Friday, 19 September 2008

getting worse and then better

So it turns out Amy can't take penicillin syrup.

The post dose hurling gave it away.

I was completely freaked when she parked a quiche in the gutter outside the pharmacy and there was blood in it. If I wasn't the only grown up steering the ship I would probably have totally lost it right there but when a very sick kid is relying on you to keep it together you don't have much choice.

But despite everyone's pessimism, she's managed to swallow capsules and at last her temp is dropping and it is possible to imagine that one day soon she may be well again and we might pass more than 24 hours at a go without relying on medical intervention.

By contrast Wil is pretty much back to normal and thank the stars my in laws could take him off my hands today so he could run and play without taking me away from Amy.

We miss D who is off doing hard work with serious students and no doubt feeling like he misses us too (though I am sure he's thinking a night without crying and spewing is very welcome).

And for all those people who commented on the last couple of posts, none of which got a reply from me for obvious reasons, thanks.

Scarlet fever is indeed not a thing of the past, though since the advent of antibiotics (specifically penicillin) it is no longer the possible death sentence it was for our grandmothers. It is a complication of step throat. Not everyone is vulnerable, but it is a serious condition and best treated while it is still a localised thing. It is contagious (Amy most likely got it from a friend at school and then Wil got it from Amy) and if untreated can do you a lot of damage.

So if you have strep throat get it treated and don't go sharing germs. And if you are prescribed antibiotics, take 'em all just like they tell you to. And hope to god we never have to live through a time when there is no effective treatment.

And in the middle of all this a special mention goes to my local sewing machine service dude who came and picked up my machine off the front porch yesterday and then returned it today in tip top shape and never even charged me a delivery fee.

A wee bright spot in an otherwise smeared in shit week.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

burning up

Amy has had a fever for 6 days now. Wil is on day 3.

Wil shot 39.5 degrees and the doc nodded her head and said, impressive.

I am so not impressed.

Aside from the sympathy and empathy - the poor little buggers are really suffering, it's heart breaking - I am really tired of listening to crying and moaning and whining. I may snap and do something evil.

Seriously, my head my well explode.

On the upside, I got a vintage wool winder in excellent condition for $25 off ebay and I am stoked. Now for a swift...

The highs and lows, what can I say.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008


It's been ages since I went shopping with for stock with like minded people. People with similar skills and knowledge, people with great taste. Mostly it's because I just don't have the time (as we all lamented), and end up instead stocking my stash cupboards in a random and opportunistic fashion.

But a day planning projects with others is a most worthy investment. Even if it fails to yield the yarn and trim on the urgently required list.

For a start they see things I don't. Rolls of fabric invisible to my pre-programmed eyes, project possibilities not even on my radar. Combinations of colours and textures. And then there's the tips and tricks which naturally bubble up when talking through a range of choices. The bad experiences, the lessons learnt. Bypassing the need to make all your own mistakes makes a welcome change.

And in between shops and deliberations there's a very pleasant lunch, and some show and tell of projects blogged months ago. I have to keep reminding myself that despite all the talking and sharing, this is a first time meeting. Praise the internet for getting all the boring stuff between acquaintances out of the way without using up our actual face to face time.

This meet up was most timely for me since I've been feeling a restless urge to sew big time for a while now. I suspected it was more than just Spring fever and after talking with the sewing compadres I think it really is. Sure I want some new clothes to take me effortlessly between my arse wiping floor mopping muck covered mummy days and my smart CBD office attire, but I also want to wear my craft. I want to be a little less safe in my clothing choices and starting thinking about things in a different way. I'm feeling bold.

One of my strengths as a sewer and clother (that's a word, right?) is my attunement (did I make that one up too?) to good fabric. I really think I can spot and feel good fibre instinctively. I make no such claims about colour and patterns - in fact colour is a positive weakness for me but that's another story (can it be learned?). I sew with good stuff - stuff that feels nice and wears well and looks like it is supposed to look - and I think this compensates at least a little for my natural tendency to scrimp on the precision detailing.

But I've always seen design as just a way of showcasing the fabric. And with me inside, with all my mess of plus size fears and phobias, I've really restricted the kinds of clothes I make. When I was a starting out sewer as a teenager, I made everything big and (hide in here!) shapeless. When I hit my twenties and really honed my tailoring skills I wore a suit pretty much everyday. When I had kids I quit the suits for obvious reasons, lost the time to sew and ended up in jeans and T-shirts.

