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bloody brilliant

Would easily double as a travel blanket 🙂

Recently, I was trying to refine almost 40 years of friendship into 250 words, for inclusion at a commemoration ceremony we couldn’t attend. I failed. I managed in about twice that many, and cheated by adding a few more to accompany musical excerpts I forwarded. The musical excerpts were often for things that you could consider travelling songs.

In Australia, and particularly once you get beyond the major cities, there’s plenty of time to sing, often unaccompanied. When I was a child, my family had rounds down to a fine art. When his children were small, our late friend’s family preferred the call and response repertoire. We sang Three Blind Mice while they sang the Banana Boat Song.

Then there are songs that don’t fall neatly into either category but without which no trip would be complete. I have some memories of Botany Bay featuring in our repertoire because of its easy chorus. Our friend’s family was much more likely to belt out a song taught them by an Irish-Australian primary school teacher. I am only a little surprised that the (said to be traditional) Irish funeral or wake song Isn’t it Grand, Boys? was never in our repertoire. There might have been too much profanity for Mum’s tastes, although the rest of us would have been happy to roar it out on top note. In any case, I am delighted to have acquired it now as an extra for any trips we might take in future.

While I was auditing versions of songs to choose versions, I worked on the last few rounds of the temperature blanket. The days are cold enough now that it was a welcome addition. And it is nearly finished. There’s only one round left, and a weekend ahead.

You know where I’ll be 😀

 
 

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corner then crash

Another corner rounded, in my cooler colour palette

I whizzed around another corner of the temperature blanket and started working back along the row. The cooler colours work well together. Then I ran into some unexpected obstacles.

A friend who lives in a cold climate urgently needs some fingerless mitts. There are many patterns for such things, both knitted and crocheted. Some are in books, some are online, and many that are online also have YouTube instructions. Although my friend is herself an accomplished knitter, an ABI means that sometimes things take a little longer. I could whip up a pair for her over the weekend, and I could even make them in the colour she needs. That would be a stashbuster exercise; and I’m always looking for those. However, it would mean adding a project to my list and taking me away from my dedication to the temperature blanket.

Then, Shelley from Spincushions announced that she is running a Low Key Lock down Crochet Along. It’s a wondrous idea and I love her designs. I was mightily tempted by her last year’s lockdown CAL but resisted. I might have resisted this one, too, but for another of those unexpected obstacles: another baby on the way in the family. I see that I could combine participation in the LKLD CAL with making something for the newcomer and not feel too guilty. Also, I have reasonable lead time on that.

So, yes, oh dear, what am I to do?

 

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so far, no special design features

I’m remarkably impressed by how well I’ve counted stitches 😀

The pure-wool, machine-washable BWM 8-ply Classic is a delight to use. I hadn’t thought the cotton blankets were difficult, but I know there were quite a few, uuh, special design features in the shape of extra stitches because I’d overlooked them despite what I’d thought had been careful counting.

The viridian yarn – middle row of the right-most square – requires specs off and a strong light or I really can’t see what I’m doing, but even with those caveats, I’m pleased to say that all the sides have the same number of stitches! What is more, they’re all the same size, even without blocking.

YoungB likes the look of the joined squares, and can now understand what I mean about working backwards and forwards to achieve genuinely continuous joining. I haven’t yet joined all the first row, and I have a l-o-n-g way to go to make all the squares. I’ll eventually reach today’s square but still be well behind. By then, however, I hope that I’m catching up overall and it will be the case that I don’t have to face joining piles of squares because I’ve joined them as I’ve made them. Actual outcome will depend on how strictly I allocate time, and how good the light remains.

Anyone who has used Robin’s tight CJAYG method will note that I’ve adapted it somewhat, but the main technique is certainly based on her excellent video tutorial.

How are your design features faring?

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2021 in Crochet

 

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baby blanket business

Which-way filet, in (mostly) 8-ply cotton yarn.

I helped friends celebrate their wedding, back when it was possible to do those things with a degree of carefree abandon that we might not see again for a long while. They now have a baby daughter, and I have made her a pram rug using the which-way filet pattern. What with one thing and another – loss of enthusiasm, making mistakes and having to unpick, and all the usual business of life – it has taken me a little while to finish it and I am still not sure when I’ll be able to deliver it.

