Lovin’ Bein’an Aussie

Yesterday my Bendigo Woollen Mills order appeared on the doorstep:

Yarn for Sweetheart in Domiknitrix. Unduly influenced by the Knitters with Minis group on Ravelry, I’m very tempted to substitute the ribbon on the orignal pattern with the mini logo, or a little pic of a mini. The fact that this qualifies as picture knitting scares me. But I still went ahead and bought red and white yarn just in case I crumble, since I already had to get more black.

Cotton for weaving tea towels for my Mum for Christmas.

And some Neon because… well, I sort of wanted to reward Bendy for taking less than five years to catch up on a trend. And heck, I really like this trend of slowly changing colours in yarn. Especially when the yarn is tweedy too. And I’m far more confident that Bendy’s version will not contain knots as Noro Silk Garden and Vero did. I’m tossing up between a hat or a scarf out of this.

The other day I had to stop hanging the washing out and go inside to get ear plugs, because the cicada in the overhanging tree was so loud my ears were doing a wierd whirring thing. I love cicadas. Nothing says ‘hot Aussie night’ like the ear-splitting roar they make. And they’re so pretty:

The beau and I took turns taking pics of this one. About six or seven cm long and irridescent green. It was all too keen to crawl all over me, probably thinking I was a tree and obeying an instinct to climb.


Unsuccessful Shopper

It’s that time of year where you go looking for things to buy for other people, or things to suggest other people buy you. As a result, I’ve been doing a lot more online shopping… or trying to.

When the beau asked what I wanted for Christmas, one of the items that popped into my head was a certain Mythbusters t-shirt. It turns out the t-shirt is ‘not available outside the US’. It’s available through Cafe Press, who I’ve ordered from before, so I’m guessing there’s some copyright licencing issue.

But that’s not the only recent shopping hiccup.

Remember the caesin dpns I won on ebay? Well, I thought the postage amount from the US to Australia that Ebay had automatically listed was a little low, so I send a request for a confirmation on the total. And heard nothing back. A week later I sent another request. Still nothing. Two weeks have now passed and, looking at the feedback on the seller, there’s now negative feedback from a different buyer complaining that they paid for but haven’t received their item. I’m now very relieved I didn’t pay straight away, as I normally do, and figure I may as well give up on this one. But it’s funny how you end up wondering about it all. Did something happen to the seller? Is he/she okay…

You might think this was just part and parcel of international shopping. But I’ve even had problems locally. I’d like to make the Ribbed Wrap Jacket by Jo Sharp in 100% silk. Firstly, because I’d like to knit garments that didn’t make me itch when worn against the skin. Secondly, because I love silk and would like to knit with it more. Having heard about Beautiful Silks, I found their site and examined their list of yarns. Unfortunately there was no information about yarn weight and no pics to show colour or texture. Since they have “MAIL ORDER OUR SPECIALTY” plastered all over their site, I sent off an email asking if they sent out shade/sample cards. The reply (all in upper case) said ‘Yes we do, where do you live?” So I sent them my address. This is where it got a bit wierd.

They sent me information on how to reach their shop by bus. (Again, all in upper case.)

So I emailed back thanking them for the information and telling them I work weekdays but had taken note of their Sunday hours.

Did a shade card come? No. It’s been just over a week, so I figure the postie would have brought it by now.

Now, I can see this from the shop’s perspective. Shade cards can’t be cheap to produce, and that only a percentage of people requesting them will actually order something. It must seem like customers are pretty lazy if they live close(ish) and still want one.

But then again, if I visited the shop it’s unlikely I’d buy one skein of everything, is it? I’d still want a shade card to take home with me, so when I plan a garment I can consider if any of their yarns will suit. And I’m not going to visit the shop if I don’t know whether they have anything that I want – because I don’t know if they have yarns in the weights I’m after. For all I know, even considering the lack of info on the site, their yarns could all look like novelty yarns.

Then there’s the whole issue of them assuming the customer isn’t frail or sick or whatever, but I won’t go there. Really, if they’re going to be frugal with the shade cards perhaps they should ask if there’s something specific a customer is after, or sell the shade cards for a small fee (which might not cover the cost, but would discourage non-serious buyers). Or at least put more info and pics on the site.

