A birthday blankie for Bernard with some bobbled corners…..

bobble pom poms

Over the past six weeks I’ve been taking part in Hanna’s #lentenwipdown…… something I find I do time and time and time again is to start something new when I already have a pile of half finished (or sometimes just barely started) projects that really deserve my attention a whole lot more….I don’t know why I do it, it’s not like I don’t love those half made pieces but I think it’s more a case of just wanting to try everything…..we don’t have a very large house although I’m lucky enough to have a room for all my sewing and fabric and yarn hoarding, but I’d much rather this room was free of all the half mades and just starteds, so the “wip-down” has been a good boot up the bottom to get me tackling some of those very slow wip’s…..

more nine square patches

After going through various half made items to assess how much really needed doing to each one before it was finished I decided to tackle this crochet blanket….and a couple of reasons were behind my thinking…..since using tapestry yarn for my crochet blankets I’ve tended to avoid using acrylic yarn, I don’t like the way it squeaks, it makes me feel all “stat-icky” with electricity (my hair always gets a bit bird nesty when I’ve been using it), and I’ve found it makes my hands ache more than when I crochet with wool yarn….in a corner of my work room I had a couple of big bags of brightly coloured acrylic yarn and a lady on the bus had told me that her grand-daughter used this to make blankets for various charities, so I thought if I finished joining in the little squares for the blanket then I could not only have a finished wip I’d also be able to get rid of those bags of yarn that I wasn’t really planning to use again…..

crocheting-along

Joining in the little squares actually didn’t seem to take that long to do at all, I love chosing the random colours and like to mix up rather odd colour combinations, it’s always been the main appeal of crochet for me, using up small pieces of brightly hued yarn to create multiple coloured squares……

Actually I’m trying to remember exactly when I started this blanket, orignally I made my two youngest nieces a couple of crochet blankets when baby Eliza was born (she was 4 in November so that’s a few years ago now) and I had lots of squares left over, I then used some of those to make a lap blanket for my friend Joyce and as is my way, made even more little squares for fear of not having enough so again I had some left over…….they ended up being shoved into the back of a cupboard where they were forgotten about……when I found them again at the start of 2015 I decided to rip out the third and fourth rounds, and join them together on the third round.  (The fourth round had been white and I’d wanted a more intense spread of colour rather than pops of colour in a sea of white)…..

making a new blanket

I stuck with it for a good while but somewhere along the way I got bored again and bundled it all back into the cupboard…..

layingtwo strips together

When I was making the blanket I’d found it easier to concentrate on crocheting lots of little squares then joining them into nines (rows of 3 x 3) and then joining those nines together (in rows of 7 by 7)…by the time I’d gotten bored there were a whole lot of big 7 x 7 square pieces which doubled up as small window blankets for Bernard to sprawl out on (he loves laying in the window and prefers to have something underneath him…for a cat that was originally found in a dustbin* he is very high maintenance)

sewing in the last dozen or so tails

But it’s always sewing in those yarny tails that are my downfall…..good intentions to sew them in as I go seem to fall by the wayside very rapidly, and while I know there is a technique where you crochet them in as you go, whenever I’ve tried to do that I ended up with fat old lumpy sides….

upside down

Anyway, a certain furry someone is always interested when a crochet blanket is being made, put it down for 5 minutes to go make a pot of tea and you’ll find it “just being kept warm” on your return…..

Because he loves blankets we decided that this would be a birthday present for him as he clambered up onto it every evening, and mewed if it was elsewhere, even needing to be carried upstairs on a royal cushion of crochet blanket come bedtime…(yes, he is one very spoilt cat).

rainbow tails

I really tried to keep on top of yarny tails while I was joining in the squares and as a nice incentive and way to keep track of tail sewing in progress I began saving all the tails in a bowl we normally have filled with Quality street at Christmas…and slowly the tails began to pile up……

I love seeing this mix of colours, combinations of colours that might seem a bit Hmmm in fact look great together, a bit bright and circussy perhaps, but this jumble of colour never fails to make me smile…..

crocheting over where two squares join

And finally…the day came when the last yarny tail was all sewn in…the blanket while an okay size wasn’t over huge or anything so I decided to add a few rows of single colour border, first white then pink and then red…….

I probably would have left it at that but then remembered the wonderful blanket I’d seen in the window of Norfolk Yarn the other week….. so I decided to make some of my own fat and squidgy pompom like baubles…..I didn’t make them as dangly as I thought they wouldn’t last 5 minutes if himself was feeling mischievous, so attached them right up to the edge of the blanket…and filled them with some red fleece I’d bought ages and ages ago….

I’m sure if you have a cat you know what happened next….he’s chosen to pretty much ignore it…that’s been a few hard whacks with a paw of the baubles but for the most part he’s walked past it, nose in the air……no doubt when the fuss of a new blanket has died down we’ll find him all curled up asleep on it……

If you want to make your own baubles this is how I made mine….

pom pom bobble detail

Baubles for a blanket (UK terminology)

dk weight yarn, 3.75 mm hook (I like my crochet quite tight)

Round 1….Make a magic loop and then work 6 double crochet stitches into it, you’ll end up with 6 stitches, carefully pull your magic loop closed and finish the row off with a slip stitch…

Round 2….Work 2 double crochet stitches into each of the previous stitches, finish with a slip stitch, you’ll have 12 stitches….

Round 3….Work 2 double crochet stitches into the next stitch, 1 double crochet stitch into the next one….repeat this pattern all the way around, so you have 18 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Round 4….Work a double crochet stitch into each of the previous stitches, you’ll still have 18 stitches…finish with a slip stitch.

Rounds 5 and 6….Repeat as for round 4.

Round 7….Work a double crochet decrease, then make 1 double crochet stitch, repeat around 6 times, finish with a slip stitch, this will reduce your stitch count down to 12.

At this point stuff the bauble firmly, try to use the same colour stuffing as the yarn you’ve used….

Round 8….Work a double crochet stitch decrease all the way around so you end with 6 stitches, finish with a slip stitch.

