Thursday, July 30, 2009

Linda was thrilled by all your comments on her Best Of Show winner - apparently when it was announced onstage that this was her first entry in a juried show, there was an audible gasp throughout the auditorium :]
Mind you she has been producing stunning quilts for over 30 years :]

moving on with no attempt at a segue
today is "Nasty-invasive-pre-surgical-test-day" which is why I'm already up, all animals have had an unnaturally early pre dawn breakfast, and I'm on this dreaded beasty because there was surely no sleep to be had and I finished the current book at about 6.30am
I'm not going to share the details - you really, really don't want to know - but some positive thoughts in this direction would be appreciated

... and before anyone weighs in with 'what surgery? and why haven't we been told ?' ... it's major girly stuff, nothing life threatening, and happening in September. The humiliation today is to decide whether there needs to be additional surgeries carried out at the same time.
Should've been done months ago but the only person capable of overseeing today's torture has been in England for 3 months.

normal life and blogging resume tomorrow

Monday, July 27, 2009

Skiting about a very creative friend

My very dear friend, Linda French of Centerville Ohio - after 30 odd years of quilting - finally entered one of her quilts in a major show - the American Quilters' Society Expo in Knoxville, Tennessee this past weekend
and got Best in Show

Personally I'm not in the least surprised because I've known what a talented quilter she is ever since we first met while she was living in OZ in the early 80s

don'tcha just love it when your friends are suitably recognised for their brilliance, in spite of their natural reticence?

Friday, July 24, 2009

I am a spoiled brat

It's been an odd week.
A week that has included some very, very good things ... and some not so.
hack! splutter!
On the debit side was the hour I spent standing at the Top End Servo in the freezing cold - and rain - did I mention the rain? - inhaling petrol fumes while waiting for the RACV guy to arrive [ long story - tell you later ] and possibly as a consequence of which, I'm currently battling the common cold [ with a side order of FMS induced chronic fatigue ] which is my excuse for the appalling lack of blogging this week

cough! cough! argh!

For today though, one of the items perched very solidly on the positive side of the ledger:
a wonderful squishy care package from
my friend Lisette who informed me a few weeks ago that she was posting me up 'a little something'. I naively assumed it was the recycled-from-being-used-to-wrap-market-purchases asian newspaper I'd asked her to save for a planned mixed media piece

so you can imagine how gobsmacked I was to find all this largesse at the Post Office

the aforementioned 'small something' which turned out to be four tiny maneki neko [ lucky cat ] beads for my collection. Each one less than a half inch tall!
but wait
there's more
on the intervening weeks while patiently waiting to be conveyed into the arms of Australia Post, the cats had been joined by
25 grams of pure cashmere
all sorts of wonderful asian goodies
some fabulous green yarn from Yarn Barn and

oops ... sorry ... wrong photo ... these are Sophie's toes
now where was it ?
le piece de la resistance
from the dyepot of Emily Parsons: ...
Sophie's Toes Sock Yarn

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Miscellany

Nearly four years ago I planted about thirty tiny Hakea seedlings. They were tender little things about an inch high with two leaves each, and while I'd love to be able to report that they were cossetted and protected and lovingly looked after, the truth is that they were planted and left to get on with it.
Those that survived my not-so-tender ministrations currently range in height from a measly six inches up to about a metre, and this week I finally got my first flower.This is a Pincushion Hakea ... and if I hadn't already used the 'new alien life form' angle a week or so back, this would've been a perfect excuse to trot it out. Maybe I could've identified it as a mislocated aquatic species ... it does look sort of sea urchinish don't you think?

Contrary to it's outlandish spiky appearance, it is actually rather soft and delicate
unlike the current spinning

which may look to the casual observer to be the same as last week's sacred alpaca
but not so
this is XCorriedale, and where the alpaca was a beautiful soft silky understated grey and white, this is plain prickly blah beige and somewhat akin to spinning with wire.
When I was just starting out, this was the stuff I was talked into having - almost a kilo of it - and obviously not best suited to a hat or scarf or any other garment that might end up anywhere that might be sensitive to prickles... but it was a good choice for a beginner, she wa sright about that. You just wouldn't particularly want to wear the result.
I'm too cheap to get rid of it but I'm thinking that if I make it into socks they'll probably wear like iron ... or maybe another felted something ... and I could always dye it a more interesting shade. It's on track to turn out about fingering weight ... I could probably use it as makeshift fencing wire in an emergency

gratuitous cute cat alert:
MissC in her little cat habitation - the only one of my furrbabies to sleep in a species appropriate designated place

Sunday, July 19, 2009

which would YOU choose, hmm ?

