Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Sorry?

I just got off the phone from a conversation with one of my Besties. We've known each other for a *ahem* long while now, been through lots of stuff together, figuring out how to mother our kids without screwing them up too much, you know the usual kind of stuff.

So it's always awesome to talk with her. And it's EPIC when there are no small humans around to interrupt us....  It was epic today.

But we did have a minor challenge. I have no voice.  You know, like laryngitis....  keeps dropping in and out like a dodgy phone connection.

But, being the generous friend I am, I remained committed to keeping up my side of the conversation.  I'm determined, if nothing else.

Being the generous friend that she is (which may be more pertinent in this case), she also persevered.  And let me tell you, her end of the deal was much tougher...

Filling in the gaps, adding in the words and syllables that just didn't come out .... Like those "you're a certified genius if you can read this" memes with all the gaps.

If you could ask her right now, she would be able to tell you that it was, well, somewhat exhausting.  Nothing to do with my charming personality and sparkling wit, of course.  Just the strain of having to predict, and infer what the heck I was rambling on about.

I got to thinking about how similar it is to having a hearing impairment.

I was born with a 20% hearing loss. Nothing much to be done about it in my day.  I don't think it even occurred to my parents to let my teachers know that it might be relevant.  These days, a 20% hearing loss is a marker that a child is at risk of reading difficulties (if you can't hear the sounds, it's going to be hard to link them to those pesky letters).

For some reason that didn't happen in my case.  In fact, as I grew older I think it enhanced my ability to get lost in a good book (I certainly was able to block out the sound of mum telling me to set the table...)

But it also meant that I struggled to keep up with a group conversation.  By the time my brain had filled in the gaps, things had moved on.



Whispering with friends at a sleepover? No chance... No friends?

Someone discreetly giving me information in an undertone?  Well, let's say it was definitely discreet - because I never heard it.

TV?  A tiresome struggle.  We now use subtitles constantly.  I sure am thankful for that crazy speed reading program we all did in primary school - all of us sitting in a darkened hall while the words flicked up faster and faster - I always loved that challenge.  So glad that skill has translated to something useful in my adult life!

Movies? Not a chance.  You may think that the theatre sound is ear-splittingly loud.  Yes, it is. The music, the sound effects etc. But the speech?  Usually the clarity is so poor, that despite the deafening (pun intended) volume, I have no idea what is going on.

And those are just the fun things...

Public announcements?  If I'm lucky I'll understand them (jokes about City Rail announcements aside)

Quiet conversations with an upset child or a friend.  Heartbreakingly frustrating to say, "I'm so sorry, I didn't hear that, can you tell me again?"

Professional training...  No, we didn't bother to use microphones or they just don't work in this echoing hall.  Or even have the speaker stand up.  Discrimination?  Sorry?  I didn't quite catch that?





Daily life has been exhausting at best, isolating and soul-crushing at worst.

But I'm lucky, because I know I have a hearing loss.  So at least I understand why I experience those things.  And my hearing loss is minimal.  I also have Hearing Aids now, which have made me wonder how on earth I was coping without them.  The cost of Hearing Aids is so prohibitive that again, this makes me part of a privileged few.

What about the percentage of the population which doesn't realise they have a hearing loss?  That this is their normal.  Particularly children.

Do you want to know what it could be like to have a hearing impairment?

I've listed some great simulators here, here and here.  They're all a bit different - it's worth checking them out if you have the time.

I think we can do better. What can we do?

* look at people when we speak to them.

* have options like subtitles available on every program - you have no idea how many programs leave me crying with frustration when I've tried to watch them - even though they would have had a subtitle track when they were aired somewhere, sometime.

* speak clearly when announcements are made and have visuals attached

* make sure amplification works.

* have speakers stand up and face the group when contributing to a group discussion

* use apps to check whether your work environment is too loud (there are free decibel readers like this one), and wear the protective equipment - once it's gone, its gone!

If you think your hearing is changing, go see an Audiologist.  Right now!  They can figure out what will help you the most, and help your brain to keep connections healthy.  And truly, the miracle of modern hearing aids is worth exploring.  The technology has changed astoundingly in the last 20 years (when all they did was make everything loud) to now when they can be tailored to your specific losses, and be controlled by your mobile phone!  Amongst all the fabulous features I can control with my phone (no I'm not texting in your meeting, I'm shutting out the sound of all the annoying people behind me who won't. shut. up), my favourite is the 'off' setting.  Nope, can't hear you at all! La La La La La

Be awesome, like my Besties, who have cried with me over my frustration and isolation (although that may be because a particular Madonna movie that shall remain unnamed was really that awful), and make sure I know what's going on.

http://actiondeafness.org.uk/product/deaf-awareness-posters/

Have you got tips for making sure you can be heard by others?

