Sunday, 30 June 2013

Project 365: Weeks 21 and 22

The tail end of May and the beginning of June. The last two weeks of May were clearly not memorable. I only have two photos! The beginning of June is the beginning of  Winter here in the Southern hemisphere and nature delivered right on cue. Cold, crispy frosty weather with a side order of rain. We don't get snow where I live except for exceptional once of twice in a lifetime events but it can get quite cold (tops of 7 or 8 degrees Celsius only). Maybe that's why there's very few photos. I didn't want to immortalize the rain.
Day 142: In the night garden.There are lights under that blue glass. When twilight hits, they come on and glow softly. This just means I am at work too late if the lights are coming on!
Day 151: Bling compass. The middle daughter made this for one of the girls she is working with. The story is that this girl forgets to take her compass off when she goes into the supermarket after she has been out on field work all day. She then feels that people stare at her and judge her for needing a compass to navigate around the supermarket. Hence, bling compass was born, a still functional fashion statement that you wouldn't feel embarrassed to be caught wearing in public.
Day 152: The boys black belt grading. It's only taken 11 years of training! Our discipline doesn't have junior black belts. You have to be at least 16 and physically and mentally capable of all the techniques required to be a black belt. I'm so proud of him. He's now the third black belt in my family (and the other two of us are just one belt off). This is a successful elbow strike through two 12mm pine boards.
Day 153: Future Doctor daughter playing radiant hat model. When we went to the Sunday market at Camberwell a few weeks ago, she was wearing one of my knitted hats and looking at what was on sale suggested I knit some more to sell at her friend's clothing stall and hence turn my slight knitting obsession into some useful cash. So I have been turning my needles to creating a supply of marketable hats for sale. This is Barnaby the cloche who will go to new home some day soon

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Project 365: Weeks 19 and 20

OK. It's the second last day of June in actuality and I am posting about the beginning of May. The wheels have sort of fallen off this photo a day gig in fairly spectacular fashion. Why? I think its a combination of the pressures of work and the overwhelming sameness of my life at this time of year! I have my standards. I could take a photo a day of the ending state of messiness that is my desk. I could capture the piles of marking or the computer screen opened to my uninteresting but overflowing email inbox, a riveting Excel spreadsheet or some esoteric stats program. I don't know how well that would go down. It wouldn't photograph well I think. I do see at least one cool thing I'd like to capture an image of each day but an application  of Murphy's law usually means I am: (a) driving and it would be dangerous to take said photo, (b) without my camera, (c) so immersed in the moment I only remember it would have been cool to photograph after it is gone (not necessarily a bad thing) or (d) I try to take the photo and it ends up a wonky blurry unidentifiable blob of pixels.

So I'll post the photos I have taken over the last few months in batches of a fortnight at a time till I catch back up.

Week 19. It was Mother's day. It was pleasant lazy hazy Sunday with  good food and good company. I even got a handmade Mother's card complete with cut out magazine pictures from my 22 year old. I also got the traditional mother's day dressing gown, and I was thrilled. There may have also been a book involved. My kids know me too well. Week 20 finished up with a spirited family outing to the local 10 pin bowling alley.
Day 127: Let me out! Let me out! Let me out! The morning chook chorus.
Day 128: It's an octagon. In a circle. And red poles! Now with added plants! And mulch.
Day 130: A random belated birthday present from my sister. I'm going to crochet this little amigurumi owl just as soon as all the marking is done for the semester. I had to resist this all day at work. Giving me a full kit including yarn and a crochet hook and the pattern at the beginning of a work day was a subtle form of torture. I keep eying it off and thinking, I could just open it up and maybe crochet just a little bit instead of this pile of boring marking. Be proud of me. I resisted.

Day 131: Sunrise. The beginning of a beautiful autumn Saturday

Day 132: Mother's lunch at The Courthouse. Good food, great ambiance and pleasant company.  Touching base with my Mum after she'd been interstate for a week and lucky enough to have the eldest daughter home from her hard work in the Big City hospital for the weekend.
Day 134: The addition of a "sculptural element" to the garden outside my office window. This is a circular ring hanging in the the middle of an ovoid spheroid. The shape of the outer sphere changes depending on the angle you view it from. Here it's looking like a ball or a globe. From different angles, it looks more egg like. This has been an impressive exercise in recycling too with both the red poles and the blue glass re-purposed for the the previous iteration of this garden space.