Fasten off leaving a long enough tail to attach the bauble to your blanket corner.

 

It feels really nice to have at least one less work in progress in the cupboard of doom, and the last few weeks while finishing this has made me think about other pieces in limbo that have been shoved away, what do I really want to finish, what can be charity shopped etc and what can be worked on next……..

*Bernard was a stray cat that was found eating food from a big catering bin at the back of a row of takeaway shops…he wasn’t skinny but his diet wasn’t really very good….nor did he have shawls that have taken me weeks to knit to sleep on…..

 

A kinky curled karise……

kinki skein of alpaca and silk

A few weeks ago now I mentioned I’d been un-ravelling some projects that I’d either fallen out of love with or which weren’t quite how I’d wanted them…one of them was a very recent knit using some soft and silky alpacca/silk by Artesano…..I wasn’t too sure how this yarn would respond to being un-ravelled and washed but the kinks and curls pretty much came out and by the time it was wound into balls it looked fine…..

Pretty much as soon as my Cloud of sheep kisses Karise shawl was cast off another one appeared on the needles, this time using the alpacca/silk as I was curious as to how the lace would look in such a different yarn…….I do find this yarn quite slippy to work with and decided to use some ChiaoGoo Lace needles which I bought from Meadow Yarn in Suffolk (they’re actually based just a couple of miles from where I grew up), these needles aren’t quite so pointy as Hiya Hiya sharps but they still pick up any psso’s or k2tog’s in the pattern really well, also they have a lovely heavy cable  (it actually feels just like a bicycle brake cable) which I thought this yarn would benefit from.  Anj is always incredibly helpful and has put up with no end of my questions about different types of needle and I very much appreciate the advice she has given me.

first section of lace from chart A

I love the egg shell blue colour of the yarn and it’s glossy and shiny and all sorts of lovely but I must confess it doesn’t quite grab me the way that the Tamar did…..it’s also a bit “sticky” to work when it gets warm out in the garden….I didn’t find this with the Tamar even though a couple of the days I was knitting with that it was really “phew what a scorcher” weather…..however, the lace knitted in this yarn is looking nice, it’s opening out more unblocked than I think the Tamar did so it will be interesting to see how it looks after washing and blocking.

lace knitting and stitch markers

I’m still needing to use the stitch markers I made at Christmas , and in fact as I’ve now got another shawl on the go (think I’m becoming a bit of a shawl fiend) I’ve had to make some more of them so I have enough for both shawls……the stitch markers are really easy to make and make good use of old jewelry bits and bobs and vintage beads I’ve had ferreted away for goodness knows how long….

stitch markers and head pins

I do find using a pair of jewelry pliers very helpful. These ones are bent nose pliers (though the bend hasn’t really come out in the photo) and I think I got them from my local iron-mongers but you can pick up little sets pretty cheap at craft shops/ebay etc…..I’ve also got a small pair of wire cutters and a pair of rounded long nose pliers.

Rather than use a jump ring I like to use the little ring from a toggle clasp fitting, they don’t have anything to snag on your yarn and fit my needles fine.   The tiny eye/ring at the bottom is all part of the fixture and it’s through this that you thread your bead and head pin.  I’ve also made some with tiny lobster claw clasps but I find these a bit catchy when I’m knitting so don’t tend to use those so much.

While I was sorting out beads to use for more stitch markers I found a little tin full of smoky amber glass beads which had once been a necklace that my friend Joyce gave me years ago when I must’ve been about 15 or 16.  Joyce passsed away earlier this year so it’s very special to be able to make some stitch markers with her beads, she’ll never be far from my thoughts while I hear these tingling and tinkling as I knit

head pins

The head pins I use come from a local bead shop called Raphael Crafts, it’s owned by a lovely lady called Anne who is incredibly friendly and helpful…she also has a jewelry shop just up from her bead shop which has a really nice range of earings and necklaces.

Along with regular flat bottomed head pins, Anne also stocks these smaller ones which have a silver ball bottom.  Now some beads will too big for them and the smaller pins are going to just slip right through, but the old glass paste beads I’m using from my box of delights and the glass beads from Joyce seem to fit fine….the pins are also finer than regular ones so are easier to cut, bend and twist back down into the bead.  They’re pretty wee, only about an inch or so in length but I really like using them.

I also find that this non wool yarn doesn’t like snaggy hands so I’m regularly scrubbing my fingers and hands with a dribble of grapeseed oil and a teaspoon of sugar, I rub this over my fingers paying particular attention at the base where the skin gets drier and also around my nails and cuticles, then I just wash it off in warm water and pat dry……It’s nice and relaxing to do, and it’s good for your hands to give them a massage… you can always add a drop of essential oil to the grapeseed oil if you want to get posh and swanky…..

 

 

Un-ravelling yarn and saying goodbye to kinky curls….

three balls blue

Recently I took part in a rather brilliant knitalong over at The Caithness Craft Collective Podcast group on Ravelry….the kal (or un-kal) was split into 3 parts/divisions…..and included ripping out/frogging/un-ravelling something that wasn’t being loved, knitting something you really wanted to knit and finally, just leaving something that you’d half forgotten about but had intentions to finish it…..I ended up doing something for all 3 divisions as I had projects  that I either wanted to make or wanted to finish.

