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almost absolutely random

A tiny part of what I've been doing, but I love the colour combination in these lavender bags :)

A tiny part of what I’ve been doing, but I love the colour combination in these lavender bags ūüôā

Hellooo, here I am again. Did you miss me?! I’ve been¬†to the cinema a couple of times and one night I made those¬†lavender bags to be¬†a raffle prize (nine bags, a bit over 2 hours of work; nobody would be prepared to pay what that would cost). I used stash fabric and some truly venerable ribbon, which came from Great Aunt’s stash and¬†is¬†possibly¬†older than I am. I¬†squashed all nine¬†into a fancy, little presentation box with a handwritten label that read, “Lavender bags: stick ’em in your drawers :)”. I hope whoever picked that particular prize thoroughly enjoys it.

Mostly, however, I’ve been sewing a lot of metres of wedding-decoration bunting: approximately 270, to be precise ūüôā Without further ado, let me deconstruct the process somewhat.

Because we weren’t sure about¬†what would work in the¬†space, we rough-calculated we’d need 15-metre strips and I made¬†18 of them, to ensure adequate coverage. Mission accomplished. There were enough leftovers to decorate one of the outdoor areas as well, plus hang a little strip across¬†the front of the bar.

Another guest asked if there’d been a pattern to the way I sewed the bunting? I responded that it had been almost absolutely random; and before the purists beat me up and insist it’s either random or it’s not, let me explain.

There were plain and striped triangles cut from the large amount of hessian that Eldest Niece provided; two different sorts of lace triangles, cut from some¬†leftover curtaining that was lurking in my stash; and a lot of¬†lace strips cut from the continuous rolls provided by Eldest Niece.¬†I cut and counted every bit of bunting, and divided each total¬†by 18. That gave me a count¬†per item,¬†per tape. Unsurprisingly, there were leftovers, so they were totted up¬†and that¬†total¬†divided by 18, then all of those put into an “add¬†a couple¬†of these to each tape” container, meaning from the outset that no two tapes were¬†likely to be the same.

Dr B helped me square up my sheeting so I could cut it¬†into tapes and¬†purchased an A0-sized self-healing cutting mat¬†for me (at my request; also¬†some new pinking shears). YoungB helped with picking piles prior to sewing¬†and accompanied Dr B to pick up the¬†cutting mat whose delivery they’d missed. They put up with my eating and running – that is, I’d get home from work, have tea with them and vanish into the sewing room till bedtime – and didn’t complain too much about my moving their cycles from the hallway so I could set up my cutting station on the only large, solid bit of floor in the house. Finding an adequate space for cutting was probably the biggest challenge, although I’ve since had some brainwaves around old doors and sawhorses; but with a¬†template made from a plastic¬†chopping¬†sheet, my¬†new metre ruler and the large¬†cutting mat, I managed to get the job done.

Once all the tapes were sewn – five three-metre x¬†2.5 cm strips joined to form a tape just under 15 metres in length – and¬†all the shapes were cut out, counted and sorted into piles, I’d pick the required number and prepare a stack for sewing. This is where the random element truly came to the fore. As I stacked the pile, I’d¬†sometimes turn it¬†pile over before adding the next piece and every now and then that meant¬†a long run of – usually, because there was much more of it – hessian and one lonely piece of lace before an alternating pattern, or a run of two hessians and one lace, but it wasn’t predictable except that I only had a certain amount of pieces to work with for each tape.

I’d then put the pile by the sewing machine and, using the needle plate as a rough measure of distance between pieces, away I’d sew on the sheeting tape. Ideally, the tape would have been folded in half along its length¬†and the pieces of bunting slipped into the resulting crease, but I quickly realised that, while that provided¬†the neatest finish, it¬†would require far more time than I had available to me. I ended up using a wide zigzag stitch and machining the pieces directly¬†onto the tape, leaving about 40 cm either end for tying purposes. Because I used both my Singer and my Janome, the¬†distance between pieces wasn’t precise¬†but it would be fair to say, I think, that the gap¬†was rarely more than 7 cm. I threw in a handful of¬†lavender bags, packed it all into one of those large, striped shopping totes¬†that would probably¬†hold a couple of small children, and Middle Niece collected it the day before the hall was to be decorated. I’m told that unpacking it was akin to a magician’s trick: the bunting just kept coming out of the bag ūüôā

So that’s where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing. And now? YoungB wants me to magic up some pockets inside his motorcycling jeans, so that he can add in extra protective armour for a forthcoming long trip. I’m scratching my head about that, because I don’t see how I can do it without unpicking a serious amount of heavy-duty seaming. Should I run now?

