Thursday, 27 September 2012

Knifty Loom Knit Leg Warmers

Up until now, I have only used the straight loom knitter for a simple scarf or two and as I wanted to do a lot more experimenting with my newly discovered wooly craft, I thought a  project on a round loom would be just the thing to get me started.  These little leg warmers were an experiment from the start, but I love how they turned out, and in the process I've now mastered a couple of new stitches and learnt a few tricks along the way.

As the leg warmers were to be used for an exercise/dance class for a child, I didn't want to have the yarn too thick, so chose a baby weight 4ply wool, which has the added bonus of being available in the soft pastel colours that are so prevelant in ballet class leotards.  I used 4 x 50g balls of Bella Baby 50% Merino Superwash and chose 2 in lilac and 2 in baby pink and the 24 pin loom/knifty knitter.  The leg warmers are knitted with two strands of wool at a time.

I wanted to start with rib stitch and found the instructions on youtube (which were actually for the brim of a hat, but worked very well for the leg warmers).  The video is a series of 2 and takes you from casting on through to forming the actual rib stitch and although Dawn is demonstrating a knit 2, purl 2 rib, it perfectly shows how to do each stitch and is easily amended for a knit 1, purl 1 rib.


Using 2 strands of colour 1, work 10 cm (approx 4 inches) of knit 1, purl 1 rib stitch

When I first started what would eventually be 10cm of rib stitch, I was quite dismayed at the amount of time it took to complete just one row.  The purl stitch in particular is quite time consuming on the loom and I was tempted to put the loom away and get out my trusty old knitting needles instead.  Once I saw the result though, I completely changed my mind.  The rib stitch combined with the soft 4ply wool gave a wonderful "shabby chic" look that I simply adore.  In fact , I'm thinking my next project will be done entirely in rib - I just can't seem to get enough of it.  One thing I found useful is to always make the first peg to the right (or left if you are right handed) of the small stick out peg on the rim,  a knit stitch.  I had to undo the rib twice as everytime I had a break and went back to work, I chose the wrong stitch to start on and ended up with something that didn't look anything like rib!!

Once you have completed the rib, pull the initial "cast on" stitches over the loom pegs (ensuring the the rib rows line up) and work as per a normal knit row by pulling the lower stitch over the upper stitch.

I wanted the bottom rib of the leg warmers to form a cuff, as the dancer they are being made for has very rather thin ankles and we needed some bulk in that area so that the leg warmers didn't flap about as she was moving.  The cuff can simply be rolled up, or even just knitted to 5cm if you wanted to skip this stage.

Using colour 1, purl one row

Knitting the purl row first ensures that the item is knitted inside out on the loom.  When changing colours for stripes, it's then a simple matter of looping the 4 strands (two different colourways) over each other, as shown, to produce a neat finish.

Using colour 1, knit one row (using e-wrap stitch as shown in video)

I chose garter stitch (one row purl, one row knit) to give the main body of the leg warmers a bit of texture and bulk.

*Using Colour 2 -  purl 1 row, knit 1 row
Using Colour 1 - purl 1 row, knit 1 row, purl 1 row, knit 1 row*
Continue pattern from * to * until work contains 8 pink stripes
Using colour 1 - Purl 1 row, Knit 1 row
Work 10 cm (approx 4 inches) of knit 1, purl 1 rib stitch 
Cast off.

I didn't make the top rib into a cuff, but left it as a 10cm piece of rib so that the dancer can fold it, or not, as she pleases.  Our leg warmers have a total length of 45cm (approx 18 inches) but can be made shorter or longer depending on how many stripes you include in the main garter stitch section.  To cast off, I found this video particularly helpful.

Happy loom knitting


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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Simple Knitted Christmas Baubles

As I've mentioned before, I am determinded to have my tree filled with knitted decorations and to that end I have been experimenting with knitting some christmas balls.

The concept is simple.

Using a set of 5 DPN's and the wool of your choice, cast on 20 stitches leaving quite a long tail.  This becomes the loop that will hang your ornament from your tree.

