Monday, August 22, 2016
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.
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).
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)
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!
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.
The views from Coronet Peak were just stunning. Jaw-dropping.
It was a bit weird at first to see no trees, just wide open space and varying terrain.
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!
On the last of my five ski days, Coronet Peak won, and it was a stunning bluebird day.
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.
They also had Jelly Belly art.
Yep. Pictures made by mosaicing mini jelly beans. So now I've seen that.
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).
He rescued his piano from the rubbish tip and restored and learned to tune it himself. His music was beautiful.
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.
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.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
It's a funny time to be writing about this one as it's very much a warm weather cardigan, and even though I had it mostly finished way back when the weather was still warm, I was unhappy with it and kind of threw it in the naughty corner. So by the time I pulled it out and did the last touches - adding the button and loop, and crocheting an edge on the collar to make it a little longer - it was really too cold to wear it. (These photos were taken the same day as those of my magnificent warm coat.)
The story of this cardigan starts way back in this post about our time in Kyoto last June. Scroll down to the latter part of the post to read about our rushed visit to Avril, where the possibilities are almost endless as they blend the yarn for you on the spot; but it took us a while to work that out, due to us not speaking Japanese!
I bought this as a kit - now that I think about it, probably my first ever kit. The pattern was only written in one size, which is apparently not uncommon in Japan. So it was lucky that the sample garment fit me quite well, though I planned to make it about 10cm shorter.
It was also written in Japanese. I am so grateful to my friend's lovely mum, who is also our former neighbour from childhood, who was happy to translate the pattern for me. Once I had the basic instructions it wasn't hard to understand the Japanese schematic method of presenting the pattern. There is a lot less written out than in a typical English-language pattern.
I was pretty sure that I achieved the right gauge, and yet my cardigan is smaller on me than the sample one was. It is wearable, but it also annoys me that the fronts hang much lower than the back. I usually blame that sort of thing on my particular proportions and posture compared to the designer - some patterns you have to tweak for your own body of course - but in this case I tried on the sample and it was fine!
Placing the button quite high helped with this a bit, and I was glad I decided to just do a loop for the button after finishing, rather than gambling on where to put the buttonhole. Honestly I'm still not sure whether I'll find this wearable. I think it looks better in the photos than in real life. But I still hope that it might stretch and grow a bit with wear, because in this case I think that would actually be an improvement.
Friday, June 24, 2016
I have a new coat for winter. A new, unique, hand made for me coat.
I feel so incredibly blessed because my mum gave me an IOU for my 40th birthday (last year), and she is an amazing artist, designer and artisan of exacting standards.
We decided to hunt for fabric on our Japan trip in June last year. It was early summer, and the first few fabric shops we tried had few or no winter fabrics in stock. Finally we hit the jackpot on one of the last days in Tokyo, when we went to Nippori Fabric Town, a neighbourhood specialising in fabric and haberdashery. So many fabric shops.
Even there we really only found the right kind of wool in one place. Luckily it was this fabulous charcoal, and a small amount of the black and white textured wool for contrast. In another shop we found a lovely piece of green leather.
Mum used up almost every scrap of that leather with the piping around the collar and down the fronts, edging the sleeves, and along the shaped seams on the back flowing around the pockets; and all the other greenery she added. (Above, you can see the piping around the pocket, and the fancy pocket lining which shows just in little flashes as I wear it).
The lining fabric Mum found in Melbourne and it is perfect. She always likes to use interesting prints instead of plain linings. This stuff is 'shot' so that from one angle it looks green (sadly, I did not capture this in a photo) and the other purple.
The coat was based on a pattern Mum had used before for her own winter coat, but she drafted the assymmetrical collar from scratch with some suggestions from me, and taking inspiration from a different asymmetrical coat I had seen in a catalogue.
One of the first things that struck us about Tokyo was the amount of greenery everywhere, as well as the incredible tidiness in such a big city. Mum took that idea as her inspiration and hence the name, Tokyo Oxygen. The green 'fingers' have a double meaning for us, representing the green growth and parks we loved in Tokyo, and also a stylised city skyline.
Here are two great details. There are two subtle zippered pockets inside the lining, perfect for a passport or bus pass. And the gorgeous buttons came from a collection my aunt bought in Nantes, France, as a souvenir for Mum. I really liked them so much better than anything else we could find, but they were a little too small. I hit the jackpot at the Camelot stall at the Old Bus Depot Markets, finding some slightly bigger plain ones in the same dark silver colour, which fit exactly behind the smaller gold and silver ones. I love mixed metals.
It is so warm, and completely unique and I am absolutely loving wearing it.