I can’t decide if the overall impression of rudeness was in the attitude or the fact that the emails were in all caps, which newbies to the internet often don’t realise makes it look like they’re shouting. But I am left with an uneasy feeling that if I did order something, and the order went awry, they might be just as unhelpful about sorting it. Maybe I’m better off looking elsewhere.

You know, I do hesitate to mention this sort of thing, and every time I do I find myself thinking ‘well, I’m never going to get any “nice blogger” award’. But I feel it’s more important to tell other knitters about such encounters, and let them make up their own minds about whether I’m overreacting or the shop really was rude.

Knowing my luck the samples will turn up in the mail today. Well, if that happens I’ll definitely post about it. If the yarn is good I’ll enthuse about it.

In the meantime, can anyone recommend a good 100% silk yarn in both 8ply and 10ply?

Things To Do With Sock Yarn

Since I keep finding myself thinking about this, I figured I may as well investigate furthur. Unfortunately Ravelry’s pattern and yarn search engines aren’t set up for this kind of search. I’d have to search for projects knit from each brand of sock yarn, one by one. So I looked for Ravelry groups on the subject of uses of leftover sock yarn and found a couple. Then I googled and found more ideas.

Then I considered the stash. A few ideas, old and new, popped into my head:

A Boring Navy Socks. Okay. Yes. They’re socks. But I’ve started them and really ought to finish them, and I don’t feel too bad about adding these to the sock drawer as they’re in a colour I haven’t knit yet.

B Socks for the Beau. I may have too many socks, but the beau doesn’t. He looked very happy when I gave him a selection of yarns to choose from.

C I made a vest a while back with the idea that I’d use a small ball of slubby yarn to knit a band/collar with, but I foolishly underestimated how much yarn was in that ball. I bought some black and multicoloured fibre to spin and ply together for this use instead… but it was about a few metres into spinning the black that I finally concluded spinning wasn’t for me. Now it’s occurred to me that the ‘passionfruit’ yarn from the Knittery is very similar in colourway to the multicoloured fibre I bought, so why not team it up with some black patonyle… and a little silver thread for some glamour.

D Cashmere Gloves. Last year I made my own chocolatetrudi signature sock pattern, and in the process test knit them from this Knittery merino cashmere blend. Unfortunately I had to go down to 2mm needles to get the size to match the pattern, and struggling with this robust yarn on small needles gave me rsi. The yarn is too beautiful to leave languishing in the stash. I always meant to reuse the yarn for socks (on larger needles), but I’m now thinking it would make gorgeous, decadent gloves.

E Way back when the self-striping sock yarn was first popular I had a whacky idea for a scarf to knit up for the Melbourne Scarf Festival and ordered this. As it turned out, my application for the scarf event vanished into a black hole. I’d still like to knit the scarf, though.

F Though the sock design thing fell in a heap the up side was I wound up with two balls of Knittery sock yarn in ‘chocolate cherry’. About the same time, Wendy of Wendy Knits made a mitred square jacket out of sock yarn. Since then I’ve had this yarn in mind for a mitred square vest. But I might crochet it instead. And maybe in crochet squares instead of mitres.

G Sock yarn makes great warp yarn, and as I was considering the stash just now I realised that this leftover yarn, dyed by Yarnivorous, would be great for painted warp weaving. There’s a ball space dyed to make stripes and one with short lengths of colour. If I can get the short lengths one to line up on the loom as warp, then use the striped one as weft… it could look amazing.

Other uses for sock yarn I found include mini sock bookmarks (I’ve made one before), ipod cover, wine bottle cosy, tea cosy, shoelaces (icord), pillows, blankets (in sock yarn? Er… no), and fair isle mittens, hats, etc. Oh, and a rug made of a log i-cord sausage (can’t remember where I saw that). I didn’t consider shawls since I don’t wear them – and lace just doesn’t do it for me most of the time.

So this is what I’m going to do.

1. I am not going to knit any socks for me all summer (except those I’ve already started).
2. I am allowed to knit socks for other people.
3. I will aim to use sock yarn at least once for crafts other than knitting, such as weaving and crochet.
4. I am allowed to double up sock yarn to effectively make an 8ply/dk.

