Here’s a llama, there’s a llama

Well, I seem to be on a roll. I’d not been allowing myself to start any other projects until my Crazy Stripes cardigan was finished, but I had plenty of projects lining up in the wings.

You may remember this little pile of goodies from this year’s Knitting and Stitching Show.

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Well, in just three days, and with the help of my shiny new Singer overlocker, that llama fabric has become this.

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I added about an inch in length to the body at the tracing stage. Otherwise it’s the same as my previous pink one from the same pattern, though I possibly used less of the seam allowance as I was nervous about the overlocker blade slicing too much off the edges. I wpuld potentially attempt to alter the neckline so it’s not quite so wide, were I to make this top again. But in general, I’d say I’m pretty pleased with this make.

Now, what shall I make next?

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Finally finished!

Please forgive the utterly dreadful photo, but I just couldn’t wait to show you this. Its been about 2 years, and an awful lot of procrastination in the making, but today I finally knuckled down to sewing in the last few ends and attaching the buttons.

Loooooooook!

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It really needs blocking, but I’m so pleased it’s done that I’ve just thrown it on and started wearing it. I’ll block it when it gets washed.

Now I can allow myself to move on to other projects. Hooray!

What’s the longest you’ve worked on a project for?

Toothless flies again

Those of you who have been around for a while may remember the Toothless cake that I made for Pumpkin’s birthday a couple of years ago. He still loves How To Train Your Dragon, both the books and the TV series, so of course, having been Hiccup last year, he requested to be Toothless for this year’s World Book Day.

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Despite him giving me plenty of notice of his character choice, I of course left everything to the last minute and was only saved by the snow which caused the dress up day at school to be postponed by a week. In the end I still cut it ridiculously fine, sewing in the morning while the boys ate breakfast and pinning the wings on him as we went out of the door!

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I bought a plain black hoodie and jogging trousers as the basis for the costume. I marked out and cut a straght line up the back of the hoodie to insert the dragon spines.

I drafted pattern pieces on paper for the spines and cut them out of some leftover black jersey and used a bit of iron on interfacing to stiffen them a little.

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For the head of the dragon, I drafted the ears/horns on paper and again cut them from black jersey and padded them a little to get the right shape and make them stand up a little, and hand-sewed them in place on the top of the hood.

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I found some perfect green cotton fabric at the Knitting and Stitching Show to make Toothless’ cat-like green eyes. I googled to find out the best way to do the pupils and hand-stitched them using black embroidery thread and a satin stitch and was very pleased with how they turned out. I edged them with black jersey to help define the eyes and make them a bit more 3D and stand out a bit more and then sewed them onto the hood.

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The tail was the tricky bit. I didn’t want it attached to either hoodie or trousers as I thought it would get in the way, so I made up a simple belt using some fabric tape I had in my sewing box and a couple of hook and eyes. The tail itself was a long triangle of black jersey. I considered adding some spines down the tail but decided it was a bit fiddly and probably unnecessary, not to mention I was rapidly running out of time. I had just enough black jersey left to make one of the tail fins and cut up an old red T-shirt to make the other fin. I pinched a bit of fusible fleece from my lovely bestie to give them a bit of structure and filled the tail out with toy stuffing.

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A pair of wings was hastily chopped from a bin bag and safety pinned either side of the spines. It was a quick fix but they actually looked quite good, giving a bit of different texture, and I wasn’t worried about them getting snagged on things during the day.

With more time I probably could have improved on it a bit more, but as it was, I was happy and he was happy.

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Good times!

I do enjoy Christmas. The run up is always a little crazy with school nativities and activities, parties, planning and shopping, decorating, preparing and wrapping. I’ve had rehearsals for two different shows as well as taking part in my church carol service – learning the harmonies for various carols has been a particular highlight!

I also ended up with various creative projects on the go too. Along with the apron for my nephew which I showed you last time…

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There was a fair isle hearts hat for my niece. I used the TinCanKnits Clayoquot Toque pattern as the starting point, but changed it up with a folded brim and my own design for the hearts.

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And a wheat bag for my sister in law, which I made from a little corduroy skirt I found in a charity shop. I used my mum’s sewing machine to sew it – she’s got an all singing, all dancing Janome machine that took a little getting used to, but sewing machine aspirations right there! – and filled it with wheat and homegrown lavender.

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There’s also been a fair amount of baking. Vanilla shortbread and slightly experimental apple and cinnamon cupcakes with caramel buttercream (I’ll be making those again!). My first ever meringue kisses made in a hurry to use up some egg whites before we went away for a few days, and my first ever Christmas pudding which fed the family on Christmas Day.

Fortunately, Christmas itself is a time to chill out and spend time relaxing with family and generally not doing too much except eat and wash up and eat some more and keep the kids entertained!

When we travel up to spend time with my family, Mr Jack and I like to spend time on the journey reflecting on the year past. It’s been a good one, with lots of things falling into place following the last couple of years of upheaval with house hunting, moving, school uncertainties etc. The boys are well settled at their new school, and we feel better rooted in our new house and town. I’ve surprisingly become a runner over the last year. I’m loving parkrun, and though I didn’t quite officially meet my target of a sub-30 minute 5k parkrun by Christmas, I have done sub-30 training runs and I’m not far off that at parkrun. I’ve also shed nearly 2 and a half stone thanks to Slimming World. I aimed to be at target by Christmas and was just a couple of pounds away. Technically that’s within the target range anyway, so I’ll call it a win! I feel very boring going on about food and pounds but ultimately I feel so much better for having done it and just for me!

