happy new year

christmas-heart-2016v2

This year’s project idea is to crochet, or even knit, a heart and embellish it with one of your neglected treasures. Memories shouldn’t be lost in a drawer but enjoyed throughout the year.

when I am busy…

I have lots of ideas for blog posts and no time. The same is true of my craft designs.

Black cat 03

Animal rescue centres find it harder to find new homes for black cats but this pin badge may not help their blight.

This is just a quick post for my husband who thinks that the cat and I may be planning his imminent demise. It is not true – but I wonder how many mysterious deaths can be attributed to the feline habit of sleeping where they shouldn’t. Perhaps the sudden death of the Amy Dudley, wife of Lord Dudley, was just a case of a cat in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hope my husband feels safer now that the possibility of this potentially fatal accident has been made public. Of course, the cat would rather sleep on the bed but that too can become a bit of a blood-bath. Why does the cat have to chase my husband’s feet?

I haven’t forgotten about moving my blog onto WordPress and I haven’t forgotten about my blog and Facebook page. I have just been busy doing my day job but I should have more time soon.

stab in the dark

“It’s genetic!” heralds another youthful misdemeanour in this house. Sometimes the cause is a new, very logical ( I approve), system of cat food storage that ensures that our cat gets both meat and fish equally; sometimes this statement is said in reference to the wet floor after someone (my daughter or I) have had a bath but more often than not it comes from the mouth of my husband as he spies a dressmaker’s pin somewhere it shouldn’t be. It makes me smile. I shouldn’t – I should be very quiet – but I can’t help it. I suppose it is what some people would describe as  progress, I can remember my father dancing a not-too-merry-dance and exclaiming: “you are just like your mother!”

My daughter has started making clothes for her dolls and we have threads and pins all over the house. Not just on her bed or floor, but on the dining room table and any surface to hand. No sooner have the stairs been vacuum cleaned than little tapeworm-like creatures reappear on the treds. Do not casually drape your arm on the arm of a sofa and do not walk without fear. A rogue pin was found outside the bathroom door, point upwards, wedged between the polished floorboards. A stab in the dark but you would have thought it was a stab to the heart.

Thimble pin cushionMy daughter received a wonderful pin cushion from Kate Haxell as payment for helping Kate on her Knit and Stitch stand at Alexandra Palace. I went to see what my daughter was doing before settling down to write this post and she had it around her neck and she was putting her favourite sewing needle safely away.

It really isn’t a laughing matter. I could name several people who have had hospital treatment because they have trodden on a pin or needle. And, one person who stepped onto the tip of a fine double-pointed needle – much to their embarrassment.

I have several pin cushions dotted around the house. The crochet apple pin cushion is the one that I have out today. It lives in the  sewing box in my office. The crochet worm (not maggot) and stalk have been lost but other than that the crochet fabric has not been reduced to broken threads and bare holes because of the stabbing with pins and needles. The apple and worm were in fact made for a book presentation and were then converted into a pin cushion by simply filling the apple with scraps of cotton wadding from quilting project. I would normally use sand because it conditions the needles and adds weight to the pin cushion.

 

The stab in the heart reference reminded me of a workshop I did this time last year when the end product was a heart pin cushion. I will put it onto my website as a free download to celebrate St Valentine’s Day.

Heart pin cushion IMGP0999

 

it’s my office…

Its my office book shelf01

A pebble; a card from promoting the Peter Layton London Glassblowing Studio; a post-it note; a compass; a drawing in an improvised bulldog-clip stand; a vintage crochet hook; books which, to my mind, should be grouped together.

crochet couching

 

Crochet couching 2923

Needs must this week. I needed a new mobile phone case but I couldn’t find one that I liked enough to buy. Crunch time came when I went to the Apple Mac store with my phone wrapped in a sock and I received some disbelieving looks when I rang my husband to tell him I would be late. A sock hanging down the side of your face is not a good look. The sock really was not practical–even if it was a lovely sock.  The quick solution was to make a case and, because I had a lot of yarn ends from a particularly chunky yarn sitting on my desk, the quick solution was to crochet around a bundle of yarn strands.

I selected four yarns: one fine yarn and three denser yarns with contrasting textures. Using the fine yarn, I made a crochet chain to the circumference of the phone; joined the chain; worked a round of double crochet (US single crochet) stitches. Then, working in spiral, I worked a chain stitch, skipped a stitch, worked a double crochet stitch into the next stitch around strands of the other three yarns, to the end of the round. On the following round, I worked a chain stitch, then a double crochet stitch into the next chain-space around the other three yarns (as above) to the end of the round. I repeated this last round until the case was the correct height; worked a round of double crochet; fastened off. To finish, I flattened the tube and whip stitched the foundation-chain edges together. And that was it. The strands of yarn provide just enough padding without too much bulk. I may add some felt shapes to the fabric–perhaps a white crofter’s cottage or something inspired by the sea.

I made s second case for the shot above. This time I worked a chain the width of the case; worked a double crochet into the back loop of each chain; worked three double crochet stitches into the end chain; worked one double crochet stitch into the remaining stitch loop of each foundation chain; worked two double crochet stitches into the end chain. Then, working in a spiral, I worked one double crochet stitch into the back loop of each stitch to the end of the round. I then worked the couching as  above. The base was neater and the case  was deeper from front to back.

