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.