Tuesday, 29 December 2009

cascading leaves

A door prize project!

The Vital Statistics

Presto Chango by Valerie Wallis, available free on the Jimmy Beans Wool website.
6 months (the smallest size)
Elsebeth Lavold Cotton Patiné in shade 06, 1.7 skeins; I won three skeins of this yarn as a door prize at the knit-in for feminist scholarship that I attended earlier this year.

Another door prize - this time from a launch of Yarn magazine that I attended in Melbourne a few years ago. And they're beauties - Lantern Moon 5mm straights.
Start to finish:
16 August 2009 to 28 December 2009; such a small project but one that I just worked on in small fits and starts. I'm actually surprised to realise that I've been busy with it since August.
Comments: No major modifications. I used my Cotton Patiné because it was in the stash rather than the yarn suggested. Hooray - stash busting. I also didn't bother to make button holes on the panel but instead sewed on some trusty snaps.

Verdict: An easy knit, to lovely effect. Basic one piece construction, plus the extra panel which I guess you could swap for other (spare) panels which you could knit with different designs/in different colours. Great if your baby tends to be a spewer. I'm not mad keen on knitting with cotton, it was pretty slippery on the Lantern Moon straights which are, by the way, the most beautiful wooden needles. So rich in colour, such a lovely weight, superbly smooth.

Monday, 28 December 2009

baby steps, baby steps

No, he's not walking yet. That's me, taking baby steps, learning again what it is like to make it through a day punctuated by nappies, breastfeeding and burping, and with a three-year old in the mix to boot. I'm not complaining - our baby is lovely and mild and little miss bear is delightful. It is, however, a real process of adjustment.

And, frustrating as it is to me, I am just taking it slowly, one small step at a time, learning how to incorporate things into this new routine.

I am currently absolutely taken with this book,
Felting for Baby: 25 warm and woolly projects for the little ones in your life. Well, particularly with the booties project on the cover. Here are my baby steps over the past couple of weeks, each undertaken on a different day:

- bought roving in various colours at Weaving Works; I'm planning to use smoke (a silvery grey) and aubergine
- made it to the library and photocopied the bootie outline (I made both a 200 per cent enlargement as the pattern calls for and a 150 per cent enlargement)
- salvaged an empty milk carton from the recycling (this was much more difficult than it sounds because we are very fortunate to have my mother staying with us at the moment and she keeps the kitchen spic and span)
- washed said milk carton
- traced the bootie outlines onto the milk carton and cut the templates out

More updates as they come to hand.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

joy to the world

We have so much here - please share in it.

Friday, 18 December 2009

sugar and spice

I thought that having a baby in the house again would occupy all of my available brain space but my creative thoughts actually seems to be flowing more furiously than ever. Bubbling over even, perhaps as a result of having little actual time in which to indulge them.

Anyway, this fabric above is something that I recently purchased at Goodwill, ready for upcycling. It's a Perry Ellis Portfolio skirt, quite long, 70 per cent wool and 30 per cent silk. It's been through the washing machine (hence it's a bit wrinkled still) so it's ready to become a frock of sorts for little miss bear.

And a very sweet thank you to all who sent congratulations our way. I absolutely agree with Nichola - joint projects are the very best.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

pimlico snug

One of the advantages of breastfeeding is that, once you've got the positioning right, you get a few minutes to do some stitching. One of the disadvantages of breastfeeding is that you are so hormone addled that it is difficult to get all of your thoughts together to write something about it.

I wove the ends in on my Pimlico Snug this evening baby at the breast after seaming the last ten centimetres or so yesterday evening - hooray!!

The Vital Statistics

Pattern: Pimlico Shrug by Tracey Ullman and Mel Clark from Knit 2 Together.

Size: I cast on for the smaller size but knit it even smaller length-wise than the pattern called for - more details below.

Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers in shade 9322 which I believe is otherwise known as Silver Spruce Heather. The pattern calls for Koigu Kersti which is a crepe yarn, Cascade 200 on the other hand is a plied yarn. I'm not sure how much difference this makes to the final product - it would be interesting to do a comparison swatch with another crepe yarn.

Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm

Start to finish:
8 November 2009 to 16 December 2009.

Wow, I have so much that I would like to say about this pattern but am not sure that I can get it all together in my head. Maybe I'll just keep posting further thoughts as they come to me.

To start - the architecture of the shrug is essentially an envelope, a square or rectangle folded in half, cast-on edge to cast-off edge. However 'long' you knit the square/rectangle becomes the length of the shrug from the back neck to the back hem. The number of stitches cast on and cast off forms the neckline/sides/bottom hem.

I looked at other people's projects on Ravelry and read the notes and it was clear that the pattern as written came out rather larger than I was looking for. Indeed, it says that it is a cross between a shawl and a cardigan and I was going more for the latter. So, instead of knitting the length to 34 inches, I knit only 17 inches and blocked it out to about 18 inches (hence mine is a snug rather than shrug).

Ah, and the stitch pattern - it's great but difficult to work out from the instructions. I'm not sure that I ever ended up doing it 'right' but was happy with the outcome. You could of course (and many people have) use any lacey pattern (or no pattern) that you please. If you ever need help with it, send me an email!

Then came time to pick up stitches around the cast-on and cast-off edge to knit the ribbing. As it happens you pick up precisely as many stitches you cast on and off so the moral is - do a provisional cast on and do not cast off! Then you can just knit the ribbing from the live stitches. Much better idea.

I also knit the ribbing back and forth, instead of in the round as the pattern suggests because I don't like that final cast-off stitch when you knit in the round.

The sleeves then presented me with a bit of a dilemma because a) I was running short on yarn, and b) changing the 'length' of the shrug affected where the armholes hit on my arm, namely mid-upper arm instead of mid-lower arm. I decided on short 2x2 rib sleeves (after some experimenting with flaring out the way the main ribbing does) - 62 stitches, 18 rows, sewn into a 12 inch armhole.

Verdict: This project was real curiosity casting on that just took on a life of its own. Although I am very happy with the finished product, I don't know that this shrug is reall
y me. The stitch pattern is great, I'm very impressed with the value you get from a skein of Cascade 220 and the fan collar truly does fool you into thinking that you have a neck like Audrey Hepburn. I might have to wear it a few times and see.

Friday, 11 December 2009

made by us

The frenetic creative energy of the past few months has come to its conclusion. All of that inspiration and motivation and activity - surely you realised that there must be hormones involved? I am delighted to present a joint project that my husband and I have been working on for the last nine months: our beautiful baby boy.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

2 more things to make for children

I am delighted to hear that others out there also know this book - Better Homes and Gardens 167 Things to Make for Children - and have in the past made some things out of it.

Ann left a comment about her dollhouse and crocheted granny square bucket bag - I think that these might be the projects that she had in mind. Tell me, do you have a favourite craft book from your childhood days? What is it called and what did you make? I'd love to look it up.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

tree of light

The tree of life is a lovely and ancient motif; the light was so strong today when I was taking these photos though that the colours almost seem to burn. So here, at long last is my felted jumper bag, complete. A quick peek in the archives shows me that I started to gather together the materials for this bag in August 2007. And of the four projects that I was contemplating back then, this is the only one that has come to fruition!

Anyway, quick recap - this bag was inspired by a wonderful Gorman bag that my friend Tamar bought. It was one of my very first inspired 'I-can-make-my-own' moments. All of the materials (except the sewing and embroidery threads were purchased at the op shop).

The finished product:

Hmm, two and a bit years of (very sporadic) work. It has taken a long time but a lot of thought has gone into it and that has been a great creative process. I particularly like the branching effect that I achieved on the foliage using the raglan shaping from a green cotton knit.

I also put a lot of thought into the outline stitches around the trunk and foliage, varying the length and density of the stitches to create some sense of depth and to accentuate the shapes.

Another thing that I really like about this bag, and which I think is a genius idea (not mine unfortunately), is that I lined it with a completed needlepoint canvas. I'm sure that you've seen plenty of half-completed needlework projects around the op shops/thrift stores - well, they make for a really good lining and add a bit of interest and colour.

