Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hand Dye Day

One thing I did manage to do yesterday was to drop in to the Neighbourhood House and get this pic of the Sussex Banner:

I made it a few years ago to celebrate the diversity, energy and warmth I see there. It's relevant to me today for a couple of reasons
  • we've just launched the "Quilters at Sussex" blog and this quilted banner is next in the history of quilts that belong to the house itself--after the Carers Wall Hangings that have already been featured on the blog.
  • It's made from my hand-dyed cotton fabrics. I'm planning to teach another Hand Dye workshop in a few weeks and one of my tasks today is to do a bit more promotion for it.

Also on my "to do" list for today is a bit more cleaning up at home, since my dyeing materials, buckets, bits of fabric and yarn, etc, etc, etc, seem to be slowly invading more and more of my house.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Bad News, Good News!

Today wasn't much of a textile day for me. Here's part of the reason why:
I've been helping a friend to get ready for his driving test. Today was the day of the test and despite the most careful preparation including an extra service and new tyres for my car, it broke down last night. The indicators and hazard lights just died. The breakdown service couldn't fix it, so I booked a mobile mechanic for first thing this morning and a taxi to get myself back to the car. "First thing in the morning" is way too early for me these days! After checking the fuses and pulling the centre out of my dashboard. The mechanic came out with this: That little bit on the left is the contact and it's supposed to be in the middle of the part on the right. I'm told the whole thing is called a "flash can"--it's less than two inches across, but obviously vital. I took the pic on the car roof to commemorate the occasion since it cost a fair bit of trouble and lost sleep. I must say, I quite like the effect on my blue paint with the tree reflected in it as well. The car was fixed before 9 am and here's the good news:In case you live somewhere where the rules are different, That red P means, " I got my licence and I'm allowed to drive on my own." Then again, I think the smile tells the story.

Slowly, slowly

I only had half an hour to devote to the Damask weaving yesterday. In that time I managed to get two lines of the design done. That's 8 picks! There are four more lines until I reach the half way mark. I've got a feeling this is going to take a while . . .

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Damask Design

I've been looking at ideas for my damask pick-up design: I used cross-stitch patterns as my starting point, since the woven design is based on a small square. But I only have a single tone on tone shading option for my weaving, whereas most cross-stitch patterns use a variety of colours. So I was looking for something that didn't rely too heavily on colour contrasts to build up the picture.

I started with the Rose design--I was thinking of traditional damask patterns. After losing count several times just in the process of transferring my design to graph paper, and realising that the rose would absolutely fill the design space of 48 x 60 squares, I decided to try something else.

The bird is more original. I used a cross-stitch pattern to get me started with the body and head, but then went a bit crazy on the tail plumage. I may yet need to simplify that a little. I also like the fact that the bird really emphasises the asymmetrical aspect. It's not often I get to be way off centre with my weaving, so I may as well revel in it.

Monday, April 27, 2009


This is the damask pick-up exercise we're currently working on in the Weaving Certificate class: The paper pattern has a red tick next to each line, starting at the bottom. That's because this design is worked line by line. Each little square on the pattern represents four threads of warp and four threads of weft. I have to use a pick-up stick to lift the threads shaded in on the pattern as I weave them. When we started this exercise Gerlinde gave out a sheet of instructions--it took a whole page to explain how to weave each set of four weft picks. Then she gave us a strong verbal instruction to go with the written ones: "don't talk to anyone until you've finished all four picks!" You can imagine, the room was very quiet as we picked up threads and counted and checked and wove.

I didn't expect to like this exercise. The precision of counting and the risk of picking up the wrong threads or losing my place was more than a little daunting. But as I got warmed up, the rhythm of the four repeated lines started to form in my mind and the picture started to form under my fingers. Then I was smiling as I stepped back to see the emerging design.

Our next challenge is to do a design of our own. It's a chance to go off and be creative, and because it's pick-up the design can even be asymmetrical. I've been working on some ideas, but first I need to go back to the discipline and rhythm of counting until I've finished this one.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Counting Carefully-again

Weaving class all day yesterday.

