Wednesday 29 June 2016

Roald Dahl handmade children's quilts

Somewhere in the midst of my maternity leave I made progress on a pair of matching Roald Dahl quilts for the kids. (With names like James and Matilda, it would be rude not to, really...)

Behold quilt number one!

Thing 1 seems very happy with it.

Unfortunately its twin is suffering from Second Quilt Syndrome. (Thing 2 is blissfully unaware of this as she hasn't got a big girl bed yet). But I really ought to get on with it. I've done all the hard bits and assembled the top and prepared the sandwich layers. All I need to do is quilt the damn thing. If only the allure of shiny new projects weren't so strong...

The idea for these came about after a friend drew my attention to Ashley Wilde's Fantabulous Fabrics range.

Shortly afterwards I found a seller on eBay who had most of the range in stock, and I chose a selection from our favourite books - ranging from fat quarters to full metre lengths.

Once I saw the fabrics all together, I cursed the designer for her wanton randomness in the sizing and layout of the illustrations. I spent ages pondering how on earth to combine these into a coherent quilt design and then stuffed them in a carrier bag and forgot about them for the obligatory 4 months.

In the end, I decided that the best option was to create a set of regulation 10" squares from my stash, in mixed blues - then applique the illustrations onto these, to look like picture frames. So I cut out and assembled the illustrations and had a go at laying it all out ...and the rest is history.

As for wadding, I chose to use Dream Puff, which I particularly like for kids' quilts. It washes and dries extremely well and is very lightweight but has a nice element of cosiness. (In this case I used it single but you can also double it up for extra loft if, like me, you are fond of quilts with a high floof-factor.)

Sunday 11 October 2015

More baby knits and a grown-up hat

I'm finally clicking 'publish' on a handful of posts that I wrote ages ago and failed to put live.

This one is to share a flurry of hat and scarf knits...  (I realise I may have a slight hat problem).

First up - I made this teeny little robin hat.

This was inspired by a lovely lady called Ange Smith on Ravelry, who won a Coats competition to design a Christmas jumper. Her gorgeous robins in the snow design was turned into a free pattern that you can see and download here.

Given that the chances of me knitting a whole jumper anytime soon are close to zero, I asked Ange's permission to make a baby hat inspired by her design - and she told me to go right ahead. So I recreated a down-scaled version of the chart in Excel, with decreases for the crown.

My hat is made from Drops Baby Merino, a sport-weight yarn that's lovely and soft. Knitted on 3mm needles it turned out very cute but - alas - a bit too small for my 5 mth old, so it found its way instead to a newborn who arrived in December.

Lots of people have subsequently asked for a copy of my amended chart, so I contacted Coats and they gave me permission to share it freely, on the condition that I make it clear that this is not a Coats design, but my own adapted work. If anyone wants a copy, you can download it here. (Just bear in mind that it was created for my own use and has not been through a team of pattern testers).

Next up is a little angora baby hat made from a gorgeous, floofy hand-spun angora that's been languishing in my stash for years. 

I held the yarn double to get DK weight and case on 64 stitches and knit in the round. 

The result is lovely and soft, like a fluffy cloud, but not too sneezy.
The ribbing is P2, K2 and the cable pattern is a very simple 6-row repeat of:
 -  Row 1: P2, K6 repeat to end
 -  Rows 2-5: repeat Row 1
 -  Row 6: P2, C6F repeat to end
You could easily upsize the hat by casting on additional stitches in multiples of 8 and knitting until it is as tall as you want.
Finish using 3-needle bind off and add pom poms.

Next up is this stripey baby scarf

Another weeny little knit that I couldn't resist making after I discovered a rainbow-hued multi-pack of tiny 10g yarn balls in Tiger.

It’s a fairly naff acrylic but what the hell. I just cast on 20 stitches and striped the colours in a K1, P1 pattern, striping every second row. 
I ended up doing 18 stripes of each colour and used the leftovers to make tiny pom-poms.
It’s being modelled here by my 8 month old but I doubt she’ll use it much until next winter, by which time she’ll be walking (and hopefully less likely to suck it to death or get tangled up in it). I might try to make a little hat to go with it - it would be so cheering on a grey, winter day.

Last, but not least, is this fair isle hat that I made for myself!

I used Drops Merino Extra Fine, which is lovely and not at all itchy (hooray!). The pattern is also based on a Drops one called Fideli, but I took a few liberties with it and amended the fair isle every now and then to show off my colours better.

