Weaving in Ballarat

A few weeks back I headed to Ballarat to attend the FibreArts Winter School @ Ballarat I mentioned a few post back.

It being my first one, I was given a ‘duckling’ card to pin next to my name card to alert others that I might need guidance, but my friend, Jane, had told me almost everything I needed to know. The workshop I did was Kay Faulkner’s ‘Play +1’ weaving class, which was challenging and definitely fulfilled my aim of learning something new.

I picked doubleweave as my main structure and summer and winter as the +1 element, but we went way beyond those two options, including a bit of basketweave, hand-manipulated weave (leno, in my case), replacing warp ends with new colours, adding a supplementary warp or weft, tying on a dowel as an extra shaft at the front or the back. By the end I had quite a few extra ends weighted at the back of my loom.

I finished up with a sampler using many kinds of combinations. As I said to Kay, her class should be more truthfully called ‘Play + Ninety Billionty’.

The other weavers, Di, Jeanette, Jillian, Elizabeth and Michael made up an inspiring group, each trying different main and additional structures.

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There was a lot of mutual cursing at mistakes or loom problems, and excitement at the result of our experimenting.

The Winter School was held at Ballarat Grammar. I took the single residential package, with all meals and access to tutor talks included. The room was comfortable (student rooms vacated for the holidays), the food reasonable (the sticky date pudding was delicious!) and the location was conveniently across the road from a supermarket (and five op shops!). I managed to see all but one talk, and they ranged from interesting to inspiring.

I’d like to attend a School again. There’s a workshop that I’m kinda interested in at each of the three next Schools at Ballarat, but I’m hesitating because I’m not sure how well I’d fit them into my schedule once I start writing again. None are weaving workshops, for which I’d probably book and go regardless. And having tried two new hobbies this year, I don’t really need any more taking up my spare time. At least, not for a while!

A Proper Holiday

A few weeks back we went to Central Australia for a fortnight. We’d chosen the destination because: a) I wanted a proper holiday not sightseeing tacked onto a work trip, b) we wanted to see the Field of Lights, and c) travelling locally appealed more than venturing into an increasingly crazy world.

Since we don’t enjoy hot weather, timing it for winter seemed wise. It was colder than I expected, though. While it was 19 – 22 degrees during the day, it took a while to get there when it was windy or shady there was a definite chill in the air. Still, I’d rather that than 46 degrees in mid-summer!

Because my back can’t cope with long hours in a car, we flew there rather than drive, and took ‘hop on hop off’ and tour buses to Uluru, Kata Tjuta, King’s Canyon Resort and the canyon itself, then to Alice Springs. Once in Alice we hired a car to explore the MacDonnell Ranges.

It was a great little trip and though we never restricted our meal choices all the walking meant that, for once, I returned lighter than I left. As I said to Paul, we could eat whatever we wanted normally so long as we did this much exercise… which simply isn’t possible when you have to spend time working.

I always do a bit of sketching when on holidays – just some watercolour and ink in a book. This time I wanted to get a bit more serious. What I really wanted to do was take my portable oil painting box. However, it’s made of wood and we were doing to be doing a lot of walking. There were also the issues of not being able to take turps on a plane, and oils needing a long time to dry.

To deal with the weight issue, I hit on the idea of using unstretched canvas you can buy in pads rather than boards. I went shopping for a plastic container, and found the perfect one in Daiso, with a compartment the right size for brushes and spatula, and room in the lid (once I’d carved the compartment dividers flat) to hold a painting in place without it touching anything. It just required a piece of card to support the painting, and two cable clips to keep it in place.

The turps and drying time problem was solved when I had a brainwave and remembered that you can get water-soluble oil paints. No need for turps, and they dry faster – and even more rapidly if you use “fast drying medium”.

When everying arrived from Senior’s Art, I squeezed paint into a pill dispenser (also from Daiso) that just happened to fit into one of the smaller compartments, and decanted some of the medium into a squeezy bottle from my silk painting days.

Here’s the complete kit:

For a palette I took a pad of tracing paper that fit into the other small compartment, thinking I’d just rip off a page when I’d finished a painting. This was the major failing of the kit. I simply didn’t have enough room to mix the colours I needed. Eventually I replaced it with a fast food container lit about the same size as the kit, and painting instantly became much easier.

The first painting was quite simple, to allow me to get used to a newish medium and the local light and colours. I wasn’t all that happy with a painting until I got to the fourth, and I realised that if I was to do a trip with the sole intention of painting I needed to allow myself time to familiarise myself with a location.

I’d also take a seat or at least a pillow. A sunhat is not barrier enough between my butt and icy cold rocks at 7:30 in the morning!

