Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas Knitting 2013

The Christmas knitting project continues. The tally so far: four hats, two cowls, a pair of wrist warmers and a pair of socks, plus a pair of convertible mitts that's not yet finished. The clock ticks...

It's at times like this that I always think of the story of the princess whose brother were turned into swans. She had to make a shirt for each one in order to turn them back into humans, but when the time came, she was a sleeve short, so her youngest brother retained a swan wing for the rest of his life.

I am nonetheless hopeful of getting the last part of the mittens done. I'm lining the mitt section of these with an extra fleece inner layer, which will I hope make them very toasty and cosy for my winter bike-riding sweetie. At least I know he'll appreciate it, although he may not fully understand the extent of my knitting devotion. I actually lost one of the socks I had already finished (during a fire alarm at the college... long story), and I figured there was nothing else to do but reknit it.

I may post some info about a few of these hats, as I used some excellent patterns from Ravelery... but for  now, I'm off to complete a host of other tasks.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Winter is Coming Cowl

This one's destined to be another Christmas present, but for the moment my mom is modelling it. Chain mail's chilly north of the Wall, but this stylish, soft wool cowl has a gentle feel on chapped cheeks. It's done in a seed stitch, and wraps twice around the neck; you can bring it up over your ears if you like.

I used one-and-a-quarter 100-gram skeins of Mirasol Ushya in Platinum Grey (colour #1701), which is 98% Merino and 2% Polyamide, and also helps support schools in Peru. (I think I have enough left over to make a hat to go with it.) The pattern, which I made up, is very easy; feel free to cast on more stitches, as long as the total is an uneven number, or to make it wider.

Winter Is Coming Cowl (free pattern)
  • Using 6mm, 40-inch corded needles, loosely cast on 207 stitches.
  • Join up, being careful not to twist the row.
  • 1st round: K1, P1
  • 2nd and following rounds: K every P stitch and vice versa.
  • Round 32: Bind off loosely.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Girl's Cabled Tam with a Pom-Pom

As the yarn store clerk said to me earlier this week, the Christmas-present knitting season has begun. Since my family members don't read all my blog posts, I'm not too worried about posting a few things that will probably end up under the tree (if I don't break down and hand them out sooner).

I haven't done a lot of cabling, and I'm always surprised how much bang you get for relatively little fuss. This pattern comes from the Fall 2013 issue of KnitSimple magazine (page 30). The designer is Nitza Coto. In the magazine, it's shown in coral pink, and the suggested yarn is CHARLY by Filatura di Crosa, but I used Cascade's 100% Peruvian Highland Wool.

I added the pom-pom because it's for my 12-year-old niece and I seem to be operating under the delusion that she'll be attending a lot of skating parties with cocoa and Nutcracker premieres this winter. This was a very satisfying project that took me about four Downton Abbey episodes to knit, counting the fact that I misread the pattern and had to rip out about 15 rows of the cabling and redo it.

Technical point: in this pattern, M1 or "make one" means to wrap the yarn around the needle without knitting it. I normally would expect the abbreviation YO ("yarn over") for this move. Normally, I expect M1 to mean knitting into the front and back of a stitch, thereby increasing the count by one. In this pattern, they use KFB ("knit front & back") when they want you to do this. That's why I had to redo so many rows.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Streetknit Collects Knitting for Homeless Folks

It's quick, easy and inexpensive to knit a hat – or three – and there are people who need warm clothing on our cold winter nights. The Streetknit Project in Toronto connects the two sides of this potentially happy equation.

I was handed a skein of blue yarn at the Leslieville Farmers' Market earlier this year by a Streetknit volunteer. My task? Simply to knit something warm and drop it off at one of many participating yarn stores, like my local, the Purple Purl (1162 Queen East), the Knit Cafe (1050 Queen West), Lettuce Knit (86 Nassau) or Sew Be It Studio (2156 Yonge).

You may ask "why bother knitting when dollar stores are overflowing with cheap, warm hats and mitts?" Call me crazy, but I believe that the intention to help someone else makes its way into the garment. I even think that the act of knitting for someone else can be like a meditation or a prayer; I think it sends good vibes out into the universe. In any case, it can't hurt.

