Friday, January 30, 2009


It's still incredibly hot.

In Melbourne incredibly hot comes with a hot wind, so I have to shut up the house to try to keep the heat out. That makes a strange half-dark sort of atmosphere. But as a little bonus this caught my eye:It's a stained glass window which I haven't had installed. It sits on the pelmet above my North facing front window. And usually I only see light reflected off it's surface. But this is a little bit of light which is finding it's way behind the pelmet and through the glass. In this half-dark intense summer day I can see it.

Whenever I think of trying to capture light in my textile work, I think of silk--that incredible lustre that only silk has. It captures my eye and in this case, my minds eye.

Back to School

It's back to school week. I went to the supermarket yesterday afternoon and the place was full of tiny people in school uniforms. Each tiny person accompanied by a parent with a list:)

It's back to school for me too. Tomorrow I begin my Spinning Certificate course at the Hand Weavers and Spinners' Guild of Victoria. Doesn't that sound grand. I don't have a shiny new uniform to wear, but I do have a list, which I'll have to check out thoroughly today. And I'll pack my lunch and sharpen my pencils. I think I even have an apple to bring along.

If you'd like to check out the Guild, here's the link.

It even has a picture of my class group for last year's Weaving Certificate and some of our work. Unfortunately I had to miss the presentation day. Year 2 of that course kicks off in a couple of weeks, so my weekends will be full, but I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Postcard from a Friend

This was in my letterbox when I got home yesterday afternoon:
It's a detail of the stained glass window in the foyer of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. (Leonard French)

We were discussing on the phone a couple of weeks ago how a verbal description of this fantastic stained glass work might sound unattractive, while the real thing is magnificent.

I'm thinking of a scrap of wisdom often quoted by my quilting friends, "If in doubt, add yellow" The yellow is there for sure. They also say, "a little bit of yellow goes a long way", and I can see that here too. But what makes me excited is the thought of light shining through this work of art. Looks like I'm going to have to plan a trip to Canberra to admire the real thing. In the meantime, I'll make sure I visit the stained glass ceiling at the National Gallery here in Melbourne soon.

Thanks Sharon!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It's too hot to think, let alone spin or knit!

I've arrived back in Melbourne to a "one in a hundred year" heat wave, as the taxi driver who picked me up at the airport was quick to inform me. His thermostat/ airconditioner thingy said it was 49.5 degrees outside when I got into the car. That dropped to 45 when we got moving. And it felt like it too. The taxi driver was very interested in the idea of my spinning wool and silk, but as I told him, the only thing I would consider doing in this heat is some "cold" water dyeing. I do still have some of the Earth Pallette dye--sky blue- in the fridge and some wool ready skeined. At least I will have no concerns about the colour not developing over the next few days!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Did I Say, "Sunny" Queensland?

Red, white and blue, sunny day at the beach yesterday; pelting rain today. This morning the skies opened and a lot of water fell out.

Here are my colour choices for today:
. . . I'm just capturing the moment for now. I'll work with it later.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Colours of Australia Day

Australia Day picnic at the beach. Lots of red, white and blue: flags, tattoos, streamers . . . Fun and sun and despite our best efforts, a bit of sunburn.

Here are some other colours of Australia Day:
. . . summer, tree bark shedding, with that incredible green showing through, and there was the sea behind. That's me happy!

From my Camera

I bought a new camera a couple of weeks ago. I drove myself and a small army of salespeople crazy choosing the model I wanted. Here's why . . .

This is a little flower I found poking out from the edge of a garden bed at my friends' house. I liked the colour, but especially the texture. . . I'm thinking a blend of wool and mohair spun woolen, or maybe mohair slubs, or, or, or . . .

. . . back to the camera. I bought a digital SLR about 18 months ago. It was a major purchase! I'd planned on a compact digital, but when Yarn Magazine was kind enough to throw me the gift of a major prize, I put the extra into the D-SLR. I've been loving it. Only trouble has been that I've been loving it so much that I want it with me all the time. And by the time I've included the extra couple of special lenses I've bought since, it makes a fairly substantial addition to my every day luggage.

So, I've been saving up for a compact digital, but here's the catch: I so love the features on my SLR. So I've had to plot and plan and research and compromise and hardest of all, figure out which features were actually available on which models.

