Sunday, September 29, 2013

A little knitting

This leaf motif is from Golden Hands Magazine, published in the mid 1970s. There are many different leaf motifs: Oak, Ginko, Elm... so I've selected 4 to try.

I wanted to practice my Fair Isle technique (which is not so good). 

I plan on making about 16 motifs and joining them together into a little blanket. I think it will look great, its just taking some time. Each motif takes me about 3 hours to do.

Still, I love how it is turning out.

The dark green yarn is a silk/cotton blend left-over from a top I knit last year. The bright green is mercerised cotton. The motifs have nice drape due to the silk and so will be lovely as a blanket.

Should be done by this time next year!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Some Gluten-Free Happy Things

Going gluten-free has not been that difficult for the most part. It has been only a small adjustment from the relatively low gluten diet I was eating for the last few years. At first I had thought it was just wheat that was the problem, but it turns out to be the whole gluten family: wheat, rye, spelt, kamut, barley... And I've also developed a mild egg allergy (though I can still get away with a tiny bit every now and then - like in a little icecream!)

However, the hardest things have been good pastry, cakes, pancakes and bread. I've got a good basic shortcrust pastry recipe that works well for either sweet or savoury pies (I just leave out the sugar for savoury)

I use this recipe for the pastry, but instead of shortening I use butter (and I use about 1/4 cup instead of 1/3), I skip the vanilla and for the flour I use half soy flour and half rice flour. I also double the quantities of flour (but not anything else) as the recipe only makes enough for the base of my tin. I find the rice flour is too crumbly by itself while the soy flour is too sticky. So putting the two together gives a balance of crumbly and sticky. It also allows you to press and knead the dough a bit without it falling apart. This mix holds its shape nicely when baked but you can't over-bake it as it tends to get tough. For a more textured version I use 1/3 cup of ground almonds and reduce the rice and soy flours to 1/3 cup. 

Here I used the pastry for a blueberry custard pie. I used a gluten and egg free instant custard powder with about 500g of blueberries piled on top. Then I mixed about 1/3 cup of blackberry jam with a dash of water to make the glaze. Then baked the lot for about 40 minutes at 180 degrees Celcius. I did blind-bake the pastry for about 5 minutes first because I was worried the base might get soggy. 

Turned out great and tasted wonderful. 

This sticky date pudding is soo good. I used this recipe here without any modifications (except using 'Egg-Replacer in place of the 2 eggs) . It was perfect. Totally not gluten-free weird tasting. The caramel butterscotch sauce was just lovely.

This was my first grilled cheese sandwich in 2.5 years. Two and a half years is a long time for anyone to go without a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.  I almost cried in happiness while eating this sandwich. 

It took a few tries cooking these to get this Ricotta Pancake just right. As I have a gas stove, it was a little too hot to cook these nicely. However, on the lowest temperature and moving the pan around while the pancake cooked, it turned out perfect. I served these with a dollop of ricotta on top and some blackberry jam. Though these are nice on their own. Certified good by the real-pancake eating Mr (and he is very particular about pancakes).

 The blog has some excellent looking other gluten-free recipes I'm looking forward to trying and the photographs are lovely.

My next challenge is gluten-free Snowskin Lotus Mooncakes as its the Mid-Autumn Festival. I plan to use this recipe. 

The trials and tribulations of Avocado growing

It has been a tense few weeks here as we watched our two avocado plants that I've been growing for the past year slowly loose all their leaves.

I sprayed them with some non-toxic bug killer to no avail.

Then I decided to do some online searching to find out what might be killing our beautiful friends. I finally discovered that they had fungus bugs eating their roots. Many of the sites said too bad the plants will die or to use lots of chemicals but one gave some helpful advice: stop watering the plants and let the soil dry out. Apparently the fungus bugs need moisture to survive and with no water the bugs will die but the plants will be fine. Once the soil is completely and utterly dry, you can start to water again, watching carefully for bug-action.

