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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Peeping From Under the Table

A month ago I wrote a post about participating in Me-Made-May. I then didn't write anything else during that month, but kept telling myself it would be fine because I would make myself post at least once a week during May to explain what I was wearing that I had made myself.

Now it is the last day before the start of May and I am exhausted and a little stressed from university assignments and feeling rather not like forcing myself to do anything. In fact I seriously want to hide under the table and let the whole world pass by for a while. Except that I would have to take a pile of books and my laptop in there. And snacks. And if so, I might as well write *something*, maybe even find some photos of something. Anything other than rewriting a short story for a major assignment!

George and I spent a week in northern NSW and southern Queensland over Easter. Among other things, I was hugely taken with a sculpture in Brisbane called Forme del Mito by Arnaldo Pomodoro. It tells the  story of Agamemmon from Ancient Greece. Fabricated in cast bronze each piece has its own identity. ‘The Prophet’ Cassandra, ‘The Machine’ Aegisthus, ‘Ambition’ Clytesmnestra and ‘Power’ Agamemnon King of Mycenea.  I think it was commissioned for the World Expos that was held in Brisbane in 1988. 

It was, presumably, inspired by the gold death mask of Agamemnon, which is displayed in Athens after being found at Mycenae:


These are three of the scultpures:




I thought they were very beautiful, atmospheric and exciting.

I also really liked this scultpure in the main mall, I think, which is shell shaped and kids can worm their way through it:


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Hand Made

I haven't blogged for a month but have been productive, just not in the photographing and writing sense. The only finished piece of dressmaking is the totally handsewn Alabama Chanin inspired dress that I am blogging about today. There are another two dresses partially sewn waiting by the sewing machine, too, plus another cut out but not started, and fabric washed and prepared and patterns prepared to cut out another three things. (And uni starts on Monday, so I'm not really sure how quickly any of that will progress!) There are also two small shawls finished but not blocked or photographed.

I love the Alabama Chanin look (there's a link to her site on my list of links on the side of the blog, if you don't know what I am talking about) but for my first go I did not want to go to all the trouble of the stencilling and reverse appliqueing and stuff that looks so fantastic but I suspected I would get bored and grumpy with it. I intended to do a very simple tunic/short dress and make a feature of the seams with contrasting thread and possibly a little bit of stitched embellishment, just using one layer of jersey. In the end I gave up on the embellishment because I found it impossible to keep my tension on one layer of jersey - doing the seams and binding was easier because it was always at least two layers, so if I do another piece (and I would like to) I might consider double layers and a touch at least of reverse applique or something similar.

I used 1 metre of 100% cotton jersey from Clegs (navy blue), and the heaviest Guterman thread (uphosltery, perhaps? I can't remember) used double (bright red). I drafted the pattern from a jersey nightie I love could easily be worn as a dress, and it fits comfortably.


Navy blue is incredibly difficult to photograph. It didn't seem to matter whether I used natural light, filtered light or flash, it never came out the right colour. It is an ordinary, bog standard navy blue. It looks abominable just hanging on a hanger but I promise it looks better on, I'm just terrible at selfies.


This is a detail of the stretchy stitch I used to attach the bindings round the neck and armholes. There are a variety of options but I liked the simplicity of this one. The seams and flat felling are done in running stitch.


This is just another stitching detail, the same as before, but it gets a bit closer to the real colour.

I haven't worn it yet but will soon. Yes, I know summer is technically almost over in Australia, but there is always substantial warm (and often hot) weather during March and sometimes into April, and it's also designed to be a layering piece worn with a long or short sleeved Tshirt underneath and over jeans or leggings, so I intend to be able to wear it all year round.

It was fun to do. Yes, it was time-consuming, as you would expect with a totally handsewn item, but I could do it all in front of the TV and it was oddly relaxing to do. I'll have to wash it in a lingerie bag on the delicate cycle but that isn't a huge imposition. I really enjoyed the handsewn ethic, down to the fact that I drafted my own pattern from something I already owned.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Fun With Sharp Needles

Fianlly, what I started at Geelong Fibre Forum last year has been finished. Well, more or less finished - it is a triptych and I can't decide how to arrange them or finalise the piece.

