Friday, December 9, 2011

In Which I am a Grown-Up, Briefly.

Here's a story about what to do with trousers that fit weird.

I started with this pair of trousers:

I bought them in a hurry when I was working boring office jobs, because I needed a new pair of trousers. They were pretty nice trousers, and nice fabric, but to be honest they didn't fit comfortably. They were too tight around my thighs, but too loose at the waist. They did the job for going to work, but after I went back to uni, I just didn't enjoy wearing them.

Usually, I would just donate them to charity, but they'd had a lining which had got ripped, and I'd taken up the bottom of the legs a bit shonkily, so they weren't really op-shoppable. So, rather than waste them, I decided to turn them into a short skirt.

After hacking the trousers to bits, I found that I had plenty of fabric left over to make the front of a waist coat, so with the addition of some lining fabric and some snazzy silver buttons I picked up in Japan, I got this rather natty little ensemble:

Looks pretty smart and grown-up huh? Fear ye not! I haven't gone all sensible or anything. You see, while I was sewing the above ensemble, I was also watching 'Thor'. It's a good sewing movie because it's basically stretches of stuff I don't need to watch (and can run the sewing machine through), punctuated with short bursts of Tom Hiddleston. And he is the best kind of punctuation. Well, maybe the second best, after proper and grammatical use of punctuation marks. That is also pretty sexy.

Wait, what? I don't know where I was going with that metaphor. Anyway, the point is, large swathes of 'Thor' are basically cape porn, and I found myself thinking: "What I am really missing in life is a cape. A really good, swooshy cape."

So, I took myself off to the fabric shop, and spent a really long time picking up different botls of fabric and swooshing them around until I found something that gave the effect I wanted. I bought enough to go from my shoulders to the ground, plus a bit extra for a fudge margin.

To get good fullness in the cape, I got 150cm wide fabric, and pleated one end down to the width of my shoulders. The effect was that it fit across my back at the top, but could fly out wide at the bottom. And them I sewed straps to the pleated end, so I could tie it on my back.

I wear it by taking a tie under over each shoulder, and then tying a bow behind my back, just under my shoulder blades. It's a little restrictive, but it works. The only thing is, the cape does tend to slide down my shoulders a little, because it's quite heavy. But the effect in general is quite good. It swooshes. Oh, how it swooshes.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

iMittens, or 'GOOD LUCK ANYA!'

Ye gods, is this my third post in as many weeks? I am on FIRE over here!

Not literally, it's ok. Don't panic.

Today's story is about a friend of mine named Anya who is incredibly clever. I mean, you might think you're clever, but have you had Cambridge and Yale cage-fight over the privilege of educating you? No? Didn't think so. Me neither, alas. Anya, however, has had this spectacle play out before her, and is heading for Yale this very week. Much to the sadness of her housemates and those of us who spend FAR TOO MUCH TIME at their house, she is also taking her ipad with her. :''( *sniff*

To mark the occasion, I made Anya some mittens to keep her hands warm in the cold New England winter. Not just any mittens, of course: ipad-friendly mittens, in Yale colours!

See how they flip up, so you can use a touchscreen? They are based on the 'Mittens with a Flap' pattern by PJ Allen, which you can get as a free download on Ravelry from PrettyKnittyJewelry Designs. It's a good, clearly-written pattern, I'd recommend it if it's mittens you're after. The thumb flap is my own twist though - 'cos you've gotta be able to use your thumb to get the zoom action on your ipad. Very important. I did it by pretty much copying how the flap on the fingers works, like this:

Rounds 1-2: As for 'Thumb' in original pattern.
Rounds 3-4: Knit around.
Round 5: Figure out the 'front' half of the thumb (i.e. the 8 sts closest to the rest of the mitten) and the 'back' half. Knit the 'front' sts and purl the 'back' sts.
Round 6: Knit around.
Rounds 7-15: k2, p2 rib. Cast off as per the rib.

Thumb flap:
Round 1: Pick up 8 sts from 'back' half purl bumps. Cast on another 8 sts, join in the round.
Rounds 2-9: The sts attached to the 'back' or 'hinge' half should be all knit, the 'front' half should be k2, p2 rib.
Rounds 10-14: Knit around.
Round 15: K2tog around. Cut yarn leaving a long tail, draw through live stitches, fasten thumb closed.

