A birthday

A longish post today after a big day yesterday. Yesterday was a special birthday for my Dad (Poppy, as I call him). The big 8-0, and I spent the day by the bay with my parents.
  
If there is such a thing as a ‘typical’ eighty year old though, I can guarantee Poppy is not it. He doesn’t look it. He doesn’t sound like it. And he sure as hell doesn’t act it. 

  
Sadly, I have inherited this sense of humour.

When he’s not in his shed out the back, he can be found kayaking, boating, fishing or swimming around these beautiful bays and inlets. Or playing sudoku on his iPad. The tide was out so he and I didn’t go kayaking yesterday, just walking.
   
    
 Poppy is a creative man. A sculptor, woodworker, leather carver, drawer, painter. He is seriously talented. Here’s just one of the many amazing things he has made me. It’s even lined with sheepskin.

  
So M and I decided to stay in the creative line and each make him something to celebrate his 80th.

Traditionally I haven’t had much luck knitting Poppy anything he likes. He has liked a couple of neck warmers, but the first socks I made him were ‘too scratchy’. The second ones (made out of an expensive alpaca blend mind you) were also…… ‘too scratchy’. So we all decided Poppy has the most sensitive feet on the planet, mum got the socks by default, and no more socks for Poppy were produced.
I thought I may be luckier knitting him a nice vest, he likes vests, and he HATES the cold.
So this is the one I chose, Caldwell by Stephen West. 
  
I used Hayfield Bonus Aran. I have used it lots of times, I know it is soft and hardy, machine washable and I love the colours. I’m not really into reverse stocking stitch, so I did straight stocking stitch on both the front and back. I also did the i cord bind off in the contrast stripe colour, to tie the whole thing together a little more. 

  
He liked it. 🙂

The pattern was fine, although I don’t love the way some of the cables disappear halfway up the front. And the finishing took longer than knitting all the pieces combined! I do love the icord bind off though and will use this again. 
  
Details:

Pattern: Caldwell by Stephen West

Yarn: Hayfield Bonus Aran, cols. ‘barley’ and ‘dark grey mix’, 1x 400g ball of each

Needles: 4mm and 4.5mm 

Buttons: eBay, dark stained wooden toggles

Size: my gauge was off, so I knit a medium to get a large

Mods: changed reverse st st to plain st st on fronts and back. Used contrast colour for icord bind off.

M once more got out his favourite tools, the welder and the grinder (fortunately while I was in Tasmania, so I avoided the noise), and made Poppy this fabulous snail. 
   
 I frickin love this thing. 100% recycled materials. And what a smile. 🙂

  
We had been discussing sea snails, that Poppy and I saw on our walk.

  
Marine Gastropods.

So guess what the snail is now called. Gastro. More of that fabulous sense of humour. :/

I also made a few Paleo birthday creations (all grain, dairy and refined sugar free). Chocolate date balls and coffee ice cream were my own recipes, so no links for those. Poppy requested a Black Forest birthday cake, and I was pleased with how it turned out.
   
 This consisted of a cake, a chocolate ganache and a coconut vanilla cream, cherries and raw cacao nibs to finish. It was really good. The ganache took two hours to cook but was worth every second. Who knew you could make sweetened condensed milk with coconut milk!

I made chocolate biscotti too, this was a real winner. That’s why there are no photos.

Oh I also finished off my Possum slouchy beanie using my Tasmanian souvenir yarn, roughly based on this pattern.
   
 All in all, a great day. 🙂

   
   
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Counting chickens

It goes without saying really, but I loved Hobart. And of course I did venture back to a yarn store….or two. 🙂
Salamanca Wool Store was my favourite. The selection was small, but the staff were really lovely and they had a lot of locally produced yarn. They also stock my favourite Knitpro Symfonie needles. I purchased this as my holiday ‘souvenir’, one ball made of Tasmanian Possum, merino and silk, and a circular needle to knit it with on the plane home. 

  
  I got this far into a slouchy beanie flying home. This yarn is DIVINE. So soft and warm. One day I’ll take out a personal loan so I can purchase enough for a sweater. 

  
  I also visited The Stash Cupboard. There was an impressive range of yarns, especially American yarns. This is one part of the shop (taken with permission). The service here was..less good? for lack of a better term, but I could not go past this sparkly sock yarn. I am such a sucker for sparkles! It is taking a lot of will power not to start another sock with this before I’ve finished some other pairs.