I actually ended up using a completed needlepoint canvas (fully framed and all - I felt a bit sad removing it from the frame but hey, it was at the op shop, and I re-donated the frame) so it was, alas, quite expensive. But, it is a gloriously kitsch flamenco dancer image in full swing so I love it. The idea actually came out of a great book called Second-Time Cool: the art of chopping up a sweater. This is a fabulous book (I've even actually read it) with plenty of other great ideas in it and I will devote a post to it shortly.

And then there are the birdies, the five lovely birdies that took me so long to make because I wanted each of them to be special and individual and that was a real obstacle to actually getting down to work on them. I am also no great embroiderer, it is one of my 'do-as-necessary' crafts so the actual thinking up of an embroidery scheme for each bird took some time. They are all done using a metallic purple, a metallic red and a blue embroidery floss and I had a lot of fun mixing up the strands.

I know that Tamar for one is asking, 'what about the handles?' I had found an embroidered leather belt at the op shop one day when shopping with her that was just right, too right in fact. It just matched too well and besides, this is a bag that needs two separate handles, not just a single strap. So I am going to keep looking for just the handles that I want and call the actual bag construction and embroidery complete.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

more on maud

I finally sat down this evening and got around to de-punking my maud. I just outlined stitched in sewing thread through the two layers of fabric around the paisley motifs that I had previously drawn and pinned. The stitches are reasonably unobtrusive so I'll be able to wear it again without risking an act of self-voodooism. I could even refer to it as the deconstructed Margiela phase (great website, incidentally).

I have also finished the felted jumper bag, or at least the embroidery and construction phase thereof. I am still stuck as to what to do about the handles. But more on that tomorrow.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

love of reading

Surprisingly enough, I couldn't find an appropriate 'technical' term for love of reading, not anywhere on the internet. Litteraphilia would perhaps do it? Litterophilia? Sounds too much like you love to throw your rubbish on the ground.

Anyway, I felt I did myself a bit harshly in the last post. I do actually love to read and certainly do a lot less of it nowadays because I am busy knitting. In the last three months though I have managed to read the following titles:

I really enjoyed all three of these titles. The 19th Wife is a whodunnit of sorts set on a polygamous compound in Utah intertwined with an early history of the Mormon faith. It turned out to be a bit heavier on the historical stuff than the whodunnit (I do like crime fiction) but I still found it very interesting and readable. 'One sect, many secrets ... and murder' - I mean, how could I resist?

The Lace Reader I picked up at Goodwill in Chicago (
otherwise such a miserable thrifting experience) and bought it just because it appeared to be about lace. It was, partly, and also about memory and madness and family drama. I guess that it would fit into the psychological thriller genre. The plot was perhaps a bit patchy but I was so busy devouring it that I was happy to just read over the gaps.

And The Book Thief - a really big book. Long, full of big ideas and events and emotions.
This was a wonderful read, I'm not quite sure that it was life changing as the back cover claims but it certainly has a great narrative perspective and the writing is evocative.

Sunday, 29 November 2009


This is a perfectly respectable term, really. I even looked it up in the dictionary, just to make sure. It simply means 'love of books' and I do love books - the weight of them, the potential in them, the feel of them and yes, to be honest, the having of them. I have had some great craft book luck in recent weeks that I wanted to share.

Stitch 'n Bitch: the knitter's handbook - ah, the classic. Admittedly published a good six years ago but hey, better late than never. There is lots of good basic information in here that will be of great help to anyone I might teach to knit (think of it as an investment). I bought this for $2.99 at Value Village over in Redmond on a family shopping expedition - what a way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

Sew U: the Built by Wendy guide to making your own wardrobe - also not particularly new but a great book to have as a reference that uses contemporary language and styling that I can relate to. Built by Wendy patterns were something that I had only read about on craft blogs when I lived in Melbourne, so I was very curious about this book when it came out. I won this in my beloved knitting group's stash swap (we have a broad definition of stash). I would really like to get hold of the stretch sewing version too.

The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns: basic designs in multiple gauges & sizes - more investment book buying, how could you go wrong? Today's purchase at Value Village in Capitol Hill, again for $2.99. Now I can knit a mitten in every imaginable gauge for any possible size. Or a glove, or a beanie or a jumper (sweater). Also a great book if you want to design or reverse engineer something yourself. (And bonus - this book came with two Minnowknits patterns in the back storage pocket.)