I used a 4.00 mm crochet hook and a mix of yarns: mostly BWM 8-ply cotton yarn in shade 807 Peach, and some white Lincraft cotton yarn left over from the rainbow blanket. That was also 8-ply. Because I didn’t have enough of anything to keep one colour scheme I worked the last rounds of the border with white BWM 10-ply cotton yarn. I can’t tell the difference, even when I look closely, so I’m sure the baby in question won’t be upset about the mix-and-match nature of the article in question.

Simple border, to provide a tidy finish

The border was a very simple one, whose detail now escapes my memory! Inspection suggests it was a row of UK DC into every stitch of the final pattern round, so that I would have a tidy edge from which to do a narrow finishing round. That finishing round was a two-stitch half-treble cluster all the way around. I kept the corners plain, so that I didn’t get too tangled up. Finished size is about 72 cm / 28 ins square.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2021 in Crochet

 

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slippery sidestep

The flat join and tidy finish of this CJAYG method

YoungB likes to wind me up by describing all my yarn work as “knitting”, even if it’s actually crochet. This afternoon, I visited a friend who lives nearby and, because of considerable health vulnerabilities, has been locked down tightly since before the official lockdown began. She is still being super cautious.

My friend is also bicraftually fluent and has occupied much of her lockdown by crocheting granny squares galore. She sews the squares together then donates the blankets to various worthy charities. We discussed the virtues of several JAYG methodologies. When I mentioned CJAYG, she wasn’t sure how well it would work with her squares. I showed her the progress shots of my two baby blankets and the one above will do to reinforce that it produces a neat, flat finish. I told her there are some excellent YouTube videos available (as, indeed, there are).

When I came home, I happened to mention to YoungB that my friend had been doing some beautiful crochet, and that her work was very neat (it is). He said something like, “So she’s a knitter too, is she?” I responded that she does knit, and her knitting is also beautifully neat (it is). YoungB thought I’d managed to deflect that very nicely. I decided there was no need to complicate the issue with mention of joins.

May your family not be winding you up too much 🙂

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2021 in Crochet, Health, Knitting

 

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quiet days

Home-pickled olives, the neighbourhood’s finest

Whatever you celebrate, or don’t celebrate, I do hope that you’ve managed to find some joy at the end of this very strange year. We’ve been unusually quiet, but fine with that. The Bs were out on their motorcycles today. YoungB has a farewell party to attend later, so they weren’t away for very long. Of course there was a load of laundry magically doing its thing in their absence.

Youngest Aunt hosted the usual Boxing Day lunch, and we enjoyed the fruits of her labours and her garden. In a nice symbiosis, the olives in the photo are from a neighbour’s tree, which hangs over the fence. The neighbour is happy that the olives don’t go to waste. DrB has been raving about the excellence of this year’s batch. Youngest Aunt and Uncle had foraged locally for porcini during the season. The dried, stored and later reconstituted mushrooms were showcased in lasagne, whose sheets were homemade by Youngest Aunt. Youngest Uncle helped with turning the handle, he said, so that they were able to achieve a good rhythm that led to consistent output thickness: teamwork for the win.

Youngest Aunt has always been a good cook, but – like most of us, and particularly when she was in full-time paid employment – time poor. Now that she is retired, and with the added incentive of having to stay home during lockdown, she has been able to refine some hitherto unused, or rarely used, skills. She acknowledged that gadgets such as a dehydrating oven are now an essential part of her kitchen. We were all extremely grateful for her expertise, dedication and hard work.

Did homemade feature from our end? Yes, there were handmade face scrubbies and a shower puff. Oddly enough I didn’t take any photos of the shower puff; and that might or might not have been the precise pattern I ended up using. There are many good video tutorials on YouTube. The one I made was blue with a white crab-stitched edging, somewhat like the face scrubbies. It took me almost a week to make, I think, but felt longer because it was one of those rapidly multiplying stitch totals that never seem to end. I used Bendigo Woollen Mills 10-ply cotton, but can’t remember what size hook.

That’s about all I seem to have done. I wrote no cards this year, except for one or two to accompany gifts. I didn’t post anything, and with the convenience of e-gifts and e-vouchers there was no necessity to do so. Perhaps next Christmas – yes, there’s likely to be a next one and it will be here before we’re ready for it, same as every year – we’ll be able to present things in person. In the meantime, we’re safe and not as isolated as many. We have much to be grateful for.

