06 October 2012

In a new home

We are more or settled in our new home now. The boxes in the main living areas of the house are unpacked, although there are still lots of boxes in the spare room and garage. I'm looking forward to spending some time next week arranging my plants and buying some vegetable seedlings for the garden, although I will probably need to plant them in pots because there isn't any real place in the garden for them. People here are very garden-proud so I don't want to upset the landlord by disturbing things too much.

Today we experienced a bit of rural Australian "culture". We travelled about an hour west to the Australian Camp Oven Festival at Millmerran. There were an amazing number of people there, with huge camper vans and caravans complete with satellite dishes on top so as not to miss the important TV events.

It was pretty hot, over 30 even though it's only early October, so we tried to stay out of the sun as much as we could. Entertainment included music of both kinds (country and Western), yodelling, plus a display of sheep dog skills herding ducks instead of sheep.

There were all kinds of activities related to rural Australia in general, including blacksmithing.

An extensive display of old machinery included pumps of all shapes and sizes, and vintage cars.

And of course, the feature of the day was camp ovens, with cooking demonstrations and competitions, camp ovens of all sizes for sale, and of course food of various kinds cooked in camp ovens. The damper was delicious!

All in all it was a fascinating and fun example of a rural Australian festival.

21 September 2012

In Transition

After a long time of not posting, I thought it was an appropriate time to start up again, to mark the end of one phase and the start of a new one.

Next week we are moving from Albury to Toowoomba, where DH has a new job. The packers are here at the moment, so our house looks like this:

They are doing a really good job, but it's still pretty disruptive to have all one's possessions wrapped up in boxes and taken away. After they finish, we will be getting the house cleaned and then leaving next Monday to drive up. It's a good 2 days drive, but we aren't in any huge rush since the furniture won't be arriving until next Friday, so we will be "camping" in the old house and in the new one for a couple of days at both ends of the trip. At least we still have Internet and TV.

And knitting of course! Last night I finished a vest that had been in hibernation for quite a while. It turned out pretty well, except for a mistake on the back that hopefully no-one except me will notice

Last week I finished not one but two projects. The first, and most impressive, was the Kaffe Fassett pattern that I had been working on for almost 18 months. DH loves it, but keeps saying he's afraid he will spill food on it. I joke that it should be framed and only brought out to wear on special occasions.

 The other finished project was a cardigan that I spun the yarn for during the Tour de Fleece (spinning along with the Tour de France). It was originally planned to be my Ravellenic Games project (knitting along with the Olympics) but I knit so much that I got tendinitis and had to take a break. I did finish it during the Paralympic Games though, which was fitting since I had a temporary disability. The wool/flax yarn is still a little stiff, so I might need to wash it a couple more times to help it soften up.

I hope I will get a chance to walk around the neighborhood and take some final photos of the birds and wildlife before we leave. It should be possible since most of the time we are just hanging around trying to stay out of the way.

Next - on the road again!

19 February 2012

Busy knitting and spinning

Since my last post, I've done quite a lot on my various knitting and spinning projects. I have a bit of 'start-itis' at the moment - I keep reading about a challenge or spin-along in the different groups on Ravelry that I follow, and I think "That sounds fun", temporarily forgetting all the other things that I'm working on.

To start with something that I've actually finished: my Magic Mirror socks are done at last. This was the first 'real' yarn I spun, and I'm so glad that I was able to make something nice with it.

Next, a challenge that I did for one of the Ravelry groups I'm in. The challenge was to find something in your stash that you had been putting off spinning because you were afraid of what to do with it, and spin it. I chose a really lumpy glittery batt that I won as a prize a few months ago. I'd been thinking about core spinning it, but was a bit afraid to tackle it, so I decided that this was the time.

I was originally going to use some crochet cotton for the core, but at someone elses suggestion I instead used some white boucle yarn. Having some texture for the core was helpful, but it made the end result quite thick. The batt was very lumpy and bumpy, and I didn't do much to mix things up, so my end result is also lumpy and bumpy. It's very pretty, although I have no idea what I'm going to do with it.

I did end up quite enjoying dealing with the wild batt, although next time I think I will go to more effort to tear it up a bit more to try to make it smoother to spin.

I made a bit more progress on spinning a sweaters worth of yarn from Southern Cross Fibres. I now have 3 braids spun, with two more still to do.

I was originally planning on doing a bit more spinning on this project on the weekend, but I am partway through another Ravelry group challenge, to spin some boucle. (For those that don't know, this is a 'loopy' yarn made by spinning with one strand as the core and the second strand forming the loops, then adding a third strand to lock it all together). Traditionally it's made with mohair, but I'm using Wensleydale for the core and the loops and embroidery thread for the locking thread. Making the loops is incredibly slow, so it will take me a few more days before my spinning wheel is free again.

25 January 2012

In the garden

WARNING - there are photos of spiders later in this posting, so if you don't like spiders you should probably skip this one.

When I was in Brisbane over Christmas, I spent a bit of time wandering around the garden with my camera and macro lens, looking for interesting things to photograph. I love finding patterns in interesting plant foliage and flowers, and I also like spiders and other creepy-crawlies. I know, I'm a bit strange :-)

Anyway, I'll start with some of the plant photos I took, so as not to startle those people who don't like spiders.

This orchid was in bloom, with lovely sprays of gold and purple flowers. I love the complexity of orchid flowers.

I love the abstract look of this hibiscus flower. The macro lens has a very small depth of field when you're close up, so it's impossible to have the whole flower in focus.

The rolled-up leaves at the centre of this plant make an interesting pattern.

I think this is a different coloured hibiscus. The veins in the furled-up flower bud are really pretty.

The colour of the flowers on this bromeliad is so striking - the pink stems really stand out from the powdery mauve buds.

And now, transitioning into insects and other critters. I love these little blue butterflies. They actually have a 'false head' at the back end of their wings, complete with false antennae. When they're sitting still they will often wiggle these around, hoping to persuade predators to go for that end instead of the real head.

There were lots of these spiders around the garden. They really are beautiful when you look at them close up.

This was a different kind of 'garden spider'. I love its yellow elbows/knees.

And finally, a really cute little jumping spider, which I spotted while I was photographing the butterfly. It was lurking in the background as if it wanted to leap onto the butterfly, but I think it would have been outmatched because it was much smaller than its potential prey. It really was only about 3 or 4 mm long.

Here you can see all 8 of its eyes, looking in all directions, as it prepares to make a mighty leap off the twig.

Next time, back to some spinning and knitting progress photos.

15 January 2012

Nature Walk

This morning I thought it would be fun to do a nature walk around the university campus to see what was around. My husband and I often cover some of this territory on our regular morning walks, but this time we both took our cameras, and extended the walk to visit some of the wetlands on the edge of the campus.

It was later than we usually walk during the week, and already quite warm. There were still quite a few birds and other things around though.

Noisy miners are common around the campus. They love the many flowering grevillias and other bushes. This one was hopping around in a shady tree.

Australian magpies have a lovely warbling call. They are very common and relatively approachable. This one was sitting on top of a fence post keeping an eye out for edible things in the grass. There were others around the grassy areas, stalking around and chomping down on the occasional grub.

The galahs have been feeding in the grassy paddocks recently, eating seed heads and dandelion flowers. From a distance, with their heads down, they are hard to spot. Only when they put their heads up to watch us were they more visible. There were a few young birds in the flock, with very grey plumage instead of bright pink.

Red-rumped parrots are another common parrot around the area. They generally feed on the ground, almost invisible as they are the same colour as the grass. When flushed they often fly up and perch on fence posts or wire, as this male has done.

When we reached the wetlands there were a lot of birds around, attracted to the permanent water. We flushed a couple of purple swamphens, which flew awkwardly and perched in some trees on an island in the middle of the largest pond.

Some corellas came down to drink. They were quite wary, sitting on a dead branch in the water and flying up as soon as they had finished drinking.

This galah showed up bright pink against the brown and green of the foliage.

The tall dead trees in the water provided a good perch for several types of birds. When we arrived a flock of white ibis were resting in the branches, sometimes having trouble maintaining their balance in the breeze. A lone white-faced heron was resting in the lower branches.

As we watched, a flock of straw-necked ibis came in to join the white ibis, along with a few little pied cormorants with stained chests from the muddy water. The dead tree looked like a Christmas tree, decorated with black-and-white birds.

On the way back a couple of eastern rosellas flew past. I caught a photo of one watching me from a branch, but didn't manage to get a photo of the yellow rosellas that also went by.

As well as birds, insects were also in evidence along the walk. There were a few butterflies, too quick to photograph, and also a few dragonflies near the water. A couple of small eucalypts looked like they were being badly eaten by something. Perhaps these beetles were the culprit.

Ants were everywhere, and we had to be careful that we weren't standing on a nest when we stopped. They were fairly lively in the heat, and especially so when we disturbed them.

Overall it was a very interesting walk. I was surprised at how many birds were active even in the summer heat.

09 January 2012

Knitting and spinning goals, part 2

I finished spinning the Icelandic fibre that I was working on. It ended up as about 250m of fuzzy fingering-weight yarn. Because I wasn't particularly consistent in my spinning between the two halves of the braid, part of it is fairly well matched in colour and the rest is pretty striped.

I'm not sure what I will do with it - I was originally hoping to make socks, and I think I will still try to find a pattern that I can knit toe-up and two-at-a-time, as I will probably need to make them quite short. I'm not sure what to do about the striping issue. I don't really want one plain sock and one stripy sock, so I may try dividing the yarn at the point where it starts getting really stripy and start with the 'plainer' part for the feet, then change to the stripier part when that runs out.

Knitting with this will probably wait for a while, however, because I have some other goals for 2012 that I would like to get started on. The biggest one is that I want to join in a sweater SAL being organised by one of my favorite dyers, David from Southern Cross Fibres. This is going to be a real challenge for me for lots of reasons, the first of which is because of the amount of time it's going to take! Choosing what fibre to use is going to be another difficulty. I have a couple of colourways that I have 4 braids of, but I'm torn between using one of these or choosing a couple of colours that I have 2 braids of and mixing them in some way. Before I even start spinning though, I'm going to do some more reading about spin control and twist, to see if I can work out a goal for how to spin the yarn. I may even have to (shock horror) do some sampling. As part of the preparation for this project I'm going to start keeping a notebook with notes and spinning samples.

My final goal for 2012, which is somewhat in conflict with all of the other goals, is to finish some of the UFO's that I have in various bags around the place. At the moment I have:
  • the BFL socks that I pictured in the previous entry
  • a Kaffe Fassett jumper pattern that I'm knitting for my husband, started last Easter, finished the back and partway through the front. I love this pattern but it requires quite a bit of concentration so it's not something that I can just pick up and put down

  • an Advent Calender scarf, for which I'm up to day 12. This, although it's lace, is pretty easy knitting so it's an easy project for odd minutes of knitting

  • a blue vest, just needs sewing together and knitting the neck and arm bands
  • 3 shawls, two of which were KALs. One of these is nearly finished (it was my choir rehearsal knitting for much of last year), one is only on clue 4 out of 12 and the other is a fair way through but uses lots of beads so is quite slow. All of these are really 'process' rather than 'product' projects because I don't wear shawls much, but I really like knitting them
  • a Queen Susan Shawl, which is barely started and hasn't been worked on for about a year. I started this and soon realised that it requires so much concentration to knit that I stopped working on it
 On a totally unrelated topic, some notes on birds from last week. I tried to take some photos with my phone of the two white-faced herons that have been hanging around in the creek/drainage channel behind work. It was difficult as they don't let me get too close before they take off, but I got some that I cropped down a bit.

Also, lots of galahs around this morning after the overnight rain. They seemed particularly playful, flapping around in groups and feeding in the long grass.

04 January 2012

Knitting and spinning goals for 2012, part 1

 I've set myself some goals for 2012 in terms of knitting and spinning. Of course, last year I set some goals too, but they went out the window somewhere along the way. This year hopefully I will be a bit more organised.

 My main goal for 2012 is to learn how to spin better. I only took up spinning partway through last year, just before the Tour de France so I was able to participate in the Tour de Fleece organised through Ravelry. Luckily I had done some spindle spinning many many years ago, so I didn't seem to go through the 'lumpy art yarn' stage that many people experience. However, although I love spindles, I find them a bit slow to use and I never found the spinning process very relaxing. (I know, I just need to practice more...)

Luckily, I had a friend with a wheel she wasn't using, and she was happy to lend it to me to try out. It was a Tarra, made in Victoria, single treadle, double drive:
I had great fun for a few months in the time I could steal away from my knitting and other projects, and managed to produce some quite useable yarn, thanks no doubt to the quality of the fibre as much as my spinning efforts.

But I really wanted a wheel of my very own. I looked at pictures and prices and reviews, and finally decided on a Schacht Ladybug. I was lucky enough to be able to try one out, put in my order immediately, and a week or so before Christmas a big box arrived via courier!

Although I haven't had a great deal of time between then and now to spin, I have managed to do one bump of singles. The choice of which fibre to use to christen my wheel was hard - it had to be something that was fairly easy to spin, something that I liked but that I wouldn't be devastated if it didn't turn out exactly how I planned. I settled on some Icelandic fleece dyed by the lovely Charly, aka Ixchelbunny. I love spinning long wool, and I made a real effort not to over-spin and to try and get some consistency in both thickness and twist. The results so far:

I still haven't really noticed the difference in feel between ST and DD (I've been using ST), but I'm sure I will as I spin more different types of yarns. I want to really work out the look and feel of yarns with different amount of twist, and try to quantify this in terms of the ratio and pedalling speed. A long-term goal I think, but I will work on it slowly.

My next goal, left over from last year, is to knit more socks. I love knitting socks, there are so many beautiful patterns out there. I wanted to knit lots of socks last year but I got somewhat distracted by other things. I have, however, started 2012 with some socks:
These are Jeannie's Magic Mirror socks, my first socks knit with hand-spun yarn. The yarn is made from BFL from Moseley Park, actually the first yarn I spun after the anonymous fluff that came with my first spindle. Luckily, even though I didn't really know what I was doing in terms of dividing up the fibre for spinning or plying, the colour gradient seems to have turned out well so far.

I have quite a few single bumps of fibre, which I can see destined for socks. As I spin, I'd like to experiment with different colour effects, always fun with small projects like socks if you don't mind different colours and stripes on the two socks.

I have a couple more goals for 2012, but I will save those for part 2.