the unexpected quilt with a square

so many threads

There’s been a bit of quilting this past weekend.  Perfect weather for it – grey, gusty and wet – we even had early morning thunder and hail!  And this here quilt needed to be finished.  It has been sitting on the sewing machine, needle in the down position, since I fell over at work 3? 4? weeks ago.  You see, I hurt my hand – a graze that took an age to heal and a strained wrist – all that 45 year old weight landing on one little joint and all.

Ahhhh … as my Nanny says, “You always were awkward Lily!” But back to the quilt …

square testing

T’was a completely unexpected quilt.  I went to Spotlight with a loyalty card that said 40% off if you finish the bolt.  I was pretty excited.  There were several delightful ranges that I’d been eyeing off and I figured this was too good a bargain to pass by.  Alas – I was one day late.  My card had expired.  I was a little peeved and there was definitely some seething as I stomped away from the counter.

But then, I spied my favourite Reprodepot red floral on the $8 table so I figured I’d grab all that was left.  Sadly it wasn’t that much.  That morning I’d also seen an instagram from the lovely Kristin Shields of a little dolls quilt she’d seen in an exhibition.  It had a small repeating square off centre in a sea of background.

Edited to add: Thank you Kristin for directing me to the marvellous original – here’s the link – it’s by the wonderful quilt maker Chawne Kimber!  You must visit her site – her work is very inspiring.  And you’ll see that whilst I’ve totally taken her idea of the little repeating square within a sea of background, mine lacks her energy and movement – she has a wonderful way with colour, complete mastery of modern patchwork and beautiful quilting – her concentric circles are to swoon over :-)

That would be a good use of the red Repro fabric – I just needed some contrasts for the square.  So feeling stingy but determined to walk away with a goodly stash of spoils/fabric, I picked out some blues, yellows and a white.

with bits

Once home, it was quickly obvious, my Repro would not stretch to the square as well.  Never mind – Kaffe is here!  Everything always looks marvellous with a bit of Kaffe :-) Yes? Of course yes!

tried it lengthways

Then it was one to fiddling around with my square.  It wound up MUCH bigger than in the sweet little quilt Kristin had shared.  Hmmm … so having it completely off centre just looked wanky.  It seemed my square would live at the bottom of a long quilt.

quilting the lines

love the lines

the binding

Until I brought it out into this morning’s glorious autumn sunshine and realised – it wants to be a sideways quilt!


Oh yes!

squiggly wiggly

the square

more of those lines

sideways at square

I quilted the red floral with my standard squiggly wiggly.  But the square I quilted with closely spaced straight lines.  I didn’t measure them – just by sight – and some are a little off.  I unpicked the ones that truly offended, but the ones that are left, I’m happy with.  Someone once told me there were no perfectly straight lines in nature – so that’s my mantra :-)   

gently blowing

squiggly wiggly from the back

And of course, it’s quilted onto a beautiful butterscotch coloured, pure wool, vintage Laconia blanket. So toasty warm.

still a lot of threads

As you can see, I’ve not yet finished sewing in all the threads :-0  I counted them last night – with all those start and stop lines and the natural running out of the bobbin during the squiggly wiggly – there are at least 350 ends.  Hmmmm … they can be done whilst I’m snuggled under it – the cold weather will be around for several months – should be enough time!

better corner
on the bed

Ah yes.  An unexpected quilt with a square.  Totally unnecessary.  There are so many more tucked into every corner of Bootville that need finishing and quilting.  But hey.  Colour just makes me swoon.  And red?  Well that’s even better.


everyday eden :: a quilt


So, as expected, this nursing gig is taking up vast amounts of my time and energy.  Even when I’m not at the hospital, I find myself thinking about it regularly – especially how I could be doing better and hoping I survive the year!

a start

I’ve definitely landed in an incredibly high acuity facility which can sometimes make for very demanding shifts – when I fret about these Julian says “Just remember, next year when a patient like that arrives you’ll be saying – you’re THAT unwell – off to Canberra or Sydney with you!”

on the ironing board

But there is certainly still a lot of creating going on here in Bootville – more than ever, it’s what keeps me sane – allows my mind to unravel and soon after I sit down to needles and thread, fabric and wool, I am once more in a state of cheerful, imaginative peace.

pinned and ready

This little quilt – a single bed size – which I finished a couple of weeks back – makes me especially happy.

soaking up some afternoon sun

Not only are the delicious warm colours my favourite – but the gorgeous centrepiece of each block is a fabric called “Everyday Eden”!  How apt is that!

tousled in the sun

Eden is the little fishing village perched at the southern end of the Bega Valley.  When we drive east from Melbourne, we trundle across hundreds of kilometres of Victoria and then, soon after finally crossing the NSW / Victoria border, we hit Eden – the southern most village on Australia’s East Coast – and we know we’re back to our beloved Pacific Ocean and almost home to Mum’s.


