iran: glass and ceramics

One of a series of photo-based posts documenting a trip that my mum and I recently took to Iran. My excitement at being in that beautiful country meant that I sometimes missed the details in our guides talks, so apologies for any incorrect info or mislabeling of photos! Also, I took my old Pentax K100d with me but was unable to get more memory for it so had to use a low-quality format- I hope that doesn’t stop you from seeing the beauty that I saw everywhere…

After flying into Tehran, we spent our first day wandering the streets surrounding our hotel, which encompassed the wonderful Abgineh Museum of glassware and ceramics.

Glass and ceramics museum, Tehran

Approaching the Abgineh glass and ceramics museum, Tehran

With little idea of what to expect of Iranian museums, we were astonished by the beautiful curation and display of the collection… the lower rooms housed objects, both ceremonial and everyday, from up to 3000BC to the Mongol invasion in the 11th century AD.

Glass amulets

Glass talismans, 4-6th century BC, northern Iran

Glass seals- or were they coins?

Glass stamps

Glass and gold necklace

Moulded glass and gold necklace, 4th century BC, Tehran area

Glass jug
Glass flask, 2-4th century AD, eastern Iran
Ceremonial vessel

Rhyton or ceremonial vessel, 1st millenium BC, Markil

Many objects showed an overwhelming sophistication of both functional and aesthetic design…

Beak-spouted tea-pot, 2nd century BC, Tehran area

Beak-spouted tea-pot, 2nd century BC, Tehran area

Cut-glass bowl, 3rd century AD, Gilan, northwest Iran

Cut-glass drinking vessel, 3rd century AD, Gilan, northwest Iran

Cut-glass bowl, 3rd century AD, Gilan, northwest Iran

Cut-glass drinking vessel, 3rd century AD, Gilan, northwest Iran

as well as great finesse in decoration.

Detail of glass vase, Uzbekistan?

Detail of glass vase, Uzbekistan

I particularly loved this four-sided glass display unit with its many little “rooms”! It housed hundreds of small glass objects from a variety of styles and periods.

Glassware display

Glassware display

Glassware display

Glassware display

And I was surprised at how familiar the shapes and motifs were…

Chevron glass bowl

Chevron glass bowl, possibly 3rd century AD

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Stippled glass bowl, possibly 3rd century AD

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Ridged glass bowl, possibly 3rd century AD

How sweet are these little perfume bottles?! They are only about 2cm tall!

Tiny perfume oil bottles

Tiny perfume oil bottles

Upstairs were diverse pieces from the 11th century onwards- some were beautifully simple and functional…

Blown glass bottle

Blown glass bottle

others were whimsical and fantastical….

Childs ceramic whistle

Child’s earthenware whistle

Painted ceramic vessel, unknown

Detail of ceramic vessel decorated with fascinating human/ bird figures

Tile

Cobalt star tile depicting animals, 13th century AD, Kashan

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Bowl with birds and figure

or dramatic, filled with symbols and meaning…

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Bowl with red edging pattern

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Bowl with arabesque decoration, Islamic period, Neyshabour

Earthenware bowl inscribed with blessings in Mandaic, 11-13th century AD, Shooshtar

Earthenware bowl inscribed with blessings in Mandaic, 11-13th century AD, Shooshtar

Bowl with Islamic calligraphy, 13th century AD, Neyshabour

Bowl with Islamic calligraphy, 13th century AD, Neyshabour

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Plate with calligraphy, 13th century AD, Neyshabour

Bowl with Islamic calligraphy, 13th century AD, Neyshabour

Bowl with Islamic calligraphy, 13th century AD, Neyshabour

But all were so incredibly beautiful that we knew this trip into Iran was going to be more than we could have anticipated! Back tomorrow with Iran’s food… or landscape… There’s so much to show you that I can’t decide what to post next!

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home

My feet have finally touched the ground after a wonderful whirlwind of a month. I was so busy in the lead-up to it that I didn’t even mention that I was heading overseas- to Iran! I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow because that incredible country merits its own entire series of posts but basically I flew home and straight into the prep for my classes at the Craft Sessions a few days later. After waking up every morning a few minutes before the 4.30 call to prayer (connecting with my inner Muslim?!) while away, I then found myself in the habit of waking around 12.30am… no doubt jet lag but also pre-event prepping jitters! But all came together for Fridays kick-off and I think we were all super happy to finally be there in the Yarra Valley for the long-anticipated event! I arrived so sleep-deprived that I could barely string three words together (which didn’t help my nerves around teaching and public speaking) but the entire event was filled with such a sense of joy and willingness to share that we all couldn’t help but relax and enjoy the whole thing! That really reflected Felicia, the fantastic woman who drove the event, and her community of supporters… and I am so grateful to have been able to be involved in such a wonderful thing. Thank you, Felicia!

