Eye of the Storm

Boy, have we had a hectic few months! And things are going to get pretty crazy soon. And yet, we seem to have hit the eye of the storm. Paul is on mid-term holidays, the bathroom reno company is booked in, we’ve had a rough quote on the new garage but can’t do anything more until we have a building permit and settlement happens on the new house.

The head cold I’ve had is past the worst, but the worst was quite incapacitating for a week or so and my deadline is looking even less achievable. I missed two art classes, so no progress on the portraits.

I did get some weaving done on the baby blankets, but only managed that because it’s mentally unchallenging. In the evenings I’ve mostly collapsed in front of the tv, browsing Pinterest and reading blogs, or books. The reading has been an unexpected up side, actually.

July is looking uneventful. Just a few social gatherings. Other than me knuckling down and finally getting some writing done, we’re enjoying the quiet before the post-settlement storm.

Two Cardy Refashions

I’ve had this post waiting for a few last pics for some time now…

Back at the beginning of the year, I decided Purple needed to become a cardigan:

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This involved cutting it down the front. I sewed a zig-zag on the machine, either side of the stitches I wanted to cut, then took a deep breath and snipped:

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It languished in the bottom of my knitwear adjustment basket until its turn came. I simply picked up stitches along the raw edge behind the zig-zag and got knitting.

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I have no idea why I chose a 2×2 rib. It wasn’t until I got to the second band that I thought about it. But it works. I crocheted over the raw, zig-zagged edge on the inside as an extra precaution against unravelling.

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The only detail that gives the refashion away is that the neckband is usually knit onto the edge of the button bands. This is the other way around. Let’s call it a ‘design feature’, eh?

I’ve worn this quite a bit since the refashion, which I’d say makes it a winner.

The next refashion was easier – simply to add another band of ribbing to the Gift Yarn Jacket as it just didn’t look finished enough to me:

So this:
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Became this:
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And this:
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Looks like this:
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Which took some months, but was done in time for winter at least. I prefer the second way of wearing it, though I haven’t yet worn it since doing the refashion.

Works in Progress, or Not

As I mentioned in the last post, I’ve finished Rachel’s portrait. Well, mostly. There are some tweaks I want to make, now I’ve had time to examine it critically. I’d be doing them this morning, if I wasn’t in the goopy, vertigo-ey, exhausting phase of a head cold, and not wanting to spread it around.

Jason’s has a session or two to go:

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I’ve started stitching on one of the garments I wanted to embellish. After a few false starts, I settled on purple and mauve flowers with green branches winding between them.

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I started the eye:

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The leno scarf isn’t finished because I’m holding off working on it. I want to show it to the weaving group:

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The Double Trouble baby blankets are going slowly.

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The art necklace… what necklace?

Preparations

I went into list-making, schedule-creating, organising mode a few weeks ago. This involved lots of post-it notes, different coloured pens and a whole lot of optimism. I wound up with these:

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Three lists of tasks: pre-settlement, post-settlement and pre-sale. The idea was to see what we make a start on, work out what order to do things in, and decide what we could safely put off until next year.

The challenge is to stop items in the first list slipping into the second or third one. We have to do as much information gathering and ordering as we can pre-settlement so the post-settlement projects start as soon as possible.

I’m also trying to use the spare time I have now to tidy up, cull or pack. I’d like to take some nice photos of the house, too. Progress has been slow thanks to Paul needing to prepare his mid-year folio, and me catching a cold. Blaarrrgh!

But I’ve make a start, decluttering, cleaning, and fixing a few things in the ensuite, like stripping off the black silicone the carpenter inexplicably left slathered on the rear sides of the bath (it was impossible to remove before, but time has made it dry out enough to scrape off). And we polished up the brass house number so you can see it against the brickwork now – one of those jobs you put off for ages but only takes half an hour.

I’m hoping to get the two portraits I’m doing finished and delivered to the subjects. I’ve finished Rachel’s, and Jason’s should be done in a few weeks. Though by the time I move I should have at least one new one underway, so it may not make much difference to how much I have to move.

When it comes to craft, however, finishing WIPs takes priority over starting new projects. I also need to make sure everything in the workroom can be packed away in easily transported containers. There’s bound to be some culling, too.

In the garden we’ve been spraying the weeds in the driveway – with the warmer weather it’s looking more like grass than gravel – and I’ve started taking cuttings.

And in the evenings I daydream about the new house, and pin a billion things to Pinterest boards.

Extra Post

I’ve not posted many FOs lately, because I’ve not finished anything in a long while. And that’s because I’ve been too busy or tired for crafting for several weeks.

April was a month of highs and lows. Supanova was great but I picked up a cold with a cough that lingered for weeks and weeks – I still get that catch in the lungs now and then – on top of the shingles that hit me the week before. Then the plans I’d made for the weeks after Supanova started to backfire, and I wasted a lot of time on ideas that weren’t as successful as I hoped or took longer than estimated, and wound up putting aside other good ones. I went through a two week period around the start of May feeling stressed, dejected and lacking in energy and enthusiasm.

Things perked up in mid May, though. And at the same time, in one of those ‘did this have to happen right NOW’ moments, we went to a house inspection mostly to divert ourselves and keep learning more about our area and really, really liked the place.

