The Youth of Old Age

“Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.” So said Victor Hugo. Well, I’m officially old, in that case. The young end of old, but still old.

Paul and I went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on my birthday, which was very enjoyable and appropriately fancy for a zero birthday, and involved none of the preparation, clean up or recovery of a party.

The week before I’d discovered a Melbourne vintage clothing shop that sells on consignment, so I took photos of everything and emailed some thumbnail sheets of what I have to the owner. She said it was exactly the sort of stock she sold, so Paul and I took it all in the next day. She took everything except reproduction clothing, a caftan (not popular) and winter-weight clothing as we’re heading toward summer. When I saw she sold costumes, too, I mentioned I had culled some from my wardrobe, and she said she would have liked to see them.

The following Sunday my friend and I had our stall at the local market.

We made a small profit, which went to charity, and decided to do it all again the next month. I took the leftover vintage clothing along with with my culled garments and costumes but sold only one top. That convinced me to put the winter weight vintage clothes and my costumes aside to see if the shop wants them in autumn, and donate my clothes to the local op shop. The next stall will be some vintage scarves, tea towels and brick-a-brack, jewellery and such.

Craft-wise, I’ve been making samplers for a rigid heddle loom weaving workshop I’ll be running at the Guild’s summer school.

And doing my 4-shaft weaving class homework.

And I decided it was well past time to put a first project on the Lotus.

It’s going to be tea towels, using the 16/2 cotton I bought in 2008 only to discover that I didn’t even have half the heddles I needed on my Ashford table loom. The yarn has been sitting in my stash ever since.

And speaking of stash… it is now over 50 kg. Waaaay too many destash markets/Guild bazaar/freebies came my way these last couple of months, which only makes me more determined to GET ALL THE LOOMS WARPED! But then I remind myself that there’s only one weaver here, and I can only use one loom at a time, and I still have a stuffed back that won’t let me weave for hours at a time anyway.

I think there may be a stash review in my near future. And probably a stash cull.

Ketchup

Catch up continues. Mostly domestic stuff, but there has been some craft. Let me see…

I finished weaving a chenille scarf. What chenille scarf? Well, I ikat dyed two skeins of chenille at the Kay Plus Fun workshop a year and a half ago, but then couldn’t decide whether it should be warp or weft. Eventually I bought two more undyed skeins. Some weeks ago (Pre-Lucy’s House?) I warped up the Knitters Loom with an undyed skein and started weaving with a dyed one. I was hoping a weft ikat pattern would form, but all I got was a random speckled pattern – and not an attractive one. So I unwove the dyed yarn and wove with the second skein of undyed yarn, figuring I’d dye the finished scarf later. So not a finished project, as such, so no photo yet.

Of course, that leaves me with two ikat dyed skeins to figure out what to do with. But for now, there’s more important things to weave.

Because I agreed to run a rigid heddle workshop at the Guild’s summer school. And being a glutton for punishment, I decided not to pick one weave structure but TEACH THEM ALL! Well, not all of them. I’m putting together a range of samplers and instruction sheets, so students can pick something they haven’t tried before. Most use the same basic warp, and there’ll be a double weave and vari dent version (if I get the samplers and instructions sheets done in time).

Last Saturday was a double destash market day. First up was the Open Drawer, where I bought a ton of mostly 8ply yarn and a sewing box footstool. Next was a CWA destash market where I helped a friend man (woman) her fundraising stall, selling off mostly craft stuff from Lucy’s house for whatever donation people wanted to make. We made a surprising amount to send to the Women’s Property Initiative – crafters are generous! I added to my ton of 8ply yarn there and bought a beautiful kimono.

The third 4 shaft weaving class was held on Sunday. I was tired from the market, but I’m enjoying this course and being around other crafty people so much it wasn’t long before I pepped up. And Project 2 is about colour theory and rosepath – both which I am familiar with. Lots of homework, which I’m amazed to find I’m really pleased about.

Craft is usually pretty slow this time of year thanks to having an acre’s worth of garden to weed and prune and feed and plant and water and harvest and rip out for the compost, but at least I don’t have any large projects lined up. I’d like to get some sewing done. I have both refashioning and sew from scratch summer clothing projects I’d like to do. And to weave something other than course and workshop samplers. Maybe something to sell at the Guild.

And then, of course, there’s preparing for and running a vintage/craft stall my friend and I are holding at our local market at the end of this month.

