I do not need more blanket projects

I’m already working on one blanket. Which I can’t tell you anything about in case the person it’s for reads this.

Now, I already have yarn assembled for the Babette blanket.

And I’m about 80 hexipuffs away from having enough to make a Beekeepers Quilt the size I want.

So another blanket project would be crazy.

It would be utterly insane to, I don’t know, also have bought enough yarn to make a Lizard Ridge. (It was 40% off in Spotlight. I can’t help it if 12 balls of Moda Vera Bouvardia just jumped into my shopping basket and asked me to take them home…)

I’m certainly not thinking of making any others.

I didn’t at all buy another blanket pattern today either.

I don’t have a problem.

I can stop any time I want to.

When I am an evil queen of the world, my fortress will obviously be made of blankets.

Mid-week joy: Pocket Potholders

I was pottering around the internet today looking for some inspiration for today’s post, when I stumbled across the Antique Pattern Library. Anyone who knows me will know I love vintage/retro stuff, so of course I had to investigate. Looking through the (free to download!) scans of patterns, I discovered ‘Pocket Potholders’, a gem from the 1950s.

Pocket Potholders

 

Let’s take a look, shall we?

The book actually starts off strong, in my opinion:

strawberry

But then my opinion is horribly horribly biased, because I love strawberries. Thus strawberry-related clothing, crafts or accessories is pretty much a no-brainer. pansy

The pansy looks simple, classic- a little bit froufrou, sure, but it would be fun and colourful when made up.

But then things get, well, weird in the way that only vintage pattern books can get weird.

Western Boot

What.

sombrero

Um.

And weirder. There’s Freddy Frog. Maybe it’s just me, but it kind of looks like Freddy Frog got run over.

frog

Pocket Potholders then gives us what is, in my opinion, the piece de resistance of peculiar. Behold, the Gingerbread Man!

gingerbread

 

Who would look adorable if he was smiling. But what it actually looks like is the Gingerbread Man was, well, surprised from behind.

What? My mind went there. Don’t judge me.

 

gingey 2 gingey 3

 

Stop that.

 

The Five Stages of Crafting

With apologies to Larry Miller, whose routine ‘The Five Levels of Drinking’ brought this about.

There are five levels of crafting! Six, if you work for a yarn company. But never mind that now! We will deal with five.

Level 1:

It’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon. You’re in a yarn store. You go to leave, when one of your friends points out another ball of yarn. One of your RECENTLY PAID friends. And here at level 1 you think, “hey! why, as long as I set aside seven hours tomorrow to finish the scarf for my friend’s birthday on Monday, I’m cool!

Level 2:

It’s the evening. You’re at your knitting group. You may have bought a few more balls, and started a project with one of them. You just spent 20 minutes arguing against synthetic fibres. You go to get the project you’re supposed to be working on out of your bag, but at level 2, a little devil appears on your shoulder. And now you’re thinking, “hey! I have plenty of time before Monday to finish that scarf. Besides, as long as I set aside five hours tomorrow to knit on it, I’m cool!

Level 3:

1 in the morning. You’ve abandoned tea for red wine. You just spent 20 minutes arguing FOR synthetic fibres. And now you’re thinking “this new project I started tonight is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever worked on! The yarn feels amazing! I’ve finished an entire two inches already!” You get knitting fantasies, like “hey! I could totally make that jumper in large with travelling cables and bobbles, I bet it wouldn’t take THAT long to make.” At level three, that devil is a little bit bigger…and he’s showing you things on Etsy. And you think, “hey! As long as I set aside three hours, well, OK, maybe the length of a movie, to finish that scarf, I’m cool!”

Level 4:

Two in the morning, and the devil is adding things to your shopping cart. You ARE synthetic fibres. You decide to go to sleep right after you go to sleep over your project. But then you think to yourself…”well, since I’m only going to get a few hours of sleep anyway, I might as well…stay up all night crafting! Yeah, that’d be good for me! It’d be so badass- and I could totally finish this project by morning.

