Monday, June 29, 2009

A gathering of frills

I've indulged my weakness for frills for little girls yet again:

Frilled cardi 1

The dotee has been away for most of the last ten months or so in warm (even hot) climates - Mexico, Cuba, the Philippines, with a brief period in the Australian summer. She's returning to Australia in a week or so and even though she usually lives in Brisbane, she'll need a cardi (or two).

So I've made her Erika Flory's 'Spice Girl' - very cute and not too heavy for Brisbane. I'm really looking forward to being able to photograph the dotee wearing the cardigan.

Frilled cardi 3

I used Heirloom Easy Care 5 ply for the body of the cardigan and Araucania Ranco Multy for the wonderful frills. The colours are a perfect combination. [The colours are so perfect that I'm having to resist the urge to immediately cast on for another pair of Cranford Mitts using the same combination of yarns].

frilled cardi 2

I was concerned while I was making this that the cardigan would be too small; and I found the fabric as I was knitting dense and stiff. However, after washing, blocking and ironing it's perfect. The Heirloom Easy Care lived up to its name and washed like a dream, and the resulting fabric is beautifully soft and drapey.

I'd bought some pretty flower-shaped buttons for finishing it, but they made buttoning and unbuttoning the cardigan quite a trial; so having indulged myself with the frills, I was sensible with the buttons.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

...add twenty more colours

Earlier this month RoseRed posted about socks she had made using Kaffe Fassett's Regia sock yarn and declared him to be a 'colour genius'. Of course I agree, but the post set me thinking more generally about the impact Kaffe Fassett's work had on me when his books were originally released in the 1980s.

Fassett 1

I bought 'Glorious Knitting' when it was published in 1985 and later 'Glorious Colour' in 1988. I made a couple of abortive attempts to knit garments from 'Glorious Knitting', but was frustrated by my incapacity to produce the glory of the illustrated garments. No-one would ever praise Kaffe Fassett's technical or pattern writing skills, and my knitting and improvisational ability fell short of what was needed. But 'Glorious Colour' set me off on several years of committed needlepoint, with my own invented patterns and colour combinations.

The colours in Kaffe's books are indeed glorious, and I suspect their publication must have coincided with a time when full-colour pages in books became affordable and easily reproducible. I remember colour seeming to spill riotously from the pages, over which I pored to analyse the original and startling combinations. In his introduction to 'Glorious Knitting' Kaffe Fassett entertainingly writes 'my motto is always - 'When in doubt, add twenty more colours'.

But I think I was even more inspired by the (then) daring profusion of patterns in his work. I'd been fascinated by the way in which different cultures combined patterns, such as the way Javanese women wore several different patterns of batik with brightly coloured clashing lacy or embroidered blouses, or the way Chinese textiles sometimes superimposed floral patterns on geometric backgrounds. Kaffe Fassett seemed to draw on these traditions and others and richly layer them one upon the other. His work had such a sense of abundance.

His influence is still sufficiently great for me to have recently bought his 2007 publication 'Kaffe Knits Again', and to fantasise about how some of his patterns and colour combinations might be used and adapted. And I've bought some Kaffe Fassett Regia Sock Yarn.

Fassett 2

As a footnote, I think some knitting friends with large fibre collections (thank you, MissyFee for this useful term) may like another Kaffe quote from 'Glorious Knitting':
'The best advice I can give is to buy as much [yarn] as you can whenever you can'.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Accumulating yarn

When I rediscovered knitting a couple of years ago I bought yarn when I started a new project. It never occurred to me that I might buy yarn without a specific immediate project in mind, or just because I liked the yarn. After all, this is what I do with books and reading. Though I read quite a lot, and have accumulated many books, I don't usually buy a book unless I have the immediate intention or need to read it.

But knitters who are reading this blog will know what inevitably happened. Swaps, gifts, tempting yarn sales, glittery on-line offers, yarns dyed or spun by friends and acquaintances - all have led me down the slippery slope of yarn acquisition.

I've been dealing with the yarn accumulating in my life with my usual strategy for life's challenges - I've ignored it. I've had two main tactics for doing this. Given my suspicion that nothing really exists till you name it, I have never ever referred to my yarn accumulation as 'stash'. Others of my knitting friends have wonderful stashes that clearly bring them great pleasure. Mine just excites a feeling of mild concern.

