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a sad state of affairs

The other night Dr B told me to tun off my computer, grab some knitting and go to bed. I tell you, that sounded like the best idea I’d heard in a long time. But. But I didn’t have any suitable knitting. How grim is that?

Ideally, not unpicked at all but, if done, then best not done by dim light

Ideally, not unpicked at all but, if done, then best not done by dim light

I’m still battling with unpicking the beanie – it’s sticky yarn, hence the difficulty – but it’s too dark a colour to be doing it using only the dim bedside lamp. Also, the needles I might have used to cast on my new socks are in use for unpicking that very beanie. And I couldn’t think of anything else that tickled my fancy. I went to bed. Full stop. So, okay, call me a wimp.

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2015 in Knitting

 

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heaving the annual big sigh

The view from the trenches. Photo by Gianluca D. Pompili

The view from the trenches. Photo by Gianluca D. Pompili

It’s that time of year again only worse than usual this time: Anzac Day approaches and it’s the centenary version. I don’t involve myself in matters relating to Anzac, as it’s such a tricky, emotional subject that has become tightly entwined, rightly or wrongly, with ideas of national identity. I can’t agree with the nationalistic fervour, so I find myself out of sympathy and out of step with many of my fellow Aussies. Because there is little to be gained by haranguing those who don’t want to hear, and because the actual campaign was a very long time ago and anybody who wants facts can access them easily and without my input, I find it better to say nothing.

I note only, as I have done previously, that in our particular household, the Gallipoli campaign – in which none of my direct ancestors was involved – and none of my indirect ones that I know of; and certainly none of Dr B’s – is a minor consideration by comparison with the campaigns that Dr B’s grandfathers were waging: his maternal grandfather as an Austro-Hungarian cavalryman fighting for Emperor Franz Josef against the invading Italians, amongst whose infantrymen was his paternal grandfather, trying to regain some of the Italian homeland. That is personal.

YoungB’s somewhat spine-chilling photo is not from an allied war memorial in France or Germany, or for that matter Gallipoli, but near Dr B’s hometown of Gorizia and in the general region where those warring grandfathers fought each other. Both survived, though neither particularly well, and the shadows of that warfare have been long indeed; as, I agree, they would have been for those involved in the Gallipoli campaign or any armed conflict throughout history. Let me stress that I am not in any way denigrating the personal sacrifices made by soldiers doing what they firmly believed was the right thing.

My avoidance technique this year? I’m fighting my own battle, carrying out some surgery on a knitted beanie that requires lengthening and tightening.

PS: I specify Gianluca D. Pompili to distinguish YoungB from another Gianluca Pompili whose Antarctic photos you might encounter here and there.

 
 

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musings on mail and vexing calculations

Definitely white; this was a practice effort that has found a home with a colleague

Definitely white; this was a practice effort that has found a home with a colleague

Online ordering is quick and the results are occasionally fantastic. I was delighted that YoungB’s combined Christmas and birthday present, a pair of mid-length Ugg boots, arrived safely in a remarkably short time frame (particularly given that he’s in Italy; and, yes, I did send him some fingerless mitts for his actual birthday). The colour of the boots is brighter than I’d thought it might be but he loves them. Excellent.

I remain similarly impressed by the rapidity with which I take delivery of yarn orders from Bendigo. The contents of one recent packet were earmarked for a couple of cowls and a hat or maybe a couple of hats and a cowl but the idea was that one lot was for immediate use crocheting Youngest Niece’s requested cowl. My heart sank, however, when I pulled out what I’d seen as a white only to discover it wasn’t white at all. No matter. It won’t go to waste. That did, however, leave me with a shrinking time frame that I thought would be best addressed by the purchase of different yarn that I could actually check for myself as to colour.

