stitching for martinmas

don't want it to end

Ah the best laid plans and all, huh!  I am in the throes of writing a tutorial on pinwheels and squares within squares.  It was to be all done and dusted by the end of the weekend and posted here for my mum, for any of you dear readers who are interested, and for me to check back on when the need arises.

But those best laid plans are sometimes so easily lost .  There I was on Saturday, beautiful weather, all my sewing things set up on the table outside – even my machine and iron, under the umbrella, sun, gentle breeze – such good spring jolliness – stitching and writing and photo-taking – having a blast!  And then I got stung by a bee.  I’m a little bit allergic to bees (my father is SUPER allergic to bees) and so we do take bee stings a little bit seriously – 25 mg of Phenergan and constant supervision from a reliable adult seriously.  So my outdoor sewing fun came to an abrupt stop.  I took my tablet, and spent the rest of the afternoon traipsing around after Julian (he had things to do and I needed to stay close just in case I began to puff up) and dozing on the banana lounge.  Hmm.  So much for the patchwork tutorial.

Sunday – dreadful weather so no more outside sewing.  Besides, I had the worst Phenergan hangover and spent the day in a bit of a fog.  The patchwork tutorial – nope.  Monday – lovely stay at home day for everyone (funny old Melbourne with its extra long weekend for a HORSE RACE).  Abby visited friends, we did some shoppings.  The plan was to finish the tutorial …. but …. see, I bought a lovely red velvet cushion cover at Ikea and I had this idea …

A special felt appliqued cushion for Martinmas!  It had been fluttering around my imagination for a while, and you know, with those best laid plans scattered from one end of the house to another, it just seemed this was the perfect time to settle down to a good bit of stitching.  I know I’ve said this before … I love making pictures with felt and embroidery.  Love, love, love.  I’ve discovered I’m especially fond of saints – maybe I was an iconographer in a former life?

So, I settled down at the kitchen table with my tracing paper, suitcase of felt, and google for some pointers on just what St. Martin looked like and off I went.  Such.  Bliss.  Did I say I WANT to be an iconographer?  One who works with felt and embroidery.  Yes please.  Sign me up now.

Today … why more of the same loveliness.  And thankfully, the beautiful weather was back, we all headed outside and there were no more bee stings.  Phew!  Instead there was sooo much stitching, game playing, breakfast, lunch and cocktails, reading, drawing, angle grinding … the rabbits cut the grass, the chickens dug dirt holes and sunbathed in them, the dog danced on her back legs trying to catch flies … perfection.

As for St. Martin – so close to being finished.  I just have to add the other cross to his lapel thingy.  And finish his book.  And then stitch him onto the red velvet and bob’s your uncle.  And it’s not even Martinmas until next Tuesday!

drawing smile felt suitcase putting the pieces together setting up outside favourite inspiration a tangle of thread part of the story dappled light game

If I had to choose one thing I love best about my St. Martin, it would have to be his wrinkles.  I was a bit unsure about stitching them in, but he just looked too smooth and young as he was so I took a deep breath and began stitching.  I think they really worked out well!  Will certainly be using wrinkles in future works.

And all the colour.  I love colour.  I love reading about how churches and statues in medieval and renaissance times were chock full of colour – every little thing brilliantly illuminated in glorious colour.  Why not, I say.  Wouldn’t it an absolute wonder to restore all that colour to the ancient churches of England and Europe.  Woot!  That’s why my St. Martin is a richly coloured dear.

ageing him the back

I’m always a bit partial to the back of my work.  It’s like a puzzle – sometimes you can almost see it, other times you can’t.

finally the book inside

Now – thinking ahead – I’ve already done St. Lucia.  Definitely need to do St. Nicholas.  Perhaps the Three Wise Kings?  Mary?  Absolutely!  And Wencelas?  Definitely need to do Wencelas!  Thank goodness I had a Catholic schooling – it’s given me so many to choose from!

a cosy easter table

from the window

husband and wife bunnies

the bunnies


chicks in eggs

easter tree

with curtain behind

blue pompom

above the lamp

close up bunnies

bunnies on plate

fancy rabbitegg marshmallow

fresh buns

glowing candles

Such a lovely Easter Sunday breakfast.  The sky was still leaden and dark with the occasional misty sprinkle of rain.  But in our kitchen, all was golden and warm and fragrant.