Level 5:

8 in the morning. You wake up and find yourself in bed with no idea how you got there, when your partner gets up and opens the curtains, and you hit the worst part of Level 5: the sun. See, if you’d actually managed to stay up all night and finish that damn scarf, it’d be amazing, like you beat the night. But right now, with two balls of yarn still left to knit on it, the sun is like God’s flashlight. And you tell your partner you need to go shopping for a birthday gift at Lush, while you say, to yourself,  the crafter’s mantra:

swear, I am never leaving a project to the last minute again as long as I live.

And some of us, of course, have that little addition.

And this time, I mean it. 

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…

Punk

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.

Steampunk

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!

Five rules for Secret Santa awesomeness

It’s that time of year again.

 

Sometimes you’ll be given a name from a hat, sometimes you’ll just be told ‘bring a gift for Secret Santa’. Sometimes you’ll be told “there’s going to be a fun game as part of the Secret Santa”- to which my reaction is usually

Secret Santa comes upon us often unexpectedly, rather like this:

I have a particularly fraught history with Secret Santa. There was the year I gave a nice Lush gift box for the knitting group Secret Santa and got…a button. The year I carefully made a gift for someone only to be given a random assortment of flotsam from a charity shop. I’ve had things I actually wanted stolen off me, and been stuck with thoughtless gifts. I think we all have. And yet I persevere. I’m stubborn that way.

But, for the sake of any others out there under a Secret Santa curse, I would like to present you with five rules for your Secret Santa gifting that will, hopefully, make your experience and that of your recipient more festive than f***ed off.

1: Stick to the budget.

You’re not going to get any special prizes for going over-budget, so resist the temptation to buy something that costs more than the price limit you’ve been given. And don’t go way under, either. That’s just mean.

2: No ‘funny’ gifts.

You wouldn’t want to be stuck with one. Don’t stick someone else with one.

3: If you’re allowed to state preferences, be reasonable

Give people some leeway to work with, but remember rule number 1 about the budget. And don’t provide a long list.

4: If someone else has stated preferences, pay attention to them

If they haven’t asked for reasonable things, then see if you can interpret what they’ve asked for into some idea of their tastes. If they have expensive tastes then a small amount of something fancy is probably better than lots of something cheap (so for example a mini bottle of the posh fizzy wine instead of a big bottle of Lindauer- or just get them some strawberries to accompany their posh fizz instead).

5: Don’t make the gift.

Unless it’s an exchange of handmade gifts. Save your crafting time for yourself, or people who you *know for sure* will appreciate the effort.

And remember, keep smiling no matter what you’re given.

After all, if it’s the work Secret Santa, you can always “accidentally” leave that “hilarious” gift on the bus.

Environmentally friendly gift wrapping- three ways

Hopefully by this point in December you have most of your Christmas gifting sorted. Or at least some time off before Christmas to finish it all (like me).

Of course, you can’t have a present without wrapping.

Well, actually, you can. You totally can. I would say the number one best way to avoid using unnecessary and landfill-bound paper or cardboard is simply to hide the gift and tell the recipient (as I often do) “Close your eyes and hold out your hands”.

By the way, don’t use this to prank them if you expect to be able to use this line for holidays or birthdays. Just saying.

2) Sew reusable gift bags.

My friend and former flatmate has done this the past few years and I cannot even with how well they work. She matches fabrics with peoples’ tastes, so the wrapping is always as popular as the gift. And they’re reusable. I have several she’s made me over the years, and they make fantastic project bags. They’re also almost laughably simple to make. Though if you WANT to get all fancy then there are many other tutorials around out there. Also you probably have way more time on your hands than I do.

3) Furoshiki.

Don’t want to sew, or don’t own a machine, or just plain don’t know how? You can still give a gift beautifully wrapped in fabric.

Well, you can if you can tie a knot. C’mon, that’s basic life skills right there. You can tie your shoelaces, right? Good. Anyway.

Furoshiki is a Japanese technique for wrapping things in fabric. You can find a basic tutorial on the Liberty website– and no, you do not have to use Liberty print tana lawn fabric. I’ve used bandanas from the $2 store, fat quarters of quilting fabric (go to a craft store, they’ll know what you mean). But if you want to have a play with different techniques (or you’re wrapping something that isn’t rectangular, such as a wine bottle), you can find a whole bunch of different tutorials on the Furoshiki website.

