New Toys

You may remember in my last post, I mentioned that I was reawakening my very rusty sewing skills.

You see, my Nana taught me to sew when I was a young thing, for a school project. Where I made a stuffed animal of my own design. I learned to sew on her own machine. The one that is the same model as the one pictured here:

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Singer Sewing Machine 99k-13 (made in 1922)

A couple of years later, I had fallen in love with Japanese Culture and a kind lady was willing to teach me to sew my own Yukata, (a casual cotton based robe for informal wear), but I had to use my own machine to make it.

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Yukata Image from Wikipedia

So I asked my Nana to help. She couldn’t sew anymore, as arthritis had claimed her dexterity, but she gifted me her own sewing machine, fully serviced and working fine.
“Always go with Singer machine Sharon. They keep their needle sizes consistent no matter which generation of machine you have.” She told me as she re-taught me to thread the shuttle bobbin and to follow lines on a piece of paper on the machine. Working on my pressure on the unique knee lever.

Now, this wonderful antique machine was wired for the North American electrical system, which I didn’t wish to trust to the UK’s higher amperage, so I entrusted it to my best friend for safe keeping when I moved here.

With my new found interest in sewing again, and an attempt to remember some of the skills my Nana taught me I have sought out a more modern machine.

My new toy arrived and I am so happy to share it with you!

Needless to say this one has a few more bells and whistles than my old 99k, but the system is the same and like my Nana said:

“Always go with Singer machine Sharon. They keep their needle sizes consistent no matter which generation of machine you have.”

So pardon me while I wrap this up and go warm up my new toy.

Watch this space, I may make myself a new Yukata to fit my more adult frame.

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Always Learning

One thing that I am sure about is that the second we stop trying and learning new things is the second we stop growing.

As this is a crafting blog I thought it would be a good time to share with you some of the tutorials and online resources I use to keep me growing.

First we shall start with the mysterious and confusing (for me) Sewing.
My own Nana taught me the basics of sewing when I was a young lady, on her antique Singer Sewing machine.

I loved the lessons we had, but I only really learned how to thread the machine (complete with a shuttle bobbin) and sew a straight line.

So here is where I have turned to expand my knowledge base:
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A great class that is reasonably priced and has given me a bit more confidence in using my much newer sewing machine.

Next,  is the art of Needle Felting.

I have always wanted to be a sculptor, but stone and wood are not my preferred mediums. Then I discovered FeltAlive and I learned I could work with my preferred medium and make lovely soft sculptures.

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The Tutorials are now free to all and that is a great value.

Now I am going to introduce you the learning Library that is Craftsy.

I found it when I was unable to go out to my local yarn shop and attend classes to expand my own skill and it was helpful to learn at my own pace.

The classes I really enjoyed were:
Plug and Play Shawls By Amy Singer

Heirloom Lace Edgings With Franklin Habit

Fearless Knitting by Lucy Neatby

Knit to Flatter With Amy Herzog

So I hope I have armed you with  few places to go and expand your skills and keep learning and growing and exploring your crafty world.

Season of Rainbows

Hello!

Did you have a good season?

As we here in Belfast live in the Northern Hemisphere it was summer for us; but as part of the school break my youngest child went to Australia, New Zealand, and Tasmania with their father.
This made me realise in a very tangible way that it wasn’t summer for everyone.

But while we were off for the season, children had exam results, holidays were taken, books were read, skills were learned, and I did a lot of work with my favourite subject: RAINBOWS.

Now my love of the rainbow is vast and deep and as we all remember, and is has so much more to it than just 7 perfectly blended colours.

Oh I could wax on episodically on the qualities of rainbows, but I will save you that. (I hope everyone noticed my Word of the Day entrance into my post, from my rainbow Word of the Day Calendar.)

Back on topic; I took some time this season to highlight my love of rainbows by wearing, working with, and noticing them where ever I went.

My own personal Instagram Feed got the bulk of my work, but because I adore you, our wonderful readers, I am going to give you the cherry picked highlights of my Rainbow season.
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First there is this fantastic Rainbow A-line Jacket made using the pattern Trapezjacke by Claudia Deutscher. A great wee pattern (more like a recipe,) that I flew through.

