Friday, June 24, 2016

Tokyo Oxygen

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I have a new coat for winter. A new, unique, hand made for me coat.

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I feel so incredibly blessed because my mum gave me an IOU for my 40th birthday (last year), and she is an amazing artist, designer and artisan of exacting standards.

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We decided to hunt for fabric on our Japan trip in June last year. It was early summer, and the first few fabric shops we tried had few or no winter fabrics in stock. Finally we hit the jackpot on one of the last days in Tokyo, when we went to Nippori Fabric Town, a neighbourhood specialising in fabric and haberdashery. So many fabric shops.

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Even there we really only found the right kind of wool in one place. Luckily it was this fabulous charcoal, and a small amount of the black and white textured wool for contrast. In another shop we found a lovely piece of green leather.

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Mum used up almost every scrap of that leather with the piping around the collar and down the fronts, edging the sleeves, and along the shaped seams on the back flowing around the pockets; and all the other greenery she added. (Above, you can see the piping around the pocket, and the fancy pocket lining which shows just in little flashes as I wear it).

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The lining fabric Mum found in Melbourne and it is perfect. She always likes to use interesting prints instead of plain linings. This stuff is 'shot' so that from one angle it looks green (sadly, I did not capture this in a photo) and the other purple.

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The coat was based on a pattern Mum had used before for her own winter coat, but she drafted the assymmetrical collar from scratch with some suggestions from me, and taking inspiration from a different asymmetrical coat I had seen in a catalogue.

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One of the first things that struck us about Tokyo was the amount of greenery everywhere, as well as the incredible tidiness in such a big city. Mum took that idea as her inspiration and hence the name, Tokyo Oxygen. The green 'fingers' have a double meaning for us, representing the green growth and parks we loved in Tokyo, and also a stylised city skyline.
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Here are two great details. There are two subtle zippered pockets inside the lining, perfect for a passport or bus pass. And the gorgeous buttons came from a collection my aunt bought in Nantes, France, as a souvenir for Mum. I really liked them so much better than anything else we could find, but they were a little too small. I hit the jackpot at the Camelot stall at the Old Bus Depot Markets, finding some slightly bigger plain ones in the same dark silver colour, which fit exactly behind the smaller gold and silver ones. I love mixed metals.

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It is so warm, and completely unique and I am absolutely loving wearing it.

P6133352 (2)Oh and I happen to have almost matching green boots - hand-me-downs from little sister many years ago.

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Sunday, June 19, 2016

her love is amplified

skates

The story of this cotton dress/tunic for my 8-year-old niece comes from two previous ones. Years ago, I thought it was pretty amazing that she was still wearing the red Little Sister's Dress I made when she was a baby (about 10 months here) well over a year later. So I was inspired to make a similar dress, the green 'Sweetheart' which she started wearing at age two. I was so happy to see she was still wearing it three years later. But get this: another three years on, she still wears the old green one as a top.

pink dress

Now she is eight, and has a new dress. It's about knee length, and it probably won't take long before it's technically more of a tunic.

Yoke

I don't know how long it might be before she decides it's a bit young for her, but I think it should fit for a while. The buttons are maybe a bit little-girly but they can be changed. I actually wanted either a matching dark pink or maybe a strong blue to pick up one of the colours in the contrast stripe yarn.

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The contrast stuff was a souvenir ball bought in Japan.

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The pattern - Fiona's Top by Sanne Bjerregaard - actually only goes up to a size 6, but I did use a slightly heavier yarn than the pattern specifies. It's 4ply Bendigo cotton in a carefully checked-with-Miss B dark pink. For that is how she likes her pink. I did add some stitches before joining front and back, to make a better shaped armhole, but I also did one less increase round than the pattern called for, because it just didn't need that much fullness.

hanging

While the freshly washed finished garment was hanging in my house, I found it such a curious piece of knitting. It's just on an unfamiliar scale. Too small for me, but much bigger than any kids/babies items I've made. Quite a decent chunk of knitting!

Fiona's top

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Not a drop more in the pitcher

Lincoln's birthday vest

Yes, this might look familiar. It's the third time I've used this pattern, 'What big eyes you have' by Georgie Nicolson/Tikkiknits. It was done in the space of a week; that could have been as little as two or three days if I hadn't run out of wool. I originally bought two balls of the orange, mildly variegated Zara Print Melange (a very light 8 ply) way over a year ago, around the time that I knit these two vests for two different babies.

Unfortunately by the time I got to making this one I was looking at an 18 months - 2 years-ish size - it was only his first birthday but he's tall and of course needs some growing room. And though the yardage (on paper) was almost enough, it actually fell far short and it became clear I would either have to find another ball or use a contrasting colour for the ribbing.

The shop didn't have any more of that colour and there was no time to go further afield. At first I thought I might continue the bottom ribbing with the orange and use something contrasting for the neckline and armholes - and if that looked funny I would change the bottom ribbing to the contrast as well. But it turned out that the neckline actually look a bit odd with those cables so close, moving into a different colour.

