orlando’s blue oak :: a quilt

beginning

I ventured out to the sewing shed yesterday.  A brave heart is needed when facing the sewing shed.  I cannot remember the last time it was possible to sit at the table in there.  For so long, I’ve simply stood at the door and hurled the fabric in.  Isn’t that dreadful.  It is.  I’m a little bit embarrassed – thank goodness you cannot see it.

Anyways … I opened the door, peered in, thought about starting yet another grand clear out of said sewing shed – with a view this time to only ever using it as a neat and orderly fabric storage area – gave a deep sigh and thought, oh well, you have to start somewhere so pulled out this incredibly plain quilt I pieced together one night several years back.   Squares of blue pinned to a vintage blanket and a few blocks of straight line quilting.  Like those fabulous Indian quilts – so tactile.  However, interest had waned – how many hours would it have taken to finish this?! – oy! – and this poor quilt had wound up buried under so much else, just its corner poking it.   So I pulled it out.  Pushed the escaping fabric back in with my foot, and slammed the door.

That’s a start, right?

where it was at

The straight line quilting was ripped out – I became so efficient at it – the quilt was pressed with a lovely hot, steamy iron – it lightly felts the woollen blanket onto the back of the quilt top and makes it sooo easy to pin – repinned it and got straight to quilting.
closeup of tree

Now I’m not a huge fan of the all over patterning you see with some long arm quilting.  To me it lacks a bit of individuality – looks a bit too computer programmed.  But my quilting skills are limited so I pondered what to do.  No squiggly wiggly.  No straight lines – or crooked ones.  Something that would fill each square but would also allow me to move onto the next one without having to break the thread.

I did spend a while trying to do this with paper and pencil – and a wee sailboat.  It was a complete failure.  Then, as I stared out the window at our messy back garden, it came to me … the oak!  Our lovely huge old oak that fills our back garden with prettiness, shade and colour.  Which made me think of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, the oak poem that he holds close throughout his journey, and the tree – first young, then ancient – that was one of the constants in his life.  No matter what happens in our lives – where we go, how we go, when we come back … there stand our trees.

Always growing but never changing.  Little oaks it was.

last row

There are 90 squares – that’s 90 oaks.  By the third row, they’d really morphed into very curvy little oaks.  I unpicked a couple and redid them – but on the whole I’m very pleased with how they turned out.  They’re all slightly different and certainly not perfect but I was sooo into the groove of it by the time I got to the end.

Now I’m planning apples and pineapples and crowns.  I daresay I shall stick to straight lines of them at first … but as my confidence grows I hope to plan more imaginative layouts.  We’ll see.  It’s a slow thing, this getting of quilting :-)

binding

Found a lovely 1930s reproduction for the binding.  Spent last evening hand sewing it down.  So satisfying.  Then into the washing machine, onto the little indoors line for drying – we had a humdinger of a storm last night – hours of lightning and thunder and rain – I was transported back to spring evenings in south east Queensland -

sewing it on

- and finally, when there was more than 30 seconds of blue sky – a brisk dry to finish off in today’s blustery wind … and a wee photo shoot.

wild and windy day

closeup bottom right corner

even closer

floral closeup

I really do love the effect!  Now thinking of gathering some more of those lovely orange and yellow and pink and red spots, piecing more squares, and quilting pineapples.  That would be fun.

with pegs

And on the back – ta-da! – why it’s a vintage blanket – the only one I’ve ever found in these colours.  Very cheerful.

backing blanket

binding on the line

 

So blue!  So utterly unlike anything else I’ve ever made.  So sweet.  And that quilting!  Huh!  I can’t believe I did it.  I asked Abby what she thought we should do with it.  ”What we do with all the rest,” she replied, “Huddle under it!” For now, it’s hanging on the back of my desk chair.  I’ll have to think about it.  Hmmmm ….

In my dreams, our strawbale house has a lovely big guest room with huge windows looking out to the forest. The room has a sweet old bed in each corner and on each bed are cosy colourful quilts with pretty pillows, a wooden chest at the foot of each bed for bags and shoes, a small potty cupboard with a reading lamp beside each bed for clothes and books and spectacles, and a woven rug on the floor.  There’ll be quilts on the walls and quilted curtains too.  We might need to have two rooms like this … or more …

middle

kicking out from the side

bottom with chair

Isn’t it a grand thing, this learning and growing and changing and adding … I love it.

