Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Weddings shoes and a dream come true!

My brother-in-law is getting married in less than two weeks, and his bride-to-be bought the cutest shoes to wear with her dress. They are lacy with a burlap bow, but the lining is orange with polka dots that don't quite match her wedding colours of purple and silver. 

The adorable shoes - before

She asked me if there was anything I could do to cover the inside up, because her photographer takes beautiful detail shots, including photos of her accessories, and she doesn't want the garish orange taking over the picture. I said I'd give it a try, and set to work brainstorming. 

I figured if I got a shoe liner and covered it with fabric, that should work well to block the orange lining. I bought the cheap, flat odour eater kind that you have to cut down to size. I trimmed them so they fit in the shoe with a little bit of extra space to accommodate the thickness of the fabric. I used some tan colour cotton fabric from my stash, and traced the liner cutouts with an extra 1/4 inch all the way around. 

I was about to start attaching the fabric to the liners when I had a spark of inspiration to include some embroidery to mark the special day. I traced the font from their invitations to spell their initials and found a complimentary font for the numbers for their wedding date for one shoe, and found a tulip that matched their invites for the other. 

The invite inspiration

I stitched everything in purple and silver to match their wedding colours. 

After the embroidery was complete, I centred and fixed the fabric to the liners using safety pins, and hand sewed all the way around the edges, tucking the fabric over and under the liner. 

The shoes look so cute now, and are picture perfect!  I gave them to the bride this morning and she loved them, although when the liners are in, the shoes are a little tight. She likely won't wear them with them in, but at least no one will see the orange! 

Before and after

The pair

Also, I ordered a set of 47" circular knitting needles a while ago. They were kind of out of sight, out of mind, but I had a dream last night about using them, and lo and behold, they arrived today!! Dream come true!! I can't wait to use these puppies; knitting two socks at once, here I come!!

Treasure trove of knitting needles!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Sometimes I knit slow, sometimes I knit quick

I've posted before about how slow I am at knitting, but I should note that I am getting quicker, and am actually on track with my projects right now (yippee!).  In the past, I have intended to give gifts to newborns, and it turns into a second birthday gift.  But I have had a number of successes now where I meet my timeline goals and actually present a homemade gift to a new baby.  And that feels good!
Baby Renee's blankie
This first blanket is one of my favourites!  I love the patchwork look, the colour combo, the textures, and the cute scalloped border.  I made it for one of my favourite cousin-in-law's new baby.  I knit each square individually, then attached them all with a single crochet and finished it with a crochet scalloped border.  The yarn I used was super soft, so the whole blankie is just so cozy!  
Baby Brooke's lamb
This little lamb friend I made for my cousin's first baby.  I made in just a couple evenings, and I think she is adorable.  Who doesn't love a cute, cuddly lamb?!  I love working cables, it is so interesting seeing them come together.  I used a bulky, fluffy white yarn, and I think it worked well to make the lamb look more "fleecy".  I embroidered the face (which I think I need a lot more practice on!).  If you like this lamb, you can find the pattern here.
Baby Maren's blankie
This last blanket I just gave to a sweet little girl born just a few days ago!  She is a tiny little gal, so this light and lacy blankie is perfect for her.  It was knit corner-to-corner, which was a good experience for me (I'm not the hugest fan of casting on a ton of stitches-when I saw "CO2 st" in the pattern, I jumped for joy!!).  I used a soft baby yarn for this one, in a bright summer-time white.

I love getting to give a homemade gift to a fresh new baby.  I love selecting projects with an individual baby in mind, and I love pouring all my love into making it.  Babies are just so special, and deserve a special welcome to the world!

Monday, 21 July 2014

Is it okay to make a Jesus doll?

When my sister-in-law asked me to be her daughter's godmother, I was over the moon excited.  Obviously I love her so much already, but it is so nice to have that extra special relationship! Especially since my husband and I have been struggling with starting our own family, I feel like this is such a beautiful beam of sunlight to brighten my dark days.  Even if we don't succeed in having a family of our own, at least I know that there is an awesome kid out there that I can shamelessly spoil and shower with love!

