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Tag Archives: motorcycling

and then there are the babies

You know how I had a sort of rough idea of what I might be going to knit and sew this year? And then it got tossed on its head almost immediately? Well, I now have to factor in some not entirely unexpected but still unplanned-for baby knitting; at the moment, I’m looking for something quick! Baby blankets made in thick yarn will be the answer, I suspect. I’ve spent some time on Ravelry looking for pretty, simple patterns and found many. I have a number of patterns among my collection already but most are lacy, some are complex and I think all of them are large, so perhaps not necessarily the best option for something that might be used as a pram rug (though, yes, most could be scaled down). Why a pram rug and not a blanket as such?

YoungB had a fantastic pram rug that had been knitted for him by Great Aunt J. It was blue, yellow, grey, pale green and white – sounds awful, but wasn’t – and looked a bit like a Mondrian painting: modern with block colours and some unexpected combinations. It was gorgeous. Of course, it clashed terribly with his bright orange lambswool (though it was fine with the neutral one), but that didn’t really matter. It kept him warm in his car seat and in the pram and it was light enough to pack into a bag and take along wherever we went even minus the pram. Given that background, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’ve picked out some 12-ply yarns to make a couple of similar items. My usual baby gift is bunny rugs and I’ll probably sew a couple of those as well (flannelette comes in such pretty designs and colours as to be almost irresistible). None of it is going to be difficult, I promise you.

When I picked out that lot of yarn, there was only one announcement. Now there’s another, so I can see that there’ll be a further trip to my LYS in the near future. Oh, isn’t that going to be a hardship!

I still have Nonna’s cardigan to finish and despite the thick yarn and large needles, it’s not growing quickly. However, other plans, such as sewing new toobs for motorcycling use, have made progress. The other day, I whipped up a new scarf for Nonna. Ahem. You know, I cut a length of black polar fleece and stitched on a nametag. I didn’t even bother with hems. I mean, it’s polar fleece. It’s not going to fray, is it?! (If it looks tatty when it comes home for a wash, I’ll attend to such niceties then.) That used up a large chunk of the black fabric, so I promptly made a toob from the remaining bit. It’s sewn and nearly finished but I seem to have run out of the wide elastic. I really cannot imagine how that happened but, oh, well, that’ll be something else I’ll need to get when I’m out shopping, won’t it?

And I was told, gently but in no uncertain terms, that motorcyclists wouldn’t wear a white toob. Red might be acceptable but, really, dark blue and black are the options of choice. So why wasn’t that said to me before? I’d have stopped looking for the remnant of white polar fleece and just got on with making toobs from what remained of the black. Blokes. They just don’t listen.

But, you know, with all this stuff I have on my list, well, gosh, I might have to give up looking for a job for a few minutes so I can attend to those other duties. That would be a shame, I don’t think. It’s certainly one of life’s less appealing undertakings, isn’t it? But I’ve sent out another application and haven’t yet lost heart. I’m just pushing on with knitting while I commute to various appointments and the like.

Sorry, I could not find a suitable photo to accompany this post. A black toob? Boring as. YoungB’s original pram rug? Yes, that would have been ideal; but could I find one??? No. Better just post this and get on with the knitting, don’t you think?

 

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this whole creative thing

It’s possibly weird, and probably because the things others regard as creative I regard as just part of everyday life, but when I think about my own creativity, it extends to what I do musically and not at all to the sewing, knitting, crochet and the like.

The music? I take a song and make it my own. The words and the notes provide direction but the interpretation is mine. I think about it even when I’m not actively singing. I plan how I should best approach certain technical aspects and ponder what story the words are telling and, therefore, how they should be delivered to impart maximum impact.

The knitting? I’m just following a pattern to make something that looks like what the picture says it should. I don’t necessarily consider that clever. Maybe if I were a more adventurous knitter, I’d have a different view of things but, you know, what I knit is easy stuff and pretty yarn does a lot of the work. Mostly, there’s a need for something and I have the skills to make the something to meet that need. It’s usually the case that someone else has already done the hard work of nutting out the pattern. And that some other knitter could follow that pattern and come up with a very similar result.

The sewing, specifically making clothes? I arrive at having something functional and necessary that possibly – even probably – fits better than RTW and is better made (I don’t, however, make many clothes because, frankly, I don’t see the need for a new dress each day of the week; and I wear my clothes for a long, long time). I understand about the cleverness some people bring to their sewing, cleverness that is decidedly creative, but I simply don’t sew enough and certainly not enough clothes.

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that's almost as good as new. You don't need a new jumper every day!

A very old, very well cared for and much worn guernsey that’s almost as good as new. You don’t need a new jumper every day!

