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A twirly princess skirt {handmade for Elma}

29/01/2016

A few weeks ago I got an email in my inbox that practically had me bouncing off the ceiling in excitement.

It started innocently enough; would I, by any chance, be interesting in working together on a craft project? – I love craft projects, so I would, and I read on.

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Would I, in fact, be interested in working with Laura Ashley to see what I could come up with to make from their packs of craft fabric fat quarters? Would I? – well never have my fingers felt so slow moving over the keys as when I typed out my ‘trying to play it cool but barely smothering the super-excitement’ reply.  We talked about ideas, I spent so long eyeing up the fat quarter packs on the website that the cookies kept advertising them to me on every other website for at least a week, and then last week a little silver parcel plopped onto the doormat and in it was treasure indeed.

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Laura Ashley was, I suspect, the Cath Kidston of my mother’s generation.  The fabrics were fresh and new and sought after and I still remember the matching Laura Ashley dresses that my sister and I had as our Sunday best for a couple of years (and she had again a couple of years later – the joys of being the younger sister!).  But while I may have a serious weak spot for Cath, nothing has dimmed my affection for Laura, so to get the chance to just play in their fabric collection.  I could have made a hundred different things with such pretty fabric but in the end I knew that for a whole host of reasons, perhaps in an effort to right the balance from my childhood, it was my littlest girl who should be the beneficiary.

I’d originally thought of making some sort of sundress, but when Elma and I opened up the parcel there was just one thing she wanted; a twirly princess skirt.  It was to be long, and it was to be twirly, and that’s all she cared about.  My plan was that if I was going to make something that couldn’t be handed down to Pip then it would have to last for as long as humanely possible.  And so I planned an adjustable waistband, echoing the maternity elastic of some of my pregnancy jeans, so that for now it could be a long twirly skirt, but one with definite room to grow!

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And this is the result: One almost a full circle skirt, made up of 14 panels cut from fat quarters (using all five from the duck egg pack and the two palest purple from the amethyst pack), and sewn together to create a spinning whirl of soft floral colour.  All the details on how to make it, what I used and how the waistband worked are over in my tutorial on the Laura Ashley blog (together with a fabulous tutorial for making a sewing machine cover from the very talented Esther at Inside Out & About that I really ought to try)

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Elma adores it.  She wore it, newly finished, for the photos, and then all that day, and then all the next one so that she could take it to show her playgroup teacher, and I’m pretty certain it’s done duty as part of pyjamas too.20160124-DSC_0056

Her happiness with whatever I made was always the chief motivation behind the project, but I’ll admit that when on Tuesday, when my tutorial appeared actually on the actual Laura Ashley website, I was ready to burst with happiness too – twirling all round!

Joining Crazy Mom Quilts for Finish it up Friday, Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm Craft On and Make Do and Push for Funky Kid Friday

Baby Knitting Designed by me Family Finished Handmade for Pip Knitting Pip

A Golden Pear Pair

12/03/2015

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

It had to be done didn’t it.  They say you can tell a knitter’s child because their hat, scarf and mittens are all made to completely different patterns and in wildly contrasting colours (actually that’s probably true for the knitters too – I’ve never made myself a matching set of anything) and it’s certainly true for my children.  The closest I’ve got to date was making Kitty and Elma sort of matching hats for Christmas but their mittens came from a shop (I know, gasp, the horror) and their hats are wonderfully eclectic and have never yet matched their coats.   But perhaps now was the time to mend my ways, to summon up the courage to knit three things the same, on the basis that they’re small and I can knit them in an evening.

Even half a glance at the leftover yarn suggested I had enough to make a pair of matching mittens, I grasped the nettle of the hat and mitten equivalent of second sock syndrome (what would that be? really itchy wool? or even worse, squeaky acrylic?) and cast on.

And on.

And on.

Never try to design knitwear if you aren’t prepared to spend at least half of your time ripping it out again.  It is for this reason that I have only ever designed small things. Really small things.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

But perseverance pays out and my little boy is now the proud wearer-and-thrower-out-of-the-pram of a very cute little pair of mittens.

His hands aren’t big enough to fit a complete repeat of the Golden Pear pattern so I took that as my inspiration and sized it down slightly. There’s the same amount of ribbing on the cuffs as on the hat as I find I nice deep cuff keeps tiny hands warm and makes it a bit harder for the mittens to be pulled off and so carefully discarded, but the rest is just a little smaller with only three rows of the fairisle rows.  The finished mittens measure 11cm top to bottom and 8cm across and from what Pip will let me measure his hands are 6cm across at the widest part.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

They’re cute, they’re warm and snuggly and I love them.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And I think I might even have enough yarn leftover to make a spare – or maybe a string to attach them to his jumper!       

