an unexpected love of rope & baskets

crochet basket

D72_4180

julians basket

ostheimer basket

stripey

knot

scrap basket

next to tv

close up rickrack

adding colour

the loopy mat

beeswax wraps basket

fork hook

detail in yellow

basket with flowers

kitchenaid basket

noahs basket

drawstring top

paint basket

I’ve always loved baskets – from the hard bottomed baskets of my childhood with their colourful pieces of narrow plastic piping intertwined, to the soft seagrass baskets of the mid 1980s with their long leather straps, and now the bolga baskets with their stripes and malleable sides.

I still have the sewing basket my Nanny Dougall gave me when I was little – and have since collected a few more of these sweet work baskets – and we have the heavy, salt encrusted fisherman’s basket my Poppy hung about his waist when he was surf fishing.

We have baskets full of wool, fabric, toys, musical instruments, jumpers, baby clothes, computer parts, board games, Sylvanian critters, dolls house furniture.  I take baskets shopping, to the beach, to work, when we go visiting, on picnics – I even used them when we were moving, filling them up with last minute things I thought would be useful to have on hand and squashing them into the corners of the car each time we drove up to the farm.  Yep, we love baskets.  They fulfil that wonderful criteria of being both beautiful and so very useful.

But when I first saw the rope baskets people were making early in 2015, I have to say I wasn’t tempted.  I couldn’t quite see how it would work.  I thought any I made would wind up looking wonky with uneven stitching.  And even more, I didn’t want to end up with a home filled with cream rope coloured baskets that looked exactly like those being made by everyone else.  Baskets that in a few years, we would say “Oh my goodness, remember when these bloody rope baskets were “the thing” – what on earth possessed me!”

Then, there I was at Bunnings one Saturday afternoon with Julian – he was probably looking at tools and screws and things – and I found myself in the rope aisle contemplating the choices.  I wanted to crochet a large cotton doily styled wall hanging out of narrow rope – and there was a lovely natural coloured cotton rope available in big balls – perfect.  And there were also bundles of sash window cord in different widths.  Now all the rope baskets I’d seen made in the US were made from clothesline cord but we didn’t seem to have anything like that.  Maybe it’s Australia’s passion for the Hills Hoist – or our wicked climate – but most people here have clotheslines made from fine metal cord or plastic coated metal.  But sash window cord – it was cotton, sturdy and a lovely natural colour.  Could be good.

Home I went with my packet and after several false starts, I finally got the hang of it … and it was deliciously satisfying :-)  I wanted more!  Everybody at home liked them and wanted one for this, that and the other, so Julian went out and bought me a whole SPOOL of cord – it has several hundred metres on it – and oh what fun I’ve had with this!

Every time I think “we need to keep this in something so it’s easy to find and grab”, I drag out the spool of sash cord and off I go.  And the most satisfying bit about it – I have endeavoured to never make the same basket twice.

I’ve woven fabric scraps around my cord as I sew making gentle bursts of colour.  I’ve folded wider scraps in and out and in and out as I sew round and round – creating colourful columns.  I’ve painstakingly sewed in rickrack to the top edge – my goodness, that took forever. I’ve added fabric yoyos, felt embellishments, vintage buttons, and even a cut down pair of wooden knitting needles .

After many months, I finally plucked up the courage to use coloured thread – and whilst I’m not a 100% sold on the look of the multicoloured thread on the basket I whipped up last week for my paints, I adore the soft variegated lemons on the basket I made for our beeswax wraps.

I’ve left gaps for yarn to be pulled through. I’ve wound lots of ends into snails and secured them with perle thread. I’ve added loopy crowns to the top, long handles, short handles, and knotted handles.  I’ve even made a large flat table mat with strips of coloured fabric – and then a round of loopy gaps before returning to solid rounds – it is divine and probably my favourite one so far – but it went to Queensland as a birthday present.

I’ve sewed small ones, big ones, straight sides, sides that grow, big bottoms, small bottoms, shallow sides and deep sides.

