Friday, June 29, 2018

Friday night blog

One of my girls told me the other day that she wondered if she was spending too much time on social media lately looking at people having fun in the sun on the other side of the world at the beach and by swimming pools. She wondered if I thought it might be a problem. The funny thing in our house, is that our girls are so much more responsible and aware of their social media habits and the impact they have on their lives and thought patterns than I am.

After we spoke about it for a while I realised that I've been doing the same. I'm not looking at cute teenagers in vintage bikinis under umbrellas on pristine beaches, but I am most definitely hunting for photos of brightly coloured rows of summer flowers, farmers and gardeners working in their fields and orchards in the sunshine, women and families in summer dresses, and other pictures where the light streaming in looks warm and golden.

It's freezing here. It's often misty, the skies are white and there's icy cold moisture in the air. My face hurts from the cold and when I go outside I have to wear so many layers of clothing and scarves and hats and gloves that I can hardly move.

The following photos that I've taken over the past few days, one week after the solstice, one month into winter, are the exact opposite of those that I've been gazing dreamily at; they're dark and they're moody and they look cold, but maybe if you've  been sweltering in the sunshine on the other side of the world, they'll be exactly what you've been looking for to cool you down (yeah right!). They tell the story of our season anyway.

Our big girls have been on school holidays for the past week and there has been non-stop guitar strumming, lyric learning and melody writing going on. It's been such a joy to have their music floating through the air, down corridors, from behind closed doors, in the lounge room, in the kitchen, in the sun room, in bedrooms. Once I had to ask for a few moments of silence so I could concentrate on a piece of writing and follow a thought through, but the rest of the time I can't stop smiling and singing along and wondering if they know how lucky they are to have this passion and how awesome it is that they can share it, and wondering how things are going to change now that Pepper is on school holidays too.

As I wrote at the end of last week's blog, my farmer boy got on his lathe and turned a couple of door handles for my studio. It took him a few goes to find the right wood, and then the right shape, but now that they're complete I'll be reminded of him and his craftsmanship every time I open and close my studio door. Bespoke door handles...seriously!

And speaking of my studio, this week the insulation went into the walls.

I spent a few days with my farmer boy pushing floor boards from the old Malvern Star factory through the thicknesser.

Then Jobbo cut them to size.

And then they started lining the interior walls with them. They'll need another light sand to smooth them down, but gosh they're looking great. And by the end of today they'll hopefully be close to done and it'll be time to fit out the inside. Can you imagine! Honestly I'm not sure I really can yet. It feels kind of huge and unbelievable. But also ridiculously exciting at the same time.

And despite the icy cold air, we've been out farming. We finally finished pulling the nets off the trees, I pulled out masses of summer flowers, started digging up the dahlia tubers, planted some more bulbs, some sweet peas and some hollyhocks and finished with the wood splitter.

Mostly, once I'm out and into a job I quite enjoy it, once my blood is pumping, and once I'm making a difference, but psyching myself up to get out in it is another thing entirely.

I've almost finished knitting another pair of Uppsala slippers for Bren's dad John.

I've been reading and really enjoying my Mum's library copy of The Good Brother.

And we're watching Friday Night Lights again but this time with our big girls who are loving it.

I was just about to sign off for the week when I heard a bit of activity outside and decided to go and check it out for myself. And then when I saw what everyone was getting excited about of course I had to go and get my camera and include you too.

The beautiful hand-nailed Malvern Star floor wall, the windows, my farmer boy builder, and the chairs that I had seen outside a shop in town today when we were driving home from Pepper's parent teacher interview. I screeched to a halt outside but there was already a woman there buying them. I sat in the car wishing for her to change her mind while Bren went out to negotiate. He asked the shop owner but she said he was five minutes too late so he started walking back to the car.

I can't tell you how disappointed I felt. I've been scouring the internet for months for these chairs and then here they were outside a shop in our town. It felt like a sign.

