Wednesday, August 20, 2014

of Llamas and other such stories

Many years ago, I borrowed this book from my local library, captivated by the beautiful patterns based on traditional folk knits - mainly bags - of the Andes region.   Admiration however, was about all I could offer. I was completely intimidated by the technique and skills required for many of the projects.  I remember the feeling of inability well; I couldn't even make sense of the instructions.

On a recent trip to the library, I spotted this book and picked it up again, mostly just to admire , but to my surprise I found myself with a brand new perspective both of the projects within and my skillset. Instead of being intimidated, I found myself assessing construction methods with a nod of comprehension, and noting the simplicity of much of the colourwork.

I am surprised at the leaps I've taken with my knitting, I have to say.  If you'd asked me, I would have agreed my finishing and attention to the finer details had certainly improved, but I doubt I would ventured to say my knitting proficiency had changed in any significant way.  It was a nice moment, to be able to acknowledge the growth.

Armed with this newfound confidence, I checked out the book and cast on this sweet little Llama bag using some of my recent Bendigo purchases - 100g of Karoa Fibre.

(It seems I must be a sucker for small, fiddly novelty knits)

The construction of this little bag is something that first time around, I would have been totally bamboozled by.  The legs are worked similarly to afterthough heels on socks, something I'd never even encountered all those years ago and there is absolutely no sewing up - all the little pieces like the face, ears, tail are knit either from live stitches or by picking up stitches directly in place.  

The legs of this bag are actually unas, small pouches traditionally used by market stallholders for things like sorting change by denomination, storing talismans' or keys, amongst other things. 
As well as being visually beautiful, the book is also a lovely read as the author goes into good detail on the history and purpose of the bags in traditional cultures of the Andean region, as well as providing background on fibres and the roles animals such as llamas play within the communities.

I just love those ears!!

What would you say are your shifts in perception over the years of working creatively?  Do you forget to reassess yourself and your talents every now and then, allowing that things change so subtly over time that they sneak up on you too, like this? 

Friday, August 15, 2014

being M.I.A. just makes the heart grow fonder, yes?

While lamenting to a derby friend that I'm struggling to find time to get everything done, she pithily responded "Haven't blogged lately either..."!! And she's right!  I have really been trying to get into a habit/rhythm of posting every Wednesday, and for a while there it was working really well.  Then one thing and another started to happen and before you know it, it's been three weeks...

Thank you to everyone who has hung around and stuck by me and my blog-musing through periods of inactivity and absence.  New readers, thank you for giving me a look-see - I will be getting more organised, I promise!  

I have some larger projects on the go at the moment so they may be as good a place to start as any.  Firstly, I'm working on the Nightingale Vest, from Amimono's 'Bird Collection' book.

I'm using Isager Highland & Alpaca 1 held together and it's making a beautiful fabric.  Knit on 3.5mm needles, this one may take me a while.  There are roughly 4 more rows of Bell Stitch before I divide for the armholes.  Bell Stitch is a 15 row pattern repeat, which roughly equates to 2 rows of @#%! hell balanced by 13 blissful rest rows.  I'm learning to be at peace with it, but it's a special kind of patience required let me tell you.

Speaking of special kinds of patience, if you follow me on Instagram you may have seen I recently finished a Sophisticated Mr Fox stuffie.   I used Rowan Fine Tweed and I think you'd have to agree - it's the *perfect* fox colour, no?

Knitted toys are look at!  Super-fiddly to knit.  And super-laborious to sew up!!

Lucky he's so damn cute (and sophisticated).  He'll live at the shop, so keep an eye out for him if you come to visit.  

During my absence, I have been watching and listening to a lot of fibre podcasts. As a result,  I'm participating in a KAL hosted by the FiberTrek crew, Sarah and Morgan, over on their Ravelry group.  Do you watch their podcasts?  You should.  They are wonderful.  They do great regular spots not only on fibre, patterns and projects, but also interesting facts on fauna and textile history.  They also have really great, dry senses of humour :)

The KAL is the Karina Westermann "Vedbaek" shawl, and it's proving to be just the perfect antedote to all that "patience" knitting I've been preoccupied with.  The stitch pattern for the main body of the shawl is easily memorised, and very clear to read, should you zone out a little too much.

I'm using Shilasdair Luxury 4ply in the Skye Gabbro colourway.  Love it, both the yarn and the pattern.  It's my project for TV watching, car travelling, grabbing time to fit a few rows in on my lunchbreak, and I am really enjoying the soft hand of this beautiful yarn.

