Sunday, January 31, 2010

'The Practice Skirt' - or, 'Well, it lived up to it's name'

During the week I decided that because I had no plans for this weekend it would be the weekend that I finished something I started last year.

When I first got my sewing machine and had the unfortunate skirt sewing experience with my Mum, I was bemoaning the difficulty of reading patterns and the picture on the front vs the finished product etc to the nice sewing ladies at work and one of them said she had done a pattern drafting course and was wanting to get back into pattern drafting so would measure me up and make me a simple pattern. Which she did because she is lovely.

She presented the pattern rolled up like a scroll with a purple ribbon which was very cute. And then she was trying to explain to me how the pattern as it is would make a straight skirt but if I wanted I could easily turn it into an A-line skirt. However, I was a bit slow to understand so she got a sheet of paper and made some cute little diagrams.

So that weekend, sometime last year, I decided instead of wasting any of my nice fabric I had bought on sale at Arthur Toye or had taken from Mum's, I would go to Spotlight and buy some calico and make a practice skirt, which I did. Of course there was confusion - the pattern didn't allow for seam allowance so I had to add that in when cutting the pieces out, I had to teach myself how to transfer darts from the pattern onto the fabric and then sew them (one again, thank you YouTube), and when it came to sewing the front piece to the back piece of the skirt I rang my Mum and was like 'I've done something really wrong and I can't understand what, they don't match up' (meaning the front piece was wider than the back piece at the top) and she nicely explained to me that my waist was not flat and neither was the skirt, to just pin the pieces together along the seam and I would see that it would fit me. So I did all that. And then I got to the zip and looked up 'how to insert a zip' on YouTube and got all these different explanations, some of which involved gluing and some basting and I didn't remember my Mum doing any of that so just pinned the zip into the side of the skirt and that was where it ended.

I took it into work and the sewing ladies explained how they inserted zips (they each had a different way), I showed my Mum the next time I saw her and she explained how she did it (which I think is how I've done it), and the skirt sat on the ironing board upstairs in our open plan lounge/kitchen/dining area for months. It saw the New Year in this way and suddenly during the week with an empty weekend ahead and the confidence of well-progressing hat behind me, I decided I would just give the zip a go and finish the damn thing.

Which I did. The zip is not pretty but it works, the skirt no longer fits me nicely (I'm blaming the fact that it's sewn now instead of just pinned like last time I tried it on rather than me gaining any weight or anything), the interfacing at the waist doesn't sit well, and the bit above the zip where I could put a hook and eye seems to have too much of a gap for a hook and eye to work properly. All in all, the skirt is a bit of a failure, which disappointed me because even though it was a practice skirt I had had visions of dyeing it or sewing some cool little buttons in the bottom right hand corner in an arty way or something and maybe wearing it a few times. But I really don't think that will be happening. It also sits quite high up on my waist which I think is the pattern more than anything I've done but I don't wear my skirts that high and really, all I want is a skirt that fits low across my hips!

However, I have decided to look on the bright side and embrace the idea of it being a practice skirt. The bright side includes:

I made a skirt all by myself, and while it's far from perfect, it's finished and it kind of fits me.

I finally inserted the zip and it's functioning even though it's not pretty.

I sewed darts and I think I did a really good job of them for a first-timer.

The hem is beautiful, I pinned it, checked in various places with the measuring tape to make sure it was even, and then when I sewed it, I sewed in such a straight line that when I came back to where I started the sewing machine needle was EXACTLY in line with the stitches I had done at the beginning. I was really proud of that!

The practice skirt lived up to it's name. It gave me the chance to practice a whole lot of stuff and made me figure out a whole lot of stuff myself (with the help of a phone call to Mum). And despite being quite embarrassed by the zip, I am going to take it into work tomorrow and show Ms. Pattern Drafter so that she can give me some tips on where I went wrong (mostly with the interfacing for the waist band - there's a gap on the non-zip side where there's no interfacing and I'm not sure what I should have done to make that not happen - and the zip) so that I know for next time I try to make a skirt.

It is disappointing though, I really enjoy the process and act of sewing (pinning the pattern, cutting out the pieces, and especially the actual sewing) but I somehow feel that I am not naturally good at it. One of my issues is that I have a real problem visualising something, like when it came time to sew the interfacing to the top of the skirt it took me a few minutes to figure out how to sew it so that when I turned it over it formed a nice seamed waistband. I had to actually pin it, get it wrong, and try again, I couldn't just step it out in my mind to figure it out.

That's one of the things I admire about my Dad as a builder, he has a great ability to visualise what something is going to look like, like when he built the house before the one they live in now, he would show us the floor plans and my step-Mum and I just couldn't visualise what the inside of the house would actually be like, even once it started being built and we were walking around on the foundations and when the framing went up.

So that's the story of the skirt. Today I am going to enjoy the fact that the heat and sun of yesterday have gone and it is windy and chilly by sitting and reading a book. I love weekends with no plans! Next weekend I have to work so I need to make the most of my free time today.

Friday, January 29, 2010

On the decrease

Last night, the decrease began. I could be finished this hat by the end of the weekend! Except I don't know what the last part of the instructions means:

"Cut colour B's tail, and thread it through the remaining 28 stitches. Pull tight and bring the tail to the inside and weave it in. Leave colour A coming out of the top of the hat."

Thread it through the remaining 28 stitches? My guess is that you cut the tail and put it through a darning needle and then pass the darning needle through the stitches while they are still on the knitting needle. But that is merely a guess and I don't trust myself enough to actually enact that guess with any confidence.

So I may have to get as far as that part and then take it to Monday night knitting circle and see if anyone can help me. The "pull tight and bring the tail to the inside and weave it in" makes me concerned as it makes me think that this pattern writer's inside is the actual inside, whereas my inside is the actual outside if you know what I mean...

Ahhh knitting, you are so cryptic.

