Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sorted: Communing with the stash

#a month of moments
30. sorted
Every knitter worth their salt has a stash. Stashes are odd things. You start off with a few tiny leftover balls of wool from your first big project. You buy the occasional ball of deliciously smoochy yarn at your local yarn store or a craft show. People see and admire your knitting talents and decide to gift you with the relics of Great Aunty Lucy's yarn hoarding skills after her demise due to extreme old age.

And before you know it, the stash has invaded your house. There are odd balls of wool breeding in secret with the dust bunnies behind the couch. Opening the hall way cupboards becomes a dicey exercise as you have forced the stash in there so tightly, it is effectively spring loaded. Strange garbage bags infest shadowy corners in the laundry, and when the better half tries to put them out with rubbish you have to sheepishly admit that they are, in fact, full of yarn. There is wool in the drawer with the videos and remote control thingies and cotton in the kitchen drawers (but the chef was using that to truss a lamb roast, I think that excuses this).

You have to control the stash. You can't let it control you and you really have to vigilantly police it to prevent unauthorized breeding practices which can result in undesirable un-knittable fibre. Imagine eyelash yarn breeding with that horrible mesh stuff for example.... The thought makes me shudder.
Photo credit: assasindwntheavenue. Uncontrolled stashes are susceptible to tangling like this.
A few years ago, my stash got seriously out of hand. It was all jumbled into the aforementioned garbage bags and they just weren't up to the strain. There were cracks appearing and stray balls of yarn were staging sneaky escapes and rolling away into inaccessible corners or the middle of major walkways leading to some quite nasty "slipped on a ball of yarn" injuries. A lot of it was shoved behind the stereo on the principle that if I couldn't see it easily, I didn't have to deal with its bad behavior. The worst of it was that, I had no idea what was there and could never find the right ball of yarn when I needed it. It wasn't even serving it's purpose in life! Then the head of the household gave me an ultimatum, either I indulged in some seriously stash wrestling or he would. I knew exactly what that meant. That's man code for I'll throw out anything I don't think is important. And as much as love and appreciate my man, he is no connoisseur of fibre. I would have lost the lot!!!!

He generously gave me my own hall way linen cupboard for the stash and allows a certain contained overflow into the lounge room. So I thought I'd share with you my accumulated knowledge of successful stash taming. Here's are the four C's of stash control.

Step 1: Cull the stash. I know this is hard, but be ruthless. Life it too short to knit with bad fibre. My stash had expanded exponentially due to donations from random relatives and well meaning friends. There were a lot of things in there that I was never going to touch with a 10 foot pair of knitting needles. I'm a little bit of a fibre snob. No, that's a bit harsh but I don't like knitting with anything much larger than 6mm needles and worsted / aran / 10 ply weight yarn. So all the chunky and super chunky stuff got donated (and on the plus side, this really diminished the bulk of the stash). Cheap and nasty acrylic got donated to the local nursing home where it can be reincarnated as lacy knitted coat-hangers. Generally all the fluffy stuff got given away too. I kept a limited amount of real mohair and stuff for doll hair. You could make money out of this stage - sell the quality stash you are never going to use 'cos it's the wrong colour or because you are allergic to it, etc... Use Ravelry to arrange stash swaps or advertise your sale.

