Bountiful Bohus Cardigan and an ending

My Bountiful Bohus cardigan is officially finished.

Bountiful bohus cardigan in cascade 220

Sometimes as a knit blogger I have this sense that a project isn’t really done until the wrap up is complete and the final story is told. I’ve been blogging for most of my knitting life in the last decade and the act of writing about my knitting has become something of a habit, and one that for the most part I still enjoy, but I do occasionally wonder what it would be like to, you know, just knit stuff and wear it/give it away without an audience.

Part of what brought me to this experience was the desire to be part of the global sharing that is blogging. I read other blogs, first in Canberra and then more broadly, and felt so inspired, so creatively awakened, that I had to join in. There’s a synchronicity then to the fact that as I move on from knit blogging, I’m doing so by writing about a method that takes me back to the roots of my knitting life/experience. One of the first knitting blogs I ever felt drawn to, SamuraiKnitter, inspired me to try the wonder of steeking and seven years on, we’re still in touch and look at me, I’m steeking again!

I truly loved knitting this cardigan. That it took me four months is not a reflection on the pattern but more a reflection of the fun of winter knitting. There’s always something to be knitting, something to be planning. My head was turned all winter by the lure of quick knits like gloves and hats and other small items. So Bountiful Bohus lingered right up until the moment I joined the sleeves to the body and whipped through that fair isle yoke.

Bountiful bohus cardigan in cascade 220It’s not perfect. What knitted garment ever is? I for one never really strive for perfection in garments (other than lace shawls – you can’t really be half hearted about perfection there) – I strive for wearability, comfort, warmth – all the things that make a cardigan something you’ll wear and love and enjoy for a long time. So the steek inside is a bit wobbly – but it’s holding and that’s great. The waist shaping is a bit odd – the bits just above my hips have this way of sticking out a bit, the band doesn’t sit entirely flat but it’s fine. It’s warm. It’s so warm. Even the slightly longer than I planned sleeves have in the last few days come to be something I enjoyed.

I met some friends for knitting and beer at lunch time and Olivia took a few photos for me. The glass in my hand is empty, but it was just a prop. The Ballyragget Red I’d drunk was long since gone. My cardigan may not be perfect but my lunchtime knitting friends saw none of that. We admired the detail, the fact of the knitting that had been cut, the colours and the warmth.

at the arboretum in new cardigan

The winds in Canberra in recent days have been fierce. They feel like they’re coming off the snow up on the Brindabella Mountains; they cut through you at the bus stop and in the wind tunnels of the city. I walked through those wind tunnels today at lunchtime feeling a lot warmer than I might have. My cardigan was doing its job. Even Olivia said, when I arrived at the Wig & Pen that she thought I must be wearing a warm cardigan since I came without a coat.

I feel so pleased I’ve made a cardigan I’ve admired for several years online. Sometimes, the wait is worth it.

Bountiful bohus cardigan in cascade 220

It’s pretty. I love it.

It feels to me like the right place to end my knit blogging life. At least in this incarnation. I’ve come full circle, enriched by creativity, connections, inspiration and sharing. That won’t stop. It will just be directed elsewhere and I’ll of course still share projects on Ravelry where I am sure I’ll see many of you.

In time there may be another blog, another creative outlet. I’m not sure.

I’m thankful for the experience of my blog. Blogging came to me early in my knitting life and there are rivers of understanding and experience that run beneath the surface of what you see here, things I know as having been real and powerful for me in the last seven years. You can’t fabricate that. It’s very special and the experience will stay with me forever. I crossed the line between creative and personal blogging many times – lines that were self-determined in some ways. When I lost babies, when I experienced joys, when I felt part of a world that was meaningful and inspring, I had creative connections and people who read and cared and that meant a lot.

If you have read, commented, shared, experienced this with me in anyway, big or small, I’m grateful. If there’s a new outlet after this, I’ll come back and say so and if I find you there, then I’m sure it’ll be wonderful.

I’ll leave you with a photo of Alice, the little marvel who has a massive part of my creative and emotional life for the last four and a half years – over half of my blogging life.

