Monday 2 March 2009

Show & Tell

As I'm sure you're aware, last weekend was the Canberra Show. And you'll also be aware that little old had a few entries in the craft section. Seven to be exact (why yes, I do enjoy a challenge!): 5 in the hand knitting, 1 in the crochet and 1 in the sewing.

We arrived at the show at around 9am, and it was all I could to do not to sprint straight to the craft pavilion.

I managed to play it cool for a little while. We watched the circus. We checked out the tractors (well, it is an agricultural show, after all).

We dropped into Flyball Central to say hello to Kylie and Trent. Where Trent tried very hard not to spoil the surprise for me.

And then I casually sauntered into the Pavilion.

There aren't any pictures (that I'm willing to show you!) of my face when I saw the cabinets. But to stay I was stunned would be an understatement.

Here are my entries with their ribbons:
What we have here, dear reader, are three (three!!) firsts, two seconds, and that little green rosette in the middle there? Well that just happens to be a Champion rosette for the novice (less than 2 years) crochet!

Clockwise from the top right, is the felted entrelac bag (first), Leisel (first), Evangeline mitts, Boheme baby jacket, U-Neck Vest (second) and Mrs Perkins (she's hiding behind her second place ribbon). In the middle is my Champion Boteh scarf.

I coaxed Mrs Perkins out from behind the ribbon for a portrait. This is my second one - Gracie's wasn't good enough for the show, and I don't think the judges appreciate the aesthetic qualities of drool anyway.
And is my Boteh (Rav link), displayed in the cabinet at the Show.

I'm not a great competitor; I don't do much in the way of sport, and competition generally makes me uncomfortable. But I was thrilled beyond words that the judge thought my crochet scarf was worthy of such a prize. I'm still all goose-bumpy writing about it days later!

I must take the opportunity to thank Quilting Mick for coaching me through the pattern for this. I would never have entered the crochet without her encouragement! And I'd like to thank my Mum and Dad, and my Beloved and....(cue music)

Seriously, it was great fun planning and working on my Show projects, and I'm already thinking about next year.

And now that I've conquered the crochet, there's the cakes, and the jams, and the vegetable sculptures, and the cats, and oh, do you think I could start breeding chooks, those ones with the fluffy feet, and ........

Sunday 1 March 2009

There's something sweet and wistful

And so it seems that summer is officially over. Like Kylie though, I don't much trust Australia's understanding of our imposed calendar, and I'm pretty certain it will be a while before I need to break out the woollies (to wear, that is).

I was a very bad KAL-er for the Long Lacy Summer, although I was there in spirit! I got a little tied up with deadline knits (more on that shortly) and didn't achieve my aim of knitting something in actual laceweight yarn.

I do, however, have two FOs to log for the LLS, but sadly only crap-o-rama pics to go with them. In the interests of brevity, I'll spare you the typically drawn-out FO post and cut to the chase.

1. December-January-February Baby Sweater

Pattern: FBS by E. Zimmerman, from the Knitter's Almanac

Yarn: Lincraft cozy-wool, gifted by Bec and hand-dyed by moi (using Gaywool acid dyes)

Sticks: 5mm Knitpicks Options

Mods: Being so enamoured of the top-down seamless knit, I decided I could go one better than EZ's "almost seamless baby sweater" and do the sleeves in the round as well. Instead of following the pattern as written, I put the sleeve sts on waste yarn, cast on 14 sts between the front and back (for each sleeve), knit the body in one piece, then when back to do the sleeves. I made sure to take the sleeves off on a purl row so I could cast on the sts without interrupting the pattern.

I'm pretty happy with the result; the yarn and pattern seem to go together quite well. The gull stitch pattern went quite smoothly once I got the hang of it.

But therein lies the problem: before I got the hang of it, I cocked it up spectacularly. Right in the front.


Well, even if you can't, I'm sure a show judge would. It was intended as an entry to the Canberra Show, but with that mistake, it will just be worn (with great panasche) by the Princess instead.

It was a fun knit, though, and I might give it another crack for next year. I'll certainly file it away for future baby gifts because it finishes really nicely.

2. Liesel
Pattern: on Rav and also here.

Yarn: Fibreworks Lustre 8ply in colour #18

Sticks: 4.5 mm straights

This is a really lovely and straightforward pattern; I knit it as written for 30 repeats with 4 rows garter each end..

The photo above shows it unblocked, I'm afraid; I was not clever enough to remember to take any of it blocked before I handed it over as a Show entry. I will add some shortly, though, for it bloomed beautifully.

How did it go in the Show, I hear you ask?

You'll just have to wait for that story!

And so ends my paultry contribution to the Long Lacy Summer. I'm looking forward to Bells' wrap-up sometime soon!

Monday 23 February 2009

Never felt better

I have too much of a headache to knit tonight, so please be polite and try not to act too stunned that I'm blogging twice in as many days!

I thought I would start on that pile of FOs, with the one I'm probably most proud of.

