Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Craft Sessions & a Tulip Skirt

The second annual Craft Sessions is a wrap!  

What a wonderful weekend.  Jackie and I worked in the shop on Saturday and headed up to the Yarra Valley straight after doors closed, arriving just in time for a pre-dinner drink and a catch up with friends.  

After having worked all day then driving for over an hour, I have to say it was such a beautiful vibe to walk into.  Everyone was relaxed, but at the same time pumped about their workshops that day, and there was a lot of show and tell, high excitement about new skills learned, and many brain cogs whirring with new inspirations. (you could all but see them whirring, I swear!).

It was great to sink into those big leather couches and just soak it all in.  I ended up staying up much later than I'd planned, knitting and chatting, finally hitting the bed after 11pm. (rockstar that I am not, this is actually very late for me!!)

I'd booked into the Wiksten Tulip Skirt workshop on Sunday, and couldn't wait to get started.  I am, at best, a hack at sewing, so I was really hoping to pick up some tips and tricks to refine my technique and finished pieces from this class.  The teacher, Sophie Parslow from adaspragg, certainly came through with the goods in that department!  She conducted the class in a great format, giving a couple of instructions at a time before proceeding to the next step.  I found this really allowed participants to work at their own pace and receive individual attention as required.

I learned how to execute french seams like a boss, as well as other nifty tricks, and I've ended up with a very wearable skirt.  I'm really happy with my fabric choice too.  It's a mid-weight cotton and it's got enough substance to hang right, without sitting too stiff.  

What was the biggest thing I took away from this workshop though? Who knew that, just like a knitting swatch, acurate measuring and consistent seaming results in a garment that fits?! Crazy stuff.

I did also glean some good ideas on setting up my workspace, and how to make the sewing process run a bit more smoothly in doing so.  At the moment, there just isn't space to have a cutting table, an ironing board and a sewing station set up at my place, so I'm moving from room to room and working around furniture at each step.  It's kind of a pain, and a definite hinderance.  I'll share my thoughts on the new setup ideas after I've had time to implement them in a domestic environment.

As always, departure hour came all too quickly and after a lovely speech from Felicia at afternoon tea, it was time for goodbyes and promises of "see you next year!".  

Like many others, I'm so grateful to Felicia and her wonderful team that we are able to have this event - it is truly a gift to be able to attend and be able to immerse yourself within that wonderful, creative environment.  Here's to many more Craft Sessions to come!

As ususal, I was too busy "being there" that I forgot to take many photos!  For more details on the Craft Sessions 2014, head to this post from Felicia xx

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Getting organised

Oh my, it's a busy time for me at the moment.  I came home from work on Friday and was kinda hit with  an overwhelming feeling of "how am I going to get all this done?!"

But of course, get done it must, so out came the whiteboard and tasks were sorted into sub-groups by priority.  I'm pleased I've been able to work methodically through most of my to-do list, plus a few extras, and am now feeling a little more on top of it all as I head straight into another busy week.

The organisational spree has included the creative space and the greater home environment as well.  My craft supplies and tools seem to have a habit of spreading themselves around all and every surface so getting them under control was first on my list.  

A few weeks back, Laura from the KnitGirllls mentioned her method for keeping her circular needles organised on the podcast, and I thought hers was a really nifty idea.  She uses an accordion file and stores them by size.  When I was in Officeworks this week I picked myself up this stylish little one and sorted the huge tangle that was my needles straight into their relevant file.  It's small enough to sit out of the way on my workstation, but in reach when needed.

While I was sorting needles, I also found this sweet vintage tin for my various dpn's.  I have two needle cases that I made some time ago for my sock dpn's and they are very handy, especially if I'm taking them travelling, but they only fit so many sets and nothing over 20cm long, so this tin is perfect for the overflow.

While I was sorting all the needles, I took the opportunity to clear out some of the old needles that I'll probably never use again.  I'm a bit (a lot) of a magpie, and I can't let go of things easily even if I have plenty.  I'm hoping they are just what someone is looking for at the opshop though.

I also reorganised my flat, and now have my sewing table set up permanently!  I love having my sewing machine and overlocker ready to go.  It makes sewing so much easier and a more frequent occurrence, when I don't have to clear the kitchen table and set up/pack up every time I want to do a quick sew-up.

