A long-distance hug

Family is still family, no matter how far away.

My eldest sister phoned me out of the blue at the end of March to catch up. It was unexpected, but not surprising. We talked about the obvious things: coronavirus, health, family doings, and then on to the important stuff: what we were making. She is a demon knitter. She can knit anything, and always has something amazingly beautiful and complicated on her needles. She’d just finished making a fabulous jacket. I said I wished I could knit, as I’d make myself a shawl for sitting up in bed in winter or with the aircon cranked up high, the way the Husband likes it. We talked about colour. She said she’d have a think about making one for me. And that was that. I didn’t think any more about it.

Yesterday, a box arrived. Strange… I hadn’t ordered anything, and nor had the Husband. But when I opened it, Oh.My.Word. It’s the most gorgeous triangular shawl.

The colours are perfect. The design (her own) is perfect. The size and shape are perfect. The wool is untreated Finlandia Shetland, light, soft and warm. It’s almost as if she’s peeked into my brain and found the most perfect combination. I can’t believe how much work she’s put into it. Apparently, when she reached 600 stitches on her 1.5m circular needle, she stopped counting… It’s worked two-handed, Fair Isle style, apparently. Right over my head, that…

Don’t you love the birds and leaves in the design? And the intarsia on the back is immaculate, making a soft, mottled linear landscape effect. I’d be happy to wear it either side out, except I love the birds best!

I can’t wait for the weather to get cooler so I can wear it all the time. It goes with everything – and look how wonderful it looks with my lovely Bougie Nights quilt!

I don’t need knitwear much in this climate, but a shawl is cosy and versatile, and where a pullover is too hot, this will keep my chilly neck and shoulders warm. It’s a perfect hug from an wonderful sister, who knew exactly what I’d like.

In the end, sisters know you best.

And Another Thing

Sorry about the silence from Chiconia recently…

I’ve been a bit busy recently: visits to the dentist (the usual polish and clean bill of health), the optometrist (new glasses again this year), unpacking more boxes in the sewing room/office area, setting up my new desk, hooking up a large new monitor to my laptop, repairing the Husband’s work clothes. All necessary stuff, but not really post-worthy.

However, the yarny clear-out continues, and a new Thing is evolving. I had 4 x 100g balls of Cleckheaton California 4 ply 100% wool, 2 in the Ocean colourway and 2 in Volcano. Not enough to make anything much with, but gorgeous colours. I also still had 4 balls of the Moda Vera Tarantino in the rust and ochre shade left over from Woolly Thing. So the plan is to make another Thing in the same sort of style but maybe a bit shorter, using the California for the two ends and the Tarantino in the middle: Ocean, Volcano, Rust Rust Rust Rust, Volcano, Ocean. Only time will tell if there’s enough to make anything wearable. If not, it’ll be a really gorgeous huge cushion cover. It’s evening work, for while I’m watching/listening to TV. Also on the agenda is covers for the back porch swing seat cushions, cushion covers for the reclining chairs out there, and still more repairs.

Hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to show you next time!

Finish 2 of 2020: the Woolly Thing

I love those occasional lightbulb moments you get.

They more than make up for the days (and sometimes weeks) of blah that I sometimes feel when faced with current or impending projects.  Having given myself FINISH as my 2020 word, I’ve tasked myself with finishing as many of the stalled, abandoned, unloved and uninspired bits and pieces lurking in the dark corners of my Cupboard of All Colours. Half of the top shelf is the yarny stuff. I don’t knit, I can barely crochet, but I have trouble resisting really nice yarns, especially the tactile ones.

Woolly Thing was started six years ago, and is thoroughly stalled. It’s in two shades of variegated bouclé yarn, and was originally intended to be a large, thick and snuggly shawl for cool evenings, but it’s far too heavy for this climate.. Like so many things, my ambition outspanned my skill, and I abandoned it when it still lacked about 50cms of length. It was too hard, too hot to work on here in north Queensland and so warm, when would I wear it?

Enter the inspiration. I read Margaret’s recent post about the Skye Wrap she made, and the idea was born. I would convert Woolly Thing into a sort of Skye Wrap, but in crochet instead of woollen fabric, unlined, and with a closed shoulder instead of a button shoulder opening. It was already the perfect size. All I had to do was crochet the seam together, leaving enough of an opening for the head to pass through and a slight roll collar to form. It was done in an hour. I wove the ends in. All done. Now, what to do with it?

