making the cooling neck collars

Still holding the water after a lot of hours on the job

Still holding the water after a lot of hours on the job

You remember how I said I was going to use Great Aunt’s nurse’s uniform fabric to make the collars?Yeah, I changed my mind. It’s a very small check and would, I think, turn out an overall quite dark finished product. Dark fabric absorbs more heat. Not what you want on a long, hot walk. Right? I went stash-diving. You should have seen the length of my periscope when I got to the fabric I ended up using! Its something I bought many years ago (predating YoungB) to make a nightshirt for Dr B, who promptly changed his mind about wanting one. It’s been folded and awaiting its time ever since. There is one small, faded patch. And, unlike the checked fabric, there’s a definite right and wrong side.

It’s 115 cm wide rather than 36 ins, which immediately gave me better options with regard to cutting triangles to make bandana-style collars. I cut out four, then realised that the stripes wouldn’t be running the same way on all of them. See if you can find a toss to give, as YoungB might say, because I couldn’t. Two would have selvages, two would not. More tosses not given. The first one – which, logically and obviously, would be the test version and mine – was sewn with pink thread. Mostly, that was because there was pink already in the machine but the contrast helped me to see what I was doing in order to work out what changes I needed to make for the rest. Although the fabric is pale blue with a dark-blue stripe, as you can see in the photo, the pink wasn’t so startling as to be obvious. Besides, once wet and tied around a neck, you’d have to be mighty close to notice. However, when I decided that the prototype was OK, I changed to grey thread.

There are many instructions on the internet for making cooling collars of various sorts. I couldn’t find one that used the bandana-style I was after (which is not to say there isn’t one, merely that my search terms didn’t uncover it), so I drew on bits of several of the others for inspiration and made up the rest. In Australia, summers are generally hot and sunny, so as well as keeping your neck cool, you often want to keep it covered. (Many school hats are legionnaire-style for that reason.) I reckoned a triangular neck cooler with the tail kept long would be just the shot, so that’s what I made.

The finished product is a triangle about 43 cm/17 ins base to apex with a base about of around a metre/39 ins. It varied slightly from one to the next because it wasn’t so much about precision as getting the job done and not every original triangle was precisely the same (or one might have needed more trimming than another to straighten the edge). I included a divided pocket at the base – about 8 cm/3 ins folded over, then sewn along the line from base to apex – into which I put a small amount of water storage crystals. I used a shade over a teaspoon for each collar. That doesn’t sound like enough, but those things swell to about 300 times their size when they’re loaded.

I pre-charged them the night before the walk. YoungB ticked me off for that because it meant they were wet and heavy. Most people, he groused, bring them dry and wet them at the event. I knew that but, as I explained, they hadn’t been used before, so I wasn’t certain how long they’d take to plump up. I’m sure the next time we use them, they won’t take anything like as long. I was refreshing mine at one comfort stop when another walker congratulated me on the great idea and asked where I’d bought it. I admitted I’d made it, assured her it was easy, and pointed out that there are lots of tutorials on the internet. All of which is perfectly true. But the time to do some of those things? Ah, yes, that’s another matter entirely.

Still, as I said, I made four for our little team – the other Nieces weren’t able to join us, as they’d originally planned – and now that I’ve done those, I wouldn’t hesitate to make more. I might do some things differently. For example, I might subdivide the pocket into more compartments so that the collar sits closer because the bulk is spread differently, but tying the ends provided sufficient adjustment. The simple design works.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. How about you?


Posted by on September 15, 2015 in Health, Sewing


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Bloody Long Walk: bloody long and bloody hard!

We're smiling, but next year Eldest Niece and I will be busy, we've decided :)

We’re smiling, but next year Eldest Niece and I will be busy, we’ve decided :)

I managed to make four cooling collars. That’s the most important thing :) I found mine very useful and Middle Aunt wore hers. Mine kept me cool and, as a bonus, protected me from sunburn. Of course I was sewing till the last minute because MY plan for my day was derailed. But no matter, I was able to soak the collars and get them fully plumped up prior to the walk; and there’s mine in action (I’d only just reached the finish, the others had been there for ages). I’m always easy to spot because I’m the shortest. Eldest Niece, Middle and Youngest Aunts also did the BLW, making it a family affair. It was a good feeling to get to the end of the walk, so the sense of achievement probably made our grins wider than usual.

