Friday, December 14, 2007

Merry Christmas... Fo Fo Fo...

First (and noting: 'firstly' is not a word. It just isn't, OK? It's 'first' or it's nothing.) Branching out


And being modelled by yet another lovely cousin:

Yarn: Bendigo Woollen Mills 3 ply in Indigo. I still have almost a whole cone left. How was it? It's wool. It's nice enough. It's nothing fancy, but it's light and airy in the 3 ply (that'd be what - fingering weight? - for you yankees). I love the colour, and it was hardly splitty at all.

Pattern: Branching Out

Difficulty: I was a lace novice. At the start, I would knit one repeat at a time. Any time I did more, I would have to rip back, cursing. But the pattern is simple enough that I could start to see what was happening fairly quickly - I memorised the pattern... on the last repeat. Definately a good lace beginner's pattern.

That makes me think. I feel like I am so in control and in charge of my knitting. I've done lace, I'm doing cables, I know my way around the knit and purl stitch, I know several cast ons and offs, I can fix almost every mistake I make without ripping back. I can turn the heel of a sock with relatively little thought. Short rows? In my sleep.

And yet... this time last year, I was sitting in my room, knitting this jumper. I didn't know how to m1 without making holes. Is that nuts? I think it's nuts. It makes me feel good about how far I've come - and humble about how far there is to go.

There's always something new to learn, in knitting.

FO number two: Christmas ornaments by three. One for my mama, one for my sister, and one for my bff in China. I cross stiched christmas motifs on tea dyed aida cotton. The two for my mum and sister I actually stitched last year, with the thought of doing this, but never got any further. For Meg, though, I started from scratch:

I think this looks like it should be some sort of weird alien writing. But no. It is, in fact, un tannenbaum (I have no idea if that if the German word for 'one'. I'm pulling that from a special place.)

Like so. I had grand plans of doing a log cabin like square, with the stitchery in the place of a fussy cut piece of material. But I was putting it off, and putting it off, and then I got a delivery of lovely lovely felt from winterwood. Their customer service? Excellent. They bend over backwards for me and my demanding ways. And the felt? Like butter. Lush and soft and I could just roll around in it all day. Yum. My fibre love is renewed yet again.

So, anyway, I decided to just whizz it through the sewing machine (with green thread, which happened to be in there already. None of the ornaments are green. Nope. I'm so professional.) and stuff them.

I think it looks lovely, if I do say so myself. Then I ruined the polished look by letting some two year old scrawl on the back:

I don't care that it looks dodgy. I love them. I hope their new owners do, too. Here is a very dodgy photo of the other two. Santa on the left for sister, santa on the right for mother.

Then I hung them on FO numero three:

Yes, in fact, I AM claiming my christmas tree/branch as an FO. So what about it? It might look like it's only one step up from a Charlie Brown christmas tree, it might be in a vase filled with rocks, it might look like it's about to topple. But those rocks are in fact brick chips, from the property I grew up on - they say 'home' to me. The two branches (one pine, to give that authentic smell, one she-oak, or native pine, to look pretty and be true blue) were grown on said property, and chosen by my dad especially for me. And do you see that bright yellow runner it's sitting on?

My mummy made it for me that dismal christmas I spent in China. It's bee-yu-ti-ful.

This christmas - this whole year - has been a search for meaning. My gifts are almost all handmade. The ornaments on my tree each have a story. The things that have warmed my heart have been the little things, the things that make Christmas a specail time for me, even though I am no longer a practising Catholic, even though I usually hate everything Christmas seems to stand for these days - shopping, commercialism, buying empty, plastic presents, sitting with people you don't really like pretending to be jolly.

And, because I grew up in Lobethal (before it was commercial and toursity and the locals got fed up with it)

It's not Christmas without lights

They make me happy, from the inside out. They are warm and soft and I actually like them more than my regular overhead lights. A note to any aspiring renovators: IKEA is great. Just not for lights. Or curtains. Somet things shouldn't be scrimped on.

To add to the parade of christmassy items, I started an advent calendar, a la this one. Yes, I know it's halfway through December, but I thought I would give it to my little sister for Christmas, with a promise to restock it every year with goodies. The background is a $5 blanket from the Salvos. It's just acrylic, but whatever. The rest of the materials I had (Maybe I'll use some of my felt. Maybe not).

And the DNA scarf I am knitting for my dad.

I am furtherer than this now - I'm knitting the second repeat of five on the other end. It looks great, although I think it'll need some firm blocking. I love the colour - it's hard to see, but it's sort of shimmery blue. It's called 'midnight tweed'. I'm thinking of using it to make a hemlock blanket. Or make to make myself one of these:

D00ds. Tkaing photos of yourself is hard. That one above was the best I could do, pitiful attempt as it is. Also: I feel stupid doing it. Well, welcome to life, I suppose. The one below is an unfortunate shot, but I need to use it to get your advice:

Is that garter stitch line placed alright, in relation to the boobular area? Or is it weird? I definitely want to knit one for myself. I'm enamoured.

