Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Richard's hat

This was a Christmas present for our friend Richard.
Richard's hat.
Richard likes hats. Indeed I read Hamilton's Hats by Martine Oborne to him and he spent some time pointing out the hats he shares in common with Hamilton from the book's flysheet. Eventually though, Richard was forced to concede that Hamilton has more hats than he does. I suspect it is only a matter of time before poor Hamilton is outstripped as Richard's hat collection grows.

I have made hats for Richard in the past, including a Victorian gentleman's sleeping cap on teeny, tiny needles. He is a big chap, with a large head (as far making hats are concerned) and with time being short before Christmas, I decided to think big. Big yarn plus big hook or needles, meant a fast project which was important if Richard was to receive this hat for this Christmas rather than next!

With time being short, I decided I had to work from my stash with hook or needles I already owned. I didn't have time to trawl through my many pattern books or Ravelry, trying to match up my available yarns with potential hats, so I decided to wing it. I had an image in my head, did a little swatching to see if it worked and get an idea of gauge. I did a bit of maths and I was off.

Richard's hat is a pointy, cone shaped hat following a medieval styling but worked in crochet rather than knit. It is worked from the crown down to the brim. front post stitches run down the increase lines forming vertical lines and stopping at the brim. A turn up brim has been added complete with a contrast stripe with spike stitches in the stitch that would have held the front post.
Richard's hat being modelled by Richard.
Ravelry Link - http://www.ravelry.com/projects/jules101uk/richards-hat
  • Worked on a 6mm hook for a 60cm head.
  • Hat length, from point to brim = 26cm.
  • Brim turn up = 8.5cm.
  • Gauge 10cm = 10.5 stitches x 7 rows.
I used Palette Collection 073 (Hobbycraft) from my stash. This is a listed as a bulky weight yarn, but it is not particularly fluffy or lofty and consists of three fairly tight plies, so I found it worked up nicely on a 6mm hook. I used a denim colour, but added burgundy for a contrast stripe.


Round 1: using magic ring to start, ch 3 then work 5 tr into loop. ss into 3rd ch to close loop (6st).

Round 2: ch 3, 1 FPtr into same stitch. Work 1 tr, 1 FPtr into  each tr from previous round and join with ss. (12 st).

Round 3; ch 3, *work 1 tr , 1 FPtr into next the st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into the last stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (18 st).

Round 4: ch 3, *work 1 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (24 st).

Round 5: ch 3, *work 2 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (30 st).

Round 6: ch 3, *work 3 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (36 st).

Round 7: ch 3, *work 4 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (42 st).

Round 8: ch 3, *work 5 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (48 st).

Round 9: ch 3, *work 6 tr, then 1 tr + 1 FPtr into the next st. Work 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. 1 FPtr into last the stitch, then join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (54 st).

Round 10: ch 3, *work 7 tr, 1 FPtr, 1 tr.* Repeat between  *’s around. At last FPtr do not follow it with a tr, just join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (54 st).

Round 11 - 21: Repeat R10.

A brim can add a lot of variance in sizing, making it a useful feature in a gift where you don’t have a head to measure.

Work brim as follows.

Round 22 and 23: ch 3, work 1 tr in each stitch, joining with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch. (54 st).

Round 24: In contrast yarn, ch 3 then *work 7 tr, 1 spike tr, 1 tr.* Repeat between *’s around. After last spike, do not follow with a tr, but join with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch (54 st).

Round 25: Still working in contrast yarn, ch 3 then work 1 tr in each stitch, joining with ss into 3rd ch of starting ch. (54 st).

Round 26: In original working yarn, ch 2 then work 1 dc in each stitch, joining with ss into 2nd chain of starting ch. (54 st).

Cut yarn and weave in all ends.

Magic ring - this is a loop of yarn which is crocheted over and pulled tight to close the hole that would otherwise be left at the crown of the hat. Start by laying the working yarn over your left index finger and looping the yarn around your finger twice. Pinch the yarn together to hold the loops in place, then poke the hook through the double loops. YO, pull back through the loops, YO again (giving 2 loops on the hook) and slip the first YO over the second to form the first chain. Work the remaining stitches in the starting chain, then work the first proper stitch (in this case a treble) into the double loop.Work remaining stitches for the first round into the double loop of yarn, then pull gently on the yarn end to close the loop. Work the join to close the first round, then crochet as normal.