Friday nights in the city can be quite a lot of fun. I walked into town after work, then I tucked into a bowl of laksa noodle soup with dumplings and a big pot of jasmine tea at one of my favourite eateries (Dumplings R Us, but it has no website). After that, I set out to buy yarn. I went from Lincraft to Spotlight, looking for a thick, white, woollen yarn. What I eventually found wasn’t what I’d had in mind but it was soft and, although there’s an acrylic component, it’s not so high that the resulting yarn feels plastic (unlike one that I used to work out a pattern; that was so plastic it actually squeaked). Luckily or unluckily, having been unwell with a cold, I was able to sit about and do not much but crochet the cowl, so I finished it well in time for Youngest Niece’s birthday.

What would it cost if I were to charge for it? Of course I take no account of the practice cowls or any of the work I did on the not-white one – I’ve now finished that and put it in my “this will come in useful for someone” box – but it took me easily 10 hours of work. You couldn’t possibly expect anyone to pay what that would mean in terms of cost, even if I worked it out at the Australian minimum wage (which is around $16.88 per hour). The yarn was $8 per 100-gram ball and I made a sizeable dent on the third ball. Let’s call that was $20. The work? Even at $10 per hour – such a low figure would raise the ire of people who do this sort of thing for a living; and rightly so – let’s say we’re looking at 10 hours or $100? No, you couldn’t anticipate that anyone would actually pay that amount for a very plain, hand-crocheted cowl. Yes, in real terms, it would be worth at least that much. I personally would be astonished if anyone were prepared to pay $50 for such a thing. So there’s the old discussion: handcrafting doesn’t pay.

As I say, for me this is just a hobby so I crochet in this case, or knit more usually, during my long commutes and maybe while I’m sitting around after tea discussing the day’s news or the next day’s schedule. It gives me something to do and makes me a nicer person. That shouldn’t devalue what I do but I understand that some might make an argument that I ought not to charge a high hourly rate. Some might even suggest that I shouldn’t charge at all for my time in those circumstances. I’m happy to make things for family members who appreciate them – and that Youngest Niece actually asked for this because she loves the original so much means she certainly is one such person – and I would never expect to factor in cost. All the same, if I wanted to be paid for my time, how would I ever calculate its worth?

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2015 in Crochet, Knitting, Musing, Travel

 

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they weren’t meant to be mine

What cold weather will do to good intentions? See you pilfer mitts intended for someone else :)

What cold weather will do to good intentions? See you pilfer mitts intended for someone else :)

That cold Easter Monday I mentioned and the “now I have some of my own” Murano mitts to which I alluded? Uuh, yeah, it was genuinely cold and neither Dr B nor I could get warm. We were both doing some computer work. He reached for the colourful mitts I’d made him using Jester yarn (Ravelled but not yet blogged). Me? Well, I pinched some.

Over the years, I’ve made something like 15 pairs of fingerless mitts for other people and some for myself that have ended up being given away. These weren’t meant to be mine. I made them for someone else. But, as they were meant to be a surprise, the intended recipient won’t know I’ve pinched them. And I really, truly can and will make her another pair.

In the meantime, I have warm, comfortable fingers while I type and, believe me, that’s a first :) Bendigo’s Murano to the fore again, this time in a lovely shades-of-purple colourway (it looks blue but it’s definitely purple).

Just call me the yarn thief :)

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2015 in Knitting

 

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another thing about cold weather

WISP - really very slow, not just slow - and likely to be frogged then reknitted; but a sock, for all t hat.

WISP – really very slow, not just slow – and likely to be frogged then reknitted; but a sock, for all that.

It gets you thinking that, this year, just for once, instead of starting the winter being cold and pretending that thick leggings will be up to the job of keeping your legs warm with short boots when you’re waiting at the bus stop, you’ll start it with some long boots already in your wardrobe. I’ve had long boots at different times of my life – a gray pair that I wore for years, including through winter in Italy – and a pair of fleecy-lined, faux suede not-above-the-knee-long-but-longer-than-short boots that I bought in London and wore to the USSR (as it still was in those days) during December and January. It was really cold there. Minus 40! Made London’s zero degrees seem quite balmy.

Anyway, I bought some long boots the other night.

