Cyclone Knitting

It’s been good weather to stay indoors and knit this past week as Cyclone Marcia has swirled down the coast around us. We have been soooo fortunate that it has skimmed us, and despite massive rain and a bit of stress, we’ve had little damage. Our little cottage on the mountain survives, but to the north we watched the huge storm right out to Fraser Island, and from the back deck we could see it over Noosa. Mother Nature does her thing, there’s nothing you can do really. My heart goes out to the poor people who weren’t so lucky.
The mist rolled in the following morning, obscuring most of the view, and it was like being an island in a sea of white cotton wool.

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It’s still warm, very damp and humid but there is something about dark, windy, rainy days that just makes it FEEL cold, and I comforted myself by whipping up a couple of winter projects.
First, another Il Grande Favorito, this time is the discontinued Rustic from Bendigo Woollen Mills, 12ply in charcoal.

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It is worked top down, on 6.5mm needles, with short rows used to create a lower scooped hem at the back. Such a quick knit, and so easy, I wanted something mindless to take my mind off the chaos going on outside.

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Like an earlier one I made, I added some little pockets to this. Well, me and pockets, you know. I can’t resist.

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Pocket instructions:

Using 6.5mm needles, cast on 15 sts using cable cast on.
Work 15 rows St St.
Work 3 rows Moss St.
Cast off Knitwise from RS, leaving a long tail to sew to the pocket on with.
Whip stitch in place.

I still have enough Rustic left to do something else too, I stocked up when I suspected they were cutting it!

I also knit up a Boo Knits dragonfly wings shawl that I HAD to make because I had this perfect yarn for it, Araucania Botany Lace, in beautiful shades of green and purple. It came out quite well, another easy pattern although it required small interludes of concentration. I think I like it point facing front best. The yarn is incredibly soft. In my rush to finish it, I managed to block the wrong points, so if they shrink down I’ll try it the right way next time! ☺️

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The dress is one I made this week too, with some pure linen I dyed grey, as I couldn’t for the life of me find the colour I wanted. I will elaborate on the dress when I come to discussing all the projects I have made from those addictive Japanese pattern books!

Hoping for a calmer few days,
B

Valentine’s Day Knitting

Valentine’s Day this year was another opportunity for some knitting for my lovely man. A couple of years ago I made him an Armas for Valentine’s Day – it took my entire summer holidays and nearly killed me – and I swore NEVER again. He is so big, no matter what gauge I use it always takes sooooo long and kilometres of yarn to knit him a sweater!

Socks, hats and mitts only now. The cooler weather is fast approaching here, but in this part of Queensland it never really gets ‘cold’ so I usually stick with wool blends rather than pure wool. M’s favourite colour is ‘olive drab’ – hmmmmm, he does assure me that is a real colour – and I happened to have some worsted Hayfield acrylic wool blend handy in col. ‘Moss’. So I did some socks first for his size US15 feet, once again using the Fish Lips Kiss Heel. I do love this heel, now that I am getting it memorised.

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M has a spectacularly gorgeous cardy that his mum got him, but it is brown and navy. So the olive beanie I’ve already made will not match, and he wanted something blueish to go with it. This yarn was random eBay purchase many moons ago…who knows what is in it, but from the feel there is definitely some cashmere or alpaca, it is super soft with a nice halo. I’m happy with the result, M only likes the ‘watch cap’ or ‘London beanie’ style of hat, which makes it pretty easy for me. The hardest part is getting it to fit his ginormous head! This one was a cast on of 96 stitches.

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Next up on the gifting knitting list will be a pair of fingerless mitts, also in – sigh – olive drab. On the plus side, at least he wears what I make him!😌

B

Quickie weekly project: Painted clogs

In the midst of a thousand projects, I decided to fit this quick one in this week. After tossing up about designs, in the end I decided against the grey plaid effect on my old birkis and instead went for some simple trees in grey and black tones. I am quite happy with the final effect.

