I love sunrises and sunsets, especially the really colourful displays. Although they can have a lot in common, they also have some subtle differences. Whereas a beautiful sunset can be a peaceful, calming end to the day, sunrise can have the opposite effect.
Both sunrises and sunsets are obviously hugely affected by the weather on the day, but this just adds to the variety of the displays we can experience. What I find special about sunrises is the sense of a fresh start and new opportunities. As the light increases, the world re-emerges from the darkness and there is a feeling of expectation. Where I live the sunrise is accompanied by a “dawn chorus” as the birds joyfully welcome the new day. I really love the singing of the birds, especially our beautiful native Tuis.
In New Zealand we have just entered spring which is also all about fresh starts and new opportunities. This is the season when our native Kowhai trees (pronounced kō-fai) come into flower. This coincides with the mating season for the Tuis, so we are currently being treated to amazing aerial displays as they chase each other around the neighbourhood, as well as their wonderful song.
Spring and sunrises both bring the excitement of new beginnings, which is something I also associate with starting a new hand craft project. Every new beginning holds the promise of many enjoyable hours of crafting, not to mention the final satisfaction of the finished product. I think it is really important to keep looking around us every day for any opportunity, no matter how big or small, to appreciate the expectation and promise of fresh starts and new beginnings. Let’s make sure we enjoy every day to the full.
A couple of months ago, in my post “Another Octopus and Some Scarves”, I was interested in trying to get some knitting done to donate to local homeless people. Unfortunately I was a bit late to get myself organised for this winter, but I am working on getting some significant supplies ready for next year. We are officially into spring in New Zealand now, although the weather has been a bit slow to get the memo so far.
I have been going through my “stash” and experimenting with different ideas to knit items that might be useful to donate. The first scarf I made was a simple garter stitch one that used up a number of leftover partial balls from previous garments. I had planned to use only double knit (8 ply) yarn, but I think I accidentally included some cream yarn of a heavier gauge. When using this weight of yarn I suggest using 4mm (UK size 8) needles and at least 40 stitches. I like to make scarves at least 140cm long, but this is a matter of personal preference.
The stitch I chose for the second scarf was broken double rib. I used 10 ply yarn and 4.5mm (UK size 7) needles for this one. This stitch is most easily knitted using multiples of four stitches plus three stitches at the end. For my scarf I used 51 stitches (48 stitches plus 3 = 51). For 8 ply yarn I would suggest at least 59 stitches and 4mm needles.
Broken double rib pattern using this guide for stitch numbers:
[knit 2, purl 2] to last 3 stitches; knit 2, purl 1.
Repeat this row until required length is reached. Cast off and sew in the ends.
Another experiment I have tried is a double rib hat which I made in 8 ply yarn, using 4mm needles. I have made the pattern I developed for this available as a PDF on my Downloads page. I plan to do more experimenting with different yarns, stitches and patterns, and will share them with you as I go. I hope you will consider joining me by making things to donate to people in your own local area.
My recent post about “Knitted Knockers” mentioned that there was a crochet pattern available as well as the knitting patterns. A couple of weeks ago I went away for a few days, and I decided to trial the crocheted knockers pattern. The materials required for crochet are slightly more portable than those required for knitting.
This turned out to be a very good decision. I ended up spending eleven hours at the airport as a result of cancelled and then delayed flights. The crochet pattern was in US terms, rather than the UK terms I prefer, so I had plenty of time to work my way through it. (See “The Minefield of Crochet Terminology”.) Once I had my head around how the pattern worked, I managed to start moving ahead quite quickly.
I decided I would try to make several different sizes of the pattern. During my five days away I made one each of a size A, B and C cup knocker. I did find a couple of things in the pattern that I had to be a bit careful with, but by the time I was doing the third one it was becoming more straight forward.
The photos I have included show the difference in size between the three unfilled knockers: A is dark pink, B is light pink, C is white. Unfortunately I only had enough filling for one knocker, so I have filled the middle one, the size B. You can see how the stuffing fills out the shape of the knocker. I have also taken photos of the back of them as well to show how the back is left open a bit so the amount of filling can be adjusted as required.
