Sunday, 25 April 2010

Back to Knitting

So, if it has been twenty plus years since I did any sewing, it must be longer still since I did any knitting.  And as a teenager I used to knit all the time and enjoy it (I really didn't like sewing much at all back then).  Luckily there isn't too much documentary evidence left of those jumpers - I have memories of a very shapeless, boxy jumper that really, really didn't fit me and that my sister later acquired and a black jumper with colourful squares dotted over it that I was very attached to and wore until it fell to bits circa 1995.

Alas, no photos (that I'm admitting to) survive!

It's not as if I lack knitting needles as a recent sort out of the blanket chest in our spare room revealed!

Oh my!  I don't think I'll ever need to buy another knitting needle.  I've been through and tried to sort them out and I think I have more than one set of every size imaginable.  The lovely red knitting needle box was a present from my German pen friend with whom I'm still in touch thirty years down the line and will be visiting in June.  She'll be absolutely amazed that I still have this. In fact - so am I.

The green box and the other assorted needles all came to me from my Granny's collection.  We went up to Scotland to visit my paternal grandparents every other summer and all my memories of those trips include Granny knitting.  She could knit and hold a conversation, knit and watch TV .... if she was sitting down, she was invariably knitting something.

The other essential part of my knitting kit is my bag - another hand me down, but this time from my other grandmother.  I don't think that she actually used it for knitting from what I've learned about her (she died when I was very small) - I guess it was for embroidery projects or some such.  Still - it's perfect for my knitting and really pretty too.

So having found all these goodies, I had no excuse! 


I decided to ease myself back into knitting with some really easy projects.  Scarves don't need too much by way of skill and the gauge really doesn't matter.  The first of these was knitted without a pattern in a simple rib using a really lovely suede effect yarn.  The second took a little bit more time (OK - lots more).  The pattern was courtesy of Purl Bee and is fittingly called the April Showers scarf (it's raining as I type this!).  I made this up in a pima cotton yarn rather than the cashmere called for in the pattern ... I'd love to knit in cashmere but I'm violently allergic to lambswool, cashmere, mohair .... and all those other lovely yarns, so I have to make do with cotton, silk and acrylics.

So, I can knit long rectangles ... big deal!  

What next?  

Tomorrow might just find me at the local wool shop looking for inspiration and something a little more complex.  In the meantime, I've got half a skein of the red yarn left over and a rainy Sunday afternoon - it's time to get the crochet instructions out again and see if I can't make some headway there.  

Someone told me recently that crochet was supposed to be easier than knitting - I'm finding that hard to believe!!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Some Other Recent Projects

When I was looking back at some of my recent projects on starting this blog last month, I focused on things I made for Christmas presents.  That was my main reason for getting the sewing machine out again, after all.  Truth to tell though, I've made a few other things (mainly for me) and maybe now is a good time to show them to you.

Definitely the most tricky was this hat:

I have to say I regretted my choice of main fabric fairly quickly ... it was very unforgiving and showed every mistake.  That said, I learned a lot and I'll be making this hat pattern again in a summer fabric and with a wider brim soon.  I'm also very tempted to order the fedora pattern too.  

I had some fabric left over, so I made a clutch bag to go with the hat:

And I have some off-cuts of both the main and lining fabrics left over, sitting on the dining table (my work space) right now, while I contemplate what to do with them (I've got a few ideas - watch this space!).  I love that Japanese fabric with the hexagons - so pretty and such a shame it was the end of the bolt so I couldn't buy any more.

More left-overs from a Christmas project were used to make another clutch bag in the same style: 

This was used extensively on a recent holiday to Cuba.  It's a great size bag for some money, keys and a cell phone!  OK, the patterns don't match up properly, but I was quite pleased with this one and I use it a lot.

I get really stuck when it comes to the men in my life.  What can I make for them?  I made A a tie, but he rarely wears them for work so, while he likes it, it hasn't been worn yet.  What else can I make for him?  Handbags are out ... jewellery too for the most part (and I haven't learned how to make cuff links yet - but then, he doesn't wear those much either!).  He has covers and cases for his gadgets already ... what's left?  Answers on a postcard please .....

