Monday, 30 July 2012

I Wish I Was A Fashionista

I have a friend, Sondra, who lives in Mexico who exudes style.  She can wear anything and it looks fabulous.   Bit by bit, my fashion confidence has grown somewhat (thank you Trinny & Susannah) but it will never match that of my dear friend.

 Still, I try.  I see things in shops, on TV or the Internet and think, I can make that!  And I can!!  But the question remains - Can I wear that?

I've made a scarf that I've nicknamed 'Medusa'.  Eight strands of what looks like French knitting.  It looks good but I am not game enough to wear it.  Maybe it explains my obsession with socks.  I wear every pair that I've made and no one gets to see them. 

My sister Deb has made a knitted cowl that looks great but she is uneasy about wearing.  Why is this?   I think it's all about confidence - not confidence about wearing it, confidence about saying to people if they ask where you got it, that you've made it.  Then it's no longer just a scarf or a cowl, it's something that you've made that invites compliments or, heaven forbid, criticism. 

Still, easier said than done.  Cushions and blankets are safe, as are socks but it's time to make some scarier items.  Jumpers, vests and yes Deb, even the odd cowl.

I say - Wear It!  ..Maybe

Medusa Scarf Pattern

Using circular needles in the size recommended for your wool cast on approximately 150 stitches.

Knit 3 rows in stocking stitch

6th row: K6, then cast off all stitches until you come back to the original 6.
7th row: k6 (these 6 stitches form the 'spine' of the scarf which sits comfortably at the back of your neck) .. cast on a further 150 or so stitches. Varying the amount of the cast on stitches gives you the varying lengths of strands. Feel free to choose the sort of scarf you wish.

Knit 3 rows in stocking stitch

13th row: K6, then cast off all stitches until you come back to the original 6.
14th row: K6 and cast on a further 100 or so stitches and continue until you have 10 or 11 strands.

(The "Medusa" scarf pictured is knitted on 4.5 circulars with 8ply. The scarf lengths vary from 115 - 170 stitches)

Final row. Cast off all stitches.

(Based on a pattern originally found in the Australian Better Homes and Garden Knitting Bonus Issue)

Another example of a Medusa Scarf

Have fun experimenting with the many fantastic specialty wools available.

Happy Knitting


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Friday, 27 July 2012

Needles in Newcastle

A few months ago I went on a little shopping trip to Spotlight to buy myself some wool.  It wasn't a planned trip as I really didn't need any more yarn, but the days in Melbourne were starting to shorten, there was a particular chill in the air and my knitting needles were calling. 

I picked up enough wool that day for a few smaller projects.  A skein of sparkly silver wool quickly became a loose knit scarf, but the Moda Vera Fiammone, a super bulky yarn with slubs a plenty,  continued to flummox me.  I did start to knit up a scarf or two but quickly realized my stash of needles did not contain any that were large enough to deal with this winter weight wool and so the scarves were unravelled as quickly as they were started and I put my purchase aside while I waited for some larger needles to find their way to me.

Fast forward to a recent holiday to Lake Macquarie, a beautiful part of Australia an hour or so north of Sydney, where the sun seems to shine even in the depths of winter, a feat Melbourne has struggled with since we moved here five years ago (not that I'm complaining, we love Melbourne, it's just that slightly warmer weather with an extra day or so of sunshine wouldn't go astray).  We sampled food in the Hunter Valley, fed the pelicans at The Entrance,  whale watched, even though someone forget to tell the whales it was about that time of the year they were supposed to be making an appearance, and best of all spent a morning meandering around the fabulous Centenary Antique Centre in Newcastle.  It was here I  discovered there is nothing quite as exciting as wandering through a gorgeous space filled with vintage clothes, once treasured toys, old oak furniture, jewels, handbags  and antique china when you have a pair of 12mm knitting needles in your hand that you spied within thirty seconds of entering the building.  The needles aren't antique, but I happily parted with my $6 knowing that I could finally use my wool.

Back home in Melbourne, a simple pattern (Cast on 16 stitches, knit as many rows of stocking stitch as you please, cast off, sew seam) and my cowl is complete...finally!


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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Addicted to Socks ..

What can I say about my love affair with socks? 

They were, to me, the item that stamped the words 'serious knitter' on your forehead.  They were the item that separated the novice from the experienced and I was desperate to learn.  If I had known just how easy they are to make, I would have started years ago.

About 3 years ago, I treated myself to a $30 ball of sock wool for my birthday. I had never owned such expensive wool.  It came as a hank and I was nearly in tears trying to unravel the huge knot I ended up creating.  It took me 2 days and it was not an auspicious start and once I managed to get the wool in a ball shape, I put it away, fearful of touching it again.

Nearly a year later, I picked it up, determined to have 'serious knitter' in my resume.  I chose one of Melissa Morgan-Oakes 2-at-a-time socks.  I was not foolhardy enough to attempt the 2-at-time method, just one at a time was fine by me.

As I worked through them, I came to realize that they weren't as hard as I had thought.  In fact, I had to redefine my definition of a serious knitter.  It is now double knitting.  I've seen a Celtic knot work blanket that I want to master but that's a blog for another time.

I even started a sock knitting club at work .. Seriously!  Sock knitting de-mystification seemed to be a calling of mine for a while there.  I had learned the secret and was determined to pass it on to anyone who would listen.

