Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Music to wrap presents by

This is my first Christmas in a long time with no choir to sing with. I'm used to a big build-up of practices and carols concerts, culminating in Midnight Mass (I always skive off on Christmas morning). One of the special things about Midnight Mass at St Mary's was the fun of blasting out carols like 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing' from the choir loft, together with a trio of trumpets and the organ...

I love a lot of the special music for this time of year, so I've tried to make do with listening to recordings and singing on my own. I found an absolute treasure-trove of downloadable free scores at the Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL) site - they have six pages worth of Music for the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons, including traditional carols as well as choral music from the 14th century to the present.

One new discovery is Charpentier's 'Salve puerule':

And here's an old favourite, Bach's Christmas Oratorio:

And this is a lovely concert/documentary hybrid - a special Christmas episode of the BBC series Sacred Music (featuring The Sixteen), 'A Choral Christmas':

I recognised several pieces I've sung over the years, including Victoria's amazing 'O Magnum Mysterium', and the 15thC carol 'There is no Rose of such Virtue'.

Merry Christmas, folks! Enjoy your holiday. :)

Monday, December 23, 2013

'The Twelve Months of Knitting'

Want to know what a year's worth of knitting and crochet looks like? Tash of HRYC posted a photo of her 2013 finished projects in two tidy stacks, and I was curious to see what mine would look like. Folding things tidily is not my forte, so mine's more of a pile... ;)

Finished knit/crochet projects, 2013

I had to double-check with my Ravelry projects page which things were completed this year - there were more than I thought! There are a couple of items not shown, such as the tea-cosy I sent off for the Royal Melbourne Show swap, the tree-cosy for Yarn Corner's Royal Parade project, the yellow circles for their NGV display, and the handlebar-cosies on my bike. And I included my green cardie, which was begun in 2012 but finished this year.

So what's in the pile? All together now:

On the twelfth month of knitting, my needles gave to meee:
One pair of mittens,
Two cutesy cardies,
One cashmere jersey,

Four cooo-zyyy haaats!

Four fancy shawls,
Three woven hearts,
Two woollen birds,
And a pavlova tee-ea cooosyyy!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Baubles II

We're in full-on decorating mode now, with only a few sleeps before Willie's parents arrive and Christmas is go! We have crepe-paper streamers to hang from the ceiling, and woven hearts, paper planes, and assorted origami to hang on ribbons - all in a rainbow colour-scheme. :)

My latest batch of woven hearts <3

As I mentioned in my last post, I'm making some additional red and white crocheted decorations. In the end I decided on Pretty Lacy Bunting, which is indeed pretty and lacy. I made a couple of the 'flags' after brunch today, at the cafe where Julian works:

I had a chai with soy and honey. Yum!

We also bought a small 'adenanthos' tree in a pot, an Australian native that looks a bit like a pine but is non-prickly (and safe for certain members of the household who are allergic to pine). It's now swathed in rainbow fairy lights, candy canes, and tinsel. I crocheted a star for the top of the tree out of sparkly gold curling-ribbon, which worked surprisingly well! I used an old favourite star pattern called Grandma Twinkle.

My old string of crocheted stars (from Christmas 2010) is currently adorning a print of Mt Taranaki. Willie & co come from Taranaki, near the mountain. Several of the pictures in our lounge are reminders of our various 'homes' - we also have a print of Wellington, and two New York posters. I've been meaning to acquire a picture of West End Ohope or one of my other childhood haunts to complete the set.

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Yup, the Christmas variety. I made some pretty red-and-white decorations to hang on the wall - I think they're very cute and traditional-looking!

The birds are knitted, using a pattern called Bluebird of Happiness, and the hearts are crocheted Danish Hearts. The birds are seamless, and fairly fast and easy if you're comfortable with short rows. The hearts took more time, but I love them! I used to make paper ones as a kid - there's a very simple tutorial here (found via tiny happy).

I think the Christmas fumes must have gone to my head, because I've ordered two big balls of red and off-white cotton yarn to make more decorations!
I'm trying to decide between these cute crochet patterns (all free):

In garden news, our sweet-peas are flowering and smelling amazing, and my baby alpine strawberry plants are getting bigger. And our cherry tomatoes have just started producing ripe ones! I planted a mixed 6-plant punnet of cherry tomatoes, so I'm not sure what varieties we have. The ones with colour on them are all yellow so far.

The first harvest:

The dwarf sunflowers are adding colour too. Yay for yellow. :)

Spot the bee buzzing off!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Making pompoms

I made three pompoms recently for my Bubble & Squeak hat. I originally wanted one, but when I held it against the hat it looked a little small - so I made two more. I think they look really cute in a cluster. :)

Here's what I did:

1. I made a pair of templates by tracing around cylindrical things (a mug and a small perfume bottle) onto some scrap cardboard (a chocolate packet). I cut it out, and repeated for the second one.

