Thursday, 17 October 2013

I think I must need my head examined!

Buoyed up by my success with the Cath Kidston blanket, I decided to embark on another one. It's a win-win as the weather gets colder - I get to play with pretty colours, and I get to snuggle under a growing blanket on a chilly evening at the same time. Happiness!

Now, I love colour, but I really struggle with putting colours together. I know what I like, and I know what I don't like ... but somehow I can't seem to see in my mind's eye how I want it to turn out. So much so that generally speaking, I will seek out a colour palette that I like, then use that as a basis to work from, rather than trial-and-error it on my own. I'd seen a blanket where I thought the colours worked well together, and picked a selection of similar shades to make my blanket with.

I'd picked the delightful Ripple Pattern by Lucy at Attic 24 . I've had my eye on this pattern for ages and kept imagining the deliciousness of the colours and how it would all look. So, in a lather of excitement and anticipation, I set to work.

I was reasonably happy with it at first, up to about the first pale blue repeat. Then I started to doubt myself. In went the yellow/green/yellow combo (as seen in the other blanket I liked, which I seem to have wiped from memory now ...!), and I wavered, but persevered. By the time I got to the top red repeat, I was having serious misgivings. The evening after I finished the top cream row, I took the blanket out of my project bag ... and realised that I really wasn't all that excited about working on it.

Well, that was it - the death knell had sounded. I thought about how much work I had put into this blanket (about two weeks' worth), and realised I was considering pulling it all back, which seemed pretty insane. But then really, the alternative was that either a) I forced myself to continue on a project I had fallen out of love with and would never enjoy using, or b) I return it to the project bag, shove it to the back of my studio and leave it to linger, unloved, until it finally gets thrown out or ... pulled back for something else.

So - I went for it. Actually, the look on my family's faces was priceless - they were horrified! My daughters in particular thought I had taken leave of my senses (I kind of thought they may have a point ...). It took me most of an evening, pulling back and winding into small balls, all the yarn I had carefully crocheted over the previous two weeks.

Then I went back to my stash, and pulled out a pile of extra colours. In with cerise, dark purple, pale yellow, turquoise and white, to work alongside the original palette. I also decided the stripes were too large and "heavy" looking, and from now on I would work 1 row only of each colour. More ends to sew in afterward (I told you I needed my head examined), but a better balance, and a chance to use up some smaller balls of colour from my stash.

Deep breath, and I began again. I abandoned the idea of following someone else's colour choices, and just went for it. Considering my first experience with this blanket, this was either quite brave or potentially foolhardy, but I decided that the risk of needing to pull back a second time was worth it. I just stopped worrying about the colours, and (watch out, cliche coming) listened to my heart telling me what to go with next. I stopped thinking, and just ... felt it.

Lo and behold, it's working.

My daughters both love this version, and so do I - the cerise adds an extra zing of colour, the single row enables each colour to have its say without being "dominated" by the stronger ones, and the increased palette adds some extra happiness to the mix. The blanket is coming along a treat now and I enjoy picking it up and working on it.

I just needed to stop "thinking" and start "feeling".

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Inspiration from Cath Kidston

This project has been hanging around for a while and I finally got around to finishing it!Apologies for the awful lighting; it's very dark up here today but I needed a bigger space to display the finished object than I could manage in my studio with its lovely daylight lamp.

I was inspired by the colours that Cath Kidston uses in her styling. I originally started out with lemon yellow and peach in the mix too, but in the end I decided to stick with pale blue, pink, green, white and red.

I added a border of five rounds of the pale blue and a picot edging which gave the blanket slightly fluted appearance.

This blanket will be on its way to a friend next week - happy snuggling!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

A foray into crochet

I quite like crochet, but I like it on my terms, when I feel like doing it. I didn't particularly feel like crocheting this week, but I had to take four flights (I was away at a business conference) and of course, knitting needles are strictly forbidden. So what to do? I really didn't fancy a craft fasting exercise - it calms me down and allows me to relax and mull over the events of the day. So I had to chose a crochet project that was small enough to take on the plane and stimulating enough to keep my attention.

Quite by chance, the week before I went away, I came across this pattern from the fabulous cherry heart blog and fell in love. I answered all my needs - small amounts of yarn, quirky finished result and loads of colour - hooray! I broke out my sock leftover stash and got to work.

Once I got home from the conference, I went through my button stash and found the perfect finishing touches. The weather has turned this weekend and we are experiencing our first autumn storm, so I think they might get a fair bit of use over the next few weeks!

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

I'm a winner!

I'm not a big competition enterer (is there such a word? Probably not!) - but when I saw one on Planet Penny's wonderful blog to win a Daylight Lamp  I couldn't resist entering. Penny asked how a Daylight Lamp would make life easier for me - now that wasn't a hard one to answer! Up here, in the northernmost town in mainland UK , the winter nights are long and the days are short. Here's a pic from my kitchen window last winter:

You can see my lovely little studio on the left there. However it does get a tad dark and gloomy during the long winter months, so I really coveted the lamp.

So I entered the competition, then off I went on holiday for two weeks and thought no more about it, because I never win anything. (that could be because I rarely enter anything, but let's not split hairs now...)

