And then there were two!

two

Happy New Year! Hope you had a good break over the holidays and your new year is going ok so far.  I’ve not been the best blogger, I have to admit, but wow, December was busy. In between work and travelling for work I did manage to race through some knitting.

I made this little chap:

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He is, I have decided, the gift for the baby I was knitting the original rabbit for. After thinking about it, I decided that you need something a baby can have a bit of a chew on, chuck about a bit, squeeze and pull in any direction. Something a more solid shape and construction seemed like a better idea, and so I went for this pattern. (Ravelry link).

Overall I enjoyed making him… until I got to the tail. It’s knitted on DPNs and just didn’t end up as neat as I would’ve liked. I also decided to sew on fabric eyes, rather than the usual plastic eyes (better for a baby). This was a bit of a pain as it turns out the black ‘craft felt’ from John Lewis is thin, disintegrates quite easily and is just… not very good quality. A lesson learned.

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And back to the rabbits… What a delight to knit! I’m genuinely thrilled with how they’ve turned out. Of course there are things that could be better and neither was completely struggle-free but still they make me smile every time I look at them.

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The pattern is from Little Cotton Rabbits. It’s the boy bunny with the piebald patch, although on these occasions I added the nose but not the patch. (I did make one head with the patch but wasn’t 100% happy with it. I’ll try it again another time though, because it is very cute). I just happened to have blue and white wool available for the jumpers and so I used that to match the pattern exactly.

They’re such a lovely size. They’re also exceptionally cute without being ‘twee’; no cartoony cutesy short cuts – no big eyes or overly large heads. Something about them being small but perfectly proportioned makes them even nicer.

I made the one with the scarf at the request of an ex-colleague. He said that the only thing his wife had said she actually wanted for her 50th birthday was “one of your knitted rabbits”. Which was of course very flattering but having only ever made one before I did say he’d have to turn a blind eye to the odd wrong stitch!

bums

Here’s a slightly odd picture of their bums! They each have a little tail that pops out of their shorts. You can also spot the tiny button I used to close their jumpers. I love that you can take these on and off. Seriously – the jumpers themselves are so cute they almost give you a heart attack.

If you’re thinking of making one for yourself and wondering if you can do it, the answer is yes, you probably can. The patterns are well written and illustrated with photos. Anything that isn’t a knit or a purl is also explained and very easy to google for a video tutorial should you need it. They’re knitted flat and stitched together, which for me made it even better. While I hate sewing, I hate small knitting on DPNs even more. Knitting them flat was almost – dare I say it – relaxing.

They take a while to stuff and to sew together, but personally, I found it easier / more enjoyable than sewing a crochet amigurumi. I crochet really tightly and getting a needle through crocheted fabric was always a horror. I did actually make the second rabbit and decide I wasn’t happy with the eyes. After a lot of ‘Really? At this hour? GO TO BED’ internal dialogue I decided to snip them out and redo them. I’m glad I did, he’s much nicer now. It’s always worth taking extra time on faces I think, no matter what type of toy you’re making.

If there was one problem with this pattern I would say that it’s *really* addictive. They’re now all I can think about. I’ve already bought the pattern for the elephant though, and so will try that next. I must admit, I’m not expecting to do so well on that one, so will definitely start with the head first and see how it goes. (For some reason I started with the feet for the rabbits).

Anyway. Happy new year! Here’s hoping we always have a chance to sneak in a little bit of time for ourselves this year.

 

More tatted sketches (more noodling about)

sketches

I’ve been quiet on the blogging front recently as a few other odds and ends have taken over at the weekends. Mostly, but not always of the work variety. That said, I’ve also been getting in to baking (for some strange reason), and I’ve now made the no knead loaf, a couple of white cobbs, and an oat and linseed loaf. All of them have been edible, although I must admit to a slight panic at the first white cobb which needed a *lot* of flour adding as that was way too much water. If you try that recipe, add the water in bit by bit as you might not need all of it.

Anyway. I digress. Ive also been working on my own tatting ideas recently. I’ve managed to snatch a little bit of time here and there, and I’m really enjoying it.

sketches1

I’ve been looking at layering the tatting as I’ve seen quite a lot of it about and I really like it. Mostly people use this technique for jewellery, but as I’ve mentioned before, while I love it to look at tatted jewellery it ends up being way bigger in size than anything I would normally wear.