I want you all to cast your minds back to the start of the week and the riveting saga of the spinning of the sacred alpaca ...
Got that image firmly in place?
Righto ... as it turns out, the enforced break from Tour De Fleece spinning due to a particularly poorly placed rusty nail, coupled with a certain reluctance to engage with a quilt project that is in active-procrastination mode, meant that I had absolutely NO CHOICE ... none at all ... but to knit.
A portion of the sacred alpaca has fulfilled all of its early promise and has reincarnated as
[drum roll please, maestro ]
yes ... another cowl.
Improvised feather and fan, a little simpler than the Ice Queen and without the picot cast on-and-off which I really didn't think would show up properly with the halo of the alpaca [ my excuse and I'm sticking to it ]

... and here we get to my current quandary... namely, if you were my elegant about-to-be-30 daughter-in-law* [ whose favourite colours are black, brown and grey ] which would you prefer?
The Ice Queen in black laceweight, or the slightly simpler grey one in my handspun sacred alpaca ?

* who was quite properly brought up to appreciate the effort in handmade gifts

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Basically I'm sulking

Feel free to skip what will undoubtedly be a major whinge:

The Australian Wool and Sheep Show is one sleep away ... and I found out YESTERDAY that David has a 'client-free' day tomorrow... In other words, he'll be at home.
They swear there was a notice before the school holidays but funnily enough I'm not the only one who knew absolutely nothing about it.
Had I known two weeks ago, perhaps I could have organised a Carer for Dave.
Two days ? n'est pas possible

For the record, David hates crowds, mud, crowds, other people's dogs, crowds, and large numbers of unpredictable woolly beasts ... did I mention he's not good with crowds ?
so taking him not really an option
and not only has it messed up something that I look forward to all year, but friend Jeanette won't go without me so it's buggered up her plans as well

I'm feeling a bit savage

I did take her out for a celebratory 50th birthday coffee this afternoon but it's hardly a substitute for all the fibrey goodness that will be happening in Bendigo for the next 3 days

We won't discuss the flat car battery, or the rusty nail that was introduced into my thumb* when I was moving firewood, other than to point out that these things are said to happen in threes, ergo I should be safe for at least the rest of the week.

To end on a more happy note, Sophie would like to show you the Ice Queen Cowl that I made for DDIL's 30th birthday
yarn: BWM 2ply laceweight in Blueberry which I then dyed black[ish]
needles: KP Harmony 5mm and 4mm
modifications: minimal - left off the beads and changed one set of the decreases, but next time I'll use a different picot cast-off.
Lovely pattern but made unnecessarily complicated.

* very small hole, tetanus shots fully up to date, hardly worth a mention were it not for the fact that it's in the one spot that could stop me from spinning for a day or two ... tragedy

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lust at first sight

Dateline: late 2007
The Place: The Salvos Op Shop, Castlemaine
The object of my desire: a plastic bag containing over a kilo of lustrous, soft, silvery-grey BWM Alpaca 'laps' for the princely sum of $5
$5 ?
for a kilo ?
I had no idea what the going rate for ' laps' should be ... and what were laps anyway ?

did I spin ? well no, not unless you count a brief flirtation with a drop spindle back in my art teaching days 30 years ago
own a wheel ? nyet
was that going to stop me ? not on your Nellie

and that's where it started
A friend from quilting offered the loan of a wheel and a quick how-to, along with the [rather dogmatic ] statement that alpaca wasn't for beginners ... that, at the very least, I'd need to card it with something a bit more beginner friendly which she could supply. Arrangements were made and she sold me a bag of plain, pedestrian, beige Corriedale cross. I yearned for my gorgeous alpaca but in my heart of hearts I knew that she was right, the Corriedale was probably a better place to begin and I didn't want to ruin my lovely find.

I acquired a wheel of my very own thanks to lovely Lisette and I was off... as has been chronicled before

Fast forward to this week and the current Tour de Fleece-fueled spinning frenzy.
That seductive alpaca has been singing its siren song every time I reached past it for another denizen of the fleece tub
and on Saturday I succumbed
I completely ignored the injunction to blend it with something easier to handle and you know what? Somewhere along the line my spinning skills must have caught up to my ambitions because the 'sacred' alpaca has been a delight to spin [ once I overcame my tendency to chronically underspin everything ]

First bobbin:
which was then duplicated - you don't need a photo of that because it looks the same...
then the two were plied together - which takes forever
then wound onto the niddy noddy for skeining
washed and whacked into submission
dried in front of the fire
et voila
320 metres of lovely soft silveriness

