Tuesday, March 30, 2010

'Craft Anger' and a rare species

The Baby Knitters Club has been hit by a new epidemic sweeping these parts...Craft Rage. Anita witnessed it when she was at my house on Sunday and I was sewing the doll and then we both fell prey to it last night at Monday night Knitting Circle.

Some people find craft/sewing/knitting etc relaxing. We are not those people. How could anyone be when after about an hour and half, the sum total of your progress is this:

Yup, that's 26 stitches right there. 22 of them picked up. I spent a long time figuring out how to do it and then figuring out if I was doing it right. Then I spent even longer doing it.

I still have this much to go:

Yup, that's all around the front, the bottom of the back, and the cuffs. Hello Easter, I know what I'll be doing for the majority of my long weekend.

My long weekend is actually extra long because I'm taking tomorrow and Thursday off work and going down to stay with my Mum until Monday. She lives on a dairy farm in Hurunui, an hour out of Christchurch. There's not a lot to do on a dairy farm when you refuse to work on it (I can occasionally be coaxed into getting the cows in in the afternoon but that's as far as I'll go. I spent the summer after 7th form milking cows and working on a farm full-time and I am never, ever, doing it again, especially not in a rotary cow shed which is what the farm they now own has. In retrospect, I can't even believe I did it. Give me the clean, leisurely life of an office job any day!) so it will give me plenty of time for picking up stitches.

Before heading out to the farm, however, Mum and I going on a very exciting field trip to the Ashford Craft Village in Ashburton. Home of the Ashford Spinning Wheel, there's a museum, a cafe, and shops (including a craft shop with wool - a purchase will surely have to be made) set in apparently lovely surrounds. I am really looking forward to it. First, I just have to get through the flight...

Finally, I am very privileged to be allowed to present the only known photo of the rare and shy species known as the 'Big Foot Baby Bootie' (mentioned last week):

Seen here next to a regular sized baby bootie, its true scale and magnificence is breathtaking.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Divide and conquer!

So I decided to start all over again and cut out new separate pieces for the rag doll. I followed the instructions for sewing from the inside out on this tutorial (see Steps 4 to 7) and while it wasn't the easiest thing in the world, it was pretty much a success!

This is the body with the arms and legs all tucked inside, having sewn them to the right side of the fabric on one piece of the body and head, and then placed the other piece of body and head right side down and sewn around the edges.

I then had to pull the legs and arms through the gap I left in the top of the head. It was like giving birth, obviously much less painful but probably just as stressful. I kept feeling like I was going to rip all the seams.

But the seams turned out pretty nicely on one side of the doll at least. I think I only ripped a couple of seams in neck (or never sewed them properly in the first place) but I can easily hand sew them.

Overall the head is a bit tiny but I'm going to find some cheap, thick, brown wool and give her lots of hair to make up for it... And I haven't completely stuffed and sewn the top of the head because I might give her some little black button eyes if it's not too Coraline-ish.

Overall, I'm very pleased. If I try it again I will make the body a tiny bit bigger to make it easier to sew around it with the legs and arms inside. And make the head a bit bigger.

Tonight, Monday night Knitting Circle. Time to tackle the ribbed edging on the Baby Shrug! (And also to potentially convince Anita to bring the Big Foot Baby Bootie along so I can take a photo and share it with the world...)

Sunday, March 28, 2010


And that's my official self-diagnosis.

On Friday night I decided I would begin to tackle the ribbed edging of the Baby Shrug. Because that's the kind of wild Friday night gal I am. So I got myself a cup of tea, the Bible, the Baby Shrug, the pattern, and a tape measure (because I read that if you measure out the length you have to pick up from and mark the inches with a loop of cotton it's easier to work out how many stitches per inch to pick up to make it even) and was all set to go. Then I realised that I didn't have the 60cm long 3.75mm circular needles I needed to change to so I actually couldn't do anything.

Not wanting to sit around doing nothing I decided to have a go at making a rag doll. In Little House in the Big Woods (which I'm reading at the moment) Laura has a corncob wrapped in a handkerchief as her doll and then for Christmas she gets a beautiful rag doll that she names Charlotte. We have been creating scenes for the theatre show we are making (Tea for Toot) and it has developed that our characters have some specific toys, one of which is Pollyanna the rag doll, so I thought I'd try to make us a Pollyanna, or at least a Pollyanna prototype.