But then, what do you know, the shop lady came to the window of the car and asked for our phone number because she wasn't convinced the other lady would buy them. And then as we were hunting for a pen and piece of paper she decided that she wouldn't. They were too much of a risk for her Airbnb. They were ours! Some for the sun-room, one for the deck of my studio and maybe one for inside. I'm thrilled!

Thrilled! If only it wasn't hurting cold outside I'd move in immediately.

I had a conversation this morning with an old blogging buddy of mine from eight+ years ago. She stopped making and blogging years ago and it felt a bit weird to say that I'm still here, still creating, photographing, writing and still pressing publish. She's moved on but I've stayed in the same place. After all this time, after all these posts. But then as we hung up and I plugged my card reader into my computer and sat down to write today's blog, I felt so pleased to be here. It felt like coming home. Who knows how long I'll go on for, but for now I'm happy to prioritise Friday blog day and I guess that as long as it feels good, I still will.

So tell me lovelies, what have you been working on today?
What's the soundtrack to your life at the moment?
What's your favourite way to deal with weather that hurts you?
And what are you still doing after all this time?
Do tell.

See you next week!

Love, Kate x

Friday, June 22, 2018

light my fire

I always find the blog that follows an exciting, milestone, life-event blog difficult to write. The words don't flow as freely, the subjects are harder to choose and the 'who even cares' voice sneaks into my brain and makes itself comfortable.

If the lead-up to Soul Craft was 'the before', then the past week has most definitely been 'the after. And the after is filled with things we have to do before true winter sets in and the paddocks are too wet to drive in, the wood splitter has been returned to its owner, and everything that grew in summer has been pulled out, pruned, or cut down, and everything that needs to go in the ground before spring has been planted.

People talk about how lovely winter is because it's a time for bunking down inside by the fire knitting and drinking tea, but we are so not there yet. We are still outside. Most of the time we can't feel our fingers or our toes, our work pants are wet up to our knees and our boots are so caked with mud that we appear inches taller than we really are. But we are ticking things off slowly, so hopefully by this time next week or the week after, we'll be able to admire the blanket of frost covering everything from inside the house.

So let's get back to the photo journal shall we...

june sixteenth 

I made these Uppsala slippers as a gift for my farmer boy to say thank you for always taking care of us and our many details. They're the perfect project to take on when you want to make a present but you can't commit to a pair of 4ply socks. Someone on instagram suggested I stitch a piece of leather to the sole to protect them against all the little bits of wood, but I feel like that would make them slippery, and the truth is I only asked him to wear them in the wood shed to make my photos look good, and he held them in his hands and only put them on once we got there.

Here's the link to the pattern on Ravelry. It's a quick little knit but be sure to go down a size because they knit up bigger than you think.

june seventeenth

I've spent so much of the past week splitting wood. Now that that job's almost done I just need to find some time to stack it.

june eighteenth

Late one night last week, with nothing to read, I crept into Indi's room and took the two books off her bedside table. One was Heart of Darkness, which is one of her English Literature books and the other was her philosophy teacher Skye's copy of The Little Paris Bookshop. I didn't make it past page four of the first, and I stayed up until way past four reading the other.

“There are books that are suitable for a million people, others for only a hundred. There are even remedies—I mean books—that were written for one person only…A book is both medic and medicine at once. It makes a diagnosis as well as offering therapy. Putting the right novels to the appropriate ailments: that’s how I sell books.”

I love the concept of a literary apothecary, an encyclopedia of emotions, shopping on a floating book-barge. And I love the characters in this book and the story so far. I always feel rich and relieved when I have a book I am loving to go to bed with, because then it doesn't matter as much what happens sleep-wise in the night.

june nineteenth

That's a photo of my scrappy sock blanket that I have been knitting since November first 2014. From time to time I consider turning it over, darning all the ends in and marking it as finished. But then I remember how comforting it is to have a project on the go all the time. It's always there. Whenever I cast off a project but before I cast on something new I pull it down and add a few squares, I love the mindlessness of it, I enjoy the weight of it on my lap and I reminisce about all the socks I've knitted over the years to make the scraps to make the blanket. It would look so good on the day bed in my new studio though...

june twentieth

And speaking of my new studio, on Wednesday while I was on my hands and knees in the freezing cold mud trying to get the rest of my garlic in before the winter solstice (see the very first photo), Bren and Jobbo were putting the finishing touches on the door and starting on the shingles.

