Category Archives: Knitting

Borderline: Sampling the Edge

I just squeaked into this exhibition in its last few days at Fabrik, a fabulous exhibition space in the former Onkaparinga Woollen Mills in Lobethal, a small town in the hills outside Adelaide.

Fabrik sign with bunting made from classic Onkaparinga blanketing in a bold coloured plaid.

At the entrance to the exhibition, fittingly enough, I was greeted by Troy Anthony-Baylis’ Hey-ya! and Hey-ya! Ay-O in knit acrylic. I first encountered this artist years ago and was rather delighted to see he is still deploying knitting as one of his artforms. I’m also delighted to see he has recently won a fellowship to further his art. I found these rather gleeful forms which do rather call out ‘Hey-ya!’ on arrival…

I was rather struck by Kay Lawrence’s pieces Day by Day and Day by Day: Japanese Cloths. Each had a large panel of cloths stitched together by hand, a handmade book, a table and a pair of gloves. I was really uncertain about whether the gloves were meant to be used so that I could open the books… and so, I left the books closed and admired the assemblage! I especially liked Day by Day, perhaps because these cloths are the daily cloths I grew up with. I think part of the admiration for boro in places like Australia is centred on admiration for the cloth of which it was/is made, which in some cases would have been everyday to those using and mending it. I feel that admiration for making cloth from scrap, for making things last, for facing poverty and difficulty and making something beautiful from it. But in terms of day to day–gingham speaks to my day to day, more than Japanese Indigo.

I have seen Ngarrindjeri sister baskets made from sedges, but this metal Sister Basket by Robert Wuldi was rather astonishing, building up what I understand to be the traditional form using the traditional stitch, in anything but the traditional materials.

India Flint had several works in this exhibition, collectively titled limina. What a perfect title for works which I believe were made from scraps and selvedges. I was fascinated watching other people look at these works–I overheard conversation about how much they reminded one observer of objects that have been buried and then dug up. Just such textiles have inspired and informed some of India Flint’s work–so that seemed quite apt. Others puzzled over these works as if trying to figure out how they were created.

I love the colours indigo gives over eucalyptus. Some of the works were hanging beside the piece in the images above.

I loved seeing the different take up of dyes in the various fibres included in the weaving.

Shoes, belt and hat is another set of Ngarrindjeri weavings, this time in sedge, by Ellen Trevorrow, Alice Abdullah and Jelina Haines.

I was completely bemused by Linda Marie Walker’s works–until I read the title: For Election, 6 moves. These pieces are a critique of our recent national election, in weaving. That makes sense … as the fluctuating moods with which people who did not enjoy the process or outcome responded to the election are all too familiar!

Russell Leonard’s pieces Colour #1-6 were rich and beautiful.

There was a lot to appreciate! Machine embroidery Naturally Alluring by Cheryl Bridgart; Phyllis Williams’ astonishing knit pieces Dream Dress and Indigo Dress.

The embroidered work ‘the mysterious butterflies of the soul’ by Catherine Buddle was glorious, and moving slightly in the breeze when I saw it. It had me in mind of braille. It was mesmerising.

And finally, Sera Waters‘ Sampler for a colonised land. What a statement about colonisation. One recognisably colonial dwelling on a nice clean background (cleared of trees, shrubs, grasses, pre-existing human life, and legal rights) and then–fences and walls from bunting to razor wire. It had me in mind of Kev Carmody’s song Thou Shalt Not Steal, a song that has always summed up, for me, the hypocrisy to which Indigenous Australians are so often subjected by non-Indigenous Australians.

So there you have it. A lovely trip to Lobethal and a rather awesome exhibition.

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Odds and ends socks

Planning for a six week trip, you can bet I packed knitting, socks especially! This is the story of one pair. In the first picture, a miracle has occurred: we have one night in Montpellier, France, and instead of staying downtown we stayed a long way from town (the reasons are complex but the booking has been made in advance from Australia), right near the stadium where the FIFA women’s soccer world cup is under way and our one night is the Australia v Brazil game!! My beloved is a former soccer player, so we had to go. The French couple beside us were charming. Eventually as she high fived my beloved because Australia scored, he turned to me, and said: “so she’s the soccer loving one and you’re the one who knits?” and laughed heartily when I said “You have worked it out–but how?? I was trying to keep this a secret!”

