messy sewing

baby alpaca

This weekend we welcomed a new babe to Wombat Hill Farm – our first wee cria!  That’s a baby Alpaca for those of you who have not yet met one :-)  I was at work when this miracle unfolded – such a bummer – but Julian and Noah were there to watch the birth in all its calm beauty and ease.  Goodness me, don’t these animal mamas just get on with the job.  I’m sure there will come the time when things don’t progress as smoothly as this, but for our first two large mammal births here, the mamas – Mabel the Ryeland-Merino cross (who we were given for free as we were told she was past it! Must have been pregnant when we first brought her home!) and Juno the Alpaca have coped beautifully and their little offspring have leapt to their wobbly feet within moments of birthing and frantically sought out their mums’ milky teats.  Breathtaking truly!

So to the left of Judy’s large rear (our recently acquired Jersey) that tiny little dark thing behind her mum is Juno’s cria.  I’m still not sure if it’s a boy or girl – but I think it might be a girl  If it’s a girl we will call her Aurelia (Julius Caesar’s mother known for her intelligence, independence and beauty) and if it’s a boy he shall be known as Marcus (after my favourite Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius) – keeping up the Roman theme for our Alpacas.  This naming stuff is such fun :-)

And below – let me introduce Judy.  She’s our Jersey – also came free when we recently bought three dear little Dexter cows.  She is approximately 14 years old and has been producing regular healthy calves.  Her previous owners loved her dearly but didn’t have the resources to keep her so were glad to find her a new home.  Julian is worried we will become known as the folks you can offload your unwanted animals to.  There are worse things we could be known for :-)

Judy’s very affectionate – loves a good rub and smooshes her face into us while we talk with her.  She’s also very fond of bread – and bringing her a couple of slices each morning is a sure fire way to stay in Judy’s heart!  It would be wonderful if we could get her in calf again – imagine all that creamy Jersey milk – we will have to wait and see :-)

judy

But on to messy sewing!  You see, Julian’s away yet again, so yesterday, after all the animals were cared for, it was time to rip out the fabric and get stuck into some good finishing.  Within moments there was fabric everywhere as I dug around for the bits I would need to complete the radiating star quilt I started last year – the morning after Pakkun ate HunnyBunny (Noah’s rabbit).  THAT was a bleak day and we were all feeling a bit glum – and there’s nothing like playing with cheery scraps of fabric to distract one from the small disasters that befall us now and then, hey?

Now, after a little bedroom rearrange, I have the perfect spot for this pretty quilt – hanging on the wall above the gentleman’s wardrobe – hiding the bizarre hole – as round as the bottom of a large glass – in the wall we found when we removed the hideous frosted glass wardrobe the previous owner left behind.  Weird.

tin

sewing in cake tin

And so many other things popped up along the way.  As they do when you are indulging in messy sewing.  I found all the cut out bits and pieces for Luna Lapin (a rabbit doll) and the beginnings of the Alpaca Quilt I am making – so they were stored neatly in a cake tin on the desk.  Also gathered up all the Peptamen tins I bring home from work – we use at least 1 a day and they are so sturdy with firm fitting lids – I can’t bear to throw them away – I’m sure I’ll find something to do with them.  At the moment I’m plotting a little Moomin village of round houses with appliqued and quilted “houses” wrapped round the tins? Hmmm …

basket

ironing

scraps and apple core ruler

Then there was the apple core ruler I bought the other day – picturing a scrappy quilt of just apple cores – I could even not repeat a single fabric!

piles of churn dash

And the Bee quilt of wee Churn Dashes I started last year after finding this gorgeous bee fabric at one of my local fabric stores – Pins and Needles in Merimbula owned by Tara – such a lovely shop, you should definitely call in if you are ever passing through. piles of leftovrs

marking

chain piecing

lovely fabrics

puggle

fu

Of course, whilst hunting for a good blanket to quilt my Radiating Star onto, I found this incredibly bright American Jane quilt I made years and years ago – still sitting here thick with safety pins waiting for it’s moment.  Well Fu and Pakkun put it to good use.

leftovers

And then I got sidetracked by the cut off corners of the Radiating Star blocks – as you do.  I’m thinking they will look lovely sewn up like this.  There are 32 of them – which makes 8 blocks.  I could then add a striking contrast fabric and sew them up into a 3 by 5 block quilt – 15 blocks altogether.  You get the picture?  Yeah!

