prettiness on the table

improvised pottering with a cordless drill, silk, and wool

and drying

As spring approaches our second time round the sun here at Wombat Hill, I’ve rearranged the front porch (again), popped table cloths on, plumped cushions, added a rocking chair, set up a desk for whatever takes my fancy … And  just like this time last year, as the sun grows stronger, and the warmth and day both last longer, we exclaim “Oh it’s so lovely out here on the porch!  Why have we been sitting inside!”, forgetting that we moved inside as autumn deepened because it was cold.

washed

Little Doug the dachshund has a real love for my handmade cushions that neither Fu or Pakkun have ever shown.  He spends so long puttering around on the top edge of them – I guess he can do this because he is so very little – until he has smooshed them into just the right shaped nest for his long thin sausage body.  Which means that even though Doug never looks dirty – the bonus of having a dark coat – he makes the tops of all the cushions so very dirty!  So they all need far more regular washing.  Good thing for gentle handwash cycles on our washing machine because I NEVER properly handwash anything.

kitchen

After the porch sitting was done for the morning, and the cushion covers set to dry on the rocking chair’s arms, I pondered the to do list.  It is soooo long.  There are softly coloured 6 inch squares of silk to sew up for our comforter – I’m making one out of a down fillled doona – the sort that sits on the top of the bed and is buttoned through.  There’s new curtains to make for the long living room window – one of the dear little doggles ate a hole in the existing one when they were shut in one rainy day – what a strange choice to make – ever so lovely of them.  There’s a Dottie Angel tabard cut out and waiting to be sewn up.  And, of course, the never ending pile of quilts and quilt tops to work through.  And knitting.  And embroidery.  There’s always knitting and embroidery.

But I was muchly agitated after absorbing the morning’s news peppered with hate and bigotry regarding Australia’s upcoming postal vote (yes, our prime minister Malcolm Turnball is a hypocritical, gutless wonder and will make dreadfully unpopular executive decisions about all manner of life changing issues – e.g. dismantling environmental protections – Coal is our Future!!! – and attacking the incomes of our most vulnerable citizens – but won’t take a simple vote in Parliament concerning a fundamental human right) – so instead found myself pacing the floor, unable to concentrate.

bedroom quilt hung

And so, I grabbed my new drill bits and drill and set to hanging all the things that had been lurking around for days, weeks, months, waiting to be hung.  There was something quite cathartic about it all.

bedroom hooks hung

The old Dutch coffee grinder and French chicken print were hung in the kitchen.  The Exploding Star quilt rehung in the bedroom (had to be moved after a recent bedroom rearrange), a lovely set of hooks from Ikea were hung on the back of our bedroom for our coats and hats, and a new quilt was hung in the dining room.

dining room quilt

I had hung a large blue and green star quilt there – a quilt top that was pieced 7 years ago and only just finished and quilted this year – but it was really too big for the spot so looked a bit awkward.  This one’s a much nicer fit but now I’m thinking the white wall behind it is pretty dull.  When I suggested to Noah that a rich creamy orange would be lovely, he grinned and said “Yes, you’ve said that every second month for two years now! Maybe you just do it!”  Well at least I’m consistent ;-)

embroidery done

By then, the temper was well enough soothed that a bit of sewing was next on the list … the assembling of a new quilted cushion cover – with a little sheep applique for the centre.

prettiness on the table

quilting

I do so love sewing with old woollen blankets and this style of quilt as you go log cabin piecing is my favourite!

ready to turn into a cushion cover

I don’t know how that wound up so very crooked – never mind – when’s it trimmed and sewn up it will be a perfect square again!

but first some knitting

Whilst all of this was happening, the lovely plumber was downstairs installing our new solar hot water system – such a long and cold six weeks we’ve had! And then it struck me, that I am so terribly grateful for him fitting us in with two days notice, that a little piece of handmade gratitude was in order and since he had told me about his wee baby, a quick Milo vest was just the thing.  I knit up the yoke that night – took one episode of Hinterland and three of Offspring.
knitting as fast as i can

By the next morning, I worried it might be a wee bit weird to be knitting a vest for a baby I didn’t know and a plumber I’d only met the day before.  But then, a lovely instagram friend shared how much she and her family are touched by the thoughtful gestures of some customers (her partner’s an electrician) and so, after running multiple errands on Friday morning, I quickly set down after lunch to knit my fingers to the bone and GET. IT. FINISHED before the the plumber finished for the day.

