Friday, 28 February 2014

Boot Toppers

It's a very long drive across Australia's Nullabor and as we are always in a hurry to get to Victoria and then in even more of a hurry to get back, it becomes an exceptionally long time to be sitting in the car.  We don't stop off and sight see so it means a lot of knitting time.  And I mean A LOT.

I usually knit socks - something quick and easily portable that can be put away quickly at refuelling stops as I dash out to pay for fuel and seek chocolate, but I was already knitting a sock and wanted something else.

My daughter had mentioned that she would like a pair of boot toppers and I had every intention of making her some whilst we were on holiday.  But you know what it's like with knitting - there's always other projects on the go.  Now, however, the Nullabor stretched out for 1000's of kilometers before us for the drive home so I took up a ball of beautiful Bergere de France yarn in Sport, a set of 4.00mm needles and set to work coming up with a pattern.  I had wanted to knit these in the round but only bought my sock knitting DPN's so, in the end,  I knitted them flat and 'sewed' them up with a crochet needle.  They can easily be knit in the round though - the choice is yours.


half a ball of Bergere de France Sport in creme.
1 set of 4.00mm knitting needles.
1 4.00mm crochet needle (optional)


Cast on 54 stiches
K2, P2 to end
Continue ribbing for 9 rows

Row 1: *K4, YO, K3, P2* rpt to end
Row 2: *K2, P8* rpt to end
Row 3: *K2, K2tog, YO, K1, YO, SSK, K1, P2* rpt to end
Row 4 (and all even rows) Knit all knit stitches and purl all purl stitches (Purl YO's)
Row 5: *K1, K2tog, YO, Slip one, K2, PSSO, YO, SSK, P2* rpt to end
Row 6: as row 4

Repeat this pattern (Rows 1 - 6) a further 5 times.

Repeat K2, P2 ribbing for 9 rows and loosely cast off.

To join, I slipped stitched them together with a crochet hook which leaves a nice, neat edge. They can just as easily be sewn together though.

The finished topper is 6 inches long.  If you need to make them any wider, cast on a further 9 stitches for each extra pattern repeat.

I have arrived home and believe me, it is sweltering.  There will be a few more months yet before they can be worn - which is fine.  It gives me time to make some for myself.

Happy Knitting,

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Monday, 24 February 2014

Loom Knit Wrap

It's been a long, hot Summer hear in Melbourne.  We've had days where the temperature has hovered at around 44 degrees Celsius and this explains why my latest loom knit project has taken so long.  Usually making things on the knitting loom is very quick and easy, but the beautiful  baby alpaca yarn I chose for this project was so thick and warm that the thought of being anywhere near it on a hot day was completely unbearable, and so it was put away until the weather cooled and I could pick up the project without having to reach for a glass of iced water and turn the air-conditioning up a notch.

The yarn in question is the deliciously soft and warm "Husky" from Moda Vera at Spotlight.  I managed to pick up a whole bag for the bargain price of $15.00 in a sale last year and it's a 12 ply 100% Baby Alpaca.

The knitting loom I used is one my father made, but this project will work just as well with a manufactured straight loom.  Up until now I had only used thinner yarn for loom knitting, but I loved the thicker wool and can envisage making a few more items with 12ply or more.

The stitch is the same as I used in our Charity Knitting which includes a link to a great "All Free Knitting" Youtube tutorial.  I cast on the straight loom to a width of approx 30cm/12 inches and continued until I had worked a length of knitted fabric that was approx 115cm/45 inches long.  You can make this shorter or longer according to your own body shape.  I then sewed the seam with one end edge to the base of a side edge to give a diamond shape and added a couple of wooden toggle buttons for embellishment.

I'm totally loving how this turned out.  It's snugly and warm and the yarn has enough stretch to give the garment some shape.  I do have some yarn left over, not enough for another wrap, but I do think it would make a great cushion...or two!

Happy loom knitting 


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Other FitzBirch loom knit projects:
Quick Loom Knit Scarf
Knifty Loom Knit Leg Warmers
Loom Knit Gauntlets
Loom Knit Market Bag
Loom Knit Remote Control Holder
Loom Knit Socks
Charity Knitting

Saturday, 22 February 2014

We really need to talk about Rainbow Looms

I hate a fad as much as the next person and I don't know about you, but I usually can't wait for them to be over.  It was probably about six months ago that I first heard about Rainbow Looms, we received an email and naturally at the time I had no idea what the "latest craze" was and I really wasn't too fussed about finding out to be honest.  The problem with keeping any fads at arms distance though, is that when you have younger people living with you, they seem to bring them home, talk about them and generally fill the house with whatever is the latest thing.

