Saturday, December 29, 2012

They say you would not hurt a fly

I made this dinosaur for a new baby friend of mine. (I haven't met him yet but will very soon). 016_edit
The pattern is Rebecca Danger's Basil the Boogie Woogie Brontosaurus. It is well written, and no more fiddly than it needs to be.
I don't think it matters if you think of him as a 'brontosaurus' or apatosaurus  or some other unspecified kind of dinosaur. K pointed out that his tail should stretch out behind him, and looking at the pictures, I suppose his neck and head should be more forward too.... but he wouldn't be as cute that way. Perhaps his upright posture is what makes him a boogie woogie dinosaur?
I used 5 ply wool and he came out quite big (didn't measure and he has flown away now, but the body might have been 20cm long?). In 8 ply he would be impressive.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Where everyone would love to drown

Last Saturday night, while drinking beer and eating Turkish food with good friends, the question was asked, what would you play if you were guest programmer on (long-running wee-hours-of-the-weekend music video show) Rage?

After a slow start, I hit on one of my favourite themes -- songs featuring male and female vocals together. I can't tell you why but it's always been something that really draws me to a song or a group.

A few ground rules: it doesn't have to be a duet with equivalent parts, but both voices need to have have a bit more than just a standard backing singer part. Also, they can be in a band together, it doesn't have to be a special one-off team-up. (But those are cool.)

We all tossed around ideas and came up with heaps, I only wish I had been writing them down at the time. Although if I had them all this post would be way too long, so here are a few of my favourites. If you like this kind of thing too, I'd love to hear your suggestions.

Johnny and June. Aw.

Continuing in the country vein, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

Something from Jack White's album with Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose, Portland, Oregon. Don't you love her dress, in that context? 

(Unfortunately I wasn't able to embed all of the videos.)

Something from the beautiful album Raising Sand by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant has to be in here - try Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On).

Brad Paisley's incredibly depressing Whiskey Lullaby, featuring Alison Krauss, also deserves a mention. However, the official video, which I had never seen until researching this post, kind of  spoils the mood. If I ever made a music video I'd try to steer clear of such a literal interpretation.

From his bluegrass album, Paul Kelly and the Stormwater Boys, a song featuring Kasey Chambers. I like Kasey's voice much better in duet than solo. More recently, she and her husband Shane Nicholson have made two albums together that I really like.

Or maybe you prefer the Emmylou Harris version of the same song, with Ricky Skaggs? She toured recently, including a show in Canberra, and I really wish I had gone to see her!

Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan - you could pick almost anything from their three albums together - this is Come on over, turn me on.

Ok, is that enough country/blues/bluegrass? Let's turn to British band The Beautiful South. So many of their songs feature Paul Heaton and/or Dave Hemingway duetting with the female vocalist in the band at the time (over several years, Briana Corrigan, Jacqui Abbott and then Alison Wheeler). Good as gold (stupid as mud) or Perfect 10 or Prettiest Eyes or many others...

Ooh, how about the Pet Shop Boys featuring Dusty Springfield - What have I done to deserve this?

Although songs from musicals are less likely to fly on Rage, this is my blog and I'd like to throw in A Model of Decorum and Tranquility, a duet that turns into a trio, from my favourite musical, Chess.

Siblings often sound good together (think of the Bee Gees). Michael and Janet have the dancing gene as well.

Nick Cave has done some great duets - here he is with PJ Harvey.

Mustn't forget Fleetwood Mac.

And a final mention for Eurythmics' We too are one, though Dave Stewart's singing part is not huge, I just wanted them in this list anyway. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Someone suggested blues and greens

And I realised I might have been on more of reddish kick for too long. I'm doing some sorting of the felting wool cupboard, having found some clear plastic baskets at the dollar shops (clear, so you can still see the colours somewhat through the glass sides and doors of the cupboard). Never fear, it will still be a loosely organised creative mess. I like it that way. I am just a bit sick of balls of wool springing out every time I open it. And I wasn't really seeing all the options that are tucked away in there.

Anyway, if you happen to be the person who asked at Craft ACT if I ever do greens and blues, these four are now available in the shop. (And I'm always happy to take custom orders).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Blogs I love

Wow! Thank you so much for your response to my last post, I am having a great time checking out your suggestions. I think it's only fair that I should also highlight a few sites that I love.

I don't really respond to many 'design' blogs, but I never get sick of the clever repurposing projects highlighted in Unconsumption.