Right now, though, I’ll be content to just catch up and keep up with the things I’ve already got on my plate.

The Ins & Outs

It doesn’t seem so long ago that I went through my yarn stash and reduced it to 35 kilos. I recall I wanted to reach that weight by the Bendy Show. That was around ten months ago. Since then I’ve added quite a bit of yarn to the stash. A few weeks back I added it all up and realised I now have more than 46 kilos.

46 kilos! How the heck did that happen?

Destashes. That’s how. Other people’s destashes. The Handweavers and Spinners Guild bazaar. Two recent markets. It seems I completely lose all sense when faced with inexpensive second-hand yarn. It also seems I have a weakness for tweedy brown yarn of all shades and weights, from cone yarn to super bulky. I tell myself it won’t take long to weave a blanket out of them. Trouble is, I only have one blanket-sized loom that will be occupied for a couple of months, and I already have plenty of blankets.

Needless to say, the stash storage spilleth over. I’ve been putting new acquisitions into the freezer in batches to kill any moth eggs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t also have several bags of yarn lurking in corners of the craft room. I’ve even employed that old gem of starting a project and leaving yarn in a basket so that it ‘doesn’t count’.

I can see another stash cull in the future, but at the moment I am too clingy. More likely the knitting machine will emerge soon, as many of the ‘new’ yarns speak to me of cosy winter jumpers or jackets. In fact, that may be the source and solution to the problem. Cooling temps always bring out a craving in me for new woollens, making me weak in the face of cosy yarn, but also inspiring me to bring out the Bond.

But no, I must not get distracted from finishing weaving projects and freeing up looms!

A Bath for Birds

Funny how the mosaic project that involved using a hammer to smash the tiles unsuitable for the swimmers clock was finished first. It really was quite therapeutic! And it fixed the problem of the bath’s mysteriously pitted inner surface.

I’d set up a folding table in Paul’s studio to do the swimmers clock, and then this one took over the space. Once I’d grouted the bath I moved it into the garage for sealing when I got back from Fibrearts. Then I cleaned off the folding table and asked Paul to vaccume the studio while I was away. (Having a sore shoulder, I wasn’t keen to do that bit myself.

I kinda hoped the vacuuming would lead to some cleaning up, and it did. I also hoped it might lead to some photography-related activity in there. It didn’t. Instead, Paul spread his diorama-making out onto the folding table. This meant I going to have to tell him to remove it or resume my mosaic-making elsewhere. Probably back to my area of the garage, where I used to do it. Which isn’t a big problem except when it’s really hot or really cold. Which seems to be most of the year, these days.

Could I possibly set up in our laundry? Paul has not entirely satisfactory ways of using it as a darkroom. Perhaps we could build a darkroom into the back of the studio. I raised it with him one morning. He didn’t like the idea. He said: “Do you really think you’ll continue with mosaics?”

After a shower and a think, I asked pointedly: “Do you really think you’ll continue making dioramas?” He conceded that his question – or rather, the way it had been phrased – hadn’t been very fair.

Because it was a relevant question for both of us. We’ve both have adopted a new hobby since moving to this house and modifying it to suit the hobbies we’d had at the time. We need to consider how to most sensibly incorporate our new hobbies into the space we have, and consider how much time we actually spend on each of our hobbies, not how much time we wish we did.

And perhaps even more importantly, how much stuff we store that relates to them.

Assortment

In the midst of all the accessory sorting I also did a big cull of a box stuffed with batches of leftover yarn from projects. When a project is done I tend to just open the lid a crack and stuff in the remains. I keep them in case the item I’ve made needs repair, but of course I don’t need the ones for garments I’ve frogged or passed on to the op shop. Now and then I’ll do a cull and tidy, but often I can’t remember if I still have the object I made.

This time it was much easier, thanks again to Stylebook. I only needed to have my phone next to me as I went through and check if I still had the item I’d made from it. That made the task quick and manageable, so I even put each batch of yarn into a reused zip lock bag and (shock! amazement!) labelled it. The labelling then helped when I started making things from the frogged accessories, as I was able to locate the leftovers to use if I didn’t have enough frogged yarn to finish the new item.

