Craft & Quilt Fair

On Thursday, while at the Machine Knitters meeting, I learned that the Craft & Quilt Fair was on. Last time I went there was a cluster of jewellery-making stores down in the first aisles on the left. I still needed some findings, and I prefer to buy beads in person so I know exactly what colour I’m getting, so I figured it was worth going. But I wanted to spend Saturday on the knitting machine, I work on Sundays, and the fair wasn’t open in the evenings. So on Friday morning I hatched a plan: park in the 3 hour supermarket parking near the station, train into the city with Paul, be out of the Fair by 10:45am, train home in time to get to drawing class.

It all worked out, more or less, and it had unexpected benefits. I got there at 9:30 and walked straight in, whereas by 10:45 it was getting crowded inside and a very long queue had formed outside. I bought some of what I needed, and some interesting materials for new projects. Here’s the haul:

There are some seed beads and beading thread, some silver charms and the base for a scarf pendant and pretty clasps, and all the brass pendant and brooch bases are for a necklace inspired by this.

I also bought this book:

When I was a teenager I bought a beaded choker and bracelet made by an 80-year-old lady, and I’ve always wanted to learn how to make jewellery like that. This books has some beautiful designs and the instructions are very clear. I can see some beaded jewellery making in my near future.

The Big Jewellery Tidy Up, Ep. 1

I can’t remember exactly what got me started. I think it was looking at rings on Pinterest. It got me digging up old rings to see if they still fit, and I discovered that some of my silver jewellery had tarnished, so I went looking for information on storing it, and next thing I was going through everything. Soon I had a bit of a triage system going: jewellery to cull, jewellery to fix or scavenge for parts, jewellery to sort and store properly.

Information on storing silver was contradictory – some say to keep it exposed to air to keep it dry, some day keep it sealed away in zip lock bags. Since the items of mine that had tarnished had been exposed to a point – loose in drawers – I went with the zip lock bags. But the silver in the original velvet boxes was fine, so I figured that must be enough to protect them. I even went hunting for more velvet boxes in op shops. One of the local ones said they had a big bag of empty ones out the back and they’d call me when they found it, but unfortunately they never did.

Most of my jewellery is either bought or hand made ‘costume’ jewellery. I have very little that’s worth more, and then nothing worth a lot. I suspect I’ve inherited my mother’s wariness of owning something valuable that could be so easily stolen or make someone want to mug you. Ironically, I have pieces that it would hurt far more to lose because they’re sentimental, not valuable.

I’ve been keeping most of the jewellery I wear regularly in my little ‘dressing table nook’ on some wire mesh I spray painted white a few years ago, using s hooks I made out of white coated paper clips. But space was running out and it had spread to the mirror.

I had a little cabinet on the other side of the nook that was half full of bits and pieces, so I got rid of that. Then I bought two cheap pinboards and covered the ugly brown corkboard centre with calico. A pack of clear plastic pins and some picture hooks later, I had two jewellery hangers. And some removable hooks for bracelets and heavier necklaces.

Now I can take down a necklace without having to untangle it from the rest. There are a lot more necklaces than anything else. Rings are like handbags for me. When I like one I stick with it until something breaks. Earrings are only for special occasions and only when I have my hair back. Brooches? Occasionally. Bracelets… well, thanks to Pinterest again I’m discovering a bit of a love for bracelets – as opposed to bangles. Winter isn’t a great time for them, as they get lost under sleeves. But most of my recent purchases and creations have been bracelets. And it won’t be winter forever. I might just have to make some more of those.

The To-Read List Update

It’s been a year since I decided to do something about my out of control to-read list. I have managed to get more reading into my routine, increasing it to about 30 books a year, but I’m not sure I’m doing as well at reducing the book buying as I need to.

Last time I picked five aspects of stash reduction, so I’ll review how well I’ve done with each.

I’ve kept up the culling, by reviewing what was on the bottom of the list from time to time and taking out anything that didn’t excite me any more, and by removing a whole series when the first book didn’t thrill me.

To help I put together a spreadsheet, noting whether a book was for research of part of a series I’d already begun. Later I added everything to Goodreads in the hope I could cull out anything with low star ratings, but everything is rated pretty highly and it’s much faster to change the order of the books on the spreadsheet.