 

the secret hattifattener society discovers licquorice allsorts

 

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

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

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

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

quilted hattis

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

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

close up of hattis

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

… picked my crochet colours …
so bright

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

crocheting through the blanket stitch

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

with the last beams of sun

finished

top corner

all those hattis

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

bottom corner

across the top

plain back

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

insitu

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

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

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

on my rocking chairBut very pretty :-)

 

a squishy spring meadow cushion

spindles

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

misleading

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

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

blanket octagon

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

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

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

oh no

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

oberlap finally sorted it

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

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

ran out of lilac

So … there was more unravelling …

off it came wee ball

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

outside for photos

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

whole cushion with curry plant corner poking through landscape

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

lovely colours centrepiece more lovely colours

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

with sage flower dimpled sides crochet edging squashy with rosemary

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

DSC_0400 under am

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

 

hoppity-hoppity

Well!  You’ll need to settle down with a lovely cup of something to read this one!  The lovely and creative Rebecca of Needle and Spindle asked me to participate in this little bloggity hop, where we get to ramble on about the whole creative process as it fits into our lives.  It’s taken me hours to collect all these thoughts and put them down in some kind of order, but I do hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did thinking about it, and perhaps it will add a little light to the creative chaos that is so often on display here at block-a-day :-) And once you’ve ploughed your way through this, you can follow the links back to read how other lovely, like minded folk approach their craft.  It makes for inspiring reading.

What am I working on?

I always have so many different projects on the go.  I adore planning a new project, and starting it provides a thrill that literally makes me smile and jig about and even squeal a little.  But finishing – well, I can honestly say, it just doesn’t give me the same zing. Bizarre but true.  I am definitely more seduced by the crafty doing than the crafty finish. Is this a good thing or not?  At the moment I think it’s a good thing.  Starting new projects is my way of recording all the ideas that swirl around my head.  And you know, giving these started projects lots of time to marinate – moving them in and out of the doing zone – gives me a chance to refine them, improve them, adapt them to new purposes.  All good things.

purple knitting

So – what am I working on?  On the knitting front, I am currently knitting my Mum a grey and red stripey jumper (that has to be finished in time for her to take to Canada at the beginning of December), my Abby a vivid purple Lopi jumper that it is now too hot to wear (ah, there’s always next year), my Julian an argyle vest (truth be told, those needles haven’t been touched for months!), and a cinnamon coloured cardigan for myself that has a fair isle band around the chest and upper sleeves.

Patchwork – definitely the black, mustard and turquoise triangles.  Started as a simple star that has just kept on growing and growing and growing.  It really is quite addictive.  And everytime I think, that’s it! no more rounds! I find another piece of lovely fabric and quickly start cutting.  And my Spring House version of the Winter House.  And my fox faces.

mustard and black winter house

fox faces

Embroidery – Working on my Norwegian Queen.  I got heaps and heaps done last week in Merimbula and am really pleased with her progress.  I’m keen to finish this one, because then I want to make a Norwegian King!  I’ve also dragged out my Hawk Run Hollow Village cross stitch – quite the epic project.

cross stitch cross stitch box

Applique – oh the fox chair!  I am completely in love with the fox chair.  It’s been slow going but very very satisfying.

fox face

Upholstery – Putting hessian, lace and cross stitch together to recover an old English Oak card chair I found by the side of the road.

appliqued chair

Crafty – I’ve recently bought Salley Mavor’s book “Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects” and oh, it is truly enchanting :-)  I’ve just made a wee doll of Lucifer – he’s part of a Michaelmas mobile – he’s been pushed out of heaven and is suspended amongst the starts and blackberry leaves and berries.  I foresee many many more of these little folk.  They are such fun to make.

felt doll

Sewing – tshirts and skirts for summer.  My first two tshirts- great successes – shrank when I washed them.  So they’ve been handed down to Mum’s lovely neighbour and I’m now a devoted preshrinker.

