Mopsy Bird: A Tale of Two Chickens

So it’s been a while, but if you’ve read my blog you are likely familiar with Mopsy Bird. I had been looking for an excuse to knit this particular pattern for ages, and I’m glad to say, I finally got one earlier this year.

When my Best Beloved and I started planning our wedding, we talked about whether to include a bouquet toss. Not only did it not really feel right (the traditional idea of women clawing after being ‘next’? No thank you), my bouquet had a lot of pipe-cleaners in it and quite frankly would have been a liability if it went flying through the air towards peoples’ faces. I didn’t want to spend my wedding accompanying someone to the emergency room (or at least feeling guilty for NOT accompanying someone to the emergency room).

At the same time, some friends of ours had had a running joke about playing ‘wedding chicken’ with each other. One was given a white dress, the other one would point out rings. In fact, when I was told about their engagement it was with a message saying ‘R just won wedding chicken.’

I’m not quite sure how, but out of these two circumstances an idea was born.

The wedding chicken.

Anyone could go for it, and whoever caught it would win the right to play wedding chicken with their partner (or future partner).

At first I thought I would find a rubber chicken, but then the solution became obvious.

The result was this. Behold! Mopsy Bird the Wedding Chicken.

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Image by Veronica McLaughlin Photography, all rights reserved.

 

Mopsy Bird was very popular at our wedding. And when our wedding-chicken-playing friends got married, I made one for them too. Behold Mopsy II: Electric Boogaloo, with the bride- my beautiful friend Nik.

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My goodness, but Mopsy Bird II got around. In a bunch of photos, including with a lot of people who didn’t in fact catch her. I’m so proud. If you’re looking for an alternative to a bouquet for throwing, I highly recommend Mopsy Bird. She is quick to make (chunky yarn people!) and very aerodynamic.

Also, explaining why you have a ‘wedding chicken’ is a LOT of fun.

4 things about crafting your friends will want to know

Hi. It’s been a while, so I thought I would ease myself back into this whole blogging shenanigan (what? It’s one thing. Therefore it is a singular shenanigan, not the plural. Grammar is important, yo.) with the questions you all get asked when someone finds out you enjoy making things- and my answers.

Did it take long?

This, my friends, is up there with ‘did it hurt’ as a question asked of those of us who have tattoos. Crafting may not involve inserting needles into your skin repeatedly- or at least, it doesn’t include that deliberately (we’ve all made our blood sacrifices on gnarly projects, and if you haven’t…give it time). Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t, but the thing I love about this question is people are always impressed by the answer. If it didn’t take long then wow, it looks so complicated. If it DID take ages then wow, such dedication.

Can you make me a…

Lets face it, that question is usually finished with something that will take a lot longer than the person asking expects. Yes, I can. Whether I *will* is another matter.

Why would you make that?

Now, there are two versions of this question. The first version is the one that continues ‘you can just buy…’ in which case the response is yes, I could. But *this* project that I am making is better than store bought because it will (theoretically) fit better, and be more in keeping with your individual style.

The OTHER version of that is ‘WHY WOULD YOU MAKE THAT?’, usually accompanied by you having just finished something like this:

Image shows knitted hats that look like animals looking at you from the back. WTF people.

Image source: http://photobigbang.tumblr.com/post/30237311410/via-dollypython-littttoral

The best response to this question, in my honest opinion, is to chase whoever asked it around whatever room or building you happen to be in while wielding it. Comedy gold.

But honestly, if you’ve made something weird then I’m not going to judge. I’ve made two Mopsy Birds now (more on that in a future post). You do you.

Thoughts I had at spinning class

No, not spin class. If I want to ride a bike I’d rather be going somewhere on it- because after all, taking your life into your own hands adds some much-needed spice to your daily workout.

Anyway.

On Saturday, my train-knitting-friend Emma and I went along to an Introduction to Wheel Spinning class at the Auckland Spinners and Weavers Guild.

I’ll just say: if you’re a teacher, you should 100% try learning a new skill from time to time. Just to remind you what it’s like. Which brings me to:

Thoughts I had during spinning class

OMG the tutor’s cardigan is gorgeous.

She dyed it, and spun the wool, and knitted it, all herself. New hero.

I should have brought lunch. Almonds and a Kinder Bueno probably aren’t going to cut it.

Oh, it’s OK, biscuits!

There are a lot of different wheels. How am I supposed to pick one? Oh, the small one…

Damn. Emma’s got the small one.

Ooooh, the tutor has a travelling wheel that packs up into a bag. That would be so cool!