Here is a photo of the hat in which it looks like it has big front teeth:

And here is a photo of the hat doing an impression of a Chinese latern:

As you may be able to tell, I have become rather attached to this hat so if I stuff it up right at the end it is going to upset me no end. I'm sure I won't though, this hat and I have come too far for it to go wrong now. I have faith in the hat (and the help of somebody, anybody, at Monday night knitting with more knitting knowledge than I have).

The only thing I bought at the Greytown Arts Festival (apart from food, I buy food so much I don't even count it as a purchase - and that is why my money disappears so mysteriously) was this:

My Dad grew up in Martinborough in the Wairarapa and he and my Mum bought a house there when they got married (my Mum was from Caterton, so she made the big move of about 30 minutes drive away from where she grew up). I was brought up there until I was 12 and my Dad's parents and younger brother still live there so I have pretty strong ties to it. So when I saw this badge I had to buy one for me and one for my sister (although hers doesn't have the clip part sewn to the back, it's just a patch, which I would have rather had as well but I liked the colours of this one better).

I love the Wairarapa.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Golden Hands

I got a bit of cabin fever being stuck inside all day on Saturday so in the afternoon my sister and I went to visit our two great aunts on my Dad's side. They live together in a house they had built which has a big room solely to hold their loom, sewing machines, spinning wheel, embroidery and craft supplies etc. They also have a huge garden with fruit trees, glass house, and vegetable patch.

I wish I had taken more interest in what they did when I was younger but I didn't see them very often as they lived in Auckland for a long time and only moved to the Wairarapa a few years ago. And of course, when I was young I thought all their weaving and spinning and embroidery was a bit boring. Now I realise just how skilled they are - one of them wove all the curtains in their house, their bedspreads and rugs are handmade, their embroidery adorns the walls, and a lot of their clothes are handmade including their 'for best' woven two-piece suits.

They are very patient though and now that I AM showing an interest in all things crafty, they are very helpful and supportive. I showed them my hat and they were very pleased that I was continuing my knitting. One of them had a bag full of things she thought I might like including patterns for dolls' dresses (following the dolls' cot blanket at Christmas), magazines about patchwork (from when I had said I wanted to get into quilting) and more but I had to be strong and say maybe I would take them another day as I really don't have room for more books until I get another bookshelf (it's on my 'to-do' list). I did however take this amazing book:

I say amazing not purely because of the content (although it does have some very useful things like an invisible cast-on method and instructions for all sorts of needlework and dressmaking) but also because of the blast-from-the-past 1970s nature of the photos and writing. For example:
7o's decor anyone? Matching brown and white curtains and tablecloth with little tassles, mmmm.

They certainly didn't sugar coat it in the dressmaking section 40 years ago...

'Coming to grips with your figure; Which type are you?; What is your problem?'

I think these days in magazines they phrase it a bit more like, 'How to dress best for your body shape' as opposed to the blunt 'Figure Problems' and give the shapes a friendly fruity spin - pear shaped, apple shaped - and of course, the classic 'hour glass curves' label.

But back in the 70s there was no time to be offended, you were too eager to suss out your figure problem, learn to adjust patterns to suit your body type, and rush off to make outfits such as these:
I love the fact that the woman who is standing by the fireplace is drinking sherry or something equally classy.

I can only dream that one day I too will have the skills to look like the women above and if I work hard on learning to read a pattern and get the basics right, I'll be able to knit one of these in beautiful cream, brown, and tan:
The blonde woman has to be wearing a wig, right? It has that lovely acrylic shimmer...

Monday, January 25, 2010

A perfect afternoon!

From when I arrived in Masterton at 6pm on Friday (having knit for 90 minutes straight on the train and made some excellent hat progress) until the early hours of Sunday morning, the rain DID NOT STOP. The driveway at my Dad and step-Mum's house was like a swimming pool on Saturday; the day was windy and generally awful. So Nana and I decided to wait until Sunday when the rain was supposed to be clearing to go to Greytown.

What a good decision! Although it began overcast, Sunday became a beautiful HOT day and we had a fantastic time visiting 6 of the 9 houses and gardens open to the public that had art, jewellery, sculpture, and crafts displayed. First, however, Hunter and I made 60 cupcakes...

We had made a batch the day before that quickly got eaten and as my sister was up from Christchurch to go to a day in a vineyard in Martinborough on Sunday with her friends for her 20th birthday (which is today, happy birthday Megan!) and was having a bbq for her birthday on Sunday night, Hunter decided we should make a double batch for the bbq. When I got home from Greytown, he and my Nana iced them while I made some potato salad and ambrosia (a dessert made of whipped cream, yoghurt, marshmellows, and chocolate). The finished cupcakes looked awesome and when we presented Megan with her birthday cake with candles that night, Hunter also presented her with a cupcake with a candle and she blew out both. It's so cute, he loves cooking and baking, I just hope it stays that way as he gets older!

And now, here are some photos from Greytown. It was just such an awesome day, Nana and I had a really great time.

A sock mobile at JOY of Yarn's Scarlet Oak Cottage (I met James and he was so lovely and he and his partner's cottage is really cute)
Toadstools at Scarlet Oak Cottage

A bunch of beautiful flowers at Scarlet Oak Cottage

We stopped and had afternoon tea at the Vintage Tea Rooms (I couldn't resist taking a photo with the Tui beer sign of the South Wairarapa Working Men's Club in the background, you can also see some of the knitting trail hanging from the awning). It was perfect - water in a funky tall jug with a slice of lemon in each glass, old china tea cups, a pot of tea each for Nana and I, fresh flowers on the tables, and warm scones with jam and cream (the beauty of modern technology - Nana said, 'Oh they're nice and warm - they must be freshly baked', I didn't want to suggest that it was more likely that they had been zapped in the microwave for 30 seconds..).

We sat at one of the tables outside, opposite a beautiful old building (well, old for New Zealand...) and you can see more of the knitting trail hanging down in the foreground.

More knitting on the footpath (I like to think the 'Caution' road sign is referring to the knitting)

And of course, some lovely houses, gardens, and sculptures. A perfect afternoon out!

