Tuesday, December 11, 2018

It's all blurring together

Work, home, socialising, kid's stuff, my stuff, food, shopping... it is all starting to become a bit of a blur. And not a good, three-drinks-in blur, but a scrappy about-to-lose-my-shit kind of blur. Work hasn't slowed down despite the end of the Parliamentary year, and the Christmas tree has been sitting in its box in the middle of the living room floor for eight days. No-one can really be bothered putting it up. My husband dragged it out before he went to Jakarta last week and it's still there.

He is back (had a great time, his work went well) and the dog is back from the vet. She was SO happy to see us, and is very happy to be home. Her surgery went well, but she's not allowed to chase anything, get too excited, go up and down stairs, or go for a walk. So that's kind of ruined her life, but she's so happy at the moment that she doesn't seem to mind. I'll have to take a photo of her leg because they shaved her for surgery and it looks ridiculous - like an eaten chicken drumstick. We've blocked off the stairs with one of the sides of the old cot (why the hell do we still have the cot??? My husband dragged it out of the shed and I thought my head would explode with horror at the crap we must still have in there) and no-one's tripped over it yet.

Here he is wearing a nice Indonesian batik shirt. Saturday we had our traditional Christmas lunch with friends we've been having Christmas lunch with for 24 years. It was a boiling hot day but lovely in the shady back yard playing Finska and having a few wines. My husband took the boys home about six but I stayed on and ubered home a few hours later.... which is an UNHEARD of degree of independent socialising in my universe. Wow, like being a real person briefly.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Mohair number three

This is the third scarf with the mohair - me trying to use up the various ends of things I am accumulating. It didn't work with the mohair (still three more balls!) but I used up the bamboo-wool. It only has bamboo-wool on the warp (cream/blue, cream/gold, cream/blue) then alternating mohair and green bamboo-wool on the weft. It is not very fluffy, but nice and soft and warm, and very quick to weave.

Unbelievably, number one son has finished for the year, after a bit of assessment and exam stress. Not just school but also his university engineering course - where they had to build a Mars rover type thing (I think) and write up the specifications. Except much more complicated than that, involving drafting software and 3-D printers and other things that are quite beyond his poor parents. We couldn't help him at all, although I think Brad volunteered to do some proof reading. I limit myself to telling him how clever he is (which doesn't help, apparently).

I am leaving him some household chores to do but I think he deserves a bit of quiet time, at least this week. Maybe tomorrow when the dog comes back from the vet he can spend his days carrying her up and down the stairs....

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Nothing much happening

Oh dear, a week without a post. It's busy at work, I was sick on Friday, my ear is blocked and I keep losing my balance, my dog ate my homework and Mercury is retrograde. All the good stuff. Actually I shouldn't even mention the poor dog because she had surgery for a torn ACL! Just like a footballer, and apparently done exactly the same way - twisting in mid air chasing a ball.

The vet says this means her ball chasing days are over, which is a shame because she loves it. And not able to go up and down stairs for a week or two! I do not know how that will work out, because we have a lot of stairs, and there is no way I'm carrying our fat dog around the house. And that is our Christmas present to each other - my husband and I - a new dog ACL. Broke, again.

Here is a terrible mirror selfie of one of the dresses I made the weekend before last. It does look shapeless, but that is actually my shape (round is a shape). It has a waist seam, and darts, and a shaped centre back seam, but you can't really tell in that fabric. Which came to me, via a workmate, from the stash of an elderly Japanese lady who had to go into care. It is synthetic, but a beautiful heavy synthetic that sewed up really nicely. It had Japanese characters on the selvage. Not the most fashionable garment, but it was comfortable, and colourful.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

First best swim

The first swim of the year and it was soooooooo good! Big swells because of the winds we've been having, no clouds, no wind and lovely big clean waves. Aaaaaahhhh I had forgotten how much I missed being in the water and how relaxed I felt when I got out. Numb, bloodless, and frozen... but relaxed. Very relaxed.

This photo is from Saturday morning when I had no intention of swimming (because in Canberra on Thursday night we had had the fire on! It was winter again) but it was surprisingly calm and warm. After lunch the wind got up and the clouds came over but Sunday morning was fine again. So I didn't even check first, just got into my swimmers and headed down with my boogy board for the best swim EVER. The sand seemed very white and the sky seemed very blue. Maybe I was just happy to be at the beach and not at work, which isn't getting any less crazy.

