Saturday, March 30, 2013

Baby Quilt 2013-1: In The Beginning

 I bit the bullet. Today, this afternoon in fact. I riffled through the fabric stash like a mad woman and hunted out several likely contenders for Baby Quilt 2013-1. I've put dash-one because I have a vague notion that I might just make another baby quilt after this one. So many fabrics . . .
I had to clear the decks a bit before I could get to the cutting board (why do I collect so much stuff??). I have decided on circles. Red, blue, maybe a smidge of yellow. Who knows? As I pulled the rotary cutter from it's drawer I had that small flutter of excitement that always comes when starting a new adventure. There's not much of a plan. I will keep it simple. But I always love this journey (well, the beginning bit anyway). Will I finish? I expect so; nothing like a deadline to keep me on track.

Block number one is kind of looking like this so far. Only 34 blocks to go  . . . Some will be pieced (like this one) and others will be fussy cut from those Cat In The Hat prints, so reminiscent of my own childhood. I have fiddled with a few more blocks and I'm kind of happy with my little beginning. But that's it for today. Time for a cup of tea and some quiet knitting with the dog. Playing always seems to make one so tired . . .

Evie xxx

Thursday, March 28, 2013


I am sitting at my favourite table in my favourite cafe in my favourite town at the top of the Mountains, sipping hot tea and watching the world go by ...

... and this nasty mess of wool is nesting in my lap. The untangling process has begun. You know how it got to be like this, don't you? [see "What The Dog Did"]. I need not say more.

I had thought I might try casting on stitches for the beginnings of baby socks, but I gave up that notion when I saw the extent of this sad woolly tangle.

And all the while I am basking in sunlight and admiring embroidered cushions with bright coloured flowers,

and bobbly fringes.

I've drunk three cups of tea in the bright morning sun, and have untangled and balled-up this much yarn.

But I've bundled it up now and paid for my tea. And back up the hill there are daisies in baskets, (it must be a happy thing to own a flower shop),

and there are pink tarts and brown sprinkly sweet things in the baker's window. I am looking (but not buying) ...

And now I have finished, after stoppings and startings. Untangled, re-balled, and ready for socks (tiny ones). Just another one of my favourite things.

Evie xxx

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dorset Buttonery (an introduction)
I first became aware of the existence of Dorset buttons while reading Tracy Chevalier's 2007 novel Burning Bright. The story opens in rural Dorset and follows the Kellaway family as they uproot from their rustic village and move to the frightening and foreign hurly-burly of late 18th century London. Woven throughout the narrative are descriptions of the industrious button-making of Mrs Kellaway and her daughter Maisie. The buttons, formed around a metal ring and laboriously worked with linen thread in traditional and time-honoured patterns, are easily pictured by the storyteller's words. Though humble is this work undertaken by the woman of the house, it becomes vital to the survival of the family as the cold, hard realities of life in London press upon the family.

The history of Dorset buttonery is thought to extend back into the 1600s, at which time rings were cross-cut from rams horn. The working of buttons was the province of cottage women, and they were sold in bundled lots at somewhere between eight pence and three shillings a dozen.
 The Blandford Cartwheel (above) is probably considered one of the most basic button designs, but there are many very intricate and beautiful patterns that have been handed down from generations past (more about that later). And now I come to what I want to say about a beautiful new yarn shop in Blackheath (at the top of the Mountains) called The House of Wool. I wandered in there once after they first opened last year, but as I don't get up the hill very often I've had to content myself with following their progress via facebook. They have started out in two or three rooms of an old house on a corner in the village. Their focus is mainly on stocking yarns from independent Australian producers, and they have a wonderfully eclectic range of hand-dyed and commercial yarns in all the colourways you could wish for. So today, apart from wanting to eyeball all that yarn, I joyfully entered the door ready to enjoy a blissful Sunday afternoon of Dorset button-making.

A hollow-core brass ring is worked in buttonhole stitch - Perle cotton

Since the time I read Chevalier's book my little ears have pricked up whenever the words "Dorset" and "button" are mentioned in the same breath. I often hanker for a life simpler than mine; I dream of replicating the bare-bones, self-sufficiency of bygone years, the waste-not-want-not and mend-and-make-do mentality. Having mastered the art of knitting my own socks, I felt excited at the prospect of being able to craft simple and beautiful buttons by hand.

Adding the spokes and beginning to weave
Mary Burns, from Two Emus Designs, ably explained and demonstrated each step; from winding the cotton to form spokes, to how to pull the centre together and start the process of weaving. There are tricks for starting and finishing a thread, but once mastered it is a snap to work different colours into the design.

