Friday, April 30, 2010

Seeing youself through others' eyes

Occasionally you find yourself in a situation where you see yourself or some aspect of your life through others' eyes. It's always disconcerting.

I had such a moment today. I'm trying to choose a real estate agent to sell my apartment and today one came to view it and tell me what he and his company have to offer (for a significant fee). The agent was most polite and professional, but having him assess my apartment and its arrangement and its character for their commercial value made me see it from a new perspective.

Living / dining room

I really had to restrain myself from rushing to justify to him why the apartment is the way it is - that I've lived here a long time; that I love colour; that many of the objects and furnishings have valued associations; that I don't care about being up with the latest fashion; that it needs to be thoroughly de-cluttered (to use the current term). I had to keep telling myself that it doesn't matter what he thinks about the apartment as long as he'll put energy into selling it - that his judgment about my choices doesn't matter. But the thought of having potential buyers and real estate voyeurs traipse through, seeing the place through their eyes, is disturbing.

It's odd, isn't it, that such an encounter can make you feel insecure and defensive. Normally I'm quite content with my taste and style - well, at least content enough not to spend too much time, energy and emotion worrying about such things.

I expect this is just the first of a number of encounters in selling and moving that will make me self-conscious about my style and choices. I'm going to have to work to find a way of thinking about all this that brings some pleasure, or else it will be a very self-doubting few months.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Serious about socks

Last year I was so good with my 2009 Personal Sock Club and was just a smidgeon short of finishing the seven pairs of socks I set myself as a goal for the year. This year I started with the best of intentions, but I've already fallen sadly behind.

This is what I've achieved so far:

embossed leaves

I'm not even to the heel of the first pair - which are Embossed Leaves socks in Madeline Tosh Toshsock. (You can see the unopened manilla envelopes in which I've stashed my PSC 'shipments' reproaching me in the background of this photo).

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with sock knitting. If I'm knitting a sock and someone asks me how my knitting is going, I always find myself pulling a rueful face and making a comment about the tedium, or finickiness, or some other semi-negative quality of the knitting. I don't do this with other projects, and I don't know why I do it with socks. I love sock yarns and I love wearing hand-knitted socks or giving them as gifts, but I seem to have some ambivalence about the in-between knitting process.

But undeterred, I'm publicly reorganising and recommitting to my 2010 Personal Sock Club. I think one of the reasons I was successful last year was I set very specific deadlines. Much as I hate to admit it, I've had to realise after many years of trying to change my habits that I really do achieve much more when working within rigid timeframes.

So, here, for all to see, are the PSC 2010 due dates for six pairs of socks for the remainder of 2010. It's a six week turn-around with slightly less time for the first pair as I've already started them.

4 June
15 July
27 August
8 October
19 November
31 December

This will be either a successful strategy or a very public shaming.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

A perfect location

It's hard to imagine a more beautiful setting for a weekend of knitting...

The Mount Keira escarpment above,

Mt Keira

a view of Wollongong and the distant Pacific Ocean below,

Wollongong view

and surrounded by rainforest.

forest path

A perfect location for knitting, and chatting, and dyeing, and spindling and the camaraderie of learning from fellow knitters.

Knitters and bush

For the second year I've been to the Knitters Camp at Wollongong - generously organised by Kerry, Christine and Rae from CR&K Daisy Designs (local yarn store) in Fairymeadow. Having spent most of my life avoiding camping in any form, this time last year I was entertained by the notion that I would attend anything with 'Camp' in its title. This year I knew that the beauty of the setting, and the basic comforts provided by the Mount Keira Scout Camp were more than sufficient to allow me to think about this version of 'camping' without qualms.

