Saturday, April 30, 2011

In Process

The merino is in process. Here's some of what is on my needles:There's another batch waiting to be spun up; a little stack of washed fleece on the table and about the same quantity on the drying rack. I'm deliberately working in small quantities and making decisions about the design as I go along. This is a piece for this year's Scarf Festival. The theme this year is "The Rhythm of Life". I figure life is unpredictable and you have to go with the flow, so that's how I'm working with the scarf.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Aaaah, Merino

I flicked out this merino to spin last night:So soft, so strong, so beautiful to hold. It's in the process of becoming a scarf, but just now it's sitting on my table in a pile of fluffy goodness.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Warm Fuzzy

I had no great expectations when I went out to check the mail yesterday afternoon. It was just one of those routine tasks as I was winding up for the day. There was only one envelope. It was a small one. The address was handwritten. I picked it up: thick and squishy. Excitement building! Inside was this: . . . and a handwritten letter from my friend T, aka Knitspingirl. She said she wanted to put a smile on my face. Well, you really did that my friend . . . and a warm glow in my heart. Thank you!

Acknowledgements: T tells me this was made by Julie from the Kyogle spinning group. That's all I know.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Yesterday was one of my awkward, anxious unhappy days. I woke at five in the middle of a bad dream and couldn't get back to sleep. I couldn't remember the details, but the feelings stayed with me. I spent a few hours in the studio in the morning, but couldn't get into the flow. The pin backs I needed to finish the felt badges I'd been making were nowhere to be found. The silk flower I'd been planning didn't work out as I'd hoped . . . I came in to the kitchen to make myself a cup of coffee to find a mouse--alive--trapped on my kitchen bench. The dogs went berserk. Moving out isn't an option so I dealt with it.

In the spirit of contrariness, I started this: Knitting with a cheap plastic string--actually out of the bottom drawer in the kitchen--is hard on the fingers. It isn't quite as stiff as the wire, but neither does it have any of the shiny allure to redeem it. No I wasn't torturing myself to expiate my sins. I want to see if I can make a texture plate from it. I hope the string is stiff enough to make an imprint on a stamp. I figure if I'm going to do small projects like cards and brooches I want to make sure that my textile preoccupation is right there, front and centre.

Today I'm off to St Kilda to watch a football game. Not my usual thing, but my friend R has joined a team and this is their first game. Thankfully I'll be getting there and back by public transport and if I time it right I should just miss the evening peak hour. So I can knit to my hearts content all the way there at at least some of the way back. And no, it won't be nasty plastic string. I'm going to find something lovely and soft to soothe my fingers and my nerves.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Autumn Sky

The mist cleared to give us a sky like this: It's amazing how much fun there is to be found in a playground by the beach when you're eight years old. Throwing rocks and shells in the water means learning to let go at the right time so they don't flip up and end up behind you. Throwing sand is no-no. Playing tiggy means convincing adults to run on the sand--amazing how powerful the words, "you're it" can be! Then every new playground has its own wonders. This one features an itty bitty merry-go-round for one--like a circular scooter on a pole. That's it on the right edge of the pic. If you balance carefully you can share it with a new-found friend. The promise of an ice-cream eventually prised young S away from the beach. But then we found a new playground to explore near the milk bar. We had to ring her dad to see if we could stay for another hour. It was a good day.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Evening Amusement

Another day of crafting in the studio and weeding in the garden. It's unusual for me to make more than one of anything, so the cards, bookmarks and badges of the past few days have been a new experience. Of course they're all different, but the processes involved in each one are repetitive. It takes a bit of getting used to, and I'm not that fond of that aspect of it. On the other hand, making lots of similar things means I can try out many variations on a theme. When I make a bigger item there are so many choices and each option I choose effectively means saying "no" to the alternative. Making lots of little things means I can try out lots of options and see how it goes. I like that.