My friend Dale who lives and blogs in northern NSW, has the same winter climate as I used to have. We enjoy the same casual style of dressing. I thought she might give Woolly Thing a useful home. And she will! I’ll carry it down for her when we head south in mid February. I’m happy to think a sad abandoned project will have a new life keeping her warm in chilly weather.

On with the next thing!


In case anyone’s interested, the yarns are Moda Vera Beauty in Rust (wool/soya/acrylic) and Moda Vera Tarantino in Rust and Purple (wool/acrylic/polyester). Both handwashable at 30°.

On a roll with a roll

I’ve found a small and gentle job on which to reintroduce my squished finger to sewing.

It’s a crochet hook roll for Alys at Gardening Nirvana, a thank you gift for sending me some jumbo crochet hooks from the US, sizes I couldn’t get here. It all started when I was making the chunky denim yarn mat to put in Miz Lizzie, and now that I’m making another mat with ‘plarn’ (plastic bag yarn), the big hooks have come in very useful.

Having very recently sorted my scraps into usable colour order, I was able to dip straight in and select suitable strips in her favoured colours of blue, green and purple. Alys is just starting out with crochet and doesn’t have a huge hook collection (yet!) but I’m sure that if her enthusiasm takes off there will be many more, so I’ve tried to allow for a couple of hooks in several sizes from weeny to big and chunky. There’s also a slot for a small pair of scissors. Fortunately I also had scrap batting in roughly the right size too, so the project came together quickly and easily. The binding around the edge is identical to what I use for quilts, but half an inch narrower for a tidier effect. I’m rather pleased with the whole thing.

The process is pretty simple – I didn’t think about doing it as a tutorial till it was finished, and too late, so sorry about the lack of photos. Hopefully it’s fairly self-explanatory:

  • Make a piece of fabric up using scrap strips, or use whole cloth if you prefer. Make a lining piece or again, use whole cloth. Trim a 1 inch strip off the outer fabric – you’ll need this later. Trim everything so it’s square and straight, and spray baste together in a sandwich with batting in the middle.
  • Make or cut a piece of fabric to form the inner pocket for the hooks. It needs to be at least 3 inches shorter than the roll itself. Bind the top edge of this with the 1 inch strip you cut off the outer fabric, and topstitch down. Lay the pocket piece down onto the inside of the sandwiched fabrics. Pin the left and right edge in place.
  • Take a ruler and quilt marker, and mark out pockets for the scissors and crochet hooks, up and down the full height of the tool roll, from the bottom of the pocket, across the binding and onto the lining fabric. Ensure you create pockets of a variety of sizes.
  • Quilt the lines you have marked through all layers, including the pocket. Trim out the roll to get rid of uneven edges and any threads. Cut a 2 inch wide strip of binding fabric the circumference of the roll plus a few extra inches. Press it in half along its length.
  • Bind the roll with this narrow binding. (I’ve done a binding tutorial elsewhere, which you can find here) I hand-stitched down the inside edge rather than the outer one as I felt this would be more durable. Stitch on a button loop or piece of elastic to the centre of the right hand outer edge. Stitch a button to the approximate vertical and horizontal centre of the outside of the roll. You may need to move it slightly left or right to accommodate something inside, so test with tools in the roll before you finalise the button position.
  • Put tools into roll. Roll up into three sections and secure with button. You’re done!

Now that I know the finger’s up to sewing, I’ll be returning to the projects in hand. It’s time to get quilting on a couple of things, including making a start on the TWX blocks

Chunky denim

I was scuffling about in Miz Lizzie yesterday. As you do…

It struck me that her pale vinyl flooring  was easy to keep clean but a bit hard under foot. A rug was needed. Having handed over large quantities of the Husband’s hard-earned cash to buy her, I didn’t want to go and spend yet more money on a non-essential rug, so obviously, I’d have to make one. What did I have that would be the right colour, and how was I going to make it?

Something I have in large quantities is the Husband’s worn out work clothes, especially the blue denim jeans. They go down at the heels and wear away on the seat and inseam. But there’s nothing much wrong with the legs, or the pockets. Light began to dawn…

One big pair of scissors and one worn out pair of jeans later, I’m here:

denim-crochetI can’t crochet properly. But I can make a chain and then simply hook backwards and forwards along it. I’m using the largest hook I could find, an N or 10mm. The strips are roughly 10-12mm wide – very roughly! I just started cutting at the bottom of the leg and spiraled my way up by eye, no measuring or fancy ruler work. What you see here is one leg crocheted and the other cut into a continuous strip. It’s hard work; the denim is very tough and the seams resist being hooked through, but it does make a gorgeously chunky texture, and my arms are getting a workout.