For division 3 I decided to un-ravel a jaunty blue scarf I’d crocheted a few years ago using some beautiful Shilasdair 4ply, it wasn’t being worn half as much as it deserved as I’d made it far too skinny so the sides rolled in on themselves, and it stretched so much it ended up looking like something a glam-rocker from the seventies would have worn while being on Top of the Pops.  If it wasn’t for the un-kal then it would have found it’s way into the charity shop pile which would have been a shame as the yarn* is really nice and holds happy memories of a brilliant day out in London with my friend Debbie.

kinky skein of shlasdair

The scarf was a right devil to un-ravel though, I’d been very thorough in sewing in my woolly ends, also I’d washed and blocked the scarf a couple of time so the fibres of the yarn were starting to snuggle up to each other quite happily…..lots of cups of tea and more than a few colourful words ….but finally I ended up with an assortment of balls of different size yarn….because the yarn is a blend of natural fibres* I was able to spit and splice the ends together no problem however the frogged yarn was extremely curled and kinked.  I knew knitting with it straight away would cause problems with tension but I was a bit un-sure about what to do next, so it just got put to one side until I had time to sort it out.

kinki skein of alpaca and silk

For Division 2 of the knitalong I’d made a blue shawl which in my head was amazing but if truth be told it wasn’t making my heart skip like I thought it would….I love colour, and like to use lots of combinations together, but this didn’t come out like I’d hoped, perhaps it was more to do with the different textures of the finished shawl….the yarn was a blend of aplaca and silk (artesano) and the woolly pips were vintage tapestry wool….I was wearing the shawl but not as much as I had hoped….but then I listened to the Alpaca Love episode on the Shinybees podcast and thought about un-ravelling it to give the yarn a second chance…..

I know that un-ravelling something that has taken hours to make seems a bit daft but the time I spent making it was also time I spent learning so I’m not un-ravelling what I learnt or the experience I’ve gained from knitting/crocheting either item, it’s just the yarn will now be getting the chance to become something that will more suitable.

Jo at Shinybees was very kind to explain in an email the best way to un-kink the yarn and so I spent a few hours frogging and winding the yarns into balls which I then wound into skeins using the upturned legs of one of our dining chairs (I don’t have a swift but found the chair legs to work fine in a pinch)….while I was skeining up the aplaca silk yarn, I also wound the balls of Shilasdair yarn into skeins at the same time.

washed skeins of aplaca and silk

The skeins were tied off in 4 points around the circumference and  was placed into a sink of tepid warm water with a small capful of Eucalan wool wash…I left the yarn to soak and relax in the water for around 15/20 minutes, held the yarn against the side of the sink while the water drained out, gently pressing the yarn against the sink to ease out a bit more water, carefully lifted the wet skeins out of the sink and laid them out flat on to a couple of old towels, rolled one towel with the skein inside up into a sausage and squeezed firmly as I rolled…this helps remove as much water as possible.  Finally, I just left the skeins on blocking mats to dry.

Each day I’d gently shake the skein before turning it on itself so the inside of the skein had a chance to dry as well……

washed skeins of shilasdair

I used the same method for the Shilasdair yarn as well and think the results for both yarns are pretty amazing……the Shilasdair has probably come out the best, but there’s not much in it….there’s just the fainest ripple left in the alpaca/silk but nothing to fret over.

Both yarns look quite transformed and almost as good as new.

a makeshift nostepinne

And while I’m waiting to buy a swift I’m also thinkng to buy a nostepinne, I’ve seen some really beautiful ones that are made in Wales that have set my heart a racing, however in the mean time I’ve cobbled together something that is very make do but which serves it purpose fine……

Not the most attractive bit of kit in my knitting bag I’ll agree but I’ve found it very useful. I’ve made my “nostepinne” from the cardboard roll that is in the middle of kitchen paper towel.  I cut open one edge of the roll lengthwise so I could roll it up a bit tigher, and also made a couple of notches along the bottom so it would hold the yarn securely…..the yarn being wound around it holds int nice and secure so no sellotape or glue is needed…..it really is the most simplest of makes.

One of the best videos I found for how to use a nostepinne is just here (her accent is just lovely)…..

centre pull ball of yarn

It’s not as fast as a ball winder but still makes for a nice central pull ball of yarn……some of the shop bought balls of yarn I’ve bought have been really tangly and delighted the cat far too much as masses of yarn would spew forth each time I tugged the yarn out from the middle, so I’ve re-wound a couple of them using the nostepinne and have found the yarn much more manageable (much to the cat’s disappointment).

I’ve also wound up a couple of shop bought skeins which I had to hold open around my feet while they were balanced on piles of cushions (the skeins were too large for the chair legs)….not ideal but it did the job.

 

*My Shilasdair yarn is a blend of cashmere,angora, baby camel and merino lambswool.  The new blend has replaced the cashmere with alpaca.

Wrinkled apples and the sound of my knitting…..

jamieson and smith aran wool knitted up using 6mm needles

The cupboards were getting a bit bare of basics after the holidays so I had to pop down to the shops at the start of the week, after a proper damp,dull and dismal weekend weather wise, which was actually a rather nice one for us…boyfriend spent the time stripping his computer and tinkering with it on the table and I sat on the sofa half watching old black and white films while knitting my shawl with Bernard asleep in a windowsill or on the back of the nana chair supervising… Monday surprised us by being really bright, and splendid, all clear blue skies and birds chirping.  It properly felt like the start of a brand New Year,  clean and fresh and brimming full of potential and who know whats.

Walks to the shop involve strolling past the crab apple trees, skeletal and nubbly limbed with the odd mouldering leaf or fruit attached to twiggy tips.  I’m so happy I made the syrups and jellies with the apples, it feels like I’ve captured a small piece of warm September, all orange sunshine and sweetness.  Across the path are some bigger apple trees in a neighbours garden,a few wrinkled old apples still remain on bare leafed and gnarly branches, vinegary scented ghosts of Autumn, flame red, amber and golden yellow…..they’re the same yellow as my shawl.

stitch markers along the patterned section

I love this golden mustard hue so much, evocative of so many things I see out on my marshy meanders, yellow bottomed bees, gorse and broom blossoms when it’s all overcast, October leaves and lichen on trees and the goldenrod that grows in abundance around my favourite blackberry bush…..it’s such a warm colour and will even match my Ella Gordon gloves….As it’s wool the colour seems that much more warm, it’s a strong colour but it’s such a natural and familiar one, not eye aching and somewhat vomity coloured like some acrylics I’ve seen…..

