Tuesday, October 21, 2014

New pattern: Paper Hearts

Introducing the second pattern in my 'Paper Hats' collection: Paper Hearts!

  • a ring of hearts, outlined with simple 2-stitch mini-cables
  • knit-purl texture within each heart, imitating woven paper
  • a cosy garter-stitch brim
  • both charted and written instructions
  • five sizes - for babies, kids, and adults

You will need 95-220 yards of 4ply/sock/fingering weight yarn, depending on the size you knit. I used Skeinz Merino Soft 4ply in Red. It's such a bright, pure red I had real trouble photographing it! The glow is quite something...

As you can see, the inspiration for this hat is woven paper hearts, which are a Christmas-time tradition in northern Europe. They make very cute ornaments - in fact, we still have a couple of ribbons-ful hanging from our ceiling from last Christmas! 

Here are a couple of tutorials, if you'd like to make some:
How to Make Woven Paper Hearts (includes a template)
Making Woven Paper Heart Baskets to Celebrate Santa Lucia Day

And here is a crochet pattern for woven hearts: Danish Heart by Allison Baker. I made a couple of them last December, in the midst of my decorating excitement. ;)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy birthday to me!

I'm 35 today (whoa). So far, the highlight has been a gift voucher for one of my favourite yarn shops - thanks Mum & Dad! And for dinner tonight, I have been promised pancakes. :)

The other thing I've been up to today is releasing a new hat pattern, called 'Paper Crown'...

Fittingly, it's inspired by the paper crowns worn at kids' birthday parties. Here's a not-so-recent example (my Dearest Brother is doing his best to steal my candle-blowing glory):

The hat is a fairly simple knitted beanie, livened up with some mini-cables forming the crown shape between the ribbing and the plain top. 'Paper Crown' would make a great introduction to knitting cables if you haven't tried them before. Here is my favourite tutorial on knitting mini-cables without a cable needle: twisted stitches.

Five sizes are included in the pattern: Baby (to fit 16"/40.5cm head) Toddler (18"/45.5cm), Kid/Teen (20"/50.5cm), Adult Small (22"/56cm), and Adult Large (24"/61cm).

You'll need a smooth, bouncy 4ply/fingering/sock yarn - I used Merino Soft 4ply from Skeinz, in 'Gold'. One 50g ball will be enough for any size, but you might be cutting it fine for the Adult Large size (I'd get two balls to be safe).
How to Make a Regular, Life-Sized King's Crown Out of Paper Only

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/video_12262230_make-regular-lifesized-kings-crown-out-paper-only.html
How to Make a Regular, Life-Sized King's Crown Out of Paper Only

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/video_12262230_make-regular-lifesized-kings-crown-out-paper-only.html
How to Make a Regular, Life-Sized King's Crown Out of Paper Only

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/video_12262230_make-regular-lifesized-kings-crown-out-paper-only.html
How to Make a Regular, Life-Sized King's Crown Out of Paper Only

Read more : http://www.ehow.com/video_12262230_make-regular-lifesized-kings-crown-out-paper-only.html

'Paper Crown' is the first in a set of five hat patterns inspired by the paper-craft projects I enjoyed as a kid. We had a couple of great books with step-by step projects. I have particularly fond memories of the excellent paper plane design, and the origami water-bomb. ;)

I'll be releasing my 'Paper Hats' collection hat-by-hat over the next few weeks. Here's a preview - yes, I had great fun making the photo props!

If you want to make an actual paper crown, here's a really easy method:
How to make a regular, life-sized king's crown out of paper only

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy strawberries and lemons for tonight's pancake extravaganza. Yeaaahh lemon & sugar!

Saturday, September 27, 2014


I've been playing around with some really lovely yarns lately, super-soft and luxurious! I thought I'd tell you about them all at once. ;)

Two of the yarns have been knit into swatches for a secret project - a design submission to the knit magazine Twist Collective. It's my first submission to a publication, so it's been pretty exciting (and nerve-wracking)! I can't show you the swatches, but I can show you the fancy yarn: "ethical superfine merino" from Tasmania's White Gum Wool, and the merino/silk blend "Scrumptious" from Fyberspates, both in 4ply/fingering weight. The silk content in the aptly-named Scrumptious gives it a nice sheen, which helps highlight textured stitch patterns like moss stitch and garter stitch.