FPtr - Front post treble stitch - YO, insert hook from front to back between the posts of the current and next stitch from the previous row. Push the hook from back to front, between the posts of the next stitch and one after, so the post for the next stitch from the previous row is lying across the hook. YO, pull yarn back through the post giving 3 loops on the hook. Work the rest of the treble stitch as normal.

Spike treble - Work a treble stitch into the top of the stitch two rounds below the current working round, creating an elongated or spike stitch.

Richard's hat - from the back.
The pattern as listed will give a very big hat to fit a large head (60 - 62 cm) complete with a wide contrast stripe. Fit is not exact and increasing the turn up at the brim allows the hat to be worn on a smaller head, including my 56 cm head but I found it very bulky. If making this hat for a smaller head, the following modifications work well:-
  • Stop the increases at round 8, giving you a working stitch count of 48 which at this gauge should fit a 54 to 58 cm head.
  • Alternatively for 58cm head, use 7 as your repeat count and stop increasing when you have 49 stitches at the brim, be warned though, this will give a slightly more rounded hat.
  • Work 11 rows from last increase to start of brim.
  • On the brim, only work a single row (including spike stitches) in contrast yarn.
I was very pleased with how the hat turned out and I think it went down well with Richard. Dave liked it too and asked if I could make one for him, hence stopping to work out how to make a smaller version. I'll have to update with pictures of Dave once I've had a chance to block the smaller hat.

Copyright 2014 Julie Spriddle. All rights reserved.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Of carols and alpacas

This is the weekend before Christmas and this month seems to have flown by. We've done most of our gift shopping online this year and are still waiting for a few of them to arrive, but this is in the hands of couriers or the postal service so there isn't much we can do about it. Instead, we're settling in to enjoying the festive season proper and that means lots of family time.

Today started slowly as usual, but with plans for some carol singing this morning. We are in the habit of being out of the house fairly promptly on Saturday mornings for M's dance class, even so we were maybe 10 minutes later than I'd have liked for heading out. We were greeted at the local common by the pastor from across the road who was bearing a tray of extremely cold 'hot' non-alcoholic mulled wine and mince pies.

M didn't recognise the mince pies for what they were and helped herself, while I took one sip of the cold mulled wine before handing it over to Dave to finish off. Dave left us too it, so M and I made small talk. I finished M's pie when she discovered the filling was not to her liking and M found a biscuit to eat instead.

Dave still hadn't returned when the singing started, so we muddled through as best we could. M was asked which carol she'd like and duly suggested Jingle Bells, which everyone agreed was a good choice for such a frigid morning. And boy, oh boy was it cold today! We sang along and M joined in, obviously very pleased her suggestion had been taken seriously. M's next suggestion was Away In A Manger, which went well too.

After a while we made our apologies and said thank you, before heading back to the car to try to warm up. Dave was standing by the car, having walked to a local supermarket in search of quiche for our lunch.

We bundled into the car to drive over to Toft Alpaca Farm who were having an open day today. We've been before so knew the format, but excitement was in the air as M anticipated seeing alpacas.

Alpacas outside the cafe and visitor centre at Toft.
We arrived much later than I'd hoped, so decided against going on a walk about the farm, instead choosing to stay close to the cafe. M played outside on the lawn or near the pond, with one of us in close attendance as she did so. Friends of ours showed up. We chatted. Had lunch. I bought some knitting needles. Father Christmas showed up on a tractor which amused M no end, especially when he dropped his bucket of sweets!

And then we walked an alpaca, the highlight of the visit.

We've done this before, so I'd already primed M with the do's and don'ts. The introductory talk was much the same as usual.