Year’s end is astonishingly close. May it be one where we can raise a glass to the fact that we survived this extraordinary year as we toast what must surely be a better coming year.


 
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Posted by on December 27, 2020 in Crochet, Food, Musing

 

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re(f)using to cooperate

It’s not much better by daylight!

It shouldn’t be so difficult to get a milk bottle “neck ring” to cooperate with my efforts to make Christmas decorations, however late at night. Right? I used a larger crochet hook than the yarn might normally take, so that I could wrangle the neck ring. Maybe I need to change to a different brand of milk?! This is inspired by a number of similar items out there in YouTube land and, yeah, hats off to people who ever make more than one of these.

It’s by way of being a “recyled materials only” – to the extent that “buying new materials is forbidden” – Christmas decoration for the office. All I can say is that I think the beer bottle tops may have more to recommend them, although I’m not entirely sure that they’re going to be any easier to work with. All three of us have been donating to this collection, but to my eye the colour balance is wrong. We need to drink different varieties of our local brew to fix that. There may be a place for one of the seasonally appropriate special offers.

No description available.
Needs less blue, more green and red, some gold

Lest you run away with the idea that we are incipient – or indeed established – alcoholics, I will point out that many of those tops belong to either ultra light or a competitor brewery‘s zero alcohol varieties.

Elbows, bent! But it’s all in a good cause 😉

 
 

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reflecting on yarning

Dear Mum

It’s not that I forgot your birthday this year but more that this year has already been such a strange one that normal and usual are no longer quite what they were only a few months ago. Deadlines seem to rush up, then slide past almost unremarked. And, oh, that’s another week, or month, gone who knows where, and now here it is, once again approaching the anniversary of your death.

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We’ll all get a party eventually

The three of us had actual birthdays during lockdown. We might – just – have sneaked in a special lunch for YoungB before distancing measures became too stringent. We decided that the risk was not worthwhile, and reluctantly cancelled our restaurant booking. His celebration was at home and with cake. Mine? Definitely at home and with cake. Dr B’s? Ditto. Well, I wrote about his cake! We will have a pub or restaurant meal together eventually in whatever the new version of normal turns out to be, and if there’s no second wave meaning a return to lockdown. So far, things are looking all right here in SA but we know that it would be foolish indeed to become complacent.

Because it’s winter and cold, I was musing about hot water bottles and what a difference they made to the comfort level of the crisp, cotton bed-linen we had when we were kids and which sometimes felt as nippy as the frosty ground. I recall that you knitted covers for our hot water bottles, and that Dad made a twisted cord to fasten each of them. I specifically remember watching him do that because it was something out of the ordinary that he should be contributing to a yarn project. Many years later, I made twisted cords to adorn the neckline of some baby singlets I’d knitted for a friend’s premature twins. They are easy but always effective – as you can see!

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Feather and fan singlets, with twisted cord at neckline

While I certainly remember watching you knit, I think it was so much a part of your everyday life, of you, that remembering you work on a specific project is barely possible. I remember many of the garments you made: cardigans, jumpers, woolly hats and beanies, scarves, jackets, shawls and stoles to mention just a few.

It was a treat to watch you and the Great Aunts sitting around the kitchen table when they came to visit, all busily knitting and having a yarn. I miss that kind of thing and it’s not something you and I had much opportunity to do together. Youngest Aunt doesn’t really knit, and although Middle Aunt does, we don’t haul out our knitting when we get together. On the rare occasions we meet up with our fellow-knitter cousins, we don’t sit about and knit. We’ll almost certainly have a yarn and we might occasionally discuss yarny projects but, and absolutely no pun intended, it’s clear we’ve lost that connecting thread.

You were a clever and inventive knitter, always willing to try something new or put your own twist on a technique to ensure the result you sought. Naturally, you had the occasional disappointment when no matter how you tweaked it, a pattern just did not deliver. Most of the time, I dare say only you would have known that the resulting garment wasn’t right or that – for example – the collar might have sat better if you’d tried yet another technique. Taking my cue from you, I’ve occasionally tinkered with a technique that was too fussy to bother with when a simpler one would produce the same result and avoid excessive frustration.

