Friday, 1 January 2010

Moving On

Happy new year everyone!

I'm starting 2010 by moving my blog. I've been toying with the idea for some time and the final push came with the adoption of the rather annoying commenting system I was forced to use late last year. Blogger has been great but change is good and I'm excited by the possibilities of what Wordpress has to offer.

I've also done something I've wanted to do for ages, which is to buy my own domain.

So from today, please follow me to the new Bellsknits!


Sunday, 27 December 2009

The Year's End

As 2009 draws to a close, I've been looking forward again to glancing back over what happened for me creatively this year. It's something I really look forward to, pulling all the photos together on Flickr and building the mosaic you see below. I love seeing the journey, the progress and the colours.

I'm very happy with what I managed to do this year. Lots of lace, some socks but not as many as in previous years, several cardigans and, for the first time, lots and lots of baby knits. Alice's arrival was a huge and important part of this year (could you tell?) and has given me more joy than I could have possibly imagined. For childless women like me, the love and joy derived from having little ones close by is unspeakably powerful. So all the baby knits have been incredibly fun and amazingly meaningful this year and I look forward to more of the same as she grows.

Also, big changes in store for this blog in 2010. In the first week of January, I'll be moving. The decision's been building for a while and I made it last week. So come back after the break and I'll point you in the direction of the new Bellsknits!

For now, thanks for another great year. As always the blogging community is a wonderful, fascinating and ever changing place and I'm happy to spend so much of my life here.

Have a wonderfully summery or wintry break, depending where you are, and see you next year!


2009 Finished Projects

1. Nupps on swallowtail, 2. Sydney Opera House and Shawl, 3. Mason Dixon Mitered Hanging Towel, 4. Earbud Pouch - open, 5. Branching Out 2, 6. Garter Stitch Bib, 7. Modern Bib, 8. Smiley Alice, 9. Alice - new dress1, 10. Shetland Triangle, 11. Sean's Cauchy Socks, 12. Colinette Jitterbug Socks - Velvet Plum, 13. Garter Yoke Cardigan, 14. Julia's Evangelines, 15. Me @ Batemans Bay, 16. Chevron Lace Cardigan Side, 17. Jo Sharp Fetching, 18. Keith and Alice, 19. Alice in her Baby Kimono, 20. Blackrose Socks - leg, 21. me&alice, 22. Polly's Birthday Socks, 23. blue3, 24. Willem in his birthday vest, 25. ipod cosies, 26. Green Doily Un-ironed., 27. Hemlock doily 2, 28. Jane's Red Socks, 29. Buttery Pomatomus Socks, 30. newsocks1, 31. burgundy towel, 32. berry, 33. anouk, 34. Mick's Socks, 35. Alice's dress, 36. Saartje's Booties - for Alice

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Alice Gets A New Dress

Christmas came early to the lovely cherub, Alice. We won't be seeing her or her parents on Christmas day so we had a BBQ and gift exchange on Monday night.

Alice, of course, was first cab off the rank. I was very excited about giving her a Christmas present for the first time. Here's the result.

Alice's dress

And another one. These photos are by her Daddy.

Alice's new dress

I hope the colours are showing up ok on your screens. Someone told me the other day that photos I'd put on facebook made it look kind of dirty grey. Nope, it's definitely a pale purple colour.

I had some issues with this dress, or really it's a top, in the beginning. Remember when I joined it up wrong? And Donna very kindly pointed it out to me before I got too far into it? I just misread the pattern and my knitting but we got there in the end.

Also, I sewed up the side seams too hight and had to undo them last week in order for her little arms to get through. The pattern has you adding one stitch either side at the point where the arm holes begin, but honestly I think the pattern would be better off saying 'place a marker here' so that you can remember later on instead of being a doofus like me and sewing up til the yoke. It kind of made sense at the time since once you sew up the seams, the yoke does form a hole - it's just not big enough.

Here's one with Mummy.

Alice and Fee

The pattern is Fiona's Top by Danish designer Sanne Bjerregaard. I made the one year old size for 10 month old Alice hoping it would be more like a dress for a while until she grew, because she's so small, but as you can see it's already short enough that it will be a top, not a dress. Fee's going to find some little lemon shorts for her to wear under it (cute!).

The yarn is Rowan 4ply cotton which I read during the making of this is discontinued. WHY??? It's gorgeous stuff. Fine and soft and highly workable. There are plenty of other good 4ply cottons out there but this was my first time with Rowan cotton and I loved it.

It was a warm evening last night and Alice wore the dress the whole time, kept cool and airy by the light cotton fabric. By the end of last night, the dress was covered in avocado from our salad.

Another successful baby knit! I can't believe that soon she'll be one. Better get on with her birthday present.


Saturday, 19 December 2009

Thought For The Day

If you are required to undo seams on a baby dress because you misread the instructions and didn't leave enough room for the little cherub's arms, really you should be glad that you did such a good job it takes FOREVER to undo them, right?