I wonder if I could learn to spin with a spindle for that Viking-themed LARP campaign. Then I could make my own yarn at the game…

Damn, that travelling wheel is $900? Guess I’ll have to save up.

I like these other students. They seem cool.

Seriously, $900?! Nine. Hundred.

Oh good, the Guild lets you borrow wheels…

Hnnng, pretty fibre over there. So pretty. I must resist. I already have a tub full of fibre and I don’t even know how to spin yet.

OK, treadling! I can handle this.

Clockwise. OK, treadling clockwise.

STOP GOING F***ING ANTICLOCKWISE WHY ARE YOU DOING THAT.

OK. Clockwise. We can do this.

Wait, I have to slow down?

OK, two feet on the treadle is much easier.

Clockwise, yes.

Parts of the wheel! I know what some of those are!

OK I don’t know what any of these are.

Mother-of-all? So medieval right now.

Crap. The treadling made that bit of spun yarn on the bobbin go away and…oh, that’s what the hook’s for.

Damn, I forgot to keep treadling. Clockwise…clockwise…

OK, she makes this look super easy! I bet we’ll have no trouble picking this up. I can totally do this.

WTF WHY DO YOU KEEP GOING ANTICLOCKWISE WHEN I’M TRYING TO MAKE YOU GO CLOCKWISE.

Why won’t the spun bit go onto the bobbin?

Oh. OK, It has too much twist. Oops.

And we’re drafting, we’re drafting. Well, we’re pretending we’re drafting. We’re practicing the motion with some pre-spun yarn.

Right. I reckon I’ve got it this time.

“That’s brilliant! You could tie up the Queen Mary with that!”

And it’s now too thick to go through the hole.

OK, but I don’t know how to make my fingers draft AND keep the twist out of the drafting zone. Look at me thinking about drafting zones like I know what I’m talking about.

STOP MOTHERF***ING GOING BACK THE OTHER WAY.

OK seriously like half the fluff I’m supposed to be drafting is ending up in a big ball in my hand. How is this even happening?

And we’re drafting, we’re drafting, it’s getting much thinner…

Wait, no, too thin, too thin!

GOD VERDAMMIT. It broke.

OK, yes, start with a new leader.

And…broke again. And now too twisty.

Maybe I should just practice treadling.

Yup, the tutors says treading is my problem.

I bet this is because I haven’t learned to drive. I can’t do one thing with my hands and something else with my feet.

“It’s like patting your head and rubbing your tummy at the same time”. BUT I CAN DO THAT.

I can’t believe I just demonstrated.

Oooh, yes, I do want to join the Guild! You all seem lovely. And then I can borrow a wheel and practice.

Trying on one of the other students wheels. Just treadling.

Yeah, I definitely need a double treadle. This is MUCH easier.

Wow, this yarn the tutor just plied as a demonstration is so gorgeous… I swear I’m going to get the hang of this.

OK, joining the Guild. Oooh, a free handwoven bag as a gift!

Those are all very classy. But obviously I’m going to pick the one that’s woven with a whole bunch of novelty yarns as the weft.

The tutor thinks I have potential! Clearly I must persevere with this…

…and then maybe I’ll be able to justify $900 on a wheel…

What to do when you can’t knit or crochet?

So. I am having all kinds of funtimes at the moment owing to having got tennis elbow. I’m getting acupuncture treatments for it -my acupuncturist also does cupping on my arm- and last Monday she did my back and I look like I’ve been attacked by a kraken. If only Kate McKinnon as Jillian Holtzman was there to rescue me. I’m sure a nuclear laser would work on kraken tentacles as well as on ghosts… Where was I? Oh yes. The elbow.

It was getting better, and then it really wasn’t and I realised the reason it wasn’t getting any better was that I’ve been crocheting and knitting like a fiend the past couple of weeks and all the twisting of my arm was definitely. not. helping.

But what’s a yarn-aholic to do when she can’t actually knit or crochet? OK, not can’t. Shouldn’t. Well…

Sew granny squares together

Because mattress stitch is a revelation, y’all. And because when one is making a blanket, eventually one has to sew all the squares together.

Sew hexipuffs together

I have 285 of them. I counted. I probably ought to start joining them up so that when I finish the other 65 I have planned to knit, I’ll be well on my way to an actual complete Beekeepers Quilt.

Organise stash

In my case, organise projects into plastic baskets so I realise exactly how many projects I have on the go and that I probably shouldn’t start any new ones until I’ve finished at least a couple…

Plan new projects

Just because I probably shouldn’t start them doesn’t mean I can’t look at them. And download the patterns. And make sure I have the yarn.

In totally unrelated news I have a bunch of new yarn.

Shut up, I can stop any time I want to.

