Monday, December 24, 2007

Whah! Snowed under!

Which is funny, because it doesn't snow here. See, there's a combination of my working Christmas retail hours and my partying Christmas period style that means, no exaggeration, I go to my house to sleep, change clothes and have breakfast. I had some excellent photos for you all of a pudding in a can, and this astonishing spider that built a web in my tomato plants, and my beautiful, beautiful, Asian-glazed free range ham. But in the middle of all this Christmas capering (carols by candle light were such a highlight. A lot of my friends from highschool were well into choral singing. One is now has the university degree to prove she's an opera singer. So my darling friends were of such strength and tunefulness that they attracted attention from the nearby picnickers) I lost the cable for my camera. So we'll have to go with a web image.

Not quite so festive as you might have expected, but I did have the girlishly blushing pleasure of saying "Um, all the bank eftpos lines are down - could you pay with cash? And did you want these giftwrapped?" to the gentlemen above today. That'd be one Mr Heath Ledger, kids, if you couldn't tell through the makeup. Definitely added interest to Christmas Eve retail (along with aforementioned inability to accept any kind of electronic payment). I'm afraid as far as serving famous people goes it probably does beat Ben Elton, who stuffed $500 worth of coffee table books in his backpack and asked where was the nearest place he could buy a record player.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Christmas wrap

Here's my giftwrapping from this year. How cool is the snowflake ribbon? It's from Calico&Ivy (they really do have awesome Christmas stuff). The brown paper is the last of my Ikea brown paper. And um, just in case you're confused, that brown mottled thing in the upper right corner is the vase for my Christmas stick.
Easiest wrap job was definitely the little box with the brown ribbon and bells. It's just the box that this Adorapop pendant came in

Plus the ribbon leftover from two Lindt Easter bunny chocolates. They stretched over the box (one in each direction) perfectly. I didn't even have to retie the bows or anything. Knew I kept them for a reason. See, despite buying my uber-fancy snowflake ribbon I also obsessively hoard things that might in any way be used to wrap a gift. The gold tissue paper above is recycled, as is the red box and the wide silver ribbon. The narrow silver ribbon was $2 for a haberdasher's size card/ roll/ thing (you know, the flat cards from which you buy trim by the metre) at a market stall selling vintage haberdashery.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sewn gifts

A bag from a Martha Stewart online pattern, made in Amy Butler fabric. True to form, the pattern was missing handles. So I had to kind of make up my own. I was going to make a few more of these bags, but sewing on the bias binding was rooly difficult. I also shrunk the pattern a little - as given it would've made one very large bag! This is still big enough to fit A4 documents with plenty of room to spare.

A Lotta Jansdotter pattern for a full body apron. Half aprons are cute, but I always find I get food spatters above my waist when cooking. I like this pattern a lot. Can you see it actually, very cleverly, has slight shaping in it? Tricky, huh? Hard to tell, but that's the Michael Miller Eiffel Tower print. The reverse (because the apron is reversible) is in a of black and white barcode-type stripe. It's going with a cookie cookbook and a set of cookie cutters.

And a third apron, in feedsack prints. This is my favourite, I think.

Next post: giftwrapping. Oh, just you wait. Three words: laser-cut; snowflake; ribbon.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vintage knitting

I went down South for a couple of days, to visit Badly Coloured Boy's mum. We rode horsies and fed orphaned possums and met the new dog and were offered an unwanted kitten (see orphaned possums above) and I saw a very interesting frog in the lettuce patch, so it was an excellent visit all round. And of course when we went into town we did a run of the op-shops. I was really disappointed that someone has cleared out all the vintage sewing patterns. Last time there were heaps from the sixties and seventies. Now they're all late eighties or more recent. I did get some fabric remnants and some excellent vintage knitting booklets. These are my favourites.

A beginner's knitting guide for teenage girls, from the 1960s! But what might a teenage girl make?

Why, a sweater, to catch a beau! (Guess the boyfriend sweater curse is a fairly recent superstition). There was a pattern for a hat and booties 'to show off baby' a couple of pages earlier, so methinks knitting wasn't the only things the girls were doing to snag a guy! Which is a pity, because

in ten years time those women will look up from their needles and realise the handsome beau they snagged/ married with the aid of a shotgun and a baby bump has turned into one of these four men. Hirsute, wearing clothes too tight and apparently interested only in other men (I do like the brown and yellow number on the far right, though).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Boys, knitting and tragedy: some thoughts

What is it with people connecting personal difficulties, boys, and knitting? My friend J learned to knit off his mum a little while ago. When his ex-housemate dropped by and saw knitting on his bed, apparently her immediate reaction was "Darling! Are you knitting? What's wrong?"

And today BCB's very close friend, who's having a bit of yuck time with his (ex?)-girlfriend asked me to teach him to knit. Actually, technically he asked me to teach him to knit a gun so he could 'shoot happy b*stards'. I'm thinking the Mochimochi-land gun may not be quite what he's after. We might start with a garter stitch scarf, I think.

So it seems that both boys and girls assume that if boys knit they're knitting through tragedy (or that knitting through tragedy might make said tragedy easier). Where on earth does this come from? Ideas, anyone?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Finishing/ Norwegian Purl/ Sewing

I've been sewing a lot over the past two weeks. I only paused because we have a rent inspection tomorrow and it looked like some kind of haberdashery bomb went off in the house. You know you've been sewing a bit too much when you find fabric scraps in your bed.