I just LOVE setting the Easter table.  I wake up early, turn on the lamps, make a pot of tea, heat the coffee machine, and set to work.  First, I spread out the 1940s yellow damask tablecloth.  On top, I add Nanny Dougall’s square linen cloth – it has dear little blue and pink flowers embroidered across it and a delicate crocheted lace edging.  I should add here – I NEVER iron the tableclothes :-)  I smooth them out and know that by the time the rest of the table is set, no one will notice a single crease!  I know, lazy huh!  Then I set out the Easter plates I painted years and years ago at a little “paint-your-own-china-shop” in Brisbane.  The Easter bowls and mugs are next.

Then comes the really fun bit ….   I arrange the wee china rabbits, colourful expresso cups with tea lights, prettily coloured beads, little paper thin, painted eggs that Aunty Anne gave me, a pair of sweet felt chicks in their eggs, and of course, the Easter Tree with its cloth pompoms.

I do so love these pompoms – I started making them a week before Easter on Mum’s back porch in Brisbane when we lived with her.  All week I made pompoms – in the car whilst waiting to collect Abby from school and cello, in bed at night before going to sleep, at the breakfast table with a cup of tea each morning, and eventually, on Good Friday with Carolann and Peter at Rainbow Bay.  It was a terribly dreary, wet day – not that the children noticed –  and Carolann and I sat on the sofa looking out at the magnificent Pacific Ocean whilst the children decorated paper dolls.    Each year when I take them out, I think of all these moments and the people that shared them with me and truly, it warms my heart.

This year, the Easter Tree itself is a different one.  The white painted mangrove branch that we brought home after it washed up on the beach at Wellington Point broke – completely snapped off from its plastered home in the galvanised bucket.  It sort of got left in the garden after that.  Hmmm …  So this year – thanks to some fierce north easterlies – I used a branch from our back garden oak.  And it was good.

A new addition this year – the felted eggs and a pair of wooden bunnies that Julian and I had a marvellous time making in the shed on Easter Saturday.  I drew them and cut them out of pine.  Julian dremelled their edges and added some engraved details.  I stained them and added the wee felt eggs in their baskets.  The only detail we didn’t get to was adding the felted carrots that were supposed to hang from their paws – next year.

Finally, bowls and mugs are filled with bunnies and chocolate eggs are scattered across the table.  Whilst all of this is happening, the hot cross bun dough is magically rising in the corner.  By the time the table is finished, the dough is ready to pull apart and shape into buns.  I let them rise 15 minutes longer, then whilst they bake in the oven, I sip my umpteenth cup of tea and the family begin to rise and sleepily wander out.

It’s my favourite part of our Easter weekend.


felted easter eggs

rooster legs

Friday morning dawned grey and quiet.  Just as it should be.  Family consensus … a day spent together, crafting, listening, watching, sharing.

Me?  I made Easter Eggs.  The non-edible variety.  Inspired by the terribly sweet, cheerfully coloured and decorated candy eggs that were popular when I was little.  The ones that broke your teeth.  And rotted your surviving teeth as you ate it.  Oh they were good :-)

finishing the sheep

I started with a mandala/Ukranian decorative design.  But then, spying “Petook: An Easter Story” which I’d taken down from the shelf to re-read, I decided the rest of my felt eggs would tell a more traditional tale.

I needle felted the trees of Calvary, a wee lamb of God, a radiant sunrise, and a Rooster … joyfully singing at the miracle that is the arrival of each new day, and the beauty and wonder of life that comes with it.


The last step of each egg … adding the crocheted trim (like the piped iced edges of the candy eggs) was by far the trickiest and most time consuming.  But all were finished and ready for the Easter table.

And in a week’s time, they will be carefully packed into the Easter box, awaiting their turn to shine again next year.  That’s one of the things I love about the handmade loveliness we create and keep for our special festivals.  Each year, we pull them out and there they are, filled up with the love and effort of previous years.  Reminding us of the richness and comfort of family life as it journeys with the sun, round and round and round.

all together

ukrainian style




rooster and chick

on the easter table

If Easter is a feast you keep, in whatever form, I hope it was filled with family, love and happiness :-)

~ loveliness found ~ 13/52

 if you would like to share your ~loveliness found~ moments from this week
… & I would so love it if you did …
please leave them in the comments or share a link to your place!

