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167 posts categorized "Crafty"

16 March 2011

Royal Wedding Watch - Knit Your Own Royal Wedding

 

Are you looking forward to the Royal Wedding?

Even hard-bitten and cynical little me is getting very excited.  What’s not to love - London and dresses and kisses and big hats.  I was even thinking of going back for it until they inconsiderately decided to hold it in April, which meant we couldn’t really combine it with a summer vacation.  Instead I’m going to have to get up at 3 am to watch coverage here on the West Coast.

Or else I may just knit these and replay the Royal Wedding for myself at a more civilised time of the morning.

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Here’s the happy couple. Personally I’m a little disappointed in Kate’s dress.

 

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The Queen and Prince Harry will be the other stars of the show and there will no doubt be a lot of royal corgis running round and tripping up the footmen. Though you could’ve worn a rather more spectacular hat, ma’am.

 

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Here’s that poignant moment when William sees his beautiful bride for the first time – just loving Wills’ and Harry’s hair here. Note you can even knit yourself a mini Archbishop of Canterbury, though I’m not sure why you’d want to.

 

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And here’s the kiss we’ll all be waiting for – with accompanying Prince Charles, Camilla (boo!) and Prince Philip figures.

The book Knit Your Own Royal Wedding is by Fiona Gable, and if I weren’t suffering from Carmen Banana fatigue I would be seriously tempted to buy it.

 

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Lots more Royal Wedding coverage coming up. I can’t wait to do ‘Separated At Birth’ on the wedding guests.

   

11 March 2011

Owls - Yay or Nay?

 

As you may remember I’m rather inexplicably – given that in real life I’m a bit phobic about birds -  into owls round these parts.

Commenter eM, on the other hand, said in a post below that a surfeit of owls is one of the reasons she’s stopped reading design blogs.

 

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Twitwooshkas – fabulous papier mache nesting owls from Niki Jones in the UK. They’re handpainted in Northern India and cost £100. I’m sorry but I still like these.

 

What say you? Has the owl motif reached overload? Are other birds acceptable?  Do I have to give up my dream of ‘Aviary’ wallpaper? Are we all just hipsters with scarcely an original thought?

 

All profound thoughts for a Friday. I’m still rather shaken by news from Japan. Sobering to think how fragile life is around the Pacific Rim. Count your blessings today. Every. Single. One.

03 February 2011

When Acrylic Looks Good

 

A lot of knitters can get very snobbish about acrylic yarns, and having been knitting since the days when most yarn had a high acrylic content, I’m not exactly a fan of the squeakiness and dayglo colours.

Valerie Anne Molnar, however, makes fabulous use of acrylic yarn and acrylic paints to create stunning knitted art installations.  Certainly one way of using up your yarn stash.

 

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I love the clever colour transitions and the randomness of the knitting – what fun to just go where the spirit takes you instead of following a pattern.

I also love the the work on the right is entitled ‘Smoked Ham Risotto, Pea and Mint Salad with Shaved Black Truffles’.  Of course.

{via Design for Mankind}

21 January 2011

Adventures in Knitting – The Decadent Cowl

 

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So after the tiny needles and fiddly techniques of Carmen Banana, I was ready to knit something quick, easy and luxurious, low-stress and for ME.

I needed a cowl and found a pattern, which was apparently inspired by a wool and silk Burberry cowl which cost $750.

Because I didn’t have any suitable chunky weight yarn I decided to use two skeins of Sundara Yarn’s Aran Silky Merino held double, which is why this knit ended up being rather decadent (though since it cost nothing like $750 I consider it to be a bargain).

 

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I highly recommend this pattern, even if you’re pretty close to being a beginner. It introduces a few intermediate techniques such as a provisional cast on, grafting (Kitchener stitch) and simple cables, but there are plenty of videos online you can watch to help with these and otherwise it’s very quick and easy with spectacular results.

The yarn I used makes a soft, dense and snuggly fabric with a slight sheen from the heavy silk content, which also helps it drape beautifully.

All in all it was a wonderful, stress-free, indulgent knit, except for the grafting bit at the end.  This is how  much yarn I had left when I finished, and any knitters out there will appreciate just how close to a heart attack I came.

 

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Here’s a self portrait of me wearing it. The composition is somewhat odd as I’m holding the camera in my outstretched arm while looking at myself in the mirror. However it’s still better than most pictures of me the Husband takes.

 

 

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As usual there are more details on Ravelry. Come and be my friend!

30 December 2010

New Year’s Resolutions

 

This year I have decided NOT to make any resolutions because a) I am absolutely crap at sticking to them and b) I’ve got quite enough on my plate thank you with my 101 Things list.

The good news is that I managed to make further inroads into the list over Christmas.

First up was ‘go snowmobiling’. 

Many moons ago, when I’d just met the Boyfriend (before he became the Husband) we went on a skiing holiday to Whistler (little guessing that we’d be living in Seattle and spending our Christmases there, ten or so years into the future).

I had been trying my hand at snowboarding and after a couple of lessons the then Boyfriend and I decided to board down the mountain. It turns out that I’m even worse at snowboarding than I am at keeping New Year’s resolutions and it soon became apparent that there was no way I was going to make it to the nearest chairlift before nightfall.  Cue a ruggedly handsome snowmobiler rushing to the aid of this damsel in distress and whisking me off down the mountain at top speed. And I’ve wanted to go snowmobiling again ever since.

So it went on the list and the Husband and I signed up to go snowmobiling last week in Whistler. I decided that it would only count for the list if I drove one, little realising how terrifyingly huge they are.

Here I am as nervous as hell before we set off.

 

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Here I am clinging on grimly for dear life (yes, I promise that’s me).

 

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And here we are after I decided that my tentative driving  was hugely unenjoyable for all concerned and I climbed on the back of the guide’s machine, whizzed at furious speed through the snowy trees, and  fulfilled all my snowmobiling fantasies.

It turns out that snowmobiles are another thing (along with cars and supermarkets) that are not designed for people who stand just over 5 feet tall.  It really would have helped if I’d at least been able to see over the windshield which became totally covered in snow at one point.

