Tag Archives: present

Frogo and the Quest for Attention

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:

small crocheted frog

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:

  1.  Jump up and down making high-pitched squeally noises;
  2. Accost everybody who arrives at the party brandishing said frog and exclaiming, “look what Kate made!”
  3. Ask for a full report on what yarn I used, what size hook, stitches, pattern – wait, what?  You mean to say THIS IS AN ORIGINAL DESIGN?
  4. Ask how it came to pass that his friend Kate got to be so brilliant as to design her own frog;
  5. Place the frog in a prominent position, where guests can use it as a conversation piece and talk all about me and my epic skills.

crocheted frog - side view

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?”).

crocheted frog - from above

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.

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Busy Fingers #4

Baby Presents

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.

crocheted elephant

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).

crocheted elephant

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).

bananas and teddies finger puppets with pouch

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.

puppets in pouch

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…

Sigh!

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/

Busy Fingers #3

I just thought I’d share with you what I did as a card for the two weddings I went to in December.  Both were the sort of weddings where money was the most appropriate gift.  This always feels a little impersonal to me, which is why I like to include some hand-made accompaniment.

I enlisted Matilda’s and Christopher Robin’s help creating the backdrop (I asked them to write the word ‘love’ everywhere), then I crocheted the heart using this neat pattern from Skip to my Lou.

After that, I glued it all together with a co-ordinating button.  I may have become a little obsessed with my hot-glue-gun of late…

crochet heart card

Perhaps not as good as my lopsided cake card, but I like it, just the same!

collection of gifts

Busy Fingers #2

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.

I made:

Little crochet turtle

1. A turtle keyring for my ten-year-old niece (from Lucy Ravenscar’s most excellent pattern);

flower hair clips with button centres

2. These hair clips for my two-year-old niece (flower motif pattern here);

little crochet pig

3. A ‘lucky pig’ for my baby niece (another of Lucy Ravenscar’s remarkable patterns); and

banana finger puppets

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?

collection of gifts

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!

Busy Fingers #1

Note – I wrote this one a month ago and am only just getting around to posting it now.  Hence all the references to “Advent” and “December”.  I tried to fix it, but it was getting too complicated.  I hope you can cope with this blast from the past…

crochet angel

My fingers have been very busy this Advent season. Here’s why:

 

1. Something about Christmas fills me with the urge to create things with my hands.

2. I prefer to spend my time with a bag of yarn and a box set of Little Dorrit than doing battle with a shopping centre car park.

3. I get to tell myself I’m being all anti-consumerist and sticking it to the man.

4.  I’ve been invited to two weddings this December, and as a result have NO MONEY for expensive presents.  All my money fell down the wishing well…

Here’s what I made for Harry’s and Christopher Robin’s teachers:

group of crocheted angels

These angels are TOTALLY MY OWN PATTERN.  I’m so excited!  OK, so maybe I got lacy wings idea from a book I got from the library and I did steal Lucy Ravenscar’s method of joining the head to the body without fastening off, but the rest of it is ALL ME.  If you look closely, you can see that some of the angels have different body-types – it took me a while to refine the pattern…

Back of angel

I might just put a tutorial up for these sometime next year…

Decorated gingerbread

We also gave them gingerbread in jars, using The Green Dragonfly’s excellent recipe.  All of the kids helped to make these.  Annie ate all her dough, and Christopher Robin got rather creative in his choice of biscuit shapes, but I bit back the strong urge to fix the wonky ones and let them roll and cut to their hearts content.  We decorated with white fudge writing icing, but I wouldn’t recommend it (it doesn’t set properly).

gingerbread in jars

All of the teachers were very happy with their Christmas presents, and I was glad of the opportunity to thank them for taking care of my boys this year.

Stay tuned for more – I’m afraid you don’t have a choice!

Barking

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.

Crocheted Dog - Fudge

Here is Fudge, a brown Labrador, and the eldest of the three;

crocheted dog - jet

This is Jet, a black Labrador who is very excitable;

Crocheted Dog - Trumpet

And here is Trumpet, a black poodle, who is more shy and sensible than his friends.

Trumpet's Tail

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.

Crocheted Ball

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).

presents

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!

Wedding Boast

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:

Crocheted Yoda

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.

Loaded Yoda

And here’s how I included the (warm and fuzzy) monetary element.

Naked Yoda

And here’s how he looks without his robe.

Yoda from above

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:

The Card

Hmmm.  I need to learn to quit while I’m ahead…