For her baptism, I wanted to give her a couple gifts.  First, I found a child's picture book bible which is perfect for the occasion.  Then I found a pair of beautiful tiny silver cross earrings.  And I found a book about the Story of Easter that has the cutest Jesus I have ever seen.
I felt like I wanted to have something else special and homemade to give her (because that's kinda my thing), but I really didn't think I would be able to finish her quilt in time.  I thought about making a lion and a lamb dolls, because that image really resonated with me as a child.  But then I thought "Wait... is okay to make a Jesus doll?"  I wanted to make a doll using the cutest Jesus ever as my model.

So I went to the fabric store and tracked down some fabric that looked similar to his robe, and set to work.  I used the doll pattern found here (Makeit-Loveit blog), to construct the body and head.  I had to modify the hair and include a beard (all out of felt), and I used felt to make his cute little eyes and pink cheeks.  To make his big smile, I stitched over a piece of black cord to attach it to his face.  I hand sewed the skirt portion of his robe to attach it to the body, and tacked on the ribbon belt as well.  This is truly a one-of-a-kind doll!

This project came together pretty quickly (thank goodness, I had this brainstorm just a few days before the baptism!), and was a lot of fun to work on.  I definitely want to keep experimenting with making more dolls!

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Charley Harper Conundrum

In the spirit of sharing my creative process, I want to share my current quilt-in-progress.  I absolutely love Charley Harper's art, and when I stumbled on the line of fabrics put out by Birch Organic Fabrics I was instantly in love.  And my amazing husband got me a fat quarter pack of each fabric for Christmas! I saw a tutorial on their blog for a baby quilt using the fabrics, and I loved the way it really let the art of Charley Harper sing! However, I want this quilt for mysel, and I am a lot bigger than a baby.  I used the tutorial as a guide, and modified it to make a 48X60 inch lap quilt.

Then I fussy cut the fabrics with a large pattern to feature the main part of the design, and cut filler sizes from the patterns with a smaller, repeating design.  I laid them all out on the floor to figure out a layout I liked.  I loosely followed the pattern orders/shapes from the tutorial, but I didn't feel the need to be strict about it.  

Next, I cut strips of white to fill in the gaps above and below each patterned fabric to make three 12X36.5 panels.

Individual panels
I cut long strips of white 6.5 inches wide and sewed them all together into one long strip, then cut the strips down to 36 and 60 inch sizes.  These I attached in between the panels, and along the border.  No mitred corners for this blanket.

Charley Harper - the finished front
So that is the front finished.  Now I am trying to figure out what I want to do with the back.  At first, I was thinking to cut out a little dandelion puff, similar in style to the twigs pattern, and applique it onto a complementary brownish-grey.  But I wasn't loving the idea.  It seems so dark and heavy-handed, when the front is so white and fresh.  I turned back to Pinterest for some inspiration and found another tutorial for a different quilt using the Charley Harper fabrics that is a little more fitting in style to the front.

That tutorial is for a much bigger quilt than I have in progress here.  So I have been playing with an excel spreadsheet trying to layout a similar interlocking pattern that fits into my 48x60 size.  This is what I have come up with.

The solid colour links are the twig filler fabrics, and the small squares would be fussy cuts from the other fabrics.  Each square represents 2x2 inches.  What do you think?  Should I run with this design?  

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Welcome to the world...err...happy year and a half birthday!

I always have the best intentions to deliver a "Welcome to the World" blankie to babies the first time I get the privilege of meeting them.  Too bad I am so slow at knitting!  My best intentions often turn into "Happy 18 Months Birthday".  Especially when a whole bunch of babies are born all around the same time.  If one blanket takes a long time, it pushes back all the others, too.  I am starting to get quicker now though, and actually have a couple blankets in the bank for babies not yet earthside!

