En garde!

Knitting with DPNs

Word is, there are actually people who *like* knitting with DPNs… that’s true, right? I didn’t make that up? All I can think is that it’s like your first taste of alcohol—you just can’t believe people get involved with this for pleasure. I am willing to believe that it could be possible, but right now it’s way more pain than pleasure. Give me the nice circular needles any day.

This is an iPhone sock, it’s me forcing myself to use DPNs but keeping it simple with a knit 2 / purl 2 rib. It’s also given me a wonderful chance to pick up dropped stitches with a crochet hook… Not exactly on purpose, but hey. Now I know it can be done. (And that knitting is just a weird collection of crocheted chains). I was going to say that if you never see this again, lets not mention it – but you know what? I should blog my terrible things too. Life isn’t perfect and it’s good to learn from your mistakes. Hopefully I’ll blog it good or bad.

crochet rose

This is a crocheted brooch I made for a friend. I like it actually. It’s a generic rose pattern, of which there are millions on the internet  – most of which are the same, but just start with a different number of chained stitches. The leaves are loosely based on those from Attic 24. I say loosely as I made this while watching The Shield (box set, we’ve just finished series 3), and I wasn’t really counting anything properly.

A while back I bought some brooch backs, but have yet to use them so this seemed like a good chance. Terrible photo and off centre stitching but…

brooch back

You can see that this is quite a nice back. It’s good and solid. It comes in two parts, one is a disc with holes in, to which you sew your fabric front and the other is what you can see here, which you attach to the first disc by folding little metal claws with pliers. I got the backs from eBay – must make more use of them.

tatting

I’ve had one long train journey this week, so I ended up making another of these—the beaded one. The other one I made just to see what it would be like with variegated thread. They are so nice to make I can’t stop. And they photograph so nicely!

tatting

Ahem. Anyway. Back to knitting and the gentle art of stabbing myself in the hand.

 

2013; tatting, sewing, travel and monkeys

tatting with beads
Well, hello! Happy new year to you and yours!

If you’re a WordPress user you’ll’ve received an end-of-year review of your blog. I was shocked to see that I’d only posted 19 times last year! I thought surely I’ve been busier than that? I’ve never done my own end-of-year post before, but as it’s nice and warm inside and horrible out there I thought today might be the time to start, so here goes. A quick look at what I actually did do last year…

Tatting
As you can see above, this was the year of the bead! I found a hook small enough to work with seed beads and size 80 threads, and there’s been no stopping me! I also finally worked out how to get the beads to pop above the chain rather than in them. It seems once I’d started, I couldn’t stop.

r_self
I also decided to try and work on my own patterns this year. Admittedly I only ever got to do this on the work commute, and refused to use a pen to plan things out first, so I only got this far, but I had fun anyway! I finished an edging pattern, which I made available here – and I even spotted someone using it. I do plan to continue working on my own designs this year, so we’ll see how that goes.

Trips abroad
This was another year where living in Europe brings huge benefits! Nice places to visit and nothing to far away. I was lucky enough to visit (clockwise from top left):

Barcelona –  A lovely, relaxed trip with old work colleagues who have become friends. A visit to the Sagrada Familia was a real treat; it’s the first time I’ve been back since the new windows and roof were finished. The colours and shapes are really breathtaking.

Skelleftea, Sweden, for work. This was a beautiful place, and the first time I’ve experienced 24 hour daylight! I was made so incredibly welcome too, met some really interesting people and had some great food.

r_travel
Venice – one of my best friends lives in a town just outside Venice, and so I spent a week with him. A great week of hanging out, visiting the Biennale, and enjoying/melting in the boiling sunshine.

France – my partner’s family live here, and so we visited his family for Christmas. The photo is taken in Villebois-Lavalette. I love this chateau – it looks a little bit like one you might draw for a children’s book.

