prettiness on the table

improvised pottering with a cordless drill, silk, and wool

and drying

As spring approaches our second time round the sun here at Wombat Hill, I’ve rearranged the front porch (again), popped table cloths on, plumped cushions, added a rocking chair, set up a desk for whatever takes my fancy … And  just like this time last year, as the sun grows stronger, and the warmth and day both last longer, we exclaim “Oh it’s so lovely out here on the porch!  Why have we been sitting inside!”, forgetting that we moved inside as autumn deepened because it was cold.

washed

Little Doug the dachshund has a real love for my handmade cushions that neither Fu or Pakkun have ever shown.  He spends so long puttering around on the top edge of them – I guess he can do this because he is so very little – until he has smooshed them into just the right shaped nest for his long thin sausage body.  Which means that even though Doug never looks dirty – the bonus of having a dark coat – he makes the tops of all the cushions so very dirty!  So they all need far more regular washing.  Good thing for gentle handwash cycles on our washing machine because I NEVER properly handwash anything.

kitchen

After the porch sitting was done for the morning, and the cushion covers set to dry on the rocking chair’s arms, I pondered the to do list.  It is soooo long.  There are softly coloured 6 inch squares of silk to sew up for our comforter – I’m making one out of a down fillled doona – the sort that sits on the top of the bed and is buttoned through.  There’s new curtains to make for the long living room window – one of the dear little doggles ate a hole in the existing one when they were shut in one rainy day – what a strange choice to make – ever so lovely of them.  There’s a Dottie Angel tabard cut out and waiting to be sewn up.  And, of course, the never ending pile of quilts and quilt tops to work through.  And knitting.  And embroidery.  There’s always knitting and embroidery.

But I was muchly agitated after absorbing the morning’s news peppered with hate and bigotry regarding Australia’s upcoming postal vote (yes, our prime minister Malcolm Turnball is a hypocritical, gutless wonder and will make dreadfully unpopular executive decisions about all manner of life changing issues – e.g. dismantling environmental protections – Coal is our Future!!! – and attacking the incomes of our most vulnerable citizens – but won’t take a simple vote in Parliament concerning a fundamental human right) – so instead found myself pacing the floor, unable to concentrate.

bedroom quilt hung

And so, I grabbed my new drill bits and drill and set to hanging all the things that had been lurking around for days, weeks, months, waiting to be hung.  There was something quite cathartic about it all.

bedroom hooks hung

The old Dutch coffee grinder and French chicken print were hung in the kitchen.  The Exploding Star quilt rehung in the bedroom (had to be moved after a recent bedroom rearrange), a lovely set of hooks from Ikea were hung on the back of our bedroom for our coats and hats, and a new quilt was hung in the dining room.

dining room quilt

I had hung a large blue and green star quilt there – a quilt top that was pieced 7 years ago and only just finished and quilted this year – but it was really too big for the spot so looked a bit awkward.  This one’s a much nicer fit but now I’m thinking the white wall behind it is pretty dull.  When I suggested to Noah that a rich creamy orange would be lovely, he grinned and said “Yes, you’ve said that every second month for two years now! Maybe you just do it!”  Well at least I’m consistent ;-)

embroidery done

By then, the temper was well enough soothed that a bit of sewing was next on the list … the assembling of a new quilted cushion cover – with a little sheep applique for the centre.

prettiness on the table

quilting

I do so love sewing with old woollen blankets and this style of quilt as you go log cabin piecing is my favourite!

ready to turn into a cushion cover

I don’t know how that wound up so very crooked – never mind – when’s it trimmed and sewn up it will be a perfect square again!

but first some knitting

Whilst all of this was happening, the lovely plumber was downstairs installing our new solar hot water system – such a long and cold six weeks we’ve had! And then it struck me, that I am so terribly grateful for him fitting us in with two days notice, that a little piece of handmade gratitude was in order and since he had told me about his wee baby, a quick Milo vest was just the thing.  I knit up the yoke that night – took one episode of Hinterland and three of Offspring.
knitting as fast as i can

