Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fluffy wool scarf

Here is my first scarf with the Ice Yarns wool - I felt very adventurous getting yarn all the way from Turkey, but it arrived safely and now I've woven it up. It is a lovely soft variegated wool in quite strange shades of brown, pink and blue. They shouldn't work together but I think they do.

There are three stripes of the bamboo/wool cream, just because I thought it might need something more interesting. I'm not sure it does, but I certainly don't hate them. It was a little bit challenging to weave because the wool was quite fluffy, so hard to make a good shed on the warp. The fluffiness tends to stick together so it makes it harder to get the shuttle through neatly. Not impossible, just a bit awkward.

And two of the warp threads broke, which hasn't happened to me before. It's a bit of a pain but not insurmountable - you just try to weave with it as soon as you can and then weave the ends in afterwards. But it's another good learning experience about what you can and can't put on a warp - it really does have to stand a lot of tension and a fair amount of friction as you weave away.

This is the pooling test photo again - it doesn't drape quite as nicely as the bamboo but it's still very soft and cuddly. And the ends made lovely little fat fringes. Otherwise nothing to report here; back to school, back to work, jet lag in a minor way and random uncovering of tourist souvenirs. Number one son bought himself some Underground socks in London - he's pointing at Bayswater because that's where they stayed.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

More bamboo/wool

I was so pleased with the yellow and blue bamboo/wool herringbone that I went and ordered some  more from the excellent Bendigo Woollen Mills in green and cream. And maybe also some other wool because if you order more than $50 you get free shipping so I was really Saving Money. But that is for another post, today is all about the awesomeness that is this yarn and a log cabin pattern!

I think this pattern is amazing, and it looks so complicated but it is really straightforward. You go green/white for seven ends, then go white/green for three, then repeat. And do the same on the weft, and it turns into incredible three-dimensional boxes! I find this extraordinary.

This time I remembered to do some plain weave at the other end, although I couldn't quite remember how much I'd done, so it looks a bit odd. And it's in a different colour, but I will say that that is a design choice.

And because the yarn weaves up so beautifully and drapey here is a shot of it crumpled on a chair. It doesn't crumple, it sort of pools in a soft and elegant manner. I just knotted the ends rather than twist them into a fringe.

Pam asked what I was doing with all these scarves ... an excellent question and of course I have no answer. I am wearing them into work and making my work colleagues admire them (they are very polite) then folding them up and putting them nicely in a pile. If they start to bother me I can offload them to friends I guess, but they're much smaller than quilts! Less useful unfortunately because no-one uses them except me, unlike quilts which can find homes with all the family and the dog, but they definitely take up less space.

Monday, October 15, 2018

End of the holidays

I started to write this post yesterday - with the words "it is a very very quiet Sunday afternoon" but then the computer ate my blog post, so I stomped off. It was however a very very quiet afternoon ... I did a lot of weaving, number two son lay on the sofa with Youtube, and number one son and my husband (and the dog) slept. The dog had no excuse, but the other two had just come back from a two week holiday in Europe! And it took them forty hours to get from their apartment in Berlin to Canberra, so all they wanted was sleep.

The trip was my son's 16th birthday present - because we have never travelled much with them we said when they turn 16 they get an overseas trip anywhere in the world with one parent; their choice to destination (and parent). So he chose London and Berlin, and they had an absolutely wonderful time. Lots of Third Reich walking tours and natural history museums, so a very good idea he took his father and not me, but they both thought it was awesome, and they both think I should get there one day! I've never been to either city ... but I will.

And I think this might be the last fire of the winter (although I've said that a few times now).

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Still quiet times

Not much to report here - despite the onset of spring I'm having little fires in the fireplace to keep myself warm and amused. It is lovely to have the firelight, although I don't think I can spin it out for much longer. I went for a run on Saturday and it was positively roasting. There was some new public art around the lake - I think it's temporary for Floriade. It was pretty cool.

