Sunday, 27 October 2013

Minions at Dundee Comics Day and cabling

In the afternoon yesterday we went to the Starblazers Dundee Comics Day workshop at the DCA, a
Minion hat from the At Home With the Lunchbox Guru
combination of two of Caitlin's all time favourite things and I'm not not keen either!  She spent a happy 2 hours creating Doctor Who monsters, meeting real artists and blethering her head off and having some original artwork drawn for her.  I sat on the sofa surrounded by comic artist greats and began knitting a minion hat for my friend's little girl, unfortunately I'm fairly sure it's going to be too small but it's been an education, mostly in how challenging (but fun!) it is to knit intarsia in the round.  Just lets say I have a LOT of ends to knit in!  The pattern has been straightforward and effective, thanks to Juanita McLellan for her generous free Despicable Me Minion Hat on Ravelry.  She has lots of minion patterns and I don't think this will be the last I make.

And I am finally getting on with that tunic, it is slow because you're knitting the entire thing in a
Front of tunic, yoke done with sleeve stiches on holders
single piece but I'm down beyond the yoke and on to the waist decreases.  I went back to my Wensleydale as I realised what I'd done wrong, I was trying to follow the cable patterns back and forth as you would for a pattern knitted on straight needles instead of always backwards as you do for in the round.  If you knit this kind of stuff you'll understand, if not that will be gibberish but basically it meant I was twisting loads of my cables the wrong way and the panels inbetween were wrong to an epic degree.  Almost two balls in this already!  I am really enjoying it, I realise now I need something complex like cabling, fair isle or small fiddly work when I'm knitting, I think actually, in any of my crafting, I get a little bored with plain knit.  Caitlin and I inherited her great grandmother's stash of wool including an unmade-up bear body and Val Pierce's sweet book Knitted Bears from Search Press' 20 to make series, so that's been made and we're working on an outfit, teaching Caitlin how to do increases has been challenging fun.  No, not that loop...

Meeting authors and getting inspired

As our planet tilts on it's axis towards winter we have a combination of frankly horrendous days (Friday, damp feet and jeans, miserable) and stunning (yesterday, sun, a bit chilly but beautiful colours).  Yesterday now 10 year old daughter Caitlin and I went to the Literary Dundee book festival and met Jackie Holt and Ruth Bailey, authors of Knit Your Own Scotland and the follow up Knit Your Own Britain, both of which I bought despite the presence of Maggie Thatcher in the latter, if you're Scottish you'll understand!  I bought it to make the marmite pot and make it into a pin cushion, I do love my marmite...  Just need a marmalade one now!

Both authors gave a great presentation on how they turn their ideas into their stunning figures and how they made them, they are stunning, the faces of people recognisable (contemporary, obviously!) and the period costumes stunning.  This comes from their background in theatre, both costume and prop production, and we got to touch and examine the models.  You could tell most of us were crafters from the forensic examination and oohs and ahs over the quality of the work.  They were wonderfully patient and kind to Caitlin when she went up (in her ghost bride Hallowe'en costume) to ask them to sign them.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Knitting wars

Well, I'm currently wrestling with three knitting projects as well as thinking about my and Caitlin's entries for the competition for the Quilters' Guild Regional Day next weekend.  I'm teaching a group of Young Quilters, this time we're making reverse applique t shirts but I think I'm there with what I need to do for them.  The theme is Anything Goes, so Caitlin is making a TARDIS from a dress I bought for a night out in November last year, it's a size 16 and I'm now down to a 12, despite my best efforts over the summer holidays, and although I have taken it in it's still too big.  I'm hoping to make a dress for one of Caitlin's dolls from my scrap basket, which for some reason never seems to go down, and I can't bear to throw any out.

