Tag Archives: friendship is the best form of wealth

Hats and heartbreak

2017-09-22-08-46-16.jpg

One of my darling friends has hit a rough patch in life.  Maybe the last she will have to face, but you know how hard those things are to predict.  You may have detected this from the knitting in hospitals that I’ve mentioned a few times.  But now we’ve passed that stage.  Her family decided to move her to a nursing home nearer where they live, and far from where I live.  It’s one of those tough situations where my friend isn’t able to make big decisions for herself at present, and she has been fragile and struggling for too long.  It’s likely she will not be able to live independently again, and supporting her from far away has been very hard for her family, while many of her friends have struggles of their own that make it difficult for them to visit her.  Some of them are no longer very mobile themselves.  In this way she will be nearer three generations of her family and meet great grandchildren she has never been able to see.

2017-09-17-10-57-45.jpg

I met her at handspinners’ guild, and when I first met her she was knitting a complex Aran sweater for one of her sons (her sons are about the age of my parents, some of them are older). In recent years she has knit the same distinctive hat over and over again, and then sometimes I’ve driven her to Guild and she has enjoyed the company and sat with her knitting in her hands.  She has been unable to spin for a few years now, and couldn’t face knitting in the recent times I’ve visited her in hospital wards and nursing homes.

2017-09-17 10.57.37

Finally one of her sons and one of her daughters-in-law came here to clear out her beloved and now empty home. They were overcome by the task of figuring out what to do with her fibre stash and it was something I could do to help, to figure out how to manage that.  I spoke with her a couple of times about what she would like to happen but she couldn’t bring herself to care much.  Those wishes that she expressed to me or to her family, were all honoured.  I met that part of her family, we shared a little of our mutual grief and some of our happy experiences of our shared human treasure, and then I took away fabric, spinning equipment, wool in every stage from raw fleece to rovings and batts to spun yarn, and so much more.  Like the inside of her home, everything was impeccably organised and meticulously stored.

2017-09-22 08.46.10

I’ve organised for equipment to go to people who can use it or to the Guild for resale.  Yarns have gone to knitters–the vibrant rainbow-dyed yarns she favoured creating in the last few years to people who love colour; the mohair collection to someone who delights in mohair; fleeces were sold at the Guild to people who will appreciate and spin them; and equipment for all manner of crafts she enjoyed over the decades has been passed on to people who will use and enjoy it.  Her sewing machine is in the shop for repair prior to rehoming.  The electric spinner she never really made friends with has gone to someone else who is finding treadling harder and more painful (just as she did) and who can return to loving spinning as I result, I hope.

2017-09-22-08-46-03.jpg

In the meantime, I’ve found myself spinning all kinds of fibres from her stash, starting with small quantities of things that didn’t seem sensible to try to re-home. I’ve also been knitting hats from smaller quantities of her undyed handspun and some of the small balls of rainbow dyed yarn that didn’t fit into the packs that went to people who love to knit.  It has felt like a way to hold her in my mind in these times when she is suffering and yet hard to reach.  She has suffered a further injury and is back in hospital far away and in such difficulty she is hard to understand on the phone.  So, here’s to Joyce, her sense of humour, her enjoyment of wool and her love for a snug hat.

 

19 Comments

Filed under Knitting, Spinning

Rainbow socks

2017-09-29-14-20-05.jpg

I posted a picture of these socks while in progress on Instagram and a friend said that the word “lurid” came to mind.  Well, yes!  Nothing naturally dyed going on here.  She also asked if they were a statement on the times–for those outside Australia, our nation is currently debating whether the law should be changed so that people of the same sex can marry.  And despite the well-established reality that more than half the nation supports this change (as established by opinion polls) we are having an expensive but non-binding postal survey on the matter at the moment.  It has been a time of some very heart warming moments but also some thoroughly unpleasant public debate.

2017-09-29-14-20-17.jpg

I admit, I had not been thinking of that when I cast on.  But–really–my friend was right on both counts.  These socks are going to live with a friend whose favourite colour is lurid (bonus points for neon or dinosaur prints), who has been in a same sex relationship for over 20 years.  She isn’t enthusiastic about marriage, in the way that those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about the history of women’s rights, domestic violence and such like often aren’t.  Of course, we know people who have wonderful marriages.   But we’ve seen a lot of the ways that marriage can go wrong, and that sure makes marriage  as an institution less romantic.  We remember its role in treating women as property and limiting women’s rights to bodily autonomy, working rights, equal pay, voting rights, engagement in the economy and so much more.

