Sunday, 31 July 2011

Housework - Phooey, I'm too busy playing!

Firstly I have to welcome some new followers, Ola to the lovely ladies from Brazil who found me through Minha Casa Meu Mundo, Goeiendag/Bonjour to Roziemie from Belgium and finally G'day to Carmel who is a friend of my sister from Oz - and Carmel, I know Annette has told you that she taught me everything that I know, but this is wrong, she could never make the mess that I make when I am working!

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you just don't know where to turn cos you want to do everything?

Well, here are a pair of pure Alpaca handwarmers which I designed, Sharon at Roses and Rue had received a sample ball of just 100m, so after we had finished stroking it, I got to take it home and knit it up, hence designing a pair of handwarmers with a little heart motif and a picot edging tied with a narrow black velvet ribbon.  Let me know if you would like me to publish the pattern on the blog?
Sharon has also asked me to do some classes at the shop, so I am going to do a flower workshop - as you will know I can manage Kanzashi flowers, so I thought I should also master some other sorts of flowers which can be made into fridge magnets, so I have been playing with some handsewn flowers, including yoyos - yep I even have a yoyo maker - and I have been deconstructing a felt flower that a friend has which I think may join the fray (no pun intended as it will be in felt!).  I feel a set of mega flower-making tutorial coming up.  Do you think we could make five different flowers in two hours... I bet we could!
Then I popped into the shop on Saturday and Sharon was on a mission, she was going to master freestyle machine embroidery, so armed with the Poppy Treffry's book she was off.  I had to run back home to find some  embroidery hoops and then I got started too.  We really went for it, down went the running dogs (the little teeth you find on the plate under the foot) and then with no regard for our own safety off came the foot.  It was really liberating - the only way I can explain it is to say you move the fabric and not the needle... but it is such fun playing and so different from classic applique where you do not see any raw edges.
Please note the classic machinist - ironing board on in the background,
coffee by her right hand and book open in front of her.
And this was her very first time, sans dogs and sans feet,
I love the smoke coming out of the chimney
I am still working on my piece which is called hearts and flowers, it is a freehand picture of a bunch of flowers and hearts in a vase, I promise to post it up during the week so you can see what you think.
Now as tomorrow is Monday, go take a look at Handmade Monday on Wendy's 1st Unique to see what everyone has been up to... she is also the Queen of Camper Vans as you will find out when you read it :)

Finally can I take this opportunity to thank you all for reading my blog, this weekend, I went through the 10,000 hits mark, it still amazes me that so many of your read my meanderings in so many places.  Thank you everyone :) 

And because it made me smile when I went past yesterday, this is the school allotment for North Street Primary School, which is just around the corner from where I live - I love the huge scarecrows, they are super!

... BTW, you should have seen me with my camera thrust through the fence taking my snaps but the sight was too lovely to miss.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Flower Folding For Fun - An Alternative Kanzashi Tutorial

One of the great things about making things is that there are so many ways to arrive at the finished item, which is why I am posting a new tutorial on Kanzashi flowers.  For those of you who have not heard of them, they are a Japanese fabric folding technique to make flowers which were originally made to adorn the hair of Geisha girls.


Fabric - cottons are great to start with  especially as they do not fray but as you become more skilled, try using silks too.
Cutting mat and ruler
Scissors and/or a rotary cutter
Needle and matching cotton
Iron and Ironing board
Glue Gun
£2 coin and a wine glass

Iron your fabrics and cut out 12 x 3" squares - this will make a flower with a 3" diameter, 12 square will make a really full flower - I have chosen to use two complimentary fabrics but you can use all the same fabrics or even more colours.
Fold your square in half diagonally and press with the iron, do not worry if your square is not absolutely right, these flowers are very forgiving.
Now fold the one corner from along the long axis to the point at the bottom.
And now repeat it with the other corner to make a diamond.
Turn the diamond over so that the folds are on the reverse side.
 Now, fold the right side into the middle.
And fold the other side into the middle
Pick up a pin and fold the two sides together along the vertical and place the pin through the centre and flip it over to see your very first petal.
Now repeat this for the other 11 petals, I tend to do this like a factory line and do them in groups of four.
Arrange your petals in the order you want to see them.
Now cut off the triangles at the ends off, cut them straight across to get rid of the excess fabric.
You need to thread your needle with a double thread and make a lovely big knot to secure it.  Put your needle through the thickest part of the petal.
Now pull the knotted end of the thread out and pulling the other end tight, tie the two ends together as tightly as you can.  Trim away the excess thread.
Gently ease the petals into place. Looks pretty rough eh, well we will soon sort that out.
Use your £2 coin to create a template to cover the back of your flower.  If you notice that you have not managed to capture all of the fabric, do not panic, you can either sew it in or use your glue gun.  Now cut out a larger piece of fabric using the wine glass base as your template.
Now do a running stitch around the template about a 1/4" in from the edge of the fabric, pull this tight and you have a covered button.
Now if you are using your flower as a brooch, decoration or bag embellishment you can glue the covered cardboard onto the flower.  If you are using it as a hair decoration, place your elastic under the covered  cardboard, then glue it... and because I go for a belt and braces approach, also sew the button onto the back of your flower.
To top off the flower, you can use an interesting button, or a covered button using the process we have just used to cover the cardboard, using your glue gun you can then attach the topper to the flower.