I also made two dresses on the weekend, one of which I am wearing today. It's a bit of a sack (like all my dresses) but super comfortable, and looks smart enough with a jacket and heels. I have a dress code (dark suit, white shirt) when I'm rostered to actually be in the chamber so non-duty days it's nice to wear something with a bit of colour! The black/white thing makes me look like a waitress.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Mohair number two

This is much better! Despite the serious expression, I really like it. That is just the way I look most of the time. Plain cream wool on the warp, and plain mohair on the weft, set at 7.5 dpi so much looser. And I tried not to beat it too hard as I wove.

Still not as fluffy as the balls, which is a shame because they are SO FLUFFY, but light and soft. I went as wide as I could on my loom, and it makes a nice shawl width. Well, quite narrow for a shawl, but close enough. I was tossing up buying an even wider loom and I'm glad I didn't. It would have been quite bulky, and I can't see myself weaving anything wider than this. It's probably an OK width for a baby blanket.

Speaking of fluffy, the dog got groomed on the weekend. How good would a dogtail shawl be? Do you think I can spin the balls of dog hair that tumbleweed down the hallway?

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The weekend and Melbourne

I had to do a day's work in Melbourne yesterday so I went down earlier on Sunday and took the opportunity to have a slow wander around. It was a beautiful warm day (but not too hot) and Melbourne was looking very glossy and sparkly. There were community festivals and hand made markets and generally people just slowly meandering places and enjoying themselves.

I went to the NGV and saw a couple of exhibitions, including the Julian Opie one. I quite liked it, but I'm not entirely convinced. I don't know if people will still love it in 100 years, it just seemed too simple to me.

I also caught up with friends for coffee, which was lovely, and had a good day's work on Monday before coming up last night and back to work today ... I'm tired. It seems like the last few weeks have been a lot of racing around and it might be starting to catch up with  me a bit. The weekend before we had had visitors and my husband was 100% involved in the scale modellers annual exhibition (he is chief judge), and the weekend before that he was away so I feel a bit like I haven't had much time to scratch myself! Bring on Christmas.

Mind you we did go out into the countryside for a nice winery lunch on Saturday, so it's not like my spare time is being sucked away by boring things. We had lovely food in a very pretty setting. This is probably the only photo of my husband and me taken in the last six months. It is not very flattering (I am standing uphill from him, he's not a midget) but it is THE ONLY PHOTO so we are stuck with it.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Mohair number one

So Ice Yarns delivered me some mohair blend and some alpaca blend ... the white is mohair and the blue is alpaca. The white is 70% mohair and 30% wool and it is amazingly soft and fluffy. And it smells like goat!!! So strange to open something from across the world and sniff full Turkish goat. That sounds quite unpleasant, it wasn't. Just agricultural and vaguely foreign.

I put a plain wool warp on (the mohair was far too fluffy to think about using as a warp, the threads would never have separated properly) of mostly white but with a wide black border on each side. I'm not sure why - I thought plain would be too plain. It looks like old fashioned mourning note paper. It wove up very nicely but all the fluffiness has gone! Look at the wool on the stick shuttle, fluffy like a little baby goat, and then look at it once it's woven. It is very interesting, and slubby, and soft, but not at all fluffy.

This is the finished product. I'm going to have another go to try and get some fluffiness back - maybe a looser sett? This was 10 epi and it might be a bit closely woven. Even after washing in eucalyptus wool wash it still smells vaguely goaty. In a good way.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Made from Celeste

This scarf is another one with Bendigo Woollen Mills wool - this is "Celeste" and it's 85% wool, 10% alpaca and 5% silk ... and it's lovely. A bit denser than the 50/50 bamboo wool, but soft and drapey and very warm. And delightful to weave being a smooth 8 ply (a lot less of a struggle than the very furry variegated wool).

This is three red three blue on the warp, then one red one blue on the weft. It creates different patterns on each side, which is interesting. I think I prefer the one on the left that looks like little boxes. The colours in the photo below are much more true to life - the one on the chair is a bit dark.

On the weekend I visited two of Canberra's wool shops (the only two I think) and had a good rummage around. There are lots of very lovely things, and I bought a skein or two, but not nearly as much as I could have! Look at this lovely wool....

Friday, November 9, 2018

See-through walls

I had a day in Sydney yesterday in a tall building with too much glass ... it was all very light and bright and sunny but terrifying for someone scared of heights. Like me. There was a big central atrium going up 30 odd floors with glass high-speed lifts (the men in the bottom right are in a lift).

