Wednesday, 31 December 2008

last minute finished knits

I think that I may be able to squeeze a couple more finished objects in this year. Here is version two of the Baby Hat that I knitted in such a hurry last month that there were no photos. The first one came out so well that I wanted one for baby bear too.

The vital statistics
Pattern: baby hat from Leigh Radford's One Skein in 12-18 month size
Cascade 220, shade 9430
4.5mm Addi Turbo
Start to finish:
25 December 2008 to 28 December 2008

Comments: I can see why Cascade 220 tops the list in Ravelry as the most popularly used yarn - this stuff knits up like a dream and gives a wonderful finished fabric. I've heard that their eco yarn is also very nice. I may have made the hat just a tad too, it has a bit of the flowerpot look about it at the moment but I am sure that as baby bear grows it will fit well. She already loves it.

Verdict: I love this pattern and I'm going to make it again and again. The lace pattern (12 rows) is just enough to make it interesting but is not too onerous. I love the fullness of the decreases and the scalloped edge too.

In other knitting news, the swallowtail shawl has stalled a bit. There's a certain psychological hurdle about starting the next lace chart. It might have to wait for a childcare day when I can really sit down and concentrate on it. The baby cabled cowl - well, I've chosen the buttons.

Monday, 29 December 2008

getting around (to it)

So, the grass is green again, the road is black and the snow is all but gone except for some piles of grey slush. It's almost as if it were never here. And I am back in the car (and out on foot and in the bus) again - so relieved.

I did also use the indoor time of the past week to get around to some hand stitching that I have had in mind for, oh, quite some time. I have way more in mind to do than I ever get around to (which I'm sure is not a unique story). I'm kind of on top of the knitting at the moment but the sewing ideas/projects/flights of fancy that I have piling up is almost overwhelming. Part of it is a psychological barrier about getting out the sewing machine. I'm trying to get over that by setting up a space where I can leave it (and scissors and stitch rippers and pins) out and out of reach of little hands but it's not quite ready yet.

In the meantime, every now and then I pull out the hand sewing. I have mended seams on two of baby bear's toys (both new and already splitting - good grief!),
mended the vintage linen that is being used as doll sheets, completed the patchwork quilt for the doll bed and made a mattress. Neither of these last two are as impressive as they might sound.

The patchwork doll bed quilt is actually a pillow sham, which there seem to be a lot of around here. I'm talking about oversized decorative pillowcases, not for actually sleeping on just for piling on the bed I think. Anyway, Value Village is full of them and sometimes they are really nice, like this sweet patchwork one. I bought it always with the intention of being a doll quilt and finally stitched up the opening in the back to make it more, well, quilt like.

The mattress was a bit more work (and for a different, smaller doll cot). For this one I cut four layers from an old blanket and wrapped them in some fabric, much like a present, and sewed it up. Took precisely one Scrabble game to complete. Isn't this lovely old-fashioned fabric? It came from, would you believe, a shower curtain? Something else that is popular in these parts - fabric shower curtains. I gather that you are supposed to have a waterproof plastic one underneath as well. Odd.

Admittedly, these things have been waiting for months to be done. I hope that it doesn't take until the next snowfall for me to do some more. By then I'll be buried beneath ideas/projects/flights of fancy!

Saturday, 27 December 2008


So we did get snowbound and I almost went out of my mind. I didn't realise how important it was to me to be able to make plans and get in the car and take off and go places and do things and see people. That is, until I couldn't. It really takes your independence away when you're stuck at home (in the sense that there was too much snow to get the car out and we don't have chains anyway so it was too dangerous to drive).

I did get out on foot and by bus a couple of times (both for knitting, ha ha). Actually, on Monday I walked the better part of 3.2 kilometres (that's 2.0 miles) through the snow with baby bear in the carrier on my back to join my friends for knitting. They told me I was crazy, I told them that I would have been crazier to stay home.
We were lucky to catch the bus a few stops up the main hill but as soon as I got there I realised that there was no way that I would be able to get home alone. Tim had to come and meet us (also on foot) and we walked home together (he carried baby bear).

Yesterday we got out in the car for the first time since last Friday and it was a relief. There's been quite a bit more rain and the temperature has increased so that should help to clear the roads further - phew.

And what did I trek through the snow to knit? I have finished all nineteen of the budding lace repeats for the swallowtail shawl. I'm a bit in shock at that myself, even more that I am still only half-way through! I'm thinking about doing some test runs on the lily of the valley lace edging and the nupps after a day or two break. I have almost finished the cabled cowl for baby bear - it's been knit, blocked and is just waiting to be finished. I'll do my best to get it done before next year (which is actually quite soon). I've also cast on and knit the 12 rows of lace pattern for another baby hat, this time for baby bear (and this time with photos).

