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.

 

 

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:

whale.png

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.

full_length

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.

single

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.

 

Catching up

sept_1

Well, time certainly flies. Or at least it moves on, whether you’re having fun or not! I haven’t meant to leave it so long between posts, but work and weekends have intermingled a bit this summer, and I haven’t had a lot of time for myself. Also, the change in my morning commute has affected my productivity much more than expected—I’ve barely had any time to tat. I did manage to make this with a few snatched minutes while waiting for a lift to the station over the last week or so though, and I’ve enjoyed working with these petite seed beads. This is size 80 thread, and so the beads are smaller than regular seed beads.

sept_2

When I have had time to make things, for some reason I’ve gone for the mainly useless! I’ve made a few more stress  bunnies to give away — often to people who are stressed themselves, and last weekend I made a little time to try out this strawberry pattern. (Yes, hers are much neater than mine!) I actually tried this some time ago, but couldn’t get the hang of it at all. This time around it went much better – they’re not perfect, but there’s something about them that I really like. Lots of people make the cord stalk really long, so the leaf pokes out of the top of a book and the strawberry the bottom, but I decided the yarn was too thick and I got a bit bored Icording – so…

sept_3

What I have instead is a cord long enough to tie a little strawberry bundle. No use to anyone, but it makes me happy.

A few months back I did manage to make something more useful. I had a weekend to myself and so made this bucket-style drawstring bag

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The striped fabric is upholstery weight, bought as a cheap remnant. Its great for this kind of bag as it stands up on its own…

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I’m using it as a knitting bag, it’s big enough to keep quite a few balls of wool, needles and a printed pattern inside. Its also the kind of bag you can leave the ball of yarn in while you knit, to stop it rolling off.

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I was really pleased with the colour of the drawstring too. I saved it from a paper carrier bag – I can’t even remember which shop it was from now, but it was the perfect match! I always save these cords, they’re great for things like this.

sept_7

And finally, this is one of my sunflowers. I’ve grown about 8 this year and I’ve really enjoyed watching them grow. As I’ve been away for work quite a lot, every time I get home I’ve rushed into the garden to see how they’re doing 🙂 I’ve also grown chillies and tomatoes, and I’ve loved that too. I don’t know why I had a few summers off the sunflowers, but must remember to grow them again next year.

Hope you’re all well out there and have had a great summer. With any luck I’ll be back again soon.

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.

 

Knitting school!

knitting_1

Hello! It feels like it’s been ages since I posted here, which is not intentional. The house is still chaotic, work is nuts, everything is all over the place, but… Lets not talk about all that now! One of the great things about a crafty blog is that it’s a nice chance to get away from all that.

So.

I went to knitting school! At the end of last year I decided that it would be good to just learn the things I needed to know from a human being, instead of YouTube. I’ve taught myself a lot from YouTube (and will no doubt continue to) but I just thought, ‘go learn on some samples and THEN worry about making something. Stop not making things because they sound impossible.’ Also, hobbies are supposed to be fun, right? I thought it might be fun.

IT WAS GREAT. Three Saturdays in a row, from 10.30-4.30 with an hour for lunch. A nice small class of five people and one lovely teacher.  Claire is the editor of Inside Crochet, and she’s also written a variety of knitting and crochet books. If you’re in London and wanted to learn knitting (or crochet), I don’t think you could have a better teacher. She’s super-patient, the lessons are really well planned and I came away with a stack of reference material and a much better understanding of what I’m doing.

knitting_3

The course was for intermediate knitters. People who know how to knit and purl and are wondering what to do next. The two photos above are from the first week, where we looked at increases and decreases, and then applied that to lace. We made lots of small samples — learning by doing, which is the best way for a practical subject.

knitting_2

These are two samples from week two, where we looked at cables, and knitting in the round. I’ve been wanting to knit cables for ages. It’s nice to know they’re achievable! For knitting in the round we used circular needles and DPNs. I’ve made a baby hat, but can’t get a decent shot of it at the moment (no space in the house due to builders). I bought some Addi circular needles, and finally realised what people mean when they say how much they like a particular type of needle. These are SO nice to use it’s almost like a doing different craft. Amazing.

knitting_4

This is from yesterday when we looked at Fair Isle, Intarsia and also different cast on/off methods. There are a few more samples but I’ve tucked them away in my reference folder. So, all in all, lots of good lessons learnt! I’ve become addicted to Ravelry again, trying to decide what to make next. I cannot wait for the building work to be finished so I can actually get to my needles.

crochet

These little chaps are off to new homes soon. The poor bear has been hanging around hoping for a new family for a long time, and the mouse arrived the other week. I hate to say it, neither of them are perfect, but I have found a place that will make them welcome, I think. I spotted this appeal from the Lincolnshire Police. They’re after knitted and crochet bears (I hope they don’t mind the mouse!) to: “…console children involved in a road traffic accident until emergency services can deal with the accident situation.  They help to keep children calm in what is sometimes a frightening experience.”

What a lovely thing to do for kids in a horrible situation! So these two will be off soon. They look rather nervous, I must admit but I think this is the reason:

crochet2

The house is so upside down at the moment that some of the kitchen and all of the hall is in our bedroom. This is the only space available to take a photograph! I think they were concerned they were about to get crushed.

I hope you’re all doing ok and if you’re in the UK you’re staying safe and dry. See you soon, I hope!

 

 

My first tatting pattern…

Yellow and white tatting

Well, the good news is, I’ve got back to tatting on the train again. The bad news is that I decided to finish something off at home earlier and I messed it up! I was listening to a podcast and must’ve stopped concentrating; made and closed the wrong ring — and in thread size 80 I’m not sure I can face battling it open again. I’ll work out what to do with it later. There it is though, and despite me being an idiot, it does photograph well.

Variegated thread

The yellow is a variegated thread, which in this instance, I really like. I only bought it as Roseground where I buy my ecru thread didn’t seem to have a solid yellow in DMC 80 at the time, and it seemed silly to pay postage on just one ball of thread! But you know how that goes…

Red Variegated

I ended up buying some red too, and it’s horrible! I guess if you only use the red and don’t combine it with anything it could be ok, but yeuck. This was just a tatting test to work out a pattern, but it’s so hideous I can’t bring myself to finish it. If there’s anyone in the UK who really loves red/pink variegated thread and will do something much nicer than this with it, shout, and it’s yours 🙂 (And i wont judge you – I’ve probably just chosen to use it badly).

I had a little play with some other colours and shapes too:

Blue green

The pattern didn’t work out on this one but I like the colours. I was using up the ends of two shuttles…

tatted daisy

I had a play around with something more daisy-like too. I really love that yolk-yellow. Not sold on the pattern yet, but might go back to it another time.

Anyway. The outcome of all of this, is that I think I’m done with that pattern. So if you fancied making it too, it works in one or two colours and comes out like this (it’s not stitched on, in this shot):

curtain edging tattingHere’s the pattern – let me know if you try it – and if you spot any mistakes!

free tatting pattern

Phew!

phew

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.