Purple berry mittens

>> Saturday, December 31, 2005

Here is my 2nd four-needle berry embroidered set of mittens. These ones are made from Fuchsia Burly Spun 100% wool, with wool embroidery in light bluish purple and light lavender berries. I'm really enjoying the embroidery these days! Next, I am planning to make them in turquoise and then pink - all my favourite colours.

These are for sale at etsy.com


White winter berry mittens

>> Friday, December 30, 2005

I just finished these today, they're white wool mittens using a four-needle mitten pattern from Lettuce Knit. They give you the pattern if you buy the wool there. It's a nice smooth, very soft, luxuriously heavy wool called "Blue Sky Bulky" and it's 50% alpaca and 50% wool. I was a little disappointed when I finished knitting them, since they came out a bit too large, and the sample in the store had fit perfectly. So I decided to felt them (by hand) and they shrunk just enough. I also tried them on outside before felting and I could feel the wind through the mitten. Not anymore! These are so dense and warm now. Also, the embroidery works better on the felted mitten because there's a smooth surface without so much texture from the stitches. I decided to embroider a winter branch with berries on them. I'm thinking of making some more now to sell.


Blue earrings with Swarovski crystal beads

>> Thursday, December 29, 2005

I've started making jewellery again lately. I'm definitely an amateur when it comes to jewellery, but I found a good book which covers the basics and was treated at Christmas with some round nose pliers that I needed and some beautiful Swarovski crystal beads. This is one of the first pairs of earrings that I've made that I really like, the beads at the top are green, dark turquoise and a sort of coppery colour.


Orange bird hat

>> Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Here is an embroidery I did on one of my hats. (I should clarify: I embroidered the bird, but I didn't knit the hat. I was outside yesterday and forgot to bring a hat. I got too cold so I bought one - shame on me! but at least it's 100% wool) I used some more of my stash of wool for crewel embroidery. I love the colour of this hat, and it has a fleece lining which makes it very snug, but I thought it was missing something so I decided to add a bird since I really liked how my iPod case turned out.

Speaking of yarn stashes, I got a little carried away at the Lettuce Knit (30% off all yarn) and Romni (25% off everything) boxing day sales. Here are pictures of just some of the yarn I bought. I am planning to start selling more of my knitted things next year, so hopefully it's not as crazy as it seems. My favourite is the blue in the middle of the following picture, which was a cash-in of a hand-made coupon that came in my Christmas stocking from Bradley. It's hard to describe exactly how lovely it is, the name is Alchemy Haiku, it's very fine, it's 40% silk and 60% mohair, and the colour is called Soft Turquoise.

The following picture is of some beautiful pink yarns: 1. a bit fat nubbly one called "Curly Locks" from Fleece Artist 2. a variegated washable merino skein to make a pair of socks (something I haven't tried yet), also from Fleece Artist 3. two variegated kid merino skeins from Crystal Palace Yarns and 4. three light pink merino wool skeins.

The following picture are colours I didn't want that came in a bag with the pale pink merino above. They are purple, black and light yellow & cream merino wool ~70 gram skeins. If any one would like to trade me for these, please let me know!


Bike Helmet Ear Warmers

Well, they don't look like much but I think these are a really good idea. They're ear warmers to wear under your bike helmet. The idea is that you might still like to ride your bike when it gets pretty cold, but a hat can be too bulky under the helmet. In case you're wondering how you wear them, there's a picture of someone wearing them on the pattern page. I found the pattern after going to knitty and reading the story "Knit like a man". After that I went to the author's blog and found a link there to MenKnit magazine. The pattern is by Amy O'Neill Houck who has a blog called The Hook and I.

I had been wanting to make these since my friend Adam showed me fleece ones he got at MEC, which they don't seem to have anymore. They knit up really fast, if you're a pretty experienced knitter you can do it in an evening, and when they're done I recommend you block them so that they don't curl. I did it by handwashing them then placing them on a towel and pinning them directly onto my couch. They're small so they don't take up too much room while they're drying.


Knitted goods - Christmas presents

>> Saturday, December 24, 2005

These are the presents I knitted for my family this Christmas. I'll post bigger pictures on Flickr later on. I know I should take a break from blogging, but I just started a month and a half ago and I can't seem to stop! I even have another post planned for tomorrow...although I will warn you it is a little on the sentimental side and involves a cloth doll. For those of you who won't be looking at blogs tomorrow, I wish you a very merry Christmas and happy holidays!


