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Category Archives: Stitch ‘n’ Knit

Crochet Waistcoat: A Blast from the Past

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Multi-coloured crochet waistcoat

That pink was a mistake!

While tidying out a cupboard during last summer’s holiday activities, we unearthed one of my handicraft items from the late 1970s. As you can see from the illustrations it is a waistcoat made up of multi-coloured crochet motifs. I have never been a real whizz at crochet but I did manage to teach myself a few stitches all those years ago. After mastering some of the basic stitches, I looked around for an idea for a practical project to give my endeavours a focus. There are only so many coasters and tablemats that you can usefully crochet without running out of (willing?) recipients. But what next to crochet? A toilet roll cover perhaps? The idea of making squares for a larger project appealed to me, as I had previously had a go at patchwork with scraps of fabric quite successfully. I’m not sure how I ended up making a waistcoat, rather than a cushion cover or a throw for instance, but a waistcoat I did make (and subsequently frequently wore I might add).

Close-up of teh crochet motifs

Colours Galore…

When I began compiling squares, I didn’t really have a pattern or a colour scheme in mind so I simply used up whatever wool I had to hand. Then I worked out a very basic layout to create the shape of a waistcoat. I made all of the motifs from double knitting wool and I think I probably used a 3.5mm crochet hook. I really enjoyed making the squares, as it was satisfyingly quick to produce a reasonable quantity of pieces. Once I had sewed them all together, I took another colour (I do now regret the choice of pink!) and crocheted an edging of double crochet stitch all around and made strips of chain stitch for ties. I am almost sure that no two squares are identical in colour, though that wasn’t intentional. I later went on to make a sleeveless top with square motifs, but this time in planned set of (I think) three colours. This garment failed to stand the test of time, it was just too ordered and uniform. I always preferred the exuberance of the random colour mixes in my waistcoat.

This nostalgic delve into past craft activities prompted us to have a go at some crochet practice during the summer. Having done all of this crochet so long ago, when I came to look at the squares again, I had to consult Verity’s book, The Knitting and Crochet Bible to remind myself of how to do the stitches. I found it difficult to get back into the swing of it at first and to remember my double and treble stitches. However, once the little grey cells started to work, I found that the stitches began to come back to me. I started to show Verity how to make the basic stitches (double and treble) and we practiced with a few odd balls of wool. You can see from the illustration that the book is well laid out with stage by stage diagrams for the stitches. Book pages showing instructions for basic stitches

That was as far as we got last summer, so I would like to pick up a hook again and make some more of the square motifs. Ideally this would be a stepping stone to taking the crochet a stage further than I have managed previously. I don’t think I am ever going to become expert at crochet but I would like to develop more of a skill than I have now.

Watch this space for an update! Any crochet lovers out there?

Whatever Happened to Dublin’s Wool Shops?

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I have been thinking lately about the wool shops located in and around Dublin, and it worries me that a few have closed in the past year or so. The closures may be linked to the recovering economy. During the recession, DIY and craft activities surged in popularity, but they may be losing ground now that some people have a bit more money to spare. However, when I did a bit more thinking, I realised that there are still several lovely knitting shops within a reasonable range, many of which we have visited on our perambulations around the city. Here is a quick wool shop report for anyone looking for inspiration in the wider Dublin area.

Woolly Snood

Wool from ‘Take me Home’

The two branches of a very nice craft and home decor shop called Take Me Home have shut down, one in Nutgrove and one in the old Dundrum Shopping Centre. The unit in Nutgrove has been filled by Tiger, while the premises in Dundrum is now home to a different kind of needle, in the form of an acupuncture clinic. I was surprised when these shops closed, as whenever I was in the Nutgrove branch it seemed quite popular. On the other hand, the Dundrum shop was much smaller and always quiet. I bought the wool for my snood (see picture above) in this branch and the staff were very nice and helpful.

This is Knit

All sorts of wool

Another sad closure was that of Knit’nd Make, which was a wool shop in the Swan Centre in Rathmines. Although very small, it was packed full of wool in a riot of colour. In my opinion, this was an attractive little shop that was an asset to the shopping centre, and I think it’s a real pity that it is no longer open. Now, the premises has been incorporated into the one next door and is occupied by yet another branch of Tiger.

Now, don’t get me wrong, Tiger is a great shop. It’s very useful and it does sell some wool and craft supplies such as ribbon and sequins. However, for quantity and variety, its wool section can’t be compared to a proper knitting shop, so I can’t help wishing it would stop expanding and pushing out other shops. Also, the health food shop opposite to Knit’nd Make used to provide space for a knitting group run by the shop. I wonder what happened to knitting circle after the shop shut?

