Wednesday, 25 February 2009

too practical?

Is it indeed possible to be too practical? It is certainly possible to do too much practical knitting, if only that other endeavours in the sock and project categories get sorely neglected.

Since I instituted my 'knit list' in November last year, all that I have managed to cast on and complete are practical knits (and crochets) - fourteen of them! My sock and project knitting at the time, Baudelaire and the Swallowtail shawl respectively, are still on the needles. This is not, per se, a bad thing. The whole point of the knit list was to restrict the number of projects on the go at any one time and to prevent a proliferation of barely-more-than-cast-on lace shawls, under the mental weight of which I would surely have suffered a nervous collapse.

So there has been some success there at least with being disciplined. I cannot cast on for another pair of socks until I finish my Baudelaire pair. Which means facing them again. Way back on 10 December I discovered two dropped stitches and have barely looked at them since. Until today. I just decided that it was time. Thankfully the two dropped stitches had miraculously been repaired (by me, I guess - I've blocked it out). And like many things that you put off and put off because they seem too dreadful, once I actually started again it was a real pleasure. I'm using a lovely Addi Lace 2.25mm circular and how different it feels in my hands to my current practical project. The change in needle, the change in yarn weight, the change in fabric - going from one project to another. I am in love with these socks again.

And because I do always like to include a photo, here is my current practical project. It is Molly from Debbie Bliss' Junior Knits. This is something that I have wanted to knit since ... well, before baby bear was born I think and here I am knitting the 3-4 year size. I'm using some yarn that I recycled from a Boden cardigan, it's 60 per cent silk 40 per cent cotton and the project is knitting along at a good pace. It is always a bit of a gamble to substitute yarns, particularly fibre content, so I hope that the pattern will hold up in the silk/cotton blend.

Saturday, 21 February 2009


Ha ha, I do love a good neologism. So, according to the Chicago Tribune, here in the United States 16 per cent of consumers shop at thrift stores and this is expected to rise to 20 per cent this year. My question is, why so few??

I heard on the radio that luxury good retailers are also having trouble, so perhaps they and Goodwill should join forces. Here are some brands names that I have seen (and some purchased) at op shops or thrift stores:

- Comme des Garçons
- Sonia Rykiel
- Yves Saint Laurent
- Gucci
- Prada
- Costume National
- Pringle
- Helmut Lang
- Akira
- Hugo Boss

And now, Louis Vuitton:

I have some vague recollection of seeing some very mens style shoes in ... what, a magazine? when do I ever read a magazine? but anyway ... let's just say the media just before we left Australia and I put them on my mental shopping list. And then I met Mary Jane here in Seattle, knitter, artist and mother extraordinaire, who wears the best mens shoes and I put a star on my mental shopping list. And then I found these shoes at the Lifelong Thrift Store. $25 (and $50-odd to have a protective sole put on them. Never mind, they'll last forever).

Friday, 20 February 2009

button popping

I am very suspicious of anything that claims to make you 'an expert in minutes' or that calls itself a 'miracle holder'. Miracle schmiracle. But, lo and behold, it's true! I'm a believer.

Similar to my reluctance to try diy snaps and eyelets, I had always been suspicious of self-covered button kits but this one works like a charm. I finally tried it out in order to make buttons for the Clara neckwarmer and was delighted with the results. And it was so easy to do - baby bear was watching me make them and then she was putting them together herself. I needed to do the actual pushing to get the button back to snap into the shell, but otherwise, yes - a two-year old can manage them. And the results are fantastic, crease free, expert, miraculous even!

And what's more, here is the, ah, less than delightful scrap of 1980s decorator fabric that I used for the buttons. I had this in the stash - it came in plastic bag of several decorator fabric scraps that I bought at ... Value Village I think ... for another piece that was in there. The colours in that corner were just right for the neckwarmer and abstract enough that the overall pattern wasn't obvious!