Divide them into 5 stitches per needle and join being careful not to twist the stitches.  Before you start, decide on a pattern.  My cabled red ball is a simple 2x2 cable, the green ball is moss stitch and the white ball is plain knitting with pearl beads. 
1st row: Knit
2nd row: increase in each end stitch of each needle (8 stitches increased)

Repeat these 2 rows until you have 15 stitches on each needle

Knit 9 rows following your established pattern. 
Then it is a case of reversing what you have done.

1st row: Decrease in each end stitch of each needle
2nd row: Knit

Anything goes when it comes to designing these Christmas Balls
Repeat these 2 rows until you are back to 5 stitches per needle.

Using a wool needle, thread them through the stitches, pull firmly and secure.

Fill with cotton filler.  This is the tricky bit believe it or not.  I am still trying to perfect the knack of achieving a Christmas ball rather than a Christmas oblong.  The key is to pack it tightly.

Using the long tail, thread a wool needle again, slip stitch around the opening, gently pull to secure and create a loop that will hang your decoration.

I have knitted balls in moss stitch (Seed stitch), using cables, using glitter wool and cotton.  Each time the effect is the same.  Another adorable knitted knick knack to hang from your tree.

Happy Knitting,

Monday, 24 September 2012

Three Seam Valance

 Three Seam Valance

I've discovered there's a thing that teenage boys do that can be really annoying!  It creeps up on you and at first  seems quite trivial and is easily ignored, but eventually it's so glaringly obvious that it's impossible not to notice.  It's not until their trousers are just a touch too short to be socially acceptable and it feels like you're  forever buying new clothes that you begin to understand  the bad moods and attitude are  the least of your worries, it's the fact that they can barely fit under a doorway, that's causing all of the problems.   I am actually delighted that my sons continue to grow and that my eldest is currently standing at around six feet tall.  As someone who never quite made it to five foot three, I can see there are enormous benefits to having some height, but goodness it's been costing us a fortune.

It recently became apparent that our eldest had outgrown his single bed and the time had come to get him something a little more suitable to his length.  As both my sons have quite narrow bedrooms we decided that a double bed would be too wide, so we purchased a king bed that split in half to provide two king singles, thereby eliminating the need to purchase a new bed for our other son later on.  Of course the purchase of a new size bed involves the purchase of new size bedding and off we went for new quilts, quilt covers and sheets to fit, just leaving the valance to sort at a later date.   It was while I was clearing out  the old sheets and covers that I thought perhaps there was an easy way to make a valance, rather than spend more and it would certainly save having to throw at least some of the old sheets away (I'm quite sure no charity shop would be interested in our old bedding!)

Materials (to fit Australian size king single bed, or can be shortened to fit standard single)

One single bed flat sheet
Measuring tape
Tailors pencil
Sewing machine.

Seam 1


To ensure you have the correct size sheet for your bed, place the sheet over the bed base and it needs to touch the floor on all sides except the top of the bed.


Measure bed base from floor on one side across the width of the bed to the floor on the other side.  In my case this measurement was 154cm (approx 60.6 inches)  My single bed sheet was wider than this  so I measured and cut to the correct width and then sewed a small seam on the edge of the sheet. (Seam 1)

Seam 2 (and repeat for seam 3)


To finish the corners, measure the distance from the top of the bed base to the floor.  In my case this was 33cm (approx 13 inches).  Measure and mark this distance from the corners that will be at the base of the bed and fold the corner exactly in half to form a triangle, ensuring that the marked measurements meet.  Sew a line from the mark, at 90 degrees, to the diagonal fold eg. the line of the tape measure in the lower picture.  Do this for both bottom ends of the valance. (Seam 2 and 3).

Place on bed base.

I loved that this project was so quick and that I managed to get a photo of at least one of my son's bedrooms while it was reasonably tidy (and even then I had to crop the photo a little!)


