Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Daisy Daisy

Once again I have got slightly sidetracked. I have a plan for a slightly bigger knitted toy, but other things keep getting in the way. My best sellers at the craft fair were my baby shoes. I added a cream dupion silk shoebag to keep them in, which I have also added to the shoes for sale on Etsy. But noticing that I only sold the decorated shoes, I decided to jazz up the few plain ones I have left with some handknit daisies. I love daisies: such a simple but pretty flower. 

So I set about designing some daisies. I have knitted fairly large ox-eye daisies for the shoes, but then thought I would also have a go at some tiny daisies, like the ones on my lawn. So this pattern shows you how to make flat daisies for decoration in both sizes, and how to knit a stem and sepal back if you want a really realistic flower. The pattern for these daisies is available on Ravelry.

Just to show you what you could use your daisies for I knitted a hairband, which is probably heading to my Etsy shop.  I just love these little daisies, and think they could look lovely on all sorts of things.

Little One was not really in the mood to have her photo taken in the garden, and she was suffering from hayfever. A bit ironic really, though I guess knitted flowers is one solution.

How to Knit a Cable Cast On

I'm adding this tutorial as this is a good cast on method. It makes a strong, but stretchy edge, and having cast on you are all set to start on a knit row. But the main reason is I found it useful when knitting the petals in my Daisy pattern. I experimented with other cast on techniques, but the petals always look nicest with this one.

Make your first stitch.

Place your needle behind both threads to make your next stitch.

This is the main difference between this cast on and my normal way, where you put the needle into your stitch as if you were doing a knit stitch.

Pull the loop around and put it on your needle.

Continue in this way, remembering to put your needle behind both threads, and not into the stitch.

I do hope this is visible from my pictures, taken by hubby leaning over my shoulder.

Ready to make the fourth stitch.

How to Knit an icord

Icords are so very useful. In my little knits I cannot remember how often I say "knit an icord", so I thought I would put a little tutorial in my sidebar to show how simple it is.

First you need two double-pointed needles. (I quite often use double-pointeds anyway for my little knits. They are lovely and short, which I find really handy, and I still don't feel completely comfortable with the magic loop technique.)

I've cast on three stitches here
You can knit an icord with anywhere between 2 and 6 and stitches. Anything more than that gets a bit tricky.
Knit these 3 stitches
At this stage don't turn your work as you would normally.

Then slide your stitches to the other end of your needle.

Pull the wool across behind fairly tightly, and then knit these stitches again.

This now has two rows.

Just repeat these steps, and you will have an icord

How to Knit a Double Cast On

For a recent knit, my Leafy Cowl, I decided to cast on by the Double Cast On Method. I wanted as stretchy an edge as possible. No point having a lovely cowl, if you can't get it over your head. This cast on forms a very elastic edge, and I thought I would do a photo tutorial for those who don't know about it.

First make a slipknot, in from the end of your wool. You will be working with this end, as well as the wool attached to your ball (that's what makes it double). Obviously the amount of wool to allow in this end for each stitch depends on your needle size. If you are casting on a lot of stitches see how much wool you need to cast on 10 stitches, and then multiply up for more stitches. On my 4mm needles I needed approximately 1.6cm for each stitch. So if I was casting on 10 stitches I would need to make the slipknot 16 cm in from the end. If you cast on this way a lot you will get quite good at estimating the right amount of wool.

Make a loop with your short yarn end around your thumb, and insert your needle under the far strand of yarn.

Next wrap the yarn attached to your ball of wool around the needle from back to front, and draw it through the loop.

 Pull on your short end of wool to tighten.

Repeat this until you have the stitches you need.

I did try to make a short video on this technique, but whenever I try to upload it my computer just freezes. I suspect it is to do with the file size. I would really appreciate it if anyone who uses blogger can give me any advice on uploading videos. My daughter and I also made a little video on what I think is the quickest way ever to make a pompom, but I am having the same problem with that. So if you can help me with this, you could see her make a pompom in 3 minutes flat. Possibly a record!

Friday, 24 May 2013

How to Sew a Pencil Roll

Pencil rolls are so handy. Just chuck the roll in a bag, and you instantly have something to amuse your kids on a day out. Children also really love arranging the pencils or crayons in a rainbow order, so it can mean your colouring pencils last longer. (When I was young we always called them crayons. When I say this at school the children are always perplexed, and colouring pencils seems to be the term now used.)

I have not really posted a sewing tutorial before, but I had a go at making some pencil rolls for my craft table, and although there are few tutorials out there, couldn't find one I completely liked. I wanted my rolls to have a good finish, top-stitching etc., but also wanted to simplify the construction as much as possible. To do this I decided to use a layer of fleece, with means you get a lovely padded roll, but without the need for a padded interlining.

Pencils come in different lengths and numbers, so there is a little bit of calculating, but I have tried to keep this as simple as possible.

1. Measure the length of your colouring pencils. 

Cut two main pieces of fabric, one from cotton and one from fleece or felt. To calculate the length of material, take the pencil length and add 5cm. To work out the width multiply the number of pencils you are going to have in your roll x 2 and add 3 cm. 

My teddy fabric has some handy lines, which were almost 2cm apart. Lucky eh! You might want to consider this when picking a fabric.

