Monday, 31 December 2007


People who don't come from this part of the world are often aghast, mouths agape, when I tell them that we have ski fields in Australia. Ok, they're not Whistler or St Moritz but there is snow in winter (usually) and lifts and ski runs. But not today. No, currently it is 40.3°C outside (that's 104.5°F for our imperial friends) with a hot northerly wind. I tell you, it's like an oven out there and it hasn't yet reached the forecast 42°C. And I'm knitting socks in your typical 75% wool 25% nylon mix sock wool. I am also safely ensconced within an air-conditioned office block enjoying the mild 20°C that we have in here.

What am I doing knitting at work? Well, nominally it was my lunch break and being New Year's Eve, there's not a lot going on here (apologies Victorian tax payers). I continue to be gratified by the
response of the (knit-)uninitiated to self-patterning sock wool, not to mention their wonder at the process of knitting with double-pointed needles.

So, resolutions for 2008? I don't really make new year's resolutions. I know that I have lots of plans for the next twelve months but I think that I would have those plans whether it were June 30th or December 31st. I am going to have a little bit of free time each week to myself next year and I plan to get really productive on the re-use/refashion front. All of those best intentions will, I hope become reality. I'll keep knitting - it would be nice to participate in a swap actually. I wonder if there'll be a sockapalooza in 2008?

And keep reading - currently waiting in line are The Careful Use of Compliments, The Poisonwood Bible, Don Quixote, and Amelia. Yes, how could I resist an eponymously titled book - Amelia (1751) by Henry Fielding? I do love the Penguin Classic cover. It's a painting called 'Life of a Country Girl - Married Life' by Francis Wheatley who was an English portrait and landscape painter. Dear girl, what's that she's busy with? A bit of needlework I think - how appropriate. She's also wearing a rather silly mob cap - I won't be doing that in 2008.

Best wishes for a very happy new year - safe, healthy and prosperous.

Sunday, 23 December 2007


That about sums me up at this time of the year - restless. I'm like this at the end of the month too. On about the 24th I just want it to be next month. By mid-December I just want it to be next year. And it makes me restless.

I finished this novel a couple of days ago - told you I was on a reading spree, have you noticed the lack of knitting content? I really enjoyed it. I had originally heard a few chapters read aloud on the Radio National book reading so I reserved it at the library. I read somewhere that someone had found the interspersed contemporary chapters boring but I felt that they served to heighten the suspense although some of the sub-plots there weren't satisfactorily wrapped up.

What I need is to stretch my legs, take a walk around the farm, find a bit of peace. Ah, off to Tim's parents' place today - ideal. I hope that you find a bit of peace too this holiday season and take it all the way through the year.

Saturday, 22 December 2007


Re-use is my favourite 'r'. Recycling is great but apart from the satisfaction of putting out less rubbish and more paper/glass/plastic, you don't really get to see what becomes of your old phone bill. Reduce is, I must admit, one that I'm not so good on although I'm getting better at it. But re-use, re-use is the best because it's practically an invitation to be crafty and creative and innovative. I too aspire to one day be crafty and creative and innovative but in the meantime want to introduce you to a couple of projects that already are.

I love Stringativity's leather coat project (first encountered over at Wardrobe Refashion).
Tracy has taken one, slightly damaged, coat and re-used the leather to create a number of items, including a book cover, a wallet, a bag and a top. I love the use of the curve in the original garment in this version of the top (which unfortunately wasn't the final one).

On a similar note but a grander (or at least more commercial) scale are Ashley Watson's bags (discovered via fiftyRX3) which again take the detailing in the original garment (purchased second hand) as a starting point for the finished product.
I love the way that three bags can be the same shape but different colours and with different detailing. It must make choosing one a nightmare though - what if you like the black leather but want the pocket on the brown bag?

Thursday, 20 December 2007


Ah, what an appropriate theme for this time of the year.

I saw this book at the bookshop when it was released and was attracted by the cover - lovely 17th century-style woodcut - and the great title, Havoc, in its third year. There's something about the cadence that really appeals to me. And I had to look up a number of words in the dictionary - phthsical, wittol, apodictical - I love a book that increases my vocabulary. A good read, the style was quite unusual. The world that the novel creates - England in the 1630s, "turbulent times", moral and religious hysteria - while evocative was just a little too intangible for me and made me realise how little I know of British history in that period (or any other really, to be honest).

