Monday, August 20, 2012

Time Out...

love daffodil season

It's a busy week in the Goldfish House, with lots of time needed for family things...

Instead of trying to "do it all"... I'm going to take a little Blog Break...

And I'll see you back here next week!

Stay safe.

Sharon xx

Friday, August 17, 2012

That Seminar.

 Craft Seminar


Yesterday - I attended the CRAFT AND DESIGN AS A CAREER 2012 SEMINAR run by Craft Victoria.

It was promoted as a "professional development seminar for artists and designers, led by industry experts"... but it turns out that it was not at all what I was expecting...

What did I want?

I wanted to learn stuff.

The craft side of things I already get. I know how to make stuff. It's fun. I love it. I want to make a career of it. But how???

This is the big question...

How does one take that next step. How does one take it from a fun hobby into a career?

I guess what I really wanted was someone to sit down and draw me a map. Someone to say to me: Sharon - HERE is where you are now. THERE is where you want to go. THESE are the steps you need to follow to get there. If you follow these steps, as laid out, in the correct order - then you can have the fun career you so desire!

It turns out that I was not the only poor misguided soul who was hoping for this kind of specific advice. Many others who attended were in the same position as me.

Craft Seminar

I guess the problem is that these steps are not Universal. There is not one clear and set pathway to take you from Point A to Point B. And maybe while I'm at it, I need to work out what exactly Point B is for me! What precisely do I want from a Career in Craft? Hmmmm....

Needless to say - there was no one at the seminar drawing maps for me.

How rude!

There were, however, loads of inspiring speakers. People who are making a career for themselves, doing what they love - be it design, or craft, or something else entirely.

And here's where it gets really wordy. Read on if you're keen...

Beci Orpin is a designer and illustrator who talked about where her career has taken her, the collaborations she has worked on with some fairly major companies, and her experiences with her own clothing lines. Most memorable quote from Beci "I don't know about that stuff. My husband handles the business side of things" when asked about at what point she became financially viable as an artist. I also loved "It was a good thing I met my husband when I did. Otherwise I'd be locked up for tax evasion".

Hello Sandwich (otherwise known as Ebony Bizys) is an Australian craft artist, designer and blogger based in Tokyo. She chatted about her work with Vogue and Vogue Living here in Australia, and her decision to go to Japan instead of taking on the Art Director position here with Vogue Living (she googled "how to make difficult decisions" for advice - gotta love that) Ebony also talked about her experiences writing craft books in Japan, and here desire for a TV role promoting craft. My favourite quote from Ebony... "Follow your heart and the dots will join themselves".

Alexi Freeman is a Melbourne based fashion designer. He talked mostly about his collaboration with choreographer Gideon Obarzanek on costumes for the Australian Ballet. Found it fascinating to hear him describe his lack of motivation for the "bread and butter" work of designing women's clothing... "Oh God, it's nearly Spring - I guess I'd better design another collection" as compared with his passion for the costuming work. He made an interesting point that the day-to-day work that you do might not inspire you, but that's where the collaborations come in - not for the money, but for the inspiration, the fun and the diversity. And they can then help you view your day-to-day work with new perspective.

Patrick Pittman has done a bunch of stuff but focused on his experiences with freelance journalism and his current role as Editor of Dumbo Feather magazine. He encouraged us to "Stick with the stuff that matters to you. Eventually (and it may take time) you will be able to make a career out of it". Also "Don't think about the consequences, just go forth and do it!" And my favourite Patrick quote was "As you get to meet more people that you admire, you realise that they are just as shambolic as you". Shambolic. What a fabulous word! Worth listening to for that alone...

Then came the afternoon session. I don't know whether it was just me winding down after lunch, or just less inspiring speakers, but it wasn't as interesting as the morning session...

Tullia Jack is a Fashion Researcher and Writer. She talked about sustainability in fashion, and the advances in clothing which doesn't require washing. Interesting to hear, but hard to find a direct relevance to a Career in Craft...