I looked up 'how to make a rag doll' on the internet but there were so many different ways and they all involved a pattern and I don't have a printer at home so I decided to freestyle it. I used a CD as the template for the head and then tried to make a rectangle body and an arm/leg rectangle that was relative in size to the head (knowing of course that when stuffed they would all be smaller). I cut all the pieces out and sewed all the arms and legs and stuffed them. It was all working out just fine.

Then came attaching the arms and legs to the body. I had no idea how to do it so that they were't just sewn onto the outside of the body and I remembered one of the 'how to' things on the internet had said about sewing them 'from the inside out' in the body but I had no idea how they'd done it and the picture wasn't very illustrative and, basically, I am impatient.

So I tried a couple of ways and had to unpick them all because there was a big seam on the outside or it just looked plain ugly and eventually I got really frustrated and decided to embrace the ugliness so sewed the arms onto the outside and thought it looked okay from the front and I'd make a dress for it to wear so you wouldn't see the seams. But then I realised I hadn't left enough room at the top for seam allowance to sew the head on so I really got grumpy and gave up for the night.

Failed rag doll #1:
I decided that on Saturday I would cut a new piece with the head, body, and arms all in one and then add the legs on at the end. This sounded fool-proof. What actually happened is what confirmed my sewtardedness.

Anita was at my house for some of this and helpfully suggested I cut it on the fold to make each side symmetrical. I hadn't thought of that.

SO ANNOYED. It's all puckered under the arms and around the neck (obviously). I couldn't figure out why, I turned it inside out and outside in and I just didn't get it. So I rang my Mum and she said from the sounds of it maybe I should have sewn in a curve under the arms instead of in straight lines and made my stitches a bit bigger and with less tension. She also suggested that if I didn't want to unpick it I could try snipping the fabric close to the seam to help it move and gave the example of how when you put baking paper in a cake tin you have to snip a line in the corners to allow them to fold over each other.

The thing that frustrates me the most about sewing (which I've mentioned before) is that I have no foresight. On the first doll attempt on Friday night I had a number of times when I thought, 'I know! I'll...' and it wasn't until I'd sewn it that I realised that by doing 'x' it would end up looking like 'y'. And with the puckering, I kept turning it inside and out and I just couldn't make my brain understand why having done 'x' had made it look like 'y'. It is so frustrating, when I rang my Mum I half-jokingly said, 'I'm quitting sewing. It's too hard and I'm too impatient, I hate pinning and cutting, I just like SEWING but then I can't even get that right.'

The problem is that I want it right first time so I can keep going and make other things. I totally need to change my mindset from product to process and then hopefully I'll appreciate what I'm learning more and one day it won't be so difficult and the product will be much easier (and quicker) to achieve. That sounds all nice and rosy but at the rate I'm going I don't feel like I'm learning anything except how to attack things with an unpicker.

Today I'm determined to conquer this disaster doll. I'm not sure whether I'll unpick the all-in-one doll and try again incorporating Mum's suggestions or whether I'll try to find a tutorial online and make it from all separate pieces. I have the needles I need now for the Baby Shrug, but first, I'm going to own this doll.

Friday, March 26, 2010

When in the library...

Do as the Greeks do. Apparently.

Yesterday I went to the library at lunchtime to find a book about an artist whose paintings I saw and loved here. Turns out that at the library at the moment there is an exhibition on which includes models of the Parthenon. I love models!

The biggest version of the Parthenon

A close up - awesome detailed door and frieze

Smaller model of the Parthenon with arty lighting (not my bad photography this time)

One side of the smaller model

I think I generally just like smaller versions of things; sometimes they're just so mini and perfect and cute. I especially love dolls' houses, which is ironic because I'm scared of dolls. I made two dolls' houses when I was younger with a friend using left over plywood at her Dad's factory workshop, a jigsaw (the power tool), nails, and A LOT of glue. We made furniture (like little couches) and covered it with a whole lot of scraps that a local upholstery shop kindly gave us when we asked. The rooms were all painted different colours and had carpet and lino - I can't remember where we got those from.