This is another one I power through every now and then (it used to be Craftzine but then it was rolled into big brother Makezine). There is a lot of content so I usually just scroll through fairly quickly 'til something catches my eye. Quite a few of my past Christmas present ideas were inspired by something from Craft.

Sara Aires does beautiful things with felt and crochet. I can't understand a word of her posts, but I love her work. Same goes for doll stories by artist Neta Amir of Israel, and a long time favourite of mine, Ann Wood.

Since I found them in London last year, I like keeping up with Prick Your Finger's take on the woolly fibre arts. The post about the Shamanic Bed was a recent standout.

I also keep an eye on a few fashion/style blogs - some for direct inspiration and others just because they are completely marvellous, like Desiree at Pull your socks up.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Is blogging dead? Long live the blog!

I still read a lot of blogs, but many of my old favourites have gone dark, and I'd like to make some new connections. And I would love to hear from you, if you're still checking in here - who else do you read? People who make things? People who collate other interesting things? People who just write damn well? Bring on the recommendations.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

All the colours

What my living room has looked like for the past week... working to a couple of (sort of self-imposed) deadlines.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Go karting!

 I was about the slowest on the track but it was heaps of fun. 038
 Getting lapped again!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Strange Road opening!

I had a most excellent extended weekend, which included going to the opening of The Strange Road, Funbeard's latest exhibition. Wonderful paintings...
070 b
great company, a fun band (loud!)

and afterwards, my best customer was at it again. It's a good thing I still love making pears.

The exhibition is on until 8 November at the Collingwood Gallery, 292 Smith Street, Collingwood.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slight anxiety transfer

I forgot about one funny part of the Semele story. I had been talking with a friend, who is not a knitter but was also invited to the wedding, about my plans to make a shawl to go with my dress and the fact I had bought special yarn. A week later she asked me how it was going and I confessed my concerns about the size, and that I was thinking about ripping it all out and starting again. (I was still mostly comfortable about getting it done in time, though). A few days later she told me about a dream she had. I had finished the shawl for the wedding but it was really tiny, just a wee hilarious little triangle at the back of my neck. But the best part was that the fabric had come out with a newsprint effect. Not like it had been smudged with newsprint, but as if it was printed with a newsprint design.

I know Opal and other sock yarns come in some amazing patterns, but now I really really want to see the self-patterning yarn that does that!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

To your door at daylight

So, I recently had an invitation to a spring wedding, I already had a dress that I was happy to wear, but would need to have a cardigan or jacket to throw over it. I have an old black blazer that has done duty at many weddings and formal events, but a shawl or wrap seemed like a nice change. So I came up with a plan, involving  two slightly unusual-for-me things: working to a deadline (this usually only seems to happen for presents for others), and buying luxury yarn. I had silk in mind, and definitely wanted very dark blue. I ended up with Artyarns Ensemble Light in 'Inky Blues' - hands down the most expensive single skein/ball I've ever purchased.
The Ensemble yarn is one strand of cashmere and one of silk, both delicate fibres, and they don't really seem to be plied together, so it has to be handled with care to avoid splitting stitches. I was lucky to only have to go back once or twice to fix splits. That was probably due to knitting lace rather than a plainer pattern - I had to watch what I was doing anyway. It really is lovely stuff (especially to wear), but I would only recommend it if you know and accept what you're in for. It's also marked dry-clean only, but I was convinced that it had to be possible to very gently hand wash it - given that I could see that plenty of other people had used it for patterns that would need to be wet-blocked.
The pattern, Semele by ├ůsa Tricosa is great, well written and easy to make to any size and allows you to use up all your wool quite precisely - you just start decreasing when you've used about half. It wouldn't be hard to customise the shape too, to make it widen more or stay narrow and scarf-like. I actually knit quite a lot of it once before deciding to rip it out and start over with bigger needles (going from 4mm to 4.5mm). I was worried it might end up a bit too small, and given the price, I wasn't about to casually grab another skein to make it bigger, even if there had been time.   
In the end I think the knitting took about a week. I'm not a super fast knitter, but I was happy with that. I finished it one night early and stayed up a bit too late to block it. I was pretty tired at work the next day but it was worth it to know it was done and would definitely be fully dry and ready to wear.
It's still a small shawl, a knitting trend that I know some people despise, but I love them and find them extremely wearable. I think I'll wear this a lot as a scarf, possibly in between seasons. It was quite a warm day and it was actually really nice draped around my shoulders in the morning - I think the silk-cashmere combo might be a bit cooler than wool.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tea cosy non-pattern

Since you asked, Donna Lee, the striped tea cosy is done in a slip stitch pattern I improvised, worked over a multiple of 4 plus 3 stitches (keeping in mind this is worked flat, not in the round):

(after a few set-up rows)
1. P
2. Change colour: (K3, sl1) repeat to last 3 sts, K3
3. P
4. P

The wool was 8 ply, the needles 4.5mm - though I think I would have preferred 4mm.