That picture above is from a dress I've made. My favourite thing I've made so far, I think, though the pattern is not especially well-fitting (in more respects than the one I'm about to detail). I went down one size from the recommended size, which should have left me with 1.5" ease sort of all-round (yeah, I do actually tend to fit dress pattern ratios). The lower line is the seam according to the pattern. The upper line is the seam I needed to sew to give me a fit I was happy with. Admittedly that was probably less than 1.5" of ease, but I took out about 4" in the bodice. I can only imagine the sack I would've had if I'd made my recommended size. It's the kind of dress that works best when worn with virtually no ease in the body. I'll blog the damn thing when I get some pictures, and you'll all drool over my beautiful dress and marvel at my Mad Sewing Skillz. My mama has a lady from Brazil staying with her right now, and said Brazilian lady apparently used to have a boutique where she sold clothing she made, when she was younger. All quilted clothing, she said. I liked that when I showed her my dress she didn't go 'oo, that's nice'. She immediately flipped it inside out and examined my seam finishing technique!

Why have I been sewing so much? I finally finished my uni degree(s) forever, and am on holiday. BCB and I are so used to the study thing that we are surprised by everyone reacting with congratulations on finishing. Both of us needed reminding that we've both achieved something quite important (to us at this point in our lives, anyway). While neither of us did much celebratory we've been dined by all parts of the family except BCB's mother who is sending us away for a weekend. In a good way. She's booking a surprise-location chalet for us somewhere.

And now for the best thing since sliced bread (this may pre-date the sliced bread, actually): Norwegian purling. I have to thank Elin for this. I commented on her blog about how I knit continental and purl English, because I can't purl continental to save my life. She e-mailed me and offhandedly said she purls Norwegian-style. I looked it up, and oh god! It's magic! It's not quite as economical of movement as some other knitting styles but it has rhythm and I've taken to it like a duck to an inground water feature. The rhythm is possibly the best part, followed closely by the fact that even when purling the working yarn is held behind the work. Which makes ribbing a breeze. No more moving the yarn about, yeah? Should you wish to try it, I started with SpellingTuesday's instructions, but in them missed the detail about holding the working yarn behind the work (um, yah. I'm a bright one sometimes). I found Interweave's written instructions (pdf) made sense of SpellingTuesday's illustrations.

Oo! And congratulations to Michelle and her n00b Patrick, born yesterday. May he fully appreciate those cabled elf booties and never tangle your yarn.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Oh Christmas stick, oh Christmas stick...

Doesn't quite have the same ring, does it? Too bad. It's what I've got. A Christmas stick. I was having angst over the cost (financial and environmental) of buying a big hunk o' plastic for the living room (not that I don't love Christmas trees, I just had this internal battle going on). So I got a stick instead. The deepest irony is that my stick is actually a secondhand stick. It was my mother's. She picked it up off the lawn at Easter (Germanic countries have this tradition of Easter trees too, using pussy-willow branches. She uses gumtree branches in the absence of budding willow in Australia). It's a really elegant stick, huh? It can only take the most lightweight of my decorations, so I've got to work out some way of displaying all my awesome papier-mache-handpainted baubles too. I'm thinking of stringing them from the curtain rod. I already have some felt garlands over the curtains though. Got a better solution?

And here is the wreath. It cost $3, and involved no purchase of plastic. The ribbon I 'borrowed' out of my mother's stash. That bizzarely naff gold sprig in the middle is there as a result of an in-joke between Badly Coloured Boy and myself. There was originally just the lovely minimalist ribbon. My mother is definitely of the more-is-more school of Christmas decorating (she wanted red tinsel wrapped round that wreath too), and when decorating her tree she whipped out that sprig (can you see the gold plastic pinecone? That's my favourite part) and suggested I add it to my wreath. Seeing the horror in my eyes BCB unleashed his inner bitch and chimed in with a "Yeah! Add that! It'd look much better with the sprig too!" knowing full well my mother regards his opinion as trumping mine. And I was the only one in the room that could tell he was doing it to irk me. Never mind, I can completely see the hilarity in the situation (I'd've done the same, I think), so the sprig stays as a reminder that BCB is a bi-atch. Ignore the creepy disembodied flyscreen. I had to photoshop out our house number.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Furniture Updating

Some eighteen years ago my dad bought a desk from Ikea. Eventually I inherited. I like it. It still looks alright, it still works just fine, it's a nice size. But the black handle is a bit dated, non?

This is why we love Ikea. Eighteen years on and their handle sizes are still standard (128mm). Much swisher, doncha think? Sort of industrial but not. And the little washer-type disks are just a smidge bigger in diameter, which means they cover over the bit where I idly traced round the black washers in blue biro sometime... oops.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I'd like to thank the sewing gods

for Textile Traders in Morley. I was in search of a bunch of odds and sods (batting, embroidery thread, potentially cushion inserts and some dress fabric) for which I was going to have to go to Spotlight Freo for. I couldn't work up the energy for a forty minute train trip and the chaos that Spotlight inevitably is. Scouring the Yellow Pages I worked out that Textile Traders Morley was the closest place to me likely to have anything I might need, and that while I remembered it being not so hot (I ducked in one night to look at quilting cottons) it was worth a try.

Oh. Dear. Lord. It is like, ten minutes drive away (next closest fabric store is at least twice that). It has an okay range of quilting cottons (some Michael Miller, some other okay stuff). But the biggest difference is such a subtle one - it looks like their fabric buyer might have a vague idea of what is fashionable in ready to wear. Shopping at Spotlight means that I have a lot of clothes made of seersucker ticking and gingham because at least they're retro, not fug. At TT today I picked up some stunning wheat coloured dull metallic synthetic on clearance for $2 a metre. I'm going back for their somehow kind of shiny/ metallic-in-a-good-way baby cord ($3.50). Their satin prints were CUTE! Try a pink, grey, black and white print of 1930s fashion plates. Also some pink and black print of lingerie which I didn't love, but was certainly fine. So nice to see satins that aren't all aimed at children. Made me want to buy a PJ pattern (something I really must get on to). Their canvases and cotton dressmaking prints. Also attractive! Christmas fabrics? Actually some that I liked! And nothing over $10 a metre! In particular, their buyer has a similar taste in florals to me. Florals can so easily be unfashionable, but from chiffon to mid-weight cotton to canvas the florals were nice. Retro or Marimekko-ish, usually.

