Friday, 28 June 2013

more barkcloth

This is the other barkcloth fabric that I am using to make the floor cushions. When we first moved to Seattle, I had no idea really of distance so when I saw interesting yard sales advertised on Craig's List I just thought, oh yeah, I'll go there. This took me to the residential back blocks of Edmonds, Renton, Kirkland, Redmond, all sorts of places. It was a learning experience.

Anyway, this particular yard sale I went to because they had advertised California King bedding (unusual bed size that we had just acquired). Unfortunately, the yard sale holder had sold the bedding already before the sale even started so I was completely out of luck on that note but I did buy these wonderful 1940s (I think she said) barkcloth curtains which we used in our Seattle house.

There's not really a window for them here in Melbourne and they are quite damaged in places so I have decided to make them into cushion covers instead. The covers are going to be about 85 centimetres square so the scale of the print will be retained.

I still have quite a lot of mending to do on them yet. It is curious that the damage appears to be caused by light as the worn-through sections are predominantly those areas printed in yellow and at the top of the curtains (the lower half that hung in front of the wall is in much better shape). I wonder what sort of photosensitive dyes were used? I'm just going to mend the affected areas by patching from beneath followed by some basic embroidery from a lovely array of floss that I have bought just for the purpose. And maybe some top stitching too (of course).

Thursday, 27 June 2013

top stitch

Can you imagine a half-hour television show all about sewing and sewing machines? Comparing design and stitch galleries, speed stitching competitions, showcasing vintage and industrial models, special segments on different types of needles, prototype presser foot designs? I wish ...

Anyway, this past week or so I have been enjoying sewing. Long straight seams so I can go really fast and the machine makes some noise. It's very satisfying.

I'm sewing some square cushion covers from bark cloth that I brought back from the US. I had to piece one side of the cover together so then took the opportunity for some therapeutic hand stitching using six strands of embroidery floss. I'm really liking the effect of some ... rough? rustic? casual? ... top stitching at the moment, by which I mean that it's not too measured or even, not too delicate, a bit more than an accent but still utilitarian as I used it to fell the seams. I'm also using top stitching like this on a little baby quilt that I'm working on but that will have to wait to be finished and received before it is revealed!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

don't often talk about the weather

But wow, this was the view from my office window at about 8:15 this morning. The dome there is the top of the Royal Exhibition Building, a World Heritage Site-listed building completed in 1880.

Thursday, 20 June 2013


Socks, I shall knit socks. And not even for miss bear, just for myself. 

Ever since I knit the secret-pink-stripes socks for Tim, I have been meaning to knit another pair for myself. It's the same pattern and I might try and make these ones knee socks to use up as much random sock yarn leftovers as possible. There are three rows there of Grignasco Strong Print in yellow at the toe which I swear is the absolute last of that yarn (initially used for illicit socks in 2008). I started off striping them (some op shop Patonyle in blue/grey and some thrift store Trekking XXL) then realised, for goodness' sake, I'm knitting with self-striping yarn (the Trekking) - just knit!

Which I have continued to do, blissfully mindlessly. That's what I like about knitting socks from the toe up - a tube, a heel, then another tube (no gusset decreases) so great expanses of just knit, knit, knit. And two at a time using the magic-loop method, which worked well for me last time.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

a weighty matter

No, not politics or religion - weight, yarn weight and pattern gauge.

Vent d'Antan, Epilobe and Sweet Peasy all call for a dk-weight yarn and gauge of 22 stitches to 10 centimetres.
Mini Manu calls for a dk-weight yarn and gauge of 24 stitches per 10 centimetres. Which is more of a sport-weight gauge.

Little Ancolie calls for a sport-weight yarn and gauge of 22 stitches per 10 centimetres. Which is what dk usually knits at.

As does Mi Avril.

Brock calls for a fingering-weight yarn and gauge of 25 stitches per 10 centimetres. Fingering usually knits at 28 to 32 stitches per 10 centimetres, sport weight at 25 stitches.

Then Leonie calls for a light fingering-weight yarn and gauge of 30 stitches per 10 centimetres.