By the next morning, I worried it might be a wee bit weird to be knitting a vest for a baby I didn’t know and a plumber I’d only met the day before.  But then, a lovely instagram friend shared how much she and her family are touched by the thoughtful gestures of some customers (her partner’s an electrician) and so, after running multiple errands on Friday morning, I quickly set down after lunch to knit my fingers to the bone and GET. IT. FINISHED before the the plumber finished for the day.

finished

And I did.  With literally 20cm of wool left – that Cleckheaton California is so generous in both colour, smooshiness, and length!
for the plumbers baby

The plumber seemed very pleased and thus it was all very worthwhile. I do find that the best laid crafty plans almost always go astray – something more pressing always pops up in the loveliest of ways.

hot water

And we now have beautiful steamy hot water!  Oh the luxury of washing up without having to boil pot after pot of water on the stove.  Oh the BLISS of having a shower, instead of a bath at the kitchen sink which required even more of those pots of water to be boiled!

mostly doug

the madeline cardie

cast off

After two weeks of knitting with this glorious dark blue wool – I think of it as black watch tartan wool – I finally found a decent background for it last night as I sat casting off my Madeline Cardigan (original name “Practically” by the very talented Kelly Herdrich) – named after Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmanns of course – can’t you just see all those little girls in two straight lines wearing this very cardigan as they march the streets of Paris! –  wrapped in this lovely vintage Laconia blanket.  Oooooh but our little cottage is sooooo cold at night – being metal and all – and when Julian’s not here to light the fire, I must confess, we are very lazy and pile on the woollens instead.  As for this cardie – I adore it!  And so pleased with the additions I made :-)

starting early

Alas, I am easily distracted, and so this morning, instead of sewing on Madeline’s buttons – or doing the dishes or hanging out the washing – truth be told, I even made the animals wait a bit longer – I grabbed my lovely new fabrics, my gorgeous Dottie Angel patterns, and began chopping instead!

prep

And how did I get these here buttons sewn on?  Why I paid Noah of course ;-)

my button sewist

He is a very talented and accomplished sewist – with amazingly fine motor skills and a superb eye for detail.  So off he set, carefully measuring and stitching …

embroidered sheep

whilst I worked on my sheep applique and regularly queried “Are you almost done? Have you put that one in the right spot? How much longer will you be?”  Yes it would often seem that Noah is more like the parent, and I the impatient, impulsive teenager.  Sigh!
selfie lesson

Then, when all was finished – in an effort NOT to have to take photographs as well as sew on buttons for his mad mother – Noah attempted to teach me how to take selfies in the mirror.  Hopeless waste of time.  I can never work our where to hold the camera or where to look or how to compose the background.  So he had to take them anyway :-)

wearing it

And did a sterling job at that too!
mostly doug

Doug made an excellent and obliging prop – adding his black dachshund hair to the thousands of strands of cream puggle hair that have been knitted into this dear cardie.  As well as my long treacle and grey coloured hairs – I always have to spend the first couple of weeks of a new knit carefully pulling out the long hairs that have been tightly knitted in!

pretty buttons

fu and noah

Fu decided she wanted in on the action as well.  She really is the most delightful dog – best farm dog here at Wombat Hill to be sure!  She can round up chickens, cheerfully hang out with ponies, lay snoozing in the sun with sheep.  All our animals are completely relaxed around Fu – they can tell she’s a good one.  Not like the other two horrors.  All flee from their frantic, yapping paths!

flowers and fabric

Because I misread the pattern and didn’t buy enough fabric yesterday, then it was off to our local fabric legend – Freddie’s Fabrics in Cobargo – where not only did I find the perfect fabrics for more Dottie Angel goodness, but had a lovely leisurely tour of Freddie’s beautiful garden (her shop is in her garden studio) and she packed up several cuttings and a lovely bunch of heavenly scented Daphne for me.  Now that’s my kind of fabric shopping.
afternoon tea

