Wednesday, 29 January 2014

The beginnings of a patchwork quilt

Last October I was given a large amount of fabric samples to sieve through.  I decided to opt for a selection that were all of a similar colour scheme, some of them absolutely beautiful.  I had the fabric in mind for a quilt, something I have wanted to do for ages but not had the money to buy the vast quantities of fabric needed.  Here are the samples on the day of their selection.

With a new found love for sewing and now being a member of a sewing group I decided I really needed a project so I purchased a rotary cutter with the idea of cutting out the squares needed to latch together.

This evening I found myself home alone and in need of something new to do so I tidied up my craft corner and got started.

The first thing to do was gather my tools which are my cutting mat, my trusty metal ruler and my new rotary cutter.  I also needed to decide how big to make the squares, I decided on 5"x5" so that each square was a substantial size and so I didn't have quite so much sewing to do.

Then I made my first cut, I now know how the doctors in Greys Anatomy feel now when they say the first cut is the hardest but from then on it becomes an addiction!

After some time Sophie came to join me to see what was happening in the room that is normally just used by her to sleep in, she seemed to quite enjoy the episode of waking the dead I was watching on my iPad, funny cat.

Once she realised there was no food and little fussing involved she made her way back downstairs and I carried on with the cutting.  I decided I was going to cut all the fabric I had so that the final quilt would be made from as many different materials as possible.  I can always donate or use the left overs for something else.  Just out of curiosity and so I could calculate the size of the quilt I kept a count of many squares I was cutting from each piece of fabric, when I tallied it up at the end I was shocked to find I had 257!

Don't they look just beautiful stacked up, I cannot wait to start sewing them all together!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Knitting exercises.

Recently I have been thinking about the lack of movement in my life due to my obsessive desire to craft after a day sat at my office desk.  Crafting naturally involves a lot of sitting which is not something that can be prevented unless you want to give it up, what a silly suggestion!  Crafting is my escape after a long day so I decided to look for exercises I can do whilst sitting down so I didn't have to forfeit my crafting time.  I can use these sitting exercises at work as well which is always good.

I found this very useful leaflet from wonder how to.

This just seemed so boring though so I went in search of the quirky and bizarre.

Why not knit or crochet yourself some juggling balls.

Make a skipping rope.

Decorate a hula hoop.

Take up extreme knitting to gain guns of steel.

Yarn bomb your bicycle to make using it more appealing.

Or make yourself a beautiful costume to go swimming in, watch out for sagging when wet though!

As you can tell I took my quest for crafting exercises very seriously, it's just not going to happen so its time for a compromise I think.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

My first attempt at yarn dyeing.

Today I sat knitting away with a major craving to crochet, with no projects currently on the go I raided my work box and basket full of untouched beautiful yarn.  I decided to use some hand dyed 4ply from Truly Hooked to make a shawl.  I scoured Ravelry but just kept coming back to Elise so I got my hook out and got started.  

Isn't it gorgeous!  I then got to thinking how nice it would look with a solid purple edge on it.  My internal monologue went something like this.

I haven't got any.
Could I dye some of my leftovers?
No they're all acrylic.
Hang on I had some cream cashsoft 4ply somewhere I won't ever use.
Here it is.
How do you dye yarn anyway?
I've got some food colouring I think that does it.
Better check Pinterest.
Tad ah!

I found this great tutorial for how to easily dye yarn at home with a bit of food colouring.  If you're thinking of trying it I recommend this method for small batches.

Oh the excitement!  I had to make this ball into a hank, I decided to just wrap it around my hand and elbow like an extension cord, a good little workout.

Then I had to soak it in water and white vinegar.  I didn't have white vinegar so it was cider vinegar.  Vinegar is vinegar at the end of the day, I'm not sure I would have used balsamic though.

After half an hour I tipped away the water, put the wet yarn on a tea towel and mixed the food colouring in with some fresh water.

Then I sank the yarn into the water.  At this point I thought I had possibly used too much food colouring but being a novice and wanted a dark purple I left it as it was.

I gave it a little stir around but not too much.

Then it went in the microwave.  I had to microwave it for three minutes, let it stand for five and microwave again for three until the water became clear.  This was when I knew I had out too much dye in because the water would not become clear just a pale shade of blue.  I accepted this was as near as damn it so ended the endless microwaving there.  I was becoming quite concerned the yarn would just fall apart.

Despite instructions not to I took it out of the microwave to have a look at my creation but then it went back to cool away from straying cat paws.

Once it was cool it came out of the water received a little squeeze and it is now hanging in my bathroom drying.

I love the way the colour is so uneven, it is quite clear I have done it myself and I am also pleased the yarn maintained its structural integrity!

