Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Squaring Up

Sometimes I really need instant gratification and I get that when I do blanket squares.  It's funny how when you decide that you will do something, a bit like a bus, another one turns up.  Originally I was going to work on a blanket for The Knitter's project for the Refuge charity - if you don't know anything about this, it is a charity that works with families that have to leave their homes due to domestic abuse, often they will arrive with their whole world in a carrier bag - the plan is to give everyone who has to stay in a refuge this year is given a blanket of their own.

However fast on the heels of this came an appeal for a Mumsnet blanket, made in memory of a mum who had died unexpectedly... non-knitters send a couple of balls of wool through to knitters and we knit up squares which are sent off to be made into the final blanket.

So as I blocked out the squares there was only one piece of music I could listen to... and here it is Dave Brubeck's - Unsquare Dance

So here are the five squares I have made up for the Mumsnet blanket, which are taken from a special e-zine  which can be bought for a charity donation to Refuge and a revised version of patterns from Nicky Epstein's book Knitting Block by Block

So I will be off to the Post Office tomorrow to send them on their way.

Monday, 29 August 2011

We are going to talk about the 'C' word - our first Christmas gift tutorial

Right, I have a plan, we are going to be on top of Christmas this year... yep, you heard me I have used the 'C' word before the end of August... so I am going to feature a tutorial for a gift that you can make in a couple of hours and we will even make the Christmas stocking to put it in.  If you have anything you would like to make for Christmas then let me know and I will see if I can include it.

Well let's get started with something really simple, an easy ribbon hair grip (OK, yes it is another flower but it is so easy :))
You will need:
Just under a metre of ribbon
An ironing board or cork board
Map pins / needlework pins
A button
An hair clip
Scissors, cotton and a needle
Set up your ironing board or cork board and fold over a piece of ribbon about 3" long, tucking under about 1/2" to give a tidy end.  Pin it securely to your board with one of your map pins.
Now, leaving the red pin in situ, bring the ribbon back to the centre and using another map pin secure it in the centre making sure you go through all the layers of the ribbon, you have two petals already!
Now, lay the next ribbon petal down over the centre, carefully remove the first pin that you used to hold the folded ribbon in place, always remembering to go through all the layers on ribbon. 
Continue working in this way, building up your layers of petals.
I find that eight petals are sufficient... especially when I remember that I will have to get a needle through all these layers.  As you get to your last petal, finish in the centre by neatly folding the ribbon over on itself and holding it in place with your two map pins.
Carefully lift your flower off the board and using your needle and thread, catch the ribbon at each corner sewing all the way through each layer... otherwise you will be wearing a wierd ribbon bunch rather than a flower.

Sew a decorative button onto the top of the flower but do not go all the way through the ribbons as you will want to slip your hair grip through the lowest flap of ribbon at the back of your flower.
Job done... and your first little stocking filler is complete.

And I have just made it under the wire to add the flower to Wendy's Handmade Monday and I know that you all know the drill, click on the linky to see what everyone else has been up to.

Finally, if you have any ideas about what you would like to see included in our Christmas tutorials, do let me know... and now my very first ad trail, next week, we will make a ribbon cushion, so keep that cork board downstairs in readiness!

And honestly, this is really the last bit, I have put all my tutorials under the  Tutorials tab on the top of the page so all you have to do now is look down the list to find a pic of the item that you want to make.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Days of Wine Glasses and Roses... A Flower Tutorial

OK, I am trying to get to grips with Pages and failing miserably... so I may well need the wine glass filled by the end of this tutorial or maybe I will raise it in celebration?
So let's get cracking, you will need:
Two pieces of complimentary fabric
Scissors, needle and pins
Sewing machine
Wine glass and shot glass... 
Self covering button or a large decorative button
Glue gun
and... you know what is coming next, an iron and ironing board