  • Do not get near the hind quarters or put your hand up the alpaca's bottom. While not aggressive, if surprised alpacas will kick and although unlikely to result in broken bones, it will hurt.
  • If your alpaca tries to break free, let go of the lead. Do not try to hold on or you may be dragged off your feet. The area the alpaca is being walked in is fenced in, there is nowhere for the alpaca to go and a staff member will retrieve it for you.
  • Do not wave your hand towards the alpaca's head, they don't like it and will shy away. Instead, bring your hand in from the side and under the head to stroke the neck or shoulder. Alpacas like fuss and cuddles, taking lots of them providing you don't startle them.
M chose a small, white alpaca this time; previously she has chosen feisty animals so it was a bit of a relief to get a rather placid one today. We walked and other than stopping to stare at its friends every time we passed the neighbouring field we did OK. When the alpaca froze, I'd give it some fuss and make encouraging sounds which would get it moving again.
Walking an alpaca is the highlight of a visit to one of Toft's open days.
M was ecstatic. Even her hat falling off didn't dampen her spirits, although the poor girl looked frozen after fifteen minutes of leading an alpaca around a field.

We led the way inside towards warmth and a hot chocolate, much to M's approval.

It seems we were not the only home educators present, as we were recognised by one family and I spotted another one, nodding a greeting.

M was very enamoured of the stripy paper straws that came with our hot chocolates, which it has to be said were not that hot but went down very well regardless. The straws reminded M of Humphrey's ("Watch out, watch out, there's a Humphrey about!") and she insisted on taking a straw home with her. The straw was used in a project to build a Humphrey later this afternoon.

We sat and drank our chocolate, making room for another family at our table where we talked about knitting, toys, dinosaurs, Christmas and how much fun we'd had on the farm. M played with some toy horses she'd been carrying in her backpack all day, the horses gaining some admiring comments from the folks we were sharing a table with.

I did a few rows of crochet. It was nice.

At home, an exhausted but mentally buzzing M designed her Humphrey while we brewed tea, then we all finished the afternoon with a piece of home made gingerbread cake that M and I had made yesterday. The cake was yummy, hitting the spot with all of us.

In all, a good if very cold day.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Some Christmas treats

In addition to writing Christmas cards and making paper chains, Sunday was a day for making sweets.

My mother and aunt are in town this week and will be visiting us, which calls for us to have something sweet on hand to offer our guests. It is also my last week at work before breaking for Christmas, meaning I need to take in some sort of confection.

I chose peppermint creams for the latter because they are so easy to make.
Peppermint creams, intended for work colleagues.
These are a tried and tested recipe based on this one, but I decided to do star shapes this time around.
Two egg whites and about a box and a half of icing sugar yielded a lot of mints.

Supermarkets do not sell suitable peppermint extract only heavily diluted 'essence', so we bought ours from Holland and Barratt.

No baking required here, but the mints need to be either refrigerated or put in the freezer to set both the fondant and chocolate.

M helped with rolling, cutting and placing on trays.

I made festive rice krispie treats in readiness for our visitors.
Festive rice krispie treats.
I melted 320g of marshmallows together with 150g of butter and 3 tablespoons of cocoa. The marshmallow mixture is added to 7 mugs of rice pops and mixed with a wooden spoon.

The krispie mix is shaped into balls, then a teaspoon of melted white chocolate is poured over the top. The krispie treat is finished with a red M&M.

M helped here as well, but not as much as she'd have liked as I was well aware how much chocolate and sugar she'd consumed by this point!

Friday, 5 December 2014

C is for Candle

Christmas preparations are in full swing in our house as we throw ourselves into the festive season. Following on from looking at angels and baubles we moved onto candles.

In addition to talking about the significance of the advent wreath, M had a go at making her own candle wreath from a paper plate.
A candle wreath.
This was made with cutting help from Daddy, but the sticking and colouring was all M.

In the meantime I'd had this idea that it would be fun to somehow imprint M's artwork onto a candle. My thinking was that it would make a good Christmas gift for the grandparent types in our respective families.

I took to Pinterest to look for an appropriate method for getting M's artwork transferred onto the surface of a candle and eventually settled on this 'tutorial'.

From the pictures it looked so easy.

Ahem, lets just say pictures can be deceiving as this one was harder than it looked!