I can't wait to use it and I certainly will be doing this again!

Saturday, 25 January 2014

My ongoing and ever improving relationship with my sewing machine.

Ages ago I purchased myself a second hand Janome sewing machine from a colleague.  I was so excited about starting sewing but then I realised I wasn't very good at it.  Initially I just gave up and put it away but soon realised the only way to improve is to practise.

The first thing I made that I was particularly proud of was a knitting needle roll.  It was a disaster from the start but fortunately my bodging skills at that point were a lot better than my sewing skills and I fixed the problem of the inside being on the outside, the ribbon being within the lining not outside and various other issues.  I still use it now which is a testament to its strength despite it's poor make up.

I didn't do a lot more sewing from this point as I didn't feel the need or the inclination.  Then I went on my embroidery course with Jane Lightfoot (look up her page she is amazing) and I found an interest again because she showed me how to do the simplest of things that I had never figured out before.  I just love the finished article.

This lead to the creation of a wonderful glasses case for my Mum for Christmas, this took a lot of brain power as I had to figure how to join the lining to the case without a visible seam.  Instead of just jumping straight in with the sewing machine I tacked the fabric first to make sure my idea worked, it did!

Then, this week I decided to make a crochet hook roll for my beautiful new harty hooks from Fleabubs, they didn't fit in the knitting needle roll and I couldn't have such beautiful hooks laying around.  I raided my stash of donated fabric samples and chose two pieces that complemented each other because done alone was not big enough.  I spent time planning this item so that the stitches for the pockets were not visible on the back so the ribbon was attached in the seam rather than stitched on afterwards.  I had so much fun making it that I am ready and raring to go with larger projects.

I do plan on making a quilt but I have no timescale in mind for such a thing so we shall see if that ever gets finished.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Top down raglan

Before Christmas I decided it was about time I used up some yarn I purchased in last years sale at Knit Nottingham.  I had ummed and ahhhed for a very long time (nearly a year) about whether the yarn was actually me as I did purchase it as a bit of an impulse.  I figured I had it so it was a good practice and if I didn't like the finished article I could frog it and use it for something else.

I started by discussing how to make a top down with Eleanor Knit Nottingham and Verity Truly Hooked.  Verity said a top down raglan is very easy if you can divide by six, something I was certain even my mathematically challenged brain could manage.  I took this advice on card and thought about.  My conclusion looked something like this.

I didn't end up using this method in the end because I was informed of an easier method that didn't involve so much maths and thinking.  

I started with a length of chains to the length I wanted my neck line to be.  I then made a double crochet in each chain, joined and made a round of trebles.  The next row I put two trebles in each treble and from there on put one treble in each.

I continued like this until the top was the length I wanted before making arm holes.  I did add one or two raglan increases before joining the armholes but in hindsight I did not need them.

When it came to the arm holes I laid the top of the garment flat and by eye chose the points for the armholes, i counted the number of chains on one side and made sure it was the same for the other three points.  I marked these points and when making my round on that time I joined the two points with a length of chains.

I then kept crocheting in the round picking up the stitches in the chains for the armholes.  Once the jumper had reached my bust I started decreasing.  I put these in darts at the side of the jumper front and back.  All in all 4 decreases every row.  I then just continued until the jumper was long enough.  I hindsight I should have increased again because it is a bit small at my hips.  When I got to the right length I added 6 rows of treble rib in a complementary colour.

As for the arms, I picked up around the arm holes and worked in rounds again.  I made one decrease every other row until the arms were the right width.  I worked both arms at the same time to make sure they matched, I'm pleased I did because I would not have remembered what I had done.  Again I continued until they were right length and added six rows of treble rib in the same complementary colour.

At this pint I thought I had finished but I out the jumper on and the neck line was far too wide.  Again I picked up the stitches and crocheted in rounds making decreases until the neckline was just right.

I am so happy with this jumper, I already wear it often and I have received a number of compliments, it's great!

Thursday, 23 January 2014

A poppy blanket for baby Poppy

A month ago friends welcomed their beautiful little daughter Poppy into the world.  A new baby is a great opportunity to get creative.  With Christmas and the multiple gifts I was making I didn't have much time to think about it until recently.  I spoke to Tom about what he thought and he asked if I could make a blanket with poppies on.  He even offered to pay for the yarn, yes, you did read that correctly.

First I referred to Ravelry to see if I could find a pattern for a crocheted poppy within a square.  I found some beautiful pattern but this is the one that caught my eye because it was simple yet very effective.  