And finally, Jen is not feeling the love. You should go read her blog. She is funny and she knits and she has two j'adorable cats, and she takes photos of them and then tells you stuff about how she manipulated them (the photos, not that cats) which is useful and interesting. And sometimes she talks about how to choose colours that make you look good, in a really scientific way, which I respond well to (none of this 'you're an autumn' shite) and she says 'y'all', cos she's from the south. And she likes things fried. And she knits.

So go read her blog.

Friday, December 07, 2007


The last few weeks have not been great. Not, you know, tragically bad or anything, just a low level of not-great-ness. We had a big thing at work on the 30th, and the two weeks leading up to it were packed. Since I'm admin, that means everything that anyone is stressed about in the whole building, ends up with us. I managed to upset a couple of people by not filtering my comments as well as I usually do. It's a bit of a running joke that I'm the bitter one around here. Most people don't realise that I hold back. A lot. And sometimes, it's just too hard, especially when people insist on making stupid comments and then looking at you, waiting for your reaction. Or come to me with the smallest thing, like I was their mum - or their brain. 'Thinking is hard. I know! Kate will think for me!'

It's hard to hold back. But it needs to be done. Working on that.

It doesn't help that all the straight men in my workplace (all, like, three of them) are soooooo sensitive. I suppose this is usually a good thing. Attitude adjustment: commencing.

The roses. They has a smell...

I had yesterday off, as a sick day. It was fantastic. I didn't do anything the whole day. And I feel so much better. Every phone call is more pleasant, every interaction is no longer a trial, talking to people doesn't involve holding my breath and counting to ten.

I've been feeling crowded, harried, rushed. It's not like I have a family to organise and run after, or even another person to fit myself around. Why should I be feeling so short of time, when if fact time is one of the luxuries of my life? I hate it. I hate feeling like I'm always running and never getting anywhere, never getting anything done, at work or at home. I need to look for a new job, because it's a huge part of the problem. That's scary. I hate jobsearching, and I love where I am and don't want to leave. It's also sometimes hard to see what I am good at, and where that could take me.

I was talking about this with one of my friends and she said 'I remember you being down around this time last year, too'. This gave me pause for thought. I love the holiday season, and I never for a minute thought that I could be one of those people who gets down around christmas. I realise that the general rush and panic of the season doesn't help with the harried feeling, but holiday blues? That's just not me. Only, maybe it is.

I think it comes down to this. The year is drawing to a close. New Years doesn't really mean anything to me, but chirstmas, my birthday 4 days before, the whole season and the month of December, is a marker. Every year, I know what I was doing then. I know how I was feeling. Last year, for instance, I felt crap. I was living at home, I'd finished my honours degree, and I didn't know what the new year would hold. Turns out it was pretty good. Maybe the next one will be, too.

It also gives me perspective on the year behind me. What have I done? Not much. What would I like to have done? Where did all this time fall through the cracks?

I think working 9-5, 5 days a week, is always going to leave me a bit harried. There'll always be bad weeks. But being conscious of how I use my time, even if that is to purposefully waste it if that is what I want to do, means that at the start of another week, I don't wonder where the weekend went. At the start, or end, of a year, I don't wonder how on earth I managed to spend that much money and waste that much time.

Crafting is part of that. It is still, and hopefully always will be, a leisure activity for me. But it's one that not only allows me time to think and reflect while I do it, it also gives me a marker of my time at the end of it. I guess I never feel like knitting half a jumper and then frogging it is a waste of time, because I still feel like I have made progress on the project. That mistake, or one like it, was going to happen. To have made and corrected it is a step in the right direction.

Not only that, but crafting hleps me measure my pace. I can only knit so fast. There are only so many stitches I can make in a given minute. Each second can only fit so much movement. When everything is going too fast, when I feel like I can't grab a hold of everything, like it's just too hard to plant my feet and hang on, running yarn through my fingers and watching the stitches form brings my internal clock back to where it needs to be. And at the end - a thing! That can be worn! And bragged about!

Speaking of. Here is the requested modelled shot of my sister's wrap cardi, thanks to Claire, my cousin:
It was very bright.

And the back. Do you like my use of props?
I find a mop in the background livens up any picture.
I've also finished Cobblestone. Here is a shot of it when it was almost finished. The light was too low and everything was blurry - this is the best photo I could get! (Check out my little crafting nook in the background. I was subletting that room, but my friend doesn't need it anymore. The little extra money will be missed, but the minute I found out I moved my sewing machine in there. I think it's a fair trade...)
Also, my sister doesn't know how to pose for a photo without wiggling around. You'll have to wait for after christmas for a modelled shot of the finished project, I think. Proper FO report then, too.

I'm going to take it over to my Gma's, since she expressed an interest in making one for herself. I tried it on me, and I actually thought it looked pretty good, although the garter stitch starts strategically just above my nipple level. Lovely. I'm seriously considering making one for myself, though. It was a very pleasant knit, even though I grafted one of the sleeves wrong, so it's two stitches off centre. Shhh, they'll never notice if we don't tell them.

Just a gratuitous shot of my sister, being insufferably cool after her audition for the Adelaide Youth orchestra. She wishes she was John Lennon.

