Friday, September 14, 2018

filling my cup

Yesterday in the morning I was sitting with Indi in a very busy cafe in a town near her school. She was sipping juice and typing on her computer, I was drinking coffee and knitting socks, while all around us sat clusters of women and their small children.

After a while a couple came in and sat at the table next to us. They ordered breakfast and drinks and while they were waiting he read the newspaper and she pulled some orange speckled thread and a long circular knitting needle out of a bag and started to count and cast on stitches.

Straight away I knew that we would be friends. Without a doubt in mind I knew that by the time we parted we'd have swapped all kinds of practical and intimate details. I didn't try to hide my stare but I did wait to question her about her pattern until she'd finished casting on.

And that's exactly what happened. She was knitting triangles to sew into a blanket, the yarn was from her grandmother's stash, some of the old wool is hard now but she hoped it will soften with a wash, her mother has dementia and one day woke up and forgot how to sew but still loves to knit, her mother and her friends are knitting squares to sew into blankets, she spends a lot of time sitting by her mother's bedside knitting, she'd love to learn to knit two socks at a time...She also told me some personal stories that I don't feel comfortable publishing here. And I answered her questions and told her a bit about me and mine.

And then they left the cafe and left me with such a warm glowing feeling of understanding and being understood, of community, and appreciation that spending time with someone with a shared love brings.

Later that afternoon when I was thinking about that feeling it occurred to me that I'd just experienced a miniature version of what I'd felt at The Craft Sessions last weekend.

From the minute I realised I was packing more yarn and needles into my bags than clothes and shoes, to  the crafty conversations in the car on the way there with my friend Elizabeth, to the familiar crafty faces that greeted us on our arrival, to the rainbow of hand knitted sweaters that were worn proudly every day and exclaimed over continuously, to the couches and tables and chairs and beds filled with knitters and crocheters wherever you looked, to the conversations, to the teachers, to the classes, to my new was obvious that I was in the right place. I was among my people, my community.

On Friday I did a darning class which I don't have any pictures of unfortunately.

On Saturday I learnt all about two colour knitting with Mary Jane Mucklestone and swooned over her book swatches that I have been looking at on the page for so many years.

It's amazing to think that I knitted that class-hat in one day. There's so much knitting time in a day when you take away all the cooking and driving and farming and washing and stuff.

And on Sunday I did a fresh Fair Isle class with Mary Jane.

Before I taught at Soul Craft in June and was panicking about every detail of my class, I had a conversation with Bren about different teachers we'd had in our lives and how now there are some masters of their fields that we would pay to sit in their classes just to hang out with them even if it worked out that somehow we didn't learn anything at all. He named a Japanese bowl turner and I named Mary Jane.

As it happened not only is Mary Jane one of the most beautiful people I've ever met, not only is she a master knitter and a great story teller, but she's also a fabulous teacher. I learnt so much from her over the course of the weekend. I learnt about stitches and colour and history and technique. In my classes there were beginner knitters all the way through to advanced and professional and I'm positive we all did. 

And I guess the same way that lady at the start lived a completely different life than I do and is in a different chapter of living it, we Craft Sessions attendees immediately found our common craft ground and bridged all the gaps. There were women there that I didn't have anything except craft in common with either, but those who knit together - can sit together, and chat together, and soon that's all that matters.

And despite my initial hesitation that I would be overwhelmed and feel lost, I feel richer and inspired and full of ideas and thoughts, and part of a community.

Remember a few weeks ago when I was looking for some charcoal speckled yarn to knit a cardigan? Well I found it at the mini market at The Craft Sessions. Yay!

I just need to hurry up and finish the second pair of these socks first. They're Bren's Father's Day socks so I'm either very late or very early. I'm not a great lover of knitting the same thing twice, but when he saw the first pair and said they are his favourite of all the socks I've ever knitted, well I didn't have choice, did I?!

And after filling my own cup I returned home a more patient, happy and present mother.

When I walked in the door last Sunday night after The Craft Sessions to a clean, flower filled house, we sat down to dinner and Indi handed me a leaf and asked me to tell them what I would leave there? A stick and asked me what would stick with me from the experience? And a rock, what rocked?

