Archive for March, 2012

French Knitting - I forgot how much fun it actually is to sit down and do!

Don’t ask! Ive never heard it called that before but it made me giggle when I saw it; This week I’m rounding off a month of ‘Retro Crafts’ with the humble Knitting Nancy – and I forgot just what fun it could be!

Let’s do the history bit first shall we?

Knitting spools, Nancies or Knobbies, pretty much date back to Viking times with a little gadget called a ‘lucet’.

A modern day Lucet - Reminds me a bit of a chip fork 😉

Examples of these, carved from the nasal bones of cows, have been found at various archaeological dig sites in nearby York (Jorvik).

A classic wooden Knitting Nancy

The four pronged knitting spool that I refer to as a ‘Knitting Nancy’ is pretty much ‘the next generation’ of these little gizmos and is used, just like the lucet, to produce a knitted cord. But for a very comprehensive commentary on all of this I would suggest that you visit this link: http://www.waynesthisandthat.com/knittingnancys.html as it’s jam packed with interesting info that’s punctuated with plenty of pictures and instructions for how to make and use them.

To be honest, if it was me that had to sit down and make one I’d probably do what a lot of us did at school and use an old wooden cotton reel and some nails.

I've a sneaky suspicion that there are a lot of people that were first introduced to Knitting Nancies in this way - It's a real blast from the past.

Over the last few years I’ve gathered  together a small collection of commercially produced examples in various sizes and numbers of pins – including the ‘Magi-cord’ that spits work out at a about a metre a minute at the turn of a handle. In fairness, I tend to only really use these for the occasional bit of edging or cord ties and fastenings. In the past I’ve made a few knitted and stuffed bangles and very simple knotted bracelets but that’s about as creative as I’ve ever been!

So this week I started producing a steadily growing length of knitted cord with the intention of making a nice little pot holder like this one here:

Instructions for how to make this are available here: http://www.lionbrand.com/patterns/BK4K-0605004.html?noImages=

But then thought that maybe it would be a better idea to search out some retro inspiration:

Well I wouldn't wear it myself......

Vintage instructions for a retro pot holder.

At the moment I’ve just got a huge pile of I-cord that I can’t decide what to do with!  But I think the potholder is still pretty much on the cards due to various time constraints.

Thankfully there are much more inspiring examples of ways in which I-cord and knitting nancies have been used to create gorgeous works of art and functional fashion items if you search hard enough on the internet.

Here’s a couple of examples of what I’ve managed to find so far:

I love this! I spotted it on a great blog that you can visit from here. And the good news is that the instructions for how to make it are available to download from Ravelry – http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/spirals-french-knitted-bag

But for the best example of the innovative use of knitting nancies to create stunning works of art you’ll need to take a look at John Binet-Fauvel’s Etsy shop and his recycled electrical wire sculptures here: http://www.etsy.com/shop/JohnBinetFauvel?ref=pr_shop_more

Based in Cardiff, John uses wire that he’s salvaged from scrapped electrical goods such as TV’s, old slot machines etc and then builds his own dollies to create the sizes and shapes needed to create his breathtaking knitted sculptures. Many of his creations are inspired by the sea; And they’re all amazing!

Brilliant aren’t they?

And I’m still sat here with my pile of knitted cord feeling slightly inadequate and dwarfed by the astounding talent that’s out there in the world, yet very glad to have discovered some of it to share with you 😉

Next week see’s the start of a new month and another theme – This time it’s all about the home. Until then, Happy Crafting!

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There’s something very soothing and lovely about a nice cup of tea; Particularly one that’s made using a teapot and some proper loose leaf as opposed to a couple of teabags.

A good cup of Rosey Lee is one of my vices, and whether I’m at home or on the road, a teapot is an absolute necessity; That, and an accompanying cozy of course – as it helps to keep the pot warm and prolongs the whole tea guzzling experience just that little bit longer 😉

I spotted this rather lovely example on the telly the other week……

How marvellous!

