Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just Add Colour

Today's topic in the Spinning Certificate class is dyeing. We're told to bring "lots of small skeins". Here's my little collection: I've wound them off this morning on my medium sized niddy-noddy. There's about 10 metres in each skein--just plain white wool. I'm not sure exactly what the plan is for today, but if it involves dyeing, it's got to be good.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Armchair

I've finished the red wool-alpaca capelet. Now I've started knitting a little neck warmer out of mint green bamboo-cotton. It's a perfect Spring project and designed to limber up my circular knitting skills:
But I still have two major "armchair projects" requiring attention. The Bushfire blanket is all finished, except for one of the fringed edges. I can do that as soon as I manage to clear my big table. Clearing the table is a challenge. The fringing is easy enough. The Engagement Gift blanket needs a few more rows of crochet. I'm not sure how many because I have plenty of wool and I could really go on for ever. I need to decide how big is big enough. Then it too needs to have the fringes tied and cut. That project is going to wait for the next cool morning. Meanwhile, I could pull it out and measure and plan how many more rows it needs. Maybe I could do that when I have the big table clear . . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Friend is Someone Who . . .

The phone rang unexpectedly yesterday morning. It was L from the Neighbourhood House. She was ringing because someone had brought a bunch of Irises from their garden to cheer up the House kitchen. The purple ones were dripping colour--literally--all over the kitchen floor. Did I want to try dyeing with them? And the others were just irresistably gorgeous. Would I like to come down with my camera to capture their beauty?

Yes, and Yes!

Here one pic of the intact irises:
The purple ones are in my dye pot on the stove as we speak. From my hurried research, I'm doubtful of getting a good colour from them, but what the heck, it's worth a try.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Knitting on the Tram

One more advantage of using circular needles--it's so much easier to knit on a crowded tram. When I knit with my long straight needles anyone who sits on my right is liable to be poked in the ribs by a stray elbow or knitting needle. Turns out that's not very socially acceptable. With my circular needle my knitting sits neatly in my lap and my neighbours are safe.

I had to catch the tram into the city yesterday afternoon. I was accompanied by my bag of knitting, of course. Here's where that project is up to:

I'm pretty much guaranteed a conversation with a stranger when I knit on public transport. At the very least, a glance and a smile, or an enquiring look. Yesterday was a bonus. A young man got into the tram a stop or two after me. I was sitting, knitting away. I felt him watching my knitting and caught his eye. How to describe him? I'm guessing, in his early twenties; hair: half pitch black, half fire-engine red, style: straight up!

"What are you knitting?"

"It's a little cape. I've started from the top and I'm knitting down, increasing as I go", I said, holding it out for him to see. Somehow his 'what are you knitting?' question sounded knowledgable.

"Oh," he said, "I like to start at the bottom, and do my shaping with decreases"

"Mmmm, yeah,", I said, "except this is a handspun yarn and I have no idea how far it will go."

Intelligent nod . . . "Did you spin it yourself?" . . .

. . . turns out he's a spinner too. By this time the tram has reached Lygon St and we're just about level with the Guild rooms.

"Do you ever come to the Guild?"

. . . I told him about our Experimental Spinning group and invited him along. As he was about to jump off the tram, he confessed, that he has a loom as well.

I kept on with my knitting with a smile on my face.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Knitting Style

I'm usually a "pit knitter"--I tuck my right knitting needle under my arm to support the weight of the knitting. That leaves my hand free to flick the wool over the needle. It's not the fastest way of knitting in the world, but it's comfortable. Above all, it's the style that my muscles have learnt to consider as "normal". Usually I'm happy with that style of knitting. But there are a few situations when a different style works better. If I'm managing lots of stitches--a scarf knit sideways for example--it's easier to use a circular needle to distribute the bulk of stitches more evenly. And then of course to actually knit in the round--that just can't be done with a needle tucked under my arm. So, I've been practising a different style of knitting. The only way I can do it at the moment is to actually use a circular needle: I'm getting there, but it feels wierd and I'm still rather awkward at it. It's a bit like writing with your non-dominant hand: the logical part of your brain knows what is wanted, but the part of your brain responsible for movement control takes extra time to process, and then the movement doesn't flow as smoothly. I'm working on the assumption that practice is the only solution. So I currently have two projects going on circular needles. The red alpaca-wool in this pic, and the variegated wool-silk I featured a few weeks ago. When I'm feeling a bit more confident I want to have another go at socks.