finished

And I did.  With literally 20cm of wool left – that Cleckheaton California is so generous in both colour, smooshiness, and length!
for the plumbers baby

The plumber seemed very pleased and thus it was all very worthwhile. I do find that the best laid crafty plans almost always go astray – something more pressing always pops up in the loveliest of ways.

hot water

And we now have beautiful steamy hot water!  Oh the luxury of washing up without having to boil pot after pot of water on the stove.  Oh the BLISS of having a shower, instead of a bath at the kitchen sink which required even more of those pots of water to be boiled!

mostly doug

the madeline cardie

cast off

After two weeks of knitting with this glorious dark blue wool – I think of it as black watch tartan wool – I finally found a decent background for it last night as I sat casting off my Madeline Cardigan (original name “Practically” by the very talented Kelly Herdrich) – named after Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmanns of course – can’t you just see all those little girls in two straight lines wearing this very cardigan as they march the streets of Paris! –  wrapped in this lovely vintage Laconia blanket.  Oooooh but our little cottage is sooooo cold at night – being metal and all – and when Julian’s not here to light the fire, I must confess, we are very lazy and pile on the woollens instead.  As for this cardie – I adore it!  And so pleased with the additions I made :-)

starting early

Alas, I am easily distracted, and so this morning, instead of sewing on Madeline’s buttons – or doing the dishes or hanging out the washing – truth be told, I even made the animals wait a bit longer – I grabbed my lovely new fabrics, my gorgeous Dottie Angel patterns, and began chopping instead!

prep

And how did I get these here buttons sewn on?  Why I paid Noah of course ;-)

my button sewist

He is a very talented and accomplished sewist – with amazingly fine motor skills and a superb eye for detail.  So off he set, carefully measuring and stitching …

embroidered sheep

whilst I worked on my sheep applique and regularly queried “Are you almost done? Have you put that one in the right spot? How much longer will you be?”  Yes it would often seem that Noah is more like the parent, and I the impatient, impulsive teenager.  Sigh!
selfie lesson

Then, when all was finished – in an effort NOT to have to take photographs as well as sew on buttons for his mad mother – Noah attempted to teach me how to take selfies in the mirror.  Hopeless waste of time.  I can never work our where to hold the camera or where to look or how to compose the background.  So he had to take them anyway :-)

wearing it

And did a sterling job at that too!
mostly doug

Doug made an excellent and obliging prop – adding his black dachshund hair to the thousands of strands of cream puggle hair that have been knitted into this dear cardie.  As well as my long treacle and grey coloured hairs – I always have to spend the first couple of weeks of a new knit carefully pulling out the long hairs that have been tightly knitted in!

pretty buttons

fu and noah

Fu decided she wanted in on the action as well.  She really is the most delightful dog – best farm dog here at Wombat Hill to be sure!  She can round up chickens, cheerfully hang out with ponies, lay snoozing in the sun with sheep.  All our animals are completely relaxed around Fu – they can tell she’s a good one.  Not like the other two horrors.  All flee from their frantic, yapping paths!

flowers and fabric

Because I misread the pattern and didn’t buy enough fabric yesterday, then it was off to our local fabric legend – Freddie’s Fabrics in Cobargo – where not only did I find the perfect fabrics for more Dottie Angel goodness, but had a lovely leisurely tour of Freddie’s beautiful garden (her shop is in her garden studio) and she packed up several cuttings and a lovely bunch of heavenly scented Daphne for me.  Now that’s my kind of fabric shopping.
afternoon tea

Home again, home again, jiggety jig – toasted cheese and coffee on the porch with a splendid new catalogue.  I shall have to forego buying any more fabric for the next few months so I can dedicate that money to spring flowers from Tesselaar!  Oh you should see the Clematis!  The Aquilegia!  The Dahlias!  The BEGONIAs!  I didn’t know Begonias could look like that.  Methinks Julian will have to plough up half the front house yard to fit in everything I love! (He’ll love that suggestion ;-)

newly cast on

Then there was some casting on.  Well of course there was.  I cast off last night!  I know I could have finished other knitty projects instead – four instantly spring to mind – but since I’m in my Dottie Angel mood, and it’s been on my Ravelry list since I joined Ravelry – and the wool arrived last week – I just HAD to.  So here’s the beginning of my February Lady’s Sweater.  Mmmmmmm ….