I have known for a while that with the advent of her schooling life next year, blogging about her had a limited shelf life. I don’t write about her life, her family, her experiences other than the fun things we do together but I do put her name and her photos up. I think that she deserves privacy and to not be recognised on the streets of Canberra any more – when that’s happened it’s been lovely and respectful but it might not always be the case and so that aspect of my blogging life was always going to have to end. It’s been wonderful sharing her with you. Her place in my life and heart is unspeakably important and cherished. Celebrating the richness she’s brought to my life (with Sean) and to my knitting life has been fantastic. A most unexpected joy.

Alice at the creek

Blogging was the same. An unexpected joy. Thanks for being part of it with me.

Bells

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Guest Interview at Suzy Hausfrau

Just a note to let you know that today you can find an interview I did with Suzy Hausfrau on her blog over here.

Suzy Hausfrau is a great local yarn business owner and blogger. She is doing wonderful things for the Canberra knitting scene and beyond.

She’s featuring knitters all week in her series for World Wide Knit in Public Day and I loved having the chance to contemplate questions about my knitting history, my stash and projects that have been meaningful to me.

In it I mention the scarf I made for my dad when I was five. My mum told me this moring that he remembers the scarf and describes it has having been ‘quite a loose weave.’ Mum told him no that wasn’t it. It was full of holes, as most scarves knitted by five year olds probably would be. Still, it was nice that he remembered it!

I’ll leave with a current work in progress – rainbow legwarmers for Alice. At the moment this one, lonesome legwarmer is actually missing. I think I lost it. Stay tuned.

Alice with one leg warmer.

I hope you enjoy the interview.

Bells

A Funny Little Cushion and a Winner

Some time in the afternoon last Saturday I got an urge to crochet. It hits sometimes. When it does I tend to whip up a dishcloth or other small project to scratch the itch, then I move on but I didn’t feel like adding to my pile of dishcloths.

I felt like making something else quick and simple and out of the pages of a recently purchased Simply Crochet magazine, a cute triangular cushion spoke to me. Why not? I grabbed a ball of poppy red Lion Brand Cotton – which has been in stash since that brief period a few years ago when Spotlight got it in then inexplicably discontinued it.

Over the two nights of the weekend, I made this.

Triangle cushion

Isn’t it adorable? I didn’t think so at first. I thought it was over stuffed (see how you can see the white of the wadding through the stitches?) and I still think it’s overstuffed but I believe it will settle.

I’m not thrilled with how the stuffing doesn’t quite make it into the corners but I left the top hole too small for my hand to get far enough in.

All that aside, I think it’s a funny, sweet little cushion that will never, ever be terribly practical. If I was into interior design I’d say something like it was a statement piece but it’s not even really that. It’s just a triangle cushion and I will probably make another, as well as one for my sister who said right away she wanted one too – that’s a sign that something has worked isn’t it?

I quite like the button. It’s one of a pair so by rights I really do have to make a twin for this cushion. Sarah do you remember when you gave them to me? I finally found a use for them!

Thanks to everyone in the last post for your suggestions on good socks that are go-to-make-over-and-over patterns. So many of my favourites showed up in the list. And new to me patterns that I’ve been checking out. Go have a look at the comments if you’re looking for suggestions.

And now, drum roll please – the winner was drawn earlier this afternoon and the winning entry helped inform my choice of sock yarn. I had earlier raided my stash for some skeins of sock yarn that I thought would be right and when I saw that Lynne of Never Too Hot to Stitch won, I knew just what I’d send her.

Mustang Sally medium weight

It’s a skein of Socks that Rock medium weight sock yarn in the colour Mustang Sally. I have two of these and really thought the other could be shared with another sock knitter. So Lynne, get in touch and we’ll arrange postage.

Bells

Have Camera, Will Walk

Sometimes I lack the desire to exercise. I know. Shocking. I don’t think I’m alone.

I once wrote a post about how walking was important to me, back when I was doing Weight Watchers and realising that I spent a lot of my life wrapped up in wool and comfort. The motivation that was with me back then was real and inspiring. I did well. I imagine, looking back, that winter arrived and I retreated again into the all too familiar comfort from bleak Canberra days.

I wrote about  how I felt better about my cocoon time if I had been out and about. I know I feel better. I know it’s good for me. But I let bad habits slide back in and I’m at square one again.

Last month I started walking at lunch time with a wonderful friend I made at work. It’s a great time of year to do it and we decided over yet another indulgent lunch one day that if we like talking so much, we could just as easily do it in Spring sunshine, with fresh air fuelling our conversation. And with fewer temptations. Treats of a different kind, if you like.