It’ll make a nice, textural, washable bedside rug in the perfect colour. And that’s another pair of jeans I don’t have to throw away. Recycling in action 🙂

I’ll show you what I’m doing with the pockets another time.

What’ll it be, then?

The decks are cleared, the desk is clean, the sewing machine is defluffed and all the pins are put away. Finally.

Happiness is draped over the back of the sofa, preening itself because it knows it’s the prettiest thing in the room.

I find myself at a slight loss…

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The big question is, which project do I start next? Will I continue crocheting Woolly Thing? Will I start knitting Fluffy Thing?  Will I begin cutting out for Broken Bottles (overdue), or start work on Amistad (self indulgent, but gorgeous). Will I make the other 4 fabric baskets I need for the Cupboard of All Colours (black&white, brown, neutral and multi, yup, boring), or will I start the big scrap sort I need to make the thousands of 2.5″ squares for two scrap quilts for nieces (not urgent).

You’re going to decide for me. If I take your advice and it’s boring, then it’ll be your fault! Result anyway!


Thank you, and I look forward to potentially disregarding your vote. Well, you should be used to that, what with politicians, and all…

Addendum: Some of you have indicated that you can’t see the results. The poll was set up so that you could, and I lay the blame solidly at the feet of WordPress. I will publish the poll results tomorrow so you can all see, so keep voting, because your vote counts, as they say at election time.

Queen of Hearts

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 5.00.58 PMThat’s me. All 100 hearts finished on Happiness.

I’d actually started quilting lines in the white sashing. Stopped. Looked at it. Ripped it all out. I don’t like it. So Happiness is sitting draped over a chair in the living room where I can consider options for holding the layers together a bit more without long lines of quilting. Currently I’m favouring tiny buttons in colours to blend with the squares: blue, aqua, pink, red and yellow. 20 of each, colours distributed fairly randomly, and sewn through all the layers at the sashing intersections. When I say tiny, I mean something about 3/8″ or about 3/4cm. I’m well and truly ready to finish this quilt, and I’m not ready to start another round of complicated quilting, so I’m thinking the buttons will win. If not buttons, then embroidery floss ties.

Screen shot 2014-05-02 at 5.05.47 PMI’ve had a bit more fun with the weeny knitting needles and red wool. Look! Moss stitch, 2k2p ribbing, stockinette and basket stitch. To be frank, I’m starting to hate those tiny needles and am well and truly ready for grown up ones, rather like graduating from training wheels on your bike. But it’s been a fun exercise in very basic pattern reading. I didn’t even rip any of it out… I don’t see any mistakes, but the more expert among you probably will.

There’s one good thing about this knitting lark, which is that I don’t need to do it in my sewing room, I can actually spend time with the Husband, even if I am going “shhh, I’m counting” an awful lot!

Fluffy Thing, here I come…

Screen shot 2014-05-01 at 6.43.01 PMYes, yes, I know I said I was going to finish Happiness before I looked at any knitting. So sue me.

I have found myself unable to resist the fluffy goodness that is my mohair mix yarn. I have found a pattern even an abject beginner such as myself can follow. I even had needles the right size without having to pay a dangerous visit to Spotlight. At the back of my mind is The List. Woolly Thing looks reproachfully at me every time I sit down with hand quilting. I need to get outside and refinish my 3 metre dining table and varnish it. But no, Fluffy Thing is calling…

So, on 6mm needles, I’m going to cast on anywhere between 26 and 36 stitches; I don’t know how wide that’ll turn out till I’ve done it. I definitely want wide, not skinny. Then I’m going to start. Row 1: sl1, k1, yok2tog, yok2tog, yok2tog and so on till the end. Repeat indefinitely, till I think it looks big enough. I have three balls of this yarn, and I’m probably going to keep going till I’ve used it up.

If I was clever, I’d go out and buy circular needles and make a nice triangular shawl, but I’m still at knitting baby steps. Let’s wait and see; I may hate knitting by the time I’ve finished Fluffy Thing. If I don’t hate it, I probably WILL go and buy those circular needles and use my other yarn for the shawl. Of course, I’m going to end up very fluffy myself, but fortunately I don’t live in London or Melbourne any more, and am no longer obliged to wear black on every conceivable occasion. The fluff will blend in nicely with most of my tropical wardrobe!