All those lovely houses and gardens, it was like a window into another (very expensive) world...

Friday, January 22, 2010

I love a long weekend!

Annnnd back to raining. Although still warm - a little bit too warm last night and this morning. That muggy kind of yuckness. However, I am still quite happy for the long weekend to arrive. Big ups to Wellington Anniversary Day on Monday!

On Wednesday night I got some more knitting done so this is the hat as it now stands, or rather sags. It's getting a bit annoying now because the stitches seems to be sitting further apart on the needles (no, I haven't dropped any - I checked), I'm guessing because of the weight of what's dragging them down or something, and it's freaking me out that gravity might pull some off the ends of the needles. I'm supposed to be trying to worry less but knitting is not helping in this respect! Otherwise, so far so good. My Nana is going to be SO impressed.

(The Stripes up close and personal)

(the hat in general)

I'm hopefully going to get a good 90 minutes of knitting this afternoon/evening on the train. I'm going back to the Wairarapa for the weekend and am really excited because I'm going to go to the Greytown Arts Festival (I mentioned this is in my very first post). The weather is supposed to be rainy off and on over the weekend but oh well, a little bit of wet never hurt anyone (although Nana will be whipping out her brolly, she is coming with me and is always very careful not to get her perm wet!). James from JOY of Yarn has organised a whole lot of knitting related events over the weekend and while I'm definitely going to visit his knitting trail, I'll have to see whether I'm brave enough to join in with some of the other knitting activities. A full list of the knitting events at Scarlett Oak Cottage over the weekend can be found here on Ravelry.

Last night I was up until 11pm working hard on a little secret. If anything eventuates from it I will say more but until now, my lips are sealed (though my brain definitely wasn't closed last night, I didn't get to sleep until after midnight because it was whirring away and took ages to calm down after all my thinking! And then it was really muggy all night and I dreamed about having to babysit my former manager's new little baby and my former manager was giving me all these long involved instructions...which is completely opposite to the instructions he actually used to give me!).

Yay for a long weekend!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The view from my balcony

Summer was here for the day!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

And so it grows

Stitch by stitch, row by row, it grows and grows...but there's still a long way to go. I have to get to 7 1/2 inches before I can start decreasing and it's currently only about 4 1/2 inches even though I spent a bit of time knitting yesterday afternoon as I was home sick from work (woke up at 2am with really bad stomach pain, not sure if my dinner didn't agree with me or what but it was really unpleasant, I won't go into more detail...) and then about an hour and a half at the knitting circle (I was feeling much better by 7pm and really, you'd have to be pretty sick not to be able to knit, right?).

The exciting news of the day at knitting was that Penny met Prince William. She had the day off work and decided to go along to the opening of the Supreme Court at which Prince William was doing official opening duties. Apparently a lot of people were there to see him when he first arrived but after he went inside to officially open the new building many left. Penny, however, waited around and was at the front when he came out again so she got to shake his hand and chat to the Prime Minister about the weather...probably a safe topic. I'm not particularly fussed with the Royal Family (a cute older lady I sit next to a work who's originally from Guernsey told me today she took an early lunch break yesterday - which is a big deal for her because she is very regimented with exactly when she pulls out her little red lunchbox with two ham sandwiches - and went to see Prince William; she was too far back to shake his hand but she got a photo on her cellphone and she proudly told me she has once seen the Queen) but I did think that if I randomly saw or met Prince William on the street I would very likely text my Mum straight away to tell her. Anyway, I think he's left Wellington now but he's very lucky as the weather put on a good show for him!

Sunday, January 17, 2010


It has been a wet, windy, chilly-for-supposedly summer weekend in Wellington. Not the greatest weather for entertaining a 9 year old boy, but perfect weather for knitting!

Hunter arrived Friday night and Dad and my step-Mum took us out for tea, then it was home to bed for Hunter and a little bit of knitting for me, the end result of which was I reached the 2 inches of ribbing I needed before I could move on to the stripes . Saturday, Hunter and I went to the Pompeii exhibit at Te Papa which I enjoyed but he got a bit bored of. We wandered around Te Papa a bit and went for our customary visit to the earthquake house (you stand in a room and an earthquake is simulated - every time we go to Te Papa Hunter wants to go in it, I said to him, 'You know, real earthquakes aren't fun - there's been a big one in a place called Haiti and lots of people have been hurt and died' and he said, 'Yeah, I know'). Then we went to the supermarket and bought the necessary supplies to make real fruit smoothies with ice cream at home in the blender my flatmate got for Christmas. After the amazing smoothies, Hunter played on the computer a bit and I decided to tackle the next stage of my hat which involved a row of knitting four and 'making one'.

Stitch n Bitch explained how to 'make one' very very clearly. It helped that I had learned how to do a bar increase from YouTube when I was in the mood for learning something new a while ago because it meant I already knew how to knit into the back of a stitch. I practiced 'making one' on my practice knitting (when I was learning the bar increase I did so on the needles and really cheap wool I bought when first learning to cast on and start knitting again, I've left the knitting I did when learning the bar increase on those needles so I have some knitting to practice anything new I need to learn on before I do it on 'the real thing' - in this case the hat).

When I felt confident with the 'make one' I decided to start - however, the row of increasing was also the first row in blue and required me to change to the #5 needles and I got quite stressed out trying to decide if you just add in new wool on circular needles the same way you do straight ones (YouTube was no help), trying to decipher the pattern's hints for carrying the colour you're not currently knitting with up the back of the knitting (I still don't get what they mean but have been doing my interpretation of it and it's working out fine), and trying to knit onto a new set of needles all at the same time. But I took the plunge, added in the new colour the way I learnt to add in a new ball of wool to my scarf and started the 'k4 m1'. By this time Guy had arrived and a new personality of mine reared its stressy head. It's called 'Fiercely Concentrating Cherie'. Fiercely Concentrating Cherie will announce loudly that she is doing something VERY complicated and needs to CONCENTRATE and NO ONE must speak to her while she is doing it. Not to ask what she wants on her homemade pizza; not to be told that we need to leave to catch the bus to the movies soon. Not for ANYTHING.