I spent quite a lot of time faffing around in yarn shops, trying to find the yarn that seemed best to match 'Yale Blue' and Yale's favoured tone of grey - an entirely pointless effort, given the differences between the Pantone specifications and the apparent colour of the sample colour on my ipod, and between my ipod and the yarn, but the thought was there... In the end, I settled for Lincraft's Merrijig 12ply in colours 3016 and 3015. It's a nice warm 100% wool yarn, but it's also machine-washable, so that's nice and handy. (lol 'handy'. Mittens... Handy... Get it? rofl.)

And here they are in use:

Not only has she got it going on in the brains department, she's also a natural at hand modelling... Sheesh.


Aaaaand, apropos of nothing, here's a photo of some fun knit grafitti I saw yesterday in the Bourke Street Mall:

Apparently it's by Yarn Corner, and has been up since the end of July - that shows you how often I head into the city!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Shelf Life.

You may recall, I've spoken of the joys of hard rubbish day before. Well, here is another such tale. You see, once upon a time, there was a chest of drawers. Alas, but the drawers were long gone, making it merely a Chest-of-No-Drawers.

A sad, hollow existence it was for the poor little Chest-of-No-Drawers, cast out onto the hard, cold footpath, all alone. Awww :'(

But suddenly, in a poof of glitter and thrift, the Fairy Scroungemother appeared. "Why, little Chest-of-No-Drawers," she said, "Look at your fine, sturdy wooden runners, spaced a convenient distance apart. You could support a fine set of shelves of perfect dimensions for storing shoes." So saying, the Fairy Scroungemother scooped up the little chest and took it home (and left it in her room for several months until she got her tax return and could afford a saw and some clamps and some hardboard).

And with a wave of her magic saw, the little Chest-of-No-Drawers became a handy set of shoe shelves.

Hurrah! :D

This little revamp project was suuuuper fun because I hadn't done any woodwork-type stuff in ages. So, it was also highly educational. (Note to self, hardboard is probably best attacked with a fine-toothed hacksaw, not a huge, shark-toothed panel saw. Hah... Yeah.) But the upshot is that I am pumped to get into a bit more of this, now I have a basic complement of tools. Probably not full-scale, from-scratch furniture creation, but IKEA hacking (or, hard rubbish hacking :P) and that kind of thing. I'll be looking at hard rubbish day in a whole new light now...

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Zee Leetle Grey Cells, Hastings

Mes amis, I think it's time for another dice bag! What is this, about the fourth dice bag I've made? Geeky as charged, yer'onner. I love making them, they're so much fun because they're the epitome of quick, instant-gratification crafting. Also, you're pretty much only limited by your imagination, so they're great for a personalised gift - today's example being a case in point.

In our D&D party, there is a human wizard whose name is Hercule Poirot. He has a Belgian accent and is a bit of a neat freak. He also collects hats and likes to make things magically smell like barbecue chicken, but I don't think that's 'canon', as they say. Due to a birthday recently occurring, the following dice bag was produced:

To get the perfect moustachey shape I trawled the internet for a good picture of Poirot (aka David Suchet), traced the moustache in GIMP (aka I Can't Believe It's Not Photoshop), re-sized the outline and printed it off. Then it was easy to trace the outline onto the fabric so I could colour it in by just embroidering around and around in concentric lines until it filled up.

I must say, I am rather proud of the embroidery. Look at those evenly-sized stitches! Who needs fancy-schmancy stitches when you've got back stitch, eh?

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Not Taking The Small Things For Granted

Sometimes it's the little things that make all the difference. I had cause to reflect on this recently when I lost one of the foam covers of my earbuds. I'd always thought they were fairly extraneous and cosmetic, but I was certainly wrong. As they say, you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone, and your earbud keeps bloody falling out of your ear. However, crochet came to my rescue...

There are a lot of theis sort of thing out there on the internet, some even purporting to have 'patterns'. I'm not sure that you really need a pattern. I made it up. It kind of worked like this:
Use your thinnest yarn (mine was a smidge bulky... I reckon you might be best off using embroidery thread), make a tiny crochet circle to fit the surface of your earbud.
When it's the right size, stop the circle increases and do another row or two.
When it looks like it'll cover your earbud, fasten off and drawstring onto your earbud.
Stitch thread in place to fix.