I still have the occasional good sewing adventure and buy the odd interesting thing but mostly my wardrobe and sewing projects reflect the kind of straddled compromise I feel live. The pragmatism and practicality, the can't be bothered with anything more complicated than the minimum, the I don't want to stand out or have to make choices that count when I have two kids hanging off me/throwing up/wiping snotty noses on my shoulder/just doing the school drop of anyway kind of way.

Spending time with others who have the same kinds of lifestyle issues I do was really inspiring. Not in the wow look at what she made, I wish I had her life kind of way. More in the it's hard to make the time but gee I'm glad when I do kind of way. The I so love this thing I made which was a little unusual kind of way. The I may not have much time but I know how to use it kind of way.

So now I've got a stock of projects on the cutting table. Some of them are simply home made slightly more interesting versions of jeans and T-shirts. Others are still in the planning - fabrics I love so much I need time to work out how to do them justice at the same time as producing pieces I can wear and love. I am especially transfixed by this loose knit linen which happens to go quite nicely with a piece of poppy print woven linen from my stash. I can't decide which side I like better between the stocking stitch and the reverse, or even whether an outfit made out of these fabrics will suit me, but I reckon it is time I found out.

When I was describing my sewing style I realised that I have gone from an experimental, trial and error creator to a sew by numbers pattern person. I know I made that progression for a reason (several in fact), and that there is real value in being methodical and reasoned. If I had more time to invest I'd start out by redrafting all my pattern blocks and doing things the proper way. But I don't. And actually I am kind of glad about that. Maybe a little time playing will do me the power of good.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

the hunt

My Spotlight does not stock Lion Brand (apparently it's a C grade store - whatever that means), and despite helpful tips and recommendations (thank you people!) I can't find anything that's really grabbing me. Either the gauge is wrong, or the colour selection is wrong or the price is way wrong (gotta love that booming US dollar).

And the absence of an easy solution is perhaps saving me.

Because now I am thinking more creatively about possibilities. About combining a couple of lighter yarns. About taking the opportunity to make an unusual fiber combination. About doing a spot of custom dying to get the colour I have in my mind.

So I've picked up a quick project to fill in my tram time, something using the totally thrilling pear tree turkey 8 ply I pickled up at the Bendigo show. So divine to knit. And on Saturday I am going to consult and shop with a couple of experts and see where my imagination takes me.

Monday, 8 September 2008

mad hatter

I wanted a bucket hat with a slight twist. Something a bit less floppy and a bit more pronounced. Something with curves and a flat top and ever so slightly felted. Something I could perhaps wear to a tea party along with a few other mad hatters.

115gms of handspun (something in the vicinity of an 8ply or DK weight) wool. Make sure it isn't superwash or a non-felting fibre.
4mm 60cm circular needle plus 4mm dpns for the crown decrease
1 stitch marker
Scrap yarn and crochet hook for provisional cast on
Scissors and yarn needle

18.5 stitches to 10cm/4inches

55cm head - since this hat is lightly felted to shape you have some discretion over sizing at the felting stage

I dyed the yarn for this hat in two lots, using the same basic colour combination but in different proportions. I used a small amount of brighter redder yarn to cast on and knit the underside of the brim, then switched to a darker more plummier version of the yarn to knit the top side. You could of course use two contrasting colours or do it all in one colour.

You can easily alter the shape or size of this hat. For example - you could cast on extra stitches to fit a larger head (in multiples of 8), do extra knit and increase rows before row 17 to widen the brim (with the same in decreases after row 17), add extra increase rows between the brim and the crown to exaggerate the flare of the top, or knit extra rows before the crown to make it taller (rows 35-57).

The felting process is another area where you can either change the size of the hat (felt more for smaller, felt less for bigger) or make the hat denser and stiffer by knitting the hat bigger and felting it more.

Using provisional cast on, cast on 104 stitches. Place marker and join in the round being careful not to twist.
Row 1 Knit
Row 2 Knit
Row 3 Increase row - *knit 12 stitches, knit into the front and back of the 13th stitch* repeat 7 more times (total 112 stitches)

Repeat rows 1-3 4 more times, increasing the number of stitches between each increase in row 3 each time by 1 (total 144 stitches).

