Friday, 10 March 2023

More Colour Pops

I'm still enjoying exploring the possibilities of my Colour Pop technique which combines lots of colours and some serious texture, two of my favourite things. The first two patterns were purely decorative: a rainbow wall hanging ...

... and a Christmas tree.

Now I'm turning my thoughts to more practical applications of the technique, so my latest pattern is for chunky little purses.

Roly-Poly Purses are beautifully tactile and very easy to make. You just knit a rectangle of colour pops and then gather the ends and add buttons to close it. I loved the simplicity of this project. Here's the knitted rectangle; the wrong side with its pretty lines will be the inside of the purse.

I knitted three different widths of purses from the basic pattern, using the same colours for the pops but changing the background colour. These are going to be very useful for holding little crafty bits and bobs of which I have many.

I think the next colour pop pattern will be a tea cosy. Those textured rolls would keep the heat in well.

At the moment though I'm trying to get various projects finished that have been hanging around too  long. Do you remember my crochet Starburst blanket from last year? 

I had little balls of all the colours leftover when it was finished so I changed the mosaic design to a smaller star with lines, bought more black yarn and made a smaller version to use up the colours.

As you can see, I've got as far as crocheting the squares together so I just need to add the border and give it a serious blocking - it's very lumpy and bumpy at the moment. I think it's going to be a bit small to count as a blanket but I may turn it into a little rug. I don't know what to call it though. Any ideas?

I've just bought some new yarn for a crochet shawl too. This is Scheepjes Whirl which is a combination of cotton and acrylic and comes in a big cake of 1,000 metres of yarn. This colourway is called Rose water Cocktail. Isn't that a delicious name?

Before starting on this, I've been playing around with new crochet stitches, courtesy of an ebook version of the Big Book of Crochet Stitches from the Martingale sale. Have a look, there are some real bargains there. The terminology is American so I have to concentrate a bit but it's definitely expanding my crochet knowledge.

As I told you last time, I've also been using my new / old Singer sewing machine to make a quilt for my son's new house. It's to go over his coffee table which is, unfortunately for me, quite big so this is turning out to be a bigger quilt than I normally make. The top is finished now and I'm waiting for the wadding I ordered to arrive so that I can get started on the quilting.

Saturday, 18 February 2023

Bit by Bit

It's been a while since I posted here. It's hard keeping up with things when you're always ill and it doesn't help that I haven't been able to sort out a place to take decent photos in my new room yet. I set up a rather haphazard arrangement yesterday which involved the cables from my big lights stretching across the room at knee height and, miraculously, I managed not to fall over once! So, here are some of the things I've been working on lately, a little bit at a time most days.

First of all, I've been doing some English paper piecing with scraps from the two big baskets of scraps on the top landing (needless to say, both baskets are still full).

I'm using pre-cut squares and honeycomb paper pieces from Sew & Quilt and, so far, I've tacked enough shapes to make 50 blocks. I've been better pleased with my stitching since discovering this extra fine thread by Gutermann which really makes the stitches invisible. I shall arrange the blocks like this so will need to add extra squares between the blocks later.

One of the things that bothers me about doing so many crafts is that I never really make any progress with some of them. If I only practise them once or twice a year, there's always a lot of re-learning to do when I go back to them. This year I've decided to be more consistent so that I develop the muscle memory for some of my often neglected crafts.

This is working well with Dorset button making. I am steadily working through this wonderful book by Gina Barrett which has detailed instructions for over 70 traditional buttons.

As you can see, I've made eight so far so there's quite a way to go. Here's a close up of the first six.

I'm trying the same approach with tatting but this is a much steeper learning curve. I'm trying to tat this motif over and over and then use the finished shapes as gift tags. As you can see though, my second attempt is worse than the first! More practice needed I think.

The design is 'Christmas Rose' from the book New Tatting by Tomoko Morimoto which, I'm sorry to see, is now out of print. This was the book that re-sparked my interest in tatting although I would also recommend any of Mary Konior's wonderful books. Don't be put off by the black and white photos and the lack of diagrams, these are brilliant for beginners in particular. The prices that old copies of her books go for tells you something about how good they are but you can find them reasonably priced now and then. I recently found this one on World of Books for just over £6.

The author helpfully marks patterns suitable for beginners with a dagger symbol so I obediently had a go at the first one in the book - an edging called 'Betsey's Downfall' (poor Betsey).

That was easy. It's so small because I was using up a length of thread on a bobbin, not because I got bored. Even I have more staying power than that.

I've been doing a bit of the next ongoing project every day since just before Christmas. Can you guess what's in this pretty tin?

Appropriately enough, it's full to bursting with ... snowflakes.