I've made a few of these ties in this great fabric from Patty Young's Flora and Fauna range:

Everyone said that ties were impossibly hard to make, but I really haven't had a problem.  They're just a wee bit boring - it's all that hand-stiching up the back of the tie that is a complete yawn ... but it really  isn't difficult.

I've just picked up my knitting needles again for a change of pace ... more of which next time.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Something Completely Different (Part II)

Another new craft I'm trying out is kumihimo or japanese braiding.  I forget exactly how it came about, but I saw someone doing some braiding a few weeks back and I immediately thought I could make some purse handles this way.  So I got myself a cheap braiding disk and started work.

The great thing is how quickly you can produce a braid; the difficult bit is getting the tension consistent.  I'm sure if I had a proper marudai (a braiding stand or frame) instead of a foam disk, it would be much easier.  Working with the disk hand held doesn't produce an even braid, so I've improvised and have discovered that a stand for drying wine decanters works well. I've also got myself some better instructions in the form of a book written by someone who lives in Ottery St Mary ... next time I'm visiting relatives down in Devon I'll have to see if I can attend a workshop.

These are short samples of some of the patterns in Jacqui Carey's book including flat, round and square braids.

I can see some of the flat ones making good purse handles and possibly also being used to decorate bags somehow.  Plus the braids can be used instead of a chain to make necklaces or as a bracelet.

The possibilities are endless!

Just for a laugh, here is my make-shift set up:

I've since improved on this by adding more weight to the bobbins (it's amazing what you can use wine corks for) and a counterweight to the bottom of the braid - this gives a more even tension.  It's tempting to try and source a proper marudai, but I can't justify that just yet.

My next braiding project will be with strands of seed beads - however, that may take some time as I have to thread the beads first and they're really, really small!

What do you think?

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

What was I making in 1982?

If you had asked me what I was making in the '80's (other than that dress!), I would have said I was probably knitting something.  It's about all I remember making at any rate (we'll gloss over those grey dungarees, if you don't mind - after all, it was the '80's!).

And then last night I went rummaging in a box in the back of the closet looking for something else completely and found this:

OK - it's a little crumpled and the fabric has browned in places with age / dirt / heaven knows what, but this was my Home Economics project in 1982.  I think we had to do some cross stitch and I decided against the usual specs case or whatever the rest of the class ended up making and I started my own sampler.  (I had to be different - still do!).  I vaguely remember looking in some history books and discovering blackwork .. and then I probably copied most of the design (not being creative, you see).

Didn't turn out too bad though.

Well, after that short trip down memory lane, this sampler is going to be wrapped back up and re-deposited in the box in the closet probably to be found again in another 28 years (yikes)!!

This is the only embroidery I have ever done.  

I must not have enjoyed it all that much!!

Friday, 9 April 2010

I still make bags though ....!

I'm a bit like a kid in a candy store at the moment - bags, jewellery, kumihimo (of which more in a later post), crochet (albeit really badly!), possibly a new knitting project or making some more clothes for me.  I just keep finding new things I could be trying.  It's all fun, but maybe not very focused.

Do I care?  Not one jot - it's FUN!!!

That said, I have found time in the last few weeks to go back and make some more bags.  These are bags without a specific purpose - by which I mean I had no birthday in mind when I made them; they're just bags I made because I wanted to try the pattern and I have a little bit of fabric (okay, okay - a large drawer full of fabric) to use somehow.

You never know, I might one day actually sell a few of them, but in the meantime the cupboard in my spare room is quietly filling up with bags (and a few ties too).  But let's not overreach ourselves - it's just a little addiction hobby and it keeps me out of mischief.

As ever, I got the pattern all the way from sunny Melbourne.  It may seem mad shipping a pattern or two and some purse hardware half way round the world, but believe you me, it's well worth it.  Take the O-rings on the second of these bags, for example - compared to anything I can get in North America, these are just fabulous.  I'd have to actually take a photo of one next to a North American O-ring to prove it to you .. and, as I don't have any of the inferior species, you're simply going to have to take my word for it!