Pip’s Mittens

To fit a baby of around 6 months.

You will need:

  • scraps of aran weight yarn (worsted) in three colours.  I don’t have scales tiny enough to measure how much they weigh exactly but the pair of them together on my kitchen scales weigh about 20g.  I used Rooster Almerino Aran in Gooseberry (A), Cornish (B) and Rooster (C).
  • 4mm DPNs (or a long circular if you prefer to work magic loop)
  • 4.5mm DPNs (ditto)

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

To make each mitten

  1. Cast on 24 stitches onto 4mm needles using A and join to knit in the round.
  2. Work K1, P1 ribbing for 10 rounds.
  3. (K1 front & back, P1) repeat until the end of the round. (36 stitches)
  4. Change to 4.5mm needles and knit 4 rounds.
  5. Join colour B and work the round (A,B) repeat until the end of the round.
  6. Work 1 round (B, A) repeat until end.
  7. Work 1 round (A, B) repeat until end.
  8. Break yarn A and knit 3 rounds in B.
  9. Join colour C and work the round (B, C) repeat until the end of the round.
  10. Work 1 round (C, B) repeat until end.
  11. Work 1 round (B, C) repeat until end.
  12. Break yarn B and knit 1 round.
  13. (K4, k2tog) repeat until end. (30 stitches)
  14. (K3, k2tog) repeat until end. (24 stitches)
  15. (K2, k2tog) repeat until end. (18 stitches)
  16. (K1, k2tog) repeat until end. (12 stitches)
  17. (k2tog) repeat until end. (6 stitches)
  18. Break yarn, leaving a 6″ tail.  Using a darning needle thread the tail through the remaining stitches, pull tight and fasten off.
  19. Darn in all ends, wash and block and then make the other one.

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Crafty Ideas Crochet Designed by me Handmade Inspiration Knitting Work in Progress

Socks, and the knitwear formerly known as socks

29/01/2015

Once upon a time, long long ago, before I had stretch marks, bags under my eyes and three adorable children, I used to knit rather a lot.  Sort of obsessively. Rather as if I had oodles of free time in which to play with sticks and string.  And about five to six years ago my obsession dedication to that fibre art got quite specific.  I knit socks. A lot of them.  I knit socks for family birthdays, for H, and lots and lots of socks for me.  There were socks in beautiful multicoloured skeins of yarn that coiled and wrapped themselves around my feet in rich velvety swirls of colour, there were the plainer yarns used to knit up the most intricate patterns I could find, cables, lace, knots and leaves, the first pair of socks knitted from my own handspun, and a very memorable pair of pirate argyles, (that alas appear to have gone unphotographed).

And gradually my sock drawer got fuller and fuller and fuller to the point at which I phased out anything that wasn’t either hand knit or for sport.  Similarly H has work socks, sports socks and a beloved collection of fluffy socks that explode out of his drawer at the slightest opportunity.

But the problem with knitting all your socks is that they wear out.  And the problem with knitting all your socks within a 24 ish month period is that they all wear out more or less at once.

And so the casualties have begun.  Worn patches under the ball of the foot, stitches escaping from a hole in the toe and unravelling half way up the foot, odd stitches that you didn’t think were in any danger suddenly giving way mid way through the wash leaving you with a hole big enough to make thumbless mittens by the time you pull it out the machine.

I’ve darned more than a few but it doesn’t seem to extend their life expectancy by more than a couple more wearings before the bit next to the bit I’ve darned all falls apart too.  Clearly I would have failed darning if they’d taught it at school.  I think about throwing them away, and sometimes I even take them out of the drawer and put them on the top with a vague sort of intention to actually move them gently towards the bin, but they never get that far.   I think there’s just too much work in each pair for me to be happy just chucking them away.  I’ve thought about unravelling them and using the yarn for something else, probably a smaller pair of socks, or maybe some stripes, but as much as I like the idea, I also know myself, and I know that that plan is only going to end with a pile of socks insulating a corner of the studio while I cast longing glances at the untouched stash upstairs.