The Streetknit site has links to lots of easy free patterns for hats, scarves, mittens and (for the more ambitious) sweaters, as well as to similar organizations in other cities. (Knitting groups like this exist in many other  places beyond the links on the site, some of which have a different focus, like hats for premature babies or layettes for pregnant teens.)

I warn you, this can get addictive; I know of one Toronto woman who knits a hat every day for charity. I think I'll stop at two this year... but you never know; I have lots of yarn in my stash that's itching to be used.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Hallowe'en from the Haunted Dollhouse!

Hallowe'en has come to Dollhouse Land, courtesy of the brave new world of scrapbooking stickers that are now available in every dollar store. (This is nothing like the marvel that is my cousin Laura's Hallowe'en dollhouse spread, but then she's been at it for about ten years more than me.)

Eek! A giant spider has nested in the attic window.

 This youngster is admiring the jack-o-lantern (it came from a dollar-store pack of styrofoam mini-gourds, and I drew the face on). Not sure who left the broom here.

Apparently the parents are exhausted by the onslaught of trick-or-treaters. Oh well; at least they have tea.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Unbirthday Socks

I made these for a friend and mailed them as a surprise birthday-and-a-half present, six months after her real birthday. They're Spud and Chloe "Fine", 80% wool and 20% silk, and I used about a skein and a quarter, as she has rather long feet. Apparently she likes them.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A New Sign for the Cottage

I've really been having fun with my dollar store paints on wood lately. This week I whipped up a new sign for the cottage on a board I pulled out of someone's trash pile. (We'll install it this coming weekend.)

I googled "sign painter alphabet" to find some samples of text that had the feeling I wanted. I didn't get entire alphabets, but I found enough to allow me to get the flavour I was trying for

I didn't worry too much about calculating the spacing (um, can you tell?), but since this is supposed to look like what it is (somebody's homemade cottage sign), I was quite satisfied with the result. If anybody ever wants to pay me for this sort of thing, I'll use a ruler.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Decorative Wooden Sign for the Farmers' Market Garden

This is not quite Tole painting, but it has a similar vibe. The writing is my own. I didn't want a very formal look, so I just freehanded it; I didn't even give myself lines to follow.

The dove and the idea for the post decoration are taken mainly from a book called Country Painting Projects by Emma Hunk, which I picked up at a a secondhand shop. The sunflower started of as her idea, but turned instead into an original, based on a sunflower I once worked into a needlepoint pillow (based in turn on a real flower). The apples are my own.

I made it out of leftover bits of wood from the basement  (the post is the end bit that I cut off a banister rail in order to move it to a shorter staircase) that I cut, sanded and screwed together with spare wood screws. I even hack-sawed off the points where they poked through the back, so as not to injure anyone.

The paint is just dollar-store acrylic, but I find it mixes nicely into new colours. I expect it will last about three summers (we should take it inside over the winter). After that, I suspect the elements will take their toll on it.

I'm in the process of making six standing posts to match. Each one will have one of our market "values" written on it: Nourishment, Integrity, Inclusivity, Celebration, Education, Growth. I've already done four. They're fun to make!

Photo by Sandra Brunner

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Few Dollhouse Improvements

My brother, who has always had an interest in miniature modelling, gave me some suggestions for the dollhouse. And of course, every sister listens to her brother! Therefore, I've added some pale green paint  to the decorative spindles on the gingerbread trim, and pasted some free printable brick-pattern wallpaper to the foundation wall. You can see this better in the image below.

I do intend to do some more work on the green paint on the front of the house. I over-antiqued it when I was repainting the band of trim at the top of the brick section.

The welcome mat came from a collection of furniture I recently bought via Craiglist (or was it Kijiji?) from a very nice woman who lives only a few blocks away from me. The furniture belonged to her mother, who built a 1967 dollhouse. You can see more of it below.

Here is a rather impressive stove that my brother kindly assembled for me out of a kit. He was very good at putting together model airplanes as a child, and has successfully transferred that skill to the world of dollhouse miniatures. In particular, he did a great job with a decal of black curlicues that had to be applied to the chrome-coloured base.

