Thursday, April 3, 2014

back in the saddle

Last month I got a bit of a body blow on the crafting front. I lost my knitting bag on the subway, and it was never turned in to the lost & found.

The bag included my tools pouch, which amongst other things contained the One Perfect Tapestry Needle I'd had since I was nine years old. It came with the first needlepoint kit I ever made all by myself, and I'd been using it to sew together and darn most anything yarn-like ever since. It's hard to explain, but it was just the right size, shape, and finish to do everything from bulky sweaters to fingering-weight socks with. I would use other needles, but it was my default, and I'd used it for over half my life.

The knitting was a second pair of Space Invaders Socks I was working on for my friend Cathy, a request from her. I'd just made it past the leg and was working on the foot of the first sock, and I was already late with them.

The bag itself was a loss. It was a hand-made, hand-screen-printed promo item for Alice Hearts Welsh Zombies, a hilarious novel I picked up a couple of years ago when it was first published. The authors themselves made the bags as giveaways for when people bought two or more copies of the book.

Of course, the grown-up thing to do is chant, "They were only things, if it happened it was meant to be, you've had lots of close shaves before and it was finally your turn," but still... it's hard to get going again. Of course the day I lost the bag I was feeling physically crappy, and had had a busy day at work, and of course there was a subway weirdo near me who was being weirder than the norm and not a little scary... it was one of those perfect storm things.

To make up for losing the Space Invaders Socks, I made Cathy this Skull Cap:

It's a free pattern that Icy Sedgwick posted to Pinterest. I added the optional lining (hard to see here) in a greyish-purple colour. Despite adding some extra rows of the black lattice pattern, the hat came out shorter than I would have liked, but Cathy says she's been wearing it, so that's what's important.

The entire hat was sourced from stash yarn and crocheted in an evening. It was exactly the kind of quick, funky project I needed to get my crafting mojo back in gear again.

I also made (and managed to not lose) Cathy these orange spider socks:

These were another free pattern from Ravelry. The instructions on these were excellent — they were a lot easier to make than they look. The only real mod I made was when I was working the little spiders, but that was just to suit my brain, not because I disagreed with the pattern per se. The finished spiders look about the same as the ones in the pattern. These have been done since before December, but I didn't want to post about them until Cathy received them.

That leaves one more thing for Cathy on the needles and one new thing on the needles for me. I'm slowly getting used to my new tools pouch. But I'm still on the lookout for a new One Perfect Tapestry Needle.

Friday, February 7, 2014

surprise heart necklaces

As recently as 3 February, I had no intention of making anything for Valentine's Day. It's not a holiday I'm that crazy about. If you're in a relationship, then you should be enjoying it more than once a year; if you're not, it's just a reminder that lots of people around you are. Blech.

But then: Kirsty over at Miss Emily's Room asked for other pairs of eyes to check a crocheted heart plushy pattern she was trying to follow, and the easiest way to do so was to make one myself. In half an hour's time (which included taking in-progress photos) I had this:

All right, so what to do with it?

Tomorrow I'll be seeing the nieces for a family get-together, and they're finally at the age where they can be trusted to wear play jewelry without strangling themselves. So I cranked out some pink and red knitted cord, twisted it together, and attached it to the crocheted heart. The results look like this:

Everything is nice and secure, so it can take a lot of play-time at the hands of pre-schoolers, but the cord is nice and stretchy to fit over heads with pony-tails.

And besides, now it's squishy and pink. That has to count for something. I'm sure they'll let me know. I made a second one so they could each have their own.

Meanwhile, I repinned a heart-shaped knot tutorial from Kate Williams's boards. I had some more spare red wool handy, so I made two more lengths of knitted cord, tried out the knot (got it on the second try!), and made knotted heart necklaces:

To me they look more like strawberries, but hey, with my nieces that works just as well. I grafted the ends together to make them stretchy yet clasp-free.

So now the nieces each have two heart necklaces to wear on Valentine's Day or whenever they please, and I got to try some new things!

Sunday, January 19, 2014


On New Year's Day I started crocheting cotton boxes for my washroom. They're part of an ongoing get-tidy project I have on the go, they are being made 100% from stash, and I'm tired of having to dust things like my makeup bag and the spare bottles of shampoo.

