Monday, April 28, 2008

Knitting a mental looking monkey

I've been away from home so I haven't posted in a while, but I'm back now. While at the mall on holiday I found this kit for half price NZD $20. The pictured monkey looked like a pretty weird toy but since its for children, it will be easy, so I thought it would be fun to try as my first complete knitted project. The picture shows him sitting on a chair you can make out of the packaging.

This is what is included in the kit, the yarn I think is wool and the needles are horrible. Can you imagine knitting with thick skewers, you know the ones which shead splinters, they are just dreadful and when combined with a wool that easily fuzzes off they are definitly not usable. However I am happy to use the cheap wool for my first project but it definitly doesn't compare to my Debbie Bliss. I feel a bit sad to make a toy, that will hopefully be cuddled against a child's face one day out of scratchy wool but I think I may make another one, one day.

I'm halfway through knitting the body, learning how to do increases and decreases. The decrease made a hole, I'm not sure if it was supposed to, but that's what I got when I did the knit two together decrease they recommended. I'm sure it won't show.

This is the cutest looking picture of the monkey and I think what makes the difference is stitching the eyes in black, I think I'll do that when I get to them.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Unusual source of fabric

I bought this linen stole from TradeMe for NZ$7.20 including postage, its far too starchy, long and 'natural' coloured to be worn so now its being cut up for cross stitch! It's 283cm by 36cm so I'm sure it will take a long time to use. It's got a very natural colour and the usual irregularity of threads with linen fabric. It's got approximately 28 threads per inch, so is a equivalent to 14 count aida when stitching over two.

It was a bit scary to start chopping up something that looks like a garment but I soldiered on and hopefully I will one day have the guts to harvest a sweater for yarn.

It's my sister's birthday soon and she likes the animal- beavers so I wanted to make a beaver cross stitch card for her. I did a big search and I didn't find any patterns so I went to another thing that she's associated with, the banana.

I wanted something I could do quickly so this pattern from Shona's Place was just perfect:

I did this with a brown outline on Anchor 382 and bright yellow that came in a kit but wasn't used by the pattern, I think its DMC 742. I hope she likes it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


If you did this wearing gloves and a longer noodles you could cast off, creating a pixel and use it as a cool garnish for your next diner party (preferably of knitters, they'll think its less weird).

Dem rib bones

There are lots of how to knit videos out there but all the other ones I tried confused me. After watching this one and cutting my number of stitches to rib from 20 to 6 I managed to get a ribbed piece. I'm going to try to make it into a T for my name so I'm looking for a video on adding stitches both at the start and end of my current stitches.

Monday, April 14, 2008

I'm a new knitter!

When I was young our neighbour taught me to knit. I was truly truly awful, I just couldn't get my hands to do it. I'd drop stitches, make tangles and create a lopsided piece. I couldn't get the tension in my hands right so it would always turn out uneven both in the sense that I got a parallelogram that was lumpy! I only learnt 'knit' knitting rather than 'pearl' knitting so I thought that knitting was ugly as it always had those tell-tale horizontal lines. I ended up with a 10 stitch wide long scarf which I sewed up into a sleeping bag with arm holes for my owl toy and a 30 stitch wide scarf with 20 stitch long sections of mutant wool. So frankly I thought I would never knit again.

But now that I've got into cross stitch and other needle crafts it makes sense to make something with my hands that is useful, not just decorative. So I decided to knit again! I went to a Beginners Knit class at Nancy's Embroidery Shop and learnt how to cast-on, knit, pearl, pick up dropped stitches and cast-off in the two hours. I managed everything except picking up the dropped stitches which would have been really useful because I still drop stitches all the time! Amusingly I bought the same wool colour and feel as what I made my little owl sleeping bag out of.

Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran 330014 Royal Purple

It's a Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran Yarn that felt the nicest of the yarn I fondled in Nancy's with the little time I had after the class before they shut the shop. I got it in shade 14, grape. I love purple, I loved it as a child and then it wasn't cool so I didn't wear it. A couple of winters ago it became cool again and now I wear it all the time. I have 3 purple scarves so why not make one more (if I ever get that good at knitting)! I didn't realise that aran is a heavy yarn but it gets so cold here so I don't mind.

I wanted some pretty needles and these just said have me! They are wooden needles made from Tasmanian Oak made by a Tasmanian company called Art Viva. The timber is sourced from environmentally sustainable forest practices and are topped with hand painted spotty beads. Unfortunately I got size 20cm long, 4mm needles when my yarn is for 5mm but I don't think that's too much of a problem. They are slightly uneven which might annoy someone used to straight needles but I love the unevenness as I can think "slightly bending one knit, really bendy one pearl". They are not really bendy its just a comparison, they sort of fit into my hand. They are my friendly needles.

