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

 

 

Warm weather, woolies

Bear

It’s been a funny month or so. My partner has been away for work for 3 weeks, and even more weekends, and so its been rather quiet. It’s given me some time to get on with a few things (and not get on with others – like the garden, ahem). I made this bear over two weekends, and I must admit, I’m in two minds about it. I like the fact that he’s shaped like a traditional bear, but I’m not at all keen on his arms. I’ll make it again at some point and see if I can make a better job of it. I like his feet, and his little tail though:

tail

That aside, I’ve made a knitted dress for one of the monkeys. I can’t even remember what made me look up a pattern actually, but I found this one (Ravelry Link), which is perfect – knitted flat, and very basic:

dress

Actually I’ve discovered I do my yarn-over-knit-one’s backwards, but at least I’ve worked that out now and can fix it for next time. I also finally found a use for one of the tiny crochet roses I made about a year ago:

rose

Oh, and I knitted this on these cheap blue knitting needles from Tiger. (Tiger is that store that you only buy things you didn’t know you needed from, because their stock changes often and is always *really* random.) I only mention it, as I love the colour of the needles with the yellow – the paint’s already flaking off!

needle

I like the idea of being able to take a toys clothes on and off – never seems entirely fair to trap them inside, so this one has little buttons at the back:

buttons

Not the neatest knitting in the world, but I don’t think she minds… I also made this little chap. I wasn’t concentrating properly when I made his head, and so he’s a row smaller than he should be – but for some reason i really like this one. He’s a really happy little chap.

monkey

He already has a home to go to, and he’s been waiting SO patiently. I hope he gets to go soon, or he’ll have to go by post, and no one likes travelling by post.

And finally, I’m itching to use this fabric, so I’ll wish you a pleasant rest-of-sunday, and see you all soon.

fabric

 

 

 

 

 

 

A speedy getaway

Blue monkey

I went to Barcelona for the weekend! Just got back earlier this evening. I was staying with friends who moved there about 8 or 9 months ago, and they have a little boy. When the baby was born (about 2 years ago) I had the best of handmade gift intentions, but what actually happened was that I made a pair of booties that I didn’t think were up to scratch. In the end I didn’t gift them and they’ve been sat in the cupboard ever since…

This time I decided to go for something I’d made before and had a better chance of getting right. Yup, another monkey. I finished it at 1am on Thursday night, and it was wrapped and gifted by Friday evening – and very well received!

This one is made in simple Rowan Dk, and actually he turned out rather nicely. He looks a little bit unsure of himself, but I think he’ll settle in well. (He was wrapped again every evening, so they had the excitement of opening him again each morning 🙂 ). I think for children, something softer and more ‘wooly’ works better than the cotton I used on the green monkeys.

Ahem. Yes, the green monkeys. If the red scarf on the blue monkey looks familiar, it’s because I swiped it off the green monkey. But hey! They’re all friends. I’m sure they wont mind…

wedgewood 2And now to get ready for work tomorrow. Before I go though, the lovely Tiny Inc is having a giveaway! If you’re in the UK, check out her blog (and the amazing cushion which is part of the giveaway!).

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.

Heads will roll

monkey heads

Hello? Hello! I can’t believe it’s been so long since my last post. And so long since I’ve *finished* anything. Life’s been getting in the way a bit – a weekend visiting family, a couple of weekends working. A lot of work-reading on the commute, or worse, snow-chilled hands too cold to do any tatting. My tatting fingers are itching to get back into it, so hopefully this week I can pick things up again.

I have had these chaps on the go for a week or two. They’re made in Rowan siena cotton, which I really love. It’s got such solid, strong colours, and it does make nice tight shapes. I would say these aren’t really the most umm… I dunno – they’re not the softest monkeys, this kind of tight cotton crochet feels much more like it’s creating toys for the shelf of an adult, or perhaps just slightly gentler fingers. They’re quite small too, which I like. I’ve been meaning to make a pair of monkeys in opposite colours for ages, and so these are being made at the same time. Non-identical twins.

monkey bodies

Unlike the yellow monkey, who looks rather uncertain I think, these fellas look pretty confident. They actually look a little bit like trouble, if you ask me. We’ll see what they’re like when they’re finished…

