Butterfly Me to the Moon

Party time for Our Dear Girl.  We are alternating party years with our children now so it was her turn this year. Bet you can’t guess the theme she chose.

IMG_4378Party favours we made together. Stuff from the scrap box and sparkly bits bought specially.

IMG_4379Party bags by her own dear hands.

IMG_4460Gingerbread from fancy cutters.

IMG_4442Fairybread from the same fancy cutter.

IMG_4438Birthday cake cut with magical efficiency from two round cakes…thank you Australian Women’s Weekly, provided with great timeliness by a dear friend. Decorated by the kids, me supervising in slightly autocratic way.

Yes, it’s a puzzler alright!

24. October 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: observations | Tags: | 11 comments

GiveWrap in the Wild

Since our first GiveWrap event, last August, GiveWraps have been gently yet inexorably transforming the culture of disposable gift wrap into one of reciprocal giving of treasured wrapping cloths.

Finished my first #GiveWrap this beautiful Sunday afternoon. #needleworks #needleworkscollective

Made by Aisha

There is another GiveWrap workshop hosted by Needleworks Collective scheduled in Adelaide for November 8. Details are available on the Needleworks Collective site.

The GiveWrap project got a shoutout from Heather Ordover on CraftLit recently…folks just seem get the GiveWrap idea. GiveWraps are given with a gift but not returned to the giver. Instead, they have a life of their own and are given and regiven continually. GiveWraps inspire us to make something that has no monetary value. It is not made for sale. Its value lies in the giving and increases the longer it remains in circulation.

And in the wilds of the interwebs, GiveWraps are appearing.

IMG_20140928_161321This beauty is by Diana from Jacksonville, Alabama, USA.


This is made by Polly from Cambridge, UK. She is a printmaker.

Another GiveWrap. Thanks to inspiration to the Needlework Collective and to Katherine for shared ideas and more inspiration! #GiveWrap

This is another GiveWrap by Polly, this one overprinted on a lace tablecloth.

Now, Polly has a cousin Katherine who lives in dear old Berwick-upon-Tweed, near Edinburgh.  They decided to collaborate on some GiveWraps. So Katherine used some of Polly’s prints and combined them with other fabrics.

Our first joint #GiveWrap, Polly @pwpthalo ! Polly's prints incorporated in my patchwork. Inspiration from Needleworkscoll.wix.com

And all wrapped up…

The first #GiveWrap has gone off, gift inside - mystery recipient ...,,,

I got to have some lovely email chat with Katherine and she agreed to share the backstory…

Polly is an artist, and does fabric prints, and I’m a knitter, stitcher, spinner…. So my patchwork incorporates Polly’s prints. We’ve never worked together before, so you’ve not only inspired us to make GiveWraps, but to work together. It is a real voyage of pleasurable discovery.

…my GiveWraps are very tied up with my Australian grandmother because they are fabrics deeply associated with her.  She loved to wear flamboyant colours, and wore a lot of batik prints.  When she died (some 30 years ago), I got a lot of these old dresses and remodelled them for myself.  They are nearly worn out now – soft as soft, but tear easily.  So they are perfect for GiveWraps.

When she came to the Uk, she married a rich Leicester businessman, and she started to have glamorous dresses made by a dressmaker.  My acquisitive grandmother (a trait I’ve clearly inherited) begged all the dressmaker’s scraps from other clients’ dresses, so lots of beautiful silks and satins came our way too.  It is the mixture of the batiks and silks that feature in my GiveWraps.  The emotional stories behind fabrics and old re-used clothes are so deeply important.

You can see more from Polly and Katherine on Intagram #givewrap or in the Needleworks Collective gallery. Their story encapsulates the vision we had for the GiveWrap project and the layers of meanings that become invested in the cloths. I feel like each GiveWrap needs a wee blurb attached so that everyone can know its story.

So why don’t you make one? The instructions are here. Send us pics and stories…we just love them.



21. October 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: sewing | Tags: , | 7 comments

A Town Called Keith

A good spot to stop on the way to Adelaide is a town called Keith. Cool name for a town eh.

Keith is where we stop after we have crossed the border into South Australia from Victoria.  We always buy a Golden North Giant Twins icecream because you can’t buy them in Victoria and My Man likes to relive the days of yore in Adelaidia by celebrating this way.

Keith is a bit special. It is very small and always seems very quiet. But it has a cracker of a wee metal railcar on tracks for children in the local park and two pretty good op shops.

IMG_4370Last time we found a wooden garage for two dollars and this time we found freshly knitted dolly clothes for fifty cents a piece.

