Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sophie Goes Out to The Opera

Sophie is off out for an evening at the opera.  She is wearing her best silk dress, with a matching cape to keep her warm from the chilly night air. Victorian ladies have to be very careful not to catch cold. Her bonnet is crocheted, and trimmed with the same navy blue lace as her cape.

Click here if you want to see a bit more about Sophie, how she came to my house and her clothes.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Greek Horses

For eight weeks I have to take my son in to central London on Saturday morning, as he is doing what is called a mathematical masterclass at Gresham College. This is pretty exciting for both of us. I think I have mentioned that he is dyslexic, and struggles with much at school. But not maths, where apparently he is a bit of a whizz. So being picked by his school for this special course is really great for his self-esteem.

But I was also a bit worried about what I will do each week, for the 3 hours 30 minutes when he is doing maths. Although I live on the edge of London, it is quite unusual for me to spend time in the centre especially with nothing specific that I must do. 

Isn't the outside of The British Museum impressive, but I also love the view of the ceiling once you go inside? The modern and classic architecture has been combined in a really interesting way.

The British Museum is absolutely enormous, and full of antiquities from all over the world (which I'm not completely sure that we should have, but that is a whole blog post in itself). So what to photograph? I thought I had to limit myself a bit, and focus. My first idea was to look at the human form in different cultures. But even that would be a huge topic.

So puzzling what to do, I wandered into the Greek section, and was enchanted by these tiny metal animals, and the numerous animals paintings I found on pots. I came home with 84 pictures on my camera, so expect a few more museum posts. 

I  suppose the horses most associated with Ancient Greece, are the famous Trojan Horse, and also the winged horse, Pegasus. There are other grander and bigger horses in Greek art, but I love the elegant simplified forms of these little models, and paintings. You can really imagine the metal forms having been held and smoothed in a Greek hand all those years ago. Or the artist making the brush strokes on the pot. They look so fresh.

So expect a bit of history over the next few weeks, although I am also pondering if I could knit a Greek horse ...

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Minecraft iPhone Cosy

I have at last finished my Minecraft iPhone cosies. As with quite a lot of my knits I start off all enthusiastic at the initial creative bit. I have an idea, and then sit with my needles and wool, working out the best way to make it.  

But then it gets to the checking bit. I knit some samples, but then I get insecure. So I think I had better knit a few more, just to check that there are no errors in the pattern or notes.  So now I have a small pile of iPhone cosies. 

I then get a bit worried about the photos. The natural light has been terrible today, so I am not totally happy, but it is done ....


In the end I decided to do just one size, so the cosy fits an iPhone, an iPod touch, and a mini smartphone. But there are three separate charts for creeper, zombie or skeleton versions. I am rather fond of the skeleton version myself. 

My son is not convinced that there is much overlap between Minecraft fans and knitters.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Sophie The Dutch Doll

Sophie is a Dutch Doll. She belonged to my sister when we were children. Jealousy is not a very nice emotion, and I am ashamed to say that as a child I was incredibly jealous of my sister.  She is two years older than me, and to me she was cleverer, prettier, more confident, better at art, and worst of all she owned Sophie.

And perhaps she is also kinder than me, because ten years ago when I had my daughter (she has two boys), she presented us with a box containing Sophie, and her complete wardrobe.

I have photographed Sophie in what I would call her work-a-day clothes. She also has some grander clothes for going out, which I am going to put in a second post.

Nearly all her clothes and accessories were designed and handstitched by my sister when we were children. Only the yellow woollen dress above was bought, I think from a jumble sale. Her lovely knitted bloomers were made by my mum. Sorry Sophie, I know this photo is a bit undignified for a Victorian lady, but I thought people might like to see how you are constructed.

Sophie is not an antique, but a reproduction and was bought from a toy shop in Bath. But she is now over 50 years old, so probably would be classed as a collectable. She is made completely from wood, and even her jointed limbs have small wooden pins.

These two hats were made for her by my sister (the one on the left) and me (the one on the right). We plaited the rafia, and then sewed the plaits together. Can you see my rough green stitches on the bonnet (I have no idea why I picked green), compared to her neat work? Can you understand my frustration? Nothing I did ever seemed as good.

 I think Sophie is going off now to do some shopping.

I have been saving Sophie for what I call a rainy day post, although in fact today is a snowy day. Outside it is snowing really heavily. Sorry about the darkness of some of these photos. There is not much natural light today, but I really hate using flash. This post is also a bit of a homage to Trudy on Playing in the Attic, and her much more enigmatic She.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Park Life

I am so lucky in where I live. Only half an hour by train from central London, but with amazing parkland just five minutes from our house. This afternoon I went for a walk with hubby in Richmond Park, and we both resolved to take more time off to stroll through our beautiful local park.

