Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In front of my friends and close relations

Dad's footy scarf is finished. It was due on 25 December (his birthday) and I missed the start of the season, delivering it to him last Sunday. Just in time for the start of colder weather.

When I quizzed him about what he would like - size, shape, fibre - all he would say was it should be 'just like the official one on the website'.

I matched the length and width as best I could based on a couple of quick inspections of similar scarves in shops. The number of stripes is the same, as is the tubular construction - a lot of stitches but it does go fast on a circular needle. The yarn is an improvement - 4 ply Filature di Crosa 'Zarina' rather than yucky acrylic.

I did leave out the large 'COLLINGWOOD' lettering - I considered trying it in intarsia, but came to my senses within a few minutes. I think he might get more wear out of the plainer version, anyway.

The badge was purchased on ebay - I couldn't find a current logo anywhere, but 'Premiers 1990' doesn't hurt does it?

The proper length and thickness for the fringe involved a lot of deliberation. I once made K a footy scarf and made the fringe way too short (and it's still waiting for replacement). So I tried to err on the side of a bit too long. I think it's actually about right, based on the 'official' picture.

If you want a plain stocking stitch scarf I recommend the tubular design (like the Harry Potter scarves). Putting on the fringe effectively sews the ends closed. It's got a nice weight and flatness to it, and sits nicely crossed in front or flung over one shoulder, staying on comfortably without tying.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Cause there's nothing at all except the space in-between

The last couple of years I have avoided the Lifeline Bookfair - mostly. The bookfair is a Canberra institution, a huge sale of donated books, held twice a year. On the first day people line up outside long before the doors open, armed with trolleys and boxes to fill up with the 'good stuff'. (Quite a few dealers get in at this stage). But you don't have to be there first, as the volunteers keep bringing out more stock through the weekend. And on the Sunday afternoon at a certain time they start selling everything at a 'by the bag' price.

I'd stopped going every time because I've been trying to slow down the flow of books coming INTO the house, especially fiction, in an attempt to read through some of the piles of books that I have accumulated over the years. This weekend I mostly stayed away from the fiction and focused on more on the craft areas. I got really lucky with a very nice copy of this Cath Kidston book which I was pretty sure my sister would love. I showed it to her last night. And after dinner, as I got out my knitting, she was already having ideas and rushing for her fabric stash.

I didn't find any great knitting books but I'm very happy with some alternative sources of inspiration:

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Second time was a blast

Last night I felted the blue/purple pot. Bowl? Whatever. I love the way it worked out. Some might want to know what it's 'for', but I don't really care at this point. I just want to look at it fondly and touch it occasionally. I think it is destined to be a long-owed present, though.

Then I knit another one. This is the same basic pattern, I just made it taller by knitting more rounds in between the increasing and decreasing sections. I used the other ball of Sean Sheep 'Armytage' that I bought on Sunday. In the ball I liked the colours of this one even more than the blue/greys one. But I'm not sure about how it has knit up. I'm afraid I might have killed it by putting it with the beige Cosy Wool. I didn't want to use another strong colour with it.

But I'm still eager to see how it comes out after felting, maybe the blend of colours will work after all.

In the bowl are some other upcoming candidates for felting: another new Sean Sheep, 'Stonehaven' 100% percent wool, 2 strands loosely plyed, many colours; an older Sean Sheep 'Wooloomooloo' 50% wool, 50% acrylic, plyed with a gold thread; a big 100gm ball of blue Cleckheaton Merino spun, 80% merino, 20% acrylic; and a ball of delicious Freedom Spirit ('Fire' colourway), 100% wool.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Now there's nothing unexpected about the water giving out

Before Stitch 'n' Bitch on Sunday, Kuka and I checked out the wool situation in Big W. They've got a few new types of yarn in their own brand Sean Sheep, and I grabbed a couple which looked promising for felting.

This little pot was definitely a little bit inspired by this gorgeous one, although that is made from a Cat Bordhi moebius pattern - I might have to put that book on the list.

It's made from Sean Sheep 'Armytage', a self striping 100% wool single, held together with one strand of purple Cosy Wool, knit on 8mm needles. The Armytage comes in some nice colour combos. I can see myself using it a lot, it's a good price for something so colourful ... just as long as it felts. Watch this space.

Hope (think) I can make that bottom flatten out.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

It's like being lost in heaven

This container was a felting experiment. It was meant to be for my crochet hooks. But I either overestimated the size of my hook collection, or overestimated the amount it would shrink. Possibly a little bit of both. The hooks kind of get lost inside.

It was the first time I've used garter stitch for felting. I've seen pictures in some books indicating that garter stitch ends up looking different to stocking stitch. The result here is a little bit different - it doesn't really show in these photos but the surface has tiny 'bubbles' of wool on both sides. I can't say for sure that this is due to the stitch - I suppose it could be the yarn (Paton's Jet) I used, but I don't think so. What had worried me in those books, which I don't see here, is quite a bit of stitch definition surviving the felting process. I thought maybe garter stitch just does this, but it turns out it doesn't have to. It's personal choice when you decide to stop the felting process - if it's a hat or other garment, of course you need to stop when it is the right size. But I like it best when the piece is 'totally' felted and you can't see the individual stitches.

