Monday, 11 January 2016

A little bit Chanel

I want to let you in on a little secret of mine. I actually like sewing in ends and sewing up garments. I find it sort of meditative. There's something so satisfying about taking separate pieces and producing a wearable garment.
I often work in cars. If I'm not driving, I tend to need distraction so that I am not the world's worst back seat driver. (I hate other people driving my car but seeing as all my children are old enough to drive, I occasionally have to grit my teeth especially when playing in their neck of the woods. Apparently I drive too country to be allowed to play in the city).
So this is a sunny Saturday afternoon heading for a lovely lunch in down town Mornington. I had my camera with me and the boy decided to capture my delight with my handiwork.
"But what are you sewing up?" I hear you ask. Well this is Graphic Grays, another of my stash to sweater efforts in 2015.

Pattern: #12 Graphic Jacket by Jacqueline van Dillen from Designer Knitting Early Winter 2013.
Needles: 4.5 mm
Yarn: 8 ply Blue grey machinewash bought from op-shop (8.5 balls) and Moda Vera Pure Wool 8ply shade 44 Dark Gray (10 skeins). 
My daughter Melissa went on a giant trip through Europe at the end of 2013. This was part of the Christmas present she bought home for me - Italian and European knitting magazines.  (Best present ever!) This pattern just sang to me - classic, elegant, a little Chanel-like and could double as a jacket / blazer. As a University lecturer, I do have a job that often calls for corporate suiting but I loathe actually wearing a conventional blazer. It feels too restrictive across my back, shoulders and upper arms. To me wearing a blazer / suit jacket is like wearing a straight jacket. I have the same sort of aversion to traditional shirts. This is a nice compromise. I have the world's largest collection of cardigans but this one will take the style formality up that little notch.

Now I don't really have worsted weight yarn in the stash. I wanted to knit this in DK (Australian 8 ply) so swatching was absolutely necessary. Strangely enough, I got gauge first time with the suggested needles (4.5 mm).
Isn't it a pretty swatch? You can really see the pattern properly here.
This was gorgeously addictive colour work. Proper traditional fairisle with only two colours per row, short colour repeats so no long floats to weave in and a easily memorised pattern.
The piece at the front shows the pattern 'in the knitting stage' so to speak. The underneath piece is blocked
Even though this was quick to knit, it was slow to finish. I swatched in January, cast on the sleeves in February, knitted the backs and fronts through the Aussie winter, sewed it up in August and officially finished in October (sewing on the buttons) but didn't get shots of me wearing it till a ridiculously hot day in December!

Let's blame it on the buttons shall we? They were a saga in themselves. The pattern called for self cover knitted buttons. Our local haberdashery has moved to a town a half an hour away so things like this require a planned shopping trip. I couldn't get the size of self cover button I wanted and so compromised on the next size up. Then I got them home and tried to assemble the first button and they were defective. They were missing the little gripped / spiked edge to hold the fabric and the fronts and backs didn't clip together and hold. So it took me a month to make the trip to return them and I couldn't get any self cover buttons that time. (They had been recalled because they were defective - strange that?). So I left with a  refund but no buttons. Finally about 6 weeks later, I had to get a poster printed for an academic conference and had an hour to kill and finally bought some appropriate buttons. It was late September by this time). I did sew the buttons on as soon as I got back from the conference though!

I'd actually worn the jacket without buttons a few times. I'm now looking forward to getting a lot of chances to wear this next winter.
This is the photo that made me realise I really needed a haircut as it's all flyaway again.
Thanks once again to my boy. He may not wash dishes or do housework without a running commentary on the unfairness of life but he has peculiar knack of (a) taking a good photo of me and (b) making the knitwear shine. (I love you Mark!)

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Hugging the curves

The first of my New Years knitting resolutions for 2015 was to turn the stash into sweaters... I have quite a number of sweater sized lots in my stash. They take up a lot of room and it's time to seriously use them up.