Scout Hall

I've been trying to organise my thoughts about why a weekend like this is so wonderful - apart, that is, from the spectacular location:

* Of course, there's the delight of having time out from your everyday life. No going to work, no cooking or shopping (other than yarn buying), no tasks other than those you choose.
* Then there's the pleasure of spending time with knitters. You can chat, or laugh or joke, or you can spend time companionably together saying nothing - just knitting. Knitters are such pleasantly undemanding company.
* There's such diversity amongst people who knit - of age, of occupation, and of world view. I'm always diverted and often surprised by other people's approaches to the way they choose to live their lives. The people I meet through knitting broaden my contact with the world.
* People are interested in my knitting and I'm interested in theirs! You can talk endlessly about your own and other people's knitting and not worry that you are being boring.
* I learn a lot - effortlessly. I learn about patterns, yarns, techniques, blogs, needles, and yarn shopping. That's the somewhat serious bit. A bonus is that after such a weekend I can seem to be up with the latest knitting trends and fashions. I can at least nod when I hear the latest buzz words.
* There are lots of opportunities for (relatively) harmless knitterly gossip, mainly fuelled by internet forums and blogs.
* It goes without saying - there are lots of laughs - lots of fun and such good companionship.

'knitting royalty 2'

Monday, April 19, 2010

Unrelated bits and pieces

Mostly, I find it more difficult to find time to blog than to find topics I want to blog about. But over the last week I've completely lacked any blogging inspiration. So, to avoid blogging block, some unrelated bits and pieces from my life.

I've been knitting, of course. It feels as if I've been knitting and knitting and knitting but without any tangible outcome.

Knitting April 10

My lack of outcome might be partly explained by having three projects on the go - the 'Tweed Baby Blanket' by Jared Flood, Mona Schmidt's 'Embossed Leaves Socks' (ravlink) and (less actively) the 'Sage Remedy Top' by Sarah Shepherd (ravlink). The sensible thing to do is apply myself to finishing something but, in a behaviour pattern well-known to knitters, I feel the desire to cast on yet another project. I'll let you know what happens.

I'm reading (of course). Latish last night I watched an episode of the wonderful and much-repeated Forsyte Saga and couldn't resist starting reading my very shabby second-hand copy of 'To Let'- the volume of the lengthy family saga that deals with the events of the TV episode I'd just watched. I first encountered Galsworthy many years ago when the first volume of the series - 'Man of Property' was the novel set for study for the Leaving Certificate. Such an odd selection for a group of very unsophisticated pre-TV Australian country kids. I have no idea what others thought of it, but to me it was the height of sophistication. Reading Galsworthy now, the writing is heavy-handed and the themes rather laboured. But I'm still captivated by the way the novels depict the conflict between the desire for property and possession on one hand and generosity of spirit and holding with an open hand on the other.

I've been to the movies. I've seen 'Brothers' - an American re-make of a Danish movie of the same (translated) title from 2004 that I thought was wonderful. Re-makes of European movies make me very nervous, but this one had been greatly praised. I discovered it's been justly praised, though I think I still prefer the original. It's smaller in scale than the re-make and I remember it as having a tighter focus. The American movie is on an altogether grander scale - wonderful cinematography that I think gives it more grandeur than the original. Great performances from Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal as the two brothers.

There will be lots of changes for me in the next few months. I'll be finishing up at work, selling the family home, and moving to a smaller apartment that needs to be renovated. So I'm currently spending lots of time making lists and decisions and feeling generally unsettled. I guess one of the upsides is that all these changes will provide rich pickings for blogging.

Monday, April 12, 2010

My, how time flies.

We're already more than a quarter of the way through 2010 and I haven't even made a start on my Personal Sock Club for the year. The yarns are still languishing in their manilla envelopes. I'd even forgotten what yarns I planned to use till I consulted my earlier blog post. The one pair of socks I have finished - a bit of a folly - were begun in 2009, so they don't really count. So, today I've eenie-meenie-miney-moed and chosen... Madeline Tosh tosh sock in Ink. Perfect name for the colour. It reminds me of the variations in deep inky blue that happened when, as schoolchildren learning to write 'with ink', it was a great treat to be allowed to mix the ink powder with water to fill the ink wells.

MadTosh Ink

My choice of sock patterns is usually quite conservative, and this time's no different. I'm going to make Mona Schmidt's much knitted 'Embossed Leaves Socks' from Interweave's 'Favorite Socks'.

Yesterday I went to a wonderful knitterly baby shower. The last eight months or so have flown by for those of us observing RoseRed's pregnancy - though I'm not sure if the time has passed as quickly for her. I remembered to take my camera to the shower but, distracted by knitting, eating and chatting, didn't use it. Stupid. Needless to say - lots of fine food, engaging conversation, inspirational knitting, and lovely gifts.

