Monthly Archives: June 2012

keeping the mystery

Today I complimented a woman on the pretty scarf she was wearing and asked if she’d made it. She responded that she wasn’t clever enough for that and that it had been a lovely gift. I’d agree about the lovely gift. But the scarf was made from one of those feathery, silly yarns that do all the work in terms of looking fabulous and require only garter stitch. In other words, not difficult knitting. But I didnt say any such thing!

Why not let her think someone laboured over it for long hours – and for all I know to the contrary, perhaps someone did if it was that knitter’s first project or one undertaken by a knitter with a disability of some sort; I don’t mean to be dismissive – and that she, nicely dressed in a smart suit with coordinating accessories and subtle, tasteful make-up that she’d applied in the short time that I was otherwise occupied, was certainly not smart enough to do anything of the sort?

We need to maintain the mystique. If people want to think what we do is really hard work, we should let them believe so, because it’s often the case that things that really are hard don’t seem to be. Cables look very impressive and very difficult and complex designs certainly can be. Simple cables, however, are not. They are, as one of my aunts used to say, a quick and easy way of fancying up a plain jumper; dead easy or she wouldn’t have incorporated so many into her knitting.

To a non-knitter, circular knitting can seem wildly skilled and difficult. It’s not using a circular needle or set of needles that creates any difficulty, but the design being undertaken. I have also had comments about how difficult knitting is when it’s being done on long, straight needles. It was a very simple stocking stitch (stockinette) fabric and not at all difficult. It’s just that there were a lot of stitches. Perceptions are strange things.

Nowadays when such remarks come my way, I just keep knitting and being mysterious about it all. If people want to think I’m clever, then that’s all right with me. Or do you think we should give away all our secrets?

They’re really very simple but don’t they look difficult?

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Posted by on June 28, 2012 in Knitting, Musing


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fun fabric

Today I was presented with some fabric, most unexpectedly. A colleague’s mother is having to destash. Poor thing. I felt her pain. However, knowing that I use fabric, the mother wondered if I would like it. Her pain became my gain. I’m now the happy possessor of 13 squares of upholstery fabric samples – either linen or heavy cotton, I can’t quite decide which – with a very 70s feel. The obvious use is cushion covers, as there’s not enough of any of it to do serious stuff with. But then again, I might make a couple of shopping bags or even lined totes.

Innocently awaiting their destiny

I apologise for the quality of the photo, which I agree is fairly bad. However, you can probably get an idea from the foremost one that some of the patterns are delightfully wild. I’m going to have fun with these!


Posted by on June 25, 2012 in Sewing


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yards and yardage

Both mats have more than one dimension

“Only takes a yard of fabric.” I see that occasionally on sewing blogs and it does my head in almost as much as the slogan of “Til your hearts content” that I see at a nearby eatery every working day. It is, as Boy might say, almost as much of a mind-bender as practising sculling with one blade feathered and the other squared when you’re a beginning rower. (Truth to tell, I think he’d still have to concentrate severely in order to do that well because it’s an interruption to the smooth rhythm of sculling.)

A yard of fabric. What does that mean? How wide is the fabric? Fabric has two dimensions, hasn’t it: width as well as length? I understand it also has the third dimension of thickness, but for the purposes of determining how much fabric any given pattern requires, that’s not usually a factor. But a yard of fabric? I know how much is in a yard. 36 inches. Three feet. I grew up in the imperial system. I know that in round figures and for small amounts you can call it a metre and come out close (incremental error will see you in trouble if you extrapolate it to much more than that, because a metre is, after all, about three inches longer than a yard). Length is a choice you make, whether you call it a metre or a yard or some fraction of either. But surely a yard or metre of fabric that’s 112 cm wide is noticeably less in area than a yard or metre of fabric that’s 150 cm wide?

But nobody ever means a square yard. Or if they do, they don’t say so and I’m left puzzled as to precisely what it is that they do mean because there are many fabric widths readily available.

I’ve been somewhat stung by this of late. I check labels, to see what width the fabric is, before I buy whatever length I think I need. I was struggling to fit a pattern in the suggested layout and couldn’t quite get my head around why it wasn’t working. Then I measured the width of the fabric. It was some centimetres short of its stated 149. A few centimetres might not matter greatly for most things but when your layout calls for practically every last millimetre of width, then the centimetres certainly do matter. I’ve had to revise my ideas about what I can do with that piece of fabric. A metre of 150 mm fabric would have done the job. A metre of 142 mm fabric doesn’t quite. And I don’t know why it’s such an odd sort of width. For dress fabrics these days, mostly you’d be looking at 112, 120 and 149/150 (there’s some fluctuation at the top end of that), then you’d go to 240 for sheeting and the like. I know there are other widths and specialist fabrics but everyday stuff is mostly those sorts of widths. You pick your own length to add the second dimension to the equation.