 

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The other thing I can of course tick off the list is ‘knit a sock monkey’.  Here are a couple of last photos, before I bore you to death, of Carmen B modelling a few accessories.  I knitted the hat on Christmas Eve, made her earrings and sourced the little sunglasses online.

 

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What are your resolutions this year? Is anyone going to join me in a 101 Things List?  If you’re feeling introspective then this list of prompts from Reverb is very thought-provoking (I may work on it in January).

Sadly Carmen Banana has not been an unequivocal success. The Minx was very impressed that I’d knitted her and told me that ‘she looks like she came from a sock monkey shop’. However the next night I found that she had been relegated from the Minx’s bed ‘because she looks a bit scary’. I have to say that I can’t really disagree with her.

24 December 2010

Pssst! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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And she’s DONE.  I have to say that ears do help a lot in the beauty department. 

I have beads and findings to make her a necklace and some earrings and was planning to knit her a handbag and a hat, but even if I don’t get to finish anything else tonight, she’s in a fit state to go under the tree tomorrow.

There are also a ton of other little clothes to knit for her, but at the moment I don’t wish to look at her ever again. SO relieved that’s over.

All that’s left is to wish you all a very happy, peaceful and joyful Christmas. Thank you for all your comments, emails and suggestions over the year. I do love my little blog. And you guys of course. Have fun! xoxoxoxoxo

(Thanks also for all the lovely messages and emails about my ma-in-law. Sorry that blogging has been so sporadic recently. I will be posting a few updates between Christmas and New Year after we get back from Whistler).

23 December 2010

Pssst! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

Carmen Banana finally has clothes!

 

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Here she is lying seductively on our hotel bed while wearing her delicately embroidered undergarments.  I cannot tell you with words, by the way, how much I suck at embroidery.  Those took a LOOOOONNNNNNGGGGG time.

Here she is admiring the view from our Whistler condo during a whiteout. Carmen don’t do it!

 

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And here she is wearing her Christmas party dress.  My goodness but this was a labour of love. The end ruffle, where I had to knit about 250 teeny tiny stitches and then DOUBLE them and then DOUBLE them again, leaving me with about a thousand little stitches to cast off nearly blew my mind.

 

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She may have clothes, but what she doesn’t have are the ears, embroidered features, jewellery, handbag and hat I’d planned for her. It’s really going down to the wire, but for the moment, I’m off to go swimming in the snow and then to decorate a gingerbread houses with the pastry chef from Chateau Whistler.

Oh and yesterday I ticked something off my 101 List. Pics tomorrow.

   

10 December 2010

Shhh! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

Look who I caught misbehaving in my jewellery box yesterday.


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And yes that is a tail you spy.

 

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I’m cooking on gas with this now, though Carmen’s pointy earless head is freaking me out somewhat. I must get cracking on the ears, though I’ve read online that they’re tricky to get right. Working on her panties at the moment, so she will at least be decent soon.

   

08 December 2010

Shhhh! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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I did it! She has a face. And it’s not too ugly. 

I still have to embroider on her eyelashes, nose and smile etc. and knit her ears, so there’s plenty of scope yet for me to balls it up, but for the moment I’m quitting while I’m ahead and working on her tail and panties (!)

Still tons to do before Christmas though.

Adventures in Knitting – French Press Slippers

 

I’ve been knitting away at other things apart from sock monkeys, trying to get everything off my books by the end of the year, so I can start the New Year with some lovely new knitting projects. So I’ve got a couple of finished items to show you.

 

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These babies are one of the best projects I’ve ever completed.  Because they’re made of thick wool felt, the slippers are toasty warm and because they’re shrunk to fit your feet precisely, they’re INCREDIBLY comfortable. Seriously they’re going to have to be surgically removed from my feet I’ve been wearing them so much.

Firstly you knit and seam together a large ‘shoe’ from chunky wool.  I used Araucania Nature Wool Chunky, which felts delightfully and, because it is hand-dyed, has a pleasingly mottled depth of colour. I have to admit that the project doesn’t look entirely prepossessing at this stage.

 

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Then I threw them into my ‘Wonder Washer’ washing bucket, together with an old tennis shoe.   If you’re ever going to do any felting ever in your life, then I can’t recommend this highly enough. It gives you such control over the process (and is great for washing handknits etc. too).

The slippers took about 20 minutes to felt down to an acceptable size. I then felted them for three minutes at a time and kept trying them on wet until they were perfectly sized for my feet.

After drying and a haircut (for the slippers not me), I sewed on the straps, which are felted separately. I finished the slippers off with beautiful handmade wooden buttons from OruAka on Etsy.

 

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I think I’m probably the last knitter on Earth to make these slippers which have been all over Ravelry in the last year or so.  If you’re the other knitter on Earth who hasn’t made them yet, then the pattern is available on the French Press Knits blog here, which is also worth checking out for all sorts of cool craft and knitting projects. My project page on Ravelry is here, which shows the mods I made to make these from chunky wool instead of the worsted/dk weight recommended.

   

29 November 2010

Shhhh! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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I had the devil’s own job with the mouth and had to rip it out twice times before getting it right.  For sock knitting aficionados, it’s knitted as a mitered heel, except that the only mitered heels I’ve ever knitted previously used a completely different method of doing the short rows, so this was uncharted territory for me.

Fortunately someone else has charted the territory, and if you ever do want to knit this (kit available here) I can’t recommend these very detailed instructions highly enough.  Ms Carmen here would be very ugly without them.

 

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16 November 2010

Shhhh. Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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Quite possibly the most sinister photo I’ve ever published on here.

It’s been going swimmingly so far, but now I move onto the head, where there’s plenty of scope for making her look ugly or even downright scary. Wish me luck!

(She is helped to sit by a small bag of big green lentils stuffed in her bottom)

   

15 November 2010

Knitted Wreath, Candle Holders and Vases

 

Or the art of wrapping knitting around things.

