Sunday, August 17, 2014

I can't imagine this will be the last time I knit penguins

penguin hat

A friend asked for a hat in these colours, with no stipulations about the design. At first I thought just something striped or maybe a simple, non-cutesy motif. You know, a non-embarassing all-purpose bloke-suitable beanie. But for various reasons, once I thought of penguins, it had to be a penguin hat! The overall look was somewhat inspired by this penguins galore hat, but the penguins I preferred came from the snowflake penguin hat by Ikumi Kayama, though I modified them to make them a bit fatter. (They still aren't the fat penguins they really should be.)

After these photos were taken, I learned that the hat was a little bit short, so I took it back and ripped back from the crown to where I had started the decreases, to add a few more rows there. With no pics you'll have to take my word for it, but it worked out better because it meant I could finish the penguins before starting the decreases.
   penguin hat2

Sunday, August 03, 2014

The Homemade Exchange is alive!

Check out The Homemade Exchange! The online exhibition went live with all the final art works last Friday.  My sister, Demelza Sherwood came up with and executed this wonderful idea and I was thrilled she asked me to be part of it.
Each participant was asked to provide a photo of a 'domestic setting without people.' Demelza then redistributed the photos, each one to be used as inspiration for a piece of creative work in any medium. The picture up top is the one I submitted - my first idea didn't work well and I ended up racing around the house one sunny morning, close to the deadline, looking for something interesting. Those pencils have lived on my windowsill for ages. I really should get them down and draw with them some time.
Above is the delicious image I received back, which came from the lovely Stephanie Hicks. Lots of inspiring texture, and I do love a nice stone wall.
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And this is my (untitled) vessel in response. I made a square sided vessel in pieces and appliqued the stones/bricks on separately. All the pieces were just lightly felted before being sewn together, and then I felted the whole piece thoroughly.
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A couple of in-progress shots below - after sewing together and before final felting. It was only after I finished felting and was contemplating how to photograph it, that I decided to turn it out the other way and have the applique on the inside. I just liked it much better that way.
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The Homemade Exchange is part of Craft Victoria's Craft Cubed festival and will be available online until 31 August. The participants are located in Switzerland, Israel, Canada and Australia, and as Demelza explains in her Craft Cubed interview, she was inspired by the experience of sharing images in Instagram and wanted an exhibition idea that would be a playful collaboration, and also manageable for friends living overseas to join in. 
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I loved being part of this, along with a lot of really talented artists and makers, including sister Emma and Rozalie Sherwood too. The absolute best part was late at night on Thursday when I finally got to see all the work in place. I love seeing the different ways people took something from the original photo, whether it was colour, composition, subject matter, or even using the photo itself as source material, and made something extraordinary. The works are so diverse and yet it seems to belong together.
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Friday, July 18, 2014

B is for...


B is for... being blocked. Stalled. For the longest time, this project just wouldn't come right. This shawl (or a red shawl, really) has been a really long time coming. I think the idea of making a lacy shawl for this special friend came when I made Kiri, in 2006 (that long ago?!), doing some of the knitting during a visit to her place. A few years after that I decided to start an Orenburg honeycomb lace scarf for her, from Piecework magazine. I worked on that on and off, even taking it travelling a few times, but it stalled after a while. I think it was never the right choice - it will be beautiful if I ever finish it, but it was quite hard work and at the same time not quite the showy, pretty lace I think I really wanted to make for her.

In last year I admitted to myself that the honeycomb, which had really stalled, wasn't going to be the one. Having made the Semele mini shawl for myself already, I hit on the idea of making a bigger version, but with lace yarn. Using laceweight seemed to be a rule in my head for this gift. I picked out some gorgeous red Misti Alpaca 'hand paint lace'. I showed the pattern and the yarn to my ever-patient friend and she liked both. Then I got down to work.

