Monday, October 31, 2011

By Design

Of course I had crochet flowers in mind when I dip dyed a variegated wool in landscape grevillea. I have a couple of variegated rose bushes in my front garden and they always make me smile.
I also had a go with the rose in a square pattern, but found that the bulky yarn there wasn't such a hit. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I had my dyepot going for my overdyeing experiments, so of course my mind got busy thinking about what else I could dye. I decided on a bit of dip-dyeing. 
There are two skeins here. The one on the right is just grevillea. The one on the left is a mixture of grevillea and kangaroo paw. The trick is to guesstimate how much dye I will need for the entire skein. I'm not dyeing to full strength so it's not an exact science. I give each section about ten minutes. As each section of wool takes up the dye it leaves that much less colour for the next section. Ideally by the end there's just a touch of colour left for the last section. I didn't get it quite right for either of these skeins, so there was a bit of fiddling with adding another skein to the pot to help exhaust the dye or adding a few more crumbs of dye powder to strengthen the brew, but in the end I got some convincing variation in colour. Now to see how they will work up. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Second Thoughts

I've had this small skein of orange yarn for quite a while. It was initially part of my attempt to blend up a creamy yarn for a special rose brooch. Carded together with a lot of white it gave me a nice apricot colour. On it's own it was definitely orange. I made one or two flowers out of the orange, but soon tired of it. And although it wasn't a big skein, it was more than what I wanted in that colour. I decided to overdye it. I saved just a bit for comparison. I figured moving towards the red would warm it up for me and make it a more generally appealing colour. How far to go? I decided on my cool primary red--magenta--the landscape dye is named "grevillea". Here's the result:

It's much closer to the dye colour than I'd expected, with some subtle variations. I'm still learning about how strongly different colours dominate others when mixed. I know red is quite strong compared to yellow, but I really expected this to come out closer to the warm red colour. Anyway, it's an attractive colour and much more usable than the orange, so I'm happy with it. 

Friday, October 28, 2011


I sometimes refer to one of my quilting students as "the queen of the unpicker". It's not that she makes any more mistakes than the rest of us, but when something goes wrong, she almost always says, "I'll unpick it". It doesn't seem to bother her. Maybe this is part of the reason why. 
I took the photo on my phone, so the focus isn't great, but see that clever gizmo she's holding? It's the sharpest, neatest little stitch ripper I ever saw. The point is fine, the blade is sharp and it folds back into the handle for safe and convenient storage. When I saw it again the other night I made a decision on the spot. I must have one of those! I made a special trip to my local Quilt Store yesterday. There they were on the counter. The colours weren't so neat as the one my student has, but who cares? I bought two: one for my sewing machine and one for my teaching kit. I'm happy to report that I didn't buy any extraneous fabric. Next time I make a mistake I hope to be able to say "I'll unpick it" in a bright and breezy tone of voice just like my student does.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I had to go into the city on the train yesterday. It's not a long trip, but by the time you add a few minutes waiting at the station and the possibility of delays, it's certainly too long a trip to go without a knitting project. I didn't have anything suitable on my needles. I did have enough time for a quick rummage through my odd balls box. There was a wool-silk blend from several years ago that I'd forgotten about. Now it looks like this:

These wristies are so solid that they stand alone! Yet the merino and silk fibre is kind on sensitive skin as well as being warm. And I defy any winter wind to cut its way through this fabric!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Soft and Warm

One of the knitting newsletters I follow featured brioche stitch yesterday. The concept intrigued me --what's not to like in the thought of a sweet soft, airy fabric--but I just couldn't figure out how to do the stitch from the instructions provided. I had a look around on the internet, but I was still stumped. On opening one of my favourite stitch dictionaries, I came across fisherman's rib. OK, fisherman's rib it is then. I had 25 grams of a hand-dyed baby yarn. I cast on 25 stitches and off I went.
I loved getting the effect of a rib stitch without the to-ing and fro-ing of alternating knits and purls. Admittedly the 25 grams didn't go very far, but it was enough for a little neck-warmer. This is breast cancer awareness week, so my choice of a soft pink was no accident.

And just for the sake of completeness and satisfaction--I did get back to the brioche stitch in the evening. I found this blog post which solved some of my puzzles. I now have a little sample of the brioche stitch. Frankly I can't see much difference between it and the fisherman's rib and the brioche is not as sweet to knit, but it does have some exciting possibilities which I'd like to explore some time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Yarn yarn

I wouldn't like to give the impression that my entire life is now devoted to the pursuit of crochet flowers, so here's something else I've been working on. It's a kid mohair yarn. I featured the spinning process a couple of weeks ago.