And on every floor there is an open meeting space with floor to ceiling glass windows onto the outside and low glass balustrades out into the atrium. The corridors are on the atrium and even the hand basins in the ladies back onto floor to ceiling glass windows. On the 21st floor! I had to wash my hands gingerly, from a distance. I have a very low-rise life normally.

My older son is scared of heights too but I tell him you just have to suck it up, and not let it rule you because one day a client will want to meet on the roof, or a girl you want to impress lives on the 30th floor ... and you have to be able to do it even if your palms and sweaty and your heart is racing and you feel like you're going to lose control of your bowels. I try to practice what I preach and I'm still alive to talk about it, although there were times yesterday when I felt hideously uncomfortable! Weirdly, I am not at all frightened of flying, and happily look out the window of the tiniest planes.

But back in my comfort zone I have temporarily gone back to wool dyeing. I had a heap of skeins tied up from last time and ready to go, so I made some blue and black skeins. I might keep going with it (and actually buy some proper wool dye and not use food colouring) or I might just keep weaving with all the different yarns in the world. Such choices!!! The wool I dye looks lovely but is quite scratchy once woven .... although I did do it on a 12 dpi with the borrowed rigid heddle and I'm doing this lot looser, on a 10 dpi. It might be softer? Who knows, I will report back.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018


I had a number of balls leftover of the variegated wool from Ice - because you can only buy them in 8 packs and I generally use about three or four 50 gram balls in a scarf. And given how fluffy and 100% wool it was I thought it would be great for an experiment in felting! I wish I'd taken a before photo, but I didn't. You'll just have to imagine it. I also put wool on the warp, but because of the breaking warp threads I used shades of blue and cream merino three ply that I had in the cupboard. It didn't felt, so I suspect it was superwash.

And this is the result. I used a variety of methods - much of the internet recommends using your washing machine but even on the "hot" setting my machine puts in quite a lot of cold water and I can't adjust it manually. So that didn't work, and I went to a bucket and hot water and agitation. But that didn't really work either (and I was getting tired arms) so I put it in a pot on the stove and boiled the shit out of it for twenty minutes.

There is something about a felted product that is very feral and hippy. The edges were all over the place even with blocking. When I took it out of the boiling I tried to shape it so the edges were even - which works really well with just ordinary wet finished weaving - but this had felted firmly into major wobbles. And the superwash warp hadn't felted so you can still see vertical stitch definition.

I do like what happened with the variegation. It is a lovely gentle blend from one colour to the next. And it is super warm (but not very bendy). I am not thrilled with it to be honest, but I had to have the experiment. And look how much colour runs when you boil the wool! This warp (the fringe) was cream and light blue, and now it is purple and pink.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Recreational shopping

After being cooped up all week, on Sunday I did something I don't do much anymore - took myself off for some recreational shopping. I had some boring chores and things to buy, but otherwise it was a few happy hours trying on clothes, peering at makeup, looking at pretty homewares things and seeing what was new in the bookshops. I stopped at a cafe for lunch by myself when I got tired, and generally looked at all the people for a while, and it was lovely. I even bought a couple of shirts ... no books or makeup though. I don't need any.

It is hard to describe how snoozy the middle of Canberra is on a late Sunday morning in spring. It was originally designed with central pedestrian areas with lots of trees and seats - they are all still there but the shops are inside a giant unplanned mall that has taken over most of the middle of town. I like the mall and spend a lot of time there but it does mean that the outside areas are almost completely unused. At night there is a bit more life with cafes and bars (and drug dealers and homeless people to be honest) but in the morning it is very tranquil.

I did a small test swatch of the peculiar microfibre I got from Ice Yarns. It is quite nice to weave with (this is on a 15 dpi) and looks very pretty, but it is very rigid. Not entirely plasticky, but definitely not a soft drape. I think a whole piece just from the microfibre would be very unyielding, but perhaps mixed with another yarn? Or for something like placements that didn't need softness? I will ponder it more.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Out for the count

I've been down and out with a nasty virus for the past couple of days - just some kind of cold but a real knockover one. I made it to work today (coughing and sneezing) but spent Tuesday and Wednesday feebly on the sofa. I started to get bored Wednesday afternoon and may have ordered some more yarn online ... time to get back to work when that happens.

