Wednesday, June 29, 2011


After a depressingly cold week of the winter solstice, we've had a couple of sunny warmer days here. At least they're sunny and warm after the fog has cleared. I dropped in to a friend's house yesterday and noticed nasturtiums growing in the front garden. I asked for a couple to brighten up my place.
Mission accomplished--a nice little bit of visual warmth added to my kitchen! And I was a good girl and had a go at drawing them too. I might even have another go today.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I picked up this seed pod a few weeks ago. I thought I would draw it, but it hasn't happened yet. Meanwhile it's shed all its seeds. Now that it's empty I can admire the textures of the inside.
Personal challenge: to learn to look with a pencil and paper, not just with my eyes or my camera lens. Why don't I brew another coffee and work on that right now!

Monday, June 27, 2011

It's Back

Amongst other things on Friday I had my feedback interview with one of the teachers from earlier in the term. He was responsible for our clay homework. There had been some delays--due to circumstances beyond our control--but at last my clay piece had been fired again and was ready to take home.

I'm not sure how I feel about the black version--it's like a piece of charcoal in a way and seems very fragile. For now I'll try to find a safe place so I can look at it.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Yesterday was the day for my long-planned trip to Ararat to see the Annemieke Mein exhibition at the Regional Gallery there. It was a beautiful day for a drive in the country. I had the company of my friend A and plenty of time to enjoy the journey. I'm glad I went, but I wasn't as thrilled with the work on display as I'd expected to be. Funnily enough, it was some of the more sketchy work, such as backgrounds or preliminary studies that meant more to me than the meticulously detailed renderings which are so famous.

It was probably just as well I was travelling with a friend, or I might never have made it to Ararat. There were so many trees and scenes along the way to capture my attention. Mostly I just looked. I did stop on the way home to take some shots of the bare trees in the Avenue of Honour at Bachus Marsh.

The Bendigo show is coming up--another opportunity for a drive in the country--but I may just take my camera for a drive one of these days with the intention of just taking some photos rather than actually getting anywhere.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


The moebius neck roll is done:

As far as my knitting goes, it was all done in stocking stitch, but with the cast-on edge in the middle, the knitting falls into two halves. The natural tendency of stocking stitch to curl in on itself gives this appearance where it's really the reverse side you're looking at. And yes, I had to test the geometry and walk my fingers around the single edge and the single plane just to prove to myself that it really is true. I'll definitely make another one--maybe even today!

And in school news, I survived my two "exit interviews" yesterday without feeling as though I need to exit the course. I'm promised that the coming semester is a lighter workload than the one I've just completed. My major challenge--apart from learning as much as I can--is to relax and enjoy the process a bit more. All tips gratefully accepted. Relaxing is not usually my strong point. Oh well, in the spirit of relaxation I'm going on a long country drive today with my friend A. There's a textile exhibition at a regional gallery and we're going to make the trek to Arrarat to see it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

This Goes with That

Remember this scarf from a month or so ago? I made myself a pair of little wristies to match.
Obviously I still need to weave in the loose ends. And just as obviously these are not heavy duty items of warmth. They're just for a bit of fun--a tiny scrap of woolly comfort and colour.

I've got a couple of interviews at TAFE today to wrap up the semester's work and I'm planning to go on the train, so the moebius will be finished today. If it works out as well as I hope, I'll be casting on another one straight away. As for doing extra homework in the holidays, so far I just haven't been up for it. I'll see how I feel after the weekend. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More Moebius

I've been knitting away at the Moebius neck roll. The more I knit, the more the interesting structure becomes apparent.

I also looked back over my blog and found that I'd promised myself a Moebius knit a year or so ago. The method of casting on a moebius I've used here results in a stocking stitch section above the cast on and a reverse stocking stitch below, though of course the twist turns it all around. I know there's at least one other cast on method floating around on the internet and I don't know if the result is the same--more exploring in my future after I've cast this one off.
By the way, I've finally switched to Blogger's new advanced editing tools. It gives me the option of large and extra-large pics like this. You can click on the picture if you want to see more detail. What do you think? Please let me know in the comments. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Moebius Magic