This macro shot shows it in all its lovely fluffiness. Given the incredibly cold weather we've been having lately, I could knit it up sooner rather than later. I think I'll keep it simple. There's not a lot of point working with fancy stitch patterns when the yarn itself has so much to say. Besides, my other current knitting project is lace. How simple is simple? Maybe even a plain garter stitch. I'll see how it looks when I cast it on.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bigger, Better?

My step by step exploration of flower possibilities continues. I wanted to try yesterday's rose pattern with a different yarn. That's it in the pic on the left. What about adding another row of petals?  Yes, that works. And finally I changed the stitch pattern to make the petals more rounded. There they are on the right hand side.
The next step would have been to try the extra row of petals with the rounded shape, but that was the end of the yellow variegated wool yarn. I had a blue version of this yarn, but I knitted it up into the "easy and blue" scarf last month. The trimmings I made are cute enough, but the triangle scarf is less than ideal. Maybe it's time to pull it out and turn it into flowers. And I think there's a red yarn in this family too. I'll have a hunt through my box today.

The weather in Melbourne is typical for spring--we had a warm sunny 27 degrees yesterday when I had a couple of social commitments and no time for my garden, while this morning I'm at home with a forecast maximum of 17 and grey drizzle. I think I'll keep my flower-making efforts indoors again.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Is a Rose?

After making dozens of my crochet flowers in the last few weeks, I've been looking for a bit of a change. And my most recent hand-dyed cotton yarn is a bit softer than the others I've been using. Whether it's the colour or the texture of the yarn I don't know, but I didn't like the effect as much. So I pulled out my "Harmony Guide to Crochet Stitches". There's a whole chapter of motifs. Amongst them I found a "rose square motif". I pulled out the rose and ommited the square. It looks like this:

I was happy enough with that to make another one. Now of course I want to know how this pattern would look in some of my other yarns--and what if I add another row of petals?--and so the story continues.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Testing, Testing

Another day of experimenting:

This is the same star, but made with fine mercerised crochet cotton and a teeny-tiny hook. For the one on the left I used a 2mm hook, the one on the right was done with a 1.5 mm hook. Then there's the little bell. I think I could happily make more of the stars. I'm not so sure about the bell. I am happy with the cotton--it's one I dyed a while ago and the colour variation is just how I like it.

Friday, October 21, 2011


After another day of crochet flowers I decided it was time for a change. The calendar has being playing a trick which seems to be common at this time of year . . . the days are flying by and soon it will be time for Christmas. We have a Christmas market at the Neighbourhood House on December 11. I'm not expecting to sell much in the way of woollen scarves, but little decorations are a possibility. I found a pattern for a crochet star in June Currie's book, Quick Crochet. I liked the general idea, but decided to make a few changes. I added an extra ray to make a six-pointed star and reduced the number of rows to keep the whole thing light and airy. Here's the result:
Now that I've got my pattern sorted I think I'll have a go at it in some fine cotton.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


I started making crochet flowers from my rainbow-dyed skein yesterday morning. It's a bit addictive so I made several. My friend L liked them, but suggested they needed to be bigger. I have  been making bigger versions of the various crochet flowers by using a thicker yarn and a matching (bigger) crochet hook, but this particular yarn is a one-off. Admittedly all my hand-dyed yarns are one-offs, but this one particularly so. I painted the colours onto the skein with thickened dyes to make a complete colour wheel for every two metres of yarn--I used my biggest niddy-noddy to make the skein. Doubling the yarn once it's been dyed isn't really an option because I need to keep the clarity of the colour changes. So I had to try something different.
To make bigger flowers with the same yarn I needed to increase the size of each petal--taller stitches and more stitches. I didn't know how far I could push it before the resulting fabric would no longer hold its shape, so I went step by step. I ran out of yarn before I found the limits of my system. It was an interesting experiment and the flowers are bright and fun. I need to do some clearing up around the house before I dare pull out my procion dyes to attempt some more rainbow skeins, but never fear: there are plenty of other yarns for me to play with in the meantime. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


After browsing India Flint's book for a short while yesterday  I reverted to my usual bright colour choices. The yarn is a cotton which I painted using thickened procion dyes. I made a complete colour wheel out of the skein.