Oh and just in case you get excited about those shingles like I did the other day, whatever you do - do not search up #shingles on instagram. Let's just say I made that mistake so you don't have to.

june twenty first

On Thursday we had our first true, crunchy, frost of the season.  And I ran around taking photos of everything before retreating inside to try and warm my fingers.

And Bren and Jobbo made frames for and inserted two triangular windows in the pitched roof at the back of my studio and finished and hung the door. I don't think I have ever been so excited about a door in my life.

june twenty second

Today. We spent the day crunching through the frosty grass, and then later the wet grass, in the orchards pulling the nets off the trees. We're late to the job and you can almost feel the trees stretching their limbs out in relief and wondering why it took us so long. Which is why it's so late at 5.24pm for me to be writing my blog. Which is why I'm rushing it to get it done before the girls get home from school. Which is why I haven't even taken my wet socks and clothes off yet which feels awful, but I'm also okay because my farmer boy just brought me in a hot cup of tea and a hot water bottle. The best thing about wearing overalls to work is that you can pop the hot water bottle in the chest bit, like a baby. The best bit about hot tea is that it's hot.

And I told you I was excited about my door, but just in case you didn't believe me here are a few more photos of it. Bren is going to turn me a couple of door handles this weekend.

And that's it! All caught up and into a hot shower I go.

But before I leave tell me some things about you.
What are you reading/writing/playing/watching/growing/crafing?
What are you loving most about the season you're in?
What are you getting up to this weekend?
I want to buy some charcoal yarn with a fleck through it, do you know where I could get some?

See ya's next week okay!

Love, Kate x

ps Did you get my door joke in the title - Light my fire - by the DOORS!! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

soul craft festival

Last October, nine months ago, three small things happened that together set off a chain of events that affected almost every one of my days since.

one - Last October our youngest daughter Pepper had a birthday and turned 10. There's this particular folklore spoken of in my family that I grew up in that tells the tale of how when my mum's youngest daughter turned 10, she got her brain back. She went back to study, she started writing and she felt like a person in her own right again. When Pepper turned 10 last year there was most certainly an expectation within me that there was about to be shift in my brain function and in my life.

two - Last October I listened to a podcast about ways to protect the ageing brain and to delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer's. One of the suggestions made was to try to live outside your comfort zone regularly. To meet new people, to try new experiences, to challenge yourself.

three -  Last October I got a phone call out of the blue from wonderful Felicia who runs The Craft Sessions each year. Felicia called to tell me all about Soul Craft, a fabulous festival celebrating craft and connection that she was setting up to run the following June. I'd had a few interactions with Felicia before so she knew that when she asked me to consider making a 45 minute presentation at her event that she was asking me to step out of my comfort zone.

But because of the birthday, and the podcast, and the feeling that June 2018 was so far away and in the middle of our quiet season on the farm, I said yes.

And then as if that wasn't enough for future Kate to deal with, somehow we got onto the subject of teaching a masterclass at the festival. Felicia had asked me before and I'd turned her down, not feeling like enough of an expert, but this time part of me wanted in. I wanted to take on a bigger role, I wanted to push myself, I wanted to give something back to this community that has been so very generous with me, I wanted to pass on the skills and knowledge that I've gathered, and I wanted to share the love, and on the phone that day I  told Felicia that I thought I might be ready.

At first we discussed a crochet class. A wonderful, colourful, free-form class where hooks and yarn would be used to create patterns and shapes and scenes.

