Continued/Discontinued

When I had my long bout of finishitis last year, one of the items on the WIP list that I failed to eliminate was the Swimmers Clock. There was simply too many hours of work left to do, to get it done by Christmas. But I did find time to work on it, and my enthusiasm for it and mosaics returned.

Pretty soon, however, I hit a snag. I ran out of blue tiles for the background. They weren’t available at Bunnings, so I headed to the manufacturer, Johnson Tiles. There I learned that the colour was discontinued. The girl at the front desk said there were a few boxes left at the warehouse and ordered them for me, but when I rang on the day she said to call on, she found no order and the person I spoke to said there were none left. This is where the clock is up to:

In the meantime, I started another project: a house number. Seeing Paul with his large tin of obsolete keys, I had the idea of using them in the background. I finished the mosaic just after New Year.

The cream tiles are the same type I was using on the clock. However, I ran out of that colour, too. But it isn’t a discontinued colour, and I was able to get a couple from Bunnings. But these did not break as easily or in a predictable way as the old ones. I looked on the back and saw that the old ones say “Made in Britain” while the newer ones says “Made in Malaysia”.

Fortunately I was able to finish the mosaic by simply cutting and breaking until I had the right shapes, making a lot more wastage in the process. But I was kind of glad the blue for the clock was discontinued as it would be a much more frustrating process filling in the last of the background.

I had bought a bunch of duck-egg blue tiles hoping to just transition into another colour on the clock, but they didn’t match very well and the cutting problem put me off trying with any other colour. Googling, I found that the colour is still available in the UK. I can’t tell from the websites if they are made in Britain or Malaysia, however, so I posted on Facebook asking if anyone knew someone over there who could ship some to me.

A few days later, at a party, a friend said the tiles sounded a lot like what he and his wife used on their bathroom. Later he sent a photo, and they do look very much like the ones I need. I just need to get hold of them and see.

In the meantime, again, I’ve started another mosaic. I’ve been meaning to tile one of our bird baths, as it has a hole in the bottom that needs filling. Wondering what I’d do with the hard-to-cut duck egg blue and leftover cream tiles, I realised that if I smash them up with a hammer and use them as random shapes they should work okay. The smaller the pieces, the easier to fit them together.

Of course, I then ran out of cream, but that’s okay, I know I can get those ones at Bunnings.

Happy New Year

This time of year always has me thinking more about where I’m at, have been and want to be. Usually I’m happy to think back with gratitude for the good and be philosophical about the bad, and have no trouble being optimistic and enthusiastic about the future. This time, however, I struggled to be positive as the year crawled to an end, and so I’ve been trying to put my finger on why.

Looking back, I can’t point to any particular big bad thing that happened last year. There were annoyances, frustrations and ongoing worries. There were successes and moments of joy, too. But all in all, I rated it 4 out of 10. As I’ve been saying to friends, 2018 has been a little bit shit. Not terrible, not great either.

So I examined all the different parts of my life and concluded that most of my anxiety concerns the future. Some of the activities that used to give me joy no longer do or are becoming too physically challenging. Our health and fitness needs more attention. I worry about my elderly parents. I’m concerned about our friends. I fear for the planet.

My priorities shifted. Health move to the top because my back doesn’t have to get much worse than normal before it affects everything. Work and family are next, thankfully not yet conflicting. General domestic and financial chores, house and garden maintenance follow. Only when I’m satisfied these things are in order do I think of art and hobbies. It’s not that I don’t recognise that art and hobbies are good for my mental health, they just shouldn’t come at the cost of work, family and generally having my shit together.

Fortunately, once the new year arrived my mood lifted. Without seasonal obligations creating such a mental load and time suck, I’m finding time to be creative again (more about that in the next post). These words popped into my head a few days into the year:

“Don’t expect everything that gave you joy in the past to do so in the future.”

Gosh, I can apply that to so many things. Work, hobbies, friends… And thinking about how some things may be heading out of my life, I wondered what was coming in. It stirred up favourite saying of mine:

“There are enough unwanted challenges in life, so it’s nice to add a few wanted ones.”

