Inspired by Craig Reucassel’s TV documentary series, ‘War on Waste‘, I decided to set myself a personal challenge: to make something for myself to wear this summer. Instead of buying a few new t’shirts or tops for summer, I would try and knit a couple. This could be my small contribution towards stemming the tide of super cheap fast fashion that is so easy to become addicted to, but is so bad for the environment. After all, when you craft something, watch it grow and evolve over a period of time, you have a vested interest in it. You are less likely to consign it to a Vinnies bag after donning it a couple of times!
But even though I was full of good greeny intentions, I had a few inner misgivings as knitting something for summer would be a first for me. I wondered if this project, which I could visualise so tantalisingly in my mind, would feel good on. Would it be too hot or scratchy or itchy against the skin? And perhaps most importantly of all, would it fit well or would I be wasting my time knitting up a shapeless garment that even a charity shop would reject?
But I would never know if I didn’t try.
Perusing my favourite knitting website, Loveknitting, I was surprised by the range of summer yarns and patterns that are available. After much deliberation I chose cotton blend yarns in DK or 8ply and found two patterns that I thought were simple enough for my first efforts. (I know my limitations – my fingers definitely do not move at the speed of light and I did want to finish this project before Christmas!)
I thought it might look good in white so chose a cotton silk blend by King Cole, called Finesse.
And my second choice was Sirdar pattern 7280.
I knitted up the Amalfiyarn first. I think Sirdar have been very clever with the marketing of this yarn because as I knitted away, memories of our stay on the beautiful Amalfi coast hovered over my needles. While I found I had to pay attention to the pattern for the first couple of pattern repeats, it was very easy to follow and much to my surprise, I was soon finished. I am very happy with the result.
Could my second top be as good? I cast on my stitches and was soon making progress.
The pattern was really easy and soon I had finished.
My tops have brightened up my summer wardrobe. They were very cost effective. Yarn and patterns set me back about $50 Australian. So not much more than cheap fashion! I really like them and will be careful to follow the washing instructions given for the yarns, hopefully ensuring several years of wear.
And while it shouldn’t matter what others think, it does give you a lovely feeling when a stranger stops you and asks, “Where did you get your top?”
Two years ago, our family and friends were celebrating Lyndsay and Reece’s wedding at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. Although it didn’t snow, it was cold. So cold that everyone was rugged up in beautiful coats and jackets, hats and beanies and interesting scarves that flowed this way and that, while we enjoyed exhilarating walks that ensured that blood still flowed to our extremities.
Coming from Byron, my cold weather garb was particularly uninspiring: of course I had purchased a lovely outfit for the wedding itself, after all I was the mother of the bride! But everything else I had was comprised of items designed to brave the New Zealand wilderness on walking treks. Practical, yes! Stylish, well only if you’e modelling the yeti look! I cast an admiring eye over the stylish casual attire and accessories everyone else was wearing. Before this, I hadn’t really noticed that infinity scarves or cowls had become a fashion accessory. My sisters, Jenny and Maryanne looked particularly good in theirs so I resolved on my return home to give knitting one a go.
It’s only taken two years to follow through and I can’t even use the excuse that I didn’t have the materials on hand. Nestled in my stash were two skeins of very special, hand dyed, hand spun wool that Lyndsay had brought back from her travels in Montanaa few years ago and I had found a free pattern on Ravelry that would be perfect for the job. Still better late than never as they say.
I knitted the cowl on a circular needle.
What was interesting about this pattern was the edging: it formed a very natural roll on the finished cowl while the lacy middle section made for an interesting textual contrast.
The pattern does suggest you use a stretchy bind off. I had never used one before, so I consulted You tube to find out how to do it. As you can see from the photo above, it gives your cowl an elliptical shape ensuring that it sits better when you wrap it around your head.