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Sewing: Making a BYO Mug Bag #waronwaste

It's been fabulous to see people responding to the War on Waste program that ran on the ABC recently.  What a great job he's done making us see the monster we are creating.  And in propelling us to make simple, yet powerful, changes.

I've been pondering why I don't take my own mug more often.  I'm quite keen to, but just don't remember.  I realised one of the problems is that it would be rolling around in my bag.  After some serious tea consumption and despite my best efforts, there may be a drop or two left.  As well as being a crying shame (to waste tea) it would also mess up the highly organised and streamlined crazy dumping ground that is my bag.

I've come up with a solution! A BYO Mug bag that can contain any drips, and be easily cleaned.

I have some laminated fabric taking up space in my stash of fabrics.

I'm sure there is something terribly bad for the environment about this fabric, but seeing as I already have it, I might as well put it to good use so it can redeem itself.

If you're interested in making one yourself, here's my tutorial.  This is a pretty simple project, as I designed this to simplify tricky sewing manoeuvres (basically, I'm lazy)  If you can sew a straight line, you can do this!

Step 1:  Make a cup of tea:
You'll spend the rest of your project-making time trying to avoid knocking it over while you wrangle fabric and sewing machines, but it will fortify you.  Do not skip this step!

Step 2:  Collate your resources:
Laminated fabric  - I bought mine years ago at Spotlight, it's pretty lightweight so I will line it with fleece to protect the mug a little (I will have a breakable mug because I can't bear drinking out of plastic.  Now I really sound like a tea snob...).  Oilcloth is another funky alternative that comes in some fabulous designs.  I've also heard it's possible to get an iron-on laminate for cotton fabric.

Laminate - Cut one 8 inch x 44 inch strip 
(this was the width of my fabric which was easy, and it's perfect for a Keep Cup, but if you have a taller mug, I think an 8 x 46 inch strip would be even better!)



Fleece - this was to provide a bit of padding for my mug, as well as to reinforce the outer fabric a little.  You could also use interfacing or flannelette for strength instead, just take care with ironing the laminate!

Fleece - Cut one 8 inch x 22 inch strip (or 8 x 23 if you do the longer length) - half the length of the laminate

Elastic - a narrow braided elastic is probably best.  I tried with Hat Elastic but it slipped out of the stitching.

Elastic - Cut one 15 inch length

Sticky Tape - the magic tape kind - Laminated Fabrics don't play nice with sewing machines, so you will use this on the bottom of the presser foot (the bit on the sewing machine that holds down the fabric as it goes through.  You only need to do this when the laminate is right side out.  Putting some paper over the project would also help here.

Sewing machine 

Seam allowances are 1/2 inch

Step 3:
Fold your laminated fabric so it has right sides together with the short edges matching

Place the fleece / interfacing on top of it, aligning with the edges of the laminate

Fold your elastic in half, and place between the right sides of the laminate, with the ends sticking out slightly (the loop is sandwiched between the laminate).  It needs to be in the middle (see the photo) - you can use pins to keep in place, but they will make holes in your fabric (not a big deal).  I avoid pinning at all costs
Elastic in between the right sides of the laminate.  The fleece will go on top once the laminate is placed back down

Sew a straight seam.
See where the elastic is poking out? Go back & forth over that a couple of times 


When you sew over the elastic, use your sewing machine reverse function to back up & go over this again to strengthen it.

Continue on your merry way sewing until you reach the edge.

Step 4
Turn the sandwich out the right way - the elastic loop will now be on the outside, and the laminate will face out.

The fleece will be inside the sandwich.
Right way out - laminate is wrapped around the fleece, and the elastic has been sewn into the seam you just made (it's hard to spot, but it's sticking out at the end)

Trim the edges if yours looks like a dog's breakfast (like mine) and /or you can be bothered.

Now for some tricks.

Step 5 
Remove your presser foot, and place a small piece of magic sticky tape on the base of it.
Once you have your sticky tape on the underside of the presser foot, trim the excess


Make sure it doesn't cover the hole in the foot that the needle goes through.
Pop the presser foot back onto the machine.

