Saturday, 31 January 2009

Sponge cake hat

Some relief from the weather. It's a bit cooler and is only getting up to 37deg C today.........

I did realise, yesterday, that I hadn't shown you the sponge cake hat. Well....

Remember this.

I turned it into this.

Then I did this, as well.

I decided I wanted to knit a sponge cake hat.
I have a very old pattern, early 50's, late 40's, which I've used before which uses stocking st and reverse stocking stitch to create layers, and has a very flat top. So I thought I would use that to create this hat.

I love it. It's just what I wanted and is suitably fun and suitably practical. It's now for sale on Etsy, as is the very large skein of the slubby stuff.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Esme Johnson Prize

I've finally sent off my fingerless mittens to Yarn magazine. It's way to hot to be thinking about mittens. (For all you who don't know, we're on the.....I think it's the fourth day of 40deg C with minimal relief (down to 35deg C on Saturday) (38deg C is 100deg F)) I haven't posted on Etsy for a couple of days, so it's a great effort to get these off.

I was very happy with the final result. They are beautiful and just what I wanted for this project.

They definitely needed blocking. The pictures really show you what a difference blocking can make.
One of the things I also did, for my own curiousity, was to time how long it took me to knit the second mitten. Having the pattern established, I thought it might be interesting.
It took around 5hours and 40minutes. (I used my mobile phone stopwatch to time me, so it's a bit too accurate!). This means that to knit these would take around 10 to 11 hours. Not taking into account the time it takes to block, then sew on buttons, this is a long time. I have done a rough costing, but I'll leave it to your imagination. How much do you earn an hour, or would like to earn an hour?
I know I've said it before, but the moral: if someone gives you something handmade, treasure it, it's a priceless gift of love.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Australia Day Weekend

The Australia Day weekend is always a good excuse to catch up with friends and to think about this country of ours. It's always a bit difficult and again controversy has arisen at the suggestion that this is not the most appropriate date to celebrate Australia day.

January 26 commemorates the day the British flag was raised at Sydney Cove proclaiming a new settlement and the beginning of European civilization in Australia. It is easy to see that some of the original inhabitants may not see this as necessarily positive. I agree with Mick Dodson, Australian of the Year, that we need a conversation on this issue...we can do better.

I would like to propose another way of thinking about dates. Not new, but perhaps more in keeping with who we really are and would like to think of ourselves.

31st July - the date when Western Australian held a referendum and agreed to join the federation with the five other colonies, the last state to do so. Western Australians might not agree that this is a good date.

21st May - the date when the British House of Commons passed the Bill that sanctioned the union of Australia and its' independance. (I think this is the date, would need more checking) I like this date because of the supreme act of successful democracy that this displays. Six separate colonial governments and the British House of Commons both voted, on one hand to join together and become a nation and on the other, voted to allow this to occur.

Few other countries have achieved independance without bloodshed. It is something to be extremely proud of, that this could be done. With all the competing interests, democracy won.

1st January - the actual date of Federation. A good date, but already the New Year has taken that date, and pershaps could be viewed as a merely ceremonial date.

Anyway, discussion should be had and maybe we can do better......

Sunday was spent on an Australia Day weekend tradition - the Handweavers and Spinners Guild Spin-in at Yarra Bend in Melbourne, one of our lovely inner city parks. We are indeed a lucky city. This is only the second time I have attended, and, again, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

How good is it to sit, with friends, under the trees, on a beautifully sunny day spinning.

If you look carefully, the empty chair is mine and my new wheel had its first outing. Perhaps not in the best condition yet, but supportive comments were passed and happily received. A gentle first outing.

Still did manage to get this spun.
Enough of politics, off to SnB.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Summer challenges

I've finally started both of the challenges for the summer.
The first and the hardest to start is the two balls of cotton for the Woolybutt challenge ( It took me ages to figure out what I wanted to do. As we're giving away the resulting articles, it did have to be something useful.

I've had i-cords running around my head....finally.....I'll knit a little top, starting from the top (underarm) with eyelets for an i-cord tie. I started from the top as it's a long time since I've knitted for small people and I don't know how far the yarn will go. I've also knit it flat, as this is a design in progress and I thought of buttons down the front. With a change of mind, I'm going to sew it up and embellish it with hearts!.....yes hearts....

I'll then finish off with i-cord straps that can be tied to fit the eventual owner and perhaps make room for growth.

The next competition is the Esme Johnson Prize, run by Yarn magazine. Lynne Johnson has donated the prize in honour of her mother who loved the knitting stitch, feather and fan. I've participated in a couple of Lynne's classes several years ago at the Wangaratta Stitched Up Festival and she is a wonderful teacher.
I've also had this beautiful very fine yarn sitting around since attending a Margaret Stove workshop. I thought I'd combine the two into my current obsession and make a pair of feather and fan fingerless mittens. I think I have enough small buttons and though it is extremely fine and I'm finding I can really only knit this during the day, I am enjoying this and am pleased with the result.
I just have to finish both in time!

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

1001 paintings

Some time ago I was given '1001 paintings you must see before you die'.
It has sat on my shelf and I view it with some puzzlement, as I always have difficulty with the concept of HAVE to, it always begs the question...well, what if I don't?

