Thursday, 15 June 2017

Good things come in small packages

I do like a pretty package, don't you? This one arrived from Weft Blown recently, complete with sheep badge. And inside was ...

... a tiny weaving loom

It's a two inch pin loom made by Hazel Rose Looms. This is one of their smallest looms (it fits in the palm of my hand) and I absolutely love it. For those of you who don't know about pin looms, they are a very simple way of weaving shapes, based on the old Weave-It Looms which were very popular in America in the second half of the twentieth century. I first read about them in this issue of Piecework Magazine in 2010.

My first Hazel Rose loom was a four inch square which I've had a lot of fun with; here it is with the new loom fitted inside it.

The yarn is woven round the nails on the loom to create the warp and half the weft before the last half of the weft is woven with a needle to complete the square. These little squares are a great use of variegated yarn which looks completely differently when woven rather than knitted. The four inch squares in the picture were woven with James C Brett's Marble Chunky and all come from the same ball of yarn.

Would you like to see what prompted me to order this new little loom?

Isn't this wonderful? It's a blanket made up completely of woven two inch squares. Even the black sashing is actually lots of little squares. A member of the Looms To Go group on Ravelry posted this picture of the blanket she'd found in a charity shop and she kindly gave me permission to use it here. It's rather sad that such a beautiful piece of work should have ended up in a charity shop but now it's found a good home where it will be treasured.

So, I've started on my own version. I think this one could take a while!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Corduroy and Quilts

I am starting to get somewhere with some of my unfinished designs. This week I finally finished my knitted rug ...

This has taken me over a year to knit - 150 small squares! - but I'm really pleased with how it's turned out. I'm calling it Corduroy as the deeply textured ripples are like huge corduroy stripes. For this pattern I developed a technique involving swapping between two sizes of needle and joining the rolls to the square as you go. I know that makes no sense at all but if you download the free pattern, you'll see what I mean.

I must say that I think the edging is quite clever too, even if it did take me most of last weekend to work out how to do it. It's a knitted on I cord - simple but enough to tame the edges of this beast.

Should you not feel the need for a knitted rug you could use the pattern to make a blanket. I think it would be lovely as a child's play mat; it's almost padded and little fingers would love all that texture. It could be knitted with scraps of leftover yarn too.

I rather like the back of the knitting too which is perfectly flat.

I'm now halfway through this year's calendar of mini knitted quilts too, having just published the June Quilt. Here are Quilts 1 - 6, January to June.

The summer months are the hardest to design I think as I can't think of so many obvious things to use. Any ideas for July and August? 

Meanwhile, I'm catching up on some other unfinished designs: a crochet blanket, another knitted blanket based on a patchwork quilt design and a lacy scarf using KintCircus yarn. Oh, and I'm still working on the big KAL patterns for Christmas and 2018 ...

Thursday, 8 June 2017

On This Day ...

On 8th June 1913 a woman called Emily Wilding Davison died in Epsom Cottage Hospital. Four days earlier she had run on to the track during the Derby and been hit by the King's horse, Anmer as she tried to grab his bridle. Emily was a Suffragette who had been force fed many times in prison and it is now believed that she was trying to attach a 'Votes for Women' banner to the horse's bridle.

The jockey, Herbert Jones, escaped with concussion but could never forget what had happened. At the funeral of the leading Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst in 1928 he laid a wreath "to do honour to the memory of Mrs Pankhurst and Miss Emily Davison".

Women were finally given the same voting rights as men in 1928.

Today, 8th June 2017, exactly 104 years after Emily Davison's death, I shall vote in the UK General Election. I will be voting Labour for the sake of our National Health Service and our schools and because I believe in a fairer future for all people. The important thing though is that I shall use my vote and I urge everyone - whatever their politics - to do the same.

Emily Davison, Teacher and Suffragette

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Teddy Bear's Picnic

Did you know that 10th July is Teddy Bear's Picnic Day? Well no, nor did I until I had a message from Carl at Bijou Basin Ranch in Colorado, asking if they could use one of my patterns in some kits they were selling to mark the occasion. Bijou Basin is a family owned Yak ranch which sells high quality Yak fibre and yarns. I've never knitted with Yak wool but I'm assured that it is soft and warm.

The pattern they are using is my Teddy Bear Stripes, although their bears will be knitted in one colour. Here's my original teddy bear (striped and otherwise) ...