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Sunday, 23 September 2012

Canterbury Tales

I've recently become what I like to call a "Minimalist Consumer".  It was only a matter of time before my logical brain came to the conclusion that my constant need to declutter was due to the constant purchasing of said clutter and that the only way around it was to make our disposable income far less disposable.  We've totally reorganised our spending and the withdrawals from our account are now designed to cover our weekly grocery spend, perishable food at the local market, petrol and the daily ins and outs of family life.  There's no allowance for "stuff" and it's been a revelation.  Our rubbish bins are now only half full on collection day, walking through a shopping centre provides no temptation whatsover and while there's still quite a bit of clutter to go, I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Unfortunately, when we were devising our new spending plan, I forgot to add in an allowance for things I might want need for craft.  Oooops.

For about six months now I've been driving past Sunspun, a little craft shop on Canterbury Rd, just between the gorgeous shopping strip at Maling Rd and  the traffic lights at Balwyn Rd, Canterbury.  It's a very busy section of roadway and  I'm always on my way to something and in heavy traffic when I drive past their door.  While the little "A" frame sign out the front has been  beckoning me with it's tempting words of what lies within, the opportunity to sample the delights of what is obviously a lovely place to spend some time,  just hadn't arisen...and now that I wasn't actually spending any money, would it still be as enjoyable as I'd once envisioned? 


The short answer is yes!

I went with a plan.  Having recently taken up crochet, I decided that my one 4.5 hook I'd purchased from a discount store probably wasn't ideal and Louise has told me a few times that knitting with great needles makes a difference.  Surely it was the same with crochet?  So it was going to be a new crochet hook and then perhaps some wool, but only if it was discounted.

Sunspun is one of those heavenly little shops crammed with wool of every type and colour tone, patchwork fabrics that cry out to be cut and sewn, kits, books, buttons and more, all of which stretch from what seems like floor to ceiling.  Given my plan, my eye was immediately drawn to the little baskets of discounted wool that lay temptingly around the store.

I located the knitting and crochet paraphernalia  and decided to purchase the Knit Pro 4.00mm crochet hook (soft grip).  I really had no idea there are so many crochet hook styles.  While I purchased the "Soft Grip" this time, I think when I'm ready to move onto the next hook size I could be tempted by the wood, all in the name of crochet research of course! 

As for the discounted wool... I picked out a couple of balls of Zara Merino in a divine shade of palest blue.  Lucky for me, it was a different dye lot to the rest of the stock they had on the shelf and so reduced accordingly.

 ...oh and a note to my children, please don't bring any notes home from school asking for cash for an excursion, my purse is currently empty...


Friday, 21 September 2012

Icicle Tiara

It may surprise you, but in my day to day life I have no need for a tiara.  For reasons unknown they are generally frowned upon at the fruit and veg markets, the school run and the social outings I attend.  I really do need to start getting invited to more formal events!  Thankfully, I have a daughter who dances so I can get my fill of bling through her.

This is the first style of tiara I ever made, so I  consider it to be at the easier end of the beadwork spectrum, however be warned it did take its toll on my fingers, which seemed to be devoid of skin by the time I'd finished.  For this piece I used glass beads in an assortment of shapes and sizes with silver non-tarnish artistic wire, but  you can equally use plastic or crystals in different colours and wire that you find at your local discount store - the choice is entirely yours.


Assorted beads (all up this project used approx 55 beads, including various sizes and shapes of glass beads, pearls and silver beads)
Metal headband
Artistic Wire (I used gauge 22 for the beads and gauge 24, which is thinner, to wrap the entire headband at the end, but you can use one size wire for the entire project)
Beadwork pliers and crimper (optional)


Choose 20 assorted beads, I generally choose the 20 largest beads to be upright on the tiara, and leave  smaller beads to be wrapped and attached to the base.  Cut approx 20 lengths of 22 Gauge artistic wire (or whichever wire you have to hand). These lengths need to vary from between approx 10cm to 13cm (approx 4-6 inches) in length.  I then place these horizontally in a row with the longest length in the centre and the shortest lengths to the outside edges.  This is so the tiara has a small peak in the centre.