And this weekend has just flown by. I've had an international knitting-blog friend staying with me and I was determined to show her that Sydney can be fun - knitting fun, particularly. On her previous visit to Sydney it had rained, but we've been blessed this past weekend with sparking early autumnal weather - Sydney at it emerald city best. It was particularly interesting in our chats to discover the similarities and differences in the concerns of Knitting Guilds in both Australia and the UK as both, in different ways, try to reconcile new trends and the preservation of past skills and achievements.

I wish I could say that time is flying with my current much-loved baby blanket project - but it isn't. I'm knitting and knitting and knitting and it's taking ages to get anywhere. But I must be making progress of a kind because the main impetus to cast on some socks has been a realisation that the blanket is almost at the stage where it's too bulky to be 'carry around knitting'. Anyway, sometimes, when you're enjoying a project, it's pleasurable to have it setting its own pace as it develops.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A bit of a crush

I've got a bit of a crush on Bendigo yarns just now.

baby blanket 2

I'm knitting a version of Jared Flood's 'Tweed Baby Blanket' in Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 4 ply in a soft greyish-white colour called 'ghost'. I've also bought some 'iris mist' for the feather-and-fan edging. The pattern is written for a thicker yarn (double knitting) so I'm having to adapt the number of stitches and rows for the finer fabric. Jen said she's used algebra to work out the variations for her version of the shawl, but I think that's a bit challenging, so I'm using a combination of arithmetic and fudging to calculate mine.

I've been trying to think what it is I like so much about Bendigo yarns. I've decided they're very honest yarns. They don't pretend to be anything other than what they are - a mass-produced 100% merino yarn. Very everyday. Very practical. It helps that they're relatively inexpensive, come in a wide range of colours, and are wound into satisfyingly hefty 200 gram balls. And Bendigo Woollen Mills' great customer service (sending shade cards, swift response, free postage over a very minimal amount of yarn) is another significant advantage.

I knitted on the baby blanket over the Easter weekend. I seemed to knit for ages and I'm still not even mid-way through the central section of the blanket. But it is grey, and it is garter stitch, and it is Bendigo yarn, so I'm happy to keep plodding along.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Four Winds

timber bridge

I've been to Bermagui over Easter for the Four Winds Festival, which is one of Australia's best-kept secrets. Actually, it's no longer such a well-kept secret as more and more people attend each festival that's held.

It's an outdoor music festival, held in a beautiful natural amphitheatre surrounded by tall trees.

Four  Winds crowd

There's a simple, shaded stage (with superb sound equipment)

Four Winds stage

and behind the stage a small lake with waterlilies and innumerable frogs. One of the pleasures of listening to the music is to hear it accompanied by frogs and birdsong!


The festival's held every second year, and is made up mainly of classical music, with lots of new music and interesting combinations of musicians and instruments. Among the delights we had this year were Gregorian chants, Elizabethan and traditional English folksongs accompanied by a harp, superb classical guitarist Karin Schaupp playing some of the wonderful Spanish guitar classics with the Flinders Quartet, internationally acclaimed viola da gamba player Paolo Pandolfo, and the emotionally charged 'Women of Dirtsong' from the Black Arm Band.

As well as having two full days of music for the Festival itself there's always an entertainment on Friday night - this year an enthralling flamenco performance from the Spanish-Melbournian group Arte Kanela Flamenco. And an innovation for this festival was a free performance on Friday by and for the local community. It featured many of the festival artists as well as local people in a loosely woven 'identity piece' for Bermagui - I particularly loved the puppetry using evocative ruined boats.

Community performance

I always come away from Four Winds delighted, enlightened, musically challenged - greatly enriched. This is my fifth festival, and I hope to have many more.

Bermagui is one of the idyllic coastal towns in southern New South Wales. It served as a port for the area before roads were built along the south coast, and from the mid 1800s became important for its fishing. There's still a fishing port today,

Bermagui boats

the dairy farms that have long been a part of the area,

dairy farm

and pristine beaches framed by still forested ranges of hills.

bermagui beach