And it was while I was overtaken by this personality that I turned 112 stitches into 140. It took me FOREVER because I would get confused as to whether it was time to increase or not, or I would mistrust my counting to four and go back to the start and count out every 5 stitches to make sure I was doing it right. When I finally finished and had 140 stitches (it was touch and go for a minute there, I counted 3 times and came up with 139 but realised that was because I hadn't done the very last increase to make 140), I found I had left a ridiculously short tail where I'd added my new colour in so joining this colour in the round (I figured you join a new colour in the round the same way you join the knitting in the very beginning in the round) would be a
bit difficult. By this time Guy and Hunter had their coats on and we really needed to go, so I put down my knitting, breathed deeply, inhaled two pieces of pizza as I ran out the door, and luckily the bus arrived just after we did and we made it to the movies on time (just as well Hunter and I had bought the tickets earlier in the day because the lines were so long we wouldn't have otherwise).

It was during my extreme concentration time that I figured which was the 'right side' of what I was knitting. It's the inside. Good to know.

Fantastic Mr. Fox was fantastic! I laughed a lot (as usual: loudly, embarrassing both Guy and Hunter); Hunter really enjoyed it but I think a lot of the humour was appreciated more by the adults. It was a wonderful adaptation of a book - not wholly faithful to the book as Hunter pointed out but it retained the humour and the key aspects and added in some nice sub-plots. I loved George Clooney's voicing of Mr. Fox and Meryl Streep's Mrs. Fox. We spent the way home practicing the whistle and tongue click that is Mr. Fox's trademark.

When we got home I continued my knitting, first joining the blue in the round by trying to felt my very short tail to the working strand of wool and knit the first stitch with that. It seems to have worked okay. Since then it has been simply knitting all the stitches in one colour for 2 rounds and then changing to the next colour for 2 rounds. I have to do this until the piece measures 7 and a half inches from the bottom. Here's how it's looking so far. I'm pretty proud!

Friday, January 15, 2010

A hat for lunch

Today I did something I have been thinking of doing for a while - I knitted in my lunch break. This may not seem very astounding or difficult and indeed it isn't, but over the past year or so I have become increasingly bad at actually leaving my desk to take a lunch break. I used to be very regimented and come 1pm or whatever I would go out and sit and eat my lunch somewhere. However, this usually involved going to a cafe and buying my lunch and when I decided I would pre-purchase cans of soup from the supermarket and eat them for lunch to try to save some money I stopped having somewhere to go for lunch and started just eating it at my desk (I don't really like hanging out in the staff room at lunchtime, usually all the newspapers have been claimed and are being read and there's nothing to do but silently eat your lunch and then go back to your desk). Nowadays I mostly go across the road and buy a sandwich and then come back to my desk and eat while working or playing on the internet (as you can see, I'm not very good at saving money...I got bored of soup and 2 minute noodles after about 3 months!).

Yesterday, however, it was a beautiful day so I bought a sandwich and went and sat in Civic Square (one of my favourite places in Wellington which is conveniently only about a one minute walk from my work) and read for a while because I didn't have my knitting with me. Today, I came prepared and because it is now horribly rainy, windy, and chilly (Oh hi summer, where are you? Stop making such fleeting visits) I ate soup at my desk and then instead of Civic Square I went over the road to Katipo Cafe and had a hot chocolate and knit a few rows. It was really strange, I sat in the far corner and felt a little bit reluctant and shy to get my knitting out. Like everyone was going to look at me or watch me and say to each other 'Look at that girl, she's knitting, that is so weird'. Even though I knit in public on a Monday night I do so with other people. I'm not the only one. And when I knit on the train back to the Wairarapa when I go home to visit I can't really see anyone around me because we're in little seats all facing one way and usually if anyone sits next to you they avoid eye contact and any communication (public transport, you know how it is).

But really, I was being silly because even if people did look at me strangely and talk about me (and I'm sure they didn't, people have better things to do with their time I'd hope) what's the worst they could do? Come over and say, 'You're weird?'. And that's really not that bad. Although maybe there exists anti-knitting extremists who could get so angry at the sight of me knitting that they might run over and rip my knitting out of my hands and set it alight before my very eyes...but in some ways I think the shock factor and general randomness of that ever occuring would be worth me losing my slaved-over stitches. It'd definitely make the paper. Maybe even the news. It could even spark a 'knitters unite' protest down Lambton Quay complete with chants and a megaphone and that would DEFINITELY be worth it.

I love my imagination sometimes.

Anyway, moral of the story is I think I will start to knit regularly in my lunch break. It will force me to leave my desk for a while (I could knit in the staff room but I just know that for the first few weeks every person who came in would make some kind of comment/want to talk about it and really, I can't be bothered explaining the same thing over and over again, 'It's a hat. They're called circular needles. No, I've never made one before. I only started knitting a few months ago. I made a scarf. Yes, quite a lot of people my age are now knitting, I go to a knitting group on a Monday night at a pub...' and so on and so on ad nauseum. Maybe one day I will but for now I'd prefer to go across the road and do it) and it will hopefully mean I make progress on my projects quicker because at the moment I really only knit on the weekends and on Monday nights. I don't want this hat to take three months.

Anyhow, we shall see how this new regime fares...

(here is a random photo of my scarf and three cherries from my blog header photo shoot because I hate to post such a wordy post with no pictures)

Tonight my little brother is coming to stay for two nights. I am very excited. He will no doubt want to make pancakes, go to the skate park - which is good if the weather is fine because then I can sit and read or knit and he can skate to his heart's content (although the forecast doesn't look promising), and we might go to Te Papa, and we will definitely go to Fantastic Mr. Fox which both he and I (and I think Guy too) are really looking forward to. I bought him the book one year and read it to him and now he can read well enough to read a chapter or two to me before bed when I go home to visit. It's a cool book and it looks like it's going to be a cool movie. Yay!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hip-hop, Toot, and earthquakes...