 Wrapping the wire through the bead

I've photographed the process of wrapping the wire through the bead, but there is a fabulous video tutorial from Threadbanger which takes you through the wrapping process.  For this tiara, I did one bead per wire and didn't worry about how many twists I made, but left enough wire at the end to wrap onto the metal headband.  As you can see from the video, there's many ways of designing a gorgeous headpiece.  Once you have wrapped 20 beads on individual wires, it's time to attach them to the wire headband base.

 Attaching the beads and wrapping wire and beads around the base

To attach the beads to the headband, wrap the wire that you left at the base of the bead around the headband.  This needs to be done quite tightly and I do one side clockwise and one side counter-clockwise.  Once all of the beads are attached, the final process is to cut one long length of artistic wire (approx 1 metre) and wrap the end tightly a few times where your last bead is attached to the headband.  Now wrap the wire tightly around the base overlapping the already attached wire from the beads.  Add beads as you go and continue to wrap until you reach the end.  Wrap tightly to finish


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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sock Knitting 101

18 Balls and Counting ..
I often wonder what is in the packages that other people are collecting when I am waiting in line at the post office.

Today though, I didn’t for I only had eyes for mine. Perhaps if someone was in the line behind me and was looking at my parcel from Germany they might wonder what it was. 

Well, let me tell you .. 11 balls of self patterning sock wool in all manner of colours.   At last count my stash of sock wool stands at 18 balls.  Not even a gentle ribbing (pun intended) from Deb could make me think that this was in any way excessive.

I figure, if I made a pair every 2 months, this stash would only last 3 years.  Sometimes, however, I can knit 2 or 3 pairs over the school holidays so this brings the sock total to about 10 a year and that is only enough wool to last just under 2 years.  PLUS, if I make them as presents for co-workers (and sisters), then I barely have any at all.  Perhaps I should be ordering some more?  

Socks in progress
What is this obsession with socks though?!  

You shouldn't just take our word for it.  Sock making is something that needs to be experienced and enjoyed, but where do you begin?  
We have come up with an instruction booklet to guide you through that first pair of socks.  It is straightforward, conversational and is a gentle introduction to the art of sock knitting.  You will be wearing you first pair of hand made socks in no time.

Sock Knitting 101 Tutorial - Free download

Let us know how you get on.  We would love a progress report and, of course, to see some photos of both the socks and the happy sock maker. 

Please note, we cannot be held responsible for any sock wool stash that may occur as a result of this booklet.

Have you tried loom knitting?

Instructions for loom knitted socks.  If you have a craft loom and are not sure what to do with it, why not knit socks?

Happy Knitting


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Monday, 17 September 2012

Sibling Ravelry

 Posy Cosy

Deb and I have always tried to make things together.  This, obviously, became much easier the older we got.  We learned all our art and craft together and we would often knit together in the evenings with Mum.  I am 3 years older than her so quite often I would prefer to do my own thing but every now again, we would work quietly together - just so long as she listened to what I had to say and followed my instructions.

I've mentioned here before that we quilted for quite some time together when our children were small.  Our days were spent in a flurry of cutting and sewing and laughing, only stopping when I had to collect my children from school.

However, as sometimes happens in families, Deb moved to England and then Melbourne and our craft making days together seemed to be over.  That is, until we started FitzBirch.  Both of us were still sharing our ideas and skills and it was the next step in our crafting life together.

Making a quilt when I am in Perth and Deb is in Melbourne seems a bit of a logistical dilemma so we thought we would start small.  Combine our love of knitting, crochet and having a cup of tea together by making some tea cosies.  I would knit the cosy and Deb would put her newly acquired crochet skills to use by embellishing them.

I have never made one before which is a bit odd considering I own 4 teapots and am always looking for more.  I love a good cup of tea and I still laugh when I remember when I went to visit Deb in England and the very first thing we did wherever we went, was to find a little coffee/tea shop and have a cuppa.  The fact that Deb had her 3rd child whilst I was there and she still took it upon herself to show me around may have had something to do with it. 

