Sunday, September 20, 2015

Walking around in this dress that she wore


This jumper, Daelyn is a quick and easy knit. And it went pretty fast, at least during the time I was working on it, but took a good four months overall because I kept putting it aside for other projects.

Daelyn back

It didn't help that after reaching the hem, I decided to reknit the body from the armholes down, as I wasn't quite happy with how it was turning out. That's a great feature of knitting top-down in the round - it's easy to try on as you go.

The pattern has these sloping lines which start at the sides and move into the front. It's not waist shaping - though it sort of gives a shaped effect - you are simply increasing the garter stitch back section at the same time as decreasing the stocking stitch front section.

first try collage

Since I was using 8 ply wool (a mystery merino cashmere bought cheap from the Mill Shop) and the pattern is written for worsted weight, I did some maths and chose the size, a couple of stops up from my usual, that would work with my stitch gauge. I wasn't so worried about row gauge, especially once I could try it on and see that the raglan shaping and armholes seemed to fit ok. And this worked well on the whole. But I really didn't like how sharply those lines down the side angled inwards, which would be affected by row gauge. There seemed to be too much clingy garter stitch section and then a funny 'stomach pocket' effect at the front.

I looked at examples others had made and a few others were similar, but it seemed from the pattern photos that that sharper angle probably wasn't what the designer intended. In any case, it wasn't what I wanted. I also hadn't made it as long as I really wanted. And I had also found that the short rows the pattern has you do at the back before the hem had only just made it about as long as the front, when they were supposed to make it slightly longer at the back.

So on the reknit, I did those increase/decrease rows only half as often - every 12 instead of every 6 rows. I also did almost twice as many short rows in that pre-hem section, and I was much happier with the results. You can see it's still only slightly longer at the back - which is fine, I didn't want a mullet hem, but I didn't want the front to be longer than the back!

Short row collar

The neckline area wasn't fitting well each time I tried it on, and I was worried that I would have to do something really tricky in picking up for the collar, I even thought about adding two very deliberate tucks in the front to pull it in. But when I saw it with the sleeves finished I could see that maybe it wasn't that dire. It was lower in the back than the front, and very wide at the sides. I thought I'd try doing a few short rows around the sides and back and it worked! It allowed me to add more collar length where I needed it and keep it from choking me at the front. I also did a very few decreases in the last couple of rows to pull it in a little bit more. Now I am really happy with the fit: the wrinkling in the above photo is only because I was holding the camera out, it actually sits quite nicely.

I don't know if you've guessed from these photos, but the final thing I did was overdye it red. When I bought the yarn it was only available in pink - this brighter pinks-n-purples variegated and a paler pink (I also have one skein of that). I was pretty sure I wouldn't wear it like that but I could see that dying could work to make it redder, or oranger - even shades of brown would have been okay. As I was knitting it I could see that the fabric was very soft and it quickly became fuzzy with handling. This made me even more sure I needed it to be a different colour. Although I do wear pink, pink AND fuzzy was very not me.  

Red Daelyn

Sunday, September 06, 2015


Viewing cranes

Going to Hiroshima was my idea; I was drawn to it as the site of a fascinating, momentous (if horrific) historical event. I don't regret it at all, but going through the Peace Memorial Museum - the grim building below - was a pretty harrowing experience. Probably not helped by the fact that part of the museum was closed for renovation, and so visitors start their tour/immersion pretty much at the moment of the atomic bomb's detonation, with this model of the city with a massive red ball, representing the bomb exploding, suspended over it.

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum

From there the galleries do a very good job of immersing you in the horror of the bombing and the aftermath. One theme that stayed with me was the seemingly endless stories of young teenagers who died, accompanied by displays of shredded school uniforms and other personal items. Many of these kids would not normally have been in the city but they had been mobilised for war service and put to work tearing down and clearing buildings to create fire lanes.