Step 2: Categorize and catalog the stash. You need a stash filing system. Find what works for you. In my case, my stash is arranged by colour. Colour works for me cos that's how I tend to plan new projects. You'll also notice my stash is in clear containers so I can quickly open the cupboard and see what is there. I also have to secretly admit that its arranged in colour order because it makes the stash a thing of beauty truly reflecting its potential. I love how opening the door to this rainbow of colours makes my heart sing.
Here's a few more ideas for a stash filing system that might work for you. Create a stash spreadsheet with columns for all the information, e.g. yarn weight, no. of balls / skeins, fibre type, colour, dye lot, manufacturer, etc... Or do this by hand in a stash book. Photograph your yarn and use the stash feature in Ravelry to document it. Organize your fibre by yarn weight or potential project type (e.g. stick all the sock-weight yarn together). It doesn't matter what you do to organize your stash. The idea is to be able to find what you want easily and know what you have. My stash is still sort of a lottery as to locate something specific I get to pull out a colour box and rummage through it to see what specific yarns it contains. This is fun. See also Step 4: Communing with the stash.
Brown stash box. You can also store semi completed projects in with the stash.
Step 3: Contain the stash. Stash storage at my place comes in three major categories, Immediately At Hand stash, Short Term Storage and Long Term Storage.
Baskets are ideal for the first two categories. The basket on the left is Immediately At Hand Stash. This is the wool I am using to crochet my daughter's Granny Wants a Latte Macchiato granny rug. The basket on the right is short term stash. This tends to be two things; yarn for the next few things on the "To be Knit" queue and new acquired stash which still needs to be fondled and admired regularly.
Another short term storage basket. This is the resting WIP basket.
There are three essential requirements for long term stash storage. The first is that is needs to be dust proof and insect and vermin proof. Some knitters have uncontrollable nightmares about moths invading their stash. (See for example : the Yarn Harlot). So sealed containers are best. The second is that it needs to be compact. I love the idea of stack-able containers and it allows you to make optimal use of the space you've got. It also solves that stash falling out of the cupboard and burying you up to your neck in a pile of yarn issue. My third criteria is that you need to be able to see what is in the container without unpacking it. So clear containers or clear lids are a good idea.
Here three containers wide by four containers high exactly fills up the lower two thirds of my stash cupboard. There is a shelf above this too.
Space bags (vacuum seal storage bags) also work well as a storage method, especially for jumper amounts of yarn. Here's some charcoal grey yarn waiting patiently for its turn in the queue. Its going to be crocheted into a Saturn sweater.

Step 4: Commune with the stash. A stash that is neglected gets feral. You need to talk to it, caress it, cuddle it, plan with it and use it. For most of the last year, I have only used yarn from the stash. Don't panic if it looks like the stash is getting smaller, this is the general idea and you have to learn to embrace it. You can always replace it with new stuff you'll love just as much... Trust me.
Remember Scrooge McDuck and his money pit? Image replacing the money with yarn and this is my ultimate fantasy for communing with the stash.
Wait a minute someone has already done this. MoMA PS1 Yarn Pit installation.
How do you deal with your stash? Do you have a system or is it a free range stash, left to roam to its own inclination. Do you sort it by yarn weight or type? By colour like I do? Or is it by amount and purpose? (i.e. That's a jumper/sweater worth. There's a shawl, a pair of socks, etc...). I've love to know! Maybe we can help each other discover the best way to tame the stash.

And just when I thought I had it all under control, I turned around to see this.....  A box of feral wool that escaped the stash when the daughter was rummaging for yarn to make a fairisle cushion on the weekend. At least it has tried to make itself tidy by jumping into the box the veggies came in. You must be unceasingly vigilant.
 Jo-ann

Project 365: Week 4


Is it really Week 4 of 2013 already? Week 4 is the end of the long summer holidays for most of us Australians. It's Australia Day on January 26th, a chance to celebrate our Australian-ess and have a long weekend. In our family, Australia Day is also Melissa (Mel) Birthday day! So it has been a week of gearing up to go back to school and work seriously and some quiet family celebration, sport on TV and awesome food. (The Chef was inspired this year).