A regular and lovely commenter round these parts, Lou, from Happy Serendipity, has just taken up knitting (you may have seen us discussing knitting in the comments) and decided to make a winter door wreath she had seen. Bear in mind that this is just her second or third EVER knitting project.

If it had been been me I would have been getting into a pickle trying to knit in the round, increasing and decreasing etc. etc but Lou just knitted this

 

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pinned it like this

 

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and hey presto! created this

 

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so much quicker, easier and cleverer all round, and just goes to show that you don’t need to be an expert at all to create beautiful things.

With the remaining yarn she made this candle holder, which I think I love even more than the wreath – its chunky, simplicity seems very cool and modern somehow. 

 

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Check out Lou’s tutorial here for more details.

It seems also that Ferm Living is getting in on the act, recently introducing a range of chic knitted vase covers.

 

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They’re available from Ferm Living here and also from Velocity Art and Design in the US

 When I get out from under the sock monkey, I’m thinking of designing a few knitted home accessories, maybe for sale in the shop. Very inspired by all these ideas.

10 November 2010

Shhhh. Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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My needles are on fire at the moment as I’ve realised that the actual monkey has to be finished by the end of November for there to be any chance of her having clothes by Christmas. I start attaching the arms tonight.

She can sit due to a little bag of rice in her posterior end. Note that the pattern designer added a little shaping to the waist to give her some ladylike curves.  Truly the Joan Holloway of sock monkeys.

04 November 2010

Shhhh! Don’t Tell the Minx

 

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Need to buck my ideas up if I’m going to get this done in time for Christmas.

14 October 2010

Go Love Your Office - Etsy HQ

 

Once upon a time when the Internet was still young and I was working as a management consultant, I remember musing with a few folks that it would be a great idea to set up a ‘shopping engine’ for craftspeople and artists to give them a standard template shop under one umbrella and save them the hassle of setting up their own websites and doing their own independent marketing.

Yes, things would be very different round here if I’d held that thought and founded Etsy, rather than just sitting on my arse.

Perhaps I would be working in gorgeous offices such as these. Etsy’s HQ in Brooklyn has been designed by Hangar Design Group to reflect the quirky, colourful, handmade nature of the brand and decorated using many pieces commissioned or bought from Etsy sellers. 

 

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Those lamps are incredible, does anyone know where they were sourced? I’ve been searching everywhere. And I love the crochet granny blankets on the wall.

 

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The combination of geeks and gingham is such a winner I find.

 

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Junkprints installed the record wall

 

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The desks are all handmade. And see the ‘Craft’ area to the left below? Every office should have one.

 

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Plush toy makers Zooguu designed the individual phone rooms. This has made the Husband and I are consider installing a British phone booth door chez nous, though for the full authentic touch I hope the room beyond stinks of stale urine and cigarettes.

 

 

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Seriously, there are about a thousand fabulous ideas to steal in all this, though I am left wondering whether all the geeky programmers feel comfortable in this space – in the startups I’ve worked at, the geek squad seemed to think pizza boxes and beer cans were decorative objects.

{via SwissMiss}

07 October 2010

Blog I Am Loving – Kat Knit’s Project Project Runway

 

As you will doubtless know by now, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Project Runway fan, even in seasons like this when the fashion really is nothing to write home about.

So I’m loving this fabulous project happening on the blog Kat Knits where Kat, and also her friend Susi, both take 15 hours to follow each Project Runway challenge to the letter and create outfits for a doll.

From creating a stunning handbeaded element for the couture challenge

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and its ready-to-wear counterpart

 

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to printing a custom fabric for the fabric challenge

 

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to knitting a tiny ensemble for the sportswear challenge

 

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to punching out from ribbon and glueing hundreds of tiny circles for the ‘party store’ challenge

 

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and knitting tiny accessories for the team challenge.

 

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There’s much more to see on the blog, including all the workroom ‘drama’ and if you haven’t discovered it already go and say hi to Tom and Lorenzo at Project Rungay for everything you ever wanted to know and then some about the show (which is where I found out about this blog).

Update

I can’t wait to see what they comes up with for last night's  ‘Design a Grey Shapeless Sweatshire for Heidi Klum’s Vanity Line’ challenge. Best of luck to them both.

29 September 2010

Thing I Am Loving – Erin Flett Pillows

 

What a shame my birthday has just passed, as I’m rather enamoured of these and can think of quite a few places they’d fit in our house. I may have to sneak one or two in.

The cushions are hand silk-screened on sturdy barkcloth by graphic designer Erin Flett in a variety of gorgeous on trend colours.

 

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I think this chair is crying out for one, don’t you? Going to see if I can get some in the shop too. Find Erin at www.erinflett.com and buy her pillows on Etsy.

 

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28 September 2010

Adventures in Knitting - Socks, More Socks and a Sock Monkey

 

I thought I’d update you all with a bit of knitting. My most recent finished project is a pair of socks I started knitting in the South of France. Socks are fabulous things to knit on holiday as they are so portable and the little wooden toothpick-like needles I use never get stolen by airport officials.

These socks became nicely imbued with seawater, sand and suntan cream and bring back many happy memories  - particularly of turning the heel sitting in a lovely cafe’ in Aix en Provence while sipping a citron presse’.  It’s one of the unsung pleasures of knitting – wearing the finished items always brings back memories of the actual process.

(The pattern is Hedera and the yarn is a Limited Edition sock yarn from Sundara Yarns.  All details are to be found on my Ravelry page).

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When people see my handknit socks, I always get told ‘you should absolutely sell those’. Which is very lovely and everything but if you add up the $25-$30 including shipping for sexy sock yarn and then conservatively estimate 20 hours of knitting at $8.55 an hour (Washington state minimum wage), it means that I’d have to charge at least $195 per pair just to break even.

So you can imagine how happy I was when a big hole started to appear in my previous pair of $200 socks. Desperate measures were clearly called for, so I sat down in front of my computer and an instructional video on YouTube and proceeded to darn my socks.  I felt just like a character from Little Women (minus the computer and YouTube obviously).

It wasn’t that difficult, was very satisfying and actually looks OK despite this being my first attempt (though it’s lucky the hole is hidden in my shoe).

