Saturday, April 29, 2017

Put my clarinet beneath your bed til I get back in town

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Mavis Staples

This Easter we went to Bluesfest in Byron Bay, for the first time. This meant I had to miss out on the National Folk Festival here at home (literally walking distance from home), which was actually a tough decision. I've gone on here before about how I love the National. Plus this year would have been the first since I've been learning to play fiddle and I knew there would be lots of inspiration to be found.

Boomerang

Bluesfest is a massive, legendary event that has been running for almost 30 years. It attracts a lot of very big acts. I'd always thought maybe I'd check it out one day. The inspiration finally came when I heard that Patti Smith would be there. She was announced for Bluesfest long before any of her separate shows were announced, so we decided to just go for it. And if we were going to travel so far, we were going to do the whole thing - five days! At that stage Neil Young was supposed to be coming too...he pulled out after we bought our tickets, which was disappointing, but not a deal breaker.

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Patti Smith

The whole time I was there, I couldn't help making comparisons between Bluesfest and other festivals I've been to. Overall it felt like quite deliberately focused on the music, not much else. The site felt plain and undecorated. The five stages are all in huge tents with some small national flags on top of these. Nice, but nothing like the large, gorgeous flags by Angus Watt which decorate the Womadelaide site. Both the folk festival and Womad also always include various community art projects and exhibits, art and craft demonstrations, and roving theatre/clowning performances. Bluesfest did have some art projects going on and a weaving workshop, but there really seemed to be little emphasis on this side of things.

Jethro Tull
Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson. Plus someone's phone.

People also seemed to be mostly more straight in the way they were dressed - not really a lot of 'hippie' looks in spite of the location (Byron Bay is still holding out against McDonalds, KFC and fluoride in the water, and the broader region attracts a lot of alternative culture/communities.) At the festival I only saw a few groups in costumes, including a group of four men with disco costumes with mirrorball helmets.

Another group had costumes that included cheap native American style headdresses. I had seen them earlier in the day boarding the bus. They bounced, Tigger-like, as a group down to the front of the crowd late in Irish Mythen's set (a thing such groups do to call attention to themselves) and this didn't go unnoticed: she called them out for cultural appropriation - "That's not cool guys!"

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Irish Mythen - incredible voice and stage presence.

I saw a couple of cellos and couple of fiddles, but this more than anything else, this was the festival of the guitar. (But also Roy Ayers' electric vibraphone - woo!)
Roy Ayers
Roy Ayers

Roy Ayers

On Friday, and especially Saturday and Sunday, there were SO. MANY. PEOPLE. Trying to filter in or out of the main venues between popular acts was extremely crowded and quite unpleasant. The organisers need to make some better crowd management arrangements because there were a few points where it felt like any kind of panic could have lead to a dangerous crush. There were also times when it was really difficult to walk into/around one of the big tents because so many people had parked their chairs outside to watch the big screens - then once you got inside there were relatively few people actually in front of the stage. In spite of the crowds, the queues for food and toilets and even for beer never seemed to be really bad.

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Madness

I did some knitting - of course - at various times and had some nice interactions with a couple of people about it. Also one weird/annoying one (Are you knitting? Yes. Why?? Um, I like it?) The odd thing is I didn't spot a single other knitter in the whole five days at that big festival, whereas I would always spot a few knitters or crocheters at the National or Womadelaide.
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Tenzin Choegyal

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Billy Bragg and Joe Henry - bloody good separately and together.

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I'll always take an opportunity to see Jeff Lang. Incredible guitarist. And the drummer here is smacking a cardboard box. (He did have a kit too).

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Melody Angel. A fantastic discovery. Incredible rock guitarist and singer. Bluesfest did well with including a decent proportion of women-lead acts, but there was still a much greater proportion of male musicians overall across all bands. So I'm always looking for the women wielding instruments, especially when they own it completely like Melody did.

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Round Mountain Girls. No girls in the band though.

Friday, January 06, 2017

The things floating by aren't what we want to see

Bunny

A few recent projects from this holiday season...

I watched a friend spend much of November and December making and accessorising several of these bunnies, modifiying a Miffy pattern by knitterbees. And though sort of I dreaded the fiddlyness, I eventually made one too, to give to my niece for Christmas. It was fiddly but it actually didn't take that long and it was a lot of fun decorating her dress and making her necklace (which I think my niece can also wear as a bracelet). I was in a hurry so I knit the dress plain and used duplicate stitch to add three hearts.

faded silk shirt

This very cool silk shirt called to me in the op shop on a very hot day. I think it had faded from what might originally have been closer to fluoro yellow - the stitching and buttons are a much brighter colour. It wasn't really a very flattering colour for me and it also had a couple of pinkish marks on it, as well as an extra faded patch where the previous owner had tried to remove a stain.