So I considered what new challenges I could set myself for 2019. I decided on two things: to try arranging a pool party for every warm weekend, and to start going to workshops at a local artist society/association. The first idea pretty much flopped on the first weekend thanks to what I call the New Rude. (In this case, people accepting invites then either not turning up, or telling you at the last moment that they’ve got something else/better planned now). Oh well, maybe challenge #2 will prove more successful. I’ll have to wait until the new term starts to find out.

Time for the Yearly Review

Time to sum up what I made in 2018!

January
In the beginning of the year I posted a lot about Vari Dent reed projects, most of which I had done in the previous year. Then I did a Sewing for Handwovens workshop at the HWSGV and…

February
… that led to me tackling two past projects and two wips. First improving the Glamour Shawl, then turning the Olive Handspun Jacket into the Greta Cape.

I finished weaving my first floor rug using rug yarn.

I made mosaic patches for the gaps where the old heating system vents went in the kitchen.

March
I finished the Taupe Jacket

The Kay Plus Fun weaving workshop I’d organised happened, and much shibori fun was had by all.

April
I wove the Honeycomb Shawl

And started a sampler containing all the drafts in the first chapter of Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns.

May
I sewed up a doorstop.

And remade some straw hats.

And I finally used the weaving sword to make a cowl.

Then finished the Pinstripe Skirt.

June
By then I had the sewing bug, and made a black denim skirt out of two pairs of jeans.

I bought a cheap circular knitting machine, and saw the potential of them so I ordered the two Addi machines.

July
And got the knitting machine bug. I made the Green Stripes Jacket and Dusk Jumper on the Bond and some scarves and hats on the Addis.


I did a stash review and discovered I had waaay too many cone yarns. I decided I had to get my stash down to 35 kilos before the Bendy Show. I did manage it, by culling and machine knitting and winding warps. Then I noticed that some of the culled yarns looked great together, so I wove a Stashbuster Shawl.

I went to the Bendigo Show.

August
I finished the Chequerboard Rug.

The first sampler came off the Katie loom.

The War on Waste got me and many of my friends inspired to reduce, reuse and recycle.
The Fancy Log Cabin Baby Blanket came off the loom.

September
Twill Sampler 1.2 came off the loom.

I helped out at the weaving open day. In preparation I’d made an upsized pin loom for weaving rag strips. Using it, I went on to weave lots of seat pads.

October
I finished the Gardening Hat and turned a bag I’d woven into a cowl that matched rather nicely.

I made a chunky recycled yarn hat on the larger Addi.

And I finished the Red at Night Cardigan, after many weeks of sewing up.

Finishitis struck. I finished spinning and plying some yarn I hadn’t touched in ages…

November
… and started working on the Swimmers Clock again. I made a silly Christmas Tree out of a hose, plant stakes and car wheel.

And wove a cowl for a friend’s birthday present.

It was a time of much reflection and contemplation… of quitting Facebook and retiring.

December
Still working on the Swimmers Clock, I ran out of blue tiles and discovered they were discontinued. So the only creativity I expressed was in Christmas party decorating, where I made bunting out of drop sheets and ways to display a whole lot of wrapping paper trees made by a friend.

I did start a house number mosaic, but it probably won’t be finished until after New Years Eve.

Art
This year, once I finished a couple of larger portraits, I started painting heads-only smaller portraits. I got eight done over the year.

And while I was on Flinders Island I did some painting.

Buy Nothing New Decorating

Having volunteered to host the extended family Christmas bbq and tackling the lack of tree by whipping up this…

I set myself the challenge to buy nothing new when decorating for the event. A friend had made a whole lot of wrapping paper cones to decorate an op shop window, and when she heard about my challenge she asked if I wanted them. I said an eager ‘yes, please!’.