Crochet couching 2940

Other news: the dark blue yarn was part of a scarf that I was commissioned to knit. It was knitted using 9mm needles and my shoulder aches. Yet again I wonder about the wisdom of teaching new knitters how to knit using large needles and chunky yarn. Of course, in my case, knitting all day in order to get the project done as quickly as possible didn’t help.

It has been a week for finishing projects and I have mixed feelings. I have worked with some very interesting people recently and we are now all moving on to new projects but that is life. Next week is full of promise and new people.

 

somebody has to do it

castlemaine-xxxx-extra-cold-beer-spider gloves

One of the more unusual design challenges for a knitter.

the nest where I live

Lisa Watson Blanket room

I nearly forgot. I won a prize in Lisa Watson’s Christmas Prize Draw. I didn’t have to do anything except sign up to her mailing list and I didn’t need to do more than accept the prize.

I first saw Lisa’s work at the Spring Country Living Show and was attracted by her unusual use of fabric and the contemporary feel of her quilts. Nevertheless, although I joined Lisa’s mailing list out of curiosity and a personal desire, rather than professional interest, I hadn’t realised she had started selling these knitted  blankets.

In the distant past I wrote a book full of quilting designs. It isn’t quite vintage but it is getting close. At the time the hand-sewn quilting and embroidery stitches were my solace and my passion. Later I also wrote a book on knitted and crochet blankets Afghans and Throws. It too has a tumbling block motif in a stitch library which was designed to use up oddments of yarn. It is nowhere near as bold as the tumbling block design on the blanket from Lisa Watson and I think it is this bold approach that makes it a blanket I would rather buy than knit.

Knitting a blanket or throw is a labour of love and dedication. And, I always thought that if you knit it yourself you will achieve a level of finish that you wouldn’t be able to find on a bought blanket but I thought you might like to see this. Look at the edgings and reverse of this blanket.

Lisa Watson Blanket detail

I work from home and I struggle to justify putting the central heating on just for me. Needless to say Lisa”s blanket has replaced the old duvet that used to line the nest on which I sit as I knit, crochet and design new projects. The colours are perfect for my office, thank you Lisa.

PS I also follow Lisa Watson on Twitter because she often posts quotes and affirmations that make me smile and inspire me to continue and to strive forward.

it’s my office…

Pickle jar

How about hats for food jars that illustrate or warn the consumer about the contents of the jar. Every kitchen should have them – shouldn’t they?

yellow hat

Yellow hat.JPG

Just before this year’s first snow fall in London, I finished knitting an extra-large, yellow hat for my daughter. The hat is very large so it is holding its pointy shape. Personally I prefer it when the top droops but the wearer has other ideas. I love knitting for family and friends but I have knitted this hat design three times now and I think is is time to start something new.

Khaki Seamans helmet

Khaki Knitting Book, published in the US in 1947, to provide knitting patterns for garments for the Allied troops. On this one page, bone, steel and celluloid knitting needles are specified.

The first and second time I knitted this hat design it was for a commission from a friend who wanted a hat just like the one Jacques Cousteau wore. As a small child I had watched Jacques Cousteau films and I thought I knew exactly what I would be knitting – an old seaman’s cap or balaclava, in blue. Further more, I would knitting it from an old 1940s’ knitting pamphlet or a Red Cross leaflet – I couldn’t wait. You know what is coming don’t you? First, I discovered that Jacques Cousteau famously wore a red hat. I blame my false memory on the fact we had a black and white television when I was a child. And then, I discovered that Jacques Cousteau had many different hats (why wouldn’t he), all slightly different and none of them looked as if they were folded helmets. Nevertheless, armed with the measurements, I started knitting a top-down rib hat.

If you are ever looking for vintage knitting patterns there are several good websites but The Vintage Knitting Lady is always a good place to start.

I have knitted several top-down rib hats in my time but for this one I wanted to experiment with the rib pattern and the increase placement. I wanted a hat with a peak. So, after studying some more Jacques Cousteau images and knitting a hat for a doll, I decided on four columns of paired increases, cast on 8 stitches and increased every round to the required number of stitches. The shape was perfect but I didn’t like the look of the make-one increases – they distorted the stitches either side too much. They would have been a design feature if the project was for a book or magazine but not for a friend who wanted a Jacques Cousteau hat. The second hat was worked using left and right slanting  yarn overs which were then twisted to face the other direction on the next round. By this time Autumn was in free fall and it was a relief when the second hat was finished and it could be delivered – but not before my daughter had tried it on. She liked the hat’s generous proportions, she wanted a change from the animal hat she has been wearing for years and, as I hadn’t explored the rib stitch pattern, we went yarn shopping.

The first two hats were knitted in twisted rib [k1tbl, p1tbl] from the first stitch to the last but the plan had been to work a [k1tbl, p1] rib . This produces a twisted rib on one side of the fabric and a  rib that looks like [k1, p1] on the other side. My daughter’s hat was knitted in [k1tbl, p1] rib to the brim, a short-row wrap worked around the next stitch, the hat was turned inside out so that the stitches on the left were the stitches just worked, and knitting continued in [k1tbl, p1] rib to the end. The hat looks as if it was knitted in [k1tbl, p1tbl] but it was worked in the easier and loftier [k1tbl, p1].

Hat stats: fingering-weight yarn; 2.75mm  needles; 208 stitches/round; 3.5 rounds/cm; 56cm unstretched circumference; 35cm from cast on to cast-off edge.

 

it’s my office…

2016-01-12 11.57.36

I love the image distortion I get when I use this camera.