In the picture below, I’m on the train from Montpellier, France to Milan, Italy, en route to Rome. It was a big day, livened up by being mistaken for a man in the women’s toilets in two countries, three languages, three cities. Who can say exactly why this happens–but somehow we got to Rome. These socks began as a bag of somewhat orange leftover sock yarn, left over after pairs I’ve knit over the last 10 or 15 years. Apologies for the refusal of style involved here!

The second image was taken in Rome. I’d been to the Museum of the Liberation [of Rome from occupation by Nazi Germany]. It now takes up a building that was the headquarters of the SS during the occupation. A place where leaders of the resistance were imprisoned, tortured, killed or sent away to be killed. It was both educational and harrowing. I hope that under circumstances of fascism I would be part of the resistance, and I am interested in educating myself about how resistance can be undertaken, how it succeeds, how it is responded to. I wept. As I write, I am watching a documentary about the Myall Creek massacre (of First Nations Australians by white people]. Just to be clear, resistance is not just something that only happened or happens in other countries.

So after the Museo della liberazione, I found a bakery that had a buffet lunch option. I studied Italian for four years in High School in the 1970s and 1980 (! how have I become this much older?) and all I have left, even after a tune up with an online language app, is some words and some transactional communication. I decided to brave it, and through a combination of pointing, asking as nicely as I could, expressing gratitude as best I could, and the generosity of the gentleman on the other side of the counter, I ended up with this sensational plate for a very reasonable price, including a drink and fresh bread. It was the best meal I had in Rome.

These socks have gone to a friend who has told me many times she doesn’t care about colour, just use up the odds and ends! I received her mother’s knitting stash after her Mum died and I could see what a thrifty woman she was. It is not the kind of stash people on Ravelry talk about. It was only stub ends, not even one entire ball. As you can see, these socks are in no way a regular pair. On the other hand, they sure will keep my friend’s feet warm when she is out feeding rescue donkeys these chilly mornings in her gumboots. I understand she received them with chuckling I can hear in my mind! Perfect.

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Eucalyptus dyed frankensocks

Two balls of yarn wound into cakes in two shades of orange.

Another pair of frankensocks begins! It had been so long since I dyed this yarn that I was looking for undyed yarn and realised I had already dyed it. On the bottom, handspun Southdown. I am pretty happy with this spinning. High twist, true three ply, quite even (well, maybe just for me). On the top, a high twist 100% commercial merino sock yarn bought in a Ravelry destash.

An orange sock in progress on the dashboard of a car, with a road and dry South Australian landscape and blue sky out of focus in the background.

I decided on a long leg and calf shaping for the boot-loving, extensive walking awesome woman for whom these socks are destined. They went with us on a trip to our first same sex wedding, in the north of the state. Oh my, what a dry state we are in. Always, but especially this year, the driest one of the betrothed can remember in her more than fifty years in this place.

Here they are finished, with the difference in colour between the yarns clearly visible. And here are some details…

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Blue slippers

These slippers (Felted clogs by Bev Galeskas, may her memory be a blessing) have been waiting around for quite a while. Composed of handspun dyed in all shade of blue, mostly handspun and indigo dyed but some unnatural blues too… I grafted the top to the sole one day while travelling and found I did not have the required third needle. Out came my chopstick! The plastic-avoiding cutlery pouch my fairy-goddess-son made me comes with chopsticks rather than a knife and fork, with backup knitting needles as a further advantage!

Lots of blue knitting with live stitches on steel circulars and a blunt ended steel chopstick. Three needle bind off in progress.

Here they are prior to felting with my size 10 feet for comparison.

Very large knit slippers prior to felting, with much smaller shoes beside them.

And here they are after felting and prior to delivery to friends who run a permaculture farm where slippers I’ve knit are apparently in constant use!

Blue felted slippers on a wooden plank background.

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More pink socks!

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I had enough cochineal dyed yarn for a second pair of socks, and in a moment where I just didn’t have time to wind more balls, I cast on.

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I knit quite a bit on one of our long and lovely walks.  That is my beloved striding out ahead of me making the bridge undulate ever so slightly!

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There was quite a game of yarn chicken going on at the end–for the non knitters, this is where the knitter messes with their own mind trying to outwit the ball of yarn in an effort to make it last to the end of the project.  There are just a few metres left here.  Though in all honesty, these socks are yet again not quite the same length despite my best efforts!