So this year I have a plan.  Well a plan of sorts.  Some of it is a little experimental (but aren’t the best plans always like that) and it starts with a little ruthless attention to the sock drawer.  Everything with a hole in it has come out.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

If it’s a toe up pair then they are no longer candidates for being a pair of socks.  The sock has to go on to pastures new, no plea bargaining allowed.

If I knit them cuff down and the hole is in the toe and there aren’t any other noticeable weaknesses then they’re candidates for re-knitting.  Which is this lot:

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Five pairs, most of them just need a new toe and I’m tempted to say that I’ve got until Easter to get them back into circulation, but don’t quote me on that one.  I have however put the green pair back on the needles for a new toe.  They’re special socks, the colour is called Lucky, I was wearing them for my first ultrasound with Kitty and during a lot of my labour and they’re on the save list for sentimental reasons alone.

And as for the rest of them. Well these are no longer classified as socks.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Which is where the experiment comes in.  I still really don’t want to throw them away. I love those socks, there are hours of my time knit into them, they’re made of yarn that I think is soft and warm and they’ve kept me cosy and warm for so many years.  And they’re beautiful.  Just rather well ventilated.  So the plan is to upcycle them. They’re going to be a blanket.  Or some of them is anyway.

My plan is to slice across the bottom of the cuff just before it expands into the heel.  The foot can’t be saved but the cuff could then be sliced open vertically to give me a square ish sort of shape which could then be crocheted to lots of other former socks to make a knitted patchwork blanket.  Not all the colours will work together and I’m sure some will fall apart somewhere along the line, but what about something that looks a little bit like this:

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I haven’t cut anything open or tried to crochet around all the raw edges so I have absolutely no idea how this is going to work out.  It could be brilliant, it could be utter madness, but having made the momentous admission that these are no longer functioning socks I don’t think I’ve got anything to loose.  It’s time to get the scissors out.

 

Christmas Crafty Ideas Designed by me Elma Family Finished Handmade Kitty

How to make: felt paper-chains {handmade for Christmas}

20/12/2014

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I love paper-chains. There’s something so wonderfully old school Christmas about them isn’t there.  It’s partly the rustle as you thread another loop through and partly the fun of standing up to reveal a long looping garland from the puddle of paper on the floor in front of you.  They are the decorations of primary school, made with sticky glittery fingers on dark afternoons that smell of satsumas, or the budget choice at university for smothering the JCR in the festive spirit. I’ve made some most years that we’ve lived here and then piled them into the Christmas boxes on twelfth night along with the tinsel and the garlands. But there is a problem with paper chains and boxes, somehow, however carefully you coil them in they always come out a bit squished. There has to be another way.

I think the answer, as with so many crafting conundrums, is felt.  It’s soft and flexible so it won’t get too squished, but has the rigidity needed to hold a nice loop shape. Perfect.  And I’m clearly not the only one that thinks so; I saw the felt chain project in the last Mollie Makes and loved it; delicate shades of felt, intricate waste canvas embroidery and secured at each end by a pair of tiny metal press studs; it’s serenely beautiful and if I were to start it we’d be lucky to have three loops by Easter.  What I wanted was something a little faster, and something that my small very excited Christmas helpers could get involved in too.

And here they are. Decorated with glitter glue and held together with velcro they’re sparkly and colourful and warm and everything you could want in a paper chain.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

So if you need a little something for a cold afternoon over the festive period, with the added bonus of making everything sparkly and bright at the end of it, read on.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

For about 12′ of chain you will need:

  • Four A4 sheets of felt. We choose red, blue, turquoise and white with silver stars all over it.
  • Glitter glue in as many different colours as you like.
  • Self-adhesive velcro tape. Really strong velcro dots might work, I just happened to have lots of velcro tape to hand.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I also used my sewing machine and my cutting board, quilting ruler and rotary cutter but you could quite happily substitute needle and thread for the former and a ruler and a pair of scissors for the latter.

We started with the felt, and this is where the girls really came into their own, drizzling, swirling and splatting all over.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

I found the best way to get good coverage was to decorate the whole sheet and then fold it in half as if you were doing a butterfly painting, press it gently with your hands and then open it up and let it dry. Even simple patterns like horizontal squiggles look really effective when overlaid on top of each other.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Then once it’s dry grab your velcro tape. Place the felt in front of you in landscape (wider than it is taller) and apply the hook tape (that’s the scratchy one) across the top of the decorated side.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Then turn it over horizontally (as if you were turning the pages of a book) and apply the eye tape to the bottom of the plain side.  (NB it doesn’t matter if you get the tape the other way around just as long as you have tape at top and bottom, one on the patterned side, one on the plain).