These reviews are pithy because, of course, I haven't actually had a good close read through any of these. Bibliophilia is love of books. I do also love reading but it takes considerably longer than the actual handing over of your three dollars (and besides, I'm too busy book shopping).

the envelope please

So here is what a shrug looks like without its sleeves but with its (miles and miles and interminable miles) of ribbing. It's just an envelope really.

What did I last say about this project? Oh, that I was about to start the ribbing. That would be right, it took a full week - 322 stitches of 2x2 ribbing for 2.5 inches, increasing to 482 stitches of 3x3 ribbing for a further three inches. Ugh. The pattern actually calls for the ribbing to be done in the round but I have trouble with that final cast-off stitch when you knit in the round. Sometimes it's ok, but not with ribbing.

Anyway, am now having some sleeve dilemmas. As I knit the body section significantly smaller than the pattern calls for, instead of the armhole falling at the mid-forearm it falls at the mid-upper arm. This means that the sleeves would need to be considerably longer than the pattern directs. I am not sure whether long sleeves are really what will suit this snugger version and besides, I am almost out of yarn.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

the cheque's in the mail

Truly, they still use cheque books here in the US (ok, check books). Yes, the classic fob-off line is actually valid here!

But honestly, Di, there is a package in the mail for you. Today's educational activity has been a trip to the post office. We went to the PO in the University District which is quite an impressive 1930s structure with lovely lettering but I dared not take a photograph of it, being a federal building and all and times being what they are blah blah. Here instead is a tantalising glimpse of what is inside:

some knitting notes

I have had a couple of queries lately about knitting with recycled yarn.
May I begin by saying that I cannot recommend this practice enough - you can get great yarn (cashmere, silk, angora, camel, merino, you name it) that no-one else is knitting with, knit an entire garment for under $10, keep garments out of landfill, recycle and get a completely unique knitted item.

There are several excellent resources on-line regarding re-/up-cycling yarn. I started with the tutorial over at Neauveau Fiber Arts and have written up some notes of my own. I also highly recommend the UnRavelers group on Ravelry for information, support, sharing and inspiration.

There are a few common concerns about knitting with recycled yarn, one of which is the kinkiness of it, that is, the kinks in the unravelled yarn. I have rarely found this to be a problem. Usually I just unravel from the garment straight onto my ball winder, perhaps winding it twice, keeping the tension pretty tight. And then knit with it and that's fine. On occasion I have found that the residual kinks have affected the knit-ability of the yarn (namely with the yarn that I used for my Sunrise Circle Jacket and the Columbia Beret). With that I did go to the trouble of winding it into a hank, soaking the hank for a while in warm water, then letting it dry. I'm the first to concede that this is laborious but I find rarely necessary.

And of course one of the major bonuses of knitting with recycled yarn is that you can often knit an entire garment piece - sleeve, even the back - all with one strand of yarn. Yes, that's right, many less ends to weave in!

Monday, 23 November 2009

the balla(r)d of goodwill

It's quite a few months since I last went to the Ballard Goodwill. I've always found it vaguely disappointing there, with only my wooden sewing box as a stand-out purchase (and that dates my most recent visit to last April). Anyway, we went today to help some friends collect a desk they had purchased and spent a bit of time shopping - what a change a few months can make! Either they have been getting some really good donations lately or Goodwill's central distribution system has decided to favour Ballard - either way, they are really well stocked and I came away a happy shopper.

My strategy for collecting J Crew woollens in the trust that eventually I will find duplicate garments and be able to confidently knit myself something (more) from recycled yarn came to fruition. Out of this size medium and the identical size small that I bought some time ago, I would definitely have managed a garment. Alas, I have already repurposed the size small into a dress for little miss bear, which gives me the opportunity to show off a finished object dating from mid-October.