It was such fun hunting through the stash, looking for just the right fabrics for the strips of this almost log cabin.

on with the binding

Of course there’s Kaffe – I firmly believe EVERY quilt looks good with some Kaffe – and lots from a lovely bundle I so generously received over Christmas from the Aussie Christmas Quilt swap!

on the line

Then onto a lovely cosy thrifted wool blanket.  No squiggly wiggly for this one – instead, in the centre of each block I quilted one large concentric, wobbly flower.

backing blanket

The borders were so narrow – such a 70s fabric – organic cotton with yellow and orange guitars – they didn’t need any quilting.

sunny house

joyful girl

headless but in love

flower girl

cheerful friends

groovy guy

Mmmm … look at these groovy folk – don’t they look as though living in Eden is pure bliss!  It’s a sign!

border and binding

hanging up

At the moment, this sweet quilt is laying on the spare ‘oom bed.  But – if all goes to plan, and our fingers are STILL crossed – we will need many quilts to line the walls of our next abode – a temporary one whilst we build our strawbale home – so I reckon the more the merrier!

blanket magic

We will also need plenty on the beds – yes, there will definitely be a time in the next couple of years when all my quilts may even become Julian’s best friends :-)

speckled with shadeAh colourful quilts – you do make me so happy.


the Roslyn quilt


Ages back when my quilting machine was on the blink, I went through a phase of tying my quilts.  This coincided with a period of feeling rather overwhelmed by machine quilting.  Nothing I attempted ever looked good enough to my super critical eye.

I decided – with a humph! – that I would tie everything with perle cotton.  A sure fire way to turn the mounting pile of finished patchwork tops into cosy quilts for our laps and beds. However, I also remember writing that one of this method’s benefits was that later, should I want to – or should my confidence with the machine increase – the little cotton knots could act as basting and I’d be able to machine quilt the piece, pulling out the ties as I went.

Well, guess what!  That’s exactly how it worked :-)  This here little quilt – made from charm squares my Mum bought home from her last trip to Canada – was tied a couple of years back and popped onto the back of our sofa.  Its lovely woollen blanket backing cosied our laps and its very cheerful colours warmed our shadowy living room.  But there was something extra special about this quilt.

Its blanket backing is a New Zealand Roslyn Health blanket – you can read all about it here – woven literally down the road from one of my sweet Aunties.   She needed a special quilt this year – or last year now, I should say – so it seemed very appropriate that I share this little one with her.  I gave it a gentle wash and set to requilting it – with my funny flowers and swirls – just in time to send it home to her for Christmas, with my uncle who was in town for a conference.

She just loves it – especially the provenance of the blanket – and they were going to take a drive to see if they could work out where the Roslyn Woollen Mills once stood.  Isn’t it amazing that such a vast establishment, one that made the most of all the beautiful wool produced by New Zealand and its many sheep (they even wove woollen bathing suits!), one that employed so many hundreds of people, one that then shipped their lovely products all around the world, could then be quietly subsumed by a growing town, and one day not be there at all.  My Aunt and Uncle, who have lived in Dunedin for many years, did not even know of its existence.

the label

the back

close up of quilting

After thinking about this requilting for most of the year, it had to be done lickety-split in the week after finishing the teacher’s Christmas presents and sending Mum off to Canada – and us preparing to travel up to Merimbula for Christmas.  A bit of a rush to be sure.  And the weather wasn’t at all compliant – lots of rain and grey days – so there was a last minute, frantic gentle pressing with a warm iron to remove the last vestiges of damp! Ah well, we got there in the end.

