Monday, 24 May 2010

brought to you by the letter b

Little miss bear is allowed to watch a movie each weekend. She loves Madeline but last week was asking for the a-b-c movie. We had no idea what this was so Tim downloaded an episode of Sesame Street and that was a hit.

So today's post is brought to you by the letter b. This is part of my embroidery work on the wagga which is actually to be baby brother's baby blanket. For embroidery thread I am using cotton unravelled from a sweater (or cardigan?) that I bought at the op shop in Seymour (a town in country Victoria).

It is not mercerised so drawing it through the fabric can be a bit of a tug at times. I am using back stitch in an attempt to achieve as solid a line as possible.

For the other waggas I am contemplating testing out the 'perle-8-in-the-bobbin' technique as used on the White Romance project in Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts. Has anyone out there ever tried this?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

out, damned moth!

Thankfully we don't actually have any moths but I can't resist a literary allusion when I think of one. But a few friends recently have had or feared moth problems so I decided on pre-emptive action and sewed up some lavender sachets. I wanted to use a fine, light-weight fabric so that the lavender scent would easily escape, so to speak, and decided upon some Swiss cotton handkerchiefs that I bought at op shops in Zurich when we visited a couple of years ago.

A couple of them weren't in very good condition after going through the wash but that was ok, I just cut some fabric out around the damage and sewed up the sachets. I bought a set of fine sewing machine needles especially for the task and promptly misplaced them. I had an inkling that for such a light-weight fabric I should alter the tension of the presser foot pressure or some such but, well, I was too lazy to look it up. So I just sewed - no problems.

Now each closet and cupboard with woollens therein also has a lavender sachet and (I hope) no moths.

wagga wagga wagga*

I was having a poke around in my stash yesterday evening when I found a few dozen pre-cut squares and rectangles that I prepared about three years ago in Australia, transported across the Pacific and promptly forgot about. Now that I have a sewing space permanently set up, the temptation was just too great - I started piecing and pinning and sewing. Twenty-four hours later, I have three more waggas to work on (eventually).

Hmm, no idea what I'm talking about? Sorry - last August I finally finished piecing together my version of a wagga, a traditional Australian quilt/rug that was often improvised from suiting samples, hessian and flour sacks. I improvised mine from squares cut from fulled cream-coloured woollen sweaters. Back at the time I was planning to add some other Australian(a) touches to it. I have started on some embroidery, more on that later.

But even longer ago, about three years, when I first had the idea to make a wagga-type blanket, I toyed around with a number of fabric ideas, all recycled clothing from the op shop. What I found yesterday evening and sewed up were a heap of squares from a llama coat and from a couple of woollen blazers. One day I will think of a way to decorate and back them but for now it is infinitely more satisfying to have them sewn up than in piles.

* Wagga Wagga is a town in New South Wales, Australia.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

not kansas

There's no place like home. And no place like a home with a new baby in it.

The Vital Statistics
Pattern: Ruby Slippers from Vintage Knits for Modern Babies by Hadley Fierlinger.
Size: 3-6 months.
Yarn: Filatura Lanarota Luxury Cashmere, 0.25 skeins.
Needles: 4.5mm.
Start to finish: 29 April to 1 May 2010.
Recycle/stash content: 100 per cent - hooray! The yarn I bought at a thrift store and the buttons, such cute buttons, came off a cashmere cardigan of mine that I had worn to death (and originally purchased at a thrift store).
Comments: Red is my favourite colour and I wanted to knit these booties the moment I saw the book. Having never knit booties before my knitting plans were disrupted for a few months by a mental block about knitting booties. I finally looked at the pattern and realised how simple they were; all the knitting was complete in one evening.

Verdict: Very cute and I cannot wait to meet the baby whom I made them for.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010


Projects come and go here, the urge to work on them goes away and comes back again. Remember the doily quilt? The top was finished last September and the back is also pieced. So that's about eight months that I have been thinking about the sashing for.

I feel that the edges of the embroidered nine-patch blocks need some delineation. I thought about appliquéing some ribbon along the seams but it was too heavy. Then I thought about some embroidery but that really seemed too labour intensive (although goodness knows how much I could have achieved in eight months). Finally I got inspired by a project in my favourite quilt book - Make Your Own Contemporary Quilts - which uses machine embroidery with perle 8 cotton
in the bobbin. This of course requires that you sew on the wrong side of the fabric. So I decided to try this technique out. I chose the shade of perle 8 and that was as far as I got.

Until yesterday, when I finally got to work with an empty bobbin which I wound by hand with some practice perle 8. And then I tested it out:

What I learnt from these tests:
  • you have to make sure that the bobbin thread is properly caught otherwise it comes through all loose and gets tangled up and costs you a good quarter of an hour digging it out of the bobbin case (far left);
  • loose tension with a straight stitch works well (centre) although the sewing thread does still peek through a bit;
  • zig-zag stitch doesn't work (no matter what the tension).
I'm happy with the straight stitch and am planning to give it a try, perhaps even two parallel lines of stitching. First, I'll have to get a coordinating green sewing thread. Oh dear, it could be months ...

Friday, 14 May 2010

tunique francaise

Attempting to redeem myself in the recycling department, I have been working on a tunic/dress for little miss bear. The main fabric is yardage that I picked up at Goodwill (I think) because I loved the pattern and the brown trim is from the same brown dress as my recent rag doll.

Look, french seams. Just thought that I'd put this out there in case anyone else is as horrified by my previous knitting effort as I am.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

attack of the hundred dollar baby knit

Have you ever picked something up in a shop, or rather had a friend thrust something at you, that was so wrong that you just had to buy it and prove that you could do something with it? But to do something with it, you had to actually buy more yarn, not to mention needles upon which to knit it. Thus was born the hundred dollar baby knit.

