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Stitch Shape and Bristol Fashion

Crafting in the West Country

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sewing

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!

Money Makes the Yarn Go Around

Having a hobby is great! Having to fund it is not. It would be quite easy to over hear parts of a conversation with a crafter and assume they were talking about drugs, with their stash and hunting for needles, they do go missing a lot… And another similarity that could be drawn is the issue of needing to get the money together. So, what to spend money on and what not to?

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The only reason my house is not full of wool is due to monetary constraints…

Cable needles are a huge waste of money in my opinion. The concept is great, but honestly, you can do the same thing with other needles. For me, I actually find them more annoying than using my own techniques. Its simple, slip the stitches onto a spare needle (it doesn’t even need to be the same size, relatively similar though) hold in front or back, knit your next stitches, slip the stitches back, knit and continue! Occasionally, you do come across a technique where you’ll need to knit off the other end, so dig out your double pointed needles in that case.

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My most recent cables and what it was achieved on.

If you have something it’s worth keeping ‘in stock’ because you use it so much, buy it when you see it cheap. My mother is the master of this. She knows she will always use black and white fabric, so if she sees something of a high quality and cheap, she will buy it, even if she’s not going to use it immediately, because she knows she will eventually. Whenever there’s a trip to Ikea, she keeps an eye out for reduced duvet sets, because quilts always need backs. Having a small stock of them also means she can pick one that compliments the front.

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Having a duvet day?

Know your local craft shops. There’s one that’s a national chain near me where everything is sold at the RRP. I know I can get most of these things cheaper elsewhere. However their offers can be pretty good. Their yarn seems to be permanently 3 for 2, so when I’m stocking up for a big project, as I seem to be doing on a monthly basis this year, I know I can get a new jumper for a third cheaper than I might do otherwise, which isn’t a bad saving.

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Wowie! Bowie jumper made with a third off the yarn!

Sometimes a local craft shop just isn’t an option, so it’s time to think outside the box. When I was a student I was living in the outskirts of London and walked everywhere. Unfortunately, I never found a local craft shop, and the price of transport shot up not long after I got there. There was always good old Ebay and such, bringing things straight to my door, but you can’t always trust the quality (or speed). A surprising number of shops do sell cheap crafting supplies, so if you’re not looking for something special made out of mohair, you can do pretty well on the high street. The Works, Wilkinsons and even the pound shop can keep you crafting in desperate times.

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One of my most infamous WIP’s. Knitted on yarn that’s £1 a ball!

See you in a week guys!

Oodles of Doodles

Some days you just can’t think of anything you want to make. Other days you have ideas coming out faster than you can say ‘What time does the craft shop close?’  You can use one problem to combat the other. Write down all the ideas you have as you have them, and when you get stuck in a dry spell, you have somewhere to go get inspired.

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Check out that cover! Patchworking win.

Mama Sheep had an idea. An idea of a perfect patchworking notebook. But she could never find anything that would quite fit the bill. The Concept was to have pages with squares, but they would alternate between different sized squares, depending on what kind of detail she wanted out of it. Frustrated by her inability to source one, she eventually made herself one. It has provided her with several years of design recording and she’s never looked back.

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Working through one idea, two different sized squares are WONDERFUL!

Making a book for yourself isn’t as tricky as you might think, especially if you’ve already got crafting skills. It doesn’t have to be of exceptional quality, just sturdy. She included two different sizes of squared and plain paper with a patchwork cover. There’s plenty of tutorials online to provide you with different ways of binding your own book, so if you can’t quite find something to fit the bill, do it yourself!

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Yes, I drew out pokemon knitting charts in case to mood ever strikes me. I am not a bad person.

While trying to get an amazon purchase to a high enough value to get free shipping, I came across a squared paper for knitting charts notebook by chance and it was just about the price I needed. What so special about this paper I hear you ask. Well, it’s not quite squared. Knitting stitches are a little wider than they are tall, so if you’re charting out a fair isle design on properly squared paper, it will be slightly distorted when it comes to the knit. I’m not completely happy with the paper in this particular book, I feel the lines are a little bulkier than I would like, but I am glad I’ve bought it and will invest in some from a different supplier again in the future.

