Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apron madness

So last year I made a few aprons as gifts. They were so well-received, and so easy to make, that I've done another round this year.

Black and white Michael Miller spots, for a wedding present (the wedding is next week, and I'm terribly excited. It's the first wedding I've been to since I was five, and I'm doing a reading!). I found it difficult to find two coordinating prints that weren't too feminine. Actually, a lot of the Amy Butler prints would have worked, but I didn't have time to order the fabric in. I found the black and white at my local Textile Traders. The spots are kind of pearlescent/ metallic, which is neat.

And some Flea Market Fancy by Denise Schmidt, combined with plain brown. I added pockets from some Kaffe Fassett scraps I had, as I've never made one side plain before, and felt a bit guilty about making an apron that was 50% drab.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

No crafting, no pictures, just letting any American readers wandering around out there that I'll be spending the day glued to the online news sites, until I leave work to go to an election party ("American hot dogs, American mustard, even c*appy American beer" said the invite).

Either result I'll probably be bawling my eyes out by the end of the night (if Australia's last election is any guide). Here's hoping I spend the rest of the night bawling and smiling and singing along to The Herd's The King Is Dead.

(this was written for the Australian election last year, where we had a choice perhaps like Obama Lite vs Bush for the 4th Term).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Victorian Spinners & Weavers Guild

I love knitting with handspun. Love it. So, in aid of increasing my handspun stash I decided to head off to the Victorian Spinners & Weavers Guild, in North Carlton. They have a gallery/ shop, see.

I caught the tram all on my own, and didn't get lost and was quite proud of myself. The Guild Hall is a 19th century Boy Scout Hall. Very large. Very well equipped with fiber, wheels-for-hire and whatnot. The gallery was still closed up when I arrived, so I contented myself with looking at the three skeins of handspun hung on a hat tree outside the gallery. One of them was nice, but not my colours. But if there wasn't much else, it'd do.

Then someone arrived to open the gallery. They threw back the double doors into a little room where two walls were stuffed full - full - with handspun. Arranged by colour. I think I spent nearly an hour in there. Everything is priced by the spinner. Labelled by fiber, weight, price and the spinner's name. The only downside was that there were not large quantities of anything - finding more than 100g of anything was a challenge. But I rose to the occasion, and left with seven skeins.

Merino and glitz, in a pretty sea green 3 ply (not navajo). It'll be a fuzzy, flopped beret for me.

This pink/ grey/ mauve tweed was my absolute favourite. Spun by V. Harding. I just love it.

More V. Harding - nice tawny autumny colours. Whoever this mystery spinner is, she has excellent colour sense.

I wasn't sure about this, but bought it because it's nearly 200g. And it's grown on me. Natural Corriedale plied with commercially dyed merino. For some reason it reminds me of newspaper pulp. In a good way.

And this is a little scratchy and a little expensive (compared to the rest), but it reminded me of irses, so I bought it anyway. The yellows pop a lot more in real life.

Job Warehouse, Melbourne

I didn't bother to go out of my way to fabric shop while in Melbourne, but couldn't help but notice the sign in the window of Job Warehouse ('specialising in vintage fabrics', or something similar). Job Warehouse, as I'm sure Melbournians know, is a freakish anomaly. It's right in the CBD, next to an extremely popular Italian espresso bar and a couple of doors down from one of the city's finest Italian restaurants.* It is a store that by all odds should've gone the way of milk in bottles.

Here is what Job Warehouse looks like. From the back of the store looking towards the door. What you can't see is that there are several doorways on the left of the photo, into rooms filled with more fabric. Unfortunately I couldn't actually get into them, because fabric bolts were stacked chest-high across the doorways.

There are no labels, and no prices. Apparently the gentlemen that work there price according to mood. Well they liked me well enough, because I paid on average $10 p/m. For three metres of 1970s tartan acetate taffeta, two metres of (80s?) striped cotton and five metres of printed panels.

That's just half a panel I've photographed. I have no idea when these are from - ideas, anyone? The full circle skirt suggests 50s, but the print and colourway to me looks more early 80s? And the best bit - look around the panel. Along one selvedge is a printed band - for a waistband or matching button-band on a blouse. There's collar panels, and two kind of pocket panels. Pocket panels! Two kinds! I bought enough for a full circle skirt for me (too much? Should I make it only a half?) and the half panel over will become an apron.

* For those that can't afford to eat at Grossi Florentino itself (we didn't), I completely recommend the Cellar Bar - the cheaper, more casual restaurant on the side of the building also run by Mr Florentino. Most meals under $20, and absolutely fabulous. Same quality ingredients, just simpler food (spaghetti bolognaise, osso bucco, eggplant parmigiana, minestrone). Most of those dishes are under $20. Best. Value. Ever.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's a helluva town.

Alright, it's been a little quiet round here recently. But rest assured that as soon as we get home and can download all the pics I've taken on BCB's iphone there will be some Very Interesting Posts. Get home? you say. Yes, my friends, I am in Melbourne.

