Friday, December 31, 2010

Better Cowl

We're off to New Zealand in September for the Rugby World Cup.  A cowl that keeps my neck and head warm will be of more use than a scarf and hat and it needs to be light weight as luggage weights are tight.

As the alpaca cowl didn't meet all of those requirements, I looked for another pattern.  The Imagination Cowl from Knitpicks was just the thing.

Knitted in Moda Vera Noir sock yarn (bought for less than $6 a ball at Scablight last Christmas sales), it took all of two x 100 gram balls.

I mistook the pattern initially but the flared lower edge works brilliantly and sits over my shoulders, while the ruching pattern keeps it close enough to the neck and face for warmth without strangulation.

This one is a winner.

The pattern is free.  It is Ravelled here and on the Knitpicks website here.

Mulberry scrumping

We went to a very special birthday morning tea for an old friend at the beginning of December.

Held at Canberra's oldest and quite posh hotel, we raced in a little late and breathless.  I apologised for our tardiness, but explained we'd spotted a ripe mulberry tree on the way in.  We were forgiven - our host and hostess had also seen it and fully understood the call of free and unattended fruit and were anticipating a visit on the way out.

We popped back in the early evening and collected a kilo of the very small but tasty fruit.  It became a mulberry and (donated) loquat crumble that evening.  Tonight we eat the last of it from the freezer.

Since then, a colleague of TOF's invited us around to help clear up her mulberry tree.  From that we made about 20 jars of the most delicious jam.  It's our first time with mulberries, but it won't be the last.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Alpaca Cowl

Knitted while we were up north with Mum this year.  It's a very easy pattern, but I am universally acknowledged as lace challenged and spent a good deal of time tinking this. 

Starting it in the car was not the best decision.

I used stash 5ply pure alpaca.  The ends curl and could have done with a few more rows of garter stitch.  Also it's not long enough to adequately cover the back of the neck while simultaneously keeping the ears warm.  Really needs another pattern repeat.  As it is, it will make a lovely neckwarmer. and fulfills my other requirements - lightweight and warm.

The pattern is the Fresco Basket Whip Cowl.  It is Ravelled here and free online here

Monday, December 27, 2010

Seven Things - Week 7


I will not complain about gifts.  They are tokens of appreciation and love and are treasured as such.  It would be churlish to resent thoughtful gifts just because I'm limiting my acquisitiveness.  Giving gifts is a joy and so is receiving them.

Most of the gifts we gave this year were consumables or gift certificates.  The kids are of an age where cash or iTunes vouchers etc. are best received, and most of the adults have enough stuff or prefer to buy their own but enjoy a bottle of something special be it alcohol, perfume or preserves. 

Is this a cop out with gift giving?  I don't think so.  The people I love get gifts throughout the year.  When I find something I think they'll like I buy it or make it for them.  The thought that goes into giving a gift, goes on all year.  I find it really difficult to buy on demand, particularly at Christmas, so the Christmas gifts are nods to the season more than anything else.

  • 1 pr shoes - Rocket Dog Mary Janes from Vinnies just in time to replace my old ones which died.  It's this sort of coincidence that helps me keep going with the challenge.  The universe really will provide when I need something, I do not need to keep unused items "just in case".
  • 1 knitting accessory - Vinnies
  • 1 pr boots - GIFT
  • 1 Tupperware container - GIFT
  • 1 washing machine
  • 1 hand trolley (to deal with washing machine as I've stuffed my hip gardening - an extreme sport in my book)
  • 1 TV/DVD player for the caravan
  • 2 hand towels - GIFT
  • 5 Tupperware playdough stamps- GIFT
  • 2 cook books - OP SHOP/GIFT
  • 2 bars handmade soap - GIFT
  • 3 decorative items - GIFTS
  • 2 Tupperware containers - GIFT
  • 5 prs jeans - OP SHOP/GIFT
  • 3 prs dress pants - OP SHOP
  • 6 blouses.  For work I wear a uniform (well a prescribed shirt or cardie which go best over black) so a plain dress or separates is my working week uniform with either jeans or cut-offs and a couple of shirts on the weekend.  I think I can be much more rigorous in the clothes culling and just keep a few things for "good".  - OP SHOP
  • 1 pin tray - OP SHOP
  • 1 glass jar (almost done with the buttons) - OP SHOP
  • 2 folders - OP SHOP
  • 2 prs handknitted socks - GIFTS
  • 2 boxes copy sheet protectors.  We go through these at work like I would go through chocolate if I had a different metabolism. DONATION
  • 1 stapler.  I don't need so many of these in the house.  This is a nice big heavy one and it's going to work - DONATION
  • 4 triangular bandages.  Remnants of my time with St John Ambulance.  Was going to use the fabric for pocket linings etc, but haven't and they are just hanging around - OP SHOP.
  • 12 reusable plastic cups - OP SHOP
  • 40 plastic sandwich boxes - OP SHOP
  • 17 baby-sized plastic coathangers - OP SHOP
  • 1 pr vintage leather gloves, lovely but too small - OP SHOP
  • 1 sketchograph - OP SHOP
  • 1 canasta set - OP SHOP
  • 1 book - OP SHOP
  • 3 Tupperware containers - OP SHOP
  • 1 sleeping bag liner, too small - OP SHOP
  • 9 crochet patterns - OP SHOP
  • 4 lengths fabric - OP SHOP
  • 5 embroidery transfers - OP SHOP
  • 1 Tupperware lid - OP SHOP
  • 8 crochet hooks - GIFT
  • 2 magazines - OP SHOP
  • 1 pillowcase - OP SHOP
  • 1 apron - OP SHOP
  • 1 plastic coat hanger - RECYCLING
  • 1 singlet, beyond redemption - BIN
  • 2 notebooks - OP SHOP
  • 1 scrubbie - GIFT
  • 6 polo shirts - OP SHOP
  • 8 old jumpers that would not felt - BIN
  • 1 washing machine - METAL RECYCLERS
  • 1 bench top grill. We decided to take these to the METAL RECYCLERS and see what we could get for them.  At $0.05, a large washing machine and the grill fetched the grand total of $1.25.  Would have cost more in petrol to get it there.
  • 1 pr shoes- BIN.  My Mary Janes died but the karma bank replaced them immediately from Vinnies.
  • 1 pr shoes, navy loafers that pinch - OP SHOP
  • 1 satellite navigation unit.  TOF's old one given to my brother GIFT
  • 1 biscuit tin - OP SHOP
  • 1 hanging organiser for wardrobe - OP SHOP
  • 2 jumpers - OP SHOP
  • 1 knitted scrubbie
  • 2 knitted cowls (these were knitted, but now they are blocked)
IN 9
OUT 176

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Sort Out Starts

I won't check in every day on how I'm going with this challenge, but I need to celebrate my achievements and keep myself accountable.  A cheer squad might help in a couple of weeks' time when my enthusiasm wanes.
  • Half the ironing backlog done
  • washing up to date
  • Kitchen sink discovered under load of coffee mugs and cereal bowls
  • Pork, turkey and lamb cooked for tomorrow
  • 6 jars of old and runny plum jam turned into 5 jars chilli plum sauce
  • 2 cowls blocked
  • Jam and chutney under Mum's house sorted by type and date
  • Jars and bottles under Mum's house sorted into size and unusable jars disposed of  - ready to come home once my storage is sorted
  • Outs to op shop with only two ins in exchange
  • Presents wrapped


Sort-it-out Summer

I'm on leave from my paid job until 1 February. Nearly 6 weeks to get stuff done.

