What does the last of the housewives do?

Category: Crafting

Ah, Spotlight

I do quite like being employed. I like my students, I have a lot of control over what I teach and how it’s delivered, I rarely have to speak to any actual adults. But this semester was a little bit full on. 169 students, eight tutorials and two lectures a week, all for me. All because my boss has presumably watched too many Disney movies and is now following his dream instead of answering the phone in his office to deal with the slew of dying grandmothers that comes around every time an assignment is due. 169 students meant 169 assignments to mark, and after that was finished I had to lie down for a week, plus do thirty five loads of washing.

But now that I’ve recovered I have to scratch that craft itch and scratch it good. Have you heard of amigurumi? It’s little crocheted animals, most of which are ghastly, but I found a Star Wars book of it!

And, more recently, in the Morris and Sons sale, a book of non ghastly animals to make upon which I cannot wait to get started. But first I have to finish my Star Wars ones,

Chewie obviously needs another arm, and Yoda (or Yoda’s brother, the Horror insists, he tells me that is most certainly not Yoda) has to have some sleeves attached to his cardigan. I also done a business sock.

So, obviously, there’s more work to be done there unless my husband loses a leg today at the Army. He probably won’t.

And, noting my frantic activity, the Moose put in an order for four monk’s costumes for him and mates to wear to Supanova, a weekend for nerds that is looking increasingly complex as it also happens to be a weekend with five soccer games, Rockfest and an Eisteddfod and all three kids plus self want to go. I’m not sure that praying for rain is an actual plan. But anyway, I needed twelve metres of some kind of heavy material to robe up the boyz.

My nearest Spotlight is at Birkenhead Point. I don’t know if you’ve been there lately. If you haven’t, don’t. Really. Unless you want to give yourself a migraine, or conniptions. Imagine that the Zombie Apocalypse decided that it wanted to make itself some nice curtains and a matching pouffe, and you’ve got Spotlight Birkenhead Point. I actually saw two shop assistants pull all of the ribbon onto the floor, put two back, and then go on a break. They didn’t come back for the entire hour that I was there, floundering through the oceans of sateen and fleece and stretch sequinned dance fabric, bumbling past the undead as they muttered things like “I’m sure this isn’t 8 ply” and “would it kill them even more to put a price on this?”. I went out empty handed, never to return.

But those monks’ robes weren’t going to make themselves, so I decided it was worth my while to trek out to the Spotlight at Rockdale. Oh the joy of being able to see the floor. And the bolts of fabric all on shelves! All pointing the same way! They even seem to be sorted into fabric types. I found my target very easily, I think it’s a double knit jersey. Ah. $16.99 a metre. I do love my Moose, and I think his friends are delightful, but are they that delightful? I don’t even want to do the multiplication. But what’s this? Another bolt of the same fabric in the same colour in the managers special shelf! Marked down to six dollars a metre!!! I’m not sure that there’s twelve metres there, but I haul it up to the cutting desk, accidentally picking up sundry balls of acrylic and some more double pointed needles just in case I’m a lot quicker at making that owl in the book plus the four pairs of socks that I’ve promised people than I thought I’d be.

I’m third in line at the cutting desk. The older lady behind the desk does seem to be taking her time. She also seems to be a little slapdash, each metre that she cuts looks like it has a generous border to it. She is being very nice to the young lady buying the fabric, chatting to her little girl who is very close to losing it. As am I, I should have timed her. Twenty minutes, I’m pretty sure, is how long it took, with price checking, discussion of how lovely the fabric was, in how many pieces did she want it, how old the little girl was. By the time she was finished the line behind me had about seven silently fuming women in it. The man in front of me just wanted two metres of zipper (I didn’t know you could buy it buy the metre! There seemed to be a little zipper head about every fifty centimetres).

