Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Mine IS to reason why...

Once upon a time in a terrible place not far enough away I was an employee in a call centre run by an evil controlling micro manager.

This micro manager was concerned with all the important things. Like if I said 'bye' instead of 'good-bye'. If I used the client's name 3 times, even if they just rang up to confirm something simple. And she would never, ever deign to explain why something had to be done a certain way because if I was a good employee I would do exactly as I was told every minute of the day even if there were 1,995,974,327 little rules to obey and she wouldn't tell me which were the really really important ones to get right and which ones there was some latitude on. Because as a good little robot employee I was supposed to get them all right all the time.

Then one day a visitor from another part of the organisation told me something simple. He explained why it was important to use one particular phrase when granting clients an extension of time to pay their bills instead of another. Apparently they had slightly different legal meanings which could result in a huge difference if the client never paid their bill and we had to take them to court.

And the funny thing was that from that day I ALWAYS used the correct phrase because now I knew WHY it was important. I still messed up lots and lots of the other little rules because no-one ever explained to me why they were important. But I never messed up enough to be fired and one day my saviour came and swept me away to a new job in accounts away from the evil micro manager. And years and years later I heard she had left the organisation under a dark cloud for claiming to be sick when instead she was down at the pub. So it all ended happily ever after, if not quite as quickly as I would have liked.

"So what has all this got to do with knitting?" you may ask.

Well although my mum taught me how to cast on and knit and purl, I have taught myself most of my knitting skills from books and magazines and articles and blogs on the internet. And wonderful as all these resources are, they often exclude the little 'why' tidbits that one person teaches another when passing on the love of a craft. Every now and then I can feel the gears turning over in my head as I realise something that is so blatantly obvious that no-one ever actually explains it but which would have been really really useful to know one project back.

For instance, in my current short row ribbed scarf (yeah, yeah, pictures will come one day when I find the camera), the author gives out the tidbit of information that the "slip, slip, knit" decrease is preferable to the "slip one, knit one, pass slipped stitch over" decrease because it forms a tighter and neater decrease. Which probably explains why my first short row scarf was a lot bumpier than the one pictured in the pattern.

So of course I use the "slip, slip, knit" decrease on this scarf and surprise, surprise - no bumpy joins!

Now grateful as I am now for that bit of information, I can now add two more little tidbits to anyone else learning their knitting skills by perusing blogs like mine. And which would have been so easy for this author to include except she didn't because it was so blatantly obvious to anyone who knows what they are doing.

Firstly, if you choose to knit this short row ribbed scarf pattern (which I highly recommend as it is quite a fun pattern which gives a nice result and an interesting variant on the standard scarf), you will find it a lot easier if you realise it is a 3,3 ribbed pattern (that is 3 rows of stocking stitch alternating with 3 rows of reverse stocking stitch). This tiny tidbit of knowledge will save you hours of counting stitches trying to work out what row you are up to BECAUSE IT WON'T MATTER. IT WILL BE BLATANTLY OBVIOUS. YOU WILL AUTOMATICALLY KNOW WHETHER TO KNIT OR PURL A ROW BECAUSE YOU UNDERSTAND THE WHY of the pattern.

Sorry for shouting, but I can't help getting excited when I've worked out something.

I just wished I had worked it out before muffing up a section early in the scarf which I hope no-one will notice except me.

The second tidbit gem has to do with the business of slipping stitches knitways or purlways. Now it is important to follow these guidelines as if you don't, at least with the short rows scarf, you will end up with a hole in the middle of your work.

But again, you don't need to follow the written pattern blindly, if you understand the WHY behind this business. When doing short rows you turn around the work before you get to the end of the row and if you are changing which side the 'bumps' are on it is important to wrap the yarn around the turn stitch or else you end up with a hole. You automatically wrap the yarn when making sure the stitch is slipped knitways or purlways but GUESS WHAT! If you concentrate on ensuring the turn stitch is 'wrapped', it becomes obvious whether you need to slip knitways or purlways.

Hopefully this will make sense to someone and help them on their knitting way.