Day 136: A colorful cyclamen. This is in another of the garden spaces that brighten up our wing of the University. This one is almost like a giant outdoor terrarium, sandwiched between the walls of the building and giant glass windows. It is filled with flourishing tree ferns, bromealiads and a giant fossilized trunk of a tern fern that probably lived in the age of the dinosaurs dug up from one of our local open cut brown coal mines. You can see the end of this in the top right of the picture.
Day 137: Evening rush hour in the big city. Waiting at the Super Stop for the tram outside Melbourne's iconic Finder's Street Station. A day of meetings discussing the intricacies of marking 300+ literature reviews with about a dozen different markers consistently and with a tight two week turn around. Anticipating the pleasurable rush and well earned pain of a taekwondo training session with our Master. Meeting my better half and the boy for training in preparation for his impending black belt grading followed by a meal out in Chapel Street.
Day 138: Bowling shoes. Are they in fact the ugliest shoes in existence? Saturday afternoon ten pin bowling. I lost. This is not unusual. I can't bowl consistently. Its all or nothing - gutter balls or strikes. The head of the household won - also not surprising. He's the only one who does look like he knows how to bowl properly. It was a fun afternoon. Thanks to the middle daughter for making us go.
Day 139: Handmade pasta. The middle daughter making homemade lasagna from scratch to take to her friend's house as she disappears for a few day's sleepover. The lasagna was a work of art.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Our Prime Minister Knits - So What?

I'm getting on my political hobby horse.

I have been increasingly disgusted at the media treatment today of Julia Gillard the Australian Prime Minister and her decision to do a story for the Australian Women's Weekly that showed her knitting. Not only knitting but knitting a toy kangaroo for the new English Royal baby, Will and Kate's soon to be born little heir to the Australian (and English) throne. Apparently according to media and political commentary, it is impossible to be both a feminist and knit. This photo clearly demonstrates Julia's lack of intelligence as "Smart women don't knit!" And apparently deciding to be photographed knitting is tantamount to political suicide. Oh and there is a strong conspiracy theory running that the photo is a giant set up and Julia clearly can't knit as she is holding either her yarn or her needles or both all wrong! According to her political opponents she is clearly Madame Defarge, knitting while (political) heads roll and has lowered the office of Prime Minister to new depths.
Julia Gillard in the Australian Women's Weekly Photo: Australian Women's Weekly - Grant Matthews
It makes me cringe at the state of political debate in this country. It makes me despair at the level of esteem in which knitters are held. I wonder what would have been said if a male Prime Minister had been shown knitting? (Strike that, the Australian media would have been questioning his sexuality). As a smart women who knits (Hey, I'm an academic) I feel insulted by implication by the media furor this has kicked up.
Julia Gillard in the Australian Women's Weekly Photo: Australian Women's Weekly - Grant Matthews
I can offer evidence that refutes the assertion that Julia was purely stunt knitting. It's not the first time we Aussie knitters have learned that or prime minster likes knitting. On World Wide Knit in Public Day this year Julia tweeted "Happy World Wide Knit in Public Day #WWKIP JG" with a photo of her knitting. She looks happy.
What I'm questioning is her choice of knitted item for the royal baby. The knitted Kangaroo has to be the creepiest portrayal of an Aussie wildlife icon ever perpetuated. I've given you some examples of the vintage kangaroo and baby joey combo from the 1950s / 1950s. I hope this is not what Julia was knitting. It will give the Royal Baby nightmares.

Made by Dominant hands. Pattern from 1950's Beehive Toys and Novelties pattern book
Here's my contributions from my own extensive library of bad toy patterns.
A classic Aussie Boxing kangaroo: from Australian Family Circle: Storybook Dolls and Toys (Late 1980s - early 90s)
Or a really scary blue kangaroo? The construction of this one is kind of cool. It is made from a series of grater stitch squares.
From The Australian Women's Weekly: Knit a square and make a toy by Norma Campbell 1999

So I'm opening it up to you. Let's debate the really important things here.
Should our Prime Minister cop so much flack for being a proud knitter? (Are media really just saying knitting isn't important / is a granny hobby?)
What would you knit for the Kate and Will's new Royal baby?
Is there, in fact, such a thing as a cute knitted kangaroo? (I'd love to see evidence).

Monday, 24 June 2013

The Mad Hatter

OK, so I have been having a small obsession with knitting hats... I have made three hats this month (and by this month, I mean April which was actually a couple of months ago)... One of them in just one weekend!!!
My favorite Mad Hatter: Johnny Depp is just so cool. If you haven't watched Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland I suggest you go and treat yourself.
So I made a hat for my nephew for his 21st. My son was lucky enough to be the hat model. He so liked the hat, he requested one for himself. I was happy to oblige and then came to the sick realisation that this is the first garment I have knitted him since he was baby. I felt slightly ashamed to call myself a mother who knits. However, this was balanced by the fact that something I had knit was considered a cool enough clothing item to be coveted.
Here is the boy modelling his cousins hat. And here is the boy modelling his own hat. I made this from the same op shop wool from which I made the homework help pouch for a baby kangaroo. It's such a cool neutral-ish colour and can come across as a dirty cream, a light grey or a fawn-ish brown depending on the lighting and what clothing your pair it with. I finished this in time to call it an Easter present. There were some really bad taste jokes running around that we had turned the Easter Bunny into a hat.
Pattern: Wurm by Katharina Nopp
Needles: 4mm dpns (actually they are still labelled as size 8 - antique jumper length Aero dpns). I love these needles for knitting hats. And only $2. Best op-shop buy ever!
Yarn: 8 ply op shop sourced homespun fairly greasy wool with some flecks of other fiber. Cost about 50 cents per 200g or about 50 cents per hat.