Be prepared for images of the World's Most Astonishing Fabric Shop ($10 p/m for genuine 1950s skirt panels in pristine condition; $10 p/m for bird-poo stained calico; priced according to how the owners feel that day...); possibly the World's Largest Vintage Store (also selling, oddly, a stack of berets knitted to Ysolda's gretel pattern...); photos of some Very Lovely Handspun at Extremely Reasonable Prices ($6 - $8 per 50g sound good to everyone? Yep, good). Oh, and I bought the Cutest Vintage Dress Ever. 1940s, black velvet trim, fabric with little pink birds singing all over. Tres Black Apple.

Just hang on a day or two more.

edit: If customs have a tantie over my suitcase (they shouldn't - I was talked into not trying to take cheese and fresh pasta on the plane) my cover story is that I'm a fashion designer, okay? There is no other way to explain how yarn and fabric takes up over half my suitcase. Back me up, okay?

Sunday, July 06, 2008

I interrupt your (ir)regular crafty programming...

for milk.

Sorry guys. I have to have a little rave about milk.

Noone in our house drinks plain milk, so we keep UHT on hand for the odd time I want to make a cheese sauce or a lemon delicious. Badly Coloured Boy drinks flavoured milk every morning (yep, we're grown ups). I do not.

Last night while prowling the aisles of Fresh Provisions in search of something that was healthy, 'snack-like' and only had ingredients that I knew what they were, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and try Bannister Downs milk. I knew it had won a lot of awards. I knew it came in the most awesome calcium-carbonate biodegradable pouch. I knew it cost $4.50 a litre (flavoured)!

I did not know that milk could taste so good. So amazingly, astonishingly good. Their low-fat chocolate milk has a mouthfeel creamier than supermarket full-cream. It was rich and cocoa-y, but not too sweet. The ingredients on the chocolatte flavour? Milk, dutch cocoa, sugar. No emulsifiers, or vegetable gums, or chocolate syrup! If I don't drink the whole litre in 24 hours I'm going to warm some up in a pan and have instant hot chocolate.

I don't think Bannister Downs is available outside WA, so, well, sucks to the rest of the world! More helpfully, all I can encourage you to do is to seek out a local, independent, environmentally aware dairy near you that cares about their product. I can't believe I have lived for 23 years without knowing that this is what milk can and is supposed to taste like. I must check with BCB, who grew up on a dairy farm (and an orchard, and has done time on nearly every organic farm between here and Nimbim, courtesy of his wandering mother) whether fresh-from-the-dairy milk is like BD. While it mightn't be practical for those families that go through a couple of litres a day to be buying BD, our low-milk consuming household shall be buying nothing but from here on in.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Socks of many techniques 3: the 'body'

The heel in these socks is going to be an afterthought heel. There are three reasons for this:
(i) I need a contrast heel because I don't have enough handspun for full socks;
(ii) I don't want to interrupt the stripes/ variegation in the handspun; and
(iii) I get bored with knitting the leg.

When I knit toe up socks, I am always so anxious to finish after I turn the heel. I get bored of knitting the legs. So I thought rather than break the flow by turning the heel, I'd just knit a long tube - I'd be finished before I got bored! After I finished the first tube, I put it on some spare needles, and started on the second. Note that I didn't knit the cuff at that point - it made sense to leave the live stitches to check that the tubes were the same length before I did the cuffs.

Another nice thing about an afterthought heel is that the sock is flat. It makes it easier to check that both socks are the same length when you don't have some crazy heel sticking out the side. Once I knew they were the same length (well, half a round out and I wasn't going to fuss) I knit the cuffs on one sock then the other. Then just the heel to go!

Zimmermann tam (or: the cute beret)

Don't I look tired? This is me, after a day at work.

Now here is an admission: I have never been very good at knitting hats. I have knit two okay ones, and two truly terrible ones for BCB. The first looked like a mushroom, and the second was comically too tight. Then I knit a Gretel for me, which, while it is an excellent pattern, just didn't work out for me, as I used the wrong weight yarn.

Then came the recipe for a tam, in Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. It just works. It's cute. I love it. In the 'monster tam' sizing (27" circumference as the widest part). Messing with the gauge, I squeaked this hat out of 111 yards. It has a contrast under-band. You can't really see from the photos, but this yarn is just luscious. Simply luscious. It's the most buttery soft merino, handspun by the wonderful Linda Lee. And while it looks just grey in the photo, it's actually a wonderful subtle dark grey with red, turquoise and white fibres too. Look.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I have in my hot little hands...

two return tickets to Melbourne, in October. Question is, what do I do when I get there?

Suggestions, anyone?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Little Arrowheads Shawl

At a craft show recently I bought two skeins of Frog Tree alpaca in this luminous purple colour, because it struck me as being a very 'in' colour right now, and I've been feeling a little unfashionable recently. And I was sort of sick of my faithful Noro entrelac scarf. I wanted a new scarf.

I decided to go for a little shawl instead, because (a) the gauge was close enough, and my yardage right; and (b) I dig how cute a little triangle tied in a knot looks around the neck. Much more chic than a long rectangle, I think.

This puppy followed the free Interweave pattern exactly,* and was done in ten days (I surprised myself!) I have to admit that I didn't particularly love the look of the arrowhead stitch at first (or the name of it - it sounds so dull!), but the look of it has grown on me. The name hasn't, so in my head I secretly call it 'holly stitch', because the little solid sort-of-diamonds look like the sort of wibbly way I drew holly leaves when I was a kid.