Sadly only one doll's house survives because when my Mum moved down South she said she wasn't taking them with her so one found refuge at Dad's and the other I had to throw out. The one that survives is the one I made for my troll dolls, so it's actually quite big because the mother troll is about 12cm high + hair. I must take a photo next time I'm home in Masterton because that troll house is pretty amazing if I do say so myself. It's three storeys high plus an attic. It reaches up to about hip height. Go ten year old me!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Wellington wanderings

One of the Wellington Writers Walk's 'text sculptures'.

This is the outdoor area at the back of a cafe near my house. It has a pink, blue, and white painted picket fence and matching outdoor furniture; very cute!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's a kinda magic

Last night at Monday night Knitting Circle, I finished the main body of the Baby Shrug! Now I just have to do the ribbed edging, sew it up, and voila! One super cute (and quite tiny) baby shrug.

Naturally, I'm slightly worried about this ribbed edging business as I have to pick up stitches that I have cast off. I re-read the last part of the pattern and inspected the edges of the Baby Shrug at 10.30pm last night to try to ease my worries, just as I was about to go to bed and read a little bit of my latest book, Little House in the Big Woods (I just had a real craving to read it a while ago, I've never actually read it, I read These Happy Golden Years a few times when I was younger because my Mum had it from when she was younger, but I never actually went and got the other books out from the library, even though I liked These Happy Golden Years enough to read it several times).

I have also done some research today and found this explanation of how to pick up cast off stitches quite helpful. So when I get a chance sometime this week or this weekend, I will get down to business. Quite exciting.

Sometimes, I wish I was quicker with my camera. Last night Anita finished her attempt at making a bigger baby bootie. She had doubled her pattern and at 8.30pm last night, displayed the result: The Big Foot Baby Bootie. It was cute...but big enough to fit a five year old. So also quite hilarious. Sadly she hid it away before I could take a photo.

Finally, today I am loving this playlist over on Posie Gets Cosy. As someone says in the comments, she's clearly a 'boys with guitars' kinda gal.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The 10pm Question

Yesterday I finally finished a book I started at about the end of January. I've been pretty slow at getting through books over the past year or so, I just never seem to have time to read them. I think I've also been suffering a case of reading fatigue after finishing my Honours in English Literature at the end of 2008 which saw me reading an adult novel, two Young Adult novels, and a New Zealand play or two every fortnight for months. I spent all day most days reading and even though I love reading, it can get a bit much when you're forced to do it for hours on end no matter whether you like the book or not (thankfully I liked most of the books!).

Anyway, yesterday I finished The 10pm Question which is a Young Adult book by New Zealander Kate De Goldi. I love Young Adult books, I'm not entirely sure why. One reason is probably that they are shorter than most adult novels but more often than not (if you choose well) are just as engaging and well-written. Also, some of my favourite books are YA novels simply because I read them when I was younger and therefore was reading books aimed at that age-group. Maybe also because according to the Wikipedia definition, I've only been out of the Young Adult age category for a year... though I wouldn't entirely agree with their age range.

The 10pm Question was great, I loved Kate De Goldi's style and her cast of quirky characters. I feel like everyone would recognise at least one or two of the characters from their own lives - for me it was Frankie's great aunties who live together in a big old house and have all sorts of hobbies and interests, and Dr. Pete because my Dad's friend and my actual Dr when I was younger was called Dr. Pete. I got a bit teary in the second to last (or 'penultimate' for those of you so inclined) chapter because one of the major themes of the book is anxiety and this chapter is where Frankie finally confronts the '10pm questions' that plague him and has a heartbreaking talk with his mother about her agoraphobia/crippling anxiety and his fear that he is 'wired' like her. The book is also about friendship and family relationships and all those good things we learn about as we grow up.

I would definitely recommend it, although apparently, according to this review, it's a book you'll either love or hate. I know lots of people who've loved it though so give it a go if it sounds like your cup of tea. And don't be put off by the YA categorisation - like age is just a number, YA is just a label.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


Last night I was feeling pretty yuck due to my cold (which has turned my voice into that of a pack-a-day smoker crossed with a pubescent boy) so I sat in front of the TV and knitted all night. Amazing progress was made:

And I finally understand how it's going to work when it's finished (finishing is now seeming infinitely more possible with every row which is a goood feeling).