Their pattern range was a little limited, but I buy my patterns online anyway. The store certainly wasn't as large as Spotlight, but frankly, there was more there that I'd want to buy at a similar/ slightly lower price point to Spotlight.

What's more: the staff are friendly and enthusiastic (cf: Spotlight drones*). They all oohed and aahed over my Kokka fabric and made me write down the website. The airconditioning actually works (cf: Spotlight). While it was busy enough to reassure me that they won't close down soon I didn't have to take a ticket to get served (cf: Spotlight). Actually asked me if I wanted to put my purchases in my calico bag which I'd forgotton to give to them, rather than automatically stuffing them in plastic (a sign of people of high ethical calibre indeed).

And they had everything I needed.

* Not that I blame the Spotlight drones. If I was on their wages, in their conditions, cutting fabric for women with whining children all day I'd be surly too.

Rogue Progress

(lookie! Clare can use the macro function!)

Since I had to rip out four inches or so from the body progress back up has been a little slower. But I'm getting there. The goal is to have this finished by Christmas. I'm currently maybe ten or so rows short of the armhole cast off (again), and have just started on my third skein of yarn (210g skeins). I'm really hoping after doing the middle cable repeat eight times (yeah. Eight. You heard) that I have enough yarn.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Babette/ Playing with cameras

Yeah, what did ever happen to that stupidly ambitious first crochet project? Well, I finished all the squares a while ago, and started blocking them... and then kind of stalled. So, y'know, downhill run. Just blocking and seaming to go, really. Some of the squares that are supposed to be the same size vary a lot, because my gauge was not so constant. I figure that that'll sort itself out, right? Right?

That's what I have blocked so far. These were taken on a big fat.. uh.. manual digital camera? I don't even know what you call 'em. Badly Coloured Boy borrowed me one from his work, because he likes encouraging anything I do that approaches film-making tendencies, I think. I took these using the manual focus and zoom. But I think they're a tiny bit underexposed, non? Me and the F-Stop and the ShutterSpeed aren't getting on too well. Ah well, it was fun enough. I like that it makes a big manual click when you take the photo, and moving the manual lens was fun. It was really heavy though - I struggled to hold the damn thing steady, and according to an online review one of the upsides of the model he borrowed (a Pentax thingummy doodad) is that's relatively lightweight!

Friday, November 09, 2007

I really love the colour of indigo dye

I think it's just such a delicious blue, no matter the intensity. I see it as a bit of beautiful luxury item, because it's not so easy to find indigo dyed things. But I was watching Collectors tonight (oh! Such a great TV show!) and a lady specialising in japanese fabrics (she had the sweetest antique pattern books, and handpainted embroidery thread spools) said that indigo was a colour reserved for the working class in Japanese feudal society. Imagine! And she showed off some kimono and helmets with designs based on tattoos. The working class in nineteenth century Japan were really, really heavily tattooed, such that tattoo imagery was influencing fashion! Double imagine!

And should you want some pretty almost-sky coloured yarn of your own, Etsy is a rather good place to look. There's this, or this, or my favourite, this.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Door Jam(b)

See, this is the proper use for the internet. Not shopping, or military applications, or instant communication. A place where I can whine to the entire world about the minor injuries I do myself. I slammed my finger in the door last night. Quite hard, because I was pulling the door closed with the force necessary to close it when it's already locked. There was already a bandaid on that finger, because I bit the nail in one of my exams. But that didn't staunch the gush - the veritable flood, I tell you - of blood. Nor dull the incredible, extreme pain. I nearly bawled like a three year old. The only upside to all this is that I don't seem to have damaged the nailbed. I was terrified until I got the old bandaid off that the nail would turn black. But no, I just bruised both sides and cut myself. If you'd like to, you can click on that picture and examine my war wound in minute detail.

It makes knitting difficult. The door slammed straight across the part where I run the yarn over my finger to knit continental. So last night I got through a small portion of Rogue alternating between English (so slow!) and spazzy continental with the yarn run across the first phalanx from the hand (is phalanx the right word?)

I promise to return with some real knitting content soon. Crazy vegetables and minor injuries are not quite what this blog was intended to showcase, but they make for good diversions (I think).

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Christmassy stuff

I got my Christmas cards in the mail from Flora & Fauna Press. Aren't they great? I wonder if I'm the only person in the world that chooses Christmas cards because they remind me of an Agatha Christie novel. I think it's just the very, very fifties design. Subtle, but definitely there. I wish I knew the name of the typeface.

And behind it is some fabbo Kokka fabric from Duckcloth. Not sure what it will be, but damn I liked it!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Beet Root!

This evening I pulled out a few of the beets that have been hanging out in our garden since the start of last winter (about six months now). Some of them never formed bulby roots properly (not sure why - too warm for them here, maybe?) so we just left them and ate the leaves like spinach. But I decided in the name of a gardening revamp it was time for them to come out.

And look at this crazy one! That root was all coiled up tight underneath what there is of a bulb. Funny, huh?

Here's another shot of the taproot stretched out a little more. With a teaspoon for scale.

Because I'm a bit silly I think the scrabbly taproot bears more than a passing resemblance to my now-half-frogged Rogue. Don't you think it looks like frogged yarn?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Uh, Houston? Problem...

(and it's not Clare's mad photography skillz*)

This is Rogue. This is Rogue cast off for the armpits... oh dear. I think I'll have to rip back to the plain, repeatable cables in the middle and add another... three? four? Jeebus I'm glad I didn't go with the pocket on the front, because I'm starting some serious yarn-quantity angst. There's one extra cable in the body already. My other option is to rip the whole damn thing and try again with a needle size up. But that's too disheartening, I think.

How did this happen, you ask? Well, I'm under gauge on the row count. I admit that. I get 27 rows to four inches, not 24... but I still maintain that this pattern must be designed for the lesser of statute. Because that body is 13.5" right now, the length it is supposed to be for the smallest size. Um, do I have a freakishly long body?

