Wednesday, April 16, 2014


After a few nights of waking at 3.00am and feeling chilly I've accepted that it's time to put the doona on the bed. (Wikipedia tells me, by the way, that 'doona' is Australian English for a continental quilt. I've always known that there's a confusing variety of terms for this article, but hadn't realised that 'doona' was distinctively Australian).

With a temperate climate such as Sydney's there are few markers of the transition from one season to another. In late summer the leaves of deciduous trees gradually wither and turn a dirty brown - they don't mark the approach of winter with a glorious display of colour. When I was growing up in an inland town where seasons are more extreme, ANZAC Day (25 April) was the time to pack away your summer clothes and bring out your winter ones. But nowadays, particularly in Sydney, there is not a great difference between clothes you wear in so-called winter and those for summer. Most of my clothes could aptly be described as trans-seasonal.

So, taking the doona from the cupboard, choosing a cover, and snuggling into it at night has a particular significance. Cooler weather (comfortable knitting weather) is on the way and, with great relief, I can bid goodbye for six months or so to summer humidity.

Friday, April 4, 2014

So, what did I buy?

For those of my commenters who wanted to know what I bought at Tangled Yarns...I couldn't resist the saturated colours of the Cascade Forest Hills laceweight:

It's a soft combination of 49% merino and 51% silk. Two skeins is about 1430 metres, so I have plenty to make one of the large shawls that I like so much. (Please don't ask me what pattern I might make. That's a decision too far). I really wanted the vibrant golden yellow, but it had sold out within a week of arrival. Yellow is clearly the colour du jour. Cascade, in a fit of unimagination, number their colours rather than naming them, but I think of this colour as a bright olive green.

I also bought a copy of Interweave's 'Knit Wear'. I suspect it's probably about three years since I last bought a knitting magazine. Ravelry's pattern facility has really undermined the market for such publications. But the magazine has several patterns featuring the boxy shapes I like and that seem to be current. Of course the patterns aren't nearly as attractive at home as they were in the pleasant browsing spaces of 'Tangled Yarns', but I guess that's part of the store's marketing genius.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Yarn shops

I'm in Brisbane, and yesterday I visited Tangled Yarns. It's the kind of yarn store where you breath a sigh of pleasure as you enter the front door.

It set me wondering just what it is that makes some yarn stores so immediately attractive. There are the obvious things such as a selection of interesting yarns that are updated and changed from time to time. Tangled Yarns certainly meets this criterion, and I was particularly attracted on this visit by a vibrant display of recently arrived Cascade Yarns' 'Forest Hills' - a merino/silk laceweight yarn.

It's also appealing if the yarns are attractively but accessibly arranged. Tangled Yarns is a riot of colour beautifully arranged against a sparking white background. All the yarns invite inspection and touching - the very thing that bricks-and-morter stores have in their favour when compared with the stiff opposition from on-line shopping. The staff are knowledgeable and helpful, but not intrusive if you're browsing. There are lots of knitting magazines for reading, and buttons, bags and other knitting accessories for examination.

But there are two things that I find particularly attractive about this shop. One is the light...natural light that streams through the large shopfront window. Perhaps this is a particularly Brisbane phenomenon, where the natural light is so bright, but it certainly helps in choosing and matching yarn colours. The second is that the shop has lots of chairs. Maybe this is less obvious, but the chairs and their use invite you to linger and to think of the shop as a site of activity, not just commerce. On yesterday's visit there was a small class of people grouped around a table, a couple of people knitting and chatting on the deep, comfortable sofas, and some chairs at a table covered in magazines where I felt able to pause and leaf through (and eventually buy) some of the latest publications. Clearly, a successful store needs to think beyond the most immediate concerns of buying and selling.

On second thoughts, there was a third attractive thing about this shop yesterday - the air conditioning. Buying yarn in 30 degree celsius heat is much more possible with effective air-conditioning!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

To market...

Yesterday I went to the weekly Eveleigh Market.

Even though it's only a pleasant 15 minute walk from home, and even though it's packed with wonderfully fresh produce, I don't often shop at the market. Partly because it's expensive - though you can argue, and I often do, that the freshness of the produce means you get much better value from whatever you buy - but mostly because I still have to visit the supermarket for those staple items that are not local or in season. And I really don't like household shopping.

