Thursday, 27 December 2012

Granny Reclaims Her Needles

I'm writing about a finished object which is not my own but my mother's. She is 92 years old, and very independent. She has always knitted and sewn. But her eyesight is deteriorating, and she cannot see to read now, so last year she decided she really couldn't see well enough to knit any more. She gave me all her needles, and her stash of wool, and that was what got me back into knitting and designing.

But I guess all my chat about knitting, got her wanting to take it up again. So In November her birthday present from me was this lovely wool (I think it is Noro, but we can't find the label) and a super enlarged copy of the potato chip scarf pattern by Barbara Aguiar.  Click Here to Find It. She is a really experienced knitter, but we thought something without a complicated pattern or decreasing or increasing would mean she could make it mostly by touch.

So here she is in her lovely scarf, and she is reclaiming some of her needles to take home with her. Any ideas of what she could do for her next project would be very welcome. Any pattern has to have not too much reading, or sewing up, but as you can see she is quite hip and likes to be fashionable.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

These Are A Few of My Favourite Things

I decided to photograph my favourite tree decorations. But just for a change I have not included any of the homemade things on my tree, most of which I've already written about elsewhere on my blog. These are just the old favourites, which I enjoy unwrapping from the tissue paper each year.

The Bark Bird

The Bark Bird was given to me by a very close friend, I think possibly about 20 years ago. He is getting more fragile every year, but is still very special. 

The Terracotta Angel

I think the Terracotta Angel was bought in a shop in Covent Garden in London. It is a bit hard to remember. There are other bigger angels and fairies on my tree, but this tiny ornament is my favourite.

The Glass Bird

The Glass Bird is very simple, but looks great when the tree lights are on.

The Snow Goose

There seems to be a bit of a bird theme, which I had not intended. The Snow Goose is made of plastic, but looks like frosted glass ...

The Button Leg Fairy

This fairy has seen better days. To be frank she is looking a bit rough, and I think my have been out dancing all night on her button legs. I still love her.

The Gingerbread Men

I bought these for my children when they were very little, in a cookery shop. Along with gingerbread men cutters with which we had a lot of fun.

I would love to hear about (or see) your favourite tree decorations ...

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Mischief of Mice


by Rose Fyleman

I think mice are rather nice,
Their tails are long,
Their ears are small,
They haven't any chins at all.
Their ears are pink,
Their teeth are white,
They run around the house at night.
And nibble things they shouldn't touch,
And no one seems to like them much.
But I think mice are rather nice.

I learned this poem when I was a child at school. I don't think children are made to learn and recite poems very much these days, but I think it is a really good exercise. Once you have learned a poem you hopefully will have it for life. I would love to know if you can still recite  a poem that you learned at school? The only other one that I can remember is Gather Ye Rosebuds. I had to learn and recite it to the prefects, as a punishment. I had hidden in the loos instead of going to assembly with my friend Hilary, as she was unset because her hamster had died. But that is another story ...

I don't talk about my job much. No day is the same, it is never boring, and often very rewarding. This will sound a bit batty, but I think children are like seedlings, and it is important for them to have the best start possible. Obviously home is the most important, but so is school. You don't know what life will throw at you, but a good start may see you through.

Anyway today I had such a fantastic day, with a trip with the school choir to an old people's day centre, back to school for Christmas lunch, and then the most hilarious pantomine performed by the staff for the children. (I think I can say that, as I was not in the cast, but sitting with the children.) Sometimes I can't believe that they pay me as well.

My class is not full, and I decided a while ago to make a mouse for all of the seventeen children, as a Christmas gift. The pattern is from Yellow, Pink and Sparkly. I started with some Fair Isle ones, but after a while I decided to branch out ...

Stripey Mice 

Flowery Mice

and a few plain mice (which are my favourite).

Did you know one of the group names for mice is a mischief?

So now for a bit of mouse wrapping ....

Friday, 14 December 2012

Rudolphs With Your Noses So Bright

I have had some Christmas visitors: The Rudolphs.  

(Or as my son said "Aren't they just your donkeys in fancy dress?") He is right in a way, as Rudolph is basically an adaptation of my Derek Donkey pattern.

The Rudolphs went down quite well at last weekend's fair, so only two remain. Some people mistook them for dogs, with very big ears, so I may try to refine the horns a bit if I try again.

 But Derek has met and welcomed the new visitors, and he seems to approve.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Elves and the Shoemaker

There is something that I really like about little shoes, and I think it is because of the story of the Elves and the Shoemaker. It is the idea of a lovely new piece of leather (in my case felt) being left out at night, and in the morning there being a brand new pair of shoes. Although in this version I am the Shoemaker, and the shoes are elf-sized. 