My peripatetic lifestyle (weeknights at Taph Towers, weekends Chez TOF with morning and evening sessions at Mum's to do whatever needs doing) has meant that I don't seem to have the time to do all the things I want to do, or if I have the time, the tools I need are somewhere else. And housework - once I've done Mum's I'm not all that bothered about it elsewhere. So there's a backlog of things to do. And now is the time to get my house in order - quite literally.

Here's a cut-down list of what I'd like to achieve. I don't expect it will all get done, but I do aim to advance all of it. The priorities are organising the storage under my house and clearing out some of Mum's, paving at TOF'S and curtain making.

• TOF’s lounge room cut and paste
• Caravan nets
• Caravan wovens cut down and remade
• Taph Towers linen for master bedroom
• Taph Towers hang lounge room
• Taph Towers cut down cream from lounge room for other two bedrooms

• Clean and tidy inside (constant)
• Tupperware cupboard reorganisation
• Pantry reorganisation
• Under house storage complete organisation
• Reorganise studio

• Clear out under house (well get rid of the obvious stuff at least)
• Recook jams
• Reclaim jars
• Fabric sort
• Yarn sort

• Set up priorities for next 6 months
• Fleeces to be cleaned and carded
• Finish off stuff (constant)
• Make "yarn" for braided rugs for van
• Make recycled wool rugs for bedroom

• all of it

• Preserves as and when
• rotate deep freeze

• Weed
• Prune
• Fertilise

• Sort
• Clean
• Lay

Monday, December 20, 2010

Seven Things - Week 6

The arrival of the pavers has shifted my focus somewhat. 

We have to sort the pavers into the clean and the to-be-cleaned (ie have concrete smashed off them), and stack them in orderly piles not too far from where they will be laid and leave enough room for the bobcat to come in and dig us a spot to lay them.

It's bloody hard yakka and TOF's doing the lion's share.  When we're done it will double the size of the "living area" of the house by giving us a very substatial outdoor space.  We're discussing the relative merits of pergolas, raised garden beds and colourbond fencing and whether we'll create proper parking space for the car etc.

we were doing well until Vinnies had a half-price sale
  • 1 pr shoes - TOF $3.50
  • 1 all-weather jacket - TOF $5
  • 1 black skirt (new with tags) $3.50
  • 1 summer dress $2.50
  • 2 books (spending my birthday cash)  bought retail but at 40% reduction.
  • 1 project bag - GIFT
  • 1 notions pouch - GIFT
  • 2 hair clips - GIFT
  • 2 plastic coat hangers - the type that come with purchase - RECYCLING
  • 1 dress.  Standing in front of the mirror, lovely.  Sitting down however, poorly filled sausage. - OP SHOP
  • 2 cake tins.  The snowman cake tin and the Humphrey B Bear cake tin have been lying idle for at least a year.  I've not ever used either and am unlikely to.  OP SHOP
  • 1 skirt - OP SHOP
  • 1 tank top - when do I ever where pale pink?  I know why I bought it.  It was $5 and it was new.  I am getting better at not buying stuff just because it fits and is cheap, but there is the occasional lapse.
  • 1 pr socks.  Do you remember slouch socks in the 1980s?  Well these were the last captive pair and the elastic went.  BIN
  • 1 pr trousers.  Grey velour - why????  giving these to Mum. GIFT
  • 2 blue tooth headseats. Like penguins and swans they mate for life and their mates have departed - took out the magnets for creative re-use but otherwise - BIN
  • 5 books selected from the overflowing piles at TOF's.  I said if he could correctly identify the ones I'd removed he could keep them.  OP SHOP
  • 3 bags - OP SHOP 
Nothing finished but several things at blocking stage although just when the ironing board will go up is anyone's guess.

Does moving and cleaning hundreds of pavers count?  Not yet, but when the paving is finished, it is sooo counted!

IN 9
OUT 19

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crumbs oh heck

OK, another exclusion - building supplies. I can't control them coming in and we're using them fairly quickly, so it's not a stockpile of the useless and/or unused items.

These arrived free from a neighbour today.  Don't know how many jars of jam they'll cost, but I suspect a few. 

TOF sent me the image with the message "Crumbs oh heck".  Can't disagree.  Guess we're paving this weekend.

Tip for Commenters

Please, if you leave a comment asking a question, put an email address in your profile or give some indication of how to contact you - a Rav name perhaps?

It's much easier to reply if I have some actual way of contacting you.  I don't assume that you subscribe to comments (I never do), and it's a really cumbersome way of assisting you.

Also, I am on the move a lot.  I answer most of my email (comments come to me as email) from my phone.  I don't have ready access to the blog from my phone, so a way of emailing you means you'll get a reply quicker.  I have not replied to some questions because it has been logistically impossible to reply to an anonymous commenter with no return address.

Or if you have a question about a pattern, for example, email me - my email address is in my profile.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Seven Things Week 5

Note to self:  This is hard when it's your birthday.  That aside,  I am enormously grateful to my lovely family and friends for all their gifts.  They were without exception thoughtful and appropriate.  I love that you all "get" me.

Also, I've decided that the counting of jam jars and sauce bottles is just too hard.  If this challenge is about getting rid of the unused stuff, then preserving stuff is excluded.  We use them all the time and there's a constant ebb and flow.  Definitely keeping the SIAA component though - a lot of creative energy goes into transforming a piece of fruit into a gift or deep winter treat.

