Goodness, life has been exceedingly full over the last ten days. It all began with a washing basket that only had 2 towels and a half load of washing in it.
That was two Sundays ago – the day before I began my two week placement in an Oncology ward at a large public hospital. As I picked up that wretched basket, I felt a sharp and painful twinge in my lower back. No, no, no, no … this could not possibly happen at the start of placement. But despite spending the rest of the day resting my back, taking pain relief, and performing the gentle stretches my physio gave me the last time I hurt my back – over ten years ago – I arrived at the hospital, bright and early on the Monday morning, with an excruciatingly sore back.
There was nothing I could do about it. If I couldn’t meet my placement obligations, I would have to repeat the semester. So, I staggered on – literally. My doctor prescribed pain relief for the days and a muscle relaxant for the nights. Julian massaged my back every evening when I collapsed onto the bed. And he and Abby kept the house running. Every ounce of energy and concentration I had was poured into my patients. I confess, there were several moments when I simply lay there and cried.
And yet, what an incredibly humbling experience. Because, as I have walked – as straight and briskly as possible – around the ward each day, I have been caring for people who are terribly unwell. Most people receiving treatment for cancer are seen as day patients. Only those who suffer severe side effects from their treatments that cannot be managed at home, or those for whom the treatments are no longer working and their poor bodies are simply breaking down, make their way onto the ward.
I have held the hand of a patient who received very sad news on her birthday. I have cared for a patient (and his family) who died too soon. I have prepared the body of another patient for the morgue. I have cleaned up all manner of bodily fluids whilst reassuring the patient beside me that it is no bother at all. I have managed to find 10 minutes here and there to sit with patients and listen to their stories who have no family to visit them. I have given countless antibiotics, anti-virals, anti-fungals, platelet infusions, potassium, magnesium, and ever so gently washed and patted dry frail, frail bodies …. my goodness, chemotherapy is so very harsh on the body.
And that back pain of mine – well, it’s as if it has been given to me to keep my feet firmly planted in reality. To remind me that what seems awful to me can always be put into a much bigger picture. One in which life is so very treasured and fragile.
Today – thank goodness – I think that spasm in my back is finally breaking up. Now, it’s just tired, not screeching in pain. And this morning for the first time since “the washing basket moment” the fog of discomfort has lifted and I am able to look around me with clear and refreshed eyes.
The rain is pouring down. The sunflowers smothering my bedroom window are delighted. I stitched Abby’s Christmas pillowcase and crocheted a wee Christmas rose for a dear, dear patient. We turned the fairy lights on early. My uniform is ironed. My supper is packed.
It’s time to head off.
Oh folks, I had my last exam today. Fingers crossed, it was the last exam of my degree! I can’t tell you what a marvellous thought that is. I really enjoy research and essay writing – I loathe exams and really struggle to revise. Don’t know why – just a real psychological block.
So, this afternoon, there was a lovely bit of celebration in order. The guilt free kind. See – even if I’m not conscientiously studying, I’m fretting with my mind tumbling over all the things I should be doing and all the terrible things that will happen because I am NOT doing them.
I collected Abby from school – 45 minutes late, thank you traffic, and a proper, heartfelt thankyou to Bob our beautiful lollipop man who stayed with Abby until I arrived – we bought iced fruit bun from the bakers, poured big glasses of creamy milk and sat out in the sun under the oak … with the added treat of my freshly arrived copy of Rhonda Hetzel’s “Down to Earth: A Guide to Simple Living”. Now, I have to confess, I am a very late arrival to the wise and comforting thoughts Rhonda shares on her blog. In fact, it has only been since I set up a Feedly account last month that I have started reading her blog regularly. But the minute her little essays became part of my daily routine, I knew I would love – and get a lot out of – her book.
And here it is in my glad hands on the very afternoon that I had no other commitments other than to enjoy my family’s company, my spring filled garden, and a new book!
As I started reading, one particular part of the introduction struck me straight away – the part sewing and knitting our own clothes plays in simple living. Folks – as much as you know I adore both sewing and knitting, I do really struggle with it being part of a “simple” approach.
Not because patterns can sometimes be complex and take a lot of time – I completely get what Rhonda says about that “… simple describes the nature of the activities in this kind of life, not the amount of effort involved.” It’s about becoming “a doer not a buyer” – a concept I adore and subscribe to fully. I’ve been telling Abby since she was tiny, that if it’s worth doing, it’s worth taking our time over. And teaching her and reminding myself of the beauty and benefits of practice, practice, practice, practice. But Rhonda goes on to describe how once she relearned these skills – along with cooking from scratch, preserving, vegetable gardening etc. – she felt that she had the skills to survive a crisis.