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I have my reasons for wanting to make an octopus costume. If you keep reading, one day you’ll find out what they are!

Have a notebook just for general ideas. I have a ton of them! Each idea gets one double page. Any ideas I have relating to that project prior to construction go in that book, but once construction has started it’s for reference only. Some pages only have a title, others have calculations, small sketches, different ways of trying to make the idea work. They don’t have to be good sketches, just represent what I want out of it.

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The notebook of minty freshness and blogging joy!

I also have a whole notebook just for this blog! Ideas for posts, lists of things that could go in them, ticked out, scribbled off, regrouped into another in a similar line. I’m also having ideas about other stuff to make constantly while writing this, so making sure I highlight any new ideas while I’m writing so I know where there’s something else to be made!

Have a great week guys!

Health and Saftey in the Stitchspace

People think that crafting is a sweet little hobby that couldn’t possibly cause any harm, on the whole it is, but it’s important to remember that you can still injure yourself badly working with sharp objects.

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A High Vis jacket probably isn’t required… Probably…

Pins can be dangerous business. Last year, my mum started telling every crafter she came into contact with about this story, where a member of a wardrobe department accidentally inhaled a pin, resulting in her having surgery. Anyone who uses pins will keep them in their mouths and my mother is now quite adamant that we shouldn’t. While I haven’t stopped doing it, I am much more wary now, and ensure I keep my tongue firmly against their heads if they are in my mouth.

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It’s hard to make pins in your mouth look good. That’s probably for the best.

Repetitive strain injury preventing me from knitting is something I live in fear of since it’s halted my mothers pursuit of the hobby. For me, there are three things that help when I do start getting twinges in the wrists. Firstly, make sure you have as much of the weight of what you’re making on your lap as possible. When you are knitting, the weight of it rests on your wrists and puts them under strain. A useful tip I read to combat this is that working on circular needles, even when not knitting in the round helps to keep the weight elsewhere.

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Could be a poor man’s Jolly Roger

Overloading your needles is a bad move. When you have too many stitches on them and you’re fighting to stop them slipping off the ends all the time, guess where the strain goes? Yup, once again, it’s your wrists doing all the work. Using circular needles helps to combat this also, as there tends to be more room on them than a straight set, but you don’t have two rods sticking out which can be annoying.

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Easier and more comfortable to put it on a needle that fits!

If you do start getting twinges, take a break. As hard as it can be when you’re in full knit mode, it’s better to take a break and spend a little longer finishing the project than finishing the project more quickly, but never being able to knit again. The thought that sends a chill down my spine. No resting properly when you do discover the problem will worsen it and potentially cause lasting damage.

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I always take a break with my best MUGgle.

Rotary cutters are lethal. My mother recently told me a story about a well known local patchworker who wore her cutting mat out so much that the blade of hers got stuck. When freeing it, she also sliced through the skin on her other arm and had to go to hospital. The surgeon had never seen anything like it and didn’t know what a rotary cutter was. when she explained to him it was a razor blade on a wheel, he couldn’t believe people were allowed them!

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ALWAYS retract the blade after use.

I could bore you with the thing we were told in school, goggles for the sewing machine in case the needle breaks… but these seemed a bit more obscure. See you next week!

Stuff, Stuff Everywhere!

One of the big problems with crafting is, where do you keep all your supplies? I’m lucky enough to live in a house with a dedicated sewing room, but that doesn’t make it easy. The house is being decorated, I plan to make myself a little crafting corner in my bedroom. In light of this, we have been discussing how we are going to use the space sensibly and what already works for us. Here’s some of the best bits.

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Yes, it is a tip, but it will be sorted… eventually…

Small Space Storage

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This Ikea laundry bag has done me well!

When I was at university, I was living in small rooms, moving regularly and only just delving into my knitting addiction. After some careful thought, a large laundry bag seemed like a great idea to keep my supplies in. It’s compact and squashable. A bit of a pain to find stuff in, but easy to move about and would sit at the end of my bed without taking up much space.

