My sister and I are off to the epicentre of woollen fashion, fine food and beautiful fibre  at ridiculous o’clock tomorrow morning and my thoughts have thus turned to all things knitty. Yes, I knit – in public and in private, pretty much whenever the opportunity arises and my hands need something to occupy them to pass the time. It requires little in the way of special equipment, is portable, relaxing, sometimes frustrating, can be done in company and generally produces something that’s, at the very least, useful. An all-round winner, really.

I feel as though I’ve always knitted, but in actual fact knitting isn’t something that came naturally to me at all. My first attempts were thrust upon me by hard-hearted junior school teachers who appeared to believe that all girls could (and should!) knit. My tangled, grubby yarn and overt lack of enthusiasm eventually disabused them of this notion, but it took great diligence on my part to achieve this.

Congratulating myself on a narrow escape, I moved on to senior school. To my horror, the knitting-monster was lying in wait when I got there. The teachers ‘encouraged’ all the girls (yes, a girls school) to knit squares every year. These were then sewn into blankets (presumably by the teachers or some gullible mothers) and donated to a local age-care facility that the school helped to support.

It seemed like bad form not to participate and, to my surprise, squares turned out to be something that I could knit. Indeed, by the time I left high school, I could churn out a pretty good square over a couple of days, knitting at recess whilst chatting to friends. I didn’t realise it at the time, but this simple knitting project – and the feeling that I was helping to contribute to a good cause – changed my attitude to knitting and almost certainly encouraged me to develop a social conscience.


Angel top 1983

Several years later, a knitting-pro friend encouraged me to try knitting again, starting with something small. She taught by example, become the then-equivalent of my personal YouTube knitting video stream. I could ask her to show me the same thing again (and again) and she’d patiently ‘replay’ the bit I didn’t get without being ‘judgey’ about it. The result is that I’ve dabbled  with fancy stitches, fair isle, used intarsia as a way to create pictures on jumpers for my children, tried socks and created toys. My latest adventure is to join a knitting group and to give interlace knitting a try.

So I guess this means that, whilst I’m certainly not a pro-knitter, I’m no longer a rank novice. This is oddly satisfying, considering the rather rocky start. I’m looking forward to meeting some extreme knitting-nuts, perhaps learning a new technique or two and seeing (and buying) some beautiful yarn.

Bendigo, I hope you’re ready for us!


Much-loved dungarees 1982

reindeer coffee cozies 2014

reindeer coffee cozies 2014

My best friend flew up from Brownies to Guides when we were about 11 years old. I wasn’t a fan of Brownies – the one time I went along they’d seemed to spend all their time doing what I considered frightfully ‘girlie’ things. Guides, on the other hand, apparently went camping and did lots of outdoor activities, which all sounded much more fun. So I joined up. The only downside turned out to be that I had to polish my shoes on Friday afternoons before going to meetings, but I soon learned to offset that by not polishing them on Friday mornings before school 🙂

In no time I’d mastered reef knots, sheet bends and that most useful of knots, the bowline.  I learned basic first aid and was taught how to raise, lower and fold a flag. We did indeed go camping and we also played endless variations of Kim’s game. In the version we played, 24 different objects were placed on a tray and covered with a cloth. The items were then revealed to the player for a limited time, say one minute, after which they were covered up again and the player was asked to list as many as s/he could remember. It was fun – and good training in observation and recollection.  We also learned what has turned out to be a most useful skill, namely Scout’s pace – a method of covering distance fairly quickly by alternating running and walking 50 paces. This gives one time to recover somewhat in-between bursts of running and is much more fun that jogging or running flat out!

One of the most interesting aspects of my time as a Guide was getting involved in the international pen pal scheme. Our troop established contact with a troop in Canada and a few of us started corresponding with girls of similar ages in Toronto. This wasn’t my first encounter with correspondence, as my sister was living in Angola at the time and I would occasionally exchange postcards with her. In both cases I learned a little about how and where other people lived and, as importantly, started to write for pleasure.

In later years, I began to keep journals, corresponded with friends via snail mail and email, wrote a lengthy work of narrative non-fiction and, more recently, a memoir. Last year I job-shared for a while and ended up with my other half (of the job share) as an office pen pal. We left descriptive and informative notes for each other so that we would both know what needed to be done. It was surprisingly entertaining and I found that I missed that more than any other part of the job when I left.

All of these writing experiences have been influenced by those early pen pal days, by learning how to express myself in ways that a reader might find interesting. I was therefore delighted to receive a card in the mail a few weeks ago, sent to me by a friend who also lives here in Perth. She chose to post a physical card rather than send an email or a text message. It was a lovely surprise, as was the follow up package I received a couple of weeks later. This contained an eclectic range of goodies, from a vintage magazine to a beautiful drawing of a teacup. The magazine includes a pattern for a knitted poncho and a recipe for a no-bake Pavlova. Win!

