Hello again

Hello there. It’s been a while. A long while. You’re probably wondering why I didn’t just take this site down and give up.

I’ll be honest with you, I thought about it. I’ve been dealing with a very full plate in terms of things claiming my time. Work. A new house (a new house that I actually *own*. No more calling the landlord. I *am* the landlord.) Writing and running what is probably more than my fair share of LARPs. Most awful of all, depression and anxiety- those roommates in my head who may never move out, who may go away but may always have a bunch of stuff stored inside me.  And most wonderful of all, planning a wedding.

There are a lot of reasons not to try again with writing about the things I love and trying to build this into something worth the building. There’s only one reason for carrying on. But it’s way more compelling than any of the reasons not to.

This is something I am doing for me. One of the very few things I’m doing only for me. Because I like writing. I like connecting with however few or many of you there are. I want to record at least part of my life in a way that’s more substantial than the empty calories of social media. I want to put something good out into the world- encouragement to try and make things. Because I know from experience that making things keeps the darkness at bay. And when there’s less darkness, it brings satisfaction, and joy.

For a long time, I let all the other things in my life stop me from showing up to the work of trying to create a better and more meaningful life for myself. Well, I’m done letting the resistance get me. Whether I have grand lessons to impart or whether I just found an interesting pattern. Whether I’ve made something cool or (equally likely) made something that isn’t Pinterest-worthy but is still satisfying. I’m going to show you the messy side of the room (to quote Heather B. Armstrong), because I think people need to see the thread, the scraps, the paint-covered newspapers, the burnt-sienna painted chux-mache props that kind of look like giant poos, drying on my dining-room table… whatever happens, I’m going to keep showing up. I hope you’ll join m

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.

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?

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.