Sunday, May 03, 2015

I think I'll retire this pattern now

L shawl This is my fourth and final Chadwick. I've actually loved making each one, and was delighted to make this for my aunt. But now, anyone else who likes it and wants one can knit it for themselves!

The first, I still love and wear a lot

The second was for Mum and I think she's worn hers a lot too.

The third was very similar to the second, because Mum's friend coveted hers - and I struck a good labour-exchange deal with Mum for the knitting of that one.

For this one I used some very long-stashed Knittery hand dyed merino-cashmere for the darker colour, and soft red baby wool for the contrast. I hope this doesn't go too fluffy. The dark red zarina which we initially picked out for this project ended up not offering enough contrast against the purplish stuff, it was too much towards maroon itself.

Shawl for L

Monday, March 30, 2015

Yoga on the grass, bats in the daytime, bluegrass antics

We started our Saturday with a yoga class - my first time ever.  I think these sessions have been part of the festival for years, but it took being with a friend who loves yoga to convince me to give it a go. I've done lots of stretching classes that draw on some yoga poses so it wasn't totally unfamiliar territory. I gather it was also a pretty easy class, which makes sense given the setting. We didn't have mats but it was quite nice just on the grass, under the huge Moreton Bay Figs.

Emma Swift singing, Robyn Hitchcock playing guitar and singing

Emma Swift and Robyn Hitchcock sang lots of sad songs together. Somewhat of an 'odd couple' on paper (British psych-folk meets young Americana).. and they sounded great. This year each show at 'Speakers Corner' during the daylight hours was punctuated by the sound of a large colony of bats having their sleep disrupted, right above the stage. I felt bad for them and hope they were able to recover their normal sleeping habits after the four days of the festival.

All four members of 'Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys,' gathered close and playing drum, double bass, violin and guitar
Gordie MacKeeman and his Rhythm Boys, a bluegrass group from Prince Edward Island, Canada. (Most famous, at least to me, as the home of Anne of Green Gables). These guys were high energy bluegrass players - can't go far wrong there - plus Gordie had some sweet 'rubbery legs' dance moves. Overall they were super fun to photograph as well as to listen to. At the end of the show I came back from the dusty, stomping, dancing front part of the crowd to where my friends were further back - and found a certain someone asleep in her chair! I'm a pretty good sleeper, but still have no idea how that could happen.

Gordie MacKeeman plays violin holding it behind his back.

One thing I missed with the camera, possibly I was too busy gasping, was when the bass dramatically *broke* during the very entertaining 'two guys play one instrument' bit (I've seen this done occasionally before, not with a double bass, though it's an obvious contender, being kinda big.) SO, suddenly, the tailpiece just flew away and was dangling off the end of the strings. The other two hastily picked a new song to play, just on violin and guitar, while the two bass players hustled off to the side of the very small stage. And in a very short time they returned with the very same instrument apparently as good as new, and the band picked up more or less where they had left off with the previous piece - yes, with the two playing the bass together again.

Two musicians both playing the double bass at the same time

And then the bass was further abused for our amusement!

Gordie plays violin while standing on top of the double bass, tipped on its side and supported by the musician playing it.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Womadelaide 2015: it's not over til it's blogged!

It's nearly April, very nearly Easter and time for the National Folk Festival - but first, a bit of time to remember Womadelaide 2015, early March, and the tenth time I have been to this wonderful festival.
So, a few pictures from Friday night:
The photo shows Margaret Leng Tan kneeling at her toy piano and brandishing two children's toys (perhaps hammers or rattles), one with a smiley face on it.
Margaret Leng Tan is described as avant garde. The toy pianos were interesting enough, but I admit I didn't get very engaged in the show until the final five minutes or so, when she performed (with an amusing introduction) a super-short take on Wagner's Ring cycle.
Distant shot of Margaret Leng Tan on stage, kneeling with her back facing the audience, wearing a novelty horned helmet to play her short version of Wagner's Ring cycle.

The members of Fanfare Ciocarlia, most playing brass instruments, bathed in bright colourful stage light.

Fanfare Ciocarlia is a high-energy Romanian gypsy group. The blurb said though they tour the world regularly, they remain in high demand for weddings in their home town.  Definitely would make for a fun wedding party.

A closer shot of some of the members of Fanfare Ciocarlia while playing.

And finally, Mr Rufus Wainwright. One of those artists I have always intended to give some time to (Martha also) but it hadn't happened yet. I wasn't going to miss this opportunity for a live introduction, and I am so glad!

Rufus Wainwright singing and playing guitar
When he spoke, he was a little hyper, on edge, at first maybe a bit focused on the idea of 'world music' (and reading between the lines, questioning did he fit as part of that scene?) Then as soon as he stopped speaking and started playing and singing, he was so assured and confident. Such an interesting transformation to observe. Obviously a very experienced and assured performer.

I thoroughly enjoyed the show, which included his sister Lucy Wainwright Roche for a few songs (including Hallelujah). Not being familiar with his voice (I know, I know!) I was reminded early on of another Canadian singer, Ron Sexsmith; but also caught a bit of the Elton John thing as well.

Rufus Wainwright playing guitar and singing

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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