And I worked and worked and worked. It wasn't too hard, but it didn't exactly flow either. The pattern is written for 4ply, but it does also suggest finer yarn. Even with 4ply, as written it makes a fairly narrow shawl, and I forgot until I was too far in that there is the option to increase at a faster rate to make it wider and more triangular. I kept going for ages, diligently weighing the remaining yarn to make sure I would switch from increasing to decreasing before I had used up half the yarn. When I eventually stopped and had a good look at it, I started to understand why it seemed to be taking so long to get anywhere. It was getting very long actually, but staying too narrow. It was already approaching the full length of the original blue one (at top in the photo below) and I wasn't half done yet. It was going to be more of a scarf than a shawl.

3 Semeles

The other problem was that I wasn't really liking my choice of yarn for this pattern. I had thought a somewhat variegated yarn would work well enough, because the pattern has a large stocking stitch section in the middle. But I didn't really love the way the lace looked, and if I was honest, the point of this project was largely to make *impressive* lace! Now, we might also be getting at why I had insisted to myself it had to be laceweight yarn.


I had a visit to J planned and I was already working to that as a deadline. (Oh, and it was for a milestone birthday, but I had already had a shawl in mind for several birthdays so that was almost beside the point!) I thought about how quick and relatively pleasant the knitting had been when I made this pattern in 4ply. And I remembered I had some Filatura di Crosa Zarina, a very fine soft merino, in a fabulous red.

This kind of smooth, squooshy merino I always find very fast and satisfying to knit with. It went fast - after all those months/years of thinking about it and attempts, this actual shawl came together in under two weeks, with a bit of concentrated effort.


B is for... Blocking. It was really interesting making the same pattern (if not completely) in three different yarns. I love my luxurious cashmere and silk version, it is the most soft and luxurious yarn and the amazing very dark blue means I wear it quite a lot, when my more lairy scarves just clash too much with my loud winter outfits. I recently realised I have at least 6 different pairs of red tights - obviously they are psychologically warming when I am mad at winter for being cold.

Anyway, the blue Semele did photograph beautifully when held up to the light, but in wearing it, the pattern doesn't show up so much. Whereas this red yarn has a lot of stitch definition and body. Look at those bobbly leaves! This was before I washed it and blocked it by spreading it out flat and pinning out the points of the leaves.


And thank goodness, it blocked out very nicely.


B is for... bad photos.  I hate to post poor quality photos, but if they tell an interesting story, I'm not a perfectionist so I'll compromise. Even when I finished the red one I wasn't entirely sure I had made it big enough - I just knew I wanted it to be more substantial than the blue one. And even though I've played this game a couple of times, I still got a great shock to see just how big it got with blocking. The angle of the shot below probably exaggerates it a little, but it really is almost twice the size. I did some extra increases/decreases to make it more triangular, or at least wider - the specifics are on Ravelry.


B is for birthday. And for my beautiful friend. She wore it right away.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Skiing - helping me hate winter just a little bit less, since the 1990s

ski grin

After a green, grassy, mostly snowless first week or so of the season, Australia's ski resorts have been hit by successive snow storms over the past couple of weeks and now have LOTS OF SNOW! It doesn't look like I'll have a lot of time up there this season, but I got up there for a day on Saturday with a snowboarding friend and had a ball. (Thanks to him doing all the driving, I also got to knit in the car) It snowed almost all day. Of course a 'bluebird' day after a night of snow is probably the most coveted, but skiing while the snow cover is constantly being refreshed is nothing to complain about.

lots of snow
snow trees

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Good times in RAdelaide

P6091389 Grange

I recently had a few days in Adelaide. Mostly when I visit I'm there for Womadelaide, and don't spend time doing much else. This trip was a bit different, and I actually made it to the beach. I know I've been to Glenelg once or twice, but that was probably well over ten years ago. Coming from an inland city, you'd think I would seek out the sea, but I think I've been too focused on the music. Nah, I don't really have a problem with that.
P6091400 Terrace

Anyway we had a nice walk from Henley Beach to Grange, where I admired these Victorian terrace houses. If the sign is to be believed, they are Australia's only three-story Victorian sea-front terraces. Which immediately made me wonder if there are any two-story ones. Either way, they are an uncommon sight. Below, the terraces seen from out on Grange jetty.

