at the chook house

as i wait

plain doily

sewing the basket

high tech sewing tool

starting the stitches

finished and filled

knotted and looped handles

D72_5598

wolfgangs feather

aamzing sky

moon

watching her reflection

still stitching

the wrap

constant companions

full length

walking with basket

with basket

at the chook house

1 egg

January tumbled about with chaos and excitement as we moved and set up our new home.  The days began early, ended late, and every night when we fell into bed, our little esky-cottage looked more and more like “our place”.

February sizzled with unrelenting heat, and new routines and responsibilities that were both fabulous and baffling – you will truly laugh at this, but I honestly thought “drenching” must have involved showering goats from head to hoof :-0 Frankly, that would be easier than trying to squirt worming medication down their frantically jerking throats!

March dipped up and down with moments of such pleasure and more of overwhelming angst. Ah March you seemed such hard work at the time.  And yet, just last night, I watched the film “Defiance” and thought about the atrociously awful things people not only endure but survive then go on to create new lives of meaning and love (this is not to diminish the terrible long term effects such trauma can imprint on people).  It was a very humbling reminder of the privilege we live with in this time and place.  And how perhaps, when life is physically so very easy, I spend far too much time wandering about in my mind.  I don’t have any answers or conclusions.  I’m just very thankful to be here right now and the recipient of much love and good care.

April brought  much needed calm.  Our home was comfortable.  Our animals were settled.  Our routines were both simple and delightful.

Throughout all of this, the mere thought of working outside of our home as a nurse was way too much!  At first, I scanned the job advertisements every week, hopeful I would find the perfect fit.  By March I no longer looked because I didn’t want to find a job I’d feel obliged to apply for.

When I was finally ready to call the person responsible for bank nursing – a casual position where I can pick up the shifts which suit me seems like the ideal compromise at the moment – in April, it just so happened they were interviewing that week!  Noah and I headed straight for town.  Noah printed out my resume and application at the local copy store whilst I tried on interview outfits, with Noah arriving just in time to give the final thumbs up.  The interview went well.

One question asked how I would care for an elderly patient with end stage lung cancer, who had been transferred from a nursing home to hospital with a chest infection and decreasing mobility.  It was incredibly satisfying to think about how best to meet this character’s needs.  I thought of all the very similar patients I met and assessed in the cubicles of the Emergency Department, and the big and little questions I had to find answers too, all the while making the patients feel as safe and comfortable as possible.  Then of all the patients I nursed upstairs in the wards, their failing bodies, their spirits almost always endearing (sometimes bitter), and their hourly needs.  If the interview panel had demanded, I would have cheerfully written them a paper on the topic.  It felt so good thinking like a nurse again.

Since then, there has been an enormous amount of slow moving paperwork to complete and submit.  Along with blood tests for immunisation levels, immunisations themselves (I think my immune system is incapable of generating antibodies to HepB), police checks, working with children checks … Hopefully it is all done now and I’ll hear next week what the next step is.

And now it is May.  Almost half way through the year.  In just over a month, we will be celebrating the Winter Solstice and feeling all excited as the days begin once more to lengthen.  Oh my.

While the time speeds by and the job application plods along, I’m finding plenty of opportunity for all sorts of little crafty projects.  I’m painting, and knitting, and crocheting, and embroidering, and sewing .. frankly it’s beginning to feel a bit frivolous at times! But I’m making the most of the opportunity to trawl through all the fabric boxes that are sitting in the shed, finding just started projects along with those that only need an hours or so work before they are done and ready!

This week, I pulled out a lovely linen/cotton blend wrap around skirt I started almost 2 years back.  I remember really loving working on it – especially the pockets – they were so satisfying.  But then, just before adding the waistband, I tried it on and it was too big.  Sigh.  So it was shoved to the back of the pile.  Now – being a bit larger then I was then – it only needed the seams widened before it fitted just fine ;-) Then – on with the waistband – which was a bit tricky because I couldn’t find the directions – only the pieces – so had to bumble along best as I could.  After a couple of false starts it worked.

