when the rain came

rainy

washing eggs

violets

simmering soup

new duck goose house

crafting corner

fabrics

cutting squares

knitting

Never before have I been so obsessed with the coming of rain! I remember being mildly obsessed with it back 10 years of more when Brisbane was in the grip of a drought that reduced the city’s water reserves to less than 20%.  But now that we depend on our rainwater tanks for our water needs – as well as the needs of our animals and garden – I anxiously ponder every week’s predictions like never before.

It’s been especially concerning the last few months as we have received less rainfall than our corner of the world usually gets, and the temperatures have been abnormally high.  Here we are, heading towards the end of April, and even the nights are still warm.  Ah climate change.

My words cannot express how cranky and frustrated our pathetic governments make me when it comes to this critical issue.  The Queensland government has just approved the building of the southern hemisphere’s largest coal mine – by an utterly corrupt and immoral Indian corporation – an enterprise even the conservative banks have declared unprofitable – and this when it has just been understood that our Great Barrier Reef now has LESS THAN 10% of its area UNAFFECTED  by coral bleaching and we have experienced our hottest autumn on record.

The continued devotion of our state and federal governments to the filthy habits of capitalism and economic expansion above all else – including our very ability to exist – is breathtakingly ignorant and they will surely go down in history as the ultimate Neros who fiddled whilst our nation burned.  As the saying goes (more or less) “When the last tree has been cut down, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money.”

Sigh.

Politics aside – we finally had a lovely day of rain this week.  It was such a relief.  Beautiful fresh water danced across the tin roof and trickled noisily into our tanks.  The ducks and geese threw up their wings in delight and spent the day stomping about in the wet, whilst all the other animals snuggled into the dry straw of their little homes.

And us?  Oh it was such a lovely release from the sense, when the weather is dry and sunny, that we should be outside making the most of it, building and gardening and working.  Instead, Julian settled in for some serious hacking.  Noah worked on an exquisite embroidery he has designed.  And I pottered about, thrilled to be inside and cosy.

There was the slow simmering of yellow split pea soup, the knitting up of the last few rows of my Milo Vest, and the delighted cutting out and stitching together of little squares of lovely fabrics that I have been gathering up over the last few weeks.  I am making a simplified version of the Grand Total Quilt that appeared in the latest American Patchwork and Quilting magazine.  I want to hang it on the wall above the sofa.  Mmmmm …. can’t wait :-)

I so savour these days, and fingers crossed, as we move faster and faster towards winter, we will be granted more.  Fingers crossed.

a bit of floral in quaama

into the washing machine

Do you remember this quilt?  I said it then, and I say it now, I’ve probably taken more photos of these 4 inch squares of floral than any other quilt I’ve made!

glowing on the porch

Whilst I’m sure the old fashioned prettiness of the florals has something to do with it, I think I’m especially drawn to the lovely warm, rich, busy smooshiness that was created by just stitching them randomly together.

I can spend hours on Pinterest sighing over exquisitely pieced, complicated quilts of great beauty – and quickly add them to my board and dream about the day I’ll actually make one! – but often, in films or magazines or books, the quilts that catch my eye, that look so perfectly at home and cosy and nourishing, that have me exclaim “Oh isn’t that lovely!” are quilts of simple squares.

Such is this simple quilt of flowers.

Mum and I bought the fabric together, several years ago now, at Spotlight during their post Christmas sale.  We bought 25cm of each fabric – I can’t remember how many fabrics – 30 or 40 – and then we cut it all up into 4 inch squares (with a seam allowance).  It was the perfect way to do it because we only needed this minimum cut to give us each enough squares for a wonderfully chaotic quilt.  I stitched mine up as soon as the summer holidays were over.  I think Mum’s squares are still sitting in a pile somewhere!

At that time I was having a real period of doubt when it came to quilting.  Totally convinced my machine quilting was crap.  Which it was a bit.  So that year I tied all my quilts and was happy :-)

But now, oh I know I’m a bit boring and repetitive, but I really love my squiggly-wiggly quilting, following the principle of never crossing the line.  Sometimes I do – and stop and unpick.  Sometimes I make a jagged sharp corner – and stop and unpick.  But mostly I just cheerfully go round and round and round, loving some parts more than others.