Here’s my dilemma. In order to knit and sew our clothes, we still need to buy supplies. Once you visit the fabric store and purchase your pattern and cloth and thread you have easily spent A LOT of money – receipts from fabric shops always add up at an alarming rate and leave me rather breathless. I could easily BUY the clothing for the cost of making it. As for wool – well, it is effortless to spend almost $100 on the yarn to knit a lovely cosy cardigan. This just doesn’t feel simple. Now I know we could argue – ah! but you’re putting in your own hours, think of the exploitative labour you are avoiding, and you’re probably creating something that will last a lot longer and be so much more meaningful. Yes, yes I totally agree. But the fabric is still being produced in a factory somewhere – almost always overseas – then shipped to Australia, transported to the shop, etc. etc. It’s not like the old days when Australia had its own mills and produced its own good quality, simple cloth.
And if the crisis – that is written about so often these days comes – if we do end up with a crashed economy (hello Australia’s fast-disappearing manufacturing industry!) or an environment that is soooooooo much harder to survive in, are we a) going to have the money to buy that nice fabric and yarn so we can use our very worthy skills, or b) will there even be readily accessible shops selling fabric? Will we instead, be limited to lots and lots of repurposing? How will crappy cheap clothes stand up to that!? I don’t know.
What I do know, is that I often feel that gathering all those supplies (and folks, whilst I am very good at gathering supplies, I am also very good at finding the bargains) and making my and my family’s clothes is actually quite indulgent.
I guess the real answer to this dilemma is LESS. I know this is the honourable answer and one that is oh so much more easily reconciled with simple living. But it doesn’t quite feed my love of making. I do look in opshops for supplies where patterns are a dime a dozen, but very rarely do I find any fabric, especially natural fibres.
Then, earlier this year, during the two month period in which a skip was parked outside Mr. Pollack’s house each weekend, I made a lovely discovery – two cotton curtains – in good condition, with a nice weighty hand, and a pretty pattern. Truly it was a Sound of Music moment.
I fished them out of the skip – from amongst the broken china, smashed furniture, moldy books and moth ridden overcoats – gave them a good wash, dried them in the sun and married them off to my 50 cent pattern from the opshop.
Together, they produced the most guilt free, thrifty, down-to-earth, simple dress I have ever produced. I wear it at least twice a week – with tshirts, button down shirts and turtlenecks under it; cardies over it; and stockings, socks or bare legs, as the weather dictates.
I love it – it is so utterly me. A bit eccentric I suppose. A bit flowery. But very very me. I feel that it is my Amish dress. Of course an Amish would have a plain dress, not a flowery one. But I really do like the reasoning behind their manner of dressing – if they only have a few dresses and they are all the same then they don’t have to worry about what to wear each day – their time and thoughts can be taken up with much more important matters. Yep, this pinafore could definitely become my go-to, Amish dress. The ultimate in anti-consumerism.
So I guess what I’m trying to say in this long ramble is I do LOVE Rhonda’s message. I DO want to live a simple life. I AM a huge believer in the value, both mental and physiological, of being a doer not a buyer. I DO believe that the skills of sewing, knitting, embroidery, cooking, gardening etc. are ESSENTIAl to good living.
But I still need to think outside that box a little more. Hopefully, one day, we will keep a sheep or alpaca or two for their fleece. But weaving our own cloth?!?! I don’t think so. So my version of clothing my family and supplying my home in a simple manner will include the scavenging of fabric.
As the great Paul Keating said about his French clock collection …
“Most people catch antiques when they are tame, in fashionable shops. I catch my clocks while they are still wild, in out-of-the-way places.’
I’m with Paul. So much more exciting. So much more satisfying.
This year’s beloved teachers’ gifts – aprons. First off the rank – Mrs. Chambers. Had to be done, she’s leaving early. I bought the fabric weeks ago, but true to form, only started pulling it together this morning. Sigh. I never learn.
Mrs. Chamber’s is Abby’s Japanese teacher – and such a lovely, lovely woman. Very caring, interested, generous, compassionate, and always excited to do more for our Abby who loves her Japanese classes. She even gave Abby a beautiful Japanese book she’d seen in a university bookstore earlier this year. She knew Abby would love it and put it to good use, so she bought it for her and gave it to her. Yes, Mrs. Chambers is one of several women we have found at Abby’s school to be such gifts. And we love her.
Now, my Year 10 music teacher once told me that she truly hated being given presents that were music-themed. She was a funny woman – sarcastic but very entertaining and her scorn for themed gifts left a deep impression. Thus, each year I try to think of something that reflects each teachers’ interests, but that isn’t corny. With Mrs. Chambers’ apron, I wanted fabrics that were rich and beautiful and wouldn’t look out of place in a pretty kimono – but weren’t japanese fabrics and were not put together in a traditional Japanese way.
