A Vaguely Triumphant Return

Hello blog; it’s been a while. I have been up to a lot of things, but unfortunately one of them was giving myself the mother of all horrible paper cuts on a manila folder at work yesterday. As such, my typing is not particularly stellar. So it’s a picture-tastic post until I can ditch the dexterity impairing band-aids.

The biggest news: I moved two and a half weeks ago. The madness is mostly over – thankfully – but there’s still a little bit of unpacking to do. Nothing like moving to make you realise that you own too much crap (craft supplies, I am fixing my gaze squarely on you), but I do really love the new apartment. It’s not the newest, but it’s spacious and has tons of cupboards. And now I have a brand new kitchen windowsill to adorn with poppies and lopsided handmade ceramicware!

Speaking of new kitchens and pottery, upon making my first attempt at baking, I realised that my new oven was not so much an oven as it was a kiln, fond of reaching volcanic temperatures that did not favours during production of some of my favourite baked goods.

This poor blood orange was transformed into a blood orange slice with a severely scorched bottom (that said, this recipe is great and you should most definitely give it a go). Thankfully, it was still delicious, but at some point the oven and I need to sit down and work out our differences, as I am really none too keen on the idea of not being able to bake cakes and biscuits.

On the up side, searingly hot ovens are excellent for baking bread.

I had tried my hand at pain a l’ancienne before, but had misread the recipe, so the results were somewhat underwhelming. I decided that, armed with an over-enthusiastic oven, it was time to give it another go. I used this recipe, and was met with definite success!

I’ve also been doing some knitting. It feels like forever ago now, but I made a cowl! A cowl to adorn my comically long neck!

A cowl in which to pull Serious Faces!

Also, there was knitting for the KOGO Project. Stripes for all! Super bright stripes for the babies, slightly more sensible stripes for the adult-folk.

I’ve finished enough projects over the last few months that you’re all spared some horrible progress shots of the things on which I’m currently working. I’ve been busy though. I’m making a scarf at the request of my northern-hemisphere-bound father, and finally giving my cable itch a good scratch. But that’s for next post. Which will hopefully not take two months to produce!


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Better Living Through Spinning and Stash Management

As mentioned last post, I bought some spinning fibre at Bendigo a few weeks ago. While it wasn’t that much – only a couple of hundred grams – it’s still more than my sporadic-at-best spinning habit really warrants. To say that I felt guilty about buying more spinning fibre when I already had a stockpile would not be entirely correct; I’m with Nigella Lawson when she says that you should never feel guilty about something that brings you pleasure! However, I’m happy to concede that if I’m starting to buy more fibre, I should really start spinning more to accommodate. As such, I’ve divided my crafting focus and have been spinning like a girl possessed. It’s actually been a fairly easy change to make. One of the reason I don’t knit more often is that sometimes I just want something simple to work on while I do something else, and I can’t be bothered to start a new project because it requires thought and decisiveness that isn’t really available at the time. But it’s perfectly easy to sit down and start spinning while watching yet another episode of Breaking Bad.

Pre-Bendigo, I’d been part-way through spinning some lovely fibre from Two If By Hand, spinning a little bit here, a little bit there, and taking months to finish. I decided that it was about time that I invested some serious effort; I did so, plied the results, and now have a happy skein of something vaguely resembling yarn.

My handspinning still leaves a little to be desired. But thankfully I do seem to be improving with practice. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with this skein – while the colours are lovely, they’re not shades that I wear very often  – but I’ve had fun musing over it. Currently I’m pondering the possibility of mixing it with a grey yarn and doing something stripey. We shall see.

Taking a brief holiday from hand dyed lovelies, I’ve also spun up some of my Bendy fibre. I bought two 50g bags of natural coloured fibre from Karoa Fibres, in a light grey-brown and a darker, chocolately brown. No danger of it languishing in the stash if I use it right away, right?