Four weeks later, we bid for it and won. So now we have moving house, fixing up a few things in the ‘new’ house, fixing up a few things in our ‘old’ house and selling it to add to a book deadline I probably can’t make thanks to the stuff mentioned at the beginning of this post, and Paul completing the rather full final year of his photography course.

We joked the other day that we have a knack for putting ourselves in stressful situations.

But… the new house is lovely. Not much bigger than this one, but better laid out, single level, bigger windows yet on an orientation that should be cooler in summer. I’m giving up my big workroom for two bedrooms, but I think that might suit me better, as it means craft won’t distract from work and visa versa. We lose a wonderful view, but gain a nice front yard with big trees. And it’s a much, much quieter area of this suburb, especially now that so many units have been built around the ‘old’ house.

Portrait Update

Both of the portraits have progressed since I last blogged about them two months ago:

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I’m not avoiding Jason’s face and hands, I just love painting clothing too much. And it amuses me that, with the underpainting showing, it looks like I’m painting a green man.

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I’d worked on Rachel’s face three times at this point and there’s still some work to do. Her eyes are more open on the reference, for a start. Her lips need refining. The balloons will get more tweaking, too. They’re still a bit flat, texturally.

Leno with Two Heddles on a Rigid Heddle

I got to thinking, thanks to the weaving group at the Guild, that it must be possible to weave bead leno on a rigid heddle loom if it has two heddles. After all, it’s possible to weave leno on a table loom so long as you have three shafts, and the extra heddle effectively adds more ‘shafts’ to a rigid heddle loom.

Well, as I learned from an afternoon of experimentation, it’s not that simple.

The first problem is, the heddle on a rigid heddle loom is also the beater. But that can easily be solved by using a lease stick to push each shot into position:

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Or use the shuttle:

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The second problem may be too hard to explain here. All threads on a shaft loom are controlled like the ‘hole’ thread on the heddle, and that effectively means two heddles gives you only two positions. I just couldn’t get bead leno to work, but I did find a way to do doup leno.

The Ashford Book of Rigid Heddle Weaving contains a project using doup leno using one heddle as a spacer – the warp threaded through slots only. Loops of string tied to a length of dowl behind the heddle are used to get the leno twists. And you can only get leno twists – no tabby.

The method I worked out allows you to have tabby bands between your leno twists, so it’s a slight improvement.

Warping:
1) First, warp the loom with two heddles of the same epi, the rear one with threads in slots and holes, the front with two threads in each slot and none in holes.

2) Place the back heddle in the neutral position and the front on the up position.

3) Then at the front of the front heddle, select the first warp thread that goes through a hole of the rear heddle and bring it underneath its neighbour – a ‘slot’ end – and up again. Tie it to the top of the front heddle with string so that you get a shed just big enough to slip the end of a shuttle into.

4) Continue across until every ‘hole’ thread is tied into position. It should look like this:

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Weaving:
1) Place the front heddle in the neutral position and use the rear heddle to get your weaving started with some tabby. Put the rear heddle in the bottom position and weave a shot. It should look something like this:

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The string loops allow the shed to open to almost its fullest extent.

Now place the back heddle in the up position and weave a shot. It will look like this:

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The string loops will be loose enough to pull under the ‘slot’ threads, allowing the ‘hole’ ones to move into the up position. Again, the loops allow the shed to open to almost it’s fullest extent.

2) For the leno twists, return to the position the heddles were in when you tied on on the string loops, with the front heddle in the up position and the back in the neutral position, and slip the shuttle through the shed. It’ll be a tiny shed, so you’ll have to work the shuttle through close to the string loops.

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The loops should have twisted pairs of threads around each other. The resulting leno shots spaced between tabby should look like this:

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3) Now return to tabby weaving.

I used silk for both warp and weft, and the slipperiness helped the warp threads to slide around each other. Even then, sometimes they didn’t want to go into position. I found two things helped combat this. First I’d run my fingers over the warp threads like they were harp strings. This often flicked them into position. Secondly, to get a good shed for the tabby I’d slip an unused shuttle or warp stick into the gap between the heddles or behind the rear heddle to encourage the shed to open to the fullest.

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The leno twist shed was very small and it was fiddly to get the shuttle through. To make it bigger would be to reduce the tabby sheds. I’d rather fiddle with the occasional leno shot than the more common tabby ones. Doing leno this way is still much faster than manipulating the threads individually by hand, which was the object of the exercise, really.

Craft WIPs

Tapestry Bracelet – Abandoned
I went off the boil with this project. The trouble is, though I’ve sewed in the ends, the flower yarn is slippery enough that they worked their way out again. And it’s was such slow work. This is about five or more hour’s worth. Zzzznore!

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Art Necklace – in hiatus
I was going to fill the frames with little paintings of eyes and ears and mouths, then after I started embroidering I got the itch to stitch something instead. But I couldn’t think of a subject. Lately I’m thinking photos of my ancestors might be better – and much faster.

