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Monday, November 28, 2011

Turkmen embroidered pouch

In the midst of making things for Christmas (blogs of which will have to wait until after the event!) I treated myself to a project I've been itching to try - Alison Snepp's Turkmen embroidered pouch from Inspirations Magazine Issue 69.

I've been gradually gathering fabric and threads for this  since I first saw it. I love the colours, the concept and the combination of stitches used.

The lining fabric Alison had used was distinctive and I couldn't find anything quite like it locally or online, but when a friend, recently returned from Indonesia, gave me, out of the blue, a piece of batik in maroons, greens and blues, my immediate thought was it would work brilliantly for this project. I had already purchased the deep red sateen base fabric and found a deep olive green cotton drill in my stash for the third piece.

The next step was where I went wrong. I think I need to go to some quilting classes to learn how to cut and join accurately, because, although I measured carefully, the three pieces did not fit together as intended. In the end, I trimmed the larger pieces to end up with a three-layered square, but the proportions of the border did not match the instructions.   The border should be the same width as the green squares, so I needed to adapt the running stitch zig-zag on the border .

One of the things I enjoyed about this project is the variety. The green fabric is hand-stitched to the red, the resulting piece is machine-stitched to the lining,  then the running stitch squares and border pattern are created by stitching through the three layers.

The little pinwheels are then added to some of the squares before folding the fabric to form a pouch.

Every stage is interesting and exciting, as you layer one effect on another.

You then embroider along the joins with corded blanket stitch bars and stem stitch.

The opening is finished with a cord and - the most interesting bit of all - embroidered with chain stitch in alternating colours, using a needle threaded with two colours. Magic!
The embroidered gusset - introducing a third thread colour - is a nice finishing touch, outlined in stem stitch and filled with double chain stitch (also known as turkmen stitch).
The blue and ecru tassels are as per the instructions. It was meant to have three tassels made from the red cloth also along the bottom, and one on the flap. My  cloth tassel was disappointing as the fabric was not dyed on the reverse side, so I decided to substitute a red thread tassel on the flap.

I loved doing this project, and I'm really happy with the result. I intend to use it as a knitting bag.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Mochi Mochi

My father was fond of telling me "Your eyes are too big for your belly" - meaning I put more food on my plate than I could eat. I think I should now adapt that to "My eyes are too big for the hours in the day"! In recent weeks I have fallen for some well targetted bookshop marketing of knitting books.

One of these is a book called Tiny Mochi Mochi, which features little figures - animate and inanimate - knitted on four tiny needles. Since I had bought some sets of 4 x 4 inch knitting needles last year when knitting the Andean bags, I thought I'd give this a go.

My starting project was two elephants, using bright acrylic.

You begin by casting on 6 stitches and distributing them over three needles. You increase and then decrease to form a ball shape.

You then stuff it before decreasing and sealing the ball.

The ears, trunk and feet are added by picking up stitches on the ball.

The instructions are pretty clear.

I stitched safety pins on to form little brooches. They would make fun necklaces as well - or a mobile for young children.

The first one took me 2 hours, the second one about 80 minutes. I reckon I'd make a third one in an hour.

 My next attempt was a mermaid. I used two-ply wool for this. It would have been better doubled, I think. The very fine wool doesn't quite cover the joins between the three needles and needed to be over-stitched. Easy enough to do, but better to get it right first time.

The mermaid is very cute - especially her long hair and her bra!
She took me a couple of hours in front of TV. I reckon I could do it in an hour with no distraction - and she was a hit with my granddaughter!

When I have a break in the projects lined up on my priority list I might make some more of these!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Huck Bag

Way back in May I posted a blog about Huckaback, or Swedish embroidery, triggered by a pattern in the Spring issue of the Canadian magazine, A Needle Pulling Thread  for a placemat and napkin set called Oh Caroline by Christine Allan of Lancaster, Ontario. Ever since I have been thinking about how to use the pattern for a bag. 

I managed to find some coloured huckaback at Willow Fabrics in the UK and bought some in navy, light blue and gold. Last week I cut enough of the gold to make a round bag and chose some rich reddy-brown perle threads from my stash - only to discover I needed, of course, really long threads to run the whole length of the bag fabric, and my threads were all cut to 18 inch lengths. So, not to be defeated, I slipped up to Hetty's Patch to see what perle they had.

