Sunday, February 08, 2015

If it's yellow then it's jello, if it's blue it could be stew


You those cheap (or even not-so-cheap) t-shirts with side seams that skew around after a couple of washes? When the knit fabric has not been cut perfectly straight and so the seams end up being on a bit of a bias, annoying, right?

I didn't think this could happen with hand knitted garments. It really shouldn't happen, because you are making perfectly proportioned pieces of fabric to sew together, not cutting out pieces of knit fabric. And yet, I seem to have made the handknit equivalent of a cheap t-shirt.

It’s a shame, because there’s a lot to like about this top, the Cable Back Shell from Purl Soho. It’s quite a simple pattern and there are many ways you could adjust or refine it.  Many have noted that it is quite short and boxy as written. I’m not at all tall, but I still needed more length to be able to wear it with jeans. It was very easy to make it longer and also quite easy to add some subtle waist shaping. It’s knit in one piece from the bottom of the back, up over the shoulders and down the front, then you seam the sides. You could probably knit it in the round instead and would then only have to seam the shoulders, but it is quite nice to have smooth shoulders (actually, you could probably graft them).

I’m quite happy with the way the neckline and shoulders fit: the ribbing on the back neckline looks too loose and stretchy on the hanger, but actually works perfectly. The sleeves/armholes are not perfect and the edging (first time I’ve done that cast-on-and-cast-off at once type of edging, an alternative to crochet) on the sleeves doesn’t actually stop them curling. I think it’s a combination of the curling and the very simple shaping which makes them a bit chunky. I sewed up the armholes a little higher than the pattern called for, which reduced the curling a bit. Although now I've realised they chafe and I will have to make them a bit lower again.

The front vee was too deep, but I expected that, and sewed it up a little bit at the end. Actually I tried making the vee higher at first (this is an easy adjustment to the pattern) but made it way too high and it was choking me.

It was only once I sewed up the seams and tried it on that I noticed the central cable was skewing very much to one side, which should be very obvious in the above photo. At first I thought the cable itself might be causing it. I’ve never seen a cable do that before, but then this is a kind of cable I hadn't done before. It’s ‘cable 22 back’ with no columns of purl stitches to set it off in the more traditional way. There is so much fabric being crossed over (11 stitches over 11 stitches) that it bunches and folds on itself and has a messy unstructured look.


On reflection I don’t think it is just the cable, because lots of people have knit this pattern and don't seem to have this problem. It seems like the whole fabric, not just the cable, has a bias to it, and the seams want to skew around. So I'm wondering if it is the yarn. It is an unusual cotton, Lincraft Denim 4ply, which is made from recycled denim jeans.

Lincraft Denim 4 ply

It’s got a rustic texture and is made up of two loose plies. Perhaps someone with spinning expertise could explain what’s happening. I really like the fabric it makes and I think it works well with this particular cable and simple design overall. But I wish it didn’t do this biasing thing. I will try some more serious blocking to make it straight. (I did my usual kind of blocking which is just to wash it and lay it out nicely. I also ironed it, which I don’t tend to do with wool.) But I’m not confident that will make much difference and as a warm weather top, I’m not interested in having to go to great lengths to block it every time I wash it. inside

I do really like how the cable looks on the wrong side, actually.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I remember how we'd play, simply waste the day away

Late finishing presents

It just wouldn't feel like Christmas if there wasn't a race to the finish line for at least a couple of projects. Late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve I thought there would still be time to felt Dad's present (which I think I only cast on that day) and give it to him the next day. I suppose, technically, that was true. Even though the knitting took a whole lot longer than I thought it would - and gosh, that happens so rarely - I did graft the bottom of it closed around midnight. And it was only at that point that I decided I really wasn't going to felt it that night. Granted, midnight is pretty early to quit - but I still had lots of wrapping to do.  

Big hanky holder

So Dad received a very large, floppy hanky holder with a promise that I would do the felting ASAP, and that then the item would make more sense. Sorry Dad.  But as you can see above, it's now doing its job nicely.

What is a hanky holder? Well, I don't think it's really a thing, except that it's a thing I have found useful and now some of my family members are adopting it too. I don't think it is going to sweep the nation, but you never know.

Mitts for Mum

And these are the Nalu Mitts designed by Leila Raabe, which I made for Mum, using some more of that red Zarina wool. On Christmas Day she received one mitt. That one mitt had knit up so quickly, back in November, that I became a wee bit overconfident about how easily I would finish this project. So I spent used up my time on other projects, and I think I may have only cast on the second mitt on Christmas Eve. Oops. Sorry Mum.