The weeding is varied in its own way--it's amazing how tenacious and tortuous my monster Kikuyu grass can be. I've disentangled most of the rose bushes from its strangling tentacles. As a reward there are a couple of roses in little vases on my table. I've still got lots of digging to do to get rid of as much of the root system as possible before I add mulch.

After tea I was too tired to do much, but it was too early for bed. I decided to have a go at something I've been interested in for quite a while. Here it is.

A bead knitted from artistic wire. Yep, that's knitting! I have to tell you knitting wire is different. Not only managing the stiffness of the wire, but making sure I didn't drop the little spool it was wound on . . . I am happy with the result though. My crocheted sample was even harder to control. I've decided to call it "freeform".

Today is visiting day. I'm taking my friend R's niece to visit him. I haven't seen S since she came to stay at New Year's. It's been too long. It's misty right now, but the forecast is for a fine warm day and I've checked out a nice playground near the beach, just down the road from R's house. I'll wear my running shoes!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dragon Done

I happily finished the dragon hat last night. I'm particularly proud of the fact that once I'd finished the crochet, I actually got out the darning needle and little scissors and wove in the loose ends straight away--oh well, within an hour. That's pretty much straight away. All too often I nearly finish something and then it becomes an annoying chore rather than a happy completion. Here it is in all its spiky glory. Not exactly what I'd call life-like. In different colours it could just about be a rooster hat or some sort of weird flower, but the requester will know it's a blue dragon hat and that's the main thing. As for the technical details: I used my own handspun. The body of the hat is two thicknesses of a faux marle merino. The spikes are one thickness of the same with a hand-dyed english leicester. That gives a slightly darker colour and maybe a bit more strength to the sticking-out bits without putting the itchy wool anywhere near the wearer's sensitive skin. And I decided against using beading wire to finish it. My challenge was to make a self-supporting fabric and I've done it. All those close little double crochet stitches make a nice tight fabric.

For those who don't know my friends . . . the "dragon hat girl" is the older sister of the "eyeball hat girl". With a pair like this anything could happen!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

A Crafting Day

Yesterday I spent several hours in the studio making greeting cards. I've agreed to do a market next Sunday. It's at Sussex Neighbourhood House,11 am -3 pm. I'd love to see you there if you have a chance to drop in. I love the concept: the various art and craft teachers and other artisans associated with the house are putting it on. A percentage of proceeds will be donated to the house, but it's also a great chance to get to know each other and our community better. Of course when I agreed to participate the concept was the thing and the event was weeks away. Now all of a sudden it's next week and I need to make sure I'm ready. As for the greeting cards, I realised that most of the things I have for sale are probably at the top end of what people might spend in this sort of setting. By the time I design, spin, dye and then knit, crochet or weave my creations I've made a considerable investment. That's fine and I'm happy with what I do. But for a community market I need to pitch some of my sales to a smaller outlay. Enter the greeting card. Also the bookmark and the badge. Small, affordable treasures of craft.

After several hours of choosing, cutting, gluing, stamping and stitching I switched my focus to a serious bout of weeding. Doing battle with the Kikuyu grass has almost a mythical quality, though the dirt and sweat are real enough. I ran out of steam at about the same time as the day ran out of light.

I was surprised to find I had the energy for a bit more creativity after tea. Heading out to the studio for supplies felt like too much effort. I raided the kids' craft box for some basic materials. One of the assignments for our Drawing class is to make a textile piece based on drawings of "luscious fruit". Hence the various reference to produce of different kinds in my blog lately. Last night I focussed on some sweet chilli peppers. The process of dissecting and drawing reminded me of zoology and anatomy classes at Uni, but the images and smells were much more palatable!

