Internetlessness

We’ve finally got internet again after making the mistake of signing up for the NBN two and a half weeks ago. Paul has lost too many hours of his life to being on hold and arguing with Optus call centre staff. We had the NBN techies here three time. In the end, after the two companies blamed the other several time, it was a simple configuration problem spotted by a second-tier Optus techie that fixed it.

We weren’t completely internetless, of course, because we could access it on our mobiles. However, after we used half a month’s data in a day (Facebook appeared to be the main culprit) we turned off data for everything but email and Messenger.

It was an interesting lesson in how much we rely on it, and how much we don’t. I had to do my BAS (quarterly tax) on paper, which meant taking photographs of all the documents I didn’t have as files in case they went AWOL and sending Paul out to deliver them to my accountant. I had to photograph the pages of a Word Document on my computer screen and email them to my editor.

My biggest worry, as the weeks began to multiply, was that something would happen to my Dad, and Mum – who has dementia and never adapted to mobile phones – wouldn’t be able to reach me.

But of the ‘unimportant’ stuff, I was intrigued to note what I missed and didn’t miss. I missed this blog more than I expected. I was most frustrated about not being able to look up information, especially, I’m ashamed to admit, searches relating to shopping. Though I don’t buy a lot online, I certainly do a lot of research there.

What I didn’t miss was social media. And yet, I missed connection to my friends. The way they work is rife with irritations you put up with so you can know what your friends are doing at any moment and can arrange a get-together easily.

The pleasure of not being a slave to the Facebook feed led me to consider leaving it, as a friend of mind has temporarily, and cutting back on other distractions. I do something like this every holiday, culling what I follow so I can keep up, then when I get home I slowly accumulate again.

The phone is a big part of the problem. It’s with me, everywhere and every hour, at every moment of weakness. I finish doing something I think “what now?” and immediately pick up the phone to check social media, play another round of Words With Friends and eventually check my to-do list. It’s the first thing I do in the morning and the last thing at night.

I spend far less time just thinking, processing what I’ve absorbed, letting ideas come and develop, getting a sense of priorities. I could happily lie in bed letting my mind drift of a morning, content to look up the weather when I got to my computer or catch up with world events via the evening news.

I was a much less anxious person before I had an iPhone. Though I can’t blame it all on this device, limiting my use of it is something I can control. Unlike world politics, everyday unfairness and health problems.

Halfway

I’m getting close to halfway through the six month break from writing I decided to take in the hopes I could heal and strengthen my neck enough that I could at least get back to the level and frequency of pain I had before last year. It was all going well until about four weeks ago, when pilates classes stopped thanks to a minor virus forcing me to miss the last class followed by the school holiday break.

I was amazed at how quickly things went backwards. Clearly pilates is doing something good. It’s also the first time I’ve noticed that not doing something made it worse. Usually I’m looking for the thing I did that aggravated the neck. I can identify one activity that had a detrimental effect, but I did it a few weeks after the decline became obvious so it can’t be the cause.

The upshot is that after three months I feel worse than I did at the start, but I’ve learned something: don’t stop pilates even for a few weeks! I’ve got to work out how I’m going to manage that when the place closes over school holidays.

Denim Braided Rug

This one’s been going for a while. I started the version I pulled apart to start this one a year ago, and started this one a month or so after. The slowness has been deliberate – it’s a soothing project to do when I don’t have brain energy so I’ve been saving it for those moments. Recently I had a nagging stomach virus thing, and on a day of distractingly noisy plumbers working in the laundry (which is opposite my office), I had only the mental capacity to stand and braid.

A few hours later it was done. I gave it a quick rinse and spin in the washing machine, and when it was dry laid it out on the kitchen floor.

Pretty happy with that. It’s nice and cushy under the feet, and matches my woven denim rag rugs. Amazing what you can make out of some old jeans!

Nalbinding Tapestry Thread

Nalbinding the small batch of thinner tapestry yarn kind of made sense, since it requires you add more yarn as you go by felting the end of the new piece to the end of the last. If the skeins that had felted together were an indication, tapestry yarn felts well.

