Saturday, January 31, 2009

more purple

Well, the heat wave here continues... yesterday it reached 47C... 116.6F... and of course we lost power AGAIN, but only for a couple of hours...

Can I just say that NOTHING works effectively in that kind of heat... especially not me!

I don't want to lay blame with the camera, or the operator... but today's photos are very average.

Maybe it's the heat radiating from every possible surface, which has made them come out so blurry? Yes... I'll stick with that theory for now...

I have a project in mind for the red/purple colours, but I'm going to need a little bit more yarn. All the pieces from that garment have been frogged now, but there was a piece which I frogged BEFORE I thought to experiment with the dyeing.

It was already skeined, so I thought I'd just throw some purple on.

First I soaked it in the vinegar/water mix for 30 minutes, then took off the excess water and laid in on some cling wrap.

011 virgin skein

Then I added some food colouring diluted with vinegar and water...

012 adding some dye

Wrapped it in the cling film and gave it a bit of a squish. I wanted to spread the colour around a bit... but not enough to distribute it evenly.

013 wrapped up

Then microwaved it... rinsed it... and here it is... almost dry...

014 almost dry

and finally ready to use

colour 4

Next time I'll share my new project with you!

Friday, January 30, 2009

looky here...

Ugh... 43C again yesterday, and to top it all off we had a 10 hour power outage!!! Let's just say that all the perishables in our house have well and truly PERISHED!

But, on to happier things... the resulting yarn from my experimental dyeing...

colour 1

colour 2

colour 3

Do you have a favourite here?

Mine is the green,although I guess the next experiment will be to see how the work up.

Hmmm... knitting or crochet? Decisions, decisions...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

experimental dyeing

Man it's been hot here!

The mercury hit 43C yesterday... that's 109.4F... hot... hot... HOT...

And we won't be getting any relief for at least another three days... so it is definitely not crafting weather... especially since we don't have air conditioning!!!

It doesn't even cool down much in the evenings, so there's no point in picking up a hook or needles... but I have to do SOMETHING crafty, right???

Well... I saw this post a little while back, and really wanted to try some experimental dyeing of my own. It looked like so much fun, and I have plenty of old knitted garments around here to play with. I have only tried dyeing once before, and I wasn't delighted with the results. In fact, I had pretty much decided that I should just leave it to the experts... and stay well away from the whole colouring process.

But, as I said... the experimental sleeve dyeing looked like fun, so I had to indulge myself...

I took a piece from an old wool jumper (I started with the back piece) and pre-soaked it in a solution of water with about a cup of vinegar, for about 30 minutes.

001 pre-soaking in vinegar and water

Then I gently removed the excess water, and laid the piece on a plastic bag. I added some horizontal stripes of food colouring, which had been diluted in water with a little vinegar. I was aiming for long colour segments of deep purples and deep reds.

002 adding food dye

See the way I have bunched up the piece to form three ribs? That's not a fancy technique of any kind! I only did that because the plastic bag I had underneath was a tiny bit too short, and I ran out of space! The original instructions say to use cling wrap... but sadly, cling wrap and I DO NOT get along... it does too much CLINGING and not enough WRAPPING for my liking, so I thought I'd try using an old bag instead.

003 ready to microwave

I then wrapped the piece in the plastic bag and put it into a bowl. Then into the microwave... two minutes on high, two minutes to rest... two minutes on high, two minutes to rest... two minutes on high, two minutes to rest... six 'cooking' minutes in total.

004 after microwave

You can see that quite a bit of the dye has escaped from the bag. I later experimented with the notorious cling wrap, and the dye did not escape.

005 result

So, here it is after it has been rinsed in cold water. Not quite the deep purples I was after... it would seem I should have made up a stronger dye mix.

006 blugreen

I worked this sleeve in a blue/green colourway using vertical stripes, which will give me shorter colour runs... when I use the yarn, the colour changes will appear much more quickly.

Finally I made a spotty one, using full strength food dye... which I dripped randomly onto the sleeve using a syringe.

007 spots

Want to see the resulting yarn?

So do I... but we both have to be patient! Hopefully I'll have some photos for you tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

the milkweed project

Have you heard about The Milkweed Project yet???

click here to find out all about it...