We're working on a damask pick up design--details to come. But for now I want to share the work that Alison came in with.

Do you remember my "counting carefully" pic? We were given a brocade exercise to do, and I wasn't too excited about it. It was exacting in the extreme. I managed two little rows of figures. Here's Alison's effort: The first two rows are the compulsory exercise--that's all I did. Then there are Alison's own design:
  • a fence

  • kangaroos in the back paddock

  • lucerne crop

  • llamas or alpacas

  • tractor sheds

  • tractors

  • houses

  • sheep
  • another fence

  • and red flowering gums in front

It just goes to show how different techniques appeal to different personalities. She must have spent hours working out all these designs and she was smiling broadly about it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Here's the package I prepared for the Olive Grove Studios yesterday:I picked out
  • a simple scarf and hat made from hand-dyed wool and silk,
  • one of my crazy-knit scarves: bright orange made from rovings with all sorts of extra bits
  • one of my big knit scarves in bright green and white
  • one of my crochet wool berets with pigtails
  • my blue spring scarf--made from a fine single with crochet twirls
  • my black and bright crochet scarf--made from crochet circles in fine wool
  • and just to mix it up a bit more, my twisted wire jewelry tree prototype

I dropped off the package in the morning and had a bit of a chat about how the co-op works. Now I just have to let my work speak for itself at the meeting. I should hear back within a few days.

Dropping off the package and walking away felt quite strange--like auditioning for a part and not being there for my own performance!

Friday, April 24, 2009


I found these letter badges at the Olive Grove yesterday:I decided to buy them as ID badges for when I'm working in public.

My task for this morning is to select a few items of my work to represent me at the Olive Grove Studios meeting next Tuesday. That's when the co-op of artists will meet to look at potential new members. I'd like to be one of those chosen. It would involve paying a share of expenses and staffing the studio for a day each fortnight. I think I'm up for that.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Word Challenge

What's a collective noun for "blogs"? I seem to have a proliferation of them!

I've just set up blogs for
  • Northcote Makers' Market--that's the name we agreed on at the Artisans' Market last weekend


  • Quilters at Sussex--since the Patchwork by Machine course added to the existing Quilters' Circle and the planned Hand Dyeing workshop are all causing a bit of a splash at the Neighbourhood House

There aren't any posts in either of these yet, and I surely won't be the only contributor, but I do feel the need for a collective noun. Suggestions please . . .

Not Re-treaded, but Re-so(u)led

My story begins with the car needing new tyres--not a very inspiring beginning--but it gets better. The tyre place recommended by my mechanic is in Brunswick Rd, Brunswick. It's just around the corner from Sydney Rd. When I got there, I found they needed the car for not one, but two hours. OK . . . so I walked around the corner into Sydney Rd. My first stop was Green's for a latte and one of their amazing apple and rhubarb muffins. Then Allegro Shoes--allegro means "happy" in Italian.

My agenda for new shoes, was:
  • black
  • flat
  • with a bit of attitude:)

So these shoes just had to come home with me:

I was happy enough with the comfort and style, let alone the cute, not quite symmetrical touches, but when I stopped by to show them off to a friend, she found the warning label on the box:



The moon and stars are stitched in real thread, which means I can pull out my fabric paints and make them silver.

As if that wasn't enough joy for one day, I got a little further up Sydney Rd to the Olive Grove Studio where they had some little things I loved and had to buy, and a reminder that they're looking for new members and I have to apply. More on this later.

Did I say HAPPY!

