Thursday, September 25, 2014

Another brick (Chadwick) in the wall

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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.

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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?)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I can't imagine this will be the last time I knit penguins



penguin hat

A friend asked for a hat in these colours, with no stipulations about the design. At first I thought just something striped or maybe a simple, non-cutesy motif. You know, a non-embarassing all-purpose bloke-suitable beanie. But for various reasons, once I thought of penguins, it had to be a penguin hat! The overall look was somewhat inspired by this penguins galore hat, but the penguins I preferred came from the snowflake penguin hat by Ikumi Kayama, though I modified them to make them a bit fatter. (They still aren't the fat penguins they really should be.)

After these photos were taken, I learned that the hat was a little bit short, so I took it back and ripped back from the crown to where I had started the decreases, to add a few more rows there. With no pics you'll have to take my word for it, but it worked out better because it meant I could finish the penguins before starting the decreases.
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Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Homemade Exchange is alive!

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Check out The Homemade Exchange! The online exhibition went live with all the final art works last Friday.  My sister, Demelza Sherwood came up with and executed this wonderful idea and I was thrilled she asked me to be part of it.
Each participant was asked to provide a photo of a 'domestic setting without people.' Demelza then redistributed the photos, each one to be used as inspiration for a piece of creative work in any medium. The picture up top is the one I submitted - my first idea didn't work well and I ended up racing around the house one sunny morning, close to the deadline, looking for something interesting. Those pencils have lived on my windowsill for ages. I really should get them down and draw with them some time.
Above is the delicious image I received back, which came from the lovely Stephanie Hicks. Lots of inspiring texture, and I do love a nice stone wall.
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And this is my (untitled) vessel in response. I made a square sided vessel in pieces and appliqued the stones/bricks on separately. All the pieces were just lightly felted before being sewn together, and then I felted the whole piece thoroughly.
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A couple of in-progress shots below - after sewing together and before final felting. It was only after I finished felting and was contemplating how to photograph it, that I decided to turn it out the other way and have the applique on the inside. I just liked it much better that way.
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The Homemade Exchange is part of Craft Victoria's Craft Cubed festival and will be available online until 31 August. The participants are located in Switzerland, Israel, Canada and Australia, and as Demelza explains in her Craft Cubed interview, she was inspired by the experience of sharing images in Instagram and wanted an exhibition idea that would be a playful collaboration, and also manageable for friends living overseas to join in. 
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I loved being part of this, along with a lot of really talented artists and makers, including sister Emma and Rozalie Sherwood too. The absolute best part was late at night on Thursday when I finally got to see all the work in place. I love seeing the different ways people took something from the original photo, whether it was colour, composition, subject matter, or even using the photo itself as source material, and made something extraordinary. The works are so diverse and yet it seems to belong together.
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Friday, July 18, 2014

B is for...

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B is for... being blocked. Stalled. For the longest time, this project just wouldn't come right. This shawl (or a red shawl, really) has been a really long time coming. I think the idea of making a lacy shawl for this special friend came when I made Kiri, in 2006 (that long ago?!), doing some of the knitting during a visit to her place. A few years after that I decided to start an Orenburg honeycomb lace scarf for her, from Piecework magazine. I worked on that on and off, even taking it travelling a few times, but it stalled after a while. I think it was never the right choice - it will be beautiful if I ever finish it, but it was quite hard work and at the same time not quite the showy, pretty lace I think I really wanted to make for her.

In last year I admitted to myself that the honeycomb, which had really stalled, wasn't going to be the one. Having made the Semele mini shawl for myself already, I hit on the idea of making a bigger version, but with lace yarn. Using laceweight seemed to be a rule in my head for this gift. I picked out some gorgeous red Misti Alpaca 'hand paint lace'. I showed the pattern and the yarn to my ever-patient friend and she liked both. Then I got down to work.

And I worked and worked and worked. It wasn't too hard, but it didn't exactly flow either. The pattern is written for 4ply, but it does also suggest finer yarn. Even with 4ply, as written it makes a fairly narrow shawl, and I forgot until I was too far in that there is the option to increase at a faster rate to make it wider and more triangular. I kept going for ages, diligently weighing the remaining yarn to make sure I would switch from increasing to decreasing before I had used up half the yarn. When I eventually stopped and had a good look at it, I started to understand why it seemed to be taking so long to get anywhere. It was getting very long actually, but staying too narrow. It was already approaching the full length of the original blue one (at top in the photo below) and I wasn't half done yet. It was going to be more of a scarf than a shawl.

3 Semeles

The other problem was that I wasn't really liking my choice of yarn for this pattern. I had thought a somewhat variegated yarn would work well enough, because the pattern has a large stocking stitch section in the middle. But I didn't really love the way the lace looked, and if I was honest, the point of this project was largely to make *impressive* lace! Now, we might also be getting at why I had insisted to myself it had to be laceweight yarn.

chair

I had a visit to J planned and I was already working to that as a deadline. (Oh, and it was for a milestone birthday, but I had already had a shawl in mind for several birthdays so that was almost beside the point!) I thought about how quick and relatively pleasant the knitting had been when I made this pattern in 4ply. And I remembered I had some Filatura di Crosa Zarina, a very fine soft merino, in a fabulous red.