So one highly satisfactory hat commission down. I thought I might have time to sit on my laurels and luxuriate in the glow of a job well done. However, the boys eldest sister, the future doctor daughter came home for Easter. She saw the boy's hat, promptly grabbed it, stuck it on her head, claimed it went so much better with her curls and refused to give it back until I promised to make her one too. This is despite the fact that she already has four handmade berets (see: The Beret Project Project: Chapter 1, The Beret Project:: The Second Installment and Winter Smoke: Selbu Modern Beret). We had to search her bags when she went back after Easter to make sure she hadn't accidentally on purpose absconded with the hat. (As an aside I'm patting myself on the back here as I also clearly make clothing cool enough to be the object of petty thievery!)

So there was nothing for it but to immediately cast one for a second hat. Surprisingly, it wasn't any hardship to knit the exact identical article twice in a row (The first time in my entire knitting life that I have down this). It was even fun.

Twin hats drying in front of the heater.
So now I was two hats down but I have, in fact, three children. OK, you don't have to be a mind reader to predict what is coming next. Mel, the middle daughter was pushing for it to be her turn. But not an identical beanie. She already had her eye on a cute little owl head hat from Simply Knitting issue 100.
Pattern available here
Intarsia should look just as neat from the back
Pattern: From Animal Hats by Rachel Henderson via Simply Knitting Issue 100.
Needles: Set of two 4mm needles.
Yarn: Cleckheaton Country in cream (1 ball - sourced from an op shop), Cleckheaton Country in Beige (Seconds from the Australian Country spinners Wangaratta Woolen Mills, a present from my mother after a recent trip there - she knows what it takes to make me happy) and the orangey mustard is aran weight wool from the stash which is so old I have no idea of it origins.

So I knitted this up in a weekend and had a ball doing it. Its so much fun to watch the face building up row by row. This classified as one of those "just one more row" knits, perhaps explaining why it took so little time.
And here is the owl hat in its natural environment.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Owls are the new Elephants

I used to collect elephants. I had a small obsession. They paraded across the mantlepiece, congregated in crowds on my bookshelves and infested my dressing table (mainly in jewelry form). It used to be a sort of tradition that my relatives would gift me elephants from their far-flung travels. I did this too. A certain small pink cross-eyed ceramic elephant reminds me of a trip to the Barossa Valley wineries with my family and future husband the year I finished school. However, I loathe dusting (Let's be honest here - I loathe housework in general) and so the elephant collection downsized to manageable proportions. The ones that survived the cull had to have a really memorable story attached.

When I was collecting elephant in the 90's, they were everywhere. They were literally the animal du jour for crafters everywhere. Any gallery, tourist trap, kitsch souvenir shop had a handmade elephant. It wasn't at all unusual to be an elephant collector (or all that difficult either).

I've decided that owls are the new elephants. Like an elephant you don't need to be anywhere near anatomically correct to portray an owl in craft. With an elephant, its all about the ears and the trunk and the basic body shape. For an owl, it comes down to the eyes, the beak and generally birdy shaped body.

Owls are everywhere in the craft-i-verse at the moment. I've blogged about owls before (See X is for Xmas Owls or Owlishly Warm). There are owl ornaments, owl toys and garments adorned with owls. 

So when one of my work colleagues had a baby recently, I gave into the urge and made a toy owl for him. (It is actually highly appropriate, his mother's area of research is Owls).

I didn't find anything that really grabbed me when I went pattern hunting. I knew what I wanted though. Something soft and squishy, washable and chewable, not too big for a baby to hang on to and rustic looking. So I thought, what the hell! I'll design my own. I found some scrap paper and sketched an owl to size. I haven't done a lot of designing but I understand the principles of gauge vs. finished size and find it relatively easy to crunch the mathematics to match my knitting to the shape of a paper pattern.
Here's the design sketch and the start of the body in progress.
Here's the owl in progress sitting on my lap as I work on a failed set of wings.
After all he's pretty easy. Here's My Recipe for a Cute Little Owl.
  • Two basic body pieces. These are made out of a solid tweedy cotton yarn for added chew factor and durability.
  • 4 circles for eyes (The outer eyes are crocheted and the black inner circles knitted).
  • A tummy patch
  • A shaped and stuffed sort of pointed cylindrical beak
  • and two oval shaped wings.
  • Garnish with button hole stitch in contrasting colors wherever possible for added cuteness.
Yarn: All DK weight (8 ply) from the stash. All natural fibres - cotton or wool or wool blend
Needles: 4mm
I did take notes whilst I was making this and expect to write this up as a (free) pattern just as soon as this mad marking and exams month is over. That just means I'll have to make another one or two to test the pattern!