Friday, 29 January 2010

Egg cosies

Does anyone actually use egg cosies any more? I remember them occasionally being used for a weekend breakfast during my childhoodbut haven't seen one pressed into service for years. Now is the time to start the egg cosy revival with this knitting pattern to match the tea cosy from the Harmony Odd Ounce book.

When you use an egg cosy, do you have to boil your egg for slightly less time than you would sans cosy? Will it thicken slightly as it is left on the table, snug under its knitted dome? And how long can you leave it there before the cold sets in? We need answers!

To knit an egg cosy you need scraps of DK wool, in main (M) and contrast (C) colours, and UK size 7 knitting needles.

Cast on 32 sts. Join in contrast (C) and work as follows, making sure that C is twisted over M before starting next row. Note: Yf (yarn forward) in this pattern always refers to the colour used for last 8 sts.

1st row: * K8M, draw C across back of work to 3/4 inch and k8C, draw M across back of work in same way; rep from * to end. Twist M over C before commencing next row.

2nd row: *K8C, yf, bring M across front of work, draw up to 3/4 inch and take to back of work, k8M, yf, bring C across front of work, draw up to 3/4 inch and take to back of work; rep from * to end.

Repeat these 2 rows until cosy measures 4 inches, ending with a wrong side row.

Shape top:

1st row: Keeping pattern correct *sl 1, k1, psso, k4, k2tog; rep from * to end.

2nd row: *Sl 1, k1, psso, k2, k2tog; rep from * to end.

3rd row: *Sl 1, k1, psso, k2tog; rep from * to end.

4th row: K2tog to end.

Thread yarn through the remaining stitches, draw up and fasten off. Join seams. Crochet round 2 small curtain rings to decorate the top - or maybe add a pompom or some buttons.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Severus Snape knitted doll

***UPDATE October 2010: Professor Severus Snape has proven so popular that if you would like a Snape doll of your own, check out my Etsy shop. Otherwise contact me for Snape doll commissions. The world needs more knitted Snapes.***

I have finally finished knitting the Severus Snape doll. Here he his, playing the piano with his feet - a sight you'd normally only ever see at the Slytherin house Christmas party.

Snape is about 40cm high and knitted from acrylic DK yarn. I'm normally a make-do-and-mend craft recycler, using things from charity shops and Freecycle, but this time I splashed out and bought some tiny, tiny doll's buttons to sew on his jacket as a finishing touch. This was the first time I'd knitted a doll without using a pattern, so I'm pretty pleased with the final result.

My daughter's verdict? "He's very cute." (He got a big hug, too).

Monday, 25 January 2010

Knit your own slippers

Here's some toasty knitted slippers from Emu wools which are perfect for knitting novices as they are only made out of squares of garter stitch - no increasing and decreasing, no purling, and definitely no more than two needles required.

You'll need double knitting wool in a main colour (MC) and a contrast colour (CC). You'll also need 4mm knitting needles (UK 8). Tension is 10 stitches to 5cm, measured over garter stitch.

To fit shoe size 3 (4, 5, 6, 8)

Make 3 small squares:

Using 4mm needles and MC, cast on 12 (14, 16, 18, 20) sts and k18 (22, 26, 32, 36) rows. Cast off.

Make 1 large square:

Using MC, cast on 24 (28, 32, 36, 40) sts and work in the following stripe sequence for 36 (44, 52, 62,, 72) rows: K2 rows MC, 2 rows CC. Cast off.

To make up, using a back stitch, join squares as shown in diagram, working from nos 1 to 8, joining edges 1 to 1, 2 to 2, 3 to 3 etc, so they all correspond.

Make a pompom and sew in the centre. Repeat pattern again for other slipper (assuming that you're going to want two...)

Friday, 22 January 2010

Medieval woes

"I should do no other work in the day but read my psalter, work in gold or silk, play tunes on my harp, checkmate someone at chess, or feed the hawk on my wrist" - Galeran de Bretagne.

This 13th century lady is complaining about her day here. It sounds pretty good to me. Maybe I'd swap that psalter for a slice of battenberg cake, but otherwise that's a pretty perfect way to pass the time.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

1970s things in plastic

Every now and then a fad or a fashion takes over the world of craft. For a while, you can't move without finding people making, say, knitted cupcakes, or busily knotting macrame owls. And then suddenly everyone stops, sits back, and says, "Why am I doing this?" They move onto the next big thing. Scrapbooking, maybe. Or making pictures out of nails and string.

