Monday, April 30, 2007

Yes I've been, I've got nothing much to show for it

...You know how it is! I've been doing lots of stuff...just STUFF...creative stuff, of course, but I haven't really got any finished results that I can show off.

So here's a photo of my partly completed cardigan, made with a mixture of mohair and recycled sari yarn. The pure silk sari yarn was more expensive, so I got a mix of part silk and part whatever, which is quite harsh and not at all what I'd want next to my skin, so I added the mohair (in a delightful shade of Depressed Grey that I had never used , for SOME reason). Because I wasn't too sure about how far the sari yarn would go, and I'm still not, considering I have the fronts to do yet, I'm knitting 4 rows of the 2 together folowed by 2 rows of just mohair.

The Evil Twin (ahem!) has been bending the plastic again and buying books from Amazon. I really enjoyed Victoria Finlay's book
Color: A Natural History of the Palette
Color: A Natural History of the Palette

so when someone on the Dyers' List recommended "A Perfect Red" I naturally jumped at it. Or at least, my fingers jumped at the order, no, it was the Evil Twin! Anyway, I now have the book, so I look forward to reading about "Empire, Espionage and the Quest for the Color of Desire". Hoo!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Needs refinement

The bag, I mean - I'm as refined as I'm ever going to be! Probably a hopeless case in the refinement department.

I'm pleased with it as a first attempt, though I will keep this one as my machine kept hiccuping on the stitching from time to time, so the inside stitching is a little untidy.

The front flap, which I've embellished with some of my hand painted wool, is a former sleeve. I cut strips off the front and back pieces which form the sides and handle of the bag.

Because the felt was so thick, I couldn't sew 2 layers together in the normal way. I found a stitch on my Janome 65ooP that successfully sewed the 2 pieces together if I butted them up to one another. I figured that if all the stitching was going to show then I may as well make a feature of it, so I used s multicoloured thread.

With some of the thinner felts that I've porduced, I will probably line the bags. They won't all be this design - this just seemed the easiest to begin with.

Comments are appreciated.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Today I received my first blogstalking comment. I don't know whether this means my blog has hit the big time or what. Possibly this Turkish guy was moved to invoke his long religious tirade as a result of being moved by the sheer magnificence of my handcrafts. Or possibly not. To maintain your viewing pleasure, I deleted the comment.

Recycling and felting

In a previous life, this was a bright turquoise jersey that I rescued from the op shop. It's also my first try at felting in the washing machine. Technically, I know this is actually "fulling" but the end result is felt, and everyone knows what you're talking about when you say "felting", so this is what I'm calling it.

It has felted up beautifully, and I now plan to turn it into an embellished bag, with one of sleeves becoming a flap to come over where the front placket was.

This morning, I have cut apart another 6 or 7 wool jerseys. Some may work, others may not - you can't always rely on the tags, and you don't actually know what's in hand knits.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

And now for something completely different......

I belong to the local Business Women's network, which has recently started up in town. Yesterday's lunch meeting was a talk by Getrude Matshe.

She is a Zimbabwean artist, author and storyteller who came to New Zealand only 6 years ago with her 3 children. After working for 3 months, she had saved enough to pay for her husband, a doctor, to come as well. They had nothing, as you couldn't take money out of Zimbabwe.

Her full story is too long to relate here, but she's truly inspriring. I don't think I've ever been so impressed by someon'e life story, and I consider it significant that I won a copy of her book (still to come)- cover shown in the photo. You can read more about her and her work here on her website, which is promoting her book, all proceeds of which go towards supporting and educating African orphans with HIV.

There IS a textile slant to this - as poor blacks, Getrude's mother and brothers and sisters (from age 6) spent their spare time making crafts that their mother sold at weekends by knocking on doors in the white districts. This was to raise enough money to send the children to private schools (ie not the basic village school where the black children normally went). Later, her father sold 100 cows to enable Getrude to attend university in London. She returned to Zimbabwe, married and had a family. They were about to emigrate when September 11 happened, and the building where Getrude was to take craft workshops (see below) was destroyed. Then the Zimbabwean government changed the rules about going to the States. A cousin had come to New Zealand and told Getrude this is where she should come.