I was so pleased with the finished scarf, that I decided to knit one as part of a birthday gift for my sister Jenny. I knew that she already had a couple of chunky cowls in her wardrobe so decided to try something different. I settled on 2ply Silk Mohair. I wanted something unique, so I sourced the yarn from Lara Downs, an independent Australian Merino Wool and Fine Mohair grower in Victoria. Pam has a wonderful Etsy shop and luckily for me, she had just enough left of a beautiful rosy pink silk mohair yarn for me to purchase. Very quickly this beautiful yarn arrived. It was super soft and had a beautiful sheen but was so, so fine. For the first time, I felt just a little daunted. I had never tried to knit cobwebs before!
Luckily, you knit this yarn on quite big needles. I used 5mm straight needles. You have to be careful because it is very apparent as you knit, that if you were to drop a stitch, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to retrieve it! Even unraveling the knitting would be well nigh impossible.
If I was to knit another in such a fine yarn, I think I would purchase Addispecialist lace needles which have a very sharp point to make the job a little easier.
Of course I am still knitting little bits of this and that for the grandchildren. I finished a little vest for Lyndsay and Reece’s new baby which is due to arrive at any moment.
Most projects are still on ongoing but I have finished a jumper for Huddy in the same yarn. Bamboo Cotton is designed for the European summer but is perfect for winter in the Bay.
The jumper fits Huddy with plenty of room and I think suits his colouring much better than brown and yellow don’t you think?
Having actually knitted something for myself that worked, I’m thinking about knitting a top or cardigan for summer. Loveknitting has a great sale on for July and I’ve started collecting ideas. There are so many fabulous yarn with interesting combinations of natural fibres such as linen, cotton or silk to choose from. And I have found some easy patterns as well. If I actually follow through, I’ll let you know how it turns out.
A friend sent me an affirmation the other day and I thought I’d share it with you. ” Love, creativity and dedication. That’s what goes into handmade!” The human touch means so much don’t you think?
Last Sunday, hoping to celebrate and share some of their cultural traditions, the local Japanese community hosted the inaugural ‘Japan’ festival on the Byron Bay beachfront. We knew that parking would be difficult so parked close to Clarkes Beach, just a short walk away from the festival.
There were lots of stalls to explore, outside on the beachfront and inside the Surf Club. I was drawn to the beautiful clothing, pottery and jewelery.
All around were members of the Japanese community and their families having fun. The children in particular, looked adorable.
And while a variety of alternative therapies are always a feature of markets in our area, it was interesting to see a Japanese perspective. I was particularly intrigued by the Singing Bowltent. It seemed a little similar to the Acutonics therapy that my sister Maryanne has trained in and which is gaining a devoted following.
And inside the surf club, there were lots of cultural activities on show. Part of the club had been turned into a tea house for the afternoon where still and silent, an appreciative audience enjoyed the tranquility and harmony of the ‘tea ceremony’.
There was origami jewellery, a calligraphy workshop, a landscape artist and Japanese board games to enjoy to name just a few of the activities on offer.
And then there were the food stalls! I will confess, it was the thought of a yummy plate of gyoza ( japanese dumplings), piping hot pork buns and yakitori that had initially enticed me to the festival. Food in hand, Kenn and I found a lovely shady spot under a nearby Pandanus palm and enjoyed every morsel and a wonderful beach view.
But for me, the highlight of the festival were the performances. Firstly a small group of Japanese children who live locally and attend a Japanese language and culture class once a week sang and danced for us.
A musical duet featuring Japanese instruments followed.
And the final performance was a Japanese drumming group from the Gold Coast. They treated us to three, terrific compositions utilising the drums in different ways. Their energy and enjoyment was infectious. For the first time in my life, I wanted to be a drummer!
The festival was a great success. I’m already looking forward to next year’s. Maybe I’ll see you there.