Using the rim of your wine glass as a template, trace out five circles on each of the pieces of fabric.  Wash wine glass and set aside :)
Pin together with the wrong sides facing.  Sew together using a seam allowance of 1/4" - if you check you will probably find that the right hand side side of your machine foot is 1/4" from the needle so you can use this as a guide as you sew round.  Leave an opening of approximately an inch so you turn the petal inside out.
Turn all the petals inside out and press lightly.  Fold the petals as shown above and catch firmly with a stitch.
Now layer them up like a compass and stitch through all your fabrics to hold them firmly in place.
Now take your shot glass, bet you wondered when I would use it - I am using a Schnapps glass that my father brought back from Germany when he was stationed there after WWII and this is probably one of the few times it will get used - as we are now going cover the back of the flower.  Using the base of the glass as a template cut out a piece of cardboard and using the rim of the glass cut out another circle of fabric.
Now if you are making a fridge magnet, glue your small magnet to the cardboard and allow it to set.   Place a knot in your thread and using running stitch, sew around the fabric just a 1/4" from the edge. Put the cardboard disc in the centre and gather up the fabric around the disc and stitch it firmly.
Turn over your flower and glue it in place.
Now covering a button is done in exactly the same way, cut the fabric to be about 1/2" larger than the button... I often find that a search through your purse will find you an appropriately sized template, although avoid the 50p's!
I like to open up the petals and sew them together as it looks prettier but you can leave them in their closed state.  Glue or sew your button onto the top of your flower.
If you are making a brooch or handbag embellishment, you can glue your fitting onto the back of the flower.

Handy Tip - If you are making a handbag embellishment, cut out a circle of felt or a flower shaped motif and sew or glue it to the underside of your flower as this means it will not scratch your bag.

Now remember the wine glass we washed and set aside earlier, go and get out a bottle of wine to toast your crafting skills!
Cheers!  BTW, if you are making more than one you do not need to drink a glass for every flower you make...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

And So to Bed... with an Hour to Spare

The Alpaca bed socks for my friend are now finished... she has tiny size 3 feet which will be very snug this Winter, added to which this multi-coloured wool is in her colours, turquoise, mauve and purple.  It is actually a combination of two sock patterns and what I really love about it is the name of one of the stitches used on the heel - eye of partridge - isn't that a lovely romantic name for a stitch? *  It creates a thicker piece of knitting around the heel so that it does not rub through.
And by this time next week I will have finished this dress from October's copy of Making Magazine, which I am making for my friend Alissa.  We went to choose the material  from Belle Fabrics and I think she will look great in it, she is size 8, pretty and nice... don't you just hate young people  :)
Hmmm... can you imagine the background being a tad more
purple... cos my auto-correct can't!
Now did you know that currently doing something that 8.3 million people still can't do - yep, 8.3 million people have never accessed the internet.  Think about it, never sent an email, tweeted, read or posted a blog, skyped, IM'd, bought a book online, paid a bill online or downloaded music for an i-pod... not sure about you but currently I don't go a day without doing at least one of the above.  
On Friday, I met someone from Race Online 2012 which is an organisation set up to try and encourage even more people to go online by the end of 2012.  Later this year they have a campaign to make us use the extra hour when the clocks go forward called Go on Give an Hour which asks you to introduce someone new to the internet.  Now working on the principle, that you are all busy people so you will do it, why not consider signing up to do this as a Digital Champion?  

So I am making up a list of half a dozen websites that I would show someone who is new to the internet:
1stuniquegifts and Handmade Monday because Wendy's site is a great read and a brilliant portal to other crafters
Ravelry - A knitters paradise with patterns, advice and yarn sources
BBC - I love news, I love the BBC and I love being able catch up with viewing and listening
Google - A website which became a verb and is like having an Encyclopedia Britannica by your side without lugging round all 26 volumes
Hotmail - My form of email communication
UK Governors - I have been a school governor for over 20 years and this group always have the answer no matter what the question and unlike other services there is someone around to give an opinion even at weekends.

Now I have told you mine, share yours with me in your comments... naturally all your blogs and websites are a given!

*Eye of Partridge worked over four rows
Row 1 - Knit
Row 2 -  Purl
Row 3 - K1, Slip 1, repeat to the end of the row K1
Row 4 - Purl 1

Thursday, 18 August 2011

If you knew Susie...