2. Cut out the pencil flap piece from the cotton material. To calculate the length of the pencil flap take two thirds of the length of the above main piece x 2 and + 2 cm.

3. Iron interfacing onto the reverse of your main cotton piece. The interfacing may seem a bit fussy, but it really helps your fabric keep its shape, and results in a much better pencil roll.

Then fold your pencil flap piece in half, and press. Then open out and interface half of this piece. 

Fold this piece in half again and top-stitch along the fold 0.5 cm from edge. Top stitching should be a long stitch, and if you think you can be very neat you can experiment with contrasting thread colours.

4. Pin the pencil flap on top the main fleece piece, so you are looking at the right side of each fabric. Sew lines to divide each pencil pocket. The sewing lines should be 2cm apart, and you can use your long top-stitch and coloured thread. Mark the position of the lines with pins. It is best to sew your central line first, working your way out. Do not sew the outer most lines on either side. So on my roll which is going to have 10 pockets I have sewn 9 lines.

5. With right sides together pin your main cotton piece to this pocket piece.  If your fabric has nap, like my teddybear fabric, make sure you have your pieces are the same way up. Sew around the roll 0.5 cm from the edge, remembering to shorten your stitch for this sewing. At the sides your stitching will be 2.5 cm from the nearest pencil pocket line. This may look as if the side pockets are going to be too large, but this extra 0.5 cm is used in the topstitched seam, so the pockets will all be the same size. Leave a gap of 7cm mid-way up one side.

6. Trim close to your sewing line, except where your opening is. Clip the corners, and turn your pencil roll the right way out. Turn the corners out and press.

7. Make a loop for the fastener. You can use cord or ribbon. 

8. I am not a big tacker, but tack this loop in place in the opening, and try to get it exactly half way up this side as this will look much neater. Also tack the opening closed. Then top-stitch around the edge of your roll 0.5 cm in from edge, remembering to use your long stitch again.

8. Have fun arranging your coloured pencils.

9. Finally roll up to work out the position to sew your button or toggle fastener.

I am going to put this tutorial in a new sewing section in my side bar. I would love to know if you found it useful, or if you think there can be any improvements.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Do You Have the Allure?

Do you have "the Allure"? I bought this handwash liquid simply so I could produce it from the shopping bag to my kids with a Ta Dah, proclaiming that I do indeed have "the Allure". (I know the spelling is not quite right, but was pretty sure my dyslexic son was not going to pick me up on it.) Who loves Miranda? I have to admit that I probably didn't get her first series, but I now love her brand of slapstick and silliness. But what I really love is watching my children watching her.

They sit (together for once) on the sofa giggling hysterically throughout the programme.  Other comedies that used to leave me a bit cold, but I have now come to love through my children are Mr Bean, and shall I confess Some Mother's Do Have Em. Someone lent us the complete box set of the later. Kids definitely like physical comedy.

Is there is a comedy that you have grown to love because of your children?

I was also going to write about Friends. For several years me and my son would watch this together, and while having a thoroughly good laugh, it would often lead us sideways into conversations about boy/girlfriend issues, babies etc. A much better way than sitting down one day to have  "the big talk". Both my children are IVF, and it was particularly useful when this was covered.

But our other favourite is The Mighty Boosh. I know some parents may not approve, and my children probably watched The Boosh when they were a bit too young, but we love the surreal humour. The picture below is from my favourite episode. I think it follows in a British tradition of surreal comedies, Python and The Goodies etc. I can remember my own parents being completely perplexed by The Goodies.

Sorry crafters, I have gone slightly off-beam with this post. But isn't it nice to know you can wash your woollies in the Allure.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Stitchwort and Lavender

Meet Stitchwort and Lavender!

Meet two more of my little fairies. I delayed putting them on as I was trying to photograph them with their flowers. Unfortunately the lavender in my garden is a small sad straggly plant with no flowers, and I set off to a wood and tried to take Stitchwort with her flower, but the pictures were just awful.  So here they are anyway, and a Stitchwort flower that I photographed in Devon a few weeks ago. There are still a few more fairies in the pipeline.

Sorry, very short post this week, as I am getting ready for the craft fair tomorrow. Have a look at Ginx Craft on facebook for more information.

A small selection of my fairies and mermaids are available to buy in my Etsy Shop.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Bazinga Bee!

So I was lying in bed pondering a name for this post, and suddenly BAZINGA! or perhaps I should say BEEZINGA! Nice play on words I thought. My family really love watching The Big Bang Theory. As well as being incredibly funny, Sheldon reminds me of some of the autistic kids I have met through my work. Clever, funny, (and also perhaps challenging some people's preconceptions about autism) able to build good friendships.


I have been knitting some bees from my Bumble Bee Pattern. I saw this net fabric in a shop, and thought if I sewed it onto felt it would make quite nice bee wings. The original bees had acetate wings, the template for which comes with the pattern. I like them as they are very realistic, but I thought the gold might also look good especially if they were to used as a decoration.

But imagine my surprise when I typed Bazinga Bee into Google to find that it already exists. Someone has named a new species of bee in South America the Bazinga Bee. Click on the photo if you want to read more. I know he looks nothing like my bee, but I think his greeny sheen is rather beautiful. How hard it is to come up with anything truly original!