Friday, January 27, 2012

Squeeky Clean - Yarn Along

Second attempt at this post.... I completed the whole thing last night then lost it just as I pressed Publish...!! Time to update the RAM on this computer and soon.
The very Australian, Australian summer in the past week has limited the inclination to commune with wool but some little gifts for a friends 4 and 2 year old daughters were needed and knitted pocket mice in felt pouches seemed just the ticket.

A crazy week of too many outings and too many projects has me feeling overly juggled and jiggled. These mice should have been ready by today so it is a stroke of luck for me that the friend's visit had to be postponed but the desire to reschedule very soon will keep me focused to finish these, the little dolls and two pairs of baby pants to go with them.

This house is literally held together with books. Fifteen years working in bookstores and for publishing companies means there is quite a collection surrounding us here and many of them are still waiting for me to choose them. This year has started with a strong resolution to spend less and use more of what we have so I took myself into the lounge room and selected a book from our shelves.

Penelope Fitzgerald was an English writer who wrote from 1975 (year of my birth) till her death in 2000. Her writing career or published writing career began at the age of fifty-nine (hope for me yet) and in those twenty-five years she had 3 biographies, 9 novels and a collection of short stories published. The edition on my shelf includes three of her novels: The Bookshop, The Gate of Angels and The Blue Flower. I've just finished The Bookshop which was a delightful tale of a woman who decides to throw a lifetime of cautious living aside and open a bookshop in her sleepy English seaside town. An old building haunted by poltergeists, inclement weather and hostile townspeople all step in to create a litany of challenges for her. It reminded me of a favourite novel of mine called Miss Garnet's Angel and I feel that if Florence Green and Julia Garnet got together a very pleasant morning tea would ensue.

Greeniology and Slow Guide to Melbourne are two titles I'm dipping into for ideas on ways to reduce waste and chemicals in our home and also for great nature driven weekend outings with the boys.

Having already worked our way through the three Faraway Tree volumes, Big Pickle and I are now deeply and enchantingly involved in the Wishing Chair many wonderful childhood memories flooding back for me and its so fun seeing how the details of the stories find their way into his play.

So, due to forgetting to embrace the slow properly this week and technical glitches, I'm joining Ginny's wonderful Yarn Along two days late.

At least I would have joined but the widget expired five hours ago....! Thanks for that dodgy RAM.

Monday, January 9, 2012

City Wonderings

A day in the city.....alone.
An outfit for my sisters upcoming wedding was needed and so on Mr Pickle's last day of holidays I kissed them all goodbye and headed off down the street....on get a train into the liberating. I don't tend to get out on my own very often and usually its to do errands....groceries or medical appointments. This day was different...this day had one sole!
Shopping and I were once very firm friends. We knew each other very, very well. Almost every day we caught up, sometimes just to go wandering together but generally the time we spent was very productive and lasting memories came home with me in lovely shopping bags. Most days I wore something that shopping had given me and never, ever went out in something that shopping hadn't helped me find just for that occasion.
So many different haunts we had, city laneways, suburban department stores or shopping meccas, little boutique shopping strips in niche suburbs.....there were just so many different options for our rendezvous and we always knew which was the perfect choice for each outing.

Four years away from a city workplace and away from meetings in different places all over this fine city of Melbourne mean shopping and I have lost touch.....really lost touch. We barely recognise each other these days. As I reached the city I entered through the comforting laneways that have always been my favourite calming places in the city and then abruptly found myself standing in the central shopping precinct, confronted by the two major, recently renovated and very shmick department stores. I felt strangely nervous, shy, reticent, overwhelmed. Which one first....where's the escalator.... so many people... glaring lights.... shiny surfaces...... The most confronting, confusing and disturbing things were the signs hanging from the ceiling everywhere in one store which screamed (in my mind) BUY NOW OR CRY LATER - !!?*#! Had I gone shopping or into battle of some kind!

After what seemed an eternity walking the enormous expanse of racks in one of the department stores, passing by dress after inappropriate dress my mind was filled with questions: Where were the sleeves? Does no-one else feel they'd perhaps like a little coverage on their non-toned upper arm? What's with all the sparkles and sequins? Are we only dressing up at night? To jiggle in nightclubs? Are we all 23?!
Finally I spotted something I liked, classic, non-sequinned, with a good quality fabric printed with an unusual and appealing design with trees and quirky rabbits (I was feeling a bit desperate by now and I do know that description makes me sound like a mother....well, I am a mother and my mother always had impeccable taste, a good eye for a classic garment and a sensible approach to shopping so perhaps I've arrived where I need to be). Luckily I looked at the all important price tag at this point.........$1299!!!!!!!!! Hilarious!! Ridiculous!!! A perfect illustration of shopping and I's massive disjuncture - we are no longer in the same league.