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2015 in Sewing

 

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do cups runneth over?

At the interstate regatta, at least as far as YoungB was concerned, the singles competition was important – he didn’t progress to finals but was pleased to have improved his time by about 30 seconds since our state championships – but the main game was the lightweight men’s IV, in preparation for the¬†Penrith Cup competition that will take place during National Championships later this month. How did they fare? They missed out on a podium finish but, all in all, their coach was very pleased. They didn’t – and, indeed, don’t – have the same amount of race experience, and certainly none against that level of competition, as the other crews on the course, most of which contained national-level athletes. Even so, they were in third place right up to the 1500 metre mark (I was following it in real time on the computer and cheering loudly all the while). They placed fifth by about half a canvas. You can imagine that they were a little crushed after having started so well, but they’ve had that experience now and know what to expect for Nationals and the Cup in March. They’ll be out for blood, I expect; and the reputation of the state will be at stake.

As to jungle parties? I don’t know why I do it to myself, really, but I stayed up most of the Friday night sewing! Having the house to myself meant that I could but it hadn’t been my intention to do so. I went to bed a few times, but my mind was racing along at light speed, trying to solve problems. And when I found a solution, I had to implement it at once. My mantra, however, irrespective of problem or solution nutted out, was, “This is a $6 fancy dress costume, not couture sewing,” that being the fabric cost, not the value of time invested.

Of course I had equipment problems. My overlocker decided to throw in the towel. I must have lost nearly an hour doing a complete re-thread or three, but in the end I decided that more time spent there would be truly wasted and did most of the work on my sewing machine. It doesn’t take much longer to do that, I suppose, but the seams aren’t finished neatly (I could have taken extra time to do tidy seam finishes but that didn’t feature in my plan; that would rank as couture), and because of overlocking problems the side seams pull slightly. Neither is a major concern for a wear-once garment, I assure you; although it’s sufficiently well hemmed and put together that I could drag it out for a family dinner if I so chose. Or possibly a rowing presentation night.

Because I was travelling to the party with Youngest Aunt and Uncle, I had to meet their departure timetable (my own would have allowed me a bit more sleep, I think). Youngest Aunt had said they planned to go as Tarzan and Jane – at which, Dr B had suggested that I should, therefore, go as the monkey; he lives, though I don’t know why! – but in the end Youngest Aunt wore a leopard-print dress she’d had in her wardrobe from years ago and Youngest Uncle added a jungle-themed T-shirt – genuinely from Botswana – to his shorts and they were suitably attired. Youngest Aunt and I reckoned we almost matched, except that I’d spent some considerable time getting my hair to a state where lavish application of product would ensure that I could rightly consider myself the Wild Woman from Borneo. (It was what we were told when we were kids and we hadn’t brushed our hair, so I thought it would be both sufficiently jungly and reasonably achievable.)

Sorry to say, there are no photos of me and my outfit. I’ve sent out an SOS to other family photographers and while I’m hopeful of getting something at some point, I haven’t so far had any donations to the case. It’s true that the dress on its own is not terribly exciting or appealing, although the funnel neckline is rather fetching. I like that little piece of silliness. And I confess to having gone back and sewn the side seams so that they don’t pull quite so much. I mean, I know myself well enough to know that I’ll wear it again, no matter that it started life as a fancy dress outfit.

There’s been a lot more rowing. The state squad for Nationals has been announced, and YoungB has held his seat for the Lightweight Men’s IV. It’s the first time in seven years that our state has sent a crew for Penrith Cup comps, we’re told, so that’s exciting in itself (if they weren’t up to scratch, they wouldn’t have been given the nod). There was a presentation evening with wine and cheese sort of stuff (hence my suggestion that the leopard-skin dress might be all right; but Dr B insisted that wouldn’t be necessary because they’re rowers not ponces). What was nominally the last of the Schools regattas before Head of the River was lengthened by inclusion of competition for the remaining state championship races, those held over from the extremely hot second day of state champs (you know, when it was generally reckoned rowers were wimps, however sensible). We had a country regatta in the meantime there, and YoungB always enjoys those (we do, too) because they have a completely different atmosphere. He raced hard and was exhausted by the end of the day.