A couple of weeks back, I laboured over the most detailed one.  A craft basket for Noah to take with him on his journeys – a nice big one with a flat bottom, deep sides and … a fabric top that is gathered up with a proper drawstring so that everything inside can be kept nice and safe but efficiently accessed whilst en route, and a knotted handle for carrying.  He adores it – filled it instantly and has been using it constantly ever since.  All his wonderful felt and embroidery supplies are neatly stored away for his exquisite dolls and embroidered artwork.  Just the kind of thing a crafty mama loves to make :-)

Truly, these rope baskets that are finding their way into all the corners of our home and daily life are wonderful.  Sometimes I think they are even better than all the rest – because they are made by my hands, with my imagination and love, for my family and our home.

And there’s almost nothing better than that.

starting

round

bigger

measuring

basket sewing

adding rickrac

round and pretty

blanket stitch

After dedicating ourselves to building shelters, digging garden beds, planting our Autumn seeds, preserving our small fruit harvest – and fitting in some trips to the beach! – I declared today was the day I would finish the round cushion.

I started it a few weeks back – can’t even imagine now why I wasn’t doing something more important – but after spying a Liberty version on Pinterest, I spent an afternoon hunting through the fabric boxes to find scraps of red to make my own.  I’ve wanted to make such a cushion for years – lovely wedges of colour gathered tightly in the middle with a sturdy gusset, something pretty for the middle and a crocheted edging.

You know, I think it was because I had been crocheting squares, and then I had the urge to use the scraps to crochet a mandala, and then the colours of the mandala were so soft and pretty I thought they would look nice with red, and then I saw the cushion on Pinterest.  Yeah.  That must have been how it went ;-)
doily with fabric

trying it out

so much red

I would truly love one in Liberty but everyday here at Wombat Hill I’m reminded that a) we are now soooooooo far away from the shops – especially those that sell Liberty – that there’s a whole lot more of making do that needs to become the norm, and b) there are now sooooooo many more important things to spend our money on then ordering yet more fabric.  Like – chicken feed, and wood for building, and fencing supplies, and guinea keets – oh!  they weren’t perhaps essential but after seeing the older version running around a neighbour’s property we were smitten!

So … to the fabric boxes.  Then, when it came time to stuff.  Well not only are there no shops nearby selling cushion inserts, frankly, I’ve never seen a nice plump round cushion insert for sale anywhere.  But I do have several Alpaca fleeces I have done nothing with for a few years :-)  Deliciously soft and squishy and warm (and dirty) – it made for the loveliest stuffing.

I do declare we will be fighting over who gets to hold the round cushion on our laps come winter, because it is seriously cosier than a hot water bottle.  And infinitely lighter.  Yep – I mightn’t have spun it and knitted it up but I can surely verify that everything they say about Alpaca fleece is true.  Beautifully light and fabulously warm it is.

fleece

stuffing

And dirty.  Did I mention it was dirty?  You should have seen the state of the grey gingham when I’d finished.  I’ve given it a good scrub with some warm soapy water.  I’m just hoping it will dry looking a lot crisper.  But the most curious thing was – there was not a speck of oil.  I’m so used to sheep’s fleece sliding through my fingers and leaving them glowing with lanolin.  I kept checking my hands, sure something similar would begin to build up … but no.  Nothing.  Dry as a bone.  Interesting huh!

Then it was onto the crochet.  First a round of blanket stitch.  Then a round of single crochet.  Then a round of trebles.  Then a round of double with a chain in between each one.  Then finally a shell – with a wee picot in between each one.  I learnt the shell stitch a couple of years ago and it was truly a revelation.  Yes!!  This is the look I have been after for 20 years and it’s so easy!  Who’d have thought.
slow going

But it did take muuuuuuuuuuuch longer then the sewing up of the red slices.  And so … the long finish.  And after today’s hours of effort … so very very worth it.