Today I went to our local Stitch n Bitch session at the LYS... it made me realise how lucky you are when you have friends... my oldest best friend I met on the first day at secondary school, our coat pegs were next to each other and I now make her life miserable by leading her sons astray as only a Godmother can but this is the story of my mother's best friend which I wanted to share with you.

As she walked into the room and saw her, she let out a gasp.

“Oh no, Susie, how could they?”

She took in the image before her, an old lady in the advanced stages of dementia, tied to a chair, with her stockings puddled around her ankles.  She walked towards her oldest friend and stroked her cheek, getting out her handkerchief she spat fiercely on it and removed the dried food around Susie’s mouth.

Susie looked past her and said nothing.  May replaced the handkerchief in her handbag and walked out of the home back towards the town.  The memories of Susie Quinn came thick and fast... her mother had warned her... a parasol...  Susie could you not stop in your own house at mealtimes?... Jack whistling whilst Susie kept him waiting for another hour.

May drifted back to the early 1920s when she had first met Susie, a slip of a girl with a drunken sot for a mother and no father to speak of, her friendship with Susie was the only time she had crossed her mother.  Susie was the brains of the outfit, she was the ideas woman and if there was trouble involved she would be close by.

May thought of her the evening she had turned up in her so called new silk skirt, aged just nine she had found a broken old parasol.  Susie carefully removed the silk from the spokes and with untutored needle and thread fashioned a garish skirt in blue and green to extend her meagre wardrobe.  Mrs Costello said nothing, a rarity, as Susie explained that not everyone could wear silk and wasn’t she lucky that she could?

Mrs Costello frequently told her daughter that she really should not be friends with Susie, she was not a nice girl, but frankly for May that was the fascination she was just so different.  Even after the evening at the circus, when sitting spellbound under the big top as the band struck up the latest hit of the day and the audience sang along she remained steadfast to her chum.  Although she did admit in later years she was completely nonplussed as the rest of the audience started to sing, “If you knew Susie like I knew Susie, Oh,Oh, Oh what a girl!” Had her mother told them all, or was Susie really that infamous?

As she walked into the town, she stopped outside St Begnet’s Church in Dalkey and decided to slip in, a candle for Susie would do no harm.  Her eyes adjusted to the dim light and as she lit her penny candles she flew back to the day that Susie had lit every candle she could find in the church as she was worried that Jesus might get frightened on his own in the dark.  May suppressed a smile at the thought of the Priest’s face as he watched his profits go up in smoke, albeit the holy kind.  Mind you this was nothing compared to the theological worry that Susie had about her kitten, convinced that if the cat died without a proper christening he would end up in hell she set about saving his mortal soul.  Dressing the kitten in an old net curtain and tucking him into a pram she wheeled him down to the Church and taking him through the sixpenny door she took him over to the Baptismal font and dunked him... the cat screeched and legged it... lace curtain trailing... which is when the priest arrived.  Once the kitten was captured he listened to her explanation and agreed that perhaps the catechism did not apply to kittens.

May went into Dunnes Stores and marched to the hosiery shelves, her eyes ran along till she found the stockings.  She picked up several pairs and took them to the till.  Walking back to the home she grew slower, her hip was playing her up but she wanted to get back to the home to Susie.

She thought of how Susie would always appear at 6.00pm as Mrs Costello fed her army of children, twelve in all, one for every month of the year and with Susie one over.  Mrs C swore that the child could smell food a mile away.

As they grew older Susie became a fastidious and glamorous dresser, her beau Jack would stand whistling Lily of Laguna at the front gate waiting for her to come out... never less than 30 minutes late but as he would always exclaim, “Ah but Susie, you are a fashion plate, too good for the likes of me.”

May walked back into the sitting room, she gently pulled the mismatched American tan stockings from Susie’s legs.  She unpeeled the new silk stockings with the lacy tops from the packet and eased her friend into them as she did so she started to hum, “If you knew Susie” and as she finished, Susie’s bony hand grabbed hers.  And Susie smiled. 


Susie Quinn was my mother’s best friend and this was the last time she saw her as Susie died six weeks later.  As a child I grew up with stories of Susie and longed to christen a cat like Susie... “oh, oh, oh what a girl!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Just a bit lucky...