The Constant Knitter

Another lovely wool shop.

On the other hand, Dublin still has The Constant Knitter which is located on Francis Street, in an area known for its antiques shops. Another wool shop in the city centre is This is Knit in Powerscourt Town Centre. This shop is a decent size, but it’s often quite expensive to shop here. Of course, there is our old stand by, Hickeys, which is centrally located on Henry Street. Hickeys sells haberdashery, soft furnishings and craft items, but it also has an excellent wool section on the top floor.

A little further afield, there is Winnie’s Wool Wagon in Blackrock. I’ve never been to this shop but it has been highly recommended to me and, if the website is anything to judge by, its stock is very good. Although Bray is not in Dublin, but rather in Wicklow, I’m going to include Love to Knit, because it is one of my favourite knitting emporiums. Love to Knit is fairly small, a trait which is shared by most of these shops, but it has wool in every weight and colour imaginable. I don’t get to browse there as often as I’d like, but I definitely recommend it.

These shops also have a stock of knitting and crochet needles, row counters and other accessories, not to mention patterns and instruction books. Many of them offer knitting and crochet classes for a variety of ages and levels, as well as weekly or fortnightly knitting groups.

Love to Knit

Patterns galore from Love to Knit

Initially I was worried that Dublin’s knitting scene was is decline, but it seems I was wrong. There are quite a few wool shops out there, when you look hard enough for them! If you want to follow anything up, just click on the links for shop contact details.

Where is your favourite wool shop? Or have you visited any that I’ve mentioned in this post? Drop us a line in the comment box…

Shop Picture Credits: the wool shop websites (see links above)

 

Buttons Galore

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I have a confession to make…I love buttons; buttons in all shapes, sizes and materials. It is my firm belief, that there are few garments in your wardrobe, to which new buttons cannot bestow new life if required. I would go so far as to say that this does not only mean older clothes that need a facelift. If you spot something on sale that you like, except for the buttons, it can be worth considering a purchase and a change of buttons to achieve the effect you want. This could apply particularly to clothes on the bargain rail or in charity shops, when it can be worth taking a chance on a garment that just needs a little twist.

I did this a couple of years ago with a collarless linen jacket that I spotted on a stall in the St George’s Street Market. I loved the jacket, especially the embroidery on the front and sleeves, but I disliked the gold buttons, which I felt were completely wrong for the design (see gallery). Since the jacket was only €10, it made sense to buy the piece and hunt around for a set of buttons that worked for me. I found some round bronze coloured buttons that I really liked and so I didn’t look back. I have to admit however, that my button sewing techniques leave much to be desired (particularly on buttons with a shank), but as long as all looks neat on the outside, I can live with that.

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Next, an example of changing buttons on a long time wardrobe resident. I had the task of tweaking a smart and versatile black wool jacket with red piping. I had never liked the metal blazer-type buttons on this jacket though I could not really have said exactly why that was. Eventually I decided on a change to give the jacket a lift, and picked up some new black buttons in the late, lamented A.Rubanesque  (not forgetting to allow buttons for the pockets as well). I chose shiny black buttons, with a crest design in relief, which I felt were ‘warmer’ than the discarded metallic buttons.

My only button-related reservation is that it is very frustrating to lose a button from a garment and then not to have a matching one in replacement. I have often used up the extra one that manufacturers give you and then find myself stuck. Of course, that might be the ideal excuse for a complete change to a new set. I do keep odd spare buttons in my sewing box in the hope that they come in useful for emergencies or new creations. My mum used to keep buttons in an old tea caddy, and while I don’t have anywhere near that many, my spares do come in handy. A suede-covered button left over from a much-loved jacket proved ideal for one of Verity’s projects: her new laptop case. It is always worth hanging onto odd buttons, just in case you find a better use for them. You can also buy bags of mixed buttons, such as the one shown below, which has been great for some of Verity’s other craft ideas.

I cannot finish without mentioning my very favourite buttons, a set of pink clay button in the shape of pigs. I do not remember where I bought them, but I once sewed them onto a man’s grey suit waistcoat that I found in a charity shop. I wore the waistcoat for years until I became fed-up with it, and cut off my pigs to reuse them.

If you are a button fanatic, do let us know…

Scandinavian Scarf Storage

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Inspired by a clever storage solution we saw in a certain popular Scandinavian furniture store, I have made a scarf hanger, which solves a particular storage problem that we have had for some time. A shortage of hooks and pegs in our house meant that our scarves didn’t have an ideal home. Now, we have the super-duper-deluxe-six-ring-scarf-hanger (bit of a mouthful), and all our scarf-related problems are solved!

