the loveliness of almost

on the chair tools

Silly old Melbourne’s been playing tricks on us lately :-)  Delivering up late winter days of beautiful blue skies, heaps and heaps of sun, and warmth!  Only then, just when we’re shoving the jumpers into the backs of the wardrobes, it throws us cold, wet, grey days – several in a row – just to remind us it is still only late winter and to put our slippers back on.

blue sky stitching pinned leaves

Oh all right.  Fair enough.  I’ll keep the slippers beside my bed and rejoice that I have lovely handknits to pull on when the cold fronts storm in.  But!  When that sun comes out …

thread prince

… I shall sit on the front porch and soak it up.

clouds rolling in camellias weeds

I shall embroider my very summery Fox.  Crochet my spring flowers.  Fill in the background of my Kaffe flowers.  I may even get stuck into some Christmas decorations and presents.

flower with sun nose tablecloth eye the back the front me beetroot and chickpeas

Because I have finished my nursing degree.  I have been to all my grad year interviews. I have several months of nothing more important – and perfect –  to do than look after my family, potter about our home, and throw myself into the myriad of unfinished crafty loveliness that fills up all the corners of Bootville .  And summer is almost here.

lemon

Yes!

dates and needlepoint and interviews

wool

This morning was another cold, dreary, grey, flattening sort of morning.  Melbourne specialises in these.  I have to exert a lot of energy to rise above it.  But the last few weeks, as I’ve been waiting for application acceptances and grad year interviews, I’ve been a little bit wobbly on the rise.  Checking emails every 5 minutes.  Fretting over imagined, terrible outcomes.  Wondering how I’ll ever make it to October 14th without having wasted 2 months ripping off all my cuticles.

Oy!  So, instead of working on the Spring House which continues to cover the kitchen table, I tipped my needlepoint wool onto the library table and curled up under the lamp to work on my Norwegian Queen.  Did you know the Norwegian word for Queen is “Dronning”.  I must say, to my English speaking mind, this doesn’t conjure up the most regal notions – instead, it makes me think of a right bore of a queen, “dronning” on and on and on in a pompous and repetitive manner to her ladies in waiting about all the things the King (Konge) does that annoy her.

Yesterday, when I was thinking of all the things I could do with this wee needlepoint, I looked up lots and lots of ways to say Queen.  The similarities were mostly expected – except for the enchanting Hindi word.   You want to know some?  Course you do – in French they say “Reine”, in Spanish it’s “Reina” and in Italian it’s “Regina”.  Yup – just as expected.  But in Hindu it’s “Rani”!  How cool is that!!  That Sanskrit and European languages share the same root is so fabulous!  Just tonight I heard that lovely Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield, say that the thing he really began to feel when he was floating above our improbable jewel like world was the collectiveness of it all.  Such a beautiful thought – and precisely why they say Rani in India and Reine in France.

You want to know some more – all right!  In Russian they say “Koroleva”, in Czech they say “Kralovna”, and in Turkish they say “Kralice.  Must be a connection there.  In Malaysian they say “Ratu” and in Arabic they say “Malikah”.  In Japanese I think they say “Joo” and in Vietnamese they say “Nu Hoang”.  The one that made me laugh was the Maori – “Kuini”!  Isn’t that gorgeous!  I wish my Norwegian queen was a “Kuini” but I suppose I’d best make peace with the fact she’s a “Dronning”.

Anyways – etymological diversions aside – the needlepoint.  I was at a bit of an impasse.  I had – improbably – chosen gingernut brown for the background and spent last eve furiously filling and filling and filling.  Then realised this morning that I couldn’t possibly fill in around all those little red flowers – they would VANISH into the gingernut.  As I sat there, calculating how many hours it would take to pull out all that gingernut, I looked up and realised what was clearly inspiring me when I first settled on warm brown – this here print on the library wall!

background

I’m afraid I cannot remember the name or artist, but it is from the early American colonial period – one of my favourite periods of art.  I just love the wonky perspective and proportions – grapes hanging from huge trees ready to torpedo the small farm houses and the garden that looks ripe for sliding down the steep hill – of gingernut brown!  I’ve always looked at this painting and thought how the artist must have painted and painted the brown hill and then got to that beautiful weeping willow and thought “bugger, I can’t possibly paint in between all those delicate leaves, I know, I’ll paint around it.” And at the moment I was GLAD I’d chosen gingernut brown and knew just how to deal with those red flowers :-)