Of course, it will be far too warm for these to see any wear for at least a couple of months yet.

MItts for Mum

Friday, January 09, 2015

A flurry of felted things

tree before

I suppose this felted Christmas tree is really a prototype. I've often seen sewn and felted trees in that simple conical shape, so I tried to add my own spin by knitting and felted it in three pieces which are then sewn together. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately depending on your point of view) this makes the overall piece a bit uneven in shape - thought you could also say it is 'organic'. I keep changing my mind about whether I like it or not, I think maybe overall cone needs to widen a little bit faster.

I had made the pieces weeks ago, and was spurred to sew it up and decorate it just a week or so before Christmas, when my friend told me that she didn't have a tree this year, and I thought she might just have room (mentally, physically, spiritually?) for a little one. Oh, once again I didn't measure, but it might be something in the order of 16cm high.

After I finished it, I showed it to K and he annoyed me greatly by suggesting that the tips of each layer should not be sewn down. This meant I basically had to resew all of it, But then it made me happy because he was right, I think it did look better. Funnily enough in photos I think the first option might look better, but in real life we really did prefer it as it is below.

tree flippy B
A couple of weeks before I finished work before Christmas, a colleague asked me if I could make a felted fruit bowl. She and her daughter had seen a felt bowl somewhere that the daughter loved, particularly the idea of a centrepiece that wouldn't scratch her table. She had missed buying it, and then heard that I might be able to make something similar.

fruit bowl
This is a nice thing to happen, but makes me nervous. I was at pains to point out that what they saw was most likely made with traditional feltmaking techniques, likely to be a firmer fabric than I tend to get with knitting-and-felting. We looked photos of other bowls I've made and talked about the kind of shapes I thought were feasible, as well as the kind of colours her daughter did and didn't like.

Personally, I wouldn't be inclined to use a felt bowl for fruit, simply because I often enough leave something sitting a bit too long and end up with a sticky mess to clean up. But the felt is fully washable.

My first try (the one at the back) came out a bit small for a fruit bowl - so then I sized up....A LOT, as it turned out. It's one of the biggest pieces I've made for felting. (Keep in mind, they shrink down to almost half the knitted size). I didn't measure either, but the wooden bowl next to it is about 21cm in diameter.

I took both to show her and she decided to take both, the smaller one for her other daughter to use for jewellery.

big fruit bowl

And in the lead up to Christmas I also made a few more pears for some family members who had gaps in their collections.

family pears

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Scrabble, sunset and Spot the cat


We had a family dinner the day after Boxing Day and eldest nephew had an opportunity stay out a bit later after his younger siblings went home to bed, to play Scrabble with his great grandmother and aunts. (Love these bits of informal family time)

Scrabble, however, was interrupted for a while when we noticed that the sunset was amazing, and had to run outside for a better look. And then we were joined by a neighbourhood cat that I've met once before: "Spot," the most friendly, dog-like cat ever.

spot the cat

sunset again

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Pear 'seconds' for sale


Does anyone want a pear or two? These are going for $15 each, two smaller ones for $10 each. They're 'seconds' only in the sense that they are a bit different size or shape from the ones I regularly sell though CraftACT. Some are a bit smaller that usual, yet a bit too big for Christmas decorations. And three of them were older models I made years ago, when the shape used to be much fatter. I actually took the stuffing out of these and re-felted them, as I have changed my method since then and could get a better result. (I used to felt them already stuffed).

Leave a comment, email me or message me on Instagram if you're interested. I'm also always happy to talk about special orders, and there is still a little time before Christmas.

purple fire fat

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Good but not as intended

two hanky holders

Years ago I made a yellow and pink striped felted *thing* which was intended to be an interestingly shaped purse/pouch for a friend's birthday but turned out to be something else entirely.

The shape reminded me of a tissue box cover, if a bit flattened. I didn't know what to do with it. It was some time later that the tissue box association lead me to stuffing it with handkerchiefs to keep handy downstairs. I know the more normal practice would be to keep your hankies somewhere in the vicinity of your underwear drawer. (Though tissue boxes tend to be kept in various household spots.) I try to avoid using tissues and at times I find it much more convenient to have a fresh supply of hankies kept somewhere more handy.