Today looks like being a lot like yesterday. I'm going to focus on bookmarks first. Then more gardening and general tidying up. I will have to make a trip to the shops to top up my supplies.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Small Sweet Things

Perfect Easter weather: blue sky, sunshine and just a little nip of cold in the air. Yesterday I wore this little "hug" around my neck. I was amazed how much warmth it added to my t-shirt and 3/4 length jeans outfit. It's a little sweetie I made out of leftovers from a dyeing exercise: handspun merino ranging from magenta through cyan. I'm more or less sticking to my low-calorie sweets plan for Easter. I've decided that hot-cross buns for breakfast are exempt.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Easter Preparation

After spending several hours yesterday morning sorting paperwork--not my favourite activity--I felt I deserved a reward. Heading to one of the big shopping centres seemed to be a good plan. Unfortunately there were roadworks which made the journey painfully slow. By the time I arrived I was well and truly ready for a treat. I'd promised myself an ice cream: chocolate, pistachio and cherry in a cup, thank you very much! Then it was time to browse the craft superstore. This book was on the clearance table. Now it's on my desk. Perfect! Low calorie treats for the Easter holidays and I'm sure I have most of the craft requirements in my collection. If not I can improvise.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Domestic Dragons

Sometimes I do requests . . . This one is a dragon hat requested by a young friend who loves all things blue, hence a blue dragon hat. I've been thinking about it for months and finally put crochet hook to wool on the project last week. Number one challenge was to construct a hat base strong enough to support the dragon accouterments and yet comfortable enough to be easily worn. A dense wool crochet fabric seems to have done the trick. Having taken care of the base, it's time to add the spiky bits. When I've done the last row in wool, I'll decide whether to do a row in wool and beading wire to make sure everything sits up nicely as it should. It would be sad to have a floppy dragon.

Meanwhile I have a burgeoning weed patch where the rose garden is supposed to be and the dust bunnies are celebrating Easter early and running all over the house. There's also a backlog of bills to be sorted. I'll have to put on my mental armour and do battle with these domestic dragons to regain some peace of mind for the holidays.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Silk Simmer Sauce

With two Fridays off from TAFE and a few Monday mornings off from the Neighbourhood House for Easter, yesterday morning really felt like a holiday. Not that I don't have projects on the go and a long list of chores backed up for the break, but there was time to kick off a few experiments. Here's one: It's a strip of knitted wool-silk simmering away in an enamel pot on my stove. I've been observing how shibori dyeing on knitted wool can bring in some coincidental light felting to make a marvelous structure. I wanted to see how the First Editions wool-silk blend would stand up in the pot. The colour isn't actually part of the experiment, in this case it has come out of the sample--twenty minutes of steady simmering is not recommended care for most luxury fibres! The results are good or not so good depending on your point of view--no felting. That was despite the prolonged simmering followed by a shock of cold water when I tossed the piece into the sink. Good to know when I'm washing that particular fibre, but I guess I'll put something else at the top of the list of things I hope to felt easily.

Monday, April 18, 2011


One more snippet from the show . . .

I stopped and played with an "embellisher". It's a motorised needle felting machine. I've done very little needle felting: mainly one painful panel a few years ago as part of a group entry for the Bendigo Sheep and Wool show. If only we'd had use of a machine like this!
I had a bit of fun with some wool tops and thick and thin singles. My only disappointment was the evidence of the mechanical needles in the cloth, but I think they could be disguised easily enough. Then of course there the little issue of a price tag . . . and I'd need to find more space on my workbench. Here's my plan. I'm going to try to forget about it for the next couple of months. If I'm still lusting after it by the time my birthday comes around in July, I'll see if I can fit it into my workspace and my budget. Meanwhile I might see about a bit more needle-felting by hand.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I'd already had my share of unexpected generosity yesterday. My friend V rang to invite me to the Australian Quilt Convention. She was working on a stall in the afternoon and had a spare ticket. My first impulse was to just enjoy looking at everything, since I hadn't budgeted on a visit to the show. I'm afraid that impulse didn't last very long.