...and so it was that Christmas came, Miss 12 received a rainbow loom and little elastic bands seem to be everywhere (although as you can see, they are a very well organised, colour coded everywhere!)

I have to say though, I'm not minding this latest craze at all.  While I'm in no way tempted to have a try myself, Miss 12 seems to have made herself, and many friends it would seem, little bracelets to match any occasion.

Here we have a bracelet to match her exercise top

...and her brother's 18th birthday just wouldn't have been the same without a bracelet to match her dress - why this one even has little beads.

...and then we also have piles of little bracelets and charms, just because they are fun to make.

At the end of the day, I'm actually pretty thankful this fad has nothing to do with One Direction.

Happy Looming


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Monday, 17 February 2014

Honeymoon Cowl

Once the announcement of our engagement had settled and the wedding venue viewed and
booked, our thoughts naturally turned to our honeymoon.   I have been married before but circumstances were such that I didn't get to have a honeymoon so this is my first one and I can't begin to tell you how excited I am. We have decided on the south island of New Zealand (but first, 3 days in Sydney in 5 star luxury) and I was a little surprised to discover that the temperature whilst we are in New Zealand can sometimes be as low as 10C during the day.  Whilst this is certainly very different for us, it is fabulous news because, finally, I can knit warm scarves, hats and gloves for myself.  I usually make them for others as they head off on their travels.  
Whilst we won't be leaving for approximately 10 months, it's never too early to start knitting and I thought I would continue my newly discovered love of double knitting.

I found a chart that I loved but wanted to modify to fit the size of my cowl and after an hour or so graphing it, came up with the end result that was exactly what I was looking for.


The double knit cowl is knitted in the round using an invisible cast on and a kitchener stitch bind off.  This gives a very neat finish.

It took me a couple of attempts to get the hang of the invisible cast on.  It's well worth the effort to learn this method though as the results really are much better than a normal cast on.  A link is available here should you wish to learn this method.  I cast on the number of stitches that I needed and then joined in the rounds in the normal way.


I used yarn from my stash for this pattern and it worked out to be approximately 50g of 8ply (Worsted weight) yarn for each colour.  I used 'Silver' and 'Slate'.  Both of these are from the luxury range at Bendigo Woollen Mills.

1 circular needle 4.00mm (60cm length)
1 x tapestry/wool needle for kitchener stitch bind off
1 x yarn separator or knitting thimble (if you use one for fairisle and double knitting)
2 x stitch markers.
2 x DPN's size 4


Using the invisible cast on, cast on 128 stitches of each colour.  This is 2 repeats of the chart.  Set up the first row by identifying the stitch that is to be knit (you can tell by examining the construction of the stitch) and knitting the first row in the standard double knit method.  

Honeymoon Cowl Pattern
Join the round, place stitch marker to indicate the beginning of the row, and commence the chart.  Once you have completed the first 64 stitches of the pattern, place the second stitch marker.  This allows you to easily recognise when you are coming to the end of a pattern repeat.

The PDF of the pattern is available here.

Reverse side of the Cowl

Once you have completed the pattern, it is time to bind off.  Using 2 DPN's size 4.00mm, separate the knit and purl stitches so that all the knit stitches are at the front and all the purl stitches are at the back.  I found it easier to only work about 25 stitches at a time.  Those of you who are familiar with knitting socks will recognise what comes next - an intense period of kitchener stitch.  Completing the cowl with kitchener stitch ensures that the cast on and bind off are the same, creating uniformity.
Separating the knit stitches
from the purl in
readiness for kitchener stitch.

Take the time to block the cowl.  This ensures the best possible finish.

Hopefully, this will help to keep me warm during the cold days in New Zealand when we are on a glacier, or a Gondola or a cruise on Milford Sound.

More Cowls and Scarves from FitzBirch


Happy Knitting,

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Saturday, 15 February 2014

I'm Not a Singer .. But Maybe I Should Be.

For quite some time I have been itching to get back into quilting.  In fact, quilting was Deb and my first foray into crafting together (that's if you don't count the endless hours we spent making all sorts of weird and wonderful things during our school holidays).  Our children were small, some of them were in school and we spoke the language of blocks, fabrics and machines all day and only packed up when it was time to pick them up from school.  Many times my children were greeted by a smiling me with bits of thread hanging from my hair and bits of fabric sticking to my clothes.  It’s what kept me sane in the days of small children and big mortgages.

It was lovely and I do miss those days - hence the strong pull to quilt again.  Deb and I both received wonderful sewing machines from our parents for our 21st birthdays.  Mine was a little work horse that kept on going and going - until very recently.  I went to do a very small sewing job and realized that the machine was well past it’s use by date.  To be fair, I had not used it in quite some time and without going into excessive detail about just how old it was (lets just say Margaret Thatcher was still Prime Minister of England and Patrick Swayze was doing his thing in Dirty Dancing) I realized that it was well and truly time to get a new one.

