Patchwork Scarf

I’m getting reasonably good at patchwork, I’ll have you know. So good, in fact, that when I found a bundle of batik style fat quarters I’d bought on whim a few years ago, I decided to revisit the “Icicle Scarf” from “Stripped Down Patchwork” by Erin Gilday. I’ve made this three times before, the first time was a bit of a disaster because I did the maths wrong, and other two times went perfectly. The only problem with the last one I made for myself was the pressing cloth moved, and some of the fabric melted. You know, tiny things.

Because I was using Fat Quarters, the first step was to cut the fabric into short strips. These would then be sewn into long strips, before being sewn together and cut into short strips again.

Fabric cut into strips

Because I wasn’t using a limitless supply of fabric, I had to do some maths on this and I don’t like doing maths on things. It makes me frowny and a bit cross. I did a whole page of maths before I realised I was basing the entire thing on the wrong measurement and I had to start over. I know, you feel for me right now. Thanks. Turns out I got the second lot of maths wrong too, but this was actually a good thing. I’ll explain later. The end result was the strips were 5cm wide which meant precision cutting. Can you imagine me being precise? I can’t, and I was there.

Wrapped thumb

Let’s all be thankful I was once a Brownie because yes of course I slashed myself with the rotary cutter again. Quite deep this time, hence the emergency bandage made of off cuts. Again, I wasn’t even cutting fabric at this point so I have no idea what I was doing to get cut, but there you have it.   Precision.

Long strips joined up into a single piece

Once all the little short strips are turned into long strips, it’s a matter of sewing them all into one super long bit of fabric. Up until this point, everything was lovely, apart from all the bleeding. This is when the maths went skew-wiff though. Basically, what you do with your long strip is cut into triangles. I already knew the measurements in the book wouldn’t work because the strips were a different width. So I mathed, and it ended badly. Instead of half squares, I had half diamonds. I’d cut four before I realised why this wouldn’t work. You still get a bit of the effect, but the edges are zig zagged and also the stripes don’t continue through the whole thing. Back to the math board! That lasted a while, as I did counting on my fingers, but in the end i just got a big bit of cardboard and plonked the corner down on the top edge of the fabric, then drew a line where the bottom edge was and there you go, easy. Worked!

Half squares

See? Half squares. I’m amazing, go me! Okay so they’re a little bit off kilter but shit happens. Those are all sewn together in squares, which are then sewn together in a strip. Here’s why it’s good I messed up my maths earlier – I had a lot more strip length than I needed, letting me cut the proper number of proper triangles even though I’d cut stupid ones previously. I thought I wasn’t going to make it actually, but then I realised I’d cut more triangles than I really needed because counting to eight is difficult.

Backing

I didn’t end up using all the squares anyway, because my backing fabric was a tight fit. You can see in the above photo I had to hack a bit off and stick it to the end, I’d also had to turn some of the bits and jigsaw it a bit. I did order some orange polar fleece (which the original pattern calls for), but the colour was a bit wrong and I liked this rusty orange against the purple better. Backing mostly was alright, things shifted a bit in the pinning. This was probably partly me not pinning it enough, and partly the small dog that kept walking around on it while I was pinning. I’ll blame the dog, she can’t read this anyway.

Finished scarf

Once the backing is on, and I have done a lot of swearing because it moved around a lot and pfft to that, and the edges of the strips topstitched (more swearing as I had to unpick some – but I do love sewing, I do I do. I just like swearing as much), it was all done. I’d like to make sure you appreciate the Industrial Grunge Chic Aesthetic I went with for that photo because I’m a blogger, dammit. I’m all about random words shoved in front of the word “aesthetic”. Probably get a sponsorship deal out of this one.

ON a fence

For those who prefer an Outdoor Rural Rustic Aesthetic, here’s the scarf on a fence. Actually this is to show off the colours properly, aren’t they pleasing? I’m so pleased. You can also see where the backing got all scrumbled, but eh. I respond to the scrumbling with a big fat EH and you can quote me on that.

Canvas Photo Thing

It’s time for another round of the Pintester Movement! This time it was a case of finding a pin, and doing that pin. The rules are complicated, are they not? Anyway, I decided to try my hand at the DIY Instagram Photo Canvas from Savvysugar. I chose this for a couple of reasons, not the least of which being I already owned Mod Podge, foam brushes and a printer and knew where I could get square canvases for $2.50 each. In the spirit of truly doing the pin properly, I even did this with a couple of Instagram photos, even though I tend to treat those as disposable throw aways (unlike some bloggers who are apparently selling theirs. For real. Mad old world).

