Sunday, July 31, 2011


One thing I hadn't expected to see at the Quilt Show was this:

A "Highly Commended" ribbon on a friend's quilt. Congratulations Jenny! I know how much work and love went into this quilt over many years. And the uncertainties involved at various stages, including the process of entering it into the show. How great to see that loving work acknowledged to some extent with an award. For me it's encouraging because I know that the effort went in entirely for the personal significance of the quilt. Entering it in the show was very much an afterthought. So this is a bonus.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Quilt Show

I'm off to the Quilt Show today. That's the big annual Craft and Quilt Fair. And one of my challenges will be to control my spending . . . 
Personally I would love to see more quilt shows distinct from the shopping frenzy that fills the hall of the convention centre every year. I would love a quiet space to enjoy the beauty of the textiles. I would like to be able to visit at different times without the need to pay a $16 entry fee. Unfortunately it's just not like that here. At the end of the day it all comes down to finances. Some-one is responsible for setting up this whole event and it's a package deal: money from the stall holders to display their wares; money from the craft enthusiasts to experience the event; sales for the stall holders to cover their overheads and hopefully in amongst it all promotion of the craft and its possibilities. Anyway, I'm going and I expect to see some great quilts, to be inspired and maybe to buy a little, but it doesn't stop me wishing things were different. 

Friday, July 29, 2011

Other Things

I spun a bobbin of big yarn yesterday:
There's 100 g of this now waiting for the dye-pot and another 100 g on the table waiting for me to spin it up. It doesn't take long. This is not the fine merino I usually spin, but more suitable for the chunky look. Hopefully it will take the dye well. I also did 100 g of the fine stuff a few days ago--that was many hours of concentrated spinning--so I'm building towards a dyeing day. It's been a while and I'm missing it. That's something to look forward to.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Way

I rang my friend Knitspin Girl last night to talk about knitted roses--what else! I told her I'd been knitting my roses by increasing every stitch in every second row, then arranging the resulting curly strip into a spiral flower shape. She said, "the only one I know is where you cast on a gazillion stitches and then decrease". My immediate thought was that would be more work than the method I'd been using, but you know how it is--I had to try it.

I cast on 130 stitches and decreased every stitch in every second row. It's a much looser result than I'd expected. I guess that's because of the way the ruffles form as stitches are decreased. I guess I could rearrange the petals a bit with the yarn ends.

Meanwhile, I've been tackling the weed invasion in the sunny breaks in the weather. I took another bootload of green waste to the tip yesterday. And I really should get out there again this morning.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Testing, Testing

I'm following the idea of making kits for the rose brooches, so I made a couple more to check the details. Here's how the knitting looks before I begin casting off.
My biggest challenge is presentation and packaging. It's the subtly varied handspun yarn that makes these special and unique, so somehow I need the yarn to be visible. I'd like to include a photo of the finished brooch--even though the real thing would be on display--but I think a colour photo would be confusing since there's no way I'll be matching the colours. And the knitting is Oh-so-simple! Do I need to include step by step photos? I'm wondering about linking to a tutorial on my blog page. That would mean working out how to add tutorials. I'm guessing there's an option for that somewhere . . . 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Winter Garden

I've been watching the weather forecast, looking for an opportunity to head out into the garden and continue my battle with the weeds. It's been raining this morning, but it looks like it may be clearing now. Meanwhile I've spent an easy half hour on another woolly rose. 
These ones don't need any weeding or feeding and they bloom in all weathers. What you can see in the pic is the newly knitted rose-to-be on the left. It's a strip of knitting with increases which make it curl and ruffle. To turn it into a flower like the one on the right, I need to wrap the strip in on itself, stitching as I go. I'm deliberately checking through the steps here because there's been a suggestion that I make up some kits to sell at the wool shop where they stock my handspun. So my next task is to see how much yarn each rose takes and then allow a bit extra just in case.

Monday, July 25, 2011


I'm taking some time out from the Textile Art course, and in the meantime am keen to develop some of my skills. Drawing is one.