And yes, that's another crochet flower in the making--I seem to have developed a habit!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I was at one of my local libraries yesterday. India Flint's book, Eco Colour, was on display.

Now it's on my table waiting for me to have a browse. I'm in the mood for a little bit of botanical exploration after my basket making weekend. At least I'm in the mood for a little exploration in my imagination. I may not get beyond that, but that's the beauty of a library. Just looking is not a problem.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Not Quite

I was determined to finish my basket before the end of yesterday's workshop. I started the day feeling confident that things were well underway. The handle and rim of this basket are part of the basic structure. That was completed on the first morning. Then there was twining. Then there was more twining. And more twining. As the afternoon wore on one or two of my fellow students finished their work. By three o'clock people were starting to talk about packing up. We were offered extra materials to take home to finish up. I didn't want to know. There I sat--a little island in a sea of basket-making materials. They pulled out the rakes and brooms. They swept around my chair. When the vacuum cleaner roared into action I admitted defeat. The basket is not quite finished.
You can see a little gap in the work just in the middle. It's a persistent little gap. I don't know how many times I thought it was nearly finished, but still there was just a little gap to be filled. I hope to get it done in the next few days. I don't need another nearly-finished project at my house. I'm looking forward to the satisfaction of a completed basket. Then I'll need to decide where to put it. Meanwhile I'm curious about various aspects of what I've learned. There's a world of new materials to be explored, but I keep reminding myself of the realities of space and time. So, we'll see what this little basket leads to . . . I'm not quite hooked . . . yet . . . 

Sunday, October 16, 2011


There should be a word for it: that satisfied feeling at the end of a concentrated day of crafting. The brain has been occupied all day--focussing on patterns and rhythms, dreaming of possibilities while tuning into incomplete realities. The hands have been following new paths, learning new ways of doing. And this is a workshop, so there's been a warm social context with others who are either demonstrating or likewise learning, observing, attempting, dreaming . . . I don't know the word for it, but it's a good thing.

It was my first day of basket making and it began like this:
Twist together two circles of lawyer cane and intersect them at right angles to each other. One circle will form both the handle and the bottom axis of the basket. The other will be the rim. The last time I met lawyer cane--aka "wait a while"--I was bushwalking in Queensland. I'm glad I didn't have the job of harvesting and stripping off the vicious little barbs for which it is notorious! Thankfully this stuff is available for sale all clean and ready to go.
The next task was to secure the join. Then came twining. Today there will be more twining. Jean, our experienced teacher and Sue, workshop coordinator, provided all the materials plus a running commentary on where and how they could be harvested. I don't have room in my house for a new collection of stuff, so at this stage I'm practising restraint. That could change though. I hear that some vines--and the branches of my precious Silver Princess--can be used fresh. I will have to find out more about that. Meanwhile it's time to pack my bags and head off for another day of concentration and satisfaction. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll have a basket to show for my efforts. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photo Shoot

I'm off to my basket making workshop this morning. It's on the other side of town, so last night I decided to think about a picture for the blog before I went to bed, rather than have one more thing to do this morning. By the time I thought of it the light was getting low. I've made a few more of the crochet flowers. I've also been reading a little bit about taking photos to showcase handmade work. Everyone says that using the flash is a bad idea. And they're right. The flash made everything look flat and there was a nasty shine from my table as well. Back to natural light.
I found that the low light emphasised the shape and depth of the flowers, but I wouldn't call this a glam shot. The colour is reasonably true to life--on my monitor at least. To dress up my photos I'll need to think about some props. Another challenge is to find some human models--not so much for the brooches, but my hats, scarves and necklaces would certainly look better with a human. These are some of the challenges I come up against when I think about a real photo shoot. For now though, I need to brew myself another coffee and get organised for that workshop. I'm taking my camera, so hopefully I'll have something to show tomorrow. 

Friday, October 14, 2011


My hand-dyed kid mohair kept me happily occupied for a couple of hours yesterday morning.

