Heddle Me This

A few other projects have been in limbo lately. Summer Solstice remained a whole lot of balls of frogged yarn and some graph paper with the new pattern mapped out. The baby blanket remained half warped. Blame the Passap? Well, actually, it’s not all the fault of the new kid in the workroom.

The baby blanket had stalled before the Passap arrived, and the main reason was heddles. The lack of heddles, to be precise. The table loom comes with plastic heddles, but if I make something as wide as the loom in thinner yarns I inevitably run out of them. However, if I make something as wide as the loom in a thick yarn, those spare heddles sit at the side and get in the way.

Since you can’t remove or add plastic heddles without dismantling the loom, the standard solution is to tie on string heddles. I’ve done this before, and all that bending over to tie lots of little knots – three per heddle – isn’t good for my back and hands. I also hate that, after all this effort, I have to cut the heddles off again. The baby blanket being woven by the double weave method, which means it’s folded in half on the loom, and takes twice as many heddles. I needed to add more than 80 string heddles. You can probably understand why I’d been putting it off.

I kept thinking ‘there’s got to be a better way’ and decided to search the internet for removable heddles. That’s when I found instructions on how to make removable string heddles. You make them separately, and only need to tie one knot per heddle to get them on the loom. I tied them on with a single loop bow, so I can (hopefully) remove them by pulling the end rather than try to undo tiny knots.

A few days later I finally had the loom warped and started weaving. Weaving log cabin in double weave is… interesting. Slow but steady work.

It’ll be a few weeks before this one is done, I suspect. But it is always nice to start to see how it’s going to look.

Work, Art, Craft, Photography and Garages

It’s time for another LJ-ish post. How are we doing?

I finished the copy edit on Friday. Had to skip drawing class to get it done. I would have finished over the weekend, but when I saw it was going to be in the high 30s I figured I best get it done before sleep deprivation set in. I didn’t mind to much, though. We were going to have the same model as last week, and though he stands very still his face tends to move a lot, which is fine for life drawing but not great for portraiture.

Yesterday we went to the baby shower for the friends I’m weaving the baby blanket for. The invitation was a big push to finish the warping, even though I knew that, with only two week’s notice, I didn’t have had a chance of finishing it in time. The reason I’d stalled was I needed to make and tie on about 80 string heddles. The making of them wasn’t going to be good for my hand, and my back was too sore for leaning over the loom to tie them on.

But then I did a search on the internet and found a different way of tying the heddles on, where they could be mostly made away from the loom, and the bonus is they can be easily removed again instead of cutting them off. Once I’d got over the head spin/sore back thing I had last week I got stuck into making and adding heddles, finishing the warping, and by Friday I was able to start weaving.

Paul is back at photography school, which seems to make him both cheerful and anxious. He has some interesting ideas for his projects this year. I can see that he’s stimulated by working alongside the other students. Perhaps not that they give each other ideas, but in finding their own style and vision pushes others to do the same.

Building approval came through for the new garage last week, so we popped down to the shop and ordered it. I was a bit disappointed to learn it’ll be five weeks until it arrives. Still, I did predict it wouldn’t be done until March. We have to get the foundations done which, as so often happens with foundations if Grand Designs is to be believed, are going to be more complicated and expensive than they seemed to be.

Aircon in the kitchen still isn’t fixed, which is a big disincentive to cook on hot days.

I’ve also been having fun with the knitting machine, but I’ll save the details for a separate post.

In Pursuit of Socks

Look what I got:

Yep, a knitting machine. A Passap Duomatic 80 with all the bells and whistles. How did I come to own this?

1) Lamenting all the sock yarn I wasn’t going to be able to knit because of RSI had me investigating circular sock machines. They turned out to be very expensive new and not much cheaper second hand.

2) On the Australian Machine Knitters forum on Ravelry they began talking about how to make socks on a flat bed machine. I could even do them on the Bond Ultimate Sweater Machine, but they’d have to be done with 8ply yarn with a seam up the sides. To use my sock yarn I’d need a machine that would handle 4ply, and to do socks with no seams I’d need one with a ribber. Second hand flat bed machines were a lot cheaper than CSMs.

3) There were plenty of machines on eBay, but which one to get? I searched the internet and found that there was a lot of information available for Passaps, and they were one of the most common machines the clubs of the Machine Knitters Association used. I watched videos and browsed through discussions on Ravelry. I decided I was willing to pay more for one that didn’t need cleaning up and fixing.