As I was working on the first box, I learned that I'd won a prize in a charity raffle I'd entered a few weeks before. The prize was an assortment of cosmetics, and it came in a very nice black basket woven with strap material. I decided to crochet a lid for it while I was at it. This was the result:

The lid is natural-colour, worsted-weight dishcloth cotton single crocheted with a 4.5mm hook. The beaded edging is size 11 seed beads crocheted with perle cotton on a 0.6mm hook. The basket is 19cm per side, for a total of 76cm. There are sixteen motifs per side, so sixty-four in total, plus an extra orange picot to complete the repeat. There are seven red beads and four orange beads per motif, so that's a total of 708 beads (448 red, 260 orange) just in this edging.

One of the red circular motifs is about the same size as one of the lid single crochet stitches. It's been a little weird switching back and forth between the two.

The first box is done, but I'm still working on its lid. It will have a beaded edging as well, but in a different pattern:

This has been nice, easy work (even the beaded edge, really, although its tiny black stitches get finicky). Really, though, I need to get back to the socks for Cheshin.

The box idea came from Erika Knight's Simple Crochet, and the beaded edging from Midori Nishida's The Beaded Edge.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

reversible, reusable gift wrap

The weird thing is, I remember enjoying wrapping gifts. I remember taking pride in getting the corner folds mitred just so. I remember feeling pleased when the edges of the wrap met precisely in the middle of the short sides, and came to a nice sharp point.

Somewhere along the line that stopped. It may have been paper that wouldn't behave, or running out of sellotape, or something, but I switched to commercially-available gift bags.

Does anyone else besides me remember when gift bags were touted as being reusable and therefore more eco-friendly, even though they were fully printed and cost a lot more than paper wrap? It rarely seems to work out that way.

At least a year ago, my mum gave me an article from Canadian Living about furoshiki — Japanese fabric gift wrap. The instructions were so simple, even I didn't need a lot of diagrams: you just find two squares of cloth (a square metre is a nice size) that complement each other, sew them together with a gap in one edge, clip the corners, turn the whole thing right side out, then topstitch the edge (and sew the turnout gap shut). You're left with a reversible, square piece of cloth. Tie up a gift or three inside the cloth and ta-da! reusable, washable wrapping paper.

Canadian Living  posted a video showing a couple of ways to wrap objects in furoshiki with grace and flair. Sadly, I did not discover the video until after I took the photos below. Oh well, next time. There are a lot of resources on-line to learn more about furoshiki.

I deliberately went with non-Yule patterns so I could use them throughout the year. Your mileage may vary.

The nieces got pink and purple furoshiki. This year, for my own sanity, I colour coded the gifts so that Niece the Elder had pink on the outside, and Niece the Younger had purple on the outside. Therefore, I can say with confidence this is a photo of Niece the Elder's pink toy racing car when it was wrapped up.

This is a small cloth, made from a couple of fat quarters which were trimmed down to squares. I used quilting-weight cotton for all of the furoshiki I made this year.

The next photo shows what I did with the trimmed off fabric of the fat quarters, and with some plain white cotton I had from the book cover I made:

I just used a Sharpie to write on the tags, rather then embroider them. I was low on time, and I'm not sure I could have got embroidery to fit as well.

The above photo shows a furoshiki that is about a metre square. It had Sew Red, the hardcover edition of Stephen King's Doctor Sleep, and the Dear Jane quilt book in it, along with a box of 16 Ferrero Rochers on top.

I bought the fabric before I got all of the gifts, so I wound up getting more fabric than was immediately needed. I still have two medium-ish and one large cloth left to sew up, all in the blue and green fabrics of the cloth in the last photo. It feels good to sew these, because you can actually imagine getting some use out of them. They are completely not intimidating to sew: no precise sizes to worry about, no tricky seams.

Plus, they don't rip if you tug at them to adjust a corner.

Monday, November 25, 2013

KTS: beep!

I actually finished these about a month ago, but I've been busy writing up a storm for NaNoWriMo. So no blog post until now.

This is the third and last pair of socks slated as part of Knit that Shit. Like the other pairs of socks in the list, they were started just as my spine was going badly out of alignment, which is why they took so long to finish. I had to wait until I could knit without being in pain.

My chiropractor noted that I seem to be getting better at keeping my spine and other joints in place, so getting these done is a nice reward for that.

