a wooden spoon :: sugar plum fairy

a hand for holding

Oh my!  Have I been having fun!

Now, I’ve had a Pinterest account for a while – if you’re interested, there’s an icon for my account in the left hand toolbar – but it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really practiced the fine art of spending hours and hours trawling through the amazing creativity of others and pinning all my favourites onto an ever increasing number of boards.

Oh the things I dream of doing!  I need an indoor staircase so I can wallpaper the risers. I’ll need a couple of kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms so as to use up all the loveliness I find.  Hundreds of quilts – of course.  Exotic things in the garden that will require far greener thumbs than I possess.  Then there’s the new skills I need to acquire – lino cutting, print making, papier mache sculpting … I almost begin to hyperventilate and I can’t decide between sitting and looking, or rushing away and doing.

Sunday morning saw us gathered in the cosy corner of the kitchen; Julian home (for just 30 hours – can you believe it! – home at 3.30am Sunday and gone again Monday at 9.30am) – sliding fresh expressos and creams across the desk every 1/2 hour or so, Abby by my side – saying “Oh! There! There! Pin that! That one!”; and me having a blissful time looking at so many beautiful handmade dolls …

Until I could bear it no longer and simply had to make a doll of my own.  A lovely amalgamation of so many dolls I saw and loved.  A wooden spoon doll with pipe cleaner arms and a little bit of corriedale roving for the body and hair, a wee crocheted bodice, a gathered skirt …

And because Melinda is so lovely and asked how … here is a little demonstration of how I made my sugar plum fairy.  Hope it makes sense … and inspires you to make one of your own!

one spoon

So I started with a small wooden spoon – bigger than a teaspoon but not a dessert spoon – the sort you buy in a packet at party supply stores.

wrapped pipe cleaner

And one long pipecleaner – also in a packet from Winterwood – it’s about 12 inches long.  I used the technique of wrapping the last  2 inches of each end of the pipecleaner (as perfected by the incredibly gifted artist Salley Mavor) with embroidery floss – I used DMC perle cotton no. 8 – in your skin colour of choice.  Start 2 inches in, winding the thread firmly and neatly – make sure you check both sides so that you don’t leave any gaps – to the end of the pipe cleaner.  Then fold the wrapped end in half so that a little hand is made from the the bend and wrap the raw end to the pipecleaner so that it is covered.  Fasten and trim.  I leave an inch of floss which I’ll later cover with the arm wrapping.

wrap it around spoon

Now – position your pipecleaner evenly on the spoon with its 2 wrapped hands out to each side.  Twist the pipe cleaner around the spoon handle, making sure your arms are at an even height – you don’t want wonky shoulders.

2 arms

Next – because I am in a crochet mood – and because I saw an amazing bird cage made from a large whisk which had had its wire loops crocheted over, crochet a single row along each arm – from the wrist to the back – making sure to keep the stitches firm (not tight) and neatly lined up.  There are your sleeves!  This was a bit fiddly and really, the end result was pretty much like blanket stitch – which will be precisely what I do next time.
supplies

wee bit of crochet

Crochet a little bodice.  I used 4 ply cotton thread and a size 2 mm crochet hook and followed the same stitch layout I am using in Attic24′s Stripey Blanket CAL.  You should check out Lucy’s tutorials – they are so incredibly clear and helpful and Lucy is the Queen of Colour.  I made my bodice 18 chains long after deciding on how rounded I wanted my doll’s bodice.

four planes

wrap some wool around the body

Pull the Corriedale roving into long thin strips and wrap the upper half of the spoon handle, making it the most rounded around her bust and tapering it off past her waist.  I then pushed the doll’s arms through the crocheted bodice – there’s always a gap somewhere – overlapped the back and sewed it shut.

dress

I used a scrap of quilt binding – cut at 2 3/4 inch – for her skirt.  I machine sewed my skirt’s ends together (1/4 inch seam) then pressed up a quarter inch hem and machine stitched it.  I handstitched a gathering thread around the waist and pulled it in to fit my spoon doll with her roving bodice – tie the gathering thread ends together, push them through a needle, and then pull this through the roving and trim.  Use a few hand stitches to fasten the waist of the skirt to the roving and pull the bodice down over the top of the skirt waistband.