The door of that stove opens, and I can fit the cookie tray that you see on the table inside. So the dolls are all kitted out for baking. (If you know me, you will not be surprised I see this as a priority.) You may note that the stovepipe vents to an imaginary chimney.

When my young niece saw the stove in place, her comment was "That looks great!!!"

Among the other new furnishings are the cheese grater, the toaster (with working lever!), the knife and the nice little German pots on the stove and hanging on the wall, which are metal. You may not be able to see it, but on the stove top there's a little spatula and a sweet frying pan that contains two eggs, sunnyside up.

In the front room, you'll easily spot the new china cabinet, a fine table with four chairs, a fireplace and a tiny ceramic pitcher on top of it, plus a Sterling silver tea tray (really!) There's also a bowl of flowers on the corner table, as well as a few other oddments in the cabinet that you probably can't identify.

The wooden furniture is made by a company called Shackman, and may have been bought at the great Manhattan toy mecca F.A.O. Schwartz in the 1960s. My friend Susan with the big dollhouse collection tells me the fireplace is Petite Princess, which was also sold at F.A.O. Schwartz. She has lots and lots of it, including the very same fireplace.

There were lots more treats in the little collection I bought, including an entire bathroom suite and a small doll family, but I'll wait until another time to write about them.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Dollhouse Kit Assembled

My 11-year-old niece is mad at me. What's the point of her old aunt (me) building a dollhouse if I'm not going to give it to her (the niece) to play with? Hard to explain that it is for her, really, but it may take me 20 years to "finish" it. Twenty years seems an impossibly long time when you're eleven going on twelve.

But for the moment, I'm done with construction... apart from a few paint touch-ups and a little bit of judicious gluing and wood-filling, that is. I've decided to leave out the shutters, the downspout and the staircase, as I don't like the way they look. On the other hand, I've added quite a bit of detail the kit didn't specify... particularly extra bits to strengthen potential weak spots.

The box label that promised "easy assembly" lied. It was a full work week for someone with a house full of tools, a lot of determination and a fair supply of DIY know-how. But I must say, the design is ingenious, and produces a pretty opulent effect for something that's almost entirely made of cheap, thin plywood and glue. (Lots of glue.)

Oh, and roughly 400 redwood shakes, which had to be glued on by hand, one by one. I had a momentary panic when I ran out of glue (this being a holiday weekend with nary a hardware store in sight), but a kind neighbour family helped me out. This is why it`s good to share banana bread when you have extra.

I've already collected a few bits and pieces of furniture, but doesn't this bedroom have the gloomy look of the summer home after everyone's packed up to leave at the end of the season? That 20 years of extras would include things like quilts and pillows, pictures on the walls...

...perhaps some brushes and combs for the dressing room...

...a stove in the kitchen (that's coming, actually!) The washtub needs to be hung on the wall. I could do with a few more jam jars too. I made myself a prototype for about 15 cents. More to come.

That cat plate on the little chest of drawers needs to be mounted on the wall. And what about some rugs and a curio shelf? Not to mention seasonal items like a Christmas tree. A loaf of bread would be nice with the tea, too, now that I think of it.

But for the moment, I`m feeling quite pleased with myself, despite the odd plywood sliver working its way back out of my poor fingers. This is my first try at a project like this, and although I wish I could apply some of the lessons I learned along the way (too late!), there`s nothing I feel too bad about to kill the satisfaction of looking at this pretty, sturdy little dollhouse and knowing I put it together myself (with a little help from my brother when my hands got too blistered to cut the last few sticks of trim).

And for now, back to my regular work as a writer instead of a doll contractor.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Dollhouse Madness... It Begins.

Okay, so when I needlepointed that dollhouse rug for that friend of mine who collects antique dollhouses, she  thanked me by giving me a 1980s-era kit for a 1/12th-scale dollhouse that she had picked up somewhere along the way. It's been propped up against a bookshelf in a corner of my office for some months now. Every once in a while I've been looking idly through the listings on Kijiji or Craigslist in case I happen to see any cheap dollhouse furniture.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I spotted an ad that turned out to be from a lovely young woman who was giving up her childhood toys, and for a modest sum I picked up enough little pieces of wooden furniture to more than fill up this little kit house (which is a Dura-Craft "Lafayette" model, in case you're wondering). So a few days ago, I opened the box and started to work on it.