... and here is the sample bear, knitted with the Yak wool ...

Isn't he lovely? He looks very cuddly. If you would like to buy a kit to knit your own teddy bear, you can order one from Bijou Basin for $25. They are kindly donating a percentage of the price to the charity I support. the Children's Liver Disease Foundation, for which I am very grateful. You can read more about the kit, including helpful tips on knitting your bear on the Bijou Basin Blog and share photos of your finished bears on their Ravelry Group. You've got to love a group that has 'For the Love of all things Yak' under the title, haven't you?

From Colorado Yaks to an English Dance Band in the 1930s ...

Wednesday, 31 May 2017


Over the last few weeks I've become completely obsessed with tatting. It's not like I need another craft to take up time that should be spent working on knitting designs (or practising the violin) but, as soon as I picked up my shuttle again, I was sucked into a compulsive world of thread and tiny knots.

In the years since I last did any tatting there's been this little invention called the Internet so I now have evidence that I'm not in fact the only tatter in existence. For a craft that's often described as 'dying' there are an awful lot of people out there doing it. There are lovely tatting blogs like Le Blog de Frivole and Lace-lovin' Librarian,  a Tatta Tat Tatters group on Ravelry and lots more. I don't do facebook but I'm sure there are tatting groups there too. 

Tatting developed as a craft in the 19th Century and is believed to have evolved from Knotting where a larger shuttle was used to make knotted thread that was then couched down to fabric as part of an embroidered piece.  Lace was very popular at that time but was also very expensive; tatting was a relatively simple way of making your own lace. In the first half of the 20th Century tatting was mostly used to make edgings for linen, doileys and collars and patterns for these can still be found in charity shops.

In recent years the craft has developed with the availability of beautiful coloured threads, including variegated shades.  The ones I've started using are Lizbeth threads; in the picture above I tatted the centre of the motif with 658, Ocean Turquoise and am working the edging with 149, Peacock Blues. I've linked to the US site Handy Hands as they have better pictures of the colours but, if you are in the UK, I can thoroughly recommend Roseground who stock all the Lizbeth threads as well as other threads, shuttles and lots of tatting books. Their service is very quick and, with my first order of threads (yes, there's been more than one), they sent me a paper Lizbeth shade chart which is really helpful. It even lists which solid colours will match each of the variegated shades which is very helpful when you can't see the actual thread.

Tatting threads come in various thicknesses (or should that be thinnesses?) - the higher the number, the thinner the thread. Mostly I'm using size 20 but I did try a little snowflake in size 80, just to see what I thought.

The motif on the right was done with a thread that's about a size 10 so you can see how much finer the 80 is. Funnily enough, it wasn't much more difficult than tatting with thicker thread but I still think I prefer the look of the Lizbeth 20.

As well as the thread, you also need a shuttle or a tatting needle. I haven't tried needle tatting so I can't talk about that. I have to admit that I was very taken with the shuttles - I do love a good craft tool - so that's what I went for. The ones I use are Aerlit Shuttles which come in various pretty colours and have a tiny hook on the end which you use for joining the rings and chains together as you go. The thread is wound on to a removable bobbin and you get a spare one with each shuttle.

So, after all that, would you like to see my tatting? Of course you would, who can resist an offer like that? I started off with various motifs, mostly from the New Tatting book.

The two at the top are Marigold and Dahlia and the one with the colours is the Hydrangea Mat. The snowflake is from Jennifer Williams' book Tatted Snowflakes. This is a clever pattern because you make two shapes and then weave them together to make the finished snowflake.

Then I moved on to bookmarks as I wanted to make some things I could give as presents. This was the first one I made; it's Jon Yussof's Foldover Bookmark which is available as a free pattern on her blog Tatsaway.

You fold the bookmark over the page where the two sections meet. This one was for my daughter. The next two were also from free patterns. 

The one with the ribbon is Bookmark with Two Layers, another clever pattern by Jennifer Williams and the flower one is Rachael Mohler's Flower Bookmark.

I've just ordered another new tatting book (told you I was obsessed) but, while waiting for that to arrive, I've tatted a square motif from New Tatting and learnt how to do split rings from the same book. It has photo tutorials for the different techniques which are very clear. The blue motif at the top of this post is what I started last night (after telling myself I wouldn't start another tatting project). It's another free pattern from Jennifer Williams; this one is just called Motif for a Coaster.