So I matched the stash to some patterns I liked and swatched for a few sweater projects in January 2015 exploring possibilities.
I dithered on this pattern. I really like the twisting cables from waist to shoulder but was a bit unsure on the peplum idea… However, the back flows so beautifully with the peplum, I think I’ll try it anyway. (God knows my hips are generously sized to say the least at the moment).

What’s in name? The Lion brand patterns have such prosaic names. This one is Cabled Peplum Pullover. I rarely use them for actual project names. The combination of twisted almost plaited cables and the gorgeous tweedy gold yarn reminded me of traditional corn dollies. These are plaited from the last grain of the harvest to give the spirit of the corn somewhere to live till the next planting. Hence ’Spirit of the Corn’ for this one.
Pattern: Cable Peplum Pullover - free pattern by Lion Brand Yarn
Needles: 4.5 mm (Knitting a worsted weight pattern using DK yarn meant I had to go up a needle size to make gauge).
Yarn: Cleckheaton Country Naturals 8 Ply - colour 1839 Gold - I used 11 balls
Cost: $22 ($2 a ball on sale)

This was cast on 15th of Feb for COM. I began as I often do with a sleeve. Sleeves are a good place to start and also good large scale swatches to check gauge. Also the sleeves for this pattern are simple 2 by 2 rib. Train knitting powered through the bulk of the first sleeve really quickly. The momentum carried me through the second sleeve pretty promptly too.

This hibernated for the winter… The sheer number of stitches for the peplum section at the bottom was a little overwhelming. And the charts are very large but the individual stitches are shown really small. I almost need magnifying glasses to read some of this so it required patience to tackle the first par.
The back hit the needles in late September and flew off the needles in less than a week. I did find a small issue in my instructions for the Cable 4/4 RC - the needle needs to be held at the back of the work instead of the front as listed. But once I got this started, I was pleasantly surprised at how quick this was to knit. There is really only a cable row every 7 to 11 rows or so and the rest is just a few increases and rib.

The front also flew fairly quickly bar some very annoying chart problems with the neck shaping. The charts show the decreases a row too early. The written instructions were OK though so I followed these instead.
Despite the finished jumper looking like a narrow ribbed tube designed to fit a stick figure, it stretched out beautifully and hugs my figure like a gently fitting glove. The cables curve gently around the outside of my breasts and up to my shoulders and everything just sits and flows perfectly. I LOVE this! The children all told me it was few inches too short but after blocking it has relaxed a little and grown about an inch and a half in length and is now perfect.

I hereby declare this stash to sweater project a massive success! (Photo credits once again to the boy!)

Sunday, 3 January 2016

From little things big things grow - Collaborative crafting

noun: collaboration; plural noun: collaborations
  1. the action of working with someone to produce something.

    "he wrote a book in collaboration with his son"

    synonyms:cooperation, alliance, partnership, participation, combination, association, concert; More
    teamwork, joint effort, working together, coopetition

    "he wrote on art and architecture in collaboration with John Betjeman"
    • something produced in collaboration with someone.

      "his recent opera was a collaboration with Lessing"
  2. traitorous cooperation with an enemy.

    "he faces charges of collaboration"

    synonyms:fraternizing, fraternization, colluding, collusion, cooperating, cooperation, consorting, sympathizing, sympathy;

    "Salengro had been accused of collaboration with the enemy"
(Definition from Google)

So why am I opening a blog post with a dictionary definition of Collaboration? 2015 was my Year of Collaborative Crafting. In the crafting world collaboration is all along the lines of the old adage of "Many hands make light work". Actually its been more like many come to together to produce amazing pieces of art! This year, I've contributed to 4 collaborative artworks with other knitters and crocheters from around the world.

I know where the idea all started. I first heard of the 5000 Poppies Project at a craft show in Melbourne in July 2014 where Lynn Berry, the instigator had a booth with hundreds of poppies pinned to the walls. You could sit and chat and make a poppy to contribute. Due the fact I was with my little sister I didn’t sit and knit / crochet on the day but I did pick up the patterns.
I crocheted one lone little poppy as my contribution to the massive field of poppies planned for ANZAC Day 2015 at Federation Square Melbourne and sent it off in the mail. This is in tribute to my husband’s years of military service in the Australian Army.  