Home again, home again, jiggety jig – toasted cheese and coffee on the porch with a splendid new catalogue.  I shall have to forego buying any more fabric for the next few months so I can dedicate that money to spring flowers from Tesselaar!  Oh you should see the Clematis!  The Aquilegia!  The Dahlias!  The BEGONIAs!  I didn’t know Begonias could look like that.  Methinks Julian will have to plough up half the front house yard to fit in everything I love! (He’ll love that suggestion ;-)

newly cast on

Then there was some casting on.  Well of course there was.  I cast off last night!  I know I could have finished other knitty projects instead – four instantly spring to mind – but since I’m in my Dottie Angel mood, and it’s been on my Ravelry list since I joined Ravelry – and the wool arrived last week – I just HAD to.  So here’s the beginning of my February Lady’s Sweater.  Mmmmmmm ….

in threes

And a couple more photos of the Madeline cardie.  I do find it is easier to photograph in the shade – that way the incredibly intense darkness of the black watch doesn’t make the light blow out. So here you can see the lovely “in threes” of Kelly’s pattern.  As well as the scalloped crocheted collar I added.  I added four stitches to each side when I cast on so that my cardie would not only meet but button up.

side panel detail

 

I also added a simple side panel of ever increasing garter stitch – it’s made a pretty stepped pyramid going from the underarm to the deep garter band around the hem – I added a few extra inches to the hem so that it would sit a little longer.  My round tummy is not a fan of the cropped look!

beautiful colour

And of course, I added full length knitted sleeves with deep garter stitch cuffs – I started with the stitches on waste wool for Kelly’s capped sleeves, picked the stitches cast on for the side, and added two extra stitches on either side of them.  Then I decreased by 2 every seventh round until the sleeve measured 40 cm, then knitted eleven ridges (as Elizabeth Zimmerman calls them – so very sensible and instantly identifiable) for the garter cuffs.  Our winters are moderately cold – mornings are often frosty and hovering around the zero mark, and the afternoons are cool – I’ve discovered that 3/4 length sleeves may be great for not getting your cuffs wet when you’re filling up the pigs’ water trough but they are freezing cold when you are standing outside the bakery at Nimmitabel in the snow!  In fact, I think I may soon be undoing the cuffs on my green cardigan and knitting them all the way down too!  Knitting is so generous and flexible like that, isn’t it.

wooden buttons

Oh see the button – so pretty!  I bought them on Noah’s and my recent little holiday in Melbourne at the truly gorgeous shop Epoche in Callista – incredibly well worth a visit – we were there for almost two hours, so delightful was every nook and shelf.

And finally – the selfie.  In the kitchen garden, with my purple podded peas.  Looking very proper and all – after taking umpteen photos, it became obvious that the absurd was far more entertaining than the normal ;-)
my selfie effort

So now, here I sit, cosy cosy in my lovely Madeline Cardigan.  I could finish cutting out my Dottie Angel tabard.  I could start piecing my sheep cushion cover.  I could even sneak into the television room and curl up with that lovely Laconia blanket, my snoozing dachshund, and my new knitting and watch Restoration Man (OMG – we got tellie finally!  Only two years after settlement!  Our friend Pete sent the television man over on Monday and he just whipped up onto the roof, shoved up an antenna, ran a cord, drilled a hole, popped it into the television, tuned the television and within an hour of Nick’s arrival, we had tellie!  Who’d have thunk!!!)

Instead, I should be the grown up and put on supper – roast chook and veg – and wash some of those bloody dishes.  After I’ve boiled the water of course because we are revelling in week 6 of no hotwater system.  But it’s okay, the plumber is coming tomorrow … then we will be super sophisticated.  Hot water and tellie all in the one week.  And my Madeline Cardigan.  I am one blessed woman.

 

layered around the neck

knitting a scrappy scarf

bands of colour

sewing the ends

layered around the neck

watching for the bus

from the side
theres the moon
with Julian

hugs

and off he goes

Way back when the weather was hot and I somehow forgot about all the other projects on my knitting needles, I decided I really really really needed to knit up the multitude of dk balls of wool left over from last year’s crochet shawl making.  All those stripes only used a fraction of each ball so there was plenty to dive into.  I also wanted rather mindless knitting – the sort that feels more like meditation than knitting.

I started with red – because red is always marvellous.  I cast on 5 stitches then began knitting … I just knit up each ball of wool until only a wee tail remained – regardless of where that was – tied on the next ball and set off again.  It was indeed meditative and after inspecting it, Noah declared this growing triangle to be an awesome scarf that could be tied round his neck like a huge knitted bandana.  Cool!  Now there was purpose to the knitting.

