Wow.

The second series of The War on Waste has got many of my friends interested in reducing their waste, and it’s great to see their enthusiasm. Many hadn’t watched the first season so they’re catching up on iView, and we have a Facebook groups in which we post links, ideas and successes.

It’s opened my eyes to how much further down the waste reduction path I am to many people I know. Like… 25+ years ahead. When I consider why, I realise it’s partly due to some of the people at my first job, and partly due to Mum.

In the 90s, encouraged by work mates, I bought a pair of jute shopping bags and started refusing plastic bags (those jute bags lasted 15 or so years and got a lot of use). I’ve been trying to buy only products in recyclable containers and nurturing a hatred of polystyrene and glad wrap since those days, encouraged by my Mum, who went through a green phase a few years laster.

As soon as I owned a house I began composting, and I’ve been minimising my food waste for so long (for economic reasons) that we rarely throw anything out. We use household cleaning products that are gentle on the environment (also because of allergies). More recently I switched to homemade deodorant after finding I couldn’t get sensitive skin products in travel sizes. I bought produce bags and made some more, and made washable makeup wipes.

The biggest change the WoW show made to us was revealing that soft plastic recycling existed. I’ve been amazed at how much we end up putting in the RedCycle bins, and how empty our landfill bin is as a result.

The second season’s lesson has been to point out the devil in the detail – the contamination in the recycling bin and the amount of recyclable plastic that goes in landfill anyway. Discovering that black plastic can’t be seen by the sorting machines, and that small objects like bottle caps may fall through the system, and that my council doesn’t take biscuit or meat trays even though they have the right numbers on them, has had me thinking about avoiding those plastics altogether.

But I doubt I can. Not when medications come in non-recyclable packaging.

So I decided I’d put aside every piece of non-recyclable packaging we’d normally toss in the trash for August. I’ll try hardest to find an alternative. At first most of what we gathered was brought to our house by guests, but I know as the weeks pass it will be taken over by our own contributions.

My second priority is reducing unnecessary plastic packaging. If there’s a non-plastic alternative we get that instead (though I’ve conceded to Paul’s insistence that we won’t buy alternatives that are double the price). To aid that we’ll take our own containers to shops, use the green grocer, butcher and baker instead of the supermarket, and go to the farmer’s market and the bulk store a few suburbs away. All things I did more of in the past.

There will be some packaging that it’s too hard or impossible to avoid. That’s inevitable. But it seems each year there’s another bunch of alternatives or solutions.

And if there’s a third season of The War on Waste I’ll probably review what we’ve tried, what worked and what didn’t, and see if we can improve again.

Housebound

A couple of months ago Paul started getting severe back pain and sciatica from a bulging disc. Several visits to the doctor, pilates, physio, medication, a scan and a cortizone injection later he has improved, but in a ‘wait and see if this lasts’ way.

As the weeks passed, with Paul unable to sit let alone drive, it became pretty clear that some of our plans for the rest of the year had to be shelved. Then a few weekends ago I drove us to a family birthday celebration, with Paul lying on the passenger seat with the back fully down, and after two hours driving on roads that seemed to constantly require gear changes plantar fasciitis reared it’s ugly head again.

So suddenly neither of us could drive. At that point I either cancelled, or warned of likely cancellation, everything else on the calendar.

And that’s also when I decided to try online grocery shopping. Which has been… interesting. I didn’t want to shop with Coles since they deliver orders in plastic bags. Finding online stores that use minimal packaging took a bit of googling, but I soon located a bulk store a few suburbs away and a grocery store with a policy of avoiding as much plastic as possible.

Fortunately Paul can now drive for short trips, and I’m tentatively driving his car now and then, which is an automatic so at least my left foot gets a break. We’re both hoping life will get back to normal soon, but only very cautiously committing to outings.

You’d think I’d be getting lots of craft done, but I’ve done almost nothing. This is because I was doing the household tasks that Paul usually does and taking him to appointments. But it’s also because shopping at online stores and watching the War on Waste second season had me trying things like cooking up and freezing beans and lentils and making beeswax wraps. And it’s birthday season in my family. And there has been some house and garden work happening, too.

And I am chasing a work deadline as well as dealing with lots of little publicity tasks for the paperback release of my last book.

It’s amazing how tired you can be at the end of a day spent avoiding being on your feet.

Which I have to say, I’m not managing to do as much as I should be.

The Gentle Art of Maximalism

Some years ago, I started culling my wardrobe thanks to Trinny and Suzanna. Every Christmas another book would come out, which made for an easy present for Paul to get for me, and I’d be inspired to review my clothing and remove anything that didn’t fit, suit or thrill me.

To their credit, Trinny and Suzanna urge you to have clothing swaps or donate clothes rather than toss them away. In those days a lot more clothing was made of natural fibres that would rot away eventually, so the last resort wasn’t such a terrible thing.