This kind of smooth, squooshy merino I always find very fast and satisfying to knit with. It went fast - after all those months/years of thinking about it and attempts, this actual shawl came together in under two weeks, with a bit of concentrated effort.

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B is for... Blocking. It was really interesting making the same pattern (if not completely) in three different yarns. I love my luxurious cashmere and silk version, it is the most soft and luxurious yarn and the amazing very dark blue means I wear it quite a lot, when my more lairy scarves just clash too much with my loud winter outfits. I recently realised I have at least 6 different pairs of red tights - obviously they are psychologically warming when I am mad at winter for being cold.

Anyway, the blue Semele did photograph beautifully when held up to the light, but in wearing it, the pattern doesn't show up so much. Whereas this red yarn has a lot of stitch definition and body. Look at those bobbly leaves! This was before I washed it and blocked it by spreading it out flat and pinning out the points of the leaves.

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And thank goodness, it blocked out very nicely.

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B is for... bad photos.  I hate to post poor quality photos, but if they tell an interesting story, I'm not a perfectionist so I'll compromise. Even when I finished the red one I wasn't entirely sure I had made it big enough - I just knew I wanted it to be more substantial than the blue one. And even though I've played this game a couple of times, I still got a great shock to see just how big it got with blocking. The angle of the shot below probably exaggerates it a little, but it really is almost twice the size. I did some extra increases/decreases to make it more triangular, or at least wider - the specifics are on Ravelry.

size

B is for birthday. And for my beautiful friend. She wore it right away.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Skiing - helping me hate winter just a little bit less, since the 1990s

ski grin

After a green, grassy, mostly snowless first week or so of the season, Australia's ski resorts have been hit by successive snow storms over the past couple of weeks and now have LOTS OF SNOW! It doesn't look like I'll have a lot of time up there this season, but I got up there for a day on Saturday with a snowboarding friend and had a ball. (Thanks to him doing all the driving, I also got to knit in the car) It snowed almost all day. Of course a 'bluebird' day after a night of snow is probably the most coveted, but skiing while the snow cover is constantly being refreshed is nothing to complain about.

lots of snow
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Sunday, June 29, 2014

Good times in RAdelaide

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I recently had a few days in Adelaide. Mostly when I visit I'm there for Womadelaide, and don't spend time doing much else. This trip was a bit different, and I actually made it to the beach. I know I've been to Glenelg once or twice, but that was probably well over ten years ago. Coming from an inland city, you'd think I would seek out the sea, but I think I've been too focused on the music. Nah, I don't really have a problem with that.
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Anyway we had a nice walk from Henley Beach to Grange, where I admired these Victorian terrace houses. If the sign is to be believed, they are Australia's only three-story Victorian sea-front terraces. Which immediately made me wonder if there are any two-story ones. Either way, they are an uncommon sight. Below, the terraces seen from out on Grange jetty.

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There were plenty of more modern beach houses with fabulous views out to sea. These people were smart with the reflective glass.

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The next day I had some solo time in town. So after visiting a couple of favourite shops, I reacquainted myself with the Art Gallery of South Australia.
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I love this gallery, their salon hanging style and the way the work is arranged, with a lot of modern, exciting, confronting art displayed along with the older works from the collection. The themes they use to organise the work seem more fresh and flexible than many other galleries. I also love the coloured walls, which when I first went there, reminded me somewhat of the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.
cornish slate

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shadow    This is The Gamekeeper's Gibbet, by British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster. When you look closely, you see that each of the clusters creating the artists' profiles in shadows is made up small mummified animals which have been cast in gilded sterling silver. Yeah!

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And downstairs, there is a small slightly crowded room all dedicated to lace.

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Palmerville in Autumn

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I had heard about Palmerville via a friend who lives quite close by, as well as a recent-ish story by In the Taratory.

Still, I imagined it being a bit of a hassle to get to and I was surprised when I looked it up to find it's quite accessible and pretty much in the middle of suburbia. (They don't call Canberra the bush capital for nothing - we do have plenty of bits like this in between normal suburbs).

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A bit over week ago, Bertie Mabootoo and I went there for a Sunday afternoon photography walk. It's a very pretty and peaceful spot, the site of an early European settlement, very much pre-Canberra.

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As well as several grand elms and oaks, likely to be the oldest in Canberra and planted from the mid-1850s, the park also includes the much younger Landcare memorial forest.

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Each of these trees, natives this time, is dedicated to someone who has died. In some cases families have added extra plaques for other family members. I can't find much online about it, but this forest is clearly cared for, probably by local Landcare volunteers, and also visited by at least some of the families. I wonder if you can still purchase/dedicate a new tree? There were some saplings among the mature trees, but it looked like they were replacements for trees that had died or had to be removed.

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