Eye of the Needle

I worked on this piece for a couple of years. It was the project I’d take on trips or work on while listening to a speaker and an event. It was also the test piece I worked on after my eye op.

I have to confess, I didn’t enjoy it much. It may be that I didn’t because it hung around so long and I got bored with it. Struggling to work on it post-surgery turned that lack of inspiration to discomfort. There’s some irony in that my last fine embroidery project is an eye, when my eyes are the reason I stopped.

To get the eye finished quicker, I decided not to do the eyebrow and an area of shadow under the eye. The lines were done with the orange-based cleaner on a printout method. I’ve washed these sorts of lines out before, but this time it was hard work scrubbing it off, and I wasn’t entirely successful. Maybe because they’d been there for a few years. To hide them, I painted the piece with Procion dye while at the weaving retreat.

I do like how it turned out.

I just need the perfect frame for it.

Not long after I dyed it I got a fortune cookie at a friend’s birthday party:

I laughed and laughed.

Social Isolation

We just got back from a short holiday on an island. Well, not an island with palm trees and resorts and beaches but an island with farms and mountains and beaches. And not all holiday either as we were there to help a friend who lives on the island celebrate her birthday as well as take a few days to look around.

It was exhausting. And relaxing. I wasn’t there long before the real world and my life at home felt like a distant thing I couldn’t easily bring my mind back to. Yet where I was felt dream-like and unreal. I was a visitor, welcomed by those who lived there, but I wasn’t at home.

The people there are isolated but social. Everyone knows everyone. Everyone looks out for everyone. Everyone gossips about everyone. That’s so different to where I live, in a city with lots of people but I’d have to drive for 15 minutes to an hour see any of my friends and I’ve only talked to three neighbours since I moved here four years ago – and only once to one of them.

I’m not sure what I’d prefer.

Because to be honest, I’m not that much of a people person. Oh, I like people, some very much… so long as I get to spend heaps of time alone. It’s curious to me to come back from such an isolated place all peopled out.

And yet it was a great trip. We really enjoyed ourselves. I think I have a bit of culture shock, though. In a good way. Travel lets you see other ways of existing and surviving and seeing the world. Before we left I was a bit wistful, thinking that in a few days life would be back to normal, but now I’m home I just want to settle so I can get the things done on my to-do list.

Though I suspect the to-do list felt just as overwhelming before we left anyway.

Finishitis, Stash Acquisition & Stinky Yarn

The Guild recently held their annual Textile Bazaar. I rocked up right as the doors were open and left with almost more yarn than I could carry. No cones this time. I wanted two things: rug yarn and maybe some knitting yarn to use on the machines if it took my fancy. I found both.

However.

Most of it stank of moth balls. The stinky yarn got wound into skeins then soaked in woolmix and left to dry and air. The big batch of caramel brown knitting yarn came up fine. The rug yarn utterly reeked, and while it was drying the whole house smelled like a chemical factory. I had to put it in the bathroom, turn on the fan and leave it for a day. Thankfully it’s much better now, though still with a faint mothball odour.

In the meantime, I’ve leafed through my books, to-do list, stash spreadsheet and visual journal and felt only a few little sparks of interest. Whenever I’ve had time for craft I’ve fallen back on existing projects. I’m all out of inspiration.

I got to wondering if am in the throes of a very long bout of finishitis. So I decided to go with it. I finished spinning the yarn on my wheel – some lovely camel fibre – and I plied some banana fibre I spun a while ago with some overlocker cotton.

The third iteration of the twill sampler came off the loom. When I labelled it I discovered I’d completely missed one of the drafts. No idea how that happened. I’m not going to warp up the loom for one 10cm sample, though. I’m not even sure if I want to finish the chapter, to be honest. I have all the two-colour warp ones to do – 27 in total. The realisation that it would take me 20 years to get through the book at this rate was rather off-putting. Maybe I should do something more achievable, like picking ten drafts from each chapter.

All I have left on the WIP list is the mosaic clock. It would be nice to wipe the slate clean, I suppose, but it would also be nice to feel the excitement of starting a new project. For the moment, however, I’m giving my creative brain a rest. It will fire up again when it’s ready, I’m sure.

Red at Night Cardigan

It’s taken me months to sew this up. I’d do a seam, find a mistake, unpick it, sew it again, find a mistake, unpick it, sew it again, spend the next few days with a sore back, forget the jacket exists, remember it exists but don’t want to stuff up my back again, finally get the courage up again to work on it and… repeat.

But it couldn’t last forever, and last Friday I finally finished.

