Thursday, 3 September 2020

Coping with the new normal

I notice with some embarassment that my last post was 3 months ago and I can only blame the uncertainty of the times, the fact that I've just not had the motivation to weave and also the reports I've read on other blogs about the challenges with the updated Blogger

So what have I been doing?

Feverishly checking coronavirus news updates, especially as the numbers started to rise in Victoria to the point where we are now in Stage 4 lock down, basically confined to our homes except for essential shopping, medical care, exercise (1 hour per day) and caring for others. We have to stay within 5 km/3 miles of home and if we do go out, mask wearing is mandatory.  So the first thing I did was make another 31 masks for me and for family and friends. 

I think I'm up to about 55 in total and I haven't had to buy anything.  They don't take much fabric and I can't see any discernable size reduction in the stash

I finished the shawl I had started in the last post.  It turned out well even though it was just plain weave. I've had no opportunity to wear it as we're not allowed to go anywhere

I've also been doing some spinning, starting with some rose fibre roving.


Once it was spun I realised that it would work with some rose/cotton yarn and decided to go with an overshot pattern.  I started using it as a single but wasn't happy with the way it looked. 

I knew full well that the hand spun pattern yarn wasn't really thick enough but rather than fix it, I found other projects.  Maybe I was waiting for the yarn to spontaneously become thicker but strangely nothing happened.  Eventually common sense prevailed , I undid the first few inches, and Navaho plied the pattern weft.  It's working well now although I'm not quite sure whether it will end up as a scarf or a runner, probably depends on how it ends up once it's finished. 

There's enough warp for 2 but probably not enough of the handspun weft so the second one will have to be different

I had a braid of indigo dyed sock blend - superwash wool with nylon. There were some undyed areas and I wanted to blend the blue and the white. I spun it finely with the intention of making a 3 ply sock yarn. The colours blended nicely and it ended up finer and softer than I expected, probably a bit too fine and soft to wear well as a sock and too nice to be hidden inside a shoe. I moved on to Plan B which was a scarf or cowl. I found Lyn Dell's's Corona Cowl on Ravelry.  The cowl was based on a Barbara Walker lace called 'Corona', from the days when it still had its original meaning of 'crown'. Once I read Lyn's description - poking pointy sticks into something called Corona - I was hooked and very happy with the final result. 

As I expected it was too soft and pretty to hide in a shoe.  There was enough left over to make another and I used a pattern from an old Mon Tricot book - must have been old, I only paid $4.95 for it.

Work has been on and off depending on the restrictions.  We were almost back to normal in June but as the numbers stated to rise and more restrictions were added business fell away again.  We are classed as essential under Stage 4 but only for emergencies such as a sore painful eye, loss of vision or broken glasses and while wearing a face mask and shield.  As well as that we have to constantly sanitise everything. I've had to buy 'hospital strength' disinfectant and have a suspicion that there's been a bit of price gouging going on. It's a challenge working around the protective equipment and trying to see through the foggy glasses as well as equipment that's equally foggy.  Every day brings a new challenge but we're still seeing people with problems and just have to manage as well as we can

Towards the end of the first lockdown I was beginning to get fitter, walking longer distances and exploring parts of the local walking trails I hadn't seen before. Then I developed a sore knee - my physio thinks it's the result of too much walking.  I'm doing the exercises and gradually getting back to walking.  While it's officially still winter, there are definite signs of spring.  The wattles are coming out,

it makes up in the vast numbers of the tiny flowers.  

The smaller coot chick is now a strapping adolescent and the larger one almost indistiguishable from the adults, so my earlier concerns about them making it through the winter were unfounded.  I was down at the pond looking for the coots recently when something else swam past. It looked like a small animal, perhaps an otter, to me and also to a man who was watching as well. His partner was sure it was a duck.  We don't have otters in Australia and I couldn't believe that it could be a platypus so close to the city.  Once I got home I did a little homework and realised that it was probably a Rakali or native water rat, sometimes called the Australian otter.  I'd never seen one in the wild but now I'm looking for it every time I visit the pond.

Clearly life doesn't stop for the coots I've been watching.  I noticed the other day that one of them was busy building a nest of reeds in the middle of the pond, must be time to lay more eggs.  While I had been worried about the last lot of chicks making it through the winter, the coots must know what they are doing if they are building their nest in the middle of the pond where they would be safe from most predators.

