Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ducking and weaving

This is something I made at a conference I was at recently. They had a parallel session of basket weaving/textile arts - one woman had recently graduated from Charleas Darwin Uni in fine art and makes very contemporary pieces of jewellry, baskets and human and animal forms out of woven recycled plastics, yarn, sticks, washed up fishing nets etc. The other two women were Indigenous and using traditioning weaving techniques and natural fibres. This little piece I made is made from pandanas (palm) leaf, which was collected, torn using a thumb nail into strips and dyed using natural ochre and boiled in a billy can over coals by other people at the conference the day before I sat down to use them to weave with. The tricky bit was getting started - you have to make a little round bit in the middle (a bit like with crochet I think?)and then you keep making the same kind of stitch but binding on to the row before. You use a wide eyed darning type needle and need to keep the srands of fibre kind of moistened - not actually wet but just not so dry in the crackling heat of the sun that they start to break and fall apart. Filcking them with water or dipping your finger tips into a little saucer of water every so often seems to do the trick. I decided to make mine into a pendant to wear - which is why it has the little loop, to put a cord through. That was mostly because I knew that it would have taken me a whole extra day to get it to a basket size, and I didn't want a placemat. I love it a lot, and it reminds me of sitting on a tarp, under shade, next to women who I would otherwise have never met, being encouraged, seeing deft hands make short work of something that I struggled with, listening to Aboriginal languages being spoken, hearing noise in the distance and kids larking about and the smell of a fire smouldering, and not being in a talky thinky session indoors, and that ever so slight excitement of having stepped outside the bounds of everyday, and that ever so slightly shocking intimacy of sitting next to other people on the ground all trying to learn something, and the quiet talk that happens when your hands are busy.

Cardy hardy

That title doesn't even make sense. Oh well. I couldn't think of any witty card puns you see. But... I have been inspired to make cards - you know, greeting cards, blank on teh inside, for farewelling and hello-ing. Pictures below are for a little run of about 5 I did. Used nice pigment ink, waterprrof, fade proof black rollerball nibbed ink pen, and then watercolour. Fine cartridge. Cut them out and glued onto textured heavier weight watercolour card.


So last week I had the chance to go to a friend’s ‘knit in’. What is a knit in I hear you ask? Well bloody good question – I’d never been to one before and wasn’t exactly sure either. It was seven women, several bottles of good red wine, snacks, music, comfortable chairs, and sticks and thread – knitting needles, crochet hooks, wool, acrylic yarn. For close to 4 hours we sat and chatted, got to know each other (the women all knew the host but we didn’t all know each other), nibbled, drank, told stories, and laughed. I heard about pets and career changes and life changing accidents, and neighbours and travel and good boot stores. I heard snippets of conversation about the who’s who of my industry, about other knitting projects, about boyfriends left overseas, about job dreams, about lifting weights in the gym. I saw the resident cat come and hunt a ball of wool and stalk off with it, saw other things my friend has made recently, and had my first crochet lesson (I did some! 3 stitches to two, take off the second, start again... hmm, made sense at the time)… I toe tapped to George Michael and I almost finished a knitted square for the Wrap with Love project (see below – I seem obsessed with it, every second post is about my emerging blanket at the moment!). All of the squares started that night were for the blanket project – so I got to take them away at the end because I will be going near the drop off point this week anyway. Ah, because you see, this Friday at the ABC on Harris Street in the City, there is the annual ‘knit in’ of grand proportions. Starts really early I think, and you get to knit in company, or help sew up the existing squares.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my mum has joined in and posted me a parcel of amazing squares she’s knitted – lovely soft, hairy, stripy, colourful squares (her knitting is so even compared to mine, not a dropped stitch anywhere!), my housemate is knitting one on the diagonal (you know, where you increase every row until you’ve made a triangle and it’s half the size you want your square to be and then decrease every row to go back to the pointy end of the triangle at the bottom) using up the scraps of wool in stripes. I was going for a pink and green theme, and had planned to stitch it up myself and give the blanket finished to the group that organises it, but I am trying different colour combos with the extra squares that other folk have made (pics below). I’m thinking I’ll be able to sew up a blanket and have loose squares left over, which other people can use in theirs for Friday’s knit in.

Funny starting something yourself and then considering how to include other people’s contributions – am reflecting on my own control-freak tendencies, and (sure completely subjective) aesthetic boundaries. I don’t mind so much exactly what colours end up in it (fibber – I kind of do), but I want it to look nice, and cared for and not too scrappy, so that whoever ends up getting it doesn’t think it was done without thought. I had been thinking it would be nice to make it the way I’d like something to snuggle up with on a cold night – but maybe this is missing the point a bit? Maybe people who are out in the cold because of loosing their homes wont care if it doesn’t look like a ‘throw for the couch’ and instead wont even notice the colour scheme because they will be in temporary accommodation and have bigger things on their mind. This is probably obvious – but it’s easy to forget that perspective when you’re choosing wool and casting on in front of the tellie ion a warm room. Mind you, one of the squares knitted on Saturday night (by the most lovely lady) was kind of scratchy, brown flecks with a thick yellow stripe up one end, and actually a rectangle. I have tried, but don’t think I can include it in my pink and green (/blue/orange/maybe fawn) project. I’m sure though, that along with some other rusty colours, or in a completely rainbow, beautiful eclectic blanket it will look great.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Rapt with love

Well my wraps with love project hasn't progressed all that far yet. So far I've done 6 squares (takes 28 to make a blanket) but I think my mum has been doing some too and will send them to me to add. Also at a conference last week a woman I know through work was talking about teaming up to do some at our 2 workplaces - an idea I like. So it might end up being more than one blanket!

The pattern is on their website (see previous post) and involves 10 inch by 10 inch squares knitted on 4mm needles, using 8ply wool/yarn. Mine are a bit shonky because I only have 4.5mm needles, so I cast on less stitches and hoped for the best. I figure as long as I finish teh whole blanket it wont matter that my squares are a wee bit stretchier than other folk's. Right?

Going for a green and pink colour theme, which I thought would be nurturing and cheery for someone cold and away from home.

Slippery snakes

Aren't these lovely? My mum made them to take to my little brother's kindy as a craft project with the kids. She cut and sewed them the day before, and glued on their felt eyes and tongue (she opted out of button eyes because of the potential choke hazard). The fabric is an old yellow cotton sheet for their undersides, and a sequiny print fabric on their backs. Stuffed with the standard pillow stuffing.

She stitched them up inside out all the way around except for a small hole for little hands to fit in, took the stuffing, and the teachers and we sat with the kids and helped them stuff them. Then we hand sewed the gap while the kids went and did other things (played outside, read books). It was a lovely idea, and a nice way to hang out and see my little brother with his kindy friends. Watching the kids have snake races, dance with the snakes, and arrange the snakes in the reading corner was lovely.

Pasta almost counts as craft

Truly! Made this on the weekend - fresh spinach fettuccini, using my pasta machine, which I love. Just steamed one bunch of coarsely chopped spinach, let it cool in the liquid I cooked it in, mashed some more with a hand masher, and then used the kind of soupy broth as the liquid in the pasta. At first it seems like there will be big green blobs, but as you work the dough, pass it through the rollers etc, it becomes much more evenly coloured, and gets that very exciting extra special silky fresh pasta feel. Also did some plain dough and made pumpkin ravioli, with roast pumpkin, zucchini and finely chopped and sauteed onion and garlic. Yum!