I have enough Handmaiden Bess (above in blue), a sport-weight yarn, to knit Brock (calls for fingering weight) but not Mini Manu (calls for dk). I have six fingering-weight yarns that I could use for Leonie. But I don't think that any of those would work for Brock, which calls for them. I have dk yarn that I could use for Little Ancolie or Mi Avril, which calls for sport weight. I wouldn't use those for Mini Manu, which calls for them. The only yarn I have enough of to knit that is a sport weight.

And the question is - what shall I knit for miss bear and what yarn shall I use?

Monday, 10 June 2013

gaspard le nuage d'orage

Gaspard the storm cloud
The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Gaspard le Grand by Christine Rouvillé from WMD Les Wouimardis.
Size: Four years.
Yarn: madelinetosh tosh dk in Composition Book Grey.
Needles: 3.75 mm.
Stash/recycle content: Ah, no.
Start to finish: 8 May to 8 June 2013 - one month (plus a day)!

Comments: This little sweater was love at first sight. I made a lot of modifications structurally, which was branching out a bit for me. To start with, I knit this sweater seamlessly instead of in one piece from front hem to back hem as the pattern instructs. To do so, I cast on 4 stitches less required for both the back and front together and knit in the round to the underarms, again creating an Elizabeth Zimmerman faux seam on the inside (I think it is a bit more stable than just a line of reverse stocking stitch).

Then I divided the work to knit the upper fronts and upper back from bottom up and didn't cast off at the shoulders which I grafted together (but wouldn't do this again as there does need to be some reinforcement there - three-needle bind off would be a better choice).
The stitches for the front collar were already on hold and I continued to knit across the remaining live stitches from the back. I also knit the collar longer than required for this size, 20 ridges altogether.The sleeves were also knit in the round with a faux seam; the garter stitch cuffs I knit flat and seamed.

I did have some trouble with the pattern - as far as the sleeve decreases go, when the pattern instructs to decrease 'All 4 and 2 rows' I believe that it means, decrease on the fourth and then the second row. The sleeve decreases are a bit odd in that they are more widely spaced at the top of the sleeve and more narrowly placed at the cuff which is the opposite of usual sleeve shaping. I also encountered a bit of trouble
in that my gauge knitting in the round does not seem to be the same as my gauge when knitting flat so I had to knit a few extra rows in the body and before the cuff of the sleeves to compensate.

There are a couple more translation errors but nothing that interferes with u understanding the pattern.

The kangaroo pocket is adorable. Knitting note to self - yes, by all means pick up stitches with a smaller needle but remember to switch back to the correct size needle for the actual knitting (how many times have I done that?).

I think that this may be my first time knitting anything sizeable with madelinetosh yarn and I was very pleased with it. The degree of shade variegation is just about at my limit but I think that it works really well on this garment. The fabric is lovely and squishy.

Verdict: I am really, really delighted with this garment and baby b likes wearing it - hooray! I'm hoping to knit it again and again and again in the 6, 8 and 10 year sizes, have already stashed the yarn.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

sara's hat

Last time I made something for Sara was when she turned one. Of course, she's at school now and needs a woolly hat for winter.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Basic Hat Pattern by Ann Budd.
Size: 21" head circumference.
Yarn: Morris Estate 14ply in '1441 Spruce' (100 per cent wool); 2 skeins.
Needles: 6.5mm for the ribbing, 7mm for the rest.
Stash/recycle content: No.
Start to finish: 2 June to 4 June 2013.
Comments: Such a useful idea this book, yet the available gauges don't really add up to anything useful. At least, there's no 5.25 stitches per inch which gives a good basic dk-weight gauge of 22 stitches per 4 inches. And this yarn, destined to be knit at 14 stitches per 4 inches presented a similar dilemma. As I was worried that the size (21" head circumference for child to small woman's) might be a little roomy, I chose the instructions for knitting at a gauge of 3 stitches per 4 inches.

Verdict: Hope it keeps her warm!

Saturday, 1 June 2013

may reading

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris - the last Sookie bookie!

Headhunters by Jo Nesbø - Norwegian thriller, not a Harry Hole novel but still a gripping read.

Monday, 27 May 2013

the coffee pot theory of creativity

Ah, rather than the crack pot theory. Or maybe it's really a theory about motivation, that it's all bubbling around like coffee in a percolator* until something comes to the top and threatens to spume out in a great cloud of steam unless you do something about it, right now. I am actually serious.

