Sunday, 2 December 2012


Wow. July? I've definitely knitted stuff since July. I've just been stuck on the commission from hell, a story I may well write up before the year ends...

While I'm here though, I did get a second commission recently, which I actually managed to finish! My lovely friend, Sandy Matzen, who is a professional photographer*, asked me to create a full-body cocoon for a photoshoot she wanted me to model for. Two months to knit it. Considering the last time I'd taken on a commission and I'd said it would be done by summer - almost 6 months ago now - I was a little dubious I could pull off something which sounded fairly simply, but... Anyway, it's hard to say no to Sandy, especially when it involves a free make-over and photo shoot! And they're always fun. Sandy sent me her artist impression of what she wanted:

Terrifying! Somehow I have to knit all that, in two months, to fit me, with a ton of work outstanding, a 60th birthday to organise, etc... Still, I told Sandy it would be easy enough... ;)

I decided to knit in the round and in rib (for stretch), with two balls of DK at the same time, to try and make the whole process as quick and painless as possible (I actually find rib to be a very relaxing and easy stitch). So I ordered four lots of 500g wool, to be on the safe side. I hadn't expected the order to turn up as four HUGE 500g balls:

But how cool are they?! I'll definitely order some of those again! (In the end, I still had half of the first two balls left, so I thoroughly over-estimated! Lots of black knitting to do now... :))

I worked every night in front of House. MD, and with 100 stitches, 3 rows to an inch, 50 inches to knit, amazingly I managed to finish it with two weeks to spare! Which was a relief considering I'd almost given up at 30 inches, as it just felt like it would take forever. I then had the scary moment of sending a (poor quality) photo to Sandy and hoping that she didn't mind the choice of rib, as I didn't think I could start all over again with only two weeks to go!

Luckily, Sandy is such a positive person that she was instantly taken with the rib, and only asked that I knit another few inches to take it past my feet. 56 inches later, and it was as much as I could get done with a day to spare!

Yesterday, I spent the morning being turned into a cracked mannequin by Alessandra Russo (I can't deny, I always love being pampered and beautified with a great make-up job! :)). I then stepped into the minus 1 degree day for a few shots outside, in nothing but the cocoon, knickers, socks and just-hidden boots, for a few pictures. Always a good view for the local men who seem to have something to say every time Sandy and I are on location! After some posing between shivers, we headed off to a mirrored dance studio for the second set of photos. Lots of fun! It was nice to wear something that I'd knitted with relative pride, at least until it was unpicked for the photos... :)

Cracked Mannequin in a cocoon project
Model: Emma Walker
MUA: Alessandra Russo at Ale MUA

To see more of Sandy's photos, visit her website and Facebook page - highly recommended!

* and also something of a family photographer now, having photographed by sister's wedding and the recent portraits of my sister and I for my mother's 60th - plus more commissions coming up, I'm sure...! :)

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Cushion Comfort and Daisy Shoes...

Cushion number two is complete:
I almost ran out of light blue wool on the reverse and had to pad out the threads with a slightly darker colour, but never mind. I'm now working on cover number three, which has a bit of a lavender theme. One side done, one side to do...

Instead of working toward finishing that today, I was distracted by an old idea: shoe covers. This was probably revived by two things: (1) the fact that I can't resist fancy dress, as evidenced by two recent, probably pointless, but nevertheless personally satisfying purchases (20s Flapper and Joan of Arc - it had a free sword!) in a recent online costume sale; and (2) the impending annual festival, for which - you won't be surprised to hear - I will be dressing up on at least one day, and I've even convinced my sister to join in, just as soon as I've pimped up her dress. I have been doing a lot of shopping over the past couple of days. I think it's that time of the holiday. Usually I'd start to feel guilty about spent money, but my current positivity means I am actually enjoying it all - it's like Christmas every morning, unwrapping the parcels and trying to guess what's turned up each day!

Anyway: shoe covers. Like most women, I have a wardrobe full of shoes I never wear. Unlike most women, those shoes are, on the whole, old, worn out things that resemble clogs and flip flops. I do have a few pairs of decent, feminine shoes - stilettos, kitten heels, wedges - but they usually only see the light of day on special occasions, just long enough to give me aching ankles, blisters and resentment over the fact that I've never felt confident or comfortable in heels. It's not that I don't love shoes - I'm quite happy to spend time perusing the Irregular Choice or TUK collections, wishing I had the feet for them. And the money to spend on them! But I stick to my tried and tested walking shoes, since what's the point in a shoe if you can't walk in it??

