Wednesday, August 27, 2008


This is my new Sputnik charm: it's a strange little jewellery item that takes its name from its likeness to the Soviet spacecraft -- first launched in 1957, crashed in 1958 -- without the antennae. Fifty years later, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to wear my own piece of mid-century modern space junk, even though its aesthetic appeal is a little dubious.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The drum on kettles

I decided that I wanted to clear some kitchen bench space by getting rid of my rather ancient and grubby electric jug, so I set out to buy a kettle for my gas stovetop*. This turned out to be a much more difficult search than anticipated.
Firstly, most of our local homewares stores only sell electric jugs. Then, I found a gorgeous kettle on ebay, but when I checked the manufacturer's website, the starting price on ebay was already above the recommended retail price. So, I wrote down the nearest stockists listed on the website but the first three I went to were a) boarded up, b) a hole in the ground, and c) claiming never to have heard of the brand.
Lastly, when we did find a store with a kettle, the offerings were either ugly but practical or beautiful but impractical. I think the most frustrating moment in my search was when I found a lovely, stainless steel, satin-finish kettle with a curvaceous shape and a stylish stainless steel handle. However, the sales assistant couldn't guarantee that the handle would not heat up when the kettle was boiled. She suggested I buy it and try it out. "If the handle does get hot," I asked, "can I bring the kettle back for a refund?" "You can't bring it back if you have used it," she replied. I did not buy it.
By this stage I was feeling very much like poor Alice at the Mad Hatter's tea party:

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone: “so I ca’n’t take more.”
“You mean you ca’n’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

I did eventually find a kettle, with a sweet little whistle that sounds just like Gran's used to. It ain't Alessi, but it was a tenth of the price. And it works. I put it on the stove and made a cup of tea, and now I feel much better.

* I thought it might also be more energy efficient, although it appears that the savings in greenhouse emissions from using gas are largely erased by the fact that it takes twice as long as an electric jug to heat the water. (A gas stovetop kettle is twice as efficient as an electric stovetop kettle, however.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I snapped these images with my mobile phone camera today and yesterday. The erosion of advertising materials in both cases--in the glossy flyers wilting in the rain where they protrude from the letterboxes, and the torn edges of the multiple layers of the street posters--appealed to me in an aesthetic way as well as philosophically. I only wish I'd had a real camera with me.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Success isn't everything

This piece is my last felting foray (for now) and probably my least successful, but it shows that there is beauty even in failure.
I used the nuno technique that produced the purple scarf (below), but this time I felted the entire piece of fabric, in order to produce the lovely ruching that you can see in the foreground of the picture. Unfortunately, I chose polyester fabric (it's actually an op shop find, a sheer scarf with brown roses printed on it). It was hard work to get the wool fibres to "grab" the polyester threads, and therefore the ruching is a little uneven, with large bubbles of scarf fabric popping up all over the surface, as you can see in the background of the picture. It's not unsalvageable, but I still need to decide what to do with it. Ideas are welcome.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Herbal remedy

My first piece of felt was a simple square, which we made as a sample to show how much the wool fibres shrink as you felt them. (A lot.) I made the piece reversible, with a soft green on one side and a cream on the other side. Although my felting instructor assured me that my work was passable, she did warn that the felting police might not wholly approve of the fabric, which was not properly fulled. This means that the fibres are not completely felted together and the fabric may not keep its integrity with wear and tear.
I wanted to come up with a use for it, anyway, so I made a little four-petal template and cut flowers and a few leaves from the square. I fulled them a little more after I had cut the shapes, just to soften the edges up a bit. Then I stitched them onto a headband using a variegated silk thread that became a feature as the flower centres. (Or I should say, since they are supposed to be hydrangea flowers, that the template had four sepals and the silk thread represents the flowers. Just being pedantic.)
The result is not bad for a beginner, I think.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pebble discrete

The felting adventure continues, this time with some felted pebbles. The coarse, variegated grey Corriedale wool was the perfect texture for these little treasures. You'll never guess what's underneath the felt, either: pebbles!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Silk and wool (what I felt II)

In my second felting class I was pleasantly surprised to learn a felting technique called "Nuno". This technique of felting onto open-weave fabrics is an Australian invention, an answer to the problem of our lovely climate, which doesn't provide many cold days on which you can comfortably wear fully felted garments. Nuno felting is lightweight and easy, and it creates some lovely crinkled effects on the fabric as well. As the wool fibres felt up and shrink down, they pull the fabric and any other fibres (such as the mauve mohair fibre I used as an accent) into lovely, squiggly organic shapes. This scarf elicits comments each time I wear it. I wore it last night when we went to see David Sedaris at the Opera House.

Monday, August 18, 2008

What I felt...