I am completely sold on shawl-ettes now. Next I want to make Laminaria, in a grassy green. And another Little Arrowheads Shawl for my nanna for Christmas.

* I lie. I didn't follow the pattern exactly. On the last row I didn't do any of the decreases, I just knit across instead of decreasing, so that I could block the edges into points. The points along the edge of a shawl are the best bit. Why would ever make a shawl with a straight edge?

Socks of many techniques 2: The toe

I forgot in my last post on this topic why overspun yarn isn't a bad thing for socks. Overspinning makes the yarn much tougher, more resilient. And thus really quite suitable for socks.

These socks are going to make that handspun go as far as possible, so the 'body' of the sock will be in handspun, with the toes, heels and cuff in some the onion-dyed Lang merino.

I usually use a short row toe for my socks. I like this toe because by the time you have to put things on a circular needle you've got lots of stitches and enough knitted-stuff to weigh them down a bit. I find magic cast-on impossibly fiddly - too few stitches, too hard to wrangle them without getting tangled.

But I recently finished my first pair of top-down socks, and I've decided that I really do like the look of a toe with those nice neat decreases better than the short rows. But I want to use every single scrappet of handspun, which means I need to knit the socks toe up.

Solution? Easy. Provisional cast on, then knit the toe down, and graft the end closed (just like in this picture). Then unzip the provisional cast, and start knitting the foot from the toe up. I get my neat looking toe, I get to use up all my yarn, and I don't have to wrangle small numbers of stitches on a circular needle.

For those that suffer second-sock syndrome, this method of starting socks has another benefit. You can knit one toe, straight after the other. Because the provisional cast on keeps the toe from unravelling until you're ready to use it, you can do both toes before going any further. Just store the toe you're not knitting onto somewhere safe until you need it. Then, when you're all "Ugh! I sooooo can't be bothered to do the second sock!" you can pull out your pre-made toe, and you're already on your way. No fiddly cast on or anything, you're already about a sixth of the way through, and on to the good bit (if your sock has a fancy stitch pattern and you regard knitting the fancy stitch as a good thing).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Observation of the day

So I was catching the train home tonight. And on my train was a guy playing with a Rubix cube. Solving the Rubix cube. Like, every face a solid colour solving. It was half done when he got on the train, and he solved it a couple of stations later, and by the time I got off a few stations after that he'd messed it up and halfway solved it again. It was fascinating - the guy moved with such speed and skill! He was so confident with his movements. I couldn't stop watching this young, very hip looking guy doing something you just don't see people do anymore, something a bit anachronistic, something so interesting to watch.

And then I realised - this is what knitting on the train looks like to everyone else.

(image by Russell Bernice, used under creative common licence. Trains in Perth look a bit nicer than ones in NY though. Pretend all that grey is white and green and yellow, and the windows are much bigger).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Tropical Island socks/ Socks of Many Techniques

I'm on a massive handspun kick right now. I'm not even going to tell you about all the Etsy goodness wending its way towards me right now. I 'destashed' recently, only to replace it all with handspun! Anyway, that's some handspun sockyarn I bought from DivineBird, 'Leapyear' colourway. I loved the colours. It's a very fine sockyarn - drops down to laceweight in parts - and a little overspun (easy to fix). But the colours are just great, and the yarn very soft. Because there's only 200 yards of it, it's coiled around what will be the heels, toes and cuffs. Some pure merino I dyed with onionskins and vinegar as a mordant a while ago. I'm not sure that the colour won't fade out a lot, but I don't mind.

Now, I've been reading some Elizabeth Zimmermann recently, and she's inspired me to think about the way that socks are constructed, and how I might best make them. I've broken down the socks into four elements: toe, heel, long tube (foot and leg) and cuff. Now normally one knits either cuff, half of long tube, heel, rest of long tube, toe; or vice versa. I'm going to break the order up a little, for reasons of motivation, neatness of sock, and limitations of yarn respectively. I intend to, over the next couple of weeks, run a set of tutorials on what I've done. None of it is terribly original (more EZ's 'unventing'), but hopefully it might give some of you some ideas.

Tutorial one involves the mystery of getting that single hank you saw above into this.

Two even cakes. I don't have scales to work it out by weight. But this method works nicely if you have a swift and winder. Take your little twisted skein apart so it's a big hank of yarn. Count the number of strands at any point in the hank (I counted by twos, it's quicker). For me it was 105. I want two even cakes, so I'd want 52.5 'rounds' of the hank in each ball. I put the hank on my swift, and tied a scrap of yarn to an arm of the swift where the start of the hank was. Lined that up with my ball winder. Then I just had to count that scrap of yarn passing the ball winder 52 times, and cut the yarn off halfway around the 53rd pass. Easy! I admit I did count in batches of ten, with a little pause between each to stop my poor little brain getting confused.

I also discovered when winding that in general, the yarn went dark - light - dark across its entire length. If I want the light and the dark on my socks to roughly match up, I'll knit one cake from the inside and one from the outside. Also easy.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Stop right now!