Sadly, little progress has been made on the hat since Monday night's Knitting Circle. 1 row in fact. I find it really hard to fit in knitting time on weeknights. By the time I finish work at 5.30pm, walk home which takes about 30 minutes, forage around for something to cook, cook it, eat it, do the dishes/muck around it's 9.30pm and I'm too tired to pick up the needles and do a decent amount. And that's only on a home night. Why tonight, for example, I had to go and be in an awesomely ridiculous hip-hop style video about puberty that my friends were filming for their Fringe show. I got to wear the hideous purple long shorts with ruching up the sides that Guy brought me back from his trip to Shanghai last year (thankfully as a joke because there is no way I would wear them in an everyday context, not even a one-off token wearing to pretend I liked them if he had been serious). And last night we had our first meeting for 2010 for our show. And the multi-talented Ed who is going to co-create and direct the show as well as be our general creator of awesome images, posters, flyers and a programme, went home and did this:
The show is going to be called Tea for Toot and he has perfectly captured the feeling of quirky and childlike but slightly sinister that we have been talking about. I won't say too much about the story just yet but the idea grew out of our reading about Enid Blyton and her two daughters, one of whom insisted until she died that her mother was wonderful and caring and who had great childhood memories and the other (still alive) who insists that her mother did not have a maternal bone in her body and who has very unhappy memories of her childhood. The show is not intended to be a biographical representation of these women or their lives but has grown from our research on them and on Blyton's writing and "will explore the effects of childhood experience on adult life, the treacherous and unstable territory of memory, the limitations and freedoms of living in an isolated, insular world, and the power of fantasy and imagination over reality". Well according to our pitch it will anyway; we have a long way to go before opening night and a lot could change between now and then once we start workshopping and writing.

This morning I was compelled by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee's post on her Yarn Harlot blog to make a donation towards the relief effort in Haiti following the devastation wreaked there by an earthquake on Tuesday. She threw out a call to knitters to go donate even "a few dollars of your yarn money" towards the relief effort. She directed people to their local Medicins Sans Frontiers website but when I went there there was no NZ branch so I went to the NZ Red Cross website and donated to their International Disaster Response fund (as they hadn't yet set up their Haitian Earthquake Appeal, they have done now though). It wasn't very much but I hope it contributes to the whole and they are able to put that whole to good use. For me the loss of life, injuries, and damage caused by the earthquake along with the poverty already endured by the people of Haiti is incomprehensible but it's good to feel like I've been a drop in the pool of aid that they will be receiving.

Earthquakes are a bit close to home for me because Wellington has a major fault line running through the city and several others close by. I've grown up with pretty frequent little earthquakes and the occasional bigger one but we're apparently overdue for a really big one and all Wellingtonians (in fact all NZers as there are fault lines throughout NZ) are encouraged to have a civil defense emergency kit at their house with water, canned food, and torches etc ready in case a big earthquake hits and we are cut off from electricity and water for days. We even have emergency containers of water under our desks at work! Being up on the 14th floor at work is a bit freaky and whenever we have a little earthquake when I'm at work I start to worry a bit about whether it is a pre-cursor to 'the big one' and whether the 14th floor is really the best place to be if if does hit. But all NZ buildings have had to be built to strict earthquake-safe standards for a long time and I am told that the bottom of our building is on rollers to help move with earthquakes...whether that's true or not I have absolutely no idea.

Anyway. 'More knitting less worrrying' should be my motto for the year, and worrying about 'what ifs' is so silly when in the here and now I have much more cause for being grateful. But that worry bug is hard to get rid of, especially if, like me, you seem to have been born with it!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Onward and upward

Yesterday I made a slightly crazy trip to Queensgate (which is about 30 minutes away by bus depending on the traffic). Slightly crazy in that I left work a bit early to get a bus to make sure I got there before it closed at 6pm. When I got there I went in and was there for approximately 15 minutes. Then I left and got straight back on the bus to Wellington. All for this:

I really wanted a page-per-day calendar for Christmas for my desk at work. The sad but true fact of office life is that small things can bring great joy...and ripping off a page each morning when I get to work is one of my small things.

Last year I had a page-per-day calendar about mothers and daughters that my Mum bought for me on sale, I think it was a case of finding the best of what was left in slim pickings rather than some heartfelt gesture meant to indicate the power of our mother-daughter bond... It was good, even though it had a lot of antiquated quotes such as 'No day is so sacred but that the laugh of a child will make it holier still' - Robert G. Ingersoll, it also had some really good ones such as 'Good humour makes all things tolerable' - Henry Ward Beecher, and some funny ones such as 'Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city' - George Burns.

Towards the end of last year I decided I wanted something a bit more 'me' for 2010 so I pro-actively Googled 'Page per day knitting 2010' and found that Stephanie Pearl-McPhee aka The Yarn Harlot, whose blog I really enjoy, had a one. So I told Guy to get it for me for Christmas and he dutifully ordered it from a New Zealand online bookshop as I said he was unlikely to find it in the shops and he didn't want to pay the heinous USD shipping that accompanies Amazon orders. The company emailed him saying that they would have to order the calendar from the US and that it wouldn't arrive before Christmas, which was fine, so I got a little voucher for it on Christmas day along with the two CDs Guy got me - The Best of James Taylor because I'm going to see James Taylor and Carole King live in Auckland in April (so exciting, I LOVE Carole King but I don't really know James Taylor - hence the CD) and Flight of the Conchords latest album I Told You I Was Freaky.