We had an OS friend staying with us – herself a former rower, so she’s always good value for YoungB because they can talk tech and be on precisely the same page; I understand a bit more than Dr B because I’ve done some rowing, but I can’t give advice from a position of expertise – and that’s been a lot of fun in all sorts of ways (including some long lunches at local eateries). We’ve all exercised together and learnt a few new tricks to keep the weight loss going. There have also been employment-related interviews of various sorts. In a word, we seem to have been doing a fair bit of rushing about and it’s sobering to realise that autumn is officially here and uni term has already begun. (YoungB probably feels as if he hasn’t had quite the break many of his mates have enjoyed because of the intense chemistry summer school he was obliged to complete and the amount of rowing training he’s been doing.)

More rowing and more jobs to apply for and more rushing about all over the place have all taken their toll on our patience and energy. YoungB was the other night ready for bed when he came home at about 7 o’clock (that was quietly reminiscent of a time when he was small and did actually fall asleep at the table).¬† Dr B and I are barely managing to put our feet one after the other. Oh, yeah, I think our cups runneth over all right, but with exhaustion rather than elation. Having said that, it was very heartening to see the state crews announced and officially presented to their adoring fans (parents, for the most part!) and not a little exciting to realise that YoungB can now claim to have been a team-mate with some of our local Olympians, who are also getting a (or in their case, another) state zootie.

On a positive and non-rowing-related note, the Maine Morning Mitts finally reached their intended recipient – ahead of her needing them, she assures me; I’ve needed some plenty of times already but it is probably the case that we keep much earlier hours – and she loves them and seems to think they were a lot of hard work. I have no intention of disillusioning her on that score. ūüėČ

I’ve also sewn up half a dozen or so lavender bags for Nonna. I don’t know where hers disappear to, but no matter how many I send, she never seems to have any, whether I make them with loops to hang in the wardrobe or simply ones that she can throw into the drawers where she stores her undies. Still, that’s little enough effort and I try to make a couple extra – I did – so that I replenish our own stocks, which tend to dwindle because I have a terrible habit of taking them to give to other people.

If this has been a little more all over the place than usual, it’s a fair reflection of the way things are. Messy but busy. Whatever your place looks like, I hope you’ve been able to get lots of knitting and sewing done and that, if you, too, are involved with sporting folk, you’ve thoroughly enjoyed cheering their participation and saluting their achievements. Now I’d better get back to work or the house will probably fall apart around us!

PS: I’m not at my usual computer and I haven’t been able to scavenge any appropriate photos. ūüė¶

 
 

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safely out the other side

There was far too much far-too-late-night sewing, in part because I realised at a very late hour that I’d quite overlooked one young couple! I was able to pull together a little parcel of mixed homewares for them but felt there needed to be something more personal; so I made another Simple Linen Apron. No photos exist. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Long scarves are notoriously difficult to photograph, particularly so late at night. I think you can see the stripes quite well and the colour is probably fairly accurate.

Long scarves are notoriously difficult to photograph, particularly so late at night. I think you can see the stripes quite well and the colour is probably fairly accurate.

As to the rest? The ends were sewn in on the Tarrantino scarf and I wasn’t even doing it while we were travelling. That’s pat-on-the-back territory, that is. The other two aprons were finished and the one with the accompanying lavender bag had it slipped into a pocket. That was mostly before midnight, I think. Sleep? Well, there wasn’t quite enough of that but I wasn’t driving to any of our engagements, so I could have zizzed in the back seat and I doubt if either of the Bs would have noticed. As it was, I started knitting a pair of fingerless mitts. Hours of travelling time is such a productive thing!

Wider stripes and dark ties for this second Simple Linen Apron

Wider stripes and dark ties for this second Simple Linen Apron. The first one had white ties, like the lavender bag in this picture.

