If it’s punk rock knitted chickens, it must be Friday

Admittedly they can also be rather terrifying, like for example the Yo-yo Clown on the Wild Olive blog. I’m fully expecting that thing to start following me around in a nightmare.

Today, I was having a look at vintage patterns on Ravelry, because apparently I don’t have enough projects for this year with the 15 in 2015, and I struck gold. It came in the form of a pattern book from an issue of The Australian Woman’s Weekly from 1968, entitled ‘the Mod Menagerie’. The best news? You can get the pattern for free AND turn it into a PDF to download and print! The first animal to catch my (admittedly horrified) attention was this:

Knitted cat

This, apparently, is the ‘Cat of Super Colours’. So very 1960s. But then it got better. There’s the Carrot Power Rabbit…

Knitted Rabbit

Not just a toy, an encouragement to eat your vegetables. Either that or s/he’s meant to be some kind of vegetable activist. CARROT POWER!

There was also the hippie-potamus:

There’s nothing like a good pun, and admittedly that name is nothing like a good pun, but I love it anyway.

But the highlight, the thing that had me immediately looking at how I could fit in some more projects this year, was this- I give you…Mopsy Bird.

I remind you that this was in the Australian Women’s Weekly. All I can say is that Australian knitters in the 1960s must have been badass, either that or the designer was super-badass, because just take a look at this bird, people! That’s a motherf***ing punk rock chicken right there. It’s like a combination between Malcolm McDowell in Clockwork Orange, Sid Vicious, and Beyonce (no not the singer).

I am a lot in love with Mopsy Bird and now I need to make several and give them to people, and if they react with “what the everloving Christ have you made me?” I’ll be all “everyone needs a punk rock chicken in their lives”.

I shall of course also keep one for myself, because Geoffery Wildington Peabody III needs other chickens for company. Though I confess I am a little worried Mopsy Bird might lead her astray and I’ll wake up one morning and she’ll have an anarchy symbol spray painted on her chest, and Mopsy Bird will be stood off to the side covered in paint and trying to look nonchalant.

It wasn’t me, I swear!

Awwww, I can’t stay mad at you, Mopsy Bird.

Thinking about it, Mopsy Bird doesn’t really express who this chicken really is- do you have a better name for it?


F*** the patriarchy: a message to men who want to craft

To all the men out there who want to craft,

We see you. You watch how we knit. You look at craft shops. You ask us what that is that we’re doing. Occasionally you confuse embroidery and crochet. And we know that if you were given the chance, you could make great things just like we do.

The problem, of course, is that you’ve been told your entire lives that crafting- at least, the crafts that don’t involve wood or welding or leather- are something women do. It’s reinforced even by women. And you’ve been told that anything ‘feminine’ is somehow weak, ‘unmanly’, that you’re less of a person if you, as a man, try it love it, do it.

It’s not true. And this is one of the many ways the patriarchy is hurting you. It tells you that there are ‘women’s’ things and ‘men’s’ things, and it locks you into a pigeonhole based on what’s between your legs.

But you have a choice. You can let it lock you into your rigidly constricted role, or you can break out of it. You can pursue your interests, regardless of whether your Grandma or your Grandad was the one who used to do what you want to do. You can ignore the haters.

Feminism, which you may well have been taught to look on with fear and suspicion, is on your side in this. As a feminist, I want to see a world where men and women are equal, and free to go after whatever aspirations they have for what they want to do, to be, to learn, without being told that their gender is a reason not to do it. I want to see a world where men AND women can have a go at the crafts I love.

Imagine it-

Knitting groups made up of all genders, all bonding over a shared love of their craft.

Men proudly showing off the shirt they sewed themselves at work- or indeed the dress!

Men and women both busying themselves creating handmade gifts for loved ones.

Guys complaining about the girlfriend sweater curse.

Expectant fathers preparing for the arrival of a new baby by making clothes and quilts for them, and later scrapbooking photos of their family.

Men frantically hiding the new stash they just bought because they weren’t supposed to buy any more yarn.

Complaining they don’t have enough time to finish all their Christmas crafting.

Admittedly it would make yarn sales all the more cutthroat, but that’s a price I’m willing to pay.

Crafters need feminism. EVERYBODY needs feminism. But most especially the people who think that they can’t do something just because of their gender. We’re here to tell you that actually, yes, you can.

