Tuesday, 15 November 2011

7 weeks without stitching - NEVER!

As my big trip to South America looms closer I've been thinking about what projects I can take that will keep me going during 7 weeks of backpacking.  We have decided to only take 2 smallish rucksacks each. Mine is 33 litres and hubbys is 35 litres. So space is seriously tight.
We've got quite a distance to cover, and even though we will be spending a lot of time trekking and sightseeing there are quite a few long bus and plane journeys in to get through as well. What better way to pass the time than to take some projects to keep me going.

I thought about taking the vintage knitted top that I keep going on about, but I would be beside myself if anything happened to it, its taken me so long to figure out how to do it and I've spent so long working on it.
A few weeks ago now I was at the Knitting and Stitching show in London and the lovely people there taught me how to crochet. I had tried once before but made the mistake of not practising regularly enough and quickly forgot how to do it.
Since then I've been practicing granny squares and I am defiantly getting more of a hang of it...although still not mastered what to do with all the loose ends.

So I thought something like this might be good to squeeze in my rucksack. Only one hook needed...I can take just a few balls of wool...no biggie if my rucksack gets nicked or anything. Maybe by the time I get back I'll have enough squares to stitch me up a blanket!
I bought this gorgeous crochet book by Nicki Trench recently. 

It has a few blanket projects in it but I'm going for the beginner one...this 'Springtime Throw'. Its bloomin' massive (finished size 162cm x 2223cm)...so I'm just going to work with the few yarn balls that I have and see how many squares I get to. 

House of Fraser have a sale on the Amy Butler Belle Organic aran and DK at the moment...I think they are selling of there end of line stock and I managed to top up some of the yarn that I already had for just £2.50 per ball (usually over £5 so a bit of a bargain). Only problem was you had to buy it in packs of 10 balls...which seemed excessive....so I managed to find a few smaller packs and I'm planning on using the cream and the two shades of blue to make up a smaller blanket. Will probably end up being a baby sized blanket...now I just need a baby...maybe not just yet! 

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Planning, packing and stitching too...of course!

I've been busy trying to get organised for my upcoming trip over the past few weeks. Me and the hubby are going to Panama and South America for 7 weeks and we leave in just 2 weeks time! We only decided to go about 5 weeks ago so it all been a bit of a rush to get ready. Here is a map of our planned route....
My cousin has put us in touch with one of his close friends who is a tour organiser based in Lima and she has been so amazing!... putting an itinerary together for us and she is even picking us up at the airport in Lima. We just have to sort out a week in Panama ourselves. 

In between ticking off my several to do lists I've been working on the vintage knitting pattern I found at my parents house in the summer. I thought it didn't look to difficult....I could work out all the abbreviations and when I first read it I thought..yeh sure...I can work it out. Hmmmm.....so far its certainly not been a smooth ride. On the positive side I can't believe how much I have learned by the section I have done so far. 

A few weeks ago I got soooo stuck with it. The pattern presumed I had special powers and could work out complicated increases with minimal information. I seriously got so stuck and in such a state. After a frustrating phone call to my Mum, who couldn't help me figure it out (and I don't blame her, it was really complicated especially when she could't actually see what I was doing) I turned to Ravelry and searched for knitting groups in my area. What were the chances....? There was a group meeting that night at the MAC

Everyone I met was so lovely and friendly and I got the much needed help from Minty who even gave me some stitch markers to help me on my way. It all seemed so much clearer. I needed to draw out a chart of the pattern..which seemed simple...until I made about 3 mistakes in that which then lead me having to undo 3 rows (of 106 stitches!), In process I also managed to drop stitches...thanks you tube videos for teaching my how to pick these back up again! 

But since then I've been on a roll with it...and now managed to get a huge chunk done of the back panel.

So now I've managed to figure out how to do knitting 'a la fair isle'....pick up dropped stitches...use stitch markers...turn complicated instructions into a chart...incorporate increases to follow the pattern. Not bad I reckon! And now I can't put it down!  

I quite fancy making a new wallet for my trip though and found some great tutorials online last night by very purple person so thats my job for next weekend I think!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Getting projects finished - eventually!

I've been a bit of a stranger to my blog recently and have been finding it hard to get time to keep things up to date. Having said that I have been busy, as always stitching, sewing, knitting and the like. I went to the Knitting and Stitching Show in London a few weekends ago for the first time. I had a great time and even managed to get someone to teach me how to crochet!

On the business side of things (please see this post for summary) I went to a free workshop run by the Business Link people last week about finding and keeping customers. I wasn't sure about it before hand but actually ended up having a really good time and got a chance to talk a lot about my new business and how to give my customers a 5 star experience! All very exciting...so please keep an eye on how I'm getting on so you can be involved once I'm up and running (fingers crossed opening spring 2012!).

I've written a few posts recently about trying to complete all the various craft type projects I have on the go around the house. And continuing on my mission I've managed to get a few more things finished off over the last few weeks.

