Monday 31 December 2012

Happy New Year

Wow, what a year 2012 has been! Of course the highlight for me has been the birth of Charlotte in June - nothing will ever beat that.  Time is flying by, I can't believe she is nearly seven months old already!

Also in 2012 my favourite (and only) sister moved with her boyfriend (now fiancee) to Houston for his work. I miss her so much but this is a fantastic adventure for them and is not permanent. Thank goodness for Skype is all I can say!

Sewing productivity is at an all time low around here but to be honest I've been pretty sh*t for the past couple of years. Pre-pregnancy I was slowly but surely stacking on weight and, even though I have lost my pregnancy pounds I am still a pretty long way from where I feel my best. I don't know if it's just me but I don't feel like investing my time and effort in clothes that I tell myself will be 'temporary', or that I don't feel I'll look good in anyway.  I really have to take myself in hand now and get in shape - no more excuses.

On the other hand I have stretched myself in other ways this year through taking a bunch of Craftsy courses, and have completed a number of projects that I never would have considered in the past - my not so itty bitty giraffe, woodland creatures, Harriet hippo, wee bunny and Mr Fumes. I completed two knitted blankets (striped blanket and Lullaby blanket), two cardigans (crochet wrap and sunnyside) and a hat for Charlotte.

Since I no longer have a dedicated sewing space I have been searching for a way to sew in the odd moments I have spare. Setting up my preferred machine on the dining table is not ideal since it's big and heavy, so by the time I am ready to go you can guarantee that Charlotte is awake and my window for the day is gone - then I have to pack everything away so we can eat dinner! The last time I went to Spotlight I spotted my solution in the form of an Elna mini sewing machine. It is by no means fast, nor does it have any bells or whistles but I think it will be just the thing to do small bits of sewing here and there.  I can still get the big machine out when I have to, but it will be much more convenient on a day to day basis. I really hope this will enable me to carve out just a little selfish time between feeds and loads of laundry. Plus, in a few years (if it lasts that long) I'll be able to teach Charlotte to sew on it (desperately hoping she shows an interest)!

What about resolutions? Well I don't normally make them so let's just say I have some goals for things I'd like to focus on next year:
  • My weight/health. I am a shocker for allowing myself treats when I'm tired, which is pretty much all the time now. I must make an effort to look after myself better, whether it's taking my vitamins, drinking enough water or making sure I have a proper lunch rather than just cheese and biscuits. I also need to find some activity that I can fit in around Charlotte's schedule. I'm thinking aquarobics - if getting into bathers doesn't make me think twice about reaching for the chocolate then I don't know what will.
  • Sew more - won't be hard since I have barely sewn this year.
  • Blog more - ditto.
  • Be more active in the blogosphere. I am very much a lurker, I always feel a bit shy about leaving comments on other people's blogs and I am not sure of the etiquette to responding to comments on mine. I really need to reach out more!
  • Explore ways to work from home. I dread going back to my office job, even though it will be part time. I would love to be able to bring in income while still being home with Charlotte. Space is an issue at the moment but I am keeping my eyes and ears open for opportunities so that when space permits I can be ready to act.
Finally, I hope you will indulge me if I share another photo of by far my greatest and most successful creation to date. Charlotte is the most amazing little person - she is happy, bright and knows her own mind. As challenging and tiring as caring for her is, it is so rewarding to see her grow and master new skills. Her smile lights up my day like nothing else can...
The dress is rtw but I did make her headband!

I know not everyone has had a positive 2012 but for me it has been the best year in a long time. I can only hope that 2013 is a good one for everyone!

Happy new year all.

Wednesday 31 October 2012

Introducing Mr Fumes and a WIP

Are you sick of Craftsy projects yet? I'm not!

Here is my latest, another project from the Amigurumi: Design your own Monster course. While the course includes a bunch of super cute patterns the main aim is to teach you the skills and confidence to make any creature you like. I designed a dragon based on the shapes covered in both this course and Stacey's other Craftsy course - Amigurumi: Woodland Animals.

See my Craftsy project page for more details if you are interested.

Here's a gratuitous shot of Charlotte with Mr Fumes.