P6091407 from jetty
There were plenty of more modern beach houses with fabulous views out to sea. These people were smart with the reflective glass.

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The next day I had some solo time in town. So after visiting a couple of favourite shops, I reacquainted myself with the Art Gallery of South Australia.
I love this gallery, their salon hanging style and the way the work is arranged, with a lot of modern, exciting, confronting art displayed along with the older works from the collection. The themes they use to organise the work seem more fresh and flexible than many other galleries. I also love the coloured walls, which when I first went there, reminded me somewhat of the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh.
cornish slate


shadow    This is The Gamekeeper's Gibbet, by British artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster. When you look closely, you see that each of the clusters creating the artists' profiles in shadows is made up small mummified animals which have been cast in gilded sterling silver. Yeah!


And downstairs, there is a small slightly crowded room all dedicated to lace.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Palmerville in Autumn

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I had heard about Palmerville via a friend who lives quite close by, as well as a recent-ish story by In the Taratory.

Still, I imagined it being a bit of a hassle to get to and I was surprised when I looked it up to find it's quite accessible and pretty much in the middle of suburbia. (They don't call Canberra the bush capital for nothing - we do have plenty of bits like this in between normal suburbs).

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A bit over week ago, Bertie Mabootoo and I went there for a Sunday afternoon photography walk. It's a very pretty and peaceful spot, the site of an early European settlement, very much pre-Canberra.

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As well as several grand elms and oaks, likely to be the oldest in Canberra and planted from the mid-1850s, the park also includes the much younger Landcare memorial forest.

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Each of these trees, natives this time, is dedicated to someone who has died. In some cases families have added extra plaques for other family members. I can't find much online about it, but this forest is clearly cared for, probably by local Landcare volunteers, and also visited by at least some of the families. I wonder if you can still purchase/dedicate a new tree? There were some saplings among the mature trees, but it looked like they were replacements for trees that had died or had to be removed.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I'll wear something pretty and white

Kina cardigan

This little cardigan for my niece was made, not long after Christmas, out of some mystery yarn. It was one of those 'allsorts' packets at Lincraft that are almost always awful stuff. This one I bought years ago, thinking it looked and felt a lot like a 4ply cotton. Once I finally started knitting with it, I realised it must have at least some acrylic in it. And when I washed the finished garment and it dried very quickly, I started to wonder if it is actually all acrylic. There are some nicer acrylic yarns that can feel quite cotton-y.

Kina heart card

In any case, the colours are fun for a nearly-6-year-old, and when I showed it to her after I had just started knitting, she pointed out all the colours that will go with clothing she owns. I really like the orange (and green) to temper the pink. I'm not against pink, but there is so much of it in the life of a little girl.


The pattern is Kina from Kids Tricots. Early in the piece, she asked if it could have pockets, so I figured out how to add those using instructions from Studio Knits.

pocket inside

I actually had a drastic false finish on this one. Somehow, when I measured the length on her, I did a stunningly bad job (it was Boxing Day, we were all tired) and I ended up finishing the cardigan way too short. The length was cropped and the too-tiny pockets were up around her ribs! Luckily it's knit top-down, so there was a bit of ripping and reknitting, but it wasn't too hard to fix, and this time I made the pockets a good bit bigger and deeper. I just felt terrible for telling her it was all done, and then having to take it back home for more knitting.

Kina cardie for niece

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Is teal in the rainbow?

I am so happy to have finished my Arc en ciel jumper, which I've been working on between other things for months and months. I think it was the second sleeve I was working on while waiting for Bruce. And that was ages ago. I work on too many things at once, often get distracted by gifts, and generally seem to take ages to knit something, so I never really get too hung up on finishing a garment for for a particular season. This one, purely by chance, was finished pretty much just at the right time to start wearing it.

stripey flat

It's warm but light, made in Crazy Zauberball sock wool. It's close-fitting enough to wear under a jacket, but the loose boxy shape will mean I can layer under it too. So I think it will see much more wear than a heavier jumper.