Nanna knits are so very special. I clearly remember how thrilled I was when I received my first Nanna knits. I was 8 weeks pregnant with my first child and in the throes of terrible morning sickness when a box arrived in the post. Nestled within were 12 pairs of booties in four different colours featuring 12 different patterns. They were so small and so adorable! As I touched each one, I’m sure that baby Christian could already feel his Nanna’s love.
And so I’m following family tradition and knitting with love for the grandchildren. When it’s for little ones, there’s a real sense of anticipation when you cast on the stitches for a new project. You’re excited because you’ve found the pattern and chosen that special yarn and can’t wait to see how it knits up so your little one can wear your hand crafted creation. But there’s always a little bit of trepidation as well. Especially if like me, you’re not an expert knitter. Will the pattern prove too challenging? Will there be painful unraveling and re-knitting involved? And if I’m using a yarn I’ve never knitted with before, will I like it and will they like it when it’s finished?
I think that everything’s mostly worked out this knitting season. After all, little ones run here, jump there and shake it all around, making everything they wear look good. Luckily, the patterns I chose for my projects were also relatively straight forward so there wasn’t too much unraveling involved and my yarn choices pleasantly surprised me. Naturally, as I now have three grandchildren, there were three Nanna Knitting Projects.
Project 1: Francesca’s baby blankets
Baby Francesca arrived in March. Christian and Kelly wondered if I could knit her a super thick, closely knitted blanket. Normally, I would choose to knit a baby blanket in Australian merino wool but thought that a super thick woolen blanket might be too heavy for a baby. So for the first time, I put aside my prejudices about synthetic fibres and chose a super bulky acrylic yarn. I found a pattern on Ravelry that was free and sourced the yarn, Lion brand super bulky premium acrylic, from Loveknitting.com. As it was knitted on a big circular needle, it knitted up very quickly.
Because it was finished so quickly, I had time to knit another just for fun. This time, instead of an acrylic yarn I used a bulky cotton yarn, Elenna, which I found in my local Spotlight store. Deciding to experiment, I created a simple garter stitch, unisex blanket knitted on the diagonal. It too, was finished in no time. I could become a fan of bulky yarns and super fat needles.
Project 2: Huddy’s Knits
And of course I had to knit an item or two for Hudson who turned one in June. However, because we enjoy a mild winter here in Byron, I decided to knit in cotton. Again I sourced my yarn from Loveknitting.com. For his cardigan I chose King Cole 4ply bamboo cottonand for his jumper, Sonora, an8ply cotton yarn by Bergere de France.
But then I saw this pattern online by an independent designer, Oge designs, and just had to knit it. (I fell in love with the owls) I knitted it in Paton’s superfine merino 8ply.This yarn is also a delight to knit with and I was really pleased with the result. And luckily, we have had enough cooler days for Hudson to wear it.
Interestingly, the designer has used reverse stocking stitch to make the little cabled owls pop. I would like to try using stocking stitch as the right side next time to show off the beautiful stitch definition of this particular yarn.
Project 3: Genevieve’s cardigans.
And I couldn’t forget Genevieve who dances her way through the day. Her cardigans are still a little big!!! Oops! While I did knit them to the pattern and yarns recommended, that’s the way of it sometimes. Hopefully, they’ll fit her properly next year.
Oh and I nearly forgot. I’ve knitted a couple of beanies for some of the grownups, reducing my stash of wool in the process. I might have to go shopping to replenish it. After all, you never know when inspiration will strike for next year’s projects.
‘Brunch du Bebe’, Melissa’sbaby shower was held last weekend. Yes, you are reading correctly, Melissa and Ben are having a honeymoonbaby, due around June 15th. As you can imagine, we are all very excited. But, she is on strict instructions from her father and me to take things easy, put her feet up and rest as much as possible so as to be on time or preferably late…by about a week. For you see, prior to the wedding in September, Kenn and I booked a trip to Canada and unfortunately we don’t get back until the 12th June!