2. I wound a little ball of yarn, small enough to fit through the holes in the templates.

3. Holding the two templates sandwiched together, I wound the yarn around them until I decided I'd covered them pretty well. If you run out of yarn, it's easy to add another little ball - just wind the new yarn over the loose ends to keep them under control.

4. Get the point of your scissors down between the two cardboard templates, and carefully snip through the yarn all around the edge. I used fuzzy, woolly yarn which stayed put during the snipping - if your yarn is less 'grabby', I'd suggest plugging the centre of the circle with a folded paper towel or something, to stop the snipped strands of yarn escaping.

5. Wrap a new strand of yarn around the middle of the pompom, between the two templates. Tie it tightly with a secure knot.

6. Slip off the cardboard templates, trim any longer strands that are sticking out, and fluff up your pompom: roll it in your hands, or hold it by the tail and whack against your hand/leg/whatever.

 7 (optional). To make the tail more substantial, take a crochet hook and with both strands, make a slip knot as close to the pompom as possible. Chain 4, and tie off.

8. Make more pompoms as desired, and attach to your hat!

New pattern: Bubble & Squeak

I finished another lovely warm hat - just in time for summer! D'oh! Sometimes knitting inspiration doesn't synch with the seasons at all. :p

My new design is a cabled beanie hat called 'Bubble & Squeak'. The name is a play on a tasty way of using up leftover vegetables - because this hat is a re-do of my Carrot Top hat design. I've made a lot of changes, including to the basic design of the cables. The new version is a bit simpler to knit, but the cables are still moderately complex: I would recommend having some experience knitting cables before trying this pattern.

Before adding the pompoms

With pompoms!

With the brim turned up

  • braided cables in two sizes, meandering out of the ribbing
  • longer ribbing so you can turn up the brim (or not)
  • easily adjustable sizing of length + circumference
  • a nice tidy tubular cast-on (optional)
  • one or more pompoms on top (optional) - see my mini tutorial on making pompoms
  • 'rest' rounds on every second round
  • both charted and written instructions

The yarn I used is my current fave, 8ply Pure Wool Naturals in 'Pumice' from Anna Gratton's Little Wool Company. I'm looking forward to doing more cabled projects in this yarn, it suits them very well!

The pattern download for Bubble & Squeak is available on Ravelry.


Just for fun: this is what happens when a New Zealander goes to the beach on a chilly evening - a woolly hat and jumper, worn with shorts and jandals. ;p

Messing about with a bubble wand is a great way to pass the time before one's fish & chips are ready. :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


I finally used some special yarn I've been hoarding since last year. I found the perfect pattern for it, and a certain nerd-tastic event this month gave me the final nudge...

The pattern is Rondelay by Jennifer Dassau, and it was surprisingly easy to knit. It's made up of three 'rondels' or semicircles, but they're knit continuously in one piece - it's very clever indeed! The garter-stitch looks great with my variegated yarn, and the colours have 'pooled' slightly differently in each rondel.

The yarn is from Nerd Girl Yarns, in a colour called 'Blue Box Exploding'. It's inspired by this image from an episode of Doctor Who - an exploding TARDIS, as painted by Van Gogh:

From 'The Pandorica Opens', DW series 5

It makes sense in context. Well, TV sci-fi kids-show sense. ;)

This month is the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who, and I celebrated by knitting. And watching the special episode of course (we loved it)!
Hi, my name is Amy, and I am a nerd.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ring-a-ring o' roses

Old-fashioned roses are one of my many obsessions. Since I discovered last year that Melbourne's Royal Botanic Gardens has a 'Species Rose Collection', I've been waiting to visit during its main flowering season. I finally got my chance on Sunday, which was cool and cloudy and suitable for trekking through gardens, smelling all the roses.

The garden included some 'old garden roses' in amongst the wild/species roses. Old garden roses have the best and most intense scent (in my opinion), and they're shaped differently to modern roses. The many-petaled old roses are often quite flat when fully open, with an inner swirl of small petals:

The best-smelling rose in the garden! 'Félicité Parmentier', Alba type, 1834

Félicité is quite small, but very pretty

Because garden roses are propagated by cutting and grafting rather than by seed, all the roses of the same variety are technically part of the same plant. I think it's really cool that the 'Lamarque' rose on my balcony has been around since it was first bred in 1830, in people's gardens around the world.