I'm sure I came across the story of Sadako and the paper cranes quite young. In the years after she died of leukemia, Sadako's classmates raised money to build a memorial to her and other children who had died as a result of the atomic bombing.

Window of cranes

Sadako's story became so well known and such a popular symbol of peace that people from all over the world started bringing or sending paper cranes to the Hiroshima memorial, and they still do. Display cases around the memorial showcase the latest collections, either in long strings or arranged into colourful pictures.


Eventually as the paper fades and ages, the cranes are recycled to make new paper. In the museum gift shop I bought postcards and writing paper made from recycled paper cranes.

Cranes detail


A moderate walk beyond the children's memorial, we  came to the A-Bomb Dome (Hiroshima Peace Memorial). This was the only building so close to the hypocenter of the blast which was left standing, and the city decided to keep it in its shattered state as a memorial.

P6131019 dome

Near the dome, a couple of bomb survivors had tables set up, where they were talking to people and I think selling books. Volunteer tour guide Okihiro Terao made these very beautiful glass 'before and after' models of the building, formerly the Products Exhibition Hall.

P6131035 glass models

I came away from Hiroshima wanting to know more about the context of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the time. I knew only the basic facts and the idea that the bombings had been considered to have ended the war, but I wanted to know especially how the decision was seen in the US at the time and after, and what people knew about the bombs, their destructive power and the radiation effects. In the past couple of weeks I've been reading 'Hiroshima in America' which covers some of this ground. It does spend a lot of time on the psychology of several important figures in the decision, especially President Truman - interesting stuff, if it does go on a bit (and as many reviews have pointed out, maybe speculates a bit much). The thing is, during the last few days of our trip, in I saw this book in the small English section of a huge secondhand book shop in Tokyo, and I was instantly drawn to it. But it was a large hardcover, I have a small suitcase, and have mostly broken my habit of book-buying while travelling; so I moved on quickly to the basement full of second hand clothing instead. Once I got home I couldn't stop thinking about that book. I had moved myself on so quickly I hadn't even written down the details, but I managed to figure it out and soon an old library copy was on its way to me via Better World Books

P6131037 ed

Monday, August 31, 2015

Miyajima deer are not timid deer

shadow deer

Our destination after Kyoto was Hiroshima. Although we only had one night / two half days to spend there, we decided to head to the nearby island of Miyajima for the afternoon as soon as we arrived in Hiroshima.

Itsukushima shrine gate

Miyajima is known as a very beautiful place and a holy place - the whole island is considered sacred and in Shinto is actually considered to be the body of God.

gate & water


There certainly was beauty and serenity to be found there.




Also, deer again! And if we thought the Nara deer were pretty tame, those on Miyajima were cheeky and even potentially aggressive.

Deer feeding

Obviously, if you have food for them, they crowd in.

Deer food

They're completely comfortable mingling really closely with the humans.

not shy deer

I was standing, talking with Mum, when I felt something tugging on my bag. My sister was quick with the camera and caught this deer in the act, stealing my MAP!

deer thief

As I moved my hand to the outer pocket of the bag, the deer pulled away, munching on half of the map. You can just see the last of it disappearing in the deer's mouth, in the photo below. I managed to keep the other half of the map. I think it makes a memorable souvenir. At this point Mum mentioned she had seen a warning somewhere that the deer like to eat paper. I guess they probably shouldn't, though.

deer munching map

This deer must have really liked that half-map. The cheeky bugger followed me along the street. I was starting to wonder if this deer was going to tail me for my whole visit on the island, and I was getting a bit I did a rapid u-turn and was relieved to find it had taken an interest in someone else.

The one in the photo below was just hanging out, not too close to people, minding its own business. Suddenly a stupid person came past and slapped it on the hindquarters. It sprang towards us in shock, but luckily calmed down quickly.