That doesn't really seem like a lot to have been so occupied by these last three weeks, does it? Actually, truth is, it's not all I've been doing.  I've got some exciting things going on behind the scenes that I'm dying to share with you, but I can't let details slip just yet!  All will (hopefully) be revealed soon, but until then I will make a concerted effort to provide you with some interesting snippets.

I really hope you can stick with me and my sporadic updates until then!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bendigo '14

I haven't been able to make it up to Bendigo for the annual Sheep and Wool Show for a few years now, so I was very excited to have the planets align this year and be able to dash up for the day last Sunday with Jules.

We planned to take the (early!) train but due to a defective engine we ended up on the next (still early!) train and managed to get to the Show by 11am.  

We were blessed with a beautiful day both weather-wise and for the company and experience but I somehow managed to not take a single photo throughout the day...

It's all about the haul anyway, isn't it?

I was very restrained this year.  Working in a wool shop seems to have curtailed my susecptibility to yarn fumes a little, although there were lots of temptations!

Overall, I went for things that are harder to get, or a bit more unusual. 

The very first purchase of the day wasn't even yarn - it was this cute little woven bowl!  It includes corn husk, hemp thread, date palm and cordyline.

I'm keen to try my hand at basket weaving this year, and I had a lovely chat to the ladies from the Basketmaker's of Victoria.  They were so encouraging, and I can't wait to get started with them.

Next up was 200g of  Wirrawarra in "Tawny Owl" which will become a lovely squishy cowl for me.  I particularly love the ply of this yarn, which give it this lovely marled look.

A trip to Bendigo S&W isn't compete without a visit to the Button Lady.  I was VERY restrained here, but it was so hard!

By this stage I was feeling a bit weighed down, so I grabbed this basket.  It will be perfect as a knitting basket, to sit next to the couch and house my bits and bobs.

In our final shed for the day, I picked up this skein of 80/20 sock yarn from Fiberific.   I love the subtle dyework on this yarn.  It wil become socks of some description but undecided on the specific pattern yet.

plus 100g of squishy mushroom pink wool that will be a cosy hat for someone.

 My last purchase of the day was made impulsively as we headed to the shuttle bus to take us back to the station, and was also my biggest purchase!

3 skeins of luxurious Bunny Mink from Ixchel, in pale grey, charcoal and turquoise.

I was tempted by the mint colour as we first walked in but it's not a colour I wear very often, so I left it at the time.  A single skein of the turquoise caught my eye as we were leaving and it was a done deal.  Jules suggested they would make a lovely Colour Affection and I'm inclined to agree.  I'm not sure I *love* the pattern though, so I'm on the hunt for something similar but different?

There's been a lot of stash-flashing on Instagram - it seems like it was another good show for a lot of people.  Did you go?  What did you love so much you had to take it home?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

All about the accessories

After recent back to back adult sized garments, I've been ready for some quick and dirty projects with lots of instant gratification! Plus I've identified a bit of a hole in my accessories collection, namely hats and shawls/scarves.  And by hole, I mean I'm sick of all the ones I've knit previously and I'm ready for a refresh.  There's not seriously a lack of anything knitted in this house, trust me.

Sunspun have just started stocking Shilasdair yarns and I've been keen to try them. If you're not familiar with this yarn company, they are based in Skye, Scotland and produce a beautiful range of luxury-base yarns dyed with natural botanicals. 

I chose the 8ply weight, in the Fleece Cloud (natural) and Atlanic Blue (pale blue variegated) colour ways for this cutie-pie snowflake beanie, and the glorious Uig Sea-Green in the same weight for a Winterberry shawl.  

Good sturdy accessories, adept at keeping the bracing winds out, I feel.

I recently ordered a hard copy of "Journey", the collection by Jane Richmond and Shannon Cook.  This is a wonderful collection of patterns, including socks, a hat, a large shawl, some wristwarmers, a cardigan and a jumper. 

I've already made the socks (as a sample for the shop), and this week I quickly whipped out the wristwarmers, using some Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 12ply in a deep cobalt blue. They are toasty warm and I love the honeycomb stitch pattern.  There are also plans afoot for the shawl and beanie too, and when I'm ready to go back to jumpers, I've got some lovely, rich alpaca earmarked for the jumper.

It's been wonderful to have these little things flying off the needles, and the accessory drawers are once again full, a happy state of affairs indeed.  

It did get me to thinking though - what does one do with all their handknits that they no longer wear/want?  Some of mine are perfectly fine still; the lack of wardrobe rotation is more an indication of colours I no longer wear, or too many similar styles of that particular item at the time.  If you have any tips or bright ideas, leave me a comment and share! 