I thought this over and over as I reminded myself that had the seams come undone really quickly and easily, it would have been a sign of my incompetence.

OK, moving right along.


Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Four hands are faster than two

See these beautiful mittens? They were a gift, a very special gift for someone far, far away, in a land much colder than mine.

And you know what? I only made one of them. That's right. The other was made RoseRed. We collaborated on a knitting project!

A couple of months ago, we got to thinking that our absent friend Sharon, or Shazmina Bendi, who really ought to blog more often, would be having a special birthday in November and we wanted to do something for her.

We cooked up the idea of making something together for Sharon (she is also a knitter) and then RoseRed came up with the notion of the mittens, and in particular these Cat Mittens. Sharon left her beloved cat behind in Australia when she moved to England so it seemed fitting. We decided each of us would make one mitten. Four hands are faster than two, obviously!

But, I hear you ask, isn't that a bit risky? The two of you might have different tension in your knitting, yes?

Yes. We might. But historically we've found we don't differ in tension much. We tend to both knit a bit on the tight side, needing generally to go up half a needle size to achieve gauge. More or less. And besides, it'll all come out in the blocking, we decided. And we were right.

This was my first venture back into colour work since the Everest which was my steeked jacket. I could have left colourwork behind me forever, I thought at the time, but no, the itch returned and I thought making fair isle mittens, or really just one mitten, was a lovely way to get reacquainted with what is actually a really enjoyable style of knitting.

We made them pretty quickly. I think mine took about ten days and at first it did seem like one was going to be a bit bigger than the other, and the thumb on mine was a bit short. And not only that, but they were both almost excessively tight. We were worried. They seemed like they'd fit a large child. But we blocked them over sock blockers and they turned out just fine.

We used Colinette Jitterbug in Salty Dog (the blue) and Oyster blush (the grey). And we knitted them on 2.75mm needles because there seemed to be such variation in what needle sizes people used. With our time over, we both agree we'd go to at least a 3mm needle since they were so tight.

And look at the cute palm side of the pattern - a cat's paw! So clever. So much fun to knit! RoseRed and I collaborate really well. We should do it more often!

Look at the thumbs. Can you see? They've got little fish skeletons on them! Clever design!

So happy birthday dear Sharon! We love you lots and can't wait to see you when you come home over summer for a visit!


ps thanks to RoseRed for the photos. In my haste to get mine finished I didn't even take photos! But we have posted them at the same time on the same day, so the photos will no doubt look familiar!

Monday, 14 December 2009

Dinner party

Once upon a time, I loved to host a dinner party. Or thought I did. The truth is, I love a dinner party hosted by someone else. Anyone else really.

I went off the idea big time a couple of years ago after I just had one too many such parties. We used to live in a tiny house in which it wasn't possible to entertain so when we moved, I went a bit crazy on entertaining. Then I got over it. I get tired. Cranky. Stressed. Full of self doubt and then I collapse in a heap and wonder why I bothered.

To be clear, it's not the food part of it that distresses me. I love cooking and am mostly pretty confident about my abilities in this area. I'm not a perfectionist but I care, so the food is usually fine and once the wine flows everyone's happy.

Really, I'm just excessively hard on myself about other the stuff involved in a dinner party, like trying to do everything as well as talk to people. I can do the food. Or I can do the talking. Not both. When I try to do both I come away feeling like I did neither very well. Again, possibly not the reality of the situation so much as just my own insecurities, but insecurities are exhausting when they rage at full volume in your head so I decided for the sake of my mental health, no more dinner parties.

Friends could come for a meal but it'd be low key. Minimal expectations. And even then it felt too hard so I gave that up too.

Then a month ago, old friends of ours who moved to Perth said they were going to be in town and could they invite themselves for dinner. Without a moment's thought I said yes and knew at once that I'd have a dinner party for four because in the past, these friends have cooked for us and cooked well back in the day when we could not have reciprocated in out tiny one bedroom flat. They catered for us lavishly and lovingly. Doing anything less than that for them would have been just wrong.

So I created a menu, and I was kind to myself. I didn't go overboard in planning. I arranged things so that as much work could be done beforehand as possible. Sean does a fair bit with preparation too but he knows really it's my thing so he steps back and does stuff on the side and frankly I'm a bit of a control freak so don't delegate very well.

So here what is what i came up with. A little festive, a little different, a little special. That's what I was aiming for and I think I got it.

I cheated on the entree. I sent Sean out for a selection of good quality Turkish dips from a place near home that also makes their Turkish bread on site. I set them out in pretty blue glass bowls and we ate them with champagne.

The main was a dish I discovered a few weeks ago and knew at once it would be my dinner party dish. Pomegranate and Pistachio Chicken from Sydney food blogger, Not Quite Nigella.

