Sunday, April 30, 2006

dyeing to show you (photo heavy - sorry)

there are advantages to having your husband travel on a regular basis, the first is being able to work until midnight with anyone complaining that they are a: neglected b: lonely or c: hungry - wheres dinner?
As a seasoned part-time single mum, I took full advantage of my beloved's trip to India, firstly to get as much mothering into Charlotte as I could before she returned to NZ, and secondly to dye 30 25 g balls of merino and some leftover angora and alpaca.
My dyeing methods are slightly unorthodox, but they work for me. I explained a little to Kerry (sadly blogless, delightfully calm, interesting and interested, sock mad member of SSK )anyway, I expect to see great things from Kerry in a fortnights time...he has obviously been reading a fair bit about dyeing yarn recently and I caught the glint of enthusiasm in his eyes.

Basically I assemble myself thus:
- spread a huge sheet of plastic (not gladwrap) over the kitchen bench
- fill both sinks with warm water and a squirt of dishwashing liquid, one for soaking the skeins of wool, the other for anything that gets in the way of the dye.
- soak the skeins for 20 minutes
- assemble my stock dye solutions in plastic bottles
- assemble jars and paintbrushes, one for each colour I am going to use
- make a pile of tea towels and paper towels for spills and to wrap around the jars to prevent drips
- squeeze the skeins and arrange them on the plastic, then proceed to paint them in your desired colours, I usually paint various shades of one colour before I proceed to the next (planning is vital) I use Ashford dyes, sometimes the dyes take very well, and clear water may start to pool under the skein, mop this up with paper towels, as it may dilute the colours on the underside of the skein, (check after every colour application that the colour is coming through on the back of the skein)
- cooking - this is the unorthodox bit.
I use a microwave cake dish, the kind with the funnel in the middle, (ring cake mould), I take the wet skein and place it in the dish, then cook it on medium for 5-7 minutes (test with your own microwave) when the water runs clear - it's done. I then place the skein on a towel to cool down for a few minutes, before placing it in a sink of warm water with fabric softner added(my way of avoiding static build up in the yarn when I am skeining it)

arrangement of skein in the microwave safe dish.

here are some of the results of this latest endeavour, once again I used organic 3 ply merino, laceweight alpaca and 10 ply angora, I am always amazed at the different ways the yarn takes to colour. The merino was scoured with an organic scourer, and ended up a dirty cream, so takes the colours in quite a muted way,(top of page)

the angora (above) takes the dye the way I imagine when I am dreaming up colourways.

The alpaca was cream to begin with, and ended up rather more muted than the merino (left of the photo) but thats ok, I like these colours, even the colourway which is all blues, pinks and purples - made with the leftover dye, Kerry said they were quieter, like my personality, and he was right, well, until the champagne cocktails kick in!

And the other advantages?

missing Flash, absence does make the heart grow fonder, and the "I'm going to be away on our wedding anniverary and I haven't told you yet" multicoloured sapphire bracelet - and what makes it even more special, is that he chose it himself, and it's me to a "t".

thanks honey, I'm glad you are home safe.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

You've come a long way baby

Charlotte Michael (after Miss Michael Learned - Momma from "The Waltons" I liked the name) was born 17 years ago at National Women's Hospital in Auckland after a 4 hour labour (not including the 6 weeks pre-term labour and hospitalisation!)

Her big sister Holly was interested but thought the baby should get off Mummy and go to bed.
Char (Coco, Charlie) is sweet, smart and intense, headstrong and stubborn (seems to run in the family) she looks after others, cooking and helping around the house, her co-workers, friends and family adore her for this, she won't take "no" for an answer and is unswerving in her pursuit of ...everything, her co-workers, friends and family call this "being Charlotte".

Happy Birthday Darling, and that big package from Skeleton wasn't actually's your present!

(I am constantly amazed at what I can get away with in the name of yarn)

Sunday, April 23, 2006


The hat that started it...