I borrowed it from the library (of course) after seeing it mentioned on Only books all the time. My, that woman can read! And she appears to like the odd list or two - I love a list, so am going to follow the leader and complete the Back to Books unread book meme.

These are apparently the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing's users (on 3 October 2007). And I've added a few of my own comments as well.

bold - have read
italics - started but couldn't finish
strike through - couldn't stand
asterisk* - read more than once
underline - on the to-read list

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and punishment
One hundred years of solitude - thumbs down
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi: a novel
The name of the rose
Don Quixote - once Tim finishes it
Moby Dick
- wonderful

Madame Bovary - thumbs down
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice - I've definitely read Emma and another Austen or two but can't for the life of me remember which one(s)
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveller's Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin - love Atwood, her best
The Kite Runner - umming and ahhing, it's on the shelf
Mrs. Dalloway - for uni
Great Expectations
American Gods
A heartbreaking work of staggering genius
Atlas shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran: a memoir in books - I have read Lolita
Memoirs of a Geisha - after the shorts to the movie, no interest whatsoever
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury tales - the odd one for medieval English literature at uni
The historian: a novel
A portrait of the artist as a young man
Love in the time of cholera
Brave new world
The Fountainhead
Foucault's pendulum
Middlemarch - wonderful, oh Dorothea
Frankenstein - thumbs down
The Count of Monte Cristo
A clockwork orange
Anansi boys
The once and future king
The grapes of wrath - I'd liek to read this
The Poisonwood Bible: a novel - on reserve at the library
Angels & demons
The inferno
The satanic verses
Sense and sensibility - my other Austen?
The picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park - ?
One flew over the cuckoo's nest
To the lighthouse
Tess of the D'Urbervilles - boring
Oliver Twist
Gulliver's travels
Les misérables
The corrections - I liked this
The amazing adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The curious incident of the dog in the night-time
The prince
The sound and the fury
Angela's ashes: a memoir
The god of small things
A people's history of the United States : 1492-present
Cryptonomicon - Tim's read it, all three of them actually, does that count?
A confederacy of dunces
A short history of nearly everything
Dubliners - bits of it for uni
The unbearable lightness of being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake: a novel
Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Persuasion - ?
Northanger Abbey - ?
The Catcher in the Rye - thumbs down
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics: a Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values - I read this when I was eighteen and living in Japan (another story), I'm not sure that I got all out of it that I could
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity's Rainbow
The Hobbit - but only the first few pages
In cold blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences - nope
White teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The three musketeers

It strikes me how many of these books I didn't like - perhaps a lot of these are unread for good reason!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

vol 1

I learnt to cast on, to knit and to purl from volume one of Golden Hands: the complete knitting, dressmaking and needlecraft guide. The book that changed my life, really!

Volume one includes all of the introductory entries on the basics - knitting, crochet, embroidery, canvas work and dressmaking - plus some basic wardrobe knitting and crochet patterns for those who have already mastered the gentle arts. Interestingly, needle-made lace also gets a look in.
Then there are the Collector's Piece entries, the Pattern Library and this lovely feature on the gentle arts. I once commenced an attempt to recreate the piece of lace on the bottom right in crochet with very fine thread. I never unravelled it so it must be tucked away in a plastic bag somewhere ....

By the end of this volume you can expect to be able to tailor yourself a skirt, work some slanted gobelin, crochet an afghan, twist your stocking stitch and plan an embroidery colour scheme. Lovely.

So, the legacy of volume one for me?
Jeremy is going well. So far I have knit three sleeves, two left fronts, the right front and the collar and am half-way through the back. Three sleeves? Ah yes, one of them got frogged as it was the wrong size. Two left fronts? Hmmm, the first incarnation got frogged because I had increased a stitch too many way down in the ribbing and it just wasn't going to be right. That's enough for me I'm afraid - one stitch out, one mistake and I simply know that I will never be able to live with it. It's really quite an easy knit if you just read the pattern correctly.

Monday, 10 December 2007


Many thanks to Catherine for commenting to let me know about artist responsible for the nests (and the canvasses and the postcards - there are actually 30 pieces in the show and I'm embarassed to admit that I hadn't realised - I wish that I had asked). Anyway, Michelle Giacobello, apparently an East St Kilda local, is the artist and I strongly recommend that you take a look (both at her blog and the Hudson show).