Monkeys
Yes indeed, where would we be without crocheted monkeys? They continue to be my go-to gift, although I have a feeling I might’ve made everyone I know a monkey soon! I actually made 5 in total, I think – there’s a twin for the one on the top right. I also made two bears.

r_monkeys

Sewing
The reason I started using a sewing machine originally was to try and make use of my tatting. My obsession with lavender bags didn’t abate in 2013 as you can see! I’m still not sure there’s a straight edged one among them.

I also tried my hand at embellishing with embroidery, which on reflection, I like a lot. I used the piece on the top right for a bag.

r_sew

And finally, I managed to shorten a very light pair of curtains, and finish my second quilt. Phew!

Maybe 2013 was busier than 19 posts suggests? If you stuck it out this far, thank you for indulging me. And now, I *think* it’s stopped raining for 5 minutes. I’m going to rush out for a short, damp run, while I can. When I get back, I still have a friends baby blanket to finish.

RUN!

A quick tatting catch up

red snowflakeHello! It’s been ages since I last posted, but not for the lack of activity, mostly for the lack of light to take photos with. I’m supposed to be working on a presentation right now, so of course seeing a little bit of sunshine pop out makes this an excellent procrastination moment.

Above is my first snowflake of the year, using up that slightly odd variegated thread. This is one of Jon’s patterns, from her snowflake book – apologies, I can’t seem to find a direct link to it on her site, but her patterns are all well written and beautifully put together. You’ll see that now I’ve got a bit more experience with beads they’re on everything!

port isaac

In the time since I last posted, I did manage to have a few days away. We went to Port Isaac in Cornall, which was lovely. Above was the view from our bedroom window. Fans of British TV might find it familiar; the building on the left is the school in Doc Martin, and loads of the show is filmed around here.  That said, we appreciated it more for its general loveliness as a village than a TV set, having never seen the show…

I’ve been working on a few different things – a quilt, which I’ll talk about in another post, a knitted baby blanket (beyond frustrating, and it’s not even a difficult pattern), and some more tatted motifs.

pinkThis is the correct version of the motif in the previous post. I stitched on the beads here, rather than add them to the tatting as I went along…

greenIt’s amazing how different the same motif looks in different colours, I think. The dark outline isn’t ideal – I think it relies on very strict blocking to make it work (something I haven’t done!)

This version below is tatted with beads – can I get a good photo of it? Nope. But the red beads really glow in real life – you’ll have to trust me on that:

black

I wrote down the pattern as I made this, and then realised of course, I’d made two versions on the pattern. This one is not the same as the ones above. Not sure which I prefer really, and so I’m not really ready to share the pattern yet. Thank you for the offers of help with this though, very kind.

triThis version just has three repeats of the main motif. I’d like to say it was on purpose – it wasn’t, but it was an interesting exercise! I love these beads with this thread, incidentally. They were bought separately but go so well together. I bought them in a random craft shop, but they’re made by Mill Hill, and are ‘seed petite beads‘. They’re pretty small, but amazingly I can still get that tiny crochet hook through most of them.

This is the three motifs together. I love how ‘goth’ the black one is.

three motifs
These are all tatted in size 80 thread. I tried holding the black one up as a pendent to see what it would look like – and it’s huge! Seeing as most tatted jewellery tends to be in much thicker thread, its made me wonder if all tatted jewellery is gigantic?

In other news, I also managed to shorten some curtains on my tiny sewing machine (it’s a bit like this). I’d been putting it off forever, but actually it was no where near as bad as I thought it would be. No major incidents, everyone still has their limbs and digits attached.

curtainsHope everything’s good with you guys. Next time: the quilt. (I hope).

 

 

Bags, packages and baggages

bag

Hello! How are you? Hope you’re ok and not too hot. If you’re not in the UK, it’s actually sunny here at the moment and it’s not really something we’re used to – or mentally equipped to deal with (!). Rain is forecast though, and so I’m sure normal service will be resumed shortly.