Back to hand quilting. 72 hearts done, 28 to go. Then it’s the straight stuff, which I will steam through because I don’t have to turn the quilt all the time. Don’t think I’m good for a Friday Finish, but should be good for next week!

The importance of goals

I do not knit.

I understand the theory. I can (just) produce a scarf. I know my knit from my purl. But my actions in bringing these things together do not result in a thing of beauty. Until yesterday I could not cast on properly, I was doing something proper knitters look down on: half hitch casting on. I can cast off. Just about. In knit, not purl. I can’t increase or decrease.

And this is annoying. Because there are fabulous, gorgeous, light, delicate wafty knitted things out that that I want to make. So my challenge to myself is to go from “I do not knit” to producing a delicate wafty thing, without being able to take my knitting to Mum to sort out the mistakes.

This is the Book of Knowledge. Notice the helpful flash on the corner, so I know it’s suitable for me. It’s truly basic, starting with how to hold the needles. It does work up to the clever stuff though…

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 7.50.23 PM

This is what I produced today. I had the red ball of yarn and the cute needles stashed away at the back of a cupboard after someone who didn’t know I couldn’t knit gave them to me for Christmas. I think that long tail casting on’s quite OK, and the stitches seem quite regular. I was holding the needles properly and tensioning the yarn through my fingers (how hard is that stuff? But I have the trick of it now). I was doing it the Right Way. I now know how to count the rows, so I can tell you there are 8 rows of 28 stitches. Tomorrow I may try a little light ribbing instead of just stockinette stitch.

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 7.50.40 PM

This is what I want to be capable of. Not much of an ask, I’m sure you’ll agree! I look at the pictures and go “pretty!”. I look at the words and diagrams and go “pretty scary!”.

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 7.51.04 PM

And this is my goal – something delicate and wafty. If not this exact thing, then something similar. Maybe I’ll use my multicoloured mohair yarn… or maybe by the time I get there the moths will have munched it up and I’ll need to find something else to make it from.

Screen shot 2014-04-30 at 7.51.19 PM

But there’s a long way to go before I get there, not least of which is learning how to read a pattern without scaring the pants off myself. And it’s going to have to wait till I’ve finished Happiness. I have just quilted square number 52. I’m over halfway. I may finish the hearts for the Friday Finish, but probably not the straight lines…

How’s your midweek going?


Sunday Stash

I don’t do these very often, since I try not to buy stash items every week.

Mostly I succeed. But there was a sale on at Spotlight yesterday, with 40% off all yarn and lots off a wide variety of fabrics.  So, yes, I succumbed. Not a huge surprise.

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 5.40.04 PMThis is my yarn haul. Since I have no idea what I want to make, just that I liked the feel and the colour, I didn’t buy much. The big balls are 100% pure wool 8 ply, 100g each. The bluey/greeny/purply ones are a colour called Ocean, and the brown/purple/ orange/charcoal ones are Volcano. I’m interest to see what happens when they meet in one place!

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 5.40.21 PMThe small balls are an acrylic/mohair/wool mix, in 50g balls. No colour name, just a number. But I couldn’t resist the sweet spring colours. You’d think the climate here would put me off yarn. Nope…

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 5.40.41 PMThis is 90cm of pink and white patterned lawn, reduced from $15 a metre down to $4.50 a metre.  I could not resist. I’m thinking more hankies. There was a gorgeous black and white print, but still at the full price of $18 a metre. I didn’t buy any, but now I’m hankering for it.  It was a mid size print of ginkgo leaves in black and grey on a white background. Lovely!

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 5.40.56 PMThese are fat quarters for an as-yet undecided project. You could get 5 FQs for $10, another bargain. I love these colours together; I think it’s going to be a couple of cushion covers or a table cloth. It’s not enough to make anything larger unless I start adding different colours which I don’t really want to do. That acid green is just brilliant – I can almost taste lemon drops!

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 5.41.24 PMAnd finally, the white cambric broderie anglaise trim I’ll be using for my posh white nightie. I looked at lace and didn’t like any of it much – there was too much nylon and not enough cotton for my liking. This will be softer and less scratchy but will add a bit of girly detailing.  I’m going to make the shoulder straps and neck finish of white 1″ bias binding, and this will sit along the binding.