2017-08-26 12.33.49

However–right here right now, for many people who support same sex marriage this is really a debate about whether everyone should have the same legal rights.  That’s a very easy question to my mind.

2017-09-29 13.45.13

Meantime, the socks are packaged up with laundry requirements and darning thread and ready to go to their new home.  I cannot control the national debate, but I can show the love to y near and dear and keep people’s toes warm in their gumboots, shoes and boots!

2017-09-29 14.21.17

8 Comments

Filed under Knitting

Garden colours jumper

2017-08-31 07.57.05

This is the Orphans for Orphans sweater from Knitting for Peace.  This is the third time I’ve knit this design and it is an ingenious, easy pattern that lends itself to wool in odd amounts and various colours.  This one is made from handspun local wool and dyed with plants from my garden: woad, coreopsis, eucalyptus, woad + coreopsis.

2017-08-27 12.23.03

Where the woad vat was running out, the natural grey of the wool shows through. I cast it on, on an excitable day of knitting confidence when I decided it would fit someone I know!  I think in fact the likeliest candidate is the daughter of the sweethearts who gave me Knitting for Peace. She is no orphan but a delightful and extremely well loved small human.  And if not her, then some other treasure…

2017-08-27 12.22.54

Sometimes it happens that I look at a random selection of yarns and suddenly see what it could become.  This was one such case.  It has some wonkiness to be going on with, but quite frankly, any jumper that isn’t wonky before it goes onto a small person hopefully becomes wonky through sheer activity soon afterward. I’m reliably informed that the recipient is a fine appreciator of knitwear and that she held it close all the way home.  That’s a lovely start!

1 Comment

Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing

Rost

IMAG4823

I knit another design by Kit Couture. This design is called Rost.  I admit, I chose it without asking my dear friend if he would like it, but I was very relieved when I checked in with him and he agreed he would like it!  Quite appropriately, I finished it while he was in Norway, much closer to Denmark than usual.

IMAG4824

I love the design.  It starts at the neck and is knit in the round from the neck down, so the yoke is one of the earliest steps.  It was so much fun knitting this part, though I look at designs that are colour work all the way to the hem and that doesn’t seem like fun to me. This was a great match of (pattern) challenge to (my knitting) capacity. I still have some colour knitting tension issues.  My last effort was, if anything, too loose.  This time, it is a little tight.  When he tried it on while in progress, my friend admired the corrugation in the yoke and marvelled over how I could be so clever as to create it.  I decided against making a big issue out of it being a flaw!  But it did not block out (as I had hoped it would) so it’s lucky that he likes it and it looks great unless you’re examining it as a fault in the knitting.  I can live with imperfection, as it turns out. It was reassuring to try it on him a couple of times as it progressed–it is a great fit and looks fabulous on him (in my humble opinion).

IMAG4825

After the yoke, the body is knit down to the hem, and then each sleeve is knit on in the round.  For me, knitting in the round is the obvious way to proceed (because socks), and this is the knitting strategy I have adopted on some garments I have designed myself, learned from books adopting Scandinavian knitting processes.

If I had this design in black and white and had to choose colours for it, I would never have chosen these colours.  I think this is one boon of knitting from a kit (or from a pattern and using the prescribed yarns, something I don’t remember ever having done).  In all honesty, part of what has been so interesting about these two Kit Couture knits has been having almost all the choices made for me.  Knitting with handspun is not like this at all, and knitting these has felt so easy!  It turns out it is not the complexity of the knitting that feels hard for me in making up my own patterns or knitting with handspun, it’s the decision making. This is an extraordinary freedom, but I think I had already noticed that the degree of challenge is sometimes more than I can easily manage.  Either I lack the confidence or I just feel too tired to decide in the pieces of time in which I knit.

Repetitive, simple knitting makes up a lot of the knitting I do, and it has to. In the environments in which I knit,  counting is impossible or rude and referring to the pattern all the time, likewise inappropriate or not manageable.  Colour choice is not my strength either.  I only make wild colour choices where the risk is low.  Garments that won’t be seen (socks–I am knitting some lurid socks right now); things that will not be worn (tea cosies), recipients who make decisions for me or are excited about my random colour ways, bless them one and all.