Kylie Gusset describes herself as a Yarntrepeuner. To be honest, this was the speaker I was most looking forward to - since I kind of felt that she would have something of fibre-related relevance to share. No. Sadly not. Couldn't have been more wrong. Her session started out with potential. Discussing the difference between a $1 loaf of Cheapy Bread from Coles and an $8 Fancy Pants loaf of exclusive artisan bread... I could see how that relates to craft. You can buy a cheap acrylic beanie from Best and Less for $4... or a hand knitted beanie for $40... Yes. Now tell me how to sell my craft for it's true value.
But she didn't. She told me all about how she proposed to a married man. Showed me a video clip of Casey Stoner riding a motorbike. Another clip promoting Crowdsourced funding. There were a few vague references to Cormo wool production here in Australia. But basically she confused me. And scared me a little. I don't know if she was just having a bad day, or if every day is like that. But she came across as nuttier than a fruit cake. And not in a good way.

Kirsteene Phelan and Angela D'Alton are Australian Community Managers with Etsy. Mostly they were there to promote Etsy as an online venue for selling. But they did talk about the Massive Importance of Good Photographs. You must have "clean, crisp and inviting pictures". Couldn't agree more. Nothing beats an enticing photo. Also something called teamwork. Statistics are that if you are part of a "team" on Etsy, your sales are boosted by 70%. Don't know what an Etsy Team is all about, but it's worth investigating. Their other advice was to check out the Seller Handbook whether you are selling on Etsy or not - apparently there's load of good advice for selling craft in there, regardless of the platform you are using. I haven't read through it yet. But I will...

The day concluded with an open chat session featuring jewellers Susan Cohn, Blanche Tilden, Phoebe Porter, and moderated by Mark Edgoose (Senior Lecturer, RMIT University School of Art). Another confusing session. Not entirely sure is they were there to chat with an audience, or just amongst themselves! One strong point which came out though, was the importance of finding yourself a mentor. Also the need to find your own identity as an artist, which might not be clear in the beginning, but will develop over time...

Are you still with me?

So I did learn something. And I was inspired. Just not in the way I expected to be.

In fact, I probably didn't learn anything NEW... more that I was reminded about some key points.

I was reminded that these people are just PEOPLE. Sometimes we forget that. We look up to those who are successful in what they do, and think of them as Absolute Stars. Almost gods. But they're not. They're people. They're nervous and awkward and nutty, just like the rest of us. They have messy houses and sick kids and slumps, just like the rest of us. They have doubts and dilemmas and fears, just like the rest of us...

I was reminded that CONTACTS are extremely important. We hear that all the time, don't we? It's all about who you know... Well, it is about who you know - but also how you present yourself to them. Each of the speakers made it sound as though things just fell into place for them. But a key component in all of their stories was CONTACTS. It is about who you know. Then you need to make yourself known to them!

I was reminded that the FUN stuff doesn't always pay well. But you need to weigh up the benefits. For example: the pay might be minimal, but the exposure will lead to more work... and that in turn leads to more work... Small decisions matter. Your day-to-day work might not inspire you, but you can look to other sources such as collaborations for diversity, which will in turn bring a renewed energy to the day-to-day stuff.

I was reminded of the importance of MENTORS for guidance and PEERS for mutual support. And TEAMWORK too.

 Craft Seminar

Well, I'm exhausted after that marathon post!

I was kind of hoping to get along to some of the Open Studios this weekend, but don't know whether I can juggle it. If you're in Melbourne you might like to check out this guide for yourself.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Craft Seminar
Just a quick "Hello" from me today...

I've spent the day at the "Craft and Design as a Career" seminar. It was held in at the National Gallery of Victoria, and I spent an insane amount of time stuck in traffic - but never mind.

Anyway, I'll be back tomorrow to tell you all about it.

Because I know you're interested!

Craft Seminar

Craft Seminar

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who Wears Short Shorts?

