It’s That Time of Year Again

Time for a big wardrobe cull.

Actually, I used to do this during the Christmas to New Year break, because Paul would have bought me the latest Trinny & Suzanna book and it always inspired a wardrobe review and cull. But last year I discovered the New Dress a Day blog and the cult of refashioning, and there’s something about the onset of warmer weather that makes me want to attack my clothes.

This year I was determined not to spend a lot of time refashioning, because there are other things I want to be doing. As it turned out, I didn’t need to be worried. Most of what I culled wasn’t refashionable. I’ve got a little bit bigger around the hips and waist and, thanks to a very painful bout of water retention, let’s just say most of the culled garments used to clothe my top half. It’s a lot harder to adjust clothing that is too small than too big.

The easiest refashion was to turn a wrap dress into a warp skirt by removing the top. I also dug out this old denim skirt, which is one of the few items of clothing I made during my big sewing obsession of my 20s that I was really pleased with. I stopped wearing it only because I got a bit tired of it, and it was a bit too 90s for the 00s.

Denim is back. And the 90s, apparently. So I decided to replace the waistband with some fabric from an old pair of jeans, and get a bit more use out of it around the house.

But the next refashion was a lot more fun. Proper seat of the pants sewing, with no pattern. I had a couple of tops and a dress that didn’t fit, and four singlet tops that I’d bought on sale that had distorted after I washed them.

The arrows point to the top and bottom of the ‘side’ seam. Sometimes cheap really means cheap. I’d bought them more because they were stripy, and I was into stripy at the time (not so much now I’m so ample at the front) so I was more than a little displeased at that clothing store.

I did a bit of mix and match until I had some colours that worked together.

Then I cut the tops into wedge shapes.

And a t-shirt into a waistband.

And the skirt of the dress into eight panels.

Then I got sewing, using my overlocker (serger) to join all the pieces.

I was a little concerned it was going to look like a circus tent, but it doesn’t. Mostly it’s black with a peep of colour here and there. A comfortable, casual skirt for summer.

I have a mens shirt I wan’t to refashion into a top like this one I did last year, and that was supposed to be it for this season’s refashioning. But then I saw this. That’ll be another post.

To BA or not to BA?

For the last year or more I’ve been thinking about doing a BA in Fine Art in 2012, but I’m hesitating. Why? Well, time is a big issue. Can I really do this and meet book deadlines? I’ve managed to do a weekly life drawing class for most of the year and still meet a book deadline, so surely I can dedicate a day a week to a BA.

But time isn’t my only doubt. I have other, vague ones around whether this is the right move for me, and yesterday I decided to see if writing about them here would help.

Doubt 1: Will the art taught at Uni be the art I want to do?

A now famous award winning Aussie artist who I used to know once said something along the lines of this: when he was at uni doing an art degree he didn’t let on he could draw, because the only kind of art respected there was steaks nailed to a wall. That was probably more than 20 years ago, so maybe things have changed. Still, it worries me. It’s not that I don’t see any merit in steaks nailed to walls as art, but it’s not the only kind of art there is and I’d like to be learning about and trying more than that.

What do I want to learn? Well, a little about art – the more academic subjects like the history, psychology and philosophy behind art. To try my hand at sculpture which, aside from pottery, I haven’t done much of. To learn techniques like printmaking, which I think of as the craftmanship side of craft and art.

Do I need to do a BA do learn all this? Could I just do courses, classes and research in my own time?

Doubt 2: Am I too old to be an artist?

The other night I watched a recent episode of Artscape containing a panel discussing a ‘new national cultural policy’. The panelists touched on a couple of interesting issues as part of the discussion, that are sources of doubt for me.

Firstly, that there’s support for young, new artists, not much after that. I got to wondering how this is skewing the art that’s being produced. If it takes time and practise to get really good at something – the idea that it takes 10,000 hours/1 million words – but an artist’s support disappears by then, along with them perhaps having a family to support, then are those artists having to give up art? Maybe this is why we get steaks-nailed-to-wall art. It doesn’t take much skill, and who has time to get skilled? Besides, these day ideas are more important than skill. If you’ve got to make your name young before you get too old and the funding dries up, you do something attention-getting. But later? Nailing a steak to a wall at 40 is going to be the art version of getting your first tattoo or dying your hair purple at 40 – more naff than cool, and will make your friends suspect you’re having a mid-life crisis.