From green to red and back to green
I didn't *quite* get mine finished in the allotted two hours. There was a bit of tongue-sticking-out-the-side-of-my-mouth happening as I worked away at my little wheel. Concern at the lop-sidedness of my button was waved away, and examples of similarly wonky buttons were found in the pages of Mary's sample books. I was relieved. Mine is not the only wonky Dorset button in the world.

Buttonery on the Train
I continued working at my button during the train trip home; a typical Sunday afternoon carriage bustling with weekend tourists with baggage and hiking boots and ruffled-looking young persons with very loud iPods. Hum-ho-hum you might say, but thanks to my basket overflowing with everything a woman might need while away from home and some very pointy knitting needles, nobody took the vacant seat by my side ...

Blandford Cartwheel No. 1
This evening I have finished my Dorset button (No 1.), accompanied by two very good cups of tea. Ta da! Yes, I know it is wonky, but these spokes are bespoke, and therefore unique. If ever I find myself in a tight spot and need a button I'll know what to do.

The lesson today was referenced by the book Buttons Buttons by Marion Howitt. I believe the book is available by contacting her through her website. Marion is acknowledged as an authority on Dorset Buttons in the UK. The Blandford Cartwheel button made today is a fairly basic design, but there are many others available. There is some beautiful Dorset button candy to be seen at The British Button Society and naturally, there are many and varied images available via the interwebs.

It has been a delightful day. A day of blue skies and sunshine, of crisp fresh mountain air; a day perfectly formed for sitting alongside like-minded souls rejoicing in something old made new again.


Evie xxx

Friday, March 15, 2013

Winter Woolly Katoomba

The Blue Hour Cafe - Katoomba
This morning I drove up the mountain to Katoomba, the principal township and tourist mecca of this City-Within-a-National-Park. I thought I might get to take a couple of photos of the view from the top of the main street, but in true mountains form, it was one of those shrouded in mist kind of mornings. So instead of a Blue Mountains vista you are getting a view of my feet on the tiled doorstep of my favourite little breakky spot in this town that I love. I should have remembered that the top of the mountain has a special weather pattern all of its own. While I woke to a grey but temperate morning down my end of the range, at the other end of the hill it was somewhat chilly misty moisty and spitting with rain.

With bacon with egg and a sizable coffee under my belt, I tottered up the hill that is Katoomba Street with little happy snap camera still in my hand. It was just after 9am, and many of the shops up and down the strip were still sleepy-head closed. But the florist, as is the case with most florists, must have been up earlier than most to have these delightful fresh blooms stacked in the wagon by their door.

And this is a pic of one of the council garbage bins that are dotted along the pavements. Right at the top of the street is the historic Carrington Hotel, queen of the roaring 20s, now quite faithfully restored and bought back to life. The influence of this grand old lady is beautifully reflected in this rendition of the native Waratah, once abundant in the surrounding bushland. Very pleasant picture of a garbage bin, don't you think?

But my mission this morning was to deliver a goodly bag of unwanted yarn to a band of community yarnbombers; always greedy for woollen string with which to beautify the urban landscape. With my secret drop off under my belt, I loitered around for a bit until the Katoomba Knitting & Needlecraft store opened it's doors at 10.00am (See, it is a sleepy town).
Knitters candy
So joyous and bright
So dependable
And this is what I was waiting for. Navy blue sock yarn. While it *might* appear to be a fairly pedestrian choice, I have it in mind to knit school socks for my man-child. I rail against commercial cotton socks that grow holes in the toes and make feet sweaty and cold. I bought four balls. There's quite a whack of yarn in these, and considering my man-child likes to wear those ankle sport socks I reckon I'll get at least eight pairs out of this lot. But it's going to be a handbag job; one of those projects that sits in my bag for passenger trips in the car and waiting around in waiting rooms. But I'm glad I managed to bag the yarn at 20% off the usual price.

And while I was there, I picked up several balls of lovely Heirloon 5-ply in a softly-softly grey. Will be perfect for this classic raglan baby cardigan methinks. Maybe, if I am lucky, I might be able to get this on the needles this evening.
And now for the last thing, which maybe should have been the first thing, a little ta-da! Amongst the woolly jumble inherited from CC's mum back in January were a few balls of vintage Cleckheaton 8-ply. I can't decide whether it's caramel or brown rice, but I think caramel sounds better. I couldn't really date the label, but I'm guessing maybe from the 1970s? Anyway, I finished these off last night, with a crochet trim in mocha to tart them up a bit. So now that I think on it, perhaps the overall effect is cappuccino. Isn't it wonderful that yarn doesn't go off or expire? And in these days of everything-old-is-new-again I am pleased with my waste not want not baby booties. With a little more cloudy rainy weather on the cards for the weekend I am happily anticipating lots more of the clickety-clack (with pots of tea).