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Take a look at the buttons! (I had to get a little creative with them as some of my buttons only had one hole in them, so I added some accent apples.) Miss matched buttons for the WIN

The Pattern is wonderful and I think I may make another one with a smaller tail and heartier yarn.
The Paintbox DK is bright and cheerful but I’d like something that I can wear outside on cooler/ windier days.

img_1961Next, as wonderful props for my Chakradance classes I got these lovely rainbow figurines to represent each of the Chakras, and just be rainbow prettiness when not in use.

How about storage, the joys of rainbow storage can NOT be understated. How awesome is my new art case (a rainbow soft sided lunch box), that holds my water colours and ink pens perfectly? Or how about the delightful joy of my embroidery collection displayed to perfection on bobbins? Aren’t they breath taking?

 

Speaking of my water colours and ink pens, I have finally decided what to do with the plethora, (oh two words in one post! I owe myself a sticker!) of “adult” colouring books.
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I don’t like pencil crayons or crayons, but I am falling in love with water soluble inks and water colours, so I thought I would try these out in my colouring books.

Everything blends much more easily and I am learning the mediums in a care free environment, instead of the pressure of making something perfect. I mean really, a child can do this, so it’s ok if I mess up a little.

Now with all this colourful joy, you would think I tapped out of my season of rainbow, but not yet.
I’ve only mentioned 1 knitting project!

As part of my holiday I was going to spend two weeks by a lake in the family cottage, (in summer sunshine.) I knew I was going to be surrounded by children and such so I wanted a simple project that I could stop and start at anytime, but was using up some of my large collection of rainbow variegated yarns.

Enter in the Mini Mania Scarf by Sarah Core, and one skein of Fine Fish’s Gay Mountain, (a now discontinued colour way).

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You can see why I had to use it, BONUS Rainbow Shoe

It took me a while to get the rhythm of the linen stitch, but it works so wonderfully with this type of yarn I am surprised I didn’t discover it before. Look at this Stitch!
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I think that is just about everything from this past season. I hope this post wasn’t too long for you.
But as a reward for getting this far have a bonus:

My kids and Fiance got me the awesomest Unicorn Onsie and Prisim Narwhal, as a thank you for funding all their summertime adventures, and being taxi on two separate continents.

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Working down my Queue

I am a very impulsive crafter, I adore the process of making, and nothing thrills me more than learning a new technique or skill.
Noting those key things about me you’d not be surprised to find I don’t often make doubles of anything. Once a skill is mastered, a technique learned, or a unique item created I no longer feel the need to make it again.

But this year I am crafting with purpose, as I mentioned in an older post I am trying to finish all the half forgotten projects and make room for all the ideas in my head.

I’ve done quite well with this plan and now I need to look at that pesky queue I have on Ravelry.

It seems there were things on there that took my fancy ages ago but because I am so mercurial in my patterns (when I don’t plan) my tastes and skills have changed dramatically from the time I put the patterns on the list.

So I had to do a quick clean up of what I knew I’d never work on, and then go through my collection of patterns and choose some things I actually do wish to work on.

I also assigned deadlines to each project so that I can not allow myself to be distracted by the new and shiny patterns or techniques I see. So I will be accountable and that in itself will make sure I stay on track.

Plus it will give me an excuse to use up the project planning stickers I have.


Slowly but surly I will master the appearance of being a capable and accomplished crafter, and as my best friend always used to say ‘Fake it till you make it.”

The Taco and Spinning Party

I had a birthday not too long ago, and because as any good crafter knows, a celebration isn’t a celebration without a healthy dose of crafting involved, I hosted one of my infamous Knitting Parties.

Tacos was the elected food theme for the day, so I fired up my slow cooker and made the very simple and very lovely Stupid Easy Slow Cooker Shredded Chicken , diced some taco veg, heated some taco shells; made my Dill Salsa, and because I can’t have a Knitting Party without my Greek Dip, (though I make my own seasoning as the prepackaged one in this recipe doesn’t exist in the UK.) I made some of that as well.

My youngest son choose the cheeses for the, again required, cheese board, and then prepped the tea pot for guests to arrive.

People arrived with yarn, and projects a plenty, but what had happened organically was everyone who had a spinning wheel brought theirs as well! (People also brought awesome cakes and pavlovas as well! BONUS!)

So we set up in the biggest open space we had (in front of the food) and had a mini spinning party.

The more experienced Spinners held us baby Spinner’s by the hand as we learned to treadle, to draft, and relax our grips.