I wasn’t supposed to buy more books except…
Books for research – I did buy some non-fiction that wasn’t specifically research, so I’m not doing so well here
Manuscripts for friends or to provide quotes for – I haven’t had any to read this year
Ongoing books in a series I’m hooked on – I bought four of these, was given one, and read four
To support a specialty bookshop – nothing that didn’t also qualify under other rules
If I run out of books on holiday – this is where I fell down, buying both new and second hand books in New Zealand
Books given to me – six, five by my publisher
Books with proceeds going to charity – none

In general, I broke the rules when I was at a bookshop, and in particular when I was on holidays. I had no problem with willpower at conventions, so I reckon this was a matter of being in holiday mode and having my guard down. I suspect with non-fiction books that I reasoned they were research at the time, but aren’t really. I also know that I started buying books ‘for Paul’, despite knowing that they’d end up on my to-read list once he finishes them – and he’s a fast reader.

Encouragement (or cheating):
I wound up choosing smaller books toward the end of last year in order to get my total up to 30. And I do find myself grabbing shorter books when I want to see some progress. I’ve also noted a few books that I’m partway through that I could finish off.

Well, the list has gone from the 130s to the 110s, so that’s one small achievement. And I am reading more than I used to. I’ve got to some books I’ve been wanting to read for ages, in particular ones by writers I know or was going to meet so it was nice to be able to talk about them.

So, what to do? Well, I’ve come up with some new rules:

If I buy a book I have to cull one – but that can only go on so long before the whole point of this exercise is gone
I’m not allowed to buy books ‘for Paul’ – unless he asks for them
No non-fiction unless it really is for research – especially as they usually take longer to read
Pick less specific research books – so instead of buying one on the Silk Road, buy one that covers several great trading routes.
I can’t buy any new book until I’ve read 3 to-read list ones – and I’ll keep a wish list to help me prioritise what I buy when I do

I doubt I’ll be reading more books per year without any major lifestyle change, so my best chance of getting the list down is to reduce my book buying habit. The list stands at 118 books. With luck and willpower it’ll be under 100 in another year. And with the Olympics taking over the tv in a few weeks, I ought to take the opportunity to get a few more ticked off the list.

Sheep & Wool

Paul and I went to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show on Saturday. I hadn’t been since 2009, when I tagged along with some of the Ravelry Rocketeers. I ran into a spinner from that group, and a friend. It was a glorious day, sunny but not hot. The show was bigger than I remember, and though I didn’t think I’d buy much I spent over $400. Well, I have been on a stash diet since the beginning of 2009 (though I’m beginning to think that the only time I’m not on a stash diet is between the time I arrive somewhere where yarn is sold until the moment I hand over the money for it.) And the pricier items were the fringe twister and books.

Here’s the haul:

From left to right, top to bottom:

SWTC Jazz in silver, pewter and a metallic multicolour from Stranded In Oz
Two skeins of unlabelled silk yarn from a shop that didn’t give me a receipt (but they gave me the Bendigo bag at the top)
Grey Bunny Mink from Ixchel
Leila wool-bamboo sock, Pisces cobweb, Iris lace weight, Rufus 4ply merino-cashmere, and Primrose sock yarn from Moseley Park
Lang Jawoll Magic in multicoloured gem tones and Lang Mille Colori in graduated greys

Scarf Pin (which I’m also going to use as a hair clip) by Wool N Wire
Buttons, purple cotton yarn and a netting shuttle from the button lady
Fringe twister and inkle shuttle from the stall that sold Ashford Products (no receipt)
Fudge and chocolate coated mini puddings

Books from Colonial Lake Books
Bisk-Art Cookie Cutters

Once upon a time I would never have looked twice at lace weight or cobweb yarn, but this time I averted my eyes from anything heavier than 4ply. Though I can weave heavier yarns, I have plenty already. If I buy lighter yarn it can be used on the knitting machine as well. And now I have plenty of that kind of yarn. I just need to find time to knit or weave it.

Meet Phillip Tophead

My drawing teacher, in portrait classes, constantly harangues me about getting the skull shape right. I was being cheeky when asked her if I should get myself a skull to practise on. She said yes. So a search on the internet led me to Skulls Unlimited, where I got lost for a while. A few weeks later this arrived:

And inside:

Phil is a generic skull replica, so he’s actually genderless. But he has a spring-loaded jaw and a flip-top cranium, so he could just as easily be a party decoration as an artist model.