Hehe. A doorstop. I made it ages ago, in fact, in Summer (it's Winter here now, remember?) because we sleep with the doors open (we have security flyscreens) in summer for airflow, but that meant the laundry door kept slamming shut. It's the doorstop pattern out of the Lotta Jansdotter book, made with some Lara Cameron fabric. It is large. It looks all funny and oozy because it has two kilos of lentils inside it, plus polyfill to fill up the rest!

"The rules of the game get posted at the beginning. Each player answers the questions about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer."

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?
Um... I was halfway through my first year of highschool, so I was probably alternately moping about and laughing hysterically. Negotiating the arcanery of an Established Private School, like boater hats, and rowing teams, and matching hair ribbons, and standing whenever an adult entered the room.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today?
It's nearly the end of the day, so I'm not sure if there's five. Do the grocery shopping, fill out a form to get my superannuation transferred to my new fund, knit some rows on the Arrowhead Lace Shawl that I'm at serious risk of finishing in a week. Make dinner... I think that's it.

3) Snacks I enjoy:
Lollies. Peanut butter spread on a slice of low-fat cheddar (so sue me! It's a really good meat-free protein hit). Really good, thick yoghurt with no thickeners or preservatives or fillers or anything. Twisties (oh my god. In finding that link I just discovered that Twisties aren't available in the US because they use an 'unsafe' food colouring! They are bright, bright orange).

4) Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
I woud buy a little house for me and Badly Coloured Boy, and a house each for my parents. Pay off BCB's dad's mortgage. Establish a prize or a scholarship for art history majors at the university I went to. Travel. To Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and Iran. And London and Berlin and Marrakesh, since they're my favourite cities. I'm sure there's plenty of space in that money for more philanthropy too, but I'd have to think more carefully about it.

5) Places I have lived:
Port Hedland, Western Australia
Perth, Western Australia

I'm feeling a little insular right now...

6) Jobs I have had:
Kitchen hand, bookpimp (okay, retail assistant in a bookstore), cashier at a different bookstore, promo girl (not the kind in a bikini - the kind in Chuck Taylors handing out flyers outside live music gigs), my current job which I don't really like to say what it is because then I'd have to kill you.

I have also been paid for an afternoon of prepping hair transplant follicles, babysitting, and selling my DNA to a genetics study.

7) Bloggers I am tagging who I will enjoy getting to know better:
Cast on a Cupcake
Studio Home Creative
By Elin
Knitting School Dropout

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Fantasy Naturale Market Bag

It mightn't look like it, but I'm actually de-stashing. Until last week I hadn't bought new yarn all year. Oh wait, except for that Patonyle that became the Rainbow Socks. And I've sold a bunch of yarn. Anyway, I had five balls of 12-ply navy blue cotton... why? I have no idea. What was I thinking? So I figured I'd make a market bag. Again, why? Given that we have a bunch of calico bags and those ubiquitous green Coles bags... I guess I couldn't think of anything else to do with a bunch of heavy cotton. Here's the result. It's the Fantasy Naturale Market Bag, a free pattern I found using the experimental browser on Ravelry.

Square base, picked up stitches all round.

And the handles are made with a simple cast off and then cast back on a few more stitches than were cast off. I quite liked this idea, because it seemed to account for the way the handles with inevitably stretch. They're a little short to go over my shoulder now, but I bet they won't be after I first use it! It took a mere ten days, and used up two a little bit balls of cotton. I'm thinking a couple more of these filled with... stuff... might make neat Christmas gifts.

Rainbow socks

I love these socks. Like, love. I did a three needle bind off on the toe because it was quicker than grafting, and it's left this annoying little seam for my toes to rub against. I wish they were longer in the leg (I misread the pattern, so the short-row diamonds on my socks are not as deep as they should be, with the result that I needed to do eight 'sections' on each foot). But still I love them. They make me happy to look at, and Patonyle does feel nice underfoot. The colours are much brighter, really, but our dim house in winter is not so encouraging with the light situation, and I didn't want to ask BCB for a light-box because he was defrosting the fridge (this requires a hairdryer, a pot of boiling water, a bucket and our largest knife. I didn't want to get too close).

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Back to School (sort of).

I've signed up for some sewing classes. I'm quite excited. They seem nice and flexible - because I have some sewing experience I was told just to bring along whatever it is I want to make and the teacher will help me out. I'm going to work on a pair of pants - Burda WoF 118 of 1/ 2008, view B, to be precise. Except that I'm going to redraft the legs so they're wider. I've never made pants before, and I'm glad that I'm going to be getting some help. Hopefully I'll learn lots - I don't really get the chance to learn sewing off people in real life. My mother sews really, really well, but is not the best teacher (and I am not the best student around her - imparting specialist knowledge to one another is not one of our strong points, much as I love her).

I'm also taking the Closet Knitter from work. My new Partner in Cr(aft)ime. It's kind of nice to get excited about garment-making with someone that I met outside crafting circles.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

One rainbow sock

I realised the other day how many things - sewn and knitted - that I've finished and not photographed. Ugh. I was planning to do lots of photographing today, even nagging BCB to build me a little lightbox, but I ended up a bit worse for wear. Sangria (or red wine generally) does not sit well with me, and I spent last night at a new restaurant/ bar at which sangria is the house special. Oooooo... so today I curled up with Heroes Season 2 and finished the heel on the second rainbow sock.

