Sunday, 24 February 2008


One extra random fact about me - as a new knitter I swore that I would never do socks. I didn't see the point. Round and round, endless knit stitch, fiddly notions like turning heels and picking up stitches, all that debate about Kitchener stitch, blah blah blah - no thank you. And then I knit my first pair - aha, I understand. Knitting socks is great fun.

This pair (only my second!) was a gift for Tim's dad on his eightieth birthday. I still think that the self-striping sock yarn is so effective and so impressive.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: the classic basic Patons sock pattern.
Yarn: not sure. I got it from Ozknitter and think that it originally came from Lincraft ... Oh, and a bit of Patonyle in a steel blue (#4303) there on the toe to make it easy to remember which is the left sock and which is the right (that is to say, I ran out of yarn).
Needles: op shop 2.25mm aluminium, not very nice to knit with. I really want to get some bamboo dpns.
Start to finish: July 2007 to 9 January 2008 (I suffered from second sock syndrome for a while).
Comments: a great sock knitting experience all round (ha ha). This was my first pair of adult socks and I was pleasantly surprised by how easily the project moved along. Yes, it's a lot of knit stitch but it is punctuated regularly enough by leg decreases, turning the heel, picking up stitches, more decreases. It was very goal-oriented knitting, working my way towards the next structural element. And watching the self-pattern unfold - quite addictive.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

the magnificent seven

Stephanie over at Spices for Violet - curious name for a blog, I should tag her back and ask her to explain - has tagged me to share seven things about myself, some random, some weird. So here goes:

1. The name Amelia means industrious and striving. If I may say so, this suits me to a T. It is derived from the Germanic word for work. I know that the German word for work is arbeid (same as Dutch) and I always wondered how on Earth Amelia was derived from that. I later learned that the Germanic word for work (as opposed to the modern German word) is amal. Now that makes more sense.

2. I like to paint my toe nails. Deep red, or dark blue or silver sometimes. But I only ever paint the first three nails because my fourth nail is a bit, umm, misshapen and I don't want to draw attention to it. Painting only three of my five toenails draws attention to my feet nonetheless - can't win.

3. I'm not musical, although I am trying. I have dabbled with the recorder (compulsory, primary school), the violin (primary school, short lived) and the piano (ditto). For my birthday last year Tim gave me half-a-dozen singing lessons which is one of the best presents I have ever received. I've always been self conscious about not being able to sing in tune and just two lessons so far have made a world of difference. I have to book the next ones in pronto.

4. I cannot stomach bananas, licorice or coffee. I love ice cream.

5. Motherhood has taught me many things, including how to fall instantly into a very deep sleep. I lay down for a quick nap at about 5:30 the other afternoon and woke at 6:10 - instant panic, phoned the childcare centre to assure them that I hadn't deserted baby bear. The phone had rung a few times already when I realised that it wasn't a childcare day at all and that she was in her pram in the hallway, still asleep from our walk an hour or so earlier.

6. Craft heresy I know but I loathe softies, particularly the deliberately ugly ones. Not endearing, just ugly.

7. As of tomorrow, I'm a uni student again. I have enrolled in the Graduate Certificate in Health Economics at Monash Uni, just one subject to begin with 'Introduction to health economics'. It's taught through distance education (which suits well when you work part time and have a child). I've done some distance education subjects before through another university and so far I am impressed with the efficiency and organisation of the Monash course.

The image above is a detail from the woodcut from lesson twelve in one of my all-time favourite books, Orbis Sensualium Pictus (
The Visible World in Pictures) by Joannes Antonius Comenius. It was originally a German/Latin textbook with some hundred and fifty lessons, each page a different topic illustrated with a woodcut and with two columns of text, the German and the corresponding Latin. It is apparently credited as being the first picture book for children. I have a facsimile of the third London edition, an English/Latin version, which was published in 1672 (the original that is, mine is Sydney University Press, 1967.)

Sunday, 17 February 2008

a tree grows in balaclava

Quite some time ago, ok, October last year, I showed you the felted jumper tree bag that I was working on. Yes, I'm still working on it. I actually have no knitting project on the needles at the moment, except for the baby ballerina top which has taken on albatross-like proportions and I can't find the last ball of yarn anyway. So I have been hand stitching like a fiend these past few days and making great progress. (Thanks go out to my dear friends who understandingly let me stitch through Friday night dinner, Sunday morning play at the park and Sunday afternoon picnic at Rippon Lea without ever once accusing me of not giving them my complete and utter full attention.)

In the past few days I have stitched each of the leaves and the trunk to the backing and am a little more than half-way through satin stitching around the leaves. Just to recap if you can't be bothered with the link above, the backing is a felted woollen jumper, the trunk is cut out of another woollen jumper and the leaves are cut from the raglan shaping of a cotton jumper, all purchased from the op shop. I have also unravelled a section of the cotton jumper so that the thread around the outside of the leaves matches perfectly. I had thought about machining around these edges but, actually, I have been enjoying the hand stitching so much that I just kept going. There's something that feels very independent about doing it by hand, no unpacking the Janome, no electricity required. I must also admit though that I was concerned that the cotton thread wouldn't fare very well going through the machine.

I've realised during the process of hand stitching, which allows you to really pay attention to what you're working on, that what I like so much about this design is the great use of negative space that is contained within the curves of the branches. I plan to do satin stitching around the outline of the trunk too; this serves to secure the threads of the appliqué shapes. Then I want to add some birds from another felted op shop jumper (orange), more hand stitching, make up the bag, line it and work out a handle arrangement. I'm not sure yet whether I want a single strap or two handles, fabric or leather or bamboo? There's a lot yet to be done on this one so it's pretty ambitious for me to make it one of the two projects that I have to finish before I can cast on for anything else (and I am itching to).

