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!

 

icelandic jumpers and a bedside table full of books

basket in sun

joining Ginny and her yarn-a-long!  I highly recommend checking out the other lovely people who link to this – you’ll see so much prettiness :-)

You know me – always longing for the sun and warmth.  And yet I do sooooooo love knitting and the wearing of all this knitty goodness.  The current knit that I am just desperate to finish is the Lopi sweater I am knitting for Abby.

It’s in a beautiful wool – an old old yarn – Cleckheaton’s Angora Supreme – that we found in the bargain basement at Wondoflex a few Saturday’s back.  Initially, I passed over the bundle of 8 balls for just pennies (can’t quite remember but it was less than $30 and there’s 140m on each ball so a wonderful buy) but then I figured it was lovely quality wool and a great price so I picked it up after all.

When Abby saw it, she was delighted!  Hawkeye purple she tells me – she being a dedicated Marvel fan.  And she thought it would be super with some white and lilac and dark lilac for a Lopi sweater.  And she was right.  She always is – has an eye for colour this one.

As per all the Lopi patterns I’ve tried, the body knitted up lickety-split.  They are such wonderfully simple patterns.  And oh how I love that simple, repetitive, meditative knitting.  Round and round and round and round.  Then the sleeves – up they went.  And then onto the yoke.

Now the yoke has certainly been time consuming – intensely patterned with sometimes three yarns in play at once.  But I do love stranded knitting  - my challenge is keeping it loose enough at the back.  Once all those strands are layered, it does make for an exceptionally warm jumper.  Like wearing a jumper WITH a shawl.  Perfect.

the arch bicycles bicycle seats

It did feel a bit funny the other day – sitting on the porch, my cardigan discarded, lapping up that sun like a cat – with a big hefty pile of Icelandic knitting on my lap :-)

knitting with ipad

When I looked down into my basket, I was also struck by the contrast between my vintage basket, my Lopi pattern (same as has been knitted in Scandinavia for generations), my vintage Cleckheaton wool … and the iPad.  I almost always knit from the iPad these days.  Whenever I pack my knitting basket, the iPad gets slipped in too.  Isn’t it brilliant!  I just love being able to browse Ravelry – I start by looking at everything and then wheedle it down, adding my search criteria one by one.  Then buy my pattern, download it and bam!  I’m off.  Can’t imagine knitting any other way. So totally different from when I first began knitting and we had to rely upon those cardboard folders of patterns – purchased from the shop, one or two at a time.  And rarely exactly what I had in mind anyway.  Now – the whole world sits there at my fingertips.  The truly wonderful upside of being connected to this new world.

coming along

As for reading … I’ve been re-reading “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.  This book is so densely packed with fascinating information that I am forever discovering something new and tweaking how I cook for my family yet a little bit more.  These days, I’m especially keen on cooking suppers that can be served in these dear little pots.  We found 12 at the opshop the other day.  They are Denby Gypsy – apparently very rare in Australia – haven’t been able to find any others on the old ebay.  So we’re eating lots of soups and stews – we even had our porridge in them the other morning and I must say, they keep the food very hot.

soup potOn the fiction front – I’m adoring Karen Joy Fowler’s “We are All Completely Beside Ourselves”.  Oh my goodness – the narrator is so utterly relatable.  I find myself nodding and laughing and wincing along with her.  And I’m also reading William McInnes’ “The Birdwatcher” – totally different, set here in Australia starting in Melbourne then moving up to North Queensland.  Both are landscapes so very familiar that it is a very poignant read – I love reading about environments I have lived in – such a connection.  And the characters are very appealing – it’s not literature, but it’s a lovely read and I really enjoy McInnes’ voice.  I have Inga Simpson’s “Nest” to pick up from the bookshop tomorrow – also set in North Queensland and I think I shall need Ian McEwan’s new novel “The Children Act” too.  Very pertinent but more about that next week!

Now – I’m off to bed on this cold cold night – The Birdwatcher awaits me.

 

finally – the stevenson sweater and a book about lighthouses

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long!  And a heart felt thankyou to all the lovely folk who visited here last week.  Thank you so much for your kind words – I look forward to catching up with more of your lovely knitting this week!

last of the kitchener stitch

I really think – hope – that 2014 is going to be the year I finish lots of knitting – as opposed to just starting :-)  Saturday morning saw me brave the techniques needed to finish off my Stevenson Sweater (raveled here) – a whole lot of sewing in of ends (not difficult, but ends that with hindsight and a little more experience, I did not need to create) and the grafting of the armholes with kitchener stitch.  Not only does Kate write lovely patterns, including lovely armholes, but her beautiful book “Colours of Shetland” provides excellent and simple to follow instructions for kitchener stitch.  Really, I don’t know what I was so afraid of.