I made a bag, as you can see. I kept looking at the tatting plonked on top of that red fabric shoved in a box and I decided I should do something with it.

tatting

I started with just the border, then decided I actually really did need a drawstring bag to keep some stuff in, so  took the plunge and made the whole front piece – to match the size of a drawstring carrier bag I was using from Gap. Then I thought I should have some fun and I patchworked a section for the back too, and quilted them.

patchwork

It’s so cosy with the quilting I wish I could get *in* it. I must admit, I really did enjoy making this. It was something I wanted, with fabrics I liked – and as I was making it up as I went along it was really low stress. I usually enjoy all the crafts  I do (otherwise, why do them?) but often I’m learning something or testing something out. With this, I just made it for the hell of it and planned it as I went along. As a final touch I added interfacing to the fabric at the top to make it a bit stronger, and the cord is reused from an old in-flight bag, from Virgin airlines. I think I could do with an even bigger bag now, and so I’ll make another one when I get a chance. It was nice to be able to use that tatting too, I’ve had it for ages now and this feels like a good use for it.

I must admit, I was a bit fed up when I wrote the previous post. I think I needed a holiday, which is lucky, as I’ve just had one 🙂 One of my closest friends happens to double up as one of my most distant friends, and lives just outside Venice. I flew over last Saturday, and got back on Friday. We had a lovely time, chatting, watching a STACK of TV, eating ice cream, deconstructing our lives, finding no answers and drinking spritz. We also went to the Venice Biennale and saw some art. Well, a lot of art actually. And Venice itself is of course, beautiful. If you think it’s hot in the UK, boy is it hot there.

crane

It was also my birthday on Friday, and I arrived home to a brilliant and thoughtful package of crafty stuff from another good friend – this one a bit closer. Umm, I have an admission to make. I really like cranes and huge building sites. There’s something about them that just looks so alien – I think they’re fascinating. Often I walk through the city (of London) on the way home from work and snap some of the buildings-in-progress. The one above ‘The Cheese Grater‘ being a particular favourite. Why am I telling you this?

crane fabric

Because my friend bought me this fabric, which I think is hilarious! It really made me smile. I’m not sure yet what I’ll use it for, but something good! She also bought me some really lovely striped squares from deckchairstripes.com, a great looking book on bag making, some notecards featuring sloths (another favourite) and THIS:

measure

A beautiful bag she’s made (with seams far straighter than mine 😉 ) and a stitch counter, like the one I was admiring way back in March! I opened this part of the present thinking how nice it was that we’d made eachother bags, and nearly fell off my seat to find this inside. I’m really very lucky – not just for the gift, but to have a friend that would go so far as to notice I’d even liked this in the first place and to track it down. I still can’t believe it.

And finally, the Little Blue Monkey went off to his new home the other week, complete with a nice red hat, and giant pom-pom, and was very well received. All is right with the world.

hat

 

 

Not quite straight to the point

Waiting

Hello! It’s been a funny few weeks here. I’ve been preparing for a work trip to Sweden, which has been eating up both time and headspace, and so lots of crafty things have been sitting about waiting. Bits of tatting to house, things to finish off – AND a new sewing machine.

A friend and I kind of both talked each other in to buying our first electric machines. To be honest, she bought hers first, and then we found they were reduced to £35 (if you’re not from the UK, that’s insanely cheap) and so I bought one too. What kind of machine do you get for £35? A bright purple one! Hilarious. That said, we did a bit of research first, and the word on the street is that it’s made by Janome, who seem to know what they’re doing. Also it’s guaranteed for a year, so you can’t really say fairer than that. It’s tiny, really light, a lot like a toy, but has 10 stitches and seems to be doing the job quite well. Can I make it go in a straight line? Well… maybe three times out of ten, but I’m hopeful 🙂 If you know someone who wants to have a go with a sewing machine, I would recommend it.

Group

Remember all those attempts at tatting with beads? I thought I should try and do something with them. I also have last year’s lavender to use up – although it still smells as strong as ever. So I made these lavender bags. Some are neater than others it has to be said.

