Craft/Art Aims for 2017

The closest I get to making resolutions is a vague list of new things I’d like to try by the end of the year, and I’m happy if I manage to cross off a few. Since I have a pretty substantial craft To-Do list there’s no point adding a resolution list on top. So what’s on my vague want list?

1) I want to paint more. More people portraits. More cat portraits. I’ll continue going to classes, but I’m also going to try painting every Wednesday nights. I’ve invited friends to come join me in our studio, both for the company and because it’ll make me get away from the tv and do it!

2) Last year I wanted to try some new weave structures, and I achieved that mainly thanks to Ilka White’s weaving sessions class. I’m continuing that aim into this year.

3) I also want to spin, sew, embroider, machine knit, dye, print, make jewellery and try new crafts. Weaving is my main hobby now, but I’ll always dabble in others to keep things fresh and fun.

Whatever I do, the health of my back takes priority. I have to avoid too much sitting down and typing or extending my arms, and the best approach I’ve found is to move from task to task every half an hour or so: sitting for one, standing for the next, then doing something that gets me moving like gardening, walking or swimming.

And, of course, once my summer ‘leave’ is over, writing goes back to having priority over craft and art.

Craft Projects of 2016

I started 2016 with my usual optimism, stating that I’d get more time for craft. But most of my plans were uprooted by a stuffed back, the concreter not finishing the garage base, and the book edit from hell.

In January I did my usual overview of the previous year, and a stash portrait. Paul brought home a little loom and we refurbished it and a friend’s loom. The Glamour Shawl was on Ashford Table loom, convincing me that I don’t like weaving with metallic yarn, and I wanted a loom with a race and lamms.

Weaving: Giotto Scarf. Using some ribbon yarn unravelled from a failed knitting project.

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Crochet: I-cord Headband. Using some i-cord that had been hanging around since I first got the cord-maker.

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Embellish: Pockets on the Houndstooth Scarf. Wove the scarf ages ago, the pockets while teaching a friend how to do log cabin, and finally got around to sewing them together.

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Weaving: Dyer & Philips Loom. New heddles and tape.

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In February I bought a pile of fine yarns for weaving. What I wanted to achieve on looms was changing. Not so much choosing projects to reduce stash and more experimentation and learning new structures.

Weaving: Hibiscus Scarf. Test piece on the D&P loom.

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Weaving: Rep Runner. A sampler – too loosely sett.

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In March I started my first ever weaving class. It was this blog’s tenth bloggiversary, so I wrote about all the ways my crafty life has changed since the beginning. We spent a lovely weekend at Lake Hume with that friend and her partner, she and I weaving together.

Refashion & Embroidery: Cheesecloth Top. This has attracted lots of compliments.

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Weaving: Touch of Glam Shawl. Not happy. So many mistakes. Inconsistent beating. Thinking of dyeing it black to hide the errors.

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Weaving: Floor Loom. I love it!

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In April I finished the weaving class, and ever since have been buoyed by a new confidence while frustrated that I couldn’t get time to keep exploring weaving. A shopping trip where I couldn’t find non-acrylic winter woolies set me on the path of researching fast fashion.

Weaving: Overshot Sampler

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In May and June, inspired by ethical fashion, I did some sewing and refashioning.

Embroidery: Finished Unfinished Cardy

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Sewing: 50-50 A-line Skirt

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Refashioning: Denim Skirt

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Sewing: Inkle Band Top

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Sewing: Handspun Vest

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Weaving: Undulating Scarf

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In July, inspired by 1outfit1year, I bought an electronic spinning machine and found I was much more comfortable using it than a foot-powered one. I finished my first woven-by-hand braided rag rug and some Bargello samplers.

Weaving: Braided Spectrum Rag Rug

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Embroidery: Bargello Samples

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Spinning: Electronic Hanspun

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August contained a mix of spinning, weaving and sewing – and a big landscaping project. I gave a Zoom Loom to a friend’s daughter interested in weaving and taught her how to use it.

Spinning: Silk Cap Handspun

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Sewing: Handspun Handwoven Jacket

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Weaving: Reddy Runner

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September was a quiet one, craft-wise, because I was in Norway and Denmark for most of it. (The posts were mostly pre-written and scheduled.) However, I learned nalbinding while I was there.

Weaving: Electric Boogaloo Scarf

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Weaving: Fanspun Shawl

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Spinning: Blue & Linen Handspun

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Embroidery: Blackwork Bookmark

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Embroidery: Black Rose Red Cardigan

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Nalbinding: Nordic Mitts

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Embroidery: Traveller Pendant

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In October I reviewed what I was capable of doing in work, art, craft, DIY and gardening, since it was clear my back wasn’t going to go back to pre-2016 health. I sold the D&P loom at the Guild sale (and found out later that they sold it for $10 cheaper than I’d specified – no idea what happened there but it’s not enough to bother quibbling over.)