I have been fascinated by the work of MC Escher since I was a child. His incredibly accurate depiction of geometric impossibilities still entrances me. Some of his designs are optical illusions, but the Moebius strip is an amazingly mathematical reality: a continuous plane with only one edge. You can see the ants in the picture can just keep walking for ever and ever.
You can make a moebius strip out of a strip of paper by giving one of the short edges a half twist and attaching it to the other short edge. 
I came to knitting as an adult and at some stage stumbled across the idea of moebius knitting. Using the strip of paper idea, you could knit a strip of knitting and then graft it to the twisted edge, right? But someone had to go one better. Various people have dreamt up ways of casting on stitches so as to make a moebius plane without any grafting. I loved the idea, but didn't get into working out how to do it. Then a few weeks ago my friend C came to me with a knitting puzzle. She'd bought a pattern for a Moebius wrap and it wasn't working the way she'd expected. I had another look at the geometry and studied her pattern. It wasn't a true moebius, just an interesting twisted loop. We puzzled over it for a while and then shelved the problem. Now it's holidays and I can finally get back to it. I found this Moebius cast on tutorial and started knitting. I can't wait for it to grow enough so I can cast it off and see what I've got. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Light(er) Reading

I handed in the timeline project on Friday. Yesterday I returned an incredibly heavy pile of world history books to the library. I then went over to the history section of the Non Fiction shelves and picked out a rather random selection for my holiday reading. I started one last night, "The Untold History of the Potato". I like reading biographies. This one is billed, "the spud now has the biography it deserves". So far so good.
I still feel as though my knowledge of history is barely a few millimeters deep, so I guess the plan is just to dig a few holes here and there. I'll be doing that for the rest of my life and I won't be surprised if the more I learn, the more ignorant I feel. That's the way it is with most areas of knowledge.

Monday, June 20, 2011


I'm working back through the textile history talks given by my fellow students for ideas and inspiration. I'm going to do some machine embroidery in the holidays to try to get some skills established. D gave a talk on Islamic Art--lots of complex curves and embellishments. On the other hand I picked up this gum leaf:

I love the simple elegance of the curve and the contrast of the reddish edge with the grey-green of the leaf, so I've noted it down as an idea.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

As Promised

Young R had her birthday in January. Not so young I guess as she's now old enough to drive. Anyway, she requested a Caramelised-Garlic Tart as a celebratory meal. It's taken this long for us to get to it. Forget any stereotypes you might have about young people and fast food. This recipe was full of richness and flavour.
R's Mum--my friend W--had prepared the pastry case. When I arrived we each took our knife, chopping board and head of garlic and started peeling garlic cloves. Yep that's three heads of garlic to flavour this tart. The garlic cloves were then blanched, fried in olive oil and simmered with balsamic vinegar and sugar until they were tender and covered in sauce. Add two types of goats cheese, two varieties of rich cream and a couple of free-range eggs and you have the makings of a delicious custardy tart filling. It was good. We won't talk about calories or cholesterol counts, just focus on flavour and texture and richness . . . 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Change of Pace

This first semester of my Textile Art course has been more demanding than I expected. Yesterday was the last official day of term, though I do have to go in next week--"catch up week" it's called. My essential "catch up" last night was catching up with myself! I picked up this book from the library. It's "Ruth", by one of my favourite authors, Elizabeth Gaskell.

I sat down in the armchair with it in front of the heater until it was late enough to go to bed. I must admit though, that on the strength of my just completed "drawing" and "history" subjects, I did a quick spot of research on Frederick Walker, the painter of the cover picture and placed the story on a mental timeline before tucking myself into the novel for a few hours of relaxation.

Friday, June 17, 2011

That's It

It's done!
I stitched the last stitch--including some thorns as requested--I added the hand-dyed border and I've wrapped and pinned it around the canvas. On my way home yesterday I stopped to buy a staple gun. I thought I could borrow one, but let's face it, this won't be the only time I need one. So that's one more bit of equipment in my collection and one more assignment finished.

The binder cover featuring my tree is also finished, but it's still too dark to take a photo this morning and I need to pack my bag, make and eat some toast and catch the train to school. Today is a mega "show and tell" at the beginning of our history lesson, so I'll pack my camera and then I can post that tomorrow.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Juicy Fruit

Here's a close-up shot of the blackberry fruits:
They look good enough to eat, really. It was the silk thread for the blackberries that lured me into really working on this piece. I can't say I was all that enthusiastic about it before. And then I went totally crazy with all those french knots and tiny little buttonhole stitches. Oh well. I've shown it to a couple of friends who pointed out the absence of thorns--I'll see what I can do about that once I've stitched on a border and done a general tidy up. Then the whole thing will need pressing, but without flattening out those juicy berries. I think I'll need help and the use of a staple gun to get it onto the prescribed 25 cm square canvas.
In other news, I've printed out my "history of the world timeline". Reading back over the instructions, I could have pretty much lifted a timeline from somewhere or other. The trouble is I felt so ignorant about world history, that I doubt I could have selected and edited it appropriately. As it is, the project's done and I've learned a lot, though I still feel profoundly ignorant and somewhat overwhelmed by the whole exercise. Maybe that's just the nature of world history . . .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Having said that I wouldn't and couldn't spin any new embroidery thread for my blackberry design, I succumbed to the temptation of a little bag of hand-dyed silk top. The green is a better fit for the fabric I'd already used for the leaves. I've been binding the silk stems I'd already laid down for the leaves, using buttonhole stitch, twisting and turning the resulting line to resemble a lively vine. It's subtle, but adds a dimension to what could otherwise be quite a static design.

