Knitwear at the shops for a Sydney Autumn

King St knitwear

I went to the city (Sydney CBD) today, meaning to find some knitted inspiration. It’s Autumn here, and getting colder. Surely there should be something in the shops to inspire a handknitter who also likes fashion? Meh, not so much.

This season’s colours are clearly grey and beige (and black, of course, I can’t imagine black ever going out of fashion here). I mean: purples, coral red, a little navy and misc. jewel tones are used in other clothing, just not much for knits. Knits get the boring colours. Great.

By ‘knit’, I mean ones I could be inspired by. Sure, sure, I know fine jerseys, T-shirt fabrics and so on are knits, but they couldn’t reasonably be made by a hand. So I’m really talking knits made of laceweight or thicker yarn. Yes, I know that’s an odd classification, but I’m sticking to it, leastways until I get a knitting machine …

Fair isle is out. Cables and textures, particularly chunky knit, are in. Garter, or at least reverse-stocking stitch, make an appearance (oh, and Country Road lined their knits for stability this year, much less sad and saggy!)

Shapes, as bland as the colours. Plenty of fine gauge turtle-necks and V-necks that say: “Don’t look at me, I’m only for layering purposes!” Long loose cradigans, Starsky-style. Ponchos, kimono-sleeves, wraps galore. Curve-front boleroes, similar to Kate Gilbert’s famous Sunrise Circle Jacket. Or like the cover of the current Vogue Knitting. I guess I wanted something more … innovative? … novel? Not in a recession.

But what about the photo, I hear you say. Interesting diagonal lacy panels. Texture (and, sure, beige). Well, I saw it a few weeks ago in Just Feathers boutique, King Street, Newtown. End of Summer stock, I assume. The label is SunnyGirl, it was the last one, I hadn’t the heart to ask the shop assistant to unpin it, take it off the dummy just so I could exmaine the knitting … pity …

Intarsia, 80s, WIP knit and my favourite type of knitting books

Easter Scarf


A first for me, although I’ve glanced through the intarsia instructions in how-to-knit books many times. Feels … kinda 80s? Not that I actually knit intarsia in the 80s, acrylic fluro orange/mint green dolls’ clothes were enough for me. Overalls, interestingly. They say the 80s is definitely undergoing a revival, and I know I’ve seen a few breathless fashion spreads for overalls (jumpsuits?). The 80s is the one decade that’s going to have to be heavily “reinterpreted” for me to like it … 70s or 90s or any other decade I never saw, fine.

Anyway, intarsia’s just a technique: if it’s useful, doesn’t matter whether it’s fashionable or not!

The pattern is “Striped Illusion” from Knitting New Scarves by Lynne Barr: Ravlink. I very much like this book, I can see myself returning to it again and again.

I’ve been surfing for birthday present books (I love people who say ‘just let me know what you want, I’ll buy it for you later’ … they give the best presents!!!). I’ve decided the knitting books I like have rather fashion forward / avant-garde / interesting but still wearable garments, bonus points if they include novel techniques or unusual construction methods. Lynne Barr’s book scores pretty well on all criteria for me (not that the scarf I’m knitting is hard, it only looks that way!)

Now, who can recommend a book of knit jumpers (US = sweaters) and jackets I might like? Please?

* Oh, and because someone’s sure to ask, I like to theme my knitting photos. Paired with this scarf is a McDonald’s toy from Japan (Sanrio Cinnamoroll). Yes, I don’t hold with character merchandising or McDonald’s as a rule, but I knew we were almost home, so as a one-off (or a few-off) treat umm …

Tokyo craft shopping: a rant

Because what’s a blog without a rant or two?

Hopefully, this rant about Tokyo fabric and yarn stores will leave you feeling virtuously frugal  or at least  proud to buy local …  in these post-Credit Crunch times.  And yes, I’m planning a few rant-free  posts on the topic,  too!

Reading my favourite craft bloggers,there’s nothing but praise for Japanese craft books, Japanese fabrics, dinky little Japanese gadgets … and always glowing reports of Tokyo craft stores.  So my expectations where high, too high.  But hey, anywhere’s got to be better than Craftlight, right Aussies? (Perhaps think Joann’s if you’re American … but I’ve never seen a Joann’s, maybe they’re excellent in comparison to what’s usually available in Australia …)

Anyway, on to the story…

I started at Yuzawaya, that huge craft store in Kichijōji.  Phew, found it.  Pot plants, both fake and real, lined up outside the door.  Hmm, gardening’s definitely creative …  not totally sure about the fake plastic stuff, looks a bit like a $2 shop back home, nevermind…

Through the door, and the first thing I see is a giant Disney-esque Princess and fairytale character clockwork display.  Now, one reasons I’m into craft is I don’t want my 2 growing up with a Princess Complex

Next thing I see, a totally ghastly (for the daughter of an artist) European-style oil painting in a giant gilt frame for an obscene amount of money…

And then there were the goods themselves, the stuff for sale … it would’ve looked perfect at a cut-price chemist’s liquidation sale, you know, the “Bargains galore, everything must go!”-style chemists: chipped white melamine tables dumped with cheap lipsticks, nail polishes, mascaras … totally NOT what I was expecting.


Around the corner, oh great, “character goods” … pencils, stuffed toys, hankies and so on, designed as tie-ins to a variety of American and Japanese animations.  And to complete my catalogue of the ground floor: dog toys.  Cat toys too, presumably.