In honour of our country's birthday: (Adapted courtesy of Adrift: I'd post a link to the original source if I could find it. I've had several versions of this in my facebook feed this week too). (If you are just looking for this week's photos, if you scroll down I promise there are photos too).
You know you’re Australian when…
  1. You’re familiar with Neighbours, Home and Away, Playschool, A Country Practice, Norman Gunston, Barry Humphries, Blue Heelers, Ray Martin, Bert Newton, Lisa McCune, Jon Burgess, Number 96, Molly Meldrum, Kerry O’Brien, and of course, Kerry Packer and Rupert Murdoch.
  2. You know that Burger King doesn’t exist. It’s Hungry Jacks.
  3. You know that snow is a memorable and freakish occurrence. Sometimes it’s even fake.
  4. You know the difference between thongs and a G-string.
  5. You know that “stubbies” are either short shorts or small beer bottles, a “gimp”, “bogan” or “geezer” is a random idiot, someone in trouble is in “strife” and you’re liable to burst out laughing whenever you hear of Americans “rooting” for something.
  6. You know how to abbreviate every word, all of which usually end in -o: arvo, combo, garbo, kero, lezzo, metho, milko, muso, rego, servo, smoko, speedo, righto etc.
  7. You know that some people pronounce Australia like “Strayla” and that’s ok.
  8. You know that there is a universal place called “woop woop” located in the middle of nowhere… no matter where you actually are.
  9. You know that while we call our friends ‘mates’, we don’t use terms like ‘sheila’ and ‘shrimp on the barbie’, contrary to popular belief.
  10. One word: Skippy.
  11. You know our country has never been conquered by a foreign nation (you don’t count 1788).
  12. You know that New Zealanders are basically our naive country cousins, who have a weird fush-and-chups accent and, for some bizare reason, think that they invented pavlova. They are to be pitied. They have no hope of gaining the upper hand in the endless sporting rivalry between our two nations.
  13. You know that Americans think we’re all Steve Irwin clones. And crickey, they couldn’t be more wrong.
  14. You have some time in your life slept with Aeroguard on in the summer. Maybe even as perfume.
  15. You feel obliged to spread salty black stuff that looks like congealed motor oil on bread… and actually grow to like it. You’ve also squeeze Vegemite through Vita Wheats to make little Vegemite worms.
  16. You believe that democracy means the freedom to draw caricatures of our prime-minster.
  17. You have the ability to compress several words into one – ie ‘g’day’ and ‘d’reckn?’. This allows more space for profanities.
  18. You’ve ever used the words – tops, ripper, sick, mad, rad, sweet – to mean good. And then you place ‘bloody’ in front of it when you REALLY mean it.
  19. You know that the barbeque is a political arena; the person holding the tongs is always the boss and usually a man. And the women make the salad.
  20. You say ‘no worries’ quite often, whether you realise it or not.
  21. You know what fairy bread tastes like, and you can’t imagine your childhood without it.
  22. You know the first verse to the national anthem, but still don’t know what “girt” means. And you’re ok with that.
  23. You’ve drank your tea/coffee/milo through a Tim Tam.
  24. You know that backyard cricket is a nice way to bond with family and the rubbish bin. And the ‘one bounce, one hand’ rule always applies.
  25. You see people walking bare-foot on the footpath and don’t scorn…. because you’re doing it too.
  26. You know that in summer a seat belt buckle becomes a pretty good branding iron.
  27. You firmly believe that in the end, everything will be ok and have offered advice that included the words, “she’ll be right, mate”.
  28. You’ve ordered a steak the size as your head and only paid $10 at your local RSL.
  29. You know how to slip, slop, slap like it’s nobody’s business.
  30. You know that the value of a public holiday is measured in terms of alchohol. God bless the Queen and her 4-day birthday.
  31. You know Drop Bears exist. Positively.
  32. You know Australia IS the best bloody place on earth. Bar none.
Day 22: Chewed dolly fingers. I did this when I was little and I wish to apologize for it now. Read more about what this hand is attached to here.
Day 23: Early morning sunshine in the corridor outside my office. Why am I at work at 7.40 am. Oh, that's right. It's a complicated tale of moving cars so they don't get parking fines 'cos someones off fighting fires again.
Day 24: My desk again. This is a demonstration of a little known mathematical law. The state of tidiness of my desk is inversely proportional to my productiveness. That's right. Nothing much is getting done here.
Day 25: This is a tennis photo. True. I finished the neckband of my jumper whilst watching Rodger Federer get beaten by Andy Murray in the semi finals of the Australian Open tennis. I have made an entire jumper since the beginning of January!
Day 26: Happy Birthday Australia and Happy Birthday Mel! This is a Lemon meringue cheesecake, a brand new Masterchef worthy invention by the head chef himself. It's all because of a text message mix up from the fire front.
Day 27: This is "snot block". This is a lovely affectionate name for Vanilla slice. Homemade by our resident chef. Passion-fruit icing
Day 28: Shopping! Escorting the birthday girl and her friend Louise to Fountain Gate to buy a camera as a birthday present.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Interview with a Designer: Anne Hanson of Knitspot

