Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Small projects for tiny times

It has been a while since I've updated; I've been very busy - being hospitalised with pre-eclampsia, being induced and having a baby, bringing my son N. home and coping with the first few weeks of being a parent. All big changes.
While I was in the hospital for the week before I was induced I had a fair amount of free time, trapped as I was, and got some crocheting done.  I've finished the blanket I was working on (as discussed previously, "English Beat" from Candi Jenson's Candy Blankies.)  I do very much like the finished look.
My version of Candi Jenson's 'English Beat' - using cream and darker blues.

Since then I've done nothing. In the past week, however, we've started to get more into a routine and have begun to feel more in control and more competent with feedings and changes and settling to sleep, and as a result I've been able to read and we've started watching some episodes of shows on DVD in the evenings and today I found the impetus to start doing some crafting. Everything needs to be in small scale - anything could be interrupted by a waking baby, and my blocks of time are shorter than before.
Today's project involved updating a baby seat - this is something N won't be using for a while, as he needs to be able to sit up and support himself, but friends gave it to us. The tray cover had come off though and was just sitting in the tray, rather than being stuck down. I decided ages ago that it would nice to replace it with a Spoonflower wall decal - wipeable and able to be stuck to the tray.  I ordered a medium wall decal of giggleboy print from Spoonflower. To cover the tray, I simply traced around the old cover, cut it out, and stuck it down.

... and after!
Simplicity itself, but it is nice to get back into doing things of that nature.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Knitting 1, Crafter 1 - finally, a draw!

For many years now, that title would have read 'Knitting 1, Crafter 0' as knitting was a definite defeat for me.  I learned how to crochet first, you see, and it was the one that came naturally. As I've written before on an LJ craft blog
I love crochet. I'm competent at crochet, which is better than being 'good', as I understand it, because being good at crochet implies that I am reasonably fast and able to accurately complete intermediate to hard projects. Being competent, as I imagine it, includes that but also covers the ability to correct mistakes, to be able to look at the piece and tell what stitches I've been using, to really KNOW what the yarn is doing and how it will react to different stitches.  So learning to knit (again? I did once learn as a child, but not very well and I quickly abandoned the knowledge) has been disheartening because I am so incompetent. I cannot visualise the final product. I don't realise I've made a mistake while the stitches are still on the needle. I am a slave to the pattern and my instruction books. 
I'm not really sure what prompted me to try another learn to knit class.  Probably looking at all these cute knit baby ideas online? Anyway, Morris & Sons was running a competition on their blog to win one of their classes, and while I didn't win it occurred to me that I had plenty of days free and it wasn't stupidly expensive...

All my other learn to knit attempts have been from books or being taught by family, so perhaps it was just the different approach of a stranger. Perhaps it was the basics coming back to me from previous attempts and realising I was better than the 'true' beginners in the class. Maybe it was having the anatomy of the stitch pointed out clearly.  Whatever it was, I got to the end of the class feeling more confident than I have ever been before about knitting.

The sample above, done mostly in the class (I finished off the moss stitch and did the casting off at home) contains garter, stockinette, a 2-2 rib, reverse stockinette, a 1-1 rib, and moss stitch. No added stitches, no dropped stitches. I'm chuffed with how well it went. I don't think knitting will ever replace crochet as my go-to yarn craft, but I have my eye on a few baby projects.  Fingers crossed.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Starting conversations about craft

Visits to my obstetrician involve a lot of waiting. It isn't that they are always running late, although as with any doctor's appointment there is an element of that. But I see the midwife first, then I return to the waiting room until I see the obstetrician. Usually I just take a book but last week I took a panel of the argyle baby blanket I am crocheting. ("English Beat" from Candi Jenson's Candy Blankies, for the very interested; I've changed the background colour to a cream rather than the yellow and the blues are a shade darker each. Pictures when finished.) I've never had that much conversation happening in the waiting room before! The receptionist, the midwife (who is a knitter) and another lady and I all had a nice chat about what I was making, and knitting vs. crochet, and why it is only worth working with nice quality wools.

I mention this because I've set myself the challenge of getting more conversations going about craft generally, and what I'm doing in particular. In a way it is leading up to launching Parlour Duck crafts as a business, when I need to be prepared to talk about what I'm doing, but it is also linked to promoting craft in public generally.  Working on projects in public seems like an obvious way of starting such conversations. I haven't yet got to the stage where I'm comfortable starting a conversation with someone with someone who is clearly watching what I'm doing, as I can't yet judge whether they are interested particularly or just in lack of anything else to look at on the bus!