New fabric

I’ve tried out some new linen and cotton blend fabric, and it looks rather smart in grey. Of course now I’ve finished them all I’ve found that I had the perfect coloured cotton for it hidden upstairs, but it’s not too bad. I hand finished this one – still trying to work out the best plan for that.

back testing

The one on the right has a new-style foldover back — and idea I pinched off aforementioned friend. I added a strip of coloured fabric just for the hell of it – it’s really wonky, but I like the general idea! There’s a little removable cotton bag inside, so it’s like a cushion & cushion cover. I like it actually. It’s possible I might one day end up with a lavender bag that isn’t wonky, at which point I wont feel so bad about giving them to people.

found

I found this piece of tatting knocking about too, which  think I’ll make into another tester bag. See if I can get my lines right! (It’s not sewn on in that shot.)

Aside from that, I have also been working on my general tatted sketches. Actually now I’ve gone to the other extreme. Before I was worried that I wouldn’t make any finished ‘things’, I liked the idea of getting stuff done. Now I’m kind of worried I’ll never get anything finished again…I’m quite enjoying myself.

sketches

I’ll sort through this lot and show you some work in progress next time. Hope you’re all doing ok out there. I’ve missed you.

 

Going nowhere fast…

MonkeyI don’t know what’s going on at the moment, but it’s taking me forever to get anything done! These poor monkeys have been waiting so patiently to be finished, I feel a little bit guilty. The joy of making two monkeys at once kind of hit a snag when I realised I had to make EIGHT LIMBS. E I G H T. And then sew them on. Every time I get to the sewing arms, legs and heads on I remember what it is I *don’t* like about amigurumi. That said, it is nice when they’re whole.

two green monkeysLook at them! They’re a really nice size actually. They fit comfortably in your hand, and feel oddly delicate, but firm. The fabric this cotton crochets into is pretty sturdy, but there’s something about the size of these fellas makes you feel a bit protective towards them.

One has a scarf, the other has a scarf-in-progess. The scarf in progress is a simple 2×2 rib. I do love the fact that I can knit them scarves now (Thank you, Mum!) It always felt like a bit of a cruel blow that you spend so much time making them and then you’re still not done – you have to crochet them a scarf as well. (Monkeys always need a little accessory. It’s a very unloved monkey that gets sent into the world without one).

familyUmm, yeah. This is a little family, it seems. The littlest one is here to stay, the orangey one does fit rather well on the bookshelf, although is considering leaving home, and the two green ones will be going somewhere, when I’ve decided where. I started making the green ones some drawstring trousers, but there was a hiccup with the sewing machine, so I need to do a little maintenance work first. These are all cotton, where as the yellow one I made recently was wool. Gawd. I said a long time ago that this blog should probably change its name to ‘Occasional Monkey’, perhaps I was right.

Anyway. Yesterday I went to the Creative stitches and Hobbycrafts show at ExCel, in London, because I was lucky enough to be  given a free ticket. (Thank you, Mum!) My friend and I had fun – but it was nowhere near as good as the Alexandra Palace show, which I still think is the best of those kind of events. The stalls were all okay (not widly exciting) but I did enjoy the Royal Schools of Needlework display, which had examples of students’ sketches and works in progress. (My friend Jane took a lovely photo of the blackwork). I keep a sketchbook / notebook for work, but I’m starting to think I should work out a way to make one for fabric / thready things…

sketchThen I’d have somewhere to put the odd things like this which end up stuffed in various boxes around the house. This was me trying to work out a smaller version of a vintage pattern, and then switching to something else entirely (above).

oopsAnd this is me being an idiot and mis-reading a pattern. What do people *do* with things like this? Do any of you do scrapbooking, or have kids that would like less-than-perfect things to collage with? I dunno. Let me know. Anyway, I digress.

As well as the Royal School of Needlework display, there were some lovely quilts on show. I loved the rich colours on this one, which is actually evenly lit, but has a natural gradient in the fabrics, making it look like its moving from shadows to sunshine:

colourThere was also a display of smocks and smocking, which I think was from a collection owned by the WI. They were absolutely beautiful, my favourites being all one colour, natural linen. It was hard to get a photo as the weren’t well lit, but this is the kind of thing:

smockingSmocking is actually on my list of things to try. (It’s a long list, mind you). Oh – would you look at that, a nice tutorial! It was the work of this lady, who made me realise just how beautiful this kind of thing could be. Actually, looking at it now makes me want to chuck everything I’m working on out of the window, take a week off and learn how to do this *right now*.

