Eight years ago I made a skirt from the most beautiful fabric I had ever seen: a linen and cotton blend by Japanese textile designer Nani Iro of dark blue with sage and green and purple and cream and yellow gold hues. We were living in France and I had recently had my first baby. I was 23, and learning to sew clothes for myself felt exciting and daunting in equal measures. It was a gathered, high-waisted skirt with a zip, I had just enough fabric to make it. And while I loved it, I found the skirt to always a wee bit tight.
In eight years my body changed further. I developed an autoimmune disease and lost and gained weight, I moved house five times, I became a farmer, I grew and birthed and breastfed two more babies. The skirt was sometimes worn (partially zipped), but eventually got packed away in my sewing box to "do something with one day".
That day came recently when I decided I really wanted to modify it; extend it's waist so I could wear it with comfort (and joy!). I unpicked the zip and the gathers on one side of the skirt - I inserted a piece of dark blue linen in the waist band (since I didn't haven't any of the original fabric left) and re-attached the gathered skirt and zip. I added a little silk thread embroidery to blend the linen in - but also make a feature of the modification, a whiff of whimsy.
The skirt reflects my body in many ways: the lines and scars of wear, of use and growth. I am softer than I was eight years ago, softer to touch, yes, but also softer in my heart and mind towards myself. I speak kindly to the face that looks back at me most of the time: the body that enables me to do and feel and sense so much life. I am also stronger than I was eight years ago, in muscle and also in resolve to stand up straight and speak clearly to the world of the things I care about, the hopes I hold.
Making clothes is never just about the clothes, it's a story of who we are.
What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb
If I were a wise man I would do my part, -
Yet what I can I give him, give my heart
~ Christina Rossetti
Today marks the fourth and final week of Advent where we consider the gift of love. How wonderful it is to be able to bed loved and to love others! Do you know it is because “God first loved us”: his immense love for us that is the reason Jesus came to the world at all? It is from this place of great love that God desires relationship and connection with each one of us and Jesus makes possible through his birth, death and resurrection. Jesus said: “Let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (John 1:4-7).
Look for opportunities to show love to others this week: love that is patient and kind, that does not envy or boast or keep a record of all the wrongs. Love without expecting anything in return, love born of compassion and grace.
Let us pray as we light the fourth candle on our Advent wreath, the candle of Love:
Thank you for the great love you have
for every one of us. Thank you for our
capacity to feel love and be loved by
those around us. Give us opportunities
to show your love to others: love that is
patient and kind, that does not envy or
boast or keep a record of all the wrongs -
love without reciprocity: love borne
of sacrifice and grace. Thank you for being
above all else a God of LOVE. Amen.
This is a Christmassy twist on classic play-dough which includes cocoa, cinnamon and essential oils. You can even mix in a little gold or silver glitter. It makes a lovely, creative gift for young children in a container with a few cookie cutters, interesting rocks and gum nuts to play with. See instructions below for how to make baked salt-dough decorations with it which you can hang on your tree.
Festive Salt Dough
You will need:
- 1 3/4 cups plain flour + 1/4 cup cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup fine salt
- 2 tbsp oil
- 4 tbs cream of tartar
- 2 cups water
optional: add a few drops of essential oils such as sweet orange and clove
Mix all the ingredients in a saucepan and stir over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, until the mixture thickens and comes away from the sides of the pan. Tip out onto a clean plate and roll dough into a ball and let it cool before playing with it.
** You can make decorations with your salt dough by rolling it out flat, cutting out your desired shapes. Gentle poke a hole near the top of each shape (the end of a pen or pencil works well) - this hole will be what you can thread ribbon or string through so it can be hung up. Arrange your shapes on an oven tray, and bake for 15 minutes in a moderate oven at 180’c. They will harder as they cool. Once cold you can paint your decorations or brush with glue and glitter etc. Thread ribbon or strings through the holes and hang on your tree **
Hurrah! I have now adapted the natural soap and skincare recipe book (I would hand out in my workshops) into a digital PDF. I spent time editing the recipes and adding additional photographs, helpful tips and information. And while I am definitely no graphic designer I am pretty pleased with my DIY result!
The Art of Natural Soap and Skincare can be purchased here in my shop for AUD$8.99. It includes recipes for basic bar soap, herbal body butter lotion, hand and heel salve, lip balm, bubble bath bar, body scrub and a face mask. As well as a table describing the different fats and oils and basic instructions for adding natural colour, preparing your own lard, dried herbs and infused oils at home.
I have been making our own soap and lotion for six years now and really can't imagine ever buying it. Homemade is so good! Not to mention much less expensive than buying equivalent high-end organic brands. I also think they make the best practical gifts for friends and family...
Springtime is springing
All around us
hanging our winter bones
to dry in the sunshine
and ripple in the breeze
planting out, sowing,
pen to paper planning,
ideas brimming -
no longer dormant -
baring our toes, elbows,
our white legs -
buds bones birds breath
all around us
Down by the river
three boys throwing rocks
and launching leaf boats,
we marvel at the flow
banks swollen with rain
yes there’s a wild peace
a wet peace and peace
among the moss and rocks,
wavering willow limbs
gifts of gurgling,
gifts of sunshine
gifts of wrens in hawthorn,
a single white feather on the ground
it’s cold when clouds come:
we shudder and wonder
if it’s home that’s calling us
or just the magpies warbling
an afternoon song
down by the river we always find
we won’t need much at all.
A blessing from the winter sky:
blue crispness to smile under
grey shrouds to sorrow in
A blessing from the tall trees:
grey gum, golden wattle
shivering elm, naked oak
A blessing from the sparkling frost:
crunch of grass underfoot
bright sun upon your face
A blessing from the rain:
deep soaking of your soul
bulbs and seeds about to burst
A blessing from the dark earth:
slow work of worms
and webbing of roots
A blessing from the cold wind:
breath made visible
warmth of wood and wool
A blessing from the long night:
a welcome to your shadows
love enfolding sleep
brings a kind of grieving
at the shortness of the season
that savoured space
between summer heat
and winter freezing
a colourful unleaving
autumn unlike any
I can remember:
shrouded in smoke,
washed hands, news reel
and the sounds of
home are amplified;
silent, ear splitting sounds
blurry edged video calls -
we’ve grown older
sowed, and let go
and let go and let go -
Autumn like no other
and painted like every other:
ash gold, oak brown,
gum grey, clover green,
marked with blood,
with loss and love.
Frost for the third morning in a row
I feel the cold air seep through
the window beside our bed;
And on the hands of my three year old
who comes into bed for a snuggle
I tuck his icy limbs around
my own, warm ones
I am happy to see it blanket the grass:
white harbinger of bright clear days,
sunshine on my cheeks as I sip tea
and even as I pull a splinter
out of my hand from loading wood
into the fire, I am grateful.
“The leaves are sparkling Mum”
And would you believe after breakfast
all three boys proceed to the trampoline
to “skate” on the icy mat - in socks -
and I don’t mind at all.
We’re all intoxicated by the beauty,
a crystallising of ordinary things
and strangely, something inside me
(the dread of winter, no doubt)
thaws and softens -
even as my fingers freeze.
Today was my birthday. I turned thirty one! And so enjoyed celebrating with a quiet day at home with my little people; the autumn sun shone brightly and there were plenty of moments to sit and knit and sip milky tea. I made an upside down pear and ginger cake and one of my favourite dishes - moussaka - using beef from the farm for dinner. Alex surprised me with a playlist of my favourite tunes from the last decade and a brand new axe! It is a really very lovely Swedish crafted axe and will make chopping the wood so much more enjoyable...
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...