They are the perfect 'in-between' project.  Something small to knit whilst trying to decide on the next big thing and our 5 week trip to Victoria saw me come back with 5 pairs of socks thanks to a fantastic wool store in Lakes Entrance. 

I'm currently knitting a pair of Cookie A's socks (kai-mei) in purple and blue 4 ply.  I have her book 'Sock Innovation' and if it's inspiration you  are after, then this book has it in spades.

One of my prized knitting items is my set of nickelplated sock knitting needles and  I always make sure that I have sock wool to hand . Which reminds me, I am down to my last 3 balls so it's time to order some more.  Hayley wants a pair of white, lacy socks so I believe that will be my next project.

Happy knitting.


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Monday, 23 July 2012

Sew easy Sylvanian Sleeping Bags

There was a time when I was terribly organised and kept a little stash of birthday presents on hand so that when the children brought home party invites it was a simple matter of raiding the present cupboard and selecting something suitable to give as a gift to the celebrating child.  Now that my tribe are older, my present stash has made way for simple cards with cash included, so that the partying teens can make their way to EB Games or JB Hi-Fi at their leisure to purchase the latest game, or top up their iTunes account.  That’s fine for my sons, but when my daughter Andie, who is officially a “preteen”, is invited to a birthday we tend to buy art and craft items or gift vouchers from the local accessory store, because after all there is nothing quite like a sparkling array of beads and baubles to thrill the heart of a young lady.  Recently though, Andie was invited to the birthday party of a fellow Sylvanian Families collector and we thought it might be lovely to sew a couple of Sylvanian Sleeping bags  to make the gift giving a little bit more special.

I’ve found the trick to making anything Sylvanian is to go with fabrics that have a very small pattern, so that it fits the scale of these petite woodland creatures.  I was thrilled to pick up a fat quarter of tiny toile in Big W a few months ago and this seemed the perfect time to make use of my find.

To make one sleeping bag:

Fabric – a rectangle of approx 20cm x 7.5cm (8 x 3 inches)
Trim - in this instance some broderie anglaise and some braid.  Only about 7.5cm (3 inches) of each.
Polyester Filling – about a teaspoon to a tablespoon worth should do. 

We’ve found this size is ideal for the Sylvanian children (not the babies, but the next size up) and the process is very easy as long as you turn and sew the fabric the right way, which took a couple of tries to get right when we first attemped this little project earlier in the year.

To start, hem both the smaller edges of the fabric and then fold down approx 4cm (1.5 inches) from one of these hemmed edges with right sides facing.  Sew the side seams of the folded section to make a pocket for the polyester filling.  Once sewn, turn the pocket out, insert the stuffing and sew along the base of the once folded pocket to form a little pillow. 

It’s always a joy at this moment to realise that there’s only three more seams to sew and we’ll be finished…this project really is that quick.

Sew the trims in place on the end opposite to the recently made pillow.  Fold fabric with right sides facing so that the trimmed edge is level with the base of the pillow.  Pin in place and then sew the side seams.  If you line up the sides you’ll be left with a little gaping hole in the middle, which is the perfect size for a Sylvanian to slip into.

And there you have it, your Sylvanians will be snug as a bug in a rug…or should that be as snug as a Katie Honeybear in a custom made sleeping bag?

Happy Birthday Tash


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Saturday, 21 July 2012

.. A Stitch in Lime ..

When my daughter Hayley moved out of home and took my heart with her I wanted to make something for her to remind her how much I loved her and missed her. I'd already knitted her a pair of socks but they merely say 'keep warm' not 'Mum's thinking of you'..

.. So I decided on a thick, wool blanket.  She chose the lime/guava colour ( I'm more a neutrals person).  When I say thick, it's 24 ply!  That's 3 balls of 8 ply knitted together using size 15 needles.  I try and use Bendigo Woollen Mills wool as much as possible as they are very reasonably priced.  Their balls are 200g which is the equivalent of 4 normal sized balls.

From years of trial and error, I have made the decision to knit only with wool where possible.  Whilst this might make me sound like a bit of a knitting snob, I have had too many acrylic disasters to feel comfortable knitting with anything else.  A pink shrug, knitted on circular needles with 600 stitches instantly comes to mind.  I could have used it as a couch cover.

I wanted a simple pattern that was easy to do in front of the TV and decided on a 5 stitch repeat of a mock cable pattern.   I cast on 153 stitches which will end up making a very comfortably sized double blanket.

the pattern is:
R1.     *K3, slip next stitch purl wise, knit 1, lift slip stitch with left hand needle and as you go to to pull it off the needle, knit it* K3

R2.   K3, P2 to last 3 stitches, K3

I'm a huge fan of Knit Pro interconnecting needles and I'm knitting it on circulars .. Just not joining it up.  This saves trying to jam all the stitches onto one needle.

Oh .. And I never knit the first stitch of any row. I always slip the first stitch to give a very neat edge. I despaired for years about loose edge stitches until I read about this tip ..
Once you get going, it's very simple!

However, there's no hurry now .. Hayley has moved back home so I can take my time .. It might be ready by the time she moves out in October.


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Drop Stitch Cowl

We were at a yarn market a couple of weeks ago and after speaking to some pretty fabulous yarn people all day long, I was struck with the...