skirt and tshirt

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I think the thing that really defines my work is my lack of concern for perfection or the “right” way of doing things.  Soon after I became really interested in making in my mid 20s, I became obsessed with things being perfect.  Lines had to be dead straight.  Corners had to be precise.  Errors were intolerable.  Evidence that it had been MADE rather than conjured up out of the air meant I had failed.  And I didn’t think anything I made could stand up to being touched or used by anyone. It was horrible.  Stressful for everyone – I remember a friend taking me for a walk through the university garden one lunch time to show me that there were no straight lines in nature.  And my husband declared that if something I made couldn’t be USED than it simply wasn’t of any use.  After a few years of this my making ground to a halt because I knew I could not make things perfectly.  I decided that the only craft I was any good at was cross stitch – making those little crosses neatly on strictly gridded fabric met my need for order and the perfect finish.  I literally gave all my wool and knitting needles to my Nanny and declared that I would have to save my few finished quilt tops up until I could afford to pay an expert to quilt them. It was all rather crushing.

Then, after finding the bloggy world of making and being so utterly inspired by so many incredibly talented people, I began making again.  I also began blogging  and strangely enough, that encouraged me to just keep going.  There was always a new blog post to be written ;-) I began playing with many different techniques and genres and it was so fun that I slowly let go of that perfection.  I wanted to be a maker – a sewer, a knitter, a crocheter, a doll maker, a patchworker, a quilter, an appliquer … I really worked at teaching myself that the beauty of making was in the making.  I didn’t want to be a passive observer, I wanted to actively create.

quilting

So my seams are not perfectly straight and my points are sometimes missing. I cheerfully re-chop things if they don’t fit, and if I realise I’ve missed something on the pattern I can usually rejig it so it works. My quilting is higgledy-piggledy and I never bother with batting and backing (vintage blankets all the way).  I don’t care what patchwork fabrics are the latest or what colour background the cool quilters are using.  I cheerfully make my clothes out of old tablecloths and curtains.  My quilts are made from fabrics gathered here, there and everywhere.  My knitting is almost always dictated by what my local yarn store has dug up for the bargain basement this week.  My furniture is gathered from the side of the road and brought back to life with elbow grease and Danish oil.

blanket quilting

I just keep swimming the Lily way and when I’m finished, what I’ve loved making is free to be used and worn and dragged and squashed and crumpled up and that’s all good.  If the candlewax drips onto the appliqued table cloth that’s fine.  If the armhole stitches are wonky – so what, the jumper is still eminently wearable and cosy.  If the little visitor dirties the felt doll, oh well, it looks loved.  I don’t even blink when Mum’s old dog pees on my quilt or our dog wipes her chicken wing juicy chin on my crochet floor rug.

cushion in the sand

That’s not to say my work is clumsy or I am careless.  But I think handmade needs to flow in a way that fits in with everything else that is going on.  It’s not a precious art form that I set aside a few hours for each day/week or a finished item that needs to be guarded.  My work is simply part of our lives, often created amongst the dishes we’ve just eaten from on the kitchen table, and as such, never needs to be perfect or cosseted.  Just lovely. And useful is good too.

Why do I write and create the way I do?

You might have noticed,  I have no problem with writing on and on and on (I have never been able to write to a word limit – such a constant problem with my academic work :-) and whilst my punctuation is sometimes erratic, my style is rather formal. But, this being my blog, I can write however I like.  And I think it probably reflects both the constant chatter in my head, and my love of richly detailed, more old fashioned literature (oh Charles Dickens – you can take as many pages as you like to describe a house!) Honestly, I do talk to myself most of the time.  I think it comes from spending a lot of time at home alone – first as a stay at home mum, and now living in Melbourne where I have no family or friends to visit.  Instead, I potter about, doing the chores, looking after Abby and Julian, writing essays, or making – a constant stream of quiet chatter keeping me company. Describing what I see around me, what I could do next, how I could proceed with a project, what tack I’ll take on a paper, what I’ll talk about with Abby when I collect her from school, what I’ll write about on the blog, what’s infuriating me in the news, what my worries are for the future …  And so my writing reflects this same tumbling chatter.  If you were sitting here beside me, I would sound exactly the same in person as I do in writing :-)

