My wise owl. Catching up to me.
Love you and all you are.
There's stuff snapping at my metaphorical heels at the moment and as is the way of things the making compulsion is literally* keeping me awake at night. I'm in that slightly manic phase of high creativity, high output and impending deadlines that's making everything very exciting but also slightly off balance.
My big girl is about to turn 12 and I managed to work together her need for a costume for her birthday party With my desire to make her a dress for our upcoming trip to the very hot place. Cue linen shift dress, drafted by me. This project has been percolating in my head for a couple of months and I was thinking I'd have to wait until summer to make it but upcoming travels are an ideal excuse.
Raglan sleeves, gingham lined pouch pockets, shell flower button on back closure gingham bias binding on neck. I'm really happy with this garment, I love the way it looks and fits and the little details.
With some tights and a long sleeve Tshirt this will also serve as the basis for her barn owl costume, along with a layered linen scrap feather cape and knitted head dress (wirrawarra yarn in 'tawny owl' colourway no less!) I find it pretty hard to put effort into costumes so finding a way to combine some useable garments with something more frivolous greatly increased my project enthusiasm.
I also set to on another project that's been bubbling away in the head for a while, and similarly bumped into the world by the upcoming journey. We are going to have quite a bit of travel involving luggage handling so the mantra will be travel light! I've been thinking about days wandering around foreign cities, walking for miles, carrying as little as possible. I was contemplating a backpack but realistically they are not my favored form of hand luggage. The getting them on and off all the time annoys me - I like to be able to slip my hand in my bag to grab out things on the go. But my handbag isn't really ideal either. While the messenger style is pretty ergonomic compared to a shoulder bag, my open partial flap top does tend to spill its guts if kicked under an airline seat. Also it's dark and easily overlooked.
So I pulled out a lovely light weight burnt orange leather hide I'd bought on a whim a while ago at Lefflers and drafted a shape that maximised the use of the leather and that was part messenger bag, part teardrop shaped back sack.
It's worn across the body like a messenger bag but with the big end at the bottom and a flatter narrower top it can be worn across the back or slung to the front to be quite similar to my regular handbag.
It has a zip closure so nothing will fall out and adjustable length quick release clasp at the front so I can take it on and off in tight space if I need to.
I also reckon that colour is going to make it a lot easier to spot me in a crowd!
It took me quite a while to figure out how to construct it to avoid top stitching and still have a full lining with the zip and the handles inserted into the seams at the top and bottom corners. I love those kinds of challenges, even though I can never feel really sure it will all work until I try and do it for real. There's only so many steps I can hold in my imaginary eye before I lose track so when it actually works I'm always a bit surprised.
The to do list is still chockers - there's a cowl for the royal Melbourne show to be machine knit, an overdue birthday gift, and a bunch of clothes for me to wear while we are away - but the workroom is a total disaster zone as it is wont to get in a making frenzy so best I deal with that first.
* I recently had the great good fortune to attend a talk by Sue Butler, of the Macquarie dictionary. She said many interesting and thought provoking things about language and it's evolution and while I still feel some disquiet about contemporary language, I warmed a lot to her feelings that resisting evolution in language is pointless pedantry if everyone knows what everyone means. But I did laught during the discussion of the way in which the term literal has come to be used to emphasise a point rather than literally meaning literally! Some of the imagery this gives rise to is hilarious - such as when a well know politician recently claimed her and her party were literally bending over backwards to help a section of the community.
Aside from the occasional temperature adjustment I've never really managed my children's wardrobes. I never wanted to fight over anything as trivial as how they dressed and I wanted them to develop their own taste and style aside from approval and rebellion. For girls in particular fashion can be such a poison challis.
I love the way my kids know their own mind and make decisions on their own (they appear fairly oblivious to trends and peer pressure and branding). I get to be a part of it because I make so many of their clothes and I enjoy the collaborations we have choosing patterns and fabrics. They each approach these sessions so differently.
Recently Amy identified that she didn't have something warm and 'nice' - a going out to dinner type over layer - so we set about choosing something for me to make her on the knitting machine. She wanted a cardigan rather than jumper, with snap closure and a high neck and was keen on the idea of fair isle, but hazy on details. She perused my stash and made some choices.
I swatched this design, a sort of Nordic inspired bare branched trees motif from punch cards I'd borrowed (thanks Jules!). I liked that it would make a pattern that wasn't all over, simplifying the raglan joins and neck from a technical perspective but still providing a striking and beautiful feature. Amy approved so I pressed on.
Using the punchcard feature of the knitting machine for the tree design but also the knit radar feature which allows you to knit direct from a schematic I knocked out the sleeves, back and two fronts in about 5 hours. Well, actually I knit 3 sleeves since I made a monomuental mistake in one and had to rip it out and start again.
I washed and blocked all the pieces then joined all the raglan seams using the linker.
I then put all the neck stitches back on the machine and knit the collar, finishing with a turned hem, then seamed the sleeve and underarms. Another bath and block to remove the machine oils on the yarn and then I sewed popper tape to the front opening.
I was feeling pretty pleased with the result until Amy tried it on.
