Tuesday, 29 April 2008

and the winner is...

Lilli boo has won the Friday Night Knitting Club! If you can drop me an email at soozs.com@gmail.com with your contact details (snail mail please) I can pass it on to the very generous publishers of Kate's book who can shoot you over a copy.

To all those who missed out - stay tuned. I believe in the coming months we may be hosting some more reading delights.

Friday, 25 April 2008

nope dope

today

A whole day without children.Lots of plans.That don't include a long blog post. Though lots of thought for men lost and with them the dreams, hopes, loves and happiness of many.

Instead of talk here's some pics of dye foray #4 and #5.

From this

To this (in order).
Have a great day.

Monday, 21 April 2008

polygamy

I've never really been one to play the field, to fool around on my chosen one.

But lately my mind and hands have been wandering.

My problem is that sometimes I just find that the one to whom I am sworn just doesn't fit with a certain situation. And then I feel like I deserve more. Surely I can juggle? Compartmentalise?

I ignore that voice in my head, that voice that has always kept me on the straight and narrow. The voice that says this can only end in tears. Neglect, exhaustion, slip ups. Betrayal.

I have totally ignored my own rule, never more than one at a time.

I have cast on and am knitting three separate projects at the same time. Madness.

There's the mindless stocking stitch but stuck at home due to tangly yarn project.

The highly transportable but requiring excellent light and concentration project.

The almost no counting and I can knit and walk at the same time commuter project. Admittedly I am designing this pattern myself so it is not entirely brainless, but I get to absorb any errors and call them design concepts, which will most certainly not wash with the Hanami (which is proving a tremendous challenge even with full concentration).

So forgive me knitting gods and goddesses for turning into a knitting tart and please don't turn them all into disasters for my sins. I am full of good intentions and attentive to each one when I am with them so it's not really betrayal is it?

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Friday Night Knitting Club giveaway

I don't get to read much. There isn't much time, and the free time I do have is hotly contested. I could read on the commute to and from work, but that would seriously cut into my knitting time. I could go to bed early, but then I'd cut into the rest of my knitting time, my TV time, my everything but the kids time.

Almost all the reading I have done this year has been craft related. A kind of two for one use of my time when I can't decide between reading and making. And it disappoints me that pretty much all that craft reading is non-fiction. It saddens me that people like me don't feature much in fiction. I mean I might identify with a character's issues, emotional state or intellectual ponderings but any similarity stops there. They aren't juggling, and they aren't shelving other things to make time to make.

So it was with great joy that I picked up The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs. A book about people who knit. About knitting as a form of pulling things together and crafting a life. About running a business and a family and making friends and sitting around a table sharing.

I don't want to give you a review of the story, to me the specifics were not as important as the feeling I got reading a book in which it was so easy to imagine myself stumbling in the door. Becoming a regular at the Friday night knit sessions held at Walker and Daughter. I'd be swapping recipes with Dakota and commiserating with the recently unemployed KC. I'd be fingering all that yarn and starting projects and wanting to just finish a row before I packed up and went home.

I'm hoping Kate's next novel, COMFORT FOOD, out from Putnam in May, will be similarly based in a world in which I can visualise myself. I might find it easier to squeeze in a little extra reading time if I felt I was vicariously planning a menu in the way the Friday Night Knitting Club almost made me feel like I'd finished knitting a whole outfit in the reading.

But the really exciting bit is that the publishers of Kate's book have offered up a brand new copy to one of my blog readers absolutely free - how cool is that? All you need to do is leave a comment on this post by the end of Sunday 27 April 2008 (aussie time). I'll select a winner at random.

Please please please make sure you either leave an email address or have your email address enabled in your blogger profile or select the option to be kept informed of follow up comments. I'll post the winner on Monday or Tuesday.

Good luck!

Friday, 18 April 2008

knit knit

Very pleased with my risky yarn choice. The two skeins have worked beautifully together to produce a very dense fabric and a mottled black and blue effect with no pattern repeats but a stunning array of colour effects. The hat looks funny in the pics, it is way too small for Amy (it's the 1-4 size and it is small in that scale), but I couldn't get any cooperation from Wil for a photo shoot. The pattern is also excellent. The side ear flaps, formed using short rows (good practice for socks let me tell you) and shaped ribbing in the band sit much better on Wil than Amy and give an overall kind of medieval helmet look I find strangely appealing. I'll definitely be knitting this again.

And suddenly I find myself with no knitting for the commuter journey (the Kusha kusha is still in process but so commuter unfriendly). It almost killed me to travel all the way home last night with nothing to with with my hands whilst I listened to Craftypod.

I'd planned to start the Hanami on the homeward journey (I just knew the hat would be done on the way to work) but I haven't got the required beads for the cast on edge. I'd fantasised that I might get out at lunchtime and pick some up but work has been a second by second total absorption exercise (which, by the way I love love love but which totally exhausts me and the rest of the family).