From those lovely lunch time walks has come the knowledge, again, that I do actually like to move, that as cosy as it is to stick close to home where I can knit with wine and food, it’s not really that good for me, at least not in the proportions I’ve been doing it. Not only that, but I’m noticing that I’m knitting slightly bigger cardigans for myself than I was knitting a couple of years ago. Worrying about that is an energy sapper. It comes laden with guilt and shame. When I sit down to knit, knowing I’ve done some movement for the day is a good feeling. I hate living with guilt.

But I need more to motivate me than just imagining trimmer thighs or guilt free eating. I need something that feeds me without the calories and for me, that’s always creative expression. So I decided that I must take my camera, or my iPhone, and I give myself the task of capturing something on my walk.

I walk fast, I breathe deeply, I listen to music or an audiobook and I notice what’s around me. Paying attention to the world around me reminds me that what’s in my head, what’s weighing me down (figuratively, not actually in this instance) is alleviated to a degree by moving and noticing. By engaging.

There’s only one rule. I must come home with at least one photo of something I’ve seen. Sometimes it’s the case that I only take one photo if inspiration is thin on the ground.

The gardens in my suburb are bursting with life, with fertility, with colour right now. It’s a photographer’s dream. I try not to limit myself to flowers but it’s hard to look past them.

One evening last week, feeling stressed, full of difficult thoughts and swirling ideas, I went walking before a storm. I love a bleak, pre-storm sky. It makes me feel. There are few sights more evocative. I snapped these leaves against the darkening sky.

leaves against the sky

I used Instagram to add a filter to the photo. Are you using Instagram? If you are, I’m there as Bellsknits (surprise!). Share your photos with me there.

Yesterday I walked in the morning. Such a contrast to that pre-storm romance. My suburb is filled with irises now. Tall, sweeping, vivid, they’re incredible flowers and they’re waving at me from the gardens I pass.

iris tongue

I’m just hoping the people in my suburb don’t mind when they look out the window and see a woman with a camera getting up close and personal with their flowers. I do like to get up close. It’s the best way to see how they really look, what detail is hidden at the heart. Like with this poppy, growing wild at the edge of our deck. I never knew what detail was there until I pointed my camera at the centre of it. Breathtaking.

poppy

So over the course of National Blog Posting Month (daily blogging, hosted by BlogHer) I’ll be sharing some days what I find on my walks. Anything to get me out the door.

Bells

RoseRed Embossed Leaves Socks

Several years ago two knitters met in cyberspace. Those two knitters were me and RoseRed. For my birthday, the year we met, she sent me some beautiful red Koigu sock yarn and from it I made a pair of red Embossed Leaves socks, from the great Interweave Knits book ‘Favourite Socks‘.

In those days I had a beginner’s stash. There wasn’t much in it and none of it was particularly special or fancy. There was a whole world as yet unknown to me. From the vantage point of four years later, as I groan under the weight of a sizeable yarn stash, I smile at the memory of the first time I showed her my stash – a small collection in a single box – and how she confessed hers was ‘a little bigger’ than that. (Her stash is legendary, in case you didn’t know).

RoseRed gave me more of the beautiful red Koigu yarn a while ago and I think I always knew what I’d do with it, especially once that original pair of socks gave up the ghost.

This weekend, when I was visiting my parents I finished my second pair of Red (or RoseRed, as I came to call them) Embossed Leaves Socks. My sister Fee posed in them for me. She did threaten to keep them.

Embossed Leaves Socks

In case you can’t tell, I’m a bit sentimental about these socks. It was my first lace pattern, back in 2007, and such a learning curve. This time I memorised the pattern entirely. I’ve come a long way! It was easy and fun and I knew the results would be great. Koigu is a great, great sock yarn. It can’t and doesn’t disappoint. It’s smooshy, attractive and lush. A real winner. And who doesn’t love a leaf motif? You can’t go wrong.

My parents’ dog Coco (also dubbed: the Needy Pooch, because she’s SOOO whiny) got in on the act.

Coco and Red Socks

Then Alice decided the socks made great puppets. Apparently they were dinosaurs. Go figure.

