Friday, 28 August 2009

size matters

Better a week late than never, finally a knitting post. I'm talking about matters of size here, of course. I am reasonably tall, generally an Australian size 12 (which is a US size 10), so a medium to large let's say. And Trinny and Susannah would probably call me a vase (a vaaz, not a vayz - phew). What Trinny and Susannah would not call me is an extra-small.

Which brings us to Joy. I have been wanting to knit this cardigan forever. Vintage Style was the first time that I got Rowan suckered; that is, so in love with the models and the styling that I wanted to knit everything in there and bought the book immediately. Ok, so there's only a couple of things that I actually want to knit in there but Joy is number one.

So, please observe the photo: I think that this model is definitely an extra-small. And there is not a lot of ease in the garment's fit, that is, it's not baggy or loose and those are not bell sleeves. Gauge is 26 stitches to 10 centimetres, using a 3.25mm needle. By my calculations, casting on 61 stitches should give a sleeve cuff that measures about 23.5 centimetres in width.

Ok, I'm going on and on about this because I am knitting my first sleeve of Joy in size extra-small and on 3mm needles. My cuff measures about 22 centimetres in width which would easily block out a bit but I don't know that I would even want to.

These two photos show how incredibly different the colour of this yarn is in different light. I can't decide whether it is brown or russet or purple. It's recycled from a Talbots twin set, 80 per cent wool 20 percent cashmere. A further note: while I am following the chevron pattern chart I am not achieving the effect by slipping a stitch with one of 5,300 tiny beads on in. No thank you. I am instead purling the stitch on the right side and knitting it on the wrong side. Because while sometimes nuts I am not crazy.

And those little clippy things holding the sleeve together in the photo on the right? Miniature hairclips. These things are an absolute must for anyone who has not mastered the whole seamless knitting in the round picking up stitches thing. They hold your knitted garment's seams together perfectly, grip tight, one stitch in, don't allow slippage and I could not seam without them. Why then is my Wallingford still languishing in want of a side seam? Well, I never said that I seam with them either.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

toile de jouy

So I have continued my long overdue exploration of the second-hand book shops in the nearby University District. Today I went to Twice Sold Tales and was rewarded with this lovely book about toile de Jouy fabrics. I actually had the pleasure of a daytrip to the town of Jouy-en-Josas last year when we were visiting Paris. There baby bear and I visited the museum on the site of the original Oberkampf factory.

I can't remember when I was first introduced to toiles de Jouy. It was when we were living in Sydney because I remember a day trip up to some suburb of Gosford to a patchwork shop which was the only place that I could find that sold the stuff. For $90 a metre.

Anyway, my heart leapt when I saw this book at the bookshop because just this morning in an attempt to ravelrise my sewing stash I had taken some photos of my own toile de Jouy fabrics (and assorted others) to store/organise on flickr. Am I nuts? you may ask. Yes, probably.

A word or three about Twice Sold Tales - this is a bossy bookshop. You know, the kind that has little signs and notices stuck up next to the cash register that read:

'If you can'y see me, I can't see you. Please ring the bell just ONCE!!.'
'No returns on books, ever. That means YOU!!.'

The use of bolded italic uppercase in these messages seems to be OBLIGATORY. As is multiple exclamation marks!! I guess that if you are the proprietor of a successful small business then you can afford to be crotchety.

Saturday, 22 August 2009


Cretaceous. That's me. I am feeling completely, utterly and entirely cretaceous. Hmmm? Cretaceous is an adjective to describe the time period some 145 to 65 million years ago, and not over-tired, sleep deprived, irritable and cranky, do I hear you say?

Careful, or I'll:
ps. we baked gingerbread yesterday, using the recipe from Sweet Old-fashioned Favourites (Australian Women's Weekly) and using the cookie cutters that I bought at Urban Craft Uprising a few weeks ago.

Friday, 21 August 2009

running out of doily-associated word play

I have sewn them all up! Yes, Monday evening and Tuesday afternoon were filled with the whir of my sewing machine and all thirty-five squares of nine patches each are complete!

Looking back on my blog posts I estimate that I started cutting the blocks out for this quilt late in July, so in the absence of a sewing version of Ravelry (when is somebody going to start that? even just an on-line database for projects, stash and pattern queue - pleeeease) I calculate that to be just over three weeks of tracing, cutting, *pinning, sewing, ironing, repeat from *.

And I am at peace. Really. The imperative I had to get working on this quilt has been quelled and I feel like I can let it sit for a while or just work on it at my leisure. Such a relief. Needless to say, percolator style, other projects will
soon enough rise to the top to demand my attention.

