Posts filed under ‘Crafty Stuff’
I first met Naomi during the 2014 GAL. Since then we’ve become friends, I’ve woven her secret code stitch patterns into many of my own designs, and we’ve collaborated on several projects.
What got you started designing?
My family in general in places a high priority on being able to do traditional crafts, and one piece of that includes a strong emphasis on being able to modify patterns and improvise one’s own. In my childhood this was intensified because none of the sewing patterns for dolls fit my dolls and stuffed animals, so I had to learn to make my own patterns.
Fast forward to when I finally took up knitting in my thirties. I learned some basic recipes for socks and bags and things, and starting just improvising my own patterns. I posted pictures on LiveJournal, and people asked me for patterns. I like sharing, so I quickly dashed off some badly-written patterns and stuck them up. (These are currently unavailable or have been rewritten, depending.) After I joined Ravelry, I found a local knitting group, who also encouraged me to make patterns for the things I made.
Combine that with working part-time, and then quitting my paid job when I started homeschooling my son, and selling patterns seemed like the way to go. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot from other designers on Ravelry and from a book or two about pattern-writing, and so I’m not embarrassed by my pattern-writing anymore.
What are your favourite parts of the process?
I like thinking of unusual but practical shapes and then trying to make them into shawls. I enjoy solving problems or coming up with something slightly quirky and then figuring out how to turn it into a pattern. Most of all, I like seeing other knitters’ interpretations of my work.
And the challenging parts?
Scheduling the photography is one major problem. Actually sitting down and writing out the pattern for a sample. And figuring out which of the many ideas I have to work on next.
What would you like to explore (or do more of) in the future?
I would very much like to do more work with my hexagon lace ideas, both shawls that are pictures (kind of like Niebling’s work, but in my own style – this feels hubristic, and yet it seems like a worthy goal) and things that involve code work.
Do you have a favourite design?
I suspect this is a pretty common answer, but it’s usually whatever I’ve worked on most recently. At the moment that’s Suffrage, though I am also particularly fond of New Hope Creek, which is a good way to tone down a difficult yarn and which fits nicely over the shoulders.
Have you decided what you’ll knit for this year’s GAL?
I’m starting out with Lisa Chemery’s Boy Sweater (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/boy-sweater), and then plan to knit Elwood, by Jenny Wiebe (http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/elwood), and then, who knows? There are thousands of amazing patterns in the GAL.
Thank you so much for the interview!
How to care for your new shawl
Knitting lace seems to be addictive. Possibly it’s the jigsaw-like puzzle of lining up every stitch form a pattern, or perhaps it is the exhilaration of the butterfly-from-a-chrysalis moment of blocking your shawl and discovering what you’ve really been making over those many hours.
Whatever the reason, the reality is that each of us has only one neck, and you can, generally, only wear one shawl at a time.
What to do with the others? Frequently they become gifts.
Gifting them provides the ideal excuse to make more, and makes an excellent justification for indulging in more yarn shopping. 🙂 Not to mention cheering the recipient.
However, if you’ve ever given someone a lace shawl, they have probably asked you ‘how do I wash it?’ And you’ve probably noticed their eyes glaze over as you describe soaking and blocking. No one wants their gift to become a burden, after all.
Blocking is simple enough once you’ve done it a time or two, or seen a picture, but can seem daunting to the novice.
To make the first-time-blocking process less scary, I’ve made up a variety of little A6 cards which can be slipped in with your precious gift, and referred to at leisure by the lucky recipient.
You can download the PDF here, then print and share at will. 🙂
Please note some I’ve included some for silk, which requires more gentle blocking, some with the lazy clothesline method, and some which recommend a protective covering over the blocking surface (highly recommended for shawls which will either hold a lot of water, or which you found to be non-colourfast when you soaked them yourself). Please consider which card best suits the needs of your shawl.
You may like to include the yarn label with the gift too.
So now you’ve got the perfect excuse to knit more!