I’m sorry that I can’t show you much of what went on over the weekend but I was so intent on tending my dyepots and meeting people that I hardly took any photos- I didn’t get any of the wonderful designs that participants in my stranded colourwork class came up with and I only managed to take a few in my natural dye classes.

Shibori on silk ready for the indigo vat

Shibori on silk ready for the indigo vat

As often happens, we got the most interesting results with multiple layers of colour; in this case, overdyeing the lurid yellow and oranges we got from soursob and eucalpyts with indigo gave some lovely blues and green, but I was also impressed by the difference in results obtained from Eucalyptus cinerea on yarn premordanted with alum and iron.

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Indigo over soursob, indigo over Eucalyptus cinerea (1 dip and 4 dips)

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Eucalyptus cinerea; premordanted with alum and iron

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Crochet left in overnight to exhaust the indigo vat

Luckily, I’ve been able to enjoy everyone else’s photos and see what happened in all the other classes on social media! If you want to be completely inspired to go to the next one, take a peek at the event blog, on Instagram (using #thecraftsessions) or the Craft Sessions group on Ravelry…

Now, off to the couch to knit for the first time in weeks! And then a VERY early night.

Posted in community, dyeing, knitting and yarn, plants, teaching, travelling | 3 Comments

cake to celebrate

Last night, I was invited to eat with some lovely friends and so offered to bring sweets. The brief was simple; chocolate (that is, kid friendly) and gluten-free. I contemplated my Pinterest food board for a while but nothing seemed right (which made me wonder, does anyone use the recipes/ patterns/ other that they pin or is Pinterest just a place to daydream?!) and so I went back to a very favourite recipe.

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Wedding cake

This is the cake Scotto and I made for our wedding. And yesterday, it was twelve years since we started going out! So it was a lovely way to celebrate that and seeing good friends.

Wedding cake

Wedding cake

The original recipe was the Date-Nut Torte from the Moosewood Cookbook, a low, dense, chewy cake that relies on whipped egg whites and just a bit of flour for texture. After various modifications and lots of tasting, we added in bitter chocolate, dried figs and some really good quality crystallized ginger- and it was a hit at the wedding! I’ve made it quite a few times since, using what I had in the cupboard- as long as you get the batter right, the rest always seems to work. This time, I used dates, chocolate and walnuts and replaced the 1/3 cup flour with a combination of cocoa and almond meal to make it gluten-free- which definitely made it quite fudgy.

Fudgy

Fudgy

In case you’d like to try it, here is my modified recipe…

Gluten-free Date-Nut Torte

4 eggs, separated

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 cup good quality cocoa powder

1/4 cup ground nuts- almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts…

1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

2/3 cup dates, roughly chopped

2/3 cup chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa), roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 170C and grease a 20cm round springform cake tin. Beat egg whites and salt to stiff peaks and set aside. Beat egg yolks with sugar and vanilla until thick and creamy. Stir dry ingredients into egg yolk mix, and then mix in dates. Add 1/4 of egg whites into batter and fold in gently, then fold in remaining whites, just enough to combine.

Pour into pan and cook for 40-50 minutes until the top is springy. This cake will always have a moist centre; avoid drying out the outside by leaving it too long in the oven waiting for the skewer to come out clean!

Serve with cream or ice-cream, ideally something with some bitterness or spice to temper the sweetness of the cake; I’d like to try it with one of these next time!

Enjoy! And happy 12 years, Scotto xx

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classes at handmakers factory

I’m super excited to be running some knitting and dyeing classes for the Handmakers Factory! If you’re not familiar with Nichola and Liesl and the project they are building, you can read about it here… as well as a strong focus on making clothes and other stuff to reduce industry waste and build resourcefulness, I think what is really lovely about this project is the diversity of classes on offer in one place (already, they have sewing, machine and hand knitting, dyeing, knit-a-longs and social sewing sessions) and the way that participants can then document what they make on the Handmakers site… all these things should go a long way in helping to build the community that the project is all about.

