on the chair

the little farmer’s quilt

thread and scissors

joined by the gulls

trio

on the table

little boa

noah and the moon

walking along the grass

on the chair

catching the sun

over the rock

dusty with sun

bronzed

the blanket

squiggly crosses

quilted rock

blanket warming in the sun

the whole quilt

corner on the sand

around the sun

close up of centre

sitting on the quilt

corner folded back

shaking it out

quilt and waves

heading back

maddie the dog

blowing off the chair

Really, every post I write about quilts could start like this “Oh my goodness, it’s finally finished!”  I’m so predictable ;-)

This Little Farmer’s Quilt was one of those spur of the moment quilts I pieced last year.  On a rare Saturday morning off work, I drove out to Gail B’s Patchwork with Noah because I really wanted some of their old Heather Ross fabrics – hopefully the little farmer with her horses.  And yes, they had it!  So I then spent a lovely hour or so gathering soft sunset colours to put with it.  I pictured a sort of round the world quilt but in rectangles not squares, with the Heather Ross fabric as the centrepiece.

It was the last quilt in progress that I shared with my dear old Grandad before he died.  Mum was by his side almost every day during his last few months, and every day family from all over the world would send him photos, little videos, and skype messages that Mum would help him look at at.  Oh he so loved it, and would look at his favourites over and over again.  Especially videos of his greatgrandchildren saying “Love you grandad!  Love you grandad!” He would wave back to them, kiss them on the iPad and say “Love you too sweetie!”

Truly, I cannot agree with anyone who says the internet and all its accompanying technology is destroying our families and societies.  Despite so many of us being so far away, we were all able to be there with Grandad during his last days, sharing funny stories of old, describing what we’d been up to, reminding him of how much he was loved.  It was an incredible blessing.

And he and Nanny always wanted to know what I was making so I would send Mum photos and she would share them.  One of Grandad’s gifts was that he never offered shallow praise.  If I played the piano for him, gave him an essay to read, showed him my patchwork or embroidery, I knew I could rely on him to tell me what he loved but also what needed improving.  “Well, you need to work on that passage, don’t you!” he would say when I finished playing a wonky piece “But I loved listening to the opening – you played that well.” And “Well, that’s a nice looking lighthouse, but let’s face it sweetheart, that’s not what our lighthouses look like.  I think you should make it authentic to us.” And “The colours look lovely Doogie, but I think you’ve rushed those points a bit.  I know you could do better.”

I always valued Grandad’s opinion and his encouragement always made me want to go further, stretch myself, work harder.

I’ll always remember the Christmas I was accepted into the University of Queensland to study for my Bachelor of Arts when I was 17.  Father Christmas had given me the University Handbook – a huge telephone directory sized volume that included every discipline within the university and a description of every subject they taught.  The depth of offerings was amazing – I could even study Icelandic Language and Myth!  After our big family Christmas dinner was eaten and washed up, Grandad and I sat at the dining table with the handbook, paper and pencil and pored over almost every chapter.  We discussed what would be interesting, what would be useful, what would be difficult, the value of education and how fabulous it was that Gough Whitlam had introduced free tertiary for everyone – Grandad and I loved talking politics!  He looked through disciplines that he would love to have studied as a young man and we talked about them too – he was especially interested in Australian history and politics.  It was the beginning of my university life shared with one of the people I love more dearly than anything else. The perfect Christmas.

This here quilt … Grandad loved the colours – he thought they were the best choice I’d ever made – I’d created a beautiful sunset.  And he liked how they radiated out from the centre.  Me too Grandad.  That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

So, the other afternoon, when Noah had an appointment at the hairdresser at Bermagui, it was the perfect opportunity to take along the almost finished quilt, sit on the cliff by the glittering sea and sew down the last of the binding, then take it down to one of our magic beaches with Noah and photograph it.

The late autumn afternoon sun was low in the sky, setting all the honeycomb rocks and quilt ablaze with rich light, and casting a magical dusty glow across the wetlands behind us.  The wind whipped about us, sprinkling us and the quilt with a fine dusting of cool sand.  The sea was choppy with white galloping horses out in the bay and thickly tumbling waves close to shore.  There were a couple of fishermen further up the beach, a young woman running through the water and diving under the waves her long dreadlocked hair trailing behind her like a mermaid’s tail, and a sweet friendly dog called Maddie.  That was definitely a sign – one of Grandad’s dearest grandchildren is named Maddie – oh how they adored each other :-)

Whenever we do something like this, I feel so close to Grandad because I know it’s exactly the kind of thing he would want to do too.  He would have played with Maddie the dog, chatted with the fishermen about their catches, and asked the young woman about her exercise regime.  He would have insisted on carrying the deck chair, and taken part in just how to best lay the quilt out and where to stand to catch the best light – Grandad loved his camera.