Thank You Lynley

This lovely thing is a tea set made by Lynley Northcott:
It surprised me with it's loveliness when I was at the Neighbourhood House yesterday. I was there to do some preparation for Neighbourhood House week . . . "and while you're here, could you take some photos of this" Lynley is the pottery teacher at the House. She has donated this tea set to be raffled. Now I'm not really into raffles, I'm not really into pink and white and I'm not really into tea sets. But, ooooooh . . . what can I say . . . this makes me smile and reach out!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Waiting for Colour

I've plied up the merino that I spun on the weekend. I often choose white tops to work on when I have company or a pleasant distraction. Otherwise it can get a bit boring. So here I have a couple of skeins of lovely white:
Of course it's not going to stay white! It's destined for the dye pot. Dyeing after the yarn is spun and plied gives a different pattern of colour variations than dyeing the tops and then spinning them. And I don't have any particular plans for this yarn. So I can choose just about any colour. Wow!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Simple Task, Simple Tools

This morning's task is to prepare and spin 20g of Corriedale fleece for my spinning folio. The fleece is all nice and clean. It's been sitting on my table waiting for my attention since our last class. All I have to do is comb it and spin it up. I started after my second cup of coffee this morning. Here's my effort so far: . . . and yes that is a dog comb you see with the nice clean fluffy fleece. The wide tooth metal comb is just right for opening up the fleece and getting rid of any bits of stuff--such as grass seeds--that shouldn't be there. Once the fleece is combed it will be a joy to spin.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Water Wall

I love the Water Wall at the National Gallery of Victoria. I was there last weekend with a friend and got this shot: It's a crazy thing, but I can't get away from the idea of a "water wall" scarf or shawl of some kind. I've been playing with the idea in my head for a couple of years now. The theme for this year's Scarf Festival at the Geelong Wool Museum is "Transformation". I don't know for sure, but maybe the time has come to transform my idea into some kind of reality.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My View of the Day

Yesterday was my introductory visit to the Artisan's Market in Northcote, High St. I sat in the forecourt of the Uniting Church and spent most of the day spinning. I snapped this pic of the buildings opposite:
At street level there are shop windows, people, traffic . . .
Sitting there for the day spinning was a great way to get to know the market and its potential. It's really just at a very basic beginning point: only four stalls there yesterday and only passing visitors. I'm told there are another half-dozen casual stall holders who have been there at other times. There's a great little cafe on the church grounds and lots of room to expand. Of course that's going to take time and effort, so part of the conversation yesterday among the stall holders was about next steps.
As an introductory visit, I'd call it a success. I sold nothing, but had a few enquiries. That's about what I expected. I got a good bit of spinning done and have some ideas to go on with.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Surviving . . . thriving

One of my tasks yesterday was to plan ahead for my next term of teaching. I'm due to present my "Any Colour You Like" workshop at Sussex Neighbourhood House next term. It's a cotton dyeing workshop using procion dyes.

Here's a pic of some of my samples:
As well as covering the basics of using this versatile, cold water dye, I also look at colour mixing and texture. As you can see from the samples, I'm not interested in plain, even colours.

The big question mark over this workshop has been Kraft Kolour--my dye suppliers. They were caught in the firestorm that hit Whittlesea in February and literally went up in smoke. I've been wanting to hear from them to see how they're managing. They're a local family company . . . real people! Their website said they were rebuilding and the last thing I wanted to do was worry them with my little concerns, so I've just been checking on their site every week or two. Yesterday I got a contact page on their website and today I got an email back. They're going to be ok. They have dyes on the way by air. They sound like they've somehow found the strength to keep going. That's good news.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I'll Be There

I've had this poster on my noticeboard since last year:

It sounds like a great opportunity for me:

  • It's a small artisan's market.
  • It's in the same street as CCCK, the wool shop where I have my handspun and accessories on sale.
  • It's only once a month and it just happens to be the Saturday when there are no classes at the Guild.
  • The woman organising it sounds friendly and experienced.

Every month I've looked at the poster and tried to be realistic about whether I can manage it. This month I think it's going to happen.