Then – well you know me – more is always more.  So I whacked on a lovely big hand crocheted doily that I recently bought from the oppie for just $1 and sat down for a day’s embroidery.  It was one of those projects that was a delight to start and then hours and hours of increasingly tedious repetition.  However, I was determined this skirt was NOT going back into the never never pile, so on I plodded.  Oh I’m so glad I did!  It’s exactly me :-)

And I whipped up another basket – one for egg collecting.  Tried the coloured stitching again – I definitely like it with just one colour but this one has a few too many stops and starts for my finicky eyes.  I added some rickrack – which I will never do again – it is soooooooo difficult – a looped handle which I adore – and a little appliqued and cross stitched egg.  Because why not?!  I have plenty of time at the moment!

Julian had asked for the egg basket – and he requested some kind of lining that the eggs would nestle into and reduce the chance of breaking.  I thought about it for a while before realising that STRAW was the perfect solution.  That’s what the chickens and ducks use – and when it gets a bit manky, I can tip it into the compost and add a fresh layer.

I have to confess, when I looked at these photos, it did remind me somewhat of Marie Antoinette dressing up to play shepherdess in the beautiful little “farm” her servants built for her to play in.  Hmmmm …. then I remembered all the time I have up my sleeve and reasoned why shouldn’t the egg basket be lovely!  As long as it is functional, it can be as sweet as I like – and Julian thinks it’s highly useful so there!

Now – well the day is cool and grey, the chores are done, the last of the paperwork has been emailed … there’s plenty of knitting to finish and what’s that? I think I hear some patchwork calling!

 

the little farmer

where it starts

chickpeas

starting to look like a farmer

embroidered face

handsewing

layering her shawls

penny

noah

simple arms

a little hand knit

on with her arms

blanket stitched and scalloped

all rugged up and ready for work

side portrait

side landscape

aprong and log

closeup of face

collected the goats

fed the chickens

herded the ducks

fed the guineas

picked a flower

checked the hamburgs

on the porch

Julian’s away again this week – workshops in Melbourne.  He misses home so much when he has to work away – and we miss him! He rings throughout the day wanting to know how we’re doing, what the animals are up to, to tell us of cool things he’s thought of trying …

But when he leaves, and I give him a hug and kiss and wish him safe travels, he always says “Oh you’ll be glad I’m away!  You won’t do any “farming” – you’ll just spend the week making stuff and having a lovely time!”  Ha!

See, Julian’s version of “farming” is creating new things, breaking new soil, surveying new corners of the property, and planning what to do with them  … I’m more into the maintenance of what we have.  On his days off he says “What are we doing today?” And if I answer “Oh you know, feeding the animals, weeding the silverbeet, painting the pumpkin theatre (simply a posh Victorian – as in the era – name for outdoor display shelves – usually of auriculas – I reckon I could have pumpkins!), picking up some more straw and feed.  With a bit of knitting, bit of cooking, bit of housework.  The usual stuff.”, he retorts “That’s not real “farming”!  What are we MAKING!?  What are we ADDING!?”

This man has a dream and he relishes every moment he gets to bring it to reality.  Lovely really.  But I’m a bit useless with a shovel, chainsaw, or angle grinder.  And I sure can’t carry hardwood pallets, or lift the chicken house to adjust the door catches.

So yes.  When he’s away, Noah and I busy about each morning, caring for all the feathered and furry critters, getting all the chores done, tidying up our little home and porch … and then :-) Why there’s definitely time for making.  And we LOVE making. Truly adore it.  Especially together, for long afternoons at a table covered in lovely supplies, sharing ideas, tips and techniques, uhming and ahhing over each other’s work, and the inspiration or patterns we find.  It’s our idea of bliss.