If you're wondering about my weaving sample, rest easy. I finished the threading yesterday and have started the next step. I seem to have mis-counted the number of warp threads, so I'm checking and double-checking as I go along. Worst case scenario I can just drop off some extra warp threads at one end of the weaving. I guess mistakes like that is one reason to do sampling--better make the mistakes now than with the real thing.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Progress Report

Here's where I'm up to with my double weave sample: I've worked out my threading on paper, made my warp and am half-way through threading it. So far, no fatal errors. Even though it's a 24-thread repeat sequence that I'm working with, I'm not finding it too hard to keep track of where I'm up to. I guess that's because I spent so long on mapping it out, that I have a mental image of the two different layers. Even so, I won't be answering the phone until I've finished each sequence--they can ring back!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Well, I didn't get to sampling yesterday. Here's what I did do:
I guess it's a question of approach. My basic training is in science, so before I set up my experiment--sampling--I wanted to test my theory on paper. I'm planning to make a double-weave tube. My goal is for the folds between the two layers to flow seamlessly. So I spent several hours yesterday with pencil and paper drafting out the weave structures for my top and bottom layers and checking how they interact. I think I've got it. Now it's time to test my hypothesis on the loom.

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I'm off to Weaving Class in a few minutes. The major challenge for today is to make my first sample for my end of year project. I'm planning a double weave bag. So far, I've managed to list the issues and sort out the theory for most of them. Here's my loom and research material: Before I can make my warp, I need to sort out how I'm going to manage my selvedges. That will take a bit more research. Then I can have a go.

But first, I have an appointment at Filous for a quick Birthday breakfast with my friend, W. Coffee, chocolate and then weaving. I'm off!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Keeping it Simple

Here's that black t-shirt, plus beads:As you can see, I kept it pretty simple. Here are the things I thought about:
  • I didn't want to measure and mark the placement of beads;
  • The neckline was already as low as I'm comfortable with;
  • I wasn't sure how the fabric would cope with the extra weight of the beads;
  • When I had a good look at the pleats already sewn into the neckline, I found they weren't quite evenly spaced, so I didn't want to emphasise them.

I decided to just attach a single row of the blue seed beads to the seamline between the neck edge and the body of the t-shirt. I used a back stitch in black polyester thread and stitched through each bead twice. I'm hoping that will be enough to secure the beads. I plan to wash it by machine--gentle cycle in a lingerie bag.

You can come to your own conclusion about the beads in the centre. That pleat of fabric is attached around the neckline, so there were 6 thicknesses of fabric there. That gave me scope to add a few more beads, but I was still not feeling like doing any planning. I started off aiming for a heart shape,but it ended up a bit random. I think I can live with that.

I wore the t-shirt yesterday--we had a warm day. It passed my main test: I didn't have to think about it after I put it on--no fiddling or adjusting. I've still got enough beads left to make a matching pair of earings. The whole project took about half an hour after I'd found my materials. That's simple enough for me.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Basket-weaving Anyone?

I've had a couple of really slow days. But one thing I did manage yesterday was another half hour or so in the garden. I'm trying to overcome months of neglect. The garden beds are full of kikuyu grass. It's incredibly tough stuff. There's also the myoporum which I planted. In places it's become a mass of old twigs several inches deep. Here's the weed pile so far: There's much more to come. In reality, the pile will settle a little as the weeds dry out, but I've been fantasising about using the kikuyu and myoporum for basket weaving. Both have long runners about the thickness of my little finger and I've had to use my secatuers to cut them. They're too strong for my hands. Come to think of it, if I include the jungle at the back of the my place, there's probably enough there to thatch a house!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


We had a warm day yesterday--hot even. All of a sudden the summer clothes I've been thinking about are not so ridiculous. I always have trouble when the season changes. It's as if my imagination refuses to believe what my memory knows--the day will come when I don't need to turn the heater on first thing in the morning. The day will come when an extra layer of warmth is unwelcome. Yesterday was that day. Today it's cool and cloudy again, but yesterday was enough of a reminder. I need to get a summer wardrobe in order.