It's not quite as easy as you might think by looking at the box label. Clearly this is what the original owners thought too, because they assembled just the first few bits before packing it all in, one supposes, in despair. There's quite a lot of cutting and measuring involved. And sanding. And I've discovered that a liberal application of wood filler can mask a thousand ills. And I realize that to do it right, I would need an airbrush, a jeweller's saw and some micro-drill bits.

I expect the kitchen is destined to be my favourite room.
I splurged on a few bits of wallpaper and floor coverings at The Little Dollhouse Company (where it would be quite easy to drop a thousand dollars without thinking twice). But I also used some scrapbooking paper my mom gave me, and a lot of spare paint and glue and tools I already had around the (human-sized) house.

Really, the fun for me will be making little things to go inside, like rugs, quilts and cushions. And when I saw that the specialty shop charges $15 each for "full" jam and pickle jars, I picked up eight tiny glass bottles for $1 at the local dollar store, and I look forward to filling them with tiny "preserves". A stopper and label will be easy. I'm guessing that for about $5 I can make more miniature preserve jars than you can shake a stick at.

How do you like the oak floor (my single biggest expense so far!)
As you can see from this mini-tour, it's tiny by house standards (although enormous by tchotchke standards). It will have a dining room and kitchen on the main floor, with a sort of two-part attic bedroom upstairs. The imaginary family presumably has an outhouse. Jonathan is worried how they'll stay warm with half the house open on one side, and I told him it has an imaginary fourth wall... there's a long and noble tradition of those, after all.

I think I've done about half the building. We have a long weekend coming up, so perhaps I can get the basic thing put together within the week. Or maybe not... we'll see how it goes.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Yellow Cotton Baby Sweater

This is a gift for Quinn, the new baby girl next door but one. As I believe I've mentioned before, I like to make baby clothes in other colours than pink or blue. I also tend to give slightly larger-than-needed sizes, knowing they'll be grown into. It's a terrible thing to spend the time and effort to knit something that never gets worn because it's outgrown before it's finished!

The pattern is "Homecoming Layette #615" by Dana Gibbons, published under the label; "Friends of Cabin Fever", which I bought as a paper copy at Purple Purl in Toronto. I really like the (Canadian) Cabin Fever patterns, because they tend to focus on producing a useful garment with the least fuss. The pattern (which is published on Ravelry and Patternfish) also includes a hat and blanket, but face it, I'm lazy (and I also ran out of yarn!)

I find it interesting to compare my version to the others posted on Ravelry; my very loose stitches give the lace section a very different look from other people's. I think I may like theirs better, but – ah well...

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nicey from Mochimochiland

This is Nicey. Note the halo and wings. Nicey has an evil twin called Naughty, who's red with black bits. Instead of a halo, Naughty has a pointy tail, and the "wings" perch on top of his or her head to become horns. I  intend to make the pair for my ten-year-old niece.

The most hilarious thing about Naughty and Nicey is that they're both attached to little knitted bands that slide up your arm, so you can walk around with one perched on each shoulder, presumably whispering merciful or malevolent advice.

If you have ever visited Mochomochiland, you may already have guessed that Naughty and Nicey come from the wonderful book Knitting Mochimochi by the very inventive Anna Hrachovec. It's the first of her publications, and – apart from the fact that I really like her playful aesthetic, I find it very inspiring. Once you've worked through a few of her patterns, it's not hard to see how one could use the same techniques to make up one's own designs. (I have some ideas involving fruit and vegetables...)

Other nice points: these are very quick to do, if a little fiddly, and don't take much yarn. Also, there's no need to use anything fancy; these are perfect for use with the cheapest of dollar-store or thrift-shop acrylic yarms. Even if the texture's squeaky and rough, the bouncy puffiness of stuffed, knitted spheres is deeply pleasurable.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Needlework Notes from Mackenzie House

Don't you long to have one of these to hold your knitting yarn? Last weekend my friend Mark and I visited Mackenzie House, a former home of the publisher and 1837 Rebellion leader William Lyon Mackenzie. Because of his newspaper publishing history, there's an antique printing shop in a rear addition to the home. This is used there (as you see) to hold a ball of twine, but apparently every knitter who goes through expresses a fervent wish to have one just like it. (In my case, it would go a long way towards solving the problem of cat attacks.

