Getting dressed

dressed_1

Yesterday was a bit of a weird one here, a bit disjointed. Weirdly I ended up with a  lot of time to sit and knit while the world moved awkwardly around me, and so I set to work making Nell’s dress. (I’ve decided she’s called Nell. She doesn’t seem to mind).

While there is a dress that comes with the elephant pattern, I really like the dresses I’ve seen on Ravelry with capped sleeves, so I splashed out and bought the seasonal dress pattern, which has lots of different charts. Deciding which chart to go for is tricky, and in which colours—and then if you’re going to modify the way you use the colours… there’s a lot of choice. In the end I went for the blue to match the shoes (probably wouldn’t match shoes and main colour of dress again actually – which she’s sitting down there’s a lot of blue) and added the brighter green to make it a bit more cheerful. I knew I wanted the green at  the top.

nell_dressThe given pattern for this dress has a solid colour all the way to the top – so I wasn’t completely sure when I should switch. The capped sleeves are made by wrapping the yarn to create more stitches, something I really wasn’t convinced I would get to work. Despite that, for some reason I decided to change when purling in to these wrapped stitches—and as it happens, it gives a really nice contrasting edge to the sleeves! Amazing. Anyone would think I had some idea what I’m doing (I don’t.)

nell_feet

I also added little buttons to her shoes. I wasn’t 100% sure I’d be able to do that, but knitting is so much more flexible than crochet it wasn’t too hard to bend her feet around and squeeze the needle through. I love these teeny tiny buttons. The people that make them must be amazed that anyone can find a use for a button so small.

friends

You can see that I need practise on the colour work – the tension is a bit ropey. Also you *really* need to concentrate! I used the point of a pair of scissors to point at every stitch on the chart as I worked, otherwise you look up for a sec, look down and have no idea where you are.

The pattern actually recommends cotton for the elephant and the clothes. You can see that I’ve used wool for both, as that’s what I had available. I like Nell (the elephant) in wool, but you can already see that the dress is way too fluffy (and will probably pile). It kind of loses the detail. Seeing as I’m already planning more—they’re really addictive—I’ll probably use up the wool I have but think about buying cotton to try at some point.

final

After making the rabbits, I honestly didn’t think I could be more thrilled with a toy, but I’m so pleased with her! The pattern is amazing. I really didn’t think you could get knitting to be as nicely 3d as you can with crochet. And no DNPs! The construction and shaping is really clever. I have no idea how long it must’ve taken Julie to figure out these patterns and then write them down, but she deserves every penny and all the praise she gets! I won’t say they’re easy, but they’re definitely manageable, and watching them come together is a lot of fun.

Question now is… do I make her a little cardigan as well? Maybe I should actually do something useful first, like clean the house… Hmm.

Happy sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

The eyes have it

elephant_1

After the total joy of making two rabbits (one hopefully now settled into his new home) I decided to take a risk on an elephant. I say ‘take a risk’ as she looks pretty complicated to me—I didn’t want to just assume this would be a breeze, and then get super frustrated. I still consider myself a new knitter to be honest, and there’s lots of techniques I don’t know or need to look up each time.

With the bunnies I started on the feet as they seemed like the most complicated part. With this one I started on the head, because if you can’t get that right you’re kind of stuck. My first effort was shaping up nicely… until I realised I was rushing a lot and had missed a complete 10 rows! I’d already got onto the ears and couldn’t work out why there were so enormous. They weren’t, her head was too small. I started again.

elephant_2

The second time, I found shaping the trunk a little hard – you need to pull on the wool that you’re sewing the seam with, to make the trunk curl. It snapped. If you’re doing this yourself, I’d definitely recommend strong yarn for that bit of seaming (as it says in the pattern), or curling it about 10 stitches a time as you sew, instead of in one go when you get to the end.

Once I’d made the head, I stitched the eyes… And I just didn’t like them. Eyes are SO important, and can really make or break a toy (as I know I’ve said before.) They just weren’t in the right position. After living with them for a day and looking at everyone else’s in Ravelry I decided to unpick them. Then she had no eyes for a couple of weeks. At this point I was kind of disappointed as I just didn’t think I’d get them right, but I made the rest of the body anyway.

I was going to give her solid coloured tights and then changed my mind, which is why she has that darker blue band around her tummy. Also, I changed colour too soon – there’s a rogue dark blue row that shouldn’t be there. I found the shoes relatively easy to knit, but tricky to sew together neatly. One is good, the other not so good. They definitely get better with practise I think. Same goes with stitching the legs to the body.

I’ve looked at a *lot* of others on Ravelry and there’s definitely a technique to attaching the legs to the body that I don’t have yet. But that’s not so bad… a good reason to make another one!

elephant_3

With the eyes I suddenly had a brainwave – its not that much of a revelation to most, but it worked a treat for me. I got some pins with the round plastic balls for a head. I spent ages positioning and repositioning them. Finally when I thought they were in the right place I stitched the knots in — and it worked! She went from being a bit of a problem to something I was super excited about making. It’s amazing what a difference it makes! It transforms a project from ‘some knitting’ into a little character of her own.

Last night I stitched her all together. (Probably not a good idea after a long day but I had a free evening.) I’m so pleased with her! Looking at the attachment of the legs to the body this morning I’m a bit less thrilled, but she’s such a lovely little character. I still can’t get over the fact I’ve managed to get enough skills to make something so nice. It’s like being given a gift. I’ve really enjoyed making her (despite the ups and downs) and there’s still a dress to come.

