Wednesday, 31 January 2007

next

There are projects and then there are projects.

Sometimes I look back on something I've made and wonder why - why I ever thought it was a good idea to go down that road. Why I didn't tust all those instincts that were putting up road blocks along the way, why I tried so hard to push through the procrastination and ignore the warning signs. Everything was telling me not to procede, why didn't I listen? Is it bull headedness that makes me persist just because I once thought up the idea, or is there something deeper at work?

I can tell you where this project started. About four years ago, whilst shopping in a shoe factory outlet near my house I was drawn to a bin of leather remnants. At the time I was contemplating making some little shoes for Amy, who was still crawling I think. She had a fabulous pair of soft leather boottees that did up across the back seam with velcro. They were so practical AND good looking and I had managed to convince myself that they would be simple simple simple to make.

So the leather bin. In it I found a whole hide of very nice purple leather, it had a good weight and was well tanned and finished and if it was a little too shiny it didn't worry me at the time. Purple was the central colour of Amy's wardrobe, so I figured it was perfect and it was only $5 or something completely rediculous. How could I not?

Of course I didn't make the boottees. I can't remember exactly why, but any number of things could have come between me and that project. For a start an almost complete lack of skills and experience in working with leather. So the rolled up hide lay on the shelf for the next few years.
The next part of the story was when I spied a box of magnetic metal handbag fasteners at one of my favourite fabric stores in Thailand. I know there's nothing special about these fasteners, they are a dime a dozen in any self-respecting craft shop here in Oz, but at the time they swept me away. I love magnetic handbag fasteners for some inexplicable reason and I'd never noticed them for sale before. I began imagining all kinds of gorgeous handbags.

It didn't take long for the leather to meet the fasteners and for me to start getting ideas above my station (as they say). Somehow I convinced myself I could make a really good handbag. A perfect purple handbag. A handbag for my new mother life, funky and practical, handmade but still quality, that would go on the pusher handles or over my shoulder or sash style across my chest, that would be light but roomy, with pockets for my gadgets.

But you know what? It takes a lot of skill to sew leather, and while my dinky little domestic machine had no trouble getting through the hide, it was a complete bitch to make. The feed dogs just gripped the leather like glue, and the upper layer stretched with gay abandon while the lower layer did its own thing. No pins?! My perfectly drawn pattern pieces wouldn't fit and I had to unpick and re sew and patch (patch!) and change strategies and try to cover stitch holes after the fact. The sewing is sloppy and the stitch lengths vary from microscopic to gargantuan. The curves are not smooth, the strap is wonky and clunky. And it seems very very purple. And shiny.

Perhaps it will grow on me. Perhaps it will wear-in well and the wrinkles I see in it's construction will smooth with age. Perhaps I will even grow fond of it.

And that's the funny thing about those projects that have you swearing and throwing bits about the room and sulking and saying (loudly), it's fucked.

Sometimes, when you are lucky, they stop being reminders of failure and dashed expectations and start being symbols of what you really value about this crafting caper. They start saying I had an idea and I made it happen. It didn't matter that I wasn't an expert or that the sewing is a bit wonky or that it doesn't measure up to Birkin Bag standards. I persisted and I problem solved and even if I never sew leather again, I learned some interesting and valuable things.

Here's hoping.

And some gratuitous Art by Amy on the offcuts of the bathroom shelves D has been making.

Yes, that would be an open box cutter next to her bare feet. Hmmm.

And some gorgeous chunky earrings made by my cousin, whose day job (or is it night job?) is singing opera. What talent! Thanks so much Dimity, they are lovely. There will be some sock monkeys coming your way real soon! And sorry for the dim photo.
Only 12 sleeps till Thumper!

Sunday, 28 January 2007

and it burns burns burns

God, I hope it isn't the harbinger of impending birth that I suddenly have the energy to churn through the list of projects I positively need to do before thumper decides to try life outside the womb. But hey, if it is, I am glad I'm not wasting my nesting urge on cleaning.

