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Stitch Shape and Bristol Fashion

Crafting in the West Country

Briswool!

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Despite the name of this blog, I haven’t actually posted much, if anything, about this wonderful city in which I live! Well, that’s all changing today. Yesterday I went to an exhibition at the M Shed, which is all about Bristol. Unfortunately this exhibition is closing today, but it was amazing! Briswool! Bristol recreated through knitting and crochet with a few other techniques thrown it. So I’m going to take you on a whistle stop tour of my city represented through yarn.

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First up is potentially the most iconic Bristol landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel is often credited with designing it, but it was completed after his death and the original plans were reworked by other people. There has also been a lot of press locally that a woman actually played a big part in the design process. Something in the back of my mind is telling me that it’s the oldest suspension bridge in the world. But honestly, I wouldn’t trust 18 year old memories of our local history project at school.

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This is Bristol Children’s Hospital, and I think for anyone of my age who grew up in Bristol, it’s a very significant building. Nearly half of the funds used to build it were donations from the public! We are talking about millions of pounds being raised. And I was a part of that. The campaign used Wallace and Gromit as it’s poster boys (notice Shaun the Sheep on the roof), and Aardman Animations are still helping the fundraising campaign to provide the best possible experience for the children who are receiving care there.

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Stokes Croft is its very own subculture in Bristol. Not so long ago it was a pretty rough area with some good music venues. Now it’s a buzzing hive of creativity, good eats and still has the music vibe. There’s an early Banksy down there, on the wall next to an office block my dad used to work in, which has been turned into a community cafe called The Canteen. You may have heard a few years ago about the riots over a new Tescos opening there, because the area is full of local businesses, and it should stay that way. This particular building has been empty for as long as I can remember (although there have been squatters in there) and the facade is now used as a gallery for street art, constantly changing and providing something new to look at.

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The International Balloon Fiesta is a staple of the Bristolian Summer. I can’t go this year because it clashes with my camping weekend. Boo! But I’d defiantly recommend it if you want to plan a trip here around an event. It’s free entry! There’s a fun fair food, shows from The Red Arrows and if the weather’s good, you can watch all the balloons take off. It’s really magical.

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I’ve run up to my word count. Boo!

See you next week!

Life can be such a drag

What a week I’ve had, running around like a lunatic and keeping the momentum going. The sun’s come out in merry old Bristol and it’s time to think ahead to the summer, aka, costume season for me!

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We don’t mention the year I dressed as Elton ‘Hercules’ John

I’m not a cosplayer, I’m just a maniac who likes dressing up in a field. There’s a camping event I attend every August for Sci Fi and Fantasy fans, with drag night on Friday, a masquerade all day Saturday and the talent show in the evening, I have at least three costumes to prepare every year and I tend to tackle them each differently.

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My ‘crowning’ glory

This week I’ll tell you all about drag night. I did win the ftm category in 2014. There was some stiff competition from a unicorn onesie. What I wear to drag night tends to be a conglomeration of found items. I don’t do ready made costumes because they’re over priced, the quality tends to be poor and it’s just a bit dull in my opinion. The year I won, I was decked out as Beetlejuice. I was pretty poor at the time and had an awesome black and white stripy blazer and black trousers. It was a good look. Some how a black and white stripy corset seemed to work too. I was a very convincing man. My personality may well have been the reason I won. Believe it or not, I can be pretty funny at times.

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I think I got this man posture down!

Last year I didn’t enter. I felt as reigning champion I could hand the honer over to someone else with grace, dignity and pink wellies. I still did the drag though. Each year the whole event has a theme and last it was ‘The Library’. Late night drag and a bookish theme. When I came up with the answer, it was obvious. Arthur Dent. I didn’t need to get changed for bed. When you’re crawling into a tent at 3am and the biggest costume change you have to do it taking off your wellies, you count it as a blessing. When you’re taking all your camping kit on public transport, one less costume to try and squeeze into your case is the sign of a genius. A set of mens PJs for £5, a towel and my kindle case mama sheep made me with the words Don’t Panic inscribed in large friendly letters on the cover and I was sorted. Although one little girl did say I wasn’t dressed as a man or a woman.