Actually, I do.  I think a lot of my not-finishing-things in a timely manner can be put down to this silly thought – if I don’t finish them, then I don’t have to assess whether or not they are a success.   If the cardigan is never finished, then I never have to critically look at what I’ve made, identify where I can improve, and seek to improve my skills.  Unfinished items are just lovely to work on – they don’t have to be anything.  Do you know what I mean?  When it’s actually finished, then it has to stand on its own two feet.  Yes?  Do you ever experience this feeling?  Sometimes I can become completely bogged in it.  Has even been known to stop me from giving people presents I’ve handmade for them.

Well, mayhaps 2014 will not only be the year of finishing, but a year of growing.  An opportunity to look at what I finish, be grateful for the loveliness I have created, enjoy my projects for being an illustration of where I’m at skill wise, and look forward to using that skill again, only next time, with a little more finesse.  Or maybe, appreciate that not everything has to be perfect and that I can love my knits for being my knits and not fret over their shortcomings.  That would be even nicer :-)

yellow stockings the beach my lovely abby

on to the next sotp

her cute shoes

(my lovely photographer and her very natty new shoes she very sweetly agreed to come to the beach with me- icy wind and all – to indulge me in my photo wanting)

Anyways!  Back to the Stevenson Sweater.  When Kate first shared glimpses of the projects in her Colours of Shetland book, I fell instantly in love with this stranded knitting, short sleeved jumper.  I loved the colours, loved the stripes, loved that it was styled on lighthouses which I adore, and loved the story behind the Stevenson lighthouses!  I read the book Kate recommended – it was fascinating – if you have a thing for lighthouses, like me, I highly recommend it.  I devoured it in 2 nights and wished it could have gone on forever.

So, I put Kate’s book and the beautiful Shetland Island yarn required for this jumper (and the Puffin Jumper which is also waiting for a finish) on my list for Father Christmas that year.  And sure enough, there it was under the tree for me on Christmas morn.  Funny story – I was too busy on Christmas Day to pick up the needles but come Boxing Day, I couldn’t wait to cast on those golden stitches.  Mum and Abby went out early – shopping – Aunty Anne (who was staying with us) caught the train west to spend the day with old school friends, Julian was engrossed in a Christmas book and I – well, I was beside myself with anticipation.  I laid my yarn out on the round table in the living room.  I placed my needles beside it.  I made a cup of tea.  I went to fetch the book – and couldn’t find it.

I searched the house.  I tore the house apart.  I looked under every chair, table, bed and sideboard.  Piles of books and magazines were scattered, helter-skelter.  I even looked in all the tote bags and the car.  I pestered Julian.  I rang Abby and Mum – several times.  I looked for over 2 hours,  all the while growing more frantic (cranky).  How could I have lost the book in less than 24 hours!!!  It seemed manifestly unfair!  I had been waiting for this moment for almost 2 months.

Then, finally, I searched under the front passenger seat in the car.  And there it was.  I had given it to Mum to look at on Christmas Day as we drove to the airport to collect Aunty Anne – and she had put it under the front seat.  Don’t know why.  But she did.  Then we both forgot about it.  Sigh!

walking to the jetty
there was a fellow swimming

(This is me looking askance at a person swimming!
Port Philip Bay is freezing in summer let alone the last week in autumn)

the crazy folk the bag from the front close up of neck and shoulder

Most of the body was knitted on Mum’s front porch.  The perfect spot for a lighthouse sweater.  Sitting there drenched in sun, buffeted by the seabreeze, pretty parrots and kangaroos in attendance, the beautiful Pacific Ocean rolling and sparkling before me, little fishing boats darting across the Bar.  All the while, dreaming of lighthouses and when I would wear my Stevenson Sweater to our lighthouse – the Green Cape Lighthouse.  It’s not been there yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.

on the jetty watching the boat raglan sleeve

The Jamieson Jumper weight wool is truly gorgeous to work with.  I adore it.  It’s got a lovely lightness to it, a sweet fuzziness, and it just melds together so beautifully.  Their colour range is lovely too.  And it’s from Shetland sheep who’ve roamed Shetland Island, been sheared there, their wool spun there, dyed there, and then these beautiful little balls of yarn made their way all the way down here, from the top of the world to the bottom of the world.  Magic, yes?  I want to knit in Jamieson for the rest of my knitting days.

with the jetty behind photos for mym

Well now, I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from finishing the Puffin Sweater (wait til you hear what happened to part of that pattern – oy!).  Well except, that I’m knitting a stripey jumper for Mum.  And still have Julian’s Argyle to finish.