………And tracked it down as available to purchase from Debenhams; It looked like a must-have buy……….

However, on closer inspection I found that it’s part of a larger range of patriotic themed wares that go by the name of ‘Street Party’ and has been made to fit one particular teapot that’s shaped differently to mine. The label also reveals that it’s been made in China and imported in to the country – therefore not really flying the British flag and supporting the UK economy 😦 It was with a heavy heart that I kept my money in my pocket and walked away empty handed.

Never fear, thought I………I’ll make my own version – based on classic English design and using locally produced materials that boast bonafide British credentials.

So I dug out an old crafting pamphlet that had been produced in the seventies by a local company just up the road from me called ‘Robin’s’ (based in Guiseley, Leeds) and also selected a few balls of DK weight acrylic yarn made by Woolcraft (spun by Yorkshire craftsmen based over the valley in nearby Bradford). Game on!

21 classic knitting and crochet patterns using odd ounces of wool

The pattern I chose produces a fairly easy and quick to make piece of crochet – it’s pictured at the bottom of the front cover in a striped pink colourway with four matching egg cozies. I adapted it slightly to suit my own tension and also to fit my teapot properly; And I made further changes by choosing to continue the striped pattern from beginning to end, using just double crochet stitches throughout as opposed to a mix of double and half double stitches as indicated in the original pattern.

Quick to make and an easy to follow pattern using single crochet stitches.

The adapted pattern is as follows:
STRIPED TEA COZY
Materials:
3 balls double knitting yarn in Red, White & Blue
3.75 mm crochet hook
Make two pieces:
With 3.75mm hook and Blue make 37 ch. Work 1 dc into 2nd ch from hook, 1 dc into each ch to end, turn with 1 ch.
Work in dc to end, turn, break the Blue and join in White, 1 ch then work in dc to end, turn with 1 ch.
Work in dc to end. Turn, break White join in Red, 1 ch then work in dc to end, turn with 1 ch.
Work in dc to end, turn, break Red and join Blue, 1 ch then work in dc to end, turn with 1 ch.
Continue with striped pattern to 5 ins from beg.
Next row, working in dc, and continuing with striped pattern, dec 7 sts evenly over the next and each of the following 3 alternate rows.
Work 1 row. Take 2tog to end of row, fasten off.
Join both pieces together leaving openings for the handle and spout.
Press lightly on wrong side using a warm iron over a damp cloth.
PLEASE NOTE that permission has been granted to share this pattern and no copyright has been breached.

A BBBB design originally intended for use with a bead loom but also works well for cross stitch.

For a special finishing touch I used the Union Jack chart I published in ‘Adventures with an Indian Bead Loom‘ to create a small piece of cross stitch that I layered up with a few squares of felt and then hand stitched in place with a double edge of clear seed beads. And it’s all finished off with a coordinating pom pom (please see last week’s blog for instructions on how to make one).
I think it looks lovely! And a perfect fit for my teapot; a fine example of retro kitsch.
Must be time for a well deserved cuppa now…………
Next week sees my final delve into retro crafts before entering a new theme and a new month – time for a look at one more gadget methinks. Until then, Happy Crafting!

A mega quick offering this week I’m afraid, as things have got very busy again at Bully Bus HQ 😉

And this time I’m going to show you a quick way to make perfect pom poms with another gadget from my crafting arsenal. It beats cutting out little cardboard circles like folks used to do back in the Seventies and can also be very therapeutic!

First you’ll need a pom-pom maker and some wool.

My pom-pom makers come in two identical hinged pieces – one half with holes and the other with knobbly bits. Line them up as shown with opposite sides facing each other.

Start wrapping the wool round.

Keep going until both sides are well wrapped.

Trim the end of wool to leave a short tail. Close the hinged pieces together and use the little white clips to fasten everything in place.

There’s a little ‘channel’ running between each half of the pom pom makers – Use this as a guideline for cutting through the wrapped wool.