I love this Patonyle colourway so, so much. I think I'll have enough left over to do another pair of socks in plain stocking stitch, with contrast heels and toes.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Which *is* more fun?

So I told you all about how I'm teaching that guy at work to knit. And about how whenever he comes into my office he drops the blinds and closes the door? Well, today I helped him out over lunch. Halfway through someone knocked on the door, but made no move to open it. I eventually got up and opened it. It was a colleague.
"Oh, sorry," she said. "It's just that the blinds were down and the door was closed and I heard giggling and I ~pause~ didn't want to interrupt anything."

Great. I teach someone to knit, and now people in the office think I'm having an affair.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I love it. It's the best thing I've made. It fits him perfectly (actually, I haven't blocked it yet, but if it stretches a little that won't matter. He wore it to work the morning after I sewed on the buttons (oh, for a workplace where this outfit is acceptable!) Isn't it just the bomb? I love how it's sort of quirky and rustic and... just cool.

I'm not sure what else to say about this. The pattern worked out well. Ysolda hasn't done the tutes for the sleeves yet, so I worked out the decreases that I'd need to make and spaced them evenly down the length of the sleeve, working them where the sleeve seam would be if there were one. Turns out I did my maths a bit wrong, so after five decreases every ninth row, I did another eleven (I think) every seventh row. Seems to have worked out okay.

Sure, the flash is annoying, but it shows the wool detail a little better. You can see the variations in the handspun. And the delicious warm aspect in the natural black colour.

In an update on the guy at work I taught to knit: he came into my office the other day to show me that he'd bought Debbie Stoller's Stitch'n'Bitch in his lunchbreak. He also indicated that he'd gone a little awry with the knitting I set up for him, so I suggested he bring it to my office and I could look at it. He rushed in, then closed the door and dropped the blinds so noone could see that he (or I, I guess) were looking at knitting. He's terribly self-conscious about it. Any suggestions on how to make it better?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rainbow Socks, a SeaRag Scarf and Learning to Knit

I finally finished the Charade socks I was working on. I was so unenthused about them that I considered ripping them with only half a sock to go. Mah mama volunteered to take them though, which gave me enough impetus to churn on. I'm not sure why I was so over them... I think the colours are lovely, but a bit blah to actually knit. It seems most of what I knit is fairly bright, this colourway was a bit neutral. Also the herringbone rib is not so stretchy, which made getting them on and off a bit tricky...

And now I'm off on Rainbow Socks. I'm enjoying them very much. The colours are more entertaining, and the yarn is very soft (it's Patonyle). They're fifty kinds of fun. I went away this weekend with some people from work, and I got quite a lot done. One of the guys there asked me to teach him to knit. Luckily, I decided to travel with multiple projects (god I'm a loser). A while ago I swapped with someone in my stitch'n'bitch for some fabulous Colinette WigWam.

The colours reminded me a bit of the ocean, so I thought I'd like to do some kind of deconstructed scarf, something that looked like rags washed up on a beach. I started off with some loose garter stitch, which wasn't really working. I showed it to another friend, saying I was going for something that looked like rags washed up on a beach. After a thoughtful pause while he weighed up how I might take it, he said carefully "Um... it looks like knitting to me." So I ripped it.

While browsing Ravelry I found a nice wavy dropstitch pattern, and have been running with that instead. It's the beginning of the knitting there. I'm very pleased with it. The pattern stops because I started teaching the guy I work with to knit garter stitch. I think he did very well, don't you? It's very even - he was worried it wasn't even enough, and stumbled on the idea of blocking by himself! Suggested that maybe when you finished a project there'd be a way of stretching it out to make it all even. I was very impressed.

I plan to give him some old needles and a spare ball of yarn tomorrow. I've cast on already so he can just go (I think we'd struggle to find the time for me to teach him to cast on, and he seemed quite eager to just keep going). I'm a bit worried that 4mm and dk yarn will grow so slowly compared to the wigwam on 8mm needles above that he'll lose a little interest. But I don't have any chunkier yarn and needles to give.

Now the real question is, since I was going with a bit of a casual, deconstructed thing, should I rip out the beginner garter stitch and keep going with my pattern, or should I keep it there in my scarf as a nice reminder of someone's first go at knitting, and my first go at teaching someone?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Buttons for UnStripy

It's done! I finished it while watching Wall Street last night (possibly the best film to come out of the eighties, from an art history student perspective. I'm sure Badly Coloured Boy got sick of me shrieking stuff like "Look at the interior decorating! The mock surface finishes! Everything is fake! The symbolism! The symbolism!").

Now I'm stuck as to buttons.

These are a great size, and I particularly love that they are made from scrap timber from the South-West (of Western Australia, for my interstate and overseas guests). So it'd mean the whole of the jumper is local, from sheep through buttons. But I only have three, and I think it needs four. And when I bought these a couple of years ago they were everywhere, including on ebay. I can't find any on ebay now, and I doubt the sort of low-budget, quasi-transient bead shops that were stocking them are still around or still have them. I did find some similar ones on etsy, but, well, they just aren't local. I found more! I wonder why these didn't turn up in last night's etsy search.

