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Author Archives: Felicity from Down Under

About Felicity from Down Under

musician, knitter and sewist

happy haiku

Yesterday I met up with some friends whom I last saw in January. I’m sure you’ll believe me when I say that we had much to discuss. Another of the group is a serious writer, better able to dedicate herself to writing, now that she’s retired. At one point, we were chatting about the challenges presented by various literary forms. We agreed that haikus are hard work, even in English.

I wrote this off the cuff for a Lockdown Creative Writing Group to which I contribute somewhat sporadically. There’s no seasonal reference as in a traditional haiku, but the syllable count is correct. Perhaps that’s enough of an achievement.

As I’ve demonstrated at length on this blog, my creativity has lately been channelled elsewhere. I explained that to the group rather than simply launch into a haiku that I knew didn’t meet the writing brief. I also shared photos of the two new blankets, so that both my “creating in another medium” and my poem might make more sense to other group members:

I chose their colours with care
Without knowing then
How well they would suit them both.
 

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today has been exhausting

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The westward view from lunchtime. Photo © Gianluca D. Pompili

We’re all OK, really, despite the continuing uncertainty around when I might return to the office. Dr B went for a pushbike ride today, and enjoyed the almost 70 Km round trip that, he said, was accomplished at a manageable pace. YoungB decided against commuting by pushbike today, to avoid battling the severe wind and rain forecast for the homeward leg. He went running with a workmate at lunchtime instead, and stopped on the bridge to take a photo. You’d swear that was a warm, sunny day, wouldn’t you, with not a cloud in sight? It was. It didn’t last.

I worked today, as usual. Everything seemed messy and muddly. In part, the technology sulked. Sulking along with it felt like a perfectly reasonable response, so I did precisely that. I swore a lot, anyway, which is probably sulking by any other name. I got out into the garden at lunchtime for a spot of sunshine and exercise, but the plentiful sunshine didn’t equal warmth although it lifted my spirits marginally.

I’m tired. Try as I might, I cannot muster enthusiasm for any crafting endeavour of any variety, now that the urgent deadlines have passed and I’ve yet to decide on a new project. July has only just begun and the worst of winter is still ahead of us. It’s always a difficult time of year. That I am continuing to WFH is a good thing, because I don’t have to worry too much about the cold and grey that wait outdoors.

I hope your cold and grey stay outdoors, too, so that you don’t have to worry about them 😀

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2020 in Cycling, Health

 

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staggering a little

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Cinelli forever! This many weeks later, would be helped by long stuff on the legs

And it’s back to work my office goes from tomorrow, although we’re transitioning in a staggered manner: we’ll adhere to the original timetable, and not everyone will return simultaneously. My team is among the last scheduled to return, but I’ll continue WFH for a little longer because of Dr B. He has his uses, after all.

YoungB has cooked up his week’s worth of food – a very tasty beef casserole accompanied by Basmati rice – and is preparing to ride his pushbike again. I admire his dedication for all sorts of reasons, not least among them that he goes out in short knicks in the middle of winter. He has winter jerseys but the long bib-knicks he ordered haven’t yet turned up (and probably won’t until August). He mixes and matches short bibs and compression leggings so that he’s not out there with too much bare skin but it’s not quite the same as a purpose-made piece of all-in-one clothing.

No, I’m not volunteering to sew any, thank you. I made pencil shorts for him years ago, to address the modesty factor under his choir robes. In those days, I could have adapted the pattern to make a pair of child’s cycling shorts, albeit minus padding, more for the streamlined appearance than the protection. Nowadays, as with any serious endeavour, he needs the real thing with proper padding in the right places. As an old friend of mine used to say, referring to gel saddles in that instance, you have to protect your assets. She’d usually add that hers had been frozen for years, but that’s precisely what YoungB is trying to avoid.

And so, he’ll stagger on for a bit longer with the clothing set-up he’s managed to make work, and I’ll manage to work with the office set-up I’ve become accustomed to. In my case, I anticipate that staggering will be kept to a minimum.

I hope your staggering is also minimal 😀

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2020 in Cycling, Health, Sewing

 

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vintage fernleaf coat

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In 1985, I also made a little coat in fernleaf stitch

Made (by me when I was living) in Italy involved a considerable amount of rather lovely knitting. I think I knew that. When I dragged out my old photo albums to check, I was surprised by the amount of work I’d put in! I couldn’t manage it now because I would rarely – read, nobody would let me – have that much uninterrupted time.

Back then, several things helped: considerable amounts of youthful enthusiasm, it being winter, having uninterrupted weekends while Dr B was away at masterclasses on the other side of the country, fewer interruptions from him when he was home because he was studying, and generally being so impecunious that staying home was a good option. And if you stay home and there are babies on the way, well, you knit. Right? I did.

