Have you ever had one of those moments when, no matter how logical it may be, something you’ve heard or read or watched simply didn’t make sense? At our place we call it being ‘hard of understanding’ – it’s a polite way of telling someone that they’re being slow on the uptake.

This week I had just such a moment – or, more to the point, a series of moments. I tried using YouTube to learn how to do something called a provisional cast on. It’s a knitting thing – and is touted as being a most cunning cast-on technique with many applications. Whilst I’d heard about it from time to time from extreme knitters, I’d never found any need to figure it out. Until now.The fabled back room at Bendigo Woollen Mills

To make a short story long, I’ll rewind to July last year for some context. That’s when I trotted off to the Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show with my sister (an extreme knitter). She’d talked wistfully about wanting to go to Bendigo for a number of years and had waxed lyrical about the Aladdin’s cave of the fabled ‘back room’ at Bendigo Woollen Mills. I confess I was curious – particularly about the cave – and it seemed a good way to celebrate her retirement. So off we went for a few days of woolly, touristy fun.

On our second night we had dinner with a number of other knitters, many of whom were originally from Perth and stay in contact via email, Ravelry and the Bendigo weekend. I ended up sitting next to Nan Bray, the force behind White Gum Wool – and not from Perth. She told us a little about her journey from marine science to sheep farming and luxury wool production while we tucked into some local fare. Nan mentioned that the scarf she was wearing was an example of her new range ultrafine 12ply bouclé yarn. Although she explained that it was made from 14.8-micron lambs wool, I didn’t really grok what that meant until I felt it. It was silky smooth, delightfully soft and so squishy and touchable that if she’d had any for sale I’d have bought it on the spot – and I am not an impulse purchaser by any means.

So the next day I made it my mission to hunt down the White Gum Wool stand at a woolly-event. I was disappointed to find that the colour I’d fallen in love with (hawthorn) was sold out, but decided that I really needed some of that yarn – just to pat and cuddle. So I simply chose the next best option and bought a single 100g ball of Ultrafine Quarrystone Bouclé – and cuddled it all the way home 🙂

Now, a year later, cuddling the ball whenever I hunt through my stash of yarn is not enough. It was time to knit something that I could actually use. Luckily Ravellry came through (as usual) and  I found a pattern that uses exactly one ball of bouclé.

soft and swift cowlBut…. the starts with a provisional cast on… Fortunately there’s a veritable plethora of short instructional videos available on this topic online. I watched seven, yarn and needles in hand, pausing, replaying, pausing – until my brain overheated. It’s not that the technique is especially tricky, but it is fiddly – and the flying fingers and rapid instructions from the demonstrators, with no slow-down option available, made success problematic and reverse knitting my forte.

Much time, all (!) the videos and several scrapped attempts later, I eventually achieved success. But by then I’d concluded (a number of times) that I was a)definitely hard of understanding on the instructional video front, and b)never going to be an extreme knitter! Nevertheless, my deliciously squishy scarf is almost halfway there – although this does mean I’ll meed to revisit the land of scary how-to videos at some point to remind myself how to do Kitchener stitch to join the ends together… I see more hard of understanding moments ahead this week.

I’ve been thinking about creativity, about the creative activities I’m currently engaged in (writing, knitting, mosaic, rug making, cooking) and how much I enjoy them. The one thing they all have in common is that they each offer me the opportunity to do things differently. In every instance I can choose whether to follow a script / pattern, to use one as a guideline, or to create something from the ground up. Whichever option I choose, everything I make is new and different and hasn’t been made before – at least not by me.

On the other end of that scale is what I consider the least creative pastime imaginable: household 450px-Wooden_clothes_pinchores. Somehow floors always need vacuuming, beds making, laundry washing, loos cleaning (etc) – and it’s a little tricky to come up with new and exciting ways to get these done. Emptying the washing machine today, I remembered my mother-in-law once telling me how she used to look back at her washing line with pride. She said it pleased her to see how sparkly clean the washing was and how nice it all looked in colour-coordinated sections…

I was young and the best response I could muster at the time was a smile. Perhaps it was the only response possible in that situation. It probably wouldn’t have been appropriate for me to tell her that her comment made me feel sad for what I perceived as the narrowness of her life – or to tell her that my feeling on looking over my shoulder at a line of washing is generally just one of relief that it was done and hung out. Again.

But was Ma-in-law actually trying to teach me something? Could she have noticed something of my newly-stay-at-home-mum frustrations and been trying to help? Perhaps she was using the laundry as an example to show that one can take pride in doing the simplest and most mundane of tasks well – and that no task need be inherently objectionable, particularly if viewed pragmatically.

With hindsight – and the knowledge that she was an kind, intelligent and creative woman – I feel it likely that the laundry comment did indeed have some deeper meaning along those lines. It’s also probable that this and other subtly delivered messages from her over the years are an example of what is now referred to as intergenerational learning. I was very fortunate to have her in my life and feel quite sure that she helped me to understand that aspiring to do something well, no matter how insignificant or repetitive that thing may be, is worthwhile in its own right – and can even be fun 🙂

Images sourced from Wikimedia Commons:


Mosaic bountyA creative nudge was delivered last week in the shape of a box of glass tesserae for my mosaic/craft shed.  A friend bought them on auction a few years ago, stored them away, forgot about them – and then unearthed them again in a flurry of tidying during some house renovations. Then she rang me to ask if I’d like them. Score! Particularly happy-making are the red and yellow tiles, both of which can be a little hard to come by.

