Friday, August 31, 2012


I made this brooch with some of the polka-dot poplin fabric I used to bind the baby wraps. I've been wearing it ever since.
I'm developing ideas for some summer brooches. The spotty dots make me smile. I'll probably see what I can do with my hand dyed cottons next. The shape of the flower isn't quite right yet, but it gives me a happy starting point. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Welcome Baby

Friends of mine are expecting their first child in March next year. I have to confess to being overcome with cluckiness. At this distance--in time and geography--I'll confine myself to making pretty wraps and decorating teeny-tiny items of clothing in gender-neutral colours. Later on I'll book myself some plane tickets for a couple of weeks after the due date.
Here's a polar fleece wrap, bound in pretty polka dot poplin. As a bonus I got to try out the knee lift presser foot attachment on my new sewing machine. It's so much fun to be able to go around corners without moving my hands from the work.
I've also made a couple of baby muslin wraps. And there's a quilt in the planning stages. This is the first baby of the new generation and it's hard to contain my enthusiasm in the making department. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Champagne Service (and a cute cat)

I'm just back from a clothes shopping expedition--not my favourite activity. I was after some everyday t-shirts in my current size. Since I'm hoping my current size will only be a passing phase on my ongoing journey to a healthier me, I wasn't out to spend a lot of money or a lot of time.

I found some basic t-shirts in a style I like. I tried on the black one. It fits. Great! My plan was to buy a few colours. I rejected the liver-coloured one and the bright apricot-pink. Likewise the plain white. The mint green went into my basket. Then there was my favourite bright marine blue-green.  They call it Caribbean. I wanted one. There were plenty there in every size except mine. I asked for help.

Here's where the story takes an unexpected turn. A lovely tall young woman answered the page with a smile on her face. She proceeded to
  • quickly check the stock while tidying up the shelf
  • check the computer
  • verify the stock against the computer entry because the computer seemed to have the wrong information
  • check the boxes out the back of the store
  • check the fitting room
  • take my name and number with a promise to contact me when the expected stock came in.
. . . all of this done cheerfully, quickly and efficiently.

I literally just got home. My first task was to feed my dogs. The phone rang before I'd filled their bowls. It was K-mart Northcote. I said, "Don't tell me you found the shirts the minute I walked out of the store". No, but she had arranged for three in my size to be transferred from a nearby store. I should hear from them in a couple of days.

Now, I don't normally rant about bad service, young people these days and other such, grumpy old lady topics. But I am seriously impressed and thankful. That's what I call champagne service on a soft-drink budget--I gather beer is expensive these days.  

As for the cat, it's white and fluffy with mismatched eyes, and has nothing to do with my story, but I had to give you something nice to look at, and the shirts aren't that exciting.
He (or she) was sitting on the fence when I walked past the other day with an inscrutable cat-stare in blue and green. That's all. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Beautiful Brown

I took up my dyeing challenge yesterday and brewed up these colours.
A combination of warm colours like red ochre, waratah, desert pea, kangaroo paw, sandstone and citrus resulted in a rich blend of autumn tones. Can you tell from the names that Landscape dyes are made in Australia? Meanwhile Spring seems to be well and truly on its way down here. I'm seeing more and more flowers on my daily walk.
Some photo-editing skills are on my wishlist. The skein is just a little bit more earthy in person  than what is showing up on my screen. I'd be grateful for any suggestions about where to start with learning to adjust my pictures. I'm using a PC and don't expect to convert to the Apple family any time soon.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Flower Variety

I'm filling in some of the gaps in my range of flower brooches. Of course there are plenty of pinks and purples in the collection already. On my table today:
The white one is made from Bendigo 2 ply yarn--it was an experiment. The blue-green is one of my procion hand-dyes--a corn silk fibre. The brown is a hand-dyed wool, left over from my latest armchair project. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lavender Love

I noticed a huge lavender bush while I was out walking the other day. Quite a lot of it was hanging over the footpath, so I was tempted to go back and pick some. I like to make my own pot pourri to help keep my wool safe and to sweeten the house in general. A basket full often also finds its way onto my market stall.