Plus, it was a pleasure to spin. The other night I sat on the couch to do some spinning and went to select something to watch while I worked. For some reason, I found myself sitting down in front of The Land Before Time (I am a child of the 80s, don’t judge), and I accidentally watched the whole film because I was so engrossed in spinning.

This is an approach that I’m trying to take more and more these days. No, not dinosaur cartoons. Okay, dinosaur cartoons, but the point is that I’m trying to use things as I buy them.  I’ve been working on whittling away at my stash, and I’m constantly confronted by the problem that over time, my tastes have changed, and I own yarns that I’m not nearly as enamoured with now as I was when they were purchased. This isn’t the end of the world – I need to get my gift/charity knitting done with something, after all – but it’s still far from ideal. So let’s see if I can mend my wicked ways. I’m trying, at any rate.

In other news, this attempt at regular blogging was brought to you by Anna’s sick day. I’m off work today because this morning I found out that I have… shingles. Super glamorous and sexy ailment, I know! Especially with the stabbing pain and the beguiling rash currently making its way along my ribs. At least I’m not as bad as all of the people on Google image search (though this is possibly the worst consolation ever). And now I have an excuse for bra-free crafting. Pffft, like you need an excuse!

Despite my usual annoying tendency to be determined that everyone else suffer alongside me, I’m not going to subject you all to pictures of my shingles. Instead, here’s a picture of the cupcakes I made on the weekend. Cherry and vanilla. Kind of pointless, but better than the alternative, right?

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Bendigo 2012!

A couple of weeks ago, I made my glorious return to the Bendigo Sheep and Wool show. I missed the show both last year and the year before, as a result of overworked forgetfulness and overseas travel respectively, so I was extra excited to finally go again this year. I’m happy to say it lived up to expectation.

As one would expect from the name, there was wool and sheep aplenty.

This guy was clearly the greatest. I’m not sure my photo properly captured his look of absolute disdain, but close enough. Rest assured that was he truly a sheep with attitude.

We traipsed around admiring the knitted goods, chatting with various awesome Ravelry people, touching all the touchable things and just generally enjoying the sun, as it was an absolutely beautiful day. I ate an amazing fried potato thing on stick, the likes of which I had never seen before. We watched some shearing (read: had a shameless perve. Some of those shearers had amazing arms and shoulders).

And of course, there were Bendy acquisitions. I was actually fairly restrained – I’ve not been buying all that much yarn lately, since I’m trying to reduce my stash – but I still came away with some very nice things. I actually surprised myself by buying a surprising amount of fibre; while I do a little bit of spinning, I’m hardly prolific on this front. But there were just so many lovely things that I couldn’t quite help myself. In my defense, I have been spinning like a girl possessed ever since Bendigo, so at least it’s not going to languish in the stash.

I was especially enamoured with the red roving, as I adore deep reds and find them surprisingly difficult to find. The colourway is Talbot and I was very amused when the seller confirmed that it was indeed a reference to the character from True Blood, or rather was “named for the way that Talbot ended up in True Blood”. I can’t wait to spin this stuff up; it’s just lovely. Sadly, my camera apparently has strong views on red and flatly refused to take a photo that shows the colour properly, but I assure you, it’s simply gorgeous.

Unsurprisingly, yarn was also acquired, though as you can see above, I really was quite restrained. The green yarn is an alpaca/wool blend from a nameless seller who, two years ago, sold me some yarn that turned into what must be my all-time most worn hat. Knowing how well the hat has stood up to near incessant wear, I thought it was only responsible to invest in some more of their yarn (especially since, sadly, I was told that it was the last appearance they’d make at the show).  The beautiful purple is from EGMTK; I already have cunning plans for the lovely stuff. And the blue is from the lovely Dawn at Gin and Tonic Yarns, because I just can’t resist a beautiful, deep shade of blue.

All in all, a very successful expedition!