Guest Spot - Striped men's mittens by Sarah

>> Thursday, December 22, 2005

Well I'm running out of things I can show you that aren't secret Christmas presents. My friend Sarah just sent me a picture of some mittens she made for her boyfriend, so I'm having a guest spot today. Aren't they great? This is the pattern she used - although it looks like she shortened the thumbs which is a good thing because I thought the pattern mittens had kind of weirdly long thumbs.

She knitted hers on four needles, but I have to mention, I just found out about knitting small size items on circular needles. I don't have very many double pointed needles, but I do have a Boye circular needle kit, so I thought this could really come in handy. I tried it myself, and found it a little bit vexing, but I find knitting on four needles vexing too. I won't explain it again since I found a terrific explanation on someone else's page. If this link expires, just google "magic loop" and you will find the info.


Striped chunky knit pink and brown scarf

>> Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I've just finished this, a really warm wool scarf for the winter. It's so easy I would recommend this for a brand new beginner project. I used Lamb's Pride (is it just me or is that a really cute name for yarn?) bulky yarn, 14 stitches per row, size 11 needles, all knit (garter stitch), switching my four colours randomly. I wanted a plain-jane, vintage looking, a-kid-could-have-made-it style of scarf.

Even though it's simple, beginners often ask about switching colours. All you do is this: when you are ready to join a new colour just cut off the current colour leaving around 3 inches of yarn, then use a reef knot to join on the new colour. A reef knot is left over right and under, then right over left and under. Then just start knitting with the new colour. That's it. I weave in the ends with a big sewing needle, such as an embroidery or tapestry needle, any needle that's big enough that you can thread it with your yarn. After you weave in the ends (ie. "sew" the yarn over and under loops of your knitting) trim off the end.

Now I just can't decide if I should add a fringe or not. Any opinions on that?


Pink bird iPod case

>> Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I just finished this today, I had crocheted the case a while ago, but just decided today to embroider a bird on top. I guess it's called crewel embroidery since I used wool. I was lucky one day and I found a big bag of scrap embroidery wool at a flea market so I have lots of colours to choose from. I'm still learning how to use my brother's old camera properly so it's not as clear as I'd like - the bird's wing and tail are orange.

I love things with birds on them, I bought a sweet little pin cushion from tania at a craft sale here in Toronto, it looks like this. And I bought a wonderful pink wool bag with an appliqued bird on it from stelle. It's the one on the top of her blog - so my bag is famous. My other famous "bird" bag is this one. I couldn't resist the vintage bird fabric on the front flap. It's a diaper bag but I use it to cart around my art supplies to coffee shops so I can stop crafting and blogging and actually do some illustration!

In other news, I'm going to my 2nd stitch 'n bitch tonight. Last time was great fun, I loved seeing all the projects people were making. My favourite was Sarah's vintage-looking knitting bag, which looks complicated but she says is actually quite easy. She even let me know where she found the pattern so maybe I'll make my own.


The Second Mitten! the turquoise bag and my Singer

>> Monday, December 19, 2005

The Second Mitten is now finished (see previous post regarding Boy Knitting). Knitted, that is, but not assembled. This is what the mitten looks like, so now you can see how a double layered striped mitten was knitted in one big piece. I would never think to knit a mitten like this, it seems like a lot of trouble, but they turned out great, and Bradley is really happy with them.

Myself, I finally lined the turquoise bag, and I'm really happy with it. It turned out that the courdoroy lining was thick enough to keep the top part from being too floppy without any use of interfacing, and the colour worked well. I also found a bit of nice stripey fabric to line the pocket. The tricky part with lining a buttonhole style bag was the buttonholes themselves. I did it by cutting the lining in two horizontally, and sewing together the top and bottom of each side while leaving a gap where the buttonholes were. Then pressing it flat and sewing the lining in as usual. The top part needed to be overstitched by hand because it was a stretch courdoroy and the sewing machine was stretching it too much. I could have adjusted the tension, but with my old sewing machine it's not that easy. This is a picture of my beautiful sewing machine! I love it, but it has some limitations. For those who are interested in sewing machines, it's a Singer Lock stitch model 128-13, with the Egyptian scrollwork on the faceplate. I have attachments for zigzag stitching and buttonholes (which I rarely use) and it came in excellent condition with lots of extra feet and the manual at a flea market for $100. I love it. I also have a white Featherweight, but that's a story for another posting.