I purchased the blue yarn that I used for the angel top locally in the village, and the ribbon, but the white yarn had travelled in a tea-chest from Australia. I’d bought it to knit a hap for a friend’s baby a couple of years earlier. If you’re like me, and it’s the time of your life when many around you are having babies, you stock up. I had done just that. I’d bought the whole pack, not merely what was required for the knitting immediately in question. Buying the white yarn wasn’t something I had to do in Italy.

You might wonder why I chose blue ribbon. I’d looked for white at the local shop. My memory is that they either didn’t have any, or didn’t have enough. In the expectation that any child likely to have red hair would look good with blue ribbons, I’d opted for that as less offensive than pink. I think the fernleaf coat and the christening gown I also knitted – using a different pattern – still have the blue ribbons, but it would be a small matter to change them for white.

Details? Goodness! A good knitter keeps patterns as well as yarn, so I’ve run off to the other end of the house and checked:

  • Pattern: coat of the Outfit in Fernleaf Stitch, Australian Home Journal Baby Knitting Book Number 1 (third printing; no year of publication).
  • Yarn: pattern calls for 3-ply baby yarn, so I expect that’s what I used; but I couldn’t say where I actually bought it or what brand it was.
  • Needles: pattern calls for 3.25mm, so I expect that’s what I used.
  • Sleeve seam of coat: 12cm.

Curiosity details: I’ve used a couple of musician’s tricks, such as writing bits of the next and/or previous page pattern at the bottom/top obviously to give myself a heads-up to help avoid errors and unpicking. Dr B has also scribbled some notation on the blank portion of one page. I have no idea what that was about!

The things you find when the next generation comes along 😀

 

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Made in Italy

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Made and photographed at our kitchen table, many years ago

You’d probably agree that it’s a cheerful thing to receive family photos. It’s especially cheerful for me as a knitter when they’re showcasing handknits. What is more, the photo that arrived at lunchtime showcased a handknit Made (by me when I was living) in Italy. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes! But, sure enough, that little, blue angel top is still going strong these many years later. The ribbons didn’t survive all the washing that four children entailed, or perhaps it was a nuisance. But the rest of it is in practically mint condition and still helping to keep a baby warm.

Details:

  • Sirdar pattern 3285
  • Yarn: 4-ply Snuggly Baby Yarn (and that is most likely what I bought when I first used the pattern to knit for a friend in New Zealand). For the pictured top, I would have used whatever baby yarn I was able to purchase from the local shop. Plainly, it was a quality one!
  • Needles: The pattern calls for 3.25 mm needles, which I expect I used.

May all your long-ago handknits come back to haunt you so beautifully 🙂

 

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obverse, reverse

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It’s too cold to sit outside, but these probably meet present physical and social distancing requirements

It’s odd how you can convince yourself that you’re going along OK without physically meeting up with friends and family. After all, my immediate family is here with me and my sisters not far away. I have colleagues whose immediate family is on the other side of the planet. It’s true that you probably are going OK until you stop and think about how the phone calls and videocalls just aren’t the same as sitting down at the kitchen table with a big mug of some freshly made hot beverage, accompanied by a plate of scones or muffins – name your favourite treat; we have plenty of bakers in the family – and really catching up on all the news. Humans are social creatures.

YoungB, however, has reached the point of being back at work where he’s looking for another stretch of solitude. He’s tired of dealing with petulance and self-importance. When you do it all the time, you learn to wear good headphones and paste on a cheery smile, however glazed, while doing your best to ignore things you don’t need to deal with. When you’ve had enough of a break to appreciate how truly petty such behaviour is – which, I think you’ll agree, lockdown has been; and therefore achieved – then, yes, going back to the workplace is another sort of hell. Humans are solitary animals.

I had a couple of days of technology problems that could nicely have been described as having sucked big time. There was one day when I almost – but only almost! – wished myself back at the office where at least some of those problems might have been caught before they became major. I finished the urgent jobs, shut down my computer, opened the office door, and poured myself an extremely stiff G and T. I’m not sure if helped with my social skills, but it made me more cheerful and, more importantly, finished off the last of the tonic water before it could lose its fizz.

I hope your social and physical distancing measures are working  for you.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2020 in Health

 

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scrub-a-dub

So now what? More than one day’s effort, really, but a good little wind-down exercise.

Because I’d had a weekend day in front of the computer doing something far too much like work – not complaining, because I was helping a friend, but admitting that it was a little too much screen time – and because I had the yarn Right There where I was sitting, I made some giant face scrubbies. YoungB thought they were coasters, but they’re not quite large enough (in my opinion). They’re pure cotton, so eco-friendly. Because they’re cotton they’re washable, meaning reusable many times. Eco-friendly again. Could they get any better?!

The question now is, do I make an accompanying laundry bag? Or should I simply enclose them in some heavy paper with the laundering instructions? Given how cold it is in my sewing room – much too cold to work there – the paper sounds like an appealing option. The purists would argue that paper isn’t quite as eco-friendly as a reusable fabric bag, but if I’m providing laundering instructions, they have to be written on something.