Meanwhile I'm thinking about how to frame the formal part of the piece. I've got a few centimetres all round to play with. I'm wondering about using a twisted gavanised wire. Would you believe, I have some in my fibre collection . . . I'm imagining the young girl who belongs to the colouring book, growing up in rural South Australia at the turn of the Century. Life surely had its hardships and she was to live through two world wars. I thought about barbed wire, but apart from the practicalities, I think that might be just a bit too harsh.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

No, No and Yes

After settling the blackberry leaves into place yesterday I went searching for suitable fibre to stitch the stems. I picked out a couple of handspun wool yarns from my collection. Unfortunately they were both Navajo plied, which is probably part of why they called me--that rounded and slightly irregular look--but they were too thick for the task and Navaho plied yarn can't be unravelled, so I set those aside. Then I found a little bag of handspun silk threads which I'd made for a experimental piece. I'd designed them as embroidery threads and fortuitously they were in shades of purples and greens. Ah ha! Just the thing for some nice textured blackberries. There's always a catch--in this case it's the fact that I have very limited quantities of these threads. They're just leftovers from another project and I won't have time to make any more--even if I could come close to matching colours. So I'm carefully working across the design: dividing my threads in half and stitching from side to side so that whatever I manage will be evenly distributed. Then I'll see how far I get and sort out the rest accordingly.

Monday, June 13, 2011


OK, the term is nearly over and I'm looking forward to not using the word, "homework" for a while. I'm working on my last stitching task for my history subject. This task came via one of the students. She brought in an old drawing book which belonged to her great-aunt Clara. It was published by the Adelaide Education Department in 1899--so definitely historical material. We were each allocated one of the drawings to interpret and stitch. Mine is a blackberry.The colouring in the book was extremely careful, delicate and restrained. I'm having a bit of a dilemma with my interpretation. The pieces are to be displayed as a group and most of my collegues have gone with the old-fashioned pretty look. My feeling about blackberries is that they are vigorous plants with a strong tendency to break bounds. How to respect the character of the plant and yet harmonise with the group? I've started by using a green crinkle cotton for the leaves. I've vliesofixed two layers of fabric and blanket stitched around each leaf. That allows me to layer the leaves and they can move relative to each other and pop out of the page to some extent. My next decision is the stalks. I'm thinking of twisting up some of my handspun--if I can find the right greens. I can couch it down and hopefully add some thorns either in the texture of the yarn itself or with my couching stitches. I have various thoughts for the blackberries: maybe a combination of french knots and seed beads? Then there's the border. Several of the pictures have this clear outline. I'd like to see if I can send some tendrils over the fence! I think I'd better wait until the rest is done though before I try that. Already the design is feeling a bit crowded--hemmed in--so I may need to enlarge the design area to contain it. I've got a little bit of room to play with.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lost and Found

I spent the day at Woodend yesterday with my friend L. We were both tired and needing a break and there's nothing like getting away from home to give a bit of perspective. The main attraction was a viewing of the short film by Shaun Tan, "The Lost Thing" as part of the Woodend Winter Arts Festival. Shaun Tan was there for a discussion about his work in general and the film in particular.Apart from my sheer enjoyment of the work--we watched it in class a few weeks ago, but an extra viewing just reveals more delightful details--I found it really helpful to get some glimpses into Shaun's work practice and his philosophy.

Add to the mix a delightful--and enormous--lunch at one of the many, crowded eateries and some wandering around in the winter air and you have a good prescription for a bit of recovery. I also came home with a collection of autumn leaves which I may or may not sketch today.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tired and Grumpy

Yesterday was one of those "wrong side of the tapestry" days when things felt tangled and out of control. It was the last day of classes before the end of semester--next week is given over to assessment. I'd been out on Thursday night to a meeting at the Neighbourhood House in support of our new building needs. That made two nights out in a row and I just don't do late nights these days. That is, I do them and then have difficulty regaining my equilibrium. In both our classes it felt as though the amount of assessable work was increasing at the last minute. And it seems I wasn't the only over tired and stressed student, so there was a bit of snipping and snapping across the group--not good for anybody's peace of mind.
Thankfully I could still hear a rational voice in my head reassuring me that I've done more than enough work to get through the subjects; that the paperwork wasn't going to drown me; that we're all human and doing our best in our own flawed ways . . . That wise voice also told me to go straight to bed when I got home and to resist the urge to plunge into a flurry of anxious late night attempts to do more and more and more. I listened. I went to bed. I'm still tired, but it will be ok. I'm off to see a short film and visit a drawing exhibition with a good friend this morning. Hopefully that too will add some strength and perspective to the mix.