I finally decided that macro features were the one thing I wasn't willing to compromise on. The fluffy red flower tells the story. I want the camera in my handbag, and I want to catch the subtleties of colour and texture in nature and in my textile work. I'm happy with my choice and it's proving it's usefulness on this trip.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

From the Coffee Shop

I'm a Melbourne girl! I was a coffee drinker before I was a Melbourne girl, but it goes with the territory. Here I am in Queensland: body temperature 37+ C, air temperature, ditto, humidity 90+%! Problem: too muggy to enjoy a good coffee. Solution: air-conditioned shopping centre, with coffee shop set a little apart from the crowds. That's not the way I would normally do it, but I guess it works.

One Skein Wonder #1
. . . design specifications: to be designed and executed in the above environment. . . must be compatible with coffee and a bit of friendly conversation.

So I started to make a crocheted, cotton mobile-phone cover. 8-ply--that's like double-knit--cotton, hand-dyed, so the colour has a nice bit of variation, though I'm not sure that shows up in the pic. Simple double crochet, two rectangles, joined with a gusset--I'm just starting the side gusset here.

I think I'll add a shaped flap with a feature bead and I should have half a skein left over for something else.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

In the Shop

I dropped in the CCCK ( before coming away on holdiays for a few days. CCCK at 234 High St Northcote, Melbourne stocks some of my hand-spun and hand-dyed skeins, hand-knits and other designs. Andrea, Sally and Elwelina seem to love arranging and re-arranging the shop. So I'm always keen to see how things are displayed when I drop in.

Here are some skeins of my hand-dyed cotton and bamboos:
These are all 40-50g skeins of hand-dyed 8-ply yarn.

We mapped out my teaching calendar for this year at the shop. We'll have a few beginner courses and some fun challenges for people who can already knit and crochet. Andrea's put out a challenge for me to teach some "one small skein" classes. Designs and ideas for using just one little skein--like the ones in the basket--to make something special. I love using one-off yarns in my designs. I guess that's part of why I spin and dye my own. So now I'm working out how to share some of that excitement. I'm expecting the challenge will be to limit myself to a few ideas at the time!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sunny (sweaty) Queensland

Well, here I am in Sunny Queensland. The only reason to visit Queensland in January, as far as I'm concerned, is to visit friends. This place is much more comfortable a place to be in during the cooler--drier--months. But here I am. And as my friend D was tidying up her studio this morning, we came across these:
These are some of the hand-spun and hand-dyed silk embroidery threads I made for her--I think it was the Christmas before last. The little skeins on the left are the ones wound on "micro-noddy".

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Introductions

While I'm doing introductions, here are some of my everyday tools.

This is my family of Niddy Noddies:
A niddy noddy is one of those marvelous feats of remarkably simple design. I made these three myself. I must say, I am fond of them. And I use them all the time.

These are the tools I use to wind yarn off the bobbin to make skeins.

Macro Noddy--the big one--makes a 2 metre skein. The "stick" part is about 50 cm long and a skein is made by winding yarn around all four ends of the "arms". Four by 50 cm is 2 m. So it's also a primitive measuring device.

I use this for most of my yarn for projects--a 50 g skein or more is great. Anything more than 100 g and it's getting pretty bulky. But then my regular bobbins hold about 100 g and that's a lot of spinning.

Midi Noddy--this middle sized one--makes a 1 m skein. This is great for samples and experiments and left over bits.

Mini Noddy--the baby of the family--makes a 50 cm skein. I made this one to wind skeins of hand-spun silk for embroidery . Fortunately a little bit of hand-spun embroidery thread goes a long way. So a few metres wound on this makes a lovely little skein. I have a dear friend who loves to do silk embroidery and I like to treat her to a hand-spun skein or two every now and again.

Just to get a sense of proportion, here's mini-noddy in my hand:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

On My Spinning Wheel

Here's a pic of the fibre I'm currently spinning.
Above, you can see the fibre as it comes out of the bag from the back room at Bendigo Woollen Mills and on the bobbin is how it looks when it's been spun and plied up. Below is how it looks spun on the bobbin, before I get to plying it.
It was an impulse buy a couple of years ago, and it's been on my mind. So I decided to just start spinning it. One thing about spinning is I get plenty of time to think and get to know the fibre as it passes through my fingers!
I've been thinking a lot about newsprint--I did a couple of papier mache projects last year and am wondering about how the marle texture would look in a garment just as is. Of course I'm also thinking about how it would go in a dyepot because only the white fibre would pick up the colour--that's an exciting thought. Of course "nowadays" newsprint isn't just black and white as it was when I was a girl:) so I could do both.
And then this bag has an alpaca-wool blend roving cousin stashed in a box under my bed, so putting the two in the same dye-pot could be fun--two closely related but different colour combinations.
Yesterday the temperature got up to 40--that's Celcius for those of you who speak a different temperature language, let's just say several degrees above human body temperature! So it was definitely not a day for spinning. Today the forecast is for 29--still not great for spinning. Sweaty hands and spinning are not a great combination. So I think I'll do some cold-water dyeing today. I have a few balls of cotton that need a colour lift. I suspect by lunch-time I'll need a cold water lift. Win-Win!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cohorts and Companions

Here they are. . .