It’s not the lack of financial support for older artists that worries me, personally. If all that’s being supported is steaks-nailed-to-wall art, then mostly steaks-nailed-to-wall is being made. And that means it’s what’s selling and getting attention. If the best steaks-nailed-to-wall art is what gets attention rather than the best art, it gives everyone the impression that this is all that modern art is about. Where does that leave an artist who doesn’t want to nail steaks to a wall?

Doubt 3: Am I too boring white and middle-class to be an artist?

Earlier this year I bought tried some art magazines to see if they’d get me more keen to do art and/or a BA, and wound up more depressed than inspired. One article pointed out how the art world isn’t interested in Australian art unless it’s Aboriginal or the artist is an immigrant. It’s fantastic to hear those two kind of art are flourishing, but it made me see that an artist has to do more than produce good art. They need a story: a background that outsiders will find exotic, or a gimmick. As a boring middle-class white chick, there’s nothing exotic about me and I groan at the thought of coming up with a gimmick.

Doubt 4: Why go to the trouble of all that study and work when what you’re doing isn’t anything special, because everyone’s doing art everyday all the time anyway?

Earlier this year Paul and I saw the Endless Present exhibition at the NGV. I came way feeling I’d been educated rather than inspired or had enjoyed some great art. I knew nothing about conceptual art, but I recognised it because it’s all over the internet. I remember when bloggers all over the world were posting pics of the sky on Sundays. That’s conceptual art. So is photographing what you wear every day.

On Sunday Paul and I went to an exhibition at MGA called Brummels: Australia’s First Gallery of Photography which contained some conceptual art. It got me thinking about how anyone can do this. And also how ideas about art have changed. What was ugly is now beautiful. Decayed things are appreciated for their faded beauty. A not particularly well taken picture of something is art, several pictures of that thing taken over time is even more arty. Then there’s this view of ugly decayed beauty that’s laced with sentimentality. Like those awful, fake Polaroid photos that are so fashionable now.

Anyone can do this sort of art. Which is why I don’t want to.

Then again, there’s this wonderful mathematical definition of modern art and I can see that this is where photography is a different kettle of fish to art. In an era when anybody could have taken that photo and anybody does, while anybody could have nailed that steak to a wall, not everyone does. The trick is to be the first to do it. Which takes me back to art being about ideas not skill.

I think I just depressed myself all over again.

But this ramble was supposed to helped me decide if I want to do a BA. Maybe I’m really asking myself what sort of art I want to do.

I want to make art that I enjoy making, but which also appeals to others (even if to avoid filling the house with unwanted paintings). I want to make art that isn’t a fad or gimmicky. I want the art to involve some skill, but not something so insanely complex and time consuming that the sheer complexity and time required is a gimmick.

Perhaps that is why I want to do a BA. Maybe, just maybe, by doing it I’ll stumble upon the sort of art I want to do. (But it’s not going to happen if all we’re taught is steaks-on-the-wall art.)

Posted in art

The Towering Inpurrno

Meet Slinky:

After a few days we removed the bathroom cabinet from the bathroom (it’s actually a little kitchen cart with wheels) and put a cover over the cat bed. We also left the door open so he could explore the larger passage and tv room area. The next day we found him hiding behind the couch.

So we let him stay there a few more days. In the mornings we’d find signs of nighttime adventure: toys and pillows moved, rugs rumbled up. A friend recommended Feliway, a pheromone atomiser device. It’s expensive, so she mailed us the atomiser so we only had to buy a refill.

The day after installing that, the cat emerged. Suddenly he was all over us, smooching and purring to the point he was drooling. Okaaaay, maybe the atomiser was a bit too effective! When he walked it was low to the ground. So obvious he’d been a stray. He certainly eats like a stray, too: fast and furtive. The way he moved was hilarious – the back end following a moment after the front. It reminded me of something, and when I realised what that was we had a name: Slinky. The fact that there’s a cat in a children’s book named Slinky Malinky just proves it’s an acceptable cat name.

We coaxed him out a few more times, and now he’s emerging on his own – usually when we sit down to watch tv of a night. Last night we even had some rather wriggly lap time. Behind the couch is still his default location, even though he also likes hiding in Paul’s office and the brick nook where firewood used to be stored.