Friday, June 10, 2011


I've been finishing things off ready to hand in for assessment this week. This little t-shirt was actually done for Reconciliation week a couple of weeks ago, but I hadn't got around to taking the pic. It's a response to one of the talks we've been having in class. For each talk we're asked to make a textile response. A. spoke about Australian Indigineous dot-painting. The class got into quite a vigourous discussion about issues of cultural ownership and identity. "Sorry" was the best thing I could think to say.

As for the picture being on its side--it's one of those "blogger" days--what can I say? I tried twice to get it the right way around and that's it. It's time to pack my bag and head off to catch the train.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Old Friend

The story so far . . . just a week out from the end of term, my sewing machine is giving trouble and one of my final pieces is puckering out of control. What to do? First I pulled out my old faithful Singer sewing machine. I gave it a dust down and a test run. The good news: its stitch is still the most perfect stitch I've ever seen. The not so good news: the limitations of driving the machine with my right knee and the lack of alternative presser feet and stitches doesn't make for a quick change over. Even so, I was reassured that I have a good basic machine which I can always rely on.On the strength of that reassurance I was willing to part with my usual sewing machine and see what the mechanic could do for me. That was also good news. They had just cleared a backlog of work and could look at my machine as soon as I could get it to them. So yesterday turned out to be an out and about day. I took the Elna to Footscray to the sewing machine shop; had a coffee and read the paper while waiting for them to do their thing and learned a bit more about my machine along the way. There was a bit of stuff caught in the bobbin case which was neutralising the bobbin tension--hence my inability to properly balance the top tension--ah ha! Also the bobbin case needed some maintenance. While it was there the whole machine got a good clean, lubrication and tweaking. I'm looking forward to stitching with it.

In another unexpected turn of events, I went on from Footscray to Werribee where my friend R was playing a football game. I've never watched a football game before--what sort of Melbournian am I!--and the team had never won a game. I can't claim any responsibility, but I watched and they won! So that was my day. I had a my quilting class to teach in the evening. Now today I'll need to do some of the homework I didn't get to do yesterday.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Technical Troubles

Another homework day yesterday. I've been working on one of my assessment items for the Drawing class. We have to take one of our drawings and use it to design and make a binder cover. I've been working on this tree.Drawing-wise I'm happy enough with what I've done. I like the way the fabric and stitch have developed. But all that stitching has pulled in the fabric so there's no way it will lie flat now. Yesterday I made various attempts to fix it and found that my machine is not behaving very well. I can't get a good even tension on straight stitch no matter how much I fiddle with it. Drat! I think I'd better see if I can get my machine serviced--it's ten days until end of term when everything is due in, but there's not a lot of stitching left to do--other than this one piece. I'd planned to spend my break time teaching myself the basics of machine embroidery, so I really need my machine to run smoothly. Meanwhile I'll take this troublesome tree along to class and see what others have to say.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Pretty Things

Here are some of the pretty berries I picked up at Warrandyte on Sunday.Several of my fellow students have chosen topics for their History talks which involve stylised plants: things like Blackwork and Jacobean embroidery. I'm looking at plants now with a different eye. How to simplify the shapes, while keeping the essence of the thing? That is the question.

Now I still have work to do on my various assignments, so I'd better get on with it.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Good Things

I definitely needed cheering up after my long slow market day. As the morning went on I kept finding new sore muscles from my prolonged spinning efforts. That meant some quiet spinning at home was not a good option, even if I organised myself something more alluring than the plain white I'd worked on the previous day. The weather was perfect for a Melbourne winter's day and my friend M was available for lunch, so I drove out to Warrandyte to meet her. Sitting in the sun; watching and listening to a young classical guitarist; picking out a lovely leaf here and a bright berry there to catch with my camera--all good things to restore me. I did have a poke around a lovely gallery by the river and noticed some of their prices and display ideas to add to my store of knowledge for next time I contemplate a market stall, but mostly I focussed on other things.