I’m very pleased with my little flower trees, but my border quilting still needs a quite a bit of refining.  I think I’m pedalling too fast which means there are a lot of “whoops!” and “oh dear” and “bugger, that wasn’t where I meant to go”.  Practice, practice, practice, hey?!

so windy

left hand side


closeup of yellow

So now this sunny little quilted blanket has journeyed all the way back to the small town on the chilly southern coast of New Zealand where it was originally woven many many decades ago.  It lives folded neatly on the back of my Aunt’s sofa and she’s already sent photos of it being put to good use on their regular chilly nights, draped about her knees as she sits before her fire, planning her beautiful garden beds.

Such a lovely adventure for one little quilt.


better than malted milk :: a cross stitched chair


I had a wee bit of the glums today.  It happens.  Usually a week or so before my period.  Must be a huge hormonal swing of some sort.  I feel it creeping up, find myself feeling very sad, wonder why life is so hard, then remember to tell myself … ah, you feel glum because it’s just that time of the month.  So I stood in the pantry doorway and ate malted milk powder from the jar.  It didn’t really help.  And it made my mouth gummy and I choked a bit and had to dash down a glass of water.

Much better to text Julian in Las Vegas so he knows you feel glum and will call (which he did, straight away, he’s lovely like that).  Then find something simple to do that will let you just be with the feeling but also allow you to find some sweetness. Tried and true recipe for beating the glums.

So today, I vacuumed.  It wasn’t especially sweet, but it did make me feel virtuous – I loathe vacuuming – actually, I loathe all housework.  This allowed me to look at the bathroom with a critical eye – the bath tub had the blue bentwood chair and the clothes hamper sitting in it.  Not exactly conducive to bathing.  So I pulled it all out and cleaned the bath.  Again – big ticks on the virtuous scale – I loathe cleaning the bathroom.

Then I had the blue chair to do something with.  And as I looked at that lovely blue rattan … I thought of something I’d seen on Pinterest!  Check it out … cute as! Simple.  And something that would definitely provide a bit of sweetness :-)
book and fabric

So I got out some red gingham … I bought this gingham at the Vinnies in Bega on our spring break.  It was 5 metres for $3.  Only it was half price day.  So I got 5 metres for $1.50!  I made a skirt with a floral reprodepot trim, now I’ve cross stitched a chair, and I still have heaps left!  That’s a sweet bargain.

And I flipped through one of my all time favourite cross stitch books for a pretty pattern that had just the right number of stitches – couldn’t be more than 24 squares.

the pattern

Perfect!  And making this snowflake on that beautiful blue with the red and white gingham would look very Nordic.  Sweet and perfect!

the strips

I cut (hacked) my strips (just with the scissors) 3 squares wide.  Man do I love fabric that comes with self cutting lines.


Settled onto the hallway floor with my sweet companion.  The only thing she won’t do with me is vacuum.  She’s a sensible dog.


And set to work.  As more and more of the pattern appeared, I felt those glums subsiding.  I felt stronger, more cheerful … content.  Especially when Abby came home.  There’s nothing like the lovely company of my Abby, Julian, or Mum to shove those glums away.


And in less than 2 hours … voila!  I must add … this is a hard rubbish chair.  Picked up from the footpath on the Nepean Highway on our way to Southlands one day.  It has a pair – the pair doesn’t have a seat.  I’m now inspired to finally buy that rattan and fix it just so’s I can cross stitch it!

Can you imagine a farm house kitchen with these lovely bentwood chairs in all different colours pushed in around a scrubbed table, all with red gingham cross stitch?  Oh I can.  It will be an immensely popular photo on Pinterest (hee! hee! hee!) And the best bit is – I see these chairs on the side of the road regularly – yes!


closeup back


Sigh …. look at that nubbly texture … so pretty.  And I love how, with a wee bit of distance, the gingham makes it look like wonderfully thread variegated yarn.

sideon back

And the  colours …. swoon!

side on

Yes, a quick bit of gingham cross stitch was a lovely balm on what was shaping up to be a pretty flat day.  And for that I am very grateful.


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


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  …


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 :-)


quilting the teacloths


Some tea cloths are just too pretty to subject to the washing up and scrunched up to lift hot cast iron pans – which often leads me to thinking about what nice wall hangings they would make – and yet, I rarely get around to it.