I haven’t drawn him yet. After a good week’s writing last week, my hands and back have been cranky. Which also means I haven’t been finishing off the things I’ve made on the knitting machine, or refashioning projects. Instead I’ve attacked my jewellery collection, culling some pieces, scavenging a few others for elements to reuse, fixing and cleaning, and writing lists of ideas for making more – and, since I keep it in three places, how to store and display it.

Posted in art

Studio Shuffle

A year ago I decided to rearrange the furniture in my studio. But there was a lot to move and sort so I decided to do it in two stages. Well, I never got around to stage two. Since then I’ve acquired a knitting machine, so things were getting a bit cluttered down the craft end of the room. Here’s how thing were arranged:

You can’t see the row of Ivar shelving that was behind me when I took that photo, but you can on the floor plan below (it’s along the left wall). Aside from wanting to reorganise the craft end of the room, I’d been eyeing the contents of the Ivar shelving that I’d intended to move during the last reshuffle. It seemed to me that there was a lot of stuff I didn’t need on it. I could probably reduce it from three units to two.

So I measured up the room and all the furniture, opened Illustrator and created a floor plan. The last thing I wanted to do was move everything only to find it didn’t fit. Here’s the before:

I woke up in the middle of one of the following nights with the revelation that the knitting machine would fit in behind the drawing board, and I knew I’d found the perfect arrangement. (Yes, I not only created scale drawings but dreamed about moving furniture. It’s not so weird when you remember that it’s the space I spend half of my life in.) Reducing the Ivar just meant removing the shelves that bridged the two units, and I wound up turning using them to turn the vertical card/paper storage into horizontal storage.

Once I’d worked out the easiest order to move everything in, I got stuck in. It took a couple of days, and now looks like this:

The previous arrangement had everything positioned against walls, which meant the studio felt very open. This arrangement ‘fills’ the room, but it also divides it into two: work to one side and craft/art to the other. So I’m not distracted from work by tempting crafty things, and I don’t feel like I’m entering a work space on weekends when I want to be creative.

It also meant the day bed wound up closer to a window, warmed by the sun and with a view over the back yard. Something that was quickly noted by another member of the household:

Knitting Machine Sockcess

I had another blog post lined up for last week – a little tutorial on how to plait when both ends of the straps/string/whatever are attached – but then I saw exactly the same thing on Pinterest, and explained better, so I gave that a miss. I have to admit, I wasn’t in love with it anyway.

What I am in love with, is my knitting machine. I whipped up a pair of socks two weekends ago in two hours. Well, without the ribbing that is, which then took me a week of careful hand knitting rationing to do.

Yarn: Ellyn Cooper’s Yarn Sonets, a wool-bamboo mix I got from Seaport Yarns in New York.

A week or two before that I finished adding heels, toes and cuffs to one of the tubes of leftover sock yarn I whipped up a few months back. It’s been too dark and I’ve been too busy to photograph them until now.

It occurred to me that I could knit the heels like standard top-down toes, with decreases down to kitchenering the last 16 stitches, rather than short rows (which leads to having to kitchener 30 stitches to join the toe to the rest of the sock, so I think I may like this method better!).

I finally got the courage up to go to a Machine Knitters Association of Victoria meeting, heading to Surrey Hills one Thursday morning with my socks and a contribution of chocolate mudcake. It was great. They did twin demonstrations: one for those with the model of machine I have and one for a powered model. As I hoped, I picked up some tips and gained an understanding of parts of my machine that I hadn’t investigated yet. If I’d gone as a raw beginner I would have been completely bewildered, but experience with the Bond USM and working out how to do socks on the Passap meant I’m at about the right level of understanding to follow along. So, satisfied that the meetings will be fun and of benefit, I sent off for a membership to the MKAV.

Last Saturday I spent a day experimenting, then on Sunday managed to produce a pair of fingerless mitts, sans the thumb and ribbing. My back is a bit crook at the moment, so it may be a while before I do the hand knitting, but I’m feeling pretty chuffed that I’m making progress.