Yesterday I had the pleasure of going to Wool House, a showcase of wool at Somerset House, in London. It’s a collection of rooms, each decorated and designed by different designers. There’s some lovely work there, and it’s a nice place for a morning’s mooch. The first room by Kit Kemp was my favourite I think – or actually, that’s not strictly true. It had lots of things in it I liked, and was perhaps closest to my taste. Lovely colours, and a few nice things I could happily of run off with, like this chair and cushion:

cushion

And this was the wallpaper, which I also liked. (The ceilings were very high, and the repeat on the pattern isn’t too dense, so it wouldn’t drive you nuts). Again, nice colours, machine embroidery I guess:

wallpaper

The other room that really caught my attention was by Anne Kyyrö Quinn. Lots of interesting folded felt, creating textures and patterns with light. Also, bright vibrant colours that grabbed you by the throat and made you feel a little bit more alive:

felt

I also liked these knitted samples – not too sure who they were by actually, or even what they were doing there…
samples
And I also spotted this rather excellent stitch counter – there was no information about it, but it looks brilliant. Also like the kind of thing someone’s grandma might have knocking about in a cupboard? (If it’s your grandma and she and you don’t want it, can I have it 🙂 )
counter
So all in all, it was a nice visit. Even better, I got to hang out with a very good, smart friend, squidge lots of yarn in John Lewis, and then go for afternoon tea. What an excellent way to spend a Saturday. And now look at the time! Just enough time to get one with… monkeys? tatting? *something*.
Hope you’re all well, warm, dry (it’s been chucking it down here) and having nice weekends 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!

Odds n’ ends

hippy

Hello! I’ve had a few days off, weekends away, and various house guests, which is why I’ve been a bit quiet recently. I have been tatting a tiny bit, although not as much as I’d like – mainly as I can’t always get a seat on the train, which is where I usually tat. Spare evenings are still taken up with The Knitted Scarf, which is coming along nicely. (Although not without a fair bit of unpicking, whilst trying to watch Alien in the dark. Unpicking knitting is quite frustrating, isn’t it? Not so with crochet.)

Above is the trusty Stormtrooper, engaged in a bit of a scrap with some train end-of-shuttle doodles. I do like these daisy chains…

daisy chain

These are size 80 thread… I’ve not really decided what to do with them yet.

daisy2

They’re not that big. Perhaps the right size for a bracelet or a necklace, but a bit delicate. I’ll stitch them on to something, I think. Not sure what yet, but it would be nice to use them for something.

piggy post

This little piggy is currently in transit. He lived on the shelf for a little while, and then decided it was time to head out. I love making things for people – but I just can’t make them to order! Ages ago, after a lot of not-so-subtle hints, I made my friend and elephant. Her mum and I were with her when she opened it, and her mum really seemed to love it. I always meant to make her one too, and then time wore on and I forgot. As I was wondering what should become of the pig, it dawned on me that maybe she would like it, so off he popped in the post. Hopefully she’ll get it next week. It’s always a bit tricky as they’re not *that* sturdy, so they’re not really toys for very little kids. They’re shelf dwellers really, but they do like to be loved. I hope she likes him.

In other news, I went to Yorkshire for a few days which was lovely. I had a brilliant time (seaside, countryside, cream teas and brilliant company!). We went to Nunnington Hall, and spotted this lovely crewel work:

crewel

There were three panels, all quite large and they were beautifully done. They had chunky stitching and felt quite free-form, although they were carefully planned out with lighter stitches before they were filled in. I loved the feel of them though (visual – I didn’t touch them!) As I’ve said before, I’m not a needle worker, but I would potentially make an exception for something like this… Like I need another hobby!

Body of Evidence

New body!

…aaaaaaand relax. The little piggy has a brand new body, and I think we can safely say, everyone is much happier. Or at least I am. Thank you for your comments on my last post. You were right. As much as it would’ve been great for everyone to say it was fine, it wasn’t, and I felt his body really didn’t do his head justice. There’s nothing more unsatisfying than a half done pig, is there?

sketch

This was the idea, before I got started. (I sketched it in a meeting. Bad habit.) I think it wasn’t a bad likeness in the end. No belly button of course, but I do like the two wooden buttons, I think they add a bit more interest. I still love this yarn – the Simply Recycled cotton. It’s really soft and the colours are so nice and muted.

side

And here we are from the side…

tail

And here’s the other side, with his tail peeking out. Phew. All done. Believe it or not, as I have more yarn, I’m tempted to make another one.

A mixed bag (may not contain bags)

Image

This little piggy has been a bit frustrating. I’m not sure what to do with him/her, but I think it’s not over yet. This is body number two – I actually finished the whole thing once, lived with it for a week or two and then took it apart. This is the body as written in the pattern, but I think it’s a bit messy. Too many decreases, which just don’t look good. It’s a shame as the head is such a great shape and so nicely written up, but I just think the body doesn’t do it justice. It also doesn’t suit a scarf – or anything else I can think of as yet – to distract you from the not-very nice shape. Will think on. Any suggestions appreciated! Poor little piggy!

Image

I’m a fan of the yarn though – it’s lovely! It’s the Sidar Simply Recycled, and is lovely and soft. The colours are also really nice, quite muted – a bit more natural looking. I’d definitely use it for making toys again. This little chap is much bigger than the last one.