I was home well before dark, thinking I'd done a good job of brightening my outlook and then I noticed this:It's a Silver Princess just starting to flower, but wait, that's my roofline you can see in the background. It's my Silver Princess gum tree and these are her first flowers. As you can see, I ran out with my camera. The flowers are quite high up, so this is as close as I could get without a ladder, but never fear, there are more fat buds full of coloured goodness lower in the tree. I have months of beauty waiting to develop in front of my window. As winter's just starting here, that's a very good thing.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Well . . .

What can I say to shed a positive light on my experience of the market yesterday? Or is that a positive spin? I spent the day spinning while sitting next to my stall. The spinning demo was quite popular. There were lots of kids interested in what I was doing and parents and other adults asking question and trying to figure out how it all works. I gave my contact details to a couple of knitters who might like to give spinning a try and I may get a call from a Textiles student who wants to interview a spinner. Also I got lots of my plain white tops spun and ready to ply. And I had plenty of time to think about what colour I might like to dye them.On the other hand the sales were painfully slow. My friend A and her partner M came to visit and encourage me. They even brought my favourite "take-away decaff latte with one sugar"! A bought one of my handspun wool rosettes and a couple of herb sachets. That was it for sales. My neighbour on one side seemed to be doing very well with quality prints, cards, badges and collages from her original art works. The potter on my right also had a slow day. I still think it's a lovely market. The building is glorious, full of light, with plenty of room to move around. The varous live music groups provided a lovely background throughout the day and some were good enough to make the trip worthwhile in their own right. I can't be at the July market as I've already planned a trip interstate. I've booked in for August--that's August the 6th--please come. I'll make an effort to improve some of my display and transport arrangements before that. Then I guess I'll see how it goes.

As for today, I'm going to take it easy and do some tidying up. I still have to unpack the car and my Saturday chores are untouched since I went straight from the market to visit my friend R at Werribee.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ready, Set, Go

Waking to the alarm two mornings in a row is not my idea of fun. I realise that there are lots and lots of people who do that every work day of the week, but not me. After a busy and fulfilling day at school yesterday, I'm off to the market today. Here's the pile of stuff to put in the car.As I was going to sleep last night I kept startling awake to remember one more thing to put on the pile. That's why it's looking so messy and as if it's about to fall over. I'll have to get another box for all the bits and pieces. The next step is to take various stuff out of the car to make room for the pile. When the car's all packed and ready it will be time to drive over to Spotswood. Hopefully at this early hour the traffic will be nice and light, but first, you guessed it, another cup of coffee!

Friday, June 3, 2011


I've been continuing to work on my various assignments for school this week and suddenly it's Friday again. In the little corners of time I've been working on a few bits for tomorrow's market. These little woolly rosettes have been a focus. They sold really well at the Mothers' Day market and they're quick and fun to make with leftover bits of handspun yarn in likely colours. I don't know if I'll get time to sew them to their pins before tomorrow, so I might just have to take the makings with me to the market. It's billed as an Artists' Market, so I'm going to assume that works in progress will be welcome. The bonus is that if I don't quite have enough of the fancy pins, then I can just attach the ones that are wanted and leave the rest until later.

I'm planning to catch the train again. That means more knitting. Last week I only just managed to catch the train, so I'm making sure I leave myself a bit more time today.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


I've been making a few pieces for my stall on Saturday. I have a good base still after the Mothers' Day Market at the Neighbourhood House, but I like to always have some recent pieces on a stall. It keeps me feeling fresh and engaged with the process. This one won't be on the stall. It's still in the development stage. A square of knitted wire, combined with knitted and crocheted wool-silk.Finishing off the wire is one challenge--I thought I might add some freshwater pearls at that point. Getting the balance right between the wire and the softer fibre is also on my mind. I think I'll try smaller needles for the wire as my next step. For now it's sitting on my kitchen table and available for contemplation. Meanwhile I've finished off a couple of pairs of more conventional wristies and another knitted neck roll in the same purple wool-silk and a matching handspun merino.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Farewell Fabric

My friend J from the Neighbourhood House is moving interstate. She came over for a visit yesterday afternoon. We decided to dye a shibori silk cloth together for J to take as a farewell gift. There's always an element of the unexpected with these cloths. Here's how J's turned out. Two sets of dyes, each in a rough "fan-fold" pattern; all in different tones of blues-purples. That was J's choice of colours by the way. We had a cuppa and a chat while the colour did its thing. In fact it's the biggest chat we've had in all our years of association at the Neighbourhood House. We'd never sat down together for more than a few minutes in all the bustle of what goes on there.