Night fell, and dim light precluded any more photos so now we jump to the finished doll!

Next, I added a bow to the waist – I just cut the ribbon to the desired length, tied a bow and stitched it onto her bodice/waistband/roving body with a button.

The hair.  I used more roving to create a beehive.  I started by covering the top 1/3 of the spoon’s bowl with white glue which I wrapped the roving round.  I tried needlefelting but really, I just kept hitting the wood with the needle, so I just lightly poked it until it was all attached.

Then I added this lovely single ply yarn that has a lightweight wire centre.  It’s kinda smooshed on.  Nothing flash – poked the end into the roving best I could.  Then I added the sequins – each one attached with a little crystal bead.  I mostly used these to attach the yarn to the roving.  I added a button with a sequin and bead – piece de resistance! – to cover the still visible end of the yarn/wire.

Finally, I painted the face.  Very simply.  Terrified I would completely stuff it up.  The mouth’s a bit wonky – but then again, I think it looks like my lipstick these days!  Bit of a problem with straightness these days ;-)
finished

sun on hair

close up of bow

wee hand

And here she is!  Miss Plum! My little wooden spoon – sugar plum fairy.  I’m certainly making more of these little sweeties for the Christmas tree.  I was also thinking they’d make a nice mobile.  Oh!  You could stick them in a cupcake – how pretty would that be!  Tsk!  Can’t believe we’re not having a birthday party this year – these wooden spoon dolls would make lovely party favours for the guests – don’t you think?!  Course they would.

in the shadow

in the light
I love how the afternoon light would sometimes glint off her so prettily – clouds scudding by and trees bending in the wind and all – but Abby thought the darker photos were nicer.  So I put in both – Abby’s photo, my photo – Abby’s photo, my photo.


abbys choice

with lavender

One of our last flowering stems of lavender. Miss Plum has the perfect hand for holding a wee bloom.  And said she’ll mind it til next spring.  What a sweetie.

side on close up

I’ve already started the next wooden spoon doll … a bigger version … a Wattle Fairy for the top of our Christmas tree … with a mantle of gum leaves … here’s a glimpse …

wattle fairyAhhh … such delight!

 

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.

 

 

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.

quiet days indeed

doll adding the borders finished close up of border

It was a strangely unsettling weekend … terribly grey and oh so very quiet.  Julian’s dad passed away on Sunday afternoon.  Julian was holding his hand and without any drama, Robert’s pulse grew slower and weaker, then vanished altogether.  And that was it.  I’m so glad he was there.  Julian and his brother seem peaceful about their dad’s passing.  He had been sick a long time.  Robert’s wife is heartbroken.  Well of course.

tree trunk adding the blossoms close up

Meanwhile, Abby and I sewed.  Worked on essays and assignments.  Talked about love and death and the expectations we have of life.  We called my Mum.  Told her how glum we were.  How cold and grey and quiet it was.  She hopped in her car and drove on down.  She’ll stay for the week, whilst Julian is away. What an absolute gem of a mother she is.  How we do love her so.

It’s such a peculiar time.  We weren’t close to Robert and there’s no funeral to travel for.  So here we’ll stay, fulfilling all our school and nannying and studying obligations.  We’ll keep calling Julian to hear how he’s doing, remind him how much we love him.

I’m sure it will continue to feel a bit sad and awkward as we await Julian’s homecoming.  Keeping him close to our hearts.

 

friends

at her feet

reading

Abby and Sacha have been friends since they were wee little cuties in Mary Janes and striped school dresses.  From the moment they met, they were kindred spirits.   When we moved to Melbourne, Sacha came too to help Abby settle in.  And she’s been back again and again and again.  We call her our other daughter.

Sometimes, school and teenage busyness takes over and there may be a few weeks between skype sessions and endless texting.  But that never matters.  When the holidays roll around, Sacha is on that plane in a flash and they pick up where they left off.