There’s something brilliant about being really into the thing you’re making. Its so nice to have something non-stressful to think about. I think it’s something to do with gaining new skills too, you think about it a bit on the way to work maybe, instead of worrying about this document or that meeting. You sneak a few rows in here or there and get to see a bit more life come to pass…

And on that note, time to start the 90 minute commute and think about what colours her dress should be. Hope all’s well with you.

 

 

Bearly there

bear

I can’t believe how long it’s been since my last post. I was so productive, and then suddenly it all went to pot! Not entirely sure what’s been going on. This is just a quick catch up, really.

I finished off this little fellow a couple of weeks ago. He’s sitting in an egg cup (a gift for ‘me’ from by boyfriend… While I like it a lot, I can’t help thinking this was’t entirely selfless giving).

When I finished this I wasn’t 100% impressed. I didn’t knit him that well, and to be honest, his body ends up a tiny bit pointy at the top, which gives him a weird neck. I tried to get around that when I stitched his head on, but it’s not great. Also, I made the scarf way to long. NO idea how that happened, because it was SO tedious to knit.

But… but…

bear 2

Despite all that, he’s actually *really* cute. Not neat enough to give away, but I really like him. I keep picking him up to have a little look. Might knit another one, but neater this time. Here’s the pattern on Ravelry. (Sorry about the quality of late night iPhone photos.)

tatting in colour

These are some rating experiments I’ve also been doing. I treated myself to some new threads (always DMC size 80 – just different colours). The colours are lovely. I’m trying to work out using beads in different ways and also, folded rings. In the ecru example I managed rather excellently to put the beads on the bottom row of rings rather than the top! This means you can’t see them. At all. That’s what happens when you start something new on a train after a day’s work, while not quite thinking. I like the beads in the centre of the folded rings though, so will persevere…

Right now, in fact.

Hope you’re having / have had a good weekend.

 

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…

more

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.

 

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.

 

Tatting, biscuits and running

small tatted rings

I haven’t had a chance to tat for *ages*. I’m not sure what on earth is going on with the trains but since the new year they’ve been late and/or overcrowded, which means no seat—which in turn means no tatting. I can, and have, tatted standing up on the train before, but recently the journeys have been the kind when you’ve needed to hold on with all your might and all your limbs.

tatted close up

That said, I’ve gone back to an old tactic over the last week or so. If there are two trains heading for home in the evening, I take the second one. The extra wait occasionally means there’s a slight chance of a seat. All of this is almost a moot point though, as I’m in the middle of changing jobs, so who knows what my new journey will be like..! We shall see. Anyway, I did some tatting!

size and scale

The one above is a tester. Forgive my horrible hand, but I thought it would be useful to get a sense of scale. As much as I love closeup shots, you can’t tell how big they are at all. For the record, they’re pretty small. This is size 80 thread. They’re lovely and solid though. In all but the testers, the rings interlock, which makes them feel quite sturdy. The one directly above was when I was wondering how to fix the last ring. The answer? Not like that! It needs to be a self closing mock ring.

thread and shuttle

Something about them makes me think of sea urchin shells, not sure why. Not even sure what I’ll do with them yet, but they’re really nice to tat (mindless, until the last two rings which is just what I need at the moment.)

So that’s that.

tatted experiments

In other news, I sent a little package of older tatting experiments off in the post to a friend and his three children. I dropped him a quick email to ask if his children were still at the gluing and sticking stage, and he replied that they were. These odds and ends are nice, but not perfect — just experiments with different threads, things that are almost ok but not quite… you know the kind of thing. Feels awful to throw them away, but you can’t think what to do with them. I think they’ll be great for collaging or scrapbooking or something, so off they went. He received them yesterday and seemed very happy, so that’s all good.

biscuits

Now, if you can work out what these are I will be AMAZED. Any ideas? No? Well, they’re biscuits baked in the shape of Nürburgring, which is, broadly speaking a race circuit in Germany. My boyfriend bought ‘me’ a cookie cutter in the shape of the track when he went on a visit for work. He finds it hilarious to buy me domestic gifts because, well, I’m just not that domesticated.

I do not bake — seriously, I am not a baker. I am however an eater. These are the first cookies/biscuits I have ever made, and they are delicious. The simplest recipe ever — but if I can help it I’ll never bake again. The main reasons for this being:
1) I know how much butter is in them
2) there would’ve been more had I not eaten a stack of the dough in the process (don’t panic, there are more than shown in the photo!)
3) see point 2

I have a lot of hobbies. I make all kind of things. A hobby that produces surplus sweet food seems like madness to me, I’ll end up the size of a house! (These were biscuits for his birthday.)

ON THE OTHER HAND, I went for an 8k run on Friday and a 7k one on saturday. Last year I completed my first, second and third 10k races. It was hard work, a lot of fun, and really good to have something away from work to strive for. I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite the sense of achievement as when I ran my first 10k. It was, frankly, amazing, and possibly the highlight of my year. This year it’s been harder to get out there. I was ill for a few weeks, I was injured for a few weeks, then I was ‘too busy’. A chance reading of this point from Night’s Watch made me buck my ideas up though. She’s running in ice and snow, and yet I can’t run in a slight chilly wind? Sheesh! So. I’m back on that again. I’m running super-slowly just to get out there and enjoy it at the moment. I’ll worry about speed in a month or so.

So that’s me up to date. (There was knitting but I frogged it. Hopefully next time).

Hope you’re well. Thanks for stopping by!