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.