Poppy in granny square

My next step was of course choosing the yarn.  I made my way to Knit Nottingham and selected my double knits.  I then turned around and spotted the sparkly red chunky yarn!  It just had to be purchased so the double knit went back and the chunky came home with me.  I am so pleased it did because the weight if the blanket and the warmth is just wonderful.  It also worked up really quickly and made a very nice sized blanket.

I decided to make the blanket up of four quarters.  Two of them would be made up of two poppy squares and two granny squares and the other two quarters would be made up of large granny squares.  

I decided to join as I went along, I tried slip stitching the squares together and it worked brilliantly.  It looked neat and left no gaps between clusters which some joining methods can.

Once all the joining was done I decided to edge the blanket with the red and black, I started by making a row of half trebles in the red and a row of doubles in the black.

Here is the finished item.

Finally here is me giving the lovely Poppy a cuddle under her new poppy blanket.  I think she looks rather happy with it.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014


The new year has started a fire in me, I am so excited about the year ahead and the projects I can work on.  I normally find January a very gloomy month but I have really enjoyed the time I have had to selfishly work on projects.  My to do list has grown, along with my stash, oops.  I love this excitement though, it motivates me to finish one project to move onto the next and it keeps me going throughout the day because I know I can go home to a stitch here and there.  For a non crafter, artist or enthusiast of any kind I think this is hard to understand but the majority of people get it and I find it is spreading to more and more people around me.

My to do list is pretty much full for the year, I can't see much more getting done because it is so big.

Here are some images of my plans, watch this space to see if they actually get done or not.

Top left: Hue and Value Shawl by Anne Blayney
Top right: Flutter-by socks by Shannon Robalino
Middle right: Amory by Kim Hargreaves
Bottom left: Vignette by Amy Herzog
Bottom middle: Anchored by Ruth Garcia-Alcantud
Bottom right: fabric for a quilt.

I am aware I have set myself quite a challenge but it is a challenge I am ready to take and I am really in no hurry.  I have WIP's all over the house already and I am not entirely sure I will ever finish them.  They include a really complicated Aran, a really boring sweater and a giant blanket.  One day maybe.

Anyway, that's all for now, I have a few things to blog about this week so keep your eyes peeled for more from me.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Little bow slippers

For Christmas some of the girls from knit group and I got involved in a secret Santa and a meal out.  For a while I had been saying how I wanted a copy of Cute Little Knits by Jemma Weston.  I was fortunate enough to unwrap a copy at the table and with Jemma sat opposite me I even got it signed there and then.  How lucky am I!

I knew straight away that I wanted to knit the little bow slippers so I set off in search of the yarn.  I had a bit if a drama getting the boucle I needed.  Firstly I ordered two balls from a shop online with some felted tweed to go with it, only one ball of the boucle arrived.  Then I ordered some more with some felted tweed but ordered the wrong weight boucle so had to cancel the whole order!  I finally decided to get up of my sofa and go to John Lewis, I did however order some boucle to be click and collected.

I chose the dark brown boucle purely because slippers getting dirty and the darker the yarn the less it will show.  When I got to John Lewis though they had a whole sack of a grey/beige shade boucle in the sale, I got two of them as well.

As for the colour choice for the top of my slippers I honestly went for the final ball of felted tweed DK in the sale, it just so happens that it matches my dressing gown, winner!

As soon as I got home I cast on, I was just so excited.

I knitted the tops and soles pretty quickly because the boucle is very chunky and the needles were 8mm.  The pattern for the sole and the linings was really good fun, I needed a nice quick project to rekindle my love of selfish knitting.

The pattern calls for the soles to be felted, I have never felted before so put them in on a wool wash.  I later learnt this does not felt the fool, hence why it is a wool wash. I tried again and they came out beautifully felted and solid.

Next I had to start on the top of the slipper, these were so much fun, almost every row was different and this kept my attention.  Plus the thought of essentially making my own shoes was just amazing!  When I had finished the top it was time to sew up...

Sewing up, not my strong point because I am not very good at figuring out how things go together.  I started by sewing the top and lining face to face to turn the right way around, I did this wrong and could not turn it the right way around...oops!  After many attempts and sleepless nights, i did some on my lunch break and by jingo I got it right.

I still didn't enjoy it but just had to get them done because I needed to get them on my feet.  Once I had stitched them up I made a start on the bow, I actually made three bows because for some reason i made a really small one first.

Finally I finished, I think if I had perhaps paid a bit more attention and not been so excited I would have finished them sooner.  I think in hindsight I should have knitted the smaller size because they are a bit lose but not so lose I can't wear them.

I would highly recommend these slippers to anyone, they are so warm and comfortable I just can't bear to take them off once they are on.  I love them.