Monday, June 28, 2010

A vest for EJ

I've gotten a lot of mileage out of the dress I made for my niece (and so has she), but it really was high time to make something for her twin brother.

My sister favoured something light in cotton for EJ, as he tends to run a bit hot and she wanted it to get lots of wear (like the cotton dress has) as part of a daily outfit, rather than a warm woolly item that might only be put on for a short time. I would love to make something from some of my wool stash, but I appreciate her reasons and can't really disagree.

It's 4ply mercerised cotton from the dollar shop. (! cost more than a dollar, but a good price. And they had a colour that I liked for him - it's hard to find 4ply cotton in interesting colours.) A lot of knitters hate using this kind of cotton, and it is considered to be more for crochet, I think. I wasn't sure at first, and I'm not a fan of really shiny, hard cottons, but this one was fairly soft and it swatched into a really nice fine drapey fabric. So I went for it. I added some thin stripes with leftover Tofutsies. I liked the way this added a few other colours without making it like I threw a rainbow at it. It's hard to get much of a range of colourful clothes for boys. I think this will brighten up lots of his outfits.
side view
I started at the bottom, casting on enough stitches to get the right width/circumference. I made it a little wider than the roomy t-shirt we measured, to give a little growing room. And I used some ribbing up both sides to draw in any extra fabric a little bit so it would have that room but not look too baggy. I also did some lines of purl stitches, for some fun texture and to make it a bit less serious - it is a toddler garment after all.

The rolled edge was a few rows of stocking stitch before establishing the ribbing. I usually like this effect a lot. It doesn't sit quite right in this cotton, but I thought it was ok. I knitted the body in the round. While this was in progress I looked at a number of vest pictures and patterns to work out the basic proportions for when the armholes should start (about 2/3 of the way up the body I think).
From that point I adapted this pattern for the v-neck and armhole shaping. Then I seamed the shoulders and picked up stitches for the neck ribbing. And then, I panicked about the apparent smallness of the neck hole. I really wanted it to be a standard v-neck vest and not a baby vest with buttons on one shoulder. But I was quite worried it wouldn't go over his head without tears! So I had to spoil the surprise and get him to try it on.

It was fine! Well, apart from him, with his 2-year old fashion sense, NOT LIKING IT. Apparently he's getting over that now. They say you may have to present new food options many times to a toddler before he will try them. This vest might be a bit like that.

So I took it home and finished the arm holes with ribbing, and wove in sixteen thousand ends. Approximately. I normally don't mind weaving in ends, even when there are a lot of them. But it's just not fun in cotton; they are so much harder to hide. I did get it done though, and I was very happy with it in the end, as it fit the kid and matched my initial vision pretty well.

Monday, June 21, 2010

A very goth church

My friend Elizabeth in Canada has just taught me something about my own city. I knew that this church had been moved to Canberra after a former life as a railway station. I didn't realise it had been a station for Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney. And it hadn't occurred to me that the train lines and stations servicing cemetaries (necropolis) were as much for the transport of the dead as for the mourners.

All Saints Church is a pretty noticeable landmark in Canberra, being such a young city. Apparently after it had fallen into disuse as a receiving station, and lost its roof in a fire in the 1950s, the church purchased the stonework for a mere £100. The transport to Canberra and rebuilding in Ainslie would have cost a great deal more - apparently it was 782 tons of stone, requiring eighty-three semi-trailer loads.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

But the only birds I saw were seagulls

During the time we spent on Cockatoo Island last Sunday, I was only partially focused on the art. The time walking around the island between installations was just as good and I had the camera out the whole time.
It's a gorgeous old industrial landscape, if you like that sort of thing. I really do. It is completely built-up and there are so many interesting colours, textures, and layers of history.
built on top
The earliest buildings on the island are convict-built sandstone. This one has a metal second storey plonked on top. Delightfully utilitarian - mostly in Sydney the sandstone buildings are treated with more respect!
rusty crane

I had a thing for the decaying metal and wood cranes dotted around the island. I always find those freight cranes and other stuff around ports interesting.
For those who were troubled by my mention of "lots of little dark bunkers and tunnels" - there really is a lot of open space, and big indoor spaces, too.
turbine hall2

air raid shelter
But we did go inside some slightly spooky spaces.
stores tunnel
I didn't take a lot of photos of the Biennale works, although at least it was allowed at Cockatoo Island - the MCA doesn't allow photography, at least for special exhibitions.

At first we just thought these guys posing with one of the works (a massive image from Althea Thauberger's La mort e la miseria) were amusing. They took turns posing as part of the picture, a cool effect because the figures in the photo were life-sized. But long after I took these pictures they were still fooling around in front of it and there were quite a few people waiting, quietly annoyed, to get a proper look. Also, they were touching the work, which is rude and inappropriate.

People behave very differently in spaces like these compared to the more formal atmosphere of an art gallery. There were lots of families with children visiting Cockatoo island, which was great to see. The weather was nice for the first weekend in several, and it was obviously a more welcoming location for people to bring younger kids, than some of the other venues. (Though it could be kind of dangerous as well - there were lots of things to trip over, and to climb, as well as unprotected edges to fall off into Sydney Harbour too.) But I also found myself feeling irritated in a couple of the smaller rooms with video works, where groups of kids were tearing through, giggling about how spooky it was, and then an adult came in shouting 'time to go now! Get out here'. It's not as though I think people should be hushed in the presence of art (far from it) but some respect for others wanting to view and take in the work would be nice. They were treating the place like an amusement park.
jumping castle
Speaking of which, when I saw this jumping castle in the distance I thought, cool, even the jumping castle is made up to be a bit arty for the Biennale. But it was actualy the other way around. This is Brook Andrew's Jumping Castle War Memorial. The patterning is related to his indigenous (Wiradjuri) heritage but I gather the memorial is for all forgotten victims of genocides. There are black and white skulls suspected in the corner sections. There was supposed to be a choice of whether to jump or not (adults only), which I suppose would add emphasis to the juxtaposition of the serious theme and playful object. We were told that they had had to stop permitting anyone to jump on it though, as apparently it was not standing up to the punishment.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Been to Biennale

turbine hall
Last weekend I went to Sydney for the Biennale, which was a fascinating array of contemporary art. The festival was spread around several venues, but the two main ones were the Museum of Contemporary Art and Cockatoo Island. Cockatoo Island was fascinating in itself, an abandoned industrial site, a small, completely built-up island in Sydney Harbour, which was once a convict-built prison and then a naval shipyard. It made a really interesting site for the festival, with space for work that wouldn't have fit easily in a conventional gallery. And lots of little dark bunkers and tunnels perfect for video installations.
cockatoo island

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Fresh fruit


I'm making more pears and I've altered my technique. I always used to stuff them before felting. I knew that they would felt better and faster if I did them hollow (the fabric can move around and agitate better) and yet I resisted trying it this way. I was attached to the idea that it was best to attach the stalk while sewing up the hole at the top, before felting. I would do this with the same wool the pear was knit from, and it would all fuse together nicely. I was worried that the gathered part at the top would look too chunky if it was sewn together after felting.

Ha. All that thinking! And yet when I tried it the other way I was very happy with the results. The felted fabric is firmer and I like it better. They are less like little fat cushions (I've worked on a slightly slimmer pear shape too) and a little more sculptural.

As a bonus, because the stuffing doesn't have to stand up to the felting process and also dry easily, I can use a wider range of things in the stuffing, including fabric and wool scraps.