The Stash of Fabric

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Every once in a while, there’s a big sort out and it’s all organized by colour!

My mum read a great tip online a couple of years ago about how to store stash fabric, and it has done her well. Fold it around the cardboard used by comic book collectors and it is so much easier to organize and view. (If anyone knows where this tip originated, would love to be able to share the link.) The card isn’t terribly cheap, but once you use that piece of fabric, you can use the card again!

Works in Progress/Unfinished Objects

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The Liberty bag is one of my prized possessions.

Getting distracted from your project by a new idea, it’s something I’m getting better at not doing, but I don’t think I’ll ever be completely innocent of it. How I stop myself getting to confused by returning to a project after 6 months is by keeping all of the yarn and notes and everything together in a nice plastic bag. Next step, I plan to buy some plain tote bags, which I can then make notes on in fabric markers to help me identify what’s occupying it.

Knitting Needles

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The vase would only have cost me about £2

At some point I decided there should be a home for my needles to return to, but I knew trying to organize them by size wasn’t going to happen. A moment of inspiration came and I decided to buy a vase to keep them in. This was only a cheap one to see if it was a worthwhile plan, and it turns out it was! I plan to buy a bigger, prettier one in the no too distant future.

Make it Pretty

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Storage being proudly displayed in the living room

A huge issue for me is having to go through a whole process to get out and put away something I use regularly, because I’m trying to keep it hidden. By spending an extra few pounds to make a storage feature a decorative feature, it could actually make the whole process of crafting much less frustrating.

Once everything’s done in the house, I’ll do a follow up post and let you all know how it turned out. But that may well not be for quite some time…

 

Kids Characters Costume Show Down

Anyone I know will tell you, I love fancy dress. And the more ridiculous the better. Putting a costume together is so much fun, and I find myself making more and more elements every time. I don’t tend to replicate costumes directly from film and TV, not that there’s anything wrong with this, I just enjoy the design factor as much as I enjoy the creation of the piece. Here are two very different approaches I take when I make a costume.

Alice in Wonderland

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A nice sensible concept sketch

This one’s about planning, planning and planning again. To begin with, I sketched out the basic elements of the design. The concept was to make it look like the part where Alice grew and ended up wearing the house. Rather than create some kind of cardboard house to spend the day wearing, I wanted to create an under the bust corset, which would be easier to wear and more fashion rather than costume.

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More detailed sketch. This was the design element I was most excited about.

To achieve this, I decided to look at all the elements individually. I wanted to make a dress and a corset. All the other elements (underskirt, wig, apron…) I was going to buy. Ebay is an excellent resource for buying bits for costumes. The dress I made straight from a pattern, but for the corset, after doing a bit of research, I decided to draft the pattern myself. I made a toile before cutting into my precious brick print fabric, just to be sure it would all work. The embellishment never ended up happening, but I was pleased with the outcome and I can always add it if I wear it again.

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The final costume. Just wish I’d remembered to take my glasses off for pictures.

The Clanger

I want my own knitted clanger outfit. What sane person has never thought these words? My advice? Do not do it. It’s all fun and games and then you realise what you’ve done. I had no plan as to when I would wear this, and in all honesty, I still don’t have a clue.

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Cute or terrifying? You decide.

The idea crossed my head one day and I was already in possession of this book. As I work dangerously close to a well stocked craft shop, it didn’t take long for me to get going Using the pattern as a guide, I made it up as I went along.

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It was somewhere around here I started questioning my decision to make this.

I used the pattern for the adult clanger for the head using chunky wool. I then kept increasing until it looked a reasonable size to wear as a waistcoat, kept going until it was time to split for the arm holes, added some sparse ribbing and kept increasing gradually until it was a reasonably ridiculous length. Finishing it involved constructing a pink fleece cushion to hold her head proudly above mine in addition to adding the ears and felt embellishments. Before these decorations were added was the lowest point where I was questioning what I’d done, but I kept going or I’d never know how she turned out.

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I’m simultaneously impressed at myself and questioning my sanity.

I have plenty of other costumes to write about, but that shall be for another day.

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