Scrap Happy October

Last winter I knitted quite a few pairs of socks and for each I bought a ball of yarn. But each pair uses less than a ball so I had a basket full of 4 ply yarn in various colours. It sat there looking at me reproachfully! But what to do with them?

The first chilly morning of the autumn came a week or two ago and when I put on my coat to walk the dogs after breakfast I decided it was time to get my gloves out. One pair was in holes and when we got back home the other was soaking wet because it had started to rain. I really need two pairs each winter so that I always have a dry pair. Inspiration!

The pattern I used last time was for DK yarn but looking through my books I found this one I bought second hand at a craft fair a few years ago.

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And in it a pattern for gloves in 4 ply with a fair isle pattern. It is such an old book the pictures are all in black and white!

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Unfortunately for me the pattern said to buy one ball of the background colour and one each of the pattern shades. Clearly it did not takes several balls of yarn to make one pair of gloves! But there I was with an unknown quantity of yarn in each left over ball and an unknown quantity required for the gloves. Hmmm!

Putting different balls side by side I decided to use some plain purple for the unpatterned parts and some self striping blue for the area where the fair isle should go. I rather like the result.

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I still had yarn left over on each ball and would probably have had enough of just one but I think the contrast works rather well. Now I just have to decide whether to make more gloves or find another use for the rest of the yarn. Mrs Snail’s granny squares look nice so maybe….

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Scrap Happy June: Introducing Ada Phitt

Some time ago I came across an idea for a home-made dressmakers dummy. Where I saw it I cannot remember and it was quite some time before I decided to have a go. There were two reasons it caught my eye. Firstly it would be exactly my size and shape – much more accurate than a shop bought one even if theoretically adjustable. Secondly I could make it all from things I had in stock and mostly from scrap. So please welcome (drum roll please) the lovely Ada Phitt

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OK so she is no beauty, but then neither am I, and she has not been improved by a spell in the attic whilst I used the studio as an extra bedroom. She does her job well though.

If you fancy making one of your very own it is easy as long as you have an assistant you are happy to allow to see you in old underwear. I asked my daughter to help. You will need 2 old T-shirts, some rolls of duct tape (I think we used 2 but err on the side of caution – you cannot ash out to the local DIY store in the middle of this!), a pair of scissors, some old cushions, pillows or other stuffing material, a broom handle and a base for a garden parasol (mine was one of the plastic ones you fill with water or sand).

Put on the tattiest of the old T-shirts and invite your assistant to wrap you in duct tape. Over the shoulders, round the tops of the arms, then round and round the torso to the largest part of the hips. The tape should be snug but not so tight you can’t breathe. And wrinkles or large overlaps are to be avoided. Needless to say, at this point we were both laughing so much we nearly wet ourselves!

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Once the shell is complete your assistant needs to release you by cutting right up the back. This is why I wore old underwear – it would be so easy to cut through a bra strap or nick your knickers!

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Rejoin the cut edges with more tape, then stuff the shell with the old cushions. I found it best to put the first cushion under the neck opening to stop the pole going right through, then put some more stuffing in without filling her completely. Then I pushed the broom handle up her spine before arranging more stuffing to wedge it in place. Finally put the pole into the stand and cover her with another old T-shirt so you have something to pin to. If the stuffing migrates a bit over time, as Ada’s seems to have done, it is easy tidy it up when you want to use her.

You can, of course take the pole out of the body and the stand and store them all separately if space is limited.

Then enjoy making clothes that fit YOU perfectly.

Scrap Happy is curated by Kate who blogs as ‘Tall tales from Chiconia’. You can find her and links to all the other happy scrappers here

The Rules of Knitting

You may remember that a while ago I wrote a post about things I had been making, including 2 cushions. (If you missed it you can read it here) One was a present for my daughter and made of fabric, the other was knitted using some wool left over from another project. I noticed that I made the fabric one during the day and the knitted one in the evening whilst sitting with my feet up. Which sort of made sense – to cut out fabric on a big table or to sew on the machine I go into my studio over the utility room. To go up there after dark when it is colder took more effort than sitting in front of the fire.

But now spring has come, the evenings are light and the weather is warm and still I only do sewing in the day! Then I realised that I had inherited this pattern from my mother. The more I thought about it the more curious it seemed. It was only when I began to remember my childhood home that it all began to make sense.

My mother kept her hand powered singer sewing machine (so no integral light!) in the tiny ‘boxroom’ which had a fold out camp bed for visitors but was essentially used for storage. To use the machine she carried it down to the living room and used the dining table so it had to be put away in order to serve the evening meal. After that she would sit with my father and watch TV – and knit at the same time.

I also realised that, like many houses of that era, there were no table lamps, and certainly nothing like the flexible task lamps we have now. In fact, I now remember, there wasn’t even a standard lamp which she could have had by her chair. Each room had a central pendant light so that to do sewing involved moving a table so that the light fell on it (but never as bright a light as I would expect to have now) or positioning it in front of a window. Another reason for sewing in daylight. Knitting, of course, can be done with weaker light – at least if it is fairly simple. Hers always was rather ‘functional’! Endless plain jumpers in sensible colours.

Now my studio is well lit with strip lights down each side of the ceiling and a choice of task lights. I have a fan heater in there so that I can be warm whatever the outside temperature.

So Why? Oh Why? can I not sew in the evening or knit in the afternoon? But I feel ‘all wrong’ if I try!

If you are still bound by old, irrelevant rules I would love to hear about them. I would feel less stupid!

Getting creative

I love making things but haven’t posted about the creative side of me for a while. It was only when I was reviewing some photos that I realised how many things I had made recently.