But right now, I’m about to hop into bed with my copy of “The Lighthouse Stevensons” and another old favourite – Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife” – I heard her on the radio the other day and she was so marvellous I want to read all her books over again.

my hippie cardigan and the books I’m longing to read

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long.

That’s the name of the pattern – the hippie cardigan – such a sweet creation from the lovely and talented Meiju from Finland.  I so recommend you check her out here and here – her knitting and designs are beautiful.

in the garden

I so enjoyed knitting this cardigan.  I love the pattern – easy to follow, gorgeous construction.  I love the wool I chose – Cleckheaton Naturals for the stripes and a lovely discontinued Cleckheaton merino and silk blend for the rest of body and arms.  The cardigan in the pattern is intended as a summer cardigan and so is in beautiful summery colours – I wanted rich warm colours for winter so went for a much darker palette.   I would knit the hippie cardigan again without hesitation.

side on

And that’s exactly what I may have to do …

squinty

When I began knitting this cardie – way back in January? – I was 12 kilos heavier than I am now.  So what was a fitted bodice is now a baggy bodice – and a couple of stripes too long – and the raglans don’t provide that lovely – wanted – crisp definition for my shoulders.  Bugger.

kind of hairy

There’s just so much fabric around my upper body and armholes.  Such looseness in the upper sleeves.  And yet I think, as a cardigan, it is really pretty.  I love the garter stitch bands.  I love the crocheted edging.  I love the one piece construction.  I love raglan shaping.  I love how the “skirt” flares out slightly.  I adore the leather buttons Julian made me.  I love how I’ve shrunk.  I just don’t like how the cardigan didn’t shrink along with me ;-)

the bottom

It’s just a wee bit too big.  And given I’m still hoping to lose another 6 kilos – it will only get bigger.  It would be awesome if I COULD shrink it.  But that is such a finger shredding, imperfect science.  Knowing my luck, the cardigan would end up fitting Fu.

from the back

I know I shall want to wear it.  I put so many hours of knitty pleasure into this – and I even finished it –  of course I want to wear it!  And it will be lovely and cosy.  It’s just too baggy.

Hmmmm …. maybe I will just need to knit another, smaller hippie cardigan and I can have one for around the home when cosy comfort is the name of the game.  And one for when I want a little more pizzazz.  Oh dear, that will mean more wool.  And more knitting.  Such a shame.

As for my reading …. well, it’s the Sydney Writer’s Festival this week and every day I’ve heard fabulous authors being interviewed about their books on Radio National.  My favourites include Andrew Solomon and his book “Far From the Tree”  and Karima Bennoune and her book “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here”.

I’ve heard/seen Andrew twice now and am so very impressed with the love and compassion he radiates for fellow human beings.  The stories he related on Margaret Throsby’s program on Monday were incredibly moving and brought me to tears on several occasions.  As a mama whose daughter is not as close to the tree as I thought she’d be, and as an almost nurse who will be caring and relating to “different” people everyday, I know that there will be a lot of helpful wisdom in this book.  And even the pain, sadness and sometimes complete shunning Andrew relates from families who simply do not cope with their different child will give me so much to think about and allow me to walk just a wee bit in the shoes of others – such an invaluable practice.  Sometimes, I think it’s easy to expect that the people we love and those we meet will, of course, do the things we expect them to do.  When they don’t, I think it’s part of being human to find this a bit surprising or even shocking.  And yet, there are so very many ways of being, that to expect any such compliance is to set yourself up for disappointment.  Don’t you think?

As for “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” – such a fascinating topic and if it’s as good as her interview on the Religion Report tonight – and as the Booklist review says – wow!  I can’t wait.  The kind of book that presents such a different and often unknown and unnoticed world to me – I LOVE that.  I felt like that about “The Sewing Circles of Herat” and “Sharon and My Mother-in-law”  – glimpses from fascinating and thoughtful people in such far away places, usually only seen in the news headlines – they so eloquently share their lived experience that it can completely transform my understanding of a place or situation.

However, I do not yet have either of these books – they feel like the books I will want to hold in my hand, flip back and forth between different stories and pages, underline with my pencil, look at on my bookshelf, take down over and over again, and waggle in front of  my family and friends.  I know you can theoretically do the same things with a kindle – but really, it’s not quite the same is it.  So I’ve ordered beautiful, real, heavy, papery copies of them and am now checking the letterbox with anticipation every day.