I think this combination of colours is just right. And the sumptuous flower created by the Dresden plate, is a nod towards the Japanese love of gardens and flowers. I always have a chuckle over the flower beds in Hayao Miyazaki’s films – in his world, everything flowers at once no matter what time of year it is – either a reflection of his yearning for constant beauty or Japan is indeed peculiarly blessed :-)
It’s my own design – and I am mostly happy. I wanted it to be very covering so its wearer could get really stuck into the Christmas cooking without any of their special clothes being splashed. So I’m pleased with the skirt part of it – but the neck band – oy! That took 4 lots of unpicking before it was the right length. As for bodice – I did chop off an inch before attaching the skirt, but I reckon it could almost come up another inch. Perhaps it also needs to be a little more triangular? Hmmmmm ….. And the waistband – too wide. I don’t know what I was thinking when I cut it. I don’t like mean little narrow waistbands but I think this one could lose at least an inch. Never mind – there’s three more chances to perfect the pattern.
Besides, I like THIS one so very much, I think I may make a dress version – make the skirt meet at the back and button down the middle. There’s tonnes of the florals left and I only have to walk up the road to Darn Cheap Fabrics for the stripe.
Yes, I think it will make a very fine Christmas Day dress. And fingers crossed, Mrs. Chambers will be tickled pink by her apron and put it to very fine use.
I truly do have so much to share at the moment – there’s been wonderful progress made on some thrifted treasures, several quilts on the go, aprons for Christmas … good stuff. But tonight, I just want to introduce you to another one of the long losts. Another William Morris needlepoint via the talented Beth Russell.
I give you … The Flower Pot
:: taken Saturday evening – I will snap a photo each night
so as to see how far I’m stitching ::
I began this one afternoon at Mum’s when Abby was just 8 months old. The two of us were staying with Mum whilst our landlord ripped up the carpets and polished the floorboards of our home – there had been a crashingly huge storm – power lines across our drive, massive leaks through the roof, trees scattered like pick up sticks – and when he showed me samples of the new carpet he was about to order to replace the drenched and ruined one, I managed to talk him into polished floorboards instead. He was an obliging fellow :-) However it was dusty business so we camped at Mum’s whilst Julian was all manly and stayed at home to guard the fort.
A little holiday – with dedicated baby sitter supplied – seemed like the perfect time to start a new needlepoint so Abby and I shopped for supplies one morning, and that afternoon – when she was supposed to be napping – I laid my wools out, found the centre of my canvas and began stitching.
Alas, Abby was not impressed – she wriggled over on her tummy (she was a mean commando crawler), grabbed the pattern page in the book and RIPPED it out. I remember it so vividly. Sitting there on the floor with her – aghast! ”Oh Abby!” I wailed. And she too, clearly responding to my distress, was equally horrified and promptly began to cry. It wasn’t a good beginning for this needlepoint.
In fact, it’s been a bumpy road. I don’t think I’ve ever pulled anything out as often. Oy! I made so many mistakes in the vase, I think parts of it have been worked at least 4 times. There have been periods over the last 15 years when I have rediscovered The Flowerpot – spent hours sorting out which green is which and which apricot is which, and feverishly stitched more twining stems and loves. Only to be distracted and have it slip back away into the cupboard.
But I do love it. And with William’s Fox finished and looking scrumptious, it seemed just the right time to pull this sweet girl out and FINISH.
There was the usual colour matching – only the brightest sunlight will do. And then a wee hiccup when I discovered I only had 2 skeins of the background left – DMC 7300 – one of their grounding wools. I headed down to the local Spotlight only to find that colour has been discontinued and the substitute DMC recommends – entirely too crisp. 7300 has a delightfully smudged colour to it. As though it’s been sitting around in the dust a bit. The sweet girl checked Spotlight’s stock Australia wide – we came up with 2. Very disappointing.
The minute I came home I entered the number into Google and who should come up with it – why my old friend Karen at The Quilters’ and Embroiderers’ Store – a treasure trove of cavernous proportions in Brisbane where I have spent many an hour shopping and even working :-) They sent me all they had – 9 regular skeins and 1 hank. My fingers are very tightly crossed that this resupply will see me through. Otherwise there will be a patch of crispness that I will simply have to sigh over and remind myself that that is what you get when you let an embroidery drag on for 15 years.
Here’s tonight’s snap. Have I made much progress since Saturday? Oh yes … a few more stems and a nice bit of fill. Goodo.
Now – before you go, you simply must pop over to Beth’s place and check out one of her new pieces – it’s extraordinary – I would sooooooooo love to stitch it. I’d almost love to do it as a rug to place on the floor. But then people would stand on it and that would be very difficult! Perhaps the wall would be better.
