It has been so cold recently. The coldest beginning of June I can remember since we moved to these parts nine years ago. I wish I could tell you that each time the winter season comes around I am better prepared, more accepting and embracing of it's unique opportunities and prompts - but I'm not. I loathe it. My whole body seems to go on protest: sore, knotted, aching, raw, sad. I have some deeper issues with my health and specifically my thyroid that we are trying to pin down and support - and interestingly one of it's symptoms is poor circulation and an increased sensitivity to the cold. Knowing this helps, if only to remind me that my body is actually finding it more difficult to winter than previous years. I wish I could curl up in a cave to hibernate and reappear with the bright sun in spring!
I recently finished knitting a shawl using a skein of handspun and dyed wool I bought on my birthday weekend at Tarndie Farm. I used some other fingering weight yarn a friend gave me. All through the knitting process I wondered how these colours would sit together, how unusual and theatrical they seemed. I wasn't sure I would like it, let alone want to wear it. And now the shawl is finished I chuckle at it's honest reflection of winter: the brown wood for the heater, table tops and toast, the silver frost, grey hairs, woollen jumpers, and the red rosehips, beetroots, swollen fingertips, blessed life-giving blood. Best of all it's soft and warm, exactly what I need.
How are you going? Is it winter for you or is summer unfurling? If you were here I'd put the kettle on and we would pull our chairs close to fire and sip warm relief. Take care x
Here we are again in the month of me-made-May; that delightful celebration of handmade and repurposed, mended and altered garments. I love seeing and reading about other people's makes, and I celebrate the emerging diversity of body shapes, pattern styles and sizes, sustainable fibers and thoughtful conversations around it. These blog posts by Felicia Semple and Meg McElwee are well worth reading!
With each year I hope to become a better maker - with less emphasis on acquiring new patterns and fabrics and more focus on recycling and mending, improving my sewing skills, altering patterns for a more satisfying fit. Basically to make less but better garments that I will actually reach for and wear over and over again.
In no particular order, some outfits of me-made things I am wearing often this month:
Cleo Skirts + Lark Tees
The Cleo Skirt is a simple pattern, with an elastic band at the back for a comfortable fit and roomy pockets. I've now made two versions with linen-cotton blends from my local fabric and haberdashery shop. I find the Japanese printed fabric of moons and stars particularly whimsical and up lifting. I love the Lark Tee pattern, and have made a handful of them now in cotton and wool jersey fabrics. I have managed to get some very affordable merino jersey from the Fabric Store by looking in their "remnant" sale - the pattern only requires 1-1.25m of fabric so it's not difficult to find a small piece to use.
Pictured here in my green Cleo Skirt (a colour reminiscent of the Lambs Ears that are growing in my garden) and black merino wool Lark Tee // Another day in my moon-print Cleo Skirt with a grey pointelle merino Lark Tee and my many coloured Vertices Shawl.
Eva Dress + Felix Cardigan
I recently made the Eva dress using a cotton-linen chambray fabric I had stashed away as a possible quilt backing that I never ended up needing. The fabric is exquisitely soft and shimmery. The dress shape has a lovely bell shape to it, and the construction was really enjoyable. As the weather cools I am wearing it with leggings or tights underneath and my cosy Felix Cardigan over the top.
You might remember I made Felix last year by unravelling an old (ill-fitting) cardigan and knitting it together with a strand of fine mohair-silk. The result is an incredibly soft and fuzzy, hard-wearing cardigan that I reach for day after day.
Trillium Dress + Sibella Cardigan
This is one my all-time favourite outfits. I adore the combination of my blue Sibella Cardigan (you might remember I made a golden-brown version a few years ago), my Trillium Dress in painterly blue cotton gauze by Japanese artist Nani Iro and my pale green-grey seaside shawl which bunches up nicely into a scarf.
All the textures and hues together make me happy, and with some warm leggings underneath is perfect on a crisp autumn day.
Trillium Dress + Coppélia Cardigan
Another outfit I love to wear. A sleeveless Trillium Dress again - this time in embroidered cotton and a very warm and snuggly wrap top - the Coppélia Cardigan which I recently made in this grey woven/knit fabric which contains wool, silk and mohair (a wonderful remnant find from the Fabric Store). The Cardigan is a clever wrap design and one I plan to make again in a lighter stretch fabric.
How about you? What are you making, mending, altering, wearing this month?
