Lady Finishers

Back when Paul was doing his Batchelor of Photography he needed old wooden frames, so he bought some through eBay. One had an embroidery from 1992 in it. He was going to throw it away, but I figured I could probably make something with it one day.

Recently (but probably not so recently that I’m being all that trendy) I noticed there was a fashion for denim jackets with embellishments on the back. I thought about putting that embroidery on the back of mine as a kind of fast, cheats way to get the look. In the meantime, a corduroy jacket I’d bought second hand lost a button. I went on a long and fruitless hunt for a replacement that would match the rest, but it being your typical metal shank button I couldn’t find anything even similar.

Eventually I settled on a plastic shank button in my stash that has a pearlescent effect that looks remarkably like the metal buttons from a distance. I sewed it on when tackling the mending pile after my big craft room cull. The embroidery was in my ‘not sure if I should toss or keep’ pile and I decided it was time to decide whether to sew it on my jacket or toss it out. I took out my denim jacket and laid the embroidery out on the back. Since it was there I also tried it on the corduroy jacket – and it matched that one better. So I decided to go ahead and sew it on.

I’m so glad I did! When I removed the backing board from the embroidery I had quite a surprise.

Whoever had framed the embroidery had used the photo that was originally in the frame – from the late 1800s we think. On the back was a rather amusing note from the photo studio:

As for the embroidery… I used iron-on fusing to attach interfacing to the back then sewed that onto the jacket. I’m rather chuffed with the result:

The Big Craft Room Tidy of 2019

It’s been hot in Melbourne for several days now. Dry hot then humid hot. Too hot to go outside. Too hot to even work on mosaics, as the studio is the warmest room in the house and I only run the aircon unit out there if I really have to – say, we have visitors.

Somehow my brain decided that this meant a big clean out of the craft room would be a good idea.

My aim was to get everything but looms, furniture and the rubbish bin off the floor and into the wardrobe or bookcase. Not only was I sick of the clutter, but I also know that if I do get another floor loom I’ll have to do this anyway.

First I dragged everything on the floor into the kitchen. Baskets, tubs and felt storage buckets covered the dining table. Most of the contents were t-shirt material, jeans, cotton fabric to be repurposed. One basket was overflowing with sewing and refashioning projects. On top of that: three square pillow inserts waiting to be given pillowcases.

Looking in the wardrobe, I mentally added all this to all my sewing supplies and a question immediately sprang to mind:

Why the heck do I have so much sewing stuff when I’m really not that keen on sewing?

So I culled.

And I culled HARD. At least a third of my sewing stuff went into a pile to get rid of, including the mini sewing machine and a quarter of my fabric stash. I then culled some embroidery yarns, stretchers and books, keeping supplies for kinds of embroidery I reckon my eyes can cope with.

The jewellery-making supplies were reduced next. I culled most of my seed beads since they’re hard to see now. I removed beads I didn’t love. (Then I got distracted and lost half a day trying to make a bracelet… but once I realised my mistake I decided there would be NO MORE GETTING DISTRACTED!)

Lots of swapping of plastic tube contents followed to make best use of the wardrobe shelving. I was determined to avoid buying more plastic stuff. The only container I wound up needing to buy was a replacement sewing box – the lid had finally broken off the one I’ve been using since I was a teenager and though I’d duck-taped it back on it was only strong enough to store sewing patterns. I took a morning off and visited several op shops until I found an old cane picnic basket that was the exact dimensions to fit the space for the sewing basket in my wardrobe. A cane document tray I already had fitted inside. I did end up buying two small plastic boxes to hold my sewing threads, as the tray only sits loosely and I could see myself being a clutz and spilling spools everywhere.

Headway had been made, but much more work lay ahead. I hardly ever touch my paper and card stash, so it needed to be culled too. The space dedicated to it needed to be more efficiently arranged, too. A trip to Bunnings and Officeworks sorted that.

The bookcase was scrutinised, too. Knitting books, macrame books and art books went OUT. This gave me two shelves spare to put weaving and drawing tools on.

Finally, a week after I began, I’m finished. There are still some areas that need work. I have bags of yarn that won’t fit in the stash in bags hanging from door handles, and the sack of cotton fabric for a rya rug has nowhere to go but the floor, so I haven’t achieved 100% of my aim. But it’s a LOT less cluttered in the craft room now.

And all I have to do to get to 100% is tackle couple of big projects: a couple of recycled denim patchwork pillowcases and a giant rya rug.

All I need to do for the latter is work out if I can do it on the floor loom, or if I’ll need to make or buy a rug loom.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.