But if they are like me they will be reading this as they look at their last project thinking "so that's why it ended up bumpy and full of holes. Wish I had read this before I knitted it."

I'll just go away now and stitch up a few holes in my scarf that formed before I worked out this wrapping and slipping business for myself.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Oh sweet glorious cool change!

Oh sweet glorious cool change! I had forgotten what normal weather was like. 23 degrees Celsius (69 degrees Fahrenheit). I knitted 1 1/2 more sections on the short-row ribbed scarf while on the train and tram going to and from work. I arrived at work with only a slightly damp bandana around my head instead of dripping in my own sweat. And everyone was just so more cheerful now the oppressive damp has passed. Even if they were sleepy from staying up watching the tennis.

I did the walk from the city to South Melbourne. I've decided this is definitely the way to start the day. No matter what else happens, how little I achieve, I've at least done 30 minutes of walking for the day. And it is far more pleasant than being crammed in a tram.

Lots of people do this walk - most wired for sound with earphones dangling. I love my i-pod but I'm disturbed by the way it can cut one off from one's surroundings; create a little isolationist's world. I think of cyborgs. I decide to save my i-pod for the gym and look around me as I walk.

I look at Melbourne in a totally different way since traveling overseas. Start at Flinders Street Station with the ancient but still working clocks, look across to St Paul's which is making a building appeal - before I know it we'll be like most European cities with scaffolding and constant renovations propping up the old buildings. Across from St Paul's is Federation Square a quirky new construction which is growing on me with time. As long as I don't walk there. I don't mind the buildings on odd angles but I find it too easy to trip on the sloping cobblestones. I attended a workers' rally in Federation Square last year. Times have changed since the 1905 workers' uprisings in Russia. Today we watch a multi-media presentation on the giant screens and take digital photos and contact friends with our mobile phones. And my grandfather thought watching the destruction of the Berlin Wall on TV was bizarre enough.

Past the Art Gallery with its Water Wall - I love Melbourne and its people. I remember as a kid with my brother and mum leaning up against the Water Wall. The arty-farty types when they renovated the National Gallery wanted to remove it permanently. It wasn't artistic enough. But Melbournians rose up in protest and wrote letters and rang up talk shows. It might be daggy but it is OUR Water Wall and we love it. So it was reinstated after the renovations and children still run up to press their hands against it. What could be better on a hot day in the city but a trip to the Water Wall?

Even on the hottest day, the lawns of the St Kilda Road boulevard remain fresh and green and the English trees provide plenty of shade. I don't know how they manage it, how they resist the sapping dryness of the Australian sun. I hope they are using recycled-water.

Past the College of the Arts. Sculptures - I like the abstract suggesting wrestling and a compact grey stone that just begins to emerge as a fist. But the perfect dancers playing a flute and holding a shell leave me cold. They look like they should be atop a bird bath in a Toorak garden.

Next is the floral clock, where perfectly position flowers provide a face for the mechanical hands. The Army barracks in a magnificent stone building. An ancient cannon decorates the lawn. I can just hear my husband whispering "The latest in Australian Army technology!"

More floral decorations. This time the flowers celebrate Melbourne's hosting of the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The buildings on the other side of the road are dull and uninteresting. A giant grey square entitled "The Melbournian". No wonder people think we are backwards.

Past the Governor's residence. I will never forget the day when as a school girl I witnessed an accident caused in his honour. Police car sirens screamed from his road, traffic slammed to a halt. One car was not fast enough and slammed into the back of another. The police cars roared passed, oblivious to the accident they had caused. They were escorting the Governor's car down St Kilda Road causing chaos to peak hour traffic. I never found out why it was so important for him to be rushed so quickly away from home.

Back on the west side of the road a modern interpretation of a Georgian hotel, complete with Sushi Express cafe. I can never see myself buying sushi there; the atmosphere is just wrong for that kind of food.

There is always a tram jam at the Domain Road interchange. I turn down Albert Road, past the construction site and the first group of cafes and lesser office buildings. Across Kingsway I see my old school, Macrob, in all its architectural gory. I never understood what was so impressive about its cream bricks and red and purple windows but it has been heritage listed. At least two of my former teachers are still there - and I graduated 18 years ago. For all its imperfections it is a good school and teachers, as well as students, compete to attend.