Until next time, stay warm x

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

If I was a flower growing wild and free all I'd want is you to be my sweet honey bee...

I seem to be getting rather theme orientated lately and this week's post is no exception, as will soon become apparent...bear with me.

First things first - there was a slight detour from the Year of Sweaters by Season project.

Instead of casting on my Spring sweater (a light and lacy little cropped cardigan in fingering weight alpaca), I decided to make a Beeline in some lovely fuzzy Creative Focus, and it has barely been off my back, so comfortable and warm that it is.  Warmth being the key word, given how freezing it's been in Melbourne this past week!

This was another great pattern from Heidi Kirrmaier, backing up after my Peasy.  Her attention to detail is spot on, not only in her pattern writing but also in her design aesthetic.  There's the lovely eyelet detail on the raglan increases that is also echoed in the bias line mirroring both sides of the front.  The neckline has just the right amount of scoop, and the slightly tapered body means it's roomy without looking oversized.   Very flattering and very wearable, on a number of body shapes.

Mostly I knit this to pattern, using the M2/42" size.  There's 5-10cm of intended positive ease, and I think that's the exact right amount in my finished piece.  I did add a bit of length to the body, about 5cm in total.  At the recommended length it was sitting right on a point of my waist that I know I don't like, from previous experience. It makes me feel like I've got to keep tugging at the hemline!  I also shortened the sleeves just a smidge, apparently I'm short-armed!

As for the yarn, I really did um and ahh on whether this was the right choice for the project.  There are mixed reports and reviews all over Ravelry and other forums, none really that flattering in honesty, but the colour (Golden Heather for those interested) was exactly what I wanted and I really wanted to try for myself; to make my own judgements.

I'm so glad I did!  Yes, this yarn sheds, and it has a splitty tendency; two of the main complaints against it.  It's a very loosely plied wool/alpaca blend, so neither of those statements are really that surprising.  I didn't find the splittiness as annoying as others, although I did need to pay attention.  A couple of times I had to drop down and fix a split stitch, but that wasn't a lot, or a huge inconvenience. The benefit of the yarn's blend is that there is a lovely halo of long fibres on the finished fabric, and that was part of my intent.  I wanted a slightly retro feel to this jumper, almost like the mohair jumpers of the 50's and 60's.

The other common complaint was that for an alpaca blend, this yarn was super-itchy.  I'm actually quite sensitive to wool-itch, and normally can't wear even blends next to my skin, but this jumper has surprised me in being one of the softest, non-itchy jumpers I've ever made.  I can comfortably wear it next to bare skin, even up around my neck, where I'm usually the most sensitive.  So go figure.  Whether it's the particular tension I've knitted to, I don't know.  But no issues with itch, from the Princess of Itch.  That's a win in my book.

Also, I’m shocked at how little yarn was needed, which seems to be a trend for me this year (possibly due to knitting everything in alpaca blends?). This took exactly 5x 100g balls of Rowan Creative Focus and that's good value in any language, for a jumper of this style.
Overall, a very happy detour was my sweet Beeline, and very happy I decided to see for myself about the yarn.
There was another little project I finished this week - some Honey Badger socks.  Like the Beeline, I used some yarn that I've been wanting to try for a while - Ella Rae Laceweight merino.  Despite the name, this yarn is actually a fingering weight 100% merino, not a laceweight, lest you think I've lost my mind and forayed into knitting laceweight socks!

I've had this skein of hand-dyed in my stash for a few months, having originally purchased it with the intent of making a small shawl of some type, however I had begun to think it wasn't really a colour I'd wear as a shawl.  Being 100% merino, it's probably not the best choice for socks, but I have compared it to Jitterbug and it has a similar high twist so I'm thinking it may be alright?  I'll probably save these for house socks and keep them away from my boots though, just in case.

Upon knitting, this yarn is a bit softer than Jitterbug, but it does the same lovely crisp stitch definition, highlighted by this pattern which utilises a PSSO as part of the lace pattern.  Honey Badger is a free Ravelry download from Irish Girlie Knits, and is very well written for a freebie.  The lace pattern is very addictive so it goes rather quickly too.  These took me just two weeks of not very consistent knitting to complete.  

