftover bark into the biggest preserving jar we have and carted it off to school to share with her friends and classmates.

Phew!  Done for another year!  Good thing I love making cushions … in advance  :-)  And a very Merry Christmas and peaceful, restful, lovely holiday to the many wonderful people at Abby’s school.  I am so very grateful for – and regularly in awe of – the care and love you extend to my daughter every day.

a flurry of flowers

Okay, I think I may have exhausted my crochet mojo for the moment.  It all began with a wee flower from the book of joy.

That I played with and added to until it turned into a wee paper weight that did the rounds of the rock pools in Merimbula.

Which made me imagine a cushion of flowers.  Ooooh!  So rich and colour-filled and textured!  Simply must!  I began with yarn I had in the stash but soon felt compelled to add a few more from the lovely Wondoflex.

Which left the family room table submerged beneath a tide of colourful wool.  The first few days, it looked festive and exciting – everytime I walked past, I felt compelled to pick up the hook and crochet a few more petals.  Then it began to bug Julian a little – he didn’t say anything but I could see it in the way he pushed his books and drinks and ipad into them – that dear man is so very tolerant :-)  Then, finally, it bugged me and this morning, with the last of nine flowers crocheted, I pulled a canvas shopping tote from the car, shoved all the remaining balls in and hid the bag in the corner of the spare ‘oom.  It was such a relief.

Thank goodness the next step in the making of this marvellous cushion involves a wee bit of quilting and sewing.  Maybe even some prairie points.  We’ll see.  Could be too much.  This is a line I have trouble identifying.

{ excuse the blur – almost no light left & still using the outdoor zoom lens since the death of the nice indoor lens in JANUARY but I wanted to prove to you there were nine! }

What do you think?  Prairie points in matching colours for the cushion’s edging instead of piping?  Yes?  Too much?