It's Sunday, so I am counting my blessings, cos really sometimes I don't realise how lucky I am.  Right, I may not have a job at the moment but I am working on it but what I do have is friends, family and fabulous neighbours and today we had a lovely evening at Elaine and John's.

So I made some sausage rolls to add to the buffet and here is my top tip - go and look at the sausage offer in your supermarket - choose the unusual flavoured sausages, I went for Apple & Pork and, Chilli and Pork.  When you have rolled out the pastry, skin the sausage and roll it into a longer sausage using some flour to fit into your pastry casing. 
So we had a fab evening in their garden, with a buffet provided by friends and neighbours.  We were entertained with genuine 20s and 30s records played on wind up gramophones and Danesettes... it was blissful and these people here, enjoyed it!
And John does a fab job with the garden... look at his pools...
As you know we are at Handmade Monday - go and take a look at Wendy's site at 1st Unique and in case you missed it from a couple of days ago, here is a link to my Easy Handbag Tissue Holder tutorial.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The fear of sewing - an easy project - the handbag tissue holder

I have had several mails asking me for a project for beginners that looks amazing and is practical but you know is  going to be really easy.  So we are looking at straight lines and running stitch initially... yes, you can all do that... I know you can and best of all it should take you less than an hour!
2 x complementary fabric scraps - 6.5" x 7"
Sewing machine
Iron and ironing board
Scissors or rotary cutter
Cutting mat
Now, I say this every time but your iron and ironing board are your bestest friend in the whole wide world when you are sewing, they will save you from grief and get you out of trouble.  So iron your pieces of fabric before you cut them out.
I am in love with my rotary cutter and mat, but again here come the caveats, always cut away from you and always click your wheel back to the safe/at rest position... I want all my readers to have fingers and guts when they work with me.  Remember to check twice and cut once when you cut out a square which is 6.5" x 7" in each of your fabrics.*
Place the right sides together and pin.  You are going to leave a 2" gap on one of the 7"  sides so that we can turn the square inside out.
Beginners tip with pins - when you are pinning your work together, make sure that the seam edge is to your right as you face it and that the pins point away from you.  This will make sure that if your machine needle hits the pin and it will, it will bounce off rather than hitting the bulky end which will break your machine needle.

Get out your tape measure and sit in front of the sewing machine, place the end of the tape under the point of the needle and measure 1/4"... I will bet good money that  this will take you to the right hand edge of your foot.  This means that when you are sewing your seam all you have to do is make sure the edge of your square runs just under the edge of your foot.

Place your square of fabric on your machine, on the 7" side, about 2" from the bottom edge and using a 1/4" seam allowance, you are now going to reverse stitch 1/2 "  in running stitches (check with your manual and you will find a lever that does reverse stitches).  

When you have sewn back half an inch, sew a 1/4" seam down towards your 6.5" side, **stop a 1/4" from the edge, with your needle still engaged in the fabric, raise your foot and turn the fabric by 90' and sew down the 6.5" - repeat from **  along the 7" and 6.5" side.
Now you are back to your first side, sew 2.5", depress your reverse lever and sew back 1/2".  Cut off your thread.

Cut across each corner, this will get rid of the bulk in each corner and allow your tissue case to lie flat.  Turn the square inside out through the slit that you have left unsewn.  Using your chopstick, carefully  poke out your corners, be careful not to poke all the way through... it will happen but with this item, we can get away with it.
Back to the ironing board, iron your item flat, roll your seams if you have to, to ensure that all of the fabric is out.  Along your longest side which will now measure 6.5", fold it in half and press it.
Now, you are going to be my thrifty mother with her sheets and press the sides to middle, so that the outer fabric is on the inside and the lining is on the outside - both sides should meet together.  Pin both the top and the bottom.
Again we are going to use a 1/4" seam, we are going for a belt and braces approach, sew straight across the top and when you get to the end, turn around and go back.  Repeat this at the bottom.
Now turn your tissue holder inside out, press once more and place your pack of tissues inside.
* OK, you have a fabulous machine but how many stitches do you use?  Making your tissue holder is a perfect excuse to have a practice on a small square of fabric, if you use a plain outer, you can have a go  with the embroidery stitches, you can even do a little bit of applique.  Let your imagination rip and enjoy yourself discovering what your machine can do!  These are some of my efforts.
Now, go and take a look at your scrap bag and make up some for you, your friends and family.  You know how easy and quick this was but they don't have to!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