It wasn't a lot, and none of them were deep colours as I had envisaged - but there were some that blended with the gold. They were all variegated, so a bit of an adventure. 

On the advice of the team at Hetty's Patch, I went for one almost white, to provide a bit of contrast. It was good advice.

It is a very elegant pattern. It flows along, once you get the hang of it, curving and moving at a great pace. It takes a bit of concentration - but not so much it needs all your attention.

I decided to use some Japanese obi cotton that I have in quantity to line it. The colours blend quite well even though it has a striking dark grey in the pattern.

I used some of the obi figures to form ends for the ties.

All in all, a useful experiment. I'd like to try a shopping bag now, with the pattern all over one side, perhaps in darker thread.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

More Cosy Needlework Crime: Maggie Sefton's Kelly Flynn

This is another series of cosy crime I enjoy reading. 
Maggie Sefton lives in Colorado. She began her writing career with historical novels but switched to mysteries when she realised murders were at the core of her historical novels. Her knitting mysteries feature Kelly Flynn, an accountant who has left the corporate world of New York to freelance in Colorado. 

In the first of the series, Knit One, Kill Two Kelly investigates the death of her aunt. In subsequent books, Needled to Death, A Deadly Yarn, A Killer Stitch, Dyer Consequences, Fleece Navidad, Drop Dead Stitch, Skein of the Crime, and Unraveled,  the bodies keep coming.
In Needled to Death Kelly discovers a body while taking a group visit to an alpaca farm. A Deadly Yarn sees Kelly investigating the apparent suicide of a friend and A Killer Stitch revolves around the death of an alpaca sheep rancher with a 'love and leave them' attitude.  In Dyer Consequences  Kelly is battling vandalism of her home as well as dealing with the death of a member of her knitting group in a dye vat in the shop's basement. You get the idea - observation, integrity and relationships applied in a community the reader comes to know and identify with.

One thread of the books is Kelly's developing relationship with Steve, a local builder. Steve goes out of business in the economic downturn and breaks up with Kelly in the process. Her knitting and real estate friends help  her out. The global financial crisis is playing out in small town Colorado.

In the latest book, Unravelled,(which made the New York Times best seller list the week it came out) Kelly is  visiting a property in a canyon with her friend Jennifer when yet another body is found. One of Kelly’s clients falls under suspicion as does the friend of a friend. Kelly takes a photo of the gun at the murder scene and follows up, digging out information that eventually leads to an arrest.

Kelly also runs into Steve at a meeting and ends up playing volley ball against him. They start the long process of being in contact again. While this is a fairly predictable story with no great character development it is a pleasant read and a interesting to see an author dealing with very current economics in a domestic setting.
Each book has a knitting pattern and a recipe at the back. I haven't tried any of them.
Knit One Kill Two has pattern for Kelly's first, very basic, scarf, a simple template pattern for a sleeveless pullover and a recipe for Maggie's Cinnamon Rolls. Needled to Death has a Blueberry pie recipe, and patterns for an eyelet yarn scarf and a shell for a seed-stitch vest. Dyer Consequences has a recipe for pecan pie and a pattern for a knitted collapsible cloche. Fleece Navidad has a range of holiday knitting patterns (easy mittens, sweetheart gloves, a ribbed hat and two Christmas stockings) and a range of recipes (cinnamon rolls, pumpkin nut bread, ginger snaps,chocolate pecan rum balls, hot mulled wine, chocolate mint fudge and Carl's Doggie Christmas Cookies). Skein of the Crime has a triple layer carrot cake and a braided knit scarf while Unravelled has a knitting pattern for Sweet Summer Tee and recipe for Yummy chocolate cake.

This series seems to be available for Kindle as well as the paper formats, and Unravelled  is available as an audiobook. 

Maggie Sefton  also has a series of mysteries set in the real estate world and featuring Kate Doyle as sleuth. I haven't read any of these. She has a very clear and straightforward website at with useful information about her books and how she became a writer.