So what to call this? Summer Of Non-Sock Sock Yarn Projects (SONSSYP)? No Socks For Me Summer (NSFMS)? Sock Yarn Summer Challenge (SYSC)? Summer Sock Diet (SSD)? Sock Abstinence Drive (SAD)?

Any suggestions? And any other non-sock ideas for using sock yarn?

Sewing Saturday and Election Hooking

On Saturday I worked on a project I’d been thinking about since I culled my material stash. I have a wrap skirt I’m rather fond of, that I bought on holidays for $10 or so. I used to have some wrap skirts just like it when I was a teenager. What I love about these wrap skirts is they’re forgiving. If I go up or down a size, or bloat after yet another Christmas party/dinner/bbq, I can just loosen or tighten the ties and it still fits. And I can skip on the ironing… well, sort of.

So I traced the old skirt out onto some paper to make a pattern, cut up some leftover navy cotton from the stash, and dragged out the machine. While I have more interesting fabric, it’s hard to shake the old habit of testing a pattern in cheap leftovers first. Once the skirt was done it was a touch boring, so I sewed random wavy lines of green cotton down the length of it. I also added an extra pair of ‘modesty’ ties at the hip, as the traditional pattern can be a touch, ahem, showy when you sit down and I don’t have the legs I had as a teen any more.

It fits. It’s looks okay. It’s comfortable. I like it. Next weekend, if the house reno stuff doesn’t take over, I might sew up another in some bold blue and green patterned cotton I have waiting.

Saturday night I found myself, thanks to the beau, watching an entire night of election coverage for the first time. It was surprisingly interesting… at times… and to save my sanity I worked on this:

Another headband, crocheted out of sock yarn leftovers. I hadn’t yet come up with the idea of trying a whole lot of other uses for sock yarns at this point. I’d gone looking for something more interesting than the Bluebell 5ply crepe stash to crochet them from and decided to try sock yarn leftovers.

Quick and Dirty Socks

Though I was trying to save these for when I needed mindless stocking stitch knitting, I caved the other day in a fit of finishitis. I told myself ‘I’ll just get past the heel and stop at the second bit of mindless stocking stitch at the leg’, but once I got there I was just too close to finishing to stop.

I used Socks That Rock in ‘terra firma’, which was a present from Peeve. I know now why this is such a popular yarn. It’s kinda ropey, but only enough to give good stitch definition. It’s also squishy, but only enough to give it softness.

Lately I’ve been having some rather shocking sock knitting thoughts. Thoughts like ‘I have too many socks’ and ‘I should stop knitting socks for a while’.

Firstly there was the list of fos I made up, which revealed I’d knitted over 40 pairs of socks, which was far more than any other type of project. Then while moving all my clothes into the new walk-in-robe I had to use one of the extra wide drawers for the socks with little room for moew. Since I work from home and don’t wear shoes, my socks don’t wear out that fast. Finally, in summer here it’s too hot to wear wool socks, which leaves me a little less keen to knit them.

As a result, I’ve started eyeing the sock yarn stash with non-sock projects in mind. I haven’t knit many full-fingered gloves – just one pair for a friend. And sock yarn would make lovely warp yarn. And since Wendy of Wendy Knits make a mitred square jacket out of sock yarn I’ve had a nagging itch to make a vest using the same method. Or maybe by crocheting the squares instead. And then there’s all the other crochet possibilities, like lacy jackets and headbands.

Hmm. This could be a whole new adventurous direction to head in. Perhaps I could set myself yet another challenge, and aim to try out a list of non-sock uses for socks yarns. But I probably should finish my Hedera socks and the Sock Challenge first!

Simultaneous Startitis and Finishitis

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit bored with my wips. Now that the Diagonal Stitch Cardy is off the needles, and with the much-loathed task of sewing in a zip left to do, only the itch to be able to wear it is keeping me interested. Blocking did wonders for it, actually. I don’t normally take a photo of a garment pre-blocking, and I should have waited, because I was able to use pins to get rid of the ribbing muffin top look and it flattened out beautifully.

The only other knitting wips I have are two socks, and both are second socks so they don’t have the interest of venturing into new territory. Still, I don’t want to start anything new – not even Tomato – until I have at least one pair finished.