Crochet was never your forte, although you were competent enough to help fix mistakes in my beginner work. You conceded that it was often quicker in the hands of an expert, but pointed out that it consumed considerably more yarn; another important consideration. I am still not an expert but, as with anything done frequently enough, I have become more proficient over the years. I appreciate that, like knitting, sometimes a simple technique provides a complex-looking output and I’m all for that.

You would have loved Ravelry and found the wealth of online tutorials a valuable resource, as I have done while seeking inspiration with my latest yarn projects for your new great-granddaughters. Those projects have overall been enormous fun and a great learning experience. I think of it as a good way to keep my brain nimble as well as my fingers, including a certain amount of mental juggling between terminology. My brain still hurts from hearing people with UK accents delivering instructions using US terms.

However, I will probably never again use your mother’s crochet hook, which says it’s size 5 1/2, but is smaller than the 1.4mm that some charts say that’s meant to equate to. It’s smaller than 1.25mm or even 1.00mm, because I have hooks in those sizes that I’ve measured it against. The measurements in these charts look more accurate. I used it a few times when I was a young woman but neither my eyes nor my dexterity would be up to it now, unless I could find a way to put a chunky handle on it. That might mean I could hold it, but I probably still wouldn’t be able to see what I was doing. Heaven help us, I think I’m getting old!

And, yes, Mum, I am getting old. I am older now than you ever were, which is a very sobering thought for a chilly winter’s evening. I think it’s fair to say I have fewer wrinkles, thanks to having never smoked and, equally as importantly, being of a generation encouraged from an early age to practise good sun-protection; but I think I have much more grey in my hair, only partly disguised by what Dr B concedes is a surprising amount of lingering blonde!

YoungB is out carousing with a group of his mates in a last hurrah for the footballer among them who’s lining up for imminent knee surgery. Dr B and I are about to have some vegetable soup for dinner, accompanied by crusty bread. It’s an ideal winter meal. After that, I expect we’ll pull up a patch of couch in front of the TV. We might watch something, or one or the other of us – or possibly both or us – might snooze. No matter. I’ll pull my blue shawl over my shoulders. It does need another spot of mending, I admit, but it will keep me warm. And it will be, as ever, like having you reach from the past to wrap me in the warmth of your hug.

Thanks for all the knitting tips, Mum, and for leading by example. I’m doing my best to follow in your footsteps 😀

 

 

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haiku for Dan

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1950: Dan in wedge-tailed eagle‘s nest near Orroroo, with puppy Mowgli tucked in his jacket. Who took the photo?

Dear Dad

It’s nearly your birthday again, so here’s the annual essay letter.

The most important news is that your two great-granddaughters came into the world in March. One was born at a nearby metropolitan hospital, so we met her. The other was born nine days later at a country hospital. By then, we couldn’t freely travel about the country so we haven’t met her. What’s that all about? Pop the kettle on, pull up a chair, and I’ll tell you.

It’s been a funny old world since the last letter. My job forbids me to comment on some issues but others include: bushfires worse than Ash Wednesday 1983, which you survived despite severe burns and long hospitalisation; continuing drought in some areas while others endured the worst storms and floods for decades; and then – something far trickier to quantify – disease. COVID-19, caused by a coronavirus, is not something local or even national, but worldwide, and the pandemic still rages. Wikipedia provides a reasonable layman’s overview and enough information to confirm that it’s a dreadful thing, and far worse than influenza (or the common cold, whose causative organism is also a coronavirus).

Australia has so far been extremely fortunate. We are a large island with a small population. Distance comes easily to us, but most of the problems start within our dense coastal population. With the first wave, implementation of control measures seemed slow, but infections and deaths were relatively few. The states appeared more proactive than the federal government, with earlier introduction of travel restrictions and limiting numbers at gatherings but full, nationwide lockdown came into force from 31 March. Restrictions eased towards the end of May and beginning of June, but we seem now to be entering the second wave and things don’t look so fortunate.