Yarn: Bendigo Woollen Mills 8ply Cotton in pomegranate… and a darker, purpler shade of the same yarn from a very different dye lot.
Pattern: Seaview, with a plain collar and a garter stitch row added to the cuffs and hem.
Notes: If I made this again I’d do the body in one piece. I like the structural support side seams give, but the fronts are pretty narrow so I could have relied on just the collar seam for that.

It’s very comfy. I think I’d like some sort of closure. There’s a small safety pin holding the fronts together in the photo.

It pilled like crazy under the arms the first time I wore it. I hope that isn’t going to be an issue. It’s made me reconsider my idea of finishing off the rest of the Bendigo Cotton on the machine. The new ball was noticeably lower in quality to the old, with some very thin spots in the yarn in a few places. I’ll be watching for holes.

Well, if I do machine knit some more summer clothing, it’ll have to wait a while. We have some guests staying soon so will need the dining table clear for a while.

A Filling in Time Saves Nine

Or so we hope!

During a recent trip to the dentist for a checkup and clean I was listening to a happy commentary about how great my teeth were when there was a pause, and then the apologetic news that a filling had fallen out and I needed a replacement.

Yeah, well, stuff happens, and often seems to happen in clusters. I’d rather have a filling than back surgery, though there have definitely been times at the dentist when I wished for a general anaesthetic.

I’d noticed that the dentist’s tools came wrapped in plastic, so I asked if they threw them away at the end of each day. No, thankfully they are sterilised then repackaged. Later I asked if he had one past its use-by and would be thrown out, as they are very handy for manipulating stitches on a knitting machine. He popped out of the room and came back with three.

So that weekend I gave them a try on the Addi Express. Oh, so much easier than the little plastic needle supplied! I cranked out the above hat using tuck stitches – which is a simple technique where you make the machine skip a stitch.

The yarn is something I picked up at Bendigo Woollen Mills. It’s labelled as ’16 ply recycled yarn’. Which is about as thick as I’d go for these machines. It makes a nice, cushy hat.

But it definitely is too warm for hats here now!

Gardening Hat & Cowl

Hat Yarn: by Kathy’s Fibres
Hat Pattern: Latu

Some time ago I tried cranking the base for the Latu hat on the larger circular knitting machine with the intention of dropping and latching up the rib and cables. But the gauge was way off and I ended up slowly knitting it by hand.

Most of my knitted hats are fitted. The slouchy volume of this design appealed to me. I can pull it down over my ears if I want to.

Of course, it’s now getting a bit on the warm side for hats.

My Stylebooking continues. Yes, it has become a verb. I’ve added bags and jackets and travel clothes and summer hats and belts. I’ve culled a piece or two almost every time I added a category, but not a lot. Except for the belts. I had heaps of belts. I don’t wear belts so why the heck did I have so many? Most of those went the op shop.

I got rid of a black bag that I bought because it has all the pockets and handles I like and was the right size… but I finally admitted to myself that I hated it. So. Ugly. I found one I liked on the way out of the op shop. Bag in, bag out.

(And then when I went through box of things I reserve for travelling I discovered I already had a bag just like it. Doh!)

Oh, and that cowl? It was once a bag:

I never used it. I took it apart and sewed the ends together. Ta-dah! Cowl. Which happens to go nicely with the gardening hat.

It’s not been all about the culling and refashioning, though. When I added my jackets to Stylebook I realised I wasn’t using my denim jacket, even though I like it. Why not? Well, it turns out I’m deathly afraid of double-deniming. So I used the ‘looks’ feature of the app to come up with outfits that I could wear the jacket with. And then I wore one. Win.

All this has been a welcome distraction whenever I have a few minutes free. I’m back working on the book. Paul has had back surgery. I’m going to have my first tooth filling in years on Monday. The weeds are going nuts. I haven’t done much weaving in ages. I haven’t even finished sewing up the red cardigan. I’ve run out of energy and inspiration, just getting through each week. But we’re not unhappy. Just exhausted.

A-Crafting We Will Go

So this week has turned into a sort of half holiday, half work week. I’m working on a novella that may or may not be a commission (long story – no pun intended). Otherwise I’m doing a bit of everything: weaving, mending, gardening, cooking, reading, walking, painting and enjoying a cuppa out on the deck in the welcome spring warmth.

I’ve done a little bit more of Stylebooking, adding a few garments I’d missed, and a bit more culling of the wardrobe. Five of my long-sleeved tshirts are from Uniqlo. They’re supposed to be a cotton polyester mix. I’m sure they were thick and cushy when I bought them. I don’t like flimsy t-shirts, so I’d have never bought them if they were. But after a couple of washes they’ve were all thin and now have that squeaky quality polyester has. After some deliberation, I’m going to donate them to the op shop, as they are still wearable if you don’t mind the feel of polyester. I still have plenty of long-sleeved t-shirts to last me through spring, and if I find I need more next winter I will buy some ethically/sustainably made ones.

