25 January 2012

In the garden

WARNING - there are photos of spiders later in this posting, so if you don't like spiders you should probably skip this one.

When I was in Brisbane over Christmas, I spent a bit of time wandering around the garden with my camera and macro lens, looking for interesting things to photograph. I love finding patterns in interesting plant foliage and flowers, and I also like spiders and other creepy-crawlies. I know, I'm a bit strange :-)

Anyway, I'll start with some of the plant photos I took, so as not to startle those people who don't like spiders.

This orchid was in bloom, with lovely sprays of gold and purple flowers. I love the complexity of orchid flowers.

I love the abstract look of this hibiscus flower. The macro lens has a very small depth of field when you're close up, so it's impossible to have the whole flower in focus.

The rolled-up leaves at the centre of this plant make an interesting pattern.

I think this is a different coloured hibiscus. The veins in the furled-up flower bud are really pretty.

The colour of the flowers on this bromeliad is so striking - the pink stems really stand out from the powdery mauve buds.

And now, transitioning into insects and other critters. I love these little blue butterflies. They actually have a 'false head' at the back end of their wings, complete with false antennae. When they're sitting still they will often wiggle these around, hoping to persuade predators to go for that end instead of the real head.

There were lots of these spiders around the garden. They really are beautiful when you look at them close up.

This was a different kind of 'garden spider'. I love its yellow elbows/knees.

And finally, a really cute little jumping spider, which I spotted while I was photographing the butterfly. It was lurking in the background as if it wanted to leap onto the butterfly, but I think it would have been outmatched because it was much smaller than its potential prey. It really was only about 3 or 4 mm long.

Here you can see all 8 of its eyes, looking in all directions, as it prepares to make a mighty leap off the twig.

Next time, back to some spinning and knitting progress photos.

15 January 2012

Nature Walk

This morning I thought it would be fun to do a nature walk around the university campus to see what was around. My husband and I often cover some of this territory on our regular morning walks, but this time we both took our cameras, and extended the walk to visit some of the wetlands on the edge of the campus.

It was later than we usually walk during the week, and already quite warm. There were still quite a few birds and other things around though.

Noisy miners are common around the campus. They love the many flowering grevillias and other bushes. This one was hopping around in a shady tree.

Australian magpies have a lovely warbling call. They are very common and relatively approachable. This one was sitting on top of a fence post keeping an eye out for edible things in the grass. There were others around the grassy areas, stalking around and chomping down on the occasional grub.

The galahs have been feeding in the grassy paddocks recently, eating seed heads and dandelion flowers. From a distance, with their heads down, they are hard to spot. Only when they put their heads up to watch us were they more visible. There were a few young birds in the flock, with very grey plumage instead of bright pink.

Red-rumped parrots are another common parrot around the area. They generally feed on the ground, almost invisible as they are the same colour as the grass. When flushed they often fly up and perch on fence posts or wire, as this male has done.

When we reached the wetlands there were a lot of birds around, attracted to the permanent water. We flushed a couple of purple swamphens, which flew awkwardly and perched in some trees on an island in the middle of the largest pond.

Some corellas came down to drink. They were quite wary, sitting on a dead branch in the water and flying up as soon as they had finished drinking.

This galah showed up bright pink against the brown and green of the foliage.

The tall dead trees in the water provided a good perch for several types of birds. When we arrived a flock of white ibis were resting in the branches, sometimes having trouble maintaining their balance in the breeze. A lone white-faced heron was resting in the lower branches.

As we watched, a flock of straw-necked ibis came in to join the white ibis, along with a few little pied cormorants with stained chests from the muddy water. The dead tree looked like a Christmas tree, decorated with black-and-white birds.

On the way back a couple of eastern rosellas flew past. I caught a photo of one watching me from a branch, but didn't manage to get a photo of the yellow rosellas that also went by.

As well as birds, insects were also in evidence along the walk. There were a few butterflies, too quick to photograph, and also a few dragonflies near the water. A couple of small eucalypts looked like they were being badly eaten by something. Perhaps these beetles were the culprit.

Ants were everywhere, and we had to be careful that we weren't standing on a nest when we stopped. They were fairly lively in the heat, and especially so when we disturbed them.

Overall it was a very interesting walk. I was surprised at how many birds were active even in the summer heat.

09 January 2012

Knitting and spinning goals, part 2

I finished spinning the Icelandic fibre that I was working on. It ended up as about 250m of fuzzy fingering-weight yarn. Because I wasn't particularly consistent in my spinning between the two halves of the braid, part of it is fairly well matched in colour and the rest is pretty striped.

I'm not sure what I will do with it - I was originally hoping to make socks, and I think I will still try to find a pattern that I can knit toe-up and two-at-a-time, as I will probably need to make them quite short. I'm not sure what to do about the striping issue. I don't really want one plain sock and one stripy sock, so I may try dividing the yarn at the point where it starts getting really stripy and start with the 'plainer' part for the feet, then change to the stripier part when that runs out.

Knitting with this will probably wait for a while, however, because I have some other goals for 2012 that I would like to get started on. The biggest one is that I want to join in a sweater SAL being organised by one of my favorite dyers, David from Southern Cross Fibres. This is going to be a real challenge for me for lots of reasons, the first of which is because of the amount of time it's going to take! Choosing what fibre to use is going to be another difficulty. I have a couple of colourways that I have 4 braids of, but I'm torn between using one of these or choosing a couple of colours that I have 2 braids of and mixing them in some way. Before I even start spinning though, I'm going to do some more reading about spin control and twist, to see if I can work out a goal for how to spin the yarn. I may even have to (shock horror) do some sampling. As part of the preparation for this project I'm going to start keeping a notebook with notes and spinning samples.