in threes

And a couple more photos of the Madeline cardie.  I do find it is easier to photograph in the shade – that way the incredibly intense darkness of the black watch doesn’t make the light blow out. So here you can see the lovely “in threes” of Kelly’s pattern.  As well as the scalloped crocheted collar I added.  I added four stitches to each side when I cast on so that my cardie would not only meet but button up.

side panel detail

 

I also added a simple side panel of ever increasing garter stitch – it’s made a pretty stepped pyramid going from the underarm to the deep garter band around the hem – I added a few extra inches to the hem so that it would sit a little longer.  My round tummy is not a fan of the cropped look!

beautiful colour

And of course, I added full length knitted sleeves with deep garter stitch cuffs – I started with the stitches on waste wool for Kelly’s capped sleeves, picked the stitches cast on for the side, and added two extra stitches on either side of them.  Then I decreased by 2 every seventh round until the sleeve measured 40 cm, then knitted eleven ridges (as Elizabeth Zimmerman calls them – so very sensible and instantly identifiable) for the garter cuffs.  Our winters are moderately cold – mornings are often frosty and hovering around the zero mark, and the afternoons are cool – I’ve discovered that 3/4 length sleeves may be great for not getting your cuffs wet when you’re filling up the pigs’ water trough but they are freezing cold when you are standing outside the bakery at Nimmitabel in the snow!  In fact, I think I may soon be undoing the cuffs on my green cardigan and knitting them all the way down too!  Knitting is so generous and flexible like that, isn’t it.

wooden buttons

Oh see the button – so pretty!  I bought them on Noah’s and my recent little holiday in Melbourne at the truly gorgeous shop Epoche in Callista – incredibly well worth a visit – we were there for almost two hours, so delightful was every nook and shelf.

And finally – the selfie.  In the kitchen garden, with my purple podded peas.  Looking very proper and all – after taking umpteen photos, it became obvious that the absurd was far more entertaining than the normal ;-)
my selfie effort

So now, here I sit, cosy cosy in my lovely Madeline Cardigan.  I could finish cutting out my Dottie Angel tabard.  I could start piecing my sheep cushion cover.  I could even sneak into the television room and curl up with that lovely Laconia blanket, my snoozing dachshund, and my new knitting and watch Restoration Man (OMG – we got tellie finally!  Only two years after settlement!  Our friend Pete sent the television man over on Monday and he just whipped up onto the roof, shoved up an antenna, ran a cord, drilled a hole, popped it into the television, tuned the television and within an hour of Nick’s arrival, we had tellie!  Who’d have thunk!!!)

Instead, I should be the grown up and put on supper – roast chook and veg – and wash some of those bloody dishes.  After I’ve boiled the water of course because we are revelling in week 6 of no hotwater system.  But it’s okay, the plumber is coming tomorrow … then we will be super sophisticated.  Hot water and tellie all in the one week.  And my Madeline Cardigan.  I am one blessed woman.

 

under the applegum

finding our faraway tree

milkshake and crochet

julian

noah

Fu

Noah and Julian

Julian and fu

upside down

looking up

crochet hook

pakkun

bark stripping

tasty

peaceful pooches

on the quilt

sunlight

under the applegum

front door

sunbeam

so twisty

down to the faraway tree

Early Friday morning, we sat on the porch, third coffees on the table between us, me with my crochet, Julian with his moleskin, and we brainstormed all the things we’d love to achieve around the farm over the weekend.  Then we marked off the most important seven for Friday and set to work.  It was mostly a day of orchard planting.  The raspberry patch was finished off – 5 metres long by 2 metres wide, thoroughly dug over with old duck bedding, liberally seasoned with the neighbour’s horse poo, edged with timber and secured with a nice deep row of poultry netting, steel hoops and black netting.  Nothing can be left to chance around here.  If the ducks don’t get in with their destructive flat feet and jack hammering bills, or the rats and rabbits eat it down to a 1 inch stick, then the rosellas and king parrots annihilate every last bud. We’ve learnt the hard way.