The Pinup in Winter

I don’t know about you, but I don’t enjoy winter. Don’t get me wrong, I much prefer winter in New Zealand to winter back in the UK. I don’t miss how it gets dark by 4 o’clock, how the sun never really rises, or how you need to have something woolly on any part of you that you don’t want to be frozen solid if you’re venturing outside. That said, it has taught me the valuable skill of staying warm in the cold.

A couple of months back, I started taking daily outfit photos again, and actually planning out what I want to wear the night before (or in the occasional fit of hyper-organisation, planning an entire week’s worth of outfits on Sunday night).  I’m not gonna lie, I enjoy clothes, and colours, and even makeup (now that I’ve found a lipstick brand I love- eventually I’ll work on eyeliner…). I especially love pinup and retro style, and will wear it almost every day if I can. Except Sunday. Sunday almost without fail is pyjama day. But I digress. Since we’re heading into the freeze-yo-tits-off part of the year, I thought I’d share with you how on earth I can go pinup in the cold, in case any of these tips are new or helpful to some of you.

Now, this is not me telling you what to wear. I say, wear what you want. But if you really have an urge to wear a fabulous circle skirt but you’re worried about your legs getting cold, or if you have a strappy dress and you’re concerned about becoming a pinupsicle, I can help.

First thing’s first

Pay attention to your body. Think about how you normally dress in winter. What parts of you feel the cold most? For me, my legs aren’t really an issue BUT I hate having cold gusts of wind anywhere on my arms or my core. For you it might be different. Maybe it’s your feet. Or your ears. But figure that out, and you’ll know where to concentrate your warminating efforts.

Layering is, of course, the oldest trick in the book. But some of the things I do are either old-school or a bit different to ‘put on a cardigan’. I will say – thermals are your friend if you can find ones with a neckline that hides properly… Here are a few secret warm layers:

ABM_1464816145Tights! If you’re not wearing tights (pantyhose, for those not familiar with British slang) in the winter, I don’t know what to tell you. There are lots of options here. Fleece-lined tights are great. But a favourite trick of mine is to wear multiple layers of ordinary tights. Or wear one pair of ordinary tights under fishnet or lace tights (which are actually warmer than you’d expect given how big the holes are), or of course leggings. In this photo, I’ve got two layers of tights on. Noone will know- trust me- I’ve been doing this since I was 14 years old and not once has someone come up to me, pointed at my legs and said “YOU’RE WEARING TOO MANY TIGHTS”.

Petticoats! These are so great for keeping you warm. All those layers of tulle? Toasty. You can also use a cunning trick from Miss Victory Violet to wear a dress as a skirt if you have a petticoat and a decent belt- which means that you can still wear that strappy dress but stay warm.

Slips! They’re a bit granny-tastic but for hidden layers under a skirt or dress that keeps your core from getting cold, you can’t beat them.

And now, some additional honesty:

When it’s freaking cold, I don’t go near the skirts. I’m not insane. And I don’t subscribe to the suffering-for-the-look school of thought. So this is what I wore the first day of winter:

ABM_1464729705Yup. Jeans. If my fabulous 40s-ish trousers still fitted, I would be wearing those a lot. Sometimes, you’ve just got to adapt to the weather.

Also, while I have a beautiful retro winter coat, there are plenty of days when I don’t wear it because it doesn’t have a hood- on those days, I wear a ridonkulously warm coat I got from an army surplus store. Not pretty, but also not at all cold. Looking pinup is fantastic- but when it’s really effing cold, looking pinup is something best done indoors.

I hope at least some of this has been helpful. What are your top tips for staying warm while looking fabulous? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

What I’ve Made Wednesday

So, it’s been a while. I’ve been afb (away from blog. That’s a thing, right?). And one of the things I’ve been doing is, of course, making things. At the moment, the main focus is on making decorations for the ceremony and reception at mine and my Best Beloved’s wedding, so I’ve been working on some macrame garlands, and also lots of fabric garlands (made of upcycled fabric I’ve found in op shops, or leftovers from different projects).

I’m also knitting the bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids, and boutonnieres for the groom and groomsmen, plus the most foofy and ridonkulous floral crown I possibly can for my flower girl- all of which has resulted in a pile of flowers and leaves which I hope will get much bigger.

And then there are the chandeliers. I found this tutorial on making a (non-lit) chandelier out of some hanging baskets and thought, why not?

You know, as you do.

It finally gives me an excuse to get a hot glue gun, and also- pretty! I was wondering what to do for crystals and then I remembered- our house had two big chandeliers stored in the basement. They’re not quite my style, but they’re covered in dangly crystals.  I already have a box full of them- and those are just the ones that fell off them when the Best Beloved was moving them.