Until recently, when I tidied up all the fabric that was shoved in around our little indoor craft table and found this sweet cloth.  I bought it with Mum when we made our epic 3 day drive to Brisbane at the beginning of the year.  We’d deliberately gone well out of our way to visit this little village in the Southern Highlands which had an amazing antique store.  Only when we finally got there – our pennies burning their way through our purses – the store had closed two years earlier after its owners had died.  So sad! We found this out at the Alpaca store – where we also found these lovely tea cloths by the very talented Australian artist – Red Tractor Designs.  I adore her work because it IS so very Australian.  Every piece I see brings a smile of recognition to my face – I can imagine the sun, the smells, the warmth …

I bought this one because it made me think of the future Julian and I are planning – see there’s me off to the left planting some seeds and Julian doing important digging on the right :-)

future lily

future jules

– and Mum bought another lovely one for dear old Nanny.  You can check out more of Rachael Flynn’s wonderful work here. Her Christmas cards are especially lovely – no snowmen or ice skaters in sight! – a girl after my own Australian heart.

cocoa lorax

The bright squares of colour against the black makes me think of licorice allsorts – another sentimental reminder of my childhood.  And the brown – why it’s that Lorax again (I bought metres and metres of him at Darn Cheap one day – I daresay he will keep popping up in things) – ’cause he’s the best gardener of all.

pocket for hangin

On the back there’s a wee pocket for hanging and lots of squiggles … I tried out a few new wobby quilting strategies on this.  Tried quilting round the loraxs – didn’t really work so well.  And made little loopy circles in the licorice allsorts squares.  They worked better and are definitely something I will keep practising. Oh and there’s a pocket at the bottom as well – I’m going to put another wooden rod in there and hopefully it will help it hanging straighter against the wall.

lots of squiggles

first line

second line

And where’s it hanging now?  In the funniest little nook we have between the kitchen and the toilet.  That’s right – our only toilet is off the kitchen.  Let me tell you how much guests enjoy using our toilet when we’re all gathered in the kitchen ;-)  Funny story – sorry if I’ve already shared this – but Abby and I found our sweet little house during a hectic week in October the year before we moved.  It was quite the adventure, finding properties online whilst in the hotel room in the city, then catching trams and trains and walking for miles everywhere to see them.  Was particularly galling to spend 2 hours travelling to view a house that was hideously unsuitable and totally misrepresented online.

Anyways – we found our little house and snapped it up on the spot – without Julian.  He said he trusted us.  Only when he arrived weeks later with the furniture, he called – part bemused, part frantic – because according to him, Abby and I had rented a house with NO TOILET.

Now when he first said this, given all the appalling properties we had viewed, it didn’t seem completely implausible and I burst into tears.  “Oh no!” I shrieked, “how could it have no toilet.  Surely they couldn’t rent a house with no toilet!”  Thankfully, Julian kept wandering through the house and finally exclaimed with relief “Found it!  It’s right out in the back corner – through a funny little door off the kitchen!” Phew!

tucked in its corner

And where the quilt is hanging – that was a locked screen door into the back garden with no other means of closing it.  Let me tell you how cold that was!  Made you think twice about going to the toilet on a cold night.  It didn’t take long before we whacked up a protective piece of MDF.


So now, on the way to our funny toilet, you’ll see this pretty quilt and hopefully think of nice things – instead of the fact that everyone in the kitchen will hear you pee.



do you remember the old dresser?

attach to shelf edge with tacks

Do you remember the old dresser that Mum and I wheeled/dragged 2km home last year?  Oh my goodness that was so funny!  Every time Mum and I drive past the house we collected it from (well, their footpath) I have a giggle and think of it. It may well be our most intrepid hard rubbish adventure ever.

Well, a lovely reader asked me recently what became of it.  And I realised I didn’t ever share the restoration of the dresser with you.  Probably because it has not currently reached a finish I am totally pleased with.  I spent a few days scrubbing it back til the wood was smooth and clean.  I oiled it with Danish Oil and then, with Abby’s help, lugged it into the Spare ‘Oom.  Yes, we do live in the Tardis.

But it didn’t have any doors on the lower half.  They’d been removed by a previous owner for goodness only knows what reason (actually, I DO know just the reason – I’ve removed many doors so as to make for easier restoration and then left them gathering dust, propped up in the corner of the shed, before I finally become fed up with looking at their gaping “owner”  and talk Julian into putting them back on – I’m useless with a screw driver).  Alas, these ones were not only not put back on but they didn’t make it out to the footpath either.

