Thursday, 14 February 2019

Cork/Bottle Topper Little Tinsel Trees

These little trees are worked in the round from the base to the tip. They have a hole in the bottom so that they can sit on corks or atop bottles. If you leave a yarn tail when finishing off, it can be used to attach a gift label, or made into a loop so that you can hang your tree on a tree. Or make a few and use them as table decorations or as part of a festive mini-forest.

I've test-knit these in both purl and knit, but think purl comes out a little 'fluffier'. If you prefer knit, just replace 'purl' with 'knit' in the instructions below.

silver knitted tinsel tree decoration
© Dancing Moth
Yarn: King Cole Tinsel Chunky, 10 g or less; you should be able to get at least 5 trees from a 50 g ball.
Needles: I use 4 mm dpns, but this could be adapted to circulars using magic loop (no instructions here for that yet).
Gauge: Trying to count rows (and sometimes even counting stitches) with this yarn is a nightmare, thus no gauge suggestion. My tension is quite tight, because the tighter knit will stand up by itself well.
I recommend you also use a row counter and stitch marker, either a closed marker you can slip from one needle to another or a removable marker.  You may need to adjust your needle size, depending on your own tension.
Trying to tink stitches is also a problem, so this pattern needs a little concentration.

sts   stitches
Kfb Increase by Knitting into the Front and Back of the stitch
P     Purl
P2tog Purl 2 stitches together

Cast on 15 sts, distributing 5 on each of 3 needles and join in the round without twisting.

R1-3:  Work 3 rounds purl. (This will form the base with a hole in the middle for a cork or bottle-top).

R4: Kfb in all stitches to increase total to 30 sts, 10 on each needle.

R5-10: Work 6 rounds purl.

R11: *P1, P2tog, P4, P2tog, P1*, repeat on each needle (=24 sts).

R12-16: Work 5 rounds purl.

R17: *P1, P2tog, P2, P2tog, P1*, repeat on each needle (=18 sts).

R18-21: Work 4 rounds purl.

R22: *P1, P2tog, P2tog, P1*, repeat on each needle (=12 sts).

R23-25: Work 3 rounds purl.

R26: *P1 P2tog, P1*, repeat on each needle (=9 sts).

R27-28: Work 2 rounds purl.

R29: *P1, P2tog*, repeat on each needle (=6 sts).

Be careful now to keep the stitches on the needles and keep the work from twisting! Redistribute the 6 stitches over 2 needles instead of 3.

R30: Work 1 round purl.

R31: P1, P2tog, P1, P2tog, (=4 sts).

R32: P2tog, P2tog, (=2 sts, onto the same needle).

R33: Push the remaining 2 sts to the left of the needle and pulling the yarn taught, purl these 2 sts (i.e. work a single round of icord).

Cast off purlwise.

Finish off: Cut yarn, leaving just enough to work in on the inside, or leaving a 4-5"/10-12.5 cm tail.  If you sew the very end of the tail into the inside of the tip or knot it well, you should be able to pull the rest of the tail down inside so that it doesn't show when you don't need it, or pull the loop up to attach a gift tag or hang your little tree.

Thursday, 31 January 2019

Create 365, second set

Things are crawling along. The first thing which has become evident (and should be a no-brainer) is that to be productive, I need to be more organised. It's one thing to sit down for 10 minutes to knock out a pair of earrings, but if I can't quickly find the beads I have in mind for them, I can spend 30 minutes or more looking. Which is exactly what I ended up doing for the pair I made. The idea was to make earrings to sell but I love these too much.

The second thing is a question of when, exactly, I have created, made, recycled, upcycled, whatever. So I'm making that up as I go along.

What do you do when you have old jersey, not right to make a t shirt bag, no more space for dusters, not right for flowery things? Make jersey yarn, to be crocheted into some sort of basket, bowl, bag or mat or something. The thing is, does each recycled item count? Perhaps the yarn, as a craft supply material, doesn't count until it's been made into something? I decided against these two and am counting a 'session', so one jersey long-sleeved top session, and another two sessions making yarn from seven pairs of old knickers and a pair of socks.

Talking of socks, a replacement pair of socks in what has become my 'standard' pattern, utterly in my comfort zone.

I also made the Virus shawl, for more details see this blog post.

My ridiculously long Ravelry queue contains lots of crochet block patterns, which I added for no other reason than they were pretty. I picked one and did a set of four blocks. Even though these are also an intermediate stage on their way to being something else, if I can count a jersey recycling session then I can count a crochet session.

Crochet blocks, socks, earrings and jersey yarn. The Virus shawl has already been given to a friend.