Now remember that wine glass, fill it with your favourite vin de plonk and sit back to admire your creative genius!

To see what wonderful things you can make and decorate with your flowers take a look at Dream Star's Blog - she is an inspiration!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Not quite the lottery winner but...

Well as you probably can tell I did not win the £161 million last week but I did have a dream come true!  For two days I ran a yarn and fabric shop for a friend and it was just as good as winning the lottery.  

It was such fun, meeting lots of people who popped in to browse, ask for help with their knitting, choosing colours and I even got to do some knitting while I was there.  I have made a start on a pair of socks for my friend Chris to keep his feet warm on his allotment (just have to indulge in a little Kitchener stitch to finish the toes.  The little hat is an adaptation of one I found on Ravelry, on the original pattern the petals were sewn onto the hat but I thought it would be easier to  knit it all in one... I wonder if Chris might like one for his gardening...
We will draw a veil over me locking myself out of the shop (temperamental Yale lock) and having to count shops so that I could work out which was the back garden of the shop to use the keys for the back door... I had visions of the Police being called as I attempted to break into the shop next door!

I was also lucky enough to attend another felting workshop with Jeanette Trim.  You may remember that I made some flowers with her before, but this time I wanted to make smaller and finer flowers... am so pleased with these and the way that the colours work so well together.
Now as it is Monday, go take a look at Wendy's Handmade Monday and see what all the other crafters have been up to... but I bet their dreams did not come true this week!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Crochety Old Bag - A tutorial for a ruffly crochet handbag

Did you notice how many people have taken up crochet recently, even my guest, Susie blogged about it?  So before the bandwagon drives off, here is a little something that I have created for you to make.  And if you don't believe me take a look at Handmade Monday on Wendy's wonderful site and see who else has been bitten by the bug.
Can Can Handbag

1 ball of Rico Can Can or similar tape yarn
1 size 8.0 crochet hook
1 fat quarter for lining

Make 12 chain using the tape unwrapped.
Round 1: Open up the tape and work in slip stitch down the chain (12 stitches), now turn your work and work down the other side of the chain (24 stitches)
Step 1
Step 2
Step 3
Round 2: Slip stitch twice into the first chain, slip stitch into the next 10 chain, slip stitch twice into the next two chain, slip stitch into the next 10 chain, slip stitch twice into the next chain (28 stitches)
Round 3: Sl st into the first chain, Sl st twice into the next stitch, sl st into the next 10 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next two chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next 10 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next chain (32 chain)
Round 4: Sl st into the first 2 chain, Sl st twice into the next stitch, sl st into the next 10 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next 4 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next 10 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next 2 chain (36 chain)
Round 5: sl st into the first 3 chain, sl st twice into the next stitch, sl st into the next 10 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next 6 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next 10 chain, sl st twice into the next chain, sl st into the next 3 chain (40 chain)
Round 6: Work in sl st until round is completed
Continue to work in sl st until the bag measures 7 inches or more from the bottom seam, cast off final sl st.

To make handles

Count in 7 ch from the centre of the side seam (ie where you cast off), count down three rounds and attach the yarn unwrapped to the row with a sl st and do this up each row, when you reach the top of the bag, chain [24], reattach the chain to the bag with a sl st, continue to slip st down 3 rows.

Turn the bag and sl st up to the edge of the bag, at the first chain dc , 1 ch miss one ch,; dc 1 ch miss 1 ch) 11 times, sl st down 3 rows and fasten off.
Now repeat this on the other side.