Monday, 11 February 2008

vol 4

Volume 4 of Golden Hands: the complete knitting, dressmaking and needlecraft guide introduces three more crafts - patchwork, fringing and toy making (softies 70s style). There's not an awful lot that inspires me in this volume although as per usual the Fashion Flair and Pattern Library pages are classics - check out the gay appliqué pot holders.
These Golden Hands posts are a good opportunity to report in on my crafting progress. I have finished knitting the latest pair of socks - hooray! Graft the toes, weave in the ends, give them a wash, take photos, package them up, post them off, wait a few days then reveal them to the world.

I love to write lists, have I ever mentioned that or has it just become obvious? Tucked in the front of my diary is the 'great universal list of things to do'. It's my consolidated list (as opposed to a list of everything to do in the universe which would take so long to compile that you'd never get around to doing anything). In my lists, I like to break tasks down into smaller components. The closer I am to getting around to something the further I break it down. That way the most immediate tasks are the smallest and are easily achieved which gives a great feeling of satisfaction. This approach also has a tendency to rapidly multiply the number of tasks but also gives a great illusion of productivity.

Friday, 8 February 2008


"Monday I have Friday on my mind/Gonna have fun in the city" Easybeats, 1967

I'm so pleased that it's Friday because that means that it's the weekend and Tim will be home and there will hopefully be some time to recoup. I feel so drained at the moment. My mum has been visiting for the last couple of weeks which has been lovely but she left yesterday and that's always emotional. I don't like goodbyes. Baby bear came home from childcare on Wednesday afternoon with a cold and slept for only about four hours that night. Subsequently I slept only four hours that night too. There is a well of tears which I can't quite realise just lurking there in my chest and I find that really draining. I just need a good cathartic sob but can't quite trigger it.

Anyway, my Freitag bag is one of my favourite things. Actually, I think that Freitag was one of the earliest examples that I came across of making things out of recycled materials in an innovative way - used truck tarps, used car seat belts, used bicycle inner tubes re-emerge from obsolescence as bags, wallets, i-pod holders, each one visually unique. So cool.

And I did have fun in the city this evening. I headed in just after 5:00 to the launch of issue 3 of mixtape at Sticky in the Degraves Subway. The atmosphere was quite electric as the end of the working week flowed past, eager to catch the train home. it's "a zine about making time for the small things! mixtapezine is a collision of craft, eco-cool and pop culture kitsch!" I believe that bollewangenhaptoet even got a mention back there in issue 2 (thanks Martine!) so that gives you an idea of just how great it is. It was also great to be out and about, part of the (underground) life of the city. I love Melbourne, everyday.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

knitting new scarves

Compromise - a knitting book review.

Have I ever mentioned how much I love my local library? I put in a request for
Knitting New Scarves: 27 Distinctly Modern Designs (by Lynne Barr with photographs by Tyllie Barbosa) and they purchased it. Lovely.

I so often get carried away when I see knitting books, particularly books that are beautifully presented and styled and attract my attention with my favourite colour - red - and think that I am going to knit absolutely everything therein. That's the case here too - not to say that the scarves aren't wonderful, they are, but I am more fascinated by the innovative techniques that are used to make them, such as Drifting Pleats on six double-pointed needles - six!

The scarves are well photographed and I particularly like the little detail below the introduction to each scarf - a line drawing that echoes the shapes or forms in the scarf itself.

Although I think that there's only one scarf that I may actually knit (yes, Drifting Pleats) there are plenty of techniques to be learnt.

Illicit sock knitting update - one sock complete bar the grafting and ends, halfway through the heel on the second sock.

Sunday, 3 February 2008


Ah, finally I can correct some of the bias towards book reviews and best intentions. Look! I got crafty and completed something:

Ah, the obligatory before-and-after shot (replete with poor before lighting and crisp after image, completely incidental by the way). Before is a fine knit white cotton t-shirt with an envelope neckline (brand - Target, size 2, purchased from op shop with tags still attached for less than $2 I imagine). After is the same t-shirt with a scrap of Marimekko fabric appliquéd to the front. This is a leftover from when I made the knitting needle roll way back in July last year (which may also have been the last time I had the sewing machine out).

Having let that slip I can no longer claim that these lovely stitches are the hand stitching that I have lately been indulging in. More of that some other time. No, this is the work of my Janome 720. I think that I did a nice job though with sewing around the curve. The scale of this fabric (Kaivo) is huge compared to the scrap that I have used here and the contrast between the pink and red isn't great so I just wanted to help the definition along a little. Baby bear will look great in this and finally I can add something to the finished items list! I'm so relieved.

I find the effort of getting the sewing machine out of its case and plugged in and threaded up such a mental block but I so enjoy the actual sewing when I get into it. I've also lately found the oomph to get the iron and ironing board out and have produced a few lengths of bias binding.

Now, secret finished socks and appliqué t-shirt - that's two finished projects, which according to my new year's resolutions means that I can start on something new. Whoo-hoo. Now, what will it be? Perhaps the half-finished pair of socks that I started a couple of weeks ago ... oops.

Friday, 1 February 2008


‘I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor.’

D.H Lawrence

What do you do with your hands that makes you feel calm? Until recently I would have said knitting, although I have lately rediscovered the mesmerising lull that can be hand stitching. I can understand why you would want to hand quilt a bedspread (ok, maybe a pillow cover).

Anyway, Taryn Ferris of London Metropolitan University wants to know what you do with your hands that makes you feel calm as part of her Hands Project 2008. You can complete the Hands Survey and can also contribute an image that relates to your answer.

All the information is available here.