So imagine my amazement when I got home to find that I had WON!!! I had a lovely email from Penny and my Swan table lamp was very speedily dispatched and arrived all the way up in the far north in very quick time. I finally got it set up and working and took some pictures this afternoon, I am so thrilled with it!

Here is the lamp in all its glory - not the best pic but I haven't found a home for it yet, so it is just lurking on top of my 1942 Singer sewing machine at present:

It has a fabulous acrylic magnifier which pops on and off the base really easily, and can be positioned wherever you want it. The light is neat and also will move wherever you need it.

And look at the difference in the photos! Without the lamp ...

And with the lamp ...

Whoo hoo!!

(The picture, by the way, is of my binsenkorbchen socks that I am knitting up ... wonderful pattern creating by slipping stitches rather than stranding - really pleased with them so far!)

So a huge thank you to Planet Penny for running the competition, and to the random number generator for picking me as the winner, and to  Daylight Company for their brilliant lamp!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Riley the repurposed Rabbit - a tutorial

A few years ago I had a different blog which, for reasons beyond my untechnical brain, was compromised by computer gremlins. One of the posts I had on there was a tutorial on how to make a rabbit from an old t-shirt, a perfect way to enable a child to hang on to their favourite top long after they have outgrown it. I thought it was worth a re-share, so here it is:

Caitlin, my eldest daughter, had a favourite t-shirt. She had outgrown it, then wore it for a cat-painting workshop at the local art gallery. This marked the demise of the t-shirt - a great big splodge of red paint across the front, which no amount of washing could totally remove. She was very sad to see it go so I decided to repurpose it. And so that you can have a go too, I decided to make a tutorial! It’s a bit flying-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, but I’m pretty happy with the end result -

Introducing Riley, the Repurposed Rabbit!

So - if you would like to make one yourself - here is what to do!
Firstly - take an old, long-sleeved t-shirt. This one is age 9-10, just to give you an idea of the size.

(you can still see the red splodge on the front!)
Now cut off the arms.
At this point, if you want the right side of the t-shirt to be the right side of your rabbit, then you need to turn it inside out. I used the wrong side as the right side for my rabbit, as the stain didn’t go all the way through, so my finished rabbit is stain-free!

On the body of the t-shirt, draw a head, body and ears. I made the head 12cm in diameter, the body is approximately 16cm x 22cm, and the ears are 16cm x 5.5cm at the widest point. (However I wish I’d made the body a bit thinner, Riley looks as if he’s had a few too many carrots). Leave a good gap between each piece (unlike me) as a seam allowance. If you are not confident on your drawing skills, you could draw them on paper first. I'm a bit gung-ho, as you can probably tell, since the body on mine is not terribly symmetrical. All adds to the charm, I say!

Taking care to go through both layers, I pinned around each of the shapes. Once I had done this I flipped the material over to check I had put each pin right through, and that the material wasn't bunched up underneath in any place.

Cut them out leaving a seam allowance all round, but retain the leftover bits. (Can you tell I can’t bear to throw anything out??)

Now take one of the sleeves. This is to make the arms. Cut it off at the top to make it straight, and cut off the bottom so that the main piece is 23cm long. Don’t throw away the leftover bits!
(Yes, I know, rabbits don’t have arms. But for the sake of clarity, they do for this tute. For that matter, they don’t generally have blue and white stripes …)

Fold the sleeve so that the seam is in the centre. Pin either side of the seam.

Cut the sleeve in half along the seam.

Round off and pin the ends.

Now do the same for the legs, only cut the sleeve so it is 30cm long.

Using a fine needle and a fairly loose tension, machine sew round all your pieces, leaving gaps at the tops of the limbs, and bottoms of the head, ears and body, for turning out and stuffing.

So next … turn all your pieces the right side out and stuff ‘em! Don’t stuff the ears though.

Note the wooden spoon. I had the great idea of using it to push the stuffing down inside the limbs. It doesn’t work - the spoon just goes right through the stuffing. Don’t try it.

I’ve also stuffed my rabbit quite loosely as I wanted it to be quite floppy.

Oh yes - stuffing. In the interests of repurposing, I did not buy my toy stuffing.

This may give you a clue as to where I got it though:

OK - on with the tute:

Apologies for this next picture. You have not had too much wine. (Neither had I, but I seem to be suffering from camera shake on this shot).

Fold in the open end on one of the arms, with the seam in the centre. Slip stitch it closed. (Do you know I took about ten of these photos and every single one came out blurred. grr.) Repeat with the other arm and with each of the legs.

Take the arms, fold in half again, with the seam inside, and slip stitch along the opening.

Sew up the bottom opening on the body, then attach the arms and legs to the body. For some reason I haven’t got a photo of this!

Now take the ears, fold in the opening and pin. Secure thread firmly at one end and slip stitch to the other end. Pull up the thread so that it gathers, stitch firmly to keep the gathers in place. Repeat with the other ear.

(Don’t worry about the turquoise playdoh in the corner of the picture. This was Calum’s contribution and has nothing to do with the rabbit ;-) )

Attach the ears to the head. (I would like to say that I planned it so that the stripes lined up, but that would be a lie).

