5 ways to make the world a better place

I have had a lot of feelings about the world in the past few days. Many of them have not been happy ones. On Friday night I had to steer clear of social media, because the news that Britain- my mother country- had voted to leave the European Union, in spite of the huge amount of support among young people (the ones who will have to live with the decision longest) for staying in, in spite of the fact that the campaign promises and claims of leave were largely unfounded… well, it left me deeply depressed. And it only got worse from there. People saying they wanted to change their votes because they “didn’t think it would actually happen”. The leave camp admitting they actually have no plan for how Britain is going to exit the EU. And worst of all, casual racism in the streets and people of many nationalities (including British) and ethnicities living in fear.

And then I had the horrifying realisation: if Trump is elected president, it will legitimise prejudice in exactly the same way that the leave vote has done in the UK…but the racists, xenophobes, and homophobes will have ready access to guns.

I can’t sit idly by and let the world go to hell in a handbasket. And while I know there’s not much I can do to change the outcome of the US election, and not much I can do from the other side of the world to help people in the UK, and while I know that what one person can do is just a drop in the ocean…I want to do something. If you’re reading this, perhaps you do, too. So here are just a few practical things you can do to make the world a better place.

1: Give some Kiva loans

Kiva is a microfinance organisation. They work by members giving small loans ($25) and collectively funding larger loans to communities where it is needed. For example, war-torn countries where credit is hard to come by. Here’s the beauty part- as the loans get paid back, you can re-lend the credit. So that $25 can help people again and again and again.

2: Make some twiddlemuffs

If you knit or crochet, you can make these. A twiddlemuff is for people with dementia. Put simply, it’s a knitted (or crocheted) muff with little fiddly things (beads, tassles etc) attached so that people with dementia have something to do with their hands. With the added bonus that a knitted or crocheted muff helps keep their hands warm. If you’re in NZ, the link above will take you to Knit World’s page for Twiddlemuffs. If you’re elsewhere, google ‘twiddlemuffs’ and your country or locale to see if there’s a collection going on in your area. Or just contact a local hospital or retirement home to ask if they need any!

3: Eat your lunch

If you’re in Auckland (or, soon, in Wellington), you can help Kiwi kids living in poverty by supporting Eat My Lunch. You buy yourself a lunch which is delivered to your workplace, and for every lunch you buy, a lunch is given to a child in need. Many kids in NZ have to go without basics like a packed lunch through no fault of their own or their parents, so this is a great way to stop them from going hungry.

4: Buy some underwear

Smalls for All is a charity that provides underwear for women and children in Africa, where many girls often miss days of school every month because they are having their period and don’t have any underwear. Then there are the women suffering with conditions like fistula. And even more alarming- having underwear in many areas is seen as a sign that a woman has someone to care for her- that she’s not alone and vulnerable. You can donate packs of underwear, or money (which goes towards helping get said underwear to people who need it). Or both!

5: Take advantage of peoples’ love of baked goods

Baking is easy- a while ago I shared a super easy recipe for scones. Three ingredients. No muss, no fuss, bake ’em, get some jam and cream and you’re ready to go. Or perhaps you’d prefer some three-ingredient peanut butter cookies (gluten and dairy free y’all!)? Why not make a batch, take them to work, and tell people ‘hey, if you’d like a cookie/a scone you can have one- just pop a coin (or neatly folded donation) in this tub for…’ and pick a charity. Time it right (Monday or Wednesday morning or Friday afternoon) and you should have no shortage of takers.

I guess what I’m trying to say is- there are lots of things you can do that don’t take much effort on your part, but which could make a world of difference.  All of us are drops in the ocean, but the more of us who do what we can, the better the world can be. If the world isn’t giving you much hope, you have to find a way to create some for yourself.

Susan Crawford-along: talking about vintage patterns and accidental genitals

Nik:

I wonder if there’s this thing that authentic vintage patterns = difficult, or if it’s just the way that the patterns are written? The twinset cardigan is pretty simple, though, and I’m loving the ‘mock cable’ pattern because I don’t have to use a cable needle…that being said, I am about 2 inches into the back. There’s still time

Ellen:

It may be that authentic vintage patterns= difficult because back then, more people knitted, so there was an assumption of greater knowledge. I mean in the UK, girls were taught knitting in school, so if you were designing a pattern you were writing for knitters who had been doing it for longer. Maybe. And you look at some of the old patterns and the code is even more code-like than a normal pattern. “Continue in pattern as set and do-ci-do every 2 inches. Use number 6 needles (subtext: if you don’t know what number 6 needles are, this pattern is NOT FOR YOU) and 7 ounces of 4ply”. Never mind that the weight doesn’t actually correspond to the yardage, or not totally.