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The process was really simple. I had already painted these black once before, which had stood up quite well to my indelicate stompings.

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I went straight over the black in a reasonable quality acrylic paint, straight out of the tube. I recommend using a premixed colour for the main base coat rather than a colour you’ve mixed yourself. If it chips or gets scratched later, it is much easier to touch it up with a premix.

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I used a nice elephant grey colour called ‘Nimbus grey’. Then I drew the design on with pencil.

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I roughly painted in the tree trunks and branches, then the leaves.

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When that was dry I added some finer branches, and finally some colour depth to the leaves.

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When that was totally dry I sealed the shoes with Mod Podge acrylic matt sealer.

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As you can see, it is certainly not matt! More of a satin finish. But I don’t really mind. I did three coats over three days to give it time to properly cure. It is flexible, which is imperative for shoes. Last time, I used a more expensive acrylic sealer designed for paintings, but this time this was all I could find locally. It seems to have worked fine.

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🙂
B

Creating the perfect writing space

A while ago, when I started to take my writing seriously, I decided I must first create the perfect writing space. There’s a lot of conflicting information about writing spaces. I did vast amounts of online research, and read many author’s autobiographies. I printed off pictures of famous writers’ writing spaces to inspire me. I read about feng shui, fountain pens, air quality, ergonomics, eye strain.

Hey, anything to put off the actual act of writing. ☺️
(Like many writers, I was a fierce procrastinator. I say ‘was’, because I am not anymore. But I will come to that.)

Part 1: What everyone else said I needed

So my initial research came up with the following generalisations, some of which are totally conflicting. Obviously what works well for one does not work for someone else.

1) A dedicated writing space is the ideal, although really a bit of a luxury. Many have to make do with a desk in the corner of the living room or bedroom, something that can’t be permanently set up for writing. But the ‘serious’ writer needs their own space, in their own style. Or so I read. I chose a little corner in the end of my studio, a train carriage buried in the bush. It is a fair walk from the house, down a steep driveway and set of stairs. Easy to get down to, hard to get back up. Very separate from day to day living distractions.

2) I read about ‘vistas’. Apparently, having a beautiful view from your writing desk is the ideal. This is to help you relax, refocus, and find inspiration every time you look up. I wasn’t really sold on this idea, to tell the truth. It seemed unrealistic and unattainable for most people. Some writers said they would find it distracting rather than helpful. But so many cited it as a necessity, that I put it on my list. I am surrounded by bush here, so a bush view was doable.

3) Plants. Okay, yep, plants are good. They clean the air, absorb the nasties, look pretty. Nature is inspirational. Tick, plants on the list.

4) A few of your favourite things/mementoes/family photos. Hmmm. I personally couldn’t think of anything more distracting than family photos when you’re creating an entire imaginary world full of imaginary people. I scrubbed that one.

5) Peace. This was apparently a biggie. A writer must have somewhere quiet, where they can work uninterrupted. And yet, some authors say they work better in crowds, with a plethora of ideas and physical characteristics and character traits all conveniently at hand with a simple glance up from the notepad or laptop. So which is it? I went for ‘quiet’. Living in the country, there aren’t really any cafes I can frequent without a long drive, so ‘peaceful environment’ is the default setting anyway.

6) Background music. Many writers apparently work to a musical background, be it classical, rock, heavy metal or mixes depending on scenes they are writing at the time. In theory, this seemed a good idea. So I got some new music and made some new playlists.

7) A beautiful notebook and expensive pen. This apparently helps to make one think of oneself as a dedicated, ‘proper’ writer. Inspirational? Or an excuse for some retail therapy? Either way, I put that on the list.

My idea of what constituted the perfect writing space at this point was something between Roald Dahl’s bohemian garden shed, Stephen King’s attic office and JK Rowling’s notebook in a local cafe. So I had to narrow it down to the essentials.

Part 2: What I thought I needed

My own list at the conclusion of this research came down to something like this.