  • 1 stash bag (ie plastic blanket bag with zip) - GIFT
  • 2 books (long term loan, possible rehoming, better count them in) - SORTA GIFT
  • 1 GPS unit (shhhh, it's TOF's Christmas Present) - GIFT
  • 1 compost bin - GIFT
  • 8 pieces Tupperware $8 garage sale
  • 1 apple corer/peeler/slicer - preparing for apple season and full on preserving mode $2 garage sale
  • 2 books, 1 for TOF, 1 for me (AWW Biscuits and Slice book - always handy to have and I keep giving them away) $2
  • 1 hand-knitted hand towel - GIFT
  • 1 pkt cards - GIFT
  • 1 Blue Willow trivet - GIFT
  • 1 Blue Willow trinket box - GIFT
  • 1 Blue Willow tea bag holder - GIFT
  • 4 Tupperware spice containers - GIFT
  • 1 framed photo - GIFT
  • 1 gift bag homemade soap - GIFT
  • 1 wooden toy - GIFT
  • 1 set decorative candles - GIFT
  • 2 reusable bags - GIFT
  • 1 decorative hanging - GIFT
  • 1 x 20l water container for verjuice making  $3 TIP SHOP
  • 1 nutcracker $2 GARAGE SALE
  • 2 cds - OP SHOP
  • 1 dvd - OP SHOP
  • 1 diary cover - OP SHOP
  • 1 Tupperware soup cup - OP SHOP
  • 1 magazine - OP SHOP
  • 1 strainer - OP SHOP
  • 28 men's shirts.  I collected a huge number of beautiful cotton men's shirts when Tiny's Green Shed was having a clothing clearout.  Originally it was going to be just a few for hankies, then I thought I'd patch myself some peasant style tops, then I was going to turn the fabric into yarn and knit or plait a rag rug.  Then I met a quilter who was looking for men's shirts for a very special quilt for her brother.  Her need was greater than mine (and more immediate).  I still have plenty for all the other projects I have in mind and I'd already removed all the buttons. - GIFT
  • 3 rolls knitting nylon - GIFT
  • 1 piece plastic ware - RECYLING
  • 1 baseball - OP SHOP
  • 1 wooden toy - OP SHOP
20 jars of mulberry jam
17 jars/containers preserved nectarines

IN 34
OUT 41

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Button It

And now you've heard about the history of dressmaking - cast your eyes over this blog post on dress fastenings by a volunteer with the Australian Dress Register.

So my button obsession is not so much compulsive collecting as amassing a research resource. 

Is so, too!

Image shamelessly pinched from The Shopping Sherpa because her pics are always excellent and mine suck.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Women's Work

Finally got around to listening to "A stitch in time: dressmaking in Australia" a recent broadcast on Radio National's Hindsight program.

To quote from the website:
Before the advent of cheap ready-to-wear clothing mass-produced in offshore factories, dressmaking was an essential and versatile skill in women's lives, something they could deploy to feel like a million dollars, or use to earn a dollar or two. This feature probes the role of dressmaking in the lives of Australian women across the generations, as a domestic economic strategy, a female accomplishment, an aspect of technical education, a livelihood.

Seriously, do yourself a favour, it's both fascinating and extremely well done.  It surveys the history from colonial Australia to contemporary bloggers.  Excellent.

The image is of Patricia Lee in the dressmaking class at the Canberra Technical College, courtesy of the ever fabulous ACT Heritage Library.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Seven Things Week 4

So last week was a nett gain.  A tempting way of coping with such weeks is to save things up for when not much is happening, tossing-wise or like last week, when I was just too busy to concentrate on decluttering.

The beauty of only having to find 7 things as a goal - one per day (where ever I am) is totally doable. I usually do more because I'm weird that way and very hard on myself, but if last week was 100 and this week is 7, that's fin e - it only has to be 7.

I can't hold off deliberately, that way madness lies. Sometimes I'm delayed by circumstance - just can't get to the op shop or other intended recipient of my junk largesse, and so they aren't counted until they are gone.  If I waited until the end of the week, though, I'd be paralysed.  Once the decision is made, I really want it gone.  This is one of the reasons a lot goes to charity rather than being sold online or through the newspaper or even freecycled.

Sometimes, though, I look at things and think I really should get rid of it, but I shy away.  These things go eventually, but I find I need time to let go.  Regrets come from letting go to soon and often result in an influx of unneccessary things to fill the emotional gap - it's a bit like starvation dieting followed by a binge.  Often it's because I really want to find the right home for it.  If I rehome it rather than just give it to the op shop etc, I feel I have done the right thing by it.  This is not the same as saving things to get rid of on a rainy day.


  • 1 Tupperware container (fits Collection Development Policy) GIFT from Tip Shop (the love us there)
  • 1 George Foreman grill  (ours had an accient last week, we were going to get a new one but we got an as new one from the Tip Shop for $20)
  • 2 paper patterns 50c each OP SHOP
  • 1 Liz Jordan cardigan $4.50 OP SHOP
  • 1 negligee BNWT $3.50 OP SHOP
  • 1 shirt for TOF $1.75
  • 1 bag SECRET SANTA
  • 1 DVD (Ed Wood with Johnny Depp - I do collect JD on DV) $2 GARAGE SALE
  • 1 pr bespoke down ski pants for TOF - Mont - we love local manufacturer Mont who will make to fit.
  • 2 glass cannisters (more buttons rehoused) - OP SHOP
  • 2 tops - GIFT
  • 3 books -my vintage Billabong books with original dust jackets; gift to my niece who loves old books (can't imagine where that comes from!) - GIFT
  • 1 decorative bottle.  Merely decorative and never used as a vase etc. - OP SHOP
  • 1 casserole dish - GIFT
  • 2 Tupperware chopping bowls, one I bought, one was a gift.  Only used twice, I prefer a good knife- OP SHOP
  • 1 Tupperware sandwich box - OP SHOP
  • 2 glass jars unsuitable for preserves - RECYCLING
  • 2 novels, read and not going to be read again - OP SHOP
  • 1 Tupperware jelly mould (small) - OP SHOP
  • 1 electric kettle.  I bought this at Bing Lee Marrickville for a silly amount of money (or so I thought at the time).  I remember arguing with myself that I was allowed to have a sleek stainless steel look kettle rather than a ceramic jug left over from work or a plasticky nasty from the supermarket.  It took over a week to allow myself to buy it.  It's done me well, but it's too small at just a litre and I picked up a 1.7 litre jobby at a garage sale for a few dollars (between 1 and 5, can't remember) and can't justify keeping the old one as a spare.  Yes, I am aware how silly it is to tell the story of an electric kettle, but it's part of the release process. - OP SHOP.
  • 2  plastic containers - OP SHOP
  • 2 glass biscuit barrels (rarely cook and when I do, there's vintage tins and Tupperware) - OP SHOP
  • 8 golf umbrellas.  We bought these for Happy Spider's wedding last year because it was a drizzly day.  They were used and then we stored them.  Spidey needed them for another purpose this week, so now they are hers. - GIFT
  • 1 Tupperware sandwich box - OP SHOP
  • 6 prs pantyhose.  I stockpile hosiery, but these are too small - GIFTS
  • 1 calculator - OP SHOP
  • 1 Bodum pear-shaped thing - OP SHOP
  • 2 Tupperware vases - OP SHOP
  • 1 Tupperware soup container - OP SHOP
  • 1 bag - GIFT
  • 1 plastic mug, damaged and unrecyclable - BIN
Work has been brutal so no finished things this week

IN 10
OUT 47


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Little Scrubber

In the quest to be more and more self-sufficient, including the use of discarded materials, I never thought I'd come to this point.