Which is good, because I'm hoping to pick up lots of tips and sewing inspiration after my Craft Sessions Wiksten Tulip Skirt workshop.  Another thing ticked off my list on Sunday - I got my fabric, interfacing and buttons!  I also managed to get the pattern at a discount, using an Interweave coupon code I found online - huzzah!

I'm really pleased with fabric, and I love the buttons!  Options for fabrics are pretty limited down my way, and I did struggle a bit to find a print I liked in an appropriate fabric, but finally settled on this and I think it's a good choice.  It's a mid-weight cotton and I can see it being a very wearable and versatile skirt.  The buttons are actually slightly translucent, which isn't really showing up in the photos, and with their opaque cream dots, they sit really well on the fabric.

I *may* have picked up some extra metres or two while I was there.

 I've made some more progress on my Vedbaek shawl - onto the 8th repeat (of 9) so nearing the edging chart very soon.  It's used way less yarn than I'd originally thought so far; it will be interesting to see how far the second skein goes now the stitch count is greatly increased.  I'm anticipating getting it done with 400m though (unless the edging chart chews through meterage like a barracuda!).  Photos next week...

Sadly, I don't think my Nightingale Vest will be finished in time to wear to the Craft Sessions, though. But that's OK - I'll take it along and hopefully get a row or two in on Saturday night.  It's looking beautiful so far though, and there will hopefully be an FO next week!!

So that was my week.  I feel a lot more in charge of things this side of the weekend, and can see a clear path ahead through the next few weeks to come.  If you're going to the Craft Sessions, hope to see you there!  Otherwise, see you all next week and until then - happy creating :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An exercise in concurrent monogamy (isn't that bigamy?!)

I'm trying something a little bit different this month with my WIP's, and currently only have two things on the needles!  For me, this is very different to how I usually work.  Usually, I have at least 3-4 projects on the go at any given time, and I work on them as I want.  Although I set goals and have plans well in advance, I also like the flexibility to cast on what I like, when I like.  I'm that kinda gal.

Which is wonderful, nothing wrong with it.  It's a method that works well for me as a general rule.  Not necessarily always conducive to finishing things in quick turn-around though, and I'm usually A-OK with that, however sometimes I get these notions in my head that there might be A Better Way...

The spur behind this notion is two-pronged.  Firstly, I've gone and applied a self-imposed deadline for my Nightingale vest, in the hope that I will be able to wear it to the Craft Sessions (Sept 5-7), and secondly  I signed up to participate in Fiber Trek's Vedbaek KAL.

The shawl is travelling with me to work and appointments, picking Lily up from rehearsals and such.  It's such a lovely pattern, very rhythmic and easily memorised.   I think I've only got 3 repeats to go before I start the edging, too.  The yarn (Shilasdair Luxury 4ply) is a delight to work with as I've mentioned before - soft and smooth; it passes through my fingers and over the needles is a most pleasant way.  Other people in the KAL have already finished and their shawls look squishy and perfect.  I want mine finished and ready to wear too!

Nightingale is at the neck/arm shaping stage, but it seems like there might be a bit of errata in the pattern unfortunately.  I've read through and mapped out the shaping and the row count doesn't seem like it will correspond with what's indicated in the pattern.  I think this is one of the (minor) issues with knitting from translated patterns, and I'm sure I'll be able to nut it out to make it work, but it does mean there's been some knitting/ripping/re-knitting as pattern errors are established...

So that's it for this week.  I've refrained from casting on anything new however I dearly want to get some socks on the needles, having recently replenished the sock yarn stash with lots of delicious goodies, and Lily has put a request in for quite a few Tiny Owl's cute knits, but I've been strong. It's damn hard though!!

How do you work?  Are you monogamy all the way, or do you like to spice it up with variety?   Is there a difference in what you like and what works best, I wonder?

Postscript: One minor quirk about working these two projects - both have a spine stitch section, but one is slipped and the other is twisted, and one is an 8 stitch count; the other a 7.  It can make things interesting, when switching between the two!

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 super-cute...to 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