Craft, Crochet, Knitting, sewing, Tatting

WIPS Whipped

I’ve had a particularly productive few of weeks here. I’ve managed to finished 4 projects!

There’s not one but two hats for my brand new niece. A Yoda hat and a viking hat.

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As well as a cowl, which is yet to be photographed and my first ever pair of socks.


So what do you do when you’ve finished a project? Cast on another of course! I’ve cast on another cowl – both cowls will get sent to their intended victims recipients at the same time. I’ve also wound the yarn for a carnaby skirt but so far have resisted casting it on. And I’ve decided on a pattern for my next pair of socks, again resisting the urge to cast on just yet (have to choose the yarn anyway).

This leaves me with 4 and a half current fibre WIPs (the half has been on hold for over 2 years and I’m debating whether or not to frog or to try to salvage by combining what I’ve done so far with another pattern…) I mentioned this fact on twitter today and was promptly labelled a lightweight. I didn’t mention the two sewing WIPs, I don’t think that would have improved my standing! Apparently the grown up knitters have oodles of WIPs, which I find stressful just thinking about although it must be said that one of the grown up knitters I know is craft-monogamous.

I started out being craft-monogamous myself, only allowing one WIP per craft. I found that it helped me to get things finished as I was hitting the boredom slump and the other patterns started to call my name. Eventually I relented, I think it was when I realised that the can’t start until I’ve finished was sapping some of the fun as I doggedly avoided the project-from hell yet couldn’t start the next one. Boy was that a slippery slope! Still I try to stem the tide by searching for the next pattern, that tends to kill an hour or so of cast-on itch.

So how about you? Are you craft-monogamous or WIP happy? How many WIPs do you have on the go? Any chance you’ll ever finish them?

Craft, Parenthood

Learning to Craft

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When I saw the tweet from one of my friends who owns an LYS here in Edinburgh asking if anyone could teach cross stitch I thought, well why not? Granted it had been years since I last did any cross stitch, but I used to do a fair amount of it – I even found my alternative name spelling via a cross stitch book! (a post about that in the near future)

And so I met the lovely lady in a local quiet pub. She had brought along her project and I had brought some 14 count Aida cloth so that I could demonstrate. At the end of the almost 2 hours she was cross stitching competently, although still unsure of her abilities she can certainly perform the stitches and the back of her work was neat.

But that’s not what this post is actually about. This post is a result of the general conversations that we had in that session, conversations that made me realise just how amazingly lucky I have been.

You see, craft has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Mum would always include something crafty in our Christmas gifts, never made a fuss about it, just had the stitching kit or model or painting kit there. Part of Christmas was always starting a new project.

My paternal grandmother, was always crafting as well. I have a couple of pieces that she made that were framed by my grandfather and I have some happy memories of her helping me to complete the tapestry kit I had gotten for Christmas one year. I thought it was the most perfect piece of tapestry work ever completed, it was only many years later that I realised just how many mistakes there were!

Grandad made more than just frames, I remember “helping” him to design the brake system for my billy cart. I also remember the day that I decided that all I wanted in the whole world was a circular skirt. Mum helped me find fabric and then she set up the machine and left me to it. I figured the rest out myself with the occasional suggestion for improvement from Mum.

And that I think was a key. I was always encouraged to have a go and to figure things out and then when I needed help it was there for me, but Mum never would have done it for me and I don’t recall anyone ever telling me that I couldn’t do something. The day I came home from school and announced that I wanted to learn to tat, Mum said she’d found it impossible but she never for a moment made me feel that I wouldn’t be able to do it. She handed me her shuttle and thread and then later gave me money to get pattern books and more threads once I’d taught myself the flip.

I was lucky in that by crafting from such a young age I was able to draw on skills learnt whenever I picked up a new craft, which in turn made it easier to learn those. The result of all of this is not only a lifelong love affair with making stuff, but also a good grounding in how to follow instructions, how to pay attention to what I’m doing so that I can undo it, and also an innate belief in my own abilities to pick up anything that I want to and not just craft. If I’ve ever had difficulty with a craft I’ve just put it down and come back to it later, I’ve never ever for a moment considered that I was too stupid to understand, it was always a case of not the right time.

And this belief in my own abilities to do stuff and to figure stuff out is what allowed me to move to the other side of the world before Facebook existed. It also allowed me to have friends and contacts all over the world and gave me an appreciation of cultures that would be hard to get from just reading books. Crafting also gives you an appreciation for the journey, it’s as much about the process as it is about the end result – you learn to stop and smell the roses and to appreciate the details.

