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.