The idea is to get your small person to draw onto a piece of tissue paper, which is wrapped around the candle. The tissue is covered with greaseproof paper and heat is applied via a hair dryer. Remove the paper and voila! The image should be imprinted on the candle.

What the tutorial doesn't make clear is that the image is not transferred from the tissue paper onto the candle. What actually happens is the melted wax seeps through the tissue paper, so that when the wax hardens the tissue is held against the candle under a thin layer of wax.

Believe me, both Dave and I did quite a bit of head scratching trying to figure that out before I had the 'Aha!' moment.

To be absolutely clear for my own benefit should I decide to do this again, what you need:-

  • Tissue paper
  • Felt tip pens
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Church candles
  • Tape
  • A piece of normal paper
  • A hair dryer
  • A mug that you don't mind getting wax on
  • A cork mat to protect your work surface
  • A teaspoon (optional)
  • A combination of persistence and patience
To allow your child to create their masterpiece, firstly cut a piece of flat, uncrumpled tissue paper to size based on the candle. Make the tissue slightly shorter than the candle and try to minimise overlap.

Tape the tissue to a normal piece of paper, then ask your small person to draw a suitable Christmas scene using felt tips. The paper is to protect your table as the ink from the pens will leak through as your child draws.

M excelled herself here and drew the following:-

  • Some Christmas trees
  • Father Christmas and his elves
  • Baby Jesus with his Mummy and Daddy
  • Dancing snowmen, wearing leotards
  • An angel visiting the shepherds who are so scared their clothes fall off
Needless to say, M she was chortling away by the time she had finished, as she is greatly amused by the plight of the angels who have messages to deliver, but have to stop folks running away before they can do so. Every. Single. Time. The angels find this very frustrating. Or at least they do in our version of the Nativity story.

I asked M to draw one more picture, explaining this was the one we'd use for our first try with the candle. M drew a cat and declared it her favourite, so was delighted when the first candle was a success.

Once you have an image to transfer, wrap it tightly around the candle then lay the it onto a piece of greaseproof paper, with the overlap in the tissue on the underside to hold it in place. Align the base of the candle with the edge of the greaseproof paper. Wrap the greaseproof layer as tightly as you can, covering the tissue and secure with tape.

The grease proof paper should be slightly bigger than the candle, it needs to wrap around the candle with an overlap of about 3cm. It should also be taller than the candle once the candle is standing up.

Put an upended cup onto a heat resistant mat (I used a cork backed place mat) and stand the covered candle on top of it. Use a hair dryer on its highest heat setting to  melt the wax under the paper. Keep the dryer moving and it should take a few seconds for the design to start showing clearly through the paper, which is a sign the wax is softening.

Rotate the cup (with the candle on top), applying heat to the entire candle. Once the greaseproof paper starts to look shiny all over, the task should be done and you can stop.

In reality I found that the transfer was patchy. Some of the tissue paper had sunk into the candle wax, but in other places the tissue would be unaffected. Since M's designs didn't cover all of the tissue paper, it was hard to see where I'd missed through the greaseproof outer layer.

At this point I applied the heat directly to the candle and pushed the bits of tissue I'd missed earlier into the wax as it melted. Initially I used the back of a spoon to do this, but switched to using my fingers as I found it easier. The heat from my hair dryer wasn't sufficient to do more than make the wax uncomfortably hot, but I'd advise caution here.
Applying heat to any patches of tissue that hadn't been absorbed into the wax.
The wax cooled quickly, allowing the candles to be moved aside. I used a kitchen knife to trim any dribbled wax, neatening up the base and finishing the candle.
The finished candles.
M was surprised at how her pictures had changed, taking on the circular nature of the candle, with figures that had been on opposite sides of the paper now standing next to each other. She decided she like the effect, but confirmed the cat candle was still her favourite.
M with her favourite candle, which now has a cat on it.
I was pleased with the effect too, but found it difficult getting an even finish on how much wax was absorbed into the tissue. It was also very fiddly trying to get the tissue tightly wrapped around the candle. Nonetheless, for a first attempt I think it worked well and it is a technique I might try again.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

A knit for my baby

Back before M arrived, I had plans for my maternity leave which involved a lot of knitting or crochet. I had this vision of me with a new baby all tucked up in her bassinet beside me while I gazed lovingly at her sleeping form, my needles clicking or my hook hooking, as I made up all manner of woolly goodies for her. I planned accordingly, picking up suitable baby yarn and patterns, in readiness for those first few months...