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I’m a fan of square designs so I ended up moving in that direction. These are all variations on a theme…

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And this was the outcome of those ideas. They’re not sewn down or blocked so they’re a bit wonky, but you get the idea. As you can probably see, they’re made up of two sections, loosely threaded through. I did expand one out to secure the second section in, but it all got a bit unfocussed so I stopped. Looking at it now (not sure why I didn’t take a photo) it’s not as bad as I thought – I might go back to it. Either way I quite like these little squares. I think they’ll look nice when they’re sewn down.

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These are based on the idea of a crown, as it suddenly occurred to me that each corner was quite crown like…

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And this is the outcome of that.  I can’t seem to get a good photo of the black one but I really like it. It feels quite solid. The black thread is still size 80 but the dye really affects the thread and it’s a bit stiffer than the ecru. I think it would work well on black fabric, and possibly beaded, so that’s probably the plan.

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But in the meantime I have a little pile of thread-and-bead jewels. I keep looking at them and wondering what to do next. 

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Always amazes me that I can make something like this with a ball of thread and two shuttles.

I’ve also started tatting on my commute again. New journey and a different train means I can sometimes get a seat, which is really nice. First few times it felt a bit weird – I’ve not tatted that much in public for a while. Then you realise everyone’s so engrossed in their phones and Facebook you could be sitting there naked or on fire and no one would look at you – so there’s no real need to be self-conscious.

Zipping about again

I bought this bird fabric a while ago on Etsy, on a bit of a whim. Today I decided I was going to make a zip pouch, and the plan was absolutely to use up the green fabrics I had left over from the spaceinvaders monitor cover the other week.

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Then I opened the drawer to get out the cotton twill I bought ages ago for interlining, and saw the bird fabric and changed my mind. Its really lovely. Its almost like a very stiff linen, it’s not a regular cotton print. It actually creases really easily so it’s been ironed a million times. Its stiffness makes it great for something that might get thrown about a bit but its excellent creasing ability is a bit of a pain.

zipper_1

I had this pink zipper knocking around, which is actually not a bad match for the details on the birds. That said, it can look a bit too pink in a certain light. But hey, it’s just a zip, and I kinda like it being so bright – it feels like a feature.


zipper_2

Last time I made a pouch I used the hand-cranked Singer sewing machine, because I thought it had a zipper foot. It didn’t. This time I used the John Lewis Mini (its a bit like this) and it is also without a zipper foot. Actually I think that Elizabeth’s Hartman’s Zipper Pouch Pattern is so good that if you follow her instructions you can live without one. I’m sure it’s not perfect but it seems to work for me.

Its a great pattern, and I like the nice neat ends it gives the zipper. (Although you can see the stitching is a wee bit wonky there!) I must admit – I didn’t do a great job on the zipper pull. I found topstitching it really tricky – its not at all straight, but I’m trying to ignore that. I didn’t make a pull last time.

both

Here’s the first and second side by side. The monkey pouch is full of ribbons! It puts a smile on my face for the fabric AND the contents 🙂 Not sure yet what I’ll keep in the bird pouch. Looking at it now, I kinda think it looks better in real life… you’ll have to trust me on that. I’m not sure why I like zipper pouches so much, but there’s something really nice about them. There’s a woman on Etsy who screen prints fabrics which I really like, and I’ve almost bought a pouch from her a million times. I stopped myself because I don’t really need more, and the shipping is a bit expensive from Canada. If you live a bit nearer though, I think her work is lovely.

neat

Sorry – this is a totally gratuitous shot, and it’s not even from today. Look at it! Its so neat! I doubt I’ll ever match that on anything ever again.

Anyway…

tatting

 

Still experimenting with tatting patterns, but that’s for another post.

dodge

Annnnnd, I made some jammy dodgers in a fit of trying to seem productive on a day when my leg was driving me a little nuts. Hope you’ve had a good weekend wherever you may be.

 

Quilt invaders

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Its been another quiet weekend here as my other half left last Thursday to work in Barcelona for a few days. I mentioned previously that I’ve been working from home for a few weeks – I’m actually working in the kitchen, hooking up my laptop to a monitor which seems to’ve decided to move in. I’m not sure how we got from a nice empty (usable) kitchen table to one half full of tech, but it’s been handy for me, so I probably shouldn’t complain.

pixels

Its a nice new monitor, and my boyfriend has been bugging me to make a cover for it, to stop it getting dusty on the rare occasions we’re not using it. I’ve got an awful habit of making things we really don’t need, and nothing we actually *do,* so I felt obliged on this occasion to come up with the goods.