Despite our having done the whole walk prior to the event, albeit in bits and not always in the correct direction, we walked through some new territory because of last-minute route changes that the local councils had requested. I am not generally a fast walker. I know what pace I can sustain to get to the end of the distance I’m doing. Yesterday, I walked at someone else’s pace for far too long and burnt out early. I could DO the pace but I could not maintain it for another 20-or-so kilometres. By the time I reached the Tennyson Dunes and some lumpy, scrambly stuff that we’d always known was going to be tough especially if we were tired, I was almost ready to call it quits. But I didn’t. I sat down and had some dried fruit, nuts and a piece of chocolate, slurped down an energy gel with a swig of water, slapped on another layer of sunblock, gave myself a stern talking to, and picked up my feet again.

And all the while, the thoughts running through my head were along the lines of, “I can do this. I have the energy to do this. It’s bloody long, bloody hard and bloody tiring but it’s not bloody impossible.” If I had mito, I wouldn’t be doing anything of the sort.

Although my recording device had me down to a speed of about 25 minutes per kilometer at one stage, it’s not accurate. I stuck the thing in my pocket when I set out and left it there for the rest of the day. That means simply that there’s no account taken of breaks anywhere, whether that was at checkpoints or comfort stops. Having said that, I WAS walking slowly through the Dunes but I kept going, eventually picked up my pace and managed not to be too downhearted when I reached Semaphore and realised it was still another 5 Km to the finish line at Largs Bay :) I was the last of our little group to finish, by quite a long way, but by no means the last of our larger group to reach the finish line.

Today I was back at work, mildly stiff all over and with a couple of sore spots on one foot – no blisters, however! – but I went for a brisk walk at lunchtime and practically galloped to the tram stop this afternoon. Someone suggested I could participate in next weekend’s event, but I said I’d rather do another Bloody Long Walk tomorrow than a mere 12 Km. It’s not so much that 12 Km is no longer a challenge (it could be), but that I hate the idea of jostling 29,000 other walkers!

And now, now that all that extreme outdoorsy stuff is over, I’m about to knuckle down and do some extreme sewing: metres of bunting. Wish we luck :)

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Posted by on September 14, 2015 in Health, Sewing


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no knitting but lots of walking

Just a few of the stairs in store for us

Just a few of the stairs in store for us

Beyond all that greenery, you can see some steps, I think. Youngest Aunt and I managed to scamper up and down – well, that was more Youngest Aunt, the scampering part; but I went up and down them, however badly – quite a lot of stairs last Saturday, clocking up 19.95 Km, according to my tracking device. We’d been aiming to do 20 Km, so that wasn’t bad. Had Youngest Uncle met us just a few metres farther along the road, we’d have romped it in. Well, we’d have made it. By that time of the day, very late afternoon, there wasn’t a lot of romping.

However, I have managed to do something a bit craft related: last night, I bought some wetting beads to use when I make the cooling neck collars. Also, the fabrics for the wedding decorations are exercising my calculating abilities. I cannot reconcile the differences in area in any meaningful way! My suspicion is that I might have to get some more of one to balance the other. Headache-inducing, but in the nicest way.

May all your crafty problems be equally enjoyable :)

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Posted by on September 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


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in a strange twist of language

Isn’t English wonderfully weird? Isn’t it bizarre that ravelled can mean unravelled? I say that because at the moment I feel as if I’m unravelling or coming unglued, popping bit of seam by weakening spot of adhesive. Work is so busy that nobody knows quite which way is up, though at least we’ve come out the other side of having everyone away with respiratory ailments. Tomorrow, three of us will be absent at funerals. The one I’ll be attending is for a friend’s mother and the logistics of getting there are almost defeating me. I’m tired and, because I’m tired, I’m so grumpy that even Dr B commented on it :)

So, you know, ravelling of the knitting variety? Nah, that’s not happening at the moment. I hope you’re faring better :)

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Posted by on August 26, 2015 in Knitting, Musing



bombed again

We weren't looking for any of these yesterday :)

We weren’t looking for any of these yesterday :)

Youngest Aunt and I trained for the Bloody Long Walk yesterday, and did encounter one part that required scrambling on the beach. After having walked about 20 Km (17 Km on the actual training walk, the rest on various to-and-fro trips around public transport, shopping, visiting friends and the like), I wrote a post about our day’s adventures. It disappeared when my computer crashed. Again.