I didn’t take any photos of all the steps, so you’ll have to tap into your shiny imagination. Bold indicates the actual directions from the link above.

1. Select a picture that you’d like for creating the print. Resize the image using your computer until it is 6 by 6 inches and then print, using the best printer settings
I did this, but I added a step of increasing the DPI on the image too – they were 72 originally which is sort of Internet standard (even though I yoinked them straight off my phone). I don’t honestly know if it makes a difference once you’ve resized it, but I felt better about it being print quality. I pumped them up to 300. Which considering they were taken with an aging phone camera was probably overkill.

One of the first things I thought might be an issue was the water based ink, which was about to get quite wet. I wasn’t far off with my prediction, but it wasn’t as terrible as I expected. Read on to resolve that cliff hanger!

2. Use a paper cutter to trim the image, creating a perfect square. You can position the print over the canvas to double-check its size, trimming as needed.

Cutting the picture

As it happens, I do have a paper cutter. I saved it from a skip at a previous job. It works in that it cuts paper, but it has a slight slant to the blade which makes it hard to cut a perfectly straight line, so I avoided it and went with a craft knife and steel ruler. I don’t know if you can tell that the colours in the picture I’m cutting there are slightly off – the printer decided not to use all of the available inks and instead stamped its own interpretation on the picture.

3. Give the front of the canvas a quick sanding with fine sandpaper, which helps the Mod Podge really adhere to the print and canvas.
There’s no photo of this step, but I did do it.

4. With a foam brush, coat the front of the canvas with a layer of Mod Podge and then position the print, smoothing gently. Don’t worry if there are any bumps or puckers, they will smooth out once the glue is dry. Let rest for an hour before the next step.
Pictures stuck on canvasSo here are my photos all stuck down to the canvas. I smoothed out a few bubbles and ripples, but as instructed I didn’t worry about them too much, as they would smooth down when the glue was dry. Wouldn’t they?
I left them to dry for a couple of hours and went and did other things which mostly involved swearing at the sewing machine.
When I returned, I discovered that the “lumps and bumps smoothing down when the glue was dry” was a big fat filthy lie. I smoothed, prodded and poked and the sewing machine picture stayed as bubbly as ever. If you’re trying this pin yourself, smooth the bubbles out, or you’ll be stuck with them. Also you’ll stop trusting random tutorials on the internet, and then where would we be?
Since it was now 10pm, I decided to soldier on regardless.

5. Now coat the print with a layer of Mod Podge, working first horizontally with the foam brush and then vertically. Once again, don’t worry about any bumps; they’ll disappear as the canvas dries.
LIES UPON LIES UPON LIES. Of course they didn’t, I’m not even sure how they’re supposed to. I did come up against the other issue though, namely the smearing of water based inks.
Top CoatingI did the crochet picture first, and ended up with a pink tint to my picture and also to the Mod Podge from all the red inks. The sewing machine needle picture ended up with a blue tint and also there’s a couple of patches where the ink just plain disappeared or rubbed off. I’m not overly bothered, but if you were wanting your colours preserved it might be better to use a spray on top coat rather than a varnishy brushy on one (look at me, throwing around all these technical terms). Or you could laser print your picture I suppose.
These top coats may have gone on too thick. I found a thin coat of Mod Podge was nearly impossible because it just picked the ink right up and pushed it around – a thicker coat meant the foam brush wasn’t in so much contact with the print, but did mean a streakier finish.
I left the whole lot to dry overnight while I went to bed with a James May DVD and some hand sewing to do.

6. Place a piece of scrap paper under the canvas, and coat the sides with black acrylic paint, which really makes this DIY look professional. Touch up the black paint if needed.
Finished Canvas
“Professional” might be a stretch. I did alter this step in two ways. Well three, I didn’t bother with the scrap paper because protecting work surfaces is for wimps. I used the foam brush instead of a paint brush. This was to create a deliberate overlap of paint around the edges of the pictures. The canvas had a slight curve where the edges started and the picture edges just wouldn’t stick, so I painted them. Shortcuts for everybody! Also I used Paynes Grey instead of black. Yes there’s a difference.
They look.. fine. They look alright. Quite lumpy and a little bit smeared, but aren’t we all?

Now the idea behind this pin was to save money on canvas photo transfers which tend to run at $20 or so apparently. It just so happens that I have a canvas photo print, so I can offer you a side by side comparison:
Canvas Prints
The Mod Podge being thick does give the printed one a bit of texture, but nothing like a genuine thing. I’d say if you had a photo that was really important to you, or that you wanted to show off it’s probably worth spending the money on a proper canvas print. Otherwise this is a quick and cheap wall decoration, but smooth out your bubbles.
Can you see the pink through the one on the left? I can. If you can’t then you’re wrong.