Well, I was going to ask y'all for opinions as to which looked better, the three large buttons, or the multiples that are (in my opinion) too small. But I don't care now! I'm getting more of those big 'uns!

These little ones are pretty neat though (kind of feminine, too). I've got eleven of them, and am saving them up for something special. Maybe my Stripy. That's right. I decided I loved BCB's handspun unStripy so much I want one. I'll put stripes on mine though.

Oh, and just because it's kind of cool, in searching for buttons I found this place, Cute As A Button. Sure, it's a little pricy, but they have red and silver leather buttons!

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I was knitting a sock today at the train station, and I dropped the working needle. Against all odds, it slipped through these tiny little grate holes in the platform. I think my fellow commuters already find the powersuit-and-knitting combo a little strange, and I think then finding me shriek "Oh f**k! I just dropped a needle down that grate!" at 8am confirmed all dire suspicions. Badly Coloured Boy tried valiantly to remove the offending grate, but it was welded in place. Totally depressing. This is the second set of dpns I've gone through lately. BCB sat on the others and snapped one (different size, so no, I don't still have five usable needles).

I think it's a sign I should invest in some Harmony circular sock needles and learn magic loop, huh? I don't see no circs falling through a grate.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Where I've been at

sewing, kids.

I made the skirt and the jacket (it just struck me that this is a rare full-face-shot of me on the blog. Hm). The skirt will be discussed next post.

The jacket is Vogue 8414. I am very, very pleased with it. This was merely a wearable muslin, before I make another in some (very) metallic linen. It's plum corduroy, medium wale, from Spotlight. I really, really love corduroy. I haven't shown it yet, but I have a corduroy dress, too (rust orange, fine wale). There's not much to say about sewing it. It was cut and sewn together (complete with handstitched hems) in a day. It was a straight size 10 (a size down from the recommended measure) with no alterations. Normally I would make the back narrower, but I figured that the absence of inset sleeves and the loose style made that less important, and I didn't want to interfere with the pleats at all.

Here's the back, with its awesome little pleats. I'm sure someone better at fitting than I could tell me why I have those creases in the upper sleeve. I'm also thinking that next time I might draft and extra inch or two in the sleeve so they don't sit right in my elbow - it gives the sleeves a slight tendency to bunch up my arms rather than crease when I bend my elbows.

One of my favourite parts of the pattern is the loose mandarin (?) collar. I love the line it creates in profile against my neck (apologies for the blurries - BCB is not so steady with the camera).

The jacket is unlined, with self-facing, so I opted to cover the facing edges with bias binding (and one of the sleeve seams too). I'm still a bit of a spazz at sewing bias binding, so I'm pleased enough that this is attached to the garment and the facings caught. Wrinkles be damned. You can also see the only spot where I didn't catch the folded-under part of the collar facing. I'll handstitch that down today. I did ignore instructions to handstitch down the collar facing and opted for machine stitching in the ditch on the outside instead. I'm getting much, much better at machine sewing down facings these days. That skirt above was done perfectly, and I only missed that tiny part on the jacket.

It doesn't have buttons yet. I'm thinking maybe dark wooden ones? All up I think this thing is very cute, very appropriate for Perth weather, very comfortable and cosy; and I'm happy enough to make well, actually a couple more probably.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Okay, just a weeny little post of linkies.

Unfortunately, I think us Australians need to lift our game. New Zealand is smaller, and has more sheep than people, yet they're kicking our arses in the craft & design media realm.

World Sweet World is an awesome looking 'magazine for makers and doers', split between projects and features. Luckily for me (and you), they sell off their website.

Penny Stotter is my new oo-I-want artist. And her works are not unreasonable. Badly Coloured Boy's stepmother has offered to buy him a piece of art in honour of his graduating university, and he is a little confused about what he might like. It would be wrong to heavily steer him in the direction of something I rather want, wouldn't it?

And how did I find out about these Kiwi delights? Courtesy of my new favourite blog, Studio Home Creative. It's like Decor8, or DesignSponge, with a fresh antipodean twist. Can you believe the blogger is barely older than I am?

*sigh* I think it's time to start saving for a holiday with the rellies in Auckland.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Was spent with a friendly orphan possum called Gazza. He's being readied for release into the wild. He's not so great and staying still for a photoshoot

but he is pretty tops at climbing (because I was pulling a funny face in the picture I'm not including the next picture in the sequence - Gazza diving off my back towards his cage).

I knit too. Here's my unStripy. In fact, the arm is done all the way to the wrist now. Look at the colour variations in the handspun - interesting, no? You can't really see the differences in anything but strong light. I like it. I think Brooklyn Tweed is almost right - a simple stitch pattern is best for handspun, but stocking stitch is just as good as garter, in my unhumble opinion.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Charade Socks

This is quite old. I finished the sock before I started the raglan, and I've nearly finished the body of that raglan now. I'm a little unenthused about finishing, because they don't fit too well. Too tight across the bit of my foot that's just before the ankle bend. I think because the herringbone rib has so little stretch in. I also decided to try a picot bind off for a change, and, um, I don't think I love it very much.