They spent the first hours of Easter Sunday sprawled out in the front room, a huge pile of picture books between them, reading and sharing and giggling and going goosey all over (Tomie De Paola will do that to you … have you read Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs … oh my!  I’ve gone tingly all over and hot tears have welled up in my eyes just typing the title).  Listening to them was all the pleasure I needed for the day.

Then the scroll saw called from the shed … an environment that strikes me as terribly gloomy, especially on a cool grey day.  But they went prepared with chocolate, blankets, quilts and music …

behind the door

added cosiness

soundtrack

… Abby gave Sacha a crash course in how it all worked.  She picked it up quickly – she’d done woodwork at school in Year 8 – so cool!  And they set to designing and cutting out their toys … in their pyjamas.  Real friends don’t need to get dressed.

concentraing

pyjamas

their toys

Then, armed with advice from the internet about using food colouring for their wood stains – why didn’t I think of this ?!?!?!? – they moved into the laundry where they spent a riotous few hours making watery colours and experimenting.  The results were sweet. Even lovelier – the way these two find so much joy in everything around them.  They are my own little Anne and Diana :-)

testing the food colouring

abby's graeme

sacha kitty

Our lovely week with Nan followed.  Sacha was delighted with everything we did and loved every place we visited.  And having her friend to share it with not only made Abby so happy, but gave her a new appreciation of the beautiful south coast.  Isn’t it funny how things become so much more magical when there’s someone to show it all too.  They swam and played and drew and read and explored and picnicked and watched films with us and ooohed and ahhhed over all the dear little animals.  Bliss!

The drive home from Canberra was an absolute riot.  We left so late – after 8pm – which meant the three hour drive was in the pitch black.  And when you’re driving across the Monaro and down Brown Mountain, it is PITCH BLACK.  But the two in the back kept us in stitches all the way, thanks to “Numbugga”.  Yes, that really is a small village on the South Coast.  Numbugga.  We now have Numbugga tribal chants (with dance steps) and Numbugga Buddhist meditations to add to the family song book.  And a new record for the number of times you can say Numbugga quickly.  Abby can make it to 27.  You try it.  It’s very tricksy :-)

Add to that the diminutive male petrol station attendant in Fyshwick who admired my braids, the two very large men that had crashed their little car into the cliff face on Brown Mountain and were standing forlornly beside it, the Bemboka publican, the copper from Bega, and the helicopter that we swear was circling us on the Princes Highway, and it was a night we will always remember with tears of laughter.  We felt as if we were in a Cohen brothers film.

Now we are only one sleep away from dropping Sacha back at the airport.  How does the last day come so quickly?  :: sigh ::  It’s a shame we can’t keep her!

cream bun sacha and the bun

at blue pool together

But I know that when she returns, they will simply pick up where they left off and wonderful times will be created all over again.

Oh they are such lucky ducks, these two girlies, and how I love them both!

p.s. Sacha wants her own “owl sweater” – ooooooh, how exciting!  I can’t wait to knit it again!

~ loveliness found 12/52 ~

embroidery

 ~ very simple, very sweet and oh so very soothing ~

new friends made

 ~ new friendships were cherished,
endings that arrived so quickly were lamented
& promises were made ~

cafe au lait

~ an early morning prac was rewarded
with a steamy, creamy bowl of coffee in the sun ~

knitting

~ knit, knit, knit, knit, knit … & so with tiny stitches
the jumper surely grows ~

warm bread and butter 

a little bit of essay a little bit of politics

~ the torture of essay writing was relieved
with cups of tea, warm bread & butter,
& frequent checkups on the state of the nation ~

fiddling with fabric

~ just one hour was granted to the cutting of a pattern & fabric
… just one hour, I promise ~

a new pumpkin girl

~ a little girlie wanted her own pumpkin doll …
& so I earned my money needle felting with a small girl at my side …
it’s a hard life ~

saturday morning breakfast

~ ahhhh … saturday morning breakfast … long and slow
… with the essential ingredients ~

asking for a play

~ she gathered her toys, bringing them to my desk one at a time,
hopeful I’d notice … I did,
surely one walk won’t an essay make late ~

favourite books~ a pile of favourites … rescued from the shed … so many waiting to be re-read
once this current rush of assessment has passed … but where to start
… bilgewater? my utmost, utmost favourite of all ~