Friday, 26 December 2008

white christmas

I'm dreaming of peace on earth and goodwill to all. Maybe next year?

Sunday, 21 December 2008

snow bound

As in 'bound for snow' (which has just started to fall) rather than snowbound (which is apparently where we are headed).

Sixteen repeats of the swallowtail shawl.

The weather forecast for the next 24 hours includes snow, freezing rain, snow, sleet and more snow. I'm loving it. Surely the novelty value will shortly wear off but I hope not before we've demolished the two packets of mini cinnamon rolls that I bought at the supermarket (where it was mayhem).

We actually did quite a bit of driving yesterday through the snow-dusted landscapes. The evergreens do look wonderful with boughs laden with snow. And the landscape is punctuated by little red berries. Somehow this landscape, this weather makes perfect sense at this time of the year. Blame it on a childhood filled with literature, films and television from the northern hemisphere but this does feel right.

I have even been induced to decorate the house with winter cheer.

An assortment of crocheted snowflakes (patterns found on Ravelry), stiffened with diluted craft glue. They are so old fashioned but very effective.

Saturday, 20 December 2008


After several months of patience and thrift perseverance, I finally found Scrabble!

And not just any Scrabble set, but a 1982 deluxe edition. The board has a clear plastic grid over the top to keep the letters in place, an inbuilt rotating tray (which keeps the board just high enough off the table so that the little shelves for the letter tiles fit underneath) and dark wood letter tiles (all of which are there).

How many points for an exclamation mark?

Friday, 19 December 2008

the last resort

I have been meaning to tell you about this for some time now, a couple of months to be precise. I actually thought that I had imagined ever mentioning it before.

So anyway, back in October I mentioned my stay at The Last Resort. It's my moniker for our time here in Seattle - not for Seattle itself, because it's a great place and I'm really enjoying living here. It refers to how fantastic the thrift shopping is here and that I am purchasing things new only as a last resort. Kind of like The Compact I suppose but my own rules.

Upon arriving in Seattle we had to furnish an entire home and as far as I was concerned (and certainly from a financial standpoint) second-hand was the only way to go. Almost everything in our house comes from either the thrift store, a garage sale or from Craig's List.

And please don't feel sorry for us - we're quite happy with our Villeroy and Boch porcelain, our crystal champagne flutes, baby bear loves her vast quantities of Lego and I'm wearing a cashmere cardigan as a dressing gown. I'm also delighted with the hand-made patchwork quilts that we have warming up our living room (who gives these things away??), the needlepoint cushion covers and vintage Fisher-Price toys.

Eventually, The Last Resort becomes like a game, a daily challenge, a point of pride to find it second-hand instead. In many ways it has also been a release from the mill of mainstream commercialism. I can wander around a shopping centre now, curious and looking out for inspiration, but completely freed from any intention or impulse to buy.

It's also about 'buying local' in the sense of taking what is available and deciding that is what you want to wear/decorate with/make something with, rather than shopping around endlessly for the perfect X, whatever it may be. I must also acknowledge that this is something that is made possible by the array of goods that are available at Seattle thrift stores in the first place, things that were purchased, used and then donated to them.

Want to come and stay?

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

cable able

"Ok, I have found some focus and have commenced on a cabled cowl for baby bear, inspired by but not working from the Cabled Cowl pattern by Olga Buraya-Kefelian from Blue Sky Alpacas. I've looked very closely at the projects on Ravelry and while I am following the general layout (welt, cable, cable, edging), I am using different cables (to suit my stitch count) and an edging of slip-stitch double knit (lifted from the Backyard Leaves scarf by Annie Modesitt in Scarf Style).

I decided against the dark grey and am instead double stranding some Emu Scotch 4ply in baby blue which I picked up at Value Village a few weeks ago. In keeping with my resolution to create"

I wrote this late last night. I was going to continue with my resolution to create less stiff fabric by using larger needle sizes (in this case 5mm) but then I looked at the fabric that I had created. And ripped it. I think that I could go 5.5mm and I'm going to change one of the cable patterns. So what do I have to show? This really cool vintage ball band from the Emu Scotch 4ply. Don't forget, 'Emu patterns are best'.

Sunday, 14 December 2008


Please don't report for me for cruelty to knitted works in progress. This is the second time that my swallowtail shawl has been exposed to snow - but this time it's outside our very own door here in Seattle. Yes, it started to snow at about 6:30pm yesterday evening and now at 10:30am the temperature is still below freezing and there's a layer of white over everything outside.

