Here’s my first attempt at a feature article. Turn to page 16 for “Hooking Up” by Kate Moriarty!
Here’s my first attempt at a feature article. Turn to page 16 for “Hooking Up” by Kate Moriarty!
I don’t know if you’ve worked it out by now, but I’m a bit of a crochet nut. And I’m at my nuttiest when making gifts for friends and family. There is a part of me that will not rest until every person I care about owns something that I made for them. I think it might be something primal. Like I’m marking my territory or something. When I get it right and the gift is well-received, it is exhilarating. But when I get it wrong, it is mortifying.
Anyway, for a long while now I’ve been wanting to make a frog for my friend Strider. Strider has been my friend for around eighteen years now, and along with his obsession with all things Tolkein, he is also deeply interested in conservation and other environmental issues and has a great love of green tree frogs.
Recently (no, not recently, this post has been in my drafts pile for a few months now, but let’s pretend), Strider had a small birthday party, a strictly ‘no presents’ affair. I like when friends have ‘no presents’ parties. It means I can give something hand-made without any pressure for it to be good.
So anyway, I made this:
I couldn’t find a pattern I really liked (I have no time to be sewing bits together or faffing about with pipecleaners), so I designed one myself. It took a bit of experimentation, but I got there in the end. I must give credit, however, to Lucy Ravenscar: I was very much inspired by the techniques she used with her bazaar animals in putting this together. I couldn’t help but feel rather chuffed with how it worked out.
When I got to Strider’s house (‘Gondor’?) , I waited until I had come inside and our respective children had finished exclaiming over each other, before presenting my gift. Strider smiled and thanked me politely. He did not, however do any of the following:
In fact, he put the frog away, where nobody could see it. How was I supposed to show off now?
But I was not defeated. I turned a few strategies over in my mind. Strider’s sister-in-law is nice and loud. Perhaps I could get her to broadcast the news of my triumph? So I sought her out and gave my orders.
“You must ask your brother-in-law to show you what I made him!”
So Strider’s sister-in-law (“Galadriel”? I don’t know…) dutifully sought out the host of the party and asked to see the frog. She got a look at it, but didn’t take it out of its hiding place. Then she came back to tell me how great she thought it was. Nobody overheard. The frog remained hidden.
But now, I knew the where the frog was hidden. It was in the kitchen. I decided it was time to get myself a drink. Then I decided the frog was exactly where I wanted to put the bottle of mineral water. so I moved it to the other side of the bench, where it would be out of my way and, incidentally, more visible to anyone who happened by. Then I stationed myself next to the bench so I could answer any questions (“Whence came this miraculous creation?”).
But nobody asked any. And then I had to go home.
I had almost got over it a couple of days later when I met up with Strider’s family again for a church group picnic. “Now, Kate,” I told myself sternly, “you made that frog as a present to your friend, not to your ego. You really must get over this need to be in the centre of attention at all times!”. I arrived at the picnic determined to listen to others and not dominate and give other people the opportunity to get a word in edgewise. It was as I was listening (with all my might) to a new friend as she told me about her work designing jewellery and selling it online, that Strider broke in.
“You should sell your work online too, Kate. That frog you made me is just brilliant. Tell us all about it”
Oh, well. I suppose I could manage that. If I must.
Is it just me or is everybody having babies? I thought I’d share some little projects I turned out recently for my fertile friends and their freshly-minted progeny.
I love this elephant. The pattern for it is so clever that you hardly have to do any sewing together (I HATE sewing together bits. I always do a wonky job. It drives me crazy).
It’s all very elegantly designed (which I suppose would make it an Elegant Elephant). And the fabric in the ears makes me swoon (even though I had to sew it). I made it for my friends who recently had a baby girl.
Recently, I was making a set of tiny teddy bears as a get well soon present, using Lucy Ravenscar’s excellent design (I swear I’m a little obsessed with that brilliant woman and her clever patterns), and I ran out of wool before I finished one of the bears. It struck me that this half-finished bear would make a very cute finger puppet. And THEN I remembered the Bananas in Pyjamas that I’d made for my nephew and I thought it would be a good idea to give the bananas some teddy bears to chase on Tuesdays. This was to make a present for my friends who had recently welcomed a baby boy into the world (and who already had two preschool girls who might also benefit from the present).
Lucy Ravenscar’s bears and Chisachi Kushima’s elephant (as translated by Stephanie from All About Ami) are elegant patterns that are a joy to make. Unfortunately, my pattern for banana finger puppets is a clumsy and complicated mess that brings no joy to the fingers and ends up looking rather wrong. I’m too embarrassed by it to share it on my blog. There must be an easier way.
I purchased a little pencil case from an entrepreneurial eleven-year-old on a market day at our homeschool co-op. I figured it might be useful for my friends to carry the puppets around in a purse or nappy bag so that they could be on hand (sorry) to entertain their kids in waiting rooms, cafes or churches.
If I could only get a better handle on the banana component, this might be a good gift for my friends who live far away when they have babies – it would post so easily.
