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."