I hope you managed to get all your crafting and handiwork finished and celebrate in fine style, as indeed we did on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, both times with family and friends. Youngest Aunt had requested some slightly cooler weather, please, for the Boxing Day feast and the weather gods had been most obliging about that. We had a lovely time out under her pergola, eating baked snapper with the radio tuned to the Boxing Day Test in the background. I hope you had a lovely time, too.

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2013 in Knitting, Sewing

 

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just the usual dilemmas

Suitably simple but not entirely plain

Suitably simple but not entirely plain

Father Christmas arrived in town yesterday and not only is he now firmly ensconced in the Magic Cave, he’s already started working hard. This is bad, bad news because it means that I really have run out of procrastination time for things I’d planned to make as Christmas gifts. Those aprons? Mmm, yeah, better get a move on with those. Stoke up the ironing board and look for the quickest way to make something useful. Never mind the fancy design I had worked out. There’s not time for that. D-rings and white header tape? That will do just fine for straps. Self-fabric ties are vastly overrated. The Christmas coasters? Mmm, yeah, they’re not going to make themselves. Dig out the fabric and chase up some backing, quick smart. Those lavender bags? Mm’hm, they won’t make themselves either and there are only so many that can be appropriated from around the house. Yes, the supplies of ribbon are adequate and the amounts of lavender mix are nicely up to date but the sachets to contain the mix? Better crank up the sewing machine again.

In amidst all of those heart-shaking realisations, it’s also that time of year when all the weariness catches up with you and your hectic life becomes even more hectic; the combination means that every outing seems like a major effort. Our sport-related outings are ongoing and many, some more onerous than others; but in general, our social outings are few. Even so, I have rarely known us so subdued at a meal in the Asian Food Hall of Adelaide’s Central Market¬†as we were on Friday night. True, it’s usually so noisy there that you can’t hear yourself think, which makes listening to somebody else quite a challenge whether or not you’re wearing your hearing aids (that would be Dr B; I’m not in that category just yet). But on Friday we just sat there and relatively quietly ate our food. Then, equally quietly, we decided we were too tired and had eaten too much for coffee to be an option – I tell you, that ranks as heresy of a fairly high order in this family – so, instead of wandering around the market as we’d normally do (it’s such a fantastic place), we came home and collapsed into bed.

YoungB managed to drag himself out of it on Saturday morning, most reluctantly. Much as he loves rowing and cycling, he said (as if it were not obvious from the fact that he kept bumping into things) that the amount of effort either would require felt beyond him. All the same, with some parental prodding and a willing driver (in this case, that would be me; yeah, Dr B and I struggled out of bed, too, he to make coffee and provide moral support) he made it on time to the cycling meet-up point for the group training ride to the regatta course. There, bikes were swapped for boats for the first of the day’s training sessions. Yesterday was the first regatta for the season at which all the schools were competing and things were busier and more chaotic than usual. The coach decided that one on-water session would be sufficient and the second session would be more cycling. Instead of aimlessly cycling round the regatta course for 90 minutes, YoungB fitted in about 80 minutes of purposeful cross-training by riding all the way home.

In the expectation that he’d have had two on-water sessions, the original plan was that he’d be picked up. That was going to be my job. Had there been any waiting around involved, I’d planned to keep working on that purple scarf I’m knitting. Yes, thank you, it’s going along well and will probably be finished in time to appear under the Christmas tree. It’s plain but pretty and will certainly be warm. Any portable knitting that requires more brain power than garter stitch is too complicated at this time of year, so I’m keeping it simple as you can see from the photo. How’s your Christmas crafting coming along? Is Father Christmas already ensconced in your equivalent of the Magic Cave?? And have you completely lost the plot as a result???

 
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Posted by on November 10, 2013 in Cycling, Knitting, Musing, Rowing, Sewing

 

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recording history

I once blogged about the scarcity of photographs reflecting my handiwork (sorry, I’d link to it but it’s among the lost posts). Recently, however, I’ve had cause to review that notion. Perhaps my handiwork is so much a part of everyday life that I forget it’s there. We have tablecloths and table napkins that are in use on a daily basis and whose appearance in photos is as unobtrusive as they are; but they’re there, utilitarian objects quietly doing what they’re intended to do. Lavender bags are everywhere, if fewer of them in photos. Sewn and knitted garments are often seen on folk and my recent Very Large Photo-scanning project, which saw me trawling through thousands of hard copy photos, made me realise anew that when you wear your own handknits, you just wear them and get on with life.