To make the button

Make 5 chain and join together.
Make 2 chain, double crochet 8 stitches into the chain round, slip stitch into second chain and fasten off.
To line your bag

Measure your bag, around the largest point (ie the top of the bag) and then from the top of the bag to the base (double this figure).  For my bag, it was 20” (length) x 14” (width), so giving myself 5/8” seam allowance I cut out a piece of fabric 211/4  x 151/4”.
To make a pocket for your phone and keys, cut out a piece of fabric 71/4” x 71/4”.  Fold a seam allowance of 5/8” all round.  Sew across the top of the pocket.  Now pin the pocket to the fabric 11/2 “ below the top seam, placing it an equal distance from both side seams and sew it onto the lining fabric.

Fold the fabric in half with right sides facing and pin the seams together, start from the top with a 5/8” but as you reach the crease at the bottom you will need to increase the seam allowance to a good inch to allow for the narrowing at the base of your bag.
Press open the seams of your fabric so that it will lay flat. You need to create a right angle (the corner of a square and get the seam to bisect it at 45' (which should be slap bang in the middle, just like this picture).  Fold the top of the seam down to make a little triangle.  Sew across this.  Now trim off the triangle with your pinking shears - you have now made the base of your bag, so that it will sit properly.
Take your button which you have crocheted and stitch it firmly between your handles.  Now find the centre stitch between the other pair of handles and make a slip stitch one chain to the right, make sufficient chains to go around the button and close your bag, then slip stitch this to one chain beyond the centre point stitch.  Sew in your loose ends.
Now fold 5/8” around the top of your bag lining, turn the crochet bag inside out and pin it just below the top row of crochet.  Hand slip stitch this to your bag.
Turn bag inside out.  Now gaze in wonder at what you have created!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Big Question - A Guest Blog

Here is another in the series of occasional guest blogs from Susie, who writes a great blog which I commend to the House! 

Susie tries and fails to write a focused, intelligent and informative blog over at Useless Beauty Designs and lives in Cambridge, UK.

Blog Post
I think, with a blog, you have a moral responsibility to tackle the big issues, and I like to look that responsibility squarely in the face and, readers, go there.  So, when I knew I was doing this guest post for Ros (thank you for letting me do a guest post, Ros!), I  considered doing, Is There A God?  I thought about, Is Love Real?  I pondered, How Should We Bring Down Capitalism, Is It Desirable and If We Do Can We Keep Waitrose?  But I think we all know there’s a bigger issue than all of those.  Yes.

Which is better? Knitting or Crochet?
A good functional knitted sock on a good functional knitted trivet.
I won’t use this caption to tell you how much I HATE NORO. I do though
Right. {Cracks knuckles}.  Because I know that subjects like this tend to attract heated feelings and possibly hate mail, I am going to do a disclaimer at the beginning, which is, I don’t know what I’m talking about.  So, if you read this and think, Aaaaaaaah how can she say you can’t do xx with a crochet hook when actually you can and I have done it, or, how can she dis knitting so, if she only knew about the special Patagonian knitting technique where you tension the wool by wrapping it round your left ear and knitting straight from the llama, then, you are probably right.  These are just my impressions based on not huge amounts of experience and I am more than happy to be corrected.  So look on this as a helpful field guide to/ whistlestop tour around some common [mis]conceptions of knitting and crochet, those of you who do both may have entirely different impressions, those of you who sit firmly on one fence or another may be attracted to the Dark Side.  When I get to the end I shall conclude firmly that one or the other is far superior and question why people who engage in the other waste their time.  That is a joke.  I will not do that.

1. Crochet is for grannies who sit about making poodle toilet roll covers out of giant balls of aran, whereas knitting is for hipsters who make IPod cosies out of half a skein of Malabrigo worsted. 

Although I am British, I learned the word ‘hipster’ on the internet. Another thing I learned on the internet is this stereotype about knitters and crocheters which I did not know of before so I am forced to say, nonsense, and enough with the age stereotypes.  It has been my experience that people who do not knit or crochet think we are all mad in a generic messing-about-with-wool way, and are not looking into the specifics of whether we are brandishing a hook or a pair of sticks; so in this sense internal division is not helpful.  Although, I would be much more likely to crochet a blanket than knit one, and I would definitely use acrylic, so perhaps I am just feeding stereotypes.  I have a pattern for a poodle toilet roll cover too but it is knitted. I have no IPod.

2.  Knitting is easier than crochet or vice versa.

Now, this is an interesting one.  I do not remember learning to knit as it was back in the mists of time but I do remember learning to crochet as it was about 2 years ago. I don’t find either one of them easier (honestly).  With knitting you are juggling more stitches on the needles, and knitting in the round on 5 needles is certainly quite fiddly to start with, but, with crochet you have the horror of trying to crochet into the chain (aaaaand I say again, use the Doris Chan foundation single crochet method), and you have to know where you are putting your hook rather than just having the stitch presented to you on the needle.  Also, I find it much easier to rip out in crochet as you don’t end up trying to manoeuvre a lot of live stitches, but if I was more advanced I would be able to drop knit stitches down and correct mistakes a few rows down which crochet does not do.