“Do you have a Spotlight card?”, she asked. Do I look like the kind of person who’d have a Spotlight card? Of course I do, and I already had it out. And my cloth bag. “Oh, aren’t you lovely,” she said. One does one’s best. “I don’t think there’s twelve metres here, but there’s another bolt…”, “would you mind grabbing it?”, “Not at all,” I said as I sped off and sped back again. “You are a love,”she said. “Long morning?” I asked, giving her something to chat about as she painstakingly measure out my metreage. “Oh!”, she began. I knew it. “I’m just here to do the balloons, and Irene’s just disappeared, and I don’t know where Sylvia has gone, she’s supposed to do the cutting, so they can’t blame me if I don’t get the measurements right, I’m just the balloon lady! I’ve got an order that I need to do, IRENE TO THE SERVICE COUNTER, and I’ll show them what happens when you get the balloon lady to do Irene’s job. This was on sale? Well, end of year special, everything is half price,” as she jabbed at the cash register causing me to regret I hadn’t also picked up several yards of velvet and an overlocker. “They only have themselves to blame, I’m just helping out, IRENE TO THE SERVICE COUNTER, what do they expect? I’m sorry if I’ve been a bit haphazard”. “Not at all, it’s been a real treat” I assured her.

So I can’t tell you what I got this for, not in writing anyway, because I don’t want to get her fired.

But what I’ve learned today is that if your business requires someone to cut material and charge for it appropriately, don’t ask a one eyed balloon lady to do it. I think there’s a lesson in that for all of us.


I done a sock.

I actually meant to make a cardigan. Oh, I’d done the scarves, long chunky ones, smart business ones, school coloured ones. And some hats on the old crochet hook, one of which has shrunk so catastrophically in the wash that it wouldn’t fit the dog even if he’d consent to wear it. Note to self, stop buying wool at Spotlight, it doth suck. And it was time to branch out.

There’s a number of directions you can go in the woollen arts once you’ve mastered the knit purl and the hook. You can crack into cable knit. You can start crocheting lace. And you definitely want to move beyond the circle and the square, you want to start making garments. So I thought I’d crochet a cardigan.

I got some multicoloured wool, I always feel like I’m getting value for money for some reason if there’s more than one colour. I found a pattern that looked very light and, well, not stylish, it’s a crocheted cardy, but not like something you’d find at a CWA stall. And easy, it was just make two cylinders for arms, and join them with rectangles and bung a border on them and hope for the best.

But no. Actually, it wasn’t really the pattern that was the problem, though the advertised hook size and tension were WAY out. I don’t know if it was the wool either, but after about three false starts I got the top half of the thing done (there’s a skirt to it too) and look.


It looks like something my grandma would wear. If she couldn’t get out of bed and was feeling the chill, and was too weak to fight off the nurse. And if she had dementia. Which she doesn’t.

Not only that, but I’d managed to lose the rest of the wool for it in the excitement of the move to the lair, never been seen again. I quit! No lovely summery cardy for me.

I fought off craft despair with a fisherman’s rib striped rainbow scarf, just in time for the last of winter.

I was saving up something special for the long weekend. We were going away to the mountains, and the children were planning many things that held no interest for yours truly, basketball, tennis, swimming, squabbling about who was the smartest, watching TV. I had decided that it was time to teach myself to Knit A Sock. And then, obviously, to knit another one just the same.

To do this I would need special help. There are many many sites on the Internet that hold sock patterns, but you have to already know how to knit in the round, and I’d never got the hang of it. And there are many Youtube videos also. But it’s a personal quirk of mine that I don’t watch videos on the Internet. I don’t know why, they just irk me. Give me a transcript! But I have found the perfect site, excellent instructions with photos and no moving parts and I shall share it with you so that the making of socks may extend over the world as it did in times of yore:

Come To Silver
That’s it. I haven’t explored any more of Silver’s work, there looks like a lot of good stuff there but first I must master The Sock. Dear friends, that weekend I did make a sock, and this very day I have completed its companion so that the feet of my husband shall be no more cold. Not that they will anyway in this weather, but winter shall come again.

 The detailed instructions were very easy to follow. Now I can knit in the round! And, as the Moose said, at least I’m making things that people will actually want to wear. Socks for everyone! Have a guess what that cardy’s going to end up as.

