Saturday, 31 July 2010

the oxford project

July is coming to an end and I am a couple of chapters away from my second book for the month. Well, my second reading book. I actually go through dozens of books a month - knitting books, interior books, art books, anything-that-catches-my-eye-at-the-library books.

Like this one, The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein and Stephen Bloom. I love photographs of people, simple unpretentious black-and-white images particularly and this book contains hundreds, all taken in the town of Oxford, Iowa of the same people 20 years apart. It is fascinating to see how people grow up and age and the photos are accompanied by stories about the residents.

Like so many books, I found this at the library and then had to buy my own copy, that's how intriguing all these peoples' lives are.

Monday, 26 July 2010

one-armed gamble

The Vital Statistics
One-sleeve Wrap by Heather Carlson from Vogue Knitting, Holiday 2007. I think that this is the first thing that I have made from Vogue Knitting.
Size: Small.
recycled J Crew 100 per cent wool, same as I used to make my Sunrise Circle Jacket and Columbia Beret. It's about a 10ply/worsted weight so to get super-bulky for this garment I held two strands together.
Needles: 8mm.
Stash/recycle content:
100 per cent - hooray!
Start to finish: 24 May to 15 June 2010.
Why did I make this, given that it is a garment and yarn weight so very uncharacteristic of me? Maybe that's why. I was sorting through some old files and found the pattern and thought, oh, must make that. Now. So I did. It was great to use up what was left of that J Crew wool and I enjoyed the stocking stitch knitting and awesome cable. You rotate the cable needle 180 degrees before knitting the stitches from it - marvelous. What I really like about this is that it is unusual. So often when new patterns come out it is just same-old, same-old - the same shapes with slightly different stitch patterns, or hems or whatever. What struck me about this design when I first saw it, and why I was so excited about it again, is that it is not the same as everything else out there.

I actually worked this backwards, that is, started at the other end of the stole than that which the pattern indicated to ensure that I didn't run out of yarn. As such my cables are upside down but that's fine. I also worked them at slightly more random intervals. And I worked a row of double crochet along both edges to help it not to roll.

That's my friend Anne modeling again in the top left picture which gives the best idea of the colour and and the cable. And then that's me to the right showing what it looks like from the front when worn in one of those awkward bathroom shots. I've fastened it with a crochet hook because that was all I had to hand.

Verdict: Very happy. This is a great piece and I'm looking forward to some cold weather.

Monday, 19 July 2010

liquor and wine

Something that makes me laugh here in Washington State is that to buy anything with a greater alcohol content than wine or beer (which you can get at a supermarket or corner shop) you need to go to a state-run Liquor and Wine store. In a country where the cultural narratives are so founded on individual freedom and a passion for small government this strikes me as bizarre. At the same time, this can be an opportunity for me to ponder Australia's drinking culture where there is a bottle shop selling everything alcoholic at pretty much every supermarket and pub, so basically, everywhere.

Anyway, here is my own version of liquor and wine:

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: My own. Yes, just improvised by me - keep knitting until the yarn runs out, do some eyelets along the way, a few rows of garter stitch, change to reverse stocking stitch, cast off. It is difficult for me to tell you how incredibly out of character this is for me. I am someone who is most comfortable with (ahem, needs) the certainty of clear rules and boundaries. I follow instructions. I have a deep-seated belief that they are there for a certain reason and that if you don't turn around three times and pat your head in between adding the milk and the vanilla essence to the dry ingredients that your chocolate chip cookies won't turn out properly (for example). It has taken me some time to accept that sometimes instructions are just there to protect the manufacturer from complaints or litigation on the off-chance that something should go wrong, and to think and judge for myself on some of these matters.

Oh and of course, this scarf is not a kusha kusha.

Size: 115 by 30 centimetres.
Yarn: Rowan Kidsilk Haze (70 per cent mohair, 30 per cent silk) in shade liqueur, one skein; Lion Brand LB Collection Wool Stainless Steel (75 per cent wool, 25 per cent stainless steel) in shade wine, two skeins. The first part of the scarf is knit with both yarns held together, the second part with two strands of the wool/stainless steel held together.
First part, 5mm; second part, 3.25mm.
Start to finish: 1 April to 16 July 2010.
Stash/recycle content:
The Kidsilk Haze came from a stash swap, the Wool Stainless Steel I bought a while ago out of curiosity.
Comments: Ah, Kidsilk Haze, cult knitting yarn. Again, one of the first luxury yarns that I became aware of in my knitting career and although I did once have a couple of balls in a bright pink (why?) I gave them away at some point so this is really the first time that I have knit with it. It was lovely but I'm not quite blown away by it - may have to give it another go sometime. I'll see how the mohair content is to wear.