getting there

with patchwork

~ and still I stitch, one little red figure after another,
first band finished, second started, feeling rather impatient,
but oh, they look such jolly folk ~

making monkey bread

monkey bread

~ monkey bread … an easter treat
for the little girls …
they were amazed they had lived ten years without it ~


frozen dinner

~ after sleepless nights and endless writing,
I stole an hour between classes and babysitting for reading on the bed,
& made the most of those frozen dinners ~

calculator and christmas pudding

~ panicked hunting for the dinky calculator,
essential for the next day’s drugs calc exam,
led me to both calculator & a forgotten darrell lea christmas pudding!
perfect for soothing pre-exam nerves & a sure sign that I would pass ~

rediscovering favourite books

~ this is why I will never throw away a single picture book,
no matter how old we grow ~

the  back

~ sometimes the back is just as enchanting as the front, don’t you find ~

hot cross buns


~ four days of hot cross buns – oh yum ~

bread and other things

Still reading, still note taking, still writing, still practicing.  There may not be time for quilts and pottering and furniture and dolls … but there’s always time for bread.  And call me corny, but watching that dough rise never ceases to delight me.  Sprinkling the top of that soft, taut mass with flour then sinking my hand into it feels wonderful every time.

Today’s was extra sweet – on a garage cleanout on Saturday, I unpacked THE LAST kitchen box. Mmhm!  It was another Elasta-girl moment.  And there, at the bottom, was my Romertopf – something I’ve not seen for almost six years (yes, that’s how long the boxes were packed for – man, I can’t believe it was six years – at the risk of extra corniness, so much has happened since then!)  And a sugar shaker thing I don’t even remember owning.  Both almost found their way into a box for the thrift store – let’s face it, I managed without them for six years.  But then, I thought of my bread making … the Romertopf will be perfect for baking the bread in – a lovely moist environment.  The sugar shaker – why, perfect for sprinkling flour.

And they both lived up to their newly assigned roles with vim and vigour …


flour shaker




ready for baking


done yum hanging
So … no stitching.  I could tell you all about recurrent leg ulcers.  Or the psychosocial implications of emergency surgery for the elderly.  Maybe you’d like to hear about postoperative psychosis.  Or, sadly, how there’s very little evidence to support complementary pain relief therapies … but we’ll keep trying anyway.

annunciation(this beautiful image comes from here – doesn’t that look just how you’d feel if that glowing man with the alarming news appeared in your bedroom!)

Or maybe I’ll mention that today is the Annunciation … the day that the Archangel Gabriel came down from heaven to let Mary know she’d better start knitting that layette.  I’ve never thought about it like this, but I reckon that means today’s a good day to start preparing for Christmas.  I mean, if WE were having the baby we would, wouldn’t we!  We’d get out the needles and get stuck into it.  I love the Annuciation … thinking about it just draws our year round into a perfect circle full of life and love, anticipation and promise.

And today, the Passover begins.  As I walked Fu tonight, homes all around us were in darkness .. the usual Monday night routines abandoned.  Instead, every several houses or so, there was an explosion of light and bustling as families came together to celebrate the Seder and share the story of the Exodus from Egypt and slavery.  It looked so lovely as we walked along.  In one, there were at least 20 people squished around the table and they were SINGING!  Fu and I stood outside in the dark and soaked it up.

Bread, caring, the promise of a dear little babe, the joy of freedom.  What more could you want on a Monday.


… the colour of love & happiness

… of my favourite foods, my favourite sunsets, my favourite fabrics

… of my newly received and much loved sandals, sunglasses and kettle (thank you sweet indulgent family :-)

… symbolising,  on this first day of the year, a new year filled with love, happy times and  the sharing of good, wholesome meals – including 9 litres of roasted tomato and lentil soup – mmmhmm … especially for those late autumn and winter evenings when we are all too tired to cook!

To the lovely friends and family who stop by here each day, may 2013 bring the same blessings to you … along with a good helping of that of which you dream.

I love red.


st. lucia visits her homeland

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

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

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

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

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

celebrating spring

There’s some serious landscaping happening on the season’s table.  As you can see, it has taken the residents of mushroom cottage quite by surprise.  However, I’m sure they’ll be thrilled with the final result!