 Eventually, the tides turned and the perfect dress materialised (the fabric was very nice - ha! I crack myself up) A classic, 1950's style dress in a striking shade of magenta which I then teamed with turquoise beads and shoes. The colour of these contrasting but kapoow giving accessories were at the suggestion of a clever sales girl in the Leona Edmiston shop in the GPO centre which I found after having bought the dress in the scary department store. To think I could have bought it at the same incredible sale price in the nurturing environs of this lovely little boutique centre.

It's such a funny thing for me to see this building all crisp and white and filled with shiny glass fronted boutiques. Many moons ago when I began my working life at McGills across the road, I came across to this building to send off our parcels each day. I always looked up to the balconies of the upper levels and wondered what was up there. Now I know it was many lovely rooms with large arched windows out onto the street, high ceiling and stunning proportions. Its nice to see them all being used now but a bit sad to see so many shops with one rather lonely looking salesperson and narry a customer in sight.

Amidst all this dress and accessory searching in stores not quite to my liking I drifted back to the arcades and lanes that define my idea of Melbourne. In the greater scheme of things Melbourne may be but a babe of a city but this little lady does have a little bit of history and she has managed to hold on to some of her old charm. Two of my favourite arcades are the Royal Arcade for its checkerboard tiles, curved ceiling, row of fanlight windows and wrought iron shop-window surrounds.

The Block Arcade has so many beautiful features, in particular its mosaic tiles but all it really needs to draw me there is a Haigh's Chocolate shop. The Pickles now expect a chocolate teddy or frog each whenever I go to the city but sadly I haven't yet taken them to the actual shop. Considering the sight of this purveyor of delectable delights still gives their mama heart palpitations, perhaps they're not quite ready!

By far the highlight of my whole day was the discovery of a new and wondrous little shop in the Nicholas Building. The Nicholas Building has long been a favourite place of mine and I have watched for years as gradually more little shops and more of the many artists studios have opened their doors to the public. I was heading to a fantastic little button shop called Buttonmania and was stopped in my tracks by an open doorway right next door.
L'Uccello - Vintage Haberdashery. Wow! Heart palpitations are an understatement - stepping through this store's door sent me into feverish conniptions of crafters ectasy. The setting of the store alone is enough to make you want to just linger there forever. However, it has so much more to offer than just a stunning space, braids, ribbons, french fabrics, notions, buttons......they have even introduced Liberty fabrics this month.

This is exactly the kind of oasis that I go to the city to find. I have a secret dream of being one of the lucky people who get to work in this amazing shop, stringing the buttons onto their special L'Uccello cards, re-winding the braids, making packs of lace offcuts and helping make the items for the window displays they create for lucky stores in the city and surrounds.

Wondering about in the Nicholas Building I found another wondrous little shop with old and new wares, bric a brac, fabric, ceramics..... can't remember its name but will go back and linger a little longer there next time.

After all that beauty I finally had a chance to sit down and have a coffee at another old favourite. This also gave me the chance to unpack some of the little scrap bags I had picked up in a sale basket at L'Uccello and I truly felt like I must have stolen them! So much beauty and so many inspiring little pieces - all for $10!! The Babushka tape measures and the red and navy braids were separate but I will definitely be heading back as soon as I can wrangle another play in the city.

This sign made me giggle and gave me food for thought as I descended into the Flinders St subway on my way to Platform 11 and home. I wonder if this would help at home?!!
Thank you City for a lovely day, even if shopping and I are no longer in tune, you and I are definitely still kindred spirits.
Returning home I was greeted by two very happy Pickles and the Big Pickle immediately asked "did you get us our frogs Mummy?" and then "did you have a nice day wondering in the city today?". One of his many little word mix-ups that I love and this one fits just perfectly I think. "Paddy and I had a lovely day with our chothers today mummy but would you like to make me comftanys now and read a story with me?" They may not make sense to you but I'll take my Pickles over a bustling department store anyday!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ahhhh 2012.... we are going to have fun together!

