In My Spare Time…

Ok, so I don’t have a lot of spare time. But when I do have a few hours to kill, I like to sew. I like to quilt, make clothes, design costumes, whip up gifts (toys, baby accessories, notebook covers, etc.), and create bespoke bags. Bags for all kinds of occasions, like nappy bags, shopping totes, book bags, backpacks, and, of course, project bags. I’m obsessed with project bags. Of all sizes and shapes.

Lately, I’ve been making small project bags perfect for those smaller, on-the-go projects. The projects you want to pop in your purse, carry with you on the bus, sneak in a few rows before that meeting starts, and bring to social events where you might be at risk of DOING NOTHING. The horror. Seriously.

Anyway, these bags are great for socks, hats, shawls, mitts, cowls, scarves, baby knits, toys, wristwarmers, leg warmers, and anything else you can think of.

There are bags with cats, and bags with flowers. Bags with prints and bags with patterns. And more bags with cats. You can’t have too many bags with cats.

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Each bag has a handle for easy carrying, a drawstring and toggle closure, and are lined. Some have a little clip to attach notions, your keys, or other small items. These are currently for sale wherever Secret Stash is sold, or you can request a custom jobbie or check out more of my stuff through my Facebook page, A Million Paper Stars.

I’m especially fond of these new ones featuring The Walking Dead. I mean come ON. They’ve got ZOMBIES on them!

So, who wants to knit for the zombie apocalypse with a matching bag featuring said apocalypse?! I think I’ve hit my nerd-vana. ❤

Because I Like A Challenge…

When my good friend Julie told me that her sister was expecting twins after a long and difficult battle with IVF, I was ecstatic for her. Ecstatic for Julie to become an auntie, and over the moon for her sister. So naturally, I designated myself Chief Knitter for the babies.

Well that was several months ago. I had a plan, I really did. I had a timetabled, detailed scheduled plan. I knew what projects to knit, which yarn to use, I even had them dug out of my stash and awaiting cast on. So I don’t really have any excuse for why I let the days slide by without really even realising. Oh sure, you could say I had a lot on my plate, with three kids of my own, starting nursing school, finishing a book, and organising a few projects for our Belfast SnB group, along with my volunteering commitments and arty farty stuff like exhibitions to help out with, submit work to and commissions to stitch. But really, there’s no excuse. I’m just plain disorganised. So to say I was a little shocked when I found out the babies are due to be born in hospital THIS WEDNESDAY is an understatement.

So that is why we find ourselves – well, me anyway – frantically knitting the final cuff on a baby sweater at 10.30pm on a Monday while my youngest dozes next to me on the sofa. I’ve chosen the pattern Vertebrae by Kelly van Niekirk, and I’ll pair the sweater with a hat of my own design. And because there are twins, I’ll need duplicates of both.

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I’ve chosen Drops Baby Merino in navy and lime for the boy, and navy and pale pink for the girl. So they’ll be coordinating rather than identical sweaters. (This is partly for my own sanity, and partly because I believe twins should always be allowed a little of their own identities to blossom individually, out from under the vague designation of ‘the twins’. But I digress.)

I’ve been carrying this project with me all last week, and I hope to finish the first cardigan tonight. I even knit a few rows on my walk home.

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So if you see someone walking at a clip (probably late to my next class) whilst knitting busily and trying to remain tangle-free from my working yarn (which will likely be spilling out of my bag), you’ll know why. And hopefully the next time I update, it’ll be to show off my gorgeous knitting being worn by two beautiful and very loved little babies.

Cute Little Crochet

For Christmas, my mother-in-law got me a new craft book, a book of cute little crocheted animals. I immediately fell in love, and so did the kids. It’s called Cute Crocheted Animals, by Emma Varnam.

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My first order was for Stanley, the adorable black and white cat, for my oldest son (age 7). The pattern was easy to follow, straightforward to work up and quick! The lack of quirky, detailed features of other crochet patterns was made up for by the lovely squish-ability of the finished animal: perfect for hugging, snuggling, travelling, and other wee adventures. My son couldn’t wait for Stanley to be finished.

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One thing that I believe makes this book stand out are the myriad ‘extra’ patterns offered; there are loads of accessories and outfits to choose from and mix and match. It was just as fun to help my son pick out Stanley’s outfit as it is to play with him now he’s finished, and he could have a whole wardrobe soon enough! The book has several animals to choose from: a bunny, a mouse, a fox, a cat, and a bear. Each animal is made in pairs: a boy version and a girl version, so the book is excellent to have on standby for a relatively quick gift. (Stanley’s girl-friend is called Katy, a grey cat with a pretty blue dress.)