So I fancied I could make some doors – and bought some highly inappropriate wood and fiddled about with a tenon saw and mitre box for a weekend and produced nothing useful. Never mind – when I’m an earning nurse, I shall pay the lovely cabinet maker down the road to make me three.

However, back to the tale of what the dresser is doing now.  So there it was in the Spare ‘Oom with clutter on the bottom shelves (not hidden by the missing doors) and a motley collection of children’s novels on the shelves.  It never really sang.

Then one morning recently I was looking at the china which sat on the shelves near the back door – it gets putridly dirty with a dark grey dust that I can only imagine comes from the main road and tram tracks we live on – imagine our lungs! – thinking it really needed to sit somewhere cleaner so that we could actually use it!  Up until this moment, every time we wanted to use it, we had to wash it in hot soapy water first.  Ugh!

Behind me stood the lovely, completely under utilised kitchen dresser – if you turn to your left whilst standing at our kitchen sink you look straight into the Spare ‘Oom and at the dresser.  I knew exactly what needed to happen!

dresser before

China was shifted and washed.  Shelves were washed.  Books were moved (yes they’ll get dusty now but we’re not going to be eating off them anytime soon). China was neatly arranged on dresser.  Hmmm … much nicer than books but the bottom shelves still looked a bit ew.  The solution – fabric of course!  I might be overwhelmed by a tenon saw and timber, but there’s almost nothing I can’t achieve with fabric!

dresser after

As I’m sure you’ll believe, I initially thought of trooping up the road to Darn Cheap and BUYING some fabric.  But then I reminded myself that stashes are for using, not storing, so hunted through the sewing shed instead.  And came up with the perfect, huge piece of Civil War cotton I bought yonks ago to use as a backing on a quilt that has not been finished.  Pft! I don’t believe in being precious with my fabrics’ original purposes :-) And let’s face, when said quilt is done, it will be stitched onto a blanket.

So I made a gorgeous, voluminous, gathered skirt.  Whacked it on with blued tacks.  Then whipped up some lovely prairie points and whacked them on too.  Now … a sensible person would have whacked on the prairie points BEFORE putting the china on the shelves.  I’ve never claimed to be sensible.  It was such a thrilling experience – hoping that nothing would leap off the shelves or chip its neighbour with each blow of the hammer.  It didn’t :-)

denby teddy corner close up of tack teacups green teaset pyrex japanese dollies coloured cups

Now, I’m truly happy with the old kitchen dresser.  It looks so cheery and bright.  The china is all sparkly and clean and ready/easy to use.  And at night, when I look in from the kitchen this is the pretty sight that greets me.

so cosy

Lovely!  And so worth that 2 km madcap trek and a bit of quilt backing.

the laziest quilt ever

with tree I made a quilt this last week.  From beginning to end.  All the ends are stitched in.  It’s washed.  Dried in the sun.  Now lying on my bed, waiting for me to hop in and snuggle down.

whole quilt with branch shadows( btw – the strange black blobs you can see smooshed across the quilt are actually the shadows of our oak tree branches )

 It wasn’t very tricky :-)  Mum and I went out to Gail B’s last Tuesday to find the perfect fabric for a quilt she’s making for a lovely old family friend – Jill.  Jill requested the colours of the sea and sun – she lives at the beach.  We knew we’d find plenty to choose from at Gail’s so off we trotted.  And you know – how could you possibly go to a patchwork store with so many bolts of gorgeous fabric and not buy any?

Well I can’t.  I tried really hard.  Truly I did – I even had several bolts of Tilda’s new range in my arms and then put them all back  But whilst Mum was having Jill’s fabric cut (there were 18 bolts to cut from) and I continued to browse, I stumbled across this old Alexander Henry fabric called “Indochine”.  Oh!

towards the shed top left hand corner

I adored the colours, the patterns and the beautiful girls – they remind me of paper dolls and I want to make outfits to wear like theirs.  So I bought 1.6 metres and then figured it would be better to buy more – its ALWAYS better to buy more – so bought another 1.6 metres and Mum and I figured that she could also buy 1.6 metres and then we’d split my second 1.6 piece down the middle lengthways and then each add the half to our whole piece and voila!  We’d both have a lovely big square panel.