Now go and have a rummage round in your button box and find some buttons for the eyes and nose. Caitlin chose to have two buttons for each eye - I quite like the effect!

Add some mouth and whisker details with sewing or embroidery thread, securing the ends under the nose button for neatness.

Now for the tail. Take the leftover bit of sleeve from when you made the arms, and cut off the seam at the bottom and straighten up the top. My bit of sleeve is 7.5cm long.

Turn inside out and sew a running stitch round one end of the piece.

 Gather, stitch in place, then turn right side out and stuff. Sew a running stitch round the open top and pull tight.

Oversew the ends, then attach to your rabbit.

(yes, I know the stripes don’t match up at the back. I’m not that dedicated!)
Et Voila!!
Here is Riley posing a little self-consciously:

And here he is chilling out watching TV when he thought I wasn’t looking: 

Hope you like my Riley! If you follow my tute and make one yourself then please let me know and I’ll feature it on my blog. Happy repurposing!

Sunday, 14 July 2013

A place to play

Every child needs a place to play .. and so does every adult! Here's my "play space", a fabulous shed in the garden.

I have a lovely old oak table for sewing on, where I keep all my bits and bobs to hand:
On the left is my trusty Singer sewing machine, on the right is my upcycled lampshade that I crocheted with hand-dyed silk. In front of it is a drinks mat made from sea glass I found on the beach.

The stripy thing you can see is my little desk bin, for all those bits of thread and fabric snippings. I had seen something similar on Planet Penny's website and decided to have a go. My knitting needle holder originally had shortbread in it! And old spice jars make great button holders.

I made my "to do" list from a cheap photo frame with wrapping paper in it, and I use a white board pen to add things to it. I made the little birds from air-drying clay and copper wire.

I have a fabulous wee set of drawers that are full of lots of bits and bobs - sewing thread, beads, tape measures and "found" items. On the top I keep my pincushions (I have three but I don't know where the other two are at the moment!), plus some more air-drying clay sculptures (these were created by modelling around small bottles and tinfoil, wrapped up with masking tape before applying the clay).

More buttons, safety eyes and handbag clasps in another old spice jar arrangement. I cheered this one up with red paint and polka dots. I painted the picture but haven't got round to putting it up yet. The yarn is some I hand-dyed myself , in a lovely plate made by a ceramic artist friend of mine. The stones were painted by my eldest daughter.

My bookcase holds all sorts of treasures - my sock monkey stash, my ideas notebooks, and all my sewing and knitting inspiration books. Some are old favourites, some are new additions, all are often referred to. I used to have three times as many but I have pared them down recently. Just at the bottom of the picture you can see my Parker Knoll armchair covered in a Rainbow Granny blanket - for more pictures of it have a look here.

My favourite item in my shed is this picture by a lovely artist friend of mine Charlie Meyer - for more of her work have a look at her regularly updated Facebook page . It never fails to cheer me up!

Anything else you want to know about what you see, just ask! Do you have a place to play too?

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

A new bag

I'm forever losing things in the bottom of my bag, it's so annoying! So when I saw this tutorial by Liberty at Crafts reDesigned to make a bag with lots of pockets, I just had to give it a go.
I'm very pleased with the result! The handles were a bit tricky to sew on, but my trusty 1940s singer sewing machine rose to the challenge. I used brown corduroy for the base and the handles, blue denim (the reverse side) for the middle stripe and the lining, and two fabric samples for the main exterior and the pockets. If you can get hold of fabric sample books (my local soft furnishing shop gives them away for a donation) they are a great source of cheap, excellent quality fabric that will otherwise go to waste.  Upholstery fabric tends to come in pretty large pieces, about 20" square, which is perfect for making bags like this!

Here's a picture of the inside:
All my bits and pieces (purse, phone, ipod, pens, keys, sunglasses) are all tucked away in the pockets, all easily accessible and (hopefully!) easy to find!

I followed  the tute pretty much to the letter, except that I added a magnetic snap closure just before I sewed the topstitch round the top of the bag.

If you fancy having a go at making one yourself, do have a look at the tutorial , it's really well-written with lots of clear pictures, though I think it helped that I had made a few bags before.

I'm just thrilled with the result! I'm sure I will make another version soon.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Look, I knitted the world!

I found this lovely pattern via Ravelry and, though I can crochet perfectly well, I much prefer to knit. So I wondered if the pattern would translate to knitting ... and bravely decided to give it a go. As knit stitches do not form a perfect "square", I was a little concerned that it might come out slightly elongated. If you've ever looked at knitting graph paper you will notice that the squares are slightly wider than they are tall, so that when you create your design it comes out "square". I wasn't sure if the same thing applied to crochet ... anyway enough waffling - here's the end result:
As you can see, it worked perfectly! I was quite delighted. Here's Europe and Africa:
And look! The chart even has Antarctica on it:
If you would like to have a go at making the globe and you are not on Ravelry, visit Crochet Parfait for full and comprehensive instructions on how to crochet it.

I gave the globe to my two little boys to play with, they were delighted!