Oh! And I mustn’t forget to let you know that these presents were ALL made from stash yarn. But I did it before I took the shameful photo of my yarn mountain, so no progress made there…
Edited to add: The very talented Veronica from Veronica’s Miscellaney (who, incidentally, is another Australian Catholic Homeschooler who Crochets) has worked out an excellent pattern for these bananas. She used the same method as me, but added some critical tweaks that have made all the difference. You can view it here: http://veromarybrrr.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/bananas-in-pyjamas/
OK, so maybe I have a problem.
I’m not sure how it started, really. I’m sure it was innocent enough to begin with, but it’s now got to the point where I don’t even have a handle on how much things are getting out of control and I’m too scared to face up to reality.
My name is Kate Knightley and I own an excessive amount of yarn.
I think it might be taking over my house. I’m pretty sure I can stand in any room and, if I look carefully enough, find evidence of my addiction. Plus there’s all of the stuff I have hidden away. I have two large bureau drawers dedicated to concealing my stash and I think I have the problem contained, but then sometimes I uncover random Lincraft bags chock-full of lambswool/alpaca blend.
It frightens me.
And worse than just the wool – the half finished projects. Oh! The shame! They glare at me reproachfully from the various places I’ve tried to hide them. They call to me: Kate! Kate! Only three more rounds and I would have been complete! Kate! Don’t you love me?
I’ve tried to be good. Really, I have. So many of my recent projects have used up stash wool rather than new wool. I’ve tried to be creative and figure out ways to work with what I’ve got. But it doesn’t seem to help. It’s like Strega Nona broke into my stash and stirred it up with her magic wooden spoon. It’s like the Magic Pudding of stashes. It doesn’t make a difference how much of it I consume. It doesn’t get any smaller.
Mr Knightley has his suspicions, but he doesn’t know how bad things really are. I have been guilty of concealing my (necessary and perfectly legitimate) yarn purchases from him (“this old skein? I’ve had this for ages”).
But now it’s time to face reality. I’m going to get all the yarn I can find together and take a picture. This might be a little disturbing:
Oh! The shame! It’s only in a heart shape because Christopher Robin helped me collate it all (“You love your wool, really, Mum”)
And here are the dud projects:
Don’t look at me! I’m hideous!
And here’s what makes it all much worse: I want to buy more. I want to buy so much more.
This weekend I went to Healesville with my husband of twelve years and we spent some blissful time exploring markets and second-hand shops sitting in lovely cafes all without the company of our children, who, delightful as they are, tend to have grabby hands and an electron-like capacity of being in many places they shouldn’t be all at once.
I got the chance to feast my eyes on some gorgeous hand-made baby clothes and it gave me a desperate case of the wanties. My fingers started itching to create some adorable hats and jackets for the twins and none of the yarns I already own are quite what I am looking for.
I’m beginning to fantasise about gender-neutral pallettes in rich, unusual colours tempered with soft greys and creams all in finger-weight yarn. Or large balls of thick, soft, natural-coloured wool. Or the vivid, jewel-bright colours of Rowan DK or Debbie Bliss yarn (I’ve never actually owned these brands, but everybody on the internet seems to use them and the colours are to die for).
Did you know you can order yarn online and they deliver to your door? Can you imagine what it would be like to open a parcel and find it full of delicious wool? I was chatting about this with my husband on the weekend (we were eating lunch in a Healesville café and I’d just seen the inside of this amazing store). His eyes were a little glazed over for most of the conversation (“granny square matinee jacket” / “New Zealand possum yarn” / “new method for edging blankets’), but he snapped back to reality when I mentioned purchasing yet more wool.
“What are the names of these websites?” he asked, with concern wrinkling his eyebrows, “perhaps I should put a block on them…” and then he went on, talking about “my own good” and “saving me from myself” and “seeking professional help”. I’m not sure – I wasn’t really listening. My mind was exploring colours and textures and exciting new projects.
It’s sweet that he cares about me, but he really doesn’t need to be concerned. It’s fine. I can stop at any time.
Plus I bet I can get a discount for ordering in bulk.
Do you have a wool or craft stash that is getting out of control? Please photograph and/or write about it and we can
enable link to each other. This is a safe place. There is no judgement here.
This year, I had the idea of beefing up our Christmas presents to our nephews and nieces with some handmade gifts. You see, Mr Knightley’s brothers and sister always give such thoughtful and generous presents to my children that the presents I buy for their children look rather plain in comparison. I am certain that I am the only one who notices this, but I wanted to find a way to value-add, just the same. Unfortunately, I was only hit with the inspiration to do this ONE WEEK before our Christmas lunch. But the genius of Lucy Ravenscar and the sheer wonder of my hot-glue gun came together and I somehow managed to pull it off.
It was a Christmas miracle.
1. A turtle keyring for my ten-year-old niece (from Lucy Ravenscar’s most excellent pattern);
2. These hair clips for my two-year-old niece (flower motif pattern here);
3. A ‘lucky pig’ for my baby niece (another of Lucy Ravenscar’s remarkable patterns); and
4. These Bananas-in-Pyjamas finger puppets for my one-year-old nephew. These were my own pattern and a lot trickier than they look. The pyjama stripes are worked in rows and joined to make a cylinder, then the head is worked in decreasing rounds on one of the ends. If you try to work the whole thing in rounds, the stripes go diagonal. Or so I’m told.
