You know, when you arrange a holiday or trip you do so with certain benefits in mind. A rest. A break from the normal routine. A reward. To broaden horizons. To experience something. I remember deciding to go to Canada because, darn it, I was working too bloody hard to not spend the income from all this hard work on something. So I guess it was a reward I was after. (It certainly wasn’t a rest!)

Sometimes you come back from a trip with a benefit you didn’t expect or plan for. Sometimes it’s because of something that happened (I once ended up in hospital after being stung by a jellyfish, and being forced to contemplate – even for a few minutes – that my life might end earlier than I’d planned definitely changed me). Sometimes it’s because you stepped out of your routine for a while, and were able to examine it from a distance.

The Canada trip? Well, it’s been more the latter scenario. I decided when I was away that the camera club wasn’t fulfilling my needs – in fact it was stifling and close to being detrimental to my creative development. But in the weeks since I returned I’ve been constantly surprised to discover more.

I want to paint and draw and do some of the art projects I’ve procrastinated over for too long. I want to rejoin the contemporary art group I was a part of a few years back. Craft is wonderful, but I miss art.

Knitting is still my favourite craft to do while watching tv or in waiting rooms. Machine knitting has some exciting possibilities, and weaving still is new and interesting. But overall I think I may end up doing less fibre craft so I can do more of other things – like art, reading, and exploring non-yarny crafts like bookbinding and printing.

Since I got back I’ve been spending less time in Ravelry and I have only visited Weavolution once. So far as social crafting goes… the s’n’b meetings are now all over the place in both time and location, while The Handweaving and Spinning Guild meetings are in one spot at a regular time and day per month. So it’s actually much easier to plan to get to the Guild meets than the s’n’b meets, which is a bit sad because I like the s’n’b girls a lot. I’ll try to get to the s’n’b meets, but I’ll plan to get to the Guild ones.

Then there’s blogging. I love reading blogs, but I’ve noticed in the last few years that people aren’t blogging as much any more. And that lack of enthusiasm is finally rubbing off on me. For ages I’ve been telling myself the main reason to do it is not for comments or some fairy-tale that you make heaps of like-minded friends through blogging, but to record what I’ve made and learned in the process. But when that becomes a chore, it’s probably time to stop.

Or perhaps to start a new blog to reflect the shift in my interests. I’ve been wanting to do that for some time now. I just need the time to set it up…

The Hostes Swift Da Mostest

The 80s party went really well. Most of my guests put together fabulous costumes, and we partied until 3am.

Among the gifts were a few crafty related ones:

The swift was from Mum & Dad, who always get me to choose something for my birthday. I have a vintage metal swift, but it’s often too small for the skeins I buy, so this Ashford swift is going to save me from the creative and often very slow alternatives I’ve been using.

The yarn is from a couple who went to an elderly relative and asked for yarn from the 80s. She gave them three balls of commercial mystery wool, and two of her own handspun. All in coordinating greys. I think this is an adorable idea and very thoughtful gift. (The bowl is also another present that had me marvelling at how well the gifter had picked up on my taste.)

I was very excited at the prospect of a gift from my very talented friend Margaret, the creator behind Konstant Kaos. This sketching compendium is beautiful and innovative – just like the rest of her work. Gorgeous fabric, nifty details like the matching button, and so professionally designed and made.

It contains water-soluble pencils and a pad of watercolour paper, and some good quality paint brushes. I keep patting it every time I walk past, promising that I will make time to use it soon. Thanks Margaret!

And from another of my brilliant and creative friends, Beky of Pivotal Xpressions gave me a bookbinding book, which has some awesome example books as well as instructions for the different binding methods, and the most hilarious knitting book I’ve seen – which deserves to be featured in a post of its own. Thanks Beky!

Trying to Stay Karma

Back in those first few months after the Black Saturday bushfires, I had all the best intentions of knitting blanket squares for Bushfire Blankets of Friendship. But after making possum pouches, SES hats and charity scarves I kind of ran out of steam. So when my local s’n’b group recently took a whole lot of the squares to sew up into blankets, I thought I’d get involved.

Last Saturday I grabbed a bag. Here’s most of the contents, laid out in what I hope is a reasonably balanced arrangement:

There were some nice stripey ones. But then something occurred to me about those stripey ones.

Look at all those bl**dy ends.

A handful of the squares had unfinished ends, but only about two to four of them. It’s reasonable to think that ends might even be used to sew the squares together. But that many ends? I figured the most efficient way to deal with them was to crochet around the edge, working the ends in. These squares were a bit smaller than the rest, so they could do with being enlarged.