And so, this favourite quilt was on the top of the re-quilt pile with squiggly-wiggly here in Wombat Hill and today I finished it!

Into the washing machine it went.  Onto the line for a few quick hours of drying in our breezy sun.  And then off to Quaama for a little tour and some pictures.

See I figured that since you’ve already seen this quilt, I would add a bit of extra interest and show you our closest village – Quaama – the name of which is from the local Aboriginal language meaning “shallow water”.  Quaama is on the banks of a sandy river called “Dry River” and this was the European name for this village until the early 1900s.  It’s nestled into a small hillside between the river and the highway, surrounded by Bega Valley’s ubiquitous rolling hills of dairy farms. And it’s pronunciation … like the curry “korma”.
school of arts

It’s a sweet little place.  Very small – apparently less than 150 residents.  But it has a very resourceful General Store with a petrol pump and wee post office run by a lovely couple with a dear little baby.  Anything bigger than a regular envelope is left for us at this post office – and they stock the fabulous Tilba Dairy milk, cheeses and yoghurt and the divine Bermagui sourdough “Honor Bread” – so we drop in regularly.

There’s also a “Small School” (that’s the official NSW term), established in the 1870s, which all of the children on our road attend and the parents love.  There’s a wonderfully maintained and regularly used School of Arts – which apparently doubled as a cinema throughout the 1920s and 30s! – a sweet little Anglican Church, St. Saviours – the local Rural Fire Brigade – and lots of lovely old wooden houses with netted gardens bursting with fruit trees and vegetables.

through the trees

our corner store

stand of gums

cemetery

Oh and there’s a snake infested cemetery.  Yep, that’s right.  Snake infested.  All the cemeteries in the Bega Valley carry this unique warning and each spring they write it up in the newspaper just to remind people.  Apparently the local red belly black snakes – which are highly poisonous but quite timid – love to lay about on the gravestones in the sun.  And I suppose there’d be highly poisonous and quite aggressive Eastern Browns lurking under the stones and fallen branches.  Ugh!  Not my cup of tea at all.  So there are no photos of the old lichen speckled graves of the pioneers set amongst the tall gums.  You’ll just have to imagine that bit.

st saviours

side with view

whole quilt

quilt2

quilt1

noah and the quilt

from side

on rail

blue binding

tank

shed

One of the many things I love about living here is that so many of the scenes – like this old shed and garden and the next door water tank – remind me so much of my grandparent’s home and garden when I was little.  They too lived in a small country town on the eastern coast of NSW.  Every time I see such a sight I am transported straight back to days of lining snails up into “schools”, collecting the heavenly scented gardenia flowers, exploring under the cool dark house, and rolling down their thickly grassed steep hill.  Fabulous!
feather
the back blanket

already in use

And, as is always the case, these floral squares have been quilted onto a beautiful checked vintage wool, Australian-made blanket.  Oh it will be a sad day when I can no longer find these treasures at the opshop.

And, as is always the case, I know this simple quilt will be put to very good use.  This afternoon, after all our groceries and farm supplies were unpacked, Noah and I headed straight out onto the verandah for a quiet sit down and cup of tea.  It was deep in shade, the mobiles spun loud and crazy in the wind, the pattern pieces I was endeavouring to draw blew every which way.

Good thing there was a quilt at hand.

 

round and pretty

blanket stitch

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

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

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

trying it out

so much red

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

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

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

fleece

stuffing

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

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

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

on left

crocheted centre

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

noah and goats

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

all on the right side

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

two rounds of crochet

noahs christmas quilt and rias quilt

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

dancing for box

abel

checking out the cushion

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

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

pretty

on the bed

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

 

an abundance of quilt tops

stack of quilts

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

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

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

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

red white and blue

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

american jane

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

tumblers

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

noah

crazy stars

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

piles

folding them up

needs unquilting

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

sunhats

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

completely forgotten

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

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

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

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