Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Making new friends

As you can see the nice weather broke today and we had a bit of rain, not very nice, but I managed to keep busy, I made a new friend in this little guy.

I have been trying to figure out how I could print my own fabrics for my knitting bags, I really want them to stand out. I had a little go at screen printing on a small scale but I can't seem to find any fabric paints that I could use in my local shops, so today I tried some lino printing with some basic Dylon fabric paint. I am not actually using proper lino at the moment so I will have to test it again when that gets here, but at the moment I like this style. Despite the fact that three of the fiver digits on my left hands have cuts on them.
I think the other option may be stenciling as this would also be cheap and easy to do, all I would need is a craft knife and some acetate, I already have stenciling brushes from my Mum.

Either way it seems I will be embracing my creative side more often. I really don't know why I didn't think of this sort of thing sooner, as a kid I was always crafting and making things, I guess deciding to do English Lit at university makes you think the written work is all you can do. Time to let my mind think visually for a while :)

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

The Ingredients for Beautiful Knitting

A few weeks ago I mentioned that for my birthday I had decided to treat myself to some lovely hand dyed yarn from the States. Well they arrived this morning!
I am really looking forward to knitting with these, in fact I have been looking for patterns to knit them up into since I ordered them. They are from Fresh From The Cauldron which you can find on Etsy. Jen who dyes these up is truly a genius in my opinion, all her colourways are representative of a character in a book or film or suchlike and they are all really very good at matching the chosen characters.

My current love for The Southern Vampire Mysteries had me ordering a bit of sunshine with Sookie:
Isn't it pretty? The blonde of her hair with little flecks of blue for her eyes, it is a really pretty summery colourway and I am going to be knitting it into a shawl so I can enjoy it over the next few months. I ordered it in the super wash sock which is super wash merino wool which is really soft, and it looks great in the Shetland lace shawl or the Springtime Bandit shawl, so I will have to decide.

Obviously you can't have Sookie without a skein of some Viking with the Eric colourway:

This one is nice and brooding and again a great symbol for Eric, and this will also become a shawl. I have been scouring Ravelry to see what it looks like knitted up into certain patterns and it looks really good as the Multinomah, but I might go for an Ishbel, I am not quite sure.

In other news, I have nearly finished my second Berry sock :D
I have the toe to do and then voila! It has taken me long enough.

P.S. New background, feeling summery, like?

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A perfect day...

For knitting in the sun. The sky was so clear and blue, it really did feel like summer. Today is the same and we will be breaking out the BBQ to celebrate!

Now for what I was knitting in the sun, well I worked away at my Hermione Everyday Sock. I managed to figure out where I was going wrong with the heel and yesterday knit the heel flap, turned the heel and did the gusset decreases, so today I shall just be knitting along the foot.

I think at some point I will switch back to my Berry sock to get more of that done ( all that is left is to turn the heel and knit along the foot for that one) the switching between should give me fingers time to recover between knitting with the tiny 2.25mm needles for the Hermione socks and knitting on the larger 3mm needles for the Berry socks.

Last thing to blog about this weekend is this little beauty.

This is Malabrigo Lace in Mariposa and it is absolutely gorgeous! My Mum called me a yarn snob when I was harping on about it but who could resist singing it's praises, it is so, so, soft!

I am hoping to knit it into a Swallowtail shawl, though I am going to substitute nubbs for beads I think.

Now I simply must get out into the sun, I hope it is shining where you are!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Tastes like summer.

This for me , along with the warm weather we had today, really does make it feel like summer.

In other news, I have some pictures of my first sample for a project bag that I am considering making for sale. I have spent some time figuring out what I myself and others on Ravelry found to be things required in a project bag, and this is the result.

The main feature that I really wanted to make a bit different is the shape, I really wanted it to be very easy to open wide at the top so that there is plenty of room for maneuvering. As you can see the box bottom shape and the shape of the top do this.
I also wanted to use a button closure as zips are bad for yarn! I have had my yarn get trapped in a zip before and it never ends well, buttons also mean that the bag can be closed and you can still knit outside of the bag, with the yarn passing between the buttons, something which if attempted with a zippered bag often leads to fraying.