On Thursday I decided I knew what the weekend project would be, and hurriedly placed an order with M is for Make.

The fabric arrived on Friday, which was spectacular service and just what I’d hoped for. Its hard choosing colours from snapshots online, but I went with Kona Cotton: Lime, Emerald and Coal. The colours are really intense. I was super happy when I opened the envelope—and wondered why I’d not considered making a plain quilt before. I think I might try it. Anyway…

Can you tell what it is yet

Can you tell what it is yet?

diagram

I chopped the fabric up into 2″ squares, and used them as pixels. I even made a proper effort and plotted out the pattern into six different nine patches, plus extras. (Although not very neatly, as you can see). In the unlikely even you want to do something like this yourself and the pattern would help, leave a note in the comments and I’ll email it over (I’ll tidy it up first).

invader

Having plotted it out, piecing it was really fast. It’s easy to chain the ‘pixels’ together as you go, so for example, pixel 1 and 2 of the first square, followed by 1 and 2 of the second, third, fourth, by then you can add the 3rd pixel to square one, etc. Before you know it, you have the first line done.

bigger invaderI decided it would be more interesting if the invader wasn’t central, so pieced him over to one side. I’d love to share my measurements but I didn’t really make any…

strip

Which is why after I’d pieced everything together it turned out too short, so I had to add an extra strip on the bottom. (I’d bought this fabric at the same time, to co-ordinate but until that point had no need of it.)

back

I’d love to share my method for putting this together, but it was awful. Frankly I have no idea what I’m doing. The back (seen above) needs to be shorter than the front to allow for cables etc, which completely flummoxed me, I’ve got no idea why. Looking back, I should just’ve stuck to a method like a bigger version of the needle case with a pocket but I went down some insane route that I can’t even begin to describe. Anyway. Don’t do that.

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Here’s a pretty terrible shot of it in situ, with what looks like avery unhealthy cheeseplant in the background. Don’t worry, it is actually healthier than it looks…

Overall, it’s functional, I love the colours, and I’m very pleased with the invader. I’m a wee bit frustrated that I did such an awful job of putting the rest of it together, but you live and learn. It’s also put me in more of a mind to make the pixel skull quilt that I promised to my boyfriend an age ago…final

 

Bags of joy (or craft as therapy)

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It’s been a weird month or so. My partner has been travelling a lot and for a boring health reasons (herniated disc) I’ve been stuck at home. Like many people who work in London and live in a town outside I don’t really know anyone locally. The last few weekends have stretched out endlessly – but in a bad way. When you’re feeling super-cheerful, a free weekend feels like a brilliant opportunity. When you’re a bit fed up, it feels like it will never end. Social media doesn’t always help – perfectly posed photos of friends having amazing times, going places and doing things, and there you are home alone, climbing the walls (or you *would* climb a wall, if you were able to stand up).

There’s a lot been written and researched into the therapeutic effects of knitting and/or making things; here’s one article. Google and you’ll find loads more. I have to say I agree completely. I find that tatting and knitting both require counting, which calms a busy brain, and that sewing is good because often the projects are started and finished in a day and you really feel like you’ve achieved something.

There is no physical position I can get in that is pain free at the moment (can’t sit on the sofa, can’t lie down) – BUT on the upside, the closest I can get is a hard chair at the kitchen table, as long as it’s not for too long.

I decided this was the perfect weekend to make the most of a few things aligning: free time, no interruptions, a free kitchen table. What did I plan on making? Another zip top bag. What did I make? A drawstring bag!

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I’m really pleased with it, even if I do say so myself. I bought this the Elementary Mini Charm Pack from Moda just before Christmas. I’d sort of said that I would make my partner a quilt, but the one I have planned needs some black fabric. I bought the charm pack as a tester to see what would and wouldn’t work. I must admit, it’s a really nice pack. You get 42 squares in total – which when they’re all laid out, is quite a lot.

The zipped pouch I was going to make would only take 4 of these squares and when I put them together, it seemed like a shame. It felt like it would be nicer to put a few more together and make something bigger.