Being so organised feels satisfying, but I had to admit there’s a rebellious part of me that pffts at such tidiness. Maybe I should blame it for leading me astray at The Open Drawer Destash Market last weekend, where I picked up a whole lot of yarn despite not having room for the stash as it is, and some ceramic tiles for mosaics despite the fact that I’d supposedly decided I wasn’t that keen on mosaicing with ceramic tiles.

I did leave the inkle loom and warping board behind, though. I don’t need multiples of either.

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.

Onward

Well, my little burst of stash busting followed by stash building has passed. My store of yarn is now ordered and revitalised, and still under 35kilos. My work here is done. (Well, apart from the temptation to buy yarn for a jumper pattern in the book that came with the Bendigo Woollen Mills show survival kit.)

Over the last two months the itch to knit something warm to wear led to a dyeing session, machine knitting two large garments, buying two circular knitting machines, realising I don’t have much yarn for them, stash busting and culling, unexpected weaving projects and finally, a good bit of stash enhancement.

What next?

– I have a blanket to weave and sampling to continue.

– The guild has some events coming up I’ve volunteered to help with.

– I want to make the green hat to match the Green Lines Jacket.

– Now that I’ve re-familiarised myself with the Bond I’m tempted to see if I can remember how to use the Passap, and make some socks.

Looking further ahead, I have some mending and sewing lined up. I want to get a mosaic clock finished by summer. When my next writing deadline is behind me I’d like to try submitting a weaving pattern to a magazine.

And then there’s just life stuff. Lots of birthdays. Maybe a short interstate trip or two. Lots and lots of weeding through Spring.

Bendy Report 2018

It’s been two years since I last went to the Australian Sheep & Wool Show, and on that visit I bought mainly fibre for spinning. I more than made up for it this year. Last time I went alone, but this time I had the company of a friend – and ran into another on the way home. Both of them are knitters, and one is also a spinner and weaver.

I had quite a to-do list, from visiting a seller of looms to approaching a publisher of books about an idea I’ve had for a while, eating the same scrumptious lamb rolls I had the last two times and visiting Bendigo Woollen Mill.

We decided to visit the mill first, because I’d seen a little video describing the contents of their show survival kit and I rather fancied it, and numbers were limited. For $30 you got this:

Plus a sachet of hot chocolate (drunk), a pack of mints (forgot were in my bag), a bottle of water and a calico bag (given to my companion in yarn covetousness).

It was good value because I wanted most of the contents, which is pretty unusual in ‘showbags’. However, there are always a couple of things in them that I don’t want:

That’s a bookmark, badge and stitch markers. If anyone (within Australia) wants them leave a comment and I’ll post them to you.

I took my smallest wheelie suitcase with me to be kind to my back, and (theoretically) limit the amount I bought. Going to the mill first meant I wasn’t tempted to buy more than what was on my list because I knew I’d have it with me for the rest of the day, and I should leave space for other purchases. This filled about 2/3 of the bag:

The blue is ‘8ply alpaca blue fleck’ had been brought into the back room just that morning. The grey is ’16 ply recycled fibres’ and is lovely and soft. There’s a ball of Bloom in ‘wine’ colourway and multicoloured sock yarn in ‘purple green multi’. And the only yarn from the front room is a ball of 10ply cotton in ‘sky’, which I want to try machine knitting.

We headed to the show next, had lunch and made our way back through the sheds. I found the Louet dealer, who didn’t have floor looms as I’d hoped, but we talked about me going up to her workshop in Sydney later in the year. I spent some time at the Ashford stand and bought two large shuttles and bobbins – just in time for the blanket I just finished warping up – and a book of weaving patterns from an old manuscript.

At Glenora’s stand I bought some more 8/2 cotton and chenille, a ball of Ashford 8ply and a part for the Knitters Loom that broke a few months back that I didn’t know you could buy.

And I had mentally decided I wanted to buy a handful of single skeins of pretty or luxurious or interesting yarn.

From left to right: yak (white and chocolate) and camel (brown) yarn from Ochre Yarn, Australian grown and processed cotton (the first in recent times) by the Great Ocean Road Woollen Mill, a lovely soft green yarn for a hat that matches my Green Stripes Jacket by Kathy’s Fibres, and a multicolour yarn that caught by eye by HalfBaked HandDyed.

And lastly, a cone of boucle saori wool, a handy mini crochet hook set and a sock darning mushroom:

When I first visited the show in 2007 I took photos, watched demonstrations, looked at all the animals and watched sheepdog trials. In following years I added the fashion show to that list, but as the show grew in size I didn’t have as much time for looking at animals and trials. Now I’m pretty much down to lunch and shopping. I didn’t bother with the fashion show this year now that it doesn’t include handmade items.