And because D is nesting too (more demolition and use of noisy power tools, more plaster dust and strange power point configurations) there isn't a single decent horizontal surface in the house that has good light so you'll have to live with sub optimal photos that make everything look all wonky. All illusion, trust me.

It's a sign of how much knitting has grown in my life that this needle roll is twice the size of the old one and has special pockets for wool sewing needles and a needle gauge and stitch markers and stitch holders. Gadgets and add ons. So far it pleases me greatly.

So much so that despite starting my newest knitting project only days ago (and it's progressing quite nicely thanks for asking) I had to go out this morning and buy some more wool. 6 balls of variegated 127 Print to make a hoodie for thumper's future wardrobe, and 2 skeins of Debbie Bliss Maya handspun in shades of green because it is so gorgeous and apparently discontinued. I'm thinking a scarf for me when the weather turns cooler. It's no mistake they are both 10 ply/worsted/aran weight yarns since my difficulty locating good yarns in this weight has given me a hoarder's outlook. Damn it!

And I bought this wild little bamboo wool sewing needle, no doubt well known to serious knitters, but a first sighting for me. I hope it is as nice to use as it is to look at.

Aside from more knitting, the next project on the list is a new handbag.

15 more sleeps (not including naps) till thumper arrives.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

sleep

A day longer than planned, but the new doona cover is now comlpete. This completes a flurry of bed related activity that started when we decided that with a four year old and baby on the way we really should upgrade to a king size bed.

Although the base is fabulous (D and I built it with gorgeous chunky recycled redwood a few years ago) our old futon was getting a bit past it's prime so we decided to take the plunge. A few modifications to the timber slats, a new super thick wool and cotton futon and our bed is now like a paddock of sleep.

Of course then we needed new sheets to fit and since sheet sets are so much more available and economical than individual fitted sheets I decided to use a flat sheet to back the hand block printed thick cotton bed spread we brought back from Thailand and turn it into a doona cover.

Like I needed inducement to sleep.

Next up a new and improved needle roll for the knitting sticks.

I am on fire!

Thursday, 25 January 2007

the routine

**Sorry, can't upload photos today, so links is all I got to offer**

It's late January which means the garden is bursting with these which means I'm doing this to make these.

I salt the de-seeded cherry tomatoes then rinse and toss them with olive oil, pepper and oregano before slow roasting them in the oven. Once done the house smells so good my mouth waters. I could eat a whole jar of them - they are the essence of tomato. No matter how many I make, they all go before I have a chance to put them to the range of excellent uses I have in mind for them (like adding to pasta sauces or risotto or pizzas or sandwiches etc etc etc).

We're also over run with plums, and the odd bunch of grapes growing over from the next door neighbour's unruly yard. Not sure what the grape variety is but they are tiny and deliciously thin skinned and sweet and tangy.

The plums were getting a bit out of control so I made this wonderful plum cake from Stephanie's Cook's Companion, my kitchen super-ego. It's an interesting cake and I've been put off the seemingly complicated recipe before, but I'm a convert now. You make a cake batter, cover it in almond meal, then plums, then a mixture of cinnamon, egg, sugar and butter and bake it as one.

I also headed out and bought wool for my next knitting project. I have to say yet again, it is disappointing how few 10 ply/worsted/aran weight wools you can get here. This one is a New Zealand Merino Angora blend, it's lovely and soft, but the colours were all either a bit insipid or too dark for Amy's taste. Where is the cool variegated stuff in this weight - WHERE??

Oh and here's a question for all you woolly types. I have just inhertited a beautiful handknitted jumper made out of what I would guess to be a hand spun wool/alpaca/(maybe) mohair blend. My only issue is that it is cream - a colour I would be most unlikely to ever wear. Any tips on dying it??

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

making hay while the sun is napping

After the last couple of weeks I was beginning to think I would never create again, never sleep again, never be able to get off the couch again. Given the scale of my things to do before the baby comes list I was finding this increasingly alarming.