Essentially, this is a collaborative project... they are planning to deck out the inside of a gallery so that it looks and feels like you are inside a milkweed pod. Shan is calling for knitters and crocheters from all over the world, to make a piece and send it to her... and she will be assembling them all as a part of the exhibit.

If you feel at all inspired to join in - GO FOR IT! It's a wonderful opportunity to play randomly with some yarn... you can't go wrong... seriously! Just have a play and see what you can come up with. You can drop stitches, the edges can be wavy, nothing is a MISTAKE!

I have to say a big thank you to Sam... who read about me having lost my mojo, and suggested this project as a way of helping me get back on track. Much appreciated.

I've decided to use this yarn, which I won in a competition last year. It is soft and fluffy with a little bit of sparkle... should be perfect! I think I'll work it up with my 20.0mm hook

milkweed yarn

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

seraphina shawl

I'm very serious about this 'learning to read a pattern' business... at the moment I'm working on the Seraphina Shawl, and can I just say...


I thought the hard part was going to be choosing the yarn. The pattern calls for a 10 ply/worsted weight yarn and a 6.0mm hook. But I didn't want a shawl which would be chunky and bulky and heavy... so I knew I would need to use a lighter weight of yarn...

But what? I'm not a fancy girl, by any means... and I definitely didn't want a fancy shawl. Casual suits me perfectly. In fact, I'll more than likely be teaming the shawl with a pair of jeans!

I ummm-ed and ahhh-ed for the longest time, before finally making my decision...


I'm combining these two lightweight yarns. The blue is a denim kind of colour, and is made up of two strands... one slightly darker than the other. It's a cotton which I recycled from a men's jumper. The variegated purple is a lightweight wool, which I bought second hand from a charity store. Worked together, they form approximately an 8ply/DK weight cotton/wool blend. Using the 6.0mm hook, it offers a nice drape.

progress 1

Now... listen carefully...

IF you are interested in making this shawl, here is the original pattern

BUT I highly recommend... actually, NO... I INSIST that you click here and go over to Crochetville, before you pick up your hook.

Many crafters have made this shawl before, and many have struggled with the original pattern. The nice people over at Crochetville have re-worded the pattern in a couple of different formats. Scroll down the page when you are over there, and you will see there are a number of different 'versions' of the pattern. The first post is a very wordy (but informative) description of the steps involved. Then in the next post there is a chart for those of you who prefer to work with a diagram. Thirdly, there is a basic description of how the pattern works.

Would I recommend this pattern to others?

Yes... BUT... be prepared... the first 10 rows are a struggle. You are setting up the pattern for the rest of the shawl, but it seems fiddly at this point, and nothing seems to 'flow' or make sense. You need to lock yourself away, with no distractions for this stage. It's stitch-by-stitch work in the beginning, but once you get into the flow... MUCH EASIER!

Over at Ravelry, 485 people have made this shawl... so it is DO-able...

Have you tried it yet?

Monday, January 26, 2009

!@#$ wind...

We've had some hot and gusty weather through here over the last week. At first I thought it was going to be fabulous 'drying weather' and that I could get some of those many skeins of recycled yarn washed and dried quickly... but I was a bit ambitious...

The winds were wild beyond words. Anything that wasn't nailed down, was picked up by the wind and carried across the yard. And unfortunately, that included my skeins which were happily drying on the line.

wind damage

So, now I have a tangled dusty mess to sort through. I'll have to remove the leaf matter, re-skein them and give them another wash. Oh well...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

did you figure it out?

Did you figure out where I went wrong with Esther's Square???

craftster block 1 - esther - 12"

Take a look at the centre of my square... see the + at the centre? Now look at the original pattern... see it should be an X shape? When I joined on the navy yarn for round 5, I must have started in the wrong spot, which then threw out the corner placements.

I only noticed this AFTER all my ends had been sewn in AND the piece had been BLOCKED. So there is NO WAY I will be fixing it, but I was curious to work out exactly where I went wrong, so I could learn for next time. It's a mistake that I wouldn't have made if I was working the piece in one colour.

But how often do I use just one colour for ANYTHING?

Not very. Although I had planned to work these afghan squares in single colours, I just couldn't do it... it felt SO WRONG!

So I took my colour inspiration from a rug on my lounge room floor instead...


Friday, January 23, 2009

another square already?

I know it's not yet February... and the whole idea of the CAL I talked about in my last post was to work on ONE BLOCK each month...