As the shawl widens, rows become slower to knit and progress seems to dawdle along, but each time I get up to make tea I can see the fabric gradually growing.  When I knitted the shawl the first time I didn’t have a whole lot of idea as to what I was doing and whethe ri was knitting it wrong, so I kept close watch on the number of stitches each row had, writing down how many increases the pattern was making each time a new row was finished…and after a while I began to be able to count and work out how many sttiches I should expect to have on my needles……

stitch markers help me keep my place

When I first knitted the cloverleaf pattern I was rather worried I’d lose count and tied in bits of old wool every sequence of pattern, and that worked fine but I thought using beaded sttich markers might be a bit nicer….and I like the weight the beads give to the feel of my knitting (it’s the same with my pens, I always favour the heaviest lumpiest old fountain pens to anything lightweight and streamlined.)

glass bead stitch markers

Some Christmases ago my boyfriend bought me a box of delights, a little leather suitcase full brimming with vintage haberdashery pieces…along with a pair of beautifully sharp embroidery scissors and Dewhurst Sylko threads, were no end of little boxes and tins, and I felt rather like Howard Carter opening them all to see what was hiding inside…”wonderful things”…… one of the tins of wonderful things held a collection of glass beads all strung in a higgedly piggedly way, and I’ve always wanted to use them but have never really known what to make with them…..a lot of my fancy sewing or knitting notions have been presents from friends, family, people I  love who I straight away think of when I use these pieces….and so I thought to make some stitch markers with the beads then I’d be using them plenty rather than have them just sit all tucked away and half forgotten.

home made stitch markers

I was going to use jump rings as I’ve already got some stitch markers that use those, but they do snag a little if I’m not super careful, luckily the Jamieson and Smith wool is nice and robust and can cope with the odd catch or snag but I wouldn’t want to use those markers on anything too delicate..then I remembered an old jewelry fixing I had kept and ferreted away from a broken necklace, it was part of a toggle clasp and I thought it would be perfect, so I bought a little packet of them and spent some time over the holidays making stitch markers from the beads…so now when I use them I think of my boyfriend but also Ian* and his dirty little hands as I suspect it was him who had threaded up the beads originally.

The little head pins I used were from a local bead shop and they have tiny silver pearls at the bottom of the pin which fitted up against the beads perfectly…I’ve found the toggle clasps fit up to a 6mm needle fine….they feel so nice to use, and really do help me stop making some silly mistakes with my knitting.

What with the shuffling rapsy sound of the wool and the soft wooden resonance of my needles, the jingling of the markers is making me feel and sound somewhat like a one man band when I’m knitting…..

 

*inside the sewing box was a piece of carefully preserved card with rows of brightly coloured wool sewn in a running stitch…on the back was a note from a very proud grandma…..it’s become one of my most beloved treasures and I wouldn’t part with it for the world.

 

My grannies paperweight crochet scarf……

tapestry wool grannies paperweight scarf

After what seems like an extraordinary amount of time, my grannies paperweight crochet scarf is now all fit for modelling in the Autumn sunshine….

A few years ago I fell in love with the Grannies Paperweight crochet pattern (otherwise known as the African Flower pattern) after seeing a beautiful blanket on Flickr by Andamento, and after I tried it out using acryllic yarn (and not particularly caring for the results), I then thought it would be the perfect project to make using tapestry wool as that seems to come in a million and one different colours, certainly a wider range than most wool companies produce.

crocheted hexagons for the grannies paperweight blanket

I was very happy with the results, wonderful combinations of colours that took me by surprise blended together perfectly, and making hexagons that varied often only a little in rich and gentle hues and tones of one colour made the crochet pulsate and look like a jewel box when it was being spread out on the carpet while it slowly grew bigger.

While I was still making the blanket I began to think of other ways I could use this pattern and because as soon as the joined hexagons became large enough, I was finding myself wrapping them around my shoulders, I thought about making something I could wear out and about…I love being able to fling something around myself in dramatic and affected way (think Miss Piggy having a full blown diva moment) and so I began work on a scarf.

a vintage palette

While I’ve been crocheting the tapestry wool I’m aware that the wool varies in thickness somewhat from brand to brand, and that I use particular brands differently..

Certain vintage brands like Penelope or Beehive are slightly fuzzy and I think these work best either for round three or for joining the hexagons together. Vintage anchor wool from old needlepoint kits is also very good for joining the hexagons together.

More modern Anchor, DMC and Rowan wools are plumper and seem to work better for the other rounds.

If you live in America then you should be able to source “Elsa Williams” needlepoint yarn (I was lucky to buy some a few years ago via Ebay)…this is a really nice wool, perfect to use for all the rounds.
Jamieson's wool pile

 

Although you don’t have to use tapestry wool (indeed, if I had the budget I’d use wool from  Jamieson’s of Shetland or Jamieson and Smith as both their colour ranges are really rather breath-taking) it was a lot more affordable than you’d think.  Most of the wool I’ve used has been sourced from Antique shops/flea markets/ jumble sales/ charity shops/car boots….very little has been purchased new (although I’m a sucker for DMC shade number 7120 and I never find that second hand…it’s a lovely soft barely there pink, the colour of faded rose petals)

crochet colourwork 002

Generally before I start anything I like to have a little play around with colour,  I always up-end a big bag of tapestry wool and have a good old mess about with the different wools, comparing colours and different tones together.

And I’ll often paint out combinations of particular colours I have a fancy to before crocheting….sometimes the colours work, sometimes they don’t but I never see this time spent as wasted.

how to granny paperweight in stages 003

To make a scarf you’ll need to start off by making 4 rounds of a grannies paperweight hexagon.

I found it a bit easier to make a dozen or so little circles for the centre of the hexagon at a time, before making them bigger and working on the other rounds..

a basket of woolly centres

(these are a whole load of little half hexagons that I got a tad carried away with making…..)

When I was first trying to learn how to make a grannies paperweight hexagon, the very best tutorial I found for making them  was on lovely  Heidi Bear’s blog, and her tutorial on making them is exceptional, however she makes her hexagons larger than mine,  I prefer to make them smaller as I think it makes the colour more intense.  She also suggests using a 5mm hook but I find a smaller hook size suits me better.

how to granny paperweight in stages 010

I found I got a nicer result when I used two different hook sizes.  (the smaller hook pokes through those top stitches of round 3 a treat and then helps form a nice dense band of colour when you join the hexagons together.