Postscript. The doctor hasn’t called me about my nose, which is a very good sign. I’ll call her minions next week hopefully to be told you’re all clear, see you next year.

A necessary beanbag

I’m settling into the lair rather nicely, I’m finding very specific spots for my extremely wide collection of bits and pieces, and yet there was something missing. A something that loomed larger and larger in my fevered brain until it became a necessity and an urgent one at that.

Since I’ve been back from Turkey my time has been consumed with restocking the larder with muesli bars, choc chip biscuits, vanilla and cinnamon biscuits, jam slice, fruit toast, ANZAC biscuits, driving the children about, and working. Two weeks full time, which was probably a lot easier than driving the children around during the holidays, they just had to put up with a fortnight of watching TV and playing computer games, the poor dears. I teach at a university, so any amount of work that I do inevitably results in assignments or exams to mark. The course that I just taught results in large assignments, twenty four page assignments, and I have twelve of them to mark. It is therefore obvious to the meanest intelligence that I must have somewhere comfortable to sit while marking. You know about my white painted wooden chair, that is only good for about half an hour’s sitting before I lose all sensation in my lower limbs. You also know about the world’s most comfortable chair that hangs on our back verandah, but the weather is currently such that I’d have to wear ski gloves to have operational fingers, and that’s no good for typing the multiple exclamation marks that these assignments will gather in their comments section. What I needed was a beanbag.

I haven’t had a beanbag in years, mainly because it was a personality quirk of my first cat, Snoopy, to pee in them. He then taught my second cat, Linus, that this was the required behaviour of any civilised cat. I persisted with the washing and spraying for a while and eventually gave up altogether. Linus has been dead for over a year now, and the latest cat, Stormaggedon, has been very good in the toileting department, so it’s time to risk it again.

I don’t know if you’ve gone shopping for beanbags lately. You can get cheap shiny ones from the chain stores, if you’re lucky you’ll spot a denim one (the Moose recently acquired one as a birthday present, and the sight of him comfortably reclining all over the place has spurred me on), or you can get super deluxe ones that will part you from many hundreds of dollars in cash. My Scottish blood rules out the latter as an option, so my only real choice, dear reader, was obviously to make my own. How hard could it be? Not very hard at all as it turns out.

I wanted to make two really, one as an inner lining, and an outer case that I can slip off and wash. You can get patterns all over the internet, I used the Lincraft one. You just cut out three sail shaped bits and a couple of semicircles for the bottom. I had some superannuated curtains that worked well for the liner, and I had some help cutting it out. The reason this picture is a little blurred is because there was quite a lot of leaping and biting going on…

Then you just pin them and sew them together. The bottom has a zipper, and this was my first time doing a proper one. I had to watch three Youtube clips to get the hang of it, mainly because I couldn’t believe that you sew it in over an already sewn up seam, and then pick it undone.


So there. If I can do one, anyone can. I then spent two hours that I won’t get back at Spotlight giving myself a headache choosing the outer fabric. I wanted something tactile, less than $15 a metre (I needed 5 metres) washable, not too patterned, not pink, and durable enough to be sat on by someone who planned to spend hours clutching at her head while simultaneously typing questions marks and exclamations in comment boxes. 
I cut out the outer lining a few centimetres bigger all around than the liner. I added a strip 15cm wide to each of the bottom semicircles which would overlap because I wasn’t going to make that opening a zip, just a slip cover. It was even quicker to do because the animals were bothering a very slow moving electrician I’d got in to add some more power points that I hadn’t anticipated needing in the lair. I did fill the liner before squeezing it into the outer cover – three 100 litre bags if you’re planning to use the Lincraft pattern – it’s a big one.


It really only took a couple of hours, maybe three (I’m not counting the hours at Spotlight, I’m trying to forget those), and maybe half an hour to very carefully decant the beans into the liner and then vacuum up the strays. 

I’m extremely pleased with it. It’s very comfortable, I can move it close to whatever heater I happen to have turned on. The Muffet now wants me to make her one, but I’m only going to do that after she’s kept her room clean for a month, or after hell freezes over, whichever comes first. Anyway, I’ve got assignments to mark.