It began with a duck.  I have several books of patterns for felt animals and have seen felt ducks for sale at Winterwood and Little Sparrow.  But did I have a pattern for a duck?  No.  There was no choice but to come up with my own.  It took 3 gussets before I found the right shape – I simply cannot visualise things – I’m a try it and learn from my mistakes kind of person.  So I know that next time I want a smaller beak and wings and I now have the perfect gusset shape.   I want to make at least two more ducks for the spring table, but once there was one – sitting upright and all, thanks to a bottom full of pigeon peas – it was time to move onto creating the spring pond.  Round and round and round …

Then it was onto the wee folk who will be dancing upon this spring table.  I crocheted their wee skirts on the weekend – using the bamboo yarn from my wrap.  Each skirt starts with a ring, then at least 1 round of half treble crochet, then onto a selection from the marvellous assortment of stitches from Mon Tricot.

Its so funny/sweet – as I plod my way through a new set of instructions – and some are so complicated – I recognise in the patterns I’m creating those that make up the doilies in my vintage doily collection.  It sends a shiver through me when I think about the women who have spent thousands of years with thread and needles in their hands creating these delicate designs – beautiful – aren’t we so lucky.

Oh – and the skirts are adorning wee wooden peg dolls Abby and I bought from Winterwood on Saturday.  My first foray into peg dolls and it is SOOOOOOO fun!  Apparently you can get larger wooden beads for the heads, but they didn’t have any, so we haven’t used any.  I quite like them with their little heads and think I shall stick with that.

The arms had me stumped for a while.  I tried to coerce Julian into drilling holes through their “shoulders” for me on the weekend – but he had a dreadful cold and didn’t want to brave the man-shed – and I didn’t want to brave the drill press.  So I tried wrapping pipecleaners around the “shoulders” – complete disaster – looked the hunchback of notre dame with a bad boob job.  Then it finally dawned on me to use what I had – the peggy bit!  So through went the pipecleaner, then I folded it to the height I needed and this – once wrapped with wool formed the shoulders, puffed sleeves and arms.  Perfectly lovely!  And I confess, I did a little jig and danced about the hallway when my first dancer was finished and waiting by the pond for the Maypole to be built :-)

There’s still a bit of landscaping to do – the cherry trees (stalks from the basil plant the chickens played with last month) need to be planted and have their blossoms added.  And there are some wee farm animals that are waiting to move in – some lambs and piggies and chickens.

And I think a bee hive might be in order.  Haven’t yet settled on a method of construction. And there might be some hair tweaking – that ginger haired lass looks like she’s wearing a saucer on her head – nothing the felting needle can’t fix.  And the spare ribbons need to be wrapped around the Maypole.  And those loose threads on the skirts need to be sewn in.

Eeeeee …. pure bliss!  And the perfect holiday entertainment for this mama-nurse to be who thought her week’s holiday came AFTER her three week psych placement – not before.  Good thing I checked my emails BEFORE catching the 6.50am tram on Monday morning.

I do so love creating :-)

the birthday kindle case

Saturday’s birthday stitchfest also produced a very sweet little kindle cover – Julian’s birthday present.  The cover that is, not the kindle … that came a long time ago.

I used a beautifully thick, stiff, pure wool felt from Winterwood – they use it primarily for building houses and toadstools etc.  It sure makes for lovely construction.  It’s a simple envelope design – the side seams are blanket stitched using crochet thread – and I continued the blanket stitching around the flap.

The boots – why, we ARE boots :-)  And look at that boot on the left – it makes a “J”, yes?  J Boot.  No need for any initials or names here!  And simple running stitch in the same colour used on the boots, for the band that holds the flap in place.

Simple, sturdy, perfect.  He loves it.  And I think I’m more than a bit addicted to the lovely thick felt.  Hmmmm …. my stitchy imagination is running over.




a birthday banner

Amazed it’s taken me this many years of banner-loving to make a birthday banner.  Last weekend was such a lovely slow, stitchy, at-home weekend. Abby and I set up on the dining table, stitching a birthday present for Julian and needle felting for quiet, chatty hours.  In between all this, a birthday banner was perfectly do-able.

Same format as all my previous banners.  Rectangles cut from the edge of a thrifted blanket.  Letters cut out from a pretty fabric and vlisofixed into place.  Haven’t yet stab stitched them, but outlined all in red perle thread, and added a wee flower in colours to entice those oh so sweet ladybugs that are lightly perched upon our Happy Birthday.  Blanketing folded in half over a hanging rope made from 2 1/2 inch wide strips of fabric, folded in half right sides together, turned out with a safety pin and ironed flat.