What has got me wanting to start several projects at once is weaving. Fortunately – or unfortunately – I only have one loom so I have to do one project at a time. Last night I finished what I’m now calling the White Diamonds Scarf:

Woven from two balls of Cleckheaton Country 8ply. The diamond pattern is flatter and mure subtle on the back, but still attractive. I’ve learned a bit about matching the yarn weight with the correct reed ‘dpi’. To get square diamonds – as long as they are wide – I needed to use a smaller reed. Still, I’m pleased with the result.

Now I have to choose between three projects I’m itching to work on.

1) A grey and burgundy herringbone patterned something. Not sure what the something should be, though. Scarf? Pillow? Bag? Cat rug?

2) Painted warp weaving. You take (or dye) varigated yarn, warp up the loom matching the colour changes so you get graduated stripes up the length of the fabric, and then weave with a solid colour. Both of the yarns Mum bought me for my birthday would work beautifully. Again, the question is what to make.

3) Cotton hand towels for Mum for Christmas. My loom isn’t quite big enough to make tea towels on, but Mum does like to use small towels in the kitchen for drying her hands. I’ve ordered some cotton from Bendy for this, but I’ve since googled up info on how to use 4ply despite my smallest reed being too large for it, and I have 4ply in the stash…

Warning: Sunglasses Advised

Wouldn’t you know it? Just a few hours after I mentioned the yarn order I was waiting for, it appeared on the doorstep.

It’s amazing, and it came with jellybeans…

I couldn’t resist this colour. The red used for the Tomatoe in No Sheep for You is called, funnily enough, ‘tomato’. It’s a bit orange for my skin tone (colours on the yellow side makes me look ill) so I went for ‘ladybug’. Oh my. In real life this is so much more vivid than it was on the screen. It reminds me of my first ebay purchase, a batch of Anny Blatt ‘fire engine red’ mohair that practically glowed in the dark. I can’t bear to part with the jumper and scarf I made with it, despite the mohairy itchy fibres-up-the-nose-and-all-over-your-clothes-ness.

I may love the colour, but I’m afraid my concerns that the yarn will be a bit heavy for a hot Aussie summer were justified. The yarn is thick and densely fluffy and I can easily imagine it giving wool a good run for it’s money in larger garments.

Still, I’m going ahead with Tomatoe because I love it, and if it’s too heavy for summer I should still be able to wear it with a long sleeve top underneath in cooler weather, as I do with other summer tops I’ve knit. Last night I knit a swatch and it’s soaking in a bucket right now.

Now, I wonder if ‘mentioning’ other late orders might persuade them to turn up? There’s that batch of caesin needles I won on ebay last Wednesday, and the seller still hasn’t emailed to confirm the total…

A KFYB Challenge FO… Almost

Thanks for all the compliments on the vanity cabinet! I smile a little every time I see it, and the beau seems to like it, so I reckon it’s a success.

Yesterday it was hot and rainy, so I had a rest day. I set some podcasts playing and worked on finishing the Diagonal Stitch Cardigan. I was almost successful at completing it.

All that’s left is to sew in a zipper. I found a black one in my substantial zipper stash and thought I might, for once, not have to buy a new one. Unfortunately once I pinned it in it turned out to be about 5cm too short so this’ll have to be set aside until I can go shopping.

I tried on the cardigan and wasn’t thrilled, but the fronts tend to curl outward so I don’t think I’ll know for sure if this was a successful knit until I sew the zip in. It seems a bit big in the body yet the arms fit well. I was a bit worried that the ribbing at the botton would give me jumper muffin top, but was relieved to find the slight bulge stretches out over my hips.

What to start next? I was planning to knit Tomato from No Sheep For You before this cardy, but the yarn hadn’t arrived in time. It still hasn’t. The shop predicted late October, then revised to late November and there was the word ‘debarcle’ in there so I think they may be experiencing some frustration getting it. Now that the weather has taken a turn for the sweltering (predicted 37 C/100 F today) I’m wondering if aran weight cotton is all that practical for a t-shirt. If I wasn’t feeling sympathy for the shop I’d be tempted to cancel the order and convert the pattern to 8ply, or knit something else from the book.

