Cheap and Cheerful

Brightly coloured acrylic yarn

The other day I was faffing about in Instagram when someone posted a picture of a bulk pack of lime green acrylic yarn from Spotlight (Spotlight is a chain here in Australia selling craft stuff and homewares). “Ew!” said the comments. “Gross!”. Not so much the colour, apparently, as the fact it was cheap acrylic. “Oh do fuck off” I said to myself, and unfollowed the yarn snob.

A considerable portion of my yarn stash is, sorry yarnsnobs, cheap acrylic. Sometimes I buy it because I like the colour, sometimes I buy it because it’s cheap. Sometimes I buy it because there’s a big bag of it and I think “I.. I need that”.  As much as I’d like to be able to use hand spun hand dyed terribly expensive yarn all the time, I can’t afford to. Nor can I justify a hand spun purchase for making the small and usually pointless objects I make. The yarn above is a novelty yarn from Spotlight and the colours just bliss me right out. It’s acrylic, mostly. It’s going to look mad and fabulous once it’s worked up into a vest. I shall wear it with joy, assuming I can upsize the pattern sizing. Stay tuned.

Quick aside, but acrylic these days is a long way from the acrylics of old. There’s a ball of yarn around here somewhere from years ago which is stiff and scratchy. These days acrylics can be soft and warm and lovely – we’ve come a long way, baby. Even the $1 a ball stuff I’ve got crammed in a basket is pretty nice to handle. Sure, it’s not pure wool nice or hand spun nice, but it’s not making me weep with sadness to use it. This big range of soft, quality acrylics means a bigger range for people with wool allergy or vegan principles. Hooray!

I’m a big, big believer in crafting being completely and fully accessible to anyone who wants to have a go. Despite what the Martha Stewarts of the world want you to think, there’s no need to spend half your wages on supplies. Currently, I’m gathering the bits together to make a cape for Winter. The outer fabric will be cut from a blanket I got at the op-shop for $10. My plan for the lining is a doona cover I .. well I got it at the op-shop for $4.  Add the pattern into the pricing and you’re looking at around $30 total. Possibly some swearing and whatnot also as it’s quite a complicated pattern. Even so, buying this fabric off the bolt would probably be $30 without the lining or pattern.

If you want to spend the money on the higher end of the supplies market, by all means go for it. It’s your money and your crafting time. The supplies are there for you to buy, but it’s a great thing that price points are so varied for supplies.  It’s lovely to use the high quality stuff, I get that.

Supplies Snobbery isn’t a thing I can get behind. Use what you love, even if it’s a second hand sheet or a bulk pack of cheap yarn. If it makes you happy, and making a thing makes you happy, then grab it and love it I say. I have, as you know, the last word on this subject.

Temperature Scarf: August (and bonus unicorn)

Temperature Scarf for August

BAM! There it is! I actually finished the month this morning, so perhaps a little cheaty but you won’t know if I don’t tell.. you.. ah. Damn. Anyway! One more day under 10 and as you can see at the end there, Spring is starting to Spring upon us so I can relegate the lavender to the Granny Squares bucket now as I don’t think I’ll be needing it again this year.

Scarf until the end of August

So long now! I mean the scarf is long, not that I want you to leave. I’d like to think my stitches are more even and all that, but I think they’re probably not. The edges are a lot less wonky for August though.

Now, it’s been almost a month since my last post and you’re probably all “Is that all you’ve been up to Lyn? Slack much?” to which I say “Mean.” I’ve been working on a few bits and bobs, some of which will end up here when they’re finished, and also making two more Unicorns.

Two Unicorns

Twinsies! These are off to their new homes tomorrow. As before, the pattern is by Woolhalla and the felt is from Winterwood Toys.

Last, but not least, here’s my 1 Second Everyday video for August which (like July’s video) is included here because it’s got a lot of crafting in it. Because that’s what I do that’s interesting.

I will hopefully be back with stuff to talk about before the September installment of the scarf, but I make no promises.

Temperature Scarf: July

Hey you guys! I finally got to break out my lavender yarn because we’ve had a day under 10 degrees. I know, exciting!
Temperature Scarf JulyWe also had the warmest July day ever, or in 40 years, or something. That’s the green there, it was 24 degrees. Overall though, much like June – pretty blue from day one. And also the random row lengths are becoming a genuine feature.

Scarf January to July

July however is less flabby than June, so that’s something. I’m still happy with the colours, they’ve matched the temperatures well. I maybe should have used the darker blue for 10-14, but if you think I’m frogging it now you can.. go away. Insane person you are!

The other thing I’ve been doing this month is beta testing the 1 Second Everyday app on Android. Not technically crafty as such, but there’s a bit of crafting in it, so here’s July, one second per day.

I’ve also made a pincushion, but I’m not showing it to you because my blanket stitch is terrible.

Temperature Scarf: Blue June

June Temperature Scarf

Oh hey Random Increases, welcome back! Sure is nice to see you again. Makes me feel at home. Anyway! June. Blue June. It stayed between 11 and 19 degrees for the whole month. This is maximum temperatures, of course. It surely did get under 10 a few times. Surely did (no idea where that came from, I’m just going to run with it). I’ll weave the ends in at some point maybe.

