Posts in crafting
Old Faithfuls

I am nothing if not a creature of habit. I like what I like. 20140423-IMG_2286

And so, its no surprise when I was reaching for something to make for a friend's baby I went back to my old faithful, Milo by Georgie Hallum. Looking at Ravelry, this is at least my 7th Milo, though there were probably more that went undocumented. It a fab wee pattern and super fun to customise. This time, I chose scandi-inspired colourwork to adorn the body.

You can see at the sides where its pulling in at the colourwork.  I should have gone down a size for the stripes to prevent this, but as these are designed to be worn with little to no ease, it felt like a bit of a faff to go to that effort.

And even more than Milo becoming my go-to pattern, the yarn, Artesano Superwash DK, has become my absolute favourite. I used it at least twice in my new book (though possibly more, I can't remember), in 2 of my current works in progress, in all of my workshops and in my Granny Square and Christmas Stars kits. It comes in a great range of colours, works up like a dream and washes so well. Its a squishy DK, so it feels like it works up quickly, rather than those technically DK, but almost Sport-weight DKs that so often cross my desk.

 

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I am also using it in my so-slow to progress pine bough cowl. This project sits in a basket next to the fire in the studio for those, I need to think and knit moments. With Blogtacular around the corner, just sitting and knitting moments are becoming increasingly scarce.

This week in the Studio

star workshop-043 star workshop-044 star workshop-047 star workshop-048 This week has been all about getting ready for next week's Country Living Christmas Fair. Of course I pick the biggest craft fair in Scotland, held at the SECC, to run my first ever craft stall. Trial by fire or what?!? When I first opened my Etsy shop and started selling hats, I dreamt of having a stall, so when my publisher said that I could run a crochet workshop and have a stall at the Glasgow Fair, I was all over it.

And so, these week has been about preparation - some mental, some physical, mostly winding:

  • Dyeing Christmas Trees Pink:  I used this set of trees, soaked them in bleach then left them in a bucket of Dylon for various amounts of time. The idea came from (of course) Pinterest.
  • Making Tassels: Well, Elly made these when she came to stay, but the stall next week is having a pink/blue/craft paper/gold theme, so these will be part of it. I also have gold spray paint and glitter tape on the way. Oh and I HOPE this arrives on time (and even if it doesn't that's cool, because I can't wait to spell out rude festive messages for the house in gold. Oh yes!
  • Packing Kits. I have about 100 packed here, another 200 to do, plus materials for another 100 arriving early next week (please let this be the case!). Kerstin has packed over 100 as well. This is not including the Knit Camp orders that I will be taking to the post office today.
  • Winding, winding, winding: I need 200 little balls of wool for my workshops next week.
DIY: Peg Board

I have been craving a pop of hot pink in my studio for awhile and after I saw this very cute pegboard, I knew that I had to combine the two. Peg board, or perforated hardboard, is actually, annoyingly difficult to find locally.  After calling all of the local timber merchants and DIY stores, I settled for having to order online from here.  I ordered 2 pieces  - one for my wall and one for a photo backdrop.

The pegboard itself is extremely flimsy and in order to give it space at the back for the pegs and a bit more security, we bought a couple of pine stripboards (roughly 1x2").

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B&Q cut the strip board to size - 4feet on the long edge and 2feet minus the width of the longer slats to fit inside the frame.  Unfortunately, we got home and realised the small slats were about an inch too long (I hadn't measured anything before we left, so um, it was totally my fault, not theirs). Fortunately, Kev agreed to help as I am not allowed to use any sharp objects due to a special talent for injuring myself.

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Using the holes as a guide, we screwed the frame into the pegboard.20130825-IMG_2570 20130825-IMG_2572

Then the family was put to work.  Shortly after Georgia told me "I am an expert at this," I pointed out they were painting the wrong side. 20130825-IMG_2573

The pegboard is hung using picture wire and a pre-existing nail in the wall.  We rent, so generally try to avoid making holes in the wall. This does mean that I can't put anything too heavy on it, but it does give me the shock of colour I need and a useful place for my random bits of things I need when watching Breaking Bad and crocheting on my office sofa.

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My favourite bit is most definitely the old knitting needle and hooks that now house my (rather pathetically small) collection of washi tape.

Who needs coffee with this to wake me up when I come in the office, hey?