I had one of these moments on Friday evening past - just had to get the patterns that miss bear had chosen  from Intemporels pour enfants: Modèles et patrons de 2 à 8 ans traced off. All eight of them, and the little boy's shirt as well, traced, cut out and collated.

It remains to be seen what the time lag will be on actually cutting the fabric, pinning it together, sewing it up, doing the finishing touches. Stay tuned, grab a cuppa.

* odd metaphor for someone who doesn't drink the stuff but oh well.

Monday, 20 May 2013

are we there yet?

Really, what more is there that I can tell or show of this knitting project that I haven't before? I'm working on it - same story. Repeat 7 of the second side looks just like repeat 6 and just like repeat 5 and - same stitch pattern, over and over.

I had three days free last week (instead of my usual three-quarters of a day free) and I swore that I was going to knit a full 20-row repeat each day. Well, I managed to knit on only one of the days (ahem, knit on this, that is) but I did crank out an amazing 26 rows, more than one full repeat! So, I am currently seven repeats in, two and a half and an edging to go. Definitely before this project turns three in December!

Sunday, 19 May 2013

gaspard grows up

I'm having a wonderful time knitting this little pullover. I have finished the kangaroo pocket and cast it off with a neat three-needle bind-off that attaches it to the neckline (note to self with regard to three-needle bind-off: for goodness sake, don't forget to actually cast the stitches off, not just knit the two pieces of fabric together).

Just the sleeves and ends to weave in to go now. The pattern even includes a schematic for where to pick up the stitches along the armscye (for me of course this is going to be around the armscye as the body is already knit in the round and the shoulder seams grafted; will have to compensate a couple of stitches for that too). Am debating whether to knit the sleeves flat or in the round and if I knit them in the round, what sort of faux seam to use, whether to knit the garter stitch cuffs flat and then how to seam them.

I also have to figure out how to get through the day with baby b wearing underpants because he is growing up too. I think that's why I am concentrating so much on the knitting.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

the mismeasure of yarn

This madelinetosh tosh merino colourway is really wonderful - graphite. See the greys and browns and even almost green in there? This was my second time knitting windschief from this very yarn. The first one had taken only a fraction more than half a ball and that was a large size so I was sure that this medium-size one would be no trouble.

Alas, I suspect that I didn't have a full skein to begin with because I got to the point above and realised that there was no way that I had enough. Subsequent measurement has revealed that 36 grams is in no way half a 100 gram skein. I'm disappointed. The idea was to use up stash so to buy a whole new skein would defeat the purpose and probably not blend in well anyway, given the hand-dyed nature of these colourways. Maybe make a child-size version?

With a nod to Stephen J Gould.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

currently knitting

No sooner had I cast off the ribbon-tied wool vest, than I cast on with great haste for Gaspard le Grand in madelinetosh tosh dk in colourway 'composition book grey'. Today I made it to the underarms and dropped a stitch at either side (I'm knitting in the round again instead of back and forth - really strange construction this design but I'll get to that later) in order to create a faux seam, á la Elizabeth Zimmerman.

I actually ended up doing it on the interior of the garment rather than the exterior. It doesn't look like much more than a line of reverse stocking stitch but I think that the EZ-style seam (where you pick the stitches up one rung, then two rungs, then one rung, then two and so on) does add a little more stability.

Anyway, I am loving how this fabric is turning out. The tosh dk is lovely springy yarn and I'm delighted to be knitting in this colourway. Grey is so elegant, so stylish, graphic, so beloved by architects, so looks like the stuff that other stylish knitters knit and that I aspire to. Grey is just so not me.

I used to wear dark charcoal grey in my twenties but at a certain point couldn't do it anymore, didn't feel comfortable in it, wore it and felt old, old, old. This was around the same time that I suddenly became comfortable with navy blue which I had always thought matronly. So there you go. So clearly this knit is not for me, it's for baby b who is so gorgeous that he can carry off anything. I've got a bee in my bonnet at the moment about knitting for my kids - after this I'll be casting on for Mini Manu for miss bear. Or maybe Brock in some Orange Flower BFL/Silk Fingering Weight that I'm awaiting in the mail. And I bought some Rowan Cocoon recently that I thought would be great for a Fisherman's Pullover. Ooooh, I love to knit!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

ribbon-tied wool vest

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Ribbon-tied wool vest by Erika Knight from Simple Knits for Cherished Babies.
Size: 3 to 6 months.
Yarn: Patons Australia Bluebell Merino 5ply (100 per cent merino) in colourway 0100; 1.3 skeins.
Needles: 3.25mm and 3.75mm.
Start to finish: 22 April to 8 May 2013.
Stash/recycle content: Yes!! I have had this yarn in stash since ... since ... long ago.