Scarf up until June

And the whole thing. Since we’re halfway through the year it’s about a half as long as it will be. Quite, quite long. I should be able to wear nothing but this scarf and still not violate any decency laws. It does look a bit … flabby at the June end. I don’t know how many increases ended up being done, but apparently it’s a few.

Now, if you’ve been here before you’ll  know that not terribly long ago I conquered The Granny Square (dun dun dunnnn). Since then I’ve pretty much not stopped, hauling out all the balls of yarn I had stashed away to throw them all together into a shawl. It’s not done yet, but here’s how it’s looking at the moment.

Granny Square ShawlThat row at the bottom needs sewing on, and I’ve a pile of grannies waiting to be sewn into rows. Although this was “designed” as a stash busting project, I have bought some more yarn in solid colours. Variegated yarn looks grand for a round, but two different kinds doesn’t look so hot to me – the form of the granny is lost in the random colours. So I’ve been limiting the variegated to one type per square. Of course, being me, I mostly only had variegated so I picked up some cheap solid colours at a discount shop. Also some more black. You can see in the photo the blacks are not entirely the same.

So that’s where I’m at at the moment – up to my eyeballs in yarn most of the time.

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.

Woven scarf

Having mastered the granny square (yes, I’m still a bit chuffed about that) I’ve been digging out all the partial balls of yarn I have left from other projects and the ones I bought with nothing in particular in mind. I do that a lot, I’m a sucker for a pretty colour. In the middle of the basket of yarn, I dug up some funky red wool I’d bought on whim. I’m also a sucker for things that are red. It’s multi thickness, very thin in some places and quite fat in other places. I tried to crochet with it, but frankly everything I did looked a bit shit. The very thin bits end up looking too loose and stringy if I used a hook for the fat bits, and if I used a middling hook, the fat bits didn’t play.

I thought it might look a bit cool if I used it to weave a scarf, but not having a loom was a bit of an issue. I do have a small square loom (one of those ones with the nails around the edge of a frame) which I could have used, but I don’t know where it is to be honest, so that was out. There’s lots of options for making looms out of other things. I pondered coat hangers, sticks and even shutting the ends in a drawer when I stumbled upon the idea of using an embroidery frame.

Embroidery frame loom

At first I considered hammering a row of nails in each roller, but it wouldn’t have worked as I was using the rollers to hold the completed work as well as the waiting to be rolled up yarn (you know what I mean). So instead I drilled a series of holes in each roller, 1cm apart. Then I cut the yarn into sections a bit longer than I wanted the scarf to be and threaded them one at a time through the holes, tying a knot to keep them in place.

Did it work? It mostly did work okay! Rolling the rollers to keep the threads tight worked as I planned, with the only issues being some slightly longer yarn which went a bit loose at the end. The hardest bit was the first rolling, which you can see above. Keeping the warp threads in order was a bit tricky, but it works fine if you take it nice and slowly.

Weaving in progress

It is, as you can see, wonky. I think this is due in part to the different thicknesses of the yarn, it was not always possible to keep it all tight and straight, but as it apparent in many of my projects, a little bit of wonky doesn’t trouble me. The chopstick is there to push the weft thread more tightly into place. Basically it’s weave a line, push into place, weave the next line, push into place… The whole thing is done in the basic Under One, Over One weave except for the places when I messed up.

Once I’d reached the end, I cut the warp threads and tied them off in pairs (having planned ahead, I had an even number of holes drilled) and then added some more yarn as a fringy bit on the end because making a fringe is the easy way out.

Finished woven scarf

It’s actually a little short, but it keeps my neck warm and that is what counts. Wonky as it is, I’m a little bit charmed by it and will wear it without too much embarrassment.

I’m planning to try out the “loom” on some other things, as soon as I fix the two holes that were too close together and ended up as one big hole – this is fine for chunky yarn but hopeless for thinner stuff. Of course thinner stuff might not work anyway as the holes are so far apart. However I have other frames I can drill holes in if I want to. Pleasingly, they are still completely usable as embroidery frames too as the fabric strips are not disturbed by the drilling.

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.

WIP: Temperature Scarf, March

I’m a little late to show you this, which is mean of me because I am fully aware you’ve been laying awake for the past couple of days, staring at the ceiling and wondering when, oh when would this update ever come?? Well, you can sleep soundly tonight because it’s very much here. Behold! March!
Temperature Scarf March

I was going to proudly exclaim that I had not done any random increases again this month, but looking at this photo I’m not entirely sure I didn’t. Also didn’t finish weaving in the ends, so once more I beg your forgiveness thank you kindly. Another record broken this month for most days over 30 or something. I’m not entirely sure as I was sitting under a wet towel, whimpering. It’s lovely and Autumny now though, cool nights and generally nice days. Well worth the wait.

2013 Scarf So FarHere it is in all it’s glory. I’ve just measured it, and it’s a scrap under 94cm, so if you average that over the year with complicated maths all over the place (multiplication!) it should end up approaching 3.75 meters, if not slightly longer (since months have different numbers of days and I can’t be bothered doing quite so much mathing).

I’m also working on a cross stitch cushion cover, which is not destined to cover a cushion at all. I bought one with a frog on it not long ago and it turns out to be the perfect size to re-cover a small stool in the loungeroom that needs some TLC. Rather than giving up my lovely frog, I ordered a sort of floral thingy in earthy tones, and once it’s done I might even show it to you.