But this week has been mercifully cooler and I seem to have regained some of my mental faculties. Plus I borrowed my mother-in-law's one of these which has been a great motivator. Man, I love this baby. I have borrowed it a couple of other times and it works like a charm in getting my into high productivity gear. And of course in the back of my mind is the fear that I could fall back in a heap tomorrow or go into early labour or we could have another heatwave. So while it isn't too sunny I'm trying hard to make some hay.

There have been new baby slings, one wrap and one ring,and a new nightie for Amy (sorry she's busy sleeping in it so no photos). Tomorrow I tackle a donna cover if all goes well.

I finished crocheting but haven't put a face on this critter since I'm not quite sure what it is. It's meant to be a cat and look like this, but the mouth piece came out completely snout like, so I unpicked it and made it wider and flatter and now it looks totally pig like! Amy quite likes it as a pig, though it has a distinctly feline tail, so I can't decide whether to redo the mouth or the tail or just let it be. I think the pattern (which you can find here for free) is basically very easy and good, and I suspect the problem with the mouth is that you are supposed to keep increasing every round, even though the pattern says to go straight on 14 stitches after the second round. If anyone knows the answer, do please tell me.

I'm also greatly relieved and quite satisfied with a little bundle of these. They are for a bloggers get together here in Melbourne and like most participants, I've been finding it hard to work out what to do. 15 items is a lot to make and I didn't want to get the scale wrong - too ambitious and I'd end up fudging things towards the deadline, too small and I'd feel mean and disappointed in myself. After a lot of thinking and worrying and false starts I'm done, and very glad to be. I hadn't realised how much brain space was going to waste on performance anxiety over a bunch of people I don't know and many of whom seem to be suffering similar fears. Why do we do this mental torture thing? Anyway, like I say I feel good about what's been done and even better about ticking something else off that endless to do list.

Oh, and I've meaning to get back to everyone about that Christians commenting on my posts thing. In fact I actually wrote a post about it, about what I think and believe and why, about Christianity and a range of other religions and organised religion in general as distinct from spirituality and value systems, and how I feel about the kinds of comments that have been left and that they have been left anonymously.

But really, who cares? I choose to believe that those comments were meant kindly - that those who think they have the answer to eternal life and happiness just wanted to share it with me because they thought I needed it. Most likely they don't get why I might see it differently, and nothing I might say is likely to change that. More than likely it will just deepen the misunderstanding and division and really I have no interest in that at all. At all.

And to be honest, it feels kind of good to realise that I don't feel the need to defend who I am or what I believe, or to mark myself out as different to you. So comment away. I'd kind of like it if you didn't do it anonymously, because I think that cheapens you and your message, but hey, if you don't feel confident enough that there is goodness in what you have to say and put your name to it then you got bigger problems that saving my soul. So you know, good luck with that.

Friday, 19 January 2007

thank you thank you thank you

If it wasn't so darn hot and I wasn't so neurologically challenged I would write you all personal thank you notes. That's the most comments I've ever had on a post, which just goes to show that when you ask for advice you darn well get it.

I seriously appreciate it, so thank you all.

I've written out a long list of great books and authors and I'll be keeping it handy for trips to the library and op-shops. Assuming I ever feel able to leave the house again.

See how quickly I manage to turn a thank you post into another complaint about being pregnant? It's shocking how fast I can turn any conversation into a litany of my woes. Right now I feel fit to burst and I've never sweated so much in my life - even air-con shops feel oppressively hot to me. It's raining this morning but I still need the fan in order not to drown my keyboard.

But ot prove it's not all bad, I had a lovely night last night. As one of the perks of my mother's life of good work and service to the community she occassionally gets invites to special events. Sometimes they let her bring members of her family, keep the speeches and boring bits to a minimum and put on a real turn. So last night we went to the Museum after it was closed to the public and got a taste for this fantastic show.