The other FO is my mittens for my bff in China, from a free pattern by Debbie Bliss on Knitting Daily. This is what happens when you knit the flappy bit according to the pattern:

I frogged it... actually, my mum frogged it, I was too frustrated with all the unpicking of the seams this would require, and it is actually very little yarn in there. Then I knit another one. Like this:

And with the duplicate stitch on the top (It's less lumpy since I blocked them):

Schnazzy, no? I didn't have any worsted weight white yarn, so I doubled up some DK yarn, and it worked OK.


  • I knit the thumb in the round using magic loop until the decreases, then did the decreases flat and sewed up the tip. A little clumsy, but better than the lumpy seam I got before.
  • For the opening flap, I knit until 4 rows before you are supposed to BO for the flap. The I did 1 x 1 ribbingto replicate the cuff, for four rows. Then I bound off. For the top part of the flap I knit two extra rows, so that it would overlap and not leave a huge gaping hole, this negating the purpose of mittens as they flap in the breeze.

Obviously, the left and right ones are a bit different in row count, etc. I can't tell you exactly what I did - basically, I fudged it. I think it was a success. The top is a bit lumpier than perfect, but I think it's a reasonable trade off for functional mittens. If she likes them, I might make some more. Sinc she's the only person I know currently residing in a cold climate, and I have a hankering to make these. And these. And maybe even these, although as we all know, pirates are a long-dead meme. The internet is brutal.

And I also blocked my Branching Out scarf, but the photos of that (modelled by another cousin - they come in handy) are still on my camera.

AND, I've cast on for the DNA scarf, which I saw on Ravelry and immediately pegged as perfect for my Dad. I cast Cobblestone off (three times. I cast off tight. Eventually I went with a ribbed cast off, which makes it a bit less neat, but since it was the only way anyone's head will ever fit through that, I'm happy with it) and had a bit of a panic, since it meant that not only did I not have a jumper on the needles, I ONLY HAD ONE PROJECT, and that was only a SOCK (hedgerows are halfway down the last foot. Slowly, slowly). So I picked up some Bendigo yarn, ordered for the purpose, and I cast on for a cabled scarf. I'm almost up to the end of the first cabled part, and I'm really enjoying it, although it wont be coming on the bus with me any time soon.

I should blog more often. I feel much more productive, now!

Also: Dear Blogger, I hate you.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Civic art I have seen

And not photographed

On a cream brick wall, high up, spray paiunted in black: "LIBERAL PARTY = PROFITS OVER PEOPLE"

On a footpath ramp, in green, very neatly: "please don't vote john howard back in"

On the plexiglass of a bus stop, protecting the ad behind it, which depocts a toothy, blond couple riding griningly in a shiny silver BMW: "If you buy this car you will still have a small d*ck and you're [sic] woman will still be UNSATISFIED"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Still having my ass kicked. I just don't want to do anything. I have my knitting group tonight, and I don't want to go. I mean, I do want to go, and I know that if I don't, I will just sit at home and be bored. I'm just... not tired, but blah. Listen to me whinge. I have to go anyway, because I need to ask advise about picking up stitches wrapped in the purl, but picked up in the knit, since they're making funy holes in my cobblestone, which I have finally been able to pick up and knit on again, now the weatehr has turned a bit. It's been skirts at work for a week, and I'm loving it. Today was cooler (20 degrees c) and I still wore a skirt, but I whacked on some stockings (also, I forgot to shave. I'm so high maintenence, it's crazy!)

Also have to go because I need to discuss the plans for the Picnic in the Park (the celebration for the end of the FEAST festival) on Sunday, and also to pick up my alpaca.

Emma, from the group, dyes. Her colours are beautiful, although a little bit bright and too many different ones in each skein for boring old grey-scale me. But last fortnight she was there with some alpaca in light sea blues and greens, and a teeny tiny strip of lavender... it was heavan, and so, so soft! I resisted - and then on the way home I caved, I texted her and told her I wanted it. It will be waiting for me tonight.

And ALSO, once I get there, in the company of all the lovely women who will also be there, and good food, etc, I will have a ball.

And on the way, I will go to a chemists or the like, and pick up earplugs. Now that everyone in my apartment building is leaving their windows open, getting to sleep is like a stream-of-consciousness nightmare.

Not that much progress on the crafting, although I am feeling the mojo come dribbling back. I was looking at Jodie's blog, and these darling little hedgehogs have stolen my heart. And they speak French! And the pencilcases! With mushrooms! And skipping!

Calming down now. (And monkeys!)

Also, check this out. I'm having so much fun on this site. I got up to level 48 the other day, although I sit around 44-45 usually.

Anyway, what I am trying to say is that although I haven't made that much progress physically on the christmas crafts, I feel like whatever fug I was in has started to lift.

Note to self: take some photos.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


It's kicking my ass.

Remember the NaKniSweMo thing? Yeah... not so much.