Oh and I happen to have almost matching green boots - hand-me-downs from little sister many years ago.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
The story of this cotton dress/tunic for my 8-year-old niece comes from two previous ones. Years ago, I thought it was pretty amazing that she was still wearing the red Little Sister's Dress I made when she was a baby (about 10 months here) well over a year later. So I was inspired to make a similar dress, the green 'Sweetheart' which she started wearing at age two. I was so happy to see she was still wearing it three years later. But get this: another three years on, she still wears the old green one as a top.
Now she is eight, and has a new dress. It's about knee length, and it probably won't take long before it's technically more of a tunic.
I don't know how long it might be before she decides it's a bit young for her, but I think it should fit for a while. The buttons are maybe a bit little-girly but they can be changed. I actually wanted either a matching dark pink or maybe a strong blue to pick up one of the colours in the contrast stripe yarn.
The contrast stuff was a souvenir ball bought in Japan.
The pattern - Fiona's Top by Sanne Bjerregaard - actually only goes up to a size 6, but I did use a slightly heavier yarn than the pattern specifies. It's 4ply Bendigo cotton in a carefully checked-with-Miss B dark pink. For that is how she likes her pink. I did add some stitches before joining front and back, to make a better shaped armhole, but I also did one less increase round than the pattern called for, because it just didn't need that much fullness.
While the freshly washed finished garment was hanging in my house, I found it such a curious piece of knitting. It's just on an unfamiliar scale. Too small for me, but much bigger than any kids/babies items I've made. Quite a decent chunk of knitting!
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Yes, this might look familiar. It's the third time I've used this pattern, 'What big eyes you have' by Georgie Nicolson/Tikkiknits. It was done in the space of a week; that could have been as little as two or three days if I hadn't run out of wool. I originally bought two balls of the orange, mildly variegated Zara Print Melange (a very light 8 ply) way over a year ago, around the time that I knit these two vests for two different babies.
Unfortunately by the time I got to making this one I was looking at an 18 months - 2 years-ish size - it was only his first birthday but he's tall and of course needs some growing room. And though the yardage (on paper) was almost enough, it actually fell far short and it became clear I would either have to find another ball or use a contrasting colour for the ribbing.
The shop didn't have any more of that colour and there was no time to go further afield. At first I thought I might continue the bottom ribbing with the orange and use something contrasting for the neckline and armholes - and if that looked funny I would change the bottom ribbing to the contrast as well. But it turned out that the neckline actually look a bit odd with those cables so close, moving into a different colour.
Also, because I couldn't find any other colourway of the Zara Melange line that would work (other than an olive green I just didn't want for this project), instead I picked a ball of Zara Colour. It looked pretty nice in the ball but turned out to look a bit "clown vomit" knitted up. OK I don't actually hate it and I'm sure I can use if for something, but it is really too different to the style of the orange yarn to work here.
My lunchtime knitting friends were excellent consultants and helped me to decide that the clown vomit wasn't right, discussed colour options including opposites on the colour wheel, and also came up with the idea of using the orange for the v-neck, with contrasting bottom band and armholes.
Having already made one special yarn shopping trip during the week, at the start of this weekend I was running out of time and did some stash tossing for other options. There were a few more false starts, including a mystery tan yarn that seemed nice in the ball but knitted up feeling very much like acrylic - out the door with that stuff! The blue wool (Cleckheaton Country) that I ended up using for the contrasting bits is not quite as soft as the Zara. So in the end I was very glad I could use the last bit of the orange for the v-neck ribbing, where it might come into contact with soft skin.
I am pretty sure I've actually used the "wrong side" of these buttons - and the other side is lovely, blue with white flecks - but I liked how the metallic inserts helped to tie the orange and blue together. I still think the two yarns are not a perfect marriage, but I am quite happy with how it all turned out.
Friday, June 10, 2016
Our flight home was delayed - actually Jetstar cancelled it, probably because it was underbooked, and put us on a Qantas flight about 12 hours later instead. So this last Tokyo day was a bonus day out in the city.
We decided to explore Ueno, in the Taito district of Tokyo.
In Ueno Park we spent some time wandering around Shinobazu Pond. Yes, the photo above is actually of a pond.
My sister stopped to watch a magic show. This was just at the start; he quickly drew in a much bigger crowd. Just along from here there was also a group of artists painting and sketching the pond.
There are lots of turtles in the pond! We spent ages watching them hanging out on their comfy logs.
Then we visited the nearby small, excellent Shitamachi Museum. An English speaking guide showed us around. One of the things I remember the guide talking about was religion in Japan and how many people adopt or practice to some extent both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs (or at least ceremonies and rituals for different occasions). The museum preserves a little bit of old Tokyo tenement life and you can walk into the various shops and rooms. Upstairs there was a more typical exhibition space as well.
We had a grill-your-own kind of lunch in this casual restaurant with awesome squid art painted on the wall. Then it was time to head back to the hotel to get ready to leave for the airport.