Then a few days ago when I met Hayley at Queensgate I was walking past the calendar stall and I saw it. For 40% off. So I text Guy and said, 'Ummm, wooops. That calendar you got me is at Queensgate at a reduced price. When is mine coming anyway?'. He emailed the online bookshop a while later and got an automated reply telling him that the shop was closed until the 18th of January and would not be sending anything until after that time. He then got an email saying they couldn't tell him when the calendar would arrive as it was still on back order. I do love the invention of online shopping, but at times like these it is a PAIN. So he asked me if he could just cancel the order and if I could go and get the calendar from Queensgate. Not wanting to miss out on what I was SURE was the only copy there which may even have been sold in the 2 days since I had seen it, I HAD to go on the bus straight after work and get it before someone else did...of course when I got there there were about 10 copies that I hadn't seen when walking past on Saturday. Oh well. I finally got my Christmas present. And Guy saved $10.

After my jaunt to Lower Hutt, it was time for Monday night Knitting Circle at the Southern Cross. I have no idea who started this knitting circle/Stitch n Bitch - the Heather mentioned on the Southern Cross website appears to have long since disappeared. I started going along about 4 months or so ago because a friend I met through doing Gender and Women's Studies at Victoria University Facebooked me when I posted a status about knitting and said I should come along. It's a very relaxed affair, there are regulars and semi-regulars and more often than not a newbie or two each week. Everyone is really nice and helpful and there is a strangely large American and Canadian contingent....

Anyway, I made more progress on my hat but I am slow (I like to think I am capable of being faster, I just choose not to be because I am enjoying the process and being very careful) and am still yet to meet the '2 inches from bottom' required before I can start on the stripes. So close though, about 1/2 an inch away I think.

While at the Knitting Circle I got a very exciting text from one of the two friends I have been meeting up with regularly to discuss/share ideas for/make a start on a theatre show we want to devise this year. The text asked if I had checked my emails recently because we had just received one offering us a season at BATS Theatre! We had met with the BATS programme manager before Christmas to pitch our show and hadn't heard back from her, we didn't know whether this was good or bad as she had said she'd get back to us before Christmas but she's a pretty busy lady so we didn't want to bug her about it just yet.

Our season will be from late May to early June, exact dates to be confirmed. It's very exciting but also very, very scary. It means we have to create a show by late May. And it means I will be back on stage instead of directing for the first time in about 2 and a 1/2 years.... Also, we're going to have to work hard on getting arts funding by putting in amazingly unturndownable funding applications or we will be in a bit of trouble.

But mainly exciting!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Look Mum, circular needles!

Yesterday one of my best friends, Hayley, whom I have known since the beginning of our Wairarapa College days back in 2000 (and with whom I have a kind of complicated, blended-family tie), came for a visit and to stay the night. Hayley is now back living in the Wairarapa after training as a primary school teacher in Palmerston North. She teaches 5 year olds and lives
with her partner who is also a primary school teacher. Having seen how hard Hayley works - how much time she puts into preparation and helping with extra-curricular activities, the fact that she is in charge of 30 5 year olds every day - makes me really admire her and other hard working teachers like her. But it also really puts me off ever being a teacher...

We went to TheNewDowse to have a look at the exhibitions on there at the moment. I have been to TheNewDowse once for Craft 2.0 but never to any of their exhibitions (I love going to galleries but as I don't have a car it's usually just the City Gallery and Te Papa for me). I was really impressed with the space, I remember going to The Dowse when I was at primary school but I don't remember what we went to or what it looked like (I just remember thinking it was near Queensgate as we drove there on the bus!), so I can't compare it to before it was done up in 2006, but it really is a great gallery. The giant inflatable rabbit there at the moment freaked me out a bit; it was fun choosing an artist to nominate for the People's Choice Award in The Wallace Art Awards; the exhibition for kids at the moment 'Tickle My Senses' was just as enjoyable for adults - who doesn't like picking up the handset of an old phone and listening to what sound is playing through it?; and Lisa Walker's Unwearable posed some questions about whether we appreciate something as much when we look at it and think 'I could do that with some random bits of plastic and a hot glue gun'. Overall, it was a fantastic little outing.

Guy then joined us for giant New York Pizza for dinner and then we went to Whip It. I LOVED it. Apart from the cheesy pool scene (you'll know what I mean if you see it), I loved the subject matter, I LOVE Ellen Page (loved her in Juno, loved her in this), I loved the other actors, the music. Basically just a whole lot of love going on for this movie. It was a really fun and funny movie, really feel-good while still being intelligent and teaching me all about roller derby (I so want to go to a roller derby match now, there's a roller derby team in Wellington so it is possible - no idea if I'm using the right terminology 'match', 'team'...)! Definitely worth it.

Then this morning I made Hayley and Guy Swedish pancakes for breakfast to go with the banana chocolate chip muffins I made yesterday. Not sure if I'm a fan of this recipe though, I've made it three times now (because I keep hoping if I add more sugar to the mixture they'll be sweet enough - the savoury-ness is what puts me off even though the colour and consistency are good) but Hayley and Guy weren't that into them so I think it was three strikes, this recipe is out. My 9 year old little brother LOVES pancakes and late last year we learned to flip them while I helped him make them one morning when I was home visiting. He wasn't impressed by this recipe either, but we were both extremely impressed with our flipping prowess. I love my little brother, he is so cute and fun.

In knitting headlines, we have hat lift off and I am really excited and proud (I also have the lamest life ever it seems...) of my minuscule progress.

Voila, le chapeau:

I cast on hunky dory and then started knitting my first row, kind of forgetting about the 'join for working in the round' part of the instructions. I was very careful to keep all the stitches on the bottom so as not to twist them and when I came to the end I was very pleased with myself. Then, needing a break from all the intense concentration casting on 112 stitches and knitting a row of knit 2, purl 2, required, I went out in the wind for a walk to the supermarket to get a few things. While walking and feeling pleased with myself, I suddenly realised something: my knitting was not joined. If I kept knitting it the way I was going it would just be one big scarf-like piece of ribbed knitting. So then I was really anxious to get home and find out how you join a piece of circular knitting - I didn't think I'd need to undo all my work so far because when I'd asked the girl at Knit World what it meant when it said 'taking care not to twist the stitches' and she had said to make sure all the stitches were facing down, she suggested knitting a row or two before joining it to make it easier to check that all the stitches were facing down and none were twisted.