The New Studio

It was with great excitement that this week I was going to reveal the awesome results of the room swap with the children.  However, due to circumstances out of our control, a mere 2 weeks after the first move, another switch had to happen.  We worked late into the night on Saturday, moving the children down to my old studio and my things up the stairs. Truth be told, I have found the whole situation rather upsetting, and, without going into details, it was not a change we were wanting to make.

However, a few days in and I can't help but admit that the new studio space is lovely.  Its at the front, south-facing side of the house, and even with just one window, it lets in a lot of light, particularly in the afternoons. It has also meant a declutter and re-organise of both my yarn and fabric stashes.  Ellis, having learned about the phrase "Silver Linings" recently, reminds me that everything has a one.

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I can't remember if I have ever talked about my beloved yarn storage system?  Well, I LOVE it.  It is 2 sets of these wire baskets from ikea bolted together (though if I were to buy it again, I would get these , but my shelf is quite old).  I have the wool arranged by weight and what makes them so fabulous is that I can see instantly what is in each section.  They also aren't so deep that I have to dig for things, causing lots of tangles.  It can look a bit messy, but they could easily be stored under a table or in a cupboard.  yarn

Plus, I like to see the yarn for my next project peeking out, tempting me to come and play.

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All in, I have to admit that while the circumstances aren't that great, the space is lovely.

 

An Excuse for More Knitting

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Looking forward into the remainder of 2013, I feel a bit sick with everything that needs to be done.  A lot of designing is on the cards (yay), combined with Capturing Childhood, a certain book release, and life with 3 children...there is no doubt that it is going to be crazy.

However, at the moment, there are no making deadlines and other projects are in a bit of a limbo. However, when you have crocheted or knit every day for 18months, not having something to make feels a bit strange.  So I have lined up a bit of making for me.  Makers and designers know that it is a rare luxury to make something solely for ones self, having so many things that aren't in the correct size or need to stay with a publisher. So I thought a little reward knitting was in order.

First up is this textured shawl, based on this one.  It is knit in Malabrigo silky merino, left over from a project in Crochet at Play. And while it is beautiful to look at, it does not suit me at all.  Something about the shape or the colour just doesn't work. So it, like most other things, will be sent off to someone else to love.

And that is ok, because it just means I have an excuse for more knitting.

Red Nose Day Dolls

IMG_8355-Edit-2 The tiniest of Woolly Owl Hats, made in Jamison's Spindrift.

I am thrilled to be one of the makers contributing to the Red Nose Day Dolls, with a wee hat for a wee dolly head.  If you haven't heard about this project - crafters from all over the UK are working together to create dolls and accessories to auction off in aid of Red Nose Day.  I am actually in awe of the amazing things that have been created for the dolls - aprons and books and quilts and jewellery.  You can read more about the project here and donate here.

The auction starts on Thursday, so keep an eye on the Red Nose Day Doll Facebook page for more information.

 

A Year in Business - 5 Lessons Learned

IMG_8323 The eagle eyed of you, yes, I have been in business longer than a year, but "16 months in business - lessons learned" doesn't have the same ring to it, but from that day in October 2011 to now, I have learned a few things...mostly by mistake. ;)

1. You can do anything you want - just not everything: The nature of self-employment means that it is very hard to say no to work. You never know when the next paycheck will come in, so there is a temptation to just say yes and make it work.  After 2 customer complaints in the space of a few days, I realised that I simply couldn't maintain the quality of my work, whilst juggling the quantity.  I have had to refocus and do the things that I do well and ask for help or drop the things I don't. This is a constant process as well - reassessing what priorities are whenever I feel the crunch. I am currently reassessing Not On The High Street at the minute.  Its important to remember that its not an all or nothing equation - increasing prices or lead-in times, offering a more limited range of options or bringing in help in the short term, have all been ways that I have managed workflow at peak times.

2. Find your tribe.  I am incredibly lucky.  I have 2 of the most amazing business partners working with me and a mother who is about as business savvy as they come.  Both Joanne and Kat are incredibly talented in their own right and they are there to listen when I am frustrated, help when I have a question and take on some of the share of work in our shared ventures. From my perspective, I simply could not do what I do without them and wouldn't want to.

But beyond them, I have an amazing community of online and offline people who were there in those early days to support my business - as customers AND cheerleaders. Everyone needs a sounding board. Self employment is lonely - so find your people and hold on tight.

