Sunday, April 13, 2014

Burping Babies

Apparently burp cloths are a thing.  I don't remember them being a thing 19 years ago when I was last involved in baby raising - we had old nappies to throw over the shoulder or lap for burp time, but there are fewer of these around now.

I do seem to remember my mother making some for my sister-in-law when my nephew was wee - he turns 16 this month.  Mum raided my stash and used vintage flannelette which had come from a friend's grandmother's stash.  It has to be at least 40 years old now.

I had many metres of mint green and a slightly fewer metres of white and it is so much softer than anything I could buy in shops now.  But plain flanelette isn't very visually appealing.

My research showed that a cute print on one side and flanelette or a soft knit on the other is the done thing. I found a simple downloadable pattern and then lengthened it by two inches in the middle because one thing I do remember about burping babies is that it can dribble a surprisingly long and sitnky way.

The children's print fabric in stash was quickly used up so I cast about for other fabrics.

And I had a lone fat quarter purchased secondhand.

1 fat quarter - 2 burp cloths
 I've been saving lovely cotton fabrics from shirts rescued from the free bins at the local tip shop.  I harvest the shirts for buttons and other trim but can't bear to throw away gorgeous fabric with a lot of wear left in it. The fabric was intended for hankies or other small projects but if the fabric is soft enough for hankies it's soft enough for burp cloths.

Fine cotton from woman's pyjama top
This soft cotton twill was a large Pierre Cardin man's shirt.

Burp on that, baby.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

I Obey

Look what I liberated from Skaro (aka Salvos Weston) yesterday for $5.

I am trying to figure out how I can get an eyestalk on it to enhance its resemblance to a Dalek.

Any resemblance to an Ikea thermos is purely coincidental.


Friday, January 17, 2014

So what's a knitter to do when she's home from work in a heatwave?

Knit icord.

Lots of icord.

And embellish with stashed buttons to make jewelry.  Can I call it jewelry?  Certainly they are accessories. Meh, whatever, they are pretty and achieved not only from stash but from scraps.  That must score off the scale on the thrift-o-metre!

Here TOF's nameless childhood teddy models Garbo Garnets made from scraps of 4ply maroon wool left over from a matinee jacket and booties set.

I bought the yarn in a HUGE bag of industrial leftovers from Marrickville Reverse Garbage 12 or more years ago.

The buttons on the necklace came from a shirt I picked up from the free bins at the Green Shed recently.  The button on the bracelet is from button stash.

The yarn weighed 6 grams and there are 3 grams left, so more bangles may be in order.  The necklace is 57cm long, the bangle 19cm long.  Both are finished with a button loop.

This necklace, Noose, is from scraps of Woollen Rabbit Pandora (Wool/bamboo/nylon blend) in the colourway Robin's Nest.  The button is from my mother's stash.  Originally I had planned to embellish this all the way around with pearl buttons, but I really like it this way.  It will look great against my predominantly black wardrobe or over a white shirt.  The sheen on this yarn is delicious.

The necklace measures 240cm and also has a button loop. The yarn is left over from a shawlette that is currently blocking and there are still 9g of it left.  I think I will make another pair of Saartjes booties from it - this yarn doesn't feel like it wants to be bangles.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My ways of mending

One of my secret pleasures is hand mending and its friend unpicking.  I love the feeling that using a skill like sewing on a button and making small repairs without resorting to a noisy machine gives.  There is an immense feeling of satisfaction to be derived from hand-hemming.*

I'm not so fussed on sewing in the ends of my knitting, but that's a whole other story.

Unpicking garments to recut or reuse the fabric is something I learned from my mother and her mother, as  was unravelling knits to resue the wool.

This little hand made sewing caddy was $4 at Salvos Fyshwick this morning.

I love that someone made the little wooden rocking chair with orange corduroy upholstered seat/pincushion for a sewer.  It has the feel of a school woodwork project.

I also appreciate that it holds all the basic threads I use for hand mending, a thimble, some pins, sewing needles and the tools of the unpicker's trade, a quick-unpick, small sharp scissors and a fine gauge double pointed knitting needle.

*Yes, I will do hand sewing for other people.  And yes, I will charge in cash or kind.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The voices in my head

I am not at work this week.