And if you get paper-wrapped presents, please, please recycle the paper. And as much of the packaging as you can. And if you’re buying presents, take along a reusable shopping bag, and try and minimise the packaging. Every little helps.

Epic ornaments for Christmas crafting

I admit, I may be a little biased when it comes to Christmas tree ornaments, but I think they’re awesome. I collect them, too. My best friend in the UK and I exchange the craziest decorations we can find each year. There have been Christmas mushrooms, Flying Santa, the Christmas Giraffe, Santa and Mrs Claus paddling a waka (ah, New Zealand), Elvis playing the ukulele- we never seem to run out of options. I have to admit I was rather disappointed to discover that I couldn’t buy a Santaur this year because Archie McPhee doesn’t take payments from outside the US. But it’s probably for the best because I would inevitably have bought a whole bunch of other stuff too. I still want a set of giant Christmas tree googly eyes though.

But for Christmas crafting fun, what’s not to like? They’re festive, they’re great for gifting, and they’re quick. With 3 weeks until Christmas, quick is good. Experienced crafters know this. And to save you the time of disappearing down the internet rabbit hole looking for ideas, here are some of my favourites:

Colourwork Christmas ball ornaments are a classic for a reason (and that link will take you to a free pattern!). They’re beautiful, and the possibilities for designs are endless. Also you get to make a lot of jokes about balls while you’re knitting them. If you fancy buying a whole book on the subject, you can! May I recommend: 55 Christmas Balls to Knit by Arne and Carlos (who also have a book of creepy knitted dolls, and another of Easter decorations, if you’re that way inclined.)

Or how about some kitschy but lovely felt ornaments from Wild Olive? If you feel like dabbling in some stitching, felt is a good way to go (very forgiving and easy to cut).

If you have a social-media obsessed friend, how about this bird ornament by Sarah Elizabeth Kellner? It may say it’s the Bluebird of Happiness but you and I both know it’s totally the Twitter logo. You could add a festive hat, for intensified Christmassing.

Not much for stitching or knitting? All you need, pretty much, is some glue and some yarn, and you can make these pretty stars from Labores en Red? Yes I know, the site is in Spanish, but the pictures are pretty clear.

Have a hot glue gun? Get some mod podge and some glitter, and make snowflakes! Instructions by Pitter and Glink.

Beads plus ribbon plus a teeny bit of sewing=Christmas trees over at Stars Inspirations. Kinda hipster Christmas trees. But Christmas trees nonetheless!

Buy some green baubles. Get some appropriate coloured ribbon, and some glue. Add GOOGLY EYES (it’s ALL about the googly eyes, people). What do you get? Teenage Mutant Ninja Baubles and a lot of geek cred for your tree.

Sadly, I can’t have a lucky yodelling Christmas pickle (owing to the aforementioned ‘if you’re not American we won’t take your money’ issue). But I can crochet my own Christmas pickle, courtesy of Fresh Stitches, and add the yodelling myself.

I’m totally getting a lump of coal next year, aren’t I?

Have you made ornaments? Are you planning to? What decorations are you busting out for the festive season? Let me know in the comments!

Links of Joy: Awesome Christmas Gift Guide- cross stitch

“Ellen.”

“Yes?”

“ELLEN.”

“What?”

“It’s not even HALLOWEEN yet!”

You’re very observant. But if you’re planning on making things to give people, you really need to get started pretty soon unless you’re MUCH faster than me. Me, I started stitching Christmas gifts last week, because I know what I’m like.

And by ‘I know what I’m like’ what I mean is I’m much lazier about these things than I should be until it’s probably too late to finish everything I planned. Last time I had a big project to finish (making a wedding quilt for two very dear friends of mine), I started 9 months beforehand and I STILL didn’t get it finished until a couple of weeks ahead of the wedding.

Anyway, just to give you some ideas, here are some cross-stitches you could consider making. Cross stitch! It’s not difficult, you can make a bunch of them from one piece of Aida cloth, and you still get to go shopping- for awesome frames.

Also I resisted the temptation to link you to a bunch of beard-themed cross-stitches even though they’ve been calling to me. If you saw the Best Beloved you’d understand.

But I digress.

First, here’s one for that friend you know would be sitting in the jail cell next to you saying “that was awesome! Lets do it again.”

