I am knitter, hear me sigh

Not gnashing of teeth or wailing or rending of garments. Just a sigh when you realise that swatching didn’t tell you everything you needed to know.

Like how linen rib doesn’t behave in the same way as wool or even cotton rib. Once stretched out, it will stay that way. So, make your swatch bigger and be prepared to rip out 20cm of your back piece and start all over again a size smaller.

Bamboo, another vegetable fibre, will do precisely what you tell it to do, no more and no less. And when the double lattice stitch brings everything together nice and cosy it will stay that way and not loosen up. So even pedantic attention to swatching will mean ripping out 10cm of double lattice, swatching again, changing needle size and garment size.

Lesson: if you’re using bamboo or linen do not expect them to work up like cotton does. Make your swatches extra large, pull and stretch them and see what happens to them. Then start your project and hope you don’t have to gently sigh, and begin ripping.

PS. Thanks for your words of support. We’re getting closer to a diagnosis and that’s always a very good place to start. Apparently so is doe, but that’s another post altogether.


Happy Place

Just outside Hepburn Springs last autumn.  The light is gentler, the breeze softer, and the air cooler. We’re over summer with its heat, harsh light and dry winds.

I’ve been feeling a little raw and overexposed for the last few weeks. While the school year is good – a new approach to lunches, a better routine, and kids who think school is cool – other things have shown themselves. An assessment of the lad’s dyslexia led to some observations, some reading, some recognition of something that needs to addressed. A 10 year old lad oughn’t be that worried for so much of the time. And just a little later, another observation that rocked us and sent us to the doctor. You see, it’s not his physical health that worries us. It’s his mental health. We won’t receive a firm diagnosis for awhile but we pretty sure of what we’ve seen. I raged and grieved for a couple of days mostly because the Bloke and I know about this thing. It’s part of us, too. I know something of what life might be for the lad, of the consequences of this kind of diagnosis. And I don’t want it for him. At the moment, it doesn’t make it that much easier knowing that early diagnosis makes a big difference. Or that he is in a family so intimately acquainted with this that we know what to look for, the support he needs, that we can help him manage it purposefully and without shame. It just hurts.

Looking at the happy place will do for now.

A fistful of zips

Our summer holidays were a tad more eventful than we planned and surprisingly included nearly a week down on the Mornington Peninsula. Which is more than enough time for a carefully planned and executed visit to the plethora of op shops on The Peninsula (dahhlling). The visitor info centre in Dromana can supply you with a double sided page listing all of these shops and their opening hours. Including the warehouse one (I know – an op shop warehouse! We now how to do thrilling holidays).

I know not to expect fabulous finds everytime but quite frankly, I was completely outscored by the rest of the family.

While I came back with those zips and these knitting patterns

and impeccable pantaloons

it doesn’t seem to have the same ring of success as well-fitting, excellent condition black docs for the Bloke (who needed black boots and dismissed the idea of paying $4oo for a pair); a pair of well-fitting excellent condition roller blades for the lad PLUS he got a fully lined, with interior pocket, leather biker’s jacket for kids. The lass demonstrated a good eye for clothes, choosing  a great selection of t-shirts, and a rather funky little skirt.

But all those zips for the grand sum of $1.50 is not a bad day’s op shopping.

Dyeing for a cuppa

When I was given birthday money as a kid or a teenager, I used to agonise over it. It wasn’t a problem of what to buy but precisely which item in my mental list of ‘I want it, I want it, I want’ came first. This year it wasn’t really a problem.

I bought myself a copy of India Flint’s ‘Eco Colour: beautiful dyes for beautiful textiles’. It’s all about dyeing using natural material and with minimal environmental impact. Hugely informative, practical and with so many photographs of her work as examples of different dyes and techniques. But the best thing by far is that she writes about Australian plants.

So I was able to walk out to the garden, snip a few samples from shrubs and trees and try out her ‘dye tea’ technique. Boil water, place a small amount of material in the cup and cover with water. After ten minutes, the tint of the water will give you a reliable indication of the dye colour.

What I had forgotten is that for flowers, India recommends freezing them first then immersing them in lukewarm water to gain a dye solution. So most of the flowers didn’t really show anything except for the banksia (top left). After I remembered to consult the book, I found that the banksia seems to be the only flower that is used in a hot extraction process.

I like the techniques – bundling flower or leaf material and then using cold water or steaming to extract colour directly to the textile; multiple extractions or either the dye stuff or fabric to give different shades and tones; shibori using clips, tin cans and all sorts of other stuff; the advice on alternative mordants.

So, there’s a storm brewing outside and afterwards I’ll be out there gathering windfall for dyeing. It makes me feel a little bit witchy.

I’m boooooored

Not me, the lass. Early Sunday afternoon, your parents are complete hippies and say you’ve used up your screen time for the day and everyone else has something to do.

So I invited her to join me. Not that she had to, just if she felt like it, in case she couldn’t think of anything else.


This was my effort:

I’ve signed up for an ink and pencil workshop at Lauriston Press at the end of the month. I’m quite looking forward to it and I enjoyed getting my fist around some pencils and paints again. The lass is getting more confident with her colour mixing and attempted a shade of purplish brown for a dried gum leaf.

From left to right: botanical study of a gum leaf, dried gum leaf, and tracing around the bottle brush before watercolouring.

The Bloke and I have spoken about how it’s important for each parent to have a particular activity that only they do with that child. It’s a way to build up a one-to-one conversation, for the child to build up their special knowledge, and  to feel that there’s one particular thing that’s special with each parent. I think the lass and I have found ours.

And just to demonstrate that her skills aren’t limited to drawing, here’s a completely untouched photo she took of Lake Mulwala (Yarrawonga on the Murray):