I have long been fascinated by entrelac, and wanted to give it a go. I am also very fond of the felted bag, and when I spotted the Felted Entrelac Clutch on Ravelry some time back, I just had to give it a go.

The impetus to get it on the needles came from the inclusion of a new class in the knitting section of the Canberra Show craft schedule: item of fulled knitting. Done deal.

Pattern: Felted Entrelac Clutch by Meg White. Lets hear it for Ravelry; comments on another knitter's project page helped me navigate an error in the first stages of the pattern that would have driven me insane with frustration otherwise.

Yarn: Patons Jet in three colours. Instead of using a varigated yarn, I joined the colours at the end of each row. I used nearly 3 balls of the dark brown, nearly 2 of the mid-brown, and 1 of the cream.

Sticks: Knitpicks options 6.5 mm circ

Felting: A good soak, and then several hours in the dryer, in a pillowcase. It took quite some time to get it to felt down to a nice tight fabric, but it's lovely and solid and firm.

For all you felting/fulling nerds, here are the before (left) and after (right) shots, with pencil for scale:

Mods: none. I was really hesitant about following the section in the pattern between the body and the handles, when you unpick the crochet cast-on to do the top triangles, where you have far fewer stitches than I felt were needed, but I resisted the urge to pick up more stitches and went with the flow. It was, of course, the point where you get that lovely nip in at the top of the body once it felts down - clever designer!

Time taken: mid-November to end December 2008. Yes, it has taken me months to blog it!

What I learned: heaps! Entrelac was not very intuitive to begin with, but once I got the concept and read a couple of tutorials, it was very easy (if you're looking, this one was very helpful). Entrelac generally begins by constructing triangles, but this pattern begins with squares, so it was a leap of faith for me.

Also - my first crochet cast on. A b$tch to unpick, but a very useful technique.

I am totally in love with this bag, and can't wait to start using it as soon as I collect it after the Show next week! I'll let you know how it goes!

p.s. sorry about the crap-o-rama photos; the bag is of course in lockdown at Show Headquarters, and I didnt realise how awful my picks were until too late!

Thursday 19 February 2009

And so you're back from Outer Space

But man, those last few light-years seemed to take forever, didn't they? Yes, I am still alive, although I have been sucked into a mouse-wheel of routine since I've been back at work that doesn't leave a lot of time or energy for my poor blog.

A blog is a lot like a garden - you've got to tend it, water it, weed it, keep an eye out for pests and other icky things, plan for it, make time for it. Although I do love the *idea* of gardening, sadly I tend to just whack seedlings in the ground and leave them to fend for themselves. My blog has clearly suffered similarly. I think about it often, just don't get around to getting down and dirty with it as often as I should.

So in no particular order, here are some recent happenings from the Kitchen Table:

1. I have quite a number of FOs to blog. There has been a big push to get things finished for the Canberra Show (I handed them over this morning). I'll give them all their moment in the sun shortly (promise!). There are a couple of items that belong in the Long Lacy Summer too - even though it's almost over!

2. Spinning class went really well. The teacher's method of plying and I didn't get along, and I'll have to find my own way with that, but I did wind up with this:

I was much happier with the spun singles than with the plied yarn, but I'll be working on that. Perhaps using a different plying method.

3. Work is bearable. The first few weeks were very slow, but my line manager returned at the start of February and immediately found lots of things for me to do. (My sometime-manager doesn't really know how to handle me. I probably don't help him out as much as I should with that). So I am kept really busy, which is good.

4. Princess Grace has settled in fabulously well to childcare. It helps (both of us!) that I go in and feed her once a day. She is growing like a weed, putting on stacks of weight. She's quite pudgy now! After languishing in her size 000 clothes for moths, she's almost out of the next size up (00) after only a couple of months. At weigh in on Thursday, she was 6915 g, and is tracking very nicely along a percentile, instead of resolutely crossing them as she was a few months ago.

She is busily trying to crawl, and so spends much of her time like this:

until she tires and face-plants, at which point someone has to pick her up. Repeat, every few minutes!

5. Pirate Jim is busy being 3-and-a-half. Which means he seems to spend every waking moment driving me crazy with frustration. I so hope 4 is better than 3. Please tell me this is true.

6. In amongst it all, there has been some crafting. In addition to the knitting and crocheting, there has been some sewing. I was stoked to find that the fat-eighths my favourite fabric store had out at 5 for $10 were wide enough for bibs from this pattern:

Very funky Princess wear!

And that is all I have the energy to report for now. Here's hoping it's not another 6 weeks until my next post.

Saturday 10 January 2009

Whatever wool be wool be

Apparently I don't have enough to do with my spare time. Or I'm not quite obsessed enough with just knitting. And sewing. Because when given the opportunity, I gleefully signed up for the Canberra Spinners and Weavers Guild's Beginners Spinning course.

I've done a teeny bit of spinning before. And I've had a wheel (thanks Othlon!) for ages, but just not the time to apply myself. And being largely self-taught, I'm not confident at all. I need to get some formal teaching. This course is the perfect opportunity.

