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

The Wool Markets

It was a week ago now, but I very much want to write about a special day last weekend when Alice and I had our second outing to what she has affectionately come to know as “The Wool Markets”.

Once a year the Old Bus Depot Markets in Canberra (a weekly market for gifts, crafts and other treasures) holds a Celebration of Wool Day. Local and not so local yarn fanatics come together to celebrate the wonder of wool and, of course, other natural fibres.

I took Alice last year when she was just three and the way she took to the sensuality of touching wool, of calling everything ‘smooshy’ was so impressive. I realised that day she really seemed to have absorbed something of the love of fibre and knitting from me. Ever since then ‘the wool markets’ has been something we’ve spoken about and revisited, building up to a crescendo of excitement in recent weeks.

We covered ourselves in handknits on a cold Sunday morning last week in readiness for our outing. A hat each and a scarf or shawl, we admired ourselves and felt we looked the part. Sean snapped us outside the markets entrance before we met Olivia and her niece.

Old Bus Depot Celebration of Wool DayAmusingly, once inside Alice declared ‘but not everything is made of wool!’ Their funny little brains are so intriguing. I realised in her imagination was a room full of entirely wool-made things. Possibly even the walls and floors. How good would that have been?

Alice and I in knitwear, heading to the Celebration of Wool day.

We were so happy. There was so much to look forward to. Alice has been really expressing more and more interest in all things knitting related lately (and if anyone has tips on teaching under 5s to knit, crochet or do any other related crafts like sewing, finger knitting etc, I’d love to hear from you!) so this really felt like an opportunity to dive into a world we could share together for a few hours.

We spent a vast amount of time at the beginning at the Suzy Hausfrau stall. If you don’t know Suzy (not her real name), you ought to. Local former pharmacist turned yarn providore, she’s doing a great trade in imported yarns, whipping up a frenzy of enthusiasm for a new kind of local yarn store. She’s Canberra’s breath of fresh air and while loitering, I turned to find the next generation of enthusiast, in the form of Alice, talking yarn with a woman i didn’t know.

Old Bus Depot Celebration of Wool Day
Imagine my pride and heart swelling joy when I saw Alice stroke a skein of yarn and tell a stranger ‘some wool is scratchy and some is very soft,’ with all the earnest sincerity of a seasoned yarn lover.

That’s my girl, I beamed inwardly. She spoke the truth and I think I have never been prouder. That’s a story to file away for future years, for sure.

Old Bus Depot Celebration of Wool Day

In the end it all became a bit much though and Sean was on standby to come and grab her so that I could finish a spot of shopping. I do love remembering how an online friend I’d never met in real life spotted me because she heard me calling out to Alice and thought ‘that has to be Bells and Alice.’ It was us and we loved spending the morning with friends and fibre lovers.

Old Bus Depot Celebration of Wool Day

We had a wonderful morning and I must say that having her there meant good things for my budget. Spending the morning with her meant I spent less than I might have otherwise – but I did spend and I did come home with smooshy goodness and that’s no bad thing.

Can’t wait til next year when maybe, by then, Alice will have the patience to be a knitter herself.

Bells

Skywhale

Do you know what a Skywhale is?  No? Until a few a days go I didn’t know either and it’s fair to say, neither did most of Canberra.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, 2013 is the centenary of our lovely city, Canberra. Throughout the year there are many ways to celebrate. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that no one knew that a giant Skywhale was on the cards – not among the classical concerts and the light shows. The organisers kept that very close to their chests. It’s fair to say that the glorious creature has been divisive nationally, but most especially in Canberra itself. Here is the Skywhale (photo by Sean).

SkywhaleShe appeared with her enormous, beguiling breasts over our city and I don’t think any of us knew at first what to make of her. What had she to do with our centenary? What did she say about Canberra? What was the point?

I’ve said a few times to people, if a balloon had been designed for us that in some way actually symbolised our city, it probably would have been safe, potentially boring and we’d have all said ‘gee that’s nice’ and moved on.

The skywhale has divided the city. The skywhale has been the water cooler talking point that divides the crowd because of her cost and because anything that is called art always will. Somehow I think if no one attached the word art to the skywhale, people might not feel there was such a need to have an opinion. We might just have accepted her as a novelty.

But yesterday, on her second flight, we had Alice with us and in the morning we became whale hunters. We followed along on twitter for reports of where she was and how she was travelling. It became one of the most exciting adventures we’ve ever had with Alice. Sean became our navigator. Alice cheered from the back seat and when we first spotted her, high in the clear blue sky, it was a moment we’ll long remember as the moment we first saw the skywhale, a moment we shared completely.

All across the city, we passed cars parked in opportune places trying to catch a glimpse of this most odd looking creature. We found her eventually, parked in Manuka in a locked field. She was there. She was huge. She was incredible. As Alice’s mum later said ‘our new overlord looked hungry.’ I think she looked hungry for acceptance and understanding. The people who gathered beneath her got her. You can’t look into that face and not feel something. Anything. I don’t think revulsion is what happened. Not for those who bothered to find her.

Skywhale

You know what I think is the real triumph of the skywhale? It’s this. For a city such as Canberra, a city perceived nationally as so very dull, we have risen to prominence for something other than politics, something more than taxes and safe predicatability. We have risen, thanks to the Skywhale, to show ourselves as being symbolised by something entirely unsafe, unpredictable and amazing. An ordinary, predictable balloon would have made the audience clap and move on to the next big thing.