There you go – last week I thought it was the 44th week of this fine year – alas, I was a week behind myself. So here we are, seven days later and yet an extra week ahead.
Never mind, it’s almost the end of the year. And I have only one exam left. Ooooh yes! Summer is a-comin’
~ very old beginnings are being resurrected
into this season’s Christmas presents ~
~ whilst the leftovers from one present
find their way into something very special ~
~ Julian’s found his collecting groove …
vintage cocktail glasses ~
~ which we put to very fine use,
just a few times a week ~
~ whilst we sip our drinks,
the silly dog hops into the rabbits’ grass cutting hut
to nibble on their “leftovers” ~
~ magic happens over night
(we love this recipe – and find that it needs
an extra half teaspoon of salt)
~ and I remember that the piggy breadboard
is only a lovely piggy breadboard when he is being used wisely,
not collecting simply dust ~
~ there is much awesome weekend team work … ~
~ … that results in the most elegant of shadows ~
~ … & great usefulness too ~
~ the garden’s shrubs are all a-bloom,
just like that it happened, just like that ~
~ the girlie comes home full of stories and adventures
- in her fabulous homemade t-shirt -
whilst the dog tries to convince her that all buttered bread
really belongs to the canine members of the family ~
~ a vintage blanket cubby is curiously still and warm
against the stiff, late afternoon breeze
that is still visiting us straight from the Antarctic ~
~ our tree soaks in the long, slow spring sunset ~
One day, folks, one day. You shall come by here to find a ~loveliness found~ post and it shall include … ” we lit our very first fire and warmed our toesies in front of it”. Meanwhile, we shall find loveliness wherever we go.
Wishing all you dear folk a marvellous week ahead!
~ soaking the Christmas fruit ~
~ hanging out the washing
when the sun is rich and warm ~
~ oh the yumminess of spring rhubarb ~
~ a stack of newly bought cushion inserts,
waiting for their pretties ~
~ after school smoothies with my girl ~
~ putting these funny hard rubbish cushions to comfy use ~
~ a Sunday morning spent tidying the corners,
claimed it was in honour of Abby’s friend visiting,
maybe it was really a form of study procrastination ~
~ when that egg bowl overflows, lunchtime zucchini souffle ~
~ whilst the girlie and her friend ate chocolate cake ~
~ cocktail hour with my fellow,
and a bit of knitting – onto the sleeves we are ~
~ a pretty – and tidy – table ~
~ such a sweet fluff, who loves to be wherever we are ~
There’s nothing like a few good finishes to get one all riled up and digging even deeper into that bag of almost dones. And with the monkey looking so luscious on the sofa, I was inspired to trek out to the sewing shed this morning, rain and all, and find my very first needlepoint. William Morris’ Fox in the Acanthus leaves, as adapted by Beth Russell.
I started this project in 1993. Oh my goodness. That’s 20 years ago. Eeeek! I don’t remember where I bought the book, but I do remember where I bought my supplies … a little embroidery store that lived on the second floor of the Toowong Shopping Centre in Brisbane. They had quite a lovely range and for many years, I was a regular customer. Sadly, it went the way of most little embroidery stores and I think the same spot is now occupied by a fingernail salon. What does that say about our society – that there are fingernail salons around every corner? I’m not sure.
However, whilst they were lovely ladies at this embroidery shop and I shared many lovely afternoons with them, they certainly did not set me up well for my first needlepoint adventure and I knew no better. Look at that canvas – white single thread with absolutely NO margins. Awful stuff. And shows up through the stitches like a bad case of dandruff.
I don’t know why I didn’t notice this – the dandruff bit – at first. I just didn’t and stitched away happily until it was almost finished … then I noticed and in puzzled disappointment, William’s fox was rolled up and put away. In fact, it was even suggested by one rather unpleasant person whose company I no longer keep, that it wasn’t worth finishing, the white speckles of the canvas so spoiled it.
However, now, with those couple of decades behind me, a whole lot more confidence, and a much more cheery and laid back approach to life, I look at this sweet embroidery and am charmed. There are surely hundreds of hours of my life stitched into these tiny white squares. I have such vivid memories of where I used to sit (I used to rise by 5am so that I could sit under the lamp, by the piano in our little flat in Hill End and stitch away before catching the ferry across the river to work at the University of Queensland), what I would listen to on the radio (Christopher Lawrence on the ABC Classic’s breakfast program – there was a particular piece he played regularly – a Catalan dance played on the recorder – that I would long for every morning – made my heart sing), and how I would watch the ferry trundling back and forth across the river and think, just one more length of wool and then I’ll run down to the terminal. Just one more. Just one more – I was so often late for work! And hundreds of dollars worth of Appleton crewel wool along with it. And it is an enchanting design – exactly why it was the very first needlepoint I chose to do.