My cardigan, though mine will be purple
The two projects I'm working on just now are a lacework cardigan (Meier cardigan) and a cabled tunic.  Both are from delicious Interweave books, the tunic from The Art of Seamless Knitting and the cardigan from Metropolitan Knits, it's the one on the cover.  Both are knitted in the round which I like, minimising on seams to sew up.  Well, the tunic has caused me no end of trouble, I originally cast it on using Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop Aran which I spent a small fortune (for me) on at the just wonderful baa ram ewe in Harrogate when we were down in York on holiday.    I did my tension swatch and it is a fine aran so I had to come down a long way on needle size, but when I began to knit I couldn't see it at all and after a bit of toing and froing with advice from friends online I bit the bullet and ripped it out, sob!  It was then a trip into Dundee to get two huge 400g balls of Wendy Aran with wool which is a nice oatmeal colour, and it's doing fine, though as usually I have to go down about half a mm on the needles because I knit loose.  However, to knit the ribbing for the cardigan I needed a 3.5mm cable needle, now, these apparently don't exist so I needed to go up to 3.75mm and guess what I was knitting the tunic on...  Slipped the tunic onto double pins while I did the ribbing, which was completed last night while watching The Hobbit on DVD, much better viewing the second time round I must admit.  We can't wait until December for part 2 to come out!

Drops 123-21
I was knitting this pair of alpaca gloves in Alpaca Loft's beautiful off white wool, from an Drops Design, a Scandinavian online company who provide the most wonderful free patterns.  However, although I only have a finger and thumb to do on one glove I've stopped, just not inspired at the moment, though I will go back to it when I've got a bit further on with the big projects.

With the cabling for the tunic I photocopied the pattern and colour coded the different instructions, it has made it much easier to follow.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

My very first commission!

A little horse that just wants to be a unicorn!
My 9 nearly 10 year old daughter wanted to embroider a pillowcase for her horse mad best friend's birthday and it ended up being a commisson instead, it took me three or four days to finish so it would never have got done in time.  She did, however, do the stitching of the tie around the head so she can genuinely say she contributed.  She is a fast learning embroiderer, crocheter and knitter in her own right.

The design is called I Want to Believe and is from the wonderfully awesome Urban Threads, an American online provider of machine and hand embroidery designs that is certainly not traditional.  They have a huge range of steampunk designs, I am currently embroidering a shirt with an outline version of their steampunk raven but it got put aside to make the pillowcase.  They do the cutest interpretations of the gothic I have ever seen, chibi type zombies and vampires are typical.  The only problem is I want to make them all and would need a few more days in the week to do so.

I transferred the design to the fabric using dressmakers carbon paper, the fabric was too dark to trace through from underneath and I don't have a lightbox.  I used the yellow paper and the line showed up well on the turquoise, it did not come off at all but was still a nice fine line that was easily covered with stitching.  I put the sewing in a hoop when I was stitching, just an ordinary metal and plastic spring embroidery hoop, it did still pucker a bit and I think I would use a stabiliser next time.   I stitched using DMC stranded cotton embroidery threads and a metallic gold.  The gold was a right pain to sew with but it's worth the effort, you just have to use short lengths and lots of paitence!  I used a single thread of this for the horn and body band with two or three threads for the outlines on the body band and wings.  I used two threads of the DMC on the face, ears, mane and string on the head, three on the wings and body and four on the tail using two colours in the needle, the body colour and a slightly darker colour.  The eyes are french knots in four strands, two of the darkest purple and two of a dark indigo.  The writing is two threads of DMC cotton as well.

I really enjoyed using a sort of long and short stitch following the contours of the wee horse with my daughter's favourite model horse beside me to check on coat hair directions, it's really not what I would have thought had I not looked at it!   It was worth the work and I think it's just so cute, and am dead proud of my first ever use of full on hand embroidery, I'm always so nervous starting a technique for the first time but all those years of precision with cross stich have paid off, particularly knowing how to unknot a thread and hold it up to untwist it before sewing.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Second pair of knitted socks - done!

That's my second pair of socks made with Opal's 4 ply Sock Yarn done and dusted, this pair to go away for winter, though, given the current weather here in Scotland that won't be long.  The wool is Opal's Vincent Van Gogh range, a pretty orange and green striped variegated yarn (ombre) with purple and yellow flecks called Paul Gauguin's Armchair with Candle #5436, colours taken from the painting of the same name. 