The base curls up, and if I did it again I would start with some ribbing to avoid that, which would also draw it in around the bottom of the teapot a bit.

I tapered the pieces at the top, and put in a row of eyelets before casting off. It's made as two flat pieces which are sewn together just at the top and bottom, leaving space for the handle and spout.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What was that craftster motto again?

 The first tea cosy sparked a request for another one in the same colours and design. For various reasons, I was happy to do it for this person, but I was stubbornly determined not to repeat myself exactly so I made some little modifications. Just double seed stitch instead of seed/irish moss, and the flower colours reversed. Now I'm looking at these pictures, I wonder if maybe it could have used an extra flower on one side.

The stripey one I made earlier in the winter. It took a lot longer to complete, for such a little project, and I think I'd use self-striping next time! I usually don't mind ends at all, even lots of ends, but somehow it didn't seem worth it for a tea cosy. This, I suppose, could be considered a prototype - if I ever get around to trying again with a few tweaks. It was maybe going to be a gift, but I wasn't totally thrilled with it. But at least now my teapot  has its own cosy and my tea stays warm a bit longer. (We usually drink all the tea in one go anyway so I've never seen an urgent need for one).
010_stripe cosy

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Teal leaves


This is the Falling leaves scarf I made for my sister, but it's written for bulky yarn and I used a worsted weight - Misti Alpaca Tonos again - (same colour, even). When I showed the pattern picture to my sister I tried to warn her that it would come out a bit smaller and more delicate.... but in hindsight, I didn't really get the message across and she was surprised when she saw it, having expected the leaves to be much bigger.


Given the smaller gauge, I thought I'd need some extra repeats to get the right length. I actually did a quick block while it was on the needles, before knitting the tapered end, to check how it would look. And in spite of this caution, it still ended up too long. The photo above is how it is designed to be worn, pulled once through the loop. A bit droopy and not much good for keeping the neck/throat warm.


She found a couple of ways to loop up the extra length though (above and below). And isn't that green jumper gorgeous? She wins at op shopping!


I think it looks pretty good and I think she is happy with it. But it's such a nice and quick pattern, if I come across a likely bulkier yarn, I'll do it again for her at some point.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Never knew no good from bad

So, a few weeks ago, we were still in the dead of winter. My bigger knitting project (a cardigan) wasn't progressing, other creative ideas/execution not really was voraciously eating up most of my capacity*, and I wasn't happy about it. And I had a cold head!

*I know, this is a bit modern jargon-y, but it's the best description - not necessarily lack of time (though that too) but just having nothing much left when I get home.

It didn't take long to find a use for the Dream in Colour 'Smooshy' wool that turned out to be the wrong colours for Mum. And it's lovely stuff.
Me and my hat
This is the 'Skinny Skid' hat (slouchy version) from West Knits. It's not perfect, but this is the first hat I've made that I'm happy to wear out and about. I realised long ago that beanies are pretty unflattering on me. Plus, a beret or something with a little slouch causes less extreme hat hair. As long as I only have it on for a little while (mainly on the way to work), my unsophisticated hair style isn't much affected.

The pattern is a really interesting construction, starting with a double-knit band, one edge of which is cast off to become a sort of pocket. This was my first time double-knitting. It's not hard, but pretty slooooooow (this may have been related to my 'capacity' problems of recent weeks), made worse by having to do it all twice.

I started out knitting this as the designer intended, with two different colours. The band has one colour on the inside and one outside, then the body of the hat has single-row stripes throughout. I knit the whole band and a few rows of the rest when I decided that my two yarns (the other one was a dark purple) were too different in thickness - particularly obvious in the double-knitted part where my gauge was looser anyway. Also, although I had cast on for the largest size, the band felt very tight around my head, so when I started again I cast on a few extra stitches. In the meantime I had looked carefully at others' finished hats and concluded that I wasn't keen on the striping, so I decided to just work with the one colourway. The pictures published with the pattern show a striped hat, but the two colourways are quite close and it's a subtle effect.
Bells took these photos. Thanks!

I blocked it on a dinner plate, the common method for berets and tams, and then used the iron to steam the top of the hat thoroughly, trying to reduce that 'pouchy' effect. It's still not as smooth as I'd prefer. But I love having a warm hat to wear on icy mornings.