In other knitting news, I swatch. Yes, I swatch for particular projects but I also swatch for yarns. Ah-huh, just individual, random balls of yarn that I am curious about, which is just about all of them really. My knitting pals all have a good chuckle when they see me sitting there with yet another single ball of something, working away at a tension square. Always with a garter stitch border. I tried seed stitch but it just didn't work for me and was too time consuming for what is designed to be but a sketch in yarn. You can check your gauge, feel the fabric, assess the drape, store them away in your own little reference library of tension squares. Ah, it keeps me off the streets.

Here on the left is a completed swatch of a (cough) Spotlight yarn. Baby bear has torn up the label but it is Hues of Opulence shade #106 - Tea. It's 100% percent cotton and actually very nice. On the needle is another Spotlight yarn -
Moda Vera Corn - this time 100% corn fibre. I'm surprised that Kellogg's isn't getting in on the act. I also bought a third ball, a cotton/bamboo blend, also in a shade of pink. Hmm, three pinks at once. My swatch collection comes in a range of colours, it really just depends what takes my fancy on the day, although interestingly there is no yellow or orange. Two colours that just don't take my fancy.

Sunday, 9 December 2007


I was delighted to see these lovely knitted nests in the window at Hudson (229 Carlisle St, Balaclava; tel. 9525 8066; M-F 11ish-5:30ish, S, S 10:30ish to 5:30ish). I have previously gaped at their truly awesome Lego displays but I'm really pleased by these rustic little numbers. Hudson stocks a range of mens and womens clothes, what I guess is referred to as streetwear. All labels that I am, ahem, unfamiliar with except for Princess Highway, which is just a great pun for those familiar with Melbourne's road system. I'm actually wearing a blue Princess Highway top this very moment but I bought it at Vinnies, Bondi.

Anyway, aside from the adult clothing Hudson stocks a lot of other stuff - baby gear, accessories, purses, hairclips, some shoes, stuffed toys. Most of this is of a Japanese anime flavour - cutsie brightly coloured stuff. The baby clothes range is great and includes the very witty Rock Your Baby (for the prematurely hip - love it!).

So, good to see that someone is knitting in Balaclava! Well, I have been too, slogging away on Jeremy, only the back to go now. I also made a quick trip to Spotlight this morning and bought the tapestry wool for the embroidery that I'm planning for the collar. Oh, and I may also have bought three skeins of Noro Kochoran in shade 17. (Although not at Spotlight, clearly.) Hmm? what? hunh? haven't finished the last one yet? Oh, details.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

the accidental reader

It is only recently that I have really rediscovered the joy of reading. I have heard that there are those who can read and knit at the same time but I am, alas, not among them. Before the arrival of baby bear I had a reading schedule, so to speak. I would read a good book, often a classic, followed by a crime fiction, followed by a good book of the modern/current variety, followed by a crime fiction, followed by a good book and so on and so forth. With the odd bit of literary fluff thrown in for good measure. Now I just grab ten minutes where I can to read anything that I can lay my hands on.

Really, my schedule was just a way of rationing my crime fiction intake because while there are plenty of good books out there, there are only so many Rebus novels. And now I have read them all. I won't add to the many reviews already available except to say that I enjoyed it and was satisfied with the ambiguity of the ending.

I have also caught up on some childhood reading - Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library! - and Barbara Biggs' The Accidental Renovator: a Paris story. I was a bit disappointed with this one. It's just one outrageous disaster after another but lacks the depth of her two previous memoirs - In Moral Danger and The Road Home -
which tell the amazing story of her earlier life, the sexual abuse that she survived as a girl and its profound repercussions for decades to follow. Possibly because it is set over a shorter period of time and for the most part addresses a much lighter topic, it lacks the narrative force and emotional development present in the earlier two books. Rather, emotionally speaking, there is a sense of smugness and complacency. I was also very disappointed with the quality of the publishing - there are glaring spelling mistakes and grammatical errors throughout - which for me detract from the reading pleasure.

Which brings me to some local news - I think that I may have found Josies' missing apostrophe (see left). Oops, no - lost it again (see right).

Saturday, 1 December 2007


I think that I may have found a new collecting obsession - old knitting patterns. Patons Baldwins patterns to be specific. I've got number 518 - does that mean there are 517 that precede it? I'll have to make room on the bookshelves.