I've enjoyed learning how to knit socks and now feel ready for the fair isle versions I've looked at with longing, I got a bit bored with this pair which is a good sign that I've got the technique down.  There's a lot going on, knitting in the round is straightforward and it's fun watching the colours change, it's a nice wool to knit with.  Short rows to create the heel flap, picking up the flap stitches and creating the gusset are challenging but the instructions that came with leaflet that came with Opal's ball of wool as part of Rainbow Silk's sock knitting kit are comprehensive and if followed with care give the right result.  I had to shorten the number of rows after the heel as I've got smallish but wide feet so I knitted only 35 rows before decreasing for the toe.  The kits are lovely, wool, needles, pattern and a set of adorable stitch markers.  And then finally decreasing down to a 20 stitch toe and kitchener stitch, sewing up the toe to give a dead neat finish.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Fishies blanket - finished!

All ready to go to Cambridge!
Finally finished the blanket for my sister's new baby and am glad to have it out of the way.  It has been fun to do but I can now get on with finishing my many UFOs without guilt! 

I created simple borders because this is for a new baby so no fringing or eyelets, just picking up the stitches along the top and bottom edges and then the sides.  I say just, but it is still a bit of a fiddle, some of those stitches did not want to be picked up!

To get the top and bottom straight I knitted half fishies but still ended up with a wavy edge, however, as the stripes go towards the edge they get straighter, the wonders of wool!  I think natural wool would be even more giving, this was inexpensive baby wool.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Quilters Guild Scottish Monthly Challenge

The Scottish area challenge for this year on the Yahoo group is a block per month using certain colours.  April was red, May is yellow, June will be blue.  And I've just finished my May block, in my defense I have been working on it and it's just time that ran out...  I don't think these will be completely the end, I was at Bank Street Gallery in Kirriemuir yesterday at Jenny Blair's wonderful exhibition, Jenny, I love your work!  I particularly loved two stitched art pieces, 'Queen of the trees' featuring those most irrepressable of birds, blue tits, and 'wondering' which just has a lovely feel.  So I will probably do more hand embroidery on both but the groundwork is done.

March was Red - the block warmer than the weather
I decided to use the theme of flowers and hand piecing, it's an economic stash busting technique!  I had loads of hexagon templates left over anyway from my Chinese Whispers Quilt (more on that one later!).

I like darker gothicky shades of colours but needed contrast, so the red poppy background was a piece I had from a Seattle Quilt Company sale a while ago.  The flowers and pots reds are from various bits of stash including the first ever fabric I brought for my first ever quilt (a Lynne Edwards cathedral window work) bit from my mum's stash, and the red satin I used to make the cloak for my daughter's Snow White costume.  Dressmakers I salute you!  I've quilted this one but am going to take it apart to do more embroidery on it.  The flowers are straighforward grandmother's flower garden pattern: 6 hexagons in a circle around one central one.

For May I had yellow fabrics but they were a bit peely wally, so I took a gold organza printed with
Why is it upside down?!!!  No idea
gerberas I bought in Austria a few years ago and bondawebbed it on top of a paler pastel yellow print.  The ribbony yellow strips are part of the organza.  It took a bit of patience and unsticking the iron as the glue came right though the organza but I'm happy with the result.  I pieced the daffodils from central hexagons surrounded by hexagons with one point extended, or alternatively diamonds with one point cut off, depending on how you look at it!  I embroidered over with threads from my stash, it's hand worked running stitch but the threads are a variety of machine embroidery thread and DMC cross stitch thread.  It needs more but it's a start.  The stems are chain stitched wool from my stash, a pretty variegated green called Rico Designa Superba Chinee 4ply in #008 green.  I toyed with crocheting and all sorts, thinking chain sitch would be too thin but with wool it works fine.  The yellow for the daffodils was the remnants of Evie's Quilt.