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And now they are on their way to a friend whose last pair wore through without warning at an inconvenient moment–a report of which reached me when I was about one and a half of these socks in!  Long may her feet be cosy and her legs be strong.

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Cochineal dyed Frankensocks

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Back in December, I began another pair of Frankensocks. Merino-silk legs made from commercial yarn, with a tough foot and sole made from handspun Ryeland wool gifted to me by the wonderful Rebecca from Needle and Spindle.

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I began knitting on a day of respite from what was, for my beloved, six weeks of intensively caring for her parents after one more health crisis threw the fragile balance of their lives together into complete disarray. We spent a blessed day and night at the home of one of her precious high school friends. The company was excellent, the conversation flowed freely, and needless to say, they are contemporaries with their own stories to tell about difficult times such as this one. And thus I had a cuff knit.

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That first sock went pretty slowly. Most of the time we were the care crew, I wasn’t able to knit,and needless to say, knitting was not a priority. And so it was January and the first sock was still in progress when I went to Melbourne hoping to be there when a certain babe came into the world. Here I am with a heavily pregnant woman (not in the shot-) at a splendid cafe where chocolate is the main attraction.

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It turned out my cochineal dyeing matched the flowers there one day! A lot happened in the gap between that photo and the finished object–but not one photo of a sock.

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The whimsically cabled leg on the first sock went more or less as usual. But then the second sock. I was knitting the leg on the return trip to Melbourne when my daughter had gone into labour. Almost two days later, I pulled out my knitting as I sat beside her. Nothing about that labour went smoothly or to plan, and on day 3, she finally had pain relief that allowed her to get some rest. While she was resting and the final stage of labour was approaching,  this sock kept me company in the quiet and darkness. I can knit in the dark, but cabling in the dark–not so much. If there was a visit from a midwife involving light, I’d cable. Otherwise, I just knit. As a result, there is a long stretch with no cabling at all. I considered ripping it out, on the basis it had served its purpose.

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But then I thought about the intended recipient, who is one of those awesome humans who have given birth, herself. And I thought she’d likely be happy to have a sock recording this moment in the life of myself, my daughter and her daughter. And so here they are.  #tuffsocksnaturally that accompanied me through supporting my daughter in her courage, determination, pain and joy and the awe inspiring process of birth. I hope the recipient will wear these with a light heart in happy times. But I can attest to these socks being good companions when things are not going to plan and not going easily, when things are messy and difficult. And yet the prospects for the future remain excellent.

 

 

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Yet more socks

Remember that destashed sock yarn I wrote about a while back? Well, here are the second pair… in a colourway called ‘Champlain sunset’. I admit, not my personal favourite colours.  But I have a friend I knew would love them. And for those who care, this picture shows the colours much better than the one in the last image below.

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Here they are at my beloved’s parents’ home.

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Here we are on the ferry on the Brisbane River, off to #stopadani.

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And the ferry again, outside this time.  (I am sure people take photos of their socks-in-progress on the ferry all the time).

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And here they are, done!  Ouch!

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Socks and true confessions

At some point in the #tuffsocksnaturally project, I had a point of anxiety where I just couldn’t imagine being able to spin enough sock yarn to keep up with my constant sock knitting. A person with more capacity for consistency might decide on knitting something else.  Or focusing on spinning more. I didn’t do that this time.  The future is unwritten so I’ll see how it unfolds and aim to move in a positive direction!  Instead, I decided on harm minimisation and bought some all-wool sock yarns from a destash on Ravelry.

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I managed to buy some undyed yarn, but while I’ve avoided yarns containing nylon, AKA plastic, I haven’t completely avoided chemical dyes.  So, there’s an ongoing project.  These socks for my beloved are shown above, on some form of public transport or another.

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Here, having a superb hot chocolate with my daughter and a pretty serious conversation if I remember right!

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Random streetscape…

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On our way to a climate action protest (by train).  Sock and backpack in foreground, banner for our climate action choir in its vaguely indigo-dyed bag laid along the bench!  And here they are, done, dusted and ready for winter which feels very far away here at this time of year.

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Extinction Rebellion, climate change, and a beanie

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Hello dear Readers, I have designed a knitting pattern.  You can, should you wish, download it from Ravelry here. You see it here in handspun coloured merino with eucalyptus-dyed wool contrast. But allow me to explain.