It was also the first time I have knit garter stitch in the round.

Garter stitch is when you knit every stitch. It's the first thing you learn because you only need the knit stitch. When you alternate rows of knit and purl, you get a fabric that is smooth on one side - stocking stitch. But when you knit in the round, this is reversed - if you knit every round you get smooth stocking stitch. One of the advantages of knitting in the round, aside from not having to sew it up later, is that stocking stitch goes faster and easier for many people - no turning the work and no purl rows. So garter stitch in the round is a bit odd as you have to change from knit to purl every round.

I'm not sure where else I might use it, but it was great for this purpose. There was a sloppy line up the side where the wool changed each round from knit (back) to purl (front). No worries! This disappeared with felting. One reason I might use garter stitch in future is that the shrinkage is more even - stocking stitch shrinks much more lengthwise than widthwise. For my nephew's box this meant that I had to estimate the shrinkage differential, and sew a rectangular base into a square space by easing it. This time it was much easier to design and fit the base onto the body.

Another reason for using garter stitch is that I think it might result in a slightly thicker felted fabric. I've made several camera and ipod cases in the past and always used 8ply doubled (in stocking stitch) to ensure a nice thick protective fabric. I have yet to test this properly, as Jet is a thicker yarn than my usual 8ply, but I think garter stitch does come out a bit thicker - which makes sense as garter stitch eats up more wool.

It was also the first time I've used Paton's Jet (for any knitting, let alone felting). This is one full ball of Colour 4, on 6mm needles. The base is Panda Carnival pure wool 8 ply, held double. It certainly felted very willingly and nicely. I love the way the colours have blended. But the the felting seems to have left it more 'alpacy-y' on the surface - you can see in the photo below that it is very white and hairy in a certain light. I don't mind it, but would probably prefer that blend of colours without the alpaca content. Added to this is the fact that the jet is very lovely before felting. If you click on the pre-felting picture above you might be able to see how the colours mix - it makes me think of lines drawn in coloured pencil. I don't know if I would be inclined to felt it again.

Monday, April 09, 2007

The thought of you stays bright

The V festival - for anyone just joining us, it was Saturday 31 March in Sydney's Centennial Park - had the Pet Shop Boys (8:30 to 9:45pm) and the Pixies (9 to 10:15pm) each headlining on adjacent stages. We had been hoping that the stage the Pixies were on might be running late relative to the other one. Unfortunately it turned out the other way, so that the Pixies started soon after PSB, and throughout at least the first half of their set, the crowd thinned a bit as people split the difference and headed off to the Pixies. Of course in-between (and sometimes during) PSB songs you could actually hear the Pixies - the stages were too close together. We were pretty sure we wanted to stay with PSB but had made a meeting place for the end of the night, so that we didn't have to be tied to each other and could decide to split up if necessary. Just a few songs in, we were both set on staying to the end.

The thrill of this show was only partly about the live performance of the songs. Neil's singing was certainly real, he actually started a bit rough but seemed to warm into it, plus there were three backing singers, two men and a woman, and of course Chris on keyboards. When they did Paninaro, everyone else left the stage and Chris actually sang. Obviously a large proportion of the sounds you hear are pre-recorded. But hey, it's not a rock show.

Neil was charming and slightly rogueish, an old-school entertainer. Early on he announced the names of the songs, sometimes before performing them. Or: 'We'd like to play you a love song now.' (Rent).

It was a complete musical show, with break dancing, video projections, costume changes and props. I don't think there was any attempt for these to be the highest-tech or most complicated. Even though there was a lot going on, there was also a sort of bright, stark look about the stage, with simple repeated themes in the costume and props. There were many costume changes for the backing singers and dancers, and even three or four for Neil, but they were all variations on a just couple of themes. There were lots of matching tracksuits, matching suits, then a bit where one dancer has tracksuit top and suit pants, the other the reverse.

The coolest theme was the way they played with their own images, with Chris's signature look of yellow hoodie and baseball cap, and Neil's of top hat and tails, repeated amongst the other performers (eg yellow sequinned hoodies for the dancers). At the very start of the show, a guy in a hoodie and one in a top hat come out. Crowd goes mad for Neil and Chris. Then another pair appear dressed the same! Ooh, what's going on? Finally the real Neil and Chris appear. I'm sure it's been done before, but it was fun.

The Sodom and Gomorrah show, a song from their most recent album, was almost a separate performance in itself. They actually brought out a drummer with full kit just for that one song. Unfortunately the evidence is hidden behind Mr Bighead in the above photo. All the performers except Chris appeared to have a separate costume just for this song.