I was on such a high after successfully completing the first one, that I wanted to attempt another!

So I decided to work up the alternative January square... the pattern is Esther's Square again by Chris Simon (as was the Mandala) If you are not a member at Ravelry, you can view the original pattern here

Once again, I have used recycled and reclaimed yarns, this time eight different colours. Using a 5.0mm hook, my block came out exactly 12" square… which was a pleasant surprise.

craftster block 1 - esther - 12"

Colour details
  • round 1 - dark burgundy
  • round 2 - maroon
  • round 3 - peacock blue
  • round 4 - mid blue
  • round 5 - navy
  • round 6 - river gum green
  • round 7 - maroon
  • round 8 - dark burgundy
  • round 9 - cream
  • round 10 - brown and white fleck
  • round 11 - mid blue
  • round 12 - navy
  • round 13 - dark burgundy
Did you notice that I made a boo-boo with my block???

Take another look at my block, and the original pattern... and see if you can figure out where I went wrong.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

shhhh.... a secret!

I'll let you in on a little secret...

but don't tell anyone!

Actually, you can tell as many people as you like... since I KNOW that I am not alone with this problem...

I really, really, really struggle to follow crochet patterns. Knitting patterns are different... I can understand them easily... but crochet patterns give me a migraine, just thinking about them.

But that's going to change this year. I am determined to learn to read ANY and ALL patterns. I mean... I CAN READ and I CAN CROCHET, so now I just need to learn to use those two skills TOGETHER!

I'm starting out easy, with a CAL over at Ravelry. A CAL is a crochet-a-long, where everyone works from the same pattern at the same time. The beauty of it is, that if you encounter any sort of problems, there is an entire online community of people working on the EXACT same project, who can help out. Or who knows... maybe YOU will be the one to help someone else out. I also love seeing how differently everyone's projects turn out. They've used the same pattern, but personal taste leads to different yarn choices, and it's fascinating to see all the different variations people come up with. Sometimes it will inspire you to follow their lead, and other times it will help you realise that your original choices are going to look shocking! It's all good.

So, I've joined the 2009 12" crochet block a month CAL. Basically you work a 12" crochet block each month, and at the end of the year you assemble them to make an afghan. At the beginning of each month, you are given the next pattern. There is also an alternate block each month, if you prefer to use that... or a 6" option.

January's pattern is the Mandala by Chris Simon. If you are not a member at Ravelry, you can click here for the original pattern.

ravelry block 1 - mandala - 12"

So here is my square. As always, it is made entirely from recycled and reclaimed yarns. I've mostly used 8ply/DK weight. There are nine different colours in total. Using a 5.0mm hook, this piece came out at 11.5” square, so it only required a light blocking to bring it up to 12”. With all those colour changes, there were a bunch of ends to sew in... but it's worth it for the effect... and it's ONLY one block a month!

My colour details are

  • round 1 - dark burgundy
  • round 2 - peacock blue
  • round 3 - navy
  • round 4 - cream
  • round 5 - brown and white fleck
  • round 6 - maroon
  • rounds 7 & 8 - dark burgundy
  • round 9 - navy
  • round 10 - mid blue
  • round 11 - camel fleck
  • round 12 - river gum green
  • round 13 - dark burgundy

So the first square was a success. It took some fiddling around, but I expected that. Now I'm keen for the next one! Are any of you a part of this CAL already?

I'm also interested to hear how many of you also struggle with reading crochet patterns...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

mahogany and amelia

MUUUUUUUUUMMMM.... he's touching my blanket...

MUUUUUUUUUMMMM.... she put her spit on me...

MUUUUUUUUUMMMM.... he touched me...

MUUUUUUUUUMMMM.... she took her shoe off...

MUUUUUUUUUMMMM.... he's looking out my window!

That's my personal favourite... he's looking out MY window!!!! What is with that one???

Such a joy to travel in the car with kids... especially when they are all tired and cranky...

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But it was worth it, to visit the alpacas at Johanna. Isn't this an adorable face?

Johanna Alpacas is the most serene location, nestled amongst rolling hills - with magnificent ocean views. There is a fabulous little 'Bed and Breakfast' there, which I'd love to head back to... WITHOUT the kids... someday!