Knitting pot-scrubbers.

It's right up there with washing out zip lock bags.  Wait, I do that, too - often rescuing them from work colleagues as they stand poised over the garbage bin.  *sigh*

Anyway, these are great little scrubbers - harsh enough to move cooked on stuff, but kind on enamel and non-stick pans.  We still use steel wool on the cast-iron if it needs it, though.

The pattern is Ravelled and appears on Berlin Whimsy's blog. She gives instructions for repurposing tulle into yarn for this project.

I've modified it a bit.  I use smaller needles to get a firmer scrubbie, knit it an inch shorter and use up the ends of rolls of knitting nylon that appear cheaply in op shops rather than cutting up tulle (although there's some mosquito netting just begging to be repurposed lying around here somewhere).

Using two strands of the knitting nylon and one strand of 8ply (or thereabouts) cotton and 5mm needles, cast on 15 stitches.  Garter stitch until work measures 10cm.  Cast off.  Sewing in the ends one strand at a time.

Not pleasant knitting, but quick and practical.  I use up little ends of reels and don't worry too much about colour matching - they scrub pots, they aren't art.

As a rule of thumb, you'll need three - one on, one in the wash and one in the drawer.

Oh, and don't knit them in public and wax lyrical about them if you don't want to spend the rest of your life knitting them in quantity for everyone you know and their Mums.  If you make that mistake, the going rate is a large soy latte and/or the sugar free berry muffin from that little shop around the corner - just so's you know.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Seven Things Week 3

I've been thinking about appraisal criteria this week.  As an archivist, appraisal for collection is part of my job and is ingrained.  In archives there are a few guidelines for keeping things - legal reasons, administrative reasons and the nebulous "historical" category.  The historical category is a bit of a catchall because not everything is necessary to keep, but the unecessary can be useful.  I tell my clients that apart from the legal and administrative records, you need to keep just enough to tell your story.

So what is my story? It's largely pragmatic with a smidge and a half of sentiment thrown in.

TSS uses the  William Morris "is it useful and/or beautiful" criteria.  We both agree that if we don't feel joy when looking at it, holding it or thinking about it, it is probably ripe for decluttering.  So keepers fill me joy, intense sentimentality or wry remembering or are just useful. It would be great if all my stuff filled me with joy etc., but I don't feel that way about the breadmaker. It's just useful.

Sometimes the useless and hideous are kept for sentimental reasons and that's fine.  I don't have a souvenir box as some declutterers do, but I do acknowledge that some things are just awful but meaningful. As we move through the weeks of the challenge, though, I know that I'll have to assess some "sentimental" things more harshly and develop some other criteria for retention. 

I'm beginning this process even now by applying an economic formula - if I had to pay to store it or move it would it be worth it? and a bit of emotional blackmail - If I hang on to it "just-in-case" am I depriving someone else of something they could use or need?  Would it bring more joy to someone else?

We've had a very bus.y week, with several unexpected family commitments (and the jam), so outs are not greater than ins, but we're still on track
  • 16 jars - donations from a colleague of TOF's who know we be jammin' - GIFT
  • 10 Tupperware lids - ordered to fit some bargain buys without seals - PURCHASE
  • 1 DVD - TOF got a TV series at a garage sale $6
  • 1 pair boots  - new Blundstone safety boots for TOF at garage saled $10
  • 1 book, novella bought last week read and released - OP SHOP
  • 1 pair jeans with truly scary sparkly bits on - OP SHOP
  • 1 lipstick holder - OP SHOP
  • 2 glass jars (nearly done with rehousing the buttons) - OP SHOP
  • 1 bottle (contained our red wine vinegar) - GIFT
  • 1 deceased watch band - BIN
  • 1 ex-battery pack thing - BIN
  • 2 vases - GIFT
  • 39 jars cherry sauce and jam
  • 7 bottles preserved cherries
IN 28
OUT 10


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cherry on top

A family funeral in Harden this week was an unexpected bonus. 

"Hard-hearted wench", I hear you cry - but not so.  It was a sad occasion but it was also a chance for the family to catch up and that's not bad at all.

And, as Bob Hudson so memorably said in the Aussie classic, The Newcastle Song, "Don't you ever let a chance go by, O Lord, don't you ever let a chance go by".*

So we left early and overshot Harden by less than 10 minutes to make it to Petal Falls Orchard and load the car with cherries.  When I say load, I mean 30 kilos of first quality at $5 a kilo for family and friends, and 10k of second quality at $2 for us for jam and sauce.  And a cherry pie for Junior.

It is still early in the season, so the fruit isn't quite at √≠ts best, but we weren't sure we'd have time for another cherry run this year.  We spent two evenings pitting the 10 kilos of seconds in preparation for jam and sauce and we Friday night and most of Saturday performing the alchemy of preservation.

4 kilos went to jam and 5 kilos went to sauce, the other kilo mysteriously disappeared (some spoilage, some noms).  We also processed another 4 kilos in preserving jars, poached some for breakfast and had some with icecream.

Any basic jam recipe is fine, such as this from I doubled the mix each time and added the juice of a lime and a teaspoon of powdered cinnamon.  I also forgot to double the Jam Setta, so it took a couple of hours to reach setting point, but that's ok.  For cherries, you really do need the added pectin.

The sauce recipe is one we trialled last year.  I call it Cherry Christmas Sauce.  Also from, we substituted cherries for cranberries.  While the recipe is billed as a jam, this stuff won't set and we've found it great as a saucy ingredient in main meals.  I'll write up what we've done with pork belly, lamb mince and kangaroo fillets another time, but it's well worth the cherries.

And jewels for the store cupboard - 5 small jars of preserved cherries, 1 large jar of preserved cherries in port and another of preserved cherries in brandy.  We've got dessert for Chrismas sorted, anyway.

*if anyone has access to the album this appears on, it also has a song "Librarian Lady" - would love to hear it!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Seven Things Week 2

It didn't take long for the seven-thing agonising to kick in.

Last time, there were many looooong conversations with TSS about what constitutes an in or an out and just how creative counting could be.

Last week, was my diary insert an in?  If it is, then the old one is an out.  What about the bonus note paper that came with the insert, and the little plastic stamp holdery thing and the lovely leather bookmark? - all bonus gifts.

It doesn't really do to overthink these things.  The spirit of the challenge is to acquire less and let go of more.  I need the diary insert, it's definitely consumable and it cancels out anyway - it's not counted.  I don't need the note paper, the plastic stamp holdery thing or the book mark and if I did need them I could have made or readily improvised them from materials around the house- they are counted in.