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Sunday Funsies

Having survived the ravages of June (just), I have now turned my attention to other things, such as my volunteer research work, (comparatively) regular blogging and just generally getting back into the smaller things that make me happy. And, you know, regular sessions of Diablo and Starcraft.  Luckily for the housework, my extracurricular activities, and my social life, my gaming PC is located in an unheated room and given the recent winter temperatures, that’s enough to put me off excessively long gaming sessions. Then again, excessive is a rather subjective term, and you are currently perusing the blog of the girl who was occasionally known to play Starcraft for eight hours a day during her high school holidays. How I got into law school is anybody’s guess. And it’s probably no surprise that my romantic life was non-existent prior to university. But we digress (completely and utterly).

We’re currently mired deep in a typical Melbourne winter, and while we’ve had the occasional bit of sun, much of the time the weather is pretty vile. I’ve spent a number of my days off sitting inside while it rains, wishing I could roam around doing outdoorsy things. Sometimes I go out anyway. But generally I yield to common sense and stay indoors, consoling myself with various fun things; excessive quantities of tea, books with beautiful pictures, Regina Spektor’s new album, my friend’s MA thesis, and meringues. Almond flavoured meringues filled with blood orange and honey curd. Omnomnomnomnom.

(no, I don’t usually eat meringues in a bowl. Ever. But I like this bowl. So there)

Following on from the success of the pandan meringues, I’ve somehow shifted from making meringues to use up egg whites to actually seeking out recipes that use egg yolks so I have an excuse to make meringues. So, you know, curd. I blame Tastespotting. I made up my meringues much the same as described in my last post, adding some almond flavouring instead of pandan at the end. The recipe for the blood orange and honey curd came from over here; I halved the recipe since I didn’t want to use up all of the eggs I just bought (I live five minutes walk from a street on which there are MANY places to buy eggs, so I don’t know how this reasoning works, but see above comment about the weather being vile).

I’ve also made some quick trips up to Brunswick to pick up a few more of my endearing asymmetrical clay creations. Can’t say I’m over-the-moon excited about all of them, but there are a few that I’m quite keen on, and I’m happy to chalk the others up to experience. I think one thing that I’ve definitely learned from knitting – something that you probably learn from most crafts, actually – is that sometimes it just takes a while before you get good at things. Thankfully for my short attention span, watching yourself gradually improve, bit by bit, is also immensely rewarding.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with these. When I made them, I wasn’t entirely sure whether they were feathers or leaves, and to be honest I still don’t really know. But they make me happy. I love how the glaze came out.

In fibre-related news, in preparation for next week’s pilgrimage to Bendigo (so exited!) I’m also trying to get some more knitting done. Of course, this has taken the form of starting a whole pile of new projects instead of finishing the existing ones. Whoops. But the point is that I’m feeling the love, right?

Most of the new projects aren’t much to look at yet, but I’ve been working away on a cowl that’s basically been gorgeous right from the word go. It’s hard to make yarn this beautiful look bad.

Nice bright knitting for cold winter days!

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Pale Green Things

Hello blog! Your erstwhile author returns! *gasp* As with the last post, I’ve been well; I’ve just been very busy! Work has been kicking my arse up and down the CBD, but I’m hoping that once June comes to a close, things will get a little less hectic. Or at least that my phone will ring a little less. I’m not unreasonable; I would totally settle for that.

The title of the post is actually pretty good at reflecting some of the things I’ve been up to in my absence. It refers to an amazing song by one of my favourite bands; I saw them play live back in May and had my socks rocked off in a most pleasing fashion). It also works as a servicable introduction to the fun and unexpected spot of kitchen dabbling that I got up to recently. I’d just cooked up a batch of biscuits for impending friends and had some egg whites left over. The thing about egg whites is that I always intend to use them – I dutifully fridge or freeze them – but always end up neglecting them until they perish. Not this time! I considered the egg whites, considered the tiny plastic bottle of pandan flavouring that had been sitting untouched on my desk (of all places) for the longest time, harnessed the power of my beloved mixer and made pandan flavoured meringues!