But best of all, there was alpaca fleece for sale. So many divine colours to choose from. I couldn't decide... so I HAD to take two bags!

Sue and Malcolm introduced us to the herd, each one by name. I was especially keen to meet Mahogany and Amelia, since it was their fleece I would be taking home with me. And the alpacas were just as curious to meet us. They really are gorgeous creatures... and so inquisitive...

This is the fleece from Mahogany. She was pregnant at the time she was shorn, so the staple length is shorter than average... but I fell in love with the richness of her colouring.


And this is Amelia's fleece:


So... two bags of alpaca fleece... waiting to be spun...


I haven't worked with alpaca before, so if you have any tips... I'd love to hear them

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I decided to check out the local Op Shops (charity stores) to see if I had left my mojo there!

Well... I didn't find it... surprise, surprise...

but I did find some other treasures to recycle:

colourful beads

Don't these colourful wooden beads look like SMARTIES on a string??? I thought they were totally adorable. The colours were so bright and cheery and delicious looking... they made me smile... so I decided immediately that I had to have them...

blue brown beads

But when I tried to take then down from the rack at the store, I couldn't get them untangled from some of the other necklaces. After a few moments of total frustration, I realised that the three sets of beads has been bundled together for sale... so I also scored these two sets.

other beads

then I found this crocheted top in hot pink wool

hand crocheted hot pink jumper

this hand made purple wool vest with magnificent rose buttons on it... yes... I know it doesn't look purple, but it is!

handknit purple wool vest with rose buttons

this light ash coloured top... some kind of blend... very soft to the touch

unknown light ash jumper

this hairy hand knitted neutral jumper

handknit hairy neutral jumper

this variegated brown top, in an acrylic/wool/polyester blend... the texture of the yarn may make it difficult to unravel, but I loved the yarn, so I wanted to give it a go

variegated brown jumper - acrylic wool polyester

this hand knit maroon wool jumper, with giant buttons... they're a pearly type of finish, not exactly sure what you'd call them... but I can see them becoming enormous eyes on a creature at some stage later in their life


don't tell anyone, but that sounded like the slightest hint of inspiration... my MOJO is around here SOMEWHERE!

handknit burgundy wool jumper with large buttons

and finally, this hand made navy vest

handknit navy vest

that will keep me busy for a while...

(even if I did feel like a bit of a fruit cake... buying a mass of winter jumpers in the sweltering heat today!)

Monday, January 19, 2009

where does the 'mojo' go?

Any idea where the mojo goes?

Or more importantly, how you get it back again?

So many of my crafting buddies have been complaining that they have lost their mojo. So I don't feel completely alone with this dilemma. But it does puzzle me... how one minute you can be ON FIRE with your crafting, and your fingers can barely keep up with the creativity which your mind is generating... and then... BOOM!



slump city!

You come to a screeching halt. None of your projects excite you any more, so you look for something new to try. But everything just looks so bland... boring... bleargh...

You start a new project, but it just feels so 'meh'!

So you pull it apart, and try something new... but that's no better... aarghhhhh!

Maybe it is a post-Christmas slump... after the craziness of the holiday season, maybe we just need some time to regenerate. Take time to switch off while the batteries recharge. Perhaps for those of us Down Under, it's a summer time thing. We're busy with the beach, and barbeques... the kids are on holidays... our 'routines' are desperately out of whack... so the crafting suffers.

I try not to get concerned that it has gone forever... although occasionally the thought does cross my mind. I know it will return at some point... but I don't believe you can force yourself back into the groove again. You just have to be patient and wait for your creative side to kick back into action. I guess we all need a bit of a holiday from time to time. Even from the things we love doing.

So... what have I been up to during my 'slump' time???

I've been keeping 'in touch' with my yarns by DE-constructing!

This is a small sample of the yarns I have reclaimed over the last few weeks. There's more skeins piling up in my laundry, waiting to be washed.

reclaimed yarn - january

One of the things I love most about the actual process of DE-constructing... is that I still get the benefit of handling the yarn. I get the same sense of relaxation as I would from knitting or crocheting... but without having to expend any creative energy. Plus there's the added benefit of all that yummy yarn to work with when the mojo returns! I've been able to use my slump time constructively, by replenishing my stash.

click here for my tutorial on how to recycle yarn

Enough about me!

Tell me... do you still have your mojo?