When Getrude arrived here, she needed money so she painted cloth with traditional African designs, using an African technique of batik using cornstarch instead of wax. Unable to find an outlet for her 100 metres of cloth, she cut it up into small pieces and made cushions. These sold, she opened a shop, and things snowballed from there. She and her husband now have 3 businesses; the Africa Alive Foundation where she personally supports 150 orphans, many of whom are in her extended family (life expectancy in Zimbabwe for blacks is under 37 years); she has acted in "King Kong" and spent 2 weeks watching Peter Jackson (a local icon!) work; and she speaks to groups all around the world. Having now written the book, she now plans to write and direct a film.

Can you tell I'm impressed?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Basking in reflected glory

...well, maybe not glory as lovely daughter Sophie has just walked 100 kms (about 62 miles) around Lake Taupo, New Zealand's largest lake which is in the centre of the North Island. It took her 30 hours (yes, 30, with no sleep), and 2 of her friends walking with her in the team of 4 dropped out overnight. It was by no means an easy stroll, as there are substantial uphill parts of this road.

This walk was to raise money for Oxfam, and the target is $4000 for their team. They raised 72% of that before the walk staretd, but still need more to reach target.

I am really proud of Sophie, as we are not a naturally athletic family and she has never played any sport, so she has had to train hard for this over the past few months, along with studying fulltime for her law degree and working 20 hours a week as a law clerk.
Should any readers wish to make a donation to Oxfam and support her efforts, click on this link and click on the upper right hand button that says "Make a Difference - donate now".

Do let me know if you make a donation, so I can personally thank you.
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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Warning - more cute animal photos

After my earlier post, I found the twins doing a mirror image thing on the settee. (well, slightly askew). That's my "bizarre stars" quilt you can see behind them.

Here it is in more detail for those readers who haven't seen it before. It's heavily quilted, except for the stars themselves, which are outlined in an untraditional way with zigzag stitch. The rest of it is quilted with many different coloured threads in a star design. Click on the photo to see more detail.

I made it out of some of my more unusual (ok, ugly even) hand dyed fabric. I was thinking of using it for a class to demonstate how to make a quilt that isn't just the usual blocks-inside-a-border style for those beginner quilters who feel unable to easily step outside following a pattern strictly, but I have never followed through with that class.

In this quilt, I've taken the border elements (the wedge-shaped pieced areas) and put them inside the quilt, rather than around the outside of the star blocks as a border.

Poodles With Rainbow

When the poodles were puppies, I was often asked by children whether they were twins. It was easier to answer "yes" than try to explain that they probably were octuplets or similar. Anyway, because they're litter mates and have been together all their lives, they're very close and often lie in a heap together.

They were doing this the other morning, when the sun shone through the crystal I have hanging in my living room window. I love the rainbows from crystals - I know they're not actually rainbows but light passing through a prism blah blah. Rainbows just sounds nicer and more magical. And don't we need more of that?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Dyed batting and little felted gemstones (sort of)

Here's some wool batting that I've dyed using the hands-on process that I use for my "Blended" fabric. It's very labour intensive, messy and time-consuming, and uses a lot of dye. Did I mention messy?

I have most of a roll of this batting which is no longer produced in NZ, unfortunately. I loved it in my quilts, and now see it as a perfect backing for using with my new toy, the embellisher (needle-felting machine). Another example of how having 40 million sheep but only a small market means we are not well served for wool and wool products.

I played with the embellisher this morning for the first time, and made these little tags (front and back views) out of the aforementioned batting that I'd used several weeks ago as colour swatches for my latest wool dyes. This didn't give a really good indication of the colour however, so I then redid them all with pieces of wool. I kept them all, plus the ties I used on the skeins of wool I've been dyeing, and I hit on the idea of felting them all together. I'm going to put eyelets in these and make them into keyrings.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Rising out of the ashes in an Easter sorta way

OK, Easter has nothing to do with ashes as such, but I didn't want to sound disrespectful to the deeply religious.

I am very energised by all the creative stuff I'm doing. Admittedly, it's hardly award-winning gallery work, it's only stuff for my upcoming market stall, but it's certainly made me feel good and inspired.

