show business

Oops.  It’s been a while between posts.  Again.

I have been knitting.  A lot.  Mostly for my guys school fair, but I’ll save that for another post.  This post is about the Easter Show.  I entered two things this year, and I think I did pretty well.

First up, my Choose Your Own Adventure cardigan, entered in the 7 ply and under category.  Yikes, it won!

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I Won!

My other entry was a little fair isle vest.  It did OK too…

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Highly Commended!

I wasn’t the only one who won ribbons this year, with some stunning Tunisian crochet and gorgeous squishy cables.  The Arts Preview was a fun night!

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The cardigan, the blue ribbon, the sparkles, and me!

What made the whole thing particularly exciting was that I didn’t use a pattern for either of my entries this year. My cardigan used elements of a number of cardigans I’ve knitted or bought over the last few years.  There’s the twisted rib from Audrey in Unst, as well as that amazing short-row top-down sleeve cap.  I added a bit of pouff to the cap sleeves and a simple textured eyelet lace to the front.  And shaping changed to fit my long long body.  I pretty much knit the thing three times before I got it how I imagined it.  I’m really happy with how it all came together, and the blue ribbon was an added bonus!

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Gratuitous selfie, with pyjammied husband lurking in the background!

The cardigan used four skeins of Spud and Chloe Fine, a gorgeous merino/silk blend.  I’ve worn it a few times now and no sign of pilling (yet), I think its going to wear quite well.

I also made up the little vest.  Last year, I entered a small fair isle vest for my smallest son Ollie into the Easter Show competition. Except that I didn’t finish it in time to actually submit it. It did make it into the knitting and fibre arts feature display, but I missed out on the chance to be judged.  I loved that little vest on Ollie, but he’s grown (as they do) and now it doesn’t fit.  So this year I decided to knit him another vest.  He wanted robots this time, so robots he got.

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Robot love

The vest pattern is my own basic vest pattern, based on dimensions from both Ollie and some of his clothes.  The robot chart is based on the Love Bytes mittens by Grace Schnebly, which I also plan to knit one day.  I had to tweak the little robots a little to make the stitch count work, and one of the little bots is mine, designed essentially to fill a small gap and keep the float length manageable. The green peerie row is also adapted from the mittens.  I tried to use as  many traditional fair isle techniques as I could, so it was knit in the round with steeks, four in total (four!).  It’s edged with corrugated ribbing, slow to knit but so effective.

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my gorgeous boy trying not to smile

The yarn is Jamison and Smith jumper weight, and its gorgeous. If I could knit in this stuff for the rest of my days I’d be a happy bunny. I didn’t have a shade card, and all those colours and potential combinations were a bit daunting, so I pinched the blue-green palette from Kate Davies Northmavine Hoodie.  Aren’t the colours gorgeous?

Of course by the time I’d decided what to knit, what to knit with, and ordered the yarn, I was running out of time to actually knit the thing before the submission deadline for the show.  And choosing the yarn colours based on a pattern in a newly release book meant a longer than expected wait for the yarn.  By the time the stuff arrived I had precisely ten days to knit the vest.  Ten days.  Ten.  I still had to go to work.  My kids still wanted feeding and bedtime stories.  but pretty much anytime I wasn’t sleeping or driving or in the shower, I was knitting.  Five days in and I was setting up the steeks for the armholes and neck.  Seven days and I was cutting those steeks.  Eight days and I was binding off the ribbing.  There was even time for a proper wet block.  My hands kind of hurt but it was finished with time to spare.  Go me!

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silly face

I’ve been thinking about writing up the pattern for these little vests, but I’m not really sure what’s involved with multiple sizing, and I didn’t design the robot chart, I just adapted someone else’s cleverness.  Also the basic vest design isn’t really that clever.  I measured Ollie’s chest and height, and looked at his clothes to determine the chest measurement, body length and armscye depth.  The dimensions were then converted to stitch/row count based on the yarn gauge.  Of course its probably just as easily find a simple vest pattern for the same gauge and use that instead of developing your own pattern, but where’s the fun in that?!

I used MS Excel (with cells adjusted as per knitters graph paper) to graph the vest, then played with the robot and border chart to make it fit.  This approach meant I had a pretty clear idea of how the finished vest would look before even I cast on.  It’s particularly effective for checking placement of charts in relation to shaping, and helped me make sure I ended up with a whole robot between the armhole and neck, rather than bits of bots.  Yeah, I really am that anal!

