the secret hattifattener society discovers licquorice allsorts

 

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

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

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

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

quilted hattis

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

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

close up of hattis

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

… picked my crochet colours …
so bright

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

crocheting through the blanket stitch

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

with the last beams of sun

finished

top corner

all those hattis

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

bottom corner

across the top

plain back

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

insitu

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

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

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

on my rocking chairBut very pretty :-)

 

quilting the teacloths

finished

Some tea cloths are just too pretty to subject to the washing up and scrunched up to lift hot cast iron pans – which often leads me to thinking about what nice wall hangings they would make – and yet, I rarely get around to it.

closeup

Until recently, when I tidied up all the fabric that was shoved in around our little indoor craft table and found this sweet cloth.  I bought it with Mum when we made our epic 3 day drive to Brisbane at the beginning of the year.  We’d deliberately gone well out of our way to visit this little village in the Southern Highlands which had an amazing antique store.  Only when we finally got there – our pennies burning their way through our purses – the store had closed two years earlier after its owners had died.  So sad! We found this out at the Alpaca store – where we also found these lovely tea cloths by the very talented Australian artist – Red Tractor Designs.  I adore her work because it IS so very Australian.  Every piece I see brings a smile of recognition to my face – I can imagine the sun, the smells, the warmth …

I bought this one because it made me think of the future Julian and I are planning – see there’s me off to the left planting some seeds and Julian doing important digging on the right :-)


future lily

future jules

- and Mum bought another lovely one for dear old Nanny.  You can check out more of Rachael Flynn’s wonderful work here. Her Christmas cards are especially lovely – no snowmen or ice skaters in sight! – a girl after my own Australian heart.

cocoa lorax

The bright squares of colour against the black makes me think of licorice allsorts – another sentimental reminder of my childhood.  And the brown – why it’s that Lorax again (I bought metres and metres of him at Darn Cheap one day – I daresay he will keep popping up in things) – ’cause he’s the best gardener of all.

pocket for hangin

On the back there’s a wee pocket for hanging and lots of squiggles … I tried out a few new wobby quilting strategies on this.  Tried quilting round the loraxs – didn’t really work so well.  And made little loopy circles in the licorice allsorts squares.  They worked better and are definitely something I will keep practising. Oh and there’s a pocket at the bottom as well – I’m going to put another wooden rod in there and hopefully it will help it hanging straighter against the wall.

lots of squiggles

trees
first line

second line

And where’s it hanging now?  In the funniest little nook we have between the kitchen and the toilet.  That’s right – our only toilet is off the kitchen.  Let me tell you how much guests enjoy using our toilet when we’re all gathered in the kitchen ;-)  Funny story – sorry if I’ve already shared this – but Abby and I found our sweet little house during a hectic week in October the year before we moved.  It was quite the adventure, finding properties online whilst in the hotel room in the city, then catching trams and trains and walking for miles everywhere to see them.  Was particularly galling to spend 2 hours travelling to view a house that was hideously unsuitable and totally misrepresented online.

Anyways – we found our little house and snapped it up on the spot – without Julian.  He said he trusted us.  Only when he arrived weeks later with the furniture, he called – part bemused, part frantic – because according to him, Abby and I had rented a house with NO TOILET.

Now when he first said this, given all the appalling properties we had viewed, it didn’t seem completely implausible and I burst into tears.  ”Oh no!” I shrieked, “how could it have no toilet.  Surely they couldn’t rent a house with no toilet!”  Thankfully, Julian kept wandering through the house and finally exclaimed with relief “Found it!  It’s right out in the back corner – through a funny little door off the kitchen!” Phew!

tucked in its corner

And where the quilt is hanging – that was a locked screen door into the back garden with no other means of closing it.  Let me tell you how cold that was!  Made you think twice about going to the toilet on a cold night.  It didn’t take long before we whacked up a protective piece of MDF.

glowing

So now, on the way to our funny toilet, you’ll see this pretty quilt and hopefully think of nice things – instead of the fact that everyone in the kitchen will hear you pee.