I still think the Susan Crawford= Alien Government Recruiter theory is probably more accurate.

Mainly because we would be completely fabulous as secret agents.

Nik:

I realised the other day that I’ve been knitting for eleven years now! Although perhaps I haven’t been as brave in my choice of projects…my first ever book was the original “stitch and bitch” do you remember that?

I’m quite happy with this choice of yarn, now. At first it felt a bit plastic-y, but now it seems to be softening out. I’ve decided that 1×1 rib never shows off yarn at its best…and yet it’s often a feature of vintage patterns. Maybe I’ll bust one of my Nana’s genuine 1950s vogue ones for my next project. Or more likely I’ll knit something simple in stocking stitch in chunky yarn and cackle to myself about how easy it is.

Ellen:

It’s 10 years for me- yikes.

I’m making good progress- I’m actually quite surprised at how much of the front I’ve knitted up now, considering how long I thought it would take me. The trouble is, now I’m at the point where I needed to make an important decision about the jumper: AT-ATs or reindeer?

The thing is, the AT-ATs would be cool but I don’t think they quite fit with the style of this jumper. So reindeer it is. And AT-ATs next time I do a fair-isle jumper. One that isn’t 1940s style. Or maybe one that is, but is in navy blue and grey. Rosie the Rebel Alliance Riveter could be a fun cosplay…

And then, of course, there’s the accidental penis in one of the rows of Fair Isle. To our lovely readers- nope, I’m not kidding:

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Duplicate stitch is my friend, because there is absolutely no way on God’s green earth I’m ripping back three repeats of a pattern to fix two stitches in the wrong place, even if they do make it look like there’s a penis in the bottom corner of my fair isle.

I’m starting to wonder if I’m cursed. The number of times I’ve ended up unintentionally adding genitalia to the design of a project is alarming. First there was the Vagina Owl, and now this. Are Freudian Slipped Stitches a thing?

The Susan Crawford-along: in which we decide that our knitting patterns prove Susan Crawford is an alien

Read our adventures with casting on here: casting on our vintage knits.

Ellen:

OK, so I finished the ribbing and got on to the larger needles. And then the colourwork. I’d say I’ve started the colourwork, but technically I’ve started the fucking colourwork THREE TIMES.

And then had to carefully frog said colourwork and start again.

Apparently I can’t maths, because getting the pattern to actually line the fuck up is some kind of Labour of Hercules.

This is what I get for knitting backwards, and thus having to read charts backwards and oh my god just put me out of my misery.

Nik: 

I’m slightly worried I’ve made the wrong size, so I might frog and start over. Not too traumatic, I’ve only done about 2cm of ribbing. I also stopped because I felt a bit chilly (it’s been averaging about 3 degrees) to make a chunky cowl.

Ooof, colourwork. Flat? I love colourwork in the round, but as we know, there’s nothing that English designers hate in particular than knitting in the round. Colour work and purling. Uggghhh.

Not so fond of this yarn, but it’s nice and solid.

Started cable pattern. If there;s anything SC loves it’s the dreaded AT THE SAME TIME instructions. Repeat pattern 6 more times, while inc stitch at every 16 row, while also balancing your entire stash on your head.

Ellen:

OH GOD NOW I’VE GOT TO SWITCH TO ANOTHER CHART.

This will involve additional maths and 3d modelling in my head to try and work out which end to start the chart so it looks like it’s supposed to look.

It’s flat, though that’s actually a good thing because if it was in the round I’d be using a lot of extra yarn just carrying it across the back.

The really fun bit (and by fun, I mean complete bloody nightmare) will be the reindeers. You’re right about how SC loves AT THE SAME TIME. For the reindeer part of the jumper, it’s Fair Isle AND Intarsia involving, from what I can tell, at least 5 different balls of yarn at once AND armhole shaping.

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that SC is an alien with about 4 extra limbs that are used solely for knitting. Either that or her patterns are part of some kind of government training programme designed to identify people with elite multitasking skills to become secret agents. Possibly both.

Which I’m all for, if I get a red Stetson like Agent Carter.

Nik:

Think about how fabulous we’d be as secret agents though.