I am very pleased with it and so far it's had loads of wear through the cold months.

Monday 2 March 2015

Knitting for Thing 1 and Thing 2

Dear blog, I seem to have gone into total crafty overdrive recently. I'm not sure what's going on but, somewhere between being pregnant again and having a few reclusive days off work, I seem to have rediscovered my creative mojo and have barely restrained myself from compulsive making.

I'm using this post to share a pair of Nordic style mittens that I made for Thing 1, and a couple of little hat designs that I've been working on for Thing 2 (the girlbot who's still cooking in the oven).

First up - here are the mittens.

These were made at speed during such a cold week in January that I really wanted to get them finished and onto my son's fingers as soon as possible. I used a pattern that I found on ravelry that forced me to pay close attention to charts for a few days.

The main challenge was that the pattern is charted for a light background whereas I was working with a dark background, hence I constantly wanted to knit white when I should have been knitting grey and vice versa. In the end I had to print a negative copy of the chart, just for my own sanity!

Also the mitts turned out pretty big, so they're held on with elastic and I reckon they'll do the boylet for a few years if he manages not to lose them (suffice to say they are tied into his coat!)

Moving onto Thing 2, if there is one certainty in this yet-to-be-seen life, it is that she will never be short of hats. Not only will she inherit a stash of hats that I made for Thing 1, but I can't seem to stop making and designing new ones for her.

First up is this simple little fair isle hat, which is a variation on a hat I designed for the boybot when he was in my tum. (His was stripey). At some point I'll put this pattern up on ravelry as a variation of the free pattern that's already there.

Secondly, I have had some fun designing and charting this rather thick and woolly farm-themed hat. This test knit has shown me that there is scope to reduce my charts a bit to make a less tall and floppy hat. So I will probably share the charts and pattern on ravelry once I've perfected them

I've popped back and edited this to show the hat on baby's head!  Still haven't got round to writing up and sharing the chart. Tsk!

Sunday 1 February 2015

New baby quilt

Having a couple of days off work this week was a luxury that enabled me to do something I've been meaning to for ages.  Behold my new baby cot quilt!

This was made using one and a half Moda charm packs and a gorgeous delft patterned cotton fabric on the back.

The wadding is a high loft one called Dream Puff and it is extremely light and floofy. I've also gone so far as to use the wadding doubled up in this quilt, just because I have a real soft spot for puffy, fat quilts. I know it's not to everyone's taste - I just have a nostalgic yen for the big, puffy eiderdowns of my childhood. My sewing machine seemed to cope ok with the extra puffiness on a cot sized quilt, but if I ever want to do a double bed one I think I'll have to try a quilt-as-you-go method.

I've got enough charm squares left to make a couple of little matching quilted pillow cases, which I'm dying to finish but I want to back them with the same blue fabric as the quilt and, alas, I didn't buy enough. So I have to wait for some more to arrive in the post before I can do the pillows. Tsk!

Thing 2 is going to be in a tiny co-sleeper crib for the first 6 months or so, so my plan is to use this as a floor quilt/play quilt until next winter, when she'll be old enough to move into a 'big girl' cot.

But here's how it looks when modelled on Thing 1's bed...

Saturday 31 January 2015

Liberty Tana Lawn Baby Bonnets

I once vowed to myself that, if I ever became pregnant with a girl, I'd make one of these adorable little Purl Bee bonnets using Liberty Tana Lawn.

Well - the time has come, and I am one to stick to my guns! And it's such a lovely pattern. Crisp and fun and spring-link on the outside, but warm and snuggly on the inside.

As it was, I couldn't decide which colour of Liberty lawn fabric to go for, so I ended up making two...

The fleece lining used in the original pattern is an organic sherpa material that's hard to source in the UK, so I substituted mine with a very close match, using an organic hemp fleece from a UK supplier called Eco Earth Fabrics.  As far as I can tell it's almost identical, though possibly a bit more lightweight. It has a smooth side and a fleecy side and has worked really well with the pattern for a spring bonnet. It's also incredibly soft.

Once I have a tiny baby's head to put inside these bonnets I'll update the pics so that you can see what it looks like on.  (For now, my ironing board is doing its best job at modelling!)

Amazingly, I also have some more knitting and quilting to share in my next posts...  suffice to say it's been a mega-crafty month for me.