And anyway, perhaps all that charting and stitch counting might challenge my stand and walk whilst knitting habits?

So I decided to start on the vests I'd planned to knit the kids for this cooler weather using the silky wool I dyed at the retreat. But now I just can't find a pattern that excites me. I don't want some daggy old rib band job. I'd been thinking about this vest I saw a few winters ago that was knit entirely in a 2x1 rib and had no bands and kind of funnel neck, but I can't for the life of me find a pattern even in the same ball park. And the pattern that I used to knit this vest for Wil last year appears to have walked out of my pattern library. What the hell did I do with it?

So now I'm thinking I'm going to have to write a pattern which is really kind of time and energy consuming and again, not exactly a commuter project. So I've been looking over my Rav queue and in my UFO basket and really nothing is working for me for this particular knitting opportunity and since I have some waiting room time in line for this afternoon I am beginning to feel desperate! Being without transportable knitting is like going away for the weekend without your toothbrush. Sure you can survive it, but who would want to?

And to much self congratulations the boy-o has learned to walk. Way to go Wil!

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

cast on

I was wrong about gauge for Wil's hat so I had to rethink the yarn combination for the cozy ears (I know the pattern looks awful in that picture, but I've seen it knitted and it looks great, I promise).

After faffing about with multiple skeins and swatches I've finally settled on thisthe 4 ply and 8 ply both dyed in shades of gray, black, blue, and a hint of violet and teal. I think they go well together. I think. Anyway, I've cast on and I can always rip back if it looks really awful.

Yesterday while Wil slept I also finally strung the ceramic beads I got while we were away on the craft retreat. I'm not generally one for plain strings of beads, but as I was headed off to work last week it briefly crossed my sleep deprived brain that my outfit would benefit from something chunky and plainish at the neck.

So I hunted around for the beads I'd shoved somewhere and not recovered since my post retreat injury and spent 5 minutes stringing them on nice heavy cable (being ceramic they weigh a bit). Aren't they lovely? I think they will go with everything I have. I also have a string of $5 red beads which I love that I'm planning to do something with too.

Now that I have this glorious dedicated studio space (no the novelty isn't close to wearing off) such little jobs are just that - little jobs. No wading through all of my junk to find bits. No 30 minute clean up to find a flat surface to work on. No need to pack everything up the second I am done. Grab the box of jewellery tools and sit down and string. Five minutes later, new beads.

I'd also like to jump on this bandwagon. Now personally, I am not too fussed about my own copyright. Pretty much most of the things I design I make available to others for free and if asked give permission for my stuff to be made and sold at fetes and markets and for fund raisers. And being thoroughly post modern I do think there is only so many variations on a theme and claims to originality are generally exaggerated.

But in this I really share Hilary's outrage. A reasonably sized commercial operation has simply used the work done by a small scale cottage designer and had it mass produced. Given there is a history of copying by this company (I actually had one of the rip offs of this design produced by them) I think it is stretching the friendship. So I hope at the least you will choose to spend your toy dollars on something other than these.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

that was the week that was

We're all still alive and that's what counts.

There was considerably less sleep than I consider acceptable, and rather more favours than I'd prefer to ask, but due largely to my very giving neighbours and family we all arrived safely to D's home coming today.

I can't tell you what it did to me to revisit my former infant raising life with a kid who doesn't sleep. Well, I could tell you , but we'd all be bored and depressed and who needs it? I'll just say it ruins you in every dimension.

And the work and family juggle took on new meaning, with Amy in after care and shuttling from neighbour to neighbour and Wil in child care and shuffling off to D's folks for a sleep over and pick ups and drops being done by a large and varied cast. And still I got to work well after 9 and left well before 5.

Completely unmanageable and what do people do when there is no neighbourhood support crew (Tim, Katerina, Manny, Andy I so sincerely thank you) and no family (Dawn and Ron, Margie, Phyllis)? As old time readers here will know I can talk on this subject forever, but really it is insane that women can and so often are expected work and yet how incompatible a reasonable family life is with work time.

But I did make good use to Wil's sleep times while Amy was at school and got to work on the studio. While there are still piles to be dealt with and way too much stuff to be reasonable, I have disposed of a number of bags of stash to Amy's school art and craft teacher and packed up a box of stash goodies which I will be offloading in a swap type arrangement in coming weeks as I get time to take some pics and sort the last few hidey holes.

There was also a spot of crafting in homage to my new creative space and easily accessed gear. Just love being able to just do stuff without needing to find and set everything up first.

Some new chenille wheat packs for my ongoing back repairs.

