Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday morning knitting

Sometimes, when you're knitting, everything goes well

AM and knitting

but sometimes you need to concentrate very hard

Ana Maria's knitting

and sometimes, especially when you've just turned five... well, it's all just too much!

Knitting's hard!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May in Canberra

It doesn't quite have the ring of 'April in Paris', but May in Canberra is great - particularly if you are a knitter. Everybody who knows me knows just how much I love living in Sydney, but sometimes other places have great attractions. Some knitting friends and I spent last weekend in Canberra. A perfect few days away because of:

1 The weather. Except for the summer humidity of January and February I think Sydney has an almost perfect climate, but... we don't really 'do' Autumn. In late summer and autumn the leaves of the deciduous trees in Sydney gradually go dullish brown and then just fall off to make a sludgy mess on the footpaths. Canberra is sufficiently colder to have a wonderfully colourful Autumn.

Canberra tree

Even better, though we had a weekend of relatively mild and bright-blue sunny weather, it was cold enough to wear lots of knitted accessories (hats, shawls, scarves, even arm warmers) and to spy out others wearing handknits.

2 The National Gallery of Australia.


One of the things I enjoy about Canberra is that I have a sense of proprietorship about its public buildings and institutions. I feel as if I own a tiny bit of them through the taxes I pay. I particularly have this feeling about the National Gallery and its art. I think this feeling is heightened because the National Gallery really only came into existence in the 1970s and so I've watched its development - usually from a distance - across most of its and my adult life. There are paintings I love to revisit, for example Morandi and Bonnard, and always new discoveries to make.

Just now it has unDisclosed - the second Indigenous Art Triennial. This is breathtaking. Go see it if you can. It's an extraordinary, beautifully curated selection of current Aboriginal and Torres Straits art that ranges from large, colour-splashed canvases from traditional elders versed in their country to complex modern melding of cultures and traditions in a variety of media. It's such a sophisticated and satisfying exhibition.

3 The Celebration of Wool at the Old Bus Depot Markets.

OBD Market

This is really the reason I was in Canberra in May. Perhaps by international standards this 'Celebration' is neither large nor momentous, but it is an opportunity for those of use who love fibre-related crafts to examine and exclaim over yarns and related products that otherwise we know only through online sources. This year we had a particular incentive to visit. Buttontree Lane project bags are a perfect combination of zingy fabrics, great design and impeccable stitching, but recently they've been in extremely short supply. The bags were available at the market and along with some friends, and supplied with orders from other Sydney knitters who were unable to get to the market this year, we made sure we were at the Buttontree Lane stall well before opening time. 1funkyknitwit immediately put one of the bags she purchased to excellent use. You see what I mean about zingy fabrics?

Bu ttontree Lane bag

And these are my purchases:

OBD purchases

My Buttontree lane bag, some merino/cashmere/nylon sock yarn from Fibrewebs who shared the Buttontree Lane stall, and two exquisite skeins of Swedish Kalinka linen yarn in a vibrant petrol blue bought from Suzy Hausfrau, whose first appearance at the market with a range of her wonderful yarns was a buzzing centre of attention. Also in the picture are two skeins of Italian-made German labelled Online Supersocke sock wool I bought after the markets at the Manuka lys - the Woolshed. I think I must be just about ready to resume sock knitting.

All in all - a most satisfactory visit.

Friday, May 18, 2012


I'm infatuated by the Kindle I bought last weekend. I'm in thrall to it. It accompanies me everywhere. I can no longer imagine how I managed for so long without it.


Over the last year or so I've had many discussions with friends about whether or not to buy a Kindle. A range of advantages were argued - that you could buy books more cheaply; that you no longer had to find storage for books; that a wide range of books was easily available; even that it is good for the environment not to produce paper books. But no one mentioned what in fact has converted me so immediately. It's just that the Kindle is so light and easy to carry in my handbag. It is simply so convenient. I'm one of those people who must have something to read if I need to wait ten minutes for a train. If I'm by myself, I can't imagine having coffee without something to read. One of my great pleasures is reading over breakfast. I can't go to sleep without reading. The Kindle is so light and small that I can have it with me all the time, and, because it is wireless, I can download books any time, almost anywhere. No more panicking when I run out of books to read while traveling.

Some people have asked me whether I miss the tactile sensation of reading a paper book - the pleasure of page turning and the physical sensation of making your way through the book. I feel slightly embarrassed to admit that I miss none of these sensations. I think books for me have always been about the story and the words. I've never been very good at caring for books. I'm just as happy reading a tatty paperback as I am reading a hardback; I spill food on my books from time to time, turn down the corners of pages to mark my place, and occasionally squash them in bed when I fall asleep while reading. So the abandonment of paper for an electronic format hasn't bothered me (though I'll have to wait and see how it copes with spilled coffee and breakfast crumbs).