In other Craftsy news I am also taking the Perfect Seamless Crazy Lace Cardigan course.  I love me a lace cardi but for my first project there is not really any lace involved at all, I am making a v-neck in double moss stitch (aka moss stitch in US terminology) with a decorative raglan panel of eyelets in rib. I only get to knit in the evenings after Charlotte is in bed and I am using 4ply for this project so as you can see I haven't got very far yet!

I worked out that by the time I divide for the sleeves I'll have something like 440 sts on the needle, which is fine if you are working in the round and can put it down mid row but when working back and forward you need to allow plenty of time to complete a row! Maybe next time I'll add yet another skill and learn steeking so I can knit the whole thing in the round...

Oh, and I have done a little sewing - yay! I made Charlotte a dress and I am back hard at work on Jess's wedding dress.  I really need to make some clothes for myself but to be honest I'm pretty depressed about how my body looks atm - maybe some nice new clothes (that fit) are just what I need.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Finally the Lullaby Blanket plus Bonus Alien

The Lullaby Blanket is finally finished and it's huge! According to my Ravelry project page this took 7 1/2 months to complete.  To be fair though I did fit in a number of other projects in the meantime.

Aside from needing a really good block I am thrilled with how the blanket came out. Unfortunately winter is well and truly over now but it's big enough that we'll be able to use it next year.

Here are some pictures
 The full blanket demonstrating how it needs a firm blocking.
 Up close.  This is an attempt to show the lettering but it's pretty hard to see.
 Here is Charlotte, not sure what to make of the whole thing!
Here is Charlotte again demonstrating the size of the finished blanket. When last measured she was 61cm long/tall to give a point of reference.

Would I make it again? Absolutely but it would have to be for a very special baby or a parent who would apreciate the work.

A bonus project this post is a toy made from the Craftsy Design your own Amigurumi Monster course:

I used one of the supplied patterns but I have an idea for a large project using the principles learned in the course.  All courses at Craftsy are currently reduced so if there is something you have been wanting to do then now is the time to sign up.  I can recommend all the courses I have taken (except the toe-up socks one - but that's my fault not the course's).

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Knitting for baby

Wow, how time flies by. I can't believe Charlotte is 8 weeks old tomorrow. She is a lovely baby and brings us so much joy, she has a cheeky smile and is interested in everything that goes on around her. We had a rough start, as she was born with a tongue tie and could not nurse (I had to feed her expressed milk through a tube for the first 3 1/2 weeks until the tongue tie was corrected) and she then suffered terribly with silent reflux until we got her on medication which has helped enormously. But now we are on track and she is happy and healthy. She is, however not a great sleeper - she's okay at night but does not want to sleep in the day so I spend a lot of time shushing and rocking at the bassinet to try and help her to settle herself. It'll happen in her own time I suppose so I try to be patient.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, there has not been much crafting of any kind going on. I am dying to cast on a new knitting project as I am totally over the lullaby blanket, but I am plugging on as much as I can to attempt to finish it before Charlotte starts school! I only have one more repeat of feather and fan (12 rounds) and then the border (about 20 rounds or something like that) to go, but on nearly 600 sts it is taking a while! 

I never got the chance to show off Charlotte's hand knits before she was born so here goes...

I only made two cardigans as I knew my Mum was knitting as well, and to be honest our winters are pretty mild so we don't need very much really warm stuff.

The first is a crochet ballet wrap from the Patons booklet 'Retro Babes' which wasn't on Ravelry when I made this but might be now.

My project notes are here.

Second is the Sunnyside cardigan, a fab free pattern on Ravelry. I made the version with the lace panels rather than cables. It's a bit big yet but I can't wait to get Charlotte wearing it.

Project notes here.

Third is a project from my Mum. This blackberry stitch matinee jacket is a fave in our family. The pattern is ancient and my Mum must have made it at least a dozen times for different babies! We have got a lot of wear out of this one already and have had a lot of compliments.

 Wow sorry for the crappy photo, I'm gonna blame baby brain for this one!
Finally a grey cardigan with a pink slip stitch pattern, another of Mum's makes. We have also worn this one heaps already. I love, love, love how effective the fairly simple pattern looks. I have no idea where my Mum got the pattern from!