Comments: I love this book by Erika Knight and have already knitted a few things from it - the Baby's Beanie Hat, Chunky Knit Cardigan, Garter Stitch Wrap Top). I even drove for what seemed like miles to borrow it from a library when I was pregnant with miss bear (now our local library, ha ha). Both times when I was pregnant I had lofty hopes to knit a handful of these little vests, one in each size, but I am glad that I didn't. Cherished as my babies were, this is not a simple knit.

Admittedly, I made things harder by modifying the structure a lot by converting it to seamless but I think that if I hadn't, and there had been seaming to do, it would have been even more work. Of course, there wouldn't have been the brain power required to convert it (ok, not a lot of brain power but I don't have much to spare!) if I had simply followed the pattern.

Modifications I made were:

- knit in the round to the underarms with a fake seam (one stitch knit in reverse stocking stitch) and used this neat TechKnitter trick of crossing the stitches over where I divided for the underarms. Techniques like this are great to know with the increase in patterns with seamless structure.

- made the neckline decreases one stitch in from the neck edge.
- grafted the shoulders with Kitchener stitch instead of using a three-needle bind-off.
- knit the sleeves from the top down using short rows to shape the sleeve cap. How did I work that one out?? I just winged it!

Now that is not a common approach for me. By winging it I mean I figured out how it should go (must surely go?) instead of actually checking one of the many patterns on hand at my disposal with top-down sleeve instructions to check how it is done.

The pattern directs you to cast on 50 stitches for this side, to knit for 2.5cms and then decrease 1 stitch at the beginning of the next 10 rows, finishing with 40 stitches. That's the sleeve head shaping and that's what I was cogitating about (cogitating - thinking but with more effort); how to achieve that with short rows?

As I write this, I realise that I got my numbers wrong, I assumed an end stitch count of 30 stitches - oops. Anyway, it worked well in my opinion. Here's what I did:

Even though there were 30 stitches at the end (in my version) there were still 50 lines of stitches travelling all the way to the armscye. So, I picked up 48 stitches (2 stitches less to compensate for the seam that I wouldn't be working because I was going to knit the sleeves in the round) and commenced knitting in the round.

I knit to the halfway point (that is 24 stitches to the the top of sleeve), then worked in short rows (knit 15 sts, wrap and turn; purl 30 stitches, wrap and turn ; knit 31 stitches, wrap and turn; purl 32 stitches, wrap and turn and so forth) until there were 10 short rows (last short row being purl 38 stitches), picking up the wraps as I went. The Purl Bee's short row tutorial was really helpful here because I always get the pick-ups wrong on the purl rows.

One more wrap and turn and then I continued knitting in the round, picking up the last wrap made, then knit straight for 2.5cms. I knit the ribbing back and forth as I always do because I really dislike that jog when you cast off in the round. Quick flat seam to join the ribbing and done.

The ribbon I'm not so sure about. The effect is lovely but I wonder about safety. I stitched the ribbon to the neckline at the back so that it couldn't come loose but cautioned the mum-to-be to just remove it altogether if she wasn't comfortable with it. Ideally it would be sewn together at the bow but then the top would not go on over a baby's head.

The Bluebell does make for a lovely fabric (I used it to knit both of the baby blankets that I have made) but I wish that I had used a needle size smaller for better fabric.

Verdict: The final product is darling and now that I have it worked out I'm sure that any future versions would be much simpler to complete!

Sunday, 5 May 2013


TREN-er-y? or tre-NERR-y? Trenerry is the name of the street where Country Road had its headquarters once (originally?), but I'm not sure how I'd pronounce that either. Anyway, Trenery came into being while we were living in the US and I wasn't really sure why it existed alongside Country Road (but I do now thanks to google, it's supposedly for the slightly older crowd).