Aside from some inconsistent pooling between each sock (what's up with that?), I'm pretty happy with them.  Oh, I did a round toe, just to give it a go.  It's OK, kinda like crown shaping on a beanie.  Will let you know how it wears, but seems comfortable so far.
So there you go. This is the week of the Honey and the Bee.  Perfect for brightening the Winter's days and lending thoughts to warmer days ahead.
I think on that note I'll leave you with one of the sweetest songs around, nearly guaranteed to put a smile on your face, and referenced in the title of this post.  Enjoy x

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The fortnight in which Kylie was super productive

So productive, she forgot to blog last week - oops!!

I  finished off some lingering knitting projects...

Climb socks (samples for the shop)

Anklets - these are samples for the upcoming sock workshop I'm teaching at Sunspun in October.  Very exciting times, to be able to share my passion for handknit socks, and my own pattern, with other knitters in this format!

Both socks are knit using Naturally Waikiwi sock yarn, which is a blend of Merino, Alpaca, Nylon and Possum.  It's a really sturdy but soft yarn, and noticeably warmer than some other sock yarns I've worked with.

I frogged some old FO's that just weren't right, including my Whisper.  Which means I now have 200g thereabouts of beautiful Madtosh fingering weight to play with.  

I'm leaning towards a Halligarth, by Gudrun Johnston. What do you think?

I may have also purchased some more yarn...

Jitterbug "Caramel" (top) and "Paintbox" (bottom), because everyone knows sock yarn doesn't count as stash.

I've also cooked up a storm...

- lentil, bacon and vegetable soup
- country chicken casserole, in the slow cooker (yum)
- zucchini slice, a near-weekly standard in this house
- apple and oat crumble
- san boy chow
- beef chilli, another slow cooker recipe
- mandarin and poppyseed muffins
- Spicy chickpea and eggplant tagine
- Vietnamese Pork ball noodle soup

It's perfect weather for soups and casseroles, but I'm often out too late to make them each evening, so this should keep the freezer stocked for a while.

Then I planted more herbs, succulents and natives out into our backyard, as things were looking a little bare after the end of the tomatoes and other seasonals, and I tidied up wardrobes and cupboards inside.

I've caught up with loads of friends - Uni friends, knitting friends, old work friends, and roller derby friends - which has been wonderfully rejuvenating!  I really miss seeing all these people on a daily basis, but it's hard to fit everything in, isn't it?   

As tiring as the thought of being super busy can be, sometimes I need a little push to get out and make time to do things I enjoy and that nourish me.  I've found I'm actually more energised and the creative ideas and motivation has been on a high, simply by making myself tick things off my list (after making a priority list, mostly that didn't include household chores!).

Anyway, hope you're all having a great week and have had an equally productive time of it.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Winter has arrived

Oh how I love Winter in Melbourne!

We are blessed with cool crisp weather here, perfect for doing all those hibernating things Winter is designed for, but also just right for rugging up and getting out and about.

Which is what we did over the weekend...

A beautiful 2-hour walk first thing Sunday morning, along the creek and around the wetlands near our house.  We discovered a bird hide, and said "Good Morning!" to lots of like-minded walkers and bikers as we went, and heard loads of frogs - always a good sign of a healthy environment, I think.

no birds, but the layers of vegetation reminded me of stranded colourwork

We were almost home when the light mist turned into a fairly steady rain, which is all part and parcel I guess? Nevertheless, it was so nice to get inside and dry off, and get cosy with some handknitted socks and a bowl of lamb and barley broth.

And of course, with my knitting.

Beeline, in Rowan Creative Focus
Baby bonnet with earflaps, in Isager Alpaca 2
and a new project bag from a recycled op-shop pillowcase

Hmm, I'm sensing a colour theme...

There's been a slow pace at our place this week.  Housework has been kept to the bare minimum and creativity, planning, and taking time to enjoy some down-time have stepped to the forefront.  I like this balance.  I've got a few designs in the works at the moment, which I'm trying to get written up and ready for release; very exciting stuff!  I'm also trying to make time to get to galleries, visit people, and read books or just listen to music (as opposed to just having it on in the background).  

Plus I've been working on ideas for displays and presentation for the shop.  I love visual presentation, and am so happy to be given licence to experiment and create beautiful vignettes for all the samples and new products we are bringing in.

I find when I place focus on my creative process and space, even more ideas and thoughts and what-ifs, and extensions of all of the above start flowing.  Ideas filling up my head faster than I can get it written in my journal, or on the needles/canvas/paper/sewing machine, and it's such a rewarding exercise that I'm always astounded I don't do it more often!  From experience thought, I know it's hard to keep the creative "on" all the time.  There needs to be some allowance to regroup and breathe (and do the dishes!).

The balance is harmonious at the moment, however.  I can live with the mess.