Although TOF agreed that "hiding" things at his house or at the caravan would be wrong, he thought if he bought it, I didn't have to count it.  Nope, that's just sleight of hand.

Stuff that either TOF or I buy for joint use are definitely ins.  The fact that we operate separately and together out of three houses and a caravan (actually 2 caravans but that's another story) makes it logistically difficult but the principle is the same. 


  • 1 electric BBQ hotplate from some caravanning friends who didn't need it anymore - GIFT 
  • 17 books (we went to the local church fete.  Only 4 are really for me, but them's the breaks) - FETE
  • 1 food thermos.  It will fit pies for the footy or soup or stew.  At $10 it will make it's purchase price back in two uses - ONLINE AUCTION
  • 1 knitting magazine - Can't resist Yarn Forward
  • 1 bucket.  Actually it's an old 20 litre paint tin we picked up by the side of the road.  It's better than the little plakky bucket we were using for waste water at the van. - FOUND
  • 1 copper based frying pan which matches the saucepans we took out to the van.  I bought the saucepans at DJs nearly 30 years ago and they've done me proud. $3 TIP SHOP
  •  gift (no peeking) $2 TIP SHOP
  • 20 cuddly toys collected for my favourite Westie breeder and slackly not sent.  Sent now.  - GIFT
  • 4 precious Fowlers' jars lost in an avalanche in the storage area under my house - BIN
  • 13 empty jars/bottles unsuitable for jams or chutneys - BIN
  • 1 mixing bowl another jaralanche casualty - BIN
  • 1 audio book - OP SHOP
  • 1 camera case - OP SHOP
  • 1 CD - OP SHOP
  • 1 man's belt left by the previous owner of our caravan - OP SHOP
  • 6 home decorating books - OP SHOP
  • 1 cheap plastic container that probably arrived in a bulk lot of something else - OP SHOP
  • 1 vintage Tupperware milkshake maker (we don't need 3) - OP SHOP
  • 1 computer mouse (dead) - BIN
  • 1 telephone headset (dead) - BIN
  • 12 tshirts and shirts.  The summer stuff came out of the bag and these didn't make it into the wardrobe.  They were hand-me-downs or ill thought out bargain purchases from the op shop, so they can return - OP SHOP
  • 2 Tupperware sandwich boxes - OP SHOP
  • 1 thermos, came as  freebie and is replaced by our schmick new food thermos  - OP SHOP
  • 3 cheapo measuring cups - OP SHOP
  • 2 "green bags" - OP SHOP
  • 1 glass jar - the button boodle continues its migration to Tupperware as suitable sizes are unearthed - OP SHOP
  • 22 cook books.  - OP SHOP
  • 4 lots wool and fibre - GIFT
  • 2 prs trousers - 1 to the bin, 1 to the OP SHOP
  • 2 shirts - wrong size for TOF, wrong fabric for repurposing - OP SHOP
  • 1 coffee pot and 1 tea pot.  Even though I love these vintage Crown Corning pieces, they are totally unnecessary. - OP SHOP
  • 2 Tupperware salt/pepper shakers.  We have enough and prefer the grinders anyway.  OP SHOP
  • 3 novels.  Read and not part of the permanent collection - OP SHOP
  • 2 pairs socks - all knitted and the ends sewn in - will blog them later.
  • 2 knitted pot scrubbers - ditto

    IN   23
    OUT 111
    NETT OUT 88

    SIAA 4

Monday is washing day

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Terriers Toil on Tea Towels

It's no secret that I'm a sucker for vintage linens, hand-embroidery, second-hand bargains and Westies (and Scotties). 

It would take a woman of more will-power than I to resist a combination of all of them.

Last Sunday at the R-Shop (Mitchell Waste Transfer Station), I spied this in a rummage box.

Sweet vintage hand-embroidered and cro***ed tea towel.  It's 30 inches wide and 28 inches long.  Crocheted on the bottom long edge only.

The worker of this was not an expert needle-woman.  The towel is selvedge to selvedge and machine hemmed on the top and bottom.  I assume she cut a 30 inch square of the fabric which is lightweight and unevenly woven. Mum says she'd seen nappies made out of it in her childhood.  You'd be constantly changing nappies made of this stuff, it's so thin.  The scalloped cro***et on the bottom is, even to my eye, unevenly executed.  The back of the embroidery is reasonably neat (always a test of needle-skill according to my mother when she repeatedly had me unpick mine at an early age).

I was delighted to find it and clutched it to my chest.  All TOF would say was "you know you want it".  He's a lovely man, but does nothing for my won't-power.

Imagine, then, my glee, when another browser said "Here, lady" and thrust a further 6 of them into my hands.  "Dunno what they are, but you seem to like them" he continued gruffly.

Sweet frugalling angels!  It was a Monday-Sunday set of hand worked teatowels and mine for the princely sum of $5 which included all our other purchases (Bodum ice bucket, Tupperware, jam jar, cricket ball for the kids).

I spent the evening wondering if I could transform them into anything.  Skirts, cushions, summer frock?  Then, laying them out together, it struck me - the most perfect cafe curtain, ever.

So each day for the next week, I'll post the toiling terriers and show you the finished curtain (eventually).

Monday, November 15, 2010

Seven Things Week 1

Thanks for the encouraging comments, emails and 'phone calls.  Apparently some people find other people's junk fascinating - hang on, I find othe people's junk fascinating, that's the problem.  Ah well, entertainment coming and going.  For those of you joining in - GOOD LUCK!

The first week of the challenge is always easy.  There's a top layer of stuff that's begging for decluttering.  The only difficulty in the first week or so is getting it out of the house quickly enough and finding containers to put them in.

The stash of shop bags etc. went early in the last challenge and as we don't buy much retail and most groceries and op-shop items go into re-usable shopping bags, there's always a scramble to find suitable receptacles.  I'm starting with the so-called "green" bags that are inconveniently shaped for grocery shopping.  If we need more shopping bags, I can make them from fabric in the stash.

Also, even after the post about the pavers and the trailer during the week, I didn't reckon on the effect equipping and improving the caravan will have on this challenge.

We spent yesterday writing Very Long Lists (fear my lists!) of our immediate, short, medium and long-term plans for the van and what that would require.  I'm going to have to be particularly tough on the "outs" to accommodate the "ins" for the van.