The Vital Statistics

Shrug Bug by Gina Bonomo, available to download on Ravelry for US$5 (start your calculators).
Size: Just the one size provided for - 6 to 12 months - but I don't think that I got gauge so mine is a bit larger.
Gedifra Easy Wear in colourway 7405, a variegated super bulky yarn that my friend Olivia (yes, I'm naming names) found in the sale drawer at the back of a certain yarn store that I often criticise but regularly frequent, one skein (variegated super bulky - what was I thinking?). And Rowan Big Wool in colourway 57 Commodore, purchased the next day from the same store (fortunately also from the sale drawer), one skein but I misjudged and bought two. Adding up.
Needles: 12.75mm Addi Turbos and 15mm Crystal Palace bamboo circulars, needle sizes that of course I would never normally have use for and so had to purchase. From the aforementioned yarn store. And at that size, they're expensive. Still counting?
Start to finish:
17 April to 25 April 2010.
Recycle/stash content:
None whatsoever; I'm disappointed with myself. And I have actually ended up with a skein of Big Wool and some utterly redundant circular needles.
Comments: Where to begin? This was a project that just spiralled out of control and ended up costing a small fortune. Ok, some of it was for needles which are resuable, just unlikely to be reused by me.
Oh, and there was the button from Bad Woman Yarns, another $6. And the final product in the two yarns, while kind of cute, isn't even fit for purpose. Modifications - obviously, I used two different yarns. I also knit front and back twice to make the raglan increases instead of working yarn-overs.

Verdict: I wish that I hadn't. This was such a misguided project - for one thing, the yarns are both handwash only and my baby is a champion spewer. It will get worn once for a little while before being completely soaked in regurgitated breastmilk and will then wallow in the handwash pile for goodness knows how long. And then it will stink and then ... just not a good idea.

The pattern though is really very cute and I think would have been way more successful had it been executed in the one yarn throughout. It would actually have looked great had I just used the Big Wool. And I do have that extra skein; now if I could just get hold of some more ...

Friday, 7 May 2010

kathy goes to haiti

Whenever I lament of how I have too much in the cupboard waiting to be used, I really need to think of how many there are who have too little. In order to indeed use up some stash and benefit someone else, I made this rag doll using the instructions on the Dolly Donations blog and it will be off to Haiti later this year.

The doll is entirely recycled, made from things that I had in the cupboard - the face, arms and legs are from a dress that I bought at a yard sale, the dress is from an Esprit romper, the hair is a scrap of black cotton velveteen, the face done with embroidery floss that I bought at an estate sale, and the stuffing is taken out of a cushion that didn't fare very well when I washed it.

The pattern provided on the Dolly Donations blog is very straightforward and the sewing was easy. Of course it took me weeks to complete but only because I got distracted doing other things. The most time-consuming element was embroidering the face, embroidery being, as with many of my crafting endeavours, something that I do on an as-needs basis. I have looked at a number of embroidery books over the years but this really was 'make it up as I go along'. I'm quite happy with the result and that it doesn't just look plain scary.

Sunday, 2 May 2010


Omelette anyone?

The Vital Statistics Pattern: Bird's Nest Pin Cushion by Hannah Fettig from the book Closely Knit: handmade gifts for the ones you love.
the size that it came out at in the yarn that I knit it with! I did make five eggs.
Jo Sharp Soho Summer DK Cotton in Cloudless and Rowan Purelife British Sheep Breeds DK.
3.75mm bamboo dpns for the eggs and 3.25mm Addi Lace for the nest.
Start to finish:
24 April to 28 April 2010.
Recycle/stash content:
All of it - hooray!! And the eggs are tightly stuffed with a bit of felted woollen sweater that I had floating around.

Comments: This was one of those projects that as soon as I saw it I knew that I had to make it and would hanker to do so. I love the way that you can use pretty much any yarn that you want to and the contrast between the eggs in a smooth blue cotton and the nest in a rustic wool. This Purelife stuff - when I blocked the little nest to make a bit more space the wet wool, the smell! Very rustic.

The eggs are a bit of a tricky knit - they start with a provisional cast on of 12 stitches and you knit to one end, then go back to those stitches and knit to the other. At first I thought this more trouble than it was worth but when I tried to cast on four stitches on dpns with cotton yarn I changed my mind. Just be sure to leave a long tail when you cast on with which to knit the other half of the egg. Less ends. The nest is knit in a basketweave stitch which I enjoyed and the effect is great.

One of those projects where I am thinking that I could make another one in the white cotton and a larger version of the nest with some heavier yarn and .... I really enjoyed making this nest, I think that the effect is wonderful - both whimsical and practical. I especially take pleasure in the slightly absurd act of sticking pins into eggs.

Saturday, 1 May 2010

april reading

Three books - a good reading month!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer and Annie Barrows - this was a nice book, perfect book club fodder but I found it overly contrived, almost trite in the blanket way that it addresses a number of Second World War events on the island of Guernsey. Nevertheless, it was very readable and the characters appealing if not somewhat one dimensional and the interpersonal outcomes totally predictable.
Club Dead by Charlaine Harris - sex with vampires. And werewolves.
If Ever I Return, Pretty Peggy-O by Sharyn McCrumb - again, detective fiction, although this time sheriff fiction. I enjoyed reading this, good characters and subplots centring on Vietnam and its veterans and it's the first in a series - hooray! - but I found that the crime was preposterously too sophisticated for the perpetrator. Looking forward to the next instalment!