Every day I crochet another design from 100 Snowflakes to Crochet by Caitlin Sainio. Again, I fear this book might be out of print. When I first got the book several years ago, I started crocheting the snowflakes with thread as the author recommends but I didn't really like the result so, this time, I'm using Stylecraft Special DK and a 3.5 mm hook. They don't take long and I'm over half way through the book already and learning a lot about snowflakes on the way.

What am I going to do with 100 quite large snowflakes you may ask? Good question, I haven't decided that yet. I am considering sewing them together into big panels to hang at my windows next Christmas although I suspect that it would be a case of 'that way madness lies'. In the meantime, don't they look nice?

I have also been working on more Colour Pop knitting ideas. This is my technique for adding texture and colour to plain knitting which I have been exploring for a while now. You can see the Colour Pop patterns I've published so far here although I did experiment with the idea in a few early patterns too.

At the moment I'm knitting Colour Pop squares for a baby blanket using some very pretty colours ...

.. and I've also finished a collection of Roly-Poly purses using  the same technique.

I'm particularly pleased with these as they're just one rectangular piece with the sides gathered into circles and a few buttons added - nice and simple. I'm hoping to get the pattern written up soon.

Have you ever considered using 92 different colours in a knitted scarf? Of course you haven't but this is what I'm doing here ...

This is my shade card scarf which will have a stripe in all 92 of the solid shades of Stylecraft Special DK. I'm knitting it in the round, mostly so that I can knot the ends together and hide them inside. I may be daft but not so daft they I relish the thought of sewing in 184 tails of yarn.

I'm not very good at doing 'random' when it comes to colour selection so I decided to knit the colours in alphabetic order (and why not?). What you see in the photo above is letters A - C. Adopting this approach throws up some very bizarre combinations but I think it will all turn out well in the end.

I use my trusty Stylecraft Colour Pegs a lot when planning designs and they're starting to look a bit fuzzy and tatty now so I'm also crocheting these little circles to act as an alternative to the pegs.

I was going to do just plain squares but they seemed a bit dull so decided on textured circles instead.

I am still making progress with sorting all my piles of craft stuff on to shelves in my new room although I'm finding it slow going. It doesn't help that I think I've slipped another disc so lifting things is tricky - also moving, sitting, sleeping ...

Anyway, this is the state of the big shelves so far.

I've done cross stitch, needlepoint, embroidery, tatting, beading, toy making and I don't know what else but there's still quite a lot to go. Meanwhile, there are a few new additions to my desk. One is this pretty clock from Dunelm Mill which I'm rather pleased with.

The other 'new' thing is actually 67 years old and I've had it for a while.

This is a Singer 99, made in Scotland in 1956 which I've finally got cleaned, oiled and working. This was advertised as a 'portable' machine, despite being made of cast iron (guess how I hurt my back?) but, with a new foot pedal from Couling Sewing Machines, it sews beautifully. I'm planning to have a sewing machine on every floor of the house. This one on the top floor will mostly be used for patchwork, as will my Featherweight which lives in the scullery downstairs and is nice for sewing by the open back door in then Summer. That leaves my modern machine - yes, I do have one of those too - for the middle floor. That machine comes into its own for dressmaking, bag making etc. Also, you don't do yourself an injury moving it around!

I have plans to keep the old Singer out all the time in my craft room but am hoping to move it off the desk, possibly to that little space to the left of the desk in this photo.

Today I had a lovely time cutting out rectangles to start a new quilt for my son who has just bought his first house so that will be the first thing I make with this machine. I'll show you pictures once I've done more than cut out pieces.

Wednesday, 14 December 2022

Rainbow Gnomes

A couple of weeks ago I had the bright idea of designing a little knitted gnome for Christmas. That'll be quick and easy I thought. Obviously, I was wrong. The actual designing took me a whole day which was far too long for me to work at one time and left me with a temperature again and a ridiculously bad night. 

I (well, actually my son and daughter) have now instituted a timer system where I set a timer for half an hour before doing something that I know makes me ill - anything requiring concentration, especially involving the computer.

So ... I had knitted one little green gnome and was quite pleased with him.

I think he has quite a lot of character, considering he's basically a pear shaped piece of knitting with a few added bits and bobs. He's a few inches tall and fits nicely in your hand.

Of course, I couldn't stop there could I? I thought how much nicer it would be to have a whole set of brightly coloured gnomes so, after a lot of production line knitting, meet my parade of Rainbow Gnomes.

I absolutely love these. I have resisted the temptation to decorate my new craft room for Christmas but don't the gnomes look nice lined up on the mantelpiece in there? Here they are, complete with the lights I've put in the grate.