For the first 3 rounds I use a 4 mm hook and then change to a 3.25mm hook for rounds 4 and 5.

As well as changing hook size I also changed the type of hook…I prefer to use a Clover Soft Touch for the 4mm hook and then I switch to a Brittany wooden hook for the 3.25. (The Brittany hook has a lovely pokey tip and I found it was smoother than the Clover one)

playing with crochet hexagons

After you’ve made a dozen or so hexagons (only up to round 4),  you can begin to lay them out, have a play with which hexagons look best together. This bit is so much fun, it’s  rather like a jigsaw puzzle where, although all the pieces are the same shape, positioning a piece in a particular place either works (making all it’s neighbours sing) or looks a bit pants.

joining together corochet hexagons

Once you’re happy with your arrangement, you can begin to join them together,

Heidi has a lovely easy to follow tutorial on how to join the hexagons just here.

The hexagons are placed together a bit like bricks on top of one another, 1, then 2, then 1 then 2 and so on until the scarf is at the length you require.  Both ends of the scarf will be finished with a single hexagon.

crocheted half hexagons fill in the side gaps

The sides will each have a row of half hexagon gaps along them, these will then be filled with half hexagons.

starting fourth colour

I found it easier to make the half hexagons once the whole ones had been made and joined together as they are crocheted back and forth rather than in a round and it gave me a headache trying to switch back and forth.

I was also able to spread the scarf out and make a note of any particular colours I felt were lacking or that I thought would fit in nicely.

joining in

Joining in the half hexagons is a bit more fiddlesome than joining together the whole ones.  At this point I often stop and make a pot of tea.

grannies paperweight crochet scarf, tails and all

Once all the hexagons have been joined together then it’s time to sew in all those troublesome woolly tails.
While I appreciate that there is a way where you can work your woolly tails in while you crochet (and save yourself the what seems like an endless amount of time sewing in umpteen ends) whenever I try to do it that way my crochet looks all lumpy and mis-shapen….so I’m a woolly tail sewer, but if you can do it the other way, then go ahead as it will save you a fair amount of time.
grannies paperweight scarf
Once all the tails are sewn in then the scarf is almost ready.  (if you want you can wear it like this but I find the half hexagons are often a bit lumpy so crocheting all the way around the scarf makes it look a lot neater.

work along the second edge

I used Jamieson’s of Shetland wool (double knit weight) as it was perfect to use for the edging as it was almost the same weight as the tapestry wool.

I used a Brittany 3.25 hook to crochet the edging.

I use slightly less stitches when I crochet across the edge of the half hexagon as it flattens off any “fat tummies” that may be bulging out from the sides of the scarf. (it’s like “magic tummy knickers” for your crochet.)

Once the edging has been crocheted then I’d really recommend gently washing your scarf in a special wool conditioner (tapestry wool isn’t the softest in the world) and then blocking it out and allowing it to dry thoroughly.

grannies paperweigh scarf

The scarf has two “pointy” ends which I think would look fantastic finished with super fat pom poms (however my boyfriend has very somber tastes and I think pom poms on this scarf would be the very end of enough for him.)

Using a little bit of what seems to be about every colour there is going means this will look just  perfect worn with anything, there’s nothing it won’t look spectacular with.

paperweight flowers and a peek of braids

My hexagons are made up of 5 rounds, each round has 2 ends or tails so 10 per hexagon (even the halfsies which doesn’t really seem fair) so that’s 690 woolly tails to sew in when you’re all finished crocheting.

Regarding how much yarn is used…these are approximate measurements as it varies a little on which brand of wool you’re using (as they differ in thickness)

Whole hexagons

round one…..60 inches

round two…98 inches

round three…155 inches

round four…91 inches

round five  (where you join into two sides*)…169 inches

Half hexagons

round one…43 inches

round two…55 inches

round three….87 inches

round four………53 inches

round five  (joining the half hexagon to three sides)…127 inches

Tapestry wool skeins vary from 9 yards up to 15 yards.  There are 36 inches in a yard.

For my scarf I made 43 whole hexagons and 26 half hexagons using roughly about 948 yards of wool for all the hexagons.  I forgot to measure the wool for the edging but it doesn’t use all that much.  (a ball of dk wool will be plenty)

grannies paperweight scarf using tapestry wool

This has really been Inspired  by memories of buying a little paper bag full of fair rock from the shop down the road when I was small (sadly an old time sweetie that doesn’t seem to have been resurrected), mixed in with those beautiful millefleur paperweights that you often find in antique centres and sumptously embroidered velvet collars on evening coats designed by Paul Poiret, I’ve made this scarf so you can wrap yourself all up in every colour under the sun and then some.

Please understand, this isn’t a weekend make, it’s going to take a while (I started mine in the Spring of 2013 or thereabouts and though I wasn’t working on it all the time it won’t be fastest scarf you ever crochet) but I think it’s worth it.

I’d also like to thank Heidi Bears so much for her tutorials which made sense of how to make this hexagon.

A vintage style patchwork knitting bag…….

a vintage style knitting bag

At the start of the Summer I had a brief and rather passionate fling with hexagon paper piecing, sewing them seemed to fill every moment and I became somewhat obsessed and after umpteen cushions had been sewn then thought to make myself a big, fling it across my shoulders tote bag, sadly what in my head looked amazing, in reality was rather pants, so after some colourful language I unpicked the pieces and thought about using the patchwork for a granny style knitting bag (I’ve already got 3 but I really like this type of bag and the ones I have are all full with different works in progress that will one day maybe get finished……)

I wanted to make a nice big bag that along with whatever I was knitting, would also accommodate a book, and a few sewing/knitting supplies.

lay the pattern on your patchwork

After drafting up what I felt was a decent size bag I then set about making sure the hexagon patchwork  I’d already pieced would be big enough, and then sewed together hexagons for a back to match.