I picked up this current swag at the Salvation Army
op shop in Oakleigh a couple of weekends ago. I always have a look through the knitting paraphe
rnalia when I'm at the op shop - aluminium dpns anyone? - but it's often 1970s Villawool patterns which don't appeal. Unfortunately, there are no publication dates on these black and white beauties. The prices are still in shillings and pence (so pre-1966), measurements in inches and ounces (metric was introduced in Australia in 1947 but not in common use until the 1970s), and the postcode for the company, located at 84-94 Flinders Lane, Melbourne is C1. Four-digit postcodes were only introduced in Australia in 1967 (thank you Wikipedia).

There are so many garments in here that I would love to make. Interestingly (and affirmatively) a couple of respected friends have remarked on the self-same pattern that is at the top of my list. Perhaps it's the asymmetrical fastening, or the batwing sleeves, or the fact that it's front and centre at the top of the pile but Lynda is in gestation (so to speak).

The pattern calls for Patons Beehive 'Lady Betty' - a yarn so discontinued as to be utterly obscure. I know that it was a 3 ply but am curious as to whether it was a crepe or a twisted yarn. Due to the sizing I am actually going to knit Lynda in a 4 ply (I think), possibly a 5 ply - I really have to decide on both a yarn and a colour. Filatura di Crosa Zarina is a 4 ply option - high twist and good colour selection. Patons Bluebell, my favourite, is a 5 ply crepe option, but I'm not sure about the colour choice.

In fact, I'm not sure about the colour at all. That's one of the issues
with these black and white publications - unlike today's full-colour glossy patterns, the old ones don't indicate which colour to use. Do you know knitters who just can't bear to knit a garment in anything but the colour shown in the pattern? I'm not (quite) that extreme although I do sometimes have trouble imagining a garment in another hue. Clearly the version of Lynda photographed wasn't in black or another dark shade, but what colour was she? Any ideas?

ps. news from Linda (!) at Patons - "
Lady Betty came in 2,3 and 4 ply, it was produced in
Australia and was on range from 1930 to 1937."

Monday, 26 November 2007

on liberty

(With apologies to John Stuart Mill who didn't have anything so frivolous as fabric in mind.)

My first memory of
Liberty fabric was in a Country Road blouse that my mother had. This is back when there was a Country Road store in the Jam Factory, and the Jam Factory was indeed an old jam factory, red brick and original jam making machinery on display. It is several weeks ago that I declared that I would declare my best intentions as a way of prompting myself to pursue them. I'm not even half-way there, partly because I keep buying things - inspired by the fabric, the colour, the texture, the fibre ...

Here is some Liberty(-like) fabric that I have in stock:

On the left, a women's cotton shirt that could perhaps become a child's sundress with some pintucks or shirring (I really need to give shirring a go, it features in many of my plans). On the right, an entire dress which I think is hand made because there are no labels on it. Hence I don't actually know what the fibre content is - I'm going to avoid these sorts of blind purchases in future. What's the point of having all that fabric but not being confident to use it because you're not sure what it is? Both very William Morris, Arts and Crafts-esque, whether they are genuine or not. Both purchased at the op shop of course.

And here is the real deal:

Liberty Tana Lawn - a very thoughtful gift from a very dear friend who was recently visiting in London. Thank you!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

industrial revolution

Intarsia - the technique that dare not speak its name. I have previously alluded to the fact that the extent of my multi-coloured knitting facility is stripes. Having said which, I recently (and perhaps idiosyncratically) picked up a copy of Kaffe Fasset's Glorious Knitting for $3.00 at a second-hand bookshop in Burnie, Tasmania (what a rich shopping trip, ah, I mean holiday, that was). Just because it's not for me doesn't mean that I don't still find it visually, well, glorious. I even tested out his recommended method for knitting in ends (just on a plain colour garment to join in a new ball) but found that it offered no give in the garment so wasn't appropriate to the purpose.

So, speaking of ends and intarsia, marvel here at what industrial knitting can do:

Umm, yeah, they are Oilily socks. Their products are preposterously expensive but I picked these up at the pre-Christmas warehouse clearance sale (details via the previous link). Given that almost everything else I buy for baby bear costs less than $5.00 I thought that I could treat her.