Lissa wanted the shower to be at their home and so she didn’t have too much to do, Kenn and I helped where we could. Kenn demonstrated the awesome paper skills, old school primary teachers have and made the bunting in shades of pink and blue as no-one knows whether its a little boy or a little girl yet.
Melissa and Jo created the awesome atmospherewith gauzy ribbons, roses and white linens.
The games were fun. Not surprisingly, Emma guessed the circumference of Melissa’s tummy (She is due three days after Liss) and fabric painting our singlets allowed some of the guests to showcase their design credentials.( I have none!!!) Then it was time for brunch.
The food was very tasty and mostly imbued with a French influence. I volunteered to make pink and blue cupcakes and a gluten free orange cake. Now the cupcakes were a breeze but the orange cake was nearly a disaster! There I was, the night before, happily following my friend Annie’s recipe. I boiled the oranges for two hours, whizzed them in the food processor, added the eggs, sugar and what I thought was 250 grams of almond meal. Dumped the lot in the cake tin and put it into the oven. Deed done I thought. Wrong! I was clearing away and looked at the back of the almond meal pack. I saw to my horror that 250 grams was about 2 and 1/2 cups and I had put only one cup in. I had confused 250 mls with 250 grams! I looked at the time. The cake had been in the oven for about five minutes. Nothing ventured, nothing gained I thought. I whipped the cake out of the oven, poured the batter back in the bowl and added the extra almond meal. My daughter in law, Kelly assured me that it would be great, just like twice baked camembert! And she was right, the orange cake turned out great … in the end. Others helped as well. Brooke made her wonderful mini quiches and Lissa and Jo whipped up fabulous fruit and cheese platters,croissants, meringuesand mini baguettes. Together with a glass or two of champagne or fruit punch, it was a veritable feast.
I’ve watched as Melissa and her friends navigated the ups and downs of High School, university, jobs and relationships and now I’m watching as they become mothers to adorable children. And I loved seeing Genevieve having such a good time. She looked so adorable with her pink bow.
And of course there were presents. Lots of them! All imbued with love and best wishes for the safe arrival of Bebe Gow.
And to make a great day perfect, Melissa found favour with the weather gods at last and not before time. Could anyone forget the 200 mls of rain which fell the day before her 21st birthday party? Even for Byron, that’s a lot of rain and it turned what was meant to be a summer garden party into a slushy mud fest. Or her wedding day, where outside the church, just as all the family and group photographs were to be taken, the wind attacked, swirling our dresses and ensuring that our hair took on the Hermione Granger look. Imagine my relief when despite dire predictions of rain showers and wind, the day was perfect: sunny, not too hot, not too cold. Third time lucky, I guess.
After we completed the Queen Charlotte Walk in early December, Kenn and I visited Akaroa near Christchurch, before catching our flight home. Friends had said it was a ‘must see’ and they were so right. Cruising along in our little Yaris hire car, our first surprise unfolded as we drove down, and I mean down and down some more. Akaroa is situated on the edge of a beautiful harbour, a harbour which was once the centre of a volcano. We realised we were driving down the sides of a caldera and the views were magnificent.
Akaroa is charming. Originally settled by the French, it is so ooh la la! The french influences are everywhere: from names, french blue lamp posts and public seating, to the tricolour flying in the breeze. A word or two of my schoolgirl french returned to assist in translation.
There are flowers everywhere. From beautiful cottage gardens surrounding delightful BnB’s
to fences and shop fronts garlanded with hanging baskets.
We took leisurely walks along the foreshore to the little lighthouse and various points of interest sampling the coffee and friands in one establishment and the coffee and croissants in another. We indulged ourselves over breakfast, lunch and dinner. A highlight for me besides the Sunday morning chocolate crepes served by our motel, was the fish. It was superb. There must be something in the water in New Zealand that we don’t have because fish always seems to taste better there than here. I noticed a Cooking School but alas no classes were running while we were there. I would have loved to take a unique recipe home and know how it should taste and be cooked.