Take your sandwich, and fold it in half, lining up the short edges.

If you prefer one side to the other have it facing inwards (so it becomes the outside of the bag) - but really it shouldn't matter as both sides are the same.

This can be a bit tricky because of the laminate - you may have to push it through the machine a little.


Sew down each side of the bag.

Step 6:  Making a base for the bag

While it is still inside out.

Pinch one side seam and make it match to the crease at the bottom of the bag.
Underneath that seam, I have pressed the crease of the base of the bag.


Measure from the point of the triangle 1.5 inches along the base (crease) of the bag, mark, and draw a line across the bag (see picture)
That may not look like 1.5 inches, but trust me, it's supposed to be!


Repeat on the other side.
Those are the lines you will sew along. It takes a little bit of fiddling to line up each corner with the sewing machine.  Take your time!  It's like magic when it works

Keeping the side seam pinched to the base crease sew along the line you drew for both sides.

It can stand up all by itself!


Trim the corners off.


Voila!  A base to hold the cup in place

Step 7:
Turn the bag right side out.


Pop in your favourite travel mug.


Loop the elastic around to close it, and there you are.



Step 8:
Don't forget to take it with you!

And don't forget to take the sticky tape off your presser foot, or it will mess with other sewing projects you do!



Alternative Method
If you don't like the exposed seams on the inside, you could alter the process by cutting
four 8 x 22.5 inch strips of the laminate fabric, and two 8 x 11.5 inch fleece linings.

Or, you could cut two 8 x 22.5 inch strips of the laminate, and two 8 x 11.5 flannelette or fleece linings (which would absorb any drips, but not be quite so easy to clean)

Follow a similar process, starting with sandwiching the elastic between short ends of 2 of the laminated pieces along with a piece of fleece.

Repeat (sans elastic) for the other laminate & fleece.

While the laminate still has right sides facing (i.e. wrong sides facing out) stitch down the long sides of both sandwiches (one with elastic, one without).

Turn right way out.

Join at the short edge (that has no elastic) - that way only your base will have a raw edge. (You'll need the magic tape from this step)

Follow the rest of the process from Step 6.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Right Stuff!*



I wanted to share with you this beautiful shawl designed by Meg Gadsbey (who I had the privilege of meeting at the Show recently, and she is as beautiful as her designs!):  Midnight in Sydney


My version:  Midnight Ocean Glimmers shawl

I also wanted to share the process I went through to knit it, because I learned such a lot about having another go, and about having the right tools for the task with this project.

I have been reflecting recently that I really love how the knitting podcasters I listen to share their mistakes and the way they need to re-do things.  Because then I know that mistakes and re-doing is perfectly normal, even for really experienced knitters.

I'm far less experienced, so it really helps me take it in my stride and understand it as a learning process.

Recently the Knitmore Girls had an interesting discussion about having the right tools for the project, and how much difference that can make.  I *think* it was episode 426.


I attempted and gave up this pattern last year.

I could not seem to master it.

This year, I had the chance to test knit the pattern because Meg has re-designed the layout.  I wa.s ready to give it another go

I love the new layout.  Meg's patterns are always clear and easy to follow, but this version is even better than the first.  All of the pattern instructions are on one page, including any of the abbreviations.
The chart also has the chart codes on the same page, right next to the chart.

I'm not a confident chart knitter, but I am steadily becoming converted - I love working from visual cues that mean I don't have to wade through lots of words to find where I'm up to!

If you haven't tried knitting from a chart (instead of reading the instructions) this would be a great pattern to start with!

This time, I knit the pattern in a miraculously short time! Just a few weeks (for me, that's miraculous).

I had such a lovely time knitting it, and realised a few things that had made the project so much easier.  I wanted to share them with you in case it helps you in your knitting adventures.

The pattern is really not that tricky, however, it does have a fiddly knit-4-together manoeuvre that takes a bit of patience.

Yarn
Now the first time I tried this, I was using a completely different yarn

It is a beautiful yarn but it has now told me that it never wanted to be a shawl in the first place.  It really wants to be socks.

How do I know that?

It's quite a tough yarn.  I've tried to knit it into a couple of different shawls now, with no success (probably not the yarn's fault really...perhaps more to do with limited concentration...).  Every time I've ripped it out, the yarn has bounced back, sturdy and strong!  Impressive really.