I could have done another painting on the last day of the trip, but I decided not to because I was too tired, and a little tired of painting to be honest. Overall I enjoyed the challenge and I’m glad I did it, and happy my lightweight painting kit performed so well. It would be great to take it on more holidays, or on day trips.

Which will probably be within Australia. It was so nice not to have to deal with long flights, jet lag, customs and security queues, adapting to very different languages and customs, carrying passports and power point adaptors. I’m keen to organise another trip, and see more of this great country.

Celebration of Wool

Recently we flew to Canberra for a couple of nights so I could photograph a portrait subject. Not only did I get some great shots for the intended sitter, but found another one willing to pose for me. With it taking at least five months to finish a portrait, I’ll be happily occupied for nearly a year.

While I was there, the friend I was staying with took me to the Old Bus Depot Markets where they were holding a Celebration of Wool. I certainly know how to time my weekends away! We fondled lots of lovely yarn and grew dizzy on yarn fumes. But we were both admirably restrained in our shopping choices – me keeping in mind I only had a tote bag rather than a suitcase. I bought some skeins of cotton chenille, a cone of fine alpaca, two skeins of hand dyed alpaca, and some cat buttons.

Acquisitions

We travel with carry-on bags only, so when it comes to souvenir shopping, we stick to small, light items. There’s always the option to post things homes, though.

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The first thing I bought was a metre of trim. Woven inkle could be found in most craft stores, as well as machine-make ribbon, for use in traditional costume.

When I bought the ball of yarn to try nalbinding, in the same ship I found a leather bracelet with rows of holes punched in it for cross-stitch. That’ll be a nice tv project. I posted this and the next item home with some books Paul bought.

The boxes of retors a broder I found in a second hand shop. The woman selling it gave a little laugh when I handed the boxes over and she looked inside and saw the thread. I have no idea why.

I found yarn stores everywhere. It got to the point where I’d expect to find one whenever we stepped off a bus or train. Most contained yarn best suited to knitting. If I’d still been knitting, I’d probably have wound up buying an extra bag and filling it. I got this skein, which feels well suited to weaving, in a shop in Roskilde that had lots of local yarn.

There was also the yarn I bought to nalbind with, of course.

Ancient Craft

A couple of days ago we got back from three weeks in Scandanavia. The last weekend I spent being a guest at a festival, and the rest was holiday time – half in Norway, half in Denmark.

While in Oslo we visited the Viking Ship Museum, where I picked up this book and a nalbinding needle:

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I soon stumbled upon a yarn store (and I kept stumbling upon them throughout the trip) and bought a ball of yarn so I could have a try. I was a little doubtful. I tried to learn nalbinding from a YouTube video a few years back with no success. However, the promise of “The easiest, clearest ever guide!” held up, and I soon was nalbinding away happily – but keeping it to one hour max sessions so I didn’t stir up my RSI.

First up I made a test piece, then started on a glove that I soon pulled apart because it was too small. The next attempt fit right and eventually turned into these:

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On the last day before we came home I found another store, and bought more yarn to make a hat. Nalbinding doesn’t seem to bother my hands as much as knitting does. It’s more of a stitching action. Though I’ve grown more proficient with practise, having to attach new lengths of yarn with spit/water joins all the time makes it a slow process. And it doesn’t unravel like knitting and crochet do, so it’s slow to undo mistakes.

But it is fun, and the fabric is makes has an attractive texture and robust feel.

Loom Delivery Weekend

Last weekend we headed to Lake Hume:

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I took Donna’s loom, my Knitter Loom and two inkle looms. Donna and her partner, Matthew, joined us in a lovely cottage with a fantastic view. The sunsets were gorgeous:

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In the late afternoons and evenings Donna and I wove. I taught her how to do leno lace on the rigid heddle on the first night, and she produced this beautiful bamboo scarf:

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While she warped and wove that, I started a clasped weft scarf so I could show her the method. I didn’t make a lot of progress because I’d underestimated how much yarn I needed:

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On the second day I taught Donna how to weave on the larger inkle loom. I was quite rusty, and stuffed up the warping on the small loom by winding it around the warping peg, but Donna’s warp was fine. She, as always, picked up everything really fast, and finished this ribbon by the end of our stay:

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We went for a drive around the southern half of the lake on the second day. The lake is really a dam, and it’s very low, so there were old dead trees everywhere. An eerie sight, but quite beautiful:

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By the weir the water was deepest:

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There are signs of a defunct railway line, and these relics from the past:

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It was a enjoyable, relaxing weekend with good friends, and I’d love to go back to the area one day.

Not All Who Wonder

We’re back. We’re home.

