Patchwork and tatting to beat the rain

quilt_3Hello! It’s a wet and windy weekend in the UK, and due to my other half being away for work I’ve had time to get on and make an eye-wateringly cheerful quilt top, in record time. Not only that, but it’s much less wonky (so far) than my previous quilting efforts. I bought this fabric at the Knit and Stitch show in Ally Pally (London). It was a pack of quite tightly-rolled fat quarters – so you couldn’t really see what you were getting – which worked out at £12 a pack or £20 for two. As a lady next to me was contemplating a pack at the same time, I said, “let’s buy them together and we both save £2”, which is what we did.

quilt_2

Sorry – terrible lighting, don’t really have anywhere I can photograph a quilt.

I had to improvise with the pattern a bit; originally I wanted it all to be colour and pattern with no plain solids in there, but I used up all the fabric and it was a bit small so I added the sashing in. The sashing is actually a pale turquoise left over from quilt two, which is quite handy.

quilt_4

At the edge of one of the pieces it said “Flea Market Fancy”, and I was just in the process of discovering that the collection was based on retro designs, when my boyfriend arrived home, looked at it and said ‘Nice… have we gone back to the seventies?” It *is* a bit seventies, but I still love how bright and cheerful it is. To be honest, they’re not the usual kind of fabrics I’d choose.

Which leads me to the William Morris quilt, which I started here. Believe it or not, I’ve actually finished the top of that too, just not had time to take the pictures. Next I need an expensive trip to the quilting shop, to buy batting and backing fabric.

quilt_6

Actually, looking at the light on these photos, it doesn’t do it any favours. I promise you it’s nicer in real life! This was a pile at the start of Saturday. It was a lot bigger by the end. For once, as I was making squares, I measured them up and trimmed them down properly.

tatting

On a more restrained note, I also got a little bit of time to tat the other week. This is a new pattern that I’ve been working on. Not there yet actually, but almost. And on that note, better run. More things to do.

Hope you had a good weekend too.

 

Tatting, embroidery, colourwork and a swatch

urchins

Hello! Just a quick and varied update… I actually made this a while ago, but haven’t had a chance to post it here. It’s a lavender bag — of course — made with the little tatted ‘urchins’ and some simple embroidery. I often think this kind of fabric is too open, but it’s perfect for a lavender bag as it keeps the lavender in and lets the scent out.

lavender

Here’s a rather terrible picture of the whole thing. I used a linen strip at one end, and it’s also backed with linen. I quite like the more geometric nature of this, and when you see it in real life, it’s quite delicate. I was thinking of the running stitches of shashiko when I made it, which is yet another thing I quite fancy trying but haven’t had any time for…

beads

This was a quick experiment from this morning. The stitch count needs adjusting but it seems to work. Basically I’d not tatted around a central bead before so I wanted to try that. I think it’s ok on this thread (still the thread from Katy!) but anything thinner will probably be too much- it ends up disappearing inside the bead. These yellow beads I bought on a whim. They’re ridiculously bright, but they feel really ‘springy’ –  we’ve had daffodils and primroses recently, and there’s currently bright yellow dandelions everywhere. There’s also loads of bluebells in the woods, which are a complete delight:

bluebells

I’m using the bluebells as a bribe to get myself running regularly. It’s so lovely to run in the woods — we’ve had a little spell of sunny weather in the UK and the light through the trees, the bright blue flowers, and the smell of spring has been fantastic.

colourwork

That aside, I’m also doing a little knitting experiment. I thought I would try colourwork in the round as I need another case for a phone. I have an iPhone already and the new job insists I also have a Blackberry. It’s all very formal on occasion, and I kind of like to amuse myself with slightly terrible bits of hand knitting in my bag. I’m making this up as I go, both the structure and the pattern. Already I’m worried that the pattern is far too big for the size of pouch I need, so I’ll probably have to adapt it. I’m also worried  that the final thing will be too tight—but not *that* worried to be honest—if it doesn’t work I’ll use something else. The job itself is stressful enough with out worrying about hobbies aswell!

swatch

There’s also this, which I’m pretty sure is one of the loveliest things you’ve seen all day, right? I actually took this last week, its a swatch gauge for what *will* become my first knitted garment. I don’t know why but starting it seems terrifying and so I keep putting it off. It’s this Boardwalk pattern from Brooklyn Tweed. Everyone (on Ravelry) seems to find it really easy but… I’m just being an idiot. I just need to get on with it.

So there we have it. There is a bit more which I’ve not had time to write about, but nothing that can’t wait. Hope you’ve all had good weekends (long weekends here in the UK) and that whatever you’re doing is fun, tricky enough to be interesting but not tricky enough to make you worry about it 🙂

See you soon.

 

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!

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

 

 

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!