I wonder how well the brand is doing (or not); I saw a pop-up clearance store in the city a few weeks back and have seen a lot of it at the op shop. Brand new stock at the op shop - I picked up these two shirts at the Salvo's in Elsternwick on Friday and left two behind. They're an XL and an XXL which perhaps explains why they are excess stock but that's fine because I bought them for the fabric, to cut up and sew into something else, so the larger the better. Maybe something from miss bear's wish list.

I love things to be handmade but it is also important to me that they are extremely well made and that starts with the materials. For the longest time, somehow the fabric on the bolt just never seemed to be of the quality that I saw hanging in the stores. (This may well have been a function of where I was shopping, both for fabric and for clothing.) But even since stores stocking much better quality fabrics have opened (Tessuti, The Cutting Edge), I still experience some anxiety about matching fabric and project. This way the work is done for me and I get commercial quality fabric that is just perfect for a blouse. Possibly (hopefully) I have also saved some money on yardage, although these blouses were pricey at $15-odd each. Still, I prefer to be re-using something that already exists and to have my money got to the Salvo's so that's great value already.

Friday, 3 May 2013

a fresh breeze

I've been in a bit of a knitting funk lately. Something that I was working on for a good month - a cardi for miss bear to wear to school - has taken up a lot of knitting time and energy and has simply not worked out. I finally just binned it today and feel so much better. Yesterday evening, so desperately wanting to knit something that worked, I cast on afresh. And finished it today.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Windschief by Stephen West.
Size: Small.
Yarn: Classic Elite Yarns Portland Tweed (50 per cent wool, 25 per cent rayon, 25 per cent alpaca ) in 5046; 0.8 skeins.
Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm.
Start to finish: 1 May to 2 May 2013.
Stash/recycle content: Well, I didn't buy yarn in order to knit this so I suppose that means it came from stash ...
Comments: Such a great design and it comes in three sizes (small, medium, large) which is great for when you offer to knit someone a hat and they say 'oh lovely but I've got a really big/really small head ..." This is the pattern for those moments. The yarn was an impulse purchase when I was $5 off filling up my loyalty card at Weaving Works in Seattle. I found it a little scratchy so hope that it works well for a hat.
Verdict: I can see myself making this again, and again, and ...

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

april reading

The Day is Dark by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and A Burial at Sea by Charles Finch  - more murder mysteries, great reads, both of them.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

bookmark me

It's hard to tell you how much this photograph absolutely delights me. Yes, it's a poor quality i-phone photo that I've fiddled with the contrast on but that's not the point. The point is all those little post-it notes stuck in there.

The book is Intemporels pour enfants: Modèles et patrons de 2 à 8 ans (rough translation: Classics for children: designs and patterns from 2 to 8 years) by Astrid Le Provost, whom I believe is behind the French company Citronille. I first encountered her book for babies in Paris some six years ago and as miss bear grew of course I needed a bigger book. After despairing at the price of postage fro the book from France, it occurred to me to try our Francophone neighbours (we were living in the US at the time) and got it really easily through Amazon Canada. (Speaking of which, that is, postage costs, I was recently shopping on eBay for some shoes for miss bear and found that similar shoes for a similar price shipped for a fraction of the cost from the UK compared to from the US.)

Anyway, the point of all this is that a few evenings ago, miss bear took this book with her to bed at bedtime to look through, When I went in to say goodnight, she had carefully marked with a post-it note each of the eight-or-so items that she wants me to sew for her. Oh, with pleasure sweet miss bear, with pleasure!

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

more duffers

I identify for the most part as a process knitter (knit for the knitting experience, rarely the same thing twice) so the fact that this is my third pair of duffers this year (and fourth overall) is testament to the knittability of these slippers! These ones were a birthday present for a friend of miss bear's, here modelled by the birthday girl herself.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Duffers - revisited by Mindie Tallack.
Size: I knit US 3 but they fulled down to more of a US1.
Yarn: Patons Inca (50 per cent wool, 30 per cent acrylic, 20 per cent alpaca) in 7040 red (0.7 skeins) and 7041 purple (0.9 skeins). Washing instructions are strictly to hand wash only. Take note!
Needles: 8mm.
Stash/recycle content: Not this time. There was a specific colour request which I didn't have in stash.
Start to finish: 7 April to 10 April 2013.