Instead of creeping up in the dead of night, I knocked on the door and asked if I could pick some lavender. "Help yourself!" was the response. "Take as much as you like." I took them at their word.
Would you believe I now have ten bunches like this hanging from my ceiling rack. And the bush is still covered in flowers. What's more, I know that cutting it back at this time of year will only result in more blooms in the coming weeks. I don't think I'll have to worry about having enough lavender for a while.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Exploring Pretty

With the encouragement of my first "Make Craft Your Business" class and the prospect of a market stall in the near future, I went back to exploring possibilities for my flower brooches.
I had a whole ball of this hand-dyed cotton yarn--enough for many flowers. There's no way I would repeat myself so many times. The one on the top right of the pic is my usual pattern. The centre one grew from a facebook post by "yarnbomb consortium". That led me to a pattern from adorn magazine. For some reason mine doesn't look much like their pic, but it got me thinking about different ways to make petals. The other two are knitted versions.
I think I'll build on the new crochet design today. I want to make it firmer as that will be more stable for a brooch. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Business Basics

Last weekend I started a new course. It's called "Make Craft Your Business"--run by Thornbury Women's Neighbourhood House in a nearby suburb. I feel the need for focus and motivation with my textile art. I'm hoping to make some progress in a non-threatening way. The first session was encouraging--very! I set myself the target of working on a business card this week. It's not homework, just something I picked out of the discussion as a step forward for me.

Now I have some choices to make. How much time and effort do I want to put into this little step. Can I do it myself or do I need to have it professionally printed? What about free business cards? Here's my effort so far:
These are home-made: printed on my inkjet printer and cut by hand on a little guilloitine. I wanted to see how my idea of attaching a little strand of handspun yarn to each card would work out before I took the idea any further.

And in case you're wondering about the etsy and madeit shops whose addresses you can see on the card if you have very good eyesight. At this stage they are dreams and aspirations, but they will eventually need a place on the card, so I put them on the draft rather than waiting until later.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Pink Progress

The fair floss - cotton candy - pinker-than-pink fluff is half done. So far it doesn't feel too sweet. It's been lovely and smooth in my fingers, with enough subtle colour variation to keep me interested and a surprisingly "woolly" crimp for a combed merino-lyocell blend.
This little twisty curl, just tickled my fancy. It made me think of squirmy piglets. Not that I've ever really seen piglets in the flesh, but imagining them is fun.
Despite my enjoyment of the first 50 grams, I think I'll card the second half. I can't imagine a garment made entirely from this yarn, so I'm going for variety.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Warming Up

The forecast today is for 17 and sunny. Already the sky is blue, even though the temperature is only about 9 degrees. I can't express how much of an inner glow the forecast of *sunny* sparks in me. I'm planning to tackle some of the perpetual weeding challenge today. Meanwhile, I've already finished these--on the strength of a forecast. I think my mind must be solar powered!
My usual crochet rose-brooch pattern, this time in a hand-dyed bamboo fibre. I wasn't sure how the bamboo would hold it's shape, given its great capacity for drape, but it's made a firm glossy fabric that I'm quite happy with. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Pink for a Change

I've been spinning my way through the marine coloured tops. After the multi-marle version was finished I did 50 grams of each of the solid colours. There's half a kilo of spinning already. Then I made different colour combinations, mixing the blues together for one and the greens for another. So despite the fact that those colours haven't re-appeared on my blog for a while, they have been in my hands pretty much every day. I have one more combination to do to complete the set, but I've decided to use my drum-carder for that one. It's one of the fierce-looking pieces of equipment that hides out in the studio.

This morning I went to the basket to find a new project. I picked this out.
This definitely doesn't look fierce. It's as shiny and soft and sweet as they come. A merino-lyocell blend from Stranded in Oz. It's one of my previously unacknowledged purchases from the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show. You know the ones that hide out in the bottom of your bag and don't get counted in the tally at the end of the day because they weren't on the list?

Yes it looks like fairy floss, especially when the tops are split up ready to spin. There is a risk that 100 grams will give me that terrible feeling of too much sweetness. I'm planning to spin it quite fine. I'll spin the first half and see how I go. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Work and Play

I've been out in the studio altering a pattern for myself. It's been a while since I sewed myself any clothes, but I've decided to make an effort to get back into the habit. The main sticking point is that I am far from a standard size. Of course that doesn't make shopping for ready-to-wear clothes much fun either.

I've already made my confessions about the department that needs the most support. Apart from that you could say I'm an apple shape--if you can picture an apple with a bumpy top half! I've been losing a little bit of weight lately--by design--and although my measurements have gone down, the proportions have stayed exactly the same. So I may as well get used to altering patterns. It's a challenge that's here to stay.

This week's goal is a nicely fitted pair of basic slacks. I 'm using a multi-size pattern--picking and choosing between three different sizes and tweaking the darts a little gets me close. Once I've reached a stable weight in my healthy range I might even draft myself some basics from scratch. For now I do the work of altering.