I used the long draw--you can just see the leg of the chair I'm sitting on in the bottom right of the pic--so my arm is held out to the left of me. And my right hand is actually taking the shot with my camera. So  it's only the twist in the fibres that is holding them together there. I don't know if that makes any sense to somebody who doesn't spin, but there you go. Regardless, you can see the lovely lustrous mohair fibres folded over my index finger. And you can see that the spun yarn is just a little bit hairy. I did enjoy it. Now it's all spun up and it's time to ply it. Beyond the plying, I'm not exactly sure what I'll do with it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


After my unsuccessful attempt at making a market bag, I shifted my focus back to the crochet flowers. I made a few more in the rose shape, but also varied the options with this.

I also got back to some spinning--pictures to come.

A walk to the Neighbourhood House to photocopy teaching notes and my evening quilting class rounded out the day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Trial and Error

My friend S sent me a pattern for a crochet bag after I shared this. It's from Katy Bevan's book, Instant Expert Crochet. Great! This pattern looks a lot like a favourite crochet net bag of mine. It lives in my handbag and is perfect for those times when I just need to stop and buy this and that at the supermarket. Yesterday I decided to have a go at it. I pulled out some indigo-dyed 8-ply cotton, untangled and wound off the skeins and felt ready to go.

Here's where the "trial and error" bit comes in. The bag consists of three main sections: a circular base, a net body and a top border with handles. I had a quick look at the pattern for the base. I thought I had the idea, so off I went. After a few rounds the pattern seemed to have settled into a steady pattern of increases, so I just kept going . . . until it didn't look right. I checked the pattern, ripped out my work and tried again. Still not right. OK, now I did what I should have done in the first place. I printed off the pattern--I'd been just glancing at the PDF document to get the right idea. With the pattern in front of me and a pen at the ready I carefully stitched through the instructions round by round, underlining the variation and ticking off each row as I finished it. The result was quite a convincing circular base.

The body of the bag is made up of a simple crochet net. The same pattern is repeated sixteen times to form a simple cylinder. Off I went. Now my problem was simply the repetitive nature of the task: the same six stitch pattern over and over. Twelve repetitions per round. Sixteen rounds. I marked them off as went. I took a break after every round or two. Round and around. Ho hum! It looks pretty good, but I'm not going to be making a lot of these bags. Every now and then I wondered how tall the bag would be. As I got to the last few rounds I was starting to doubt the pattern, especially in comparison with my old favourite which I'd slung over the chair next to me, but I persisted.

Sixteen rounds of net completed, I looked at the instructions for the border and handles. I couldn't quite make sense of them. There was an abreviation that I didn't recognise. All of a sudden I thought that this might be a US pattern. In that case I had been mis-interpreting every stitch of the sixteen rounds I'd just completed. I thought about adding height by working a few more rounds. I took another break, looked at the bag again and decided to rip it out. In ten minutes my afternoon's work was gone. There I was with two neatly wound balls of indigo-dyed cotton on the table in front of me.

This morning I had another look at the pattern. It doesn't seem to be written in US terms. The crochet hook size is 4 mm. There are no "single crochet" stitches which is always a give-away. Maybe the bag would have stretched to shape. I don't know. I still think it's a good pattern. I'll probably try it again some time--probably with a few modifications. Oh, and I won't try to get it done in an afternoon. And next time I try a new pattern I will remember that golden rule which I repeat to my students over and over and over again: "The first step is always to read the pattern carefully from beginning to end!"

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Full Circle

I've been stitching away at the crochet flowers, completing at least a couple each day. Now I've made it all the way around the colour wheel.

My plan was to add the brooch backs and offer these for sale at the Christmas market. I may still do that, but I am rather taken with how they look as a group like this. And I have some scraps of cotton left--you know how I am with scraps--so the story continues.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Drawing Board

Yesterday morning I got stuck on how to arrange my new furniture in the living room. Thankfully the actual furniture isn't here yet. I took my room layout plans back to the drawing board. I drew up a scale drawing of the room and the furniture and played around with different possibilities. I'm sure my mood didn't help, because I still didn't come out with an ideal arrangement. I'll probably need to decide which compromises I'm willing to live with.

By mid-afternoon I'd had enough of getting stuck in my planning efforts. Instead I took myself off for a walk by the river up at Warrandyte.

I wish I could say that the fresh air and beauty made it all clear, but that's not the case. Still I had a good walk and picked up a few pretty leaves. This morning I have sore feet and a slightly fresher mind to have another go at it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Now What?