Other WIPs are trickling along. I'm going to have to pick up the pace a bit to meet my target at the end of the year!

Set 2 total: 7
Cumulative total: 14

Virus Shawl

I'd had the free pattern for this shawl queued in Ravelry for a while. It was such a popular pattern and everyone seemed to find it easy, so I thought it might be a good bet for increasing my crochet confidence.
Stylecraft's 'Cabaret' yarn, an acrylic DK plied with a polyester tinsel thread was a popular choice, so I bought three 100 g balls (a quantity recommended by others making the same shawl with the same yarn - ah, how wonderful is the Ravelry community for sharing details like this!) in the 'Rainbow' colourway, deciding this would be a Christmas-New Year 'hibernation' project. In the event, I didn't start it until early January, still intending this to be a shawl for myself.

Before Christmas, my friend Chrissie came round for a cuppa. She's had a pretty miserable year, losing her mother and learning that one of her siblings has been diagnosed with cancer. I showed her the yarn and she smiled and squooshed the ball, admiring the softness and the colours. Seriously, the photos don't do this yarn justice. It is wonderfully soft and squooshy, the colours are lovely and the tinsel thread twinkles.

As someone else commented, this yarn isn't great. I had a knot in one ball, a weird thick bit in another, and found that the rainbow inexplicably contained shades of russet and khaki green in with shades of blue, green, purple and pink, (rather than any red, orange and yellow) which didn't seem to follow a pattern. The yarn itself is a bit like a single with a loosely plied tinsel thread. The tinsel thread would break if it were tightly plied, but it sometimes snagged and pulled and I managed to break it in a couple of places. The ball band suggested working from the centre, but I couldn't find a centre-pull end easily and when I did find one, it just pulled a snarl of yarn from the centre of the ball. As others found, the balls are soft and loose, so great loops of yarn fall away from the ball until you're about half-way in. I found them quite easy to manage; even when the loops started to tangle, gently lifting and separating the yarn loops was enough to avoid knots. I doubt I would use this yarn for a cardigan, because matching stripes would be impossible, but I'm going to buy more (perhaps in another colourway) to make a shawl for myself.

Just after I started the shawl, I saw a Facebook post from Chrissie that she had lost her mother-in-law. I'd only just seen a Christmas photo, with Chrissie resplendent in a red dress, her MIL smiling at the head of the table. As I crocheted, I kept seeing Chrissie in my mind's eye, smiling as she caressed the yarn, and decided that this shawl had to be for her, with love.

It really is an easier pattern than it looks and I started to appreciate crochet in a way I hadn't before. The rhythms can be more complex than that of a row of knit or purl. Gone wrong? Just pull the stitches back to where it was right, pick up your loop and carry on. My 'Longshore' throw has been hibernating for a few years now, as I fell out of love with it, unsure of what I was doing and becoming increasingly inconsistent. I now feel I can pick it up again, even if I frog it back and redo it.

The pattern repeats over 4 main rows: create a foundation row of loops creating chain spaces, (UK) trebles in clusters in the larger chain spaces, with loops in between. The third row is trebles onto trebles and the last row is treble+chain 1, before it repeats, As I was getting to the end of the third ball, I finished up on a row 4 and went back over the edge with double crochet into each chain space, with a picot in the centre of each arc.

Virus pattern crochet shawl with long-whiskered cat Xena looking at me accusingly because I won't let her snuggle in it
What do you mean, I can't sit on it?
I took a couple of photos of the finished shawl and marvelled at how light and drapey it was, working just as well as a scarf. I hadn't washed and blocked it (or taken any measurements, but it's about 1.5 metres/5 feet wide) by the time Chrissie came round in mid-January, but she was thrilled with it and immediately put it on. Smiles all round, (except for Xena with the ridiculously long whiskers, who was a bit put out that I wouldn't let her snuggle into the shawl!), job done!

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Create 365: The First Set of FOs

It's been something of a slow start, despite my various WIPs and UFOs. And yet, this is a learning journey as well as creative exploration.

The first FO (finished object) was to create space, have a bit of a clean and tidy, and decorate for Christmas. Even though this is only a temporary thing, it counts as a creation for me; with no friends or family visiting, it would be so easy not to decorate. Putting up the tree and some decorations, if only for myself and for a couple of weeks, gets me out of my rut a little and creates some seasonal cosiness. There is a nostalgic sweetness in unpacking the decorations; some of the baubles are at least 45 years old! It also meant that I took the time to swap around a cupboard and a bookcase, which I've been meaning to do for months, and which makes the living room look a little larger. The decorations are now down and put away again, except for the cards, which I shall come to soon.