Why do I create the way I do – hmmm … I like to do things the old fashioned way.  I don’t like our society’s emphasis on new and modern, fashionable and sophisticated, fleeting and disposable.  My grandmothers and mum taught me the basics of all my making.  Nanny Cottam taught me to knit when I was 8, crochet in my teens, and her love of patchwork inspired me when I was in my early 20s.  We went to classes together and have spent countless days side by side at her place, running up clothes, curtains, sofa covers, patchwork etc. on the machine, looking through magazines and books together, plotting our next projects and purchases … my dear old Nanny Cottam is without doubt the most important creative force in my life.  Her admonition when the going gets tricky “Now, let’s just sit down and we’ll have a quiet look at it” will guide my creativity for the rest of my days.

Nanny Dougall – who sadly died when I was just 11 – is another huge influence in my life.  She was the queen of making do, making from scratch, using what she had, and appreciating beauty.  She taught me to handsew when I was little – we made a wee doll’s quilt from little squares from her stash.  She started me on my embroidery career – first with making wonky white crosses on blue gingham, then moving on to a Holly Hobbie embroidery kit.  And whilst we cared for her during her last weeks, she taught me to make pompoms – I was so amazed with their cleverness.  My little sister and I were devastated to wake up one morning and find that she’d died overnight – she was going to teach us to crochet that day.  But whilst I never had the chance to spend the time with her that I have with Nanny Cottam, it is what she left me that helps shape my creativity.  I have her crochet books, her carefully embroidered doilies, the beautifully crocheted and knitted jumpers and cardigans she made us, the fabric scraps she gathered, the spools of crochet yarn she inherited from her mother, pieces of pretty china, her piano stool, her tin chest.  She appreciated what she had, she carefully gathered what was important to her, and she celebrated beauty.

And then there’s my Mum.  She’s an exceptional seamstress.  She sewed all our clothes when we were little and most of them when we were older.  She sewed my school uniforms, my ball gowns, my  pregnancy clothes, Abby’s bunny rugs … There has always been a sewing machine set up in the centre of the home, ready to go.  Everything we’ve ever seen and liked is matched to the refrain “We could make that”.  Mum gave me the invaluable belief that we could make whatever we needed or wanted, and we could make it beautifully.  She also let me make stupid things really badly.  When I insisted that WAS what the Vogue pattern said to do, she just shrugged her shoulders and said “alright” and I wore the jumpsuit with the lining sewed in with  the seams visible and fraying.  That was awesome parenting Mum!

So yep.  I’m wordy, old fashioned, hopelessly sentimental, determined to do it for myself, and yearn for the days of old when people DID things instead of simply shopped for things.

How does my creative process work?

Hmmm … I think my work is very much shaped by my confidence with that particular genre.  When knitting, I tend to stick very carefully to what the pattern says because at this stage in my knitting “career”, I don’t have a good understanding of how knitting patterns are created.  All those shapes and increases and decreases are all a bit of a mystery to me.  I mean, I know how to do them, but I don’t know how to put them together myself.  Thus I am very happy to bow down to the creativity and skill of those that know so much more.  However, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the magic of knitting – how did people come to think of winding yarn around sticks and pulling it in and out in different ways to create all kinds of wonderful stitches and build beautiful, warm, hardy fabric.  I love that.  It makes me feel incredibly connected to something that has intrigued, delighted and protected people for thousands of years.

sewing feet

In most of my other work, my increasing confidence with how things are put together has led me away from the patterns of others.  I like to draft my own patterns and most of my projects are inspired by what I see about me, what my family likes or is doing, and especially thinking up ways to add extra handmade decoration to our home and the festivals we celebrate.  I adore decoration – I remember seeing the film “Carrington” when I was at university in the late 1980s, watching Dora Carrington and her friends embellish everything around them, and thinking yes!  That’s exactly what I want my world/home to be like.  Colourful, rich, detailed, so very connected to the past, unique to me and my family (I have a loathing of the homeware catalogue look) and most importantly handmade.  I want my work to please me and be lovely and useful for my family but I also want it to show the world what it is we love and value.