#a month of moments
28. Special
When I first started to tentatively explore the wonderful inter-linked fibre community that exists on the internet, I discovered that there were these wonderful things called knitting blogs. There were people just like me who knit things and photographed them then blogged / babbled about it. Any no-one (except possibly their significant others) thought they were weird. It was a revelation.

I'm not even sure how I first found the knitspot blog. Probably through something prosaic like typing "knitting blogs" into Google and following people's blogroll lists. Anyway once I found knitspot, I've kept coming back. Anne provides a fascinating doorway on her blog into her life as a working knitting designer and teacher.

So when I first decided on the wild idea of interviewing my favourite designers to find out what makes them tick, Anne just naturally ended up on the top of my wishlist. So, cue a massive virtual drum roll: Here is my first Interview with a Designer. 

Who or what is knitspot?
knitspot is the home on the web of knitting designer Anne Hanson. I just love the stuff Anne designs. Anne is an amazingly prolific designer. For example, there are currently 57 different lace shawl and wrap designs listed in the knitspot shop and 53 handknits for feet!  From practical accessories and wearable garments, through gorgeous socks (with a real emphasis on socks guys would wear and Unisex designs) and the most ethereal lacy shawls, I love them all. I decided that I'm sort of going to use this post in two ways; as well as finding out a little more about Anne the designer, I want to highlight some of my favourite knitspot patterns in the pictures accompanying it.
So this is Anne modelling my favorite cardigan design Blumchen. This cardigan is currently top of the "to make queue". It's the delicate combination of cables and lace and tailored shaping that all goes together to make it just perfect! (I just need to find the yarn to do it justice now).
A team effort
Anne doesn't work alone. She is ably assisted by her partner David (affectionately referred to as Mr Knitspot). David is a photographer extraordinaire and the driving force behind the knitspot clubs (More on those in a minute). He's even learned to knit. Erica also shares the load. Her blog handle is majordomo, which is a pretty good description for what I am sure is a jack of all trades / right hand man person / awesome assistant and generally the one who gets the odd things done job (no matter how odd). Clearly being a knitting designer of this calibre requires a team effort and a close knit team (Pardon the pun).
David modelling the Stromming hat
Clubbing with Knitspot
But knitspot is so much more than patterns. A couple of years ago, Anne and David set up two knitting clubs: Fall in Full Color and the Bare Naked Knit Club. Both of these are in their second offering. I'll let the knitspot team describe them.
Description:
"We will explore a variety of gorgeous fibers and colors through a series of intermediate fall and winter accessory projects. Each project is designed by Anne specifically for a custom yarn, to be portable and fun to knit, appropriate for gifting or keeping as a treat to oneself.

Yarns will include a selection of hand dyed choices from familiar knitspot favorites as well as new collaborating artists. A range of yarn weights and luxury fiber blends (mostly animal fibers) will be represented".
Hazeline: From the 2011 FIFC Club
Clubbing in the raw: exploring the beauty of knitting fiber the way nature made it

