This is how you, Mark, will learn how to cross stitch

Okay so the title of this post might seem person specific, but if you’re looking for a crash course (and I do mean crash course, I’m covering a lot in this post but by no means everything) in cross stitch, you can join in even if you’re not Mark. Mark is a friend of mine, not a made up person. Honest. You can read his Pop Culture blog over at Zwolanerd if you like.

Ready? Then let us get rolling. Cross Stitch is a form of needlework where the stitches form an X shape. You may have deduced this from the name of the technique. It’s a simple, effective form of needlework which allows the quick coverage of large areas as well as pleasing shading and detail work. The threads used tend to be slightly glossy which looks marvy.

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Loom Knit Handwarmers With Thumb Holes

I’m clearly going with the Enid Blyton title model these days. You know the ones. “Five Solve a Mystery” “Five Visit the Fair”. Right to the point with her titles was Enid. You’ll be unshocked to hear this post concerns loom knitting, hand warmers and thumb holes.
Handwarmer

A few weeks ago, Aldi had a kids loom knitting kit thing on special for $12. The kit included three knitting looms, and five balls of yarn. Bargain town, right? I’ve seen looms for $12 each so three for $12 was irresistible. The booklet included many fine things to do with the looms, most of which I have ignored because I am not 10 and therefore probably can’t carry off a massive knitted headband. The arm warmers, however, appealed. It’s is rather Wintery about my person at the minute, so anything to keep warm is welcome. I pondered for a while and decided I’d like hand warmers, but with thumb holes. As a species, we’ve spent a lot of time evolving thumbs, it seemed a shame to not honour that with holes for them. I figured out if you “drop” a stitch on the loom, you can make a gap, and in case you also want to highlight the wonder of human evolution with a handy thumb hole, here’s how to do it.

You Will Need
A ball of yarn – I did two hand warmers with less than one 100m ball. I had a ton left over. See how precise these amounts are? It will depend on how long you want your arm warmers (or how far up your arm you can get the resulting tube)
A round knitting loom. Mine is about 8cm across. I can’t fit my hand through it, so you don’t need a massive one you could wear as a bracelet or anything.
A measuring tape
A stitch marker that can be removed later, or a paperclip or something. Anything that can hold a stitch in place for a little while.
Pen and paper
Usual things like scissors, yarn needles and anything you’d like for embellishing.

Measure and Note
Drawn pattern for hand warmersFirst, divide the hand into three sections. From the fingers (where ever you want the handwarmers to end, long or short. Up to you) to the top of the thumb joint. Then from the top of the thumb joint to the bottom of the thumb joint and then from there to where ever you want your arm warmers to stop on your arm.
If you’re not sure how far up your arm you can comfortably go, knit up a few rows with your loom and then see how far that tube will go comfortably. Don’t push it until it’s tight, as this won’t be comfortable to wear.

Start your… looming.
Cast on according to the instructions in your kit, or online. I’m saying here you need to ask someone else. I don’t want to lead you astray with odd directions. Anyway, cast on and knit as normal until the section you have knitted is the right length for the top section of the hand warmers (the bit that goes over your fingers). Keep a note of your rows as you go, it means you can do the second one by row count rather than centimeters. Also, when you’re measuring your knitting, pull on it gently to spread it out – it tends to bunch up a bit.

Once you get the desired length, find your stitch marker because you’re going to be daring now.

Dropping the stitchWhen you’ve just completed a knit row, and you have only 1 loop on each peg, take your stitch marker and slip it through the last peg (the one before the one the yarn is at). Lift this loop off and tuck the stitch marker inside the knitting so it doesn’t get in the way.

Loops with a skipped peg. Carry on again as normal, adding a loop to each peg, but don’t wrap the peg you’ve just taken the loop off. Knit this row as usual. Now you’re going to wrap the yarn again, but you’re going to go back the way you came. Working in the opposite direction, wrap the yarn (take it behind the first peg as usual, should work) and knit the row. Repeat this as many times as you need to to get the length you need for your thumb. It’s tricky to measure this “Gap”, so if you can figure it out from your measurements it’s easier. My finger section was 6cm and the thumb was 3cm, so I was able to just halve the number of rows needed.

When your gap is long enough, wrap once around the empty peg and then carry on to the rest of the pegs. Knit the bottom loops, then wrap around your special formerly empty peg again. Now you just keep on knitting as usual until you have the length you want.  You don’t need a stitch marker or anything on this end of the gap as you’ve basically just cast on again.

Cast off according to someone else’s instructions. Seriously this time because I have no idea how casting off on these circle looms is supposed to work and I am still a little bit shocked the whole thing didn’t unravel from my appalling attempt to do so.

Finishing
Once you have the warmer off the loom, turn it inside out so you can get a good look at your stitch marker. This stitch will unravel if we don’t do anything about  holding it in place, so thread a needle with the same yarn as you’ve been working with.