As normal, the pattern for the Rainbow Gnomes can be downloaded free from my ravelry store. The gnomes are worked in the round and stuffed as you go with a combination of bean bags and toy stuffing. The beard, nose and hat brim are knitted separately and sewn on and the whole thing is finished off with a little jingle bell on the top of the hat. There's still time to knit one for Christmas and I look forward to seeing lots of brightly coloured gnomes popping up online.

Apart from the gnomes, I did manage to hang up one of my Christmas embroideries next to my new (as yet, empty) desk.

Those short needles are the ones I use most. The pot they're in was painted by my Mum; there's a poppy on the other side too.

The other decorations up there are these wonderful snowflakes on the door that my daughter's partner sent me when she came to visit at the weekend. He cuts the most incredible original designs each year.

One particularly detailed one was designed with my two cats in mind as it features all the things they would like to catch.

There are birds and fish and the wiggly things round the edge are feathers on a string (of course they are!) Aren't they wonderful?

My timer is ticking down so I need to stop now. I haven't forgotten about the tour of the knitting shelves; I just need to take the photos on a day when it's not as dingy as it's been lately.

In the meantime, have fun with some knitted gnomes.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Pretty Things

Progress on my  new craft room has been rather slow for most of this month - a combination of me not being well enough to do much and waiting for my IKEA order to arrive. Actually, it was mostly waiting for everything to be in stock ... Anyway, I now have a house full of large, heavy boxes. 

Just room to walk down the hall (there are more boxes lining the back hall and another pile in the front room).

To backtrack though ... while waiting for the furniture, I turned my mind to prettying things up a bit. Having evicted my sheet music from a tall set of basket shelves, it was moved upstairs to be home to my Stylecraft Special which, as many of you will know, is my basic go-to yarn when it comes to designing. The idea was to put a different colour in each of the baskets, a plan which turned out to be trickier than you'd think.

There are yellowy greens, bluey greens, bluey purples ... you get the idea. I ended up with nine baskets of bright colours and two half boxes left over. These are going to hold the neutral and pastel shades with space on top for multiples (mostly for works in progress).

Then of course I wanted colourful labels for the baskets and decided that the obvious thing was to knit them using the yarn itself.

I used the six stitch stars from my Stacking Stars pattern and added a button to the middle of each. It took me longer to choose the buttons than the yarn (of course it did). The little red suitcase on the top of the baskets holds my Stylecraft colour pegs.

It's been tricky planning designs with most of my yarn inaccessible so having the Stylecraft sorted has been a great help. At the moment I'm knitting a series of little rainbow coloured gnomes which I'm hoping to get published in time for Christmas.

I made the mistake of designing and knitting this first one all in one day, something I used to do easily but which is definitely not a good idea now I'm ill. I kept thinking "I'll just sort out this bit of shaping and then stop", something I regretted when I was awake half the night with a temperature! I'm rather pleased with my little gnome though.

As well as playing with my Stylecraft, I've also been painting the top of  my old kitchen table which had become rather tatty over the years.

Doesn't it look nice? The plan is for this to be in the middle of the room but, at the moment, it's squeezed up against the fireplace so as to leave plenty of room for furniture building. Which leads me neatly on to the next pretty thing ...

Two sets of LED lights with the white battery packs hidden behind scrunched up black bin bags. It was quite a fiddle to arrange them so that I could still get at the on / off switches but I'm really pleased with the effect. They make the room seem more cosy straight away; I can almost forget I'm wearing three jumpers to keep the cold at bay.

While I think of it, do you remember me telling you about the old lamp that I restored earlier this year? It was one of my parents' wedding presents; you can read about its history in this post. They had it on top of my Mum's old workbox, made for her by her father out of old packing cases.

Now that those basket shelves have been moved, there's room for the workbox and lamp in the front room. It lights up that corner beautifully.

It's standing on a crochet mat I made when I was about 16 - yes, I was a very cool teenager - which is a bit stained; has anyone got any tips on cleaning it? I tried the gel version of Vanish on it but to no effect.

I've got a couple more things to show you in the craft room, one small and the other not so small. The small thing is my new craft trolley from Hobbycraft.

I'm very impressed with this. It's sturdy, easy to put together and has nice deep shelves. It's also very reasonably priced. You can buy all sorts of add-ons for it too but I'm resisting the temptation to do that until I know what will be most useful.

The other thing I've achieved - just over the last week or so - is to fill that great big IKEA Kallax unit that my son and daughter moved upstairs for me. The arrival of piles of Kuggis boxes with my new furniture meant that I could finally start moving the rest of my knitting stuff into its new home.

Excuse the blurry photo; I'd changed the focus setting on my camera inadvertently.