This "slipper chair"(a term for a low, armless upholstered chair) is one of the few original pieces of furniture in the house. It was needlepointed by Janet "Jennie" Mackenzie (1829-1906) sometime in the mid-19th century (the house has been restored to an 1860s appearance). She was a daughter of William Lyon Mackenzie who married Charles Lindsey, a newspaperman and biographer of Mackenzie.

I'm not crazy about the design myself, but I'm wondereing whether the colours might have been different when it was made 150 years ago. I'd like it better if the greens were less brown and drab... which perhaps they were. It shows a date palm and other tropical foliage; apparently Egypt was in vogue at the time. The pale blue background is worked with beads, which must have taken ages to do!

I do think the pleated green velvet edging is a clever workaround for getting the needlepoint to fit nicely over the curved edges of the seat. I'm pretty sure it would have been brighter back in the day. I wonder whether "Jennie" did the upholstery herself. It's held up very well!

Photo credit: Mark D'Aguilar

Friday, February 8, 2013

More Toe-up Socks

Here are a couple more examples of the same toe-up sock pattern that I wrote about a week or so ago. They were both presents for my mom.

The red socks, which are really warm, are made out of about a skein and a half of Brown Sheep Company's marvelous Lamb's Pride yarn, which is 85% wool and 15% mohair. I love it for its ability to felt. I'm not certain whether I used their Blue Blood Red or their Red Hot Passion.

I think the stripey pair mighty be Malabrigo sock yarn, but I can't recall. I used just one skein. Luckily, my mom's the kind of person who likes wearing multicoloured Dr. Seuss socks that don't match.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Parrot Pillows

Here are Bonnard (left), a red lory, and Bucky, a green conure. I made this pillow back in the early '80s to immortalize two of the parrots that inhabited my childhood home. The pillow is lasting far longer than they did (although they were both around for a fair few years).

I feel the left-hand bird works out better as a needlepoint design, but the one on the right does have a certain quality of Bucky, who tended to be a morose bird. I did acres more of the brown background than I needed to; the pillow was rectangular for a long time, but I ended up turning a lot of the extra background under when I rebacked it a year or two ago.

I think the canvas was ten stitches to the inch. I don't remember much more about it except that in those days I more than once worked on it while on the back of my boyfriend's motorcycle – which seems excessive to me now, but felt quite normal at the time.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mason Jars for Embroidery Thread

This is an idea that I up and stole from The Workroom, the wonderful space on Queen Street West that rents sewing space for $7 per hour. I'm always thrilled to find a good way to manage my needlecraft supplies, and this one has so many advantages!

It keeps the rolls of thread dry and dust-free, and fairly well protected against moths and mice (there's a rubber ring inside each jar). It also displays them in a handy way so you always know exactly how much you have of any given colour.

But what I found most compelling was how it makes the rolls of thread look like colourful jewels. And of course it makes my collection of antique Mason jars seem almost practical!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Twin Needlepoint Pillows

These may be the oldest needlepoint projects I still own. Back in the late 1980s I became fascinated with textured stitches for needlepoint, and I experimented quite a lot with them. I also got very interested in colour interactions, and worked out a lot of patterns like this checkerboard of red, orange, beige and brown; the idea was to use a very dark colour with two pairs of hues: a light and a mid-tone of each. It gives a nice pop to the pattern.

The middles would probably withstand nuclear attack; they're a stitch I made up that consists of a dark-brown cross-stitch with coloured cross-stitch over it in the alternating holes. In fact, these are quite durable overall. I've been using them on chairs for more than 20 years; last year I replaced the velvet backing, which had become pretty threadbare. The fronts still look like new.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Dollhouse Rug Installed

I visited my friend Susan today and had the pleasure of seeing my needlepoint dollhouse rug given a lovely spot in a very large Victorian dollhouse that resides in her living room. It's one of about 30 houses from various periods in history that she has collected, restored, decorated and furnished.

