Saturday, June 30, 2012


I made this brooch in the heat of summer, after I made this and  this.

I wasn't too sure about it, so much so that I didn't bother with the brooch back. I brought it inside a week or two ago when I was tidying up the studio. I still wasn't too happy with it. I thought it was too irregular and angular. I set it aside again. It was on the table when my friend L came over for a coffee. I showed her. L likes things that sparkle. L likes red and turquoise. L liked the potential brooch. So now it will get a brooch back and a new home and there will be one less thing cluttering my big table. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Back to Basics

I'm getting back into the swing of knitting socks. Since I don't have a lot of experience I wanted to brush up on the basics before trying anything new. And I've been wearing the first batch of socks I made and figuring out the things that worked well and the things that need adjusting.

My very first socks were made of 8 ply yarn, just for lounging around at home--and for instant gratification. I've noticed as I've been wearing and washing them that the tension is too loose. When I went back to my book I couldn't remember which pattern I'd used. So, I decided to follow the number one rule of knitting and do a tension square--or a tension cuff in this case.
I also re-read the relevant section in my "Getting Started Knitting Socks" book and realised that the sizes there were given according to US shoe sizes, not Australian. That should have been obvious, but I guess at the time I was so overwhelmed by the excitement of knitting real live socks on double pointed needles that I missed the point. I decided on a firmer tension and larger size. And I decided to keep a record of what I make so next time I won't be so confused. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Early Results

My microwave dyed skein is dry.

This first experiment was really just to check my basic technique as it's a while since I did any dyeing in the microwave. By the time it had cooled down all the dye was exhausted. I was overdyeing some blue yarn with landscape grevillea. I'm happy with the berry colour that resulted from the colour combination. As you can see there are patches of undyed yarn visible. For my next test I will use a bit more dye and try to move the skein around in the dyepot a bit more to avoid that. I really like a variegated result for most of my dyeing, but not so much for colour wheel samples. And of course the yarn for my samples will start off white.  Meanwhile I have a useful skein of yarn in a colour I like.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


My first pair of handknitted "real" socks are undone.

I've been enjoying wearing my small collection of handknitted socks in this cold weather, but not every pair is a success. The first pair is now back to being a skein of yarn. The second time I wore them I broke the cast on edge. Knitting a nice elastic top edge is one of those basic skills in sock knitting and I guess I didn't get it right the first time. I want to experiment with some different approaches to sock knitting in particular a toe-up approach, so I decided to redeem the yarn rather than trying to patch it up. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Domestic Dyeing Experiments

I'm planning to make up some samples of hand-dyed wool using my recent bargain buy. Usually I dye wool on my stovetop. That works well for me if I'm going to be busy in the living area, which is an extension of my kitchen--or vice versa. I can keep an eye on my pots, while getting on with something else. My dyepot easily takes a few litres of water and a couple of hundred grams of wool. I have done some dyeing in the microwave, but not much. Now thinking about samples poses some different challenges. There will be lots of different colours and small quantities of each. I'm thinking that using the microwave may be more efficient. So this morning I did an experiment.

The thing with experiments is not to change too many variables at once. I used 50 grams of wool and my usual guestimate of dye powder. I pre-soaked the wool as usual. The amount of water was less than usual, but still enough to let the yarn move a little. That turned out to be about 800 ml--or a yoghurt container not quite full. I took lukewarm water from the tap and my usual dash of cheap vinegar. You can see I'm being nice and scientific about my process! I used my microwave's reheat button--just once--and checked to see that the water was steaming but not boiling. Perfect! Then I set the timer for thirty minutes. That resulted in the dye being just about exhausted--not quite, but pretty close to what I would accept in my dyepot on the stove. It may take up a little more as I just leave it to cool.

That's it so far. I have rinsing still to do. Then it will be time to try a bit more variation. I'll use less wool, water and dye powder. My aim is to be able to dye at least half a dozen samples in one go. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Just Ruffles

You know how it is when you go to a restaurant and order from the dessert menu first, just in case you won't have room for both main course and sweets? That's exactly the approach I took to this scarf.