And no, I don't iron my snot-rags nor much else!) though we did learn to iron as kids by ironing all the family's hankies into neat folded rectangles.  


I never thought of the hanky holder as something that anyone else would want. But when my sister spotted it she loved the idea and wanted one for her household. Luckily I had taken notes back when I thought I was inventing that cool new purse shape, so it was good to have a use for those (though I probably could have figured out the shape and size without too much trouble).

Monday, October 06, 2014

Flower appreciation, nighttime

Last year I was a little bit jaded about Canberra's annual flower festival, Floriade - though I did, for various reasons, go back three times! This year I tried Nightfest for the first time. For this you have to buy a ticket (except for a brief experiment years ago, Floride - during the day - is always free) and it seemed less crowded than the times I went last year, which was a big plus.

It might seem strange to go to see flowers in the dark, and for a garden lover I wouldn't recommend it as an alternative to a daytime visit, but gosh they do some beautiful things with lighting and sound and performances.

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This pair, the Walks of Art, were costumed as Monet's "Field of poppies," and Van Gogh's "Starry night" and "Sunflowers." My photos don't capture all the details, they were amazing.

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Strings on Fire - a circus / fire tricks / sorta cabaret act.

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This display/act was the highlight of the night and I don't know what it was called. It was a light show set to music and quite magical. Lots of people in a tree-lined dark space with these amazing inflatable lamps overhead. The music varied from dance to classical. Of course every person was trying to take photos with phones and cameras. I actually went back a second time just to experience it without trying to get any more photos.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another brick (Chadwick) in the wall

I recently knit this Chadwick shawl, my third so far, as a special favour for my Mum to give to a dear friend. (Around the same time I requested she make something I really wanted to give my friend - so it was a perfect swap). It's a great pattern and luckily, I often don't mind repeats. Though I am keen to branch out to another Stephen West pattern or two - more on that later. both shawls

I put both of them together for the photoshoot.

tri stripe

Mum's friend had fallen in love with her Chadwick and wanted similar colours.

stripe point

With careful weighing I determined that the leftover amount of the orange Ella Rae lace merino from before, though it looked tiny, would be sufficient for 'Colour B' - last time it was 'Colour A'. The dark purplish colour was some Grignasco Bambi which had been in my stash for years. I think I had the urge to put it with the orange when I made Mum's, but the colour wasn't right for her. I do really like these colours together. And I was delighted to be able to make the shawl from wool I already had. triple

Friday, September 05, 2014

Queen. Live. I have seen.

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It's really hard to know what to say about this.
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The tour with Adam Lambert seems to be getting glowing reviews, for the most part.
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 Queen, in any form, had not been to Australia since 1985 - just couple of years before I started to become a fan.
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If I was to be objective I would say their show/tour is rather a strange thing
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it felt a little disjointed at a couple of points (or maybe that was just me coming apart)
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also, wonderful.
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(here is the set list from last Saturday. Dragon Attack was the surprise gem, also '39. Everything was good.)IMG_7828 e
but I am not objective
I am a massive fan
I was totally star-struck
I cried
(I was so glad to be there by myself and not give any thought to what a companion might be thinking of the show)
Freddie would have been 68 today. I can't wrap my brain around that. IMG_7825 e

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Some influential books

This has been going around Facebook, a request/challenge to list the ten books that have influenced you the most. It's interesting to think about what has 'influenced' me and what that might mean. I'm not going to overthink it too much or I'll be here for weeks, but I've tried to avoid including books that are simply favourite reads. And yes I can count and I know I've ended up with two lists of eight. I don't like to do exactly what I'm told.

Childhood/teenage (when we we very young...)

What Katy Did, Susan Coolidge. Our copy was old and it might have been one of the books that Mum had acquired second-hand when she was much younger. And now I think about it (and have checked out a few reviews and synopses), gosh it was so preachy and moralising! Perhaps it should be called 'The Taming of the Tomboy'. I don't think I'll be suggesting this one to my niece. I've included this more as an example of many quite old books I read which included words, places and situations that were hard to understand. I remember often reading and rereading books that had these little mysterious bits in them that I couldn't solve (or sometimes misunderstood), and it sort of made them a bit magical. That's why I think it's sad that they translate books like Harry Potter into American English. That's a missed opportunity to learn about cultural differences, and preserve a bit of mystery.

