Thursday, December 31, 2009

And More Pink

I picked up this dressing gown at an Op Shop years ago:It's been in the stash, waiting for a suitable project. Like a lot of my stash, it's had various incarnations in my mind, which have not eventuated in real life. Now I'm planning to combine it with the pink corduroys I posted yesterday. That should still leave enough scraps for a pink chenille teddy, which was my original intention.

Yesterday I got as far as digging it out of the box where I'd stored it and giving it a good wash. Now it's clean and dry and ready to go, but it's going to take a bit of determination to make the first cut. Uh oh! --the more I think about it, the more reluctant I am to take the scissors to it.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pink, Pink, Pink!

I'm playing with the idea of a little girl's floor rug / quilt. I have some pink chenille as well as these corduroys: There are also some pink flannels looking for a home. I guess the different textures are part of the attraction. This pic was taken while I was asking myself whether the duller pink colour--at the top right--goes with the others. I think the answer is No!

The next question to answer is how hardy do I want this project to be? The corduroy will take a fair bit of punishment without complaining, whereas the flannel needs a bit more consideration. Then again distressed flannel does look pretty good. Hmmm . . . I'm not in a hurry so I'll just let those sit together until it becomes clearer.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


Simple, cute--and it works! This was a Christmas gift from my friend D. I've used it every day since Christmas morning. It keeps my yarn clean and flowing smoothly. It stops the ball of yarn taking unplanned journeys across the room. And I'm anticipating the extra bonus of keeping my knitting out of the jaws of my yarn-eating cleaning robot.

I'm also hoping to use it to help wind off my smaller cones of yarn when making a warp, or skeins for dyeing. The larger cones are nice and stable, but the smaller ones have a bad habit of falling down unexpectedly. All in all a very clever little gadget!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Colour Surprise

I love to ckeck out colour combinations in nature. There is no reference to colour theory and I'm continually surprised by what I find. Here's one from the garden at the cafe I visited on Christmas eve: Bright pink, orange-yellow and white--who would have thought? But it works. I have no idea of the name of the flower, but I've noted the colours for future reference.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


I flew up to visit good friends for Christmas. Due to an inevitable combination of circumstances I could only be there for three days: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. That could be recipe for a crazy few days. However, my friend Dee had the wisdom to schedule a few hours at a country garden cafe, Storeybrook Cottage. So on Christmas Eve, while the world went mad with shopping and preparations, we sat and sipped and nibbled and stitched and chatted.

The setting was beautiful, with lots of green gardens--they had rain recently--and quirky little touches like this:It was quiet and peaceful--just the thing for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Brew

It's Christmas already--since I'm heading off to Queensland for a few days today, the preparation time is practically over. I had grand plans for making things for my friends, but the reality has been rather more limited. What I did manage was a big batch of Christmas pot pourri. It's been fun watching people sniff appreciatively and try to work out the ingredients:
  • rose petals from my garden before the weeds took over
  • rosemary, also from my garden--it's the only plant that's really thriving at the moment
  • orange peel
  • lavender oil
  • cloves
  • cinnamon bark
  • green cardamom
  • star anise
  • oris root powder as a "fixative"

Sorry, the blog doesn't come with a smell widget, but try to imagine the scent in my sewing room where I've been assembling the sachets!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Santa's Sack

It's the time of year when we are regaled with stories and songs of an old man bearing a great sackful of treats for good little boys and girls. I don't claim to have been all that good this year, but this garbage bag full of goodness arrived at my house yesterday morning: It's a whole alpaca fleece from my friend R's farm. They did the shearing last weekend and she saved this one for me. I have yet to fully explore the contents. What I do know is that the fleece has been sorted: "rubbish", neck and saddle in separate bags. That's a great start. The "rubbish" can go on the compost heap and then I can clean and blend the saddle and neck fibre. Then comes the joy of spinning. I'm not even going to think about tackling it before Christmas, though. I have my own "santa sack" to fill before I head north for a few days with friends.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday Afternoon

Sunday afternoon: my friend R wanted to go to the Skate Park to try his new skateboard. L promised to meet us there--he was game to have a go on the old board. As for me, I got to sit in the sun and knit. When the boys had collected enough bruises for one afternoon we went off to Coburg to have something to eat. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dip Dye