I ordered the yarn on the 1st. I didn't get it for over a week. Then, it turns out I do not in fact has the correct needle size for the linen stitch part, which naturally comes first in the pattern. (who uses 6.5 mm needles these days, anyway!) Ass to this the fact that I have just gotten a new computer - one that will actually do stuff, unlike my last one. Time sucker? Definitely. And it's been hovering between 30 and 35 degrees (c) this week.

So... I give up. I said it. I give up. It's not happening. Instead, I am officially declaring the rest of Novemebr 'finish my crafting for christmas' month. I will complete my dad's cobblestone (I'm up to the yoke) and my bff's mittens (just need duplicate stitch and sewing up). I have a bedwarmer to make for my sister and also my bff. I have three stuffed ornaments to make - for my mother, my sister and my bff. They are to have a cross-stitched motif in the middle, and I've done two already. I need to finish the third, then find some fabric.

There's more sewing than knitting in this, which is good for the weather, really. I want to have all this done before December, becase the bff lives in China, and this will all have to be posted. It would be awesome if I could do that at the start of December, and then I can concentrate on the few presents I am giving which are not crafed. I'm getting a photo I took at my mum's place printed up big, but I have to go out to the place to decide how to get it done. Which is hard, since I don't drive. I have to buy my dad something for his birthday. If I really get all of this done before December, I might manage a pair of Charades for him, too, for Christmas. But we'll see.

After that, I'll have baby knitting to do. I might defer my November sweater. I think I'll make May my official month o' the jumper. That's the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of November. Let's see if I can hang out that long - anyone placing bets? I wouldn't.

Last weekend was a no knitting weekend. I went to a friend's (the one who will recieve teh baby knitting) to help out with a working bee, and eded up staying the night. All night I dreamt that I had made tens of pairs of socks, all out of the green yarn I'm using for my (sorely neglected) hedgerows. They were all anklets, and all had variations of fern motif lace up the back of the leg (ankle) part. And they were all. Too. Short. I dreamt, all night, of tugging them back so they would fit over my heel properly. When I woke up, I was scrunched down in the sleeping bag, so that my feet were pressed tight against the end of it.

At least they were pretty socks. Maybe I'll knit them. Can you imagine? 'Nice socks.' 'Thanks. I saw them in a dream...'

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Love to knit

The place where I work has a specialty bookshop and library attatched. I love this. Even though there is a limited amount of materials that interest me in the library, the bookshop means that I can order books. I can order books that are only available internationally, or that come to Australia with a hefty price increase, I can order them without shipping, and with a staff discount. A decent staff discount. So far I have ordered the Crafter's Compantion, The Ghost Map (Which is really excellent, except for the two chapters at the end where he seems to need to drum you over the head with the connection between cholera and google. We get it. It's tenuous, but we get the general similarity. The more he explains it, the less viable it seems) and I have a couple more crafty books on order.

It also means that the manager of the bookshop regularly meets with representatives of the major publishing houses and booksellers. Today she came out of her office with a book called Love To Knit, by Bronwyn Lowenthal. (Something else I love about my work. They know I knit. There is minimum mockage.) I leafed through the book, wondering if I'd even knit anything in the book. The answer is 'no'. The only thing I would even consider is the wrap thing on the front - and maybe the capsleeve vesty thing near the back, but it's hard to tell if it'd be OK, since it's pictured in a mustard yellow that does it no favours.

Also, all the models are just too, too hip for me. The leggings, the stilettos, the vacant looks. It's offputting. The wierd modelling is the reason I have not, and will not, buy the 4th edition of Jo Sharp's knit series, even though I adore the first three. (Also, her attempt to pass of one pattern, with different length sleeves, as three different patterns, and another garter stitch scarf pattern. Who does she think we are?)

But in Love to Knit, most of the stuff that even remotely interests me are things that I already own the patterns for, know whewre to get them for free, or for a small amount of the book's cost, and are better. For instance, there's a sort of slouchy beanie, which is just not as interesting looking as Le Slouch. (pdf link) Also, the world does not need more knit miniskirts. It just doesn't.

But I can see how this book might appeal to some people - people more in tune with what is supposed to be my generation, people who shop at shops where they sell chunky knitwear machine made in china, people who enjoy mustard yellow and opaque leggings. I am not trying to be rude about these people. They are just not me. This book might be especially good if they have just started to knit, and want something a bit more complex, but not intimidating. Most of these projects I think assume that the people who will knit them are not that dedicated (although all the projects call for Rowan wool, so obviously their wallet should be dedicated).

However, the thing that broke me, the thing that made me think 'this must be blogged', is in the homewares section. Right near the end of the homewares section. It is a knit coathanger cover.

For real? With silk roses, and everything.

You know, some days I just want to give up and go home. Not that I am all the way against knit coathanger covers. They have their kitschy place. But what are they doing in this book? Do the publishers even know who this book is for?!? Obviously, if you knit, you must love knit coathanger covers. Why not include a pattern for a toilet seat cover?

I remember hearing an interview with Shannon Oakey, when she was talking about knitgrrl, the first. She said about how she was in a meeting with the publishers/editors, and they were all 'young girls don't wear cardigans. There should be more legwarmers!' but her mum works in a highschool, and knows what 'kids' are wearing. And when they took it to focus groups, sure enough, the kids loved the cardis, and hated the legwarmers.