My final goal for 2012, which is somewhat in conflict with all of the other goals, is to finish some of the UFO's that I have in various bags around the place. At the moment I have:
  • the BFL socks that I pictured in the previous entry
  • a Kaffe Fassett jumper pattern that I'm knitting for my husband, started last Easter, finished the back and partway through the front. I love this pattern but it requires quite a bit of concentration so it's not something that I can just pick up and put down

  • an Advent Calender scarf, for which I'm up to day 12. This, although it's lace, is pretty easy knitting so it's an easy project for odd minutes of knitting

  • a blue vest, just needs sewing together and knitting the neck and arm bands
  • 3 shawls, two of which were KALs. One of these is nearly finished (it was my choir rehearsal knitting for much of last year), one is only on clue 4 out of 12 and the other is a fair way through but uses lots of beads so is quite slow. All of these are really 'process' rather than 'product' projects because I don't wear shawls much, but I really like knitting them
  • a Queen Susan Shawl, which is barely started and hasn't been worked on for about a year. I started this and soon realised that it requires so much concentration to knit that I stopped working on it
 On a totally unrelated topic, some notes on birds from last week. I tried to take some photos with my phone of the two white-faced herons that have been hanging around in the creek/drainage channel behind work. It was difficult as they don't let me get too close before they take off, but I got some that I cropped down a bit.

Also, lots of galahs around this morning after the overnight rain. They seemed particularly playful, flapping around in groups and feeding in the long grass.

04 January 2012

Knitting and spinning goals for 2012, part 1

 I've set myself some goals for 2012 in terms of knitting and spinning. Of course, last year I set some goals too, but they went out the window somewhere along the way. This year hopefully I will be a bit more organised.

 My main goal for 2012 is to learn how to spin better. I only took up spinning partway through last year, just before the Tour de France so I was able to participate in the Tour de Fleece organised through Ravelry. Luckily I had done some spindle spinning many many years ago, so I didn't seem to go through the 'lumpy art yarn' stage that many people experience. However, although I love spindles, I find them a bit slow to use and I never found the spinning process very relaxing. (I know, I just need to practice more...)

Luckily, I had a friend with a wheel she wasn't using, and she was happy to lend it to me to try out. It was a Tarra, made in Victoria, single treadle, double drive:
I had great fun for a few months in the time I could steal away from my knitting and other projects, and managed to produce some quite useable yarn, thanks no doubt to the quality of the fibre as much as my spinning efforts.

But I really wanted a wheel of my very own. I looked at pictures and prices and reviews, and finally decided on a Schacht Ladybug. I was lucky enough to be able to try one out, put in my order immediately, and a week or so before Christmas a big box arrived via courier!

Although I haven't had a great deal of time between then and now to spin, I have managed to do one bump of singles. The choice of which fibre to use to christen my wheel was hard - it had to be something that was fairly easy to spin, something that I liked but that I wouldn't be devastated if it didn't turn out exactly how I planned. I settled on some Icelandic fleece dyed by the lovely Charly, aka Ixchelbunny. I love spinning long wool, and I made a real effort not to over-spin and to try and get some consistency in both thickness and twist. The results so far:

I still haven't really noticed the difference in feel between ST and DD (I've been using ST), but I'm sure I will as I spin more different types of yarns. I want to really work out the look and feel of yarns with different amount of twist, and try to quantify this in terms of the ratio and pedalling speed. A long-term goal I think, but I will work on it slowly.

My next goal, left over from last year, is to knit more socks. I love knitting socks, there are so many beautiful patterns out there. I wanted to knit lots of socks last year but I got somewhat distracted by other things. I have, however, started 2012 with some socks:
These are Jeannie's Magic Mirror socks, my first socks knit with hand-spun yarn. The yarn is made from BFL from Moseley Park, actually the first yarn I spun after the anonymous fluff that came with my first spindle. Luckily, even though I didn't really know what I was doing in terms of dividing up the fibre for spinning or plying, the colour gradient seems to have turned out well so far.

I have quite a few single bumps of fibre, which I can see destined for socks. As I spin, I'd like to experiment with different colour effects, always fun with small projects like socks if you don't mind different colours and stripes on the two socks.

I have a couple more goals for 2012, but I will save those for part 2.

01 January 2012

2012 - a new year, a new blog

January 1st 2012, the first of what I hope will be a regular blogging 'habit', and hopefully of interest to someone besides myself.

This first post will be pretty short while I get the hang of this new way of expressing myself, and decide what it is I really want to write about. I plan to mainly talk about my ongoing knitting and spinning projects, particularly as I've only recently started spinning and am still on a fairly steep learning curve.

I will also talk about, and hopefully show photos of, the birds that I see around the place, and any travel that I get to do during the year. As well, I'll mention anything else that happens to strike my interest, particularly interesting or quirky technological bits and pieces.

To finish off, a couple of photos that I took with my iPhone in the centre of Brisbane the other day (surprisingly good quality for a phone):

A Christmas angel in the Queen Street Mall

Lovely terrace on an old hotel.

Next time I'll talk about my current knitting and spinning projects.