I did some more weaving on the weekend, a little bit more on-line shopping, and lots of binge watching of Brooklyn Nine Nine with number two son. We also watched the new episode of Doctor Who and loved it! I think she'll be a great doctor. We were both sitting there on the edge of our seats with a creepy new alien saying "we've missed this!!!" ... doesn't take much to keep us entertained. And when we needed additional amusement we put the snuggly blanket over the dog's head. She didn't care.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Bamboo and wool

Well, this is lovely. After the disappointment of the horse blanket, this 50/50 bamboo-wool blend wove like an absolute dream. And it is soft, and drapes beautifully and looks awesome! It is absolutely impossible for me to look at a ball of yarn and tell how it is going to weave up, but I suppose I'm learning. I hope I'm learning.

So this is just two colours in a basic houndstooth. The colours in the top picture are the most realistic - the other photos are a bit duller. Two gold, two blue, repeat on both the warp and the weft. Isn't that unlikely? It looks so complicated and it is so simple. I have worn it into work too and it is extremely comfortable. Despite having sworn off shopping I'm going to order some more because I'm so pleased with it. I think I can get the edges neater, and I forgot to finish off in a stripe of blue like I did at the start. Ooops.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Hobby = shopping

Like always happens when I get a new hobby, I've gone a little crazy on the on-line shopping. I have never really bought yarn before, other than the occasional bit from the chain stores, and I am only now realising it is a wonderful wonderful world of on-line possibilities. Ice Yarns in Turkey have delivered me some variegated 100%  wool for a bargain price. And some very fine alpaca, with 2% elastane. I didn't think it would be very stretchy, but it is. I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to weave with it, but it is very soft and fluffy.

Left front there is some silk - the yellow is thicker and the beige stuff on the cones is very fine. I'll have to ply it with something else to be able to weave with it on the rigid heddle, but I'm quite keen to try silk. Actually I'm keen to try ALL THE YARNS ... the far left blue and burgundy balls are a mostly wool, with some alpaca and silk blend. Time to stop shopping and start weaving.

We had a peaceful long weekend, mostly warm but some use of the fireplace anyway. I had brunch with a friend and did some errands - number two son had his last day of school on Friday and last theatre performance on Saturday so he spent the following 48 hours in his pyjamas not doing much of anything! And I don't blame him. The days are long enough now for me to walk home from work which I did .... the shadows are coming across but it was sunny and very pleasant.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Burn, baby burn

So look at this! After years of shivering (caused by dithering) we have a freestanding fireplace. Installed without any fuss, in half a day, and now happily burning the firewood that is still in the shed from when we bought the place twelve years ago. It is very dry and is burning very well.

We still have to get it certified by the government but that is just a question of filling in the forms and paying the money. I don't know if this will be a money saving measure - the fireplace will cost us just under $6000 all up - but we pay $102 a week for electricity on average, so anything that brings that down will be more than welcome. And of course we will have to buy some more wood.

Here is the room view with boy under blanket (but still wearing a t-shirt, for god's sake if you're cold put a jumper on) and teetering piles of folded washing. It is lovely to watch the flames. It's a big piece of iron with a big hearth, but it doesn't overwhelm the room like I was worried it might. The technology is amazing - even at full burn there is no heat coming off the back, it lights incredibly easy, and no smoke in the room!!!

We went for a very traditional-looking fireplace because the modern sleek ones wouldn't have suited our very 1970s house. And it pumps out the heat, even on low. Mind you it hasn't been super cold these past few days. I think we have another week where the overnight temperature might dip below zero but then it will have to sit idle until April probably. And we haven't cleaned out the ashes yet, that might dampen my enthusiasm. Or not! I love a fire.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Cloudy but no chance of showers

I had a lovely weekend down the beach - happily alone. After a fairly brutal couple of weeks at work (just busy, not actually brutal, although I felt a bit punch-drunk by the end of it) it was blissful to vegetate. The weather was cloudy and not very warm, but it didn't matter. I went for plenty of walks, including along by the creek, which is looking very green at the moment.