The hanger is formed of six rings which were made by twisting wire into circles around a food tin. I then padded each ring with strips of cotton fabric cut from old t-shirts. These strips were wrapped around the rings. Next, I wound wide satin ribbon in pink and black over the cotton layer. The ribbon ends were stitched down and I used short tabs of ribbon to fasten the rings together. The rings were attached to the hanger in the same way.

As for the hanger, it was a perfectly normal and ordinary (as magicians say) wire hanger, like the ones used by dry cleaners. I also padded the hanger with cotton and wrapped it with matching ribbon. Scarves can thus be hung on the hanger as well as through the rings, creating extra storage space.

This project would work with any number of rings, hung in any arrangement or shape. It could be used for storing belts, long necklaces, tinsel, fairy lights, leg warmers, tights, you name it! This makes a storage system that is both practical and decorative. It was a very quick project which I finished in a couple of days because there wasn’t much sewing involved at all.

 Any kind of wire could be used, even green garden wire, because it’s all covered over and padded. It might be possible to exchange the cotton padding for foam. All of the rings could be covered in different coloured ribbon (mine came from Tiger, see resource page) or narrow fabric strips. As far as I can see, the creative and storage possibilities are endless!

 

 

 

 

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Woven Upcycled Bath Mat

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Some time ago, I wrote about beginning to make a bath mat from old fabric strips, and now it’s finally finished! It is made up of six pieces of woven blocks. There is one piece made from half a pair of leggings, two made from a pair of tights, one using shoelaces and two made from a t-shirt. This gave a good mixture of colours and textures of materials. It is also a fine memoir of several items of clothing!

Bath mat

The finished bath mat

The part using the legging fabric was the most recent one I did. The leggings were striped, and so the material acted liked self-striping sock wool when I wove it. The tension changed quite a bit over this piece, so one end is wider than the other. I found it quite difficult to keep the tension uniform, as the material stretched while I was working.

Bath mat

The mat is sewn with white wool

When it came to assembling the bath mat, it was difficult to fit the pieces together because they are all different sizes. The finished shape is a bit unusual, like a rectangle with a few bits missing. I sewed them using the same white wool with which the fabric was woven. However, what to do with the wool ends presented a challenge. Sometimes these are left on as decorations, but because mine were all kinds of lengths, I decided to neaten the edges by hiding them. In the end (pardon the pun), I pulled the tufts under the weaving at the back, and then trimmed them.

Bath mat

Underside of the mat

I decided not to edge the mat in any way, but I suppose blanket stitch or even shop-bought trimming would be suitable. There are plenty of finishes that could be suitable and somewhere like Hickey’s is a good place to search.

I enjoyed this project and I’ve now got some proper use out of my wooden loom. In particular, I like the fact that I put to use fabric that might otherwise have been wasted, and this foray into upcycling has been a very interesting experience. However anything bigger, like a rug, would probably take quite a while to make, so weaving may be put on the back burner now that the bath mat is completed.

Have you been working on any craft projects lately? Drop us a line in the comment box below…

Guilty as charged, for knitting Innocent hats!

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This year, we participated again in the Innocent Big Knit. This fundraiser, organised by Innocent Smoothies, calls for knitters everywhere to make little woolly hats for its smoothie bottles. For every ‘hatted’ bottle sold, 30c is donated to Age Action. Each years the event raises thousands of euro for Age Action’s Care and Repair programme which provides volunteers who perform DIY jobs that elderly people may not be able to do themselves.

Hats

Innocent Big Knit Hats

Anyway, our knitting needles have been out for a few weeks and we have just sent off our contribution. In 2014, we made 16 hats, this year our count has reached 22, all complete with pom-poms! We went for variations on the basic striped pattern, on the grounds that although the animal and fruit themed hats are more fun to knit, they take longer and use more wool. This is fine, but they raise no more money per hat than the simple ones.

However, we did have fun with choosing colour combinations for the stripes and experimenting with moss stitch and ribs. We also went for two-coloured pom-poms, many of which dwarfed the hats to which they were sewn! Our resident bear enjoyed modelling the hats and insisted on keeping a Santa Claus themed one for himself, in preparation for the festive season.

'HATS' display

Go mad for hats!

Have you been knitting little hats for the Big Knit? Or working on any other projects you’d like to share with us? Drop us a line in the comment box below…

Bear with hats

Laying in the winter hat store

Sir Hiss, Chief Excluder of Draughts

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I wrote some time ago about the upcycled bath mat I was making from old clothes, inspired by the talk given by Lynn Haughton from the Upcycle Movement. Well, the bath mat still isn’t finished but another project inspired by the same talk has come to fruition. There was a discussion after the talk about various craft techniques and project ideas, during which a member of the audience described a draught excluder that her friend had made using repurposed leggings and tights. I shamelessly pinched the idea, and here is the result: my own upcycled draught excluder.