Another technique, inspired by the talented Tanith Rowan, is wearing things I've crafted in public.  The week before last I did a learn to knit class at Morris & Sons, which I'll blog about soon, and I wore a cardigan I'd crocheted. When we were introducing ourselves, and I mentioned I crocheted, the teacher asked if I'd made what I was wearing, and I was happy to be able to say yes and it got several admiring comments. The cardigan actually is a bit baggy and very much an overshirt normally, but I wore it fastened over my ever-growing baby bump with a silver pin shaped like gum nuts, and it fell nicely open from that point. Far more stylish as maternity wear than its usual "lounging around the house" wear.

I can't help but think that I am missing some ways to start more craft conversations - any ideas?

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Baby Drawer

I made my first deliberate purchase for a future baby at the Sydney Royal Easter Show when I was 19 or 20. I'm going to say 20. I was wandering around the sheep and wool pavillion (back in the days when that meant half was display of sheep and fleeces, and half was actually relevant sales and information booths) and saw these absolutely gorgeous handspun and handknitted merino wool baby blankets. They had other things as well, scarves and hats and sweaters, but the blankets were just amazing. I bought one, and a skein of wool (the very fine cream merino yarn shown in the stash photo in my last post).  The wool went into stash, waiting to be used for something Really Special, which clearly has yet to eventuate.
The blanket started my baby drawer.

This lovely blanket made from organic wool was my first baby drawer purchase. 
The baby drawer is an extension of having a hope chest. My first item for my hope chest was a lace tablecloth given to me on the occasion of my birth by Mrs Squadrito, who lived up the street in Balmain.  I used the hope chest not so much as a 'for when I get married' but as a 'for when I have a place of my own'. The baby drawer has been the place to put things I've bought or been given or have tucked away to save from my own childhood.
For example, the cute metal mug was mine as a child, and the dress was worn definitely by my sister and possibly by me:

Whereas these I've bought over the last fifteen years:
Isn't that frog washboard the cutest thing ever?
I have to confess, having a baby drawer made a lot of sense until I had to explain it to people, at which point I worried it made me seem desperate. I remember being a bit apprehensive when I talked to my now-husband about it for the first time. But I've always liked planning for the future, and grabbing cute items when I saw them - who knows if I could find that frog again?

Suddenly though, I'm buying with an actual baby in mind, rather than hypothetical future baby, and that makes a difference.  One or two cute singlets and onesies in a drawer are swamped by the bags of second-hand clothes that helpful friends have provided. We went shopping yesterday and ordered several important items, including a pram and a bassinet.  And I've been going through the baby drawer with a new eye, assessing which items will actually be used. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

A quick photograph display

I know it seems silly to be doing anything decorative when it won't be long until everything goes into storage or gets moved, but while I was cleaning up my bookcase I decided to try something fun with all the strip photographs I've been accumulating from weddings.
Lately any Redbubble T-shirts have come with tiny clothes pegs to attach the information labels to the shirts, and I've been collecting them. So I attached the pegs to the photos, strung them on some twine, and attached them to the edges of a shelf.

I end up with a cute little clothes line of photographs!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Making Room for Mustard Seed

The arrival of a new baby, even when eagerly planned and anticipated, has a sobering reality when one actually looks around one's crowded one-bedroom unit and thinks "where is all the baby stuff going to FIT?".  Our baby, who has been nicknamed Mustard Seed since the beginning of this pregnancy, is not going to have an excessive amount of material possessions - I hope; I'll blog later about how I'm planning to encourage ethical gifting and, inspired by my sister, discourage new plastic toys - but the little things add up. We've received some second-hand clothes and muslin wraps, a rocking sleepy-chair for day; we need to fit in a bassinet or cot, probably find a way to put a chest of drawers in for the clothes.

There are two main components to making more room - the first is a major plan to renovate our current unit and the soon-to-be-vacant unit behind us into one lovely family home which will be ours for the rest of our lives. I'm not going to blog about this much, except when it impacts the rest of my life; at the moment we are talking with my mother-in-law, who owns both flats, about the legal side, and starting to gather estimates from builders on what the renovation itself would involve and cost.

The more achievable plan is decluttering. Oh, the decluttering. I'm going through everything, slowly but surely trying to whittle down possessions I don't want or need. Occasionally I think 'wait, even if I do get rid of X, is another four inches of space on top of a kitchen cupboard actually going to make any more room?' - but then I remind myself that if the renovation is as severe as I think it will be, all of our stuff will need to be in storage or in temporary rental, so the real question is 'do I want this enough to pay to move or store it?'. Often the answer is no.