White Gum Wool 4ply, and Fyberspates Scrumptious 4ply

Next is a brand-new luxury yarn from New Zealand, which I just had to get my hands on: "Vanitas" from Outlaw Yarn. It's a DK-weight blend of alpaca and a little bit of merino. I love the design of the ball-band!

The colours are inspired by European 'vanitas' paintings of the 16th and 17th centuries. A couple of examples (click to enlarge):

Philippe de Champaigne, Still-Life with a Skull, c.1671

Adriaen van Utrecht, Vanitas - Still Life with Bouquet and Skull, c.1642
Johann de Cordua, Vanité au buste, 1665

So you can see why this yarn appealed to me! I chose the colours 'Vanity' and 'Mahogany'. I'll probably turn them into a cowl and a hat. :)

Lastly, I managed to get my hands on some very special yarn through a bit of luck. I entered a contest on Instagram by posting a photo of a past-or-present knitting project using Zealana's yarn. I entered this photo of my 'Bushwalk Beanie' knit in their Kauri 4ply:

And I won! My very generous prize arrived last week - four balls of the cashmere/possum/silk blend Air laceweight, along with a book of patterns.

It's very, very soft and has Zealana's usual subtly-heathered look and slight halo from the possum fur. I think a striped scarf or shawl will really make the most of this yarn. :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A 48-hour adventure

This past weekend was completely insane. Hours of intense concentration alternating with hours of waiting, not enough sleep, fast meals, quick costume changes, and a very ill-timed migraine... yes, I was involved in a 48 Hour Film Project! It's a kind of film-making endurance event, where your team finds out on the Friday evening what genre you'll be doing (drawn at random), and you're given a set line of dialogue, prop, and character to include in your 4-7 minute film. You then have until the Sunday evening to write the script, film it, add music and sound effects, edit it, and get two digital copies to headquarters before the deadline.

Celena had put together a fantastic team of film students, musicians and assorted skilful folk. The music team (the three Lewises and me) had expected to be needed only on the Saturday to put together some background music and whatever else was needed. However, the genre we drew was 'Musical'.
So once we all got over our shock and dismay, the writers started writing and the composers started composing...

The music team set up a 'lair' in a bedroom at our team's base. Laptops and keyboards and instruments were everywhere! I recorded some vocals for one of the musical numbers, plus a drawn-out high-C for a sound effect. Chloe's amazing new microphone was a huge help:

A most excellent microphone
Chloe and Willie composing amidst the chaos

I hadn't expected to actually appear on camera, but I did! We were filmed playing our instruments for the film's intro, and we appear in another couple of scenes as well. I was a bit freaked out at first, but got over it pretty quick. :)

Being filmed for the intro (photo by Celena)

I've now seen the finished film, and it's both fun and funny - yay! There are definitely a few things we would have tweaked if we'd had more time, but on the whole it's a damn good effort.

I can't wait to go and see all the films on the big screen in two weeks time. We're pretty confident we have a shot at some of the prizes. Fingers crossed! ;)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sanctuary II

It's parrot time! The 'Land of Parrots' enclosure was definitely the highlight of our trip to Healesville. We were a little nervous feeding the birds (with birdseed and 'nectar') at first, because they're pretty rowdy and are as likely to land on your arm/hand as on the feeding dish. But we soon got used to them, and had a great time admiring their colourful feathers close up - and taking zillions of photos! Make sure you click to enlarge the ones below. :)

These green-and-red Scaly-Breasted Lorikeets were the busiest and noisiest birds there:

Feasting on flowering wattle

Nectar party!

Posing with parrots
My favourite birds were the Regent Parrots, who were a little more reserved than the lorikeets. I love their colours, and cute faces...

Such a cool colour combo!

There were also budgies and finches flitting about, and popping in and out of holes in the tree trunks. They mostly stayed out of the way of the lorikeets, and we didn't manage to lure any down for a feed.

Budgie meeting

In an adjoining enclosure, we found the bigger birds. The keeper was trying to lure some of the parrots and cockatoos down for the 'Spirits of the Sky' show, but they had other ideas! This Red-Tailed Cockatoo eventually cooperated, and got a treat for his trouble:

A well-camouflaged bird with a bright blue eye

An Eclectus Parrot eating out of Willie's hand

I definitely want to visit again! Birds are so cool. :)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sanctuary I

Last weekend we made a trip to the Healesville Sanctuary, which is a large native-birds-and-animals sanctuary about an hour and a half out of Melbourne. It was really nice to get out of the city, and be around trees and birds that aren't pigeons or crows! Even the drive was nice - I liked seeing a bit more of the surrounding countryside.