Crochet Black and White Beanie and Rainbow Scrunchie

Having looked through many knitting and crochet patterns lately and I’ve come to the conclusion that most of them you wouldn’t be seen dead in a ditch in. What is it about yarn craft and really horrible clothing? Do you know of anyone who’d actually want a woollen daisy brooch? Seriously! No wonder so much of it is intended for babies, they can’t get away.

Beanies are the exception. I’ve seen many beanie patterns that look both possible and good, and I’ve finished two and am contemplating a third. You’ve seen the first one, and here’s the second.

I’m not, you know, ecstatic about it. I think I’ve put the crown in upside down, but crochet looks OK either side. The brim is done in Tunisian stitch, which produces a very pleasing almost material like result, but isn’t very stretchy, so not the greatest choice for a brim. It was fun to do though, you do it on a long crochet hook. You collect all the loops onto the hook in one row, then the next row is almost exactly like casting off knitting. You don’t turn the hook around between rows, so you feel a bit like you’re operating a typewriter. I did a lot of it during Monsters University, which was very cute but not as entertaining as the first movie, which I saw approximately four hundred times before the DVD disintegrated.

But I needed a black and white beanie to watch the boys playing soccer. It actually looks better on.

All the baggy bits stretch out. It’s quite close fitting, so will mess up the wild and free hair thing I have going, which is why the next one I’ll make will be a slouchy beanie. Just have to choose the colour.

I’m also in the process of doing some fingerless gloves, which I’m finding fairly boring. So instead I did a scrunchie.

That was very easy, I did it during Star Wars Three, which the Horror was watching in between jumping on the trampoline and decrapulating his school bag. You just take a hair elastic, the kind you buy in packs of twenty because the dogs tend to eat them if you leave them around. None of the instructions actually tell you how to get the wool on the elastic, they just say sc around the elastic. What you do is stick your needle into a slip stitch. Then you poke your needle into the middle of the elastic and draw the wool up with the hook and through the slip stitch. Then you alternate drawing the wool through the middle of the elastic and from the outside of the elastic as you form each stitch. You just pack as many stitches on there as you can fit. The you can knock yourself out with what you do next. I just sc’d twice into each of the first row, then every second one in the second row and every third in the third row. Makes a ruffly scrunchie that your daughter will immediately wrap around her ponytail when she comes home from pony camp. Could make good birthday presents. The dogs definitely won’t be interested in eating them either.

So next is a slouchy beanie, and then a round one with a brim that I’m going to make in red for a friend. Not sure what pattern I’m going to use yet, but don’t worry. She did ask for it, I’m not inflicting it on her. I should be fairly good at it by the time I get up to that one.

Dammit, is there a Knitting Bandwagon now?

Well, then I’m on it. Because today I discovered that you can knit at the movies. Especially if its a kids movie that you’ve already seen and are only going to shut your daughter’s high maintenance friend up from complaining about her sister.

I should first mention that I finished the crocheted beanie and the Muffet only takes it off to go to bed. I’m rather pleased with it.

The Horror originally wanted an identical beanie, but then picked up a Tardis one at Supanova. So, as we’re going skiing the week after next he requested what is essentially a cowl. He wanted to be able to pull it up over his face, to be able to breathe through it and for it to stay in place once he’d put it there.

The easiest way to do this is to just knit a rectangle and sew the short ends up. But there’s a whole lot of bulk at the back of your neck when you’re skiing, the collar of your jacket, a helmet in the Horror’s case, a ponytail in mine. So I decided to make it narrower at the back. What I did was to start off with twelve stitches on size ten needles. Then a row of purl. Then alternate knit and purl rows and increase every knit row by a stitch either end. When I got to a width the stretched from the bridge of my nose to the bottom of the V neck of my jumper I stopped increasing and just knitted and purled on for a while. By the time the movie had finished I was decreasing and finished the thing before it was time to pick up the Horror from his little friend’s place.