I mentioned sheeting because I’ve bought some in order to make a Nazgul cloak for Boy’s projected Halloween partying. He asked for it last year because, no doubt, he reckoned getting in early would mean fewer last-minute panics. We’d have time – plenty of time! – to sit and ponder how best to approach the job. I intend to use this Jedi robe pattern (which discusses width of fabric as well as length). It’s not precisely the same as a Nazgul cloak, but it will do and, when made in a black fabric, will certainly be convincing enough for fancy-dress purposes. The Nazgul cloaks, I heard in an interview, have 50 metres of fabric in them. BUT WHAT WIDTH? I wanted to ask. (Anyone who has seen them in action would imagine it might well be 50 metres of at least 240 mm fabric, so wonderfully do they flow.) Our Nazgul cloak won’t be as large and heavy and it certainly won’t have 50 metres of fabric in it. It might have about 10 metres of fabric all up. That’s 10 square metres, in case you were wondering.


Posted by on June 24, 2012 in Musing, Rowing, Sewing


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bringing a new look to the ancient: Pattern Pyramid Giveaway

Karen over at Did You Make That? is hosting a Pattern Pyramid Giveaway. It sounds like such a good idea I couldn’t resist joining in. Why don’t you join in too?

I seem to have done something wrong with the button, since it’s not sitting in nice alignment with the one for Karen’s Pyjama Party Sewalong (which was also a lot of fun that I hope you didn’t miss out on). I must not obsess. This is not giving me a headache. The information is there. I must not obsess. This is not… And then I looked properly at Karen’s button. It’s also not on the same alignment. See? I’m not stressing. I’m not.

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Posted by on June 23, 2012 in Sewing


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again or still

I had to make another shopping bag and I did it quickly, so I don’t know if that’s hurrying in a repeated or renewed manner. My suspicion is that I’ve never stopped. Camera problems meant the phone was the best option for quick photographic results but I think you can see the pretty, cheerful fabric reasonably well. It’s stiff, so I almost had to admit defeat on the French seams which ended up being very thick. Sturdy, I tell myself. They’re not chunky, they’re sturdy.

Slapdash, sure, but sturdy withal

Yes, there was a lavender bag in the finished article when I presented it to the Birthday Girl today at lunchtime. These birthday seem to be coming around very quickly at the moment! Another colleague will be looking for some small, celebratory token next week and I know she’d appreciate fingerless mitts.

I’d like to oblige her in that respect but the difficulty for me is that, while I can sew a shopping bag in about 20 minutes, it would take me more like 20 hours to knit the mitts. I don’t have quite that many hours available this weekend although I anticipate that I might finish Boy’s beanie now that I’ve had a few days of being dedicated about knitting on the bus and am finally decreasing for the crown.

But mitts for my colleague? No, not when you knit as slowly as I do. Another shopping bag, do you think?

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Posted by on June 22, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing


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Somehow I overlooked a colleague’s birthday. This called for swift creation of something. These days, we’re all keen to have sturdy, reusable shopping bags so I decided to make one for her using some of the leftover linen curtain fabric that I used to make Dr B’s Paris-Brest-Paris musette.

The shopping bag is a mix of styles as well as being my usual mix of careful French seams (you don’t want your cans of dog food falling out) and slapdashery extraordinaire with regard to hems! The handles are well secured too (see previous comment about cans of dog food).

Accompanied by a lavender bag, of course


Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Cycling, Sewing


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dangle my leaves

We’re a household of mixed cultures. Dr B’s cultural paradigm rules when it comes to whether we start the day with coffee or tea; it’s really only a question of what type of coffee. Will it be a plunger or do we have time for cappuccino? The beans we use are usually freshly ground in small batches and what brand they are can vary from week to week depending on what’s available at the supermarket at a reasonable price. We like Vittoria.

One morning recently I arrived at the breakfast table to find a mug of tea at my place. The lads were drinking coffee. I wasn’t entirely affronted – I know that Dr B means well when he decides I shouldn’t eat certain foods because they’re bad for me! – but I was puzzled. Dr B assured me he’d found the mug already prepared and waiting and had assumed that I wanted tea for breakfast. Ah, yes, it was my mug from the night before when I’d never actually got round to making my bedtime cuppa. Boy was relieved that it was merely a mix-up and that I wasn’t threatening what he perceived as the established paradigm (that’s what he said).

But he’s wrong. That IS my cultural paradigm. I grew up drinking tea for breakfast, lunch and tea and many points between. When you live on a farm, it’s quite standard practice to have five meals a day and sometimes six, so that’s a lot of tea-drinking opportunity going begging. We did have coffee sometimes for afternoon tea or supper, but I don’t recall our day ever being kick-started by anything but a big pot of tea.

Way back in the hazy days when I moved into my first flat, my Mum and Dad brought me some kitchenware bits and pieces when they visited to check it out; and Dad actually bought me a new teapot; not a coffeepot, a teapot, a little one-person pot that I loved. I knitted a tea cosy for it and I still have both tea cosy and pot. The pot shows signs of much use, with its design worn thin and the silver lines fading. Here it’s looking a little lost in a sea of red-and-white-checked table napkins that I made for Dr B.