When we arrived, Celena made a beeline for the dingo pups (she adores dogs of all kinds). Willie and I hadn't been to the sanctuary before, so we strolled around exploring.

One of the highlights for me was seeing the koalas in various states of wakefulness. They look like such characters...

Munching on eucalyptus leaves

Waiting for the keeper to bring in more leaves

Lunch time!

Siesta time :)

I was also very taken with the echidnas. They're so cute! Kind of like giant hedgehogs, with long snouts.

Two echidnas snuffling about


There are lots of different areas in the Sanctuary, connected by paths through trees and across streams. Some of the animals are separated from the public (like the Tasmanian devils and emus), and some roam around in the same space (like the other birds and wallabies).

A Tasmanian devil checking us out

An emu

Synchronised pelicans

The wetlands area

I couldn't resist posing on a sculpture. ;)
Another really cool thing was the 'Spirits of the Sky' bird show, which Chloe had told us not to miss. A couple of bird-handlers showed off various parrots and birds of prey, tossing food for them to snatch out of the air and letting them glide right over our heads - some people had to duck! A big owl with alarming-looking eyes passed us close enough to touch...

My favourite part of all was the parrot enclosure, where you're allowed to feed the birds by hand. They were amazing and totally cheeky! So stay tuned for part two - I've saved the best for last.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Dyeing with lichen

(Photo by Dad aka Jos)

On the way back from Napier, Dad and I collected some Old man's beard or Tree Moss lichen (possibly Usnea arida) from the roadside, so I could use it for dyeing yarn. The old fallen pine branches were practically dripping with lichen, so I couldn't resist grabbing a few handfuls...

(Also by Dad)

I've dyed yarn with lichen before, using what I was able to scrape from Mum and Dad's birch trees. I like the fact that there's no need to use a mordant when dyeing with lichen (less hassle), and I like the earthy/salty/woody smell of the simmering dyepot. On my first attempt I got some lovely warm golden tones, which I used to make a Fibonacci-striped scarf:

My Baktus scarf, from September 2009

Unfortunately I wasn't able to track down the book I'd used as a guide last time, or the notes I'd taken, so my method this time around is probably a bit different! It's a more straightforward process than I used for last year's eucalyptus experiment - I decided to 'cook' the lichen and dye the yarn at the same time, rather than making the dye liquid in advance.

What I did:

I started with 28g of lichen, and a 200g skein of undyed yarn ('Naked' Organic Merino 4ply from Skeinz).

I used a big square of cheesecloth (thanks Mum) to make a lichen 'teabag' tied with string. I poured 8L of cold water into a big stockpot, threw in the 'teabag', and let it soak in the cold water for 1 hour.

Then I added the skein of yarn, let it soak for 20 minutes to make sure it was wet through, and turned on the heat.

I slowly (over the course of about an hour) heated the pot to a very low simmer. I kept the pot at that temperature for an hour and a half, giving the lichen 'teabag' the occasional prod and squeeze with a smooth-sanded stick (thanks Dad), and gently nudging the yarn to ensure a more even colour-distribution.

The yarn didn't seem to be changing colour any more, so I turned off the heat.

The colour was much lighter than I'd hoped - I think didn't use nearly enough lichen for this quantity of yarn! So Dad and I collected more lichen, this time from the birch and prunus trees in the garden. This batch weighed 77.7g (about three times as much as the first batch), and it looks like some of it might be a different variety.

I switched the old lichen in the 'teabag' for the new batch, and left it soaking in the old dyebath overnight (minus the yarn).

The next day I repeated the heating process, letting it simmer very gently for an hour. I let the pot cool completely before retrieving my yarn. I gently washed it with wool-wash, rinsed it again, squeezed it out, and hung it up to dry. The second round of dyeing left the yarn quite a bit darker, as I'd hoped! It has felted a little bit after the abuse of being dyed twice - I must have been a bit too rough with it. It's still usable thank goodness, it was just a bit of a pain to wind into balls.

Not a bad result! I really like the semi-solid effect. I think it will make a very nice shawl or large cowl. :)