Spinning: Owl of Athena Handspun

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I didn’t finish any craft projects in November and December, thanks to the Edit From Hell. I almost did. The pinwheel tea towel fabric came off the loom. It just need washing, cutting up and hemming. I also finished the Gamp Pin Loom Blanket – even had it washed and dried before NYE – but I’m not happy with the sewing together of the squares and have decided to redo it.

Overall, 2016 was a good year for weaving. Though I didn’t get as much of it done as I’d hoped, I learned a great deal and I like my table loom. I seem to be growing more focussed on it, only dipping into other crafts occasionally – and mostly those that have a relationship to weaving (like sewing fabric I’ve woven).

That’ll continue through into 2017 I hope, but that’s a subject for a different post.

Stash Portrait 2016-2017

Recent thoughts about where I want to go with weaving, and my fibre allergies led to a bit of a stash assessment. So I laid out all the yarn on the office floor and took a picture:

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(Wool yarns are marked in red, cotton in yellow, and everything else or yarns I’m not sure of the fibre are in orange.)

A sort was in order. I moved cones to the larger boxes and divided everything into wool and non-wool. All non-wool, non-acrylic yarns had instant keeper status. With those put aside, I considered which wool yarns to keep or cull. Sock yarns are keepers, since my feet don’t get irritated by wool. Recent handspun stays, too. The Bendigo Classic 2 & 3 ply does weave up into a nice blanket and makes good warp yarn, so I’ll retain that.

The rest I sorted by softness. The Tonne of Wool Cormo is the softest, Bendigo Luxury next, Cleckheaton Country and Paton’s Inca next, and the rest became one batch of ‘least soft’ yarn. From that I culled the Bendigo Serenade, Patons Shadow Tweed, Lincraft Cosy Wool, a cone of fine boucle and the metallic yarns I hated weaving with earlier this year.

I also culled my knitwear, removing two vests I don’t wear, a cardigan and a jacket. The jackets were unravelled. The yarn I got from them is wool, but I have plans to turn it into pin loom blankets. Since one is a bulky yarn, I’m currently making a pin loom 150% the size of the one I have, so the nails are spaced wider apart and I get bigger squares.

The stash doesn’t all fit into the boxes, but with the wool yarns hanging about in the way rather than the cone yarns, I’ve got more of an incentive to either use them up or cull them.

Looking for a New Home

Not for me, for my table loom!

I advertised it in the Australian spinners and weavers Facebook group a few weeks back. At once point I had someone interested in the loom and not the base, so when someone else wanted just the base I agreed to sell it separately. The first person then had second thoughts about the loom. Still, that’s better than trying to sell the base with no loom!

If you’re in the market for an 80cm Ashford 4-shaft table loom, let me know. Here it is on the base (no longer included). Excellent condition. One owner. A couple of shuttles, metal rods and the original threading hooks included. All for $750 AUD.

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And the piano stool is your’s too – if you pick it up!

Deadlines, Lists & Tidying Up

The last couple of months have been a bit trying. I came back from overseas expecting an edit of my current book to arrive soon after, but it was delayed by a few weeks. Every day I’d wake up, check the internet and see it hadn’t arrived, and then decide what I wanted to do with the day. Which was nice, but had me constantly on edge, unable to plan anything.

Then the edit arrived and, oh boy, was it a mess! It took me a week just to go through and work out if there was a problem, and what that problem actually was. Then it took until last Wednesday to finish tackling them and submit the corrected manuscript.

Aside from the difficult format the edit was in and the number of issues to tackle, the main reason it took so long is that I still can’t work for more than an hour or two a day. I learned this the hard way when, a few days before finishing, my neck problem flared up again and I wound up in so much pain that over-the-counter pain killers didn’t work, and I resorted to vodka. (It was a Sunday, so no chance of seeing my doctor.)

As you can imagine, there has been almost no crafting for most of this time. Nothing to blog about, except maybe whinging that I couldn’t do any craft, and then my one to two hour limit meant I couldn’t type that anyway. The blog post I did make were mostly pre-written or constructed in several small sessions, eked out as long as possible.

Well, the edit is done and manuscript submitted. The next day we went present shopping. The day after I walked through the house and make a list of everything we needed to do to tidy up before Christmas and New Year’s Eve, and we spend the rest of the day tackling three quarters of that, and the rest all but one item (tidy the craft room) by yesterday. On Sunday I made a list of things to tidy up outside, but it’s going to take longer. A couple of trips to the tip are involved, and one major sewing project.

So not much craft has happened since I submitted the ms either! But last night I sewed together several squares of the Gampa blanket, and today is rainy so I’m thinking a tidy-up of the craft room is in order. Perhaps I’ll soon have something craft to post about.

Spring Gardening

At this time of year having an acre to look after is overwhelming. Though most of the landscaping is done, and I’ve designed for easy maintenance, there’s no such thing as a no-work garden. Especially in a wet and sunny Spring.