And there it hangs.  Across the front windows.  Finished for Julian’s birthday.  Hanging there – by little wee nails through the ends of the hanging rope into the tops of the window and door frames where no one will ever see the wee holes :-) – waiting for next week’s birthday … mine!

I can’t decide whether to put all the banners in one small case so’s we can go to the case and pull out whichever one we need.  Or, keep my eyes out for some lovely old suitcases at the thrift shops and then have one for each occasion – a birthday case with the banner, bunting, tablecloth, present wrapping cloths, birthday candle ring …  Mmmm …


v is for valentine

Something about the word Valentine makes me think of acrostic poems … is that what they are called?  Those funny poems we write in primary school where each line starts with the next letter in the title, in this case Valentine.

Since I haven’t managed to finish my wee Valentine’s cross stitch – man! after all these years it never ceases to amaze me how long even the simplest of stitched projects takes – I’ll try summing up our Valentine’s Day acrostically :-)

V is for Vegetables that were planted for autumn

A is for Abigail who’s still languishing at home

L is for the sweet Lotte that adorned our Valentine’s table

E is for Eggs, so warm, brown and wonderful

N is for naughty – yes you Fu! you who ate your way out of your walking harness

T is for trees whose leaves are already tinged with the season to come

I is for inside when we should have been out in the last days of summer’s sun

N is for nightime rituals – put the chooks to bed, wash the dishes, read with Abigail, sit down here at my desk

E is for eagerness for what may come tomorrow – planting the second autumn bed, maybe some patchwork, making oregano pesto, definitely more Oliver, but also raking, washing-folding and floor mopping.

There you go :-)  Happy Valentines to you and those you love.  Hope you have a lovely day.

p.s. the lovely “Vs” are from a beautiful French book of cross stitched alphabets – the French sure know how to cross stitch :-)

my child’s light – candlemas

‘Tis another almost forgotten Feast Day today – Candlemas.   A celebration of Jesus’ presentation at the temple following Mary’s purification.  And the candles? Symbolic of old Simon’s dream (resident of the temple) – that in which the heavens declared the babe Jesus to be the light of the world.  And so, folks in later ages were encouraged to bring their candles to mass to be blessed – to take back home into the dark and cold of winter and to find solace in the light and warmth their candles – Jesus – gave them.

As we lit candles this evening and talked about Candlemas and it’s meaning to us, I found myself, as a mother, totally immersed in that notion of our children bringing forth their light into the world.  What this light will contribute to the world.  How the world will respond to our child’s light.  How this light will grow.  How we, as parents, are charged with the responsibility of keeping this light safe – of nourishing it, allowing it to thrive. Will it become richer and stronger, or will it flicker and be almost quenched by the wild forces that sometimes gather outside our doors – or sometimes, those that we let in.

I thought of Mary – that young, young mother who had already withstood such drama – a rather odd conception, marriage to a much older man, travelling in the last days of her pregnancy, sharing her babe’s birth with a gathering of rather fantastical characters, having to flee in order to save her child from a despot’s wrath, and then, finally, presenting her child to the temple as was the custom, only to be told by some old and wild eccentric that her child was going to light up the world. Oy!

But mostly, I thought of my Abby and her light.  Of the light that I recognised and felt the warmth of the moment she was laid in my arms, seconds after her birth.  The light that we watched grow fulsomely as she strode cheerily through those early, early years at home.  Then the heartwrenching moments as she has made her way – sometimes cautiously, sometimes so brave I stand in awe –  into the larger world, and her light – a light that we adore and admire – is sometimes tipped precariously, other times almost snuffed out.  Then the huge relief, when others – her friends, our friends, her teachers, our colleagues, strangers on the tram! – notice her light, their appreciation drawing it out as it quickens her step, curls her mouth with laughter, adds sparkles to her eyes, allows a rosy glow to emanate from within.

As a mum, I want the light inside my Abby, which makes her the special and marvellous individual she is, to warm her with peace and happiness, to guide her towards her dreams, to attract the love and support of those important to her.

And this year, as we talked and laughed over our Candlemas dinner and later, as we read Abby’s new English novel together, I vow that each time I light our candles and admire their cosy prettiness, I will be mindful of that light within my child, be it puttering timidly, fiercely burning, or richly glowing.  For it is hers with which to light up the world. I, like so many mothers before me and beside me – including Mary – am its most loyal guardian. And that is how it should be.