Sunday, January 29, 2012

Rose Garden crochet granny squares

I learned to crochet as a teenager, from my older sister (who's a better knitter than I will ever be and also better at crochet.  But I'm better at quilting, which doesn't interest her at all: we each have our pecularities).

Granny stash: olive/chartreuse greens (and friends).

I remember a small throw, granny square round and round  (except it was rectangular, because I botched the middle), in Patons Totem 8 ply worsted whatever that I would probably have bought from a Diskins wool shop, because back then there were Diskins wool shops.  I used it on my bed, and I remember that though it was only about 3 feet by 2 feet, it was suprisingly warm on cold feet, despite the holes.  I think I also made a 'vest' of granny squares - bright colours edged with black, the front probably 3x3 squares, joined over the shoulder by two strips of squares - you know the kind of thing, I'm sure.  Not hard to find in the late 1970s/early 1980s.

Granny stash: olive/mouse browns

As a girl I also learned a bunch of other needlecrafts - tapestry, dressmaking, knitting, patchwork, quilting.  And I've pottered about with various ones over the years since.

Granny stash: rose reds

Perhaps inspired by the blogosphere, and people's gorgeous photos of what they're doing, on blogs like Alicia's Posy Gets Cozy and Lucy's Attic 24, and having recently nearly finished a tapestry/needlepoint (more about that another time) - and also being required to spend significant amounts of time resting the most inconvenient sprained ankle... I acquired some wool/yarn and a crochet hook.  I've also been reading Mollie Makes magazine via Zinio (as a digital magazine) and it has crochet in it too.

Granny stash: the extra latecomers

It's thirty years, give or take, since I last crocheted anything of consequence.  My fingers haven't forgotten - the turn of yarn over my left pinky, the raised left finger over which it travels, the right hand wielding the crochet hook.

Some of the grannys...

And granny squares.  Easy, simple (and not yet blocked, so they have a bit of a curly look which blocking will fix), portable.  Alicia's granny square throw is here as a work in progress, Scandinavian-cool yet warm; one of Lucy's granny throws here, with clearer, brighter Kaffe Fassett kind of colours.

Some more of the grannys

You can finish a granny square, and feel a glow of satisfaction, and then start another and play with more colours.  I found myself choosing the wool like a quilter, by colour and the interplay of colour.  Definitely wanted some variegated ones.  Kinda knew I was working to an impressionist Rose Garden theme - burgundy to pink, greens in the olive/chartreuse spectrum, some olivey greens that ended up including some mouse browns.  And a little purple.  Tried this wool with that.  Aimed for slightly murky rather than clear colours.  Bought some that were close in colour, because I like that slight shift for the eye.  Gave the wool shop lady slight conniptions by not actually being entirely bothered if every wool wasn't exactly the same  - they're mostly DK weight, 8 ply or so, but a couple shade up to around 10 ply.  I'm tending to use the thickest ones in rows one/two/three so they have less impact on the final size of each granny square.  The composition of them ranges from 100% wool to mixes which include combinations of wool with alpaca, mohair, silk (and a little acrylic, when it was a yarn that I just had to have).
I'm thinking of making some of the squares four times the size, so I can have one big square next to four smaller squares - fourpatch, in quilting talk.  Less ends of threads to weave back in, fewer blocks to sew together and variety for the eye.  At the moment I'm planning a blanket/afghan around 60 inches square.  These blocks are around 5in square, so if I make them all small that's 144 blocks.  If half of them are big, that's 72 little blocks and 18 large blocks.  Don't know if I have enough wool, but if I don't, there's more in the shops... At present I have about 1.6kg, around 27 colours.  Because just like when I'm quilting, I like a little of a lot of colours to play with.  I'm aiming not to make the same colour combination twice.

In the late afternoon, at this end of summer, the sunlight filters through the window by the big red sofa, and it's a peaceful and happy thing to be parked there (ankle on ottoman) with colour to play with, the rhythm of the needle and the wools growing into something more than the sum of their parts, stitch by stitch, afternoon by afternoon.  And when winter comes, there will be a warm blanket there to wrap any occupant of the big red sofa.  And what is finer than being able to have the work of your hands produce something that fits William Morris' dictum - useful and beautiful?

I've also been exploring Ravelry, and have added this as a project there.

There are a gazillion granny square patterns and tutorials out there to explore on blogs and YouTube and Ravelry.  I'm using mostly DK/8 ply yarns, and a size 5mm crochet hook (it's a nice shiny slippery metal one from the local wool/yarn shop, labelled Boye brand and H/8 - 5.00mm, and its slippery shine makes it easier to use than grey metal or plastic, I'm finding). Purl Bee has a good tutorial on granny squares here, and Pip Lincolne at Meet Me at Mikes has Granny Squares 101 here.  There are granny-a-day groups too, and lots of various patterns based on the granny square.  I'm going plain vanilla, the chain centre and trebles.

When I finish this, I have my eye on two other ideas from Lucy at Attic 24.  This gorgeous Japanese flower scarf and this charming retro blooming flower cushion.