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Also, because I couldn't find any other colourway of the Zara Melange line that would work (other than an olive green I just didn't want for this project), instead I picked a ball of Zara Colour. It looked pretty nice in the ball but turned out to look a bit "clown vomit" knitted up. OK I don't actually hate it and I'm sure I can use if for something, but it is really too different to the style of the orange yarn to work here.

My lunchtime knitting friends were excellent consultants and helped me to decide that the clown vomit wasn't right, discussed colour options including opposites on the colour wheel, and also came up with the idea of using the orange for the v-neck, with contrasting bottom band and armholes.

 Lincoln's vest

Having already made one special yarn shopping trip during the week, at the start of this weekend I was running out of time and did some stash tossing for other options. There were a few more false starts, including a mystery tan yarn that seemed nice in the ball but knitted up feeling very much like acrylic - out the door with that stuff! The blue wool (Cleckheaton Country) that I ended up using for the contrasting bits is not quite as soft as the Zara. So in the end I was very glad I could use the last bit of the orange for the v-neck ribbing, where it might come into contact with soft skin.

Lincoln vest buttons

I am pretty sure I've actually used the "wrong side" of these buttons - and the other side is lovely, blue with white flecks - but I liked how the metallic inserts helped to tie the orange and blue together. I still think the two yarns are not a perfect marriage, but I am quite happy with how it all turned out.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The last day in Japan

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Our flight home was delayed - actually Jetstar cancelled it, probably because it was underbooked, and put us on a Qantas flight about 12 hours later instead. So this last Tokyo day was a bonus day out in the city.

Panda greenery

We decided to explore Ueno, in the Taito district of Tokyo.

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In Ueno Park we spent some time wandering around Shinobazu Pond. Yes, the photo above is actually of a pond.

Magic

My sister stopped to watch a magic show. This was just at the start; he quickly drew in a much bigger crowd. Just along from here there was also a group of artists painting and sketching the pond.

Turtles

There are lots of turtles in the pond! We spent ages watching them hanging out on their comfy logs.

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Then we visited the nearby small, excellent Shitamachi Museum. An English speaking guide showed us around. One of the things I remember the guide talking about was religion in Japan and how many people adopt or practice to some extent both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs (or at least ceremonies and rituals for different occasions). The museum preserves a little bit of old Tokyo tenement life and you can walk into the various shops and rooms. Upstairs there was a more typical exhibition space as well.

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squid wall

We had a grill-your-own kind of lunch in this casual restaurant with awesome squid art painted on the wall. Then it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready to leave for the airport.

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Sunday, May 08, 2016

Into the blue and sunny morn

Lucy's vests

I have a new niece!

I hadn't knit anything for her before she was born. I did make a couple of crocheted washcloths, but I held off making a newborn garment because I happened to know that she was going to be wearing several cardigans handed down from the twins, including these. (Nice to think those still have a little life in them yet).

Then Miss L arrived surprisingly early, and suddenly I had the urge to knit for her, after all, right away!  The green vest is from a pattern in a vintage craft book which my sister, her mum, gave me about 11 years ago. There is a note still tucked into it, saying she was going to cut it up for collages but decided she needed to pass it on to me instead. And I'm glad she did - the baby vest became my first ever knitted garment, for my eldest nephew - who is now ten. And a half.

Green L vest

I loved the idea of making it again for my other sister's first baby. The wool is a 4 ply merino/silk blend from the Bendigo back room. It is incredibly soft and smooth and also, machine washable! I did the 'L' in duplicate stitch  - I find it quicker and easier than intarsia for a small image.

But I also thought I should whip up something even smaller, because Miss L is quite tiny (at least she was tiny, by all accounts she is fattening up rapidly). So the purple one is a pattern I've made once before, 'What big eyes you have' by Georgie Nicolson/Tikkiknits. It's written for 8 ply, but I used 4ply (Shepherd baby wool) and made the 3-months size in the hope of getting something on the small side for a newborn. This seems to have worked out because she wore it today for a Mothers Day outing.

Tiny purple vest

Monday, May 02, 2016

how your blues went away and died

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It's already been almost two months since Womadelaide. As ever I had a wonderful time in my happy place and even made time to get to an incredible, overwhelming non-womad gig as well.

'Sacrilege' bouncing stonehenge

One curiosity we heard a bit about in advance was the "Stonehenge jumping castle". This life-size, bouncy version of Stonehenge is a work called 'Sacrilege', by Jeremy Dellar. It made its first appearance in Glasgow in 2012.

I once visited the real Stonehenge. It was so long ago that I can't even link to a blog post, as it was in the dark ages life-before-blog. I remember I was disappointed at how far away the stones were, behind the protective fence. I believe they open it up to some groups at solstice times, but other than that, you just have to admire it from a distance.