My first mosaic adventure was a community project in 1998 when, under the guidance of local mosaic artist Evi Ferrrier, I added a rather haphazard gecko to the front of a building in Fremantle. It was great fun and got me hooked enough to go on a TAFE course to learn some of the things Evi hadn’t shown us. Since then I’ve completed a number of projects, including a couple of garden pavers, planter pots, a side table, a series of fruit/vegetable trivets for my veggie-group buddies, house numbers for a couple of people and a decorative frieze for our pool area.

Sample of 1998 - 2015 mosaic projects sample selectionIt’s been a year since I last ventured into the realm of mosaic – and that was to run a one day mosaic workshop for a few people, all of whom completed attractive trivets for their homes. So it’s definitely time to think about getting back to it – particularly since I now have some shiny new tesserae to play with 🙂

Mosaic workshop 2015

Plans are afoot for another decorative house number, drawings underway and decisions to be made on colours.  This stage takes a while though, so I’ll potter on with knitting my blanket and creating a bedside rug inbetween times.

A couple of years ago I attended a workshop on rug making. It was a somewhat random decision, inspired by fabulous display of rag rugs at the annual Perth craft fair, and by the people actively working on rugs to show how it’s done. The workshop was organized by the Rugmakers Guild (yes, it’s totally a thing) and was held in Mandurah. I opted to avoid a hour of driving each way by catching the train from Perth and then the free shuttle bus to the venue and felt just a little smug about that as the train whooshed past the peak hour traffic…

The Guild President, Judith Stephens, was over from South Australia to attend the craft fair, show off her beautiful hand made rugs and to run some workshops in conjunction with the local chapter of the Guild. She told us that it was common practice for Australian families to recycle old clothing, blankets and left over fabric back in the 1880s, turning them into rag rugs to warm their homes. Although the craft petered out over the years, there has now been a huge resurgence of interest in rag rugs worldwide – both as an art and craft.

rag rug workshop_27may13The workshop was fun, as was learning some of the very peculiar terminology used by rug makers, e.g. proddy, proggy, hooky and clippy. It’s a whole other language! We learned a few different techniques and most people managed to complete a sample – a sort of mini-rug. I came home super enthusiastic about taking up rug making as my new hobby. The idea of recycling old t-shirts and the like into something useful had enormous appeal.

It also sounded like a plausible pastime for someone planning on moving out to the back-of-beyond. It ticked the craft, recycling and creative boxes perfectly. So, when DaughterDearest’s birthday arrived not long afterwards, I purchased her all the gear for her to get started. Did I ask her if she’d like to do it? Of course not! Motherrrr knows best…

Yeah. Not so much. This was one of those times when I was actually buying something I wanted. What she really wanted bookshelves. So, since I hadn’t bought myself any of the gear, we swapped: I simply reclaimed the gear (so that I could start a rug) and purchased the shelving (so she had somewhere for her overload of books). Everyone was happy.

But somehow time passed. Lots of things happened. More things happened… and my roundtuit didn’t ever quite manage to fit unpacking the gear and using it.

Finally (yes, getting to the point at last), inspired by a desire/need to come up with a craft-related #blogjune post, I hunted all the paraphernalia down over the weekend… and started my first fledging bedside rag rug! It’s still fun, still easy and Himself had a couple of t-shirts he didn’t need anymore…

Rag rug started June 2016

I haven’t quite figured out how to use the rug hooking folding lap frame effectively, finding it easier to just hold the hessian in one hand as I hook the strips of t-shirt fabric through it. I may have to attend one of the Guild meetings to get some tips on that.

Lap frame for rug making

Mr Lincoln in bloomIt seems I’m a bit of a traditionalist in some ways. This must be the case because, although I love roses in general, red roses are – and have always been – my favourite.

When we moved into this house (many) years ago, there were three standard white roses out the front of the house. All very Homes-and-Garden, really, and altogether to orderly for me. In due course they were salvaged by a friend and replanted in her garden, where they fitted in perfectly.

I’ve always meant to replace them with some not-at-all standard red rose bushes, but have never found just the right variety. Then, when I was in Tasmania last November, I came across Mr Lincoln – the perfect red rose for me. It’s a hybrid tea rose, produces beautifully fragrant long stemmed blooms, and grows to 1.8 metres of untidy rose garden beauty. Bellissima!

So towards the end of summer I went hunting for Mr Lincoln and found a bush that was perfect for one of the few remaining spaces in our garden. I was a little concerned as to how well it would do there, given that the spot is only part-sun, but it’s thriving. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been gifted with a few late autumn blooms and have revelled in finally having my very own red roses to enjoy – both in the garden and indoors, where they fill the air with essence of rose-happiness 🙂

Apparently I should prune the bush back by 70% this winter to ensure good growth for next season… eek?