Margaret Miller's Blog

Slipping out the back gate

Spinning the Giro and long lost projects

Very soon, this Saturday in fact, the Giro d’Italia begins. This is the big three week cycling race held in Italy.  It’s all very exciting as there’s quite a few Australians taking part. But what this means for me is it’s an excuse to stay up late at night watching TV and spinning for hours on end.


Well, in 2006 a group of friends, organised by Star Athena gathered to watch The Tour de France and spin on their spinning wheels. They called it the Tour de Fleece. This little event grew and grew until it became a feature on Ravelry, the huge social media website devoted to all things fibre – knitting, spinning, weaving, crochet . . . And thousands of people participate in teams every year.

The concept is pretty much as it was from the beginning:

Challenge Yourself. Spin. Have fun.

I’ve been participating, quietly at first, since 2008 (I think). Too long ago and I didn’t keep a record. But I’ve always set a spinning challenge and I’ve always had loads of fun.

Last year when SBS, the Australian free-to-air TV started to broadcast the entire Giro live I decided to up the ante and spin through that as well. It was great. I was experimenting with a new-to-me technique to reproduce a “lopi” style yarn – a very softly spun single strand. My version involved spinning the single, skeining it off, felting it lightly and then removing the twist so that all that holds the yarn together is the felting. This makes it incredibly warm and light.

I knitted a cardigan and then got distracted by both the Tour de France and other life happenings and I haven’t quite finished it off. Here it is as I photographed it last year. I have made a bit more progress than this shows.

Lopi-style handspun cardigan

I have you all to thank for this, so thank you. You’re my little community of well wishers. All I need to do now is crotchet up the edge of the button bands and put on the buttons and I’ll be done. Nothing to it really.

So I’m wondering – do you have projects that you get really excited about and then can’t quite finish? Do you need a little community support to make that final push up the hill? If you do then I’m cheering you on – “Allez, Allez, Allez” as the spectators lining the route of the tour yell to every rider who goes past.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Postcard from Dover, TAS

Foreshore at Dover


We’ve been to the beach! Again 🙂

I no longer live close enough for a daily walk but when we go camping through summer it’s nearly always by the water – preferably a beach.They’re calming and flat which makes a nice change from uphill on the side of Mt Wellington. This beach at Dover (Tasmania) had people out throwing sticks for their dogs and young families building castles with the kids. Others come for a swim and even to paddle kayaks or sit-on-tops. And thankfully there were no noisy machines whizzing around disturbing us.

Anyway, must go, my postcard is running out of space. I’d love to hear about the quite places where you like to go.

Passing Through

I’m being brave today 🙂

My last post was about a walk on our mountain. Today I’m sharing with you a story I wrote about a different kind of mountain walk. Don’t panic – it’s flash fiction so only 500 words, and it’s fantasy so if you’d prefer to move on now that’s fine.


Langford paused before reaching the top of the pass. Way down below his mates hunkered down in the forests afraid of the laughter they’d heard on the wind. He was not afraid and the tower would be his. Shaking out his cramping legs Langford struggled up the final slope careful not to set the scree sliding beneath him.

Up above him the skyline was clear, no more mountains beyond to disappoint. “Look at the sky. Don’t blink. Don’t look away.” He muttered to himself a hope, an incantation against what was about to happen. Every pass they had crossed should have been the last. The old scrolls said he should see the desolation stretching away into the distance guarded by the old witch’s tower. But no. Every time they had crested the watershed another range appeared. Every time they blinked.

This time he would not blink. This time it would be different.

Langford climbed into the gale blowing up from the other side. His eyes teared up and he blinked. And there was the mountain. And that voice in his head again laughing, “You’ll have to do better than that!”

“All right, I will!” he shouted into the wind. “I know your out there, Witch. I know who you are”.

Picking up a rock the size of his fist Langford angrily threw it out into the void and waited starting to count the seconds to try and work out how deep the valley was and how far he had to walk before the next mountain pass. But the rock didn’t fall it vanished.

Langford threw a second rock and a third and these also disappeared at the apex, never starting to fall. The rocks were folded into a nothingness as though slipping quietly through the surface of a lake.