Today our second avocado lost its last large leaf. So both plants have are now stick-like and at first glance leaf-less!

However, both have started to sprout new leaves this week! Hurrah! 

I like to think that the little pep-talk I have with them every morning about them being such lovely plants and how much we want them to thrive has also helped. So yes, you should talk to your plants and tell them that they are great! (but also do some research on bugs!)

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Things and Old Things

Recently I have been very interested in time and its effects on surfaces.
How time changes things
How time reveals
How time is

Based on this idea I designed a sculpture for a national competition.
And got shortlisted!
(Hope I win!)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Light through linen

I love the colour and the texture of natural linen. 
It has to be one of the most wonderful fabrics.
Beginning stiff and crunchy and aging to soft and creased.

Watch it being made here:

This piece I plan to make into a simple bag... though I rather like it just as it is.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

In the strange twilight of midday

The Haze has a strange quality.

Its in some ways terrifying and some ways beautiful. 

Is this the sublime?

The smoke was so thick the landscape turned into a painting of itself.

The sun turned into a glowing orb of pink through the thick air.

Avoiding products with Palm Oil in them might help.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Strange and Wonderful

This strange and wonderful 'bird' by Sergey Tyukanov caught my eye while I was looking for something else. 

I love it when that happens: you get lost and find something lovely.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Paper + Craft

A lovely book I came across while looking for something else in the library. 

The photographs are clear and the projects are quite easy-looking.

They have two nice birdy-related projects too.

These would look lovely for Christmas ornaments.

The bag template is going to be rather useful for packaging gifts.

The marvellous thing is that the templates are available for free download online here:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Finally - Success with Purple Cabbage!

After several attempts on different yarns: cotton, wool, silk, soy, mohair, I managed to successfully dye yarn with Purple Cabbage.

It doesn't sound remarkable except that the Purple Cabbage gives great colours in the pot and then they wash out (cotton) or fade out quickly in light (silk) or hang around for a while (wool) then fade to greige or take only the slightest tint (mohair).

Then there is soy yarn. For some reason Soy loves to be dyed. I am yet to understand why but it is so easy to dye its amazing.

Unfortunately I had only about 20 grams of soy yarn left, so I needed more for a proper test. After months of searching, I found a 70% wool 30% soy yarn. I decided to give it a go hoping the percentage of soy was enough. And yes, it was.

Furthermore the soy enjoyed all the things the wool didn't like such as changing the acidity of the dye bath to make different colours.

So happily I have blue, purple and pink from one dye bath just by adding different things to alter the acidity. I added soda ash to make blue, nothing to make purple (clearly my tapwater is fairly neutral) and a little vinegar to make pink.

The darkest shades were the first dye batch (24 hours) then the paler shades were the second use of the same dye bath (48 hours).

Unfortunately I made the decision to solar dye rather than refrigerate the dye jars. In this nice tropical heat the dye baths fermented and smelt rather like rotten eggs. Not pleasant, but the colours were worth a little nausea!

Searching for the perfect sunset

Sometimes things are just perfect.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A scarf for Nanna

So I made a scarf for my Mum for Mother's Day last year. My grandmother saw it and began hinting to people that she would like her own scarf. So I got to work designing a scarf for her. After quite a bit of deliberation, I settled on a blue tartan and used some online tartan designer websites to help choose the proportions and colours. The websites are rather fun too!

In the end I chose a dark blue wool for the majority of the weft with accents of cream and light blue wool. The warp is a mixture of light blue and cream cotton. So in total the tartan uses 5 colours. I wove in a simple twill pattern as it gives a nice drape which is important if you are going to wrap it around. The wool and cotton means the scarf is not too hot and suitable for spring and autumn wear and can be washed easily without worrying about felting.

I tried to be as accurate with the proportions of the squares as possible, but I'm not sure if this constitutes a 'real' tartan or not! 

