Thursday 26 November 2009

retreating to FELT

a cheque arrived in the mail today, the balance of payment for a workshop i am leading next week.
but if the typing is to be believed, there may be a disappointed student
i am very much hoping it is a typographical error [and at the same time more than a little curious about what was wandering through the mind of the typist!]

the three day class will be about feltmaking, stitch and dyeing.
definitely no felatio!


some of you may have noticed the HandEye image on the right hand side of these pages - you can sign up to their [free] newsletter by clicking on it.

why am i promoting them? firstly because it's a beautifully designed magazine about hand-making
and secondly because they've kindly taken me under their umbrella
and are publishing my stories
and many more
developing a really useful [as well as beautiful] web resource

and the paper copy is lovely too...happy reading

Tuesday 24 November 2009

down in the allotments

thank you everybody who participated in this virtual garden by adding your delightful stories, photos and drawings to the compost pile. Embellisher threw in some embroidery, Martine has little friends dancing in hers.
Kelly waxed lyrical and had the good sense to mention the indispensable gin as well as a platter of some of my favourite nosh.
Assayya has made her contribution in Dutch [but there's a cute translate button for those in need], Tricia grows dye plants in her patch, Stitch1Peta dreams of wandering to Tasmania
Cleo has posted pictures of her lovely garden and plans for gardens to come and of a bumble bee
[i love bumble bees]
Petrus paints his gentle magic in richly coloured splendour
Penny has drawn us a tidy plan and Pam has waxed poetical

and i'm just delighted that the home-bodies managed to keep our little patch in good spirits despite the 43*C heat.
the picture up top shows it as i like it best, in the early spring mist
a little scruffy
the best place in the whirled to wander into of a morning
barefoot on the dew-pearled grass
cup of tea in hand [vanilla scented with a big dollop of wandoo honey and a gloop of nice creamy milk]
or at sunset
with a beaker of Bombay Sapphire, slosh of tonic and wedge of lime
and of course [in the words of Gershwin] lots of tinkle

these are the allotments at the edge of lovely Lier in Belgium
where in the early morning i espied a pheasant
doing the rounds

oh, and the lucky dip winner is Petrus!
now i'll have to think of an appropriate offering...

golden moment -or, it ain't necessarily so...

pocketing windfalls in the Wellington Botanic Garden last week
the firm tramping of sturdy boots alerted me to an invasion
as the tour group drew closer, i heard one of them asking
"was macht sie da?"
["what is she doing there?"]
quick as a flash and
without the glimmer of a smile
the tour leader responded
"das ist eine einheimische, sie sammelt zier blaetter"
[that is a native collecting decorative leaves]

Merci du compliment, m'sieur!
but seriously
this shows that
like a Tequila shot, the advice of tour guides can be improved with a little hit of salt.

and now to the delightful task of reading all your allotment stories
and then finding a suitable hat...

Sunday 15 November 2009

allotment garden blogging bee and a give-away

dear readers
i'm off and away for a couple of days or seven
across the ditch in the land of the long white cloud shooting pix
for 'second skin'

i've been watching the little patchwork quilt
of pictures
grow in the sidebar
images of folks kind enough to stop by
from time to time

and to my astonishment there are nearly 200 of them
forming a little allotment garden
of links to friendly followers
i decided that while i'm away
will be a good time to collect a few stories
and have a blogging bee
and in the end
draw a name out of a hat
so somebody gets a present

here's the deal.

write a post on your blog about an allotment garden
real or imagined
what would you plant in yours?
what will you wear whilst tending it?
when you pause for elevenses, what will you have?