The first was a blanket for my grandson Sean. Since he started at Swansea University (read about him here )he has been saying that he is sometimes cold in his room. I suspect that he has been sitting still for too long late at night – hopefully studying but probably gaming on his computer! He had been taking his duvet cover off and wrapping himself up in that so I thought I would make him a blanket. He is young, male, only recently domesticated and there is not much space for him to store things in his room in Halls. So I used synthetic double knitting in boy colours! And since I get bored knitting a whole blanket in one piece I did squares and crocheted them together. To make it more fun I devised a number of variations on a theme of stripes of stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch.

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Then it was my daughter’s birthday and I spotted a remnant of linen in the Ecoshop in Cardigan. Just enough to make a cushion. I had some felt left over from making Christmas decorations and there were tulips beginning to flower in the garden. Hey presto..

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Looking for the felt I saw most of a ball of Aran weight wool left over from a jumper I made a few years ago. Several of my own cushion covers are coming to the end of their lives so I fiddled around and devised a pattern. There is a similar amount of blue in the same yarn so maybe there will be a pair soon.

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Then Mrs Snail and I went on a course at Studio 3 in Cardigan to learn how to make a coptic bound book. She has already blogged about our day so you can read about it (here) Mine was a birthday present for my son so I had to stay quiet about it until now!

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Finally my new friend Roni came over and showed me how to turn a bowl on the lathe. She is a professional woodturner (find her here) and makes some beautiful things but also proved a very good and patient teacher so it was great to learn from her. We found an old piece of wood which was already cut into a disc shape but it proved to be rather rough and a bit too old so it was not worth sanding and polishing. Even so I was quite pleased with what I produced and have started on another with a better bit of wood.

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Apart from the book they have all involved designing as well as making so my creativity has had quite a good workout recently!

A knitting challenge

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Just at the point in late summer when I was thinking how boring and samey my wardrobe had become my friend and yoga teacher Rose came back from a work trip to Brazil with a fabulous, drapey, sensual jumper. I wanted one! (I think half the class wanted one!) But Brazil is a long way to go so I would have to knit it myself and the chances of finding a pattern to buy were pretty much zero. I have often sewn clothes using a pattern cut from an old garment but never from knitting. But needs must! So I borrowed the jumper and started counting rows and stitches.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I started knitting I discovered I had misjudged the weight of wool to use. I had bought some Aran and had to start again in Double knitting. I chose some inexpensive synthetic yarn for this experiment because I guessed there would be quite a bit of unravelling and trying again. I bought cream because it is one of the few colours which varies so little between dye lots that underestimating the amount needed would not be a disaster. The front is very long so took a lot of time, the back went straightforwardly and I was just beginning to feel a bit smug when I discovered the sleeves were coming out too narrow. Some rethinking and (literally!) back-of-the-envelope calculations and I had a better pattern.

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When it was finished I asked Rose to wear her original to yoga and I wore my copy. They are not identical but I am rather pleased with my first go at copying and it has done my confidence as a knitter a lot of good.

Shoes and socks

A few years ago I joined a Yoga class led by the amazing Rose Thorn who, at the time, was thinking a lot about feet. Every week we began with exercises to ‘wake them up’ and although I was a bit slow on the uptake (Sorry Rose!) I gradually began to understand what she was trying to tell me; I have knock knees and weak ankles. Said ankles roll inwards if I let them resulting in flat feet. I also had little toes which curled in and under whilst the big ones were debating whether to form bunions.

Whilst I have a memory of being taken to the GP as a small child about my knock knees and having to have Startright shoes and sandals – fine in primary school but not so great as I entered my teens – the squashed toes were entirely self-inflicted. As soon as I was able to choose for myself I wore high heels with pointy toes all the time. I even had a pair of heeled mule-type slippers for a time! To make matters worse my left foot is bigger than my right so inevitably one shoe was tight and the other slightly loose.

By this time I was doing a lot of walking and owned 3 types of footwear – wellies for the garden, a pair of steel toe-cap boots for the woods and the aforementioned high heel and pointy toe shoes for going out. The wellies made my feet sweat, the heels hurt (the yoga was encouraging my toes to spread making the shoes too narrow) and the boots were heavy.

IMGP0037Having finally seen the error of my ways I eventually decided to invest in a pair of shoes that would fit properly and care for my feet. I went to see Ruth Emily Davis of Machynlleth who measured my feet and told me that the left was size 6 1/4  in length whilst the right was 5 3/4 but both needed a width of  5 1/2. She could make me a pair to those measurements in any colour I chose from her huge range. A sensible person would have chosen black or brown or navy so that scuffs could be covered with polish. But I am batty and I wanted them to make me smile so I chose daffodil yellow with purple linings. That made Ruth smile too since making sensible shoes is not as much fun as making colourful ones! A few weeks later I went back to collect them and discovered how comfy shoes can be. And I still smile every time I put them on.

But lovely shoes deserve lovely socks. Hand knitted socks in interesting colours rather then boring socks in synthetic yarn sold in packs. So out came the knitting needles and a pattern from a book bought on a whim years ago. The first pair went into holes almost as soon as I put them on but advice from Mrs Snail and another knitting friend, Susan, led to trips to Cardigan market and to Jane’s in Fishguard, both of which stock good sock wool. I have found that although the patterns look fearsomely complicated it is just a matter of following them steadily – they make sense when you have the needles in your hands.

IMGP0035So now I have lovely comfy, smile inducing shoes and cosy, interesting socks to wear inside them plus some welly socks to keep my feet warm when walking the dogs in the rain and cold. My feet are suitably grateful!