When I found out that my brother-in-law and his girlfriend were expecting, I promptly pulled out some knitting pattern books and selected a blanket featuring dragonflies, to fit in with the theme of the nursery.  I selected green and white colours to be gender neutral, as they decided not to find out the sex of the baby beforehand.  
Parker's dragonfly blanket
I worked at this blanket for months, the baby's birth day came and went, and then his first birthday, too.  Dang, it was slow progress for this blanket.  And then when I was finally done with the knitting, the dragonflies had to be added in with double knit embroidery.  I'm not going to lie, I seriously considered omitting the dragonflies on the body of the blanket.  But in the end, I didn't want to be a quitter.  So, Happy Year and a Half Birthday Parker!  
Parker loving his blankie!
With Parker's blanket finished, I could start a blanket for a close friend of mine's baby.   I knew that my friend was having a boy, so I had selected the pattern I wanted to use (see it  here ) and bought some nice blue yarn.  Again, my best intentions wanted to deliver this blanket to him in the hospital, but in reality, I hadn't even started it yet the day he was born.  This blanket was knit in panels and I used a single crochet stitch to fasten them together.  I modified the pattern to be larger, since I wasn't presenting it to a newborn.  I made the seed stitch portion wider and the whole thing longer. Instead of the seed stitch border in the pattern, I made a straightforward crochet border instead.  Then I laid it out and looked at it and was honestly a little bored.  I wanted to do something else to really personalize the blanket for Mason.
Mason's fox blanket
I made a long crochet foundation chain and shaped it into Mason's handwritten name, then attached it to the blanket.  That was better, but still not enough.  Mason's nursery has the most beautiful trees painted on the wall by his daddy, and there is a woodland theme throughout.  So I found a pattern for a little fox applique, and whipped that up, and I think it was perfect!  So I attached that as well, and it was finally ready to gift...... ummm..... Happy Year and a Half Birthday Mason!
Foxy closeup

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

I'm not a genius (and I'm not the only one)

I love a creative outlet. I love to create something, step back and gaze lovingly at it and think "I made that!" Something I struggle with though, is that I feel like I'm not very 'creative'. I love to create, but I have a hard time coming up with original ideas from the primordial ooze that is my very own brain. I am excellent at following a pattern or recipe or online tutorial (I can read and follow directions well). I'm even pretty good at tweeking a pattern or recipe or online tutorial to make it a little more my own. But when it comes to being 'original', that's where I struggle.

I can argue that creativity is learned. There have been studies done with children where they give them blocks to play with, with the instructions to make patterns or designs with them. One group of children is rewarded for making designs that are all similar and along one design esthetic. Those children continue to put out designs that are all similar. The other group is rewarded for making new designs that hadn't been seen before, and are given no reward for repetition. Those children produce more and more creative designs. 

I can also argue that creativity (or lack thereof) is related to fear. Fear of failure holds you back from trying something new, and so you stick with the easy out, the tried and true, the thing you know you will succeed with. When one can get over that fear and just try, more creative ideas and products may stem from the attempts. I'm gonna say that creativity is 99% failure, and 1% sheer and wild success. And while the failures are disappointing, the successes are so rewarding it makes it all worth it. 

So why am I postulating about creativity? I was reading some blogs last night, and I came across an older entry from Rossie Hutchison about quilting and bloggers (read the post here). She argues that more bloggers should move away from the 'here's what I just finished and a brief synopsis of how I did it' model of blogging, and move to a more dynamic story of our works in progress and how they come to be. In her post, she quotes Phillipe Starck on creativity: "Nobody is obliged to be a genius, but everybody is obliged to participate." Also, that we are steps in the evolutionary chain, and that we are different from what came before, and will be different from what comes after. We are mutants, but not the final mutant. This really resonated with me. To me, this really frees me up from my mind, because no one is saying I have to be the be-all and end-all of creative design, that if I'm not making something new, I'm nothing. I can just be a step in the evolutionary chain. 