Perfect candidate for dyeing!

dyed silk shirt

I went to my dye stash and pulled out two greens and a blue, but decided to just start with one colour (dark green). I sprinkled the dye on, pretty sparingly, then folded it up concertina-style from the bottom to the top, rolled it into a small package and stuffed it into a jar, adding hot water.

dyed shirt back It never stops being entertaining, seeing all the different colours that appear when I use a single dye in powdered form. I only used dark green, but blue, yellow and pink marks appeared.

dye closeup

I find these dyed fabrics really hard to photograph. Depending on your screen, these photos might make it look a bit more dramatic maybe than it is in real life, but I wanted to show some of the patterning and detail.

And finally, a pair of pillowslips I dyed for my parents.

blue pillows

Mum had looked through my pile of dyed pillow slips, hoping for something that would go with her pale blue sheets, as the matching pillow slips had gotten a bit tired-looking. I realised the simplest option would be to overdye her blue ones instead of starting from scratch with white ones and trying to get something that would match well enough.

pillowslips

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Fresh as fresh is found

Baby's first painting smock
This cabled baby cardigan is a pattern that I've made once before. I've still got heaps of that white
4-ply cotton from Bendigo.

Cabled baby raglan sweater

After my experiments this past year in jar dyeing I thought it would be fun to try it with a hand-knit. I didn't manage to get a decent photo of the cardigan pre-dyeing but it looked much the same as the one above, which is an old photo of the 2010 version.

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I have an old bodum (coffee press) from the op shop which I often use for dyeing.

baby's smock

The photo above was taken after the first dying: pretty wild and uneven with big purple blotches. I wasn't thinking pink at all in the planning. I only used red and purple powdered dyes and probably should have realised I'd get some sort of pink overall effect! But I do love that other colours come out when you use the dye straight in its powdered form - here there are blue and yellow bits. I also forgot that I had planned to scatter the powdered dye on wet fabric instead of dry as I did here, as I've liked that effect better before.

I decided it needed a bit more manipulation in the hope of something I could live with (or actually, send as a gift). First, I had another go with more purple dye to try to even things out. Then, straight after that round of dyeing, I didn't even bother to let it dry first, just soaked the whole thing in a very weak solution of Dylon colour run remover. I got the idea from my sister, who had just dyed a silk scarf and wanted the final colour to be a bit less intense.

back of smock

It worked, fading the colours a bit and making it easier on the eye. It's still pretty messy and crazy looking. As baby's dad is an artist and a painter, I thought it kind of worked as "baby's first painting smock,"

dyed cardigan

What I'd like to try next time is applying the dye to the garment inside out for a more subtle effect, because I did sort of like the wrong side a bit better - it was more subtle.

rainbow vest

And this was an idea I almost can't believe I have't had before. I don't think it will be last rainbow for a baby! The basic vest pattern is A vest like Maria's. I was delighted to very quickly find all the colours I needed in my stash of soft 4-ply wools. You can see that the green was a slightly lighter weight yarn and that particular stripe pulls in a bit. (But I'm not too worried: I don't think that will show when a little squishy baby is wearing it). As I had made the vest in a smaller size than it was intended, I added a split and buttons at the neck...but I think even with this the hole for the head may be a little bit tight and perhaps I should have had the whole shoulder able to open. I think that's what I'll do next time I make a baby vest.

rainbow stripe vest

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Adds to the weight of this bell-bottomed tear

linen scarf 2

This pattern, Strathcona by Jane Richmond, was exactly what I was looking for, when I started thinking about a light, truly summer scarf for my sister. I wanted something she could wear in warm weather that adds no warmth. OK, you still wouldn't wear it on the hottest of days, but it's close to being purely decorative.

summer scarf

At first I thought of cotton. That would have been heavier; this linen (a 4ply I bought in Japan) is perfect. I think this is the first time I've knitted with linen. I've seen many knitters complaining about it being hard on the hands. It's true, it is like knitting with thin string, but it didn't bother me. I enjoyed it, because I could see it was turning out how I wanted it to!

linen mesh

It was easy and pretty quick to knit. There's not lot more to say, I'm very happy with how it turned out. Oh I wish I'd made the garter stitch sections on the ends a bit shorter.