Dip Dye seems to be all the range in fashion this season. With fabric the technique gives horizontal bands of colour. Used with yarn, it's another way of getting a variegated skein. I decided to have a go with a leftover bit of lace-weight yarn. It's been dangling in the dyepot for several days now. I've looped it over one of the handles to keep it in position. I heated up the pot a few days ago to set the colour, but then didn't get as far as rinsing it out. Now the colour has travelled a bit further, so today I'll cook it up again and see what I get. In case you're wondering about the pic: the autofocus on my camera has fixed on the reflection in the dyebath, so the skein itself is a bit fuzzy. Sorry about that, but hopefully you get the idea.

Here's a macro shot of the part of the skein that's not in the dyebath. You can see how the dye has been drawn up along some of the fibres. That's capillary action at work!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I had an unexpected visitor yesterday evening. It was R with a bagful of apricots from the tree in his garden. I happily accepted a bowlful: As you can see, they're not over-ripe. R suggested stewing them in the oven. That sounds like a plan, though I might use my slow cooker instead. I enjoyed the thought of R driving around the neighbourhood offering fruit to friends. There's a sense of community there.

Now this morning I'm thinking of the fruit in terms of colours. I can't say I selected the blue-rimmed bowl for artistic effect--it was just the first one that came to hand, but it works as a complementary-ish colour scheme. At least it would be complementary if the fruit were fully ripe, but what fascinates me is the gradations of colour in the fruit itself from quite a bright green through to a mellow orange. Hmmm, I wonder what I could do with that? Now that I've taken the photo, I don't have an excuse to delay dealing with the fruit. I know if I leave it in the bowl the colours will continue to develop in a fascinating way, I also know that I will lose my motivation and the rot will set in--literally! So, cutting up and stewing apricots is on the bonus "to do" list for this morning.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Waffle Weave

Kitchen towels are on the list of things to make this Christmas. So I bought a couple of metres of cotton waffle weave:
It's one of those clever textile things where form follows function. The outer edges of the little squares are the highest and the pattern sinks down towards the middle--in this case, the better to hold moisture, though the same effect in wool makes a lovely warm blanket, with these woven cells maximising the insulation. So it's functional as well as decorative. I'm adding a simple edging in quilting cotton to boost the decorative value. Come to think of it, that's functional too, since it strengthens the outer edge.

OK, time to stop thinking about it and get to cutting and stitching, there aren't many days left before Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Nearly Finished--Really Finished

I finally finished the Bushfire blanket yesterday:I know, I said it was just about finished months ago. I don't even want to look how long ago that was, but somehow finishing is not my biggest strength and it took until this week for me to get back to the last couple of steps. I made the second fringe and worked in the loose ends. Then my friend M came to pick it up. She's found the right home for it to go to. I'm glad of that.

Apart from my usual slowness in actually finishing things off, the other delaying factor has been the big table. Well, not the table itself, but all the stuff that accumulates on the table. I wanted to have the whole table top clear so I could spread out the blanket and make sure all the fringes were even. Now I have a beautiful big clear table to work on. I'm hoping I can keep it like that for a while.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ready to Spin

Putting my new Suzie together turned out to be quite a manageable task. Here she is, all ready to go: As veteran of many Ikea assemblies, I could certainly appreciate the difference between a bunch of parts, collected in a box and this wheel. Majacraft promise that each wheel has been fully assembled and tested before shipping. Having put my Suzie together, I believe them. Everything lined up beautifully.