We got to try different wheels to see which style suited each of us better, (and I am now lusting after a double treadle conversion kit for my wheel), and witnessed how fantastic one of our members is for learning to spin on her warped antique double drive.

The event went down quite well as everyone at lots of food, drank much tea, and had a good gossip.

The day was a great success and I have even plyed our singles into a rather fetching bit of yarn.

Planning my crafting

Everyone is talking about cast on mania, and I am here looking at my current works in progress and wishing I had the needles spare for some casting on.

Wishing I also was able to create as fast as I think. (Making a pullover for a plus sized body in sock weight yarn is NOT a speedy knit.)

So to tide myself over I have made a very strict queue of what I am allowed to cast on and when.

See, I wasn’t kidding about the amount of WIPs I have on the go. I have 4 crocheted blankets on the go, two jumpers (sweaters to you North Americans), two pair of sock, several shawls or scarves, one hat, a quilt, and three embroidery hoops on the go.
This is not including the test knits, and machine knitting projects that are languishing in various corners of the place.

To get through these I have set myself days of the week to work on projects of a similar theme.

Mondays: Crochet Projects (CAL’s that were abandoned being first.)

Tuesdays: Quilting, I have many many hexagons to sew together. Not as many as our Anja and her Insanity Quilt, or our dear friend doing the NIBig Sock, but I have a quilt’s worth.

Wednesday: Well this is easy, we get together on Wednesdays so I bring my favourite project to hang out and chill with my gals.

Thursday: This is usually my admin day, so I don’t have much time off the computer, but during running the children to piano to drama I can do a round or 7 on a sock.

Friday: I fire up the knitting machine and continue on the charity blankets we make for the SOS Bus, of if I am finally low on charity stash, then I will pick up some hand knitting and keep going.

Saturday: Simple and fun, Saturdays are either family days of board games and movies, or I hang out with the ladies for a cheeky Saturday so I want a simple and fun project to keep me going.

Sunday: Embroidery, I’ll break out the hoop and an audiobook and pretend I’m a Regency style heroine doing some work while my paramour reads out loud to me (when in fact he is usually blowing up zombies or aliens or something in the man cave,).

So that is my week of crafting timetable, and seeing as it is Monday now, I should have my hook in hand instead of typing this.

Off I dash!

The Psychological Benefits of Knitting.

The Psychological Benefits of Knitting.

Crafting is a vital personal development tool.

What do I mean by personal development Tool?

Personal development covers activities that improve awareness and identity, develop talents and potential, build human capital and facilitate employability, enhance the quality of life and contribute to the realisation of dreams and aspirations.
In this definition knitting is a skill that furthers your own quality of life.
It takes time to accomplish anything with your own hands. You need to learn the skills of creation first.

How many of us remember the struggle it took to create our first item? It was not an instant success, no matter how proud we were of it.

Then, when we had the skill to create an item of beauty and usefulness then we start into the core topic I wish to address here.

The big thing about knitting (and other crafting,) that people forget is that it requires consistency and attention, loyalty and more than a little reliability.

To create something useful and beautiful we need to stay with the project long enough to see it to completion. This requires a steadfast devotion to said project.

If you abandon the project halfway through, it will just take up space and materials and wastes the effort you put into it before.

If you leave a project, dazzled by the latest technique, or the newest supply then again your time and effort and space is wasted.

To be a good knitter/crafter you need to stay focused on the project in hand and complete it fully. Doing this also improves your focus and attention in your non-crafting life.

The psychological benefits of knitting means that your own relationships with other projects will improve, you will find yourself accomplishing more goals and being more patient with the length of time others take to complete a task.

You will garner an appreciation of handmade items and the effort it takes to create unique items. You will be less wasteful of you own resources and those of others.

You may even find you are a better companion because you have a greater empathy for your peers, as you understand the effort it requires to do anything well.

The simple mindfulness of the process in crafting can impact your entire life. By slowing down, learning a process from the simplest steps you can see beauty and revel in the accomplishments you achieve.

Instead of rushing on to the newest greatest thing, you will find yourself sitting, enjoying what you have right in front of you and being proud of what you can do.

You may find, as you keep creating, that your memory and focus improve as well.
Heather Ordover of Craftlit has created a wonderful project on http://cognitiveanchoring.com/ that discusses the psychological benefits of knitting and other crafting on memory retention.

By being loyal to a project, by learning something new, you will find yourself growing as an individual.