I think I'd leaf/leave the sharing a room thing there. Actually I know I would. Although I love, love, loved my roomie Mary Jane, and every second I spent with her, I think worrying about snoring, farting, insomnia and going to the toilet in the middle of the night are worries I can do without. I think my love of Fair Isle and the techniques I learned will stick with me forever. And that feeling of being in a like-minded, craft-loving, knitting-obsessed, community totally rocked!

Well that was quite the marathon blog post wasn't it.

Tell me about your week. Pretend I'm handing you a leaf, a stick and a rock and tell me what you would leave behind, what stuck and what rocked.

Until we meet again next week my friends, be kind to yourselves and each other.

Love, Kate xx

Friday, September 7, 2018

the craft sessions

These are the only photos I have on my camera roll from this past week. Daffodils with Bren and wallflowers with Indi. As well as that we planted lots of seeds, scrubbed our house, celebrated Bren's dad's birthday, celebrated father's day, drove kids around, cooked lots of food, knitted, read, listened, learned.

And then on Tuesday Felicia (right) brought Mary Jane Mucklestone (middle) to visit for the day. Mary Jane is the author of two of my favourite knitting reference books, designer of some of my favourite patterns, Fair Isle and Scandinavian motif queen, and as my girls say - my celebrity crush. 

Those of you who have been around for a while might remember these socks that I knitted back in 2016. Every motif came from Mary Jane's books and thus began my love affair with her work.

The four of us hung out in Bren's studio and admired his bowls and collection of axes, we hung out in my studio and admired the view, and then we ate lunch. She's amazing, as down to earth, and colourful, and lovely as I'd imagined.

And three or four hours later when they were leaving and it occurred to me that we hadn't even knitted a stitch together, Felicia told me that someone had just dropped out of The Craft Sessions this weekend and why didn't I come instead? In two days time!

This is the blurb from the website - 
The Craft Sessions' annual retreat is a weekend of creative workshops, delicious food, quiet moments and inspiring people. It is an opportunity to play and learn, to talk and share ideas. It's about coming together and sharing a love of making, appreciating the beauty in the smaller things, and delighting in the pleasure and simplicity in all things handmade.
The weekend is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a weekend of knitting, weaving, stitching, printing, sewing, dyeing, and making. Surrounded by beautiful greenery the retreat space boasts big light filled rooms with stunning views of the surrounding bush.

I ummed and ahhed overnight (mostly about not sleeping away from home) and then when Felicia told me I could share a room with Mary Jane at the retreat and do two of her three classes, I knew there was only one choice for me to make.

So here I am sitting up on my bed in our room at 3.30 in the afternoon. She's sitting next to me putting together a slide show about her Grand Shetland Adventures and I'm writing my blog. This morning I did a darning class, tomorrow I'm doing a two colour knitting class and on Sunday - Fresh Fair Isle. 

After I press publish on this I think I'll have a cup of tea and do some knitting in the dining room followed by a walk in the bush. With no school pick-ups to drive, no dinners to make, no farm chores or house work to do, it's amazing how much time there is in a day.

I hope you have a gorgeous weekend my friends. I hope it's just the right mix of productive and restful. If you feel like it you could listen to the Alice Fraser podcast Trilogy podcast which is funny and musical and sad and upsetting and heartwarming in equal parts. I really loved it and highly recommend it. 

You could download the very first issue of Yarnologie Magazine and read the six page story about me. 

Or you could tell me something you think I'd like? Or something you've been up to lately? Or anything really, I'm listening...

I'll see you this time next week with some new skills and some crafty stories.

Until kind to yourselves and each other.

Love, Kate xx

Friday, August 31, 2018

on wednesday

On Wednesday we woke up a little bit earlier than usual to drive the girls to school for an early class. The morning was the coldest and frostiest of the year so far and driving across the mountains and through the forest the views were spectacular. Paddocks covered in blankets of shimmering white crystals, lazy plumes of smoke traveling up from chimneys and then across the road for us to drive under, baby animals cuddled up close to their mothers, and trees full of golden yellow wattle positively glowing in the brilliant winter sunshine.

On the way there Indi played us 40 minutes of Taylor Swift songs taking us all the way back to when our girls were little through to her latest stuff now. We sang along to almost every word.

When I got home my farmer boy was busy fixing a series of taps that had cracked in the frost. We walked together to the top of our hill to check our header tank and to collect some kindling for the fire. Small pockets of sunshine were just reaching through the trees and I lay down on the ground in one. It felt so good to feel the forest floor below me and the sunshine and warmth on my skin from above. After a little while Bren came over and lay down beside me. We held hands as the sunshine bathed our faces and filled our hearts with a little tingly taste of springtime.