So tomorrow, I'll be there. One table, one box of goods and one spinning wheel should do it for packing. My aim is to just introduce myself and get the feel for it. That way I can't lose.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


I've been checking the requirements for my beginner knitting classes. I have to admit, I rarely check requirements when I'm making a simple scarf for myself. I'm happy enough to have a guess and see how I go. I can always adjust as I go along. But it's only fair to be a bit more precise for the sake of a beginner.

At the end ofthe day it comes down to some simple maths. Here's a close up of a garter stitch scarf:

Looks a bit like a brick wall, doesn't it. Each stitch is like one brick. It took three 50 g balls to make this scarf. What if I want a bigger or smaller one? To work out how much wool I need I just need to know how many bricks there are and how much wool I need on average for each one . . . done!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Harmony Sequence

Here's my sequence of Harmony hand-dyed and blended skeins: This is the first time I've combined dyeing my own tops with my marle blending technique. It's given me a lovely gradation of colour that reminds me of the way the roses' colours develop with time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Just Lucky!

I dropped in to CCCK this afternoon with my samples for the next beginner class. I had to sit and knit for a bit until Andrea was free and so I was lucky enough to be there when one of my skeins of handspun happened in for a visit. It was a fine blue-black merino skein with touches of teal in it. It had been transformed into a lovely feather and fan lace neck warmer. I was pretty excited how it looked and was particularly pleased to see how well the yarn held the lace pattern . . . a mixture of professional and maternal pride:)

Lotus Blossum Skein

Here it is: It's got the flecky look of the multi-marle technique, so of course it won't look like a lotus blossum when it's knitted up. But my intention was simply to be inspired by the colour combination. I'm pretty happy with the way the hints of orange-yellow and green come through quite subltly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness . . . and knitting!

It's autumn in Melbourne. We've had some grey misty mornings in the past week. Yesterday was one of those beautiful crisp sunny days with a cool breeze. And this pomnegranate tree caught my eye when I was walking in Brunswick on Friday: So much for poetic allusions . . . autumn means knitting and that's what I've been doing. Somehow autumn caught me by surprise I had to scramble to finish off the class samples for my beginner knitting classes which start at CCCK in a few weeks, but they're ready now.

I don't know what my garden thinks about autumn. It's not showing signs of mellow fruitfulness so much as rampant weediness! It got a bit of attention from me yesterday, but it's going to need a lot more. And I've been spinning up my hand-dyed tops: 100g done, 100g to go.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Harmony Wool Tops

Here are the wool tops I dyed in response to the Harmony Day roses:I've done 1oo g of each. It's a while since I did any spinning straight from my hand-dyed tops, so I think I'll do 50 g of each just as they are. That will leave me 50 g of each to play with. I can mix them in different proportions. Then I'll have four different, but closely related skeins of wool. Sounds like a plan.

Happy Easter

I found this little darling at The Friendship Tree in High St Northcote. That's about life size in the pic. My friend Anna has a real live bunny who looks a lot like this little one--only bigger and less cooperative about having her photo taken:) So this little cutie will have to do as my Easter greeting.

. . . spinning and knitting progress report to come.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lotus Blossom Marle Yarn

I've been working on the Lotus blossum colour blend. I decided to add a touch of yellow-orange to one of the singles and a touch of green to the other and then ply them together. Here are the tops stipped down and arranged, ready to spin for the first one. The colours for the other one are on the left:

I've nearly finished spinning the second bobbin. I'm hoping to ply it up this morning.

The challenge with combining colours opposite on the colour wheel is that if they blend together too much I end up with a disappointing muddy colour. That's why I decided to separate the yellow and green touches into different singles. I won't really see the effect until I've put them together, so I'm off for another coffee and back to work.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hot in the Pot

Here's my first dye pot of wool tops inspired by the Harmony Day roses:

I used five different colours of dye, ranging from wild raspberry to wattle. Some I mixed together before adding to the pot and others I added straight in. Of course I tweaked and adjusted the colour as it developed! Then I did another 100 g from the pale dye colour left when this lot had finished--with a bit of added seasoning to spice it up.