I have been known to enjoy a ruffle or two embellishing my accessories. This time I bypassed a base structure and just built my ruffle on a row of single crochet. It's the last of my sea green handspun merino. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012


There are patches of blue in the sky today! And I have enough natural light to photograph this addition to my blue brew collection. It's the feltable wool I picked up for a bargain price recently--now hand-dyed and unfelted.

I'm still planning the blanket I mean to make with the various hand dyed sky blue skeins. Meanwhile I was able to pick up another ten balls of this yarn in white at the same price. I want to do some samples and a colour wheel with my Landscape dyes.

In other news, the brighter light is showing up the dust bunnies and cobwebs around the house very clearly, so a bit of cleaning is also on the priority list.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Defying the Elements

It's still grey and rainy here in Melbourne, but I have to head out to run some errands. I've been trying to avoid it for hours, knowing that the weather isn't going to improve any time soon. If I leave it any longer it will start to get darker and colder as the afternoon wears on. While I've been procrastinating, at least I've completed some drizzle-defying accessories.
I think these are more than wristies--these are gauntlets. Instead of stopping at the wrist there's a garter stitch section to cover my hand. I've done the top edge and around the thumb hold in double crochet for added strength. Gauntlets speak to me of being armed against adversity. And I have the matching hat which I made earlier this week. Ready, set, here I go! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Good Thing?

You know I love a bargain! So when I saw this wool for only $2.50 per ball it immediately caught my attention.

I was looking for some yarn to dye to go with my blue brew, so feltable had me a little wary. I bought two balls to try it out. I'm happy to report that my test skeins are dyed and rinsed with no sign of felting. Now to check if that particular bargain is still available. I'll post a pic of the dyed yarns when they're dry--assuming the weather clears up anytime soon so I can take a picture without artificial light.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Colour Comfort

I finished and wore a new crochet hat yesterday. I used the "sea green" handspun which was really a teal colour and came across more blue than green to some of my readers. Whatever colour you call it, I was very happy with my new hat. I was so happy with it that I immediately started another one. This one is definitely blue.

It's Morris' Empire superwash merino in "imperial blue". The yarn is deliciously soft. Soft enough to make my fingers happy and I'm fussy that way since I'm used to my own handspun merino. I've put the two colours together in the pic to try to show up the difference, but the teal handspun still lacks the liveliness it shows in the flesh. As we're heading towards the winter solstice this week, I'm stocking up on warm things to brighten the darker days. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Solomon's Knot

I've just finished this solomon's knot stitch scarf. It's probably a bit light for this time of year, but it seemed the best approach to make the most of the navaho-plied yarn I had spun up some time ago.

Both the solomon's knot stitch and the navaho plying work to keep the colours distinct. I've finished it off with a simple fringe.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Blue and White Again

Last winter I was fascinated by the blue and white embroidery of Sichuan Province in China. This week I saw this book on a bargain table and snapped it up.

Once again it's indigo and white, with similar symbols and fascinating folk style. This time, though I'm also thinking in terms of my desire to experiment with printmaking. I'm noting the way figures are stylised and the way the lines used are natural expressions of the available media. Apart from all that, it's beautiful and fun. Just what I need at the moment.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Small Pleasures

It's been a rough week. I won't go into details here, but by the time I'd finished my planned tasks in the city yesterday I desperately needed a bit of a pick me up. Here's what I chose.

I've replaced one of my most commonly used tools, with this delightful equivalent. You may recognise my favourite laminated birch from knitpro. I've used it for the first time this morning. It's smooth, well shaped and incredibly light.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Yarnstorm Process

Most of my contribution to the Sussex Neighbourhood House yarnstorming installation process was done with my voice. I put on my brightest blue clothes--handknitted and crocheted wool of course--and appointed myself as the team's "spruiker". We handed out heaps of invitations to the birds of happiness workshop; leaflets for Coburg Carnivale and copies of the Neighbourhood House program. That and catching up with the various crafters and installers as the day went on was great. Meanwhile I was knitting away on big needles to fill in any gaps. We even had one woman who insisted on joining in on the spot. She promised to bring back my knitting needles and her work today.

This is the only bit of actual installing I did . . .

