Friday, 25 September 2009

echidna in the suburbs

Yesterday when my son returned from work there was a small echidna on one of the front paths. Last summer, there had been snout shaped holes made in various places of our yard. We thought they may have been made by a bandicoot as they are known to be in the are and there is quite a group of them in the suburb, although not really close to us for such small creatures. However, those holes may well have been made by an echidna searching for ants, grubs, roots etc.

I had been in the laundry this morning and was coming up our 20+ steps to the backdoor when a movement caught my eye. It was the echidna again, well out in the open. Hurried up the last few steps and remembered I'd come out the front door and this was shut. Down again, around front, up the stairs and upstairs to my room to get the camera. Back downstairs and outside and it had vanished. so I did a bit of searching and finally spotted it.

I finally found it fossicking in some leaf litter down near our back fence. It was very difficult to take photos. The access was poor, behind the large, heavy kauri table which I can't move by myself. There was little space between the table and the fence. I had to lie on the grass for some shots and take photos under the table. These did not turn out well so I've omitted them. There's really too much light/shade contrast for good photos and the multi-colour quills provide good camouflage. It was well rounded and looked quite alert and not even really very wary of me. There are plenty of fallen branches in our overgrown leafy garden which are in various stages of decay. Lots of grubs and ants there for an echidna and also lots of leaf litter to offer shelter to more food for it.

Apparently many echidnas don't actually hibernate, but they do eat very little during winter and stay at home, curled up. I've seen echidnas live in the bush and on bush roads and in the zoo of course, but it was a thrill to find an apparently healthy one in my own garden in suburban Sydney. It seemed quite at home too.

Obligatory knitting content? None really unless I make a comment that the quills looked as if they could double as double point needles!

my creative space

One pi shawl, almost finished. Taken outside on my elevated balcony. I often sit out here to knit, although the weather is too extreme in the middle of both winter and summer. The view is lovely, I'm outside but sheltered. I had two disreputable old tub chairs given me when I moved out of my former home. These are outside here. They are comfortable to sit in and knit but are not in good enough condition to consider having recovered. I don't mind them out here and they are useful. They were covered in layers of dust from the dust storm the other day and needed a good clean.

I'll be pleased to be finished this shawl. It's been fairly mindless knitting for the latter part of it and I still have about a quarter of the garter stitch border to do.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Christmas skirts and sewing

Yes, this is a knitting blog and yes, I have been knitting but nothing is worthy of a photo yet. I've done one ball of a lacy two ball scarf with a very simple pattern. I've been working on my pi shawl and can finally see the end in a couple of days. I'm about halfway round the edging garter stitch rows. Useless to take a picture yet. It's all bunched up on a large circular.

Today was horrible as probably most people in at least NSW know. I haven't been outside at all except for a couple of minutes on the balcony to take some photos. These can be see on Flickr here. Just amazing colours which gave me quite a shock when I first opened my eyes just after 5:00 am.

So I turned to sewing. Now I've sewn for years but not much over the last few. However, I wanted to make some skirts for my young granddaughters and had already cut out a bag. I found the green/purple material as a big piece in Anglicare in Hornsby. It was $7 and there is a lot left. The colours appealed to me and I immediately thought of a bag. It's lined with what seemed to be an almost new purple pillowslip, a really big one with binding and borders. That cost $1.50. Iron-on interfacing was needed and I used some on both the lining and outside of the bag as it's fairly soft fabric. Throw in a magnetic catch and a couple of rings and about an hour, I think, of sewing. It's been a while since I did anything like this so had to stop and think. I almost sewed it together without putting pockets inside and the catch on the lining.
All these lovely fabrics come from Corrie at Retromummy. It was very hard to make a choice and she's had even more material arrive in her shop since I bought these. Lovely service too and three beautiful children who are very photogenic. I can see little Morgan in this. She'll be five on Sunday and loves pretty things. She has a good sense of what to put together too.
This one is for her cousin who's nine now. She's been learning French at school and hoped for a good souvenir from my son and DIL when they went to Paris. They have brought back a tiny Eiffel Tower for her. I also chose this for her as it's linen and her Mum is careful about washing and ironing things. I do know this will get ironed as linen needs. The colour here is a bit dark. It was late in the afternoon and I wasn't going outside to get the last bit of light. I tried the flash but that was even more inaccurate. I can see her wearing this over a pair of sassy leggings. It really has dark red contrasting pieces which seem black in this picture.
This last one is for MIss Seven or Miss Pink. Views of apartment living. She's dark and very pretty and loves pink. She's also very vivacious and this material will suit her.