Inspired by these pants I got a pattern and made some too. The pattern is amazing - a true exercise in trusting the pattern maker to be right despite your own utter conviction you can't possibly do it this way. The pants are reversible and are constructed in such a way that you can sew all the seams and the inners to outers from the inside with only one little in seam slit. Wildness. I used a gorgeous remnant from Cutting Edge for the outers - a slightly stretchy very lightweight woven wool in grey and another remnant I got in a bag of scraps of kimono silk from Kyo of grey cotton interlock. They are super warm yet stretchy, comfy and not stiff. Ideal. There will be more of these, you bet.

I finished off Amy's hat. A simple garter brim beanie with a pom pom and soon to be adorned with crochet flowers, but for now the yarn speaks for itself. Can you believe a 5 year old did that dye job?

And because I am on a dye roll (as opposed to a roll of the die) I got the microwave pumping for another session with the food colours and all my oddments of unwanted yarn.

Black and blue here is a lovely soft 4 ply merino, bound for a hat for Wil, knitted double strand with another length of plain black in the same yarn. It started life as baby blue. Aren't you glad I rescued it from banality?

I'm rather fond of dusk here - the photo doesn't do it justice - but it is also wonderfully soft and started life as a lifeless skin tone. A ball and a half of 8 ply.

Forest was a couple of balls of sage green but is not so very much more. This yarn is a crepe and much smoother than the others. Also 8 ply.

This photo is really inaccurate - this has lots of shades of blue with highlights of black and green and is quite vibrant in places. Also 8 ply and nearly 100gms.

This is actually 4 balls with different base colours all over dyed the same. I am sure once separated they will end up in different projects. 10 ply Alpaca wool blend.

But here is the real prize.
I totally freakin love this black forrest. The pink I see in the photo is actually a deep rose and quite acceptable for a pink disliker such as myself. But the red is just lusciously cherry and the whole thing is deep and rich. Wool and angora blend 10 ply and just over 100gms - what to do with it?

I promptly went out and bought another round of op shop wools ready for my next session.

I now find myself overrun with these lovely little skeins of wool in all weights and amounts and know I can't possibly use them all. Perhaps I should sell them? What do you think?

Monday, 7 April 2008

shaping up

I have been slaving in the new studio to get some workspaces defined amid the chaos. We're getting there. Enough that today's post is coming direct from my new computer station. Yay!

Also freshly produced from the studio is a pattern for the dashing out bag I made at the last craft retreat.
I had a few people request a pattern and lots of admiring compliments, and I do love it myself, so I've decided to produce my first pay to download pattern. Just email me at soozs.com@gmail.com if you'd like to part with $6 and I'll zip a copy over to you.

And as promised here is a pic of the Spun Jacket. Someone asked me if I was pleased with it and I'd have to say yes. And no. It is certainly wearable, and I do like the pattern (especially the collar) and it is exceptionally warm and cuddly. But it is rather large, rather too large. Bad gauge and a certain plus size err on the side of caution adds up to monster garment. If it stretches out much I may have to consider a light felting...

And the last of the skeins of hand dye we did the other day. These ones are a bit larger so they took longer to dry and missed out on the last photo shoot.

D is away all this week in the Darwin heat, lucky bugger, so it's me being solo mum. Which is a challenge. Being boss has some up sides - no need to negotiate, well, anything. And no dealing with someone who doesn't like pancakes for breakfast.But coinciding with the end of day light saving means 4.30am starts to each day with no relief, and a full domestic load to just keep things chugging along. A long week ahead. Expect complaint.

Friday, 4 April 2008

complete

I finished the Spun Swing Jacket. No photos since it's well after dark, but I just had to share. More to come!

I'm now plotting what to do with all the other Spun I have. A felted bag perhaps?

And I did a spot of dying as promised And as promised it was indeed much fun. I am now obsessively scouring the op shop and my stash for yarns I could dye. I've even been eyeing off 2 balls of white alpaca I bought specifically for knitting a white bunny. Talk about desperate. I bought out the local supermarket of black food colour and the local spotlight of concentrated dye pastes. I have no idea what I will do with all these odds - most of the skeins are too small for anything much - but the process is so interesting that I can't stop. I love how fluid the whole thing is, and how unexpected the results can be. The yarn you start with has a tremendous influence and since I have no idea what most of it is I'm starting from a pretty loose base. Add to that the way things look different wet and before cooking and cooling and the way the colours all cross infect in the cooking and really, it's total pot luck. Love it!

I gave Amy free reign on this skein of about 70gms of 8 ply with the promise of making her a new winter hat, and I actually love the way her colour combinations are so bold and yet totally askew. I can't wait to see how it looks after it's been on the ball winder and then how it knits!