The first set of Create 365 FOs
In mid-December I started a pair of plain socks in Stylecraft Head Over Heels 'Etna', because I'd made a pair to sell and loved the yarn colours, so wanted a pair for myself. Having finished them and unable to resist, I made another pair (King Cole Zig Zag 3158 Pinecone, a blue/brown print). The burgundy print socks are the 'desk drawer socks' I made a back in 2014 (blog post here)  which needed some mending at the angle of the heel and instep.

The next item on the bottom row is the 'Wellen Baktus' (Wavy Baktus) scarf, which was technically finished before the start of Create 365 (so it doesn't really count). I had intended to use the faulty dyed, white bits of yarn I'd cut out as I was knitting to create a couple of tiny snowflakes, one for each end, but there wasn't enough yarn even for a couple of tiny pom-pom snowballs. So it's finished except for a hand-wash to test for fastness.

The silvery blob in the lower right corner is a little cork/bottle topper tree. I made a few of these in King Cole Tinsel Chunky for the craft market in mid December, but forgot to write down what I did, so I made another and wrote it down before I forgot! I'll write up the pattern and find out how to list it on Ravelry as a separate 'creation'.

Top right is a mended scarf. There is a Japanese tradition and art called Kintsugi or Kintsukoroi, of mending broken pottery with lacquer mixed with powdered gold, silver or platinum. The mend shows and is beautiful in itself, reflecting change and imperfection. Having attempted to darn the holes in this scarf (and wondering why I was even bothering, considering it's just a cheap, viscose scarf which crocks dye even after several washes) and found the loose weave just pulls apart, I decided to use a coppery metallic embroidery thread and cover the holey areas with chain stitch. I could never darn this to disguise the holes and make it look perfect again, so the embroidery both mends and embraces the imperfection.

Centre back, an attempt at a crochet motif. The brushed acrylic yarn was donated, and I thought I might use it to make some sort of crochet, snowflakey baby blanket, but I lost patience with the catchy yarn (and I needed to use a larger hook, but that's already in use for something else). So the motif, and the yarn, can be donated to the Yarn Bombers. No doubt they will be able to create something wonderful. #alwayslearning #lifestooshort.

Back left, a 200g ball of super-chunky acrylic, which is also destined for the Yarn Bombers, as it will make a nice something-or-other, like a tree trunk out of a lamp-post. I experimented with seed stitch and linen stitch and different needle sizes and stitch numbers to make a rufty-tufty, manly cowl, but found the yarn colours too drab and the yarn made my eyes itch!

I need to pick up the pace, but can't spend all day crafting!

Total so far: 7

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Happy New Year 2019

Here we go again!

Looking back over 2018, it wasn't as great a year as I'd hoped. It was supposed to be a year of changes, but it doesn't seem like much has changed. Even the fireworks picture feels a bit 'same old ...'. Will I ever feel as though I've got my life together?

The United Nations have declared 2019 to be the Year of Indigenous Languages, so I'm quite surprised not to have heard or seen a peep out of the Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (Welsh Language Society).
2019 is also due to be the international year of the periodic table of chemical elements, and from Chinese New Year on 5 February, the Year of the Earth Pig/Boar. I wonder what it will have in store for this metal ox?

I didn't manage to put my Christmas decorations up any earlier than Christmas Eve.
I got closer to side-sit/jazz fourth but haven't managed to do it properly (yet!).
I had to get a new computer when my old one went phut and am still getting used to it. So much new stuff to learn!
The house and garden seems as chaotic as ever, possibly even more so.
I'm still scarcely earning anything.

Looking forward, this is going to be the year of changing my beloved old TARDIS of a Fiat Panda 4x4 for something else. I realised last year that I had absolutely no idea of what makes and models were out there, and the jargon that goes with them. I had people saying 'oh, you'll be looking for a city car, perhaps a CX1'. What's a city car? What's a CX1? I've done a lot of reading around and now know the answers to these questions. I also did a lot of soul searching, because running a car is expensive, both financially and ecologically. People who live and work in cities might decide that they could live without one, and hire one occasionally. In Wales, that's only about 25% of the population. The rest of us rely on personal transport so that we can live efficiently. The amount I would spend on buses doesn't bear thinking about, because I know I would not be able to walk into Haverfordwest or Milford, much less carry the shopping back.  Could I manage with only a bicycle? I wouldn't be able to teach without a car, or do WI talks, Not that I can find enough interest for classes, and this is the first year in several which I've started without any WI talks booked.
I've already been car-shopping locally and there isn't a lot to choose from in my price range which isn't a little gutless city-car runabout.