Now, what to spin . . . well there are various requirements for my Spinnning Certificate folio on the "must do" list. Trouble is the list isn't really written. I need to sort out what I've done and what I still need to do . . . Meanwhile, there's a bit of merino left over from the wool-silk baby skein. I might just use that as a warm up. The forecast for today is 39, so I don't think it will be much of a spinning day. Maybe I'll just gloat for a while.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Share My Excitement

I ordered a new spinning wheel last week. It's a Suzie Pro by Majacraft--my dream wheel. I hadn't expected it to arrive until later in the week, if that. So I nearly jumped out of my chair when I saw the Australia Post van pull up yesterday morning. Out came this box:I didn't have the mental energy to put the wheel together yesterday, but I couldn't resist at least unpacking the parts. Now today I have various tasks to do, including the fringe on the bushfire blanket which has been all but finished for months now. I think I'll intersperse those tasks with the various steps of assembling my wheel. I'm hoping that will get me gently through the day with a smile on my face.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Robot Realities

OK, so we've established the fact that housework and I are not the best of friends. When I planned my floor project earlier this year, I factored in some help with cleaning. The great big vacuum cleaner I had was not really suitable for hard surfaces. After a fair bit of research and soul searching I ended up with a roomba, vacuum cleaning robot. As I say, I did my homework, so I knew there were limitations. The biggest limitation being that, though it does a great job of cleaning hard surfaces, the robot will not tidy and clear the room prior to cleaning. That's my job.

Yesterday was my day for cleaning up the living room. This is where a lot of my spinning, knitting and weaving happens, so there's lots of stuff. I spent several hours sorting and putting away stuff before pressing the "clean" button on the robot. I was especially careful about fibre, since the little machine can get itself badly tangled. It does have a sensor for things like carpet fringes, but it's not up to dealing with a whole ball of wool. Here's the proof:I had some knitting on the armchair. I thought it was out of reach of the robot. I was wrong. While I was in the sewing room, the roomba grabbed, not one, but two balls of wool and the attached knitting needle and proceeded to criss-cross the room in its programmed cleaning pattern. Eventually the brushes were so tangled that it stopped. Then came the alert signal which brought me to investigate. The blue wool you can see disappearing at the lower right of the picture was cleverly festooned around two legs of my dining table. The robot voice said, "Please clean roomba's brushes". I thought that was a reasonable request. I rescued my knitting needle and unwound several metres of wool--which by then was well mixed with dust and dog hair. That went in the bin. Then I put the roomba back on the floor and pressed "clean" again. Off it went as if nothing had happened. I'm glad to say the rest of the task was uneventful. After cleaning the rest of the room, my little robot docked itself for recharging and made its little happy chiming noise to let me know the job was done. OK, so housework and I are still not the best of friends; and I'm more aware than I was of the limitations of my little robot cleaner, but the living room is looking better than it has in a long time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Basics

Young friends of mine are planning to set up a home together in the next year. Last week I got a phone call from J, "Are you making things this Christmas? . . . What about pot mits?" Sounds like fun! It looks as though the two of them will be sharing cooking tasks. So yesterday I got started on a big manly pot holder. I finished it off this morning. Two thicknesses of 8-ply wool in double crochet. My major complaint about commercial pot holders is that they contain so many synthetic materials that they melt if they come anywhere near a flame. Wool on the other hand is fire retardant. And this is chunky enough to double as a place to rest a hot pot. Now I've got kitchen towels and bath mats on the list as well. Oh, I love it when I get simple requests!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Team Effort

I've been overwhelmed by house mess lately. It seems as though the everyday tasks that you'd expect to be straightforward are huge. Feeling paralysed and doing nothing just results in more mess--believe me, I've tried it! The other extreme of doing a blitz to get things under control takes more energy and determination than I can find right now. There has to be another way. So I've been trying to isolate small projects amongst the general chaos. I'm not even really prioritising, just pretty much picking a random task and getting it done. One such task is clean bedding for my dogs. As much as I love them, I cringe at the realisation that my whole house smells like an old kennel.

Last week I bought a few metres of calico and made up these bean bag cushions. I bought a bag of "beans" to fill them. I must be getting wise in my old age, because instead of attempting to fill the cushions by myself, I rang a friend. As it turns out one of my weaving buddies was here as well when V came over yesterday afternoon, so the three of us tackled the cushion filling task. With three pairs of hands on the job, we got these bags filled with only one or two stray bits of styrofoam reaching the floor--yay team!! Now to close off the gaps and make pretty covers. My plan is to make two sets of covers so I can easily wash and change them frequently. I'll see how I go with that.