I had decided to take a wildlife photo this week, and had spent much of the morning crouched in my back room looking out to my back garden, where I had hung a peanut butter-coated pine cone in an attempt to lure a squirrel close to the house. No luck. They are out there. I know it. And I am sure they will come.

So in the end the next best option seemed to be to go to the park. The deer are a bit easier to spot, and this one almost seemed to be posing for me. We have snow forecast in a day or two, so that might be interesting for next week.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Minecraft Creeper Phone Cosy

I have been working all week on a pattern for a phone cosy. It is still a WIP, and is proving more difficult than I had imagined. I don't usually post until I have finished a pattern, but I am fairly confident I will get there with this one eventually.

My first step was to knit a plain phone cosy for my own phone, which is proving very useful. I watched one of my work colleagues drop her phone and crack the screen yesterday. So this seems a great idea to protect your phone from damage or scratches from keys and other things in your bag. Fine, but it is not very exciting.

My son is crazy for a game called Minecraft, and I thought this might be a good idea. Even quite small children at my school talk about Minecraft. As computer games go it is one I don't mind too much, as to me it seems a little like a 3-D screen version of lego. I should admit though I have played it, just looked over my son's shoulder from time to time. He seems to spend a lot of time building - very complex castles and airships etc. Some of the fun then seems to involved blowing them up afterwards.  Not so great, but the building process does seem good to me. And a creeper, if you didn't know, is one of the more spooky characters in Minecraft.

Anyway I digress a bit from the knitting. I decided to knit him a creeper phone cosy. My first version had to be binned, as I tried to use 8 different shades of green. Much too complicated, and I just ended up with a tangle of wool. So this next version only has 4 colours. It is still not quite right, as a creeper's face should be square, but he is using it for his phone.

I then worked out how to make the creeper square, and think it is going to work out best to have a row of small creepers as they seem to keep their shape better. It is still quite confusing working with 4 strands, and I have found the best way not to get in a complete tangle is to work out exactly how much of the green shades of wool the knitter needs and cut this off before you start, and just work with these bits of wool.

So here is my first square creeper, and a row of some even smaller ones.

But phones come in different sizes, so I still have to decided what size or sizes I am going to design for. Just for once for this pattern I think I am going to have to be really accurate about gauge, and tension, and even perhaps recommend a wool. Nobody minds too much the size of a minibeast, but a phone cosy needs to fit.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Gingerbread House

Some time last year I saw on another blog some tin baking trays designed to make a gingerbread house. I thought this looked such a great idea, and so was really delighted when Father Christmas found and delivered Frankie some gingerbread house trays.

These are made of sillicone, and I think they are something we will use time and time again.

She had such fun making (and decorating this house). There is a gingerbread recipe on the packaging, which worked really well. The sections of the house were easy to turn out, and constructing the house was not difficult. 

My daughter is 10 years old, and has done a lot of cooking, so apart from helping her with the oven, she made and decorated this house without any help. (I was knitting and supervising from a distance!) They also suggest you can use the trays as moulds for a solid chocolate house, which would be rather fantastic!

The house is still uneaten, although quite a lot of the sweets have mysteriously gone missing. We also caught one of my cats on the table licking the chocolate decking, so we are going to give that part a miss.

If anyone in the UK is interested Santa told me he got the trays at Lakeland Plastics, and they do have a website. You can find the trays at

Friday, 4 January 2013

Caterpillar, Chrysallis, Butterfly

My original Monarch Caterpillar knitting pattern, has been worrying me. It has been downloaded a lot of times, but no one has knitted it. (Hubby corrects me, and says that it may have been knitted plenty of times, but no one has posted a project.)

I think the problem may be that as it was knitted on 4 needles, and with not many stitches, this is a fiddly. It was my very first pattern on ravelry. So I have decided to do a brand new version. This is a bit of a compromise, as it is knitted flat, which makes the knitting much easier, but there is now one seam to sew. I don't want to make it too easy, so the feet are done with a row of french knots. You can see how to do these in the photo tutorial on my sidebar.

I have also added a tiny extra pattern, to make the missing link, a chrysallis. (Hubby adds that for completeness there should also be an egg and a larva pattern! Sigh.) I have no idea why anyone needs to knit a chrysallis, but I think together all three patterns could make a nice educational toy. 

I gave my original monarch butterfly and caterpillar to Caterpillar Class at my school. All the classes at my school are named after minibeasts. This year I work in Cricket Class, and I have been toying with the idea of knitting a cricket for them, but I think it will be a challenge with fiddly legs and wings.

I have not seen a chrysallis in real life, so have had to look at photographs very closely. The colour was a bit of a concern, as they seen to start off a very bright green with some yellow spots, but then before they hatch, change to a dark brown. 

So the new Monarch Caterpillar and Chrysallis are within one pattern, and I am going to try and link it to the Monarch Butterfly pattern, so if anyone fancies making all three they get a discount.