Thursday, March 19, 2015

New pattern: Peacowl

Ta-da! Here is the second of my new DK-weight cowl designs, Peacowl. ;)

Once again, I used one 100g ball of Outlaw Yarn's Vanitas DK (90% alpaca and 10% organic merino). The colour is called 'Vanity', which is perfect for a silver peacock cowl! If you wish to substitute a different yarn, I recommend a DK-weight yarn with good drape and stitch definition (e.g. an alpaca or silk blend).

  • lace-and-texture motifs inspired by stylised peacock feathers
  • worked in the round, with clean garter-stitch edges
  • one size (short and drapey), with simple instructions for re-sizing both height and circumference if desired
  • a one-skein project: you will need 205 yards of DK-weight yarn
  • full charted and written instructions, so you can follow your preferred type.

When I first got the idea for this cowl, I researched stylised peacock-feather motifs and fell in love with the peacocks on 1890s book covers. My favourites are this Pride and Prejudice cover by Hugh Thomson (I managed to get hold of a modern paperback with this design)...

...And this Gryll Grange cover by A.A. Turbayne (the peacock is a reference to the author's name, Thomas Love Peacock). I used this peacock's tail as the basis of my lace design - the way the feathers are simplified and arranged in streams translates well to a repeating lace motif.

After much charting, swatching, and refining, I finally had my peacock lace. :)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Bucket-list Bach

Disclaimer: I don't actually have a bucket list. But if I did, performing Bach's large-scale choral works would definitely be on it.

In a few weeks the Scots' Choir will be singing Bach's St. John Passion, which is massively exciting for me, as well as scary! I have a lot of music to learn, and a lot of German pronunciation to perfect. As I did in the lead-up to Messiah last year, I'll be listening to lots of different recordings as well as practicing on my own with the piano. Wish me luck!

Here's the opening chorus, 'Herr, unser Herrscher', performed at a cracking pace by the Academy of Ancient Music:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

New pattern: Field of Stars

The first of my two new cowl patterns is now out in the world - hooray!
This golden starry-textured cowl is called Field of Stars, and it's now available for download on Ravelry.

I used one 100g ball of Outlaw Yarn's Vanitas DK, a luxurious blend of 90% alpaca and 10% organic merino, the colour 'Wealth'. If substituting a different yarn, I recommend a DK-weight yarn with good drape and stitch definition (e.g. an alpaca or silk blend).

  • textured stitch patterns including moss/seed stitch borders and an array of stars
  • a photo tutorial is included for the special star stitches
  • one size (short and cosy), with simple instructions for re-sizing both height and circumference if desired
  • a one-skein project: you will need 180 yards of DK-weight yarn
  • full charted and written instructions, so you can follow your preferred type.

The arrangement of stars on the cowl is inspired by the beautiful starry ceilings of some 14th and 15thC chapels and cathedrals. Here are a few of my favourite examples:

Scrovegni Chapel, Padua (source)

Basilica di Santa Croce, Florence (source)

Santa Maria sopra Minerva, Rome (source)
I have a sudden yearning to knit something blue-and-gold!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Henna appreciation

Willie helped me dye my hair with henna a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still admiring its redness every time I pass a mirror. ;)

Evening light = maximum glow!

The best instructions I've found are in the free 'How To' ebook by Catherine Cartwright-Jones. She's included lots of info on what henna is, its history, and how it works. She stresses the importance of using pure, body-art quality henna powder rather than buying a pre-mixed product (which can contain dodgy ingredients). I order my powder online.