When I think about the topics that interest me, people are right at the top of the list. I've been thinking a lot about masks lately. Yesterday I went back to the basics. I looked up the proportions and placement of features of a face. I copied out the relevant lesson and did a rough generic face in my book. And then, I had to test the theory. So I found a photo I've taken of E's face. It's not quite straight on, but hopefully good enough for the exercise. I printed it out in greyscale and covered it with a piece of tracing paper--well baking paper actually. It was raining and I didn't want to venture out to the studio. A quick tracing gave me the details I needed. I drew the face shape, transfered the placement of eyes, nose and mouth from the photo. It didn't look much like E by then, but it did look like a regular face and the proportions were right. So I've reinforced my learning a bit. This morning I've had a go at sketching from the photo. Well, that's more of a challenge. Again, it doesn't look like the real thing, but I'm learning as I go.

Meanwhile I've enrolled in a class at the Incinerator Arts Complex. It's an Introduction to Painting and Drawing and as a  bonus the materials are included. Of course I'm keen to buy more stuff! but I feel rather lost with all the different options available out there. I'm hoping that the opportunity to use materials in class and get a feel for what they do will make it easier to make good choices for myself.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Same, Same?

Here are two more rose brooches. I think I'll give them a rest for a while after this, but first I'll try to explain how one thing leads to another. 
It all started when R bought one of these at the Neighbourhood House market. She's been wearing it and liking it and her friends have noticed. I bumped into her at a local cafe where she was having lunch with a friend. She introduced me as the person who made her brooch--and she'd like another one to go on her red coat. Maybe a black one. Her friend would like one too, make that two of them. What colours? Cream and red. Now those are two of the most versatile colours on the planet, so I try to sharpen the request. The cream is not just an off white, but maybe a bit buttery. The red is fiery, not pink. Now I've got something to work on, but then R and her friend pull out their purses and want to give me money.  Now we're moving from creative challenge to business transaction. Meanwhile I have other friends arriving for a meeting--we're planning a celebration for the Neighbourhood House's 20th birthday and are working on displays of old photos. R and her friend each have two pre-schoolers who have finished eating and are starting to play. I've pulled out my laptop to review photos. L takes the money and I jot a note on a piece of scrap paper: three rose brooches--"black, cream-buttery, fire red". I wrap the money in the scrap of paper and give it to L for safe-keeping.

Now I've got rose brooches on my mind--so many possibilities. I try mixing some colours--what about different shapes--I need more of the pins to sew them on. I'm not sure about the plain black, so I try one with a bit of silver. Two weeks later there are a dozen on my table. I'm going to call it a day. As soon as I finish this post I'm going to ring R. I'll show her the options and let her choose three. Then I'll work out what to do next. There are more markets coming up and lots more colours to explore. But it's time to stop for a breath. 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Real Thing

After playing with woollen representations of this classic flower for the past few days, here's a real one to look at. 
I spent a couple of hours in the garden yesterday. I don't know what word to use to describe my activity. "Gardening" would imply that there's something of a collection of favoured plants. Well, there's this rose and my faithful Loraine Lee which always has a flower or two for me. Oh, and the grevilleas, but they're a bit overgrown at the moment. "Weeding" is more like it, but it doesn't seem a sufficient word for the magnitude of the challenge. Perhaps "digging" is a better word. Whatever word I use, there's plenty more to do. So I'd better get on with it. 

Friday, July 22, 2011

In Progress

I'm still working on rose brooches. This is one of the yarns I spun up in an attempt to make a creamy colour. It's a lovely yarn, but I wouldn't call it "cream"--more like a soft apricot. The orange comes through more strongly than I'd expected.
In this progress shot you can see how it looks as I begin to cast off the knitting. Increasing stitches on every second row makes the kniting want to ruffle or curl up. All I need to do to make the flower is arrange that curled strip the way I want it and stitch it into place. Then I can stitch it to the brooch pin and the job's done. There are versions of these flowers all over the place. What makes mine different is the yarns which I colour and spin myself. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I made three more of the woolly flower brooches.