It started with making leg warmers from the sleeves of the garment, but when left with a truncated sweater what I saw was the potential for a little dress. I gathered the neckline slightly with some elastic and took in the sides to shape the dress a bit. There were also two spare lengths of sleeve left over after making the legwarmers, so I unravelled these to give myself some yarn to work with. The dress sleeves themselves I edged with some machine stitching and then, after turning the hem under, finished with a line of crocheted stitches. With my hook still handy, I also crocheted some motifs to adorn the dress. The larger one is from a free pattern that I found on Ravelry, the two smaller are just a simplified version thereof.

The entire dress took less than a day to make and will keep little miss bear comfy and warm. It is also 100 per cent machine washable as that is the way that I treat all of my woollens the minute I get them home from the thrift store. If they pass that first test I know that they are good for life. As to what I'll do with the size medium now ... umm, another dress? a jacket? wait for the next one to show up?

I also today very happily purchased a pair of Hanna Andersson pyjamas (brand new as far as I can tell) and cardigan and a book for little miss bear, a book on heirloom embroidery for myself, two other books, a vintage sewing pattern, a wooden toy high chair perfect for teddy to eat his breakfast at and, surprise, another J Crew woollen which I am hoping will deliver up enough yarn for Tim's first sweater. Thing is, I went to bed way too late last night, considering the relative benefits of knitting either Jarrett or Beau for Tim. Beau was winning out, being at a looser gauge with heavier yarn, and lo and behold, there was the yarn today. Ok, slightly twisted up in a few cables but that's just the way I like it for $7.99. (The entire Goodwill haul came in at less than $50 and included two decorated light switch covers which at a craft market I might consider kind of cute but not bother to actually spend money on, as opposed to 99c each for which you can try out just about anything. I love thrift shopping.)

Saturday, 21 November 2009

blocking and pinning

I finished knitting the patterned portion of the pimlico shrug a couple of days ago, blocked it out yesterday and let it dry overnight. I am now ready to start on what I am sure promises to be an interminable amount of ribbing.

To be sure, I have taken some major shortcuts with the pattern thus far. To begin, I knit eight repeats of the eyelet pattern (as pattern directs last repeat knit to only row 11 instead of 16). As such my knitted panel measured only 17 inches in depth, rather than the 34 (!!) called for in the pattern. Now, I know the pattern notes tout this shrug as a 'cross between a cardigan and a shawl' but that would have been way too shawl for me. Besides, I only measure 17 inches from back neckline to lower waist. And in addition there's 10-odd inches of ribbing to go ... so, it blocked out an extra inch or so and I'm hoping to get the fit that I desire. Let the ribbing commence.

Elsewhere, I seem to be channeling Dame Westwood in the stitching department at the moment. What else to do with a stylish and reasonably sedate woollen check than to stick some (safety) pins into it? Inspired by my pyjama pants I drew some paisley motifs onto my maud with tailor's chalk but after three days of being draped over the back of a chair the chalk was wearing thin. I meant to do some rough outline stitching over the chalk lines but feared that the chalk would be all but gone in the time that would take, so pinned instead.

Unfortunate consequence is that I now can't wear the maud until I have indeed outline stitched those motifs for fear of turning myself into a voodoo doll.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Ok, I don't think that these are the handles that I am looking for but they happen to be some handles that I already have (and which have recently reached us across the expanse of the Pacific Ocean along with some other Australian possessions). The receipt is conveniently there alongside in the bag showing that I have been treasuring (read, carefully hanging onto until I think of something wonderful to do with them) these since August 2003 and that I paid ... oh my goodness, how did I ever afford that?

Anyway, I purchased these bag handles at Margo Richards Antiques in the Rocks in Sydney I recall, in the company of my brother who was visiting at the time. The handles above are the more recent pair, two separate handles. I have no idea what wood either pair is made from, or in what era actually - any ideas?

These ones below are older with lovely carved details. The two halves are hinged with that wooden clasp to keep the pair closed. And the little holes for attaching the bag.

I did attempt early in my crafting career a crocheted bag in some burgundy yarn but it wasn't very successful (and not very good yarn either). I'm glad of this because I now have much better ideas and skills as to what I might create. Another felted jumper bag of some sort maybe - an old-fashioned patchwork sewing bag - yo-yos from recycled fabrics - tweet tweet. Yes, thank you for reminding me, one thing at a time.