3. Money is Very Important: One of the things that bothers me in discussions by and about crafty professionals is the underlying tone of "You don't make any money, but at least you love what you do". There is no question that it is a very underpaid sector, but that can't be an excuse to undercharge for your work. If you undervalue your work, so will everyone else.  This is an area I have had to think a lot about, as the entire reason for starting selling hats and patterns at the beginning was to meet an income shortfall in my family. From the moment my business started, I have had to be focussed about making enough to pay the bills. I have income targets I have to meet every month and when I don't...well, the result isn't pretty. For me, this about keeping very close tabs on business spend, looking at promotion options and timing new pattern releases.

4. What will you have left, after the adrenaline runs out? Starting a new venture is exciting.  I am a bit of a start-up junkie and love the adrenaline of a new idea.  That excitement saw me through a lot of missed days out, cancelled visits to friends and many sleepless nights.  However, it is only so long before that fuel runs out.  It was this past Christmas when I realised that the high that got me through the previous year of working from 4:30am to 11pm had simply gone.  I struggled to find the motivation to do all of the things I needed to and get back on track.  I have had to re-prioritise friends and walks and reading and leisurely baths to keep my sanity and fill my own cup.  I also make a point of doing one (small) nice thing with the money I earn each time I am paid.  Nothing big, but something to improve our lives in a way and is a tangible way of feeling like I am not just pouring money into a black hole and working for "nothing".

5. Get Help: There is a huge temptation when you are a work at home parent to take work on "in addition to" your other work of child wrangling, parenting, running a house,  and organising the social calendar.  Last summer, I wrote a book and started a photography business with 3 kids at home.  I had one day of childcare/week...and I worked at least 80h/week. In retrospect, I am not sure how we managed, but I now know that we can not do it again. The house still hasn't recovered from 8 months of total neglect.  Everyone got the worst of me - work took longer because I was constantly interrupted or exhausted and the children were often left to their own mischief making. For us, the solution was to get help with the kids and bring in someone to help with the garden. We do not have family nearby to help us, so we have bought more days at nursery for the younger 2 and after school club for Ellis.  It has made a huge difference, to both my sanity, but also to Kevin and my relationship.  It means we don't fight about who needs to work when and can devote more time together as a family.  Yes, the cost is extortionate and not money we really have, but it is required so we can give the best to everything...especially the children. Now, for some people this may not be true.  There are plenty of work at home parents who have young children and just juggle work and childcare and can make it all work. I am not one of those people.

I think this holds true for any one, not just parents.  You have to take the work you do seriously, commit the time and energy to it, or else it simply won't be anything other than a hobby (there is nothing wrong with that, if that is what you are aiming for).  Setting aside devoted time and energy to it is key to getting the headspace to do it well and asking for help with other things is an important part of that.

 

So there you go, my nuggets of wisdom. Oh these and  that coffee/wine/beer/chocolate/washi tape are essential business expenses.

 

 

How to Read a Crochet Pattern

One of the things I hear most often from students and customers is "I know the basic stitches, but have no idea how to read a crochet pattern".  In fact, it wasn't so long ago that I was in the same boat, struggling to understand what all of the letters, numbers and abbreviations meant!  Most searches on the internet throw up only a list of abbreviations for the terms used in crochet in either US or UK crochet.  Of course this is crucial information, but it isn't the whole story. When you get to the basic instructions of a crochet pattern, there are a number of things you need to know in addition to the common abbreviations.  In many ways, its like a code or another language that tells you how and where to make stitches. Unfortunately, each designer and publication will do things a little differently, which can add to the confusion. While I don't believe that there should be any sort of dogma in pattern writing, people do need to understand what you are telling them to do.  And while testers and tech editors can really help with pattern clarity, the reader still needs some basic pattern information.

Let's look at an imaginary line of pattern:

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round

At the beginning of the line, you should have some indication whether you are working in rounds or in rows.

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round numbers

Immediately following this, you will have an indication of what row/round you are currently on.  Numbers in brackets (parentheses) refer to the corresponding instructions for different sizes, working from left to right, smallest to largest. If there is a "-" in the instruction, this means that this particular instruction doesn't apply to that size.