My second tactic has been not to store the yarn systematically, but simply 'put it away'. But I'm now at the stage that I can only find anything with difficulty, and where storage space, and safety from moths are becoming real issues.

Clearly, both my ignoring tactics have their downsides.

So, as a first step to acknowledging that I am accumulating yarn (I'm still not calling it 'stash'), I'm acknowledging my newest acquisitions:


These I bought at the recent Craft and Quilt Fair at Darling Harbour. It's Habu Aresco from Dairing in 100% cotton that looks like fine slivers of paper smudged with black Indian ink. I fell in love with its graphic quality and bought some black lace-weight wool from Kaalund to accompany it. I have fantasies of a loosely knit vest or sleeveless cardi.


I'd seen Koigu both knitted up and in the skein, and friends recommended it highly. These skeins were bought on a whim from Knit-Purl, probably my favourite on-line shop. Seeing these skeins all together, I'm (pleasantly) surprised by their pinkness. I have no immediate plans for these.

Pink Empire

Now these I do have a plan for. I want to make Fiona's top by Rasmilla for the dotee, and the new Morris and Sons' 'Empire' 4 ply in pink stranded with a stone/grey colour seemed ideal...and the sale was ending, so it seemed wise(?) to buy.

I should find somewhere accessible and safe to store them, and maybe this will encourage me to assess and face up to the rest of my yarn accumulation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

meme and myself

MissyFee has tagged me for a meme. I'm a meme virgin. A meme requires self-reflection and revelation - processes that are gradually becoming less scary through the activity of blogging. But responding to a meme is a big step for me. Here goes:

What is your current obsession?
Probably knitting; and reading knitting blogs; and Ravelry; and catching up with knitting friends.

What are you wearing today?
I've finally taken a day off work to try to get rid of my cold and protect my work colleagues from my coughing and sneezing, so I'm wearing my 'comfort clothes' - old, soft wool pants, even older cashmere jumper with enormous ragged holes in the elbows, handknitted socks (all grey) and old, bright red Camper slides.

What's for dinner?
Pork steaks with apple sauce, mashed potato, glazed carrots, and peas (my son is staying with me).

What did you eat for your last meal?

It was breakfast - half grapefruit, toast with avocado and tomato, strong coffee.

What's the last thing you bought?
A 'do it yourself' Power of Attorney kit. My son is travelling overseas and I need to be able to act on his behalf.

What are you listening to right now?

The dishwasher washing dishes

If you could go anywhere in the world for the next hour, where would you go?

A cafe in Amsterdam, my favourite city

Which language do you want to learn?

Spanish, so I can communicate with the many Spanish-speaking members of my extended family. But to be honest, if I really wanted to learn Spanish, I would have done so before now. I think I want to be able to speak Spanish but I don't really want to go through the process of learning it!

What do you love most about where you currently live?
Its convenience; its comfort; my neighbours.

What is your favorite colour?
To wear? Grey. But I also love deep rose pink, red and burnt orange.

What is your favorite piece of clothing in your own wardrobe?
The piece of clothing I love most is a modern print, traditionally made kimono jacket given to me by a Korean/Japanese friend. The fabric and colours are wonderful.

However, the beautiful kimono is rather flamboyant and I don't wear it often. The clothes I currently love wearing are cotton knit sort of pants/leggings from Alistair Trung.

What were you doing ten years ago?
Working very hard at a job that I loved and that enabled me to travel quite a bit. I've just checked, and in June 1999 I was in France. Ahhh.

Describe your personal style?
Gosh. I've been wearing the same kinds of clothes (and in some cases the same clothes) for a very long time, so I guess I must have a personal style. I have to be comfortable. I only wear flat or very low heels. I don't own any jeans. I like clothes that hang well. I like accessories - scarves, interesting shoes, chunky jewellery.

If you had $300 now, what would you spend it on?
A new pair of shoes

What are you going to do after this?