IMAG4826

The kit is also unspeakably cute: all those balls of wool lined up in cute little rows in a beautiful card board box, with a darning needle, picture, instructions and some Danish liquorice treats.  And this wool was cushy (merino, my friends) and fat and even.  I love knitting handspun and some of mine is very even (while some is certainly not). Cushy is harder to achieve for me, and I haven’t knit a garment on 5.5 mms before.  Fast! Sensational, especially on something so big.  Entertainingly enough this garment required only the same kind of frankenfitting for father as Sotra required for son: everything needed to be longer than the largest size but only as wide as the smallest. This is the simple kind of fitting I can mange without difficulty.  I can’t wait to hand it over, even though today is the last day of winter! And, something about knitting these kits has made me want to knit and knit and built up my confidence for big knitting (jumpers, not socks).  There was a rash of casting on as soon as I finished it…

2 Comments

Filed under Knitting

Transformations: Blind to Banner

I think some of my earliest sewing projects were mending and banner making.  I see no reason to change now!  This week the household is preparing to head out and let CommBank know we want them to rule out funding the Adani coal mine.  This mega-mine would mean that Australia could not hope to meet its obligations under the Paris agreement on climate action, let alone claim global leadership on addressing the most serious threat facing the planet, all species, and humanity.  We are part of the national movement to stop the money going to this project, and our strategies include going to the banks and singing about our hopes and expectations. We also want the passersby to know what we are doing–and that is where the banner comes in.

IMAG4715

A few weeks back I saw an old holland blind abandoned on the verge/nature strip.  I took it home because it was crying out to become a banner.  Nice, firm, neutral coloured fabric that won’t bleed through–and otherwise destined for landfill. I cut off the really sad parts that were coming apart through UV light damage and long use.  Then I washed off the surface grime (it had been out in the weather when I came across it).  Next, discussion about how big the banner should be, and snip!  In with the scissors.

IMAG4718

Next, collaboration on the engineering aspects, and construction of the pole pockets, with me on the sewing machine and my friends supporting the weight of the fabric.  We agreed on the message and design, then ate a delicious dinner!  I roughed out the text with a pencil and then we got to colouring it in, and called a friend for resources.  She came over with paint and brushes and I outlined the black sections in texta/sharpie/permanent felt tip pen. Then  everything went quiet for a while.  It’s more fun than you think to collaborate on a thing like this. And it doesn’t have to be a work of art, it just has to be a communication.

IMAG4729

Ready to go… but not quite… next day, off to the local bamboo clump, with some admiration of guerilla gardening success en route.  Here, I planted everything except the tree.

IMAG4730

Here, my friends and I planted everything, and there is so much cover now a friend planted a eucalypt in there with me one day–the site is protected enough that it might make it now!

IMAG4732

Then I made my bamboo selections, cut a spare one or two, stripped the leaves and headed home for breakfast and work.  We are ready to go!  If you are in Adelaide and want to join us, see you at 10 am outside the Commbank branch on Gouger St City, beside the market, for an hour of songs about why renewable energy is preferable to coal, the need for climate action, our determination to dump banks that won’t see sense and stop investing in fossil fuels, and some very fun new songs about stopping Adani. Feel free to swell our numbers whether you sing or not.  There’s a banner you could hold… or bring your own!

IMAG4733

5 Comments

Filed under Activism, Natural dyeing, Sewing

More socks!

As usual, the latest pair of socks spent quite a lot of time on public transport. This is a local train service knitting opportunity.
2017-06-27 08.17.47

They came on some pretty tired and sad visits to hospital and nursing home as one of my dearests has been having a very tough time and I have been doing what I can to accompany her.  Knitting on public transport was a big help on a few visits when I took trips to visit her and she had already been taken by ambulance to some other place.

IMG_20170702_132622_145

Socks don’t care about your worries.  They just keep growing as you keep knitting, and that works for me.

IMAG4588

As you can see, it’s another pair of socks made with the same fibres.  And roughly the same size.  And there the resemblances end!  I managed to finish the skein with only this tiny ball of wool left!  But did get two pairs out of my naturally dyed Suffolk handspun.

