Monday, 10 January 2011

His and hers Christmas jumpers - HIS


There is a saying amongst knitters that you must never knit a jumper for your boyfriend, as it usually portents the kiss of death for a relationship. So it was with immense trepidation that I allowed myself to start this project.  I am hoping the tale below will act as a warning to any other ladies confident enough of their marriages to consider putting this old wives tale to the test?

The saga of my husband's Christmas jumper isn't yet over.  Early in 2010, despite my reservations, my husband finally persuaded me to knit him a jumper for his birthday (which was in May 2010).

Back in February, the first step of wool choice should have been straightforward.  No.  After I had posted back two beautiful sets of wool bought online, I vowed that I would only buy the wool when he was physically there to give approval.

As late as August we went together in person to the New Lanark Mill in Scotland to buy the wool, mainly as I had heard it was good value, and we had already rejected some truly perfect yarns.  I insisted on chunky wool as it would be quick to knit up, a factor that was most important when you consider how likely the jumper was to be wrong.

The second problem was finding a pattern. I researched literally thousands of patterns, refusing to knit something so basic (like a plain stocking stitch) that it could be more quickly and cheaply bought than knitted.  Many weeks later, when I had seriously lost the will to live, I found one pattern that he was satisfied with.  Not thrilled with, but after so many I thought I could deal with satisfied.

The next problem was that, although the wool had been approved in store, the cream colour started to look different once knitted up.  Knitting stalled for a couple of months after the comment "It looks like a babyish colour".  There was no way I wanted to carry on with this huge, unsatisfying knit only to have the colour declared unmanly.

From November through to December, night after night I toiled over knitting the huge pieces.  Then on the 22nd December I began to painstakingly sew the pieces together with mattress stitch in time for Christmas, finishing late on Christmas Eve.  Never mind wrapping the kids presents, which were done at 2am that night!

Unfortunately the jumper did not live up to its promise.  Although initially touched by my efforts, very quickly it was clear that the front piece was not up to scratch.  By the end of Christmas day, we were already talking about how I would unpick the front and reknit it.  After thinking and considering possibilities, I took out part of my Saturday this weekend to take it to my local yarn store to ask their view.

After much eye rolling with the proprietor, we came up with a plan that I could detach the seams up to the offending part, then unpick the stitches and re-knit the area.  After spending countless precious knitting hours revisiting this previously completed project, unpicking and unknitting, rolling the wool back into a ball, I reached the turning point.  Finally I was ready to re-knit the front.  When my eyes were starting to hurt with tiredness I finally gave up and went to bed, knowing that all that was left to do was reknit the front and re-attach it.

But alas no.  The next day I was snappily informed that I had not reknitted it the way he wanted, and that it had all been a waste of time.

And at this stage, I decided to put the unfinished jumper in a bag to be hidden for the rest of time, lest it genuinely live up to the CURSE of the boyfriend jumper.  I leave it with my marriage and my sense of humour still intact.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Peg dolls

Sometimes you get a make that just cries out for help from little hands, and this project was one of these.  Actually, it didn't require a lot of creativity, as we used a buttonbag craft kit:
It was so much fun.  The kids (4 and 7 yo) found it a little difficult at times, but with a bit of help they were able to do most of it.  These were the results (the photos were also taken by my 7 year old, and the quality is patchy):

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Amigurumi rabbit for newborn present

Despite the fact that I have made tens of projects since I last posted on this blog, it is another amigurumi rabbit that has inspired me to post. Here's why.  Firstly it is my brother's first little baby, a son.  I am so moved when someone has their first baby, because it takes me back to that transition that we all underwent when we had our children.  Knowing how massive that transformation is makes me want to mark it with something home-made as an heirloom.

I am so proud of this little one. The thing I learned last time was that no matter how perfect the crocheting is, it's the face that will make the difference between something professional looking and something naff.

So I really took my time over this one, and kept unpicking the stitches until it looked just right and exactly what I had in mind.

Now I've put this on here, I might have to start back-cataloguing some of my other stuff.....

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Crocheted rabbit

It was my eldest daughter's birthday yesterday, and I wanted to make something special for her. I decided to have a go at the Japanese art of amigurumi, which involves making small crocheted animals. However, all the patterns I could get on the internet seemed a bit fussy, and I wanted something really simple.

