Wednesday, February 25

Slipper saga

The first knitted gift I made for The Curse was a pair of felted slippers using the Fibertrends felted clogs pattern. But I didn't have the right weight of yarn and my assumption that I could just carry on felting them until they became small enough for his feet proved unfounded.

I was determined not to fall into the same trap when Big Sis requested a pair of slippers for her birthday. So I selected a different pattern - the Drops version, I bought the recommended yarn (Drops Eskimo) and I did it all as detailed in the instructions. (I found a link on Ravelry to additional instructions by Ravelers that turned out to be invaluable - can't lay hands on it at the moment but if you are interested please PM me. It includes a written-out version of the instructions, and hints on making up the slippers)

Here's the felted slippers (she takes a size larger than me)

Here's the leather patches I cut out and sewed on as soles (which almost killed my poor RSI-inflicted hands)

And here's a second (pre-felting) version for my friend Lisa (of the lovely earrings) whom I'm visiting this weekend. I'm not sure if she is getting leather soles or not...!

The pattern is great though - each slipper takes just a couple of hours to make, they are chunky wool on 8mm needles. Felting, shaping and finishing with leather soles adds some additional hours.

Tuesday, February 24

Quick meme

Thanks to Natalie at the Yarn Yard for linking to me in her short meme. I am returning the favour by doing the meme (something I don't normally get involved in because, as she says, they are often quite long and I'm quite lazy!)

1. What can you hear, right now?
I'm in work early, so I can hear girls gossiping in the kitchen (just over the filing cabinets from my desk - it's amazing what things people talk about when they don't think anyone can hear :-o) and blokes being blokey over the filing cabinets the other way. It's not like I sit in a cupboard or anything, although it sounds a bit like that doesn't it?! We have a fairly open plan office and we have quite a few staff who like the sound of their own voices :-(

2. What will you have for dinner tonight?
Tonight we are having homemade meatballs - I use a Jamie Oliver recipe for the meatballs and make a rich tomato sauce, possibly with some peppers too as I know there are some in the fridge. We'll have it with tagliatelle and I will probably make a bit extra for my neighbour downstairs who is recovering from a broken hip.

3. Crossword, sudoku or boggle?
Definitely crossword - I don't even know what boggle is! And I find sudoku a bit boring. The Curse has started doing crosswords recently and I find myself being like my mum was to me when I was a kid - he comes to me with all the ones he can't do and I reel them off to him! This is quick crosswords we are talking about, not cryptic ones - I can do the odd cryptic clue but need more work to get good at those.

4. Favourite biscuit?
A tough one, but probably ginger nut. I could just about eat a whole packet in one sitting (obviously you need a few cups of tea too), which I couldn't do with any other biscuit as far as I know. Fruit shortcake are also very underrated in my opinion. If you are the sort of person who likes to debate and ponder the pros and cons of different biscuits, may I recommend a Nice cup of tea and a sit down.

5. Which magazines do you read?
Well you know about those already, although there is a postscript. After I wrote about how great Craft was, I got an email telling me that Craft and Make are now going to be combined into a single publication - it seems that they have not been able to make Craft viable as a separate magazine. I was very disappointed, but I'm going to wait and see what the next issue is like - after all, I've never seen Make and I might be pleasantly surprised.

I'm not going to tag anyone for this meme, but I'd like to know your answers if you have the time and inclination! Either put them in the comments box, or if you have a blog, post about it and let me know!

Monday, February 9

A subscriber talks

I've been a subscriber to Craft magazine for about 8 months now - ever since I picked up a copy in a bookshop in Baltimore last year and wondered how the hell this fantastic publication had managed to pass my radar by.

I always like to have a subscription going to at least one inspirational/aspirational or whimsical magazine at a time. Craft magazine was the perfect replacement when I got tired of mentally correcting typos on every other page of Selvedge. I love the design of Selvedge, the photography and even the content, which takes me further into textiles than I ever realised I wanted to go, but the writing and particularly the sub-editing (or lack of it) set me on edge.

Too many features lacked authority or direction, and the typos and bad grammar eventually proved too much for me. Even the sexy design could not save me from the bad writing.

Luckily, along came Craft magazine.