Of course I was lucky enough to have patient teachers who allowed me to explore and make mistakes. The worst thing you can do with a student who is having trouble “getting it” is to tell that person that it’s their fault – if you know your stuff you should be able to re-explain from a different perspective and help that person to understand what they need to do. And then there’s YouTube. On one hand it’s brilliant as it gives access to so many instructional videos, but then again there’s so many really bad ones too – another post coming up soon on that topic!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to teaching Katja to do all sorts of crafts, and looking forward to the self confidence that this will give her, not to mention the future filled with beautiful things, self-reliance and amazing friends and maybe even a career if that’s what she wants.


OK I think I have enough now

OK I think I have enough now

I’ve joined a stashdown group with the wonderful Dublin knitters. First step – get a handle on how much stash you actually have. This is mine. It’s all logged and photographed and it turns out that I have a total of 68km.

This is not an excessive stash. I’ve only been at it for 2 years after all. If you do a quick google search you’ll find plenty of stashes that make this one look modest. (The fabric stashes of quilters are amazing!) Just take a look at this woman’s –

I’d say that she’s gone way past SABLE – Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy!

So the goal this year is to end with less than I started. I’ll put a little graph in the side bar in case you’re interested in following my progress.

So tell me, how much is in your stash? Or are you not game to find out?

Craft, Finished Projects, sewing

Fancy New Nappy Bag bag


I’m so proud of my new nappy bag, just have to show it off! I started this one before Christmas and it’s sat there, mostly done, while I tried to figure out how to finish it. Finally yesterday I got it sorted. Granted it’s not professional-quality finished, but then I’m not exactly trying to sell it and I’ll never make another.

There’s so many lovely nappy (for Americans a nappy is a diaper) bags out there but they cost a fortune. Most have heaps of little pockets and matching change mats and the like. But at the end of the day you just need a bag to carry stuff, trying to figure out which pocket you put your keys in when you have a crying baby and you’re standing in front of your door in the pouring rain is not fun and I’m convinced it’s no quicker than just rummaging in a large sack anyway.

Typical me, most of the bags were also not quite right – the ones with great designs and nifty features tended to be horrid colours and those with the nice colours were ghastly expensive or impractical. Hence the genius idea of making my own.

I started off with this tutorial from Feather’s Flights and made a few mods, most I gleaned from other tutorials along the way. As I wanted to change the dimensions I had to start with a fair bit of working out and measuring and to be honest it *IS* a little big! Since I started we’ve managed to really par down the amount of stuff we travel with, but a big bag will never go astray – I can carry of of my stuff along with Katja’s in this one. I made it as wide as the pram.

The button is a gorgeous 3-piece affair I picked up in Fulda while we were there for Christmas, the colour matches in perfectly. The fabric is curtain fabric from Laura Ashley which I got on sale. Even so I reckon this bag came in at the same price as a reasonably expensive shop bought one.

This bag was fiddly to make, every pocket is lined, most pieces are interfaced plus there’s wadding used to give additional body to the bag walls and a mass of top-stitching. Given that I’ve never had a sewing lesson in my life I was really flying by the seat of my pants here!

I’m totally chuffed with the results and looking forward to many years of use even after I nolonger need to carry nappies about.

Craft, sewing

Japanese Knot Bag

I’ve been looking to make one of these for a little while and stumbled across some gorgeous fabric at a ridiculous price while out and about a few weeks ago. Today I finally got around to making my Japanese Knot Bag.

I used this pattern but changed the dimensions, partly because I wanted something slightly bigger than they had in the picture and partly because I don’t have a printer so couldn’t print out the pattern pieces. I used a bowl for the base and then calculated the size of the two main pieces using our old friend PI. Luckily Katja is fascinated by me sewing because I didn’t quite get it finished before she woke up from her morning nap.

I’m particularly chuffed that I made the effort to seek out this part of the fabric for the base section – love that flower! Looks awesome when the flower is on the outside or the inside.

And look at how much it holds. That’s my current project which is a baby blanket, plus three balls of yarn and my stupidly large notions tin. There’s room for more too.

And when I get bored, I can simply turn it around.

Can you tell that I’m happy with this project? I hope so cos I really am! I couldn’t even wait until tomorrow to show you for Finished Friday. I can see a lot more knot bags in my future…

Craft, Yarnstrosity

Pattern Dos and Pattern Don’ts – A Rant

I’ve just purchased a pattern for something I’ve been itching to make and upon receiving the instruction set my heart sank. I’ve paid good money for a set of written instructions that are quite honestly woeful. I feel ripped off. I’m sure that the instructions will produce the finished result, but I had to spend half an hour copying them into a word doc and changing the format to something readable. At the end of it I feel that the designer in question should be paying me!