These boxes are brilliant. They come in different sizes, all with set in lids so that you can stack them together; on the top of one of the big ones you can fit two medium sized ones or four small ones. I've also found that the lids can be used as trays - very handy. I think these are going to be really useful for all sorts of craft bits and bobs but, so far, I've been using them for yarn. 

Isn't that an exciting photo? If you like, I could do a shelf by shelf tour of it next time. Basically, the yarn that the moths like is in strong plastic zipped bags in the white boxes. I've also made little lavender sachets using mini organza bags to put in each bag as an added deterrent. The acrylic yarn is in the big baskets and the red fabric bins. The shelves also hold all my crochet books and hooks and quite a few of my knitting books. It was nice to be able to go through them and decide which ones needed to be where.

You can see another new thing in that photo too, my new little white table. This is the smallest of the  IKEA Lack tables and cost all of £7! At the other side of the photo you can just see my yellow bag hanging on the door handle. Now that I regularly plod up and down two flights of steep stairs, this is essential for carrying all sorts of stuff so that I still have a hand free to hold on with. Carrying things makes me breathless, even if they're not heavy but it's better if they're in a bag. 

If I've got on to minutiae like my going upstairs bag, it's probably time to stop but I just want to show you one last thing. As you know, I've been enjoying decorating my bedroom mantelpiece each season with my seasonal cross stitch samplers at the centre. Yesterday, I laced and framed the last one but then realised that I couldn't get at any of the suitably wintry decorations to go with it. So, for the time being, it sits in glorious isolation on the craft room mantelpiece.

Tuesday, 1 November 2022

A Christmas Pattern

Do you remember when I used to publish a series of festive patterns every December as a sort of advent calendar? Since being ill I haven't managed to do this (they're an awful lot of work) but ...

Two years ago, I decided to knit myself a Christmas wreath, based on my Woodland Wreath but with a few different leaves and decorations. I had no intention of publishing it as a pattern but I've had so many people requesting it that, this year, I've puzzled over my very sketchy notes, done a bit of re-knitting and now it's all ready to go.

The first pattern is available now on Ravelry and explains about the wreath I used and how to cover it with knitting. Then, in December, there will be five more patterns, each of which will have instructions for two sets of leaves or decorations. I haven't decided how to space out the publication of those patterns yet - one a day, every other day - what do you think? 

In other news (apologies for those who are getting bored with my endless craft room saga), lots of progress has been made. Having had two fit and able people here this weekend, the room now has actual furniture in it. Remember those 53 baskets full of fabric?

They don't look quite so daunting now they're on shelves, do they? There are a few that didn't fit but I'm pleased with how many we got on to these two sets of shelves. If you look closely, you'll see that the baskets are labelled with tatty yellow post-its. I have plans to replace these with pretty labels at some point. In the meantime, I've added a few of Mum's angel ornaments.

I made her the one with the long red hair and the other one is one of 'Sonia's angels', a friend Mum met at craft shows. She had several angels from her; here's another one ...

While taking this photo, I took another one of the light switch which is just next to the shelves. Does anyone remember these?

Yes, that's a Bakelite switch on a wooden mount. I have these in every room but, don't worry, it's modern wiring behind them. 

While I was faffing around with angels, my son and daughter were doing the heavy work. In case you were wondering, yes, it is possible to take apart a 5 x 5 Kallax unit, carry it up two flights of stairs and then re-assemble it.

To be fair, they did have a willing helper in Tolly the cat. He often has that puzzled look; the world is a mystery to him.

Tolly definitely knows the room exists now. No sooner had they moved in a comfortable chair for me, than he settled himself down.

The other cat, Linnet, still hasn't found the room. She's a very suspicious cat and and is wary of anything new, just in case it turns out to be a portal to the vets.

As well as these shelf units, they moved a table up from my bedroom and a set of basket shelves up from the front room. What with these and the table that's in pieces on the top landing waiting for me to sand and paint it, other rooms ended up with piles of stuff and nowhere to put it. 

So, after more bookcase moving, I now have things temporarily stored in the back room downstairs.

Lots of this stuff is destined for the craft room once I have more storage but, in the meantime, I can still use this room. I've even got space for photography (hence the big lights). 

One of the joys of living in an old house is that there's barely a straight line in the place. Did I say joys? There wasn't a lot of joy when I made floor length curtains for the bay window in the front room - there's a six inch difference between one side and the other, calling for gradually lengthening hems. 

Anyway, look at these two bookcases ...

They have to be propped up at one side so that the books and files don't fall over but, as you can see, the heights don't exactly match. And yes, those shelves are set the same distances  apart.

We're now working on an IKEA order for a desk and lots more shelves. I've been having ideas for prettying up the new room too. How about patchwork curtains? I think I might know where I can lay my hands on some fabric!