Until then – I might just pick up Sharon and My Mother-in-law again.  It’s been a few years since I’ve read this – just the right amount of passed time to find fresh delight in her stories again.

little and ordinary

We all know that very few days come with a lovely “Ta-da!” moment, don’t we. Sometimes I feel a distinct sense of disappointment if my day has not delivered the pleasure of a satisfying finish – be it cloth, wood or wool – a sparkle to the bathroom, a line full of washing flapping in the sun, or a gleaming kitchen where everything is in its place and there’s a lovely meal cooking.

On a rational level I know that happiness cannot come from such external things, that I must seek that sense of contentment from within. And accept that some days will be very ordinary and that’s okay too.  Goodness, the notion of constant happiness is so ridiculous, so greedy, so selfish anyway.

Instead most of my days – like yours I’m sure –  are just full of little things.  And that sun – well it comes and goes.  So today, all I have is the ordinary – the unfinished – some little tasks finally done – some not …

frame

:: such a pretty thrifted frame that I’ve been planning a Mother’s Day applique for – and done absolutely nothing about it and now it’s Mother’s Day this Sunday – sigh – we’ll just have to admire it’s prettiness and know that someday it will hold something lovely.

gluing hands

:: finally, finally, finally gluing some little Erzgebirge men back together – a wee visor for the postman’s cap and getting that drummer’s bloody arm to stick in the right spot.

pencil sharpener

:: instead of reading for next week’s essay – putting together a little still life on my desk – sweet bookmarks, an old pencil sharpener, anodised travelling cups, a vase of pine needles – all with their own little stories that make me smile

rearranging the shelves

:: rearranging the shelves on my desk – well I had to put the shelves from the bathroom somewhere – the little folk and their animals are beginning to create their own tales on each of the shelves – the king with his pet elephant, the racoon seeking help from the wise woman, animals by the shoreline, Heidi’s grandfather …

it fit

:: fitting the old, vigorously washed and scrubbed meat safe (that had been not quite squished under the eaves in the back garden) into the bathroom corner – the tape measure said it would, even if at first it seemed completely impossible and I needed 4 squares of chocolate to soothe my peevishness  give me a moment to reassess – all it required was some aerial manoeuvring  - I KNEW it would fit – the tape measure doesn’t lie!  As for a fresh coat of paint – well, that will come.  Julian’s going to Dublin next week …

knitting

:: realising I had just the right colour blue to go with my mustard scarf – but not the right shade of soft grey-cocoa – oh well, that just means a trip to the wool store.

My kitchen’s a mess.  The quilt I started quilting on Saturday still isn’t finished.  I haven’t cleaned my teeth.  Or dropped the shoes off to the boot repair shop.  Or taken the rubbish out.  Or folded the washing.  Or found the tax return.  And it’s almost time for school pickup.

Ta-da moments – big fat zero.  But there’s been lots of little and ordinary bits and bobs.  That’ll do.

edited to add:  I got my teeth cleaned, scrubbed the kitchen, took the rubbish out and found the tax return.  And then, just as I was about to go out, for the briefest of moments, the sun made a dazzling appearance – always such a lift to my spirits – so I stuck some weeds into a vase and took another photo.  ’Cause that’s how best to celebrate the little and ordinary:-)

weeds in jar

sun came in

 

and then the cold and grey arrived

chimneys

Ah this weekend heralded the true beginning of Melbourne’s cold season.  Grey, drizzly days where the damp seeps into your bones and no matter how many layers you accumulate, you can still feel the cold.

Saturday we went to the movies – a very unusual event for us  in Melbourne given the price of cinema tickets here.  And it was Abby’s choice of film – Captain America, the Winter Soldier.  But it was fun nevertheless.  There’s something about disappearing deeper and deeper into a cinema – up the stairs, down the corridor, through the sound-proofed door, fumble along a pitch-dark passage, then into the dazzling light of screen-lit, steeply climbing rows.  That was followed by an afternoon of quilting whilst the rain pattered down outside and Julian cooked supper – a slow roasted beef that filled the house with its aroma and made the kitchen so warm the windows fogged up.

Sunday was the day I was waiting excitedly for.  I had supplies and family all ready for an adventure to Warburton and Mt. Donna Buang where I was hopeful we might see a sprinkling of snow, given the cold snap that had arrived with its snow to 1200 metres.

Alas, I woke at 6am with a dreadful migraine.  I staggered out to the cold kitchen, took my medicine, crawled back to bed, out again (the pounding right eye was accompanied by nausea), back into bed, out again, in again.  It was awful.  Finally, 2 hours later, I fell back asleep.  By 1pm the headache had reduced to a dull thumping in the back of my skull that turned into a swooshing rush of blood everytime I moved my head.  The rest of the afternoon was spent on the sofa, sometimes knitting, sometimes sleeping, sometimes watching “Jonathon Creek”.  Julian went in to work for a few hours.  Abby did homework. Great day – sigh.

gutter golden leaves

These things happen, don’t they.  But it wasn’t all a write off.  After finding that crocheted headkerchief in my stocking drawer the other day, I got to thinking up some more ways to make wintery headkerchiefs.