I’ve sent a physical reply (in the mail) – and have created this to augment it. Enjoy, dear Pen Pal 🙂


It’s been a while since I ran any sort of workshop – but I’ve elbowed myself some creative space, both mentally and physically and it’s all systems go. With the cooler weather here at last, it’s a good time to get stuck into some mosaic. In addition to this, my outdoor (undercover) area no longer has three kittens living in it, so there’s abundant space in which to have some messy fun.

The plan is to run this workshop as a tester to see how it goes. If it’s a success, I’ll do more of them and get Perth mosaiced to the max 🙂

In this workshop the group (aka my willing guinea pigs) will make mosaic trivets, rather like one of these.

trivetsYou’ll learn about the basic tool set, select or draw a design and transfer that onto a backing board. Then we’ll all spend some time getting used to the tools and practise cutting and laying mosaic pieces. After a tasty morning tea you’ll all get stuck in and each a create trivet to take home with you. We’ll break for lunch and probably end the afternoon with a glass of something to celebrate our mosaic adventures.

Because the grouting has to happen at least 24 hours after the mosaic pieces are glued down, this step can either happen in your own time or you can pop back to do it on another day. I’ll also give you some tips on how to finish off the piece with some sealer and felt backing.

Date: Sunday 7 June, 10am – 4pm
Venue: The ex-kitten outdoor area, my place
Cost: $0 for my test-run guinea pigs 🙂
Bring: your lunch, apron or work shirt, an ice-cream container and an Artline 200 marking pen (if you have one).
Provided: morning tea, backing boards, some simple designs, tiles, glue, grout, tile nippers, safety glasses.
If you have spare ceramic tiles you’d really like to use, bring them along. Likewise, if you own or can borrow a set of tile nippers, bring those too.

To book: contact me directly – spaces are limited, so get in quickly.

einesteinTo my mind, the word creativity carries with it connotations of originality, imagination and success. For those of us who don’t consider ourselves to have ‘an artistic bone in our body’, this feels self-limiting. Our inner critic tells us that we aren’t artistic, thus we can’t possibly be innovative or inventive, thus creativity is outside of our operational zone. This rather circular argument ignores the fact that creativity isn’t actually about being artistic. It’s about making something out of nothing, about having an idea and following it through, about implementing an existing idea in a new way. It’s about being prepared to try things out, about accepting that ‘trying’ is the first step to ‘doing’ – not the last.

Last weekend I took part in an all-day drawing workshop designed for absolute beginners, for those who – like me – believe they simply can’t draw. Over the years I’ve been to a number of writing/other workshops and, in most of them, the instructor has suggested that I silence my inner critic (MIC) and just get on with it.  Anticipating this, I asked MIC to be an observer for the day rather than a participant. She must have agreed, because I had the best day and learned far more than I expected to. I even tried sketching in charcoal, which turns out to be a very satisfying medium to work in/with. I felt very creative, very capable.

Later on I reviewed my sketches at home. Away from the supportive vibe of the workshop, I could see many more flaws in my attempts than I had in class. Clearly MIC was back in play and she was making up for lost time. Before all my confidence fled, I decided it was time for us to get to know each other a little better.  My goal was to try to establish how and why my perceptions of my creative abilities had been set and, in so doing, to figure out how MIC  could help rather than hinder me.

I started by listing the sorts of ideas that, broadly speaking, might be limiting my creativity and empowering MIC.  The first thing that leapt to mind was the pervasive belief  that creativity is inherently self indulgent. MIC does have a tendency to murmur to me that I should be doing ‘something useful’ instead of ‘messing about with mosaics’ (or whatever).  Then there’s the notion that creative pastimes require time, money and an appropriately creative environment. Considering that creativity is so broad ranging, this is clearly a furphy – but I’ve nevertheless bought into each of these ideas over the years as well. Another roadblock for many people at various times is the rather childlike need for external approval to validate the endeavour (whatever it is) – and I’m no different. However, the most ubiquitous underlying limiter I came up with is self-doubt. This is like a vitamin B12 shot for MIC – it feeds her and allows her to grow and expand her influence over what I do.

The source of self-doubt is complex, built up in layers over many years and even more experiences. This often makes it quite difficult to single out an originating point or, indeed, to know whether such an assumed point is accurate or imagined. MIC and I worked together on trying to figure this out. We eventually narrowed it down to (surprise!) my childhood, to my memories of drawings done by my mother and brothers. I remember these as things of beauty, an unreachable benchmark. I tried to draw like them and fell short, so I concluded that I couldn’t draw.

This outlook very probably shaped the way I’ve tended to approach creative activities ever since. Over time my belief that I can’t draw turned into a view that I probably can’t do other ‘arty’ things – or, at least, not do them very well. MIC and I agree that this is not an outlook that serves any useful purpose. It’s based on the half-remembered impressions of an eleven year old – a child who didn’t consider that it takes work to do something well, that her mother and siblings probably spent hours and hours sketching.

I haven’t tamed MIC (she is a rather unruly minx), but we’ll work together to formulate a better working model. We’ll try for one that promotes creativity rather than hampering it, perhaps by turning ‘Critic’ into ‘Critique’.