Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Crochet Snowflakes

If you're new to this blog, you probably haven't had a chance to follow my  foray into the world of crochet.  My journey (which you can read about here) has been a joy and I'm always excited to embark on a new project.  Louise has mentioned earlier that I'm not a huge fan of the festive season, but that's generally due to the commercial pressure to purchase, making things for Christmas is well within my comfort zone!

Many years ago, my mother in law was decluttering and we ended up with what seems to be never ending roll of plain brown paper which we decorate and use to cover every gift we purchase.  So far it's been stamped, painted and drawn on, but not crocheted, until now...

White Crochet Cotton
Crochet Hook
Brown Paper and Sticky Tape


I used the instructions for crochet snowflakes from The Art of Crochet.  I'm still not fully conversant in the art of reading a crochet pattern, but the video tutorials are excellent and were easy to follow for a beginner like myself.

There are many ways to stiffen the snowflakes and while hairspray was very tempting, I opted for starch (hoping all the while that my out of date packet would still be up to the task) and simply added some starch to water and then ironed the snowflakes between a white tea towel until they were mostly dry.  I then left them to dry on paper towel for a day or so.

From there it is simply a case of wrapping, tying the raffia and adding our little snowflake embellishment, which then becomes a tree ornament for the recipient in years to come.

Maybe I could start to get into this Christmas thing after all...


More FitzBirch Crafty Christmas Ideas

Crafty the Snowman
Christmas Tea Cosy

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Monday, 26 November 2012

Knitted Lace? - Shawly Knot!

Simple Lace Shawl 
I have been wanting to knit lace for about the last 10 years.  I have some lace weight yarn, the needles, the books .. everything but the courage.  To be fair, I did start once but I put the knitting down to run an errand and could not for the life of me pick the pattern back up again.  I lost my way so I packed it gently away, always meaning to have another go.

In the meantime, I have spent the past year obsessively researching my family tree (to the detriment of my knitting) and I have become fascinated with all the women who came before me.  They were all English through and through, women from the country and women from the city, each with a story I have been meticulously researching. I can only assume that some of them knitted out of necessity and as the majority of the knitters would have been incredibly familiar with a shawl or two, I felt it was now my turn.

But where to start?  In the last month, I have discovered the Craftsy website and their wonderful range of online classes.  I did not initially sign up for shawls.  I enrolled in 'Toe-Up Sock Knitting' (of course) and then received an email to say that my next course was half price.  It was then that I saw 'Sweetheart Shawls' with Kristin Omdahl.  This increased my confidence, someone to guide me along the way and the fantastic thing was that I could pause, rewind and go at my own pace.

I chose a laceweight kid silk in pale blue, went online and started.  All seemed to be going well but it just doesn't look right.  I saw all the pictures of lace shawls on Pinterest and Ravelry and they looked very fine and detailed.  Mine looks a little 'fluffy'.  The more I read, the more crucial the blocking of a shawl is, so I  ordered a large blocking mat (a set of interlocking Yoga mats .. I wanted something a little bit portable) and a set of blocking wires to make stretching the shawl easier.  I wasn't confident enough to trust my usual 'steaming' method as I was not sure what this would do to the very fine yarn.  Still, I was very apprehensive - I couldn't imagine that the light as a feather knitted fluffball will ever look like the shawl I was hoping to create.
The Shawl just off the needles, after soaking and the blocking process.  Nervous Times!

So,  I knitted and knitted, I spent a whole week binding of with the three petal Jasmine bind off, soaked and blocked and behold .. a sweetheart shawl gradually emerged.  A real one.
I couldn't believe it, but then, I never really doubted it ...

1st Shawl finished - Ready to start another

Happy knitting,

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Friday, 23 November 2012

Crafty the Snowman .. 5 Minute Re-usable Decoration

Snowman? Gift? or Decoration?
Got 5 minutes to spare? This cute decoration was literally made in that amount of time using an assortment of things I have in my craft supplies.  However, I am not prepared to sacrifice them for the sake of a snowman no matter how cute the end result. I have plans for them later on.
This method is temporary.  At the end of the festive season, it pulls apart and all your goodies are ready to re-use.  If you have a friend who loves filet crochet, what better way to package a neat little gift for her.

