Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Present knitting

I've been doing a bit of knitting to order recently. This customer seems quite pleased with his new shoes.

It's all very well to have gorgeous pictures, fabulous materials and delicious colours in crafty books but do the patterns work?  How frustrating to fall in love with a beautiful cardigan or bag and find that the instructions are impossible to follow or that the finished object looks nothing like the cleverly photographed matte image in the book. So before I pass on my opinion on a book to you, lovely readers I like to try it out

But then what to choose?  I need something that is fairly quick, I don't want a six month project so that by the time I write my review the book is no longer newly published. This is why when I reviewed Debbie Bliss' The Ultimate Book of Baby Knits I chose to make a pair of baby sandals. But somehow I couldn't stop

My daughter (the Little Model's mother) saw these and asked if she could have a pair.  It seems that all the girls in her NCT group are having their second baby and these will make perfect presents. I think it was then that I really noticed, once it had been me and my friends having babies, now it was my daughter and her friends.  Some of her friends I had known since they were children, knocking on our door to see if anyone was coming out to play.

So I find I have gone into small scale production.  This pattern from Knit Today is already well used

When The Little Model saw these sitting on the radiator drying after their eucalan rinse she wanted some for herself

It was easy to adapt the pattern, making them longer and a little deeper (double the stitches and rows).  We had fun drawing round her feet onto a piece of card to have a template.  I'm not sure how much she will wear them, I need to get some of that anti slip glue for the soles.

But she was very thrilled to have her own pair of booties, since her Mummy seemed to be giving away all the others.  She was also very excited to find her doll wearing a matching pair.

And they really do only take one evening to make.



PS on the subject of things that knit up quickly I have just received Knits To Give  by Debbie Bliss to review.  It looks fabulous as usual, and she says all projects can be finished in under a week.  Perfect for Christmas presents.  As soon as I have finished my chosen project I will tell you more...

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Something new from something old

Sometimes I wonder what the difference is between the miser of old tales, counting his pile of gold and the way I guard my stash of fabric, yarns and trimmings (not to forget a huge box of buttons).  And what about my fourth stash box - of vintage linens?

A linen table cloth with drawn thread work in soft greens and a deep border of crochet lace began my minor obsession.  Given to me by my mother after my wedding, it had been the cloth on the table holding our wedding cake.  Periodically I have added to the collection, mainly from charity shops.  Cornish charity shops are the best!  Last weekend I added this to my collection.

A meter square linen table cloth with a large area covered in lazy daisy stitched flowers, £3.50 at the lifeboats shop.  I don't look forward to doing our laundry generally and the ironing can hang around for days (even weeks if I'm entirely honest) but I do like washing, starching and ironing my charity shop finds. Once the collection began to grow, I determined to make things out of the cloths.  This meant I could buy linens with some damage as I cut around the holes or stains and patched the good bits together.  I have made cushions, scented drawer sachets and am planning a large random patchwork quilt.

We had a bumper crop of lavender in the garden this year, so it seemed a good idea to make some little lavender bags.

Although I have a pretty huge collection now it still takes a little courage to cut into someone's handiwork.

I decided to use just the centre of this cloth today, keeping the multicoloured border for the bigger project.

All materials come from my various hordes.

Impulse buy buttons from my button box

Ribbon for the hanging loops, kept from birthday present wrapping.

The central circle of pink flowers made four bags. Made not out of necessity but for pleasure and to make use of something beautiful instead of leaving it in a box under the bed.



Tuesday, 9 August 2011

I will be a little late this morning

I never thought I would ever blog about Croydon.  This is where I work, where I am going Monday, Wednesday and Thursday when I say I am knitting on the train.  And then there was last night. As we were packing up at the end of the day, messages came in from friends saying 'get home quickly'.  The BBC reported the police expecting  trouble that had begun in Tottenham to spread south of the river and reach Croydon.

I took this picture just outside my office on a fine day last November.  Last night just a few yards from here the atmosphere was not sunny.  Dashing into the department store for something I needed for today  I was served very quickly by two nervous looking ladies.  One of the many policemen standing every few yards on the High Street stooped to stroke a young girl's dog, I heard him say 'are you alone?  I suggest you go straight home now'.  Another policeman was chatting with a group of youths, one boy said - 'this is damage is just stupid'.   People were standing around quietly in disbelief, something  nasty was coming.  'Calm before the storm' is over used but last night felt just as it does immediately before a thunder storm.

I felt it at Clapham Junction too where I waited for my connection.

