Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Knitted underwear

Another glimpse back to a past without central heating - "handknitted underwear to keep you warm", from Patons. Patons propose that all these garments should be knitted in Patons Beehive and Halcyon 3 ply, "chosen for their softness and warmth". Keeping away the winter chills is the key here, rather than feminine prettiness (although the pink Lady's Vest and Knickers combo does have a pretty, lacy trim).

Every time I see a pattern like this for a big garment to be knitted in 3 ply, on tiny needles, I marvel at the patience our grandmothers and great-grandmothers must have had. It's a far cry from today's quick-fix chunky yarns and fat needles...

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Knit a Gryffindor scarf for a cat

If your cat is a Harry Potter fan, what better gift to give than a cat scarf knitted in Hogwarts house colours. Here is Slinky wearing his Gryffindor scarf with pride. Could also be good for football-loving cats, maybe knitted up in West Ham or Arsenal colours.

You'll need 2 x 4 or 5 mm knitting needles and scraps of double knitting wool in dark red and gold. Cast on 6 stitches (or 8 if you want a wider scarf). Starting with red, work 6 rows in stocking stitch (one row knit, one row purl). Change to yellow and work 6 more rows of stocking stich, carrying the red yarn up by twisting it once with the yellow yarn - this will save you having to sew in all the loose ends for each stripe.

Once the scarf is the right length for your cat, cast off and add a couple of inches of fringe.

Health and Safety Officer note: make sure your cat only wears his scarf while you are supervising him so he doesn't get it tangled in anything. Do not let him wear it outside - other cats may not understand and laugh and point.

Friday, 18 December 2009

1940s bed jackets

In these centrally-heated days a bed jacket is a rare sight indeed, and those that are around today are generally thick, fleecy and practical, aimed at the poorly and infirm.

How different bed jackets were in the 1930s, when they were a de rigeur glamour item for the Hollywood starlet, or anyone trying to inject a little femininity (and warmth) into a chilly boudoir.

This Target knitting pattern from the 1940s shows a stunning wide-collared bed jacket, to be patiently knitted in delicate 3-ply wool. This little confection has a timeless charm - still pretty enough to be worn today, even outside the bedroom, as part of an evening outfit.

I like the way that the lady in the top hand left corner is looking down, muttering, "Damn, hers is much nicer than mine," under her breath.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

U900 Sleigh ride

If you like crocheted amigurumi toys, and you like ukeleles, you will love these little Christmas gems from Japanese uke duo U900.

Aled Jones. On a sheep. Wearing a jumper.

Who's this young feller-me-lad sitting atop his sheep, sporting a jaunty 1980s picture knit jumper? Why, it's top Radio 2 presenter and warbler Aled Jones, from the 1986 Knitability book, by Linda O'Brien and Gyles Brandreth. Aled is 16 years old here, although he looks young and sweet enough to still get away with half-fare on the bus. If I were a newsagent, I certainly wouldn't sell him matches.

Aled is seated on a very rare acrylic sheep, which is where the yarn for his jumper has come from. Farmers dislike raising acrylic sheep because they melt in the sun when it gets hot, and they stick to the hillside. No, really.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Soviet textiles from the 1920s

Revolutionary Costume by Lidya Zaletova et al (Rizzoli Publications, 1989) is my current coffee-table read - it's a pleasingly hefty study of Soviet clothing and textiles of the 1920s.

Soviet fabrics from this period rejoice in industrial imagery and symbols of progress - planes, cars, trains and construction sites. Maybe if Kraftwerk ever designed a range of fabrics they would look a lot like this.

This sample from the First Factory of Printed Cotton, Moscow, from the 1920s, shows a crane, factory and worker and wouldn't look out of place on the Liberty fabric counter.

I love this romantic vision of peasant life by Sergei Burylin from the late 1920s, although I can't help but worry that the gent on the cart is telling the ladies that their farm is about to be razed to the ground to make way for the railway, and they are all off to work in a factory to make automotive components.

Finally, it wouldn't be Soviet fabric art without at least one tractor. Here's Tractors by Sergei Burylin, from 1930. Bit of a sporty model, by the looks of it.