Materials Required

3 balls of differing sizes for the body
1 knitting needle
1 bowl or stand to anchor the snowman
piece of Plasticine, fimo or florist oasis to hold the knitting needle steady
1 used Nespresso coffee pod for his hat
2 buttons
8 pins
1 bead

Step 1.  Push a large piece of plasticine down into the bowl.  This holds the knitting needle steady.  Place a piece of paper or card over the plasticine to keep the base of your ball of wool clean.

Step 2.  Thread the balls over the knitting needle

Step 3.  Push the pins through the buttons and through the ball to secure them in place.

Step 4.  Use 2 pins for the eyes.  I used a pin through a red bead for the nose.

Step 5.  Using a number of pins, pin through the base of the coffee pod to hold his hat in place.

Step 6.  Tie a scarf around his neck and he is ready to go.

And like all snowmen, at the end of the season, he can quietly disappear.

Happy crafting and Happy Christmas,

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Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Knitted Door Stop

A knitted window box that is not going anywhere.
Here in Perth, we have a magnificent afternoon sea breeze called the 'Fremantle Doctor' which roars in and helps keep the scorching summer temperatures down.  It's fabulous when it comes in and we make sure that all the windows and doors are flung wide open.

We used to buy small door wedges to keep the doors open but our dog used to think they were chew toys and the only method that worked was a brick wrapped in fabric.  However, after 8 years, I figured it was time for something new.  The brick method works well, so I decided that an update was called for.

I wanted it to look like a flower pot or window box and my initial intention was to crochet something similar to a tissue box cover.  After a number of attempts I decided that I wanted a knitted look as I didn't want to be able to see any of the brick through the the crochet.

I came up with a very simple pattern using 'brick' stitch (a bit of knitterly humour there).
The pattern can be found here.
Brick Stitch Pattern by New Stitch A Day

Method (this is not so much of a pattern - more of a 'how to' guide)

Firstly, wrap the brick so that it is easy to work with and won't snag the yarn.  I used a double fold of tissue paper as this was all I had but you could also use quilt wadding.  This might be slightly better for any stubbed toes although I can't be too sure of this.

 It would definitely be a good idea to swatch this as the measurements could be completely different depending on the wool you use and the size of brick. Basically, you need to start at the bottom edge of the brick.  The first 10cm or so is the brick face.  The 2 ends that you create by increasing are the  pieces that drop down over the ends of the brick and the rest of the knitting is the second face and the bottom.

Cast on 41 stitches (the brick pattern requires multiples of 4 + 1) and knit for approximately 10cms.
In the next row, cast on 16 stitches and continue pattern.
The knitted brick template
At the beginning of the next row, cast on a further 16 stitches.
Continue in established pattern for a further 10cm.
Cast of 16 stitches at the beginning of the next row.
Cast of 16 stitches at the beginning of the next row to get back to the original 41 stitches.
Continue for 15cm and then cast off.

Following the diagram, join edges 1 & 2 and then join edges 3 & 4.
Join edges5 & 6 and then 7 & 8.
Then join edges 9 & 10 and then 11 & 12.  Sounds a bit complicated?  Then as you sew, make sure you sew the cosy around the brick with the right side of the knitting facing each other an turn inside out when you come to join the final seam.  It will all come together.

As I have so much fun crocheting roses, I spent a couple of enjoyable evenings making the flowers out of a left over ball of Zauberball sock wool.  The graduations in this wool was just perfect for the roses and I loved how they turned out.  Link to crocheted roses

Happy Knitting

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Monday, 19 November 2012

The problem with French Knitting...

I'm quite sure French Knitting has kept many generations of children busy for hours at a time.  I do remember that if any wooden cotton reels became free when I was a child, my father was pestered into hammering in four nails and my sisters and I would then proceed to make many lengths of knitted cord with whatever wool our Mum would part with.  I can't recall ever actually making anything with the cord though and to be honest even now the options seem quite limited as to what to do with the proceeds of all that work...and that is the problem.

This year my daughter rediscovered the joys of French Knitting and Louise, my sister and  co-blogger, came up with a fabulous idea for some Christmas decorations so we thought we'd give them a try.


French Knitter
Red and Green Wool

Knit 25-30cm (approx 1 ft) of cord leaving a long length of yarn on both ends, one for sewing and one to make a loop.  Form the cord into five petal shapes and sew at the centre using the length of wool/yarn attached.  I sew one petal at a time.  Make loop for hanger. Add button embellishment.

