Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh! Hey!

Now that Christmas day is over and all of the presents have been opened, I can make the final reveal of the Christmas gifts.

For my friends Zena and Alison, I made the Strawberry Clutch from Knitscene Spring 2007. It's knitted in Cascade 220 which was held double and then felted. This is the same yarn that I used for the Christmas decorations. The Christmas decorations actually came about because of a swatch I knitted to test the felting process. I felted the swatch by hand and it was such a pain I decided to have a go at felting my finished strawb's in the front loader. The first photo shows Strawberry No. 1 before felting.

This was my first proper go at machine felting and with the complication of the front loader I was more than a little nervous about it. I did some experimentation with the washing machine and managed to work out how to stop the machine mid-cycle (by turning off the power to the machine!) and with great trepidation I threw the first strawberry in with an old pair of jeans. I remember reading in a felting book to use the highest temperature available on your machine, so I set the machine at 95 degrees Celsius and turned her on. I stopped the machine quite a few times to check the progress and each time I did this I would have to re-start the wash cycle, hence adding a bit more water. The result was water all over my kitchen floor! Also I should have realised that 95 degrees was way too hot. The colour ran quite a bit, the white dots had become pink. Anyway, it felted pretty well and here is the result.

The gap between the columns of stitches is still visible in some places but I just couldn't seem to get rid of them. I had the same problem with my swatch. Maybe it has something to do with my guage. The pattern specified 9mm needles which I don't have so I used 10mm ones. I didn't think it would make much difference but maybe it did.

The next photo shows strawberry No. 1 felted and strawberry No. 2 before felting. You can see the difference in the colour of the yarn after felting quite well in this one.

Before felting the second strawberry I made two decisions. Firstly to drop the water temperature in the machine from 95 to 60 degrees. This worked out quite well as the colour did not run nearly as much. The second decision was to not stop the machine. The first strawberry took much longer than the machine's cycle to felt so I thought it would be safe to let the machine do it's thing and then when the wash cycle was over to check the progress then and restart the machine. This decision unfortunately did not turn out to be such a wise one. During the first wash cycle the strawberry got all scrunched up and must have stayed this way as the creases became permanent and in the depths of these creases the felting process got left behind. Even after I removed, flattened the piece before the second cycle, these spots never caught up and the creases were never really removed. It wasn't a complete disaster, but is definitively a lesson learned. You can see what I mean in this photo.

So the moral of the story is, 60 degrees is more than sufficient and check your felting progress regularly!

With the felting process over, the last thing to do was to sew in the lining. Did I mention that I found a little craft store in down town Abu Dhabi? It's a funny little shop called the Green Branch. It has oil paints, pencils, a few balls of yarn and knitting needles, some patchwork fabric and even buttons (a big container of miscellaneous buttons!). Much of the stock looks like it has been there forever. For example the steel press-studs had gone rusty on their cards. So with the help of the Green Branch, Chi Wai helped me chose some fabric to line the bags, and this it what it looked like....

All in all, I pretty happy with the end result, and I hear that Alison and Zena are pretty happy with their Christmas present too! Merry Christmas girls!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Cheer!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Our Christmas this year has been an unusual one. There was none of the usual Christmas lead up social activities where you catch up with everyone you know before the big day. No work Christmas parties and not quite so much of the mad shopping frenzy that comes with the Season. Without all of those things it has felt a little less like Christmas, and highlighted how far away we are.

The part I have missed the most has been the happy gatherings that come with this time of year. The dinners, the champagne, the friends and family. That is my favourite part about Christmas.

Despite all that, we still had a pretty good Christmas. Last night Chi Wai, Brian and I went out for a special Christmas Eve dinner to a Japanese restaurant. It was very festive. Paper hats and all.

In the first photo, Chi Wai and I are showing off our haul from the posh Christmas crackers. Chi Wai's gift was a travel cork screw and mine was a retractable soft tape measure. It was like they knew we were coming!

On Christmas morning there were presents under the tree....

and my family was right there with me.

The far away family and friends were made to feel a little bit closer by the wonders of the World Wide Web.

For Christmas lunch we (Chi Wai, Brian and I) were invited to Zeina's house. Zeina is a colleague and it was so nice of her to invite us into her home for Christmas. Zeina and her family are originally from Syria and a traditional Christmas dinner consists of Arabic style food. This is the fantastic spread that she put on for us and her other guests.

Please note the dark brown football shaped morsels of goodness roughly in the centre of the photo. They are called Kebbeh (the spelling varies depending on the restaurant) but they are delicious and a particular favourite of mine. They are a bit difficult to describe but here goes. They outer crust made of similar ingredients to a falafel and the filling is spiced mince meat with pine nuts and the whole thing is deep fried until crisp. Yum!

Needless to say, we were well and truly stuffed and I had to have my traditional Christmas afternoon nap when we got home. Thank you Zeina and Joseph for having us!

Okay, so that's Christmas unwrapped. To all my friends old and new who read this, I hope your Christmas was a happy one.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Jingle all the way.....

Okay, the Christmas presents have arrived in Australia and some of them have been opened so I can start talking about them.

For my darling surrogate nephews and niece I made some Christmas decorations. They started life as a knitted swatch.

It's Cascade 220 held double on 10mm needles. Next I felted it by hand to produce this.

Add some embroidery, some sequins and a bit of ribbon and this is what you get!

Personalised Christmas decorations for the gorgeous Ruby, Dalton, Sam and Archie!!! Yay!

I was pretty happy with the result. I think Ruby's one is my favourite. I would have liked for the embroidery to have stood out a bit better, but other than that I was pretty happy. I really like the look of the reverse stockinette side of the felt. Chi Wai said it looks a bit like the stitching on a Cricket ball!

There are still two more presents to be discussed, but I will leave that until Christmas day. I wouldn't want to spoil anyone's surprise!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

India in a hurry!

I just had a few days in India! It was all organised at the last minute. I just got back last night. What a whirlwind!

I traveled with Brian (my house mate) to interview potential employees for our factory. We interviewed about 25 people in two days and it was completely exhausting. Then we flew to Mumbai and interviewed three more. It's hard work I tells ya!

We went to a city called Vadodara (the city formerly know as Baroda) via Mumbai. It has a population of about 1 million (about the same as Abu Dhabi) but is such a different city. It's mostly low rise with a domestic airport only. We stayed in one of the two four star hotels and it was pretty comfortable. Here's a photo of me with the door man. His moustache was real and it was spectacular.

We ate some great food..... and no, it's not all for me!

The people we met were all really friendly and really happy to talk to us. One thing that really struck me was how beautiful the women were. Gorgeous big eyes, curvy bods and big white smiles. They looked so elegant in their saris and tunic with the long sash across their shoulders, hanging down their backs. Stunning.

Before this trip I had never really considered India for a holiday destination, but after this small taste, I really want to get back there and see more.

I'll leave you with one more image from India, one of the sacred cow. In Vadodara there were cows walking around the streets everywhere. They had long floppy gorgeous ears. Check out that udder!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Sweet FO's

Can you believe that another friend of mine has had twins?

Sonia and Richard are now the proud parents of little Carlie and Sophie!

Such gorgeous little things, and here's my offering, ready to go into the post.

I just wanted something quick but sweet for two little darlings. They were knitted using Cleckheaton's Bambino Merino and the pattern is from a baby booklet I picked up from and Op Shop in Newtown. I can see them being worn over a little white romper.

In other Finished Object news, the Christmas presents are finished and posted. Here's another teaser.

I just hope they arrive in time.