 

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The darn from the inside

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And from the outside

 

Finally, don’t tell the Minx, but I am knitting her a sock monkey for Christmas.  Her name is Carmen Banana and she comes in a kit from Knit Picks with the patterns to make a huge wardrobe of lovely clothes. So far I’ve only made some assorted limbs, but I’ll keep you updated on my progress.  You will notice that I have ‘knit a sock monkey’ on my list of 101 Things.

 

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24 September 2010

Things I Am Loving – Gurgle Pots

 

You were going to get a ‘Go Fug Your Room’ post today, but I’ve just discoved that my scanner software has been updated and I have NO CLUE how to operate it.  Sometimes I think there’s a conspiracy amongst software designers to make me grumpy.

But I digress.

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pfishI first came across gurgling fish pitchers when I was living in France as a student. The parents of one of the kids I was giving private lessons to would often invite me for dinner and a jump in their swimming pool afterwards (AND I got paid!) and at dinner would bring out their gurgling fish jug.

Air gets trapped in the tail-shaped handle, making a delightful ‘glug glug’ sound when it’s poured. To this day that sound will always remind me of chilled rose’ on a summer’s evening.  The jug was an fearsome majolica beast though, that looked something like this.

I’ve never wanted to have something so butt-ugly on my dining table, so you can imagine how happy I was to discover that the clever people at Gurgle Pots have reimagined the fish pitchers for the 21st century, giving them a simplified and streamlined design and producing them in a range of on-trend colours.

 

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Buy them here and listen to them gurgle here.  I bought mine (the aqua one in the top picture) at a little cookshop in Fairhaven in Bellingham. It makes the whole family smile every time we use it.

17 August 2010

Adventures in Knitting – Summery Things

 

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It’s that time of year, when I don’t get much else done – the Minx is in camp and it’s a struggle to fit everything in – but I do manage a ton of knitting.

Knitting is the perfect accompaniment to sitting by the playground or wading pool or beach while the Minx grubs about with her friends. Honestly I have no idea how other knittingless mothers cope the boredom. And it’s really interesting to see how fascinated kids are by knitting – they’re always coming up to see how it’s done and what I’m making.

First up is my ever project in a true laceweight yarn – an Abrazo wrap using SweetGeorgia Silk Merino with copper glass beads. This was my holiday knitting project, and after the first few rows, which were a complete nightmare (you start knitting from the bottom up and shape the top with short rows) it was extremely plain sailing and a very enjoyable knit. There’s more here (Ravelry link)

I love the finished product, which has been getting a lot of summer party action.

 

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Here it is pinned out and ‘blocking’ on a towel.

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This is what it looked like when it came off the needles

 

I also managed to complete a little somethin’ somethin’ for the Minx. I actually started this little cotton top last year and practically finished it except for the straps, but then it spent nearly a year languishing in my knitting basket. Yet another quick and enjoyable knit. Ravelry link here. If you’re on Ravelry, I’m mirrormirror, do come and be my friend.

 

And no, I have no idea when the Minx turned into Hannah Montana.

 

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05 August 2010

Things I Am Loving – Wobbly Bowls

 

One of the things I learned at Lara Ferroni’s food styling photography workshops is that food props should be small, so as to make the food look ample and luscious, and preferably have texture and colour help too, to add visual interest.  (Check out also this fascinating series of guest posts on food props at  Lucullian Delights.)

 

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{Images above from Atelier BB}

So I was delighted to come across these delightful little wobbly plates and bowls in dozens of bright intoxicating colours from Atelier BB on Etsy.  Each bowl and plate is made of thick glazed ceramic and imprinted with different lacy designs for extra texture.

I bought a few little plates for my new ‘food styling prop cupboard’ (how VERY Martha Stewart of me) and will probably be buying quite a few more.

 

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And yes, they DO make food look good. Here’s a very quick snap of some potato and beetroot gratin which we had for dinner last night and which was DIVINE. I’ll make it for you guys with pictures next time we get beets in the organic box.

 

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04 August 2010

Things I Am Loving – Crochet Covered Stones

 

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Stones and beaches and kids and summer go together, like well, stones and beaches and kids and summer.

Everytime we hit the beach supposedly ‘beeyootiful’ stones get delivered with regularity to my beach towel. The heaviness of my bag is due not just to the sunscreen and goggles and bags full of cherries I carry everywhere but also to the stones I keep finding in the pockets.

A collection of large stones from French beaches even found their way into the Minx’s little roller suitcase to take back to Seattle, though, since we are cruel parents, these were surreptitiously removed from her bag and left in the hotel room and have remained studiously unmentioned ever since.

So, you can imagine how delighted I was to find a beautiful project requiring smooth round stones – heck, the next time we go to the beach I’m even going to send the Minx off on a stone hunting expedition. 

 

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Artist and photographer Margaret Oomen crochets little covers for her stones which make them look like sea urchins reimagined by a Victorian grandma and sells the stones themselves (though they disappear quickly and still-life photographs of them on Etsy.

 

 

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Now you can make them too as she has put a tutorial up on the Purl Bee to make a basic version of her stones, though I would imagine that any number of doily patterns (Ravelry link) could be adapted for the purpose, once you’ve go the hang of the basic concept.

 

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Will definitely have to try this at some point. I’m just wishing that there was more knitting/crocheting time in the day.

23 July 2010

Things I Am Loving - Janne Peters Photography

 

Anyone who combines food, photography and yarn has to be all right in my book.

 

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Do check out the rest of her portfolio, it’s stunning.

22 July 2010

Adventures in Knitting – Clown Barf & Colourwork

 

I realise it’s AGES since I updated you on any knitting, though I have been plugging away quietly in the background.  I’ve finished a couple of other things but they need to be photographed and I’ve got a few more projects that should be coming off the needles in the next few weeks.

In the meantime though, this was an incredibly fun and satisfying knit, though I’m somewhat embarrassed by the outcome – tasteful it most certainly is not, though the Minx utterly adores it.