As I was hanging these in the garden to photograph a bee came and landed on our little knitted flowers and I couldn't help but think how delightful it would be to have these hanging in the garden in the middle of Winter when everything is quite bare.  Minus the buttons and I can see our own little garden yarn bombing beginning to take shape...although, these ones will be hanging on our Christmas tree first!


More FitzBirch Crafty Christmas Ideas

Crafty the Snowman
Christmas Tea Cosy

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Friday, 16 November 2012

Woolly Wreath

Get ready to use up all your scraps of wool

I had a Christmas wreath that I cherished because it was my Grandmothers.  It wasn't an old family heirloom or anything, it was plastic and only about 10 years old but I kept it for sentimental reasons.  Unfortunately, a few Christmas's ago, it fell to pieces and thus the hunt for a new wreath for the front door began.

I fell in love with a 'Minties' wreath.  Our iconic white and green lolly was glued around a wire which ends up looking inviting, festive and delicious.  It looked great and I hung it up, stepped back to admire it and went to work.  The Australian sun was not too kind to it and I came home to find a sticky, gooey mess running down my front door and making an even gooier mess on the step.  This was a strictly indoors type of wreath.
Then I stumbled upon an idea for a woollen one - was there ever a better wreath for a knitter?  In fact, it isn't even knitted.
  • 1 wire coat hanger that has been unwound and made to form a circle (see picture below)
  • Wool in various shades of Christmas
  • Wool sewing needle
  • Old pair of knitting needles that you feel you can part with.
The idea behind this wreath is to thread balls of wool over the wire to form a circle.
I started by winding the scraps of wool into different sized balls.  Once you have finished winding, take a wool needle and thread the end of the wool back into the ball.  It is best to do this once you have finished each ball.  I stood up at one stage and 4 neatly wound balls fell to the floor, undoing about half and hours worth of winding.
I then arranged them loosely around the wire to get a festive looking arrangement and one-by-one, threaded them.  I only hooked a small portion of the ball and did not try to go through the middle as they are too tightly wound plus I didn't want them in a neat little row.   Once they are all in place it is just a simple matter of sewing a few of the loose balls into position to keep everything tight.  I then sewed on the small glitter balls to give it a bit of sparkle, added a few knitted christmas stockings, popped in the old knitting needles (and I mean old) and it is ready to go.

Free Mini Christmas Stockings Pattern  The cute little stockings look lovely and festive on the wreath but they can also be used as a decoration for the tree.  Be warned .. it takes a lot of knitting to fill a 6ft Christmas tree.  You might want to start soon.

This wreath fills the gap where my Grandmothers used to be and, I can't be too sure, but I think the set of  knitting needles used to be hers.  This one should stand the test of time - unless we have a plague of silverfish.

FitzBirch Crafty Christmas Ideas

Crafty the Snowman
Crochet Snowflakes

Happy knitting,

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Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Knitted Tie

Apparently, knitted ties are back!  I love how fashion goes in cycles and I'm longing for the day I can wear stilletos with lace edged socks again (with special thanks to ZZ Top), but for now I'm content to sit back and knit a tie while I wait for one of my favourite teen fashion trends to reappear.

This is a mash-up of a pattern I found on the Lion Brand Yarn website (you can find the original here)


Using black 8 ply yarn and 2.5mm needles cast on 320 stitches.
Rows 1 to 11: knit
Row 12: knit to last 2 stitches, knit 2 together
Row 13: knit
Rows 14-19: rep rows 12 and 13
Cast off

To finish the tie, dampen and block.  There's a great tutorial on blocking at Purl Bee

Oh how I love the 80's


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Monday, 12 November 2012

An Edgy Christmas

A Crafty Knitted Garland
In my quest for a Christmas tree filled with knitted ornaments, I have been searching for a garland that can festoon my tree.  Something easy, quick and festive.  It turned out to be quite the search.  I just couldn't find anything that I wanted.

I tried I-cord - too plain.

Then I-Cord with sequins - too fiddly.

Then I-Cord with bobbles and beads - also too fiddly.

Finally, I found what I wanted.  Sawtooth edging. I know it  doesn't sound too Christmassy but I am confident it will look fantastic. Plus it has the added bonus of being very easy to knit.

The pattern is very simple.