The work is called (at the moment anyway!) We Look At The Land Through Different Eyes, You and I.




I won't go through every step of the technique I used, as Carolyn Sullivan teaches this and it is definitely not my place to reproduce her class! But I will run through the main steps.

The base for these pieces is wool/viscose felt from Spotlight - good quality and nice to handstitch through. Then I used an embellisher machine to apply bits of hand-dyed scrim (by me) and prefelt (not dyed by me), embellished a few pieces of hand-dyed silk ribbon (not dyed by me either). Then lots of stitching in Appleton's crewel wool, two strands in the needle - mostly kantha stitch and seeding stitch. Then I ran the embellishing machine over the whole piece again to embed the woolen stitches (and make sure the other bits were thoroughly embedded. Finally, lots of kantha and seed stitching in variaged perel cottons (commercially dyed).

The inspiration - we spent a morning sketching views and close-ups near Geelong Grammar, and taking photos too. During the afternoon of fiddling around with our sketches, narrowing down possibilities and in many cases making further sketches from photos, I settled on a sketch I had made of a photo of a eucalypt.


Carolyn helped me to isolate a section of the sketch I had made. While mulling over the final sketch I was suddenly sparked by memories of a lecture the previous night by an artist whose name I have forgotten, and a book I studied for Literature - That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott - and came up with the idea of looking through the tree and seeing the landscape at morning and night out over the water, and in reverse from the sea to the bush and midday. Using the lines of the bark and seeing the background through them - to me it gave me the idea of a 'ghost gum' - not in the sense of the actual gums that are known as ghost gums, but a ghost of the past/present/future of the landscape and the people.

It's another example of slow creating, as it took quite a while, but I can honestly say that I loved every second of doing this work. So much so that I have another one at the design stage, vaguely inspired by Mrs Dalloway - I certainly didn't start out intending to create works based on books I am studying, but it seems to be turning out that way right now!

Edited to add - an embellishing machine is a needlefelting machine - it looks like a sewing machine but is much lighter and has a set of needles (5 in mine) with barbs which mesh threads together when you run it up and down through the fabric. I have the cheapest domestic version.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Word To Rule Them All

I've read a few blogs around the place about choosing one word to inspire them throughout the year. Apparently many bloggers have done this before. I did idly trace through some links to a website where this idea may have originated, even downloaded the 'worksheet' that was meant to help you define your special word. I then read the four page worksheet and realised that I would be wasting an hour or so to whittle down choices of a word that I would then completely fail to live up to, just like I do with all but the vaguest resolutions.

Damn it all, I thought in disgust, what I need to do is stop dithering around and FOCUS.

Oh, look, there's a word that might be quite useful in organising myself this year. Oops, it seems like I accidentally picked out an appropriate word while railing against the idiocy of trying to pick a word.

So, completely against the grain, I am declaring that my word for the year will be FOCUS.

Focus, to me, includes concentrating on what I actually WANT to do. Obviously there will be things that I NEED to do. But where possible I only want to embark on projects that fulfil a desire including both making and the result.

Despite the post in December about sewing, I realised that I had been dithering about all over the place NOT sewing. I cut out those two patterns, spent some time tissue fitting and writing down alteration stuff, washing and ironing appropriate fabric. Then every time I considered cutting out the fabric and making those alterations, my mind turned into a butterful and my attention was caught by something shiny. Once I started focussing on what it was that was preventing me from sewing these dresses, in fabric that I like and that I actually want to wear, I realised that I did not actually want to sew them. I would have bought those dresses but the process was putting me off.

Consequently I have packed those patterns away and picked some others from the stash, and will have another go at sewing. I feel quite OK about that - I wasted about six weeks of not sewing, but actually applying FOCUS helped me to work out why I had wasted that time. Now I suppose I may have to provide future proof that sewing has happened, so here's hoping!

I have done some baking for the first time in ages - Peasant Bread - which was quite delicious and very easy. It's a no-knead bread that was quite literally easy to mix by hand (in this lovely rustic mixing bowl) even with my weak wrists. You bake it in a Pyrex bowl, which I did, though I might try it in a bread tin next time to see if it gets crustier.