 

 

 

 

 

 

heidi

Thank you so much, dear folk, for all the lovely words you shared in yesterday’s comments.  I wish I could send every one of you some
May Gibbs goodness & a lily-pillowslip :-)

I am so inspired by your enthusiasm, I’ve added a few more details to the giveaway – your very own copy of Alison Lester’s Magic Beach
to read whilst snuggled up with your pillowslip, & I shall embroider your name – or anyone else’s name that takes your fancy – on the pillowslip & bag.

Remember – you have until Sunday to enter.
I shall draw a name at 8pm Australian Eastern Summer Time & announce it in this week’s
~ loveliness found ~ post.

Thursday mornings are sooooooo good.  No classes.  No predawn departures.  A morning when I can share a lingering pot of tea with Abby … make some pancakes for breakfast … have second coffees with Julian.  Completely spoilt.  I know that for the next 10 weeks I shall really treasure Thursday mornings.

After enjoying such a civilised breakfast this morning, I actually buckled down and finished the chores before picking up a needle or fabric.  That’s extraordinary willpower on my part.  Oh yes … there’s many an afternoon when, with half an hour to go before I need to collect the little girlies, I frantically – ineptly! – squeeze in as many chores as I can and end up racing out of the house cursing my earlier frippery.  But not today.

Thus, it wasn’t until morning tea had come and gone – without tea, because it’s too damn hot – that I sat down with Fraulein Heidi on my lap.  She’d been sitting – headless – on the craft table for more than a week.  It was becoming rather disconcerting.  So a crocheting we went.

That part didn’t take at all long.  The stuffing – a little longer.  Truly, I find stuffing more of an art than sewing, knitting or crocheting.  Dang it’s hard to get it right.  But what took FOREVER was creating Heidi’s face.  It’s such a marvellous thing that needlefelted features can be ripped right off with nary a sign that they had ever been there.  Always makes me think of that skit from Sesame Street – the one with the orange who rolls out of the fruit bowl, the kitchen bench becomes her stage, rubber bands, the dish mop, other bits and pieces become her facial features and then, under a spotlight, she sings opera.  Do you remember that one?  I loved it.

Anyways … back to Heidi’s face.  On went excessively rosy cheeks.  And off they came.  On went multicoloured (I was trying for hazel) eyes.  And off they came.  She had no less than 5 pairs of lips before I settled upon one that didn’t make her look like an alarming ventriloquist’s dummy.  At one point, her eyebrows sat rather smooshily on top of her eyes.  No good. And I tried a felted nose – which made her look like a Muppet.  Her cheeks came in.  Went out.  Moved down.  Back up.  It’s amazing how a few millimetres difference in cheek positioning can be the difference between looking like Abby from “My Family” (and no, that is most certainly not who we named Abby after!  I first met the name Abigail in the brilliant Ruth Park novel – an Australian classic! – “Playing Beattie Bow” – I was completely besotted) and something a little more girlchild like.

Without moments to spare (stolen moments that meant I could only wash half my hair) I quickly plonked a roll of soft, flimsy white linen onto the kitchen table – bought at a thrift store in Richmond for $5 – and worked out the right shape for a petticoat.  It shall have pinch pleats at the front, with wee eidelweiss embroidered around the neck and a fine crocheted lace at the hem.  A buttoned back – the kind that Laura and Mary would have to do up for each other.  These dolls of mine – their heads are so big, I doubt I shall ever make them anything big enough to pull over them without giving the dolls disturbing neurosurgery.  And then I shall make Frida a petticoat too!  And a paper pattern, so that I may do it as many times as I like!  And you could as well!