And one for your family (if they’re anything like, well, most families)- I’m considering making this for my Best Beloved’s Dad.

For the friend who is a liability if left alone with a credit card and Book Depository. Which is most of the people I know.

For the pre-teen in your life. Or maybe that’s just me. Who couldn’t do with a reminder to channel someone fierce in their lives?

Or perhaps you’re the sort of person who likes to give Christmassy Christmas gifts (or know someone who loves to receive them)?

How about this rather awesome festive pattern. Or there’s this DEFINITELY Christmas-themed one if you’re making something for, well, any geek man I’ve ever met and most of the girls.

Finally, this isn’t a pattern but I very much like the sentiment. What can I say? I’m a romantic at heart.

You can, of course, get a bunch more ideas on my Cross Stitch Shenanigans Pinterest board, if you’re so inclined.

What are you planning to make for Christmas? Let me know in the comments. And I’d love to see what you make if you use one of the patterns here or on the Pinterest. Show off your mad crafting skills!

Mid-week joy: Did someone say Halloween?

It’s that time of year again.

Skeleton rave

 

It used to freak me out as a kid but now I like the excuse to dress up (when I get it). And more importantly, the excuse to craft! Now admittedly, if you look up Halloween crafts on Pinterest, you’re going to get a lot of paper plate spiders and such- actually, those particular paper plate spiders are rather cool, they look suitably freaky and jiggly.

However, there are plenty of other options for spooktacular (yeah I went there, deal with it) awesomeness, none of which are complicated to achieve. For example, you could use Alli Woods Frederick’s gorgeous Halloween printables– print on card, cover in glitter and hang up for some atmospheric bling. Actually I’d gladly have the ‘magic’ banner up all year round.

If you’re someone who crafts with yarn (or wants to), and if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, then this is the perfect time to break out the wool. Perhaps with this lovely Halloween fair isle black cats hat, or a knitted pumpkin? C’mon, you knew this post would have a pumpkin in it *somewhere*.

If you have a party to go to, and want an interesting costume, why not combine the Cheats Regency Costume guide from Wellington Historical Society with a sword- preferably a fake Katana, maybe a bit of fake blood- and voila! You have zombie-hunter Elizabeth Bennett. Yes, I know ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ was a while ago but it’s still a great costume.

Or if you don’t feel like making something yourself, but you don’t mind a bit of blood and pain and also like adorable vampire kitties (and really, isn’t that all of us?), you could always take the last spot for getting a Kawaii Halloween tattoo from Keely Rutherford at the Jolie Rouge Halloween Flash Day. If I was in London I would totally be doing that. Show your love of Halloween year round! Or of vampires. Or cats. Vampire cats!

I’ll leave you with a video which made me feel rather sorry for the poor dog. He’s just trying to be friendly! Watching grown men run away freaked out IS kind of hilarious though…

Are you celebrating Halloween? If so, how? What’s the best costume you ever came up with for a party? Let me know in the comments!

Mid-week joy: Magic. It’s a thing.

Happy Wednesday, everyone! The sun is out, the sky is blue, there’s not a cloud to spoil the view but the forecast is for rain the rest of the week so I plan to enjoy it while I can. The sun, not the rain.

Yep, I started talking about the weather again. You can take the girl out of England…

Now, where was I? Oh yes. Magic! And miracles! And the law of attraction! Whatever you choose to call it, and however you choose to work with the Universe, it’s pretty damn special when it works.

Over on my Pinterest, I’ve got an Affirmation Dream Board. The idea is (based on some Danielle LaPorte thinking) that you pin images and write underneath them an affirmation (an ‘I am’ type, present tense statement of what you want to attract into your life).

I’ll admit, I hadn’t updated it for a while. And by a while I mean not for months and months. Then today I was looking through it and some of my other boards for a secret project about which all will be revealed very soon.

And I found this:

Best Beloved pin

I pinned this long before my Best Beloved and I started the tentative movements towards each other. Way before I started calling him my Best Beloved. But there it is. I’m working on the second part- but definitely getting there.

I guess what I’m trying to say, for today’s mid-week joy, is that these things can and do work. You can and will bring more good things into your life. If I can do it, anyone can.