All the classes are practical and focus on building skills from the beginning up. For example, Brianna Read of Jack of Diamonds is running a series of individual classes on machine knitting, but you can also sign up for a course of 5 classes which will take you from the first step of assembling your machine (which can be more daunting than it sounds!) all the way to finishing a pair of fingerless cabled gloves. I’ve done a couple of workshops with Bri and she is a great teacher with the rare ability to stay calm in a room full of newbie machine knitters. If you have any inkling that machine knitting is for you, you should sign up for this course- I would have killed for it when I first started working on my machine!

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Once Liesl has worked her magic teaching the basics of hand knitting, my Knitting Tips and Tricks class covers all the little details that enable a new knitter to move on from scarves to all the fun stuff… We’ll cover working accurate swatches, salvaging dropped stitches and fixing mistakes, choosing the right increases and decreases, picking up stitches to work button bands, joining in a new ball and weaving in ends neatly, working a 3-needle cast-off and more.

Finishing Knits follows on and covers the essential skills involved in putting together knitted garments in a professional way, including short-row shoulders, seaming, easing the pieces to fit, grafting, weaving in ends, blocking (when and how to do it), sewing on buttons and trim and more. Knitters of all levels often start to feel faint at this point of the knitting process, which is why so many garments lie unfinished for years- I thinks it’s important to learn how to break the process down into individual, manageable steps, so that you feel confident and inspired to get all those UFOs out of the cupboard!

And, just in time for the beginning of summer, I’m running a Basics of Natural Dyeing class to demonstrate the essentials of dyeing with natural materials. We’ll cover the main methods of extracting colour and how to apply it to fabric and yarn, fibre preparation and mordanting, equipment, safety and more. We’ll then look at the colour potential of our kitchen and medicine cupboards, garden and surrounding landscape, as well as sourcing more exotic dyestuffs and will work with several dyebaths from seasonally available materials. Participants get to take away small samples of yarn and fabric from the dyebath. Should be lots of fun!

You can find the dates and details of my classes at Classes at the top of this page; for details on the whole range of classes available, go to Handmakers!

Posted in community, dyeing, knitting and yarn | 4 Comments

giveaway!

Just a very short (and photo-free!) post to say a huge thanks for all your much-appreciated well wishes for both my new job and the little online shop I’m opening! Nothing like announcing things publicly to get the ball rolling, huh. It’s almost there and just needs a few tweaks… If you are super keen, you can sign up for email updates by filling out the form in the shop link above but, in the meantime, you can win yourself one of my cowls or one of the beautiful offerings from the other Craft Sessions teachers by entering the lovely Che and Fidel Craft Sessions giveaway– good luck!

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new beginnings in work

As many of you know, for a bunch of reasons, I’ve needed to focus a lot of energy on things happening around me and to people close to me for a good year or more. It’s left me deeply exhausted with no energy to undertake anything really new or challenging, especially anything that relies on my own impetus and momentum… I just haven’t had any! I’ve struggled with that and found it really hard to find the balance between surrendering to the process (which is essential and absolutely what I have wanted and needed to do) and maintaining a sense of myself and my own purpose. I’ve also found that, when something terrible happens to someone you love, it can be hard to feel ok about putting energy into good things, about making new beginnings when they may have only endings. This is only my experience up to this point… I hope that others experience and see it differently and I am sure many of those terminally ill would tell me I am wrong in feeling the way I have. When Michelle wrote beautifully about this recently, she reminded me of the need for hope and beauty in the face of darkness. I think I still have a lot to learn about life.

And so I am making some new beginnings. Today I start at Sunspun, the best little yarn shop in town! My friend Amy recently took over this lovely old girl and, while the the best and most beautiful aspects of the shop will endure, she’s gradually making some great changes. I get to work with very beautiful yarn and great friends and to meet a whole new group of knitters- I couldn’t be more thrilled… Come and say hello to us sometime soon! This new position means that I’ll no longer be on the floor at Morris and Sons (though I’ll still be teaching there most Saturday afternoons) and I’m really quite sad to say goodbye to my community there- it’s been 4 1/2 years and everyone is like family!! However, this knit community of ours is a small one and I think we’ll be seeing each other for sure… and the change will ultimately be a good thing for me.