 

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The pattern is Bobinsky (Ravelry link) which essentially knits up in three parts. The yoke and sleeves are knitted in the round in a variegated sock yarn (the Minx chose the ‘clown barf’ colourway, ShibuiKnits in Zinnia). Then the body is knitted in stranded colourwork using the variegated yarn and a contrasting plain colour (the variegation of the yarn makes this look much more complex than it really is) and finally a plain stocking stitch frill is added to the bottom in the contrast yarn (ShibuiKnits Blossom).

I hugely enjoyed knitting this – it was the first time I’ve done colourwork and was pleased that I mastered knitting holding the colours in each hand and knitting both English and Continental style (thanks to this video). It ended up being quite easy and it’s definitely inspired me to do more colourwork in future.

 

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My only caveat if you want to make this, is to make sure that the contrast yarn contrasts strongly with ALL the colours in the variegated yarn. In this case the pale pink doesn’t contrast very well at all with the pale yellow of the variegated leading to some slightly strange effects in the body. But it works well enough and my ‘client’ has been wearing it non-stop.

 

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20 July 2010

Things I Am Loving - Crochet Car Cosy

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{Image by Flickr user StartTheDay}

Isn’t this just the business? 

It was apparently created by Magda Sayeg for the Il Lusso Essenziale art festival in Rome and I’m very tempted to start making one for my Beetle, except a) I don’t think it’s terribly suitable for the Seattle winter (or indeed the Seattle summer, of which we would rather not speak, thank you very much) and b) I have no idea how you open the doors.

14 May 2010

Cakespy HQ

 

For a spy Cakespy really isn’t very discreet. Jessie Oleson was the toast of Seattle society last week as she opened her new gallery and shop featuring some fabulous indie art together with her own original ‘Cuppie’ artwork and a variety of other cute dessert-related products.

 

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We went along to the opening party last Saturday and the place was heaving with partygoers, spilling out onto the pavement outside in the evening sunshine.

There were custom cupcakes from Trophy  featuring edible artwork by Jessie, her husband Danny’s band Exohxo played a fabulous set and we got to see Jessie’s new mural in person.  The Husband and I hung out with Megan Not Martha and Carrie Cupcake in the upper gallery, while the Minx, wearing her best cupcake-themed sandals for the occasion, mingled with the partygoers below and got very indignant when we went down the stairs to join her, telling us in no uncertain terms,  ‘Go away, I’m talking the grownups.’

If you didn’t get to the party, I highly recommend that you check out Jessie’s shop which is a very sweet addition to Capitol Hill. All details and Jessie’s online store are here at www.cakespyshop.com.

 

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10 May 2010

An Extremely Cool Mother’s Day Idea

 

Yesterday morning I was woken at 6.20 AM by a very excited little girl, eager to present me with her Mother’s Day gift.

Because I’m an extremely bad mother, I must confess I was not exactly thrilled to see her at that time of the morning.  However when I saw what she’d made, it was so spectacular even I couldn’t find it in my heart to be grumpy.

 

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Funnily enough the Minx had no idea that I had recommended Edible Arrangements in my Mother’s Day Gift Guide on Shelterrific. Instead she had referred to instructions given in a recent issue of Sparkle World magazine.

The Husband reports that it’s a really great project to do with a young child – he got to cut the watermelon ‘vase’ and wield the melon baller, while the Minx was in charge of design, cutting out daisy and star shapes and threading fruit on to skewers.

And it was a superbly pleasurable way to have a light and totally guilt-free fruity breakfast before going out for Mother’s Day brunch.

Someone was rightly extremely proud of her little self. And I am very, VERY proud of her.

Hope all you other mommas had a great day too.

 

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We went out for the brunch buffet at Urbane, the restaurant in the newly-opened Olive8 building. Loved the restaurant, loved the decor (would have taken pictures had the battery in my camera not died at the wrong moment), and the brunch was excellent.  Highly recommended to all Seattleites, especially the Nutella brioche which was one of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life.

05 May 2010

Mother’s Day Gift Guide

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If you’re still looking for Mother’s Day gifts, rush over to Shelterrific where I’ve put together a gift guide. Don’t forget to rush back though.

22 April 2010

Salty Knits

 

For the three or so readers who care about my knitting projects, I am still knitting.  I’ve just been totally bogged down in a sweater project,though I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m currently sewing it up and hopefully will have pics by next week. I bet you can’t wait.

Some people have, however, been knitting up a storm in West Cape May, New Jersey.

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{All images from Salty Knits Facebook page}

 

The mysterious people behind Salty Knits creep out at night and put up the most fabulous ‘knitted graffiti’. Calling themselves ‘mystery knitters who are sick of knittin kitten mittens’, they’ve got a very active Facebook page too.

Unfortunately, as fast as they can knit, someone has been taking all the knitting down, as they’re legally entitled to do since it’s on public property. 

But c’mon, it looks GORGEOUS, doesn’t it? (Apparently the town has been getting the best press it’s ever had too).  Would love it if someone did this in Seattle.  Maybe next winter I’ll make some tree tubes for the small dogwood in our front garden. (Actually really intrigued to know how they get the tubes on the trees, they don’t appear to be stitched.)

20 April 2010

May The Plates Be With You

 

I am SO tempted to get a set of these for the Husband. Of course, they would secretly be for me, but he would never know. Just so super fab.

 

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Buy them at Beat Up Creations Etsy shop. {via Whorange’s Twitter feed} Find me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mirrormirrorxx

02 April 2010

Eggs-quisite

I just wanted to boast really.

Look what I’ve got nestling at the foot of the Easter tree!

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I just had a very nice lunchtime knitting session with Megan Not Martha and she gave me three of her exquisite chocolate and goodie-filled eggs which have been all round the blogosphere 85 times already.

I bet you wish you were me.

31 March 2010

Quick Easter Links

 

Rushing around like a mad thing this week, so blogging may be a little light.

Here are some greatest Easter hits to tide you over today though.

 

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Remember when we made hot cross buns? Still better than any I’ve managed to find in the US, though Alki Bakery does the best ones I’ve come across in Seattle.