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beg chain copy copy

Next up, you should have some indication of what the beginning chain will be.  You should also have an instruction, either in the pattern or in the beginning instructions of the pattern, of how this stitch will be counted in your stitch count.  This is done because the first stitch at the beginning of a row or round in crochet needs to be raised up to the correct height of the rest of the following stitches, otherwise the work will be sloped. A designer needs to make a decision whether or not this is counted as a stitch and what works best with the pattern.

hdc in dc
hdc in dc

In this example, the next section of instruction means to make 2 half double crochet stitches into the next stitch of the previous round (the pattern tells us the previous round was a double crochet) and then make 1 half double crochet in each of the next 2 stitches.  This is often when there variation occurs in crochet patterns.  When I first started writing patterns, I would have written "HDC2, 2HDC" for the same line...not terribly clear.  If you do come across problems in any designers patterns - ASK!  Don't get in a muddle.  Its not worth the frustration.

number after brackets
number after brackets

In this case, that line of pattern is in square brackets (some designers may use normal parenthesis/brackets) .  This tells us that bit of pattern is repeated the number of times directly after the second bracket.  In this case, 4 times.  There may be variation in relation to sizes, following the same left to right, smallest to largest order.

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astrix

When instructions are preceded by a *, this means to repeat that sequence of stitches as many times as indicated, usually to the end of the round or row.

join
join

'Join' means to join the round with a slip stitch. This is usually used at the end when working in rounds.

turn
turn

'Turn' means to turn your work. This may not be in the line if there is a general instruction at the beginning of the pattern for how to deal with turning.

stitch count
stitch count

The stitch counts at the end of the row tell you how many stitches you should have worked in that row or round. This may be followed with the specific stitch that is used in the round/row, the word "stitches" or nothing.

Does that help anyone? I certainly hope so!! Experienced crocheters, have I forgotten anything?

(I could not have ever written this post without the stellar tech editing skillz of Ms Joanne Scrace, she taught me most everything I know.)

Making a Rocket (and a Splash)

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Recently, I have been doing a TON of product photography.  Almost every day, something arrives in the post for a quick photoshoot.  I love it.  Its like a beautiful combination of getting cool stuff in the post, a nice change from my normal and we get mailing tubes. Mailing tubes are awesome.  They are car ramps and telescopes and (probably much to my neighbours' delight) trumpets.

I currently have 27 mailing tubes.  So, I did what everyone else would do in that situation...made rocket ships*. 

I put them together, as it seemed like a good idea that I be the only one horribly burned by the hot glue gun, but then I let the kids paint them.

Here is how Ellis paints:

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Notice the serious look of concentration, the deliberate brush strokes?

 

Here is how Georgia paints:

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She then stripped naked and painted her entire body. It seemed fitting that my wildling be painted like one. Oh and did you know that the paint from Tescos stains EVERYTHING? So, she is green. So I hosed her off.

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She is still green. I find it funny (obviously).  Kevin doesn't find it AS funny. Meh. Who cares if she's green.  Apparently you grow a whole new covering of skin every 7 years. And, did I mention we have sun?  So at least my house isn't green.

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* I didn't follow any instructions for the rockets. However, if you want to make some, here are my top tips:

- Hot glue is your friend

- Cut slits in the bottom of the tube to slide the fins in for security (I just freehand drew ours)

- Th nose cone is 1/4 of a circle.  to get it the right shape and size, I just measured around the mouth the of the tube, and opened up my compass the same length and drew a half circle (for 2 rockets).  You could use string to measure the circumference and then attach it to a pen to make a compass yourself.  I learned this technique in the 15 minutes I wasn't goofing around in Mr Bunting's Geometry class. 

 

Made

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Some days are filled to the brim with making.  Its the side of my work that I love most (of course) but its actually a smallish part of the whole picture.  I spend much more time answering emails, writing, planning, calculating, and reading than I really do making.  

But then come those pockets of time where I *have* to spend hours upon hours crocheting or sewing.  For some reason, I find starting nearly impossible, but once I am in my groove my heart sings with it.  And then I get to look back on an hours' work and think "I made that and I'm getting paid for it!". What a privilage.

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Top: examples of granny squares and ripples for my crochet class in Wendy Merino Chunky and Texere Chunky Wool.

Middle: child's apron out of Quentin Blake fabric

Bottom: granite stitch crochet

A Post in Tangents

ladybug crochet hat

First of all, a small "ta-dah" moment.  The Ladybug pattern is finally finished.  I mean, I wrote it in October, but never published it because it just has never felt "me".  Maybe its too cute, I don't know.  But when Maggy asked me to do a guest post on her blog, Ladybug seemed perfect.  I have always loved G's grmpy face in the photo.  It is so much more her than the butter wouldn't melt photos that grace the owl and lion hats. The 1-3 size is available for free on Red Ted Art, with the full newborn - adult size range available on etsy and ravelry.