We came back down the hill to Pepper and her two friends, full of plans for ways to spend their day off from school. Lately they've been learning about the Australian gold rush era and they were pretty keen to explore some of the sites near our farm.

They began by making a picnic lunch and packing it into their backpacks. Toasted cheese roll ups, carrots from the garden, crackers with feta, a thermos of chai tea and some sweet biscuits.

While they waited for us to get ready Pepper showed them an old campsite complete with bits of old glass and china and a site covered with daffodils that we think might once have housed a dwelling.

We met them outside and headed up over the hill to visit and admire Indi's latest paste up on the water tank and then we stepped over the fence and were on our way. And as we walked they told stories, sang snippets of songs, made footprints in mud, wondered about other tracks and swapped backpacks often. We tried to walk behind them to let them have their own adventures but they were often slow or stopping to investigate something, and we always caught up.

It amazed me that Pepper recognised the place where you have to leave the track and shimmy down a steep hill on your bum even though she hadn't been there for years and it was completely overgrown. We made our way down, grabbing hold of vines and roots for security and eventually made it to the bottom.

Even though we've been visiting this culvert for years, it never ceases to amaze us that it was built in the 1880's just at the back of our farm. The three of them went through squealing with delight and in fright and then Bren and then me. I sang my little heart out and made a mental note to bring the big girls back to try out the great acoustics.

By the time we got to the other side the picnic was well underway. We joined them for a while and then left them to their panning for gold and exploring and went and sat in a sunnier spot on a log nearby. I knitted and Bren carved a stick as we listened to the laughter from up the creek, the birds, Jo-jo the dog frolicking in the long grass and the other sounds of the forest.

Later, on our way home, we discovered some mine shafts that were so deep we had to hold onto the backs of their clothes while they lay on their stomachs to look down. Thrown stones took seconds to hit the bottom. In other areas we founds old bits of cars and discussed why and when they would have been abandoned.

It was probably at about this stage that we decided it was time to head back up the steep hill for home. We wanted to end on a high while this was still an adventure and before they got tired. But they had other plans that took us in the opposite direction following the train line that opened in 1887 and drove from Daylesford to North Creswick and then joined the Ballarat line. Apparently that part of the line cost 97,000 pounds to build and the first train that traveled it came off the tracks. (Thanks researcher Bren x).

When we first moved here there was a bridge that crossed the railway line which we drove over a few times just for fun. That bridge was burnt in the Muskvale bushfire in February 2009, just before I started writing this blog.

To get back to our farm from where we were we had to walk all the way back around or we could shimmy down the steep bank of the train cutting and somehow get ourselves back up the other side. Of course the vote was the steep down and up so we each found a spot where we thought the vegetation was thinnest and the least prickly and slid down. Pepper tore a big hole in her leggings but other than that we reached the bottom safely and happily. For a while we walked along the overgrown cutting looking for a place to climb the other side but were eventually caught up in the moment and the beauty of what felt like fairy land. Eventually we found the remains of the burnt out bridge but still no cleared bank. So we had to make do and each scrambled to the top whichever way we could.

Once we were on the other side we could hear Tom our Maremma dog barking so we knew we had to be close to home. After a quick visit to the back paddock to feed him and the chooks and to collect the eggs, we headed for home. 'I just love living on a farm in the forest' we heard Pepper telling her friends and we had to agree and put all those winter doubts we've been sharing to the backs of our minds.

As we got closer to home their steps became slower, they started telling us how tired they were and discussing their newly discovered injuries - a blister, a bite, a scratch. Inside they collapsed to watch a movie while Bren drove off to pick up the big girls and I lit the fire, hung out the laundry and left for the gym in the golden rosy sunset.

I've been struggling with so much in my head lately, so much negativity and doubt, Wednesday felt like a balm for my soul. It was so good to feel immersed in the forest, to escape the chores and be swept along in the moment. It was great to be led by the children, their pace, their decisions, their direction. It was amazing to be bathed in winter sunshine, to be warm enough and bright enough. It was great to spend the day holding hands with my love without distraction or direction. And it felt wonderful to be a completely present parent with nowhere else to be but on their adventure with them.