Illustration Friday - Imagine
The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces

>> Friday, December 16, 2005

I started this drawing after being inspired by this post. It started out as a drawing purely from my imagination, remembering the kinds of pictures I loved to draw throughout my childhood. I remember spending hours completely wrapped up in my drawings, making up stories in my mind to go with the pictures. I was particularly enchanted by fairytales, and this particular sketch ended up evolving into an illustration for one of my favourite fairytales, The Shoes That Were Danced to Pieces. In this Grimm story, twelve princesses steal away every night to meet twelve princes who row them across a lake to an underground castle where they dance until their shoes are in shreds. On the way to the lake they pass through an avenue of trees with silver leaves. I've always imagined that this underground world would be really beautiful and magical with gardens and colourful lanterns.


Illustration Friday - Surprise
The Elves and the Shoemaker

>> Thursday, December 15, 2005

This is my Illustration Friday entry for the theme: Surprise. I've always wanted to illustrate The Elves and the Shoemaker, it's one of my childhood favourites. I think you know, but just in case you don't, this is the moment when the shoemaker discovers that two elves are sewing his shoes for him at night.

To see it larger, click on the image, and then click again to see it even larger!


Sideways garter stitch scarf

>> Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I made this for a friend to give to his mum. This is a really fun scarf to make. You just cast on the number of stitches to make the scarf as long as you want it. I used a chunky yarn, so with 180 stitches it was 60 inches wide, or long, if you know what I mean. I used my circular needles as straight flexible needles, so that they were long enough to hold all the stitches. Then it's all knit, with alternating colours. I decided to switch colours every second row, to make lots of skinny stripes. The colours are purple, pinks and dark chocolate brown.

The good thing about this scarf is you can make it the length you want it to be, then keep going until you run out of yarn. Ie. you don't have to guess in advance how wide you can make it in order not to run out of yarn while it's still too short.

Also, I got around to making little "needle book" labels to sew onto the things I'm making. I like how they turned out, pretty cute!

p.s. I made this with Lamb's Pride Bulky wool (85% Wool/15% Mohair), and I used the recommended 10 1/2 size needles. The gauge is 3 stitches per inch in case you'd like to substitute another type of wool. But of course you can make this scarf any size you like!

p.p.s. Bradley has almost finished the 2nd mitten!


Beaver on the streetcar - Christmas card

>> Tuesday, December 13, 2005

This is a Christmas card I made today for a friend of mine. It was his idea, a follow-up to a previous card I made for him in which a beaver is getting his Christmas tree. It's fun to collaborate with someone with funny ideas. That beaver card was really popular! I'll be printing out some copies so that my friend can send it to his friends and family.


Sewing a book bag and wallet

>> Monday, December 12, 2005

So I've been practising the sewing again, so that I can line some of my knitted bags. I finally finished an old project, a simple book bag with a vintage striped piece of fabric I bought at a flea market. I lined it with some hot pink cotton. I also made a little matching wallet since I had some little scraps left over. It was a pretty small piece of fabric. This bag is perfect for rolling up and taking along in case of surprise shopping.

I'm planning to sew the lining of the turquoise bag next, but I'm not sure about using the interfacing. I'm not sure if I should just use a strip at the top, or for the whole bag. I don't want the whole thing to become too stiff and the interfacing is kind of thick. The woman at the sewing store said it would be good for a bag. Plus, does the interfacing cover the entire fabric area including seams? Because then the seams would be really thick. If there are any sewers reading this, I'd really appreciate some help!


Felted turquoise and purple bag

>> Friday, December 09, 2005

This is a knitted bag that I tried to felt. It worked perfectly, on the bottom half! This yarn was from a sale and wasn't labelled, but it seemed like both the purple and the turquoise were the same type of nubbly yarn. It turns out the turquoise was wool and the purple yarn must have been some kind of wool/synthetic blend. It's not a big problem, it just means the bottom is nice and thick and felted, but the top part is a bit thinner and floppy. I've decided to maybe try using interfacing for the first time, and attach it to the blue cuordory I'm going to use to line the bag. I'll post the results.