Now of course, it is spring, and there are a few icy mornings to come but the days are beautiful. My capacity problem has mostly dissipated, and I'm onto the sleeves of my cardigan - it's this one, with a couple of modifications. I'm also whipping up another tea cosy for someone who asked very nicely. Things are looking up and I feel more like myself again.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Mountain climbing

Canberra put on some pretty lovely weather for a photography/walking expedition with Bertie Mabootoo and E today. I must admit we drove all the way to the top of the mountain. But we did walk a good chunk of the steep track down and back up again.

Bertie and I have teamed up for something super-mega. I don't know what will happen next. (I need to figure it out though!)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Wool for warmth

Mum's chadwick
This was finished about a month ago, but I kept thinking I might take the time to get a better photo. I had to mess around with the colour a bit, and my photoshop skills and not up to much. But doesn't Mum look beautiful? She's been wearing this scarf a lot - it works even better with her classy work clothes than it does with the weekend exercise gear here - and getting lots of compliments. Which makes me very happy.

Very very happy, because for a while there I wondered if I would ever find the right yarn combination. It all started when Mum tried on mine and liked the style, but even more importantly, found the soft merino and merino-cashmere yarns perfectly acceptable around her neck. My rule of thumb had been that she couldn't tolerate any wool in a scarf. (No allergy, she's just one of those people who are pretty sensitive to the 'prickle' of wool). I'd made her  a couple of bamboo scarves, but they're really not warm enough for winter, and this winter has been pretty cold.

I knew there were a number of soft merino 4plys, like Zarina or baby wools, that would suit, but I wanted one of the two yarns to have subtle variegation, like a hand-paint. I had a look in all of the local wool shops, and searched online. We wanted something in deep reds, orange or brick colours. And it had to be very soft. I didn't find many promising candidates. I did order some Dream in Colour Smooshy in a colour which looked promising on screen, but it  turned out to have small pink and purple elements, which just aren't Mum at all. I finally went back to my local wool shop for another look, and came across this Ella Rae Lace Merino in subtly variegated orange. The colour was perfect, but because of the name, its 'skinny' look, and the placement in the shop, I thought the Ella Rae stuff was a laceweight. However, I was so happy with the colour and so keen to find something, I thought I could try it doubled. It was quick work to pick something to contrast with it (Katia Merino Baby in a sort of brownish maroon).

Doubling the wool, however, didn't work. It was obviously too thick. Turns out it is considered 'fingering'/4ply weight. In the end the two yarns actually went together just fine - there is a bit of a difference, but it doesn't seem to matter. It was a similar situation with my original Chadwick shawl, the Knittery merino cashmere was a bit thicker than the Patonyle.

I do really love this pattern, fun and simple to knit and really nice to wear.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Melbourne weekend

I went to Melbourne last weekend, and on the flight down I happened to look out of the window as we travelled over the Snowy Mountains. Then on the way home, I looked out of the window just as the flight crew was announcing we were starting the descent into Sydney - and we were flying right past Canberra! I had booked my ticket a bit late and didn't get a direct flight. But I did not expect to look down and be able to wave at my neighbourhood on the way past. Strange and cool.
 I was serious when I said I wanted to eat this again. We went back to Borscht, Vodka and Tears with our cousin, who has also been to Poland. We all ate *well*. Yum.
043_edit 054_1 056

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Cabled cowl

This was one of those sweet projects that went really smoothly. My sis wanted an easy-to-wear neckwarmer, nothing that needs to be tied, pinned or arranged. She still wears a short scarf I made for her a few years ago (a replacement version of this one which went missing) and it's looking pretty worn. We talked about options including another short scarf with buttons, or a keyhole scarf. When I suggested a short cowl, she liked that idea the best. cowl flat
I chose larger needles to make it nice and drapey (5mm; the wool is Cleckheaton Country Naturals). Tried out a cable pattern I had seen (I like the flatter look you get with those knit stitches next to the cables, instead of going straight to purls). Then I draped a tape measure around my neck to guesstimate the ideal circumference. Not sure what I ended up with, but what I wrote down was 55-60cm. I didn't know how deep to make it, so I had her try it on when I thought it might be finished (I cast off but didn't weave in the ends), and she decided how much more there should be. A couple more cable repeats and it was done. I can see why cowls are so popular to knit, so simple to make and easy to wear. cowl2