Since then the level of ruthlessness with which we are being urged to employ in our decluttering has increased. For a time there The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was being quoted everywhere. I finally caved and read the book recently, and I couldn’t help thinking: “this woman is nuts!” even as I saw how her methods would work for a certain kind of person.

Decluttering is big business. You wouldn’t think so, since it’s about having less stuff. But the harder decluttering has been pushed, the more I’ve suspected that customers are being encouraged to chuck out and reorganise stuff because they will more than likely replace it. When the ‘capsule wardrobe’ idea became fashionable it didn’t surprise me that clothing brands were instantly behind it. Most people aren’t that minimalist, and brands only stand to gain if you toss all your clothing and buy a whole new co-ordinated set.

The words: “Decluttering is the conceit of the affluent” popped into my head a few years ago. Only people who can afford to buy too much stuff wind up compelled to declutter, and can afford to replace belongings if it turns out they actually need or miss them. Only affluent people can afford to buy snazzy storage to put their stuff in. What I found most disturbing about the Marie Kondo book was the idea that you put everything you cull into rubbish bags and toss it. The lack of consideration for where it ends up afterwards tainted the book with a selfishness that repelled me.

But then, how to get rid of possessions ethically is a huge and difficult subject. One of the saddest discoveries I made when looking into ethical fashion was that so much of donated clothing still ends up in landfill. The sad truth is, so many belongings are being culled these days that not even desperately poor people in third world countries want or need our castoffs.

And my assumption that good furniture put in the hard rubbish would find a new home dissolved when I saw antique chairs tossed into the back of a truck and crushed.

What to do. Well, I say… Be a Maximalist!

Keep your stuff!

– Repair your stuff
– Use your stuff until it falls apart.
– Alter your stuff. Refashion, dye, repaint, adapt.
– Play with your stuff. Look at your photo albums. Try on different combinations of your clothes. Use the good crockery set. Wear your jewellery. Use the time you’d have spent culling on finding new ways to use your stuff.
– If you’re the Instagram type, be creative with your stuff. Make arrangements and take photos. Draw your stuff. Write about it.
– Pass on your stuff to other people and adopt other people’s stuff. (Yes, that’s not keeping stuff, but it’s better than tossing stuff.)

If you love the idea of a capsule wardrobe, make one out of what you already have. Make several – one for work, one for home, one for travel, etc.. Then you have the benefit of having easy decisions on a work morning as well as something different and fresh and more suitable to wear when the weekend comes.

I am a maximalist, but I do cull. I’m not saying you should hold onto things you don’t want. But don’t let the fashion for minimalism blind you to the possibilities and benefits of keeping things. There is nothing wrong with being a maximalist if it does you and others no harm. It may actually be better for the environment, and in the long run that’s better for everyone, including you.

Twill Sampler 1.1

I’ve been working away at this project for four months now. My idea was to weave all the twills in the first chapter of Strickler’s A Weaver’s Book of 8-Shaft Patterns, which are all threaded with a straight draw. So far I’ve woven only ones using a light warp. I’d thought I would get them all done on the six metre warp, but I came up short by about 6 drafts.

I found two mistakes early on. One draft was missing a tie-up, another just didn’t look like the photo. Otherwise they were all fine.

What have I learned so far?

That some twills are easy to memorise and a pleasure to weave. And some are a PITA. It partly has to do with the treadling. If it’s a simple line rather than moving all over the place obviously it’s going to be easier to follow. But some treadling sequences flow nicely while others feel awkward.

That some of the twills would probably look better with a wool yarn, but others were fine using cotton.

There seems to be an endless variety of twills, but a lot of patterns look similar. That means I could now choose the ones that are easier to memorise. (Though if I was using a loom with treadles this wouldn’t be relevant.)

I have added tags with notes about each draft. I should do this as I go, as four months back is a long time to remember details, even if I did use post-it notes in the book.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve added a great deal more to my knowledge. I’ve already woven quite a few twills, and I think I understand the structure fairly well. I was able to spot mistakes in the drafts. I guess there were no big surprises. Still, there might be something in the dark warp twills, so I won’t judge until I get them done.

I still want to do the last six drafts, so I tied a new warp onto the old one and pulled it through, then cut off the old and tied the new one on. I’ll do the same when I come to weave the drafts using a dark warp.

Chequerboard Rug

To quickly make more room in the stash for Bendy Show purchases, I decided to knit up the last of the bargain yarn from the Lincraft sale. It’s a non-machine washable yarn that I suspect is meant to be fulled.

It was a delight to work with on the machine. Together, the colours reminded me of a chess/chequers board. That gave me the idea to knit tubes in stripes that would form squares. I did a test swatch, then got cranking.

Then I bound off the end of the tubes and sewed them together. Crochet turned the straight edge of the outer squares into a jagged one, so I rejected that. Applied i-cord worked better. However, though I’d spliced all the remaining yarn of the two colours together, by the time I’d done half the edging I knew I didn’t quite have enough.