So I made a start on the first square. It took over an hour, and the crochet border is more like overstuffed piping. And I can tell you, some VERY uncharitable thoughts were going through my head. Especially when I found there was a join in the middle of the square, and the two ends left hanging were less than an inch long.

Thank goodness there are only three squares like this. But now that I’ve got plans to crochet around some squares, I feel like I ought to crochet around a few more to, you know, make the whole thing look consistent and balanced. Just the ones that are a bit on the small side.

I think this blanket may take a bit longer than I originally thought.

Desperately Seeking Jacket

I’m turning 40 soon. Or rather, my 40th year is ending. The beau and I had an interesting discussion about milestone birthdays the other day. He reckons 50 is more important than 40. I disagree. 40 is halfway through a decent life span. It’s also the boundary to middle age.

To mark the occasion, and for the heck of it, I’m having a party. An 80s costume party. I had some pretty grand ideas involving hiring a hall, but decided to keep it at home, with family and just the closer circles of friends (or else we’ll run out of room).

For my costume, I decided on Susan from the film Desperately Seeking Susan. Not only was Madonna a big 80s celeb, but an icon of the fashion and music of the time. And I desperately wanted to dress like her, but if I had I’d have been grounded. Of course, nobody would twitch an eyelid these days.

So I gathered together lots of jewellery, lace gloves and camisole, and scored big time at the op shop findin a very, very 80s pair of pleated front, high waisted, tapered-to-the-ankle black pants. The jacket, however was the hard part.

I could not find anything resembling it in op shops, so eventually I dug up an old bolero jacket (with obligatory 80s shoulder pads) from the back of the wardrobe, some material, felt, gold crochet yarn and paint, and a black permanent marker and started embellishing.

The front is okay, so long as my hair covers the top of the collar.

But I’m pretty chuffed at how the back came out. The black marker worked okay on the felt but not the gold material. But for a costume, it’ll do fine.

Finally, I had my hair dyed streaky blonde. First time I’ve had my hair coloured since I was sixteen. And you know what? I kinda like it!

Other Craft

Lately I’ve been doing some crafty things other than knitting, which is a good thing since the only knitting I’ve been doing is my latest Socks For Others socks, and the crochet jacket is kicking my posterior, and if I wasn’t doing other things I’d have nothing to post about.

I’m going to set up a few posts and have them auto-publish. In the meantime, here are the photo albums of my recent trip:

I’m very much a newbie at bookbinding, though I’ve dabbled since I was a child. These are made from bits and pieces in my art material stash, so the only cost involved was photo processing.

Even so, there are many, many hours work in these. And I thought they’d be quick and simple. But I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.

I’ve yet to find a box of the right size or colour to store them in, mainly because I’m being fussy. I’ll probably just get an A4 black document box from Officeworks.

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Two FOs for the Price of One!

Looking on the bright side of the “machine knitting equals separate pieces equals seaming” fact of life, at least with vests there are only two side seams to do (if you use a three-needle bind-off on the shoulders). However, with stripes of three colours, there are also many ends to be sewn in.

The bands are garter stitch. I’m not a big fan of picking up stitches, but there’s a certain freedom in not having a pattern leaning over you and dictating how many you should have, so you can just pick up however many works and feels right. There was a bit of dizzying anxiety as I knit the last band and began to run out of the blue yarn, but I made it with a few metres to spare.

There’s no waist shaping, since I figure I’ll keep things simple as I learn to use the knitting machine, but the size came out as planned – small enough that some negative ease here and there prevents it from looking like a sack, but not so small it looks like I’m wearing the wrong sized clothing.

I’m rather chuffed at how well it came out. I’m also very happy with the lastest pair of Socks For Others Club socks:

These are for Kerri. She asked for green or red socks. With this Kaffe Fasset yarn, she gets some of each. I’m totally won over by the yarn, actually. Good thing I have some more of it in my stash, and that Kerri doesn’t have stupidly narrow feet like I have, or she might not be getting this pair…

My next sock club recipient will not have to worry that I’ll be tempted to steal her socks:

I love the pattern – so much that this is the second time I’ve knit it – but pink is one of the few colours I dislike. And pastel pink even more so. But not so much that I won’t enjoy knitting these socks. Nicole asked for something ‘girly’ and I’m going to have a lot of fun obliging her.

Weavers Ends Neckwarmer

Pattern? Nah, I just made it up as I went along, she says, waving a hand languidly.