Row 16 Knit
Row 17 Purl (this forms the turning row for the outer edge of the brim). If you are using two different coloured yarns, switch colours here.

Repeat rows 1-16 in reverse to decrease the number of stitches back to the original 104. (ie, row 18 knit, row 19 knit first 16 stitches then SSK decrease stitches 17 and 18 together etc).

Slide the stitches from the provisional cast on to a separate circular needle.

Row 34 knit the stitches from the two circular needles together by folding the brim in half and holding the two needles together. Put the tip of the right needle into the first stitch from the main needle and then the first stitch from the second (cast on stitches) needle and then knit the two stitches together. Repeat for all stitches. This completes the brim.

Rows 35-41 knit
Row 42 Increase row - *knit 12 stitches, knit into the front and back of the 13th stitch* repeat 7 more times (total 112 stitches)
Rows 42-48 knit
Row 49 Increase row - *knit 13 stitches, knit into the front and back of the 14th stitch* repeat 7 more times (total 120 stitches)
Rows 50-55 knit
Row 56 Increase row - *knit 14 stitches, knit into the front and back of the 15th stitch* repeat 7 more times (total 128 stitches)

Row 57 Purl. This row forms the ridge to start the crown.

Row 58 *knit 14 stitches, SSK stitches 15 and 16* repeat 7 more times.
Row 59 knit

Repeat row 58 and 59, decreasing the number of stitches between each decrease by 1 each time until 8 stitches remain.

Break yarn, thread onto a needle and thread remaining stitches onto yarn. Gather up tight and sew in end.

Hand wash hat in hottest possible soapy water, agitating vigorously. Rinse in very cold water. Check for size and repeat if required until hat is desired size. Roll up a small towel to form a head sized cylinder and dry hat held in shape.

Please let me know if you find any errors or have questions about this pattern.

knit knit

I am completely unable to get the Hey Teach pattern out of my mind. Despite the reality that this garment may look truly hideous on me, and does not resemble any garment I have ever worn before I feel the most compelling urge to knit it. Immediately.

I think in part it is a reaction to the change of seasons. Suddenly knitting something from the current project queue seems kind of foolhardy. Don't get me wrong, there are quite a few things in the queue I am most keen to get on with and even have the wool lined up for, but they are mostly either giant heavy garments I can see becoming unmanageable by the time the warmer weather is really on us or things for the kids which won't be worn till next year and may even then get passed over since we'll be missing most of winter whilst on our great adventure.

There are a couple of really lightweight projects there - some things in bamboo from the sale yarn I bought earlier in the year, but I was kind of planning to wait for the real heat before I got going on them. And since I am still going on the Hanami I can't allow myself to start another lace stole. Because, you know, that would be really stupid, right?

But this leaves me with the serious problem that there simply is no suitable yarn available. While worsted weight yarns are dominant in the US, here in Australia they are relatively scarce, and I haven't found a single 10ply or worsted weight cotton at all (aside from the gorgeous Pakucho I used for my blanket which doesn't come in a colour I want for this project). And since I really really want to knit this garment, preferably in a nice grey and not in a warm fibre like wool I need some help.

If someone can recommend a cotton or blend yarn at 17 stitches to 10cm/4inch on a 5mm needle that I can get locally all the better and I would be very grateful. If not would someone in the US recommend something I can get shipped or even be prepared to do a swap of some kind for the yarn? I believe knitpicks makes a couple of possibly suitable yarns (though not sure any of the colours are right and they don't ship to oz), as does Mission Falls, as does Misti Cotton and probably a dozen other well priced and readily available brands. I'm not generally one to buy without at least touching, so some experienced advice would be very well received.

So there's that problem.

But bearing down on me is how fast Wednesday is approaching (that's my first commute to work day of the week) and I HAVE NO COMMUTER KNITTING PROJECT. Now that I have finished both Amy's socks and my mad hatter's hat (pattern coming soon) I am devoid of small scale carefree knitting. The thought that I might have a week of tramming with no knitting is, well, unacceptable. I may even get desperate enough to have another go of doing the Hanami whilst standing up on a crowded bumpy tram, trying to read my lace chart balanced between the edge of my handbag and my underarm.