craft table

The grill door on an Art Deco block of flats in Fitzroy becomes a simple quilt. The photo of a fox in a English rural magazine marries the lovely rounded shape of a hard rubbish chair and becomes a piece of embroidered and appliqued upholstery.  The lovely artwork of my Nanny’s Figgjo china collection inspires me to recreate it as embroidery.  I see a pretty piece of fabric in the shop and wonder what it could be, what it could go with – it can be as simple as wrapping hebel bricks to make a bookshelf or trim a skirt.  A book of antique samplers inspires the start of a huge and complex quilt with hundreds of tiny pieces and seams.  A collection of coloured china on the draining rack makes me want to sew a quilt or knit a stripey jumper capturing just that light and colour.  It comes from everywhere, my creativity

dresser

Most of all, it’s very spontaneous and cheerfully repurposes what was bought for another project because at that moment, it’s the perfectly right thing to do.

Wow!  We made it to the end!  Now.  I am supposed to be linking you to another maker however, with the end of the school term, a quick holiday in Merimbula, and Julian’s departure on a month long work trip to addle my brain, I’ve not lined anyone up.  I’m so sorry.  However, I am sending out some emails right now so I will let you know where to visit next as soon as I can :-)

While you wait – go make something – it’s just so good.

skirt trim.

 

 

slowly … slowly

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

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

brewing marmalade marmalade recipe

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

marmalade cupcakes

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

cabbage mushing the cabbage

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

new pot

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

jasmine

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

snape

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

untidy kitchen table

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

little pieces

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

house

… but oh so pleasing.

an iced bun sort of day

lamp

:: lamps were lit very very early

threads delia teddy

:: corners were tidied and reorganised

blanket

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

books flowers red and blue

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

machine cotton reel seam spots

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

supper

:: the girlie was collected and supper was shopped for

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

It was that sort of day :-)

 

now i shall have to sew

needlepoint cross stitch scarf ostheimer mandarines jasmine chickenThere’s a sort of stillness to the house at the moment.  A sense of waiting.  The much longed for change of seasons is almost here.  Yes, there’s still plenty of shivery cold, but every morning the sun rises that bit earlier and I throw open the windows, declaring it fresh.  Just this morning, I noticed the jasmine dressed in her spiky pink buds, mere days away from bursting forth with her beautiful perfume.  The old hibiscus is popping out bright green leaves (the first in years) and the gnarly magnolia’s furry buds are slowly opening.  I want to ride my bike to the shops.  Bake fruitcake.  I always want to bake fruitcake in spring.  Set up camp in the back garden.  Plan for Christmas. Ditch the stockings! Wear sandals!

But not yet.  It is only the first week in August.  There’s weeks and weeks to go of winter yet. So, I shall keep savouring the days just as they are presented to us.  Wrap my hands ’round another cup of steamy tea.  Tuck a quilt ’round my lap, heavy and warm.  Admire the bare elegance of the tall planes and elms that line our streets.  Enjoy the sharp slap of the air on my cheeks when I step outside.  Layer up with wool and shawls and sheepskin slippers when I’m at home.  Make the most of that lovely, safe feeling of cosiness that comes when the sky is dark, the rain is constant, the air is frigid, and the family is all at home, curtains drawn, candles lit, warm and busy.

mandarin holly hobby tea boxes inside

And today, with all the DMC7928 stitched up, I turned back to a quilt top I started way back in summer when the days were long and hot.  One filled with bees swirling their way round and round the garden, little puffy golden chicks and an unexpected red cross in the centre.  I had all the chicks and bees stitched up and I don’t know, it just looked a little too simple.  So I chopped out the middle – literally – and added a little red (no matter how hard I try, I always end up adding a little red).  Then I loved it.  Now, just a few weeks away from graduation it’s kind of funny – I’ve made the perfect nurses’ quilt :-)

ribbon pieces sewing machine stitching rumpled

After snapping it on the line, I laid it on our bed and do you know what – I think it may need one more border – a nice wide one – maybe 5 inches deep.  In red?  Then it will be extra cosy for our bed.   And even more suited to being tossed over a teepee of sticks and opened as a first aid centre :-)

finished corner pegs chickens with the chickenTomorrow – with the forecast filled with grey and rain – I shall find this quilt a blanket, turn the kitchen radio to Classic FM, eat more mandarines, and get squiggling.  It will be a lovely winter’s day.