I'm not sure what made me so sure I wanted to make this, since I knew it wouldn't work for me exactly as written - the neckline was a wide boatneck, and a little oversized on the model so that it also fell off one shoulder. Even so, I jumped into making the pieces without quite knowing how I was going to make it work. The front and back pieces are exactly the same shape, and this worried me a bit. I would have liked to drop and shape the front neckline, but I was too lazy to work out the shaping, as everything is knit on the bias...tricky. As it is, the inside of the cowl does sit higher on my neck than I prefer, but it's ok.

I ended up following the pattern as written, but continued the neckline beyond where you were supposed to cast off, with some paired decreases either side to narrow the yoke. I sort of hate skivvies/turtlenecks, so I really needed the cowl to drape down at the front. This took some trial and error (I really should have known that stocking stitch would turn into a big doughnut) and I ended up using a slightly larger needle, seed stitch, and some increases at the centre front.

increases detail stripey jumper

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Songs that tell stories

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I had a wonderful time at the folk festival at Easter. I had one evening alone (which I like - I find it a perfectly comfortable environment to wander around alone) and a day with a very musically compatible friend. Great company! We like a lot of the same things but are also drawn to slightly different styles, which probably meant more variety for both of us. I'd tried to get her to come along with me before, but only at short notice. This time we planned ahead and had a most wonderful day.
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It's not cheap, so you really want to plan ahead and spend a whole day/night there. Then you can really get your money's worth.
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Fire performance by Zap circus.

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It's such a comfortable, relaxed festival. Almost too relaxed sometimes - the audiences are attentive and appreciative but almost always completely seated (except for a few people standing at the back or in the doorways.) I tend to think some of the bands might like people to get a bit more animated. But then, it's not a rock festival. They're probably used to it.

There seemed to be a lot of bluegrass this year, and a variety of groups. I missed the festival last year - I was travelling to Melbourne to see this guy. The year before I think there were one or two bluegrass bands, but this time, they were all over the place. (Also, so many young guys with serious beards! - which is not just a bluegrass thing) Styles ranged from quite traditional (Karen Lynne Bluegrass Circle) to the younger guys: the quite clean-cut Davidson Brothers and then the more scruffy, frenetic Quarry Mountain Dead Rats. The Rats' banjo-playing speed, in particular, had me mesmerised.

But I didn't only listen to bluegrass. Although the festival still has a strong anglo/celtic focus, there is some other folk and 'world' music. One of the first groups I caught this year were the very charming Italian folk group Santa Taranta. And in the Celtic department, we loved Fasta, who play a combination of Irish and Quebec folk music with fiddle, Irish pipes and guitar.

I am always happy to go along to the folk festival (or Womadelaide) without particularly knowing any of the acts. But this time there was a big bonus to look forward to. I've been listening to Tift Merritt's music for years, ever since I came across one of her earlier songs on a country compilation disc, and started to collect her music.
Tift Merritt
I was very excited to hear Tift play live and she didn't disappoint. Her voice is so warm, and powerful. Although they sound very different, in a way the experience of such a big voice coming from a relatively small person reminded me of the awesome Neko Case.
Tift Merritt
She is also very energetic - I couldn't get a non-blurry photo while she was actually playing and singing! Gorgeous. I really can't wait for my next opportunity to see her.

Martin Carthy And then there was this guy, English folk legend Martin Carthy. I knew of him from reading Rob Young's Electric Eden. I am so glad I got to see him. He sang wonderful songs and told some great stories too.

Each time I've been to the festival, I love it and feel at home and relaxed there, but at the same time I'm aware that there is almost a whole other festival, or at least a very different experience had by the many musicians who attend. Whether or not they are officially on the program, musicians have lots of opportunities to meet, play together, and learn from each other, including in the legendary Session bar. This year I noticed a  lot more 'blackboard sessions' than before. I don't know if this was just because the layout had changed and they were more obvious to me. These are venues where individuals or groups can put their name down for a slot to play. There are also lots of buskers. And as the long weekend wears on, you notice more and more of the formal shows where additional guest musicians are invited to join the band for a song or two.

045 busk

So, compared to many of the people at the festival, I feel a bit like I am just skating over the top. But it's okay, they still need audiences, don't they?