I turned up on Thursday evening with several other local bloggers and Ravelers (big thanks to Carrie for getting us all there via Rav too!), wheel in hand, for the first session.

Two hours, lots of treadling and a lovely supper later, I departed with my "homework":

A great hunk of raw fleece that needs to be prepped for next week.

I spent a lovely (albeit greasy and dirty) couple of hours on the back today today combing.

And wound up with what I thought was a big pile of nice combed locks (see I'm jiggy with the lingo already!). I'm about halfway through that pile of fleece.

Sadly, that's only about 80 g (2 3/4 oz), so I've got a big more to go (I reckon I need about 150g if its going to worth knittting when I'm done). I ran out of puff today though.

I'm resisting the urge to start spinning it. I'll be good and wait til next week. After all, I'm doing the course so I can learn stuff, not continue on with my dodge-o-rama, haphazard approach.

It's a good thing I've got lots of other projects that need to be done rather soon, so the temptation is diminished.

But roll on next Thursday!

Tuesday 6 January 2009

Day Two: It's oh so quiet....

I have to admit I'm at a bit of a loose end. I'm the only person in the house. Just me, all alone. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I don't have a million things to do, it's just that I don't want to really start anything because I keep expecting childcare to call.

The plan, you see, is that I go to the centre around lunchtime to feed (nurse) the Princess; they'll call me when she wakes up from her late-morning sleep. She was going down to sleep when I left her at 8:45 this morning, and I expected the call about 1230 or so. Except it's nearly 2:00 and they haven't called!

Yep, my phone is still working. Just called it from the landline to check.

I raced out this morning to the supermarket - how novel, to do a week's shop entirely unfettered by little people! - and a couple of other errands, then raced home again by 11:30. I was afraid I'd get The Call in the checkout line at the supermarket, or some other place where I couldn't just grab my keys and walk out.

But now I've been killing time at home, waiting, not wanting to start anything in case I have to leave. I've got cooking to do, sewing projects, major clearing out of cupboards, phone calls to Government departments to make. All things that can't really be abandoned instantly. Instead, I've caught on some blog reading (Bloglines had 450+ posts when I opened it, I am dreadfully behind), and I've got the cricket on the telly (in the middle of the day! Naughty!).

Yep, phone still working.

I'm happy, because this means Gracie has slept and eaten lunch. Otherwise I'd have been summoned ages ago.

Looks like there's nothing else for it - I think I might just have to sit on the couch and watch the cricket and wait. Some crochet might just accidentally fall into my hands.

How nice is this quiet though?

Monday 5 January 2009

Day One

Thanks so much for all your wishes for today. It went.....OK. Not really well, not too bad, just OK. Gracie has crashed, she's exhausted, and I'm feeling quite drained too. I didn't sleep so well last night, worrying about how we would cope, if I am a bad mother for putting my baby in the care of others.

I guess it was always going to be a little chaotic, today being the first day that the centre is open following the holidays. So even the kids who have been going there for months or years might be a little hesitant or fragile going back after 2 weeks in a different routine at home.

Grace was very interested in the new environment - she loves looking at other children, and there were of course new toys. I arrived around 830, and by the time I chatted with the carers about her routine and did some paperwork, she was getting cranky and tired. I was never going to just dump her and run, I always planned to spend most of the morning there with her, so I put her down to sleep myself.

Except that she didn't much like the different bed, in a different room, with different light, sounds and smells. So she screamed. For about 40 minutes. I couldn't even rock her to sleep, which is usually a sure-fire trick. If I haven't mentioned it before, Gracie is a champion sleeper, a great self-settler, just wrap her up and away she goes. I could count on one hand the number of times we've been unable to settle her. So it was pretty upsetting that I couldn't soothe her, on today of all days.

I kept thinking "that's it, I'll take her home. Just home to her own bed". I was so close to walking out with her. But we hung in there, and in the end gave up on sleeping (even though she was so tired she was falling asleep between howls! She just wouldn't stay asleep), and fed her instead.

After that she was fine (yes, arguably she was hungry in the first place, but initially she was more tired than hungry. I still get those signals wrong sometimes). I handed her over to the primary carer and she was all smiles and ready to play. I took myself off to the kitchen for a cup of tea to soothe my nerves (parents are encouraged to do this if they feel like it), and after half an hour looked in the window and she was happy and playing.

I checked in at lunch-time and she had just woken from a sleep and finished a bottle, and was ready for lunch.

When I picked her up this afternoon, she had only had an hour's sleep all day, and refused to settle for her afternoon sleep, but had eaten a big lunch, drunk both her bottles of milk and charmed both the carers and other kids. She was sitting in a swing chair surrounded by other children, looking for all the world like she holding court!

So today was OK. I'm sure tomorrow will be better, and next week better again. On the up side, they have agreed to try using her cloth nappies this week. (Normal practice is to supply your own disposables.) That made me very happy!