What countries would you like to visit?
I would love to re-visit The Netherlands, and to go to the Baltic states. I'd like to see Central India, Laos and Cambodia. I'd love to go to Argentina. I'd like to drive across the USA. Indeed, I want to travel anywhere...

What inspires you?
Reading; some movies, JS Bach; Vermeer's paintings; Georgian architecture; my friends

Whose work/designs are you inspired by?
Issy Miyake, early Coco Chanel. For knitting - Elizabeth Zimmerman, Ysolda Teague, Nancy Bush

Your favourite books?
George Eliot 'Middlemarch', Jane Austen 'Persuasion', Elizabeth Gaskell 'North and South', Anthony Trollope 'The Way We Live Now', Margaret Oliphant 'Miss Marjoribanks'. Somehow my favourite reading got stuck in nineteenth century England.

Do you collect anything?

I'm trying to ignore the growing piles of yarn. I have a small collection of santos - mainly old, wooden images of saints. For an atheist, a bit odd.


The Santo Nino (Holy Child) and the taller San Vicente and San Francisco are from the Philippines, the small St Joseph in the front from India. And the garish plaster saint is a Cuban San Lazaro - patron saint of the poor, who is also the orisha Babalu-Aye in Santeria, the local version of a Yoruba religion practiced among slaves.

What makes you follow a blog?
That it has a personality and reflects passions and interests.

What was the most enjoyable thing you did today?
Lying in bed listening to ABC Radio National because I didn't get up early to go to work.

Whats one thing you dream of doing?
Retaining my health, independence and interest in life as I grow older.

These are the rules as passed on by Fee:
1. Respond and rework; answer the questions on your blog, replace one question that you dislike with a question of your invention, add one more question of your own. 2. Tag eight other people.

But the rules are too hard. I couldn't answer Fee's question about my favourite films - my mind just went blank. I can think of many films I like, but none I would call my favourite. I substituted a question about where I'd like to travel. I've not added a new question, as this has already taken me ages to answer. Enough self-revelation.

And I don't think I know eight readers who have not already been tagged. However, if you haven't been tagged, feel free to play along. I've really enjoyed reading other people's answers.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Last Saturday was a great indulgence of knitting, knitting chat, and knitting friends. A meeting of the Inner-City branch of the NSW Knitters Guild in the morning was followed by World-Wide Knitting in Public Day in the afternoon (blogged by many and ably photographed by web-goddess and Witty Knitter among others).

All this knitting time enabled me to finish the Cranford Mitts - so pretty!

cranford 2

They are destined to be a ninety-sixth birthday gift for my ex-mother-in-law. The pattern is Jane Lithgow's Cranford Mitts that I've knitted in yarn left over from previous projects. The green yarn is Grignasco Champagne, which is a silk/wool mix that is soft but has excellent stitch definition. The grey trim is Araucania Ranco sock yarn. The stitch pattern is a very logical, easy to remember 8 row repeat, and the stretchiness of the lace means the mitts easily adjust to a variety of hand sizes.

I'm not usually a fan of fingerless mitts, but these are so pretty, and so ironically old-fashioned, that I'm tempted to make some for myself. Maybe in pink?

Monday, June 15, 2009


The 2009 Sydney Film Festival finished yesterday. I love going to the SFF. I'm not a particularly knowledgeable film buff, and I have a very bad memory for the detail of the films I've seen - sometimes even for the most basic information about a film I've seen. What I love most about the SFF is the way it allows me to 'get my eye in' for the kinds of films that are currently being made; and, of course, it's the ultimate escape from the worries and concerns of everyday life.

In the past I had a subscription ticket, as Jody has had for this year's SFF. One of the great pleasures of a subscription ticket is seeing whatever film you are scheduled to see by the Festival's organisers. Frequently, these are films you would never choose if left to your own devices. Some of them are truly dreadful, but many are wonderful and surprising. But work and family commitments and changes to the SFF scheduling made the subscription impossible, and the last couple of years a friend and I have bought a bunch of flexible tickets and shared them. This year I saw only 15 films.

