Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sing a song of Singer

I have been thinking about the life this lovely old Singer must have led. She is a similar vintage to the treadle that belonged to my Grandmother, and though the design detail on the cabinet drawers is different, so many elements appear from memory to be just the same. She (this Singer, this Songbird) is currently residing in my downstairs lounge room, where I catch regular glimpses of her simple yet beautiful form.
Singer 15-30

This is a family heirloom, though not strictly originating from my own family, and therefore I am feeling much-honoured to have been gifted Dame Singer, Queen of the Needle for safekeeping hereafter. She has for so many years resided with Marg, mother of my darling friend Jo, and before that she belonged to great Aunty Mickie, and possibly to Jo's great-grandmother before that.

How well her accoutrements have been kept and preserved; the hand-crafted box with multiple and varied attachments, all still accounted for and intact. The instruction booklet, published in 1896, is, as you would expect, slightly dog-eared and folded within a drawer. There are also numerous vintage boxes and tins filled with bakelite buttons, cards of press-studs and old hooks and eyes.


It is almost a time-capsule; a little museum all on its own. Aged packets of needles and wooden spools of thread sit all a-jumble in drawers, with scissors and spanner and awl.

I am transported to childhood moments each time I look into the room; watching my Mama's feet plying the treadle, while long small fingers pick and sort the treasures within her black tin button box.
I remember the year that I turned five, receiving a bulky package of dolly dresses for Christmas. Fully eight sets of clothes, complete with petticoats and knickers, bonnets and slips. Each matching set trimmed with narrow lace, some with pin tucks or frills. Pink, yellow, white, blue; miniature florals or delicate filmy fabrics. Such a gift no impish five-year-old ever deserved! Twelve days after Christmas my Mama had a heart attack in her well-tended garden and her treadle moved no more. My strongest memories of her were forged amid the tangle of the sewing-room floor. She was ever-resourceful; a true make-do-and-mend woman. Intensely practical, highly creative and productive. She would whip up a stuffed rag-doll and fashion a cardboard-box cradle while you visited for the day. She would cut thick rounds of white tank-loaf bread and smother them with slabs of yellow butter, and turn you into the wilds of the back garden to dig in the dirt or to run along the stone-lined paths.

Mama's old machine was eventually disposed of, along with many other pedestrian household contents. I think I have missed it ever since. How very blessed I feel to have welcomed Aunty Mickie's old Singer into the heart of my home. I wonder how many children were clothed by the threshing of her treadle; how many seams she seamed, how many rips were mended. Her stitches would have been fine and even; something to behold.

I will have her looked at by a man who knows about the workings of these things, and will anticipate threading her up for stitching again. But for now I am content to rest my eyes upon her ebony skin and happily remember.
x x x

I am sure that the joy of creating was forged during my foundational years. Being fully immersed in imaginative play with scraps of fabric, making rubbishy dolls clothes from the hoard of remnants in the cupboard; playing with bits of lace and braid, ribbon and string. I loved cutting out with those incredibly fun pinking shears, making zig zags all along the edges. Cardboard boxes were made into cubby houses, paper was cut into shapes and stuck all over the place with glue. I was a texta-freak; they were so much more colourful and instantaneous compared to the boring old pencils with broken leads. It's the thing I most value about my childhood; materials supplied, permission granted, encouragement received. Go forth and make. How about you?

x x x

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

What I can learn from the dog

I was sitting in the car early this evening, twilight fading; parked on the busy main street of our town, with cars flitting by in a whirl of white and red lights.

I had grabbed a noteook on the way out the door, just feeling as though my head was so full that I could not make sense of it all. My brain has a mind of its own ... At the top of the page I have written "EMPTY HEAD", and then I have jotted down a random list of unconnected things:
  • think about people that I find inspiring (and why)?
  • work on tapping into local culture, and;
  • creative networking
  • on having too many things that I want to do
  • make time for meditation (empty my head)
... and inexplicably ends with:
  • What I can learn from the dog.
... and I really don't know where that came from. But it does rather demonstrate the "my brain has a mind of its own" thing.