I can think of so many uses that I could put these self-covered button kits to. I have heaps of cross stitch-decorated vintage linens that would make the sweetest buttons.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


Clara is baby bear's dearest friend from childcare and on the weekend we had the pleasure of celebrating her third birthday.

The vital statistics
A child's neckwarmer, designed by me and again inspired by Olga Buraya-Kefelian's Cabled Cowl; I can't remember now where I got the cable from but I added the bobbles. I also made eyelets all along the inside of the double knit slip stitch edging and welt to enable the neckwarmer to be buttoned up tightly or loosely.
Yarn: Just over half a skein of Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride Bulky in Victoria Pink, purchased at Value Village for 99c (in a bag with another skein of something red and acrylic which I directly donated back).
Needles: 7.5mm - I deliberately went big because I am always knitting things too tightly and creating a fabric that is too dense for my liking.
Start to finish: 26 January 2009 to 10 February 2009 - knitting took less than a day, it was the button inspiration that held me up.

Comments: Ah, the buttons! I shopped around, looking for white ones, clear ones, considered daisy-shaped ones but none of them were right. I first added fabric trim to a knit garment just before baby bear was born. I had knit the Garter Stitch Wrap Top (Ravelry link) by Erika Knight and was just not happy with the edging. So I bought a little bit of Liberty Tana Lawn in a coordinating colour and trimmed the edges. Since then I have experimented a bit with matching up woven fabrics with woollens - Carmine being a case in point. I love the contrast between the smoothness of the weave and the texture of the knit.

Anyway, on this project for the first time I decided to do self-covered buttons because I couldn't find any that I was happy with. I delved into the stash and found some (to be honest rather awful) 1980s decorator fabric that I had a sample of and carefully chose some sections with appropriate colours. I'm going to write separately about the self-covered button process - it deserves it!

Verdict: This was lots of fun and very easy to knit and I'm quite taken with the neckwarmer concept and the opportunities for combining different yarns, textures, gauge, cables.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

i heart rsi

Crocheted hearts for 21 students and six staff members at baby bear's childcare centre. I don't remember any deal at all being made of Valentine's Day when I was at school. Celebrating it certainly wasn't instituted as an activity. But then, it's no longer 1977 either.

I took the opportunity to hand make the cards that baby bear took to give to all of her classmates. The yarn was recycled from a cotton jumper that, if I remember rightly, I bought from an op shop in Seymour in country Victoria. Phew - more of the stash used up (although only one out of several balls). The tags also travelled across the Pacific to be here (and I still have plenty more of those too) and were decorated by baby bear. The hearts were a very quick crochet but still ... my right elbow aches a bit.

mixtape 8

I just love this cover for issue 8 of Mixtape. You can pre-order the next issue now but get in fast. This is going to be the first professionally printed issue - only 1500 copies and then they're all gone (although I understand that it will still be possible to print issues 1-7 demand).

The front cover artwork is by Madeleine Stamer of Little Circus Design. Those animal heads peeping out from behind the matroyshka doll almost makes her look like she has angel wings ...

I have an article in there. It's all about my etsy shop. What etsy shop? Precisely.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009


Splendid sunshine in Seattle today.

So you can imagine how surprised we were to open the door and see this:

Well yes, I would have been very surprised to see my swallowtail shawl out on the ground but look under the shawl - that's right, snow. It came as a total surprise. I thought that the snow was over for the year and that I would be able to avoid the swallowtail shawl until next winter because I have started this tradition of only taking photos of it in the snow. It seems that nature, however, has other plans and has forced me to take it out of its bag.

It's hard to see here but I have actually started on the lily of the valley edging and it's those nupps that are getting me down. I have mastered them but am not really enjoying knitting them. So I have been procrastinating for a good few weeks on it. Now that it's out of the bag I might just do another row.