More interesting, in terms of their variety in size and shape, were the wild or species roses in the collection. In general, they had simpler flowers than the garden roses - most of the wild varieties had 'single' flowers with five petals each. Bees prefer single roses, and one bush in particular was covered in bees! Many had white or very pale pink flowers, but one was bright red (Rosa moyesii), and a couple were yellow (Rosa xanthina and Rosa foetida). Some were downright weird, with giant prickles, or green flowers...

This was a major bee-magnet. I want one! Rosa forrestiana
It's a big bush, taller than Willie even

Rosa moyesii

So tiny! Rosa spinosissima (aka pimpinellifolia, aka Scotch Briar)

Rosa viridiflora (yup, that's a flower)

Serious prickles! Rosa sericea omniensis
Rosa Amyana cardiganensis

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New pattern: INSULATE! mittens

I designed some Dalek mittens to go with my hat. :)
You can download the pattern for free on Ravelry: INSULATE! mittens

I used the same yarn as for my INSULATE! hat, which is '8ply Pure Wool Naturals' from Little Wool Company, in the shades 'Papa' (a greyish brown) and 'Pumice' (oatmeal). I still have over half of each 200g ball left, even after making a hat and a pair of mittens. This yarn is great for colourwork - it's fuzzy enough that the strands on the wrong side felt down slightly with wear, and its 2ply structure helps with stitch definition.

The thumbs are knit plain, with the Dalek's 'weapons' (the famous egg-beater and plunger) completed afterwards in duplicate stitch. Doing stranded colourwork in such a small circumference would be fiddly, so duplicate stitch to the rescue! For an extra touch of whimsy, I added a little heart above each 'weapon' - they could be omitted or replaced with laser beams if you prefer your Daleks evil.

A few helpful links:

The best thing about my new mittens? Epic Dalek battles... teehee... ;)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Getting technical

Considering I've been knitting obsessively for years, it's surprising how few stitches and techniques are solidly, reliably in my memory and ready to go. The list is pretty short: just the basic stitches (knit, purl, yarn-over, k2tog, ssk), the cable cast-on, the long-tail cast-on, a plain bind-off, and weaving in ends properly. Using these and no more, I could make a huge array of knitted stuff. But I'm a nerd and a perfectionist, so I'm always on the look out for new tricks that can add refinement or something cool or special. And that's where the internet and the library come in. :)

This afternoon I was finishing off the top of a knitted mitten, and as always, I had to look up a tutorial on grafting to remember the moves. Looking through my browser bookmarks, I was struck by just how many techniques I use somewhat regularly but never seem to remember the details from last time.

Grafting the top of a stranded mitten (pattern forthcoming!)

Some of the techniques I've used several times, and still need to look up each time are grafting (aka Kitchener stitch), fancy cast-ons like tubular & twisted German, the wrap-and-turn trick for short rows, bobbles, and Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. I have a few favourite sites that I look up when I need to learn a new technique or remind myself of one. If it's not there or if I still don't 'get' it, I try searching on Youtube, or the Ravelry forums, or Google.

My favourite knitting instruction sites:
And in book form:
  • Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague (jersey and cardigan patterns, plus how to get a good fit and other tricks)

I'm much less adventurous with crochet than I am with knitting, so I don't need to look up techniques as often (I mostly stick with basic stitches and granny squares). Continuing my round-up of favourite reference sites and books, here are my crochet handy-helpers:
  • The Attic24 blog ('Patterns and Tutorials' links in the left sidebar)

Lastly, here are my favourite spinning how-tos (I'm still learning the basics):

I'm sure having these all in one place will save me time next time I need to find that one particular video or photo-tutorial. I hope you find some of these helpful! If I've missed any great sites or books, please do share. :)

Monday, October 28, 2013

A brown jersey and a yellow shawl

I finished two projects that have been hanging around for a while. Yay!

The first is a very plain, cosy brown jersey that I started back in August. I actually finished it over a week ago, but I had to wait for suitable photo-taking weather (it was over 30 degrees and putting on a jersey was unthinkable, and then it rained for a week)...

It may be plain, but I think it will be a great 'wardrobe staple'. I'm thinking of making another one with full-length sleeves, in a different colour. More photos and yarn & pattern info are on my Ravelry project page.

I also finished off a bright (very bright!) yellow shawl in a cotton/cashmere blend. It's an asymmetrical triangle shape, with a bobbled fringe. The bobbles were kind of awkward, but I was pretty fast by the end. Likewise with the short-row shaping. :)

Blocking via washing-line

I ran out of yarn - this is the bit I 'fudged'. Looks fine after blocking!

It's nice and big, and drapes really well thanks to the cotton content. Nice and easy to wear - for fans of yellow, anyway! I wore it out shopping on Saturday, and posed in a few colourful places on the way:

Blending in with the brollies

Squid! <3