Sunday, 24 July 2016

When Opportunity Knocks

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My little classic - Gretchen
I have always been a fan of op-shops, goodwill stores, thrift shops, charity shop - whatever they are called in your area.  They are filled with bargains. One of the best bargains I ever found was a pair of Italian leather boots that lasted for 10 years.  I wore them everyday in winter and was gutted when they finally wore out.

Deb has always managed to find some bargains - and then upcycle them into some amazing projects.  Some of her projects are:-

An upcycle for your old records. You can read about it here (If the thought of using your own ABBA, Bee Gee's, Fleetwood Mac or, my personal favourite, The Greatest Hits of the Carpenters, is too painful, then pick some up at your local charity shop).

Then she was lucky enough to pick up some great yarn that she was able to loom knit into a shimmery shawl.  The link to that blog post can be found here.

Not content with one project, she was able get a further 2 projects out of her bargain yarn.

Happy Birthday to you ... 
Try as I might, I could never find any crafty items - there was always the odd ball of wool (odd being the key word), knitting needles and buttons, but nothing that jumped out at me.  Until one day, a few years ago when I was in my local spinning store.  I went  in with my Mum and Dad who were visiting.  Dad was making me a spinning wheel and we were in the store to have a look around for Dad to get a few ideas and ask a few wheel-type questions.  I had noticed an old, antique looking loom under a table on my last visit to the store but I didn't really pay too much attention - there was roving to be looked at, admired and purchased, but on this visit, I had time to have a look and, the rest, as they say is history.  (You can read about it here). The loom was an astonishing $50 and Dad fixed it up and we gave it to Deb as a birthday present.

Until a week ago, that purchase was the highlight of my 'second-hand' purchases.

Last week, my son, his girlfriend and I were having a browse through our local op-shops (my little town has 4 of them), ostensibly looking for classical sheet music.  I spied a small spinning wheel in the window and was smitten.   There was never a question as to whether or not I would buy it but once I took it to the counter, my son said 'No, let me.  I was going to come back and buy it for your birthday anyway'.
Nothing a little love and oil can't fix
Once we got her home, he oiled it and fixed the drive band and made sure she worked - so, to me, it made the gift even more special.  As all spinning wheels need a name, we decided on 'Gretchen'. Partly because I think she is of German origin (can't be sure though, we have narrowed down her origins as being from between 1850 and 2010) and the only piece of classical music that pertains to spinning is the piece 'Gretchen am Spinnerade' by Schubert.  She only has one bobbin but she spins like a charm and is a classic in every sense of the word.

Happy shopping,

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Sunday, 10 July 2016

Lucille Poncho

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It's been a long time since I've had a chance to pick up a crochet hook.   We've moved house and I've been doing some study which has left little time for anything other than the usual hum drum of daily life, but this week I saw a window of opportunity and ran with it.  

My wool stash was fortunate enough to be boosted a few months ago by a sale at Bendigo Woollen Mills of their now discontinued "Bloom" range.  Bloom is a lovely graduated yarn in 8ply and I managed to pick up a few balls in a couple of colours before the stock was completely gone. 

While I would usually try and come up with my own pattern, on this occasion I was rather taken with the lovely Lucille poncho from Drops Design and thought the combination of graduated yarn and fan pattern would work a treat,

I used a size 5 crochet hook for the 8ply yarn and also went for the larger size in the poncho, mainly due to our Melbourne Winters being pretty chilly and I figure the more coverage at this time of year the better.

After only a couple of days of crocheting madly away the bulk of the poncho was complete.  The pattern is a joy to crochet.  Simple to the point of only needing to check what stitches are needed to complete the end of each row and quick so that it feels you are really getting somewhere in a short amount of time.

By far the longest part of the process was cutting and applying the fringe.  As the yarn is graduated, it took a while to check that the right shades were being placed in the correct position on the poncho.

At some point this weekend there will be a steaming and trimming of the fringe, so take this as a before photo of the back of the poncho.  The after may be a while coming!

Happy Crocheting 


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Sunday, 12 June 2016

Cabled Fingerless Mittens

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We are 9 months into our move - and the weather has been varied but mostly wonderful.  That is until this week.  The temperature dropped to minus 1 one morning on my way to work .. which I love. I am obsessively watching the temperature drop and getting more excited the lower it gets.  Everyone thinks I'm crazy and probably by the end of the winter the low temperatures will be a cause for dismay, but right now I'm looking forward to them. The changing weather was one of the reasons that we wanted to move to Victoria in the first place.

So, now it's serious knitting time and, as my children are flying over in a month, I thought I would knit them something simple yet practical.
My son has asked for a pair.  A few years ago when I wanted to knit some and asked if he would like a pair, his words were something like .. "No, not ever .. "  My heart sank as all knitting hearts do when the people you want to knit for don't want a bar of it.  However, once he reluctantly modelled a pair for me, he 'quite' liked them and wanted a pair.  So hang in there .. one day the reluctant recipients in your knitting world may change their mind.  .. and now it's only fair that everyone have some.  These mittens are actually for my daughter.