 

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And here is the Easter tree explained with instructions on how to make the felted pompoms here

 

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And here’s the Easter bunny egg cosy I knitted for the Minx last year, using the free pattern here.

 

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This year I was going to make a traditional English Simnel Cake, but then I was lucky enough to win a pack of Bella Cupcake Couture’s new Easter cupcake wrappers, so plans have changed to make not so traditional Easter cupcakes.

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More on these anon. Oh and if you’d like to buy them in the UK (though sadly not the Easter ones this year), we’ve got Bella cupcake wrappers for sale in the shop.  (And look whose photo she is using on her promotional postcards!)

One of the great Easter mysteries of our time is why on earth giant chocolate eggs seem to be a purely UK phenomenon.  The British do take their chocolate eggs very seriously. After searching in vain for them over the last couple of years, I decided to take matters into my own hands and place an order with the British Food Shop online. After all we can’t have the Minx growing up not knowing about proper British chocolate can we? The British Food Shop ships Cadbury’s chocolate direct from the UK and its Easter eggs are currently on sale (though it’s doubtful you’ll get them in time for Easter).

Finally for someone who does Easter far better than I ever could, rush over to Not Martha to see her amazing take on making homemade Kinder eggs (though so much more beautiful than Kinder eggs could ever be). 

As an aside, did you know that, unlike guns, Kinder eggs are technically banned in the US? Any that you see on sale here are actually contraband. Really. I mean REALLY?

22 March 2010

The Story of the Cake – Part 3

 

And here’s the little hussy with her clothes on!

 

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Here’s a quick overview of what we did. You can get a much better idea of the structure from this pic. I don’t think Cinderella found this to be an entirely dignified experience.

 

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Note the careful styling with the empty pizza boxes

1) Buy a nice clean Barbie-type doll, styled how you’d like.  The stripper gloves, choker, hair and earrings on this doll did make a huge difference to the effectiveness of the cake, so it’s good to start with a new accessorized doll, which then makes a great additional present for the birthday girl.

2) You can buy kits to do this but I used took a large stainless steel pudding basin

and a springform cake tin of the same diameter. The bottom layer above is a 9” cake pan, the middle two layers are the pudding basin.

3) Make up 3 x your favourite cake mix.  I again used the recipe for ‘Mom’s Chocolate Cake’ from the Macrina Bakery Cookbook. I can’t find it anywhere online, so I’ll try and write it down in a future blogpost. Suffice it to say that I’ve used it for birthday cakes for the last four years, it’s IMMENSELY forgiving to being moulded into all sorts of different shaped pans, is moist and flavourful and much loved by adults and children alike (to the extent that year on year people tell me they hope I’m making the same cake). Divide your mixture up so that one third is in the pan for the bottom layer and two thirds is in the pudding basin. The only tricky bit is gauging the cooking time for the pudding basin cake. I monitored mine closely and stuck a stick of spaghetti into it every 15 minutes after the initial cooking period was up. It took about an hour and half to cook in the end.

4) Slice the domed tops off the two cakes so that they’re flat, cut the pudding basin cake in half and layer the three cakes with buttercream. Wrap Barbie’s nether regions with clingfilm and plunge her into the cake. Our Barbie was tall and so had to go in at a bit of an angle. We also had to take the trimmings from the cakes and build up an embryonic fourth layer on the top so that the cake went up to her waist and not just her crotch.

5) Decorate with vanilla buttercream. This dress designing bit was fun! I’ve seen cakes online which use fondant icing for this part and they look incredible as you can arrange the ‘dress’ into pleats and folds. Unfortunately I don’t like the taste of fondant icing so much, so buttercream it was, there’s only so much compromising a glutton such as myself will do.

I also should have tested out my blue food colourings beforehand. They were entirely the wrong blue for Cinderella but because it’s a primary colour I couldn’t change it by mixing in other colours as I usually do. 

 

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6)  Go OTT with frills and furbelows. I  realised that the colourful flowers I’d made previously would be very un-Cinderella like, so at the last minute I coloured some of the white melty stuff blue and made little forget-me-nots to decorate her underskirts. The coloured flowers I made went round the base.  She would also have been wearing a lot of pearls if I hadn’t run out of white dragees.

(Disney’s Cinderella is sadly quite tastefully attired, so I had to keep my wildest flights of fancy in check).

 

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26 February 2010

REALLY Cool Printed Fabric – ManoAllaMano

 

Or Benetton ads in quilting cotton.

Goodness but you guys are clever sometimes.

A regular commenter round these parts is Designer Mama – ManoAllaMano who lives in Seattle and has a young daughter adopted from Haiti. She is also a very talented photographer and graphic designer.

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She couldn’t find any fabric that reflected her particular situation, and so, as you do, decided to design some of her own. It was such a big hit with her daughter, that she has come up with other permutations reflecting other variations of ‘non-typical’ American families – two mommies, two daddies, adoptive families, single parents, multi-racial etc.– and has just launched an Etsy shop, selling both quilting and upholstery weight fabrics.

This fabric seriously makes me want to learn to sew. I’d love to make the Minx something with this. It would also look fabulous framed (which may be the route I decide to go). Isn’t it just too cool?

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06 February 2010

Spread a Little Love

 

This is so inspirational I just had to share.  If I can be bothered to get the tape and the cutter (which is admittedly quite a big ‘if’), the Minx and I might just go out and do this round the nabe.

This is the sort of thing that Brooklyn-based street artist Katie Sokoler gets up to in her spare time.

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{I’ve just discovered (via Whorange) her crazy wonderful blog Color Me Katie and it is FABULOUS}

04 February 2010

Adventures in Knitting – First Lace Wrap

 

I’m so proud of my little self.  I should probably retire from knitting now.

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I also have NO CLUE where I will ever wear this.

03 February 2010

Musings on Knitting and Life

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Remember this?  I started knitting this lace shawl/wrap thingy back in April last year after finding myself in Portland with nothing to knit and a fabulous yarn shop close at hand which sold lots of colours of Seasilk.

Well, here it is today, washed, pinned out and ‘blocking’.  And utterly and completely and totally FINISHED. It just needs to block and dry and then you can see it in all its glory.