I used the same template for each cosy but wanted 2 distinct looks. 
We wanted a delicate 'English Cup of Tea' look for the first one.  Very simple with a smattering of flowers on the top. 

And as we are inching closer to the big day, I thought a Christmas Cosy would be a good idea.  Another Christmas item to bring out to keep the festive cheer alive ..

Floral Cosy - medium sized tea pot
Cast on 84 stitches and knit 4 rows in K1, P1 rib.
5th row - K40, cast off next 4 stitches and K to end
6th row - P40, turn
Continue for 38 more rows.

Join wool to remaining 40 stitches and K40 rows in stocking stitch.
Change to DPN needles (10 stitches per needle)
1st row - K to end (join up)
2nd row - decrease (K2tog) at each end of each needle.
Continue row 1 & 2 until 2 stitches remain on each needle.

Using a wool needle, thread the wool through the stitches and pull together. 
Sew the bottom of the cosy together and you are done.

Christmas Rib Cosy - the pattern is identical except that it is ribbed throughout.
Pom Pom instructions. 
These pom poms are just the right size for a tea cosy.  No mess, no fuss.  They couldn't be easier - Quickest, Easiest Pom Poms made using a fork - Instructions

Ok Deb, all done - the cosies are in the mail.

Fast forward one week later at Deb's house...

I'd been learning to crochet for approximately 3 weeks when Louise suggested a collaborative project.  I have to admit I was a little panicked at the thought of my beginner crochet skills being coupled with Louise's advanced knitting knowledge, but I thought at the very least it would push me to learn quickly!  I received  two expertly knitted cosies in the mail and set about working on the first, which we had decided in advance would have some floral decoration.  I tried a few different flowers and finally decided on oversized roses for the embellishment. 

The rose pattern I used was from Free Craft Unlimited, using the three smaller sized roses and it's actually the first time I've used a crochet pattern, rather than rely on video tutorials.  This was quite a step for me (if you want to see the rest of my crochet journey you can find it here). For the leaves I used the pattern from Crochet Spot, but only did "Row One" as the leaves were quite large and I didn't want them to overwhelm the project.

I have to say, I'm delighted with how the tea cosy turned out.  I'm now fully conversant with crochet flowers and best of all, Louise and I never did decide who was going to end up having the finished product, so I've kept it here...

Now I just have to stop all of this tea drinking and start working on the Christmas cosy!


P.S.  The cake in the top photo is a delicious coconut cake from the "4 Ingredients 2" cookbook that is so easy I can't help but share.  It's 1 cup each of Desiccated Coconut, Milk, Caster Sugar (I just use plain if I've run out) and Self Raising Flour.  Mix ingredients in a bowl, add to lined loaf tin and place in the oven at 180 degrees C for 40 minutes. Enjoy with a cup of tea.

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Thursday, 13 September 2012

Simple Summer 'Swish' Poncho

There are some beautiful summer wraps and scarves around and I particularly love piano shawls.  I have looked for antique ones in the hope of one day owning one but without any luck so far.  However, wraps and scarves keep falling off my shoulder and I end up readjusting them so many times that once I held a shawl together with a paper clip.  A shawl pin would have been handy at the time but when you are dealing with cotton and fine fibre, sometimes they are a bit bulky and can weigh down the wrap.
I really like the look of them though and came up with the idea of a summer poncho in black cotton.  Something with a long fringing similar to a piano shawl but something that would stay in place without the need for readjustment or pins.  Originally I wanted to knit it but I also wanted it to be very, very loose and open so I decided that crochet would be the way to go. 

Summer Swish Poncho

I crocheted it using ‘Solomon Knot’ (or lovers knot) and it is really very simple.
Solomons Knot Instructions
(including instructions for left handers)

One tip that I used when making this poncho is :-
when you do the yarn over and pull through at step 3, I used the thumb of my left hand (I am a right handed crocheter) as a measure each time.  This ensured consistency.
I crocheted a chain long enough to drape comfortably on my shoulders.