Of course, as is the case with most new mothers, reality turned out to be a little different to my imaginings. I ended up with a baby who was happiest in my arms and I was happy to oblige, which meant my ability to knit or crochet was severely curtailed.

In fact, while I have crocheted intermittently since M’s arrival I had not picked up knitting needles since her birth until earlier this year! My first knitting project was started at M’s request and was Miss Sophie Bear.

My knitting break has left me with a stash of baby patterns and yarns, but instead of a baby I have an independently minded four year old, who has definite opinions on what she will or will not wear. I was determined to knit some of those baby patterns, with some of that yarn so was delighted to discover the Sirdar patterns I’d bought are actually sized from birth to seven years.

While I may be knitting again, I have to sneak it in around the edges of everything else I do, as spare time is practically non-existent these days. This means it takes a comparatively long time to make anything up and I make mistakes as I don’t have time to concentrate properly. I decided that with only three years to go before M outgrew the patterns, I needed to get started knitting straight away.

I chose the simply named ‘Design E - Striped and Plain Cardigan’ from Sirdar’s Little Stars and Stripes, which is a basic cardi with set in sleeves, a ‘V’ neck and fastened by a single button. A little lace adds interest at the cuffs, bottom, fronts and collar.

The yarn I chose from my stash was a pretty pink, self striping special deal from Aldi in a DK weight. Nothing in the way of natural fibres, but soft, cheap and picked up in a haze of hormones a few years back. It knit up nicely on 4mm needles, to the desired gauge of 22 stitches x 28 rows = 4 inch square.

Here is the result, pre-blocking (link to my Ravelry project - here).
Finished cardigan, before blocking - note the curl of the lace edging...
And here, after some steam had been applied.
Finished cardigan after blocking, curl much improved but still sneaking in.
Finished cardigan after blocking, curl much improved but still sneaking in.
Oh how that lace edging taunted me… It curls horribly at the cuffs and needed some seriously blocking to sort it out, but since I was working with a ‘baby’ yarn (code for acrylic), I was very timid when it came to blocking as it is so easy to over do the steam and kill the fabric. I did steam block this, but not heavily due to the acrylic fibre and although it was improved by blocking, that lace edging still has a slight curl to it, particularly at the sleeve cuffs.
Close up of the lace edging (after blocking).
When it came to the front edges and collar, i decided I didn’t like the suggested border or the way it was worked in two pieces and joined at the back of the neck. I decided to add a crochet edging instead, worked on a 3mm hook as follows:-

  • Lay down a foundation row of dc (repeat of 4 + 1)
  • 5tr shell around, 5dc-ch for the button hole

If I make this cardigan again, I will probably skip the suggested lace altogether and crochet a shell edging instead. I worked the edging (both the suggested lace on the cuffs and bottom, and the crochet edging) in a white baby DK from my stash. This contrasted nicely with the pink self striping.

I added a single lilac button from my button tin, which immediately decided it was a complementary shade of pink once I had sewn it on.

I am very pleased with how this turned out. I haven’t knitted many cardigan’s and due to the long break, this project represented a lot or re-learning old skills. I tried to stick to the pattern, but couldn't resist doing my own thing when the lace edging didn't behave, which was why I substituted with a far more civilised and far less scary crochet edging.
The finished cardigan, modelled by my 'baby'.
M likes the cardigan too. However I have a problem. She took a great deal of interest in how this project developed and has discovered my Ravelry queue which she has now co-opted. Rather than another cardi from my baby knits list, M has insisted my next knitting project should be a cat.

Friday, 14 November 2014

World Nursery Rhyme Week 2014

The focus this week has been World Nursery Rhyme week. The idea was to sing and do activities around the theme of five nursery rhymes as set by the organisers.