I started writing this blog to establish a sort of record of all my makings and creative thoughts. But lately I have come to feel as though I am having to work at making it work and struggling against some unspoken pressure to keep it moving. (Are you still with me?)

With the necessary routine of domestic life and the busyness of work, maintaining a dynamic and fresh presence in the bloggy world, is in the end, really just more work. And that's not what I had intended at all.

That aside, I am very rarely idle and without some "makings" and "doings" to hand. My mind is busy with everything and nothing. Every day I think of something new that I would like to make, or some design that I could develop. But there is only one of me, and I am tired and slow, and have finally learned that I must patiently finish those things that I have begun before I launch into the latest-great-thing on the menu.

I seem to exhaust myself just  thinking about all that I want to do and am often confounded by the constraints of my role as Corpus Domestica (I just made that up, but you know what I mean). I find it interesting that my list started out with "doing" type things, but finished with "being" things, i.e. to
  • make time for meditation, and; 
  • what I can learn from the dog
The dog (Watson): joy personified (or dogified if you're being picky). He is uncomplicated, unguarded; finding wonder in small things. A collector of twigs and leaves, cardboard boxes and empty milk containers pilfered from the recycling basket; a chaser of balls, and bugs, and dust bunnies from underneath my comfy chair. He is light and life and love; untiring and boundless, living moment-by-moment and ever ready for whatever will happen next. Unworried by expectation, self-imposed or otherwise.


The first thing on my list was that I wanted to reflect on who I find inspiring, and who would ever have guessed that it would end up being the dog.

There need not be any great urgency to bring every idea to fruition. There is a [significant] limit to what one lone person can do in a day; it is good to stop, to empty my head, and take inspiration in the simple reviving joy of a dog.

And now that my head is empty and my heart is at peace I think I will go and pick up my knitting.

x x x

Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Canberra Sock(s)

A wet, grey Canberra day - the first of winter

My beloved hauled me out of bed at some ungodly hour this morning, slid a cooked breakfast and a mug of hot tea under my nose, and shuffled me out to the car for a three and a half hour drive to the Nation's Capital ... Canberra for the uninitiated.
Parliament House - the new-ish one
That white building way in the distance is the old one
 We had some time to spare before our scheduled tour in the National Art Gallery, so we tramped up the hill for a quick inspection of Parliament House. There was a bit of a kerfuffel with the metal detectors going in (a rogue iPhone in somebody's pocket). P also had to empty out of all that jangly loose change, which prompted a chuckle and a comment from the security lady about how there was just enough there to buy me a cup of coffee.

 There is much to see inside, apart from the engine-rooms-of-power, but I was mostly taken with these series of tapestries, produced for the bicentenary in 1988 by kids with learning difficulties. So hard not to go all touchy-feely ...

They are larger than life, bright and colourful, and beautifully executed.

But our excursion was chiefly aimed at full immersion in some "culture" at the National Gallery's opening day of the Turner exhibition, on loan from the Tate.
I was ever so glad of my new waterproof jacket!
The gallery doesn't look all that big from the outside, but actually it is HUGE! I swear it's a tardis ... we walked for over two and a half hours and still didn't see all of the treasures within. Turner's work is breathtaking though; from pencil sketches to watercolours, to full-blown large-scale oils, rich, yet soft and translucent with light. I'm no art critic and not particularly well-schooled in these things, but it was quite, quite marvelous to see the depth of his mastery. I want to go back and spend another day or two just wandering around; there is just too much to take in all at once.

And now to my mastery, not anything like the mastery of the painter. Just sock(s). Well, sock really. I didn't start casting on until we were on the road, and I got as far as the toe decrease by the time we arrived in Canberra. I really was way too fagged to start the second sock on the way home, and the light was not conducive to knitting either. Thankfully, there's always tomorrow. I shall call this The Canberra Sock. It's a bubby-sized foot warmer with a roll top and ribbing that runs all the way down the front. Kind of cute, but a little more sophisticated than your average baby bootie. ETA three weeks baby P (can't wait you know). :)

I am hopeful that all of the words above make sense ('cos boy, I'm kind of tired now and I hear bed calling).

Evie xxx