I sat glued to 24hr news last night, watching a furniture store burn like matchwood with what looked like two jets of water aimed at it by lone firemen.  More fires broke out close to the town centre but in the dark it was hard to identify where the fires were.  There was no word of people being injured but with all those fires and so much smashed glass it was hard to believe no one was hurt. This morning this photograph of dramatic rescue in Croydon was the Guardian front page

London riots front pages: The Guardian final

Riots like this are shocking wherever they take place, and I remember the last time more than 20 years ago when this happened in the UK, but when it takes place in streets you know, where you wander shopping in your lunchtime

Or go for a coffee

it becomes more than shocking news reel.  Of course there are tensions in Croydon, poverty too and there are often signs of weekend fights left over for the street cleaners on Monday mornings.  The level of violent crime is probably no less than any other inner city community.  But when I see 'gangs of youths wandering the town centre' at lunch time they are chatting, jostling each other and laughing, more often than fighting or making a nuisance of themselves.  I once saw two groups of young men squaring up to each other and then two elderly West Indian grandmothers wade in, tear a strip off them all and tell them to run home to their mothers - and they did.

There are some beautiful buildings in Croydon. It is easy to think, wandering around the steel and glass shopping mall that Croydon is a creation of the second half of the 20th century but look harder and you will find evidence of a much longer past

These alms houses were built with money bequeathed by a 17th century Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift, whose country residence was just outside the town. The inscription reads Qiu Dat Pauperi Non Indigebit.

They sit right on the end of the High Street, next to a department store

Above a bar you can see the beautiful shop front of an earlier department store still advertising ladies mantles, ribbons, laces and gloves

The view from my office window is less inspiring

But there are pretty things to see in the shop windows

I was still worried about my colleagues as I checked my emails this morning, did I need to?  Only one message 'I will be in a bit late, some travel problems' .  So it's business as usual, no one seems to be prepared to let the horrible behaviour of a relatively few very young people spoil a community that is genuinely proud of it's town.  Perhaps it takes something like this for people to say so.  Like other areas (Hackney and Clapham included)  local residents have organised themselves, using twitter and facebook for positive good, to get together and clear up litter and broken glass and no one is making a fuss about being a little late for work.

But people are sad, my PA said the worst hit area is where she grew up, her parents had bought their first sofa at the furniture store that was reduced to a pile of ashes in less than an hour and it is all still a bit scary.



Tuesday, 2 August 2011

A lesson in Crochet

I spend over two hours a day on my daily commute, so if I do something useful on my journey the total woman hours of slightly more than 250 a year seem not such a waste.  This week I am crocheting. 

I am embarking on quite a big project with the granny squares I blogged about last week.  It was something Tracy over at prosestitch said that got me going, that and the photograph of water at teh end of last week's blog.   More of that later, the thing is that I seemed to gather a bit of attention as I hooked away at my watery project on the train yesterday.  The person sitting next to me said (after about 30 minutes) 'what ARE you making?'  I explained briefly, after saying something nice about the colours she said 'how sad that crochet was a dying craft'.  Then on the way home another woman, about the same age asked me what I was knitting!

A dying craft?  I don't think so judging by the number of new yarn shops springing up all over the place.  And with all the books and magazines on the subject I think lots of people are learning new crafts and certainly know the difference between knitting and crochet.

I know I could have looked at one of my books on crochet but when I wanted to make something based on granny squares I worked it out by trial and error so I thought I would blog a little beginners tutorial.  Experienced crafters look away now, or perhaps just skip to the last paragraph.

The Tutorial

Start with a slip knot and pull it up gently to fit snuggly around the hook.  All crocheting is based on drawing the yarn through the loop on the hook to form a chain.  Hold the hook in your right hand and the work in your left in a pinch grip with your index finger and thumb.  The tail of the yarn falls down the palm of your hand towards your wrist and the yarn you are working with goes from the chain over your first three fingers and under your little finger. It's your little finger that keeps the tension on the yarn.

Make five loops (chains)

Join the chains into a ring by slipping the hook through the first chain and drawing the yarn through both chains then make a three more chains.  The granny square is made entirely of a stitch called treble crochet and chains.

This is how you make your first treble stitch

Wind the yarn once around the hook then pass the tip of the hook through your foundation chain ring drawing another loop through, you will have three loops on your hook now

Hook the yarn through the first two stitches, then...

Hook it through again.  That's your first treble

Make one more treble, then two chain then three more trebles

Continue making three trebles then two chain until you have four groups of three trebles two chain (in patterns this is written *3tr 2ch, repeat from * three more times). You now have a circle.  You begin to form the corners of the square in the next row.

Begin with four chain then *three trebles, two chain and three trebles  into the two chain space then one chain, repeat from * twice more.  Work two trebles into the last two chain space then link up to the third chain of the 4 chain with a slip stitch

Keep making rounds like this with one set of three trebles in every chain space on the side and 3tr 2ch 3tr into each corner.  You can completely finish the squares to the size you want and sew them together but you can also link as you go...

by slip stitching into the corresponding  chain space of the previous square as you work the last row.

There are all sorts of designs for squares (I have just bought Jan Eaton's book 200 crochet blocks ) and I intend to incorporate some of these in my project.

This morning Alison, who blogs as plus 2.4 blogged about her first efforts at crochet , in a few weeks with help from a friend and some on line tutorials she has produced some brilliant brightly coloured squares (and a very funny picture of her first effort) .

Its simple when you know how!