Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Those who say they love you would never dare

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Sister D's felted birthday present was a pair of pears.

The larger one, the container, I wrapped up and gave to her just after her birthday, a couple of weeks ago.

Then I borrowed it back to photograph it. This gave me the perfect opportunity to wrap it up and present it again on Sunday night when we had the long-awaited combined birthday party. She thought she knew exactly what she was opening, so I was sure to have the camera poised to capture her surprised face when she spied the extra pear tucked inside. (The first time around it was a pair of tights packed inside).
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Here is the in-progress shot. The smaller one has been stuffed with wadding and waiting to be felted. The larger has been partly felted and then remodelled. I was always intending it to be a container with a lid, which I was going to knit separately. But I overestimated the amount of vertical shrinkage, having made the body too tall. And the opening at the top was too small to be useful, anyway. So I gathered the opening around a piece of icord for the stalk, and cut a new opening in about the middle. Then I felted the two pieces separately.

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Cutting it open and re-felting caused it to bloat out into quite a fatty of a pear. (You can see it's still a bit taller and slimmer in this photo). After it was dry, I had to run some thread around the top edge of the lower piece to draw it in enough that the lid could sit on it and not fall in. The perfect pear colours came from a single ball of good old Sean Sheep Armytage, held double with similar colours of plain 8ply.

This project heralds a few firsts for me. It was the first time I have felted something stuffed, and next time need I need to stuff it a bit more - once again I overestimated shrinkage. I also tried out using a sink plunger to supplement my hand felting technique. Turns out to be excellent for getting a bucket full of items started a bit quicker. They still need attention by hand for the final stages.
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Finally, I tried needle felting for the first time, to put a subtle red blush and some brown spots on the stuffed pear (after K encouraged me to do a little test piece first). Still, I found it hard to get a really thin subtle layer of reds. I'm still not totally happy with it, but luckily I am not a perfectionist. Room to improve next time.

Monday, February 25, 2008

I've been following the light across my room

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I've done a ton of felting lately, much of it inspired by birthdays: a friend's on the weekend (the pink pod with the lid) and both of my sisters in the past couple of weeks.
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So this is the mystery piece I showed a glimpse of, pre-felting. I'm really happy with the colours and texture, a little less so with the final shape. It's just a little bit wonky, but, you know, hand made charm and all... The wonkiness is not obvious in these photos, but it is in person, at least to me and K.
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I made a couple of little pods to go with it as a set, for E.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Pod plus lid

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Big photos, but it's a little one. Maybe 10cm high with the lid on. This is made using the pod pattern, though with a wider opening.
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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

J'aime beaucoup


A little preview of the latest thing to be felted. I'm very taken with this wool in garter stitch (it's the Homemaker Venice from K-mart which I mentioned last post). The colours are so subtle, it might almost be a shame to felt it and blur them.

Both of these photos seem to make the colours even more subtle than they are.


Never mind, I went back for a few more balls, maybe I'll think of something non-felted to do with them.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Only you and I know exactly how it feels

My felting stash had well and truly grown out of its two little boxes and expanded in dribs and drabs in bags around the place. I've been dreaming of having a lovely glass-front cupboard with all the feltable wool arranged in some kind of colour order. I see myself standing in front of this cupboard and choosing colour combinations for the next project, without first bouncing around the house from box to bag and room to room, looking for a certain green or all the different yellows I can find.

I don't have space for new furniture in this house so this is the next best thing, for now. It's just a cheap plastic underbed zipup storage bag. It now contains all my felting stash, arranged loosely by colour, and still with room for a bit more.

I also did a bit of quick testing of some mystery yarns to see if they would felt. I just cut off a few centimetres, wet it with warm-hot water, add a bit of soap and roll it into a ball in the palm of my hand. You can tell within about a minute (this article says 5-10 min but I really don't think you need that long.)

The three above were sucessful, one was even marked machine washable (Homemaker Lifestyle Venice from K-Mart) but I bought it thinking it looked like it should felt, and I was right. The three below, clearly not successful. Well, it's preferably to knitting a whole item and then find it won't felt: that's bloody frustrating. Ask me how I know.

Okay, that up there wasn't actually ALL my felting stash, there is this lot too (much of it received in bulk from the generous Taphophile, some time ago. I have used some of it, but also love the potential of having it sitting there waiting for me.

I've never gone in for those guilty stash-flashing posts. Partly because I didn't think I had that much and I don't feel bad about it. So it turns out I do have quite a lot but it's exciting, not guilt-inducing. I really do get a lot of mileage out of having a nice big range of colours and textures to choose from. And there's no such thing as a useless odd ball, as long as it is feltable.