Work all the way round. Cut a length of yarn to secure everything in place – use the cutting channel as a guideline again for where to bind and tie this.

Release the little white clips and ease the pom pom out by opening each hinged piece and removing.

Give the pom pom a little shake to help fluff it up. You may find that there are a few uneven ends – You’ll need some sharp scissors to give it a little haircut and even it up if it needs it 😉

My pom pom still needs a bit of trimming to make it perfectly spherical – then I need to make a further eight exactly the same, plus one that’s slightly larger.

Why? You may ask. Well, this month’s theme is all about retro crafts and I did say at the beginning that I wanted to make something nice for my home and something equally stunning for my camper van. So…….. a crocheted loom flower throw for the bus (which I’m tackling as and when I get any spare time), and something stunning from my little ‘Bazaar Time’ booklet (circa 1960’s) for my home.

Something stunning with pom-poms? Take a closer look at the cover and you’ll see it 🙂

No?

A pom-pom poodle toilet roll cover! The epitomy of retro style and taste; I’m going to have the best looking bathroom in the UK when it’s finished! Now it’s just a matter of finding the time to get it done as I’m currently busy crocheting chicken egg cozies and amigurumi bunnies for Easter. Maybe I should have plumped for the pom-pom chicken design that’s also featured in my ancient crafting booklet instead ……. a cool idea for something to do with the kids methinks. Oh well………Happy Crafting!

Continuing with my retro crafts theme, this week I thought I’d introduce you to a few more cool crafting gizmos and show you how to make quick and easy Suffolk puffs.

Classic Puff Patchwork Cushion

Sometimes referred to as ‘yo-yos’, a Suffolk puff is a little gathered circle made from a scrap of fabric and as such can be a brilliant stash buster when you need to use up excess resources. Traditionally, they were used in patchwork and quilting where they were joined together, edge to edge, and were incredibly popular in the thirties, forties and fifties, when out of thrift and the necessity brought about by hard times, people would use up every last scrap of fabric and recycle all their clothing in the ‘make do and mend’ culture.

Patchwork and puff perfection.

These days, with a resurgence in the popularity of all things patchwork, Suffolk puffs are once again in vogue and are often used  as embellishments, but also feature strongly as decorative elements in homewares, soft furnishings and even clothing.

Bjork sporting a coat made entirely of Suffolk Puffs.

They’re incredibly easy to make – particularly with a yo-yo maker or two to hand, and are also fairly portable which is why I often end up taking a stash of fabric circles, needle and thread on the road with me during the summer.

This week’s collection of gizmos and gadgets.

So let’s get down to the knitty gritty of how to make some…

We’ll start by using a couple of yo-yo makers which are basically circular discs with sewing guidelines. I’m using two different sizes with diameters of 45 and 60 millimetres and my fabric of choice is a selection of lightweight cottons.

7. Repeat the whole process again, using contrasting fabric and a smaller yo-yo maker.

Now it’s time to make a covered button before finally assembling each element.

9. Stack the two puffs and use a few stitches to join them together; add the fabric covered button as a finishing touch before stitching on a brooch back and Voila! A lovely brooch that would make a pretty gift for Mother’s Day 🙂

A really pretty, hand crafted gift for Mum!

Suffolk Puffs are great to use as embellishments. Why not invest in a couple of yo-yo makers and have a go at making some yourself? You’ll soon become hooked!

Puffs a’plenty on bags and purses – great little gifts to give to family and friends 😉

If you want to join in with my crafting adventures next week it might be wise to start sorting through your wool stash now. Until then, Happy Crafting!

It’s March! A new month and a new theme; Retro crafts will be my focus for the next few weeks where I’ll hopefully introduce a few cool gizmos that’ll make your crafting life much easier as well as creating at least one really nice accessory for my camper van and the odd, gorgeous household item in the process!