Albert Park Lake is in the distance. I still haven't managed to organise myself to go for a walk around the lake at lunchtime.

My office is a short way up a side street off Albert Park Road. I am always surprised at how quickly I come up to it; I expect the walk to be longer. But I check my watch and inevitably 30 minutes have passed.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

And today's non-knitting is brought to you by Melbourne's weather

I know this is meant to be a knitting blog, not a weather blog, but any Melbournian who claims to have knitted this week is either 1/ Lying or 2/ Owner of a far better air-conditioning system than me.

It's been HOT. There have been some terrible bushfires in the country, including my beloved Kinglake. I'm trying to be happy that it's raining on the basis that the firemen are happy but it seems we have substituted desert heat for tropical jungle heat. I felt like I was walking through steam to work yesterday.

None of this is very conducive to knitting.

It looks like I'll be knitting another hat as one of my friend's sisters has popped out a baby. At least it has a chance of being worn this winter, unlike, say, booties which I have never seen any baby wear except for photos or to show to someone who made them. Not that I'm holding my breath. A handmade item doesn't have a designer label on it but there is no way I'd ever buy a designer item or this kid will be allowed near a Target outfit.

Before we started our fifth heatwave of the season I had done a few pattern repeats on a short row rib scarf I am knitting. As you can probably tell, I'm going through a short row scarf phase. I had seen this pattern but would never have considered it based on the photo except I saw a photo on another blog of someone who did it in a multi-coloured yarn and it looked fabulous. I had a pack of Noro Kureyon Colour 148 at home which was just begging to be knitted. I love the way the scarf is turning out but the colours aren't 'me' - too much olive and not enough purple. So it will be a gift.

I've also started a long-stitch kit that I bought at the Op-Shop last year. It's of the Barrier Reef and had not been started - the packaging was just a bit damaged. So it was a good buy. Long-stitch is for kids and ADD adults who want a super-quick result. I'm not overly fond of them (it feels like cheating) but I love the pattern and colours on this one.

And hi to Susan (if she is reading this). Although I mainly write this for myself, I like to put in something for everyone and there are some people who aren't happy unless they can pick up a few mistakes. I've fixed them up now :)

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Looks like another baby project

Well the good news is that Rachel is definitely healthy and does not have gestational diabetes. The doctor sent her for tests after it seemed that she was producing quite a large baby. The bad news (for me at least) is that I will definitely have to come up with another birth present. Which is fine. I'd rather she gave birth to a large healthy child than a small and sickly one.

I'll finish off the cardigan I started. One of my friends is tossing around the idea of having a craft night as a fundraiser for her charity and I'm sure a cardigan for a small newborn baby will sell well. Not that I've got much knitting done. It was 40 degrees yesterday and will hit 43 today (109 in the shade for any Americans).

I started my new job last week. I'm still feeling around as to what I should do although they have written all sorts of nice things about me in the organisation's magazine. I seem to have two quite distinct and separate roles. One is to come up to speed on all aspects of salary packaging and the related tax implications for members as this is one aspect of my boss' job that he definitely wants me to take over. The second is to research and understand the local and international labour market as it affects our members. A third role, which I'll be trained in, is learning how to evaluate jobs in the brave new world of Australia's Industrial Relations system so our members know what their fair market value is.

I've started a multi-directional ribbed short-row scarf to work on the tram/train going to and from work but put it aside for a book when the weather started heating up. The really good part of my new job is that it is easy to build 45-60 minutes walking per day into it. It's a lovely flat 30 minute walk mostly along a shady boulevard from the city into work in the mornings, when the trams are packed anyway. Two nights last week I also walked back into the city after work - the other days I still had to walk 10-15 minutes to catch a tram. It was tough the first few days but I can tell my body is getting used to it.

More knitting news when the weather returns to something approaching normality.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I'm still alive

I'm feeling really guilty for not posting for a while, not the least because a couple of my friends, the proud parents of a shit-producer who I so wantonly insulted a few posts back, bought me a set of bamboo needles as a belated birthday present.

