Sunday, 1 August 2010

Back lanes and byways

blue sky with a few scant white clouds seen above a row of houses
Today, Sydney turned on one of those beautiful end-of-winter days full of the promise of spring. The kind of day that makes you forget that the weather forecast for the coming week seems to be full of temperature drops and more rain.

Anyway, the sunshine lured me and the camera out of the house and on a wander around the local streets, especially up and down some of the back lanes where, amidst the garage doors and back lane detritus you get little reminders that some of the houses front the lane

ceramic tiles with the house number 2B in blue on a creamy white background and decorated with lemons top and bottom
and occasionally there's a tempting glimpse of what lies beyond,

A timber door, weather-stained and with some iron work in place of what might have been the top panel, set into a wall surrounding a house. Its clear that there's a garden beyond, but you can't really see it (without getting closer and peering in, which would be rude!).
forever hidden from you unless you know the magic password to unlock the door (or, you know, have a key).

Two doors. The first, more a gate or ironwork. Beyond it, a pair of timber doors, with more iron work in the upper panels, through which is visible some cactus-y plants in pots standing in a paved courtyard. There is a space between the doors, like a portico.Houses in the lanes don't have the kind of showy front gardens you see in the streets, but you'll find something like this bougainvillea stretched out against a wall in the sunshine,

A pink bougainvillea flower on a long stem, silhouetted against a wall.
or a camellia in a pot next to a garage door for no reason other than to be there,

A pink and white camellia flower. Probably a camellia japonica, but I'm no expert. or a hibiscus poking up above someone's back fence.

yellow hibiscus bud
There's a house near here that looks for all the world like it must at one time have been a church of some sort, judging by the shape of the door (mirrored in the iron gate)

A door to a building - well, house these days. The door is timber, made of vertical slats, and shaped like an arch, but with a very pointed top. It is in two halves, and there are matching round iron rings which appear to serve as doorknobs. The brickwork surrounding the door mirrors and emphasises the pointed arch shape, as does the ironwork in the gate, visible in the front of the photo.although the stain glass in the windows looks more like tales from Camelot that the lives of the saints. (I'm trying to work out if I should feel slightly guilty wandering around about photographing people's doors and plants, but I draw the line at windows. You'll just have to take my word for it.)

a cluster of small white flowers just beginning to bloom. Its an Australian native of some sort, I think. My spring is in the air feeling seemed to be confirmed by the local plant-life.

another native shrubby-tree with small flowers just starting to apear.
I'm pretty sure these are all (Australian) natives, although I couldn't put a name to any of them (several grandparents would probably be appalled, were they still alive to know this - I am the generation that gardening skipped).

the new shoots on this shrub are a pinky-red colour, in contrast to the green of the established leaves
I can identify a tibouchina, though. They always makes me smile, possibly because of the cheerful purple flowers, but more likely because I'm reminded of the one we had in the garden when I was a child. I always assumed they were native (to Australia), but apparently they come from Brazil.

large, bright purple tibouchina flowersProving that nature triumphs over adversity, these grasses seem to thrive behind the chicken wire that surrounds what used to be a petrol station but has been a neglected vacant lot for about 10 years now,

Some kind of large grassy plant - probably not a bulrush, but similar.
not to mention the azalea in my front garden that's flowering in spite of my neglect (evident in the rather sad state of the leaves, which I'm sure indicate an absence of something in the soil).

White azalea flowers

Monday, 26 July 2010

Estonia meets the Mohave desert - or the aeolian shawl

A seemingly odd combination, until you read Elizabeth Freeman's lovely description of the desert influences on her pattern. The piece pinned out above shows yucca, the first of the patterns in the shawl.

This was another one of those patterns that I knew I wanted to knit as soon as I saw it, and that was mostly because I wanted the experience of knitting it. I mean I want the finished article as well, but it's becoming increasingly obvious to me how much of a process knitter I am. Point me at something that inspires a "that looks difficult" or "that looks different" or "I haven't seen/done that before" and there's a good chance it will end up on the I-want-to-knit-that list.

I'm opting to knit this without the beading - in large part because I'm not sure I have the patience to place more than 2000 beads.

And here she is on the needles with stitch markers in place to help keep me on track. The pattern really isn't difficult (for anyone with some lace experience) - or hasn't been so far (hope I'm not jinxing myself for later sections!).

My tip, for anyone new to lace and repeating patterns (everyone else probably already knows this), is liberal use of stitch markers, as illustrated below.