Here's another batch of Magic card/cellphone holders that I've made. I'm introducing New Zealand fabrics into the mix as I am trying to appeal to the tourist market.

And the things in the other photo may not be obvious, but they're fabric wrappers which will hold a cake of soap. There's a wrapped one in the middle of the photo, and below it's unwrapped so you can see better how it works. There are 2 layers of fabric, a commercial print on the outside, and my hand-dyes in a matching colorway fused to the inside.
And on the drawing board? I'm going to play with fabric boxes a bit, and also want to whip up some lavender bags, bookmarks, and felted clip tags.

More photos later!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Happy Easter to all my readers

Yes it's Good Friday here already. I have 4 days of unadulterated free time to create whatever I want !

Here's the skeins of wool that I dyed last weekend at the Totara Estate - the ones that didn't get sold, that is. I ended up painting some to order, with the customers choosing the colours and taking them home still wet.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A sucker for sunrises

The sun has moved around considerably now that it's autumn. The nights are getting cooler, and the first frosts are only a few weeks away.

Here's the sun rising just after 7am this morning.
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Monday, April 02, 2007

Harvest Festival at a historic homestead

Here are some photos from the Totara Estate harvest fetsival where I spent yesterday demonstating wool dyeing as part of their "Fleece to Fashion" marquee.

Totara Estate, just south of Oamaru, is the home of the first shipment of refrigerated meat from NZ to Great Britain in ... ...umm...a very long time ago, anyway. This open day was a celebration of heritage crafts and living. There were Clydesdales and a bullock team, Shrek the famous Merino, a penny farthing rider, swaggers,

people making coracles, a blacksmith, scarecrow making, and demonstations of spinning, weaving, lacemaking, some other crafts, and of course, dyeing.
The animals ploughed and pulled carts, or were shorn.
There was food like lamb shanks, tripe and onions, and so on, but we just had sandwiches and coffee. Many people came in Victorian costume.

You can see my table in the top photo, complete with the traditional heritage microwave. I was asked many times if I used natural dyes. Naturally, these sound clean and green and wholesome. Most people are unaware that many natural dyes need to be set with heavy metal mordants, and are probably less safe than the chemicals I use. These chemical dyes have been around since the 1850's so are quite appropriate in the sort of situation.

All in all, a pleasant day.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Full moon approaching

I often wish I had a better camera (translation = a far more expensive one) that could properly caapture colours and shades as I see them. Night photography is notoriously fickle when you just have a point-and-click digital.

Tonight, the nearly-full moon was shining along these stripey clouds, and you can see it also shining on the sea beyond the lights of a building in the historic precinct.

Today I was at the open day held each autumn at Totara Estate (a historic homestead just out of town), where I was demonstrating wool dyeing in their "Fleece to Fashion" marquee. Photos to come!
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The blind sewing machine

My quilting friend Sue-Ellen has been staying this weekend. She arrived on Friday, the same day as my new new embellisher. She described it as looking like "a blind sewing machine" because it has no dials or levers or thread holders or ANYTHING on the front.

Sue-Ellen has had a bit of a play with it (but I haven't yet) while I was finishing off this wee shawl. It's hand painted of course - I was really just trying to get my new Navy wool dye to come out the right colour for my swatches, and threw in some other new colours - Poppy Red, Raspberry and Violet. Or maybe it was Brilliant Violet. Anyway, a very err......... unusual mix of colours, shall we say.

I wanted to see how much shawl I could knit out of just one 50 gram ball (that's just under 2 ounces for non-metric readers) of 4 ply (umm.....fingering? - this is baby wool, if that helps) and this is the result, which is quite wearable once it's blocked.

This is a very, very simple lacy pattern, the first lace I've actually ever knitted, so it's ideal for beginners. It's just 3 rows of garter stitch, followed by a row on doing yarn overs (which makes the holes) and knitting 2 stitches together. You cast on 3 stitches, then increase 1 stitch at the beginning of every row while doing this pattern, then cast off when you think you're about to run out of wool. That's it really.

You can click on the photo to see the pattern in more detail