So onwards, just trying to get my sister's blanket finished off and I will feel better then!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Celebrating Scotland 2014

Like I haven't enough to do, I pledged to create a quilt for this exhibition for Loch Lomond Quilt Show for 2014, my Chinese Whispers quilt should hopefully be there now.  It is to reflect what I believe to be the best of Scotland and in the usual way I go about designing a quilt I'm kind of musing on it all the time, the thought is there at the back of my head.  These are my aimless wanderings so far. 

Not tacky but old style - grace and balace.  Colours - soft purple, green, blue, grey, gold - heather, moss/grass, sea sky (grey), granite, sun/barley.
Piecing - shetland fairisle patterns
Pictoral - Tay Bridge, Shanwell Woods, Glenisla, Bellrock,
Embroidered birds that I love - blackbird, goldfinch, blue tit, great tit, housemartin, geese, oyster catchers, rooks, herons, buzzards
Otters, red squirrels, seals, wildcats, deer, sheep (soay, North Ronaldsay), cows (Aberdeen Angus, highland), highland pony. 
Rowan, scots pine - alba

First fabrics brought from The Sewing Station in Broughty Ferry along with 2 I already had.  Goodness fabric is expensive.  Maybe this is why I paper piece, it uses every last scrap!

Catching up!

Well, I haven't stopped being busy, just posting.  So this is a catch up on the things I've been creating.

Firstly I was dead pleased with my beautiful DROPS studio waistcoat, photograph to the left.  The pattern is now called Misty Vines and was easy to knit in one way because it's done in the round, this means that the sides and the back are knitted as one piece up to the armholes then it splits and the only seams are on the shoulders.   The tricky bit was the leaf patterning, I eventually had to note everything down carefully so I knew exactly what I was doing on each round.

DROPS studio are a Norwegian company that produces beautiful Nordic style designs.  They produce their own wool but I used Jarold Heritage DK wool #132, a wool I've used before for a pair of lovely soft navy flipover gloves that I put down somewhere and failed to pick up again.  Bah!  The buttons came from Austria, from the dressmaking shop in St Johann im Tirol that I visit every time we go to Soll.

They were also the designers for what turned out to be two beautiful hats, both using the Halifax pattern.  The story is that these are fairisle stranded knitting which tends to be thicker, so between me measuring Scott's head for the hat, deciding on the Medium / Large size and me knitting it it didn't fit.  So that hat is now shared between me and Caitlin and I went back to knitting, this time the Large / XLarge.  Both were knitted in Sirdar Country Style 4ply black and Rico Design Superba Chinee #008 green, a variegated yarn which knitted to a soft mottled effect.  Luckily I like a challenge, fairisle is a bit fiddly and I probably would be a lot faster if I learned to carry my wools across my fingers right but I'm happy with my plodding pace.  These were an easy introduction to fairisle and are good for beginners to the technique as there are only two colours involved. 

Then, since I'd lost my glittens I made a new third pair in the variegated silver grey / charcoal Fingerless Gloves / Glittens coloured dk yarn James C Brett Woodlander L4, I don't know how many times I've used thispattern by Dawn Beck and I haven't tired of it yet.  The combination of fingerless gloves, actual gloves rather than the handwarmers which don't have the individual fingers, and flipover part make them ideal for me as I bike a lot and have terrible circulation, here in Scotland they are still in use in what passes for May.

And I'm knitting for my sister, well, for her new baby, it's a surprise but I don't reckon she'll ever look at this so that's fine!   I was originally creating an afghan from squares but it looked amateurish, then I found this pattern called The Fish - return! on the Knitting Arrows.  I can do about 3 fish in a night and am sewing them together as I go along.  I'm using various baby wools, although the blue is causing a problem as it's thicker than the others.  Oh well.  I'm actually using double pointed needles rather than knitting needles as they're shorter, at its longest the fish are only 23 stitches wide and that's just as you're about to cast off.  The colours of the picture are a bit off, the lighter blue is a soft aqua.