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bean(ie) counting?

Bright and cheerful and bound to be deliciously warm

Bright and cheerful and bound to be deliciously warm

You remember how I’d hoped to finish that second beanie really quickly? Yeah, I know. Dooming myself to failure at the outset, wasn’t I? It has been such a busy time at work that there was an evening last week where I was asleep at the table, face down in my dinner much the way a toddler sometimes is. You can’t count stitches and decreases in a beanie when all you’re eyeballing are your beans. And that’s my excuse for the appalling miscalculation with beanie 2, which is too small! I could perhaps wear it and one of our extremely petite female friends could certainly do so, or it could be put in a raffle as a child’s beanie. Someone, somewhere will be able to wear it. No harm done, though I don’t think I want to knit another to that pattern just yet. Something with unambiguous cables will be fine.

But in true, “You thought that was tricky? Try this!” fashion, I’ve found myself suddenly needing another cowl for a friend who’s unexpectedly about to undergo major surgery. I’ll once again knit a 3-hour cowl. It takes me longer than three hours – I’ve already had to unpick! – but it’s a quick knit even at my pace and the resulting cowl attractive as well as something different from anything you could purchase.

The yarn is I’m using Moda Vera’s Fitzroy, which I think is a new season’s release. I bought it at my LYS on Sunday while Dr B and YoungB hunter-gathered some groceries. Fitzroy is a 12 ply/bulky weight and I’m knitting it on a 7 mm circular needle. As with my previous make, I’m not following the instructions religiously, but the difference in appearance caused by my knitting the slipped stitches in situ then passing them over – rather than, as the instructions advise, moving them around then slipping and knitting – is minimal. For me, there’s less likelihood of dropped stitches and if I say that’s what it’s meant to look like, I’m sure the recipient won’t argue.

So, yeah, beanies? Not entirely 🙂

 

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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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scratching

It could be me, really. Copyright remains with Ingo Arndt.

I was at Spotlight the other day. It’s right by where I do my grocery shopping, so I thought I’d just bob in and have a look at some of their homewares (with birthday gifts in mind) and, although I’d quite decided that mine is an urban jungle and therefore a business suit with high heels and a few silly accoutrements would do the job for the jungle theme, I actually found myself irresistibly drawn to the remnants table and looking around on it for a piece of jungley fabric! And, wouldn’t you know it, I found some. At least, it might not be jungley, just “reminiscent of big cat and not all big cats are jungle cats but you’ll get the idea” fabric. I think it’s something like the markings on an ocelot, most of which are to be found in northern South America; that is, the Amazon. Surely that’s jungle enough for anyone.

In any case, although I reckoned I only needed a couple of metres, I bought what was left on the bolt because it seemed wasteful not to (it was a reduced-to-half-price remnant and the shop assistant threw in the balance for free)! I could probably make a little summer top out of the remaining almost a metre. It’s a stretch polyester, which is not such a brilliant idea for our summertime but it drapes beautifully and should make a reasonably flattering dress. If I make a top as well, it would still leave me the option of urban jungle because it would probably be all right with a business jacket and skirt. The trick now is to pick a pattern that won’t be time-consumingly difficult: either something I’ve made before or a very simple new pattern. I’m scratching my head about that at the moment.

Now that our own rowing state championships are pretty much over – thanks to the cancellation of the second day’s racing, YoungB still has to compete in a couple of events that, I gather, the officials are hoping to slot into a regatta in the near future – his training and all sorts of other things really start ramping up prior to the interstate regattas. Although I’m not directly involved in preparations for the interstate stuff, I’ll certainly have things to do that are beyond my ordinary daily domestica. Therefore, time for extracurricular activities – and, alas, at this time of year, sewing probably does fall into that category because it’s not portable enough to be carted off to rowing, unlike the knitted mitts which certainly are – is going to be limited. I’m scratching my head about that, too, because you might recall the party coincides with the interstate regatta.

Another bit of head-scratching relates to my lack of qualifications for employment. I’m supposed to apply for three jobs a week – and I negotiated that down from the original suggestion of five which was clearly silly – but, you know, it’s still a case of applying for what are obviously junior positions and putting my name down for information nights for jobs I’ve no hope of getting just so I can say I’ve done my bit. The lunacy of it all. It’s not as if you can really just trot out a pro forma letter for anything. You have to make at least an attempt to address the selection criteria. Nobody is going to employ me in a “starting” position and I feel stupid even sending off the application just to keep some bureaucrat happy. Attitude? Mine is not a good one at the moment, I admit.