Then, I practised that ancient sport of “well, before I start a new piece of brown, I’ll just check the emails again.”  Do you know that game?  It goes like this – “before I wash the dishes, I’ll just check the emails again”, “I’ll hang out the washing and then I can check the emails again”,  “I won’t check the emails again until I’ve added three more rows of bricks”,  “goodness, I’ve been out of the house for 45 minutes, it’s time to quickly check the emails again.” Course you do.  But this time – oh thank my lucky stars – there was the email I’ve been waiting for.  A grad interview at the Royal Children’s Hospital for next Friday.  Yes! Phew!  Now I can get on with life.

favourite cookbook

Folks, I waltzed into the kitchen.  I cleaned up with a spring in my step.  I laughed with delight at the thought of baking for lunch :-)  And so I pulled out a real favourite – Hugh’s soda bread from his lovely “Family Cookbook”.  It’s such a good, solid recipe that allows for all manner of interpretations – today it was dates and oats. I just followed the basic recipe – eliminated the sugar (I always do that) and substituted 50g of oats for 50g of flour.  Yum!

dates prebake

Popped it into the oven and did some more washing up.  I must admit – I do like washing up in winter.  I love filling the sink with straight hot water – no cold – and then plunging my hands in.  This year I’ve either developed asbestos hands or the plumber turned the water heater temperature down when he last visited.  Either way, it’s bliss.  Fogs up my spectacles.  The steam rises around me and floats away from the dishes as I stack them on the drainer.  Oh yes, washing up, one of winter’s pleasures.

washing up

Then, whilst the soda bread baked, I got to playing with the beet tops from last night’s supper.  Chopped off the leaves for the rabbits.  And then, was so entranced by the ruby red liquid that dripped from the stems, that I chopped them up too and boiled them up in a bit of water.  I have plans.  Next time you pop into blockaday I shall either be showing you something marvellous.  Or you’ll be laughing until you cry over what happened to those beet stems.  We’ll just have to wait and see which it will be.

beetroot stems

In 25 minutes, out came the soda bread – all bursting with scrumptious, piping hot dates.  I hacked off some thick slabs, carefully layered them with thin slices of cold salty butter and gobbled them up at the kitchen bench. Yum!

post bake wrapped

Washed the butter from my hands, wrapped the leftovers for tomorrow morning’s breakfast – Hugh’s soda bread is marvellous toasted – and returned to my Kuini-Dronning.  Spirits lifted.  Belly full.  New ideas for birds and borders and purposes in my mind.

on the table little grains of rice

Take that you dreary, winter Melbourne morning!

 

rocking chair dreams in a cold house


basket of wool
lopi lamplight christmas pudding

I truly do find that my imagination runs the richest when I’m sitting quietly, hands busy with simple repetitive work.  Slipping the needle up and down, filling in large swathes of background on a needlepoint for hours on end may sound dull to some, but to me – goodness, I can build and decorate a whole farmhouse in this time, let alone plan the garden and name all the animals.

This morning our old house is cold and shadowy.  Abby is buried deeply under her quilts, sick with a sinusy cold.  Julian is working from home in the library.  I’m sitting in the spot most likely to catch a speck of sun, filling in the background of a Kaffe Fasset needlepoint I started when Mum had her eye surgery.  That’s a few years back, but certainly doesn’t make this the oldest needlepoint in my stash – eek!  I was working on it this Christmas past – sitting out on the front porch of Mum’s lovely beachside home – when I decided it would be really rather lovely if I turned it into a circular cushion.  A lot of extra background would need filling, but we’ve already established I enjoy that :-)  So here I sit, the needle slipping up and down and up and down, metres upon metres of 7928 being woven into the canvas.

shadows quilts

And of course,  this got me to dreaming.  Unconnected thoughts and ideas.  Until I hit upon the rocking chair sitting across from me.  Now, Mum and I each bought one of these rocking chairs from the opshop a few months back.  They were a good price and we could imagine all kinds of pretty dressing up. We even bought fabric!  Mum took hers home in pieces and I don’t know that said pieces have yet moved from the garage.  Of course, that could well be because dear Mum spent 5 out of the first 6 months of the year in Brisbane caring for Nanny and Grandad.  After a quick clean, mine was moved into the corner of the living room where I had dreams of gently rocking in lovely comfort whilst doing all those things I like to do.