Image

This is an experiment, made the other week. It’s tatted in size 40 thread, and is actually the pattern for a bracelet. The thread is much thicker than I would normally use – but probably a bit more of an appropriate size for jewellery – that said, as a bracelet I think it would drive you nuts! I love the idea of tatted daisy chains, but maybe just not this one. Rather than waste it I made yet another lavender bag. (I think I underfilled it too – after all my months of overfilling I’ve tipped back too far in the other direction!)

Image

But look at this – it’s knitting! A waffle scarf (ravelry link), and it seems to be going ok (she says, touching wood, with crossed fingers). Now I’ve got the hang of it, I’m really enjoying it. It’s a very simple pattern of course, but nice for a beginner, and a great TV project. I’ve already planned my next project – bought the pattern and the yarn, but I’m going to be good and finish this first. Very exciting!

Monkeys, crochet, tatting, sewing, triumph and failure

Finished monkey

Yes, this post has something for everyone. Or at least something for everyone who likes a bit of craft – otherwise, look away now.

I was of course making a pig, last time I posted. It’s still at the head stage, because the Ipad refuses to display the second page of the pattern, and I’ve not really been sitting at my other mac, which displays it perfectly. I will finish it, but over Easter as I was away visiting family, I grabbed two balls of yarn and a hook and decided I’d try out some yarn I bought for monkey making a while back.

Relaxing
(Look at her there – relaxing mid-photoshoot! Honestly. It was quite hard to get her to pay any attentional at all.)

The yarn was £2.00 a ball and is Rowan hand knit cotton. I must admit, I don’t love it for this kind of thing, I’ve decided. Two main reasons:
• I crochet really tightly anyway (which is actually very good for making toys) but it makes some yarns tough on the fingers – and this is one of them.
• The stitch definition is a bit too good! Its an odd negative, I know, but I think sometimes the fact it shouts ‘I’ve been crocheted!’ can really get in the way of the character of the toy. Something a little fuzzier is probably better.
While I was away, I made all the boring no-brainer bits: ears, mouth, hands, feet and I started on the rest of the head. I finished the head in the week and today I forced myself to make all the limbs and sew it together. Sewing of course, being the worst job of all.

Usually I put scarves on my monkeys, but today, with sore fingers, I couldn’t face crocheting anything else. Out of the blue I decided to make a dress instead. The monkey is actually an odd colour in real life, and just as I was about to chop up some linen, my head said ‘umm, you’re doing this in a rush, with no idea what you’re doing. Use something you don’t care about’. For once I listened and used a bit of old sheet instead. I must admit, I’ve done a dreadful job on the dress sewing! It’s appalling – and worse – the monkey is trapped inside. I had to sew her in, which is something I really don’t like (it’s sloppy, I think). Having said that – Look at her! She’s hilarious. As I sat down to sew her in, I spotted the crochet flower – it’s been knocking about on my desk for ages – I crocheted it in tatting thread a while back.

flower

I makes a big difference I think. Without it, she looks like she’s in very drab school uniform. Having said all that, I quite like the overall effect, and so I’m going to ponder on it all and probably remake the dress, but better. I did a quick google search before hand incidentally, and found this tutorial. It’s not brilliant, but gave me enough confidence to have a go. I didn’t pin anything or measure anything… it shows. Next time.

If you wanted to crochet your own monkey, I used this pattern again, and just personalised it a bit as I went. So that’s the crochet – and the sort of triumph, on to the tatting / sewing / failure next.

Before Easter I thought I would try making a ‘lunch bag’ style bag, to put tatting on. Most of the tutorials I’ve seen have all been for bags in one colour, but I wanted side panels on mine.

side panel

Only thing is, I also lined it, and by the time I’d finished, it doesn’t really fold over properly, which is really annoying. I think it’s all too small for the thickness of the fabric.

fold

I know it needs a button – but even with it, it’s a very clumsy looking thing – so back to the drawing board on that one.

Also, I’ve been trying out using tatting for a brooch – and I’m not keen on that either!
brooch

This is it 3/4 done – but I’m still thinking about whether to finish it or take it apart. I made the edging in the week (my own pattern, for once) – but it’s really there to hide the fact the circle isn’t perfect. So… how do people make and hem circular brooches? Actually, even as I typed that I think I probably know the answer to that one. They’re better at sewing than me 🙂

Never mind. You don’t know these things till you try ’em.

In other more exciting news – I’m learning to knit! I asked specifically for no chocolate this Easter, and so instead of an egg, my mum gave me a massive ball of practise yarn, a pair of needles and some of her time in teaching me. She’s a brilliant knitter, but doesn’t enjoy it, so it was very sweet of her to put herself through it. What a lovely present. I’ve been forcing myself to get that monkey finished all week, so I can get on with trying to knit a scarf! I’ve got the basics of knit and perl, and I can just about cast on and off (with a bit of prompting). Needless to say I have grand ambitions but like all these things, *trying* to take it one step at a time.

Phew.