I find most lace knitting daunting, and wanted a project which used lace, but not on the scarey scale of a shawl( all of you shawl mavens out there can stop laughing right about now)I figured a nice rectangle of the stuff, with a pretty cast on edge and no shaping was the ticket...I was also trawling through my brain for ideas on how I could bring my old baby hat out of the 80's and into the 21st century - babies certainly love the bold colours, but the Mod phase has passed everyone else by. I remembered changing the style slightly to make a fairisle bonnet for a newborn,and felt the cogs start to whirr...use the basic babyhat shape, knit in lace, and don't sew the back seam...voila! a lace bonnet, no shaping,no dramas.(Now you know that I had to knit it on the knitting machine, the originals were knitted by hand, but this was an idea that I needed to see results from quickly)

Recipe for disaster:
Find a lace pattern already marked on the card - tick
Go straight ahead with the number of needles you THINK you require, knit for the length you IMAGINE should be correct,work the picot hem, decrease on the fly with a cursory nod at the maths, and cast off loosely.You now have semi-wonderful potential bonnet,however it is way to small for a newborn, and not appropriate for a preemie...let's get some organisation here.

(raspberry wool bonnet, needs a seam up the back and ribbon ties)

Knit a tension square and measure - tick
Work out the number of needles required and cast on - tick
Knit the required number of rows, stop knitting lace, pick up a hem,play around with decreases...jeepers it's working!

Cast off, sew a small seam...and it's done.
remind self to write the pattern down quickly.

This is one machine pattern which translates easily to hand knitting, the gauge is the same, the yarn is the same, the lace pattern may differ slightly, but I am sure that armed with a couple of stitch dictionaries I will come close.

The darling model is "Topsy" Charlotte's baby doll, tragic I know, but in the absence of a real live baby, she is the next best thing, she is a size "00" approximately 4-6 months , so handy for trying out ideas, patient, and never cries or needs changing. She has almost become a member of the family - albeit that she is plastic, Flash will come home, and say "hi honey, hi baby" to us sitting on the couch, me knitting, she waiting patiently for the next fitting.

I did have an action-packed daydream while I was trying to get her changed into a sweater while holding her by one arm...I live in an apartment with huge windows, what if someone in the restuarant over the road, or waiting for the traffic lights, or riding the bus, saw me, and reported me to the authorities for child abuse...and a social worker and a police officer turned up at my door, and there am I laughing so hard I can't speak, explaining that I have a life size baby doll to try knitting patterns out I wouldn't look crazy at all.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

bliss at 160 kph in 7 seconds

Wow! what a trip, we did none of the things I wanted to do, and everything I didn't - and I had a BLAST!

To re-cap, Flash, Charlotte, Blaise and I drove to Coffs Harbour last sunday, a very long drive, Monday we drove to the Gold Coast, arrived around 3pm, had a swim, walked around a bit, chilled out. Tuesday went to Dreamworld - I had plans to wander around the animal park, knit a bit, just take it easy while Flash and the kids imperiled themselves on the rides - fast forward to reality. "Please just go on one ride with us, pleeeeaaase", "ok", famous last words.

The "one ride" turned out to be the "Thunder river rapids ride" ok, all good except for the sopping wet linen shorts, yep yep yep, at least they were a dark colour, so lulled into a false sense of security I allowed them to drag me to the "Tower of Terror" I began to think the terror was the line, 1/2 an hour, no knitting needles allowed, and then it was time, locked into a pod the size of a mini, and fired up a track at 160 kph, then straight up a tower for 38 stories, and then the whole thing backwards, scarey huh!... well no actually, I had my eyes closed most of the time, and found the trip quite blissful, and can I say meditative, my (closed) eyes were full of golden light, and I was calm and serene, I enjoyed the rush immensely. Flash crunched his teeth the whole time, and the girls screamed, Charlotte of course posed for the camera.

and this set the tone for the next two days, no Brisbane (next time Rach), no Australia Zoo, just 2 days of adrenalin, laughter and fun with my family. We set up camp in the cafe at Tiger Island, and watched the tigers for an hour before their show, the show was amazing, but just watching them stroll around beforehand was great too, so I did get a bit of an animal experience. I have plans to tag along with Flash on his next visit to Brisbane, and hire a car so that I can spend a day at Australia Zoo (and catch up with Rach)

thursday we left the Gold Coast and drove south and inland, until we reached a small town called Glen Innes, we stayed the night in a lovely 2 storey apartment in a converted barn, and pushed on at 7 the next morning, with a 1/2 stop for lunch we made it home at 4pm, our trip covered more than 2000 km, thats more than twice the length of NZ or Britain, we were very proud of ourselves until we drew it on the map...

Australia is big huh!

a few insights:

- do not think that just because you are in merino country, and there are sheep everywhere, that the LYS will stock anything except courtelle and eyelash.

