I have read some wonderful, interesting, thought provoking books this year - thanks again to my book loving friends, family and superb local library. Here are some highlights:
Metal Fish, Falling Snow by Cath Moore (2021)
A serendipitous find at my local library. I fell in love with the cover and the blurb on the back. While it may be classed as "young adult fiction", I think it's for anyone and everyone - and so beautifully explores the complexities of adolescence, grief, identity and place. The 14-year-old narrator, Dylan, is quirky and refreshing. Highly recommend.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff (2018)
An urgent and important read for our times. What can we do about the myriad ethical, social and political dilemmas amplified by the online spaces we occupy and the digital devices we rely on? Who has the power and what are they doing with it? I found myself disturbed by the details of deceptive and behavior-altering actions of our wealthiest companies and platforms online. It is worth reading for her final essay "Sanctuary" alone.
Small Bodies of Water by Nina Mingya Powles (2021)
This is an exquisite book. Nina's prose moves like water: caressing your feet, trickling over your hands and at times rushing over your entirely. She transports the reader to beautiful, raw inner landscapes as well as the various places, cities and countries she has called home.
Lila by Marilynne Robinson (2014)
I loved this. I think my favourite novel in her Gilead series so far. I couldn't put it down. It was sad, beautiful. Evocative. Robinson is a master of prose and telling the stories of ordinary, complex human relationships. Lila is my favorite character of hers yet.
Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (2020)
It took me a while to get into this one - but once I did, I was completely enthralled in the bizarre and magical world of Piranesi. Humorous, dark and intriguing. I won't say anymore, just go and read it!
How to End a Story, Diaries from 1994-1998 by Helen Garner (2021)
I don't think I will ever tire of Helen Garner. This is her most recent collection of excerpts from her personal diaries through the years her marriage was ending. I loved the details of everyday life - food, music, church, swimming, conversations and observations. I recall some of the more hilarious scenes and chuckle!
To the River by Olivia Laing (2017)
This book follows Olivia Laing's journey on foot along the river Ouse in Sussex - where Virginia Wolfe lived and died and many other notable characters from literature, art and history. I enjoyed how she weaved personal memoir with travel notes, mythology, history and poetry. At times it was fast paced and refreshing and at other times meandered slowly, like the river itself.
The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo (2021)
My mum lent this to me and assured me I would love it. Which I did. A whimsical, tragic and beautiful story set in a fantastical, medieval past intended for children (and everyone) about fate, love and power of words. The child at the centre of the story is wise and curious - then there's her fierce protector goat, a kind-faced monk and a brave boy. I look forward to reading this aloud to my boys.
How about you? What have you read this year and loved?
My newly finished Steele pinafore is a labour of love! The pattern is very well written but requires careful concentration. I enjoyed the challenge of sewing it, and even though my topstitching is not perfectly even, I am happy with the results. The fabric is "Roccoco" gingham linen from Merchant and Mills and is deliciously soft and comfortable. I love that it throws navy, grey, beige and mauve depending on the lighting. I know I will wear this pinny over and over again.
I also recently made another Eva dress as a sample for a sweet fabric and haberdashery shop in Bendigo called "House of Cloth". It was a pleasure to test this pattern using their beautiful European linen which has black and green threads woven together to create this shimmery teal hue. It is a lovely pattern; enjoyable to read and follow. Once again I decided to lengthen the sleeves to 3/4 length.
The weeks of winter blur together, one after the other. The weather frames the stuff of life, work and home. We move through frost, wind, rain, sunshine, frost and rain again. I find myself with less to say, and more to listen to. We sit with big, momentous decisions and try our best to slow down, to understand each other. I walk and feel acorns crunching under my boots, mud squelching. I spy daffodil heads swelling, parrots and galas chattering. And still the the wood heater keeps us warm, my bedside piled high with books, our table laid with good food and the shenanigans of young people, the hardenbergia showers white pea flowers, the blueberry dotted with buds...
Making: a Steel Pinafore with sublime checked linen
Knitting: Rift Sweater for my (almost 40 year old) love
Baking: Frangipane tart with rhubarb and blackberries frozen in summer
Reading: Matrix by Lauren Groff and Bedtime Story by Chloe Hooper
Listening to: Rang Tang Ring Toon (and other whimsical tunes) by Mountain Man
"You will indeed go out with joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush, a cypress will grow,
and instead of the brier, a myrtle will spring up;
they will make a name for the LORD,
an everlasting sign, never to be destroyed.”
I drove the boys up to Sydney with me for the beginning of the school holidays. Our cups were filled with the sublime - cousins and family, hugs with my mum, playground adventures, Lebanese pizza, salt water, sandy feet, urban sounds, city birds and glorious sun rays. Sydney will always be the place I grew up: the city I studied and explored on train, bike and foot. It's where I got married, where I discovered Arabic and jacarandas and heavy metal. Fostered faith, found friendship. It's loud and chaotic, overdeveloped and overwhelming, and the traffic makes me want to give up driving forever - but it's gloriously diverse, colorful and exciting. It's the ground on which I lived for two thirds of my life. I am glad to return and say to my children: this is the city where I was born //
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...
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...