The chosen songs were:-

  • Monday - Old King Cole
  • Tuesday - Hey Diddle Diddle
  • Wednesday - I Hear Thunder
  • Thursday - Oranges and Lemons
  • Friday - Five Currant Buns

The organisers had put together a resource pack, but I didn't think much of it. Generic clip-art just didn't hit the spot.

Monday - Old King Cole

The first thing we discovered was I cannot hold the tune of Old King Cole. To M's amusement I kept singing a harmony to the original melody. After my failure to sing properly, M showed me how it was done, holding the tune beautifully.

Next up, some crafts in the form of 'K is for King'.

I drew the K and crown for M to cut out, I also drew a pipe (as in a musical instrument) and bowl, the latter complete with a straw as historically bowl may well have been a drinking vessel. Otherwise this K is entirely M's own work.

K is for King.
We went through a lot of glitter glue.

The K complete, M drew a lot of pictures of King Cole and then made up stories about the poor King’s misfortunes. In M’s tales, the Fiddlers try to rescue the King from many unfortunate situations which start when he forgets to put his pants on, but can’t be bothered to take all his clothes off again so pulls them on over the top of his leggings. All is well until he needs a wee.

Tuesday - Hey Diddle Diddle

Dave took this one as I was at work, helping M to make puppets on sticks so she could act out the story.

Hey Diddle Diddle puppets.
Wednesday - I Hear Thunder

I think Dave was lucky to get this one, as I’d prepared a project on Rain a few weeks back which he could dip into!

M started on this as soon as I left for work, with Dave getting out the percussion instruments for a good old sing song. When Dave felt he’d entertained neighbours for long enough he started on arts and crafts.

I am still waiting to see what they got up to…

Thursday - Oranges and Lemons

I was stuck on this one as I couldn't find arts and crafts projects that were suitable for a four year old, but also likely to catch M's imagination. In the end I decided it was time for a spot of baking.

We made lemon drizzle butter cookies using my standard easy butter cookie recipe, but adding lemon zest to the mix, then topping them with lemon drizzle icing.

For reference:-

6 oz butter
9 oz plain flour
3 oz sugar
zest of one lemon

We put all the ingredients into a bowl and used our fingertips to mix them together. Or rather, I did. M played with the mix, squeezing and rubbing with her palms and enjoying the sensory experience. It didn't matter though. We've made these biscuits before and they are very much foolproof, hence why the recipe is a favourite of mine.
Rub between fingertips until you get a breadcrumb like consistency.

When the mixture reached breadcrumb consistency, we kneaded it together into small balls for rolling out, which I did very gently onto a lightly floured surface. M had a go at rolling out, but this dough is very crumbly and needs a light touch, whereas M tends towards heavy handed with a rolling pin. M had chosen cutters in the form of church bells and candles as per the song and we cut out shapes together, placing them onto greased baking trays.

We pierced the cookies with a fork a few times, then put them into a warm oven (150c) for 12 minutes to bake. Once they were cooled, I drizzled icing made from icing sugar and some of the juice from the lemon I’d zested. I was careful not to overdo it here, the cookie on its own is slightly lemony and I wanted to make sure M would enjoy them rather than be put off by a strong lemon taste. M could have done the drizzling herself, she is good at drizzling having practiced a lot, but my girl was looking tired and said she wanted to watch.
Lemon drizzle butter cookies.

The resulting cookies were very yummy.

Friday - Five Currant Buns

I hadn’t intended to do anything for Five Currant Buns as we’d have normally gone out to a weekly home education meetup in Rugby. However M has had such fun this week that she insisted we stay home and do something today too. She awoke this morning full of cold so I decided a day at home probably was the best course and I suggested we could make five toy currant buns.

We had a bit of confusion as to what a currant bun was and what it should look like, so I asked M to draw a picture of what the buns should be like:-

M's drawing of the ideal currant bun.

While I agreed this looked like a fantastic currant bun, I couldn't see how we could make five buns just like this out of felt in a single day. I’d have wanted to draft a pattern and make a prototype to confirm it came out exactly right. I suggested a compromise, explaining that until recently buns tended to be shallow rather than tall and if M thought about our own buns, they tend to be more like a round cushion.