Since I've been enjoying a little designing of late, I decided I would try my hand at knitting shoe covers - why not? How much worse could they look than my actual shoes? :) The only problem was the complete lack of a pattern anywhere on the web - or at least not one I could find. There were a few patterns for boot tops and lots of very pretty slippers, but no shoe covers. Sewing patterns, yes, but not knit or crochet. So today I started from scratch and came up with these:
New festival shoes! I only started knitting with the green because I wanted to work out a template with some scrap wool, but since it worked out, I decided to finish them off.

In case you're interested, this is a quick explanation of how they're made:

First, I measured around the back and sides of the shoe and knitted a long rectangular strip, which I joined at the top cast-off corners:
In this case, as I'm a size 3, it measured 16 inches long, which was 80 stitches, and 3.5 inches high (DK wool, size UK8 needles). I used a stocking stitch pattern reversed, with a rib on every ten stitches.

I then moved to the front, measuring across the tongue (for this shoe: 3 inches = 15 stitches) and knitted 2 inches. I then increased on each side by 18 stitches, decreased at both ends for the next two rows, then at both ends of every other row until only 21 stitches remained. I then purled two together to the last stitch, purled 1, cut the yarn and threaded it through the stitches, pulling them tight.
Next, I sewed the sides and front piece together and secured the cover underneath:

Finally, I topped each one with a simple crochet daisy - check YouTube for an easy pattern for that. I don't expect they'll last very long - particularly the fastened bit on the sole - but who cares? They're still cheaper than a new pair of shoes, and now that I have a template, I can start to play with the idea... :)

Friday, 6 July 2012

Tutti-Fruitti / Cushion Comfort...

While I choose to ignore the misery of the world and too much rain - which, despite falling incessantly, still hasn't washed the bird muck off my windows! - here's an update:

To use up some of my old, child-friendly scrap wool, I decided to knit another item for my impending niece/nephew - a housecoat type thing (it might have been a cardigan, but I ran out of wool at the sleeves... It's a baby! It'll never notice...):
It's a cream coloured wool which has always reminded me of tutti-fruitti ice cream because of the yellow, green, blue and red flecks. I thought I might be able to pull off a unisex pattern with it, but half way through my dad said it looked a bit "girlie". He might be right. I can't imagine most boys want to look like ice cream. But it's a baby! It can hate me later.

My other big project - using up the millions (minor hyperbole) of wool cones stashed in my bedroom, has taken a giant leap (definite hyperbole) forward with the completion of my cushion cover! All those cones of red wool I thought I'd be lucky to get a single hat made out of, then lucky to get one side of a 21x 21 inch cushion cover from... then realised I could have knitted an entire jumper from...!! Well, I managed to completely use up six cones in two days. That still leaves about four of various sizes and shades, plus a small 2ply ball, in red, but it's a pretty good start, and I have a rather comfortable (if I do say so myself) cushion cover to go over one of my torn, stained and generally rubbish lounge cushions (three more to go). I also used up one of the pack of 20 zips I bought years ago during a dressmaking phase that came to naught. It feels like progress! Comfortable, woolly progress...

Friday, 22 June 2012

Finishing touches...

I used to have this tam which my Nan gave me. I'm pretty sure she'd bought it from a charity shop, but I really liked it. It was striped and originally from St Michaels (M&S). And then I lost it, I suspect at work. My suspicions were even more confirmed when I saw it on the head of a student. Problem is, I can only assume it was my hat - I can't prove it; I haven't fully searched my cupboards and draws at home, but I think the odds of a student having an old hat exactly the same as mine are slim - just not impossible. So I've been thinking for a while about knitting a replacement the lost tam (and yet still not about searching my mounds of clothes to see if it's still around...!).

