Thursday, January 28, 2016

Are your prayers in the morning just squeals of delight?


This scarf was with me for a long time. It started in August 2014, on the trip to Melbourne to see Queen.

Just beginning - I think I ripped and restarted at Canberra airport before leaving. Later I made some good progress with a quiet solo beer before the momentous life event that was QUEEN. (That's the same link, sorry, just had to throw it in again).

If you've been here a while you may remember that once upon a time, I started a red merino Orenburg lace shawl. Although it looks quite simple on paper, I found it quite a tricky pattern to keep straight and to 'read' which row I was up to. There were many bouts of tinking back over the years I was working on it (on and off - mostly off). The last time I mentioned it here, I said "it will be beautiful if I ever finish it". Hmm, ominous. At that time I had finally decided it wasn't going to he intended recipient, and knit something else for her, a shawl that came together much more easily, in the end, and was actually probably more fancy-looking.

honeycomb almost-rainbow

Meanwhile I had this Schoppel-Wolle Lace Ball that I had bought as a souvenir one trip to Melbourne. I had been thinking of it as a rainbow colourway, but it's only almost a rainbow: violet.  It's called tropical fish, and I love it anyway.

So I thought with all these colours it could do with a simple lace pattern. And I kept thinking that I could probably find an easier honeycomb stitch than the Orenburg one. I didn't save the link, but I'm pretty sure it was this or one very similar to it.

P1080187 (2)

The new stitch proved much easier to keep on the straight and narrow. Then it was just a matter of knitting until it was long enough - and until the colours were nice and symmetrical, with red at both ends and in the middle. I finally finished it a couple of months ago when it was already far too warm to wear it. So now I have a new jumper and a new scarf ready for next winter.

almost-rainbow scarf

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Moondust will cover you

IMAG2362 first two mandalas

In addition to the plant hanger, I've done a few other bits of crochet lately. I had had the pattern for the Little Spring Mandala printed out and ready to go for months, waiting for the right moment to concentrate on something unfamiliar.

I decided to try it in 8ply cotton (Mostly Lincraft, some others from the stash and from a generous donor), in the hope that it might end up big enough to serve as a wash cloth/face washer. I had to google instructions for just about every round, even a video for the magic loop to start. Watching the video lead to the strange experience of somehow forgetting that I am decidedly left-handed when it comes to crochet. This is crazy, but not quite as crazy as it sounds, as I and do some things with my left (writing, eating with a fork or spoon, cartwheels) and some with my right (throwing or kicking a ball, handling scissors and other tools). Nothing ambidextrously, though.

IMAG2364 first two

After a few rounds of slow, clumsy frustration, I started again with the left hand and it mostly went smoothly from there. Once I'd made one (on the left above, with the orange centre) I concluded they probably weren't going to be suitable as washers. But I went ahead and made a second one anyway. I wanted to try a more planned-out and harmonious colour scheme. And also there is just a lot of satisfaction in making the second one of anything new - it's so much faster and easier the next time around.

I was showing them to my grandmother (a wonderful knitter who only crochets edgings when she really has to) and she came up with a use for a pair of them - basically as doileys/mats, as a gift. So I had an excuse to go one more time, this time a matching colour scheme, but swapping the yellow and the blue.

coordinated pair of mandalas

I was still looking for a nice crochet washcloth pattern. There was another one I tried, and I struggled with it for a while, unable to figure out what I was doing wrong. There seemed to be too many stitches as the rounds increased - it was so ruffly I couldn't see how it would ever lie flat. I realised that I was treating it as an American pattern when it might actually be using the British definitions of the terms. Or was it the other way around? This was all before Christmas, I can't remember now. In any case, when I tried the other option, it had the same problem.

This is an annoying thing about crochet, especially if you like to source patterns online. The terms are different, but only just. Actually some are the same or similar terms but they mean different things! A US single crochet is a UK double crochet. Double crochet in the US is treble in the UK. Triple in the US is double treble in the UK. I still have to look up almost every stitch to be sure I'm doing the right one.