We've refined our method over the years, to make the henna mixture easier to apply to my ridiculously thick hair. If you're interested in trying henna on your own hair, here are my tips (but do read the ebook for the full picture):
  • 100g of henna powder is plenty for shoulder-length hair if the mixture is fairly runny (with a consistency like crepe batter). We found this consistency easier to apply, although it does drip a bit during the waiting period.
  • Bottled lemon or lime juice works well for the mixture, diluted with water for a runny mix as above. Non-pulpy orange juice works well too (one with apple base is fine).
  • If the mixture is lumpy, you can smooth it out using electric beaters. 
  • Let the mixture rest overnight.
  • Before the application, spread old towels on the chair and surrounding floor. 
  • Have a willing assistant apply the mixture to your hair!
  • Important: start at the front of the head and work backwards (we found this much easier).
  • Use ‘crocodile clips’ to manage hair sections.
  • After application, use a damp soapy flannel to wipe henna off your face, neck, and ears.
  • Ensure the weight of your henna-coated hair is centred on the top of your head before covering it with plastic wrap and/or a shower cap.
  • Leave the mixture on for 2-4 hours, or until you've had enough.
  • Beware of drips! Wear an old towel around your shoulders and use the ends to wipe up any drips down your face/neck.

I only made it to three hours before washing out the henna last time, as the drips were getting on my nerves. The runnier consistency and shorter waiting-time don't seem to have made a difference to the result.

I hope some of this is helpful! I get around to henna-ing my hair about twice a year, and it's always well worth it. I love the way it works with the lighter and darker tones in my hair, adding a rich glow. My small collection of white hairs also take the dye well, turning brighter red than the rest. :)

Saturday, February 28, 2015


I'm in Whakatane right now, at the midpoint of my two-week break. I've been having a lovely relaxing time hanging out with Mum and Dad and Hazy-the-cat, finishing up knitting projects, and messing around on the piano.

HRH Hazel

I took advantage of the parental picture-framing skills and got a neat print framed - this is 'Space Cat' by the Wellington artist Pinky Fang, in a clean white frame with atmospheric fairy lights:

I love the cat's glowing yarn-ball! Hopefully I can get this back to Melbourne in one piece...

It's a lovely sunny day today, so this afternoon Dad and I are going to Ohope beach to try out the new boogie-boards, and maybe get some fish and chips. :)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


On Sunday night Willie and I picked up some fish and chips, and went to visit the colony of grey-headed flying foxes at Yarra Bend Park.

When we arrived, there were thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of them hanging from the eucalyptus trees on either side of the river. A few were flying around from tree to tree, and others were waking up and stretching. They got noisier and noisier, and more and more restless, until after sunset the air was full of bats...



I'm definitely not used to being around wild animals other than birds, so it was quite disconcerting at first. Some of the noises they made were especially eerie! Luckily the bats weren't interested in us at all - they stayed well up in their trees and sky. 

I took these photos (and video) on my phone, which is why they're a bit dodgy - although I think the blurry motion effects are cool! We'll have to go back again soon with a video camera. Apparently there are also echidnas in the park, and lots of birds, so perhaps a daytime trip too. Now that Willie has a driver's license, we can take advantage. ;)

Apparently these bats used to live in the Botanic Gardens, but had to be relocated "due to the sensitive nature of the vegetation". I wonder how one relocates a colony of bats?

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Silver and gold

I've been a bit quiet this month, as I've been working on a couple of super-secret knitting projects (one of which is Very Exciting). There's been a lot of knitting going on, but not much I can share just yet! However, I do have two non-secret designs in the works which I can show you...

This is a swatch for a lacy cowl in Outlaw Yarn's Vanitas (an 8ply blend of alpaca with a bit of merino). I've been playing around with lace stitches, trying to get a cool stylised peacock-feather pattern. I'm really happy with this version, with the 'feathers' arranged in columns:

The silver colour is called 'Vanity', which is most appropriate for a peacock-themed project. I am so in love with this yarn. Soft and silky, great stitch definition, pretty colours - hell yeah!

And this is another cowl-in-progress, also in Vanitas yarn - a sandy gold colour called 'Wealth'. I came up with a surface-texture pattern of stars, which I've arranged in a grid. It's actually much simpler to knit than it looks (which is always nice).

Now back to Secret Squirrel business, tee hee... ;)