Yesterday I completed my third felting workshop. I have been slack about uploading pictures of my creations, some of which are more successful than others. But I'm quite pleased with these felt pods, which I modelled on some sea cucumbers in the Sydney Aquarium. I need to find something to place in the openings to represent the feathery feelery bits (which, I believe, are actually the sea cucumber's internal organs that they push out through their mouths to 'digest' food as it swims by).
As it turns out, I'm not the only one making reef creatures out of felt or other fabrics. See the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef designed by Aussie sisters Christine and Margaret Wertheim (I've read Margaret's great book on women in science called Pythagoras' Trousers, which I can recommend). And there's also Stitchin' Fish, a blog I'll be adding to my favourites list.
The lattice the pods are resting on is one of my first attempts at felting, as well, although I consider it a failure, so I won't be showing it separately. In the next couple of days I'll try to post additional images of the more successful examples of my felting, though, and I hope you like them.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Beanie feast

A few months ago, I blogged about an article on homeless kids in Sydney and at the end of it I wondered what I could do to help them out. I referred to a non-denominational charity that I had heard good things about, Just Enough Faith.
Checking their website, I found that they needed donations of beanies, scarves and blankets for the winter, so I started knitting. Just as I was finishing the first beanie, the local newspapers ran a series of articles in which they showed photographs and evidence that the CEO of Just Enough Faith had been caught putting the charity's money through the poker machines at a local club. Oops!
As it turned out, that first beanie I made was stolen when our house was broken into (along with lots of other irreplaceable stuff, but that beanie really hurt--I mean, I would've given it to them if they'd asked me!) Despite these setbacks, I kept knitting beanies, and putting them aside until I figured out which charity to give them to.
I also knitted a few for other people, including Ms N.D., my nephew the Moose and my little second-cousin (or first-cousin-once-removed, or whatever the heck the relationship is), whom you can see here sporting my fluffy creation.
Now, with a bunch of beanies in hand and the end of winter approaching fast, I have finally found a charity to give them to. Knit One, Give One was started by a Victorian woman for much the same reason as I started my beanie-knitting, so I'm happy to hand my hard work over to her for distribution. And it's not too late: I've seen people in Melbourne wearing beanies in summer!

P.S. I got my beanie pattern from crumpart, although KOGO have one on their website as well.

P.P.S. If you find a newspaper article about the founder of KOGO being caught gambling, don't show it to me! I couldn't bear it...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Identity crisis

According to Mike on Ads and his little googlebot, I have a 51% likelihood of being male and a 49% likelihood of being female, based on my browsing history. (I'm glad they clarified the sums: I wonder if the Dude would get a 20% likelihood of being chimpanzee, if he clicked on the button?)
Why do the internets think I'm more likely to be male? It could explain why I keep getting those emails from blonde Russian women who want to marry me...

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Reading at length and in depth

I happened to read two blog posts today that talked about different approaches to reading over the space of a year. Keri Smith talks about the idea of reading just one book for an entire year. She cites the example of a guy who carried a copy of Finnegan's Wake around with him for a year, reading and rereading it until he understood it. Which makes me think the story is apocryphal: I mean, who can understand Finnegan's Wake at all? However, I do understand Keri's desire to get back to basics in this way, although I'm not ready to take up the challenge myself (too much to read, too little time).
The other blog that I discovered today is the Harvard Classics Project, in which Chris Marcil writes a daily post about the books on his grandfather's Harvard Classics reading list. His take on how the classics are relevant (or not) to the modern world is funny and inspires a desire to investigate a broader range of literature in bite-sized chunks.
So which will it be? In-depth study or wide-ranging browsing? Or a bit of both?

Monday, August 04, 2008

Art and craft

This is a little bib I made for my new second cousin, Quinlan. I made my own pattern, copying the basic design from Saidos da Concha, a source of inspiration for me at the moment. I like the idea of the "Handmade Pledge" that Etsy is promoting: to make or buy handmade gifts rather than simply adding to corporate profits. Of course, it remains to be seen how much I can stick to the plan, as people's birthdays seem to sneak up on me, resulting in last-minute dashes to the shops for pressies.
On another note, the beach art that the Dude and I did on our recent holiday is now on the V&A World Beach Project website.

Friday, August 01, 2008

So NOT square

This morning I listened to the latest Skepticality [sic] podcast, Rationalist Rap. Swoopy interviewed Greydon Square, who is a hiphop artist, former gang member, former US soldier in Iraq and currently a physics student. I'm not a big hiphop fan, but I liked the mellow sound of his music and the poetry of his lyrics (in much the same way as I like the Hilltop Hoods, homegrown hiphop from the Adelaide Hills). Sometimes wisdom appears in unexpected shapes and forms.

Hear Greydon Square's music on his myspace page. I like 2008 A.D. and The CPT Theorem. Just a warning: as in most hiphop, some language may offend.