YoungB is more sanguine about it, although he advised me against even bothering to apply for one job that he reckoned I’d find too physically taxing (he was probably right; one of his hefty mates holds such a position and finds it demanding). Both he and Dr B tell me to just keep sending off the applications. Don’t work too hard at them, don’t get too stressed about the whole procedure, don’t take it personally – I’ve had that advice from others; but sometimes it’s hard to take it any other way – and don’t let it get you down. Right. That’s all good advice but it’s such a waste of time and, you have to think, not just mine: someone at the other end has to make some sort of attempt to read the application and make a decision as to whether I’m remotely suitable.

I do transcription work from home. A couple of my erstwhile colleagues have agreed with me that we’re never going to earn a decent wage doing it, unless we’re prepared to work for a lot of hours and juggle multiple contracts. Some people do (for example, a couple of even more erstwhile colleagues – that is, those who left before jobs were targeted; what one incumbent described as escapees rather than redundants!). I think I have to balance health and family considerations against the possibility of what a negative impact it might have were I to stay up all night typing (even though I do frequently start work early so that I can make the most of the morning tranquility). I might once have reckoned that feasible but by my present age, and with my life experience, I know perfectly well that doing those sorts of things is a shortcut to disaster. So I’m just going to keep scratching out those applications and hoping for the best.

Whatever you’re scratching around at, I hope you’re finding your creative mojo. Of if you’re also on the job-hunting treadmill, just keep right on scratching away at that, too, and you might come up with the goods. But if you don’t, just remember to take your knitting to the dole office, will you? Perhaps it will keep you from scratching!

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2014 in Musing, Rowing, Sewing

 

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then some days I surprise myself

Those of you who do a lot of sewing, especially those who make clothes, will no doubt be familiar with the experience of looking at a finished article and finding it good: at least nicely made, having a quality finish and perhaps fabric, and something that you’d pay a lot for – if indeed, you could replicate it – if you had to buy it in a shop. Me? Well, you saw my recent wearable toile. Really, most of my sewing is mending or small household things. For all my grand plans, I don’t actually get much clothing sewn.

And you can't even tell that I had to redo a bit of topstitching where I ran off the edge!

And you can’t even tell that I had to redo a bit of topstitching where I ran off the edge!

I’m not sure if an apron is necessarily clothing, either. Some might argue that it’s an accessory since its main purpose is to protect clothing. Whichever school of thought you support, I made a really nice, stripey one the other day. It’s a Christmas present, of course, and its manufacture had to be slotted in around the usual chores of domestic life because I can’t sew at night (that’s a matter of simple household logistics, not so much that I wouldn’t be happy to sew all night).

Next morning, when I went back to the sewing room to check that it was properly finished – no threads hanging off or things of that unruly nature – I found myself pleasantly astonished by what a fine-looking apron I had in my hands. Wow, the pocket lines up. All the stripes align, except where I had fun playing with a contrasting alignment for the pocket, as you can see in the photo. How regular are those half-inch hems? And, gee, isn’t that a tidy bit of topstitching?! Quite a lot of tidy topstitching, in fact, all around the apron. Impressive.

All praise to my walking foot for managing to skate over so many layers of mattress ticking, which was the fabric I used to make the apron. Thanks, too, to the Purl Bee‘s wonderful Simple Linen Apron pattern and instructions. I have a favourite, tried and very true apron pattern that I’ve used to death for many, many years but decided that it was time to do something different. This is simple but satisfyingly elegant and I’m sure the intended recipient will love it. Because it’s cotton, it might have a slightly lower protective factor than a plastic or coated fabric, but it will be cooler; and when you’re slaving away over a hot stove on a 40-degree day, that’s important.

And you know that old saying about pride going before a fall? Let this be a lesson to you to look at the pictures, chickadees. I had a moment of doubt when cutting out the neck straps, because there didn’t seem to be a sufficient measurement differential but pushed ahead and followed the instructions. I even went ahead and constructed and attached according to the instructions. And, yeah, the instructions are wrong! If you go back and look at the pictures, as I did only after the event, you’ll see that one neck tie is a lot shorter than the other, not just a few inches. Oh, well, a small bit of retro-engineering was able to fix that, but I was cross with myself more than cranky with the pattern because my usual way of dealing with D-rings ought to have given me the tip.

Fabric: perhaps half a metre of cotton mattress ticking (nominally 150 cm wide, I think) bought at Spotlight in the city at least a year ago, possibly two. I prewashed, knowing it was very likely to shrink; and it did.