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Martin Freeman’s got nothing on me

So what does this year have in store? Well, like in the same way my black and white blazer inspired me to be Beetlejuice, I am once again taking a cue from an item I already own. Real, honesty to god, genuine cowboy boots. Matthew McConaughey. Magic Mike. All I need is a nude coloured top, a black stetson and a black waistcoat and I’m more or less there.

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Bring on August!

To be continued…

I Got Itchy Feet and Stitchy Hands

Hey guys. Sorry about the break. I did mean to get some posts queued up before I went away, but I was so overwhelmed with packing, it just got away from me. But normal service has now resumed!

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Everybody’s got something to hide, except me and my monkey!

Time to get inspired! There was so much to see and do, I lost the rhythm of crafting. My plans were dashed. None the less, still have lots to tell you about. There is a fresh creative energy buzzing inside of me, and I can not wait to unleash it!

First of all, go and see things. Find all of the most beautiful places where you live, visit them, look at them with fresh eyes. In a 7th century church in Rome, I took pictures of the floor. Weird, huh? Well, I specifically had my mother in mind, I know she loves some good tile patterns to give her ideas for patchwork. She is pleased.

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Aisles of tiles.

Do things on your own and talk to people. Bit of a contradiction, right? Being by yourself gives you the time to soak up your surroundings. The most stressful day I had was when I did a walking tour of Rome. Not only was it hot and crowded, but I had to keep up with the group and couldn’t stop to take in the beauty of the city. The best places I went were places I went on my own. In Gibraltar, I talked to a taxi driver about the view of Africa from the top of the rock. In Florence I met a lovely street vendor from Yorkshire and bought a pressed flower from him. Barcelona introduced me to some American students to whom I gave some tips on what to do when they visit London which, thanks to Facebook, I know they used. I went to a talk about the psychology of art and nearly started crying because of the ideas that were discussed, something I may have been too self conscious to do had I been with someone.

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Confirmed: Morocco.

Find out how things are made. Anything. Even if it’s not something you want to make yourself. Our tour guide in Rome kept saying the architecture of the city is like a lasagne and she’s spot on. Rather than tear anything down, they just build more on top and it’s given me some great ideas for making some never ending projects that you just keep on adding to.

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The lasagne that is Rome

Throw your plans out the window if you don’t have time for them. My cross stitched diary I only ended up having time for the first four days. I’d like to give it another go if I have a holiday with more time to relax. On the first night, saw a band and rendered them in cross stitch. Later on I got to know them and on the last day I showed it to them. They had to have a picture of it. Happy feelings.

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It’s a boat! It’s a train! It’s SUPERBAND!

Until next week.

Sun, Sea and Stitches

This time next week I’ll be on a boat on an adventure around the sunny north Mediterranean coast! I haven’t been on holiday in 8 years and I’ve been trying to work out what to take to keep me occupied between ports. I’ve got a few things planned, so let us have a look on what I’m hoping will work craft wise on holiday.

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First time I’ve treated myself to prescription sunnies!

Part 1, the knitting.

You may remember me mentioning a few posts back that I’m planning to knit myself an octopus costume. With the ocean waves around me and 6 days at sea over the 2 weeks, what better time to make a start? It needs to be done by August, along with a couple of other costumes, so tentacles at the ready! The disadvantage to this is volume of the wool I will require. I’ve decided to take 3 balls with me (I have one per arm) and hope I’ve paced it right.

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Green Octopus. Because why not?

Part 2, the sewing.

Much smaller and more portable, cross stitch seems like an excellent idea. The debate was whether to take a kit or not, and in this case I decided not. But what shall I cross stitch? I’m going to take a piece of Aida, a selection of colours and turn it into a diary! Every day I’ll add it it to represent what I’ve done that day, something I’ve seen, something I’ve done… Currently, I’m thinking about what colours to take and how best to record which part represents the day/place. But I’m hoping to keep it fairly organic and let it grow as one image.