As you can see to make up for the button closure I have added a fully lined integrated zippered pocket in the wall of the bag to keep notions and yarn needles in, while also adding larger open pockets on the outside for if you have the bag closed and simply want to easily grab a pair of scissors or your cable needle while knitting on the train!

You can just about make out in the above picture a D-ring for attaching a strap too, on this one it has ended up a bit too low so on the next one (which is just waiting to be stitched up) I am going to place it as high in the bag as I can and at an angle to allow for efficient use of a wrist strap or possibly a longer over shoulder strap for knitting while standing. I think the longer strap might be something that I would make an optional extra.

Like I say I am already working on the next one which I hope to have up tomorrow and which I think will be a bit slimmer in width but taller. I am thinking also that if I were to do multiple sizes I would just increase the dimensions by a few inches.

What do you think?

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Tea? Part IIII

The Grand unveiling!

Using the pliers and a jump ring pop a hoop in the hole in the saucer, and then thread it onto a silver chain, then feed the chain through the handle on the tea cup and...


One thing that you should note is that if an item is over I think 7g, possibly 10g, in the UK it must be hallmarked to be sold as silver. the hallmark for silver clay is 999 as it is 99.9% silver. This can be done with an engraving pen.
I have been wearing this every day and it is my new favorite piece of jewelry, I hope you like it too.

Tea? Part III

Now for the fun bit, firing. This may be fun but it is also dangerous and Is definitely only for people who have had their shot of caffeine!
First I placed my fire grille on the hob (this came in the set I mentioned in Part I) and turned up the heat. You have to wait for it to glow orange before you can begin, and you need to remember where the orange bits were because these are the hottest areas and you are then going to turn off the hob and place your clay items on the hottest parts of the grille using tweezers and turn the heat back on.

This picture is larger because in my opinion it is the coolest part of the process. After the clay has been heating for a few seconds the binder will burn off in an actual visible flame, much like when you flambe something you are cooking, only on a smaller scale. Obviously I wouldn't recommend standing over the item at this stage or you may lose your eyebrows!

After this stage the silver is starting to fuse together, and so you have to wait until there is a slight orange glow to the items, as you can kind of see below (this is really difficult to photograph by the way!)

After they are glowing orange you need to keep the heat going for a few minutes to make sure they are properly fired through. You then need to turn off the heat and leave them to cool for around 20 minutes. After tis time you can move them and place them in cold water to completely cool them off. When they are fired they should be a bit smaller and will be covered in a white residue like this:

if you clink them together you can also obviously hear that they are now metal. Now comes the final parts, using a wire brush (I am using a soft brass brush here because I find stainless steel ones are too harsh) you need to brush away all the white residue until the items are a dull silver colour. Then using a silver burnisher you should rub all over the item to make them shine.

The Final post will be the unveiling :D

Tea? Part II


Now the first stage when the clay is dry was to remove the polymer clay from the cup. I used a needle tool to do this because it is nice and sharp. You do need to be very careful when doing this however, gently remove parts of clay at a time, because the silver clay although dry is still fragile and can be crushed easily.

Once that was done I then used the needle tool to pick out any bits of clay that were stuck in the grooves of the clay, this is fiddly but sanding does not always get it all so it is a good idea.

After this I had to file the teeth marks into the side of the cup, I used a round miniature file for this and simply filed marks next to each other but increased the depth of the hole on the center ones, this took a bit of work and made a lot of dust so be careful and put a cloth down.
Also again this stage requires you to be gentle as too much pressure will break the cup.

After I filed the teeth marks I also filed the edges of the top of the cup to smooth them down and make them even. I then used a superfine sanding pad to smooth all over, I attempted to remove as much of the uneven texture inside the cup as possible. It is important when doing this to try and keep the sanding stokes going in the same direction as some of the pattern will show through after firing.