Ollie seems to be pretty happy with his new vest, and I’m happy with my new cardigan too.  Hooray for happy handknits!

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Ollie and me in our award-winning knitwear!

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ah hello, anyone home?

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it. Think of it as taking the summer off. There has been plenty of crafting (along with trips to the beach, barbecues and backyard cricket and lots of ice cream) but its all secret squirrel stuff. Presents and show entries and nothing I could talk about here. Until now.

Two weekends ago I finished two biggish projects, both destined for special babies. Now they have both been gifted, I can finally show them off.

First up, a squishy stripey blanket for a beautiful baby girl, the daughter of one of my oldest friends. It’s a stash blanket, knit almost entirely in Sublime Merino Cashmere Silk DK. The teal is Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK. It took me a while to decide on the colours, and I ummed and ahhed for a while about including the pink when I didn’t know for sure if Maddie would be a girl or boy. But the colours just looked right together, and my friend is evolved enough not to worry about silly things like that.

I cast on in the car on my way to my parents for Christmas, and pretty much knit this thing everywhere: in the car on daytrips to the beach, on the train, in pubs and at barbecues.  It was the perfect project for social knitting; simple, mostly knit stitch, but not too boring.

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hows that serenity?

But next time I’d possibly rethink the stripe sequence… the ends were a killer!

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too many ends

And of course I forgot to take a final finished photo before wrapping and posting.  Ah well.  It took six weeks from start to finish, although that includes two weeks while I waited for two extra balls to arrive in the post.  I think I need to knit more blankets like this one.  In total I used four balls of cream, three each of blue and green and two of the pink, and my stash is looking a little leaner.  Must do something about that.

My other project was a quilt.  A bright rainbow quilt.

i can sew a rainbow!

i can sew a rainbow!

My knitting peep Alison is expecting a boy, and this little guy is going to hit the jackpot in terms of handknits, so I made a fun quilt for him to roll around on.  And maybe a bit of baby yoga too.  I think the off set squares look a little bit like Himalayan prayer flags fluttering in the breeze, which is appropriate since Alison is a yoga teacher.

I followed this rainbow quilt tutorial, tweaking the design a little to work with the fabric I already had, which included a heap of 2.5″ white strips leftover from Ollie’s quilt.  There was some complicated maths required to calculate the number and size of the squares to make sure I had enough of the white, and there was only one 12″ strip left over.  Seriously, there was algebra and everything!  I ended up with 56 five inch squares, seven each in red, orange, yellow, green, aqua, blue, purple and pink.

there is clearly too much fabric in my stash

there is clearly too much fabric in my stash

Almost all the fabric came from my stash and it was fun choosing fabrics, although there was a distinct lack of purples, which has now been rectified.

purple!

purple!

This quilt used strip piecing, something I hadn’t tried before.  It was so quick!  The blocks came together in a couple of nights, then I got to have fun deciding on the layout.

composing with colours

composing with colours

The back needed something simple.

the back

the back

I’m really happy with how this quilt came together, in particular the pewter binding and the pale grey on the back with the scrappy spectrum.  And I think I my free motion quilting is getting better too, although please don’t look too closely!

oh look, a bird!

oh look, a bird!

And finally, my babies started school this month.  We’re four weeks in and they’re doing great, really loving it.  We all are.  Which is good, because they’ve got 13 years to go!

first day!

first day!

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2012: its a wrap

At the beginning of 2012 I had a couple of little goals.  This blog was one of them.  Another was to start running.  We probably shouldn’t talk about that one, it didn’t go so well.  And the blogging eased off a bit too towards the end of last year.  But my goal was to blog at least once a week, and, on average, I think I managed that.  Almost.  This is my 52nd post, according to the wordpress stats.  Go me!

Anyhow my crafty goals for 2012 mostly involved sewing for me, and knitting for my family.  I think I did OK here too.  Sewing first…

I made three dresses, three!  And three skirts.  And three tops.  Three was definitely the magic number! 

I made clothes!

I made clothes!

There was also fun pyjamas for the kids…

Pyjammies!

Pyjammies!

And bags…

Bags!

Bags!

There was even some quilting. 

how did I become a quilter?

how did I become a quilter?