I'm feeling quite stretched for time at the moment - nothing that a couple of good night's sleep won't fix. And as always, so many ideas in my head, so many separate projects on the go. I really must, must, must concentrate on what I have currently under construction.

Speaking of which, the tomten jacket is so close - I have sewn on the toggles and have completed the i-cord for the fastenings, it's now just a matter of sewing them up and affixing them to the jacket. Why do I drag my feet so on the finishing stage? I know why, because I find that first burst of inspiration and industry so exciting. It's like a fix. I wish that I could adopt some industrial knitting efficiency around here.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007


If I were to empty my bank account, book now and leave tomorrow I might just make it in time.

For those already in the UK (or with a larger bank account than mine) programme details available here.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

vol 9

We're going to start out of order on the Golden Hands volumes because there's something so exciting to show you (well, exciting to me). Here we have it, volume 9:

Ever thought of crocheting a door curtain? No, me neither, but a queen size bedspread? Yes.

And I'm clearly not the only one. I was amazed when reading The Good Weekend a month or so ago to find that one of Renya Xydis' (apparently a Sydney hairdresser) favourite things is the bedspread that her grandmother crocheted for her.

Recognise the pattern? Mine is crocheted in 4 ply Heirloom brand cotton. 5 x 6 squares each 37 cms square,
and the edging of my own design is about 14 cms deep.

So, approximate final measurements ... 213 x 250 cms. I must weigh it one day to work out how many skeins I must have used. I crocheted the bedspread square by square over about two or three years when we were living in Sydney. When I finished it I had such crochet fatigue that I had to learn to knit.

Making my crochet bedspread was actually inspired by an exhibition that I saw at Elizabeth Bay House, years back, when I was living in Sydney. The exhibition, 'And So to Bed', told "the stories of the changing styles of beds, bed hangings and bedding" and is where for the first time I saw a knitted counterpane (bedspread). I was so impressed and as I couldn't knit at the time decided to crochet one. Now that I can knit, of course all I want to do is knit one.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007


Still on the topic of Tasmanian op shops and how they reflect the populace - Tasmanians must be a learned bunch. The op shop bookshelves are full of encyclopaedic series: twelve volumes on 'The World Around Us', eight volumes on 'Mammals', eighteen volumes of Golden Hands: the complete knitting, dressmaking and needlecraft guide.

Well, that last set isn't on the shelves anymore because it has been in my house for the last five years or so. I did buy it on a previous visit to Tasmania though, from Vinnies Boutique in Wynyard for the princely sum of $5.00 (the same visit to Tasmania when I learned to crochet). Gold indeed, these books are an absolute treasure - they contain instructions on pretty much everything. dressmaking indeed, knitting and crochet and the full gamut of needlecraft - all sorts of embroidery, needle-made lace, tatting, patchwork, needlepoint, toy making, bobbin lace, etc - plus the 'Fashion Flair', 'Pattern Library' and 'Collector's Piece' features. The fashion flair is all circa 1972 but that can be a great thing! There's inspiration galore and the skills are always transferable. Maybe I'll do a weekly feature to show you some of what they have to offer.

In other exciting news - I've read a book! Iain Banks' The Steep Approach to Garbadale. I really enjoyed an earlier of his novels, The Crow Road, which was very meandering and it took a long time for the direction of the narrative to distill. Garbadale is more of the same in terms of episodes from the life of a young Scottish male but the plot is much clearer from the outset. I was disappointed though with the ending - the aftermath of the plot bombshell (which I had sort of guessed anyway) and its repercussions were not sufficiently explored. Still a good read but in terms of recommending them I'd say read one or the other, probably The Crow Road.

ps. I often see the odd Golden Hands volume in the op shop or second-hand book shop. Or try ebay or abebooks - collect the whole set!