And Underdog--but don't tell her that!
I figure they may as well get straight into this blog, since they get into everything else:)

They have only once seriously threatened my textile work. That was when I brought home a bag full of unwashed bunny fluff. Years of breeding could not be denied. I ended up hiding it in the back of a bookshelf tied up in several layers of plastic bags, but they still took the place apart looking for it.

Most of my work ends up having a dog hair or two in it, despite my best efforts. I did consider registering "Hair of the Dog" as a business name, but thought better of it.

Monday, January 19, 2009

My Home is My Studio

My home is my studio . . .
. . . or should that be, "my studio is my home"? No, it really is a home first, but anyway, here's the view from somewhere near my front door which should give you some idea:
  • centre right foreground is my spinning wheel and stool. It's a majacraft "little gem" and well named as far as I'm concerned. It will spin just about anything and it's remarkably portable which suits me to a T
  • the fibre I'm currently spinning is on one of the chairs--an odd-ball black and white bag of roving from the back room at Bendigo Woollen Mills
  • on the far left, the couch is holding my latest quilt. It's a simple little 9-patch made as a demo & promo for the "Patchwork by Machine" beginners class I'm planning to teach at my local neighbourhood house next month.
  • next stop, travelling clockwise around the walls of the room is my weaving bench. The loom is an 8-shaft table loom made by Eric Noble in South Australia. The warp on it is left over from last year's certificate course at the Hand Weavers and Spinners Guild of Victoria. It's a supplementary warp, Turned Monksbelt. It was my contribution to the end of year round robin exercise and hopefully there's enough there for a scarf, now that all the other students have finished making samples for end of year folios.
  • above the loom is one of many box shelves--they pretty much line my walls. This one holds a collection of various textile related books and magazines, also my beads and jewelry-making supplies and a good few cones of wool for weaving to top it off.
  • then the sink in the corner. Currently holding the remains of a couple of meals that need to be cleaned up. When that's done it's available for my dyeing efforts again. I do a reasonable job of keeping my dyeing chemicals and foodstuffs separate even though they have to share the workspace. But it does often mean a quick clean up before I can switch from one to the other.
  • above the sink is my pot-rack--saves space in the cupboards--with the addition of several bunches of roses and herbs drying for pot-pourri.
  • Oh, one more important thing I missed on the shelves: my sound system. I pretty much always have the radio on, tuned to ABC Classic FM. I'm a happy girl today because the regular batch of morning radio announcers are back from summer holidays:)
  • microwave, stove and kitchen bench are pretty much the same story as the sink.
  • more box shelves on this wall. These ones are mainly for food.
  • ditto the fridge, though as you can see it's also a notice-board of sorts. Later today, the fridge will get a batch of earth palette dyes, though. We're in for a couple of hot days in Melbourne, which is perfect weather for cold pad batch dyeing.
  • and right in the middle of the room taking up a fair chunk of space is my BIG table: meal table, office table, work centre, social centre, repository of junk . . . it just depends on the day really. I made it from Tasmanian Oak floor boards and it's height adjustable so I can bring it up to work-bench height for a group of friends or a major project.

What you can't see

  • another loom in the far left hand corner of the room, near the big north-facing window. It's an 8-shaft Le Clerc, table loom, but with a stand and 10 pedals to tie up, so a bit of a hybrid really. I bought it second hand at the Guild and did a bit of repair and reinforcing work on it, but am yet to try it out.
  • a long shelf along the wall to the right of the photo: knitting machine and boxes of fibre, spun and unspun live there.
  • my big armchair, which sits just inside the door--to relax in, or sit and work in--the combination of comfy recliner and sewing caddy on the arm of the chair tells the story.
  • next to the armchair is a big basket of knitting stuff and a quilting hoop
  • dog leads hanging on a hook near the door--I live with a couple of middle-aged Jack Russell Terriers. I tell you, they do not look middle aged if I as much as touch their leads and they think a walk might be about to happen!
  • and just to be honest also out of sight near the door is a box of bits waiting to be taken the Op Shop.