Amazing! The scary bit coming up once I've finished the right hand sleeve and front is taking the stitches on the holding needle and starting the ribbed edging that goes all the way around the front, neck and bottom edges. But hopefully like everything else I've thought was going to be scary and hard, it will actually turn out to be relatively easy. Hopefully.

Here's a card I made during the week, for Guy on his opening night:

He loves MJ, who even features in the show, so he loved this card. One day when he makes it big and I can sew, I might even make him a replica gold and black outfit...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And so it grows, and so it grows...

Baby Shrug after some knitting on Tuesday night:

This was after such manoeuvres as putting 36 stitches onto a holding needle (the white wool is me being paranoid about the stitches falling off the ends so I have tied a bit of wool to either end as a safe guard. Still a bit paranoid though), casting off 16 stitches, and knitting 5 rows on the remaining 36 stitches. It actually kind of looks like it could be a baby shrug now!

This was after some knitting last night. Not a lot obviously but it took a while because I had to 'K3, M1 , k to end. Work 3 rows straight' 3 times. And the first time I did it I followed the instructions for M1 in the Bible, as I had done when making my hat with no problems, and it seemed to make a hole! Now the photo below is an attempt to illustrate this shocking, outrageous occurance but it actually just makes me look like a drama queen.

It doesn't look as bad in the photo, all tiny and innocent as it is, but in REAL LIFE just above where the needle is pointing is my first M1 and beneath it is what appears to be a hole. I tried to go back and do it again but on the way lost a stitch and had to pick it up again and that freaked me out so I decided not to risk a bigger problem and carried on knitting again. My second M1 didn't create as bad a hole but it still looks like it created a mini hole and I followed the instructions to the letter (even though I had the first time as well).

Knitting WHY are you doing this to me? I am trying so hard, being so careful and patient and SLOW and you are not being very helpful.

Now, from what I can tell from the pattern, this part may be the back of the shrug so it might not be very visible on the finished product and hopefully with a nice hand washing at the end all the stitches will feel the love for each other and close up such nonsensical holes between them.

Coming up soon is what appears to be some casting off on a PURL row. I haven't done that before so some stressful times ahead. And some people find knitting relaxing. Hah!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Revolt of the Mannequins

The Lovers

Day 2:

(his sign says 'I love you')

Day 5:

(after she had set a little table with a candle, champagne, and dinnerware and he had dug a hole in the ground and popped up into her window)

Day 7:

(after it had turned ugly and he had held a small chainsaw to her throat - those crazy French and their humour...)

(if you look closely you'll see that her leg is actually coming through the glass!)

Day 8:

From some other stories:

Closing Down Sale - Day 2

(later removed by David Lawrence management; this article explains why. I wrote a terse email to David Lawrence expressing my disappointment at their overreaction!)

The Sniper and the Detective - Day 2

(the sniper moved around, first he was on a roof top opposite this window, later he could be found being chased through other windows by the detective...)

Day 8

(...who on the last day had him in custody in a car on the footpath)

There were so many other amazing scenes, this is just a cute dog from one of the other scenes on the last day:

For more images from when it was staged in France see here. They got a couple of cool ones that we didn't get. Not that I'm complaining...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

O for Organising

Last night was Monday night Knitting Circle and yesterday I received an email from Tash of Knitsch to say she was finally able to make it along and wondered if there was a Southern Cross Knitting Circle group on Ravelry. When I replied that there wasn't she suggested I start one and after some playing around with my limited tools and abilities (Microsoft Paint and Word), I created a banner for the group.

(I can pretty much start my own graphic design business now.
I mean, look at the quality of that...)

So now anyone who comes along on Monday nights and is on Ravelry can join the group. This will make it easier to put names to faces (because I am so terrible, I hardly know anyone's name even though there are some people I have been seeing there and chatting to for months) and to find patterns you might have seen people knitting or photos of finished creations you've seen in progress on Monday nights.