Thread: Coats Drima Polyester in an ecru colourway, which I’ve had for years and is no longer available (no, not white. I like that small contrast and, to be truthful, I wouldn’t have been able to see what I was doing if I’d used a white thread that completely disappeared into the fabric.).

Size: Adult; but one size given that consideration.

Changes to pattern: I stitched the hem on the pocket piece before attaching it to the apron.  That helped avoid the fluff-collecting extra flap of fabric in the pocket and made for a slightly tidier finish (just my opinion; but since ticking is very prone to fraying, I thought too that the zigzagged edges alone might not do the job). And, you know, there was the thing with the neck tie.

All in all, I’m very happy with this. I should have spotted the problem with the neck tie earlier, but it was easily fixed. So, okay, here we are a few days away from Christmas and I’ve finished one gift. Right! Will I have to resort to gift vouchers from Bunnings for the boys (they’re all tinkerers of one sort or another) and Dymocks for the girls (who are mostly rapacious readers), do you think? What’s your emergency plan?

Good luck with it all, anyway.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2013 in Sewing

 

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different yarns

Have you ever had unexpected results when knitting? Sometimes a yarn that looks pretty knits up to something quite ho-hum. I’ve had that experience recently with Lincraft Big Wool, a soft, fifty-fifty wool and acrylic yarn. It’s a thick/thin yarn described as roving style and I bought dye lot 18308, a denim mix. It knitted up in blobs of colour and texture that looked clumsy; and it didn’t matter how I tried, that flat seam was never going to be invisible. The hat is OK – it even looks all right on Dr B; and YoungB rightly said it’s nice and warm – but perhaps not for gifting to anyone. Dang. There went that bit of birthday knitting!

Quite an obliging hat model, don't you think! However, colour and texture in the hat itself are best described as lumpy.

Quite an obliging hat model, don’t you think! However, colour and texture in the hat itself are best described as lumpy.

And then sometimes, a yarn that looks all right if not spectacular knits up to something impressive. I have what is probably a love-hate relationship with Moda Vera Bouvardia yarn. It’s soft and there’s a lovely range of colours but most of them also have bits of utterly unrelated and not flattering colour within the skein and in the past, I’ve found the skeins to have significant amounts of knots. I think you’d agree, that’s frustrating at best, particularly if you don’t notice the knot till you’re halfway through a long row. This one proved a lovely exception. There were no knots and it has knitted up to an overall look that’s dark but not dull. The resulting hat/beanie is so nice I almost don’t want to give it away to anyone!

Soft yarn and a pretty colour mix.

Soft yarn, smooth texture and a pretty colour mix. Nice hat!

These are a couple of my recent concurrent-with-mitts projects that I can knit at the table, listening to vigorous discussion as to what movie we might watch, and not fear I’ll make a mistake. The first is made using my Villawool Inca hat pattern, the second pretty much of my own reckoning with some assistance from the Yarn Harlot’s Knitting Rules as to decreasing. You need plain projects but the results don’t have to be plain.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Knitting

 

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FO and a sort of plan for next year

I hope you’ve all enjoyed your Christmas celebrations, whatever form they took.

An FO? Yes, just one: the White Caps Cowl, which I was knitting till almost 9 o’clock on Boxing Day morning (luckily for me, it wasn’t needed until lunchtime; but, yes, it was somewhat necessarily, therefore, gifted unblocked). Sewing? A few lavender bags. Other knitting? None. Surviving the end-of-year busy-ness was sufficient achievement. And, as I’ve yet to send cards, I’m not too sure if we have survived. I’m going to call them New Year cards, though. But, you know, we made it through a festival of feasts and visits by friends and family, a birthday, a wedding anniversary, exam results, exploding champagne, a concert or two and lots of everyday stuff that included inordinate amounts of time dedicated to fitness pursuits (no, not me; that was everyone else while I was playing laundry lady).

What can I say about the White Caps Cowl? I adapted it slightly in terms of number of repeats. I think it’s probably a make that would knit to a nicer finish in its recommended yarn but I’m quite taken by the weight of the Patons Sorrento, the hint of glamour it provides with the slightly shimmering aspect of its mixed fibre and the smooth contrast of the Cleckheaton Bamboo. As far as knitting went, the bamboo was much easier on the hands and I was able to make reasonable progress. The variable thickness of the Sorrento slowed me down quite a lot. It hasn’t put me off by any means, as I’ve stocked up my cupboard with enough yarn to make a couple more of the White Caps Cowls throughout the year (it really is good on-the-bus knitting and I love the look of it). I might not use a faux seam with another make; it doesn’t really ring my bells. The photo was taken hurriedly with my phone, prior to wrapping; excuse background (bedcover) and less than ideal lighting.