I hadn't realised how popular Japanese fabrics and techniques have become in the quilting world. Just at the moment my interest is focussed on things Japanese for several reasons. One being a presentation on Indigo Dyed Shibori which I'm working on for my course. Most of the stalls had Japanese printed cottons, but one had just the hand-dyed samples I wanted. Another stall was selling vintage kimono fabrics. I did my usual thing and asked lots of questions. They had shibori--yes--indigo dyed--yes, cotton--no. This was silk on the bolt. What was the minimum cut? Half a metre. I didn't get as far as finding out the price per meter. I'm guessing that my face gave away my anticipation of what the price might be. When I explained that I was looking for a sample for my class presentation out came the big scissors and I found myself clutching this amazing gift: Here's a close-up:
I can't get over how the silk holds the memory of all those little stitches. And I can't get over how someone would give a piece of lovely fabric away to a perfect stranger. Thanks!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Change of Plan

The phone rang a few minutes ago. It was my friend V. "Did you get my message?", she asked. "Oh, what message?" I replied. Her voice sounded happy, so I over-ruled the anxiety that might arise from an early phone call. "I've got two tickets to AQC. Do you want to come?" AQC is the Australian Quilt Convention: the best of the country's quilts coupled with a hall full of glorious stalls. I had been suffering from a bad dose of protestant work ethic with a sprinkling of puritanical abstinence and had decided not to indulge myself in this fibery extravaganza. But all it took was a pleasant invitation to change my mind. Another cup of coffee, my most comfortable shoes and a nice big carry bag and I'm off to have fun. As for the phone: I checked again and there's no message. I've checked and double checked the pic and there's no reason for it to be displayed on its side, other than sheer contrariness on the part of blogger, but on a morning when my plans have been happily turned on their side, I'm not going to complain.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Exotic Fruit

Late in the afternoon last Friday we received homework instructions from our Drawing teacher. "Bring some fruit". Our next task involves planning a textile piece featuring fruit. I went shopping with new eyes. I only had time to go to my regular supermarket, but I found this: It's a dragon fruit. To me it looks like some sort of crazy fish, so I've popped it into a glass bowl to take a photo. I also picked up a few more regular pieces: an apple and a pear. And some more capsicums like the ones I cut up for dinner the other day. It will be fun to see what happens next.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Back in my primary school days a "composition" was a piece of writing, carefully written out by hand. At some stage "compositions" became "essays". Later still "assignments" took over. Lately "composition" has come back into my life. This time as a design principle. Rather than arranging words on a page, I find myself arranging things, playing with colour and balance. Last night I cooked dinner. My friend L was coming over to work on a quilt with me. It would have been funny to watch. My kitchen activities were punctuated by dashes to get the camera as I investigated the shapes and colours of my ingredients before cutting them up. One of the things I'm enjoying about my Textile Art course is that it's a doing course. There seems to be very little writing for its own sake. So, no essays here. I'm off to do a little sketch before I get on with the morning's chores.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Drawing Things

We have two new subjects at TAFE: history and drawing. And we have a couple of weeks holiday coming up. The two subjects are organised very differently. For history we have half a dozen different assignments with dates and facts and details to be researched and absorbed. When I asked the drawing teacher what we should do for homework her answer was very simple, "just draw". So far I've had a go at a few reels of cotton on a bench in my studio and last night, a little vase. If I need a bigger challenge later on I thought I might have a go at this: My mandolin has been sitting in its case neglected since my first flush of enthusiasm last year. I still have hopes of learning to play it, but meanwhile I could see how I go with a pencil and paper.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What Next?

Here's a wider view of yesterday's quilt. I've been thinking about what I'd like to do with it. I love the way that leaving a piece out on display helps me to make decisions. I spent some time yesterday searching for images of Flannel flowers. I've had a long term desire to stitch this flower--this might be my chance. Now I need to decide on proportions and techniques. At this stage of a quilt's life I would normally limit myself to quilting stitches, but I want to add some colour here and I'm not sure that I can manage that without some embroidery . . . I guess I'll have to see how I go.