It certainly IS worth finishing and today was the day.
I pulled out the wools – they were all still there, twenty years on, in a tin that I have carried from home to home since then. There was a wee leaf tip to stitch and a little bit more background to fill. Would be easily finished in an hour, then I could sew it up and get on with the rest of my day. Until I noticed there seemed to be the odd stitch missed here and there. Really peculiar. Puzzled me how I could have missed just one stitch here and there. Until I started to poke at the stitches around these little holes … and realised the wool had been eaten. Baaaaaaaaah!
This is incredibly expensive moth proofed Appleton crewel wool! How could it be moth eaten?!?!? And NONE of my other needlepoints (of which there are so many) have a single mark on them – NONE! How could this one! I am meticulous about washing my hands before embroidering and NEVER eat whilst I am working with fabric or yarn. A careful scientific assessment on Instagram :-) leads me to think it was probably silverfish – horrible little beasts. Every house we lived in in Queensland was riddled with them - as soon as something became untouched for more than a few weeks, they’d move in. Ugh! UNESCO even identify them as a major pest of tapestries and apparently they are very fond of sizing – of which the white canvas had plenty and protein – wool.
Each single missing stitch turned into several as I carefully unpicked the damaged stitches and then continued unpicking until I had enough intact yarn to finish off properly. In the end, not only did I repair all the spots illuminated by those missing stitches, but was able to pick out where the stitches had been chewed but hadn’t quite fallen out. It took all day.
I confess, I began to think … that’s it, this bloody needlepoint was absolutely never meant to be finished. And yet, I continued to work steadily at the damaged stitches. Each time I poked an area and it fell apart, I practically cried in frustration, but kept pulling out old stitches and putting in new ones. Let’s face it – it took all day but it certainly was still only little bits here and there that needed repairing. The favoured colour was definitely the fox’s gingerbread coat.
A good deal of self talk also helped my perspective. There I was sitting in front of a wall that I have covered in the quirky little needlepoints I have bought from op shops. Weird little designs, like the one above, higgledy-piggledy things with with missing or wonky stitches, and some with damaged frames. But all so charming and pretty in their own way.
Each time I find one and bring it home, Julian or Mum will look in horror and ask what on earth I want it for. I have the same reply each time. I’m drawn to the hours put in by a dedicated stitcher who receives so much pleasure from her work. That’s what I love. I look at these sweet pictures stitched in wool and I know the thrill of choosing a new pattern. Of buying the wools and neatly laying them on the table in front of me. Of finding the middle of the canvas and starting. Of stitching for the first several hours, holding it up and seeing nothing but a strange arrangement of stitches. Of delight when the picture begins to appear.
Perfection is highly over rated. Yes it’s nice and sure, I don’t aim to do a project badly. But two decades of stitching has taught me that the pleasure is in the doing and the using. I don’t need my points to be pin sharp. I don’t need my lines of quilting to have the perfect curve or the straightest line. I don’t need my knitting to be spot on. I try my best and then I keep going. Yes I still “enjoy” a good unpicking and will unravel a cardigan if it is required :-) But if the joy of making with my own hands becomes reduced to a mechanical exercise in getting it precisely right, I’m not interested. My time is too limited for that. I want the thrills described above.
And this needlepoint with its thousands of stitches, flecks of white, and silverfish chomped bits has delivered those thrills in abundance. As well as a marvellous learning opportunity and a passion for needlepoint that I will always have. In this light, one could call my William’s Fox a gift!
And so it was FINISHED! And I am delighted. I collected Abby from school, called into the lovely Darn Cheap Fabrics up the road for a rich red (they have the most glorious pure wool fabric – it is heavenly and well worth buying – just $20 a metre and 145cm wide), had a lovely chat with Lynne (we are kindred spirits for sure), came home and sewed William’s fox into a gorgeous cushion that I just love.
I mean, just look at him sitting there! He embodies 20 years of my journey … I am so lucky to have him.
p.s. I told you the sofa was becoming a needlepoint easel.
Last Friday was largely spent unpicking. It never ceases to amaze me how unpicking an item can literally take 3 times longer than the time it took to put together. Oy!