Saturday, 10 November 2007


Artemis, Caledonian, Knox, Bennetts, Griffin, Club, McGrath, Jane Bell, Punch, Ulster, Corrs, Heffernan, Kitz, Gurners, Evans, Exploration, Grant, Hayward, Albert Coates, Red Cape, Arc, Rankins, Zevenboom, Guildford, Flanigan, Finlay, Sampson, Lonsdale, Alsop, Healeys, Manton, Warner, Merriman, Elliott, Cleve, Cosgrove, Ramsay, Cromby, Guests, Benjamin, Barry, Hardware, Racing Club, Waterman, Niagra, Kirks, Whitehart, Driver, Angelo, Bullens, Coates, Union, Masons, Briscoe, Mitre, Brien, New Chancery, Michael, Henty, Church, McCrackens, Geddes, Stubbs, Flinders, Highlander, Custom House, Harper, Foxton, Samuel, Ryrie, Lingham, Rothsay, Manchester, Chapterhouse, Hosier, Lush, Beaney, Chester, Malthouse, ACDC, Higson, Oliver, Strachan, Spark, Throssell, Howitt - heavens, Melbourne's riddled with them! I had no idea that there were so many.

What am I on about? "Melbourne's famous laneways ...Melbourne's famous laneway culture... famous laneways of Melbourne ... One of the great things about Melbourne are its numerous famous laneways all across the CBD grid." And that is just the Lanes; then there's the Places, the Arcades, the Alleys, the ...

As a native, of course, you have to go to a bar that is in a lane off a lane - that is, Sister Bella (Sniders La, off Drewery La, Melbourne; M-S 10:00am-1:00am). You walk past the dumpsters, sidestep the random rubbish, avert your eyes from the rear entrance of the X-rated bookstore (well, I do) and there at the end, on the right is a great bar. I thoroughly approve of their décor.

It hasn't been all glasses of champagne around here, though. I have procured some 42mm bamboo toggles from the Button Shop (that is, Tim stayed home with a slightly unwell baby bear and I got him to go and collect them). Am not totally convinced yet and will be at Woolbaa tomorrow (snb knitting - hooray!) where I have seen some options. I was wanting to lighten the tomten jacket up a bit - oh, you haven't seen it yet? - but am thinking that some black wooden toggles would actually look great.

I've also knitted twelve or so rows of the first of the baby ballerina top's sleeves. I tell you, I am tempted to not mention this project ever again (or at least until it is utterly complete). And Jeremy - I have finished the first sleeve. Do you find when you frog something that you can't bear to put it down until you have re-knit all of that kinky frogged wool? That's me.

Thursday, 8 November 2007


Have you been to Wondoflex (1353 Malvern Rd, Malvern; tel. 9822 6231 or 9822 8005) lately? I think that it is about a year since I was last there and on my visit yesterday I was really pleasantly surprised. It's somehow neater there, more welcoming, better layout of the displays and use of the space that keeps you wandering around past the shelves. And they've got some great stuff! 100% bamboo yarns - now there's a new natural fibre for me to try. A good range of cottons and beautiful stuff from Sublime Yarns which I hadn't heard of before but appears to be a subsidiary of Sirdar. Baby cashmere merino silk dk, cashmere merino silk dk, kid mohair, extrafine merino wool dk or cashmere merino silk aran anyone? Next time an aran weight yarn is called for, I'm going to try some Sublime.

Wondoflex also has a good range of Opal sock yarns, some great baby knit kits using Filatura di Crosa Zara (which is a yarn that I love) and Knit Picks Options knitting needles. Oh, and a bit of Noro to boot. Umm, truly, I have no association with the shop except that I went there yesterday and was impressed. They also have rug yarn which sets my brain abuzz. What about a crochet rug? What about a crochet rug with a design like on this wonderful carpet from Kiki van Eijk? Or just a great big doily to use as a rug? What would I use for a hook? Unh, might call for a trip to the local hardware store ...

Anyway, what on earth was I doing in a wool shop when I have all that seaming to do? Well, buying wool of course. There is something about having to cast on anew immediately once other knitting has finished and hence the seaming languishes. I have, however, made great progress on the baby ballerina top (yes, really) which has been my great languisher. All I need to do is seam the back of the collar and I will cast on (whoopee!) for the sleeves as I will know precisely how much yarn I have left to play with. The tomten jacket is also all seamed up, and ends darned in, but requires appropriate buttons which I am still searching out. I found some wooden toggles (at Wondoflex!) which are just the shape I want but are perhaps not quite large enough and don't have the burnished look that I am hoping for. Might see if I can singe them a bit ... do you think that's possible? Once I have the buttons sorted I will be able to finish the i-cord. Oooh, I do see finished objects on the horizon.