M insisted that any bun should have icing and a cherry on top, which I agreed with and so we got to work. I drafted a simple pattern template and M helped with pinning it to the felt so it could be cut out. M then pinned the icing to the tops so I could sew them, allowing me to get started on the construction which she watched carefully.

Stuffing the buns was M’s job as was choosing five cherries, i.e. five suitably sized red pompoms. M positioned the cherries in the middle of each stuffed and sewn bun, so I’d know where to sew them, then her mind turned towards sprinkles. Glitter seemed the ideal solution, so M applied glue and glitter to each bun once I’d attached its cherry.

We used PVA to stick felt currants to the bottom of each bun, but it didn’t want to stick so I switched to Tacky Glue, which is thicker PVA. Sadly this took an age to dry and by six, a tired, congested M had had enough of waiting. Playing had to happen, glue or no glue, so play and sing, sing and play we did. Resulting in one very happy little girl.
Five currant buns in a bakers shop, round and fat with a cherry on the top.

I’m really pleased with the way these toy currant buns turned out. I did all the sewing here, but M has been learning to sew using little felt kits with precut pieces and pre-punched holes. This was the first time she’s seen a sewing project through from original idea, design, pattern (OK very simple, but it was a pattern), cutting, pinning, construction, stuffing and embellishing. A slight hiccup with the glue and currants aside, it all came together to give her a functional toy. M has ended the day riding high on the sense of accomplishment this has given her, which has got to have been worth the time spent on those five little toy cakes.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Showing restraint

It might not sound significant, but as a baby my daughter was born with a full head of hair, most of which disappeared within a few weeks, leaving her with a few sparse wisps over her adorable little head. This was not a problem. My daughter grew into a hat wearer.
M wearing a hat made by Mummy.

Hair styling has never been my forte. Hair styling, when the hair in question is extremely fine, thin and belongs to someone who cannot stand still for more than a few minutes at a time, has proved a challenge. Like most mothers, I’ve resorted to time honoured methods for keeping my little one’s hair in check. I’ve tried braids, but M doesn’t like to wait as I complete the task. I’ve tried alice bands, but they slip off, rarely staying in place for more than a few minutes. Pigtails were popular for a while, but as M’s hair continued to grow in length but not in body, they turned into lethal weapons on either side of her head. M took great delight in swinging her head from side to side, hair whipping her face with alternate strikes across her cheeks. These days, the mainstay of hair restraint for M is the good old fashioned ponytail. I wanted a child sized hair tie that would stay in place, wasn’t slippery and wasn’t too big because it assumed you had a lot of hair. I made something. This was an experiment. I’ve never made a hair accessory before and couldn’t find anything that was just right on Ravelry, so I improvised. I tied some left over 8 core elastic into a loop, then crocheted over it to give me a base. I then added a simple chain mesh, until it had some substance. And here we have it, a child sized lace scrunchie.

A simple crochet mesh scrunchie.
A simple crochet mesh scrunchie with hair.
This scrunchie is worked in a standard crochet thread (size 10) on a 2mm hook. Guage doesn’t matter in this case, it was more important to use a hook that worked well with the thread.

Method:- I put a foundation row of dc in multiples of 5 stitches around a piece of elastic, covering it. I then worked a 5 stitch chain mesh into this row, as follows. R1 - ch5, skip 4 dc, dc in next dc, repeat until end of round. R2 - ch5, dc in next 5ch space of previous row, ch5, dc in same space, repeat until end of round. R3 - ch5, dc in next 5ch space of previous row; repeat until end of round. R4 - increase in alternate spaces. R5 - as for R3. M likes it. Enough said.

Monday, 9 June 2014

And That's Teamwork

M is a girl of many passions and has an eclectic mix of interests. Cars, trains, heavy plant, horses, sheep, cows, yarn and ballet are all daily conversational topics in our house. M also loves art and craft, treating such activities as a co-operative, collaborative process which accounts for most of my efforts on the crafting front these days.