on left

crocheted centre

I had to wait until late this afternoon to take it out to the fields to photograph.  See, we’re trying to convince our goats that staying inside the movable electric fence is such good fun.  (I can hear everybody who has ever had anything to do with goats roaring with laughter at this point – get a goat to do what WE want!!!) Which means we have to carefully avoid walking about the top fields and getting spotted by the three naughties who – if they see us – instantly begin screaming … and escaping.

noah and goats

Ah yes.  Here’s Clyde on the wrong side of the fence.  Abel and Basil are actually growing up into good goats and cheerfully stay in their little field all day munching weeds.  Clyde – he’s smaller so wriggles out the bottom.  Then stands on the other side of the fence and yells to tell us he’s done it again …

all on the right side

… until we reward Abel and Basil for being inside the fence, so Clyde quickly wriggles back in hoping to get in on some of that action.  He’s always baffled and terribly hurt when we don’t oblige.

two rounds of crochet

noahs christmas quilt and rias quilt

One of the things I love about this cushion are all the memories tucked into each piece of fabric.  That red floral there on the left – one of my favourite ever students used this in the quilt she and I made together when she was in Year 12.  I so loved it – and Ria and her quilt – that I went back to the shop and bought some more to make a skirt that would always remind me of that lovely shared experience.  Then the red and pink in the middle – that’s in Noah’s Christmas Quilt I made when he was little.  The lovely rose on the right – that’s from the house and girl quilt I made many years back – that I still haven’t finished – and then I used the leftovers of it in Noah’s English teacher’s quilt in Year 9.  Such good stuff.

dancing for box

abel

checking out the cushion

So after all this talk of naughty goats and alpaca fleece and quilty memories, where’s this squishy, pretty round cushion going to live?

Well I think it looks just right on our bed.  I’ve painted our walls a soft grey blue.  The grey gingham is actually trimmed off the fabric I am supposed to be sewing up into curtains for our window.  And not only is there a lovely red, white and blue quilt on the bed already, but I found another lovely, even bigger red, white and blue quilt when we were packing up in Melbourne which is folded up in the laundry, waiting for me to quilt it.  So it all fits together quite sweetly I think.

pretty

on the bed

Mmmmmm …. pretty and peaceful.  Just what I love.

 

verandah tales

wool

cups of tea
view

pegs and grapes

grapes

skull

gloves

for planting

squares thus far

reading about snakes
crochet tools

crochet

quilt
maple and sky

how to make hash browns

stack

popcorn

:: Noah and I shopped for soft mushy shades at Morris and Sons yesterday – he was in Melbourne, I was here at Wombat Hill – it was a lovely collaboration

:: today’s the first Saturday we’ve all been at home with nothing else to do for so many months – so Noah and I made tea, gathered our supplies and settled onto the verandah

:: oh the green!  in this the last month of summer, every corner of our home is still enveloped in lush richness – fields of long grass, swathes of grape vine, the evergrowing japanese maple

:: these grapes!  piquant with thick skins, finger licking juice and a nice plump seed in the midst of each one – just as a grape should be

:: so much planting to do – more herbs and some greens for quick picking

:: completely inspired by this – colours I have never put together before – but sing to me not of snowy Swedish landscapes, but of faded summer days, bleached by the strong Australian sun

:: he is the loveliest of companions – his interests are so varied and interesting – first it’s snakes (we have plenty of these) and then onto the perfect hash brown

:: and then the breeze picks up and brings with it an icy edge, a reminder that the days are shortening and we are reaching for quilts

:: meanwhile, when I cannot bear to crochet another stitch, the country living sends me straight into the kitchen for maple and cinnamon popcorn

Oh it was indeed a lovely verandah afternoon and such a pleasure to be here, all together, in our new home

an abundance of quilt tops

stack of quilts

With the house almost all packed up, yesterday was time for me to tackle the sewing shed – with Noah and Mum’s help – far too big a job to dare on my own!  Oh my.  For many years now, the sewing shed has not functioned as a PLACE to sew.  Instead it’s become the Tardis of all things stitchy.  I confess there’s been many a day I have simply stood at it’s door and THROWN the stuff in.  You can tell.