I don’t know why, but I am very fond of scarfy things tied round my head :-)  Cotton squares folded into triangles for summer, soft silky vintage ones from the op shop that slide off so quickly I spend more time tying them on then wearing them.  I’ve made bundles of Heather Ross’s summer bandanas from her Weekend Sewing book and worn them all year round.  And I love looking at the things other women tie round their heads – be it for religious, cultural or just plain practical-for-the-weather reasons, oh there are so many pretty ways to cover the head.  Those delicate muslin caps the Amish women wear, the folk head scarves of Eastern and Northern Europe, the gauzy wraps the women of India and Pakistan drape round their heads, those exquisite beaded and embroidered concoctions they wear in Mongolia – all so beautiful. I even love how the Queen ties those silky scarves under her chin when it’s cold.

I don’t know why we’ve moved away from headscarves and hats – such a shame.  Such potential for adding lovely hand work and colour to our days.  And oh, how I do love colour.  So first up on Friday night – a multicoloured crocheted headkerchief.  Using up scraps of Patons and Cleckheaton’s DK in the colours that just happened to be in the bag.  I made the triangle first, then added a band across the front that buttons underneath my hair, then a picot edge.

crocheted from back

crocheted from side

Then yesterday, in between the sleeping and the head throbbing and Jonathon Creek – another triangle – this time knitted – from Debbie Bliss Tweeds – simple increases on each side and down the centre – another crocheted band across the front with a button – another picot edging.

holding tree

from the back

shoes through the grass

close up at back

behind trunk leaves

photogrpaher

(thank you dear Abby for taking photos of your silly mama!)

Must say, today its warmth was very welcome – my it was cold and grey.  But working at my desk, with my headkerchief pulled over my ears (oh yes, might have looked a bit quirky bit it sure was warm :-), my shawl wrapped over a thrifted cashmere cardigan and my lambswool slippers – well, I was almost toasty.

one red leaf

Now – I have some nice olivey-green Malabrigo, a crochet hook and a cup of tea at hand.  My head is still aching a bit – hoping tomorrow I’ll wake up bright and sparky – and there’s a cosy evening of stitching ahead of me.  The best way to enjoy a Melbourne winter.

a fair isle tunic with yoke

supplies

Almost 2 years ago, I was sitting on the sofa each night, madly knitting up this beautiful Rowan yarn.  Bought from Wondoflex at a drastically reduced price it was exquisite to knit with.  Buttery soft and marvellously chunky, it knit up in no time.

The pattern – from the Drops website (if you’ve never been to the Drops website it is a treasure trove of free patterns – 71, 468 to be precise – for all kinds of yarn, in all different weights, for every season, with a healthy emphasis on Scandinavian styles – gorgeous stuff).  It was my first attempt at fair isle and a perfect choice.  The design was simple, there were never more than two colours working at once, and being chunky, that yoke absolutely raced off my needles.

ready for pressing

But at the time, I was chin deep in university work and heading off to my first nursing placement and apart from this strange glimpse on the ironing board, never took a single photo of my finished tunic.

front of

Well – this afternoon, Julian and I did a little swapsie.  I took photos of him in his handsome new waistcoat with one of his recent wedding anniversary ties (an especially lovely pure wool one, woven in Scotland which I bought at the oppie for pennies).  And in return, he took photos of me in my tunic.  And so – here it is – Lily’s version of the Drops Tunic 114-15 in Eskimo with short raglan sleeves!

almost detail side on detail looking up face full length

As for the crocheted headscarf – I have no memory of when I made it or what pattern I followed.  I found it yesterday stuffed into the back corner of my tights draw.  Must say, it’s inspired me somewhat.  If you peep into my window tonight, you’ll see me sitting there on the sofa, surrounded by colourful balls of DK working up some new headscarfs.  Seems to be the perfect season for them.  Oh, but that’s after I’ve finished oooohing and aaaaahing at all the lovely jumpers and cardigans in my Ravelry favourite’s file that I’d completely forgotten.  And scrolling through all the gorgeous tunics on the Drops site.

: Sigh : So much to knit … so little time.

my photographerOh – and this here – it’s my handsome photographer.  Nice huh :-)

 

a knitterly dash to the finish line

the time

The day dawned so grey, so wet, so cold.  I layered on the wool, cooked breakfast for Abby, drove her to school, came straight home, made a steamy hot cafe au lait in a bowl, plonked on the sofa to hold it in my cold hands and drink it all up whilst it was hot.