When I got them I realised that they would blow away if I didn’t find a way to anchor them. I used a circle cutter to make lots of small discs of card, then speared those with bamboo sticks from the kitchen. That gave the cones something to sit on. Then we rescued some scrap wood from the ‘stuff for the tip’ pile and Paul drilled holes in them. That got me two long rows of trees that happened to fit perfectly along the kitchen windows:

And four small ones for the tables:

The rest I stuck into the ground of the shade garden next to the deck to make two little forests:

A few days before it had occurred to me that the trees, large and small, still would make for a rather sparse amount of decoration. I brought out the ‘chalkboard’ bunting I’d bought for another party, which you can see in one of the pics above. More bunting would be good, but I didn’t have much fabric or time. Then I remembered that I had some leftover drop cloth fabric from when I’d made a canopy for our pergola-ish-thing. It was lined with plastic and wouldn’t fray, so I only needed a seam on the top to thread string through. Draggin it out, I realised I had just enough to make flags to put around the other three sides of our deck. So I cut it into two strips, sewed three more seams, made a flag template and marked out the shapes on the back:

Then I painted the fabric red, blue, green and yellow:

When I was done I cut up the flags and threaded them onto some craft string. Immediately there was something not quite right. The bunting reminded me of car yards. I asked Paul and he said it did the same thing for him. Looking at it critically, I realised two things: the yellow flags made the colour combination too ‘primary school’ and all the colours were too flat.

So I got out my printing supplies and used white paint and a plastic lace drawer-liner to add a bit of pattern to the flags:

Re-threading the flags without the yellow fit better with the colours in the Christmas paper trees, too:

So I grabbed the red, green and blue lanterns from a party I had a few years back and hung those up too:

Now we were ready to party.

The party went well and one of the first guest to arrive was heard to say “awesome Christmas tree!”. We used reusable plastic plates and cutlery, provided cans and bottles of soft drink to reduce plastic, everyone separated their waste into the ‘recycling’, ‘compost’ and ‘rubbish’ bins I’d set out, and nobody expressed any surprise, let alone a grumble, at it all. Some guests brought gifts in reusable bags, so maybe they are already on board with low-waste.

The bunting will definitely be used again – maybe a different colour combination next time – and maybe the Christmas wrapping trees. But the hose and stakes tree will be dismantled after New Year. If I need one again, I’m sure I’ll find another creative way around buying something new. I had too much fun not to try again!

Non-fiction Meanderings

When I’m working on a book I tend to avoid reading fiction. Instead I stick to non-fiction – usually books about the history of something. This year it’s been books about waste.

The first was Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle, who wrote the wonderful ethical fashion book, To Die For. It was clear and interesting, covering much of the same territory as The War on Waste tv show.

That led me to review my (then unpublished) post on maximalism, and deciding I needed to read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying. The book repelled and intrigued me as much as I expected, which is to say lot of repelling and a little bit of intriguing. As I suspected, the minimalist lifestyle she advocates ignores the problem of our throwaway culture – and possibly encourages it.

Next I started How to be a Craftivist by Sarah Corbett, which I think was referred to in Lucy’s book. I only got halfway through, however, finding it a bit too repetitive though I liked the idea of gentle crafty protest.

After that I found Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson. Though I don’t have an itch to go zero waste, I read it for ideas and motivation on reducing waste. She moved from a gigantic house to a modestly-sized one so a lot of her family’s belongings would have had to go, and she talks about disposing of things responsibly, but there’s a Kondoishness to her minimising – her wardrobe in particular – that didn’t appeal to me. However, she’s nowhere near as neurotic as Marie Kondo comes across and is honest about failures in a way that is humble and appealing.

In the following book, I went back to ethical fashion with Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan. In the ethical fashion books I’ve read so far ‘fashion’ was an umbrella term for ‘clothing and accessories’. This one uses the term as it relates to designer clothing. It focusses on shifts in designer fashion, and how it filters down to fast fashion. I really enjoyed it, especially her accessible system for choosing what clothes to buy. Not long after I read it I bought two pieces of new clothing using her system, and it worked very well.

I came away from all this reading thinking that keeping stuff is perhaps the most beneficial and weirdly subversive decision you can make. Maybe it’s not so much about owning stuff, but owning up to it. Would people stop buying crap indiscriminately and then cull it over and over if they couldn’t easily toss it out? Would manufacturers stop making products that don’t last if customers started taking things back and asking for a refund? How can people learn to make good shopping decisions when prices are so low they can easily throw mistakes away? My little reading binge certainly had me thinking.