Hours were spent pulling stuff out of drawers and cabinets and half filled boxes, sorting it all into some semblance of order – there are now wool boxes, fabric boxes, trim boxes, vintage linen boxes, must-open-straight-away boxes (there’s a silly number of them!), boxes for the opshop, and a small wheelie bin full of “for goodness sake! why on earth did I keep this!”
sewing shed

There were many ooooohs and ahhhhhhs as we rediscovered things that hadn’t been seen for years, and sighed over treasures we completely forgot we even had.  But the loveliest moment came when we found a pile of colourful quilt tops and unfinished quilts.  Some quilts that hadn’t seen the light of day since leaving Brisbane 6 years ago!

It was so lovely remembering when and where I’d bought the fabric, where and with whom I’d sat and made it, what we’d been doing as a family at that time … Quilts are especially marvellous how they hold all these memories aren’t they.

red white and blue

This huge lovely was inspired by an antique quilt.  I started off sewing each block by hand but quickly became impatient with that!  I have had a go at hand quilting it, but once we get to the farm, I shall be whipping those clumsy stitches out and getting stuck into it on my big sewing machine.  I think it will look so tranquil and pretty on our bed in our pale blue-grey room.

american jane

I bought the fabric for this quilt with Julian – one quiet Saturday afternoon at the Quilters’ and Embroiderers’ store when they were still in the little old cottage in Auchenflower.  Then went straight home and sewed and sewed and sewed and sewed!  It’s crazy bright – Mum would like it for one of her spare beds – perfect!

tumblers

I was especially excited to find this vintage tumbler quilt.  I whipped it up one winter’s day – and long into the night – when we were living at Mum’s before we moved to Melbourne – and then it vanished into the box of never-never and I had absolutely no idea what had become of it.  Look at that border!  Look at all those wonderful reproduction fabrics!  So rich and pretty.  It too is in the pile to finish lickety-split.  It will be just lovely folded on the end of our bed for cosy naps :-)

noah

crazy stars

I remember starting these crazy star blocks in our little tumbledown house in Norman Park and finally putting them all together with the offset sashing at Mum’s.  Now I’ll have to track down some white with green spot fabric to finish the borders and then it needs a lovely border like the tumbler quilt I think – maybe instead of “bowls” I’ll do “balls”.  They will be stars and planets.

piles

folding them up

needs unquilting

Now this pretty four patch was the first quilt I made in Melbourne.  Most of the fabric came from the stash but I think I ordered the large squares of bird fabric from the FatQuarterShop.  Very gentle and sweet, this one is.  However the crooked lines of machine quilting are rubbish!  So I’m paying Noah to unpick it and then I shall start again.  It will be lovely for our caravanning guests.

sunhats

Oh the Sunhat Quilt!  This was stitched up in a couple of days, using fabric all from the stash, on Mum’s back deck in Kangaroo Point.  The frangipani was in full bloom, the air was sultry, the sky brilliant blue, Noah was on school holidays so there were lovely days of friends coming to play and lots of laughter, and every afternoon we were oh so glad when the seabreeze came tickling down the hallway.  It just needs pinning out and it’s ready to quilt!

completely forgotten

And this sweet little number – truly, I have no recollection of ever starting this.  But hey, I love the fabric and colours.  So into the must-open-straight-away box it goes.

There’s nowhere at Wombat Hill for a dedicated sewing room – Julian says he will one day build me a little studio, nestled into the trees with lots of light, and waist high built in shelves all the way around.  In my dreams it also has one of my lovely hard-rubbished vintage sofas upholstered with woollen blankets, the perfect sewing table with space for several people to sit around making, and a little wood burning stove to keep us cosy over the long cool months.

Julian says this dream is a few years down the track but I don’t know about that! There is just so much fabric, a little studio may become a necessity!

(Did you hear that, it was Julian roaring with laughter ;-)