John Deere manufacture an astonishingly large range of tractor-related fabrics today, but none of them hold the same romanticism and sheer Joy of Tractor as these Soviet beauties.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Crochet Christmas Dove ornament

I love this little crocheted Christmas dove ornament from Lion Brand Yarn. Not just for the Christmas tree - this little chap would look rather jolly as part of a spring hanging decoration, or mobile. Or if you want to see nature red in tooth and claw, stuff him full of catnip and make a cat toy.

You'll need to register for the Lion Brand website to see the full pattern - it's free, they don't send you spam, and you gain access to an Aladdin's cave of free knitting and crochet fun.

Friday, 11 December 2009


Another knitted headwear bygone - the helmet. Like a balaclava, only without the eyeholes. You can't blame terrorism for the demise in popularity of the helmet, only a change in popular taste, and possibly warmer winters.

Helmets were not just for the kiddies as this glamorous crocheted ladyhelmet from Patons proves. Very handy for covering up love bites. The Nouvelle Vague pout is optional.

Seafaring gentlemen would rather be keelhauled than be spotted leaving port wearing a ladyhelmet. This Seawear in Lister's Bluebird pattern is for them. Along with the traditional full-head helmet (top left), there is also a mysterious "helmet without crown" (bottom row) which seems to keep the neck warm but leave most of the head exposed apart from a small strip along the top of the head. Any idea why?

I love the idea of a knitting pattern just for fishermen - can't see Debbie Bliss catering for this market today.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


Once upon a time you could walk down the street wearing a balaclava and people wouldn't automatically assume that you were a terrorist.

Having said that, you'd be hard pushed to see these two young gentlemen from a 1970s Harmony pattern as extremists of any kind, especially with those jaunty pom-poms. They look more like the victims of a cruel condition where one's bobble hat keeps on growing uncontrollably, smothering the wearer and resulting, eventually, in a snug head-to-toe acrylic cosy.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Knitted iPod Nano

Inspired by the crazy Patons Christmas knitting family, here is my solution to all your present problems this Christmas, the knitted iPod Nano.

The same dimensions as the new larger-screened iPod Nano, this knitted version is infinitely superior as it never needs recharging and you can drop it as often as you like.

It comes with a high-quality pair of crochet headphones, felt and embroidery control dial, and unlike Apple's polished anodised aluminum finish, this iPod boasts a cosy DK knit outer.

Now for sale on Etsy!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Knitted Christmas bauble

Here's a pretty decoration from the Paton's Traditional Christmas family front room - a knitted Christmas tree bauble that you could make to co-ordinate with your decor, or Christmas jumpers.

I like these a lot, but won't be making them as the cats will think they are special cat toys and destroy the tree.

Yarn: Use oddments of DK.

Needles: 3 3/4 mm needles.

Tension: 24sts and 32 rows to 10cm in stocking stitch (although let's lighten up here a minute - these are Christmas tree baubles, they don't have to be precisely the same size as the pattern)

With main colour cast on 5 sts and purl 1 row.
Row 2: (RS) K1, *M1, K1; rep from * to end. 9 sts.
Row 3: Purl.
Rep the last 2 rows twice more. 33 sts.
Row 8: Knit.
Row 9: Purl.
Row 10: K3, *M1, K3; rep from * to end - 43 sts.
Row 11: Purl.

Joining in 1st and 2nd colours as required work the 13 rows of chart to make pattern. Continuing in main olour only, purl 1 row.

Row 26: K3, *K2 tog, K2; rep from * to end - 33 sts.
Work 3 rows in st st, starting with a purl row.
Row 30: K1, *K2 tog; reo from * to end - 17 sts.
Row 31: Purl.
Repeat the last 2 rows twice more. Cast off remaining 5 sts.

Join seam, leaving an opening for stuffing. Stiff firmly, and close opening. Sew a hanging loop to top.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Severus Snape finger puppet

"Mummy, can you knit me Professor Snape for Christmas?"

Having ascertained that the request was for a doll-sized Severus Snape, not a life-sized one (a spectacular talking-point though that would be), I cautiously replied in the affirmative. I didn't have a pattern for a pocket-sized potion master, but I did have a pattern for a creepy-looking Lady Diana doll that might be adaptable.