Now that the rug is in place, the faults don't seem to show up so badly. I'm quite happy with the outcome of what I think was probably about 70 hours of stitching.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mom and Daughter Socks

I made these for Christmas. The blue-grey pair were a present for my mom and the purplish pair were a treat for me. They're made out of a Canadian yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Blue Label Fingering Weight, which is 80% superwash merino and 20% nylon, so they'll keep their shape.

I have a very loose tension (go figure), so I think I used 2 mm needles. The pattern is a basic toe-up sock with a short-row heel and toe that I've evolved over time, and a little bit of ribbing at the top. One 115 gram/4 ounce skein was enough for a pair, with a bit left over for darning or doll clothes or whatever. The pattern is posted on Ravelry; in this case, I cast on 32 stitches to start, so the socks are 64 stitches around. Mine use a knit 3, purl 1 rib, while my mom's are knit 2, purl 2.

They're very warm. My mom has already washed hers by hand in lukewarm water and reports they performed very well.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Petit-point Dollhouse Rug

This is a petit-point dollhouse carpet I worked for my friend Susan, who collects dollhouses from many periods in history. The pattern came from a book called Needlework in Miniature by Virginia Merrill and Jean Jessop, which seems to be still in print. It's a great resource for anyone crazy enough to want to do this sort of thing; it has lots of patterns, as well as instructions on things like how to reupholster doll furniture with your own needlework.

There are people who run businesses creating (much better) carpets for dollhouses, and they can be rather pricey. This one essentially cost nothing but my time (on and off, close to two years of pleasant bus rides and TV movies), since I made it out of a spare 8" by 9.5" piece of embroidery canvas and various skeins of embroidery silk I already owned (people somewhat often give me odd lots of embroidery floss they have lying around because they know I'm crafty and will happily take it off their hands.)

That having been said, you may be able to notice that I didn't quite have enough yellow to do it all in one colour. (The salmon pink is actually the same throughout; it just looks paler at the bottom because of the lighting in the room.)

Also, I could have done a better job with the background yellow. A good trick for filling in large swathes of colour is to stitch diagonally. I did this, but left space for some of the blossoms in the middle of the field. Especially on the right, you can really notice where the edge of one lot of stitching ends and the next begins.

In the lower right corner, I tried to give a good look to the edge by stitching around it; a sort of binding. I didn't like the way it looked, though, so for the rest of the rug I actually turned the canvas under as I worked it and stiched through two layers at once: the top layer and the turned-under bottom layer. It's a little fussy to do and it leaves a tiny white canvas edge, but it's very neat. (I didn't want to unpick the first edging attempt because I trimmed the canvas so close to the stitching that I was afraid I'd start to unravel the carpet itself.)

If I ever do another one, I think I'd be able to come up with a more finished look. Meanwhile, I expect Susan will be able to place some furniture strategically over the most problematic areas.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beehive Baby Fashions Book No. 133

My friend Jeanne (@jaduperreault) was interested in knowing what pattern I used to make the tomato red knitted baby sweater I posted on January 15. It's from this little booklet I picked up somewhere or other, Patons Baby Fashions by Beehive Book No. 133. It contains knit or crochet patterns for about ten tops of various types, three bonnets, mitts, a poncho and two or three variations on booties. I see it's still available for a few dollars via various online sellers.

As I examine it, I see that it's a little bit more recent than I thought. It's undated, but one online seller gives the date as 1970, which seems right to me because of the comment "Even the baby must be up to date with a fringed poncho", a real giveaway for the early '70s.

I'm not crazy about most of the garments, apart from the rather sweet booties and hats, but I really like the pattern I used, which was the coat from the "Coat and Legging Set", pictured here (I simply couldn't see myself doing the leggings!)

I found it enjoyable, since it's not terrible challenging but has enough variety that it never got dull. An interesting little detail is that while you're knitting in the main colour across the bottom of the coat and the collar, you purl every fourth stitch; later you go back and work a cross-stitch in a contrasting wool over the purled stitches, which makes it hard to mess up the placement of the embellishments.