Mum, of course is going to be terribly clever and good and make her pieces match.  I am terribly bad and just whacked mine on.

sewing the threads

( that there’s a needle – nothing as easy as identifying loose threads that
haven’t been finished off and stitching them in whilst
the quilt is hanging in the brilliant sunshine on the clothesline

the borders

We didn’t buy any fabric to go with it at Gail B’s.  Thought we’d drop into our lovely friends at Darn Cheap for that.  And sure enough we found this fabulous swirly fabric – by Alexander Henry no less, but printed several years later – that was the perfect perfect perfect match.  And a gorgeous lipstick red for a wee frame.  I love Darn Cheap :-)


In the narrow red stripe I practiced some linked circles – some turned out a wee bit wonky but hey! I’m getting better!  I might even try a recognisable shape sometime soon.

three little maids the tree again

( our tree is so luscious this spring – and thick and humming with bees – that I have to keep including it – swoon worthy it is – and if you KNOW what it is,
do let me know – I haven’t a clue. )

red shirt purple shirt

On the back – why a vintage blanket of course :-)  It’s a double bed size and I hardly had to cut a scrap off.  Well a little bit – but what I did will be perfect for the lovely Spring banner I hope to make tomorrow.

folded over the back all those squiggles

I do adore how the quilted stitches embed themselves in the wool.  So pretty and so very very very tacticle.  Love.

colour and texture

And here it is on the bed.  Perfect!

You know – here’s a dreadful confession for you – since Julian’s been away and I’m still waiting on grad offers (next Tuesday at 9am!) and distracted beyond belief – I’ve moved on from crossword puzzles and computer mahjong, and have been frittering away the hours reading … Regency Romance Novels.  I know.  I know.  It’s dreadful.  They are dreadful.

But wonderful too in that dreadful kind of way.  Truly!  They are almost like Jane Austen – same era, same kind of characters, same clothes, same balls, same phaetons … but of course the writing is very different and there’s all this stormy romance!

I read some aloud to Abby last night – she was rolling on the floor, clutching her stomach, gasping for air she was laughing so hard.  I know.  They are a bit like that.  But anyway – they are passing the time and I’m now in love with Colin who appeared to be a rake but was really deliciously honourable, and want to come back in my next life as Minerva the sharp tongued geologist who despite her blue stockinged ways was actually wonderfully witty and passionate.  Of course she was!

However, it has made me think that Julian needs to work on his Regency romance skills so tonight, when he told me he missed me, I demanded that he describe what he missed. Now any good Regency rake would be able to do this – they wouldn’t even need prompting – and I waited with bated breath for something similar to the knee weakening descriptions I’ve been reading the last few days – something lovely about my hair, or my eyes, or my voice. What did he tell me … he missed my new quilts.

What!  What! My new quilts!!!!! Geez Louise!  I’ll have to lend him “A Week to be Wicked” so he can get some tips from Colin on how to make a lady swoon.

I replied – I don’t know if that’s very romantic.  You tell me regularly that quilts aren’t really your thing!  He explained – Ah but I love your creativity.

Oh … well that’s a little bit better :-)  A bit like when Colin told Minerva how much he admired her dedication to dirt, digging and fantastical lizards.

on the bed


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.


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


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.



the ultimate transformation from horror to sweet :: a sewing desk

sad desk

If you happen to follow my instagram, you may have noticed that I picked up a truly dreadful piece of hard rubbish a couple of weeks back.  I was on my way into university to have documents certified for the final grad interview the next day, when I spied an old 60s (?) desk outside a block of dodgy flats.  It was perched amongst a heap of awful rubbish – the kind where you wonder what on earth the people who threw it all there were thinking and why on earth didn’t they put it in their wheelie bins – but I could spy potential.

I checked the time – still had an hour to get to uni and get my documents sorted.  I pulled over, flipped the back seats down and approached the desk.  Ugh.  It was filthy.  But I had a vision :-)  I picked the desk up – the drawers were full.  Gingerly, I opened them – the top drawer had mostly old sewing stuff – but all damp and full of rubbish as well.  The next three drawers were worse.  There were old cards and family photos – some in frames – and just so many bits and pieces.  And it was all icky.  I have a very high ick tolerance – but this was  …  shudder-worthy.  I spied a couple of barely filled shopping bags – stinking of cigarette ash – and carefully tipped the contents of the drawers into them.  Shudder.