 

The Susan Crawford Along: casting on our vintage knits

Nik and I both got started, and we’ve started keeping each other updated on what we’re doing. Enjoy!

Nik: 

I have 1000 vintage dresses (shush) that I don’t tend to wear because their line doesn’t lend itself well to normal/modern cardigans. I have been searching for ages to find the perfect cropped vintage cardigan, so I was pretty excited when this one came along. I’ve been meaning to knit it for ages, but RSI is hard on the hands. But now, thanks to some gift vouchers and a nice pair of warm gloves, I’m ready to start!

Ellen: 

For me, the issue I have with cardigans is that I loathe ¾ length sleeves. Which is problematic as most every retro-styled cardigan I’ve seen seems to have ¾ sleeves if it’s a plain one. But my reason for choosing the jumper I’m making is party the shape, which I think is pretty fabulous, and also the slightly OTT Christmas-ness of it. For that reason I stuck with a super-bright red yarn for the MC, though I’ve no idea whether the fibre content is actually what it said it was when I ordered it, because Ebay. It feels very soft though. I’m excited to get going on this.

Nik:

The cardigan I’m actually making is the Princess Twinset one – sorry if there was any confusion! I get what you’re saying about the ¾ sleeves, it’s a pain. Especially since they’re such an awkward length! Just started casting on – 2.75mm needles. Ouch. And my only 3mm have vanished into the aether. Weirdly, I have four lots of 3.25mm. Why.

Ellen:

Argh, sorry for the pattern confusion. Fortunately, I cast on before we got a houseguest who likes to be in the lounge- counting when someone else is talking to you is the sort of thing that leads to stabbing. But I don’t find I need to concentrate quite so hard when I’m ribbing. Though I probably should, I slightly futzed the first row because I managed to forget whether I was on a knit or a purl stitch. And I hadn’t even put the knitting down and come back to it later. Yup.

I feel like getting the ribbing on the front done is taking forever on the tiny needles.  I didn’t have any of either size of needle. Actually, that’s not true. I probably do have both sizes of needle. But a lot of my needles have projects on them, and also there’s the problem of the circular needles I like (the KnitPicks Options ones) not actually having anything on them to tell you what size they are. So I probably do have the right size needles but HOW WOULD I KNOW?

And yes, I probably should have finished some of the projects already on the needles before starting this one… I feel like I should have a point about that. But I don’t.

Anyway, I still like the way the yarn feels, and the ribbing it’s producing is nice and sproingy (IT IS A WORD). I just want to get on to the bit with the larger needles so I feel like I’m making more progress.

Announcing: the Susan Crawford-along

My friend Nik and I have two clothing-related things in common. We both love and adore vintage-style clothes and wear a lot of them. She saves up over time and then buys Stop Staring dresses. I scour auction sites for secondhand bargains from my favourite labels and treat myself to full-price things when I can afford them.

The second is that we’re both crafters. Nik has always impressed me with her willingness to embrace things like Rowan patterns. When she introduced me to the glory that are Susan Crawford’s vintage style patterns, I was smitten. There’s just one problem.

Like most vintage patterns, Susan Crawford’s gorgeous designs are, for the most part, knitted with fingering weight yarn. If you’re new to knitting, I shall explain. It’s super thin. The stitches are tiny. The needles are also tiny. This is a recipe for things that will take a lot more knitting time than your average snuggly jumper.

But just look at these jumpers, will you?

The retro styling!

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

The British-coronation gorgeousness!

Lion and Unicorn jumper

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

The F***ING CRAZY SLEEVES!

Jumper with crazy sleeves

Image copyright Arbour House Publishing

How can you NOT want to at least try that on- yes, those are some cray-cray shoulders, but look what it does for her figure. Glorious.

To prevent us stabbing ourselves, or our partners, with a knitting needle (or several), and to motivate us to knit the whole thing and not a few inches of it before it disappears to the bottom of the knitting basket (you know it happens), we decided to do a knit-a-long. We’ll be blogging together on our progress, the trials, the tribulations, the things we learn about the patterns, as we go- for our and your entertainment.

Nik is making the Lion and Unicorn Jumper from ‘Coronation Knits’ while I’ll be attempting the Perfect Christmas Jumper. Yes, even though Christmas is in the middle of summer here. This means that we’ll both have to deal with intarsia on tiny needles. Fun!

While I love the reindeers on the pattern I know what I’m like. Therefore I make no promises about not switching the design to be space invaders or something else weird.