Not a pair, but a set of 8 pairs of bamboo needles, ranging in size from 3mm to 6mm, in its own lovely needle case.

It was one of the most thoughtful presents that I never expected to get from non-knitters. I have so many multiple pairs of plastic and metal needles that I could not justify buying bamboo needles just to try them out because I had read so many other blogs praising them.

Not that I've had a chance to try them out because I started my new job this week and am getting into the swing of things. Plus summer is back with a vengeance - 35 degrees today and tomorrow.

But at least I've started walking everyday - 30 minutes from the city to work, so I'm not kicking myself.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Knitting for a newborn

Here's hoping that Rachel doesn't pop out an extra-big baby this time. I've done the body of the cardigan and it is about 16 inches around which according to what I can find on the internet is about the right size for a full-term newborn baby. So I figure her kid will have about six weeks to poop all over it before it grows into the next size.

I've only spent a couple of days knitting it, so I'm not too stressed if it only gets a couple of months wear. I'm sure to knit up something else by then.

When my friends had their first rounds of babies I made everything way too big - jumpers that they couldn't wear until they were 12-18 months old. I didn't want them to grow out of the clothes too soon.

This time around I am actually trying to knit something that will be usable within the first year.

Why I love kids (but have trouble with the parents)

As a knitter I have to love kids. Nothing says "instant gratification" like starting and finishing a baby's hat in an afternoon. Even jumpers and cardigans are time-friendly. It's a great way to try out new patterns and techniques because even if it is a disaster, one is only frogging a few hours instead of a few days worth of work.

I'm currently working on a seamless raglan baby cardigan for Rachel's baby due in about six weeks time. I'm almost half-way through the knitting. I'm making it is 6-ply self-patterning Opal sock yarn which means it will be a little smaller but in a worst case scenario it will be appropriate from birth to six months rather than 4 months to 10 months. I made about 3 of these for little Miss Gabi (now a sturdy 20-month-old who has very definite opinions about what she likes and doesn't like).

My friends with kids sometimes say "Oh it must be so boring for you" when I visit and they may be right but not in the way they think.

I love the kids. I love playing with them and reading to them. They are so interesting. You can see the cogs clicking in their brain as they work out how to do something and I love the way they will ignore an expensive toy and spend hours opening and closing a cardboard box.

Unfortunately the parents are no longer quite so interesting. All they do is talk shit. Literally. When they are babies we hear about the colour and consistency of the shit. And they seem to think they are offering you a great favour by offering you the opportunity to change their baby's shitty nappy.

"How do you cope with the smell," I gasp in agony.

"You don't notice the smell so much when it is your baby," they reply.

Oh yeah???

The next stage is when their little darlings discover how to take off their nappies and leave the shit-filled items in the most inconvenient place while running around the house naked. I realise this must be difficult for parents but must we hear about it in all its glorious technicolour detail?

The third stage is toilet training. Any conversation with the parents is peppered with constant interruptions of "Who needs to go to the toilet?" and the sobbing of a kid "I had an accident".

Not to mention the smell.

It's times like this that I love my cats that are born toilet-trained.

I realise that a cat cannot bring you the rewards that a kid can. But hopefully I do not bore my friends silly talking about their toilet habits.

PS: Any parents who are offended by the above can take great pleasure watching their kid poop all over the clothes I spent hours knitting for them instead of just spending the same amount of money and a hell of a lot less time purchasing something far more practical for them to wear from a chain store.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Reflections on my 35th birthday

I always swore I would never be one of those women who moan about getting old. As I read somewhere a long time ago, "The only alternative to growing old is dying young", which is something I'm not planning on doing.

I have heaps of older women role models amongst my mother's friends and my work colleagues. One of my best-ever bosses was a 50-something woman who got up at 4.00am each morning to take her dog for a walk and felled her own trees on her own farm. One of my mum's best friends qualified as a barrister at the age of 58. A 60-something woman I know runs writing workshops to help senior citizens write and publish their own memoirs. And after my mum's death at far too young an age (58) my dad took up with a brilliant intelligent older lady whose attitude and energy belay her late-60s age.