Comments: Oh what a journey these were! I chose the Patons Inca because the red and purple shades were better than those of the Patons Jet (which I have successfully fulled before, no trouble). The knitting was no trouble, used Judy's (truly) Magic Cast-on to begin, but when it came to fulling them - nothing. No success whatsoever. I tried first by hand because you do never know and want to do these things slowly, just in case. Then I did some five minutes stints in the front loader on a hot wash with towels (just as with the previous pairs). Still absolutely nothing.

The next day, the day of the birthday, miss bear and I headed out to the laundromat to do a hot wash in a top loader but we left the house in a hurry and I forgot to take any towels. Fortunately, there is an op shop in our local shopping strip and we dropped in to buy some towels. Well, just one towel because as it turned out, I didn't have much cash on me and they don't take cards.

Off to the laundromat - front loaders only. Off to the other laundromat and finally got a wash going but, of course, you can't regulate the water level on those machines so the slippers and towel just floated around in the hot water. Fulling result - zilch. We went to the party with no present.

That night I was so fed up with them (and the prospect of having to buy more wool and knit another pair) that I put them into my front loader with a few towels on a normal wash and turned the water temperature way up high. Then I went to bed. The next morning, fully fulled slippers and just the right size - thank goodness!

Verdict: Finally, fantastic. Hand-made gift given with delight by my daughter and received with delight by the birthday girl. But Patons Inca - beware, requires major fulling effort!

Monday, 15 April 2013

little duffers

It's just the right time of the year for these (down here in the southern hemisphere, that is).

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Little Duffers by Mindie Tallack.
Yarn: Cascade Yarns Cascade 220 Heathers (100 per cent wool) in 9322 and Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend (70 per cent merino, 30 per cent silk) in 3075.
Needles: 6mm.
Size: US 8.
Start to finish: 28 March to 29 March 2013.
Stash/recycle content: Yes and yes! The Cascade 220 is leftover from my Pimlico Snug and the Manos del Uruguay from the Attabi Wrap. 

Comments: This is the little brother/sister pattern to the Duffers that I knit recently for miss bear. Unlike the Duffers pattern which requires using a double strand of yarn, this mini version requires only a single strand. I had half knit a slipper before I remembered this. The Cascade 200 and Manos del Uruguay felted differently, to be expected given the silk content of the latter and could probably benefit from a bit more concentrated hand felting. At the moment though baby b is thoroughly delighted with them so I might just wait until he grows!  

Verdict: Quick, satisfying and effective knit, and an excellent way to use up stash!

Saturday, 13 April 2013

what a production

Five mothers, nine children, various eats and drinks and many cups of tea, two sewing machines, two irons, many pins, a little bit of swearing, and five hours later we had thirty drawstring bags ready to take to school on Monday. The best outcome though was a really wonderful sense of community. I had such a great day, so much fun and felt so good afterwards.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Sometimes it's just good to do something, even a very little something, on a project that you have in mind. Just to keep it alive when you don't have any likelihood of really launching into it anytime soon. I think I just have to embrace my completely haphazard, ad hoc way of working on and prioritising things.

 I bought this quilt a few years ago at the now defunct Kirkland Antiques Center. One of the stalls there was closing down (the whole place has since done so) and everything was discounted by 70 per cent, including this 1930s quilt from Nebraska. Parts of it, particularly the borders, were very damaged, so I trimmed them off (not sure whether this is quilt sacrilege or not) and it has sat that way for a good long time, always with the intention of mending and rehabilitating it.

Over the past few nights I have unpicked the cut-off sections, taking out the batting and salvaging what pieced sections I can. I hope to use them one day to repair other parts of the quilt and perhaps the backing for a new binding. It has been fascinating to see the true fabric colours revealed inside the seams and to see how much they have faded over time. I have also learned that the quilt is machine pieced and hand quilted and that the maker's sewing machine's tension was off.

* Quick gripe about the Kirkland Antiques Center: my goodness, I went there one day when miss bear was small and they insisted that I couldn't take the stroller in. It wasn't that busy and there was plenty of room to move the stroller about. So instead I got to walk around the place with an inquisitive two year old and a staff member none too discreetly trailed us around the entire shop.