It was a hot dry day and many of the deer made a speciality of lying around, posing majestically.

casual deer


So the deer gave us a bit of entertainment and were lovely to photograph, but even apart from them, the island itself was well worth the visit. It's quite hilly and as soon as we started to climb up away from the hot dusty shore there was lots of peaceful and green spaces. My sister and I couldn't resist a taking our shoes off and sitting by a stream with our feet in the cool water. I'm pretty sure that was not really the done thing and we did get a few amused looks from people crossing the nearby bridge. Although there were many tourists dressed casually in shorts and other summer gear, we also saw many Japanese people dressed reasonably formally, like it was a Sunday stroll to church. I hope we didn't seriously offend with our feet in the water.

resting in Toyokuni Shrine

And there was this place. I loved spending time in the massive hall of Toyokuni shrine, an incredibly calm and soothing space to take some time to rest. Right behind it was a flashy five-storey pagoda: but I found this building much more compelling.

Toyokuni shrine, Miyajima

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Off to Nara to see the deer


Our last Kyoto day was earmarked for a daytrip to Canberra's sister city, Nara. That was about all I knew about Nara, but my sister told me the main draw was a large park with lots of deer, and that sounded pretty good.

deer sculpture

We arrived late in the morning and pretty soon we were ready for lunch, so the first stop was the tiny okonomiyaki place. Then we headed a few blocks off the main tourist trail to try to find the Nara Craft Museum on our way to the park. We got a bit confused. I think we had one of those maps that only shows main streets, not smaller lanes. But the wandering was all made worthwhile when we came across a definitely not tourist-oriented, genuinely cheap op (thrift) shop where everything seemed to be about 100yen. We did find the craft museum after that, and with it our first two deer (above) for the day.


I think we took the longest possible walking route to get into the park. But it was worth it when we got there. It rained lightly on and off all day, but it wasn't cold, and we had a fun time exploring the large and very beautiful park, and admiring the many deer.

P6110748 park deer

There were heaps of deer everywhere and they are obviously used to being in close proximity to humans.

deer road

Plenty of deer poo on the paths, too.

deer poo

I can see why people fall so in love, aesthetically, with Japan. Even the drains are beautiful, or at least pleasingly arranged.

pretty drain

And below, one of the fanciest manhole covers I saw - not in the park but back in town - features one of Nara's pretty deer.

Nara deer design




stripe deer


Due to our 'long way round' approach to Nara Park, we only came across this warning about deer dangers on our way out. I'm plesaed to report we made it all the way through the park without experiencing Bite, Kick, Butt, or Knock down. I decided that kangaroos are more scary.

deer warning

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kimonos in Kyoto

dressed up

Back to the Japan trip. (I should clarify, I've been home for weeks now, just enjoying going through the photos and remembering all we did and saw.)

Even after the day of too much walking, we headed out walking for the morning again! This time we were a bit better targeted. We went through a street or two which used a real centre of ceramics production and still has a few great pottery shops. As we wandered through this hilly district there were other artisans shops as well, and several shrines (particularly higher in the hills) and touristy souvenir shops to go with them. Including kimono hire, kimono sales and some fabric too - old kimono fabric scraps was one of our shopping targets.


I really enjoyed all the pattern mixing I saw in the pairing of kimonos with obis. Oh, this is a shop dummy, not a headless person! Perhaps I could have framed this shot better...


Once we were wandering around Kyoto we started seeing these fellows everywhere. Tanuki is a welcoming and wealth-bringing icon but he has evolved from something that was originally more evil and scary, from older Chinese fox folklore. The reason we couldn't work out what animal he is (badger-ish chipmunk?) is because he is a combination of several elements and has changed over time. I can tell you his large scrotum symbolises both expanding wealth and luck with money. Perhaps you didn't really want to know that, but now you do. There is lots more to know about Tanuki, including that there is also a kind of native dog with the same name. 