I have been shopping for clothes. As usual the number of items that suit my body shape, budget and colour preferences are limited. So when I found an affordable black t-shirt which made me smile, I bought two. One can stay plain. the other will get the bead treatment. The necklace is one I made a year or three ago. It's just the wrong length for me. I've never worn it. Now I'm planning to just stitch the beads along the edge of the neck band of this black t-shirt. Then I'll have one plain and one pretty one.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Yesterday I finished weaving the Huck Lace warp I had left on my loom. then I had to finish the Huck Lace weaving after I'd taken it off the loom. In this case finishing means
  • hemming,
  • weaving in yarn ends
  • washing
  • pressing
  • fringing

. . . all the little things that need to happen to make an item ready for use.

Here's how it looks on my ironing board:

The piece on the right has been hemmed, washed and pressed. The piece on the left is as it came off the loom. I wanted to see how much shrinkage there would be. It's whole centimetere narrower now.

Today, I really should try to do the threading for my Summer and Winter sample. That's well and truly overdue, but there are a few other things to distract me. I'll see how I go.

Monday, October 19, 2009


I've already spent a good hour weaving this morning. I've stopped before winding the cloth on a bit further to do the hemming, since this bit of weaving might end up as a little place-mat or some such. And to my frustration, I've had to stop half way and go find my reading glasses to finish the hemming: It's not that I can't see what I'm doing, but keeping up the accuracy is a strain and that's why I've had the glasses for the past year or so. The trouble is, I hardly ever need them, so I haven't got used to them. Every time I put them on I'm struggling to adjust. And I must admit, this little token of advancing age is not welcome. Oh well . . .

As for the weaving, you might recognise the Huck Lace in cottolin from a while back. It's my contribution to the class Round Robin exercise, and the loom has come back to me with a fair bit of warp left on it. It seems a pity to let it go to waste, so I'm weaving it off this morning. When that's done, I can start sampling for my personal end of year project.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Little Treasures

I found these little sweeties in a shop in Rathdowne St. I was a bit early to meet a friend for coffee, so I just popped in--and there they were. They cost less than my coffee and cake and they're going to make me happy for a lot longer. The maker isn't credited. I'm sorry about that. Their appeal to me--apart from the obvious colour--is that they're made of thread. It seems to be a version of the string art I did as a child with nails on a board, but the gaps in a wire spring have been used in place of the nails, so the effect is light and subtle. And being made of thread, they are remarkably light to wear. I like that.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Reality Check

I thought I might get to do some dyeing yesterday afternoon. I had a picture to inspire me and it's really been too long since I played with colour. So I checked through my requirements:
  • dyes--check--I could do with some more greens, but there's enough to get on with;
  • dyepots--check--I even washed and put them away after my last batch of dyeing
  • fibre--check--there's always plenty of fibre!
  • kitchen sink--uh oh!

So instead of a batch of dyeing, I did a batch of washing up:

Now I have a kitchen sink. Maybe today or tomorrow I can do some dyeing.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Looking Forward

It's mid-October. It should be well and truly Springtime weather by now. But instead we've had several weeks of showers and cold--even a couple of hail storms. My garden is suffering from chronic neglect. I got discouraged after the heatwaves last summer, when several of my favourite plants got cooked. Then there was winter, and now with all the rain, things in the garden are pretty much out of control.

I'm looking forward to the possiblity of a couple of warmer days early next week. I'm going to have to do some serious weeding before I can do anything else in the garden.