I swear my boys have cast iron knees. They can wear holes in a pair of pants just by trying them on. Ok, possibly that’s a slight exaggeration, but they can absolutely wear out jeans in under 3 weeks. As a form of self defence I’ve perfected these virtually indestructible pants, and honed it down to the quickest and easiest method possible. These would make a great first sewing project. Pants in 4 seams.
These pants have turned me into a polar fleece fanatic. Here’s why –
- Fleece is virtually indestructible – I’ve had one pair in continuous use for over 4 years, and they are only now starting to look thin at the knees
- They dry in about 10 minutes – which really means something when you live in a place with long wet winters and don’t own a dryer!
- They are practically body armour – many a grazed knee averted here while learning to walk, run, or ride.
- They are warm, soft and comfortable – fleece is instantly warm to the touch unlike most natural fibres.
- Fleece is even made from recycled plastic – side serve of sanctimonious anyone?
Fleece – I like polar fleece because it is tougher and thicker than microfleece. (This is the hiking jacket type of fleece by the way, not the brushed cotton tracksuit material that is fuzzy on the inside.)
Fold over elastic for the waistband.
A pair of pants to copy.
Bottom row: (left) size 8 school uniform pants, (right) size 1 baby pants
First, make a pattern. This sounds more daunting than it really is. Take a pair of pants that fit your child, and are loose enough to comfortable. (Note, leggings have way more stretch than fleece. Consider the capabilities of your fabric when planning your pants, loose is a safer bet because you can always take it in.) Turn your pants inside out, and fold in half, following the curve of the crotch seam.
Fold your fleece over to the necessary width, and lay your pattern-making-pants on top, adding a centimetre for seam allowance, trace around with chalk, or if you’re feeling bold, dive right in with the scissors. These pants are pretty forgiving. For the waist, I cut the front seam down about 4 cm lower than the back. Then lay this first leg out on top of your fabric and use it as the pattern to cut the second one.Next winter you can make a bigger pair by laying these pants out and adding some extra length to the top and bottom, and a bit more to the width. If need be, get the kiddo to model the current pair so you can measure how much to increase by.
Note the slant on the waistline? That’s to help the cut sit better in the front, and avoid Brickies’ Bum at the back.
Do you want pockets? Now is the time to sew them on. My kids have the magpie gene and love to hoard apparently fascinating treasures like rocks, sticks, the broken arm off a plastic figurine, half a cracked bouncy ball, 6 pieces of lego, and possibly a lump of blutack. I used to put a little pocket on one of the back cheeks, but over the years the pockets have grown bigger, and taken over a decent part of the real estate on the front thigh. (This way they have the added attraction of being able to transport a healthy percentage of the sandpit inside at every opportunity. Joy.) I’m told the more pockets the better.
Fleece doesn’t fray, so the next bit is pretty minimal as hemming and overlooking are not necessary. Sew up each leg. If you have a swanky new machine, you may have a more sophisticated stitch for stretchy fabrics, but I recommend at least a slight zigzag as there is a bit of stretch to polar fleece, and the first few pairs snapped thread until I figured this out.
Perform the strange mental origami that is necessary to get the two legs to join at the crotch seam. (Sewing is so good for the brain! When else do you have to work backwards and inside out?) I tend to double stitch both crotch and leg seams as my kids seem to think tree climbing and sandpitting are extreme sports.
Now you’re up to the fun bit. Sew on your elastic. There are no doubt various ways to do this. I used to wrap the elastic around the appropriate boys’ waist to measure, tighten a bit and cut a length off. Nowadays I am lazy and just pin the start of the elastic on to the middle front seam, and start sewing, stretching the elastic (not quite to the maximum, maybe 2/3 of the full stretch) and zigzagging on my widest setting. You may know a better way (in which case, please tell me!)
That’s it. Four seams and you’re done. Time to feel extremely self satisfied and productive, and apologise to your sewing machine for abusing it so rudely when the thread cobbled. Twice.
Or is that just me?
We had a low key easter this year, leaning more towards family get-togethers than large scale chocolate massacres, but the one traditionally eastery thing we did get up to was stained-glass eggs.
If you’ve never made them before, it’s worth it. It’s great fun, and unwrapping each egg to discover its decorative paint job is always exciting.
