Welcome, nau mai, haere mai!
Come on in and stay a little while. . . you never know what you might find!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Knit. . . Fingerless mitts, Facecloths and Fable cowl

What to knit as a birthday present for a musical knitter? Hmmm, how about "Musica" fingerless mitts? Seemed like a plan, and indeed they were very well received by K, a piano-playing knitter friend of mine. Only one problem. . . they turned out way too big! They were a bit baggy on me and on the birthday girl they were pretty much unwearable! She generously suggested they could just be draped artistically on the piano, but of course I wasn't content with that so have offered to knit another pair using smaller needles, and hope that they fit better!

In other knitting news I have been busily making face cloths for all and sundry from two balls of "Peaches and Creme" cotton yarn procured at "Unwind" Fibre Retreat. Mostly using the "Double Bump" free pattern from ravelry, but also making up a simple 3st repeat basket-weave pattern to use up the remainders.

Meanwhile, I had volunteered to test-knit a cowl pattern for a local friend, but my heels were dragging due to lack of suitable yarn. The trip to Dunedin gave me the opportunity to buy a couple of possible options and with guidance from the designer herself (!) I eventually chose some Flagstaff Alpaca yarn, hand-dyed by Doe Arnott, founder of The Oamaru Textile Emporium. Here's a close-up of the stitch pattern - will add modelled shots when I have some.

The pattern is Fable Cable Cowl by Jessica Powers. It's a really straightforward knit - knit flat and quickly memorised, with a very pleasing and wearable result. The only thing that is a little tedious is grafting the two ends together with Kitchener stitch, but the result is well worth the effort.

I have just started a "Breast hat" by Megan Grewal, for little M, my almost-grand-daughter. It's going well so far, but just like the musical mitts looks like it might be a bit big. More on that next time. . .

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thought for Thursdsay. . . Think big!

Mural spotted at Waimea College, Richmond. . .

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Eat. . . Welsh Cakes

Welsh cakes are a fond memory from my childhood, growing up in South Wales. In recent years I have begun making them a few times a year, and I always make some on St David's Day (he's the Patron Saint of Wales.) I guess you could call it a "new tradition" of mine, but don't tell Sonny Jim, as when we were discussing this concept recently he witheringly told me that "New traditions are axiomatically atypical!" on the basis that a tradition has to be old, in order to have become a tradition. . . but as I reminded him, all traditions had to start somewhere! Anyway, I digress. . .

This year I made Welsh cakes on the 1st March as usual, and took them for a shared lunch at the Wifie's workplace in Motueka. No-one there had tried Welsh cakes before, but everyone liked them and they were intrigued as to how they are baked on a bakestone or griddle rather than in the oven. I am not lucky enough to own a traditional bakestone, so have to make do with a heavy based frying pan, but that does an adequate job. . . A Welsh friend told me that in many old houses in Wales, the bakestone belongs with the house, so that when the house is sold the bakestone stays behind for the new owners. . . what a wonderful concept.

The following recipe is from the little "Welsh Teatime Recipes" book I was given a couple of years ago by a dear friend in Wales. No author is listed but the publisher is Salmon Publishing. You can tell all the recipes in the book are traditional as there are no metric measurements used throughout, but hopefully that won't cause you too much consternation! Any substitutions/changes that I usually make are in brackets.

Welsh Cakes or "Pice ar y maen"/"Tiesen Gri."

1 lb plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 pinch allspice (or ground mixed spice)
(1-2  tsps cinnamon in addition, I like my Welsh cakes spicy!)
A pinch of salt
3 oz butter
3 oz lard (I just use 6 oz butter and no lard)
(6 or) 7 oz caster sugar
4 oz seedless raisins (or currants)
2 eggs, beaten
Milk to mix
Caster sugar to sprinkle on top

Stir together flour, baking powder, spices and salt in a large bowl. Rub in the fat. Add sugar and dried fruit. Add beaten eggs to the mixture with a little milk to make a stiff dough.