My grandfather was in his 80s when he made the memorable comment "I'm going to Montfiore (Aged care nursing home) to visit the old people". He lived until he was 93 and up until the week he died he was plotting how he could return to live in his flat following a massive heart attack. His mind was as sharp as a tack; it was his body that eventually let him down.

So I have plenty of role models showing me that age isn't a number; it is an attitude. But I must confess, on my 35th birthday, for the first time I am feeling maybe a tinsy bit old in a negative way. And I don't like this one little bit.

Maybe it's because I haven't yet had children and the biological clock is ticking away. Maybe it is a reflection of society's attitudes which ooze like poison via osmosis into the brain. Maybe it is because I know my health and fitness isn't as ideal as it could be and I'm probably at my last chance of avoiding following my mother's footsteps of high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, heart disease and early death.

Next week I start a new job; the first one where I have been employed as an experienced grown-up with valuable skills and experience, rather than as a bright young thing
with potential, at the entry-level.

Maybe on my 35th birthday I have finally grown up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Good grief, another hat!

I swear this is the last hat that I am knitting for a long time. It is yet another beanie made for yet another relative in America. The problem is that one can't knit beanies for three of the relatives and ignore the other two. No, I ended up having to knit a beanie for everyone.

This is yet another worthy stash-burner project. I had some left-over hand-dyed 'stormy skies' yarn from Highland Cottage Crafts off eBay. As you can see it is a lovely colour. It wasn't enough for a hat so I 'stretched' it by knitting a few rounds in some left-over purple Cleckheaton yarn that blended nicely.

I've decided this is going to my mother-in-law while my sister-in-law will get the pinky purple alpaca beanie. My father-in-law gets the grey worthy beanie and bother-in-law the cream beanie I made out of scrap wool last year. Isabella of course gets the pony hat.

I've now picked up a drop-stitch shawl that I started last April during a union conference. It's very easy and great for mindless TV watching knitting but it's got to the awkward size where I can really only knit it at home, so I'm going to have to find another project to keep me busy on the trams when I return to work next week.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Isabella's pony hat

This beanie is for my niece, Isabella, who lives in America. I really wanted to make it Australian-themed with a kitsch koala or kangaroo pattern but my husband convinced me that horses might be better given that Isabella has riding lessons every week and is in love with her pony.

I got the pattern out of one of my Liz Gemmel Australiana knitting books - it's supposed to be brumbies (wild horses in the Australian high country) but I'm sure Isabella will assume it is her pony.

This is almost as virtuous as the worthy beanie - it is made out of the remainder of some pink 8ply yarn that I used to knit a jumper for Isabella last year and some tan Patons yarn that I inherited from my mother and which probably dates back to the 1970s. So no extra money spent on this either. Which is a good thing as the credit card is severely strained by my need to purchase some professional-looking clothes for my new job which starts next week.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I hate Spotlight

I know I am a fully-fledged yarn-snob Knitaholic now because I went to visit my local Spotlight (translation for non-Australians: big chain craft store) to buy some 3.75 mm dpns & left feeling rather nauseous at the sight and prices of their latest selection of novelty acrylic yarn.

(Of course if I was a TRUE Knitaholic I would have spent $18.00 plus postage on Addi bamboo dpns but I decided a could still cope with the $4 Birch versions as they are aluminum. But no more cheap plastic dpns - I am seriously thinking of tossing those I currently have as they are a bitch to knit with. But I digress...)

Spotlight is selling some acrylic novelty crap for $8/ball. EIGHT FUCKING DOLLARS!!! WHO BUYS THIS CRAP??? Especially when you can buy 100 percent pure Australian wool for around $3/ball. The mind boggles.