a cushion to catch the sun

the full

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

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

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

the right the photos the curtains

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

the cushion

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

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

cutting circles bottom rows rosy pinks green glowing quilted in checks

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

little beaks purples and yellows

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

on its back

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

with tea and pattern

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

 

 

kitchen day

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

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

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

lentils and cup

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

pumpkin pleasures

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

chair shuffling

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

quilting

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

new to us china

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

needlepoint pattern fiddling

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

repurposing chelves

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

erzgebirge

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

alison lester

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

she likes

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

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

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

not lucy’s patchwork cushion

into the wash

Dear little Lucy (Mum’s dog, who’s staying with us whilst Mum’s in Brisbane looking after Nanny and Grandad) is very fond of her comforts.  Why sit on just the sofa when you can scrunch up all the quilts and knitting that are on the sofa into a cosy nest that you can burrow yourself into?  Nicely upholstered furniture isn’t good enough, no you should drag all the cushions into a pile and knead them into just the right density before you settle down.  As for the bed – why would you want to sleep at someone’s feet when you can sleep next to their head – and turn into a growly leaden lump when someone tries to shuffle you along.  Best of all, being a cavoodle with thick, slightly oily, woolly fur, Lucy gets pretty grotty, pretty quickly and rubs all of this onto the afore mentioned quilts, cushions, beds and knitting.  Isn’t she thoughtful!

So last week – after holding the living room cushions up to my face and sniffing them – I decided they all needed a de-Lucying – a wash and an air.  And, given there was an essay due in that same day that still needed a lot of work, what more perfect time was there for me to plan and stitch up some new patchwork cushion covers.

I tried a snail’s trail block – something I haven’t played with for many years – and after some trial and error, hit upon a technique I liked very much – make each triangle way to big and trim it down once all four sides are on.  Then, today, with another essay due in at midnight (a discussion of something dodgy I saw or did on placement that I have since “reflected on” and learnt from) I quilted it up and added those bits and pieces necessary to turn it into a cushion cover.

ready for quilting

I was going to do the squiggly wiggly, but then thought I should be a bit more adventurous and practice drawing with my free motion foot.  So I tried some mandela style flowers.  I had to pull the first one out, it was so ghastly, but the following four turned out mostly acceptable.  Of course, practice will improve things and I won’t ever get any better if I don’t try.  I’m also not the kind of person that can practise for hours on a piece of calico with no purpose, so a cushion cover seems a good compromise.

border flower

They look really pretty on the back – woollen blanketing is so very forgiving to slightly wonky stitches.  They embed nicely into the soft pile.  Not so flattering on the smooth cotton front, but … have to start somewhere :-)

needed to unpick

gerald

Oh – and Fu thought you might want to meet Gerald.  He was Toph’s bedtime companion when she was a puppy.  Now he’s Fu’s – she’s not always very kind to Gerald but I do think she’s very fond of him.  She ran around the back garden “killing” Gerald whilst I took these photos, then dashed up to me and chucked him onto the quilting.  So there you go – that’s Gerald.

amongst the leaves

And here’s the finished cushion!  The colours seem just right for autumn.  So many shades of yellow, red, orange and brown surrounding us at the moment – and the perpetually grey skies.  These trees – I don’t know what they are – line one section of a very big road that I drove along most days.  They are very lush and green throughout spring and summer, but at this time of the year, they truly take your breath away – the very air hovering around them feels as golden as their softly falling leaves.

cushion on chair side on yellow and green looking up avenue

And the little card chair – I found it this morning on the footpath on the way home from school drop off.  English oak arms!  And whilst I was inspecting it, the owner came out and we agreed it was a sweet piece that just needed a little bit of tlc – that’s what he was hoping for.  Melbourne’s footpath furniture sharing at it’s best.