I am even more convinced now of the importance of this programme and I will definitely be making more. My next project will be to trial several of the different knitted knocker patterns.
Once your cross-stitched piece is completed it is time to share your hard work and artistic talent. Part of the fun of creating your cross-stitched piece is in the selection of a frame that will best display it. Depending on the piece itself, the right combination of picture frame and mat can turn it into a treasured heirloom or a cherished work of art. Follow these simple steps and you will have a cross-stitched piece you are proud to display in your home or give as a gift to someone special.
The first step is to select a picture frame and mat or mats that complement and enhance your cross-stitched piece and your decor. Does your piece lend itself to an ornate picture frame or would it have more eye-appeal in a simple picture frame? Let your personal taste, decor and the artwork itself guide you to the perfect picture frame and mat combination.
Now that you have selected your mat you will need backing on which to secure your cross-stitched piece. It needs to be the same size as your mat. Backing can be cut from mat board or foam-core. Once the backing is the size you need, cut a window that is a quarter inch larger than the mat window opening. Save the cutout piece to be used later. Now attach double sided stitchery tape to the edges of the backing piece.
The backing with the window cut out can now be mounted to the mat with double sided tape.
Center your cross-stitched piece in the backing window with the stitchery side facing out through the mat opening. Press the backing piece you cut out to make the window onto the back of the cross-stitched piece. Work with it until you have the stitchery centered.
Start with a corner and pull the fabric taut and press it onto the double sided tape. Continue around the stitchery until all the fabric is held by the tape and your cross-stitched piece is centered. It may take a few adjustments to get it fitted and centered properly. When you have it centered, tape the backing and window piece together with framing tape. Now, cut a piece of mat to fit over the back of the piece to protect and secure it.
Now you are ready to frame your matted piece. Place it into the frame you selected and secure. Cut a piece of Kraft paper to cover the back of the frame. To finish off, attach the hanger of your choice – sawtooth hanger or eye hooks with picture wire – and you are ready to hang your cross-stitched work of art.
To Glaze or Not to Glaze
Where you hang your piece and the climate conditions should determine whether or not you frame your cross-stitch under glass.
Dust: Use glass if you want to protect your piece from dust. Dust accumulation can cause serious damage to the fabric.
Humidity: Use glass if you plan to hang your piece in the kitchen or bathroom. High humidity can cause damage to the fabric. However, if it isn’t properly sealed, condensation could form on the glass and that could cause mildew and mold issues.
Living in a climate with few dry days and high humidity could make it extremely difficult to create a moisture proof seal. If you live in an area with high humidity, consider taking your cross-stitched piece to a professional framer for proper sealing or just leave it unglazed. Don’t hang it in your kitchen if you leave it without glass because airborne grease and oil could harm your fabric.
I am pleased to report that both the birthday cushions have been completed. (See “Two Extremes of Cross Stitch”.) This is the first time I have used this kind of kit and I have found it very enjoyable and satisfying. The coarse canvas and the printed design have made the projects easy to follow and quick to finish.
New kits or projects often come with learning opportunities, and these kits were no exception. My first surprise came when I opened the kit and took out the yarn. Previously I have used a number of counted cross stitch kits and have been used to the threads being sorted into colours, usually also organised on a card or cards. When I took out the bundle of yarn from the pony kit I found I had just that – all the pre-cut yarn bundled together.
This being the case, my first task was to sort the yarn into colours and tie them together for ease of use. This took a while, but was well worth doing.
Stitching the projects was relatively straight forward, particularly where there were big blocks of one colour. I did find, however, that I needed to be more careful with individual or small numbers of stitches. The much larger holes in the canvas meant that isolated stitches were more easily pulled out of shape if the yarn was pulled a bit tighter. I became more familiar with what worked best as I went along.
I hit a slightly steeper learning curve when it came to making the backings for the cushions. Again, this was something I had not done before. I managed to work out how to put them together without too many problems. I have made them with a zip running across the middle horizontally for ease of removal.