Our Heroine Conquers An Actual Pattern

As it’s the first of June (yes, already. I know – zoomy old year isn’t it?) it’s clearly time for me to show you the completed May section of the temperature scarf. Which I will now do.

Temperature Scarf for MayWith the exception of some pleasingly patterned days in the low to high 20s, May has been almost entirely between 15 and 19 degrees. The stitch marker I’m using to hold the last stitch is black, which despite knowing full well I’m using a black stitch marker does tend to make me say “millipede!” as they are all over the house at the moment. As much as I do love and adore insects, millipedes are not my favoured house guests. Quite apart from the smell of them, there’s the horrible moment of wandering barefoot through the house and feeling the squish of them underfoot. Blech.

Temperature Scarf up to the end of May

And here’s the whole thing. I was quite right when I said it’d be wider again by the end of May, so go me. Practically a psychic, as it happens. I was planning to lay it out on the bench again, but today was damp and misty and I couldn’t be bothered going outside with a camera and endless scarf. Lazy, true, but at least I’d done all the weaving in of ends before I took the photo this time. Half a gold star?

Now, on to my terribly exciting crochet related news. One fundamental thing about my crochet is this: I cannot read patterns with any amount of ease. I can read them eventually and can just about manage an amigurumi doll as long as there’s nothing too fancy happening in the pattern, but overall I can stare at the pattern for an hour and be no closer to understanding what it is I’m supposed to be doing. Logically, I know “tr” means treble and “ch” means chain – logically, the pattern should be clear as a bell, but for whatever reason I just stare at these abbreviations and think “Why can’t anyone use their words??” (I have been known to write out entire patterns long hand just to get something done).

This brings us neatly to something which has baffled and confused me since I first picked up a crochet hook: The Granny Square. “The Granny Square?” you may be saying, “That most simple of crochet constructions, done in their dozens by people who aren’t even really paying attention because there’s something good on the telly?” to which I can only reply “Yes” because despite many many attempts, I always ended up with a sort of interesting knot rather than a nice granny square.

This was a source of annoyance for me. Well not really annoyance. Botheration? I mean it wasn’t ruining my life in any way, but every now and then I’d drag out a pattern and a hook and try try try again, adding to my Interesting Knot collection as I went. You see, there’s something solid and good about a granny square. Something sturdy, and maybe a little bit old fashioned. They put me in mind of many things, all of them comfortable and warm. We had for many years an afghan made of two giant granny squares. Obviously, they also remind me of my grandmother though that may be entirely due to the name of the things as I don’t recall her making any in my presence.

So with Winter leaping about the place and a yearning for something warm and snuggly, I discovered that I really, really wanted a granny square shawl. Something to throw around myself for walking the dogs or popping down to the shops, something old fashioned and a little bit daggy. And this, ladies and gents, is where we come to the triumph of my week. Are you ready? You might like to make a little drumroll sort of sound with your mouth.

Granny Square

Would you look at that thing? Those of you who’ve done 9 million of them will be saying “That’s nice dear” but it took me not one but two “How to crochet” books, each of which had a different pattern. The granny you see before you is a hodge podge of both patterns. Extensive editing of the book I’m more likely to keep (with a biro, thank you) has left me with a pattern I understand and which produces grannies with the minimum of brain ache. Okay so it’s a little bit wonky, but everything I do is really.

So now I can make that shawl for the Winter, and possibly even finish it during Winter, which is exciting. Apart from this square, which I think I’ll frame. With a little down light shining on it. In a humidity controlled room. Oh, and I’ll get one of those motion activated sound effect thingies so that every time I walk by, I get a small round of applause.

Temperature Scarf: April

Good news everyone! I’ve completely solved the “Random increases” problem I have. I’ve replaced it with random decreases.  Let’s pretend it was deliberate, to mark the shorter days of Autumn…

April Scarf

The photo makes the decreases look more drastic than they really are, but they’re still pretty obvious. Oh well, I tend to be a bit of a wonky person anyway so it’s no skin off my nose. Look in the middle! Our first “under 15” day of the year – exciting!

I’m running out of surfaces to stretch the whole thing out on for a photo. Today’s picture comes to you from the garden bench. By December I may need a basketball court.

Scarf To April I’m sure by the end of May it will be wide again. It’s just how I roll.

In other news, the Bottle Gardens are doing quite well – the Baby’s Tears are both growing cheerfully. One of the maiden hair ferns needed a repot as the string wasn’t touching the potting mix and the whole thing was drying out. It’s happier now I’ve added more string.

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.