This is in sharp contrast to the rest of the countryside, which is as dry as I've ever seen it. I noticed buildings I've never seen before because the foliage is so reduced, and the most phenomenal amount of road kill. One stretch of road about a hundred metres long had four kangaroos and two wombats ... all on the move for food. Except these actual animals, who were very dead. According to the Department of Primary Industries 98.9% of New South Wales is drought-affected, which is pretty damn dry. Our "lawn" is mostly sand at the best of times, so not much to look at at the moment.

This is one of my favourite cliffs down to the sea, with the spring flowers. The sea did not look welcoming but there were the usual keen surfers and little kids having a swim. I made another dress, ate lots of cheese, read a book, watched the footy finals and spent some time just sitting. Friends came over Saturday night for drinks which was lovely (and stopped me being completely hermit anti-social). I was so close to throwing a four-day sickie and not coming back ... but I restrained myself.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

A bit of a horse blanket

This is the next thing to come off the loom - another scarf - wool this time. Or at least the weft is entirely wool, some of the stripes are wool and a couple are a wool/acrylic blend. Going with what I had in the cupboard again.

It is a bit disappointing - very firm and solid without much drape. Which is probably what I should have expected, but really this is a constant journey of discovery. I thought the different stripes on the warp would liven it up a bit, but it actually dulled down the weft yarn enormously. The weft is a lovely variegated wool in pink and orange and blue but you wouldn't know it from this scarf. Here it is on the ball. It hardly even looks like the same stuff.

And here it is as it is meant to be used. It is certainly extremely warm! It's the turn of the bamboo / wool blend next and we will see how that turns out.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

In honour of spring

We have turned a corner into springtime here in Canberra ... and our fireplace still hasn't been installed. Very sad face; we were hoping they might be able to get to it earlier but no luck. It won't stop us burning things in it of course, when it does get installed, but the need has really passed.

The boys and I took the dog for a walk around the lake on Sunday. It was blowing a cold wind but still quite pleasant and we even had a little bit of conversation. Nothing very sensible, but I will take what I can get with teenage boys. I'm not sure what number two son is doing with his shoe back there. And of course the dog LOVED it. The pack was (almost) all together and there were strange smells and lots of pre-teen girls to pat her and tell her how she cute was. She loves that, she is such a tart.

I told her to get in the car and she sat there. I do not thing that is a good place for a dog to sit. She moved eventually.

And the other spring time celebration was me in a flowery dress that I made myself. This is a terrible photo because my son was taking it and making me laugh ... but honestly I don't think you can get a very good photo of me. I'm not exactly photogenic, but I will say that the dress is slightly more flattering than it looks, especially when I put a nice jacket over it. I made a muslin and everything - adjusted the seams and got it to fit reasonably well in the places where it needed to. The fabric is a very nice cotton sateen with a slight stretch, and of course with flowers and birds.

We are still looking around corners for our cat, and hearing her or seeing her out of the corner of the eye when she's not actually there. Ghost cat...

Monday, September 17, 2018

Our cat died

Sadly on Saturday we said goodbye to Zelda - also known as the fattest cat in the world, until she got old and skinny - and one of the sweetest-natured, softest-coated and loudest-purring cats ever. She was originally a barn kitten - the mother in law of a woman I was working with back in 2000 had a property down near Bega and a pregnant grey cat. The father was suspected to be a ginger tom, and when the kittens were born some were grey, some were ginger and one was tortoiseshell.

I said I wanted a kitten as a surprise birthday present for my husband, so they thought the tortie was the best option, and made sure she was given plenty of pats and hugs and human company until she was old enough to leave her mother. I don't know if the siblings found homes ... I suspect not. My workmate drove up from Bega with the cat snoozing on her lap, and brought her into work in a cardboard box. She was unbelievably cute, and not much got done in the office that day. It was the Department of Defence, so not much got done most days, but that day was worse than usual.