Nuu Zuland Book marks

When I was packing up to get on the bus today I thought about taking my UFO from the Heritage Collection of Ludlow Castle in Shropshire. However I realised it was too fiddly for the bus as I have to do zig-zagging part quarter stitches using one strand of floss in a pale beige and I'd have to take a bunch of different color floss if I wanted to work on it in the lunch hour. What was so great about the Rose Medallion Sachet is that I only had to take one chunk of cotton and not worry about the color.

So I ended up taking my Christchurch bookmark which I've just started. I'm doing the cathedral at the moment and its great to be back to the loop start, railroading and the Danish Method.

I've already finished the Wellington bookmark that I'm going to give to my husband. But he hates the backstitch alphabet used to write "Wellington, NZ" so I'm going to have to find one he likes before I do the finishing. Ohh I can try this backstitch alphabet generator!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Snappy Q

I found a Q Snap in a shop that was small enough to use for cross stitch! It's a 8" square one and I snapped it up. I've used it to finish the cross stitch bit of Rose Medallion Sachet and it's wonderful (just finishing to go now). I've got the fabric snapped in on only two sides as its long but not wide enough. It works great nevertheless, the linen is taught and I get a look at the full piece without having too much space to work the thread around. I'm looking forward to putting my larger UFOs (unfinished objects) in it and feeling more motivated by using a new toy. The Q Snap has a very substantial feel, you get a real feel of the physicality of the stitching which I like!

What I want now is to have it held for me by something like the Stitch EZ so I can make full use of my John James Twin pointed Quick Stitch Needles that I am already enjoying using one-handed. As you can see the twin stab method (shown on the left) would speed up stitching.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I've never worked with variegated fibre before and so I'm learning a lot in my rose medallion sachet. I usually do cross stitch using the Danish Method and the loop start neither of these methods work with variegated stranded cotton.

Firstly I had to learn how to do single stitching cross stitch the English Method on linen. As the kit pattern politely instructed me:

When working with multicoloured threads always complete each cross stitch as you go or the colour of the top and bottom stitches may vary, and make the work look "muddy".

They also included a wee picture of how to do the English Method but it was on aida! So I had to find a site showing you how to do it on linen, the article Building a Better Cross Stitch is great.

Another thing with variegated thread is that you have to work out where to lay the sections of colour. I have tried to lay the sections of colour symmetrically when they need to be but they will never be perfect.

You also have to think about where you cut the thread and start the stitches again. When you cut the thread its best to do in the middle of a colour section like the black line in the picture to the right. So when you finish the length you make sure you start the stitches from where you cut from the main lot of thread and rather than put the thread in the needle as this will be the last bit of thread you use.

Cats 'n Kiwis - Tentative steps towards embroidery

I'm scared of embroidery, its just so free and unplanned. Compared to cross stitch there are just far more options, so so many more chances to mess up. Aida and line have holes in them, desperately calling "needle me" so you know exactly where to place your stitch and you've only got the options of a full or part cross stitch, back stitch or sometimes a french knot. Also with embroidery you have to work out how to get your pattern onto the fabric, what stitches to use and what colours to make the stitches.

Take for example the Sushi Bar pattern I bought from Sublime Stitching. I'd love to do most of the pieces but I'm scared. I don't know what colours to use, I'm worried I'll get the transfer wrong and ruin the fabric, I don't know what to put them on etc. I know I should just bite the bullet and say that cotton looks like nori, that one like salmon and teach myself how to do French knots properly to make the rice, but I don't.

I did however have the brain wave to do a basic embroider over a cloth shopping bag I have. New Zealanders are often called Kiwis and this is used in an anti-littering phrase 'Be tidy Kiwis'. It comes as no surprise then that my favourite cloth shopping bag (just like the plastic ones but cloth) has a kiwi on it.

Using the instructions for the split stitch on the Sublime Stitching website and extra visual aids from the episode when Jenny Heart was on Thread Banger, I outlined the kiwi in split stitch. I then freehand cross stitched on the inside which gave a surprisingly even effect and looked really different from my normal cross stitching in that I followed Jenny Hart's suggestion to use the full six strands to embroider with. It was also fun to make a knot to start rather than messing around with 'making a nice back', it felt sort of rebellious to follow Jenny's advice (and to rebel against the comment that
"You are not supposed to knot your thread! You broke one of the major rules of needlecrafts!" - It's not like she's asking you to chop your thumb off.

Friday, April 11, 2008

So what's this tacking bizo?