Recently I read A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button. Written by the founder of BuyMeOnce, a website containing a curated list of products made to last, it is a guide to avoiding overspending, valuing what you have, ditching the trend treadmill and living ‘a more fulfilled life’. While it did have the usual chapter on culling your wardrobe and preaching the ‘capsule’ wardrobe nonsense (I skipped that bit) I found lots of interesting factual nuggets and tips for resisting spontaneous purchase regret.

Now I’m reading a book I picked up at a sale about human hair, so off onto another tangent. I wanted to read a book about the psychology of fashion, but it isn’t available on iBooks.

Just Heads

Early this year I decided I was a bit tired of painting portraits that took five or more months to complete. So after I finished two big ones I set about doing some ‘exercises’ – small portraits that had the same dark background and close enough to the head that little clothing was included. I also decided, and I took reference photos, that I wanted the sitters to not look at the camera or have an open mouth smile and the post didn’t have to be front-on. I reckoned I could do one of these per month.

It proved to be great fun. While I do like painting backgrounds and clothes, minimising them meant I could hone my skill at depicting skin and hair and eyes. Being able to paint heads from the back was a rare treat, too. By December I had eight paintings, not far off one a month since I started them a few months into the year.

Now I’m wondering what to do next year. Keep painting my little ‘exercises’, go back to big portraits, or try something else? People have often said to me they like my underpainting, which I do in watery acrylic paint in either alizarin red or viridian green. I might try doing one intended to be the final piece, starting off with the usual big sweeping paint strokes then adding finer ones, perhaps layering alizarin over viridian or visa versa.

I’ll see how I feel when classes start again next year.

Posted in art

Retiring

I read somewhere that the average number of careers people have these days is three. That has been spot-on for me. I was an in-house graphic designer, cartographer, illustrator and occasional visual merchandiser first, then a freelance illustrator, cartographer and occasional designer second, and writer third.

The first paid a good wage but felt limiting and was not always fun. The second was fun but didn’t pay well. The third was enjoyable and paid well and has, much to my surprise, lasted the longest.

However, the third is causing physical difficulties that I’m barely managing to keep in check and will eventually force me to stop. I don’t want to stop writing, but unless some miraculous cure for diagnosing and treating severe neck pain is developed, I will have to. Probably in the next few years.

The difference between semi and full retirement is significant, not just in income. Scarier to me is the prospect of not having a big task or creatively fulfilling project to occupy my mind. Oh, there’s heaps I’d like to do, from a degree to pursuing art to smaller writing projects, but they, too, would be limited or prevented by the same chronic back problem.

The five month break I took last year proved to me that my back gets better when not doing the things that cause pain. By the end could re-introduce some activities I could do at the beginning. So the key may simply be time.

And That Time of Year, Too

End of year restlesness. Usually it doesn’t set in until after Christmas and is gone by New Year. Now it seems to grip me earlier and earlier each year.

Last year I got fed up with how much time I was spending on my phone and set out to de-phone my life. I made some changes that proved to be beneficial and became permanent, though I do still use it more than I feel is healthy.

This year I’m thinking about social media. Facebook in particular, but also social media in general. I would love to quit it all, particularly Facebook, which is the only one I use regularly now. I don’t like how it works or how it eats up my attention and time.

For years now I’ve looked at alternatives. I tried Ello twice, but there was never much happening there. Vero looks promising, but when I contemplate joining I realise that I’d likely just be swapping one data mining company for another.

I want to leave all social media completely, but I hesitate. So I’m going to consider what I’m afraid of losing, and see if it’s really worth worrying about.

1) The connection to friends and family.
My family doesn’t use social media, so I lose nothing there. My friends do, but they don’t share much about their personal lives, really. At every FB scandal they interacted less. I can’t help thinking that if my friends dump me because I’m not on FB they’re not my friends. There are other ways to keep in contact, even when you’re a long way apart. I have text and Messenger conversations with my closest friends. Yes, the latter is a FB product, but it’s not a social media.