The snake draught excluder

The snake draught excluder

A lot of the draught excluders sold in shops are designed like animals, usually some kind of dog. I was reminded of the cardboard snakes that I made when I was about three, out of the cardboard toilet rolls, and I liked the idea of making my project a snake.

The body was made using half of an old pair of stripey leggings. The body was too short to reach across the door so I made a tail and head separately out of felt to give it some extra length. One side of both tail and head is turquoise, the other purple. I was trying to pick out one of the stripe colours from the body. I decorated these pieces with lines of beads, of which we have far too many. I think they mostly came from jewellery making kits. The red tongue is also felt and the eyes are buttons.

The head of Sir Hiss

The head of Sir Hiss

I stuffed it mostly with felt and fabric scraps, wool ends and a couple of pairs of old tights. I cut these into rings and then into little pieces. In the end, I had to use some bought stuffing to top it up, but that didn’t work as well because it’s not firm, so now there is a soft part of the snake while the rest is quite solid.

I sewed the beads onto the tail and head pieces. Next I stitched the two tail pieces together and stuffed them and I did the same for the head pieces. I almost forgot to put the tongue on at this point. I pushed the end of the body into the tail and used running stitch to attach it. Then I ran a gathering thread through the other end of the body and stuffed it into the head. Finally, I sewed the head on with running stitch as before.

The tail of Sir Hiss

The tail of Sir Hiss

I like the result very much and it’s also useful. The bath mat should be done soon. I have one, or perhaps two, more pieces to weave and then I can sew all the parts together. I’ll keep you posted about that upcycling project!

Inside Pockets: the Lack Thereof

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Mac Inside Pocket

My old rain mac gets a pocket

I have to warn readers now that lying at the heart of this ‘Creatively’ blog post is one of my pet peeves: namely, the lack of inside pockets in women’s coats and jackets. Now, I am not saying by any means that all manufacturers and designers are guilty of helping to create this situation, but that many seem oblivious to the fact that it isn’t only men that might want one. I do however hope that it isn’t just me that finds it annoying not to have a handy pocket to stash odds and ends; it may be that I am just being really picky, but I don’t think it’s an unreasonable feature to have in a garment. I would be interested to know what my fellow female readers think about this burning issue.

As you might have guessed, I have made it something of a crusade to tackle the lack of breast pockets in assorted clothes in my wardrobe. Initially, this sort of alteration followed on from making a few repairs to a belted mac that I have had for a few years. I had completely replaced the sieve-like side pockets with some new fabric (having given up on simply stitching up the holes). Then it occurred to me that I could have a go at making a breast pocket with one of the discarded linings. As the coat was quite old, I felt that I could risk a little customising without ruining anything. My efforts didn’t achieve a perfect result, but I was delighted with my mini pocket (see picture), which I cut to be just the right size for travel cards, which I am prone to losing on a regular basis.

Red Jacket Inner Pocket

Inside pocket from local tailor

After doing this alteration, I began to think about putting inner pockets into other jackets with a similar lack. To begin with, I played safe and took a leather jacket that I am fond of wearing, along to a local repairs and alterations service. I felt that I didn’t want to risk experimenting and spoiling anything. The tailor put in a pocket, made from similar coloured lining fabric for a very modest cost (see picture). The pocket has been so useful for safely tucking away travel card, train tickets, plastic and the odd bit of cash and as my phone is virtually pre-historic it also will fit neatly into the pocket, so that’s a bonus. Plucking up my courage, I thought I would have a go at doing some more alterations myself. Since this red pocket is larger than the one I had previously made for myself, I have decided to use it as a guide for future patterns.

The main thing I was concerned about was getting quite a good match to the original lining fabric, so that the addition of a pocket didn’t look strange. I know that the inside isn’t usually visible, but I would know if I had made a hash of the job. I also had to think about the line of the jacket and getting the pocket placed neatly. Clearly, putting an inside breast pocket in a woman’s jacket can be trickier than on a man’s jacket (maybe that’s why so many manufacturers can’t be bothered to do it). I was also only planning to attach a pocket and not to attempt to insert one into the lining, which could be tricky. I may pluck up confidence to try to add a pocket that way in the future. The other potential issue is that if the garment lacks a lining, then adding a pocket without stitching showing on the outside would be difficult. So far, I have only attempted adding pockets where I have a lining to sew them on to, so they are invisible from the outside.Black & White Ribbon

To solve the fabric problem I found what I think is an ideal solution, when I spotted some very wide ribbon in a lovely shop called A.Rubanesque in Dublin. I hope you can see from the picture what I mean, where I have folded an end of ribbon up to form a pocket. I bought pieces in both black and white to try out in a couple of jackets. At the moment this is as far as I have come with the project. I think that I will over-sew the long sides and allow a small hem on the short edges. My other option is to bind the long edges with some narrow ribbon for extra firmness. Anyway, as with so many other projects, it is a work in progress.