The chairs I sold on eBay were picked up yesterday. It was a bit of a saga since the buyers had seriously over-estimated how quickly they could travel to pick up several items in different parts of the city. I had a good book and my crochet flowers to keep me occupied, so the waiting wasn't too bad. Now I need to arrange for the delivery of my new lounge suite. I put off having it delivered last week because I really didn't want to have to cope with two sets of furniture in my relatively small space. This morning I thought I would rearrange the other items that need to move to make everything ready.

I'd like to be able to say that I'm excited about it all, but really, I'm feeling overwhelmed by indecision. I thought I had it all planned out, but now I'm not so sure. I've been measuring and looking and re-measuring. Then I decided to stop and write this post. That's done. Now what?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Getting Warmer

I'm steadily stitching my way around the colour wheel cottons.

I'm working through yellow-orange to red. Eventually I'll make my way around to the bright greens which will link up with the first colour. Meanwhile, the weather is not producing a corresponding warmth. I've been waiting for it to stop raining to finish off the weeding in the front garden, but that's not happening today either. The soil is a heavy clay, so not good for digging when it's wet. I guess I'll stick to my cotton flowers for now.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Flowers Ahead

The colour of this crochet flower reminds me of the now ubiquitous high-visibility work wear. It amuses me to think of some-one wearing a pretty blossom to dress up their safety vest.
I made it from a sample of hand-dyed cotton from a colour wheel I dyed a couple of years ago for a class. The yarn has been hanging around waiting to be put to use since then. I'm thinking of using each of the samples this way and I took the least atttractive to try first.

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Having completed the red rock laceweight yarn, I had a look around to see what else I have waiting for my attention. There's this:
100 grams of kid mohair top. I can't remember where I bought it, but the colours are bright and exciting. The alternative is another 100 grams of wool-silk blend, but undyed. The kid mohair has two advantages for me just now. It will require a different approach to spinning and it has the colour variations already there to hold my interest. But I will need to do a bit of extra planning to make the most of the characteristics of the fibre. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I finished spinning the red rock wool-silk yarn.

I had 50 grams. As I wound it off the bobbin I measured 410 metres. That's equivalent to my commercial laceweight yarn, so I'm reasonably happy with my result. And it's a sweet glossy soft, fine yarn. There was a fair bit of variation in the colour of the tops I bought. That has evened out to some extent with the spinning and plying, but it's still going to be a bit of a surprise as it knits up. Now I just need to decide what to do with it.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

More Dyeing

I pulled out the dye pots on the weekend. Actually I used the rice cooker, which is one of my favourite dye pots. I still have a fair bit of the alpaca yarns, so I tried a little comparison.
I guess this is a bit of a test of the quality of the monitor's colour display. The differences are clearer in real life than they are on this computer. I've put a scrap of the undyed yarn on top of the dyed skeins: beige on the right, grey on the left. These are both natural fleece colours and the grey in particular look quite distinct to me, but they over-dye remarkably well. There's just a slightly different shading in the colour between the two. Now to admit, they're not quite dry yet, so I'll need to wait a little before I can wind them off and put them to use.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Slippery Slope

I'm still playing with the Christmas stocking idea. I asked myself how far I could simplify the shape before it lost its appeal. Somewhere there's a a line between "too cute" and "too tacky" . . .

For me these crochet stocking shapes have gone too far. They're easy to make, but have lost their appeal. Now I have at least  one more approach to a "real" stocking to try before I decide how to proceed.

Sunday, October 2, 2011


I looked out a pattern for a mini-Christmas stocking. I wanted to compare it with the teeny tiny sock I'd made. 
The patterns I found were knitted flat with a seam down the back, but I decided to knit mine in the round. I don't like sewing up and if I'm going to make a few of these that will be an issue. I also converted the shaping so that it mirrors on opposite sides of the stocking. I don't find it as adorable as the real sock, but it has more of the Christmas look, maybe . . . 

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Today is the day of the football grand final in Melbourne. Do I care? No, not particularly, but there's something to be learned from every situation. The footy clubs have their various mascots, and I need one too. Here's what I made.

It's called the wee tiny sock and it's perfect in all its parts: cuff, leg, heel flap, heel, gussets, foot and toe. I've been wanting to have another go at sock knitting and this was a fun cute little warm up. And it's helped to cheer me up a bit too. On the strength of it I got going on a few other long-neglected jobs. Ultimately I may make some more as Christmas decorations. Now I don't expect a full-on cheer squad, but I have chores to do before I settle down to some more knitting.