But then a couple of days later I called her back with the thought that while crochet had definitely been my introduction to the fibre crafts, knitting, and toe-up-sock-knitting specifically, was my craft true love. If there was no one else at the festival teaching it, then it should be me.

We locked it in.

What followed was a big bit of excitement; That she had asked me, that I had agreed and that I was going to be part of something wonderful. And then there was a fair bit of panic; What had I been thinking? How on earth could I? Who did I think I was? Was I even capable?

But then I employed all sorts of methods to trick my brain out of thinking about it, which wasn't too hard considering there were veggies and flowers to plant, apples to pick and young girls to raise. I wrote on my blog a few months ago that I mostly deal with my life the same way I deal with a complicated knitting pattern - one row at a time. And so I tried my best to stay in the moment, in the needs of the season, in the week, and not to look at the next row until I got there.

And when I lay awake wondering how it was even possible to explain in words something my hands know how to do without my brain thinking about it, or what words to use to explain a purl in the front and in the back of a stitch, or what was the best cast-on to teach, or how on earth we could complete a whole sock in a three hour period of time, I learnt to take some deep breaths and tell myself sternly that nothing I worried about or planned overnight was going to help the situation, and to think about something easier like growing flowers instead.

And then there came a day when I could not put it off any longer. It was time to make lists, write questions, choose photos, write definitions and instructions, find diagrams, knit samples, teach some friends, buy some cute notebooks and pens, and make some plans.

And when I did I found that it all came together quite neatly, and part of me wished I'd started earlier and lessened the long term worry, but that's never going to be me.

And then all of a sudden it was the night before. My hair was freshly cut, my clothes were laid out, my bag was packed, and I felt prepared and maybe even a little bit excited. Although a drama with Jarrah's stapler almost saw the whole thing fall in a heap....

The next morning Felicia met us outside the front of the Meat Market and walked us down the side past the queue of people waiting to get in, and we felt like rock stars. We met Kirsten who would be MCing our talk, we drank coffee in a hall filled with poppies and people proudly wearing their hand knits, and then it was time.

The idea for Indi to interview me on stage about how craft has been interwoven into every aspect of my life was one of the few insomnia brainwaves that lived to see the light of day. It came to me one night and I remember being so impatient for the minutes and hours to click by so it could be morning and I could ask her. And she was brilliant at it. Articulate and warm and funny and often quick to add a story of her own.

I actually can't remember a lot about those 45 minutes that felt like five. I do remember looking up at a sea of women knitting and feeling thrilled to be amongst my tribe. I remember finding the women who were smiling and nodding and looking back at them often. I remember watching people's eyes open wide as I told the story of wanting to be Mirka Mora's friend in my 20's and knocking on her door in St Kilda and continuing to do so for years to come. I remember how my girls got on stage at the end and grabbed the microphone so confidently to answer an audience question about how they feel about having their lives shared on my blog. And I remember feeling so much love as I stepped down afterwards to speak to blog readers, and instagram likers, and people who have been following our journey for years and years.

After the talk we wandered around the market place and spoke of the fact that Felicia had gathered the stalls we usually spend the whole time at the Bendigo Sheep and Wool show hunting for. A hall filled with ethical, sustainable, local, natural, bio dynamic and beautiful products, yet I was too hyped up to make any decisions or to commit to a purchase. (I'm regretting that now).

And then it was time to set up my classroom. Lucky I had my helpers along.

As the future sock knitters came in and got settled Bren snapped these shots which are amazing to look back at now.

We introduced ourselves and we quickly got to work, there was much to cover in not very much time.

And although there were some very experienced knitters in the class, although there were two left-handers and although those two left-handers were also committed double pointed needle users, as soon as we started the cast-on - I started loving the class.

I absolutely loved every second of those three hours.