Then we planted plums, pomegranates, peaches, blackcurrants and gooseberries.  At the moment the whole thing looks like a graveyard of sticks with a half dug pond piled with dirt around the edges.  Nothing to show off for sure.  But oh, when I look down from the kitchen window, I dream of what it will look like in a few years time.  The pond will be deep and full, edged by water plants with a lovely rock wall at one end, and ducks and geese cheerfully swimming round and round the water lilies.  Those fruit trees – including the already planted apples, pears, hawthorn and almond will be tall and blooming.  That raspberry patch will be glistening with fat juicy berries.  And off to one side will be the lovely wooden rotunda that Julian and I plot every time we stand amongst the fruit trees – a handmade octagon with no railings but wide steps leading into the orchard from each side and tall roof thickly covered in wisteria. Mmmmmm …..

Anyways – that was Friday’s list.  Yesterday’s was filled with niggledy little tasks that needed finishing off as well the building of a proper, functioning compost system, and the relocating of the sheep.  A big and busy list, that one, but oh so satisfying to tick each thing off.  And last night – when I looked out and could see our five dear sheep on the other side of the house fence – it felt just right.

This morning, we sat at the table with our third coffees and ambitiously checked off the next seven items.  We may even have said “And once we’ve done all that. we’ll start digging the next 10 metre long raspberry patch.” Yes, I ordered 20 more canes (on top of the 10 we planted Friday) and they’re arriving this week – eek!

First on the list … weed whack around the new sheep fence.  But by the time we got down there, we were already discussing number 2 – move the goat tethers over to the field next to the sheep so that they’d have plenty of shade from the nearby small gum grove.  We wandered down amongst the gums to pace out where we needed to start.  The grove was delightfully cool but sun speckled and the kangaroos have been doing a sterling job keeping down the grass.  It was almost the grove of our dreams.

Our talk turned away from weed whacking and goat tethering to … if we cleared this bit here, got rid of that clump of bracken, dragged these logs up to edge the herb garden.  Next thing, Julian was weed whacking in an ever increasing circle around the huge central apple gum whilst I raked and made bush turkey styled piles ready to be carted off to the bonfire.  We plotted where we would put a rustic wooden table and benches.  We ooohed and ahhhed about how lovely it would be to sit down here on a hot summer’s day with jugs of iced lemon and mint water.  I dreamed of slipping away to wile away the hours with needles, wool and books.

Then, pushing all thoughts of lists and chores away, Julian weed whacked us the perfect path back to the house where we made icy cold banana milkshakes, dug out the picnic quilt, coaxed Noah away from his laptop, and returned to the applegum.

Julian shook out the quilt and we all plonked down.  Through the trees, green fields dotted with cows, rolled away to the north, and mountains loomed to the west.  A spider scuttled across the quilt and Noah caught it in his gumboot – he says it was the first thing that came to hand.  A pair of kookaburras sat above us in the tree, cackling away.  Pakkun tried her hardest to share our milkshakes whilst Fu snuffled about in the grass, and the nearby sheep mooed.  I stitched away at my granny bolster cover, and Julian stripped the bark away from a narrow log he plans to turn into a tamper handle (pond digging stuff)

It was blissful and as I looked up I realised we were really sitting under the Faraway tree!  I pointed out the little doors and porches to Noah and stared up into the sun kissed, twisty turning branches wondering what Silky and Moonface were up to.  I don’t know that Noah was quite as bewitched as I :-)

I adored the Magic Faraway Tree books when I was little.  I read them over and over and over and wished, for the umpteenth time, that I could live a life as wonderful, mysterious and magical as the children in Enid Blyton’s books.  You know, I daresay this was the start of my passion for the English countryside.  It was patently obvious to me that the grand adventures of the Famous Five, the Adventurous Four and of course Jo, Bessie and Fanny could never happen in Australia.  You clearly had to be in the English countryside to camp out in abandoned castles, capture smugglers, rescue kidnapped European princes, and spend lovely days up a tree with the Faraway Tree folk.  Sigh.

And as I sat under our beautiful Faraway Tree, I realised that it was never the promise of that magical land at the top of the tree that really drew me into these books.  I even remember skipping over those bits.  What I truly loved were the homes the funny little people of Faraway Tree – and later, Roald Dahl’s Minpins and Mary Norton’s The Borrowers – created.  The cosiness, the warmth and welcome (mostly), the nooks and crannies, the corners filled with fascinating items, and especially the fabulous make do philosophy they all embraced as they built their wee homes, turning other people’s cast offs into the loveliest of belongings.