I've never seen Craft magazine for sale in the UK (although I believe they sell it in IKnit), I have rarely seen it written about on the blogs I follow, and I'm not sure I would know about it still if I hadn't come across it randomly in Baltimore. But it is a fantastic magazine for anyone who likes crafting - you can learn how to make so many different things ranging from wine vinegar to portable speakers, from hats made of recycled plastic bags to a magnetic knife rack.

Some of the things you can make are classic Blue Peter - involving sticky back plastic or old socks. Others are much more technical, involving the use of basic electronics or specialist craft supplies to make flashing decorations or metal jewellery. There are also features about artists and suppliers, listings of etsy shops and quirky articles about people who make music by recording the sound of knitting needles being used, for example. You can see all the back-issues here.

Although it's not cheap ($50 for four issues - luckily I subscribed when the pound was at its height, so only about £6 per copy including mailing) I think it's worth the money for inspiration alone.

Craft also has a more geeky sibling, Make, which as its name suggests is more about the woodworking and electronics aspect of creating, as opposed to the fluffy crafts of knitting and sewing which are central to Craft. I've never seen Make in the flesh, but I would probably subscribe to it too if I could justify another magazine at the same cost (or if they offered a good deal).

One of the most interesting spin-offs of the brand, from my point of view, is the Maker Faire calendar of events that are organised by the same company. They seem to happen twice a year in the USA - one in the San Francisco Bay area and one in Austin, Texas. Billed as the 'world's largest DIY festival' they feature workshops and exhibitions, 'showcasing individual creativity and grassroots innovation'.

My first thought when I found out about these events? Wouldn't it be great to have one of those here?! So I was delighted to discover that the first Makers Faire UK will be held as part of the Newcastle Science Festival in March. Unfortunately the website doesn't give very much detail about exhibitors or events involved in the Maker Faire - I am tempted to make the trip up to Newcastle to find out although it is rather a long journey to make on a whim.

And finally, my other whimsical subscription is to Smoke: A London Peculiar. This is very much a publication that can be enjoyed in little sips and dips, and offers humour, pathos and insight of a very London flavour.

I'd love to hear what magazines other people read, particularly any you regard as luxuries. Why do you subscribe and what do you like about them?

Sunday, February 8

Still churning out those FOs!

This was the first, now there are two - facilitated by the train trip to Arundel last weekend and a bit more waiting time in the hospital this week when I brought my neighbour home.

It's the Leaf Lace sock pattern from Vogue Knitting's ultimate sock book. The Ravelry link is here. Knitted in Yarn Yard sock yarn (which has been languishing in my stash for a while). I enjoyed knitting them even though they are done top down and have a heel flap - I think it's important to keep practising these techniques from time to time, even if I wouldn't choose to use them on my own designs.

The picot cuff works very well - although on the first sock I didn't have the patience to knit it down while I was making the sock - instead I stitched the edge down afterwards. On the second sock I decided to have a go, and it worked out very nicely and was much less fiddly than I thought it would be. Visually they don't look much different.

I also learned a good tip for grafting the toe - to avoid having 'corners' on the toe, which always seems to happen to me, slip the last stitch at each end over its neighbour before starting to graft.

Also finished this weekend - a pair of felted slippers for big sis for her birthday. I used a pattern from Drops and also used the suggested Eskimo yarn in two different greens.

As you might expect, the slippers are huge. I'm not going to show them yet since they need to be felted and we are currently suffering a drain blockage so the washing machine is unusable right now. I will try and remember to photograph the before and after for comparison.

They were extremely quick to make (about 4 hours in total, I think) and if they felt well, I might consider making a second pair for a friend who also has a birthday soon.

Sunday, February 1

Weekend in West Sussex

Just back from spending a very pleasant weekend in the historic town of Arundel, West Sussex. Happily the lucky weather charm was in operation so we were able to have a wonderful 9 mile walk on Saturday, and we found some fantastic restaurants in the town and its environs.

It also has some excellent shops - I found a vintage copy of Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont. It contains lots of amazing diagrams and instructions on sewing, embroidery, tatting, knitting, crochet, tapestry, quilting, lace, openwork and so on, as well as detailed instructions on how to wash lace and how to repair holes in knitting, among many other tips and hints.

You may see some of these being reproduced on the blog from time to time as I wade my way through the book, but if you can't wait and want to see what's in it for yourself, check it out here.

You will also find links to some other classic vintage needlework texts, such as Isabella Beeton's book of needlework and Cornelia Mee's Exercises in Knitting.