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Double Trouble Baby Blankets – picking up again
Inspired by a weaving group meeting on multiple projects on one warp at the Guild, I cut a warp for two baby blankets late March. I lost momentum for this project for a little while, but resumed warping a few weeks ago. Last weekend I finally finished and started weaving. I’d really like to give one of the blankets to a friend who had a baby in April.

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Two Heddle Leno Scarf – established
Another project inspired by the weaving group, after a meeting in which we explored bead leno. I got to thinking that bead leno should be possible on the rigid heddle loom if it had two heddles. Well, I didn’t manage to do bead leno, but worked out a way to do doup leno with tabby between.

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Gift Yarn Jacket Modification – current tv project
Adding another band of ribbing to this:

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Eye Embroidery – poised to begin
The skull was a great ongoing brainless portable project that I could pick up while watching tv or work on while travelling. Now that it’s done I’ve got this eye ready to go.

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Lookin’ Fly Clutch

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All kinds of odd things end up in my stash of art and craft materials. A while back I got playing with a scrap of plastic fly screen. The folds that had been pressed into the mesh while in storage suggested a simple clutch bag shape, and reminded me of the cross-stitch iPhone cover I stitched last year. A bit of a trim and sewing in some side panels with waxed linen thread was all it took to make the clutch. Then I had to come up with a cross-stitch design.

So I measured the proportions of the grid and created a graph in Illustrator, which I exported to Photoshop. Then I modified a cross stitch pattern to a shape and colour I liked and put it on a layer behind the grid so I could colour the spaces in the fly screen graph with the fill tool.

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Then it was just a matter of cross-stitching the design onto the bag. I used sewing cotton to mark out every fifth row and column of rectangles so I could keep oriented to the pattern. Stranded cotton turned out to be unsuited to the job, as the individual strands would eventually separate and misalign, so I turned to the flower threads I’d bought at the mini tapestry weaving and on ebay. There were a few gaps in the colour range, so I had to order in some more thread, but I was able to get started while I waited for them to arrive.

It was a good tv craft project, taking me about a month of half-hour to hour stitching sessions. I’m very happy with the result.

Making Dates With the Garden

The landscaper who did the heavy work in our yards came around a few weeks ago to take some photos and get a reference. I was a bit embarrassed at how untidy parts of the garden were, as I hadn’t had the time or motivation to start the usual post-summer clean up.

Autumn is the time of year I get enthused about gardening, spurred on by the return of Gardening Australia (which seems to happen later and later each year), mild weather and plants putting on new growth. Being sick and then away for a few weekends delayed this by a month or so this year, and then it rained quite a bit. One one of the rainy weekends I did some plant research instead.

Since I can never remember when I should be feeding and pruning, I concentrated on making a quick list of general plant types in our garden and their maintenance requirements.

The plant categories, from highest maintenance to lowest:
Citrus – They need regular pruning and feeding. I’ve been fighting and losing a battle with gall wasp on the lemon tree. The lime is doing okay, though not immune to galls.
Succulents – more work than I expected because I have to move all the pots around the side of the house in summer to allow more rain and less sun to get to them, then back to the rear in autumn. I’m also always potting up new plants from the old and replacing ones that have died off. I don’t mind this too much because they are satisfying to grow.
Spider plant – gets out of hand from time to time, so it needs flower spears cut off a few times a year and occasional plant removal to stop it spreading. Hard to remove from between pavers.
Herbs, woody – the rosemary, bay, lavender, oregano, catmint and geraniums all need pruning and feeding once or twice a year. I tend to forget to feed them, but they are pretty forgiving. Low maintenance and high satisfaction.
Herbs, soft – the parsley, peppermint, cat grass and chives die back or go to seed and while cutting back helps they often need repotting. I probably don’t feed them often enough.
Roses – a winter pruning and occasional deadheading required. I’m okay at remembering the winter feeding, but not at other times. I need to replace some that didn’t survive transplanting, and remove or move a few others.
Natives – they are so low maintenance that I forget to do any, when I really ought to tip prune and feed more often.
Trees – the camellia, maple, flame, and umbrella trees all don’t require maintenance part from the occasional prune. The tree at the front door is getting too mature for the spot it’s in, but I might get a few more years out of it. The flame tree might grow to 20 metres, so it’l have to be removed one day. The umbrella tree is in a pot – and I just learned that it’s NEVER a good idea to plant these in the ground! And it’s poisonous to cats. It tends to lose it’s leaves in summer, but they always grow back.
Bulbs – ignorable!

The list turned out to very useful, as it revealed which plants were not worth the maintenance they require, and which I should pay more attention to.

-I love lemon trees, but mine is a sorry specimen that has never produced fruit. I can do without it if the lime keeps doing okay, and I’ll have more time to lavish attention on that one.
- It’s probably worth the trouble to remove all the spider plant in the cat run, too, as it’s rather boring and not worth the effort keeping it under control.
- Since the umbrella plant is toxic to dogs and cats, I need to move it out of the run.
- I need to feed my garden more often, and that may come down to adding reminders to my calendar.

Once I have the existing garden under control, perhaps I will introduce some new plants. I like the idea of vertical gardens at the back of the garage and in the cat run, growing potatoes in a barrel, and maybe even a little aquatic garden.