Sunday, December 30, 2018

Berlin orange wool and dyed wool

I had some of the springy Berlin orange and yellow and pink wool left over, but not enough for a whole scarf, and nothing that really matched it. So I pulled out some of the skeins that I had made eighteen months ago and never got round to dyeing, and the food colouring, and dyed a couple of yellow/orange/pink skeins in the hope that it would get close to matching.

It kind of matched. Some were a bit closer than others. I used my awesome ball winding thingo again, which made a very professional looking ball. It is reasonably time consuming but very contemplative. 

And it made a very pretty scarf in the end. More orange than anything else, but a bit of yellow and pink. The close up is a bit more bluey than the real scarf, which is more like the full-length one. Another one to be folded up and put on the pile! Far too hot to think of anything woollen at the moment. 

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Merry Christmas everyone

We had a very pleasant Christmas with a long lunch at friends, with other friends, and an assortment of teenage / young adult children. It was 33 degrees, but we managed to stay hydrated in traditional Christmas fashion. The food was amazing as ever - our host is a fantastic cook - and a mix up of traditional plum pudding and roasts with oysters, prawns, scallops and a wonderful lemon slice. Mmmmm, food....

We did put the Christmas tree up in the end, or rather number one son did. He decided to only put the gold and red ornaments on this year so it is a more subdued effect than usual. It is elegant until we turn on the garish multicoloured lights. I am more of a "throw everything you can at the Christmas tree" kind of person but I also left it in the box for ten days, so mustn't grumble. I have not bothered cropping out the piles of washing, or the fabulous fireplace. Not that we are likely to use it, it's heading for 36 today then going to get properly hot for the rest of the week! Canberra is very quiet, and very baking.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Alpaca number three

The blue/grey alpaca went on the warp so beautifully that I thought I would do one that was just alpaca - with a more spacious sett and wider, for a shawl. And it worked! I'm so pleased with it.

Not pleased with the photography though. I tried to use the wardrobe door handles again to give an idea of the width and drape, but it just looks strange.

Using myself as a model didn't work very well either! But you get the idea. I have already pulled it out in the evening when the sun went down and we were sitting outside, and it was perfect for that. Light, and soft, but lovely and warm.

Apparently you can try and shape things on the loom to make them a bit more shawl-like. I'm going to investigate further because I don't see how it could possibly work....

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


I went down the beach for the weekend, just on my own. It was a bit unexpected to have no social events this close to Christmas, but that's the way it worked out. Number two son had three performances of his Christmas play, but he wasn't super keen for us to come and watch it, so we didn't. He did want us to go and see his Sunday night performance to mark the end of his script-writing course. There were seven teenagers in the course and they did moved readings of all of their scripts - all less than ten minutes and some of them were very good. Mostly funny, some dramatic, some weird. I thought my son's was the best in both plot and words but I think I might be biased.

So at the beach I did absolutely nothing. Didn't sew, didn't turn out a cupboard, didn't go for any long walks. Both nights had massive electrical storms and incredibly heavy rain, but the days were pleasant and I went for two swims. The waves were decent but the water was quite churned up which means you can't see your feet ... so both swims ended after about an hour when I stepped on something that wriggled off. Probably a flounder, but I always think of those massive string-rays around in the river and get nervous.

Between swimming and eating I just lay about and read. It was wonderful. I recently finished Juliet Barker's biography of the Brontes, which is just over a thousand pages of closely written detail about their lives, starting with Patrick Bronte and ending after Charlotte's death. I usually like biographies with less detail and more raciness, but this kept me engaged through the whole thing. I had read Mrs Gaskell's biography ages ago, when I was having a Gaskell moment, rather than a Charlotte Bronte moment, so I've known one version, but not the full story.

Barker's biography covers all of them, but focuses a lot on Charlotte - I suppose because she did the most, and certainly wrote the most letters. I had always ordered the sisters by my preference for the books - Wuthering Heights as the runaway favourite, followed by the Tenant of Wildfell Hall and then Jane Eyre a distant third... but reading the biography  made me re-think and, which is the point of this way too meandering paragraph, realise I had never read Villette.  And that is what I did this weekend, and it was really really good. Spot-on psychologically; which is surprising and humbling, after having read this biography and realising the Brontes were probably not the kind of people I would put up with for very long (prickly, self-conscious and awkward). Hidden depths.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Alpaca number two

One unexpected downside of weaving vs quilting is that I can't give the scarves names! Well, I could, but it would be weird and stupid, and the label would be ridiculously large. So I have to say things like "the blue and orange alpaca and wool one" to describe them.

This is a combination of the blue/grey alpaca, and a beautiful variegated orange/yellow wool that my husband bought me back from Berlin. It is a lovely pure wool with a springy twist that was just delightful to weave with. I put two yellow, one blue on the warp, and alternated one yellow and one blue on the weft to get this boxy pattern. Can you see on the ends how tightly twisted the variegated wool is? It made a beautiful woven finish ... I always thought that wool was wool, but the fibre content is only the half of it.

I've put a filter on the close-up photos (I don't usually) because the colours were completely wrong. This is actually more like the colours in real life than the plain photos were. I don't really understand photography and I still haven't got a way to take decent photos of the scarves! I don't think my latest idea (wind them around the handles of the wardrobe door) works at all well.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Mohair number four and alpaca number one

This isn't quite the last ball of mohair, but I think it's the last one I'll do for a while! The warp is the lovely alpaca blend I got at the same time as the mohair, in a very nice denim grey/blue. It went on the loom beautifully.

The warp is alternating mohair and some more of the variegated wool that I used for the felted scarf. The variegation takes ages to repeat when you only use it for every second row, and it looks much more blue than in the other scarves. I suppose that's because of the blue warp, but the other scarves were very pink, and this is hardly pink at all. Just at the ends.

This was a fun weave and made a very snuggly scarf. Not very elegant perhaps, but warm and cuddly. I love the fluffy alpaca tassels.

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.