 

 

rolling beeswax :: a recipe

sheets of beeswax

:: take some sheets of heavenly scented, perfectly formed beeswax
- sigh with thanks & wonder over the hard work
& meticulous nature of the honey bee

wick

:: gather specially woven cotton wick, scissors for wick cutting,
& sacrificial scissors for beeswax cutting

bury the wick

:: lay your sheet of beeswax with the shorter edge towards you
- cut your wick to fit with an extra 1/2 inch dangling from the top – you need something to light
- lay it 1/4 inch in from your short edge – fold the short edge of the wax over it, taking care to squoosh it down good and tight
- then firmly, firmly, firmly, roll away from you, making a tight, smooth, even baclava log of beeswax
- voila! you’ve made a candle

like baclava

:: keep rolling and rolling and rolling until you have all the candles you want
- or you run out of sheets of beeswax – or wick – or time

all those little hexagons
:: understand that if you were  a medieval monk,
your candles would only be used in the stables,
every one of them being a slightly different width and length

from the top

:: but know, that when you light them, they will nevertheless
cast the most beautiful glow
& fill your room with a honeyed scent
you’ll want to soak yourself in

blanket

:: whilst the candles rest, gather a scrap of blanket

mermaids

:: a pretty piece of fabric

with pins

:: & some pins

binding

:: quilt & bind

handsew

:: sew down the binding by hand
- the bees would never machine sew the final edge
of a binding & neither should you

on the tin

:: pin & sew onto a tin

remains

:: gather up the scraps of beeswax stuck in the candlesticks
all round the house

scraps for melting

:: add them to the shards of beeswax sheets
you found under the laundry sink
& put in a bowl suitable for sitting over a pot
of simmering water for melting

ready for dipping

:: gather your rolled candles – in your quilted tin of course
& take then to the kitchen

melting the scraps

:: over a small pot of simmering water, melt your wax scraps

dipping

:: dunk the wick end of each of your candles in the hot amber liquid
- it’s better not to get it on your fingers, but remember
beeswax melts at a very low temperature so it will only smart for a second
then you can peel it off like a spare piece of skin with no harm done

cooling

:: stand the candles to dry, taking care that their soft warm tips
do not touch each other

ready

:: admire the sweetness you have made

on the shelf

:: pop your tin of beeswax candles on a prominent shelf
- easy to get to and pretty to look at

new kitchen nook

:: stand back & shake your head with delight
over how much more you love your house since
the weekend’s huge re-arrange


lit

:: then, when dusk finally falls,
gently push your candles into their candlesticks & light

close up windowsill

:: sigh …

a squishy spring meadow cushion

spindles

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

misleading

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

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

blanket octagon

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

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

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

oh no

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

oberlap finally sorted it

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

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

ran out of lilac

So … there was more unravelling …

off it came wee ball

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

outside for photos

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

whole cushion with curry plant corner poking through landscape

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

lovely colours centrepiece more lovely colours

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

with sage flower dimpled sides crochet edging squashy with rosemary

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

DSC_0400 under am

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

 

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.

 

 

the sort of gardening we’re good at

new leaves by my side basket of yarn under dog

Since there’s nary a green finger between us – I’m hoping they’ll grow when we turn our hands to gardening our own land – our best “gardening” is enjoyed in other ways.  With wool, and cotton, and needles, and hooks, and books, and bikes, and tools, and paper, and pencils, and good food, and lovely company.

So, when a magnificent spring day burst forth, that’s just what we did :-)

julian raleigh buds

Out we went, soaking up that sun and warmth.

rabbits lunch

hat crochet sticking out from my chair basket with flowers

And when, at last, the air cooled and the sun dropped, we celebrated the day and the lovely “gardening” we’d enjoyed …

and of day treat

Have I mentioned how much I love spring!

 

slowly … slowly

There was a sleepless night – we call it “hover sleep” here in Bootville, that kind of sleep where you’re not really asleep, not quite awake, but oh so aware that dawn is creeping closer and closer.  Followed by another early morning, grad year interview – intense occasions after which I can always think of much better ways I could have answered their questions.