I make lots of lavender bags and simple things like shopping totes and bandannas and toobs for cyclists but they’re neither terribly clever nor at all spectacular and, in many cases, not truly my invention. Someone else came up with the idea for a toob, for example. I merely re-created something similar when necessity dictated because YoungB was fed up with having a cold face and something that got dragged down his face each time he put his helmet on. You might call that an improvement, I suppose, but the basic idea wasn’t mine.

I have a book that describes making pyramid-shaped juggling balls for kids (to stave off boredom during holidays) and I saw some dashing pyramid-shaped paperweights (filled with rice, I think the seller told me). I’d spent a lot of years making little, ravioli-shaped lavender bags, completely handsewn and extraordinarily time consuming, so I was looking for something simpler and faster. I merely adapted those two similar ideas to come up with my pyramid lavender bags (look on Etsy and you’ll see that plenty of folk make pyramid lavender bags). Original? Hardly; though perhaps the mix in mine is one nobody else uses. Creative? Not to my mind.

Is it all about the mystique that nowadays attaches to these once mundane tasks? Time was, and it really wasn’t that long ago, when every woman and quite a few men did these sorts of things as a matter of course and necessity. It is probably true that there have always been some who took it to better levels – tidier stitch definition, neater seams, precision finishing – but it wasn’t anything exceptional and/or special. My Dad used mattress stitch to mend everything; not always neat but always effective! My Mum, who’d been taught by her own mother who was a tailoress, had the right stitch for each mending job: always tidy, even when she apostrophised it as “cobbled together”. She would often add in such cases that, “A blind man would be glad to see it.” Quite so.

Time was, we were a more musically literate society, too. I grew up in a family where everyone sang, everyone had piano lessons and it wasn’t at all weird to gather for a sing-song. I’m of an age and system where the recorder was standard issue at school (or fife if you went public system, like Youngest Aunt; a much trickier instrument altogether) or perhaps there was even a school band where you could have a good time blowing your own trumpet (or possibly trombone, if your arms were long enough). I’m not necessarily suggesting we have to bring back that era or those values or that older system. But when I grew up and everyone knitted and sewed and a lot of people played piano and sang, to bring excellence to the music was special. You had to have something extra to do that.

Maybe that’s what I mean when I say music is where the creativity is, because there were many fine, skilled pianists and singers, too; but only some of them made you sit up and listen and really pay attention to their performance. By and large, the other things – the sewing, knitting and crochet – don’t grab your attention as anything out of the ordinary. They’re part of life and that’s about it. And if they do, then perhaps they’ve gone past that utilitarian stage to being something beyond. Perhaps then they truly are creations.

And perhaps you should now go and read Karen’s post!

 

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FO: Elicia scarf

That lattice yarn? Yeah, sure does knit up quickly! A six-foot scarf in a few days? I’m impressed! IRL it’s slightly darker but the colour contrast within the skein is nowhere near as stark as what’s depicted on the ball band and I like the more subtle result.

What a lot of pink gorgeousness

What a lot of pink gorgeousness

The yarn is Lincraft’s Elicia Ruffle Yarn, a lovely bit of 100% acrylic that was out for half price recently. Well, I’d been itching to attempt using it and what better reason could there be than a colleague’s birthday AND a reduction in price?

I used size 9/3.75 mm needles, because they were handy and I like using them. The ball band instructions recommend 5.5 mm needles but add that needle size does not affect end result. To state the obvious here, the finished size will depend on how many stitches you cast on and how much of the yarn you use. If you follow the instructions on the inside of the ball band and cast on five stitches then knit to nearly the end of the skein, you’ll end up with a scarf that’s about 8 cm wide and 230 cm long. That’s what I did.

Dr B and YoungB think it’s a bit weird and I know they’re both hoping that, having got that out of my system, I’ll now get back to the serious business of making some more polar fleece toobs for them to use while motorcycling. The sewing table being somewhat clearer because that large piece of knitting is no longer there, I’m probably going to find that a much easier undertaking.

 

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effective even if inelegant

Today Dr B has gone out motorcycling with an old schoolmate. He’s wearing his RST jeans with their armour inserts. The replacement pocket I made works beautifully, he said. Great. And because he couldn’t find his own toob and YoungB isn’t using his, he’s also wearing that black toob I made for YoungB. Warms the cockles of your heart. They take it very much for granted that I can and/or will do these things for them but I don’t mind being an everyday, functional part of their lives. Yesterday, I did a spot of handsewing for Dr B, repairing a couple of splits on his motorcycling inner gloves. It’s not classy stuff and perhaps the sewing could have been neater – I mean, black thread on black fabric and small seams with a tricky curve combined with ageing fingers! –  but it does the job.

By way of a little footnote to yesterday’s post, that fabric I used for the replacement pocket is some of the leftovers from two of Dr B’s cycling bandannas and there have been several lavender bags made from it as well. Not a lot goes to waste in our house, unless it’s so old and worn it’s not worth recycling (even then, I’ve been known to chop it up to use as stuffing for door stoppers and cushions). Ideally, you would hope I might have made that pocket out of an old, white, cotton sheet. Any of those that we have are very old indeed (we’re talking in excess of 50 years).