Cast on 5 stitches
1st row - Slip 1, YO, K2Tog, YO, K2
2nd row (and every even numbered row) - Slip 1, K to end.
3rd row - Slip 1, (YO, K2Tog) twice, YO, K1
5th row - Slip 1, (YO, K2Tog) twice, YO, K2
7th row - Slip 1, (YO, K2Tog) 3 times, YO, K1
9th row - Slip 1, (YO, K2Tog) 3 times, YO, K2
11th row - Slip 1, (YO, K2Tog) 4 times, YO, K1
13th row - Slip 1 (YO, K2Tog) 4 times, YO, K2
15th row, Place bead, sequin or button of choice, bind off 8 stitches (until 5 stitches remain - 1 on right hand needle and 4 on left hand needle).  YO, K2tog, YO, K2.
Continue pattern from row 2 for as long as required.

...Found in Nicky Epstein's 'Knitting on the Edge'...

FitzBirch Crafty Christmas Ideas

Crafty the Snowman
Christmas Tea Cosy

Happy Knitting and Happy Christmas


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Friday, 9 November 2012

Loom Knit Market bag

I love finding a bargain.  I well remember the day I came home from a local charity shop with a bag of "Knitting Twine" purchased for the princely sum of $4.00.  My mind raced with possibilites.  I knitted up a little sample to see what a finished project may look like,  offered it to my sister for a project she was thinking about and finally reached the conclusion that "Knitting Twine" is quite a tricky medium to work with and I wasn't surprised that this lot ended up for sale in a charity shop.  It was possibly only this particular lot, but the tension of the yarn was such that it would try and ravel and unravel everywhich way I other words, it was a knitting nightmare!

I quickly came to the conclusion that whatever I made with this medium, I would have to be content with something quite rough and uneven.

And so it was, that after a couple of projects on the loom knitter (you can find them here) I had thought for a while that an open weave bag would be wonderful, so out came my 41 peg loom,  the largest one I own, and the knitting yarn and I was underway.

The pattern is:

Cast on and continue using e-wrap stitch until bag reaches desired size.  Cast off. (the video instructions on how to cast on and the first row of e-wrap stitch are here - although I use a slip knot on the horizontal peg, rather than wrap and cast off is here)


Cast on four stitches.
Continue back and forward in rows of plain stitch until desired length is reached.  Cast off

Sew bottom of bag together and sew bag handles in place.

I really like the way the bag turned out.  It's just right for our Sunday morning fruit and veg shop at the local markets and as I've got plenty of Knitting Twine left over, I just might make myself a few eco-friendly more.


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Other Loom knit projects:
Leg warmers

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Floral Wine Cosy 2

Happy Birthday to someone special ..

Once you start making wine cosies and realise just how easy and effective they are, the possibilities for creativity are endless.

Here is the latest cosy from FitzBirch craft.  Ideal for that special someone in your life.

This cosy was knitted using a very old stash of Patons Bluebell in Creme (M), Light Pink (C1) and Dark Pink (C2).

Pattern Instructions:-

Using DPN's size 4 and M (Creme) cast on 48 stitches.
Establish a K2, P2 rib and continue for 7cm.

In you final row of ribbing, increase between each set of K2's.  This will increase your stitches to 60.  It is important for the gingham pattern that the stitches be in multiple of 3's.

Continue in stocking stitch using M for 2 cm.

Gingham Pattern:
Using M K3, Using C1 (light Pink) K3.  Continue to end.
Repeat this row 2 more times (3 rows in total)

Next row - Using C1, K3, Using C2 (dark Pink) K3.  Continue to end.
Repeat this row 2 more time (3 rows in total)

Next row -
Using M K3, Using C1 (light Pink) K3.  Continue to end.
Repeat this row 2 more times (3 rows in total)

Continue in M and stocking stitch until you are approximately 6cm from the bottom of the bottle.

Repeat the Gingham pattern once more.

Continue in M and stocking stitch until you are approximately 1 cm from the bottom of the bottle.

Decrease 1 stitch at each end of each needle for every row until 4 stitches remain on each needle. 

Cut wool leaving a 10cm tail and using a wool needle, thread back through the stitches and pull firmly.  Secure tail.

Attach your crocheted flowers and your gift is ready to go.

Link to crocheted roses pattern.