So I picked up the crochet needle and some brown yarn and decided to improvise. I figured out that once you have created the number of stitches you want, you just keep double crocheting into them in a spiral until you get the desired size.

I started them all off with a slip ring and about 4-5 doubles into the ring. I then either increased or decreased to get the shapes I was after. I created the arms, legs, body and head of the rabbit, and used a pattern for leaves to make the ears.

I left long yarn ends, so that I could use them for sewing the pieces together. I stuffed each piece with toy stuffing and a bit of dried lavender (you can see from the photos that I overstuffed some, especially the arm). Then I took the slip ring of each piece, pulled it tight, then through the part until it came out the other side. I knotted this to the other yarn end to secure them in place, which also leaves a nice flat and secure end.

The next step was to add a tail, which I formed from white cotton yarn and in a similar way to the other pieces, leaving a long end to sew it on.

Then the fun bit was decorating it. I made a couple of eyes and a nose - this took a few attempts to get something that looked ok-ish, and in the end I ran out of time before her birthday, so had to settle for this:

The next step was to give it some clothes. I had some iron-on flowers from a previous project, so I decided to use these on the feet instead of shoes (time constraints!), and sewed some buttons on to the tummy.

It just needed something else, so I took some patchwork pieces of Liberty Lawn that were waiting for inspiration, and sewed them onto a piece of ribbon to make an apron-type skirt. I then ironed on a longer piece of velvet ribbon to tie it on. I know how much children love to dress and undress their dolls, and this means I can make more clothes for it at a later date.

Finally, I made a little headband using the same ribbon and an iron-on flower. Ta da!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Handbags and gladrags

One of the joys of making your own things is that you can make stuff that can't be bought in the shops. It is very rarely cheaper to buy the materials to make your own than to buy something mass produced, but the satisfaction of creating something unique usually overrides the additional cost.

However, there are exceptions to this. Handbags are my case in point. You can spend almost unlimited amounts of money on a handbag, and it won't even last that long. I am always trying to reassure myself that the money spent on a good bag is worthwhile, because it will last a longer time, but in my experience it just isn't true.

SoI decided that it was worth the investment in some yarn to make a good bag. My first attempt - 'Tasha' from took forever to make:

I think this was mainly because of the cable detailing on the strap, which I had to unpick and re-knit many, many times.
I think I also made it too long, which can be attributed to the pride I felt when I actually got the hang of the cable design. There was no way this strap was going to come up short!

My second attempt was inspired by a bargain lot of' Rowan Country' from Kemps Wool shop.

I didn't have a pattern to make a bag out of it, so decided to go freestyle. The pattern came completely out of my head, as I pictured the shape I wanted it to felt into, knitted it, felted it on 60 in the washing machine and, to my amazement, out came this:

I got stuck for a while, but the problem of what to use as a handle came from my odds and ends bag as I corded together lots of strands to make a handle, and crocheted some lazy daisies to sew on.

And I think the finished article looks OK?

My only problem now is whether to use this as a work bag? I don't want my colleagues to think I am any more flaky than they probably already do. Turning up to work as an accountant looking more suited to a camping festival is something I already specialise in - is this going to be a step too far?

How it all began...

I have always enjoyed making stuff, perhaps inspired by older generations who would always have a creative project on the go. Maybe it was Brownies and Guides, where I learnt to cook and mend, or school, where needlework lessons yielded a completely unwearable pair of shorts?

Having spent my childhood in full time education, relishing the artistic and creative side of life in art lessons and so on, it was a horrible shock to go to university where there was no creative outlet to life. It only got worse when I started my career in accountancy, a profession exceptionally ill-suited to anyone with a wayward mind. The very words 'creative accountancy' sum up how dangerous and potentially illegal it is to innovate in my job.

Having struggled through many barren years of boring careerdom, making cards and small projects in my spare time, the latent creative side positively flourished when I had my two wonderful little daughters. Seeing their constant stream of ideas and desire to make things led me to start making things for and with them. If there was any way I could make ends meet this way, I would dearly love to 'give up the day job', but until that day, I spend my spare time knitting, crocheting, sewing and thinking up new ways to use our own produce and that of other small makers.

The internet is such an inspiring place to be these days. There are so many talented people out there making and sharing ideas. If my blog can form a tiny part of that world, then it makes it all worthwhile.