  • 1 leather bookmark, 1 plastic stamp holder thing and 1 set note paper for my diary - I won a giveaway of a PocoProfile diary refill off TSS's blog.  The lovely Victoria included these things as bonuses.  - GIFT
  • 15 besser blocks (for work at the caravan) - TIP SHOP
  • 1 Bodum ice bucket (for the caravan - wine gets warm too quickly) - TIP  SHOP
  • 1 jar (for this season's jams and preserves) - TIP SHOP
  • 1 Tupperware container and extra seal - TIP SHOP
  • 1 set vintage hand-embroidered tea towels, totally unnecessary, but wait until you see them! - TIP SHOP
  • 1 vintage letter holder - OP SHOP
  • 6 glass jars - these held some of the buttons boodle. The buttons they contained are now in Tupperware which nest better, take up less space and break with less disastrous results when dropped on timber floors. *sigh* - OP SHOP
  • 1 bowl - OP SHOP
  • 1 Tupperware mixing jug (we don't need 3) - OP SHOP
  • 7 books - OP SHOP
  • 13 specimen vases.  Collection of tiny cut glass and crystal vases - OP SHOP
  • 2 "green" bags - OP SHOP
  • 8 teaspoons - GIFT
  • 5 knives - GIFT
  • 6 forks - GIFT
  • 4 dessert spoons (all cutlery donated to our workplace tea-room. There are never enough clean spoons or forks - the knives are a bonus) - GIFT
  • 1 teabag holder (my brother's MIL collects Royal Albert Old Country Roses - she gets this melamine teabag holder I picked up at Vinnies' a while back) - GIFT
  • 1 three-hole punch (new in box and has been for 16 years. It's going to work where it will be used) - GIFT
  • 1 large bundle copy sheet protectors going to work, we use a lot of them and the budget is tight - GIFT
  • 1 ream copy paper, also going to work - GIFT
  • 1 microwave oven (not needed in the caravan) - DONATION
  • 4 headbands uncovered in an avalanche from TOF's bookcase - we don't really know how they got their either - OP SHOP

  • 6 padded coathangers - STASH

IN  23
OUT 63


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Warm reception

We have internet access out at the carvan - the mobile dongle thing works.  Woot!

We've spent our first night at the van and I've spent the whole morning writing lists of things we need to do and equipment we need to have.

Most of the equipment etc. we can bring from home.  Some of the things we need to do will take more time and more resources.  If anyone has a good double mattress they don't need, for example, do get in touch.

As usual, we are re-using as much as possible (see previous post on pavers).  No photos today, but I'll be documenting our progress.  Stay tuned.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hang 'em high

Sometime in the late 1980s I started padding coathangers.  Not the nylon lace knitted covers so beloved of my grandmother, but an improvisation on what was to hand.

I needed a wider hanger as my clothes were wider than most.  I needed a way to avoid the horrid "angel wing" effect of coathangers on clothes, I wanted delicate fabrics to maintain their shape and I needed to be able to do it for nothing or next to nothing.

So not much has changed, really.

I came up with a way of using materials readily available - wire coathangers available for free from clothes shops and the shoulder pads that were on the wane fashion-wise and available cheaply (or occasionally free) from op-shops.

The best shoulder pads to use are the fat, shoulder-shaped raglan pads.  If there is velcro attached, so much the better for gripability.

A pad is folded over the end of the wire coathanger and whip stitched into placed.  For extra width allow the padding to extend the hanger 1/4 to 1/3 the length of the pad. 

 To help the pad stay in place, stitch through the pad around the metal end.

On these hangers, I can hang wet shirts in woven or jersey fabrics to dry in small spaces and after ironing, rehang them to preserve the shape - no "angel wings" on my tops.

This week, I found a bag of raglan shoulder pads rescued from an op-shop. I whipped up six padded hangers using the last of the shoulder pad stash.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Just as well I started seven things on Monday or we'd have had to count these.

Something like 500-600 pavers we bought and moved in a storm on Saturday and in warm weather on Sunday.

Did I tell you we bought a caravan?  No?  Well, we bought a secondhand van in June.  It's on site outside town on a bush block.  We want to pave around the van to make a kind of patio and as the budget is non-existent, we're picking up second-hand materials when and where we can.

The two trailer loads on the weekend, and a load a few weeks back, came from Tiny's Green Shed at the Mugga Lane Tip.  We love Tiny's.  It's a second-hand shopper's delight.

A casualty of the second load, though, was a tyre on the trailer.  Once we'd unloaded, TOF unbolted the wheel and we left the trailer with the van.

We have a summer of paving to look forward to.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

De ja vu

The clutter has been creeping back in. OK, it's been arriving by the gleeful armload up the front stairs and I'm not all that sorry.

Earthchick (blog now non-existent) started the Seven Things Project in July 2006. Her goal was to try and live more simply - to have less and more importantly to want less; to rid herself of the clutter that overwhelms and paralyses.  Her method was to rid her life of seven things each week. 

I'm not paralysed yet, but getting a little overwhelmed so the de-clutter bug has re-introduced into my system.  Also, I have clean out under Mum's house.  We never got around to it after Dad died, but this summer is the go. 

So we're seven-thinging again at Taph Towers. TOF will keep me honest - I'm not allowed to hide anything at his place or in our caravan. Of course, that means anything I cull in those places counts to the total, so it's all good. :)

For the uninitiated, I did two Seven Things Challenges in 2007. 6 weeks in Winter 2007, then 78 weeks from 1 Sept 2007-Feb 2009.  5,126 items (nett) left the house in those two challenges.
As before items will be thoughtfully dealt with. Just throwing stuff out isn't part of the deal. Mindful consumption and thoughtful disposal are tenets of this particular faith.

I will report each Monday in three categories :"In", "Out" and"Shake-it-All-About". The aim is that "Out" minus "In" will be greater than or equal to 7.  I'll keep it up through Summer and see how we go from there. 

The stuff I bring in to our homes. This includes:
  • stash items of ANY kind
  • other forms of entertainment such as books, magazines, cds etc.
  • items received by subscription, for example, magazines
  • clothes and accessories
  • homewares
  • gifts received
Exempt are consumables such as food and other groceries and items borrowed from the library (but not items borrowed from the library and copied for keeping because that is (a) illegal and (b) not in the spirit of the challenge).

Items deliberately weeded from the houses. Consumables do not count. Completely worn out and non-fixable/transformable clothing, household items etc do.  I will try and repurpose before I give it away, but in the main, if it's clothing that is still wearable, just too big/small etc, I'll give it to the women's refuge or op-shop rather than cut it up.

This category is about transformation. After the first challenge I realised it is important to acknowledge the creative transformation of items already in the home. It might be as simple as the use of stash buttons on an old blouse to revamp it instead of buying a new blouse or other transformation of clothes. It might be the creation of something new for ourselves or others from stash. I have much sewing to do just now, mending and curtain making being the most pressing.  Some items from this category will become "outs" which is perfectly fine.  Maybe I'll include a "use it up" section to account for stash.  Dunno, I'll think about it.

So check back next Monday for an update.

Friday, November 05, 2010


Got my invitation to the Craft ACT Christmas event. 

Went squee to see Olivia's baubles featured on the invitations.