And you should.


Craft projects for freaks and geeks, part 1: Steampunks, straight punks, retro queens

Ah, the internet. It’s a magical land of hope and wonder. Full of sweets and joy and joyness…no, wait, that’s candy mountain. Sorry, came over all Charlie the Unicorn for a minute there.

Anyway. If, like me, you like to make things for yourself but you don’t see anything in the average craft magazine or in most of the books at the library that suit you (or you see them and immediately want to deconstruct them or mess with them in some way), then trust me, there will be someone on the internet who makes things you’ll actually love as-is.

I wish I could say confidently “this will be the first instalment in a three part series!” but the truth is if I do that it’ll end up going all Douglas Adams with the trilogy of five. I don’t know how many of these there will be, but I do want to cover as many different groups and interests as I can- let me know in the comments what cultures you’re into, or what hobbies/pastimes you have, and I’ll go searching for some craft to match!

The aim of this series of posts, which will go up on Wednesdays, is to highlight some of the crafting awesomeness available to you. Starting with…


Obviously. For a start, how about knitting yourself some striped corset arm warmers, as designed by the Running Yarn?

I may have linked to this before but I don’t care. Customise a t-shirt into a punk rock masterpiece, no sewing required, by following Veronica Varlow’s instructions. Hells yes.

Have you ever heard of or seen the traditional embroideries featuring Sunbonnet Sue? Did they make you feel just a little queasy? Olde-worlde, but not in a fun way. Urban Threads have the antidote- meet Sinbonnet Sue! She comes in many flavours, but I like the original one the best.

By the way, I googled Sunbonnet Sue for an example. The link above is what I got. My first response was “holy hell, I don’t think the website has changed since it was launched”. But then I looked closer and I found this series of quilts featuring Sunbonnet Sue all about domestic violence. Now THAT is awesome. Also, can we talk about the fact that someone came up with Bad Bonnet Sue? Better believe I’ll be looking into Sunbonnet, Sinbonnet and Bad Bonnet Sues.

I’m digressing.


I love me some steampunk. It’s a little OTT, a lot fabulous, with a sharp edge (OK I may have been watching too much Project Runway.) It’s also hella expensive, a lot of the time. Making things yourself is a much better option, and to do it, look no further than Victorian clothing. With a little thought in how you go about it, you can easily mod these to be steampunk.

Truly Victorian is a fantastic option for steampunk sewing. I know because I’ve made several steampunk outfits using patterns from their site. Their revised bustle petticoat (designed so you can sit and stand without problems) is a fantastic base for so many looks- I’ve made it with a shorter front panel for a more female-airship-captain type of look. I’ve also got one made as-is. It involves a LOT of frill (I bought frill trim for it and it made life a lot easier, although expensive). They also sell a pre-made set of wires for the bustle on the site. This 1870 skirt pattern is a great one I’ve used over and over again. Be warned, though, Victorian/Steampunk clothes use a LOT of fabric. There are 5 metres in the skirts, and that’s the simpler skirts. One solution I’ve found that works really well is to buy saris on the cheap (check your local charity shops), or bedlinen. It’s worth it for the flounce!

You could also embellish them (or your everyday clothes) with even more steampunk flair with Urban Threads’ collection of steampunk embroidery patterns. Yes, I love Urban Threads. #sorrynotsorry. I’m a lot enamoured of the Apothescary collection, but that’s just me.

For knitters, I have a bit of a thing for The Jane Victoria’s glorious knitting patterns. Like the sewing, they take a lot of materials. You can use a sweater’s worth of yarn just in one of their hoods. But it’s worth it. Continuing the female-airship-captain thing, how about this Aviator tam? And then there’s this hooded mozzetta (no, I don’t know what a mozzetta is), can you even?

Retro queen

There are so many retro patterns out there. SO MANY. And especially with knitting patterns, a lot of them are free. Be warned, many will only come in one size, but if you’re willing to do the maths and resize them, the rewards are great. For example, I found out that this Bridge Jumper exists and now I need to make it to play Surrealist Poker in (AND crapscrabble). Or for something a bit more quick and dirty (because sometimes that’s just what you want), how about this turban? Or indeed this one?