Of course, the petticoat is the start of Heidi’s layers – there’ll be a wee brown skirt, white puffy blouse and bodice next.  And I’m hanging out for the winter knits – I bought a wee Clover pompom maker the other day and I can’t wait to knit Heidi a beanie with a pompom on top.

‘Twas funny … after snipping up the linen, I had to dash … school pick up, afternoon tea, homework at the kitchen table, cool baths with long chapters of Little House in the Big Woods – in which everytime I mentioned the cold or frost or snow or howling wind, the little girlie flung herself back in the bath, imploring the heavens to grant her the same – little girlie dropped home, Music Festival with big girlie, take-away dinner with Rina … and then, finally, I plonked down on the sofa and there she was.

Fraulein Heidi – sitting in the armchair across from me.  Looking so sweet, I expected her to start talking any moment.  Made me smile.

 

loveliness found

~ the little girls discovered the thrill of making their own music ~

~ Jules celebrated his birthday … with cherry cocktails and a kitchen supper ~

~ a quilt design was tinkered with, fabrics were foraged from the stash (there’s a newly thrifted lampshade needing dressing), and an ever-so-sweet layer cake arrived ~

~ the ancient hills hoist clothesline fell down – completely rusted – one of us cheered, the other (being she who hangs out the bedding) pursed her lips ~

~ the big girlie devoted her afternoon to helping the little girlies with their maths’ project – the kitchen was buzzing with excitement and creativity ~

~ in return, the big girlie and her grateful mama spent the following hot and steamy afternoon savouring gelati and soaking up the air conditioning of our local Readings ~

~ Heidi grew and grew and grew  …  a wee felted heart was stitched for her and slipped inside for extra love ~

~ summer’s last Sunday barbeque was relished …

~ as was the return of tablecloth week! (one week off, as per Julian’s preference;
one week on, as per Lily’s preference ;-) ~

~ a favourite magazine was enjoyed after dinner
- two pages per watering can refill ~

~ & I felt so lucky to be watering the herbs and spinach by moonlight,
or I’d have completely missed this beautiful sight ~

What loveliness did you find this week?  Share your delights in the comments or leave us a link so that we may follow the path to your place :-)

comforts for Frida

Confession:  today is the first time, in more than 30 years of machine sewing, that I worked out how to use the seam guide.  Cool!  This is without doubt, the most liberating gadget I have ever fastened to a sewing machine.  I think my life is about to get even better.

First up – Frida’s mattress (btw, every time I type Frida, I type Friday and have to go back and fix it – ugh!).  A lovely piece of heavy duck from Spotty (one of my favourite fabrics they’ve ever sold), filled with two thick layers of wool from a futon factory, and then tied to give it the appearance of a vintage mattress.  That red and white design could SO be Mexican and not Swedish couldn’t it?!  Yes, of course it could :-)

Then her pillow.  Same wool from the futon factory – 6 layers instead of 2.  A favourite piece of reproduction shirting – oh dear, I do declare it’s almost run out – trimmed with some sweet vintage lace from the Button Shop in Malvern.    Oh yes, they sell vintage – but as new.  You should see the Jaeger knitting patterns!  It’s an absolute treasure trove.

A thorough washing of the carriage in the shower – the only time I felt cool all day.

And then the clothes …. making my own patterns – a puffed sleeve blouse – getting the shape of the sleeve top just right seems to keep coming at the expense of the sleeve hem.  Tweaking, tweaking.

Then it’s done!  Well – almost.  No buttons or hems yet :-)  but enough for a quick show and tell before supper.  And look how pleased Frida is – that’s definitely a smile of delight today – rather than yesterday’s pursed lips.  Come on dear, outside for some photos, your carriage awaits.

Tomorrow will be a big day.  All the little details to finish off – wee button holes, hems and collars.  Julian’s offered his services in hood repair.  And Abby and I are performing complex surgery – there’ll be hair removal, a cranioectomy, a complete re-stuff, finished off with a hair replant.  We just can’t bear the pinto bean stuffing – so sluggish – and they keep popping out.  And this Frida’s just too lovely to live with such indignity!