All I did was seam, hem and run some elastic through. I would have preferred a proper waistband but don't know measurements. I did some research on drafting patterns and hoped to find some measurements but was out of luck.

Right now the elastic is held with a safety pin. After Christmas, the elastic can be adjusted and fixed properly.
So what about the two boys, one at either end of the age range? I'm thinking perhaps sme easy summer pyjamas or perhaps some boardshorts, or perhaps nothing handmade from me. I'll have to consider things. It's just three months till Christmas! What has happened?

Monday, 21 September 2009


I'm back from a weekend in the Southern Highlands and in a much better mood than I was last Thursday which resulted in the whiny post below. I had a lovely time and enjoyed myself very much.

We went to Mittagong on Friday morning. It was supposed to be a maximum there of 17°, but it was warmer than that. After lunch in a pleasant cafe we ambled around the town through the overpriced antique centre and then wandered up to the motel. I'd come down with a nasty cold which I'd been fighting off all week. Perhaps that was the cause of my bad mood? We both had a rest and I felt somewhat better so we went out for dinner.

On Saturday I decided to try out my blue Milkweed shawl. The morning was decidedly on the chilly side, although the day did warm up later. I had on black pants and top and tied the shawl so it just skimmed the edge of my shoulders and warmed the top of my arms. I lost track of the enquiries I had about it from other knitters. Loads and loads of compliments from friends, some of whom I hadn't seen for a couple of years.

The day was pleasant and passed too quickly, although my friend and I had booked rooms to stay a second night while many others went back to Sydney. An unexpected highlight was seeing a bride arrive at the beautiful historic sandstone church, St Stephens Anglican church in Mittagong in a massive, red and white prime mover which was bedecked in white satin ribbon. The prime mover was huge and she had five steps to negotiate to get to the ground. Her dress had masses of frills and flounces and it soon became apparent these were there to disguise the fact that she was about six months pregnant. She needed a good deal of help not to overbalance while climbing down the steps!

Sunday morning saw us back at a cafe having breakfast. Another chilly morning so Milkweed made another appearance. We breakfasted out because what would have been provided by the motel was most unappealing. I had lovely ricotta pancakes with sour cherries and yoghurt while he had the full deal, bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomato etc. We drove to Bowral where we saw the magnificent tulips. We spent some time wandering in the local park, admiring the beautiful clear colours and the massed plantings of thousands of tulips.

With plenty of time before we had to return to Sydney we wondered what to do. We decided against Berrima as we've been there several times in the last couple of years. We drove up to the Gib, Mt Gibraltar, the highest point between the Illawarra coast and the Great Dividing Range. I hadn't been there for very many years and it had changed. We went to the main lookout where some of it was badly overgrown. We drove around the scenic side and came on more lookouts. It was lovely there and we sat on the rocks in the sunshine and talked and talked. Milkweed stayed on despite the sun as there was a cool breeze blowing up there.

Another cafe and lunch and we arrived here some time in the afternoon.

It was a very relaxing weekend and I had a good time. The cold is still there but on the way out and the break was great. As I'd anticipated, good food, friends and conversation. Just what I needed.

I'm afraid I'm still suffering from the shawl flu which seems to be passing around the net. I've already done six small ones this year and have a few more in a queue. This lot will need to be gifts, I think. I've just discovered some more stash wool from Wired for Fibre and will make a second Milkweed with that. The colour is called Lava and there are 438 metres in it. I've ordered some 4 ply luxury from Bendigo for another two shawls, Travelling Woman and Percy. That's a bit of a laugh actually which I did not intend when I wrote it first - Travelling Woman and Percy and I've ordered a black, a grey which I think is called Ghost, perhaps Ice and some Delphinium. Both of these are free patterns.

Edited to add laterThe friend to whom I gave this green Aestlight also had hers on and was telling people about both the Aestlight and the Milkweed shawls. They are actually both fairly simple, straight forward patterns, although the Aestlight is trickier. Those who don't know much about knitting were very impressed.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

springtime bandit shawl

Herewith Springtime Bandit. It's really a rosy pink, done in some Bendigo Aran I had leftover. I used 5.5 mm needles.