   
    

I also got these Chiaogoo needles which are ‘flexible straight needles’, a concept I was not familiar with, but I loved the idea as I can’t knit well with standard straight needles. Of course I could just use a circular but my various 4mm/US 6 circulars are often all in use, so this is a nice back up.
  
I finished my Drops Uni Fabel extremely pink socks, though I shan’t photograph them because they’re in the wash. I did finish one Drops Delight sock as well.
  
It was an awesome trip. I love the cold, but M hates it, which is why he didn’t come with me. Something that really pleased me was that the cold didn’t affect my autoimmune stuff, no Raynauds, no joint pain. I don’t usually talk too much about health, and I don’t want to count chickens before they’re hatched…but almost two years into a strict Paleo diet and a complete change of lifestyle, and it’s definitely working…. I wouldn’t presume to suggest it would work for anyone with autoimmune disease, but I did a whoooollle lotta research, which led me to believe that 1) getting off the medication was a great idea, and 2) that this might be the way to accomplish that. So far, so good. There was a paleo inspired cafe in Hobart too, Cafe Lola. The coffee was good, and I highly recommend the ‘Paleo Puff’. Sorry for the pic, I got it takeaway and had it by the harbour. 🙂

   
   A few photos to finish. I visited the Salamanca Markets on Saturday morning, they were large and fun, if a little on the pricey side. I recommend the natural fruit roll ups. I also took the Red Decker bus for a tour, including the Cascade Brewery, and visited the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum (where the guards are extremely friendly, by the way!). The exhibitions were incredible. The thylacine one even had me in tears. 

   
   
   
   
   
    

And now back home, after what feels like a lot of self indulgence, it’s time to turn outward for a little while with some gift and charity knitting. Not the possum beanie though. That’s definitely for me. 🙂

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Tassie trip

It took two flights to get here, but the rules have finally relaxed a smidgen and I was able to knit on the plane….be it on cheap bamboo circulars, but whatever, it’s still knitting. :)I started a Fresco Simple Slouchy Hat on some ancient 5 ply pure wool my mum gave me.

  
I have been enjoying wandering the streets of Hobart on my solo adventure. I haven’t been here for fifteen years, but basically it hasn’t changed a lot….although it does now boast a paleo cafe! Yay! 🙂 It really has to be one of the prettiest little cities in Australia. Old fashioned, English, quirky and artsy. The buildings around where I am staying at historic Battery Point are like dolls houses. M, at 6’7″, wouldn’t fit through the doorways of most of them! It’s like stepping back in time.

   
   
Arthur Circus, with its ring of old cottages, constructed mainly for soldiers of the original garrison

   
 
  
Stopping for a coffee at Salamanca Place. I also went to the Salamanca Wool Shop (Tasmanian Woollen Co.), and there I exercised an absolutely unbelievable amount of self control. But then again, I am planning on going back tomorrow. 🙂

   
 Rainbow over Salamanca. I looked for the pot of gold…..

  
But there was only this weirdly illuminated boat. :/ Franklin Wharf and Sullivan’s Cove. 

  
I also took the bus up to Mt Wellington, overlooking Hobart. That’s it in the background.

  
It was 1 degree Celcius up there, minus wind chill factor. So cold but so pretty. 

   
    
   
Of course I also brought my sock knitting…I whipped up one last night in Drops Big Fabel Uni Colour, and started work on another in Drops Delight, my current favourite. 🙂

  
  
Tomorrow I’m hopping on the double decker bus for a tour around the city…after I’ve been back to the wool shop, that is….:)

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Hobart cardigan completed

    
FO: Hobart Cardigan

Finally all done with two sleeps to go! 🙂 I have to admit the deadline made it a real slog towards the end, and that shawl collar was bloody hard work in 1×1 rib with a gazillion short rows. 

  

  

   

But I love it. 🙂 I recommend the pattern (even though it is worked flat). It’s one of those great cable patterns that looks harder than it actually is, and is easily memorised after only a few rows. The shape is a boxy, nineties-style cropped jacket with set in sleeves and no waist shaping. My shawl collar (which I appropriated from the Gramps pattern) came out quite high at the back, but I wanted warm so I’m not complaining. I took my time with the seaming, and I’m quite proud of the finish. This is up there as one of my favourite knitted things. 🙂   

  Details:

Free Pattern – ‘Must-have Cardigan‘ by Patons (2002) (with shawl collar added from ‘Gramps‘ patterns by Tin Can Bay Knits)
Yarn – Drops Nepal (65% wool, 35% alpaca), shade 7238, 14 balls

Needles – 4mm and 4.5mm (US 6 and 7)

Size – my gauge was out so I knit the XSmall to get a Small

Buttons – stash, vintage woven leather

Mods – for once, only the collar! (The original patterns calls for a basic short 2×2 rib border with buttonholes. This left the neckline and chest very open, which I thought was kind of weird given how warm and dense the rest of the fabric would be. I am very glad I changed it.)
  