These didn't do very well at any of my fairs, so will probably end up on my own Christmas tree. But the good thing is that means I also get the chocolates inside!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

A Few More Little Christmas Trees

I've been knitting away at my Little Christmas Trees, and waiting for a day when the light is good enough for a few photos. I work til mid-afternoon most days, so often by the time I get home the light is fading. Even today, although there was a lovely blue sky, the light was disappearing every minute.

I've been playing around with the embroidery decoration on the trees. I've also knitted a few with just three sections, which seems to work equally well as knitting four.

 This very pale green one with daisies is my favourite.

Can anyone recommend a gold or silver wool for knitting? I'm thinking of making a few with a bit of sparkle. My local shop doesn't do anything suitable, so something that is available online would be great. 

 Is anyone else feeling a bit Christmassed out? One more fair to go next weekend, but Father Christmas is going to be at this one!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Find Chaffy

Has anyone else heard of Chaffy? Little One and all her friends have a bit of a craze on him. He seems to be in books that are a bit like Where's Wally. You have to search for the Chaffies in very busy pictures.

Yesterday she announced that she was going to hold a Find Chaffy competition amongst her friends. She spent the afternoon cutting and pasting on the computer (and using up all the ink!), making the competition sheets. She then asked if I could make the prize Chaffy for the winner. 

So after my two craft fairs (one went really well, and the other not so much) I felt I needed a break from Christmas knits. The week also involved Big One slipping at school and breaking his wrist (5 and half hours spent in A&E), and the death of Noel our pet lizard, so it has not been great.

But I have spent a pleasant afternoon designing and knitting a Chaffy. (He is the prize, but now she tells me I need to make another one for her to keep!)  But I have realized that what I really enjoy is designing knits, and craft fairs will probably just be something I dabble at from time to time.  I have one more in a fortnight, but am going to try not to stress about it.

Chaffy and Friend

Saturday, 24 November 2012

The Rubberband Years - Is This Fibre Art?

I have been really busy this week, partly with craft fairs and also my son fell and broke his wrist, and so we had a long visit to the hospital. I have not been very creative, so I thought I would post about an object that you can always find somewhere around my house: The Giant Rubberband Ball.  I think it is a bit of a testament to my family's love of the slightly offbeam and perhaps misdirected efforts. 

Although you can't tell from this photo, but it is almost entirely made of red rubberbands picked up from the pavement. These are the ones that the postmen throw away. We started making it when my son started walking to nursery school, so it has been a very long term project. It was great fun looking for the rubberbands, and we also felt we were helping tidy up the neighbourhood. I am a bit embarrassed to admit though that sometimes my husband would go on a special trip to the postal sorting office, where he would find a bumper crop of bands for the ball.

But progress has slowed a bit lately, as it has got to the stage where it is so big the rubberbands won't stretch to go around. Someone gave us a packet of larger bands, which is the outer layer.

I have weighed it on my bathroom scales, and it weighs 10.5 kg, or 1stone 9.2lbs. Actually I was a bit surprised it wasn't more, as it is very, very heavy to pick up.

And what is the point? Well there isn't one, although me and my husband do sometimes refer to those walks to and from school as "the rubberband years".

Friday, 16 November 2012

Seaside Boy on A Scallop Shell

I've been putting on so much crafty stuff recently I thought I would have a bit of a break, and post a photograph. This was taken at Aldeburgh a few years ago. My son is on a statue called The Scallop, by Maggi Hambling. If you want to see the whole statue, which is rather fantastic, and is on the beach click on the link below,_Maggi_Hambling,_Aldeburgh.jpg

I absolutely love this photo. He is holding Mike The Osprey, who we had just bought at the RSPB reserve at Minsmere. We had a few holidays in Suffolk, and it became a bit of a tradition that we would go birdwatching at Minsmere, which is just a few miles up the coast from Aldeburgh. What was really great was how helpful the serious birdwatchers were to us amateurs, with two noisy children in tow. They never seemed to mind it when we arrived in the hides, and always helped us identify the birds. We have a little collection of birds from the shop, which all make the accurate birdsong for that bird when you squeeze them. My son's favourites were always the birds of prey, which might be because he was going through his dinosaur phase. Do all boys go through phases?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

A Bit More Christmas Love

I'm still knitting away at my Little Christmas Love Hearts, and have put the instructions on how to make them on ravelry for free. I'll put a link in my sidebar tonight. Making them is a bit compulsive, as the knitting does not take very long, but the fun is in deciding how to decorate them.