- your teenage kids do not always care about sugar cane/ banana/sheep/cattle farming or the history of the Australian Federation. They do not want to "name that bird" or play licence plate cricket, they would rather play roadkill bingo.

- if you find a roadhouse that sells salad, buy a couple for later, teenage girls do not function well in the absence of fresh food.

- if your husband needs to email a vital presentation, his ability to do so will be in inverse proportions to the importance of the presentation, needless to say, if we added it up, one day of the trip was spent trying in vain to dailup/broadband/wireless a blasted presentation, something he manages to do all the time, from all over the world.

Thank you Holly for looking after the blog while I was gone, yes I like chocolate, and with the move to Sydney, and the discovery of DJs chocolate department, Cadbury's black forest has been out the window for a while, Dolfin's dark chocolate with pink peppercorns is the treat of the moment...try it with fresh strawberries for an out of body experience.

I have to call my child and ask her which book provided her inspiration, everytime we go out we end up at a bookstore, and everytime she empties my purse! anyway, Holly, your Nana says that you look fantastic and are obviously very happy with your choice, that is all we ever wanted.

Thanks for the comments about the pink cardi, I am happy with the way it turned out, and managed to come up with a few more ideas while I was away, not much knitting done, just half of the other arrows sock, but lots of thinking.

Flash is off to India this week, yes Alison, he is going to the Taj Mahal without me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Guest Blogger - Thoughts from a knitters progeny

My mum has knitted for as long as I can remember, not that I remember actually seeing her knit until UNTIL she got into those blasted knitting machines. I must say that I definitely have HEARD her knit.

So mum asked me to write this guest blog, probably hoping in vain that I am as literate as my teachers have always suggested.

I think that it’s a good way to show you all what a fantastic knittum (knitting mum) Jussi really is, and also to say a little thank you.

My mum had me relatively young; she had a lot of support from some people, but no support from others, so she knitted us lovely things. From early on she instilled the value of independence. Funnily enough I was the most independent and fearless child in my classes up until I was 14. My mum was the one who made really cool looking jumpers that were really itchy, because of that I had more skivvies than I had siblings (actually a pretty fair number)

Mum didn’t knit much for us when we reached school, but she kept on being a bit quirky. My mum was the one who would take us to cafes when she got coffee, back when even Devonport didn’t know what a cafe was. Who listened to Julie London instead of Celine Dion and R.E.M instead of oh I don’t know, whatever bad music there was in the 90’s. I was the kid who had Tonka’s, and Littlest pet shop ponies instead of Barbie’s and those stupid smelly muffin dolls. (Yes, I really had no Barbie’s, yes they are not a necessity to your girl-child’s healthy upbringing, I mean, I’m straight, and even if I wasn’t, would that be a problem, hey?)

My mother invented M & M cookies! It wasn’t “Subway” or “Betty Crocker”. OK, I’m glad we have that one cleared up. No arguing otherwise or I may be forced to do some hurtin’

The funny trend I am noticing is that although mum has mellowed out now, the things I am writing are almost straight out of her mouth. Yes my mother was a bit of a raving feminist, hehe.

My mum loves black forest Cadburys and always had it; I think I can blame her for my BMI being over the healthy range. Other bad food habits include maccas! Hahahaha. When we moved to Auckland, mum and I never got much time to hang out together, so I got pretty lonely because there was no one else in our house who I got along with well. We started a little habit when she got a car, more specifically when she started working for WINZ, of getting two cheeseburgers on $1 Tuesdays at maccas, omg those were the days. Although mum isn’t here in NZ, I have made friends with girls who love maccas cheeseburgers to the same extent as me :D

Mum started knitting again when we lived in waihi, she made clothes for a shop there and I was always so proud to take my friends into the shop after school to show them the clothes my mum made. Whenever she sold something she was always so happy J

In short my mum has influenced everything in my life from my music (so so much, its insane) to my friends, my philosophies, interests, and really I must say she’s a big part of me turning my life on its head to study wine making – she did buy me the book that inspired me with her last $10.

I think she must be a little bit proud, to have a child who turned down a $30k scholarship and broke off a 4 year relationship to study something in a place she knew no one in and had never been to. Either that or she thinks I’m crazy.