When it comes to weeding for most of the year, I go around in circles anti-clockwise: kitchen garden, then poolside garden, then courtside garden, then front garden, and back to the start. But lately we’ve had a lot of rain followed by enough sunshine to send plants into a growing frenzy, so it’s been more a matter of tackling what seems like the most out of control area or, if all areas need urgent attention, whichever interests me most.

Kitchen garden:
I regret not getting our wicking beds made and filled before we went overseas, but it took a while for the company to assemble the kits and those last weeks were hectic. We’ve only just finished them, and I haven’t yet planted anything. I also wanted to plant some citrus trees, but I should have done that in early spring. Now I plant them now there’s a chance summer will kill them off. Oh well. Next year.

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Poolside:
Aside from a spectacular display of bottlebrush and some unexpected lilies springing up, not much is happening here. Now that I’ve removed the ivy and defeated the blackberry, onion weed had sprung up. I’ve been cropping it to the ground, because if you pull them little latent bulbs left on the roots are activated, and next year you get many more plants. Cutting them gives them no chance to draw energy back in.

Courtside:
The natives plants are doing well. I’ve been fighting onion weed here, too. The embankment belonging to the neighbour has been getting weedy, so I’m spraying it. They don’t do anything to maintain it. The alleyway on their side is an absolute mess, with weeds up to my shoulder. We’re spraying that, too.

Front:
Now that the ‘back’ garden is tamed we’ve been tackling the front. It’s mostly trees and grass, and I’m keeping it that way for now. We’ve been weeding and mulching under the trees, and trimming the lower branches. It doesn’t sound like much work, but the scale of this place is deceptive. What I think will take me an hour takes three with two or three people. Fortunately, we have a friend who hires herself out as a garden helper, who is happy to settle down and get weeding.

For the smallest bed, we tried digging a “Victorian” style garden edge – which is just a trench cut straight down on the grass side and sloped on the mulch side. I like it, so I’m going to put one around the rest of the front beds.

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The biggest tree we have is a huge Chinese elm. It puts on leaves rather late, so the extra sunshine underneath means it gets pretty weedy. So far we’ve spent over 20 hours, with the help of our weeding friend, weeding, pruning branches and mulching. This was the pile of branches before we mulched them:

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To get the mulch under the tree we put down a ‘slip and slide’ of builder’s plastic weighted down with bricks:

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We need a lot more mulch under there, so we’ll be doing a lot more mulch sliding and raking in coming weeks.

In a month or so it’s going to be too hot to work outside and the ground too hard to dig. Then gardening will be mostly a matter of keeping everything alive (well, except the weeds, but their growth will slow down too) and maybe harvesting some veges from our new beds.

Spring Painting

I’ve started going to two art classes a week recently – painting and life drawing. My teacher is retiring at the end of the year, so I’m absorbing as much of her wisdom as possible. Fortunately, her niece will be taking over the class next year. Annie has been working alongside Carol for the last few months, so she will be familiar with all the students once she goes it alone. Her teaching style is bound to be different, but we get along well so I’m looking forward to working with her.

I finished Jane’s portrait a month or so back.

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Though I did a photo shoot with a writer friend, the only photos that came out well were in a pose too close to a previous portrait. So I revisited him and did another shoot, and came up with two more choices. Here it is with underpainting and one session of oils applied:

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Because I had to do a second shoot, I had one class with no portrait ready to start on. So I stole some photos of cats from friends’ Facebook feed and painted a mini portraits on a 10cm x 10cm canvas. I did one of Peri Peri years ago. They’re fun and quick to paint, and I’d like to do a whole lot more of them.

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Spring Weaving

I’m liking how this sampler is turning out, with the colourful rows followed by reversed, black and grey rows, and that it’s reversible.

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I made a small mistake in the first few rows, but it’s a sampler and if I do think of something to make out of it those rows with probably end up in a seam.

The Pinwheel Tea Towels are growing:

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I ran out of yarn two squares short for The Gamppa Rug, and one of the colours is discontinued. So I bought what I hoped would be the right colours on eBay. The dark brown is pretty close, but the lighter brown is a bit redder, but from a distance not so easy to pick as a different colour.

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I’ve started sewing the squares together.

Spring Spinning

I recently finished spinning up a pack of sample blends from Owl of Athena called the “Humbug Fibre Blend Sampler Pack”. All were lovely to spin. Some were a bit challenging for me, as a new spinner, being quite slippery. I had a few moments when the singles lost cohesion and came apart, both in the spinning and plying. But I learned to compensate by giving them a little extra twist.

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Which was a valuable lesson, as I’m now spinning some silk and alpaca together. Both are slippery, and the silk has a short staple (right term?).

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It’s quite challenging, and I suspect the fibre I spin after this will be an easy one, so I can relax again.