It's a merino / nylon blend.  The Nylon means that the yarn will wear well for socks - no holes!

But not the best for this pattern.  This pattern really needed a yarn that had a bit of give in it.

When I tried again with the Dingo Dyeworks it was a totally different experience.  I used Fair Dinkum in Mandalay, which is 100% Merino.

So when I was trying to get the needle into those 4 stitches at once, there was enough give in it for the stitches to loosen up while I created the stitch





Needles

Last year I used my beloved Symfonie Knit Pro needles.  I just love knitting with these - they are bamboo so they are so nice to work with.  They have a good tip for most projects and they are pretty too!

They simply don't compare to the needles you can get a Spotlight (which I just can't bear to use now...) and they cost a similar amount.

But I think that the needle just wasn't sharp enough to get through the 4 stitches.

This year I was using my Karbonz carbon fibre needles - they have a metal tip, and they are a little sharper than the Symfonie.  It wasn't a deliberate choice, they were just the needles I could find at the time!


I did order some finer tip Chia goo lace needles but they didn't arrive until after I'd finished the project.  They may have helped more, but I suspect that the very fine tip may have resulted in my splitting the yarn more (I was already doing it a bit!).  They came from Yay for Yarn which has cheap shipping on needles!

I get most of my needles from Tijuana Alpacas - they also have a great Ebay store.
Blocking out the lace - it's like Magic!


Stitch Markers & Knit Tink
Did I mention my limited concentration abilities?  Knitting is my down time, and usually happens when I'm sitting on the couch, watching TV.  I may or may not also be sipping wine.  I'm not telling.  Either way, I'm usually shattered, and not so great at keeping track of things.
So, I made sure I put stitch markers in between each lace repeat - that's the set of stitches that is going to make once section of lace.  Every lace pattern is different.
It meant that each time I came to a stitch marker I knew it was time to start the lace stitches again.
Because I'm still learning how to 'read' my more complex knitting, it meant I didn't have to keep trying to figure out where I was up to.
It also meant that I could 'fudge' an error - by finding a way to get back to the correct number of stitches (yes, I'm all for cheating!  I know I did this a few times, but even I can't find where I did it).  That way a mistake in one section didn't throw out the whole row of lace.


In all my projects I use a row counter to keep track of where I'm up to in a pattern.  The one I use at the moment is an app called "Knit Tink" - I'm using the free version.  I can set up 3 different patterns, enter the number of rows in a section and how many times the section repeats.  Then I just tap the app each time I finish a row.  There's lots of apps available.  I quite like this one.





* there may or may not be a dreadful 80s song that had this name... I'm not saying I ever listened to it though

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Baking Adventures Continue: Persian Love Cake

Easter Sunday lunch required a special meal, which of course means a special dessert (first things first!).

It was time to resurrect the baking adventures (no Easter puns intended)...

I thought it would be good if we avoided Chocolate.

there being an abundance of it in stock for the season...

Please note, I don't generally recommend avoiding chocolate.  That would be rash.

So what that in mind, I perused my favourite baking book, and discovered Annabel's Persian Love Cake, which I then proceeded to Thermify just a little (only in the interests of saving labour on my part).

If you haven't got it already, you should get it, it's that good!

Special Delivery: Favourite recipes to make and take*


Look away now if you have a nut allergy

I brewed my obligatory baking-cup-of-tea


collected ingredients

milled some almonds according to Thermomix directions.

then proceeded with the recipe

To blend the crumb (of almond meal, sugar and butter):
Turbo 2 seconds 3 times.
What could possibly be wrong with almond, sugar and butter?

Crumb base worked beautifully

To combine the rest of the ingredients:
4 seconds, speed 5, then a 2 sec Turbo.
I find the Turbo good for really moving ingredients around, especially when some seem to be sitting on top.

Fresh nutmeg - a surprising amount!




Everything else was done according to instructions.

The cake turned out beautifully.

The only issues were entirely mine - the texture was a little soggy.  But that was because I used the end of a tub of yoghurt - it contained a lot of whey  Don't do as I did!

I'm not usually good at decorating, but I managed to pull off a heart in the centre.
Can you see it?

The nutmeg gave the most delightful fragrant tang and depth of flavour.

Annabel recommends that the addition of lemon zest is optional, but I would heartily recommend its inclusion.

It provides a contrast to the sweetness of the cake.  I didn't show you the mountain of sugars in it!