Right now – I’m knitting a wee shawl for her.  Just in case it ever again gets cold here in Melbourne.  At the moment, I can’t even imagine it.

a wee quilt for frida (and a wee vintage dolly pram!)

I had triangles laying about.  You do to, don’t you.  It’s one of those patchworky things.  We buy lovely long lengths of fabric.  Chop them up into wee little pieces.  Sew these little pieces together at all manner of odd angles.  End up with more wee little pieces.  Before you know it, there are triangles lying around.

So I sewed them up.  There’s a whirlygig in the centre.  See it?  And then the triangles move away into each corner.  Just simple.  And the cream fabric is so sweet.  A recently found retro print – reminds me of all the picture books and birthday cards I had as a small child.  Look at these dear little smiley faces … a writer, an astronaut, a vet, a sewist …

Let’s pretend we didn’t notice the blatant stereotyping and declare them all girls ;-)  How could we not, with those rosy cheeks and cherry bow lips.  I do love the colours.  My favourites.

I began adding borders – but I think I was getting carried away.  Off with the brown and dark blue!  With just the pink and orange, it was the perfect size for a dolly quilt …

… and I knew just the dolly.  She was sitting in the hall, atop the Lotte dresser, still very immodestly attired in her underclothes (good thing it’s been so hot!).  But I think she was getting peeved with her position in life.  So, I popped her into this gorgeous little dolly pram I found in hard rubbish, snuggled her in with an orange towel just right for reclining and a piece of folded linen to sit on.  And a quilt to keep her cosy.  Oh my, she looks such a picture!

And Fu just loves her!  As I pushed the pram around the back garden – to find just the right spot for a photo, NOT because I was PLAYING with her – Fu followed.  Each time we stopped, she’d give Frida a little sniff and plop down at her side.  Funny little dog!

A quick bit of handquilting and binding is all the quilt needs.  And I WILL make Frida her first outfit tomorrow – I’m definitely in the mood now.  We bonded so well over her new pram and quilt :-)

As for the pram – it needs a little work – I will scrub down the chrome with steel wool to remove the tiny bit of surface rust that is there.  Make a mattress and pillow for it.  There’s a few missing screws.  And the vinyl hood needs replacing – easy-peasy – I’ve seen the fabric at Spotty.  Yes, it shall be transformed into the loveliest little carriage for Frida.

Reminds me a bit of Clara’s wheelchair from “Heidi” – do you remember that?  The moment I thought of that, I remembered one of my all time favouritest booky scenes – when Heidi was climbing the mountain to stay with Grandpa and she had all her clothes on – remember!  Aunt Ditte made her put everything on she was taking, in layers.  And poor old Heidi was so clumsy and hot – she just ripped the things off as she bounded through the meadows, leaving a trail of clothes behind her.   This is the version I had with illustrations by Erika Weihs (an Jewish/Austrian artist who fled Vienna upon the outbreak of war, first moving to London, then New York) …

Goodness!  it was published in 1946 – I bet my Great Auntie Jean gave it to me – she only ever gifted us with beautiful second hand books that were precious to her.  And here’s Heidi all layered up, leaving with Aunt Ditte …

The pages of this book were really thick and porous and a special kind of smooth – that kind that is so full of acid, it disintegrates with time – and the shading in the illustrations was exquisite.  That’s what I remember the most – the soft, pretty colours that looked as if they had been smooshed into the paper with the artist’s fingers.  Oh how I loved it …

Look!  Here’s funny little Heidi – she’s arrived at Grandpa’s in her underwear!  Ahem – how did I get here from Frida in her carriage with a new quilt – oh that’s right!  Clara.  Oh and that’s what I was thinking!  A Heidi doll!!!!!!  With layers of clothing!  Such fun!  That is definitely on the “lovely-things-to-do-list” for the coming weekend.  Then Heidi and Frida can pop into the carriage together – head to toe – and both enjoy wee outings.