Saturday, July 11, 2009


A year ago today, Bear came over 'on appro' for a few hours, and having survived that experience, tomorrow marks the first anniversary of his official move Chez Catsmum, all the way from next door where he spent the first 8 weeks of life.
He is so integral a part of this place that I have trouble remembering that there ever was a time when he wasn't here
It should be noted that Oakley, Sophie and MissC remember all too well what it was like, and remember those halcyon pre-dawg days fondly

Friday, July 10, 2009

Alien Life Form Found In Central Victoria

A strange, and heretofore unknown, life form of presumably alien origin was discovered this morning in the unlikely surrounds of a dwelling near Castlemaine in the Central Victorian Highlands.
The householder, having been engaged in some spinning- related activity,

had taken a break to fetch firewood, accompanied by the family dog*

When she returned inside, after only a few minutes absence, she was astonished to see what appeared to be a blue sea anemone lying on the coffee table, and is totally at a loss to explain how it managed to materialise inside the house.

It obviously possesses some chameleonic qualities as it was observed to be mimicking the colour and appearance of one of the yarns being plied.
Although it is early days, local scientists have already postulated that the pseudo-anemone may have been attracted to the presence of the spinner's cats or possibly her son, and it is currently being monitored for further signs of activity

In possibly related news, what should have been approximately 300 metres of finished yarn, came in at just over 220m

* Bear is glad he was outside with Mum and is therefore above suspicion of involvement

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


Minus 2
Minus flipping 2 degrees
That's what it was this morning when I [ somewhat reluctantly ] crunched out through the frost to feed the goats and to cut some firewood...
and while it turned into a beautiful clear day [ which pretty much guarantees a similar temperature tonight - especially as it's already down to 5 degrees at 7.30pm ]
I spent most of the day - when not cutting more wood - indoors with David and assorted animals

there was spinning:
and if you'll indulge me in a slight detour ... spinning is supposed to be relaxing and zen-like, isn't it?
Well, can you tell that to my right spinning-appendage, please ?
That hand has a mind of its own. It's convinced that if I don't maintain a stranglehold on the emerging yarn, there'll be some sort of mass escape attempt... small puffs of roving will run for the hills, trailing my nascent yarn behind them. I keep telling it that a death grip isn't necessary, but it doesn't seem to get the message. Maybe it'll listen to you lot.
yesterday's output and today's
and a little knitting:
this is going to be a pseudo- footy jumper for my grandson, and my Aussie friends will no doubt be able to guess that his daddy, just like my late husband, and my grandfather before him, is a Melbourne FC man.
My dear Daughter-in-law follows a certain black-and-white team that we shall not mention [ *cough*collywobble*cough*cough ] but we love her anyway.

improvised hybrid of several patterns because I needed something simple for the Tour de France KAL Time Trials **
BWM Luxury superwash merino 8ply [DK] in Sunrise and Junior Navy
KP Harmony 4.5mm

my evening is going to involve more fibre, the fire

and Day 2 of Torchwood series 3, Children of the Earth which is on UKTV at 8.30 all this week.

Day 1 review and spoilers here

** I'm in Team Rabobank on Ravelry, along with Bells. Yesterday in honour of the TDF Day 4 time trials, we were challenged to knit like mad for an hour and then post the results. I knew mine would be down a bit because the hand was cramped up from all the spinning but I still managed a respectable 2380 stitches - just shy of 40 a minute.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Tour de Fleece / TDF KAL 2009

Consider me paranoid if you will, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the canine and feline members of this establishment were in cahoots to ensure that only what they considered a 'reasonable' amount of spinning was done today ...

Just because I could hardly walk after yesterday's marathon, they seem to think that I'm incapable of following sensibly pre-set parameters

So I gave up and knitted instead*
the Ice Queen cowl in overdyed BWM 2ply is coming along nicely [ and in case you're wondering,that turquoise is only a provisional cast-on which will get yanked out later ]

and after all the 'helping', this is how much spinning got done

and before I forget, a big "Thank-you" to Kate for her suggestion in the comments which totally helped with my pain management issues.