So what have I been knitting since I put those cubic zirconium mittens away? I've been working on practical knitting, almost exclusively I must admit. It's all been gift knitting too so I'm not ready to post pictures yet. Two of the projects (a matching set, a neck warmer and headband for a little girl) just need buttons, and need them by Saturday so I expect they will be finished soon. I'm about halfway through the other one, a lace and cable scarf.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

boutique knits

Hooray! Finally, a knitting book that I can gush about. I've been so grumpy about the last couple that I've borrowed from the library.

This is a book of patterns for items that you would, indeed, find in a boutique. That is, there are lots of added details and idiosyncratic touches which I don't necessarily like - for instance the buttons on the Argyle Lace Hat - but which do elevate the patterns to boutique quality. I still plan to make the Argyle Lace Hat, omitting the buttons, which is much easier than buying a hat from a boutique with the intention of altering it. And maybe that Side Slip Cloche (on the cover), less the ruffle detail.
And maybe also ... actually, that's what this book was about for me - I'd like to make that but I'd change this, that or the other. And I think that's a great thing, the book is inspiring.

There were also a number of patterns in here that I didn't like but was nevertheless impressed with, such as the Half-Felted Bag. It's not at all my style but it does look like something that you would buy at a boutique and I'm really glad to see that type of pattern being provided. Part of the quality of the designs is, of course, all of that extra detail including the use of adornments such as Chicago screws, cord lock stops, D-rings, and sew-on magnets. What is a Chicago screw? The book also includes information panels on the materials and techniques used.

The layout and colour scheme of the book is a but different to what I usually think of as Interweave (namely the Scarf Style, Wrap Style etc family of books). I liked the swathes of colour and pattern that accompany the images. Boutique Knits: 20+ must have accessories - must have a look.

Thursday, 5 February 2009


Red, it's my favourite colour and there is so much to love: carmine, vermillion, scarlet, rouge, ruby, crimson, magenta. Incidentally, carmina is latin for song although there doesn't seem to be any etymological relation.

Anyway, onto crafting matters - the increase in my creative thinking since becoming a mother still surprises me. I had always wanted to be a creative person (perhaps I always was and it just needed to be let out) and thus paid attention to other creative people and their pursuits.

Somewhere, sometime I either heard or read or maybe just plain imagined up something about creative inspiration coming from the materials themselves. Well this week that happened to me. I was tidying up my not insubstantial stash of woolens-for-crafting when I came across a v-neck merino wool jumper (sweater) which I had long ago felted.

Actually, I bought this particular garment at the Salvation Army Family Store in St Kilda. It's a great big barn of a place, so big that you have no idea that it has started raining while you've been inside browsing. As I had no jacket to wear on the walk home, I donned this particular jumper to keep warm. It was a tad too small but did the trick. Then I subsequently felted it (not sure why), tucked it away, hauled it across the Pacific and found it again as I was sorting things out this week. Great.

So, I was sorting thing out with the intention sewing up a reconstructed woolen for baby bear when I came across this felted number and wow - I realised that it was just the right size and shape as it was to fit her. This was fortunate as often the felting process can alter the proportions of a garment. I've been trying to figure out sewing projects that utilise the existing features (button bands, hems, pockets) of the original garments but this one takes the cake.

I cut the jumper down the front to form a jacket and trimmed some of the length off the lower edge.
That trimmed-off piece became the collar. Using my trusty Clover bias tape makers and a reclaimed Ann Taylor blazer that I purchased at Goodwill here in the US I finished off all the edges. I didn't want the fronts to overlap at all as that would have pulled the garment out of shape so I used toggle fastenings (reclaimed from an unfortunate cotton/acryclic cardi purchased at Value Village specifically for that purpose). I also wanted to keep baby bear's chest warm, so I affixed another cut-off strip to the inside of one of the jacket fronts, thereby extending the width of that side. The actual additions were quite simple but the colour and print combination is striking (I love red and cream together) and as with most things, it is the details that really make it. And all that slip stitching.

And the finished result - well, I think that it's gorgeous. I'm very happy, my heart is singing.