He would have loved every moment.

And then, as we were driving back along the beautiful winding road home – up the little hills and back down into the little valleys, all filled with picturesque dairy farms – there on the side of a small glade of trees was a little black wallaby.

It was dear old Grandad!  Letting us know he’d had a lovely afternoon too and that he would always be here.

binding on

change

fabric

very drab

seams

on the mat

duck head

over chair

quilting

chopping pumpkin

pumpkin and butter

ready for baking

lines

binding on

inspected

approved

The last few months have been so many things.  Bewildering, magical, overwhelming, everything I’ve ever daydreamed about, exhausting, bliss and such a privilege.  I have not started back at nursing yet, Julian is working from home, and Noah’s having a gap year.  So almost everyday, here we are together.  Each pottering about in this small cottage, sharing our daily lives in a way we’ve never been able to do before.  There are so many times when I stand here and think – wow!  This is amazing!  Even better than when Noah was little, because Julian’s here too and we are somewhere exquisitely beautiful.  What a gift for us.

But it has been stressful at times.  I don’t like change.  Never have.  Which must seem insane to read because I have longed for this change for soooooooo many years.  But change is change.  2015 was a stressful year with so much change and challenge.  Moving was exhausting and stressful.  Oh my goodness – those last few days in Melbourne were hideous – it felt as if they COULD never end.  By the time I arrived here at Wombat Hill, I was utterly wrung out.

So pleased and relieved to be here – but completely spent.  And what did we do – threw open our arms and welcomed even more change!  Julian no longer left the home for work each day.  Noah was no longer at school – 13 years of routine disappeared in a blink and a whole new era of parenting a young adult began.  We had animals that needed to be housed and cared for.  A normal sized family home’s worth of contents and furniture was divided between our little esky cottage and one side of the workshop.  Then there were all the niggly details of moving – changing licences, registrations, service providers, insurance …

It was “Yes!  There’s no more tram out the front!” to “Oh my god, there’s no more tram out the front!”  Every where we needed to go required so much driving.  But the road is beautiful and there’s no traffic.  Everything is so much slower and more peaceful.  But we can no longer call into all those shops that had become our favourites and where we knew everybody.  I no longer had to carefully check my roster every night before falling asleep.  And I no longer had that wonderful sense of purpose, privilege and camaraderie that comes with working as a nurse in a really good hospital with wonderful people I looked forward to seeing every day.  And oh how I miss Meryl, her beautiful mosaic studio, the wonderful women I met there and the joy that was hours spent creating with like minded women.

I sound ungrateful.  Truly I’m not.  I do love living here.  It is everything I’d ever hoped for.

But it’s a huge change.  And I don’t like change.

Change flusters me.  Leaves me nervous, heart beating a little faster, unsure of what to do next, what to expect, how to cope.  Makes me teary sometimes.  Short tempered other times.

Let me tell you how well I coped when Julian and Noah were in Melbourne and one of the chickens died overnight and something ate its brains out.  Well.  I didn’t.  I called my mum sobbing and SHE came over and coped.

My Mum did what every sensible, loving mum does, and after she picked up the dead chicken and popped it into a box, she sat with me whilst I made an appointment to see our GP – who I’d only had an introductory visit with the week before and had been perfectly grown up and coherent.  Not like when I saw her the day after the chicken died.  Oh I cried and cried and cried.  And she was incredibly compassionate and lovely.

We had a really really good talk – about change, and sadness, and relationships, and what makes us feel worthwhile, and menopause (oh that is so much fun!).  She also prescribed a low dose of some good old antidepressants to help smooth things out, and I’ve been back to see her every week since.  She is a real gem.

Five weeks on and I truly feel like I’ve been pulled out of a rather scary whirlpool and gently set back down on my feet.  I haven’t cried in weeks – except those hiccuping tears of laughter when the new puppy or goats do something funny or Julian is silly.  It is a joy to get up everyday and I’m steadfast in only thinking about what needs to be done in the next hour – not all of what we should do or what might go wrong in the next decade.  Everyday tasks are so much more enjoyable that way – who’d have thunk!  I’m so grateful for the love and patience shared with me by Julian, Noah and Mum.  Gratitude and patience go a long way to making days peaceful and rewarding.

And instead of flapping about like a squawking hen, my newly peaceful mind and I have decided to use this change as an opportunity to reestablish good habits that I’d let slip over our years in Melbourne – especially with all that studying and nursing and a year’s worth of moving and feeling so unsettled.  Simple things that make me feel relaxed and competent – making our bed first thing in the morning, watering my little porch garden, folding all the washing when we bring it in so our little home stays neat, washing up before we go to bed, putting time and effort into planning and cooking our meals.