In some other random news, my copy of Quilting from the Traditional Needle Arts series has arrived - hooray. And some fabric also arrived in the mail - I took a gamble and bought a couple of metres of red cotton jersey on ebay. A gamble because red is a colour very close to my heart and it has to be a good shade of red. And this one is - it will be the backing for the wagga. And a package destined for me that has been held up at a sort facility in Denver, Colorado for three days has finally entered Washington - hooray! I hope that it gets delivered tomorrow.

Oh and by the way, did you know that I knit? Yes, really. I'll prove it tomorrow.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

getting pinned

Growing up in Australia we got a lot of media from the UK and from the US alongside our own national stuff. As such I read as many Enid Blyton novels as I did Judy Blume, and watched as much Educating Marmalade as I did Growing Pains. And sadly, that was probably many more hours than I spent reading Australian novels or watching local tv. Ah, misspent youth.

But anyway, point here is that I spent much of my childhood getting my head around the lingo particular to each country. The concept of 'getting pinned' was one that I first encountered in, I think, the musical Bye-bye Birdie. Needless to say, I never got pinned. But the doily quilt (yes, I am getting around to something relevant), that is all pinned up.

Here are all the strips of three that I completed a few days ago having the seams ironed open and flat.

And here are all of those strips of three, pinned together to make blocks of nine which I did this morning. Next step is a whole lot of sewing.

Monday, 17 August 2009

traditional needle arts

As I have mentioned before, I am not an embroiderer. This does not stop me in any way from acquiring books about embroidery (ditto for quilting, needlepoint, dressmaking etc). I really recommend this Traditional Needle Arts series - they also publish volumes on embroidery, patchwork, quilting and cross stitch. The projects are lovely, the photos inspiring, the instructions clear - fantastic books.

I already have the Patchwork volume (should be sailing its way from Australia to the US in the next few weeks along with many other books and possessions, I can't wait to look at it again) and now the Embroidery volume (ah, and Quilting and Cross Stitch are on their way too, courtesy of abebooks).

And trapunto is long something that I have been interested in trying (one day). I have had this book from the library before.

I bought these two volumes from Magus Books (1408 NE 42nd St, Seattle, 98105
; 206 633 1800) in Seattle's University District on Friday. I had never been in before and it's quite an unassuming storefront. But oh what a treasure chest of second-hand books! It's actually huge inside and when I asked where to find the needlework books, no one sneered at me (it has happened before elsewhere).

Not being an embroiderer also does not stop me from actually doing embroidery as and where required. My approach to making things is mostly that I have an idea and imagine what it will look like, then work out what techniques to use, then try my hand at it. Thankfully I have so many books on various needlework topics from which I have absorbed basic techniques and details in the past, and I can always look something up.

Do you remember the felted jumper bag, the poor long neglected felted jumper bag? I'm still working on it, little by little. Wow, I just checked - it is almost exactly two years to the day that I posted a photo of the materials and threads that I was collecting to make the bag!) So these are the little birds that I have been embroidering to go in the tree that decorates the bag. One is complete and five are at finished outline stage - I think I'll just do some feather stitch (how appropriate) and see if I can master french knots. Ooooh, I'm excited.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

doily update

I tell you, I could practically give you a daily update on the doily quilt. I am just loving making it and manage to fit in a few seams or some ironing or pinning pretty much every day. I have quite a production-line method in place and it is delivering up results.

At last report, I had started out by pinning all of the squares in the intended configuration onto a spare sheet. Here are a couple up close:

And here are the resulting nine-patch squares:

I am really delighted with how they have turned out. So delighted that I have, in fact, already completed seventeen of them. And the other eighteen have been sewn into three strips of three each and are waiting to be ironed. This has come together so much more quickly than I had anticipated. I do hope that I can keep the momentum going.


I have long been meaning to start a comprehensive and in-depth review of thrift stores in Seattle and surrounds. Problem is that I have thus far found that the best thrift stores are the big chains (Goodwill and Value Village) and that the smaller, independent store fronts often don't measure up, which is unfortunate. And I just haven't gotten around to it yet.

Anyway, I stopped by what must be one of Seattle's most idiosyncratic thrift stores today. It is held in the hall of the University Temple United Methodist Church on Fridays between 2 and 5 pm, accessed by the lane behind the church. Amongst dinner being prepared for the neighbourhood's needy and someone plinking away at the grand piano there are a number of racks of clothes, tables of stuff and shelves of homewares and books. And these things really are a bargain - the vintage sewing pattern, child's shirt and three Duralex glasses were a quarter (that is, 25c) each; a grand total of $1.25.

Alas the sewing pattern is missing the pattern piece for the sleeve. Truth be told, I do know how to draft one up myself but what a chore. Also truthfully, the pattern is a child's size 10 and baby bear being almost three I have years to psyche myself up for a bit of pattern drfating. I just really liked the picture on the packet.