After working on the cup I simply sanded the edges of the saucer and made sure there wasn't any excess around the jump ring hole and I was good to go for the next step, Part III: Firing!

Tea? Part I

'Take some more tea,' the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.
'I've had nothing yet,' Alice replied in an offended tone, 'so I can't take more.'
'You mean you can't take LESS,' said the Hatter: 'it's very easy to take MORE than nothing.'
- 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland', Lewis Carroll

That above is one of my favorite quotes, from one of my favorite scenes in all literature. There is something about the ridiculousness of the Hatter and the Hare that appeals to me, it must be my silly side making itself known, and it is the fact that the ridiculousness is in fact very true.

Now because I love the mad tea party so much, for my second silver clay project I decided a tea cup and saucer would be perfect. It is also something which is very me (I have a thing about afternoon tea, for my 16th birthday I wanted a full tea service, nothing else, just a pretty antique tea service, I finally got one when I turned 18) and so is something which I can relate to in a number of ways and any items I would make regarding it would have multiple references for myself. To make the set more 'Mad' however I also decided to bring in the 'eat me, drink me' thing, so there is a bite out of the cup, cool yes?

Now on to the pictures! (Note: My camera died while I was doing this and the clay dried quickly so some images are of the saucer and some are of the cup)

First up, the tools required for using silver clay, now not all of these are necessary for every project, but a lot of them are essentials, in this picture we have craft knives, clay shapers, files, rollers, sanding pads, pliers, burnishers, and wire brushes among a couple of other bits and bobs. I got the basics in a set which was around £30 which I ordered from here, but a lot of other stuff I simply got from my local craft shop and other online retailers, such as basic jewelry findings and jump rings and pliers and things. I am going to be making another ring in the near future and for that you would require a couple of extra things and I will show you those when the time comes.

Now, the actual clay. I use Art Clay Silver 650 in the Slow dry version. The slow dry part is very important because I am not very good at managing to quickly do what I want to do to manipulate the clay and so this significantly extends the working time I have. I also have to keep the clay moist with a water pen while I am working. The clay comes in packets like this:

These are 7g packets, and when you open it you may think that there isn't much clay for what you pay (around £8/9) but I made my first ring with less than 7g so it goes a long way. You can buy in 7g, 10g, 20g, and 50g weights and prices are a little over £1 a gram, which I believe is reasonable.

Now on to the making. I have missed a stage in the pictures here because it came out blurry, but the first stage is to grease your hands and tools with vaseline and then roll put the amount of clay you want to use, now you can use special spacers or playing cards (or naughty fairy cards as I have) to get the right thickness for your clay, there are lots of instruction books that have projects with specific thicknesses, I just rolled this to a few cards deep. I then took my eyeglass cleaner lip (i didn't have the nifty cutters I have now at the time) and cut out a circle with it, using it like a cookie cutter.

This formed the round shape for my saucer. I then took a cocktail stick and marked a ring in the middle and made a hole for the jump ring to go through, while I was doing this I had to keep moistening the clay, and it did crack a little around the edges, but I am going for an antiqued effect with these, they have survived the mad tea party, so I didn't mind too much.

I then placed a pen in the center circle and started to lift the edges with a shaping tool and give it some depth. After this I left the saucer to dry overnight and moved onto the cup.
The cup was made in much the same way, I rolled out a circle, except for this i had previously molded some polymer clay into a dome shape to put the clay around to make it curved inside, After I had shaped it around the polymer clay i then rolled two sausage shapes and using some water to make it adhere well I put one on the bottom in a loop for the base and I made one into a handle.

These were left overnight until they were completely dried out, it is very important that you don't try to fire them when they are still damp because it simply wont work!

Part II, preparing for firing will be up later :D

(Edit: I am posting parts 2, 3 & 4 at intervals throughout the day with an hour or so in between so that you can read them in order without going down 4 posts and reading up the page!)

