31 March 2011

Lily Lily Lumpkin

Because this blog is mostly about the stuff we create, Lily, 16 months, doesn't get much of a look in.  This one is just for me, may I never forget the chubby curves of that baby neck, those soft curls, that hearty pirate laugh...

30 March 2011

Out from the Mob

This little fellow must have got separated from his mob.
Nina's kangeroo

 No wonder he looks a little lonely.
Nina's kangeroo
I think he'd better come home with us.

29 March 2011

Amazing Grace

I am  interested in the different ways in which children draw and develop their own sense of the world and how to record it.
My girls have, inevitably, been inspired by each other, but also have their own distinctive styles.  With Grace, my third daughter, I am especially enjoying the familiarity of seeing each stage emerge - the move from scribbles, to scribbles with names, to form, to the adding in of details (eyelashes, cheeks, fingers) -  as well as the uniquely 'Grace' way she has of doing things.

Girl, flowers, rainbow

Rainbows are a common theme in her drawings at the moment, as are flowers and stars.  Those three fingered hands kill me. 

Girl with fireworks and hearts

I like that anatomical correctness is not important.  Soon enough she will never draw a person without arms but this girl is right, just as she is.  The conforming of the child to artistic conventions is always slightly heartbreaking.

Map to the shops
When granny was minding her, Grace thought it might be useful to draw a map to show her the way to our local shops.  Sometimes she brings her various maps when we go out and instructs me; "just around this corner, yep, and then another corner, yep, here we are".

Signed by the artist
One of her first autographed drawings.  It's a great day indeed, in the life of a child, when they can write and recognise their own name.  Now she points out letters that occur in her name that she sees in other words.  It's a cause for excitement each time.

Once she mastered her name she moved on to copying other words.  'Fairy'  and 'Nina' were obvious, but 'Foleys' was a mystery until I realised it is on a free mouse pad I use.
Plasticine mouse

Three fingers are obviously just right.
Pictionary Wizard

Now that she is a confident drawer she can join in games of Pictionary.
She was insistent that the Prince be doing the raking.  And look - five fingers!  It's happened already.
On the Monday she turned four, on the Tuesday she rode a pedal bike without training wheels for the first time and just took off, on the Wednesday she went to kinder, kissed me and said "I'm going outside" without a backward glance.

26 March 2011

I walk the line

I try to walk the line between adorable and nauseating.  Sometimes I'm sure I cross it.  Here is Parsley from a pattern by the great Ric-Rac.
Parsley has tea

I've never stooped to doing mother/daughter ensembles, but daughter/toy ensembles?  oh yeah, done those....
Lily's pinafore and Parsley's dress

25 March 2011

Things I could not have foreseen.

Stack of quilts - Lily, Nina, Ruby, Grace

I can no longer remember what I thought it would be like to be a mother before I had children. 
In my professional life, many things turn on the notion of foreseeability.  It's a much harder question than you'd think, legally, but in my real life most things are foreseeable: tiredness makes everyone grumpy;  if there is only one pink plate and two three year old girls, there is likely to be a fight; if you sit quietly in a corner and read, small people will gather (good when you're doing parent duty at kinder, not so good when you're trying to finish a book for book club).

However there are a few things that have occurred since becoming a parent that I really never could have foreseen.  I never would have thought that the first poo my offspring did in the potty would get eaten by the dog.  I didn't foresee that whilst inspecting a child's itchy bottom at 2am I'd see a live worm wiggling at me.  I never imagined I would discover first hand that colds spread when someone else's snot drips into your open mouth.  

I am a great one for saying aloud, (or quietly thinking to myself) the things I will never do.  And yet a day, a week, a year later those are often the very things I find I am doing.  And so it was with quilting

I never was particularly fond of quilts. When I began sewing about four years ago I was quite certain that quilting would never interest me.  When a friend's mother took up quilting and told me how much I would love it I smiled politely and silently thought "never in a million years".  I like quick gratification in my craft and quilting is the opposite of quick.  All those little pieces to measure and cut and sew.....