Some good person has knitted these out of scraps and to fit a range of dolly sizes. I was a bit outraged about their cheapness and the underselling of skills but before I got too huffypuffy, I realised the clothes weren’t priced for me…they were priced for children.  Fifty cents is kid money.  Oh, you dear, dear person, making something handmade for the children’s economy, something special for a beloved dolly.

IMG_4377I also stumbled across a collection of magazine pages, carefully torn out and folded together…more dolly clothes to crochet and knit.  Well of course, I had to buy those. Maybe they are from the collection of the dear dolly clothes knitter.

And a great book from 1973 Things to Make for Children with detailed plans for the best modern doll houses I have seen.

Oh Keith, you big softie.

15. October 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: crochet, knitting | Tags: | 9 comments

The Vikings are Come…to the Antipodes

Our Dear Boy had grown out of all his woollies.  It was time to make something bigger.

We talked together about the elements it must include like a hood and a zip. We talked about the elements it might include like particular colours and patterns.  Armed with this knowledge, I cast the bones, made the offerings and made the woolly spell of wearing…

And now Our Dear Boy has this…

IMG_4084I sketched the idea, worked out measurements and stitch counts to a standard DK gauge. It is bottom-up, raglan, hooded cardigan worked seamlesslessly in the round with  a steeked front opening. All the patterning takes place in the top ten centimetres of body and neck prior to uniting body and sleeves.

IMG_3964The front is steeked to the neck. I used a crochet steek for this one and knitted an I-cord finish. Then stitched the zip in after blocking.

IMG_4110I am rather proud of the hood. After the short row shaping for the back neck, I cast off to give a stable structure to the base of the hood.  After picking up those neck stitches, I knitted back and forth for an inch then increased every other row at the back raglan markers for about an inch, then every 4th row. Once the necessary depth was reached I knit without shaping for a couple of inches then decreased every other row for an inch at the same markers to shape the curve of the crown.

Then, and this is the bit I am really pleased with, I knitted back and forth between the centre markers, knitting two together into the sides like a knitted-on border. This created a top to the hood that was shaped along the sides rather than along the back centre. Ah, the things that work themselves out as you fall asleep!

IMG_4111Motifs are from Mary Jane Mucklestone’s book 150 Scandanavian Knitting Designs (2013), specifically #38 and #55. I also used the longship motif #38 but altered the spacer motif to a bigger, more ornate shield. I altered stitch counts to centre the design along the front opening.

IMG_4106Our Dear Boy wears it…voluntarily. He even enjoyed the photoshoot.

Ravelry notes here.


08. October 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: knitting | Tags: , | 17 comments


We have chickens!

After a long break, we have welcomed back chickens to our backyard. Let me introduce you.

IMG_3917This is Cassandra, named by our Dear Boy for a character in the Ranger’s Apprentice books. She is a New Hampshire x Leghorn.

IMG_3919This is Emerald Star, named by our Dear Girl for a character in the Hetty Feather books . She has a lovely rusty red neck ruff.

IMG_3982This is Drusilla, named by My Man and I for the Goth styled vampire in the Buffy TV series.  We are clearly not as classy as our children. She is glossy black with iridescent green wing feathers.

Emerald Star and Drusilla are New Hamshire x Australorp. Australorps are an old Australian breed of chicken, great layers but they are as big as dogs.  Crossing them with the New Hamp makes them more of a backyard size.  We got our girls from Greg at Yummy Gardens in St Andrews.  He runs a lovely, humane place that is clean and very respectful to the chickens.

Our girls sleep in a little Swiss Family Robinson style coop nestled in the low boughs of the crab apple tree. Our Dear Boy and I built the coop over the space of a year from his timber stash and other bits around the yard.  The ramp is his invention and construction.

IMG_3994The coop is wired against foxes and the fenced run around the coop is set into the ground for extra protection against foxes.  One of our neighbours saw a fox on their balcony so I want to keep our girls safe.

Above the coop is one of the kids’ treehouse cubbies. Whilst his dad put in the platform, Our Dear Boy has built everything else and he has a style of construction all his own.

IMG_4003We have had our girls for just over a month now and we have just got our first eggs!  Such excitement!