I also started knitting a new little shawl once I finished the Nuvem last year, It is another iteration of  this shawl but this time in a semi solid Woolmeise sock yarn, of which I have 150g so it will be a bit bigger. It's my first time knitting with Woolmeise and it is a bit odd.lovely colour but although being the usual sock mixture of wool and synthetic it feels and knits rather like a cotton yarn. Which does not matter at all as there is no need for gauge in a shawl but I did start off trying to knit socks with it and my gauge was all over the place. It is not really pink like this picture, but a lovely red, I just couldn't get the light right at the time.


Monday, January 05, 2015

2014 and Stuff

Looking back over the last year I realise that I haven't done a lot of things that resulted in Finished Objects. Slow and happy crafting beat rapid gratification.



Oddly this seems to be the only pair of socks I have knitted this year. Could that be true? It's the only photo I can find, anyway. I think it was with a New Zealand sock wool. I call them Clown socks but I can't remember if that was the actual name of the colourway or not. I didn't even get round to putting them on Ravelry. For George, who wears them regularly.


Now this is on Ravelry. It took a VERY LONG TIME. Hence the reference to slow knitting! It finally got finished on holiday in the middle of the year. It is so fine that it fits through my wedding ring - which wasn't intentional but is a good party trick.


This is also on Rav. I haven't worn it yet, as I finished it just before Christmas and it hasn't been cold enough since then, but I look forward to getting the chance. It is greener/bluer than in the photo, which accentuates the purple which is in there but is less dominant in real life - it was very hard to photograph.

As well as slow knitting, I have been embracing slow cooking. Some of the slow cooking is actually quite fast cooking, but I'm using the term to mean more emphasis on fresh ingredients and home cooking and a lot less on processed food and lazy shortcuts. (Using a barbeque is the sort of the shortcut that I consider to be smart not lazy!) Most nights dinner is barbequed protein with salad and nuts. No, we have not gone paleo, and bread or potatoes feature with some of these meals. Risottos, simple Asian dishes with rice, the occasional couscous salad all get a look in from time to time too. The winter saw many hearty casseroles/pot roasts.







There were also holidays.



To Adelaide, where we saw in the New Year at the Hilton, and visited the Hans Heysen museum among other places, where I photographed this plant.




To the Gold Coast over Easter.




During the winter, a trip to Central and South Australia taking in Coober Pedy, Alice Springs and ending up back in Adelaide again.



And then a week in Merimbula to wind down in December.

Most of the year was spent studying for my first year of a Bachelor of Letters at Monash University. I studied Medieval and Renaissance History, and two literature subjects. This year I am doing all literature, a total of six subjects, and I cannot wait! And this year I will try to blog a bit about my studies instead of leaving the blog lonely for months at a time.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

What I read in 2014

My Year in Books (according to Goodreads, which will be accurate as I do use it to keep track of my reading).

Some of these were read for university (some of which I had read before); many were read for pleasure; fortunately most of the uni books were pleasurable to read as well! I have also read quite a lot of textile/sewing/craft books - I don't include ones I have skimmed through, only ones I have genuinely read from cover to cover, something I am doing increasingly often these days. (Most probably as a displacement activity instead of actually doing craft!). I am still working my way through the myriad of thrillers/detective novels left behind my my father. Most of them go to the op shop after reading, unless they are by Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh, in which case they go into the collection.

I have decided that this year I will include at least a brief post about every university text read, as most of my blog hiatuses were to do with uni study and therefore it would keep the blogging in hand.

And finally, a funny chalkboard I saw outside a pub in Bendigo a few weeks ago:

Friday, December 26, 2014

I Finished Something

I finally finished my Nuvem that I started as soon as I finished the Citron shawl in July. A very long knit but an easy one when you've got it established, good for TV or car knitting. The technical bits are here. It's knitted in a lovely blend of wool and silk that was a pleasure to handle and will be gorgeous to wear. It's slightly longer than I am high and weighs very little.

It was very hard to get the colours right in a photo. This one is more or less right. I think it looks like a lovely wooly silky seaweedy thing.