Which brings me to a project I started before we adopted Slinky: The Towering Impurrno Cat Tower and Scratching Post.

Peri Peri wasn’t a climber, so I never got a cat tower. Most of them are pretty ugly and take up a lot of space. I don’t like the ones made of carpet, because IMHO you’re just teaching the cat it’s okay to scratch carpet. If you want attractive designer cat products, there’s Modern Cat, which has a range of DIY projects, too. There’s also some good ideas for pet furniture on Ikea Hacker. I particularly like the simple idea behind the Kitty Condo. Easy to make, but it doesn’t include a scratching post. Could I incorporate one? Hmm. Yes I could. Could I make it out of cheap, mainly repurposed materials? You bet.

I listed the materials necessary. I had one long cardboard tube, some black fake fur and batting, lots of macrame jute for the ‘scratching band’. I needed more cardboard tubes including ones big enough for the ‘tunnels’, a base, paint and straps to hold it all together.

So I went to Reverse Garbage in Ringwood to see if I could find some cardboard tubes of the right size. I came back with three round tubs and two lids. One tub had a broken base that I removed to make a tunnel, the others would become a kitty bed and toy storage respectively. The smaller tubes are for play – balls could be run along them or a toy on a string pulled through. Next came a trip to Bunnings, where I found two straps, materials for Paul to make a base out of, and some undercoat and black paint.

Cutting the tubes neatly took some trial and error. The best solution was to score the tube with a knife, saw almost all the way through, then use the knife to cut the rest of the way. A bit of sanding tidied up any burred edges. The most annoying part was stripping off bits of tape and shiny labels that would probably repel paint.

Work on the project stalled for a few weeks due to finishing the book and rain preventing me painting outside (the paint is oil based and whiffy). Though I still have a lot of editing and polishing to do before the book deadline, I’m hoping to make some progress on the tower during breaks and weekends.

But I may have to tackle a newer project first. Slink has sharp claws and no respect for leather armchairs, so ‘temporary chair covers’ has just been added to the top of my to-do list.


The first draft of the book I’ve been writing since late last year is finally done. There’s still a lot of hard work to do, polishing it up and rewriting bits, but that doesn’t require as much creativity. I will start to get interested in the multitude of projects I have going, though I probably won’t have a lot of time for them until December.

All I’ve been doing lately is knitting these socks:

But because they were all I had the mental energy for, I got them done super fast. I cast on the marled yarn scrappy socks, but realised not far past the toe that the yarns were too variable in weight. So I removed the very thin yarn and I’ve put that batch aside until I have some more marled yarn leftovers to add to it.

I also bought some yarn. It started as a search for a replacement set of 2.25 mm bamboo dpns and red Patonyle, and all these other yarns slipped in.

Unfortunately, it’s been so long since I ordered yarn online I forgot that sometimes sock yarn comes in 50 gram balls and I need to buy two. I now have three single balls of the Kaffe Fasset sock yarn. I could order second balls, but I do have a lot of leftovers from the two pairs I made from this yarn before. I reckon I could stretch one ball out to make a pair, if I did heels, toes and cuffs in a contrast yarn.

Playing Matchmaker

While on the subject of socks (and because the cat still hasn’t emerged from the bathroom)…

I have a ‘healthy’ stash of sock yarn. Well, it’s generous by my standards. It’s the part of my stash that I rarely get stashbusting or culling urges over. There was a time when I couldn’t see why anyone would want to knit socks. I laugh at that younger, naive version of myself now. I love knitting socks.

… even though I prefer to knit plain stocking stitch socks.

… even though I only like solid, semi-solid or striped yarn. And the two men I knit socks for on a regular basis have very conservative taste in colours.

… even though I have a stockpile of socks waiting for pairs in my overflowing sock draw to wear out.

As a result I have sock yarn leftovers. Which makes me happy because I also love making ‘scrappy socks’ – socks made from combining leftover yarns. Some of my favourite socks are scrappy socks. (Those were all done with groups of many different yarns.) Half the fun is in matching and mixing colours, making little groupings. They have to look good together, with a combined weight of at least 75-80 grams.

Recently I indulged in a bout of leftovers matchmaking. The obvious ones involved a solid colour added to a varied yarn. This is why I make sure I always have some black, navy, white and grey yarn on hand.