03. October 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: observations | Tags: | 9 comments

Made in Adelaide

IMG_20140927_195907Home of big clear skies

IMG_4159Handsome buildings, so different from the heavy squatness of Melbourne bluestone.  Adelaide is also home to Haigh’s chocolates since 1915, the favoured chocolates of fictional Melbourne detective Phyrne Fisher and the elegant Regent Arcade. Just off Rundle Mall, Regent Arcade where you will find Have You Met Charlie? a shop selling Adelaidian handmade jewellery,  homewares and skincare products such as Shanghai Lil and the Scarlet Fez. IMG_4176

This is St Kilda adventure playground near Salisbury with its giant slides, fort and pirate ship actually built into the shoreline.

On our way to Bellair, I visited The Drapery. It is the only fabric shop I have ever visited that specifically caters to the new home sewist.  The owners stock heaps of indie sewing patterns, a huge collection of linen and have curated an extraordinary collection of wondrous printed fabrics.  They make lots of the patterns they stock and document the outcome on their blog.  You can see real women, wearing real clothes they have made and advice on making the pattern yourself. You can buy online without worry as the lovely owners will talk you through fabric drape and finish and send you pics or even samples. You can follow on Instagram (@thedrapery) to see the new fabric arrivals. I bought some patterns. The one for leggings is reviewed here. IMG_4343

Past The Drapery is the tunnel warren at Bellair National Park.  There are heaps of walks here, the old Government House and lots and lots of beautiful stonework. IMG_4266

The nine hour drive to Adelaide was perfect for some good solid knitting. IMG_4350

I also got to catch up with Aisha from Needleworks Collective who has just moved to Adelaide.  Look what she made me…pocket hankies from an old quilt. IMG_4256

Aisha is running a GiveWrap workshop in November in Adelaide if you are a local.  The details will appear on the Needleworks website very soon.

And don’t forget to hop over to block-a-day on Monday to read Lily’s blog hop.

28. September 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: knitting, observations, sewing | Tags: | 10 comments

Blog Hoppity Hop Hop

I was fortunate enough to be tagged for a blog hop by Andi from My Sister’s Knitter, the home of knitterly delights and a good cuppa. I have seen this blog hop popping up in lots of places recently.  It has been so interesting to hear so many different responses to the same set of questions. Here are my hoppity bits.

What am I working on?

Craftwise, I am knitting a lace shawl, another shawl and a cardigan, spinning for a sweater, embroidering a dress, almost cutting out some trousers and sewing juggling balls for our primary school fete.

IMG_3921How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Oh, I don’t think it is different, in fact, I think it is generated out of values and preoccupations that many folks share.

I believe that all activities including craft work are infused with politics and history.  I try to engage with both in my writing and in my making.  By politics, I don’t mean necessarily barrow pushing, although that is important too. I mean a more everyday kind of politics of how things are made, where they come from, what are they made from and what will happen to them over time. GiveWraps are a recent example of that enmeshing of history and politics.

IMG_3950I like making things from stuff I already have. I used to be a bit puritan about that but now I reckon that buying new materials can be a significant act as it has the potential to support positive enterprises and sustainable products.

IMG_3764I am also really curious about how things are made and put together, from bread to vegetables to clothing to houses.  It is a real thrill to make something from scratch, without a pattern…a unique thing that arose out a particular combination of need, materials and skill.

IMG_3920Why do I write and create the way I do?

I am compelled to make things. For good or ill, it is how I engage with the world and how I feel comfortable and capable. In my current world of circular, repetitive tasks like making lunches, washing clothes, dropping off, picking up, making dinner and finding lost things… writing blog posts and making stuff are the only things that stay done and exist in a tangible way.. The process of thought that underpins both is simultaneously stimulating and soothing.  The process of making words or objects has a simple pleasure where I am unaware of time or self.

IMG_2588How does my creative process work?

Gosh, I have never considered having a creative process.  I think it might be a staccato thing, a creature of fits and starts and grabbed moments.  My job right now is raising our children and until our youngest goes to school and the time comes to turn once again to professional things, my time for making and writing is necessarily gleaned time where creation occurs in tiny bits of time over long periods.IMG_2667

And now you probably need a good cuppa.

I have tagged fellow Melbournian, Lily from Block-a-day for the blog hop.  You will enjoy your time with Lily, even her banner pic is place to stay for while. Please visit her next Monday to find out how her crafty brain-cogs work.

22. September 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: observations | Tags: | 9 comments

Inside the Ribbon Tin: September

It is time to open the Ribbon Tin again and see what is inside.

IMG_1078Inside the Ribbon Tin is a monthly series featuring a miscellany of bits and bobs, odds and sods, knicks and knacks, all sorts of interesting things related to textiles and making.

First out…a simmering Pineapple Stacks Hat.

