Apr 29, 2014

Quick and Colourful Improvised Crochet Top

I am very impressed with how quickly I finished this super easy crochet top for my daughter: I started it on Saturday night, did a few hours on Sunday and Monday (not all day, as I was busy shopping, having to get my car's alternator fixed and cutting my lawn), and put it all together today.

This top was made for a child size 10 years and the colourful stripes (her choice) are each made of 2 rows of treble crochet (that's double crochet to US readers). I used some acrylic DK yarn: a bit less than half a 100g ball of each of the 3 colours so it was also cheap to make.

Being acrylic, it's not a top she'll be wearing on hot summer days, but we live in Ireland so that's fine. I would have used cotton yarn for a real summery top, but being broke, I did with what I had in the house.

I didn't waste time looking for a pattern. My daughter was wearing a cute top at the time with a simple shape: a front and a back piece with short sleeves as extensions of the top's shape, so I used that top as a template.

My daughter being the one who chose the colours and told me she wanted the same shape as the top she was wearing a the time, she also requested that I do 2 rows of treble crochet per stripe (first she asked me what was quicker and that was the quickest stitch I could use in making a crochet top so I think  she was just in a hurry to have it), and she demanded that I start with the pink stripe, then the white, then the yellow, I might as well say this top was designed by her (I'm just the maker).

I finished by adding a pink border made from 1 row of double crochet (Single crochet for our US friends) all around the neckline after sewing the top together). I was going to do the same for the sleeve edges, but it looked good enough without, and I was afraid this would make the sleeves too tight (not that my 9 year old has huge biceps, but I want her to have freedom of movement for those star jumps and cartwheels!)

With all the stripes, the yarn ends were a bit of a pain to sew in, but not a major issue.

And that's how you crochet a piece of clothing like a Boss!

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Apr 26, 2014

Crochet Projects For The Family

This week I decided to use some of my yarn stash and practise my crochet skills to make myself a summer top: I am using some grey Sublime Tussah Silk DK for the bottom part and I have just finished the waist band in dark green Filati Da Collezione Star: it has got glittery silver in it, and I think it goes well with the shiny silk from the gray yarn:

I am also starting a top for my youngest daughter. The three of us were shopping for clothes on Wednesday and the eldest always gets more: I bought her little sister a cheap pair of jeans but most of her clothes get passed down to her from her big sister, so she can feel a bit left out sometimes.

So this afternoon I let her pick some of the DK acrylic yarn previously bought from Aldi, if I had had some bright cotton I would have used it but as we live in Ireland and summer never gets hot and doesn't last more than a fortnight (and that's if we're lucky!), acrylic will do. It will be also perfect in the autumn over a plain long sleeve T-shirt.

So she decided on fushia pink, white and yellow for her top. She may be only 9 but she knows what she wants and judging by some of the drawings she's been doing, she has an eye for fashion! She requested that I do it in treble crochet (that's double crochet if you're in the US): 2 rows of each colour between changes to be exact. It is going to have the same shape as the top she is currently wearing today, which I am going to have to steal tonight when she changes into her pyjamas in order to measure it properly (it's not easy to measure a slightly hyper happy child who likes to jump up and down all the time!).

I made the swatch as requested by her and measured the bottom part of her top just so I can make a start on it. It will be bright and wonderfully colourful, just like Emilie's happy personality:

I will now leave you with some crafty bits that Emilie wanted me to share on my blog: about 80 chain crochet bracelets, necklaces and rings made by herself using her own stash (yes I know!) and some of my leftover bits of yarn:

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Apr 18, 2014

DIY Dummy Put To Some Good Use: Alpaca Lace Hearts Shawl And Knitting Pattern

Today is the day when I unveil my finished DIY dummy bust shape.

After I finished stuffing and covering Barbie twice with papier mache, I painted it all over with white poster paint. I used 2 coats but she could really have used 3.

I was very lucky with the nice sunny weather here at the beginning of the week, so I did all this outside, where I managed to dry the 2 coats of paint in one afternoon, while worriedly watching and hoping the wind wouldn't blow her out on the uncut grass.

After I brought the dummy home, I noticed the paint was looking a bit cracked, so I covered it with a thick coat of craft glue in order to seal everything in place.