I didn’t care about running around in Candy Land or whatever had zoomed in that week.  I longed to peek into little sitting rooms, and take tea by the fireside with people whose lives revolved around the dear little homes they had built all by themselves.  I wanted to live there with them.  I wanted to build my own home just as lovely and creative as theirs. And I wanted them to come visit me.

Forty years later, and I don’t believe I’ve changed one bit :-)  Here we are, Julian and I, building our little home bit by bit.  Weekend by weekend.  Making use of what we find, what other people cast away.  Building it by hand.  Making it so utterly descriptive of just who we are, what we love, and what’s important to us.

Making it cosy.  Making it welcoming.  Making it creative.  Making it ours.

 

on the sofa

grey with a splash of colour

fabric choices

first stripe on

pins

all in a row

off we qui;t

like ocean washed sand

chair

binding

with pug

one corner

one fold

the pocket

with sun

one valley

on the porch

in the garden

with wind

still blowing

the whole quilt

on the sofa

If you’d told me last year – or any of the last six – that I would love making quilts with swathes of grey I would have hooted out loud.  Why on earth would I do that when I was so often drenched in the grey of Melbourne’s mercurial weather and inner city living.  Honestly, when there would finally be a splash of sun after a week of heavy grey, especially in winter, I would almost cry with relief.

But here, on the glorious south coast of NSW – glittering sea to our east, smudgy purple mountains to our west, and rolling green hills and huge old gums round every bend – why, I’ve come to really like the soft smooshiness of grey.  So much so that first I started making an exploding star quilt with 5 different pieces of grey and was so excited by that, I bought I few more pieces and started making a very simple quilt to hang behind the newly restored antique organ.  In my head, four simple squares of four simple grey stripes, each turned a different way, with a riotous ribbon of all the favourite fabrics that were going into the exploding star and had already been stitched into the little houses quilt (still to quilt and share that one), finished with more simple grey then a turquoise binding.  Hung behind the organ (hiding a redundant door).  Looking just tickety-boo!

Within a handful of days the quilt was pieced, pinned out onto a lovely cream blanket (didn’t want any checks or stripes showing through those soft smooshy greys), quilted with the best squiggly wiggly I’ve ever managed, bound, a hanging pocket sewn on and boom!  Ready to hang.  With Noah at the dining table drawing – patiently jumping to help everytime I shrieked – and the fabulous Juliet Stevenson reading Elizabeth Goudge’s sweet tale of the Little White Horse in the background, I armed myself with ladder, hand drill, screwdriver and ruler to hang my first quilt at Wombat hill.  Such bliss!

Except it looked ridiculously awful!  I think it’s a beautiful quilt – I love it!  And would cheerfully make it again and again and again with different colour combinations etc.  It was a very satisfying make and looks serene and fresh at the same time – but with this lovely splash of colour that draws your eye, begging you to say “Oh look!  There’s birds and unicorns and little girls playing hopscotch and foxes hiding amongst the foliage, and dachshunds that make me think of Toph, and pheasants strutting across the fields, and Kaffe (there’s always Kaffe) and wow! look at that glorious , favourite ever Anna Maria Horner mustard floral!”

Even better, it is related to the little houses quilt and the exploding star quilt.  I adore when I gather together a melee of prints – fat quarters, half metres, specially bought, dug out of boxes, trimmed off skirts – that I so love putting together and using over and over.  They bloom into my “cousin quilts” and make me smile when I look at them.

Nevertheless – despite almost an hour’s awkward effort with that ladder, hand drill, screw driver and ruler – my grey with a splash of colour looked stupid behind the organ.  Wrong dimensions, wrong colour (the greys blended too much into the off white wall) – and just way too crisp for an extravagantly turned and carved Victorian bellows organ with mirrors and candle holders.  Sigh. One of those moments.

Thankfully, after I’d climbed back up the ladder, and Noah and I slid the quilt off its hanging rod and dropped it onto the sofa in a huff … we realised that was exactly where grey with a splash of colour was meant to be.  On the plain white sofa, against the glowing yolky yellow walls of the living room.  Reflecting the wonderful, riotous colours of fields and trees, animals and flowers, sky and sunshine just outside the glass doors.  With the richly coloured Persian rug at it’s feet, and the needlepoint cushions resting in its corners.

And two dogs.  Of course.