And the Wool Stainless Steel, local approximation of the Habu cult luxury yarns. This I was just curious about and still am about its potential. What would it be like if you knit with two or more of the different colours together? How many strands do you need to knit together to get a fabric that is really malleable?

So, what did I do? I cast on 54 stitches on 5mm needles with a strand of the Kidsilk Haze and of the Stainless Steel Wool and knit in stocking stitch, slipping the first stitch of each row, until the KSH ran out. Then I swapped to 3.25mm needles and two strands of the WSS on 3.25mm needles, increased the stitch count by knitting into the front and back of each stitch and continued until the yarn ran out. Along the way I threw in a couple of rows of eyelets, some ridges of garter stitch and changed from stocking stitch to reverse stocking stitch and back. And that was it. It came out the length that the yarn allowed for.

Verdict: I'm pleased with how this turned out and still curious about both yarns. I'd like to try crocheting the Wool Stainless Steel to see what sort of fabric that creates. I'd also like to see whether it felts and what sort of fabric that creates. I also enjoyed knitting at such a fine gauge with it double stranded, it really allowed for some meditative knitting.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

baby quilt

Another secret - secret sewing this time. I wish I were better at showing works in progress rather than foisting miraculously finished projects upon the internet but this time I had no choice. A dear American/New Zealand friend of mine and her Japanese husband are having a baby and, long inspired by the lovely baby quilt that Allison of 6.5sts made for Di at Clementine's Shoes some three years ago, I made a baby quilt.

This quilt was made almost entirely from stash; the only new thing is the printed twill tape which was custom printed by lillalotta. Everything else was from stash and upcycled and is significant in one way or another.

From the left:

- linen from shirts bought at Value Village in Redmond (where the recipient grew up), dyed with decaffeinated Earl Grey Tea.
- dark blue twill tape, originally the belt from a dress bought at the same VV.
- twill tape with text taken from the Class Book of Geography: adapted to the education code of the colony of Victoria (1894) (that's where I come from).
- beasty-printed linen from a Thomaiy blazer that I bought at the MECWA op shop on Chapel Street in Windsor and lugged across the Pacific with me; I love this print.
- my favourite black and white graphic, a cotton twill also used in my vintage fabrics quilt and to make a child's apron.
- blue linen from the same dress as the dark blue twill tape.

- the batting is one layer of cotton flannelette sheet.

- the back is made from a pair of cotton Japanese pyjamas that I bought at Value Village in Capitol Hill (my local knitting group where I met the recipient).

The wonderful sashiko stitching was done by knitting friends Liz (red on the front) and Jen (white on the back). I made the quilt by laying the right sides of the front and backing against each other, adding the layer of batting and sewing around the edge, leaving a 20cm or so gap. then I trimmed the seams, turned the quilt inside out (or right sides out, really), hand stitched the gap closed and top stitched around the edge. The only 'quilting' as such is some stitches on the dark blue twill tape to keep the layers from sliding around too much.

I am delighted with this quilt. It turned out pretty much exactly the way that I had envisioned which is a real treat. Now, I do know another baby who hasn't received a blanket from his mummy yet ... must get onto that.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

best kept secret?

I am not fond of the Victoria's Secret brand - those overblown images of young girls with overblown bust lines does not appeal to me and I would never consider buying underwear from them. (Do they even have maternity bras? The whole idea of lactating, leakage, mastitis etc would not seem to fit well with their sexualised mammary aesthetic.)

But did you know that they also make clothing? I was shopping at Value Village a week or so ago when I found a really great t-shirt claiming to be 'Fashion's Best Kept Secret' with the initials VS. Being someone who has absolutely no need of the signature Victoria's Secret figure enhancements, I mostly just wear t-shirts because blouses simply gape when buttoned up across my bust. So finding a great t-shirt, it doesn't even have to be the perfect t-shirt, is a real challenge. And I think that I have found a really great t-shirt.

I ordered a few online (partly because I didn't want to set foot in one of the shops) - there are many styles but I just went for simple scoop neck, cap sleeves. They are 100 per cent cotton, lots of colours to choose from and quite reasonably priced. Who would have known?

Thursday, 8 July 2010


My first adult garment for the year. Completed some weeks ago but it took so long to finish that I didn't think a couple more would hurt.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Woolsthorpe by Martin Storey from Rowan Classic Vintage, Book 28.
100 per cent wool recycled from a J Crew sweater bought at a thrift store.
3.25mm and 4mm.
Start to finish:
17 October 2009 to 21 June 2010 - eight months and I think that I had all but the sleeves and finishing done in the first two weeks. I'm really disappointed that it took a total of eight months because the actual labour ceratinly didn't, it was all of the getting sidetracked and putting it aside to work on something else and whatever that, while it dismays me, seems to be my way of working.
Recycle/stash content:
100 per cent for the yarn, the buttons are from Nancy's Sewing Basket in the Queen Anne neighbourhood of Seattle.