Carol S of Go Knit In Your Hat has written a wonderful article entitled 'The myth of cheap big-box craft store yarn', comparing the prices of various brands and qualities of yarn available in America. Read it, even if you are not in America. Because it is certainly equally true for Australia and I suspect most of the world. Basically she proves there is usually a cheaper and better quality substitute for many crap yarns,

Now I have been known to lash out up to $14.50/ball on Noro yarn (before I discovered my Canadian supplier) so I know how to spend money on yarn. But at least Noro is beautiful unique multi-coloured quality wool that is a joy to knit with. I don't want to think how much money I have wasted on crappy novelty yarns that ended up producing a scarf worthy of the Reject Shop or that was eventually donated to the local Op-shop or sold at a loss on eBay.

I never have the same urge to toss or otherwise rid myself of the pure wool and mohair in my stash because I know I am going to want to use it eventually. It's just a matter of finding the time.

Fortunately today I was not in the slightest way tempted by the $8/ball novelty yarn because someone in the store had thoughtfully displayed a jumper knitted in that yarn which was enough to scare off any sane person. And contemplate a contribution to You Knit What.

The Worthy Beanie

This is a beanie non-knitters will understand. It is a durable classic beanie made out of 100 percent Australian wool. The knitting is even and the hat is warm. It will last years, probably decades. The yarn would have cost less than $6. It is left-over from a jumper I made a couple of years ago so as far as I'm concerned I haven't spent anything extra on it. It took less than a day to knit.

It is very worthy. And very very boring.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The purpose of pompoms

What a difference a pompom makes!
"Is that a cock and ball warmer for a horse?" asked my husband rather rudely when I showed him the hat sans pompom (please note, I had already decided a pompom was required but couldn't resist showing off my masterpiece).
I had a day off work. I had a heap of New Year Resolutions to clean up the house and go to the gym. I had one ball of Noro Kureyon and a small amount of purple alpaca yarn left. So of course I made another hat. For a friend's birthday. In June.
I'm planning ahead.

First Finished Objects for 2006

Because what one needs in the middle of an Australian summer heatwave is yet another woolen hat and scarf combination.

The yarn is my favourite Noro Kureyon (colour 134); the patterns are Multidirectional Scarf and my own Noro Ribbed Hat design - both available free on the net.

After the freaky hot end to 2005 (we hit 43 degrees Celsius - that's 109 degrees Fahrenheit - in the shade on December 31) the weather has settled down to a much more pleasant mid-20s degrees Celsius (that's about 75 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature this week.

In terms of my NY resolutions - well yesterday I went to the gym, washed up the NYE party dishes and worked with my husband on the garden. And I didn't eat any junk food. I bought a 2006 diary, posted out a DVD I'd owed a friend for weeks and posted the accident report to my insurance company. Let's hope the RACV accepts it as they haven't been able to make contact with the driver that ran into the back of my husband. It seems that despite all the advertisements that say that if you are able to identify the other driver in a no fault accident, you won't be hit with an excess charge, if the other driver doesn't answer phone calls and letters from the insurance company, we could still be hit with a $450 excess charge. Which is so not fair. What else could my husband do but get the name, address, phone number and registration of the other driver?

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Resolution and The Reality

Has anyone else noticed that New Year's Eve is probably the worst possible time to resolve to change one's life and one's bad habits? January 1 is the one day of the year nearly everyone is guaranteed to wake up at best sleep deprived, and at worst hung-over and with indigestion following the partying of the night before. Which hardly sets the scene for life-improving resolutions.

Resolution: I will improve my diet and eat only healthy food.
Reality: Left-over chips and sausages from last night's party prove to be an irresistible lure.

Resolution: I will exercise every day.
Reality: Getting up from bed is about all the exercise one can cope with on New Year's Day.

Resolution: I will cut down on caffeine consumption.
Reality: There is no way I am going to get anything done on January 1 without a kick-start cup of coffee and can of coke at lunch.

Resolution: I will get on top of the housework.
Reality: It's January 2 and the remains of the New Year's Eve party are still piled around the house.

My New Year Resolutions don't take effect until the New Year's public holidays are over. Which is tomorrow. Which means I have another 24 hours to clean up the house, fill the fridge with salad and ensure my gym gear is washed and available. At least this way, I have a fighting chance.

And from something I saw on another blog:

In the year 2006 I resolve to:
Stop being a productive member of society.

Get your resolution here