Service in peacetime is no less valuable than war time. It’s the willingness to enter the service of your nation and protection of it’s people that counts.
There’s also something slightly ironic about the fact that I crocheted my poppy considering how much of a knitter I am!

I wasn't lucky enough to get to see the poppies in person at fed square on Anzac day but it was an amazing spectacle.

The story the ABC did on the the sea of poppies at Federation Square on ANZAC Day 2015 was one of the ten most watched stories for the year. You can watch it here.

The poppies are now touring Australia for the next 3 years and are about to overtake the Chelsea Flower Show in the UK. They need another 20,000 poppies on stems. I think I'd better knit on this time?

Then Prudence Mapstone put out the call all over the freeforming world:
It will be 50 years this coming November since the term ‘Flower Power’ was first coined in Berkeley, California, and used as a passive resistance slogan for non-violent protest against the Vietnam War. By the ‘summer of love’ a few years later, the movement had spread; the term ‘flower child’ was synonymous with ‘hippie’, and a counterculture had sprung up embracing psychedelic music and art. This art style is often recognizable from its simple, graphic, brightly coloured, poster-like designs; and as many flower children sought a return to basics and simple living, crafts had a resurgence, and a distinctive style of no-rules crochet sprang up as a small part of the hippie, grass roots ethos.

How could I not contribute to something I would actually have a chance to see in real life? And it challenged me to push my freeform crochet skills a little further…

I found an inspiration picture - I knew the colour palette I want to use. I started with a crocheted centre in the little scrap of pumpkin orange that was leftover from Junkyard Pumpkin. After all how better to use the last of the genuine 70’s yarn than in a homage to the 60s/70s. Mossy olive green and olive gold and baby blue….

This was a frog and re-frog project. I tried to recreate a flower from the inspiration wallpaper picture but found my crochet skills were inadequate to the task. So I just used the colour way and went for it. I made a flower basically with seven large pointed petals and then bordered it in variegated pink and finally knitted on a little border to fill up the wedges. The edging makes it pop.

If you want to know more about the 50 years of Flower Power project and see lots of photos of the individual scrumbles as well as the amazing finished piece - check out Prudence's blog about the project - 50 Years of Flower Power.

I got to see the final finished art work at the the Craft & Quilt Fair in Melbourne (Victoria, Australia) in July. It's enormous - about 10 m long and nearly 2 m high. I found my little piece, marveled at how well Prudence had made so many disparate pieces into such a singing harmonious whole, modeled for a photo (not my most flattering shot!) and signed the guest book. I also got the chance to chat to Prudence and thank her in person. It was amazing, just how mach attention this artwork got and how happy it made people to experience it.

I came especially to visit my flower and all her friends. Thanks Prudence for the amazing opportunity to collaborate.
My piece is just slightly up and to the left of my head. Can you find it?
And then randomly on a Wednesday in February I found the most amazing yarn-bombed trees in the City Square in Melbourne. And so I discovered a new place to collaborate: Yarn Corner.  (They nicely leave little business cards tied to their commissioned yarn-bombing projects).
Yarn Corner is one of the largest yarn bombing groups in the world, with nearly 1,000 local and international members. Based in Melbourne, Australia, the members come from many walks of life, and all crafting skill levels.The group was formed in May 2011 by prominent Melbourne fibre artist Bali of Twilight Taggers, who started fortnightly stitch and bitch meetings just for yarn bombers. What started as small gatherings, has over the course of 3 years, turned into a thriving not for profit community of like-minded crafters.

As my first contribution as a member of  Yarn Corner, I made a small part of a collaborative art project for the Moreart, the Moreland City Council Public Art Show. Moreart is an annual art-in-public-spaces event that aims to surprise and engage the community. All sorts of artworks and artists appear in unusual, and unexpected public sites along the Upfield and Sydney Road rail, road and bike precinct.