It's the muggle problem all over again. Knitters are just people, you know.

I know I said that I love my workplace for being so accepting of knitting (it's about the onlyt hing I have that makes me a minority, and being a minority is the way to be cool here) but sometimes there's a glitch. Like the time P found out that I go to a knitting group, and asked how that worked - did we all knit a bit, and then pass it on? Do we all knit the same thing? Do we talk about knitting. Well, yes. But that not... I mean, what is so hard to graps about the concept of a knitting group? How is it different than, say, a mother's group, or a group that meets to power walk through a mall, or to teach their dogs how to do tricks, or whatever? Not being able to knit doesn't make you a muggle, in my book. Not wanting to knit doesn't, either. It's this blank, unwilling to change, ignorance. Seriously, I think some of the people where we meet would deal with it better if we had a talking cat than when we knit.

And then P asked how the group got started, and I said I didn't know, I'm fairly new, and M, my bf at work, made some flippant comment about people being retired and bored, and that I was obviously the youngest in the group. In fact, I probably am, but not by much. I'd say we have a fairly smooth curve of ages, if you know what I mean.

I just... why with the judgy, I guess was my extremely articulate point.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Measure twice

Cutting not recommended.

I've just been reading through Grumperina's archives (I'm on a get-bloglines-under-control binge) and I was reading where she's talking about TrueJeans. And how you measure yourself. And then they recommend jeans. One their website... they provide a printable tape measure.



Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A belated weekend post

I had a good weekend. Even though it feels like it was a million days ago, now. I went up to my folk's house and stayed the weekend, since it's my mum's birthday tomorrow. They had to pick my sister up from a music marathon they had at her school on friday night, so they swung by to pick me up on saturday morning. This had two advantages. The first was morning tea. I made yarnstorm's lemon curd cake.

My mum loves lemon curd, and I must say that I agree. There was enough left over for a jar to gift her for her birthday. (I also got her a lamp, so that she can see when she crafts at night) The cake turned out brilliantly, although there was way too much butter in it – I actually blotted the cake! I’m pretty sure I didn’t read the recipe wrong or anything. (I always go to spell recipe as ‘recipie’, which I actually think is quite apt) Next time I would use 100g of almond meal instead of 50g.

The other bonus was my sister’s hilarious behaviour. She had had about a half an hours sleep that night, and about another hour in the car. So she was extremely non compos mentis. When we were leaving my place, she woke up enough to put on her seatbelt. Or so we thought. We look in the back, there she is, still sprawled over the back seat, seatbelt-less. We tell her ‘M, put your seatbelt on’. She grumbles (expected), reaches over, and unzips her schoolbag (unexpected). My mother repeats the instruction to put on her seatbelt. This is met by the grumble that usually means ‘I am!!!!’. We ask why she is looking in her bag. The reply? ‘for something to attach it too!’ said in the best teenager ‘duh’ voice. She then takes out her school jumper, wraps it around her torso as if it were a restraining belt, and goes back to sleep.

Hilarious. We did eventually convince her to buckle up, but it took some extremely specific instructions.

We made it home all in one piece, and then my mother and I set out for the Onkaparinga Quilt Fair. It was quite impressive. This was my favourite quilt.

It’s not the fanciest, or the most technical and impressive, or even the most beautiful. And there were many there that were much, much pinker (Gah! Gives my eyes a rash!). But this was the only one with sheeps. (I showed the photo to my sister, and she said ‘sheeps!’ which made my mother laugh because that was my exact reaction.)

And this was my favourite thing there.

A sampler snake. No name or anything attached.

I had put aside some money in case there were any good fabrics or handmade items to purchase. Which there weren’t. So the next day, we headed out to the Heart of the Hills market, which runs in the old Onkaparinga Woollen Mills every weekend and public holiday.

Most people in Australia know the name ‘Onkaparinga’. Most people my age or older will have slept under a blanket made there. It sits at one end of the town that I grew up in, and provided much of the towns income, back in the day. It was a working mill up until I was in high school, and the sound of the whistle calling people to work, and the smell of wet wool from our school excursions (not to mention the noise!), is an integral part of my childhood. Even more so, it was integral to the town. During the war, when 'Lobethal' sounded too German (It means 'valley of praise, but I'm informed by a German friend that it's terribly grammatically inaccurate) the town's name was changed to 'tweedville'. Anyone else get a kick out of that?

The mill is closed now, and it has served various functions in the past decade or so. It now houses a microbrewery, a gallery, and the Markets. There has recently been another mill, the Creswick mill, which deals in alpaca, set up there. I believe that they are actually working there, and not just using it as an outlet, but I may be mistaken.

Anyway, I bought a few things there. I bought these poppies

Two bunches for two dollars each. And they are gorgeous. (roses in the foreground from the rosebush I planted at my folks' place)

I bought this yarn

From the Gumeracha Spinners and Weavers Guild stall. I’d tell you who spin it, except that the two ladies who served me cut it off. I tell you, they have some lovely lovely handspun, but it was a painful five minutes handing over the monay and waiting until they got organised enough to exchange it for yarn.