Kate/Massachusetts said... "When you sit to spin, try adding a second cushion to your seat so that your hips are higher than your knees. I don't know why it works for me but I seem to be able to spin longer and more comfortably in that position. "

Sunday, July 05, 2009

the prodigal returns

Someone formerly very near and dear to me has been out of contact for quite a while, selfish little sod ... with nary a phone call, or email, and not so much as a nice postcard-with-view-of-foreign-parts
and then yesterday, without so much as a 'by your leave', or a 'do you mind', or even a 'have you missed me and I'm sorry I didn't call', she's back again
yes folks

my spinning mojo has returned

and just in time for the Ravelry Tour de Fleece.
and here is where I have a confession to make:
I've never been even remotely interested in watching the Tour De France, but Bells and RoseRed both blogged about joining the Ravelry TDF with the aim of knitting through the tour, and then when I checked out that forum, someone else mentioned that they were also participating in the Tour de Fleece which has the stated aim of spinning something [ anything ] on each of the days that the tour actually rides
... and I thought to myself "Self, Old Girl, that might be just what you need to entice that mojo back home Chez Catsmum ... what do you think, Old Bean? Topping, what ? " [ You'll have to forgive Self. She often talks like something out of a simply spiffing jolly Girl's Own Adventure ]

Anyway, topping or not, Self and I signed up, and then proceeded to haul Ms Charlotte Sheridan* out of her lonely exile in the livingroom and back into her previous place of honour in the rumpus room.
Bobbins, niddynoddy and Lazy Kate were located, rovings prepared,
I started at 11 last night along with the telecast of the day 1 time trials. I even managed to stay awake until Lance Armstrong had finished his ride, but at 1am, when they said Cadell Evans would be another 2 hours, I called it quits, massaged the gammy knee and headed for bed.

There have been a couple of sustained bursts of spinning activity during the day culminating in the completion of a bobbin containing 300 metres of Airforce Blue BWM singles

which was then plied with a bobbin of unidentified hand painted rovings [ which I am ashamed to say was spun in June last year ]

and of course you'll all believe me when I tell you that it was entirely planned to have 6" of yarn left over after plying**

[ and if you believe that there's a nice bridge in Brooklyn that I could sell you ]

... and now I remember one of the reasons that I haven't been spinning so much
my right knee hates me
so there won't be any green jersey sprints
and I'm unlikely ever to sport the coveted maillot jaune
but Spinning Mojo is home again and that makes me happy

* my favourite wheel
** this never ever happens

Saturday, July 04, 2009

in a quiet corner of my garden ...

4th July 1950 - December 16th 1999

... because Marc didn't live long enough to see his dream of living bush come to fruition

Friday, July 03, 2009

Friday Fotos

only two for you today:

a close-up of the baby top I'm making at the moment ... and if it looks at all familiar to some of you, that's probably because it's the same vintage french pattern that I knitted back at the start of the year in pink for great-niece Isabella and in a paler blue for great-nephew Isaac [ known now to all and sundry as Zac ].

and this which is one of the more successful prints made today from a lino-cut design that I carved during the week. Gotta say that I do rather like the effect of the watercolour wash underneath.

Now I say "more successful" because the printing process is a very hit and miss affair, and at the moment I can only manage about a 50% success rate.
too much ink
too little
too wet
too dry
not enough even pressure
and don't get me started on my complete lack of decent results on fabric

and in case you're trying to work out what the heck it's meant to be ... and I for one wouldn't blame you if you couldn't make it out ... the starting point was a pencil sketch of a raggedy pine cone on a lichen covered twig.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Where'd the last six months go ???

The last day of the first half of the year dawned bright and ...

well, no ... it dawned dreary and overcast but initially dry, so I spent yesterday morning making multiple trips with a wheelbarrow up and over the hill and back.
Y'see, Pete and Brenda's new place doesn't have a wood fire, so basically I've been given carte blanche to remove as much of the various wood piles as I can. We're not talking good quality stuff and at the moment it's pretty damp ... but wood is wood and free wood is even better.
Hence the wheelbarrow-age

until I managed to get myself ambushed by a stray piece of rusty fencing wire, which carved a neat little C shape through the bed of my little fingernail. There was bleeding, some extremely unladylike thoughts, the trudge home with the loaded barrow, and an appointment with the disinfectant
yeow - ow- ouch
my tetanus shots are up to date so that was ok, and about this time it went even darker and drearier and the heavens opened, so I was quite happy to stop

With the addition of a couple of bandaids, I was soon ensconced in front of a roaring fire, current knitting in hand... and you know what? Turns out that my right pinkie finger is the only one I don't need for knitting.
Okay, sure, there was some modification of my normal method of yarn tensioning, and said digit was extended at that odd angle usually reserved for pantomiming polite tea drinking, but other than that it was all systems normal.

As the day progressed the rain and wind got wilder and this morning there were roads blocked by fallen trees, so I opted not to drive the 40-odd km over narrow windy country roads to Daylesford for Purl's Princesses. I'll stay home and knit instead.

crackling fire fueled by gifted wood, something small and sweet on the needles ... I think a cuppa might be in order now