A marker between each pattern repeat means that if (when) you do stuff something up it shows up a lot sooner - you tend to discover it in that repeat, rather than getting to the end of the row only to discover you're out by a stitch. I reckon its worth it, even in something like this where there's a bit of moving markers around - in this particular pattern when you get back to the beginning of the 8 row repeat, the next set of 8 rows is offset several stitches relative to the set you just completed.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Block party

close up detail of pattern in laminara shawl
I've been on something of a blocking (or rather re-blocking) spree since I got the interlocking tiles. Should have done this years ago.

print o' the wave shawl pinned out on blocking matI've been meaning to re-block both the laminara and the print o' the wave for a while now. I'm not sure if I just didn't block them very well first time around- long enough? wet enough? tight enough? - or if it's something to do with the composition of the yarns.

close up of print o' the wave shawl
The laminara is in JaggerSpun's zephyr wool silk, which is 50/50 merino and tussah silk, and the print o' the wave is in a Fibreworks yarn which is a mix of merino and possum (which they don't seem to make any more).

laminara shawl pinned out on blocking matThis time, I've been pretty aggressive - especially with the laminara; soaked them, and left each of them pinned out overnight to be sure they've dried completely. Will be interested to see if they hold up a bit better over time.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Ends and beginnings

All lace is a little odd and lumpy while you're working it and before it's blocked, but Muir creates these fabulous little mountains.

Pinned out on the new blocking mat, of course, it's a different story. After several years of blocking knitting on the bed, I bought some interlocking foam squares - which are already looking like an excellent investment. No more having to pin the knitting out as early as possible in the morning in the hope it would be dry in time to go to bed that night.

With Muir done and (nearly) dusted, I'm looking at the second of the kaalund yarns - poinsettia - which is going to be Elizabeth Freeman's aoelian shawl from Knitty. At the moment, the pattern - or the first of the several patterns - is resisting my attempts to get into its rhythm, but it'll come.

Saturday, 3 July 2010


I've been tempted by Muir ever since I first saw the pattern, but every time I had some laceweight and went looking for a pattern, it never seemed to be right for it. This time, however - lucky coincidence. I bought the yarn at the Sydney Quilt and Craft Fair a couple of weeks ago with no particular purpose in mind (which also means I've got about twice as much as I need). It's from Kaalund Yarns in a colour called nectarine.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Midwinter full moon

Question: Is it possible to take a half way decent picture of the moon (with my little camera)?

Answer: Not exactly.

Twist and shout

calorimetry knitting in my first hand spun yarnSo, my first yarn is spun, plied and knitted. And I learned the following:
  • I spun it way, way too much - you do not need to put that much twist in.
  • Plying seems to resolve some of that.
  • Despite all that, you really don't see it in the knitted fabric - well, you do if you look closely, and perhaps it's a bit stiffer than it might otherwise have been, but, really, it is surprisingly forgiving.
  • Andean plying is the most awesomely clever thing and easier than it looks in the diagrams.
  • I want a spinning wheel.

close up of the calorimetry
The end product is a calorimetry, partly because I wanted to make one; mostly because I didn't have a lot of yarn, and I couldn't think of anything else I wanted to make that would only take about 100m.

(And the colour in these photos is probably a bit more true to life than those in the previous post with the yarn on the spindle.)

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Right round, baby, right round

drop spindle with my first proper hand spun yarn
The spindles and fibre from Maine Woods Yarn and Fiber arrived in the post yesterday and nearly 24 hours later I have something actually resembling yarn. Certainly more like yarn than what I was spinning last night:

the very first yarn I spun - lumpy and fuzzy
I'm surprised at how quickly you can become, well, moderately competent is probably a fair description. I'm not kidding myself into believing this is great yarn, but I will be able to ply it and knit it into something. It's going to take a little while to work through the 4oz of fibre, although I'm getting a bit quicker with practice. The one thing I can't get the hang of is drafting as I go, so I've opted to pre draft the fibre (courtesy of a very helpful video tutorial), which seems to be working very nicely.

Oh dear, a new addiction.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Making progress

On current pace, I should be finished sometime in early May 2011, but that's actually unlikely. It assumes working 2 squares a day, which is not difficult, nor even difficult to exceed some days. But even if I maintain this all through winter (and don't get distracted by other projects), come the warmer weather, it'll all come to a screaming halt. Also, at some point, I'm going to run out of yarn and the blanket will have to hibernate until I knit (quite a few) more socks.

And the leaves that are green turn to brown

Love this time of year.

Wish I knew what kind of trees these are - the street, possibly half the suburb, is awash with them. They're green and shady in summer, then the leaves start to turn as the weather gets colder and they look spectacular, especially on a day as clear and crisp as this.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

By any other name

There was actual blue sky and sunshine this morning - first time in days. Nice while it lasted, but now we're back to overcast skies and the threat of (yet more) rain.

On the positive side, I picked up some roses while I was doing some grocery shopping this morning, and they not only look lovely, but they have scent! So the room, closed up and heated against the dismal weather, now smells of roses.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Foggy morning

Woke up to fog this morning - the kind that comes all the way down to ground level.

Monday, 5 April 2010


Also underway, and likely to stay that way for a very long time, is a project designed to use up all those little bits of leftover yarn that you have once you've finished a pair of socks.

The project comes from the Heathen Housewife, where you can find complete instructions. I'm omitting the i-cord edging (only because I hate doing i-cord - I think it would look great). Instead, I think I'll crochet a round or two of dcs.