I went to the Lincraft site to see if I could buy more. Yes, I could, but only buying two balls of the yarn made the postage uneconomical. So I started looking for some haberdashery I needed. I found that their range online is very small, and none of the things I wanted were there. So I cancelled my order and decided to rethink the edging.

Alternating stripes of red and grey was the answer. That got me around the rug and used up most of the rest of the yarn.

There are still five Lincraft stores in Melbourne, but none particularly close by. Their yarn isn’t available anywhere else, online or not, so I don’t think I’ll be buying any more. I like to know I can pick up another ball if I run out without paying more again than what it cost in postage.

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.

Stashbuster Shawl

Remember those yarns I was going to cull but looked good together? Well I did weave something out of them: a shawl.

It was very lazy weaving. I wound the warp with six threads held together. The heathery purple broke so I knew it would never survive being a warp. It was moth-eaten, and the holes went deep, so it went in the trash. So I unwound and replaced it with a fine green and a blue yarn from the stash.

Initially, I thought I might treat each bunch of seven threads as one. I didn’t have set ideas, though. The wpi was 6epi, and I thought that might be too large for the heddles. The possibility of weaving a goose-eye twill had me reconsidering, too. My reed is 10epi. If I divided the seven threads in half I could put one half in each dent. Would that make too sleazy a fabric? I wouldn’t know until I tried it. I figured I could alway rethread the reed.

It turned out that the sett was a bit too dense, so I spaced it out to 0,1,1,1. Then I tied on and began weaving, using a thin black yarn doubled on a two-pirn shuttle so the weft was 4 strands thick. This came close enough to a balanced weave to show the goose-eye pattern well.

And I soon fell in love with it. The pattern looks beautiful and the fabric feels lovely. It was easy to treadle without being boring. Many episodes of the Conscious Chatter podcast were played over the next week or so, and finally I was at the end. I cut it off, plaited the fringe, gave it a wash and voila! Done:

Of course, I then had to put yarn back in the stash. It would have been too much of a coincidence if all these leftover cones had the same quantity of yarn on them and I used them all up at the same time. But I only put about 200 grams back, and with the warp for the Fancy Log Cabin Blanket being wound the stash was still well below 35 kilos.

And That’s That… Mat

The yarn used in this project had been knitted, stained accidentally by being spun dry with another garment that lost colour, overdyed to hide the stain – which partially fulled and shrank it, then frogged. Honestly, I was close to tossing it in my stash cull, but then I remembered that I wanted to make a mat for the brick edge in front of the heater, which is in a nice position for warming oneself up but rather cold on the posterior.

It seemed like a good opportunity to try out flat panel knitting on Chew-bacca. I set up the machine and started. The balls of yarn are made up of short lengths knotted together. After four tries to get a panel cranking I gave up. The furthest I got before stitches started dropping was about ten rows. No idea why, but I suspect the yarn is to blame. Having to take the yarn out of the guide to let the knots through was probably creating inconsistent tension.

I nearly tossed the yarn out, then and there, but I still had the option of weaving it instead. I wanted a thick fabric, however. When I remembered that I had a batch of long rug warp left over from an earlier project the answer came to me: beating hard to make a weft-faced fabric.

So I dug out the cotton and warped up the knitter’s loom, wound the yarn onto shuttles and got weaving. It was good, brainless plain weaving and after a couple of days I had this:

Which I’m ambivalent about, to tell the truth. It does what it was meant to, but I don’t think it’s particularly attractive. The cat likes it, or at least he likes the fire and the mat makes the bricks less cold to sit on.

I only used up half the yarn and since I had no great wish to weave another mat from it, or anything to be honest, I tossed the rest. At least it’s a natural fibre, and will decompose. And it got the stash total down a little more.

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.)

Dusk

Back in 2010 I bought one and a half kilos of Ton of Wool cormo yarn, inspired by the locally-grown and made philosophy. RSI stopped me knitting in 2011. For a while I intended to weave the yarn, but I didn’t want anything white. Dyeing would fix that but it was expensive yarn and I’d read that it was hard to dye.

Wait long enough, and I stop being precious. I’ve already posted about the dyeing. The result certainly wasn’t consistent. But in the intervening years I’ve grown to love the look of natural dyed garments, with all their organic beauty, so I didn’t mind.

The colours remind me of the sky when you look the opposite direction to the setting sun. Purples and a touch of orange. So I’m calling the garment Dusk.

The pattern I used is “The Weekender” by Andrea Mowry. Modified to knit on the MegaBond. It was an easy conversion of a fairly simple pattern. Much faster than the Green stripes Jacket.

Sewing up had to wait until the jacket was done. In the meantime the Addi circular knitting machines arrive and I whipped up a hat to match:

When I’d finally sewed up all the seams, washed and blocked it, Dusk proved to be quite, ah, roomy:

Is there a trend for boxy oversized jumpers with skinny arms? If there is, then Dusk it rocking it. Not that I care much about being trendy. I wanted a warm, cosy jumper and that’s what I got.

And I like it.