The photographs are cute and simple, with close ups of the clothes, and a how-to at the back in case you’re new to crochet and can’t remember how to work all the stitches. Each animal has their own bio too, to provide a little backstory and get the imagination rolling. It’s a good size too – I didn’t even need my reading glasses to read the text, and the book still fits nicely in my craft bag. The paper is good quality with thick pages, so it’s tactilely pleasing to thumb through as well.

All in all, I’m delighted with this book. I’ll be making the ballerina mouse next for my daughter, and I may just make myself a fox!

That’s Some Fine-Lookin’ Fibre…

A few weeks ago I was having coffee with the lovely Terri from A Fine Fish Yarns. And from her bag of gloriously-coloured yarns she pulled a braid of equally fabulous-looking fibre! (Cue squeals.)

Wanna see?

It’s a blend of merino and nylon. Of course I graciously offered to test spin. (Or maybe she just gave up trying to get it back off me, who knows?)

It didn’t turn out anything like I had imagined it would, which made it a really valuable spinning experience! The bold splashes of colour on the fibre blended and melted into the spun singles, mellowing them out.

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On the bobbin

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A mini skein of singles.

Plying it resulted in a lovely muted rainbow of shades – a far cry from its bright originations. Regardless, I’ve fallen in love with the end product, and I’m already planning its project.

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What do you think it should be?

Shetland Wool Week 2016

My post on Shetland Wool Week! 😀

A Million Paper Stars

This year, I had the amazing (somewhat last minute) opportunity to visit the Shetland Islands during Shetland Wool Week. This amazing wool festival celebrates knitting, spinning, and other fibre textiles as well as the truly fascinating community and history of Shetland. One of my dear friends moved to Shetland over the summer, and part of her research revolves around the knitting community so it just seemed a perfect excuse – I mean chance  – to go visit.

Getting to Shetland may seem daunting, but actually, the ferry was quite luxurious. I flew to Aberdeen in the afternoon and boarded the ferry in plenty of time to set sail at 7pm.

One of the first things I saw when I set foot in Lerwick was all the rainbows! They were everywhere! Bottom right is a picture of the famous Clickimin Broch.

After a ‘peerie’ hot chocolate at the Peerie Shop Cafe, which…

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A Lesson Learned

Earlier this week I decided to plan ahead. I knew I was going to be taking a trip over the next weekend, and I wanted a project that was light, quick, and easy to transport. I also wanted it to be a one-skein project that required little mind power. So of course I figured it was time to knit that hat I’d promised my husband six months ago.

But where did I put that skein of fabulous charcoal grey Dublin Dye Company merino? I’m sure I put it in this box….

But no. Maybe this one? No. Ok. Downstairs, in that bag, surely….

Again, no. Don’t panic. It has to be around here somewhere. I just saw it, didn’t I? How can it just vanish?

I’ll go through the stash again. Hmm. There’s that skein of silk and alpaca I bought last year. Oh! And those two would be perfecto together! Maybe I should cast on a shawl?

NO! You have to find this skein of grey. That red Rowan won’t do at all. Too bright. And don’t even consider the Sirdar turquoise, or that green. The grey would go so well with his eyes. Back to the drawing board.

Hang on. What’s this box? Let’s ask the husband. Yeah, that one shoved in the corner, way up there. What is that? It’s what?! Let me get the ladder.

It’s MORE STASH!! Oh happy days!! There’s that bag of Rowan tweed, and the Donegal Aran I was saving! I’d forgotten completely about this ball of DK. And what’s this? Oh! It’s my Dublin Dye grey!!

I guess the husband is gonna get his hat. As long as he keeps his filthy mitts always from my stash. What was he thinking, boxing it up like that? Hrmph.

Building A Boyfriend

This last weekend the Top Floor Art gallery was all abuzz as we hosted our Build A Boyfriend workshop. The day was filled with chatter, laughter, and squeals of glee as we brought our creations to life from our imaginations. Heather created a half dragon, half man from Dungeons and Dragons lore; Anja modeled hers off of actor Richard Speight, Jr. as Gabriel in the show Supernatural. Emma worked on the dashing David Tennant as Dr Who.

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We began with cutouts of our boyfriends and stitched them together. We all had a giggle as we stuffed them, sewed them together and began to embroider their features. The fun part comes when deciding on hair style, eye colour, facial expressions, and other details!

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The concentration was fierce in the gallery.

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The day finished on a high as the boyfriends were completed and we could all stand back and admire our handiwork!

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img_6363.jpgI couldn’t resist making an homage to Stephen McClean, artist and co-owner of Top Floor Art!