I had some striped fabric that was possibly mattress ticking (no doubt car boot treasure which I’d been saving to one side), which I thought would be nice and sturdy for lining, and which would give a bit of weight to the bag.

To stop my paper pattern from flying about I use large washers that I bought from my local ironmongers, they’re about 20 pence each and are surprisingly heavy, they’re about 2 inches square so aren’t huge but do the job (and super cheap to boot).

hand pieced patchwork for a knitting bag

You’ll need to cut two pieces for the outside of the bag and then two pieces the same size for the lining.  I included a half inch seam allowance in my pattern.

pin the pocket section to the lining

Because I’m always losing stitch markers and those rubbery things you stick on the top of knitting needles to stop them poking you in the eye or whatever, I thought I’d include some pockets in my bag…..this is pretty much what I do when I make a tote/market bag else I’m constantly having to delve down in the bottom of my bag and feel rather like James Herriot.

My pockets are about 8 inches deep, along the top of each I’ve hand sewn some grey binding so it looks a bit neater than just turning the seam over. (though I could have done that and then sewn binding along the back)

One of the pockets I’ve divided into 3 and the other by 2, just pin equal distances along from the edges and sew up  from the bottom to where the binding is sewn.  I followed the lines on the fabric but if you use a non striped fabric then maybe you’ll want to pencil in a sewing line. (I also just pinned the fabric around the outside to stop it wiggling about too much while I was sewing.)

pin the lining sections together

Lay the 2 lining section together with the pocket sides facing each other, pin them together, and measure up about 12 inches.  This is how far up you’ll want to pin your sides. (if you click the picture to make it bigger, you’ll see that there is a pin placed horizontally along the side where your sewing will need to start and end.)

measure up about 12 inches from the bottom

Now do exactly the same for the main fabric of your bag, right sides together and pin around the outside edge.

cut out notches from around the edges

Once both pieces have been sewn you’ll need to cut little notches around the sewn edge, this gives the edge a smoother and neater look when you turn the bag inside out.

It’s not really necessary to do this for the lining although I found because my lining fabric was quite heavy it needed it but if you’re using a light weight fabric then I don’t think you’d need to do it.)

Whenever I’m cutting notches I use a pair of button hole scissors from Merchant and Mills…these are totally brilliant scissors which have a fat and stubby blade so you can’t get carried away and cut out huge pieces from your work.  Honestly, as far as I’m concerned these scissors are worth their weight in gold, I use mine all the time.

pin around the edges

Turn the main fabric “bag” inside out and pin the edges out around where you’ve sewn, some of the patchwork may be a bit on the stiff side so you’ll need to shove your hand in and nudge out the edge with your fingers.

For the top where you haven’t sewn, fold over about half an inch and pin the edges over.

tack around the edges of the bag

After the edges have been pinned you’ll want to tack or baste the sides and edges.  I prefer to use one colour for the edge where I’ve sewn and then a different colour for the top edges.  (if you click on the image you’ll see I’ve used pink for the main body and then blue thread for the tops…this just makes it easier when I un-pick the stitches.)

Cover the patchwork with a cloth and give it a press.  (my fabric was a proper jumble, wool, cotton, silk, synthetic, covering it with a cloth just protected the fabric and also my iron.)

One the bag is pressed, un-pick the tacking from the main body (the pink thread.) but leave the thread in place that is keeping the top sides in position.

pockets

You also need to pin and stitch the top sections of the lining but don’t turn it inside out.  Make sure you pin and tack the sides so the raw edge is sewn against the back.  The pockets will be facing forwards.

If you squish the lining bag out a bit you’ll see how the pockets form.

pin the lining in place

Place the lining in to the main fabric bag, line up the edges and where they meet pin into place (I’ve used a pin horizontally in the picture)….. then pin the top sides together, working upwards from the horizontal pin.

If the sides don’t quite match and the two top edges of the bag don’t lay flat together you may need to un-pick the turned sides of the lining and just adjust them so that the top section lays flat.

pin some binding over the patchwork edge

Along the edge of the patchwork I like to just sew a piece of binding to protect the edge.  In part it’s because the patchwork is hand sewn and where it’s cut to form the shape of the bag it’s easy for the stitching to come un-done, it also gives a bit more security to this part of the bag (it’s where it goes through the slit in the handle).

hand sew the binding over the patchwork edge

And then just sew the binding in place.  You don’t need to sew in a big piece, maybe 4 inches at most.

I’ve not used it on the lining fabric as that is proper sturdy being a type of mattress ticking.

feed the fabric through the handle

Slide the top of the outer fabric through the slit in the bag handle.

I find it easier at this point to lay the washers or weights on top of the handle to keep the fabric in place.

You can also see where the binding is supporting the edge of the patchwork.

pin the lining into position

Fold over the lining and pin it in place along where the main fabric is folded.

If it’s a bit wiggly it doesn’t matter at this stage, you can adjust it so it looks neater once both sides are pinned.

pin around the lining inside the bag

Pin the pieces all together and check that everything is laying straight and that the bag is hanging right before you begin sewing.

I find it’s easiest to un-pin the two sides of the back (or front) before sewing the handle section, that way my hand can slide in and I can check I’m not sewing through too many layers of fabric.  I use a small whip stitch like when I’m hand piecing over papers.

check it sits neatly before sewing

Once both handles are sewn and I’ve checked that the bag is hanging nicely, I then whip stitch the sides together, sewing up from the centre where I placed the horizontal pin up to about an inch from the wooden handle (this allows the handle a little room and the bag will swing nicely when filled with wool.)

ready to fill with wool and needles

Once the sides are sewn together you’re all ready to fill your bag with wool and needles (and a packet of Werther’s Originals will fit nicely into one of those pockets).

These are a few of my car boot needles, lovely wooden needles that make a calming and resonant clickety clack when I’m knitting with them.

The wool is from my lovely local knitting shop and is a wonderfully soft blend of alpaca and Peruvian highland wool, which I’m planing to knit up in to a nice big scarf as soon as I can make my mind up on a suitable pattern (I’ve got three skeins in an aran weight  and am thinking I may be needing more as I prefer a scarf that really can be wrapped round that one extra time.)