Alice and Red Sock

Either way, they are lovely socks and I’m really, really happy to have myself another pair of red embossed leaves. A truly wonderful sock pattern and, for me, a symbol of what’s been so important to me as a developing knitter. Thanks RoseRed for the red sock love!

Bells

Wrap Up – and some pretties

Well. That whole Aussie Bloggers Conference thing was fun. Some fabulous discussion I totally didn’t expect. I got a lot of comments directly via email too and really loved how it all played out. I do hope the organisers (who I know read it) found it useful too and that Aus Blog Con 2012 is the success they hope it to be. If nothing else, I know I was really glad to learn that I wasn’t alone in some of my feelings on the weekend. Some of the comments made me wish I’d gotten out of my shell a bit and tried to engage more. I might have found more like-minded souls if I had.

So a huge thanks to everyone who offered their thoughts and reflections. It really meant a lot to me.

+ + +

Shall we enjoy something pretty now? Do you see stuff made by other people sometimes and wish to God you had half their vision?  I like the things I make and am often very happy with them, but I never pretend to have a great eye for how things go together. It’s why when I sew I like to use pre-selected packs of squares for quilts. Someone with a greater design aesthetic has done that hard work for me.

When I won a contest on the blog of Sydney knitter 1FunkyKnitWit,  I sort of forgot. I knew I’d won a skein of her handspun but a few weeks passed and I couldn’t have told you more than that if you’d held a gun to my head.

Then the package arrived and I was awe struck. I know from reading her blog that Margarita is big on design and style. Most of it wafts over me in a vague blur of wonder because I don’t really get a lot of that detail but I know it all looks nice. What was in the package was some stuff I really fell for. For starters, a pin cushion that is, well, very funky.

pincushion

Who thinks of putting stuff together like that? I don’t. But I love it.

And what about this? Know what it is? It’s a needle case, for storing hand sewing needles. On the outside, it’s like this.

needle case outside

Open it, and it looks like this.

needle case inside

As you can tell, I’m a bit impressed.  Anyone else think people who do this stuff should be selling it? I do. Great work, Margarita, it’s really lovely.

But wait! There’s more. With a bit of a story.

Last year when the Masters exhibition came to the National Gallery of Australia, Drk and I stood in line for three hours to see some wonderful art works. Both of us were VERY excited about seeing Van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone. It was a really special day to share with a friend – to have such a sacred moment together.

As we admired the painting, we said to each other, someone ought to come up with a yarn dyed to look like a Van Gogh starry night. Turns out they did.

So when Margarita included in her package a skein of yarn called Starry Night, I believe I got a little misty eyed. Margarita didn’t dye it but she spun it beautifully into a delicate 2ply and I think it’s beautiful. Look.

starry night

I tried hard to capture the depth of it and I failed. It’s got hints of black in among the blue and yellow, just like a light flecked blue-black night. It’s beautiful and so even though I don’t always know what to do with handspun (a lot of that really busy, chunky handspun you see around often leaves me cold), I really love this yarn and it’ll be turned into something for me before too long. Ideas welcome! (edited to add: I have 301m/321yds).

So thanks heaps Margarita. I’m really pleased.

Bells

Aussie Bloggers Conference: A Mixed Response

Sydney and Aus Blog Con 078 (2)

Photo by Veronica Foale

Below are ten dot points of things I learned or reflected on at the Aussie Bloggers Conference on the weekend. I didn’t really have a great time and so I’m a little nervous of writing my honest thoughts down about it but decided, after talking it over with a couple of friends and Sean, that I can only tell my story, my perspective. I mean no offence or to have a go at anyone. It’s just my perspective. And it’s a little longer than I normally write in a post but I had stuff to cover. Stick with me if you can.