And why have one Tanuki on the doorstep when you can have three!

cloud and drops

Camera talk interlude: after my only lens developed a problem a year and a half ago I moved on from my Canon 40D to something smaller and lighter, a 'mirrorless' (micro four-thirds) format. I settled on an Olympus (OMD EM5) with a kit lens and never looked back. I like the photos just as much and it's so much easier to carry around. And then just before we went to Japan I finally chose a prime lens - 25mm - and I love it SO MUCH. Its low-light performance is amazing. I still carried my zoom lens around Japan but never bothered to put it on. Using a prime was interesting and the limitation to one length not difficult to get used to at all - I think I managed to pick a sweet spot for me and the kind of pictures I like to take. I only occasionally felt too close, and I almost never missed having more zoom (often you can just walk closer).


Another stone wall. Boring? I never get sick of them.

stone wall

Later in the morning, on the way to meet an acquaintance for lunch at the Kyoto National Museum, we stopped at a packed vintage clothes/fabric/junk stall on the main road near the museum. My mum and sister both found treasures they wished to purchase and so we waited ...and waited (I ended up perching on a wall and knitting) for someone to come out and sell us things. We called out. Nothing, Eventually Mum and I went on to the museum. My sis came on a bit later, still having had no luck.  Very strange. She was actually starting to imagine that the person who should be there might be injured or sick. After the museum visit we went back and did some more waiting. A passerby stopped to help, and she noticed a sign we had missed, with a phone number. Finally the shopkeeper was roused from somewhere (out back? upstairs?) and came out to take our money.

Nomura bear

After that, my sister continued with some wandering on her own. Mum and I had shopping plans back in town but as the shops tend to be open later (at least til 7 or 8 - maybe this is a summer thing?) we first went back to the ryokan for a bit of downtime. Then we were off to Nomura Fabric Store - home of the bear - and a few blocks over to Avril for me. We had a little trouble finding it and got there 20 minutes before closing. And I had no real idea what I was walking into.

Avril entry

Avril! It's a beautiful store in an old building with very solid wooden floors and staircase. I walked in and all I could see was cones of yarn on all of the walls. I had little time and didn't know have the first idea what all the cones were about. (Yarn for knitting is usually in hanks, skeins or balls. It's not a hard and fast rule of course but cones would more often be finer yarn for weaving).


All the walls looked much like this!

kit cardie

I don't usually take much interest in kits, but a kit was my saviour here. I fumbled through a rack of samples and tried on this cardigan. I don't normally think a long cardigan works for me but this seemed to play interestingly with my outfit. Note, there is a dark section at the bottom - it's much longer than it may look at first glance. I think I will need to adjust it a bit, making it a little shorter overall and bringing up the change between colours a bit higher too. But I still want it to be a longline cardigan as that is something different for me.

You can't really tell in this photo but the lighter colour in the kit was a pale greenish hue that wasn't very appealing to me. (I know, it just looks like oatmeal in the photo).

My own yarn

When I showed interest in the kit, the staff started to help me choose yarn. And here is where I got really confused. The ladies working there were really lovely and helpful - and they didn't speak English. I grasped that the yarn was a silk, cotton and linen blend. So why was I was being shown shade cards for separate silk, cotton and linen fibres? Was it not a blend, but a choice of one of these fibres? Finally after much patient miming, the walls of cones suddenly made sense. I was to choose three plys in any combination of colours and they would put them all together on a cone for me!

At this point I was super excited and also under pressure! I knew they had to close the shop, I knew we needed dinner (probably about an hour ago, really). I had to choose colours quickly and I never would have got there without Mum's help. She was very cool-headed for a hungry person. It was her brilliant idea to tie the two colour blocks together by including one teal strand in the lighter top section. I think it will be great. Winding up the yarn took no time (pic above) and then we just had to choose a button.

And now I just need to figure out how to interpret the Japanese pattern. One of the lovely Avril ladies did translate a few key words on the pattern for me. I know lots of people knit from Japanese books without actually knowing the language (thanks to the schematics commonly used and knowing just a few key terms). And if all else fails I might have to adapt a similar pattern to work with this yarn instead.

button choosing