In the meantime, here are my felting tips:
1. Felting only works with 100% wool. But some pure wool is specially treated to be non-felting, ie. it's designed so that you can wash your item without shrinking. I have actually boiled a bag made with washable wool in a pot, and it wouldn't felt.
2. You can felt simply by throwing the wool item into the washer. The heat and agitation will make the knitted item shrink and become really dense. If you take the item out part way through the cycle you can see how it's doing. If you want it even smaller/denser, you can run it through the wash again.
3. You can also felt things by hand. I use hot water and rub the knitted item between my fingers. I also use soap. If it's taking a while you can put it in cold water, then back in hot, which sometimes helps speed up the felting.
4. The results: the item will shrink, sometimes more lengthwise than widthwise, so test with a swatch if you want to be sure of the results. It will also get much denser and softer. The stitch detail in the knitting will be blurred. I find that nubbly wool works really well.


Illustration Friday (final) - Blue
The Little Mermaid

>> Thursday, December 08, 2005

This is my Illustration Friday for "blue", the painting of the inked sketch below. As usual, you can click on the image to see it larger. There is an excerpt from "The Little Mermaid" in the post below, this is the part that inspired me, the part I wanted to illustrate. I've tweaked the colours, the scan came out a bit too bright and it didn't look right. Thank you for visiting!


Illustration Friday - Blue
The Little Mermaid

This excerpt was the inspiration for my Illustration Friday entry. Here is the inked sketch, I'll be painting it today.

"Outside the castle there was a beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro continually. The earth itself was the finest sand, but blue as the flame of burning sulphur. Over everything lay a peculiar blue radiance, as if it were surrounded by the air from above, through which the blue sky shone, instead of the dark depths of the sea. In calm weather the sun could be seen, looking like a purple flower, with the light streaming from the calyx.

Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and contained flowers as red as his rays at sunset."
-- The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen


Red stripe messenger bag

>> Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I've just finished this striped messenger bag, which my friend is going to give to his sister. It's so easy to make, it's just one long rectangle folded into thirds, so you get a flat bag plus flap. I sewed a strap (padded with quilt padding), and a simple lining out of the same fabric.

The best part is that I started with plain cream coloured wool, which I dyed with Kool-Aid, mixing to get lots of great colours. Dyeing with Kool-Aid is so great, it's not toxic (although it makes you wonder what you're drinking), no mess, inexpensive, and the colours are permanent.
(If you search online you'll find lots of ways to do it, the following is based on my experience.)

How to dye with Kool-Aid:
Note: this works best with 100% wool for strong saturated colour, with cotton or synthetic blends you generally end up with pastel colours. Wool really absorbs the colour best.
1. Wind your wool into a big loop and tie it together on either end to hold it in place
2. Wash your wool (warm water and dish soap works fine) and rinse well
3. Drop 1+ packets of Kool-Aid into a big pot with enough water to cover your wool, and stir to dissolve the crystals. Use more packets for stronger colour, mix flavours to get different colours.
4. Add a teaspoon of salt to help the dye absorb into the wool without streaking. (Mix the Kool-Aid and salt into the water before adding the wool)
5. Simmer on the stove top until the water turns clear, stir gently
6. Rinse out the yarn and hang up to dry - you're done!


Robot ipod case

>> Tuesday, December 06, 2005

This was my thank you present for Bradley, a crocheted ipod case with an embroidered robot with his initial (Bradley's initial not the robot's initial). It's made with a smaller hook than usual for the yarn so that it's very dense and sturdy. It met with much approval.

If you can crochet, I recommend this as a great Christmas present you could make that doesn't take too long. If not, I am willing to take custom orders, just email me!


Children's grammar book - illustration project

>> Monday, December 05, 2005

Hurrah! I've finished my latest book, a grammar book for a children's book publisher in South Korea. There was a total of 231 illustrations, 10 of which were large, and the rest quite small. I had three weeks to do the final colour art after the sketches were approved. As usual I managed to do it on time, but down to the wire and had to stay up until 2:30 am last night. Many many thanks to my hero, Bradley, who helped dramatically with the scanning, touch up and uploading.

As usual you can click to see the picture enlarged if you like. This is my quick style, it's fun to do and I like to think that it's cheerful and will appeal to the kids. Let's hope!