Sometimes there isn’t enough for a two yarn plain/varied combination, and I have to get more adventurous.

The blue/brown combo was inspired by Kerri’s birthday socks, and I particularly love the collection of marled yarns at the bottom.

Two yarns that I’ve found challenging to match with others are the top two in the next pic:

The problem is they’re striping yarns but there’s not much of either, and I didn’t have any leftovers that matched very well. That was until I knit up socks in the blue/green/light green yarn below them. Now I have a leftover yarn that relates to both yarns and there’s enough of it that, together, I have 100 grams of sock yarn.

And I’m loving the way they look together.

Sharing the Sock Love

These socks have been given to the birthday girl (hi Kerri) so I can now blog about them.

Yarn: Ewe Give Me The Knits, and a little Ms. Gusset
Pattern: my own toe-up heel-flap pattern
Needles: 2.5 bamboo dpns

Kerri was a recipient of a previous Socks For Others Club pair, so I had her measurements and colour preferences already. On the latter I had a problem – I had no yarn in the colours she’d picked before. But I had seen her wear brown before and it’s a nice neutral colour. The EGMTK yarn was thick and cushy, too, so an extra treat.

However, I started to suspect I’d run out of yarn before the end of the first sock. So I slipped the stitches of the first one onto a thread and knit the second until I ran out of yarn. Sure enough. Not enough yarn. What was going on? Why would anyone produce a skein too small for a pair of socks?

Well, it turned out I’d already knit a hat out of this yarn. Whoops.

What to do? I could add another yarn. I could get some length added by removing the toes then knitting then in the new yarn, top down. But this was extra thick, cushy yarn. No ordinary sock yarn would go with it. Fortunately I had some Ms. Gusset sock yarn in the stash in two colours, which was thicker than standard 4ply and only an eensy bit thinner than the YGMTK. The purple did not go at all, but the aqua blue striped with the brown made for a very pretty combination. So much so that it’s a good think I have stupidly narrow feet, or I might have adopted these and knit Kerri another pair.

Once I had finished, I was in love with the Ms. Gusset yarn, so I cast on for a pair of socks for myself. And once again, I ran out of yarn. Short socks would have been okay if I’d been using standard sock yarn, but on days you want extra warm cushy socks you want full length ones. This time I only had purple cushy yarn in the stash, and it most certainly did not go with the aqua blue.

Diving into the sock leftovers, I found a little miracle ball of an aqua blue a shade darker than the one I was knitting. Not really the same thickness, but these socks were for me and I didn’t think the varying yarn would be too noticeable if I did alternating stripes.

I had just enough yarn to make the socks a good length. And the day after I finished them, the weather took a turn for the chilly, so I wore them all day. I love them!

Yarn: Ms. Gusset and leftovers
Pattern: my own toe-up heel-flap pattern
Needles: 2.5 mm bamboo dpns

We Have a Cat

We gave up on the too-perfect-to-be-true cat and went to our local RSPCA where, after much deliberation, we chose a rolly-polly black boy with white chin and paws, and big yellow eyes. No photos yet, so here’s an ‘artist’s impression’:

As recommended, we put him in a quiet place – the bathroom – with food, water, bed and litter tray to recover from the trauma of being in a new place. He went straight under the bathroom cabinet and has been hiding there ever since, though this morning the food was gone and there are paw prints in the litter.

He’d been dubbed ‘Randalf’. We have to come up with a better name than than, not the least because it’s bound to be shortened to ‘Randy’. Paul has been going through famous black and white photographer names: Adams, Talbot, etc. I’ve been working out what ‘ink’ and ‘black’ are in other languages. Apparently ‘sumi’ means ‘ink’, ‘charcoal’ and ‘corner’ in Japanese and other eastern languages. And ‘kuro’ means ‘black’ in Japanese.

A Familiar Feeling

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed, disorganised and frustrated lately. I keep starting projects then despairing of ever finishing them. Old projects are being neglected. I’ve always been good at using little bits of spare time through the day to get things done – morning tea time, lunchtime, while watching tv at night – but I can seem to get organised. When I do, I can’t enjoy it. I start to knit but all I can think is that I should be spending the time on more worthy pursuits, like art. If a social engagement comes along I resent it for taking up creative time, but then I’m too out of it to get any creative stuff done anyway. Minor annoyances, like this cat adoption thing, bug me more than they should.