I'm planning on only using leftovers from socks I've made, although I've got leftovers of some other similar weight yarn that I might end up adding in at some stage. At the moment, I think I have about enough sock leftovers for about a third of a blanket.

Before, during and ...

Finally finished the Faux Russian Stole from A Gathering of Lace, which has been an on and off (more off) project for a couple of years now, I think. Nothing like a four day Easter break with less than impressive weather, a couple of seasons of The Wire on DVD and a bit of concentrated knitting for getting things finished.

Well, nearly finished: it's blocking now, so it's just about waiting for it to dry, which I'm hoping will happen before bed time.
The yarn is Eki Riva 100% baby alpaca on, I think 4mm needles. I used a bit less than five 50g balls.

Now, I just need for winter to start so I can wear it.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Ch ch ch ch ch cherry bomb

Found this cute (and quick) cherry blossom project via Craft.

A less than completely satisfying scavenge for paper this morning eventually yielded for gift wrap from the newsagent, since I wasn't in the mood to venture further afield.

The paper is slightly too heavy, so I made a second version in red using tissue paper - which it not really heavy enough. Bit of a Goldilocks moment.

A couple of close ups

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Hats off

They say there's nothing original under the sun, and this hat would seem to be proof of that.

The inspiration - apart from wanting something warm for winter - was this pic of Tom's Watch Cap (scroll down) at The Panopticon.

The brioche-in-the-round instructions came from the and the crown shaping is borrowed directly from the shaping on Crosspatch at Knitty.

I did make it myself, though, which surely counts for something :)

For future reference or anyone who wants to replicate it:

Brioche hat

Cascade 220 in a dark chocolaty brown.
The colour number seems to have faded from the ball band (its been in the stash for a while). This photo is the best representation of the actual colour - the others are a bit light.

I used slightly less than one skein - so a bit less than 220 yards.

18 sts and 24 rows on 5mm needles in stocking stitch.

Needles etc:
5mm needles - 16" (or smaller) circular for the body of the hat, double pointed needles once you start the decreases on the crown.
Tapestry needle to weave in ends
One stitch marker

The finished hat is about 23" around, lying flat and unstretched. There's plenty of stretch in it, given the nature of the brioche stitch.

If you want to make it larger or smaller, or need a different number of stitches because you're working to a different gauge, I've put a few notes at the end of the instructions that might help.

How to make it:
Cast on 80 sts and join to work in the round, being careful not to twist and placing a stitch marker to indicate the beginning of the round.

Following these directions for brioche stitch in the round, starting with the prep round, work until your work measures about 8.5".

(You can, of course, vary this measurement to suit yourself, just be aware that the crown is virtually flat - not domed like a typical beanie - so it doesn't add any height to the hat.)

Now, work one purl round before starting the crown shaping.

Note that every second stitch will actually be more like a p2tog - because you'll still have the yo which you created in the last round of brioche which you worked.

It's worth counting your stitches at the end of this round, just to make sure you're back to 80.

Shape the crown: Follow the instructions for shaping the crown given in Crosspatch, starting from decrease round 1 (ie ignore the K 2 rounds at the beginning of the instructions).

Weave in ends, and you're done.

Notes for varying the size
If you want to vary the number of stitches either to change the size or suit another gauge, just bear in mind that you need an even number of stitches for the brioche, and you'll need a number divisible by 5 for the crown shaping to work.

You could cheat on the latter by starting out with an even number and then adding or subtracting a stitch or two in the purl round before the shaping starts, if you're having trouble getting to a number that is divisible by both 2 and 5.

For the crown shaping, if your number of stitches is divisible by 10, then you're good to follow the instructions, working either more or fewer stitches between the S2KPs in the first round as appropriate. (That first round is stitch total divided by 5, minus 3 - eg 80/5 = 16-3 = 13.)

If you are starting out with a number of stitches divisible by 5 but not 10, you'll eventually get down to 15 sts, making the last decrease round S2KP 5 times to take you to 5 sts.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Finally ...

... the sofa saga comes to an end.

So all that remains is to change my mind a couple more times about just where in the room I want it. And to make new cushion covers, because these ones don't really work.

Lessons learned:

1. If you want to donate large items to charity, assume that you need to contact them at least 2 weeks before you want them to come and pick the thing up. Not one week. Like you might have thought. Because if you do that, you'll end up having to store the new furniture in the spare room for a week. Which is really disappointing because of course you want to use it straight away.

2. But then, it turns out that the charities are so overwhelmed with donations of stuff that they are really picky about what they'll take. No: really, really, picky. Which is fair enough, it's their call but it would be helpful if they'd tell you that up front - like saying "if its not in basically as-new condition we don't want it" - instead of asking "is it ripped or stained" as their qualifying question when you call them. Because that is rather misleading. And if they were up front with you then you'd know what they were after and you wouldn't waste a whole day at home from work waiting for them to come and turn down your donation and then another day waiting for someone else to take it away.

Not that I'm cross about this.