Sweatyknitter PineappleImage by permission of Karen Berthine

Karen from The Sweaty Knitter blog, sent me this pic recently.  She has been knitting up my Pineapple Stacks Hat design for various members of her family.  If that isn’t thrill enough for me, Karen also dyes or over dyes yarns she doesn’t like the colour of, into favourite colours for her family.  She dyed up some yarn in hot pink for her granddaughter, then overdyed the remaining yarn for a hat for her grandson.  In this dye pot, you can see an adult-sized Pineapple Stacks in the process of being transformed.  I love that Karen uses the yarn she has to hand, using dye to transform an unappealing colour into a personal favourite.

Next is something exciting for Victorians, Cheryl Crosbie from Granite Haven is having an open day on Wednesday 12th of November near Euroa, Central Victoria.  You can meet the Gotland sheep, a rare breed sheep in Australia, and llamas she raises and purchase fleece, fibre and yarn all processed in Australia.  Gotland is just lovely to knit with.  This is the Maldon Made shawl I knit up with Cheryl’s yarn a few months ago.  If you can’t go, you can buy from the website.

IMG_3403If that wasn’t exciting enough, how about this?  A group of women are recreating the Eureka Flag, our other national flag.  It was made famous by the Eureka Stockade and infamous by the Builders Labourers Federation.

800px-Union_Jack_at_the_Eureka_StockadeImage of the Union Jack and the Eureka Flag flying at the Eureka Stockade, 3 December 1854, taken from a series of illustrated history resources found in some Australian schools in the 1950s, from WikiCommons

This whopping big flag, 2m x 4.5m was stitched up in 1854 by a small group of women who were living on the goldfields, Anastasia Hayes, Anastasia Withers, Anne Duke and probably Eliza D’Arcy. Underneath it, most of Ballarat swore to stand by each other and fight for their rights against onerous government imposed mining licences. The original flag was taken by one of the troopers after the rebellion was put down and before folks knew better, about 40 per cent was cut up for souvenirs.  Click here for a look at the original.  The replica is being made for the 160th anniversary of the Stockade and has already taken 3 stitchers, 45 hours and they haven’t got to the stars yet!

They were tough, resourceful women in 19C Australia. I have been reading about Pru Arber (1852 – 1932) and she was as tough as barbed wire. Pru was born in Western Australia of immigrant parents.  She had no formal education and learned bush skills from the Aboriginal children living nearby. She acquired her first flock of sheep through hand rearing orphan lambs and by sixteen was living away from her family with her sheep, sleeping in a possum-skin cloak. She raised and bred more sheep and sold their fleeces. By the time she died as a very wealthy woman, she held multiple freehold properties and pastoral leases of over 13,000 acres.

IMG_4121I read about Pru in a beautiful book called Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor: 100 women, 100 brooches, 100 stories. It is the book of an exhibition held earlier this year in Sydney where 100 jewellers were commissioned to make brooches celebrating the lives of 100 notable Australian women. Rachaeldaisy knows how much I love both historical anecdote and things hand made and sent me a copy.

IMG_4126This is the brooch designed by Nicola Bannerman for Pru Arber. It represents wool fibre, the stars of the night sky and the wealth she made from land and wool.

Another notable woman featured in the exhibition was Margaret Ann Field (1842-1936).  Margaret came to Australia from Scotland and married a mining engineer.  The whole family would travel with him on his expeditions to remote parts of Australia.  Whilst travelling and living rough and raising children, Margaret became a self taught astronomer, publishing a guide to the southern constellations and a crochet pattern book of designs based on stars and constellations.  Australian Lace-Crochet: Easy and Artistic (1909) was endorsed by Queen Alexandra and can still be purchased here.

Margaret Field laceThis is a pic from the Powerhouse collection of one of her lace samples.

IMG_4125Alice Whish designed this silver brooch for Margaret. It is based on the above design.

And that’s all folks!



14. September 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: crochet, knitting, observations, sewing | Tags: | 8 comments

Small Things, Warm Things

Amidst the big projects, little things slip in.  Here are a few.

A gift, a teacosy just for one…for surely, the act of making a proper cup of tea just for ourselves is a moment of commitment and love.

IMG_3807The body is crocheted in a mystery yarn from my stash. It is from someone else’s destash and I have no clue what this could be, only it is sooo soft but sturdy with lots of short fibres like possum or something.  It is like a wee pet all curled around the littlest Brown Betty teapot. The flower is a Jamieson and Smith left over in the stash.

IMG_3809No pattern, I just chained the circumference and worked a couple of rows of double crochet in the round (US: SC) and then some trebles (US: DC) back and forth, decreasing for the top in double crochet in the round.