But for now, I'm grannying, inspired by crochet from Portland in the Pacific Northwest, the Yorkshire Dales, New York and Melbourne.  Bless the internet for the crafting inspiration you can find.  Aren't those squares lovely?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Empty nest

1201 empty nest
Originally uploaded by rooruu
For the third time this summer, the nest is empty. It's the same sort of bird that's laid eggs and raised chicks in it (not sure what kind, haven't been able to identify it).

Across from the front door, it's been a quiet source of fascination for the last few months. I'll be keeping an eye to see when it's next occupied.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Three films

Yesterday was one of the last cheap film Tuesdays these hols, and the chance for some catchup.

I was looking forward to this.  Came out of the cinema having enjoyed it; but in retrospect, not quite as impressed.  Apart from some riot footage, it skimmed over the divisiveness and social impact of some of her policies.  It didn't really explore the central concept which was presented, about how her interest was/is in ideas, not feelings: and the impact of this on Britain.  The film spent a lot of time with Mrs Thatcher in her (imagined) present day age, with hallucinations of Denis.  I was interested throughout, and Meryl Streep does what Meryl Streep does better than anyone; but will it last in my memory? Not especially, I don't think.  Andrew O'Hehir has a thoughtful review on here; the tag line reads:
The ferocious former prime minister becomes almost likable in "The Iron Lady" -- because it ignores her ideas

Watching it, I was struck with the comparison (not shown in the film, just a thought which came to me) between the Queen and Mrs Thatcher; the longevity of the Queen's work and duty, and her ongoing vitality and busyness of life even in age; whereas Mrs Thatcher, more affected by the ailments of age, is now a widow whose public life had to be grasped rather than being granted and who now leads a quieter, more confined life.  Not a better or worse comparison, just an interesting contrast to ponder.

The Swedish original films with Noomi Rapace are still in my memory as very good films.  This was very good too: not better or worse, but very good in its own presentation/version of Stieg Larsson's book.  Still struck by those landscapes at the beginning of the film, in both: the monochrome of a snowbound winter.  In both versions, the faces are landscapes too.

I read one review which commented on Daniel Craig's Bond-like competence and calm as Mikael, which implied a rather too Bond-like competence and calm for a journalist; but in the book Mikael has done military service, he knows his way around weaponry from that time, so I didn't find this incongruous or unlikely.  I didn't feel or think as though I was watching Bond solving the Vanger family mystery.

It's a couple of years since I read the books, so I don't remember exactly precisely what happened when (and nor do  I want to; it's really tedious to be watching a film and ticking off book 'moments' that are there or are not).  But this was a good version of the story I remember, well written, well acted, well done.  (And no Spain pretending to be Australia...!)

And for a change of pace....

I don't especially hunt out 3D films - I saw Avatar in 3D at the multiplex and then later in 2D at a little local cinema, and it was quite as satisfactory in 2D.  Reviews had said, however, that Scorsese had done wonders with 3D with this film, so I took the funny-specs line.  I know of the book, but hadn't read it all the way through, so the story was a mystery to be unravelled (and I wouldn't know plot points to tick off). 

A delightful film.  Again, well written, well acted, a pleasure for eyes and imagination.  Asa Butterfield is excellent as Hugo.  The automaton was an intriguing character, not just a plot device (and I was fascinated to learn, with some googling, that what it does in the film was not CGI: it was built to do that complex task - amazing workmanship by its builders) (I'm avoiding telling you a spoiler.  See the film before you google!).  Some people had brought very small children to the cinema, and I'm not sure that it's quite the film for them; but for older children and adults who enjoy thoughtful stories...lovely.

A diverse trio of films.  Exploiting cheap Tuesday is a good thing when there are films worth seeing (which is not always the case in school holidays).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Being a statistic: radio diary

1201 radio diary
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Yeah, yeah, who knows ANYONE who's participated in radio or TV ratings surveys????

But a nice young chappie came to the door last weekend and wasn't trying to get this household to swap telcos or electricity providers.

Listening has to be recorded for every fifteen minutes for seven days. Without giving too much away, let's just say this house's radios are pretty much rusted on to 702ABC Sydney...

Sunday, January 15, 2012


1201 brunch
Originally uploaded by rooruu
It seems as though brunch has become a lot more front and centre on weekends in the last ten years..super. It's not just the time to savour food like eggs Benedict (dilemma: smoked salmon? Or crispy bacon?) or, as shown in this pic, proper made-from-scratch baked beans (here with chorizo and a UFO/poached egg . It's the leisurely time to sit and converse with friends. That's the best thing about brunch. Long may it last.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cafe Lunch

1201 Lunch
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Salmon, ricotta & dill cake with (equally yummy) salad. Seasoned with good company.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Holiday companions

1201 holiday companions
Originally uploaded by rooruu
Based on personal experience, I would not recommend spraining your ankle a week before Christmas. Especially when, in the southern hemisphere, this is also your summer holidays. Sigh.