I'm decluttering in the bedroom at the moment. Clothes are mostly done, which I'm feeling good about. I'm about to start hobby/craft stuff, which is a bit more painful. I'm trying to be realistic yet balance future needs. It is one thing to say that I'll never go back to painting miniatures or making terrain, but... I've said that before. And maybe in 6 years time I'll have a little boy who wants to paint monsters...

As a result of all this sorting, actual crafting is taking a back seat. I'm making some star-stitch booties from a pattern in a library book that was going very well and now I've hit a point where the pattern doesn't seen to actually work out. Blerg.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Stash-busting for the baby

With my last week of work over, I'm turning my attention to a variety of things - getting Parlour Duck crafts underway, working on my assignment for the embroiderer's guild class, and crafting for the baby.
Since I've found out that the baby is almost certainly a boy (the doctor doing the scan said: "I could be wrong. But it would be one of those cases that we write up to use as an example of how we can be really wrong.")  I've had to readjust my crafting ideas - I'd been so sure I was going to have a girl. Oh well. I'm now totally besotted with the idea of my wriggly little boy, so all good. So I've been back through all my magazines and torn out patterns, I've been trawling through free patterns on Ravelry, I've been borrowing books from the library. But before I go crazy and buy a lot of new yarn and fabric, I want to use up what I can from my stash.

My sister sent me a link to a great blog post where the blogger has arranged her stash so seriously, she can make GRAPHS of what is left to use.  Awe-inspiring. For about ten minutes I was drifting in a 'huh, that wouldn't be too hard' daze but then I realised that I'd use organising the stash as another procrastination technique.  Anyway, I dumped out my yarn stash and made a pile of all the yarn I'd either bought to make baby gifts or had left over from previous baby gifts to work out what I had to use up. Turns out, not a great deal.
Baby-project yarns from my yarn stash. 
In fact, the more I handle the soft-spun mohair (the turquoise yarn) the less I'm happy that I ever used it for a baby poncho years ago. It has a slight underlying scratchiness. So that might be used for a grown up project. I made the decision that I didn't have enough of any one yarn - except maybe the very fine cream merino - to do a large project, so these won't make blankets. The cream merino and maybe the pale blue/white/yellow at the front will make cardigan-size projects. The others will go into socks/booties/hats/etc.

I'd forgotten that making baby things could be so quick! I made a hat last Thursday. Grabbed the pattern from my stack of 'torn from magazine' sheets. Grabbed yarn from stash and hook from roll. Started crocheting on the train to work. Continued during the evening minding the counter at the store. By the time my shift was over, the hat was complete apart from weaving in the end, as I hadn't brought a large tapestry needle with me.
Baby hat, made from stash, completed over the course of a day at work. 
Now I'm making some socks from the same yarn, using a pattern that I've made for other people's babies over the years and really liked.  It feels good to be able to add stuff to the baby drawer that I've made for this specific, known-about baby.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Rogue Trader Cape - complete!

All of my normal crafting was put on hold this past two weeks because I had the looming deadline to get my husband's Rogue Trader Warhammer 40k cape finished before the final LARP game ever for this campaign. If it wasn't finished in time, it would never have been worn for its intended purpose... so the pressure was on!

I finished the embroidery quickly enough, although I decided to leave off the motto. The letters would have been too fiddly and I'm not sure it would have been completed in time.
The embroidery almost completed. 

It looks ok without the motto. 

The monocle was an panicky substitute - I'd hoped to be able to buy a gold coloured wire circle in a 2-dollar shop jewellery findings display, but could only find what I was looking for in silver. Eventually I used a gold finding I had lying around that was designed to be eyelet edging. The chain of the monocle is very fine crochet.
A close up of the skull's monocle. 
My husband and I went shopping to find a fabric for the lining. I was leaning towards pale gold satiny fabrics, but he went for a really metallic gold polyester stretch fabric. In the store I was thinking 'this is so gaudy and horrible' but in truth it was a much better match and fit in better with the intent of the cape and the overall costume. Rogue Trader crews are not known for their restraint.  You can see the lining most in the collar.
The collar under construction. 
I borrowed some millinery wire from my sister to go around the top and at intervals in the collar.
The front is decorated with some gold braid and some cheap skull earrings that another member of the crew found.
The skulls are earrings - $3! They give just the right finishing touch. 
I had hoped to get some better pictures of the cape in its entirety, but I decided I couldn't wait for the rain to finish and the light to improve.
The back of the cape. 