The original pattern is free online from Knitty. There were a few mods on these. I chose to use an olive instead of lime green for the bottom row of invaders, mostly because it was already in the stash. I also did my standard square heel instead of the striped short-row heel given in the pattern. Finally, I used my usual double-pointed needles instead of using circulars as given in the pattern. I know it's heresy, but I just don't find the circulars easier to work with for socks. Nothing against those who do, but I just don't.

Besides the thrill of actually getting these done, I was very pleased with the duplicate stitch "shooter" on the foot of the game sock (the sock on the left in the photo). My duplicate stitch has not always been consistent in the past, and this time I found a way to make it more consistent, which made me happy. (Turn the work upside down every other row so you always work right to left, or else switch hands so you are always working away from you.)

I've finished some other things in the meantime, but they're all Yule gifts, so they won't get posted about until later next month.

Monday, October 28, 2013

#craftblogclub: hallowe'en necklace components

This month's #craftblogclub challenge was to create something for Hallowe'en, but working in a craft that is new to you.

I chose to use a wire jig. I've used a jig a grand total of one time previously, and that was just to make sure I understood how the thing worked. This was the first time I wasn't just making a practice shape.

When I was a kid my parents used to give me puzzle books and colouring books to work on during visits to the grandparents so I wouldn't get bored (because, er, yes, it was an issue). My grandmother saw some of the geometry puzzles in one of the books and taught me a puzzle her mum had taught her. You make a partly-filled grid of twenty-one dots on a piece of paper, and the challenge is to encircle each dot, without lifting the pencil from the paper, in the most efficient way possible. She showed me the solution, and added a bit shyly, "Plus it makes a pretty pattern."

That was when I was eight years old. It's now the only shape I doodle — my notebooks for work are covered in different versions. I've done some research, and found out the same shape shows up all over the place (India, various points in Europe), and has all sorts of different meanings attached to it. To go through all of them would make a too-long blog post, but here's what it looks like when I pegged it out on the wire jig:

Off the jig, it looked like this:

I finished the ends to make a necklace bail, and made some smaller components with extra loops to use within the strap part of the necklace:

The next steps will be to make beaded sections to go between the components and add a clasp. Right now I'm running low on time, so I don't know if I'll get it done in time for Hallowe'en, but at least it's on its way.

In case you're wondering what this has to do with Hallowe'en... I went with the broader "day of remembrance/day of the dead" understanding of the day.

I wish I could wrap the wire on the jig well enough to make evenly-sized, perfectly spaced loops, but for now I'm willing to leave that at, "oh well, this is something new." I do find it amusing that the wire version of the shape is wobbly in the same way as my hand-drawn doodles.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

wire crochet: the power of letting random into the mix

Last Saturday I took a wire crochet class with Laura Sultan at the That's Women's Work art gallery. I've fiddled around with wire crochet on my own a few times, which mostly meant I'd used up a lot of wire and got nowhere.

During the class we learned how to make a wire and bead necklace using one of my favourite design approaches: something that is more complex when finished than it was to actually make. It's one of the best things about DIY — a dollop at randomness at just the right time in the process creates something that's both unique and aesthetically pleasing. Basically, you give up total control and let the universe have a hand. That's something that factory-made jewelry, clothes, and other items are never able to replicate, and it's why DIY is still so important in a factory-transformed world.

All right, so what did we do? We learned how to chain stitch wire with beads, and then weave strands of beaded chains together to create necklaces. At the end of the class, my strands looked like this:

I finished the ends with short lengths of chain and a clasp at home, which created this finished version:
The really cool part (besides learning something new) was that everyone else's work used different beads and different coloured wire, and in each instance it totally transformed the work. It's similar to what happens in knitting when Kaffe Fassett's Persian Poppies "rules" get worked in different colourways.

Besides getting to see how dramatically different one construction method looks with different materials combinations, the class structure gave us a lot of time to talk about different ways to work with the technique, the effects of different colourways, and other things which are essential to jewelry design, but often get lost in classes because all the attention is being focused on the working, not the designing.

We got spoilt with tea and fancy baked goods, and in the second half with wine. It was a very full two hours in more ways than one!

Laura teaches this class, classes on chain maille, and others on a regular basis. Check out her Meetup group for details.