P1080175 ed

Anyway I couldn't get that annoying pattern to work either way, so I gave up and moved to another one I had stashed and ready: the 'Starfish Washcloth' by Deta Jetmir. This one was well written and the designer has made videos (both left and right handed!) which are very helpful.

P1080175 ed

I made a set of three for a baby who will be joining my extended family in a few months. The two pastel ones are in 4ply baby cotton and I added a few extra rounds of the pattern to get a good size. As it's written for worsted, I think I also needed at least one extra round when using 8ply. The purplish colour is an 8ply from the Bendigo Woollen Mills back room. (I finally got there for the first time, late last year!) It is delightfully soft and seemed to be too fine to really be an 8ply. No regrets though, it's lovely stuff.

Below, the blue one with yellow edging is all Lincraft 8ply. And the yellow-green might be my favourite, in Katia Degradé Sun.


Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Pot plant hanger

plant hanger for D

This was a gift I had planned for a little while but actually put together the night before Christmas. Isn't it good to have a stash, and Ravelry available for a last minute pattern!

I modified a free pattern from Craft Disasters and other Atrocities, using the same waxed cotton I've used before for various jewellery projects. The one I used here is actually purple, not that you can tell easily in these photos. I was a bit worried about the slightly weak jump rings I used, but I closed them slightly overlapped, and I guess they won't ALL fail at once!

purple plant hanger

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Walking around in this dress that she wore


This jumper, Daelyn is a quick and easy knit. And it went pretty fast, at least during the time I was working on it, but took a good four months overall because I kept putting it aside for other projects.

Daelyn back

It didn't help that after reaching the hem, I decided to reknit the body from the armholes down, as I wasn't quite happy with how it was turning out. That's a great feature of knitting top-down in the round - it's easy to try on as you go.

The pattern has these sloping lines which start at the sides and move into the front. It's not waist shaping - though it sort of gives a shaped effect - you are simply increasing the garter stitch back section at the same time as decreasing the stocking stitch front section.

first try collage

Since I was using 8 ply wool (a mystery merino cashmere bought cheap from the Mill Shop) and the pattern is written for worsted weight, I did some maths and chose the size, a couple of stops up from my usual, that would work with my stitch gauge. I wasn't so worried about row gauge, especially once I could try it on and see that the raglan shaping and armholes seemed to fit ok. And this worked well on the whole. But I really didn't like how sharply those lines down the side angled inwards, which would be affected by row gauge. There seemed to be too much clingy garter stitch section and then a funny 'stomach pocket' effect at the front.

I looked at examples others had made and a few others were similar, but it seemed from the pattern photos that that sharper angle probably wasn't what the designer intended. In any case, it wasn't what I wanted. I also hadn't made it as long as I really wanted. And I had also found that the short rows the pattern has you do at the back before the hem had only just made it about as long as the front, when they were supposed to make it slightly longer at the back.

So on the reknit, I did those increase/decrease rows only half as often - every 12 instead of every 6 rows. I also did almost twice as many short rows in that pre-hem section, and I was much happier with the results. You can see it's still only slightly longer at the back - which is fine, I didn't want a mullet hem, but I didn't want the front to be longer than the back!

Short row collar

The neckline area wasn't fitting well each time I tried it on, and I was worried that I would have to do something really tricky in picking up for the collar, I even thought about adding two very deliberate tucks in the front to pull it in. But when I saw it with the sleeves finished I could see that maybe it wasn't that dire. It was lower in the back than the front, and very wide at the sides. I thought I'd try doing a few short rows around the sides and back and it worked! It allowed me to add more collar length where I needed it and keep it from choking me at the front. I also did a very few decreases in the last couple of rows to pull it in a little bit more. Now I am really happy with the fit: the wrinkling in the above photo is only because I was holding the camera out, it actually sits quite nicely.