In the meantime, I have cast on for Jeremy and am onto my third attempt (!) to complete the first sleeve cap. I can't believe that the counting on a raglan could elude me so. I am using Jet (shade 508). The pattern called for 8.5 stitches to 2 inches and Jet knits to 16.5 stitches per 10 centimetres. I am quite a tight knitter (no matter how much I attempt to relax) and I think I am getting 18 stitches to 10 centimetres but, hey, that's ok, it's a size up for baby bear to grow into. I decided to take the start-on-the-sleeve-as-a-test-swatch route for the first time which has worked out fine, but I must say that you'd be annoyed after working all that ribbing if it didn't.

Jeremy also happens to be the name of my beloved brother who has handed in his Honours thesis - hooray J! So proud of you.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

the liberry

Last week on Friday I:

- was vomited on at three in the morning
- missed my flight to Tasmania
- locked myself out of the house
- drove to Sandringham to collect my neighbour's house key in order to get my spare key from her kitchen drawer, and

- visited the All Souls' Opportunity Shop in Bay Road, Sandringham (tel: 9598 2189; M-F 9:30-5:00, S 9:30-12:00) where I recovered a portion of my childhood.

Help! I'm a Prisoner in the Library! is a book that I read as a child and have been trying to recall for the past few years. I could remember that library was incorrectly spelled but not the actual title and thought that it was a picture story book. I always have a look on the bookshelves in the op shop - for good children's books, for craft books and, well, anything else of interest. I have no recollection of how this book ends - it's next on my reading list!

The All Souls' Opportunity Shop is fantastic, one of those old fashioned op shops where things cost a couple of dollars and there is a 5c basket. I also bought some great children's clothes, a vintage Fisher-Price toy, a couple of jumpers and a rubber duck (from the aforementioned 5c basket). Highly recommended.

This entry is also cross-posted on I op therefore I am - have a look at what other people are finding!

ps - hi Tamar! xxx

Saturday, 3 November 2007

doily crisis

As you can see, I am stockpiling in anticipation of the coming doily crisis. Hmm, what did you say? Oil crisis. Oh. Well. In that case I’ll be using these doilies (one day) to make a patchwork quilt for baby bear. I got the idea from the excellent book Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts. While it seems a shame to cut up some of these gorgeous pieces of needleworkmanship many of them are stained or torn in places and it is better for them to have a new life as a bedspread than to languish forever at the bottom of a drawer or to be thrown out.

A swag of these came from my recent op shopping in Tasmania, others come from various Melbourne op shops and some were found for me by my mother-in-law - thank you! Most op shops will have a couple hiding somewhere in the manchester section but Tasmanian op shops seem to have a doily section all of their own.

Re-use is one of my favourite environmental strategies and I would like to do a whole lot more of it. This idea has been around for a while – I’ve had a
Freitag bag for a few years now, made from old truck tarpaulins, seatbelts and tyre inner tubes. I’ve done a bit of yarn recycling, a lot of it sitting waiting to be re-knit. Lately I’ve been reading the excellent Brooklyn Tweed knit blog – boy, can that boy knit and take great photos to boot – but Jared is also a yarn recycler – hooray. And on The Lab recently I came across the fantastic Dutch design group, Zo. I am elated and inspired by their innovation – particularly the telephone wire used as a chair seat

I still can’t get over how much stuff there is in the world, how much there is in resources right to hand that otherwise get overlooked. All it takes is some imagination, some inspiration and some creativity to re-use them. I want to do more of this.

We’re off to the Strathbogie Ranges this afternoon. Alas, there are no op shops in Strathbogie. Actually, there’s no internet in Strathbogie. Maybe I’ll actually get something done over the next few days!

Friday, 2 November 2007

tassie gems

Where to start? Tassie - love Tassie. Many people have travelled much of Australia, much of the world but have never been to Tasmania. I strongly recommend it as a holiday destination. Baby bear has been three times already. And there are great op shops there.