link back to this post
and tell me [via the comments] that you've posted your story
include your email [perhaps slightly disguised to confuse
the spampixies] so that i can send a pigeon
with the present [later on]

when i come back
around about the 24th of November
i shall put the names of those who joined in
into a hat
and draw one out
and that person shall receive a surprise parcel in the mail

meanwhile i shall be packing my favourite hemp dress [thank you Jo]
[but it's in a dyebath right now Martine, so will look rather different soon]

taking my new teacup
and old teapot

and pootling off for a few days

Friday 13 November 2009

simple but good

blogger posts into yesterdayland [when viewed from the other side of the Big Pond]
so last night was the 12th
and the celebration of the 111st

it was hot here so
we had a 'one bowl wonder'
our favourite potato salad
that derives flavours from diverse cooking cultures [Latvian/Greek/Mexican fusion cooking at its finest]

too good to not share

cook a bunch of washed potatoes in their skins by boiling them in well-salted water
[you can cube and steam them if you are in a hurry but
i think boiled tastes better]

when they're done
chop them into cubes
peeling is up to you [but there's good stuff in the skins]

and put them into a good sturdy bowl for the mixing
a big handful of coarsely chopped smoked salmon
[South Australians can get theirs in a bulk pack at Angelakis in the Central Market -
Alaskans can nip out to a river somewhere]
whatever you do
don't use that yukky stuff available in supermarket jars
put them straight on to the hot potatoes

then chop
a big handful of dill pickled cucumbers [ours are from the Barossa Farmers Market]
a smaller handful of pickled jalapeno chillies
a fair handful of capers
a couple or three spanish onions [save the lovely red skins for your dyepot!]
a clove or two of garlic
some fresh dill from the garden

generously slosh on a good deal of greek yogurt
[sour cream is better to my mind BUT my children make grumbling noises about fat content]
a few spoonsful of mayonnaise [not the sweet kind]
some horseradish
a bit of Dijon mustard
a sprinkling of nice salt [we like the pink stuff that is labelled River Murray salt but really comes out of a bore in the Back of Beyond
and a good grinding of black pepper

mix it all up [two short bamboo spoons are ideal for this]
find yourself a little bowl
from the collection on the shelf
and help yourself
oh, and
while you're at it
pour yourself a nice glass of Bird in Hand sparkling pinot noir
and tuck in

just try not to have three helpings

Wednesday 11 November 2009

[another] remembrance day

November 12th this year marks the eleventy-first birthday of my little grandmother.
[if you don't know what that means, consult your Tolkien]

the splendid word redoubtable describes her quite well. Grandmother survived typhus, cholera, the Russian Revolution, World War 1 and World War 11.

she also survived having us four wild cousins dumped on her for weeks on end during the summer holidays [truth be told only two of us were wild which meant grandmother was kept on her toes protecting the other two - no prizes for guessing to which camp i belonged. sigh].

she was also a woman of decision [a quality she passed on to her youngest daughter].

if you were given notice that the last train out was leaving your homeland in a scant hour's time, what would you take?

Grandmother packed up her children, a change of clothes each, a loaf of bread, a container of lard, the second-best silver [the good stuff she buried in the garden expecting to be back after the war]
her treasured sewing machine

imagine, my five-foot-nothing-in-her-socks [i.e. tiny] Grandmother schlepping her sewing machine across Europe to Germany.
waiting in Latvia for the Soviets to return would simply have guaranteed a one-way ticket to Siberia, where they'd already sent Grandfather having plucked him off the street on New Year's Eve 1940

in 1949 [after five years as 'displaced persons'] Grandmother and three of her five children [one had not survived infancy and the oldest was also a 'guest' of the Soviets] made it to Australia

for which i am grateful [even though i don't have a single heat-friendly gene in my body]
oh, and the sewing machine came too.
and is still in use.

Sunday 8 November 2009

thanks for the roses

i just had a kind email suggesting i might like to pop over to
Spirit Cloth

and so i did

Jude has the most beautiful dye sampler on display

click here to be transported...