The rest of the day needed to move slowly, gently .. with a good dose of uplifting.  And, as is so often the case, such balm was found in the warmth of my kitchen, a little green machine that hums like an old Hornby train set, and a table scattered with fabric.

brewing marmalade marmalade recipe

:: late winter always means pyramids of lovely, juicy oranges – the perfect time for some marmalade brewing.  I’m following a Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recipe which calls for a good overnight soaking.  Slowly, slowly …

marmalade cupcakes

:: not so slowly enjoying yesterday’s Nigel Slater’s marmalade loaf baked into cupcakes – with sultanas because everything tastes extra yummy with sultanas

cabbage mushing the cabbage

:: my first pickling efforts – using Andrea Chesman’s “Pickled Pantry” - my cabbage has been soaking for a few hours after mashing the salt in with my fingers – it’s almost time to add the next ingredients …

new pot

:: a new cast iron pot – bigger than the last!  perfect for slowing cooking a lovely joint – pork, beef, turkey – as long as it’s hot and flavoursome I don’t mind.  But first – this new pot needs a nice slow curing.

jasmine

:: this season’s first posy of jasmine – slowly, slowly spring is tiptoeing in

snape

:: savouring a thick and frothy hot cocoa after school – and still, after all these years, spending our afternoon tea debating Snape’s virtue.  He is hands down my favourite Harry Potter character – alas, Abby will never see it my way :-)

untidy kitchen table

:: things are moving slowly on the kitchen table – it’s looked like this since Friday – but the work has been nonstop!

little pieces

:: there’s only one way all these little seams come together and that’s slowly …

house

… but oh so pleasing.

an iced bun sort of day

lamp

:: lamps were lit very very early

threads delia teddy

:: corners were tidied and reorganised

blanket

:: the perfect vintage blanket was unearthed from the sewing shed

books flowers red and blue

:: mail from Japan was rescued from the leaky mail box, delighted over, and ideas were hatched

machine cotton reel seam spots

:: borders were chopped and stitched and pressed – the material so very pretty it made me wonder what else I could do with it

supper

:: the girlie was collected and supper was shopped for

iced bun:: slices of iced bun were munched and tea sipped as outside yet more and more rain melted into the ground

It was that sort of day :-)

 

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.

 

 

a cushion to catch the sun

the full

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

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

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

the right the photos the curtains

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

the cushion

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

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

cutting circles bottom rows rosy pinks green glowing quilted in checks

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

little beaks purples and yellows

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

on its back

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

with tea and pattern

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

 

 

kitchen day

My it’s so cold at the moment.  Our breath is frosted even in the kitchen (no! don’t give in! don’t give in! leave the heating off!).

But oh it’s so lovely to be home, home, home!  This being day three of my return to a time of quiet and domesticity – and I’m loving it.

Today – it’s been all about the kitchen ….

lentils and cup

:: cooking supper early so that it will be rich, warming and ready for the family when I return home late from babysitting.

pumpkin pleasures

:: trying not to eat all of Julian’s pumpkin pie (sans pastry) one slice at a time.

chair shuffling

:: shuffling chairs – and plotting their repainting for the umpteenth time – so as to tackle some …

quilting

:: kitchen table quilting – the recently thrifted kitchen stools are perfect for quilting – they wind up and down so can be made just the right height – no more stiff neck!

new to us china

:: I shall serve dinner in this little sweetie tonight – also recently thrifted – Mesterkokken “Flamingo” from Norway – from the fabulous Jewish thrift store up the road – they have the best European crockery

needlepoint pattern fiddling

:: fiddling with a new needlepoint pattern – something to soak up the thousands (yes, literally) of skeins of DMC embroidery wool I’ve recently “accumulated” – and baffled as to why it’s skewif – huh!

repurposing chelves

:: gloating over the repurposing of a hard rubbish bookcase – has been sitting on the front porch with sneakers on it for the last 2 years – perfect fit for the end of the kitchen table – and perfect for all the pretty and useful things (clutter, says Julian) I like to keep handy :-)

erzgebirge

:: smiling each time I catch a glimpse of these dear little napkin rings – can’t decide whether to use them straightaway – save them for special occasions – or just wait until we have 3 so we can ALL delight in their sweetness (will Julian really care if he has a plain silver one? probably not)

alison lester

:: so pleased to have found these placemats I made – oh, 16 years ago – from an old Alison Lester calendar.  I think they need a couple more coats of sealer before we use them.  Add to the to do list.

she likes

:: my little furry companion.  She longs for toast and crepes and pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie and onions and carrots and mushrooms and speck and sausages and left over roast potatoes and … and … and … pretty much any food that touches my hands.