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So many colours, how will I choose?

Part 3, the sketching.

This week I came up with a 5 year plan. A big part of it is broadening my repertoire within art. I need to build up a skills set of working in various media and will be taking a whole bunch of classes and workshops when I get back. In the mean time, a good place to start would be warming up my sketching muscles. I bought a sketch book and a set of pencils and plan to record the beautiful cities of Europe in graphite. I’m not planning on recreating the Renaissance, just get myself going after a long break from pencil and paper.

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Warming up by doodling some shoes.

Part 4, the photography.

After a few months of being camera-less and having to rely on my phone/iPod to see my through, I have finally got a new camera, and I love it and I’m so excited to use it. While taking pictures might seem like standard holiday making, I’ve decided to set myself some boundaries. Looking at old family albums, they’re so much more interesting to look at than photo’s on Facebook, because when you were limited to 32 exposures on a roll of film, you took 32 different pictures. So, I’m limiting myself. 10 pictures a day of culture and 5 a day of selfies and the like. No deleting pictures to make a space for another, I make my choice and I stick to it.

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My new baby!

See you next week!

Mal-knit-ficent

This week I’m going in a slightly different direction and talking you through how I made my latest creation. I had this idea a while ago and after finally seeing the film and forgiving Angelina Jolie for breaking up Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pit, I decided to have a stab at a Maleficent headdress. It’s still not quite finished, but it’s not far off.

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Isn’t she stunning!

Stage one is breaking the design down into individual elements, studying them and working out how best to recreate each of them in a knitted form. So, looking at it, we have a hat and two horns.

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Turban’d!

After looking at the hat structure for a while, which has an almost ‘widows peak’, turban style hats seemed to be the way forwards, with a deep V shape at the front that an extra piece of knitting could be used to turn it into more of an M shape. It also needed to have a ribbed texture and cover the ears. After a snoop through ravelry, I decided upon this pattern, and knitted it up with no issues.

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With only my phone to take pictures, correctly exposing everything is a bit of a challenge…

So, the insertion to make the M shaped brim! It was a small piece of knitting, created thus.

CO 3 stitches

Row 1: K

Row 2: P

Row 3: K1, M1, K to last stitch, M1, K1 (5 stitches)

Row 4: P

Rep last two rows until you have 9 stitches, ending with a P row.

Next Row: K

Next Row: P

Next Row: K1, SSK, K to last 3 stitches, K2tog, K1

Next Row: P

Rep last two rows until 5 stitches remain

Next Row: K1, S1, K2tog, PSSO, K1

Next Row: P

Next Row: S1, K2tog, PSSO

And it just seams nicely in place! You can play with the proportions if you want, my first attempt was bigger and much much too big.

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Nose warmer!

Now, the really tricky bit. The horns! The first attempt I made, I decided were far too large for Jolie’s Maleficent, but would be quite good for the animated version.

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Round 1: too big!

To make them I used my trusty old Clanger pattern as a guide, and I’ll talk you through how I adapted it. The pattern can be found here for free.

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Round 2: There we go!

I knitted it in DK on 4mm needles. you start out by following the instructions as given on the pattern. except you work in the round. Follow the pattern until you have 30 stitches and then work one more row as given in the pattern. Work 12 rounds stocking stitch. Remove marker, knit 15 stitches, replace marker. Repeat the shape back of head instructions as you used them before, but without making any stitches. Knit in stocking stitch for 12 rounds. [P1 round, K1 round] 3 times and cast off.

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Long Horn? Mooooo!

I still need to work out how to make the horns stay upright and a few other bits, but I’d say I’m not far off a finished piece. I’ll follow that up on another blog and will also document the creation of a complete costume over the coming months. See you next week!

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Black stuffing is a must me thinks…

Fantastic Knits and Where to Find Them

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I knocked, but no one let me in.

Guess what I did yesterday? Harry Potter Studio Tours! There are so many amazing costumes, let’s have a little look at some people may have missed for inspiration.