On the upside, it appears the jumper isn't too tight. It was an ongoing concern as I knitted. Not quite as loose as I might have liked, but certainly not tight.

* Photo. Right. Photos taken in the mirror never look good. They will always blur - something to do with the mirror. They look worse when you use the toothpaste for sensitive teeth that leaves these little flecks like cement all over the mirror from where you brush a little crazily. But it was the best I could do, okay?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Checking in

("she's checkin' in, she's checkin' in!" What? You obviously don't watch the Simpsons often enough. It's from the Betty Ford Clinic, the Musical).

I'm just squooshed in exams right now, hence it being quiet (oh, so quiet...) round here. Rogue is leaping and bounding along though. It felt very two steps forward, one step back for a while. But I'm up to the armpit shaping. It's a little smaller round the hips than I anticipated, and I've decided for reasons of length to Frankenstein the armhole shaping for the second-smallest size to the number of body stitches of the smallest. I think this means I will make the sleeves for the second smallest size.
I sincerely hope that this:
(a) works;
(b) doesn't look weird.

Alison, I'm looking directly at you for advice and reassurance right now (Alison has just managed a terrifyingly modded Rogue).

There will be photos on, say, Tuesday of next week.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The broadest of beans.

(or fava, for the Americans).

Here are my chunky little broad beans growing away. Not bad, huh? I was hoping for masses, too many too eat! I was hoping for enough that I could freeze half a kilo or so of shelled beans. But I don't think that's going to happen. Not enough growing, plus they seem to be getting some weird disease. You can see the leaves yellowing in the picture above.

We are going to get a couple of meals out of them, though. This is what I've picked for tonight. They'll go with pasta and asparagus and garlic and brie. Local asparagus is in season right now, so I'm gorging on it. We can get asparagus from Thailand all year round, but it doesn't taste as good and the carbon footprint that goes with it must be enormous! With the exception of garlic we don't buy imported fruit and veges. Yum. I've eaten a few of the little beansies raw so far and they are delicious. They're too little to have skins on them.

A note on their size: I grew Coles Prolific variety, which is, I guess, a close relatives of the Coles Dwarf. Dwarf relating to the size of the beans, not the plant. What a gyp! There's only a maximum of four beans per pod. Next year I'm going to plant me so good old-school giants.

These are probably my most successful gardening exploit so far. Now fingers crossed for my ten tomato plants, my two butternut pumpkins, and the leeks (which aren't looking so great... I think Perth is a little warm for leeks). And the zucchinis which will go in next week.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

What's wrong with this picture?

(seems I've used that as a title before)

Hint: Think of the directions accompanying every single pattern knit in the round "Join, being careful not to twist." Got it? Yeah. I got through thirteen cable rows of Rogue, plus the facing, with a moebius strip of knitting.
So it's all been ripped. Interestingly, my gauge on plastic 4mm circulars is looser than on 4.5mm metal addi turbos. So this time the facing and body will all be knit with the same needle (as I don't have a 3.5mm circular, and am not buying one just to do a facing).
The cables aren't popping as much as I'd hoped with the Beaverslide tweed. But it's okay. I was going for a sort of tweedy, woodsy, forest-dwelling rustic/ feral sort of feel, so subtle cables aren't a huge disaster. Also I may find they pop more when I have more than thirteen rows.

And this is the onion skin dyed yarn. I followed a bastard-child combination of these instructions and these instructions. I added salt when boiling the onionskins (about two tablespoons, I think) and vinegar (a cup) when boiling the yarn. This was the skin of maybe eight brown onions? It's slightly paler, and has this interesting pink undertone in real life. But the photo above is not a bad representation.
I boiled it for maybe ten minutes, then decided that so much of the dyebath had exhausted that I wouldn't bother boiling it any longer (real professional, scientific and precise I am).

Monday, October 22, 2007

Just some little links

I'm getting excited about Christmas already (I think because it's a distraction from impending exams. I start to get excited about the same time I should be starting to study). I'm already plotting and planning Christmas odds and sods. And I'm think that I should make some garlands. Decor8's recent blog post on garlands has confirmed my idea. I have two lovely little red and white felt star garlands already, but I think I'd like some triangles or circles too. I like the idea of paper being cheap, but I like that cloth garlands would be reusable. Garlands do, however, come second to my Most Favourite Christmas Ornamentation Ever. Some years ago I bought some tinsel that is really thick and fluffy. It's pine green, non-metallic, with white tips. So it looks like it's been snowed on. Sounds not so great, but it really does impart a feel of greenery in the house. A sort of lazy Australian student's equivalent of boughs of pine and holly and mistletoe adorning the bannisters of the country house. And I never ever been able to find any more since. If anyone sees it... oo, let me know.

I also need to sort out a tree. I'm a bit stymied there. I'm not a fan of the real tree, I'm not thrilled by the idea of buying a plastic one... I've heard that the WA Art Gallery Shop has a peculiar 'topiary tree' that slots together out of flat sheets of plywood. That might be the go. It's lollipop shaped, rather than pine tree shaped, but beggars/ choosers.

In non-Christmas news, my favourite pages in that totally obese US Vogue from a month or two ago were the Kate Spade ads. Loved the colours, loved the styling, loved the feel. And now, love the cute little 'I've always wanted to' page on the website that includes 'learn to knit'.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Vinnland Socks

Working on these in the merino I dyed with Kool-Aid. I'm such a dolt. They were going to be snowflake socks, and then I was all "Ooo... that pattern has a lot of lines... bet I won't remember them all... might choose a different pattern." Sadly, my brain only remembered the "Choose different" part, and I picked a new pattern (Vinnland) that has three more lines to the pattern, and involves purl stitches (which slow me down like purly little speed-bumps in the smooth knittin' highway). It's a pretty pattern, but I'll be finishing them at the ankle beacuse:
(a) I mostly only wear ankle socks anyway;
(b) Pattern too slow.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Fetching mitts v2.0

These are such a quick little knit. I've actually finished them both now (this photo was taken yesterday, when the pretty fabric was out). They're for Badly Coloured Boy's best friend (and my friend also, of course) Gemma. I made her a pair before, but she lost them when we were out at the Bakery one night. She didn't tell me for weeks, then casually said how much she loved the gloves I made her, and could I make her another pair? She owned up when I guessed that she lost the previous ones. But she isn't getting these till Christmas.