One thing I have found is that it is easier with knitting to just knit the stitches as they come up and not engage with the process beyond that. I mean, it’s not a good idea because it’s much easier to be able to tell what kind of stitch you’ve just made, count the rows, understand where you are in the pattern etc: but you can certainly knit blindly and just count, because I did this for ages when I had picked knitting up again. With crochet, because you have to know where you’re making each stitch, it forces you to read your work at an earlier stage (at least it did for me. Other people may be different).

3  Crochet is more efficient than knitting.

Aha.  Now I shall reveal a prejudice.  As far as I’ve ever found, crochet is miles – repeat that, miles – faster than knitting, but uses more yarn. Now, I haven’t timed myself or measured yarn consumed, but I’m pretty sure this is the case.  This means for me, who am a product crafter, that I will crochet things I would not dream of knitting because it would take me FOREVER. Hence I am a quarter of the way through a crochet blanket that if I had attempted to knit it would have led me to going mad and possibly running through the streets naked and squawking. 
 Smashing stereotypes and preconceptions with my
crocheted blanket in nice bright acrylic
4   Crochet is just about granny squares.
You see, again with the bad granny associations.  Well, clearly crochet is not just granny squares because it just isn’t, but I have to (controversially) say that I wonder why you would be attracted to crochet as a craft if you hated granny squares because they are a very useful thing to be able to make out of your scraps of yarn.  It is like saying, I love cooking, but I’m really not interested in the effects of heat on food.  Just because there were some Bad Granny Square choices made in the seventies that does not mean we should now dismiss them.  There was Prog Rock in the seventies too but we did not close down the music industry.

5  Knitting produces a fabric which curls in uselessly on itself and crochet produces a fabric that is so stiff it is like wearing a tarpaulin.
This is true up to a point.  Stocking stitch in knitting does curl and so on its own without a border it might not be your best choice for a scarf or a table mat, likewise you might not want a whole jumper in single crochet done in a bulky yarn on a too-small hook (or you might! Who knows?).  However knitting gives you lots of stitches which do not curl, and crochet can give you lots of drapy fluid fabrics, so it is no use picking out just one for each and criticising them for not having certain properties.  It is like following me round and telling me off for having e.g. no sense of direction, as although it is true I have no sense of direction, that ignores the Wider Wonder That Is Me.

6  Knitting is better than crochet/ Crochet is better than knitting.
No it is not/ no it is not.

I actually think it is a good idea to know both knitting and crochet as they are both excellent in different situations.  However, where does it all end? It is a long, woolly road, readers, and it has many stops along the way.  But I think we know where an indiscriminate learning of ever more complicated ways to loop yarn through yarn might end.
Macramé. You know you want to.
Yes. It’s a road that might end in macramé. And that really is de trop (joking. Honestly). Where do you stand on the knitting vs crochet debate?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Sole story

I have a confession... I like shoes, no strike that I love them, so I was really delighted when I spotted this shop in Marylebone Lane - Tracey Neuls - especially as I was feeling a bit miserable but this shop put a really big smile on my face.
So I went inside and asked if I could take some pics, they explained that every so often they have a designer in to set up new designs in the shop.  And OK I felt a bit smug cos guess who displays her own handknitted booties on cake plates... does this mean I am ahead of the curve?
So if you are in Oxford Street, pop in and take a look, all the shoes are handmade and imported from Italy... I just hope that they can get rid of the marks my face made pressed up against the window!
Well now, I have a further confession, in my bedrooms are over 100 pairs of shoes... some of which date back to the 1980s and once every couple of months I have a grand polishing session!  Thought you might like to see a few of my fave pairs...
Every girl should have a pair of black patent shoes
especially if they are made by Christian Louboutin.
And who did not grow up wanting a pair of red shoes
after they watched The Wizard of Oz?
Jimmy Choos - nuff said!
Here is the dress which I had in pieces last week... don't look too closely as it is not finished, guess who forgot to check that she had matching cotton to attach the bodice to the skirt?
So good job I always have red cotton in my cotton box!
Now go over the Wendy's Handmade Monday to see what everyone else has been up to, and do remember to leave comments, I know that it means a lot to me when people do.

Finally, I have an announcement, on Wednesday I have a guest blogger, Susie from Useless Beauty Designs, take a look she writes a superb blog!