I don't know if you've guessed from these photos, but the final thing I did was overdye it red. When I bought the yarn it was only available in pink - this brighter pinks-n-purples variegated and a paler pink (I also have one skein of that). I was pretty sure I wouldn't wear it like that but I could see that dying could work to make it redder, or oranger - even shades of brown would have been okay. As I was knitting it I could see that the fabric was very soft and it quickly became fuzzy with handling. This made me even more sure I needed it to be a different colour. Although I do wear pink, pink AND fuzzy was very not me.  

Red Daelyn

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Viewing cranes

Going to Hiroshima was my idea; I was drawn to it as the site of a fascinating, momentous (if horrific) historical event. I don't regret it at all, but going through the Peace Memorial Museum - the grim building below - was a pretty harrowing experience. Probably not helped by the fact that part of the museum was closed for renovation, and so visitors start their tour/immersion pretty much at the moment of the atomic bomb's detonation, with this model of the city with a massive red ball, representing the bomb exploding, suspended over it.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

From there the galleries do a very good job of immersing you in the horror of the bombing and the aftermath. One theme that stayed with me was the seemingly endless stories of young teenagers who died, accompanied by displays of shredded school uniforms and other personal items. Many of these kids would not normally have been in the city but they had been mobilised for war service and put to work tearing down and clearing buildings to create fire lanes.


I'm sure I came across the story of Sadako and the paper cranes quite young. In the years after she died of leukemia, Sadako's classmates raised money to build a memorial to her and other children who had died as a result of the atomic bombing.

Window of cranes

Sadako's story became so well known and such a popular symbol of peace that people from all over the world started bringing or sending paper cranes to the Hiroshima memorial, and they still do. Display cases around the memorial showcase the latest collections, either in long strings or arranged into colourful pictures.


Eventually as the paper fades and ages, the cranes are recycled to make new paper. In the museum gift shop I bought postcards and writing paper made from recycled paper cranes.

Cranes detail


A moderate walk beyond the children's memorial, we  came to the A-Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial). This was the only building so close to the hypocenter of the blast which was left standing, and the city decided to keep it in its shattered state as a memorial.

P6131019 dome

Near the dome, a couple of bomb survivors had tables set up, where they were talking to people and I think selling books. Volunteer tour guide Okihiro Terao made these very beautiful glass 'before and after' models of the building, formerly the Products Exhibition Hall.

P6131035 glass models

I came away from Hiroshima wanting to know more about the context of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time. I knew only the basic facts and the idea that the bombings had been considered to have ended the war, but I wanted to know especially how the decision was seen in the US at the time and after, and what people knew about the bombs, their destructive power and the radiation effects. In the past couple of weeks I've been reading 'Hiroshima in America' which covers some of this ground. It does spend a lot of time on the psychology of several important figures in the decision, especially President Truman - interesting stuff, if it does go on a bit (and as many reviews have pointed out, maybe speculates a bit much). The thing is, during the last few days of our trip, in I saw this book in the small English section of a huge secondhand book shop in Tokyo, and I was instantly drawn to it. But it was a large hardcover, I have a small suitcase, and have mostly broken my habit of book-buying while travelling; so I moved on quickly to the basement full of second hand clothing instead. Once I got home I couldn't stop thinking about that book. I had moved myself on so quickly I hadn't even written down the details, but I managed to figure it out and soon an old library copy was on its way to me via Better World Books

P6131037 ed

Monday, August 31, 2015

Miyajima deer are not timid deer

shadow deer

Our destination after Kyoto was Hiroshima. Although we only had one night / two half days to spend there, we decided to head to the nearby island of Miyajima for the afternoon as soon as we arrived in Hiroshima.

Itsukushima shrine gate

Miyajima is known as a very beautiful place and a holy place - the whole island is considered sacred and in Shinto is actually considered to be the body of God.

gate & water


There certainly was beauty and serenity to be found there.