I have plans for the chair – involving a very even weave, camel coloured, woollen fabric from up the road, a Japanese embroidery book translated into Chinese (because that’s so much more useful to me!) and a bit of metho and steel wool.  It will be transformed!  But I can’t start it til I finish my fox chair (if you want you can check the instagram photos on the sidebar here) – I’ll show you the start of that little project tomorrow – it’s very addictive – I have to keep dashing out to the craft table and adding a bit more embroidery here and another leaf there!

with arms closeup of stitching

my prop assistant

I tried a little viney flowery kind of thing with my quilting along the borders – almost pleased with it.  And that’s my prop assistant – she very kindly offered to carry the cushion, camera and car keys because there was no way she was lugging that chair up North Road.  Ah what she puts up with from her silly mama :-)

on the sofa

Here’s the new cushion, insitu.  Just right against the syrupy yellows of the white blossom tree quilt.  And I know Lucy’s keen to try it out – with all its lovely new, bouyant feathery insert and crisply clean cotton cover.  I’m sure she’ll get right into later tonight.

It’s a good thing we love you Lucy!

the napping quilt

empty chair neatly folded neatly folded closeup neatly folded corner tossed on chair blown off the chair spread out short side pinning it down length bunched up folded over chair along the fence line last shot yellow corner smooth little face

Forgive me all the photos – the golden afternoon light, the glowing warm red of the brick wall, the lush grass, the cheery blue of the chair … it was all so pretty.

This is the napping quilt.  I started this six years ago – I think it was a fat quarter bundle of a Moda range – Mother Goose.  I found it last year – some of the pieces sewn up, many not.  I laid the pieces out on my bed and for some reason, the soft squishy colours and occasional glimpses of sweet nostalgic children made me think of it as a napping quilt.  So napping quilt it is.

I finished the blocks.  Put them back on the shelf.  Pulled them back out a few weeks back. Stitched them together.  Added some borders – mostly reproductions – they seemed to fit just right. Pinned it out.  Quilted it – squiggly, wiggly onto a beautifully soft, pretty checked vintage blanket.  Bit repetitive, aren’t I :-)

Then last weekend, after Julian flew away to Ireland, tucked myself into the corner of the sofa, the napping quilt squished cosily around me, and stitched down the binding.

As for this fabulous red brick wall – I have driven past it several times a week for the last four years.  Always admired it but neither thought of stopping.  And then, this week, noticed a special magic as the autumn afternoon sun soaked into it. So today, I left early for school pickup, and stopped a while.  My quilt, my chair, my camera – and the magnificent wall.

Such fun – as I pootled about with the napping quilt and my blue chair, cars slowed down to watch.  One fellow actually stopped and when I had finished a moment’s fussing called out to me.  Wanted to know if it was my quilt.  Told me his wife sewed quilts and had him take photos of her quilts for her.  He thought my quilt looked lovely against the wall.  Another young woman – with a huge dog in her passenger – stopped, called out hey, watched a while, smiling, then drove off with a wave.  I do love that when you do something a bit unexpected, strangely enough, it draws you closer to people.

Now, the napping quilt is back on me bed.  I’m off to join it.  We’ve had a very dramatic start to our weekend – poor wee Lucy got a shard of her nightly chicken wing wedged in between her gum and her molar – we weren’t sure there wasn’t an obstruction further back, so rushed off to the after hours vet.  Poor Lucy was crying and trembling and doing a very funny thing with her mouth.  The vet was wonderful – found the shard straight away – you wouldn’t believe the effort that was required to pull it out – with pliers.  I honestly thought the vet was going to tumble backwards.  No wonder it hurt.  But the minute it was out – if only we spoke doggle, we’d have heard Lucy say “Well thank goodness for that!”  She gave herself a thorough waggle all over and was ready for home.  She’s fine now and snuggled up on Abby’s bed, snoring.  Phew!

Hopefully the rest of the weekend will deliver a good dose of loveliness – lots of making planned, a trip to the shops, Abby’s cooking me curried prawns for supper tomorrow night.  We may go to the movies.  Perhaps a bookstore.  Some last minute knitting to two more jumpers.  Good stuff.  But first – there’ll be a sleep in under my napping quilt.