I'm more pleased with it now off the needles than I was when knitting it. It didn't really excite me as I did it. The first two charts were clear and simple, although I re-graphed the stitches after the first chart to show the actual stitches from the double increase done by knitting front and back of the stitch and also using a yarnover between those two stitches.

The last chart, the final 34 rows was, for my eyes anyway, messy and hard to read. Now I realise that was because of the number of stitches and rows. I would have preferred to have seen the chart split into two charts. That way, the squares for the graph could have been larger and much easier to read and use.

I found this a boring knit. I can't quite say why but it didn't really inspire me at all. It's definitely warm, being Aran weight, but it was boring. I'd do another Milkweed, Aestlight or Ishbel before I even considered a second one of these. This makes the sixth shoulder shawl this year having done two of those mentioned twice already.

It may not bother some, but I was peeved by the instructions that it was imperative to check gauge before starting and to adjust needle size if necessary. This is not a garment where fit is essential. It's a shawl to throw over the shoulders, for goodness sake. OK, so who wants it pocket handkerchief size or conversely, the size of a triangular shade sail? But minor differences should be fine. I didn't even measure my tension for this and just guessed from the feel of the fabric which came off the needles whether needles should be a different size. Actually the size of mine is very close overall to the schematic. It's a bit wider across the neck edge and marginally longer down the centre. I had thought it may have been much bigger. The pattern suggests that the skill level required is medium. I would have thought that that level would not need to be told that it is imperative to get the exact tension.

Another rant while I'm at it, but on a related topic. I have been a member of Ravelry from the very early stages. I use it as a tool and it's wonderful. It's pretty well the first place I look for patterns now. I'm a member of some forums, although I no longer participate in some of those as I find the tone is quite quickly changed from pleasant to very snarky. Others are good, particularly those associated with a specific designer. I belong to several of those. I don't take part in swaps or much discussion, my queue is for my benefit alone as a means of bookmarking something particularly appealing for my later reference. Nor have I posted pictures of my stash.

That said, I could easily spend a great deal of time there and have done so. But again, it's a tool I appreciate.

However, another couple of peeves while I'm feeling grouchy. There are 300(!!!) pages of shawl patterns and I've looked at every page. Many of the designs, particularly near the end of those pages, just don't belong there. I don't know if this is a technical problem or mistakes by those uploading patterns. However, I don't class children's jumpers, booties, felted bags and more as shawls. However there are loads of such patterns in amongst the shawls.

If a pattern is to be uploaded for all to enjoy, then it's a good idea to show off the finished product to its best. However many shawls and socks are very dark on a dark background. I'm not talking about camera skills here but the actual colour chosen. If something is lacy but dark and shown on dark background, then the lace is hard to see. With 300 pages to look through, I'm not going to spend time on such things. I like patterns for shawls where they are draped or hung so the pattern can be seen.

On the same lines, I was amazed how many patterns are there with no picture available. Now if I click on the pattern I may find that others making it have put up a picture of their own which shows the garment. But to me, it's a real turnoff and I usually don't follow up a pattern which has no picture in the index. I can spend enough time on the site without doing that.

I'm off tomorrow for a few days in the Southern Highlands. Hopefully I'll be in a better mood when I return. Shoulders and wrists have been aching with the seasonal change and I'm somewhat sleep deprived from that. This morning I was down at the local supermarket just a couple of minutes after they opened at 6:00 am! I'd been awake some hours before then, so that quite possibly explains my poor mod.

Still good friends, good food, lovely surroundings and hopefully good weather should help.

Corrie's giveaway

Corrie at retromummy is having a giveaway. She has some lovely patterns and beautiful fabrics, three of which can be see in the post below this one.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

not knitting, for a change

Corrie, at Retromummy has been tempting me for ages with beautiful fabrics for children's clothing. When I saw these, I couldn't resist. After all, I'm a French teacher by training as well as Latin and English, even a bit of emergency German teaching too. Miss Nine has been learning French all year in Grade 3 and is very taken with things French. DIL brought her home a small model of the Eiffel Tower when she was in Europe recently and Miss 9 was thrilled. Off it went for show and tell. Needless to say, I'm encouraging her and we have very basic conversations. She thinks it's cool to get a head start on her class mates like this. Fancy grandma being able to be relevant!! All of the Parisian pieces will become little skirts for the girls and be added to their Christmas presents. A hem, a seam and a waistband, or more likely, some elastic to allow for growth and there's a skirt.