One thing which has survived is this parsley plant. It's in a pot near the front door and it's sending up seed heads like this one: This is one plant that's determined to survive. I'll need to replant most of my herb pots, but this one has earned it's right to go forth and multiply. Plus the colours are tempting me to pull out my dye-pots. We still have a couple of days of cold and wet to get through, so there's no reason not to take advantage of the opportunity to play with colour while I'm stuck indoors.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Beret is a Cap

Yesterday I was waxing lyrical about the fun of experimenting--and the lovely firm fabric I was achieving with the silk-cotton yarn I'd bought for E's birthday beret. Somehow that gave me permission to experiment even further. Since the fabric is firm enough to hold its shape and I had plenty of yarn, I decided to try for a cap rather than a simple beret. Well here's the result: I'm still grinning at it:) Now I just have to wait a couple of weeks for E's response. Oh, and get on with the original alpaca-wool hat too.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Birthday Beret

Here's the progress so far on E's silk-cotton beret: I've finished the top and sides and I've just started decreasing to form the underside. I've just joined in the second skein of yarn, so now I know I'm going to have enough. I'm surprised and pleased with how firm the fabric is turning out. I did choose a crochet hook on the small side for the yarn because I wanted a stiff fabric, but the yarn isn't tightly twisted, so I didn't know how it would go. It's better than I expected.

Experimenting is always fun, but they always recommend sampling when using a new yarn. Oh well, what they don't know won't hurt them. I usually end up experimenting (sampling, if you like) on something that can be used. And I'm happy enough to change my plans to suit the way a particular fibre wants to behave. In this case it's behaving beautifully.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Silk Conspiracy

Much as I'm looking forward to making E her alpaca-wool hat, I've been conscious of the fact that she won't get to wear it for maybe six months after her birthday. So I've been wondering about making something in cotton for her to wear this summer. Notice I said cotton. She wants a beret style, so bamboo would be too soft. But there were a couple of skeins of yarn at CCCK with different ideas. They were lying in wait for me; tucked away on a shelf near the door. And when I started looking around yesterday afternoon, they jumped out at me:

  • lovely tweedy texture in burgundy-orange
  • lovely thick yarn, which will hold it's shape nicely
  • lovely: 70% silk, 30% cotton

. . . need I say more?

Thankfully my loyalty points balance covered about half the cost.

I can't say I regret being ambushed like that. The beret is already half made. It feels good in my fingers. I expect to finish it today or tomorrow. That will leave plenty of time to make its cool weather companion. And the forecast here is for more rain and temperatures in the mid-teens, so I needn't worry about the weather slowing me down. Where E lives, the forecast today is for 32! She's going to want a warm weather hat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Combinations and Permutations

You may have heard it said that there are only two knitting stitches: knit and purl. That's true as far as it goes. So what's this about? There may be only two stitches, but they can be combined in a great variety of ways. Add a few different increases and decreases and mix well and you have an even bigger variety. Perhaps it would be less confusing if we spoke of a wide variety of fabrics or patterns formed by a limited number stitches.

Of course humans love to experiment and humans love to categorise. The result is Stitch dictionaries . . . I had no intention of picking up another knitting book when I went to my local library the other day, but when I saw the Vogue Stitchionary on display, it had to come home with me. So far I've just had a bit of a browse and smiled at it on my table. The "101 Stitches to Knit" was a birthday gift. I picked up the "Encyclopaedia of Knitting" at a book clearance and the "Harmony Guide" was an Op shop find. I love them all. Meanwhile, I've only done a couple more rows on the capelet I started last week--that's pretty much stocking stitch for the next little while. There's crochet and weaving waiting for my attention too and the house is even more of a mess than usual. I wonder how many combinations and permutations of procrastination and distraction there are in the universe . . .

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Wonders of Ancient Technology

This is an umbrella swift: Umbrella because it folds up and opens out just like an umbrella. Swift because it's a mechanism for holding a skein of yarn while it's being wound into a ball. If you've ever tried winding a skein by hand, you'll appreciate how much quicker and easier the task becomes with a twirling skein-holder. Swift by name and swift by nature. Here it is in use:
The yarn I've chosen for my end of year weaving project is a tightly spun high lustre silk. I bought a skein months ago just because it was irresistably gorgeous. It's also infuriatingly slippery, as I discovered when I tried to wind it yesterday. Gerlinde suggested using the umbrella swift. I own one--not as big nor as lovely as the one at the Guild. What I hadn't realised is that when it's set up sideways like this, gravity helps to hold the skein in place and winding becomes much easier. That was a happy discovery.