That might sound a little 1950s housewife-ish.  But I find that when all those little things run smoothly, I have so much more energy and passion for the much bigger and more exciting, creative things.  A calm house makes for a calm mind.  A reliable routine makes me feel capable of doing so much more.

So here I am.  I have settled back into the regular reading of some inspiring books like Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions and Rhonda Hetzel’s Down to Earth and her new book The Simple Home.  They help me think through what is important for my family and I, and encourage me to put these values into practice everyday.  I’m pulling out the old favourite cookbooks and making well loved suppers and baking treats.

My patchwork boxes are still in the shed, but open and I’m slowly working through them, delighting in the treasures they hold and bringing in projects to finish off.  I may not be able to work on my mosaics at the moment, but I’m loving painting – all the animal houses are being colourfully decorated and I’ve started a big canvas of what I love looking at when I stand on the porch.  I’ve pulled out pieces of fabric and patterns I’ve bought over the last few years, and have started making clothes again.

And I’ve knitted.  Oh my goodness – knitting is as good as meditation I reckon.  In those first couple of weeks after seeing my doctor, every time I felt overwhelmed, I just sat in a lovely spot and knitted.  And that feeling slowly subsided.

Now, I’m aware of speaking more kindly and thoughtfully.  I’m considering my reactions when the unexpected happens and applying a good dose of self talk as required.  My levels of impatience and frustration are so low, I feel positively Zen.

Chickens will still die and have their brains eaten out.  Just this last fortnight we’ve had a big upsurge in rat activity and they ate all my carefully nurtured broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts, parsley, silverbeet and lettuce.  All the leaves fell off my new mulberry tree.  And my right elbow is so sore (I’ve had “tennis elbow”) that I doubt it will ever feel the same again.

Julian will annoy me.  Noah will have me throwing my hands up in despair.  The dog will vomit on the rug.  The kitchen will be a disaster and I will rather eat toast than cook supper.

But I am optimistic.  I have so much.  Every day I have many moments of such happiness and love.  What was once this huge change is now becoming part of who I am. That is such a relief.

And I’m so glad I’m here, with my wonderful, much-loved people at my side, creating this new life.  It is everything I’ve dreamed of and so much more.

 

 

in the light

oh the things you can quilt!

old towel

block for centre

adding the strips

reusing the binding

watching with interest

done

corner

in the light

doorside

perfect

in the shadow

So Penny Pakkun hasn’t really grasped the concept of closing her mouth after having a big slurpy drink of water.  She looks up at us – a delighted underbitey grin on her funny little face – and water trickles all over the floor.  Sigh.

Obviously, the water bowl needed it’s own little quilted bath mat.  Easy peasy and sooo much lovely colourful fun to make.

I dug an old towel out of the caravan that had mysteriously grown holes.  Trimmed off the holey bits.  Centred a little orphaned block I found in a fabric box.  Hunted out some strips and ironed them.  Then off I went.

I had a brain freeze at the very end and not only trimmed off the final strip of blue atrociously crookedly – I followed the towel’s line instead of the fabric – guess which was straighter! Then to make it worse – I bound it.  Lay it on the floor to admire and realised “Bugger!”

Oh well.  I don’t mind.  Maybe one day when there is utterly nothing else to do I will unpick the binding, trim it off and redo it.  Hmmm … methinks there will always be something better to do.

The mat is ever so pretty – looks like the water bowl now sits amidst a bed of colourful flowers! And a good strip of the lorax – the best of all garden lovers.

And surprise, surprise, Penny Pakkun was perfectly happy to stand on it whilst having a drink.  Job done!

a patchwork cottage … in the Austen sense

penny wants to bind

burrowing under

her own quilt

penny left

penny middle penny right

crooked blanket on the back

rosy bricks

gorgeous grass

reproduction curtains

pink and orange curtains

the display technician

border binding and background

attic window

abel

choosing climbing over rose prunings

noah with fu and penny

noah and penny

on the bed

I finally finished my patchwork cottage quilt today. Yipee!

I absolutely adored making this quilt – and instantly wanted to make it again and again in different colourways/seasons.  This is the Autumn Cottage.  I did start Spring but it was such an epic quilt to make with all those 1 inch bricks that making it again so soon was just too much.  I should hunt out the fabrics and get back into it.

And after stitching up the Autumn Cottage, I decided all those windows needed curtains – in reproduction fabrics – that’s what happens when I’m making up my own design as I’m going along.  Well – it was so tedious unpicking around each window and adding the half square triangles that I bundled it all up for over a year before I forced myself to finish them off and quilt the darn thing before we left Melbourne.