Monday, April 11, 2011


This little house is part of a UFO. I started the quilt maybe ten years ago and have worked on it on and off --mainly off recently. When I last put it away I only had some quilting to do in the border and then the binding to declare it done. I had a good look at it yesterday. There are a lot of things I like, but overall I'm not quite satisfied. My task yesterday was to illustrate the basic elements and principles of design for one of my Textile Art subjects. I guess that gave me a new point of view. For one, I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed the little stitched details like the chimney of the settler's hut and the wobbly windmill. I also found I had more ideas about how I might tweak the design to make it work better. One idea involves more embroidered details in the foreground. For now I'm leaving this hanging in the living room. Then it will either go back in the bag and remain a UFO, or it will get another chance--just as well I have a couple of weeks holidays coming up.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


These little wristies were a quick make yesterday. Just the thing for a day when I was fighting off a virus and wasn't in the mood for sustained concentration. They'll be on their way to Queensland as soon as I've made the hat to go with them. Queensland? Isn't that the land of blue skies and sunshine? Well, yes, but it can be very cold on a railway platform at around dawn when you're on your way to school in a uniform designed for the middle of the day. Believe me, I've done it. A lot of things have changed since I was a school girl, but the temperature of a railway platform and the inadequacies of school uniforms are not among those things. My informant, and requester of the wristies is fifteen year-old E. She did also let me know that she considers these a fashion accessory and will wear them whether or not it's cold. To prove that point she gave me a run down of some of the responses she's had to her eyeball hat which she received in the height of summer. The common factor seems to be a double take! The little kids stare, her peers think it's either cool or gross. It seems that any response is a good response.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First "Piece"

There's that moment of anxiety and excitement in any new endeavor when you declare your first "piece" to be complete and ready for public scrutiny--whether it be a student concert for a musician, or in my case a piece of stitching for my Textile Art course. Yesterday was assessment day for our Colour Theory subject. Our brief was to take a saying or situation that expresses emotion and translate that into a piece featuring colour and line. This represents the saying, "A change is as good as a holiday". There were lots of things that made me happy--particularly after weeks of little colour exercises and stitch samplers. The little coloured curls in the top right hand corner make me smile every time I see them. A moment of completion carries a challenge and hope for "next time". I'd like to challenge myself to be a little more adventurous. I'd also like to learn more about finishing a presenting a textile piece like this. Maybe there's a short course in framing coming up for me . . .

Friday, April 8, 2011

Colour Again

My Colour Theory folio is due in today. I spent some time yesterday tidying up all the little tasks we'd been given during the term. Thankfully it was only tidying up--I'd actually managed to stay pretty much up to date as we went along--yay! One exercise which we'd only spent a few minutes on caught my eye. The teacher handed out little squares of fabric and asked us to design a colour scheme to suit. The colour didn't impress me any--a warm neutral brown I guess you'd call it. The resulting colour scheme wasn't anything to get excited about either. Then I remembered this: It's a wall hanging I made years ago--after an autumn trip to the Adelaide hills. And there it is, a warm neutral brown that makes me happy. So now there's one extra picture in my Colour Theory folder.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Knitting Away

I've been knitting away on this project for years now. It's a variegated wool-silk blend, plied with blue silk filament. I can date it as "pre-spinning certificate" by the way I've done the spinning. That means at least 2008. I put a lot more twist into my fine spinning now, but I like the yarn enough to persist with it. The yarn is so fine that I can knit away at it for half and hour or more and still not see any noticeable difference in the size of the ball. I had it as my "carry along" project for a while, but the yarn wasn't standing up too well to that treatment. Then it sat neglected for some time. Now I'm trying to do a little bit every morning. As for the photo being on its side, I'm sorry, it's just one of those blogger days.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Last time I mentioned my lump of clay homework, I'd just found my carving tools and spent several hours on the studio steps refining the shape. Here's how it looked at the end of that process. We had an impromptu mini-exhibition in class that week. We were all so excited about what we'd made that we pulled some cabinets and boxes out into the hallway to make a display. Then we stacked our pieces in the kiln room for firing. It's all a bit mysterious to this textiles woman, but last Friday I was still excited enough about my piece to visit the ceramics room again. I found that it had survived the first firing--apparently that's the test--now it's waiting for a second firing with sawdust, which will turn it black. I'll be back in the ceramics area this week, hopefully to take it home. I must remember to bring some suitable wrapping with me to keep it safe.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