But right now I am wading through the kusha kusha scarf. This is not at all pleasant to knit, the super fine stands tangle really easily and I find the stitches very hard to keep in the right tension. I have to fight against my natural inclination to be tight because it makes it impossible to move the itty bitty stitches on the needles, and when I knit unnaturally loose, I find it really hard to hold the yarn. But I absolutely love the utterly bizarre fabric that it coming out the other end of this uncomfortable process. As D said, kind of like steel wool but soft. I'll update you a little further on with some pics.

And the start back at work was great. Not least of all because I got to listen to two whole podcasts during the commute - Y knit with an interview with Jess and Casey from Ravelry and Cast On with a whole section on the Monmoth cap pattern. So loving the podcast thing.

The latter was very topical because I'm currently preparing two new classes I'm teaching for winter - one on knitted hats and another on crochet toys and afghans. I've been thinking a lot about patterns I like on these two topics, and thinking beyond the patterns too. Thinking about underlying principles and conceptual approaches and how to empower absolute beginners to take a pattern as a starting point for an adventure, not a script they have to fret over.

So I'd love to hear from anyone about recommendations for knit hat and crochet toy patterns they like, or think are interesting, or which taught them something or set them free.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

the shuffle

Sorry sorry sorry.

The bed ridden back was promptly followed by a beach sojourn and then a return to chaos so the computer has been gathering dust all packed away for a week or two. So thanks to those who enquired. No, I'm not dead nor permanently paralysed.

But I have been shifting.

A new bedroom for D and me, and then for the kids too as they inhabit our old digs. And finally, their old room is in the process of conversion to becoming my studio office. It's been like a giant tetris puzzle in here moving one thing to make room for another to make room for another and back again. Talk about a shuffle!

On every level I am thrilled to bits. And again, so deeply thankful and admiring of all D's hard work. Can you believe he made this?

The new bedroom is really wonderful. Sun and views and lots and lots of space. Love those floors! Of course there's still lots to be done but I couldn't care less. We're in and that's what counts.

The kids are also delighted with their roomier abode and the chance to rediscover all the stuff lost in the general filth of the previous room.

But I can't say enough about how totally over the moon I am to have my own space. It seems like forever since I started fantasising about a room of one's own, over a decade since I read Virginia Woolf's book of the same name and thought yes, yes, yes!

I'll admit that what with the stash and the equipment and the furniture and the spare bed at the moment it is a little overwhelming and doesn't feel like a creative space at all. But you know, details, details. In my mind I can already see it as it will become, even I have nothing approaching the amount of time required for it to fully manifest.

And my perspective has shifted a bit too because I'm heading back to town this week to resume office life instead of working from home. I am glad to be returning to that life, despite the many issues it raises for us as a family.

The logistics of drop offs and pick ups for the kids, meal preparation and other sundry domestic labours will no doubt complexify our days and ramp up the grumpy factor all round but I really look forward to rejoining the team world. The nice clothes and intellectual conversation world. The solving problems that are bigger than me world.

I'm blocking like mad since I have finished the knitting for swing jacket and now want to get on with the very large task of sewing up and finishing all the crochet edges. I'm dying for the warmth of it after this last freezing week, and I have so many exciting projects in the queue!

But I'm in a bit of a quandary about what to sew it up with. Is the Spun too thick and weak for seaming? If so how on earth do I find something that matches colourwise? Advice please!

And whilst I was at the beach I was in urgent need of some black wool. (Are you laughing at me?) The op shop was thankfully able to supply, and whilst there I picked up a few balls of cream to get on to the dying train.

I figure it is something I can do with Amy if I use food colours so this morning we bought out the local supermarket of black to deepen off some of the garish colours I have in dye pastes. I now have to skein it all up until my arms drop off. I promise to report back. If I can still type.

Um, what else? Amy and her friend made fantastic necklaces from my button box, inspired by a few of the button accessories I've seen about the place of late.

So incredibly easy and can I say, quite wearable for kid art. I'm going to be doing some workshops with the kids in Amy's class around this and a few other projects next term which should be pretty cool.

And speaking of work by Amy, this morning my mum dropped round some of the other Amy's work. That would be my grandma. She was an exceptional crafter (as well as cook and gardener), and I am really humbled by the quality of her stitching.

I have to say, complex stitching isn't my craft, I just don't have the patience or skill for really fine work, but this stuff is amazing. There's embroidery, crochet and tatting and this totally dinky doilie carrier (how do you spell doilie?).

There's a table cloth she made for my mum's wedding nearly 50 years ago, and countless doilies and detailed pieces to be used to line serving plates for afternoon tea or have on the dressing table.

And while the fabric has worn through in a number of places, they remain exquisitely beautiful. I really love that they are so expertly made, but also that they are real functional pieces - none of this disposable napkins crap!

I'll be cutting up some of the really worn ones and using the stitching as embellishments on other things. Some of them I might just hang up to admire.

And here's a litte (late) reminder that easter doesn't have to all be about chocolate. There's felt too!