First up, there was the unpicking of Mary Margaret. I first sewed her up 6 years ago (oh my goodness, just read this old post – and had completely forgotten about the girl who wanted her photo taken pretending to do my needlepoint – hee! hee! hee! – this is why I love keeping a blog!). Complained at the time that I wasn’t pleased with the effect … and then left her like it. How unjust. She paid me back in spades, taking 3 hours to unpick. I’m not joking. Three hours. I had sewed the seams twice. Then zigzagged the edges – on the closest possible stitch. Then sewed the piping in. Add in the very fragile canvas that pulled so easily and it was a looooooooooooong unpicking. But so worth it. I absolutely love the side borders of wool cloth I added to turn these Carriage House Sampling girlies into squares. And the red braid sewn onto the tassels makes me smile. Yum!
The monkey? He too got a wool cloth border and then two rows of tassels for added sumptuousness. They were on special at Spotlight – $2 a metre. Definitely worth it.
Finally, unpicking the blue braid off the Elizabeth cushion – that wasn’t too bad. Just needed good light to ensure I was only flipping stitches and not the braid itself. As an aside, how much do you regret choosing that cotton sooooooo well so that you can barely see the stitches when you have to then unpick them. At these times, I always curse myself for not embracing the notion of “contrast”.
As for the sofa … well, it would seem to be turning into a bit of an easel for needlepointed cushions :-) Shhhh! Don’t tell Julian – he’s not really a cushion man. Hopefully he won’t notice. And if he does, he’ll just drop them onto the floor and we know, following the epic unpick, that I make them up “so well” that a little bit of chucking won’t hurt them one bit.
This afternoon was the perfect time and perfect weather to head out into the garden, quilt tucked under my arm, to stitch in some ends. And there were a few. When I began quilting this sweet quilt, the top thread kept breaking. Initially there was a hmph! I rethreaded the machine and took off again. Break. There was a little more than a hmph this time. I changed the needle, rethreaded the machine, fiddled with the tension, adjusted the plate covering the dog feed … and took off again. Break. This time there was cursing for sure. I pulled the quilt out. Wondered if the new needle had a burr, so changed it again. Got a new reel of cotton … and took off again. Break. Oh this had me hopping mad. Each time I would get another few centimetres – enough each time to think, oh it’s okay now and then … break.
I was so batty with frustration I unscrewed the stitch plate – pulled out pieces of fluff and blew furiously into it to dislodge any other bits of fluff. I took off again … break. Thankfully, this time, I pulled out the bobbin case and there, THERE! was a big lump of hard fluff wedged between the bobbin and the spring in the bobbin case. I pulled it out. Re-assembled my machine and took off again … and it worked.
Sigh! So there were that many ends to sew in, as well as the usual number from the bobbin running out. Never mind. It was such a lovely afternoon, sitting under the tree, a gentle sea breeze cooling me down after a rather hot day. A silly fluffy dog dancing around me – she’s obsessed with catching spring flies which she then tries to roll on. Contented chickens making sweet little sounds. I could see the husband in the kitchen cooking up a big batch of French Onion soup – there’s rain and cold forecast for the end of the week. And the daughter laughing away as she related a school tale to her dad.
I am sooooooooooo enjoying these weeks between classes and placement. It is just bliss. So many lovely hours in which to do things around the home. So many projects being finished. So much time with Julian and Abby in which I don’t have to feel guilty that I’m not reading for tutorials or researching for essays. Just being. And creating. And beginning the preparations for Christmas and summer. Yes, it is bliss.
You might remember, this quilt was supposed to go onto the blue checked blanket. Well it didn’t fit – too big! And so, I had to dig through the stash to find another – this quilt of blue crosses is very long. Thankfully, this lovely old green plaid blanket was just right. And this afternoon, as I stitched and snipped, it seemed to hold in it all the rich greens that surrounded me. The lush green of the grass. The sun kissed golden green leaves of the branches that drape against the shed. The dark green leaves of the tree above me. The pale green, almost white of the curry plant nestled amongst the herbs. Lots of lovely summery green. Just right for my wee Australian gumnut babies.
And where’s this quilt of blue crosses living – why on our bed, strangely enough. It would seem that Julian – who had absolutely no interest in May Gibb’s beautiful little squishy bottomed gumnut babies – really likes the striking geometry of the blue. It has a lovely crisp summeriness to it as well. Just right for now.
As for the “quilt holder” below – well, that’s a project/treat for tomorrow. I’m so looking forward to it :-)
Ah the best laid plans and all, huh! I am in the throes of writing a tutorial on pinwheels and squares within squares. It was to be all done and dusted by the end of the weekend and posted here for my mum, for any of you dear readers who are interested, and for me to check back on when the need arises.