4) A Passap came up on eBay. A bit pricier than others, but in the pic it was clean and all assembled, and it had all the attachments, manuals and even a ball winder thrown in. So I got Paul to bid for me, and won.

5) We drove out to Pakenham to pick it up. The lady who sold it was great – an experienced machine knitter with five other machines. She recommended a guy who fixes and services machines, and different clubs around my side of town.

The following Saturday I assembled the machine and, following the advice of the seller and Ravelry, started on the exercises in the manual. The first one was for an oven mitt, and since I didn’t really need one I just did enough rows of each section to learn the stitch or method. I couldn’t work out how to cast off, but it was late in the day by then.

The next day I did exercise two: slippers. A very simple pattern that I was tempted to skip, but by doing it I worked out how to tweak the tension to get the left edge stitches working better. I also worked out what I’d done wrong with the cast off, and this time it worked. I used up some leftover sock yarn, and liked the result so much I went ahead and knit the pair.

The next two exercises are for a jumper and skirt for a 3 year old. But I don’t have a 3 year old, friends who do would probably find it a bit too 80s, and I’d have to buy more yarn, so I’m thinking of either doing them a quarter the size, or skipping them and moving on to the tube exercise.

And a tube is exactly what I need to knit socks. But I’ll also need to learn to do short rows for he heels and toes, and the skirt tutorial covers those. Hmm. I guess I could always do enough of it to learn the technique, then frog it later.

Current Likes/Wants

I just found this draft post I began back at the beginning of January. It’s just a list:

Things made from books and maps, especially jewellery
Travel-sized products
Paint applied with a big old brush, or a roller
Cookie cutters
Cats, especially Slinky
Dip-dyed cloth, dip-painted stuff
Big, soft cotton shawls than can be used as scarves or blankets
Black throw pillows
A laser cutting machine
An inklette loom
A circular sock machine

It didn’t seem worth posting, but I left it because it might make an interesting sidebar item that evolved with time. Or something.

I didn’t think a list like that would change much, but I’m surprised to find I’d like to write a new list. A fresher one with new likes and wants. It would go like this:

Pencil drawings
Artwork of shoes
Colour blocking
Spray tan
Machine knitting
Card weaving
Turban headbands
Words with friends

So, what the heck, I’ll see if this becomes some kind of regular blog thing, that I do once a month or so.

Short & Sweet

Over January I did slip in a couple of very quick crafty projects. The sort that take less than an hour. So quick I forgot to blog about them.

These bracelets, following the little tutorial over on Honestly WTF:

Then another inspired by a different tutorial at the same blog:

And then I dug out these shoes, which I vaguely remember buying while on holiday after getting blisters on my heels from the shoes I took with me. I always found them rather boring and ‘beige’.

Some acrylic paint, a leaf-shaped cutter and some address labels later, they weren’t so boring any more.

I also tried solar dyeing with flowers from our flame tree, but all they did was make the cloth slightly pinker.

Work, Rest and Play

I’ve been feeling blurky since last Tuesday. Head spins and sore neck to begin with. Before the concert I kept telling myself “I am NOT going to be sick today” over and over. On Wednesday I was very, very tired but blamed being out ‘late’. On Thursday I began to see that it was more than that – I had sinusitis, which would explain the head spins. Friday and Saturday I had a stonking bad headache but thankfully by yesterday it was gone and everything else settled down but for feeling a bit feverish.

The copy edit of my current book arrived a week early. Today I’m going to try starting on it. That means approving/rejecting the editor’s corrections and tackling queries about possible problems in the text. I get two weeks, so I divide the number of chapters by ten and that’s what I have to get done per day.

On Friday I skipped drawing classes in favour of naps and Top Gear, then went into the city to have dinner with a Canberran writer friend, Nicole Murphy, and take her to the Melbourne Science Fiction Club to do a talk. She stayed overnight – though we had to give her the old single sofa bed to sleep on because our guest room is still full of boxes from the old car port.

The Garage Project is still stalled, as we wait for building approval for the new garage. (Twiddles thumbs, drums fingers.)

Craftwise, I’ve made good progress on Summer Solstice, getting the sleeves of the yoke-arm piece sewn up and the body knit. I had to map out the body section as well, only to discover that the increases and decreases mainly serve to create fake ‘seam’ lines and not much in the way of shaping. So I simplified again, knitting a straight rectangle. Except that I didn’t think I’d fit the whole thing on the machine so I did it in two panels, to be sewn up the back. Later I realised it would have fit – just. Oh well. It’s a “design feature”. And I find cotton garments need a seam or two to give them a bit of structure. There’s just the collar to knit now, and it turns out it’ll require exactly the number of needles I have on the machine, with the extension kit added.