IMAG4591

They have already gone to a dear friend who spends more time in gumboots than pleases her sometimes, and finds a hand knit sock an asset in her gumboot (wellington boot? galosh? wellie boot?  rubber boot? you get the picture, I hope).

IMAG4594

None of the pictures really came out right, with some too washed out and some a little overdone.  But I am sure you get the idea!  And in these times of considering mortality and suffering, I thought I would share this little gem taken as I ran through the cemetery one morning.  There were four magpies perched on this statue but two flew away as I approached. Camera shy.  I understand.

IMG_20170630_074423_147

 

6 Comments

Filed under Knitting, Natural dyeing, Spinning

Striped jumper for a fairy goddess-son

In a development that I could not have predicted, I have been recruited onto the English translation team for a Danish knitting business that specialises in knitting and embroidery kits.  A friend who now lives in Denmark was doing some of the translation and they were looking for an English speaking knitter. This is about as far from local and bespoke as it is possible to get! Anyway–it has led to my receiving knitting kits from Kit Couture.  This is my first effort: the Sotra Pullover.

2017-05-20 16.29.22

Well.  There was knitting the body on the way home from my folks’ place (by train) with a bag full of mandarins and mutant spring onions bigger than some leeks I’ve met from their garden.

2017-05-27 19.05.41

I forgot everything I knew about knitting jogless jogs (making the transition from one stripe to another less visible) and dropped all the joins back to try again at one point.  Then faced the reality that the wearer will not notice, and even if he noticed, would not care.  I managed to knit the ends in and was not facing hours of darning in ends at the end of all those stripes.  Thank you, Kaffe Fassett.  One of Kaffe’s books was the place I learned this was possible, and this is the place I have really used this strategy to the maximum.  This is one of the reasons I read knitting books: the real gift from a book may not be a pattern you knit from it!

2017-06-06 16.48.58

Here I am knitting a sleeve in public somewhere with my grease marked backpack as an aesthetically questionable backdrop.

2017-06-16 08.03.51

The exciting moment when I joined sleeves to body the night before and am preparing to take the whole thing to work so I can knit on the train, in a seminar and then in the bus home again… that blue patch at the top is the indigo and woad dyed bag the jumper is going into.

2017-06-24 13.20.54

My fairy goddess-son is perfect in every way, but evidently not quite the same shape as the models in Copenhagen.  So this version is a Frankenfit in which I am knitting the 4 year old size in width and the 10 year old size (and then some) in length.

2017-06-24 13.21.31

It is approximately the opposite situation to the Frankenfit necessary for me to use a Vogue pattern, in which it has always been the case that the Vogue Body and my body are not very similar.

2017-06-24 13.21.14

The colours are rather lovely, I think.  This experience has made me realise that I usually confront a lot more choices and decisions when making a jumper.  My handspun is not always even, not always one of the routine thicknesses for which knitting patterns are made, not the colours in anyone’s picture, and I often design my own jumpers.  This has its upsides and joys, but there was something differently gleeful about only having to figure out how to make width and length come together (not too challenging).  And–Kit Couture’s pattern was designed to be knit from the bottom up, seamlessly and in the round.  One of the ways I prefer to knit. Fantastic.

2017-06-24 13.22.21

The day we celebrated solstice with many friends, it finished blocking and drying. I tied it with handmade string, packed it into a bag for safekeeping, and handed it over.  I think it worked out pretty well, and my very dear goddess-son looks right at home in it…

2017-06-24 17.59.37

4 Comments

Filed under Knitting

A little bag of cards

I have been very much enjoying adding to India Flint’s Wandercards.

2017-03-13 17.43.15

One of my beloved friends said something about them that made me think she might like a set of her own.  Well, they won’t be a set of India’s lovely cards, but nevertheless, a set of plant dyed cards with quotes that might help her to keep her heart full and her courage blazing through tough times.

2017-03-27 11.23.11

I wish I could make cards as beautiful as those India selected,–beautiful paper with rounded corners and such–but I decided to embrace the imperfection and do what I could.

2017-04-01 16.56.22

Then there was the question of a suitable bag.  I thought I’d make one, but then I realised I already had a perfect bag.  Here I am on a train, embroidering on it and listening to an audio book.  Audio books and podcasts make public transport so pleasurable!