Yarn for shorts

Well - I don't!

But my niece has asked me to crochet her a pair...

Now I can't say that I've ever crocheted a pair of shorts before - but these ones are kinda cute. They're mostly worked in Single Crochet (US) with a little trim around the bottom of each leg.

(Here's the pattern if you want to take a peek)

My yarn arrived the other day. I figured I should probably use the recommended yarn for the project - since I actually want the shorts to fit! Mind you, it's something I don't think that I've ever done before. Using the recommended yarn for the project? Nah. I like to do my own thing...

Something else I hadn't done before? Ordering yarn online!

Yep. You heard right. I had never ordered yarn online before. Fancy that.



As I was saying, the yarn arrived just the other day. Figured I should swatch to get gauge - since as I mentioned earlier - I want the shorts to fit!

The pattern calls for a 3.0 mm hook - but I needed to go down to a 1.9 mm to get gauge!

Holy Monkeys - these shorts are going to take a lifetime to make...


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Little Birdie

Little Birdie

If you're looking for a little distraction, you should head on over to the Designers Challenge group for the August Challenge.

This month you need to make a Toy Bird using less than one skein of yarn. Knit or Crochet - whichever you prefer. You could even do a little of both if you wanted to.

Little Birdie

Now it sounds easy, doesn't it? But I found it super-duper hard to only work with the one skein. Because that essentially means ONLY ONE COLOUR can be used...

I guess you could go with a variegated yarn - but I didn't really have anything suitable in my stash.

Little Birdie

So then I had grand plans for intricate stitch details to add interest to my bird. I was going to have these openly lacy wings with a layer of felt underneath, to really make the pattern jump out.

But as you can see, it didn't quite happen. In fact, you can't see any stitch detail in my bird - because I've used a technique called brushed crochet. You just crochet your piece as usual, then use a wire brush to fuzz up the surface.

Little Birdie

The brush is nothing fancy. Mine is just a pet brush. I think I paid about $2 for it at one of those Cheapy Shops.

Little Birdie

I love the effect the brushing has given. I wanted this little guy to look like a new little chick, all fuzzy and downy... and it has worked perfectly. Plus he is so soft!

I have to tell you though. This is not my first attempt at brushed crochet. I've tried twice before and been really unhappy with the results. Same brush, but different yarn. In the past I have tried it using Pure Wools, because I thought that they would be most successful - but they gave a pathetic result. This time I've used a 100% acrylic, and it's worked magnificently!

Little Birdie

Monday, August 13, 2012

Video Tutorial - Crazy Yarn Knots

Scrappy Blanket

Since I posted about my Scrappy Blanket, I've had oodles of questions about how I tie my knots in the yarn. Of course it seems so straight forward to me - I mean, they're just knots, right?

It's funny, because this is the only way I would consider making these joins... but I've heard from a number of people who are tying their knots as you would tie a double or triple knot in your shoelace...

Don't do it that way! It will take you FOREVER!!!

My method is a simple overhand knot.

It's easy, fast, and super secure...

It's not especially pretty - but that's okay - you'll be so distracted by all the sticky-outie tails in the finished project that you won't pay any attention to the actual knots.

So here it is:

My first video tutorial...

Hope it helps!

Friday, August 10, 2012


Maria's Mitts

I think I've finally found my own rhythm with this Continental Knitting...

Notice I say KNITTING.

I can now work the knit stitch with even tension and no white knuckles. It takes a really long time to relax your hands when learning a new technique. You're concentrating so much on holding your fingers in new positions - and having them perform different roles than they normally would - that the poor things cramp up! Seriously. You can only work in short bursts because it it so exhausting for the Poor Little Fingies. I know that it sounds pathetic, but it's true...

Maria's Mitts

But I'm confident now. And relaxed. I can knit Continental Style.

Just don't ask me to knit two together.

Or increase.

Or purl.

Those skills are going to take A LOT more practice!!!!