Janome - On top of my list
The problem is - I have no idea what to get.  My parents had bought me my machine so I had never purchased one before.  I was just very happy with the features it had - 3 separate cams that slotted into the machine to give a dizzy-ing array of about 20 stitches.  It was marvelous - but machines have come a long way since then and I was lost.
Pfaff Passport

Singer - Hits the right note

For a start - what brand?  I had been watching a number of quilting videos and the instructor (Kimberly Einmo - fantastic tutorials on craftsy) had a Pfaff so I was looking at them along with Singers and Janomes.  Kimberly's looked really good but when I googled it, I very quickly realised that it was way, way out of my price range.  I was looking at machines that were on special and I was also looking at machines specifically for quilting so I needed one that fell into all the categories.  They all seemed to.  I mean, how many presser feet do you REALLY need?  I wanted one that automatically cuts the thread at a push of a button and one where you don’t need to keep the foot pedal down all the time if you were sewing long seams and one with automatic threading, and Deb says that making button holes on a modern machine is an absolute dream - and, well, if it made coffee as well then that’s the machine for me.  

I only get one chance at this and the more I look into machines, the more I realise that I could be happy with any one of them - and this makes the decision making really difficult.  

If anyone has any suggestions or recommendations, please let me know.

I have jelly rolls and layer cakes ready to go.  I’m just missing the main ingredient.

Happy quilting, (very soon hopefully)
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Monday, 10 February 2014

New Year Ballet Accessories

Well, it's  that time of the year again.  A new school year and the process of getting back into the rhythm of our daily routine always seems a little difficult after the relaxation of a long Summer break.  In our household the new school year also happens to coincide with the new ballet year  and so it's a good time to make some new hair accessories.  This year the leotard colour is "Dusty Rose", so out came all of my pinkish trims and odds and ends and rather than go in with a plan, I thought I'd just snip and glue and see what happened.

In the past, I've made quite a few hair bows and things (you can see them here ) so I did feel somewhat more experienced this year, hence my lack of planning.

Naturally enough, my tabletop soon looked very messy and disorganised and it was at this point that I thought perhaps I should have just tried one thing at a time, rather than randomly cutting and gluing.

In the end I came up with 4 designs.  The roses were simply the small bunches of artificial flowers that you can buy from most craft stores, with their stems wrapped around the top of a hair comb and glued in place.  The sequins were a trim I already had, cut to size and glued in place, while the ribbon bows were a little trickier.  Firstly I stuck a length of ribbon along the top of the hair comb to cover the plastic, the trim was cut and the ends burnt to stop fraying - I suggest doing that bit very carefully!  Then a little ribbon bow was stuck on top to finish.

The fourth style this year was a bigger fuller bow, with a gathered centre.

I have told our young dance student that this will be my entire ballet hair accessory collection for the next twelve months - time will tell!

Happy crafting


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Friday, 7 February 2014

Long, long ago

Back in the 70's we lived in a small country town in Western Australia.  It was a time well before the invention of personal computers, iPads, or even a VCR and our household contained nothing more technological than a colour television...and even that didn't arrive in our lounge room until the later half of that decade.  

Our Summers were busily spent watching sport on the TV, playing cricket in the backyard, riding our bikes, swimming at the local pool and running under the sprinkler when the temps got unbearable, but Winter was a bit tricky.  The nights were cold, the air outside thick with smoke from the many fireplaces in town and the only thing that seemed to be on television were nature documentaries and the news, not ideal conditions for keeping children occupied and amused!   One endearing memory I have of the 70's though is my family pulling together to make a latch hook rug.
The rug was to be in shades of green and beige and my father made a wooden gauge for us to wrap the wool around, which mum or dad would then cut leaving pieces of yarn all exactly the same length.  I can remember the colours, the sound of the wool be cut, the piles of yarn all cut and ready to be added to the rug, the squares of colour being formed as we all worked diligently, but I can't actually remember the rug being finished. A part of me hopes it's sitting in a wardrobe or cupboard somewhere, and miraculously that there's enough wool left to finish it off!

Of course, in this day and age things are much simpler.  My local craft shop even sells pre-cut lengths of wool in a multitude of colours, something that did sadden me a little, remembering all the time we had spent carefully wrapping and cutting our wool, but at the same time I was grateful as it is definitely a time saver when you're contemplating a latch hook project.

Our foray into the world of latch hooking in 2014 was a much easier and smaller  undertaking than that 70's rug.  We thought we'd do a little something for Valentine's Day and so out came the pink pre-cut wool, a small piece of canvas, a latch hook and a daughter who managed to put down her iPod for just enough time to get the project finished.