Today I’m exhausted. I expected that and planned to do not much more than write a blog post, add my purchases to the stash spreadsheet then put them away, and maybe do some weaving.

Will all my yarn acquisitions fit into the stash? No. Not even half! But I did stick to what I planned to buy except for the one small cone yarn – and I didn’t find any rug yarns. And some of it will be used straight away. (I’m looking at you, you lush green skein of green. You’re going to become a hat very soon.)

Stash Review of 2018

While I was waiting for the Addi knitting machines to arrive I looked in my stash for yarns suitable to knit on them. I found seventeen batches of 8 or 10 ply wool or alpaca yarn, half of which I bought in the last year or two. I didn’t count the Bendigo cotton 8ply since, when I gave it a try on a machine, it was a little thin – a 10ply cotton would be better.

Of these seventeen yarns, none were in batches large enough to make a garment. I could combine some, as I’d done with the Green Lines Jacket, but even then I wouldn’t have enough to make anything larger than a vest – and I already have plenty of those.

So what to do? Well, I’m intending to go to the Bendy Show this year. There’s no fun in going but not buying anything. Perhaps garment-sized batches of yarn in weights to use on the circular machines could be something to keep an eye out for. After all, making the Green Lines Jacket and the pieces of another garment must have given me some room in the stash, right?

Er… not really.

It seems my stash has got a little out of control again. A few years back I got it down to ten kilos. Is now four times that weight. I’ve been storing cones and packets of yarn on top of cupboards and squeezed in with my sewing machines.

How did it grow so much so quickly? To work it out, I dragged all the cone yarn into the kitchen because there did seem to be a LOT of it. Sure enough, I had enough to cover our 8-seater dining table. Most of it I’ve picked up for a bargain or from other people’s stash bust. I’ve not been setting out to buy cone yarn, just accumulating whatever came along.

Over the next night I thought about what I had. Some of the yarn is good, some of it okay, some not so great. Life is too short to work with yarn you don’t like. I considered what I could make with it, whether for me or for someone else or for charity. Later I remembered the third way to look at it: what could I learn while using it?

So the next day I brought the rest of my stash out. I divided it first into cones and skeins/balls, then by fibre type, then by weight, then by purpose (eg. sock yarn). My stash is supposed to fill only the 16 tubs I have. They come in two sizes, and I decided to put most of the cones into the larger and most of the skein/balls into the smaller. Then I wrote two lists for each tub: one of potential projects, one of what I could learn making them.

All through this I culled yarn that I either didn’t like, or the project I had in mind didn’t thrill me (usually because it’s only purpose was to use up the yarn) and nothing else came to mind. I removed about one large tub’s worth of yarn overall.

Of course, it always turns out that some of the culled yarns look great together.

I told myself I wasn’t allowed to put them back in the stash. If I was going to weave them I had to at least wind the warp for something right now. (More on this later.)

Despite all this, I still couldn’t fit all my stash into the tubs. The problem wasn’t cones, but skeins/balls. To solve that I took a few batches out to knit up straight away on the circular knitting machines, which left me with only sock yarn ‘scraps’ not fitting.

Can you see room for new yarn? Me neither.

Time to get serious. I was going to have to cull harder, knit/weave really fast for the next month, or not buy anything at the Bendy Show. Since the latter was inconceivable, that left the first two.

After updating my stash spreadsheet the total was down to around 36 kilos. I decided it needed to get down to 35 kilos before I was allowed to buy more yarn. I culled what I considered a bad purchase (went to a friend knitting charity blanket squares) then warped up the knitters loom with another yarn. Still 600 grams over. Then I remembered that cotton is heavier than wool, so I started winding a warp for a baby blanket. Stash total = 34719 grams! Yessss!

(Better not weave too fast, though. Once a project is finished, I weigh the leftovers and put them back on the spreadsheet, and that might nudge it over 35 kilos again.)

I’ve since removed another 400 grams for a machine knit blanket. I reckon I have one small tub’s worth of space free, which isn’t a lot. Still, the stash is well organised now. And I have plans for most of it. All I need now is inspiration and time.

And maybe a ban on accumulating bargain or free cones of yarn for a while.

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:

stash2017

(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.