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It is a big time in the life of the world, with even conservative estimates by scientists telling us that we have less than 12 years to take emergency level action that could keep global warming to below 1.5C.  Even 1.5C warming will have, and is already having, massive impacts on the earth and all who depend on the earth for life. Including you and me. It isn’t as though I’ve been sitting around. I’m doing the little things that depend on my being one straw in a very, very big haystack for impact (online petitions, postcards, letter writing, voting).

Last week I joined the thousands of Australian school children who went out on strike demanding climate action.  Their speeches showed more understanding of climate change than anything coming out of our federal government, which is still supporting coal mining and oil drilling on a massive scale.  The school students had more clarity than our state government, which has only partially, temporarily, banned fracking because it destroys farmland (and thus costs votes though these things certainly do matter in their own right)–not because of the impact of burning fossil fuels on global warming. I sing with a posse of climate singers who were out on the weekend telling the good people of our city about the issue and giving people the chance to write to the leader of the opposition about this issue.

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And yet, on this day when world leaders are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to talk about what to do about this–there is just no coverage in my country of this critically important meeting.  My government is not on track to meet the inadequate targets set in Paris.  And the high pitched screaming sound between my ears when I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about climate change is not quietening down.

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My heart soared when I saw that a new group in the UK called Extinction Rebellion have served their demands on their government, and that they are framing the climate and ecological emergency like the existential threat that it is.  On their first Rebellion Day they blocked all the bridges across the Thames River and brought central London to a standstill. This is a strategy of escalating nonviolent civil disobedience designed to compel the governments that are failing their people and the future of our world to take emergency level action.

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It may not succeed.  But it has to be attempted, because scientists have been patiently explaining and then explaining in tones of increasing panic, and then explaining with tears as they set out the loss we already face: and governments are not listening nor acting.  Fossil fuel companies are continuing to fund political parties here and elsewhere.  The current federal government is not even close to having a rational policy on climate.  And nowhere are there signs of action being taken that comes close to responding to the grave threat every life form on earth now faces.

So, dear friends, I have decided to commit to being an organiser for Extinction Rebellion. And I also decided to design a beanie, watching all those English folk out being arrested and protesting in the chill weather of their winter as we head into the searing heat of our summer.  I knit it in the week a tornado hit a town in our state for the first time in my memory.  If you have questions about Extinction Rebellion, I hope you will roam their www site, find them on social media, and go here scroll down and watch their briefing on climate change and what we can do about it.  This is an invitation to act with courage in times that demand no less. Let’s step up, for the love of life.

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Little socks for little feet

So there’s this small person coming into our lives early next year. I think I may have mentioned this!  I haven’t felt up to anything too complicated, so I settled on some socks for a start on knitting for the babe. Cat Bordhi’s Little Sky Socks, to be exact. In fact, I had in mind also knitting another design from the same book, but we’ll get to that in good time…

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I selected some hand spun alpaca dyed with eucalyptus, and when I didn’t seem to have quite the right number of dpns, I added one that didn’t match… a slightly different size even.  As one of four, not such a big issue, I’ve found, and infinitely better than investing in a new set or waiting for it to come in at the op shop (thrift store).

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Here’s the thing.  I started these when I had recovered enough from my recent bout of illness to feel interested in knitting, but evidently I was still not the sharpest tool in the box.  I finished one sock, and felt pretty happy.  Then some time passed and I knit another and felt ready to move on to the Little Coriolis Sock. I put the two socks together, and what do you know?  Not even close to being a pair. I don’t mean they were trivially different (that would just be normal in my case).  I mean one was a centimetre or two longer than the other, and on a sock this size–that’s a big difference!

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I had to knit two more socks and try to match the mistakes made the first two times!  Attentive readers will have noticed the yarn was dyed/spun as a gradient.  So doing this guaranteed that the socks would also not come even close to matching in colour.

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It’s a lucky thing that the intended recipient won’t care at all. And that my daughter isn’t fussed either!

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And while I was sending weird gifts by mail, I sent this silk beanie.  I found this single skein among my friend Joyce’s stash after she had died, and pure silk seemed like a good choice for a baby.  Oh, my goodness, though–the colours are a bit much, and they are even more astounding knit up than in the skein.  Happily enough, I received a call when this strange set of gifts was received. The colours had been judged to be fabulous! I think Joyce would love the idea of my being a grandma and her skein of silk going to a newborn.

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