Let’s kick the proceedings off with something steeped in 70’s nostalgia – Flower Looms.

All the rage in 1974!

For the best dressed gal in town – A Flower Loom Stole

How positively delightful! Floral, feminine and flouncy – I’m sure you’ve probably come up with a few f-words yourself already 😉 Let’s look at a few more examples and really get to grips with this whole flower thing……

This screams out to be made and take pride of place in my house somewhere.

I’m taking bets that something like this ends up in Kath Kidston!

I could actually see this sort of thing coming back in a big way in 2012! I feel a summer collection coming on…!

RONCO – Bringing gizmos and gadgets to the crafting world. May the Lord bless ’em and keep ’em safe!

Right! That’s enough of that – Here’s a tutorial…..

First of all you’ll need a flower loom; I’m using one with movable pegs as my weapon of choice where different configurations will yield different styles and sizes of flowers.

Loom with movable pegs – Set up in a kind of Stonehenge configuration.

Look closely and you’ll see that it’s numbered at the edge – This shows you where to start and which direction to take.

Now are you ready?

1. Take a ball of DK weight yarn in the colour of your choice and grip the end firmly between your fingers. Pull the yarn out to arms length, and measure a tail that reaches from your extended arm to your nose. It’s important to remember to do this – Your going to use this ‘tail’ to secure everything in place when we reach stage 4.

2. Starting at the peg nearest position one of the outer edge of the loom, wrap the yarn in a figure of eight loop between this and the corresponding outer edge peg on the other side. Do this about four times before moving on to the next set of pegs, repeating the process all the way round until you arrive back at the beginning.

So far, so good? Here’s a tip – Once you’ve started wrapping your yarn, pull that long tail through to the other side of the loom so that it doesn’t get in the way

3. Using a second ball of DK yarn in a contrasting colour, virtually the same process is repeated all over again with the inner ring of pegs. Please note that you don’t have to measure out an arm to nose length of yarn in this step – 6 inches of excess yarn is ample at this stage.

4. Now we’re going to secure everything in place. Thread the end of your tail of yarn through a nice big darning needle. Starting at peg one, bring the needle through from the back of the loom and in between the outer ‘petals’ of your flower and stitch in to the centre. Following the direction of the arrows, use a simple backstitch to secure all the wrapped yarn in to place.

5. Bringing the yarn through from the back of your work again we’re going to work one more round of stitches to make everything look pretty. But still using a backstitch, we’ll work over a span of three petals each time until we get back to the beginning.

6. The flower is pretty much complete – Just remove the pegs to release it from the loom.

7. Give your flower a little ‘fluff’ to release the petals. Thread any loose tails of yarn through to the back of your work and secure. Bury any ends in the centre of your flower.

All done and dusted – Now I just need to make a small mountain of these to join together for my latest bed throw in the camper van!

Ain’t they lovely!

I’ve usually made them into quick brooches; Here’s one of my lovely nieces modelling a few from late 2010:

Poor Sash! Dragged all over the place to model for the Big Blue Bully Bus – This time it was just down the road from me at Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds. She’s a trooper, bless ‘er!

But this time, I’m going to make a huge stack of them to turn into a new bedspread for the bus! All thanks to the lovely lady behind knitting-and.com – http://www.knitting-and.com/small-looms/index.html and the oodles of hints, tips and inspirations she’s gathered together. She lives around and about the environs of Wollongong, Australia – possibly just round the corner from my lovely sister in law and her husband who love our Dak Dak (1963 splitty) to bits. Please take a few moments to visit her website if you can – it’s just brilliant!

Next week I’ll be introducing another gizmo that I think every crafter should have in their arsenal and also hopefully be giving you an idea for an ultra quick and easy to make Mother’s Day present – You’ll need a needle and thread and some scraps of fabric…… amongst other things. I’ll say no more,  I’m planning a trip out with the dogs and Mr Other Half in the bus before I spill the beans……. until then, Happy Crafting!