Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Dragonflies and Crackle Weaves

Queensland dragonfly (100mm = 4inch wingspan)

Every night over the past few weeks, a pair of dragonflies (100mm = 4inch wingspan) have been entering the house just on dusk before we close doors and windows. They settle for the night on Chinese hanging Christmas decorations (foil) still strung from the ceiling. The dragonflies are pretty safe from geckoes there. And there's no wind inside. In the morning, after it warms up, they fly out one of the windows which we throw open as soon as we rise. I love sharing my home with dragonflies.

River Gum sheds the past
I also love to learn new things. I don't expect to be an expert or authority on any one thing, because I can't resist the lure of learning something new. DH gives me encouragement and reminds me that you often learn more from failure than from success. New creations don't always bring satisfaction. Often they bring inspiration for improvement.

Almost two years ago, before the twin grandsons were born and things got very busy for all concerned, I decided to learn to do a crackle weave with a summer & winter treadling on my 4-harness Gilmore loom. I'd never done a crackle weave threading. An issue of Handwoven (September/October 1994) got me started. I based my project on Dixie Thai's Buttercup Baby Blanket, p 83, in that issue. It took a lot of mental gymnastics on my slow brain's part as I wanted a narrower warp, but just how narrow should I make it and don't forget 18% shrinkage. I had to figure out how many pattern repeats I would need. And I'd be using a different weft. Did I have enough yarn? I made decisions and wound the warp, then the twins were born. One year later I got the warp out of storage, threaded and warped the loom, wove to the end of the warp, cut the fabric off the loom and carefully packed the roll of fabric away as hot weather arrived.

This year's cooling weather and diminishing numbers of eye flies* in the Shed have given me the chance to unpack the roll of woven fabric and set about finishing that fabric. I used our treadle sewing machine to zigzag lines of stitching beside cutting lines of the woven sections. Then I cut apart the sections and pinned the hems. As I refilled a bobbin for the sewing machine, the old leather treadle belt broke (again). No longer repairable, it had to be replaced. I felt incredibly lucky when I located a supplier in a town 45 minutes drive away. I was going to that town anyway for my free two-yearly eye exam (socialised medicine, what a blessing). In the meantime I handstitched the hems on my first newly woven cotton table runner, It's been washed and now lies on our table (photo above). There's more of these crackle pieces waiting to be hemmed and the new treadle belt waiting to be installed.

*eye flies: Queensland's eye, ear, nose and throat flies, small quick and in large numbers this time of year. They swarm about your head and dart into your eyes for a quick drink of eye moisture. We don't like'm at all! 

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


We got to spend some time with the twin grandsons. We had so much fun and, of course, got completely worn out. Grandparents are currently in recovery mode....

Twins require less recovery time

I have managed to fluff a small amount of washed bison fibre into a cloud. I've had a go at using a support spindle to spin a portion of that cloud into a fine yarn.

Before: washed and dried sample of bison fibres on table;
After: fluffed "cloud" in plastic container
I'm so glad I learned to spin cotton on a support spindle before attempting raw bison. Otherwise I might feel VERY frustrated. Learning something new typically involves episodes of frustration, in my experience. DH and I share a love of learning something new. I manage the attendant frustration by keeping sessions short. I've learned to nibble away at things. That's an important strategy for this elder. It works in dealing with many familiar tasks as well. Twins require more than nibbles.

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM

Monday, 9 April 2012

Walking, Knitting, Birding

We've been enjoying our daily walks in beautiful weather over the Easter weekend. None of the usual damp and drizzle that we've come to expect on this holiday. The gorgeous full moon felt close enough to touch.

Morning temperatures have fallen. We put the doona back on the bed and unpacked a few items of winter clothing from the trunks though we don't need to wear much in the way of warm clothing yet. I am loving the ankle warmers that I knit from natural brown, handspun Corriedale wool last winter. The ankle warmers keep me feeling comfortable in the morning and evening without needing socks.

Ankle warmers for DH
I encouraged DH to wear my ankle warmers one evening. He looked dubious, but gave it a go and soon wanted a pair of his own. I made his pair from hand-spun Corriedale that I had dyed purple. Being warm feels great and so does using yarn that I've created and stashed in previous years. Come to think of it, DH did some of the handspinning of that Corriedale yarn on an electronic spinner that we rented from the local guild.

Squatter Pigeon in Far North Queensland
A pair of Squatter Pigeons appeared in the mowed area around the house and hung around for a few days. We didn't see a mating display, but you can see that in this remarkable photo by photographer Rod Warnock.

Post by M in JaM
Photos by J in JaM

Monday, 2 April 2012

Pardalotes and Cockatoos

In April 2010 a Striated Pardalote provided us with a photo opportunity when he engaged with his reflection in the window beside a hanging planter. We haven't yet seen or heard any pardalotes this year.

Pardalotes always make me smile. We listen for their simple song. They can be hard to spot in the trees. Sometimes we see one fly out of its burrow in a sandy bank. Sometimes we see what appears to be a leaf fall from a tree, flutter toward the ground, only to wing into a burrow at the last minute. They range between 9-11.5 cm (3-1/2 to 4-1/2 inches ) in size.

We've seen fewer numbers of Red-tailed Black Cockatoos (63 cm; 25 in) in the last couple of years. In the previous twenty years that we've lived here they heralded each Wet Season and we looked forward to their appearance. They sound to me like minature elephants trumpeting gently. Flocks of twenty  and more of these large birds sometimes flew overhead. Typically, 3-6 individuals would settle in a nearby bloodwood tree where they would shred gumnuts and feed on the minute seeds.

Black cockatoos seem to have been replaced by Sulphur-crested Cockatoos (45 cm; 18 in), extremely loud and raucous birds that flock in higher numbers. It is likely loss of habitat that drives them into new territories. Always on the lookout for fruit and nut trees, especially orchards, they have learned to be very wary of people, but their voice and white colour do not work well as elements of camoflage when raiding. Our neighbours have numerous fruit and nut trees. How could a white cockatoo resist?

And how could I resist linking to Snowball (cockatoo), the first non-human capable of beat induction (that is, dancing). Just for fun, have a look at Snowball dancing in a 35 sec commercial.

post by M in JaM
pix by J in JaM