I cast on and made a big loop, thinking I’d make a bag rather than another hat. I choose a new colour every time I added more yarn. As before, the fabric tightened up as I worked, and after several rows fit comfortably around my head, so it became a hat after all.

Now I wish I’d measured the initial loop so I could work out the percentage of shrinkage. Counting the stitches might give a rough idea, though how long that actually is may depend on the yarn thickness and how tightly I stitch.

I really like the way the colour stripes look. I’d like to try doing this with a slowly changing graduated yarn. I’d also like to try making a mobious scarf, as it would be easy enough to add a half twist before joining the loop. There are other approaches to try as well: starting at the top of a hat and working down, and seeing if I can find a way to nalbind back and forth rather than always making tubes.

Now that I’ve made three items, I’m pretty sure I like nalbinding. It’s portable like knitting. It’s stretchy, though not as much as knitting. It doesn’t seem to bother my hands like knitting does.

Tapestry Tangle

An idea for a Bargello project has been floating around in my head for a while, but to do it I’ll need lots of colours of tapestry thread. A while back I jumped onto eBay and bought two large batches of leftover thread. And when I say large, I’m not kidding. This is what the two looked like spread over my eight-seater dining table, after I’d untangled the bigger of the two batches.

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In fact, the largest batch arrived on a day when I hadn’t slept well, felt very crappy and sorting out the contents was just the sort of meditative task I needed. It was a huge tangled bag of mostly tapestry thread but also crewel yarn, perle cotton and stranded cotton. Some was precut into lengths, some precut and clearly from kits, some still in skeins with labels and some not, and lots of lengths from several meters to a cm long. There was even a few scraps of knitting yarn in there. It was like somebody had thrown someone’s entire collection of embroidery yarn into a bag, including the contents of a bin.

The stranded cottons were all precut lengths with no labels so I added them to my collection. The perle cotton and crewel thread was too, so I tied the cotton together and the thread was knotted onto a metal ring.

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Of the tapestry thread, there were several brands including some very old skeins, of which most had felted. I packed most of the tapestry thread into a basket with the ends showing so I can see all the colours.

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I left out the oldest stuff and a group of unlabelled yarn that appeared to be thinner than the rest. The old, felted yarns I started to weave on my Knitters Loom (more on that soon).

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The thinner I started nalbinding (another post will cover this).

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Sunday of Sewing

One Sunday morning recently I woke up at 5am and thought “I’d like to tackle the mending and refashioning pile today”. I fully expected to have forgotten or changed my mind by the time I’d fallen asleep and woken at my usual time, but I didn’t.

So out came the sewing machine, supplies, dress form and basket of clothing to fix or tweak. After making piles of clothes of similar fabric, in order of time needed, I tackled the mending to warm up. Then I hit the non-stretch fabric clothes.

First up was a red shirt I’d made the pattern for in my 20s. The underarms were now too tight. All I needed to do was remove the sleeves.

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Next came the cheesecloth top I’d embellished with handwoven tape. It had the opposite problem: too big. I simply took it in at the side and sleeve seams.

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I also took another top in at the sides where the armholes gaped, but it’s too small overall so I put it with some items for the op-shop. Not much point showing that one.

The second pile was all stretch fabric. First up was a skivvy I made in my 20s. Too tight overall, not surprisingly. I did one of my sleeve-to-side-panel fixes, then removed the collar and cut a scoop neckline.

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The next one just needed the arms removed. It was the least successful refashion, because I decided to bind the armholes with material from the sleeves, but I guessed the length of the stip of material and made it too long. The armhole gaped. The next day I cut the binding off and did it again, and the result was much better.

Another sleeve-to-side-panel fix followed. The jacket was a little too small when I bought it 12 years ago, but it was a bargain and I loved it. As a vest it should give me many more years of wear.

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The next day, after the binding fix, I attacked an old shirt of Paul’s and made another sleeveless top. I took the pocket off because it wound up in an odd position and discovered too late that the fabric beneath is a little less faded. I’m still thinking of ways to hide this.