And I bought this in the gallery

For seven dollars. You might remember me talking about this picturebefore. I love it. Even though the colours are completely wrong. I need a frame for it.

I alsomade progress on my sock. In fact, I finished it, but I have yet to take a picture. I cast on for the next one right away, and am finished the cuff.

All in all, it was a very happy weekend, and I was sorry for it to end.

Now, I'm off to the Chocolate Bean to eat lots of super-delicious chocolate. Oh, and to knit with my knitting buddies. That too...

Friday, October 26, 2007

Guess what I did last night?

That's right. I taught myself to crochet.

I know it's lumpy, but it's my very first granny square, my very first piece of crochet, ever, and I love it. I knocked out another one this morning before work. I think I might be hooked (bwahahahaha.... I hate myself.)

I've been spending the last week or so eyeing off other people's Babette blankets on Ravelry. It gives a new meaning to the word Lust. I don't just want this blanket, I must have it. I must have several versions. In my mind there's the original-style colourful one. Then there's the all-warm or all-cool colour ones, strong colours and kilmt-like colours (with maybe a little extra yellow-orange through it for some kick. Maybe even chocqua! (links are inside Ravelry, sorry)

Because, you know, I have all that time and money to spare.

Like I said, I think I have a problem.

However, I am determined to have this blanket. It will happen. Problems: Pattern, yarn, learning to crochet.

Well, now I know how to crochet. I sat down with 'crocheting for dummies' which was wonderfully instructive and had very good pictures, with arrows and everything. I did a couple practice squares and then I was ready to go! I'm positive that being a knitter was why I picked it up so quick, since it made sense to me. I could see what I was doing, how the stitches were being made, etc. That's assuming I'm doing it right! I know I chained two when I should have chained one a couple times on my second square.

So, Babette was my long-term impetus to learn (although I've always wanted to, it just never seemed worth all the energy, somehow) but the kicker came on Wednesday. I went over to my grandma's for dinner. Mrs B, my grandma's long-time next door neighbour, crochets. She'd made a teacosy for grandma. It was four granny squares each side, with a knitted lining. The sides are left mostly open for handle and spout, and the top is just cinched in. I couldn't see how the squares and lining were attatched - crochet border or picked up knitting - becuase the yarn was boucle. But ti doesn't matter. I'ma make me a tea cosy. With eight granny squares in blue and green. I can't wait. It will be perfect for my best-ever-pouring but boring-ugly teapot and my slow tea drinking habits.

I also found a link on ravelry through someone's blog to NaKniSweMo - that is, national (!) Knit a Sweater Month. It's supposed to be 50,000 stitches. And I really want to knit the Cinnabar Sweater. So bad. I don't care if the neckline is high and might make me look top-heavy(er). I don't care. And I am so not going to count the stitches, either. I'm just going to assume, and I think that that's a pretty safe assumption. Especially since I will have to be knitting my dad's Cobblestone still, I can use that to account for a low stitch count. I won't be ordering the yarn for Cinnabar until the 1st, since that's pay day. Maybe I'll be almost finished Cobblestone by then? It is to laugh, since I am going to stay with my folks this weekend for my mum's birthday, so I probably shouldn't work on it then... maybe I will, anyway. My dad is so unaware of what's going on around him sometimes, I could probably get away with it, especially if i'm just doing the sleeves, which is what I'm up to.

I'm thinking about trying magic loop, because I'm sick of that stupid little line you get up the soel of your socks with DPNs. I'm almost finished the first hedgerow sock, which feels good, but I probably shouldn't knit the second one magic loop, since I've heard people say that their tension is different between the different techniques.

I still can't wait to get my big projects further along, but I think this granny square thing might be the quick-finishing hit I need. Not that each square is a finished product in itself, but it sure is satisfying.

My fingers are itching...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The magic of the ordinary

I've been mulling over the value of handwork.

I know there's a lot of talk in blogland about the special qualities that handwork bestows. I know I personally get a lot of joy out both the process and the product (usually). But does, say, a handpieced quilt have any more intrinsic value than a store-bought one? What about if it's handpieced, but you bought it? Why is the relationship between crafting and thrifting so strong?

Is there magic in it?

My conclusion is that I think there is. But it's subjective. And it's not a given.

One hand worker can see the magic in another's hand work. It's harder to see and feel the magic if it's a craft that you don't share - I personally find scrapbooking not very thrilling, although I have seen some extremely beautiful and creative examples - I happen to think that that's the nature of the craft, that it's too commercial and often discourages rather then encourages creativity. Not always, but often.

But where does the magic come from? What's its source? Process or product? I know many people talk of the knitting the time into their stitches - of each stitch somehow capturing the spirit and meaning of what's happening at the time. And it is true that some of the things I've made will strongly bring back glimpses of the weather, or what I was listening to or thinking about. But that is in my own head, not in the stitches.

What about the love poured into each carefully crafted stitch? Does that mean that, if a lovingly pieced quilt will keep you warm better, that a persnickity project will leave you shivering? That a thrice-frogged yarn will hold onto its curse and make you miserable? I just don't buy it.