The Kindle has none of the glamour and pizzazz of an i-pad. On the whole it's grayly utilitarian. But I have been charmed by the range of screensavers (if that's the proper word) it has in its resting state. It displays in random sequence a number of different black and white geometric designs - all based on previous reading technologies - calligraphic designs, pencils, pens, typeface. I imagine these designs are used to suggest that the Kindle and its kind are just the next step in written communication. I'm hoping there's no irony in the designs.

kindle 2kindle 1kindle 3

I have to think about how my Kindle purchase affects my 12 books in 2012 book-buying challenge. I guess I'll just have to count the books I buy for the Kindle. But what do I do about free books - those out of copyright? Do I count them, or, because I don't pay for them, are they more akin to book borrowing or using a library?

So far I'm charmed by my Kindle. Quite infatuated.

Friday, May 11, 2012


I've been lax about blogging over the past couple of weeks. In fact, I've been thinking about writing a post about blogging and its relative decline, but that will take me some time and thought and might even become an excuse for further procrastinating my blogging. So, in lieu of a more thoughtful post, I'm dotting points about how I've been filling my time (other than work, of course).

****** I revisited the annual Knit Camp at Mount Keira Scout Camp - just out of Wollongong. The camp is generously hosted annually by Christine, Rae and Kerry from CR&K Daisy Designs. A few posts ago I wrote about the pleasures of revisiting places, and Knit Camp definitely falls into that category. This is now the fourth time I've been to this knitting camp - long enough to have built up traditions about what should be done and how it should be done. Top of the list is to sit in the autumn sun outside the main hall with one's feet (in knitted socks) on the stone wall and with a view of Wollongong in the distance.

Stone wall and knitters
Stone wall and chairs

Of course, you have to knit, and talk about knitting, and it helps if the weather is cool enough (as it was) to display and wear your knitted shawls. This year I've been busy and managed to get to camp only for one day - but, as invariably happens when you hang out with knitters, it was a fun day of shared experiences.

****** I discovered I can wear RoseRed's crocheted neckpieces as a most satisfactory bangle.

Jane's jewellery

****** I spent a weekend in Brisbane.

trees and house

My weekend in Brisbane was for a very special fifth birthday party. The grown ups made lunch boxes for the guests (twenty five-year-olds plus several younger brothers and sisters) with some help from Ana Maria

Lunch boxesGingerbread peoplecupcakes

and Ana Maria made her invitations, party hats and party bags for the guests with a very little help from the grown-ups.

Party 2

****** My cotton log-cabin blanket has been growing. It's such a convenient knitting project to carry around, and so fool-proof to knit in company that it's grown almost without my noticing. I wish I had other projects that grew with so little effort.

Log cabin blanket

I've now finished twelve squares which was my first goal for a possible finished blanket. It measures 132 x 99 centimetres and is a good size for a rug for the sofa. But I still have some yarn left, and after all the trouble I went to to acquire the discontinued yarn, I can't bear not to use it up, so I think I'll make another four squares and have a 16 patch rug. I don't find square blankets as aesthetically pleasing as rectangular ones, but the need to use up the yarn is irresistible! Anyway, it's become my comfort knitting and I think I'd miss it (though even when I've finished knitting I have to sew it all together and do the i-cord edging. It'll be with me for a while).

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

An insight to another world

I'm running very late with my report on book-buying for April. I bought only one book...but what a book!


One of the widely-read members of my very widely-read book group suggested reading Junichiro Tanizaki's The Makioka Sisters (written between 1943 and 1948). Reading this book was one of those experiences that made me feel rather stupid and culturally myopic. First of all, I felt embarrassed I didn't know the works of Tanizaki at all (though he is apparently one of the most widely read Japanese authors of the first half of the twentieth century), and secondly, that I had never encountered this wonderful novel.

For once, whoever wrote the Wikipedia entry for Tanizaki got it absolutely right in describing Tanizaki's work as 'complex, ironic, demure, and provocative'. One of my book group likened The Makioka Sisters to Jane Austen's novels and, unlikely as this sounds, this also is absolutely right. It's a novel of relations between sisters of different characters and preferences. It's a novel where marriage prospects, and money, and connections, and reputation, and honour, are the subjects of obsessive forensic examination. It's a novel where the life of each sister inevitably affects the prospects of the others. See what I mean? All very Jane Austenish, but set in Japan in the years leading up to the second world war.

Another characteristic the novel shares with Austen is that it's set in a period of great social change when world-shaping events were occurring in the broader society, but where the focus is on the minutiae of day-to-day life. As a reader you gradually realise that the 'China Incident' referred to in passing from time to time (usually as an excuse for not engaging in an excessively ostentatious exchange of gifts or hospitality) is the horror of the second Sino-Japanese war.

As well as enjoying this book as a novel it had all the fascination of an excellent ethnography where I felt as if I'd been given an insight to another world view that has quite different 'taken for granteds' from the world I normally inhabit. I'm recommending it to all and sundry.