The last thing mum did before letting me loose on the big wide world was teach me to knit. One long boring summer in Aussie I asked her to teach me and she did, yes I swore at her for hours, but eventually I took over and began to get it. It made me realise how endlessly patient she is, sure she had a wonderful calm daughter called Blaise, but she had two equally and oppositely temperamental daughters in Char and I. We’re three very lucky daughters, to get this mum whom no one else will ever get, and I think she’s a pretty lucky mum, we weren’t bad kids.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Is it a holiday without Holly?

I am so excited, like a kid before Christmas excited, we are off on a weeks holiday tomorrow, but without Holly and Maria...Holls is holidaying with Nana and Harry in Auckland (cross my fingers that she caught her plane) and we saw Maria off at Mascot for two weeks in Thailand - lucky thing!

Flash, Blaise, Charlotte and I are off to Coffs Harbour - we are staying at this resort, the one with the HUGE pool, this holiday is all about the kids, Flash and I have had some amazing holidays without the girls, so we owe them a few, (we haven't actually had a honeymoon though, Flash went to Paris after we got married...but it doesn't count because I wasn't with him)we are basing ourselves at Coffs, but are visiting friends in the Gold Coast for dashes to Australia Zoo and Dreamworld, (and thinking - should I part with $450 for 15 minutes with a tiger?)

I am looking forward to mindless sitting by the pool knitting, reading and thinking, interspersed with intensely active periods (watching my 3 kids (including Flash)on theme park rides...I am TOO old for all that - ok too chicken for all that!)

I am hoping to get plenty of inspiration for yarn colourways while I am away, we are spending one night quite a way inland, at a place where thousands of birds come in every evening, right before dusk, the colours should be amazing.

I'll leave you with my latest little creation...yes another cardi

Friday, April 14, 2006

I was conflicted

I had decided earlier this year to start concentrating on knitting on this blog, less personal stuff - more craft.

I felt that you guys read for the knitting, and the family is a distraction.
I was wrong - my hotmail is full of "what about the adventues of Flash-what has he been up to lately?" and "where is Charlotte?"

I admire the way people like Kath can open up to us, and bare their soul, and have decided that the good, the bad and the downright fugly of my bizarre, bolshie, blended family are back on the blog.

so where are they now?
Melanie - still working at Jackie E on Lambton Quay.
Holly - studying wine science - but you all knew that
Charlotte - in Oz, (and happy)but returning to NZ at the end of the month (will be happier)- we will miss her, again.
Maria - in Oz, at school, going to Thailand for 2 weeks on saturday - good girl!
Blaise -in Oz, at school, sad because she has had her 2nd MP3 /photo storage device stolen.
Flash - working frantically on a presentation for his visit to Delhi ( and recovering from yet another round of vaccinations)
Jussi - living the life of Riley, looking forward to next weeks holiday in Coffs harbour and the Gold Coast.

Knitting progress has been steady, here is a picture of part of my latest baby cardi

I am in the process of loading 5 sets of dpns with ribbing, so that I can knit 2 new pairs of socks and the partner to the arrow sock, while we are away. Nothing too taxing, just a pair of black socks for Flash, and some lacy socks for "whomever they fit" in Lornas "Happy Valley" colourway.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

a day out

(lady cannonball - towards the top of the picture)

My Mama came from NZ for the weekend, and as none of the adults in our house had been to the Sydney Easter Show - we decided to take a chance - I had stopped going to the Auckland Easter Show when I was 20, so was game for a look.

The day was gorgeous, sunny, but not too hot...we avoided the rides and sideshows...spent ages admiring the alpacas and other livestock, decided that we would have to add a Bengal cat to our wishlist of pets for when we return to NZ (currently a chocolate burmese,blue point siamese and German Shepherd) had a nice leisurely sit down lunch with wine, and saw a lady shot out of a cannon.

The food hall was great, Flash is a sucker for a good sales pitch, so I had to keep an eye on him,but he did well, just a tin of fudge, some lavender, and beautiful dried fruit. I couldn't resist buying some lifestyle magazine I can't bear to pay retail for such publications.

The ever-stylish Mama bought cupcakes for the girls

and a dolly for me (when I was little they would always buy me a dolly-on-a-stick at the Auckland Easter show) I like this one better.

I raged the Arts and Crafts hall until I found Donna's shawl (no photo - go to Donna's blog to see it) where she had received a "highly commended", way to go Donna!

Donna explains the "showbag" phenomenom well on her site, it was a new experience for me, I called the kids and was told what to buy,managed to avoid the rubbish, and proceeded to lug it all back to the car without too much drama.

