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.