As a reward for my work, I brought this back inside.
It's a brooch to dress up my basic black coat which gets constant use in these wintry days. I'd glued the bead and pin to the feathers, left them on the bench to set and forgotten about them. Now it's mine to test and enjoy. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Birthday

A friend of mine is celebrating a significant birthday this week.
Actually it's not a "somebody", it's my local Neighbourhood House. Congratulations on 21 years of contribution to our community, Sussex Neighbourhood House. May there be many, many more! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Shades of Yellow

Here are some more results of my colour experiments.
My cool yellow (landscape wattle) with the tiniest bit of black (landscape currawong) on the far right, with increasing amounts of the black moving towards the left. The first time I saw these olive greens coming from the addition of black and yellow I was surprised and intrigued. I'm more used to it now, but it still tickles my fancy.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

So Many Choices

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed this morning. Is there are word for "overwhelmed" in a good way? There are so many options--so many possibilities to try. I can't possibly follow up even half of them.

I've had exploring brown on my to-do list. I printed out a couple of version of this photo and was amazed at what I saw. Then I picked this flower on my walk a few days ago.
The darkest brown dye I have in my library is called red ochre. It's not a bad match for one of the colours here, but there are all sorts of other browns and reds and golden colours too. Even so, it's probably a more realistic starting point than my surprising tree bark. But first I need to finish off and clean up my primary colours and get some of the candle making out of the way. Thankfully there were plenty of banksia flowers on that particular bush. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

More Pretty Glass

I went back to the Op shop yesterday to look at some more pretty glasses. I didn't just look. They came home with me.
Here they are all washed and waiting for my next batch of candle-making. I need to go back to the workshop to pick up the right wicks. These glasses are tiny--about the same size as tea-light candles. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Something Different

I went to a candle-making workshop on the weekend. It's not my usual thing, but a pleasant change. Funnily enough, colour mixing was right there--using either colour blocks--a bit like way crayons--for pastel shades or liquid dyes for clearer colours. The other element was fragrance, which isn't part of my usual repertoire.

The candles we made in the class were simple tea-lights and votives, but yesterday I went to my nearest Op shop looking for interesting glassware. I found this.
I think it's supposed to be a champagne glass, lovely and tall with an etched design and a hollow stem. Probably not the best for drinking out of, but a happy challenge as a candle-holder. Actually it was my friend L talking about something like this that prompted my excursion into candle-making. I'm thinking of adding some beads to the mix, so it should be interesting. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Sort of Science

Colour mixing is definitely not rocket science, but the spirit of experimentation is alive and well. I've been carefully controlling all but a few variables to come up with my shade samples. Here's my set up.
I have three sets of these--they're designed for home-made icy-poles. I've thrown away the lids with their built in sticks, leaving me with a set of tiny wells to receive my dyes, water, vinegar and wool. I'm dyeing samples that are about 1.5 metres long. Folded up they fit nicely into the available space, with plenty of room to move and colour evenly. The bank of itty bitty dye pots sits in a lunchbox of water. The whole thing goes into the microwave to heat up. The water bath helps to regulate the heating and keeps everything nice and warm for longer. Otherwise it would be too tricky with such small quantities. I've done half a dozen sets of these over the weekend. I'm happy with the way it's working out for me.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

And the Rest

The purples for my colour wheel are done.
As is often the case, I'm having trouble getting those colours to show up accurately. I adding white and greys to the frame for the camera to "see". Nothing changed. I also tried adjusting the colours manually, but I couldn't get the subtleties to show up any better. For reference, the other strands of colour are exactly the same as yesterday's. Any tips? 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Colour, Colour, Colour

My hand-dyed colour wheel samples are nearly done.

I ran out of space in my small kitchen before I'd mixed up the purples. I left those until last, since I'd had a good dose of that colour spectrum recently. This morning I tackled the washing up from recent meals and colour experiments--in separate sinks. Then I mixed up the dyes for my purples and popped them into the microwave. They're developing as I type and will be ready to rinse later today. I also did samples of different dilutions to achieve a spectrum of different tints for each of my primary colours. So my next task is to mix up some different shades using my landscape Currawong dye. The trick is to use a small enough dose of the black to see subtle differences.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

By Request

My friend Sharon requested some yarn in the hot pink-purple tones I've been using for my socks. It's just about ready.
The weather here hasn't been conducive to drying, so the skeins are hanging on the back of my spinning chair in the living room, where they can have the benefit of some warm air. After that I just need to wind them into balls and they're ready to go. I anticipate a happy visit to the post office tomorrow.
Meanwhile I've been working on a hand-dyed colour wheel for myself. I'm using teeny-tiny samples, so it's been fiddly, but dyeing is always fun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Look and Learn