I’m not sure when I became a quilter, but in 2012 I made two baby quilts, including my first attempt at making up my own design.  The robot quilt was so much fun to make, from sketching little robots to the boxy machine quilting I loved every step.  I also started a bed-sized quilt for my littlest boy Ollie.  The top and backing are done, I just need a quiet child-free day to sandwich the two and start actually quilting it.  Its languished for a while now, mostly because I’m not 100% happy with it.  I’m not sure about some of the colours, and I think I should have done a more interesting design.  I really liked the examples I’d seen for the Mixtape quilt, I still do, but they were smaller quilts, using smaller blocks… the single bed size used 8″ blocks and I think the effect is similar to when you upside a sweater by knitting it in chunkier yarn with bigger needles; you get a bigger sweater, but aesthetically its not always ideal.  Anyhow its on my list of things to finish in the next few weeks, before I let myself start thinking about other projects.

Ollie's quilt top

Ollie’s quilt top

Many of these projects, the clothes for me in particular, were completed during November.  Or Sewvember, as it became.  For a month I sewed and stitched and shared my progress with the other Sewvemberists.  It was a lot of fun, especially when some of us gathered for a fabulous sewing party toward the end of the month.  One of the things I have loved about knitting was the social aspect, knitting with other knitters and sharing the joy and frustration of each project.  For me, Sewvember was a bit like that, and I was sad it was over.  But there are plans for more sewing parties, and I hope we managed to hold one very soon. 

And so to knitting.  My knitting goals for 2012 were set in the public glare of a knitters guild meeting.  They included knitting something for each of my children, cardigans for me, and a lap blanket for our sofa.  Poor Mark didn’t feature, but I intend to rectify that this year.  With the exception of the blanket I can smugly confirm I met all of these goals!

Ollie's vest

Ollie’s vest

There was a vest for Ollie, fair isle with dinosaurs and steeks.  I love this little vest, so much fun to knit and it looked super cute on my little guy.  Steeking was nowhere near as scary the second time.  Its definitely one of my favourite projects from 2012.  Pity its unlikely to fit him come Winter 2013.  Oh well, perhaps I’ll have to knit him another one.

my big boys in their big boy jackets

my big boys in their big boy jackets

Sam and Archie got slightly more grown-up zippy jackets.  I improvised the design, and it probably needs more work; the shoulders are strangely pointy, I think due to the ribbing up the arms. Maybe I’ll leave that off next time.  Anyhow the guys wore them, happily even, so I can live with the Dynasty shoulderline.

Owls - Audrey in Unst - Paper Dolls - Emilie

Owls – Audrey in Unst – Paper Dolls – Emilie

For me it was to be cardigans and lots of them, because thats what I knit, right?  Well, yeah, I did knit cardigans, two of them even.  And one won a prize, a blue ribbon first at the Sydney Royal, no less!  But there was also a couple of sweaters too.  Surprised?  I was too, but I’ve wanted to knit both of these for the longest time and Kate Davies is an amazing designer.  I plan to knit more of her designs, and soon.

I won!

I won!

So that was 2012 in craft for me.  What will 2013 bring?  Well, I think its time I knit my amazing hubby a sweater.  And since we’ll be spending Christmas 2013 in the UK I need to make sure everyone has hats and scarves and mittens.  For me I’d like to knit some colourwork.  And make that blanket for the sofa.  I need to finish Ollie’s quilt.  And make some more clothes for myself too.  With the twins starting school next month, and all the changes that will come with that it might be a bit optimistic, but we’ll see.  Whatever happens, I’m sure it will be fun.  Happy New Year to you, and here’s hoping your 2013 is filled with love, joy, and plenty of time to indulge in whatever takes your fancy!

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heart

A few months ago I finished my paper dolls sweater but never got around to blogging about it.  Here it is, finally.  And I heart it.  I heart it alot. 

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happy sweater

So, the specs…  The pattern is Paper Dolls by Kate Davies and the yarn is Harrisville New England Shetland in suede, waterlily and raspberry.  Its lovely stuff, woolly and humble.  I used just over three skeins of the main colour and about half a skein each of the contrasting pinks.  The pattern was well written and concise; the only modification I made was to increase the number of stitches for the sleeve caps, to accommodate my tuck-shop lady arms. 

