Thursday, April 16, 2015


Today we're off to New Zealand for Willie's mum's 60th birthday celebrations - there's a big party planned, and 'The Sibling Band' will be providing some of the music. Hence we've been spending a fair percentage of our evenings at band practice recently...

I've been using the inevitable waiting-around time during practices to work on a couple of knitting projects: a simple shawl with mesh-lace sections, and a striped-and-textured hat.

Hat in progress, feat. Madelinetosh DK and Vintage Purls Max

The remainder of the shawl will be my travel knitting, as it's nice and mindless. But I managed to finish the hat at last night's practice! I even wove in all the ends, using a tiny cymbal as a pin-dish. ;)

I'm looking forward to seeing some NZ countryside again, especially as the route from Auckland down to Taranaki is going to be mostly new to me. Hopefully I'll get some good photos to share. I'm also excited about getting to see some old friends at the party and in Auckland. Yay!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A good Good Friday

Last night was my big Bach concert! My choir and a fantastic Baroque orchestra performed the St. John Passion. As a first-timer, I had to put in a lot of practice to make sure I had my head around all the rhythms and my tongue around all the rapid-fire German. And it really paid off - on the night I wasn't nervous, and I really enjoyed the whole experience.

Willie, Julian, Chloe, and Hamish came along to hear us,and Willie took a couple of photos:

The Scots' Church is really pretty.

A chorus in full flight! I'm near the middle. :)

At home afterwards, enjoying a well-earned hot cross bun.

Here are a couple of my favourite choruses, performed by The Monteverdi Choir. The first is one of the fast, tricky choruses, and the second is the final chorus (which I adore)...

If you're a Bach nerd like me, you might want to poke around the All of Bach site, which will eventually house free videos of all 1080 of Bach's surviving compositions, performed by the Netherlands Bach Society. Bach's other great Passion setting, the St. Matthew, is the newest addition.

Happy Easter, everyone!

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. :)