Then, it’s join up the chain and crochet until desired length. 

How simple is that?  I added quite a long fringing at the bottom as I wanted a bit of ‘swish’ when I wore it.  This is done by getting 2 threads of the cotton that are about 40cm long.  I inserted a crochet hook through each join at the bottom.  I hooked the middle of the 2 threads, pulled them through and then did a chain stitch.  To finish it off, I tied a little knot at the end of each thread - a job best done whilst watching TV.

Happy crocheting.


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Button Wreaths

Despite being previously outed as a person for whom Christmas isn't a favourite time of the year (you can read about it here), even I admit that it is a joy to see the pure pleasure of children during the festive season.  I remember as a child helping to decorate the tree and making garlands out of tissue paper to be wildly strewn along our hallway.  I'm even quite positive there must have been some sort of macaroni artwork and Santas made from toilet paper rolls.  Now that I have my own family, our yearly unpacking and packing of decorations is usually met with "Oh, do you remember this", "Can we put the fairy that I made at Kindy on the tree this year" and "I love these little mice that Nan made".  There really is something wonderful about homemade decorations!

For this post I thought I'd do a decoration that could involve both the kids and adults.  It's not recommended for under 3 year olds due to the swallowing hazard from the buttons, but anyone over that age will be fine.  It's probably best for an adult to do the gluing as it can be quite fiddly (and the glue I used specifically said "Keep out of reach of children", so that's another good reason!)


Assorted buttons


For younger children a great learning activity can be sorting the buttons into size and colour.  We used the larger buttons as the base and smaller buttons in front in contrasting colours, but mix, match and overlap as you please.  Layout in desired design.  Glue in place. Tie ribbon through centre of wreath and tie in a bow/knot.

I can't wait to add these to our collection of decorations this year and a few might even end up as adornments to our gift wrapped presents.

Happy crafting!


Monday, 10 September 2012

Left Handed Crochet - Granny Square

When my husband's much loved grandmother passed away, six months before our first child was born, she left a stash of wool that a very kind Aunt then croched into an Afghan blanket for us.  Consisting of a mulititude of colours and a granny square design, this afghan  has been one of two family blankets that were always the first thing out of the cupboard whenever the children were unwell.  Through chicken pox (it was the days prior to immunisation), colds, infections, tummy bugs and just plain overtiredness, this blanket has seen it all.

From the start of my crochet journey, being able to put together a granny square has been high on my priority list and after learning chain, single, double, triple and slip stitch I decided to be brave and see if I had the technical knowledge to pull it off.  Turns out it's simply chain, triple (treble) and slip stitch...hooray.

I used Catherine Hirst's video tutorial, which was easy to follow and in no time at all my first granny square was well under way.

Granny Square

After growing a little tired of Lavender yarn, I've now spiced it up a little and added a couple more colours and although I was simply going to do a few more squares, this one kept growing and growing and is well on its way to becoming a blanket, even though the colour doesn't match one other item in my house.

 My First Crochet Afghan

At this stage I'm not adverse to unravelling and starting something a little more neutral, but I'm really enjoying the practice.  To make this pattern I've simply done the inner square with 5 rows of trebles and then each colourway is two rows of treble.


You can catch up on the rest of my left handed crochet journey here

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Thursday, 6 September 2012

2 Sisters Crafting .. and a Partridge in a Pear Tree ..

Christmas Tree Decorations

It is at Christmas that Deb and I reach the only impass in our relationship.  I love all things Christmasy but Deb refuses to be drawn into the consumerism that starts around September and will not budge until the Boxing Day sales. 

I can't say that I blame her but this year we have reached a compromise.  We shall have all the Christmas decorations, but we shall make them ourselves thus avoiding the hysterical spending and even more hysterical christmas shoppers.

Over the coming weeks, we will share our ideas of a handmade, crafty Christmas. 