And when she’s not socialising with Frida, I can dress Heidi all up, one layer after the next – and then rip them all off again!  Good grief!  Wasn’t Aunt Ditte a dope.

And isn’t the quilt cute – and the pram.  Oh I do so love dollies.

finally frida

Whilst on holidays, I bought these gorgeous earrings.  We found them in a very appealing shop in the little fishing village of Bermagui.  Straight away, they made me think of Frida Kahlo – an artist whose story, art and style I have adored since my first university sojourn.  I don’t much wear earrings and when I do they are usually small and plain.  But these – oh what an extravagance – both visually and financially.  I cannot even remember the last time I bought jewellery for myself, let alone something new.  But these earrings were just so glorious.  So I bought them!

I’ve worn them almost every time I’ve gone out since.  And without fail, someone always comments on them.  Just last week, whilst I was in line at the Student Centre, waiting for help with my enrolment, a woman came up to me, grabbed my elbow and said – “I saw your earrings as I was passing in the street – they are divine!”

Sadly, infuriatingly, teeth-gnashingly, I’ve lost one.  I cannot believe this.  I wore them on Monday to a dreadful meeting I had with the head of department to sort out my enrolment – frankly, it’s been a really tedious week.  It was the kind of meeting where I had to pee five times before even getting into the meeting where I then sat with my hands clasped tightly hoping I wouldn’t cry.  These beautiful earrings were my Frida courage.  I must have taken them off when I got home.  Now there is only one.  One.  ONE!  I don’t know how this could be.  I’ve crawled around the floor with a torch.  Dragged the furniture aside.  Rolled back rugs.  Looked in everything.  Nothing.  Julian has lifted the sofa up from one end.  Abby has crawled under the beds.  She’s working on a $20 commission.

First world problem, I know.  And my enrolment disaster has been resolved.  In my muddled up head it seems as if the lost earring has been exacted as an offering to the great and cranky enrolment god – “You dare ask for something different – I will seize that which you are coveting!”  Something like that :-(

Anyways – the earrings, combined with the pleasure I had before Christmas stitching my crocheted nativity dolls, made me think of making a Frida doll.  I dragged together some wool from the stash and started with her feet.  The first leg is completely straight – the second leg, I added some shape for her ankle and knee and thigh – much nicer.  The white bloomers were marvellous fun – and then I cinched in a lovely waist.  I ran out of white, so her brassiere became smaller than planned and pale pink.  Then the arms – with shaped wrists, elbows and upper arms, and finally the head.  It’s been a work in progress – growing in fits – and this morning, as I waited for final confirmation that my enrolment was now settled (a huge phew!) I tried to still my twitching limbs by stuffing her and adding some features.

She’s definitely a prototype.  I’d like to write up a pattern and make several outfits – I foresee using the same shape to make different favourite women – Frida, Austen’s Emma and Elinor,  a Young Victoria, and Anne Shirley for starters.  With clothes – mostly sewn, some knitted. So when it came to stuffing this here Frida, and there was no lovely pure wool stuffing left  - I made do with dried pinto beans for the body and a bit of dark fleece for her head. Not quite right but still plenty good enough to turn her from a flat pile of misshapen crochet to a character that felt so real as she sat on my lap and I sewed her head shut!  It was one of those moments where I found myself talking to my sewing :-)

I ran out of steam soon after that – a bit of needle felting, a chunky bead necklace and the thoughts of a Mexican green skirt.  Maybe tomorrow.  And I have some lovely wool I bought on super sale to try again – I’ll write out the pattern as I stitch.

Until then – I’m off to bed with a glass of milk.  What a week.

p.s. if you know where you can buy earrings that look like these, do please let me know!

what we did with two sleeps to go


: choosing : measuring : slicing : pinning : stitching : folding : delighting :

: needle-felting : blanket-stitching : embroidering :  pleasing :

: ruffling : appliqueing : not-overlocking : fuming :

: cursing : threading : cursing : threading : cursing : crumbling :

: zigzagging : ironing : delivering : giving :

: sweating : wilting : melting :

: sliding into bed :