Now, I've never knitted a doll before, let alone morphed The People's Princess into the head of Slytherin house, but I suspected that this might be the route to a nervous breakdown just before Christmas. I decided to knit a Snape finger puppet as a back-up plan, so at least there would be something Snape-shaped in the Christmas stocking in case the bigger doll isn't finished in time (or ends up looking like Princess Diana with Michael Jackson's hair).

I'm pleased with the way this finger puppet has turned out, although his cape keeps curling at the edges. The whole puppet is made out of scraps of double knitting wool, apart from the hair, which is half double knitting, and half fine black crochet cotton. Completely DK hair was too full and bushy, so I ended up unpicking it and adding crochet cotton for a nice lanky effect (sorry, Severus...).

Ten points to Slytherin!

Any requests for famous-people finger puppets?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Recycled card Christmas baubles

My photo does not do these babies justice. Just go to craftstylish.com and make some for yourself - they are really beautiful, and surprisingly easy to make. Follow the craftstylish instructions and you will get 7cm baubles, perfect for a Christmas tree. I can't resist fiddling with instructions so made these two giant ones out of recycled card by scaling everything up times three.

The result: very dramatic 20cm paper lanterns.
The general reaction: Squee! I want one.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Recycled paper star garland

Another decoration for the Transition Town Worthing Christmas bash - a star garland made out of recycled wrapping paper.

Take a length of twine and create knotted loops where you want each star to be positioned. Cut out as twice as many paper stars as you want on your garland, one for each star's front and back - there's a great star template at activityvillage.co.uk to use. I used wrapping paper, but old wallpaper or craft paper would be equally good.

Cover the reverse of one star in Pritt stick glue, use a glue gun to glue the string onto the star, and then sandwich another star on the top of the first one - you may need a dab more from the glue gun to keep the string in place. Glue gun a button onto the star, and you're done.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

A very knitted Christmas

This family, from the Patons Traditional Christmas book, must have started knitting on Boxing Day last year to get this festive feast of yarnery ready for yule this year.

Christmas jumpers, knitted tree decorations, a throw, stockings, a decapitated Santa head, knitted place mats, knitted candle holder (the ultimate fire hazard), and Christmas hot water bottles all take pride of place in the Patons family lounge. The knitted brown thing on the table at the edge of the picture is sadly not a knitted turkey to rival Flo's turkey cake: it's a knitted wreath table centrepiece.

The little boy is looking worried because he asked for a video iPod Nano for Christmas. Dad is telling him the good news: he's got one right here in this sparkly box. The bad news is that Mum knitted it. Sorry, son.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Roast Turkey Cake

I don't eat turkey, but I do love cake, so this fantastic turkey cake and all the trimmings would probably be my perfect Christmas dinner. It was created by my talented friend Flo in Coventry and her equally talented workmates, as a leaving dinner for her boss.

I'll let Flo explain: "Boss was a real Blumenthal fan so we thought it would be funny to do him a Christmas dinner entirely from cake. It was made all the better by him complaining, five minutes before we unveiled this undertaking, that he was really sad he was missing our Christmas meal and also the one at his new workplace...

Basically, madeira cake was cooked in a big mixing bowl and cut to shape (reckon a heart-shaped pan might have done this, but the dome effect was good.) I bought two round chocolate sponge cakes and cut them into leg shapes then pinned the lot together with bamboo skewers.

Fortuitously, I had found turkey-coloured icing, sold as Teddy Bear brown, so that sorted that. Then I dimpled it all with the end of a spoon, and tried to add some details with black colouring which wasn't too successful.

Someone else made stuffing balls out of flapjack mix, lovingly dyeing some oats green to look like sage.

Someone else made fairy cakes and covered them in sugar syrup for roasties, another made shortbread, shaped and dyed orange for carrots, another rolled green marzipan peas, and another made a sponge cake and covered it with buttercream to make mash. Then all we needed was chocolate sauce gravy and bingo!

It was brilliant when he walked in coz we had carols playing and lights and tinsel and he really thought we'd cooked him a roast dinner - so his jaw dropped when he realised what it really was.

Problem was, we served it up as a plate of roast dinner which we all ate but it was ALL CAKE so we felt quite ill... didn't have thirds..."

Monday, 30 November 2009

Man's Poncho

I like to think that there is a tale to tell behind this photo from the Regency Bainin Knitting Wool booklet, circa 1970 ("25 Fashionable and Attractive Garments for You to Crochet").