Friday, 14 May 2010

A brief sewing update

Just a couple of things,

Pretty Fabrics to be sewn into potential items for sale...

(P.S. I am looking into dying and printing my own cotton for some projects)

Cool free gifts with Cath Kidston book "Sew!" which was really easy to put together.

And another Kidston book arrived in the post Wednesday, expect embellishments galore.

Any pretty things gracing you today? Mine are making me feel summery :)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Beating the system.

Sometimes people in publishing houses do really quite silly things. One of these times occurred last month when Charlaine Harris' new Sookie Stackhouse book had its UK release date changed and not it's US one.

So when life gives you lemons...

You have them shipped from across the pond!

(Edit: I changed the picture once the sun came out, see how pretty and sparkly?!)

I am quite impressed as this only took 10 days to get here, considering the new UK release date is the 10th of June this is much much earlier then if I had waited, and after doing some currency conversions it actually worked out about the same price!
Plus the US get much prettier covers for their books, I am tempted to order some from ebay, this one has glitter on the rose and on Sookie's dress, GLITTER! It sparkles!! Much better then the plain black with red lips the UK is going for.

Sometimes I really do wonder why I haven't just marched into a publishing conference and yelled "Are you all mad?!" due to the lack of common sense some of these people have.

Anyways, so the book is great, the pace has decreased a little but in a good way and this book focuses on getting under the skin of the characters and seeing what really makes them tick. This one is also back to the 'Sookie saves the day' dynamic as opposed to the recent 'Sookie gets beaten up' plot lines.

Best line by far from Pam "F**k a zombie!"

Me likey :D

Friday, 7 May 2010

To shop or not to shop?

Remember my sewing projects I have made a few times and given away/kept my mitts on?
I am thinking of making more in some really nice quality fabrics I have seen and selling them, I want them to be quite innovative in their design, so I am asking everyone who knits, or who knows someone who knits, what do you want from a project bag? Shape, features, straps? I have had a couple of suggestions that I am adding to my own ideas already and I am really liking the possibilities, I don't want these to just be plain box bags I want them to really cover all the bases I can.
I am also looking at stash bags (hopefully that would be expandable) and needle rolls and notions cases, and toying with the idea of bags to keep your yarn in, in your stash bag to stay organised.
So, please please if you could let me know what your preferences would be so I an build up some research that would be great! And spread the word tell everyone, just leave a comment or send me a message.

Watch this space :D

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Berry Sock Update

So, I am still preparing a silver clay post for you guys, but it is taking me longer then originally anticipated to sort through all the pictures so I have a knitting update. As a teaser though, in my silver clay post I will be showing you how I made myself a tea cup and saucer pendant to symbolise the Mad Hatter's tea party in Alice in Wonderland.

But, until that is done, to the knitting...

Remember these Berry Socks from way back here and then here?
Well, look at them now! One sock finished and the second one I am knitting the heel flap at the moment, I am feeling really rather productive.

What made me pick these back up you ask? Well really I have that Hermione sock to blame, I just couldn't get back on with it so I have set it aside and decided to finish this really simple pair before tacking the more complicated ones with their modified eye of partridge heel.
As you can see there is some colour pooling, and I really wish they were a bit tighter around the leg, but the first one will make a lovely comfy sleep sock so I am not really going to complain!

When I have these finished I will only have the Hermione socks and a second Bella's mitt in pink to complete and then I will start with something new, either a garment or a shawl, both new things for me and so will get my brain going I am hoping. Before then, however, I am hoping to have the second alchemy post up and possibly a little sewing one up about some project bags in a lovely gingham fabric I got from Laura Ashley in the sale. Nice and summery.

I hope you all are well :D

P.S. I celebrated my 22nd birthday on Sunday and treated myself to some hand dyed yarn from Fresh From The Cauldron, more info when they have been dyed and have arrived, which should be early next month!