Description:
"In this club we’ll knit with a variety of fibers in their natural, undyed state to learn about and appreciate the unique characteristics of each. Yarns will be a surprise each month but will include a range of animal and/or vegetable fibers (sheep, goat, camelids, yak, silk, and cotton are some possibilities) in shades from cream to khaki to gray to chocolate—”sheepy” yarns if you will. Some will be soft, some will be lustrous, some will have stout, sturdy character that softens over time with long use (like vintage blue jeans). Yarn weights will vary; projects will focus on accessories, scarves, and shawls (possibly including a sock or baby item) that feature lace and openwork stitch patterns".
Waffle creams: One of 2012's Bare Naked Knitspot designs
So what do you get if you join a club? For starters, a pattern ebook each month. As well as the pattern, this includes the story behind the yarn and the genesis of the pattern. You get the yarn to knit the pattern. And not just any yarn, scrumptious, limited edition, rare one-of-a-kind yarn from indie dyers and fibre growers and manufacturers.You get access to a ravelry clubhouse where the clubbies share their progress, trials and missteps and finished projects. These are not just clubs, they are full fledged knitting communities with members near and far flung and worldwide. I'd love to join one of these clubs, but living down under in Australia makes it hard to justify the expense to my significant other.... I lamented this fact in the comments on the blog post announcing the sign ups for the Fall in First Color club for 2012 and got back a nice personal email from Mr Knitspot himself commiserating with me. Knitspot deserves a Knitting Community Building Award for these clubs at the very least. I think I'll have to invent one.
Twig and Leaf shawl
But wait, there's more - now with added yarn
And in really exciting breaking news, the clubs have given birth to a new venture for knitspot too. They are getting ready to launch their own barenaked wools yarn label! The first yarn yarn release will be a yarn that was created and shipped in last year’s barenaked club - the breakfast blend, described as a beautiful marriage of merino and alpaca in five natural shades and two yarn weights (fingering or 4ply and DK or 8ply). The fingering weight will have a bit of nylon added to strengthen it for sock knitting if desired (but not so much nylon that it gets in the way of making pretty lace that blocks beautifully). This is the yarn, the waffle cream socks pictured above were knitted from. This will be available for purchase from the knitspot shop very soon...
Here's a sneak peak. A squeeze me hat in progress with the new breakfast blend yarn. Isn't it a great name. Conjures up images of an amazing tea blend for me.
So I got the opportunity to ask Anne some questions which she very graciously answered. (I only wish that I asked more - her answers were so interesting).
Leaving
How did you end up becoming a full time knitwear designer?
Well, becoming a full-time designer is really a culmination of my life's work in all fiber pursuits. I learned to knit and sew as a very young child and have a deep background in garment construction, having worked for years as a stitcher, tailor, and draper/patternmaker in the garment and costuming trades. At a certain point my professional training collided with my knitting hobby and I received encouragement by designers I worked with to pursue some direction with knitting. By experimenting and developing my skills over a period of years, I emerged as a designer of knitwear.
Hillflowers
What is your favourite part of the creative process?
Hmm, I suppose that composing with stitch patterns to realize a concept I carry in my head is the most pleasurable and artistic part of the process for me. But I DO like writing up the instructions an awful lot as well; producing a good, usable pattern is a thing of beauty for me.
Slofock cap. (Tricky name)
What triggers a new design?
Oh, my designs come from a variety of sources; I keep all manner of images in my brain from moments that arrest me. Eventually, they become linked to a stitch motif or fabric surface or construction technique or a yarn that perfectly expresses the idea and away we go toward constructing it.
Pea Vines shawl
And one final question. I find that when I knit in public, I am a rarity here in Australia.
What reactions do you get to knitting in public?
Usually curiosity and storytelling; people either want to know what I'm doing or to share a story they hold about someone they know who knits, maybe even themselves in the past. Many men "come out of the closet" to me as knitters, having been taught by their grandmas in childhood. Haha, of course they always qualify that by assuring me they don't do it NOW. And I always tell them they should take it up again! For fellow travelers, my knitting is like watching a fire; they can't take their eyes off it and find it immensely relaxing.
Acknowledgements
Thanks to Anne Hanson for her time and generosity in helping get my new project off the ground. All photographs copyright knitspot / David Whitfield / Anne Hanson. And thanks to my creative new friends in the #a month of Facebook group for the encouragement to run and take a flying leap into the unknown. You never give someone the opportunity to say yes unless you ask them.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Shades of a scarf

#a month of moments
26. comfy
I love this scarf. It's like a comfy warm hug around my neck.