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An alternative Hogwarts scarf

This is a pretty cool scarf. People normally try to represent their house pride, but this one incorporates all 4, so if you’re unsorted, fancy something a bit different or don’t identify as just one house, this could be a fun little challenge. It’s a simple sticking stitch job with tassels and I’m sure it’s not too hard to get hold of a crest to emblazon it with.

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You can almost smell the incense

How much fun could you have putting together a costume for Professor Trelawny? Layers and textures and scarfs and everything. Film Trelawny was no where near how I’d imagined her (I had a history teacher in school I based my image off) and that’s what’s so fun about her. She’s a character you can interpret in so many ways with so many influences.

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Not so much sheik, just plain shabby

Ron Weasley’s dress robes made me giggle when I pictured them in the book. and these are pretty close to what I had in my head, but pushed further. How fun would it be to find all the most ridiculous trimmings possible and create an ensemble akin to this? It wouldn’t require a huge amount of skill either. Find some old clothes in a charity shop and just add frills! You don’t even need to sew them on, glue would be fine, and it’s almost a case of the worse it’s done, the better!

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I think he’d fiddling with a plug in his pocket, trying to work it out.

Keeping it in the family, Arthur Weasley’s cardigan is pretty sweet. This presents a number of different challenges in terms of construction though. While the first thing you need to do it collect loads of different fabrics in one shade of brown, putting them together could prove tricky. What makes in interesting is looking at woven and knitted and heavy and light fabrics all working together, which is no easy feat. If it was me, I’d look at going down two avenues. Using interfacing, or the final effect being a all encompassing patchwork embellishment enveloping a properly structured garment.

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Just the tiniest bit of me was on the look out for Nagini

I know Professor Umbridge is a pretty popular Halloween costume, but have you ever thought about having a go at Bathilda Bagshot? Layers upon layers of greys and textures along side a gaunt looking face. She is being inhabited by a giant snake as well, could be fun to try and include that idea somehow.

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Matching scarf and everything

Katie Bell’s coat was a revelation. Seeing up close, it was potentially the most surprising object there. A woolen coat with knitted sleeves! I have no idea who one would begin to tackle this, but I plan to have a go one day. If you want to try, the sleeves looked like they were brioche stitch.

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Brb, flying to Hogwarts.

Anywho, don’t think this is all I have to say about Studio Tour, but I’ll have to leave you there today.

Fearless Knitting!

First off, apologies for not posting last week, everything’s a bit mad at the moment. I’m writing this whilst perched on a stool and I have never wished for something to support my back more than I am now. Also, no pictures this week because the vast majority of my knitting is currently in storage. This post will be revised when the time is right. Anyway, this week I’m back in action and writing about being fearless.

When I first started knitting I’d say I was pretty fearless in my approach. I never saw a technique as something scary, so much as something to try out, and I think this approach is pretty good, but the longer I’ve used it, the more I’ve put rules in place to make the process balanced.

Firstly, know what you’re trying to make. The second thing I ever knitted was cabled arm warmers. I was just following a pattern pretty blindly and only at the end did I understand how the instructions I was following related to what I was actually making. It was actually a fun way to go with a massive learning curve (I hadn’t even purled before) but I wouldn’t recommend trying it often. My mum bought me the kit, it could easily never have been made at all. If anything would have helped me, it would have been knowing which bit of the instruction related to what outcome. I didn’t even know the word cable.

Budget according to your confidence level. If you want to have a go at a technique and create a huge, show stopping object out of that super expensive yarn you’ve had your eye on for ages, work out the technique on a smaller test item first. Last year my birthday present from mama sheep was the yarn to create an object of my choosing. I’d had to Totoro adaptation of Paper Dolls ear marked for a while, and while I’m not disappointed with it, I really should have researched fair isle and maybe done a few tests before jumping into such a large and expensive piece.

Recognize your skill level and challenge yourself accordingly. Never tried intersia or increases before? Sure you can try them both at once so long as at least one of them is used in a simple form. In general I would recommend just trying one new thing at a time, but if a second technique you haven’t tried is used in small quantities or in entirely separate rows to the one you’re really excited about, why not give them both a go at once?