A hexagon how to without sewing through the papers…..

threaded needles

What can I say…it’s like an addiction, little 2 inch wide hexagons have started to take over all and everything…there is a pile of ironing draped over the bannisters upstairs that is threatening to tumble at any moment and a list of chores as long as my arm but all I want to do is make hexagons and sew them together…..

I’ve become like those ladies at Bingo with all their cards spread out before them…instead of cards though it’s umpteen needles all threaded up with different coloured basting and tacking threads, to keep stopping and starting to thread a needle is an interruption to the hexagons so I like to thread up nearly two dozen assorted “sharps” and applique needles and pin them to the cloth on my sewing table…nothing is coming between me and my hexagons.

pin over the first corner

The other day I wrote about how I like to empty out a scrap box of fabric and make hexagons from a proper old assortment of prints and fabrics…..for the most part I don’t fuss too much about ironing the fabric first, I’m happy to just pin and cut round the papers.

When I sew the fabric around my papers I do it a bit differently from how you may have seen other people do it, I don’t sew through the papers but just through the fabric. I don’t have any problems with the hexagons dropping out while I’m working and it saves me the bother of having to un-pick all those tacking stitches.  For the most part I use a generous 1/4 inch seam allowance, veering towards 5/8 of an inch, but even then it’s only guessed at.

I wrote about this briefly the other day but was later asked if I could explain how I sew the hexagons in place so that they aren’t loose and liable to drop out when you pick them up….

I start off placing a hexagon on the fabric, pin though the centre and cut around the fabric leaving the seam allowance…..then fold the fabric over one side of the paper shape and then carefully down over from the top, you want the fabric nice and tight around the paper…and then pin into place, going through both the paper and fabric.  Depending on the type of fabric I’ll sometimes pin every other corner or even every corner if it’s particularly slippery fabric…..however after a while of making the hexagons, you may find for some fabrics you don’t need to pin all the corners but instead can fold the fabric over as you sew round….always pin the first corner though as it keeps the fabric that bit more secure. (it also helps if you have long nails to hold the fabric in place…if not you may find using pins easier)

fold and hold corner into place

Fold the fabric down along the top edge and the bring the fabric over from the side so you have a second corner covered, hold the fabric securely with your thumb nail (apologies for my grubby nails but I’d been weeding earlier in the day)…just like before, you want the fabric to be nice and tight around the paper template.

secure the fold with a series of small stitches

Using a fine sharp needle make a series of small stitches through the layers of fabric but not thought the paper to hold the corner seam in place….

make the stiches as small as you can

Start at the bottom of the fold and carefully make 3 or 4 stitches upwards to the top of the fold…try to use small stitches and insert your needle almost directly under the line of where the fold edge lays….work up to the top and then make one or two stitches back down to the bottom again….keep working round in this manner.

Keep the end pin in place until you are ready to sew the last corner, and keep the central pin in place until the last corner is actually sewn.

finished patchwork hexagon

As you sew the fabric, the hexagon is rotated clockwise however as you move your hands it feels like you are working anti-clockwise so it feels a bit odd to begin with.

Using really sharp and fine needles does help a lot as does using good quality tacking thread….I tend to favour vintage cotton thread as that seems to be less tangley, but more often than not I just pick out what thread is in my sewing basket.

I also find it easier to use a contrasting coloured thread to the fabric so I can see my stitches easier.

For hexagons that have sides wider than an inch, you may like to run your thread along the fabric in a series of small running stitches, still avoiding going through the papers.

I’ve found this method works fine on hexagons with sides of up to 2 inches (4 inches wide across the centre of the hexagon)…when they get bigger than that then you may prefer the security of sewing though the papers themselves as the sides do begin to gape a little.

It’s also better for your needles, we all know cutting paper with fabric scissors will blunt them quicker than anything so sewing through all the papers can’t be good for needles, some needles can be sharpened in a bag of emery but the Clover Black Gold ones won’t like that treatment one bit (the black coating comes off…..

Colour clash and patchwork for the sofa……………..

hand pieced patchwork cushion

This week I’ve been hand piecing hexagons over papers and have just finished making a pair of cushions for the sofa….in fact I’ve found sewing the hexagons together so addictive that I’m now well on the way to making a third cushion (I’m planing on making a big square cushion for the nanny chair as Bernard is already showing an interest in these ones…)

It’s a bit of a colour clash against the crochet blanket but I quite like that, the more colour on there the better in my book.

These came about from me having one of my many tidy ups (I start way more of them than I ever seem to finish) and in one basket I found a whole load of small hexagons (over 400 of them) and thought I should get on and do something with them…I’d pretty much said to myself that I wouldn’t start something new until I’d finished a few of the items in the pile of half made things in the bottom of the wardrobe and squeezed in amongst the shelves of fabric…but a little voice said these would definitely count towards finishing off a half started project……so after making two cushions and using up over half of the hexagons I feel I deserve a couple of gold stars for sure…..

fabric sewn over papers

The hexagons are all 2 inches wide (1 inch wide sides) and pretty much just use fabric from stash box hoards….some of the fabric is newish (I count anything from the last 15 years or so as new) and then there are fabrics which are older, most of these come from when two friends who had sewn for years gave me huge bags full of scraps accumulated over a lifetime of sewing…..there’s some car-boots pieces in there too, and I guess if you read my blog you’ll recognize several fabrics that turn up time and time again in my patchwork makes……

I don’t sew the fabric directly through the paper, instead I prefer to secure it at the corners and run the basting or tacking thread along the back, it sounds a bit fiddly but this works for me and I find it’s good because then I don’t have to take out any tacking stitches at the end.  The papers are held in place fine and don’t drop out like you’d think they would. and when I’m all finished then the papers can be popped out no trouble.