For some reason, Wednesday just didn’t seem to occur to us this week.  Monday was Monday with all its usual Mondayness.  Tuesday had some errands, some shopping and babysitting.  Thursday will be a half day at school so Abby and I have planned lovely things for Thursday afternoon.  Friday – end of the week joy!  and we’re going to see The Midwinter Soldier (I think that’s what it’s called – the Captain America film – Abby loves Captain America).

But Wednesday – I hadn’t really thought about Wednesday and once that cafe au lait was all gone, I was at a bit of a loss.  So much around me to do.  So many lovely things started and just waiting for their next moment in the sun.  So many ideas boinging round my mind.

Then I decided.  It was cold.  It was dreary.  I needed something FABULOUS.  And what is more fabulous on a cold, dreary day than finishing a beautifully striped jumper and wearing it?!  Well I couldn’t think of anything.  So I photographed the time, picked up the jumper and got to it.

Four and a half hours and there were 15 more stripes of 4 rows each + 20 rows of ribbing needed to finish that last sleeve.  Hopefully there’d be time for a good steamy iron.  Even better if there was time to sew in some ends.  Truly amazing if there was time to crochet the red trim around the cuffs.  Who knows!

the sleeve 13 rows in

An hour later and I was six more stripes down – 24 rows knitted, 36 left.  Decreasing every 7th row – on the third pink row.

One – two (pick up the jig) – three – four – change colours – one – two (pick up the jig) – three (knit two together – slip, slip knit) – four – change colours …

after an hour 6 stripes down

Another hour – another 16 rows down.  Pace has inexplicably dropped probably won’t be time for stitching in ends or crochet.  Pick up speed woman!

2 hours left

Ooooh!  Getting there now and then, bugger! the pink ran out.  Tie in another ball.

bugger ran out of pink

Am sitting in front of the soap that was delivered today.  What is usually a lovely medley of soft fragrances is now becoming a bit overwhelming.  No time to move it.  Just keep knitting, just keep knitting, just keep knitting.

One – two (pick up the jig) – three – four – change colours – one – two (pick up the jig) – three (knit two together – slip, slip knit) – four – change colours …

the soap

Finished with the pink.  Off you go dear.  On to the ribbing.  90 minutes left and 20 rows needed.  Ever so pleased I decided I love deep cuffs and so kept on ribbing and ribbing and ribbing on the first sleeve.

done with the pink

Blimey do I HATE ribbing a narrow cuff on a circular needle.  Do I have a set of 3.5mm double pointed?  Probably.  Can I put my hands on them instantly?  Almost certainly not.  Have a quick look.  Nope.  Only 2 out of the set are in my jar.  Useful.  Fumble on with the circular.  So slow.  So clumsy.  Splitting every third stitch and dropping at least one every round.  Think – less haste, more speed, less haste, more speed.

ribbingAnd then, I stop and count and I’ve staggered around 19 times.  Haaaaaaa!  And it’s only 25 minutes til 3pm.  Round one more time – knit, knit, purl, purl, knit, knit, purl, purl …

Then it’s casting off time – off they fly  - yes, yes, yes!  I fill the iron, whack up the steam, leave it to heat whilst I throw on a turtleneck, some tights and a skirt.  Yes – in my mind’s eye, this gorgeous stripey jumper is always worn with a turtleneck, opaque tights and a nice full skirt.  With buckle ups of course.

wearing it

I carefully press on the inside.  Oh how beautifully that Patons Totem steams up.  My stitches look like lovely plump grains of rice in orderly rows.  As for my ribbing – you’d never know how much grief it gave me.

3.15 off I go.  Not a single end is stitched in – I’ve strategically pushed them / ironed them up under the hems.  The cuffs aren’t trimmed.  Ah well – there’s always that hour of spelling, times tables and maths problems.  Yes?  Yes!

The little girlie and I sat at the kitchen bench, first sharing afternoon tea and stories of school, then her working away at her tasks, me watching, nodding, prompting, answering, describing, coaxing, stitching, trimming and crocheting (a bit cold in just my turtleneck). The two of us keeping up that lovely patter I know I’ve grown to love over the last three years.  Oh I shall miss her when she heads off to highschool next year.

crocheting the cuffs

 And then, just as the weather cooled right down and the sun promptly vanished, every last end was stitched in and the cuffs prettily edged in red.  I pulled it back on over my head.  She cheered!