Flat cowl

Not exciting but looks better in action

One of our visiting friends has put in a couple of knitting requests and I’ll be happy to oblige her with a Villawool Inca L574 hat in a colour scheme to her liking (that will be a reasonably fast knit, even at my pace). I’ve yet to decide on the yarn for that (the Villawool Inca being no longer available) but am fairly sure I could manage it from stash, which you’d have to consider a win. Hardly surprisingly, the really thick winter yarns are somewhat thin on the shelves at this time of year. There will also be a three-colour linen stitch scarf though I have absolutely no intention of making it as long as its predecessor. I understand about long scarves and cold climes, truly I do; but there is a point beyond which the extra length simply gets in the way. I bought yarn for that yesterday at Spotlight. I would like to make one for myself but will wait and see how other things pan out before I make that a firm promise/plan.

I started something akin to a prayer shawl – perhaps a care shawl – for a colleague who has had a rotten year by anyone’s standards. I won’t finish it quickly (the needle size is just on the edge of my comfort zone and I struggle to find a rhythm even with the very easy pattern) but it might be ready for her April birthday. In any case, she’s not expecting it so in some respects I have as much leeway as I need on that one.

The yarn bombing coordinator rang the other day to ask for more contributions: red hearts and lots of roses, not necessarily red, for another yarn bombing project, the previous one in Victoria Square having been hailed as such a success. I’ve already crocheted up a few test roses which will be perfectly acceptable contributions and am looking around for a heart pattern that looks sufficiently heart-like and sufficiently large. I think this one fits the bill. I know where the drop-off point is and I have my dark glasses at the ready so I can ensure my hearts and flowers are there before the due date. You might not be surprised to hear that Dr B and YoungB have somewhat taken this yarn bombing idea and run with it, referring to secret language, pack leaders and cell members as if it were an underground movement. I humour them. At least they’re not objecting!

In sewing news, I’ve repaired YoungB’s Draggins (kevlar-reinforced motorcycling jeans) again, having previously taken up the hem by the amount he requested. Anyone who knows about jeans will understand that much use had seen them sag to a point where the hems were in shreds. This time I cut off the original and new hems and turned them up twice. They might look a shade short were he to wear them with loafers but as that’s unlikely – his motorcycling gear has been carefully chosen to enable him to wear it all day, boots included (though I’d accept that leathers in winter are for on the bike and not much else) – then we reckon that this time they won’t catch on his boots nor drag on the ground. That’s not the sort of drag the brand intends although I’ll be very happy if it’s the only sort this pair of jeans ever encounters.

I still haven’t managed to make a new top for myself or tinkered with my rescued skirt and stripey trousers to create the jacket I’d half-imagined could be made from them, using Portia’s kimono-tee pattern as inspiration (it’s a winner; I’ve already used it to make five tops of varying degrees of respectability). They will happen at some point, I suppose. However, I have received my Pattern Pyramid winnings from Meg and will undoubtedly have something to show you from that; but not just yet. So if you’ve been eagerly awaiting the announcement, take this as advance warning. I’m still rather run off my feet and although – o frabjous day! – I have managed to clear the sewing table (nearly, anyway), I have a couple of other urgent tasks that simply have to be done before I can allow myself to be frivolous.

All in all, I think 2013 is going to be just like 2012: full of good intentions, lots of things made that I didn’t really intend to make, other people’s things coming ahead of mine on a regular basis and anything made for myself done terribly last-minute and not terribly well! I do hope that you have a better year in terms of your crafty endeavours, whatever form they take. Cheers, everyone, and happy new year.

 
 

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fifty things

I’m sure there are at least that many chores awaiting my immediate attention. I am, however, far too tired to attempt any of them (it’s not wise to sew when you’re tired). I bought some fabric for Dr B’s bandanna and brought it home to approval from both him and YoungB. This is what it looks like:

Fairly wild, isn’t it?

We were discussing size of finished article and I was attempting to explain that I’d have to make a different calculation depending on whether I used a flat hem or a rolled hem. Dr B wanted a flat hem because a rolled hem wouldn’t be flat, would it? I gave up at that point. Obviously I’m incoherent. In any case, I was able to convince him that the hem wouldn’t dig in either way because he’d be wearing the square of fabric with the diagonal across his forehead. Oh, yeah. That’s right! But not tonight he won’t.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2012 in Cycling, Sewing

 

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