Wrap each egg in a few scraps of onion skin, enclose in foil, and boil as usual, though using as little water as possible will result in deeper overall colour.
One layer of skin fives a pleasantly blotchy dye job with higher contrast, and two or more creates deeper golden/butterscotchy tones with intriguing mottles. The dry outer skins seem to have the darkest pigment, though the lighter inner layers sometimes dye up surprising acid yellows and greens.
Red onion skins provide a nice variation too. Not as bright as I’d expected, but on closer inspection the red skin egg had some lovely subtle colours, including a touch of blue-green (perhaps created by some alkaline egg white seeping out of a crack that formed during the boiling stage?)
As an experiment, I left one egg au naturel to see if it take on some colour, and it became a more even, brighter yellow hue. Looking at the remaining water this is not surprising. It is the one in the centre of the bowl in the top picture.
If you haven’t tried this before, I hope you’ll be inspired to give it a go and make your own one-of-a-kind masterpieces!
(And if you were wondering, none of the onion flavour carried over into the eggs, even the ones that cracked during cooking.)
An image you can turn into a stencil
Some stiffish flat plastic or card
A craft knife
A brush or small piece of sponge
Some recycling paper to top paint soaking through onto the back of your t-shirt
and some tissues for clean up.
Last Christmas one of the kids asked for a brown t-shirt with a meerkat on it. Right, not specific or anything? That should be easy to find, surely?
Strangely it wasn’t. So I figured I’d try to make one myself.
I used a sheet of ultrasound/X-ray negative, because it was what I had on hand. Any sort of plastic firm enough to stay flat, but thin enough to cut through would do the job. Or even card. Clear plastic would make the job easier though.
The trick is to use a design with minimal thin lines or ‘unattached inside parts’. I cheated. I printed out a photo of a family of meerkats and blu-tacked them to the window so I could trace around them, tinker with sizes and reorder the figures. Then I traced this onto the plastic sheet using a pointy pen to gently score the outline onto the plastic. (Another option if you are more sensible than me, is to use clear plastic and lay it on top of your image so you can trace directly onto it!)
Cut the inside out with a sharp craft knife. I used a Stanley knife, an Exacto would work well too. You now have your own handmade stencil. And permission to feel decidedly smug!
Here is where your iron first comes in handy. (I seem to have lost ours. It should be a dream come true, but this happens to be one of the approximately 3 times a year when I dig the little blighter out, and can I find it? No. Maybe it’s paying me back for months of neglect.) Give your t-shirt a quick press so your printing area is nice and flat, then insert some newspaper, or in my case an empty box of tacos, inside the shirt so that the ink doesn’t seep through to the back.
I seem to have lost the iron. It should be a dream come true, but this happens to be one of the approximately 3 times a year when I dig the little blighter out, and can I find it? No. Maybe it’s paying me back for months of neglect.
Lay your stencil on top of your t-shirt and weigh of tape down so it doesn’t move around while you are putting the ink on. Because I had unattached shapes inside, I stuck things down with blu-tack (double sided tape would work too, or possibly porridge – that stuff sticks to everything!) I pinned the t-shirt to the carpet too, to minimise movement even further.
Dab your fabric paint into all the exposed areas, and wait until it’s dry before lifting. The white paint I used on the green top was a little too thin and soaked into the fabric, so I waited a little longer and gave it a second coat before removing the stencil.
Once it’s dry, follow the setting instructs on your fabric paint, (here’s where the iron makes its reappearance) and admire your work. Or in my case, rue the compulsion that made you buy the cheapest fabric paint Spotlight had on offer that day, because it was so thin it took 5 coats before the colour was opaque, and it also bled. Oops.
As a side note, I got very excited after making the first two tops for the kids and thought I’d be very clever and make one for my husband with some text on it, using the kids set of alphabet stamps. Uh-uh, no go. The ink didn’t print clearly at all, and the letters managed to be blobby, fuzzy and faint all at the same time. I didn’t iron set it, and fortunately it mostly came out in the wash.
Next I might have a crack at making an alphabet stencil!