We left the show, had lunch and then headed back to Somerset House for the the Walpole Crafted: Makers of the Exceptional 2013 show. (I say ‘headed back’ as we were only there a few weeks ago). This was a nice afternoon mooch – in the same space as the previous show we’d seen. Again there was some thought provoking work on display. I did love the colours on this Fair Isle Knitting, by Mati Ventrillon:

faire

fair_blueThere’s so much stuff to try, isn’t there. Gah! As always, so much to do and so little time.

There was one other thing that was a feature of yesterday – and today. Sunshine! We had some sunshine. Yesterday finished off with a lovely long walk in the sun, through central London and Green Park, and today a lovely walk in the country side – I spotted primroses, daffodils and even a few lambs. I thought I should make note of it here – at least then if we don’t get any more for a while I can look back and remember how nice it was.

Actually, despite the worrying title of this post, I’ve had a lovely weekend. I hope you have too.

Stitching in the sunshine

embroidery and tatting

Ok, I take it back about yellow. At the end of my last post I said that if you buy yellow thread you’re hardly ever likely to use it. This post disproves all that I guess. Also, I really love that golden sunshine yellow, purely because it reminds me of sunny days, so lord knows what I was thinking. Sorry about that.

I had a little adventure last weekend. A friend and I rented a cottage for a couple of days. I arrived with a sewing machine, cutting board, various yarns, half a monkey’s head and wine. She arrived with weaving, fabric, different yarns –  and scones and clotted cream. To be frank, I’m not sure its possible to arrive armed with anything better! We had a lovely weekend where she conquered (I think) her fear of sewing machines, and I made myself do some embroidery – and finish the monkey. This is our little front room – and on the sofa you’ll spot a blanket beautifully crocheted by my friend’s mum, which came along for the ride. (I can see where my friend gets her super-neat and even stitches from.)

front_room

I decided to fill the middle of the wreath (pattern link) I’d tatted with french knots. The joy of a cottage in the country complete with wi-fi means a quick look on You Tube and you’re off in no time. Then I kind of carried on – and actually I think, got carried away. I added the pink on a whim – the skeins of yellow and pink looked so good (and clashy) next to each other that I thought it would be alright. I think it’s a bit too much in reality, perhaps sticking with the yellow and blue alone would’ve been better? I dunno.

Embroider & tatting

It’s all pretty messy, but I quite like the mix of embroidery and tatting, so I’ll try it again I think. This is the size 50 tatting thread. I think it works well for this kind of thing. I usually tat with size 80, but I think that could be too small. We’ll soon find out as I’m halfway through another version of this wreath.

This was the other option incidentally. I crocheted this rose ages ago, I think with DMC Perlé thread and found it in a jar! Good colour match, but I thought it really was Time To Tackle Embroidery. (That said, it looks rather tasteful by comparison. Oh well.)

rose

The monkey in question arrived as a head and left as a fully formed monkey. It was him that took most of the time, to be honest – it’s amazing how long thy really take VS how long you *think* they take. I couldn’t get his mouth right AT ALL. This is probably the 4th or 5th mouth. In the end I used some linen thread, which was a bit random, but I’d tried embroidery thread and wool and both of them looked awful. Now he’s done, I think he’s quite sweet:

monkey_1

He looks kind of hopeful I think. I’ve said it before, and will no doubt say it again, but the placement of the mouth and eyes is everything when it comes to toys. Get that right and I swear it’s half the battle. And that’s a knitted scarf! The first ever scarf I’ve knitted for one of my toys. This monkey is a gift for my friend’s daughter who is one year old this week. She’s the one I crocheted a blanket for a year ago. I mentioned that it might be an idea for him to sit on the shelf for a bit, as I’m not sure how he’ll take to being chewed, but we’ll see 🙂

Yellow Monkey

Right. Better get on with the weekend. Enjoy yours!