Four panels done...just like that. Three years ago (!!!!) I realised that casual trips to the local beach were set to become a regular part of our summers.  So, in  very uncasual way I was graced with a vision of a stylish beach kit. A canvas beach shelter, perfectly coordinated with our 'beach quilt'.
A color palette came to mind and I then encountered Heather Ross Far Far Away range and it tied in perfectly. So, the collecting began. I confess to receiving some inspiration from this quilt as well.
There have been more than enough fabrics there for some time but the impetus to begin hadn't struck. This week it did and now I'm sure I can get 16 or 25 (depending how big I decide it needs to be) completed soon....probably just in time for the end of summer.... which is fine as it will be perfect for picnics too.

Amongst the many ambitious sewing aspirations I had for December were Christmas shirts for the Pickles. Not Christmas themed shirts but new smart shirts to wear for Christmas mass and lunch. I let that dream go.....on Christmas Eve or perhaps a day before. I then thought they would be great for a barbeque dinner with friends for New Years......let that go too. I'm now thinking they would be perfect for my sisters wedding in March.
There are so many great patterns in my new favourite sewing book, Sewing for Boys, and the Henry shirt is just one of them. I had been given a voucher to the illustrious Patchwork on Central and a trip there eight months after the voucher arrived helped me find the perfect fabric combinations for each Pickle.

 I LOVE this fabric for Little Pickles shirt. Colours gentle enough to convince a mama her youngest is still very little (not really with toilet training looming any day) and a brilliantly quirky design.

 This project has been cut out and waiting since my sewing weekend way back in the middle of last year. A simple a-line skirt with details from a vintage scarf sewn around the bottom. I'm determined to add this to my summer wardrobe this week.

A piece of fabric passed on from my sister seems the perfect thing to try my first Tova Top and now that its cut out i should be able to get that done soon too..... There may be a slight glitch as I decided I'd love to have it at the dress length but only determined after cutting out the pieces that their idea of dress length isn't necessarily mine. A contrast panel around the bottom or a risky add-on piece of the same fabric are being considered.

I love Spotlight. Well, to clarify I love my Spotlight. My local branch is very big but instead of filling three quarters of the space with linen and homewares they keep most of the space for fabric and they have it all laid out on flat tables with only one layer of rolls instead of the usual twenty rolls high fixtures they have in the other stores. I always get into trouble at ours because you can really see the fabrics and can quickly zoom past all the tables of junky fabric straight to the occasional but financially draining gems. These two cotton drills were just a few of a much larger range but jumped out as the perfect ones for some racer shorts for the Pickles.

And finally, there's the rug. Inspired by seeing these in Tibetan craft stores nearby, in a friends store and here, I decided last year that I'd have a go at making one of these. I acquired a first batch of felt balls from the only place to get them and yesterday I bought my big pack of dental floss and began. 

After quickly stringing the fifty beautiful balls I had onto one chain I remembered that I had planned to study the technique via a tutorial on making a felt ball coaster I found a while ago. Perhaps I'll do that while I wait to gather the next bit of funding for a big bag of balls. I did some calculations with the assistance of a mathematically gifted brother-in-law and determined that around 1500 balls might be needed to make a rug with a one metre diameter........ lets call this a whole year project.

As Little Pickle lay on the floor at my feet yesterday - something he inexplicably does whenever he can find his dummy and towelling cuddle friend - I thought about how much he'll enjoy lying on his bumpy, snuggly ball rug in the centre of his room.

For anyone interested in a project like this or in felt balls for any other purpose (the Pickles use them as money or food or any number of other things in their play) I can't recommend this shop more highly. A wonderful range of felt balls in various sizes and every colour including multi-coloured ones. She also stocks Evi Dolls and a beautiful range of Waldorf dolls from the Qewar project.  Her wooden trucks and toys are all made by her father in Tasmania from beautiful Tasmanian woods, the craftsmanship is exquisite. On top of that her service is second to none and she is a wonderful person to boot.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Christmas fun and holiday frolicks

Christmas has come and gone and this mad mama is planning for the next one already in a bid to achieve some of the things that didn't quite happen this year. The key one is that I'd like to have an item for each boy to hang on the tree after we read each of our daily Advent stories from Light in the Lantern. That's about 50 odd things so I figure I need to plan and start now..... Crazy I know!

Thanks to my eventual ability to let go of many projects that just weren't meant to happen before Christmas, we found ourselves with some calm, relaxed time on Christmas Eve afternoon. Having suddenly realised that the past years Christmas wrap supply was actually somewhat non-existent, I set up a potato stamping station for the Big Pickle. Little Pickle woke from his sleep first and was not going to miss such an opportunity. He enthusiastically stamped his way through about six sheets and then insisted he'd like to do a painting also.
In another gentle indication of the different crafting personalities of my two Pickles, Big Pickle stamped one sheet then said, 'I'm not enjoying that mummy. Can I do a painting?' so, he produced a flamboyant and intriguing 'Christmas zombie' - sadly I forgot to photograph it.