After knitting a pair of socks, there is always quite a bit of wool left over and for years I have been meaning to knit a sock blanket with all the left overs - that hasn't happened yet and I can't see me starting it any time soon, but there is enough wool to make a small pair of mittens.  It's a small project that knits up over the course of a couple of evenings (they are long evenings here as well - it's dark by 5.30pm).


Sock yarn (about 25g or half a ball)
Set of 2.50 DPN's
2 stitch markers
Cable needle  (If you would prefer to cable without using a cable needle, our instructions can be found here  The instructions are for a 6 cable so reduce the number of stitches to 4 and the premise is the same)


COn - Cast on.  Use you favourite method but ensure that it is not too tight.
PM - Place stitch marker
M1 - Knit into the 'bar' between the 2 stitches.  If you are unsure, the instructions can be found here.
K4F - Place 2 stitches on the cable needle and hold at the front of your work.  K2, then knit the stitches on your cable needle.
K4B - Place 2 stitches on the cable needle and hold at the back of your work.  K2, then knit the stitches on your cable needle.
COff - Cast off.  Ensure that the cast off is quite loose or the mittens may be too tight around the fingers.
SLM - Slip marker.  Simply move it from the left needle to the right.


CO 64 stitches and then arrange 16 on each needle.  Join (being careful not to twist your stitches) and establish a K2, P2 rib.
Left Hand Mitten Chart

Continue until the ribbing measures at least 8 cm.

Left Hand Mitten

Row 1: K10 [Knit Row 1 of Left Hand Chart], K to end

Row 2: K10 [Knit Row 2 of Chart]

Row 3: M1, PM, K to pattern row stitches [Knit Row 3 of Chart], K to end

Row 4: K1, SLM, K to pattern row stitches [Knit Row 4 of Chart], K to end

Row 5: M1, K to next marker, M1, SLM, K to pattern stitches [Knit row 6 of chart], K to end.

..There should now be 3 stitches before the stitch marker..

The increasing at the start of the row forms the thumb.

Continue the chart pattern that has been established (increasing for the thumb in every second row), continue until there are 19 stitches before the stitch marker.

Next Row:  Thread 19 stitches onto waste yarn,  [Knit required row of Left Hand Chart], K to end

Once you have 19 stitches, thread a contrasting yarn through the stitches to hold them and remove them from the needle.  Don't pull the thread too tight.  You should now be back to 64 stitches.

Continue knitting the charted pattern until you reach row 44.

At the start of the next row, establish a K2,P2 rib and continue for 5 rows.

Cast off.


Pick up the 19 stitches on 3 needles.  Join the thread and knit to the end of the row.  Once you reach the end, pick up and knit 3 stitches evenly across the gap and continue to knit for 4 rows.

Establish a K1,P1 rib and continue for 4 rows and loosely cast off.

To finish

Weave in all ends and ensure the ends for the thumb are very secure.

Right Hand Mitten

Cast on 64 stitches and establish a K2, P2 ribbing as for the Left Hand Mitten.

Row 1: K10 [Knit Row 1 of Right Hand Chart], K to end

Row 2: K10 [Knit Row 2 of Chart]

Row 3: K10 [Knit Row 3 of Chart], K10, PM, M1, PM, K to end - (65 stitches)

Row 4: K10 [Knit Row 4 of Chart], K10, SLM Knit to next marker, SLM, Knit to end

Row 5: K10 [Knit Row 5 of Chart], K10, SLM, M1, Knit to next marker, M1, SLM, Knit to end

Next Row: K10 [Knit required row of Right Hand Chart],  K10, thread 19 thumb stitches onto waste yarn, K to end

Continue knitting the charted pattern until you reach row 44.

At the start of the next row, establish a K2,P2 rib and continue for 5 rows.

Cast off.


As per Left Hand Mitten

To finish

Weave in all ends and ensure the ends for the thumb are very secure.

Once you have the rhythm of the pattern, they knit up very quickly and the end result is a small, warm gift for my children when they arrive next month.

Happy Knitting,

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Sunday, 17 April 2016

The Hat That Sally Made

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A little bit of creative photo editing and Sally
becomes very stylish
I've been having a lot of fun with my alpaca fleece.

I have been washing fleece, drying fleece, picking fleece and carding fleece for what seems likes ages.  I love it.  Fibre is definitely my thing and I can think of no better way to spend any afternoon than pottering about, doing all things fleecy.

Once I had about 30 bags of fleece ready to spin, the time had come to practise my spinning. 
I chose a bag of 'Sally'.  She is one of our delightful alpacas - the first to come to us for hand feeding and so gentle and lovely.

