Friday, 31 August 2012

Little Christmas Trees

I would call this Christmas Tree decoration a bit of a stash buster. It basically has worked in every wool I have tried so far. 

As you can see I love knitting them.  I think they would look nice on a tree, but could also work as a decoration for a table or mantlepiece.

The basic design was hubby's idea. (He has just told me that he doesn't like me calling him hubby on my blog, so I'm trying to think of a new way of referring to him. I suggested "technical support" and he said "head of the household", so we have yet to agree.) 

Anyway, I was knitting flat tree shapes on our holiday, and he suggested making the more interesting 3-D design. All my examples have 4 pieces sewn together, but I think it would also work with 3 if you want a bit less knitting, or more than 4 if you are ambitious and want a much for spikier tree.

We had to go to the local park to take most of these photos, as I don't have many Christmassy backdrops in my garden. My children were dreadfully embarrassed about me hanging the decorations on bushes, and prancing around with my camera.

The pattern is for sale on Ravelry, and as with all my patterns I give permission for you to sell what you make on a small scale at craft fairs, so long as you credit me as designer. I think that is fair if you have purchased the pattern. Not quite sure what the definition of small scale is, but I guess it means no sweat shops or small industrial units.

I am also selling a very few of these original Little Trees in my Etsy Shop. Was filled with enthusiasm because I have sold my first pattern through Etsy, so I decided to expand my shop a little. 

The pattern contains all the knitting instructions and how to make up. It points you to my blog for extra advice on the decoration with embroidery, as it impossible to get all the embroidery photos into the pattern without the file getting too big. My embroidery corner on my blog is a permanent fixture, which I plan to add to in due course. I love embroidery on wool, but I think the tree also looks lovely plain if embroidery is not your thing. Different textured and coloured wools might also be interesting.

I have another rather unusual Christmas decoration in the pipeline, so watch this space.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

The Usual Suspects/Donkey Giveaway

Derek Says "Hi"

Some of you may have noticed Derek the Donkey loitering in my side bar. I knitted him quite a while ago, along with a small Cow and a Pig. The others have gone, but I am so fond of Derek that I still have him, and sometimes think of him as my avatar or daemon, especially if I am feeling a bit shy. (If you like Philip Pullman's books you will know what I mean by daemon.) He is more of an Eeyore sort of donkey (although more cheerful I hope), and not manic like Donkey from Shrek. Like a donkey I think I am quite quiet, a bit of a plodder, but friendly and loyal.

I had some requests for the instructions how to make him, but when I found the rather scrappy bit of paper that I had made some jottings on, discovered that although I had carefully written down donkey ear and leg instructions, I had some very confusing notes on a pig's noses and tails. "Never mind", I thought, "I can easily reconstruct him". So I have been knitting donkeys all week, getting closer and closer to original Derek.

The Usual Suspects

Here they are, the rather unruly bunch.  Can you tell which one is Derek?

So I thought I would do a small giveaway. If you would like me to send you a non-Derek Donkey (I am afraid I still want to hang on to the original) please leave a comment telling me what animal would be your avatar or daemon and why you identify with that animal. I will announce the winners on September 4th.

There will be two winners, but if you don't win, I have put the pattern for Derek on Ravelry, so you could have a go at making your own Donkey. It is a tiny pattern. Derek is only 7-8 cm tall, and the pattern has plenty of photos to help you with the making up.

Derek and Friend

Derek says "Bye"

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Watermelon Bag

I've finished sewing another bag, which I have given to my sister. I was a bit worried that she might not like the fabric, as it is a bit out there, but she seemed to really love it. This is the larger version of the Teardrop Bag, from the Amy Butler book. I lined it with a lime green fabric. The velvet that I used for the strap was really quite thick to sew through, and only just worked. I prefer the size of this bag, and because the top is wider I found it easier to sew.

Detail of the inside pocket and magnetic fastener

The shop where I bought the watermelon material had run out of magnetic fasteners. I usually pay 99p, but when I went to the only other haberdashery in town (in our large department store) one fastener would have cost £4.95. (So much for "never knowingly undersold"!) I had a bit of a fit, as it just seemed too much. So I had a look online, and found a really good site which sold them at a fraction of the price (£4.80 for 10 and even cheaper if you buy more), with no postage and next day delivery. I may never need to leave the house again.) The site I bought them from was I  thought they were a bit nicer than what I have bought elsewhere, as they have a slightly brassy, antique finish.