Archie's quilt

Then one day I had a conversation with my friend who was expecting twins.  It was summer and three or four times I had started knitting baby blankets for those twins and three or four times I had unpicked all my knitting because it didn't look right, or the colours were wrong or the wool scratchy.
My friend told me that her obstetrician had advised that the twins were "running out of room" and that she might go into labour at about 33 weeks.  When she told me this, she must have been about 31 weeks pregnant and, to my shame, instead of concern that she might have reasonably premature babies, my first thought was "there is no way I'll be able to knit two baby blankets in 2 weeks".
So I scrambled for an idea and looked through my stash (that was another thing I promised myself I would never have) and thought that a simple strip quilt for each was doable in the time.

I picked out a group of fabrics that seemed to go together and laid them out and sewed them up and I was so completely pleased with myself and my efforts, and so thoroughly in love with the result, that I could hardly sleep. There was nothing particularly fabulous about those quilts, and indeed looking at them now is slightly painful - so many things I would have done differently...

Abby's quilt
Those twins (who were not born at 33 weeks afterall) are about to turn one.  In the year since I made those first little cot quilts I've made a quilt for each of my girls and one of my nieces.  I've acquired a small collection of quilting books.  I've been to a couple of quilting shows.  I've been given a brand spanking new  "Quilter's Edition" Bernina 440 for my fortieth birthday to replace the 1967 Singer on which I have sewn everything in my life (and which features in the header of this blog  - that's Ruby's quilt I'm quilting on it).  I've bought a rotary cutter and mat. I've got quilting pins, and plastic templates.  I surf the net looking at online fabric stores. 

Free motion quilting Grace's quilt
Does all this make me a quilter?  I hesitate to say yes.  "Real" quilters would look at my wonky seams, my uneven cutting, my, umm, individual quilting style and less-than-perfect mitred corners, and would consider me not of their number.  And, to be honest, at those quilting shows I did not feet one little bit like I'd found my tribe.  I look at many quilts and admire only the technical skill.  I think henious crimes against taste have been committed in the name of quilting.
And yet, I leap into that fray.  The Bernina is too good for me (that's it in the corner of this photo). Far superior sewers have far inferior machines.  This makes me feel like the sort of poseur who dons a 'king of the mountain' bike jersey and rides a custom made $5000 bike to Brunetti's for coffee.  Still,  I'm learning.  In ten years I hope the Bernina will not be too good for me. 

In the meantime, my imperfect efforts give me pleasure, brighten our rooms, warm my children and provide a permanent testament to this "woman's work".
Grace's quilt

22 March 2011

The White Album

At the beach Grace came running: "Mama I've found a beetle and.. and ..it's JOHN".

20 March 2011

Superb Restaurant

I am rarely happier than when several hours pass without sibling bickering.  When those hours are spent in unsupervised collaborative creativity and when this means I can catch up on the many many unread New Yorker magazines in my life, I am nearly ecstatic.
This is a recent incarnation of a favourite pastime - making "Superb Restaurant" out of things in the garden.
The season is turning and in the overcast evening the colours were gorgeous.(which my photography does not adequately capture)
There was quite a spread on offer;

birthday cake even.

Piles of 'sherbet'; escargot; hay for the horses (?)...
The colour, the colour the colour.

18 March 2011


'Little Things' tutu

Who wouldn't want a multi-layered tulle skirt that just grazes your ankles and swishes when you walk?
Grace twirling

Grace was pretty happy with her fourth birthday present.  An easy and satisfying sew from this lovely book.

15 March 2011

Love that mind

Leaf drawing

I'm not a botanist so I'm only guessing that this is a succulent leaf.  It's one of those leaves that is coated in a kind of dust which rubs off.  Nina found them sticking out of someone's fence and picked a few to draw on.
I love her weird and wonderful creations. This is an incomplete record of Nina's recent creations:

Hedgehog stamp - sadly scribbled on by Lily.  The perils of younger sisters....

Tiny dancer

A tiny ballerina made from a stick and gum nut, pipe cleaner arms and a paper skirt;

Boy in a boat
This little fella was made from something (plasticine maybe?) and lives in his own little paper bowl.  I'm especially fond of his belly button.

Tree scene

 A doodly little sketch done whilst we were reading stories the other night.
Tree scene close up

The movement of the leaves, the wavy lines on the ground, the branches, just capture something of the tree to me.
Stick family - Photo by Nina

After she made this family she had a photo session for them, capturing every permutation and combination.  Love the cat and dog.