I could start on Sweetheart from Domiknitrix instead, which I’m going to knit from Bendy yarn in my stash. I don’t yet have the yarn for the Jo Sharp jacket, as I’m tossing up between using the specified yarn or trying to get a 100% silk substitute. Or I could knit one of the other patterns I have yarn for in the stash.

Decisions, decisions.

Time For A Change

The 70s was the decade of my childhood. I grew up watching my mother make cane baskets and sew her own clothes (among many, many other crafts), learned to knit and crochet (among many, many other crafts) and my favourite item of clothing was the long, folky skirt. Since then I’ve had a soft spot for the folky look.

After working out in my 20s that using a hair dryer left my scalp both oily and dandruffy and turned my hair to straw, I took to letting it dry naturally. Wearing a headband as it dried encouraged a flattering wave and curl. Then, just after I’d rediscovered knitting and crochet, I bought a triangular crochet headscarf from a market. I liked that it had that folky look I remembered from my childhood and started making more.

Over the last few years I’ve made several of these. They’re good simple holiday knitting and give a quick sense of achievement. But lately… well, my love for the triangular headscarf has faded. I suspect I’m just a bit ‘over’ that look, but I can pinpoint two other reasons.

Firstly, I blame tv. A few months back a certain cult/sect was all over the news, and suddenly every time I spotted a reflection of myself in the mirror wearing one of my headscarves I found myself thinking all I needed was six kids and a long skirt and everyone would be thinking I was some sort of religious loony. Now, it may just be that the cult/sect on the news isn’t loony, but I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling. Suddenly I was very ‘over’ the folky look. It was time to move on.

Reason two? Well, recently I changed my hairstyle anyway. I now have a fringe, and found that my old headbands look great with it in a 60s retro kind of way.

(The fringe needs a good cut, but hopefully you can still see what I mean.)

It’s interesting that headwear can make such strong statements about a person, a group of people or a time in history. More so than gloves or socks, by far. Maybe even more than jumpers.

Anyway, last night I crocheted up a couple of new headbands.

They’re fast and a great way to experiment with different crochet stitch patterns. So goodbye folky chocolatetrudi and hello retro chocolatetrudi. Hmm, I should make a red and white one retro headband to go with my red and white retro mini. (The car, that is, not the skirt. Though maybe my wardrobe could do with a red and white mini skirt, too. Hmm…)

Painting and Drawering

Yesterday I finished a little project I’d set myself way back when the beau and I were first designing our house extension. You see, I like that kitchens now use drawers in place of cupboards – much easier on your back and knees – and I wanted the same ease and practicality in our ensuite vanity unit.

Trouble is, the only ensuite vanity units available that had mostly drawers instead of mostly cupboards were very expensive and ultra modern, which wouldn’t suit our house. We also had the room for a double basin, but there were no vanity unit models with double basins and mostly drawers.

When I found a double basin vanity top available for just $250 I was delighted. We could get a cabinet made for it, which meant not only could I have all drawers, but it was cheaper! That’s when I hit upon the idea of having the drawer fronts made of unfinished particle board so I could paint them.

(The mistake we then made was to let the builder arrange the cabinet construction, which was a painful process involving two different cabinet makers and a few compromises. But the final version of the cabinet is not too far off what I’d specified.)

Once the cabinet had been built I whipped up a few designs for the beau to approve:

Affectionately called ‘champagne’, ‘scribble’, ‘bubbles’, ‘cheese’ and ‘boring’.

He chose ‘cheese’:

After which came several days of undercoating and layers of white. The fun part started when I printed out the pattern life-sized and taped it together. Yesterday I cut a template out of clear Contact:

Used a stenciling brush to apply two coats of paint:

Then tidied up the edges with a fine paint brush. This morning we put the handles on:

And there we have it, our ‘bespoke’ vanity unit.

What I love about this is I can change it any time I get sick of the design (well, sick of it enough to want to go through all the sanding and undercoating and repainting). In the past I’ve been reluctant to do anything too zany when decorating the houses I’ve owned, but since we intend to stay here for at least ten years, and in ten years you can be sure anything we do will need a touch up or be horribly out of fashion anyway, I figure I’m free to personalise things.