Double squee then, that they are on the website, too.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Truly local yarn soon

Lifted from the latest Poacher's Way newsletter, Spring 2010.

Eco sustainable wool mill on horizon for Bowning - Crisp Galleries

These are exciting times for the Crisp family, with the recent announcement that their historic ‘Gwandoban’ shearing shed (circa 1856 and moved from Harden to Binalong in 1914, then to Bowning eight years ago) will be rebuilt to house the new Yass Valley Woollen Mill, in conjunction with the Armour family, of Bookham.

With a majority of Australia’s woollen mills closed, and China now processing 82% of the world’s wool production, the Yass Valley Woollen Mill is set to become Australia’s premier processor of superfine wool.

The ‘mission’ of The Yass Valley Woollen Mill is to produce an Australian grown and made, eco sustainable yarn and fabric that can be totally transparent along the supply chain.

Between them, the Crisps and the Armours have a vision to create not only a productive and sustainable mill but also a valuable tourist and educational facility. The ‘great hall’ which runs the length of the 50m building will be transformed into a viewing room, with retail space selling products created with Yass Valley yarn.

The Yass Valley Woollen Mill is a serious commitment to the wool industry to ensure its sustainability into the future.

CAN'T WAIT! - Read the full press release on the Crisp Galleries website.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Thursday, August 19, 2010


TOF has a philosophy - when faced with a choice, always take the one you haven't experienced before.

So we did.

Taking Seale Road from Kempsey to Gladstone we pass from tall timber to low swamp country then through lush dairy farms beside the river.

In the tall timber country, the buzz of trail bikes.

In the low area we travel on a dirt road with expanses of wetland on either side.  Black swans and their cygnets keep an eye out for the hawks that were circling on either side of the road and the herons stalk in the shallows and reeds higher than the car provide shade. 


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Pelican spots fisherman

Pelican circles float

Pelican brings mates for participation in fish-gutting ceremony.

Pelicans always win in the end.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Book him, Dano

Some of my friends adore travel writing - they read it, they write it, they live it.  Me, not so much. I just don't enjoy a lot of the genre and I've decided its because, being mostly autobiographical, I don't think I'd enjoy spending time with the authors in real life either
Bill Bryson is snarky, Peter Moore is foolhardy and boorish, but David Dale: him I like.

Dale's The Obsessive Traveller : Or why I don't steal towels from great hotels anymore came with me to Europe in 1992.

This week I've read his 1996 publication,  A Traveller's Alphabet of Essential Places : A book about ideas and where they started. It does what is says on the box - the reader travels to 26 places on the globe that gave rise to some of the most crucial ideas (or things) in history.

Not everything is earth shattering, but David is an intelligent and humourous guide to the places and the history of ideas spawned there.

How much did I enjoy it?   I had to read bits (lots of bits) out to TOF.  Wanting to share it is always the sign of something good.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful - Great Drying Days

There isn't much that can beat piles of fresh fluffy towels and crisp cotton sheets warm from the sun.

Drying days with the sun shining and a good breeze should be celebrated!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful - Serendipity

One of the major appeals of second-hand shopping is its serendipitous nature.

Yesterday we found this.  Too, too apt to stay in Macksville. :)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful - Avocadoes

Spread on wholegrain toast with a cracking of black pepper at breakfast (or lunch), avocadoes are lush and decadent with a banana-like mouth feel and just a hint of bitterness.  Obviously ovoid and pale-green are enough to make me very happy right now.

The local avocadoes are plentiful and cheap where we are right now.  We're making the most of them.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful - Customer Service

Clever baristas who assist the serving staff and put a smile on my face at the same time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reasons to be Cheerful - Improvisation

It will be no surprise that improvisation makes my heart glad.

A recent client graciously, if a little bemusedly, allowed me to photograph his improvisation.

Take one metal coat hanger, one crepe bandage and some origami skills and hey-presto, a custom-made iPad stand.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Reasons to be cheerful - eggs

Driving up to the farmhouse on a late winter's afternoon, the cows were plodding back to the paddock after milking and the dogs, after initial alerting barks, boisterously friendly and cuddly.

The chooks were glossily pecking around the yard, so many colours and types.  I shouldn't be surprised, then, that the eggs were charming, too.

Palest brown shells and palest green shells. Like sugared almonds in a box. Delicious poached on toast, too.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Totally compatible

Can so too drink a bottle of red wine* and knit a tension square in garter stitch while holding simultaneous conversations with two people by text message and two other people on Face Book chat.

*Woorawa, Barrel Select Old Vine Shiraz, 2003 - very nice indeed.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Let me count the ways

One of them is he is a bloody good sport.

I give him an internet name like The Old Flame and he creates a blog from it; I want to go to a knitting book signing, he comes along and counts the number of times the author uses the words "tea cosy", is rhythm accompanist for the rap and has his picture taken (fantastic arvo, Loani, btw); I find out about a blog called Dudes With Beards Eating Cupcakes, he lets me exploit his birthday for it.

It was his birthday yesterday - happy birthday my love.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bale up!

I’ve said it often enough, so you’d think I’d believe it by now - boodle has its own level. It is a living (and probably sentient) thing that resents being reduced, except by the natural attrition of finished objects.

I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of weeks weeding the stash. Odd balls, colour collections of odd balls, garment amounts in weights/colours I won’t use, novelty and other fun yarns, feltable yarns, and wool that, while the shine has not quite gone off it, has resisted attempts to be transformed into the wonderful item I envisaged for it – all have found good and welcoming homes. This was a considerable undertaking and the yarn went out in ripples and small waves.

Also, we are going away next week with an overseas visitor, also a fibre fiend. We are taking her to a couple of woollen mills and some independent fibre and yarn pushers. I was prepared to be extremely strong (particularly in the face of the stash enhancement aversion therapy just undergone) and had worded TOF up on the need for him to not enable me.

Is it fair, then, that a little problem of tenses in the English language landed me with an incoming tsunami?

A couple of weeks ago, a colleague of TOF’s emailed him:

“I am having the black sheep shorn this weekend, would you like the wool for your girlfriend?”

Oooh, a black fleece, we thought, that would be lovely and immediately accepted the kind offer. I popped out and bought a 150 litre plastic bin to store it in.  I joked with TOF that it should come in 3 bags full.  Not so funny now!

This morning it became apparent that English is an imprecise and, frankly, bloody dangerous language. Here’s the last of a series of email between my benefactor and TOF.

“You seem to be somewhat a tad vague on the amount of wool.........You know those wool bails, well, it is one of them filled with 11 sheeps wool plus a separate yellow pellet bag, which contains the white rams wool. The wool bail is not compressed so it able to be squeezed, but still, it is quite heavy and quite large.”