I loved meeting and having Jodie @jellywares (in the handmade dress and blue shawl above) in my class. I've been following Jodie's blog for longer than I've had my own. Over the years I've admired and been inspired by her creations, I've congratulated her on her babies, I've participated in her face washer swaps and I've bought a share in her yarn clubs. I had been nervous at the thought of teaching such a beautiful knitter, but within minutes of walking in and hugging her, I forgot all of that and instead felt lucky to be spending time in real life with my wonderful friend.

I loved explaining the steps to the group and then walking around and watching them doing it for themselves, I loved showing them individually and watching it click for them, I loved the joy that burst out of them when the flat piece of knitting became a toe pouch, or a foot, or a heel. 

I loved watching the connections between knitters happen, I loved the stories people shared as their hands were busy knitting, it was amazing. AMAZING!!

And the time flew and before I knew it, it was time to pop all of the little socks in the middle to take a group photo. (Note to self - for future classes provide yarn in the same colour palette so the group photo in the end looks prettier).

After they had all left and I was alone packing all my stuff up, I couldn't stop smiling. There had been 16 people in my class and there were 15 (hopefully 16) new sock knitters in the world.

Then I walked back into the hall and met some more of my favourite online knitters and dyers. All chatting about the anxious lead up to their talks and classes, all as lovely as they are online, all happy to discuss their favourite cast-on and -off and the need for swatching and blocking. All compounding the feeling that last October's Kate had made what felt like a brave but ended up being such a good and important decision.

And then we drank champagne. And I met more awesome textile folk. And had some pretty cool conversations about juggling motherhood and guilt and finances and craft, and about craft consumerism, and about other life stuff.

And then all of a sudden it's a week later. The butterflies in my tummy that made their presence known every time I let my mind drift to Soul Craft for the past nine months have flown away (to where?). The fear that I am not worthy, or an expert, or qualified, or enough, to speak to an audience of crafters and to teach sock knitting has disappeared. My worry about not being the best knitter in the room feels silly now. My pride that my girls saw me in the anxious lead up and then celebrated me and my success afterwards was immense. The feeling I get whenever one of those 16 sends me a photo of a sock they've knitted is beyond thrilling.

My love of teaching has been rediscovered. I may have started discussions about a sock knitting class here, in our sun room, later this year. My mum said she'd make the bread and a cake and Bren said he'd make soup and salad, so that's the food sorted. I know that if I do it I'll be crazy nervous again beforehand, but I also know that I can do it. I'm not quite ready to work out the finer details and set a date just yet though. Let's get through winter first.

And to you Felicia, so many people have great ideas and love to talk about them, but by gosh you make stuff happen. And so beautifully and with such integrity and joy. Every single detail of that festival from the no-waste food and drinks, to the speakers and teachers and helpers, to the layout and aesthetic, to the way you made every single person involved feel special. You are one in a million and I am so grateful that you included me, I feel changed.

And to all of you who cheered me on, and encouraged me, and sent me your words of wisdom, trust me when I say that I took them all on and believed you. Thank you!

Life on the other side is definitely calmer. My studio build continues, the girls have one and two weeks left of school for the term, I still have garlic and bulbs to plant before the winter solstice, the nets need to come off the trees, the flower patch needs to be cleaned up, there's wood to split and stack and a home to clean. And I'm still not sleeping.

How are you anyway?
Are you good at getting outside of your comfort zone?
Do you say yes sometimes and then wish you hadn't?
Do you have anything fun planned for this weekend?

See you next Friday folks!

Love, Kate x

Friday, June 8, 2018

in june

Hello lovely ones,

I've had a bit of a nostalgic week this past week. In preparation for my presentation at Soul Craft festival tomorrow I've spent time going through old photos, old blog archives, old projects, and really thinking about the gifts that living and sharing my craft-filled life online have given me. It'll be nine years this month since I started posting to Foxs Lane. Nine years!! 