After the final song of the encore, Neil thanked Sydney for a warm reception. And make no mistake, despite what I said about people leaving for the Pixies, there was a large, enthusiastic audience who were hanging on every note. He introduced each of the people on the stage, finishing with '...of course Chris Lowe on keyboards. I am Neil Tennant, and we are still the Pet Shop Boys.' At that they left the stage, leaving only the three backing singers who continued with a medley of So Hard, I'm with stupid and (I think) Robbie Williams' We're the Pet Shop Boys. The female singer in particular was A-Mazing - one of those huge soul voices - Neil is brave to share a stage with her! I wanted to hear her more.

After it was over we wandered over to the back of the Pixies audience and caught the last three or so songs. It was a serious mood shift but still pretty good, actually a nice wind-down for the night. I know I could have really gotten into their show too. But I started out with much more curiosity about PSB live than the Pixies. And also much more knowledge of and love for their music. Although it was momentous having the Pixies in the country for the first time, we have seen their live sets on ABC2 a couple of times and knew what to expect. The Pet Shop Boys put on more of a show than I had dared to expect. We loved it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Can you even deliver what she demands of you?

They played:

Left to my own devices
Can you forgive her?
Opportunities (Let's make lots of money)
Se a vida e
Domino dancing
Always on my mind
Where the streets have no name
West end girls
The Sodom and Gomarrah show
Encore: So hard / It's a sin / Go west

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The evening spreads its sail against the sky

We got through the gates into the Centennial Park venue for the V Festival about 2:30 on Saturday. First we wandered around getting our bearings, and grabbed some food. We were going to get beer too, but there was a bit of a queue and we were worried it might take a little too long, and we might not get a good spot for Phoenix.

Heh. We REALLY should have bought beer at that point. Just after that the lines got seriously amazingly long (like you might expect if the Pixies hand-brewed this beer themselves) and they stayed that way for hours. No one could get even tipsy because even if you got your beer and got right back in the queue to drink it, it would have completely worn off before you got another.

We got pretty close to the stage for Phoenix. The audience up the front were painfully young and hip, and I wished I had a beer to take the edge off. I seriously thought that Phoenix mostly appealed to 30-somethings like us.... I was so wrong. I have never seen so many pairs of huge ugly multicoloured 80's sunglasses on tiny little people - the boys and the girls. And guess what? Apparently multicoloured fluoro one-piece swimmers are back. You just whack on a pair of little shorts, et voila! Later, amongst a scantily clad group I spotted one of those Borat swimming costumes too. You know what I mean, and if you don't, be thankful. Temps were only mid to high twenties, but it woudn't be a sunny day out in Sydney without plenty of flesh on view.

The Phoenix show was fabulous. The band is a four-piece but they perform with additional musicians: an energetic and super-enthused drummer who mouthed/sang all the words to all the songs (sans mike), and a multi-tasking guy who played keyboard with one hand while playing hi-hat and electronic drum pads with the other. The show was just as good as we had hoped, and a lot more popular than I had expected.

After Phoenix, we caught a little bit of Nouvelle Vague (fun, sort of cabaret-style covers of all sorts of songs). Yes I managed to skip my Saturday French class in order to go to Sydney to see two French bands in a row - both of which sing in English. Then there was a little bit of a wander around, and a little bit of the New York Dolls.

Everyone on stage for Gnarls Barkely was dressed in funky tennis whites, even the (electric) string quartet.

I really enjoyed this show, and the crowd really got into it. I think it was the actual presence of the strings that sold me on it. They opened with a dodgey version of Queen's "We are the champions", which could have been really annoying. But by this time I have gotten into a more mellow mood - even though still no beer - and I just thought it was funny.

It's lucky there were nice big screens to watch. I felt like a bit of a shorty, and we weren't that far back, next to the sound tent actually. Here is a photo, I call it "Gnarls show thru 'fro".

It's late. There's more to tell another day. I've saved the best for last.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Remind me to spend some good time with you

We had a great weekend in Sydney, thanks of course to the V-festival - more on that later.

But also thanks to time with friends, and a bit of relaxed wandering around town. Thanks to a tip-off from a non-knitting friend I discovered the misleadingly named Tapestry Craft. Yes they are a tapestry/needlecraft shop upstairs, but also a huge yarn store downstairs. K and I walked in, took in the size of the place, and he quickly offered to go and amuse himself elsewhere for a while.

This is a lovely, welcoming store. There were plenty of customers, the staff seemed really friendly, there was even knitting class sitting around the table at the back. The range of yarn was huge and I spent a long time just checking everything out. Unfortunately the prices were steep, and I couldn't even find a bargain bin - do they save it up for sale time? I love bargain bins. I did buy a little bit of self-patterning Sirdar Town and Country sock wool.

Then I spent a delicious long time in the huge bookstore Kinokuniya - which still doesn't have a proper web site, why oh why? Checked out all the knitting books and then got a bit bewildered in the Japanese stationery section.

Then, I set off to find the pub where K was hanging out with a friend. I managed to park really close without actually knowing where I was going, then got my directions messed up and walked much further away. Ah, I got there in the end, and had a lovely catch-up with the other K. Followed by an excellent kebab and a (bit-too) late Sunday night drive home. I do love weekends at home, but the odd weekend away is lovely. And rare together, since K works every weekend.