I drove it home in the cardboard box, waited for Brad to get home and then made him sit at the table with his eyes closed while I got his present ready. It didn't go super well because the kitten meowed and ruined the surprise, but I still remember just how adorable the little ball of fluff was waddling across the tablecloth. I don't know why we called her Zelda - it just suited her. I have a great-aunt Zelda, but there is no resemblance.

Anyway, our existing cat initially hated her of course (when Zelda was a tiny kitten Dominie used to put her paw on Zelda's head and hold her away from the food dish until Dommie had finished eating) but then they got on ... a bit like sisters. Mostly pleasant and cosy with occasional spitting brawls.

The strangest thing about Zelda was her reaction to number one son when we brought him back from the hospital. She wanted to be near him the whole time. She would sleep under his bassinet, and follow him round. This photo is one of my favourites - the shocking day when he started to crawl and she realised her world as she knew it was over. We think his first word was 'cat' ... but it might have been 'car'. Or 'cap'. Really who can tell. We do know that when he was about two he had a vertical scratch mark between his eyes that he never said a word about until we noticed it. Even then he knew that if the cat scratched you, it was entirely your fault.

Looking back on the photos so many of them are baby/toddler/boy wrapped up in a quilt with the cat on top. Honestly she had the life of riley - sun, plenty of food, lots of cuddles and very little stress ... until we introduced the rabbits and then the bane of her existence, the dog.

In the end she went downhill very quickly. Last week she was a bit stiff and deaf but healthy; then Thursday she started losing movement in her back legs. Friday she was OK for most of the day but then started struggling for breath in the evening, and by Saturday morning she was largely unconscious so Brad took her to the vet for a one way trip. We are very sad to say goodbye to our companion of eighteen years, but she did have a pretty good life, and 18 is not a bad age for a cat.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

If only I had a guest bathroom

This is the next experiment on the new loom. I used the leftover crochet cotton I had (from Spotlight, varying quality, mostly crap) to make a length of something that was originally intended to be two tea towels.

It is not two tea towels for two reasons; firstly because it is not nearly long enough (I underestimated loom wastage again), and secondly because nobody is going to be wiping up dishes or spills with something it took me four days to weave.  The internet says this kind of weaving is good for "matching sets of hand towels in the guest bathroom" which really does presuppose a certain kind of life. Not just a guest bathroom but a certain class of guest, and perhaps also a commitment to careful laundry. I do not have any of those things, and might wait until I am a grown up before weaving some guest hand towels to match the decor.  I did hang it over a towel rail for photographic purposes, but I wouldn't let anyone actually dry their hands on it.

But even if it is completely useless it was quite fun to weave. I used the 15 dpi heddle, and it took a bit more careful weaving to make sure all the warp threads were in the right place. There are heaps of mistakes and skipped threads in it ... a learning piece. I'll have another go with cottons at some point.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Two lazy days

It was a proper weekend, with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Number one son had his final root canal on Saturday morning, which knocked him about for the day, poor bloke. Fingers crossed that is it for his teeth! Neither his physical nor our financial state can cope with any more dental work. He's finished his exams and has a week of absolute bludging ahead - they do a three semester year that doesn't in any way line up with the school holidays and the end result seems to be random periods of staying at home playing computer games. I shouldn't disrespect him though because he has had a fairly intense period of actual study. At least I think he has. I wouldn't actually know what he does in his room.

My highlight was buying a new pair of running shoes. I wore the old ones out! I think that's the first time in my life I have actually worn out any exercise clothing. So I took the new ones for a gentle 5 km run around the lake on Sunday morning, when it was springlike and windy. They are great shoes; I think lighter than the old ones. It didn't make it any easier or make me go any faster, but they felt good on. And aren't they clean?

Above are the trees two weeks ago, and below the trees today. The blossom is blooming, and you can see from the flags how windy it was. I am now an old hand at picking wind direction and deciding whether to run clockwise or anticlockwise ... trying to avoid a head wind in the most exposed spots.