Also, deer again! And if we thought the Nara deer were pretty tame, those on Miyajima were cheeky and even potentially aggressive.

Deer feeding

Obviously, if you have food for them, they crowd in.

Deer food

They're completely comfortable mingling really closely with the humans.

not shy deer

I was standing, talking with Mum, when I felt something tugging on my bag. My sister was quick with the camera and caught this deer in the act, stealing my MAP!

deer thief

As I moved my hand to the outer pocket of the bag, the deer pulled away, munching on half of the map. You can just see the last of it disappearing in the deer's mouth, in the photo below. I managed to keep the other half of the map. I think it makes a memorable souvenir. At this point Mum mentioned she had seen a warning somewhere that the deer like to eat paper. I guess they probably shouldn't, though.

deer munching map

This deer must have really liked that half-map. The cheeky bugger followed me along the street. I was starting to wonder if this deer was going to tail me for my whole visit on the island, and I was getting a bit I did a rapid u-turn and was relieved to find it had taken an interest in someone else.

The one in the photo below was just hanging out, not too close to people, minding its own business. Suddenly a stupid person came past and slapped it on the hindquarters. It sprang towards us in shock, but luckily calmed down quickly.


It was a hot dry day and many of the deer made a speciality of lying around, posing majestically.

casual deer


So the deer gave us a bit of entertainment and were lovely to photograph, but even apart from them, the island itself was well worth the visit. It's quite hilly and as soon as we started to climb up away from the hot dusty shore there was lots of peaceful and green spaces. My sister and I couldn't resist a taking our shoes off and sitting by a stream with our feet in the cool water. I'm pretty sure that was not really the done thing and we did get a few amused looks from people crossing the nearby bridge. Although there were many tourists dressed casually in shorts and other summer gear, we also saw many Japanese people dressed reasonably formally, like it was a Sunday stroll to church. I hope we didn't seriously offend with our feet in the water.

resting in Toyokuni Shrine

And there was this place. I loved spending time in the massive hall of Toyokuni shrine, an incredibly calm and soothing space to take some time to rest. Right behind it was a flashy five-storey pagoda: but I found this building much more compelling.

Toyokuni shrine, Miyajima

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Off to Nara to see the deer


Our last Kyoto day was earmarked for a daytrip to Canberra's sister city, Nara. That was about all I knew about Nara, but my sister told me the main draw was a large park with lots of deer, and that sounded pretty good.

deer sculpture

We arrived late in the morning and pretty soon we were ready for lunch, so the first stop was the tiny okonomiyaki place. Then we headed a few blocks off the main tourist trail to try to find the Nara Craft Museum on our way to the park. We got a bit confused. I think we had one of those maps that only shows main streets, not smaller lanes. But the wandering was all made worthwhile when we came across a definitely not tourist-oriented, genuinely cheap op (thrift) shop where everything seemed to be about 100yen. We did find the craft museum after that, and with it our first two deer (above) for the day.


I think we took the longest possible walking route to get into the park. But it was worth it when we got there. It rained lightly on and off all day, but it wasn't cold, and we had a fun time exploring the large and very beautiful park, and admiring the many deer.

P6110748 park deer

There were heaps of deer everywhere and they are obviously used to being in close proximity to humans.

deer road

Plenty of deer poo on the paths, too.

deer poo

I can see why people fall so in love, aesthetically, with Japan. Even the drains are beautiful, or at least pleasingly arranged.

pretty drain

And below, one of the fanciest manhole covers I saw - not in the park but back in town - features one of Nara's pretty deer.

Nara deer design




stripe deer


Due to our 'long way round' approach to Nara Park, we only came across this warning about deer dangers on our way out. I'm plesaed to report we made it all the way through the park without experiencing Bite, Kick, Butt, or Knock down. I decided that kangaroos are more scary.

deer warning