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It’s the first bit of true lace I’ve ever knitted and I must admit that it’s been somewhat of a struggle. The actual knitting wasn’t that tricky, though I did have to learn how to cable without a cable needle, but keeping track of where I was in the pattern was hard (the cable edgings had a pattern repeat of 8 rows and the diamonds in the middle in rows of 12) and managing laceweight yarn is a nightmare, with stitches dropping all over the place. It didn’t help that the main times I knit are either when watching TV, knitting socially or keeping an eye on the Minx. This job required FOCUS and tons of it.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to rip back to a lifeline, undo several rows or spend ages dropping back through the pattern to fix some silly little mistake I hadn’t noticed at the time (and being a Virgo I’m afraid I just can’t leave mistakes). On several occasions I had to abandon the project for weeks or even months on end, so fed up was I by the slow progress and the repetitive pattern.  On more than one occasion I wondered whether I would actually ever finish.

But I kept plodding on, picking it up after it had been abandoned, relearning the pattern, knitting a bit here and a bit there and forcing myself to tink back to fix mistakes.  In December last year I vowed that I wouldn’t start anything new until I had finished all my works in progress. I’m not normally so persevering, and this could so easily have ended up as a tangled ball at the bottom of my knitting bag, but the silk yarn was beautiful and expensive and I really wanted to wear the finished article.  And so I pressed on.

And it occurs to me that knitting is a bit like life – if you keep going; if you keep adding stitch after stitch after stitch; if you pick things up and start again however difficult things may seem; if you force yourself to go back and fix mistakes; if you keep doing the right thing however little progress you appear to be making, if you just take a deep breath and apply some focused concentration to the job in hand, then one day, instead of a tangled mess, you will find that you’ve created something special and beautiful, of which you can be very, very, very proud.

Proper pics soon. More details, as usual, on my Ravelry page.

Funnily enough when I was researching my family tree last year I discovered that I am descended from a long line of Spitalfields silk weavers. And here I am 200 years later, still ‘weaving’ silk.

31 January 2010

Sandra’s Studio

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Remember the Wrist Worms?

Isn’t this just the perfect place to create them? It makes me want to dive for my crochet hook.

{Image of Sandra Juto’s studio from her blog www.sandrajuto.com }

23 January 2010

Happy Tape – Japanese Masking Tape

 

How crazy is it that I’m seriously considering dropping $50 on a selection of cheerful packing tapes and a dispenser? And just when I’m thinking that the house needs a serious de-clutter?

The pictures are so cheerful and apparently hit exactly the same colour-loving sweet spot in my brain that beautiful yarn does -  ‘ooh.  pretty.  colours.  BUY’.  And I know that the Minx, who is in the throes of a long and passionate love affair with Sellotape, would spontaneously combust with delight.

But for the moment, I shall content myself with the ogling the pretty pictures.  Maybe I’ll get myself some as a reward if I ever manage to tidy my desk. All these beauties are available from Happy Tape’s shop here, please don’t tell me if you buy some.

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20 January 2010

Small But Perfectly Formed

As you may have noticed I’ve become slightly obsessed by all things tiny and dollshousy recently, so I was thrilled and delighted to see a dolls house, would you believe, get a full editorial spread in last month’s Elle Deco UK.

Of course in order to hold its own against the fabulous full size apartments on show, this was of course no ordinary dolls house.  It’s a pretty vintage 1960s house full of lovingly collected vintage furniture and showcasing miniature versions of designer Deborah Bowness’s handprinted trompe l’oeil wallpapers, put together by Bowness and her friend Emily Chalmers of East London vintage store Caravan

I sort of want to move in immediately.

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18 January 2010

Adventures in Knitting - I Saw Three Gifts

 

Just a quick and very belated knitting update. I thought I ought to knit the Minx and the Husband something for Christmas seeing as they’re always watching me knitting things for myself.

I made the Minx something called a Calorimetry from some novelty handspun I found on here on Etsy.

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The Husband got a Windschief cowl to match his eyes in DK Silky Cashmere in the Limited Edition Old Jade colourway (and yes, he is spoilt) from Sundara (this is so he can’t complain about the amount of money I spend in that woman’s direction).

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And I, because of course I can only knit unselfishly for so long, treated myself to a pair of fingerless gloves in merino silk Opulence in the completely stunning Chocolat Chambord colourway from the Woolen Rabbit.

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I have promised myself I won’t start anything new until I’ve finished all my works in progress from last year. So I’m currently plodding through my Lace Shawl, my Interminable Blanket and a sweater I started knitting at the tail end of lat year.

All details as before on my Ravelry page – come and be my friend.

14 January 2010

While We’re On The Subject of Granny Squares

 

I came across these fabulous pictures in Holly Decor8’s Interior Styling pool and had to share them with you.

I am now having to sit on my hands I’m so desperate to start crocheting a granny square garland. What a great idea. And absolutely gorgeous styling too.

{Idea and pictures from Dottie Angel. This is why I’m learning to crochet. I also want those knitting needles – does anyone know what make they are?}

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12 January 2010

Gigantic Granny Square Afghan

 

Today is the Minx’s fifth birthday.  And so of course she comes bounding into our bedroom this morning full of energy and excitement and shouts about presents. 

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For some reason it seemed particularly dark and I felt even crapper than I usually do when it’s time to get up, but it had been raining all night, which would explain the darkness, and when I asked the Husband what time it was (he keeps the alarm clock on his side of the bed) he said ‘oh, it’s twenty past seven’.  I felt so dreadfully unrested that I asked him to double check but he reassured me about the time and we hauled ourselves out of bed and downstairs to begin the unveiling of half a ton of Disney Princess/Calico Critters/My Little Pony crap tempered with the occasional improving book.

This process had been going on for about ten minutes and I was just about to start making birthday waffles when I happened to glance at the clock on the VCR. Which said 3:52.  Yes, my Cambridge-educated Husband had got his long and short hands mixed up and we’d all got up at 3.35 am. And of course after that the Minx was so excited it took her ages to go back to sleep, and she woke up again for the final time at 6.30 am.