It is always a surprise to me which patterns do well and which do not.  The finished ladybug hat has always been a good seller, but I have to laugh that *every* time I release a pattern, I mostly just sell more Co-pilot hats and patterns.  Don't get me wrong, I like the aviator hat, but it is not my favourite design (personally, I think Spartacus is the best design that I've published, but its not been a huge seller). 

Anyway, its Co-pilot hats I make the most of and I have 6 to make this weekend.  All grey.  I do get quite bored of them, but I use it as an excuse to watch episodes of 24 on Netflix.  

I have started rewarding myself with knitting. If I can complete one step in the process of making (body, edging, goggles), I let myself knit for awhile. I am almost done with the raglan sleeves on the Solstice sweater.  I am making it in Cascade Eco in a kind of grey-brown.  Its nice. I am enjoying the knitting of it...there are enough milestones that I don't really get bored and when I do, its back to crochet.

I am knitting it with a set of KnitPro Sympfonie interchangeables, which I bought after being soooo fed up with my circulars.  I had to get a set of 5.5mm for the Solstice cardigan, so (in my twisted mind) it seemed only logical to buy a whole new set of interchangeables.  On the same day, I was also given a beautiful set of Addi Lace Click interchangeables by a reader who wanted me to review them (thank you).

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Obviously, this meant I needed another project to work on...so I am casting on for Sarah's Knit-a-long of the Study Stripe Shawl.  I don't normally like to knit with 4ply, but I do love this shawl and I have chosen my favourite colour combination of yellow and grey (4ply cotton).  I think it will make a lovely, drapey shawl as a gift.

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And so, you see, I have no choice BUT to knit so I can do my review.  Its a hard job, but someone has to do it.

Have a lovely weekend!!  I have a date with season 2 of 24, a leg of lamb, and a rabbit who (I have been told by the 5 year old crowd) will be laying chocolate eggs in the garden on Sunday.  

 

My Favourite Knit (and this time I mean it)

Its a well documented fact that everything I finish is my "favourite thing I've ever made".  Every hat, every set of wings, everything.  I start a new project with certainty that it can never be as nice as the last thing I made. And this is no exception.  After a frustrating start I was a bit dubious about this pattern, but it was with gut-wrenching jealousy that I handed it over to its recipient yesterday. 

 

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It is squishy and soft and warm and just delicious. The reversible stitch pattern is both very cool and understated.

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Its one of those projects where the elements come together just perfectly--the combination of beautiful yarn from Babylonglegsand the pattern work together to form a fantastic finished item.

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I think I will make one for myself out of a cotton or linen for summer.

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But it will never compare to this one (until its finished). 

 

 

 

Yarn: The Motherload

 

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I did give fair warning that it was arriving.  I prepared for it, sorted through the stash, warned the husband...but the arrival of over 2kg of spun gold STILL surprised and delighted me to no end.

Most of this is for things that I have to keep quiet (which I totally suck at, so NEVER tell me a secret and expect me to keep it!). However, I can tell you what I have been stroking over the last few days:

8x Sublime Baby Cashmere Merino Silk.  The dark brown of this colour is called "Marmite".  Don't you just love it? (Unless you hate it)

3x 250g Skeins of Cascade Eco (and Eco+)

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3x Cascade 220 in pinks and green

1x Quince and Co Osprey in Honey (which is probably going to be returned as I thought honey = yellow)

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But best of all, I have 2x 100g skeins of utterly gorgeous BabyLongLegs "Flump" in Violant Streak.  Its being made into Avery as you read this.  To say it is divine is an understatement. 

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oh and I may or may not have ordered more Cascade Eco to make this cardigan for myself after seeing it here.  My friend told me to do it, so I blame her!

 

Now to find the time to do it all in!!

 

Blue Sky Knitting

Oh how I love making Milo.  I love its shape. I love its possibilities.  I love how I can just make it, without having to think too hard about what I am going to do with it.

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This Milo was knit up mostly in the car over the weekend.  I suffer terribly from motion sickness, so reading or complicated crochet or knit projects are a no-no.  Milo is perfect-- after the set up, its just knitting in the round.

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It was originally intended for Theo, but I didn't have enough yarn in the right colours.  So, it was for Georgia...until it was finished...and it fits Ellis.  No, before you ask.  I did not gauge.  