1) My writing space had to have good natural light and fresh air. I know myself enough to know I get depressed working in the dark, and artificial lights can set off flares of my inflammatory arthritis.

2) I didn’t really care about the amount of space. A little nook in my studio would do. I work in a notebook, on a laptop or on an iPad, and any of these options take up very little space. Really I just needed a small table and a chair, I decided.

3) A fountain pen and beautiful notebook. Well, yeah. Why not.

4) Electricity. To run the printer, a fan in hot weather and to charge gadgets.

5) Style and character. I am really into antiques, vintage style and interior design. I wanted a writing space that reflected my style. I imagined it being photographed for a country style magazine when I was a famous author…hahaha. No really, I did. 😊

I had a Victorian dining chair and a gorgeous antique pine hall table. I bought a desk lamp. I made a handmade rag rug for underneath. I made lace curtains. I made sure the feng shui was good. I faced the door and window that opened, and had my back to a door that was bolted shut. I faced my desk toward the view. Hey, maybe there was something to the ‘vista’ thing, who knew. It was worth a try.

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Then……..2 months later, with virtually no writing done, I ripped it all apart and started again. Betrayed once again by that liar called the Internet! 😡

Part 3: What I ACTUALLY needed.

Here is what turned out to be important to me.

1) Easy access to coffee. I wasn’t trudging all the way up to the house for it anymore. I got a kettle and a little plunger.

2) A comfortable chair. F*ck antiques. Seriously. After two months of a beautiful looking antique chair and an aching back and arms, I did something I never do and went to a furniture store. I purchased a hideous black gas lift office chair with plenty of back support. OMG. Bliss.

3) Space. No, a cute little writing nook will not do. For me anyway. I am kind of tall and get claustrophobic. I bang my hips and knees. And elbows. And head. Also, I now like to push back from my desk on my new super rolling chair like Michael J. Fox used to do in the opening credits of Family Ties. Best to have a little room behind you for that, or it ends badly.

4) A big desk. The theory of the laptop, iPad or notebook requiring little space seems sound, but in reality there are many scraps of paper, notebooks, chapter outlines, more than one pen, dictionary, cup of coffee, bottle of water and possibly food on the desk, all at one time. The cute little distressed pine hall table does not cut it. In the end I found an old rusty metal desk frame, dumped in the shed by previous owners. M screwed a slab of wood to the top, and that’s it. It is still as it was that first day, yet to be cleaned and repainted, so for now it languishes under a tablecloth. But it is big enough.

5) A dictionary and thesaurus. Of course these are available digitally. But you know what, the Internet is fantastic for research but can be the devil when you’re writing. So I tend to switch off both Internet and phone when writing. There’s something about the tactile beauty of a yellowed dictionary anyway…I still use my one from high school. Granted, it doesn’t have cool words like fugly or twerk, but it will do.

6) A bookcase. For all kinds of things including books. Doesn’t have to be big. Also nice to visualise your own completed published novel sitting there.

7) A book of baby names. Great for character names and general inspiration. Nothing worse than losing your train of thought mid flow because you can’t think of a good name.

8) A bin. Yes, surprisingly it took me two months to stop piling old scraps of paper next to my desk.

9) A pin board. Extremely useful when plotting, rearranging scenes etc. I also use it to keep track of characters and their relationships to each other. Handy for the odd inspirational quote too.

10) I did need natural light. Ha, I knew it. Glad I got something right.

11) A file folder. Necessary if you are like me and have 14 books or ideas for books on the go at once.

12) Pens with gel ink. I personally find that gel ink speeds writing and is so much easier on the hands. I also find there is not much difference between the cheap and expensive ones.

13) Cheap notebooks. In an ironic twist, it turns out that I actually can’t bear to use the beautiful one I bought especially for writing.

14) Quiet. Probably not important for everyone, but definitely for me.