The weekend was fun though; I went and saw Kitty Flanagan (Australian comedian, very funny if slightly sweary) with some friends and we went for dinner first ... had drinks with other friends and heard all about their three weeks in Europe ... went to the movies with another friend as a last minute fill-in to see Ladies in Black which is an Australian movie that was very sweet. Both of the boys went to separate Halloween parties on Saturday night which they both enjoyed - they didn't really dress up much. I believe number one went as "existentialism" which went over as well as you might expect. Number two said the highlight of his party was a guy dressed up as a strawberry with a needle inside (cardboard tube covered in tinfoil). You kind of had to be here for that one, but if you were, HILARIOUS.

This was the big moon when I came out of the movies. Very spectacular (terrible photo).

Monday, October 29, 2018

Fine cotton

For a change of pace I moved away from the wool for a while and picked up the finer weaving cottons again. For serious weaving it's actually not that fine - a 8/2 cotton - but it was a big change from the chunky 8 ply wool. On my four shaft loom I'd been weaving the 8/2 at 24 ends per inch, which was quite loose, so on the rigid heddle I used doubled threads in the 15 epi reed, making it 30 ends per inch. It ended up quite a solid cloth but I'm pleased with it.

It's two ends of navy/navy and then two of colour/colour, and the same on the warp. I used different colours in the colour/colour ends in sequence, so each warp end has two colours - I think it makes it look a bit more interesting. The overall pattern is a simple houndstooth again. The top photo is nearest to the colours; the one below is a bit too blue. I am still trying to find a good way to photograph these damn scarves! They are too long to be interesting.

The finer threads were much much harder to warp (with lots of cursing and tangles from me) - I used the direct warping but it might be a situation where indirect warping from the warping board would have been easier. Generally it's not, but I might try it on a later weave and see how it goes. Not that I am in any rush to do something with these fine threads again. Not for a while.

From the fine to the coarse - here is the hemp I ordered from Ice Yarns. I thought it might be quite interesting to use but it's super coarse and immobile. Not overly thick, but very rough with no bend. This is the disadvantage of shopping on line.... but I have been thinking about placemats or even small rugs, and this would be perfect! And such a pretty a colour.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Random flowers

It's been beautiful warm spring weather this week so I've been trying to get outside whenever possible - including walking home when I can - and it took me to the azalea gardens. So very pink and so very pretty.

The gardens here are a constant reminder of what I could do with a team of several dozen gardeners and unlimited water. Hahahahaha.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Sparklers and skeins

Number two son had his birthday - fourteen!!! Very grown up. He went into town with some friends for ice cream and karaoke, which is a thing they enjoy apparently. OK, fine by me, especially since no parents are required other than for transport.

He wanted a pavlova for a birthday cake, which my husband made. It might be the first pavlova he's ever made - I don't think I've ever made one. We have always had people in our lives whose speciality dish is the pavlova (it's easy to make but difficult to get perfect) so we have not had to brave the pavlova waters. It was absolutely delicious, with cream, raspberries and passionfruit on top. And a special souvenir from Berlin - number sparklers! They were a bit broken in transit and funny looking so my husband worried that they wouldn't work, but he needn't have ...

They were very spectacular and sprayed little burnt bits all over the pav. Which didn't hurt the taste at all. Speaking of gifts from Berlin, I got some lovely Frida Fuchs hand dyed merino. I should have taken a before photo because they always look so pretty wound in a hank, but I forgot until I was halfway through winding it into balls.

You don't get a good idea of the colour from this photo but it's a lovely warm reddish purple. He also got me a lighter red so I'm going to use them together. This is my yarn swift and ball winder which was a Christmas present the year before last and which I've never used until now. I was a bit intimidated by all the moving parts but it's actually a very simple piece of kit when you get it together, and so handy!!! I made my hanks into balls like a pro ... well, the last ones were like a pro. The early ones were a bit dodgy.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Wild storms

I managed to get a beach weekend for the first time for a while ... and there were rocketing storms all Saturday afternoon and evening. Wonderful to get the rain of course - apparently some even fell in Canberra - but it hampered my plan for long walks and fresh air.

There was a huge swell and lots of surfers. I paddled but didn't swim, although there were quite a few families on the beach and in the water (Saturday morning that is, before the storms came through). What it is with toddlers and not feeling the cold? Some of them were completely blue and still having fun. At least the weather did help with my plans for sewing, eating and watching the Wentworth by-election.

And then on Sunday it was a lovely clear sunny day and I got a proper walk in - down to the river to say hello to the pelicans before driving back home on Sunday afternoon. I swear that a weekend used to be a reasonable period of time and it now it barely seems more than five minutes long.

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.