I am making these bags at the moment as gifts for my friends and relations, but also as a way to teach myself some bag making techniques.  Knitting is still really my thing. But eventually I do want to sell a few bags on my craft stall, but as so many bag patterns seem to forbid their sale, I have decided that the best way to avoid any problems is to design my own bags. So I wanted to ask other more experienced bag-makers out there a few questions: Do you design your own bags? Are there any patterns out there that do give permission for sales on a small scale? I would be really grateful for any advice, as it all seems a bit of a minefield.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Pavlova Day

How to have a lovely day in the school holidays.

First we went out  to our local fruit farm and did some picking of raspberries and strawberries.

Then there was the baking of the meringue. I have to say I can not take much credit for this. The only bits I did were to help separate the egg whites, clear up the dropped egg from the kitchen floor, and the oven part. But the rest was done by Frankie, as I was fiddling around with some knitting pattern, as is my way these days.

Forgot to take a photograph before we had cut into it, which is a shame as it did look very good.

Anticipation is half the enjoyment.

That is one happy boy! 

This is the recipe copied into Frankie's recipe book. The only difference is she made one big pavlova, instead of individual ones.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Kid's Craft - Dragonflies - Learning to Twist and Wind

This is often the first project I do with my craft club.  It seems very simple, but to make a dragonfly, requires quite a lot of skills: careful cutting, threading, twisting, winding, measuring, tying knots. I found it a really good way to assess the skills of the children.  (My knitted dragonfly pattern came out of this project.) I also like this project, because everyone has something to take home at the end. That is really important when you are little.

So first of all this is what you need:

Some beads that will thread on to a pipecleaner
Dragonfly wings printed on acetate or paper

Scissors and elastic thread (optional

Pipe cleaners
Selection of wool

The first job is to cut out your dragonfly's wings. This needs to be done really carefully. Cut between the upper and lower wings, but it really important to not cut through the central section that holds the 4 wings together. Print a few extra wings, just in case you need them.

Next take a pipe cleaner and fold it in half.

Thread two beads onto the pipe cleaner, and push these down to the fold. These are your dragonfly's eyes. We picked beads that were the same, but I guess you don't have to. My daughter later decided to draw on her beads with a permanent felt tip, but that was just her own idea.

Then twist the pipe cleaners round a few times to hold the eyes in place. This step may seem very simple to a grown-up, but you may need to show a child exactly how to hold the head firmly in one hand and twist with the other.

Now you have made the head.

Next slip the wings between each side of the pipe cleaners. Make sure you have them the right way round.

Start twisting the two halves of the pipe cleaner again as firmly as you can, to make the rest of the body.

Now you have your basic dragonfly, but he looks a bit thin. The next stage I call chubbying him out.  Cut off a length of wool, and tie one end to your dragonfly. Now you need to do the winding. Winding around the wings can be a bit tricky. The great thing is nothing at this stage is wrong. Dragonflies come in a huge variety of colours. It does not matter if he ends up fat or thin. You might want to thread some extra beads onto your dragonfly's body.

One way to join in another colour is to knot your wool together.

If you are clever you can wind two pieces of wool at the same time.

You may need to help a child with fastening off the wool, as this is a bit tricky.

With little children you may also need to help them fix the elastic to their dragonfly. I have a really big blunt needle, which some children could manage. Try to find the balance point, which will vary a bit depending on the beads you have used, and the wool. If you haven't got elastic you can use piece of wool to hang up your dragonflies.

What is lovely is that no two dragonflies will look the same.

Try and get you little crafters to help tidy up. Not always easy, but another important skill to learn.

We decided to tie our dragonflies around the garden umbrella, and my cat was definitely interested in them.

To download the dragonfly wings right click on the image below. I tried to put in a button that you just click and it downloads but in my usual technaphobe way, I had a bit of trouble with this. If anyone knows an easy way to do this I would love to know. The other place you can get the wings is on my dragonfly knitting pattern on ravelry.

The wings should be an A4 sheet and approx 14cm wide. If you decide to print them on acetate be very careful to check you have the right type for your printer or photocopier. Printing them onto paper or thin card can work well too.

Happy crafting!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

On The Towpath

I'm not really sure what to put on this week, as I have been away.  I have a few knitting ideas, but they are still just in my head. Sorry about my lack of comments last week, but I was struggling with my son on our canal holiday to get my hands on my husband's phone, and then we kept going out of range.

So here are just a few nice photos that I took when walking along the towpath. I have been assured that photography is a craft. I'd love to be able to label some of them, especially the strangely beautiful growths on a wooden bridge. Are they lichens?

I'm going to get back on track for next week, although as my mother is coming to visit, so I'm not quite sure how that will work out. Happy crafting.