This is a very delayed post. I've had all the bits for this floating around for literally months. I finished the scarf in October last year. The draft blog post has been kicking around since November last year but the right words were being elusive. I have the month of moments prompt to thank for getting me off my butt and making me finish it.

At the end of July 2012, my Mum, my Aunty and myself went to The Melbourne Craft & Quilt Fair at Melbourne’s Convention & Exhibition Centre or Jeff's Shed as it is affectionately known by Melbournians. I love craft shows! (The advertising banner below has it spot on). I try to get to at least one each year. It's such fun to immerse myself in a creative world for a whole day. I thoroughly just enjoy looking and being inspired by others' awesomeness and rarely buy much. (Except books and they don't really count do they?)
This time around both my Aunty and I bought a scarf kit from Jane Slicer-Smith at Signatur Handknits. Jane's inventive knitting kits have been around on the Australian craft scene for at least 20 years or so, but I noticed this year she got to appear at Vogue Knitting Live in New York. Lucky her. I'm jealous.

It was both the shape and the colours that got me in. Then I fondled the wool and I was thoroughly hooked. It was so soft and snugly. The wool is called Tonalita - Italian for Shades. (You could also translate it as hues. On the other hand Tonalita is also the name for a particular type of igneous rock found in the Italian Alps).

Pattern: The Wave Length Scarf is created working short rows - or incomplete rows. The pattern has two width options: narrow and wide. I made the narrower 17 stitch scarf.

Yarn: Trendsetter Tonalita yarn made in Italy. The colour I used is called Violet Eyes. It is a 52% Wool, 48% Acrylic blend and despite being a single twist ply is tougher than it looks. This yarn is dyed as an un-spun, raw fiber & then spun into some wonderful color combos. I used two balls.
Needles: 8mm. I was extremely dubious at this. 8mm with 8ply!??? I said. And I had to start it three times 'cos it seemed so wrong to be knitting on such large needles. But I'm glad I persevered. The slightly open stitch structure makes it warm and it drapes beautifully at the same time. But it still felt like knitting on broomsticks!


This was great travel knitting. Here's me knitting it on the train on the way to another craft show in early October with my son and little sister (her birthday present). In fact, in my photo file on my computer, this scarf's picture folder is labelled as "The Craft Show Scarf".
Yes, I know I am headless. My son, who took this, says that the expression on my face when I am concentrating on my knitting is anything but pretty.
I love this scarf. You can almost see how fuzzy and warm it is here.
I'm so glad it wasn't this sort of Tonalita. Not comfy at all!

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Mr Clever

#a month of moments
23. Clever
I love Alan Dart's toys. I have a very precious stack of pages from old English Women's Weeklies from the days when he was resident designer for this magazine. Many of these are for licensed characters that are no longer available; Beatrix Potter, The Wombles, Thomas the Tank Engine, the Flintstones and the Mr Men characters.

I've made lots of Alan's toys over the years. This is the tale of Mr Clever. I initially made Mr Clever as a present for friend who shared my journey back into mature aged return to University study. We bonded over a student focus group redesigning a compulsory Discrete Mathematics course for IT majors. (One of my first jobs for the Uni was actually teaching the new improved version of the unit). We discovered a shared love of sewing. My kids got along OK with her kids. My husband and I enjoyed dinner parties at her place and helped her husband introduced us to the delights of a wine cellar where cost was no option. Grange anyone?

She always told me she wasn't really clever. So I made Mr Clever to tell her I thought she was. Then her life imploded in a messy divorce and we lost contact. So Mr Clever never made it to his intended recipient and hangs around in my office at work. Often he can be seen in my desk trays. Sometimes he hangs out with the pot plant on the top of the filing cabinet. He communes with the stats books on the shelf. He does lots of chilling with his mate, the giant plush white blood cell.
 