I did it.  I finished a jumper.  It took 17 days.  And I loved it so much I can’t wait to knit another one!  Mum has put in her order – she wants a dark grey and red one.  Mum always wants grey and red.  I’ll see … there’s a nice dark olive down at the wool store – there’s bound to be something that would look wonderful with it.

Ahhh … such a good use of an unexpected Wednesday.  And if you want to knit a lovely jumper – try this one!  It’s such a simple yet perfect darling of a knit :-)

in a sunday kitchen

cosySunday morning in the kitchen.  At first, the rest of the family sleeps on and it’s just me, a cup of tea, the radio and my dishcloth knitting (I’m working on filling a jar with colourful dishcloths – it’s a very nice way to start the day).  Slowly they join me.

reading

coffee

Julian brings his reading and wiles away an hour or so.  But then, after second coffees, he goes for a bike ride, needing to be outside on this crisp but sunny autumn day.

hill climb racing

cinnamon toast

I tempt Abby out of bed with toasted sourdough, lashings of butter and the left over cinnamon sugar from yesterday’s homemade doughnuts.  She’s always content to draw up a seat and keeps herself amused for hours.  Hill Climb Racing is a favourite this weekend (recently introduced to me by a little patient), but she also works on school assignments and progresses with her crochet.  Oh my, her crochet!  Wait til you see the pattern – it’s gorgeous stuff!

last chicken

Outside, our last chicken struts her stuff, so pleased to have the back garden all to herself …

fu

Fu assumes her favourite position – watching the world go by from the front room …

lucy

And Lucy curls herself up in a corner of sunlight …

barley ingredients spices

I start supper early.  Spicy Barley, Butternut and Apple Porridge and its simmering keeps the kitchen toasty.

tea and soup

The embroidery basket comes out, followed by the laptop …

embroidery wool

I have plans for some rather large jars with unusual and special contents :-)

pattern ready

The afternoon deepens – Julian, who has returned home and joined in the Hill Climb Racing fun, declares it cocktail hour.  And roasts a lovely leg of pork.  He’s good like that.

cocktail makers chaos

After hours of drawing and tweaking – and lots of added input from Abby and Julian who know just how that dolphin should look and what colour the lettering should be –  my pattern is ready and just before supper is about to served, needle comes to fabric.

cross stitching

savoury barley and butternut porridge

The kind of day – so restful and creative and productive and happy – that fills us with inspiration for how we want to build our kitchen in our strawbale home.  Plenty of room for cooking and making and storing, a lovely huge window for growing and sun soaking, perhaps even a pair of armchairs for reading and tea sipping, and a loooooong table with lots of chairs for days just like this, when we are so content to let everything else spin on without us, and stay right here in the kitchen.

weekending

donuts sock knitting cosy

Oh long weekend how I do love you!

Homemade doughnuts, fair isle sock knitting, teaching my girlie how to crochet, wool shop shopping, friends over for the afternoon, movie watching, clothes washing (that always makes me feel good at the start of the week!), and hours of lovely peaceful time around the kitchen table together.

Good stuff.

p.s. that cheeky little opportunistic doggle in the top photo STOLE a doughut.

 

where peruvian wool, german woodruff and the norfolk pines of rainbow bay meet

Well in my mind’s eye of course!

It’s a busy and overflowing mind.  One which races with images, memories and voices, sounds, tastes and smells.  One that holds hundreds of lists.  One that plots out countless plans, dreams and conversations.  One that sometimes gets lost with longing for what I miss, rather than make the most of what I have.

Let me tell you, quietening this mind at night can be a challenge.

But every now and then, it makes wonderful connections.  Connections that draw the here and now towards the dearly held images and memories.  In a piece of floral fabric I see the curtains that once hung in Nanny and Grandad’s spare bedroom, or the covers of cushions on the their porch chairs.  Holding a vintage jug in an opshop reminds me of the jug Nanny served gravy in and I’m taken straight back to a giggly Christmas dinner where Aunty Jackie hoarded the custard, in its saucepan, on her lap.  In a dear little baby’s cardigan, I think of my old Nanny Dougall and her incredible attention to detail.  A jaunty children’s print takes me back to the family room of my childhood and I picture my Mum at the sewing machine, stitching up matching dresses for my sister and I.  Just the other day – a grey, drizzly, cold and lonely day – I found a vintage children’s beach towel that I swear Aunty Anne kept in her linen cupboard in the 1970s for when all the cousins came for the summer.  When I bring these things home to Bootville – when I add that fabric to a quilt, or stitch another piece into a skirt, when I serve Julian’s gravy in that jug, and fold that beach towel into a cushion cover, it feels so good.  My stitches and the time I devote to them, pull the web of my life closer and firmer, making it into a beautiful pattern that I can pull out and enjoy.