It's not often a 'stakeholder' event is a joy to attend, but this was a doosy. There was heaps of great food and owing to the large number of kids and grandkids in attendance it was a great mix of kid friendly and grown up fare. There was a dessert buffet with a chocolate fountain for dipping fruit and making sundaes. Chocolate fountain!

There was a performance of the bug circus, face painting in the indigenous style, Bollywood dancing, a roving band and lady historians in Victorian dress, live bugs and a snake to pat, giant bug puppets and dinosaurs and paper doll making. At 9.30 we stumbled bleary eyed out of the IMAX theatre having made it through only the first half of a fabulous 3D film about bugs in the Amazon, then all came home and collapsed in bed.

So even though you don't get to go tot eh bells and whistles version, I had to tell you about it and I encourage Melbournians to go and see the bugs while they are still there (till the end of Jan). You won't get the chocolate fountain, but it's still a heap of fun.

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

fairy tales

I'm not really in the habit of cross posting here from my other blog, but I'm really needing some assistance.

We had a shocking night here last night after Amy got to thinking too much about the day when I will die. It's not the first time we've played out this scenario, but after a good four plus hours of mid night sleeplessness for us all I had ample opportunity to think through where all this comes from.

I know there's a lot of background stuff - new baby, holiday loss of routine, my pregnancy induced lack of energy and involvement for starters - but I suspect there's also a component that comes from the current reading craze for fairy tales.

A friend of mine, whose mother died young, once remarked to me how appalled she was by the way fairy stories are so heavily oriented towards tales of lost mothers and failed fathers. And the more I have thought about this, the more I have come to see her point. From Cinderella to Hansel and Gretel, the little mermaid to rumplestiltskin and beauty and the beast and a whole raft of stories in between focus on the travails of poor children who cannot rely on parents to keep them safe in a hostile world.

Of course, the other problem is how frequently the solution to this whole problem is finding a decent bloke to ride in, marry and save said damsel, fighting off other female contenders and accepting the required personal losses and compromises to secure married life. Last time Amy had a meltdown about losing me she was also terrified about not finding a husband - quite a bizarre fear, given D and I aren't married, and neither are many of our friends. But that's a whole other story.

So I find these stories pretty disturbing on an ideological level, and increasingly I think they aren't doing Amy any good either. I don't believe in wrapping my girl in cotton wool - I think if anything I might be criticised for failing to provide her with sufficient protection from life's realities - but it seems pretty much every substantial story book she owns takes for granted that a four year old should be able to take death and misery in her stride.

So I'm casting around for some good books for a four and a half year old. Books with substance, where something happens, books that provide food for thought as well as holding attention through the reading. The 10 to 15 mintues of reading before bed kind of books. Some pictures are nice, but not as important as the story. Books that teach a girl (or boy) that the world is an interesting and exciting place, not one to be overly frightened of, and where the path to success and happiness is not proscribed. Books that are not branded or merchandised or pitched by marketing experts looking to on sell.

Am I asking too much? Surely they are out there, just waiting for you to tell me about them. Surely?

6 weird things about me. because it's all about me.

I was tagged by Liesl.

RULES: People who get tagged need to write a blog post of 6 weird things about them as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "you are tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog.

1. I love to cook, I have a wide ranging interest in growing, preparing and eating all kinds of foods, but I find it almost impossible to cook for myself. If I'm home alone an egg on toast seems like too much trouble.

2. My little fingers bend sideways from the upper joint. It's genetic.

3. I eat almost anything, but the things I don't like to eat almost all start with the letter C.

4. It's the middle of the hottest month of the year, I am 36 weeks pregnant and feel dangerously close to spontaneous combustion but I still can't stop knitting and crochetting.

5. When I was in my early thirties I found out I had another (half) brother in his early 40s who had been adopted out at birth. That brother's adopted siblings also found out they were adopted, one from an indigenous family. My two oldest brothers have some uncanny resemblences - including using identical obscure mobile phone covers.