So does any of this relate to knitting or crochet? Where is all this going? To handmade socks. In my experience, you do need socks under boots, whether long or short, so you have something to tuck your leggings into. Obviously, the drama with winter footwear is that your feet are enclosed and you need some sort of hosiery on them and whatever it is will almost always have seams that rub and, because you have fitted, not-open-toed footwear, there’s a danger that the seams might cause little friction burns; even if they don’t, they’re not very comfortable. Handmade socks don’t have seams. That’s one of their many attractions.

When I get to the end of the present list of knitting, if I ever do, I’ll be fossicking around in the stash for some sock yarn (or, possibly, finishing that green pair). Failing that, Bendigo have some delicious sock yarn. There’s the variegated blue, which I would enjoy and which nobody could say was anything but suitable for work since blue is one of our acceptable corporate colours. And they have other, self-patterning yarns, which I have never tried. What do you say to socks as bus knitting, with the general aim of eventually keeping my feet warm? Mindless enough, interesting enough (with self-striping or self-patterning yarn) and small enough not to require too much elbow room? Surely that would be a winning combination?

In any case, I’ve ordered some yarn and dusted off my favourite sock recipe :)

PS: I’m having some technical problems, which have resulted in some of my posts apparently disappearing. I say “apparently” because when I checked, they were present and correct; just not showing up. The problem is likely to be at my end, so apologies for that. My IT guru – that would be Dr B – is troubleshooting, as usual, and his success rate is reasonable.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Knitting, Travel

 

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a good afternoon’s work

Two afternoons, really, and there's still a thumb to finish

Two afternoons, really, and there’s still a thumb to finish

Hello, again, I hope you had an enjoyable Easter weekend? Ours was sunny and delightful until Monday. Then the temperature dropped (so much so that we caved in and turned on our space heater) and the skies opened. It was cold. It was wet. There was hail. Winter announced its loud arrival. Of course, today has been warm and sunny :)

Given the combination of unfriendly weather and a public holiday, if you had fingerless mitts with a looming deadline, wouldn’t you have stoked them up while watching La Terra Trema? (Not the best choice, because I really needed to read the subtitles!) I did and made one mitt. This afternoon I’ve knitted the second one to the point where all I have to do is 10 very short rows on that second thumb. Nothing to it. Then it’s on with the blocking and Eldest Niece should have them for her birthday.

Once again, I’m using Bendigo Woollen Mills’ Murano yarn, this time leftovers from the beanie I made for Dr C way back when. It’s perhaps not the best yarn for something like this, in the sense that it has a tendency to felt and it pills something dreadful after a few wears – meaning that it might not be as long-lasting as a harder-wearing yarn like Cleckheaton’s Country Tartan – but the colourways are such fun and the resulting mitts certainly very warm (I finally have some for myself).

The next question is, should I make a shopping bag to accompany them or just gift-wrap them in paper instead?

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2015 in Knitting

 

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just more fingerless mittens

Already old and well-loved in 2010

Already old and well-loved in 2010

You see those pretty blue mitts? They’re knitted with acrylic yarn to Twinset Ellen’s pattern and were originally intended for me. But the pair I’d made for YoungB having stretched so much they were almost too big for Dr B, the blue pair – logically and obviously – went to a worthier home. Cheap and acrylic though the yarn might be, it’s wearing well and still keeping YoungB’s hands warm in Italy.

Modelled by Dr B but now gracing YoungB's smaller hands

Modelled by Dr B but now gracing YoungB’s smaller hands

And that second pair? Ravelled here, for full details. YoungB admired those I was making for Eldest Aunt’s retirement present, so I made a similar pair for him: same yarn, same needle size, same stocking stitch base pattern, though I added a couple of panels of ribbing for his, and same thumb treatment. The larger number of stitches meant that his stripes came closer to matching and I knitted the body of both mitts before doing either of the thumbs to ensure that. YoungB says these are fantastic. He’s a great recipient, always appreciative; which is probably why I didn’t mind giving him the blue pair in the first place :)

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2015 in Knitting

 

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