one block to go
stained glass

theback

finished

So all this dithering and plotting and tidying and fiddling and stitching finally resulted in a finished quilt top.  Behold!  I bring you The Radiating Star!  And now I have fabric scattered from one end of the living room to the other.  Good thing Julian’s away.

tiles

finding our place in the valley


sign

windy road

barn

dairy and piggery

doors

windows

chimney1

metal topped

mower and cooker

cot

who knows
barn

meeting luna

noah and luna walking

patting luna

typewriters

raggedy ann


bathtub

shoe lasts

tiles

 

new skirt new clogs

lily and cattle race

all packed up

Well it’s been just over a year since we made Wombat Hill Farm, in the gorgeous Bega Valley, our permanent home.  And much to my daily delight and appreciation, it seems we are fitting right on in.

Surely, this is well helped by me taking up a new nursing position at a small hospice literally over the hill from us, where I help care for young people with profound disabilities who require round the clock nursing care.  It’s an amazing centre (and community resource!) staffed with lovely, caring, funny people who are passionate about providing the best environment for our community’s most vulnerable people.  I love every shift – after a few short months I am already filled with love for the people I care for, and many of my colleagues have quickly proved to be kindred spirits and become good friends.

Just last night, we had an absolute hoot of an evening.  As the afternoon mist closed in, and soft rain peppered the roof, we gathered all of our clients into the kitchen, popped The Sound of Music into the DVD player – followed by excerpts from The King and I, and My Fair Lady on youtube – and sang and waltzed away the night.  Our clients were beside themselves with laughter and excitement as we swung them round to the music, sang to them, acted out all our favourite bits …   It’s amazing how much more fun giving endless medication becomes when you pretend to be a puppet singing High on the Hill was a Lonely Goatherd!  Or how much more tolerable a hated nebuliser is when there’s a crazy waltzing nurse to keep your eyes glued to :-)  Without doubt, even though as the only RN I usually spend the entire shift on my feet, moving from one client to the next and back again, and sometimes it can be very emotionally draining, it’s the most delightful nursing role I’ve ever held.

But back to the fitting in bit :-) … Yesterday, Noah and I were driving home from Tilba – third village along where we’d gone to buy a pair of Naot clogs I’ve been coveting for weeks – when we noticed a “garage sale” sign stuck to a tree.  Mmmmmm!  Garage Sales in the country can be really really exciting – think generations worth of old farm and home goods dragged out of multiple sheds!  And Noah, being such a good sport, agreed it was definitely worth checking out.  So we turned off the beaten track and headed out across the hills and through the forest …

After a few kilometres, we realised we were almost certainly heading to a farm we’d already met last year when we were buying old windows to build a green house – yep, same place.  But this time, the neighbours had joined in and they were hosting a community garage sale.  Oh be still my racing heart!

We chatted with our “old friends” and caught up on all their news since last seeing them.  We made new friends – including Noah’s favourite four legged variety.  We found treasures that we were sure new friends would love, so quickly passed on the info of what and where so they could come out to the sale too. We listened to wonderful histories of the old buildings around us and the intrepid adventures of those that farmed these lands through the Great Depression.  And we heard tell of local happenings that we already knew of through my new job – I’d already shared cups of tea with the people involved, listened to their heart rending stories, and have made a start at contributing to the community that flourishes when people, that moment in time and unrelenting determination combine to create wonderful things out of hardship and sorrow.

And we came home with a few gems for Wombat Hill Farm too.  And I made a new skirt – really loving the incredible simplicity of stitching up a metre of cotton jersey into a tube, hemming it, adding an elasticised waist and popping the whole thing on and getting out the door in under half an hour.  True story!

Yep, we are definitely where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, and all the while surrounded by wonderful, interesting and quirky people and such beautiful, nourishing country.  For all of this, I’m so very very grateful.

patchwork

let’s start again!

swimming

on the rocks

in the shade

tea

noah

yellow door

lamb

house skirt

rabbit skirt

bridget

patchwork

juno

checked shirt

plums

pantry rearrange

at the beach

making baskets

little door

baby doll

rocky beach

rochet

luna lapin

crepe myrtle

quail eggs

fennel

Heeeelllloooo!