There were a couple of “note to self” moments during the process though. The first one came after I had successfully attached the backing piece to the first cushion. I turned it over to turn it out the right way and discovered that I had sewn the backing on with the zip fully done up. Note to self: make sure you leave the zip undone a couple of inches because it is very difficult to open it up otherwise!
The second “note to self” was a more general one. I got nearly three quarters of the way around sewing the backing on the second cushion when I noticed that the cotton was lifting behind the machine as I went. I discovered that the bobbin had run out halfway along the previous side so had to go back and repin it, then resew it after filling the bobbin.
I am very pleased with how these two covers have turned out. All I have to do now is buy some inners to go in them and wrap them up for the birthday children.
Have you heard of Yarn Bombing yet? Yarn bombing is an activity which is spreading around the world. If you Google yarn bombing you will come up with some amazing images. For me one of the most impressive ones would have to be a train consisting of an engine and four carriages, all of which had been very colourfully covered.
It is thought that yarn bombing began with knitters in Texas in 2005, who used it as a creative way to use up leftover, unfinished projects. The movement has since spread worldwide, and evolved into things like the “stitched story” concept. This uses handmade items to tell a story or illustrate a theme. The first recorded example of this was in August 2009.
Yarn bombing may have started off with knitted items, but there are now a large number of crocheted projects as well. The “stitched story” projects can include amigurumi figures in them as part of their narrative process. (See also “The Origin and Popularity of Amigurumi Crochet”.) I have even seen photos of projects done in cross stitch. Yarn is used to create cross stitch patterns on a wire grid which is then hung on a fence or wall.
Over the last few months I have seen yarn bombing weekends advertised in two different communities in my local area. These have involved people meeting together throughout the weekend at an arranged venue. Individuals can attend for whatever length of time suits them. It is a social gathering of people working together to produce community adornment projects.
A couple of weeks ago I took my camera with me on my morning walk to take photos of some yarn bombing that had appeared on the fence of one of our local primary schools. The weather here has been a bit unfriendly, as we are in the middle of winter, but the colourful webs seem to be lasting fairly well.
I see yarn bombing as a rather fun way to inject a bit of colour into some of our public spaces. Having said that, I also think that the “bombers” need to be sensitive with the areas they choose to decorate, and respectful of local regulations and significant structures.
I would love to hear other people’s opinions on this, so please feel free to leave a comment.
Several months ago I came across a wonderful initiative called “Knitted Knockers”. As the name suggests, knitted knockers are handmade prosthetics for women who have had to undergo a mastectomy. They are soft, light-weight, fully adjustable, and can be made in a huge range of colours.
Knitted Knockers.org was founded by an amazing lady named Barbara as a result of her own experience with breast cancer. Complications with her initial surgery meant that she couldn’t follow her original treatment plan for immediate reconstruction, which meant she needed to look for an alternative interim solution.
Her doctor showed her a picture of a knitted knocker, and provided her with a pattern. A special friend was able to make one for her quite quickly (she actually made her two) and this is what she says on her website:
“It was FABULOUS! It was light, pretty, soft and fit in my own bra perfectly. I took off my jacket and knew right then that I wanted to make these available to other women going through the same situation. I thought, “what if my doctor had real knitted knockers to give to women rather than only having a photocopied picture on a sheet of paper to show them?””
I highly recommend that you visit Knitted Knockers.org and read Barbara’s story in full on the site. There is also a lovely video you can watch. Barbara has taken her idea and run with it. She is now trying to make knitted knockers available to any women who need them. Through her site she is connecting people in need with people who can donate. There are also a number of patterns available on the site, including crochet as well as knitting, which you can download.
While Barbara began her initiative in the United States, there are knitted knocker groups in many different countries. A quick internet search will allow you to find the group or organisation closest to you. I encourage you to get behind this wonderful movement and become part of an outreach which is making such a meaningful difference in the lives of so many women who are going through such a traumatic time in their lives.