Sacrilege

The name of this work, Sacrilege, sort of puzzled me a bit. I mean, I get it, but it also seemed a little bit strong relative to the level of religious/cultural significance Stonehenge has for modern people. But maybe I am way off and being unfair to modern druids. In any case this discussion naturally brought to mind Uluru, and the ongoing controversy about climbing it.

I wouldn't climb Uluru. The Aboriginal people of the area have ask people not to: end of story. I can see that a bouncy Rock - if that was even possible - would be quite a strong statement. And I'm not necessarily suggesting someone should do that. I was also reminded me of another jumping castle/sculpture we saw as part of the 2012 Sydney Biennale, this one made by an Indigenous artist: Brook Andrew's Jumping Castle War Memorial.

sacrilege sign

It had been a really long time since I'd been on a jumping castle, and it was big fun. The surface was very hot underfoot though, so the ten minute session was plenty. That time limit also meant the wait to get onto it was not too long, even when there was a queue. (Last year I didn't end up bothering with the big-thing-you-had-to-queue-for, cause the queue was crazy most of the time).

Acrojou's "The Wheelhouse"

This was a slightly impenetrable show called The Wheel House. To be fair, I did arrive in the middle of the show and maybe didn't get the whole storyline. I quite like a post-apocalyptic theme, anyway.

Calexico sunset

This was Calexico. Second time I've seen them at Womadelaide and their set was one of the best all weekend. Funny thing is I realised later (via Instagram I think) that they had also done a show in Canberra earlier in the week, as part of the Enlighten festival.

Calexico

Below, Chinese duo Tulegur, experts in Mongolian folk music and throat singing, and also into grunge rock. I'm always fascinated by the different kinds of throat singing. Another cool group at the festival this year was the Jerry Cans, with a female throat singer, Inuit style.

Tulegur

Anyway, Tulegur. Let me place you at the scene. It was quite late, we were tired/relaxed, digging the music. Of course, it's pretty common at a festival for people to come and go casually and sometimes talk during gigs. Usually I'm happy to just move further forward into the crowd if the people around me are too disconnected from the music. But this was a large, hushed, and mostly captivated audience, and it was one of the smaller stages, so not a lot of space to spare, and not the biggest sound out at the edges, either. A young guy standing behind the sound tent was drinking beer and talking with a friend. The friend knew how to keep his tone low but this kid had one of those piercing voices that really carries and he seemed to be in his own world. People kept turning around and staring at him. It was a bit like someone's phone beeping audibly in the cinema. Just so wrong. Three separate people went up to him at different times and asked him to be quiet. And each time he seemed kind of amazed. Really clueless. Some time after the third intervention he finally moved away, and there was a whispered cheer from all the people near us.

Ainslie Wills

Above, Ainslie Wills, a singer-songwriter from Melbourne. For me, there was a bit of a Clare Bowditch feel to some of her songs.

John Grant

I guess I didn't plan ahead well enough across the weekend and on the Monday found myself splitting my time in this one time slot between John Grant (above) and Malian up-and-comers Songhoi Blues, below. John Grant I had heard about, though I had never listened to his music. As soon as I did it was an instant connection for me and though I only stayed for a few songs, I grabbed the album later on. I was reminded a bit of earlyish solo Scott Walker, also Divine Comedy and that chamber pop style. The funny thing is when I got home I found that Kam already owned his two previous albums. I really need to do a better job of keeping up with the music in this house!

Songhoy Blues

Tree lights

Friday, April 15, 2016

Dyed shirt

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I found this very nice quality, fine cotton, boring shirt at the Green Shed underground - where almost everything is priced at $4 - a good deal for nice clothing pieces (not such a good deal for pillow slips - so I left some behind the other day).

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Even though the colour was not very me, and I don't normally wear buttoned shirts, it was a good fit and the truly lovely fabric - so fine it was almost like silk - sold me on it. At this point I hadn't dyed my t-shirt yet but the idea was on my mind that day, so it occurred to me that this shirt could also be a contender for a dye treatment.

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I could have just overdyed it in a single colour, but after the fun I had with my t-shirt I decided to give this one the jar treatment too.  First I tried just the wine colour. I was careful to make it somewhat symmetrical in the way I folded and twisted it, but the dye really only took on the collar and tails and cuffs. It was patchy and looked a bit like something I'd been wearing as a painting smock rather than a deliberate all-over effect. I left it for a while like that, not sure what to do. Then when I got around to doing the final round on the weird grey tablecloth, I did the same thing with this shirt - damp fabric and sprinkled black dye powder and salt. I didn't have high expectations but was thrilled with the result. Once again there appeared out of the black, bits of other colours, particularly blue, and some yellow. And much more than on the linen tablecloth, some quite delicate patterns and shapes emerged. I think this is because of the fineness of the fabric. On the back yoke where there are two layers of fabric, you can even see different overlapping patterns where the dye has taken differently on the two layers.

I'm so happy with this shirt and have been wearing it all the time. Mostly with jeans but I did also pull it off as office-appropriate (at least I think so), with a grey pencil skirt and pale pink pearl necklace.

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