A week of me-made 2021
winter + spring making
I feel the season turning around and within. The trees becoming golden and brown, letting leaves fall and helicopter seeds. There's woodsmoke in the air, and the sight of zinnia flowers faded after frost and the recently prolific zucchini plants all soggy and shriveled. Many hundreds of forget-me-not sprouts and honeywort and lettuce and broad beans. I walk the same farm-worn path, around and around, and watch the rabbits darting for burrows, the rosellas in the hawthorn, and hear the bok bok of frogs. Our chicken guard dog, Eva, is wise enough to lie down in the midday sun and soak up all the heat it provides. I join her on the grass. These are the weeks of big feelings, of letting go, unleaving. And also the days of making, baking, reading, rekindling the flame.
Walking in the forest on an autumn afternoon. The gentle sun filters through every crack and bug-eaten leaf. It is a lesson in shadow and light, in life and decay. Underfoot the crunch of leaves, the snap of sticks, the remains of a dead fox or two, the slow gurgle of the river. The forest is a hidden world, sheltered from the wind, and creaking with willow limbs, oak, elm, holly, hawthorn. Foreign and familiar. Stooping down we see the tiny cyclamens blooming in lilac magnificence, mossy stumps and spider threads. Three boys and a man sit perched in a high up branch. I hear them laughing as I pack my camera away and feel the dappled light on my face //
+Easter is the season my heart and soul craves all year long. I am reminded once again to slow down. To give attention to the season forming around and within. The feel of autumn sunshine on my skin, the crisp of a cool morning and the sound of trees rustling and unleaving. I know the abundance of life and love given to me, mysterious and undeserved, and am thankful. I hear the goodness of God in the sound of raindrops on the roof after weeks of dryness. And in the efforts of baking, stacking the woodpile, covering eggs with tissue paper, keeping a candle-light vigil on the kitchen window sill, holding a book in my hands, peeling a quince, hugging my menfolk tight, tasting wood smoke on my tongue, singing in jolly abandon at church. Every year I hope in the promise of Easter - in the offering and the renewing, in the recklessness and the lament, in the anticipation and the sweetness - and the hope changes me.
More scenes from a special birthday weekend away with my friends: the lovely brown faces and speckled fleece of Polwarth sheep, beautiful yarn purchases from the farm gate shop (I opted for the undyed brown and grey which I hope to make a warm sweater from), our matching Wiksten oversize jackets, paddocks studded with oak trees, farm fresh figs, apples and honey, art in the farm cottage and electric pink amaryllis blooming everywhere...
Last weekend I had the enormous pleasure of getting away for my birthday with two dear friends. We booked accommodation at "Tarndie" - a heritage sheep farm about 2 hours drive from us - that produces it's own beautiful, soft woollen yarn. My friends are also keen knitters and crafters so we spent our days and nights drinking tea, chatting, eating good food and making by the fire. We also took walks around the farm and got to spy the gorgeous sheep...
the morning after rain
clouds are swirling
parting for the sun
feet sink into soft ground
and I can breathe in air
that's light and fresh
sweet with dampness
fragranced with grass
with creatures and wet earth
the morning after rain
hawthorn berries are glistening
finches dart for shallow worms
and in every direction
crows calling, magpies warbling
I can see the willows shaking off summer
thistles black and disintegrating
the morning after rain
paints a backdrop for the present:
our world awash with beauty
smothered with overuse
studded with grief
we hope still
Early autumn is a beautiful season, and this year is no exception with her crisp mornings and sublime sunshine soaked afternoons. There is much to lament over at the moment, conflicts in the world and devastating floods in our own land. Locally as the virus circulates along with common colds and bugs, businesses struggle to keep on and we feebly plan for the future. And yet the season keeps unfurling, making us stop and wonder, hope and pray. Early autumn is brimming with colour: the garden lush from rain and the deep pink of valerian and sedum, hedgerows dotted with red hawthorn berries and rosehips, the bees are busily gathering pollen and nectar from the flowering yellow box, lavender, catmint and dandelions. The cows have begun to calve and the chickens keep laying delicious brown and speckled eggs. I have years of linen scraps gathering dust in a big box - and recently decided to try to use some of them up in various ways - I have hand sewn 166 hexagons for this big cushion and am experimenting with garments and other things to give as gifts. I am trying to sketch more often in my journal, the familiar marks of blue ink bringing comfort and catharsis. Listening to a favorite song by Wovenhand that captures the season well and reading the pages of Marilynne Robinson's book Home: “There's so much to be grateful for, words are poor things"... //
Summer is a season of such abundance and bright colour when it comes to food. The garden is giving us fresh tomatoes, zucchinis and herbs each day. I have also been picking wild elderberries, mulberries and blackberries from the farm for the freezer and drying cornflower and calendula petals for soap, tea and decorating cakes. I eagerly await the raspberries, green beans and quinces and delight in the variety and deliciousness of stone fruit available at our local green grocer and farmers markets. Here are some recipes in high rotation at the moment:
Tomato + Watermelon Salad
This has become a favourite salad of mine lately. It is the most beautiful combination of sweet and tart, fragrant and salty. A perfect accompaniment to baked fish or lamb or simply on its own.