These are seriously modded for Gemma's tiny little artistic hands, and my personal sanity, as follows:
i) Cast on 30 stitches instead of 45.
ii) After wrist cables were finished, knit into front and back of each purl stitch for a total of 35 stitches (I made these mods on the last pair and she assured me they fit perfectly)
iii) Knit the palm, instead of ribbed, just because I'm much quicker at straight knitting and I didn't want to draw these out any longer than necessary (I just don't enjoy making the pattern very much. I find so few stitches on dpns a pain).

They aren't modelled on my hands because while they do technically fit over my hands, they're stretched out in a nasty kind of way. Much better just limp. Trust me.

While the last pair were plain black that nearly sent me blind. So these were Bendigo Woollen Mill's Midnight Tweed (now sadly discontinued). It's this awesome dark grey blended with red, blue and bright green so finely that you wouldn't even call it heathered (it's like, single hairs of fleece). The overall result is something less harsh than black or grey, but still completely neutral.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Verb for Keeping Warm

I recently ordered some sock yarn from A Verb for Keeping Warm, and have been dying for it to arrive. Aren't the colourways just stunning? Look at the beautiful grey-blue-mauve and oyster-pink-brown. And mustard and deep rich pink! Yum! The thing about A Verb for Keeping Warm is that Kristine dyes (most) of her yarns with natural plant dyes. That's right. No acid dyes, no jacquard dyes, no Kool-Aid. Isn't that magic? The Indian Summer colourway (pink and mustard) is dyed with madder and cochineal. The Neptune colourway (blue/ grey/ oyster) is logwood using two different mordants, if I recall correctly. Up in her etsy shop right now is a hot pink, mid grey and dark grey yarn that is so punky and bold you would never guess its hippy origins unless you were told.

I love that these colourways, so beautiful and surprisingly vibrant, can be just pulled from nature. And I read somewhere, probably a bit of hyperbole, that 'nothing in nature's palette clashes'. But I think it's true. Mustard and hot pink should not look this good together. Some would argue that natural dyes are better for the environment. Personally, I think the harm caused by the dyes of a small scale dyers is arguable, and some natural dye mordants are pretty toxic. On the subject, Kristine refuses to use chrome mordants (the nastiest kind). But you could tell yourself you're saving the world by buying her yarn if you want. While there's a lot of really lovely handspun in the shop, the sock yarns are commercial yarn. I chose superwash merino, because I like to machine wash sockies. There's also some blue-faced leceister in that lolly-pink and lemon you can see in the corner. It was added into my package as a 'little' sample.

Now to customer service: Shazam! The best I've had on etsy! Kristine worked out international shipping for me, and changed her listings accordingly. She was unsure about listing all of her items as able to be shipped internationally (though I worked on talking her into it), so outside the USA you might want to convo her. She was super-prompt with replying and gave me no indication that it was an unwelcome hassle to relist for international shipping. Plus, upon asking, she divided the skeins for me and wound them into centre-pull balls! This is going above and beyond the call of duty, I think! I asked because a single skein does a pair of socks, but I have no scales to divide the yarn evenly. The skeins are 126g (4 1/2 oz), and a very good price for handdyed yarn.

Postage to Australia was $11 for up to four skeins, and it took a mere 11 days to arrive.

I heavily, heavily encourage you all to buy some of her yarn. While a million people are handdying all kinds of sock yarns, A Verb for Keeping Warm really stand out as something a bit different, using natural dyes. The quality of dyeing and the colours are equal with any regular-dyers' works. She is the only person I've found that does variegated sock yarn in natural colours. Plus she has some awesome-crazy rainbow (and solid, if you lean that way) handspuns that beg to be turned into a scarf.

Where to buy? Currently split between her own website, A Verb for Keeping Warm, and her Etsy shop. And while you're at it, check out her blog for to see her awesome Indian Summer Pomatomuses (I'm going to be a copycat and make some the same I think).

(oh, and the fabric in the background is my new Lara Cameron fabric, in linen blend. It was going to be a Martha Stewart bag for a gift, but I love it too much to give it away).

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Anastasia v2.0

Here they are. I love this pattern. I really do. I think it'll be my go-to pattern for socks. They're more interesting to look at and to knit than plain stocking stitch, they cope well with variegated yarn, they're simple enough to knit without looking, it's impossible to lose your place in the pattern. This pair is for mah mama for Christmas.

For reference, these were 64 stitches, on 2.25mm needles, short row toe and heel, and they fit wonderfully.

In the background you can see the natural coloured sock yarn, my beaverslide yarn, and Badly Coloured Boy's 'natural black' handspun. We've tentatively settled on making a stripeless Stripy. He wanted a v-neck, I did not (don't like the way they look, and while he has to wear the jumper, I have to look at it). I wanted cables, he did not. He wants the thing to be as plain as plain can be. I suggested Brooklyn Tweed's Cobbblestone. That was deemed okay 'except for the weird seams' - that'd be the garter stitch yoke. Stripy might work out okay because it's plain enough for him, but the mere presence of buttons is interesting enough for me; and the knit-to-fit style pattern will, as Ysolda herself suggests, work nicely with a mystery-gauge handspun. I'm thinking some pale tan mock-leather buttons would work with the dark warm brown. It genuinely is the colour of dark chocolate (bittersweet, to Americans, I think?) Oh, and contrast facings, just because I can (I think... I'll have to take a closer look at the pattern). I'll also have to check out how to make the neckline smaller - the apparently 'gaping' boatneck on the prototype concerned him a little.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Royal (Agricultural) Show