He said it was far too big for him, so I’ll keep it for myself, thank you very much. Knitting his smaller one only took me about an hour. Here’s what it looked like before sewing the ends together.

And with the ends sewed together. Yes, his name does start with a K.

He tested it fairly thoroughly, tried it in different positions, breathed heavily through it and pulled it up over his whole face to discover he could see through it, it’s quite a loose knit. He finally declared himself satisfied, he’s a tough audience. Now we won’t have to put up with any complaints about facial discomfort in the snow.

Also now I can start on a new crochet pattern I have. It’s a round beanie with a wide turned up brim that I’m going to do in black and white for watching the boys play soccer. I may have to go yarn shopping again soon, there’s a place in town that looks rather exciting. After the kids go back to school, after skiing. That is if I can still walk by then, but of course I’ll be able to, what kind of talk is that? Just because last year’s trip resulted in what is now a full year of ankle treatments, that has no bearing on this year’s trip. None at all.

Crochet – Adding to the Nanna Arts

I blame the craft shows. Such beautiful yarn! That’s what we knitters and crocheters call all the various combinations of plastic and fibre that can be spun into thread. Once you buy the yarn, then what? I’ve got my knitting skills up to such a point that I can knit a whole scarf with only a few wonky bits in it. But what then? Knitting actual garments is quite a giant step up and requires commitment and determination and a ton of yarn. I had a look at patterns for knitted beanies, but most of them involve circular needles and it turns out that if you want to make a beanie, you should crochet it.

Why didn’t I get my Nanna to teach me to crochet when she was compos mentis and also alive? I wasn’t even crafting at all then, I was busy getting married and travelling and having kids. It’s a lot easier to have someone teach you to crochet than teaching yourself over the Internet, but it will take your mind off your homicidal thoughts of the bathroom supply shop owner. I guess I could have travelled up to my Grandma’s retirement village to get one of her buddies to teach me (she didn’t knit, crochet, sew or cook, she spent all her time coping with an extremely difficult, but delightful, husband), but I thought I could manage.

Ha. I don’t know if you’ve tried, but to save you the effort here’s how it goes. There’s reams of instructions on starting to crochet. Descriptions of hooks, yarn weights. The most painstaking instructions and diagrams of how to form a crocheted chain. Then, with no warning,
Ch3 (counts as dc), 2dc in same st, skip 2 dc, *FPtr in next dc, ch1, BPtr in next dc, ch1, FPtr in next dc, skip 2 dc **, 3dc in next 2dc, skip 2dc; repeat from * around, ending last repeat at **.
Well, I ask you. The hell?!?

What you do next is to teach yourself some simple stitches. Look up double crochet on a site called Crocheting for Dummies, and make a circle of that.


I don’t do video, I hate waiting for it to download, and I don’t know, it just irks me. I want a diagram. I had a breakthrough realisation that you can crochet a stitch into the stitch underneath more than once, and sometimes you skip stitches. Then I found a pattern for a beanie I wanted to make with some terrific rainbow coloured wool I found at Spotlight, which was unusual, they tend to specialise in cheap plastic imitations of wool, and looked up each individual stitch on the Crocheting for Dummies site. This hat was mainly FPdc and BPdc, so I eventually worked out those. Note, they’re hard to start off, but once you have a round of them it gets much easier.

Getting that far was tricky, it involved a great deal of mental strength to ignore helpful comments from my offspring such as “that doesn’t look like a hat”, “is that the same as Chinese crochet? I saw a Chinese lady once with a ball of wool and a stick, is this the same?”, “why do some Chinese ladies have bobbed hair?”, “why isn’t six times eight the same as seven times seven?”. Actually that last one’s quite a good question, I’ll have to sit down with some xs and ys some time and work it out. Not now though, I have some schnitzelling to do, and I can’t stop crocheting.

Because now I have this!