My other two nephews (aged seven and nine) missed out on a handmade addition to their presents. What on earth do you crochet for a nine-year-old boy?
These were all very well received and I was feeling remarkably smug about the whole situation … until I saw the truly beautiful, thoughtful presents my children received in return. I’m gonna have to start a lot earlier next year!
Sometimes I think I might be a crazy person. Especially when it comes to crochet.
An idea will drop into my head, perfect and fully formed, that will send me into a frenzy of wool and stitches. I won’t be able to rest until I’ve snipped and woven in the last end of yarn. And I won’t know until the moment the handmade gift is opened whether I’ve created something special and wonderful and right-on-the-mark; or lame, attention-seeking and deserving of pity.
I wanted to share with you my latest piece of insanity.
Mr Knightley’s sister, whom I’m going to call Audrey (if he were called Mr Darcy, I could call her Georgiana, I suppose, but I digress…), lives in a different city to us with her husband and two daughters: two-year-old Holly and newborn Eliza. They also have three big and very loveable dogs. Now, when Eliza was born, I put my head to thinking what I could make for her. Unfortunately, my brain had other ideas, and thought instead of a great present for Holly. I figured Holly might need a present more than her baby sister, babies get enough fuss!
Holly is devoted to her three big dogs, which is what gave me the idea. What if I made her three toy puppies, modelled on her favourite playmates? And the idea wouldn’t leave. So I had to make them.
Here is Fudge, a brown Labrador, and the eldest of the three;
This is Jet, a black Labrador who is very excitable;
And here is Trumpet, a black poodle, who is more shy and sensible than his friends.
And he has a curly tail.
Each dog has his own collar, bed and blanket in a matching colour. I like to think this makes them all very Montessori. I don’t like to think that pointing this out makes me all very pretentious sounding…
I didn’t want to forget Baby Eliza entirely, so I made Miss Doolittle a soft ball which makes a crunchy sound when you squeeze it. I spent many of my days testing various plastic wrappers for sound quality before putting the best ones in with the stuffing. People think I’m odd.
It’s not as round as I would like it, but thankfully Eliza does not yet understand the basics of geometry, so I think I’ll get away with it…
The pattern I used for the dogs is the very clear and well written “Puppy Love” by Beth Ann Weber on the By Hook By Hand blog. The dogs’ collars, beds and blankets are my own design, as is the ball (which explains the wonkiness).
And here are the presents all together. My parents-in-law were travelling to visit Audrey and her family, so I packed it all in a shoe box (I resisted the temptation to use a “Hush Puppies” box), wrapped it nicely and gave it to them to deliver.
Now I was stuck. I wouldn’t know until the gift was opened if the present was good or not. And I wouldn’t be there to see them open it. While the box remained closed, the present was simultaneously lovely and lame. This is a paradox known as Schrödinger’s Dogs.
Thankfully, my sister-in-law called to thank me soon after they received the present. Holly had fallen in love with the little dogs and had been playing with them all day. Huzzah!
As for me, my fingers are starting to itch again!
I just wanted to show off.
A couple of weeks ago I went to a beautiful wedding. I got to spend the day feasting with friends and celebrating a very exciting event. I was aware that the happy couple would be living in a small apartment that was already fixed up with toasters and cutlery and wine glasses and towels and that the present they would most like would be money, but I couldn’t help feeling like it was a little impersonal. Cold hard cash. How could I turn it into soft, friendly currency?
The first idea I had was to buy them a tea-pot and make a cosy for it and put the money inside, but then I remembered that the wedding was going to have a bit of a Star Wars theme, as it was being held on May the forth (be with you). Also, they might never open the tea-pot. They might spend the rest of their days drinking only coffee and thinking bad thoughts about their tight-fisted friends…
So, after talking it over with a few friends, I came up with this:
I got the pattern from Lucy Ravenscar on Ravelry. I don’t usually buy patterns, but I bought this one as it was exactly what I wanted and there wasn’t anything as good for free online. It was worth the money – a clever pattern, beautifully written with plenty of pictures.
And here’s how I included the (warm and fuzzy) monetary element.
And here’s how he looks without his robe.
And here’s an aerial view (OK, now it’s getting ridiculous)
Having done such a great job on this one I decided I was a creative genius and went on to do a handmade card as well. I’ve received cards before that involve simple motifs sewn onto card with a basic machine stitch. I had an idea of doing something clever with lace. Cute and personal. Fresh, clean lines.
Sewing isn’t really my strong suit. I aspire to be a clever sewing lady, but I’m not there yet.
So I got up a design and I pinned everything in place and I tried to sew it and it got a bit wonky so I tried to fix it but it was definitely asymmetrical and you couldn’t tell what it was supposed to be, so I drew all over it and it was no longer chic or minimalist and it looked a bit of a strange mess, but I’d spent so much time and energy on it that I decided to go ahead with it anyway and in the end it looked like this:
Hmmm. I need to learn to quit while I’m ahead…