I am sitting here this morning, flicking about the internet – reading the news on several different sites, checking the rain forecast, looking at my favourite few blogs to see what they’re up to, checking to see what animals are for sale this morning (I’m addicted) – and it occured to me that I really really loved the old blogging days when I could spend a good hour reading wonderful stories from women around the world.  Reading about the projects that were occupying their hands, their dreams, sometimes their sadness, what their families were up to, the lifestyles they were patiently, passionately, creating … it was so incredibly inspiring, meaningful and just plain lovely.

These days, now here I am truly wasting time, flicking between news that is depressing and infuriating at the same time.  Fretting for rain – and investing an awful lot of emotional energy and time – instead of just accepting what will happen today, will happy.  Truly frittering away hours looking at animals that are lovely but that are hundreds of kilometres away and thus completely inaccessible.  And then feeling a little bit deflated when I check in on those old favourite blogs and there’s nothing new posted.

Hmmmm.  And what exactly am I doing here at  :: a Handmade Life :: ?  No chatting about the projects that are filling me with pleasure.  No sharing of my dreams and occasional calamities.  No stories of what we’ve been up to as a family – no recording of those lovely, simple, funny days that make me smile years later.  No excited retelling of the crazy, wonderful adventures we are having as we stumble along, building up our little farm and shape this new life of ours.

Yes.  That’s right.  I’m contributing to that deflating sense of “Oh I wish there was something else lovely to read.  I wish these people I have loved for so many years, were continuing to share the sparkles in their days.

So you know what?  I shall put my best foot forward today and once again, regularly share the things that make me smile (or grit my teeth) here at Wombat Hill farm.  Crafty stories where projects are not regularly finished, but hey there’s plenty of loveliness along the way.  Ponderings from the kitchen where sometimes I’m able to produce something yummy and healthy!  Tales from the fields around us as we work so hard fencing, building animal houses, planting trees, proving I am indeed useless in the garden, and spending wonderful hours with the amazing critters that share our land.  And sometimes, little laments as things don’t work out, things overwhelm, or things are plain annoying.  All of life in it’s glorious ordinary mess.

And just in case you’re rolling your eyes … I don’t think my life is anything spectacular.  My home is often messy, regularly dusty and not much matches anything else.  But to us, it’s cosy, comforting, and colourful, with every corner filled with that which illuminates what’s important to us and how we love to spend our time.  That to me, is what a home should be.  I’m rounder than ever so there won’t be any floaty, dreamy clothing on display.  Just lots of colour and pattern, things that are easy to make and comfy to wear, things that say “yep, that’s lily!”  My quilts won’t be any show stoppers.  They will be pieced with an eye to pleasure – rather than perfection, what’s rocking my boat this week – rather than what technique everybody is obsessed with at the moment, and they will all be quilted onto those gorgeous vintage pure wool blankets I can’t stop buying ’cause I know one day they will run out.  My knitting will be cheerful but probably a bit wonky.  My embroidery probably never finished but delightedly started.  My animals are adored and cared for to the best of our ability but sometimes we will make mistakes and things will resemble more Mr. Bean’s adventures than River Cottage.  And my garden – I wonder whether it will ever get going or I’ll ever know what I’m doing, and I shall probably buy my veg from the shops for the rest of my days!

But.  If that kind of ordinariness appeals to you and you would like to read something chatty and silly but from the heart that makes you hopefully smile during your day, or be inspired to run over to the sewing machine and get stuck into some wonderful creativity, or just something to flick over to because that news is so bloody awful … well then, let’s try again!

Welcome back to  :: a Handmade Life ::

pinning it on

whilst the cake baked

original label

batter

fabric choices

cutting

hemming

ironing the pockets

pinning it on

skirt

from corner

closeup

pansy

1 slice left

chickens pottering

moon rising

on the way home

sun setting

 

I love skirts.  Long, full, gathered, brightly coloured and richly patterned skirts have been my favourite thing to wear for many years.  I love the traditional skirts of many parts of Europe with their richly embroidered details and cheerful sprigged florals.  I love the full skirts of 19th century dresses.  I love the batik wrap around skirts of the 1970s. I love tiered skirts with their crazy mixing of colour and pattern.

Since I realised all I had to do was buy twice the length I wanted, chop it in half, whip up two side seams (if you leave the selvedge attached you don’t even need to zigzag anything) add an elasticised waist and hem and voila!  I was ready to step out, I have filled my wardrobe with skirts in whatever fabric took my fancy.