Fixing the loopSecure the yarn near the stitch, and then slip the needle in beside the stitch marker. I doubled my yarn over so it was 2 strands going through the stitch, just to be super sure it would hold. Once the needle is in the stitch, carefully remove the marker, making sure you don’t pull at the stitch. Complete your stitch with the needle and secure your yarn on the other side. At this point, even though it’s inside out, pop your warmer on and see how the thumb hole is. You can carry your needle down one side and pop a couple of stitches in at the bottom of the hole if you find it’s too open. Secure, weave in ends and turn the whole lot the right way out.

You’re done. Make another one if you like, or just rock the One Hand Warmer look made famous by… someone’s done it, probably.

Embellish as you wish, I went with purple blanket stitch around the edges because I like blanket stitch and I like the way purple and red look together. If you have a plainer yarn you could do all sorts like felt applique or surface embroidery. Let your creativity go nuts. Speaking of creativity and nuts, here’s the “Model Pose” showing both gloves, styled by my Mother.

Model Pose

Claiming the plain wooden table was “boring as a background” she instead opted for the Green Guide – the TV lift out from the newspaper. Why? “It looks a  bit like snow. And these are for the cold”. Anyway, enjoy my wonky blanket stitch!

Oh, before I go – the yarn I used. If you’ve fallen in love with it and want to find the same thing (I am, afterall, a trendsetter), it’s from a company called Yarn Bee. The range is Boucle Traditions Ragg and the colour is Cranberry and I bought it at Hobby Lobby in the USA in 2009, so it might not be available any more. I don’t even know. You now know I’m the kind of person who buys yarn while on holidays.

A Squishy Basket of Delight

A few years ago, I was in a skirt making phase (which I never quite left to be honest) and the lure of an “Empty the bolt” sale got to me. This is a sale my local fabric chain store holds where they give you a discount if you buy the entire rest of the bolt of fabric. I bought some sunshiny yellow flowery fabric. I say “some”, it was about 6 meters. Which I used entirely in a double-circle skirt. The skirt was… terrible. The fabric was too stiff to really be happy in a double-circle skirt. I wore it once and then put it away to “fix” later. By the time I got around to fixing it, I’d gone right off the fabric. The colours I still loved, but the design did look like toilet curtains. It’s been hanging around for ages, so this weekend I decided to use up the fabric and make a basket.

This is going to be a long post with lots of pictures, so I’ll show you the finished item first. The rest is a tutorial of sorts – these baskets are really easy to make and I’d love for you to have a go. You only need to know 2 crochet stitches – chain and single crochet. Finished Basket

It’s deliciously squishy, you should know this right up front. Mine is quite roomy, but this “pattern” (I really do use that term loosely) is completely adaptable to whatever size or depth you want. It’s one of those nifty things where you can follow the tutorial and end up with something utterly different and totally yours.

Ready? Then let us away.
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A Frog Prince to Sit Upon

The latch hook frog prince I did a little while ago bounced around for a bit while I was kicking the sewing machine to get it to play nice. It’s elderly, and often decides things are too hard and the tension goes all crazy. Anyway, it’s been kicked now so I have finished the frog prince cushion. Hooray! I did an envelope style back for it, and look I took a ton of photos in case you wanted to do an envelope style back for something. I’m pretty nice to you. I’ll add my usual disclaimer that this is how I did it, and it’s probably not the best/easiest/common way.
Pick your fabricFirst thing you’ll need to do is find some backing fabric. Having recently done a bit of a clear out, I had uncovered this froggy fabric. No idea where it came from, probably a swap at some point. It was fate, I reckon. Fate! You’ll need enough to cover the piece you’re backing, plus a couple of extra inches because you’ll be overlapping it. Cut the fabric in “half”. You can cut it exactly in half, or cut it so you have one piece wider than the other, which is what I did. Hem one cut edge on each piece. I didn’t take a photo of this, I assumed you’d seen a hem before. If you have the kind of machine that does fancypants stitches, you could use those for a bit of decorative flair. The Elna does straight, zig zag or somewhere in the middle, so I just straight stitched mine.

Pin this to bitsWith right sides facing, plonk the latch hook (or whatever) down on your fabric and pin the merry hell out of it. Pins pins pins, loads of them. Got room for another one? Slap it in! I’ve pinned with the latch hook facing me so that I can make sure the yarn isn’t sitting in the sewing zone. Just push it out of the way with your fingers (or a knitting needle. Or a butter knife) as you pin. You want to pin it so the fabric is pretty flat and tight over the latch hook. If you are doing this with latch hook, be prepared for it to all be a bit floppy because of the bulk of the yarn. Don’t worry, it’s all good.

FloppyThis is the backside of the pinning bonanza. What’s happening in the lower right corner? I have no idea. Now, you can pin both bits of fabric at once, overlapping them in the middle (the hem side goes in the middle, but you probably figured that out). I did one at a time because I am not brave.

Sewing the back on is a bit tricky I found. The bulk of the yarn makes the sewing machine sad. I found it incredibly helpful to move the position of the needle to the far left. Much easier to sew the edges that way as you don’t have to try and get the yarn under the foot. Sew all the way around, keeping the needle as close to the yarn as you can. Keep an eye out for yarn slipping into the path of the needle and just poke it back inside the seamline as you go. I went around twice, with a bit of a gap between the seams because I never really trust my seams to not burst later, so I added a second one as insurance.