When I saw the pattern in Hats for the 'Fair Isle tam', I thought it would make the perfect replacement. But the Fair Isle bit, although it looks great and perfectly possible, seemed too much like hard work. Luckily I still have a stash of striped sock wool from Wilkinson's to use up, which was the perfect way to cheat through this pattern:

I had to use an old hairband to elasticate it. It should make a suitable replacement, though... Until i can finally get around to searching for the missing hat...
The good news is, I finally finished the baby pouch for my future niece/nephew, now complete with teddy bear buttons which will be an absolute bugger to open in a hurry... :)

Eleven Shades of Red...

Another hat from Hats completed! I've skipped past the Tam at the moment, because I have to do some final touches to that before it's ready. Instead I moved on to a chunky knit hat; the reason being, a long time ago now I bought a couple of boxes of 'job lot wool' from eBay, thinking it a bargain at £40. The pictures showed many cones of machine-knit wool. Many, many cones.  The description was a little vague, but I took a punt anyway. Two huge boxes arrived - good stuff. Except that it wasn't exactly good stuff; it was 1ply and 2ply wool that looked like it had been stored in a shed for years. Nevertheless, it was workable, just thin. Very, very thin. Useless on my knitting machine and a pain to knit with. I tried out lace knitting without much success (or patience), and then I started to combine cones to make 3ply and 4ply yarn. That seemed to work a bit better. I have an unfinished pink top I'll show at some point from my first combining experiment.

Now, however, I'm a bit sick of having two huge crates of wool in my bedroom and really want to get rid of the stuff! So a couple of nights ago I had the brainwave of joining up every possible cone of the same or similar colour together to make a chunkier yarn - and it worked! It's fiddly and impractical, but it worked. I combined all the different shades of red into an interesting, not too bright tone and I now have a 'Ribbons and Bow' hat to add to the ever-growing collection... :)

Only fifty more shades to use up!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Hats all...

I never really got around to telling about some of my Christmas gifts from last year, but as I've been using one of them this weekend, now seems like a good time to correct that.

My mother bought me an unexpected book: Hats (Cozy) by GMC Editors. I hadn't asked for it, but after a flick through I thought it looked alright. I like hats; their relatively quick to knit. In fact, there are some really nice hats in this book, and now that I've branched a little into crochet, none of them are totally off limits. 30 hat patterns, to be precise. I had thought I might try and knit a hat a month. That hasn't happened, unsurprisingly. But, shortly after Christmas, I began my attempts, starting with a beaded blue one called 'Nocturne', which is basically a dark blue beanie with knitted bobbles and bead work. I didn't have quite the same amount of pretty beads as the original suggests (despite thoroughly raiding my old, broken jewellery stash), so I stuck to a few simple silver-ish beads from a broken costume necklace. It just about works:

I also tried, with my limited crochet knowledge, the 'Fur Fun' hat, which, after several attempts at working out exactly what was going on, I've had to abandon for two reasons: (1) ran out of suitable wool; (2) it just looks like a shower cap! Where would I go that I would want to wear a shower cap outside the bathroom?? However, I do intend to retry the pattern another time in a different colour, as I suspect it's the pale blue which really doesn't help its general appearance.

I am, however, particularly proud of my attempt at the 'Trilby', even if I have chosen to make it in dark pink, rather than the more acceptable grey. It's made with chunky wool and super warm, which is great for these British summers!!

I definitely recommend the book if you're a hat or quick knits fan - and it's fairly cheap too, if bought from the right places. I'm now on to the 'Fair Isle tam', although I'm cheating a lot by ignoring the Fair Isle aspect. I'll show you what I mean when it's done...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Jaeger Monster

It's been a miserable June half term holiday - may as well be October at the moment! Since the Jubilee events ended, I haven't really felt inspired to do anything. But, as it has been on my to-do list for... ever, I did pick up my knitting commission again, to give it another try. I had put it down after I dropped a stitch in the middle of one part of the base pattern, in an impossible position to just pick it back up again. So I diligently unpicked to the amber border and started all over again (version 3.5). It's a monster, this knit, and no matter how far I manage to get with it (still only on the first sleeve!!), I never feel anything but disappointed at the quality. If I were only knitting this for me, I'd feel satisfied enough that I was making progress at least, but I really don't think this is good enough to give to someone else. But the aim is to finish the sleeve and show it to the lady at work to let her decide if it's really ever possible to complete this kit...