The trip went well. Exploration of Paris during the jet-lag recovery week was hampered somewhat by my ankle and plantar fasciitis, but we got to see some sights we might not have if we’d been more mobile, including the Musée des Arts et Métiers, which was like going back in time to one of the Great Exhibitions, or being transported to a Lilliputian steampunk world.

The work-related days in Belgium and Poland were exhausting but productive and a lot of fun.

The river cruise along the Rhine that was supposed to be our “recover from the work-related days while watching the world go by” part of the trip didn’t fulfil either expectation, as the ship travelled at night mostly and the shore trips were too rushed, but everything else about it was wonderful. We’d not done a cruise before, so I now know that I would ask a whole lot of questions that hadn’t occurred to me before if I was to consider doing one again.

The up side to my sore feet was that stopping to rest them meant I did more sketching. I took on a few subjects I’d have avoided as ‘too difficult’ or ‘too time-consuming’ and was pretty happy with the results. Pics to come.

The beetle pendant was the only craft project I finished. I’m halfway through a second pendant, but I’m not 100% sure if I like what I’ve done so far. I’ll keep going and start over if I’m not happy with the final result.

In a gallery shop in Paris I stumbled upon lots of colouring books for adults, and bought one and a set of pencils. I spent a couple of evenings with my feet on a bed of ice wrapped in a towel, filling in designs. Some of them looked like an image had been run through a program to create a vector file, but the result did not always make a design suitable for colouring. It got me thinking about what makes a good design, and wondering if I could produce my own. But colouring in isn’t all that satisfying, like art or craft is, in that I don’t produce something useful or improve my artistic skills. It’s more like doing a jigsaw puzzle.

And I don’t need another hobby.

Happy Camper

Last weekend we went camping. Since I’m supposed to stay off my feet for six months or more, when everyone went walking on the Saturday I stayed in the camp site. But that was fine with me, because a hundred metres or so away were some impressive views. I took my homemade ponchard box and did two paintings, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

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While having lunch, I spotted a goanna snooping around the edges of the camp site.

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I took a lot of pics, but the goanna managed to hide behind things most of the time. Later, while I was sitting quietly reading and having a cuppa, I had company again. I stayed put, and to my amazement he/she came right up to my chair. I had my iPhone on me, so I took a video, but my attempts to embed it on this page haven’t worked, unfortunately.

The walkers came back a few minutes later, and with some frantic signalling I got them to approach quietly so as to not frighten off the goanna. Much snapping of photos followed – probably much better ones than I took with my iPhone.

On the way to and from the campsite we drove past a lot of bushfire damage:

Along country roads:
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A plantation:
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Even along the main highway:
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And the coal mine was still alight:
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In Plein Air

Another “Do you remember this?” moment: aaaages ago, with Paul’s help, I made this ponchard box:

Well, three and a half years later I finally got around to using it. We went camping with friends a few weekends ago at Bear Gully, a little seaside camping spot in Victoria. I plonked myself on a stool on the beach on two of the days and was happy to find the box works perfectly – especially the all-important storage of paintings inside the lid.

The weather was very different. On the first day it was overcast but dry:

On the second the sun was out, but fortunately it wasn’t too hot:

Painting ‘in plein air’ was challenging and satisfying, but not exactly social. Which is why it took me so long to try the box. You really need a situation in which your friends/family/other half are happily otherwise occupied and don’t mind your attention being focussed elsewhere. Or else go with other painters.

Bonsai Travel

Way back when I first started travelling I assumed that the three sizes of suitcases were a guide to how much to pack. The big one was for international travel and the medium for domestic, and the small one for weekends away. Then I started working for Lonely Planet Publications as a designer and one of the many wisdoms I picked up is that you should never pack more than you can carry at a run for a kilometre.

By the time I stumbled on OneBag.com I thought I had mastered the art of travelling light. Half of what I read on the site made me feel smug that I’d already thought of it, but the other half was new and inspired me to pack even lighter.

On this last trip I travelled for most of the month with only a carry-on bag and a large handbag, knowing I’d have to haul them off and on of planes and trains with a bad back and no Paul to help. It was only at the convention at the end that I acquired more stuff than I could fit in my bag, but at that point we knew we could relax because we we would be taking a friend’s bag home with us.