The front of the cape as a whole, showing the collar lining still,
and hints of the rest of the lining. 

I'm glad he got to wear it at least once. According to my spies at the event, the cape gathered a lot of comments, so I'm very happy.
You can read about the earlier stages of the cape and its embroidery here.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Embroidery class, year 2 - fine needlework - smocking

Our last completed topic in the guild's basic course was fine needlework. Year 2 has a very different feel to year 1, because we've had people move away, drop out, etc, and we are down to a group of six. Very cosy and yet more competitive!

Fine needlework is technically anything done with a tiny needle, but for the purposes of the class it covered two types of work: madeira work and smocking. This post will be about smocking, as thanks to the pregnancy exhaustion of first trimester, I didn't fully complete my madeira work project before handing it in, and I'd like it to be done before I photograph it for the blog!

I've been interested in smocking in the past, even to the extent of buying a book on it, but the amount of preparation you need to do to pleat the fabric had always seemed daunting. There are techniques you can use to smock fabric without pre-pleating, like counterchange smocking, but it works best on stripes or checks and still requires some fabric preparation in terms of marking it up.  So being given a pre-pleated sample piece for the purposes of the class was an ideal opportunity to try the stitching part without the initial time investment.

For our class and assignment folder we had to produce a smocking sampler, so just trying a variety of stitches.  I do enjoy the freedom of producing samplers but it does occasionally end up looking a bit messy.
I ended up with about a dozen different stitches and variations on stitches on my sampler, and I'm quite happy with it. I didn't get the room to try picture smocking, or smocking with buttonholes for a ribbon insertion - two techniques I liked the look of - but it was a still a good range to get a sense of what is involved in the technique.
The finished smocking sampler for the class. 
The basic stitches are quite easy. A lot of the elegance of smocking comes from how you combine them - so using the basic wave stitch in a variation that forms these lovely triangles, between which I've added tiny cable stitch florettes:
These triangles are made up of one basic stitch - but are so effective!
Or using a simple stem stitch to create a trailing vine which you then embellish:
An embellished trailing vine is so pretty - in a final project it might need backsmocking to keep it strong.
I really enjoyed playing with these smocking stitches. My reservations still stand though. There would be a LOT of preparation of fabric. But the final result does look beautiful. I suspect that only the recent news that the impending baby will be a boy has stopped me researching pleaters on ebay. After all, how much room would a pleater take up?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A new beginning

Making the decision to walk away from Jupiter Hollow, and running a craft business with my sister, was very difficult to get around to emotionally, but once made we accelerated our planning a lot. Going 'alone' means that we can work at our own pace and have a more coherent brand vision, but because we'll still be going through many of the same stages at the same time we will be supporting each other.

For a long time I'd planned to run a craft business of my own under the name 'Cinnamon Mist', but unfortunately when I sat down to have a look that was taken at blogspot and as an etsy store name, so I didn't think it was a great idea to continue with that (even though I had it as a gmail address. I've since 'released it' back into the ether.) But that left me in a quandary. I'd blithely assumed I could be Cinnamon Mist still, and be happy with that, despite the fact I decided on that name when I was about 16.  Now I needed to find a new name.

Deciding on the new name has been very difficult. Lots of brainstorming. Lots of random words being appended to other words. Lots of 'what do you think of ...?' to sister and husband.

I'm happy with Parlour Duck crafts. It is intended to convey the traditional craftsmanship and the quirky edge of the items I craft. And the fact that I like ducks. Fraser, my very own precious duck, long gone now, is of course a strong inspiration for the name. I suspect she would have been very happy to be a parlour duck. She certainly took every opportunity to be a kitchen duck and an inside duck. (It is a very tiny Fraser in my avatar picture.)

I believe in the long term I'll be happier than if I'd just defaulted to cinnamon mist because it was there in my mind. Parlour Duck crafts reflects the me of today rather than half a lifetime ago. So what can you expect from this blog? Much the same as my posts on our Jupiter Hollow blog - posts about my current projects, posts about updating vintage crafts and patterns, the occasional reflective post on ethical crafting and fashion, etc. But there will also be some new slants - I'm having a baby in November, so that is the focus of a lot of my time, energy and interest at the moment! And as we launch our craft businesses, they'll be posts talking about the crafts and patterns I'm selling.