Too small! You can't see it in this photo but the sleeves were a good 10-15cm too short and e rest is wearable but tight. A whole bunch of stuff contributed to the problem, small amounts of inaccuracy on a number of fronts added up to some major size difference. The most disappointing aspect of this was that while I had plenty of the green yarn still (calypso colour in holst garn) I didn't have enough of the silver yarn (Rennie lambswool and cashmere in Apollo colour) left to start again and I can't find anywhere that ships it to Australia.
But Amy was seriously in love with it, so rather than waste time trying to find more of the same yarn she settled for the much scratchier cashmereless lambswool holst garn in a 'slate grey' that I had in the stash. I upsized the schematic, corrected my gauge calculations and set off.
Another half a day of solid knitting, washing, blocking, seaming, rehanging and collar knitting, washing and sewing on poppers and she now has a new version. This one is on the loose side (I'm hoping for 2 winters) and the yarn colours provide for much more impact.
Only problem now is what to do with version 1.
A lot of makers talk about the need to make. The urge, the passion, the compulsion. It's all true for me.
I make for the joy of making, I make to enjoy the things that I make, I make for the pride of having made.
But I also make to diffuse difficult emotions, to meditate on problems, for respite from inescapable things.
Sometimes that's a conscious choice but quite often that need is well disguised.
I don't connect my sudden and compelling need for a new [insert hand made item here] with the fact that I am currently experiencing [insert life stress here]. I can totally fool myself into it. I go make to deal with whatever I can't deal with.
Those stresses aren't always bad things, sometimes they are big excitements, waiting for good things about to come, too much good stuff happening.
But I have come to understand that making is a way in which I moderate and regulate my experience of the world and my response to it.
I consider myself very lucky that my urge is to make rather than, say, drink or gamble to get me through but I am trying to get better at owning up to the legitimacy of making as an emotional practice. I've always defended making as less a hobby or pastime than an essential domestic skill. It's so darn practical to make your own clothes, right?
But this has never explained why I have gone on knitting something I know full well I will end up ripping out, why I regularly stay up way too late before going on a trip somehow convinced I absolutely need to sew myself a few items of new clothing before I can depart. I've been known to buy awful op shop yarn and a crochet hook just to crochet a string bag I will never use.
It makes sense to me now that I have learned that the making is an essential component of me not losing my shit. It's more important than sleep or a sensible conversation when my temperature is rising, more helpful than strategy, more fundamental than insight. It's the bit that comes before, during and after a crisis that makes sure I don't get lost, it's trails of breadcrumbs that mark my path.
These photos are the things I have made since my last post. There have been a couple of others I didn't photograph, things made hurriedly or in the dark of night, or too insignificant to record. But yeah, it's been a making kind of month. Not everything has been a grand success, but I'm strangely unconcerned by that. I'm just glad I've been making.
Amy and I have just got home from a weekend in Sydney. Despite spending the preceding 10 days in bed coughing and wheezing, I decided to go ahead. And I'm so glad I did! We had such a lovely time.
We caught up some of the fantastic people I've come to know in Sydney - even though I was doing my best to keep things low key their company really made the trip. This online world has given me a great deal in terms of connecting with people over the last decade and my time in Sydney was so much the better for it.
Through the social networking marvel that is pin drop (best travel app ever) I also gathered a fantastic list of recommendations for places to visit and eat. As a direct consequence we had a flawless run of spectacular meals (a big ask for a Melbourne girl) and interesting interludes.
Mr Wong was a standout - despite being pushed through in a stupidly short period of time (out by 7.15pm?! Was that really necessary?!) - the food was absolutely brilliant and the fit out is great. Amy tried all the food - even the things well outside her comfort zone and set the tone for the whole weekend by being a delightful, mature companion. If this is adolescence - I'll have more!
As always when in Sydney we lunched at Chat Thai, which was excellent, and tried their new venture Samosorn, which was equally good.
We had an excellent breakfast at Bill's, and another at Paramount, which was perhaps more intersting than excellent given the menu features pretty much no regular breakfast foods. Breakfast at Kitchen by Mikes was delicious, as was lunch at flour and stone and afternoon tea extravaganza by la renaissance was every bit as good as we remembered from our trip in 2010.
Another fantastic recommendation took us to the secreted away Masuda Gallery, full of delightful Japanese paper and textile delights and the consumer lust inspiring Koskela homewares shop.
The MCA is a regular stop whenever I visit Sydney and we were super lucky to catch some the works in town for the biennale. We also explored the opera house, which Amy found particularly interesting, and marveled all over again at its wonderful construction and detailing.
Plus, the best ever toilets.
In addition to all the fun, I was delighted to teach a class at Tessuti Surry Hills. As good a group of students as you could hope for, all enthusiastically making bags.
I talked myself hoarse and generally had a fabulous time while the ever inspiring and faultlessly kind Colette took some lovely photos and helped entertain Amy. Seems totally wrong to call that work! For someone used to working in very large and impersonal organisational environments, every experience I have working for the dedicated and talented family that run this business feels like a privilege.