Butterick, Simplicity and Vogue all have retro pattern lines, but edited to fit modern body shapes- one issue with some vintage patterns is that womens bodies have changed, along with our undergarments, and it can be hard to fit some vintage patterns on a modern woman. But you can also find some gorgeous retro patterns from smaller indie designers, and I love supporting small craft businesses doing their thing and doing it well. Wearing History patterns have some lovely designs- I lust after the Dahlia blouse and the Sunkissed Sweetheart set. Mrs Depew Vintage is also worth a look.

Don’t forget to let me know in the comments what subcultures you’d like to see crafting for!

Gratituesday: the well-rested edition

Crafting time

The practice of setting aside 20 minutes each morning to craft is making me much more productive. Doing something just for me before I get up and face the day is really good for my state of mind, and once I’ve started I just keep going. Yes, I’ve missed more than one bus because I was busy stitching, but it’s worth it. I’m getting lots more crafting done.

Project Runway

In the evenings, the flatmates and I have dinner, and watch Project Runway, usually while I craft. We’re watching Season 8, which I’ve never seen before. I’m told Mondo was robbed. I’m already seeing that in some of the episodes. He’s quiet but very creative, just getting on with each challenge and coming up with gorgeousness.


All I can say is if you haven’t yet seen this, you need to. It’s a medieval musical comedy fairytale- how many of THOSE do you see on TV? I’m grateful to Tumblr, without which I wouldn’t know it existed.

Long weekends

Things have worked out well, it’s all I can say. I’ve managed to make it so that I’ve got a month where every week is a short one. It makes adjusting to being back at work so much easier. And on Waitangi weekend, I’m getting my next tattoo started. I can’t wait!

The little things:

English Breakfast Tea being back in the kitchen, great cookbooks from the library, having things to do, snuggles and kisses with the Best Beloved.

What about you? What are you grateful for this week?

I’m British: five projects

Sorry, old chaps.

This is all the fault of my friend Keith for reminding me of the existence of this song by Professor Elemental*.


You don’t have to be British to make these, of course. They’re entirely suitable for all your punk home decor/clothing needs (my hairdresser has a Welsh dresser painted with a paint-drippy messy Union Flag, and I covet it quite shamelessly).

To start with, how about some British-themed embroidery patterns from Wild Olive? Jolly Spiff! You want to add some Buckingham Palace guards in their busbies to your clothes, don’t you? Of course you do.

What about a gloriously punk rock Union Flag Mohawk Hat? It’s made of chunky wool, too, so it’d be a quick make. And everyone would see you coming in the winter. Of course you’d have to buy the book the pattern comes in, but surely that’s worth it to feel like Sid Vicious…a very snuggly, comfortable Sid Vicious.

There are many possibilities for what you could do with this quilt block. Like a bunch of throw pillows. Or an entire giant quilt of them. Or a house cosy. Hey, I don’t know your life.

Finally, what could be more quintessentially British than a Union Flag tea cosy? Actually, this Union Flag cardigan is a contender for that. British flag. British wool- and not just any British wool, Rowan wool. I mean come on, it’s on their website! Ah, Rowan, home of…ahem…fashion-forward British knitting.

Go on, which of these catch your eye? Or have you found/made any good projects in a similar vein? Let me know!

*we really are terribly sorry about Piers Morgan.

Twenty one COMPLETELY VALID reasons to buy more stash *

1) You just got paid.

2) You’re getting paid tomorrow and you’re worried it won’t be there when you come back.

3) Your friend talked you into it.

4) Your friend tried to talk you out of it but you think she/he secretly just wants it for themselves.

5) It was on sale.

6) It might go on sale and then it will sell out.

7) It accidentally jumped into your hand at the store and now you can’t put it down.

8) It accidentally jumped into your online shopping cart and you accidentally clicked on ‘check out’, and you don’t want the web people at the other end to judge you for being indecisive.

9) You need it for a project.

10) You might need it for a project.

11) You don’t need it for a project, and wouldn’t it be good to have at least SOME materials that aren’t already earmarked?

12) You’re on holiday. Holiday purchases don’t count.

13) You’re going on holiday and you want to make sure you take enough crafting with you.

14) You’re on a day trip in a new town.

15) The craft store *just* opened.

16) The craft store is independent and you want to make sure to support it.

17) It’s just so soft/so beautiful.

