Friday, August 22, 2008


I'm feeling like a bit of a train wreck at the moment. Although I've moved around quite a lot in the past few years, it never gets any easier to say goodbye or to start over in a new place. I'm leaving Australia today...well, hopefully leaving today. At the moment I'm stuck in the Sydney airport waiting for a typhoon-delayed flight that is 8 hours late. It's a bit of a nightmare, but on the bright side it does give me a good long while to write some things on this blog that I've been thinking about lately.

I had the great pleasure to travel to Northeast Arnhem Land two weeks ago to attend the Garma Festival of Traditional Culture. Arnhem Land is in Australia's Northern Territory, and is the home of the Yolngu--one of Australia's largest groups of Aboriginal people. The festival is run by the Yothu Yindu Foundation and aims to celebrate Yolngu culture and to create a respectful environment for the sharing of knowledge between indigenous and non-indigenous people. It was really a beautiful experience for me.

I participated in the 'cultural tourism' program, which involved quite a lot of hands-on learning experiences, and opportunities to interact with one particular Yolngu family, who acted as our guides and hosts for the week. There were other programs at Garma that were more conference-style, with various presentations and discussions on a variety of subjects relating to Aboriginal culture and land. Next year the key forum subject is art, so I'm already thinking of how I might be able to make it back!

The festival is located in a remote area outside of Yirrkala, where a city of tents is erected once a year for the week. Each day we would split into men's and women's groups in order to learn about some aspect of traditional culture. In the evenings we would reconvene to watch the Bunggul--a ceremony featuring the traditional dance and music of numerous clan groups from around the area. This was truly awe-inspiring. Click here and here to see some great pictures of the dancers (I don't have permission to publish my own images of people from the festival, and will refrain from doing so out of respect.) After the Bunggul, there were concerts every night featuring everything from country music (Jimmy Little) to hip hop to reggae. There were also film screenings and art events. And we saw these guys:

The Chooky Dancers!

Some of the highlights of the cultural tourism program were going with the women to listen to the wind, wade in the mud and collect bush medicine:

Seeing the most beautiful coastline in the world at Bawaka:

And learning some new basket weaving techniques using pandanus leaves:

preparing the fiber.

my basket attempt--to be finished when I get back home.

But by far the best part of the festival was the grace and warmth of the Yolngu people. It always feels a bit awkward for me when I am a tourist in a foreign culture. However, the Yolngu were so welcoming, and made a point to tell us--from their hearts--that we were welcome, that we were a part of their family now, and that they were happy to have the opportunity to share their knowledge with us. On the final night of bunggul, each of the Yolngu dancers--roughly 50 people, came around the audience to shake each of our hands and say goodbye. It was really a touching experience, and something that will stay with me.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Listening to what my yarn has been telling me all along

Recap: I bought some beautiful red Centolavaggi cobweb weight yarn a couple weeks ago. At first I wanted to make a pair of opera length gloves. That lasted about a day. Then I tried out the lace ribbon scarf, but ripped that out a few days ago. Both are lovely patterns, but this yarn was just fighting me the whole way. I found myself dreading these knits rather than enjoying them.

R.I.P. Lace Ribbon Scarf.

I feel as though this yarn has quite a personality of its own. I imagine it saying something like "I will be a lace cannot fight me forever!" Only it's saying this with an Italian accent. I'm normally not that excited about the whole lace shawl business. I find that they tend to look a bit old-fashioned. However, I have seen a few really lovely ones lately that have a more contemporary feeling to them. I think the color has a lot to do with it--and the styling. So, last night I gave in and started Matilda.

I think both myself and my yarn breathed a sigh of relief. This has been sooo much nicer to knit (probably thanks to the larger needles). It's growing very quickly, and should be the perfect thing to accompany me on my trip to the Northern Territory this week. I'm headed to the Garma Festival of Aboriginal Culture. It should be fantastic! Among other things, I will learn some Aboriginal weaving techniques using pandanus leaves. Have a great week!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

More bobbles

Two posts (and finished objects) in one day! Not bad. You may recognize this yarn from my Hayfield Sweater. I had a few balls leftover, and decided to make a baby hat for a friend who is expecting. I searched ravelry and came across a link to this free baby hat pattern. I can't resist fun textures, so I immediately knew this was the hat for me.

It was a very quick knit--now I understand why so many people love knitting for babies and children! Instant gratification is hard to beat. [Ravelry link to the hat]

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Summer knitting

Finally, another finished knit! It seems like too long since my last. I hope you'll agree that it was worth the wait--I think this might be my best work yet!

(click on any photo to enlarge)

The Hayfield Summer Jumper, from a vintage Scottish pattern available at Yesterknits. I used a bright yellow fingering (4-ply) cotton yarn--Plymouth Italy Baby--which I purchased for cheap on ebay. It is very soft, has good stitch definition, and was generally nice to work with. I did my best impression of the 60s girl in the pattern photos. [Ravelry link to pattern]

I'm in love with the cravat and the puffy collar. I think the lace pattern came out very nice as well. There's something a bit old-fashioned about it, but I think it looks stylish with the shape of the sweater. I hope this will inspire more of you to knit from cute vintage patterns!

Dear French Connection,

I'm flattered, really.
French Connection Australia Spring 2008

Meghan Spring 2007

Ok, I think their version is a bit more refined--but they did have a whole extra year to tinker around with this idea.