Made with 10-ply Bendigo Woollen Mills cotton held with 8-ply Lincraft cotton using a size G / 5.0 mm crochet hook and a mixed and matched pattern from several www sources. They’re nothing very extraordinary, but the crab-stitched final round is nice.

Please forgive the very poor photos and believe me when I say that they’re the pick of the bunch!

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2020 in Crochet

 

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alone and unarmed

What I ended up buying. Whichever way you look at it, it’s not cream. Image from Lincraft’s webpage.

I recently visited our LYS myself, seeking cream-coloured yarn. When I eventually found the store – that part was probably harder for me than it had been for Dr B – I was overcome by remorse: I’d sent Dr B into that store all alone and (relatively) unarmed, and with neither executive power nor sufficient information to make on-the-fly decisions about substituting other yarns should the one I’d asked for be unavailable. Poor man 😀

He said there were no signs, which I’d doubted, and can now confirm is not true. However, I agree that they might not have been meaningful to him. Even I had to think a bit about where the particular yarn I wanted might be lurking, given that that’s not the bricks-and-mortar location I usually frequent. But the yarn stands were right near the door and not easily missed. Finding particular yarns was trickier.

As it turned out that the particular yarn I wanted had all sold, or not been restocked, I then had to decide what I could substitute. But, of course, I had a lot more information at my fingertips to assist with that decision: I could feel the yarn to test thickness. I could look at the colour. I could assess whether coriander – that sort of mustard-yellow in the photo – would work with what I had already done AND what I planned to do. Dr B could have felt and looked at the yarn, but minus the critical info as to my plans – and, you know, plans are plans but if you have to change them, they’re more like “I might do this” ideas – his hands were tied.

That he did come home with the white yarn was miraculous enough, I think!

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2020 in Crochet

 

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colours and corners

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One row to tidy the bumpy bits

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A second row to add a bit of weight

Multiplication is commutative. Therefore, it is a fact that the long side of a row of five, four-inch squares will be 20 inches AND the long side of a row of four, five-inch squares will also be 20 inches. That’s the top of the baby rugs. With me so far?

Now factor in the joining round. Those five, four-inch squares have become five, five-inch squares. The long side of that row is now 25 inches. Let’s say those four, five-inch squares are now six-inch squares. The long side of that row is now – yes. Quite. The answer is NOT 25 inches.

The long side of a row of seven, four-inch squares that make the rainbow blanket is 28 inches; and 35 inches with the joining rounds calculated in. The long side of a row of six, five-inch squares that make the flower blanket is 30 inches; and 36 inches with the joining rounds included in the calculation.

I note that I usually think and work in metric measurements, but my pegboard is old and, understandably, Imperial; hence the sudden return to the old system. Whichever numbers I used, my calculations indicated that the overall area was similar, although one would be longer and thinner than the other.

In practice, the rainbow blanket was worked more loosely to accommodate the puffiness of the pattern, so it has more give and turned out a shade larger than calculated. The African flower pattern is flatter, so the blanket worked to a firmer, denser fabric and was a shade smaller than calculated at completion of joining.

I had planned a three-round, tricoloured border for the rainbow blanket, but as soon as I worked that first round of red (UK) dc, I knew it didn’t need more colour than that. It also didn’t need a wide border, because there’s so much going on in the body of the blanket. I worked a round of red htr and finished off the ends.

With its body being less busy despite containing a greater number of colours, the African flower blanket could carry a wider border, and a mix of colours would not be out of place. I worked the tidying round in parchment dc, and one of olive green dc in the same direction. To help reduce fluttery edges, I then worked a round of olive green htr in the opposite direction. The final round of light-mustard htr clusters worked into alternate stitches in the original direction pulled the edges back nicely and provided a firm finish.

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Four rounds using three colours from the main palette

So that’s what I’ve been up to, giving myself headaches and having a good time.

How about you? 😀

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2020 in Crochet

 

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bleak enough

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Hearty, hot soup is also part of the equation

As the days become greyer and colder, and the overnights crispier and crunchier, thanks to the contributions of Jack Frost, warm, comfy clothing is of paramount importance. Roll out the roll-neck sweater or the close-fitting cowl. Don thermal leggings, thick socks and ugg boots. Reach for the softest, cuddliest undergarments, which probably means long-sleeved woollen tops at the very least, and other natural fibres elsewhere.

As we complain bitterly about the bitter weather, we remind ourselves that the sun is almost on its way back to us. Only a few more days. We can do this. Shivering, hot mug in gloved hands, and standing as close to the heater as we dare, we reassure each other that we’ve got this.

I hope you have, too 😀

 
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Posted by on June 16, 2020 in Health, Musing

 

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