Know if you’re in the mood and have the patience. I often have a couple of different projects on the go at once and which one I’ll work on will depend on how much concentration I want to give my knitting. There are projects were you can be mostly focused on the TV, projects where you’re half watching the TV and projects where the TV might as well not be on at all.

Well, see you next week. Promise this time.

Animateknit!

Kids TV and film has some of the cutest knitting in, particularly in animation!

  
I remember going to see Monsters Inc when it was out in the cinema, so when I saw Monsters University, this little knitted jumper just seemed to be too perfect! I’ve seen it adapted in various ways, there’s a whole host of ways of utilising the intersia design out there.

  
Another of my greatest works in progress, although I honestly feel I might just start this one over. Bagpuss is just too cute and the pattern published in Women’s Weekly a number of years ago is greatly sought after. Luckily, nana sheep does read it and kept the pattern, so I do have it tucked away in my stash.

  
I know I harp on about the Clangers a lot and the book of knitting patterns. I have also seen the basic pattern available for free online, so don’t feel like you have to buy the book to give them a go. But isn’t this picture the best? A clanger knitting! How adorable!

  
I attempted to knit Coralines jumper a few years back. I don’t think I was quite ready for such a big comment though. I want to give it another go at some point, and dress up as her. Blue hair? What a cool look. There does seem to be a pattern available online, however, it does not seem to want to be accessible on a mobile device, so you’re going to have to take it on faith from me. Did you also know the costume in the film is hand knitted in miniature? Beautiful! Read an interview with the knitter here

  
As a Bristolian, how could I leave out some of our own local heroes? Wallace and Gromit! One man and his dog who loves to knit on some weird and wonderful adventures. The pair have been the face of a campaign locally to raise money for a local children’s hospital, most recently through a Shaun the Sheep sculpture trail last summer. There were some pretty neat knitting and crochet offerings to see. 

See you all next week!

Pattern Scavenging

I’m a dirty rotten pattern scavenger and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Making unique objects is a part of the joy of crafting, but, as with anything creative, creating something entirely novel is nigh on impossible. When I have made my own items without using a preexisting pattern as a base, I’ve still looked at quite a few to get my head around it. My rule is credit where credit is due. I will happily use another persons pattern and alter and change it, but at no point do I claim it to be entirely my own work.

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This is my most recent completed project. Pretty cool isn’t it? It’s also a combination of two different patterns I used to create one striking and unique object. I’ve wanted to have a go at the Tree of Gondor chart for quite some time. I love the jumper the person who designed it put it on, but once I looked at the price of that pattern, I thought I’d have a little look to see if I could find something else to create a similar effect. (I don’t mind paying for patterns, but I think the current USD to GBP conversion rate has made some things a touch on the expensive side.) After a trawl through ravelry I found this pattern which was a fantastic match. Cables on both the sleeves, and around the neck which ended up matching nicely to the tops of the branches.

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Last year, a friend mentioned she wanted a knitted viking helmet after seeing Anna Sui’s on the catwalk. I think she was hoping I’d make her one, but wasn’t expecting one. But I loved the idea, and in the next couple of months produced this for her. Perhaps a little less fashion forwards and a little more Hagar the Horrible, she was none the less over the moon with it. There was a part of me that wanted to keep it for myself. I honestly can’t remember what hat pattern I used, but I chose something in stocking stitch, with a stitch count that was divisible by 10 and 4 in order to work with the cables I had planned. How did I create the horns I hear you ask? Clanger heads knitted in chunky wool. Originally I used the adult pattern, but they were just too big, so I scaled it down and used one of the child clanger heads instead.

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Quite some time ago I came across this gorgeous Totoro adaptation of this pattern. Being a student at the time and finding larger projects somewhat intimidating, I didn’t end up taking it on for roughly another 5 years. The original pattern just lends itself to being redesigned, the designer’s even written about some of her favorites other people have done. I’ve done two of my own versions of it, shamelessly adapting small colour work charts I found on google image searches. I’ve got a few more planned too.

Well, that’s it for today. See you soon!

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