2017-03-15 15.32.53

And so, a set of cards and a little bag for them to live in, packaged up and ready to send to their new home!  I know my friend will add quotes from her favourite poets and sources of inspiration.

2017-04-01 16.54.41

 

6 Comments

Filed under Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Scrap patchwork bags

2017-02-26-15-08-41

The more sewing there is, the more scraps there are.  The more garments get cut up and converted into other things, the more bits and pieces of old clothing are lying around the place.  I notice there are waves of action around here.  Waves where things come apart–clothes get cut up ready to convert, dyeing creates new opportunities, fabrics come out of cupboards, sewing clothes creates leftover pieces of cloth… and then there are waves of coming together, sometimes driven by a sheer need to clean up and manage all those bits.

2017-02-25-15-08-27

Having made one round of bags with printed patches on them, I began to piece onto the remaining patches and to sew scraps together for linings.  Perfectly good pockets coming from clothes that have passed the point of no return (as garments of one kind) were sewn into bag linings for future use.  Eventually, they all came together into four lined bag bodies in search of straps, and all the pieces of old clothing and exhausted tablecloth that had been through one indigo vat or another started to come together as well.

In the end, I decided more denim would really help and invested $4 on the bargain rack at a Red Cross op shop.  Anything that has made it to half price at an op shop is likely on its way to rags or landfill.  If you’re feeling tough minded, or you would like to know what happens to clothing that is donated to op shops in this country, here!  Read this.

2017-04-01 16.52.51

Two bags got linen straps. This one, I think I will send to a fellow climate change activist, someone I met in Newcastle at a protest last year.  I’ve become her friend on facebook and I can see how hard it is for her to be constantly trying to explain how serious the issue facing us all is–and how urgent, while she deals with her own feelings on the subject.  This is a bit of a long distance hug for her, ’cause she’s awesome.

2017-04-01 16.52.44

This one is going to another friend who lives in the country.  She and I go way back.  I can see it’s tough being so far away from so many people she knows and events she might want to attend–though of course there are great things going on at home too. She’s a musician and knitter and gardener and feminist. Also pretty awesome.

2017-04-01 16.52.31

This patch is so like something she wrote a few weeks back I decided as I read–that it should be hers. And in case you’re wondering… there are two still bags to finish!

2017-04-01 16.52.23

 

 

6 Comments

Filed under Activism, Sewing

Patch bags

My beloved returned from a trip abroad with a gift for me.  Patches made from recycled clothing scraps!  I love them!  And then, a familiar tale unfolded.  Long time readers will feel like they have read this post before.

2016-12-19-19-39-35

I realised that a bag was called for!  Apparently my year of scrap patchwork cross pollinated with my bag lady tendency, and behold.  These patches spoke to me of a friend who describes themself as non binary–not enthusiastic about being understood as male or female.  Disinterested in the whole sport of there being two rigid ideas about how to organise humanity.  You know.  ‘There are two kinds of people…’.

2016-12-19-19-39-01

As a person who wants to be able to do anything–knit and fix the washing machine, embroider and ride a bike… be soft and be loud and be courageous and … you know!  I support my beloved friends in their journeys outside the box.  These bags include scraps from trousers and shirts I’ve made, leftover denim from making jeans, fabric that has been ‘stuff steep and store’-d with madder root, leftover quilt fabric.  You know.  Then some of the patches called to me about another friend and their journey lately.

2017-01-15-12-20-52

I like the denim aesthetic for a nice solid bag, and soon I was digging into the cupboard where garments that are ripe for their next incarnation live.

2017-01-15-12-20-58

Pretty soon the linings were getting pockets. I used to do this with jeans in the 1980s! (More or less).

2016-12-26-16-24-13

A pair of jeans went past the point of mending and were cut up and added to the pile of bag materials.  An old pair of hemp shorts got the cut. Some webbing from goodness knows where became a strap for this zippered bag. You know, variety.

2017-01-15-12-20-24

And, I admit it, I gave one bag away before I took its picture. I loved seeing my friend wearing it on his bike!

2017-01-15-12-21-21

And… I still have some patches and some ‘blocks’.  Watch this space!

2017-01-15-12-21-36

9 Comments

Filed under Sewing