. . . hand-knitting stitched around the supporting stake of our little tree. It felt good to echo the organic form of what was there. Today Leigh and Amanda added a little bird to it, plus lots of other birds and other goodies too.

I think this is the most links I've ever had in a post here, but that's the point really. A project like this is just full of links.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Live in Coburg

I'm off to Coburg Mall this morning to help install the yarnstorming. I spent a couple of hours last night and this morning making up some extra bits of hand-knitting to supplement the great work done by the kids.

This is knitting up close and personal. I use my fingers as the knitting needles, so there's nothing between me and the yarn. The only drawback with this approach is that I am literally attached to the knitting. Where I go, it goes. There's no way to put the knitting down until it's finished. So I was confined to my armchair for the duration of each ball of wool. My record this morning was 100 grams in about 35 minutes. I was hanging out for a cup of coffee and needed to finish before I could put the pot on the stove.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Not to Be

I wasn't too sure about this yarn from the start. I thought the colour combination probably had too much contrast to work well as a marle yarn, but I decided to give it a go anyway. Then somehow I ended up with more yarn on my bobbin than I'd anticipated, so when I went to ply it off using the usual shortcuts I have for samples I ended up with a handful of snarls. At that point I stopped.

Time to step back, take a deep breath and let it sit for a while. Perhaps I can cut it up and card it into a different colour combination.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Too Good to be True?

I bought jeans today. I was pleasantly surprised to be able to buy a size smaller than I'd hoped (and two sizes smaller than I'd feared).

What really made me smile was this:

Now I can defy gravity!

That's such a weight off my mind.

Next I'll be floating over to the sewing machine to take them up a couple of inches, then I'm all set.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Keeping Up

There are so many little maintenance tasks needed just to keep things going. I've been attending to a few of those today.
My spinning wheel is much happier with a bit of sewing machine oil on the moving parts. And I wove in the loose ends on the big blue granny square. Then, of course there's always laundry, but that doesn't warrant a photo. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Colour Blending

I've been spinning up these sea greens today.

One hundred grams done and one hundred grams to go. It's a while since I've played with these multi-marle combinations. I used a similar yarn for my recent ruffled garter stitch scarf, but these colours are darker. I have to confess, I couldn't really remember which coloured tops I'd used, so I just had a stab at it. I'm hoping they will match well enough to make a hat to go with the scarf.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Granny to the Max

Installation of the yarn-storming of Coburg Mall for Coburg Carnivale is next weekend. Sussex Neighbourhood House is participating and I've had a small part in preparations. Yesterday I took my contribution up a notch. Sorting through my yarns I came across some bright blue which I knew I couldn't use for its intended purpose. That's because one of the yarns I'd twisted in--with the otherwise lovely silk--is quite harsh. It looks delighfully fluffy, but it's not soft and luscious to the touch. I decided it could go to the yarn-storming. I wound several thicknesses together to make a thicker yarn and got stuck into it with a 5 mm hook. Here's how it looks now.

Since I hadn't planned on making this, it doesn't have a spot allocated to it. I'm guessing it'll come in handy somewhere though. I'll just keep stitching at it until I've run out of yarn and then throw it into the mix. There's the ball I'm currently working on plus one more skein. And it's worked up remarkably quickly. My friend W dropped in for a cuppa this morning and I got several rows done while we chatted away. Most of my other current project require a bit of concentration so this is a welcome change: quick, easy and bright.  

Friday, June 1, 2012

Hot Hat

After the success of the black bunny wristies with blue trim. I decided to try for a matching hat.

I used the bunny yarn alone for the top, by which time--you guessed it--I was tired of plain black already. I added a strand of my hand-dyed lace-weight alpaca for the rest of the crown of the hat. I was pleasantly surprised at how much that little bit of blue lifted the whole thing. The other benefit was that it made for a denser, firmer fabric. Just right for a real hat structure. Then for the brim I dropped out the bunny yarn and used four strands of the alpaca to add the extra "pop" of blue. The whole thing is done in single crochet stitch (or double crochet depending which language you speak). I like the way it's holding its shape and I'm looking forward to how warm it will be now that the colder weather is here. What's more I have enough of both yarns to make a scarf to complete the outfit. More on that anon.