Comments: I knit this garment almost entirely to the pattern. The only modification was to have seven buttons instead of six as I felt they were better spaced that way. There is a lot of 1x1 twisted rib in this cardigan and by the time I finished the ribbing for the back I thought that I may never be able to face it again. That said, the effect is lovely. I worked Vogue single row buttonholes for the first time - very pleased.

Verdict: I can't wait to wear this. I was quite pregnant when I cast on for it - oh wait, that's why it took so long, there was the first six months of a baby's life in there as well - so I was never that confident about the fit but there was nothing to worry about. (It is actually kindly modelled in these photos by my dear friend Anne but it fits me too). It does look decidedly vintage and I am delighted about that. The yarn has produced a luxurious squishy fabric and I love the colour. Very happy.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010


Guess what came in the mail today! Well, by FedEx actually but that was only because there was no other mailing option. Yes, I got tired of trying to decipher the diagrams that I had found on flickr and was too scared of the Russian bittorrent to download it (would that even work? would your computer just get very sick?) so I navigated through amazon Japan and lo and behold, Keitodama 137 has arrived on my doorstep.

There are fifty-odd pattern in here, knit and crochet and a mix thereof. It's really interesting to see the range of garments and shapes that are offered in a foreign seasonal publication (this is a Spring issue so I'm assuming that it comes out quarterly). Quite a few dresses, quite a lot of crochet (some of it a bit scary), knit and crochet together in the same garment, bag and choker accessories and a completely different aesthetic to an equivalent (maybe?) Western publication like a Rowan magazine (and little of the styling finesse which I do think counts for a whole lot of the appeal of Rowan magazines). There are a couple of things in here that I like, although the sizing is way off for me and I'm not sure that I could follow the knitting diagrams as well as I could the crochet ones.

The visual crochet instructions are very dense. My next task today will be to make some enlarged copies of the instructions and erase any extraneous information so that the diagrams are not so crowded. Then, to choose a yarn ...

Sunday, 4 July 2010

hooked on

Anybody else with an eighties childhood remember those dreadful 'Hooked On ...' compilations? Hooked on Jazz, Hooked on Classics. I actually only remember the ads on television. I really wish that I had watched less television as a child and learnt to crochet earlier. Anyway, hooked on crochet, that's me.*

I actually started out with crochet, long before I learned to knit, but after completing a queen size crochet bedspread I kind of took a break, started knitting and it fell by the wayside a bit. Until recently. There seems to have been more crochet around recently, lovely granny squares and potholders and the like. I've always found crochet to be faster and making the Icelandic Jacket really got me back into it.

Did I ever get around to showing the yarn that I chose to make Bergamot? I decided on Jo Sharp Classic DK Wool in the shade Mulberry. I have been working away at it and am very happy with the results. So far I have completed the body (back and fronts all in one piece to the underarms) twice over in the small size, the body again in the medium size (current incarnation) and one sleeve is a small and the other a medium. I have also added waist shaping somewhere there amongst the bobble rows. My current dilemma is how to blend the size small sleeve with the size medium body. This thing is going to fit!

My other current crochet obsession is this lacy dress from the Japanese magazine Keitodama (issue 137). The pattern is for an 84cm bust (ha ha) in a 3ply/light fingering weight yarn. I'm going to have to scale things up a bit (a lot?) so am swatching in some heavier yarns like this 4ply/fingering weight Rowan RYC Siena (100 per cent cotton, shade sloe).

* The alternative was a happy hooker reference and that's really not me.

Friday, 2 July 2010

june reading

Well it was a close call in June. I just couldn't get into this book, or at least couldn't get into it in the sporadic page-or-two-here-and-there manner in which I was reading it. And I put off really getting down to reading it until this past week, and only because the end of June was fast approaching and I had a resolution to keep.

Anyway, another fine Dandy Gilver mystery - Bury her Deep by Catriona McPherson. This is the third book in the series (and the third that I have read) and I was struck again, as I was by the first volume, at the length of some of the incredibly convoluted sentences which, should one not keep one's wits about herself, require her to return again and again to the top of the paragraph in order to retrace her reading steps, so to speak, in an effort to rediscover the gist of the narrative.

I did enjoy this in the end and had to read the last hundred pages all in one sitting because once the narrative revved up I couldn't bear to put it down (even if it was past midnight). Dandy Gilver is a wonderful character and still fresh after three books. There are a few more in the series and I'm looking forward to reading them (well I have to; it's a series so I have to) but am going to look for some lighter works of fiction for July. Something with sex perhaps, and vampires.