It's also going to be the year the UK leaves the EU. I'll be dressing in black on 29th March, our planned leaving date. It will contrast nicely with my flaming cheeks. I'm so embarrassed to be British.

What else? My 'Create 365' project. Finishing the JWAAD 'understanding music used in belly dance' course. Getting an editing qualification, perhaps, at last? Doing some belly dance workshops, if I can find anyone who wants to and is available?

Trying to keep calm and carry on. We'll see how this year unfolds!

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Create 365

I'm in awe of some of my arty friends, who are so productive and create such loveliness. Even some friends of mine who have been posting about what their naughty Christmas elves have been up to, complete with pictures.

Glancing through old posts, especially those from this time of year, I despair at myself; the same old aims pop up time and again. Lose weight, exercise more, earn some money, learn how to do all sorts of things, get everything sorted out, get a grip!

I spotted a post in which I talked about peyote stitch bezels around stones and the offending articles are still in the UFOs box, where I left them years ago when I couldn't decide how to create the bails. I had another look at them when a crafty friend came round for a cuppa and decided that I would not be able to get a pinch bail or even a jump ring into the beadwork, (because I didn't 'cheat' and use a strip of double-sided tape around the stone, so the beadwork is as tight as I could make it). Beaded bails it is, then.

With the turning of the year at Yule, and thinking about my recent creative impulse, I set a goal. I need to be more productive and to do a major de-stash, so I am going to make, create, renovate, repair, alter and complete 365 things.

I have an appalling record when it comes to personal goals, as they often dissolve and disappear within a month, displaced by important and urgent stuff or other interests. Given that I need to be smarter about the goal setting, I decided posting every day and having a photo of every object would be unfeasible and unsustainable, so I'll post periodically and keep a running total. Although 365 is one object a day, I probably won't complete one a day, but I shall have to try to produce more or less 30 things a month just to keep on track. If I run short of time I might start making lots of earrings (although that at least will help de-stash the beads and give me something to sell!).

I've a long list of crafty things I want to try, and have been saying for years that I should pick my art things up again.

Choreographies will count. Making/repairing elements of the garden will count. Making everyday meals will not count, nor will making a mess (something I can do with no effort at all!) I've also decided that blog posts won't count unless they are tutorials or patterns, but I do need to complete a lot of draft posts too.

So that's a major aim for the year, to bring things back into use and create lovely things. How do you think I'll do? Feel like joining me? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

A little pre-Christmas crafting

I'm having some sort of crafting hyperactive attention deficit, feeling compelled just to start something as the idea occurs to me. I've no idea why that is, but of course it's resulted in more WIPs than ever. The need to create some stock for a local Christmas Craft Market may be part of it; one of those opportunities which arise, to which I said 'Yes!' and then started to wonder whether I was up to doing it, when other stall holders seem so professional and focused (and don't just offer whatever has fallen out of their impulsive, compulsive crafting!).

Looking back over my books of design doodles and ideas, I realised there are so many which I haven't created. Why not? Lack of confidence, time, decision-making? Too much attachment to perfect outcomes? That needs to change.

For the past few years, I've been intending to experiment with some of the knit and crochet Christmas decorations so generously shared on Ravelry, and perhaps create one of my own. I made a couple of the 'pint-sized pines' and 'tiny trees' patterns and played with some little Fairisle pattern bags, which were unexpectedly time-consuming. Oh dear, my colourwork technique needs some work! I tinkered with making a mini-tree with purl-ridge swirls, but the decreases need some work to create an even shape. I also bought some tinsel yarn to try to make cork-bottle topper trees, and that seems to be working.
Clockwise from top left: Alpaca sweater, various little Christmassy things, including the swirly tree, Cup of Tea socks, Danube socks (still!) tinsel starting a bottle-topper tree, wavy Baktus scarf pending decisions about finishing the ends. There are other WIPs/UFOs elsewhere, too.

Another of the things in my ideas book was to make some gift tags out of old Christmas cards. I used to do this, but it was rather haphazard, just cutting around pictures so that they ended up all sizes and shapes, and using a standard hole-punch left a rather large hole. I thought I might offer packs of tags for sale, so they would need to look tidy. So I made a few cardboard templates and used a small hole punch with goldfingering as a tie. I think they look lovely and made 12 sets of a dozen tags for the craft fairs.

Finished sets of gift tags
I hope they'll sell; they may not, but it has given me some impetus to dive into my craft stash and be more productive. Tutorial (with a downloadable template, if I can work out how to do that) to come!