But it’s all perfectly normal. It’s how I get when I’m chasing a writing deadline. A lot of creative energy goes into my work, leaving none for spare time or days off – and by then I usually need to give my back a rest anyway. Patience runs thin and the fantasy of time off when the book is finished sours as the list of things to do post-deadline starts to get depressingly, ridiculously huge.

Now that I’ve recognised the symptoms, I know it’s time to make some rules:

1. The only non-writing activities I’m allowed to do must be for my mental and physical health. Eat, sleep, exercise. Simple, no-pressure sanity-restoring art and craft like sock knitting and life drawing. A couple of social outings so I don’t forget how to interact with people.
2. Go out on days off to prevent cabin fever.
3. A little indulgence is allowed (so long as it is a little). Chocolate. Wine. Shopping. Long, hot bubble baths.
4. Pressure to reduce stash, be it of yarn, books or anything else, is on hold.
5. Don’t think about Christmas. Christmas is months and months away.

I’ve also decided that if I haven’t heard back about the cat after a week (Thursday) it’s time to forget about it and move on.

Chatty Fidget

I’ve had a LiveJournal blog since 2005, which I’ve been using as a kind of private diary that friends can see. Unfortunately LJ had grown a bit dodgy (apparently due to hackers) and most of my friends have abandoned it for Facebook or Twitter – neither of which would suit the sorts of posts I was writing in LJ.

So I’m going to write those sorts of posts here instead. Well, not the really personal ones. Just the day to stay stuff, like the last post about cat shelters. The arty crafty posts will still happen, too, but judging by the number of visitors and comments I get, they weren’t getting me a huge audience anyway.

I’d like to select a new theme, but last time I tried that I nearly lost the entire blog and I don’t have time to fix it if that happens again. To tidy things up, I have removed most of the links to blogs in the sidebar (I have their RSS feeds all bookmarked anyway), reduced the categories and added a few new ones. I’m sure I’ll be adding more as I try out this new approach.

So if you’re a regular visitor, or a friend coming here from the link on LJ, I hope you’ll enjoy a more chatty, personal Creative Fidget.

A Bird in the Hand…

Since we are now a Home in Need of a Cat, I’ve been exploring the many ways in which acquiring a cat has changed since I adopted Peri Peri from the RSPCA… sixteen years ago. Now, I’m a shelter cat kind of person. The house I grew up in was close to a ‘green belt’ area (where development is restricted to small farms and/or future highways may be built). People used to drive out from the city until they saw what looked like ‘country’ and dump the grown up kittens they’d got their kids for Christmas. Seriously. You knew that was the reason, because it always happened around the same time of year.

These cats would make their way into the local back yards and the lucky ones were taken in by the people living there. I liked that we were always adopted by cats, rather than the other way around. But since moving out of home I’ve lived in more built up areas, so there’ll less chance of that happening.

A cat shelter recommendation led to us finding PetRescue. Now you can browse for a suitable cat from the comfort of home. This is both good and bad. Suddenly there are a LOT of cats to choose from, and I want to take them all home. But at least there’s less chance I actually will take them all home, which would be the danger if I went to a shelter with no specific cat to consider.

Most of the ‘ads’ have little description. There’s the usual age/coat/colouring info and a description that usually tells you something like “likes cuddles but is also independent” (in other words, it’s a cat) but not much more. But one cat had a lovely long description with a comment from the foster carer that made this seem like the perfect cat. Almost too perfect, though. The saying “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” did go through my mind.

I sent an email enquiry anyway and a few days later got a reply that someone else was looking at the cat but in case that falls though would I fill out a form. Boy, do they want a lot of info these days. I haven’t heard anything back. It’s early days, but I have to admit I’ve started to think about the information they asked for and feel a bit twitchy. I mean… driver’s licence number? Surely this isn’t some scam to steal your identity or something… naaaah… It’s not like they wanted my date of birth or visa card number.

The small but not very strong suspicion I do have is that the ad is a fake, designed to contain search terms to draw visitors to the site, and the cat doesn’t actually exist. Which would be annoying, because there’s another cat on a different shelter site I’d like to investigate. But I want to get an answer for the first one before I do, because if that cat is real it would be a pity if we missed out on adopting her out of impatience.

I never thought finding a new cat would be so complicated!