Easy peasy.

***** ***** ***** ***** ******

The other thing that happened recently was CAEK for Dear SO's birthday. He asked for a caramel mudcake, and I found a good, easy recipe here. I highly recommend it, if for some reason you wish to have a mudcake that is not chocolate. You strange person.

Also, I made him a GIANT FLORENTINE, because he likes florentines. I made him a batch of normal-sized ones once, years ago, which was fiddly. I wholeheartedly recommend making one giant florentine rather than making a zillion little ones. I will give you my recipe, because there's quite a few out there but this one is the best, I think, because it doesn't have cornflakes in it. (WTF. Why would you put cornflakes in florentines? If you're going to be that cheapass, what's the point?)

GIANT FLORENTINE Recipe. (Yes, you have to spell it in all caps.)

100g unsalted butter
2 tbsp honey
75g mixed peel
200g flaked almonds
200g dark chocolate
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/2 cup cream
60g glace cherries
50g plain flour

1) Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking slide with greaseproof paper. Finely chop the mixed peel and the glace cherries.

2) In a saucepan, melt the butter and then stir in sugar, honey and cream. Bring it slowly to the boil. Boil WITHOUT STIRRING for a few minutes, until it's caramel coloured and at 'soft ball' stage. (So, if you drip a bit into cold water, it makes a soft ball.)

3) Remove from heat, add peel, cherries and almonds. Once they're mixed in, mix in the flour too. Make sure it's all mixed through evenly, then turn out onto the prepared baking slide and leave to cool a bit.

4) Seriously, let it cool down. Don't get too keen or you will burn your hands.

5) Is it cooled down? Really? OK, get another piece of greaseproof, lay it on top of the florentine mix, and spread the mix out into a kind of a circle (Or, whatever shape you want, really) with your hands. Try and make it the same thicknesss all the way around, more or less.

6) See? I told you it would be hot.

7) Bake in over for 10-15 minutes, or however long it takes for it to be toffee-coloured all over. Take it out of the oven, and leave to cool on the tray for at least 10 minutes before you move it onto a wire rack.

8) When it really is completely and utterly cold (you might want to put it in the fridge), melt the chocolate. Turn the florentine over, pour the melted chocolate on the bottom and spread it around. Then use a fork to put wavy lines in the chocolate. That's important, otherwise it's not really a proper florentine.

There may, in time, be a photo of the finished result here. But I have to get it off Dear SO's phone. So for now, if you want to see what a GIANT FLORENTINE looks like, you'll just have to make one.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Gap Fill

Since I've been busy with uni and also busy driving to Adelaide with my dad (by which I mean 'my dad drove to Adelaide and I sat in the car'), there's been a bit of a gap left here. And when you've got a gap to fill, what better to fill it with than a big lobster?

Click to embiggen.

You're welcome.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Woman vs Bicycle

So, here's a fun fact about me: I didn't learn to ride a bicycle until I was 23. Where I grew up we were basically surrounded by steep hills, and there was a warehouse in our street, so there were always massive trucks coming and going. Trucks + hills = not a terribly safe place for kids to have bikes.

I finally learnt to ride while I was in the UK, staying with a cousin whose husband is a keen mountain biker. You should have seen the look on his face when I told them I couldn't ride a bike! It was like I'd just casually mentioned that my parents kept me locked in a cupboard until I was 16. So, I became a bit of a pet project, and was gently ushered onto a spare bike. Fast forward a week or so, and I'm making my way with reasonable confidence down a picturesque English country lane. I stop for a moment to catch my breath, and put a foot down on the edge of the path. Unfortunately, the edge of the path turns out to be a ditch cunningly disguised by a thick layer of fallen leaves, and I pitch sideways into a blackberry bush. "Luckily", there were some stinging nettles to break my fall. So, yeah... Didn't get back to cycling for another 5 years.

Never mind the wherefores and whys, but I have a bicycle of my own now. This is the first time I've ever been in charge of a vehicle on proper roads with cars. Scary stuff! Being a cyclist is very exciting, but considerably more complicated than I expected. (Did you know, there are TWO gear changing thingies? One on each hand. I didn't figure that out until last week.) Luckily, I find myself with one or two skills that are transferable to the world of cycling.