So, my silk is now wound into two neat balls. I have an idea for my project, but it's rather complicated--surprise:) So I have lots of sampling to do before I can go ahead. Meanwhile I've brought home my loom with the end of the yellow Huck Lace warp. It needs to be woven off. I also have the Summer and Winter sampler to do. So lots of weaving coming up. But today is a quiet day. There's just been too much happening lately and I desperately need some time to catch up with myself.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Red, Red, Ready

Remember the Alpaca fibre I bought at the Tulip Festival? Well here it is, turned into yarn already: I bought 100g of hand-dyed alpaca tops. E picked them out, quite decisively. She's good like that, and red is her current favourite colour. Actually, with her dark colouring, red looks great on her. So that part was easy. What I didn't notice on the label in the enthusiasm of the moment, is that she'd picked out "hand-dyed pieces". So when I got into spinning it, I found several different shades of red in the bag. I solved that dilemma by blending a bit as I drafted--like a subtle marle effect. Next dilemma was the quantity. 100g should be plenty for a hat, but there's no going back for more. And it would be nice to surprise her with a little something extra. Solution: I picked out a bag of red merino tops from my stash. So during the week, I spun one bobbin of red alpaca tops and one bobbin of red merino. Last night I plied them together. Now I have one very full bobbin of red marle alpaca-wool yarn. It was quick and easy spinning after my various efforts at fine luxury yarns. If I skein it up and give it a wash today, I should be able to start the hat next week. That's just as well because the birthday is the beginning of November, and my calendar's been playing tricks on me again. Somehow it's nearly mid-October already.

Today is a weaving day, and we've been promised a lot of theory. So I need to be alert, and I didn't sleep very well. I'll get some breakfast and another coffee into my system and try to hold steady through the morning. Our teacher can be a little daunting when she's excited:) I am looking forward to this afternoon's class. We're going to start designing and planning our end of year projects. I have some ideas about what I'd like to make, but first I'd better hear the details of the assignment.

Friday, October 9, 2009

And Mine . . .

Here's the beginning of the capelet I mentioned yesterday: It's pretty fine--those are 3 mm needles, in case you can't quite read the number. And for the first time I'm wondering if I should be wearing my reading glasses while I knit. I haven't quite come to terms with that concept yet!
I'm knitting from the top down, so the first couple of inches are the collar. I've knitted in a fold line. The collar will be double thickness. I'll stitch it down after I've finished the knitting. After that I changed to stocking stitch and started shaping. I'm increasing at eight different points--they're marked with little loops of wool. You can see one in the top right of the pic. I do own a variety of pretty beaded stitch markers, but I just can't think where they are right now. Rather than getting myself frustrated looking for them in the mess, I decided to make the wool loops and get on with with knitting. When I've got the length I want, or when I start to run out of yarn--whichever is first--I'll finish off with a band of . . . something . . . I'm not sure what at this stage. Possibly a garter stitch band to match the collar or a lace stitch. By then I'll have a better feel for the character of the piece. It looks like the yarn will go quite a long way, but I only spun up just over 50 g, so it's always going to be light and easy to carry. Unlike the blankets, which are my other works in progress. I haven't forgotten them. Now that the capelet is taking shape, I'll be happy to stitch away at it when I'm out and about and focus on the bulkier projects when I'm at home. Especially if the weather stays as cool as it has been this past week--still only 10 degrees when I got up this morning. That's still well and truly woolcraft weather.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I hadn't seen my friend V for weeks. It felt like way too long. So we arranged for her to come over for a coffee yesterday morning. The weather and other commitments were conspiring against us, but still she came--on her bike, in the rain . . . And here's what she brought to show me:It's her latest work on Esther Aliu's Red Delicious quilt. V normally favours machine piecing in her quilting, so watching her develop her skills in aplique while working on this quilt has been fascinating. I'm not the only one of her quilting friends who is subconsciously keeping count of the number of times she says, "Ouch" when the needle finds her way into a fingertip. But the result is far from Ouch, I really like it. And it's perfect to accompany a morning coffee. That's what I think.