As you can see, I finished that third mitt.

Maria's Mitts

Do you think it was a match with Loose Tension Mitt (the 1st one I knit) or Tight Tension Mitt (the 2nd one I knit)???

Come on - you know the answer. Just think about which would be the most annoying outcome!

It matched NEITHER.

But at least it fell somewhere between the two. Closer to the loose one... So I'm pretending they are a matched pair. Sometimes you just have to pretend a little. Fake it 'til you make it. Isn't that what they say?

Maria's Mitts

Thursday, August 9, 2012



Yesterdays post made me stop and think. I didn't realise just how much I HATE my current storage system (or lack thereof). My yarn and my recycling are such a huge part of my life - and I want to love every aspect of it. There's no reason not to. So I need to find the love again...

In my thinkings... or is that thunkings? I realised something.

I do NOT hate it all.

In fact there's aspects of it which I quite like.

Love even.

Sure. Maybe they've needed a bit of a tidy up (just like everything else around here) but that's easy enough to do. Just don't tell Mr Goldfish I said that, or he'll want me tidying all that other stuff as well.



Here's one of the things I love: My Notion Jars


An entire shelf of my Kitchen Buffet is dedicated to my Notion Jars. I guess that I shouldn't really call it a Kitchen Buffet any more. It hasn't been that for a while. It does sit alongside our Kitchen Table (or is that a craft table??? one can never be too sure around here) but it's more Arts and Crafts than anything else. It's home to boxes of wrapping papers and cards, as well as old photos. Lots of coloured pencils, textas, crayons (for the kiddies, of course - if you can believe that) and underneath is some open shelving for Little Miss Charlotte. You see, she used to open my cupboards and pull out everything from inside - so I removed the doors, and put her toys in there instead! I love the Buffet set up the way it is. The kids colouring things are all at eye level, and so appealingly set out, that it inspires them (and sometimes me) to want to sit down and draw - LOVE it.



I was supposed to be talking about my Notion Jars, wasn't I?

So. Basically there's a big long shelf, with lots of glass jars.


Mostly OPEN jars. Which works really, really well. They're kind of colour sorted. For example green beads and green buttons and any other cool green things that I find lying around go into the "Green Jar". Okay. I know you didn't really need me to spell it out quite like that for you. You get the picture.


There's a jar of postage stamps. A jar of plastic lids and rings. A jar of wooden pegs. A jar of labels for  when I finally get myself organised and start selling some of my creations. There's even a jar or two of beads just for the kids. My favourite jar is the one with metal stuff. It houses old keys and springs, screws and D rings, washers and bells. Things which make noise when you clang them together.


And the clogs are still there. Have you been following my blog since the Clog Days? I still haven't found a project to use them in - but they don't taunt me about it. They just sit there looking lovely! I'd miss them if they were to go... I love playing with them, and so does Little Miss Charlotte.


Back to the jars again.

They're good - I love them - They work - They stay

Didi I mention that it is really easy to put things away when you have OPEN storage? If I find a button or a screw or whatever, I just breeze past the buffet and POP it into the jar.

So. What else do I love?

I'll have to get back to you on that!


PS. Did you notice that my String Collection has it's own jar, too?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


stash flash - feb 2009

I love this photo.

It's a shot of my stash, taken back in February 2009 - I blogged about it here

Everything was so neat and tidy, and easy to access. I could see what I had at a very brief glance. It was easy to put things away - and I was always motivated to put them away, because it all looked SO PRETTY...


Sadly,  it doesn't look like that anymore.

In fact - it makes me a little sad and wistful for the Good Ol' Days when I look at this photo...

Because I'm having a big UGH with my craft storage at the moment...

Too much stuff.

Too much mess.

Not enough order.

Too fiddly to get to.

Not inspiring.

In general - UGH!

So what happened to change that Beautiful Wall O' Yarn?