1/4 wedge of a whole large watermelon (approx 2kg)
3 large, ripe tomatoes
100g fresh goats cheese or soft feta cheese
handful fresh mint
generous pinch of sea salt + cracked black pepper
juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons EV olive oil
Cut watermelon and tomatoes into similar sized cubes. Crumble goats cheese + roughly chopped fresh mint leaves on top. Drizzle olive oil and lemon juice over the salt with generous pinches of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Gently toss salad to combine and eat straight away...
Mango + Coconut Jellies (Gummies)
I have been making these jellies (gummies) and marshmallows a lot this summer in an attempt to use up seasonal fruit, but also boost our daily intake of grass-fed bovine gelatine - they make a delicious quick, refreshing, nutrient dense snack. The best gelatine powder I have tried is by Australian company Saturee or Nutra Organics.
pulp of 1 ripe mango
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons grassfed bovine gelatine powder
1/2 cup water
1 cup coconut milk (no additives)
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
2 tablespoons grassfed bovine gelatine powder
1/2 cup water
To make the mango layer: sprinkle gelatine into a small bowl over 1/2 cup of water. The gelatine witll swell or "bloom" after a few minutes. Meanwhile blend fresh mango + orange juice in a small saucepan using a stick blender or similar. Bring fruit puree to a gentle simmer and stir in gelatine until dissolved. Remove from heat and pour into a glass or ceramic dish. Chill in the freezer while you make the coconut layer.
To make the coconut layer: sprinkle gelatine into a small bowl over 1/2 cup of water. The gelatine will swell or "bloom" after a few minutes. Meanwhile gently heat coconut milk together with maple syrup. Whisk in gelatine until dissolved, should take a minute or two. Remove from heat and let it cool down for a few minutes.
Take mango layer out of the freezer and test that the top is "set". If so, pour the coconut milk layer over it and put the dish in the fridge (not the freezer this time!) until completely set. It usually takes an hour or so. Once completely set you can score the jellies into cubes or rectangles or any shape of your liking. Keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to two weeks.
** my boys LOVE these jellies; they hold their shape at room temperature so you can put them in a lunch box too **
Baked Ricotta Tarts with Nectarines and Honey
These are so simple and good. They make a lovely quick breakfast or mid morning snack - ricotta is full of protein and calcium, plus you get the goodness of eggs, honey and fresh fruit.
500g fresh firm ricotta
1/2 cup runny honey
zest from 1 orange
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2-3 ripe nectarines (apricots, plums, peaches or berries work well too)
Preheat oven to 180'c. In a bowl whisk together ricotta, eggs, honey, zest and cinnamon. Grease (with melted butter) or line with paper some muffin tins; alternatively you can make one large tart in a 20cm cake tin. Spoon ricotta mixture into tins. Slice nectarines into thin wedges - I usually get about eight segments from each fruit. Place 1-2 segments into each tin over the ricotta. Top fruit with a little raw sugar if you like. Bake tarts for 20-30 minutes in the oven until the tops are golden. Cool completely - they will shrink a little and lift out more easily from the tins. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge and consume within a week.
Everyone has their preferences when it comes to topping a pavlova and mine changes with the seasons. In summertime I really don't think there is a better combination than silky, ripe mango and juicy tart raspberries. I also love that in the rare case there are any leftovers, the flavour and texture of the fruit changes pleasantly after a day or two in the fridge - something that can't be said about brown bananas and rubbery grapes!
6 free-range egg whites at room temperature
pinch sea salt
1 cup or 180g white caster sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
2 tablespoons arrowroot/tapioca flour or GF cornflower
2 cups pure cream (for whipping)
fruit of your choosing (I went for 1 large ripe mango + punnet of fresh raspberries)
** A scatter of dried cornflowers brings a delightful pop of edible colour **
Preheat oven to 180'c. In a clean bowl beat egg whites with a pinch of salt using a handheld or electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in sugar one tablespoon at a time and continue to beat until sugar is dissolved and stiff peaks form. Gently fold in vinegar, tapioca flour and vanilla.
Carefully spoon out mixture onto an oven tray lined with baking paper. I like to heap my mixture into a circle about 22cm in diameter. Immediately turn the oven down to 150'c and bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and let the pavlova cool with the door slightly open (I wedge a wooden spoon between the door and the oven).
Whip cream and spread over the top of the cool pavlova. Adorn with summer fruit and devour with friends!
ABOUT the author
Emily Clare Sims is a farmer and mama to three young boys. Each day she looks for ways to notice beauty, contemplate her faith and savour the seasons...