I haven't been since I was a teen. The Royal Show is an institution in my city. It started as a show for agricultural competitions, stock trading and to show city folk how country folk lived. Over the years it's commercialised, so for many the focus of the show is showbags (themed bags filled with lollies or plastic tat), fairground rides, and sideshow alley. But they do still have cattle auctions on the first day, and all kinds of produce on display. This year I was most interested in the shed where, by some alignment of the gods, the rabbits and the alpacas were housed together. I loved the deep, deep irony in that on one side of the showground was the 'animal nursery' - a range of various animals set in pens with crowd dividers so there was no risk of anyone petting them. Wander round to the judging sheds, and you could pet the exact same animals as much as you wanted. We saw pigs and goats and a million kinds of rabbits (I do dream of getting a rabbit, so went with half an eye to testing whether I was allergic and what breed I might like) and alpacas and sheep and dogs all for show.

(you could even pet the emus. Though they seemed pretty attached to their owner).
Not only that, but the infamous dairy pavilion had plenty of free samples of milk and fudge and cheese and this delicious gingerbread icecream, because we got there early. Badly Coloured Boy tried some new breed of potato in a potato salad sample I didn't try (good work putting bacon in the potato salad, Potato Marketing Board. Way to prevent all the Islamic, Jewish and vegetarian showgoers from trying your produce). There were strawberries and jam and sausage to try too.

(a shorn alpaca. Funny, huh?)

As far as alpaca fleece and yarn goes, they have a long way to catch up with the sheep. A few balls of 8-ply cream, two dyed green were for sale in the pavilion. No fleece available. But in the sheep pavilion, Bilby yarns was present as The Melanian Sheep Association. I've never actually been to their store, but damn they're lovely people! I didn't get a single patronising or surprised-at-young-person-knitting comment. My request for yarns dyed with natural dyes was regarded as a normal, albeit presently unfulfillable request. My request for handturned crochet hooks? Well, they have a couple of handturners they know who might be convinced to make them as one-offs for me. They'll find out and let me know. I bought a few balls of machine spun naturally coloured sock yarn ($4 per 50g!), but was rather lusting after a chocolate colour that was only available in handspun. I picked out a couple of skeins for a scarf, then Badly Coloured Boy leaned over and said "Do you have enough for a jumper? I'd like a jumper made out of this."

(a terrible photo, but it shows off the luscious colour shifts in the dark brown (apparently technically 'black' in sheep-breeding terms).

BCB has never, ever expressed a desire for anything handknit from me ever before, let alone a wool that is still a tiny bit scratchy and hand-wash only! Apparently he's forgoing easy care and super soft because he liked the man at the stall, and the idea that the yarn was locally grown and handspun. So now I have a zillion skeins of handspun. At a cost of $6 per 50g. So, um, instead of showbags filled with Cadbury chocolate and Pirates of the Carribbean merchandise, we came home with locally produced yarn, locally produced dried fruit leathers, and a few drawer-scenting blocks for my unintended yarn stash. God I'm a hippy.

(and to finish it off, the fruitcake and boiled plum pudding entries in the cooking competition).

Monday, October 01, 2007

I went on a picnic to Araluen yesterday with some of my oldest friends in the world. Araluen is a big park/ garden thing that I think was mostly built by members of the Young Australian League in the 1930s. It's very famous for its tulip displays in spring, but we were either too late or too early because there weren't really a whole lot of tulips about. Also it rained. But it was still a nice day.

On other news, mostly a wishlist:
i) I'm totally lusting after a crochet hook (or two) from Fancy Kitty's etsy shop (I'm thinking of convo-ing him to see if he'll do a custom order to my exact specs: smoothie design, 4mm or 5.5mm, with two kinds of wood in each hook, using a light or mid-coloured wood for the hook (instead of ebony, like most of them are. I find black a bit hard to work with sight-wise)). Yum, yum, yum.

ii) I'm totally lusting after a mix pack of heirloom tomato seeds from the Diggers Club. Imagine - a mix pack of tomatos that are green and yellow and black and peach-coloured-with-fuzz and all sorts of crazy shapes and sizes! I don't even actually eat raw tomato, but I'm absolutely entranced by the thought of growing these crazy things. My mama's friend actually had half a pack of this seed left over that she was going to give to me, but my mama forgot to take it after she visited said friend! (And as said friend lives outside of the city on acreage, it's not likely that either of us will just pop by any time soon). I grumbled more than was appropriate when I found all this out. Now I'll have to buy my own seed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

behbee surprise blankie

I didn't knit this, no sir. But I did seam all seven strips together. It was a surprise gift for Michelle at my Stitch'n'Bitch, who is currently knocked up. Blanket looks pretty cool, huh? It's the circle of friends pattern from... um, I don't actually know what book.

And this is my super-duper gift wrapping (I stole the way to wrap the tissue from a clothes store I bought a dress from recently). Note the appropriate use of fun fur? Yes, it makes awesome gift trim.

And here's some garden caper. On the one hand, we have one of our largest beets yet. On the other, one of the two carrots that sprouted from a packet of very old seed. I'd been prodding the top of the carrot for ages, and was quite excited by its girth.

Stupid thing deceived me. It was only an inch long! The parsnips better not behave like that or there'll be trouble...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Frustrated by the Garden

I think one of my tomatoes has blight. This does not feel very fair. It's been in the ground a mere week! I've picked off all the affected leaves/ stems, and am hoping for the best. Mostly I'm hoping it won't spread to the other tomatoes. If it has to be pulled out in the end, so be it. I also cleverly planted three different kinds of tomatoes in some haphazard hope that they wouldn't pass diseases between them.

I got on top of whatever went wrong with some of my broad beans by quickly removing anything that looked affected/ infected (sometimes leaves, sometimes whole plants), so cross your damn fingers for my Grosse Lisse tomato.