The perfect kitchen – in the gorgeous Bega Valley of course –  is something I regularly dream of – and collect pictures of and plot and plan with Julian and Abby and Mum.  It will have huge windows, and a wooden burning stove, and a set of window shelves facing the sun for herbs, and comfy chairs for cosying and cook book browsing and radio listening, and a walk in pantry, and a pretty white sink with a fabulous tap, and glass fronted cabinets for our glassware and china, and a cork floor (I LOVE cork), and loads of bench space, and the perfect spot for each appliance …

But right now, when there’s a lovely long stretch of days (weeks! months!) before me with not much to do but care for my family, this little kitchen here in Melbourne will do me just fine :-)

on monday morning before I leave for a late

crumpled sofas

:: the sofas are crumpled with quilts … speaking of the cold but cosy nights we are having as we move past the winter solstice and once more towards the sun

crochet basket

new version

:: so many corners filled with so many projects … a little dabbling in last summer’s crocheted cotton throw, and turning a doily pattern, written for fine mercerised cotton, into something so much chunkier and more colourful – plans for something silly and wonderful!

blue sky

:: the back door opens to the first blue sky in days … look at our funny winter trees – the oak still dressed in its autumn leaves, the flower buds already colouring and tentatively venturing out on the magnolia

umbrella

:: first morning in ages that I haven’t had to take the umbrella with me on my morning visit to the chicken and rabbits

unknown berries

magnolia

:: more signs of our strangely bothered climate (look around you Prime Minister Abbott and Environment Minister Hunt – you woefully ignorant, head-in-the-coal, intellectual and moral pygmies!) – the birds never touch these berries so nor shall we.  As for the magnolia – best flowers it’s ever produced – even if they are several months early

srtichokes
tea and crumpets

:: wintery mornings call for tea and honeyed crumpets, then more tea, and more tea and more tea and more tea … as for those artichokes – they’re just so pretty but I’ve never cooked with them – hmmmm ….

vintage stools

:: smiling at our newly thrifted kitchen stools.  They absolutely don’t fit in our kitchen, but we’re tolerating them there at the moment.  Red re-upholstering would be just the ticket – yes?

a very cosy nook pins

:: making the most of the few hours I have at home before heading into the hospital for a late – making time for my home’s ordinary everyday needs as well as sneaking in a bit of creativity every day is essential for maintaining a cheerful perspective during these long and intense weeks of placement!  When I don’t do this – and focus manically on the here and now – the long hours, the constant learning, the stress of new and tricksy things, the relentless insomnia – I forget that what I am living right now, is not what the forever more is going to be!  Pinning out a quilt, chatting to the chicken, tidying the corners of Bootville is a good reminder that nursing will be an extra string to my fiddle, not the entire orchestra.

stuck pins

:: how DO these pins get so entwined!  More baffling then coat hangers.

ready for christmas bunting

:: two left over strips of festive vintage blanket – perfect for a Christmas banner – and perfect time to start thinking about this as we turn the corner of the year!  Oh how I love Christmas :-)

bloody eye

:: and finally, as I pull my hair back and clean my teeth, I am reminded that viciously rubbing one’s eye when it’s itchy is NOT a good idea.  Oy!  I look as if I’ve been in a pub brawl!  My poor eye!

So – any moment now, one of my fellow nursing students will be pulling up outside my home and we shall choof on in to the hospital together for another afternoon in the ICU.  It’s full on my friends, full on.  I’m seeing things I never knew existed – and lots of things that are not usually visible.  I’m caring for needs I had never before imagined.  But when, for the first moment, it feels a bit overwhelming and a sense of horror begins to creep into my thoughts, I look into my patient’s face and all I feel is love and empathy.  It goes a long way.