So if you thought that today there would be a moving eulogy to my five-year old daughter or even any substantive blogging at all, then, dear readers, you are very much mistaken.

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Instead here are a few pictures of the Gigantic Granny Square Blanket I crocheted for the Minx’s new dolls house.

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She had expressed some disappointment that the blanket provided (a thin scrap of dark blue jersey) was too small for the sofa bed, so I decided to make the dolls their very own gigantic granny square afghan. I was very pleased with how well the yarn went with the decor and it seems that the (rather creepy) dolls are too.

This is another step in my ‘teach yourself to crochet’ campaign. After a few false starts I can now granny square along fabulously thanks to the Purl Bee’s excellent instructions. I’m almost tempted to start on a full-size gigantic granny square blanket just for us.

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The yarn is the scraps from my first ever pair of socks. It’s fascinating to see how differently the yarn works up in different patterns.

09 January 2010

Today I Am Mostly…

…crocheting.

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It’s going to be a tiny gift for the Minx’s birthday, of which more anon.

22 December 2009

Christmas Decorations on Tour

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You’ve seen mine! Now show us yours.

This is a very lazy on vacation post with the idea entirely stolen from Liz at Violet Posy

If you’ve done a blog post about your Christmas decorations, lack of decorations, other holiday decorations, beautiful decorations that you’ve seen round and about or anything else festive that you’ve done and want to show off then use the fun widget below to post up a link to your blog.

It will be running from now until 6th January or Twelfth Night or the Epiphany, the day when decorations are traditionally taken down in the UK (or else you face a year of bad luck).

I’ve added a link to my post and to Violet Posy to get you started and show you what it will look like.

 

15 December 2009

Adventures in Knitting - The Joy of Socks (and Hats)

 

For some reason knitting socks was not such a big thing in the UK when I was living there, though I hear it’s now growing more popular. In fact for most of my knitting life the closest I ever got to hand knitted socks was reading about them in Little Women and since I’ve always knitted on long, straight needles I couldn’t even fathom out how it was done. And I couldn’t begin to understand why on earth anyone would knit socks when they were available for a few pounds for a packet of 5 pairs at the supermarket.

Everything changed when I arrived in the US, the land of fanatical sock knitters and incredibly beautiful sock yarns. You may remember I knit my first pair back in 2008 and had a few less than successful attempts thereafter. But I was starting to understand how addictive it is to knit them.

This summer I knitted the second pair of socks of which I am inordinately proud, using this Twinkleberry pattern and a Limited Edition Sundara sock yarn in the Mango Madness colourway. For those of you on Ravelry, here are the details.

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I absolutely ADORE this yarn and am now really appreciating the joys not only of knitting, but of wearing hand-knitted socks. The weather has been unseasonably very cold in Seattle recently but my toes have been toasty warm and they are so, so comfortable, as they are knit precisely to fit my feet.  I LOVE them and can hardly bear to remove them every evening. I wore my first pair of socks to ribbons and am frightened I’m going to end up destroying these.  In an ideal word, I would have a pile of gorgeous hand knit socks from which to choose. Must. Knit. Faster.

In other orange knitting news, I spent a few September evenings knitting a couple of little seasonal hats for my dear friend, the Instant Hausfrau’s, new boy twins.  Well they were seasonal back then. I’m only posting about them now as Ms Hausfrau was having a little trouble locating both hats, both twins and the camera at the same time in order to take pictures. Which is entirely understandable. After the Minx was born I was having difficulty locating my head. More details on my Ravelry page.

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Happy Halloween!

11 December 2009

And A Partridge In A Pear Tree

 

I don’t normally like just linking to other people’s posts directly without adding ‘value’ or ‘insights’ of my own, but seriously if you haven’t already seen this incredible stand-up gingerbread partridge in a pear tree on Not Martha then I suggest you rush there straight away, where you’ll find lots of additional pictures and full instructions.  Much better than anything you’ll find round these parts anyway.

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{picture from Not Martha}

09 December 2009

Christmas is Coming….

I’ve finished crocheting my Snowflake Garland.  It was very quick and easy and everso slightly addictive. So much so, that I might make some more as gift tags.

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The Minx and I referred to that seminal work Usborne Activities – Christmas Cooking at the weekend in order to prepare our Christmas party offering. These were made from a basic Victoria sponge cake cooked in a roasting tin to make one big flat cake. The cake is then cut into twelve squares and ten triangles, covered with butter icing (by me) and decorated most tastefully by the Minx with bits of Twix as the tree trunks.

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The now traditional Christmas tree decorating photo was also taken. 

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Update: Oops, I forgot to give pattern details for the crochet garland. You can download a free PDF here.  It’s a US pattern, so UK readers should remember to translate it from US crochet terms to British crochet terms, but that’s very simple. Details of the garland I’ve made are here on my Ravelry page, for those of you who are on Ravelry.  If you are, do come and be my friend!

05 December 2009

Christmas is Coming…

 

The air is buzzing with excitement (the Minx) and panic (moi).

The enormous Advent calendar stuffed full of tantalising little packages, which was sent by the Minx’s lovely godparents, is hanging up and revealing its secrets.

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Christmas decorations courtesy of the Minx (with help from me on the actual cutting) are starting to go up

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(for real proper grown up snowflakes check out Uncle Beefy, take a look at this incredible gallery of real snowflakes or make some on your computer here  - the Minx and I have been having tons of fun with this little program and there’s no little tiny bits of paper to clear up afterwards).

New papier mache baubles from Crate & Barrel are on display.

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And the snowflake garland I’ve been crocheting for the fireplace is now finished, blocked and ready to be starched and hung.

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We’ve got a fun and festive weekend lined up. Our friend is visiting from Victoria and tomorrow we’re going to decorate the tree, do some Christmas baking, hopefully get to Urban Craft Uprising, go to a party in the evening, and then off, weather permitting, to Leavenworth on Sunday.  

I hope you’re all less panicked than I am.  What special things are you doing for the holidays?