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


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.


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.