Here is a picture of Charlotte at one month old wearing her cream matinee jacket (and me looking exhausted!)

And here she is last weekend at 7 1/2 weeks old...

Monday 25 June 2012

Welcome Charlotte!

Our little girl arrived safe and well on the 7th of June.  I didn't quite make it to my scheduled induction, I had been admitted to hospital on the evening of the 6th as they had planned to start the drip at 6am on the 7th.  I ended up going into labour on my own that evening around 10pm and Charlotte was born at 7.31 the following morning.  Everything went quite well, the only issue was everyone kept telling me I couldn't possibly be in labour and therefore couldn't have any pain relief (I was supposed to save it for the 'real thing').  By the time anyone checked and realised that I was, in fact, quite far progressed it was too late for anything stronger than gas and air and I just had to keep going - but by then I was exhausted!  I had always said I didn't want an epidural but in hindsight I totally would have had one if I'd had the option! 

I have not knit or sewn a stitch since I went into labour but now after 2 1/2 weeks I am starting to emerge from the fog of exhaustion and feel the itch again.  While we are not in any kind of routine to speak of, Charlotte's habits are becoming a little more predictable, and I am getting more efficient at all the daily care that a newborn requires.  Mind you I have a lot of help from my fella, for which I am incredibly grateful. So I hope to pick up the knitting needles very soon so I can finish the two WIPs I have, and maybe start working on some projects from my current Crafsty courses.  The sewing may have to wait a little longer as I now have to bring the machines to the dining table to work and the house is still a bit chaotic for that!

I'll leave you with some more pictures of Charlotte.  I think she is the most beautiful baby ever - but I suppose I am biased!

With Daddy at one day old.

One week...

And just this weekend (2 1/2 weeks)...

Isn't she lovely?

Sunday 3 June 2012

Like waiting for a bus...

The little one is due to make her appearance any day now and I am so excited - it seems like it's passed in the blink of an eye, but yet an eternity at the same time! I am hoping she will arrive on her own schedule, but if not I am booked for an induction on Thursday so only 5 days max to wait.

Today I thought I'd update on my nursery crafting, since that's where I have put most of my effort.  First the nursery curtains...

Now home dec sewing is not something I do a lot of.  It's like alterations and remakes for me - just not my thing.  I really admire people who get pleasure from making cushions and duvets (and curtains) but for me it will always be a chore. Unfortunately I couldn't find any ready made curtains I liked so making them was my only option.

I found this adorable fabric at Spotlight (elephants and giraffes if you can't tell), but by the time I had spent a few months running around and trying to find ready mades, the fabric was sold out at my local store.  Luckily another Spotters still had some so I raced over and bought it from there.  The fabric was pretty expensive ($40 per metre) so I decided to make sill length curtains, but I think they are more practical for a kids room anyway.  I spent ages working out the yardage I would need as I didn't want to have to cut the heads/feet off any of the animals. In the end I decided to buy some of the coordinating floral and use that to make a band at the top and the tabs - problem solved. The curtains are fully lined with blockout (which was my main issue with the ready mades - all the blockout curtains were super formal and anything young-ish was just made from thin polycotton and unlined).  It took me a couple of days to finish them but I must say I am really happy with how they came out. I am not, however, converted to enjoying home dec sewing just yet!

Onto much cuter and more enjoyable projects...

You may have noticed by my previous posts (here and here) that I have fully embraced the creation of softies.  This has been a revelation to me as I would have never thought I would love making toys so much.  Not only are they pretty quick and easy but you get to use up all those odd balls of yarn and bags of stuffing that are lying around cluttering up the place.  I am going to go out on a limb here as well and say that a cute little toy may even be more appreciated that a lovingly handworked blanket for some people - we all know not everyone appreciates how much effort goes into some of these gifts but a sweet little animal always gets a gasp! Here's a rogues gallery for your amusement. The odd man out is the pink teddy on the right hand side - he is my first teddy from when I was a baby!

I previously mentioned I had signed up for the Amigurumi Woodland Animals course on Craftsy - I am so glad I did!The teacher is as adorable as the projects are.  I diligently worked through them all in order.  Even though I am a pretty experienced crocheter I did pick up some new tips along the way, yet I think a determined beginner could certainly handle this course. I particularly liked the bonus lesson on baby-safe eyes.  So simple but I will now use them on all my softie projects.