No pattern drafting required (and costing a tad more than $1.25 but I expect that it will be worth every cent) I finally bought myself an Ottobre magazine. It's issue 5/2006 (winter) and my choice of this particular issue was prompted by an inspirational creation that I saw over at the blog omi creates. I think that Naomi's version looks far better than that in the magazine (pictured below left). And Naomi made hers from fabric that she bought at the Salvation Army - fantastic!

I had bought (ahem, a couple of years ago now) a very generic McCalls pattern to make baby bear a coat by recycling a Romeo Gigli jacket (that I incidentally also bought at the Salvation Army) but I'm almost ashamed of it now, having seen what is possible.

I also like the red jacket on the right and have just the fabric for it - to be recycled from a pale aquamarine angora/wool coat that I bought at (wait for it) the Salvation Army, albeit in Zurich, last year. And fortunately all of the patterns come in a number of sizes so there are still years in which to procrastinate ...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009


You may have read a book called The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho. It's a long time since I did but the general gist that I remember was taking a journey to discover that what you most wanted was right here at home. Such was my trip to Portland.

So here I am at Sock Summit, staffing my friend Kylie's stall while she took a well-deserved break on the Saturday. I wish that I had the alchemical ability to turn my toenails to bright red - that was one thing that I forgot to take with me, some nail polish. The idea was that, finally with time to myself, I would catch up on those kind of grooming things. I did manage to get my hair cut but no nail polish was applied.

I caught the train down and it was a great, relaxing ride. It also ran on time, both going there and coming back, which I've been told is quite unusual. I was able to sit and knit, uninterrupted for several hours. I really enjoy train travel and this is the first long train ride that I have taken, by myself, since ... hmm, moving from Melbourne to Sydney in 2001? Anyway, I got back onto my faux prussian stole and actually ran out of yarn! I have heaps more here at home but hadn't thought to take any spare with me. I don't think that I realised that I was so far through it already.

At Sock Summit itself I wasn't booked in for any workshops, I just went to experience the atmosphere, visit the marketplace, catch up with friends. Kylie brought all of this wonderful hand-dyed sock yarn over from Australia under the lable ms. gusset. I worked in retail all though high school and my uni years and I had forgotten how much fun it is, for the first 15 minutes. Then my cheeks started to hurt from all the smiling but I did get to talk to lots of attendees and even sold some yarn.

And bought some yarn too. I have been hankering after the Handmaiden 'vintage' colourway for months now but had only seen it available in the Camelspin which is about $40 per skein at my nearest yarn store. So I was delighted to come across their Casbah on sale for $24 a skein, and machine washable to boot - hoorah!

Otherwise, I found the marketplace completely overwhelming - hundreds of vendors all with, well, basically the same thing - sock yarn - and as much as I like knitting with finer yarn it's not really where my head is now. And there were just so many vendors that really, it all started to blend into one big mass of colour. Perhaps a more experienced sock knitting connoisseur would have coped better with it all! As for my Handmaiden, I'm considering the Cleopatra Wrap (Ravelry link) from Sensual Knits. But then again, I still haven't made a Clapotis yet ...


Yes, I went to Portland; I even stayed overnight, two overnights! But I've got a finished project to show and that's even more exciting.

Last week, I finished the little halter top from Koharu no Fuku, made from my beloved tea towel. Here is my favourite bird - the blue wren - just next to the underarm, nicely bound with some fabric that I had in the stash. I think that it would have been hard to find a closer match for the green

The top was of very simple construction - just front and back with some bound edges and a casing for elastic at the back. It was the perfect pattern for my limited yardage as the ties are made from the bias tape and there were no sleeves to cut out. I made the 120cm size (that is, the size for a child of height 120cms) as it was the largest that I could achieve out of the available fabric. Even so I did have to make the bottom hem a little narrower than was called for, by only a centimetre or so. Then two seams and a lot of bias tape, which was actually very easy going using my trusty Clover tape maker.

The pattern called for elastic across the back, which I included. I have, however, left one end of the casing open. Given that I made such a large side (I think that baby bear is only around 105cm tall) I wanted the elastic to be as adjustable as possible.
You see this trick sometimes in children's trousers - the elastic in the back waist can be adjusted by buttoning it at either end of the casing. That is of course special elastic with buttonholes running down the centre, which I haven't used. At the moment the elastic is secured with a safety pin but this is not a long-term solution, as in, baby bear can't wear the top until I find an alternative. It might just have to be a few rough stitches to secure it, and a few more in six months when she's grown a bit more. I also love how you can see the details of the linen and the tea towel brand still there on the back.