The swallowtail shawl is going well, as I hope you can see from the photo. I have completed thirteen repeats now, six to go and the edging. I discovered a fabulous/dreadful calculator at Rose-Kim Knits - you enter how many rows there are in the shawl and can check your progress row by row. Seventy-eight rows complete out of 141 and I am 30.6% of the way through the shawl. I'm really pleased about that 0.6%!

In practical knitting news, I'm not having much luck. On a whim I decided that I needed a slouchy beret (and I may well still) but I made a bit of a mess of it by using a yarn that was way too heavy (five strands together of recycled yarn - I think that I ended up with bulky weight). Besides, I really don't like to knit with anything that requires needles over about 5.5mm. So anyway, that was frogged within a day of starting. I am currently considering Fern Glade from the newest Knitty which calls for dk weight. I am determined to use from the stash so that would involve 'creating' a dk weight yarn from multiple threads of recycled yarn. So far in this endeavour I haven't had much luck getting the weight right - always too heavy so maybe I'll underestimate next time around. And Fern Glade is lacy which is time consuming and with two other lacy projects underway ... blah blah blah. Might be time for some cables.

Saturday, 13 December 2008

hands project 2008: update

Back in February this year I wrote about Taryn Ferris' Hands Project. Here is an update:

Thank you for contributing to my Hands Project 2008. It has now been four months since I completed my dissertation.

To my delight the theory and analysis that has developed from the project has been received very well. I wanted to share this success with all those involved, and thank you for your time and effort. Without your input I would not have had a project.

Unfortunately, I was not able to produce a book exhibiting/displaying the entire project as first devised. However, I am considering creating a shorter book via PhotoBox which will include a compilation of your responses (words & images) with some brief commentary from my dissertation. This book will be available for you to purchase at cost price (circa GBP20.99) plus postage. The book's production is subject to demand; I require a minimum of five orders before I take it forward.

If you are interested in receiving one of these books, please reply to by Friday December 19th 2008.



Friday, 12 December 2008

three little kittens

I'm wondering how long it will take to lose these mittens ...

The vital statistics

Pattern: Basic Cuff-Up Mittens by Patti Pierce Stone
Yarn: Recycled hand-dyed yarn - it was originally a Gap sweater, 90 per cent lambswool 10 per cent angora, which I unravelled and then dyed with the help of Val of Actual Size Creations; the colourway is Auntie Jane
Needles: 4.0mm
Addi turbo for the cuff, 4.5mm Addi turbo for the body of the mitten
Start to finish: 30 November 2008 to 9 December November 2008

Comments: I have actually knit two pairs of these mittens. Not that the first pair got lost or anything - it was given away as a thank-you gift at Thanksgiving. Now baby bear and her best friend have matching, interchangeable mittens. A very simple pattern, the second time around it was a bit of a slog. The yarn is lovely, very soft and has already survived a machine wash. II made the smallest size and cast on only 20 stitches (instead of 24) and increased to 28 because otherwise I felt that the cuff wasn't snug enough. They've knitted up quite densely and with at angora in there should keep baby bear's hands very toasty. I'm still debating whether to crochet up a safety cord to keep them together. I think that I would prefer clips to clip them to the cuff of whatever baby bear is wearing - is that sort of thing still available?

Verdict: I hope that they don't get lost because there's no way that I could knit them a third time, well, not this winter at least.

And in other crafting news, after trying to work out what to sew I did find a bit of motivation and finished sewing the two lengths of batting together for the vintage fabrics quilt. At night while trying to fall asleep I have been dreaming up what the backing will look like, so I'm getting there. I today completed repeat 12 of the budding lace pattern for the swallowtail shawl - yippee! That's seven more to go. I am trying to knit one repeat a day in order to maintain momentum and also because I can't wait to start on the Faux Russian Stole (ravelry link) which I plan to be my next project knitting.

I spent a lovely couple of hours yesterday sitting in one of the display galleries at Seattle Art Museum knitting Baudelaire while baby bear slept in her stroller. Much to my horror though, and quite uncharacteristic of my knitting woes, I discovered two dropped stitches! After working an entire pattern repeat or so of the leg. Dreadful. Lots of frogging and confusion about where I was up to with the heel once I had frogged back far enough to rescue the stitches. Still have no idea what went wrong.