If you are doing what I did, and adding the sections separately, just repeat the pin/sew bit. Make sure when you pin you have a good inch or more of overlap, otherwise you may end up with exposed cushion insert and you will offend the vicar.

Clipped corner

Once you’ve got both bits sewn on, trim your canvas and fabric to about an inch around (yes, Australia does use the metric system, but “about an inch” sounds better than “About 2.5cm”). Clip your corners! Otherwise they’ll make a horrible lumpy bulky bit and no one wants that. Just chop them as above. Trust me. Now you can turn the whole lot right side out through the envelope opening and shove your insert inside.

frogprince5

Here’s Mr Frog Prince all full of pillow insert. You could probably make your own insert if you had some fabric and stuffing laying about, but hell it was $4 so I splurged.

OopsAs you can see I am in extreme danger of offending the vicar. My overlap was not quite overlappy enough for the insert, but I’m hoping that sitting on the cushion a bit will squash it down eventually. Anyway it’s the back, if people look at the backs of cushions I think they’re just being rude.

While I’m here, I’ll show you the other work in progress I have going on. It’s the “cushion cover” which will instead cover a footstool.

WIPYes I should have it on a frame, but the frame I have is not quite wide enough, and I am too cheap to go and buy another one so I am doing it unstretched. I’m a rebel. The canvas is pretty firm, so it’s still coming out fairly evenly. Stop judging me.

Lamp Facelift

Today was hot, too hot to do things that involved a lot of thought. Mostly it was too hot to do anything but silently curse everyone I know who happens to have real aircon. So today’s project was simple, quick and turned out pretty well actually (you do detect a note of surprise). Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my bedside lamp.  As it was this morning, anyway.
Lamp, BeforeIt was a lovely lamp, that cast a warm light even with the white energy saver bulb in it, but as you can see the paper shade was a little (by which I mean a lot) worse for wear. This is actually the good side, the other side was more water stained. This is due to a persistent roof leak which is over my bed. Also the paper was torn from being dropped a lot, and what you can’t see is enough pin holes to render the side perforated. I have a terrible habit of keeping my pins and needles nice and handy in any available lampshade.

So on to the makeover! I started out by removing all the “lamp” bits – not so much for safety, but because they would be in the way. Though safety is probably a decent reason too, now I come to think of it. I cut around the top and bottom of the shade, just beside the support hoops. Once I’d done that, I unpeeled the paper from the join. It came off in one piece, and I’m sure I can think of something to do with it later. Then came the hard, boring part:

Glue Everywhere

Hard, nasty glue all over the support hoops. In theory, I could have left this on. However I knew I’d look at it later and think “Should have scraped that off”. This was really the hardest bit, it took about an hour of scraping, poking and peeling using fingernails, craft knives and butter knives. Soaking the stuff in water helped a lot, making it soft and peely and kind of oddly satisfying to remove.

Now to the materials chosen. Something you should know about me is that I’m partial to brown string. I love the look, feel and smell of the stuff. Actually I like most kinds of string, but brown string is my favourite. This meant I had quite a lot of brown string about the place, which I used to wrap the shade. I did this in front of the DVD of “Love, Actually” however you can choose any movie you like, there’s no rules here.

Wrapping the string

I don’t know if you can really tell, but I wrapped it by going from the top, around the front side of the bottom hoop, up around the back and then to the front side of the top hoop. It works out to an elongated figure 8 shape – there’s probably a ton of other ways to do it, but I like the even top and bottom this way. My string is the cheap stuff, so it’s full of lovely knobbly wonky bits, which I left alone. If you wanted a smoother look, you could do this with yarn, or expensive smooth string. Up to you. Actually variegated yarn would look pretty cool, I’ll remember that for later (no I won’t).

Squeeze

Once the sections got full, it was a case of squeezing the ball through – just push the string you’ve already wrapped out of the way. You can even it out later. You’ll be surprised how many more wraps you can squeeze in this way, and it goes a long way to covering the support bar things too, if you pop an extra wrap in and push it over to hide the bar.

I did the whole shade in one kind of string, but changing it up would look really nice. Stripes! Everyone loves stripes. I also chose to go vertically,  but a horizontal wrap would work. The only thing is that the sides wouldn’t curve, so you’d end up with a straight sided shade. If that floats your boat, by all means do it that way.

I just did plain old knots to hold the string in place. Once it was all wrapped up, I dabbed some glue on the knots and when that was dry, cut off most of the tail. The “internal” knots where I joined the end of a ball of string to the start of a new one I just pushed to the back and didn’t worry about.

Now, once you’ve got your lamp all wrapped up, all that remains is to reassemble the lamp bits, plug it in and switch it on.

Lit Up

It’s a good deal less bright than the old shade, but it’s plenty bright enough to read by. I’d suggest using a cool LED or energy saver bulb if you’re not already. If you do find the lamp too dark to read by (assuming you’re doing this to a lamp you read near) you can always push the string around on the side you sit on to let more light out.

Sometimes, a project comes out looking exactly like it did in my head. I’m just as surprised as you are, seriously.