Stephanie Pearl-McFee wrote a great book about this topic, you can find it here on Amazon·

So while the newest pattern comes out or the pretty yarn is dyed by your favourite indie-dyer, remember the project you have already committed to.

Your time is worth while and the project you are working on is making you a better person.

  • This article contains affiliate links.

Rainbows to work

Well I am a very lucky duck.

Our very own, Belfast based, indie dyer heard my pleas for the perfect rainbow.
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Two skeins of this lovely have been given to me, (in exchange for a sum of money of course), and now I have a question.

What do I make with this delicious treat?

Livorem is a simple triangular shawl done with two colours to make the variegations POP. I would invert the rainbow for the stripes.

Nautilus is a shawl that knit from the centre outwards using yarn overs to create the unique Fibonacci inspired shape.

Talisman is designed to show off colour changes in the yarn with just enough pattern accents to keep the knitter interested but does not detract from the beauty of the yarn.

Bohemian is a simple fun knit that plays with texture and shows its influence within its name.

Help me out will you?

Planning and Knitting

We all do it,  it is one of the reasons Ravelry exists. We have a list of things we wish to make; be it for ourselves or our loved ones and that list is long.

If you are like me it is also quite complex because I NEVER knit to gauge, for anything. This means I need to adjust almost every single pattern I use.

So I am going to show you the tools I use while knitting that isn’t needles and string.

Firstly I start with what is usually considered a big profanity in our little group a gauge swatch   little square of TEST knitting.
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I cast on 10 more stitches than the gauge pattern suggests should take up 10 cm or 4 inches. I then knit in garter stitch for 5 rows, then switch to a stocking stitch with a 5 stitch garter stitch border.

I will knit as many rows as I cast on stitches, then I will switch back to garter stitch for a further 5 rows, (give or take, depends on where I’m knitting and what’s on the telly.)

Now I take me gauge swatch test knitting and count using the handy little gadget pictured above, it highlights the stitches and rows so I get a fairly accurate count.

Next comes the fun part, the math. Using what I get from the little square I take the pattern and convert it to what I need.

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My chicken scratch for all to see.

I read the pattern, channelling my inner Dumbledore, and figure out where measurements are needed. (It is usually very easy because a typical pattern will give multiple numbers for all the sizes the pattern accommodates.) I then substitute my own numbers in and transcribe them in to my knitting journal.
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My knitting journal is a simple moleskine with a grid inside, and in it I put any changes to patterns that I make, charts I need, what row I am on, and all the information a busy knitter needs to know when they pick up a pattern again after putting it down three months ago.

Grab one at Amazon*

Now, I don’t transcribe the ENTIRE pattern into my book, just my adjustments. So I usually have a printed copy of the pattern washi taped into the book. The pages get a bit beaten up and usually get thrown out when the pattern is complete. but I keep all my important stuff in the book itself.

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Now all of this can be done on Ravelry, but I make changes on the go and I like the feel of paper and pencil so this works best for me.

But this isn’t all I do.
I also use my trusty Filofax* and the inserts from the Make Your Shining Year Planner, *(or for those of you not interested in product placement, my daily diary).
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Inside this fantastic little book is where my life gets sorted, and in it I log when I start a project. I use the sweetest little planner stickers from SymposiPress, an Etsy store that does sweet watercolour stickers for your planner.

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The stickers are so fully of whimsy and so gentle I can’t help but love them. They also come with a CAST ON sticker, then an image of the object and a blank space so you can track how far you are on your project. Then an adorable little FINISHED! sticker.

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I don’t know if it something for those of us who got stickers at school to signify a job well done but the level of satisfaction when placing a FINISHED sticker in my planner is close to the satisfaction of finding that perfect rainbow. (Which I am still hunting for.)

So how do you track your knitting progress? What about changes you make to the patterns?

Do you know a great planner sticker store? Let me know.

*these links are affiliate links.

Haiku July

This may be immense
writing this entry today,
I write in Haiku.

haiku-in-japanese

July is a time
where I expand cleverness
with limited frame.

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A challenge I set
several years ago, on
social media.

Now each July I
write only in Haiku form
even in our blog.

This has created
whimsy and joy throughout my
internet contact.

New words are looked up,
sometimes my message is changed
But everyone laughs.

Five, Seven, Five, beats
are the core of a Haiku,
Try it for a day.
five-seven-five-haiku

 

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