All however was not lost. I found something lovely to take home while souvenir shopping. I was on a bit of a mission. Before departure, Melissa and Ben had shared the happy news that they were expecting a honeymoon baby. Our second grand child was on the way! What special something could I buy the baby? It was while I was buying a cute woolly sheep for the nursery that I spied some special baby wool. It was relatively expensive at nearly $14.00 NZ but felt so soft. It was DMC’s 100% Baby, extra fine pure merino wool. Made in Italy, it looks like a 3 ply yarn but knits as a 4 ply. I have never seen it in Australia, so bought two balls of white. Enough to knit a little something. Then Kenn spotted some great buttons and my purchases were complete.
But as every knitter knows, it is one thing to buy wool, another to knit it up. What would I knit with this special wool? A jumper? Maybe booties? Perhaps a little hat? The hat I had knitted Genevieve had been a hit.
In the end, I decided to knit a cardigan in the newborn to three month size. Luckily vintage is in, for I decided to use a pattern from the ’70s that my mother-in-law, Betty had given me. It comes from PatonsPattern book 792, 10 Baby Knits which, to my amazement is still available on ebay. It was easy to knit and the buttons give it a unisex, contemporary finishing touch, don’t you think? By the way, the cardigan took just one ball of wool! I think a hat and maybe some booties will be making an appearance.
So what have I been doing since I finished this project? I’ve started a baby blanket which hopefully will be finished by June. It’s definitely not heritage in any way. An interesting project, it’s something to do after I’ve been for my swim and beach walk or perhaps shared a coffee with friends. It’s a wonderful world out there.
Not so long ago, my friend Julie who is so gifted at all things crafty, sent me a link to a new knitting website called Loveknitting. ( www.loveknitting.com )
There, while I was drooling over an amazing variety of yarns and projects, I found a free pattern for this adorable little cardigan. It was by Australian designer, Georgie Hallam. Her version was knitted in a beautiful 8 ply White Gum wool, a boutique Australian merino yarn and is pictured below.
I downloaded the pattern, printed it out and was impressed by how clear and detailed her instructions were. Nevertheless, as I perused the pattern, I was a little concerned. The cardi is knitted in one piece from the neck down on circular needles. I had never attempted anything like this before! However, I had suitable wool in my stash, a lovely angora, bamboo and merino wool mix. So nothing ventured, nothing gained, I would give it a go.
Wool and circular needle in hand I looked at the first instruction: Cast on 50 stitches using the long tail cast on method. What did she mean by long tail? Who could I turn to in my time of need? Youtube! I watched a couple of clips and chose one to follow closely. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kn4rcAnnS7U) This cast on method created a very firm and defined edge. Mmm looks quite professional, I thought to myself.
I knitted the yoke, and found the increasing very easy to follow. Soon I was down to splitting for the sleeves and body and Georgie’s instructions were excellent. Crossing this hurdle, it was a simple matter to knit down to the hem incorporating the garter stitch bands as I went. And there were no seams to sew up later! At this stage, I was wondering why hadn’t I done this before!
Then I came down to earth. I had to pick up stitches for the sleeves. Georgie stipulates in her pattern that you use 8inch/20cm circular needles or your own preferred method for knitting in the round. I have avoided knitting in the round as much as possible in my knitting career so I certainly didn’t have a preferred method! I tried to buy the right circular needles. At first, I was unsuccessful. I found some. (www.luciatapestrieswoolcrafts.com.au) They were made by Addi. While they were coming, I knitted one sleeve on four needles – a painfully slow process, but the end result was nice.
Then the Addi needles arrived. And the knitting was easy.
That left only the buttons to be sewed on, a couple of strands of wool to be woven in and I was finished.
I’m with Georgie, when she says that this “cardigan is perfect for welcoming babies into this world and into your heart.” This pattern and others by Georgie are available on both LoveKnitting and Ravalry. I must confess, I can’t wait to see this cardigan on little Genevieve!