  1. A lot of people had an amazing time and I don’t want to dump on that. A lot of people got a lot out of it. A lot of people found their kin. I didn’t. But then I wasn’t the target audience.Even though we’ve now established I’m a personal (knit) blogger, the conference was primarily for and by a large group who all know each other (online at least) very well – or at least many of them do. They were speaking to each other. It felt a little like eavesdropping sometimes.
  2. For the most part it felt like a big meet up of nearly 200 online best friends. That’s ok. Online friends meet up and have amazing real life experiences together. But they should call it a meet up, not a conference. Maybe. Especially since a lot of people have declared they were more interested in meeting their blog friends than the content. Maybe next time it won’t feel like 150 best friends getting together for a big weekend because it will be targeted at all Australian Bloggers, not just a niche group.
  3. Since I wasn’t there to meet 150 friends I’ve known for years (good for those who were), I was really hoping the content had a lot to offer. In some ways it did. There were some moving stories told; There were some cautionary tales I found alarming and challenging about online privacy and how things can go wrong when you lay yourself out there. Take home message: the internet is forever. Be warned. (Side note: at the same time as this event was on, a similar event called BarCamp Canberra 2011 was held – same number of people, same discussion about social media but with a focus on open government and social media. I do kind of wonder if I’d have been more at home there. Look out for its sister events in other major cities if you’re interested).
  4. I learned that, just like the knitting blog community, the mummy blog community derives great strength and inspiration from its members. I learned years ago that linking up to like minded people, sharing ideas and inspiration, just telling our stories is a powerful thing. Find your tribe and make the most of it. Just remember, there are other tribes out there, too.
  5. There was a real sense that blogging is changing in Australia, that it’s growing in scope and diversity. I do really wish that diversity was more represented there. There were many references to the power of Australian blogging. That power lies both within and beyond the borders of mummy and personal blogging. It’s in food blogging, political blogging, Indigenous blogging, tech blogging just to name a few. Great writers everywhere are writing outside the mainstream media and doing amazing things. No one says you have to read blogs from all over the place, but please don’t lay claim to being the core Australian blogging community. That was probably the biggest sticking point for me from the day.
  6. The fact that I wasn’t a mum was only part of my discomfort on the weekend. It wasn’t painful, at least not in the way I thought it would be, it was only a bit frustrating that so much conversation was peppered with references to ‘our kids’. An outsider with fertility problems can’t ever really feel at ease in that environment. Frequent reference to practices and styles of parent blogging was made all day and that was fair enough, given the audience, but for a non-parent blogger, it felt like visiting a foreign country. The conference was apparently styled on the US version, BlogHer. I hope next year they make it more about women in blogging generally (if they want to keep it gender specific; although there were a couple of men present: I imagine they felt even more like a fish out of water). Organisers, if you’re reading: it was really lovely of you to say ‘sure, people outside the core group are welcome’ but I think it was a mistake.
  7. It made me imagine a knitting blogger conference. I imagined the Yarn Harlot standing up there talking about knitting as wonderfully as she does. Even as a fabulous communicator who is open, intelligent, welcoming and oh so funny, much of what she would speak about would go over the heads of anyone from outside the knitting world who stumbled across the conference. Even just referencing Ravelry, knit alongs and any of the big fibre festivals would go over the head a non-knitter. She would probably get up, walk out, decide it was all like listening to someone speak Mongolian. That’s how it was for me. Only I didn’t leave.
  8. There are bloggers out there who are really, really earnest about it. They have strategies, goals, the need to grow and achieve a lot with their blogs. They’re hoping to make money, start new careers, conquer some part of the world and use as much online media as is available to them to do it. Now, I love blogging. You can probably tell. I’m serious about it in that i like to write well, I’m pleased when I’ve put something out there that’s engaging. I’m serious about being part of an online community and celebrating the blogs I love to read.  I decided I’m not earnest about it. Good for those who are, but I learned there’s a difference.
  9. I learned that trying to knit, listen and follow along with the concurrent twitter discussion all that same time was silly. I gave up, even though I felt very cool using our new iPad to do it.
  10. I learned that if you stand aside at the dinner dance because you don’t dance, eventually you’ll find someone else who also doesn’t dance, but wants to drink wine and talk for ages about anything and everything. Thank you Susan, from Reading Upside Down. That was great fun!

So, you know, it wasn’t all bad. I had a great time with my friend Ally on the drive up and back (let’s not discuss my map reading skills….) and appreciated the stopover at the home of Gabfran (not her real name) of Law and Shoes. There was much late night hilarity there involving lessons in corsets and vintage stockings.

I was just really glad to get home and think about all that happened and why I would think twice about going again. Great work by the organisers, really. In terms of logistics the day seemed to run beautifully – professionally and with no visible or serious glitches, other than some time constraints. So that deserves thanks and acknowledgement.

But on the whole, it really wasn’t my kind of day. That’s ok. You get that.

Bells