However, my mum has volunteered to take these off my hands, so I'm slowly ploughing through the second one. Mostly a row here or there, at the train station or before a dance class (look, I need to do some kind of exercise, and jogging is just not me). In fact, when I pulled out my knitting before dance class one other girl leaned over and said "Oh wow! You catch my train in the mornings! I thought you looked familiar, but I now I definitely recognise that sock thing!" Startling, but not so bad as Badly Coloured Boy, who was recently recognised by a fellow train-traveller as "the guy that talks a lot."

I've been loving The Sartorialist again. I've bought some new patterns. Kwiksew 3436; Vogue 8414 and Vogue 8451. The Kwiksew is looking not bad, I'm halfway through a muslin. If I can make it while hungover it must truly be easy and logical. I'm planning another two, maybe three, in a blue and chocolate cotton, a teal satin, and maybe a metallic plaid chiffon type fabric I picked up in an op-shop (I had a nasty experience with plaid before, so I'm a little plaid-shy. That whole matching thing is difficult!). I'm waiting on some metallic linen from Ebay to make the jacket for 8414 (it's been a little while - hope with me that it hasn't gone astray in the mail!) I'm struggling with getting fabric for the jersey top. The stretch knits at my local fabric store were either swimwear type, or cheap and nasty. Oh, and I ordered some Kaffe Fassett and Amy Butler prints to make some pleated skirts. I doubt my skills are such that I'll earn a place on the Sartorialist's pages, but I think I am improving.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Shaker knitting?

Not quite. But there is an element of function-before-form to this. A top down raglan, in handspun from Bilby yarns. The colour is 'natural black', and it was spun by a Beverley Ludlow, according to the label. I bought it at the Royal Show, remember? The handspun is very addictive to work with. It has, for want of a better word, a life to it that machine spun does not. The colours here are really accurate. I love the little reddish hints. Where it looks blurred towards the back of the photo it is not. That would be the single ball (supposed to be used for collar and cuffs) that was a shade lighter (it has a little more white fleece spun in). I spent months looking at all the yarn, in different lights, and when it was all balled up I could not for the life of me work out which one was lighter. I decided the bag was mislabeled. Or not. It happened to be the first skein I grabbed. There is a visible line where the regular-coloured-yarn starts, but how visible it is depends on the light. I decided not to rip back. The start of the raglan was a bit of a bi-atch, and Badly Coloured Boy could not see the difference (he's colourblind. Hence the name). Oh yeah, it's for him, did I mention? And the pattern is Ysolda's Stripy. I'm imagining wooden toggle buttons on the mock-placket (oo, shoulda seen BCB's face when I mentioned the mock-placket. He didn't know what it was, and he thought it sounded unpleasant).

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Borrowed Light

I went to see Borrowed Light last night, as part of the Perth Festival. Three things in life and the arts that I do adore are sacred choral music; challenging dance styes; and austere theology (no, seriously). Borrowed Light, by the Tero Saarinen Dance Company, fit all three. Borrowed Light was an exploration of the Shaker beliefs and lifestyle. An early music ensemble, the Boston Camerata provide live vocal accompaniment in the form of Shaker music some of which has never been heard outside the Shaker community and even then not for 150 years. Imagine something between Gregorian chants and middle-English folk music (I tried so hard to find an audio clip, but nothing forthcoming). And imagine that the singers are on stage, moving through and with the dancers sometimes.

Saarinen draws heavily on Kabuki for his choereographic language, which I think explains the awkward angles, flat feet and splayed hands. It was difficult to settle into, especially given that the first five minutes or so are performed completely in silence. The dancing was heavy and awkward. I only noticed two jumps in the entire performance - the dancers always had one foot on the ground, unless another dancer was lifting them, which was never done gracefully or easily. They barely walked when they could hobble, or limp. Once you got accustomed to it it was stunningly beautiful. I've never seen so much emphasis placed on the mere movement of individual fingers. I also loved that in a virtually abstract environment I could still discern stories and themes - loss of faith; the outsider; a struggle for grace.

Not only that, but the dancers themselves provide what percussive accompaniment there is, stamping, clapping, and, at one point, throwing their entire body on the floor. Breathing, too, was sometimes audible (and I was in the back row of the stalls). Apparently the floor is miked, which makes sense.

The costumes were dark and heavy. The men's coats were entirely made of felt, and they obscured the body for the most part. The women's skirts were part weighted-down felt, part what seemed to be pleated silk. Their shoes were heavy. The lighting was often stark and directional, like sun rays falling through meeting hall windows.

It was just beautiful.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The most pleasurable way to give yourself diabetes...

I have to make morning tea for a bunch of people next week, one of whom is gluten intolerant. Now when it comes to food choices, I'm a big fan of the masses catering to the minority (well, except maybe for this girl I went to high school with who was intolerant to pretty much everything except brown rice and pears). So I wanted to make some kind of gluten-free snack everyone would want to eat, but also didn't fancy shelling out for gluten-free flour (I find it just tastes yuck). In the end I mashed a couple of similar recipes together to get these Peanut Biscuits. They're insanely rich. One is satisfying, two is mad. They're also insanely easy. Easier than making a packet mix. Here's the recipe I ended up with:

1 egg
1 cup crunchy peanut butter*
3/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 tsp bi-carb soda

1. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
2. Beat egg until combined.
3. Add peanut butter, caster sugar and bi-carb. Stir/ mix/ mash until combined.
4. Roll teaspoonfuls of the mix into balls, and place them on a baking sheet. They'll spread out as they cook, so leave them room. Flatten slightly with a fork/ fingertip.
5. Bake for 10min, or until you can slide a knife under a biscuit and sort of move it about a bit without it breaking up. If your oven doesn't heat from the bottom, like mine, they might go pale golden coloured.
6. Leave to cool on the tray.