strathcona

I may yet adjust it a bit as she said it started to grow a bit with wear.

linen scarf

Thursday, November 17, 2016

four star daydream

Fluoro

I started this, the 'Askews Me' shawl by Stephen West, not long after last Christmas. It was holiday time, I had finished a lot of projects and I took the opportunity to cast on a couple of new things for me. Of course I imagined wearing this very warm shawl by the coldest part of winter. I loved knitting it and it went pretty fast when I was working on it, but unfortunately it was also put aside several times through the year, so I only finished it quite recently. It's been too warm really to wear it, except a couple of times at home in the evening. The yarn, Filatura di Crosa 'Zara', is super squishy and quite light.

Fluoro askews

This is my first brioche rib project and I loved it. It took a little while to get into the rhythm, but it's not hard at all. Being a Stephen West pattern it has some fun other stuff going on. I wasn't sure what shape it was going to be until I took it off the needles. I did have some trouble weaving in the ends in the brioche and I'm not at all happy with those spots - after I washed the shawl it grew quite a bit, which was welcome, but almost all the spots where I wove in the ends show. You can probably spot some of them in these photos. Boo.

Askew

Though it's a bit bigger and chunkier than I expected, I think it will be fun to wear in cold weather. The colour scheme was directly inspired by a handknit cowl, striped in grey and fluorescent yellow, which I admired on an interstate colleague during a long meeting in a cold room. I had trouble capturing it in my photos, but the yellow I used is truly fluoro/neon, not just a bright yellow. There have been a few fluoro yarns around in recent seasons, and they are ugly/beautiful. My contrary self does love to try to use something 'ugly'. I love the high-contrast result with the dark blue.

Fluoro bundle

Friday, October 07, 2016

I don't believe it's true that in this world there's nothing new

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I knew I'd make this dress again one day. The pattern is 'Sweetheart' bTora Frøseth, and this is a for new little friend who has just arrived. Probably a bit too big yet, but it should fit for a while.

I didn't have enough of the main peach/orange colour to finish it - at least, I wanted as much length as possible so I decided to use it all up and then trim with another colour. My colour consultant and I weren't too sure about this pale blue - just slightly turquoise - in the ball but very happy with it once knitted up. It was a little bit left over from another baby dress, which never made it onto the blog. (But is on Ravelry)


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This time around I was able to add that heart in the hem AND keep knitting in the round. This made me happy. Last time I had to knit it back and forth (like the yoke is written) because I couldn't figure out how to reverse some of the stitch instructions for the heart. I believe this is what they call Growth As A Knitter.

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Sunday, September 04, 2016

All I want is what you want

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During the knitting of the dark pink tunic for my niece, it emerged that her brother would quite like a knitted jacket. We searched Ravelry for something he liked and found this gem, "Just Chill" by Amanda Woeger.

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What a great pattern! All knit in one piece which I love, top down in the round with an interesting saddle shoulder construction, well explained. I was so happy with it, the knitting went really smoothly and I managed to play the gauge/size game just right (which is never a given, especially when knitting a worsted pattern with 8ply). With no ripping and reknitting it was all done bar the shouting - and by that I mean the zipper - in two weeks. And it was all finished and handed over before I went to New Zealand - so there has been plenty of cold weather for him to wear it.

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Inserting a zipper for the first time was a bit daunting but Mum got involved and it went pretty smoothly, with a combination of hand and machine stitching. The only thing I wish I'd done differently was to stop the zipper a good bit lower than the top of the collar. The collar comes up quite high on his neck and the top of the zipper is scratchy, so he can't zip it right up. We had to shorten the zipper anyway - Mum showed me that you can make a new stopping point for the zipper by simply stitching many layers of thread between the (new) top two teeth. So we could have shortened it a tad more.

We had planned to use Bendigo Classic, but I was worried that he wouldn't wear it if it was at all scratchy around the neck. So I decided to substitute something much softer for the blue trim. I was lucky to find some Zara in the same bright blue he had already picked. A bit more expensive, but worth it. Classic is a robust crepe style wool. Normally I find it quite ok to knit with, if not luxurious, but it was just so unpleasant in this red colour. It kept wanting to split and unravel itself during the knitting, even though, strangely, the final fabric turned out quite ok.

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More recently (post-NZ trip) I made this frog hat - "FROG - the good kind' by Deborah Tomasello. The name is a bit of a knitting joke because to "frog" is to rip out your knitting to correct a mistake or to pull it apart completely ("rip-it, rip-it"...etc) - often a sad decision. 