A couple of hot water bottles for cold nights.

IMG_3764After cutting a rough template from a hot water bottle, I cut out the fronts from an old slip stitch wrap that I had fulled.  Years ago, I had got very excited about Kaffe Fasset’s method of joining random yarns together in a ball and knitting a colour work pattern from them. I found a slip stitch pattern in a Harmony Guide and just kept knitting.  I had no plan or design in mind, just a burning drive to knit up these mixed balls of mostly Jamieson and Smith fingering weight. It never really became anything…till now.

IMG_3762The backs were cut from a moth ravaged pure wool sweater that had been fulled. Luckily the holes were conveniently placed in other spots.  The opening at the back was a velcroed closure reinforced with woollen fabric.

Is there nothing that cannot be made better by wool?

Finally, a wee garden.

IMG_3855We found a fishbowl recently that was being thrown out and I briefly contemplated fish, then contemplated the cleaning, the feeding, the inevitable deaths and probable spillage and then made a garden instead.  Our Dear Girl and I searched the garden for rocks and gravel and we bought some tiny air plants.  All they need is a little water mist every now and again.

These simple projects which generate from the materials to hand and a purpose or need give me so much pleasure.  Of course, there is something exciting about the anticipation of a project from a pattern and the gathering of materials but these other kind of projects make me feel quietly capable.




09. September 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: crochet, knitting, sewing | Tags: | 15 comments

Anticipating Yokes

The Scotland-based, knitwear designer Kate Davies is writing a book about yoked sweaters.  She has been researching different yoke constructions and designing a series of yoked sweaters. I, along with many others of the yoked persuasion are waiting for the publication of this book with great anticipation.

In a recent post, Kate Davies shared some pics of yoked sweaters from her pattern collection and it got me wondering what yoked sweaters might be in my pattern collection.

Alas, I only found a handful but curiously they are all constructed quite differently.  They are also all from Australian yarn companies.

The collection begins with the Australian Wool Corporation’s interpretation of a Shetland yoked sweater from their Traditional Knitting with Wool book published in 1982.

Patons yokeYoung men just don’t wear enough headbands any more do they?

These sweaters are knit flat in separate pieces. You can see the raglan seam clearly on the gentleman.  The raglan seams are sewn and then the shallow yoke is worked from live back, front and sleeve stitches.  If you are going to do a yoke anyway, I am not sure why you would introduce these ugly raglan seams as well.  Was raglan construction so fashionable that every sweater had to have them?

From a very shallow yoke to a very deep one…

Villawool yokeThis pattern is from Hand Knits by Villawool and was produced by the Villawood Textile Company, an Australian yarn company based in Sydney in the 1960s and 70s. This cardigan is worked back and forth in one piece. The sleeves are knit separately back and forth and then joined at the yoke. It has seven sets of decreases which occur between the colour work.

A nostalgic aside…all the accessories and clothing in this pattern book were provided by Fletcher Jones and Company, the once great, worker-owned,  Australian clothing manufacturer.

This next one was the treasure though.  The pattern book is a Sun-glo Knitting Book…another old Australian yarn company and was published during the Second World War.  The booklet contains the proviso ‘…the bulk of our production is now requisitioned for the Defence Department…please make allowances for our difficult war-time manufacturing problems, and remember the greater needs of our men overseas.’

It was given to me by my former neighbour and friend, a few months before she passed away aged eighty-five.  These were her patterns which she knit to the radio and I treasure them.  The one I want to share with you is called Sunny Hours.

Sunglo yokeIt is knit in pieces from the bottom up. After casting off and shaping the armholes, the middle portion of the back and front (just under the yoke) is cast off, then each side is decreased by one at the neck edge on every row till only two stitches are left.  The sleeves are then worked and set aside. The yoke is picked up along the shaped back and front, casting on stitches for the shoulders. The yoke features cables against a purl background. The decreasing takes place in the purl stitches in three sets, preserving the cables.  The sleeves are seamed to the front and back at the armholes and gathered into the yoke at the top, along with some knitted shoulder pads of course.

In the pieced construction and picking up of the yoke, Sunny Hours is similar to the Wool Corp sweater but the set-in sleeves are a much more elegant and ingenious version than those very visible raglan seams.

I hadn’t looked at my vintage patterns for a long time and this wee mission was a delight. Of course, I want to make most of them now.  Perhaps I can squeeze a vintage knit in before Kate publishes more yokes?

04. September 2014 by Rebecca
Categories: knitting | Tags: | 6 comments

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