Perennial favourite jumper

Quite early in the morning. I’m wearing my perennial favourite jumper and Dr B a matching beret. My Dad and younger sister had been adventuring with us on our (very steep) property. We were then still living in a caravan!

It turns out that I have photos of myself in most of the jumpers I’ve ever knitted (I can’t explain the missing two, except to think that perhaps I might have been camera-less around that time). The one above appears in many photos. I started knitting it before I left for Italy, put it away so I could knit a thick jumper for each of us, then hauled it out and finished it while I was in Italy. If you look carefully, you’ll see that Dr B is wearing a little beret made from some of the leftover yarn. I knitted a pair of socks and a beret for myself, too.

There’s no photographic record of the large, warm jacket I knitted and wore for years, at least not in my photos. Someone else might have one. I even have photos of myself in clothes that I’ve made, just incidental to everyday life. There are photos of my nieces wearing the christening gown I knitted. I know there’s a photo of Eldest Niece wearing the little angel top I knitted, though that’s not in my own collection. I know there are photos of her wearing the boatneck jumper I knitted as well as the stripy cardigan, because I have a recollection of seeing such things in other people’s photo albums. (And, by golly, that boatneck jumper was gorgeous!)

So, as I struggle with a backlog of WISPs – let’s call them, rather than the UFOs they’re rapidly becoming – it’s heartening to know that, yeah, I do finish things and people do wear them and they look all right (we might except the abovementioned stripy cardigan which, although a lovely garment, was rather large for its recipient; but, you know, she grew into it and it looked fine then and all the other kids would have worn it, too). One jumper I knitted for Dr B even made it onto national TV. Now that’s fame for you! There are any number of shots of us wearing my handknits among the photos recording our life in Italy. Those thick, warm jumpers were just the thing for those snowy winters. There are photos to prove it.

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2013 in Knitting, Photography, Sewing

 

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rebellion at the Centrelink queue

That may be a little misleading. I wasn’t in the Centrelink queue and I had no plans to go there, either; so it was more a rebelling at the idea of the queue.

I wanted somewhere to put my hankies, somewhere that wasn’t scrunched up under all the other stuff in the undies drawer. I wanted a hanky sachet, by which I mean a special container for my hankies, not a lavender sachet made from old hankies (for which you’ll find tutorials here¬†and¬†here,¬†for example, and I’m sure there are many others). I used to have a hanky sachet, back in the days when everyone used hankies and had such things (and, therefore, knew what they were). It was a pretty, blue satin number with a decorated top and I don’t quite know during which move I lost it, but I did. The other day I’d had enough. Just enough.

So, instead of following up on more leads and employment websites, instead of queuing at Centrelink, I cleared the sewing table and fossicked around in my drawer of fabric scraps. (It’s not the same thing as the undies drawer, I promise you.) I came up with some leftovers that I thought would be large enough that I wouldn’t need to do too much fancy footwork and I ironed them all. I’ll repeat that: I ironed them all. There’s nothing complicated about straight sewing, but when you’ve foolishly included a piece of stretch satin fabric and everything else is plain woven, you should expect to have a few problems. I did.

However,¬†after I’d put some of my lavender and spice mix into the gap between the outer and lining layers – because that keeps the hankies smelling sweet and the undies, too – I stitched it up envelope-style and called it done. It’s not the neatest sewing I’ve ever done but it does the job. I also made half a dozen lavender bags to hang in my wardrobe. I’d been borrowing them at such an alarming rate to give away with knitted gifts that I’d almost run out. These are small achievements, however messy the results, but they break up the boredom of my days and give me some positive reward for effort (job-hunting certainly doesn’t do that).

Hanky sachets are old-fashioned things, I know, but I’ve made quite a few over the years (including one for YoungB that he loves) so it’s time I had my own again, even if the fabric used – camo with helicopters! – mean it looks as if it would be more at home in Dr B’s undies drawer than tucked away in mine.

 
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Posted by on August 9, 2013 in Sewing

 

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