Aren’t they marvellous? I was ever so pleased with not only the taste – which was quite pleasant, for all that I’m skeptical about the extent to which it actually tasted like real pandan, but oh well – but also the shape! I know that a lot of people like to pipe meringues, but I kind-of-really love the organic, crazy sea-creature-tentacles, Cthulu-esque thing that was going on with my meringues.

I didn’t really use a receipe; just dutifully followed Nigella Lawson’s instructions to use 60g of caster sugar per egg white (I had two egg whites, so 120g of sugar), and added probably close to a teaspoon of pandan flavouring. It was so simple, I can’t believe I’ve never gotten around to doing it before. So much enjoyment from only a few minutes of putting up with the noise from the stand mixer and then a brief session of giggling gleefully while I dolloped the meringue onto a lined tray.

In other news, I’ve been in a bit of a crafting rut lately. Too busy and preoccupied by other things. Not too busy to actually knit. Just too busy to devote brain time to the topic of what I should actually knit next. As such, I have gotten some knitting done; it just wasn’t particularly interesting knitting. I recently finished up the garter stitch scarf that I was knitting for charity, but it’s hardly worth blogging about. It’s, you know, a garter stitch scarf. And I’m not saying that they can’t be beautiful – on the contrary – but they’re not exactly breaking new ground.

Speaking of breaking new ground, however, my ceramics short course finished a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad I did it – I learned a lot, and had a lot of fun – and I’d thoroughly recommend the course to anybody who wants to have a dabble in making things from clay (I did the beginners’ course with a mix of handbuilding and wheel throwing, if anyone is curious). The way the classes were taught was, for me, very well balanced; you were free to work on more or less whatever you wanted, but a new technique/method was taught every week in order to provide a bit of structure.

I haven’t yet picked up the items I made in the final few classes, but some of my undeniably lopsided creations have already accompanied me home. I’m actually quite pleased with a few of them. I was quite emphatically dreadful at wheel throwing when I started, which was a little discouraging, but I really turned a corner in my second session. And nothing pleases me more than being able to see myself improving at something through practice; it’s one of the most satisfying things about trying your hand at new things.

I’m still yet to make something that’s perfectly symmetrical, but it’s important to have goals for the future! At any rate, I’m happy with my lopsided little bowls. A few of them have already made their way into frequent use in my household; one is the perfect size to hold the tealight candles made for me by a friend, another has proved to be a perfectly servicable receptacle for guacamole, and so on.

Some of them match my hand-knits too. Pointless as all get out, but satisfying nonetheless.

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Long time no blog. How embarrassing!

I’d be a little more sheepish about it, but the truth is that I’ve just been so busy that there’s been very little time for a lot of my usual recreational pursuits, blogging included. Working a new job – working a few, in fact – and trying to keep up some semblance of a social life has not left me much change from my days lately. But of course the truth of the matter is that it’s rarely that you don’t actually have time to do things; it’s that you don’t make the time to do them. So here I am, blogging away. Go me!

I’ve been doing quite a lot of knitting over the last few weeks, but sadly not a lot that’s very interesting to read about. I’ve been doing some basic charity knitting, I’ve been making a shawl for a friend, and so on. Satisfies my desire to get something done while I’m watching Game of Thrones or sitting through a seemingly endless cut-scene in a computer game, but it’s just not very interesting to blog about your garter stitch scarf. As mentioned last post, however, I did (not so) recently complete a project that, somewhat unexpectedly, pleased me greatly.

Won’t post the usual details about the precise specifications, because frankly, I can’t really remember. All you really need to know is that there was a spare skein or so of Patons Shadow Tweed kicking around in my stash that I really wanted to get rid of (my current, possibly overly simplistic style of stashbusting is to try and get rid of lingering bulky yarn, since I can knit it up comparatively quickly). I thought that the colours might look nice in moss stitch, so I cast a random number of stitches onto my circular needs and knitted moss stitch in the round until I ran out of yarn. Mischief managed. I’m actually really happy with the end product. I was rather unwhelmed by the yarn originally and only really picked it up so I could oust it from my stash. But I actually really love the scarf; it’s warm, goes with a lot of my clothes, and I’ve already worn it quite a few times.