While I'm on the subject of birds, one of the attractions a couple of hours from Melbourne is the nightly penguin parade where the little penguins come ashore every night.  With the lock down, no visitors are allowed so they're now live streaming it every night.  Obviously it's better if you can go there but it's much warmer watching from the comfort of home and they are very cute.  I love the way a few will come out of the water, look to see how many others there are and if it's not a penguin's idea of a quorum, they go back into the water until a few more are ready to walk up the beach.  

See it here:

Not sure what all the fuss was abut with the new Blogger, it didn't seem too bad to me apart from spaces but then I like to be fussy about layout

Til next time



Sunday, 10 May 2020

At Last

I have finally finished my mystery shawl. 

Once I’d started it again, I kept the stripes much the same until I ran out of the lighter colour and knitted off the stitches with the simple border from the Gracie shawl in Myrna Stahman’s book

I thought about making an emergency trip to Bunnings for essential goods – stainless steel rods for blocking – but remembered that I’d read somewhere that whipper snipper line worked as well.  There was some in the garage and it worked just fine. 

A few days after I finished it, someone posted a shawl they’d made from the Dragonfly Wings pattern on Ravelry and something clicked. I checked the original pattern and I think that is indeed where I started. The garter stitch tab rang a bell and I think I decided to put the garter stitch rows where the colour changed and then just broke off the yarn to keep the colour stripes even.  Mystery solved even if the finished shawl looks nothing like Dragonfly Wings!

At last there’s finally some action on the weaving front. I’ve been finding simple knitting very relaxing in these uncertain times and wondered if the same applied to weaving.  I’ve had no desire to work on the complicated tea towels on the big loom.  There was just enough of the plain colour of the shawl yarn left to make a warp and I found a skein of handspun that co-ordinated well

so I wound the warp this afternoon and will get it on the small loom for a simple plain weave shawl tomorrow.

That’s all of the yarn used and a knitted shawl and a hopefully a woven one to show for it with almost none left over

I’ve managed to walk most days making sure I check on the baby coots while I’m out.  They are growing.  Here they are 2 days ago

and again today.

It’s not easy taking photos when the sun is out so sorry the adult’s tail is missing,  but enjoy the ripples on the water.

I commented earlier that after heavy rain there were rapids on the creek but I had never seen people who thought it was suitable for white water rafting until yesterday when I was very surprised to see this. I'm sure it's not safe and while there are lots of signs forbidding various activities, I don't think that white water rafting is specifically forbidden

I was moved to make a loaf of bread this week. 

I haven’t made bread for many years so was pretty pleased with this result and it tastes great

I have finished shredding all the old meeting papers, found a few things there that were probably better shredded than sent to the tip whole.  All I have to do now is clean up

That's all for today


Sunday, 26 April 2020

What do you call a baby coot?

Life in isolation just rolls on and I still don't seem to be achieving nearly as much as I thought I would.

I have been trying to walk every day and have managed to get out most days even though the walking tracks are very busy.

I have been visiting the water birds regularly - they're just at the end of my street and over the bridge.  I've discovered that they are not Dusky Moorhens which have red beaks but Eurasian Coots with white beaks.  I couldn't decide whether their young were chicks or ducklings but apparently they are known as Cooties - who knew? 

There are 2 adults and 2 cooties - not sure if they are a family or 2 single mothers - but they are making good progress and getting bigger. 

Probably just as well so late in the season.

I have finished the cardigan I started at least 4 years ago, and the wool was even older as I had started to knit a different jumper before I pulled it out and started this one.  It had a nice bath in eucalyptus wool wash, both the stain and the smell from its time in the gutter are gone.

Caramel from Ravelry if you need the details.

I got out the mystery shawl and despite a lot of tidying, the pattern didn't re-appear.  I looked at it carefully and worked out from what I had already done, what the pattern might be.  I've started again, it might not be exactly what I was doing at the beginning but it will be pretty close. 

The only problem now is how to stop.  I wonder how much I should knit and how to finish it off.  I'm thinking that I'll just knit off the edge stitches with a garter stitch band to match the band along to other edge.

I've noticed that there's a lot more action on the blog list than normal.  That's probably not a surprise as we've all got more spare time than usual.  I've been grateful for some of the ideas and surprised by how similar some things are.

I read Kate Davies at needled who shared her Oatcake recipe and I had to make some.  They taste just fine but next time, and there will be a next time, I'll follow the directions more carefully and toast the seeds before I add them.

Peg over at Weaving a Gem of a Life has been out writing on the sidewalk/pavement/footpath with chalk.  Not just in the US, this is what I found on the path leading the the cooties the other day.