As you can see, I'm still experimenting with different patterns. The one on the bottom left is my current favourite. It's done in crochet. I like the combination of semi-defined petals with the overal spiral effect. This burst of blooms was set off by a request for several of the knitted roses (top centre) and I have two more colours to do. I usually make these out of leftovers, but since I've had to mix and spin the colours to request, I've got enough to play with. I suspect I'll run out of enthusiasm before I run out of wool. Then it will be time to give them a rest and move on to something else.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pretty One

I spun up the creamy yarn destined for rose brooches. And I did make one of the knitted brooches as planned. Each brooch only takes a little bit of yarn, so I had some left over, and a bit of time for experimenting. Here's what happened:
I love the way crochet stitches give such a clear definition--especially knowing how incredibly soft this yarn is. I went ahead and made a purple one too, though, being me, the pattern is a little different each time. I've promised another three of the classic rose in different colours, and there's enough yarn to play with, so  I think there will be a few more variations before I get this particular bug out of my system. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

and Friends

I found a few more skeins to add to yesterday's collection:

There are some different tones and wool-silk combinations, but still clustered around the purple theme.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Mix It Up

Here are some of the yarns from the bobbin I snapped yesterday, along with a couple of friends. They're all based on the same hand-dyed purple merino.

  • Across the top is a navaho-plied yarn.
  • On the far right, a thick and thin--I expect the big fluffy bits will felt a little;
  • In the middle is a black-purple marle yarn;
  • On the far left a bit of core-spun yarn--I made a fine single and a thicker one and wrapped one around the other. I like the texture and it's reasonably stable.
What to do with this little collection? I'm thinking of a scarf knit longways of big needles.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Colour Cooincidence

I found this little collection on my table this morning: 
Okay, so it wasn't arranged just like that. The garlic bulb is still waiting for me to have a go at a colour sketch. The lavender sprig I picked up on my walk yesterday afternoon--I took advantage of a rare sunny afternoon to take the dogs out. And the bobbin of wool is some spinning: hand dyed merino in various textures which I was experimenting with last night. 

Saturday, July 16, 2011


I've been asked to make one of my rose brooches in cream. Cream is one of those difficult colours that can be interpreted in so many ways. And it's subtle, so not exactly something I'd like to try in my dye pot. One option of course is to just go for a natural wool colour, but my request is for something a little bit more than that. I've blended an unbleached wool with a faint dusky pink for my first attempt.

I'll spin that up today and see how it goes. I also have a hand-dyed golden yellow wool top. I'll blend that up in a similar way. I figure with the number of black wool coats I see around the place every day, a few light coloured roses will find a good home.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Around and Around

After my experiments with the mobeius a few weeks ago, I've gone back to making a simple neck roll. This one would be a plain cylinder, if it wasn't for the fact that it's done in stocking stitch. 
Stocking stitch has strong tendency to roll in on itself. Sometimes that tendency is a real nuisance. In these neck rolls, though, it creates interest and makes a simple knit into something between a scarf and a necklace. I like that. I'm thinking about taking it further and embellishing the bottom edge with beads and bits. To do that I would need to use a different stitch at the beginning because the stocking stitch roll is unpredictable and not a stable base. But for now I've achieved my mission of simplicity and warmth. Except, as usual I have the ends to weave in. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing

Here's how my desk looks this morning: 
And it's a reasonable indication of how I'm feeling. There are things piled up from last term's classes, pieces of fabric earmarked for future projects; invitations to interesting lectures and various other good things all in a heap. They need sorting. I need more space. And I need more time to take advantage of the opportunities around me. After a semester of my Textile Art course and a couple of weeks of so-called-holiday I'm still feeling overloaded. I'm looking at the possibility of taking some time off or taking fewer subjects next term. Unfortunately the week before classes start up again is also annual leave week for the teaching staff's, so there's no-one I can discuss it with until next week.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Promise of Spring

I mentioned a new lovely lace yarn in yesterday's post. Here it is:

It reminds me of spring and believe me, that is a good thing. It's winter in Melbourne and it's been a particularly cold and grey July. I know it's really cold and grey because even the people who have grown up in Melbourne are complaining. So the soft greens of spring with an occasional glint of sunshine is just what I need.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

So Many Choices

I received the gift of a lovely skein of lace weight yarn last week. It's a while since I did any lace knitting, so I turned to one of my stitch books for guidance:

I'm most drawn to the one on the bottom left: Flickering Flames. Sorry it's not that easy to see in the pic, which reminds me that the colour of yarn makes a big difference to how textured patterns show up.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Symbol Search