One such fad I remember from my murky past is the 1970s love of embedding unlikely objects in plastic. You mixed up polyester resin with hardener, poured a little into a mould, then added your objects - coins, flowers, keys - and the topped the whole things off with more plastic resin. After an agonising overnight wait for the plastic to set, you were left with the petrochemical age's equivalent of a fly caught in amber, as shown in the above examples from Ideas For Unusual Handicrafts by Susan Simmons.

There wasn't a great deal that could be done with the final result. A paperweight or ornament was a good bet, and Ideas For Unusual Handicrafts suggests making fingerplates for doors - which is more than you can do with a knitted cupcake.

The diagram below from Ideas For Unusual Handicrafts shows:

a: How to embed a dead grasshopper in different coloured gradients of resin to create a subtle fading effect within the mould


b: Why no-one was particularly pleased with their Christmas present from Susan Simmons that year.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

How to make doll's hair for a knitted doll

I have nearly finished the Severus Snape doll, and have just spent a pleasant morning making his hair.

To make doll hair for a knitted doll, you need to cut lengths of yarn that are twice as long as you want the finished hair to be, plus maybe an inch and a half more, to allow for the knot and a final trim - it's always better to make hair too long, so you can trim to the exact style you want, rather than hair too short, which doesn't look right.

Insert a crochet hook into the doll's head where you would like a strand of hair to be.

Fold one of your strands of yarn in half and put it on the crochet hook...

...then pull a loop through.

Take the two ends of the yarn and pull them through the loop you have just created...

Then pull gently to create a firm knot. Voila - your first two strands of hair. Repeat all over the doll's head. This method gives you great control over your doll's hairstyle! Try using a mixture of different yarns and different thickness.

And here is the finished result, enjoying a cup of tea with Lucius Malfoy - you can buy both dolls and patterns in my Etsy shop.

Friday, 15 January 2010

OMG sewing thread

"Exquisite colours - guarantee of fastness! Three different sizes! Wonderful strength! Coats Satinised has all of these - and glamour!" From a Coats Satinised advert, 1952.

When did we lose our capacity to be this excited about sewing thread? We have become a sad and jaded nation. Bring back the thrill of a sewing thread with a guarantee of fastness, and shout it from the rooftops, using lots of exclamation marks! OMG sewing thread!!!!11!! LOL.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Giant ladybirds

From the Chadds of Lowestoft Gift Book, early 1970s. One can only speculate about the amount of high-grade pharmaceuticals that the creative team at Chadds of Lowestoft must have imbibed during the brain-storming session for their gift book.

The only other people to have ever seen a blue fluffy policeman helping a family of giant ladybirds across the road were Hunter S Thompson and Carlos Castaneda.

The ladybirds are simply made out of red and black pom poms, with pipecleaner legs. "The Fuzz" (as it says on his flag), has a knitted body, with felt hat. His badge is made out of a milk-bottle top.

Far out, man.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Luna Lovegood's radish earrings

I was watching the Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince dvd extras over the weekend, and got rather excited about the jewellery that Evanna Lynch had hand-made for her character Luna Lovegood: a beautiful bracelet and a pair of beaded radish earrings.

Luna wears the bracelet to Slughorn's party in the Half-blood Prince - it's a large metal spiral bracelet with a pretty beaded hare patronus bounding along inside the spiral. One of those blink-and-you'll-miss it details - it's only briefly shown on the dvd extras as well.

The radish earrings are from the Order of the Phoenix; apparently the costume designer had made a pair, but Evanna's were even better, so they ended up using those instead. I found a pattern for very similar earrings at if you fancy making a pair. You'll need seed beads, wire, and the bravery to wear them in public.

Knitting and crochet lessons

At the moment I am unable to offer knitting and crochet lessons as I am having to focus all my energies on my book of Knitted Birds, which is going to be published by Search Press in September 2015. If you are looking for crochet lessons in Worthing, West Sussex, try my friend Rachael Kay: She runs wonderful crochet classes and one-on-one sessions and will have you making beautiful things before you know it...

Monday, 11 January 2010

Boil your own embroidery

From a Pearsall's embroidery yarn advert in Stitchcraft magazine, 1952: "Embroider in real silk... for worthwhile work which will not lose its lovely colours even when boiled."

Yarn and fabric were obviously made of sterner stuff in 1952. I'm always nervous of putting hand-made items in the gentlest of washing machine cycles, let alone giving them a good old boiling.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Distinctively Different crochet accessories

From Golden Hands magazine, 1972: "Distinctively Different: In this age of standardised clothes and mass production, it is easy enough to find your best friend wearing the same dress as your own. Accessories are the best way to add more individual touches of character, but any which are the least out of the ordinary can cost the earth - so why not try and make them yourself?"

