I don’t really do downtime. I do craft. I made some stuff. Do you want to see it?
This blouse began life as a test project when I started to worry that I was cutting my glorious Liberty fabric from Paris too small. I popped down to Spotlight and picked up some heavy cotton broadcloth in this colour that makes me think of vintage soap and other wholesome things. I then spent a bizarrely meditative afternoon carving a sleeping cat image into half a potato and laboriously printing it onto a couple of metres of the stuff. I began to doubt my sanity, but I felt soothed and had managed to stop being over-stimulated for several hours. I’m not much good at slowing down my mind.
Instead of catching up on sleep, I spent my day off sewing this fabric into the blouse, pondering over the intricacies of the pattern. This was also very relaxing. My mum always sewed when I was younger, she made herself all her fancy outfits for weddings and such, and she made me custom spin-out skirts to fulfill my ballerina fantasies. I would make doll clothes and hat-shaped pin-cushions with her, copying her or making it up as I went. In high school I found out one could take classes and be shown how to sew, and demanded I be enrolled in such a class at once. I took sewing classes for three weeks, one evening a week, and produced two skirts, learning to set a zip, apply facing and treat seams. I learned that ironing is the key to sewing. Mum pronounced me a certified seamstress and took me out of the classes. I figured out buttonholes from her sewing machine instruction book, and the rest is history.
I also taught myself colourwork knitting. My nanna sees the things I knit and asks me, ‘Where did you learn to do that?’ The truth is that she taught me when I was six, and my oma taught me the purl stitch not long after, and pretty soon the internet came about I suppose, and I could YouTube most anything I cared to learn. It took a little fiddling about to work out how not to get holes when stranding your colours, and, indeed, how to strand them behind the knitting so they sit neatly and don’t get hooked on things, but I think I’ve got the hang of it.
The wool of my Sheep Heid is particularly exciting to me. I ordered it directly from a Victorian mill that goes by the name of The Jolly Jumbuk. Kate Davies designed this tam to be made from the nine natural Shetland sheep shades, but I did a little research to find out if an Australian equivalent existed, given, you know, our extensive sheep population. Jumbuk sell undyed wool in four shades, and several different weights; I’ve used the finest weight (5 ply) and adjusted the pattern to use less shades–a very easy substitution that loses no details, only perhaps has less subtlety in the transitions. The most delightful thing has been that each wool has its own quality–the darker wools are quite course and bristly, and the cream is by far the softest. The slate is especially marled in a way the others are not. All of them are quite irregularly spun, but I suppose this adds to the rustic feel. Now that I’m knitting with fancy wool from some other part of the world again, I realise that the Jumbuk experience is quite unrefined, but I like it for that. One feels closer to the sheep, even if the result is less polished.
And I made a table. I like to paint at it on the veranda now that it’s blisteringly hot again, preferably with iced bubbly water or (non-iced) wine. The wood came from an old bookshelf bedhead that I salvaged on curbside collection week, and the trestles and stools were my first ever Ikea haul.