I see that I've made a little notation on the section that deals with neck shaping; probably not an error in the pattern, but more likely either because I didn't quite get what I was supposed to do, or because I was fudging something to allow me to graft two parts together on the needles rather than sewing them later, a trick I invariably employ if I can.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Needlecraft Magazine 1923

We may think we're all very crafty these days, but we're rank amateurs compared to those young women who lived between about 1880 and 1940. This was the time when a lot of women had been freed from the most appalling of the housekeeping drudgery by the innovations that followed the Industrial Revolution – like gas or electric stoves and free-flowing hot water for all.

They were also beginning to trickle into the workforce, so they had a little money, and some of them even lived in their own places for a few years before marriage. As new wives, many had a little bit of pocket money and leisure, and they wanted to make their families' homes and wardrobes lovely (as who doesn't?), so they indulged in all kinds of ambitious and purely decorative needlework of a kind that in earlier centuries had been available only to the wealthy.

The cover of this issue of Needlecraft Magazine of October 1923 illustrates "A Bewitching Bedroom-Set in Embroidered Applique", featuring curtains, a bedspread and a bolster cover (which, of course, one made oneself) worked in an Art Deco pattern showing a basket of California poppies.

The patterns (iron-on or perforated for stamping on guide marks) were available by mail for between 25 and 40 cents, or you could buy prestamped fabric to make the various items for between $1 and $3.70. "All in all, a decoration prettier to look at and simpler to do cannot well be imagined," enthuses Nina L. Willis, author of the article describing the project. Just shows what people were able to accomplish in the days before television!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Collecting Craft Books

Books about crafty topics can become a problem. At certain periods of my life I've realized I had no qualms about dropping $45 on some beautifully illustrated quilting or knitting book. And needlepoint books are a special addiction of mine.

After a while, though, I really put on the brakes. If I do buy something for the collection these days, it's likely to be from a second-hand bookstore, and I have almost made myself implement a one in-one out policy. I have actually managed to make myself give away some gorgeous things I just wasn't using. (Of course, one knitty friend gifted me with some sumptuous Kaffe Fassett books I just couldn't turn down!)

This is just about the complete collection these days, and it's about half needlepoint. I notice they're not really publishing anything new in needlepoint these days; there was a big vogue for it in the early 1970s, and then again in the '80s, but it's not in fashion any more. I figure it's about due for a comeback. And when it does return, I'll  be ready!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

A Needlepoint Wedding Pillow

I made this needlepoint pillow as a wedding present for a couple of friends who live in England and who had an 18th-century theme for the wedding. I've pushed the historical period a bit; the clothes I've shown here would actually be right for the period from about 1790 to 1800.

I designed the front. The portraits are based on photos, and I tried to draw their cat from my imagination. Notice that I ran out of the darker olive green I was using for the bushes (right), so I had to finish the left in a paler, less dynamic colour.

The border of fruit, flowers and insects is taken from a pattern in a book called Flowers, Birds and Unicorns: Medieval Embroidery by Candace Bahouth. The inside picture in the book is an orangerie. The back is green velvet, and I bought some ready-made green satin cording for the edging. It's silly, but fun.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Appliquéd Baby Quilt

This pale-pink cotton baby quilt was done ten years ago for my niece Tara. I designed it myself. It's very traditional, with appliquéd apples and cherries, and hand-quilted. The scalloped edges are trimmed with homemade red cotton bias tape.

A lot of the quilting is simply straight lines, spaced one ruler-width apart. It looks very satisfying when it's all done.

I also appliquéd a heart in a handprint (mine, traced and cut out) on the back,and embroidered a signature and date. The photo was take outside the Scadding Cabin at Exhibition Place.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tomato Red Knitted Baby Sweater

I don't need another blog, but I keep wishing I had a place to keep track of home and crafty thoughts. So there we go.

This is a baby sweater that I knitted in an Italian wool from a 1970s-vintage  pattern for the son of a cousin of mine. The contrasting yarn embellishments on the right side were not of course finished when I took this picture. I like making baby clothes that are neither pink nor blue, and I often go for cheesy but washable acrylic. In this case, however, I went for the good stuff.