Langford crouched in the lee of the ridge and wondered. He didn’t know if he envied his companions their modicum of safety or not. They’d been expecting to be attacked by creatures of the mountains and although they had heard the wild dogs in the distance none had ever approached – their howling had always seemed to come from behind. This voice in their heads was different, unreal, and it scared them all.

Langford stood again and looked out into the valley. Far below the endless sea of trees and gullies with their rushing streams, high above him the jagged outlines of the mountains against the clear blue sky. Frowning Langford thought the shape of those mountains looked familiar.

Casting around he found a rock that would roll, and sure enough it gathered speed and rolled on past the point where the barrier was. The barrier quivered briefly as the stone brushed its edges. It was not anchored to the ground.

Langford climbed to the ridge line and threw another rock, never taking his eyes from the point it disappeared. “I can do this,” he said and he gathered all his strength and leapt out into the void and broke her spell.

Mountain Morning

Yesterday we took some time away from our typical Saturday morning routine – shopping, washing, gardening, cleaning – you know general house type things. Our destination was the lower slopes of Mt Wellington and the walk up to New Town Falls. The photos we’d seen of it were quite pretty and there are also some geocaches to collect along the way. With rain forecast for the afternoon it was go now or put it off again.

Climbing up through the lower slopes was steep but the rushing stream was a pleasant distraction. The plaintive cry of a cockatoo interrupted the creek’s constant chattering. As we got higher the path became a walking track rather than a fire trail. The Old Hobartian hut ruins made a good break while we poked around. I love thinking about ruins wondering the who, what, why of their existence.

Our walk to the falls

Our walk to the falls

Further along the track as we walked from one gully to the next there were a few scraggly bushes of wattle blooming beside the path on the dryer slopes away from the creek.They say that somewhere in Australia no matter when it is you will find wattle blooming. I don’t know about that but there are certainly many different types. This one was creamy and pale rather than the more flamboyant bright yellow.

The falls themselves were a delight. Just sitting in the quite with the stream flowing over a rock shelf at our feel was restorative. I wanted to share some of that with you so here is a very short (20 second) video of the waterfall. Just a tiny one by world standards, but pretty, nevertheless. It was taken with my phone so forgive the hand movements and the vertical format, please.


Could you imagine yourself in the bush just sitting taking in the quite?

Do you have a favourite place or activity to break routine?

Until next time

A most delightful read

It’s been one of those months – you know the sort – where you’ve got a job to finish and it takes up all you time and all your energy and all the room you have in your head. But I’ve finally got through it (mostly) and I can now tick off a job I’ve been meaning to do since before Christmas.

I wanted to share with you my thoughts on Sue Monk Kidd’s Secret Life of Bees. I remember trying to read it when it first became available and not being able to. A friend then loaned me her copy last year and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Anyway, I wrote some notes in my journal last December and I’ve finally found the energy to type them up. If you’ve read the book please share your thoughts in the comments.


The Secret Life of BeesThe Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From my Journal Friday 5th December 2014

I have been wondering what it is about this book that has kept me reading to (almost) the end. Riffling through the pages last night I thought, “I could really stop now [50 pages to go] and I already have in my possession what it is that this book offers.” Why was I thinking this? Why did I keep reading?

So I slept on those thoughts and this morning I have my answer. There is certainly violence and hate and loss and death within the pages. But unlike most books, particularly genre fiction, which use these to overtly propel their stories forward (there is no plot without conflict we are told), Secret Life of Bees uses something else, and it is that something that I’ve been looking for in books for a long time. The core of this book, the thing that moves these characters to act and grow is love. While the horrors of life are happening to the characters, Kidd does not elevate the events to centre stage and have us weeping and wailing and biting our nails wondering what disaster will happen next. Instead, these events happen, like a train stopping at a country station, then quietly pulling away again. I believe she is showing us what a family full of love can do for us – it can quietly and gently enfold us and draw us away from the horrors which happen to us all.

Sure there’s a place for escapist stories and perhaps all stories are escapist in the end. But, it has been and absolute joy to have the motivating emotions loving and joyful rather than dark and frightening or even worrying. Like the bees themselves we do what we have to in this life and when we have a hive to return to, one that is so nurtured that it is full and overflowing with sweetness, then we have the strength to continue.

5 Stars

PS Please don’t ruin the book with lesson plans!

End of Journal entry

You thoughts about the book? Do you think you might give it a go?

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