Monday, 1 April 2013

march reading

The Shark Net by Robert Drewe -Sometimes just has to be the right time to read a certain book. I first picked this up a month or two ago, read a chapter and could not get into it. Put it down and read The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest instead and a number of other quick reads since. Then this past month I picked it up again. Not a particularly long book but dense, it took me almost the entire month to read and it is fabulous, an excellent book, well written, finely crafted, evocative, interesting, funny. I am so glad that I put it down when it wasn't the right time to read it and picked it up again when it was. I highly recommend this book for when you want a good, deep read.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

travelling knitting

This is what I knit when we travel - whenever there's a reasonably long car ride, Tim takes the wheel and I put in some time on my Tibetan Clouds (un)Beaded Stole. Clearly, we haven't been travelling much because it's the first time that I have picked it up since December of last year.

Nonetheless, I am determined to get this finished this year. Three years really is the maximum length of time that I can tolerate a project being on the go. This one is only 27 months at the moment but I do know how long these things can drag out unless I really put some effort into it. I managed half a repeat today which means that I have three-and-a-half repeats to go, that I could foreseeably complete it in a week at half a repeat per day, that I ... just need to keep knitting.

Monday, 18 March 2013


This was one of those attempts at quick knitting satisfaction that actually worked - very quick, very satisfying!

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Duffers - revisited by Mindie Tallack.
Size: I knit the US 3 size but felted them down to about a US 1.
Yarn: Cascade 220 in '7803 magenta' and '9404 ruby' (100 per cent wool), 0.4 skeins and .17 skeins respectively; Knit Picks Wool of the Andes (100 per cent wool). Yarn was held double throughout which makes me think that you could do some nice ombré effects by holding two different colour yarns together and shading into a solid colour.
Needles: 8mm.
Start to finish: 14 March to 16 March 2013 with a couple of mistakes and rip backs and reknits.
Stash/recycle content: Yay, 100 per cent!

Comments: Mine are a bit of a colour mix because I ran out of the magenta and had to finish the sole with ruby, then ran out of cream and had to do the cast off in ruby again. But I completely used up two random, hanging-around-for-ages skeins of yarn - hooray. I also left out row 11 I think but not to too much detriment. Felting was hard work because I did it mostly by hand, thinking that my front loader wouldn't do the trick. Well, more being anxious about not being able to regularly check without draining the machine each time. I did end up putting them in for 20 minutes on a hot wash with a couple of towels which turned out to be the last nudge that they needed.

Verdict: Warm feet at our house. I wonder if that will make it any easier to get miss bear out of bed in the morning?

Sunday, 17 March 2013


The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Eris by Lisa Mutch of Northbound Knitting. 
Size: There's only one size in the pattern but it would be easily customisable. 
Yarn: Wollmeise "Pure" 100% Merino Superwash in the colours 'Admiral' (dark blue; 0.28 skeins) and a wd 'Oooohm' (the turquoise; 0.33 skeins) and madelinetosh tosh sock in 'tart' (red; 0.56 skeins). 
Needles: 4mm 

Start to finish: 19 November 2012 to 11 March 2013. It shouldn't really have taken that long but I got two-thirds of the way through and then it sat for a while. Quite a while. 
Stash/recycle content: nope. 

Comments: I don't often have trouble reading knitting patterns but this one gave me some grief. What does this mean to you?: "k to 1 st past last wrapped st". To me it means knit up to but not including the stitch after the wrapped stitch. But, I can sort of see how it might mean to knit until the first stitch past the wrapped stitch. No, not really. Anyway, the grief was indeed that I interpreted it as the former and found out many rows later that it meant the latter. Rip rip rip. 

There's also an error (in my opinion) in row 1 of section C. It should read k8 instead of k6, otherwise the numbers just don't add up. 

Also, I picked up the wrapped stitches along the change from section 1 to section 2, as it helped to preserve a smooth line. 

This was my first time knitting with Wollmeise. I had a bit of a panic attack upon returning to Australia that I would never be able to find gourmet yarn again. Never fear, turns out that quite a few local ravellers are selling theirs off and I now own quite a few skeins. The Wollmeise colours are fantastic but I found the yarn itself to be a bit splitty.