On Friday night I went with book club to see the movie Crazy Rich Asians (it's based on a book! Not that any of us have read it) which was a perfect movie for a tired Friday night. Brainless, pretty to look at, reasonably funny.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


I warped, I wove, I wet-finished and here is my first scarf from the new loom. It is cotton and wool because that is what I had in the cupboard and I couldn't wait for anything special to arrive. I was in Melbourne Wednesday and Thursday for work but other than that most of my spare time has been weaving time! Addicted, again.

It is a scarf, with light pink and grey stripes of pure cotton knitting yarn on the warp, and three different colours of a lightly variegated cotton/wool blend on the weft. In sort of stripes.

I got three reeds with my loom; 7.5, 10 and 15 dpi. That's dents per inch, which is how many threads per inch you get, so the higher number means the holes are closer together and generally you use thinner yarn. This was 10 dpi which I think is about right for this.

It is much smaller than I thought because I underestimated the loom wastage - about thirty inches on the warp and it shrunk a full two inches across the width after weaving. But I made little twirly fringes on the ends with my awesome fringe maker. It was very easy and lots of fun, but the edges aren't great and there are a few mistakes. But I know what to watch out for now, for the next one...

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Amelia Camellia

It has been a frenzy of weaving here - and Netflix, I watched all of The Innocents and am now getting into Sens8 - but I did finish up the binding on my latest quilt and took some photos. This is the half square triangles in solids and prints inspired by Freddy Moran.

I did really simple quilting on it - just in the ditch and not even all the ditches. There are a couple of odd waves in it in these photos because I forgot to take all the safety pins out. So it's sitting a bit oddly.

I do like this - mismatched and random as it is - it makes me happy. So that's why it has a happy name!!! This may be the last quilt photo for a while, I am so bit by the weaving bug again ... I have ordered some silk/wool from Bendigo Woollen Mills and someone has enabled me onto Ice Yarns for serious yarn shopping. Yippeeeeeee.....

Sunday, September 2, 2018

A silver lining

It's been another long week this week - my husband was in Jakarta for the week so I had to wrestle the children and pets on my own. It's not particularly difficult, just time-consuming, especially since our geriatric cat is now demanding eight meals a day. She forgets when she's been fed, and because she's so deaf now she can't hear how loud she is when she meows for more food. It is very loud and very grumpy. But we all coped, and I can hardly complain about having to do solo parenting when I've just been off gallivanting around the world.

Last month I enrolled myself in another weaving course at the ANU which I was very excited about and looking forward to ... and then it was cancelled. Sad face. Not enough people enrolled apparently! Come on Canberrans, what are you doing that is so much more interesting than weaving. I cannot think of anything that could be better. But, silver lining,  $710 that I thought I had spent was refunded to me.... so I bought another loom. A rigid heddle, like the little funny one I had before, but an actual proper Ashford 60 cm one that came new, in a box.

It took an hour or two to assemble (mostly fine, although a couple of the screw holes weren't drilled deep enough, which drives me a bit crazy). They say to lacquer it to protect it before assembling but honestly I had been waiting a week already for delivery (it came from NZ) and I wasn't going to be doing any lacquering before weaving. I may regret this decision later, I will let you know. And yes I have warped it, and yes I have woven on it, and it is so cool! It is a bit mad to get something that is less complicated - technically I can do anything I can do on the rigid heddle on the four shaft loom but it has a much bigger weaving space, and it so much simpler to warp. Sometimes simpler is better.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Hand quilting

I'm really enjoying doing big stitch on the yellow sticks. I haven't done this for years! The design itself is so simple that I think a bit of extra stitching does it the world of good. I'm aiming to use the same colour stitching as the sticks but I'm not bothered if it's not quite right.