By themselves some of the fabrics are a bit….frumpy or fogey-fied (old fashioned in a bad way), but when they all get mixed together they look much better…also I think the prints look good because you only see a small part of them.

whip sttich the two pieces together using an applique needle

I’m cheap so I make my own papers, you can now buy hexagon paper punches which if you do a lot of English paper piecing would save you money in the long run, however I know Sew and Quilt now stock an amazing range of hexagon papers (and other shapes too if your maths isn’t up to drafting all those triangles and diamonds)….the paper piecing goes a lot easier if you use really fine and sharp “sharps” or applique needles….Clover Gold Eye are a favourite of mine, and I also keep a look out for vintage “sharps” as I find they’re lovely and strong and super super skinny.

I also like using Clover Wonder Clips, I’ve got the small size and they hold the hexagons together so well, a lot less prickly than trying to jiggle patchwork held together with pins*.

Start by clipping two hexagons together, and secure your thread with a few stitches along the back in one of the corners where the fabric is folded over on itself,  then whip stitch tiny stitches along one edge of the hexagons to join them together…when you get to the corner, work back down for a couple of stitches to secure the thread.

joining in a third hexagon

When you attach the third hexagon into place you start off like before, secure the thread into the back where the fabric is folded over on itself and use a wonder-clip at the end of the first edge of the hexagon to hold it into place and sew along the two touching sides, when you reach the end of that join, tuck the needle out of the way…..

secure the end while you begin sewing the second side

Then fix the wonder-clip into place so it keeps the second edge of the third hexagon secure, and now begin sewing tiny whipped stitches along this new edge.  The paper hexagons will fold really easily so you can bend them over in your hands as you are sewing along the edges.

start off with a cluster of seven hexagons

Keep joining the hexagons around the first shape until you have your first cluster of hexagons……at this point you can join two clusters together to make a very traditional pin cushion.  This is also how I made my hexagon bunting.

I really like to spread the hexagons all around where I’m working, I try to use as many different prints and patterns as possible and by spreading out and making a bit of a pickle, I get to see more of the available choices that are waiting to be picked up and sewn into place…..

sewing  hexagons around the outside edge

Keep working outwards, I prefer to piece until I’ve got a few rounds made before I fill in the sides, although sometimes I join up lots of smaller clusters together rather than making one big piece.  (If I’m on the train then making small 7 piece clusters is easier than manoeuvering about one big piece)…….

This was how I worked the hexagon wrap that I made my eldest sister the other year for her birthday….however because I want these hexagons for a big square cushion then I’m finding it easier to keeping working outwards until it’s the height I want….a couple more rounds and I think I’ll be there.

*when I’m sewing patchwork together like for “dear ethel” and aren’t sewing over papers, then I use pins, but when I’m sewing over papers then I find the Wonder Clips hold the papers together neater and I’m not having to force a pin through two pieces of paper.

Binding a mitred corner…….

fold over the binding to form a a neat corner

 

In the last of my posts about binding a quilt, I wanted to explain how to mitre the corner…..it seems really fiddly and okay, it is a bit, but a neatly mitred corner looks so nice that any fiddlesomeness is well worth the effort.  It’s just important not to rush it.

Once the binding has been sewn into place on the front, fold the binding over along the 1 inch pressed seam so you have a nice folded edge to sew along. The corner neatly folds up and sits on top of itself.

 

tuck the binding over

 

Turn the binding over, it pretty much rolls over the edge of the quilt, and will reveal the neatly folded corner that you made when sewing the binding to the front.

 

hold in position

 

Pin or clip the corner on the back.  (I like to use Wonder Clips made by Clover)  When you were sewing the binding to the front using a back stitch, a row of stitches formed on the back.  This is the guide for sewing the binding to the back.  It’s important that you’ve clipped enough away from the corner so that the corners can be mitred neatly, so I like to check this by seeing if the corner pulls down comfortably enough to the corners of the sewing guide (where the two lines of back stitches meet).  Sometimes I have to clip a little bit of wadding away if it is still a bit bulky.

 

clip either side and release central holding pin

 

Now clip or pin the binding over the edge of the quilt into position.  You can remove the corner clip or pin at this stage as it’s no longer really required.

 

fold over to inside corner

 

Nudge the bottom binding right up into the corner, and give it a bit of a press with your thumbnail to stay in place (you can pin or clip it if you like.)

 

sew along the edge into the corner

 

Using a slip stitch (in some books it is called a whip stitch) sew along the folded edge of the binding, securing it to the back of the quilt just above the sewn guide line.  Sew the binding in place along into the corner.

 

fold over  and slip stitch edge of the coner into place

 

With the needle just tucked out of the way, bring the next side of the binding over and check that it forms a neat edge.  You may need to very slightly tuck the diagonal edge underneath with the point.

 

fold over other edge and pin or clip into place

 

Once the seam has been tucked under and the binding edges meet exactly and form a neat diagonal, pin the top binding down into position.

 

a nicely mitred corner

 

Turn the quilt over to check that it looks neat from the front.  Sometimes the corner is a bit lumpy, you may need to unpick it and re-sew to neaten it.  This can be caused if enough care wasn’t taken when the binding was sewn onto the front.

 

bring the needle round to the beginning of the folded corner

 

Bring the threaded needle out at the bottom of the folded seam.

I like to use Clover Black Gold Applique needles for sewing the binding as I find they’re really sharp and pointy, and are excellent for really fine stitches.

 

using just tiny slip stitches, sew the fold into place

 

Carefully slip stitch the folded corner closed.

 

then continue slip stitching along the rest of the binding

 

I generally find that tiny stitches make for a neater finish.  When you get to the top, make an extra slip stitch to keep the fold secure, before moving your needle slightly and then slip stitching the next binding edge into place.

 

the mitred corner from the back

 

And that is your mitred corner finished.  Once all the corners have been sewn, I turn the quilt over and then hand sew each of the front corner folds down using tiny slip stitches.  I do this last in case any of them need un-picking to reshape in case they’ve come out a bit on the lumpy side.

I hope these posts have shown how easy it is to make your own binding and how to bind a quilt with mitred corners.  At some point I do intend to cover other binding methods that you may not be familiar with.