Verdict: Once the pattern is clear to you (!) this is very easy, albeit slightly monotonous, knitting. The result is a really great shape, best seen in the shot of it blocking. I think often of Di's comment about my knitting choices, that I knit for texture as opposed to shape (Di, that's going to stay with me forever, probably because it was so apposite). This knit went quite some way to showing me why - textural knitting is exciting, absorbing, engaging, yarn-over, knit-two-together, pass-the-slipped-stitch-over knitting.

Graphic knitting (for want of a better term) is just a lot of knit knit knitting, little bit of shaping, knit knit knitting, wrap and turn, knit knit knitting. Not that I have anything against knitting, obviously, but garter stitch never achieves the flow that stocking stitch does, particularly stocking stitch in the round. There are a lot of wonderful garter stitch shawls around at the moment, several that I have under consideration, but I really need to give that particular knitting a break for a bit.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

the sixty-five per cent barrier

I'm sorry that I haven't been around much. Sorry, of course, to not be putting anything much up here but also a bit sorry for myself, to be neglecting this recording aspect of my creative (do I dare say it?) practice. Going back to work has put a bit of a rock in the pond and I'm still waiting for the ripples to adjust and settle.

I've also been up against a sixty-five per cent barrier recently - I get about that far through a project and just lose interest. I keep casting on new small projects in the hope of a quick completion fix and then they too fall by the wayside. How appropriate then that I have just cast off Eris and may this signify the end to any lingering discord.

The wall in the background is kindly provided by the Museum Victoria where we hid yesterday from the ongoing heat that is plaguing Melbourne. Unfortunately, it's going to be a tad cooler tomorrow, just when I was intending to block it (cooler, huh! 29C instead of 36C, that is 84F instead of 97F).

Friday, 1 March 2013

february reading

I did a lot of reading last month. Partly enabled by reading young adult fiction which does go really quickly. I got a bee in my bonnet (huh, again?) about a book that I read when I was young which included a boat ride along a canal and through a lock. That was all I could remember, and that they were on the run. I consulted the good people on AbeBooks BookSleuth forum - cannot recommend this enough if you are searching for a lost title with only the slightest notion of the content; the collective knowledge or readers is amazing - and found what I was looking for!

The Silver Sword by Ian Seraillier - A book I certainly read when I was younger and I thought was the canal book but no. There is a canoe ride down the Danube and, curiously, for a book about post-WWII displacement and prison camps, no mention of Jewish people whatsoever.
Ashes to Dust by Yrsa Sigurdardottir - Icelandic crime thriller, a good one but I did guess one of the plot devices way in advance.

A Stranger in Mayfair by Charles Finch - British historical crime thriller, a good one but again, I guessed the plot device in advance. Perhaps I'm reading too many of these?

Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild - My second attempt at finding the canal book. Nope, and not worth reading. Really crappy Victorian orphanage, completely two-dimensional characters. And boring.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornets' Nest by Stieg Larsson - Very long and read in three days. Great.

The Devil's Children and Heartsease by Peter Dickinson -These are parts one and two of the Changes Trilogy. Fantastic slightly science-fiction/fantasy, dystopic future setting, great characters, great writing. And yes, Heartsease was the canal book of my youth.

Thursday, 28 February 2013


I had butterflies in my tummy before I went back to work. How fitting then, that on my first day I wore a blouse that I made myself from this butterfly print fabric. This butterfly print fabric that comes from a French Connection blouse that I picked up at Buffalo Exchange in the U District completely on a whim because I loved the fabric and thought that I could make something out of it.

Unfortunately, with a couple of muck-ups along the way, I wasn't able to make something out of it alone because I ran out of fabric and then had to stalk ebay to buy another dress and another blouse and a skirt too actually because the previous owner washed the dress with something nigh corrosive and the fabric was bleached out and ... suffice to say, there were no savings made here, fabric-wise.

But the fabric is gorgeous. You can ever so faintly see the self-stripe, it's 100 per cent cotton, great weight and drape, adorable print and no, doesn't suit me at all. I've mostly always worn single colour tops and blouses and t-shirts and there's a reason - I'm just not a printed blouse wearing sort. I did wear it to work, the first day, but only out of pure obstinacy because, yes, I'm like that.

ps: And those pre-first-day-back-at-workbutterflies? It took ten days and a dose of antibiotics to get rid of them. Ugh.