Big Pickle looking angelic in Christmas Mass

Christmas morning was a blur of activity and indoor bike riding.

Then it was over to Mr Pickle's sister's for Christmas lunch and fun.

Midway through the afternoon we experienced an unusual Australian Christmas wonder - a white Christmas. An hour long hail storm had the children young and old watching transfixed at the windows.

Nothing like a touch of Christmas sparkles.

Next day it was off to the country to do it all over again. Sights like this tree buried in presents make me feel incredibly blessed and horribly spoilt and indulged. Of course the presents weren't all for me and its somewhat unavoidable to have such a scene of abundance when there are twenty-six people in the house.

Two rooms of immediate family gathered together for lunch is a heart-warming and beautiful sight.

Back home in Melbourne we soon found a day to enjoy our generous gift of an annual membership to Zoos Victoria by visiting Werribee Open Range Zoo.

Like all the zoos in Victoria this one is really well designed and has lots of quirky and scene setting side activities like the rope walk and the boardwalk surrounded by African plantlife.
There are less animals to see here than at Melbourne Zoo but with the fantastic experience of the Safari bus ride through the savannah and other environments where you can see giraffes, rhinocerous, antelopes, hippos and other animals up close it feels like you have really been somewhere amazing .........and much further than 20 minutes from our house.

Lots of space to enjoy a picnic too and eating strawberries outside under trees is Little Pickle's idea of heaven.

Mr Pickles final days of holidays inspired an impromptu lunch a local Vietnamese restaurant that we originally heard about here. Then we made a quick stop a few doors up at the fabulous Little Saigon Market where you can handpick your strawberries by the kilo - what a sight!! Though we didn't find this market through her you can read more about it on the fabulous Footscray Food Blog. This blog is such a fantastic source of information for eating in the West. It was thanks to her that we found our favourite, superbly priced Thai restaurant too.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Summer holidays - Friday crafting

With Mr Pickle still on holidays there have been some lovely opportunities for crafting time over the past week. I've spent quite a bit of time drafting patterns and cutting things out as I seem to find that one of the hardest jobs to find uninterrupted time for and the Pickles always seem to end up tangled in fabric and the pins are strewn in every direction if I attempt this job with them around. That does however increase the ever present feeling of 'so many projects waiting, so little time to complete' that tends to nag constantly at the edge of my consciousness.

A barbeque was planned for the end of the week with two sets of friends, one who has just had her birthday and another with a baby not yet acknowledged. This presented an opportunity for some gift making.

A new lanyard and a linen 'bucket' for the friend and then a pair of Quick Change pants (from this book) for baby Amelia with a set of my almost signature (so oft have I repeated this baby gift of late) knitted ducks.

I love this pants pattern so much. Little Pickle has several pairs and they are so practical with their double sidedness and last forever with cuffs that roll-up and then down and then up again to become shorts.

 A new shop bought top found its way home with me the other day after a rare solo shopping outing (loving this two parent holiday thing) and it was crying out for a complimentary accessory. Suddenly that rather large and long collected stash of selvedges, tiny offcuts of ribbon, ricrac and other trims and some special saved buttons made sense and came into its own.
After finishing the pants at 9:30pm the night before the barbeque (so organised for me - nearly 24 hours ahead of delivery!) I confused Mr Pickle by kissing him goodnight as he went to bed and explaining gently that I had another little project I wanted to work on for a bit.
Some unexpectedly interesting television (in particular a show called The Big C - two episodes back to back) was the perfect background motivation to release all the ideas that had been working themselves out in my head for the past four days and eventually a bit after midnight I trotted off to bed with the glorious feeling of knowing I had a new necklace to wear.

 This mini wreath was inspired by some larger ones my sister makes with fabric scraps to hang on doorknobs. Whilst beautiful they seem a bit weird to me (doorknob decorations wouldn't really work in my house) the idea of a miniature version on a necklace seems much more fun to me.

 The rest of these details just sort of evolved and created themselves. I'm not quite sure the balance is exactly right and I want to put some little felt backs on some of them to hide my stitching and also to help them stay the right way around but I've taken it out for a spin a couple of times already and we are really enjoying each other's company.
The best bit for me was that as I made this I came up with lots of other ideas and starting contemplating other colour combinations so there may be some other late night sessions to further add to my accessory wardrobe for the new year.

To see some other crafting goodness pop over to here.