(They puff up a lot in the oven, but flatten out when they cool).

* I normally have 100% peanuts peanut butter at home, but I was a bit worried that it'd be too gloopy for the mix. So I got Badly Coloured Boy to buy some conventional peanut-butter, with stabilisers in. Turned out to be reduced fat, added sugar and salt (blergh) Kraft crunchy. Worked just fine, but quite sweet. So sugar-free might be nice.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I had to use up a bunch of vouchers at Calico & Ivy (um, yeah, my old boss and my friends are the coolest) and I actually didn't want more yarn (I'm trying to cut down on the stash) or fabric (ditto). I looooved this quilt. It's all the Katie Jump Rope series, by Denyse Schmidt. One giant log cabin design, with panels of irregulat widths, plus some odds and sods of random quilting on the back (most of it is the brown floral, though). I ummed and ahhed over the price, thinking "but I could buy the fabric for a third of the price and make it myself!" Then I remembered that I can't quilt, don't have the time for it, and don't have the inclination for it.

Bought quilt it was. I heart it. It's an excellent curled-up-on-the-couch-watching-so-you-think-you-can-dance quilt.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

First heirloom 'failure'

Capsicums. Chocolate coloured capsicums. Another heirloom variety. Don't let the colour put you off - they're red when you cut into them (they have a sort of reddish undertone to the brown too, can you see?)
Yes, they're rivalling my tomatoes for the claim to the Lilliput-vegetable-crown. Apparently it's actually quite difficult to grow a decent sized capsicum, so I'm just pleased we got any at all.

At least I was, until we tried one. They're bitter! They're so, so bitter! They really were not something that you'd take a second bite of. So I cut them up very finely and hid them in the curry I was cooking.

I more exciting news, maybe six weeks after our first eggplant flower, there are signs of an actual eggplant. I have no idea why it took so long. Eggplants are supposed to be very quick-growing (but I'm learning my garden doesn't follow the regular rules of plants). Right now it's larger than a chicken egg. Very exciting.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Warning! Hippie post ahead!

Now that I no longer work Saturdays I and Badly Coloured Boy finally got to go to the organic markets for our fruit and veg. Ordinarily we go to the (very cheap) regular fruit & veg markets, but I've felt that their quality had been slipping a bit, especially on the fruit front. When I found myself buying fruit from Coles instead I knew Something Had to Be Done. Hence City Farm.

Most interesting, perhaps, were the bio-dynamic beef farmers there. They also sold small quantities of hogget. Hogget from merino sheep. "Merino?!" I exclaimed, "Didn't know they were worth eating! What do you do with the fleece?!"
The guy eyed me off.
"You from a sheep-farming background?"
"Uh... no... I, um, I knit."
*blank stare*
"What happens to the fleece?"
"Well, we usually just sell it to a bulk distributor and it gets spun with regular fleece, but if you want we can always get you raw fleeces. You'd have to scour them yourself. And you can't have any till we get over the lice problem we have right now."

Okay, aside from the amusement/ yuck value of sheep with lice, think about this. Here is a guy with bio-dynamic merino fleece, and it's just being sold into pools of regular fleece. I explained there was a market for organic, small-scale hand-knitting yarn, but he didn't seem terribly interested. I think it may also be difficult to find a mill in Australia that would be deemed organic.

I personally am not terribly interested in scouring, carding, whatevering and spinning the stuff. Bilby Yarns are aligned with the Melanian Sheep Breeders. They might, but I wouldn't be sure, be willing to take on non-coloured bio-dynamic fleece.

What can I tell this guy, where can I send him, would anyone be interested in his (lice-free) bio-dynamic merino fleece? I'd love to see something like an Australian version of Beaverslide up and about...

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Cables ahoy!

One Rogue, finished. Never mind that somehow one arm ended up narrower than the other to elbow, then manages a little, unnoticeable mutton-chop to get the right number of stitches for the sleeve cap. I ended up having to order more yarn, since I have eight repeats in the middle of the body instead of three.

To be honest, I'm still not convinced that it's very flattering. I'd rather have another Arwen anyday. But I'm rather in love with the yarn.

And here is my ready-to-be-cast-off Gretel. Which is now reduced to two balls of Jo Sharp Silk Road Tweed. Why? I was knitting at 18 stitches to four inches, not 16. It fit nicely, if I was going for a beanie rather than a beret... I'm going to try again soon, with extra stitches and making the slouchy size to make up for the smaller row gauge. Other than my sheer stupidity it is an entirely recommendable knit. Witty, if clever use of leaning decreases and predictable, Fibonacci-esque patterns are what you think constitutes witty.