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those arms…

From cast on to blocking it took 2.5 months, which is pretty good for me these days; even better when I remember I also knitted Archie’s jacket in that time too.  It actually made a pretty good commuter project, as most of the knitting was simple stockinette, knitting round and round and round.  Which did get a bit boring; I was very glad to join the sleeves and start on those charts!

PaperDolls4

The fantastic photos were taken at Kanagaroo Valley in August, during our knitting weekend away.  Thanks Knitabulous!

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sewvember: week 3… and week 4 too

Is Sewvember over already?! Time flies when you’re having fun. And I did have fun with this. Maybe too much fun, getting carried away with skirts and tops and Christmas stuff and not taking time to blog about it.  I didn’t finished Ollie’s quilt, and I still have a bag cut out ready to sew. Oh well who says it has to end on November 30th?!

Sew anyway, the last two weeks saw more small boy stitching…

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sewing a button, an essential life skill

We kept it simple this time; I cut out some felt triangles and they stitches an assortment of buttons on.  Because every guy needs to know how to sew a button on. And they did great. A felt star for the top and their work was done.  I added a some felt to the back to hide the mess and some ribbon. Too cute.

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forest of little button trees

Sam and Archie were so proud of their little trees, and keep asking when we’ll make some more things for the tree.  

All this festive stitching with the boys had got me in the mood, so my next project was some scrappy stocking ornaments, using this little tutorial.  These were fun to make, and a good chance to use up some precious scraps of my favourite fabrics; I can’t seem to throw those little leftovers away, no matter how small they are, so will need to find more little projects like this.  The only modification I made was to use calico for the backs instead of patchwork, allowing me to get more stockings from my patchwork panels. 

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Scrappy stocking ornaments

Next proper Sewvember project was another top using my new pattern.  This one is in a viscose and wool blend jersey and is so light and cool. I adjusted the pattern slightly to make it a little less low cut; since it’s gathered at the top of the sleeves I just cut the neck edge 2 inches shorter and gathered it a bit more at the sleeves to compensate. It mostly worked. It was so much faster making this a second time, and the navy fabric is less stretchy and slippery than the red, so the whole experience was more enjoyable too.  I love my new top!

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new top, with bird

All of this lead up to a sewing party at DrK’s, with a thanksgiving feast thrown in too.  I have a lot to be thankful for; three happy healthy kids, a fabulous partner who appreciates that parenting is a joint responsibility and who tolerates my craft mess everywhere, an interesting job, and fantastic friends, many of whom share my joy in creating something, whether it be sewing or knitting or whatever.  As I said, a lot to be thankful for.

Anyhow the sewing day had been planned for weeks, and the addition of a thanksgiving feast, complete with college football (go Irish!), pumpkin pie and pilgrim hats made for a fabulous day.  And in amongst all that I even managed to make a skirt! Without a pattern or really much of a plan really.  A quick discussion with lyn and Jody while I draped myself in some pretty Echino linen blend and the idea came together. I made a yolk using a basic a-line pattern, then just gathered there rest of the fabric into a skirt, and presto! The yolk isn’t perfect and I might need to make some adjsutments there, but overall I’m really happy with how it came out.  Even my zippering is much improved, thanks to some advice from Kris.  Such a fun day.

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another green skirt, with butterflies and birds

For me, Sewvember culminated in a project I’d been thinking about all month.  I bought this beautiful Japanese cotton in Cabramatta, on a fabulous day out with some lovely knitters; there was fabric and Vietnamese food and a whole lot of fun.  I had 2.5m and no clear idea of what to do with it.  After a whole lot of delibration, and a slight diversion into waistbands and zippers, I arrived at a modified Washi dress pattern that I was happy with.  And here’s the result…

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OK so the necklace is all wrong, but I love my new dress

I am so happy with this frock, it feels like I finished Sewvember on a really high note.  Its the lengthened bodice from my earlier efforts but without the waistband, and I kept the shirring (no zipper- yay!).  The neckline has been scooped out, and it is fully lined in cotton lawn.   The lining was interesting to do; I basically made two dresses and stitched them together at the neckline instead of attaching a facing.  The armholes were finished with bias tape, so I got to use my nifty bias tape maker again. 

And sew Sewvember is over.  Its been a lot of fun.  And I made some stuff.  Yay!