And practical knitting - it's time for a new practical knit. I had mentally committed to starting a baby version of Olga Buraya-Kefelian's Cabled Cowl but all I really have to knit it in is a dark grey and being for baby bear I just can't get into it in that colour. Truth be told, I'm not really so into the dark grey wool either which is what I knit my wide-brimmed hat from. So
on a whim instead I decided that I need a slouchy beret and cast on today for the Star Crossed Slouchy Beret (ravelry link) by Natalie Larson. I didn't have any appropriate weight wool for that either but rather than going out and spending money, I went through my thrift shop sweater stash, found a J Crew sweater, 100 per cent wool in a very nice purple and started to unravel. The yarn is very fine but I'm finding it working well knitting five strands together. Actually, I think that this is a sweater that I bought at a yard sale, I think that it cost 50 cents.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

sew what?

Ok, so I have my knitting under control and it's going well. I'm sticking to my knit list, enjoying the discipline. I've always been good at following rules, I think that this is just what I needed. I'm up to the ninth repeat on my swallowtail shawl and have turned the heel of my first Baudelaire sock.

Now there's the sewing issue. I have so many things that I want to make but I seem to get around to sewing even less than I get around to knitting. Knitting is, of course, more portable and easier to pick up at a moment's notice. And easier, and safer, to put down. Unless you have a place to leave it out, getting out the sewing machine is a trial in comparison and all those pins and needles and scissors and the two-year old. Hmm, what to do?

In the absence of a ravelry for sewers (or is there one?!?) here is my current sewing situation.

complete unfinished projects
This was the first stage in dealing with the knitting. So, currently lurking around and in no particular order I have:

vintage fabrics quilt - the top is long complete and several weeks ago I found some great fabric to be the batting on a thrift tour in Burien. I was afraid that there wouldn't actually be enough of it though and that has put me off proceeding for weeks. Friday past I finally laid it all down on the floor and yes, there is enough! Now I am hand sewing two lengths of the fabric together and am about half-way there. Next steps will be putting together the backing and doing the quilting. This will involve getting out the sewing machine (sigh).

felted jumper bag - lots more bird embroidery to do. I worked on this a bit a few weeks ago, it's just a matter of sticking with it.

reverse engineering a dress pattern - impetus for this has stalled given how cold the weather currently is but I still think about it often and would like to get on with it. I actually have a number of these on the go and they're at ready-to-cut-out stage. I think that I will make toiles first.

black skirts - I have three black skirts - one cotton with a floral print and two printed velvet - all of which are in a different state of disassembly so that I can replace the waist band or add darts or some such to make it fit me. They have been like this for a long time. And although once upon a time Di helped me to draft a new yoke for one of them I have no idea whether it would now fit me.

practical sewing
That is, things that are required in our household right now that I have resolved to sew from recycled fabrics.

pyjamas for baby bear - I did actually have a go at these a couple of months ago using a pattern from a Japanese pattern book but with no great success. I did buy a commercial pattern at the thrift shop recently - Simplicity 8173 - though and should try that. I think I'll make the pyjamas but with long sleeves.

woollen legs - I love love love this idea of using the sleeves from garments to make children's pants and would like to try it with some woollens. This would mean getting out not only my sewing machine but also my overlocker.

Where to start??

Saturday, 6 December 2008


That is, multiple foliages.

The vital statistics
Pattern: Foliage by Emilee Mooney from Knitty
green - Manos del Uruguay 100% wool, less than one skein; grey - recycled lambswool, as used to make the wide-brimmed hat
4.5mm and 4mm Addi turbos
Start to finish: green - 28 November 2008 to 2 December 2008; grey - 2 December to 5 December

Comments: I've now knit three of these beanies, the first having been one of my secret pal gifts. That one I knit in Malabrigo worsted and it's been interesting to see how the different yarns produce a different finished item.

These were two pretty uneventful knits. I didn't like the Manos del Uruguay as much as I had hoped to.
It was a special skein of yarn because a dear friend was kind enough to purchase it for me when on holiday in New York a couple of years ago already when it wasn't available in Australia.

As such I had planned to use it to make something for baby bear but these hats had to be made and the yarn was there. I wasn't pleased by the thick/thin nature of the yarn, I like things to be a little less rugged than that.

The grey lambswool is excellent to knit with, lovely and soft. I still have heaps left of it, I actually hardly know what to do with it. Anybody want some?

Verdict: Successful knits but autumn has come and gone and it's winter now so no more foliage for a good few months.

parents and their young

I bought this card matching game for baby bear at Goodwill the other day. I thought that the pictures were kind of cute and naming animals is a popular pastime around here and eventually we will be able to use it to play memory games.

