Tuesday, December 20, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like...

Christmas. Somehow, this year, I've had a pleasantly extended and not too frantic lead-up to Christmas. I'm visiting Brisbane for Christmas and so other than buying (yes, buying - shameful) a Christmas pudding, I haven't (yet) been involved in shopping for or baking seasonal food. Anyway, we'll have a small, very informal family lunch so there won't be too much fuss.

QVB Christmas tree

There's been a number of Christmas parties and gatherings which have all been pleasantly low-key and fun. Gatherings with knitters; parties at work including a yummy yum cha in Chinatown yesterday with my immediate work colleagues where we found lots of vegetarian and vegan friendly foods to enable everybody to participate; and the annual year's end party for the building I live in where the courtyard was magically lit with candles and lights in the shape of Christmas trees.

Watertower Christmas lights

And I've also caught up with old friends with whom I spend noche buena (on Christmas Eve) when I'm in in Sydney. We had a wonderful lunch of pumpkin and ricotta ravioli with fresh tomato sauce, salad, and cheese - all locally grown and produced courtesy of the Eveleigh produce markets, Veuve Cliquot I'd saved from my birthday, and pavlova with mango, berries and passionfruit sauce, courtesy of my guests.

Even though I'm going to be away for Christmas I did feel the need to make a nod in the direction of a Christmas tree. I bought some twisted willow and have hung it with the few Christmas decorations I kept when most of them migrated to my daughter's house.

Twisted willow Christmas decoration

This year I'm not knitting any gifts. Maybe that's added to the lack of stress. Whatever the reason, it's so far a very enjoyable Christmas season.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

New York scarf

It seems ages since I actually had a piece of completed knitting on my blog. I'm not sure why. I'm still knitting - quite frequently - but my BIG Transatlantic shawl has slowed down my completed output. So, here at last is something...

New York scarf 3

It's Brooklyntweed's Woodsmoke Scarf from 'Brave New Knits'. Like all the Brooklyn Tweed patterns it's a mixture of simplicity and carefully thought through embellishments. In this case it's the simplicity of a very plain garter stitch central panel (knitted sideways) with a repetitive lace edging. The only thing at all complex about this pattern is the beginning - a provisional cast-on of 302 stitches that took me a whole evening to complete. According to Ravelry I began this scarf in September! It hasn't really taken me two and a half months to finish it - the knitting was done quite quickly and then it sat around reproachfully waiting for me to block it. This seems to be a disturbingly frequent practice for me.

New York scarf

The scarf is knitted from yarns I bought at my 2010 visit to the Bendigo Sheep and Wool Show - a combination of Pear Tree yarn for the central panel and Ixchel's BFL / bunny combination for the lace. I particularly like the subtle blue-grey / brown / cream colour mix in the lace edging.

New York scarf 2

I knitted the scarf as a gift for an old friend with whom I usually spend time at Christmas. But this year she's off with her family to spend Christmas in New York and I thought she might need a warm scarf. This scarf is very long - well over two metres - so there's lots of length to wind around several times and still have left-overs for tucking into a coat. I gave the scarf to my friend earlier this week and she really liked it. I count myself very fortunate to have friends and family who seem to like my knitted gifts.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


December is always a very busy month. An American friend of mine who now lives in Australia commented recently that Australians celebrate Christmas very enthusiastically - that every work and social group, and every group of friends seems to feel the need for a Christmas celebration. I think it's not that Christmas itself and its traditional meaning has special significance for Australians, I think it's just that Christmas gets caught up with other occasions of celebration - the coming of summer, summer vacations, the end of the school year, several days away from work. There's a general feeling of winding down, of laxness, of the pause that comes before a new year of new starts.

I like this time of year. I like the feeling of tidying up the year's activities at work and I catch up with friends I don't see often throughout the year. And I go to some parties. I no longer go to many parties, and sometimes I no longer feel enthusiastic about doing so. But at Christmas it's particularly ungracious not to make the effort and I know I almost always enjoy myself once I'm actually there.

This past weekend I went to two wonderful parties. On Saturday a neighbour held a party that was perfect. There were luxurious and generously sized canapes, waiters filling your champagne flute the instant the level in the glass lowered and, most amazingly, a piano and four singers performing songs from my favourite old musicals - Carousel, Kismet, South Pacific - and Cole Porter standards. We were even encouraged to sing along. And all I had to do to get home was take the lift up one storey. A perfect party indeed.

Then on Sunday there was afternoon tea with my knitting group. Lots of bubbles and tea drinking, finger sandwiches, strawberries and cream, scones with jam and cream and small cakes. And, of course, knitting and knitting chatter and knitting laughter. The high point of the afternoon was our Christmas gift swap. Everybody brought a hand-crafted Christmas decoration to be randomly received by another. The variety and ingenuity of the gifts was astounding. There were, of course, knitted and crocheted decorations - stars, baubles of many kinds, santas, Christmas trees, and tiny, delicately knitted garments. There was also embroidery, petit point (I received a perfect tiny petit point reindeer) and beading and probably much else I've neglected to note.

I'm not sure why, but I decided to make some bunting. I love the look of colourful bunting and like the idea that it can be recycled for various occasions. So I searched for my mother's old pinking shears (and miraculously found them) and proceeded to cut out triangles of bright fabric until I couldn't bear to cut any more.

bunting flags

I was very pleased with the outcome, and, if I can ever summon the energy to do more cutting up of fabric, would like to make some for myself.

Bunting 1

Thursday, December 1, 2011

12 in 11: November

I have nothing to report. Nothing at all. I've bought no clothes or accessories this month. So, I'm still at 12 items for 2011.

However, I am deeply bored by my summer clothes choices. This is partly the result of my annual realisation that I really don't like dressing for hot and sticky Sydney summers, and partly because all the summer clothes I do like require a lot more washing and ironing and general caring for than my winter clothes.  And the accessories (particularly the knitted ones) that make winter dressing such fun are impossible in summer.

Grumble, grumble. I think I might have to buy some clothes to cheer me up.