 

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The colourwork clouds did not turn out as fluffy as I would have liked, but that has to do with the difference in weight between the (amazingly gorgeous) Araucania Toconoa and the thinner Cascade 220.  Hey ho.  You win some and you lose some.  Its still pretty cute, in my opinion. And it will fit someone eventually.

Full Ravelry notes here.

 

Wool and Sticks

Amazing, huh?  

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How just some spun woolIMG_0187.jpg

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And some sticks with a wee hook carved into them

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Can make things like these:

 

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And this

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Wool in top pictures and hat is this from Ice Yarns.  Its nice.  The very dark brown is nicer. The hat pattern is my own.

The bamboo hooks are from here.  And although they aren't my beloved Bates silvalume hooks from the US, they are mighty fine (and sharp - a rarity in hooks avilable in the UK).

The gladiator sandals pattern is from here. The wool is Alpaca Love by Stitch Nation.

Kat's Crafty Confessions

Ok. So I have something that I need to get off of my chest.

crafting with children

 

 

 

I hate crafting with my children.  

 

Crafting with Kids

It starts with such promise-- usually a beautifully photographed tutorial on pinterest, extolling the virtues of stimulating creativity with your children.  Each time, I approach the project like an optimistic goldfish, if any previous negative memories remain, I brush them away with the simple "this time will be different".

kid's crafts

It never is.

On average, it takes 25 minutes to set up, 35 minutes to clean up and about 2.3 minutes for my children to 'do' the activity, managing in that short time to fling the materials as far and wide as possible. There is usually swearing (me), often tears (me again) and sometimes tantrums (yep, me).

Of course, that is if they even do it.  If paint is involved, Georgia just paints herself.  If there are scissors involved, Ellis cuts his clothes/hair/(insert other inappropriate object here).  Theo eats everything (as we sadly learned this morning...no story to follow) and the cats always have a way of getting involved in some complicated way that ends with glitter being traipsed throughout the house.

 

children and craft

What makes the whole situation worse is that people just assume that I spend my days happily creating with my children.  As local folks find out about my blog and know that Kevin works in the arts as well, I get more and more comments about how creative we are as a family and how much art we must do.  It is like our deep dark secret, because the truth is, if I am bad at doing crafts with the kids, Kevin is worse.  The most laid back man most of the time, art projects with our children turn him into the craft police.  If a project even looks like it is going to change from the  original intentions, Kev loses it, doing that thing he does with his hair when stressed.

What a fraud, right?  All of that Christmas crafting was a blip in a long history of me freaking out about the mess.  I love it when the kids just draw...anything beyond that sends me quivering in a corner. But then, one or two turns 'round the tank and I forget how much I despise it and out comes the paint and glitter once again.

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And while I am off-loading.  My children also hate wearing hats.  Each and every one of them has done since birth.  

 

Whew. I feel lighter already.

Yarn 'N' Stuff

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If I had to pin down the 2 questions I get asked the most they would be:

1."How do you do it all?" and

2."What yarn do you use?"

The answer to number 1 is quite simple:: I do not do laundry or vacuum, but the answer to question number 2 takes a bit more explaining.

Finding the right yarn for the Etsy and Folksy shops has been a bit of a challenge.  I tried a number of different weights and brands of wool, but really sruggled to source options that met my standards for quality, affordability and colour. Plus, with the amount of handmade goods I produce, heavier weight yarns are a necessity to get through the orders in a timely fashion and the UK is a DK nation.

I tried a ton of yarns...ordering samples of most every commercially available chunky yarn in the UK (ok, that may be an exaggeration, but I did order the samples I was recommended on Facebook).  It seemed like everything I tried would hit one target but not others.  Cascade 220 has a great range of colours and wears well, but I was unsure of its wearability for newborns and its thinness. Wendy Merino Chunky was lovely and soft, as well as reletively affordable, but the colours are too limited and muted. The same goes for King Cole's equivilant.  Texere's chunky wool has beautiful colours and a great twist and bounce to it, but is soooo scratchy, I couldn't see many baldy babies being comfortable.

For a long time I was a bit of a yarn snob of the "I just can't work with acrylic" variety. This lasted until 2 things happened-- number 1: my money ran out and number 2: my children beat the heck out of some lovely and expensive single ply merino, resulting in a sticky felted mess that looked worse when washed. 100& acrylic still gives me the heeby-jeebies, I must admit...its the squeaking on my crochet hook that puts me off. However, I've found that with the wool content high enough, the acrylic element is hardly noticeable.  