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to a thickness of about 1/4" and cut into 2" rounds with a cutter.

Cook on a greased griddle or heavy based frying pan over a low heat for about 3 minutes each side until golden brown.

Lay cooked Welsh cakes on a clean tea towel and sprinkle with sugar, then fold tea towel over the top to keep them warm. Serve with butter if desired.

(These freeze very well and make great lunchbox treats!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Love. . . ravelry and Unwind Fibre Retreat, Dunedin

I joined ravelry on 1st December 2007, and I can honestly say it has revolutionised my crafting life! Quite an achievement for something that modestly describes itself as a "free site for knitters and crocheters."

To quote directly from the ravelry site: "Ravelry is a place for knitters, crocheters, designers, spinners, weavers and dyers to keep track of their yarn, tools, project and pattern information, and look to others for ideas and inspiration. The content here is all user-driven; we as a community make the site what it is. Ravelry is a great place for you to keep notes about your projects, see what other people are making, find the perfect pattern and connect with people who love to play with yarn from all over the world in our forums."

Simply put, ravelry has opened up a whole world of patterns, projects, inspiration and online/real life friends, and all completely for free! 

At its most basic level it is a kind of "online knitting notebook" where you can store details of current and past knitted/crocheted projects. All the vital info such as needle size yarn type and amount used, and project notes. 

You can also use ravelry to catalogue your stashed yarns and crochet hook/knitting needle collection, though I confess I am very remiss in those areas. . . It is a very comprehensive online database of knitting and crochet patterns, many of which are available for download via ravelry itself, either as free patterns or with the payment going directly to the designer. It is a great way of networking with people who have a similar interest in all things woolly, and there are groups and discussion boards for almost anything you can imagine, including baking, dyeing, origami, regional groups, groups related to specific yarns or techniques, iPhones, dog breeds, flight attendants, spinners, tattoos, piercings and the LGBT community!

Unwind on the first day. . .
Without ravelry I would never have heard of Vintage Purls, based in Dunedin, and so almost certainly the inaugural Unwind Fibre Retreat would have passed me by! I have just got back from four days of woolly adventures in Dunedin, meeting new people, making new friends and learning heaps as well as having far too much yarny temptation put in my way! Lucky that when I agreed to go on a "yarn diet" this year, I made one exception for myself - Unwind Dunedin!

The yarny treats on offer
There were a whole host of classes on offer, and far too many to actually do all of the ones I was interested in! But I narrowed it down to four, and did practical workshops on knitting and purling backwards (Morag McKenzie of Vintage Purls), Spindle spinning (Frances Stachl of Spindles by Sourkraut), plus steeking and book-binding with all round super-knowledgeable person Stella Lange. Each class was three hours long, and very hands on. All of the workshops except book-binding gave us enough time to finish what we had started, but all of us keen book-binders stayed late in order to finish our books.
First go at steeking - aka cutting your knitting. . . Scary stuff!!

My first attempt at spindle spinning, using a "SpindlesbySourkraut" rewarewa wood spindle

My first piece of Coptic book-binding

Whilst I was in Dunedin I really wanted to go and visit the Rongo Stone, which is a memorial to the Taranaki Māori who died as prisoners in Dunedin. 

This memorial was unveiled in 1987. Most of the Māori were followers of the pacifist Māori leaders Te Whiti o Rongomai and Tohu Kakahi, and they were taken prisoner during Crown raids on the settlement of Parihaka back in November 1881. More than 400 prisoners were sent to the South Island including Dunedin, and used as forced labour, many succumbing to illness and over-work. Thanks to one of my new knitting friends who lived locally and had a car, we made the journey to the Rongo Stone, and I was able to pay my respects to all those who died so unnecessarily. Thanks J, I never would have got there without you. . .

The day after the Unwind Fibre Retreat was finished, there was an optional bus trip to Milton Mill and Flagstaff Alpaca Farm. I stayed on an extra night specially so I could go on this trip, and it was a real treat! We even got to meet a day old cria, as well as loads of other beautiful (if somewhat soggy!) alpacas. . .