However – it proved to be a very hard uncomfortable rocking chair and literally hurt my bottom after sitting on it for only a handful of minutes.  Weird I know.  Totally put me off.  All thoughts of reupholstering and painting vanished and the only future I could foresee for this rocking chair was being shoved back into the car and returned to the opshop.

scissors and wool other closeup closeup

And yet today, as I sat needlepointing, I began to think of other needlepoints I wanted to make. Of the loveliness of the soft brown canvas I was working on.  How I needed to order some more from Karen at the Quilters’ Store.  How it was just the right width for the rocking chair across from me.  How it was really quite a pretty rocking chair.  How I could needlepoint it a new cover.  Then I could work some miracles on the seat with a bit of webbing and a good piece of foam.  And then paint the frame that Parisian black with the ever so slightest edges of rubbed gold.

But what to put on the needlepoint … a rural/coastal scene – like those naive scenes of 18th century American artists where segments of the landscape, its buildings, animals and people are tumbled together with no regard for proportion.  A Norfolk pine in the top left hand corner with a kangaroo feeding on the grass below. Green Cape lighthouse in the top right hand corner – with a couple of black swans strutting about.  Merimbula Bay with a lovely whale across the middle.  And a sunrise of course.  A combination of my appliqued hotwater bottle cover and my Whale and her Girl cross stitch pattern.   Then, on the seat – that extra comfortable seat with its webbing and foam –  a farm house with a row of flowering plums – a wombat, some sheep, a bunny or two, an echidna.  Oh yes.

My needle flew faster and faster.  I should order the canvas right now!  I should get to work on the design RIGHT NOW!  I should drag that rocking chair outside THIS MINUTE!

scraps needle on the footstool

Then I sat the current Kaffe needlepoint canvas atop a thrifted foot stool.  Huh!  Perfect fit.  Now that’s a project that could easily be finished in the next week or so.  Then there’s the fox chair just begging for more attention.

Hmmm … perhaps this very very exciting rocking chair revival should be a reward for first finishing off this lovely rich floral piece and the fox chair.  That would be sensible.

So in the name of Elinor’s good sense, as opposed to my usual choice of Marianne’s sensibility,  I’ve jotted down my notes here so I won’t forget.  Maybe I’ll allow myself some fiddling on the computer with the layout.  And meanwhile, I shall keep filling in all that 7928.

Oh yes!  Such good imagining!  I’m so excited!

rocking chair

the great DMC wool caper

cold and dark

Monday morning … Abby returned to school, Mum and Lucy headed back across the Gippsland to their beachside home, and I had the whole day ahead of me.  It was so bleak and cold – with a heavy hand of dampness to the air – the lovely thing to do would be light the lamps, make tea and settle into an armchair with my knitting and a nice audio book.  Yes!

No.  As those of you who follow along on my Instagram might have noticed, there’s been quite the DMC wool caper going on here at Bootville over the last week.  Spotlight – Australia’s large fabric/craft/homewares merchant – has decided – in all its wisdom – to stop selling DMC embroidery wool.  Instead they are going to stock Semco.  What?  I hear you say.  That’s right – Semco.  A much cheaper range of wool – poorer quality, far smaller colour range and let’s face it – who designs wool embroidery and needlepoint for Semco – um, nobody.  I sought out the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight store and had words – thoughtful, reasonable, polite, grown up words but words nonetheless.  I didn’t want her to be under any illusion that replacing DMC wool with Semco was in any way a considerate thing to do for a business that purports to love and support creativity and those who create.