However, the weather continued to be warm and you know me … other projects jumped up, grabbed me by the neck and pulled me away.  It wasn’t until Monday, when I made Julian measure my tiniest double pointed needles (I’ve misplaced my fabulous knitting ruler) so I could start knitting a pair of socks – because by crikey, there was nothing else to knit :-0 – that Noah rolled his eyes and exclaimed “You could always finish that awesome scarf – then I could wear it to Melbourne on Wednesday!  Apparently the weather will be cold and dreak – perfect for a colourful scarf!”

Oh yeah.

So I did.  I knitted like a demon.  Of course – by this stage, there were hundreds of stitches in each row and with every second row,it grew yet wider!  Monday night I finished the dark dusky pink, added the flecky purple (this was from a jumper Old Nanny knitted Noah when he was little!) and began the flecky rust.  Man, I didn’t think that flecky rust would ever run out.  Then yesterday, after painting the duck house, I nailed that flecky rust and moved on to the royal blue … knit knit knit knit knit knit knit … then a wee bit more of lime green, then finally the navy edge.

Now with hindsight, I could have added another row of navy blue – I was terrified it would run out halfway through the castoff.  Frankly, if I had, Noah would not be wearing the scarf today.  I began the cast off last night whilst half way through a crappy movie with Julian – I made him stay up and watch movies of his choice so I could keep knitting.  In the end I was literally falling asleep mid stitch so it was time to put the needles down.

But I was not to be defeated, so this morning it was back up in bed at 5am, a steaming coffee by my side, and casting off.  All. Those. Stitches.  Oy!

The many ends were stitched in en route – I had to start with the light colours because it was still dark when we left at 6:30am to make the Melbourne bus.  By the time we arrived at Bega, there was just enough time and light to stitch in the dark ones, trim them all off and voila!  Noah had a beautiful mama-made scarf (talisman) to wear to Melbourne.  Now he will be toasty warm and protected by his mama’s knitted love.

It’s a funny thing, waving goodbye to your young one.  Yes, he went out by himself all the time when we lived in Melbourne – but he always came home at the end of each day.  Now, he ventures off to Melbourne every couple of months to catch up with friends, visit his favourite places … and we have to just trust that he – our very trustworthy, responsible and cautious child – will be alright.  Well of course he probably will.   In the past he has stayed with the family of one of Julian’s work colleagues – a lovely mum and 3 little kids who Noah plays with, and cooks with, and draws with, and the mum picks him from the train station and drops him off.  And is a caring, thoughtful and supportive listener each evening when Noah comes home from his adventures and appointments.

This time, he’s staying with an old school friend who’s recently moved into their own apartment in Prahran.  Oh my goodness.  That all sounds a bit too huge and alarming to me – but that lovely mum is there in the background if needed, and I guess the next week will probably be very exciting, empowering and a good taste for Noah of what it’s really like to stand on your own two feet.  All good stuff.

At least his neck will be warm.

Here’s the recipe in case you too have balls and balls of colourful yarn that could warm the necks of those you love.

Cast on 5 …

  • knit2, wrap, knit1, wrap, knit 2  (right side)
  • knit2, purl3, knit2 (wrong side)
  • knit2, wrap, knit3, wrap, knit2
  • knit2, purl5, knit2
  • knit2, wrap, knit5, wrap, knit2

… and so on.  Each right sided row starts with knit2, wrap, and ends with wrap, knit2.  The stitches in between – which grow by 2 each time – are knitted.  Each wrong sided row starts and ends with knit2 and the stitches in between (including the wraps from the previous row) are purled.  Colours are just added when the wool runs out.  The last two rows are knitted so as to provide the same edging the rest of the scarf has.

Perfect for knitting whilst watching movies, listening to audio books, and de-stressing.  Good for knitting in the car if you don’t get car sick. :-)

close up of yoyos

knitting for babies

milo best

close up of yoke

close up of hearts

bonnet

close up of icord

close up of yoyos

with bonnet

feathers and leaves

book

meet

all wrapped up

Ah knitting for babies!  I’ve just discovered – when my own babe is an all grown up 18 year old – how utterly delightful knitting for babies is.