Then, of course, there’s the amazing potential for extra detail – contrasting hems, rickrack edges, chicken scratch embroidery, rows and rows of ribbon, mix and match panels – so good!  The more time on my hands, the more loveliness I can add (remember, I’ve never embraced the less is more philosophy!)

For the last 18 years I have teamed my skirts with reasonably fitted tshirts that neatly covered my quick to sew elasticised waist – I confess, I have been victim to the notion that I couldn’t add a full blouse that needed tucking in to an elasticised waistband because I would look like a trussed up bag of potatoes.  But now, with the wonderful liberation that comes with age and ever growing confidence, as well as lovely inspiration from around the webby world (the styles of the gorgeous and creative Phoebe Wahl and Ms. Partshade-Fullsun have been very encouraging!) I now know I can add whatever I like to my gathered skirts!  And this winter I have been doing so with gusto.

I’ve added big colourful patch pockets – absolutely awesome for gathering eggs and seashells and carrying whatever tools around the place I might need – and wide fabric belts to my repertoire and many mornings lately, my routine includes, let out and feed the poultry, gather the eggs, feed and chat with the sheep, then plunder my fabric boxes in the shed and come back with armfuls of potential.  Then, I sit here in my jammies and whip up a new skirt and possibly belt, and by 10am I’m newly dressed – shirts tucked in! – and ready for another good day.

Of course, I do like to squish in as many things as possible, so I often put on supper, or mix up a cake to bake, or put on the washing whilst I’m sewing and this here skirt and cake are the products of just that.  There were Plymouth Rock chickens to collect from Wyndham and quilting for mum on the agenda so I was up early, my fabrics already picked out, sewing and baking – a Jamie Oliver recipe – Sweet Potato and Apricot loaf – and on the road by 10:30.  And it was indeed a good day.  There was great company along each step of the way, quilting was finished, cake enjoyed, four beautiful chickens brought home, a gorgeous sunset to stop and admire … and a beautiful skirt stitched up from vintage opshop fabric teamed with an opshop shirt and velvet belt that fulfils the Kate Bush in me!    Pretty much everything one could hope for in a day :-)

And this practice of skirt making connects with so many of the ideas I hold as not only important but essential to a life well lived. I refuse to be told by merciless, environment and community exploitative, greedy big businesses what the current “must-haves” are.  I refuse to conform to what our mainstream society declares is attractive or beautiful at this one point in time.  I refuse to treat my clothes as disposable items that are only good for a year or two before being discarded.  I refuse to play that game where an item of clothing that was adored one year is expected to be laughed at and scorned a couple of years later.  And I utterly refuse to walk around looking clone-like.

Every day when I wake up I want to be a creative participant in life – not a passive consumer. I want to make what I can, using what I have or what I find.  I want my clothes – let alone my home and activities – to be symbols of who I am and what I love.  I want to tread gently on this earth but also embrace and celebrate the joy and satisfaction humans have gained for thousands of years from adorning themselves with loveliness.

I read in a recent memoir, by a woman who survived the Holocaust, that being able to dress herself in proper clothes and put on lipstick made her and her fellow survivors feel like real people again. Being stripped of her clothes, having her head shaved and being forced to dress in filthy rags by the Nazis stripped her of any sense of being a human and part of this world.  Being able to choose how to dress herself again helped her feel like a valuable human being with inherent dignity once more.

Now I’m not comparing my incredibly privileged skirt making to this woman’s experience.  But reading her words strengthened my belief that to dress up – to gather what we love, hold is pretty, and adorn ourselves with it is such a natural and positive thing to do.  And as such, I know it’s time to reclaim our clothes and the pleasure we receive from dressing ourselves from the ugly, exploitative, disposable industry that has become the world of fashion.

Make and wear what you love!  Make and wear what makes you feel good and comfortable!  Make and wear what says “This is me!!!!!”  Step away from the dreary blacks and greys that the clone producing businesses tell us we should wear – let me tell you how many birds flaunt their stuff with black and grey – NONE! – and embrace the energising and cheerful beauty of colour and pattern! And look after it and wear it for as many years or decades as you like and when you no longer want to wear it, add it back into your fabric pile and smile when it pops up in a quilt, or a curtain trimming, or a sweet pair of shorts or dress for little ones.  Or wash it, neatly fold it, and send it off to the oppie where someone like me – or the fabulously stylish and creative folk of Freetown – will pounce upon it with delight and give it another whole new life.

You’ll love it … and our earth will thank you!