For starters, I'm really good at gluing things to other things. Check out my sweet helmet:

It makes me go faster, I swear.

And I have a bell to match:


And then, I found this brilliant tutorial on CRAFT for how to cover up a bike seat. They suggest it for hiding your top-quality saddle from thieves. I use it to make my dreary old arse-rest fab-u-lous:


With a seat like that, you want to make sure you can keep it out of the rain. Plus, I was a little worried about the effect Melbourne weather might have on stuff I carry in my basket. So I whipped up a couple of elasticated rain covers for the seat and basket.

They're made out of the plastic rain poncho I got from participating in the 2010 Field of Women. With all due respect to the wonderful work of the Breast Cancer Network of Australia, wearing that much pink brings on my eye twitches. I was never going to use that poncho again in a million years. However, the recycling crafter in me couldn't bear to throw away such a useful expanse of free material, so it got stashed. Once again, my habit of saving things that might be handy one day pays off handsomely.

So, here I come! Look out on the roads! And on the footpaths... And walls. Walls are definitely a high danger area when I'm on my bike. Just 'look out in general' is probably the best advice, I think.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

That's How She Rolls

Just a quick one to show off a dice bag I recently made for my friend El's birthday. It has the shapes of the dice from a standard set embroidered on it. To get the shapes onto the fabric, I looked up photos of dice online, then traced the edges in GIMP and arranged them how I wanted. Then I printed out just the outlines, and traced them onto the fabric with chalk, to embroider over. Easy. Peasy.

Here's the embroidery before it was made up into the bag:

Something I really noticed was that the more acute an angle was, the easier it was to render accurately in stitches. I had a bitch of a time with the D20. Embroidery really isn't my strong suit.

To make up the bag, I just stitched the embroidered piece into a tube, and then sewed a circular piece on one end for the bottom of the bag. Added drawstring, and hey presto!

Critical success! (If I do say so myself, heh.)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chicken and Chips, and Lovecraftian Madness.

Well, I've been a little busy recently because I've been starting what is probably the biggest project of my life - a PhD. But, I've had time for a few random bits and pieces.

First up, our friend Meighen had a going away party because she's moving to The Country for a new job. Somewhere along the way, there was an in-joke about chickens, which resulted in this:

It's based on the amigurumi chicken pattern from Snoodle Studio. But as you can see, this one is a city chicken that wears jeans. It knows how to hang out at the Belgian Beer Cafe, but I'm not sure how it'll go in a more pastoral setting. Maybe it will get eaten by a donkey. That happened to me once, in the country.

As you can see, it has a speech bubble. I cut the bubble out of paper and taped it to a toothpick, and then, um... Stabbed it into the chicken's head. It's a bit vicious-sounding, but it did have the intended effect of turning the chicken into a good-bye card. This is an idea I must file away for future reference.

Apropos of nothing, here is a squid:

But not just ANY squid! It's a data squid, with a usb in it. If you desire one too, submit ourself to the instruction of Mademoiselle Chaos at ParaNoire. But be warned: once you realise that the highly flexible tutorial could potentially be applied to everything you own, there will be no turning back. Everything you see will become a potential squid.

Something something elder gods something something something ultimate power.

Squid squid squid *maniacal cackling*.....

And finally, I leave you with this.

I have nothing further to add.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

How Is Babby Hat Formed?

One of my cousins is going to have a kid this year. This is not an uncommon occurrence in my family, my cousins are constantly popping out sprogs. They're mad keen for it. What's unusual in this case is that I have advance warning. Usually, I only hear some months later that Cousin X has had a baby.
"What? Number two already?" I say.
"No, no, this is their third one." (Seriously. I have had that conversation).

In this case, this baby will be this particular cousin's Baby Mark I, so that is kind of a big deal. Also, when I met his then-girlfiend-now-wife, she was really interested in the jumper I was knitting for Dad at the time, so obviously that put her in the good books with me. So, I decided this was a perfect opportunity to dive into the oceans of cute-cute-cute and also fun baby knitting patterns on Ravelry. When I came up for air, I had in my hand a real pearl: the LeLeLe Baby Hat from the blog 'A Pregnant Woman, a Schnauzer and a Cat Walk Into a Bar...".