There’s a whole new vocabulary: lockdown; self-isolating and self-isolation; social distancing and physical distancing (much the same thing); COVIDsafe environment; and travel bubble. There’s also work/ing from home that’s become simply WFH, and YoungB and I are old hands. Neither of us has ever zoombombed, but he is definitely adept at zooming. We don’t indulge in excessive doomsurfing but do try to keep abreast of situations affecting family elsewhere in the world. We have enjoyed many quarantinis.

As bizarre as you will think this, there were hordes of toilet-paper hoarders, whose widespread mystifying behaviour led to some actual fisticuffs. The hoarding is beginning to ramp up again with the resurgence of infections. We didn’t hoard anything but we had some damn awful loo paper! During April, petrol was at record low prices, probably – I say cynically – because so few people were able to buy it. The ACCC had to step in to ensure that motorists benefited. Yeah, right. We have availed ourselves of online grocery shopping and home delivery. The concomitant decrease in driving – and, therefore, fuel consumption – ensured that one tank lasted a long time. All those things help to make Dr B’s life less stressful, and he’s most at risk.

We don’t talk about much about stress, but mental-health considerations deserve more attention. There’s always an element of worry, bubbling away just beneath the surface. I sit at home and work and try not to think about it too much. I’m busy, and I’m not out in the world battling the public or public transport, or having to deal with a shared workspace, so I’m all right. No, not in the derogatory “I’m all right, Jack,” way that any Aussie would recognise: I’m genuinely all right, because I am not at immediate risk. I venture out only when I absolutely have to.

It hasn’t all been negative. During lockdown or isolation, many people have discovered hitherto unknown iso skills: they’ve learnt to cook Cordon bleu; or to improve existing baking skills so that they can now make bread. Dr B and I are already able in those areas, and YoungB has refined from his excellent base. For the first few weeks, Dr B tried desperately to reproduce our cafe lifestyle by baking cakes and overworking the coffee machine. That was very nice, but you won’t be surprised to hear that we have all gained a few kilos. So what, if we’re safe?

Many have turned to creative pursuits: knitting, crochet or something involving yarn, fabric or other fibres to produce an object. Some have taken up drawing or painting. Still others pursue writing as a creative outlet. I participate in an online writing group, convened by a former workmate. Our latest challenge involved writing a haiku or poem about losing the pets we love so dearly. I think farmers need a level of pragmatism about losing animals, but your several beloved sheepdogs came to mind. I chose the photo of you with one of them as a puppy for this post. Here is my haiku to describe eventually losing that dog, and those who came later and inevitably followed Mowgli:

Each across the Rainbow Bridge
Went at last, taking
A piece of their master’s heart.

I don’t have much more to say today (thank goodness for that, you’ll be thinking). It’s winter and it’s cold; precisely what you’d expect in July Down Under. We are well. We are safe. We wash our hands and practise social-distancing while fearing a possible return to full iso. As I seem to be in a poetic frame of mind, here’s another haiku prompted by the first:

When I left you were fading,
That soft, final breath
Taking you from life’s journey.

Those of us still here continue the journey and now a new generation journeys with us. Those little great-granddaughters are the latest exciting thread of your ongoing story and I think they will spin it well.

I have work tomorrow, so had better finish this. Lots of love, Dad, and remember to keep wearing those thick, fluffy socks so your toes don’t freeze!

 

 

 

 

 

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the big reveal

I’d intended to do a proper photo shoot of the little blankets. You know the sort of thing: clean, uncluttered background, good lighting, no funny angles. Yeah, of course you know.

Having said all that, when the opportunity for early in-person (via an intermediary) delivery unexpectedly presented itself, I was more than happy to shelve all those fancy plans and simply take relatively clear, relatively uncluttered photos with the best lighting I could manage so that the Little Girls could have their footy-match picnic blankets as soon as possible.

I pointed out to Middle Aunt when she collected them that there’ll be no other blanket within cooee that’s anything like either of these, so they should be easy to keep track of. The truth, of course, is that there’s not going to be another blanket anywhere in the world like either of these. Each is truly unique. In the highly unlikely event that someone else hits upon the same patterns and colour schemes, I’m sure the, uh, individual design features are entirely my own 😉

Without further ado, here are the photos.

Starburst granny rainbow blanket for Baby One, who turned out to be Baby Two:

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African flower neutrals blanket for Baby Two, who turned out to be Baby One:

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Posted by on July 8, 2020 in Crochet

 

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