I next need to find a nice bit of fabric to add a matching inside pocket into my camel coloured winter coat; however, that might be a tall order…

UPDATE: September 2016

Sadly, the lovely shop called A.Rubanesque has closed down now so I will have to search elsewhere for some more supplies of wide satin ribbon.

Weaving Upcycled Fabric

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A few years ago, I got a weaving kit as a present but I didn’t end up using it as much as I had planned. However, it came back into use a few weeks ago after I listened to a talk by the upcycler Lynn Haughton of The Upcycle Movement at Liberties Upstairs as part of Heritage Week. She showed a rug she had made, woven out of strips of reused leggings. The next day, I got out my loom and started experimenting.

Woven fabric

Fabric woven from a t-shirt and shoelaces.

The first piece I made was with an old t-shirt cut up into strips. I made a second piece of fabric using the rest of the t-shirt, but I threaded the loom differently and fastened the two pieces together as I wove it.

Weaving kit

The comb, loom, shuttles and massive, tangled ball of wool.

Next were the shoelaces. I had a bundle of old, dirty shoelaces that I didn’t need so I had a go with those. This proved very successful because all the shoelaces were the same width, something I had found hard to achieve when cutting strips of the jersey fabric from the t-shirt. I think I’ll have to bleach the finished piece to get rid of the marks, something I neglected to do before I started the weaving.

Finally, I cut up a pair of old purple tights. These had been bought for a school play and I didn’t want them for anything else. The woven patch is very striking in colour. I still have five strips of fabric left (the tights made ten in total) so I should be able to make another patch the same size.

Weaving

The inevitable mistake…

Keeping the edges neat has proved a problem, I may have to sew around the edges at the end. When I was taking the purple fabric off the loom, I found a more secure way of finishing the edges by tying each wool end to its partner but also to another end to make a firm edge. Chris suggested that the pieces could be put to good use as a bath mat, which I think is a workable idea. It might be difficult to match the edges of the different pieces neatly together though.

I have a pair of striped leggings to cut up as well, which should make at least one other patch. The mat will also need to be backed with something. I have a hessian sort of material which might be suitable. Upcycling fabric is an area I haven’t ventured into before and although it’s limited by the unwanted bits and bobs you can find, I like the new challenge.

Have you tried any kind of upcycling? Let us know about your projects…

Cosy computer case

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In an earlier post, I mentioned that I would be making a laptop case over the holidays. Well, I finished it! I put up a picture of the material already, it’s a soft brown with fluffy white stuff inside. I sewed the whole thing by hand and didn’t use any proper pattern. It’s just a simple rectangle. The fluffy stuff came off easily so I had to oversew all the edges at least once before I folded it over. The two shorter edges were oversewn twice and then finished with oatmeal bias binding from Hickeys (I would call the colour cream, but it says oatmeal on their website). I then folded the sides up, allowing a generous flap and oversewed them together. I finished both of the long sides with bias binding. At this point I realised it would be impossible to sew it on without some of the stitching showing so I used brown thread and did decorative running stitch along the edge. 

Laptop case

The case, cotton and bias binding.

The case is fastened with a length of leather thong and one button. The button is off an old coat of Chris’. I doubled a length of brown thong and sewed it at the edge of the flap, above the button. It goes down and wraps completely around the case before looping over the button. Knowing my habit of picking up folders the wrong way, only to have all the sheets cascade out, it seemed wise to be safe with the fastening.

The inside of the case

The fluffy stuff makes a warm lining.

I’m really pleased with this project, I think it looks quite smart and it wasn’t one of those projects that drag on forever. I did have a few moments of, ‘Why don’t I just buy a case? It would be so much easier’. However, while it would have been easier, I doubt it would have been cheaper. It’s difficult to calculate an exact cost of the project because we had the button, thread and thong already, but it must have been less than €15, which isn’t much compared to some of the laptop bags on the market.

What projects did you get done over the holidays? Or are you also creating cosy homes for your technology? We’d love to hear from you!

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