There's your man, playing Mr Willoughby or the like in a costume drama, complete with cravat and moody stare into the distance, wandering around the forest in a love-lorn haze, unaware that up in that oak tree the team from Regency Bainin Knitting Wool have rigged up a dastardly contraption.

They have wire, they have a crocheted poncho, they have extremely good aim. They wait for him to lounge meaningfully against the tree then - bam - they cut the wire, releasing the poncho neatly over his head. Brian, the Regency Bainin Knitting Wool photographer leaps out of a nearby thicket and - snap. Job done.

Friday, 27 November 2009

UK and US crochet stitch names

When you start on a crochet project, check whether the pattern you are following is American or British as stitch names differ between the two countries.

GB Single crochet (sc) = USA Slip stich (sl st)
GB Double crochet (dc) = USA Single crochet (sc)
GB Half treble (htr) = USA Half double (hdc)
GB Treble (tr) = USA Double crochet (dc)
GB Double treble (dtr) = USA Triple crochet (tr)
GB Treble treble (trtr) = USA Double triple (dtr)

Crochet snowflake Christmas decoration

One for the patient Christmas crafter - a pretty crochet snowflake made from crochet cotton or oddments of 4 ply, on 1.75mm crochet hook. This is a UK crochet pattern.

Make 10 ch, join into a ring with a sl st.

Round 1: Work (1 dc, 8 ch) 6 times into ring, sl st into first dc to join. 6 loops.
Round 2: 1 sl st into each of first 4 ch of first loop, work (1 dc, 6 ch, 1 dc) into same loop, 6 ch, 1 dc into next dc, 6 ch *(1 dc, 6 ch, 1 dc) into next loop, 6 ch, 1 dc into next dc, 6 ch; rep from * 4 times more, sl st into first dc to join.
Round 3: 1 sl st into each of first 2 ch of first 6-ch loop, 4 ch (count as one dtr), into same 6-ch loop work (2 dtr, 3 ch, 3 dtr), 5 ch, *miss 2 6-ch loops, into next 6-ch loop work (3 dtr, 3 ch, 3 dtr), 5 ch; rep from * 4 times more, sl st into 4th of 4 ch at beg of round.
Round 4: 1 ch, 1 dc into each of next 2 dtr, 3 ch, into next 3-ch loop work (1 dc, 5 ch, 1 dc), 3 ch, 1 dc into each of next 3 dtr, 4 ch, 1 dc into next 5-ch loop, 4 ch, *1 dc into each of next 3 dtr, 3 ch, into next 3-ch loop work (1 dc, 5 ch, 1 dc), 3 ch, 1 dc into each of next 3 dtr, 4 ch, 1 dc into next 5-ch loop, 3ch; rep from * 4 times more, 1 dc into ch at beg of round. Fasten off. Pour large Baileys.

Pin out, stretching evenly and spray with starch to stiffen. Leave to dry thoroughly, then sew hanging loop at one point of flake.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Embroidered Radio Times cover

There's a very middle-class-British obsession with covering up shameful objects. Wheelie bins have to be disguised as a cottage garden with stickers, loo rolls have to be shielded from the gaze under a knitted crinoline lady, and even I remember seeing a cover in the Lakeland kitchen shop for that most shameful of household items, washing-up liquid.

I've never seen the Radio Times as an item of middle-class shame, but obviously in the eyes of the More Bazaar Items By Patons book, it is. Here's a beautifully embroidered Radio Times cover, created with Coats Anchor Tapisserie wool on "bincarette" canvas with a cotton lining. Could be very useful for those weeks when Jeremy Clarkson is on the front cover - I'd much rather look at an embroidered basket of flowers.

With a little adaptation, intellectuals could create a New Scientist or The Economist cover and then hide their copies of Chat and Take a Break within.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Recycled Christmas decorations

Now I'm not a great one for Christmas - all that over-consumption and terrible telly - but I have been getting rather excited about making recycled Christmas decorations for Transition Town Worthing's Christmas event. I wanted to make something easy, out of natural or recycled materials, and something beautiful, that didn't end up looking like a load of beer bottle lids bunged on the Christmas tree.

Idea 1: Pine cones. Simply twist off the top pointy bit of the cone to make a little space for you to glue a couple of inches of twine in place with a dab from a glue gun.