This is an Amy Butler  design for an afghan bolster cushion cover that I adapted a bit and decided to do a stripy design for the back. When we had the heat wave at the beginning of the month I had a lovely relaxing time sitting out in the sun finishing it off. 

 This is a Cath Kidson design from her new "Sew" book that my friend Amy gave for my birthday. It turned out really well, and I love that it is lined as well, makes it feel much more sturdy. Using it a a knitting bag at the moment but its solid enough to carry heavy things too so very versatile!

 A while back now I posted about the screen printed roman blind that I got finished and hung up in my studio/spare room. I had quite a few scraps and practice prints left over and it seemed a shame not to do anything with them so I made some cushions to match. I just appliqu├ęd them onto a neutral background colour and made an envelope type fastening on the back and secured with self cover buttons. I also made a few of the practice prints into tote bags as well (not that I actually needed any more of them!)

 Some of you may recognise the design below from the Cross Stitcher July issue. I spotted it in Mollie Makes Magazine and thought they looked lovely. Its taken a while but managed to get to finished over the weekend. I used Japanese fabric that I bought from The Eternal Maker at the Knitting and Stitching Show to make the back and sides of the cushion. Its got parrots and peacocks on it - still loving' all the bird related stuff that out there at the moment!

I also eventually finished the dining chair that I've been hammering away at for what seams like ages! I'm really pleased with how it has turned out, even if I don't really have anywhere to put it at the moment. My little house is just about bursting at the seams with various bits of furniture that I've re-vamped or given a make over too. I've also seem to have made up so many different cushion covers over the last few months theres hardly any room for me left on the sofa!

So whats next?!?!? I've started making up the vintage knitting pattern that I found in the deepest darkest depths of my mum and dads garage......
Its meant to be made up in 3ply (which I've discovered doesn't really exist anymore unfortunately) so I'm using 4 ply instead and altered the needle size. I did a tension square to check so just going for it and I'll see what happens. If it ends up not fitting I'll use it as part of a display in my new shop! Just got the back panel rib done so far so watch this space for how I get on with it!

Monday, 17 October 2011

New business venture - The Next Stitch is changing

Since starting this blog back in April when I decided to spend more time being creative I've stitched and knitted and purled and hooked, along with various other things to create lots of handmade things for myself, my little house and friends and family.

In fact, I've had such a fantastic time that I've decided to leave my day job to open my own creative business!!!

This mock tudor building (in the heart of Moseley Village, Birmingham) is soon to be home of 'The Next Stitch.' A beautiful fabric and haberdashery shop with an exciting programme of workshops and short courses that will teach you all the creative skills you need to make lovely personalised handmade things. Whether your a complete beginner or have dabbled or just want to try something new...there will be something for anyone who loves to be creative!

Okay so the building needs a bit of work...but I'm soooo excited about starting this venture, along with my hubby, and can't wait to get started transforming the building into an inspirational treasure trove of handmade goodyness.

My hubby has owned the building since 2006 and those of you who know Moseley will know that the former boys club has been in a bit of a sorry state for the last few years. Its been a long time coming but we've decided that reviving the building and its original features and using it as a location for this type of creative business is the best use for it and will allow the community to get use from the building once again.

The planning application is now with Birmingham City Council and we hope to get a positive response by the end of November. In the mean time we are busy networking with local organisations and planning what our future potential customers would most like from our business. All plans going well we hope to be up and running in Spring 2012!

For all the latest news and developments sign up for our newsletter (promise it will only be the exciting stuff, and I won't bombard you every week) or follow me on Twitter  or send me an email at thenextstitchstudio@yahoo.co.uk or leave me a comment below. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Creative Tuesday

I'm on a quest at the moment to get all the various half finished, started then forgotten projects around my house completed. Only problem is I keep starting new things...like last week when I made this Cath Kidson  apron and a little business card holder. Then today I picked up some more felt to make the 3D jammy dodger from Mollie Makes.

So I've decided to dedicate tuesdays to working on the various ongoing creative projects around my house. Today I planned to do a bit more re-upholstering of the dining chair I've been working on, slowly, for over a year and stitch together some of the screen printed tote bags that I printed and cut out months ago..but just haven't got round to stitching together. 

Unfortunately, I didn't manage to dedicate my entire day....the weather was amazing so got lots of washing done and hung out, and I really really needed to vacuum then house, it seriously couldn't wait any longer. And I ended up going out for lunch. But I defiantly made head way on my projects.....

I got one of 4 dining chairs finished a while back so today I was working on the second one.  I got the calico layer on and started tensioning it. And due to how the fabric is attached to the back panel, the top layer of fabric is also in situ...I just need to keep it out the way until the calico is sorted and tensioned. 
 I've chosen this for the top fabric. It looks a bit richer than this in real life. Once its finished I'll take a pic in light the shows off the clouds better. 
 I had 10 calico bags cut out ready to be stitched together with two designs. The heart design  and the geometric flower design that I used in my roman blind
I only got this one completely finished...
 And I got the edging stitched on to hide the seams on the inside of 3 other bags. 
So that was my creative tuesday this week...its my birthday next tuesday so not sure what I'll get done, I'm sure I can squeeze in something.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Vintage knitting patterns

On my last trip back home up to Scotland I happened to stumble upon an amazing little treasure trove of a vintage fair at The Hillhead Book Club just off Byres Road. One little stall had a whole folder full of vintage knitting patterns that looked amazing, I could't resist. Then when I got back home and told my Mum she said she had loads of them out in the garage. Woo hoo! So my collection grew again!