Happy stitching,

Evie xxx

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

From the River to the Sea

Last week delivered buckets and buckets of rain, drenching an already soaked landscape with water far in excess of what was needed. With creeks and rivers up and down the coast already filled to capacity there was nothing for it but for water to start spilling from the magnificent Warragamba Dam south-west of Sydney. And while all this precipitation was highly conducive to a couple of days of rugged-up knitting, cabin fever was definitely brewing in my household. What could be more exciting at a time of record-worthy rain than to jump into the car and tour down to the lowlands to see the raging torrent.
We, like numerous other locals, stood on the Yarramundi Bridge watching the rising waters swirl and strain as little waves began to wash up near our feet. It felt like a somewhat foolish thing to do despite the sturdiness of the structure. It is a bridge that was built for flood-time, and has often withstood such waters. I'm not much of a daredevil, in fact, I'm probably the biggest scaredy-cat I know, so this was living on the edge for me ... We came home, had a glass of red wine to warm the weary, and I once again picked up my knitting.

Sunday, ah Sunday loomed a little brighter and the rain had mostly blown away. A visit to see family took us near enough to the coast to make us want to flit out and see the sea. One of things I love about long car trips is that while I am watching the world go by my knitting bag sits on my lap, a constant and comfortable travel companion. As suburban streets turn into roads, and roads turn into motorways my needles silently and rhythmically work their special magic. I am knitting with four needles, and as one round precedes another, my work continues to lengthen and grow. The beanie that was started on Friday night was all but finished on our journey to the sea and back.

Now my little brown Baby Baby set is complete and I think young Mr P is going to look very snuggly in these oh-so-mini-man woollies, don't you?

So I've started on the next knitty thing, a pair of two-toned mocha/blue baby socks that are going to turn out just grand I reckon. And while I'm getting all this knitting done I've also been thinking about getting my sewing room back in order. Baby P should be with us in about 16 weeks (give or take a bit).Yikes! I have this lovely lovely baby quilt rolling around in my brain, with some red and some aqua blue on a creamy cream background.  But it's all still shrouded in mist and will doubtless unfold itself about the same time I pull the rotary cutter from the drawer. Tomorrow is a no can do day, and Thursday is already spoken for. So maybe on Friday I will clear the decks, trawl through the fabrics and see if they will take me from the river to the sea.

Until next time,

Evie xxx

Friday, March 1, 2013

Autumnal blessings

I have been waiting for this day all Summer long. Each year as the months tick by I am in mortal dread of the days of heat and humidity to come. Though February has drawn to a welcome close and we have slipped overnight into Mad March, it does not necessarily follow that we have yet escaped a day or two, or dare I think it, week more of sticky weather. But for today, it has been cool, slightly chill even, and the rain has been steadily weeping onto the trees and the roads, filling the gutters and running headlong into the creek at the back of our bushland home.

My rainy morning was spent in the execution of necessary domestic duties; ironing the washing that had ceased to become washing and had sadly morphed into ironing. Here I was ably assisted by my dog-of-all-works, Watson, which meant that it took twice as long to do said ironing. Throwing the ball down the stairs, scolding the brat for attacking my woolly ugg-boots, and rescuing stealthily-retrieved contraband from this chewing monster took up an equal amount of time.

Sneaky sneak-preview: Evie-May Designs (ta-da!!)
By lunchtime I had given up on achieving any more in the housework department, and retreated to the comfort of my comfy armchair to set out upon my next venture, namely the conjuring up of stitching patterns. I have had this in mind for ever so long, and now is the time to, as they say, carpe diem (an oldie, but a goodie methinks) ... In the next few weeks I hope to get my Etsy store up and running and see whether these little babies will fly. Whether this mischief will be managed or no, time will tell. So, wish upon a star for me, if you will?!

And now that evening is past it's full swing, the meal is done and dusted and the household starts to languidly wend toward bedding down, it is once again time for me to repose and contemplate tea with figs and knitting. Even the dog has ceased his endless treadmilling and has flopped on a rug at my feet. With more rain forecast for the weekend I am happily anticipating another day or two of knitted bliss. Happy Autumn my friends.

Evie xxx