Oh – and I actually did some hand knitting the other say. I’m adding a collar to a vest. I kept it to half an hour, two nights in a row. My hands didn’t hurt at all. But then I had to stop because of my neck getting sore. Still – yay!

Roger Waters: The Wall Live

Last year, probably after watching yet another Classic Albums dvd, I said to Paul that if I was given the chance to go back in time and see one rock concert, it would be The Wall. Seemingly days later, we heard that Roger Waters was going to be touring The Wall again.

Last night we headed into Melbourne to see it. Our seats were high up, which gave us a great view except for one hitch: the big circle in the background was obscured by speakers and the teacher puppet when it was not in action. However, much of what was in the circle was also projected onto the wall itself, so we didn’t miss much, content-wise.

It wasn’t just a rehash of the previous Wall concerts. The use of the growing wall as a surface to project onto was amazing…

Sometimes creating illusions that made feel like the wall was changing, bricks falling, flying away…

Original animation mixed with new…

And, of course, it’s all very anti-war, anti-government – some of it humorous, some sad.

I took these “I woz ere” snaps on my iPhone. I’m pretty impressed that they came out as well as they did. Still, they’re mere snapshots compared to the spectacle that the show was.

Looking down into the audience, it was like stars in the night sky – all those phones and cameras.

The other concert-goers were entertaining, too. Airports are still my favourite people-watching places, but concert foyers may now be my second. The crowd was mostly people in their 50s, so we felt ‘young’. Most younger people were with parents, but there were a few groups of 20 and 30 year olds.

We had a row of 20-year olds in front of us – big fans if the Pink Floyd tattoos were any indication. Between them, they got up to go to the toilet at least three times each. In a concert that went for an hour, then intermission, then another hour. WTF? They couldn’t hold on for an hour? How can 20-year olds have worse bladders than people twice their age?

That added to the people next to us coming back late after intermission (drinking obviously being more important to that lot than watching the show) meant our viewing of the show was constantly being interrupted. Then, near the end, people started leaving while the band was still on stage, bowing and saying goodbye. Dozens of them, clumping down the stairs. Did they not enjoy the show? Parking meter running out? They were a bit old to be worrying about baby sitters.

Somebody said to me once that people now behave in live shows as if they’re in their own lounge room: getting up to go to the loo, talking, drinking, eating, etc. It might explain why they’d leave early, too. They’re completely disconnected from the reality that there are real, talented people performing on that stage, and how awesome it is to have that live, unrepeatable experience that can’t be paused or replayed. The performers are no more valued than animated characters in a film. What’s easily acquired – in this case entertainment – is not valued. So the ‘consumer’ forgets that gifted people work bloody hard to make that piece of entertainment they’re enjoying, just like they forget that milk comes from cows that a farmer had to breed, care for and milk.

Anyway… we stayed to the end, we clapped, we bought t-shirts. It was a great night, and I left thinking we should go see shows like this more often.

Beginnings, Middles (But No Endings)

Last Friday I restarted life drawing classes, but at the suggestion of my teacher I concentrated on drawing the model’s face. It was as challenging as I expected, but I really enjoyed it, and it’s clear my teacher spent some time over the break thinking about how she would instruct me. Since I’m not drawing naked people, I can post pics here safely. But not last week’s. They weren’t very good.

It’s the first step in exploring portraiture. Though it’s not the first time I’ve done a portrait. I did one of my ex years ago as a gift for his parents. It was a lot of fun, and I was pretty chuffed with the result. Unfortunately, it’s the only painting I never got a photo of.

The Garage Project is chugging along. The car port was removed and taken by a guy (and his son) from Paul’s car club. We had a sliding door replaced with a swing door between the old garage and house. We’re just waiting for a permit and then the new garage can go in.

Heat and wanting a change of surroundings after days of rewriting and editing has kept me away from the loom and knitting machine so I have made slow progress. I did a few very small, very quick craft projects though, but I haven’t blogged about them for the same reasons.

I’m also between editing rounds right now, and taking the opportunity to get a few work-related tasks done. Today I drew more character sketches for the (no longer very secret) Sekrit Project and tackled my BAS (quarterly tax reporting). I’m hoping to write a short story or two. Thankfully, the forecast is for low 20s this week – and my back and hands are doing okay.

Posted in art