No, I don't think it's the process. Although that carries its own magic, it's a magic that's firmly rooted in the present moment, that has its strength in the now, and so, by definition, can't affect the future.

So, the product. Oftentimes a handstitched item will be 'better' quality to a store bought one. Oftentimes not. The materials used or the skills and care involved vary for both types of items. Nothing much to be gained there for my argument.

It must, then, be some value that we place on the work that went into making the item. Obviously, today, handwork is something of a luxury. You only have to go into any quilt store, and take a look at their prices and, sometimes, their clientele, to realise that. But most of the people who do really truly creative work aren't people who have a lot of extra money or free time. They craft because it's what they do. It's an important part of who they are. It's art.

I can't remember who it is, maybe Amy Carol, but one of the contributors to a Crafter Companion wrote that she realised at some stage that she felt exactly the same doing art as doing 'craft'. I know some people have a problem with the word craft, but I don't really. It's all part of the same process - all art is based on craft, all craft can transcend and become art. It's a fuzzy and complicated process.

After thinking it over, I have come to the conclusion that there is magic in handcrafts. In the end product. But it doesn't shine its strongest in the product itself. It shines most is us. In it's creators and users. Its magic is in how it changes us and the way we see it and other things.

Being a handworker makes you more aware. It makes you think about process and product. It makes you consider source, utility, worth. It gives you a new eye to look at these things with. Whereas before, a blanket is a blanket, a top is a top, those things now become the end of a long line of things.

This top was fabric.

Before that it was thread.

Before that it was cotton.

Before that it was earth and sun and seeds and labour.

And if you have sewn it yourself, you are not just the recipient of all this work. You are a part of it. Even if it is a shirt you bought, you understand a little more.

It was reading this post that helped me think about the way it shapes us. About how understanding your world makes you gentler and a little softer. About how working in a garden or with your hands brings you to an understanding with your world, a world that is made up of ordinary things, of bits and pieces, and helps you to find a place for all of them.

And once you see the magic in ordinary things, you understand the importance of 'small pleasantnesses'. I've long thought that, since I am easily irritated by trivialities, it behoves me to look for the joy that small, everyday things bring. That joy that comes so naturally to children, the wonder that we loose. In rain, in sun, in the way leaves move. In good food and company. In words.

Crafting alone will not bring this for you. Thinking alone won't, either. But when one has the luxury, the leisure, for both... A thinking crafter is a powerful thing.


It rained last night. It was raining on my way home from work. I catch the bus to and from, so that meant walking in the rain and standing in the rain.

I stepped out of the door before I realised it was actually raining - from inside it had looked like it was just drizzling (do people elsewhere say 'spitting'? Now I go to type it, it sounds gross. As is 'Is it raining?' 'No, it's only spitting'.) I stood under the verandah for aminute, debating whether to go back in side and swipe the communal umbrella for the evening.

Then I stepped out into the rain.

It was nice.

By the time I got home I was reasonably wet - not soaking, it stopped by the time I got to the bus stop, so I wasn't standing miserably in the rain - but dripping, nonetheless. Walking to the bus stop, I watched the rain create miniature landscapes in the carpark, I let it run down my face and squeeze from the creases around my eyes like tears, I shook my head and felt the drop splatter from my hair.

Rain is the only thing Imiss in summer.

When i got home it had started again, and I made myself a sandwich and sat on my balcony, watching water cascade from the drainpipe on the top of my building, and the birds play in the wet. Then I went inside and worked on my sock.

You know the sock I mean. This sock.

It now has the rest of its heel flap, a short row heel, and about half a gusset. I did have to rip back part of the gusset because I didn't read the fragging instructions properly (I know, we've talked about this) but it was only a couple rows, and I think the sock forgave me. I watched two episodes of Spicks and Specks on tape (Adam Hills is so attractive) and then I went to bed.

I dreamed about my sock. I dreamed that it was finished. And it didn't fit. The heel and toes were too long, and misshapen, the cuff was floppy. And it was also red, for some reason. I don't think I need to tell you that this was not a fun dream. It's a good thing my dream sock was red, otherwise I might have panicked.

This morning when I got up the first thing I did was go and find my sock. I think my subconscious hates me...

Monday, October 22, 2007


This is what I spent most of my weekend either looking at or doing.

This is my teeny balcony. I'm standing right at one end, where the door is. That green wooden thing is the barrier between the neighbour's balcony and mine. At the start of the weekend, the only things on there were the front table and its contents. Cherry tomatoes and a sad little basil plant, and some Italian parsley (I hate the crinkly kind).

On Saturday, I went with my dad to Bunnings, and we bought two punnets of tomatoes (one Roma, one 99c, I have no idea what it actually is, a dwarf something, I think?) some Basil, a chilli plant, and a tonne of dirt. OK, 50 litres of dirt, but for a country girl, buying dirt just seems unnatural, you know?