After my day in China-town the thought of cultural symbols stayed with me. I'm looking for an equivalent to the "auspicious" symbols of Chinese culture. Obviously in a different culture like ours, even the way symbols work in different, but nevertheless it's worth some thought.
Just to make things harder I decided to exclude obvious commercial symbols--MacDonalds and Coke are both out--and I don't think the classic Christian symbols are universal in Australian culture in general. So, suggestions please!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day in China-town

I spent most of the day yesterday at the Chinese-Australian museum in Chinatown. The first few hours was an embroidery workshop: the blue and white embroidery of Sichuan Province in south-west China. Here's what I made:

Yep, that's the total result of the workshop--at least in terms of embroidery. And these women made shirt cuffs, towels and sheets all intricately covered with designs. Add the pleasure of seeing a small, but significant collection of domestic textiles--all done in indigo-dyed thread on unbleached cotton backgrounds--and interesting interaction with the curator of the exhibition, Peg Fraser and you'll know the workshop was worthwhile. But wait, there's more! A couple more hours having another good look at some details, like the various depiction of lotus blossoms, and sketching them in my notebook. Lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant frequented by Chinese international students. A train ride there and back. And the prospect of dinner with my friend A. It was a good day. I came home with lots of questions and ideas.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Blue Brightness

I received this lovely card from a friend this week. The artist is Tina Mitchell from Canberra. I love the layers of colour and texture. The simple drawn lines produce an expressive face. And it's just FUN! Thank you my friend.

Now I'm off to an embroidery workshop for a few hours. Hopefully I'll have something to show for it in tomorrow's blog post.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Black and White

I picked up this postcard a while ago for the sheer beauty of the image. It's been hanging around on my table stimulating various thoughts. Now it's NAIDOC week--a week to focus on Indigenous people and their culture and I've got as far as reading the details on the card.

There's an exhibition of black and white photographs at a local gallery, focussing on Black-White relationships and perceptions. Sounds about right really. I'm going to make an effort to get there.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holiday Jobs

I'm challenging myself to do a little bit of drawing on my holidays. Nothing earth-shattering, but just getting used to seeing and depicting things. I had a go at this garlic yesterday. I hadn't realised how very lumpy-bumpy it really was until I picked up my pencil.

Now with the photo in front of me I'm struck by the pattern of lines on the skin--interesting. As for the colours, I've got my watercolour pencils out, so I guess the next step is blending those pinks and purples to see what I can see.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


So, I finished the second sock. 

Not only that, I wove in the loose ends and now I have a pair ready to wear. There are a few sloppy bits and I'm still not really consistent with my tension when knitting in the round, but I think I'll try knitting a pair with finer wool on smaller needles next. It will take me from the slouchy home-socks to the wearing out category. Or if they don't work out too well, from the slouchy 8-ply to the finer home-socks. Either way I'll learn something. I have the appropriate wool already, so what am I waiting for?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


I've been back to knitting socks in the last week. I'm still very much a beginner and I'm getting my head around the basic structure of this interesting animal.

This is about as simple as you can get: there's a leg and a foot at right angles to each other, and this amazing corner in between. OK, just for completeness you can tick off the rib band above and the toe off to the left that aren't shown in this picture. I'm keen to understand the structure as thoroughly as I can, because I have a feeling that I could build all sorts of interesting things using these ideas--I don't necessarily mean things that would fit on your foot. But for now I have another sock to finish--they generally hunt in pairs--and bits of housework to think of as well.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Blog Holiday

I've been away for a few days visiting with dear friends. I decided to keep my focus on the people and not worry about blogging for a few days.

This little creature is a recent addition to the family. He's not people, but he's incredibly cute. I was amazed how easily he wriggled his way into my affections.

Just to get that in perspective: I'm a dog lover and (physically) allergic to cats! I had to take regular antihistamines and asthma medications to tolerate the feline members of my friends' household.

Apart from enjoying the kitten, I did a bit of knitting, lots of sitting around and talking and took the newly 18-year old learner driver for her first lessons. And I was warm for a few days. Now I'm back in Melbourne and looking forward to a slower routine this week.