Now I just have to buy myself my birthday gift- a hot glue gun. I know, a craft-loving gal who doesn’t own one? Insanity! It’s taken a while but I finally got fed up with reading about great projects that I wanted to try and sighing because I don’t have one. With the right hot glue gun, I can conquer the world! No really. Don’t mess with someone who’s operating a hot glue gun.

And when I’m Queen I can finally bedazzle All The Things. The future’s bright. The future’s COVERED IN RHINESTONES.

Ahem.

You might be wondering what on earth I’m going to do with all the decor when the wedding is over, and the answer is simple: it’s going up around the house. Because I’ve always wanted to live in a house that’s decorated like an old-fashioned barge, or a gypsy caravan. And now I can. This is what happens when I’m allowed to decorate things.

Gratituesday

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been hell-for-leather getting ready to run a LARP, and I have to admit, it’s triggered my anxiety. But I’ve learned something very helpful, at least for me. Listing off the things I’m grateful for in my head actually helps reduce my feelings of anxiety. I did it a lot on Saturday. I’m so grateful to have found a technique that works, and also grateful to the Best Beloved for taking good care of me.

Gratitude, people. It’s good for you.

Commuting 

I know, I know, what kind of a crazy person would be grateful to be commuting? The kind of crazy person who has a big-ass crochet project to finish, that’s who. That half an hour or so in the morning and the evening is a great time to fill with crafting. Not only because I’m slowly chipping away at the project- actually, not so slowly when I consider how much it’s grown- but also because it encourages conversations. I’ve met other crafters on the train, or people who’ve wanted to ask about the yarn or the process. My answer is always the same when they express admiration that someone can do that- “it’s easier than it looks.”

Of course, it helps that I have the pattern mostly memorised and I’m not knitting lace. I suspect if I was trying to work on a shawl, as I plan to, my response (in my head) would be “please be quiet, I’m counting”.

Rainbows

One of my favourite things about Auckland weather (yes, I have some) is how often there are rainbows visible here. To me, they always seem like a promise of good things.

Testing out takeaway places

Of which there are many near our new house, so we have quite a few to try. For science, you know. I’m grateful to have so many places near my home that will bring me (or serve me) hot delicious food on the nights where everyone is too knackered to cook (like Sunday night).

Getting out in the sunshine

Yes, in the middle of winter. Sunday was the third Moonbright game, which involved hanging out in Auckland domain. I was shattered from the night before, but being outside and soaking up some warmth and making more vitamin D did me the power of good.

Startitis

More about this on the blog later in the week, but a friend and I are doing a “what the hell were we thinking knitting an entire jumper on tiny needles in fingering weight yarn” knit-a-long, mostly to motivate each other to finish them. I’m excited!

The little things

Hugs, sleep, electric blankets, hot baths, tea, and all the other things that keep you warm in winter!

I have a question about Project Runway All Stars

Having run out of seasons of Project Runway to watch (at least before I start re-watching them again), I moved on to Project Runway All Stars because, well, sewing, and episodes I hadn’t seen.

It’s pretty good. I don’t mind that the host has changed, or that there are different judges. I miss Tim Gunn, but then who wouldn’t? But the mentors they have on the show- both women- really know their stuff. Joanna Cole especially.

There’s one thing, though, that really really bugs me. And that’s the way that the judges are introduced.

“Designer and co-founder of Marchesa, the beautiful Georgina Chapman…one of the most famous names in fashion, designer Isaac Mizrahi”.

The guest judges and male judges are introduced championing their success and accomplishments.

So why is it so important to make a point of Georgina Chapman also being ‘beautiful’.

Being beautiful doesn’t qualify her as a judge for a fashion design show. Her work with Marchesa does. Marchesa is a pretty darned famous name in fashion. She’s hugely successful. She makes beautiful clothes. But what we’re being told, as viewers, makes her a great judge is that she’s also beautiful.

Why does it matter? There are plenty of successful fashion designers who don’t conform to stereotypes of beauty. And a lot of them have been judges on the show. In fact, their non-conformity and bold celebration of who they are AS they are, is why we love them.

Diana Vreeland was very conscious of her not being a conventional beauty, and was one of the most influential women in fashion for years.

It bugs me because yet again, a TV show is suggesting that a woman’s achievements are somehow lessened, somehow not as valuable, if she isn’t also beautiful. Replace that with married, or a mother, and you have way, way too much of the mainstream media.

I guess what I’m hoping is that in my lifetime, we’ll get to the point where being physically attractive isn’t a qualification. For anything.

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. 

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?