Thursday 5 November 2009

the [calm] eye of the storm

Robyn over at Art Propelled
has put together a post about

which i much enjoyed reading
it reminded me that
the most important thing i have learned through these 6 weeks of playing with mud
is the importance of centering

and just as the clay is pushed down and outward on the wheel
before being gathered in again to the centre
i have developed a pattern of centering my mind before work/writing/stitching
being still and listening for the farthest away sound
and gradually listening closer and closer inward

until i hear my own heart beating
and am centered
and can begin with a still and focussed mind

it has been a gift

Tuesday 3 November 2009


there are worse places to be
than in a shearing shed
especially on a cool day when
it's just begun to mist lightly
the sheep are all under cover
so the weather can do what it likes

woolshed time is thinking time.
there are flurries of activity when penning sheep+sweeping the floor+pressing the wool
there are intervals during which
one can stand and marvel at the grace and precision with which the shearer is divesting the sheep of its woolly coat

thoughts wander idly by and if one has had the foresight to have a notebook and pencil handy can sometimes be pinned on a page
and sometimes not
there are times when they flutter off like cabbage moths

i remembered a few other places i had worked

the 'sportsgirl' fashion store was one of the early fast-fashion chains
i worked there a while in 1981. the bitchery and backstabbing was unbelievable [Look behind you, Mr Caesar!]
and it certainly wasn't glamorous. each Friday the floor supervisor would take delight in determining which of the garments on hand the staff would be forced to wear as a kind of in-shop advertisement. she particularly delighted in trying ridiculous combinations on your correspondent.
and the truly appalling thing was that after being worn for a day
we were made to replace the clothes on the racks
as if they were new
i wonder if they still do that?

other jobs which seemed dull on the surface had a lot to teach me about life.
six months of picking orders at the Southern Drug Company showed me that there are people who will happily stay in one form of employment [and not wishing for promotion] for twenty or thirty years
showing up five days a week
discussing the football at morning tea
and extending their close-knit working community into a social club that took shared outings and organised old-style dances at the Wonderland Ballroom a couple of times each year

they liked the routine and security and not having to take too much responsibility. i found it mystifying.
what impressed me most at the Southern Drug Company was the manager, Graham Rossiter Gibbs. here was a man not above taking lunch with the floor workers from time to time, who willingly mucked in on the picking team when there was a rush on orders and who always put in an appearance at the social club dance and made sure he danced with each of his female employees.
a gentleman through and through - he was of unimpeachable character, a fine rugby player and passionate sailor; a well-respected and [more importantly] respectful employer. the sort of man you'd be proud to have running the country, let alone a small pharmaceutical supply company.
it's some twenty years since Gibbsy was struck down by cancer. i guess his 150% attitude to everything - whether work, play, food, drink or the enjoyment of his pipe - came at a price.
we spoke briefly on the telephone a little while before he died, his voice was frail but still brimmed with hope, optimism and enthusiasm for life.

it was an honour to have known him and good to remember it
a gift that time in the woolshed gives one such moments

Sunday 1 November 2009

very slow dyeing

digging up an old pond [basically a bathtub lined with a plastic pond liner, black on one side and white on the other]
i discovered to my surprise that the roots of the adjacent tree
a rauriko* [Coprosma australis]
had made a pink print on the plastic

the weight of the rocks hiding the plastic and the force of the roots pushing up and seven years of contact
in the damp dark earth
had resulted in magic

it's a known dye plant traditional to Maori
apparently yielding yellow from the bark
and also sometimes red
[the latter i suspect in conjunction with alkali]
but not something i'd played with yet
even though they grow outside my door

they belong to the plant family Rubiaceae
and so are a relation of madder [Rubia tinctorum]
which is of course known for the brilliant red dye
contained in the roots

* this is the spelling i've been using for years of the common name and can't recall where i sourced it
i have been advised by somebody who knows
that it should be

except that in the Maori dictionary [where the link will take you] it comes up as Coprosma grandifolia
curiouser and curiouser
said Alice
as she stepped through the looking glass