But those best laid plans are sometimes so easily lost . There I was on Saturday, beautiful weather, all my sewing things set up on the table outside – even my machine and iron, under the umbrella, sun, gentle breeze – such good spring jolliness – stitching and writing and photo-taking – having a blast! And then I got stung by a bee. I’m a little bit allergic to bees (my father is SUPER allergic to bees) and so we do take bee stings a little bit seriously – 25 mg of Phenergan and constant supervision from a reliable adult seriously. So my outdoor sewing fun came to an abrupt stop. I took my tablet, and spent the rest of the afternoon traipsing around after Julian (he had things to do and I needed to stay close just in case I began to puff up) and dozing on the banana lounge. Hmm. So much for the patchwork tutorial.
Sunday – dreadful weather so no more outside sewing. Besides, I had the worst Phenergan hangover and spent the day in a bit of a fog. The patchwork tutorial – nope. Monday – lovely stay at home day for everyone (funny old Melbourne with its extra long weekend for a HORSE RACE). Abby visited friends, we did some shoppings. The plan was to finish the tutorial …. but …. see, I bought a lovely red velvet cushion cover at Ikea and I had this idea …
A special felt appliqued cushion for Martinmas! It had been fluttering around my imagination for a while, and you know, with those best laid plans scattered from one end of the house to another, it just seemed this was the perfect time to settle down to a good bit of stitching. I know I’ve said this before … I love making pictures with felt and embroidery. Love, love, love. I’ve discovered I’m especially fond of saints – maybe I was an iconographer in a former life?
So, I settled down at the kitchen table with my tracing paper, suitcase of felt, and google for some pointers on just what St. Martin looked like and off I went. Such. Bliss. Did I say I WANT to be an iconographer? One who works with felt and embroidery. Yes please. Sign me up now.
Today … why more of the same loveliness. And thankfully, the beautiful weather was back, we all headed outside and there were no more bee stings. Phew! Instead there was sooo much stitching, game playing, breakfast, lunch and cocktails, reading, drawing, angle grinding … the rabbits cut the grass, the chickens dug dirt holes and sunbathed in them, the dog danced on her back legs trying to catch flies … perfection.
As for St. Martin – so close to being finished. I just have to add the other cross to his lapel thingy. And finish his book. And then stitch him onto the red velvet and bob’s your uncle. And it’s not even Martinmas until next Tuesday!
If I had to choose one thing I love best about my St. Martin, it would have to be his wrinkles. I was a bit unsure about stitching them in, but he just looked too smooth and young as he was so I took a deep breath and began stitching. I think they really worked out well! Will certainly be using wrinkles in future works.
And all the colour. I love colour. I love reading about how churches and statues in medieval and renaissance times were chock full of colour – every little thing brilliantly illuminated in glorious colour. Why not, I say. Wouldn’t it an absolute wonder to restore all that colour to the ancient churches of England and Europe. Woot! That’s why my St. Martin is a richly coloured dear.
I’m always a bit partial to the back of my work. It’s like a puzzle – sometimes you can almost see it, other times you can’t.
Now – thinking ahead – I’ve already done St. Lucia. Definitely need to do St. Nicholas. Perhaps the Three Wise Kings? Mary? Absolutely! And Wencelas? Definitely need to do Wencelas! Thank goodness I had a Catholic schooling – it’s given me so many to choose from!
I finished this quilt (after six or seven years!) a few weeks back. Indeed it has been gracing our bed ever since. But there’d not been just the right amount of time or sun to take it outside for showing. Until this afternoon. After another morning of dreadful grey (honestly, every cold front produced in the Antarctic this year has been sliding slowly over Melbourne for the last couple of weeks), this afternoon finally broke sunny and golden – for longer than 15 minutes. Yipee!
I threw the quilt in the wash – ahem, there was a slight problem with some felt pen lines that were drawn on six or seven years ago and you’ll be pleased to know that when Crayola say their felt pen will wash out of your children’s clothes effortlessly, they mean it (for the curious, just a lid full of Martha Gardiner’s Wool Wash and a delicate wash cycle on cold) …
… and hung it out before collecting Abby from school. Lo! The sun was still there when we returned, and so, with my cross stitch supplies gathered, a steamy cup of tea and shawl tucked under my arm (the wind is still biting), a grass nibbling rabbit by my side, and the sweetest pair of chooks at my feet I made the most of this afternoon sun. Such bliss!
It’s quilted in my favourite scribbly wibbly manner. I just adore the texture this brings – and with all that vivid green and those rich, sumptuous florals, it truly looks as if it is alive and growing. I expect it to feel mossy when I run my hand across it. For there to be the sweet fragrance of blooms when I press my face into it.
For me, this is what quilting is about. Colour. Lots and lots and lots of colour. I love my quilts to be heavy with colour, warm and bursting, full of energy. I love the intensity of everything jumbled in together – almost chaotic.