Making a sewing kit for your pre-schooler

Something that warmed the cockles of my crafty heart this morning was watching the Microbe's intent little face as he fed a huge plastic needle through the pre-punched holes of a little sewing kit that I'd made him. He wasn't very well today and it was a perfect activity for a sick boy on a rainy day.

He had his very first go at sewing at Christmas, courtesy of a Mister Maker hand-puppet kit and it struck me the that 3 1/2 is an ideal age to start gathering together your very first bits and pieces for sewing.

After a quick sift through 8,000 candy-pink kits on the internet, I decided that it would be more fun, and probably cheaper, to put together my own customised sewing kit for him, tailored to his interests.

Behold - the sewing menagerie!

I made these little animal kits just by cutting out shapes from scraps of felt and punching holes around the edges using a leather punch. Luckily I had a little stash of felt at home, but I noticed that Poundland also sells multi-packs of brightly-coloured A5 sized pieces. The stuffing is salvaged from a bit of left over quilt wadding, but you could just as easily use offcuts of yarn as stuffing.

The yarn in his kit is from Poundland. Not the nicest quality acrylic, to be honest, but it's ideal for this purpose and you get 3 balls for £2. I re-wound a selection of colours into tiny balls and have also supplemented it since with a handful of brightly coloured Lion Brand Bonbons. (These are the world's cutest and tiniest sample-size yarn balls, discovered thanks to my highly enabling friend, Charlotte!)

The other thing I've added to his kit, thanks to a great suggestion from a friend, is a few sheets of plastic aida with large holes. You can leave them blank or draw shapes on these using a sharpie, for a child to sew along. At some  point I might add some large-holed buttons too, so he can play with sewing those on. As for needles, you can get sets of children's plastic needles for around £1 on eBay or Amazon.

So far all of our bits and bobs are residing in a little cardboard box - but a lovely friend of ours has bought him this fab little animal-themed sewing box, which looks absolutely perfect!

So - if you know any tiny people that love to craft, I'd definitely recommend spending a happy afternoon putting together a little kit like this. Applique templates online can be a good source of ideas for simple shapes that will work in felt.

Knitted fox and raccoon

Having a couple of weeks off work over our drizzly festive period, I somehow found my knitting mojo and made a couple of fun little projects for my son.

Firstly, say hello to Mr Fox....

The fox is a slightly  customised version of a pattern for an adult neck, using Sirdar Snowflake yarn. It's essentially a cross between a cuddly toy and a garment and, while arranging it around the boybot’s neck, I found myself wondering whether the effect was closer to Davy Crocket or Liberace. But he seems to like it, either way. The full details and pattern are on Ravelry here
Next up is Mr Raccon. He was commissioned immediately by the boy after receiving the fox "because I haven't GOT a raccoon, mummy!" 

He's based on a pattern called Backyard Bandits and, once again, the full details can be found on Ravelry, here.  He's supposed to have a cotton bandana around his neck, but a scarf seemed more in keeping with the English winter.
Happy crafting, all!

Wednesday 28 January 2015

Little quilts

I've been meaning for some time to mention my latest fad, which is quilting! It started last summer when I made this fun farmyard quilt for my son's toddler bed.

This is what some might call a cheat’s quilt, in that the central panel of the quilt is a printed image, so all I had to do was assemble the quit with wadding and a backing and quilt around the animal shapes. The wadding is a nice high-loft one and the backing is a piece of pinstripe sheeting. I also added a border, to increase the size of the quilt for his toddler bed, and edged it with 2-inch bias binding.

This gave me the bug - so I decided that my second project would be a baby quilt for a friend's nweborn girl. This time I used a Moda charm pack to make up a patchwork quilt from squares.

Once again I added a border for added width and then 'stitched in the ditch' to quilt it. And, again, I used a fairly high loft wadding as I really like a quilt to have some ‘floof factor’. I made my own bias binding this time from some jelly-roll strips.

I’m planning to make a similar baby quilt imminently for my own little ‘Thing 2’ who is currently being baked in my tummy. I might even double up on wadding this time, for extra floof! I will be sure to post when it's done...

I also happen to have enough Liberty squares stashed to make a full size patchwork quilt for my bed, but I'm not yet sure whether my regular sewing machine will be able to cope with the bulk of a big floofy quilt. Hmmm. Maybe a bit ambitious!