I love YouTube. It taught me how to change from knit to purl when I first started my scarf and I was getting big lumps (I wasn't bringing my wool to the front before starting to purl and then taking it to the back when going back to knit); it taught me how to do a bar increase (not that I needed to know how to do one, I just wanted to learn something new as was getting pretty bored of the same old knit 10, purl 10, knit 10, purl 10 while doing my scarf), although learning the bar increase took a while and I nearly cried while trying to work it out. Yes I am a loser.

So of course, I could rely on YouTube to teach me how to join my knitting for knitting in the round on circular needles. I searched 'knitting in the round circular needles', watched 2 videos and was sorted. It's so easy! So now I have to continue with the knit 2, purl 2 in the round until it measures 2 inches from the bottom, and then the fun begins of adding in the 2nd colour (blue - it's going to be a nautical little hat just like the pattern).

I feel so lame being so excited and proud of my little knitting projects, but at the same time I don't care, because I am excited about the things I'm learning and proud of my progress - even my very small amount of ribbing because I've never done it before. As with my tea-drinking Nana-ness, I just have to embrace it...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Theatre + boredom = knitting

Last night I went to my first show for 2010, Mo and Jess Kill Susie, a play by New Zealand writer Gary Henderson, directed by well-known Wellington director, Murray Lynch. It was staged at BATS Theatre - my favourite Wellington theatre venue because of the opportunities and support it gives to emerging theatre practitioners. The play was a very intense drama dealing with Maori activisim and race relations in New Zealand and the performances were really strong.

BATS is actually where my desire to knit was born... In August 2009 I assistant directed Measure for Measure, part of a Shakespeare double-bill called Vienna Verona produced by Three Spoon Theatre. Three Spoon is a theatre company created by some of my friends whom I met studying Theatre at Victoria University as part of my BA.

(a publicity image for Vienna Verona)

Measure for Measure was 90 minutes long and there was a half hour timeslot for changing the set over for Romeo and Juliet each night, the changeover needed all hands on deck to make it smooth and speedy so I was needed to help each night. While I loved MforM, having watched it 3 times a week for weeks on end during the rehearsal period, I didn't want to sit and watch it every night for 2 weeks. This meant an hour and a half each night sitting upstairs in the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes clubrooms (which is above the BATS' theatre space) reading, chatting to the costume girls and the actors arriving to get ready for Romeo and Juliet, reading, and generally trying to pass the time while waiting to help with the changeover. While I love reading, sometimes you just don't feel like it and when people are talking and coming and going it can be hard to focus on reading (I like to really concentrate when I read...) so I wished I had
something I could carry around and whip out when I needed it because I hate sitting around doing nothing.

What sprung to mind was knitting! I knew how to knit a basic knit stitch because my Nana taught me years ago, but I didn't know how to cast on so I bought The Bible and taught myself. This wasn't until after the show's season finished though and since then I've taken a bit of a break from theatre as Vienna Verona was a lot of hard work - fun, but hard work. So when my next theatre project rolls around (whatever and whenever that may be, at the moment I'm having regular meetings with two theatre friends and we're working towards devising a two person show that I will be in this year, but we'll see what happens with that) I'll be prepared for any time that needs passing!

Today I recieved a parcel in the mail that means I can finally start on my hat:

Some 3.5mm (US#4), 40cm circular needles! When I went back to Knit World on Wednesday, having worked out the correct needles I needed (US#4 = 3.5mm, US#5 = 3.75mm - I'm not sure how the girl at Knit World got it so wrong, she looked at the US to UK/mm converter thing but must have looked along to the wrong line or something because she'd given me way bigger needles - 6mm ones!) they only had the 3mm and 3.75mm ones, so I got the 3.75mm ones and went to Goldings to try to get the 3.5mm ones, but like Knit World, they didn't have them. So I went online to TradeMe to try to get some second hand ones (ideally bamboo ones because I really loved using my Clover bamboo needles on my scarf, such a nice feel and so light) but there were no 3.5mm ones at all so I ended up making my first purchase from The Yarn Queen. It arrived today in the mail with a bonus copy of The Wheel (no idea what it is but apparently it's 'Ashford's fibrecraft magazine - New Zealand', I was pleased anyway!). Such quick service!

So hopefully this weekend I can cast on my 112 stitches and let the fun begin! 112 seems like a lot but I guess they're smaller needles than I used on my scarf...I'm going to trust the pattern and go with it anyway. And seeing as I bought this, I'll never get the wrong needles again!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Postcards from the recent past

For the first time in a few years Guy and I actually went somewhere other than a friend's house for New Year. While I'm all for going to a friend's house on New Year's Eve (a BBQ, Singstar...what more could you really want?) it was nice to go somewhere I've never been before.

Originally I was going to just go up to Auckland and hang with Guy for a few days at his parents' empty house where he wanted to stay and look after Hercules (the golden retriever who was originally Guy's dog but has become the family dog since Guy moved down to Wellington 4 and a half years ago) while his parents holidayed in Nelson. But when some friends invited us to join them camping in Northland and Guy was really keen to go I thought, 'Camping. Not the biggest fan but I'll give it a go. Northland. Cool, I've never been up past Auckland' (well not that I can remember - apparently Mum, Dad, and I stayed in Paihia for a while when I was a baby but really, does that count?).

What I didn't realise at the time was just how much land there is past Auckland! It took us 7 hours to drive to Tapotupotu Bay (including a slight detour to drop Hercules off at a kennel outside Kaitaia) which is really beautiful and has a wonderfully maintained DOC camping area right on the beach.

(You can't see the collection of tents and campervans in this photo as they're tucked away to the right, out of sight from the top of the hill)

Surprisingly enough, I endured the cold showers (they didn't feel so cold after being in the sea which was freezing - I only went in it twice for about 30 seconds, first thing in the morning to help wake me up). Luckily enough, the spot our friends who had arrived earlier had claimed was close to the flushing toilets, not the long drops (super super bonus!). And the canned meals and mosquito bites (that are still plaguing me nearly a week later) were worth this:

The view from our tent.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sew what?