Noah’s creativity usually centres around the stories he writes or reads.  He is the king of doll making and loves to design and make the most detailed little dolls of his original characters or favourite story characters.  But at the moment, he’s on a bit of a crochet kick and is currently crocheting lalylala’s exquisite Mermaid Doll for me for Mother’s Day!

Me – often I’m making homely things or clothes, or working on furniture.  But I am also perfectly happy to devote a day to something completely frivolous :-)  It’s lovely just to play – to add fabric and embroidery to knitting and crochet and just make something that has no other purpose other than to be incredibly satisfying to do and pretty to look at.

I find Pinterest to be an amazing source of inspiration .  And I’m equally amazed to say that if you check my Pinterest site, you’ll discover I have 79 boards and over 4 and a half thousand pins.  Oh dear – that suggests I’ve probably spent too many delightful hours poring over the beauty and imagination to be found there.

Recently, I’ve discovered the exquisite work of Yana Volkova.  She’s an incredibly talented Russian artist and doll maker – this is the first of her dolls I found – and now I’m besotted with these beautifully simple, layered, traditional Russian rag dolls.  If you check out my Doll board on my Pinterest site you’ll see a heap more.

The little farmer I stitched today has not captured their simplicity.  I only have patchwork fabric on hand (everything else is packed away in boxes still).  And I embroidered her a face.  Noah read that traditionally they don’t have faces so that evil spirits may not possess them.  But I quite like naively embroidered faces – and I especially love this doll! – so I added one – I’m incapable of the less is more philosopy.

And when I look at pictures of Russian women in traditional dress their attire is fabulously intricate, colourful and almost stiff with gorgeous, rich embroidery.  So my little farmer is like a cross between the two.  She has a lovely stout shapelessness (I can relate to that!) with the simple gathered fabric arms and layered clothes of her traditional rag cousins.  But with a whole heap of exotic colour and pattern.  I knitted her a wee shawl for her shoulders and added a scalloped crochet border to her huge head scarf.  I like her – a lot!

But I want to try again – next time I want to crochet the body – I find it really hard to get the shape I want in a doll with fabric – much easier with crochet.  But I’ll still wrap a layer of hessian over her head – that homeliness is essential.  I want to make her body longer and her head a bit smaller, and layer the apron bits more rather than the western styled gathered apron my little farmer has.  And I need to find some simpler fabrics that I can embellish rather than go for the patchwork look.

However, I think the little farmer is a sweetie.  And she certainly knows her way around a farm.  She collected wood for the stove, brought in the goats, settled the chickens, herded the ducks, fed the guinea pigs – she even gathered flowers.  And she made us smile.

Tomorrow – I want to make her a baby – in a sling on her back.  I think she’ll enjoy that.  Check out this mama and her bubbies – divine!

Yes, I confess, I’m much more comfortable creating with fabric and yarn than I am with excruciatingly heavy pallets and uncooperative chicken wire.  And I’m very grateful for the gift of an afternoon with nothing else to do but make.

Maybe I’ll make Julian a boy farmer doll.  They can be our farming guardians :-)

 

an unexpected love of rope & baskets

crochet basket

D72_4180

julians basket

ostheimer basket

stripey

knot

scrap basket

next to tv

close up rickrack

adding colour

the loopy mat

beeswax wraps basket

fork hook

detail in yellow

basket with flowers

kitchenaid basket

noahs basket

drawstring top

paint basket

I’ve always loved baskets – from the hard bottomed baskets of my childhood with their colourful pieces of narrow plastic piping intertwined, to the soft seagrass baskets of the mid 1980s with their long leather straps, and now the bolga baskets with their stripes and malleable sides.

I still have the sewing basket my Nanny Dougall gave me when I was little – and have since collected a few more of these sweet work baskets – and we have the heavy, salt encrusted fisherman’s basket my Poppy hung about his waist when he was surf fishing.

