Wednesday, 6 July 2016

From the sewing room

This was finished quite a while back. A big machine quilting project. I've seen lots of 'super-sized' blocks, and I've long admired the bold 'colourfield' style amish quilts, so decided to give this idea a try. Not bad...not brilliant, but not bad. 

Making this was quite an insight into whole-cloth quilting - I'd hoped to make it quicker and easier by using the machine, but it was jolly hard work and I'm not entirely convinced that it was worth it: but that has more to do with my choice of quilting design than anything else, as well as inexperience and the difficulties of quilting large pieces on a domestic machine. Still, I've developed a new fondness for patterned fabric and the associated camouflaging properties!

Here's the back. 

Here is the little white-on-white. 

And this is another go at the 'origami fold-map cushion' design, with hand embroidered label. Quilting design is the fold-map pattern of the flapping bird 'logo' on the tab.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Professor Michael Dougan of Liverpool University: pre and post the EU referendum.

He says it all so calmly and clearly. The second video makes me want to sob into his lapels. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


This is a picture of a knitted Neep* I made a few years back, and it popped up on my FB feed recently - one of those FB 'remember this?' autoposts. I made him for a friend who commissioned him as a birthday present for their little girl, and I believe he is a much loved favourite (which is very gratifying).

At the time, he was a one off. I didn't write up a pattern. I just did it and that was that. I have had a quick look again, and there doesn't seem to be much out there on the internet - quite a lot of crocheted ones, including the CBBC ones. Not as nice in my opinion (nothing to do with the fact that no matter how hard I try I just can't seem to 'get' crochet though). There are some photos of a really really nice dipped dyed version that someone made, but otherwise they're all a bit 'clunky'.

And that I guess is why a couple of people have 'ooeed and 'ahhhed' at this one, and wondered if I couldn't make more. Well. I could...but he took a long time. So for now, I'm offering up an immediate response, which might well turn into a more detailed pattern. But, if you have knitterly friends or family, what I say here might help bring another knitted Neep into being somewhere near you sooner than expected!

Here goes....

I can't remember the exact yarn - except that he is definitely made from 100% DK wool; we wanted natural fibres and I picked merino because it's nice and soft (don't want scratchy for kids toys...well, not for kids you like anyway...). I am sure I shopped in Hobbycraft for the yarn and thought maybe it was from one of their Women's Institute lines (very nice those yarns) but I can't see anything that fits now. The other one it might have been is King Cole. Any nice soft DK would do.

To get the blend from purple through pink to cream I used a multi strand technique. There are four colours in there: strong purple, a soft grey-ish purple, a rosey pink and cream. So, from bottom to top we go thusly: start with two strands of purple, change to one strand each purple and greyish-purple, change to one strand each greyish-purple and pink, change to one strand each pink and cream, and finally to two strands of cream. Easy peasy!

Also, I will have used a smallish needle size - at a guess, using a double strand of DK, then probably a UK 4 or maybe 3.5 or even less** might be the thing. Unless your natural knitting tension is incredibly loose this would give most knitters a nice dense, firm-ish fabric which is good for a stuffed toy (basically, you don't want too many holes to appear once you start stuffing, so packing the stitches closely together is a good idea). 

He's in reverse stocking stitch*** - the purl bumps sit quite tightly on top of each other compared to ordinary garter stitch and give a kind of layered, more turnip-y look to the 'ombre' (lol...ombre! I take it all very seriously, but still...'ombre'!).

The eyes and mouth, and the pinky cheeks, are embroidered. I think I did the arms, legs and nose by making them up separately and sewing them on - I vaguely remember trying to knit them 'off' the body, but it was difficult to get the angle right.

He's basically a ball, knit in the round, but with a long taper (decreases) to make the turnip shape, and some short row action to make the split tops curve a bit. 

He's pretty big this one. Like baby-sized big, which is making me wonder how I stuffed him - just with ordinary poly toy stuffing stuff. It would have been quite a mission to knit to the ends of the split tops and stuff from there. I THINK I must have knitted to where he 'splits', then stuffed, then knitted up the short one, stuffing as I went and then the same on the other side. That seems like the sensible way to do it given how much stuffing he needed - and as I know he's gone a bit flat I guess he could have taken more. But, because he is/was big I think I couldn't pack the stuffing down hard enough; it just kept sproinging out in all directions. 

On reflection I'd make him quite a bit smaller next time. It would be a) quicker to make him b) easier to stuff him successfully c) cost less in materials.

To those of you fancying a version or a pattern, well..yeah I reckon that could be a possible, I'll keep y'all posted. 

Don't forget though, to also check out Joel Stewart's other fantastic work too.

* For those of you that don't know, Neep is just one of the characters in the delightful and brilliant Adventures of Abney and Teal created by Joel Stewart. It is a work of gentle, quirky genius, and I personally think that Joel Stewart's work is fabulous and worthy of comparison with the wonderful Oliver Postgate who made Ivor the Engine, Noggin the Nog, Bagpuss, and The Clangers. 

** You're going to experiment though aren't you? You know, have a little test run. Of course you are. Because we all love knitting tension squares and preparing our projets and knowing where what we are about to do is going to take us, we knitters are famous for that aren't we....she said. Yeah. I always do that.

*** Well, I say reverse stocking stitch which makes it sound all very complicated (to non-knitters anyway) which it isn't...but because he's knit in the round (...which is a bit complicated to be fair), you don't even need to purl instead of knit, you can just do the do and then turn it inside out, and voila you've got your reverse stocking stitch. Lemon squeezy.