(Truth is, I frogged and restarted several times before I was happy with the width of the scarf, and the ‘frill’. It was a good thing it turned out long enough to get around my neck, or I might have chucked a tanty.)

I’ve not been all that satisfied with using buttons to keep neckwarmers in place so far, so I decided to sew this one together. Then I tried it on… or rather, I tried to try it on, but it wouldn’t go over my head easily. So I unpicked a few cms and added a button to the top that’s small enough to go through the stitches but large enough to not slip right back out again.

Now that it’s done, I really like it. In one of those wierd coincidences, I happened to be wearing something that it coordinated with perfectly today. Not just the same dark green, but both have an asymmetrical look – and one slants one way while the other slants the other way. I’ll have to remember that next time I wear that jumper… outside the house… on a cold enough day for scarves.

I should have the other Old Yarn project done soon. Just the armbands to go. Then maybe I’ll look at the Not As Old As The Yarn I Just Knit But Still Pretty Old yarn.

Definitely Not Monogamous

After not being able to decide which projects to start, I think I must have had a bout of startitis. First of all I figured I’d begin one of the projects in my Ravelry queue and see if I enjoyed it. (It also helped that the yarn didn’t fit in my stash, so the easiest way to fix that problem was to use it.)

I started the Cardigan with Lacy edging. And I’m enjoying it.

Then following another train of thought, I looked at the three oldest yarns in my stash and decided it was time I used them. That led to two new projects. The first batch of yarn consisted of three colours of Corriedale Clip 8ply:

Which suited another train of thought which had me deciding that I needed to reassure myself that I could remember how to use the looms and the knitting machine. I’d already made the pillows on the big loom. I had just enough yarn to make a vest on the knitting machine:

It took most of a day to make these two pieces and I need to sew them up and hand knit the bands. Unfortunately my shoulder muscles, unaccustomed to the movement, decided to pack it in after I finished using the machine.

But in the meantime, I decided to turn the second of the Oldest Yarns into a neck warmer. I bought the yarn in the UK back in 2005. It’s made up of several strands of very thin yarn – ‘weavers ends’. This makes it very, very ‘splitty’, so I have to take care with every stitch.

Then on Sunday I went to the Handweavers and Spinners Guild ‘Spinning Day’, which was the perfect opportunity to get the small loom warped up. I sampled a different sort of rag rug method – rya knots.

I like the result, and intend to use the many, many jeans donated by friends to make a big rug for the entertainment room. The sampler will become either a small floor mat or a ‘funky bag for someone who likes funky bags’.

So if you add the unfinished wine bottle cosies, the ongoing crochet blanket, and the sock club socks, I have seven projects on the go. That’s not at all like me.

And right now, with my back all stiff and sore, I can’t do any of them, which is very, very frustrating.

Cream Puff Pillows

Even before I headed off overseas, I had these two yarns and an idea out of the stash and waiting to be tackled. The fluffy yarn is a very soft wool boucle called Mt Pisa, that I bought at Touch Yarns in New Zealand. The warp yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Classic 3 ply in ‘almond’.

I’d bought the boucle thinking I’d weave a scarf, but I have plenty of scarves. Then I unwisely washed some throw pillows together and the colour ran, so what had been two cream coloured pillows gained a ‘subtle tie-dye effect’. So after discovering how cool double weave tubes were, I figured I’d weave those pillows some soft, fluffy covers.

So I warped up the loom, got started and immediately discovered something obvious:

This is a quarter of the boucle yarn. I wasn’t going to get one pillow out of it, let alone two. So I dove into the stash and brought out some more New Zealand yarn: Naturally Naturelle, a 10ply/aran wool yarn left over from Starsky.

I worked out that I could work the double weave so I had two shots of boucle followed by two of Naturelle on the front of the pillows, and just Naturelle for the back.

Which make the whole weaving-a-tube thing even cooler. Here’s the front:

Here’s the back:

Then I discovered my second mistake. I had managed to stuff up the warp length calculations, and was coming up a little short on the second pillow. By tying the warp into sections at the back of the loom, then extending it with some scrap yarn, I managed to just squeeze out the second pillow.

Then it was just a matter of tying off and trimming the warp into a fringe, washing and blocking the pillow covers, then slipping them over the old pillows.

Structually, the project all worked out fine it the end. But I’m not 100% satisfied with the final result. The weft is is a little prone to spreading on the back of the pillows, so the fabric really isn’t firm enough for the use I’m putting it to. I’m considering felting it a little, but not so much that I can’t get the original pillows inside any more.

But otherwise, they’re soft and cushy, and do a great job of reviving the dye-stained old pillows.