Anyway, the plan was to use a couplethree containers that my dad has at home for pots, but after we did all that running around (and it was hot on Saturday) we visited my Grandma, and she showed us a bit out the back where my aunt has stashed a whoooooole bunch of pots, and she said that we could have any of the plastic ones we wanted - I was restrained, but she kept trying to get rid of more, so I have a couple of backups, just in case.
She also bequeathed to me two of those wire chairs you see there, which are in surprisingly good condition for having had three generations of sit upons sit upon them for countless summers. Of course, they used to have that white plastic stuff covering the wire, but that's all been picked off by three generations of fingers...

So I filled the pots, planted the plants, watered them - voila! A garden. (I had to ask three people how to spell Voila. Just so you know the lengths I will go to for the professionalism of this blog - mwahahaahhaha, I crack me up)

Again, being a country girl, this was astoundingly easy. It required no digging, no picking out of rocks, no creating new garden beds out of wood or, as my father was doing last time I visited home, brick.

However, it did require a little good old Australian know how (I always think of Tom Lehrer when someone uses that phrase - 'Good old American know how, as provided by Good Old Americans like Werner Von Braun...') otherwise known as being scabby.

I live in a huge block of apartments, and this week I took, from the hard-rubbish dumping area, a round table that is now my dining table (more later), a small black table that you can see in the top picture, just, and a bed head, which I propped up between said black table and a plastic container. If I leave the pots on the ground, they're too low down to get much sunlight. And also, it's nicer like this. On Sunday, I spent most of the afternoon sitting outside, like this:

Because on a 35 degree, muggy day, what you really want to do is put a whole lot of yarn on your lap. But it cooled down in the afternoon, and even though the dropping pressure gave me a whopping headache, it was quite pleasant. Except for this dude:

Who was quite cross that I was sitting on his balcony, and almost flew into my face a couple times, which was quite alarming.

I was reading this post today, and I was thinking how, even though I love that there was so little work involved in my mini garden, it's almost an anti-climax. Where are the aching muscles and the sense of satisfaction? Apparently you don't get one without the other.

Before that, I did this:

FO! Because, again, on said 35 degree, muggy day, the best thing to do is to get the various pieces of a Worsted weight jacket, put them on you lap, and seam them. But it's good to have it finished! Sorry about the crappy light, but the whole day was weird and overcast and I didn't want to wait for better light, because I wanted to do this:

And then this:

I know you think I'm crazy early, but really. There's only 63 knitting days left until Christmas! And last week, one night when I couldn't sleep, I lay awake plotting to knit socks for way too many people. I think I have a problem. This is the same problem that convinces me that it's a good idea to take on knitting a blanket, rug, or, my latest bright idea, a towel.

A towel. I mean, I ask you.

However, having finished my sister's wrap jacket, and being almost up to the armholes on Cobblestone - this one is going so quick! All that stocking stitch in the round, I get an inch done every time I pick it up, feels like. And the yarn is yummy. Then I think I might have to knit a pair of socks for my dad, and I have a few other crafty presents up my sleeve which don't involve knitting and might not come to fruition. We'll see.

All in all I am feeling very crafty. The more so because, on Thursday, there was a very nice round dining table in said hard rubbish spot. So I rolled it to my flat. Am I a scab? Maybe. But after years of using op shop furniture, I am pretty picky. If it's not decent, it doesn't matter how cheap (or free) it is, I don't want it in my house. But there is a definite pleasure in making do, and saving things from being thrown away when they are perfectly good.

The point is that I moved the rectangular table that had been my dining table into my room, and now my sewing machine is sitting on it, easily accessible, along with tins of notions, etc. Then the drawers that were in my room had their contents emptied into the extremely spacious wardrobe (which also got a good reorganising - yes, I am the type of person who can spend a half an hour thinking about which shelf her shirts belong on. I also enjoy defragmenting my computer) and the drawers are in the living room, full of craft stuff. A drawer for embroidery, a drawer for paper and related craftiness, a drawer for my yarn stash (it doesn't count if it all fits in one receptacle, right? Except I just got more in the mail today and now it's not all going to fit) and the top drawer for whatever's on the go atm.

This meant I went through all my stuff, categorised it, judged how likely I was to finish and/or use it, and had a mini-purge. I've been pretty good since I moved at not accumulating too much crap, but my craft supplies are definitely my weak point. And some of the stuff I’ve had sitting around for yonks went, which was fantastic.

It just feels so good, not only to be organised, but to have everything available and accessible.
And to add to my nestiness, we also took a trip to IKEA, where I got a lamp for $7 for my sewing set up, and a couple of picture frames. I've got these two maps of Europe that I've wanted to hang up for ages. I love maps. I have this

(I know, dreadful picture, I'm sorry)
Up on my wall, and there's an area-correct map up above my bed. But I had nowhere to hang these two. They're from the period of the Enlightenment and the period just before the French Revolution, respectively, and they're pretty and interesting. So I framed the, but they're a little too small for the frames, so I cut some wrapping paper to size and put it behind them.
Then I pintacked them to a piece of ribbon, sewed another, smaller ribbon to the first ribbon, tied the smaller ribbon in a double-knotted bow, and hung it on the wall.

I think it looks fabu.

I'm just so crafty.