For quite some time I have wanted a tree decorated solely with knitted items.  I have made a start but I think there are still quite a few Christmas's to go before I can fill it.  There are only so many miniature jumpers and stockings you can knit using cotton and 2.00mm needles before you cry out ''Enough!! - Where's the tinsel?''

Cute little decorations - Perfect for any tree
However, as far as decorations for knitters go, it's hard not to include these adorable jumpers/sweaters on your tree.  You can fashion mini coat hangers out of florists wire and the effect is very sweet.

I used a combination of red, green and white cotton (Milford Soft 3 Ply in Australia) to achieve a set of, what I think, are some of the lovliest decorations for a country christmas tree.

Happy Knitting,

More FitzBirch Crafty Christmas Ideas

Crafty the Snowman
Crochet Snowflakes

Monday, 3 September 2012

Jumper Under Construction ...

I would like to say from the outset that I can usually sew.  I love tapestry, cross stitch and quilting.  I won’t say that I am fast or particularly skilled .. I started a quilt for my daughter when she was 2 and it was finished in time for her 12th birthday.  Heirlooms can take time.
A few years ago when our children were small and we were living down the road from each other, Deb and I spent many, many happy hours quilting together.  To this day they are still some of the merriest  hours we have ever spent in each others company.  The reason for this preamble though, is that when it comes to sewing up jumpers, all my skills seem to desert me.

Readers of this blog will know that I am knitting a jumper for my son (you can read about it here).  A beautiful Bergere de France Aran knit.  It has taken many years for him to ask me to knit him something and I know that he will not be partial to a ‘quick sew job’ at the end.  He keeps asking me for updates – Will the sleeves be ready by the end of the weekend?  You know that I don’t want the collar too big?  Are you sure you should be drinking a cup of tea around my jumper?  (he knows me too well – another knitting disaster from years ago).  
Due to the desertion of my sewing skills, I have been experimenting with a ‘no-sew’ construction method which I thought I would put into full force with this jumper.  The only time I want to see a sewing needle is to weave in any end pieces of thread.

The first step is easy.  I knit the back and front together using circular needles.  I use different coloured stitch markers to differentiate between the front and back and I must say, I love this method.  You know that the front and back are going to match perfectly.  Plus, as you are knitting it circularly, you don't get to knit the wrong side which is usually purl (not that there is anything wrong with Purl - where would we be without it?).   

When I reach the arms and have to knit the front separately, I leave the back stitches on the circular needle and continue on the front with normal needles.   When it comes to casting off for the neck, I keep these stitches ‘live’ by placing them on a stitch holder.  I repeat this for the back.

Where it gets a little tricky is the casting off for the shoulders.  Rather than cast off, I knit short rows ie. If the row calls for you to cast off 9 stitches, I knit them, place a stitch marker and continue knitting.  The next row is knitted back to the stitch marker, the knitting is then turned and this process is continued for as many cast off rows as the patterns requires.   I also keep these stitches live and it is around this time that I run out of stitch holders.  Double pointed needles are fine in an emergency.
At this point, I join the shoulder seams by turning the jumper inside out and casting off the stitches of both the front and back together.  This produces a very even and secure seam.  Miraculously, the patterns match up - surely it's not just me that has sewn up a jumper only to discover that the pattern has gone a bit wonky.   This method of construction also allows the jumper to be tried on .. albeit with a little difficulty and many anxious moments.