And although blog friends have come and gone, and  although the trends have come and gone (hello Kirsty's granny shrug), and although my style has changed a million times (I'm no longer wearing skirts made from tea-towels), and although our girls are so big now that it's hard to even remember that I used to be able to knit them a cardigan from one 200 gram ball of Bendigo Woollen Mills cotton, and I could go on and on...the one constant has always been community. You guys. Us.

Creativity, connection, community.

Our stories, our opinions, our skills, our families, our makings, our ups and our downs. So although my talk will be mainly about my relationship to craft, I can't help but feel it would be completely different, and not nearly as fulfilling, without you guys travelling along beside me.

Which is why it meant so much to me when I opened my post office box this week to find a parcel from Rhonda at Down To Earth, one of my favourite bloggers and possibly one of the blogs I've been reading longest. It means the world to me to think that Rhonda thought of me when she came across this book in her bookshelf and knew that I'd love it. It felt comforting flicking through its pages at 3 this morning and wondering if she was awake and reading too. But the best part of all is, after all these years of reading her typed words, to read her inscription in her own hand writing. 

Thank you dear friend. xx

june second

As you can imagine, a huge chunk of this week has been spent preparing for my presentation and my sock knitting class at Soul Craft tomorrow. I've written questions, thought of answers, found diagrams, prepared instructions, printed pages, taught two friends, gone through old photos and blog posts, had my hair cut, found an outfit, knitted lots of samples, endured the crazy tummy butterflies, breathed deeply, mixed some essential oils, questioned my ability and my authority, written lists and made plans.

june third

All I can remember about last Sunday is that Bren and Pepper made some wooden spinning tops on the lathe, I planted loads of spring bulbs, Indi wrote an essay in Melbourne, poor Jazzy wasn't well and we ate fire-baked potatoes for dinner.

june fourth

I remember being halfway through a conversation with Bren last Monday when I looked behind him and saw the light coming through the window and hitting the cyclamen and I had to rush out to take a photo. I guess that's a big pro for the taking at least one photo every single day. They can't always be the big moments.

I look at that macrame so often and wish for the time to make more. Hopefully when I'm housebound over true winter I will.

june fifth

The greenhouse is in a bit of a post busy season mess, as you can see in the first photo on this post, but somehow through the lattice of windows everything looks just as it should. I love that.

june sixth

On Wednesday, due to the luck of her timetable and my need to escape the distractions of the home and get some serious work done, I spent four heavenly hours in two cafes, sitting across from Miss Indi, drinking coffee and then peppermint tea.

Back at the height of my crochet obsession in 2012, I would have written an entire blog post about those tea cozies!

june seventh

This week three windows went into my studio and three walls were clad in the old car-port tin. Next week the shingles will go on the front and then I think it'll be time to fit out the inside. So far everything but the battens is recycled. I am ridiculously in love with every single detail and ridiculously grateful to my farmer boy and to Jobbo. xx

june eighth

Today. One more sleep til Soul Craft!

It's funny how much I enjoyed hanging out the washing this morning when I knew I had a bazillion other things that I should have been doing to get ready for tomorrow instead. How I shook out every piece to make sure they dried right, how I admired all of the stripes and colours, how I made sure there was nothing long hanging in the back row to get in the way when we carry loads of wood through, and how much an undercover, out-of-the-living-area washing line has changed my life. On Sunday the housework will probably drive me crazy again, but for now, anything but the should is good.

Which brings me to now, 3.26pm on Friday. This time tomorrow I'll be two hours into my class, with one still to go. Wish me luck!

For now I have to go and charge my camera battery, finish printing and collating the instruction sheets, organise my samples, pack my needles and yarn, go through my presentation, wrap my dad's birthday present and take some deep breaths.

Hopefully I'll be seeing some of you tomorrow.

Do you have any last minute public speaking or teaching tips for me?
Do you have any questions you think I should address in my talk?
What's your best procrastination trick?

Hopefully I'll live to tell the tale and see you back here next week with all the gory details...


Kate x

Visit my other blog.