Crochet flower scarf - how to

>> Saturday, December 03, 2005

I've figured out a pattern for the crochet flower scarf that I posted about recently. This is just a series of flowers in alternating colours, and each flower is stitched to the next one by sewing together two of the petals.

I am not an expert pattern writer, but if you know the basics of crochet I think you will be able to follow it. I used some odds and ends of yarn I had, and using a size H crochet hook the flower ended up being 3.75" in diameter.

Crochet Flower Scarf Pattern
what you need to know:
making a chain (ch), slip stitch (sl st), single crochet stitch (sc), double crochet stitch (dc), treble crochet stitch (tr)
use the size crochet hook recommended on the yarn label. Flowers can vary in sizes depending on how heavy the yarn is.

  1. chain 3
  2. join into a ring with slip stitch into first stitch
  3. 8 single chains into centre of ring, sl st to join up, switch to the next colour (cut off the first colour so you can weave in the end and both sides of the flower will look good, ie. don't leave it attached for when you use the same colour again)
  4. ch2, 1 dc in next st, then 2 dc in all subsequent stitches (total of 16 dcs), sl st to join up the ring, switch colours again back to the original colour (or a 3rd colour if you wish)
  5. *sc in 1st stitch, ch2, sc in next stitch* repeat to create 8 loops (these are very small loops, basically just a gap)
  6. Work into loops to create petals, each petal is 1sc, 2dc, 1tr, 2dc, 1sc, repeat for each petal until there are 8
  7. The flower is done! Repeat to create 16 flowers and join together by stitching 2 petals of each flower to the next one, alternating colours as you wish.
I would love to see them if anyone makes this scarf. I am planning to make one myself (probably in pink, purple and reds) and I will post it.


Boy Knitting - part two

>> Friday, December 02, 2005

In one of my many knitting books, The Bantam Step-by-Step Book of Needle Craft, I found a nicely illustrated history of knitting. Evidence of knitting can be traced as far back as 900 BC, and it had become well-known by the 16th century with the advent of knitting guilds in many of the main cities of Europe. These guilds were made up primarily by men, and women were the spinners.

Each apprentice had to meet high standards and pass a final exam which included "a shirt, a felted cap, a pair of socks and a colorwork carpet". Amazingly, the first knitting machine was invented in 1589, designed to knit stockings. After that, hand knitting fell into a bit of a decline.

Early evidence of knitting is found in paintings such as the one above, a 14th century painting which depicts the Virgin Mary knitting a shirt on four needles. The picture on the right shows a 16th century drawing (by Annibale Caracci (1560-1609)) of an itinerant stocking knitter. In other words, this man's job was to travel from place to place, knitting as he went! Notice the contraption rigged up at his side in order for him to knit with two colours with ease.

Is it just me or does he look a little self-conscious? He seems to be looking over his shoulder uneasily. Maybe being an itinerant stocking knitter had its dangers, and required bravery, or maybe he's just worried someone will tip him over from his precarious position on the stairs. In any case, I believe that men who knit today should feel confident that they are carrying on a noble tradition. (As always, you can click on the images to see them larger)


Boy Knitting - part one

>> Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'm going to my first stitch n' bitch tonight! I'm really looking forward to it. Now I can socialize while still catching up on all my (secret) Christmas projects. I can't wait to see what everyone is making. Plus I always enjoy getting together with a bunch of girls and gossiping. Which brings me to my topic.

My boyfriend asked me over a year ago if I would teach him how to knit. I wasn't sure if he was really interested at first, but I have to say he's taken to it like a fish to water. His first ball of yarn was a nice fat dark green wool. He made (and unravelled) a few practise squares and ended up creating my favourite scarf for me, in a double rib. After that came a bookmark in moss stitch, some 2-colour wash cloths, and a really long Seattle Seahawks scarf in lime green, blue and grey. All made without a pattern (he likes doing the math).

That's all pretty impressive, but his latest project was so complicated I couldn't really understand it until I saw it put together (see diagram). It's a double thickness mitten knitted in one big flat piece. So when you sew it together it has two layers for warmth. The 1st mitten took a long time, and I suspect he'll need a breather before the 2nd gets done. But as you can see he's a natural knitter (and designer). It's not really that surprising, just look at famous knitters such as Kaffe Fassett.


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