I’ve been involved in some great theatre this year too and am so excited for what’s lined up for next year already. My first turn in ¬†Shakespeare in February followed by a fun musical in March and then I’m booked to see both Harry Potter and Hamilton in London during April.

Then of course there’s also Unravel in Feb and the Knitting and Stitching show in March too. Plenty to be looking forward to.

For now though, I’m going to enjoy a few more days of food and family and a chance to not do much. Maybe I’ll manage to get this second crazy sleeve done before the year is out. Now that would be an achievement!

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Tricky sewing

My nephew’s Christmas list this year included an apron. I’ve been keeping an eye out for one in the shops with no joy, so when I spotted this cute fabric whilst buying black jersey for my sleeves, I decided to make him one instead.

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It’s a pretty simple make and I just used Pumpkin’s apron as a template. The challenge was in dealing with a rather tricky fabric. The shiny vinyl surface sticks to any other smooth surface which makes it tricky to keep it moving through the sewing machine. I used a little washi tape on the under side of the foot and a piece of fabric wrapped around the bed of the machine to help keep it from sticking.

The fabrics also can’t be pinned as they leave puncture holes. I just creased the edges as much as I could and hoped it would stay in line when I sewed.

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Overall it turned out pretty well. Hope the nephew agrees!

Tip top!

I made a top!

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Finding that pile of patterns inspired me to just get on with it. The pattern is New Look K6230. I dug out the pink flowered jersey which I bought as an offcut earlier in the year for practise sewing. I thought an entire top in pink would be a bit much so I investigated a local fabric shop and found the black jersey for the sleeves, which cost me as much for just one metre as all of the pink flowers and the blue flowers fabrics together! I did manage to cut two sets of sleeves and neckbands though, so they’re ready for making another top at some point.

Having not sewn with jersey before, I warmed up by reading a couple of blogs on the subject and referring to a helpful leaflet from Guthrie and Ghani that came with the sewing machine jersey and stretch twin needles I bought at The Knitting and Stitching show.

The pink was quite difficult to sew as it is such a floppy fabric. It was hard to keep it in a straight line without stretching it out. Fortunately the black is much more stable and most of the seams included both fabrics. The top stitching around the neckline was a bit wobbly so I unpicked the front section and had a second go. The most difficult bit was the hem. I had to try various settings on my machine to get the right stitch length and even then had to unpick a section or two that were very untidy.

The end result though, is something that fits and feels pretty comfy to wear and looks half decent! I’ll call that a win!

What new skills are you keen to learn but apprehensive about?

Fair Isle first

I knit another hat. I knit a stranded colourwork hat. I can knit Fair Isle! Woah! This opens up a whole load of new knitting adventures!

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This is the free pattern Clayoquot Toque from Tin Can Knits. They’ve just run a week long blog series on using colour in knitting, which inspired me to have a go at something a bit different from usual. Their post of tips for knitting fair isle was really helpful.

I used Stylecraft Special DK as I have a lot of that in my stash, in a variety of colours. After reading some of the posts on colour choosing strategies, I picked 3 colours that I thought would work well together and would suit Pumpkin, and got knitting. I was surprised by how easy it was once I worked out how to flick with one colour and pick with the other. Rows of three colours were more tricky, but there’s only two of those so it wasn’t too much of a challenge. I loved seeing the pattern emerge and will definitely be knitting more fair isle in the future. Even the floats on the reverse side look quite pretty!

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Pumpkin wanted a pompom added after I took these photos. The pom pom was not entirely successful but it’ll do for now. Pumpkin likes it.

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Now I think I’d better get back to those crazy annoying sleeves.

Coffee table

Well, believe it or not, I’ve managed to complete a second project this week.

I bought this table for the princely sum of eight English pounds from a local charity shop.

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I spent a few hours sanding it down, then spent this week painting the legs using a tin of Autentico chalk paint I had left over from the little desk I did up a couple of years ago.

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I also used the same wallpaper on the under side of the table as I lined the desk with. ¬†Probably, nobody will ever know it’s there, but I like it!

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A coat of wax to seal the paint and finish the bare pine top and job done!

Leaves

I’ve had a quiet week, the like of which I’ve not known for quite some time! The usual school runs and children’s activities have happened as normal, but I’ve had no rehearsals and I’ve run no errands and done no shopping. I needed some downtime. That’s not to say I’ve done nothing at all. I’ve been working on two projects, one of which is still in progress, but I hope to reveal the finished object soon.

The second was a very quick win. I’ve been itching to cast on something different for a long time but have been steadfastly resisting as I want Crazy Stripes finished. I’m so bored of the sleeves though that I’m just not knitting at all. On Tuesday evening I gave in and dug a ball of yarn out of my stash. This yarn was destined to be a hat for Pickle. I bought it a couple of years ago with the intention of making him a Benjamin Bunny hat a la CBeebies Peter Rabbit cartoon. I tried coming up with my own pattern for it but after a couple of attempts, for reasons I don’t recall any more – it probably didn’t fit or didn’t look right – it got frogged and banished to the stash box.

On Tuesday it reappeared, a quick trawl of Ravelry was executed and knitting recommenced. By Thursday evening, it was off the needles and on Pickle’s head.

It’s called Leaf Hat available free on Ravelry. Its a lovely pattern to knit, but unfortunately isnt terribly well written. The guage seems off, although I was adjusting for a difference in yarn weight and for size, and the crown decrease instructions are particularly unclear. Fortunately, reading back through other completed projects often proved useful and someone had taken the time to rewrite that part of the pattern, so it was no bother in the end.

Pickle loves it and it fits well. I’d definitely consider making another! Perfect for cold weather. Maybe he’ll help with raking up the leaves in the garden over the weekend!