A little bit of luxury - Alpaca Wrist Warmers

I have finally had the chance to write up the pattern for the wrist warmers... as you may remember they came about because a sample ball was sent to the LYS and I got to play with it.
The Pattern

Set of size 3.25 Double Ended needles (set of 5)
Set of size 4 Double Ended needles (set of 5)
1 Ball of Alpaca - 4ply (109m in length) - I used Alpaca Dreams which was the lovely sample sent to Roses and Rue
Crochet hook size 2.5

K1 - Knit 1
P1 - Purl 1
K2 tog - Knit two stitches together

Left Hand Wrist Warmer
Cast on 45 stitches divided equally between the four needles - so N1 = 11 sts, N2 = 11 sts, N3 = 11sts and N4 = 12 sts
First row -  Check that your sts are not twisted and slip the last st on N4 onto N1 and K2 tog - this will give you a really smooth join, then K1 P1 to form your rib (44 sts)

Work 8 rows in rib (including 1st row)

Change to size 4 needles, work in garter stitch for 10 rows.

Heart pattern

Row 11: K 11, P1, K to the end of the row
Row 12: K 10, P3, K to the end of the row
Row 13: K 9, P5, K to the end of the row
Row 14: K8, P7, K to the end of the row
Row 15: K 7, P9, K to the end of the row
Row 16: K6, P11, K to the end of the row
Row 17: K6, P11, K to the end of the row
Row 18: K6, P11, K to the end of the row
Row 19: K6, P11, K to the end of the row
Row 20: K6, P5, K1, P5, K to the end of the row
Row 21: K7 P4, K3, P4, K to the end of the row
Row 21: K7 P4, K3, P4, K to the end of the row
Row 22: K8 P2, K5, P2, K to the end of the row
Row 23: K 9, P1, K5, P1, K to the end of the row

Knit 5 rows
At the end of the fourth needle, turn (this is going to be the start of your thumb opening, so yes there is meant to be a hole!) K1 and P to the last st, K1.
Next row, Turn and K to the end.
Repeat last two rows, three more times.
Now continue to knit in the round for 6 rows - in order to keep the tension tight around the top of the thumb hole, I slip the first two stitches on N1 onto N4 for a few rows, before slipping the sts back onto the correct needle.

Picot edging cast off
Cast off 2 sts, *slip the st on your right hand needle back on the left needle, cast on 2 sts, then cast off 5sts* Continue until you have 2 sts left, slip the st on your right hand needle onto R hand needle, cast on 2 sts, now cast off the remaining stitches.

Take your crochet hook and double crochet (single crochet if you are in the US) around the thumb hole, use the stitch at the end of each row as your chain stitch and slip stitch together when you have completed the thumb.
Sew in your loose ends.  Now take a piece of velvet ribbon (about 1/4" width x 18 inches long) and starting above your heart, thread the ribbon through the holes created by your picot edging and tie into a bow.

Right Hand Wrist Warmer

Work as for Left side until ** Knit across the first two needles and turn, now continue as for the left wrist warmer until the end of the pattern.
And now because I think they are very cute, here is a Sunday smiling Alpaca... 
Now, over you go and take a look at this week's Handmade Monday hosted by the VW Campervan Diva - Wendy.  I never cease to be amazed by the diversity of crafts which are posted up there.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Hearts and Flowers - inspired by Poppy Treffry

Here you go, here is my piece of free hand embroidery which I have called Hearts and Flowers.  You might remember that originally I thought I might put them in a vase but I thought they looked better as a tied bunch, besides which it gave me a chance to try some of the other stitches on my machine.
And here are a couple of other views:

I am not sure whether I should frame it or make it the cover of a gardening diary, I am wavering towards the latter.

I have to say it was great fun to just let rip... I know I need to practice more but for my first attempt I am pretty pleased.