By the time I was done, my hands felt revolting and I only had 20 minutes before the clinical office closed at the university.  Hopeless.  So it was back home with the desk.  Unload.  A thorough hand washing with the hottest water I could bear.  And a couple of hours later, when the clinical office was reopened (they keep the most unhelpful hours), I set off once again.

even grafittied very scratched

off with the top

I sent Mum several photos of my fabulous find – oh yes, she exclaimed, I can really see why you just had to stop for it.  NOT.  It was grim.  The top was a complete write-off.  The drawer handles were buggered.  The legs were scratched.  It had even been grafittied.  Oh it was grim.

But I just knew it’s old timber would come up lovely and just where it would fit perfectly into our home and lives.  So last week, on a warm sunny day, I pulled on my summer work clothes and a hat, gathered supplies and set to work, removing all that grime and spray paint and old varnish.  Sadly, it was not a metho scrub moment.  It needed the full strength paint stripper.  And even that was tough work.  But as soon as I began washing the stripper off, I could see that old timber beginning to gleam.

I am the worst at anthropomorphising – I always imagine the timber of my furniture sighing with relief as I scrub it free of decades of dirt and varnish.  Then, it must wriggle with delight as I rub in the Danish oil.  It’s the very odd occasion I can bring myself to paint bare timber – I imagine the poor grain suffocating under the heavy wetness of paint.  Awful!  So Danish oil it is.

scrape and scrub

I spent many many hours pondering what to replace the top with and finally settled on a thick piece of ply from the hardware store that I would cover with some lovely Orla Kiely oilcloth from The Fabric Store in Fitzroy.  I even drove in and bought the jolly fabric – and it was even lovelier in real life than it was on the screen.

But then, I called into Ikea on the way home for new knobs for the desk drawers – the old ones were crap – I love their little black brushed metal knobs – and checked the bargain corner (of course).  There was a kitchen bench top that I had admired online but dismissed from consideration because it was way to expensive.  Only this one wasn’t.  It was a display piece with scuff marks (which rubbed off in seconds with a bit of steel wool) and dramatically reduced.  Eeeeeee!


In a perfect world, the top would be a bit smaller – but hey!  All the more space to craft and it sits as sturdy as.  Can you believe the transformation?!?  I’m in awe.  Look at how that timber gleams.  The knobs are so cute.  It’s a miracle!

only a hint

It wasn’t until I looked at this photo later that I realised you can still see the outlines of the tagging.  I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed that panel.  It’s ply – and that spray paint just got deep into the grain and – well, that’s the best I could do.  But you know – in real life you just don’t notice it.  And besides – it’s quite funny really.  It’s like this conservative, simple, modest little desk is having a wink and saying “Oh yeah, I’ve seen it all!”

drawers rounded end closeup

And the scratches – most of them are gone – there’s still a few of the deeper ones left, but the wood came up so beautifully rich and syruppy that now they’re just character.  Signs of a life busily led.

original top beautiful top

Now, just in case you didn’t get a good look at the desk top, we have before … hideous old fake wood melamine WITH GRAFITTI !  And after – beautiful, solid, smooth, crisp, clean wood.  I’ve oiled it too.

with machine

And look who looks right at home there!  By the way – have I ever told you the story of this little green machine – my Husqvarna Viking 21 (circa 1950s)?  She too is hard rubbish.  Yep.  I found her having her cords chopped off by a very grumpy man behind an op shop.  “Oh no!  I exclaimed, “that’s a beautiful old Husqvarna!”  “It’s rubbish.” he snarled, shoved her back into her original tartan travelling case and HURLED HER INTO A SKIP!!!!  “Oh that’s terrible!”  I protested.  “You don’t know what you’re throwing away!”  And I promptly climbed into the skip and pulled her back out.  He ignored me.

I took the sweet little green machine straight to the sewing machine shop in Camberwell where I have my machines serviced and they fixed her up.  They had to find new cords for her power and foot, but they did.  And the service man said she was that kind of beauty they just don’t make any more.  He loved her – and loved the story too.  She sews like a dream – lovely straight, strong stitches, and makes the prettiest hum.  If I’ve told you all this before, I am sorry :-)  I’m getting a bit like dear old Grandad – can’t remember which stories I’ve shared with which folk!  But it’s such a good story anyway – yes? :-)

drawers with placemats tool drawer

And here’s a glimpse of the sweet little desk all set up and ready for action!  Wait til you see where she is!

p.s. I was right to stop wasn’t I :-)


an iced bun sort of day


:: lamps were lit very very early

threads delia teddy

:: corners were tidied and reorganised


:: 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


:: 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 :-)


rocking chair dreams in a cold house

basket of wool
lopi lamplight christmas pudding

I truly do find that my imagination runs the richest when I’m sitting quietly, hands busy with simple repetitive work.  Slipping the needle up and down, filling in large swathes of background on a needlepoint for hours on end may sound dull to some, but to me – goodness, I can build and decorate a whole farmhouse in this time, let alone plan the garden and name all the animals.