Sunday 4 January 2015

Silver Clay Flower Pendant

Well hello there, dear old blogspot. Do you remember me? 

To kick start 2015, I thought I'd pop in and share a long overdue post about my first experiements with precious metal clay. I had a mini-obsession with this stuff early last year and my first project was this silver flower pendant. 

For anyone curious, metal clay is essentially powdered metal (in this case silver) held together with a binder that makes it behave like a clay.

You can buy it in tiny little quantities of 5 or 10 grams and make your own custom jewellery items such as pendants, charms, rings and even bracelets. You can also get it in syringes for fine work and in paste form, which is useful for making repairs and 'glueing' bits of clay together before firing.

When it comes out of the packet, you'd never know it was made of silver as it's a greyish white colour and behaves a lot like an ordinary clay. You can roll it out and shape it into anything of your choosing and I suspect anyone who's good at sugarcraft would find metal clay a breeze. (I used sugarcrafting tools to help with the cutting and shaping of this piece.)

A word of warning is that it does want to dry out very quickly. I found the trickiest element overall was having to model my fiddly flower shape at speed.

Because I was making a pendant, I punched a hole in the middle of the flower so that I could feed through a sterling silver wire, which was attached at the back to a silver hanging loop. These were secured in place to the main flower shape using silver clay paste.

Once I was happy with the flower shape, I let it air dry on a piece of mesh before firing it on my gas hob for a few minutes.

Incidentally, I advise NOT dropping it en route to the hob. This stuff is more fragile than an egg-shell and I ended up making so many repairs to my piece with watered-down silver paste that I might as well have started again.

Firing is where the magic happens. The binder burns away and, before you know it, your clay has turned into a piece of solid silver.  (For those who don't have a gas hob, you can also use a blowtorch).

You can't tell that it has become silver straight away, as it still  looks white and chalky, but as long as you've followed the instructions and fired for the right number of minutes, have faith and take it off the hob. I picked my piece up with tweezers and left it to cool for a few minutes before burnishing. If you drop it at this point, it will go "clang" like a piece of metal (ask me how I know)

Burnishing is the final step. This is where you rub the fired piece all over using a metal object, which can be anything from a special burnishing tool to a large paperclip. As soon as you start, you'll begin to see the silver sheen revealing itself, which is rather exciting.

The more you burnish, the shinier your finished piece will be.

Once mine was polished to a high shine all over, my final touch was to trim the piece of silver wire that was sticking out of the front so that it was just long enough to hold a freshwater pearl bead, which I secured using jewellery glue and this now forms the centre of the flower.

I must confess that it's been a year or so since I sent my metal clay and its paraphernalia up to the hobby graveyard (aka the loft) but I fully intend to get it back out again at some point.

Sunday 7 December 2014

Adventures with Lino Printing

This is just a quick post to share some little lino prints that I made using this lovely kit that my partner bought me for Christmas.

I'd been meaning to have a go at lino printing for years, having often admired other people's work, and it was great fun to finally get stuck in.  

For my first go I carved an image based on one of my own paintings from years ago, and ran off a few prints.  

For the second image, I tried something new. I had the idea that planning out my design using white chalk on black paper would feel as close as possible to the creative process of lino-carving - (i.e. if I can get it to work using white chalk, then it ought to work as a carved out piece of lino... yes?)

As it turned out, the theory was quite right and I'd recommend it. However I did make a few clumsy cutting errors in this one that stopped the final image from being quite as successful as I'd hoped. Lino is nothing if not unforgiving!

Now I have the bug - I just need to find the time to do some more... 

Saturday 22 November 2014

Honeycomb tissue paper

Hello dear old craft blog. Here's a rapid fly-by just to mention my recent discovery of honeycomb paper...

I presume this is the stuff that paper xmas decorations are made of, but I hadn't realised you could buy it in sheets for crafty shenanigans.  Good old Pinterest enlightened me and the microbe and I have had a go at using it today for a trio of children's 'pop-up' birthday cards.

If you're in the UK and fancy giving it a try, you can get honeycomb paper on Amazon and Ebay.  (Mine came from a seller called Lyndie's Craft).

The sheets are a bit smaller than A4 and it seems as though you can cut out pretty much any shape in cross-section in order to get a 3d effect.  I expect you could use it to make a garland of paper spheres too.

Well... that's it.  A fly-by as promised.  Toodle pip.