There is a LONG list of tasks, domestic and creative, to accomplish.

One thing on that list is both a task itself, and a task that will help me accomplish the other tasks.


Podcasts are my entertainment medium of choice.  I currently have about 8 days' worth loaded to an iPhone3 which does duty as an iPod. I won't get through them all this week, but I will give it a good nudge.  Even if I can catch up with some of my favourite Radio National podcasts before they come of summer break in February, I will be happy.

It started with knitting, this fascination, but has extended into further fibre podcasts and to other areas of interest.  I have a many hours a week habit encompassing fibre crafts, books and writing, history and biography, food and current affairs.

When I come across a new-to-me podcast I tend to download the back catalogue.  This may not be the most efficient way of doing it but it works for me.  If I don't enjoy the podcast and choose not to continue the subscription then I've only lost a few mb of download and if I really enjoy it, I'm not waiting until there is time to download the rest.

What makes a good podcast for me?

Production values
Good production values are important.   A decent microphone, pop filter etc seem to be mandatory equipment.  There are one or two very popular fibre podcasts I can't listen to because the presenter sounds like she is recording at a distance or through water.  I am often listening through earbuds or in a car with competing sources of noise around me.  I almost never listen through a computer in a silent house.  I need to be able to hear without squinting, so to speak 

Recording through the internal microphone of your computer usually guarantees a switch off from me, as does trying to record on a crappy portable device in a car or other noisy environment. I have noticed, though, that a decent quality is possible using an iPhone microphone or similar, but the best quality comes from a decent external mic in a controlled environment.

File naming
Consistent naming of files for the podcatchers is really important.  I don't care about branding logos etc (although the podcasters might), but I do care about being able to arrange the files on my listening device.  My device is on old iPhone 3 but previously I was using my Android phone and consistent naming and numbering to be able to listen in order was essential.

mp3 is fine, although the mp4 functionality to divide into "chapters"to enable easy fast-forwarding etc is a nice thing to have.

I cannot be doing with video podcasts.  Quality is usually woeful and editing almost non-existent.  Having someone wave their knitting at a poor quality webcam doesn't enhance my appreciation of the knitting or the podcast.  Also, they take forever to download and don't fit in with my life.  I listen to podcasts on the go.  For me, they are not TV substitutes and just listening to them is not enjoyable.

I respond well to a predictable length.  I don't really mind how long the podcast is if it is informative/entertaining/not painful to listen to, but I like to know that it will be a similar length each episode. That being said, if a podcast is more than about 50 minutes, I reckon it's generally self-indulgent and needs editing, but there are exceptions.  I really appreciate the podcasts that come it about the 30 minute mark.  Yes, I know I have a stop button but I prefer to listen to an episode in one sitting/standing/shopping expedition/journey or very close to it.  I can efficiently do this if I've got a fair idea of how long standard episodes are.  Some devices don't tell you how long a podcast is until it is playing, by which time I've lost valuable time selecting a podcast for my activity if the timing is wrong.  I know a typical journey between my workplace and central office is 25 minutes.  Radio National's Conversations with Richard Fidler are about 50 minutes, so a trip to and from is one episode, or two episodes if I listen at double speed. I like to allocate my time efficiently

A predictable schedule is great.  It helps me organise my listening and also gives me something to look forward to during stressful weeks.  Also, I miss my favourite podcasters when I don't hear from them regularly.  I also appreciate knowing if there will be a haitus or if the podcast is winding up.  Podfading is disappointing and a bit rude.

These are rarely of importance to me, but the best ones I've seen lately are on the iMake and the Knitmore Girls podcasts.  Very useful.

Point Of Difference 
I really don't care about your cats or your kids. I prefer their contact with the podcast to be limited.  Louise at Caithness Craft Collective handles this with style, by having her kids recorded to introduce regular segments with an occasional short, separate podcast of the kids.  I can chose to listen or not.  As her children are charming and don't play a musical instrument with limited skill, I usually choose to listen.

Knowledge of presenter
I like a knowledgeable presenter.  I don't mind learning along with the presenter if it's a more advanced skill.  I don't need to listen to you learn to knit.  Similarly, if you know a lot about your subject but are unable to convey it well, I'm not going to invest my time.