Last weekend was all about craft. Saturday I went to the guild for the weaver’s meeting, then stayed on to try to fix some looms. The talk at the meeting was about using a fan reed on an Ashford table loom. The simple and ingenious way Mary hung the reed gave me a great idea for using the Vari Dent Reed on my Katie loom. The loom mending went well – at least, I hope my solutions worked! One loom I couldn’t fix on the spot. Someone has replaced a missing pawl pin on one of the Ashfords with a screw, which is inelegant and not particularly successful. I’m going to have to come up with an inexpensive way to undo the damage.

On Sunday afternoon I hosted another Craft Day. Three lovely hours of nattering and craft with friends that felt like three minutes. I started with some bag mending and refashioning followed by cutting up t-shirts ready to weave more seat pads.

I’ve finished those pads now. I’m in a bit of a finishitis phase at the moment. I still have to sew up the red jacket and finish the green beanie, and those bag refashioning projects.

And then what? There are some more variable dent reed ideas lurking in my visual diary, and my wardrobe edit hasn’t put me off weaving some summer weight fabric for clothing. I also want to machine knit another cotton garment out of the white, green and purple Bendy Cotton in my stash. And I have a few clothing refashions to do.

Plenty of projects to finish. Plenty waiting to start.

Spring Stylebook

The trees here burst into blossom weeks ago, but it still felt like winter. Then a few days into Spring it suddenly began to feel like Spring, with warmer days (but still chilly nights) and heavily pollinated air (achoo!).

I completed a work deadline two weeks ago so I’m having a few weeks ‘break’. There are single quotes on that last work because in the first week I did plenty of physical work: gardening, cleaning up outside, cooking for Paul’s birthday. And for two days of that week I was sick, too.

Then on the second Sunday I decided to do something completely frivolous. I downloaded a wardrobe organising app called Stylebook and over the next week, whenver it was sunny enough that I had good light, I photographed, entered and categorised most of my clothes.

The app enables you to put together ‘looks’ – a bit like a paper doll minus the doll. Obviously I’m not going to add all my underwear and such, or the trackie dacks and old cargo pants I do the gardening in, as the former is waaaay too much detail and the latter hardly going to be part of a ‘look’. I’m not sure I really needed to put all my tshirts in either, to be honest, as tshirt plus jeans is hardly a creative ‘look’. Where the app is most useful is in pairing up clothing in new and (hopefully) stylish ways, and that’s most relevant to the nicer end of the wardrobe.

It wasn’t long before it became clear that the reason I don’t wear some items is because nothing else I have goes with them. In those cases I could make one of two decisions: get rid of it or buy something to match. Since I have plenty of clothing as it is, I’ve mostly chosen to remove the item. In only one case am I sure I need to buy a new item, though the app did draw my attention to one match I hadn’t considered that might work, so we’ll see.

That’s the other benefit: the app has me easily considering matches that weren’t obvious. I thought I needed another evening top, since I only had one. But looking through the tops in my ‘neat casual’ category, I can see some pieces that would definitely work as evening wear in the right situation.

Down at the casual end of the wardrobe, I wasn’t surprised to see I have lots of long sleeved tshirts and skivvies. This is because I’m sensitive to wool, so need to have a barrier between my skin and the many handknits (and handwovens) I’ve made or bought. Every year or two I cull out the black ones that have faded and buy replacements, and having handled and inspected what I had I realised that time had come again. But as I looked at this category in the app, I realised I don’t need to. I have no trouble combining colours, so why have these in black at all? When black fades it looks old. When colours fade they just look like lighter versions of that colour. Not only do I not need to buy more black long-sleeved ts & skivvies, but I can probably not bother buying them ever again!

Then I counted up all the casual summer tops and dresses and realised I had enough to wear something every day for all but ten days of summer. That’s ridiculous! But I’ve got there because I tend to refashion Paul’s shirts and too-small tshirts into sleeveless tops, and I have a weakness for convention and souvenir tshirts. So I culled a few I didn’t like so much and didn’t fit well, and relegated a handful of tshirts to the pajama top pile, and got the overall number to two months.

Of what I’ve culled, five of the best pieces went to the op shop (where I overheard one of the staff say “ooh, that’s pretty!”), I’m hoping to hand at least one of three skirts to a friend, and the really worn things went into the rag bag.