Since then I've been getting a bit obsessed with vintage patterns and gone a bit crazy bidding away on e-bay.

With lots of ideas I've picked a pattern to do and got the yarn. The pattern is in 3ply but I could only find baby wool in 3 ply (and I didn't fancy it in white and baby pink). So, with the advice of my Mum, I got 4ply and I'm going to use narrower needles. I've tried a tension square and it seemed to work so think I'll just go for it and see how I get on. My aim is to finish it by the end of the year but I feel like I've got quite a lot of unfinished projects around the house so I'm saving starting it until I've completed some other things.

Most of the knitting projects I've done so far have been either really chunky wool or required 4.5mm needles at the narrowest. To get a bit of practice in the littler stitches I knitted this cute hat for my friends little baby. Its in 4ply and knitted from a Patons pattern.

What is your experience of knitting with old knitting patterns? Does my idea of using narrower needles sound realistic? 

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Creative Tuesday

Things have been pretty busy the past few weeks at The Next Stitch Towers and despite blog posts being a bit sparse there has been plenty of stitching going on!

I'm working on a potential new business venture at the moment (don't want to reveal too much at the mo until it comes together a bit more) and that has been taking up a lot of time, the computer has been stealing hours from the day again. So, last Tuesday I decided to spend the whole day making things.

A few weeks ago I got some funky Cath Kidson fabric at the outlet shop at Bicester and decided to make it into an apron. I just sort of made the pattern up as I went along and held up against me to check size. I wanted something that went right around my waist as I tend to wipe my hands on my side when I'm cooking (bad habit from my mum I think). I had some pom pom trim that I wanted to use up too.

So after the apron I looked to my pinterest board of crafty ideas I love and made a little business card holder. Ok so I don't have a business yet, never mind business cards but I'm working on that - just doing a bit of planning ahead.

Monday, 12 September 2011

screen printed roman blind project - with how to pictures

After what seems like months and months, a few weekends ago I finally managed to get the blind for my creative space/spare bedroom finished off and hung up.

It all started at the beginning of the summer when I was going to my Textiles class and I hand screen printed a big piece of fabric. The whole printing process was done in the same way as described my previous post except this time I wanted to make a negative image of my design. So last time I used a stencil like this, made with paper.

For the negative stencil I used sticky back plastic (which took AGES to cut out) and looked like this.

So following the steps in the previous post I printed in alternate baby pink and pale lemon yellow.

Creating the blind was pretty tricky as I wanted to follow the line of the pattern but I hadn't been exact in printing the pattern square which just made it all a bit complicated and I ended up having to make it up a bit as I went along. Normally it would be easy to make the blind if your fabric pattern was square to the weave of the fabric.
Here is all the bits and pieces I needed to make up the blind:
  • blind tape
  • cord
  • velcro
  • rods
  • toggle and thingie to wind cord round
  • black out lining (I didn't want the sun to shine through the fabric as it would alter the colour of the print)

So I squared off the lining fabric using the corner of my dining table and my quilting squarer. I cut the lining to the size that I actually wanted my blind to be so that there wasn't bulky edges. As the lining was blackout lining and does't fray so I could get away with this. 

I wanted the edging of the back of the blind to look like this...
So to do this took a bit of figuring out and in the end I ironed a seam in the printed fabric where I wanted its edge to be.

 And then pinned the line of stitch so that when folded the ironed seam would fall to the edge of the lining fabric.

 I checked it all lined up properly before stitching.
 So I stitched both sides of the blind this way so I had a big tube. Then with the fabric folded as in the above picture I stitched along the bottom of the blind to make a big sack.

Next a 'D' shape bit of wood which I had cut to size was inserted into the bottom of the sack and this acts like weight for the blind to help it sit straight.
Next was to pin and stitch the bling tape on where I wanted the rods to sit that would create the folds in the blind. 

Next I inserted the rods into the blind tape and stitched them in place at the edges.
Then to finish off the top of the blind I ironed down the seams then stitched the velcro along the top

 So on the right side of the fabric you see a big rectangle of stitching where the velcro is stitched on

 Then using the blind cord I rigged it up using 4 lengths, which you can sort of see in the pic below. I just pined them at the top to secure. When the blind is hung up its those lengths of blind cord that get fed through the little eyelets.
 Almost there...I painted this 1"x1" bit of wood which is where the blind is hung from. It gets screwed onto the wall (cue hubby), the little eyelets screwed into the bottom and the blind cords rigged up through them and hey presto its done.

Here is the blind hanging up in the 'studio' / creative corner of my spare room!