Nearly Needle-less

All was going well and it was time to knit the collar which was relatively simple as all the stitches were live. I had intended to pick up stitches along the shoulder and arm shaping and knit the sleeve using circular needles.  In fact I tried twice but the pattern zig zag along the arm edge made the stitching too loose so, in the end, I knitted the sleeve on circular needles from the cuff upwards and then ever-so-gently-and-carefully, attached them.  It appears to have worked.  The shoulders match up, the sleeves aren't puffed, the stitching is not loose.  I nearly did it.  I nearly made it without any sewing.  I'm happy but the final decison is my sons.  He is the perfectionist and I'm nervous.
Happy Knitting,

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Happy Fathers Day

All the women in my family 'do something with their hands'.  Both my Grandmothers were prolific knitters as is my Mum who taught me how knit when I was six.  I sew, crochet and paint and, together with Deb, quilted for quite a while. My daughter Hayley cross stitches.  Deb knits, crochets and makes all manner of crafty items and my youngest sister Julia knits and cross stitches.  Deb's daughter (and my niece) Andie is helping mum with all sorts of crafts and it remains to be seen where her first craft love will lie..

Aside from teaching Deb how to knit left handed and banging nails on wooden cotton reels when we discovered French Knitting,  in all this whirl of crafty activity, my dad would sit quietly and read - that is until he moved into a house that had a large shed.  Since then, he has turned out the most astonishingly complex and beautifully made wooden boxes.  Firstly, he made me a wooden artist box with a slide out drawer to hold my paints.  The front folds down to make a desk easel and the interior of the box has been lined with white laminate so I could set up my still life pictures.  When I needed to stop painting for the day, I simply closed the lid of the box.  .

Then he made Julia a cross stitch box. 

Deb's sewing and craft box
After that he made Deb a sewing box to keep all her crafty items together.  It houses needles, cotton scissors and everything the serious crafter would need.

Last year he made me a beautiful 'knitting' box.  The top of the box lifts up to store the latest project (usually socks) and the drawers hold all my stitch holders, crochet hooks, tape measures and DPN's.  It's beautiful and I love it.

Treasured Knitting Chest

Sudoku & Pen and Pencil Set
One day I showed him a picture of a wooden Sudoku set.  He went away and made it and just in case I still wanted to do the Sudoku the 'old fashioned way', he made us all a Pen and Pencil set as well.  I bought him a book for Fathers Day about how to turn pens and pencils on a lathe, never expecting that we would be the lucky recipients of his craftiness.

Hayley's Cross Stitch Cabinet -
Devised from a conversation with her Grandad
about how an apothacary cabinet would be
great for cross stitchers.
But he outdid himself when it came to making a storage cabinet for Hayley.  This piece is a work of art.  All 3 of his daughters have a fabulous craft box but with Hayley, he went one step further and made a piece of furniture.  All the drawers are measured to make sure that the bobbins fit perfectly and the top drawers contain wooden insert trays so that Hayley can take out just the bobbins that she needs for her project.  The top part of the unit is a separate piece to make it just a little bit portable.  This box was made to compliment the existing cross stitch frame that he made.  The frame has an adjustable hoop (it's square but lets not split hairs here) and the frame also allows Hayley to place the chart at eye height which makes reading the chart a little easier.  The whole project was made around a single, cardboard bobbin.  He took it away with him to ensure that each drawer would comfortably hold them.  He listened to what Hayley was after, made a few scribbles on the back of envelope .. and this is the result.

Bread Box with built in chopping board
 Mum and Dad came for a visit yesterday and they brought with them my eagerly anticipated bread box.  The lid flips over to become a chopping board and it stores 2 loaves of bread and 6 bread rolls. (Perhaps now is not the time to tell him that my sourdough starter was a complete disaster).  He mentioned that he is making Deb a knitting loom and I found myself wanting one as well.
We like to think that our craftiness is fuelling his hobby.  It's a wonderful win-win situation.

So, Happy Fathers Day Dad.  Thanks for all your wonderful masterpieces that allow us to keep all our craft items (and bread) on display and never far from hand.


This is the latest masterpiece from our Dad - a wool winder.  It is just beautiful and does a wonderful job.

Squirrel Swift and Wool Winder
We had a big discussion on the best type of swift that would go with it so I can't wait to see what he comes up with.  Whatever it is, it will be beautiful and we will treasure it.

The plans are available here  for about $35AUD  for anyone who is crafty enough to make one.

Lots of Love,
Louise, Deb, Hayley and Andie

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...