It got me thinking about all the other patterns I’ve bought over the years. There have been some utterly hideous ones, such as the dinosaur beanie that I had to go and source alternative instructions in order to have it come out looking anything like the design (the original points simply would not work). Then on the other end of the scale there’s patterns put out by people with so much information presented in such a clear way and with help videos, such as those by the gorgeous AoibheNi – I’ve sometimes found myself wondering why they don’t charge more when they put in so much effort.

So a few tips and pet hates that I’ve had over the years as a consumer of patterns

  • make it clear, go for black or a dark colour on a white background
  • coloured backgrounds are useless, expensive to print and guarantee that your pattern will not be used. They are particularly problematic for anyone with a visual issue, such as the colourblind
  • include pictures of the finished object, photos of detail areas are also helpful
  • it’s nice if I can see the finished object too. Found a pattern for a hat once with the photo showing the designer front on. The hat was a thin white line on the top of her head with her hair wistfully splayed out the sides – not helpful
  • again on pictures, variegated threads can look amazing, but they often obscure the structure of the finished item. A picture of the item in a plain thread would be helpful
  • spread your pictures out so that the detail ones match the instructions, it’s annoying to get to round 8 and find the picture for it is next to round 2 text which then means I’m flipping back and forth
  • drop the all capitals, it’s shouting, it’s rude and it’s not clear
  • forget about the fancy pretty font. Give me a standard and clear font that I can read. Sure, use your fancy font for the headings if you must
  • get someone, anyone to do a test run – preferably someone fairly new to the craft as they’ll ask the smart questions
  • don’t assume that I know everything, include brief instructions for things or point me in the right direction
  • charts and diagrams are not the be-all and end-all. Provide some written instructions too if you can
  • never include an abbreviation without including an explanation (tatters, you should by rights be explaining “ds” at the beginning of every pattern!)
  • tatters, tell me where on your diagram to start!
  • tell me what to expect from the finished product, dimensions are generally a good starting point
  • tell me what thread and tools you used in your sample
  • if possible provide multiple versions of the same pattern – one which can be printed out and one which would work on a tablet for example. The printed one would have less margins and less fancy borders. Consider providing a “working” version
  • if there’s standard alternatives then provide them – for example, if you’re doing a crochet pattern it is a simple matter of search and replace to provide both an English and a US version
  • if you’re not providing them then at least tell me what format you’re using! Having to trawl through a pattern to figure out what terms they’ve used is irritating
  • if you’re including working photos ensure that they are clear, that I can see what you’re showing me and that your hands are washed. I once saw someone with dirt under the fingernails! Another pattern I found for socks showed a picture of someone’s legs, one shaved and with a sock and the other not shaved and sockless!

Don’t get me wrong – I am eternally grateful for those who provide patterns so that I can create wonderful things, but if you’re going to charge for them then at least put in some effort!

Have you come across any pattern hates? What about sample picture hates? Or do you think I’m too harsh?

Craft, News & Updates

HandmAid Craft Day Dublin

A couple of the wonderful knitters in Dublin decided a little while back to hold a fundraising event in aid of the famine in the horn of Africa. Yesterday, Saturday 3rd September 2011 was the day.

Held in Damer Hall next to St Stephen’s Green the event comprised tons of craft classes (€10 per class with all materials provided in everything from knitting and crochet to needle tatting, felting, embroidery, spinning and jewellery and card making), market stalls of handmade crafts, yarn, books and cakes (tea and coffee supplied by the wonderful Accents) as well as ”knit working” a.k.a. stitch n bitch.

I got down there early to see if I could help in any way, but the place was positively humming and so I started by purchasing a few skeins of yarn (all in a good cause) and settling in for some good crafty time. In no time at all the hall was full, all the morning craft classes were in full swing, and the stalls were 3 people deep! By lunch time there was no room left. Amazing turnout.

In the afternoon I held a needle tatting course, had to turn people away because it was full. I’m delighted to say that my students were very clever and picked up the basics in about half the time I expected 🙂

I stuck around for some of the cleaning, my mattress needle that I use for demonstrating tatting and for tatting with DK weight (8 ply) yarn came in handy for all those balloons that needed popping 😉

The result of a most excellently enjoyable day? €4500 raised with 100% of the money going to the Oxfam appeal for the famine. I’m so proud of everyone who took part and of everyone who came along for making it such a success. People are already talking about next year – I do hope that it happens again.