I'm still in the process of finding a venue for a Wellington World Wide Knit in Public Day 2010 event so watch this space. I want somewhere a bit more central than the Southern Cross and also think it will be a nice change of scenery to have it somewhere different from Monday night Knitting Circle, but so far due to other venues having other events on on the same few possible dates I'm not very spoiled for choice.

I spent last night on the Baby Shrug which is progressing slowly. It's now looking more like something that could conceivably one day become a garment.

(My attempt at putting some more light on it which actually seemed to make the rest of the room darker. Let's call it mood lighting.)

Anita decided to try making a pair of bigger booties so had lots of fun with maths and didn't get much knitting done. It's tough going for the Baby Knitters Club.

As I walked home from Monday night Knitting Circle I was so not looking forward to making my bed as I had washed the sheets and the duvet so it all needed to be redone. There's a cold going around work and I've got it so I just felt like collapsing into bed. Which, it turned out, I could, because when I got home...

My room had been 'serviced' by Guy and my flatmate Lauren (who works at a hotel so is very accomplished at making beds and plumping pillows - among other things of course like managing the hotel's bar and restaurant). They had found some little lotions and potions I'd been given at Christmas to complete the package. So cute. And Lauren has fulfilled her goal to 'make it onto the blog'. Even though she's already been blogged about by someone much cooler than me...

I'm in quarantine from Guy at the moment as his show Wannabe got chosen as Pick of the Fringe (as well as winning Best One Man Band (Solo Show) in the Fringe Awards) so he has a return season at Downstage Theatre which opens on Thursday night and for which him catching a cold would not be helpful. Brotastik, the boy band he plays all five members of in the show, now has a website which I may or may not have contributed some fan fiction to. It's a pretty awesome throwback to tacky websites of the 90s and the place to go for your Brotastik desktop wallpaper.

Of course Revolt of the Mannequins finished on the weekend and I have some photos of the awesomeness that I've decided to reveal now that it's over, but I'll save them for tomorrow as once I start I know it will be very difficult to stop. It was such an amazing event, I am in love with Royal De Luxe.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Many and various

Last night while watching Project Runway I finished my 3rd dishcloth, knitted on smaller needles than my previous two and longer because I just wanted to finish the yarn. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it now. I might just keep it for a rainy day.

It was good having TV knitting - knitting I didn't have to concentrate too hard on so could do while watching TV. Unlike the Baby Shrug. Grrr. Although, this did mean that I had to unpick three rows and knit them again before I could cast off because I was like, 'Ooo, time to cast off! Oh, I forgot to do three rows of garter stitch to finish the border.' But that didn't take too long. Worryingly though, my hands/fingers got really sore towards the end. By the time I finished casting off I was convinced I had arthritis/RSI. I think it's more that I don't usually knit so quickly and constantly for 2 hours in a row (even though Project Runway ended I HAD to stay up and finish the dishcloth I was so close). I must remember to take breaks and stretch my fingers if I'm knitting like that again.

A couple of weekends ago when I was in the Wairarapa for the day my Nana gave me these awesome little scissors she said she has had for years and never uses so thought I might like them.
I love how they're a bird! I don't know anything about birds so I'm not sure what kind of bird they're supposed to be. Maybe a heron? The scissors are really sharp and small and came in a blue velvet case so they are perfect for putting in my knitting bag and carrying around. Thanks Nana!

In the photo they are sitting on a piece of fabric from my ever growing collection of off-cuts on sale in Arthur Toye Fabrics. I can't help it, some days I'm just like, 'Hmmm, seeing as I'm walking past I must just pop into Arthur Toye and see what's in the off-cuts basket'. And then of course I often see something I like and think, 'Well, for only $2/$3/$4/$5 (depending on how rich I'm feeling), how can I not?'. In the back of my mind I think I'm secretly collecting these pieces up for my long desired quilt project. The majority of the pieces so far have been of a similar old-fashioned floral theme. Oh quilt, when will I get brave and make you?

Nana really loved the birthday card I made her. She rang me first thing on Wednesday morning and I said, 'Hey! I'm supposed to ring you! I was just about to!' and she said, 'Well I just opened my parcel and I wanted to say thank you, what a beautiful card, very clever.' So that was an extremely nice warm fuzzies moment. She is down staying with my Mum this week and today they are off to the Ellerslie Flower Show in Christchurch. I think it would be quite a cool event to go even just once, some of the exhibits look amazing.