Much used teapot mixing it with the Italian checks

For me the questions are what type of tea and whether it will be leaf or bag. It used to be Viceroy or Amgoorie, I think, with Bushells and Robur tying for last choice (only Bushells is still around, which may well be a comment on how Australia seems to have morphed into a coffee-drinking nation). For special occasions, we might have some Twinings Darjeeling tea. I remember its distinctive purple tin. But it was always leaf tea; there were no teabags in those days. (I don’t mean to imply they hadn’t been invented, as they’ve been around for a long time, but they weren’t then available in our supermarkets.) I’m still one who prefers leaf tea. I use teabags for their convenience and because some of the things you can buy in teabags, I would perhaps not buy in leaf form (chamomile for infusions, that sort of thing).

My favourite tea these days? Russian Caravan, whose slightly smoky flavour could be said to be somewhat reminiscent of billy tea, I have both leaf tea and teabags: one for home, the other for the office. Best of both worlds, don’t you think?


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productive but puzzled

I finished Boy’s sweater and he’s wearing it happily enough. I’m disappointed with how it turned out. The green prototype had fewer of the problems that could best be described as not quite meeting at the seams properly and things being slightly off-centre. I matched up as carefully as I could and sewed extra slowly and carefully but I have to say, it’s a somewhat lumpy looking garment. Not a win, then, at least from my perspective; but Boy, as I said, is wearing it and will probably take it on the ski trip (he’s happily worn it to the shops). I know it’s warm. But it’s just not quite as nice as I’d hoped it would be. Although I would have preferred a darker grey, it’s the colour he chose and therefore quite acceptable.

Keeping Boy warm while he studies

Then I thought I’d lost the instructions for my skirt pattern! It was there last week, because I checked it for pattern layout. Today? Could not find it. I checked the packet of the sweater pattern, just in case I’d mistakenly packed it away in there. I cleared my work space a bit and had a look around. No, still couldn’t find it. I told myself I wouldn’t have that much trouble making the skirt, even without the layout and sewing instructions, but the mystery of their whereabouts was baffling me. I looked in a few more likely places – you know, flipped through the knitting books on their shelf, fossicked around among the rowing programs and results in their drawer, and pulled down a couple of lever-arch folders that have sewing patterns in them and which I’d used recently – but all to no avail.

Fine, then, I thought I’d just wing it. I was a little concerned, in any case, that the fabric might be more one-way in terms of its printed design than I’d originally reckoned. If so, I’d have to use a different layout anyway and that would mean I didn’t have enough fabric. I wanted a skirt with some shape, not just the straight one I’d made before. Knowing that all I was looking for was one sheet of paper, I had another quick look in the pattern envelope. And, yep, sure enough, there was the instruction sheet where it should have been, just quietly stuck to the cardboard and minding its own business. R-i-g-h-t.

Yesterday I knitted on the way to work and on the way home (there weren’t many folk on the bus on either occasion, so I had a seat to myself and plenty of room to wave my needles around). Last night, I knitted a few rows while trying to watch a movie. It didn’t really engage my attention, so I gave up on it and decided that instead of knitting I’d some sewing instead, getting a start on the finishing touches for the sweater. But the thing is, the beanie is making good progress even if the sweater hasn’t won any prizes and I’ve spent vast amounts of time trying to find a piece of paper that was always precisely where it should have been. Perhaps trying to sew this weekend was doomed from the outset and I should have just stuck to the knitting?

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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing


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progress in grey

It’s amazing how boring photos of a grey sweater can be, especially when the sweater is in its construction stages. However, just to reassure you that I haven’t let that siren skirt seduce me, here’s a photo of a seam. Yes, just one of the many! Actually, there are only a few and, let’s face it, a sewn sweater doesn’t take all that much work. I’ve bands left and that will be it, but I simply haven’t yet had enough hours to do them (I do need some sleep). I’m confident I’ll have them tomorrow or over the weekend (alas, tonight has other tasks that need doing) and then Boy will be a very happy boy and I? I’ll be able to start on that skirt.

A shoulder seam, showing the cotton tape that will stop it stretching

Meanwhile, I knitted some more of Boy’s beanie whilst I was waiting for an appointment. I know we only ever do things one stitch at a time, even when we’re increasing or decreasing, but sometimes each stitch seems to take forever. Never mind, they all contribute to the total. And isn’t that what really counts?

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Posted by on June 14, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing


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after the sweater

That’s Boy’s sweater, of course. The pattern is laid out, complete with minor adjustments, and the cutting has begun but it’s been a messy, bitsy weekend and, despite having an extra day in which to achieve things, I’ve not done much at all to make me feel productive. I’m still coughing and wheezing but I wouldn’t cite them as particular reasons; and Dr B is now horribly unwell, so I’ve been fussing over him a bit (but only a bit).

Having said that, I haven’t been entirely indolent. Apart from engaging in the usual weekend battle with the laundry, I’m considerably closer to finishing Boy’s beanie, I have a knitted birthday shawl under way and, as I say, I am making progress, albeit slow, with the sweater. I want to get that finished, though, because I want to make a skirt for myself. The skirt wouldn’t take long but Boy has been very patient about waiting for his sweater. So this will wait, it will. Really it will.

I can hardly resist its siren call

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Posted by on June 11, 2012 in Knitting, Sewing


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