Pomegranate and Pistachio Chicken

It was, I have to say, incredible. Slow cooked in a dutch oven with the lid on, it was moist beyond my expectations, rich with a sauce of pomegranate molasses and brandy, and decorated with the ruby seeds glistening on top. Amazing. This will become a standard for me.

I served it with a green salad and herbed couscous.

Dessert was made the night before and was left to soften a little before serving. A Raspberry, Pistachio and Rosewater semifreddo. Semifreddo is an Italian dessert that is deceptively easy to make - it's kind of an icecream cake. Eggs, whipped cream, sugar and whatever flavouring you like. Make it the night before, freeze then serve slices. Like this.

Raspberry and Pistachio Semifreddo

We ate this meal with a Lakes Folly Chardonnay and were all very, very happy. Most importantly, I managed to do with a real feeling of contentment. I felt relaxed and very much at ease. Lots of conversation, friends who were happy to see us and who enjoyed the meal. I'm not going to run headlong into a bout of entertaining any time soon, but I think I got a bit of the joy back. Feeding friends is really nice and I don't want to stop doing it. I just need to remember the ways that make it enjoyable and not a trial.


New commenting system

You may have noticed yesterday I installed a new commenting system to replace Haloscan, which I've used for a long time.

I didn't have a lot of choice. Haloscan announced it was coming to an end and users had two choices.

Adopt a new system provided by the company that bought Haloscan, or manage on your own, thereby losing all your old comments.

So I had to choose the new one. It's a bit different but I think I'll like it. It's one that's being used around the place a lot more and has some benefits, one of which is more readily enabled comment moderation.

It allows me, as blog owner, to mark readers as approved always. Once you're approved you'll be able to always comment without moderation. Only inappropriate comments will fail to be approved and it's highly unlikely that any such action will have to be taken but unfortunately it's a step I've had to take. I don't really like the idea of moderation but there you go. Sometimes you have to do things you don't like.

So I'm sorry if it's a bit clunky at first but don't be put off - I think it's a system that's fairly easy to adjust to and you'll no doubt see it around a lot more as it takes off and becomes more common.

But please, if you're just writing as a guest, leave your name somehow so I know it's you!


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Summer Knitting in the Quay

This weekend, I took an early bus to Sydney on Saturday morning to join a bunch of knitters down at Circular Quay for an end of year/summer/Christmas gathering.

It was, in short, a fabulous afternoon.

I met up with Kylie at Central Station and we headed to where the day was kicking off at the Inner City Knitters Guild meeting. At Guild, everyone gets to show off works in progress or finished projects and you see some amazing stuff. They're a great bunch. I've been twice and have felt really warmly welcomed both times.

Walking down the Circular Quay there was a great sense of Sydney being at its best. All sunshine and people milling about and docked in full view was a giant cruise ship. I snapped RoseRed and Jody wandering past.

RoseRed and Dr K

We settled into the cafe we'd chosen, taking over several tables for the duration. It's hard to get photos in the dim light of an undercover walkway but we had a great view.

Randomknits/Donna and Jody.

Donna and Jody

And more knitters down the length of the table.

in the cafe

I originally posted the above photo via my iphone to Facebook but word came from my sister that my nephew, Will, thought it was too dark (everyone's a critic!) so I took another one for him that he might find more interesting.

me and a boat

There was, of course, an astounding amount of knitting in amongst all the food, drinks and Secret Santa presents (I was given, by Sharre, a fabulous selection of teas, with a pretty tea cup and some strawberry flavoured sugar!). I caught a couple of projects being worked on around me. I had to do this because my knitting for the day is a secret.

Kylie is knitting a gorgeous red sock in from Zauberball.

Kylie's sock

And RoseRed was demonstrating a tubular cast on. I was amazed.

RoseRed's Sock

And here we are, grinning happily, because, well, we were happy. RoseRed, me and Kylie. Later we had a sleepover at RoseRed's house and Mr RoseRed cooked Paella for us and it was all just lovely.

RoseRed, Me and Dr K

In the afternoon, I caught a bus home and napped over my secret knitting. I had crammed a lot into the weekend and I was extraordinarily sleepy.

You know what was interesting about sitting outdoors knitting all afternoon? The number of times we were asked about the purpose of our gathering was staggering. Do we walk up to people sitting eating and drinking and ask the purpose no? Look, I'm not so dim as to wonder why people think knitting in public is worth commenting on and I'm sure if you've not seen it before you do feel awfully curious, but it did seem rather odd that the majority of commenters assumed it was for charity. One woman even asked us if we were having a knit-a-thon.

We explained, with good humour, that it was a social event.

"And you're all knitting different things? Not the same things?'"

That was the baffling question for me. Why would twenty or so people sitting with food and drinks and looking to all intents and purposes like a social gathering, be all knitting the same thing? I didn't quite get that. But never mind, it's always novel to be approached. Just not too much.