Sometimes I really do think that my favourite projects are the small ones that delight me unexpectedly, even more so than the long hauls towards results I know will be awesome (though they are obviously not without their charms).

In other news, the weather has turned cold and I have been loving my snuggly brown jumper. It’s super warm and pulling it on when I get home from work makes me far happier than donning knitwear should. It’s turned out to be one of those knits that doesn’t really excite you at first, but grows on you until you never really want to take it off.

Oh, and like I wasn’t busy enough already, I’ve been doing a ceramics short course at Northcote Pottery Supplies. I signed up with a friend and so far I am very much enjoying it. I used to do something similar on the weekends when I was a kid and it’s lovely to be working with clay again. I’ve always been kind of mediocre at drawing, but I enjoy working with my hands a lot more, and I do seem to be a little better at it. I was atrocious at using the wheel for a while, but now I’ve really turned a corner (and by a corner I mean a pot. Or four) and am making things that actually look like bowls. I’ve also made some things that are ugly as all get out (failed experiments, glazing accidents, poorly thought out to begin with, etc) but I’m happy to use and love them because I learned from making them. Yay for progress.

I can’t make any promises, since I’m currently without a functioning camera, but hopefully it won’t be nearly as long until the next post. If nothing else, I’m sure I’ll be subjecting you all to bad photos of uneven earthenware in the near future. Tremble with anticipation, dear blogosphere.

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Coveting, coveting, yeah!

(note: you’re supposed to read that title in the style of a Rebecca Black chorus. Because I am a sucker for memes that are now completely out of date).

I knitted this scarf because I saw this and the project that inspired it and thought they looked amazing. And I wanted to make one too. This is quite unusual for me. Normally I’m one of those incredibly tiresome people who just has to be different all of the time. But I guess the moral of the story is that sometimes you see something and you just want it. Want it – or at least your own version of it – kind of really, really badly. Plus I thought it looked buckets of fun to knit, so back in late November when I was confined to bed with Norwegian Hell Plague I grabbed my bag of scrap yarns and cast on with great enthusiasm! It’s taken me a while to finish, but I enjoyed it all the way!

Please note that I’m not actually a devotee of the midriff-baring-sleeveless-shirt-and-woollen-scarf combo. The weather was very warm on the day that these pictures were taken and I think long sleeves + snuggly scarf might actually have killed me (erm, figuratively speaking).

Not much point in doing the usual format round-up for this one, because I didn’t use a pattern and if I wanted to list all of the yarns I used, I’d be here for a while and honestly, who wants that much bolded text? If anybody is really curious, there’s a list on the project’s Ravelry page. The yarn that formed the ends and edgings was some Bendigo Woollen Mills Rustic 8ply left over from one version of this, and scraps from a few different balls of Noro Silk Garden found their way in from time to time, but there were lots of other yarns as well, ranging from 10 ply yarns to fingering weights held doubled. Oh, and for anyone out there with a notions fetish, I used 4.5mm needles. There, I have officially ticked all of the boxes!

I used a whoooooole lot of remnants up while knitting this one. Much to my amusement, because I used mostly small scraps of yarn that on their own would be completely overlooked, I got the oddest sensation of creating a scarf out of thin air. Clearly, I am magical. Or something.

All up, this was a great project; fun to work on and great for using up random bits and bobs. If I could acquire the appropriate scraps, I would love to make another one of these in red, black and grey. This ambition is probably not practical (though mine rarely are), because I don’t think you tend to get as many different shades in these colours, but that might just mean it’ll take me longer to acquire said scraps. You never know; I don’t plan to stop knitting any time soon, after all.

Enough scarf blather. House-sitting went well and as of yesterday I’m back home again. And I recently completed one of the most delighful types of knits; the Unexpectedly Satisfying Project. It’s blocking as we speak, so more on that soon!

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