As for me, I've had at least one appointment each day this week, so I needed a take-along project too. I've picked up one of my pet skeins of handspun wool-silk. It's been hanging around the house for a couple of months now and I had no plans for it. I've started a little capelet. If I knit from the top down, I don't have to worry about how far the yarn will go, since anything longer than a few inches will work just fine. So I have the pleasure of watching the colours appear on my needles. These aren't colours I wear, so it will have to find a home when it's finished. I somehow don't think that's going to be a problem.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Fleece from the Farm

I caught up with Deb and Clive Shilabeer yesterday afternoon. Here's why:
It's the Suffolk Downs lambs fleece I've been looking forward to. They brought it over from South Australia for me. I now have 6 kg in the back of my car. Only half of that is for me. The other half is for my friend O, who taught me woollen spinning and sounded just as excited as I felt when I told her about the fleeces. And I do have more than enough to share with any of my fellow spinners who would like to have a go.

Meeting up with Deb and Clive to pick up the fleeces was great. Much better than getting fleece in the mail. I got to hear about the welcome rain they've had since I met them in July. I got to hear about their big win--Grand Champion Ram at the Adelaide Show. I got to tell them about the Tulip Festival. They've driven 8 hours from SA to spend a day at the Tulip Festival--there's something about country people and their sense of distance! They spent most of last week shearing and needed a few days off. I got to talk about my spinning and promised to show them some results at next year's Bendigo Show. The fleece means even more to me now that I have that connection with its origins. Now, to wash it, card it and get spinning!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Look at These Colours!

I didn't get to see my friend M last weekend. Life was a bit crazy for both of us. So much so that I forgot to return the bed I'd borrowed for my visitors in time for the arrival of her visitors. M was kind enough to revert to Plan B. I haven't even spoken with her enough to find out what Plan B was. I've spent the last couple of days sorting bits and pieces. It feels as though there are an awful lot of bits and pieces! It's going to take a little while for me to get back into routine.

Meanwhile this pic arrived in my inbox from M: The colour combination pretty much floored me. When I start to analyse it, I can see a range of colors from burgundy through orange to yellow--that shouldn't surprise me too much. Look a little closer and of course there's the green. And some of the yellows blend into the greens in the centre of the lilies. At this point I've decided to stop analysing and just stick with the Wow! factor. In my head, I'm already sorting through my dyes, choosing colours and working out proportions. The challenge will be to get the green highlights without muddying up the clarity of the red-orange colours. Of course, I could leave the green out of the dye pot altogether and add it in the form of neps in my spinning or a contrast yarn while weaving or knitting. There are so many options . . . I'm looking forward to having a go--after I've cleared the bench in the kitchen and returned M's bed to her.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Felting Fun

Saturday morning's session at the Guild was a basic felting workshop. When I first saw felting in the Certificate Spinning program I was rather unimpressed. There are so many aspects of spinning to learn and develop. Why spend a morning on felting? But by the time we got to Saturday morning, I'd decided to suspend any didactic criticism and just go with the flow. I'm glad I did. Basic felting was easy and fun. And, look what I made! It's a nuno felted scarf. There is a layer of black silk voile sandwiched between the two layers of lightly felted merino tops. On one side I've added wisps of silk tops for embellishment. It's in my sea-jewel colours and I'm looking forward to wearing it. And, it was an easy enough exercise that I've already started inviting friends to come and have a go. I'm sure there's a lot more to felting than this, but it was great to have a taster and pick up a new skill. After a hectic and stressful couple of months the activity just suited my mood. So, thanks for the felting workshop!

Next class is all about dyeing. That's another one to make me happy, and then, believe it or not, it will be the end of the year!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bunny Love

Certificate Spinning class yesterday was one of those fun, exciting days which I wouldn't have missed for anything.

In the morning we did some basic felting--more on that in another post. It was surprisingly easy and successful.

In the afternoon Charly of Ixchel Angora Bunny and Funky fibre Art came to visit. She brought young Tribble as a bonus. Tribble is an eleven week old English Angora bunny. He coped beautifully with being handed around the class. Here he is on M's lap--he even was happy to rub noses! One friendly bunny!It wouldn't be true to say that Tribble was the prime exhibit, because Charly brought stacks of delicious fibre with her. I came home with several bags--ok, half a dozen bags--of exquisite angora blends: angora-merino, angora-silk and angora-baby camel.

