Snowy cardiIt being summer and all, I’m working on a couple of light cotton knitted things which I certainly won’t be able to wear for several months unless I put the air-conditioning on full blast in the car and drive around for at least an hour. But that doesn’t detract from the fun of the actual knitting! The above is a little short-sleeved cardi I am making up as I go, which has a rounded lower edge and some traditional Scandinavian textured patterns around the top. This textured knitting initially thrived in Denmark (says Sheila McGregor*, p. 13) and can be created from any two-colour chart by using knit and purl stitches with only one colour. The cotton is originally from a sweet little shop in Paris I visited several years ago, which I had knit into a polo-like cabled shirt which was so bulky and not at all the sort of thing I’d ever wear, I don’t know what I was thinking. I never wore it, so I unravelled the entire thing and set about making something better suited to my wardrobe. Unable to find a pattern, I made some hasty sketches and set to work.

Then a fortuitous visit to the glorious Woolloongabba Antique Centre found me in the possession of a gorgeous little knitting booklet from what appears to be the forties, boasting designs called ‘Paris,’ ‘Vienna’ and ‘Sydney,’ among others. Realising I had plenty of cotton to spare, thanks to all those ridiculous cables and collars and rubbish, I cast on a sweet little design called ‘Naples,’ which is sure to keep my shoulders snug in any air-conditioned environments I find myself in.

NaplesInspired by some voluminous skirts I spied at a market in Sydney, and by the classy ladies in Isabel Bishop’s paintings, I picked up a large bundle of mustard-coloured fabric to make the biggest swishy skirt I could imagine, and played around with double box-pleats until I’d come up with this:


Unfortunately, three metres of fabric means there is a lot of unwieldy drapery hanging about one’s back tyre when bike-riding–so I learned when I biked to the pub last night. If it’s not speckled with paint, it’s dusted with brake-dust!

Christmas picnic

Christmas was, for me, a lovely bike ride with J down to a sprawling park in the city, where we picnicked and ran through sprinklers and climbed trees and read books and dozed a little. Our families live a couple of thousand kilometres north and south of us, so we enjoyed our first Christmas in Brisbane without too much fuss. I’m surprised to learn how little is open at this time of year–it feels like we are so culturally introverted, hiding away in our homes. A couple of cafes are still pouring coffee, so I can live a reasonably normal existence! And in the meantime, I’ve been getting out and doing some painting with Ryan and with a new toy I picked up in Sydney:



*McGregor, Sheila. 1984. Traditional Scandinavian knitting. Dover Publications: New York.



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.



Wedding wishes © Samantha Groenestyn

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing a lot of crafting. A lot of it involves lovely fabrics, including this darling old gold broadcloth that I printed sleeping cats onto with a homemade potato stamp:

A potato stamp, if you’ve never made one, is a potato cut in half and carved into. They were all the rage in kindy.

You’ll want to pat the potato dry with paper towel and apply the paint with a paintbrush to get it on nice and evenly. I reapplied paint every time so they were nice and dark. Then I just ironed the reverse of the fabric, et voila.

In other news, if all your friends and cousins are falling over themselves to get married, as are mine, you’ll be relieved to learn you don’t have to get them a tacky card from the $2 shop but you can pick up some of mine in my Etsy shop.

I’ve a whole bunch of other snazzy cards in there too–time to get writing to your Nanna.



My show is on Sunday, and I have been very busy getting ready. It’s the perfect excuse for getting my craft on.

I had a limited number of Mr Infernal Dishes tea towels printed, which will be for sale on the night. He’ll stare down those dishes in the sink for you, while you get on with less passive-aggressive pastimes.

I’ve been getting the paintings ready to hang. They’ll be swaying from the rafters like a magical forest of tiny paintings.

My obsessive collecting of jars is finally validated.

I’ve amassed a sizable collection of 50c treasures from Annerley, Indooroopilly and Sherwood.

And these babies are to lure bewildered passers-by into the festivities on the night, as they will soon be an explanatory sign.

Can’t wait to see you!


Dude craft

‘Your dead child. Prepare him for new life. Fill him with the earth. Be careful! He should not over-eat. Put on his golden coat. You bathe him. Warm him but be careful! A child dies from too much sun. Put on his jewels. This is my recipe.’ (Madame Benshaw)

Yesterday, these shoes were scuffed old brown shoes, loved day after day, trekked through all terrains.

Today, these trusty shoes were reanimated.

Tomorrow, these shoes will walk again.

I think this little weekend craft, book-ended by Photoshop tutorials and sunset bike-rides, qualifies as a ‘dude craft‘ even though I am more of a lady-dude. It involved boot polish!

The poulet à la d’Albufera recipe above is from none other than Richard Sennett’s cooking teacher, a Persian woman who wrote in metaphor. But that’s a dude craft for another time.


Wet season

The wet has hit Brisbane, and after last year’s performance, everyone seems a little bit on edge. One of our walls–all wooden–has bulged like it’s about to give birth to more baby walls, busting the skirting boards and splitting the paint, and little rivulets of water seep through and trickle down into the floorboards.

But, such is our sub-tropical life.

And to cheer it a little, I have completed a zippy little top:

This is from a 1979 Simplicity dress pattern I found in an op-shop one time. I’ve only made the bodice, and done away with the parachute sleeves.

The bottle-brushes are drooping with raindrops. I like their creamy colour.

‘J, do a hipster pose!’



At GoMA, at the Matisse exhibit, there is a beautiful ‘drawing room’ set up where you can sketch vases, fruit, statues and models. I was promised ballerina models. I have seen no ballerina models, only models in infuriatingly limb-concealing kimonos. What is the fun in drawing models if you are essentially drawing a curtain sitting in a chair? I continue to go, in the hope of ballerinas, but continue to draw this over and over:

After a while I lose interest and draw furniture:

Next month my cousin shall be wed, and I must adorn myself in ‘summery cocktail’ attire. To this end I have commenced the cutting of some summery fabric, which I envision will look as glamorous as this sketch: