icelandic jumpers and a bedside table full of books

basket in sun

joining Ginny and her yarn-a-long!  I highly recommend checking out the other lovely people who link to this – you’ll see so much prettiness :-)

You know me – always longing for the sun and warmth.  And yet I do sooooooo love knitting and the wearing of all this knitty goodness.  The current knit that I am just desperate to finish is the Lopi sweater I am knitting for Abby.

It’s in a beautiful wool – an old old yarn – Cleckheaton’s Angora Supreme – that we found in the bargain basement at Wondoflex a few Saturday’s back.  Initially, I passed over the bundle of 8 balls for just pennies (can’t quite remember but it was less than $30 and there’s 140m on each ball so a wonderful buy) but then I figured it was lovely quality wool and a great price so I picked it up after all.

When Abby saw it, she was delighted!  Hawkeye purple she tells me – she being a dedicated Marvel fan.  And she thought it would be super with some white and lilac and dark lilac for a Lopi sweater.  And she was right.  She always is – has an eye for colour this one.

As per all the Lopi patterns I’ve tried, the body knitted up lickety-split.  They are such wonderfully simple patterns.  And oh how I love that simple, repetitive, meditative knitting.  Round and round and round and round.  Then the sleeves – up they went.  And then onto the yoke.

Now the yoke has certainly been time consuming – intensely patterned with sometimes three yarns in play at once.  But I do love stranded knitting  – my challenge is keeping it loose enough at the back.  Once all those strands are layered, it does make for an exceptionally warm jumper.  Like wearing a jumper WITH a shawl.  Perfect.

the arch bicycles bicycle seats

It did feel a bit funny the other day – sitting on the porch, my cardigan discarded, lapping up that sun like a cat – with a big hefty pile of Icelandic knitting on my lap :-)

knitting with ipad

When I looked down into my basket, I was also struck by the contrast between my vintage basket, my Lopi pattern (same as has been knitted in Scandinavia for generations), my vintage Cleckheaton wool … and the iPad.  I almost always knit from the iPad these days.  Whenever I pack my knitting basket, the iPad gets slipped in too.  Isn’t it brilliant!  I just love being able to browse Ravelry – I start by looking at everything and then wheedle it down, adding my search criteria one by one.  Then buy my pattern, download it and bam!  I’m off.  Can’t imagine knitting any other way. So totally different from when I first began knitting and we had to rely upon those cardboard folders of patterns – purchased from the shop, one or two at a time.  And rarely exactly what I had in mind anyway.  Now – the whole world sits there at my fingertips.  The truly wonderful upside of being connected to this new world.

coming along

As for reading … I’ve been re-reading “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.  This book is so densely packed with fascinating information that I am forever discovering something new and tweaking how I cook for my family yet a little bit more.  These days, I’m especially keen on cooking suppers that can be served in these dear little pots.  We found 12 at the opshop the other day.  They are Denby Gypsy – apparently very rare in Australia – haven’t been able to find any others on the old ebay.  So we’re eating lots of soups and stews – we even had our porridge in them the other morning and I must say, they keep the food very hot.

soup potOn the fiction front – I’m adoring Karen Joy Fowler’s “We are All Completely Beside Ourselves”.  Oh my goodness – the narrator is so utterly relatable.  I find myself nodding and laughing and wincing along with her.  And I’m also reading William McInnes’ “The Birdwatcher” – totally different, set here in Australia starting in Melbourne then moving up to North Queensland.  Both are landscapes so very familiar that it is a very poignant read – I love reading about environments I have lived in – such a connection.  And the characters are very appealing – it’s not literature, but it’s a lovely read and I really enjoy McInnes’ voice.  I have Inga Simpson’s “Nest” to pick up from the bookshop tomorrow – also set in North Queensland and I think I shall need Ian McEwan’s new novel “The Children Act” too.  Very pertinent but more about that next week!

Now – I’m off to bed on this cold cold night – The Birdwatcher awaits me.

 

finally – the stevenson sweater and a book about lighthouses

Joining in with Ginny’s Yarn-a-long!  And a heart felt thankyou to all the lovely folk who visited here last week.  Thank you so much for your kind words – I look forward to catching up with more of your lovely knitting this week!

last of the kitchener stitch

I really think – hope – that 2014 is going to be the year I finish lots of knitting – as opposed to just starting :-)  Saturday morning saw me brave the techniques needed to finish off my Stevenson Sweater (raveled here) – a whole lot of sewing in of ends (not difficult, but ends that with hindsight and a little more experience, I did not need to create) and the grafting of the armholes with kitchener stitch.  Not only does Kate write lovely patterns, including lovely armholes, but her beautiful book “Colours of Shetland” provides excellent and simple to follow instructions for kitchener stitch.  Really, I don’t know what I was so afraid of.

Actually, I do.  I think a lot of my not-finishing-things in a timely manner can be put down to this silly thought – if I don’t finish them, then I don’t have to assess whether or not they are a success.   If the cardigan is never finished, then I never have to critically look at what I’ve made, identify where I can improve, and seek to improve my skills.  Unfinished items are just lovely to work on – they don’t have to be anything.  Do you know what I mean?  When it’s actually finished, then it has to stand on its own two feet.  Yes?  Do you ever experience this feeling?  Sometimes I can become completely bogged in it.  Has even been known to stop me from giving people presents I’ve handmade for them.

Well, mayhaps 2014 will not only be the year of finishing, but a year of growing.  An opportunity to look at what I finish, be grateful for the loveliness I have created, enjoy my projects for being an illustration of where I’m at skill wise, and look forward to using that skill again, only next time, with a little more finesse.  Or maybe, appreciate that not everything has to be perfect and that I can love my knits for being my knits and not fret over their shortcomings.  That would be even nicer :-)

yellow stockings the beach my lovely abby

on to the next sotp

her cute shoes

(my lovely photographer and her very natty new shoes she very sweetly agreed to come to the beach with me– icy wind and all – to indulge me in my photo wanting)

Anyways!  Back to the Stevenson Sweater.  When Kate first shared glimpses of the projects in her Colours of Shetland book, I fell instantly in love with this stranded knitting, short sleeved jumper.  I loved the colours, loved the stripes, loved that it was styled on lighthouses which I adore, and loved the story behind the Stevenson lighthouses!  I read the book Kate recommended – it was fascinating – if you have a thing for lighthouses, like me, I highly recommend it.  I devoured it in 2 nights and wished it could have gone on forever.

So, I put Kate’s book and the beautiful Shetland Island yarn required for this jumper (and the Puffin Jumper which is also waiting for a finish) on my list for Father Christmas that year.  And sure enough, there it was under the tree for me on Christmas morn.  Funny story – I was too busy on Christmas Day to pick up the needles but come Boxing Day, I couldn’t wait to cast on those golden stitches.  Mum and Abby went out early – shopping – Aunty Anne (who was staying with us) caught the train west to spend the day with old school friends, Julian was engrossed in a Christmas book and I – well, I was beside myself with anticipation.  I laid my yarn out on the round table in the living room.  I placed my needles beside it.  I made a cup of tea.  I went to fetch the book – and couldn’t find it.

I searched the house.  I tore the house apart.  I looked under every chair, table, bed and sideboard.  Piles of books and magazines were scattered, helter-skelter.  I even looked in all the tote bags and the car.  I pestered Julian.  I rang Abby and Mum – several times.  I looked for over 2 hours,  all the while growing more frantic (cranky).  How could I have lost the book in less than 24 hours!!!  It seemed manifestly unfair!  I had been waiting for this moment for almost 2 months.

Then, finally, I searched under the front passenger seat in the car.  And there it was.  I had given it to Mum to look at on Christmas Day as we drove to the airport to collect Aunty Anne – and she had put it under the front seat.  Don’t know why.  But she did.  Then we both forgot about it.  Sigh!

walking to the jetty
there was a fellow swimming

(This is me looking askance at a person swimming!
Port Philip Bay is freezing in summer let alone the last week in autumn)

the crazy folk the bag from the front close up of neck and shoulder

Most of the body was knitted on Mum’s front porch.  The perfect spot for a lighthouse sweater.  Sitting there drenched in sun, buffeted by the seabreeze, pretty parrots and kangaroos in attendance, the beautiful Pacific Ocean rolling and sparkling before me, little fishing boats darting across the Bar.  All the while, dreaming of lighthouses and when I would wear my Stevenson Sweater to our lighthouse – the Green Cape Lighthouse.  It’s not been there yet, but I’m sure it will be soon.

on the jetty watching the boat raglan sleeve

The Jamieson Jumper weight wool is truly gorgeous to work with.  I adore it.  It’s got a lovely lightness to it, a sweet fuzziness, and it just melds together so beautifully.  Their colour range is lovely too.  And it’s from Shetland sheep who’ve roamed Shetland Island, been sheared there, their wool spun there, dyed there, and then these beautiful little balls of yarn made their way all the way down here, from the top of the world to the bottom of the world.  Magic, yes?  I want to knit in Jamieson for the rest of my knitting days.

with the jetty behind photos for mym

Well now, I suppose there’s nothing stopping me from finishing the Puffin Sweater (wait til you hear what happened to part of that pattern – oy!).  Well except, that I’m knitting a stripey jumper for Mum.  And still have Julian’s Argyle to finish.

But right now, I’m about to hop into bed with my copy of “The Lighthouse Stevensons” and another old favourite – Amy Tan’s “The Kitchen God’s Wife” – I heard her on the radio the other day and she was so marvellous I want to read all her books over again.

argyling and the marvellous Joan Aiken

that can be a verb, yes?  Sounds like a strange form of mining.  I’m wracking my brain to see if there’s any analogy between knitting argyle and mining …. no, I’m coming up blank.

suitcase

Nevertheless, that’s what’s going on here in Bootville.  Because there are only 5 days left to argyle before the birthday arrives on which I said I would have the argyle ready for wearing.  Gasp!

peek inside

Silliness aside – and disregarding the insane number of little balls of wool that perform square dancing on every row – knitting argyle – my first attempt – is very pleasant.  The yarn is Jamieson and Smith’s 2 ply jumper weight which is so very lovely to knit with.  It’s so very woolly!  You only have to lay two strands next to each other and they snuggle up.  And the soft halo that floats above the surface of the knitted fabric is so beautiful.  Yum!  When I knit with this yarn, I don’t ever want to knit with anything else.

holding it open

And I’m knitting on 3.25mm needles which is also strangely addictive.  When I was a young, flighty knitter I was very much of the notion that the bigger the needle, the fatter the yarn, the better.  Now I say, nonsense to that!  There’s something very very good about knitting up a fabric that is fine and light, yet so warm and durable.

hard to fathom

Oh, the pattern.  It’s Keith’s Vest by Veronik Avery.  I like her stuff – very classy.  The back, of course, was easy-peasy-easy-peasy – back and forth, back and forth, straight up.  The front – well, trying to read “the pattern” took a few quiet looks, a few frogged rows, finally an a-ha moment and then the decision, once I knew I was in the right spot, to not confuse myself any further by looking at “the pattern” and just keep an eye on the photo. And follow the lines.  It’s a bit common sense really.  It’s working – currently.  I’ll have to pay attention when the armholes start decreasing but that’s okay.  They’re only armholes and I don’t think the argyle really touches them much.  Nope, just checked, there’s no argyling going on near armholing.  I am looking forward to the bands.  Oh yes!

bunched up

And it has to be knitted on the bed – with all the little balls rolling around in front of me.  And that’s okay too because I am so tired this week – that time of the month, and early morning classes – that sneaking in a couple of hours each day,  to sit on the bed, pillows scrunched behind my back, the fan blowing on my face, a cold drink by my side, is really nice.

coming my way

Actually, that’s why I’m knitting right now, and not reading (rereading a favourite children’s series, because really, don’t you think, the really good children’s books are better than any grown ups’ book I’ve ever read).  Because I know if I read, I will fall asleep and then I will not wake up in time to fetch the little girl from school for an afternoon of homework.  So I shall knit.

stolen lake

Besides, there’s only five days to go before we reach the birthday.  And I promised.

growing

Pop over to Ginny’s to check out her yarn along friends – there are some beautiful places to visit and lots of pretty yarn :-)

 

the wool from a parched and golden land

 

joining Ginny’s Yarnalong over at smallthings!

gunning wool looking into it

This soft, ropey wool was sheared off a sheep from Gunning, NSW who was just this colour.  Her owners sent the wool down to Bendigo – 600km away and in a different state – to be washed, carded and spun.  Then it back it came to Gunning – a tiny little town on the Old Hume Highway in the Southern tablelands – where just 487 people live.  I bought it – in one huge hank – from a small craft store that has opened in what was once Gunning’s Courthouse.

Like many of the small towns nestled amongst these hot, crackly-dry hills, Gunning was one of many thriving communities that provided services to the prosperous Merino wool farmers.  But it’s been a long time since Australia “rode on the sheeps’ back”, so profitable for the country was Australia’s wool production.  Since then there’s been too many heartbreaking droughts – locals I spoke to in these parts assured me that they’d just COME OUT of drought – much to their relief.  Goodness, I’d hate to have seen it any drier – what was left of the grass crunched under my feet.  In the second half of the 20th century the wool price fell through the floor and has never recovered, from a high of $37 per kilo in the early 1950s, to $3.20 per kilo in 2002. And in the 1990s the vast majority of Australia’s wool processing centres went from being the lifeblood of their towns’ economic and social wellbeing to empty ruins, often perched by dry riverbeds and disused, crumbling railway lines.  It’s a sad, sad tale.

gundagai

:: a view to the dry hills from the highest spot in Gundagai – even in its parched state, it has such beauty

old railway line

:: the old Gundagai Railtrack – would have transported untold kilos of wool from here to nearby processing centres

derelict wool shed

:: the Gundagai WoolShed, on a beautiful bend of Morley’s Creek, tucked under the railway line – empty and derelict

slab and tin

:: tin and slab settler’s cottage, Gunning

post office

:: for Grandad – the Gunning Post Office

golden hill empty fields post ruined church

:: the ruins of St. Mary’s, destroyed by fire in the 1980s

goulburn sheep

taree sheep

:: many of the grand old buildings in Australia’s country towns are decorated with sheep – a tribute to their significance in days past – the colourful tiled art deco sheep is from Goulburn, the sandstone sheep above is from Taree

However, one small farm in Gunning, is holding on – thriving I hope! – and offering their wool for sale at local markets – colours straight from the sheep’s backs.  (You won’t believe this, but I have LOST the card that came with my wool – I shall ring somewhere in Gunning tomorrow, find out the details and post them here!).  They have 5 ply, 8 ply, 10 ply and 12 ply, in colours from very cool creams through to dark ashy browns.  They also sell roving for felting, and beautiful hand knit jumpers from those sized for babes all the way to adults.  It was all so lovely it took me ages to choose.  Eventually I chose this dusty, earthy tone because it looks so like the landscape from which it came.  The bumpy little sheep who wear this colour are so utterly camouflaged in the fields, you can barely make them out!  Mum and I drove by many a field where we weren’t sure whether they were sheep or rocks until they moved!

cowl little bumpy stitches packed in bag

As is the magic of Ravelry, I entered my wool’s dimensions and came up with a lovely cowl pattern that would use most of my wool – Louise Zass-Bangham’s Ice Storm Cowl. That seems to be a terribly inappropriate title for a knit made from wool that came from a land so dry, don’t you think?  But the sharp, bumpy chevrons of Louise’s design, reminded me of the hills of sharply jagged grass that the sheep of the Southern Tablelands are hidden amongst.   It’s knitting up beautifully – and it is easy to fall into the rhythm of the pattern – I was even able to manage it whilst following the subtitles of a German film!

Book wise – with the start of the new school year, there’s been much reading here in Bootville.  Abby is studying literature for her final two years of highschool – I’m so thrilled and she has such a lovely booklist – many of which I have both studied and taught – and is also encouraged to explore complementary titles.  Her first unit for this semester is dominated by the World War I poet Wilfrid Owen – so I’ve suggested All is Quiet on the Western Front – similar themes to Owen but from a German perspective.  She’s reading a few chapters every night – we have a dedicated 1/2 hour to reading together each evening – and is finding it a lot more interesting than she originally thought.

all quiet on the western front

After Wilfred Owen, her class will be studying Great Gatsby so for reading aloud, we’re sharing some of Fitzgerald’s short stories – my favourite is Berenice Bobs Her Hair – oh such a good ending!  I was struck afresh the other night at how pertinent his writing is regarding the bizarre social rituals we both twist ourselves into and frantically try to extricate ourselves from – more so when we are young – no matter the decade.  This sentence especially struck me … “At eighteen our convictions are hills from which we look; at forty-five they are caves in which we hide.”  Being much closer to 45 than 18, this made me chuckle, so vivid was my memory of being a righteous 18 year old standing on that hill wondering why my parents were so blind.

berenice bobs her hair

And, whilst Abby sits engrossed in the horror of an unjust war, I’ve been reading a dear little book I picked up at the annual Bega Book Fair –  Little Pear by Eleanor Frances Lattimore.  She lived with her family in Shanghai, before World War I, where her father taught English at a Chinese University.  They are such sweet stories (with simple but lovely illustrations), and remind me of Shirley Hughes’s stories of Alfie (which are hands down my favourite children’s picture books) – a very real and natural little boy with an enthusiasm and curiosity for everything that is going on around him, coupled with a desire to be a valuable and trusted part of the family he loves – with a cultural twist that is respectful and enchanting. You can tell Ms. Lattimore writes with such fondness.  I’m so glad I found it.

little pear