It does look like a hat, you just keep going 3BPdc, 3FPdc until you have it big enough. Now the littler two both want one, and I loved the wool so much I went back to Spotlight and bought the remaining couple of balls of it, so don’t think you can go up to Birkenhead Point and get some of your own, it’s all gone. The fabulous thing is you can do it without too much concentration, so you can do it while listening to tales of woe and joy from school and work, while watching Harry Potter AGAIN, while watching the Muffet climb what looks like a curtain and hang upside down from it,

And while watching chess, which is what I’ll be doing this afternoon. Being a mum involves quite a lot of hanging around, which will now result in bonus beanies.

When I’ve done two of these, I’m going to do a black and white one to a different pattern for the husband, and who knows what after that. It’s very relaxing, and hard to stop, just one more round! Oh, I’ll still be beading and baking, baking rather more so, don’t worry. But while doing so, I shall have a warm head.

Craft and Quilt Show

You’d think with the number of unfinished projects I have going that the last thing I should do is go to a craft show. I’ve got two unfinished handbags, one started immediately after the last Craft and Quilt Show, a knitted strap for one of the handbags, two necklaces on the go and a vintage velvet dress that needs altering. I was very firm with myself yesterday and made myself finish one thing before loading up with more craft. I bought a vintage brocade jacket and last week’s farmers market and I spent twenty minutes yesterday taking it in so it didn’t look so much like a curtain with sleeves. I thought it would take much longer, I’m extremely pleased with it and wore it today. One can never have enough craft.

Also the planets were aligned. The bathroom chaps have decided to have yet another day off before being able to psych themselves up sufficiently to screw the vanity to the wall. I had a doctors’s appointment in the morning very close to the light rail station. I’ve been given instructions on how to make an easy beanie using a gauge of wool and needles that I just don’t have. I need a little more embellishment for my unfinished handbags. It was meant to be. The only thing that slowed me down a little was the doctor surprised my whipping out a horse sized needle and giving me another cortisone injection to the ankle. Of all the enormous variety of needles I’ve had stuck in me, the ones on the bone are my very least favourite. I decided to ignore my whimpering joint and press on.

The Craft and Quilt show has become the biggest of the craft events during the year. I hear that the Bead and Gem show isn’t even going ahead in Sydney this year, it seems that beading is in decline. There was a small selection of beading shops at the show, but I’m pretty happy with my US suppliers and am well stocked up at the moment, so only gave them a cursory glance. Fibres, scrap booking and quilting is what this show’s about, and look at the queue!

That wasn’t even opening time. Apparently when females retire, they join a choir and take up a craft, then come to these shows. I’m a bit ahead of myself.

Did you know there are craft guilds! They had stalls here today.

Smockers, machine knitters, calligraphers, spinners (with an actual spinning wheel!), take your pick. I can’t, I’m somewhat promiscuous in my crafting. I have decided that I’d rather like to learn to crochet, so I picked up some books on that. Wow, there are a lot of crafting books. I almost bought a fabulous looking book on how to make handbags, but when the introductory list of what equipment you need went over two pages I put it down, feeling rather inadequate. I think I’ll continue to wing it in that department and cover up imperfections with embellishments. There were books on cake decorating and knitting flowers, and sewing outfits for your dog, most of them very specific. Ideal for the crowd here.

I particularly like the range of fibres on offer at this show. Fat quarters do nothing for me, and my sewing isn’t yet at a stage where I’ll need anything I can’t get at Spotlight. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a lot less haberdashers around the place than there used to be and it’s very difficult to find a shop where you can buy quality wool. At the show there was possum wool, alpaca, merino, silk and cotton, multicoloured, fluffy, that funny one you knit into spirals, metallic crochet thread (next year), imported, homespun and every colour. I got the knitting needles I need for the beanie, a crochet needle from Prudence Mapstone herself, and three kinds of twelve ply wool.

Now where do I start? Should I be disciplined and at least finish the black and white necklace? Surely crocheting one Afghan square wont hurt. Or doing a test beanie with wool I already have, rather than this fancy new wool. I’ll put off the decision til tomorrow and meanwhile roll one of the skeins into a ball.

I’ll have plenty of time tomorrow, my ankle tells me we’re not going anywhere for a couple of days.