The first project was the bluebird, which was super simple and took only 2 evenings after work to complete.  I think my fella likes this one best of all, even though there is absolutely nothing to it.  I even fantasised for a while about making several in fine yarn to make a little mobile or thing to string across the pram (I still might do this). I used a double strand of 4ply baby wool and a 5mm hook.

Next was the bear, which was not one of the ones I really loved to start with.  However it came out great and now I think it's fab.  This one is a bit harder, mainly because you have to sew all the pieces together and I struggled to get the nose and ears etc on straight.  I used a 5ply (sportweight) and an 8ply (double knit) in similar rusty colours held together with the same combo of yarn weights in oatmeal for the snout as this turned out a bit thicker than the worsted weight called for in the pattern I used a 6mm hook, no problem at all, the bear just came out a bit bigger that's all.

The third pattern was the one I loved most of all initially but I am slightly disappointed by the result - and I don't know why.  Maybe it's just because all the others came out so darn cute that the deer just doesn't stand out the way I thought it would? Anyway, I still think it's great! This one probably has the most fiddly bits so required a higher level of commitment but it was still super easy and most of the little pieces are quick to make. I used 2 strands of 5ply together for this project and a 5mm hook.

The fourth and final pattern from the course was the raccoon.  This was the only project I had the right weight yarn for in my stash but then I ran out of the grey towards the end.  My fix was just to make the arms stripey.  We don't have raccoons in Australia so I am not sure exactly what they look like (and didn't care enough to look it up), but I didn't think stripey arms would be a massive problem. the trickiest bit for this pattern was getting the eyes to look right and not a bit weird-zombie-raccoon.  My fella and I had some laughs as I tried to get this right! It did take a couple of goes!

Overall I can highly recommend this course.

Wow, this is turning into a marathon post but one more project before I sign off.  After making and loving the giraffe from the Craftsy course (not so) Itty Bitty Giraffe, I signed up to Susan Anderson's other course Wee Ones.  This is a course for seamless knit toys that you work from the top down.  First you make one of three heads, then you pick up stitches and knit the body and arms like a top down sweater.  The legs are added like 'afterthought heels' in sock knitting.  So a great opportunity to learn and practice some intermediate techniques in a small setting.  I made the rabbit and she came out lovely - the only change I made was to substitute chain loops for the pom pom tail - just to be sure it's baby safe.  I think mine might be a bit chubbier than the example as the little top is a bit more cropped than I thought it would be. This is another terrific course and one I can highly recommend.

Right, I think that's enough from me for one Sunday morning I think. Off to walk on some sand and drink some red raspberry leaf tea!

PS. You can be my friend on Craftsy or Ravelry - look me up as JosieE on both!

Sunday 27 May 2012

Final two me-made maternity outfits

Again it has been far too long between posts but never fear, I am still around.  I have been very lucky during my pregnancy not to have experienced any serious health problems, however a wobbly sacroilliac joint and enormously swollen feet have made every day things like sitting upright and on hard chairs fairly (nay, VERY) painful.  So not too much leisure time on the computer or at the sewing machine for me!  Fortunately the semi-reclined position I have been forced to adopt is brilliant for knitting and crochet so I have still been able to be creative.

So what has happened since I last posted? I finished work (which has relieved the SI joint pain a lot!), the weather has finally cooled after yet another record hot summer (so at least I can get socks on now, if not shoes!), I had another birthday (very quiet this year) and have been madly trying to pack all my sewing/crafting kit into one corner of the room that will from now on be the nursery - I am just about there. The baby is less than 2 weeks away and the fella and I are beside ourselves with excitement.

So here, belatedly, are my final two me-made maternity outfits. In these photos I am 28 weeks, and I'm 38 weeks now so that's how far behind on things I am!

This top is another non-maternity garment that I've been able to get a lot of wear out of. It's the cool, calm and cowl top from Hot Patterns, made without the hip band.  It is blogged here. The skirt is the same simple a-line pattern with the Kwik Sew pants yoke spliced on I used for the grey skirt blogged here , and also a denim version that I haven't blogged about.