By this stage, I wasn’t sure I was in the right store, and I went up the escalator with some trepidation.  More of the same: it was April, back to school time, so there were rows upon rows of “character” lunch boxes.  And “character” backpacks.  And “character” jigsaws … and a few globes which yes, I agree, did look educational.

Next floor, men’s underwear, WTF?!  I mean boxers, briefs, socks … perhaps there was some women’s underwear too.  (I went back later, on purpose, with Husb, but the men’s underwear had gone… must have been a back-to-work special, only women’s underwear is there normally)

Fourth floor, finally!  Dressmaking fabrics, nice ones, too.  Liberties, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid, good quality wool plaids, organics, linens … ah, this is what I was after!  Although, to be fair, at least a quarter of the fabrics are those fluro sequined Lycras Craftlight specialises in … And half the total floor space is devoted to knitting and weaving supplies (not forgetting the reasonable-sized selection of fake furs, eyelash yarns … you get the picture).  (Nice) buttons, (sensible) sewing machines, notions and wigs (!) round out that floor.

Fifth floor, quilting fabrics, children’s prints, some traditional-looking Japanese indigo prints, and … pots and pans.  Rather nice ones, I agree, but again, not what I was expecting.  The upper floors are all a blur … there is some tapestry and embroidery stuff, bear making, leatherwork, patchwork, temari and so on.  Art supplies and calligraphy, too, but by that stage you can hear the top floor … arcade games, I’ve always wondered if they’re designed to soften kids up for pachinko later in life… (cynical, who? me?)

Now, I’m not dissing Yuzawaya, I respect that they honestly DO have dressmaking fabrics, not re-purposed quilting fabrics.  And Yuzawaya has enough yarn for anyone to find something they’d like … and more high-quality notions that I’ve ever seen. Ever.  But I’d just like a little more perspective, when discussing Japanese craft shops, I’m kinda trying to balance up all the praise I read before I left Sydney, and my own dreamy imaginings …

And it’s not like Yuzawaya is exceptional … all its competitors are the same.  Okadaya in Shinjuku is probably my favourite store, I even took my Mum there when she came to Tokyo.  I hadn’t told her the name, but as we approached I said “Look, it’s the one next to the shoe shop”  “I know” she said.  “How do you know?” “Well, it looks like a craft shop” she said, pointing to the tacky plastic bangles, hair ties and nail art on the ground floor.  She’s right … she’s been to Craftlight in Sydney, too.

Kinkado in Ikebukuro is reached through a 100 yen shop and cut-price cosmetics store.  And Tomato, in Nippori … well, if you hate the disorganisation of Craftlight, the rolls of fabric draped onto the floor, the slimey polyesters in clashing prints … I’m not sure you’ll fall in love with Tomato.  Although you CAN find amazing dressmaking bargains, and the patchwork fabrics on the top floor are neat and lovely…

Recently, Husband explained it all: these stores are for housewives, hence the lingerie, toys and saucepans along with the sewing machines and fabrics.  He’s right, I’m sure.  But the militant feminist in me feels somewhat uncomfortable …

Back knitting again!

Yes, I’m back knitting again, back planning projects, back dreaming of wools, back imagining designs;) It’s been so hot, I totally haven’t felt like knitting, I’ve focussed on sewing and … other stuff.

And also, somehow, Summer knits just don’t grab me. It’s not that I think knitting is a Winter-only activity, it’s just I look at the designs, they really don’t seem appropriate, don’t seem to capture the essence of Summer … speaking, of course, as someone from a rather hot country ;P I guess often Summer knits don’t inspire me, they seem to be just a Winter or Autumn knit done in cotton, not a whole new genre …
Might have to sit down and start designing if I want Summer knits I like, hey?

SO anyway, what sparked this newest knitting frenzy? Well, Interweave released it’s Fall Preview, and I very much liked the Tweedy Waistcoat, although I’m a little unsure how it would look on me. I like the Little Blue Sweater, but longer, and I find the Afterthought Darts Cardigan rather witty … perhaps only other sewists/knitters would find it cool, people in the street might just think it’s weird… I also think the Sidelines Top would look excellent on … does having a larger / plus size model make you want to knit it less? I try to avoid thinking like that, but, you know, even knitting magazines are kinda about dreams …

But mostly, I credit twist collective with my renewed interest in knitting – thanks, meant sincerely! Any launch of a new online magazine is exciting, especially one that tries so hard to do its best by designers. I’d kinda forgotten about the twist collective, I hadn’t been counting the days, but, wow, I’m impressed;) Apart from the really nice site design, there were 3 jumpers (sweaters for North Americans) I really wanted to knit immediately. I mean, I like the stuff from Interweave (above), but I’m not sure I’d actually knit any of them immediately … more I think the designs are good, I’ll let them simmer until I see the perfect wool … But after looking at the twist collective I’ve bought my wool, downloaded my pattern and I’m about to start, all in one day.

Oh, the twist collective patterns I adore? Funny, other bloggers don’t seem to have highlighted them: I’m knitting Come Together, very flattering I reckon, and I adore Jaali and Victoria, I also like Lily, Bonnie and Through The Keyhole, not to start on the socks …

And yes, I totally couldn’t afford Anny Blatt in Australia, either. But it’s very reasonable here, not sure why. I mean, Anny Blatt, the iconic brand from the eighties, the one that introduced (gasp) decent colours to Aussie knitters, the brand my Mother adored?