I had an absolutely wonderful weekend and came home buzzing with excitement and inspiration. I am definitely hoping to go again next year, and even have a cunning plan to take my mum, who will be visiting from the UK ;-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Knit. . . "Comfort Slippers", a Fishy Hat and a couple of mysteries.

Children's Fishing Competition hat
There was to be a Children's Fishing Competition at the local wharf, and the likelihood of catching any fish was pretty slim. However, Sonny Jim reckoned he could be in with a chance at getting a prize for "Best Dressed Fisherman" if only I could come up with a costume for him at a few days' notice! So, I scrabbled around in the cupboards and found a length of fabric adorned with a shark print, which would suffice for a fish-hunter's cape. But February is summer and so young Sonny Jim needed a hat to keep the sun off. I rescued one of his discarded ("because it's not cool!") school sun hats and found some fish left over from my epic fish blanket (finished last year). Et voilà! One fishing costume, with a brim large enough to hook the fish up onto at the front, when they got too annoying!

Not only did the young man scoop the coveted "best dressed" prize, but this Fishy Hat also won me a prize in the 12-in-2012 group on ravelry, for daring to be quirky! Which comes naturally to both the son and me!! Two prizes from one impromptu costume - what a score! Not bad for a bit of fabric, an old sun hat, some stuffing and 16 knitted fish!!

And for myself, I managed to complete a pair of Comfort Slippers for Japan, by Reiko Arato - a fund-raising pattern for disaster relief efforts in Japan.

These slippers are just perfect for late summer/early autumn, when you don't need anything too toasty, but bare feet on cold lino floors isn't too much fun either. I have worn them lots since I finished them, and I made them from Lana Grossa Meilenweit Cotton Spirit, which I know from experience is a very hard-wearing yarn. Definitely a hit!

I was working on a Mystery Knitalong shawl, but have put that to one side for now in favour of more pressing things, such as birthday presents. However, I will show you a progress pic as the last clue has been available for over a week and many participants in the knitalong have long since finished the entire shawl, so hopefully I am not spoiling anyone's surprise. . .

Part of the shawl at the end of clue 1 (with stitch markers handmade by the beautiful Derailme)
The other mysteries will have to remain just that, as they are birthday presents for two ravelry friends who sometimes frequent this blog. However, all will be revealed next month :)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thought for Thursday. . . The world in which you were born is just one model of reality.

The Te Korowai Trust logo,  freshly painted onto their Relay for Life banner

"The world in which you were  born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you, they are unique manifestations of the human spirit."
(Wade Davis)

and another one, especially for all of us New Zealanders. . .

The Treaty is simply the most important document in New Zealand's history.
(Sir Robin Cooke)

Last week, I attended a Treaty of Waitangi course, run by Robert Consedine of Waitangi Associates, and these two quotes were on the wall for us to ponder during our two day course. Much food for thought. . . If you ever get the opportunity to attend one of these Treaty courses, I can't recommend it enough - it was amazing!

Is it a coincidence, then, that this evening on the way back from swimming, 11 year old Sonny Jim and I were engaged in a frank discussion about the theft of Māori land by successive NZ governments, and how the theft caused a lack of economic base and the Crown's disregard for the Treaty of Waitangi has been so damaging? And if a law existed that didn't suit the government because they might have had to take Māori rights into consideration, then they changed the law. I explained to SJ that while I was walking around Motueka this afternoon, I was pondering that I was walking on stolen ground. We both considered how WE would feel if our land and resources were taken from us (angry, resentful, lacking trust in the "establishment" etc). We discussed the notion of guardianship of land, sea and natural resources rather than ownership, and whatever happened to the tenths reserves?! It all seems very straightforward to SJ - the stolen land, or plenty of money to attempt to make up for its theft should be returned to the Māori iwi as soon as possible. And that's the end of that! I have to say I agree with him.