18) You’re trying a new craft and you need supplies.

19) You’re getting your mojo back on a craft you already do, and some new materials would TOTALLY motivate you.

20) You just want to buy yourself something pretty, OK?

21) If you stuff it in a pillow, there’s totes room for it in your house.


22) You were worried your existing stash was getting lonely with nothing new for it to play with.

23) You didn’t buy it, you swear the stash is multiplying when you’re not looking.

You’re welcome.

*I have used at least half of these.

Work in progress- 666: the (floss) number of the beast

Lets start with a big pile of squishies!


I now have three different people who all want to roll around in the completed pile of squishies before I sew them all together.

No, they won’t be naked. I hope.

Yes, I’ll probably do it too. And yes, I’ll probably take photos, because how many times in your life do you get an opportunity like that?

Anyway, the pile of squishies is getting bigger, which means the pillowcase they usually live in is getting fuller.

This week, though, has mostly been about embroidery. There are a couple of projects in my 15 in 2015 that have Actual Deadlines, and both of them require significant amounts of hand embroidery. I’ve decided to go with redwork for the project I’m currently working on, as mixing colours seems like a big risk when making something for someone who is notoriously picky about colours.

This means I’ve been buying and using a lot of bright red embroidery floss- I’m not sure how I feel about using so much of a colour whose DMC number is 666. I can think of only three reasons they would have chosen that number.

A) They just weren’t thinking.

B) It’s bright red, which means devilish, which makes 666 the PERFECT number. (This is what it would be if I worked for DMC. This is why I don’t work at places like DMC.)

C) They just didn’t want conservative Christians using their red embroidery floss.

Anyway, thanks to plenty of time at Kapcon for stitching (including during games- I almost always craft during tabletop games), I now have four of the nine embroidered panels finished and ready for turning into quilt blocks:


The one at the bottom is the Love Birds pattern by Polka and Bloom. The one at the top is the free Owl and Pussycat embroidery from Follow the White Bunny. The other two are free paisley redwork heart patterns I found via Pinterest. Right now I’m working on another heart, this time though I made a transfer of just the heart outline from the other ones, and I’m filling it with a random assortment of different stitches for my own amusement.

Because really, if it’s not fun, why do it?

I now have the transferring patterns to fabric thing a bit more down than I did- sock knitting needles, especially ones made of metal or with metal tips, turn out to be the perfect tool for tracing if you’re using carbon paper. Another advantage of being polycraftual.

What about you? What are you working on at the moment? Let me know in the comments.

Gratituesday: lets all be acerbic and make wookie noises.

The weekend just gone was Kapcon, an annual roleplaying convention down in Wellington. I was one of the helper-monkeys, and it was utterly exhausting but ran smoothly (which is always good), and I got to play in some fun games. I was also Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Owen Lars, Red Leader and Admiral Motti in a reading of ‘William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, a New Hope’.

Apparently I was especially good at getting the acid tone into Leia’s insults. Even in iambic pentameter. I forget, until I get a chance to do it, how much I enjoy scripted acting, especially Shakespeare. And when I told the Best Beloved I was playing Chewie he laughed his ass off.

I was also a boy scout child of hippies (“I want three of your Mum’s cookies!” “Do you remember what happened when you had *two* of them? DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN WE FED ONE TO THE DOG?”), and a map-reading, accidentally-kill-stealing Greek hero. Those were both great too. And the Police Commissioner in a superhero LARP- for which I won ‘the Nolanverse award for grittiness under pressure’. That’s what happens when you start smack-talking superheroes.

I was very grateful to get back to snuggles from the Best Beloved, and also that I took the day off on Monday to recover. Such sleep. Much naps. Very lazy. Wow.

The 15 in 2015 is coming along very nicely, which I’m definitely grateful for. I got a lot of embroidery for one of the quilt projects done over Kapcon (the advantage of tabletop), and I’ve been spending many pleasant evenings stitching and watching Project Runway. I’m pleased with how things are turning out (with my crafting, not always with Project Runway. We’re on Season 8 at home, which I haven’t seen, but I suspect I’ll come away agreeing that Mondo was robbed…)- which is good as one of the projects is for a very particular friend of mine who once re-wrapped all their Christmas presents so they’d match. You can’t make this stuff up. That’s going to be a challenge for my usual punk-rock, laissez-faire-les-f***-ups attitude to crafting.