Knitting baby clothes was a new kind of things for me. Knitting clothing for other people is always a bit of a test, I think. The problem is, you don't always have the luxury of them being constantly on hand to test out the sizing, and this is an extra problem when the person concerned isn't born yet. I mean, it's head is probably currently doubling in size every week or something. This makes sizing a bit of a conundrum. Plus, if you're a dork like me and don't think things through, you'll probably decide to use yarn from your stash, so you have to knit in a completely different weight of yarn to the original pattern, thereby having to re-jig the gauge and sizing accordingly. Doing this made me realise that I really don't know how big a new baby's head is. So, I just sort of guessed and then made the hat a bit bigger. It can always grow into it, right?

When I first saw the pattern, I was really excited about the long tasselly bit with the pom-pom. But, by the time I got up to that bit, I was worried about being able to make sure it was baby-safe, so I skipped the pompom. So, the result was more of a pointy, rainbow elf-hat, modelled here by my giant Hello Kitty PEZ dispenser:

(That PEZ dispenser dispenses WHOLE ROLLS of PEZ. Not just single sweets. It's a meta-PEZ dispenser.)

The baby's not actually due until April... I hope it doesn't turn out to be twins, then I'll feel really bad for only knitting one hat.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Love Lamp.

Once upon a hard rubbish night, a poor little lamp was cast out upon the footpath. The little lamp's only crimes were being slightly bashed and marked, and also being pretty blah to begin with...

Poor little lamp. Awww :'(

But suddenly, in a shower of magic and sparkles, the Fairy Scroungemother appeared. "Little lamp!" She said. "I will rescue you and make you fabulous." And (several weeks later, when she got around to it) with a wave of her knitting needles and paintbrushes, she made it so:

Yayy! :D

And no, I'm not just looking around at things and saying I love them*. I really do love this lamp. I'm so happy with how it turned out. The repainted base worked so well - I'm not sure what I expected to go wrong with the paint, but I wasn't sure if it would stick. Man, you guys! How good is paint? I am such a big fan of it now. You can make brown things purple. That's just brilliant!

And also, the shade is such a great way to show off the colours in the skein of Noro Chuubu ('Tube') yarn I had in my stash. It's awesome chunky stuff - a great, long bit of i-cord.

It was easy to knit up, because the bottom and top of the shade frame are the same circumference. So, I just knitted up a just a rectangle slightly smaller than the circumference and height. It's knitted in stockinette, with every row of knit done with yarn overs to make bigger stitches. Then I just stitches it onto the frame. TOO EASY!

*Just for the record, I didn't really like Anchorman all that much. But I couldn't resist the reference.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Rainbow Chameleon and Randall the Rooster.

One of my Christmas presents was copy of 'Knit and Purl Pets' by Claire Garland. It's a good fun little book. The photography is quite cute and isn't bad technically, which is a point I feel many knitting books let themselves down on. There are quite a few typos, though, which is exactly the kind of thing that drives me nuts. You'd think they could take a little more care. BUT, the really important thing is the patterns and I reckon it's got a pretty good variety of animals in there, to cater to all tastes. For instance, while I am probably never going to knit the pony or the labrador pup, as soon as I opened the book, I immediately started knitting the chameleon on pages 94-99. It was impossible to resist. I mean, LOOK AT HIM:

No, really, LOOK:


I also whipped up a quick chook as a birthday present for the Aunty who gave me the book. The book says the pattern is for a hen, but Aunty Liz and I agree that my result was much more like a rooster. So, I present to you, Randall the Rooster:

(I bet the henz all call him 'Randy'. You know what I'm saying? I know you do.)

I'm really pleased with how the colours look together. I was originally planning to do a more realistically coloured, gingery chook, but when I saw the teal yarn in my stash, I knew it was kismet. Just perfect.

The yarn is DK, but I used really tiny needles - 2mm or something like that - to make sure the fabric was tight and the stuffing didn't show through. This had the desired effect, but DAMN knitting DK on such tiny needles is HARD WORK. I whipped up most of him in one day, and almost gave myself some serious finger strain (as in, I spent a week waking up in the morning with my left hand curled into a wizened, traumatised claw).

So, remember, kids: knitting is X-treem and you can hurt yourself. Stay in school, don't start forest fires, and put your litter in a bin. But now you knit, and knitting is half the battle. < /PSA >