Edited after more thought:
I've thought a bit more about this - considering the Harry Potter series were books that got a lot of people of all ages reading, some who otherwise didn't read much, perhaps there is a place for this sort of thing. One person's fun challenge could easily be another's insurmountable barrier. And I know lots of keen literary types in North America just made sure they ordered the British versions.

Boy, Roald Dahl. One of those ones everyone at school was talking about. I doubt anyone who read this has ever forgotten the scene where he had his tonsils removed in the dentist's chair, brutally, without any anaesthetic. Lots of blood. Harsh times.

Playing Beattie Bow, Ruth Park. With a girl from the present being drawn into the past it was so exciting. I also remember the spooky feeling of present day Sydney (specifically the Rocks district) being lightly overlaid over the past - probably more from the movie, which I remember Grandma taking me and my sisters to. In the movie Abigail was played a bit older and the romance side was more prominent.

The Changeover, Margaret Mahy. Teen supernatural romance, but nothing like Twilight. I think. I maintain that it was much more classy.

Z for Zachariah, Paul Beadle. I can't remember if this is any good but it gave me a taste for post-apocalyptic survival stories. (later favourites include the heartbreaking A Canticle for Leibowitz, The Stand, The Passage, Wool...I could go on)

Forever, Judy Blume. Another one of those books everyone at school was talking about! Educational. Mm hmm.

Swords and Crowns and Rings, Ruth Park. Beautiful, epic, heartbreaking, tragic and romantic story, dealing with tolerance and intolerance.

Either Christine or Cujo would have been my first Stephen King, the first of many scary books I have adored. It's a bit strange as I never liked/tolerated scary movies or TV shows as a kid/teenager. Throughout childhood I was terrified of Dr Who, even the sound of the theme music. I think my visualisation skills aren't that strong, so I don't scare myself too much when reading. And I am drawn to supernatural and other quirky stories. (I still read King, and these days a good example of quirky/scary stuff I love is Phil Rickman's Merrily Watkins series.)

Later on (now we are six grown up?)

Animal Farm, George Orwell. Sure, it's one we all probably had to "do" at school. I don't think I've read it since, but I plan to pick up this as well as 1984, again soon. And it turns  out to be one of those 'how the world works' books. The punchline, 'all pigs are equal, but some are more equal than others' comes to mind so often. I may be over simplifying but I don't think it's just about communism or any particular political structures, but about human nature. We humans have to keep on grouping ourselves and defining who doesn't belong and isn't as good.

My traitor's heart, Rian Malan. The Power of One triggered a fascination with South African apartheid, then I came across this devastating book, where Malan uncovers many horrible things and tries to come to terms with his heritage. It used to seem easy to feel morally superior to the Boers and at one stage every Hollywood movie seemed to have a bad guy with an Afrikaans accent. But since then I've learned more about our own white settlement history (not least via the TV series First Australians) and can see the bigger pattern.

Guns, germs and steel, Jared Diamond. - a real a-ha moment, big picture of how and why 'civilisation' started and spread unevenly through the world.

The Gold Coast, Kim Stanley Robinson. In the opening scene, the characters travel on a highway system with linked driverless cars, and the idea has always stayed with me. The future takes so much longer to arrive than to imagine.

Death: the high cost of living, Neil Gaiman, Chris Bachalo, Mark Buckingham, Dave McKean. Intro to reading comics and intro to Neil Gaiman too.

Wonder Woman, George Perez, Len Wein, Greg Potter. Their run on the comic relaunched the character in 1987, and although I started collecting in the mid 90's, I also bought a lot of back issues. The look and feel and storytelling of this period of Wonder Woman (the first few issues are collected in a trade paperback called 'Gods and Mortals') is the best. How comics should be.

The Mirror of her dreams/A man rides through (Mordant's need), Stephen Donaldson. The first fantasy novels I was able to get into and it was thanks to the device of the main character starting out in the recognisable real/modern world and being pulled into the fantasy world. No idea if I would like it if I read it now, I haven't read Donaldson's other work but have been put off much more recently by hearing just how unlikeable Thomas Covenant is. A bit later on, I got deeply into Guy Gavriel Kay's Fionvar Tapestry which also used a similar device bridging the 'real' world and the fantasy one.

Electric Eden, Rob Young. Right time, right place - a growing interest in folk music of many kinds, a trip to the UK, and there was this book, on the shop shelf, calling to me. So much in it, I loved exploring all the connections as he casts a very wide net. I must reread it soon. Also probably find something along similar lines based in the US. (Any suggestions?)