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.