The little things

Fun things in the mail, being decisive and actually using one of my precious Molly Crabapple stickers (my Kindle is now 100% more badass), sunshine, Jenny Hart’s Embroidered Effects, the library, plums being in season, experimental rosemary scones, sausage rolls, Burger Fuel’s Firestone Fish burger (it’s what the Filet o’ Fish dreams of being), Stephanie Dosen and Hans Zimmer music, my little red carry-on suitcase.

How about you? What are you grateful for this week?

What third place in a knitting contest taught me about judgement

You know how it goes.

Yes, even if you’ve never entered a competition in your life. Maybe you’ve watched one, like ‘The Great British Bake Off’ or ‘Project Runway’.

That end-product you entered that you thought was great? Something else was better. Someone else tells you so.

In my case it was a third place certificate in a village knitting contest. Yes, I entered one once. It was even for the village fair! How trad can you get?

I was beaten by (if I recall correctly), a baby jumper. I had made a lace shawl. A simple one (the Tuscany Shawl by Amy Singer, since you ask), but still, a lot of work.

Of course I was disappointed to come in third. But the important thing is, it was still a good finished piece. It was still pretty. The work was still the work. Sure, I could have started telling myself that this was proof I wasn’t as good as other people.

But I didn’t.

You have to be very careful about whose judgements you pay attention to. Whether it’s judgement of something you’ve made, or of your abilities, or, well, anything.

Even if a person knows the subject, even if they have more experience than you- it doesn’t mean they know YOU. And it doesn’t mean they’re using the same criteria you would.

So don’t beat yourself up.

Doll-making is weird

The Wild Olive embroidery-and-English-paper-piecing project wasn’t the only crafting I did in the Christmas break. When Spoonflower had free shipping (always dangerous) I got a plushie kit from Heidi Kenney- the Tattooed Sailor and Tattooed Lady.

I thought to myself, hey, I’ll make a couple of super-cool dollies. I can maybe give them to a couple of the little girls I know. What’s not to like? Since I can never, ever, leave a pattern alone (seriously, this will become increasingly obvious as I share more of them), I decided to do the tattoo embroidery on each doll in colours, rather than just blue. I even added some extra tattooing to the sailor’s chest because it didn’t look tattooed enough.

I was feeling very pleased with the results when I sat down to start sewing it all together.


Ah, confidence.

First, I cut out the arms and legs for the Tattooed Sailor, folded them over and sewed them up, as per the instructions. Which then told me to ‘stuff them loosely with polyfil’. The problem is, the actual gap into which I was supposed to stuff the polyfil was smaller than my pinkie finger. A pencil and a missed bus later, I had the limbs stuffed, but not loosely.

I looked at the limbs. I looked at the doll. All I could think of was Rex the dinosaur in Toy Story 2- “look at my little arms! I can’t push the fire button and jump at the same time!”

It was around this point that, for no apparent reason, the Popeye the Sailor theme music started playing in my head. I guess that would help with the insanity plea.

But the limbs were nothing compared to the shenanigans that were to come. Pin the arms and legs in place, essentially as a sandwich filling, with the body of the doll right-sides in. Cue fun with folding the arms and legs so they would actually fit inside the bit they needed to be in so I wouldn’t sew them wrong, and then more fun with pinning than I had expected when my sewing machine decided to de-thread itself unexpectedly.

And then we came to this seemingly innocuous instruction: sew around the edges leaving a hole between the legs for turning through.

A hole.

Between the legs.

It was bad enough doing the tattoed sailor, who has blonde hair. I’m kind of dreading the tattooed lady, who is a brunette. Because I work on these dolls in the morning, before breakfast, and I have the feeling I won’t want any the day I have to repeat this process with something brown coming through that hole.

It was also fiddly as- the hole in question was smaller than expected (this could get very rude very quick, I am trying to avoid that. This is a family show, people. Well apart from the fabrics that look like vaginas… OK, maybe it’s not a family show, but still.) and getting the arms and legs through and then the head…yeah. Fiddly.

Popeye the Bizarre Sailor Man still needs stuffing and the hole needs to be sewn shut. Ahem.


All I can say is he’s looking pretty smug for someone who just LITERALLY had his head pulled out of his ass.