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The after shot(s)

bowl 6
And here is that big pod after felting. bowls 11
I dropped off a batch of both pears and bowls at Craft ACT today. bowls in shop
I do always struggle a bit with pricing. After spending the hours knitting, felting and finishing, plus rejecting a couple of pieces that aren't good enough, I was trying to psyche myself up to charge a bit more than last time. Because there is work here (even if I enjoy most of it), and that time could be spent doing lots of other things. I don't really make standard sizes, I just have a list of the price points I've used before and I pick what seems right at the time. I pretty sure that I haven't been too vigilant and have been inclined to err on the side of the cheaper price points over time. Somehow at the last minute I look at the pieces and see them as ordinary, just those things I make...

  bowls 9
So it was very gratifying to have Jenny suggest that the prices go up a bit with this batch. She'd observed that people seem to find them cheaper than they expect. posed bowls 16
I forgot to get good pictures of the pears this time. They were ready a couple of weeks ago and have been sitting on my cabinet at work, attracting a mixture of compliments and bemused questions. It's taken years but I now have a good, simple answer to the perennial 'what are they *for*?'. They're sculptures.

pears in shop

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tapestry weaving

IMG_6764 Today I went to a free tapestry weaving workshop with my mum. The Canberra Centenary Community Tapestry Project has opportunities for people to get involved both in the design and the actual weaving. The workshops at this stage are just for learning the basics and maybe coming up with your own designs; I don't think the actual tapestry has started yet. It was slightly awkward; from the info we saw, we kinda thought there would be new beginners there each Sunday, but it turned out everyone there today had started last week. So we had to wait around a bit for the teacher to get us started and show us the basics. Still a great opportunity to try something new. The piece is pretty unexciting in these pictures but we did start to add other colours and worked on a diagonal line too. IMG_6765

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The before shot

felting before
It's been a while since I did's a largish pod/bowl I knit this evening. It's now half felted, in a bucket.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Fashionable owls (are what they seem)


I loved that owl cable and wanted to do it again. So I did, this time for my the smallest nephew who has just turned one. The yarn is Cleckheaton Country Tartan, because my sister and I both loved the light teal-blue, both because it suits this boy and also as an alternative to more conventional 'boy' blues. (Don't get me started on boys' clothes and colour limitations!) There are actually two close but different colours spun together. The other Tartan colourways are much less subtle. The colour may be great but I can't say I'm thrilled with the quality, although I kind of knew what to expect.... other 8plys I've used for kids jumpers (Bendigo, Patons Totem) have been smoother, more pleasant, and probably more hard-wearing. In fact this boy also wear the Sherwood jumper I made years ago and which has been worn by at least two other siblings. IMG_6757_edit

The pattern was improvised from a couple of different sources. It might have been better if one of those sources was in fact a v-neck, because I didn't quite nail it, it really should have been a little bit deeper or wider. Because of this, the neckband took four tries. The first time, using needles a little smaller than those for the main body (down to 3.75mm from 4mm) and picking up stitches at what felt like a 'normal' ratio, resulted in an opening would be a real struggle to pull over his head. (And I did as few rows as I could to avoid narrowing it more than necessary). This was pretty annoying and unexpected, given that I chose a v-neck partly because other necklines for babies & toddlers tend to need an opening and button(s) somewhere on the neckline. The second time, I decided to try 3.25mm needles, and picked up a lot more stitches. The smaller needles didn't make the stitches as much smaller as I anticipated, and the neckband ended up flaring out badly. 011_edit

I was pretty sure I would need to pick up less stitches, probably a number halfway between the first and second tries, but as an interim attempt I just ripped back to the picked-up stitches and tried 2*2 rib instead of 1*1. I thought there was a good chance this wouldn't solve it, but by this stage it was quite an interesting learning experience and I wanted to see how much less it would flare this way. My assumption was that the stitches would be a little tighter overall - generally the more switches between knit and purl stitches, the more loose the knitting is. This is why smaller needles are often suggested for ribbing. And I was right, it did flare less, mainly only looking bad across the back. So for the fourth and final attempt, I went back and picked up less stitches, reducing the number across the back more, and not reducing the number in the v part too much. I still tried to have as many stitches overall as I could without getting a flared effect, because I was still concerned about it getting over his head. IMG_6763_edit

Unfortunately, the neckline still does flare out at the back. Actually it's happening in the above photo as well.  At least it does go over his head without complaints. You may also be able to see that I've added length to the body and sleeves. He grew significantly while I was knitting! This is a great advantage of top-down, in-the-round construction, it was pretty easy to undo the cast off and continue knitting.