Introducing the Day Bag:

It's just possible that I like this pattern so much because it's very, very easy to make (I'm really quite lazy) - but let's pretend instead that it's because it's almost exactly the dimensions of my much loved Mulberry handbag.... which means it's perfect for almost all occasions.  

I just need to find owners for them now.  But that's another project in itself!!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

And now for something completely different....

I've no idea how it came about really.  I went into the bead store to get a clasp fixed and came out having booked a few one-to one basic jewellery-making classes.

It's not like I don't have the time!

But it's not as if I really wear jewellery with all my allergies and sensitivities.  Every day I put on the same earrings (pearl studs - a leaving present from the girls I worked with at Salvesen's way back in the '90's) .. probably because they go with everything and they never make it as far as my jewellery box.  I never do dressed up - so I generally don't co-ordinate with necklaces and bracelets.

Do I even know how to?  I'll get back to you on that one.

And my rings have stayed firmly in their boxes after the jeweller re-set the stones and told me how fragile they now are.  (Hint: I obviously need diamonds .. after all, they're a girl's best friend and apparently could survive anything I could throw at them!).

I'm really not a jewellery person.

But, as I may have mentioned, I have lots of time and I seem to like making stuff.  It's a new side to me - so maybe there's hope that I'll become a jewellery-wearing type sometime soon too!

So, what have I learned?

Basic beading - stringing beads really isn't rocket science.  But attaching the clasps is fiddly and requires better eyesight than mine.  I had to bring my glasses out of retirement - I haven't worn them in four or five years, but I definitely need them for this!  I know now all about crimps and wire guardians and things and have this Swarovski crystal bracelet to prove it:

Basic earrings - this was all about making loops.  The simple loop is not so simple and I decided I preferred the wrapped loop.  Apparently more difficult, it was the only one I could make relatively consistently and consistency was what was required.  Having made a mess of loads of headpins, I was allowed to make some earrings:

The black onyx earrings stand a chance of being worn ... the dangly silver things and the dragonflies might become presents at some point in the future.

So then I was let loose at home.  I raided A's tool cabinet for pliers and wire cutters and started making a few presents for upcoming birthdays.  As they used to say on Blue Peter ... and here's one I made earlier:

This sparkly necklace / bracelet set in purple and pink crystals is for my soon to be 8 year old niece:

And this necklace / earrings set in African Turquoise with burgundy crystals is for a very good friend:

As luck would have it, there are some turquoise stones left over.....

So I guess I shall have to make some things for myself.  The trick will be making something that goes with some of my 'outfits' (if I have such things) and the difficult bit will be remembering to wear them.  I need to work on that!

Anyway, what do you think?!

Friday, 2 April 2010

2010 So Far

Well, with Christmas behind me and having been truly bitten by the craft bug, I decided to continue making stuff and see what new skills I could learn.

I have to say the jury is still out on whether I will ever be able to crochet something - but I really, really want to get the hang of this.  I could make some wonderful things ... if only I could figure the darn thing out.  The air has been rather blue with the swearing, but I will persevere!

So, I started just making bags for the hell of it - you never know, I may get to a craft fair one day and actually sell some of this stuff; in the meantime it's just for my entertainment.

On the bag front I have made a couple more presents:

This City Bag and purse were for my Mother-in-Law's birthday.

And this small bag will soon be making its way to Germany for the soon-to-be teenage daughter of a very good friend of mine. This is made with the Evening Bag pattern.

And then I experimented with some new patterns ... all of these bags are just sitting in my cupboard waiting for a birthday or maybe a buyer!!


 Made with the Squared Flat Bag pattern and some fabric I brought back from the States last year.  

Made with a fabric called Calliope bought from a Toronto-based company.
Very summery!

A 20cm wide purse in a gorgeous japanese cotton print.

And a very bright raspberry denim Baguette Bag:  

So, as you can see, I've been busy!!