I'm a natural stasher from way back. I always have many books around that I haven't read yet, ditto comics, and DVDs. I'll never get bored. I did realise today that I have a bit more yarn than I thought. I do love finding bargains and then dreaming up creative ways to use them, but unfortunately I can imagine a lot more than I can ever actually get done. Oh well, today I did rip out a couple of unpromising projects, and found some missing needles, which is satisfying. And I threw out a LOT of old ball bands; why do I have so much trouble getting rid of them? Weird.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Pride's like a knife it can cut deep inside

Ever since I realised that many Australians (in particular indigenous Australians) think of Australia Day as Invasion Day, I've felt uneasy about the day. Mind you, I am a bit contrary at the best of times, pretty uncomfortable with overt displays of patriotism, and very uncomfortable with the binge drinking and hijinks often associated with Australia Day. Not, of course, that that stuff doesn't go on on other public holidays too.

The 26th of January is the official date of the beginning of white settlement in Australia and has been celebrated as a public holiday since the early years of settlement, long before Federation. It cannot be denied that white settlement was not entirely a good thing for the indigenous population, who had lived in this place for tens of thousands of years already.

There has been debate over many years about whether the day should be changed to something more ...neutral? Shared?

Now, thanks to our newly elected Government, there will be a formal apology in Parliament to the stolen generations, this coming Wednesday. This is the culmination of many years of calls for a "sorry day", ever since a national inquiry into the removal of indigenous children from their families resulted in the Bringing Them Home report (1997).

Of course there are hugely mixed feelings about this. Overly simplified, these include, from the right: there's no reason to apologise because nothing happened or at least nothing bad; or it's excessive for today's leaders to apologise for decisions of the past; and it will create financial and other liabilities for the government. (No reparations are being offered to go with this apology). From the left, enthusiastic cheering, or hesitant cheering, or downright disappointment that it's not enough.

It's not for me to say what's enough for the people directly involved. But I am an Australian, and over ten years or so I've realised that I'm not living in quite the country I thought I was in. It was the children overboard affair that drove this home. So I'm quietly, cautiously optimistic about the possiblities for my country under the new government. I reckon I'd be comfortable with the date of Australia Day being changed to 13 February. Not to be a depressing, black armband, memorial day. That would be the obvious argument against it. But wouldn't it be great to think that in a couple of years time, once we see what the fallout from the apology has been, we could reconstruct apology day as something to be proud of as a nation. The day we were willing to just say it, sorry, and get on with finding better, kinder and more caring ways to move on.

Wouldn't that be a bold gesture.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Can we meet on the street, maybe tomorrow?

Last week my sister and I took an overnight trip to Sydney to see Suzanne Vega at Star City Casino. She did NOT disappoint. I enjoyed the show a lot; but it was a dream come true for my sis. Suzanne had a four-piece band with her, including (apparently) a guitarist who comes from Canberra. They were good, but the songs I liked best were the ones she sang accompanied only by her own acoustic guitar and/or the bass player.

We also packed in a few other activities during our two days.

1. med at ikea_img_8960
"Dissecting probe, stat!" We admired Ikea's creative demonstration of possible uses for these drawers.

Near our hotel, this carpark behind the preserved facade of an old building caught my attention... especially the lighting on the trees showing through the openings.
2. facade carpark_img_8989
So I took about fifty equally blurry photos of the scene.
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The next day we managed to get up early-ish. Some shopping/browsing (Queen Victoria Building for her, Tapestry Craft for me), then a walk down to the art gallery to check out a wonderful August Sander exhibition. As we wandered at a leisurely pace through the Domain, it was packed with runners, soccer players, footy-kickers, and boot-campers sweating their way through the lunch hour.

We headed down to Circular Quay and picked a destination: Balmain because neither of us had been there before. It was a short, pleasant ferry ride and then a long walk up an enormous hill to get to the main street. There we rewarded ourselves with an large, delicious sushi lunch. This picture shows only half of the food we ordered.
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5. Balmain_img_9028

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7. Thames st wharf_img_9030
We had to take a longer ferry route to get back. It was a bit overcast and my photos mostly sucked. I really didn't get any that do justice to the magnificent Sydney Harbour.
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We agreed that it wouldn't suck to live in one of these places.
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It does suck to do without buses and trains. I think this was near Birkenhead point. I don't know who exactly is protesting, though.

Update: Rose Red kindly explained in the comments that The NSW Roads & Traffic Authority want to widen Victoria Road (the road that leads onto the bridge in the photo, the Iron Cove bridge) and also maybe build another bridge beside that one. This will just move the bottleneck of traffic to a point further down the road. Which is why residents want more buses and trains, and even ferries.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The way a world is revealed to you

Shortie socks for a sweet friend. These were directly inspired by finishing the green lacy Christmas socks for my sister. I used the same Heirloom argyle sock wool and the same lacy ribbing pattern, this time for the whole sock - what there is of it.

Don't they look a very awkward length, laid flat like that?

They make more sense on the foot. A tiny bit tight for me, and so I hope the right size for my friend with slightly smaller feet.

And what a lovely reaction they got. She seemed genuinely really excited and pleased to receive 'some knitting'! It was too way hot at the time for her to try them on, so I just hope they ended up fitting well.