Indeed. Every home-made craft project is a poke in the eye to mass production and conformity. By picking up that crochet hook, you are sticking it to the man, sister.

These co-ordinating 1970s accessories are worked in red, white and blue rows of double crochet (UK). This colour scheme gives our model a bit of a 1970s air hostess look - maybe she's about to serve you a crocheted gin and tonic from the crocheted drinks trolley.

All of these accessories are created iin the same way: you make a central band of main colour until you have the length you want, and then work double crochet around the sides of the band until you have the width you want. Simple, and easy to adapt to make a watch strap, belt, hat band, or tie.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Victorian hairwork

One project that I am hoping to help get off the ground this year is Transition Town Worthing's Re-Skilling group, which will be offering training in many of the skills and crafts that our grandparents took for granted. I don't think that Victorian hairwork will be on the agenda.

To us, the idea of preserving a departed relative's hair in the form of a bracelet, necklace, or hair ornament for prosperity seems macabre in the extreme. The Victorians had a deeply ritualised and sentimental view of death and the grieving process, with different modes of dress, length of mourning, and expected codes of behaviour following a death all clearly set out, depending on your social class. To a Victorian lady undertaking a lengthy period of mourning, maybe creating such a hairwork memento mori would have been a soothing way to fill the hours and reflect on the loss of a loved one.

Ambitious hairwork pieces would have been undertaken by professionals: a large embroidery of a weeping willow using the hair of both living and deceased family members to depict the tree and a grieving family standing beneath the branches.

Instructions for simpler pieces, including woven hairwork bracelets, or tubular head dresses, could be found in illustrated magazines and were made by more accomplished lady crafters at home.

Hairwork wasn't only used at times of mourning - it was seen as quite acceptable to use your own hair to make jewellery or love tokens to give to family and friends as a token of affection. I would like to see the look on someone's face if I did the same thing today...

The illustration above is of a large ribbon brooch made out of tubes of woven hair, with a hand painted brooch in the middle.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

I Started Something I Couldn't Finish

When it comes to crafting, people fall into two very definite camps: those who will see a project through to the bitter end before starting a new one, and those with several half-finished projects on the go at the same time. I fall into the second camp. I like to have different things to pick up and work on as the mood takes me: maybe a piece of easy crochet to work on while watching tv, and then something requiring more focus if I feel like a challenge, rather than relaxing.

At the moment I am working on a Severus Snape doll (a challenge: rather excitingly at the stuffing stage), a spring cardigan for my daughter (relaxing: just started knitting the back) and this never-ending albatross around my neck: the hexagonal crochet quilt.

I started this quilt three years ago, after peering through a window on a canal barge and seeing a similar quilt draped over a comfy arm chair in the corner. It's made up of hexagonal crochet motifs. They are quick and easy to whip up - perfect for taking on a train journey - but I just didn't appreciate the amount of time and dedication needed to complete a project this size. This quilt is around half the size I originally wanted it to be - I envisaged a generous-sized throw to snuggle into on the sofa, but I am starting to downsize my expectations to something smaller.

I do solemnly swear that one day I will finish this quilt, and on that day, I will throw a tea party, and buy everyone scones.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Crochet Victorian choker

I made this crochet choker over the Christmas period, adapting a Victorian pattern from a 1970s craft encyclopedia. It's made from black crochet cotton with a black satin ribbon tie. I might also use the same lace pattern to make some cuffs, or maybe the hem for a coat.

In the 1970s book, they were using the same lace pattern, run up this time in crisp, white crochet cotton, to trim the layers on a floaty, hippy skirt - it looked very pretty and romantic. It's always interesting how many different effects you can get from one basic crochet pattern just by changing the yarn or colour.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Mr January

Mr January is wearing a beige v-neck sleeveless jumper knitted in 4-ply Gaylon. He likes small moustaches and staring shiftily at the word "Hayfield". He would like to travel the world and open a boutique.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Dog coats

Three lovely dog coats from the 1950s - I especially like the yellow coat on the terrier on the left (or "Model B" as his owner has rather unimaginatively called him). It's worked in K2 P2 rib with cosy knitted lapels that wouldn't look out of place on a sweater.

Note the tension in the lady's hands, as if all three dogs are seconds away from leaping as one savage beast towards the photographer and lunging for his throat. Or his sandwiches.