This particular design which shows views inside a Parisian apartment was going to be for Miss 9 but I think I'll give it to her elder cousin who is just 7 and very much a pink girly girl. If I'm feeling energetic, it may get a pink ruffle around the bottom to match.
I can't have read Corrie's description when I ordered this. It is certainly the design I ordered, but I didn't realise it is linen. That means that I'll make it up for Miss 9, instead of the apartment scenes shown above. Her mum is very careful about washing and everything which looks as if it might need ironing is ironed. When I knit for those children, I don't mind using wool which needs careful treatment, as I know she will look after them. Everything for the others is machine wash from me. Linen really needs pressing or it just looks crumpled. This DIL irons good clothes and party dresses for the family, but everyday clothing usually is washed and worn, unless it really desperately needs an iron. I think Miss 9 will enjoy the little Eiffel Towers scattered over the material. I think this is gorgeous. Well, actually they all are.

This is for my youngest granddaughter who will be not much over 5 when Christmas arrives. I'm not sure whether I'll make a skirt. I like the fact that this set of pictures is really a border. What I see in my imagination is a cute little sundress. Not much shaping at the top, perhaps a small cutout for the bottom of the armpit and some binding all around. Shoestring straps over the shoulders which will tie to allow for adjustment.

She's a good deal shorter than her sister or cousin although she's currently going through a growth spurt so this would work as a dress as well as a skirt. I was over there minding them on Saturday night while their parents were out for dinner. She's quite blonde with a very cute new, short hairstyle and a lovely smile. This colour will suit her really well.

Around the bottom is the French Comment allez-vous? Je vais bien. How are you? I'm well.

Now let's cross the English Channel. There were some surprises in my parcel. The chocolate éclair lollies are nowhere to be seen! They didn't last very long at all. I rarely buy myself sweet things, but these were yummy. This material is very English. There are Guardsmen marching stiffly along, tourist attractions in London,rows of little teapots and lots of red white and blue. As this was a total surprise, very pleasing too, I have no plans for it yet. I'm thinking perhaps some appliqué patches using bits of it. We'll see, it will keep.

All was well packed and arrived here very quickly after my order. It's a pleasure to do business with Corrie. I don't know where she finds time to do all this, along with the beautiful sewing, knitting, quilting etc which she also does. She has a gorgeous little girl, not long three years old, and twins, a boy and a girl, just over one year old. Busy, busy.

Monday, 7 September 2009

where the wild things are

The local post office is about 15 minutes walk from here in a group of four shops. I had to go there today to post my neckwarmer and Breiwick beret to a friend in NZ. There's the Post Office, the National Trust shop and the Crewel Gobelin and a small coffee shop. There must be many people up here who do embroidery of one sort or another. There are almost always several customers in the needlework shop with the clever name and they have a range of absolutely beautiful stuff. I do some cross stitching but am far from skilled at this and need to do it in the daylight so I can see properly.

They usually have no knitting stuff at all, Greta's down the road handles all that well, but today as I walked past I saw this book in their window. I bought it almost just for the photos in it. Some of these tea cosies are as way out as the beanies for the Beanie competition at Alice Springs. Apparently the owner of the shop likes what the assistant called "quirky" things so gets a copy of this from time to time. It is hardly in the window than it's sold, apparently.

You can see the back cover. What a lot of designs there are. The author has a blog and I see she is in Exeter in the Southern Highlands next month for the Crazy Cosies Competition. I'll be in Mittagong for that day in the morning and my friend and I usually have a bit of a drive and coffee before returning home in the afternoon. I think I'll ask him if he'd like a trip to Exeter which is not that far away and we'll go there after seeing our friends. I wish I'd known she'd been doing a workshop at Frensham School last month, also at Mittagong. We drive past there up the side road to get to friends.

I decided I'd have a coffee in the coffee shop there and read my book while I drank my coffee. However, the local council is renovating the Marian Street Theatre which it owns, and the shop was full of workmen having lunch from the theatre over the road, so I returned home and DIL and I had a good giggle over the photos. She also is a fan of "quirky" things.

It was a pleasant walk. Up the highway is a sign proclaiming the suburb name. There's a pub, a pool shop and a lighting shop. I think everything else is closed. The station has no shops. The place is very quiet there with bushy trees and some big old houses. The four shops I went to are on my way to the station, about a kilometre down from the highway. Pleasant, leafy and fairly quiet. What's even better is that this walk is basically flat, something unusual around here.