In other news, fabrics for the wedding decorations are now in my sewing room. I’ve ordered new pinking shears, stocked up on thread and ensured a supply of blades for my rotary cutters. Given half a chance, and measurements for the area to be adorned, I ought to be able to make a start on the project fairly soon.

I sincerely hope that your endeavours have encountered fewer frustrations :-/

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Posted by on August 23, 2015 in Health, Sewing


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flexibility is the name of the game

A small dam along one of the walking paths, just the thing for pausing and catching your breath while you take a couple of photos :)

A small dam along one of the walking paths, just the thing for pausing and catching your breath while you take a couple of photos :)

Today’s planned training for the Bloody Long Walk involved Dr B and YoungB accompanying me to conquer some serious hills and a few steps and stairs. What eventuated was my walking alone for 10 Km on relatively flat ground. No matter. It was a walk and there was some up-and-down involved (where we live, any walking involves a degree of climbing).

Because the Bs weren’t accompanying me, I was disinclined to tackle rough terrain in a park where I couldn’t guarantee there’d be anyone remotely nearby if I fell. The alternative path I chose is well used and backs onto suburban housing. I’m still feeling the tail end of that bug, because the two-hour effort today was about as much as I could cope with.

Dr B has gone into town to listen to a band, YoungB is zizzing on the lounge, and I suppose I should finish folding the last of the laundry before it’s bedtime and Monday morning is once again summoning me.

I hope your weekend plans have gone according to plan. Or, if not, that you were able to be flexible to suit the changing circumstances :)


Posted by on August 16, 2015 in Health, Photography


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shall we cross our fingers and hope it’s third time lucky?

Taking it at a run makes it easier but sometimes you have to plod along until you get to the other side

Taking it at a run makes it easier but sometimes you have to plod along until you get to the other side

Two previous posts vanished. One might have been my fault, the other was not :( and I’m uncertain if this will make it beyond my desktop. Fnigres corsesd.

So it’s oh well, here we are again and, you know, it’s still winter, I’m tired of the cold (how about just tired?), the Bloody Long Walk is frighteningly close and I’m still somewhat under the weather with a tail-end-of-winter bug that has made, and continues to make, training a fairly unappealing if not occasionally impossible task though everyone else is going great guns with their training, work is so busy I don’t know what to tackle next from the pile, I finished Nonna’s cowl (using remnants of the Moda Vera Ambruni), and YoungB is home and it cheers me to see him still wearing the grey sweatshirt I made for him and even – take note! – to see Dr B wearing a balaclava I made for YoungB. It’s so cold we don’t care who wears what, really, it’s whatever it takes to keep the heat in (Dr B is not entirely bald. But there’s not a lot on top).

More worryingly, I haven’t started the bunting for Eldest Niece’s wedding, though she assures me she has all the fabric. The trouble is, the wedding is in October and, you know, I rarely have the luxury of full days available to me for sewing (especially with training to catch up on and maybe one weekend day with shared availability because of domestic interruptions). Never mind, we’ll get there. We will, one foot after the other. It’s really no good stressing about it because nothing I can say or do will change the situation.

I’d like to make all our Bloody Long Walkers a cooling neck collar – there are 11 in one team and six of us loosely associated but not precisely a team – so that’s another sewing task I need to address more urgently than the wedding decorations. If push comes to shove, I’ll do the six for my immediate crew and let the other team manage without but it would be good to have something for everyone. I think it’s unlikely to be hot in September, on present indications, but it’s foolish to be unprepared. Neck coolers are at least simple and, in this case, I think Great Aunt’s nurse’s uniform fabric might be just the shot: quality cotton and plentiful, no matter how many collars I make.

Wherever you are, whatever you’re up to and whatever weather surrounds you, I hope you’re finding a comfy spot to pursue all your favourite activities. I’m off to do some sewing.


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