Idea 2: Milk stars. These are made from a plastic carton of milk - I managed to squeeze four stars out of a pint bottle. Cut out a paper or card star template (there's a good-sized template to print off at www.underfives.co.uk if your freehand isn't up to it) then position on your clean milk carton, draw round with permanent marker, and cut out. Glue a couple of inches of twine onto the back of a small button to make a hanging loop, and then glue button and loop onto your star.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Space invader gloves

Just finished these Space Invader gloves and very happy with them: the kind of item to give the inner geek a warm glow (and warm hands). They were adapted from an old fairisle pattern which originally had a snowflake on each glove.

I can take no credit for the Space Invader motifs. They are from Aija Goto's utterly awesome bmp socks which are far, far beyond my current craft capabilities (fairisle and knitting with four needles? Eek.)

Friday, 13 November 2009

English hat - no mitts

As a contrast, this very British creation sticks two fingers up at Parisian chic. It says, "I may not be hanging out on the rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore nibbling on a patisserie, but at least my ears are warm. And because my ears are covered, I cannot hear you say that I look like a toilet seat cover. So don't bother."

Possibly a look that only works on the under-3s.

The loop stitch that this hat is mostly worked in is a very useful stich to have in your knitting repertoire - great for edging sleeves, scarves and hems.

Loop stitch: K1, * insert needle into next st knitwise (put wool round needle, then round first 2 fingers of left hand) 3 times, then roound needle again, draw all 4 loops through and slip st off needle; rep from * to last st, k1.

Parisian pillbox and mitts

"This becoming pillbox hat and mitts set was designed in Paris. Originally in white, it would look equally smart in black, or a gay poster colour, such as scarlet, jade green, royal blue or mustard yellow. Double knitting wool makes a beautiful, firm fabric, so that the hat holds its shape well."

There's something simultaneously glamorous and practical about this little pillbox hat and mitts combo from the 1950s. Designed in Paris, but you know that these woolly beauties will see you through the worst of the British winter, too.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Tea cosy knitting pattern

This tea cosy, coffee cosy, and egg cosy are from the delightfully thrifty Harmony Odd Ounce book from the 1960s, full of "easy to make gifts and toys using oddments of leftovers".

They look wonderful knitted up in bright period acrylics as suggested by the Odd Ounce book and wouldn't look out of place on a vintage 60s coffee table (or lost in a meadow, as they appear to be in the photo).

My version (below) was made out of some leftover purple organic cotton dk and dusky pink acrylic dk for a softer, more 1950s feel. This is a timeless tea cosy pattern and very practical, too - bunching up the stitches to make the ridges creates a generous pocket of air inside each ridge, which acts as insulation and keeps your tea warm forever.

Tea cosy knitting pattern for a 6 inch high tea cosy:

Yarn: 2 ozs dk main colour, 2 ozs contrast.

Needles: UK size 7

Using main (M) cast on 96 sts. Join in contrast (C) and work as follows, making sure that C is twisted over M before starting next row. Note: Yf (yarn forward) in this pattern always refers to the colour used for last 8 sts.

1st row: * K8M, draw C across back of work to 3/4 inch and k8C, draw M across back of work in same way; rep from * to end. Twist M over C before commencing next row.

2nd row: *K8C, yf, bring M across front of work, draw up to 3/4 inch and tke to back of work, k8M, yf, bring C across front of work, draw up to 3/4 inch and take to back of work; rep from * to end.

Repeat the last 2 rows until tea cosy measures 6 inches, ending with a wrong side row.

Shape top:

1st row: Keeping pattern correct * sl1, k1, psso, k4, k2tog; rep from * to end.
2nd row: * Sl 1, k1, psso, k2, k2tog; rep from * to end.
3rd row: * Sl 1, k1, psso, k2tog; rep from * to end.
4th row: K2 tog to end.

Thread yarn through remaining sts, draw up and fasten off securely. Work another piece the same. Join seams leaving an opening at each side for spout and handle. Crochet round 2 large curtain rings, one in M and one in C. Secure to top. I didn't have curtain rings so just made two rings of single crochet - or you could cut two ring shapes out of the side of a clean plastic milk carton and crochet round these instead if you wanted extra stiffness without buying curtain rings...