Oh and there’s an Amish moment with this quilt – can you see it? Bottom row, in the middle? I noticed it when I’d just finished the quilting and spread the quilt out on my bed to admire it. Huh! Pride does come before a fall. ONE OF THE HOURGLASSES IS SIDEWAYS! Unbelievable.
Eventually the sun drew its rays in, the shadows grew so much longer and colder, even the chooks forsook me – they were busy watching chook television, that is, watching Miss Hinchfliffe (who didn’t want to cut the grass this afternoon) dart back and forth around her enclosure. They were so funny – their little chooky heads flicking from side to side with surprise and fascination as Hinchy zoomed around.
Just in time, the quilt was dry, ready to bring in and put back on the bed. ’Cause it may look like spring around here, but it sure doesn’t feel like it! And after six or seven years of lazing about in baskets, it’s surely time this quilt was put to work.
This afternoon, Abby and I had arranged to go to Caulfield Park after school – afternoon tea first at Uffizi’s (which serves wonderful food and has very quirky and good service if you’re ever looking for a place ’round there) and then across the road to the Goose Lake for a wee photo shoot. Me wearing the new Icelandic Shawl and Abby taking the photos.
Uffizi’s went very well – delicious food was gobbled and tales of her school day and my adventure to Footscray (to return the wallet of a dear old veteran who’d left it on the train) were shared. We then crossed over to the park and Abby took some photos of me from behind – you know, to get a shot of that nice pointy point and long angles of crochet. Alas, as she looked at the photos she began chuckling in that evil way teenagers do and when I had a look, I confess, I almost wailed!
My hair was APPALLING. You see, two years ago, when we helped Mum move to Merimbula, all that sun and sea left me bemoaning my mousey grey hair (clearly hankering after the days of my youth when my hair was blonde and we spent our summers at Byron). Mum suggested some blondey coloured foils. I agreed, but being horribly stingy, insisted on making them a family affair in the bathroom – so Mum and Abby put them in. And did a nice job.
However, they were never updated and for some unknown reason, it was not until this afternoon when my hair was spilled out over this shawl that Abby – then I – realised I had rather ugly two tone hair. It looked so ghastly that I frantically deleted the photos before they were permanently imprinted on the camera lens.
And demanded that we return home instantly and chop those yellow locks OFF!
Which we did. Julian was horrified/bemused, promptly poured himself a stiff drink, went and sat outside, and refused to have anything to do with what happened next. I jumped in the shower to wet the offending hair. Abby retrieved the perfect turquoise “hair-cutting” stool I had picked up from hard rubbish just hours earlier and set it up in the bathroom (that was serendipity huh!).
Then she chopped. And chopped. And chopped. I confess, when half my hair was bouncing around my ears and the other half lay wet on my back, I had a slight moment of conniptions. However, I placed my trust in Abby and her steady hand. It was truly exhilarating – really, it was. To say to my daughter, yes, chop off my hair sweet one, I have complete faith you will do a wonderful job is up there as one of the most thrilling things I have done as a mother! Corny? Maybe, but it truly was. And she was sooooo empowered by it :-)
Julian (probably relieved there was no screaming) returned, trimmed off a few long ends and voila! Done. I gave it a quick blowdry and wow! My Abby did a fabulous job! I love it!
So onto the shawl – draped over the “hair cutting” stool. Knit in lace weight Icelandic Einband – a ball each of Cherry, Blush and Flame. There’s 225 metres per ball – no joins – and as you can see it went a long way! It was lovely to knit with and I certainly will knit with Icelandic wool again – love it! You should really try them out – there’s something quite magical about having yarn arrive at your door (a bare week after ordering it) that came all the way from hardy little sheep standing on the rocky slopes of Iceland. Unreal! And when I steamed it, it smelt of sheep – extra love! I used the Super Simple Scandinavian Shawl as my guide and just kept knitting until all the wool was used. I love this pattern and will probably keep knitting it for ever more.
The edge is crocheted from a sock yarn ball of Noro. I made it up as I went along and did as much as the ball would allow. Once it was finished and I picked it up, I could really understand why adding crochet lace has structural benefit – the weight of it holds the shawl down really nicely :-)
And here are the rest of Abby’s photos. She’s such a darling how she indulges her silly mama! The first one is when she told me that she thought the new haircut looked really good – except that it aged me at least 2 decades.
And then, she thought some action shots were required. What a hoot! I obediently skipped up and down the street – much to the amusement of passers-by – whilst she cackled from the driveway, snapping away.
All in all, quite a magical afternoon that I know will go down in Boot family lore … and we will laugh and laugh and laugh. The best stuff family’s are made of.
p.s. Smock and shoes from the Salvos, leggings home made, earrings home made, still wearing the glasses the dog chewed when she was a puppy – told you I was thrifty ;-)