Not only that but snails ate all my sunflower seedlings. Not, like a nibble. We're talking, pull the whole thing out of the ground and eat everything but the seed casing - roots and all. I had half a pack of seeds left, so replanted. In an act of vengenance I gave up on the organic snail baits and commenced snail-bio-warfare with those awful little blue pellets. Cue ginormous, poisoned snails throwing themselves melodramatically all over the garden. I feel bad both for the snails and for using the poison. They shouldn't've eaten my seedlings.

Further, my purple beans and one set of sunflowers are taking forever to sprout. In fact, the sunflowers took so long I assumed they weren't going to sprout and replanted another set and now there'll be far too many and I'll have to thin them out and I hate doing that because it feels cruel to the weak seedlings and it's a waste of seeds. And my pumpkin seeds haven't sprouted yet either.

The broad beans have had a million blossoms drop off, and only one so far that I can see turning into a bean. The rest better perform better or my dreams of frozen beans won't come to fruition.

Stupid garden. Right now I pin all my hopes on the heirloom tomato and the leek seedlings I planted on Sunday.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Anastasia x 3

Because I am a lazy blogger I finished the first pair of Anastasias and the first sock on the second pair before I photographed. So sue me. The third sock was finished in eight days, some kind of record for me.

First pair is handdyed Patonyle, the odd is Claudia's handpainted yarns in Purple Earth. The Claudia's was supposed to be a pair of Charades, but the yarn was too busy for the stitch pattern. The herringbone rib mixes up pooling yarn nicely, but looks messy on a very variegated yarn. Whereas Anastasia is perfect for making something a little more interesting that stocking stitch with a variegated yarn.

The blue pair were done on 2.5mm needles, 60 stitches. While they technically fit they feel the tiniest bit loose. The Claudia pair, at 64 stitches on 2.25mm needles are definitely a better fit. I think you can even see it in the pictures, a little.

On the gardening front, I have planted two tomatoes (heirloom dwarf red fig, and grosse lisse), but I think I want another one (a roma, maybe? I have this baseless theory that if I plant all different kinds they won't catch pests off each other). I planted purple bean seeds, but no seedlings yet. Some of my sunflower seeds have just burst through, but the ones actually planted in the vege patch haven't. No sign of a pumpkin vine yet. The broad beans have got So Many Flowers on them its not funny. Does every flower turn into a bean? Because if so I'd best start getting the freezer ready.

Friday, September 14, 2007


I've had some cream coloured merino 4-ply to dye for, oo, 10 months now. So I thought in my week off I'd best get on and do it. While I want to dye one ball with onionskins for a contrast toe and heel I don't actually have enough onionskins right now. So it was just a spot of stove-top Kool-Aid action.

Clockwise from the dark powder: black cherry, strawberry, two cherry.

Yarn spaghetti! I had a really rough time trying to make the colour penetrate the fibres. Was this because:
a) the yarn is machine washable; or
b) because I didn't wash it in wool wash first?

After all the dye was soaked up. Can you see how the water is clear now, compared to the really dark water in the above picture? This happened really quite quickly. It was simply a case of heat-till-colour-nearly-gone, feel like it should be more complex so turn off stove, cover pot and walk away for ten minutes, come back to completely clear water.

And here it is in the bathroom to dry. Yes, my tiles are really that colour. Floor and walls. The shower screen is bubbled yellow glass too. Yes, you can pity me. While the dye looks all nice and even in that picture, really, up close it's um... variegated... because of how the yarn didn't want to take the dye. I swooshed it about in the pot a lot, but I guess I missed some spots. So there's a little pale pink in there (no absolute cream, I'm pretty sure).

While this was fun, the real joy was in the simplicity, quickness and general lack of mess that Kool-Aid in a single colour entails. I'm not really cut out to be a hard-core dyer.

When dry, reskeined (oo! I learned how to wind centre-pull balls. Those of you rolling your eyes at the fact I didn't already know how to do this shut up!) these will be snowflake socks. Except toe-up, because that's how I like it.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Spring and Tweed

(Spring & Tweed. Sounds cute, If I ever open a dress shop I think I'll call it that).

Garden first. My pansies, despite still being the weeniest little seedling-sized poppets you ever saw, have flowered. I love pansies. I swore I wasn't going to plant non-edibles in this garden, but I can never resist their blotchy little faces. They've been my favourite perennial since I was a child (always hated petunias, ever since childhood, by the way. Too weak and wilty. Not like the springy, compact pansy). I'm going to throw down some poppy seeds too in an unused bed, as the packet assures me they virtually take care of themselves.

I've put down sunflower seeds, with the aim of using the flowers as supports for climbing beans. I've read that it's doable. I bought the only non-dwarf sunflowers I could find. The packet says they can grow up to 4.5m tall! I really hope they stop at about two, else they'll hit the house eaves! Tomato seedlings will be purchased and planted on Wednesday, along with the pumpkin seeds, as it'll be raining then (saves me watering in the beds).

And I might get a zucchini too. Badly Coloured Boy thinks he doesn't like eating zucchini, but we'll have a garden full of tomatoes and beans if I don't get something else down (and neither of us eat raw tomato anyway - I'm planning a LOT of pasta sauce).

Completely un-in-tune with the seasons, I bought this:

Brown tweed (up close it has some bright grass green flecks), to make McCalls 5466. It's a free download off's sister site for a little while! Though beware, it is some sixty-something pages to stickytape together. I went to Fabulous Fabrics to get my tweed. There are very, very few garment fabric stores in my city, and this was reputedly one of the best. Its formalwear range was really, really lovely (and I didn't even let myself go upstairs to the bridal collections), and it did have better quality stuff than is available at polyester-central/ Spotlight. But it was a lot smaller than I expected, so I was a little disappointed by the range. Their sales staff were amazing though (cf: Spotlight basilisks). They knew all about how dressmakers worked, they had references to good suit hire companies, they went and found the matching zip and thread for me after they cut my fabric, they knew what gabardine was, they could tell me what would happen if I did try machine washing dry-clean only wool (answer: shrink, fade, pill, in that order).