Unfortunately the afternoon didn't end so happily, when my friend R went to go home, she found her car had been smashed--so badly that she couldn't drive it home. There was no note and none of my neighbours had seen or heard anything. So she spent several hours calling her insurance company, a panel beater and a tow truck before I drove her home. So this morning I woke to the satisfaction of the bean bag cushions and the disappointment of some-one's carelessness and lack of consideration. I'll try to hang on to the former and let go of the other . . .

Friday, December 11, 2009

Incidental Learning

I taught a couple of beginner Quilting classes at the Neighbourhood House this year. My friend L was one of the students. Since then she's ventured out on her own and is nearly up to binding her "Bugs in Bottles" quilt. Now binding is one of those 3-dimensional tasks that take a bit of mental gymnastics, so when I dropped in to the office yesterday we took the opportunity for bit of revision.

I tore binding strips from bits of scrap paper to demonstrate:
The top strip shows the bias seam which is used to join lengths of binding as inconspicuously as possible. The folded strip of paper hanging over the top of my notes is a double fold binding. Calculating the width of fabric to cut for these is tricky--you can see my diagram for calculating it--the formula is (3 x binding width plus allowance for quilt thickness) x 2. After snapping this photo with my phone, I left L with the bits of paper to fiddle with. I'll be keen to see how she gets on.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


I've been knitting a few face washers as part of my Christmas preparations. They're made with bamboo yarn and the knitting is pretty basic: When I was a new knitter and I heard of people knitting face washers, and even dishcloths, I was incredulous--all that effort! Now I realise how much delight they give my friends and I guess my knitting is quicker and easier than it was a few years ago. I'm willing to make the effort and look foward to the basic pleasure they will give. Face washers that is--I still can't come at knitting dishcloths.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pretty Baby

A friend of mine is anticipating the birth of her first grandchild. She's asked me to spin up this merino-silk blend to make a special cardi. As you can see, it's just about natural, except for the hints of colour in the random dyed silk.
Since it came as tops, it's spinning up quickly and easily and getting me back into rhythm before I look at some of the spinning challenges I still need to tackle for my Spinning Class folio. And no, don't mention the word procrastination . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


I've been knitting a bit with bamboo lately. The bamboo yarn comes wound on these cardboard tubes: So, I've had a steady trickle of cardboard tubes to dispose of . . .
  • the first couple went to amuse my friend A's bunny--she loves things she can chew: these she can chew and chase
  • the next few went to my friend L--she reckons they're just the thing to wrap itty bitty Christmas gifts
  • then several went to the Children's Centre at the Neighbourhood House--the kids can use them for constructing all sorts of wonderful things

Now I've got a few more. It's fun to think of the possiblilities.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Work of Art!

I spent a happy couple of hours sitting under a tree in Northcote with my friend M this weekend. It was definitely a slow food establishment. One crepe-making burner, one staff member and a limited range of coffee options, but the crepes were a work of art--worth waiting for in my opinion. And the presentation was lovely and loving:

This is the strawberry crepe we shared for dessert: fresh strawberries, chocolate sauce and cream. The venue has live music every night, so I'm guessing that Saturday afternoon is their slow time. They're gradually transforming the outside space from back-yard to "courtyard". I noticed some new garden beds since I was there last, but we still sat at a rickety table under a tree. Meanwhile my friends at Experimental Spinning were combining various fibres to make a chocolate themed batt, so I felt that I was participating in spirit, if not in person.

I've been doing a little bit of spinning and knitting each day and am starting to think about what next. Meanwhile, there's Christmas to work towards, with various bits of textiles to be incorporated into my gift-giving.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pottery Sale

Yesterday was a day for being social and gently thinking about Christmas shopping. I went to a pottery sale at Lynley Northcott's house. It was great to see her and her work in her home environment. And I will never again complain about the amount of stuff at my house--a potter's stuff is so much more bulky--and fragile. I'm glad I'm a textile artist. On the other hand, here's a pic of Lynley's kitchen floor:

The whole thing is one big mosaic. I love it! Great colours, it's inspiring and lively and functional and just Wow!