I'm following up on the couple of colour studies I mentioned yesterday. I've pulled out the dyes for my primary colours and am busy dyeing small samples in a range of dilutions. Meanwhile I've been spinning my blue-green multimarle tops. It's cold and blustery in Melbourne this morning. My spinning chair faces out my front window. There's lots of time to think while my hands are busy, or to just stare out the window as the case may be. Sometimes I'm not sure which one I'm doing. My silver princess gum tree is right there in front of the window. Normally I think of this tree in terms of its spectacular flowers, interesting shape and lovely silver bark, but now I'm thinking about browns and looks what's there.
This is the older bark--revealed when the silver bark peels back on the lower parts of the trunk. There's so much there--browns, golds, greens, orange. I think I'll print out this picture and look more closely before I pick out some more dyes to play with. And I think I'll wear my warmest gear when I head out for my sewing class in a few minutes. It's seriously cold out there. Just as well it was the base of the trunk I wanted to photograph. The rest of the tree is whipping about in the wind. I would have snapped a blur of branches if I'd tried for anything higher up the tree. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Marine Multi-Marle

This blog has recently been dominated by pink-purple tones. The blue-green range is another favourite of mine. This morning, while some of the pink-purple yarns were soaking and rinsing. I mixed up this multi-marle combination on my big table.
This time I have eight different colours, though it is hard to distinguish them all in the picture.
On my colour-to-do list is a hand-dyed wool colour wheel for reference purposes. I'd also like to challenge myself to do an interesting brown colour-way. I'm not immediately attracted to the natural colours, but they don't have to be dull. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Purple Power

I added a bit more purple to my lace-weight alpaca yarn. Here's the result.
The original yarn is on the left, overdyed yarn on the right. I wanted to add a bit more colour without obscuring the subtle variations. I think I achieved that. Now I've skeined  up all the yarn I have left and am ready to overdye it. I think I'll try to repeat what I just did for half the skein and add a bit more oomph to the rest. That should give me the effect I'm after. In any case, I know I can't end up with something I won't be happy to use with this yarn and colour combination. 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Better than Expected

This piece has a long and somewhat odd history. It's turned out better than it deserved to, really.
It started with a lovely lace-weight alpaca yarn, which unfortunately only came in muted blue and purple tones. My preference is for brighter shades, but the fibre was nice enough that I overcame my reluctance. I started on a feather and fan lace scarf. After about half a metre of knitting I flagged and stopped.
The project sat in my to-do box for many months. I pulled it out a few weeks ago. I felt bad about it, but couldn't convince myself to restart the lace knitting. On the other hand, I respected what I had done too much to pull it out. Then this idea popped into my head. Could I turn it into something else?
First I added a bit more length in garter stitch. The next step was to block the lace to make it look its best. That happened yesterday morning. As soon as it was blocked I was happy to have saved it. I stitched the short end of the garter stitch section to the side of the feather and fan section. Here's the result.
I like it. In fact I almost love it. Yes, I would prefer it to be a bit brighter, but I'm sure I'll wear and enjoy it as it is. And I have enough of this yarn left to try overdyeing it to spark it up a bit. There's a 100 meter skein in the dye pot as I'm typing. This story will be continued. 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Day by Day

My smallest drop spindle has taken up residence in my handbag. I'm still spinning the perpetual cashmere-merino tops. It goes a long way when it's spun fine. I thought I'd used all of these hand-dyed tops some time ago, but it turns out I'd only used half.
You can see in the picture how I keep my fibre under control while I spin. Usually I tuck it into my watch band, but I wasn't wearing my watch this morning. A bracelet does just as well. Of course, I had to put down the spindle to take the photo.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Next Day

Here's how yesterday's test skein looks today.
The colours have softened and blended and the distinction between the two different pinks is even less.
I dyed another skein in this same batch. When the original brew had apparently absorbed all the colour it could, I added another 50 grams of yarn which had previously been dyed a patchy blue. That one is now in the sink rinsing. As you would expect, it's much more purple than this one. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


I've happily agreed to dye some yarn for an encouraging friend. The colourway will be hot-pink-purple. I've obviously had fun in the past with these colours, but it's been a little while and I'm keen to re-acquaint myself with the available options. In particular I have two very similar dyes: landscape grevillea and galah. I figure the best way to check them out is to put them near each other and see if I can tell the difference in real life. I think I'll dye this batch of yarns in the microwave. So I picked up a stray skein of undyed handspun. It weighs in at 25 grams. Here it is soaked and ready to go with the two colours in question separated by the purpley cyclamin.
I can just see a difference between the two pinks in real life and maybe also on my monitor. Meanwhile I have another two different purples and that's before I start mixing colours from first principles, so there will be no shortage of variety.
While I've been uploading the photo and typing, the yarn has been heated in the microwave. Now I just need to wait for it to  react and then rinse it out before I can see the result.