Our little heart was made by tracing a heart template onto our canvas and filling it in with our lovely pink, pre-cut wool.  The same template, which we just cut and paste from google images and then adjusted the size in a word document, we also used on a blank card from Kaiser Craft.   We traced around it onto the card and then cut it out from the centre so that our finished latch hook heart would sit inside it.

 ...and this is the finished project.  A wonderfully textured, shaggy, 70's inspired memento for the most romantic day of the year.

Happy Valentine's Day


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Monday, 3 February 2014

BFF (and sisters) Cowl

Birthday Cowl
My sister and fellow blogger Deb gave me some gorgeous, and I mean gorgeous, Louisa Harding yarn for my birthday.  This means that the yarn is for my knitting.  That is, something knitted for me and not something that is to be given to someone as a gift.  I packed the 3 precious balls in my holiday knitting stash and set off on our 5 week trip.

I was searching online for something unrelated and came across the BFF Scarf pattern by Cally Monster and liked it immensely.  It's a free ravelry download! Even better.

I started to knit it up but changed the pattern ever so slightly.  I wanted my decreases to point in the right direction so I changed a few of the K2tog's and ssk's and the end result was just lovely.  My amendments are at the end of this post.

I didn't have enough wool to make a scarf but I could easily make a cowl.  Whatever length the 3 balls knitted to, was going to be the finished length of the cowl.  Easy and straightforward .. or so I thought.

Ovens River - Bright, Victoria

I started it at the caravan park in Bright, Victoria.  This is simply a gorgeous part of the country.  Our site was great - 24 steps from the river (I counted!), but it was in direct sunshine in the afternoon and as the temperature was hovering at around 41C, it meant afternoons knitting in the shade by the river.  Really, it doesn't get better than that.

I was halfway through the cowl when it came time to move onto another park. The next one was by the ocean, a mere 6 hour drive away.  Normally, we would take all this in our stride but it was 43C and blowing a gale.  Easily the hottest day on the road we have ever had.  As our van is quite heavy, we don't put the air conditioner on as it sucks too much power, leaving us unable to climb hills so I spent most of the trip looking for flat areas to quickly turn on the air conditioning, breathe deeply of the cool air and then, just as quickly, turn it off.

When we finally made it to our camp ground, hot, bothered and extremely tired we discovered to our absolute dismay that our van had broken and we could no longer wind it up.  After a few hours of sawing wood that the caravan park owners kindly let us have, we managed to fashion some struts that would keep the roof from falling in, although we were not sure for how long.

Later that afternoon, an electrical storm blew up and the van was shaking a lot, making us very nervous.  We both reached for some stress relief.  Peter grabbed a beer and I grabbed the cowl and frantically started knitting trying to keep myself occupied so I didn't sit there and watch the struts moving back and forth, wondering at what stage they were going to collapse.  When most of the storm had passed, I glanced outside to see the most beautiful double rainbow so I grabbed my camera and raced outside to get some pictures.  At the same time I was taking the picture, a flash of lightning struck the hill behind the cabins - setting it alight.
Double Rainbow after an electrical storm.

I couldn't believe that this was happening.  The fire danger was listed at CODE RED.  The strong, hot wind was howling and all the campers warily stood outside their tents/vans/cabins waiting for instructions.
Lightning strike

I went into the van and quickly packed laptops, phones, wallets and keys and came back out deliberating as to whether or not to pack my knitting.  It seemed a bit frivolous to worry about knitting at such a time - but it was Louisa Harding. 

We waited .. and watched.  The wind was thankfully blowing it away from the park but all that meant was someone, somewhere else was in danger.  After about 3 hours we got the all clear.  The firefighters had done a marvellous job in not only putting the fire out but actually getting to it in the first place.  There were no roads and it was straight up the side of a very steep hill.

We went back inside and I resumed my knitting - albeit with a sense of thankfulness that all was well in the end.

The finished cowl is very sweet and very soft but, boy, it has a story to tell.


Row 5:  K1, YO, K5, YO, K2tog, YO, K2tog, K1, K30
K1, SSK, YO, SSK, YO, K5, YO, K1

Row 7: SSK, YO, SSK, K1, K2tog, YO, K2tog, YO, K3, K30, K3, YO, SSK, YO, SSK, K1, K2tog, YO, K2tog

Row 9: SSK, YO, (K3tog using SSK method), YO, K2tog, YO, K4, K30, K4, YO, SSK, YO, K3tog (normally), YO, K2tog

Row 11: SSK, YO, (K3tog using SSK method) YO, K5, K30, K5, YO, K3tog (normally), YO, K2tog.

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...