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Hobart Cardy progress

The countdown is on, 12 sleeps until my Tasmania trip, time to finish the Hobart cardigan, edit a novel and format and publish my new Wolfberry Knits pattern…sure, why not? 🙂  
It is slow going but I’m determined to wear this damn thing in Hobart. I am currently on the sleeves. I am mainly worried about getting it blocked and dried in time (weather is iffy at the moment) so I can sew it together and do the shawl collar.

  
I press on…

Train Renovation Halfway Point

  
As I’ve reached the approximate half way point of my train reno, I thought I’d post some pics.
The back story to my train is that Ravensridge was, at one point, a bit of a hippie commune. This is good, in the fact minimal clearing of the forest was done, trees and wildlife are abundant, and building work shows creativity and sensitivity to the environment, such as composting toilets and gravity fed rainwater. It is bad if you prefer little luxuries when you move into a place, like hot running water, doors that lock, or no snakes inside.
Anyway, what happened was the owner of the property died, the hippies dispersed, and the property was left to its own devices for several years, to be partly absorbed back into the bush.
There are assorted dwellings and studios, amongst them this train, which I have been slowly renovating over the past year as my studio. On our arrival, the train was in a very bad way. It had only two glass windows left, the rest boarded up or covered in plastic or open to the wind, the weather and the wildlife. 
  
  
Bats had taken up residence, and had pooped everywhere. Thick black mould covered most surfaces, especially the beautiful curved ceilings. I cannot begin to describe the smell. Most of the back wall had rotted and disintegrated, exposing the interior lining boards, termite trails and various nesting creatures.

At first glance it seemed beyond restoration without a hefty budget, but they sure built these trains to last. It is rock solid, the frame is hardwood and steel with a mostly silky oak lining, and the original bitumen roof had been covered with corrugated iron. The deck that had been built off the front was also solid.
It was really really really hard work getting it to this point. The cleaning job was the worst. After I had removed the mould and guano, we replaced all the window panes. Then we panelled the entire back wall. Then patched all the rusted or rotted holes. Then launched an attack against the termites. Then I painted the entire interior. I cleaned and polished the floors. We hooked water up to the little kitchen, and a power board for electricity.

   
     
This one is just me being artistic. 🙂

  
The ipad doesn’t capture it too well, but the blob along the far horizon is Fraser Island, world’s largest sand island.

  
I haven’t as yet found out all there is to know about this train, but I’m getting there. I know it was moved here from Eumundi Qld. I can place it as a Queensland Rail carriage from about 1915, so roughly a hundred years old. I know that this is a guard room and two first class cabins. I know this because it had GUARD painted on the door of one cabin and FIRST on the other two. They don’t call me Sherlock for nothing. There are various original features, like the bench seats, Bakelite switches, light fittings, bell pulls, shutters and luggage racks.

   
     
I imagine it is obvious how much I love this train. It has been a labour of love. To be honest I would have been thrilled with just one ‘room of one’s own’, so to have all this space is heaven.
It has three main rooms inside plus a small kitchen, and a bathroom has been added on to the back. There are also two little cupboard-type rooms. Along the front edge is a cage where they would have kept people’s dogs on the train journey. This is underneath where the guard would have slept. I won’t post too many pics of the inside because as I say it is only half finished. Also I don’t want to tidy up and put away all my half finished projects. 🙂 

  
     

So now that I’ve painted most of the exterior, I am about to start the repainted Queensland Rail signage on the doors and side panels. I took plenty of photos originally, so I’m confident I can replicate them. I am still tackling the termite invasion, but it appears I am finally winning. At some point I need to evict the antechinus living in one of the bench seats. But she is relatively harmless, she just likes to steal anything soft that I leave on the floor. 

Oddly enough, the question I am asked most often about the train is ‘Is it haunted?’ In case you’re wondering, the answer is abso-frickin-lutely. But that is another story.