2) The ease of organising events
But not the unreliability. Recently I tried to organise a couple of events within a group of FB. After getting only one response I checked the post to find that only that one friend had seen it. I asked in a general post if anyone else in the group had and a few people said yes but they hadn’t responded.

Not responding to event invitations or only doing so at the last moment is being noted as a new kind of rudeness. I suspect what happens is that when people can’t answer a question on the spot (say, they have to consult their calendar or spouse) they move on to the next FB notification and forget all about the invite. So no, organising events is not easier, in the long run.

3) The calendar reminders
To be honest, I’m not that worried about this. I bought a small diary last year and it has been so much more useful than the FB or phone calendar. It doesn’t, for one thing, lose past events. I note the birthday of friends in it who are close enough to me that I’d wish them well on or near the day. Not using FB would release me from those awkward moments on FB when you ignore a birthday notification because the person really isn’t that close to you.

5) A diary of your life
Yeah, nah. There are plenty of alternative ways to record your life. Even public ways. (Blogs, anyone?)

6) Showing people your holiday snaps, or other pics
These days when someone goes on a trip or has a party they put pics and anecdotes on an event or group page so as to not annoy everyone in their feed. It’d be just as effective to put them on a website and provide a link. I like to remind myself of a trip by looking through my diary and photos, but I don’t if they’re on FB. I write a physical diary most trips, which I read later. We don’t get around to making physical albums any more, however.

During the last trip I deliberately didn’t put anything on FB, and it felt weirdly liberating. It was like saying “FU Facebook, you won’t be earning money from this bit of my life.”

7) Another way to contact friends in an emergency.
If you can’t get in touch via a phone call or text, then perhaps you shouldn’t be relying on that person in an emergency.

8) Promoting myself for work
The only reason I didn’t leave Twitter completely last year was because it was the only way readers of my books could contact me, once I had to shut down comments on my blog to stop the endless stream of spam. But I don’t use Facebook for work (not for lack of trying… long story!) so there’d be no loss there.

Well, that’s a fairly thorough examination. I’ve decided to do what I did with Twitter: take Facebook off my phone so I only use it on the desktop computer. I only turn my desktop computer on a few times a week. That means I’ll have Facebook-free days. If I don’t miss it between now and New Year’s Eve I’ll delete it completely.

Lava Cowl

A few months back a friend surprised me with a lovely small handmade gift for my birthday, so I decided I’d give her something I’d made for her’s. Trouble was, I couldn’t find anything I’d already made that suited her. That wouldn’t be much trouble normally, as I don’t usually need a nudge to make something new.

However, I’d come down with a virus. Vertigo, headaches and fatigue weren’t exactly helping me find my creative mojo. But after a rustle around in the craft room and a flick through a book, I decided to Keep It Simple and just weave a quick scarf out of some graduating yarn with 5ply burgundy cone yarn for warp, using my weaving sword shuttle.

As it turned out, I had some red warp still on the Knitters Loom from when I’d been doing some variable dent reed experimentation earlier in the year. Not enough length for a full size scarf, but fine for a cowl. I added more of the same yarn to widen the warp then got weaving. A few hours later I had this:

I rather like how the warp and weft interact. The red warp stops the overall effect being too burgundy-ish.

It was a good short project, done in a day. In the meantime, I’ve been slowly working out the specs for a table runner a friend requested. It’s going to require some sampling, as I haven’t seen the particular mix of techniques I’m planning to use.

That Time of Year

No, not the pre-Christmas craziness, as that’s only just starting. It’s Spring that is the culprit. Whenever I have a spare day on a weekend I end up weeding for a few hours, after which I want to rest.

The result: very little craft happening.

However, I have managed to fit in a bit here and there. I’ve made progress on the mosaic clock.

And after volunteering to host the extended family Christmas gathering I realised I don’t have any decorations. Not wanting to buy more plastic crap, I whipped up this ‘tree’:

And I’m thinking of making salt dough decorations, so they can be tossed in the compost heap after the event.