So how do I manage with one carry on sized bag? Here’s some of my rules of bonsai travel:

* Make a ‘template’ packing list of essentials to copy and modify for each trip.
* Dress in layers and choose separates that will go with all other pieces. Sticking to a neutral and one colour helps. Avoid light colours if you’re travelling for a long time, as you might not have time or products to deal with food and sweat stains, which dark fabrics hide.
* If you do take light coloured clothing, remember to take a light coloured bra. Otherwise, take dark underthings.
* Choose clothing that will dry quickly and does not need ironing. I have fast-drying jeans and you can get ironing-free shirts.
* Wash clothing every few days with the hotel shampoo, using a travel towel to wring as much water out as possible, then hang on hotel coat hangers, traveler’s washing line and bathroom rails (it’s great when they’re heated, but take care not to melt delicate synthetics!).
* A shawl or sarong, depending on the climate, can be used as a scarf, skirt, jacket, shade cloth, bag and blanket.
* Reversible clothing, or clothing that can be worn more than one way, is great for travelling. It’s hard to find so keep it only for travelling.
* Shoes should be comfortable, hard-wearing and will survive being squished in a suitcase (with socks inside to hold the shape). I like to take one nice pair in case we go to a swish restaurant, but not heels as they take up too much room. I found my perfect travel shoe for this trip – black leather mary-sues with a runner-style sole. But I’d still need waterproofed runners as well if I anticipated walking in wet grass. At least one pair you take should be easily removed and without metal embellishments, for getting through security.
* Use jewellery to add interest to your wardrobe. Rigid circular necklaces and bracelets might bend and take up more room, so avoid them. Thread chains through straws to keep them from tangling. Perhaps take one chain/leather cord/ribbon and interchange pendants. Avoiding metal jewellery also helps avoid hold ups in security.
* Buy flat or small souvenirs as they are are easier to pack. I’ve often bought A4 sized artwork on holidays. It can slip inside the inevitable souvenir book. Otherwise, plan to buy things you’ll use or wear straight away. I nearly always buy a souvenir t-shirt, and like to buy socks, jewellery and scarves. I’m also a sucker for little travel-sized perfumes – non-aerosol of course.
* Work out how much you’ll use of bathroom products and decant into smaller containers. I’m always on the lookout for small plastic containers that don’t leak. Just to be sure, keep them in zip lock bags with a tissue to absorb moisture.
* Keep a lookout for products you use in travel sizes. I’ll often find they are only available outside of Australia, so I pop into pharmacies and supermarkets to see what they have.
* Choose a restricted make-up colour palette to match your clothing. For this last trip I bought lip-liners from the Body Shop and sawed them in half. (Cover your whole lip with liner before applying lipstick and you’ll still have some colour left after eating.) I also took an old, emptied blush compact and squished some lipstick colours into one compartment and cream eyeshadows into the other, then bought mini makeup brushes. Another trick is to buy foundation with sun-protection in it already so you don’t remove or have to reapply make-up when using sunscreen. Moisturiser can double as make-up remover and shaving cream.
* On some long-haul flights you can gamble on receiving some useful items, like moisturisers, lip balm, toothpaste and bed socks. If you’re travelling business or first class you might get pajamas, depending on the carrier. If your gamble doesn’t pay off you can always buy some when you get there. Resist taking what you won’t use. Don’t worry, the airlines recycle what isn’t opened or worn. (And I still haven’t found a use for multiple sleep masks.)
* IPhones are brilliant as they can be camera, torch, alarm clock, book, guidebook, phrasebook, notebook and computer as well as phone. During the parts of a flight when devices must be turned off, or when the battery is running, I have a crossword puzzle book and tear out the pages as I complete them, and a small novel or anthology that I don’t mind leaving behind when I finish it. A top-up battery is well worth having on hand, too.
* On trips where you need clothes for one kind of trip then move on to another kind (business to pleasure, warm to cool climate) or when you really want to buy something large and/or heavy, post things home or to a friend or family member. I print out slips of paper with the address on it to take with me, so there’s no chance my terrible handwriting will cause mistakes.

I’m always looking for new ways to pack light. One product I want to get hold of for my next trip is a couple of hooks that can clip onto those annoying anti-theft hotel coat hangers so I can hang clothes in the bathroom to dry. Clothes nearly always dry faster in the bathroom than in the wardrobe.

One product that is impossible to transfer into another container and I can never find in a travel size is a hypo-allergenic deodorant, so this time I made my own using this recipe. I’m tempted to try making other products now – especially if the result is solid and dry so I don’t have to put it in the liquids bag to go through security.

But while seeking out and trying products for bonsai travel is fun, the most effective way to achieve it is to simply take less stuff. I nearly always find I didn’t wear or could have done without one or two items of clothing, and only occasionally wish I’d brought something else. Usually the latter is something I couldn’t have predicted, to do with the local climate, and in that case what I need is usually available there. The only garments I wouldn’t gamble on finding at my destination are wet/cold weather gear and a bathing suit.

Not every travel tip will suit every traveller, too. The OneBag.com site advises against using a bag with wheels, since the mechanism takes up space and adds weight. But my back won’t stand up to carrying a 7-8 kilo bag round, so it’s a compromise I’ve accepted I have to make. Fortunately, wheely bags are getting lighter and lighter.