But then I decided that actually, it really pisses me off. Not the cards so much but the name - why on earth does it have to be mothers and their babies? Granted, the cow has an udder so that's a mummy cow and her calf but otherwise - the cat, the dog, the elephant? - they could all be a daddy with his young. I suppose that the concept reflects the fact that children do spend more time with their mothers but it also promulgates a social value that mothers and children belong together and fathers are elsewhere. This notion not only robs mothers of the opportunity to be somewhere else (like work) but it also robs fathers of the opportunity to be with their children.

I'd be the first to acknowledge the 'special bond' between mother and child but I'd also be the first to question whether its special status just reflects social norms or whether there is actually a qualitative difference with the bond between father and child. Having never been a father it is impossible for me, or anyone else I think, to say.

Everywhere, including in the crafting world, I see and hear rampant gender bias - "It's a great first sewing project for a little girl". Rubbish, it's a great sewing project for a child, any child. At a shopping centre last week I heard a young girl tell her mother that she wanted a certain Lego set for Christmas. "No no, you can't. That's not a girl's toy", the mother replied. !!!. Yeah, and engineering and architecture and anything else requiring spatial abilities and creativity are not women's professions.

We are making every effort to raise baby bear with a wide variety of toys, books and activities. Yes, she has a doll house but she also has a great train set which she just loves. And she'll sit for a good half hour on her own playing Lego, totally engrossed.

So anyway, in our house it is only a mummy animal where physiology dictates; all the others are an even mix of mummies and daddies. One might think that a small child wouldn't be worried by the udder but yes, correct physiology does matter. Don't even get me started on the correct usage of vulva and vagina.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

verbal foliage

I'm really quite obsessed with knitting at the moment. Yes, I've been a keen knitter for a few years now, even an enthusiastic knitter but at the moment I really am obsessed. All I want to do is knit, and log it all into ravelry. Perhaps it's a way of bringing a bit of control and order to these chaotic times.

So, let me share recent knitting activity with you here too:
  • I knit on the way to and from Las Vegas, on the airplane. This is very exciting for an Australian knitter because you can't take knitting needles past security at Australian airports.
  • I'm doing quite well sticking to my 'knit list' approach. I've actually got two practical knits on the go at the moment but only because I was swapping between available needles and patterns while we were away. Even just the mental discipline of the approach is working for me so far.
  • I finished the first of my two 'thank-you foliage' projects. I'll wait until they're both finished before writing/showing more.
  • I have discovered that lace knitting is a quick and demanding addiction. I cannot get enough of the swallowtail shawl but I really do need to sit and knit a repeat in one go which requires some good blocks of time. And time is something I can never get enough of. But that's ok because I can still think about all the lace knitting that I'm going to do next. My project knitting queue (both mental and literal) is filling up with yarn overs and knit two togethers. I'm so excited!
In this vein I have been shopping for laceweight yarn - thrift shopping, of course. The selection of woollens at the thrift stores in Las Vegas was pretty poor. Quite a lot of cotton knits, way too much acrylic, but no cotton/wool/silk blends or anything like that. I always trawl the 'sweater' aisles at the thrift stores, even though I do have more woollens and more yarn than I need. But always looking for ... something. Anyway, sweater aisles in LV were a dud but I did go and have a quick rummage through the dresses and look what I found:

Eighty-five per cent alpaca, fifteen per cent wool, light/dark brown but with flecks of red and blue in there as well - exactly what I had in mind. I'm pretty confident that it will unravel to laceweight and the best part - it's a dress, a long sleeve full-length dress (awful really, don't visualise too closely) so there will definitely be enough yarn. That's always my worry with recycling yarn, I'm never quite sure that there will be enough until that last stitch is cast off and that anxiety can be enough to discourage me from getting on with the knitting, witness the baby ballerina top.

This post is a bit of a ramble. So many thoughts to get out at once. These past few days, I've missed blogging.

leaving las vegas

Thank goodness.

I'm sure that much has been written on the topic and it's getting late and it was a long flight with a two-year old so I am not even going to attempt a cultural analysis of Las Vegas. But, I did note the following:
  • the casinos are like huge theme parks with a den of iniquity at their core
  • the city is very clean and there is no graffiti to be seen but it smells bad
  • the Goodwill superstore isn't that super but the Savers on Tropicana has a really good array of children's puzzles (well, had - I bought a few)
So the best thing that we did was leave Las Vegas and drive to the Hoover Dam on the Nevada/Arizona border. I'm sure that it featured in a James Bond film sometime ago. Anyway, I didn't realise that it was actually built between 1931 and 1935 - it's an art deco masterpiece. There's not a lot of signage around and where there is, it's mostly for the toilets but the typefaces are wonderful:

Happy to be home.