I’m also working towards putting out there the colourwork cowls (non-knitters: read neckwarmers!) that I’ve been making recently. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while and I finally have the space and energy to set up and run a little online shop. See the shop tab on my header?! It isn’t connected to my bigcartel shop yet, but it will be very soon!

This cowl design is a simple, double-layer tube made on my hand-operated vintage knitting machine. The rectangle works really well as a canvas for colourwork patterns,  all inspired by botanical shapes, naturally! The shape and size mean that it sits comfortably around the neck and the double layer keeps the warmth in and the wind out.

Red on blue

Deco Fern in jasper: marlin colourway

Jasper on Marlin

Deco Fern in jasper: marlin colourway

Several commissions for a good friend Amanda has given me the kickstart I needed to get moving on these. Anyone who knows Amanda will immediately recognize her colour palette- grey on grey on grey! I’ll be working with a much wider range of colours in lambswool for mine but I really loved working with Amanda’s colours and luxury fibres- cashmere and mink!

Snow cowl

Snow cowl

Snow cowl: detail

Snow cowl: detail

Honeycomb cowl

Deco Fern cowl

Honeycomb cowl

Banksia cowl

Honeycomb cowl: detail

Banksia cowl: detail

So, as well as working on some new classes for the Craft Sessions, that’s a fair bit of new! Wish me luck with it all… I’m feeling super excited but a bit overwhelmed too.

Posted in knitting and yarn, plants, textiles | Tagged , | 15 Comments

finished ursula, willamette and celes

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this little place has swapped from knitting blog to dye blog… not that I mean to limit it to just one topic, but it has been pretty dye-heavy recently. That’s mostly because, along with my dye sample book, it works well as a log for dyeing experiments, rather than because of a lack of knitting!

This is my version of the Ursula Cardigan from Kate Davies’ Colours of Shetland

Ursula

Ursula

Ursula

Ursula

Ursula

Ursula

I chose muted colours very different to Kate’s fresh, clear palette; it makes sense for hers to be worked in spring colours because it would be a spring cardigan in Scotland, whereas it’s definitely more suited to winter for me here in Melbourne. The colours make it something I can wear every day with dark jeans… but also make me want to break out of my regular uniform and make myself a grey tweed skirt to wear with it!

I can’t say enough good things about this pattern! Kate has combined traditional knitting techniques with beautiful and thoughtful details and great pattern-writing to create a beautiful and well-fitting garment. I changed mine to a v-neck and I’m really happy with the outcome- it looks nice done up and open on me. The only thing I’d  do differently next time would be to go down a needle size or two, just for the mid-torso, to add a bit of waist definition. It’s a bit blocky as is and I need all the definition I can get as any extra weight goes straight to my belly ; )

Ravelled here.

Next up is Willamette from Amy Christoffers

Willamette

Willamette

Willamette

Willamette

Amy is super cool and has a background in fine art; I think you can really see that in her designs, which merge super-wearable shapes with beautiful details and textures. This jacket is so snug and warm but also feels kinda smart in a very organic, “Japanese” way ; )  It’s getting quite a bit of wear and will definitely be keeping me warm at Bendigo this Sunday. I love that tweed stitch pattern…

Ravelled here.

And lastly, Celes from Jared Flood

Celes

Celes

Celes

Celes

Amy and I started knitting this scarf/ shawl together this time last year, just after she had her little boy Finn… needless to say, she had more important things to do and never got around to finishing it! I got all the way through the body and 3/4 of the way around the knitted-on edging and then ran out of yarn… yes, like many others commented on ravelry, the metrage listed for this pattern is short. It was the first time I’ve run out of a discontinued colourway and really not known how to proceed- distressing ; ) And so it sat unfinished until recently, when I decided to just go ahead with the closest colour I could find to this unusual, yellow-based grey. I’d much rather embrace imperfection than never finish it. You can see the different colour on the edging in the first photo… I can live with that. The pattern is inspired by traditional Shetland lace patterns and definitely lacier than what I’d normally wear but I think the grey tones that down and makes it wearable for me…

Ravelled here.

So that’s my knitting of late. Soon to come off the needles will be Scatness Tunic, another colourwork pattern from Colours of Shetland and again in very different colours to the original. And I’m working on a couple of small accessory patterns… hopefully more on those soon. You never know how things are going to turn out but I think they’ll be fun!

What are you knitting at the moment?!

Posted in knitting and yarn | Tagged , , | 6 Comments