Work station

A computer and desk.  I especially love the mouse and the cursor on the 'screen', also the placement of the jar and bead on the desk to give it that authentic desk look.

World (1)

For a while she drew a heap of these 'worlds'. These are from when she was four, just turning five.  She can't really explain what they are but she knows them as she is drawing them.  She is quite immersed in each world and she knows when it is complete.  Some are large, others are a few lines connected.  Some she never finishes. 

World (2)
I love her figurative stuff but I hope she never stops doing these.

14 March 2011

Frozen moment

When I look back on photos from my childhood, it is often the incidental things that strike me most.  The matching fair isle jumpers we wore circa 1972-1976.  The vinyl records pulled onto the floor by my twin sisters, the frilly coloured foil around the edges of the birthday cake.  

Today I wanted to capture just exactly how things are, right this very minute before I forget:

Laundry on clothes horses ready to be quickly moved in and out of doors according to the mercurial whims of Melbourne's weather; 
Ruby scooting round and round and round the deck, immersed in a private game; 
Nina carrying a bucket of sand;  
the spoutless silver teapot reduced to a sandpit accessory;
Pablo hoeing into a tomato he has just nicked from the veggie patch; 
a rubber washing up glove abandoned by Lily at the back door; 
the instructions to Grace's new goggles in six languages, which she blu-tacked to the wall (who knew goggles required instructions?); 
the new hooks for school/kinder hats and bags only;  
my dependable, endlessly capacious 'Dig Ivan Dig' nappy bag perched on the couch...

This was the view from my kitchen today. Forty years from now I wonder what it will be that strikes us most.  Will the scene be oh so familiar, or will it be a lost time capsule from the distant land of early childhood?  Will the car have the 'vintage' look of my grandpa's arsenic green 1954 Holden ute that turns up in my childhood photos?  Will the painting on the wall be worth a fortune because the local artist made it big? Will that vine finally take over the entire house and garden, enclosing us, like Sleeping Beauty, in a thicket so dense it will not be penetrated for a century? (I sometimes fear so....).

No glamour here, but much that resonates.

10 March 2011

Biro, Crayon, Linen ,Thread

Like lots of kids, mine draw a lot.  We put their drawings on walls, and in folios, we give them away and make them into cards and wrapping paper.  But demand cannot keep up with supply....

Some of their drawings are so quirky, or lovely or different, that I really want to keep them permanently on display.  However we have only so much wall space.  (Angry Chicken has just done a useful posted about storing kids art.)  Here is a slightly novel way of using some of their art.
Ruby's flower garden

For Christmas I decided to sew each of the girls a dress, embroidered with a drawing they had done.  (Lily was a little young so I embroidered hers with a picture of my own choosing.)

For Ruby I made a linen dressed based on the smocked sundress from 'Weekend Sewing'.
I had never used shirring elastic before and it really was as easy as Heather promises in the book.

Ruby's smocked sundress with embroidery
Ruby's original flower garden drawing
I thought Ruby's flowers were pretty fabulous and wanted to capture them in a somewhat permanent way. 
Nina drew this snail family one day when we were at the museum, and I thought these little guys (as Nina would say) would look good crawling along the border of her dress.    

Nina's snail family

Nina's snail family dress
The dress is loosely based on the pillowcase dress from 'Handmade Home'  though I must have seriously mucked up the measurements as this was originally intended for Grace. I made it way too wide at the arm and then had to add the border to make it long enough for Nina.
Christmas Eve dresses
Here it is hanging up on Christmas Eve with a label made from a bit of gum tree bark (an idea shamelessly borrowed from SouleMama).

Grace had only fairly recently started figurative drawing at the time I did this.  Her little fellow seemed just perfect to be popping out of a pocket.
Grace's pocket
Grace's original drawing

I made the dress pattern up using a bit of leftover shirred fabric from Ruby's dress for the back.  It's a bit of a tight fit to get into but looks gorgeous and old fashioned on.

And just for the sake of completeness, here is Lily's dress.  It couldn't be easier- two rectangles of fabric, a casing at the top to thread ribbon through, bias binding at the bottom. (ahem, my ironing leaves something to be desired...)

Lily's Christmas dress
I can't claim the bird motif as my own.  I got it from one of the ever popular japanese craft books. 
Bird embroidery
 Already this dress is more like a top on her.  Too fast she is growing, too fast.