I'm keen to get out to the studio where various creative tasks await me, but I have to wait. There's a frittata in the oven and a pot of sauce on the stove-top. Nothing spectacular, either of them, but a woman has to eat. If I wait for a moment of inspiration at about tea time I generally end up eating junk, as the time lag between the idea and the food appearing on my plate is significantly longer than my patience or hunger will allow. So I'm making a point of preparing some food now when I'm not hungry, but I have the time and energy to make the effort. I'm finding that theme playing out in various aspects of my life . . . it seems that everything needs a fair bit of maintenance to keep it going. Yesterday I taught a sewing class at one of the local Neighbourhood Houses. This bulb represents the inspiration of watching a new student get excited about possibilities. On the other hand, the reason I have it is much more prosaic. I need to buy replacement bulbs for a couple of machines where the light is burnt out. Thankfully with a new student, everything is new and exciting. Even opening up the machine for a desperately needed clean up and lubrication. Or, as it turns out replacing the light bulb. My challenge for today is to do the routine tasks and keep up the spark needed for creative work.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spinning for Pleasure

It's been too long since I did some regular spinning. On the back of my knitting efforts yesterday, I cleared off several bobbins. Next step was a good dose of spinning for pleasure. I'd picked up a bundle of hand-dyed wool-silk on a recent visit to the Guild. the visit was officially to the library, but there were some delays and I found myself in the Craft Outlet . . . you know how it goes. Good news, the fibre never made it into the "stash". Here it is spun and plied up with a strand of silk filament. I'm about to wash the skein and then it will be ready to knit. Since I turned on the heater for the first time yesterday, I figure it must be time for a new scrap of woolly comfort to wrap around my neck.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Knitting Again

It's great to be learning so many new things in my TAFE Textile Art course. The only down-side is the difficulty in finding time for the things I already know and love. I've had this knitting on the needles since last year:I used it for my Windows Frames installation in Sydney Rd. I spun and knitted it from some merino fleece which a friend had kept for years in her garden shed. The knitting is fluid and organic and incorporates knitted singles--unbalanced yarn with a tendency to twist on itself. Lately I've been playing with the idea of working it into a scarf under the theme, "Rhythm of Life". Yesterday I decided to finish the yarn I had already spun up and use what I've knitted as a sample for my new piece. Now it's been washed and dried overnight. That gives me a good idea of how the fabric is going to behave. It also gives me the opportunity to start some new spinning and knitting. I also have homework to do for two new teachers and assignments to finish for our first block of subjects which concluded last week, so I'd better get into my day. Just as well the end of daylight saving effectively gives me an extra hour.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sorting Cuteness

While my coffee brewed this morning I picked over my bowl of buttons. I found lots of groups, patterns, textures and contrasts.Some are speaking to me of garments needing practical embellishments--that's what buttons usually do--but others are speaking of greeting cards and stamp carving. Then there are possibilities for picking up texture from the different surfaces . . .

I can't spare the space to have them all set out on my benchtop, but I feel a bit more familiar with my new little collection and I think I'll challenge myself to use at least one button today. Meanwhile I need to load some washing in the machine, get the kitchen cleared up for a lunch guest and start on some weeding before the day is too far established.

Friday, April 1, 2011

More Cuteness

I made a trip to the Haberdashery Warehouse yesterday to buy some new quilt wadding. I have several quilt projects on the go at the moment and I my supplies are all used up. I decided to allow myself just a little leeway to buy some pretty bits and pieces while I was there. The button packs were on the counter: a big bag for $5. Here's what I got I've already fished out a small bag of gold buttons--not my favourites--and my cute collection is sitting in a glass bowl on my bench. I must find a container for them soon, but for now I'm just happy to walk past and pick over them every now and then.