So now I have one bumpy dummy bust, which I dressed using one of my summer tops, to hide all the bumps and not too even white colour.
It's not perfect but it will do for what I need: something that is not me to help me display knitted scarves, wraps, shawls...
It was a lot of time-consuming work, and I resent it a little for all the time I spent making it, dirtying my kitchen, and not letting me knit as much as I would have liked. 

In the end, I am glad I have my display dummy now, and I have already put it to work to display my latest knit of art: the Alpaca Lace Hearts Shawl:

This shawl is available to buy now from my Etsy shop Sophie's Knit Stuff.

During all this week, I have also worked very hard on the shawl pattern, and I am proud to announce, that after even more time drawing charts on my computer, typing the corresponding instructions making sure there were no mistakes, translating the same instructions in French, and an awful lot of proofreading, the knitting pattern for my Alpaca Lace Hearts Shawl is now also available to buy from Etsy, Ravelry and Craftsy.

I am going to have a cup of coffee now, before I replenish my food supply and clean the house, and then hopefully I will be able to enjoy a nice long Easter week-end.

Happy Easter!

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Apr 13, 2014

Making A DIY Bust Shape: How To Build A Dummy Body Using Chicken Wire

For a while I've wanted to get a dummy body to display the scarves I knit but unfortunately, living on the Island of Ireland leaves me with 2 choices: paying astronomic shipping rates to get a large item delivered to me, or making one myself.

There are a few YouTube videos that show you how to make a dress form: you can get someone to cover you with duct tape, get that someone to cut you out of the shape made, close it up with more tape and fill it with stuffing, newspapers, expanding foam...

Being the only adult in my house (I'm not sure I should trust a 12 year old to have the patience to do all that work: she might give it up, leaving me half stuck for a few hours, and the cutting bit might be a bit tricky - I don't want blood on my dummy!), I decided to use another DIY method to build my dummy body: of course it had to be the hardest and slowest one!

First I got a small roll of small gauge chicken wire in a local shop: you can get some in most hardware stores, you don't need a very large quantity, a 100cm length is enough for an average size bust.

Then I put on my gardening gloves and tried shaping my roll into something that looked like a female body shape:

You really need gardening gloves for this, as chicken wire has sharp bits and if you're a knitter or a crocheter, you need to protect your hands! You might want to cover your kitchen table with newspapers before you start, I left my cheap tablecloth on to protect the table from scratches and the tablecloth is still a bit grey.

Shaping is a bit tricky: you need to pull the holes in the wire slightly apart for wider areas (chest, shoulders and hips), and push them tighter for skinny areas (neck and waist).
I call her Barbie: she's not made out of barbed wire, but her waist is Barbie-like skinny. Hopefully I'll manage to fatten her up a bit, but as she'll only be used for scarves, she doesn't need to look too realistic (she has a bigger chest and tinier waist than me, but the height and shoulder to shoulder width are about right).

Now comes the messy bit: that wire is pretty sharp and not that pretty at the same time, so I decided to cover my dummy body with papier mache.

I started tearing up strips of newspaper in front of my kids hoping they would want to finish the pile and it worked!

Then I got my 12 year old to show me the papier mache mix she had used in school for her art classes: I thought it would be more complicated but it's only a pancake consistency mix of flour and water (messy, but easy enough to clean afterwards).

While my youngest was out playing with a friend (being a bit of a mess hater, I was a bit relieved that she was not around), I enrolled my 12 year old to help me cover the dummy shape with papier mache: it took us about 1 hour before the shape was all covered but it needed more layers so I let the first coat dry outside for the rest of the afternoon.

At that stage I had papier mache over the neck opening but not the bottom opening, which was a good thing because one of my very wise Facebook likers advised me to stuff it with newspapers to avoid it becoming "wonky".

The next morning I turned the bust over using my clean recyling bin: I used clean papers and cardboard found in the said recycling bin, as well as lots of old brochures and magazine pages to stuff the body, because I didn't want to run out of newspaper. Now is the time for me to confess to very rarely buying a newspaper, but I take all the local free newspapers I can get!