The skywhale, with her mammaries which claim to be a comment on nature and genetic modification, floats magnificently above our autumnal city and brings us all together. Whether you love her or not, when you look and talk about the Skywhale, you are joined in a communal conversation and for a city so defined by divisive politics, that is no small achievement.

SkywhaleAfter the skywhale landed yesterday, and after the crowds had admired and cheered, we saw her come down. Because she’s so big, because she has so many chambers, bringing her down is no simple matter. Children were encouraged join in.

She touched down, breasts first, most amusingly.

Skywhale

And then the real fun began. I fear regular jumping castles will pale into insignificance after a morning spent jumping on a slowly deflating skywhale.

Deflating the skywhale

It seemed to take hours. We all took off our shoes and got in on the act. Alice, like the other children gathered, lived and breathed the magic of the moment. Rolling, jumping, flinging herself onto any bubbles that appeared in the fabric and then, suddenly, the skywhale was no more. She was a long, sausage shape on the ground, being carefully rolled into her protective casing.

But the magic lived on. In the afternoon we were tired. Alice made a collage of a girl looking at the skywhale. We rang her grandparents and described how she flew and what the chase was like. She could hardly get the words out, such was her excitement and wonder.

This morning she repeated the stories and relived the experience. Somehow, I think in years to come Canberra’s centenary will become defined by a giant whale with ten enormous breasts.

Who could have predicted it.

SkywhalePersonally, I love our skywhale (Alice actually christened her Ashleigh, but I don’t think it’s going to catch on) and I was not sure at first. I’m a convert.

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

Froot Loop Socks and a Giveaway

Sometimes a pair of socks comes together so perfectly. It’s a reminder of why knitting socks can be so satisfying. A perfect yarn and pattern match
makes for a dream knit.

Froot loop sock

A little while ago my sister requested new socks. It’s been a couple of years since her last pair so I take it this means she wore them out. That’s always a comforting thing to know.

I dug out a pretty skein of Sundara Sock yarn and in next to no time I’d found what I thought to be the perfect pattern. Turns out it was. Froot Loop socks from Knitty. Considering this pattern is from 2008, I was surprised I’d never seen them before. Or at least didn’t remember them.

These were fun. A simple little mock cable pattern that flew by. I knitted the entire second sock in the four days before my sister came to visit. Record time! Partly that was because we spent two days in a lovely little town called Berry where I pretty much knitted every time we sat down in a cafe or pub.

Tea and knitting. Berry

Just looking at these photos, taken late last week, brings back memories of happy knitting and a happy time. A joyful experience all round.

Tea and knitting. Berry.

Sundara sock yarn, this was one was snapped up in a destash, is so smooshy and lovely. I knitted these on larger needles than stated since many said the pattern ran tight. So 2.75s turned out to give just the right fit for my sister who has slightly larger feet than I do. She put them on when she arrived for her visit and she loved them.

Froot loop socks

Sometimes I’m not sure it’s worth writing up about yet another pair of socks but actually I think they’re wonderful and sharing the happiness of a great pattern find is absolutely worth it. I think these will become a regular, go to pattern. Everyone who knits socks has a go-to pattern I’m sure, other than plain socks.

So leave a comment about your favourite sock pattern, one that’s like an old-faithful, repeat pattern, or even just a great pattern you love and I’ll offer a yarn prize in the next post.

Bells

Bluebell Cardigan

This cardigan feels like it’s been unreasonably long in coming.  Such a gestation period for such a simple little cardigan – the reason is that in October last year, I acquired five skeins of Madeline Tosh Sport and promptly cast on an Audrey In Unst cardigan. Long story but it didn’t work out and I was never happy with the fabric and so it was no more.

As soon as i saw the Bluebell cardigan by Cecily Glowick MacDonald, I fell in love. It seemed to have all the components I love in a cardigan – simplicity of style, a flattering neckline, a hint of interest in the slight gathers across the bust, a nice shape that would work with various outfits. Six weeks later, I’d finished it.

It’s knit from the bottom up.

On Sunday morning, Alice was here and she posed with me. I didn’t see until later that there was some creasing on one side – I’d put it away a couple of days earlier and that was how it came out of the drawer. Those creases aren’t part of the design!

Bluebell cardiganThis was my first time knitting something bigger than a hat with Madeline Tosh. I’m a complete convert to this yarn. It actually lives up to the hype. I was slow to get on board because I’d read that people have trouble with mismatched dye lots and you can end up with all sorts of issues but that wasn’t the case with these five skeins. They matched beautifully. It’s a dream to knit with and even better to wear. This colour is Curiosity. Not heavily variegated but it’s certainly the most variegated fabric I’ve ever worn. I like it.

Bluebell cardiganOne of the best things about this pattern was that I learned to do short row set in sleeves, knit from the top down. What a revelation! I love everything about this and now want to find more cardigans with this style of sleeve.

Sizing wise, I’d have a different approach next time. And there will be a next time because I think this is a highly wearable piece. I’d make it a little longer, I’d probably knit one size down as it’s got a little more room in it than it needs, but all in all, I love it and I’m so glad that I got it done in time for the cooling autumnal days. It’s the perfect autumn cardigan.

I’ll leave you with a great, great picture I snapped of Alice on the weekend. She said she wanted to learn to knit. I cast on a few stitches for her – tried and failed pretty quickly to get her to do real knitting but she was just as happy to sit and pretend.

Alice "knitting" a hat.

She told me she was knitting a hat. I just love the intense concentration on her face and I love that she’s wearing an apron I made her a few weeks ago. She looks like the perfect portrait of a knitter at work. Beautiful.

Bells