We have baskets full of wool, fabric, toys, musical instruments, jumpers, baby clothes, computer parts, board games, Sylvanian critters, dolls house furniture.  I take baskets shopping, to the beach, to work, when we go visiting, on picnics – I even used them when we were moving, filling them up with last minute things I thought would be useful to have on hand and squashing them into the corners of the car each time we drove up to the farm.  Yep, we love baskets.  They fulfil that wonderful criteria of being both beautiful and so very useful.

But when I first saw the rope baskets people were making early in 2015, I have to say I wasn’t tempted.  I couldn’t quite see how it would work.  I thought any I made would wind up looking wonky with uneven stitching.  And even more, I didn’t want to end up with a home filled with cream rope coloured baskets that looked exactly like those being made by everyone else.  Baskets that in a few years, we would say “Oh my goodness, remember when these bloody rope baskets were “the thing” – what on earth possessed me!”

Then, there I was at Bunnings one Saturday afternoon with Julian – he was probably looking at tools and screws and things – and I found myself in the rope aisle contemplating the choices.  I wanted to crochet a large cotton doily styled wall hanging out of narrow rope – and there was a lovely natural coloured cotton rope available in big balls – perfect.  And there were also bundles of sash window cord in different widths.  Now all the rope baskets I’d seen made in the US were made from clothesline cord but we didn’t seem to have anything like that.  Maybe it’s Australia’s passion for the Hills Hoist – or our wicked climate – but most people here have clotheslines made from fine metal cord or plastic coated metal.  But sash window cord – it was cotton, sturdy and a lovely natural colour.  Could be good.

Home I went with my packet and after several false starts, I finally got the hang of it … and it was deliciously satisfying :-)  I wanted more!  Everybody at home liked them and wanted one for this, that and the other, so Julian went out and bought me a whole SPOOL of cord – it has several hundred metres on it – and oh what fun I’ve had with this!

Every time I think “we need to keep this in something so it’s easy to find and grab”, I drag out the spool of sash cord and off I go.  And the most satisfying bit about it – I have endeavoured to never make the same basket twice.

I’ve woven fabric scraps around my cord as I sew making gentle bursts of colour.  I’ve folded wider scraps in and out and in and out as I sew round and round – creating colourful columns.  I’ve painstakingly sewed in rickrack to the top edge – my goodness, that took forever. I’ve added fabric yoyos, felt embellishments, vintage buttons, and even a cut down pair of wooden knitting needles .

After many months, I finally plucked up the courage to use coloured thread – and whilst I’m not a 100% sold on the look of the multicoloured thread on the basket I whipped up last week for my paints, I adore the soft variegated lemons on the basket I made for our beeswax wraps.

I’ve left gaps for yarn to be pulled through. I’ve wound lots of ends into snails and secured them with perle thread. I’ve added loopy crowns to the top, long handles, short handles, and knotted handles.  I’ve even made a large flat table mat with strips of coloured fabric – and then a round of loopy gaps before returning to solid rounds – it is divine and probably my favourite one so far – but it went to Queensland as a birthday present.

I’ve sewed small ones, big ones, straight sides, sides that grow, big bottoms, small bottoms, shallow sides and deep sides.

A couple of weeks back, I laboured over the most detailed one.  A craft basket for Noah to take with him on his journeys – a nice big one with a flat bottom, deep sides and … a fabric top that is gathered up with a proper drawstring so that everything inside can be kept nice and safe but efficiently accessed whilst en route, and a knotted handle for carrying.  He adores it – filled it instantly and has been using it constantly ever since.  All his wonderful felt and embroidery supplies are neatly stored away for his exquisite dolls and embroidered artwork.  Just the kind of thing a crafty mama loves to make :-)

Truly, these rope baskets that are finding their way into all the corners of our home and daily life are wonderful.  Sometimes I think they are even better than all the rest – because they are made by my hands, with my imagination and love, for my family and our home.

And there’s almost nothing better than that.

starting

round

bigger

measuring

basket sewing

adding rickrac

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.