But wait, there's more! Charly had prepared a thorough presentation for us. She spoke about her Angora rabbits, and their fibre; about herself and her journey in the craft; and she gave us the benefit of her experience in setting up and living a craft business. I took dozens of photos to try to capture some of her passion and personality. I don't think it can be caught like that, but it was fun trying. I find it hard to believe, but after pouring herself out to us yesterday afternoon, she'll be up with the sparrows this morning and ready to share her beautiful work with the passers by at Southbank Market.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


I received a very welcome email yesterday. Deb and Clive Shillabeer have shorn their lambs and have some lovely fleece for me to buy. I met Deb and Clive at the Sheep and Wool Show in July. I was on a mission. I love woollen spinning, but the appropriate fleeces are hard to find. Having scoured the traders halls and the woolcraft area, I decided to venture out into the livestock pavilions. I located the Downs type sheep--they have the short springy wool that I'm after. Then I looked out for a combination of prize-winning sheep and approachable humans. Here's what I found: This pen and it's immediate neighbours belonged to Deb and Clive. I had a friendly chat with them and their two teenage children. What I noticed was their obvious devotion to their work. What's more, when I went through my speil about the fleece I was after, Clive quickly got beyond the incredulous look to the necessary willingness to help. Let me explain the incredulous look. Handspinners in Australia mostly do worsted type spinning. In worsted spinning the wool fibres are all lined up parallel to each other. The aim is a smooth even yarn with very little air trapped in it. Woollen spinning is just the opposite. The fibres are carded so that they are all mixed up at random angles. The aim is to trap as much air in the yarn as possible, and the technique is much more relaxed. The different style of spinning requires a different style of fleece. So whereas most handspinners are looking for a long-staple fleece with an even crimp, here I am searching for a short springy one. Hence the incredulous look. What's more, the breeds of sheep that produce this wool are usually kept for meat production, so there isn't a lot of focus on the fleece quality. And I'm after as fine a fleece as possible. And as clean as possible. So you see, I wasn't quite on a needle-in-a-haystack mission, but definitely heading in that direction. So meeting up with a prize-winning breeder, who's willing to go to the trouble of getting me a nice fleece was a very special thing.

That's the story so far . . . we had a good chat, exchanged contact details and the Shillabeers promised to get in touch after shearing. Well now it's after shearing and they've sent me a picture of one of their fleeces. It looks great! What's more, they're coming to Melbourne next week and we might be able to meet up. Oh, I am an excited little spinner. Stay tuned for updates.

Friday, October 2, 2009


One of the endearing characteristics of the Enchanted Garden Maze we visited this week were the pieces of art of various kinds which were integrated with the plantings. The Hedge Maze contained half a dozen different buddah statues. The Blue Gum maze was an Indigenous Art gallery and this little garden . . .Framed, painted ceramic tiles with pictures like this winged pig . . . whatever!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Warrandyte Opp Shopping

I had a day out with D yesterday. Our days out usually involve scenic drives, coffee and shopping--particularly Opp shops and Craft shops. Yesterday was no exception. After a successful visit to a favourite shoe factory outlet in Sydney Rd, we drove out to Warrandyte. Fish and chips for lunch and we were ready to browse. There are two very different Opp shops in Warrandyte. The Lions one on the main street--rather up-market--and the Rotary one further down the road--it's a jumble, but capable of some real bargains.

I had a particularly successful scrounge: Two good books from the Lions Opp shop:
  • "Spin Your Own Wool and Dye It and Weave It" by Molly Duncan
  • "Teach Yourself Quilting" by Janet Wickell

Both good overviews of their respective crafts, with lots of pictures. Molly Duncan's includes diagrams for making your own Inkle loom. That was enough to justify my $4 investment.

And another $4 investment at the Rotary Opp shop scored me a salad spinner. I've been looking for one to spin out skeins of wool after I've washed them. My new front loading washing machine has a fixed spin cycle, so I can't just toss in a skein for a quick spin for a few seconds. Besides, the tumbling action threatens to felt my skeins unless there's enough volume in the load to balance things out. So a salad spinner is just the thing.