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This was a special request for someone who loves frogs and may be needing a chemo hat - so I used cotton to avoid any irritation and also avoid making it too hot for possible daily/indoor wear.

I used French knots for the eyes and duplicate stitches for the flies. The bulging three-dimensional eyes are a bit freaky looking when you see them side-on...but I think they work.

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Wanna see the inside? To be honest, I did choose one of the tidier views here. All those French knots and flies were done with a single thread winding around the inside of the hat (also the white for the mouths) so that area is not so neat.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

First time in New Zealand: won't be the last

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In Australia we often feel far away from everywhere - but New Zealand is a pretty close neighbour. It can even be a bit quicker and cheaper to fly there than to Perth, on the other side of Australia. I always knew I would go there at some point, and finally the excuse came when a friend planned to spend his 40th birthday in Queenstown. As you probably know, I am a sucker for a ski trip, and one thing about NZ is they have higher mountains and also a good deal more snow than us.

Tree house
I started with a weekend stay with an old friend in Wellington, which was just lovely. I really enjoyed what I saw of the city. She lives in a lovely renovated old house way up in the trees. Though almost everyone lives somewhere up a hill in Wellington, where there is almost no flat land, her place was extra special, with over 100 steps to climb up from the street. (And nope, no driveway or garage up there). I woke up to this peaceful view.

Then I met up with my skiing and boarding friends in Queenstown, way down on the South Island, From there we could access several skifields, but we stuck with the two closest, Coronet Peak and the Remarkables. On our first day, at Coronet Peak, I was blown away by the amazing views (top photo in this post. And several more below).

Highest lift

At the Remarkables, we got to the top of the highest lift, higher than the ones at Coronet Peak. And I briefly thought I was higher than I had ever been before. But a bit of research that night revealed that the highest lift at Thredbo is actually a bit higher.

The Remarkables does not have the amazing views in almost all directions that Coronet Peak can boast. However it does have some cool carved stone birds. (And some great skiing, of course)

bird

It seemed to be colder there, at least on the days we were there. We had ice forming constantly on our goggles. On our second day up there, in the morning it was minus 10 C plus wind chill, leading pretty quickly to an extra, mid-morning coffee break to defrost. Now I know if (when) I ever ski in Japan I'm going to need more layers!

sun

It was beautiful at the Remarkables once the sun came out. The snow was great in both places - we were really lucky, as just a week or so before we arrived there had basically been no snow. I had decided not to check any reports beforehand, because (a) our local skifields in NSW were getting massive dumps of snow just before I left and (b) my NZ trip had long been booked and paid for.

Remarkable

The views from Coronet Peak were just stunning. Jaw-dropping.

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It was a bit weird at first to see no trees, just wide open space and varying terrain.

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I had a day up at Coronet Peak on my own when all my friends were having a day off, and I arrived just in time to join up with a free guided tour. This was one of the best things I did all week, even though I was the slowest in the group, especially on the off-piste runs. It was just enough for me to feel challenged and pushed a bit, without worrying that I was seriously holding up the group. (I've had that situation in group lessons and it really sucks.) There were only two other 'clients,' a skier and a snowboarder, both a good bit more experienced than me, with two guides and also a 'media guy' who was taking photos for the local newspapers. The highlight was a real powder run, something I've never really done before - and by this point after having a couple of mild stacks in slow motion earlier, I managed to keep enough momentum to stay upright too. I was thrilled with that!

survivor

On the last of my five ski days, Coronet Peak won, and it was a stunning bluebird day.

crepuscular

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snowmaker

We had some good times in Queenstown as well of course, including a special birthday dinner at the Stratosfare restaurant, with a gondola ride to get up the hill, and people bungy jumping not far from the restaurant window.

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They also had Jelly Belly art.

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Yep. Pictures made by mosaicing mini jelly beans. So now I've seen that.

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On the last day we had time to wander around the town before going to the airport. We stopped for a while to listen to pianist/composer/busker AJ Hickling (Evolving Rhythms).

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He rescued his piano from the rubbish tip and restored and learned to tune it himself. His music was beautiful.

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I'm sure you could come to take it for granted, but my favourite thing about Queenstown was that everywhere you look, there are gorgeous snow-capped mountains in the background.

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Also much of the time, paragliders in the sky. The Queenstown area is quite the centre for adventure sports, with the bungy jumping, whitewater rafting and of course heli-skiing, if you can afford it.

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