After stuffing it, I covered the bottom part of my dummy form with papier mache (still turned up neck down in my recycling bin).

Then after lunch, I added some white craft glue to the mix and added a layer to the front, while at the same time trying to fix some gaps and bumps, before letting it dry on the sunny patch in my kitchen.

I'll be doing the same with the back later on, and I will be painting it when I can rely on the weather to be dry and not as windy as it is today because I'm not cleaning paint stains off my kitchen floor. It needs to be sealed with some kind of paint or varnish (I will be using matte paint I had bought for another DIY project that did not happen and I don't want a shiny dummy when taking my scarf pictures), because I am afraid the smell of pancake batter would attract mice into my house in winter: it will need a thick coat of paint!

If you want to do this in your own kitchen, set aside 2 full days of no serious cooking because this will take over your kitchen as well as your time. I think using a hair dryer on a low setting would help it dry more quickly but I decided to let it air-dry, as I have plenty more things to do in between papier mache layers (I just hope my kids don't step in the papier mache mix bucket or on my dummy while I'm upstairs typing this!).

I'm not sure when I can post a picture of the finished dummy (or list the shawl I finished making, since I'll need this dummy to be finished and completely dry before then!), but when it is, I will let you all know!

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Apr 7, 2014

Free Crochet Easter Egg Pattern For Beginners

Last Friday while at school for the weekly crochet session where I try helping out (I say try because sometimes there's more giggles than actual crocheting:-), the teacher was looking for ideas of something simple the kids could work on during the week.

Because it's nearly Easter the obvious and easiest thing I could think of was a crocheted Easter Egg so I said I would try and come up with an easy Easter Egg crochet pattern.

Some of the girls in the class are still struggling with their crochet (I guess I'm not that much help then!), so I could have designed an egg to work in the round, but I thought it might be easier to work 2 flat pieces and sew them both together after stuffing them with cotton wool or other stuffing material.

I did my homework and came up with this:

Crochet Easter Eggs

I made the turquoise egg on Friday, typed the pattern on Saturday and my daughter tested the pattern by making the red and pink eggs on Sunday morning: she found them so quick and easy she made one more last evening and cast on a 4th one this morning, to work on in her spare time in school.

I also made a crochet basket to put all our eggs in, but I finished it last night and my daughter took it to school this morning before I got the chance to take a picture:-(

Since I am sharing the pattern with the school, I thought I might also share it with my blog readers.

If you are a beginner the instructions are very easy to follow because I tried making sure it would be easy for 12 year-olds (the average class age), there is even a chart included to make it even easier: my daughter can vouch for it!

You can download the PDF for free from my Ravelry store. Here is the direct link: Easy Crochet Easter Egg for Beginners.

I apologise to my French countrymen and countrywomen as the pattern is in English only because I am not familiar with French crochet terms (I learned crochet recently and have been living in Ireland for about 20 years), but the chart should make it easy enough to understand as long as you know how to increase and decrease in double crochet.

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Apr 3, 2014

Lace Alpaca Hoodie Cowl Knitting Pattern

For the last 2 weeks I have struggled writing the knitting pattern for the Lace Alpaca Hoodie Cowl I designed last November, and knitting a new one from scratch following my own instructions:

The main reason why I struggled so much was because I waited so bloody long between knitting it last November while scribbling some half French half English notes on a notepad, and realizing while knitting the Hoodie Cowl now that I must have skipped some steps, because I had to do some heavy editing to the pattern I thought I had got right (the shame!)

Lace Alpaca Hoodie Cowl
Anyway, now the knitting pattern is available to buy from my Ravelry Shop as well as Etsy, and it's in French as well as in English (purchasers will receive 2 PDF files: one in each language).

I try not to price knitting patterns too high, but after publishing my last one, I realised that after the Paypal and the Etsy fees, there isn't much left to go in my pocket, so hopefully I will sell a few of those despite the fact that spring is already here and that knitters may be looking for more summery knitting patterns for the next few months; well, the pattern is there to stay, and I will just have to remember to promote it again in the Autumn!

To buy my Lace Alpaca Hoodie Cowl from my Ravelry shop, please click here.

To buy it from my Etsy shop, please click here.

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