Now I have two lovely lots of dyed tops drying on my rack. I decided to wait to post a pic until I do the next stage of preparing them. I'm going to divide the two lots and re-mix them in different proportions. I keep checking to see if they're dry enough to play with yet, but I think I'd better wait until this evening.

Meanwhile I topped up my supply of magenta and pink solid colour tops, so I can get on with the Lotus colour blend as soon as I've tidied up a bit in my work-room. I got home last night and just dropped everything on the table. The wool I need is somewhere there under bags with kid mohair yarn for my next class; scripts from the chemist; extra computer class homework exercises; receipts from the bank and eye drops and flea treatment for my dogs. I'm guessing that my bag of drop spindling is on the same pile. I did manage to put the fruit and bread in the fridge before giving up for the day.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

So Glad You Asked!

Where does that colour combination sit on the colour wheel? I'm so glad you asked, because I was asking myself the same question. Since posting Meg's photo, I'd got as far as picking through my boxes of wool tops and pulling out the colours I could find. I don't have quite the right pink-magenta colour, so I'll have to go shopping:), but here's what I've come up with so far--complete with colour wheel for orientation: The pink-green is pretty much a classic complementary colour scheme. What surprised and delighted me was the touch of the unexpected, because the whole colour combination leans towards the yellow side: so the citrus green and apricot are the wow factor. That's one of the things I love about taking my colour shemes from nature rather than from the "book". I wouldn't have done it, and according to the colour wheel it's not balanced, but I love it.

Meg's Lotus Photo

It was great to see my friend Meg for coffee yesterday afternoon. It was also great to see some of the photos she's taken recently. This one of a lotus flower really grabbed me. It grabbed me so much that I asked her if I could use it here: Of course, the form of the flower is beautiful. I love the way she's framed it in the photo. What really caught my eye and left me wanting more,though, is the colour combinations in the flower itself. It's more obvious in this detail :

The strong pink, almost magenta, is the obvious colour, but at the base of the petals it blends to a citrus green. and the inner aspect of the petal on the far right is an apricot colour. That's a combination I didn't expect and I'm planning to play with it some time soon. Meanwhile I have 100g of blue-green multi-marle which I'm half way through plying off and I'm still thinking of the Harmnony day rose petals for another colour blend, though I might try that in the dye pot. That would leave me more time to play with the lotus blossom colours.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Blue-bird of Happiness

It's been a rough week, and I've been struggling to keep up. So, as well as treating myself to a coffee and cake with my friend Meg this afternoon--she's promised me one of her photos to post here--I decided to buy myself this little brooch. I've adopted it as my little blue-bird of happiness--it can brighten up my black winter coat and of course, brighten up my day. The comments about avoiding heat are because it's hand made with some fantastic plastic process.
By the way, I have been spinning too--and Meg's photo is a great colour inspiration for more colour mixing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wood Oven Bread

It wasn't textile, but it was most definitely a work of art! I experienced a cherry pastry at the Swiss Crust Wood Fired Bakery, Maple St, Mapleton Queensland last week. Here are some pics:

. . . I just wish I could blog the flavour!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Adaptability Challenge

Worsted spinning was the topic of the day for my class yesterday. The challenge was to spin three different fleeces according to their own characteristics: bulky, medium and fine. Here are my merino and English Leicester samples at the end of the day:

The English Leicester on the right is more than twice the thickness of the merino sample and it has less than half the amount of twist. So, what's so hard about that? The challenge lies in the fact that most of the difference in the spinning comes through my hands

  • the amount of fibre I allow through my fingers to form the yarn
  • the amount of twist I allow to build up in the yarn before it is wound on to the bobbin
  • the amount of tension on the fibre as it forms into a yarn

. . . all the time maintaining a steady rhythm of treadling with my feet.