I love doing a little bit of embroidery, but it is also quite fun making them Fair Isle. I've put some blank Fair Isle charts at the end of the pattern, as I definitely have not explored all the options.

And finally the sun came out this afternoon, so I pottered around in my back garden, hanging up the decorations, and photographing them. I do think my neighbours might think I'm a bit nuts.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Christmas Love

I've been knitting away like mad all week, as I have finally booked two Christmas Craft Fairs (one in a school and one in a library), and now am worried I don't have enough to sell. Not very pleased with these photos, but the light was fading.

I have found it really hard to find fairs that aren't exorbitantly expensive. I have only done a couple of fairs last year, but if the table is £35 (or more!) I have to sell an awful lot of little knits before I've made anything. Would love to know what other crafters pay for a table at a fair? Is it impolite to talk about money? (I think perhaps the best idea would be to get together with some like-minded crafters and organize it ourselves.)

So I've been beavering away at these little hearts, and will probably put the pattern on ravelry as a freebie. Very quick to knit, but the fun is deciding how to decorate them.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

My Family Heirloom

I've been saving this post for a rainy day (i.e when I have nothing else to write about). I made this patchwork quilt a lot of years ago, and until recently it has been hidden in a chest. But finally my kids have passed the years when I have to worry about little accidents, so I thought it was time for it to come out of hiding.

I started making it when I was about 13 years old, and it took the good part of the next 8 years. Part of the reason it took so long was I kept running out of material. The original plan was, I think, to have no repeated fabrics, but if you look closely I do have two or three diamonds of some fabrics. I guess you would call most of the fabrics vintage, like me.

The section I like best is the middle. Partly it is because some of the stitching there is not very good. I got better as the years passed. A lot of the fabrics were from my mum's material bits and bobs box. 

It makes me realize how much sewing my mum did. I can remember most of the outfits that the fabrics came from, and it makes me nostalgic. Can you see the teddybear fabric from my sister's and my aprons? The purple flowers were from a little dress I made at school. Little turquoise flowers on white seersucker was a nightdress. I could go on for hours .... 

I have just remembered that my mum used to make us pretend bills, whenever she had finished a make. We would find the finished item of clothing on our bed, wrapped, and either with a bill from Anna's Dress Shop, or Nancy's Knitting Shop. She did this for years. I think she was trying to make a point ...

So there it is, my family heirloom. Every stitch was done by hand, even attaching the backing and edge ribbon. I slightly regretted using such a simple design, and have a hankering to make another quilt one day, perhaps with a more complicated pattern, and a colour theme. But this quilt was a labour of love for my children, and I'm sure I will not make anything handsewn on this scale again.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

More Bonkers Conkers

I've had a few queries from the States, about conkers. So if you don't know what I'm on about, this is just to clarify. I just had a long walk around one of my local parks, where although there are plenty of horse chestnut trees, I could not find a single conker. I think I am a bit late, or maybe the kids had got there first. Lots of very pretty horse chestnut leaves though. So you will have to make do with my knitted conkers.

Conkers are the fruit of the horse chestnut tree. Finding a spikey green case,  slightly split open, and removing a shiny conker from its white cushion, is one of the pleasures of autumn. 

(Conkers are very similar, but not the same, as the fruit of the sweet chestnut tree, which is a bit flatter in shape, and can be eaten. Hence we sing "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire ....". Conkers aren't edible by humans, although I think horses enjoy them.)

In Britain the conker is the fruit, and the game played with them is conkers.

The game conkers is played between two people. A hole is made in the conkers, and they are threaded on a piece of string. They take turns hitting each others conker with their own. Each player holds their conker out in front of themselves, and the other player takes a swing at it with their conker. The conker that breaks the other one is the victor. The dangers are that you can be hit by swinging conkers, which are quite hard, or being hit by flying shards of conkers when the hit is successful. Hard conkers usually win, but it is considered cheating to harden your conker artificially.  Apparently Michael Palin of Monty Python was disqualified from a conkers competition for baking his conker and soaking it in vinegar.

Then there is the whole business of scoring. A conker that defeats another is a oner, etc. But if a conker beats another conker, it also takes on that conker's score. So if a twoer beats a threer, it would become a fiver. It is that conker that takes the title, not the human swinging it!

So here are my knitted horse chestnut leaves. I've posted the conker and leaf pattern on ravelry separately, (there are links in my sidebar) with a discount if you buy both together. As I said I am planning to incorporate mine in some little bags for my conker collectors to use, with the conkers on the end of a drawstring.

Avenue with Horse Chestnut Trees on Left in Bushy Park