Tapestry Rescue

Last year Paul needed round frames for his Batchelor of Photography project. The only ones he could find were frames for clocks or old embroideries. I put the de-framed embroideries aside, thinking that I’d repurpose them.

Recently I took them out and considered what I could make out of them. We already have more than enough art, prints, clocks and whacky stuff on our walls. Pillows seemed the obvious answer for the four matching outback Australia scenes.

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If I simply added a back to them to make circular pillows, they’d be a bit small, so I decided to insert them into squares. Rather than try to sew a seam around the ‘hole’ they’d go into, I bought felt, which wouldn’t fray therefore wouldn’t need a seam.

That leaves me with one last round tapestry, this time with a more ‘English’ colour scheme. I’m thinking of trimming top and bottom and making a clutch.

What would you do with old circular tapestries?

It’s a Bar. It’s an Organ. Barorgan.

I suspect one of the defining elements of my relationship with Paul is that he finds junk to buy and I find something to do with it. When he was doing his Batchelor of Photography last year he bought a whole lot of stuff on eBay that might work with his alternative Australia steampunk theme. Like an old typewriter and sewing machine.

He didn’t mention the organ. I have no idea how he got it home and buried in the new garage without me noticing. I spotted it a month or two ago and after sighing and shaking my head at the discovery an idea came to me. I’d been not-seriously looking at second hand bars for sale on eBay. Some of them had been made from repurposed objects. Could we turn this organ into a bar?

Some brainstorming followed, then a satisfying bout of dismantling, then more brainstorming, then buying and cutting of mdf, a bit of painting and varnishing, hinges added, glass ordered, led lights attached… and we have this:

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It was surprisingly easy to modify the organ. A minimal amount of alternation to the outer framework was done. Only the flap that covers the keys and central fill of the lower part of the back were removed. Most of the innards are gone. The hidden ends of the keys were cut off to make more room inside. The visible part was lowered then we had glass cut to cover them. Paul added a strip of coloured led lights that reflect nicely in the glass.

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The back has become the preparation area, with the fold down access flap becoming a preparation shelf. The lower area is open and empty right now, but we’ve bought wood to turn into sliding doors because and it’ll become the storage space for spirits and mixers.

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I’ve seen quite a few piano or organ to bar conversions on Google since we made ours, but none that were designed for a bartender to stand behind it. I figure we need to have a bar warming party.

But first I may need to weave some bar mats.

Flax Basket

A friend from Canberra, Donna, came to stay recently, and having heard that I’d been trying out basket weaving brought me an armful of New Zealand flax from her garden.

I’d done a bit of research on how to prepare it, mostly late at night when I couldn’t get to sleep. But when I went to find the instructions again the internet wouldn’t cooperate, so I had to do it all by memory.

I’m rather impressed with my memory (which is something I never thought I’d say) because I remembered them pretty well! There was a certain amount of just doing what felt right, as well. An hour or so of fiddling later, using pegs to hold things in place temporarily, we had these:

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Donna’s is on the left, mine is on the right.

It was much faster to weave a basket this way than use the coiling method. However, you waste a lot of the leaves in getting pieces of an even width and length. I’ve kept the longer offcuts, which I’ll dry and then see if I can shred and use them for coiling.

A friend has offered me some flax she wants to remove from her garden. I have a spot I think it will suit. If all goes well, maybe in a year or two I’ll have my own supply.

Waffleweave Blanket

Silly me. I was so eager to finish the Waffleweave Blanket, I forgot to add the plain weave to the final edge.

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I had to remove the first bit of plain weave and tie the fringe on both edges with knots. Lots and lots and lots and lots of knots. I’d just zig-zag along the edge but I’m worried that, even with the edge encased in satin blanket binding, the rough handling of a child might lead to unravelling.

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I’m afraid my sewing leaves much to be desired. Darn slippery satin edging!

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But I’m happy with the result. And the blanket was delivered to the parents this week. I hope they like it!

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I can now tick waffleweave off my list of weave structures to try. It was easy to do – easy to thread the warp and easy to weave. I’d definitely weave it again.