Anyway, my Grandmother was really pleased with it, so that's the main thing.

Knitterly Pursuits - when acrylic is not all bad and is in fact quite good

I finished this Batwing Jacket from Debbie Bliss Magazine a while ago (though it took about 6 months to finish!) but I'm not completely satisfied with it. Even though I swatched carefully and recalculated the gauge and number of stitches to suit the pattern and the drape of the yarn, the cardigan is a bit too big. It works as an oversize cardigan that you can disappear into but its not quite like the pattern. Still, I wear it when I feel the need for disappearing in acres of handknit (sometimes this seems necessary!). 

Part of the confusion was the pattern schematic did not indicate where you start from and end up, so I had no idea where I was going with the knitting until about halfway up the back of the cardigan. So I couldn't gauge from what I was knitting that it might be too large.

Still, the cardigan is a nice object and the gauge I got achieved a lovely bouncy cushiony cardigan.

I'm particularly pleased by the cuffs. They fit well and look neat.

The yarn is from my stash and is simply an acrylic mohair as I have used real mohair in this weather and its stiflingly hot and uncomfortable, even in airconditioning. The acrylic is the perfect warmth level for 21 degree airconditioning.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Of knit and crochet

I started this cardigan more than 2 years ago to wear in Canada. It was so bulky it wouldn't fit in my suitcase, so I didn't end up bringing it to Canada to finish. 

I decided recently to finish it but looking at it I decided that I didn't like the style anymore. So I undid the cardigan and started again with a new pattern. The new cardigan I finished within a week and I'm happy with the fit. I made only one modification to the pattern to extend the front button placket so I can button the whole front.

The finished cardigan.

 Detail of the travelling lines & buttons.

This dress is from Interweave Crochet and I've been working on it for at least 6 months. It was sleeping for a while as I ran out of cotton. The layout is modified from the original to accommodate less squares at the top.

The new cotton was a different shade and so I had to overdye the dress to even out the colour. I first washed the dress and then I used very strong black tea to dye it. It had two attempts in the dye pot and a few days of soaking.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The edges of Singapore

Since visiting Australia in December I've been preoccupied with edges.

Singapore is an island but you rarely see the edges, you have to go search for them and they are largely quite inaccessible. 

I wanted to find a place to see the sun set over the water, to look out of Singapore over the sea.

Sunset over Jurong Island with a gunmetal grey sea. This is about as far south as you can go on mainland Singapore.

Light fading over Tuas Checkpoint. This is as far west as you can go in Singapore. The hills you see in the background are in Malaysia! 

Perhaps I should search for North and East too.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Birds, blurry birds

The bird-paparazzi-ing never stops. Here are some (horribly blurry photos) snapped in Malaysia.

White-Throated Kingfisher.

Might be a Grey Heron.

A Little Heron?

A Grey Heron in flight.

I spy with a Black-Naped Oriole.

Spotted Dove.

 Possibly a Grey Heron.

A Pacific Reef Egret?

My favourite, Rock Pigeons.

I think this is a Purple Heron.

Two Zebra Doves running away.

A preoccupation with light

Back in December (yes, a while ago!) I went to Malaysia for a short holiday. The resort had a golf course, and even though I know nothing about golf, I found the place inspiring. Every afternoon there was a short storm and in the morning the light over the course was amazing.

The rough texture of the road.

The colourful lichen growing on the palm trees.

The morning light through peach curtains with the tree behind.

The tree shadows on the wall in the morning light.

The wet grey colour of the road contrasted with the yellow crossing after a storm.

Dew and misty morning light over the golf course.

The speedbump after the rain.

The late afternoon blue sky with dark cypresses reminded me of van Gogh.

I love the footprints to tell you which side is for pedestrians and which side is for golf buggies!

If I could paint, I'd paint this scene. To the left a storm is brewing and to the right colourful golfers converse seemingly oblivious.

Moss! A rare sight in Singapore!