But maybe because I hadn't been to the market for some time, yesterday's visit was a pleasure. It's really an enjoyable walk as I trundle along with my old lady shopping trolley. There are morning glimpses of the city skyline across the historic Lawson Street mural:

there's the fun of the Big Issue production site.

I like the small lanes that link the back streets I walk along:

and I wonder about the ever-delayed restoration plans for the beautiful deserted old buildings that were once the headquarters for the Eveleigh railway workshops:

But yesterday's greatest pleasure was the figs. Plump, fresh, and picked just at the right time. Luscious. Yum.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Alice May's cardi

Knitting for babies and small children is very pleasurable. More generally, there's something particularly pleasurable about making miniatures; reproducing on a small scale the proportion and complexities of something that's usually on a grander scale.

What was great about this pattern, Connie Chang Chinchio's MacDougal Cardigan, is that it's just like an adult pattern, but made on a smaller scale. There's nothing particularly childish or babyish about it; I'd be quite happy wearing an adult version of this cardigan, which is not something you could say for many baby knits. It's also a very gender-neutral pattern, and though both the designer and I have knitted it for little girls it would be equally suitable for a boy. The cardigan has lots of interesting detail for a knitter - it's made without sideseams, has front panels of densely textured oat stitch, has neat reverse garter stitch striped trim for the edges, and gives you the option of knitting the sleeves in the round by progressively picking up stitches around the armhole. The pattern is very well-written and gives much helpful advice.

The cardigan is for Alice May, the first grandchild of an old and good friend. I was doubtful whether the colour (grey, of course) would be considered appropriate for a little girl, but I've been told it was well-received. All in all, a most satisfactory knit.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Socks redux

It's ages since I knitted socks: more than a year since my last completed pair.

I think these fall into the category of plain socks. The pattern is the 'Lichen Ribbed Sock' from Nancy Bush's incomparable Knitting Vintage Socks. According to Nancy Bush the socks include 'a Welsh Heel and a Star Toe of Three Points'.

I think these classic ribbed socks are ideal for variegated yarns such as the beautiful yarn from the Australian dyer, Skein that I used for these socks. I bought this yarn a year or so ago when visiting Amsterdam so it bears the burden of many yarn air miles.

I began these socks on my trip to the USA and Mexico late last year but made very little progress on them. I know most people think that travel is an ideal time for knitting, but I think I'm too easily distracted. Nowadays, the minute I board a plane I search for the movies on offer. I can happily spend the endless hours of cross-Pacific flights watching movies and anyway, the light just isn't good enough for me to knit. I get motion sickness if I knit on buses, and even though I can knit on trains I'm usually too distracted by the view outside the window (and sometimes inside the carriage). But enough excuses, I didn't finish these socks until after my return.

Finally, a photograph to add to the controversy of socks with sandals.

I have no intention of wearing my socks this way - if it's warm enough for sandals it's too hot for knitted socks - but they do look quite spiffy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Knitting, pottering

Only a few days after I wrote my last post outlining what I'd like to achieve with my knitting this year I've wandered off-course; I'm pottering around. I've begun to knit a cardigan for a baby who's the first grandchild of a very old friend. This certainly wasn't on my list of things to knit this year, but baby knitting is always seductive and this particular pattern has lots to recommend it.

I'm knitting the MacDougal Cardigan - a pattern by Connie Chang Chinchio who's a well-known and admired knitwear designer who has published several patterns for babies and children since her daughter was born a couple of years ago. I like the fact that she brings the taste and technical knowledge developed through years of designing adult garments to her children's patterns. In this particular cardigan I like the combination of the rather retro oat-stitch patterned panels on the front of the cardigan with its practical boxy shape and the unfussy contrast trim of reverse garter stitch.

In my defence of pottering away from my year's plan I can add that I used yarn I already had (some grey Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino) and the pattern does include useful knitting skills such as a three-needle bind-off at the shoulders and the option (which I shall take) of knitting the sleeves by picking up stitches around the armhole and knitting them in the round.

I'm a bit doubtful about the colour. I think a grey cardigan is very useful for a baby, but I know not everybody shares my belief in grey as suitable for all ages and occasions. Let's hope the cuteness of the pattern compensates for the rather utilitarian colour.