Serving with greek yoghurt and segments of orange balanced the flavours beautifully.

Divine.

I'll be cooking this one again - it's a Keeper!




* the link to purchasing the book is an Amazon Associate link.  If you purchase via the link, I'll get a small commission

Friday, 28 April 2017

gratitude & tears


A year ago, I booked high tea.

At my favourite place.

With favourite people.

To celebrate my birthday.

It was late for my birthday, but fell on my mum's birthday a week or so later.

Another reason to celebrate.

It also fell on a weekend of deluge and flash flooding.

My friends mostly, wisely, pulled out.  They made the right choice.  The conditions were too risky.

Except for one dear friend, ready for adventure, determined in her love.

I felt compelled to go though.

You see, my mum.

It was her birthday.

She probably didn't know

She was in the final awful stages of Dementia.

That stole her away from us, little by little, far too fast.

I was convinced

that I had to see her.

I was convinced

that Death must come knocking, when birthdays draw near.

that the cells in her body knew that the day had come

I was convinced

that her fragile grip on life would loosen.

That, having made the next milestone, she would finally let go.

I had to see her.

To give her my love.

So that I didn't miss 'goodbye'

I'm so glad I did.

**********

we were unwise

in the deluge

in the floods

we were lucky

we made it through

never again

**********

She lingered for another month.

And then her body failed

Suffering enough

we told her she could leave us

we would care for her son

she was loved

*****************


those memories washed over me as I drove today

confronting me on the road to high tea

and God was kind

different seats, different views, new memories

with another precious friend

ready for adventure, determined in her love


flowers for love

lavender tones to comfort


****************



a posy

gentle, old fashioned roses, in dusky hues

a token of love

for one whom I love

so dearly missed

longings for better things



*********************





blessings today, as well as the tears

cosy hand-knit socks.  joy





friends who hear.   healing

wheaten bloom glowing on green hills

chill & autumn leaves afire

shawl for cosy hug of warmth



an embrace filled with understanding

rose-hued dusk

sliver of silver crescent moon

my small boy finds me to say 'i love you'

****************************


Monday, 17 April 2017

Blocking Knitting: Before & After

I've just recently completed two shawls, both of which have made me Very Happy.

One is for a friend...

The blue Spindrift Shawl from Curious Handmade made from a heavenly Merino/Silk blend (soft just doesn't describe it).

If you sign up for the Curious Handmade email, you can even get this pattern for free.  She has lots of helpful tips about knitting shawls and lace, in the form of a series of emails to guide you through the process of knitting this shawl.

It's an excellent place to start if you've not knitted shawls or lace before.

This was such a lovely knit:  simple, quick, gratifying.

I love the way the lace looks like the foaming of waves on a sandy shore.
seafoam...
The only issue I have is that the neckline is a little tight.  I think this is because silk isn't as giving as wool.  Or perhaps it was my tension.  It was curling over due to the tension.

I was pretty aggressive in pulling it out in the blocking, but really, there wasn't much I could do, as there was no give along the edge of the shawl.   Still it improved a lot by the finished product!

before blocking:  looks a little crumpled and uneven

Doesn't that just look stunning now.
The lace after blocking 

Defined.  Open.  Lace



I also made my daughter the Snowflake Party Shawl by Martina Behm.  This is another simple, fast and gratifying knit.  Another good beginning shawl.  This was also an opportunity for me to experiment with colours and stripes.


I had some leftover CircusTonicHandmade Star Finch yarn, which Princess loves.  It wasn't enough for an entire item, so I matched it with Bendigo Yarns Luxury 4 ply in Coral.  They are a fantastic match.

Before blocking

As the shawl progressed, I gradually introduced stripes of the Star Finch, and gradually decreased the Coral.  You can see the changes in the stripes below.  If you want to see the exact formula for how I did it, the details are on my Ravelry Project Page here.

I added some extra rows to the end of the shawl to give a border to the lace pattern, and an opportunity to create more fabric in the Star Finch yarn.


During knitting, the snowflakes weren't all that defined.

I blocked this fairly aggressively (that means I stretched it quite a bit) - the shawl seemed to grow a lot in the blocking process!


The result?

Lovely, clear snowflakes, dancing over the shawl.






Happy.

PS.  If anyone has any tips on how to get children to model for you, send them my way!



PPS.  And here's your reward for reading right to the end...

Why be normal when you can be, well, weird?  Dancing? and Photobombing? Why not!