However, great paintings can make you see the world differently, how to express feelings, colour, form, all sorts of ideas, invoke memories and just please the eye. So I decided to systematically 'look' at the pictures, even though they're not the real thing. I have seen some in my travels and I'm sure I'll see some more of them in the future. Right now, the book will serve as the beginning of a different sort of journey.

The book is organised by the different centuries, which is good for comparison and seeing the change in art over time, but I think I might just open up randomly and look at just one. A sort of I Ching of painting. So here is the first:

'Entrance to the grand canal, Venice' by Bernardo Belloto. c1741

This shows in incredible detail the magnificance of Venice from the extraordinary grandeur and, if you look closely, also the intimate details of daily life. This is a important, busy, beautiful place.

This was an interesting first choice and it brings back memories of my first trip overseas (some 25 years ago) where I made my one and only visit to Venice.

I did love staying there and wandering the streets and canals, riding the water ferries and getting lost! The colours in the painting are muted and soft with touches of light. I have a different memory, however, looking back at my photos reveals that little has changed.

The colours are surprisingly similar, as is the city. Alot of what I loved about Venice was also the small and intimate, the houses, tiny waterways and walkways.

Lovely memories.

PS. I haven't put in a picture of my wheel yet, but 'Yes' I do have a little Poly wheel, made by Phillip Poore of New Zealand.

There is a wonderful website documenting New Zealand wheels, past and present. What a wonderful resource:

Friday, 16 January 2009

Back home again.

The boys are safely esconced with friends having a very Tom Sawyerish holiday, you know fishing, swimming, just at the bottom of the paddock. So it's very quiet at home, which is just as well as I'm recovering from having driven 11 hours in two days to both accomplish the quiet and get to deliver my Summer School class.

The class went very well and the adjustments I made worked out well and the aim of the class - using the multicoloured tops successfully - was achieved....hooray. As always lovely people and all of them willing to give everything a try.

These are the samples I showed them of the different results you get when you used different
preparation and spinning methods.

I started with this beautiful top.

The first three methods were then spinning without thinking.

1. Worsted spinning, short lengths.

2. Worsted spinning, full, long, length.

3. Just because, I carded the top to really mix it up.

Then I got sensible and actively tried to get a good result

1. I stripped the top of each colour. Well not quite, this is a difficult top and the stripes of colour are quite thin. I did my best.

2. I used the fold over finger method of spinning. This is a semi-woollen method of spinning which allows you to go through the top stripe by stripe.

3. I used the same technique as before, just had a longer bit of top. This made it more difficult to manage and, didn't seem to make much difference.

Finally, I spun a wonderful slubby yarn and a reasonably thick single.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Chasing the rainbow - samples for a class

The class that I'm giving for the HWSG of Victoria is a class I called 'Chasing the Rainbow' which I ran for the lovely Bendigo Spinners and Weavers group.
I've taken out a little bit and concentrating on these three yarns.
The aim of the class is to find ways of using those multi-coloured tops which we are all seduced by but often end up with mud. Isn't that so true of life!
Unlike life, for dyed tops, I do have some answers. In doing so this becomes an excuse to learn a number of techniques which can be applied to anything.
The first is fold over finger spinning where you fold the top over your finger and spin from the centre. This is a semi-woollen method of spinning and what it does is allow you to spread the colours out so that each 'strand' of colour is drafted somewhat separately giving a good semblance of the original top.
As an alternative I get them to split tops and spin those.
The three yarns are:
1. Continuous bullion. This has been successfully used by many people including Lexi Boeger ( who calls is Coils.
2. Core wrapping - carefully. A useful technique for dealing with difficult fibres but in this case allows you to wrap the split top and gives a different look as you wrap from the side. This is subject to an array of variations which I still need to explore.
3. Core wrapping - roughly, where I wrap and 'break-off' the tops. This makes it light and fluffy.
I enjoyed this class last time I ran it and we created some amazing yarns.
I have also been asked about drop spindles. Yes, I love drop spindles, but these are a leisurely pursuit where I tend to just spin singles. There's a challenge: to spin slubs! More to come on that!

Monday, 5 January 2009

A new distraction

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year. Friends and family were plentiful as was the food and wine. We're now relaxing at the beach and enjoying the time out from the everyday.

We have had some technical difficulties, which included a virus....the first we've suffered that has affected us so dramatically. Let this be a warning to all to be careful of dodgy internet cafes. We've used some terrific ones, but they do need to be well set up....and usually when odd things happen we stop and think before clicking....this time we didn't.

Anyway we're almost back and I'll keep blogging when I can.

I have been busy though. Most noticeably I am falling in love! Let it be known that I have a new spinning wheel. It is a New Zealander, purchased from a friend. It's designed for bulky textured yarns and has the biggest bobbins I've ever used. We're still in early days. Some tender loving care has been administered, however, more seems to be needed and some personalisation seems to be in order.

This is my first skein, something simple just to get us used to working with each other.

Then I hit it with a big slubby yarn and lots of it....didn't even get close to filling the bobbin. This was to complete the fibre that I had already spun to match the fibre sponge cake yarn. The hat is still coming.

Finally, a really highly textured yarn, with lots of plying and things that could get caught. This is for the Summer school class that I'll be teaching in January. More about that later.

So, is the new wheel worth it. absolutely. My biggest worry was the lack of bobbins. Having two Ashford wheels meant that I had alot of interchangeable bobbins. However, the size of these is just great.

I will introduce the new wheel, but it is early days in our relationship and going public is always fraught with danger!