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I made this drawstring bag in 2013, and I use it all the time. It’s quite big, and of all the things I’ve made, it’s the thing I enjoy using the most. (Although I think that could be because most of the things I make aren’t that useful!) It’s tatted and embroidered – which despite being a bit flowery for my tastes I really like – and thinking about it, I wonder why I’ve never repeated? Anyway. I decided to make another bag roughly the same size.

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(Sorry for rubbish iPhone photos – the blank patchwork square actually has a pattern on it!). I didn’t measure anything – I just started with the charm squares and went from there. I ALMOST had a wobble when the charm squares were put together and the grey border added… would make a really nice quilt, but I decided I wanted to finish something there and then and actually, I have a use for the bag already. The white fabric with tiny blue stars was a speculative purchase ages ago, the grey fabric was in my stash and I managed to cobble just about enough calico together to line the inside. The ribbon handles I found in the back of a drawer – I was really pleased as they’re not a bad colour. I think they’re the handles from a posh carrier bag. (Always save those ribbons and cords, they’re usually just the right size for *something*).

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In terms of construction, I used this tutorial again, I quilted the main section after the patchwork was complete and before I started putting the panels together. By which I mean I stitched through the front straight on to the batting, with nothing behind it. The top grey section has iron-on interfacing to make it stronger, as it’s the bit that gets the most stress. Inside it’s just basic calico, which is heavy duty enough, and cheap, of course. I actually didn’t do a *terrible* job of that top stitching on the outside – but yes, I was too lazy to hunt for a more discreet thread colour.

And thus, mission completed. Just the right project – took long enough, but not too long. Required the right amount of sitting, but enough to keep that spine moving, as you need to get up and iron things, or chop things up. It also needs a bit of thought, but not enough to make you worry about it.

If you need  a project to cheer yourself up, and you like sewing, I would recommend it. (If you like knitting, I would recommend a hedgehog.) I’m hoping though, that if you are sewing things, you’re happy both before *and* after you start!

Here’s to it, us and making things.

 

Making a (lacy, beady) mess

mess

My journey to work has changed in the last couple of months. These days I can’t guarantee a seat, and often I need to change trains. In the past I had an unbroken journey of at least 20 minutes within an hour-1.5 hour commute. This means no tatting time. I have missed it, mainly because I’ve watched myself become like everyone else… someone glued to their smartphone. I catch up on emails, reply to the ones I can, think about the ones I can’t, think about the work just passed and work out how the day will pan out tomorrow. To be honest, I don’t think it’s at all healthy. I think we could all use a break, but this is the future we have invented for ourselves. Always connected. Always able to think about work no matter where we are.

oops

Yesterday I had some time at home. I listened (somewhat ironically) to a BBC show, The Digital Human, while I worked on the tatting pattern I made a while back. I really love this blue with the yellow beads, and wanted to see how this would work out. Actually, I think the blue could be a little stronger, it’s very pale—and how did it work out? As I went to finish it today I spotted yesterday’s wrong join. Its not possible to save it, so it’s one for the chop. I’ll keep it for a few days and then cut it up I guess, to save the beads.

You know what? It’s no biggie. If there’s one thing about tatting with thin thread, it’s that you have to take the rough with the smooth.  I was definitely tatting this one for the process, not the product. I wanted to keep my hands busy and at the moment work is exhausting, so I didn’t have the brain power to work a sewing machine to complete anything more complicated.

simple

I had some thread to use up at the end of the shuttle so I tatted this. I love these tiny pieces. Just need to work out what to do with them…

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I like them so much I made a couple more. Sometimes, small, simple and satisfying is what you need.

crown

I tried out a simple crown pattern too, still needs some work, and I may or may not work it out. We’ll see. I don’t need it for anything, just idle curiosity. I’m tempted to embellish them with embroidery maybe? Dunno.

So really, I have nothing much to show for a fair few hours tatting. This weekend it’s been all about the process and not the product. That said, I look at the mess in that photo, and I look at the sunny table full of thread, beads and lace where I was working and I think ‘that’s ok; its pretty, it’s my mess and it’s enough for now’. I’m pretty lucky.

And with that, I should go for a run. I’ve been putting it off  *all day*. (Although guys, cut me some slack, I did go yesterday 🙂 )

 

 

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.