These poignant words, from the talented writer, knitter and sewist at Needle and Spindle (found via the lovely Kate Davies), sum it up perfectly …

“Hand made items preserve time in the same way that fruit is preserved as jam, not as the unchanged strawberry or plum fresh plucked, but as something cooked and processed to preserve the taste of summer.  Hand made items embody both the hours of making (time) and memories and feelings of people (the times) within the construction of the object…a true cultural artefact.”

Isn’t that so lovely!  And as batty as it might sound, it’s exactly what I felt when I found this gorgeous sock pattern, last Friday night, after coming back to Melbourne from my week’s trip to Brisbane to help care for family.  Those rich shades of green and blue, with their lovely straight lines and ordered branches/leaves, reminded me so much of the Norfolk Pines of Rainbow Bay, standing tall, elegant and timeless against the magnificent blue of the ocean, the brilliance of the sunlit sky, and the smudgy mist of the hinterland.   Sitting on the sofa in cold Melbourne, so far away, these socks made me feel closer to that which I love, and I knew I had to find me some wool and get knitting!

pattern

norfolk pines

I had spent Thursday afternoon at Rainbow Bay, with Mum, Aunty Anne and Aunty Cate.  In the very small and southern corner of Queensland, where it meets New South Wales.  Where I spent hundreds of weekends and summers as a child, a teenager, then as a mum with her own little girl. Oh it was so lovely.

We visited the Dbar cafe for lunch …

dbar

walked the cliff top path remembering the ships sunk off the coast of Australia during WW2 …

log

stopped at the rail and peered down into the rollings waves, hoping for surfing dolphins …

scanning for dolphins

followed the trail down the steep cliff to the tiny cove with its “frog”…

the frog

passed the old porpoise pools where the crazy folk stand out on the Point Danger rocks – Uncle Keith always declared every 7th wave would wash any fool who was standing there straight off – put us off for life …

surfer with wave

channel

Round to the surf life saving club – where my favourite beer billboard “From where you’d rather be” now adorns the clubhouse!

mum and cate

lifequard

from where you'd rather be

… and down to the water’s edge …

looking through the pandanus

down to the sea

leaves

Mum sat under the Norfolk Pines (just saying now, when we have our land in the Bega valley, I am planting a line of Norfolk Pines) – not the Pandanus ’cause they were heavy with their drupe (that’s the word for their huge heavy fruit – you learn something new everyday, huh)

pandanus

pandanus not

and I reckon had one of them fallen on her head she’d have known about it – and watched as Aunty Anne, Aunty Cate and I had a lovely long swim.

silvery

Oh, it was heaven.

grandads school

view from the classroom

greenmount

is grandad here

(I wonder if one of these little people standing “at ease” is Grandad!)

Then we hopped back in the car and drove up the hill to the little old school Grandad attended as a wee lad – he tells us all the time about sitting in the hot classroom with the boring school teachers looking north down to Kirra and longing to run away and go for a swim, then south up to Greenmount where he knew the Boicke brothers would be – one sitting on top of the hill watching for the shoals of fish, the rest in the pub down below.

This small corner has barely changed in 30 years.  There’s always combi vans parked alongside the park, their backs stuffed with mattresses and cheerful towels draped here and there to dry.  There’s always families with tired sandy children, and mums and dads with their arms full of towels and boards and umbrellas.  There’s always older folk walking slowly along the paths, looking out at the magnificent view, stopping now and then to sit on the park benches that are shaped like old wooden surboards.  There’s always teenage girls strutting along in their bikinis, and teenage boys with their board shorts and rashies, their surfboards tucked under their arms, their faces smeared with zinc.  The air is filled with the lovely roar of the ocean, and the occasional shriek of the seagulls.  And there’s that smell of salt and coconut oil.  Yes, coconut oil!

Isn’t that wonderful?  That time-stands-still quality.  Oh it melts my heart.  The joy is almost overwhelming and I am so very grateful for every moment I am there, filling my soul, replenishing my mind’s eye.

So when I gathered my supplies today – my pattern written by a Londoner, based on a plant that grows in Germany, knit in wool that came from Peru – and headed out into my sunlit, autumn Melbourne garden – that was a full 13 degrees celsius cooler than I had been last Thursday at Rainbow Bay – in a strange but lovely way, all those sights and sounds and stories and happiness  met me there in the little green and blue stitches I made on the thinnest needles I’ve ever knit with.

swift

wool winder

(Nanny’s old wool winder)

the start coraline lucy sunbaking

on the kneeprogress

And I dream that when I pull these socks on – hopefully before winter’s through! – I will know they belong to me because I’ll be wearing a little bit of Rainbow.