Well, for starters - I lost my craft room - it became a bedroom for Little Miss Charlotte. That was kind of the beginning of the end... We moved all my goodies to the main living area downstairs, but then MICE attacked my open storage of yarn!!! So everything had to go into large plastic tubs which could be sealed tight. Practical but ugly. And not at all inspiring.

Plus I've accumulated too much stuff again. Nothing fancy or particularly valuable, just a big stockpile of garments and manchester to recycle. More than I will ever get to in a lifetime.

It's time for a cull, and a re-structure...

Deep breaths - and off I go!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Which Mitt Should I Frog?

Maria's Mitts


One mitt is smaller than the other - so they're useless as a set... but which one do I frog???

My plan is to knit a THIRD mitt, and see which ones match best!

Maria's Mitts

Do you see the little green bag in the photo?

That's another one of Dawnie's creations
- it's for keeping my yarn neat and clean and tidy as I work...

And if I want to work outside, or on the move... I just pop the drawstring around my wrist and off I go - no yarn trailing behind me to get tangled.

Anyone would think she had witnessed my yarn rolling around on the floor as I work on a project!

Surely not!

Maria's Mitts

So this clever bag is made using a plastic bowl.

Dawn has drilled holes all the way around it
- and then crocheted into the holes to work the rest of the bag.

At the top is a drawstring closure. How cool is that???

(It's probably, maybe a teensy weensy bit on the PLAIN side for me - but I'll fix that - and Dawnie won't mind a bit. She's used to me by now, and knows exactly what I'm like. In fact, she's more likely to be SHOCKED that I haven't done it already.)

Edited to add:

I've just had an email from one of my readers, which I'd really like to share with you (and I don't think she'll mind at all)

I taught myself to knit and wanted to suggest what helped me. Continental method is the closest to how you would hold crochet;
the project in your left hand with the working thread wrapped around one of those fingers for tension while you knit with the needle on the right.
Once I thought of it in those terms my tensions became the same throughout.

So... I'm going to start thinking along those lines when I next pick up my mitts, and see if it helps. Thanks for the tip Steph - and by including it here in the blog, I hope it can help others too!

Monday, August 6, 2012

And I thought I was SO clever...

Maria's Mitts

I've been hearing over and over again about how much faster knitting is for those who use Continental Style. But it never really interested me. I mean, I've been perfectly happy with my usual pace and technique up until now - so why change, right?

Besides - I've been knitting for over 30 years now - so I wondered if it would even be possible to change my technique at this point...

I kind of have my own little style going on when I knit. People love to tell me how STRANGE and UNUSUAL it is - which used to really bother me - but now I just don't care! Anyway, I tuck my right needle under my arm while I work.

Some people tell me it's a SCOTTISH style...

Some call it PIT KNITTING...

And others just call it weird!

It's not the way I was taught to knit, it's just a comfortable style I fell into as I learned.


My main problem with PIT knitting, is that it doesn't work when you use circular needles or double pointed needles. You can't tuck a needle under your arm pit when it is only 10 cm long (4 inches). So I usually avoid working anything in the round.

Because if I can't tuck, then I SLOW down so much!

But then I was thinking...

If I could learn this Continental Style that everyone keeps talking about, then I could work quickly in the round - SO I DID IT! With the help of some You Tube videos, I taught myself to knit Continental Style. This is the one I found most helpful.

It was a bit tricky at first - since it involves holding your working yarn in the left hand instead of the right - but I got there in the end.

And I practiced, and practiced and practiced until my tension was even...

Then decided it was time to test it out on a project!

I thought I was SO CLEVER.

With my wonderful, even, beautiful tension...

(Which was hard, because it tends to be quite loose when you work Continental)

But I have a problem.

Look at these Mitts:

Maria's Mitts

They're SUPPOSED to be the same size!

I've used the same yarn, same needles, followed the same pattern and worked the same number of rows... But they do NOT match up...

Strange things are afoot at the Circle K...