See, my Nanny taught me to knit when I was 8.  Mum and Dad had gone to Singapore for a week’s holiday and Nanny and Grandad came up to stay with us – such a treat.  Learning to knit, Nanny playing us the old dance hall tunes she used to play as a pianist at a pub on the Brisbane wharves, and being accidentally left at school until almost 6pm are the stand out memories of that week :-)  Nanny started me off an a scarf – of course, she did – using a ball of variegated wool in mustards, greys and browns.  Rather ugly wool but it was the 1970s.  I knitted and knitted and knitted.  It grew and grew and grew – both in length … and width.  I wasn’t the kind of new knitter who dropped stitches all the time.  Oh no, I was awesome at finding new ones!  Nanny was despairing and that scarf was knitted on and off for many years, but never quite finished.

I tried knitting again as a young adult – I knitted an enormous jumper to take with me to England when I was 21.  Now – it took me months and months and months so I knew every strange bump, weird line of stitches that stood out and in hindsight, I definitely went backwards a few times.  But I was ever so proud of the finished pieces – 2 huge sleeves, a front and a back.  And I gave it to Nanny to seam for me.  It came back looking impeccable.  Beautifully seamed.  Beautifully blocked.  And not a blemish in sight or strange line of stitches in sight.  She’d frogged it and knit it again!!!!!

So by the time Noah came round, not only were we living in Brisbane where knitting anything bigger than a scarf or pair of socks is frankly a bit redundant, but I was a jaded knitter :-)  And I think Nanny was scared I might try again, so she churned out beautiful little baby knits – booties, jumpers, cardigans, hats in all patterns and sizes – Nanny is an immaculate knitter – which left nothing for me to knit.  In fact, I didn’t pick up the needles again until Noah was a preschooler.  I knitted a dear little vest in a stripy wool – which the moths ate.  Then a dear little beret for his Jack and the Beanstalk costume in Year 1 – which the moths ate.  Inspiring.

However, I was really seduced with the idea of being a knitter again when I first discovered blogs back in 2008 – Soulemama inspired me to try and Kate Davies – well, her patterns are so divine I simply had to master the needles.  Soon after we moved to Melbourne and knitting became an awfully useful past time.

Now, I’m the same kind of knitter as I am quilter.  I have far more started projects on the needles then is seemly.  And sometimes the finishing gets very slow.  Don’t mention Julian’s argyle vest or Sacha’s Owl Jumper.  And if you mention Noah’s Lopi that needs the whole colour patterned yoke ripped out and redone – because I followed the sizing for XXL for the yoke whereas the rest of the jumper is knitted in size M – I will begin to twitch.

But, when I look at my Ravelry page, it reminds me that yes I have finished several lovely things and they are all eminently wearable.  Phew!  They just take so darn long.

Unless you’re knitting baby clothes …

And the cuteness!  Oh my goodness, if you want to become besotted with baby knits, just check out the gorgeous designs of Froginnette – I mean really, why hasn’t anybody designed a knitted pinafore for grown ups!?!?!?  But I do acknowledge that in order to truly embrace the baby knits, you need a baby to knit for.  Luckily, a long time blog friend recently had a wee babe – yipee!  I got to knit my first Milo (again, where’s the grown up version!?!?) and a Lutin bonnet – swoon worthy.  That was all finished off last week, wrapped up pretty, and sent off with the dearest little book anybody could write for a new baby, and some wee tokens from Wombat Hill here – a stem of our Japanese Maple, and one of Guiseppe’s feathers.  Just this week, one of my cousins birthed her first babe – I’ve already got another Milo half knitted, the wool sitting nearby for a bonnet, and Froginnette here I come!  And I’m almost done knitting up a pair of Lutin bonnets for a lovely family I’ve met through Instagram.

I know I’ve said in the past I’d like to be a bespoke pillowcase maker when I grow up.  But I think I’ve changed my mind.  I want to knit baby clothes!  Put your request in if you’ve got a little one who needs some lovely handknits.  Seriously!  I don’t even add stitches these days.