Rating: 3 stars for a uncomplicated fun day out, but thats because we didn't go with the kids!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I have been waylaid

I love knitting, the reflective meditation of sitting quietly with one's thoughts while manipulating yarn with needles, the calming effect of the mantra of the stitch pattern, the tactile comfort of smooth yarn and the joy that comes from creating.

Yeah right...I am machine knitting a lot at the moment - designing,trying to translate the images crowding my head out onto paper and into reality, but the problem with designing is that the garment hasn't been knitted before, no-one knows the pitfalls yet... that neckline looks great on paper, but in that stitch it won't go over the head...aaarrrggghhh...back to the drawing board. My strategy for dealing with the self-imposed disappointment and failure is two-fold - knitter know thyself.

  1. spend a day knitting things I have already designed, which work, so I have that feeling of success.
  2. learn a new creative skill, and do it at least halfway ok.

to that end I dragged (yeah sure - more like sprinted) myself to Kinokuniya and perused their fine selection...I found a Japanese/English book on Domino knitting...interesting, Mary has some delightful mitred squares on the go,gorgeous colours and satisfying lines, I love the geometry of mitreing - but it is still knitting and I am presently the anti-knit...but into the basket it went - for the reference library. The next book to come to my attention was one on making buttons from scratch...wool buttons, fabric buttons - fascinating history and useful skill all in one book, silly, silly Jussi...I put it back on the shelf for a few moments while I looked at origami books, and someone else nabbed it...if you are reading this I congratulate you on your book taste - and your speed.

Finally I found this "The new crewel" woohoo! it fits all of my carefully considered criteria (in other words it's not knitting) the author Katherine Shaughnessy has dragged embroidery out of the 19th century, the rules have changed and while I daydream of being a Merchant Ivory heroine, in a diaphanous gown, swooning over my emboidery hoop, the reality is that I am neither tubercular nor prone to fainting, so will have to make do with sitting cross-legged on the couch attempting to reproduce her organic shapes and delicious colours, I also get to indulge in new materials, crewel wool in a multitude of colours, tiny hoops for tension, crewel needles and a box to put it all in.I am happy with the result, it is a sweet addition to a lacy singlet, although next time I will use lace weight yarn for embroidering on knitting, so that it won't disappear into the knit structure quite so much.

And the net result? I am ready to face that metal monster again, ready for failure and disappointment, success and the unmitigated joy of knowing - "I created that"

Monday, April 03, 2006


I finished the first of the "arrows" socks (named for the lace patterning on the sides of the leg)
the 4-star toe was a success, in that it is comfortable, and needs no sewing up - yippee!, however, as a design device with this particular yarn, it was a disappointment.
I will use the star toe again, when I am working with a plain yarn (and of course, to finish Holly's second arrows sock) but not with patterned or striped yarn.
These socks are longer than I usually knit, I started with my plain vanilla sock pattern and knitted 30 extra rows prior to leg shaping, I am really happy with the heel and gusset - no holes!

Flash cooked this

this past week has whizzed by, I am writing this post on my new laptop, courtesy of my dear husband, who asked for my tech specs, and surpassed my wildest dreams, this baby is even customised - mediterranean blue - ah he knows me so well, throw Photoshop elements, and Cochenille's Garment designer into the mix, and it's a wonder I have slept at all. I am sure that I will have results to show you soon, the only knitting is "still" the arrows sock, but there has been is a taster - main fabric is a Kaffe Fassett stripe, complemented by an Amy Butler print.

Wonderful weekend, Donni and Ailsa came to Sydney for a girly weekend, I joined them in Newtown for shopping, and then SSK, which was such a social affair that I missed out on talking to some people I either wanted to meet, or catch up with, there was a lot of interesting knitting going on we then wandered down to Kuleto's a local cocktail bar for a pitstop on the way to my place, chatted and watched Flash while he made greek meatballs for the kid's dinner ( I'm thinking of a blog - updated ever weekend, with Flash's latest culinary effort)

we wound up at Chinta Ria (my alltime fave Thai restaurant) we laughed a lot, cried a bit, and drank more than the NSW health authority would approve of. I must admit that I haven't had a "girls night out" since I left NZ, and I enjoyed myself immensely, we'll have to do it again guys - make mine an appletini.

Back to the arrow socks, I am finishing the first as I write this, I am about to start my first "star toe" , I am excited to see how the stripey yarn will react to this treatment.