I did see 'Bronson', the film that received the jury prize for the best film of the festival. While it would not have been my choice, I can understand why it was chosen. It is vibrant, innovative, and has an outstanding performance from Tom Hardy (previously unknown to me) as the central character - a long-term hardened crim whose claim to fame is being the most violent man in the British prison system. Hardy plays the role with vaudeville references, frequently through monologues to camera (and us) in clown make-up. I think the film suggests that Bronson's life is given meaning only because he chooses a role and performs it brilliantly - significantly, he chooses to be called Charles Bronson to echo the toughness and resilience of the action hero. The film is extremely violent, and some of the scenes - particularly those in a psychiatric ward - are harrowing. It will be interesting to see what happens to it with commercial release. I think there's a slight chance it will become a cult classic, like 'Chopper' with which it will inevitably be compared in Australia, but a much greater chance it will just be too weird for the general public.

Of the films I saw, I would have awarded the prize to 'Disgrace', an Australian-made adaptation of the JM Coetzee novel of the same name set in modern South Africa. It's strong stuff. I watched most of it with a lump in my throat; on the brink of tears. John Malkovich gives a brilliant performance as the totally unsympathetic aging academic who is suspended for an inappropriate and exploitative sexual relationship with a student. Most of the film details his painfully unsuccessful attempts to come to terms with rapid change in modern-day South Africa, played out mainly on his daughter's isolated farm through the negotiation and violent imposition of sexual power and access to land. The film is visually stunning, perfectly acted, resolutely unsentimental and (in my view) bleak and despairing.

The other films I'd recommend highly were documentaries - neither of which won a prize. I particularly liked 'Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired', ostensibly a documentary about the Polish / American / French Academy Award winning film director who is still wanted by the legal system in the US, after more than 20 years, for having admitted, but consensual, sexual intercourse with a 13 year old girl. Polanski has had a most eventful, convention-flouting and often tragic life and is a remarkable subject for a film; but what I found wonderful was that the central focus of the documentary became the US judicial system - at both its most honorable and admirable, and its most venal and corrupt. Fascinating.

I also saw 'The Beaches of Agnes', an autobiographical film made by octogenarian Agnes Varda. Friend over decades of many French film-makers, painters and writers, she has made a typically (for her), meandering, free-associating film about her life and her own work as a film director. I had been captivated by her documentary 'The Gleaners' several years ago, and this autobiography has some of the same tough whimsy. Also scheduled in the SFF was one of her films from the early 1960s, 'Cleo from 5 to 7', which I think showed its age much less gracefully that Agnes herself shows her age.

So that's it for another year. I have some regret at no longer having such a good excuse for escaping the day to day-ness of my life. But there is always knitting to do...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Changing my socks

I finished installment 3 of my 2009 Personal Sock Club (hereafter known as the PSC) socks with one day to spare within my 52 day cycle. Whew! A new project is always exciting, even when it just involves opening an envelope into which you sealed some sock yarn four and a bit months ago. I was so pleased to discover (or rediscover) some Madelinetosh sock yarn in wonderful mixtures of green and charcoal - I think its given name is, most appropriately, 'Lichen'. This was my favorite yarn of those I packaged up in January.


I'm planning to knit Jane Cochran's Hedgerow Socks (Ravelry link and free pattern) in yet another variation of what I think of as 'disrupted' rib. If I'm knitting for myself, I prefer somewhat severe geometric patterned socks, rather than patterns with more lace. Still, I occasionally think I should challenge myself a bit more as a knitter.

The 52 day deadline takes me to 27 July. Sounds a long way off, but I have quite a few other projects to work on at the same time, including another pair of socks for the Double Your Pleasure sock swap at Australian Swappers on Ravelry.

I think I'm already a bit over socks. The dotee (and her parents, of course) is returning to Australia in a few weeks time, after her stay in Mexico and Cuba, and even though she normally lives in Brisbane - not the most inviting city for handknits - my thoughts are inevitably beginning to turn to knitting for her. Still, sheer bloody-mindedness will keep me to my 2009 PSC program for the rest of the year. Who knows how I'll feel then?

So, the completed socks:

Country socks 3
Country socks 1

They are Nancy Bush's 'Country Socks' from 'Folk Socks', knitted with 2.5mm dpns in Araucania Ranco Solid. They've worked well. Very neat. I think they're quite schmick in an old-fashioned, vintagey way.