This morning our old house is cold and shadowy.  Abby is buried deeply under her quilts, sick with a sinusy cold.  Julian is working from home in the library.  I’m sitting in the spot most likely to catch a speck of sun, filling in the background of a Kaffe Fasset needlepoint I started when Mum had her eye surgery.  That’s a few years back, but certainly doesn’t make this the oldest needlepoint in my stash – eek!  I was working on it this Christmas past – sitting out on the front porch of Mum’s lovely beachside home – when I decided it would be really rather lovely if I turned it into a circular cushion.  A lot of extra background would need filling, but we’ve already established I enjoy that :-)  So here I sit, the needle slipping up and down and up and down, metres upon metres of 7928 being woven into the canvas.

shadows quilts

And of course,  this got me to dreaming.  Unconnected thoughts and ideas.  Until I hit upon the rocking chair sitting across from me.  Now, Mum and I each bought one of these rocking chairs from the opshop a few months back.  They were a good price and we could imagine all kinds of pretty dressing up. We even bought fabric!  Mum took hers home in pieces and I don’t know that said pieces have yet moved from the garage.  Of course, that could well be because dear Mum spent 5 out of the first 6 months of the year in Brisbane caring for Nanny and Grandad.  After a quick clean, mine was moved into the corner of the living room where I had dreams of gently rocking in lovely comfort whilst doing all those things I like to do.

However – it proved to be a very hard uncomfortable rocking chair and literally hurt my bottom after sitting on it for only a handful of minutes.  Weird I know.  Totally put me off.  All thoughts of reupholstering and painting vanished and the only future I could foresee for this rocking chair was being shoved back into the car and returned to the opshop.

scissors and wool other closeup closeup

And yet today, as I sat needlepointing, I began to think of other needlepoints I wanted to make. Of the loveliness of the soft brown canvas I was working on.  How I needed to order some more from Karen at the Quilters’ Store.  How it was just the right width for the rocking chair across from me.  How it was really quite a pretty rocking chair.  How I could needlepoint it a new cover.  Then I could work some miracles on the seat with a bit of webbing and a good piece of foam.  And then paint the frame that Parisian black with the ever so slightest edges of rubbed gold.

But what to put on the needlepoint … a rural/coastal scene – like those naive scenes of 18th century American artists where segments of the landscape, its buildings, animals and people are tumbled together with no regard for proportion.  A Norfolk pine in the top left hand corner with a kangaroo feeding on the grass below. Green Cape lighthouse in the top right hand corner – with a couple of black swans strutting about.  Merimbula Bay with a lovely whale across the middle.  And a sunrise of course.  A combination of my appliqued hotwater bottle cover and my Whale and her Girl cross stitch pattern.   Then, on the seat – that extra comfortable seat with its webbing and foam –  a farm house with a row of flowering plums – a wombat, some sheep, a bunny or two, an echidna.  Oh yes.

My needle flew faster and faster.  I should order the canvas right now!  I should get to work on the design RIGHT NOW!  I should drag that rocking chair outside THIS MINUTE!

scraps needle on the footstool

Then I sat the current Kaffe needlepoint canvas atop a thrifted foot stool.  Huh!  Perfect fit.  Now that’s a project that could easily be finished in the next week or so.  Then there’s the fox chair just begging for more attention.

Hmmm … perhaps this very very exciting rocking chair revival should be a reward for first finishing off this lovely rich floral piece and the fox chair.  That would be sensible.

So in the name of Elinor’s good sense, as opposed to my usual choice of Marianne’s sensibility,  I’ve jotted down my notes here so I won’t forget.  Maybe I’ll allow myself some fiddling on the computer with the layout.  And meanwhile, I shall keep filling in all that 7928.

Oh yes!  Such good imagining!  I’m so excited!

rocking chair