And look at that blanket – I washed it before using it and it warped weirdly and is now so crooked.  Ah well.  At least I washed it BEFORE quilting it so now it won’t do weird things to my dear little cottage.  And it is super toasty warm and cosy so that’s all good.

All it needed today was the binding.  Sort of.  I had put a binding on 3 sides before we left Melbourne … but it was hideous!  It was a baby blue with pink dots – a fabric I happen to really like but COMPLETELY inappropriate for this quilt – I don’t know WHAT I was thinking.  And I’d even hand sewn it down!  Geez!  So I had to rip off all that binding and replace it with something much lovelier – and I found the perfect toasty cinnamon brown at the very lovely Steph’s Patchwork Fabrics and Stitching Supplies in Moruya.

I’ve always thought that shop looks gorgeous and have wanted to stop many times – and since it was just Noah (equally enthusiastic about gorgeous fabric stores) and me on Monday, driving to a small farm just north of Moruya to collect some little girl guinea pigs, we stopped.  Julian never wants to stop.  And had a marvellous time oooohing and ahhhing over the loveliness.  If you’re ever driving through Moruya – stop at Steph’s – you’ll love it too!

Of course, you’re now looking at my quilt and thinking that can’t possibly be a cottage – it’s 3 stories with an attic!  Ah – but it’s a Jane Austen cottage :-)  You know – like in Sense and Sensibility when the Dashwoods had to move into their cousin’s cottage – the sort of cottage that would now sell in England for hundreds of thousands of pounds!  The sort of cottage that Willoughby declared he loved more than any other sort of home and that he would pull down Coombe Magna just to build it!

Yes – it’s definitely a cottage :-)  And a style that I have adored for many, many years.  In a former life, I’m sure I lived in a cottage just like this.  Probably a rector’s cottage deep in the English countryside – as one of the rector’s many daughters.  Where I practiced all the fine arts a lady should have if she wants to make a good marriage ;-) But probably wound up as a spinster living with another sister and looking after her ratty children and trying in vain to keep the unruly servants in line.

If I could convince Julian of the perfection of the “cottage” this is what we would build here at Wombat Hill.  Built from beautifully rosy warm stone with deep sills and heavy leadlight sash windows, fireplaces in every room, oak floors that have planks 10 inches wide, and of course that magnificent attic which would be my studio – sigh!  Oh wouldn’t that be bliss – and think of the fabulous light and views!  I have clearly spent way too much of my life disappearing into English novels set deep in the countryside :-)

Chances of this being our future home – zero.  Likelihood I will make 3 more versions – the haunting and soft greys and purples of winter, the pretty liberty style florals of spring, and the jaunty red, white and blue of summer – strong!

But you never know :-)

Meanwhile, on the puppy front … I haven’t properly introduced our latest furry critter – this is Penny Pakkun – she is a 1 year old Puggle (cross Pug and Beagle) that we – well Noah really – brought home 10 days ago.  She’d been living with a family up the coast but it wasn’t a good match – they had 3 littlies under 5, a lovely mum who was rushed off her feet, and a dad who wasn’t puppy inclined –  and Penny is a very sturdy, affectionate and energetic little dog.  She was given a very good start with puppy school, and desexing, and all the right worming and immunisations etc. – but she was living outside and very lonely.  So the mum made the heartbreaking-for-her decision to find a new family for Penny.  That’s us!

She’s such a darling – very much still a puppy, with lots of learning to do.  Like – not biting our hands at night when she’s all psyched up!  And not chasing the ducks!  And going to the toilet outside!  But she’s getting there.  Just today she came down with Noah and I to let out the ducks and chickens – and she stayed right by our side and didn’t put a paw out of line.  Noah’s doing a superb parenting job – endless patience and enthusiasm.

Penny Pakkun has the warmest, most velvety tummy, a darling little underbite grin, an enthusiasm for mischief that reminds us so much of our dear little Toph, and she makes the funniest noises – she’s really talkative :-)  Fu’s still warming to her – they both explode out the gate now to race around the grevillea to razz the little birds that live there – and Fu quite enjoys having a little sidekick.  And we love her.  So glad she’s here.

And we know Penny Pakkun’s meant to be here because she loooooooooves quilts.  Always trying to tug them off the sofa and beds to turn into her own nest.  Today, when I was stitching the binding on to the Autumn Cottage, every time I settled it into one position to stitch, Penny Pakkun would nestle in.

So we went out to the caravan, found an older quilt that isn’t a hot favourite, and gave it to her.  Oh she knew straight away it was hers.  She turned round, and round, and round, and round on it, then settled down into the folds with a big happy sigh and went to sleep.

See – she belongs at the very quilty Wombat Hill!