Here’s hoping the end results will be as glorious as we’re both hoping (and that the wool I bought doesn’t itch too badly…).

And of course, if you’d like to play along at home, you can! Just get yourself a Susan Crawford pattern, and the relevant yarn and needles. We’d love to hear about/see your progress!

What’s on the needles Wednesday

Or rather what’s on the crochet hook. Which doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Being as I’ve just moved house, and unpacked my yarn and FOUND some of my UFOs, I’ve been working on homey projects.

There is *one* knitting project on the needles, which is a toran for the house, using the Welcome Toran pattern from Jean Muir. Being that I can never leave a pattern alone, however, it’s not going to have the fair isle pattern in the photos. It’s going to have Totoro-themed intarsia from the Norwegian Totoro Mittens pattern. It’s been a while since I’ve done colourwork. We’ll see whether I survive the experience.

There’s also a crochet blanket which I don’t have a photo of because I was too busy cowering underneath it staying warm last night. But there IS one I do have photos of. It’s a gift for someone, so I probably shouldn’t put it online but hey, I don’t mind if they know about it.

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Look at it, it’s skulls all the way down!

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This particular project is actually sat next to me on my desk right now, calling to me. We’ll see how long I can resist…

What about you? What are you working on this week?

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?

 

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

Lets start with a big pile of squishies!

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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:

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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.

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.

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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.

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

Finished It Friday- What I did in my summer holiday, part 1

I thought it was high time I start showing you guys things that I’ve actually finished, especially with 15 in 2015, and I thought I’d start as pretty much every school English class ever has started, with a little bit about what I did over my summer break. In this case because one of the things I did was start AND finish the Wild Olive Summer Stitching Club wall hanging.

My completed embroidered and quilted wall hanging

it could also be used as a table runner or a placemat, but I like it as a wall hanging better.

I used all stash quilting fabric- and I don’t know whether this is a good thing (because I used some up) or a bad thing (because, well, it didn’t even DENT the stash).

I loved doing the embroideries. Each one was reasonably quick and simple to do, and I’m really pleased with how they turned out. It also allowed me to master french knots. I mastered them once before but that was ages ago and I had totally forgotten how I was supposed to do them. But see all the little eyes on the smiley faces? French knots.

 

Of course, my inability to leave any pattern alone came into play, and that’s why it’s ended up with four rows of embroidered hexagons instead of three. The happy little pohutukawa (New Zealand Christmas Tree), bottle of sunscreen (a must over here), the raincloud (also an inevitable part of the New Zealand summer), and the carved initials in the tree (yes, those are the Best Beloveds and my initials, and yes, I am a giant sap) are my additions.

The quilt construction is English Paper Piecing, which I had never tried before, but luckily the instructions in the pattern were very clear and easy to follow. If you happen to have a printer (I didn’t, and had to trace a bunch of hexagons on scrap paper to finish this), Mollie Johansen, the designer, has even produced a downloadable PDF of paper-piecing hexagons with little happy faces! Well hey, if you’re going to be doing THAT much hand-stitching, you might as well have fun with it, right? I found it very satisfying to make so much of this by hand, also I got to be a little fussy and make teeny little stitches to join the hexagons together.

I also enjoy needlefelting. I’m weird, OK?

If I made this project again (and this is a lesson I’ll be taking into the other quilt projects this year), I would’ve got some damn embroidery transfer paper, rather than using my usual technique of stitching the printed pattern straight to the fabric and then fiddling around for half an hour pulling little TINY BITS OF PAPER out of the stitches. It’s a good technique for embroidering on fabric where the pattern won’t show up as a transfer, but wasn’t ideal for embroideries this small and detailed.

The only bit of machine stitching I did on this was to attach the binding to the front of the quilt so I could handsew it in place onto the back (another thing I find oddly satisfying). Yes, I know it turned out a little wonky, but that just shows it was made by a person, not a machine. Except for that bit of machine stitching. That was made by a machine. But I digress.

I’m really happy with it, and looking forward to hanging it up so it can remind me of nice weather when it gets cold.

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Except the raincloud. But look how HAPPY the raincloud is! Of the patterns I came up with myself, that’s the one I’m most pleased with.

I’m also kind of glad I did that one direct on the fabric and not on paper, because getting the bits of paper out from under the raindrops would have been a TOTAL PAIN.

In conclusion- I had a lot of fun making this, I love the finished result, and I recommend you give Mollie Johansen’s blog and the Wild Olive Etsy shop a look if you’re after some stitching fun.