Apologies for the washed out photo here, I can't tell you how hot our summer was, and how the heat knocked me around - even more than usual.  I love Autumn and Spring, so am in my element now! 

This top is from a Kwik Sew maternity top pattern, K3487.  Kwik Sew patterns are pretty expensive (or were until BMV started selling them) so I had intended to use this a lot, but alas I only made this one version in the end.  I narrowed the upper back neck and added a CB seam so I could shorten the back above the waist as well (usual alterations for me).  I didn't do an FBA, but I should have as the empire seam rides up and the neckline is a smidge open but it's not a deal breaker.  The top has a coffin back so instead of making the belt as instructed and sewing it into the side seams, I made a separate tube and much longer so it wraps around my body twice and breaks the back piece as if the empire seam went all around.  Of course it would have been easy to add an empire seam on the back - I just couldn't be bothered.  This is a nice pattern and definitely one worth adding to the maternity arsenal!

The pants are another Kwik Sew pattern K3324.  I used the stretchy yoke several times on skirts but this is the only pair of pants I made.  I altered the shape of the legs (using my Hot Patterns Weekender Jean Jeanius Trouser Jeans pattern) since tapered pants are never going to do me any favours, pregnant or no! There is not much to say here.  The pattern is pretty simple and the only alteration I made was to lengthen the back crotch (again, a usual alteration for me).  The fit is by no means perfect but they are super comfortable and I only wear them with tunic tops anyway.

So that's pretty much it for my maternity clothes.  I still have to update on numerous baby projects, and will try to do that soon.  We are counting the days now (12 or so to go!). One benefit to being classed as 'high risk' is they won't let me go too late so I only have to be patient for a little while longer.

Oh, before I forget, I got a lovely comment from Cass a while ago and am only responding now.  Cass, thanks for your kind wishes and sharing your experience.  To answer your question about the ripple stitch I used for my millefoglie scarf, I believe the stitch is also called 'old shale' or something like that. I can't remember exactly what I did but in general it would be something like this:

Multiple of 12 sts and 4 rows.
1: Knit
2: Purl
3: k2tog 3 times, yo k1 6 times, k2tog 3 times. Repeat to end (I would have done 3 repeats).
4: Purl (if you want a garter ridge) or Knit (if you want stocking stitch throughout).

I hope this helps!

Friday 16 March 2012

Harriet the Hippo, times two

I previously mentioned that I was inspired to take the (not so) itty bitty giraffe Craftsy course by Rebecca Danger's ‘Harriet the Hippo’ pattern from the Fall 2011 Knit Simple magazine. Buoyed by my giraffe success (if I do say so myself!) I did move on to making Harriet as well (and also signed up for Susan Anderson’s other Craftsy course – Wee Ones). Here is the first version:

There were a lot of similarities between the two projects and I incorporated some of my giraffe learnings into the hippo project. For instance I stuffed as I went, rather than leaving it to the end and I embroidered the face instead of using safety eyes. The only additional skill that this project used was kitchener stitch – which to be honest isn’t that hard.

Again, I used stash yarn. You may recognise it from my mitred baby blanket project.

I found I needed to really work the stuffing to get a nice fat tummy and good shape. Fortunately this was covered thoroughly in the craftsy course so it wasn’t daunting at all.

This is another success – such a cute project and really quick and easy to work.

My second version is a gift for my friend’s new niece, all the way in New Zealand. I offered to whip up a second hippo as a pressie and in a flash of inspiration decide to try my hand at converting the design to a ballet dancing hippo. You can see this is yet more destashing in action – using leftovers from my giraffe  project. Hurrah, it arrived in Dunedin two days before my friend’s sister went into labour so just in the nick of time!

I worked the skirt separately and worked the body in a ‘leotard’ pattern then knit the skirt onto the body at the approximately right level. I wrote a little tutorial on my ravelry page if anyone is interested in making the same modification.

If anyone is interested but hasn’t tried making knitted soft toys I highly recommend it. They make great gifts, are quick and easy, and aside from stuffing can usually be made from stash (or at least don’t require more than a ball or two of yarn). As a bonus, if you are wanting to post internationally they weigh next to nothing!