I thought that, as long as it was sturdy cotton, then what it looked like when it was inside the jeans mattered not. Who was going to see it to comment? Dr B is delighted. He asked, in fact, if I could make some pockets for YoungB to attach to his Draggins, which don’t come so equipped. That means I’d have to put velcro on the jeans as well as the pockets. That would mean sewing four lots of velcro! I’ve passed on that for now; but if I find a good way of sewing velcro, I’ll bump it up the priority list. There’s no harm at all in providing motorcyclists with as much protection as possible.

Meanwhile, it’s Australia Day and I have the house to myself for a few hours. Aha! This might be just the opportunity for a spot of sewing for me! How do you plan to spend the day?

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2013 in Cycling, Motorcycling, Sewing

 

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stress differentials

Eldest Aunt spent Christmas with us and at one stage she and I were talking about dressmaking. I was interested to hear that she’d actually made a lot of her own clothes when she was at school. I wasn’t altogether surprised though, because she’d attended a girls’ technical high school and dressmaking was a compulsory subject throughout her years there. However, I was startled when she admitted that she’d never worn anything she’d made because, according to her, she’s always been such a perfectionist that none of it had ever been good enough. I’ll bet it would have been at least as good as anything RTW that she might have bought; and I am quite certain that insecurity rather than perfectionism drove her refusal to wear anything she’d made (I accept that some might posit a case for perfectionism springing from insecurity and/or vice versa). I was curious as to why she hadn’t been forced to do so (money having been expended on purchasing the fabric, you would have thought) and, yes, aghast at the wastefulness.

In my family, if money had been spent on buying fabric to make clothes, you jolly well wore them whether you liked them or not. Having said that, I should point out that most of the clothes were made by Great Aunt, whose sewing if not perfect was certainly excellent and highly professional. I have a wonderful dressing-gown sleeve lurking in the scrap bag I inherited from her. For some reason, she must have cut something wrongly, because I know that the matching dressing gown (Youngest Aunt’s, I seem to recall) had the requisite number of sleeves. But the seams are beautifully flat-felled and so neat that I keep that little sleeve to provide inspiration. Everything Great Aunt did was of that calibre, whether it was her sewing, knitting or embroidery.

As to not wearing things, I recall having an absolute meltdown over a particularly hated hat – no, not one that anyone had made, just one that I hated – but in those days, hats were obligatory apparel for women in churches so I had little choice but to wear it. It would not have occurred to me that refusing to wear a handmade article of clothing was ever an option. It wasn’t an option. There was a new garment that had been made, which fitted because of care taken with measurements before and during the making; and, heck, who could argue with the professional finish on those woollen dresses with vintage lace collars?

You could disagree as much as you liked with the fashion that dictated crimplene as a fabric of choice, but the dress made from it? You wore it. You could dislike the styles of the day, as I frequently did, but if a new dress had been made from a current pattern, whether it be something for Sunday best or merely a school uniform? You wore it, no matter what. And I did. Maybe, in spite of my more rebellious nature, I knew when I’d be backing a loser by even attempting to refuse to wear a handmade dress, whereas Eldest Aunt clearly won her quiet battle.

I may have been spoilt, having so many handmade clothes. I probably was. Other people my age, the majority of whom wore RTW clothes but perhaps a greater percentage of handknits than today’s youth, were in no way jealous; mostly, they were dismissive of things that were not shop-bought. The world is a strange place and seems to have come full circle. For years, YoungB was happy to wear things I’d made for him, even pleading with me occasionally TO make things for him (“Could you make me a Ninja helmet, Mummy? Today?” Black knitting, at night. Aagh! That’s the one on the left below; both made using my go-to Patons balaclava pattern).

A popular item, the black balaclava, even if you’re not a bank-robber!

It’s not so very long ago that he was as excited to get new track trousers I’d sewn as he might these days be to take delivery of new motorcycle leathers. And his present genuine appreciation of, for example, his grey sweatshirt, recent PJ trousers and the right-hand black balaclava (same pattern, different size, different yarn) to wear under his motorcycle helmet, or the toob that was even more useful for motorcycling purposes, represents one of those strange turnarounds that make life such an exciting challenge.

I have had dips and swings in my dedication to things handmade if it meant I had to make them myself but I’ve never really stopped. Eldest Aunt now neither sews nor knits because she finds those activitiees too stressful. She channels her energies into yoga and a cafe lifesyle because that’s what helps her to deal with stress. Me? I pick up my knitting or I go and sew a few lavender bags. What about you?

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2013 in Knitting, Musing, Sewing

 

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