More Cosy Patterns

Cheers and Happy Knitting,


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Monday, 5 November 2012

Handy hints for T-shirt transfers

While there is absolutely nothing wrong with a plain white T-shirt, there is a pleasure to be had in adding a design of your own choosing.  My 14 year old recently discovered that he had a couple of unadorned t-shirts in his wardrobe and so there was no time to be wasted in adding a little embellishment.  While it seems to be quite a simple process, there are a few little tricks it's worth noting when doing the transfers.  We use "Meter T-shirt Transfer Inject Paper", which they sell at our local art supply shop, but any brand will do, just make sure that you have an inkjet printer before you start.


inject fabric transfer paper
baking paper (glad bake in Australia or its equivilant)
ironing board

Once you have selected your transfer design and printed it onto the paper using your inkjet printer, it's time to set up the iron.  Now usually it's quite difficult to get a 14 year old interested in ironing, but I'm pleased to say I've been able to impart some ironing knowledge under the guise of "the t-shirt can't have any creases or the image will be ruined", so I can thoroughly recommend this project for parents everywhere!

  • Set the iron to cotton/linen and no steam.
  • Cut around transfer image to remove excess unwanted paper.
  • Place transfer paper face down onto t-shirt in position required.
  • Place sheet of baking paper over image.
  • Iron in place.  The instructions for our paper state that only 10-15 seconds is required to transfer the image, however we have found that the transfer is much more successful if we iron for approximately one minute, being careful to keep the iron moving at all times to prevent the t-shirt from burning.
  • Leave to cool
  • Carefully remove transfer paper and allow t-shirt to sit for about 24 hours prior to washing. 
The cutting off of the excess paper and leaving the transfer paper in place allowing it to cool, are the two processes that we have discovered that produce a better finish on the t-shirt.  Now that the t-shirts are done, I just have to find another craft project that will motivate my children to do more housework...I'm thinking something that involves cleaning the bath would work particularly well!


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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Frugal Fascinator

I've long thought that my tag line should be something along the lines of "The Frugal Crafter" or that perhaps I might sign off each blog update with "Yours frugally". If I can make something cheaply I will, and this fascinator is no exception. Given my frugal nature you may wonder why I would need a fascinator in the first place, they are a somewhat fanciful fashion accessory after all! You see I live in Melbourne and we have a rather famous horse race in November that not only stops the nation, but fills the stores with more ladies headwear than you could imagine.  The racing carnival spills over into the school yard and my daughter this year will be participating in school "Oaks Day", where everyone dresses up in their racing finery and it is she who will be wearing this pretty piece.

Base with wire frame and without

We wanted something of moderate size, but not quite Princess Beatrice proportions and thought a flat base with a floral accessory could work well.  Given my new found love of crochet, my first plan was to crochet a base and then stiffen it with starch.  I originally used the pattern from Midnight Knitter, but once complete realised that I wanted something bigger and stiffening it later was a bit tedious, so decided to look at it from another angle and made a wire frame and did single crochet around it.


The wire frame was simply made from florists wire that I already had on hand and the yarn was a leftover ball from another project.

We made the flower out of netting that was a $1 piece of curtain fabric in the remnants bin from our local Spotlight store.  Our original plan was to make a rose by folding a long strip of fabric in half and then rolling it  in a circle around a tight centre, but it didn't feel "shabby" enough, so changed tack and used the cut edge of the fabric as the right way up and made a looser flower which we then sewed in place.

One happy racegoer!

Yours frugally


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Thursday, 1 November 2012

Floral Wine Cosy

How Knitters wrap their presents ..

I've often felt that giving wine as a present, while always appreciated, can sometimes be considered a bit of an afterthought.  The addition of a knitted cosy turns a standard birthday gift into a thoughtful and personal present.

This cosy was made using left over metallic looking wool (no name - my Mum gave me a few balls without the label) and the addition of some oversized crochet flowers are the perfect embellishment.

Link to perfect crochet flower pattern

Easy pattern instructions:

Using DPN's (size 4.5 - 5) cast on 40 stitches and divide between 4 needles.
Establish a K2,P2 rib pattern and continue for 7 cm.

Increase 3 stitches evenly across each needle and knit in stocking stitch until you are 1 - 2 cm short of the bottom of the bottle of wine.

Decrease 1 stitch at each end of each needle in the following row.
then K 1 row

Continue these 2 rows until 4 stitches remain on each needle.  Cut wool leaving a 10cm tail and using a wool needle, thread back through the stitches and pull firmly.  Secure tail.

Attach your crocheted flowers and your gift is ready to go.

More FitzBirch Wine Cosy Ideas

Halloween Skeletons
Halloween Tarantulas
Spider Cosy

Cheers and Happy Knitting,


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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...