I'm sometimes embarrassed of my projects, because, while I made them, I didn't necessarily 'create' them. But I shouldn't feel that way!! Creativity flows best when it isn't bogged down by fear, and when it is rewarded. I'm releasing myself from the pressure to perform, and allowing myself to just be: be creative, be a copycat, be whatever I need to be in that moment. And if I learned something new from a pattern or tutorial, or added a detail to make it more my own, that is a step towards 'true' creativity. In other words, I'm regarding myself as a creativity beginner, not an expert. I will have 99 failures before I have a huge success. And that is okay. 

Sometimes you copy something
Sometimes you fail
Sometimes you feel pretty darn good about what you made

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Knit your own cat

While honeymooning in Hawaii, I saw the book "Knit your own cat" by Sally Muir for sale at the bookstore we frequented throughout our holiday.  I didn't buy it; knitting your own feline menagerie seems like such a ridiculously crazy-cat-lady thing to do.  But it haunted my memory for months after returning home.  I was itching for a good reason to obtain the book.

A co-worker of mine had an ancient scottish fold cat named Scottie, who was diabetic, arthritic, and generally amazing.  When she became pregnant, I thought the perfect knitted gift for her baby would be a knitted Scottie!  I took to the internet and promptly ordered the book and set to work.  It was a super fun project trying to match the colouring of real Scottie to knitted Scottie.

Knitted Scottie

Knitted Scottie closeup
 I brought knitted Scottie with me to work at the animal hospital, and naturally we had to stage a photoshoot, as he looks so real!

Knitted Scottie in his kennel
Knitted Scottie getting his teeth cleaned
Chillin' with the clinic cat, Annie
When my coworker saw knitted Scottie, she loved him, and took him home to meet real Scottie.
"It's like looking in a mirror!"
Scottie and knitted Scottie
It's on my to-do list to make a knitted Annyong, but real talk, that probably won't happen until I have my own kids.  Also on my to-do list is buying and working my way through "Knit your own zoo."  That's just the cutest dang thing!

Friday, 11 July 2014

A Tea Party Cake

For my mother-in-law's 50th, I wanted to make a special cake for her to celebrate.  She is an avid tea-drinker, so I figured a tea set would be the perfect decoration.
Tea set birthday cake
I made a 9x13" sheet cake for the base (my fave 4 egg yellow cake recipe) and filled and crumb coated it with an orange buttercream.  I covered it with homemade marshmallow fondant tinted with brown gel food colouring, but not fully kneaded in to give it a marbled look similar to wood grain.  I made a table runner from a strip of fondant, then got to work crafting the toppers.

I made a teapot, creamer, sugar bowl and two teacup shapes from rice crispy treats, then coated them with icing to make them smoother and covered them with white fondant.  I sculpted the handles, spout, and lids from fondant and let them dry overnight in the desired shape, otherwise they were very droopy.  Using a quick confectioner sugar icing and a small circular icing tip, I piped a floral/vine pattern onto the tea set, and used the brushed embroidery technique to make it look like china.
Tea pot with brushed embroidery flowers


Sugar bowl
I painted the inside of the teacups with brown gel food colouring to make it look like they were filled with tea.

Tea cup filled with "tea"
I attached the much stiffer dried handles/spout the next day with toothpicks, and stuck the tea set to the cake with skewers.  I piped a Happy Birthday message in the corner and the cake was ready to present!
The finished cake
Bird's eye view
This was a fun project, and tasty too (love that orange buttercream).  I love the brushed embroidery, it is an easy technique with big results!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The start of my journey, and why I continue to knit

When I was 20 years old, I asked my grandmother to teach me how to knit so that I could make a toque for my husband (at the time, my boyfriend).  Her whole face lit up, you could tell she was very excited to share her craft with me.  She was a wonderful knitter, she made the most beautiful afghans, so intricate and varied in their patterns and design.  She was also very speedy; in the time it took me to knit a few belaboured practice rows, she had whipped up an entire toque, ready to give to Pete!