I have cancelled several podcasts that are all about what they bought recently or what they think I should buy (often what they are selling). Sure, some podcasts are attached to businesses and are part of the business communication of the presenter. That's fine, but I like to know that up front, not have it sneak up and then have a whingy podcaster complaining that no-one appreciates how hard she works for us for no return.

I have no problem with sponsorship announcements/advertisements.  They are usually annoying but short and  I ackowledge they are necessary for some podcasts to keep going.

Related to this, reviews.  When conducting review, please be honest.  Don't just tell me how wonderful everything is, I want to know your experience of the product and its problems as well as its good qualities.  And while we are on it, a review is not looking at a magazine's website and describing what you see - I can do that for myself, thanks. That is lazy content and drives me crazy.

Communication skills
Educators make good amateur podcasters.  They are used to imparting information in a logical and disciplined fashion.  A lot of knowledge does not make up for good communication skills. Excellent examples are Happy Spider Knits and Tales From the Plain.

Lots of podcasters do interviews.  Not all succeed.  Want to know how to interview someone, listen to Margaret Throsby or Richard Fidler.  I know they are professional broadcasters, but they are brilliant.  There are some professional broadcasters who don't do it well. I am very intolerant of gigglers and those that insert themselves into the interview. I am primarily interested in the interviewee and appreciate a well-researched and interviewee-focussed interview.

Personality of presenter/relationship
Personal charm is equally important.  I do feel that I build a relationship with the podcaster.  Usually this is very one-way, in that they don't know I listen and don't engage in any other communication with me, and that's fine.  If I'm going to regularly have you in my intimate space for 30-90 minutes, I need to like you or at least respect you.  I don't think you can do anything about that - the ways of human attraction are a mystery to me.

Just as I tolerate annoying things in my friends and loved ones, I will put up with a fair few of my "don't likes" if I find the podcaster enjoyable to be with. 

And the above are all reasons why, despite thinking about it and planning for a couple of years, I don't podcast.  I couldn't meet my own high expectations.

Monday, January 06, 2014

New Year, New Challenges. Craft.

This year will be all about celebrating the stash.  Or rather the stashes.

The yarn stash is, despite much pruning before we moved last July, vast.  It deserves to be enjoyed, not just in the having but in the creating.  .

The fabric and sewing stash has enjoyed a bit of growth in the last few years.  Mum's stash came in for a start.  I am blessed with fabrics, threads, notions and buttons and continue to rescue them from landfill faster than I can use them. Time to get creative.  I've made a start in the last few months, but I want to really revel in this stuff.

Fibre. I have an abundance of raw and processed fibre that should get more attention.  Spinning has been off the agenda for some years but I hope to make up for lost time when the weather cools a little.

I'm not saying I won't add to stash, that would be foolish and self-defeating, but I will play with my pretties before adding more.

Image courtesy Surachai,

Sunday, January 05, 2014

New Year, New Challenges. Reading.

Once upon a time I was a big reader, voracious even.  A couple of books a week was a slow week.

Since returning to Canberra 10 years ago, though, there just hasn't been the brainspace for reading much.

Mid 2012 I joined Goodreads and attempted reading through a couple of lists of the best Australian and New Zealand fiction.  It didn't "take" as well I had hoped in that I didn't build a new habit of reading regularly, but I did read and I discovered some truly enjoyable new-to-me authors.

My renewed desire to read also coincided with the development of the Stella Prize and an unprecedented level of public misogyny in our literary, political and social world. I read the Australian Women Writers Challenge blog and cheered Carrie Tiffany when she won the inaugural Stella Prize with Mateship with Birds.

So this year I am taking a very small plunge and taking up the AWW Challenge at Stella level, to encourage me to read and to support Australian women writers.

I commit to reading 4 Australian Women Authors this year.  I will not be reviewing them.  I reckon this is do-able.  Of the 10 books read in 2013, 6 were by Australian women so perhaps not much of a challenge, but this is not about setting myself up to fail, it is about ensuring that good things are done. So 4 is my minimum goal.

Of course I am not starting well.  My first book for 2014 is Booker Prize winner The Luminaries, by New Zealand author, Eleanor Catton.