The other day my mum told me she wondered if I was having such a challenging time lately because I'm on the cusp of change. It reminded me of when our girls were babies and we grew to learn that most growth spurts, physical and developmental, were preceded by some sort of difficult time. Mostly by crying and sickness and tantrums. Often they'd suddenly sit up, or grow a tooth, or say a few words, and we'd reflect on the past few hard days and understand.

These past few weeks have been really difficult for me physically and emotionally. I've often wondered if it was caused by the state of the world, by middle age, by my sleeping issues, by our very emotional three girls, by a still empty studio, by a terribly sore elbow or by a long, cold winter. It never occurred to me that I might just be growing into something new.

Fingers crossed that mum knows best because I'm more than ready to leave this stage behind and fly on to the next. With the first day of spring tomorrow the timing feels perfect.

Enough about me, how have you been anyway?
What did you get up to last Wednesday?
What do you have planned for the weekend?
I hope it's lovely!

See you this time, next week.

Be kind to yourselves and each other.

Love, Kate x

Friday, August 24, 2018


And wouldn't you know it, while last week I felt sick in my heart and couldn't stop crying, this week I was struck down and felt sick in my body and sick in my head. A winter cold snuck in just when I was feeling my most vulnerable, I was an easy target. So instead of following my days of tears and heartache with walks through the forest, gardening, and other activities that are good for my soul, I went to bed and barely got out for a few days. 

This morning though the sun is bright and shiny and the skies are brilliant and blue. I sat in the sunroom before to drink my morning coffee and had to go and find my sunglasses and strip off some woolly layers. This little glimpse of spring feels precious and has somehow reminded me of some of the good bits of who I am and what I love to do. My head and heart feel better than they have for weeks. 

But I'm still not there yet so I'm going to make this another short one. My head feels so full of muck that it's making it hard to think clearly. It's taken me so long to write these few short paragraphs and I'm not even sure they make any sense.

So a few catch up photos, a few words to explain and then hopefully I'll be back to regular programming next week. Fingers crossed anyway.

Bren has been turning out the most beautiful wooden bowls on his lathe. I love how he incorporates and makes a feature of the wood's natural patterns and markings. Such a gift.

There was one day this week, I can't remember if it was yesterday or the day before, where I had a few hours of feeling slightly better so I rushed out to the greenhouse and started planting seeds into soil. It almost didn't matter what I was planting or if it was even too early in the season, I just had to get my hands dirty and I needed to feel like I was moving forward.

Next autumn I hope I remember to plant more bulbs in pots in the sun room. Just having these little bursts of colour popping up has made such a difference to our late winter states of mind. Call it colour plant therapy if you like.

I could barely do anything while I was so sick this past week but thankfully I could read this 480 page book. May We Be Forgiven is one of the best books I think I've ever read. I absolutely loved this crazy roller coaster ride, it starts with a bang and I was fully engrossed until it came full circle at the end.

I'm so grateful that my speed-reader mum passes her favourite library books over to me.

This week I received a copy of Japanese Knitting - patterns for sweaters, scarves and more from the kind people at Tuttle Publishing and New South Books.

Japanese Knitting includes 23 of the sweetest knitting and crochet patterns you ever did see. Colour work sweaters, cute cardigans that can be worn front-to-back and back-to-front, shawls, hats, slippers, gloves...flicking through its pages makes me hungry to cast on in the same way a cook book makes your tummy rumble. The design and styling is beautiful, the photos make the patterns look fun and easy to wear, hopefully I'll cast one on soon and let you know what they're like to knit...I just can't decide where to start.

In the meantime I'm comfort-knitting socks.

And I'm thrilled to report that we found our first blossom this morning on the ornamental almond outside my studio. One week until calendar spring. Thank goodness. I might just make it after all.

Thank you all for the incredible messages of kindness and empathy and support and love you left on my last post. I'm never sure about posting the difficult stuff. Especially last week when I felt so distraught and defeated. But you guys never fail to say the stuff I need to hear. You are my community and reading through your messages was so heart warming and soul nourishing. I'm so very grateful.

And with that I'm going to sign off for another week. I'm going to have lunch with my boy in the sun, I'm going to hang some washing out to dry and then I'm going to sort through our seeds. I've seen people online pricking out their tomatoes and I haven't even planted mine yet.

Be kind to yourselves and each other my friends.

Lots of love,

Kate x

Visit my other blog.