Grandma with one of her beautiful creations
My first projects were easy scarves and hats to give as gifts to friends.  When one of my friends announced she was pregnant, I was inspired to attempt a blanket for the first time, to give as a gift to the new baby.  However, I was struggling with the lacy pattern I chose as it had some new stitches I wasn't familiar with.  And as helpful as a how-to guide at the back of the pattern book can be, sometimes you just have to go straight to the source for help.  So I headed over to my grandma's place and she showed me where I was going wrong, then told me to sit and knit the 8 rows that made up the pattern to make sure I knew what I was doing and didn't run into anymore trouble.  I'm working away at my blanket and trying to make conversation with my mostly silent grandma and she says to me "You know Laura, you would be a better knitter if you didn't talk so much."  Words of wisdom, Grandma!

I have my grandma to thank for my love of knitting.  I continue to knit almost daily, and have slowly but surely increased my speed and my skill. I love selecting a new project, starting it, seeing it all come together, and finally finishing it.  Every time I make something new, I think "I wish I could show this to Grandma."  My grandma passed away a few years ago.  When she died, I made a promise to myself and to her, that all the kids in my family would get a blanket knit by me (and by extension, her), and in this way, I honour her and her memory can live on.  She was a great woman, and I strive to make her proud whenever I endeavour on a new project.
Grandma, working hard

Monday, 7 July 2014

Illusion knitting-Robot Blanket

I was looking for an interesting pattern to knit a blanket for one of my nephews, and stumbled on illusion knitting.  What a cool creation!  Basically, when you are looking at the blanket head on, all you see is stripes.  When you look at it on an angle, a picture appears, just like magic!  The pattern I found initially was a city skyline, and I was totally amazed, but I kept looking for something a little boy might find a bit more interesting.  I found a scarf pattern that featured illusion knit robots!  (Robot Scarf)  Perfect.  I created a pattern for a blanket using the robot scarf charts and knit it up in grey and white.  I added the zig-zag border after knitting the main portion of the blanket.  What a visually interesting and cool project!  And, as an added bonus, it is not very difficult to execute, as it is all knit and purl stitches.  This is one of those projects that I wish my Grandma was still here so I could show her.  I think she would have been amazed!

Just a plain striped blanket.....
Robot style #1
Robot style #2

Saturday, 5 July 2014

My first quilt project - Briar Rose for Briar Rose

When I saw Heather Ross' Briar Rose line of fabric from Windham Fabrics, I knew I wanted to make a quilt for my niece, Briar Rose. Since I had never attempted quilting before, I decided to make a simple patchwork front, featuring all the different patterns in the line. I included solid squares of purple, light yellow, and white as well, to provide some visual contrast with all the patterns. Cutting all the squares took forever!
 The raw materials
I fiddled with a random layout of the squares, making sure that no patches of the same colour or pattern family were touching. When I sewed all the squares together, I did it in rows, then sewed the rows together.... Looking back, it would have been better to make smaller blocks and then sew the blocks together- my squares don't line up exactly... I added a border of white with mitred corners, and called the front done!
The front
For the back, I wanted to feature a fabric with writing on it, preferably one that had a storybook feel to it, as Heather Ross is a picture book illustrator. I found the perfect fit with Heartfelt from the Littlest collection from Art Gallery Fabrics. It includes phrases like "love you to the moon and back", "the littlest things take up the most room in our hearts", "ready for an adventure" and "life is better with you". So sweet! I also wanted to include some of the Briar Rose fabrics arranged in a loose colour gradient. I decided to make a cross out of the small squares, and where they cross over, include a personalized quilt label I made from an iron-on transfer kit.
Personalized quilt label
I did a much better job getting my seams to line up on the back! 
The back

I used a thin cotton batting for the middle, and quilted it with some free motion vines and leaves.
Quilted vine and leaf details
Quilted rose details

I stitched some roses into all four corners, and hand bound the whole thing with the same purple I included in the front. What a fun project, I have enjoyed every step along the way and definitely want to make more quilts!
The finish product (front)
The finished product (back)
All rolled up and ready to gift!