Speaking of amazing (flawless linking), I am LOVING following Revolt of the Mannequins. Every day I have gone for a walk to see each window and today I am perturbed by the disappearance of the sniper. The detective almost had him in the window of Whitcoulls yesterday but now the detective is in Zambesi and the sniper is nowhere to be found. My favourite, the lovers ( in the window of Stax on Willis Street) has taken a bit of a scary turn that I'm not so happy about. Can't wait to come into town especially to see them tomorrow. I've been trying to take photos but it's hard with the glass in front of them and really, you have to see them up close and experience the changing story to really appreciate them.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Way Knit Was

Today's page from Stephanie Pearl McPhee's Never Not Knitting page-per-day calendar (the one I went on a ridiculous trip to get) was a 'The Way Knit Was' page and it amused me greatly:

"I have too much love for my poor people who obtain their bread by the employment of knitting, to...forward an invention that will tend to their ruin."

- Queen Elizabeth I, explaining why she wouldn't grant William Lee a patent for his knitting machine in 1589.

The 'Darnley Portrait' of Elizabeth I of England,
oil on panel, 113 x 78.7 cm, National Portrait Gallery, London

Of course it's not amusing that there were/are 'poor' people or that William Lee's battle to get a patent for the knitting machine made his life so horrible, but the tone of Queen Elizabeth is just so haughty - 'my poor people'!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Making history

Yesterday afternoon two women from work and I took the afternoon off and went to watch the 82nd Academy Awards on a big screen in the Gold Lounge foyer at Reading Courtenay. You paid $15 for a ticket and got a glass of bubbly and constant canapes throughout the afternoon. It was a lot of fun, I put a flower in my hair, Janet wore her high silver shoes, and Sharon wore a cute yellow scarf to match her cute yellow skirt.

There was a real Oscar statuette there that had been won by one of the Wellington members of The Lord of the Rings production team. His wife was there minding it but we were allowed to pick it up and have photos with it. It was surprisingly heavy!

Here I am, really happy to have won...

And now quite emotional about being recognised by the Academy.

I will definitely go again next year if I can, it was a really nice afternoon. We liked Sarah Jessica Parker's dress and felt that Charlize Theron's was a big mistake.

Then it was Monday night Knitting Circle where another historical event took place. After 6 months, Penny finally finished her first ever knitting project. A cabled scarf.

Here she is weaving the ends in while wearing it.
(Of course the blur is the speed of her hands rather than my poor photography...)

And here is a close-up of the pattern. Very impressive for her first ever scarf and such an awesome colour!

The Baby Knitters Club did not have such a successful evening. I changed to circulars and did my 8 rows casting on 5 stitches at the beginning of each row and somehow ended up with a hole. Anita thinks I did a yarn over instead of a backwards thumb cast-on somewhere along the line. It took me so long to cast on the stitches and knit the 8 rows I couldn't face unpicking the 8 rows and fixing it so I carried on. As Anita pointed out, it's not for any particular baby so it really doesn't matter. It's still annoying though. I want perfection!

The Hole

I'm really going to have to let go of perfection because at this stage it will be a miracle if I ever finish this thing and it has any semblance of the picture on the pattern or a Baby Shrug in general. Especially because when I counted to check I had cast on the right amount at the end of the 8 rows I counted 98, then 88, then 98, then 88 stitches. I went with the 88 because that was the right amount and I didn't want to count again... Overall, it currently looks like a crab and I have no idea how what I'm knitting turns into something you can knit together to make a shrug.

The Crab

Meanwhile, Anita was feeling very bootie confident and marveling at her speed until she cast off and realised she had forgotten to knit rows 9 - 13 which meant her bootie had no sole (and yes, I am appreciating the fact that being a knitter means you get to legitimately say amazing sentences such as 'feeling very bootie confident' and 'her bootie had no sole' and not be talking about Beyonce).

Luckily neither of us are planning on having our own babies anytime soon because we need a lot of practice before we would be able to clothe them in garments that aren't holey or sole-less. However, we shall continue to fight the good fight and potentially conquer these tiny baby creations. Potentially.