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.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Broad Beans

Look at that. Broad bean flowers. Aren't they funny? I don't know what I expected, but little pure white pea-flowers with dead-black inkspots wasn't it. The black is really jet black. No purple hints, or blue hints or anything. Where it fades out on the edges it fades out to a true grey. At least the flowers indicate the whole bean-making process is so far in order and disease free.

I also have parsnip sprouts in one of the bean gardens ('bean gardens in plural?' 'shut up, I realy like broad beans!'). Parsnips take four to five months to grow, did you know that? That's a really, really long time. They also do not look like carrots when they sprout. The leaves actually look a little like coriander (cilantro for the Americans).

I ripped out the broccolis that had gone to seed on the weekend, then threw them back in the vege patch (it's green manure, okay?), then covered the whole damn thing with sheep manure. Then remembered there were some little beet seedlings still in there, and dug around until I found and uncovered them.

I have a week off next week, so I'm leaving the sheep poos to like, ferment, or whatever it is they do, for a week. Then it's off to the gardening centre for some tomato plants. And some sunflower seeds. I've read that you can plant sunflowers, then, when they're about 60cm tall, plant scarlet runner beans at the base of the flower, and the sunflower acts the support for the bean. This sounds very cool to me. Also I really like sunflowers.

Oh, and I've been cultivating a spot behind the hibiscus (it's a rental - our garden is a palimpsest of previous tenants taste in plants) and under the clothesline for a butternut pumpkin. Is a square metre enough for a pumpkin? Apparently they're quite large vines.

On the knitting front, my TapestryCraft needles arrived the other week. Tulip brand. Heavenly to use. I really, really like them. They're only 5", not 7" (which all dpns seem to be in Perth). The 5" is much easier to manage. The needles fit in my hands better. Result being I've turned the heel already. I'm hoping to have them finished by the middle of next week. I've been stupidly, ridiculously busy. But things should settle down after Wednesday.