Ultimately, I have settled on 3 main yarns for my hats: Wendy Mode Chunky and Ice Yarn's Bellone, with a bit of Paton's Shadow Tweed thrown in. All 3 are about 50%wool.

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The range of colours in Wendy Mode Chunky is great. They have really expanded this recently and offer a good range of basic colours, as well as some unexpected ones. Another bonus it that it wears really well, there is still a bit of pilling from heavy use (for  example on Es slippers), but not nearly as much as many other chunky yarns I tried.  It is a very soft yarn, being 50% merino, so I am happy to make items for the newest of babies.  Another bonus is that my local store sells the yarn for those last minute dashes.

Another recent discovery is Yarn Paradise/Ice Yarns.  They are a huge yarn distributor in Turkey who offer balls of wool at ridiculously low prices.  Given this, I find the quality good.  I have recently started using their Bellone Chunky/Bulky weight for a few items and I must say I am impressed.  It is a single ply chunky with low twist, but it holds up extremely well to wear and tear and blocks up very soft. Their postage is expensive, but it still works out at very good value and they ship faster than many UK suppliers I deal with, with yarn arriving in 2 days.

For the owl hat and the mane of the lion, I use Patons Shadow Tweed.  I love this yarn.  It is so nice to work with and each ball has such a lovely range of colours.  It is single ply as well, and again holds up remarkably well to heavy use.  I live in fear of this yarn being discontinued as I feel it really makes both of those designs, adding depth and richness to the Lion's mane and the Owl.

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Ok, geekery over.  I'm going to do something cool.  Like floss or read my new book about knitwear design.

Playroom and Studio 2.0

Aaah, remember my lovely studio? It was so clean and tidy and beautiful, no?

Uh, yeah.  It quickly turning into dumping ground 101.  

Here's the thing about working at home with 3 children under 5: Wherever you are - they are.  I spent so much time running up and down the stairs, carting yarn here and there, that I never really used my studio.  In those moments when the babies were both asleep and E was occupied, one of 2 things would happen:

- My working upstairs would wake them

- Ellis hollering for me as I was not downstairs and he needed his 200th drink/snack/conversation of the day would wake them.

So a reshuffle took place over the weekend and the playroom became our shared work/play space.  The upstairs still has the sewing equiptment and stores much of the non-working yarn, but my new work space in the heart of the activity means that I can work while they play near by.


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The centrepiece of the room is our old coffee table, transformed by several coats of eggshell paint and two play panels - one Duplo and one blackboard.  The table is originally from ikea and has always been a great coffee/playtable for the children so I am glad to have rescued it out from under the TV. 

 

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Most of the toys are hidden out of the way in the bookcase with the ikea fabric curtain.  

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My favourite bits are the imporvised car garage from a spice rack, the wagon "shelf" serving dual purpose as fire surround and bookshelf and the beautiful Sylvia Woodford wall hanging

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And of course the fairy lights, because who doesn't like to work by their twinkling glow?

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Christmas Handmades: Part 2

I know. Its almost February. You are all planning your Valentine's crafts and gifts and Christmas is a distant memory except for the extra 10lbs hanging over your waistband (ok, my waistband)

But I couldn't not show you this:

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It is made from an old duvet and  with a pillowcase used for the straps and pocket.  It is *exactly* the apron I would make for myself..long and wide straps.  Big wrap around sides.  Pocket. Vintage.  *Swoon*

I am notorious for not wanting to give away things I make, but this one may just have been the hardest to hand over. However, my love of my friend definately outweighed my love of the apron.

I still have enough material to make at least 4 more and I should be able to find some time to make one for myself...

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right?

North Sea Kipper Handwarmers
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Kevin lost his beautiful cabled handwarmers made out of glorious and expensive Posh Yarn...can we have a collective "grrr"?

So I made him some new ones, inspired by the Herringbone Neck Warmer I made my mother in law for Christmas. This time, Kev's were made with cheap yarn. That knit up incredibly quickly.  And then I wrote up the pattern so I wouldn't forget when he loses them again.

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They are made out of Wendy DK held double. This makes a sort of heavy Aran/Chunky wool, but traps air in between the fibers making them warm and squishy.  You need one ball, just pull the second end out of the middle and knit away.

Kev wanted ribbing around the thumbs, but I prefer the sleekness of just a thumbhole, but I have included optional instructions.

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download now The matching hat is available here.