Up next, my last couple of work outfits and some crochet/knit baby clothes.

Monday 5 March 2012

What I'm wearing to work these days - Part 1

I am aware I haven’t done a sewing post since Christmas so here is my weak attempt to catch up. To be honest I have had one wadder after the next, which is really discouraging so I am ‘making do’ a lot of the time, and with only 8 weeks left at work I will probably continue to do so except for a couple of extra tops.

When the fella and I started trying for a baby I instantly got caught up in the fabulous maternity wardrobe I would have. As it turned out I had 18 months to plan but at the end of the day it all went to sh*t because of morning sickness, tiredness and bad pattern/fabric choices. To take the positive lesson here – I now understand why most maternity clothes (tops especially) are made from stretch fabrics. Wovens have to be made to accommodate the biggest bump and so tend to flap around like fairly unflattering tents for most of your pregnancy. The other key lesson is that styles that don’t suit you when you are not pregnant (ie. big tops and skinny pants for me) will continue to not suit you when you are!

Of course the other issue is fitting an ever changing body. I haven’t had too much trouble with my tummy, my main issue has been the bust area. Not only has it grown – necessitating a fairly substantial FBA, but having to wear non-wired underwear means that my bust point is much lower than usual, and this has taken me a while to realise/compensate for. Of course, this is another reason that knit tops win over woven as they are a lot more forgiving of fit issues.

So here is a run-down of what I have been wearing to work. I don’t suppose full reviews are necessary, but I will give as much info as I can. Please forgive the dying/dead back yard as we have had yet another record breaking hot summer and it's just too hot to care right now!

I am 25 weeks in these picture - yeah I know, huge right?

This dress is made from Simplicity 2219 and the only alterations were an fba and to pivot the top edge of the front skirt by a couple of inches to provide belly room. I love how this dress came out – the interfacing in the bodice give you the best of both worlds with a more tailored look in the bodice without losing the stretchy comfort in the rest of the dress. It came together very easily and is super comfortable.

I had originally planned to make the sleeveless maxi-dress version too but it quickly became clear to me that look is not bra-friendly so if you are going to do the sleeveless style perhaps make sure you a) can go bra-less b) build in support somehow or c) a racer back bra might work.

Would I make it again? Possibly – it would be a good mum-on-the-go dress that would hide any extra midriff fluff quite nicely, although I am not sure if people wouldn’t see me and think a second was on the way!

I made these pants early on, when I busted out of all my regular pants by about 9 weeks. The pattern is a self-drafted mish mash of a Mrs Stylebook pattern, leg shaping form existing pants I liked and my own idea of what a maternity panel might look like without ever having seen one. They do the job but they are certainly not my finest work.

The top is a pre-existing one, blogged here.

You know it’s amazing what photos can show you. I had thought this was a pretty good look but now I see it makes my legs look very stumpy! If I cared enough I would slim the trouser legs a bit and possibly shorten the top an inch or so. But I really don’t care that much – these pants will probably go in the bin as soon as I finish work!

I have not previously blogged this top although I made it sometime ago now. I cut it out thinking it would get me through the early weeks when I would just need slightly looser clothes, but it has turned into a real workhorse. The pattern is Butterick 5495 and from memory it was one of Pattern Review’s top 10 patterns of 2010, or maybe 2009. I simply added a little width to the side seams on the lower front and it worked out great. I can see myself making the long sleeved version of this for winter and possibly another short sleeved version – I have pretty much worn this one to death and am a bit sick of it to be honest!

For the skirt I use an old faithful A-line skirt pattern and spliced on the yoke from a Kwik Sew maternity pants pattern which I'll talk about more next time.

I have a couple more outfits to show and will try to get pictures this week, but in a nutshell this is how I am scraping by at the moment. A bit pathetic really, but there doesn't seem to be a point to having a huge number of maternity clothes.
Toe up socks update: I have finished the course and thoroughly enjoyed it however the one sock I have made is a wadder.  As my fella said - how many of those cute giraffes could you have made in the time it took you to make that one ugly sock? Loads is the answer! So the socks are hibernating for the time being! No worries though, I have plenty of knitting and crochet projects to keep me going.