It should come as no should come as no surprise to me that flicking through an old Early Learning Centre's catalogue looking for collage inspiration should come to a halt at picture of two girls running through a field dressed as princesses. M immediately cut the page out and then in half, effectively removing a Disney-esque outfit.

"Mummy, trace her!" M said, waving the remaining little girl at me before continuing.  "Then transfer her onto a piece of paper twice."
Traced images
And so started the current obsession with this image.
I trace, transfer and draw over the top, darkening the lines. M colours it in. We're a team. :-)

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Introducing Miss Sophie

On Easter Monday, I finally got to visit Toft Alpaca's which was holding an open day. We had a fantastic time and the alpacas were a big hit with M, who thoroughly enjoyed walking her own alpaca around an obstacle course (with a bit of help from Mummy). M chose her own animal, picking the feistiest alpaca available which meant it was given to sneaking cuddles and sitting down while we were trying to walk it.
M walking an alpaca (with Daddy's help, while I take a quick piccy)
M however was smitten.

The next day, M was inspired and so she made her own alpaca herd. She also decided I needed to knit something.
An alpaca in progress...
Now, anyone who has read back through the archives of this blog will know that in the dim and distant past, I used to knit quite a bit. Not one to let a good opportunity pass, I cast on immediately. I was very relieved to discover that my fingers remembered how to use two sticks and some string to produce fabric!

By picking up and knitting whenever I got a spare moment, within a week I'd amazed myself by producing this collection of bits:-
Knitted bits...
Which when sewed together and stuffed (with lots of help from M), became this:-

Ta da! Miss Sophie Bear.
M immediately named the bear Miss Sophie Bear and I began to work on phase two - a ballet outfit. In the meantime, Sophie began to explore the world around her and turned out to be quite an adventurous, outdoors loving bear.

M and Miss Sophie explore a hedgerow at Brandon Marsh.
The pattern I was working from, within a book of charity knits called “Knit Together For Short Lives”, published by Hobbycraft. The original pattern was by a lady called Val Pierce and as far as I can tell, the basic bear comes with lots of options for clothing, according to occasion. The big stumbling block with the patterns in the Knit Together book, was the assumption that the clothes would be sewn onto the bear. M had very definite ideas that she wanted a bear that she could dress and undress, which of course meant I had to modify Miss Sophie’s clothing to allow this.

I started with the ballet dress from the book, knitting it as per pattern but adding a crocheted tab on one shoulder to hold a press fastening. I had left over tulle from M’s tutu, which was pressed into service for Sophie’s skirt and I raided my ribbon bag for lace trim picked up from Croft Mills a few years back.
Miss Sophie's tutu - added shoulder tab, ribbon at waist, lace trim at the hem.
A close up of the tulle underskirt - I added maybe four times the amount recommended by the pattern.
Rather than sewing flowers or pre-made bows onto the dress, I opted for sequins, of which I have a huge stock  for general craft purposes. I’d intended to just put a few butterflies and flowers onto the bodice, but once M saw that sequins can be sewn onto things, she was hooked. I did dictate how big the sequins could be, but otherwise M directed and I did the sewing until Miss Sophie had a dress fit for a ballerina bear.
Teeny, tiny ballet slippers.
The final touch was the ballet slippers, which proved to be a challenge. In the original pattern the toes are stuffed, then the slippers are sewn directly onto the bear’s feet. For Miss Sophie, I stuffed the slippers’ toes, before sewing in a tiny knitted (eight stitches by eight rows in stocking stitch) panel to keep the stuffing in place. Ribbons tie the slippers onto the bear’s legs.
Miss Sophie Bear, complete with tutu and ballet slippers.

Back view of Miss Sophie's tutu.
And there you have it. One ballerina bear.

All pieces were knitted from standard cheap acrylics in DK weight, on 3.25mm needles. I used a 3mm hook for the crocheted extension. Apart from the ribbon, which was bought for this project, all other materials came from my stash of crafting bits. M was delighted and is now designing the rest of Miss Sophie’s wardrobe.

As for me… Gosh, it feels good to have knitted something. Really good.