Tonight, instead of going to a movie as planned (in a real cinema with snuggle seats, as opposed to the lecture theatre we usually see films in), we wrangled a bale and a bit of raw, smelly, glorious fleece.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Still here, just running and running and running.

TOF and I had a long weekend down the coast op-shopping  in February and since then, it's been food preserving non-stop.  For the first installment in our adventures in scrumping, pop over to TOF's blog.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bewdy bottler

1. I am a stockpiler (I do not hoard - there is a difference). If oft-used commodities are going cheap, I stockpile and use. Doesn't matter if it's undies, wool or food - I stockpile and use.

2. I hate waste.

3. Freezer space in the Taph and TOF households is always at a premium (see 1, above, although Mum, TOF and Jnr have almost finished the reduced by 70% lasagne from my bulk buy in November)

4. I like stewed fruit - it is my cereal topping of choice and forms the basis of my favourite dessert Fruit Crumble (flavour depends on fruit to hand)

5. I particularly like stone fruit.

6. I like being self-sufficient.

7. I am concerned about the environmental effects of transporting fruit all over the country to be canned, then transporting it to warehouses, then transporting it to supermarkets.

8. I am more concerned when the fruit comes from overseas to start with.

9. I bought 3 packing cases full of Fowlers' jars for $20 at the tip shop over the Christmas break.

10. I spent our Christmas money on an electric bottling kit (and paid retail!)

11. We spent last weekend bottling the two cases of peaches my SIL got me from Araluen during the week.

I estimate that's about 2 months worth of fruit and we're keen to do more. TOF is already thinking about a fruit chasing holiday for January 2012 (we're booked until then!) taking the bottling equipment and the fruit dehydrators with us.

Anyone have fruit going spare or know of some? Anyone got old Fowlers' jars they'd like to part with?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Keeping Mum (happy)

And this pair of baby socks is the fourth pair of sockees completed in the last couple of weeks. Mum's hairdresser's daughter had a little girl recently.  Mum commissioned these for little Chiara.  It's Patonyle left over from socks I made Mum.

TOF's Mum commissioned 3 pairs of baby socks for her expected great grandson (see last post), which I was happy to supply out of left overs, including these ones from a Moda Vera sock yarn (Mum got the big version for Christmas).  Sorry forgot to photograph the others.

There's another pair on the needles and then the commissions are fulfilled.  Next up, baby jackets in self-striping sock yarn.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Shiner

TOF's niece is having a baby in April so of course knitting is in order.  After checking with the grandmother-to-be, I opted for a blankie, any number of socks and some little jackets.

Spotlight had 8ply Sports Support yarn for $1.99 a ball during the after Christmas sale.  A 50/50 wool/acrylic blend, it's quite nice on the hand but I suspect may pill a bit.  This gorgeous royal purple is in the "Plum" colourway.  A very scientific poll of knittes and their fellas last week decided that the colour should be "Shiner".

The pattern is adapted from a freebie on the BBC website.  It's a diagonal garter stitch square knitted from 4 x 50 gram balls of 8ply yarn.  Improvised the ruffle edge from the remaining 2 x 50g balls as I wasn't fussed on the lace edging (little fingers, eyelets, not a good combo),

Using a 150cm circular needle, I knitted up stitches all around the edge (from between the edge bumps) and joined in the round.  The frill took almost every bit of the two balls.

First Round:  K1, Kf&b, repeat all around
Second Round: Purl
Third Round: Knit
Fourth Round: Purl
Fifth Round: K1, Kf&b, repeat all around
Sixth Round: Purl
Change to 4.5mm needle
Seventh Round: Knit
Eighth Round: Purl
Continue alternating knit and purl rounds until sick to death of doing 600+ stitch rounds, or the ruffle is deep enough, or in this case, until the wool ran out. (about 10 rounds)
Cast off in knit, or if enough wool, a picot cast off would be nice.

Finished dimensions 22" along each side.

I love this blankie and will knit it again and when I do it will be a little larger and the frill a little deeper.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Big read

One of the activities I let go when I took on more responsibility for Mum’s care was book group. More than that, I stopped reading altogether, having little brain power left at the end of the day. Every effort is being made to get to at least a couple of the meetings this year and even to read off list books.

Our book for discussion on 2 February is last year’s Booker Prize winner, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. I was excited as the prospect of reading it as I’d enjoyed this author before and I once was a Booker junkie, reading as many of the short list as I could before the big announcement. I was excited until I saw the size of the book – 651 pages. Seriously? 651 pages? You really need 651 pages?

Mantel’s hero is Thomas Cromwell, who is often portrayed as Henry VIII’s Machiavellian henchman responsible for the reforms that led to the formation of the Church of England. Here he is a self-made man of intellect, ability and passion. Entirely human and entirely sympathetic.

I’m still not quite over resenting the 651 non-skimmable pages, but I am yet to see where the editing could be done to make it shorter. The prose is dense and intense but it is not wasteful. Some passages need to be re-read to gain a complete understanding, and the family tree and cast of characters at the front of the book is necessary, even if you have an average or better acquaintance with Tudor history.

There are still a 250 pages left to be read and I’m thoroughly enjoying the journey. This is slow reading at its best. Knitting to accompany such a demanding (but completely enjoyable) read is necessarily simple. Adult and baby socks have been knitted to it and just now a garter stitch baby blanket. Complicated knitting and this book do not mix.

Normally I would recommend borrowing a copy from your public library but this time, Canberrans, if you can buy or borrow a privately owned copy do so. The ACT Public Library has 32 copies and as of this morning 143 requests on them. This means the loan period is reduced to two weeks and trying to get through this in two weeks is impossible unless you have those two weeks to lie in the shade and read.  Although it does wonders for the concentration to have such a deadline.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Early Spinning and Knitting on the Monaro

Archibald Crawford was born in 1833, in Campbelltown, Scotland and was 10 years old or so when his family settled for a year on The Dry Plain on the Monaro in about 1844. He was in charge of a flock of 800 lambing ewes. 

He writes in his memoir Eighty-Five Years in Australia (Sydney: John Sands Ltd; 1925), pp 22-23.

My mother, of whom I was very fond, used to spin all the wool for our knitted garments, of which we wore a good many. She never spoke English in the home, although she had an average knowledge of it, but always Gaelic. When she was knitting, sewing or spinning, she would sing old Gaelic songs to us; she had a very sweet and pleasing voice. One of my brothers-in-law, named Brayshaw, made the first spinning wheel which she used in this country; later on, when we went to Victoria, she got an imported one, which is still in existence as far as I know, and would probably be used during the Great War. At night I had to tease the wool for carding, another thing I did not like doing, and one night I was complaining and mother said to me, "No doubt you do think it a great bother to have to tease the wool, but you just think when you are out in the snow to-morrow how you would feel if you have no nice warm socks to wear." The next day I had reason to remember her lecture.