Callie  at Bonny Claith has been having trouble with her electrical appliances but I can assure her it's not just in Scotland.  A few weeks ago I was rudely awoken by my burglar alarm going off for no apparent reason, about an hour after I went to sleep.  Fortunately my electrician was able to solve the problem over the phone.  A few days later the picture on my TV disappeared, the sound was just fine and it took me quite a while to get it back to normal.  Today the control panel for the heater has gone blank so there's no heating and it is getting cold enough to need it.

I'm now on to the third of the tea towels, I've managed to do just 2 repeats.  There might be a bit more weaving this week because there is a heater out in the garage and it might well be warmer out in the garage than in the house. 

I think I've worked out why I'm doing so little weaving with a bit of help from Daryl Lancaster at Daryl's Blog.  She was talking about how she works best under pressure and I suddenly realised that at present I'm under absolutely no weaving pressure at all.  Markets are cancelled for the forseeable future, so no need to make heaps of stock. The Sheep Show is also cancelled until 2021.  No opportunity to replenish the stash there this year and no need to start working on some thing for the competitions.  The local Complex Weavers were planning an exhibition for the middle of the year, also postponed til 2021, so no deadlines there either.  

I have been working on tidying up my study - I started to do it about 12 months ago but stalled.  I have started working on a mountain of shredding  and have made good progress on filing heaps of weaving notes.  I can't say I keep perfect notes but there is usually a draft, a tie up and sometimes even a project sheet.  I have almost got it to the point where I can refer to the notes from last project if I decide to make something similar.

It's definitely Autumn.  The Mushrooms in the park are doing well

and my Sasanqua camellias went from this

to this in just a few days

Then the Japanese anemones joined in as well

That's about it for now.  I need to get an early start in the morning, hopefully I will be able to find someone who can sort out my heating


Friday, 17 April 2020

I wonder what day it is

EDIT: There is an issue with Blogger, which is causing photos to be replaced with a minus sign in a circle.  I have just replaced them but wonder if they will stay

Despite my best intentions to blog more often, over a week has passed with no post and not much progress on other projects either.  I blame it on the general feeling of being unsettled, something that is affecting most of us at the moment.

I have been walking almost every day.  Today I saw two moorhens with chicks.

It's well into Autumn here, probably too late for chicks so small but I was amused when one of the adults dived for a tasty morsel for the chick's lunch - it was the middle of the day - offered it to the chick, who probably like many other young local residents, gave it the 'I'm not eating that for lunch' look, made me laugh.

Here's a few more of the local water birds,                                                        

Pacific Black ducks on the left, a Dusky Moorhen like the ones with the chicks in the middle with a rather splendid Purple Swamphen behind it and a couple of Wood ducks on the right.

Just to prove it's Autumn, there are acorns on the Pin Oaks                                

and on the English Oaks                                                                                  

as well a a few sunny paper daisies.                                                                 

I wonder what the story is behind this poor lost zebra, resting on a post.

When I went past a few days later, it was gone, hopefully re-united with its proper owner.

It's amazing how busy it is on the walking/bike path.  I think many of the locals are in training for the Tour de France (don't they know it's been cancelled), more a Tour de Fleece person myself.  I had to wait for 8 cyclists and a dog to pass when I wanted to cross the path, so I've been going along the gravel paths where it's quieter and safer.

I have done a lot of knitting.  My jacket is almost finished, just a couple inches left on the second sleeve, then a bath to get rid of the gutter stain and smell and blocking.  I was a bit anxious about getting the right size needles for the sleeve, knitted in the round.  About the same time as I bought the bathers and the headband mentioned in a previous post, I knitted this magnificent Scandinavian jumper from a Villawool pattern - that was really great yarn.

It was an interesting construction - it was knitted in the round from the bottom, all the way to the shoulders.  After that the shoulders were grafted, the armholes were steeked and the sleeves knitted in the round. At this  point there was no going back. Once I had opened up the armholes I was finally able to try it on and found to my dismay that it was far too tight - I thought it was because I knitted more tightly doing plain in the round than regular stocking stitch or maybe it was the colourwork.  Whatever the cause, I finished it and gave it to a smaller friend.  It was of course a lesson I never forgot, but in the end, I found a set of needles the same size as I had used for the rest of the cardigan.  The only other ones in the stash were much larger or much smaller so I just went with what I had and the sleeves were just fine, pictures next time.

I have been doing some sewing. I made a set of masks for my family in Los Angeles. 

I posted them before Easter but there has been no update on the tracking website, maybe they are still at the local post office.  I do hope there are still cargo planes flying to the US.