Our local school is having a fair on Saturday, and the boys have talked me into trying my hand at a market stall. I’ve been working busily for the last few weeks, and now, mostly by sacrificing sleep and housework, I have quite a little cache accumulated.
A tribe* of monkeys. Any remaining after their big day out will be making an appearance on etsy.
A festival of balloon balls. These were inspired by the beloved balloon ball I loved and lost as a kid.
Since I’m on the topic of collective nouns, let’s call this a flotilla of soaps.
Front stack, top to bottom is spice cake, lemon myrtle and vanilla bean, honey and oatmeal, and lavender and fresh cream.
Back row from left to right; peppermint and cardamon, bergamot and black pepper, gumball, and geranium and french clay.
And a covey of wraps. I was originally intending to use up my stockpile of PUL fabric, however a brief googling informed me that polyurethane laminate isn’t approved for use with food. Some more research and fun experimentation ensued, and now we have a stack of gorgeous smelling beeswax wraps. The bit I love is that at the end of their life they can even be composted! They sure were fiddly to make though. Next time I’ll dig out Mum’s Print Gocco and whip up a snazzy logo, just for fun.
*One of the official collective nouns for monkeys. Other options were troop (too militaristic for me), a barrel (how on earth monkeys first came to be associated with barrels is probably something I don’t want to know!) and a cartload (an equally unlikely method of transporting of monkeys, I should think!) Personally I think a mischief of monkeys would be a more fitting description.
Top left – oatmeal and clove on the bottom, orange rind and turmeric on top.
Top right – Cypress & rosemary swirled with green clay.
Bottom left – Cocoa and cinnamon shampoo bar. Unfortunately this one smells more like dog biscuits than chocolate. Oops.
Bottom right – Cardamom & bergamot and French clay.
I ought to be grovelling apologies and writing a catch up post about all the stuff that’s happened in the past few months, because there have been some major events and changes. But I won’t. Either because those things are too momentous to be flippantly bound up into words just yet, or because I am just plain old contrary. Or perhaps a little of both.
Instead I’ll tell you what I’m excited about at the moment. Soap! Doesn’t sound very exciting. I appreciate that.
Personally my main association with soap is as an uninspiring last-resort gift for someone you don’t know well enough to find something better for. Or as a slight sense of disappointment after excitedly opening a prettily wrapped present. Usually followed by a sneeze caused by the synthetic stench. (Could this be the origin of the phrase ‘not something to sneeze at’? Or is that the other bastion of last-resort gifts, the hanky?) It’s the sort of thing people regift.
But (and like mine, it’s a big but) it turns out that when you make it yourself, it’s almost as exhilarating as performing secret-garden-shed-bomb-making-alchemy! Mixing ancient ingredients like lye and tallow (not that I’ve used tallow myself), stirring til it changes form and becomes an altogether different creature. Or the slight burn as you discover that in your enthusiasm you’ve slopped some on your wrist and haven’t noticed in the blur of excitement and rush to get the stuff glopped into the form before it solidifies. The agony of suspense having to wait a day til you can pop it out of its form, chop it up and see what it looks like, and the mysterious changes in colour, texture and scent over the next few weeks as it cures.
Am I calling to you yet? No? You surprise me.
What if I attempt to lure you in with the promise of a soap-of-all-trades? One that you can use in the hand basin or the shower without drying out your skin, that you can also use to wash your hair (without stripping it of all its defenses and requiring gobs of conditioner to restore to the point of brushability), and that allows you to lather up to a sleek foam which will impress even your razor? Imagine ditching the various bottles of guff in your shower and having just a single bar of soap.. Sound appealing? It does to me.
Plus you get to heat water just by stirring in some tiny white beads of caustic soda, and there are warnings splashed all over every soap making guide about how you can accidentally make a volcano if you add the ingredients in the wrong order. Oooh! Full permission to don a lab coat and goggles, and cackle like a mad scientist!
Well, I’m still working on the perfect all-in-one bar, but when I’ve finished tinkering with recipes, I’ll get back to you.
Now I’m going to inflict it on all my friends and relations for Christmas.
I’m hoping the cocoa butter smell will rematerialise once it’s finished curing.