Before the knitting of The Scarf took over, I was originally getting into sewing.

Inspired by a group of women at my work I like to call the 'sew fashionable ladies', I decided I too could make awesome little outfits all on my own. I also decided quilts were the coolest thing ever and that I'd like to make one/many (I still would like to make one/many but they look pretty difficult so I think I'll see if I can take a class at Nancy's to help me out). So sometime prior to June last year I told my Mum she could look into buying me a 2nd hand sewing machine on TradeMe for my birthday. But my Mum being my Mum (really cool and apparently owner of a money tree), she bought me a brand new Janome Sewist 521.

It took me quite a few months to actually get it out of its box and use it... It was so shiny and new and held so much promise I didn't want to break it/realise sewing was actually harder than I remembered from my 'Manual' (I think now known as Technology at primary schools) and 3rd Form 'Clothing' (I think now called Fabric Technology or some such thing at high schools) days. Woe is me, I'm so old and these new fandangled terms are so beyond me.

I first made Mum help me make a skirt when I went down to visit her in Christchurch (she and her husband own a dairy farm in Hurunui, about an hour's drive out of Christchurch city). When I say 'made Mum help me' I really mean 'made Mum do it all as I got annoyed because the waist in the picture on the front of the pattern looked lower than it was in reality and she tried to alter it and it all went downhill from there'. In the end it worked out okay and I have since worn the skirt. Once.

I had thought getting back into the swing of sewing by using Mum's good old Bernina that is older than I am (she bought it after she got her first job at the Carterton BNZ when she was 16) and that I grew up playing on would give me the confidence to get my new machine out of the box and work out this whole 'drop in' bobbin business (her Bernina has the bobbin in the front). I guess it kind of did because a wee while later when I was back in Wellington I braced myself, got my machine out, found out that the drop-in bobbin is REALLY easy, and made something from some fat quarters I had bought.

As you can see the squares don't all line up, but I like it. It's currently sitting as a kind of table runner in my apartment. I had thought I'd make it as a dolls' blanket for my little 2 1/2 year old cousin but in the end I couldn't give up my first little project. Plus the colours were wrong...

Which brought me to my next project. My little cousin got a playhouse and I decided she needed a dolls' cot to go in it. I remember my sister and I getting a whole lot of play and enjoyment out of our little white wooden dolls' cot when we were young so I thought Maggie would like one too. I found an amazing one on TradeMe for a bargain (considering how beautiful it is and that it had been recently repainted and has two cool big butterfly stickers placed at the head and foot and has a pink and white gingham CANOPY) and my Nana got all excited when it got dropped at her house for storage until Christmas that she went out and bought some pink and white gingham to match the canopy and made a little mattress and pillow. She left making the blanket for me though as she knew that was my plan.

So voila, second sewn project, completed a few weeks ago in December:

It was so cute when I arrived with the cot on Christmas Day (I didn't bother wrapping it up, it was too big and would have been a waste of paper). Maggie and her 4 year old brother had gotten a little puppy for Christmas (they live on a farm which makes getting a puppy not too big a deal for their parents) and Maggie carried it around all day. Despite my repeated attempts to show her how her doll could sleep all tucked up in her new cot, there was only one thing going in that cot:

At first the puppy wasn't so keen on the idea and kept slipping out through the gaps in the bars, following which Maggie would cry 'Puppy! Bed time!', run after him, scoop him up, and put him back in again. This continued for quite some time until clearly she tired him out and he bowed to her wishes.

For her brother who loves Thomas the Tank Engine, I made this:

His response was all you could hope for - he ripped the paper off, cried, 'Thomas!!! Look Mum!! I'll put it on my bed!!' and then ran to his room and placed it on top of his pillow. It was so nice to feel like something I'd put a lot of time and effort into was appreciated/hit the spot. I say a lot of time and effort but it didn't really take that long, especially considering it wasn't just any cushion...
It's like a pillow case! I was super proud of making a pillow stuffed with some stuffing I bought from Golding Handcrafts and then making a removable cover for it so that the cover can be taken off and washed if necessary (considering it's in the possesion of a 4 year old, it's likely to be necessary). I actually did the whole pillow-case-like-cover thing because I don't know how to sew the last part of the last side of a cushion once you've turned it right-side out so that it doesn't look all gammy and hand-sewn. So this was the perfect solution.

It was so rewarding to actually make some Christmas gifts. I got a bit into the whole making thing and made some Christmas cards (no photos of those, but basically some sparkly blue icicle stickers from Whitcoulls, some black card, and lots of silver pen - same for the gift tags I made). You feel a real sense of achievement and pride in the gifts you give; although I feel that same sense when I give someone something bought that I know they'll love. Still.

Also, one of the best things about the blanket and the cushion was that, apart from the buttons and pink thread on the blanket and the stuffing for the cushion, all they cost was time to make! My boyfriend Guy just finished his Bachelor of Performing Arts in Acting last year at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School. At Toi they have a fantastic costume design course and at the end of the year the costume course crew cleaned up the sewing room and gave away big bags of unwanted material. Guy got me a bag and while I threw some bits out and there are still lots of bits I don't know if I'll ever use, all the material for the blanket and the cushion came from there. That's why the pink of the blanket isn't exactly right for the pale pink of the gingham, but Maggie (and I) couldn't care less as it still looks pretty cool.

I also got a pretty exciting Christmas present (it wasn't my only present, I don't think I'd be as thrilled if that was the case) - pinking shears! I'm looking forward to trying them out (I HATE fraying edges, even if you won't see them and they won't cause the material to slowly pull completely apart, they look UGLY) sometime soon.

So that's all my finished sewing projects so far. I say finished because there's something currently languishing on my ironing board, but more on that later....