I spent many an afternoon spinning and listening to the audio book series of 'Anne of Green Gables' - it's a delightful way to spend some crafting hours (although, I will admit to finding it hard to see my spinning through my tears during the tragedy of Anne's first born).
'The Hat That Sally Made'

.. and just like that, I had some alpaca wool ready to knit with.  Not much mind you, but I had some none-the-less.

I figured that I had enough for a warm winter hat.  Ever since we have been here the weather has been fabulous - but everyone has said, "just you wait - it will get very cold and it will last for ages".  With a warning like that, I don't think a few more winter hats will go astray.

This hat is very simple.  As the wool is thick (10ply) it knitted up very quickly.
Washing, picking, carding and spinning

A skein of 'Sally'


..Skein of hand washed, hand picked, hand carded & hand spun Sally (or commercial 10ply)
..Set of size 6mm DPN's and a small circular 6mm.  The hat can be knitted entirely on DPN's or you can change to a circular needle once the hat is big enough.
..Stitch markers 


Knit front and back (Kf/b).  Place your working needle into the front of the stitch on your main needle as you normally would and knit, before you slip the stitch off the needle, knit into the back of the same stitch - then slip the stitch off the needle.  This is an 'increase' stitch.
Knit 2 together (K2tog).  Insert your working needle into the front of the second stitch on your main needle and then through the front of the first stitch on your main needle.  Knit them both together.   This is a 'decrease' stitch.  (If you are right handed, the main needle is the left hand and the working needle is the right hand).


Cast on 8 stitches

'The Hat That Sally Made'
Row 1:     Knit the front and back of each stitch - (16 stitches)  Place 4 stitches onto each DPN and get ready to join - being careful not to twist your stitches.
Row 2:    Purl all stitches.  Traditional patterns tell you to place a stitch marker at the beginning of this row to indicate the start of the round, but I find they always fall off when using DPN's - so I always purl 1, then place a stitch marker.  This way it stays in place.
Row 3:     *K1, K1Front and Back* repeat to the end of the round. (24 stitches).
Row 4:     As you purl this row, place a stitch marker every 3 stitches.  It is handy to have the first stitch marker a different colour to ensure you know where the beginning of the round is.

Row 5:     *K1F/B, K to next stitch marker, slip marker* repeat to the end of the round - there should now be 4 stitches between each marker.
Row 6:     Purl 

Repeat rows 5 & 6 until there are 10 stitches between each marker - there should be 80 stitches.

Continue knitting in garter stitch - knit 1 round then purl 1 round for a further 12 rounds.  If you would like a more 'slouchy' hat, then knit for 16 rounds.

Decrease (K2tog) 10 times, evenly across the round.

Most patterns will tell you to change to smaller needles at this point, but because I am using a thick wool, I kept the original sizing for the brim for fear that it would be too tight at the end.

Brim - You can either use a 4 x 2 rib or a 2 x 2 rib.  Repeat for a total of 10 rounds.
Loosely cast off.    Note:  at this point, I originally did a normal cast off but as the homespun had less elasticity than commercial wool, it was too tight, so I undid it, tried a looser cast off and the end result was much better.  Fitted perfectly.  The decision not to change to a smaller needle paid off.

Loose cast off instructions can be found here 

To finish:  thread the tail of the yarn invisibly through the stitches and snip off.

I added a button embellishment - and there you go, a winter hat ready for the cold that is coming - or so I am told.

Happy knitting,
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Sunday, 28 February 2016

Needle Felt Alpaca

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The room I use to store all of my craft goodies is pretty much full at the moment.  It's not a designated craft or sewing room as such, but a multi purpose space that is quickly being overtaking with fabric, yarn and assorted paraphernalia,  This is the reason I try not to purchase too many gadgets or things that take up extra room. Fabric and yarn can be added to existing boxes and shelves, but with gadgets and other crafting tools,  I find I need to work harder to justify the purchase to myself - I see this as a good thing!

Recently though it's become obvious that a new craft has been calling to us and I'm afraid it meant a trip back to our craft store to purchase everything we needed to start needle felting.  Andie and I have walked passed the kits and needles many times before when we were shopping, but it wasn't until Louise's alpacas were shorn that we realised that all of those little bits of fleece could be put to good use with felting and what better project to start with than a needle felted alpaca.

There's some really informative and easy to follow youtube tutorials for making needle felt alpacas, some require a specific kit, but making a basic alpaca shape using wool or polyester fill tied with twine and then needle felting straight onto that seemed like a great alternative.

The process of needle felting simply involves using the tool and pressing it into the fleece over and over again until it holds together like fabric.

After a morning of making the initial alpaca shape and then felting the fleece, the fun began when it was time to add the details, A face, ears and a tail quickly transformed the felt into something a little more lifelike.

Happy needle felting

Deb and Andie


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