Have you ever noticed how an op shop's stock can reflect the area it is situated in? For instance, I have bought designer children's clothing from the Uniting Care Southport op shop in Albert Park (115 Bridport St; T+S 11:00-4:00, W-F 11:00-5:00; be sure to go to Woolbaa across the road while you are there!), a blue-chip, baby boom suburb. Well, Tasmanians on the north-west coast, judging from what is stocked in the op shops in Wynyard, Somerset and Burnie, like to make things. Or did twenty years ago. There are knitting patterns, sewing patterns, needlework kits and knitting needles galore in these places. Too many to sort through, too overwhelming. Although I did manage to isolate a few:

Child's Blazer by Robin. They recommend Robin Bambino Freckles, Tricel-Nylon, Bri-Nylon, Columbine Crepe or Vogue double knitting. As I am a woman who cares (don't you love the gender bias here?) I will be choosing some lovely 100% natural fibre 8 ply for this. So much to choose from though - as it will be for baby bear I think that a machine-washable wool (or wool/alpaca, /cashmere, /yak blend) would be best. I naturally think of red, my favourite colour, but how about navy with nautical silver buttons?

Patons Playtime Crochets - do you think that baby bear would ever forgive me?

Favourite Designs for Toddlers from Patons - originally priced 25 cents but I paid the inflationary figure of $3.00. Curious that the price is in metric but all the measurements inside are in inches. This is my favourite knitting find of the trip - the artlessly posed children, the vintage designs (each of which are named - Dennis, Beryl, Pauline ...). As with the Robin pattern, some of the yarns are now defunct - does anyone remember Azalea or Fuzzy Wuzzy? - but there are some tried and tested in there as well - Patonyle and my beloved Bluebell. I love Bluebell, it is such an old-fashioned yarn, 5-ply crepe dyed in old-fashioned colours and a pleasure to knit with.

Without further ado, I have pleasure in introducing:

Jeremy (left) - in Patons Jet (now this is the original Jet, 100% wool, as opposed to the current Jet, 70% wool 30% alpaca). I am considering, however, indeed using Jet - perhaps the steely blue (101) for a proper post-war look with some floral embroidery on the collar to lighten it up.

Noella (centre) - love the puff sleeves and the peter pan collar. This pattern calls for Azalea - pure new wool with a gauge of 8 stitches to the inch. Hmm, 4ply?

Lorel (right) - in Bluebell, hooray! Still available today. I'm thinking in cornflower blue (4103) with white stripes (0051) and red embroidery (3383). Yes, it will be Swiss darning for me, stripes are my furthest adventure in multi-colour.

And the tomten jacket - done! Just waiting for the sleeves to be seamed and we know how long that can take me. I shudder that I have knitted an entire garment while the baby ballerina top languishes for want of seaming. Why is it so much easier to cast on than to finish off?

Huge thanks to Pam and Neal for having us to stay - we had a ball.

Monday, 29 October 2007


hi·a·tus [hahy-ey-tuhs]
–noun, plural -tus·es, -tus.
1. a break or interruption in the continuity of a work, series, action, etc.

It has been an event-filled few days here at bollewangenhaptoet. This has included:

- being vomited on at three o'clock in the morning
- getting locked out of the house
- amusing a one-year old single-handedly in an airport lounge for five hours.

As such we'll be taking what feels like a well-deserved short break here in sunny/cloudy/rainy/foggy/windy Tasmania and will (attempt to) resume normal programming upon our return to Melbourne. (And I forgot the camera, again.)

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

hot bargain

Dear Carlisle Street is blessed (or should that be afflicted?) with some half dozen two-dollar shops. Why is there such a market for cheaply manufactured rubbish in Balaclava? And nothing there ever costs $2. I don’t understand.

Really, I would be quite happy if the two-dollar shops were rationalised down to just, well, two would be plenty. And one of them would definitely be Hot Bargain (corner of Carlisle Street and Woodstock Street, open everyday until about 6:30pm), because it is the one closest to us and because it is our (Tim’s) favourite (it’s his favourite because it’s the one closest to us). I have been known to part with a small gold coin or two there myself in the past – they have a stand with Birch elastic and Güterman sewing thread and basic sewing needles which can really come in handy.

And what could Carlisle Street do with in place of all the rationalised two-dollar shops? I would love to see a second-hand book store, a Medicare office, possibly even another bar with big comfy sofas where we could hold a Balaclava stitch’n’bitch session. There I could work on some knit graffiti (did you see the Good Weekend this Saturday past?). My neighbour has incited me to produce a balaclava (what else?) to adorn the streetscape somewhere. I agreed to do so if she would climb up on the railway bridge and affix it to one of the mermaids in the Lady of St Kilda mural.

Other changes that could be made to Carlisle Street? Oh, don’t even get me started on the Subway.