I'm really delighted to have this project finished. I haven't done nearly as much sewing for baby bear as I would like to, and it was such a shame to have this tea towel tucked out of sight. The weather here in Seattle has, of course, cooled down dramatically this past week. I'm sure that the top will still look cute over a long sleeve white t-shirt but I am glad that I made a larger size as there will definitely be use out of it next year as well.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

the finger

Ah, hand stitching. What a pain in the middle finger.

Turns out that stitching through two layers of fulled wool requires a bit of effort and an extra push with the tip of the middle finger, which ends up feeling a bit tender. But, it has been worth it. I'm almost finished and the blanket as a whole is going to lay flatter. And I will be satisfied which is also a good thing.

I would like to continue the recycled theme (all of the wool patches are from jumpers that I bought at the op shop in Australia ... and transported over here, over a year ago, yes) with the backing but am concerned that the whole might end up too patchy-patchy; that is, a pieced backing in different shades and textures of red would vie with the blanket itself.

Ok, just a few more seams before I can retire my middle finger.

Friday, 7 August 2009

astral travelling

A couple of weeks ago I went to London, by myself what's more. Ok, I was fast asleep and dreaming but it was one of those super-vivid dreams and I was really walking down a street in London. It felt great. I loved London last time I was there and the dream held that wonderful feeling of promise and expectation.

Tomorrow I am off to Portland, Oregon to enjoy the halo of Sock Summit. In my dreams? No, really - I am going to Sock Summit (in that I am not booked in for anything, just going to enjoy the atmosphere and catch up with some other Australian visitors). And here's the promise and expectation bit - I am going alone, overnight, for the very first time since I became a mother. Back on Sunday evening!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

wagga seams

Ah, hand stitching. So soothing.

The seams on the wagga are quite narrow and some of the fabrics quite stiff, so getting the seams to lay flat is a bit difficult. There will be a backing but I don't want the seams to be bulky through the backing. Anyway, I'm slip stitching along the seams to keep them nicely in place. Yes, it's a bit onerous and Tim thinks that I am nuts but I actually find the rhythm of the stitching very calming.

I'm wondering whether to take the wagga to the dry cleaners to have it pressed. The fabrics are already fulled and flattened out so I don't think that having it pressed would affect the texture of the fabrics. I want it as flat as possible in order to do some embroidery on it and think that would make it easier. Any thoughts?

Monday, 3 August 2009

catching up with myself

Ok, I cannot keep my hands of this thing; I got the (initial) layout of the doilies quilt done today. Tim took baby bear for a bike ride and was conveniently distracted for some hours by the military-industrial complex's contribution to Seafair (aka fighter jets flying in formation). Not my cup of tea but that's fine because I was at home with sudden and unexpected free time on my hands. So I laid out the quilt.

To recap, the quilt will consist of thirty-five blocks of nine patches each; eighteen blocks will be white (and shades thereof) and seventeen will have coloured embroidery on them. When I cut the
embroidered patches out I attempted to get large motifs square and centre and to have them fill up the patch as much as possible. Not always achievable and in order to use up as much of the doily as possible I also cut out several partial patches. These partial patches were then sewn together in such a way as to get as much embroidery in as I could. Ok, that's the coloured embroidered patches.

The white patches I cut out of the left-over fabric and also out of whitework
doilies. As such, about half of the white patches are also embroidered (in white), the other half are just plain.

Phew! So how to get all of this randomness into a cohesive whole? Well I made my seventeen and eighteen piles respectively, at random, and laid them out in the quilt formation, at random. And just as I had hoped, the randomness worked - there is enough difference between all of the patches that once they are laid out together it does create a whole. There were only a couple of patches that I had to swap around from pile to pile.

The actual arrangement of the blocks may change but I'm going to get them sewn up first. Umm, the next update may take some time ...

doily quilt

So, this is what has become of my doily collection. Thirty-five sets of nine squares each, destined to become a nine-patch quilt for baby bear.

It all started with this book - Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts. Have I mentioned this book before? I love this book. It is full of really fantastic ideas for making quilts, some very simple, some incorporating more traditional patchwork piecing and appliqué techniques. Plus a really good techniques section. The quilt in this book that really caught my eye and my imagination was one named Oxfam Flowers, referring to the British charity organisation.

I love needlework and I love embroidery although it's not something at which I have really tried my hand. I also haven't really tried my hand at patchwork finding it often a bit, well, twee. But the idea of incorporating all of those stitches and motifs into one quilt set me to work. And of course, I love the idea of making something new out of something old.

I am going with a different quilt design to that in the book - alternating squares of white and embroidered fabrics, each square made up of nine patches. For the white squares I am using both the leftover fabric from the cut-up doilies and patches cut from all-white doilies. It's going to be quite a challenge now to decide upon a balanced layout - so many colours, so many designs and so many shades of white to boot. Then there'll be the sewing, then a border maybe, then the batting, the backing, the quilting ... oops, ahead of myself. Layout first.