I made a few more for the window display at work.  Even though we don't have to wear masks, a lot of people are, and I wanted the window models to fit in.

I've been in to work a couple of times but it's been very quiet so I've been trying to get some admin tasks sorted.  I ran into trouble when I had to verify my ID for a government document and found that for the 4 verification sources they suggested, my name was slightly different on each one.  The worst was my birth certificate, where in answer to the question 'name and whether present or not', I found that my name was 'Helen, not present'. Imagine not realising that my surname was 'not present' for all this time.  No wonder the powers that be are having trouble working out just who I am.  They are ringing back, I wonder how long that would take.

I have just about finished with the damage from the hailstorm back in January, seems like years ago.  I had the painter here yesterday and this morning. It all looks much better.  Just after he'd gone next door to work on my neighbour's painting, I heard footsteps on my roof and thought he'd come back but it was the tiler come to replace the 20 to 30 tiles broken in the storm.  There's only a little paperwork to finalise the insurance claim and it will all be complete.

I wish I could tell you that the tea towels are off the loom.  They're not.  I have finished the blue one and have done just one repeat of the next which is grey.  I hope I'll be able to report more progress next time


Saturday, 4 April 2020

A more productive day

I might be getting used to not rushing off to work although today seemed like a waste of a good Saturday - all the things I feel that I miss out on by working til 2 on Saturday were closed, so I wasn't able to do them anyway.  It may only take a few more days before I give up even trying to work out what day it is.  Every day is feeling like a Sunday, it's the only day I'm home all day.

I managed to do my hip exercises and got a walk in, between showers.  With a lot of rain overnight, I wanted to see how much the creek had risen so I went downstream today. Yesterday was the upstream view. There are several bridges, possibly very loosely inspired by Monet,

but it’s very hard to get a good photo of them. 

If you look very carefully,

I live on the other side of the creek and across the field.

In the middle of summer this part is quite dry

but today it was almost ready for a little white water rafting and there were lots of people and their dogs checking it out.

I've made a little progress on the next tea towel, Nassau Blue this time.

I'm getting the hang of the treadling, not enough to do it without checking each few picks, but enough to know when I've made a mistake.

Way back in 1964 or 65, I bought new bathers that came with an excellent headband, just the thing to keep my hair out of the way when I wash my face,  The bathers are long gone, not surprisingly, but the head band, used every day, is beginning to wear out.  Things just don't last these days.  I saw a pattern for jersey headbands recently and decided, reluctantly, that it was probably time to pension off the 1964/5 model.  I now have 2 new headbands, took all of 15 minutes to make, I wonder what took me so long

The knitted cardigan is progressing well, have just started the last blue stripe, then another 6 cm and the band. That will just leave the sleeves, haven't checked for the right needles yet

That's it for today


Friday, 3 April 2020

Day 2

Here I am at the end of the second day of self isolation and not getting nearly as much weaving done as I would have expected.  The rose tea towel is finished and when the bobbin ran out on the hem of the next one, I decided that was enough for one day.

I did achieve one task - I washed all my work jackets and put them away in the cupboard, and put all the makeup away in the bathroom drawer.  The new normal doesn't include formal jackets or makeup every day.

I look out over a park and on the far side is a creek and a walking track.  As we're still allowed out to exercise and it was a beautiful autumn day, I went to check out the creek, here's what I saw while I was out.  I started on the bike path, 

With the creek on the other side

Further up it opens out to a very small lake.  There are usually lots of ducks and moorhens but not so many today.  When I got home I saw in the paper that they had found some dead fish there this morning but there was no sign of them when I was there, probably explains the lack of birds

One of my favourite parts is this small bridge, and the bike riders tend not to go along this track so it's much quieter

On the other side of the bridge there's a very nice patch of bull rushes - I could make some rustic baskets from them although I'm sure I'm not allowed to pick them

At the end of the track, there's another small lake with quite a few ducks, maybe they'd come here because it was cleaner

I managed to get more knitting done and realised that I'm already close to the end of the body.  I do hope that I've got the right size double pointed needles in the stash to finish the sleeves.

When people started stock piling a few weeks back, I decided to plant more lettuce seedlings.  I'm now congratulating myself for this and here's a small basket of fresh (organic) produce from the garden. 

Enough leaves for a salad, the last of the tomatoes and some figs, at least I won't get scurvy.  The fig crop is great this year and the rainbow lorikeets are having a wonderful fig party.  They're welcome to the ones on the top of the tree, just wish they'd leave the ones on the lower branches for me

That's it for today