The WIP of Doom

Last week I finally finished a massive wip of mine. This shawl took me just over two years to finish. It was a nightmare. The pattern wasn’t written very clearly, at least to my understanding, none of my stitch counts matched, I felt like I was flying blind. But I knit into the darkness and came out – only slightly scathed but somewhat traumatised – on the other side.

I love the yarn. It’s Zitron Filigran lace in the colourway Indian Summer.

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I had received one skein as a birthday present and, a year later, when I decided I’d knit Ipomoea, I searched desperately for another skein. I found it, and cast on immediately, knitting alternately from each skein to blend the slight variation in dye lots. I knit and knit and knit…

…I knit through one summer, and then through the next. I knit intermittenly through good times and not so good times, and through the pregnancy and birth of my third child. And then I decided it was time. It was time to finish the fucker once and for all.

Pardon my language. Ahem.

Fourth of July weekend I was in my mother-in-law’s house with the kids, and I had just about had enough of this shawl. Since the final chart no longer made an ounce of sense, and I was sick of making up the lace repeat from looking closely at the picture every row, I made the decision to cast off.

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It was glorious.

A few days later, I had a brief opportunity to block it. It took up most of the kids’ bedroom floor.

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But I’m proud of the result. I’m sad it didn’t work out, but this wip of doom had had a good run and it was time to move on.

 

Onto the next adventure!

WWKIP Day 2016!

It’s that time of year again, when we grab our balls, sharpen our needles, and – wait, what did you think I was talking about? I’m talking about World Wide Knitting in Public Day!

This year we joined up with the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum on the 18th of June and hosted a brilliant day of knitting, crochet, spinning, yarn dyeing, weaving, and all sorts. The Ulster Guild of Spinner, Weavers and Dyers were there, as well as a few of the museum’s other talented craftspeople, all set against the backdrop of the beautiful mock village of Ballycultra.

Our group arrived early to set up: we knit and crocheted several wee things to hide amongst the bushes and trees for the kids to find, and then we positioned ourselves scattered throughout so that people ran into us everywhere. It was like a knit attack!

 

We made several new friends, and many more from our Facebook group joined us. The Top Floor Art Craft Circle were there, and Pamela from NI Big Sock even joined us for a few rows despite being up to her ears in patchwork hexagons! (Thanks, Pamela!) And some of us were just excited just to get out for the day.

In addition to free entry to the museum if you brought your knitting, The Wool Shop in Bangor was kind enough to donate 50 free goody bags for the first 50 knitters/crocheters in the door! We got a sneak peak at what was inside:

The museum’s willow weaver also made a special display, just for the occasion! (This proved to be quite popular, as you can, um, see. Ahem.)

All in all it was a brilliant day. Nikki made us knitting bingo worksheets and a knitting related word search, in case we needed something besides out current wip to pass the time! There was plenty to keep us busy though. We watched Kay dyeing some gorgeous yarn specimens, and the Guild of Machine Knitters were there too offering a demo. Amazing stuff!

We had great weather for it, and had a picnic in the sun for lunch so we could all meet up and chat, because knitting in our respective places (The Bank House, the school, the cottage on Tea Lane, the draper’s, and the Ballydugan house) was hungry work!

 

So there you have it. I tell ya, when we plan something, we don’t do it by halves. Nikki, my partner in crime, and I are dangerous when we put our minds to it! And of course I had help from my wee fella too! Much thanks to them both, for without them this wouldn’t have been half as fun! And huge thanks to everyone who knit/crocheted wee animals for hiding and who came out to join us for the day!

 

Happy crafting!

Our Crafting Demo Day

Recently we held a crafting demo day for Voluntary Arts Week (6 – 15 May). We wanted to create an opportunity to allow people to experience craft as a relaxing pastime, an escape from the stressors of everyday life or as a way of pleasantly passing the time should they suffer from health issues that might otherwise inhibit them.

We met at 11am at the Dock Cafe in the Titanic Quarter, knitting needles and yarn swifts at the ready! I even made cookies for the occasion.

So what kinds of crafts were we demonstrating? Pretty much everything! Knitting, spinning, crochet, sewing, embroidery – if we could carry it, we brought it.

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We even had Sharon on duty sewing hexagons for NI Big sock!

We definitely attracted attention and had a brilliant day introducing future crafters to new hobbies, and exposing hardened crafters to new ideas. Next year we’ll hopefully engage more people, but then we did happen to accidentally coincide with Comic Con! Regardless, it was a lovely day and we hope to be seeing a local surge in craft soon!

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