I started my rose sachet kit yesterday and go a bit confused by the instructions. I was asked to tack halfway along the vertical length of the linen, then halfway of the horizontal to create a T and that when stitching any lines to always use backstitch. As I know very little about sewing (the only things I made were in 'fabric technology' and a few tube style hijabs) I didn't realise what tacking stitch was. I thought backstitching would be a bit odd in a T on the back of the sachet but I thought a line on the bottom would look fine so I did that. It took a while and it was a bit tricky as you have to try to start and end the back stitching around a raw edge which I haven't done before.

When I came to the I part of the T, I thought that I shouldn't do it. So I looked up tacking on the interweb and (of course) found an entry on Wikipedia that showed me what it is. Tacking is the process of making a temporary stitch to give an indicator line and then remove it (I'm sure everyone knows that but me). I also called the store that made the kit to check I had the right idea, and I did. They were really friendly, it was nice to have confirmation that I'm on the right track. So I tacked up the I for the T in grey and I decided that the backstitch will look great on the bottom to add some interest so I didn't feel bad about my error. I also realised that the tack is there as the middle line to place the cross stitched bit in the right place and is actually on the side that the rose medallion cross stitch is.

This is what I've got so far, I would take a pic but it probably wouldn't turn out great but anyway I don't have the cam to comp cord to connect my photo to my blogo :(

However I have also descovered that the pattern produces a sachet with a plain back! Can you say yucky! I mean I'm not going to do my first finished piece of cross stitch and leave the back plain. With the recent reading of the Snippets and Stash Blog I see that the essence of finishing is the back so why would I want a plain linen back. I could use some purple paint using a plastic stencil I have from a DMC pillow kit to decorate the back. This might not be the best idea however as I've already started stitching that might get messy and stuff up my sachet. Or I could just do my initials at the back. That's what I'm thinking right now. If I wanted to be really crazy I could do the cross stitch again using a different variegated thread, which would look good but would double the project time and make me less likely to make another sachet.


I bought some Flexihoops from The Looking Glass, which I prefer over plastic or wood spring hoops. The first cross stitch kits I bought included these and I gave the pieces away neatly arranged in the hoop with the hook attached (I usually take it out while working on the piece). I was seriously considering buying some more of those kits just to get the hoop so when I saw them in The Looking Glass I bought 4. I find they make the piece drum tight and don't move about and loosen like the other styles.

I would love to buy some Q-Snaps but they aren't available here in small needlecraft size, only the really big size for quilting.

If I could have my dream I would get a handsfree frame, I think this one looks good:

Rosy Medal

I bought this kit from TradeMe for only NZ$10 which I had seeen at The Looking Glass in Picton just before I got on the ferry to Wellington.

The kit contains Zweigart Lugana Fabric 25 count, Treasured Threads, Needle, Instructions and Pattern. The thread is variegated and from the photo on the kit looked to be turquoise and purple but the one I got has pink as well. I'm not overjoyed about the pink but I could always make a new one with new thread if I'd like the pattern. The ribbon for the top of the sachet is white and I think I'd prefer to find one to match the thread rather than the fabric so there is some contrast.

I like the cross stitch image, its a very simplified flower, almost an arabesque so fits with my affection for Islamic art. This is designed to have lavender potpourri or soap put in it, I'll think about that, not sure which one to use. The thing that I find strange is that its a rose pattern but they don't suggest putting rose petals in it!

My dad has a lavendar sachet I made when I was 11 in "fabric technology" which has lost its smell as he pinned it on his pin-up board rather than with his clothes (but most men don't want lavendar smelling undies do they). I should make him something new, hmm, I'll have to think about that.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Something To Do While Watching TV

I first started cross stitching while watching cricket which I then thought was a bit boring and didn't understand. I've since grown to love cricket, although I don't understand everything, I now know that its a very tactical game of mental trickery (in a good way). However I've grown to love handicrafts more and I now do them while watching tv, movies, youtube, during my lunch break at work, on the bus, on the ferry, in bed, about the only place I don't do it is in the bathroom, that would just be silly! I find myself trying to get home as soon as I can pick up a piece of handicraft and not wanting to cook so I can do it straight away.

I initially picked up a few cheap cross stich kits at 'The Warehouse' little ones of a bouquet and sunflower and a large one of flowers in a basket. These have been given away so I can't show them here unfortunately but here's a picture of one of the patterns:

In this blog I'll detail my adventures in self-taught handicrafts (well mostly self taught) and feature links to crafty blogs, websites and podcasts. I'm a Muslim so some of my crafting relates to that so I may sometimes touch on Muslim issues but this is definitly not a religous blog. I live in New Zealand so when I talk about places or cross stitch shops I visit they are in New Zealand and when I talk about dollars they are New Zealand dollars. I hope you enjoy my blog!