Mosaic

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sewvember: week 2

Week two of Sewvember and I’m still sewing most days.  It must be some kind of record.  I even got the kids involved!

The week started with a crafting session with Sam and Archie.  They’ve had their kindy transition on Tuesday’s the past few weeks, and we’ve had fun afternoons together afterwards doing big kid stuff without Ollie around.  That includes sewing. Watching a five year old boy wield a needle and thread is a wonderful thing!

watch your fingers guys!

watch your fingers guys!

The plan was to stitch some little felt Christmas trees to some linen, then turn into a decoration to hang on the tree.  The boys drew their trees, I traced the shape to the felt then they cut them out. I love their wonky little trees.  They then stitched them to the linen…  I originally thought they could sew around the trees but that was a bit beyond us so they just randomly stitched away.  I really like the effect, like tiny little decorations.  Then came the buttons (we even braved a trip to Spotties specifically for star buttons).  With a little help they managed to sew the buttons themselves.  I finished them off with some felt on the back and decorative stitching around the outside.  I love them, and will be sad to give some two of them away to the Nanna’s (the guys made two each; one for us to keep and one for each Nanna.  Nanna’s go mad for this stuff!).

finished Chrissie decorations

finished Chrissie decorations

Next up was an attempt at modifying the Washi dress pattern.  I’ve already made one Washi dress as per the pattern, and the body is maybe a tiny bit short, so  Iwanted to lengthen it and try a waistband.  So far its just a muslin in some cheap cotton.  I added about 1.5 inches to the bodice and at 2 inch waistband.  Maybe I added too much.  It needs more work, but I think its getting there. 

lengthening Washi

lengthening Washi

And finally I finished a little festive project I started last year but completely stuffed up.  Sixteen tiny little squares of Christmassy fabric, leftovers from another project.  They beat me.  The other night I unpicked the wonky stitching, pressed everything out and started again, using this great tutorial.  It worked perfectly!  Within a couple of hours I’d finished my little pot holder. 

patchwork pot holder

patchwork pot holder

 And for Week 3…  Some more stitching with the kids?  Definitely.  A dress for me?  Probably.  Who knows.  But I am really enjoying all this sewing.  Yay for Sewvember!

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sewvember: week 1

Week one of week Sewvember proved to be quite productive; as well as the red top I made a skirt and a birthday bag for a special knitter. Some gorgeous stashed fabric was finally used. I learned some new techniques. And I had fun, in that quiet satisfying way that only making things can provide.

The green fabric from my last post is now a half circle skirt.

half circle skirt!

half circle skirt!

This is pretty much what I had in mind when I bought the fabric a few years ago. Once upon a time I had a great yellow skirt with hydrangeas on it.  I loved that skirt.  It was time to make another one like it. I started with a wide interfaced waistband, based on an a-line skirt, and cut the half circle bit to attach to that. The circle was surprisingly easy… I adapted a pattern for a full circle skirt (from this great book), but used my hip measurement for the inner circle instead of my waist. The half circle was cut in one piece with the radius on the selvedge (the pic below probably makes more sense). Inserting the zipper was a bit fiddly but overall it was surprisingly quick to complete; it took longer to hand stitch the hem than sew the rest of the skirt!

working it all out

working it all out

I am really happy with the finished item. It’s possibly a little big around the waist so I may take it in a bit at some point, and if I do I’ll refit the invisible zipper too (I didn’t do the greatest job) but for now I can live with it. My zippering is a work in progress. This time I tried to stitch the zip to the band and facing, at the same time, but with the interfacing it was all too bulky. I actually sewed the zipper three times before I could zip it up, and managed to break one zipper in the process!

My other finished project was a bag using some beautiful screen-printed hemp/cotton blend from Australiam designers Umbrella Prints. The fabric design is called Fanflower and I’ve had it for a while. It’s just beautiful. I think the bag came out pretty well too.

birthday bag

birthday bag

The bag design is inspired by one I bought years ago, a simple slouchy bag with a little mobile pocket inside. I made this one bigger, to use as much of the fabric as possible. I think it came out a nice size, big enough to use as a handbag or project bag. The black handles and edging are a wide cotton tape, which made the whole construction simple and so quick. I will be making another one for me very soon!

inside

inside

Sew, what’s in store for week two… I think it’s time for a frock, don’t you?

 

 

 

 

 

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