It was a good exercise and I have plenty to work on over the next few weeks. For starters, the merino sample I managed yesterday was only 4 grams--I need 20 grams for my folio. I also have to do a sample of Corriedale which is the in between fleece--that shouldn't be too challenging, now that I've worked at the extremes.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

And Back Again

Back to the Guild this morning for another day of classes. Spinning this time. I jokingly suggested I should just take my sleeping bag yesterday, but I don't think I could fit the stuff I need for both classes in my car at the same time!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Now What?

A couple of months ago, I provided a blow by blow description of what it takes to get me to the Guild on the morning of a weaving class: from packing the car to finally arriving in the teaching area, coffee in hand. This morning one of my classmates got into trouble in that process. She was running late, and decided to park her car across the road and carry her loom, but she couldn't do without her morning coffee. I got back from the coffee shop with my customary latte and chocolate muffin to find her in this state:

I was cruel enough to snap the pic before going to give her a hand. She was kind enough to give me permission to use the pic:)

Counting Carefully

I was warned that the last exercise in our weaving homework would be time consuming and fiddly. That warning was so right!

Unfortunately the program that powers this blog has decided to orient my picture sideways--I've tried twice to fix it and I've had no luck, so please turn your head at right angles to the screen and have a look at the fiddly, time consuming cute little pictures I did for my homework: The technical word is brocade. Each little bit of colour is a different combination of shafts raised on the loom and in between each bit of colour there's a thread of plain weaving to stabilise it. Sometimes there are two colours on one line. You can also see where I mis-counted in doing the heart shapes and missed one of those tiny little red lines, but I'd already unpicked it once to fix another mistake, so that one is going to stay there. It reminds me of counted cross stitch, which I used to do once upon a time, but somehow grew out of the patience required.

So, I guess this is an example of the detail available on an 8-shaft loom. Not my favourite so far, but there you go, I'm not really in the mood for counting carefully today.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Washing Day

I've got a busy weekend coming up at the Guild. Today I'm working to get everything prepared. That means catching up with my weaving homework and washing fleece ready for Sunday's spinning classes.

We're working on worsted spinning using three different fleeces: a Merino, a Corriedale and an English Leicester. Because it's worsted spinning, I want to keep my wool as tidy as possible while I wash it. That way I can preserve the lock formation and keep the fibres all parallel. I need to have scoured fleece to go through the wool combs. I've tried using Gutter Guard (or gutter mesh) once before and was really pleased with the result:

  • washed fleece at the front, all ready to comb
  • behind it, some fleece still in it's mesh sandwich
  • and a new roll of Gutter Mesh--from the cheap shop, because I'm going to need lots and I don't see the point of paying full price:)

Washing fleece is one of those jobs that can't be rushed. I put it to soak in hot water yesterday morning. This morning I started by draining that off, then soaked it in hot water and detergent. Then a couple of rinses and now it's on the line drying--still in it's mesh sandwich. I'm hoping it will dry happily, despite the stormy wet weather we've been having. By the way, if you're worrying about the hot water, it's ok--I mean hot to touch, not hot-hot and remember, the fleece isn't moving around. Meanwhile, back to my weaving.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Made for Me!

I had a visit from a friend this morning. Not only did she drive from Ballarat to see me for a few hours, she brought gifts! Hand-knitted socks in my colours and a fridge magnet which fits me almost as well as the socks do: Never before have I owned a pair of hand-knitted socks. T made sure they would be the right size by cleverly measuring my forearm some many months ago. They fit perfectly and they are so incredibly foot-shaped and warm and smooth and lovingly made. Thank you, thank you.

By the way, if you can't quite read the cute lettering on the sign, it says, "I am creative . . . I can't be neat too!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

One Skein Wonders

I'm just home after a few days interstate, and happily re-united with my textile to do list. High on the list is planning my "One Skein Wonders" workshop, which is scheduled at CCCK later this month. To get my planning juices bubbling I've pulled this little neck warmer out of the box: It's made from just 50 grams of hand-dyed wool. That certainly qualifies it for the "one skein" category. It's small, vibrant and surprisingly warm to wear. And it's a hot favourite as far as colour impact goes.