I bought a couple of little things and my friend M bought quite a few things. Then we went on to High St for Crepes and a sit in the shade. It was a good day.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Twist is what holds spun fibres together in a yarn. The finer the yarn, the more twist needed to keep it together. I've been back at my spinning wheel the past couple of days--it's been too long since I spent time regularly at the wheel. I'm working on a small amount of wool-silk blend. I'm aiming for something fine and strong enough to use for embroidery. Here's where I got to this morning:
If I can make yarn like that consistently today, I'll be a happy spinner. I may yet need a little more twist, since I'll lose some when I go to ply it.

Friday, December 4, 2009

White No More

Here's the silk ribbon I dyed this week: I mixed magenta with a variety of orange-reds and got this bright shade. I think I'll have to send it to D soon, since it's a perfect Christmas colour. I'm learning the differences between how this silk behaves in the dye pot compared to my wool. The colour is much more even than I expected, given the technique I used. I didn't mix the dyes at all, just put bits of colour directly into the pot. The differences in quantity take a bit of getting used to--the weight of all this silk is minimal compared to a skein of my wool. So the amount of dye I used was way too much and the rinsing took a long time and many changes of water. OK, as an experiment it has to be called a success since I've learned from it. As a final product it wants some adjusting.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Anyone for Tea?

Here's an unusual textile challenge--and rather more personal than what I usually post about. The background is that I'm well over my healthy weight range, and that hasn't changed for several years. One of the associated hassles is that my choice of suitable bras is pretty limited. I have a style which I've been wearing, and while I wouldn't call it a favourite, it works for me. Since my shape has hardly changed in the last year, I figured I could at least eliminate one of life's chores and buy more of the same. Now for the textile challenge . . . I can get the size and style I want, but only in white or purple. Neither colour looks good peeping out from the edge of a summer top, especially not when a lot of what I wear is basic black. Now what?

Well this is where the tea comes in:
I made up the strongest pot of tea you could imagine. Then I soaked my white bras in it. Now they are not white--they're a basic beige colour. That's a definite improvement. I've also bought a black textile ink to try on the purple ones. That's my next challenge.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


There's something particularly exciting about white: Here I have two widths of silk ribbon and a stranded silk yarn suitable for embroidery. Two of them I picked up at Beautiful Silks the other day, the third was already waiting for my attention. They're here for colour and testing. I get to do the dyeing and then my friend, D does the testing. She loves silk ribbon embroidery and I love colour. It's a good combination. So, here's the plan . . .
  • I need to find a way of securing each of these little packages of fibre so that they don't go berserk in the dyepot
  • They need a good soak to help the colour to penetrate properly
  • I need to find the right pot to dye them in, I think I can use the smaller of my two dyepots with as little water as possible
  • Meanwhile I'm desperately running around the colour wheel in my head--like the proverbial hamster--what colours shall I add?
  • I'm going to put the three different fibres in the same dyepot, then they'll easily work in together for whatever project D comes up with.
  • Rinsing and drying and then deciding whether to pop them in the mail, or have the pleasure of handing them over in person.

Right, I have a plan! As usual there's a small snag--yep, the kitchen sink. It's currently full of dirty dishes. Clear those and I'm on my way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Better Now!

"Venita on Cumberland", I love you! Coffee and cake; a comfy seat in the corner where I could relax and knit and even a big glass of fresh fruit juice to get me going for the day. Aaaaah! Now where was I? It's lunchtime already . . . never mind, the day's off to a good start.


I'm out of coffee! There is no coffee in the house in any shape, manner or form and I'm finding it hard to think of anything else. Physically I'm ok with it--I've hardly had any caffeine since I was sick last week and I've coped fine. Yesterday I ran out of real coffee and used decaff for my morning brew and that was fine too. I planned to top up my supplies at the supermarket on my way home, but forgot and then I just couldn't bring myself to go out again. I promised myself a stop at a local cafe on my way to the shops this morning. That's still the plan, but I'm dismayed at how much the lack of coffee is dominating my thinking. There are so many more important things in life; there are textile projects galore to think about, but no, my brain is fixed on what it can't have right now! I think I'm going to have to go with the reality of my fixation and make that cafe trip the priority for the morning. Then I'll think about my plans for the day.