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

Then using the old needle leftover from your previous project that you haven’t taken out of the sewing machine yet (I refuse to believe it’s just me that only changes needles (a) at the start of a new project and (b) if I remember), sew a line of stitching straight down the middle of each band of velcro tape.  The glue on the velcro tape may make your needle a bit gunky and you might find you have to give it a quick wipe with a bit of scrap fabric every now and then.  Alternatively, take a needle and thread and sew a nice line of backstitch down the middle.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

If your velcro tape or dots is really really sticky you might be able to skip this step but I found that a lot of our prototypes worked really well to start with and then we’d come downstairs to find that the chain had ‘melted’ overnight when the velcro detached from the felt.

Then using either a quilting ruler and rotary cutter or just good old ruler, pen and scissors, cut your felt into inch wide strips so that you have a bit of velcro tape at top and bottom of each strip.

And there you have it, a pile of glittery paper chains just waiting to be strung together.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

And when the time comes to tuck Christmas away again for another year I’ll be able to unvelcro all of my chains and stack them in a neat little pile, ready and waiting for next year.

Space for the Butterflies - an eclectic handmade family life

 

 

Crafty Ideas Designed by me Elma Family Kitty

Ghostlie Bunting {a how-to}

28/10/2013

Space for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for Toddlers

There’s a little wall in our lounge between the window and the patio doors that seems to be just perfect for bunting.  We hang the Happy Birthday banner between the two curtain rails for at least a month after anyone’s birthday, and when that came down after Kitty’s birthday in September she and I made some autumn leaf triangles with some sticky backed plastic and a the proceeds of a good afternoon’s scavenging.

But they were the genesis of a good idea, rather than the perfect final iteration so I’ve been thinking for something a little seasonal with which to replace them.  And now we have it.

I’m not massively into Halloween per se, I think I like Bonfire Night more; just as much excuse for cake, and lots more fireworks; but I do like any opportunity to do a little themed crafting with the girls.  This one is inspired by Lucy, whose round up of her Halloween last year included a photo of a ghost picture made with her family’s footprints.

But Kitty was never going to want to stop at just one footprint, and so the idea for bunting was born; and here’s how.

You will need:

  • coloured paper, the darker the better – black, orange or purple would seem seasonal, we used blue and pink because I let Kitty choose.
  • white poster paint
  • a paper plate
  • a paintbrush
  • a selection of googly eyes
  • glitter glue (or just ordinary glue)
  • washi tape (or sellotape)
  • black felt tip
  • paper ribbon

How to make ghostlie bunting:

  1. Find a bit of floor that you can wash, or heavily protect – I laid our old oilcloth tablecloth over the kitchen floor and happily we escaped without tiny white footprints all over the house.  Strip children of all clothes you treasure.
  2. Pour white poster paint into the paper plate and spread it around with the brush to create a basic sort of stamp pad.
  3. Persuade small child to step into the painty plate and then onto the paper.
  4. Carefully lift up the foot away from the paper and repeat until you run out of paper.  Try to leave a good space between footprints, but it isn’t essential.
  5. Persuade small child that her even smaller sister really does want a go, and therefore some paper must be left for really tiny ghosts.  Baby footprints worked quite well painting Elma’s foot with the brush and then printing it onto the paper while she sat on her bottom next to me – she thought it was hilarious.
  6. Leave the prints to dry while you scoop both children straight upstairs and into the bath.Space for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for Toddlers
  7. Cut out around each foot print leaving a 1/4 inch of so of paper border (Mama’s job).
  8. Stick googly eyes onto the heel of each foot print with glitter glue (Kitty’s job).Space for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for ToddlersSpace for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for Toddlers
  9. Draw a mouth under the eyes (Kitty’s job).  The heel is the head of the ghost and your toes are the ghosts’ toes.
  10. Measure out a length of paper ribbon to fit wherever you want to decorate (Mama’s job).Space for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for ToddlersSpace for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for Toddlers
  11. Lay out the ghosts to make a pretty pattern, then attach each one to the ribbon with washi tape (Mama and Kitty together).Space for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for Toddlers
  12. Hang up and enjoy!

Space for the Butterflies - How to make Ghostlie Bunting - tutorial - Halloween, Ghosts, Footprints, Crafts for Toddlers

(The pom poms were supposed to be pumpkins – another idea still in germination!)