There was a really lovely pale grey check wool that I would be making this dress out of, except that it was dry clean only. I hate paying for drycleaning. I really do. Plus I never actually get round to taking things to the cleaners. My tweed is machine washable. Because (despite paying out on Spotlight) it's pure polyester. There was a hand wash wool/ linen/ viscose, but I didn't love the pattern very much, and it was very expensive. At least I won't mind terribly if I mess this up a little.

I think I'll have to try and work out which was the fabric store in Victoria Park that I liked. I can't remember the name or the address. It's owned by an Indian family, and it specialises in fabrics used by women who do still make all their own clothes. That is, (predominantly) immigrant women who still dress traditionally. They have masses and masses of sari silk, African print cotton, and a squillion kinds of black crepe (for hijab and abbeyahs). Shopping there is like shopping at some kind of international marketplace. One reason why I love it. The other is the reasonably priced silk suiting fabric.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Is it a bad idea

to make this pattern:

with this fabric?

I don't mean print-wise. I happen to think a wood-grain print dress is a simply wonderful idea (wait, if you feel very strongly that my style is straying to the 'hey, that chunky-knit twinkle dress is cute' side of quirky*, please speak up).

It's just that the fabric is quilting cotton (as are all the best prints), and I'm worried it'd be too lightweight. I've made this mistake before. I have a lovely structured vintage-pattern shift with a peter pan collar hanging half finished at mah mum's place, because I foolishly made it out of a cotton so lightweight you could almost call it voile. I'm thinking I could get away with quilting cotton weight if I made the full-skirted view. That'd accomodate softness, flow and drape a little better than the more structured wiggle-dress. Any opinions?

I'm so pleased to have found this pattern. So rarely do I think about what pattern I want and then seek it out. This was almost unintentional. I was dreaming about both a certain skirt style (blogging later); and a kind of shift dress that had a gathered seam under the bust in a nod to the empire lines so fashionable right now, but that demonstrated that I do in fact have a waist (as empire and trapeze lines do not). I couldn't believe it when I actually found exactly what I was looking for, and with a nice full-skirt variation I hadn't thought of to boot.

* My stitch'n'bitch will understand. I am somewhat infamous for declaring an intention to make a knitted dress so chunky it used 15mm needles... upon closer inspection I was forced to agree that yes, it would make any human being, including the model, look chunky and that perhaps my sense of taste had strayed to the dark side of quirky momentarily.

Beaverslide Yarn

I got my yarn from Beaverslide Dry Goods. It worked out to be, including postage, $5.30 per '50g ball' (it actually comes in 110g skeins). In the colour 'dusty clover'. I think this photo's pretty accurate... maybe it's a little darker and more purplish in real life?

It's really nice and, well, woolly. Soft like merino, but not as processed-feeling as the other merino I've ever used. And it smells a little like sheep (I guess that's lanolin? I like the smell). It's a really heathered yarn compared to Jo Sharp Silkroad Tweeds, and with fewer colours. This has just red, cream/ grey, and the very rare fleck of dark brown. But it's still absolutely lovely, and for the price I recommend it three times over.

On the subject of price, I opted for First Class International. USPS won't indicate a delivery timeframe for this, the cheapest of their shipping options. Well, my yarn took eight days to get here. That's the quickest postage from the US I've ever had! I'm well pleased.

On the subject of eco-footprint: my alternative was Jo Sharp. That's Australian wool, shipped to Italy for spinning, then shipped back here. In contrast, Beaverslide rear their own sheep in Montana, transfer the yarn to Maine for spinning, then back to Beaverslide for selling (then out to me in Australia). So only one long journey (retailer to consumer), instead of at least two.

(oh, and that Vogue I was talking about? I'm such a dolt. It's actually US Vogue. Which explains, in retrospect, why there were articles about American heiresses instead of titled English roses; and why there were three spreads featuring large quantities of fur. Neither of those things tipped me off. No. It was the prices in US dollars that did it eventually. Disappointing, but I won't feel bad cutting out the pictures I like to put in a scrapbook).

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Get your knits on, Giles Deacon*

(apologies to House of Holland, and anyone who understood my terrible punning reference).

It's kind of like Twinkle had the chunky-knits crown. I couldn't even find the needles needed to make the Best Friend Cardigan she designed. Then Giles looked over and went 'think you're chunky, hey? Well guess what! I'm so chunky/ edgy I... I... I knit with roving!' I am now waiting for Mr Galliano to recruit the thinner, more flexible models and knit them into a bolero to be worn down the catwalk by another model. That will truly determine who is King of Knits (or Queen, though it seems Twinkle's lost out).

I know that's roving, and not a really chunky single-ply because last week I accidentally landed on the site of the mill that supplied the roving. They had the photo above with a 'look what Giles Deacon made with our roving!' caption. And I've promptly lost the site. Google was to no avail. I'm so sorry. Because else you could all shop at the place that supplies the designers.

And I know about Mr Deacon's fabbo Fall collection (well, except maybe for the feathery shoes with the olive cardigan) because I picked up the September UK Vogue yesterday. All 803 pages of it. It is, no kidding, an inch thick. Mostly with ads, but when it comes to Vogue that's kind of half the reason you buy it. I love UK Vogue, much better than Australian Vogue and much much better than US. The UK style suits better, and they have the largest arts section, and they've maintained this slightly quaint, dictatorial style of writing that feels very 1950s.

I also grabbed IK Knits, for the Tangled Yoke cardy. I was going to make it in a tweedy brown colour, but after seeing Kate Spade's beautiful, bright quirky ads I think I'll make it in fuchsia.

Why the big magazine splurge? Well kids, yesterday I got a job. Not just any job, but the job I've wanted and been working towards for about a year now.