Wishing you a lovely weekend too, dear folk!

the night max wore his wolf suit …

big hairy feet sneaky eyes

Whatever is hiding amongst the oleander?  Oh! It’s a Wild Thing!

wild thing

Julian’s Wild Thing!  I gave it to him for his 22nd birthday – the first birthday we celebrated together. He had a copy of Where the Wild Things Are when I met him – sitting there amongst the computer programming tomes and science fiction novels.  It was his favouritest book as a little boy.  I knew it from my childhood as well – but I must confess, I had been scared of it.  So when I spied this fabulously fierce little fellow at the University Bookstore, I just knew upon whose bookshelf it would feel right at home.

closeup of wild thing

A few years later, one of my wee cousins, Alastair, came for a sleepover.  He stomped up the stairs to our flat, pleased as punch to be so grown up as to have a sleepover all by himself, and whilst his mum and I had a cup of tea, he had a little explore.  After peering into our bedroom, he ran straight back over to his mum and whispered tremulously in her ear “Mum!  There’s a Wild Thing in there!”  It was so sweet/funny – and formal introductions had to be made before Alastair could be convinced it was indeed safe to stay.

cards scattered wild thing cheating

Wild Things have been a firm favourite in Bootville ever since.  Julian’s copy of the book became very battered as it was read over and over and over to Abby – by the time she was 3, both she and I could recite the whole book off by heart!  We made a copy of the audio book, borrowed from the library, and that was played on Abby’s little tape recorder until it literally wore out.  And there’s been many games of Wild Rumpus enjoyed at the kitchen table – always accompanied by lots of shrieks and the frantic slapping down of cards.

with abby reading

When the film version came out a few years back, just before we left for Melbourne, Abby took along 5 of her lovely friends from primary school to see it for her birthday.  Oh how we all loved it.  I do think Spike Jonze did a brilliant job – no, it wasn’t an immaculate translation of the book, frame by frame, but as an interpretation it was outstanding.  Exquisitely and imaginatively filmed with such a real and touching story.  As for the soundtrack – oh I went out and bought a copy the very next day.  We used to drive around Brisbane with all the windows down, the breeze rushing in at our faces, singing along to the second track at the top of our lungs.  Even now, I only need to slip it on and that beautifully haunting, childlike music transports me.

favourite on the chair

Needless to say, when I visited Spotlight a few days before Julian’s birthday this year, and there were bolts of Wild Things fabric lined up at the counter … well, all previous birthday present plans went out the window and I made him a Wild Things quilt instead.

binding red and orange arm

I bought the red, yellow, lilac, purple and black contrasting plains at the same time, went home, sliced them up into squares with thin black strips for borders, then spent a whole afternoon puzzling over just how it was supposed to go together.  I finally settled upon this layout a) because I felt it was the most striking whilst allowing Maurice Sendak’s beautiful illustrations to shine, and b) ’cause it reminded me of strips of film – a film of the Wild Thing playing through our lives in all its incarnations.  Then I had to take Abby back to the shop with me to choose the perfect green for the border – an adventure set deep in the forest.  I have a tendency to choose very olivey greens – none of which looked right – thankfully, she knew just the appley green it needed.

I pieced it frantically over the weekend before his birthday and had it a-l-m-o-s-t quilted in time for the birthday breakfast.  Backed with a beautiful vintage blanket and quilted with my scribbly-wibbly lines.  And the binding – Julian’s idea – he wanted something with all the colours in it.

blanket looking down

The birthday boy loved it!  For the first few weeks, it graced our bed.  There is something very endearing about coming to bed late, after knitting into the wee hours, or working on an essay, to find my husband, snuggled up under his Wild Things quilt.  Especially since Julian doesn’t have any mementos from his childhood.

on the fence post touseldBut now that the cooler weather is here, he’s brought it out into the living room where he sits with it warmly tucked around his lap each eve (we’re having our second winter without heating – saved a fortune last year!).  

I adore that our quilts are shared and loved and dragged around the house, out into the car, on picnics, taken on school camps, piled up on sleepovers, squished up into balls, spread out onto the grass, cuddled into by doggles, and quietly retreated under when an afternoon nap is needed.

As for a Wild Things quilt – well it’s sure to stand the test of time.