In fact – I related the story shared with me by the manager of the embroidery section of my local Spotlight 15 years ago when they stopped selling needlepoint canvas – the manager that suggested Spotlight’s business model at the time was to stock what all the local independent stores were stocking, undercut them on price because they could, then once they’d put the little independents out of business – drop any lines that weren’t highly profitable for them with a quick turnover – like needlepoint canvas.  She agreed that yes, that did seem a reasonable assumption to make and no, she could not understand the logic of the national buyer at all.  Nice!  During those years I watched 4 stores I regularly visited and attended classes at – all run by imaginative and passionate women who DID love and support creativity and those who create – who put their whole lives into building communities of creativity and passion – close because they simply couldn’t compete with the juggernaut that is Spotlight.

Does this make me spit my teeth out.  Why yes it does.  But we won’t go any further down this ranty path :-)  Suffice to say – I have spent the grocery budget and more on DMC embroidery wool – it’s just hard to stop when it’s only 25c a skein, you truly adore needlepoint and wool embroidery, and you know it’s going to be that much harder to buy from now on.

And to make the bundles of wool piling up on my sideboards and bookshelves even sweeter – I’d recently hard rubbished a dear little chest of drawers that I thought would be perfect for storing my suddenly growing stash.  I had visions of Julian cutting me little thin dividers of ply and all my wool neatly and numerically arranged.  As it turns out – I’m hopeless at judging size and it’s a wee bit on the small side.  There’ll be no little thin dividers of ply :-)  Instead, there’s mildly organised squashing.  Oh well.

bit grotty

So back to Monday morning – I put on my dirty clothes, dragged the chest out into the driveway and got to work.  I was hopeful it was a job for my usual friends – steelwool and metho – alas it was a stripper number and I had to go buy a tin of toxic burning jelly – ugh.

usual companions lovely flame damaged top

I scraped and scrubbed and scraped and scrubbed until all the old varnish was off, my fingers were stiff and frozen, and my nose was dripping onto my shirt.  There was certainly more I could have achieved if I’d wanted to put in another day of sanding – but I didn’t.  Julian was home on Wednesday morning and I needed this baby oiled, inside and stuffed.

all open

By Tuesday night it was!

neutrals and browns yellows and greens mostly blues pinks purples and reds

There are four drawers – first is neutrals, greys and browns.  Abby and I debated over many of these colours – it would seem I see purple everywhere whereas Abby swore black and blue it was grey.  I capitulated.  Next is yellows, oranges and greens – no problems here.  Third down are the end of the greens, the beginning of the purples and the all the blues.  I feel a bit light on with the blues but … the drawers are full so I’m not sure if I’ll go back for more.  Finally – the rest of the purples (sans all those lovely purples Abby shoved into the grey and brown drawer), all of the pinks and reds.  I DID go back for pinks – and oh my, I now have a lot – I probably have enough to needlepoint bed curtains!

close up blues close up orange close up pinks

Oh I am such a lover of colour.  I keep opening the drawers and just staring dreamily into all that gorgeousness.  And yet – as I begin to think of new projects I feel a shiver of fear – oh no!  I can’t use my lovely colours!  If I use that green there’ll be none left.  They’ll run out!  Yeeeeeees.  Wee bit irrational.

lower left corner lovely wood

And the chest of drawers – despite its quick turnaround, I’m very pleased with the end result and think the lovely flamey grain of the wood has come up a warm, syruppy treat.  I do love me some old and pretty wood :-)

with it's own needlepoint for company with skull top

Here it is – tucked into the corner of the library.  I hung a needlepoint over it to make it feel at home – one of the first needlepoints I did – stitched through the summer of Abby’s birth.  It’s from Mary Norden’s book of Folk Needlepoint – the Swedish Horseman – he has a mate who’s just waiting on the background to be finished.  One day they’ll hang side by side.  And it’s a lovely match for the chess set – the top of the chest really didn’t come up that well – totally different wood to the rest – no warmth at all.  So an all covering chess board is just the ticket.  With a little art deco mirror (from my Nanny Dougall’s beach side cottage in Harrington) and a sheep’s skull (Grandad collected for Abby when he went way out west with Mum a few years back) to give it that old library feel!

jump in

Look at that – so much prettiness.  I just want to sit down, finish the needlepoint pattern I’m working on – it will be a cushion cover based on Turkish rugs that will fit a 24 inch square duck feather cushion insert I have – and get stitching.  Alas, I have a clinical portfolio to edit and deliver to university by this afternoon.  I’d better hop to it.

And shut that tempting drawer.