The theme for the Yarn Corner Piece was ‘How do I feel?’ - a collaborative blanket made of puzzle pieces expressing individual women’s attitude to their bodies.
Mine says: “My own autobiography”. After all, my body is a road map of my life. I lived these wrinkles, saggy skin and plump bumpy bits and earned every grey hair. And it was a fun journey.
I had trouble making gauge for this so I made it twice - once with a 4mm hook and once with a 5 mm hook. It then got three edging rows to get it large enough.

How Do I Feel? Exhibit by Yarn Corner: Safeway fence, Upfield Bike Path, Brunswick
I've just completed one more massive piece for Yarn Corner but this is so awesome it deserves its own post. Keep your eyes open for more collobrative crafting / yarn bombing / knitting as art in 2016. (Great way to use up the stash too by the way).

Saturday, 2 January 2016

Snow Flurry

My baby sister gets me most of the time and so gives me amazingly just right presents.For Christmas 2014, I got Hunter Hammerson's ebook Curls. This is such a kid in the candy store book for me. My short list from this is only about 12 of the Curls. I cast on for the first curl, Pitted Olive on Boxing Day 2014 and this one went to my Mum. (After all I had liberated the yarn from her stash originally....)

My dream Curl was always the cover pattern - Filemot.  I love the the fern like lace and the crisp pop of the twisted stitches. Then it seemed as if all my online knitting friends were conspiring to make me knit a shawl in May / June. In The Unofficial Women’s Weekly group there was a shawl / scarf knit along running. In the Stitch Addiction Podcast Ravelry group there was a Shawl KAL for May and June (with prizes). In Village Hopelessly Over Committed, May was Cast on Dream month. And in Laughing Purple Goldfish designs, it was Me Me Me May.

I can take a hint when it’s that blatant guys!

A dream knit needs dream yarn too. Dream yarn doesn't need to be expensive. It just has to be a dream to knit with and wear. In my case this came cheaply from an op shop. (That's a thrift store or charity shop for my US and UK readers). This is a blend of wool and other delicious goodies possibly alpaca, angora or mohair. It has such depth of colour for such a neutral shade. It also blocks up delicious soft with a lovely drape and feel. Knitting this curl would be the swansong for this well loved batch of yarn. (It's also been part of two hats - Federation and Winter Smoke as well as the amazing Anyone got Cable! scarf-ghan)

Pattern: Filemot
Needles: 4.5 mm straights and a long circular
Yarn: upcycled 8 ply (DK) op shop wool, alpaca and, I suspect angora, blend in winter white/cream with small gray and black fibres
Cost: 50 cents for the whole bag - best 50 cents I ever spent on yarn!
Selfie with an SLR with my eldest daughter. She knitted the cowl she is wearing. I'm really proud of her.
This was not an easy knit by any means. It was has literally millions of twisted stitches and they are slow to knit. It's a full lace pattern - no plain purl rows to have a breather and there are twisted stitches on the purl side too. It took me a few goes to get some of the stranger twisted decreases straight in my head (especially the ones decreasing two stitches at a time). However, it was worth the pain and occasional frustration.
Like all lace, blocking really makes a difference. You really don't see the full beauty of the lace when it's all crumpled up on the needles.
The shawl did get finished in time to make the cut off for prizes for the KAL in the Stitch Addiction Podcast Ravelry group but it didn't win a prize. In one of life's great ironies, the post after mine did!

The beauty of curls is in their curved shape and hence the many, many ways you can style and wear them.
Draped around the shoulders secured with a shawl pin shows the asymmetry of the shawl off to perfection.

Or start with the largest point at the front and warp the ends around and secure with a brooch or shawl pin.
Or wrap around like a scarf to create a snuggly neck warmer to ward off the chill on a blusterly late winter day at the seasdide.
Thanks once again to my daughter and son for their amazing photography skills. These photos were taken on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. If you look very carefully in the last photo you can see my happy photo bombing family.
(Let's not mention the fact that I last time I posted on the blog was My 2015 shall we? Sorry blog, I do still love you - but LIFE!!!! makes me have to do tedious things first sometimes)