15) One meaningful ornament. I found this metal flying pig in a homewares store in town, and for some reason it spoke to me. Pigs might fly. When I get attacked sometimes by self doubt, it helps me get back on track.

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These things, when combined, created a whole new era in my writing. I knocked out a draft of a novel in 17 working days. Everything flowed.

Part 4: What I didn’t need after all.

1) A view. After creating a lovely vista from my desk, I discovered that I never even look at it with anything other than a blank stare while I am writing. When I write, I am completely in another world, usually with a glazed expression.

2) Background music. Tried it. Hated it. Very distracting.

3) The desk lamp. It is actually still on my desk. I have never used it. Not once. It isn’t even plugged in.

4) Style, beauty and character. My studio is a train carriage. Seriously, I needed to get a grip. A piece of ply on two stacks of bricks would look okay in here.

Of course, my writing space will forever be a work in progress. I love rearranging interiors and always will. I have discovered that clutter is distracting, which is unfortunate because I have a fairly cluttered, eclectic style. I keep my writing area clean and tidy though and it helps a lot. I stack things neatly at the end of a session but I don’t pack away. I write 10 000 words per week, no exceptions. That fits comfortably with my other work and interests.

Once I had the space that I needed, I made the decision to write. And in the end, the decision is really what it comes down to. It turned out that creating my writing space was in fact just a rearrangement of thoughts and beliefs I had about what it is to be an artist, a writer, a creator. What I actually had to do was get out of my own way and decide to do it. And I think that’s the key, no matter where you are, no matter what tools or time or space you have at your disposal. Once the decision is finally made, and you sit peacefully with it, comfortable and at the same time passionate about your decision, it is actually impossible for anything to stand in the way.
Because the perfect writing space is totally in your head.

B

Paris Hoodie

I finished my Basic Chic Hoodie by Bonne Marie Burns (Chic Knits) this week. I am calling it the Paris Hoodie, as it was a piece I specifically knitted for my upcoming trip to Paris. Every stitch of this has a little travel bug in it! 🙂

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The original pattern calls for worsted weight yarn, but I wanted a slimmer fitting hoodie than the pictures, so I worked it in the smallest size in a DK weight yarn. It came out just right for a fitted AU10.

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The yarn is Bendigo Woollen Mills Luxury 8 ply in colour Slate. As always, great quality from BWM, and I love the super long 200g balls, which minimises weaving in the ends. Although I’ve had a few issues dealing with BWM, I cannot fault the yarn or the price! I have knitted many things now with a variety of their yarns and they’re all good.

The hoodie pattern was simple and clear, worked top down on 4.5mm needles. I used a Knitpro Symfonie circular the whole way, and magic looped the sleeves.

I wasn’t originally going to put the pockets in as they seemed a bit tiny and useless, but in the end I did and I think now they are actually pretty cute with the little button closure. Already they are collecting my usual ephemera. Tissues, bobby pins, seeds, shells, feathers, scraps of yarn, dead butterfly wings, rocks….
Anyway, I extended the length of the body slightly and also extended the sleeves and ribbing in order to make fingerless mitts on the end. I only did half of the sleeve decreases. The thumb hole is a simple 4 stitch cast off. I made it as unobtrusive as possible so I could also fold the cuffs back instead if desired.
The hood is picked up and knit upward, with a few small increases along the way, then bound off with a three needle bind off. The front band is picked up in two parts in the pattern, but I did it in one piece. Mine worked out at a total of 320 stitches picked up. The buttonholes are simple yarnovers/k2tog.

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I knitted this while doing a French refresher course, so it is doubly a Paris hoodie. I still have a couple of months to keep practising fortunately. I love languages with a passion! French is beautiful, but Finnish is my favourite, as it seems to flow most naturally off the tongue for me. Perhaps that is genetic memory coming into play. I don’t even dream of ‘fluency’ in Finnish, but I will keep studying as much as my little brain will allow before I head there later this year! And I can’t wait to be knitting and designing for that trip too. 🙂

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