I was worried that the app would make me want to buy more clothes. Instead it’s shown me that I probably don’t need to. It’s helped me say goodbye to a few pieces I don’t wear (and I’ve found a new owner for one already) and shown me some new ways to wear what I have.

It’s pretty robust, and hasn’t crashed or lost information yet. I wish it had a way to show the proportion of handmade/refashioned/bought second hand/bought new as well, but I was able to add ‘refashioned’ and ‘second hand’ into the notes for each piece so a search brings them all up, and I can see how many items I’ve marked as such. I did put ‘handmade’ in the Brands section, so my stats show that 20% of my clothing was made by me. I’m pretty chuffed about that.

I don’t know if the app will be useful in an ongoing way, but it could be if I find myself doing some unplanned shopping. If I was tempted to buy a garment I could tell myself I must find five garments it will go with. Or if I was stuck on a delayed train or in a waiting room I could entertain myself making new ‘looks’.

But even if I have no ongoing use for it, I have had a lot of fun already and got some useful insights. That was well worth the $5.99 it cost!

Cross-Pollination Scarf

Earlier this year I had a look at my small collection of VÄV magazines and saw there were some holes. I buy them when I see them at one of the local newsagents, which isn’t the most consistent way of getting them. So I popped onto their website and ordered three back issues.

Two turned out to be of particular interest. One covered boro boro – the art of recycling and mending. Another featured adventurous weaving techniques and materials. In the latter I read about an Estonian textile artist, Kadi Pajupuu, and one of the techniques she is shown playing with is weaving with multiple small heddles.

From the looks of it, she is simply flipping them. But what caught my eye was the thicker thread between sections of weaving used as a supplementary warp, just like what I did with the Coco Nut Ice Scarf… except she was moving them around as she flipped the heddles.

Light bulb moment!

Suddenly it was obvious that the next step from the Coco Nut Ice Scarf was to start swapping around the thicker threads. I didn’t want to flip heddles, as she had, because that shortens the warp threads at the sides faster than the middle. But I did want to do something different to what she’d done: see if I could easily weave the ground warp threads on their own while the thick threads were crossing or twisting or whatever I would up doing with them.

It turned out to be simple and intuitive and fast. By having the thick threads as a supplementary warp, I could move them into position in the back as well, and keep the warp tension even.

I kept it simple, just crossing the threads over.

I love the resulting scarf. I wove it from alpaca, so it’s soft and plush.

And there are so many directions I could go with this idea. But I’ve had yet another one, and this time it involves doubleweave and two heddles.

Pin Loom Seat Pads

Recently the guild held a “See Yourself Weaving?” Open Day. I was all fired up to help out, but when Paul’s slipped disc happened and I got plantar fasciitis again I had to pull out of most commitments, including this one. However, by the time the Open Day came around Paul was well enough to drive me to the station, and my feet were good enough to get me to the guild via public transport, so figured I could participate so long as I got to sit down.

I had one day to get organised. My original intent was to demonstrate pin loom weaving and stick weaving, but I kept the organisation down by deciding not to set up stick weaving. I concentrated on getting my triangle and hexagon looms warped up and with a few rows of weaving done, ready to demonstrate. The square one would be to show how it all starts. For examples of what to make I took the Hunky Hank Shawl, Graduation Blanket and Greenery Blanket – the latter so I could tell people that you can scale up the basic square pin loom for thicker yarns.

Then I thought… I have always wanted to try weaving rags on a pin loom. So I gave it a try on the loom I made for the Greenery Blanket, but the rags (leftover from the Braided Spectrum Rag Rug) were too thick. So I decided to make another pin loom – this time double the size of the basic square one.

A couple of hours and a trip to Bunnings later, I had this:

I warped up and started weaving, but stoped with only a quarter done so that people at the Open Day could see the process was the same. It was a great day, with over a hundred people coming to check out all the different kinds of weaving on display. Someone had already set up a couple of stick looms so I demonstrated those as well. I didn’t a chance to look around myself, I was so busy!

When I got home I finished the rag rug square and decided it would be perfect as a seat pad. So over the next week I made five more, stopping only because I ran out of orange rag ‘yarn’.

I have two of these built-in seats. Looks like four or five pads is a good number for each. So I need to make at least two more, and I just found an orange t-shirt at an op shop to cut up.

I really enjoyed making them, and now I want to make a huge pin loom and see if I can make big floor rugs.

Oh – and the other great result of the Open Day is I sold my Ashford 4-shaft table loom! A new weaver and I got chatting and she said she wanted a four shaft loom, but she wanted a bigger one than what they have at the guilds so she can make large items. She came over a few weeks later to look at the loom, and it was exactly what she wanted. I’m so happy it went to a good home!