Friday, August 3, 2012

Craft Fair

Felted Flower

Last Sunday I went along to the Melbourne Craft and Quilt Fair at the Exhibition Centre.

It's always fun to have company at these things... so I traveled in with some of the girls from work - Julie, Tam, Jo and Mary... and met up with my crochet buddy Annie once we were there.

There's always so much to see and do at these events. Although I'm not a quilter, I still like to look - and imagine that ONE DAY I might be!

Annie and I took part in a felting workshop, where I made this gorgeous flower...

And chatted to the woman next to me about the Craft Cruise she has booked to travel on. How AWESOME would that be? A Craft Cruise! Have you ever been on one?

Felted Flower

One of the other COOL things about the Craft Fair was that I got to meet up with Prudence Mapstone (my freeform guru) and also see the Hang Ups Exhibition in person.

Remember the closet monster I made earlier this year for the coathanger exhibition? Well, he was on display at the Craft Fair... along with some VERY SPECTACULAR freeform pieces from around the globe. I tried to take photos to share with you, but with the indoor lighting they just didn't turn out at all well. So you'll just have to take my word for it -
They were EXQUISITE!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Announcing the Winner...

Time to choose a winner in the Flaming Lamborghini challenge..

There were some very creative bags on offer this month: Just take a look...

Flaming Lamborghini

See the one on the top left... the Flamingo Bag? Loren knitted it out of PLASTIC BAGS! Yes. The entire thing is made from plastic. Even that striking flamingo...

And the one on the bottom left? T-shirts. Suzie knitted it using strips of old t-shirts. 
How clever is that?

Then you'll notice that the centre right one has a hole in it. 
A beautiful, practical, and intentional hole. 
Melba created that so that her yarn can stay safe and clean inside her project bag, 
while she is crafting...

Centre left we have the Icicle Bag. By changing the colour palette,
 Julie has entirely changed the feel of the bag... taking it from flames to icicles...

And look closely at the other two bags there... Jorel and Debbie have been quite sneaky. Instead of weaving in their yarn ends at the tip of each flame, they have left them loose as a bit of a design feature - creating a small tassel.

I love all these different versions, but I haven't shown you my favourite one yet:

Daphne has created the Africa Bag.

What amazing dedication to her theme... the yarn choices... beads... and the lining...

At first glance, it looks like some wonderfully intricate colour changing yarn has been used. But these are all individual solid colours, and it's Daphne's technique and timing with the changes that makes it look so awesome!

Africa Bag

Africa Bag

Africa Bag

So a HUGE congratulations to Daphne...
and I will wait patiently to hear what she would like me to design for our next Knitting Challenge
(that part always makes me a little bit nervous - and excited at the same time)

Meanwhile.. the Flaming Lamborghini Bag pattern is now available for sale
PDF Knitting Pattern available for AU$4.50

Flaming Lamborghini

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kiki the Kangaroo.


Sick kids have kept me away from blogging AND crafting over the last few days...

Somehow ALL FOUR of them are sick at once, and it's dragging on for days and days...

My friend Andrew suggested that it's much more efficient to have them all sick at once
- but I'm EXHAUSTED!!!

As you can imagine, there has been ZERO progress on the lining of the Hakelbeutel Bag... because I need two hands for that,
and you just can't do it while balancing a sick baby on one arm...

Kiki the Kangaroo

But enough of that... let's move on to the fun stuff.

Because today is the first of the month, and we all know what that means...

It's time for me to release the NEW CHALLENGE.

Come and join us here in my Ravelry group if you want to join in the fun! The pattern is available for free to everyone joining in the August Challenge.

Kreidawl was the winner of the Platypus Challenge - which meant that she could choose our next crochet design. She enlisted the help of her grandson, Master Almost Four - and he came up with the suggestion of a kangaroo.

So this one's for you Mr Almost Four: Kiki the Kangaroo
I hope that you love her as much as I do!

Kiki the Kangaroo

Kiki the Kangaroo

 Kiki the Kangaroo