Have I persuaded any of you to have a go at tatting? It's much easier than it looks and the results are really impressive. You can find out more about it at the Ring of Tatters - that's where I got the information about the history of tatting. In fact I'm off now to join them.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Books & Ink

Tempted by the offer on twitter of a free Winnie-the-Pooh book bag when you spent £5 today, I wandered down to Books & Ink for a browse through their huge selection of books. I'm very lucky to have such a great bookshop just down the road. Their stock is mostly secondhand but they do have an interesting selection of new books too. 

Books & Ink live in an old, beamed building in Banbury's White Lion Walk, home of The Wisteria to beat all Wisterias. Thousands of books are arranged over two floors - on shelves, tables and in boxes - so many wonderful books.

Vintage Children's Books

I've had a soft spot for this bookshop ever since my daughter did a week's work experience there when she was 16. She had a wonderful time and learnt lots about the book world. If you're not near enough to visit the real shop, do have a browse through their online shop. About a quarter of their stock is listed but you can phone them if you're looking for something particular. 

A Selection of Picture Books

So, what did I buy today? Here are the three books I chose, together with my new book bag.

A Bridge of Children's Books came from the 'Books About Books' section which is one of my favourites; there's always something intriguing there. This one looks very interesting. It's a translation of the original German book, written by Jella Lepman in the 1960s. She was a Jewish author of books for children who returned to Germany after the Second World War with a determination to help children indoctrinated by the Nazis through the establishment of an International Youth Library. The book is her account of how she set about achieving this. 

            "Let us begin with the children, to slowly straighten out this utterly confused 
              world. The children will show the adults the way."
                                                                                                                             Jella Lepman

It seems to me that her mission is as vital today as it was seventy years ago.

The next book, I Believe in Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo continues the theme of war and books. Tomas lives in a Europe at war and learns about the power of books and stories to change lives. It's a magical book full of hope, beautifully illustrated by Gary Blythe.

On a lighter note, the third book I chose was 101 Things for Girls to Do, first published in 1935 although my edition is from 1942 (so we're back to wartime again). It's subtitle reads 'being a review of simple crafts and household subjects'. I love this sort of book. As well the embroidery and weaving projects you'd expect, there are also sections on working with leather, metal and wood.

Paper Beads and Wood Carving

How to make your own caddy spoon

This last project appeals to me. Good caddy spoons are hard to find. What do you mean, you don't have a tea caddy? I use mine every day.

I hope you've enjoyed this little look into the delights of my local bookshop. If you're ever passing this way, do go in and say hello.

Friday, 26 May 2017

Tat or Treasure

My favourite shops are the ones that sell old things. I love secondhand bookshops, charity shops and Antique Centres. You never know what you're going to find. In the last few days I've bought this little collection.

I've been looking for an old portable typewriter for ages but it had to be just right. I wanted one in good condition, at a reasonable price and it had to be a pretty colour. This one ticked all the boxes. It's an Imperial 200, made in 1973 and is in perfect condition. It even came with its original instructions and, as you can see, it's a lovely colour. You can still buy typewriter ribbons so I look forward to using it. Having trained myself to type gently on a keyboard, I shall now have to revert to my original heavy handed typing.

I didn't buy all those tablecloths in the picture yesterday, just the one on top but I thought they looked nice together. They're seersucker and I always seem to find them for £4. Actually, I often buy them from the same stall at Brackley Antique Centre so that would explain it. I love all the bright colours and use these cloths a lot.

The little toast rack came from Brackley too. It's Branksome China, one of the many types of china I'm partial to and I was particularly pleased to find this as it matches the cup, saucer and tea plate that I found in a charity shop last year. I love that combination of deep red and grey and the shapes are pleasing too, a bit like some Poole Pottery from the 1950s.

See those wooden things at the front of the picture? They're bag handles (the sort you use to make work bags with - or you do if you're still living in the 1940s as some say I do) and I found them in a 50p basket in one of the charity shops in town. The lady on the till wanted to take 50p for all four but I haggled her up to £2. It's quite hard to find proper wooden handles like this now as they seem to have been replaced by plastic pretending to be wood. I shall enjoy making them into bags.

I love finding old things like this. If you're interested, I could show you some of my other collections - tin postboxes, Isle of Wight studio pottery, posy brooches. And that's before I get started on the books ...