Pattern: Mr Clever
Designer: Alan Dart
Pattern Source: English Women's Weekly (January 1997)
Yarn: 8ply DK Acrylic in Orange, Green, Black, White and Red
Needles: 3 mm
Other odd things needed: Thick washing up sponge, toy stuffing, clear glue and pipe-cleaners
Here he is hanging at home over the Christmas holidays after coming home to have a wash to de-cobweb.

I'd really love to get my hands on the pattern for Mr Bump who is the Mr Men character who holds a sentimental place in our family. It is in the full Mr Men pattern book but not in the patterns published in the English Women's Weekly. With a family of martial artists, minor bumps, bruises and petty injuries are an everyday occurrence. We have a joke Best Bruise of the Week award. I think a handmade Mr Bump would encapsulate the spirit of this award beautifully. And Mr Bump is the boy's favourite.
This one is by Hirondelle Knits on Etsy. Can you see why I want to knit one. Cuteness factor off the scale. Come to think of it, it's only about $14 AUD.....

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Loved: Childhood Friends

#a month of moments
22. Loved
When I was little we lived in various caravan parks in heavy industrial towns around Australia as my father pursued his career as a construction electrician; Port Kembla in NSW where the steel industry is town's lifeblood, Mount Isa, the red heart of Outback Queensland and an obscure place called Saraji, about 100 miles inland from Mackay in Queensland, the home of a massive open cut coal mine. I had a constant companion during these years, my teddy who I gave the highly original name of Ted.

My Dad documented my childhood with his super eight camera and there are blurry movies of me running down endless hills swinging teddy by the hand. Me swinging upside down on some jungle gym which wouldn't get Occupational Health and Safety approval today showing my knickers with teddy sitting safely propped against a pole at the base looking out for me. Me curled up sleepily somewhere with teddy tucked under my arm and my thumb firmly in my mouth.
I still have teddy. He lost an eye somewhere and I replaced it with a blue paint thumbprint. His growler gave up the ghost. His fur is threadbare and the oil cloth pads on his paws wore out. A few years ago I launched a teddy rescue mission and totally restored him with new hands and feet, eyes and nose and fresh stuffing. He still shows the signs of being firmly and unconditionally loved but may now live to survive many more years yet.
 


But Ted wasn't an only child. Somewhere in my early years, Susie also came along. Susie was my other constant playmate. She is 15 inches tall (39 cm) about America Girl sized but she was made in England. (It even says so on the back of her head). The weirdest thing about Susie has always been the fact that she has white hair - old lady hair on young girl doll.
The suitcase here holding Susie's clothes is my first school suitcase, or port as we called them in New South Wales.
I nibbled off several of Susie's fingers. Her hair is matted and there is evidence of someone's amateur hairdressing skills. She gives a new definition to the problem of cracked heels. Her arm hangs on by the barest thread. My children have done something to one of her eyes and it doesn't open or close properly anymore and these days her expression is just plain creepy. She badly needs the attention of an expert doll plastic surgeon. But I still love her.
Susie in her winter underwear

I honed my dressmaking skills dressing Susie. When I was little, my Mum made her clothes and Teddy would cross dress in Susie's clothes. As I got older, I learned to sew and the rudiments of pattern drafting from my Grandmother who was a professional seamstress. I remember being able to rummage through her precious offcuts and trimmings to make Susie clothes. Not many of these gorgeous but somewhat shoddily made creations survived to this day.
This was my first dress I made on a sewing machine.
As my own children grew, I raided my Mum's collection of antique doll's clothes knitting patterns and made Susie a new wardrobe. I even made Susie and the girls matching outfits.
Nightie and Dressing gown
This outfit was original made for the boy's defunct knitted boy doll "Man". They also fit Teddy when he wants to dress up and the cable cardie fits Susie too.
Underwear and socks
Some of the wardrobe
The girls had matching outfits to this.
I love how I have my childhood memories packed into my childhood suitcase.