6. I always overfill tea cups and mugs to the point where it is inevitable I spill some. It's my own personal drinking problem.

I totally agree with Tokyo Knitter that as you get older it's hard to see your own weirdness. Familiarity breeds blindness as well as contempt I guess. I am sure I'm way weirder than this list implies, I know I am.

I'm tagging Janet, Suse, Di, Simmy, Kate and Fiona

Sunday, 14 January 2007

the walls came tumbling down

After a week of this
We now have this.For some it might not seem like much of an improvement, but it is the first of many steps towards an extention to our house. Hopefully by the middle of the year, this whole bathroom will be remade, but for now the loss of the chimney represents some progress. Poor D has spent an entire week slaving like a dog in the heat while I've been complaining about getting out of bed. He's a hero.

I was blessed with some great books for Christmas - D again :-) I am in love with several of the patterns from this
And although the cover looks hideous on this, there are some nice projects here too.Like these.Crochet sandals! Crack me up.

And now I own at least one stitch and bitch book.Crochet cowboy hat anyone?

I am also pondering potential projects for this delightful gift 150gms of handspun alpaca yarn. It is amazingly soft and a lovely light caramel colour and I'm guessing it's about a 4ply. I think I have all the 0-6mth baby knitwear I could possibly use, so I'm really casting about for something that will maximise the light and fluffy texture - perhaps even something for me?

And I finally scraped up enough stuffing to fill this baby - my frivolous holiday knitting project.It's actually huge - 25cm high and nearly 40cm long - and while it wasn't difficult to knit it was a little fiddly. The wombat pattern came from the same Cleckheaton book of Australian Animals where I got the pattern for Gwen. Great book.

It was quite synchronous that when we got back from the beach, this was waiting for me. Rosie the wombat was my half of a swap from Kate - and we are all MADLY in love with her. Amy carts her around and plays out surrogate sibling games with her, and I admire Kate's amazing pattern making skills. She really is beautiful, thanks so much Kate. So now we're a two wombat household.

And because I wanted something quick and easy while I was watching the TV I got going on another of Roxycraft's animal collection.
Still haven't done any of the things I am meant to have done though.

4 weeks and counting.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

why hello there


Yes I'm still alive, though I admit I was absent for quite some time there. I've been at the beach, looking at the great big pile of stuff I took down to do and not doing any of it. I have work, exciting creative work, plus baby slings and ordered toys to make and letters to write and wonderful things to make with the gifts of books and materials I was given for christmas. I have photos to take of said gifts and all manner of catching up to do.

Instead I have spent two weeks laid out, reading and knitting a completely frivolous project and sleeping all the time. My energy levels are very low and the heat has started to really eat at me which shits me to tears because when I am not pregnant I love nothing more than a sweltering hot night.

I am now counting down the days till baby time - I've reached that point where I am just so darn big and uncomfortable and hot that I'm finding every day an uphill battle. And I am mentally excited about craft, but completely unable to coordinate mind and body in any useful way. The photo below says it all - you could put a little speech bubble out of my mouth saying "Huh?"
I am also failing miserably in the parenting department for this gorgeous kid on the right. While D has taken this opportunity to start pulling our bathroom to bits (yes, literally. Watch those bricks fall!) and all I want is sleep, Amy has started complaining all the time about everything. It was the living end today when after one complaint after the next for an hour or so she decided to chuck a complete wobbly because the other kid swimming in the pool was older than her - "But why does SHE get to be older than me? It's not FAIR!"

I mean really. What's a very pregnant lady with no patience to do? Because screaming shut up at the top of my lungs is so unseemly, don't you think? So I am going for the completely useless nag a thon. Sometimes my lack of creativity is astonishing.

I also want to post something about all these people who seem to leave comments on my blog attributing every dissatisfaction I have to a lack of Christian faith. But I'm too grumpy and time poor to do anything other than a rant that's bound to be misunderstood. So stay tuned.