We are still watching Brooklyn Nine Nine, plus The Good Place, and I finally watched the rest of Magical Beasts and Where to Find Them (never start watching a movie on a half hour plane trip, idiot) and also Black Mirror - although I can really only watch one episode at a time because they tend to make me sad. And perplexed.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Poor timing

This weekend has started to feel like spring is on its way - a bit of warmth, a bit of blossom and a lot of wind. Winter is my favourite season so I'm not very fond of spring. And it is a very uncertain season - it doesn't know what it wants to do one day to the next. But it's hard to be grumpy when there's that definite change in the air, and it was nice to get dry washing off the line today. Because that it was my life is about, washing. So much washing.

So, what is the best thing to do in spring? Buy a fireplace of course. After twelve years of whining about the heating in our house, and freezing to death each winter, and turning over all sorts of solutions that wouldn't work for various reasons, we have just bitten the bullet and ordered ourselves a big black burning thing.

Actually its a medium console Cleanair freestanding wood burning fireplace, and it's very boring and traditional and practical. We are going to put it at the end of the living room, between the TV and the window. We were going to put it at the other end of the room closer to the rest of the house, but there are overhanging eaves from the garage to get the flue around, and it would have been a bit in the way in the room itself. So we're just going to pop it in the corner and hope for the best - the installers reckon it will heat the room no matter where it is and that is good enough for us.

Of course they can't actually install it for another month, which is probably around when we get our first 30 degree day, but that is OK because we are truly hopeless at getting our act together to get stuff done around the house ... so better to seize the moment than put it off. Yay for burning things.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Such a crazy week

I was hoping that this week would settle down a bit, but there has been yet another change of prime minister in this country, and the jockeying for position and eventual voting dragged on most of the week. I am not involved at all, but a lot of other people have been running up and down the corridors on their phones and generally not paying attention to anything else. And masses of media too - this was the lawns out the front when I walked back to my car last night. I haven't seen quite so many trucks before.

So that's been the week pretty much. My husband had his birthday too, so the four of us went out for a yummy dinner somewhere new which was a real treat. Number two son had baked him a cake after school, so we had that for dessert. It was straight chocolate this time as opposed to my chocolate and ginger and it was absolutely delicious.

I've been watching Brooklyn Nine Nine with number two son who thinks it's hilarious and talked me into some binge watching. Not that I need much persuading! I think it's very funny. But I can't just sit on the sofa for hours so I've decided to hand quilt the yellow sticks in big stitch with tapestry cotton. I haven't done that for AGES and I'd forgotten how much fun it is. And I don't feel so guilty about wasting my time watching idiot TV shows...

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Such a long week

I came down with a cold on Monday - not sure if it was too much time spent in planes, which are FILTHY WITH GERMS - or just the shock of landing back in Canberra's winter. I really didn't have time to be sick this week because Parliament is back sitting again, so I just kind of hung on until Friday lunchtime, when I coughed so much I vomited, and decided to call it quits. And it must have been the end of it, because it's Saturday and I feel so much better. Too much information? Sorry.

After India we had three days in Jakarta, which was lovely - so nice to be back there! Most of my photos are very boring, so this is the view from my hotel room on the 25th floor. It looks like I'm standing quite near the window .... I'm not.

I like Jakarta because whenever I got there I get to stay in fancy hotels and eat in nice restaurants, which is a terribly shallow reason to like a city. At least this visit there were some more interesting meetings with business, industry, agriculture and even the arts; so I got to see way more of the city than I've seen before. It was very busy but very much fun ... and the food was wonderful. We had one free evening without an official dinner so I snuck off and went shopping and ate gado gado. Awesome.

I had my birthday when I was away so on Sunday number two son made me a chocolate and ginger cake! It was awesome, and they very kindly didn't put the full amount of candles on. Also on Sunday I went to the annual Canberra quilt show which is always fun. As ever, some of the quilts were amazing, and some were not, and there were a few that I thought I might like to make, and many that I would never even attempt. The best in show was a real puzzle though, it was very ordinary. Normally the best in show blows me away, but not this year. Oh well, quilt judging is not a science, which is all part of the fun.